Android vs. Chrome in Schools? Android.

androidSo apparently, Chromebook manufacturers will soon have the option of making Androidbooks (not a word they used, but I guess it makes sense?). The news & commentary site re/code goes over the details, which you can read in full here.

Personally, I like the idea of notebook computers running Android. Android works very well with Google Drive (like Chromebooks), which should be a surprise to no one at this point. Android already supports having multiple accounts on one device (like Chromebooks), tying app installs to accounts (like Chromebooks), and unlike Chromebooks, many of our students are already carrying that OS around with them on their phones.

Chromebooks have a lot of apps … sort of. While there are some very nice ChromeOS apps that can be installed on Chromebooks (or in the Chrome browser on a Mac or PC) and used offline, the “Store” is full of “apps” that are little more than fancy bookmarks for websites. Any of those, provided they don’t use Flash, will run just fine on an Android device already.

Add to that the plethora of apps already available for Android, and you have a very robust ecosystem.

The author of the re/code article brings up a point worth discussing, though, which I’ve included below.

However, a key advantage Chrome has is one of Android’s weaknesses. The mobile OS has suffered a nagging security issues, driven largely by its reliance on carriers and a gamut of device makers to push out updates. As an OS, Chrome is sturdier on security. That’s one reason Google may not ditch Chrome. Its security credentials help it with sales to enterprise, particularly to schools, where Chromebook has seen considerable traction; Gartner said the devices will account for 72 percent of the education market this year.

Source: Why Google Tapped Android Over Chrome as Its Marquee OS

Ah yes, the horrible security problems found on Android phones. They’re actually pretty scary, particularly if you are a regular listener of Security Now. The solution to the problem is in the same paragraph that asserts it, though.

You see, most phone updates are managed by carriers, and most carriers, for reasons that make sense to corporate types more than programmers, drag their feet when it comes to pushing out updates – even security updates that are not dependent on phones being new enough to handle the most modern OS version.

<rant>

I love my phone. It’s relatively new, has a nice, large screen, a good enough camera (I have a DSLR if I need to be more serious), and … it’s running Android 4.4.4.  There is no hardware issue preventing it from running Android 5. I have another device with lower end hardware that’s running 5 flawlessly. My carrier just won’t push the update out.

</rant>

Now for years Google has been phasing in a strategy to get around this. Many of Android’s features have been spun into apps with free updates downloadable from the Google Play store, which isn’t managed by the carriers. Legacy hardware is still a serious problem, but over time this will become less of an issue.

And none of that matters, because Androidbooks (as I will continue to call them until told otherwise) will most likely be managed like Chromebooks, with carriers out of the picture all together. There’s an update? Pow! It’s installed! Let’s move on.

Oh, and as I already mentioned, Flash isn’t available on Android. Adobe stopped developing for that platform quite some time ago, so all those Flash security issues that plague all the major browsers shouldn’t be a thing.

So yeah, I’m excited to see Android powered notebook computers possibly becoming a thing in my classroom. It still won’t be fun to edit videos on them, but they can do everything else and they’ll still be cheaper that the typical desktop computer as well.

Time Out!

(Gerald-G-School-Hallway-2400pxThis post is inspired by Why You Shouldn’t Send Students Out Of Class For Time-Out | Smart Classroom Management. You should really click that link and read it.)

When I first started teaching full time, I could not walk down the hallway of my school without seeing a student standing in the hallway outside of their classroom. Usually they would be leaning against the wall, bored out of their skulls.

This was before smartphones were a thing, mind you, so they tended to not have anything to do in the hallway unless someone had the forethought to bring a book or GameBoy in their pocket.

I had to wonder what behavior had occurred in their classroom that made the teacher decide it was better to have the child learn nothing than to have them in their classroom.

Now this was my first year as a full time educator, so I was far from perfect, myself. (I’m still not perfect, but I feel a lot better when I look back on how much I’ve grown.)

I didn’t think the teacher was wrong for sending the student out, I just hadn’t encountered a situation that required 1. The removal of a student from the room without 2. The immediate intervention of an administrator or (in the case of a student I had with extreme anger management issues) a specialized aide.

stop-watch-2400pxYears went by, and I eventually worked my way from High School Art Department Chair to “Art-On-A-Cart” split between 3-4 Elementary Schools. My time was so divided among these classrooms that I usually only got to teach each student 4 times a year. I DID NOT HAVE THE TIME TO SEND ANYONE OUT OF MY ROOM!

 

I ended up with a compromise of sorts. If a student behaved so poorly that I needed to intervene with more than a warning, I took their art supplies and placed them back on my cart. Doing this sometimes brought a collective gasp from the class, as this was a punishment worse than worksheets.

What I never told the students, however, was that this was a temporary situation. After a minute or so I’d come back around and ask the student if they could behave now. They always said yes. They always completed the lesson.

Now I know what you might be thinking.

“Hey, that might work for an art class, but I teach [insert subject name here]! If I tell a student they can’t do their work, they’ll cheer!”

Yeah, that’s a problem, and a big one, at that.

I lucked out in that most students, especially students under the age of 11, simply adore art. To get them to dislike it I had to point out how art related to other subjects, which I often did.

Why do you think that is? What is it about non-art education that makes students loathe it so? One could argue it’s the same mob mentality that makes young boys think girls are gross (and vice-versa), but this persists in so many people even beyond high school.

I have a few ideas about that, but I imagine you do, too. I’ll save my thoughts on that for a different post.

Cardboard Creations

We love cardboard. It’s versatile and you can find it just about everywhere. Here are some awesome cardboard projects from Maker Faire.

Source: Makers Love Cardboard: 8 Awesome Projects from Maker Faire Prove it | Make:

It’s articles like this that make me wish I hadn’t gone digital, but no matter. There’s a lot of fun things that can be done with cardboard and I’m thrilled that while it’s no longer my own media there are still plenty of awesome people building things out of materials that would otherwise have been destined for the dumpster.

Recyclables become useable art in these six-second Vines

Click through to see the whole Mashable article and several more Vine projects.

Submissions included cardboard cacti, a wire desk tree, reshaped paper clips and more.

Source: Recyclables become useable art in these six-second Vines

This has me thinking about having students make short stop-motion animations that are “Vine-ready.” We could focus on recycling, as these do, or pick a different challenge for students to complete.

Of course we’d have to make sure the music they’re using (if they use any) is legal for them to include, but that’s the joy of teaching responsible copyright usage.

Kissing the Office Goodbye

(Note: This is not about me leaving my current school. I love this place too much to leave.)

When I first traded my paintbrushes for a computer lab 7 years ago, I was shown a written description (on paper, even!) of the Middle School course I would be teaching. The only content it covered involved Microsoft Office products.

“Naturally,” the Principal said, “We would expect you to do more than this.”

Naturally, I agreed.

Since then, what I do in my school has only expanded. I took over Morning Announcements. I wrote (and rewrote, and rewrote again and again) a gamified curriculum that combines art and technology. I was put in charge of our school’s Media Arts major.

And Microsoft Office is still there.

ExcelsampleEven now, I still have a lesson or two that involves an Office Product. Granted, they aren’t always used for their intended purpose. My favorite Excel lesson teaches students how to goof off in a higher level math class more than it teaches them how to make pivot tables.

But why am I doing that?

At this point, there is nothing that I have ever done outside of a college level prob/stat class that required me to use Microsoft Office.

Nothing.

And if I retook that prob/stat course I could probably have gotten through with LibreOffice. I’ve been using that and its predecessor OpenOffice longer than the majority of my students have been alive, and the software’s only gotten better with time.

That said, I really only need LibreOffice for a few specific tasks. For everything else, Google Drive/Docs/Sheets/etc. does everything I need and then some. Better yet, we’re a GAFE (That’s Google Apps For Education) school system, so all of our students from 3rd through 12th grade get a Google account with “unlimited” storage. As someone who regularly has students creating video content, I am thrilled that my students have unlimited cloud storage.

So why am I doing anything with Microsoft Office at all?

One word: Inertia.

I write plenty of lessons every year, but I still fall back on some old standby projects – particularly when they are well received by the students. As much as I’ve been phasing Office out of my own curriculum, there’s still a few shreds of it remaining. By the end of the year, next year at the latest, it will probably be gone entirely, its last vestiges replaced with similar assignments that make use of Google apps.

All things considered, I’m doing better than many of my peers. I am still more likely to be sent an Office document that needs to be modified and returned than I am to be shared a Google Doc that I can modify and forget. Quite often, I am told I need to print the Office document before returning it. My mind is boggled at the backwards nature of such a request.

(Once already this year I was required to print AND FAX a Word document to another office in my district. Because why waste one set of paper when you can force the office on the other end to waste their paper, too? Does this make sense?)

We can overcome this. We have the technology.

There are plenty of educators who have embraced the new and far more useful alternatives to Office applications. Alice Keeler (blog) (Twitter) is one of the more prominent GAFE evangelists I’ve seen in my Twitter feed, and she’s far from the only one out there.

In my own district, I need to be more like Alice. I need to be constantly showing the benefits of GAFE over Office. Every time I’m sent an Office Doc to modify, I need to send back a link to a Google Doc. Every time I see a student in my lab writing a report in Word (or worse, come to me and ask if they can print their report in my room), I need to show them how they can set it up in Docs and then share it with their teacher electronically. If they tell me their teacher requires it to be printed, I need to ask the teacher why.

And, oh yeah, I’ll be presenting on this topic at this year’s Powering Up With Technology conference, so you can expect to hear more about this over the next few months.

So what are you doing? Are you teaching Microsoft Office skills to your students, or focusing on a newer, less expensive, more disruptive alternative? Why or why not? Leave a comment, let me know.

Twitter reportedly suspends Deadspin and SB Nation accounts over NFL GIFs

Both accounts were reportedly suspended for copyright violations stemming from their use of GIFs of NFL game.

Source: Twitter reportedly suspends Deadspin and SB Nation accounts over NFL GIFs

Long story short, copyright is serious business. I’ve no love for the NFL for many reasons that I won’t rehash in this post, but it looks like they’re claiming that footage from their broadcasts turned into GIF form for twitter doesn’t equate to “fair use,” even if done by a news outlet, and there’s a good chance they’ll win this one unless (and maybe even if) the owners of these news outlets are willing to give a lot of money to their lawyers.

One could argue either way with this, but in the end, as with many copyright disputes, whomever is willing to spend the most cash is likely going to be the winner. If you make a court battle last long enough, the best you can hope for is a Pyrrhic victory.

Are we teaching this?

CMOS Inventor Working on Gigapixel Sensor That Can Detect Single Photons

Hold onto your seats: there may soon be game-changing breakthroughs in image sensors that could take low-light photography to whole new levels.

Source: CMOS Inventor Working on Gigapixel Sensor That Can Detect Single Photons

This sounds really cool for a lot of reasons, but remember that the sensor might as well be out of a budget smart phone if you can’t hold it steady or focus on your subject.

What are the chances that the first person to use the new sensor has their thumb in front of the lens when they test it?

Academic Aesthetic Brain Dump 1

Normally I have videos of me playing games OR audio recordings of me talking about education. This time I combined them to see how it would go. This is the result.

Today’s topics:

  • Next year’s supply list.
  • Why Beats are a waste of money.
  • Google Drive & Google Apps For Education (GAFE) Are awesome.
  • Snakes.
  • Student tech can be better than school tech.
  • Requiring students to have their own tech runs into the “Digital Divide.” “Loaner” tech is needed in a BYOT (Bring Your Own Tech) environment.
  • Photoshop? Illustrator? Heck no, GIMP & Inkscape!
  • I edit video with Magix Movie Edit Pro. (Windows only)
  • My students are starting to use Camtasia to edit video. (Mac & Windows)
  • YouTube has a video editor. It isn’t very good.
  • There’s a video editor for Android called WeVideo. It’s slightly better than YouTube’s editor.
  • I got my number of 8th graders wrong. This is what I get for not looking at a class list during a recording.
  • If interest in my program stays steady, I am going to run out of computers in my classroom.
  • My school system is doing a computer refresh program where the older computers are signed over to students. I want in on that.