Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Embedding Google Calendar in Another Language

This question came up today in the Google Apps Certified Trainer Group. It is actually pretty easy to do. 

To make the change you add &hl=XX where XX is the language code to the embed code.

So - this calendar

With this embed code: 

<iframe src="" style="border: 0" width="400" height="200" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>

Requires a simple change to display in Spanish (&hl=es) 

<iframe src="" style="border: 0" width="400" height="200" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>

Pretty simple! Some of our ESL teachers are displaying their homework calendars in multiple languages now.


This actually is then converted to a longer code - the key piece of code actually is having ;hl=XX (where XX is the language code) after the timezone (such as "ctz=America%2FChicago&amp") in the final version of the calendar embed html.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Using Google Scripts to Move Data Like a Bulldozer - Forms to Documents

As we gather more data using Google Forms and Spreadsheets there are a lot of questions out there about how we can reformat and share this data in a more consumable understandable way. In the last couple of months the Maine 207 technology team of Mark Ordonez and Janice Cacciatore and Hank Thiele have tackled this issue on several projects and as a result have created a reproducible Google Script that takes the information off a spreadsheet and ultimately creates a unique document that can be shared with anyone.

Our initial purpose of attempting this was not that exciting of a project, however it proved a concept that we believe will make gathering and sharing data in Google Docs a more powerful, dynamic, and interactive process. What we initially set out to do was take a spreadsheet with information about school payments and create letters that would be mailed out to individual families. This has developed into this repeatable process:

To make this easier to replicate we created a sheet in Google Spreadsheets that contains all of the variables you would need to run this process with the data in any Google spreadsheet or gathered through a Google Form. When the variables are used in combination with a Google Script they can replace fields on a Google Document that is used as a template, just as one might do with a desktop office suite. However, in this case the product is multiple letters all placed in a Google Docs Collection that can be shared individually or as a group.

We have already seen several other uses for this such as one example where we helped Dan Rezac take a teacher walk-through form and create individual feedback letters for each teacher observation. We are generating letters to parents and to teachers using data gathered through forms or on shared spreadsheets and disseminating information in a much more readable format than a typical spreadsheet view as is illustrated below:

Typical Spreadsheet view of Data:

Reformatted Merged Document View

For those of you interested in repeating this type of evaluation process here are some instructions, screenshots, and links of an example that will help you recreate it for your own purposes. The easiest way to get started is to make a copy of this Google Docs collection and follow the instructions.

Posted by:

Dr. Henry Thiele - CTO Maine Township High School District 207
Mark Ordonez - Manager of Data Services Maine Township High School District 207
Janice Cacciatore - Technology Specialist Maine Township High School District 207

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gmail Message Translation

Here is a tech tip I just sent out to my staff:

I wanted to share a neat feature that Gmail Labs offers us for communicating with our students, parents, and community. You have the ability to turn on "Message Translation" which will use Google Translate to convert a message from another language to English (or to another language of your choice). Here are the simple steps to turn this on in Gmail (link).
Of course, it isn't as good as having a live native speaker translate for you, but it will allow you to receive messages in 58 different languages (and growing) and it translated. I showed this to a group of parents last night and they were empowered with the idea that they could reach out, in a language where they are comfortable writing, to someone at school. Even understanding that it might not be perfect, but getting a general idea across was possible, brought tears to one mother's eyes.
Please take a moment to set it up and ask a student or co-worker to help you try it out. 

Is anyone else using this? Successes? Drawbacks?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Back to School - AUP Review

Each year when staff return to school I send out a review (through email) and sign-off form (using Google forms) related to our district acceptable use policy (AUP). This is something I do to help my staff clearly understand what responsible use of technology is, and it helps protect the district when someone acts inappropriately. Just in case you are doing something similar, follow this link to read the email and gain access to our FAQ's regarding our AUP. 
After I sent this out last week, no more than five people followed up with questions. Most of them had to do with copyright and accessing personal email. In the past week two-thirds of the staff have followed up and have signed off on the agreement. I will continue to follow up with every last staff member until their questions are answered and everyone is comfortable signing off on the form. Having an AUP only protects the organization if people understand how to follow it.

Image Credit: "Back to SchoolBy Avolore

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Midwest Google Apps Summit 2011

I am excited to help to announce an upcoming first time ever event. The Midwest Google Apps Summit on November 3rd and 4th at the Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells, WI. The summit will feature several Google Certified Trainers from across Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, will feature members of the Google Apps for Education Team, and will also have representatives from vendors listed in the Google Marketplace. 

The two days will offer presentations around a variety of Google Apps topics and tools. Sessions will include from hands-on, best-practice, classroom examples, success stories, and much more. The conference costs $250 and includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, refreshments, and LEARNING! Rooms are available for $70 per night. 

Details and registration for the conference can be found at and a flyer is here:

We hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A great start to the year

Although many of our teachers have been back for a few days, today kicked off the opening events in our district. By all accounts it was a great morning, and the room was electric with the energy of a new school year. In each of the past 4 years there has been an announcement about the changes we have made, or the cool new tools available. I actually covered this in a big email to the staff the other day.

What is striking about today is that it was different because it wasn’t about stuff and nobody talked directly about technology. What happened this morning was remarkable. We had several speakers and the morning culminated with a panel of teachers discussing the work they have done as a PLC. Throughout these discussions there were all kinds of indications to the advances in technology in our district. Statements like: “check our blog for information on this topic” (from the Union President), and “everything you need is available form the website” (from the Educational Foundation), and “we are making great progress in staff development through our many programs, like the Google Apps for Teacher's workshops this summer” (from the Superintendent). No talk of tools, just talk of how our organization works, all things that would have never been mentioned as boring or basic in past years.

I was sitting in the front row thinking “WOW, this is an interesting change”, when we moved into the panel discussion with our teachers. They were incredible in describing their dedication to the craft and to their students. As they talked they dropped in snippets that mentioned how being able to collaborate on Google Docs, or using Google Forms to gather data, or using data analysis software to understand student progress, or how sharing lessons via Google Sites has made what they do possible. Here is an example of an actual exchange:

Teacher in the audience: “How does your team manage time, how do you communicate with other members of the team, and how do you document that you are actually getting work done when you are given time to collaborate as a team?”

Panelist: “That is easy. We just have a member of the team take notes on Google Docs and the whole team can see the notes. People who are on another team that need the information can see the information too. At the same time our department chair can see the work we are getting done”

Here was a key exchange about how the team gets work done, with a process that totally relies on technology, yet nobody talked about how to use the tool, or why, or where to get instructions. They talked about it just like talking about writing on a chalkboard or on a piece of paper. Everyone in the room, the entire district staff, just absorbed and understood that this was how this team gets business done.

All morning there was talk of technology, but it was integrated into the discussion. Technology never stood alone, it was a key component of accomplishing what was do around here. My hope as we go into the school year is that what I saw this morning continues into each of our classrooms. That we don’t work to integrate technology, it just becomes part of the way that we get work (learning) done.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Google Certified Apps Trainer Preparation Program

School District 207 in Park Ridge, Illinois is offering a 1 week intensive program, August 1-5, to prepare individuals to apply to become Google Certified K-12 Apps Trainers. During the course of the week we will dive into each of Google Applications in the K-12 education suite, prepare you for the exams, provide tips on leading staff development around Google Apps, and provide opportunities for you to practice working with teachers that are learning to use the tools.

This course will be led by Google Certified Trainer Aida Awad, Science Department Chair at Maine East High School, and will be assisted by Hank Thiele who is a Google Certified Teacher, Administrator, Trainer and is one of the founders and leaders of the Illinois K-12 Google Apps User Group.

Over the course of the week we will be virtually joined by several volunteer guest speakers including:
  • Rachel Wente-Chaney: Chief Information Officer High Desert Education Service District Oregon and a Google Certified Trainer.
  • Ronald Ho: Product Manager at Google
  • Andy Crozier: Superintendent Andrew CSD in Andrews IA. Google Certified Teacher, Google Apps Certified Trainer, and Apple Distinguished Educator, and Leader in the Central Region K-12 Apps User Group
  • Becky Evans - Google Education K-12 Team
  • Molly Schroeder:  Technology Integration Specialist for Edina Public Schools. Google Certified Teacher, Google Apps for EDU Certified Trainer, and Leader in the Central Region K-12 Apps User Group
  • Julia Stiglitz: Google Apps for Education Business Development
  • Scott Meech: Director of technology Downers Grove School District 58, leader at,, ICE Conference Committee Co-Chair, and a Google Certified Teacher.
  • Jay Blackman:  Co-Founder and Technical Coordinator of EdReach, Director of Information and Educational Technology for Tri-Creek School Corporation in Lowell, Indiana, a K-12 school system, Google Certified Teacher, and Leader in the Illinois K-12 Apps User Group
  • Jamie Casap: Google Education Senior Evangelist
  • Dan Rezac: Tech Specialist for Northbrook District #30 in Illinois, Google Certified Teacher, and Leader in the Illinois K-12 Apps User Group
  • David Spangler: Google Apps Consultant for Appirio, helping schools and large enterprise companies move to the Cloud. Google Certified Administrator, Google Certified Apps Trainer, and formerly Network Manger and Google Cloud Evangelist at Maine 207.
  • Lisa Thuman: I'm the Senior Specialist in Technology Education with theCenter for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Google Certified Teacher, and Google Certified Trainer,.
  • Dana Nguyen: Google Education Goddess (my title for Dana)
Space is limited for this program with only 7 seats available for 5 days of training, lunches, and access to training materials for $1599. You can register for this event at

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") provides protection for personal health information held by covered entities. A covered entity under HIPAA is either: (1) a health plan, (2) a healthcare clearinghouse, or a (3) healthcare provider that transmits health information electronically in connection with certain administrative and financial transactions.

    Schools are obviously not a covered entity health plan or healthcare clearinghouse. However, many school districts employ nurses, physicians, psychologists, or other healthcare providers who serve students and staff. Would the employment of these healthcare providers qualify a school district as a covered entity "healthcare provider" under HIPAA? The answer to this question depends on whether the school district: (1) furnishes, bills or receives payment for healthcare in the normal course of its business, and (2) transmits these covered transactions electronically.

    Thus, if a healthcare provider serves students under contract with or otherwise under the direct control of a public school covered by FERPA, any student health records created or maintained by this person are considered education records under FERPA, and not personal health information under HIPAA. This is the case regardless of whether the healthcare is provided to students on school grounds or offsite. Therefore, the school district in the above example would be required to comply with FERPA's privacy requirements with respect to this student's health information, including the requirements to obtain parental or student consent (if 18) in order to disclose Medicaid billing information about a service provided to this student.

    tags: HIPAA FERPA privacy rights law schools

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

  • Journaling is not an activity just for English teachers. The journal is one of the best ways to assess student learning after a lesson as well as a great way to provide one-on-one feedback for each student. It is important, however, for you to know exactly how you plan to use the journal in your classroom. What is the purpose of the journal and how does it help you meet curriculum goals? 

    tags: education resources journaling classroom

      • This was an interesting read
    • To encourage creative writing. Offer students a fun or wacky thought, sentence, or word and have them journal thoughts and ideas from that starting point. Another great idea, especially for young students and ESL or ELL students is to use pictures and have students respond to the pictures. Calendar pictures make great journal starters.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Maine 207 Summer Learning Academies

Last summer we successfully launched our Maine Summer Institutes with just a few courses in cooperative learning and problem-based learning.These programs were very successful which has motivated us to expand our course offerings and repackage our summer program under the title,  "Maine 207 Summer Professional Learning Academies." 

Throughout the summer, beginning with the week of June 13th, we are offering a variety of different workshops on these topics: Differentiated Instruction,  Cooperative Learning (Johnson and Johnson model), Problem-Based Learning (IMSA model), Data Driven Decision Making, Literacy and the Common Core Standards through the lens of one's discipline, Google Apps in the Collaborative Classroom, Google Certified Apps for Education Trainer Preparation Program, and Co-Teaching for Success.

As was true last summer, we are making these courses available to all teachers, no matter what district they are from. Out of district teachers will be required to pay a tuition fee which will cover their instruction, lunch depending on the scheduled time of the class, and books/materials.  The only exception is our Problem-Based Learning Course which will be funded with the assistance of NSERVE and therefore will be free to teachers. Most of these courses are approved courses (1 to 2 hour graduate credit hours) through Aurora University and the tuition is reasonable at $100/credit hour.  Currently, the only courses that are closed are both of our Differentiated Instruction courses, though a waitlist has been established.  Problem Based Learning is filling, but still has seats available, though I expect it to be the next one to close.

If you know of teachers who might be interested, or you'd like to organize a team from your district, please visit our site at:
Logistical details, course syllabi and descriptions are located there.

Maine Twp District 207 is located conveniently near O'Hare airport just off of Interstates 294 and 90.  Many hotels, restaurants, and yes--even a casino to open in July, are located within our district or nearby. The workshops will be located either at Maine South/District Office, Maine East, or Maine West. South and East are in Park Ridge, IL.  West is in Des Plaines.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Social Media and Student Devices: Developing Guidelines

I am presenting tomorrow at TechForum Chicago on Social Media and Student Devices: Developing Guidelines

We recently approved a new Acceptable Use Policy, which looks similar to the one from a few years ago. I believe this is a strong legal document, which we follow up with an email to students and staff that gives short highlights of what they should consider when following the AUP. You can read an example from the past and another in the coming weeks when I send out the updated version.

We also strengthened our website policy to include guidelines and requirements when using social media. In my opinion the most important lines in all of these documents is referring to disciplining "actions that cause a disruption in the educational process". These are the types of actions, when appropriately documented are held up in court.

We are in the process of getting a mobile phone policy approved, which we are piloting now, and I will post that policy after Board of Education approval.

I think the key to all of these documents is a strong legal document, followed by yearly communications of the expectations in clear language, and a practice of following the policies and documenting any variance from the policy - especially those that cause a disruption in learning.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Interesting Finds This Week (weekly)

  • We know you don't want to miss any of the latest news about Google Apps, so we've consolidated key Google Apps blogs and Twitter feeds here. Make sure to check them regularly. Or, better yet, subscribe to these feeds to receive updates right to your door via email or RSS feed! To subscribe to a blog feed, just click its title just below the tab, and then choose your subscription under Subscribe Now.

    tags: google schools update

  • tags: google schools

  • a free piece of software called Duplicate Music File Finder. This one works outside iTunes, so there’s a need to clean up the resulting dead links afterwards. Hold your breath, start the app, point it at your music files, and let it check them out.

    Just before we go further, a reminder. I’m trying to help, but the risk is yours. You need to have backed up all your music before you start.

    Click the Check All button if you are happy that the duplicates have been selected, and then click on Delete Checked Files to actually remove them. Click Yes to confirm.

    The application behaved for me exactly as expected, and all the duplicate files were moved to the Recycle Bin.

    The last step in the process is to tell iTunes to take a look at itself, and remove any items in the library which no longer exist. Unfortunately there is no simple way in the iTunes interface to do this, so we need to cheat, just a little.

    Apple has provided a script to do just this particular trick, and to make use of it you just need to do these things in order:

    Close iTunes if you have it open
    Go to the web page, right-click on it, and save the page as a file, making sure you change the extension to .js. So for instance, in Firefox, right-click on the page, choose Save page As”¦ and change the file name from RemoveDeadTracks.txt to RemoveDeadTracks.js.
    Open Windows Explorer and browse to the file you just saved
    Double-click on the file.

    tags: iTunes duplicates howto TOOLS

  • epartment of Education’s Director of Education Technology, Karen Cator.

    Cator parsed the rules of the Childrens Internet Protection Act, and provided guidance for teachers on how to proceed when it comes to interpreting the rules. To that end, here are six surprising rules that educators, administrators, parents and students might not know about website filtering in schools.

    Accessing YouTube is not violating CIPA rules. “Absolutely it’s not circumventing the rules,” Cator says. “The rule is to block inappropriate sites. All sorts of YouTube videos are helpful in explaining complex concepts or telling a story, or for hearing an expert or an authentic voice — they present learning opportunities that are really helpful.”
    Websites don’t have to be blocked for teachers. “Some of the comments I saw online had to do with teachers wondering why they can’t access these sites,” she says. “They absolutely can. There’s nothing that says that sites have to be blocked for adults.”
    Broad filters are not helpful. “What we have had is what I consider brute force technologies that shut down wide swaths of the Internet, like all of YouTube, for example. Or they may shut down anything that has anything to do with social media, or anything that is a game,” she said. “These broad filters aren’t actually very helpful, because we need much more nuanced filtering.”
    Schools will not lose E-rate funding by unblocking appropriate sites. Cator said she’s never heard of a school losing E-rate funding due to allowing appropriate sites blocked by filters. See the excerpt below from the National Education Technology Plan, approved by officials who dictate E-rate rules.
    Kids need to be taught how to be responsible digital citizens. “[We need to] address the topic at school or home in the form of education,” Cator says. “How do we educate this generation of young people to be safe online, to be secure online, to protect their personal information, to understand privacy, and how that all plays out when they’re in an online space?”
    Teachers shoul

    tags: filtering CIPA blocking education DOE filter Internet erate

  • Ever wonder how the hours American teachers work and the salary they earn compares to teachers in other industrialized nations? Well, the picture's not pretty. In this infographic courtesy of the Future Journalism Project, American educators work the most hours of all industrialized nations, but are the fifth lowest paid after 15 years on the job. Only Luxembourg, Hungary, Iceland, and Norway pay their teachers less.

    And how do we compare to the country that's number one in the world in education according to international tests, Finland? Teachers there work the fifth fewest hours and are the ninth lowest paid. Sure, no one goes into education for the money, but at a certain point doesn't it seem wrong that teachers pretty much everywhere else on this chart work less but get paid more?

    tags: visualization teachers Salary

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who is using Google Apps for Education in Illinois?

I have been gathering a list of educational institutions in Illinois using Google Apps for Education.

Here is what I have found:

Please let me know in the comments if your school or district is missing.

Illinois Seal Image from:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Block Gadgets from Sites in Google Apps for Education

This is a question that comes up quite often when looking at Google Apps for Education:

How do I block students from adding gadgets in Sites in Google Apps?

The FAQ and Google Code Resources that answer this question makes it seem pretty simple, and it is, once you know the step by step instructions.

First of all there are 2 main options of blocking gadgets in sites or on iGoogle pages:

  1. Blacklist Gadgets One at a Time: 
    • I would only use this option for a domain that is for staff or adults only where I have a particular person complaining about a specific gadget
  2. Blacklist everything and then Whitelist Gagets One at a Time: 
    • I would use this option if you want to protect students from any possible inappropriate gadget
Either Option Starts out by creating a simple interface in a Google Site for Whitelisting and Blacklisting.

Step 1: Sign into Google Sites with an account that is an Administrator of Google Apps for Education and create a new site. 

Step 2: Name the site and make sure only specified people can view it 

Step 3: Edit the page and go to Insert then More Gadgets and select Add Gadget by URL
  • In the box that appears add this URL

  • Change the size of the gadget to be 880 X 800

  • Click OK and then Save the changes to the page
You will then have an application on the page that allows you to Blacklist or Whitelist applications and see the directory. 

Now you are ready to execute the steps to Blacklist Gadgets one-by-one

Option 1: Blacklist Gadgets 1 by 1.

Once you have installed the gadget application above you will see this on the page you created

You can search by keyword (gadget name, category, or url) and find the gadget you would like to blacklist. Click Add to blacklist the gadget. It may take a few hours for the item to be blacklisted. 

To whitelist a gadget and get it back in the directory click remove next to the blacklisted item

Option 2: Blacklist Everything and Whitelist Gadgets 1 by 1

Step 1: Follow the instructions above to set up a page with the Domain Directory Gadget Manager

Step 2: Download the Feed Server Client Tool (FSCT) which is this file to your computer (windows or linux only - my instructions are for windows)

Step 3: Unzip the file and put in in your C: drive root

Step 4: Open the cmd prompt (cmd.exe) and type cd c:\fsct

Step 5: Type "fsct shell" and enter the username and password of an administratior of the GAFE account

Step 6: Type: "setpublicgadgetdirfilter BLACK_LIST" and hit enter. You will get back a response that your site feed has been updated.

Step 7: Unblock your Domain Directory Gadget Manager (not sure if this has to be done, but just making sure it remains open) by typing: "addwhitelistedgadget"

You have now blacklisted all gadgets and have a tool to whitelist back the ones you want students or staff to use.

Whitelisting Gadgets after Everything is Blacklisted

Go back to the site page you made with the Domain Directory Gadget Manager

You can search by keyword (gadget name, category, or url) and find the gadget you would like to whitelist. Click Add to whitelist the gadget. It may take a few hours for the item to be whitelisted. 

To blacklist a gadget and get it back in the directory click remove next to the whitelisted item

Although it would be nice to have these features native in the GAFE control panel, Google does provide resources fro protecting our kids from inappropriate gadgets. It should only take about an hour to set this up the first time. After that you have created your own control panel for blacklisting or whitelisting Google Gadgets in Google Sites.

Do you want to learn more about Administering Google Apps for Education, or would you like to send your Teachers to a week of "Google Camp"? See what we are offering in our district this summer for professional development around GAFE here: