Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Overhead" Projector

Part 1: I took a projector that was too dim for front-of-classroom use and mounted it on the ceiling. No big technical challenge there . . . just a 15' VGA extension and it's set.

Part 2: In order to move the mouse in real-time on the table, I bought a UV Pen and a UV sensor/bluetooth module. The pen cost $12, and the sensor I bought at WalMart (in the form of a $40 WiiMote). I didn't want to have to change batteries on the WiiMote, so I ran power up to it.

Now I have a digital whiteboard table in my classroom--for its first voyage I did a little photo editing and was delighted with the results. Yay!

More posts about WiiMotes as digital whiteboards on the EdTech20/20 Blog from May 0f 2009.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Quizlet Newbie

I hate being the last person to come across a really valuable tool, but there it is.

Quizlet let me get a set of German vocab words (and they have mucho mucho other sets of vocabs from all content areas), and I embedded the scatter game below.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Backchannel Chats in Your Classroom

There's a quick start that's one-to-one chatting, but you want the "chat room" option
that is the link above. Name the room and provide a password and your chat
session should be good to go.

One cool thing I just heard someone say yesterday . . . they opened a chatzy
room for students to comment and question during a movie. One or two
students were given the room admin password and expected to moderate, and
the teacher was also a participant. How thought provoking is that!?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Here's an idea for mounting the Wii on your wall. I went to Home Depot and bought $12 of plumbing materials and used a can of tan spray paint I had at home. The result is a setup that won't attract lots of attention and will fix the wiimote in place. I won't glue the parts together, by the way, so things can be repositioned later.

The parts I bought are all 2" black pipe (the kind they use for waste-water in households). I put part numbers for Home Depot in case that's helpful.

811000011022 2ft ABS (which I cut down to 8")


ABS EL (One of the ELs is a 45 degree corner, and the other is 22.5 degrees. With these two ELs, you can rotate them to make the right degree for your classroom.)

ABS Drain (I took off the metal piece and used this to attach the setup to the wall.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wii-Boards for Classrooms

Last night we held a Geeknight and cobbled together some IR pens to work the magic of the Wii-Board (fashioning interactive whiteboards for the cost of a Nintendo Wii-mote). We gutted an Expo marker and filled it with parts from Radio Shack ($10 total). They're also available for sale for that price--pre-assemebled--online. One remarkable thing we discovered is the burgeoning community of Wii-board fans that have begun to produce IR pens and other gadgets to help teachers make Wii-boards. One great resource is

Today I went to and bought 2 of the DJewel pens (because you can go manual button or pressure tip, and that's worth the extra couple of bucks to me). I also bought the rechargable battery pack from them so that I can just keep it plugged into USB and not burn through batteries, and to provide the constant USB power I bought a wall AC/USB adapter (I'll put a shopping list at the bottom).

With all the extra hardware and a $35 Wiimote from Walmart, my total cost per setup is less than $65. We haven't found yet the beautiful solution for mounting them (more on mounting them in a second), but that will add a bit.

Getting them to work with the Bluetooth on our laptops was not too bad for the Windows machines and super-easy for the Macs. Though there is a for-cost solution called Smoothboard, the downloads that seemed to work best are free. For the PC this was the best: and the download that worked so excellently for the Mac was this one: This software provides all the necessary drivers, picks up any "findable" Wiimotes (make them findable by holding both buttons 1 and 2), and calibrates the Wiimote (or multiple Wiimotes) to the projection surface. Basically, once you've activated the software, you have a new mouse ready to give input to the application of your choice--I enjoyed fooling around with a wall-sized Google Earth.

It is very possible to mount a single Wiimote and have it track your IR pen's movement, but if the pen ever blocks the line of sight to the Wiimote, that breaks the mouse's movement. We had stellar results when we coordinated 2 Wiimotes at the same projection screen (mounted above and to each side at about 45 degrees). In my classroom, this would be a Wiimote on each wall, at ceiling height, set about 8 feet back from the plane of the front projection screen. If you buy a second pen with the second setup, you're still only in $130 into the project.

I teach in a middle school, and I just have a suspicion that having identifiable Wiimotes on my walls would make them a theft target. So I'm looking for wall or ceiling mounting ideas that will also conceal the handheld units!

Very exciting stuff! Fun to play with, and potentially a game-changer for the classroom.

Shopping List

AC to USB Power Adapter $2.50

USB Rechargeable Battery Adapter $12.50

Pressure Sensitive IR Pen $18


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Film on the Fly

At ITSC this year, and in talking with Dennis Grice and Wesley Fryer, I learned about a cell phone movie-making competition called Film on the Fly.

I arranged with some of my middle school students to meet me at the school on Saturday morning, and we worked through lunch to edit a little video. First of all we spent some time fooling around with our cell phones, getting bluetooth working, trying out and K7 as methods for getting audio from the phones, etc.

All the photos were taken with our cell phones!

Here is our end-product:

Cell Phone to MP3

Like many of my peers, I have used Gabcast as a tool to generate mp3 files from phone calls. It's been a great resource, to have a toll-free number that students can call from any phone, and then their voice becomes an mp3 file that is ready to become a podcast episode or a component in a classroom video, or whatever. With so many high-quality microphones (in the form of cell phones and land lines) around, why not use them?!

But as of March 1st, Gabcast is no longer most-favored for classroom use:
Purchase minutes? Wha? When free services become for-cost services, most educators look for the "exit" sign. And I'm no exception.

So I found two good options for capturing voice: K7 and

This is the answering machine I've been using for some time--I've just never used it for students to call. It's really, really easy to set up, and the results are pretty cool: You get a phone number with a Seattle area code that people can send faxes to or leave messages on. If they send a fax, it comes to my email. If they leave a voice message, it comes to my email as a WAV file.
My students were doing the Film on the Fly competition this weekend, and we had success getting voice files from cell phone to computer this way.

I love my boxes! There's a post about in this blog from a while back, but I wasn't specific about what it can do with cell phones. Students can call a phone number and leave a message, and it becomes an mp3 available to everyone with access to the drop (which can be completely public or hidden behind a password). A cell phone can MMS (texting with pics or vids) to my email address, and the pics and vids show up instantly in the drop. From there they can be linked to, embedded, or downloaded. Gotta love it!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Virtual Learning

February 2009 saw the publication of two (at least two that come to me) magazines with a distance learning focus.

Leading and Learning had a rather glowing account of Florida Virtual. It was future-oriented and described some components of what must be the future of 8-12 education.

NEA also published a lengthy article on the topic this month. Virtualizing education in Alaska, according to the article, takes the form of a teacher speaking into a video camera in real time while students watch and reluctantly participate. I kept looking for a disclaimer saying "Luckily, this story of virtualizing education is from LAST decade. We're not really still doing this to our kids in the classroom." No such luck. The article is worth reading, if for no other reason than as a "how not to do distance learning"!

If you've ever seen Marco Torres with his cartoon teachers saying "read pages 1-10 and answer questions 1-4" using the latest and greatest technology of each age, that's exactly what the Alaska article highlights.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 Web-Based File Storage

This weekend I saw Microsoft's SkyDrive and thought that was pretty cool. 25GB of free storage, where each folder can be set with different permissions . . . that's all right! I could see sending my teachers and students that direction.

But then today I saw, and I am very impressed. You share files up to 100MB in each drop, but the flexibility is what takes my breath away--is there a mode of communication it doesn't work with? I'm going to see what a group of students with cell phones can do to make it a collaborative sharepoint.

Cell Phone Magic

Did you know you can do this with any old cell phone? (not just the fancy ones)

Now you can find businesses for free from any phone – no internet access required, and with no 411 charges. Just call 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) and say where you are and what you're looking for.

* No need to memorize or write down phone numbers.
* Call and connect directly to businesses.
* Get the businesses' info sent to your phone for free via SMS.

Google SMS
From local business listings to stock quotes, you can get the information you're looking for with Google SMS.

Simply text message your search query to 466453 ("GOOGLE" on most devices) and we'll text message back your results.

Want to post text and pictures to your Blogger blog directly from your mobile device? Email them, or if there's no mobile internet, MMS them to

Thursday, February 19, 2009

NCCE Thursday Afternoon (Chris Haskell)

Cell phone projects:

  1. Send me an sms-to-email with your name.
  2. I now have your phones' correct emails (, etc)
  3. Now I can send out an email/sms to 5 students at a time, saying "okay, group 1, stand up and go to this building on campus, and wait for instructions"
  4. As they go, I send out the other groups and then send a follow-up email to group 1 with the further instructions.
This would be useful in Ashland.
  • Phones can send email. Pics emailed to Flickr, Picnik, Photobucket are put into albums.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Books to Read

The Tipping Point
The Outlyers
Here Comes Everybody--Clay Shirkey
Growing up Digital--Don Tapscott (get a newer book)
Element--Ken Robinson
Shaking up the SchoolHouse--Schlechty
Working on the Work--Schlechty
Classroom Instruction that Works--Marzano

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ITSC Tuesday Afternoon (Wes Fryer)

Powerful Ingredients for Digitally Interactive Learning

"I'm here for the learning revolution."

Applications can go into the Finder window as quick links.

TEXAS: Local autonomy for textbook purchasing--change the law from "textbook" to instructional materials . . . then you can buy netbooks with textbook money.

Diffusion of Innovation (Everett Rogers) Curve of Adoption of new technologies.
"You're not a laggard. You're here at this session."

Here Comes Everybody--Clay Shirkey
Growing up Digital--Don Tapscott (get a newer book)
Element--Ken Robinson
Shaking up the SchoolHouse--Schlechty

Back channel chatting and collaboration via Chatzy.

Facebook "facet of profile" so that students can be in partial relationship "list public."

NO ONE is preparing kids for the unfiltered web. --Scott McCleod.

Compfight searches flickr and can be limited to creative commons.

Proceedural vs. Navigational Learning

Don't print handouts for kids--you're wasting paper.
Meet the learners where they are. You must supply paper handouts for fearful learners.
We tend to teach the way we were taught.

Nokia Ad--4th Screen
Texas Abilene Christian University "Connected"

ITSC Tuesday Afternoon (Marco Torres)

Focus on Verbs, not Nouns

What makes you an expert? The dept. teachers went around the table describing what makes them an expert. Then I asked them--can you find it on Google (big screen change to Google Home).

What is an educated person?

Remind me never to debate someone who has an iPhone.

In a restaurant, if you're not talking about food, you're in trouble. Yet so many of us in education talk about schooling ... and not learning.

How much time do students spend creating and producing vs. passively receiving? Are we attempting to create really, really good passive receivers? Is that our purpose?

Monday, February 16, 2009

ITSC Monday Afternoon (Kelly Beaudry)

Tech Enriched Classroom

"If you didn't find a partner, make a triad." That sounds SO much better than Ménage à trois!

(Too often I find myself hoping that they won't go there when I say "Create a threesome" or "Create a threeway." Triad is so much better!)

Quadrant Page activity to start, so that participants can return to a SAFE HARBOR person.

Having a starting Quadrant Page activity is good so that people make an initial connection and know immediately who they need to connect with when it comes to do that. Very efficient, but it also creates a "safety" because you can come back to that "winter" partner several times and your "summer" partner several other times.

"Let's get ready to do some reflection . . ."

ITSC Monday Afternoon (Wes Fryer)


copyright comes into existence the moment it's written on the cocktail napkin--not just spoken, it has to be a static form.

Obama Hope Poster
Shepard Fairey artist took a Google image and altered it (and avoided a lawsuit how?)

We need to be able to give advice to our colleagues!

Compfight --looks for creative commons images in flickr

There is a myth . . . the 10% myth. 1986 Fair Use Guidelines what lawyers call "bright line rules"

Fair Use

We need to know this topic, especially in an age of remixing and video/audio creation.

H omegrown
C reative Commons
F air Use

Then, after talking about copyright, get to fair use.

Derivitive, Transformative
In many cases, educators have not fully used their rights under Fair Use.

Copyright's for the People video. Temple University: whats-copyright, user-rights
Don't copy that floppy.

TED Talks remixing Larry Lessig

Creative Commons Get Creative Video
Building on the Past

Sunday, February 15, 2009

ITSC Sunday Evening (Sir Ken Robinson)

What are we taking for granted? ...our sense of creativity
We don't know what we take for granted ... because we take it for granted!

Creativity: The process of having original ideas that have value
  1. It's not special people that have it.
  2. It's not about special things (artsy vs. all the other things in life where talent exists)
  3. You can help increase creativity.
They have high standards, but they're not standardized. Excellence comes not through standardizing but through customizing. The enemy of raising standards is conformity.

Tonsectomies--A false epidemic of the 50s and 60s.
Our current false epidemic is ADHD. Too many people are being casually given this label.

Linear vs. Divergent Thinking
Redefining Genius: 98% of kindergartners vs 32% of 5th graders scored genius on a divergent thinking test.

Blue Man Group

Why wear a watch..It's like a single-function device! How lame.

blue man school finding their element video
Freight cars and school is a silo. No, we are a launch pad.

A better metaphor for education is not industrialism but agriculture. What is holding education back is the depersonizing, conformity, and standardizing.

Michaelangelo--I didn't make the David--the David was in the stone all the time... all I did was reveal him. It was actually easy. All you have to do is see which parts of the stone are not David and remove them.

Bertrand Russell
"Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so, what is mind and what is matter? Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers? Has the universe any unity or purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal? Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because of our innate love of order? Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small and unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is he perhaps both at once? Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile? If there is a way of living that is noble, in what does it consist, and how shall we achieve it? Must the good be eternal in order to deserve to be valued, or is it worth seeking even if the universe is inexorably moving towards death? . . .

"The studying of these questions, if not the answering of them, is the business of philosophy."

A better metaphor for education is not industrialism but agriculture. What is holding education back is the depersonizing, conformity, and standardizing.

Michaelangelo--I didn't make the David--the David was in the stone all the time... all I did was reveal him. It was actually easy. All you have to do is see which parts of the stone are not David and remove them.

Question and Answer Session

Last summer someone keynoting another conference talked about educators re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Is the ship worth saving or shall we find a lifeboat.

We can't stop education and put it into dry dock. We have to rebuild while were at sea. History is with us in that the current system is breaking down. Reference here the declining value of the degree.

It's not going to be a revolution as much as an increased evolution. One of the great bridgeheads here is going to be information technology.

Schools won't go away, but they need to focus on practical arts, collaborative work. Teachers must become curators of knowledge rather than sources of knowledge.

We think if we can't count it, it doesn't count.

ITSC 2009 Sunday Afternoon

Microsoft Apps in Education

Photosynth--seems to require Silverlight to be installed (what is Silverlight?)

Kodu--Video Game creation software (still in beta?)

Live@edu VIDEO

SkyDrive--store files, permissions by folder, send direct notification link via email

OfficeLive--share documents


Live Mesh (installed application per unit)
  • Sync docs on your PC or Mac or Phone (change one and the others change)
  • Remote desktop
Windows Live Photo Gallery--Similar to Picassa

Career Forward cFWD

Office Labs (community clips screencasting from MS Office, pptPLEX)

ICE --composite image editor

IM with Windows Messenger with real-time translation tool.

Steady State--What does this do?

Worldwide Telescope

APPLE (iPod Touch, Podcasting, etc) (research and resources for setting up a charter school in 21st Century Style)

GarageBand--creating a podcast with screenshots and prerecorded voice

KQED Podcasts and Vodcasts in the area of Science a presence, share ideas--submit an Apple Distinguished Educator application


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Google Earth

This just came from the Google Educators Group:

"Speaking of changes around in the world - when it launched three years ago, Google Earth changed the way people everywhere access the world's geographic information. Since then, we've added useful features like 3D buildings, Street View, Sky in Google Earth, and countless educational content layers. This week, we are thrilled to unveil three exciting new features in Google Earth 5.0! With touring in Google Earth, your students can record and play back their own tours, complete with voiceovers! In addition, new historical imagery allows you to use a time slider to explore local and global changes over the past few decades. Finally, you can now dive to the deepest part of the sea with oceans in Google Earth! Our newest release allows you to fly beneath the surface to explore underwater canyons, see shipwrecks in 3D, and watch YouTube videos submitted by oceanographers and aquatic experts. Check it out at!"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Carolyn Stanley writes some good edtech tips on her blog: The Evolving Classroom. Her post begins after the ~~~~~~ and is in RED below.
I wanted to see the TED Talk she mentioned, so I used my Firefox add-on "Video DownloadHelper" to suck the 20 minute video from YouTube onto my computer, and then I watched it and played some of it at school (where YouTube is blocked). Good stuff!

A very inspirational video - Benjamin Zander speaking at TED
There were two videos from YouTube of Benjamin Zander, an orchestra conductor, speaking at the TED conference where the finest, most creative minds from all over the world gather to share their insights. The first selection runs 10 minutes and is worth watching, but it is the 2nd selection which runs 20 minutes that is a must. It was already 1:00am when I clicked on the video. I figured I'd look at it for a couple of minutes and then give up and go to bed. Well, I was so captivated that I watched the whole thing and have since watched it again. When it ended at 1:30am or so, I had tears running down my cheeks, and I was applauding loudly with the rest of the audience. It's a good thing my husband was sound asleep in the bedroom, for he surely would have wondered what was going on.

Please take the time to watch this video.
Here it the direct link to it on YouTube:
Enjoy! Please leave me a comment on my blog.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Typing Sites

Here are some of the best typing games and tutorials and tests I've come across. I'd love your ideas and additions if you'll leave them as a comment.

Dance Mat Typing
This is a very accessible training program for first-exposure to typing. Pedagogically sound and fun for kids. The songs get old after a while and there's no way to skip them, but by then you can transition to games to increase speed--the foundation is laid.

These guys have some good, free games. I like them because I can instruct my kids to play at level three or higher and then they're off of the home row. They're typing full words rather than letter-by-letter, which is good because I don't think typing letters increases skills as much as typing words.

QWERTY Warriors
A rewarding shoot-em-up game. Not as pedagogically sound because you must press the Enter key between words (and there isn't variety built in), but kids with slower fingers can get into it until they get to 20wpm and be ready for Typer Shark. Kids like QWERTY Warriors, and I do too. There is also a QWERTY Warriors II that doesn't make you press Enter but it's not as adrenaline-producing. Try them both.

Typer Shark
Once you're up to 20wpm, the best game out there is Typer Shark. Here is a LINK, but if it's blocked at your school you might try searching "Typer Shark" to find an open site. The great thing about this one is that there is variety built in, so it doesn't get old as fast.
Typing Master software provides this online typing test for free. It's the most accurate online test I've been able to find. We use the three minute version and track the kids' speed in a classroom wiki--kids put their speeds into a table on their own wiki page.

Painting Keys
This isn't an online tool--just a suggestion. In our computer lab we used to use rubber keycovers, but they cost nearly as much as a cheap USB keyboard and are prone to tearing and loss. So now all our lab computers have two keyboards plugged in--one normal one and one where the 15 most common letters have been painted over with a paint-pen.

Sites for the Chase Kids

Oops! My kids have all become computer savvy in the last month--too much time over Christmas break where they could sit down at a laptop and write email, play math games, or learn to read. So this is a post dedicated to my kids with links to their favorite sites. I'll take the permalink and stick it in the bookmarks bar so it's easy to get to . . .


Dance Mat Typing


Virtual Manipulatives

Everyday Mathematics

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


ISTE asked for opinions on this topic: "Wikipedia, friend or foe"

. . . and this is my answer . . .

Wikipedia is just like the “Encyclopedia Galactica”
. . . only different.

Not an Isaac Asimov fan? Here's a Cliffs Notes version: Twenty thousand "encyclopedists" are dispatched to a distant planet ostensibly to prepare an encyclopedia of all human knowledge. Admittedly it's so far in the future that there is a lot more knowledge to put into their enormous publication, but these 20,000 labor for fifty years before their work is interrupted.

The Encyclopedia Galactica is created on a simply massive scale—very appropriate to science fiction—but it still follows the same method of compiling encyclopedias that has been used since the first such compilation almost 300 years ago. That is, to create a trustworthy resource you first gather many experts and editors with distinguished educations. Asimov tried to see the future, but he missed it in guessing that the definitive gathering of human knowledge would be done by the elite possessors of knowledge. It would have been impossible in 1951 to guess that knowledge-compiling would become democratized to the point where we all chip in to form our own real-life version of the Encyclopedia Galactica.

"All of us are smarter than any of us." That's the idea behind Wikipedia, and it is one that is well supported by James Surowiecki and the research that he references in The Wisdom of Crowds. If any random contributor were creating entries in Wikipedia by himself, then that would not be trustworthy. But when you have a crowd of editors swarming over each Wikipedia article and having discussion on the back-end about how the article could be improved on the front-side, there are significant checks and balances. There is wisdom.

Each time I’ve edited a Wikipedia article (and I’ve only edited three so far) I’ve been impressed by the dialogue that is going on behind the scenes. These other self-appointed editors see themselves as providers and guardians of information. They subscribe to “their” articles so as to be alerted to any future changes. Funny thing about it—each of those three articles that I made changes in are now also “my” articles. I own part of Wikipedia, if you know what I mean. Three out of 11 million is a small part, but those three are more accurate and complete because of me. That is democracy.

Just now when I was trying to remember how many encyclopedists were sent to Terminus . . . I consulted my online encyclopedia. It had all the facts I wanted and one amused chuckle for me when I read a quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and then reflected on those who complain of Wikipedia:
"… [The Guide] has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom … though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate…”
I’ll fix the inaccuracies in Wikipedia as I find them (and you will, too), and together we’ll make an online encyclopedia even better than the fabled Encyclopedia Galactica.