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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Back at it!

Wow! It has been a LONG time since my last post and it has taken me so long for several reasons. The main reason is that elgibility assessments took over my life. I know there are lots of heads nodding right now. Unfortunately, it started pretty early in the fall (last school year fall, not this one!) and didn’t slow down until the last day of school (last school year 13-14). Any break, including the crazy amount of snow days we had, just made me crazy and feel like I was getting farther and farther behind on assessments. Needless to say, I was having a very hard time finding time to explore tools let alone see how they worked in a real situation.

I used all summer to recover from the school year AND fill out one job application to a new district. A former colleague who was laid off from the district we worked in at the same time as I did, went to work for this new district and we’ve stayed in very close contact over the past four year so when I saw the position posting for her district I had to throw my hat in to the ring. After a very rigorous interview process I was offered a school psychologist position in the Chelsea School district. I took pretty much all the time they’d give me to make my decision, about 18 hours, because if I was going to make a change it really had to be a good change. I couldn’t leave talented friends and colleagues just because I completed so many evaluations; I had to truly find a place where I could be more proactive and making a positive contribution to the school community. I’m happy to say, I accepted the position, and it really is turning out to be the type of position I’ve have hoping for.

Here are some of the highlights

  • My first day I received a new laptop and a new iPad. They went straight for my heart!
  • In my middle school building, they rolled out their 1:1 iPads in the first week of school. Woohoo tech work with kids here I come! I’ve already run a series of groups on the built in features of the iPad, no apps required.
  • I’ve formed 3 different support groups (2 for 4th-5th and 1 for 6th-8th) to run with the students focused on mindset and improving executive functioning skills
  • I’ve actually be able to talk to the tech guys and they’re helpful as well as interested in know about some of the online/tablet assessment options available such as Q Interactive. They were also super supportive of me asking for trials of the tools to see how they worked.
  • I also received a grant to purchase enhanced writing apps for some of the middle school students to support their written expression difficulties so I’m heading in to direct work with students on using those apps.

Sooo now that it is December and I’m feeling more settled I’m going to start working  on writing more. I’m thinking some future posts will relate to the writing tools I’m piloting with students. Some super fun tools I’ve started using on Google and maybe a little about apps I’ve recently started using.  Anything you guys would like me to talk about specifically?

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Two Factor Authentication

The discussions around the use of cloud computing continues, as it should, but “the cloud” continues continue grow in popularity and acceptance for a variety of reasons.  I’ve discussed in some previous posts the precautions I take with the cloud computing services I utilize on a regular basis but, a part of our legal and ethical practice as NCSP School Psychologists is to continue evaluating ethical uses and practices.  Two factor authentication is another step I’ve taken as a part of my daily work.

Not familiar with two factor authentication?

The video below does a good job explaining two factor authentication.  Here is my brief explanation.  Entering a password is one way of verifying who you are because hopefully you’re the only one who knows the password but two factor authentication adds another way to authenticate that you are who you say you are.

So why would you want two factor authentication?

A strong password is the first step to protecting information but two factor authentication is similar to a second, completely random password.  This completely random password improves your protection of information.  Who doesn’t want more security?

My Uses of Two Factor Authentication

I currently use two factor authentication with both Dropbox and Evernote.  This means when I log-in to either dropbox or evernote, via their website, I first log-in with my username and password but then the service prompts me to enter in the code displayed in my Authenticator app.

LogIn

Google Authenticator AppThen I use my Google Authenticator App to get the code that I enter in the log-in. The authenticator number only displays for 30 to 60 seconds before another one displays. Below is a screenshot of my authenticator app displaying the code for evernote and dropbox for whichever service I’m logging in to.

20140115-211205.jpg

So some way, I never promised to have all the technical background and know how, Evernote knows what number is being displayed and so when I enter it Evernote knows I am who I say I am! Voila!

I should draw your attention to the fact that two factor authentication is when you used the web-based service. If you have Dropbox or Evernote installed on your computer then you only use two part authentication when you log-in, which for me is not every time (depends on your settings).  So for me, because I don’t have Evernote or Dropbox installed directly on work computers I access the information by logging in to the website and this is when I’m prompted first for my password and then for my authentication code.

Couple Words of Caution

During the two part authentication set-up process for whichever service(s) you choose to use it with, the service will provide you with an EMERGENCY backup code in case you lose you authenticator app.  KEEP THIS SAFE! If you lose your authenticator app and don’t have this code you won’t be able to get back in to your account. Period. Can I stress any more how important this is to keep this safe!

Ready? Set. Go!

Evernote and Dropbox both have great information and directions for how to set-up two factor authentication. Check it out and send me any questions you might have that come up. I’ll do my best to answer your questions and help out.

Evernote Two Step Verification

Dropbox Two Step Verification

Google Two Step Verification  – If you’re wondering why I didn’t discuss Google Two Step Verification its because I don’t currently use it.  Since my district isn’t a Google Apps District currently I rarely have any information that I need to keep that secure so I don’t have two step verification enabled.  I’ve started reading about it though because the word on the street is that our district will be moving that way in the near future.

iTunes Gift Cards

iTunes

As a techy geek, an iTunes gift card is a no brainer for me as a gift from my family members and Santa is always good to me and tosses one in my stocking as well. If you received an iTunes card and are contemplating what to spend it on you could definitely spend it on Angry Birds, Mindcraft or new music but you could also spend it on new apps to help you work smarter not harder.

Here are few suggestions:

I know it has been a while since I last posted but I’m really going to work hard to post more often.  I have some ideas for reviews or posts but I’m up for suggestions so send them my way.

Game changing books

Are you wondering to yourself after reading the title how this post about game changing books relates to technology?  Bear with me, I promise I’ll get there. (If you want to just skip to the tech part of this post, scroll to the bottom)

So as I’ve gotten older and wiser *wink wink*, I’ve started reading books not directly related to school psychology or education but rather books which help me learn and develop leadership skills.  Some of these books been good and kind of interesting but others have been game changing for me and I just have to share them with you in a fairly random order.

  1. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck
  2. “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else” by Geoff Colvin
  3. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work” by Shawn Achor
  4. “Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson  (RSA makes those cool whiteboard videos and there is a great short synopsis of this book on YouTube)
  5. “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen Covey

What I’ve Learned:

Here are some key things I’ve learned from all of these books but they aren’t listed in any particular order of importance.

  • Many great ideas and philosophies can be viewed through many different lenses or frameworks but not matter how you think about them, they’re just tried and true principles.  Many times while reading the above books I’d think, oh yea, that’s the same concept presented in another book, it must be applicable in multiple situations. Surprise, surprise!
  • Having a growth mindset is of critical importance  to feeling happy and successful in your life.  Believing that you can learn new things or get better at something is beneficial in all aspects of your life, not just in work.  Surprisingly, those who believe they can develop skills do so and there are a very few people are born with “God given talent”, but rather individuals that we believe have talent, actually have developed their skills with deliberate practice.  Their deliberate practice was made more successful by beginning with a goal, having a plan and executing it.
  • You have a choice.  You have a choice to believe that you can learn new things. You have a choice to acknowledge and accept what you have influence over, including having a choice over whether you’re happy or not. You have a choice about what is important and unimportant in your life and thus you have the ability to choose to spend more time on the important aspects and less on the unimportant aspects.
  • Great ideas and innovation rarely come from one person but rather a group of people.  Groups can be very powerful.  The groups of people who often achieve the most innovation or develop creative solutions are rarely homogenous.   “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” – Stephen Covey.  Diverse backgrounds and divergent opinions can create unique solutions that no one has yet to consider.

You may have noticed that none of what I’ve learned really pertains to other people and how to “lead” others which might make you wonder, “how are these books related to leadership?”  You’re right, they don’t have anything to do with leading others, I can only hope to influence others by my own actions.  During the last few weeks of summer and first few weeks of school I’ve been focused on Covey’s first three habits which are “Private Victories” (until I post this blog and they’ll be more public).  I do have to say though, I’m feeling good about what I’m doing, the choices I’m making and I’m happy.

Technology Application:

Kindle AppSince I have multiple personal devices, (iPad and iPhone) and an active lifestyle (what Mom doesn’t have an “active lifestyle”?), I HAVE to be able to “read” through the use of multiple devices.  I like Kindle books and I’ve purchased all of the above books on Kindle.  Through Kindle’s Whisper Sync I can have the book on my computer, iPhone or iPad and I can have them all sync to the most recent location I gotten to regardless of which device I used.  This is great so that I don’t have to flip through pages and pages trying to find what I last read (sometimes I don’t remember).

Audible AppA great NEW feature I recently discovered is that for only a few dollars more I can also purchase the audiobook through Amazon/Audible.  Previously you had to pay full price for both the Kindle and Audiobook  and that bothered me so much that I never bought both versions, just one or another.  With the Audible Audio version for a few dollars more there is Whispersync for Voice .  This allows you to read your book on Kindle app (iPhone, iPad, etc.) and then immediately pick up in the same place on the audio book.  Once you listen for a while on your audio version and switch back to your Kindle it is automatically in the furthest point.  HOW AWESOME!!!  What is extra awesome is that any notes that you make on the Kindle version can be seen in Audible and you’re also able to make notes in Audible and the notes are viewable in the Kindle App.  It just all syncs the way that I always wished that it would.  AMAZING!

Paperless Date Tracking

During an impromptu #schoolpsych twitter chat about paperless tools  (you can find my “archive” of the chat on Storify) we were talking about how I use excel to track due dates for IEP and Re-eval dates.  Even though I trust all of my colleagues 100% to be on top of their caseloads and know when IEPs and re-evals are due, sometimes life happens so I’ve put together a spreadsheet that helps provide me peace of mind and a backup.  Since I also don’t trust my own calculations of when IEPs are due I use excel’s formulas to calculate the dates for me.  I’m always try to work smarter, not harder.  I’m able to get excel lists of all students in each of building with IEPs and I use that list to calculate the due dates for the year.

If you’re working in your own sheet here is an example of how to write the formula.  Let’s say the student’s date of birth is in column B, annual IEP date is in column C and the date for their most recent evaluation is in column D.

Calculate Annual Date

In an empty cell/column  type this formula: =sum(C2+365) which will result in the next date for the student’s annual IEP.

Calculate 3 year Re-evaluation Date

In the next empty cell/column, type this formula for the student’s 3 year re-evaluation: =sum(D2+1095).

Calculate 8th Birthday for Early Childhood Re-evaluations

In another empty cell/column type this formula to make sure you don’t miss a re-evaluation of an early childhood developmental disability certification (ECDD) before they turn 8 years old: =sum(B2+2920)

After I copy these formulas all the way through the sheet I make the dates red for the evaluations that are due during the school year for easy reference. I also check to see if a child with an ECDD certification will turn 8 during the school year so our team can start planning our evaluation well before their birthday (parents don’t want a last minute meeting on their child’s actual birth date, they want to be delivering treats to their child’s classroom).  I typically check my eval list on a monthly basis to make sure we’re not overlooking any required re-evals.

6f5e1_Google-Docs-icons_270x177

For those of my blog followers who are using google I created an example sheet you can tweak for yourself, Google Sheet IEP Date Tracking Template.

excel_k007-20111103115659-00003 I also have an excel template that everyone is welcome to tweak for their own use. CaseloadExample

If anyone has any trouble with either form, let me know and I’ll help troubleshoot but if anyone has any improvements, pass them along.  Happy tracking and compliance!

Know where to find Apps Part 2

This post is a continuation of Part 1 – Know where to find Apps.  The reason I separated these resources from the others is because these resources are not limited to apps even though I often find information about great app from them.  These resources are a part of my Personal Learning Community (PLC) and they inspire me to be the best educator I can be every single day. If you aren’t a part of these communities I recommend you join them 5 seconds ago.  I’m not joking. Join now. Right now.

Twitter

I promise, Twitter is not just about Charlie Sheen “winning” and the Kardashians. You choose who you want to follow so if you follow Charlie Sheen or the Kardashians then they will cloud up your feed but you can choose to fill your feed with quality people sharing quality information.  If you don’t know who to follow find one person to follow, like me (@everbeke ) and then look at who I follow or who follows me. What’s great about twitter is you can find one person that you think is awesome and then find people that also find people who think their awesome (their followers) and then see who the awesome person thinks are other awesome people (who they follow).  Throughout the week there are many many “chats” that happen using hashtags (#) which can be great conversations to participate in or just to watch and learn from.  Cybraryman (@cybraryman) has a comprehensive list of educational hashtags.  Below are some short videos about the uses of twitter in education

Pinterest

Pinterest is similar to twitter in that you follow/subscribe to people and/or boards and then when people you follow pin or repin those pins will show up in you feed.  Just as with twitter, if you don’t know who to follow or which boards to follow then find someone you like and see who they follow or which boards they follow.  You can start with me. You can either choose to follow all of my boards or choose to follow just a few of my boards such as School Psychology, AT, TechTuesday Inspiration


Scoop.ItScoop.It is a content curation platform.  I’ll admit that I’m not curating any content but I am following some great curators.  While I could log-in to Scoop.It every day and view a feed of the curators I follow but I currently don’t, instead I let Scoop.It send me a daily email.  This is one email, from the hundreds I receive every day that I actually read every time it comes to my inbox. The curators I follow have proven to me that they share great info every day that I do not want to miss. I would recommend following John Evan’s iPad in Education and Heather Peretz’s Tech Tidbits for Teachers SMS

Any other resources you draw upon that you couldn’t imagine life without in your professional life?

Know where to find reliable Apps

As a part of my consultation post, I touched on the fact that as school psychologists we don’t have to know all of the best apps, nor do we have the time to be experts on the best apps but we should know where to find reliable information about apps.  This is the same skill set as knowing where to find resources to share with parents about depression or anxiety, information about  research-based interventions, etc., is applicable to assistive technology resources (low tech to high tech).

I promise I don’t spend hours combing through iTunes finding the latest and greatest apps but I stay tuned in to resources that have proven to me to be reliable sources.  Here are some of the places I find great App information.

Screenshot of Tags from iEar.org. Retrieved 4/1/13

Screenshot of Tags from iEar.org. Retrieved 4/1/13

I Educational App Reviews (iEAR )- www.iear.org

iEAR provides app reviews written by teachers. Imagine that, educational apps reviewed by teachers.  They also have a group of app reviews done by students.  I find the reviews to be honest and thus helpful.  I also find that the do a great job of “tagging” their posts so they have lists of topics, app content areas, grade levels, etc. to help you find what you’re looking for quickly and easily

iTeach Special Education – iDevices in Special Education (Facebook group) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/iTeachSpecialEducation/

iTeach Special Education is a Facebook group so you need to have a Facebook account if you want to subscribe to their group.  This is a group of educators and parents working to integrate iDevices in to their work with special education students.  Great resources and information is shared within this group. I’ve posted questions about apps in this group and on Twitter and received responses back which helped me decide whether I wanted to purchase an app or not.

Screenshot from AppyMall's AppyStores. Retrieved on 4/1/2013

Screenshot from AppyMall’s AppyStores. Retrieved on 4/1/2013

AppyMall – www.appymall.com

Now a word of caution about AppyMall, they promote any and all education apps and sometimes the app they promote are junk. What I do like about AppyMall is that they’ve started putting collections of apps together by professionals such as Speech and Language Pathologists. So while I take each app they discuss with a grain of salt I tend to think the apps they review and promote in their app collections are good sources of information.  Another thing AppyMall does well is the share when apps go on sale. AppyMall also has a facebook group which is a great way to keep up on sales and giveaways that are sometimes only available for hours.

So I found an app I like, now I buy it right?

When I’m considering purchasing an app I usually go a step further an read AppStore reviews but a word of caution about AppStore reviews. For better or worse some app developers pay for reviews.  I’m typically skeptical when an app has 6 or 11 reviews that say about the same thing and are all 4 or 5 stars. I find value in apps that have a range of reviews because it tells me real people reviewed the app and I also know and value that everyone has different opinions and this would apply to apps as well.

Look for a Part 2 post in the coming days for additional places I find information about Apps and resources.

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