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Showing posts from July, 2010

Google Goggles - Search with your camera, but only on Android (for now)

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Image via Wikipedia Although it's most likely coming soon to the iPhone, Android owners can rejoice for another day that they currently have exclusive use of a very cool app in Google Goggles.  This fun little tool lets you take a picture of text, artwork, landmarks, pretty much anything. The exciting part is when you let the Google search engine try to discover what you're looking at. This week, I had some fun discovering just how cloudy or clear the goggles really were.

Using the iPad on a Daily Basis - How Apple changed the game for me

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Image via Wikipedia With all of the attention I've been giving to my new beloved Droid X, I have take a moment to reflect on part of the reason that made my transition to Android so smooth and enjoyable. So, bear with me haters of Apple "fanboys", I'm going to dedicate this post to discuss why I love my iPad. Instead of just touting the device for its specs and all that it does well, I'll focus on where and why I choose to use my iPad over another device, and why it helps me with my everyday life. Still interested?  Read on...

ADW Launcher Review - How does it compare to Launcher Pro?

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Image via Wikipedia In what's turning out to be a Coke vs. Pepsi debate, ADW Launcher has joined Launcher Pro (reviewed here) as the most popular alternatives to the stock Android launcher. Today, I'll give the launcher its due time as I discuss the benefits of ADW, and why I liked it overall better than Launcher Pro.

Why I Use Pandora more than iTunes

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Image via CrunchBase One of the first tabs I open on my browser is almost always Pandora.  If I'm going to be working on the computer for awhile, I want to have some tunes playing in the background.  Now, I have a ton of music loaded into my iTunes, so why would I turn to an application where I would be hearing ads every now and then?  Perhaps, it's because I don't quite have my iTunes organized well enough, but often, I'd rather listen to a variety of music and I just don't have enough of a mix in my personal collection.  Plus, I'm always eager to discover new artists, yet ones that have a sound similar to what I like.

New and Improved Google Images - Using Images in the Classroom

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Image via Wikipedia I recall reading the announcement from the Official Google Blog about the new and improved Google Images, but it wasn't until my wife remarked 'Hey, they've really improved Google Images" that I decided to take a closer look.  Sure enough, Images has been enhanced with a denser layout, lots of scrollable images, larger thumbnails, and a hover preview. Since our students are using Images everyday for presentations, Animoto movies, and website creation, these changes come just in time for the back to school season.

Droid X Real World Impressions Part I

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Since making my Decision, I've had just over a week with the new Droid X. Through my Twitter (@Chanatown), I've been jotting down some field notes concerning the new Android superstar phone, and here's part one of my "review".  I use the air quotes because there are many typical reviews already out there.  Try this one, or that one, this one, or that one.  I know because I read them all prior to my purchase.  If you're looking for specs, screenshots, or a detailed analysis of the 8MP camera, check out one of those reviews.  This post is more about some of the real world observations that I made that may not make it into other reviews.

Launcher Pro Review - Droid X Customization at its Finest

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UPDATE (9/6): I just paid for and installed Launcher Pro Plus. After reading this original review, feel free to check out my thoughts on the upgrade and all of its widget goodness!

One of the biggest reasons I purchased a Droid X instead of the shiny new iPhone 4 was the ability to return to my customization roots.  I remember the good ol' days of tweaking my Samsung i730 Pocket PC, and all of the time spent reading about the latest home screen additions (now popularly referred to as "widgets").  I will admit to being initially reluctant to start the same process with the Droid X, because it is a dangerous path that inevitably leads to phone slowdown and factory reset, but hey, if you can't enjoy your phone, why get it in the first place, right?  Thus, on a dark and rainy night, I dove head first by picking up Launcher Pro.

A Whole New Mind - Reflections on Dan Pink's book and connections to education

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Image via Wikipedia I've been wanting to read more of Dan Pink ever since I saw his TED talk on Motivation.  The talk appealed to me and really helped me become more eloquent on why I love my job. The first book that I checked out of the library was "A Whole New Mind - Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future." Although it wasn't as moving for me as the TED talk, I did pick up a lot of great suggestions, many of which will apply to education. (NOTE: there's a discussion guide for educators available here.)

Google Apps Control Panel getting upgraded - Organizations and users

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Image via CrunchBase Posted yesterday in the official Google Apps update feed, this item got many excited in the Education arena as well as in the corporate world.  By allowing creation of separate organizations and being able to set different policies for each, Apps admins can finally be able to set up a teachers group and a students group (without using separate domains).  I would also like to potentially use this feature to establish grade level groups, not necessarily to control services but rather to keep all of our users sorted.  For example, despite having only 2,900+ students and close to 300 faculty, we have over 5,300 accounts currently set up.  I'd like to trim this down, sort the accounts into manageable groups, and be able to quickly adjust group policies as needed.  I'll post again when this feature is fully active for us, because as of 7/21, I am still seeing the older "users and groups" setting in my control panel.  I did notice that Google stated that…

Art and Physics - Alexander Calder @ MCA Chicago

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Image by farlane via Flickr I try to take advantage of Chicago's rich cultural institutions during the summer, and one of my favorites is turning out to be the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).  I often like to go on their free day (Tuesdays) and try to time it so I can hop a free tour as well (1pm, 2pm, 6pm on Tuesday).  Today's tour focused predominantly on Alexander Calder and several artists influenced by him.  I could not help but be amazed by the connections to science and engineering that Calder, Middlebrook, Boyce and others made in their works.

Teacher Cell Phone Discounts Available on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile

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One nice discovery from my cell phone free agency process was to find out that teachers get monthly discounts on their cell phone plans.  I cannot believe that I have taught for 11 years (5 private, 6 public) and have been paying full price for all of them!  Perhaps, I am the last one to find out, but if not, here's the deal:

Getting links and images easily in Blogger through Zemanta Assistant

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Image via CrunchBase So, it's summertime, and you may have noticed the increased frequency of blog posts during the past week.  Although I will try to keep a healthy pace during the school year, chances are, you'll see me revert back to my 1-2 X/week goal.  One tool that may help keep the quality up is Zemanta Assistant.  I found this while browsing my Blogger Buzz.  When installed, I see a toolbar on the right of my post editor that automatically updates with related media (attributions included), articles (such as the ones below), and in-text links.  The dragging of images was a bit clunky at first (TIP: drag to blog post, then click on the image to see it properly), but the application of links, automatic update, and ease of use will definitely save me time in the future and hopefully add value to my content.  Thanks Zemanta!
Related articles by ZemantaGet Related Content for Your Blog with the Zemanta Gadget (buzz.blogger.com)Is Zemanta your little blogging secret? (zemanta.…

Teacher Book Club - Linda Nathan's The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test.

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Teacher Magazine is holding a book club discussion with Linda Nathan, author of "The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test."  Nathan writes about her experiences as principal of The Boston Arts Academy (BAA), an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse school.  She speaks specifically of successful initiatives that can be applied to other schools, and I could not help but see some similarities to much of what we are trying to do at ETHS.

"The Decision" comes early to Chanatown

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It's done.  The deal has been made.  The contract signed, and the new phone is in hand.  I'll be tweeting (@Chanatown) for the next week about my initial experiences with the new phone.  A full length review compiling these Tweets will appear here next week.  To spare you from waiting out an hour long made-for-TV “special”, I decided to include the transcript of my own “Decision” interview with none other then Jim Gray below.  Funny how it seemed eerily similar to the one with LeBron just last week...

Introducing Google Docs through Improv

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Living in the "second city", I'm a big fan of the Improv scene and local comedy clubs that are close by.  This morning and earlier this summer, I've been giving short presentations to our incoming 9th graders on using our electronic gradebook system along with Google Apps.  After introducing students to their mail account, I gave a brief talk on Google Docs.  Rather than making students sit through a presentation, however, I tried to get them as active and immersed in the activity as possible, even if it's something as simple as sending an email to their teacher, though this proves to be very useful, as the teacher can then create a quick group contact list.

How to use Prezi without getting dizzy, and can it be a transformative tool?

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Recently, I've read and fielded a few comments from bloggers and teachers about some issues with Prezi.  In particular, several have noted the steep learning curve and the unintended focus on zooms/twists/turns as opposed to the content.  With regards to the latter, I learned firsthand how dizzying the Prezi experience can be when I gave previews of my ICE poster session to colleagues prior to the conference.  Feedback often included "That's really cool, but I'm starting to feel nauseated."  For the learning curve, I'd like to argue that when used carefully, Prezi can be easy to get started with and the program has the potential to be used as a transformative tool in education.

App Inventor for Android - Closing the Apps Gap?

Although not quite making my "bucket list", building apps for the iPhone has been a thought of mine that I started pursuing a bit further (inquired with friends, colleagues, and made some connections with a few app developers).  However, the idea still hasn't materialized, mainly due to the fact that I haven't had the time nor funds to invest in learning a new platform from scratch, and my app ideas are merely in the brainstorm stages.  Today, I saw a post in the GCT Google Group and then an article in the NY Times that may reinvigorate my quest to be an app developer.

Summer 2010 - Phone Free Agency - iPhone 4, Droid X, HTC Evo 4G, Samsung Galaxy

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Now that the LeBron-a-thon or LeBronocalpyse (gotta love Bill Simmons) or whatever you want to call it is over, it's time to focus on the other equally important free agency decision of the 2010 summer.  That's right, for millions of iPhone 3G early adopters, including this author, the 2-year AT+T contract comes to an end soon (July 22 for yours truly).  How much anticipation is there for this upcoming free agency class?  Considering that this group patiently waited for the 3G instead of the original iPhone (call us the "wait and see" early adopter generation) but did not re-up for the 3GS, I'd venture to say that it is a pretty sizeable contingent.  So, what choices do we face going into what should be the most exciting phone summer since 2008?  Here are the devices/carriers that I intend to "meet" with over the next few week:

Google Apps for Education Certification Program

Hot off the heels of my Google Teacher Academy reflection, it appears that Google has unveiled its much anticipated (as discussed on the GTA Google Group) Certification Program for Trainers and Partners.  It appears to be a valid attempt to get more trainers (and perhaps not just teachers) out there to spread the good word about Google Apps for Education.  According to the site, there are three attainable levels:  Qualified Individual, Certified Trainer, and Certified Partner.  To achieve the first level, you must pass 6 online exams, each costing $15.  This seems reasonable, especially compared to Microsoft certification exams, but I imagine that this process is not quite as rigorous.  Still, it's nice to make the program accessible to a wide spectrum, and we shall see who ends up benefiting the most from the increased opportunities.  I will most likely complete the certification process this summer and depending on my experience, I will potentially recommend interested ETHS educ…

GTA Reflection - Thoughts about Google Apps for Education from a Google Certified Teacher

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Part of our final assignment as Google Certified Teachers is to prepare a final reflection.  The end of the school year seems a fitting time to do this, and I would have written this sooner, but I've been busily involved with organizing and running a week's worth of professional development for our teachers followed by an awesome trip to Denver for ISTE 2010.

ISTE Day 3 Reflections Part 2: Leading Effective Technology Integration in Schools - Jo Williamson and Hoke Wilcox

The ticketed workshop in the afternoon was a 6-hour one, so expectations were high since I would not be able to attend several sessions during this time.  The topic was an important one, though.  "Leading Effective Technology Integration in Schools" was led by Jo Williamson and assisted by Hoke Wilcox, and I looked forward to being in a room with people interested in improving how teachers are trained to use technology.  We opened the discussion with some brief introductions followed by polling and discussion on the prompt, “What kinds of technology uses would you like to see in classrooms and why?”  I suggested to my group something to the extent of the answer of “Anything that matches a teacher’s curriculum, is “invisible”, and engages and motivates students.”  The use of the PollEverywhere site was a nice bonus, as I was unaware of the application, and I will begin using it regularly as a replacement to clickers when hardware (i.e. computers or netbooks) is available.

ETHS Netbooks and Literacy workshop Day #2

This link will take you to the Agenda for the Netbooks and Literacy workshop day #2.  

Netbooks and Literacy is a summer project approved by Evanston Township High School (ETHS).  Its main objective is to train English/History teachers on the hardware, software, and Web 2.0 tools that will be available to them during the 2010-2011 school year.  These teachers will be piloting the second phase of a project designed to utilize netbooks in the classroom with the goal of improving literacy instruction.

ETHS Web 2.0 Tools Teacher Training Workshop

This link will take you to the Agenda for the Web 2.0 Tools workshop.

This workshop is part of a week-long series of voluntary technology trainings provided by Evanston Township High School (ETHS).  Its main objective is to train teachers across disciplines on the features, benefits, and impact of relevant Web 2.0 Tools for use in the classroom.