Friday, May 11, 2018

Adopting Google File Stream

Looking for some quick tools to save files on your computer straight to Google Drive? Then Google's File Stream solution for Google Suites for Education will get the job done. Often, we have files cluttering our hard drives, taking up space on both our computers and in our cloud storage. Before we go into how to get started with Google's File Stream, let's review why this would be worth doing. We will also cover the following questions:
  • Why switch to Google File Stream?
  • What problem does Google File Stream solve?
  • How do you get Google File Stream?
  • A final reminder

Why Switch to Google File Stream?

With new solid state drives (SSDs) becoming more affordable, you may want to get an SSD for your computer. Solid state drives lack moving mechanical parts, which means they:
  • Are more resistant to physical shock (important if you tend to drop a device from time to time)
  • Have silent operation
  • Enjoy speedier access time
  • Feature lower latency, or minimal time delay between a query and response from your drive
One of the main drawbacks of solid state drives is their expense. The larger the size of the SSD, the greater their cost. That is why many computers come with smaller SSDs. Some computers come with SSDs for the operating system (to speed up start time) and a traditional multi-terabyte hard drive (slower, but offering greater capacity) for your actual storage. On smaller, mobile devices with a smaller solid state drive, Google File Stream can be a boon. Save your data in the cloud and keep only the essential applications on your device.

Google File Stream does not save files on your local drive. Instead, it takes advantage of your always on, instant internet connection. File Stream accomplishes this by saving straight to the cloud, which is Google Drive. File Stream allows you to "See all of your files in Google Drive without using storage space on your computer." What's more, it allows you to view and open files stored in Google Team Drives, too.

Did You Know? Google Team Drives

"Google Team Drives are shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files anywhere, from any device. Unlike files in My Drive, files in Team Drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so your team can continue to share information and get work done." (Source: Get Started with Team Drives)

What Problem Does Google File Stream Solve?

If you've ever lost files on your computer (due to a hard drive crash) or lost a USB flash drive with data on it, then Google File Stream can save you time and effort. Listen to the tale of woe of Australian edu-vlogger Florence (@TeacherTales101) upon breaking her USB drive. The experience led her to explore Google File Stream.

How Do You Get Google File Stream?

Remember, while Google Backup and Sync is intended for the consumer version of Gmail (a.k.a. "personal version"), Google File Stream works only on Google Suites for Education. To get started, login to your G Suite account. Then, open the link (this link will display a page that looks like the one below if you are logged in with G Suites for EDU/Business account).

As you can see, one of the key benefits of File Stream is that you can "See all of your files in Google Drive without using storage space on your computer."

file stream

Final Reminder

As you struggle to keep track of all the important files on your computer, remember that backing them up with Google File Stream can save you time and effort. Avoid loss of data due to equipment failure. Get started with Google File Stream on your Windows or Mac computer today.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Make History Come Alive with Alexa

Voice-controlled devices like the Amazon Echo are here to stay, so why not embrace them in the classroom to make history come alive? Studying history is important because it allows us to understand our past, which, in turn, allows us to understand our present. Now with Alexa, Amazon Echo’s virtual intelligence assistant, you can transform your classroom into an interactive learning space so students can learn history in every subject.

This Day In History

The This Day in History Alexa skill has broken into the Top Enabled categories of the Alexa Skills Marketplace. By saying “Alexa, launch This Day in History,” you can hear facts about the top historical events for that day and on any other day of the year. You can also ask Alexa for a historical event for any other day by saying “Alexa, ask This Day in History what happened on May 5th”, for example. The facts come from, which lists dozens of historical events every day.

Getting Started

To get started, make sure you have This Day in History enabled in Alexa’s skills. To do this, launch the Amazon Alexa app and access the menu. Next, select Skills from the menu and search for This Day in History. When it appears, click the Enable button.

When using Alexa, it very important to speak clearly. Many times, students will have to rephrase or repeat what they say. However, this can be great for practicing enunciation. In addition, it’s important to set expectations for using Alexa in the classroom (When can they use it? Are there questions they should not ask?) and practice, practice, practice.

In the Classroom

Aside from learning important history facts, there are other ways to incorporate and expand on the This Day in History skill in the classroom. Below are a few suggestions:
  • Writing prompts
  • Bell ringer activities
  • Study famous scientists, mathematicians, poets, etc.
  • Create classroom timelines that highlight the events and connect them to other historic periods
  • Reinforce routines by using it daily
  • Learn another language by switching Alexa to another language

The Future

Voice-controlled devices are popping up everywhere. In the future, our students will buy homes or rent apartments that already have these devices built in. The cars they will drive will have them, too. Therefore, why not incorporate them into the classroom and start with something that is incredibly important . . . history.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Restorative Discipline

“One of our students wrote some unflattering things about another student,” said the principal. “Since this is happening on student-owned devices, we don’t have much control over it. They are using something called YikYak.” John, a sixth grader at Generations Middle School in West Central ISD in Texas, avoided the protections the Technology Department had put in place. While some technicians supported geo-fencing, the superintendent decided to try a new approach he had heard another large urban middle school relied on. 

Restorative Justice (a.k.a. Restorative Discipline)

Restorative justice is a theory that empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and/or in small groups. It's a growing practice at schools around the country. Ideally, the idea is to bring students together in small groups with their peers to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances.

Restorative discipline requires students to talk out problems and seek their resolution. This most often involves them sitting in a circle with everyone involved. The end goal is a campus culture that fosters relationships that can head off conflict. The main target of these approaches has been middle schools. The reason why is that students are considered to be in their roughest developmental period. As a result, middle school students tend to act out more. (Source: San Antonio Teachers Warm to New Approach)

The Goals of Restorative Justice

Restorative justice’s three main goals, according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, are: 
  1. Accountability. Restorative justice strategies provide opportunities for wrongdoers to be accountable to those they have harmed, and enable them to repair the harm they caused to the extent possible.
  2. Community safety. Restorative justice recognizes the need to keep the community safe through strategies that build relationships and empower the community to take responsibility for the well-being of its members.
  3. Competency development. Restorative justice seeks to increase the pro-social skills of those who have harmed others, address underlying factors that lead youth to engage in delinquent behavior, and build on strengths in each young person.
    (Source: Implementing Restorative Justice

Identifying Your Campus’ Need for Restorative Justice

Does your school need restorative justice? If digital citizenship is once a year practice, your campus may be due for a rise in inappropriate actions due to the ubiquity of smartphones and other WiFi enabled devices that bypass school content filtering.

Here is a quick checklist to determine if you have a need to implement restorative discipline approach in your school: 
  1. You realize that zero tolerance approach has been ineffective in your school. Suspensions, expulsions, and arrests have risen and your efforts have been unsuccessful in controlling them.
  2. Your school community (e.g. students, parents, teachers, others) are unhappy with your school’s approach to discipline.
  3. You realize that your current staff is unable to handle the load.
  4. All staff express a general lack of knowledge on how to deal with issues as they arise. 

Dealing with Dastardly Digital Deeds

School districts, like Ed White Middle School in Northside ISD in San Antonio, Texas, are already relying on restorative discipline to address dastardly digital deeds (Read evaluation of the approach at White MS). The main approaches for restorative justice include (Source):
  1. Engage with all stakeholders to explain the benefits of restorative justice.
  2. Provide professional learning opportunities on restorative discipline to all stakeholders.
  3. Deal with conflicts using the “Ignore and walk away” approach.
  4. Form a circle to deal with inappropriate actions to talk it out.
  5. Prepare to allocate time to accommodate circle discussions. These can take a few minutes or up to an hour.
  6. Be consistent in the application and use of restorative discipline strategies and circles.
  7. Assist students in learning how to facilitate classroom circles.
  8. Practice restorative justice coaching conversations and classroom circles often with everyone.
  9. Hire a restorative justice coordinator. This position would be in addition to your school counselor (or not depending on your needs). 


A final point to consider: Restorative discipline has been around for a few years. You can now find Professional Learning networks (PLNs) on social media outlets such as Twitter. These educators are having active conversations via Twitterchats. To learn more about restorative discipline, try joining the conversation.