Get Ghost: A New Browser’s Possible Impact on Classrooms

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The internet is a fount of knowledge that is important to tap during school.  In order to access its vast amount of information, there are number of different options.  Firefox. Safari. Chrome.  But there’s a new browser that I’ve begun using that might be a game changer for students and teachers alike.

The Ghost Browser bills itself as a tool for tech professionals, but it has a few applications that educators might want to take advantage of.

Having limited computers

Say you’re a teacher at a GAFE school and you have less computers than students.  One of the complications that could arise could be multiple students sharing the same computer.  While you could have every student create profiles in Chrome, it still wouldn’t give students the ability to all have their information available immediately.

Groups (File > New Group) is a function of Ghost that allows one to have multiple log ins in one window.  This would allow multiple students to be logged into different gmail accounts in the same window.  While one wouldn’t attempt this without some digital citizenship lessons, it would be a feasible way to make computer usage in a classroom a little more efficient.

Each group tab is given it’s own distinguishing color which makes it great for very quickly viewing information. When links are accessed from a group or tabs are opened from them, they remain associated with the group.

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I have three groups opened and I’m logged into three different Google Accounts.

Research

The other great thing about groups is the research possibilities.  One could have multiple streams of information from multiple projects or ideas all color coded in a single window.  For tab hoarders like myself, this is a wonderful way to stay organized…and sane.

Social Media

If you’re teacher that is managing multiple social media accounts, Ghost is a godsend.  Using the groups tool, you can be logged into multiple Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts for example.  This is a great functionality as I have my own social media presence and manage social media for my day job as well. Ghost gives me the ability to very easily divide separate business from pleasure.

Chromium

I love Google Chrome and it’s currently my default browser.  It’s fast and it’s simple. I instruct my students using Google Chrome.   That’s another reason love Ghost. One of the best things is that Ghost is built on Chromium.  If you’re a Chrome user, the interface will be familiar. It’ll allow you add Google Chrome extensions meaning you’ll not lose the functionality that Chrome gives, while acquiring some cool new abilities.

 

 

Nas Album Done: A Queens MC applied to a classroom

To every baby on the album cover existin’/ This trend I was settin’, it came to fruition/I’m assistin’ to push the culture forward/ To all my ghost supporters, go support us…

-Nas, “Nas Album Done”Confidence is important

If Nas isn’t in your top 10 MCs of all time, you don’t know the rap genre.  His single from DJ Khalid’s Major Key album entitled “Nas Album Done” is the triumphant return of one of the dominant poetic voices of all time.  With an expansive discography and hundreds of guest verses, Nas has dropped a few jewels in his time.  How can some of this master wordsmith’s lyrics be applied to education?

1. Confidence is important.

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My poetry’s deep, I never fail/Nas’ raps should be locked in a cell/ It ain’t hard to tell

– Nas, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”

Nas debuted with a classic.  Though short by contemporary standards and boasting production by Large Professor, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier, the album features classic tracks like NY State of Mind, Halftime, and One Love.  My favorite track is the last one.  “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” is a song that not only thumps but empowers.

I love this lyric as it embodies what classrooms should be.  There’s a level of confidence that should permeate everything that happens at school.  When we stress depth and not coverage, students are empowered.   Failure is seen as a signal to improve, not to stop.  When schools work as intended, it ain’t hard to tell.

2. High expectations of everyone.

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In my own class, operation return/ They tried to say I was incompetent, unable to learn…

-Nas, “John Blaze”

John Blaze is actually a track off of Fat Joe’s Don Cartagena project.  This song features some pretty talented lyricists as Big Pun, Jadakiss and Raekwon accompany the aforementioned Fat Joe and Nas.

Nas’ verse begins with his reminiscing on his schooling.  The lyric I plucked points to teachers having lower expectations of students.  It’s fair to say that a classroom can’t function without a teacher believing that every student is capable of success.  Mr. Jones reminds us that he overcame his teacher’s expectations, though shouldn’t have had to.

3. Design Thinking runs deep.

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So many years of depression make me vision/ The Better livin’, type of place to raise kids in/ Open they eyes to the lies history’s told foul/ But I’m a wise as the old owl…

-Nas, “If I Ruled the World (Imagine that)”

Nas’ second album provided an absolute banger.  Featuring Lauryn Hill and inspired by a Kurtis Blow single of the same name, Jones pens a narrative of how the world would function if he ruled it.

While we don’t want students to “rule the world,” we do want them to dream up solutions to the problems that our world faces. “Opening eyes” and envisioning better livin’ is one of the reasons why design thinking is such an important facet of education.  Empathy, defining the problem, ideating solutions, prototyping, and feedback allow us to help students become as wise as the old owl.

4. Be an artist.

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As far as rap go, it’s only natural I explain/ My plateau, and also, what defines my name/ First, it was Nasty, but times have changed/ Ask me now, I’m the artist, but hardcore, my science for pain…

-Nas, “Nas is Like”

Nas’ third LP featured DMX, Aaliyah, Scarface, and Diddy, but the highlight of the album is the DJ Premier assisted “Nas is Like.” This extended simile about Nas’ abilities is an ode to boom bap.

“Nasty Nas” evolved into an artist.  He went from just raw rhyming to someone who crafted things of beauty.  Our goal with education should be make sure that what we do is functional, but also artistic.

5. Choice and voice are important.

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I never changed nothin’, but people remember this/ If Nas can’t say it/ Think about these talented kids/ With new ideas/ Being told what they can and can’t spit…

-Nas, “Hero”

The Keri Hilson, Polow da Don assisted “Hero” from the Untitled album wasn’t the best track, but it’s one that had some witty word play and an infectious beat.  It also was a poignant critique of the powers-that-be infringing on his creative license an as artist.

We all teach “these talented kid with new ideas.” The problem is that education too often dictates “what they can and can’t spit” instead of allowing students input into the process.  We too often view students as receptacles for information instead of active learners.  Classrooms should be full of heroes, not zombies.

Pokemon Go: Gamer Types

If you’ve seen us present on any gamification or video game stuff, you’ve heard us talk about Bartle’s taxonomy of player types. Essentially this dude Bartle wrote a paper back in 1996 and, after analyzing game play, broke people down into 4 types: achiever, killer, socializer, and explorer. You’re not usually just one. You’re a blend of all 4, but many people relate to one or two of the types more than the others.

Explorers

Perhaps the most obvious gamer type that PoGo caters to is the explorer. There is so much of the real world that you can go explore with purpose and there are so many pokemon to find. Explorers love easter eggs so hunting for those rare and legendary pokemon speaks to explorers.

Killers

They’re more about acting and interacting. They are gatekeepers who want to regulate and make sure people stick to the rules. They also want to be at the top of the food chain. In Pokemon Go (PoGo) there are gyms and you can take over gyms by challenging the person who currently has control of the gym. The pokemon you leave there rotates in the beacon of that gym declaring it your territory. Killers love this.

Socializers

When you hit level 5 you have a choice of joining one of three teams: Mystic (blue), Valor (yellow), or Instinct (red). Also, in real life, when you realize someone around you is playing the same game you are, there’s this instant bond. Facebook groups for PoGo players in specific cities have popped up and people are sharing their experiences and funny photos all over social media. It is a socializer’s dream.

Achievers

Achievers want to get all the achievement points. They’re the ones who seek out the quests and have to complete every….single……one. There are over 700 pokemon in the pokemon catalog, although not currently in the game. There are also medals you can earn for say capturing 10 poison pokemon or for walking a certain distance. Achievers will want to capture ever pokemon and medal they can.

The wide-spread popularity of this game could definitely be inspiration for engaging professional development and instructional design.

What categories do you relate to? What drives and motivates you?

 

Pitch…Perfect?

Here at Hoodlum Central, we believe in Design Thinking. We integrate it into most things we do and it’s been pretty fruitful both in our day jobs and in our business practices.

No matter which flavor of Design Thinking one subscribes to, ideation is essential. You can’t prototype anything if you don’t have a smorgasbord of ideas to play with. While Webs and I generally do this with the Googles, I recently came across a tool I hope to use during my 9-5 hustle. Pitchcard seems like a promising tool to use in a classroom looking to encourage designing.

Pitchcard allows you to ideate publicly if you wish. You title your idea, choose a color, and then write a brief (200 word) description, which I think is awesome. Being forced into being concise allows one to hone the “spirit” of the idea more authentically in my opinion.

Once your idea is placed on the card, you can distribute it publicly on social media or privately via email.

The feedback that your idea garners is sent to the email that was entered which hopefully allows one to refine the idea into a better concept.

Classroom Applications

GAFE

If you are at a GAFE school, one could utilize this tool pretty easily. Everyone of your students would have an email address, giving them the ability to send ideas to classmates efficiently and to archive the feedback so that it could be referred to when needed. Generating feedback on ideas for projects and writing assignments just got #mosexy.

Exit Tickets

Looking for thoughts about what students learned during class? Don’t want to create a Google Form or use Exittix? This is a pretty streamlined way to gather information from your students about what they learned or struggled with during the school day.

Lesson Feedback

So you want to know if your lesson was the bomb or just bombed? Send a Pitchcard to your students and allow for feedback.

Lesson Plan ideas

Send a Pitchcard to colleagues about an idea for your have for that quantum physics lesson and see what they say.

A Open Ear to the World

Say you’re a teacher with very little technology at her disposal and you’d like to use the tool. If you had a classroom email or social media setup, you could have students generate ideas that could be posted for feedback and then disseminate that feedback to students. Class project could be #mosexy if you sent a Pitchcard rather than used snail mail or limited contributions to conversations in the room.

In short, Pitchcard is a tool I hope to roll out next week during my day job. Students will be pitching video game ideas and Pitch could be a very slick way of making students feel even more empowered.

Express-o Yourself: Adding a little caffeine to your writing

I’ve been a Hemingway user for a while. I even bought the Mac App because, though it’s not omniscient, the feedback it provides me is invaluable to the content I create. This allows me to reflect on the decisions I made while writing which hopefully lessens the number of mistakes I’ll have to have someone else help me find.

That being the case, another product I’ve begun using is Expresso, which is currently in BETA. Expresso is a little more “busy” than Hemingway and it also does a good job of spurring one to reflection. I won’t go into how to use the product as there is a “How to use” page, but the classroom uses are pretty evident.

Vocabulary Acquisition

The most obvious usage of the app is for kids to expand their vocabularies. The app can find synonyms for words used in the text that is either typed or pasted in. It turns these words green and lists possible words that are synonymous. Great for teachers with “word graveyards” in their classes or logophiles of all ages.

Parts of Speech

The app also does an analysis on the parts of speech used. Have an activity where students need to practice using a particular part of speech? This is a pretty nifty way to track it.

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Looking to stream line your writing? Expresso identifies filler words for you. I quite like filler words sometimes so many times I ignore this functionality. However, if under the rule of the dreaded “Word Count,” this could be maximized to weed out words that you included in your verbosity.

Remember the app is in BETA and hopefully it will get even better. The Expresso App is currently Free.99 and waiting to be utilized in a classroom near you.

Writer’s Block: What two teachers taught me through writing

Last night, I taught an after school Professional Development class that centered on the use of mobile devices in school. I didn’t really stay on topic. I used the class as an opportunity to talk about design and Design Thinking. We used the movie Zoolander to illustrate my points. As I reflected on the class on my way home, I contemplated the genesis of my presentation style. I thought about two very different teachers from high school.

I began my high school journey at Banneker Academic High School, a rather small school in Washington D.C. After my sophomore year of high school, I transferred schools to the behemoth Parkdale High in Riverdale, MD. For my first two years of high school, I was taught social studies by a rather hip, young, new teacher, Mr. Nicholson. He got me. A Korean American from the Midwest, he was still as quintessentially urban as I was and his authenticity was impressive. He introduced me to the McLaughlin Group (which I still watch) and we had to write plenty of essays. He found ways to “humanize” our content so that it was relevant. He was also my basketball coach.

Nick was that he allowed me to write in my own voice, which I later realized was not necessarily true of all teachers. I used to fill my essays with colloquialisms and quotes from rap artists to buttress my point of view. In this “pre-blog” era, I was always assessed on the strength of my arguments and the evidence used to justify them, not the form those arguments took. I’ve always appreciated that and I strived to allow students to use their own voice when writing in my class.

When I arrived at Parkdale, I was lost in a sea of bodies. My classes were overcrowded. My ability to learn was compromised by the sheer number of people that were crammed into what seemed to be a rather limited space. I was placed in the University Program, a rather gimmicky concoction created to make parents (and students?) believe that academic rigor was occurring. It most certainly was not.

I did, however, have the good fortune of being placed in the history class of one, Thomas Vogeley. Mr. Vogeley was the antithesis of Mr. Nicholson. There was nothing “hip” about him. He wore faded jeans and a corduroy shirt daily. His hair was slicked back into a pony-tail. He would often look over his thin rimmed glasses when he spoke.

He conducted his class as if it was a story. He didn’t really lecture as much as he spun a tale about events that allowed you access them in a fashion similar to Mr. Nicholson. It was easy to grasp history because he recounted it as if he had actually been present at the events and he had a personal stake in their outcome.

Mr. Vogeley was fond of assigning essays and I, believing that my voice mattered, wrote is much the same style as I did with Mr. Nicholson. My essays came back as if they had met Jack the Ripper. He remarked that my style was not suited for academic writing and that I should “lose myself” (word to Marshall Mathers). I was initially greatly perturbed by this, but it wasn’t as if I lacked the ability to acquiesce to his demands, simply the will to do so.

I did change and that change sparked Mr. Vogeley to advocate for my inclusion in the International Baccalaureate Program. Eventually, I was placed in smaller, more rigorous classes and graduated with an IB Diploma. I had the pleasure of being instructed by Mr. Vogeley for two years. I wrote an essay about his influence and was granted a scholarship from McDonald’s during my senior year. Like Mr. Nicholson, my current teaching practice owe’s Mr. Vogeley quite a bit. I strive to make sure that my students know the rules first…then try to break them.

Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Vogeley both profoundly impacted the way that I facilitate my classroom. I take much of my fierce defense of individualism from my experience in Nick’s class, but my insistence on familiarity with form and structure from Mr. Vogeley. I am forever in the debt of both of these gentlemen.

BundleHunt!

If teachers buy a lot of stuff, then creative teachers buy even more. If you are a Mac using educator, Bundlehunt might be a place you drop a few bucks. Currently, they have a 10 Mac Apps for 20.00 bucks “design your own bundle” hustle that’s pretty good.

There’s something for everyone and enough of a selection that you can take a flyer on something there just to play around. Even if there’s only one app that you like, the price point makes it worth your while to pick nine more new toys to test out on your computer.

To check out the bundle, click here.