Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bloomin Windows

I recently received an HP ElitePad 1000 G2 for review, and decided to put it through its paces as I created a new set of Bloom's-related applications -- Bloomin' Windows.


I had not spent a lot of time with a Windows 8.1 Professional slate tablet. I had fooled around with the Microsoft Surface RT a bit, but I was unhappy with the fact RT did not allow the installation of "regular" programs. In addition, the RT tablets could not authenticate on a school network, and I felt their use in schools would be limited.

The HP ElitePad 1000 is a beautiful tablet! It can run the 64-bit Pro version of Windows 8.1 so it will work well on school networks. Its 10.1" diagonal screen will allow it to be used for the Common Core tests and there is also a bundle available that includes Office Home and Student 2013. (The screen is also more readable outside than any laptop or tablet I have used.) There are a full range of accessories available to meet specific needs. 

I received the HP Expansion Jacket with Battery with the ElitePad 1000. It adds 2 USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, its own SD card reader, access to the microphone/headphone jack and a battery that is rated to allow you to use the tablet's and the case's battery for a total 20 hours! It does add .86 pounds (450g) to the tablet, but, if battery life is something you care about, it is a must-have accessory. The tablet and the Expansion Jacket re-charge at the same time.

There is also a Productivity Jacket available which might be more suited for schools. It includes a keyboard, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card slot. It, too, charges as the device charges. The battery life of the tablet is rated for up to 10 hours, so the HP ElitePad 1000 should get through the school day on its own battery.

There are adapters available for hooking up to projectors if you do not have a WiFi projector in your classroom-- both an HDMI and a dual HDMI/VGA adapter. There is also an Ethernet adapter,, a serial adapter, a Smart AC power adapter, and an external USB port adapter. (As with most other tablets, the adapters take up the charging port on the tablet, so you cannot charge the device and use an adapter at the same time.)

HP ElitePad 1000, Expansion Jacket with battery, and USB adapter
 The specs of the Elite Pad 1000 G2 include:
  • Intel Atom Processor (quad-core Intel Bay Trail Atom)
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 64 or 128 GB solid state drive
  • Bright and beautiful 10.1" (1900x1200) Gorilla Glass display
  • Dual cameras: 2.1MP HD (front) and 8 MP with flash (rear)
  • HD audio with 2 stereo speakers
  • SDXC card reader
  • USB port (with optional adapter)
  • Microphone/headphone jack 
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • WiFi (a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (4G is an option)
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 7.01 x 10.28 x 0.36 in. (178 x 261 x 9.2 mm)


After getting comfortable with using Windows on a slate tablet, I began to think about the creation of another entry for my Bloomin' Apps page. A few weeks ago, I received a note from David Lopez, a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow. He had created his own version of a Bloomin' Windows graphic. He prompted me to think about the need for one in the many schools that are using Microsoft Windows. I decided to start my own from scratch so I could spend some time investigating the applications in the Windows store.

My goal was to use applications that come with every Windows machine (or are freely downloadable as extras), including the use of the Office Suite applications, and then adding applications from the Windows Store. 

I spent a lot of time combing the Windows store for apps that were available through that venue. I could not find apps to meet all the spots on the grid, so did resort to a couple of Web 2.0 online tools. I understand I could have populated the entire grid with online tools, like the ones I have on this page, since the ElitePad 1000 can use all of those tools. But that would not have helped me learn about the many applications and apps that are available from both Microsoft and other publishers that are downloadable from the Windows Store and usable on the ElitePad 1000 even when it is not online.

I also decided to become more proficient with ThingLink while I was creating this Bloomin' Windows grid. I identified the apps and applications for each level of Bloom's, created the background image for my ThingLink creation, and then used "hot spots" to link out to the applications, apps, and tools. I embedded the Bloomin' Windows graphic on the Bloomin' Apps page, but you can also view and use it below.

Let me know your thoughts via email. Are you already using the HP ElitePad 1000 in your school? What are some cool ways you use it to support teaching and learning? Do you have other favorite Windows apps that are popular with your students or teachers?



Monday, September 08, 2014

H&R Block Budget Challenge: Financial literacy and personal finance

As I recently wrote about in a Discovery Educator Network blog post, financial literacy is one of the important literacies for our students to acquire. Financial literacy, sometimes referred to as economic literacy, according to Atomic Learning, “targets the importance of making appropriate economic choices on a personal level, and understanding the connection personal, business, and governmental decisions have on individuals, society, and the economy”.

Students are often taught, in a social studies class or a economics class, about the impact the decisions made by businesses and government have (and have had) on society and the economic climate. Students study capitalism, the Great Depression, government bail-outs of corporations, manufacturing, and so on.

However, the area that is often overlooked is the personal finance component of financial literacy. Sometimes how to develop a budget is taught in a math class when learning about spreadsheets. And I remember working in pairs in my high school health class while we developed a budget for a wedding. (Really!)

There are many online materials and sets of state standards to help teachers develop lessons and units dealing with personal finance into and across the curriculum. I have included resources in the DEN blog post, but I especially like the Council for Economic Education's set of standards for financial literacy that start in grade three, and include:
  • Earning income
  • Buying goods and services
  • Using credit
  • Saving
  • Financial investing
  • Protecting and insuring

To provide a more engaging and "real-world" practice with these personal finance skills, H&R Block is sponsoring an online contest, The H&R Block Budget Challenge, that provides students with a chance to compete for prizes while learning how to manage their money through a simulation environment. (Students in grades 9-12 and at least age 14 are eligible.) 

The contest involves students, over a period of two months, immersing themselves "into the financial life of a recent college graduate who has been working for about six months. Each student gets a regular paycheck, a checking account, a 401(k) savings account and bills to pay throughout the simulation. By maximizing 401(k) savings, paying bills on time and responding correctly to quiz questions while avoiding fees like late fees, overdraft fees and finance charges, students increase their individual score."

There are six different start dates to pick from. (The first one is October 3, and registration for your class is due at least a week before the start dates.)  At the mid-point and conclusion of each period, the highest scoring classroom will win a Classroom Grant with up to $5000. And, at the end of each two-month period, twenty-two students will be awarded a $20,000 scholarship each! The grand prize of a $100,000 scholarship will go to the student who had the highest score of any student during the contest period.

What better way to give students real-world practice as they learn how to manage their money and finances? The added bonus of classroom grants and college scholarships will keep students engaged in the process. And, if they win, they will be well-versed in how to manage their winnings!

So get your students involved today! The H&R Block Budget Challenge site has much more information and details!