Thursday, May 5, 2016

Collaboration in Slides with Q&A

I have never been a fan of PowerPoint, Slides or any other teacher-dominated presentations in the classroom. These are great tools for certain audiences, and I do use them when presenting at conferences and when speaking as an advocate for Asperger's Syndrome. However, I have never used the "lecture and present" format as a classroom teacher. In my opinion, this overused, instructional tool destroys classroom dialogue, and the "pre-packaging" of information prevents higher level thinking and reading skills that students need to develop.

That being said, teacher-driven presentations are still the preferred instructional method for many teachers, so I am always on the hunt for ways to make them better for the victims....errrr....students.  So, it is with great delight that I share the good news: Google has added some collaborative elements to Slides!

On "May the 4th be with you day", Google announced changes to Slides that are definitely a force to be reckoned with. Now the presenter can share a short link that allows the audience to ask questions as the presentation is ongoing. These questions can also be voted on by others, enabling the presenter to hone in on and answer those questions of greatest interest or concern.

WOW! This is a game changer! The back-channeling of questions is now part of the record in Google Slides, the audience is interacting with the ongoing presentation in live-time and the audience members are even interacting with one another by voting on posted questions.

Thank you Google!

Now, teachers, let's get those classroom presentation in the cloud, convert them to Google Slides, and get busy involving students in the questioning and learning process!

P.S.--if you start using Slides, they have a cool, new laser pointer to use as you present!!

Friday, March 4, 2016

"..a Kiddle eat ivy too, wouldn't you?"

Last week the new kid-friendly search engine, Kiddle, launched,  and the news was quickly tweeted, blogged, and  "Facebooked" to the computers of parents and educators, hungry for a safe internet experience for the little people they love.

Unfortunately, in the excitement, many of these first reports led to some misinformation. There was also some controversy involving keywords being blocked by Kiddle. In light of the questions I have received, I did a little reading to try and clarify these concerns for our parents and teachers.

First and foremost, Kiddle is NOT owned by Google.
It is powered by Google safe search.

Kiddle does offer a bold statement of safety:

They also offer a link for parents to request keyword blocking as well as site blocking.

When I tried Kiddle for myself, I was please with the filtering. The search engine even seemed to interpret some pretty severe "kid spellings", yielding appropriate search results.  For example, I typed "liyns", a common Kinder spelling for "lions", and I got......lions!!  I am thrilled by this! It is the perfect tool our teachers need to facilitate independent research in the lower grade levels!

One opinion piece had suggested that searches can allow access to inappropriate materials if words are misspelled or extra spaces added. I did try to replicate this but was blocked with an,"Oops, try again!", message.

So, what else does Kiddle proclaim?

  • Editors are involved in the selection of resources for searches
  • Kiddle collects no personal information and clears logs every 24 hours.
  • The Kiddle searches are "ranked":

As for the Kiddle controversy, there seem to be concerns surrounding the blocking of some key words. The BBC reports that "sex education", "LGBT", "lesbian", "gay" and "transgender" are blocked by Kiddle, disappointing some groups who deem this information valuable.

I myself am not concerned that the keywords included in this list will limit access to critical information desperately needed by children. There is always Google search out there, so Kiddle is just one more great tool in the technology toolbox for parents and educators.

Personally, I enjoyed my Kiddle experience! I loved the thumbnail images that accompany search results, the larger print (since I do wear bifocals) and the extra safety-net it might provide for the little people in my world!  However, I would remind everyone that, despite its heady promises, nothing can replace the watchful eyes of parents and teachers. So, be sure to keep up the good work of monitoring while enjoying Kiddle in your home or classroom!

And for those too young to know......."..a Kiddle eat ivy too, wouldn't you?"