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Web 2.0 Resources

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Web 2.0 Guru has a great site with a listing of Web 2.0 resources for educators. It lists the resources by category, with links to the resource or more information.

The top of the page starts with a list of the top 10 Web 2.0 resources every 21st century classroom should have. What's great is that most of the resources listed on this site are free.

Take a look around the site and explore what's out there to help you improve teaching and learning in your school and classroom.

College Resources for High School Students

Here are some resources to share with high school students:

The Princeton Review has a great site about colleges, majors, and careers. This site can help students explore career and college options so that they can better plan high school and college.

Unigo is a great resouce for college bound high school students and college students. The site has information on colleges, college admissions, financial aid, college life, tips for success, internships, and more. It is one of those sites that every college-bound, or college student should visit.

I really liked this article entitled "What I'd Wish I Known About My First Days on Campus". It has very practical advice for transitioning into college and surviving your freshman year.

Free quick reference guides for software

Custom Guide has free quick reference guides for different types of software, including Windows, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and more. You can download the PDF files for free.

These are great resources to have handy to help you when working with these software titles.

Science Bob

Science Bob is a great web site for science teachers. It is specifically targeted for the lower grades, but I have used some of the resources as grabbers or quick lessons with my high school classes. The site has videos of experiements, interactive experiments, instructions for doing your own experiments, and tips for science fair projects.

The site is easy to navigate and very well done.

American Presidency resource

The National Museum of American History has a great site about the American Presidency. It has information and activities about all aspects of the Presidency including life in the White House, campaigning, and information about the presidents. There are student activities and teacher resources.

The museum's main site also has a lot of information and resources available for teachers to use in their classroom.

Free Technology Tips

I had posted about this site last year, but wanted to mention it to everyone again. 180 Technology Tips is a great resource for educators, providing free technology tips and help. You can visit the site or subscribe to get an email every school day (hence the 180 tips) with a short lesson on some aspect of technology. The site reviews web searching, Word and Excel tips, email, hardware and software, and much more. You can also look at the past lessons in the archive.

It is a great resource that is well written and easy to understand.

Free Webinars

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Scientific Learning is sponsoring free webinars on How Kids Learn. For more information and to register, go HERE

Verizon is sponsoring a free webinar on how to reach 21st Century Kids using Verzion Thinkfinity. Verizon Thinkfinity is a great program that is free for students and teachers. For more information on the webinar and to register, go HERE.

"In Plain English" Videos

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Commoncraft is a great resource for teachers. The produce, short, simple, easy to understand videos that explain a variety of subjects "in Plain English".

The videos explain things such as RSS Feeds, computer hardware, twitter, and much more. You can view all of the videos on the site for free. If you like them and want to use them in your classroom or for professional development, you can purchase the videos.

The company also creates custom videos and has done work for Google. You can find some of them on Google Video. The topics include Google Reader, Google Docs.

21st Century Skills

(cross posted at http://www.techlearning.com/blogs/23342)

"21st Century Skills" is an often used phrase to describe the skills that educators and employers feel that students need to learn in order to be successful in school, careers, and life. I've argued that many of those skills have been needed and taught for decades.

If you think about it, students have always needed to be able to communicate, work in teams, follow directions, solve problems, and find information. I was taught these skills in high school and college and I was doing projects back then also. I graduated high school in 1988 and college in 1992. 21st Century Skills and Project Based Learning are not new ideas. The difference is that these skills need to be applied using new technology.

I was in college when the internet was young. We had text based FTP, email, and newsgroups. In my first engineering job, we started to use the internet for research and communication. Today, everything can be done using the internet and anything and everything can be found on the internet. When I was in school, we had encyclopedias and other reference books that were considered acceptable, reliable and peer reviewed. Today, we have the internet with information published by anyone. This means that today's students need to know how to find the information they are looking for and analyze it to see if it is reliable.

When I was in school, we had to go to the library, or hope our textbook or the encyclopedia at home had the information we needed. Today, students can find information on the internet from home, school, or anywhere using WiFi and even their phones.

This instant access to information means that students don't have to memorize as much information to get things done. They have to know how to find it and analyze it to see if it is reliable or not. We should be teaching them this. Instead of content memorization, we should be teaching content processes.

I feel that critical thinking, problem solving, communications, and teamwork are not 21st Century Skills. They are critical skills that humans have needed throughout our history. I would say that 21st Century Skills would include finding and analyzing data on the internet and using new technologies to do things better and more efficiently.

To do this, we should incorporate projects in our curriculum that require students to use technology to complete the project. We need to go beyond just web research and PowerPoint and have students create and interact. Blogs, web sites, online discussions, videos, and more can all be used in a project. The project then teaches the critical skills mentioned above, as well as the 21st Century Skills.

Projects should be based on real life issues, not just a topic from class turned into a project. To get ideas, look in the newspaper and news stories, as well as hot topics online. You can also talk to local businesses about issues that they are working on. You can even ask the students if there are issues or projects that they would like to work on. Be creative.

Educators need to teach content, critical skills, and how to use technology to find information, solve problems, and achieve goals. Projects are a great way to do this.

For more information on 21st Century Skills and Project Based Learning:
and search this blog.

Great list of great educational sites

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Allmyfaves is a great site that has a huge number of websites for education. They are broken down by subject area. The site also has sites in other categries.

Some of the sites listed I already knew about, but I did find some new sites that were very useful.

The sites are shown via their logo instead of text so it is more visual. I found it very easy to browse through.

Copyright for teachers


Are you confused by copyright issues and how they apply to teachers and education?

Check out this article and slideshow for some great information and tips:

Google Product Search

Google's Product Search is a great way to search for things you want to buy. It even brings up search suggestions as you type into the search box.

I like to use it because it eliminates extraneous search results that have nothing to do with finding a product to buy.

Translate Google Docs

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Google Docs can now translate your document into 42 different languages. This should make working with ELL and parents who don't speak English much easier.

Read more about it HERE.

Great video about Google Docs

Google has a great video about Google Docs. The video on this page is hosted through YouTube so you won't be able to see it if your school blocks YouTube, you'll have to check it out at home.

It shows the collaborative powers of Google Docs in a humorous way.

Teacher Training Videos

Friday, August 28, 2009

Teacher Training Videos is a great web site with, yep, you guessed it, teacher training videos. The topics range from PowerPoint, Moodle, Twitter, to Blackboard, Blogger and YouTube. The videos are easy to follow and the site has a huge amount of resources available for teachers.

This is a great way to learn about some new technologies and how to use them from the comfort of your home. And, it's free.

Resources for Students

Here are some great resources for your students. Please share these with them.

Trackclass is a great, free resource for students. The site allows students to track their classes and assignments, and even will send reminders (email or SMS) for upcoming assignment due dates and test dates. There is also a note taking utility so students can take notes on it if they have a computer in school, or transcribe notes later. You can even attach files to each class and assignment to keep things organized. It is a great way for students to stay organized.

There is also a version for mobile phones and the iPhone, so students can stay organized no matter where they are.

I found it very easy to use, with a great help section. I wish they had this when I was in school! I was even thinking that teachers could use this too.

Shoshiku is another free class organizer, similar to Trackclass. It has a calendar, notes, task list, and reminder system like Trackclass. It is not as full featured, in my opinion, as Trackclass, but it is easy to use and some students may like it better than Trackclass.

Dweeber is a homework collaboration site that also has tools to help students learn better. It is described as a homework social network. Students sign up, for free, and can add their friends, known as "dweebs" to their network. Students can work on homework together and help each other out. It even as a virtual whiteboard so that they can work together just as if they were in the same room. There is a message center, study sessions, and even a place to post links to web sites that you find helpful in doing your work.

This is a great resource for students who can't get together physically to work on homework or projects.

Share these with your students and please share any others you know of with us.

Free, Virtual Educational Technology Conference

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

FETC is a great educational technology conference held in Florida. They also run a virtual conference that is very good. The next virtual conference is October 22, 2009, from 10am to 6pm.

The virtual conference is easy to navigate and contains video presentations, discussion forums, vendor sites, and more. It is well worth your time. Everything is also archived for future reference in case you can't do all of it in real time.

There are even drawings for freebies from the vendors.

You can register for it here and get more information. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about educational technology and how it can improve teaching and learning.

New Teacher Survival Central

Discovery Education has a great site for new teachers. The New Teacher Survival Central has lots of great resources for new teachers (and veteran teachers) on technology, parent communication, classroom management, lesson plan resources, and much more.

There are tutorials and training resources that will help new teachers adapt to their new career. The Survival Tool Kit has a best of the web section with links to great web sites for educators.

The site is easy to navigate with great resources. I check in every once and while to see what's new that can help me in my classroom also. The site is great for any educator. Don't forget to check out the rest of Discovery Education's site also.

NSTA Science Teacher Grab Bag

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) has a great resource on their web page, called the Science Teacher's Grab Bag. If you filter by cost "free" it comes up with close to 100 free resources for science teachers. You can also filter by different dollar amounts if you have funds to spend on resources. You do not have to be a member to access this site.

In general, NSTA is a great resource for teachers and I always recommend that science teachers join. Your membership gets you access to more resources, discounts on NSTA publications, and includes a subscription to a journal of your choice.

Subscribe to this blog

For new readers of this blog: if you enjoy it, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or via email. Just scroll down the page until you see the subscribe box on the right side of the page. By subscribing, you will get notification of any new posts. It's a great, easy way, to keep up with what's new.

Google Tutor

A post on another blog reminded me that I wanted to post something about Google Tutor. Google Tutor is not affiliated with Google, but is a great resource about all of Google's products.

The site contains how-to articles, helpful hints and tips, a discussion forum, and more. It is a great resource for people just starting out using Google's tools as well as for Google veterans. You can subscribe to updates via RSS or by email. This is a great way to get notified about new articles and information.

It is not specifically for education, but some of the articles do relate to how to use Google's applications in school. For more specific information about Google for Educators, click HERE.

Google has a lot of great tools and applications and Google Tutor is a great way to learn more about them and expand the usefulness of the applications.

Open Source and Education

Sunday, August 16, 2009

There is a great article over at Teach Paperless about using Open Source software and services in schools to save money. It is well worth the read. Check it out.

My Top Three Resources

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I was recently asked to list my top three resources / technologies that I use in school. It was very hard to narrow it down, but I came up with the three listed below. To that list, I would also add the internet - this is where I find more resources and how to use them.

1. Google - http://www.google.com/educators/tools.html - Google has internet search, educational search, free blog hosting, Google Docs, free web site hosting, and more. There is a huge amount of tools and resources available from Google for free for educators. There is also email, calendar, and task lists that are all free. These applications can help teachers and students.

2. Evernote - http://www.evernote.com/ - Evernote has a free account and is a great resource to take notes, clip information from the internet, and stay organized. Keep your lesson plans and other notes on here and have access to them from anywhere.

3. Tech & Learning Magazine - http://www.techlearning.com/ - this magazine has a huge amount of resources, links, and articles about technology and education. There are news articles, how-to articles, blogs from ed tech leaders, and reviews of educational technology, along with other links and resources. It is free to subscribe and you can get either print or electronic copies.

What are your favorite/most useful resources?

New Teacher Advice


As I was realizing that summer was almost up, I also realized that there will be a new batch of teachers to join our distinguished profession. So here it is, my advice to new teachers.

Your best resource as a new teacher is yourself. Use what you learned in school. Seek out more information from colleagues and the Internet. Use your creativity. Remember what it was like to be a student yourself.

Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask other teachers for help. Do not isolate yourself in your classroom. Make connections with other teachers, whether it is in person, by email, Facebook, Ning, Twitter, web sites, or blogs.

Don't reinvent the wheel. Use the resources that are available to you. Most textbooks now come with instructor resource CD-ROMs and companion web sites. Use the resources that they have and then modify them as needed. Search the Internet for lesson plan ideas, activities, classroom management tips, and other tips and tricks.

Stay organized. You need to stay organized. Make sure you have a lesson plan guide and calendar of some sort. You can use a paper based planner and lesson planner or use an electronic or web-based system. Smartphones, such as those from Palm (Centro), RIM (Blackberry), and Apple (iPhone) are great for staying organized. You can also use online resources like Google, Yahoo, Evernote and others to keep your files, calendar, tasks, and lesson plans organized.

Write things down and make sure you have your classroom materials organized and labeled.

Take advantage of professional development opportunities. Your district and school will run professional development sessions, but don't limit yourself to those. Look for free online sessions, webcasts, conferences, and sessions run by your local educational resource agency.

Join a professional society in your area. As a physics teacher, I have joined the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Find out what organizations are in your area and join them. You will find resources and contacts through these organizations.

Read journals. Subscribe to and read educational journals. Most are free, so you don't have to worry about the money. There are journals on general education, educational technology, pedagogy, assessment, and just about every other area of education.

Be creative with your lessons. Think outside the box. Come up with new, fun ways to teach the students. Use projects and project-based-learning as a way to engage and teach your students. You can find a huge number of resources and ideas for projects on the web.

Read some books on education. My personal favorites to start with are "First Days of School", by Harry Wong, and "Your First Year as a High School Teacher", by Lynne Rominger, et al.

Don't pay for things if you can get them for free. There are tons of free resources, from software to web sites, that can help you in your classroom.

Make connections with the secretaries and custodians in your building. They will be some of your best resources for supplies, ideas, and help.

Make connections with local businesses, especially those that are related to your subject area. They can be a huge resource for guests, supplies and equipment, and funding. Many local businesses, such as Staples, have Teacher Appreciation Days with discounts and free gifts. Find out about these. Remind businesses that instead of throwing out things, they can donate usable items to your school as a tax write-off.

Get to know the publisher's representative for your class's textbook. They can get you a lot of resources.

Be flexible. Remember Murphy's law. Have plans for when your lessons run short or long, to deal with interruptions and fire drills, assemblies, and days when much of your class is absent because of a field trip. Have back up plans for everything and especially have backup plans in case of technology issues.

Know your local and State curriculum. Know what is expected of you. Know what is expected of the students.

Track your personal expenses and save receipts. There is a tax deduction for educators.

Copyright issues - be careful and make sure you know about Educational Copyright issues

Keep up on your certification requirements.

Ask for help, and look for help. Again, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Good luck and welcome to the profession!

Here is a list of my favorite sites and resources (all are free / have free versions)

Google for Educators: http://www.google.com/educators/index.html

Evernote: http://www.evernote.com/

SugarSync: https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=c6g3ccjrtagq2

Tech&Learning Magazine: http://www.techlearning.com/

THE Journal: http://thejournal.com/Home.aspx

Engrade: http://www.engrade.com/

Alternatives to Windows, Mac, Linux and online applications | AlternativeTo.net

AlternativeTo.net is a great resource for any computer user. The site lists alterantives to popular software applications. Many of the alternatives are free, some are not. The great thing about the site is that it lists things by category so it is easy to find an alternative to what you are using now.

Maybe you want a free version of something, such as replacing Microsoft Office with OpenOffice, or you just want to try some different types of software. Maybe the software you are using now doesn't do everything you need it to do. Whatever the case, AlternativeTo.net can help.

The listings are very comprehensive and include a great description. You can sort results by tag, license, or platform. They have alternatives for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even for mobile applications.

Below is a listing of alternatives to Microsoft Office:

Do you want to know what works in education...ask your students

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Research studies, professional development, graduate programs, articles, and more all talk about what works in education. Much of this is written by researchers and others that haven't been in a classroom in years, if ever. I find that much of their advice is good, but I often wondered what the students thought.

I am also an EMS-Instructor and CPR instructor. Both systems require that an evaluation form be filled out at the end of the course so that it can be used to improve the programs. I do this with my students also. I give them the evaluations at midterm's and finals and use the results to modify or change my teaching. The evaluation forms ask about the manner of teaching, how effective lectures, homework, projects, and labs were, how did they like the textbook, and what did they like about the class and what did they not like or want to change. I then look at the results and modify my teaching and the learning experiences based on the feedback I receive from the students.

Another way to get feedback is by using student focus groups. In your class, and in your school, get a group of students together and ask them what works for them in the classroom. Ask them to make a list of what teachers should and shouldn't do, and their best classes and teachers, and why, and their worst classes and why. This feedback can be invaluable to us as educators.

This week, I was a guest lecturer at the Alternate Route to Certification (ARC) program for science teachers. Connecticut uses ARC as a way to get people into teaching as a second career. It runs one program throughout the year on weekends and another one full time during the summer. The program is very successful. I am a graduate of CT's ARC program myself.

The Methods Instructor had some of his former students who just graduated from high school come to the session and talk to the soon-to-be-teachers. The students were very open about how they felt about things in school and what works and doesn't work. Here's a little summary of what they said. Much of what they said are things that teaching programs and good teachers already do, but it was nice to hear if from them.

All the students agreed that they want to be treated with respect and as adults. They all felt bad when a teacher would talk down to them. Along with this, the students stated that the teachers they like the most, and learned the most from, were the ones who got to know the students personally. By knowing the students' interests, home life, and activities outside the classroom, the teachers were able to connect their class to the students' live. The student's all agreed that this makes learning subjects easier and more interesting. They also stated that teachers who make this connection with their students have less discipline issues in their class and the students feel comfortable coming to the teacher for help with school work or other problems.

A point that came up multiple times was that the teacher should know the subject matter and be enthusiastic about it. If the teacher is reading from slides or a textbook, the students feel that the teacher doesn't know the material that well and loses credibility with the students. They also said that when a teacher is enthusiastic and excited about a subject, the students get excited too.

An interesting comment made by one student, and agreed on by the rest of the students, was not to start the first day of class with a list of rules and work to do. The students know the rules, even if they don't always follow them, and giving them a big list of rules the first day overwhelms the students and they tend not to pay attention to them. Their suggestion was to go over the syllabus, a couple of major points on class policies or procedures, and then spend time getting to know the students. I think that this is a great idea and I am changing my first day plan to reflect this idea. I'm thinking of using some kind of ice-breaker with the students so we can get to know each other.

The students all agreed that lecturing for a full class period does not work for them. Break it up a little with other activities. When it comes to PowerPoint, they all agreed that it is a good tool, but needs to be used carefully. They love having pictures, figures, and videos in the presentation, but said that too much text is distracting. No matter what a teacher says, the students will try to copy every word off the presentation. They suggested having the slides available to the students and keeping text to a minimum as good things to do.

Homework was a big issue for them. They all agreed that homework is necessary, but that some teachers really don't think about the homework that they give. The students mentioned that if a teacher gives too much homework, the students won't do it or won't be able to do it because of time constraints. They suggested that homework be given that is meaningful and helps the students learn, but they should have more than one night to work on it. Most high school students have sports, clubs, part time jobs, and 5 or 6 other classes to deal with, so time is tight. They will do the homework if the amount is more reasonable. They also stated that the teacher should go over the material before assigning homework, and then go over some problems when the homework is due. Having students do problems on the board, or help other students with the work is also a positive thing.

Some other topics discussed as positive things: teachers need to be available for extra help before or after school; use games for review - it makes it much more fun; for projects one big a marking period is perfect and let them pick their own partners to make it easier to work on outside of school; use the Internet as a resource - they all agreed that every teacher should have a web site with resources, class handouts, and a schedule on it.

They also want teachers to remember what it's like to be in school and be flexible with students. Allow students enough time to do their work, remember that they have other things outside of class, and that they have other classes.

I found this time with these students to be a great experience. I immediately started to think about my teaching and how their advice can help me be a better teacher and provide my students with a better experience.

Thanks to the Summer 2009 ARC Class, Methods Instructor Glenn Couture, and special thanks for their time and insight, recent high school graduates: Mike Bloom, Courtney Ellis, Liz McLean, Devan Yoder, Michelle Scatamacchia, Despina Sidiropoulos, Eric Heberton, and Rafique Vahora.

Please share your thoughts and ideas too!

MasterMinds of Educational Technology

Monday, August 3, 2009

Masterminds of Educational Technology is a great site with a lot of different resources for teachers. They have articles, blogs, lesson plan downloads, images and more for use in your classroom. Some is free, some you have to pay for, but all of it is good quality and useful in class.

The blog, articles, and links are really good with a lot of great advice and tips.

List of 25 great online resources

Here is a great blog post with 25 online apps for teachers.

Check it out.

Online Stopwatch

Keeping yourself and your class on track timewise can be a challenge. I talked about Harmony Hollow's Cool Timer in this blog post, but I just learned about another one.

Online Stopwatch is exactly that, an online stopwatch. You can count down or count up with it. It is simple to use, free, and easy to read. This is a great way to keep time in your class without having to purchase a stopwatch. You can even use a projector to have this up on the screen so that your students can keep an eye on their time.

How I use a website and blogs with my classes

I use a class web site, www.physicsmedic.org, and blogs with my classes to give them resources and to keep things organized. I use Google Sites and Google Blogger.

The main site is mainly static, containing my schedule, a links section, file downloads of class files and resources, and useful information for the students, as well as sections for new teachers and some educational technology resources.

I use blogs, with this as a start page http://mrandradesclasses.blogspot.com/, as a weekly or daily guide to what we are doing in class. I can post assignments, links to web sites, and reminders about tests and upcoming due dates to the blogs. I have my students subscribe to the blogs via email so that they get updates whenever I add something to the blog.

The students love having these resources available to them and it makes my life much easier and much more organized.

How do you use the internet in your classroom?

Free Graphics Resources

Friday, July 31, 2009

Programs like Microsoft Word and OpenOffice have some drawing capabilities. I like both of them and have been able to do very simple shapes and layouts with them. But sometimes I want to create something more detailed and involved, or my students are looking for a way to create their own pictures and graphics.

I love free stuff, and I have found Inkscape to be a very capable graphics program, and it's free. In fact, it has a lot more capabilities and functions then I will ever be able to use. But, it is relatively easy to use for basic things and has article, tutorials, and documentation to help you.

Inkscape links to another great free graphics resource, the Open Clip Art Library. This site has thousands of images and clip art that are free to use. Most people don't realize that you can't just use any image you find on the internet without crediting it or paying for it. This site makes it easy to find free images. As a side note, Goolge Image Search also has an option for only displaying images that are available for public use.

Check these out and have some fun creating your own images and graphics.

Free cool tools for teachers

Monday, July 27, 2009

Harmony Hollow software has some great software and a really great set for teachers.

The Totally Free Teacher's Tool Suite is a set of free software items that are very useful for teachers. The suite includes Gift Wiz, The Hat, Cool Timer, and Text Tally.

Gift Wiz is a tool to select and match up people for gift exchanges, but I have used it to match up partners for labs and projects.

The Hat allows you to randomize any list. I use it to randomly pick on students or to sort students in different orders.

Cool Timer is an on screen timer. I project it up on the board so that students can see how much time they have left for the activity they are working on. You can select different sounds to use as the alert. I have fun picking different ones.

Text Tally is an easy way to count words, characters, and lines in a document.

I use the first three quite often, as do a lot of my colleagues. One word of caution, our school's blocking software doesn't allow us to get to Harmony Hollow's site so you might need to download the program and home and then bring it in to school.


Free Educational Technology Magazines

There are a lot of educational and educational technology journals and magazines out there. I have two favorites, both of which are free.

The first one is Tech&Learning magazine, which I am a TL Advisor for. I write a bi-monthly blog and do product reviews for them. The magazine has a lot of great articles and resources for teachers. They also run educational technology conferences around the country. The conferences are a great way for educators to see what is new and how to integrate technology into their classrooms.

The other one is THE Journal. THE Journal is another great resource with some really good articles, tips, and information for educators.

Both magazines also have great websites with a plethora of information. You can subscribe to either an electronic or paper version of the magazines.

The articles and information in both magazines are well written, timely, and relevent and well worth reading.

New posts to start soon

Sorry for the lack of articles lately. I've been on the road, checking out farmer's markets in CT, checking towns for future house purchase, and doing some lecturing and teaching. I have lots of new articles that will be published shortly. Stand by!

SugarSync Update

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I've been using SugarSync for a few months now and love it. I have a computer at home that I do a lot of work on, the Acer netbook for teaching EMS classes at different locations and doing work on the fly, and my computer at school. It was always a pain to keep these computers and the files in sync, but SugarSync has fixed that problem.

I have the "Magic Folder" on each computer and SugarSync automatically keeps them all in sync. That means that I can work on the files on my home computer and it will automatically upload the new or modified file to SugarSync's servers and then when I turn on one of the other computers, SugarSync will automatically download and sync the new or modified file onto that computer. I can also access, edit, and save any file through the SugarSync web site on any computer.

I have yet to need to use more than the 2GB free account, but I'm thinking of upgrading to the 30GB account ($49.99 for the year, or $4.99 per month) and keeping more files accessible.

Try it out. I found it to be easy to use and a great resource. I will be sharing it with my students also, so that they can access their files at school so that they don't have to keep bringing in flash drives.

Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Microsoft Office is the most widely used office productivity suite, but it isn't the only one. It used to come included with many computers, but nowadays it is only a trial version. This means that people are having to pay for Microsoft Office in addition to the cost of a computer. Many people are still using Office 2003, which Microsoft will stop supporting in the future. With budgets a major issue, as usual, schools, teachers, and students can get free alternatives to Microsoft Office.

There are some free alternatives out there. The two I use are Google Docs and Openoffice.org.

Google Docs, detailed more here, is great for online collaboration of documents because you can share the documents with others. Everything is hosted online, although there is an offline version. It is great for students because their documents are stored online and they can access them from any internet accessable computer. Google Docs includes word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation applications. Because it is web based, you can use it on Windows, Mac, or Linu. And, it's free.

Openoffice.org is free software from Sun Microsystems. Unlike Google Docs, Openoffice is software you download to your computer and the files reside on your computer. (for ideas on syncing files among multiple computers, check out SugarSync).

Openoffice is a fully functional office productivity system that rivals Microsoft Office in many ways and includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, formulas and graphics. I have found it really easy to use coming from Microsoft Office since the menu's and commands are very similar. Openoffice can save files in many formats, including Microsoft Office formats so that you can use them on other computers without a problem. Openoffice is available in multiple languages and for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Google Docs and OpenOffice can save students, faculty, and schools a fortune in licensing fees and allow better collaboration and productivity.

Fun things to do with a camera phone

It's summer vacation, so I thought that I would post some things that aren't necessarily all about education.

Here's a list of some things to do with a camera phone:

1. Remember where you’re parked at the airport or any crowded lot. Photograph the nearest parking location sign.

2. Take a picture of your hotel, building address, room number, and the nearest street sign.

3. Take a photo of your child every day as a safety precaution when you’re traveling.

4. Capture a whiteboard after a meeting.

5. Document damage after a car accident.

6. Document your home and belongings as proof for your insurance company in the event of a loss.

7. Snap a picture of the takeout menu and business hours of your favorite restaurant.

8. Shoot a photo of a flyer for an upcoming event or item for sale.

9. If you lend out CDs, DVDs and books to friends, take pictures and label them with your friends’ names.

10.Take a picture of something you’re about to disassemble, then use it as a reference when you’re putting it back together.

11. Entertain kids with a photo scavenger hunt, with a list of things to take pictures of.

12. Photograph yourself when you don’t have a mirror.

Some education related things:
1. Take a picture of things you wrote on the board for one class so you use the exact same thing for the next class.

2. Take a picture of a memo on a bulletin board.

3. Take a picture of lab setups for future use or to include in lab instructions

4. Take a picture of your room set up at the end of the year so you make sure everything gets back after summer cleaning.

5. Document anything you need documented.

You can save the photos on your camera phone, export them to your computer, upload them to a website, or even use Evernote to save and organize them.

Enjoy your summer!

Tool and tip to use with a netbook

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Another thing I am doing with my netbook that makes my life easy is using an SD card that folds to fit into a USB port. I keep this in the SD card reader on the Acer. If I ever need to move a file from or to the Acer and I can't do it via the internet, I can just take the SD/USB card and use that with any computer to transfer files.

Update of my experience with the Acer netbook

I received an Acer Aspire One netbook a few weeks ago from Acer through a special program (http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2009/06/acer-one-netbook-review.html) and I love it. Mine has a 6 cell battery and lasts for over 6 hours with Google Chrome and OpenOffice running. I am getting used to the smaller keyboard and use it when I teach at other sites (paramedic, EMT, and CPR classes).

What I really love about it is it's size. It is small and lite, but still easy to use. My classroom at the high school has the small desks with the side desktop, so a netbook fits much better than a full size laptop. I've been able to use every web page, web application, and software that my students would use in my class without any problems and it runs faster than many of the desktops at the school. I'm working on getting funding to purchase a classroom set of them for next year because they are so useful. I want to be able to give every student a computer to use in my room. The netbooks would also allow us to bring them outside when we do experiments.

I am pushing netbooks vs. full size laptops at the school because of cost and size. They do everything the students need them to do.

Free OCR - Optical Character Recognition (online service)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Free OCR is a free, obviously from it's name, online service that can convert scanned documents into editable text. This can save you the time it would take to retype the original document. It takes a scanned image of text and converts it to a real text file.

Free OCR will accept documents in PDF, JPG, GIF, TIFF or BMP format. It will accept documents up to 2MB in size, which is pretty big.

Free OCR worked just as well as a commercial OCR software that came with my scanner, with the same amount of errors (minimal) and time frame. PDF files worked the best, with the least amount of issues and errors. You still need to check over the converted document for errors, as no OCR system is 100% accurate.

The fact that it is web based also means that you don't have to install anything on your computer and you can use it from any system or web browser.

This is a great way to digitize papers, articles, and memos into an editable format. It really comes in handy when you can't find, or can't get access to, the original electronic file.

Happy 4th of July America!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July America. Let us remember those that gave us our freedom then and those who keep us free now.

Should Schools Require Students to Purchase Specific Technology?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Technology is a great educational resource and tool. There are literally thousands of types of technology, software, and hardware out there for educators and students to use. But what happens when a school requires students to have a specific brand of technology?

Many colleges require students to have a laptop and if they don't own one, they can get one at a discount through the school. Other colleges issue the students laptops with the cost included in the tuition and fess. Some schools now require students to purchase iPhone's or iPod Touches. While I'm all for students having great technology tools, I have a problem with schools mandating the brand or system that students use.

The iPhone is a cultural and business phenomenon. Apple has sold millions of them around the world and it is difficult to go one day without seeing someone using one. The iPhone, and iPod Touch, have a huge number of great applications that are useful to students and educators. But does that mean that students should have to use it at a school? What happened to freedom to choose and a free market? Along the same lines, some schools or departments at schools, require their students to purchase Mac's instead of PC's. Other schools require students to purchase Windows based laptops.

This is not a good thing. Restricting students to a certain brand, company or system is wrong. Students should be allowed to purchase what ever brand or system that they are comfortable with. In this day and age, it doesn't really matter which system you have, you can do anything you need to. Mac's have Microsoft Office on them, Windows can do video, audio, and graphics. Web based applications like Google Docs, Zoho, and more mean that the operating system doesn't really matter anymore. Other smart phones can do what the iPhone can do. I did a comparison of the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and Palm Pre systems and found that every educational application available on the iPhone has some sort of counterpart on the other systems. All of them can go to the Internet, get email, view videos, view documents, take pictures, text message, and more. In fact, some of them have more educational tools available than the iPhone.

What about service contracts? A student with a phone from Verizon or Sprint shouldn't have to switch to AT&T because their school requires them to have an iPhone. They also shouldn't have to carry two devices if they keep their own smart phone and have to purchase an iPod Touch for school. If they already have an iPhone, they shouldn't have to switch to Windows Mobile, or Blackberry because the school wants them to.

Schools need to stay away from dictating the brand or system that students should have, and instead list what students should be able to do with their own laptop or smart phone. Schools need to also make sure that their applications are system independent. Lectures, applications, documents, and more should be able to be used on Mac, Windows, Linux, Palm, Android, Blackberry, or any other system. Schools should spend their time on making sure that students can use any system instead of pushing students towards a specific system.

Freedom of choice and a free market system are the only way to encourage inventiveness and allow students to be comfortable with their technology. Let the companies do the marketing for their products. Schools should do the educating.

ACER One Netbook Review

Monday, June 29, 2009

I have recently acquired an ACER Aspire One Netbook to review for possible use in school through the ACER K12 Seed program, which gives you a netbook to review with the option to purchase it at a discount after the review period. I would love to be able to have 1-to-1 computing in my room and I believe that a netbook could make that possible. They are cheaper than full size notebook pc's, fit better on desks, and do everything we need them to do. They have wi-fi, so the students can access Google Docs, the internet, and their email, along with the online programs and sites that we use in class. Their size also makes them easier to store securely.

The model I received is the Blue 10.1" monitor D250-1185. The blue cover is a beautiful, dark shade of blue that is a welcome break to plain old black or white.

It has Windows XP Home Edition, SP 3 pre-installed, along with a 60 day trial of Office 2007. The trial offer is not an issue since I use OpenOffice or Google Docs anyway. The CPU is an Intel Atom running at 1.60 GHz with 1GB of RAM and a 160 GB hard disk drive.

Startup took under 1 minute, which is faster than my Centrino laptop with 2GB of RAM.

The processor is powerful enough to do email, web surfing, document editing, and much more. I wouldn't recommend it for any processor intense applications, but it is more than adequate for 90% of what most people do with a computer.

The size is great. It has a 10.1" (diagonal) WSVGA TFT LCD screen, which is easy to read, even in bright light. It is 10.17" long x 7.24" wide x 1" thick. Yes, it is only 1" thick. It only weighs 2.95 lbs. with the six cell battery.

The six cell battery is a 48.8 W 44oo mAh Li-ion pack with a 6 hour rated life. I found it to be pretty accurate, with average battery life running over 6 hours.

The ACER is very comfortable to hold and carry also.

It has a built in web cam, built in stereo speakers, built in microphone, a multi-card reader which supports SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro and xD cards. Finally, a use for my old SD cards now that my smart phone uses micro-SD cards.

It includes Wifi (802.11 b/g) and a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port. Built-in Bluetooth and WWAN are available as options.

The keyboard is 89% of the size of a full-size keyboard. I have very large hands and I was able to use the keyboard with minimal issues. After a few hours of use, I had adapted to the smaller keyboard without issues. My wife, whose hands are smaller than mine, had no problems using the keyboard. The Touchpad is a nice size, with two buttons below it and multi-touch commands.

The Aspire One has a variety of I/O ports, including the multi-card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, headphone/speaker/line-out jack, microphone in-jack, the ethernet port, and the DC adaptor port.

The built in speakers are adequate for one person to listen to in a quiet environment. They do not have enough volume to use for much beyond one person without much background noise. They are angled downward at the front of the case, so the surface can deflect some of the sound. I found them fine for my own use. Headphones or external speakers are recommended for any other uses.

I found the Apsire One to be very responsive and easy to use. I was able to do everything that I do on my desktop, including photo editing, web surfing, video watching, and more. I would expect the Atom processor to have some issues with major multimedia editing and creation, but then again the netbook was not designed for that kind of work.

The only accessory I would recommend is a protective sleeve. I bought a neoprene one at Staples for under $20. It protects from scratches, bumps, and moisture.

Overall, I would rate the Acer Aspire One as a 9.1 out of 10. It was easy to set up and use and did everything I needed it to do. It is very portable and easy to carry. It is inexpensive. It is a great option for schools looking to initiate 1-to-1 computing. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a great netbook. I am definately buying this when the review period is up. It will come in handy for me and my wife to use, both at school and as a great mobile device.

Microsoft Power Toys (Alt-Tab, Calculator, Synctoy)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Microsoft has some great, free tools to add some neat functionality to Windows XP.

Check out Microsoft Power Toys. These are small programs that integrate into Windows XP. Microsoft engineers created them for fun, and then Microsoft decided to offer them to the public.

There are currently 14 Power Toys available for download. I currently use 3 of them on my computer.

The first one I use is the Alt-Tab Replacement. This PowerToy lets you see a thumbnail preview of the application you are switching to. For those of you who don't know about Alt-Tab: alt-tab allows you to switch between all of your open applications. Normally, you just see the name of the application. This PowerToy also shows you a preview image, which is very useful.

Another one I use is Power Calculator. This is a great replacement for the built in calculator in Windows XP and allows you to graph, evaluate functions, do conversions, and much more.

The PowerToy that I have used the most though, is SyncToy. Synctoy gives you the ability to sync any two directories, folders, or devices. For instance, I use it to sync the files on my school computer with a flash drive that I can take home or use as backup. Instead of copying the entire directory everytime, Synctoy compares the two directories and only updates the new, deleted, or changed files. It is also great to keep your desktop and laptop sync'd if you connect them.

These free applications can help make your life more easy and efficient when using Windows XP.

Sugarsync - Sync your files

Sugarsync is an online file synchronization and backup service. The service is fee based, but they do have a FREE account option with up to 2GB of storage available. If you need more storage space, you can add more memory at very reasonable rates. Reviews in multiple tech magazines always give Sugarsync high ratings and it's fees are some of the lowest in the industry.

Sugarsync allows you to store files online and even keep the online files sync'd with the files on your computer. I love it because it allows me to have access to my files from any web-enabled computer. You can even access your files from a web-enabled cell phone or smart phone. I no longer have to have a flash drive with me to bring files home to work on.

You can even share file access with other people if needed.

Sugarsync is easy to sign up for and very easy to use. You can simply upload files to your Sugarsync account and access them from the web. I recommend installing the file manager on your main computer and then selecting the files that you want to be sync'd to Sugarsync's system. You will be able to access all of those files from any other web-enabled device. The service has built in security and has it's own backup system for your data.

The web access looks just like a typical file explorer on a computer, but it is all web based. You can download files, move them to other directories, send them to people, or even edit them using their WebSync technology. WebSync allows you to edit your files from any internet connected computer and have the changes automatically backed up to the SugarSync servers. This means that you do not to manually download the file, edit it locally, and then re-upload it to the server.

Backup copies of your files and access to them anywhere - for free. You can't beat that.



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