Tuesday, December 21, 2010

QR Codes: The Desktop Version And A Follow-Up

When I wrote my post yesterday about QR codes I was just tossing around some ideas and putting some things out there that I had seen. I never expected the awesome feedback I have gotten and people wanting to know more. I have gotten lots of questions and have been thinking lots about practical ways to use these in the classroom...

First, QR codes definitely have the cool factor. Get your mobile device, scan, and be taken away to the magical world of the Internet to get some great information. Are they a necessary teaching tool? Probably not, but neither is most of what we use in education today. But they are another tool to use. QR codes are taking off, evident by their growing presence in advertisements and other places. Sure, it will take sometime for them to become mainstream. One question I got was are students using these now. I don't think so but, they are poised to hit things like console games. Think about it. Your game comes with this funky black and white box with the directions to scan. When you do you get a secret cheat code, or a code to unlock some part of the game you only can by scanning the code. (Heck, QR codes might already be on games. I have no clue though.)

The point is, these codes can contain just about any information you want. On your business card you could create a code that listed all your areas you specialize in. Since you have 4000 characters, there is a lot more room in the code than there is on the card. And the code removes the chance for mistyping a URL or leaving out some piece of information.

Scan and go.

Plug and chug.

There are some really great ways to use them in education that I want to highlight.

But first...

The biggest question I have gotten is "What do I do if my students don't have mobile devices." Not to worry friend! Many of the ways I have been thinking about using them don't involve mobile devices at all.

Today I threw together a short screencast with a couple of ideas on how to use a desktop QR Reader:

You can download this desktop QR Code reader here. Again, very easy to use and since Adobe Air will run on just about any platform you can install it just about anywhere. I am sure this is not the only one. David Hopkins told me about another (Quickmark) but I had trouble getting it to install and work correctly (but that could have been the machine I was using.) If you have other suggestions leave them in the comments below.

The other question I got a lot was about generating codes. The website I listed in the previous post works well for me. I like that it will do websites, text, even send a SMS message when scanned. And I can get the embed code or a link directly to the code to print or to copy and put where ever. I also found some browser extensions that will automatically create QR codes that you can then scan with a phone to save or get more information.

  • For Firefox, Mobile Barcoder sits at the bottom of your screen. You highlight anything; text, URL, image and it creates a QR code on the fly that you can then scan with your mobile to save the information. You can also highlight the text, right click and generate the code that way. Pretty handy for getting information to your mobile device. 
  • For Chrome, the QR Code Extension does all the same but has more options like sending the code to Facebook, saving the code so you can post it in email or on your website or blog, and integrating with the URL shortner Bit.ly so you can share your codes easily.

Ok, so you have put a QR scanner on your desktop or phone. You can generate them. Now what? How will you use them? In edition to some of the ideas from yesterday, here are a few more.

  • In the video I posted the morning as an update to the original post (and as I mention in my screencast), I see these going right in the front cover of books. Kids can create podcasts of book reviews, video of trailers, etc and in different places in the library, stations could be set up so the kids can scan the code and get the information. No mobile needed. Just a dedicated station with a QR Reader app and a webcam. 
  • Many schools have welcome videos or messages from the administrator (or better yet, ones that kids have made) that many times live on the web. What if you put a QR code on all your letterhead, school cards, even on in a permanent location in the front of your building. Anyone could scan your code and get an overview of what your building is all about. 
  • I could see desktop scanners being placed all over a school for a beginning of the year scavenger hunt or even just a "Getting To Know Your Building." I used to teach middle school and kids struggled in 6th grade learning where everything was. Set up a desktop scanner at all the locations (library, office, guidance, gym, etc) and in the student handbook or just a handout have all the codes for those locations. The codes could be for websites for more information about the location or just text about the location. 

So there are just 3 more ideas. Check out the comments at the bottom of the previous post. There are tons more resources that people have put there.

Can you think of a way to use them? Leave some comments here. I will compile them into another post to share all the wonderful ideas.

New Posted Resources 12/21/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

QR Huh? What The Heck Is A QR Code?

Have you seen these around town where you are lately?


I was a little surprised when I saw them all over the Black Friday ads back in November. This is a QR or Quick Response Code. Simply, put it is a 3D barcode. It's a much more sophisticated version of the barcode on your bag of Lays Potato Chips. QR Codes are popping up everywhere and are gaining in popularity in education. So, I have been taking some time and doing a little digging about QR codes and trying to find some resources so you can get started using them.

First a video.

In a nutshell, you need a device that has a camera so you can scan or take a picture of the code, a program to do the decoding and web access to see where the code takes you. This limits you to cell phones and the new iPod Touch. (You could use a computer and a scanner but we are going for mobility here.)

You will need a reader installed on your phone. There are lots to choose from and most are free. For the iPhone NeoReader seems to be the most popular. On Android the Barcode Scanner from Zxing is very popular (it's the one I use). But NeoReader works on most Android phones as well. There are other apps too for non-smartphones. Just do a Google search for your phone and "qr code reader" and you should come up with something.

Why A QR Code:
Because QR Codes can contain up to 4000 characters of information you can put a ton of information in just one code. For example, it could be something as simple as a web address. So if you scan the code at the top of this post you will get the address for my blog. QR codes are also beginning to appear on business cards because, again, they can contain lots more information. But by far their most popular use is for web addresses. The ads I mentioned earlier all contained codes to sales information that didn't appear in the ad or on the regular website. Another place I have seen them is at our local zoo. You can walk up to the exhibit, scan the code and get more information about the animals and even video and audio. (Great for those times when the animals aren't active.)

One idea for use in the classroom (I will have more below) that comes to mind is books. When I was in the classroom kids would go to the library and literally judge a book by its cover. But think about if you threw in a QR code on the front cover. The students can scan and read a book review written by a student from last year or even watch a video trailer of the book that a student created as part of a project. All of that information  contained in a small black and white square on the cover of the book.

Pretty cool huh?

Creating QR Codes:
Easy as (insert something you think is easy here). There are lots of different websites that will allow you to make QR codes. One of my favorite is from Kaywa. Simply drop in the website you want the user to be directed to (or other information like general text, phone number, or SMS message) click Generate and BANG! A QR Code you can embed or print anywhere.

More Ideas For Education:
I have been saving several websites as they come across on Twitter. There is tons of great information out there on QR codes in Education. Here is just a sampling.

Interesting Ways To Use QR Codes In The Classroom-This presentation, started by the amazing Tom Barrett, has over 28 ways to use QR Codes in the classroom. Best thing here? If you come up with a different way in the presentation, you can add your idea.

Using QR Codes To Tell A Story- This post I saw just the other day has several ideas on how students can create and use QR Codes to tell stories. Lots of lesson ideas and more QR Code resources here.

Using QR Codes In Student Projects-The ladies over at Simple K12 recently wrote about post about using QR Codes in the classroom and give some quick examples. There are also some great ideas in the comments so be sure not to miss those.

Take some time and read up on some of this stuff. Even if you don't have the devices for students use it is still worth knowing about.

Or maybe your students have cell phones you could sneak and use for a lesson.

I promise, I won't tell anyone.

(Have more ideas or information on QR Codes. Leave it in the comments below. )

Update: Be sure to read some of the comments below. There are some really good links in there! One I wanted to point out in particular was this video from David Hopkins on how one school is experimenting with QR Codes. Some really cool examples! (It also shows how you can use QR codes without a phone or mobile device.) Thanks David!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Posted Resources 12/16/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Google Cr-48 Laptop. A Review...

Yep, I am one of the lucky ones.

On Thursday of last week I came home to a package on my front steps. Not expecting anything (and not noticing and weird markings or wires) I immediately opened the box to find a brand new Google Chrome Cr-48 Laptop.

For those that don't know the Cr-48 is Google's first lap that runs the ChromeOS. Before now ChromeOS only lived on machines internal to Google and to rough versions found on the Internet. But this was the first devices built exclusively for the ChromeOS.

First, what is ChromeOS?

The big deal with ChromeOS is that it is basically a browser OS. Using it, you have to forget everything you know about how Windows, Mac, Linux or anything else because this is different. Everything takes place in the browser. There is no minimizing to a desktop or programs to install.

Here is a short video about how ChromeOS and the laptop work.

I live in Google so this was an easy process for me. I have been using the device exclusively (except at work where I can't) the entire time I have had it. There are some definite pros and some pretty big cons. Here are my impressions so far.

Probably, no not probably, definitely the easiest machine to set up. Since I live in Google and use Chrome all the time, across many machines, I am already used to the fact that no matter what I do on one machine (install an extension, make a favorite, change a look) it is all synced to all my other machines automatically. Booting up this machine was like setting up sync just as I have done many times before. I booted (which took about 2 seconds) and was asked to sign in with my Google Account. I did, took my picture, connected to my home wireless and all within the span of about 2 minutes my machine was ready to use. All my extensions, customizations, apps, everything was already there waiting for me. No mess, no fuss. If someone else (say my wife, who also uses Chrome on her regular machine) signs in, the same would be true for her. There is also a guest account which gives the user the Incognito feature which saves nothing they do, which can come in handy. But this system makes it so anyone can sign on to any machine and have access to all their stuff, no matter what machine it is. That is huge...

Portability. The design is basic. The machine itself is light and the keys are of a good size. There are no buttons for the trackpad (which took some getting used to) and there is an integrated webcam. I traveled this past weekend and used the device and it was handy. Not a netbook and not a laptop either. It is just different. There is also the 3G built in from Verizon which is nice (but with a 3G iPad I also carry with me everywhere, I don't see myself using this feature just yet.)

Fast, Fast Fast. When you close the lid the machine automatically goes to sleep. When you open the lid it takes about 1 second for it to wake up and for you to get going again. Boot up takes just seconds, type your password and you are in. No more waiting for the OS to load or anything silly. And since everything is in the cloud and the OS is easy to update it should stay fresh for the life of the machine, which I predict will be a very long time. 

It is still a little weird. Yep. Still weird. It takes some getting used to. If you download anything it can be a challenge to locate it but a quick scan of the help file told me the keyboard shortcut. I had a problem using a USB flash drive and there does not appear to be a way to get the files there. I would like to see the option to save to my GDocs, perhaps that is coming. There are no file browsers so it just takes some getting used to to figure out how it all works.

Buggy. It is still so new there are some bugs. And I expected that. My biggest issue right now is if I install apps or make any changes on any of my other machines, when I go to my Cr-48 things are synced right up. But, if I make any changes on my Cr-48 they aren't making it out and syncing to my other machines. I am sure this is just a bug and will be fixed but, come on. The syncing is what makes this machine rock. I would think it would work out of the gate.

Apps? Most of the apps in the Chrome Web Store aren't apps. They are bookmarks. Thats a bummer. I wish many of these sites would create new stuff like they do for other devices that use apps. The apps that are actually apps are really, really buggy, like more than normal. The Tweetdeck app, for example has a very long way to go. It works but I miss many of the features I find in the desktop version.And some sites for that matter don't even work at all like Netflix (but that is the fault of Netflix, not the device.).

Slow, Slow, Slow. Don't think you are going to play WoW or do any heavy video editing on this machine. The Atom processor is nice but it is slow. Takes a while to do things. There is slight keyboard lag which gets annoying for a fast typer but I have gotten used to it. Even connected to a very fast network at home it still takes time for the pages to process and load. I am a little bummed about this stuff but in terms of an Internet computer it works just fine.

3 Things For Google To Figure Out:
What am I gonna do with my iTunes? I would go exclusively to a Cloud machine but with over 50gb of music and video that is gonna be tough. I hope Apple and Google can figure things out and make the 2 talk to each other. Not a deal breaker for me. Just something that is much needed.

Speed? If Google is gonna sell this as is, it really should be faster. Faster processor and faster browsing times are a must. But again, this is just the first the line of this type of machine. I have no doubt it will get better.

Apps. Again, the Web Store is brand new. Still lots to figure out there but, apps are supposed to be applications not bookmarks. Lets get some really cool things in there, and fast.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I know I am lucky to have one of these machines. I want to think this like getting my hands on an original Apple (but that might be over thinking it.) I have been looking forward to ChromeOS for while and I think this device has lots of potential. No matter what machine you go to, you would have all your stuff, period. Easy from an administrative end and from the end user. And I truly believe these could turn in to disposable computers.(I really could see these being sold in convenience stores like some cell phones are now.) Because there really isn't anything to the hardware and because anyone can use any machine the costs could come way, way down and this might help access issues and fit into ever tightening school budgets.

Will I be able to give up all my Windows based machines just yet? Nope. But the Cr-48 Laptop is well on it's way to being a good replacement...eventually.

Wanna Win A Computer?

UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations to Derek Braman. He comment was chosen at random from almost 200 entries. Congratulations to him and his 5th Graders. Derek, I will be in touch!

Thanks everyone who entered!


Over the past few months I have been testing and using a Lenovo M90z Desktop Computer. Hands down, one of the best machines I have used. An All-In-One, glass front touch screen, this machine is one of best around. And you have a chance to win one.

First some background.

You can read more about the M90z by going to the official website.

Below is a short intro video:

Sweet machine huh?

Well, they have given me one to give away. Want to have one? Tell me why? I would like for this to go to a classroom or to someone who will use it with kids, although not a requirement. (Just a wish of mine...) Leave me a comment below. I will then use a random number generator and one person will win.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Super Book Of Web Tools For Educators

There is lots of great information on there on Web 2.0 and using technology in the classroom for teachers. Heck, just check out the name of this blog. But often if you have teachers that are just starting out or need some help figuring all this tech stuff out, it can be a daunting task as there is lots of information.

My good friend Richard Byrne, writer of the wildly popular Free Technology For Teachers blog approached me a few weeks ago and asked me if I would contribute to a free ebook he was putting together. I was happy to contribute a section on social media. Beyond that you have some of the best in the business of education contributing sections as well, such as Patrick Larkin and George Couros, 2 of my favorite administrators giving us the administrators view of technology. Or Kelly Tenkely, Larry Ferlazzo, Lee, Kolbert, Beth Still, Cory Plough, Adam Bellow, and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. Such an amazing list of educators. I am so honored to be included in a publication with them.

Here is the book. Download it, pass it out, share it with your colleagues, administrators, teammates. Once you have a chance to check it out, head back here and tell me what you think.

Super Book Of Web Tools For Educators

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lessons From A Smackdown...

One of my favorite parts of many conferences is the Smackdown. What is a Smackdown you ask? Well, it can take on many differnt forms depending on who you ask but for the sake of our discussion a Smackdown is when people get up and they have a very limited time to share information about their favorite technology tool or trick. It could be anywhere from 60 seconds to 3 minutes.

Here is a video of one I did at #NTCamp in Philly over the summer.

Recently at EdcampCitrus in Florida they did a Smackdown session where several tools and tricks were shared. While I hate I could not be there in person, Jerry (one of the organizers) kindly created a Google Doc to share. Below is that doc so you can take a look.

I wanted to point out a few from this list that caught my eye:

Classroom 2.0 Live Archive-This is a great place to catch all the recorded Classroom 2.0 sessions. There are so many great interviews and sessions here. Everything is tagged and easy to find.

Wallwisher-I love this site for getting quick ideas on topics. It is basically a virtual sticky notes board that, when shared anyone can access. You only have a 140 characters but you can include links to websites, images, sounds and video, which can be helpful. I like this site for getting quick feedback and ideas for topics. (Be warned, however, it has been going down lately. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But it is too good not to include here. Always check before you use it. Lino It is a good alternative.)

WhenIsGood-This online scheduler is great. Say you need to do a meeting. Click all the times you are available. Send a link to invitees. They click when they are available. When all matches up. You have your meeting time. This is really great when trying to organize events with lots of people. Best part? Free!

Fur.ly-This is a URL shortner that allows you to combine a bunch of links into one. Great for kids to share sites or web tours or for just sharing a bunch of links all at once. Very easy to use.

Be sure to check out the doc. What is your favorite tool not on the list that you think others might not know about? Leave some details in the comments.

Update: Thanks to Jerry (mentioned above) and the girls at SimpleK12. Below is the video of the Smackdown from #EdcampCitrus. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Passion For Real Education Reform

Depending on who you listen to, this is a really great time to be an educator or a really bad time to be one. On one side you have those that would have you believe our education system is broken, un-fixable, so far beyond repair that they reach at straws trying to find something that will bring us back from the brink of disaster. On the other, there are those that know there is greatness out there, it just isn’t seen in the mainstream. There are lots of voices, each trying to be louder than the last, proclaiming that they have the right idea.
I don’t really have any answers. Lately, I have been struggling with my thoughts on reform and education, wondering what is right and who to listen to. But through all my reading, conversations and thoughts, one thing is, and will remain clear for me. No matter what, the key to any type of change or reform is passion.
Through the use of social media I have become connected to thousands of educators from all parts of the world. Each and every day these dedicated people walk into a classroom, office, workshop, where ever and do the same thing day in and day out. They want what is best for kids and will do everything in their power to do so.
I could get real cheesy and give you a Websters Definition of passion, or provide some You Tube video of what I think passion is. But honestly you know what passion is. If you would work with kids or in education in any way you know what passion looks like, or at least you should.
Passion is getting up everyday and walking into a room of students, not knowing who will come in hungry, or who's parent was arrested last night or who hasn’t had a place to sleep for the past week, but through it all providing the best learning experience for each kid.
Passion is arriving in the classroom before the sun rises and leaving after the sun sets to plan a lesson, set up a lab or take part in professional development, to provide the best learning experience for each kid.
Passion is spending thousands of dollars out of pocket each year on the supplies we know kids need but districts have decided to cut in their never ending search to trim budgets all in an effort to provide the best learning experience for each kid.
Passion is knowing inside that you really work 13 months a year, even though some might say you are lucky you have “summers off,” because you know what you learn and do in your free time helps provide the best learning experience for each kid.
Passion is working and learning with kids.
If I have learned one thing over the past few years in education is that change is not something that happens fast. And I believe it shouldn’t. A lot times schools are reactive instead of proactive and that just sets us up for disaster. We shouldn’t jump on bandwagons and change things as often as we change, well, you know the rest of that. Nor should we move at a snails pace, forming committee after committee to make mundane decisions.
Yes, there are things that are wrong. But are they as bleak as some in Washington or at the movies would have us believe? I don’t think so. I see lots of great things in schools each day. And the one thing that is consistent everywhere I go and with everyone I talk to is that they have passion.
Do you?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

6 Nifty Ideas For Using Google Apps In The Classroom

Over the past few weeks I have collected some great classroom resources surrounding the use of Google for various classroom activities. Here are a few of my favorites. (In no particular order. I don't want to make anyone jealous or anything...)

E-portfolios are becoming more and more popular. This site teaches educators and students how to organize all of their digital content in one place (a Google Site) for showing off their best work. Using a Google Site is actually pretty easy but Googlios goes into great detail on how to create and maintain the portfolio and has a huge gallery of examples to draw inspiration from. Below is a preview video from the site.

Simple Google Docs Training
This is a short (3 min, 56 sec) video slide show, introducing the features of Google Docs. If you are thinking about using Docs with your students or staff, this video could be a good jumping off point to your discussion.

Google Tricks To Save You Time
There are over 100 tips and tricks on this page. Everything from the most basic, like how to use the image search to keyboard shortcuts for your favorite apps (like Docs, Gmail and more), to how to use simple commands to perform deep web searches that will hopefully get you to what you are looking for faster. The best part for me were the tips for Google Books. Be sure to save this site. You will visit it often!

10 Google Forms For The Classroom
One of my favorite Edtech bloggers, Tom Barrett, post this a few months back but I keep visiting it because there are such great ideas. In short it is a list of 10 ideas on how to use Google Forms in the classroom. And the ideas are so great. Everything from the regular survey stuff to a prior learning assessment, to kids' book reviews. There are some great ideas in the comments as well.

Sharing Stories With Google Earth
I have written about Google Lit trips in the past, mainly showing the connection between technology an literature. Lit trips are great but what about other subject areas? This site will show you how to create your own story trips, step-by-step in Google Earth. Creating them is easy. The hard part will be figuring out all the great stories you want to tell! Lots of videos, handouts and directions here to guide you. 

Googleize Your Lessons
"Take your old worksheets, slideshows and webquests, and add a twist of Google to make creative, collaborative and engaging lessons," is the motto at the top of this site. There is tons of great information on the simple things teachers can do to spice up lessons using free Google tools. Here is an introductory preso to tell you all about it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

One Click To Give Schools Some Dough...

Bing and Donors Choose are teaming up over this holiday season to give schools all over the country $1 Million bucks. And the best part is you can help out. 

Simply visit The Bing Cares Homepage and click the button. It is that simple. 

You can take it one step further and sign up to get a free $5 code that you can use to support a Donors Choose project of your choice. Maybe there is a teacher in your district who is looking to fund something awesome for their class. Or, if you have a project there this could be a simple way for your parents and community to support what you want to do and get what you need for your classroom. What a great way to give back with very little effort. 

So check out the Bing/Donors Choose Giving Project and click the button to give some serious cash to kids everywhere. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Revolutions Start With One...

It only takes one...

Earlier this week was the Blogging For Real Reform. This was an effort started by one person that grew into a movement that eventually got the Secretary of Education for the U.S. involved.

One person into many...

I saw this video on Twitter last night. While funny, it really lays out what I believe to be true about leadership and revolutions.

What do you think? Are you a lone nut?

I know I am going to try to be.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Edublog 2010 Nominations

It is that time of year again when Edubloggers from around the globe make their pick for the Annual Edublog Awards. Last year this blog was nominated in several categories and I won Twitterer of The Year and #Edchat won for Best Series of Tweets. The awards are a great way to find new blogs to follow, twitterers to follow and resources to discover. So be sure to check out all the nominations and check back on Dec. 15 to see who the winners are.

I had a really tough time this year with my nominations. There is so much great content out there and so many great people too. But I want to highlight are the best blogs, wikis and people from the past year.

Best Individual Blog: Free Technology For Teachers- Richard's blog is always my first stop in the morning when I want to learn about something new. And it is in my list of blogs I share whenever introducing teachers to blogging.

Best Tweeter: Kyle Pace- Kyle is my pick this year. Always has some really great resources, an #edchat moderator and willing to lend a hand when ever it is needed.

Best Group Blog: The Connected Principals- In my role as a District Instructional Technologist I am able to work with folks at all levels in our district. The Connected Principals is a great way to highlight the fact that administrators can and need to be reflective. This is a great blog to share with any administrator whether they blog or not.

Best Resource Sharing Blog: Teacher Reboot Camp- Not only is Shelly an amazing person and friend but she shares some of the best stuff. Some of it technology, some of it bits of wisdom that will make all of us better. This is another blog I recommend to read to those new to blogging.

Most Influential Tweet Based Discussion: #edchat- Week after week the ideas that come out of this discussion amaze me...

Best Librarian/Library Blog: Van Meter Voice: I have been following Shannon and the amazing work she is doing in her library for sometime. This blog is her way of connecting the small town of Van Meter Iowa to the world.

Best Educational Technology Support Blog: The Pursuit Of Technology Integration Happiness- I have been following Michael's blog now for a while and he has great stuff for teachers either just learning about technology integration or those that have been around for a while.

Best School Administrator Blog: The Principal's Posts- Lyn is an administrator, that, if I were to ever go back to the classroom I would want to work for. Her blog is very reflective of the leader she is and I always take something away when I read her posts.

Best Educational Webinar Series: The Reform Symposium- I was honored to give the closing keynote for this worldwide e-conference. Planed by an awesome group of educators this series, over the course of a few days brought together some amazing live sessions on a huge range of topics. It was so cool to watch the planning of this event and to be a part of it. 

Best Educational Use Of A Social Network- The Educator's PLN: Tom Whitby's social network has grown from a small group of educators to a place with well over 6000 members. There is so many good things about the EDU PLN I could talk for days but the organizing of special live sessions with Alfie Kohn, Diane Ravitch and more are just a start.

Lifetime Achievement: Steve Hargadon- Steve is such an amazing guy. I had the honor of meeting and learning with him at an event in Boston earlier this year. He works tirelessly to promote all that is good in education. Between is work with the Global Education Conference, his series of Elluminate interviews, to all the other amazing things he does, I can not think of anyone more worthy of this award.

Provide Answers To Tech Questions Effortlessly...

This was a post I wrote over a year ago. I am reviving it in the hopes you will find it useful. I use this site almost once a week. It is a valuable resource to me and I hope you will feel the same. 

It is very challenging sometimes to provide the help that teachers and staff need. Wouldn't it be great if you could just point them to a website that answered some of the basic questions you get everyday like what is a cookie, or how do I teach my students what Netiquette is, or how do I use Garageband?

There is a great resource out there from Center for Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida called Tech-Ease that I can point my teachers to. This is a great site that is basically a giant FAQ database on everything tech. There are topics on the Internet, Hardware, Files and Sharing, Email, Images, Chat and Classroom Management. When you choose your topic there is a list of common questions that teachers or other tech users might ask. For example in the hardware section there are questions like what is a flash drive, or how do I burn a CD in Windows XP? The questions are basic for those of us who work in tech everyday but very common for those that don't. Each section also provide additional links to other resources that users can consult when they have questions.

All of the information they provide is great. Very easy to use and understand for even the most basic technology user. All of that is great. But wait! There is more! There are video tutorials available that Professional Development Coordinators or Instructional Technologists can use or point teachers and staff to on a wide variety of topics. Podcasting, Google Earth, Windows Movie Maker, Wikis, and How To Create Interactivity With iPods are just a few topics. Oh wait there is more. There are some really great guides for users to download on even more topics like PowerPoint, Inspiration, Nvu, Google Docs, Social Bookmarking, Second Life, I really can not list them all. You just need to head over there and check it out!

There are tutorials for both PC only and Mac only products and they have a great section on enabling the accessibility features in both Windows and Mac OS X.

I was an instant fan of this site. I even learned a thing or two. So next time a teacher or staff member has a question or you want to brush up on your skills check out Tech-Ease, oh, and subscribe to their podcast in iTunes. You will love it!

Tech-Ease-Quick Answers To Real Classroom Technology Questions

New Posted Resources 11/23/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

#Blog4Reform-Slow Down And Take A Step Back...

Today is Blogging For Real Educational Reform. Spearheaded by Ira Socol, what we hope is to generate 100's of blog posts about what real education reform looks like. There will be so many great posts, I encourage you to check out this post on the Cooperative Catalyst that you can submit your link to and see all the others. Better yet, why not blog about your ideas and post them there. Here is my small contribution....

I have been struggling a lot lately with my voice...

Over the past few months I have been very lucky, in that I have been able to travel the country, talking to lots of different people about lots of different things related to education. Most of it has been about social media and how educators can use it to get the professional development they really need. But in some of my conversations I have been asked to talk about reform, specifically my ideas on what education should really be doing and look like.

I have lots of ideas, most of them based on the classrooms I get to visit and the teachers I get to meet. I see what great education looks like in a lot of different places. The problem is it is not in every place. So I would go and talk about the different places I have been, the things I have seen and my ideas for reform or change.

But here lately I have begun to question whether or not I really know. Beyond that I wonder what makes anyone really know? Sure, we have ideas, but can we really say that this idea over that is best? I am not an expert in merit pay or value-added measurement or any of the popular terms that seem to be the basis for reform in this country. I do know that if I went into my classroom each day and did the absolute very best for kids I felt pretty good about the job that I was doing and (while I didn't agree with the methods) I usually had the scores to back it up.

I was reminded of this video today while I was working on another project. I think Tylor really gets to the heart of what it means to be a teacher. And I think it is what he describes that is lost on the loudest voices in the Ed Reform movement.

There are lots of people out there that will try to convince you they have the answer or know exactly the change to make. Before you drink the Kool-Aid, slow down and take a step back. Think about what you know and what is best, whatever it is, and see how that can mesh with what others are saying. If it doesn't blaze your own trail.

I am sure I will continue to struggle with my voice and my ideas. They are both a work in progress and I will continue to, each day, refine them, examine them and test them.

If you take anything away from all this reform talk let it be this. No matter what kind of change you want to make always ask yourself, in the end, are you doing what you know to be best for kids? Will what you do be best for kids? Why is it the best choice for kids?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Social Media With Promethean

Over the last few days I spent some time with the folks at the Promethean Headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, talking to them about their social media presence. If you didn't know, they have one. Well, sort of. In visiting, I hoped to talk to them about what they can do to increase their presence and how each of the different teams in Promethean can utilize things like Twitter, blogs, and Facebook to reach out and advance their mission.

I had spent some time there earlier this year at the opening of their beautiful offices. I got to spend a few moments with several members of the many teams and get to know what Promethean is all about. They are more than a technology company. They have a culture there that is simply amazing. Over 60% (according to the CEO) of the employees are former educators. Classroom teachers, curriculum and instructional coaches, technology integrators, and more. And what is clearly evident in my time I spent there is that each and every employee cares about kids and cares about making learning better for kids. They aren't about products. They are about learning.

What is was also clear in our time there was that Promethean is about action. If something can be better they want to know why and how. That is why I went to talk to them about social media. They know they want to be better and extend their voice but they needed some ideas on how. And I hope after our conversations we will see them get more into the space.

In the mean time you check out some of how they are reaching into the social media arena and I will update this post as they add more.

Official Promethean USA Twitter: http://twitter.com/prometheanusa
Offical Promethean Planet Twitter: http://twitter.com/planet_tweets
Official Promethean ActivBus Twitter: http://twitter.com/activbususa

Official Promethean Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Promethean/36412707093
Offical Promethean Planet Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/PrometheanPlanet

Remember, check back here for updates with blogs and other accounts as they are added.

And if you use Promethean in your district (or even if you use something else) check out Promethean Planet. There are tons of resources there, groups and forums and help at the click of a mouse.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bring Those Boring Binders To Life With Livebinders

I realized today that I have talked a lot about my various Livebinders but never really have taken the time to explain what they are or how they work.

First, a video...

Think of Livebinders as a virtual 3 ring binder that you can put pretty much anything in. Webpage, PDF, image, video, text, they all can go into a page organized for you.

Each item can be on it's own tab or you can further organize by using sub-tabs.

Here are some of my binders:


Staying Safe Online:

Getting Started With Google Reader:

I encourage you to explore each one to get an idea on what can be put into a binder. Also check out the Featured Binders and the categories to find more binders to use and share. There are tons of great examples there.

The folks over at Livebinders have also created a great "Getting Started" binder that has everything you need to know to, well, get started! There is something there for everyone to learn.

Also visit the Livebinders4Teachers wiki which will connect you to other Livebinder using educators and you can share and exchange tons of great binders.

So check out Livebinders, and give it a try. If you do, head back here and tell us what you think. Do you use Livebinders already? What advice would you give those just getting started? Leave some comments below.

Shameless plug time. On Thursday (Nov 11) I will be the guest of Livebinders and the 21st Century PD Podcast where I will be talking about Livebinders, 21st Century learning and more. You can learn more about how to participate here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Developing The Leaders Within...

Cross Posted At The ASCD In-Service Blog

When I started teaching, I had no desire to take on any leadership roles in my school. Yet in my nine years as a classroom teacher and technology integration specialist, I've led as a team leader, grade-level chair, school improvement team chair, and district technology team chair.
How did I get here?
Straight out of school, I started teaching in a classroom with students who had essentially been kicked out of their home school and fallen behind by several grade levels. My lofty goal: get them to take and pass our state assessments, help them enter a program that would allow them to complete two grade levels in one year, and get them back on track to graduate on time.
It was an eye-opening experience. I had student-taught in a very rural area with very few problems like the ones I faced in my classroom that first year. I was ready to walk away from teaching after my second day.
With no mentor, seemingly no one to talk to, I went to my administrator. We talked for a very long time about teaching, classroom management, and my classroom. Eventually, this one conversation turned into a weekly meeting. She became my unofficial mentor.
During the next four years working with her, I learned what it meant to be a leader. These weren't specific lessons but more through the way she led her staff, the way she handled situations, the way she listened. She was firm when she needed to be, but her door was always open and she would always talk about whatever was on your mind, even if it was to criticize a decision she had made.
But what really helped me develop as a leader were the opportunities she gave me to lead.
At first, I was wary—didn't you have to be a veteran teacher and have lots of experience to do any of that? But with the encouragement of my administrator, I became a team leader and later a grade-level chair, all in the first few years of teaching. Later, I joined the School Improvement Team and became chair helping to guide the direction our school would take over the course of several years, all with the encouragement of my administrator.
I know my experience with distributed leadership is not the norm. Instead of taking the time to develop teacher leaders, many administrators take those roles away from teachers for whatever reason, be it fear, need for control, or just their personal style.
The difference between me and so many other educators out there is simple. I worked with leaders who took the time to identify the potential in their staff and foster their leadership development. I was not the only person in my building who developed in this way—many teachers were.
Administrators must take the time to develop those teacher leaders in the building. Who are they? How can they be supported or developed? It is about spreading the wealth of knowledge at all levels in the building.
But it isn't just administrators. Are teachers looking for student leaders in their classrooms? How are teachers developing leadership skills in students? How are teachers teaching students to find their leadership potential? Are they leading by example?
Perhaps you are an administrator who is like those I have had over the years, or a teacher who has worked for an administrator who was the complete opposite of mine.
What thoughts do you have about developing teacher leaders? What do you do to develop the leadership skills in others?