Student Portfolio Platform Problems

Last year, my Middle School students created Google Sites to use as portfolios of their work in the Computer Lab. We use Google Chrome as our browser at school. All was working well except when students embedded HTML from other sites. Last year they got a warning message telling them that their page had insecure content with the option to load it anyway. This wasn’t pretty but I knew that the message was coming up because Google Sites always load as secure content (https) while most of the embedded content was not secure (http). I really wish there were an option to not use the secure option when viewing a Google Site; I get it when editing but why not just let it be http when viewing?

This year we aren’t even getting a message and there is no way to get the embedded insecure content to load in Chrome at least that I can find. Does anyone know a way?

For some embeds, the embed code can be modified to be https instead of http and it works just fine but not all embeds will allow it – for example, the above embed does not allow this.

Since I can’t control Chrome or how Google Sites are displayed,  I’m debating what to do:

  • Do I let my students continue on with their Google Sites and have them edit or view their sites in Firefox instead of Chrome? This seems rather counter-intuitive since both products are from Google but don’t seem to play nicely together when using embeds from other sites. Do I limit embeds to those they can modify to use https? Who’s volunteering to come and teach my students that not only do they need to find and embed the code in the correct place but now they need to modify it too?
  • Do I turn on Blogger in our Google Apps for Ed account and have them use that instead? What kind of control will I have on those? Is that a good idea for my under 13 crowd?
  • Do I create student blogs here in Edublogs? I know I can control these but I think there are less options to transfer ownership once the student leaves our school.
  • Do I go with a site like Weebly instead? How transferable are those sites?
  • Do I have students add pages to our Computer Lab Wiki? Those wouldn’t be easily transferred to the student when they leave the school but would be easy to do.

What would you do or what do you do to let students share their own work online?

Power Searching with Google – The End

Class 6 – Putting It All Together

I often feel that I struggle with how to wind up a unit in the lab so I was curious as to how this course would be concluded. The lessons today reviewed some of the search features that had been explored and provided some additional resources for refining search skills. It was a wrap up in 3 short videos and 3 activities that practiced combining operators and using Google tools not normally used in research such as Google Maps. I like that the final activity was to subscribe to an additional search resource to continue to learn about search.

Post-class Assessment

I felt that the post-class assessment was definitely more challenging than the mid-class assessment. I found my self questioning some of the questions. For example:

I didn’t think that any of the answers were truly correct since the snippet is a portion of the text on the page and it includes the search terms not just text before and after the search terms.

Once again I don’t feel that the correct answer is included in the choices since most of the choices do not have any keyword to do with volunteering.

No, I’m not going to tell you my answer choices in case you are still completing the course. I did end up with 100% on the assessment so I didn’t over-think anything too much. I’m excited to get my certificate for completing the course and plan to add it to this post once I get it.

Final Hangout

It was interesting to watch the Final Hangout for the class and discover what were the most popular questions asked since I hadn’t had time to look at what had been asked prior to the hangout.

  • I found the drop off of relevance answer interesting because from what I understand Google tends to rate more recently updated pages higher than pages that haven’t been updated in awhile. This can mean that some research topics might have the best information on higher pages.
  • I loved the tip about nesting quotes to avoid the use on synonyms. I didn’t know this one!
  • My favorite part of this hangout was the demo of the Nexus 7; even though I just got an iPad, I really want to get my hands on the Nexus 7.

If you missed this, you can watch it online:

I also happened to catch Google Educast #56 and Tasha Berson-Michelson was the special guest talking about the course. If you’re interested in what Tasha found the most interesting about the course, check out the Google Educast!

Not the End – A New Beginning

It may be the end of the class but for me it’s a beginning – a beginning of trying to put together some search ideas for my classes for the upcoming school year. For my 7th & 8th graders, I’d like to take an approach really similar to this course to review search and to find out what might be missing in their search knowledge. Here’s my plan:

  • Use appropriate videos from the course and make some of my own to use different searches in some cases to make things relevant for my students.
  • Create my own activities that will be applicable to searches my students need to complete. How I am going to do this is very much up in the air. I would love to have access to the platform that was used for this course to create my own course but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen so I’m going to explore a few options:
    • I could use the Computer Lab Wiki to house the course and use Google Forms and Flubaroo for the activities. My students could also use the discussions available on the wiki to help one another, ask questions, etc. but it’s not a threaded discussion which can make it difficult to follow.
    • I could also Edmodo for this since my students are familiar with that platform and it can handle assignments, discussions and quizzes but once again the discussions aren’t threaded and since everything would be on the wall of the group it could be tough to follow.
    • Another possibility would be to set up a Google Site with the videos and links to the Google Forms for the activities. I could then use a Google Group for discussions though I would need to make sure that I have groups set up to allow this on the school domain. Once again the discussions aren’t threaded. Are threaded discussions really needed? Maybe they’re not though I think they can be really helpful when trying to follow a discussion.
    • Another option might be Collaborize Classroom. I think this platform would make for very rich discussions but would be lacking in the ability to do the activities though I could still use Google Forms and Flubaroo for this.
    • I am also thinking about trying out Schoology since this platform seems to have the ability to set up lessons which can include embedded media as well as allowing discussions and having a quiz feature that could be used for the activities.
  • Once the review piece is completed then rather than having a final assessment, I think it would be fun to see what belt the students could earn as a Google Search Ninja.

For my younger students who haven’t had as many previous lessons on search, I plan to use the appropriate level of lesson plans from Google Search Education. I am also tossing around ideas of how I can use Google A Day challenges to hone searching skills all year long.

How are you going to help your students improve their searching skills? If you, like me, are going to be heavily inspired by the format of the Power Searching with Google course, what tools and websites do you plan to use?

Power Searching with Google – Class 5

Checking Your Facts

I was really looking forward to this class because how to assess credibility and bias are big issues with my students. They are of the “if it’s in the top results it must be the best site” mind. Before I even ventured into this class, I tweeted about it and Dan Russell replied:

I was still very interested in how the search experts would approach this topic and would definitely love a full class on it in the future.

  • I liked the first video as an overview of what search results really mean and need to get my students to understand that the ranking of a site does not equate to its credibility.
  • I have used the All About Explorers site for lessons on credibility and have found some variant data involved while using it. For example, in the John Cabot Treasure Hunt my students found that they had a hard time finding out exactly when and where John Cabot died.
  • Good points in the second video about not searching for the things that you think you already know. Teaching students how to frame their search is so important.
  • Interesting idea to use the date range options to look at the validity of quotes. This would also have to lead to other credibility ideas since dates can be spoofed on servers or can just be wrong for some reason. Also, you would need to be sure to verify the validity of the site also.
  • Using WHOIS to look up who owns a site is a good idea for students to use and be aware of however there seemed to be a problem with this lesson since it was stated that the name server owns the company and this isn’t true; they merely host the site. In the example given, Johnson & Johnson probably does own Splenda but that’s not always the case.

Things I wondered about during this class:

  • Are extra words really bad in searches? Any time I do search classes or read search hints I find that I include more words than is recommended as the best way. I don’t type sentences or questions but I do include more than the minimum. How bad is that really?
  • Since not all books are scanned, searching books doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re looking for doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t exist (yet) on Google. How do I get my students to use searching within books when appropriate but to realize that it may not be the definitive answer?
  • Why was there no mention of finding a site author and checking their credibility through additional searches. This is a skill I feel is really important for my students to use.

Are you teaching search skills to your students? What kinds of activities or lessons are you doing with your students to address credibility of sites and bias on sites?

Power Searching with Google – Class 4

Find Facts Faster

As I went through Class 4, here were some of my thoughts:

  • I definitely want to use Search by Image with my students and am thinking of an Internet Scavenger Hunt of some kind with this. This can be such a powerful tool. I know I use it to see if my images are being used on the web anywhere that I don’t know about.
  • As I was completing the activities, I couldn’t help but think how cool it would be if the testing tool could perform the search that was being asked for when you clicked in the answer box so it could show you the actual answer rather than just a hint about finding the answer. This has to be possible and it would make the activities even better!
  • I really wonder if the panel options on a Google Search will ever be available on tablets I hope so and can see it happening especially since Google just released the Nexus 7. On a side note that has nothing to do with searching, I also really hope that full editing capabilities in Google documents is available soon on mobile devices!
  • I love the idea of translated foreign pages. It truly does bring the world together. I hadn’t really played with this before. I had used Google Translate but not searched for translated foreign pages. Have you used this with your students? What have you done with it?

Power Searching with Google – 1/2 Way Through

Class 3 – Advanced Techniques:

I am now half way through the Power Searching with Google course and the course is getting into more advanced searching techniques. I was aware of all of the options introduced in this class but I was reminded of some search options I don’t use very option like intext.

As I went through this class, I wondered why Daniel Russell started with adding filetype: to the search term and not with using Advanced Search? I typically start my students with Advanced Search and then go into how you can do this yourself. Now, I’m thinking I might flip this approach.

Mid-class Assessment:

I found the questions pretty straight forward on this assessment and love that I got 100% the first time I took this! Yeah! I really like that you could retake this if you wanted and your scores would be averaged together. To me this is a much better way to assess students then a one-shot try at a test.

Hangout:

I think the mid-class hangout with Dan Russell and Tasha Bergson-Michelson was a great way to get some questions answered that people might have and to get a live aspect into a class this large. I have no idea how many people are actually taking the course but I’m sure it’s way more than you could easily manage “live” not to mention all the timezone differences. I was actually not home for the live hangout but watched it afterwards and you can too!

 What have you thought so far about the course? Have you learned anything new?