Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Real Deal

Cracking down on plagiarism

Sometimes you just know a piece of writing doesn't sound like something a student could have written, but how can you verify it?

There are several web sites that offer services to screen for plagiarism such as Turnitin compares an uploaded piece of writing against billions of existing web pages and databased items. Unfortunately, this service is not free.

What to do? Try a Google search!

The magic number is between 5 and 7. Copy a phrase from the writing you suspect is not a student's original work, put it in quotes and paste it into a Google search field.By placing the phrase in quotes, you make Google search for those exact words in that exact order. Here's an example: "The zombie shuffled mindlessly forward". Believe it or not, this is not a contrived scenario. It really happened in a classroom I was visiting. A Google search result shows that this phrase - and many others - occur  in a published work:

If you are using Google Advanced Search you can paste the phrase without quotes here:

How do you get to Google Advanced Search? 

If you are logged in to your Google account click the gear next to your username and select Advanced search. If you don't have a Google account, get one! Or, point your browser here:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Google Drive driving you crazy?

Google Drive support pages

Here's some useful info for new and old Google users alike.

If you were all cozy in your old Google Docs Home view, Google came along and rearranged the furniture with the recent introduction of Google Drive. If you are a new Google user you might be wondering what's up with the different views in the left navigation area of Google Drive on the web.

From the Google knowledge base:
  • My Drive: Everything in your Google Drive that you’ve created, synced and uploaded. You can automatically sync My Drive to the Google Drive folder on your computer.
  • Recent: All of your private and shared files that you've opened in reverse chronological order.
  • Activity: Everything that has been edited recently. This view includes anything that you've created, that has been shared with you, or that you've clicked the link to open.
For the complete list of Google Drive views and more information on the differences between Docs and Drive visit the Google support site here:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Exit stage left

This is the time of year to start thinking about Data Liberation! That's right data liberation. 

If you've been fretting about what graduating seniors or students who are moving are going to do with all of the stuff they have collected and created in their organizational Google accounts -- relax! Google makes it very easy to pack your bags and leave.

*Photo credit:
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Be no evil

The Google Data Liberation Front is an engineering team that designed ways for users to remove their data from a variety of Google services. Google's CEO was mostly concerned about being big without being evil and wanted to provide users with an easy exit strategy.

Google Takeout

Takeout is a platform that lets a user remove data from multiple Google products all at once. This is Data Liberation in it's simplest form. Below is a list of products currently available for takeout.

What about all the other stuff?

While not all products are completely liberated, Google is about 2/3 of the way through  creating exit strategies for their services. Some of the big ticket items in schools are Blogs, Chrome Bookmarks, Gmail, Maps, Picasa Web Albums, Sites and more. For a complete list of all items that can be removed from Google and how to do it visit the DLF at

Other ways to move Documents

If your organization has adopted Google Apps it is easy to transfer ownership of documents to other users within the organization. (At this time document ownership cannot be transferred to a Google account outside the organization) If, for example, a student is editor-in-chief  of the school newspaper (s)he can transfer ownership of files to another student. Sharing a file is not enough because if the file owner's account is deleted, that file will disappear from the share-ee's account. Remember that documents can have only one owner.

What to do:

  1. Go to the Share settings for that item and add a new user. Click Share and save.
  2. Then change  from “Can Edit” to “Is Owner” and that person is the new owner:

Moving MORE Documents, like all of them

A Google Apps administrator can transfer all of a user's documents to another user.  This is done from the "Advanced Tools" tab in the Google Apps control panel. See Google’s help article for more details:

Sites and Blogs

Follow these steps to move admin privileges from one blog account to another

Changing owners of a Google Site is very easy. For example, a student is president of the school's Lego Club and no longer wants to be the site's webmaster. Go to the share settings for the site. Add another user and select "Is owner". Another  nifty thing about Google Sites is that a site can have multiple owners.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A useful mindset

All good things are said to come in threes:

One: The Principle of Good Enough

I recently saw this little tidbit in someone's email signature and promptly looked it up. Here's Wikipedia's spin on the Principle of Good Enough (POGE): It favours quick-and-simple (but potentially extensible) designs over elaborate systems designed by committees. Once the quick-and-simple design is deployed, it can then evolve as needed, driven by user requirements.

We've all seen the paralysis of indecision in focus groups and committees that continually motion to wait for a more perfect solution (to whatever problem they want to solve). In many cases, however, the solution in shiny armor never materializes and there goes another year of having done nothing...again. And sometimes -- again.

Two: Disruptive Innovation

Chew on this:

"...disruptive innovations typically start out as primitive; early on, they can only solve the simplest of problems, so people tend to deride them. But disruptive innovations improve predictably over time-often over several decades-to solve harder problems. And as they do so, over time, people abandon their old ways of doing things, shed their conceptions about how things have to be, and adopt the new."

This is Good Enough's first cousin. The above quote was brought to my attention through our state's Ed Tech news list. It is an excerpt from an article by Michael Horn on the topic of online learning, but the concept can be applied to anything else in an organization that needs to be changed or improved.

Three: Don't be an expert!

Wes Fryer, award winning blogger and educator was the keynote speaker at our state's annual technology conference two years ago and I haven't been able to let go of one simple thought: you don't have to be a techno-expert to start integrating technology in your classroom. You just need to be willing to let go and try something new. Our classrooms are filled with Digital Natives who possess an innate ability to figure out what button to push when you can't get something to work.You can follow Wes's blog at


And so - this post is good enough. I've dispensed with the long-winded examples of how these three mindsets apply to my own teaching or to the dynamics in our organization. Instead, I simply present these mindsets to you the reader in the hope that they will strike a resonating chord and become a song that you just can't get out of your head. Now go sing in your own key!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring cleaning: e-waste

The cable drawer. Do you you have one? I have two:

It's vacation week and I've been in the mood for spring cleaning.The result? I'm down to just one cable drawer.

Where'd the stuff go?

The other day I discovered the Best Buy recycling kiosk where you can get rid of old CDs/DVDs, rechargeable batteries, plastic bags and...cables!

Read the fine print

Can I trust Best Buy with my junk? You're probably wondering what this could possibly mean. It means: do they do the right thing with my e-waste and the answer is yes, they do. If you visit and look for Best Buy Recycling Standards you can read all about the recycling process and the Recycling Partners . There are three listed on the site:
Of course I was compelled to do my due diligence and review each of the partners guidelines and policies. The findings: all three partners are R2 (Responsible Recycling) certified and then some. In a nutshell this means that e-waste will be broken down in a manner that complies with health and safety standards with minimal environmental impact. If you love factory tours check out this live stream video of the electronics breakdown process.

More stuff

In addition to the recycling kiosk that can be found at the store entrance, Best Buy also accepts larger items in the store. Check out the recycling FAQ for more information specific to each state. Here in NH e-waste recycling at Best Buy  is free, but there is a limit of up to three items per day.

I love the spring and fall  Small Dog Electronics e-waste events, but now I've found the perfect solution for all of those in-between cleaning binges.


Monday, April 23, 2012

A B C, easy as 1 2 3

Apologies, Fans, this is not going to be about the 1970 number-one hit song by the Jackson 5.

It's not about restaurants either. The menu discussed below is a menu on a web site or in a software application.

It's about Hick's Law. From Wikipedia:
Hick's Law, named after British psychologist William Edmund Hick, or the Hick–Hyman Law (for Ray Hyman), describes the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a result of the possible choices he or she has...Hick's Law is sometimes cited to justify menu design decisions...if the list is alphabetical and the user knows the name of the command, he or she may be able to use a subdividing strategy that works in logarithmic time.

What does this mean in English?

Because the human brain often seeks known patterns, putting the menu items on our new school web sites in alphabetical order intuitively made perfect sense to me even before I knew about Hick's Law. If a visitor to our web site is looking for a classroom teacher (s)he may intuit that there will be a staff list somewhere in the navigation menu. If the staff menu item joins the other menu items in alphabetical order , it will be easier for the visitor to locate the needed information.

Seeking patterns: classroom implications

Beyond the simplicity of putting menu items in alphabetical order, teachers can put more complex pattern seeking opportunities to work to support deeper learning for students as described in this article in ASCD's Classroom Leadership: Patterns, the Brain, and Learning.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Red Leaf is useful!

Red leaf is useful! Especially when it comes bound together by those green velcro-like bands.Anise is pretty useful too. No further explanation needed!