Sunday, July 27, 2008

New Wireless Lab

On July 21st, Discovery Education posted the winners of the CDW-G and Discovery Education "Win a Wireless Lab" Sweepstakes. I had the amazing experience to have been chosen for one of the five labs.

Back in mid-June, I was looking for applications for an HP Tablet PC. I've spent the better part of four weeks getting the first tablet ready. It is a Compaq 2710p. I'm almost finished loading the software - all open source. I am so grateful to be able to easily equip the machines with free open source software. It would have been unimaginable to afford Microsoft Office for 20 PCs all at once.

This is going to be an amazing change for our building. Right now, all the K-8 classrooms have three Apple desktop machines with Internet access. We also have six iBooks that can be loaned out. The wireless lab comes with a mobile cart. It will be housed on the second floor of the building. Now, an entire class can be working in the same classroom. With a full load of classes, the 16 desktops and 6 laptops in my computer lab/ classroom are often in use. It can be hard to schedule time for an entire class. The biggest change is that the tablets will be running Windows XP. I'm getting ready to learn what it means to need virus protection.

We have also received a document camera. I am pretty close to having refined my message to the teachers to gather interest in the AVerMedia CP130. I love how we will be able to take and annotate any 3D image. It will also be fun to explore creating movies of students manipulating items under the camera's lens.

We will be extending our collection of digital still camera with two Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S750 cameras and two Sony Handycam DCR-HC62 video cameras. There are times when the three cameras we own are being used around the building at the same time. This will give us even more flexibility. I have always wanted to be able to created and edit movies with the students. We've been learning over the last two years by using the 8 iMac machines that have a built-in iSight camera. Now we can be untethered with the Handycams. I loved the Teach Jeff Spanish videos. We'll have to see what we can do. I would
also like to record the students presenting their PowerPoint presentations. They will be able to analyze their ums and likes while they talk.

Another item I have had on my wish list for years is the Promethean Activboard. Thanks to the sweepstakes, I will have one in my room. It is on a wheeled stand so it can be moved anywhere on the first floor. There is going to be a big learning curve to use it, but I want to design as many lessons as possible to get the students up to the board and working. In this way, when we get a second board for the second floor, I will have a team of students to help the teachers find their way. There is also a set of Activote devices to be integrated into the class.

The prize package is rounded out with three wireless access points, an Epson computer projector, an HP color laser printer, and a Discovery Education grant. We will be able to have a years worth of Discovery streaming and money for several DVDs that the teachers have been wanting to purchase. As the year goes on, I will look forward to joining my local DEN. I only hear good things about the Discovery Educator Network.

As I learn, I will be posting information over the course of the year. I'm so excited and so grateful. I can't say enough about how helpful and caring the staff at both CDW-G and Discovery Education have been. The bottom line: when you hear about the next Win a Wireless Lab promotion, click over and submit your entry. It will change your world in a wonderful way!

Image Citiation:
Schyberg, Jorgen. "Promethean Activote After The Growth Hormone Treatment." mrjorgen's photostream. 2007 Jan 16. 2008 Jul 27.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Google Custom Search Eye-Opener

We all have more resources than we realized! Follow along to see how you can get even more out of your and/or Diigo accounts.

Summer Podcast Series
I've been listening to several podcasts over the summer. Last night, I listened to Alan November at BLC08 via Bob Sprankle's Bit by Bit podcast. The title is Teaching Zack Webliteracy. I've been hearing people talk about Alan November and BLC over the last year, so I decided to take time to listen to the podcast. The presentation covers a lot of ground. Along the way, it re-pointed me to Google Custom
Search engines.

Google Custom Search Engines
Google now allows anyone to create a custom search engine. I've been thinking about them as a better way to help students find information on the Internet. The basic idea is that you can build a list of websites that you value. Those websites sit under and umbrella of one name. Instead of going to a standard search engine, you can look through your custom search engine. I did it this morning and the first test search sent me here to my blog to share what I've seen.

The Plus and Minus of Social Bookmarks
I have used delicious in three different situations: for my students, for the faculty in my building, and for a training session I do with public school teachers in an alternate route to certification course. It is superior in providing an electronic source list for these individuals. The downfall that I am seeing is that since I am the person creating the list, it works for me.
For a social bookmark to work well, I think the person using it really needs to be the person generating it.

For example: My students are outstanding fro
m K-8 if I tell them go to the eighth grade links and click on the link that says "Wiki Research Wrap-Up Survey". They seem to have a much harder time if I say go back to the copyright wiki. Invariably, they ask which one and I'll tell them it's on the second page of links, the title is "Seventh and Eighth Grade Wiki Project". I'm not complaining. It is much better than before. I know have a list of all the links we used in the 2007-2008 school year. I will add to the links for years to come.

How Can I Improve Things

I am planning on sending a survey out to the teachers in the alternate route class in the next couple of weeks. I am curious to see how many of them ever went back to the delicious account I created for the class.

I'm also not sure how many of the teachers in the building tried our delicious account over the summer after I spent three hours with them the last day of school.

I signed on to Google Reader this morning and clicked on the more menu item at the top of the page, and then clicked even more (see image on the right). This brought me to a massive page of Google offerings. I was looking for the link under Explore and Innovate titled Custom Search.

How Hard Is It?
It was really easy to create the custom search. After choosing the Create a Custom Search Engine button, I filled in a form detailing the name I wanted to give the search engine and the list of links to search. I have 63 links in my Saint Michael Teachers account. In a second tab, I opened delicious, right clicked on each link, and selected Cop
y Link Location from the pop up menu. Returning to the first tab, I right clicked and pasted the link in the sites to search box.

How Wonderful Is It?
Once the search was created, I typed in the following query: "lesson plan" "Google Earth". Here are my results!

These are results I do not have in my delicious links for Google Earth! I am amazed, and astounded, and look forward to testing it out further.

The Final Touch
The original URL looks like this:
I went to MOO URL and gave it a name: searchsms.
I can now give out the following to the teachers: which will stand for Search Saint Michael School. It ties it into a nice package.

Have you done anything with custom search? Have you written any blog posts about it? I'd like to know more about how others are using this tool.

Image Citation:
"iPod gathering." nikitac's photostream. 2005 Oct 28. 2008 Jul 22.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Connecting Google Reader and

It's time to celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog! On July 15, 2007 I opened shop, as it were. What a better way to celebrate than to share an idea that came up in conversation today.

What Web 2.0 Tool Would You Show First
I came in to Twitter today and saw a question from Chad Lehman asking about first web 2.0 tools for new teachers. My answer was that is a great tool. I think it alone can be overwhelming for anyone new to the idea of collaborating online. I mentioned in passing that if I like a particular forum topic I've taken to copying its URL into Google Reader so that I can easily keep up with where the discussion goes.

Steps That Make It Happen
I signed back on to Twitter later in the evening an saw a question from Chad. He liked the idea and asked if I had steps written down to accomplish the task. Here is the way I use to get the most out of the forums.
  1. When I join a Ning group, such as Classroom 2.0, I click on the Forum tab then highlight the URL (for example:
  2. I copy and paste the URL into the Add Subscription link on my Google Reader page.
  3. When I see a question that interests me in my reader, I click the link and go directly to that question over on the ning. In this case, classroom20.
  4. I can read the entire question, respond if I have more information, and decide if I would like to have easy access to any other responses.
  5. I copy the entire URL of the forum question and paste it into Google Reader. Now anytime someone answer the question I can scan through the response.
A few questions have caught my eye over time. One question relates to using a projector in the classroom. A second question asks for suggestions on using Scratch with the seventh grade. A third question asks for suggestions on using name plates in computer class. In each case, I was curious to see the results that would be generated.

The next time you see a forum topic in a ning that catches your interest, copy and paste the message URL into your reader. It will look something like this: It's become one of the ways I make the most of the time I take from my family to participate in teacher communities online. One year into the blogging process I can promise that the effort I make is worth every moment.

Image Citation:
Sohlström, Britt-Marie. "Birthday One year old - no puppy any more." YIvas' photostream. 2007 Sep 2. 2008 Jul 14.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Refining a Message

How can you make a pitch for technology and make the message stick? This question has been burning in my mind as I work with some new equipment over the summer. Along the way, I found the book Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

AVerMedia Document Camera/ Visualizer
One of the new pieces of equipment is a document camera. Up until recently, I hadn't heard much about these products. When the AVerMedia CP130 arrived at our school at the close of the 2007-2008 year, I wasn't certain who might choose to use it but I saw a lot of potential. Back in the "old days" when I was in grammar school, the nuns used opaque projectors (see image) to resize drawings. I had forgotten about them until I saw our art teacher using one to project some lettering on the wall of the cafeteria. The document camera is the same in concept with the added feature of being able to capture the image as a JPEG or a movie. I've managed to collect a few ideas in delicious already.

Selling the Idea to Our Faculty
My initial plan was to take five minutes at the faculty meeting and have everyone make a cootie catcher by following my hands via the document projector. I was going to equate it with an overhead projector that does not require a transparent object. I would then let everyone know they could come back to my room to take a closer look.

Made to Stick
The book has been leading me through six steps. These steps have the potential to make the idea of using the document projector in the classroom survive the five minute demo. The idea should not only survive, but I should end up with a much better presentation. Once the idea survives the demonstration, the teachers should be more likely to consider using the equipment as a part of a classroom lesson.

The Main Points
I am currently reading and thinking through the fifth of six points. The main concepts are that an idea needs to have:
  • a simple message
  • an unexpected attention getter
  • a concrete example
  • a believable idea
  • something that will cause people to care about the idea
  • a story to get people to act on the idea
I have been capturing my thought process showing the change from my initial instinct through my final presentation plan. If you are trying to "sell" an addition or modification of an idea this book is for you! Take time to get the book from your local library or bookstore. I believe it will give you some new tools. It might also remind you of advise you have heard before. In the end, you will have a much stronger presentation.

Image Citation:
"Progress? The trees don't think so." obscuracamerareferen ca's photostream. 2006 Oct 9. 2008 Jul 9.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ever Heard of Freecycle

Freecycle can help you help others. Teachers have been some of my best "customers" over the years. As I get ready to put some items up on Freecycle, I thought I'd outline the process for those of you who may not know about this website.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
This is a theme many in the United States hear over and over again. The US Environmental Protection Agency has a website that outlines some thoughts on the reduce, reuse, recycle theme. It's not just the US, either. I read an article stating the Italian government declared an emergency due to the poor upkeep of Pompeii. People are leaving mattresses and refrigerator's behind.

Is It Another eBay?
Freecycle is not like eBay. There is not one main site; although, you can click on to find your local group. No money changes hands. As their tag line states, you are helping to "change the world one gift at a time".

My Group
My local group operates through a Yahoo group. Once I joined, I was able to place items that are free for the taking. I've passed on used, but still good, children's clothes. I've given away old pieces of technology that are obsolete to me, but useful to others. Mostly, I give away items. A few times I've picked up books and once a bowling pin that caught my husband's eye.

Then What?
Once I place the notice of an item, I wait to see who is interested. For some items, I'll get multiple responses. My group suggests that you do not necessarily give it to the first responder, but wait a bit and see who seems to have the bigger need. Once I choose the recipient, I'll contact them via email and set up a pick up date/ time.

Does It Always Work Out Well?
I've never had a bad experience. I sometimes get frustrated. I will tell a person that the item is out on the front rail and they will not come on the appointed day. Mostly, I never end up even meeting the person. I place the item in a bag on the front railing and it is gone before I know it. In the long run, I enjoy Freecycle because most of what I need to get rid of has past its use for me but is not broken, damaged, or worthless. I'm helping the landfill stay a bit emptier. I'm giving someone something they need. I'm feeling freer because I'm not bogged down with clutter.

Give it a try and you might develop a new habit to help the planet.

Image Citation:
"Christmas gifts on Flickr." Brungrrl's photostream. 2007 Dec 3. 2008 Jul 5.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

RSS for Blogger Link Backs

I just spent a few minutes, or fifteen, trying to figure out how to get a better look at link backs to my blog into my reader. A link back lets a blogger know when someone else has found their blog content useful enough to include a "link back to" their own post.

For Example
I wrote a post about the 31 Day Comment Challenge ending on May 31. Vicki Davis kindly
included a link back to that post. I knew about it for two reasons: first, she mentioned in her comment on that post that she was planning on including a link to the post; second, it got picked up via Technorati. You might want to read Sue Waters' blog post "Why Does Technorati Mock Me" for some insight into that website. There is another example of a link back. I'm sending you over to Sue's blog rather than reinventing the wheel.

Why I Started Down This Path
My original intention was to go to my reader and see what was being blogged in respect to NECC onsite reflections. When I opened my reader, I noticed that I had some comments to my blog. A while back, Cathy Nelson was bemoaning the fact that she couldn't subscribe to comments from the School Library Journal and many bloggers in her reader. I ended up following a comment from Vicki Davis to her blog to copy and paste the code to display my comments in an RSS feed. That was trick in itself.

How To: Comment RSS in Blogger
I ended up going to my Layout tab. I added a Page Element and titled it Subscribe. Gave it a name: My Feed for Comments and pasted in this code: that I copied from Vicki's comment subscription button. Of course, I needed to change coolcatteacher to njtechteacher.

How About Link Backs?
Between writing this post and the initial fifteen minutes of searching, it comes down to this: Blogger has a bullet item at the bottom of the help on link backs that gives the following instructions:
  • Go to the Google Blog Search website
  • Type in the search box replacing your-blog-here with your blog id (such as njtechteacher)
  • You can then copy and paste the url directly intro your reader.

Now back to my regularly scheduled initial plan ... reading NECC reflections.

Image Citation:
Desirae. "Liquid Links." ~Dezz~'s photostream. 2008 Jun 7. 2008 Jul 1.