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Showing posts from September, 2010

I like to move it, move it. Sony PlayStation Move - Bye, Bye Wii?

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This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of PlayStation MOVE. All opinions are 100% mine.


I succumbed to the popularity of the Wii two years ago, and although I got into the Wii Fit for a few weeks, the platform never captured my attention, and this was largely due to the lack of intense sports games like Madden and NBA Live. Although these franchises made their way to the Wii, they often came with "Wii enabled" features, which ultimately dumbed down gameplay. So, I've been toying with the idea of replacing my Wii with a PS3 which also gives me an included Blu-Ray player to boot. And if I just happen to get a PlayStation Move on top of all that? Well, I'd say "Goodbye Wii, Hello PS3."

PC Recommendations for Teachers

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Image by phil_g via Flickr It's the beginning of the school year, and it's also the season for new computer purchases. Students going to college, parents sending children to college, the five year old PC starting to make weird noises. These are all solid reasons to begin a search for a new computer. I've gotten numerous requests for recommendations lately, so I thought I'd put together a post. Instead of focusing on specific machines, let's first focus on specific pieces to consider.

Homework Calendars - Publishing, Sharing, and Informing using Microsoft SharePoint and Google Sites

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Image via CrunchBase "What's for homework?" or "When is our next test?" or "When is my final essay due?" are probably some of the most common questions a teacher will get asked during class. Prior to creating my own teacher website, I tried to have a syllabus for each unit and students would get a 2-3 week snapshot of all the homework assignments, lab experiments, and tests. With teacher websites becoming more popular, sharing this information online becomes a great way to keep our students (and parents) informed. Using our website trilogy as a starting point, we will now take a look at a few ways to share what's due and when.

Tips for Teacher Websites #3: Going beyond the basics

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Another day, another post completing a trilogy. This time, we're taking a deeper look at some things you can do beyond the basics for both SharePoint and Google Sites. As mentioned in both post #1 (Know Thine Audience) and post #2 (Form and Function), I suggest that teachers get a firm grasp of their website's audience and then determine the type and amount of content they wish to maintain. With those elements in place, layout, design, and colors can become a focus, and often, this is where the fun and exciting part of creating a website really comes into play.

5 Lessons Learned from the movie Catfish

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So, after getting hooked big time by the trailer, my wife and I took the plunge and joined the first day rush by seeing the sold out showing of Catfish downtown last night. As you may or may not know, the main premise of the movie involves a relationship developed online via Facebook. Since so many of our students use the social media application, this movie will surely attract a large number of viewers despite playing second fiddle to the other Facebook movie about the app's founders. Although mildly disappointed in the end, I felt the movie was interesting enough to justify writing about a few lessons learned from Catfish. Please note that although I won't be necessarily diving into the plot of the movie, you may be able to discern key elements (aka Spoilers) of the movie from the following. Consider yourself warned...

Android Agenda Widget Review - When you just have to have a calendar handy.

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Image via Wikipedia I am often on the move throughout my work day, and I've gotten in the habit of scheduling many of my visits with teachers on my Outlook calendar. With Wednesday's release of Android 2.2 for the Droid X, I now have a functional Exchange setup that's reasonably in sync (note: I didn't use the "push" word). Thus, it's handy for me to have quick access to my calendars. With Android Agenda Widget, I can not only have them on my home screen, but coupled with Widget Locker (reviewed here), I can also have view events on my lock screen.

Froyo and Droid X prove to be a winning combination

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Image via CrunchBase After a lengthy wait and anticipation reaching a height with our preview yesterday, I was pleased to see the update come in earlier than the 12pm EST estimate given by several articles. I woke up this morning, checked for system updates and instead of the usual letdown, I was happy to see that 2.3.15 awaited my click of the Update button. Setup was straightforward, a restart was needed, and I was able to keep both Launcher Pro and Widget Locker on the device without any problems. In our preview post, I mentioned three features I was looking forward to the most, so here are the immediate observations.

Waiting for Froyo - Droid X finally gets its day of Android 2.2 (2.3.15, actually)

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Image by showbiz kids via Flickr I haven't read Waiting for Godot, but I think I know enough of the theater fan's movie classic, "Waiting for Guffman" to make the comparison to this Droid X user's long and patient wait for the Android 2.2 update. After weeks and weeks of rumors, each claiming that Froyo was just around the corner, looking for clues in Motorola Matt's cryptic forum messages "late summer...", and having written this opener on 9/19 after reading a PC World article that hinted at Monday being the day, it's time we take a look at what all the fuss was about. And unlike Godot and Guffman, Froyo did make finally arrive. Today, we make one final preview at what we'll be looking forward to the most with 2.3.15.

Lookout! When to use Outlook Desktop vs. Outlook Web Access

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Outlook is Outlook, right? Well, if only it were that simple. The problem is that there are two different ways our teachers can access their email from their desktops, and both can be called Outlook. During these first few weeks of school, I've noticed many faculty and staff using one version when they might be interested in the other. We'll dive into both interfaces here, so you'll be better equipped to make your own informed decision. 

Most Common Mistakes in Algebra?

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Image by via Flickr I've worked with tutoring students in Algebra for several years now, including 10 years as a tutor for Kaplan Test Prep. Over the years, I've noticed a handful of mistakes that always seem to rear their ugly heads. I thought I'd share them here, hoping to remind students to always be on the lookout as well as solicit tips from teachers on how to avoid them.

This Week in Chanatown - Free SMARTBoard Course, Online Forms, Stopping Spam, Google Docs Folders and Site Gadgets, Flipboard

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Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr This week brought a heavy dose of ed-tech goodness, as we opened the week with a free offer for an online SMARTBoard course. We saw how Google Forms and Wufoo worked, followed by a few tips on mangaging Spam. I discussed our setup of Google Docs and folders, followed by a quick review of DGDM, a Google Sites gadget manager. Lastly, we closed the week with a look at Flipboard, a great app for browsing your news and social media. Next week, I expect to offer some recommendations on purchasing a PC, as well as take a look at a few Teacher Websites to see how our teachers are using both SharePoint and Google Sites in creative ways.

iPad App Review: Flipboard - A better view of Twitter and Facebook

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Image via CrunchBase I may be in the minority here, but I just don't get that immersed in the social media scene. Hours of my time are not spent Facebook stalking or Twitter following, though I see the value of both platforms, and was one of the earliest fans of all things "Tweet". I also recognize the importance of keeping up with one's friends and family over these outlets, so I've been pleased to find a convenient and entertaining way of keeping up with the Joneses. For those with an iPad, I recommend FlipBoard.

Domain Gadget Directory Manager (DGDM) - Keeping your Google Sites Clean

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Image by Kinologik via Flickr I'm a big fan of Google Sites, and we're starting to see some momentum in that students are creating their own sites for class projects or digital portfolios. Part of the fun in creating your website involves customizing your pages to express your own personality. Google provides opportunities for such expression beyond text and images through Gadgets. Unfortunately, a quick search of "hot" when Inserting a Gadget reveals many applications that are far from appropriate in the classroom. There was a suggested tool from Google (Feed Server Client Tool) that could be installed, but this seemed a bit more involved than it needed to be. Thankfully, courtesy of a recent GCT post by E.B., there's the Domain Gadget Directory Manager (DGDM), and I found this to be a very quick and easy way to manage a domain's accessibility to gadgets. More after the jump.

Google Docs Setup - Folders for Student Work

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Image via Wikipedia At ETHS, we have had a system in place where teachers can place work for their classes to retrieve, and where students can drop work for their teachers to view. A limitation of this was that it was only accessible for both parties when they are inside the building. With Google Docs, we wanted to explore the idea of creating a similar system using folders, thus allowing teachers and students to access the files from anywhere in the world.

Spreading Spam Email - We've all been there, but how can we stop it?

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Let me know if this looks familiar:

A colleague recently came in and mentioned that all of her contacts received a virus email with inappropriate content. Most likely, you can relate, and an increasing number of us have been the "sender" of malicious mail. So I thought I'd put together a short to-do list to ensure that this doesn't happen to you. Of course, there are no guarantees, and spamming seems to be an unnecessary part of the digital life, but here are a few things I've done to minimize the pain.

Online Forms - First stop: Google, Next up, Wufoo?

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Ah, online forms. The time saving tool designed to eliminate paperwork, improve workflow, and increase efficiency. Or are they cumbersome, ugly, complicated pieces that ultimately add more work to IT staffers? Although I am not yet familiar with several of the available form building tools, I do know that I was excited when I first encountered Google Forms and immediately began training teachers on possible uses in the classroom. However, we've reached some limitations with the included form builder, and at least for more complex projects, may need an alternative.

Free SMARTBoard Course - Take a class with Mrs. Blossom.

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Image via Wikipedia September brings lots of back to school deals: 10 cent folders, 25 cent crayon packs, 50 cent composition notebooks. How about a $95 online award-winning SMARTBoard course for free? This offer came via the SMARTBoard Ning, and I recently forwarded it to several of our existing SMARTBoard users. So, how does the course hold up and is it worth the price of free? More after the jump.

This Week in Chanatown - LP Plus, Jing, Google Priority, a Fellowship, NFL, and Ninite

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Image via Wikipedia Grab the pigskin, as the NFL season is finally upon us. I kicked off this past week with an update on Launcher Pro, focusing on the wonderful world of widgets that the Plus upgrade added. On Tuesday, I thanked the folks at TechSmith and discussed the underrated Jing. Crossing my fingers that I won't need Google Priority Inbox much this year, and raised $15 for Kiva through a sponsored post on a pretty cool STEM teacher preparation program. Finally, I offered some real world observations of NFL Mobile on the Droid X, and Ninite, a multiple program installer. Next week, I'm looking forward to answering the question of "What computer is right for me" as I bring in our first guest columnist to offer his opinions on the matter.

Ninite - Install multiple apps easily, automatically, and for free.

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Image via CrunchBase With more and more applications going to the cloud for availability, one is constantly turning to the web to download programs for installation. I've tested and used multiple computers from work that arrive with little software, so I often have to download browsers and other apps such as Google Earth or Evernote. I imagine home users would also find use for a single installer to rule them all...enter Ninite.

Android App Review: NFL Mobile - Verizon Subscribers only

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Image via Wikipedia Cue MNF music...Play the John Williams SNF prelude...Roll Hank Williams Jr...that's right, "Are you ready for some football!?!?!" It's opening night, and I've been watching more NFL Network lately since the Cubs checked out months ago. And I'm dying to try out the NFL Mobile app on my new Droid X. So, how did the app perform during primetime, and what's the real deal behind the pricing? Find out more after the jump.

Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships - STEM teachers in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio - Apply Now.

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This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Woodrow Wilson. All opinions are 100% mine.

As I was completing my Masters in Teaching seven years ago, I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of a scholarship that paid for a significant portion of my graduate school tuition. In exchange, I was to serve as a math or science teacher in a public school for five years. Although there are programs similar to this in many states, those living in Indiana, Michigan, or Ohio have the opportunity to earn $30,000 towards a graduate degree through the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.

Google Priority Inbox and Why I hopefully won't need it.

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Image via CrunchBase Google made the news last week in an effort to stay ahead of the Microsofts (Read: uh-oh, Outlook 2010 has a lot of our features - how can be innovate further?) with its introduction of the Priority Inbox. Designed to act as your own personal secretary, Priority Inbox can be trained to sort your most important messages to the top, leaving those you don't need to worry immediately about at the bottom. I like the idea, will use it, but hopefully, will barely notice a difference. More on why after the jump.

TechSmith's Jing: A Must for any Staff Developer and Teachers in general

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Christmas came early to this author when word came out on the Google Certified Teacher Group that GCT's would be receiving free licenses to many of TechSmith's popular products. At ETHS, I am fortunate enough to have access to much of their software collection already, but even before Camtasia fell into my hands, I was using Jing (for free) for quick and easy video screen casts that our teachers might find useful.

Launcher Pro Plus - Revisiting the Review and Checking out the Widgets in Plus.

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Image via Wikipedia It has been just over a month since my original post and review of Launcher Pro, and it has easily been one of my most viewed posts. So, I thought I'd revisit the application to see what's new, and why there's been considerable buzz regarding the home screen launcher. I'll also dive into Launcher Pro Plus, and giving you the lowdown on all of the native widgets that your $2.99 upgrade includes.

This Week in Chanatown - Back to School Part 2

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Image via Wikipedia Students were back in school at ETHS this week, so that meant lots of work for this Technology Integration Specialist. A late summer find was Daniusoft's DVD to iPad converter, a freebie for those who signed up in August. I reflected on summer getaways for a sponsored post (more on why ads here) and a Hampton Inn giveaway. I offered tips on smartphone usage and website design for teachers on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by reflections and a review of Addlogix's Internetvue PC to TV device. We closed out the week with some thoughts on Twitter. Stay tuned for next week's posts as I'll give an update to Launcher Pro, discuss why Jing is underrated, and kick off the NFL season in style. Happy Labor Day everyone!

Twitter - past, present, and future. How do you "tweet"?

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Image via CrunchBase I still recall the first time I read about Twitter. There was a brief blurb about the new social networking application in the Economist, and I immediately signed up for an account. At the time, I maintained a blog, but it was a real challenge getting detailed posts up on a regular basis (note: I'm on a 40+ day streak of continuous posts). I really liked the idea of micro-blogging. Giving short, informative updates about meaningful topics sprinkled with the occasional witty remark. Since its mainstream adoption, Twitter has blown up, and I find it noteworthy to reflect on the typical responses to Twitter.

AddLogix PC2TV Review - Project your computer screen wirelessly

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Image via Wikipedia I've been troubleshooting a lot of our wireless projection devices, so it's time for a quick update on the device that seems to have taken a lead in the "stability" and "reliability" categories. In February, I gave a rundown of our devices and nothing has really changed other than Addlogix's PC2TV seems to be the most reliable thus far. One would think that the native Epson solution would be the clear winner, but we haven't been able to test many of these yet, and one of the few that has experienced classroom testing has had troubles connecting to the Tablets. Today, we focus on the PC2TV device called InternetVue (made by Addlogix).

Tips for Teacher Websites #2: Form and Function

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Last week we discussed how important it was determine the initial audience for your teacher website. In summary, I have to say that it really helped me to stay motivated in creating my site when I viewed it as an organizational tool for my curriculum as opposed to just a flashy page to attract my students' attention. Today, I reflect on my experience and offer a few more suggestions in getting your teacher website up and running.

Things Teachers can do with a Smartphone: Part I

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Image via Wikipedia It's back to school week in Chanatown, so how's about we get started with a few tips on smartphone usage? Many teachers I meet with are now toting new and improved smartphones, and it's awesome! I don't feel like such a geek (as much) anymore, now that more and more phones are equipped with keyboards, faster processors, bigger screens, and features galore. Heck, even my wife got a new Android phone last week (more on that to come), so I thought it might be useful to consider how a smartphone can best impact a teacher's daily grind.