Sunday, December 2, 2012

UNfortunately, gig sticks are still necessary. Fortunately, they can help transform your classroom!

Gig stick: aka, mini-USB drive, thumb drive, geek stick, flash drive, memory stick, jump drive, pen drive, I'm sure there are many more synonyms out there for this ubiquitous little device, which is not platform dependent.

First, let me say, I can't think of anything more uninspiring to be doing right now than writing a post about gig sticks. 
However, until the world of k-12 education catches up to everyone else in the modern world, these are still quite necessary for most tech-integrating classrooms. There are still many many schools out there with limited equipment, and limited or locked down internet access.

So instead of writing a post about gig sticks per se, I'll get into a few quick and easy ways to use these things so that your classroom can operate with some semblance of a rich variety of tech-enhanced experiences for your students.

How can you use these in your classroom?

1. Video streaming locked down or narrow bandwidth? No problem - you'll need to do a little bit of work where you (the teacher) can get access to the video.  Use one of the many easy methods for downloading video.  Put it on your gig stick - build a collection if you have the time or inclination. 
2. Get a collection of gig sticks - a 1GB stick costs around $10 at an office supply store, but I have been amazed at how many I have collected free from conferences - many of the vendors are giving these things away like candy!  If you keep an eye out, you'll start seeing them lots of places. What should you do with this collection of gig sticks? This is your new digital library that you create and share with your students (or vice versa). Alternately, you can have your students bring them as part of your classroom supply list - a relatively cheap replacement for notebook paper, binders, etc.
3. Want to have students view video at home, but access is a problem? Load your video or other multimedia content onto a stick (or have them do it) and send it home with them.
4. Students creating video and multimedia you want to share? Have them drag and drop it onto a gig stick - then you can publish it easily on your class website, wiki or blog.
5. Ebmed a video into a worksheet or activity sheet you want your students to complete - drop it onto the stick. I know this is very easy to do on MS Word and Pages.
6. Make your own instructional videos for students using your own software, or free online movie making software like Movie Maker, Stupeflix, or others.  Make a simple screencast. Drop it onto the gig stick and distribute.
7. Much of my day is spent in a 1:1 iPad setting.  My students create lots of video on their iPads, but sometimes want to use some of the extra effects and settings on iMovie that the iPad version doesn't offer (green screen, slow motion, etc.).  They should be able to email the video to themselves and download it, but due to some of our filter restrictions, they can't.  So they either email it and download it at home and put it on a gig stick, or email it to me and I do the same. Then it's simple to transport their video to a computer where they can do some more extensive editing. They also have to do this to publish their videos from school, since our filter blocks them from uploading to YouTube.

The multitude of ways to use this little device are endless. For classrooms that don't have much equipment, little or no internet access, or in communities where students don't have access at home, the USB drive is a cheap, simple, and fast solution that can help you infuse some life, excitement, connections, and relevance into your lessons.

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