Sunday, December 25, 2011


Do you like reading? If you are someone, like me, who appreciates the art of thinking outside the box, you try to expose yourself to all kinds of thinking. I saw a video for a book on the Harvard Business Review Ideacast. You can watch them on YouTube, or they are also a free, downloadable podcast on iTunes. Type in HBR.

Back to the point: this video intrigued me. Why? Because when I'm thinking outside the box, it's usually to find a solution to a problem.

I went out and bought the book immediately and while I'm only up to chapter 4 so far, I'm loving it. If you are a manager looking for new ways to get your creative juices flowing - and inspire your team to do so as well - this is a great place to start.

Their web site:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Review of Instant Expert: Ancient History: Egypt DVD

I purchased this DVD, finding it at Fry's Electronics for the least expensive price.  It's a very good DVD!  I would really like to see them make more.

Originally submitted at AETN
HISTORY introduces INSTANT EXPERT, an exciting new line of titles offering on-the-spot knowledge to students and lifelong learners on a wide variety of topics. Long before the Romans built their first mud huts, ancient Egypt's mighty pharaohs began commissioning and building monumental masterpi...

By genealotech from Mesa, Arizona, USA on 8/2/2011
5out of 5
Pros: Entertaining, Informative, Great Cinematography, High Production Value
Cons: Poor Tech Explanation
Best Uses: Middle school students
Describe Yourself: Movie Buff
This is a fantastic video showcasing the Pharaohs who didn't just exist, but made engineering history with their monuments. The pyramids are only part of the story. Very well done, and with a DVD quiz to review some of the points. There is a booklet included with the DVD containing a brief summary, additional discussion questions and internet links for further research.

The one drawback that I saw was the use of engineering terms without giving a basic explanation of it's meaning and how it worked. Engineering An Empire did a better job.

I'm hopeful they will make more!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Arizona's Architecture

This is a special from one of the local papers in Arizona, and is perfect for use in Arizona History studies (4th Grade).

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Internet's New Domain Endings

I'll have to change my PowerPoint lessons on Domain Names.

Link: From CNN

New Ideas Can Come From Anywhere

I love examples of people using existing items in a new way, and creating something magnificent in the process.

Another Use For Microsoft Excel

This past school year, we were faced with the task of tracking and monitoring textbooks going home with our middle school students. Teachers were being told they would have to do the tracking themselves, which meant the teachers were coming up with all kinds of manual tracking forms and procedures. When I found out about this, I knew there should be a way for the technology we have at the school to accommodate this better. I tried a little experiment in the library and found the answer:

If you make up a list of your students in Excel, you can turn it into a mini database and use the library's bar code reader to enter the numbers from the textbooks for you.

I made one for each grade level. It took 20 minutes for a class of 25 with three textbooks per student to get everyone entered in. I sent the lists to the teachers, and did so again at the end of the school year when the students turned their books in.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to IBM!

Link: From CNN

Microsoft Excel

For Excel, we began by showing the students a presentation I made a few years back on the value of an education. This presentation not only shows the numbers (from U.S. Census Data) of the increased pay based upon educational attainment, but I worked the numbers, showing how much money approximately each level of educational attainment would have in their budget for housing and used pictures to show what type of housing you could afford with that money. These students don't have a good concept of money, but they do know the difference between a mobile home and a multi-million dollar mansion.

We then had the students using MS Excel to update the numbers to the latest release, crunch the numbers to see the side-by-side comparison of how well (and not so well) earnings are keeping up.

The next thing we did, based upon the How-To's on the Microsoft web site, was to have the students make timelines on Excel. It's another feature generally not used.

Microsoft Word

The past two school years I've been teamed with the school librarian to teach an elective for our 7th and 8th grade students. The first year we were given two days notice of this class, so we had difficulty in coming up with a curriculum for the class. This past year, however, I was a little more assertive and we had a tech class.

The students span the entire spectrum of the learning curve, however we made sure everyone kept up.

The first thing we did was to make a list of what the students were lacking in with regards to knowledge of the technology. Even things as basic as adding a picture and formatting it on MS Word.

So, I used text from the Jane Austen book "Sense and Sensibility" (it's in the public domain) and taught the kids how to format the text appropriately, not just for a term paper but also for a publication. We then added copyright approved pictures, columns, Word Art for the title and a drop cap to dress it up.

Microsoft's School of The Future

Did you know Microsoft has a high school? It's true. The nicest part of this deal (besides the lessons the students learn in technology) has been their willingness to share some of the how-to instructions for teaching Microsoft Office.

This has been a wonderful place for ideas in technology lessons. It goes beyond changing the font in MS Word, instead you learn how to publish.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Digital (or Virtual) Word Wall

This is an idea I got in 2006 when I first started working in education. I would walk into classrooms and see entire walls filled with paper printed and laminated, containing the vocabulary words for the week. When you consider schools are in session 9 months out of the year (not counting the breaks during the year), that adds up to a lot of paper, toner and laminate. Why can't we do this digitally?

It took a year before I found a way (okay a rough way) to make this happen.

I bought a digital photo frame (roughly 10 - 15 inches in diameter), made PowerPoint slides of technology vocabulary terms, saved them as jpeg pictures, put them on a flash drive and plugged the flash drive into the photo frame. Quite the process, but it worked.

Here's a picture of the finished product:

When I first started this, I did this for the vocab words:

Then I learned how to get the rotation function on the photo frame to work and was able to make a file folder of these:

What would be on my wish list for this?

1. A bigger screen, backlit to make it easier to see in a classroom

2. It needs it's own memory. The photo frame I used didn't have it's own memory, so you had to use an adapter to plug in a flash drive.

3. Wireless File Transfer: Instead of having to plug in a flash drive to transfer the picture files, instead I would love to be able to transfer the files either via Bluetooth transfer, or, with the case of Apple, using the Apple Remote Desktop.

4. The ability to use a wireless tablet or iPad/iPod to remotely control the slideshow and be able to write on top of it, like you do with interactive whiteboards.

Tech For Hand-Function Limitations

This is not new for Apple, but it was a new discovery for me this past school year.

Apple has a product called the Magic Trackpad. Here's the link:

In trying to make students with impairments more self reliant, I worked with case workers and therapists for a student who has difficulty using a mouse. The trackpad on a laptop worked great, but the student had a hard time lifting the MacBook. I saw this and tried it on the student, it worked!

If you don't have bluetooth (required for the Magic Trackpad to work), you can purchase a Rocketfish Micro Bluetooth Adaptor and it works great on Macs with Snow Leopard (even though the packaging only shows Windows).

Link to Rocketfish:

Tech For The Hearing Impaired Student

As I described with the post on Tech For The Visually Impaired Student, work with the specialist to make sure what you are doing is going to work with what the specialist wants. In this case, it was an audiologist for a student who had recently gotten cochlear implants in both ears and was learning to speak.

Because of how the implants worked, I spoke with the audiologist about what could be done to allow the student to better hear from a computer, without trying to use headphones. The teacher was already using a wireless microphone with a transmitter so the student would be able to hear the teacher speaking. The answer?

From Radio Shack

The transmitter for the teacher's microphone also had a 1/8" port on it, allowing me to plug the student's transmitter directly into the headphone port on the computer itself. The student was learning to speak and chatting away by year's end.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Iceland's Constitution

This is pretty amazing. Iceland, in the wake of financial collapse, is starting somewhat from scratch with it's Constitution. Only instead of a convention of appointed delegates, as with the framers of the U.S. Constitution, they have taken it online to the people. We'll see what comes out of it, but it will truly be a document made by We The People of Iceland.

Apple Distinguished Educators

Have you heard about these? I was searching Apple on the iTunes Store to see if anything new popped up, and sure enough, it did.

iTunes link: ADE

These are some phenomenal teachers doing amazing work with kids.

The new frontier in this goes beyond the standard instruction. This goes beyond Project Based Learning (PBL). This is now going into Challenge Based Learning.

The students are not just given projects to produce a product (paper, video, presentation), they are taking this to the next step in using what they are learning to make PSA's for government agencies, and other projects to promote action from their local voters. They are trying to make a difference in the world.

Website: Apple Distinguished Educators

The MakerBot

I wonder what kinds of things students could make with this?

Here's the site:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tech For The Visually Impaired Student

If you read my previous post on the NWEA testing, you understand there are other uses in the computer lab for the basic classes. The issue I was confronted with a few years ago, was how to make the NWEA tests accessible to a visually impaired student.

The first thing I'll make clear here is that I'm not an expert at this by any means. I worked with the visual impairment specialist who was working with the student, in order to get this procedure down.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this will not work on every student with visual impairment, adjustments may need to be made based upon the needs of the student and the requests of the v.i. specialist.

This is what I did for this student:

First, change the display so that everything is enlarged.

Go to the System Preferences by clicking on the apple in the upper left corner. Once there, go to Display.

When inside the Display, choose 640 X 480. If this cuts off too much of the NWEA screen for you, choose 800 X 600.

Click on the Show All button at the top of the box to go to the main menu. Then click on the Universal Access.

This is the area of the computer that allows for additional settings to be made for individuals with disabilities.

For testing you generally cannot use the VoiceOver feature, however it can be turned on and used for assignments.

You can turn on the Zoom. This will allow further magnification for the words, however it will cut off the rest of the text on the screen and the zoom will follow the cursor. Use of this for the student will need to be practiced before they try it for a test.

Display setting changes from a white background to a black background with white text may or may not help the student.

If you are going to be changing these settings frequently, there is a button at the bottom of this panel that will add the Universal Access icon to the top menu bar on the computer screen. This will save you a few steps in getting back to this panel.

Also note the option to add assistive devices. Use this if you are going to hook up a braille reader.

If you look just above the VoiceOver, you'll see some tab buttons. Seeing should be in blue, as that is the panel you are on. If you click to Mouse or Mouse & Trackpad (depending on whether you are using a laptop or desktop computer), you'll find at the bottom a slide bar for the Cursor Size.

Slide the Cursor Size indicator all the way to the right. You'll see the cursor you are using enlarge.

These were the settings we used for this student.

Here are a few other things we used with this student:

We put their NWEA Map Test on a laptop and hooked it up to a SmartBoard® with a projector. This worked great technically, however the student needed to stand so close to the words that they sometimes blocked the projection. They were also tripping over the extended feet on it. My recommendation on this, if you're going to use this for the student's testing and other computerized work, is to get a display that is backlit or LCD.

Something, perhaps, along these lines:

SmartBoard® 8070i

For other work in following text, the teacher can use a document camera to help magnify books and other items in the classroom to help the student be able to see.


If you've heard of NWEA, then you probably know about their MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Tests. These computer based tests provide teachers with a more in depth look at how the student is doing, as well as showing how they are progressing if they've taken the test before.

The computerization of the test allows for the test to be adaptive. This means the questions get harder if the student answers correctly until they begin giving incorrect answers. Conversely, if a student is giving incorrect answers, the test questions become easier until the student begins answering them correctly. This means a more accurate result on the test, plus the test will be unique to each student based upon their individual abilities and knowledge.


Welcome to my educational technology blog. There is so much going on with the field of educational technology that I thought I'd start this to see where it leads.

I'll be posting things that I've done over the last 5 years as well as things others have done.

I work at a K-8 Title 1 public school, running the computers. I am not a fully certified teacher, I am certified as a substitute and am employed as a classified staff member. The campus is primarily using Apple Computers, so pretty much everything I'll be talking about will be based on Macs.

I also use one at home, as it helps me to try things out for the teachers and students.

In the course of a school year I use for projects:

Mac OSX Snow Leopard
iLife 09 (I now have v. 11 on my home computer)
MS Office For Mac 2008

I have used iWork, however as the computers for high school are Windows, I've not taught it.

For hardware I've used:

MacBooks and MacBook Pros
Mac Minis
Smartboard® Interactive Whiteboards & Airliners
AverMedia Document Cameras
And a whole variety of different projectors and printers.