Friday, February 8, 2013

Airserver Part II

AirServer PictureAirserver is a great way to display your iPad through your projector. If you missed my earlier post about this software, visit the post here. Because we've had some time with it now, we are learning some valuable lessons about how to deploy it more efficiently. Maybe you can learn from what we've seen. 

Airserver has been spreading like wildfire through Columbia Public Schools over the last month. Teachers have seen just what a valuable tool it is. However, that has caused a few growing pains. So here are a few tips to make your Airserver experience less stressful.

  • Purchase the commercial license - It's a bit more expensive, $3.99 per computer. But in a school setting, it's much easier to manage. Here's the problem we've seen. Teachers have jumped on the opportunity to buy the software. They purchase a personal license and then install it on multiple computers. But like all districts, computers get swapped out, moved, reimaged. So the teacher doesn't retract that license before the computer gets removed and the license goes with it. And it's hard to know where each of those licenses are unless you keep a detailed spreadsheet. If you go commercial, Airserver gives you one unique activation code that you can use multiple times. That makes it much easier to manage. 
  • Keep a detailed spreadsheet - If you went commercial, it's simple. Keep a record of which computers have the software. If you went personal, you need to record which license went on which computer. You might also want to mark the computers with a sticker so you can remember to pull the license when it's time for that computer or teacher to move on. 
  • Retract your activation code to reuse it - We've been successful through two ways. First, you can uninstall Airserver, making the activation code ready to use on your next computer. Or you can run this script:  "%ProgramFiles(x86)%\AirServer\AirServer\AirServerConsole" to keep the software on the computer, but use the activation code elsewhere. If you are running a 32 bit computer, then remove the (x86).
  • Use a passcode - There are great activities for mirroring more than one iPad on your screen. Students can show their responses all at the same time. But unless you are using it specifically for that type of activity, then you should probably put a password on so others can't "accidentally" hijack your computer.
  • Shutdown Airserver when you aren't using it - This issue has popped up because of the heavier usage. Some teachers have said that other iPads have appeared on their screen. Because it uses Bonjour, it's a good idea to shut it down when you aren't using it to eliminate unnecessary chatter on your wireless network. 
Hopefully those tips can help you out in your deployment. It's a wonderful tool which I would argue is essential to teaching effectively with the iPad. Let me know if you have any questions or tips on how you are using it. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

App Review: Class Dojo

Class Dojo has been around for awhile. Many teachers I've worked with over the last year have used it for various purposes. If you are new to Class Dojo, it's essentially a program that allows you to track progress, behavior, participation, etc, through a points system. Class Dojo is web-based, so you can access your account from anywhere. Here's how to get started.

Visit Class Dojo's website or app. You'll need to create your account first. Remember to write down your password. Once you have your account created, you can go in and add classes and assign students to each class. Unique avatars can be added to the students to add a bit of flavor. Finally, you need to customize the behaviors you would like to monitor. You can add positives (hard work, on-task, participation) and negatives (talking, off-task, unprepared). I'll have more thoughts about this piece later.

Time to start class. Open up your class on your iPad and you'll see all your students and their avatars. All you have to do is choose a student and select the behavior. If it's a positive, a green number will appear. If it's a negative, then it's red. Simple as that.

Now some thoughts on how to use it. Teachers will find different uses based on grade level and content area. On a surface level, you could use it for monitoring behavior. However, there is no need to include negatives if you don't want them. Focus on the positives. Or you can use it to identify great questions, clarifying responses, connections, or predictions. And the age of the students doesn't matter. I've heard from high school teachers who use Class Dojo for their socrative seminars and kindergarten teachers who use it to monitor center time.

Display is another thing to consider. I've heard from teachers who have their Class Dojo displayed on the SmartBoard for students to view. You can be logged in to the iPad app and have the web version displayed through the projector. When you add/subtract points on the iPad, it changes on the computer as well. But displaying the Dojo is another personal decision that would depend on the purpose. Personally, I wouldn't display it if I was monitoring behavior. I don't see the need for that. But if we were focusing on discussion skills, then I think it would make sense. 

Finally, there are some great options for sharing the class data. From the web version, you can enter parent email addresses alongside the students. Class Dojo sends the parent a request to join the class. A login is created by the parent so he or she can view the child's report at any time. It also shows a breakdown, not just a number total. So you can see that Billy had 5 points for questions, 2 for hard work, but lost 1 for being unprepared. Great job, Billy. We all have ups and downs.  

Overall, the app is easy to use and has some great potential when matched to your teaching goals. Try it out for awhile and then determine if you want to open it up to parents. It's always easy to add access instead of taking it away.