Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009: What I bought this year

Following Tony Vincent's lead, I decided to share my most interesting purchases of 2009.

Here they are, in as chronological of an order as I can get them. (The links sometimes link to the exact model I purchased or, if it is no longer available, to the most current version.)

MSI Wind U100 netbook
This netbook was one of the first to have n networking, a 6-cell battery, and Bluetooth. I purchased the pink Valentine's edition with Windows XPH, and, later in the year, turned it into a netbook running another popular operating system!

Samsung HZ10W 10 megapixel digital camera
This digital camera has a great lens, a 24-240mm optical zoom lens, and was very reasonably priced as the HZ15W was released. Oftentimes, I wait until new models that are not so very different to come out, and pick up the current model at a substantial savings.

Kindle 2
I loved my first Kindle, and really love the new Kindle 2! Electronic books are wonderful, and the Kindle is easy on the eyes, easy to operate, and fun to use!

MacCase Flight Jacket Laptop Case
This leather laptop case is pricey, but I managed to find one in the vintage brown on eBay for very cheaply. I only take it out when the weather is nice, but it is beautiful!

Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station Dual Band

Since we basically have the house o'Macs now, and n networking on everything, I opted to get the AirPort Extreme for the head of the network. However, our weather station server only has g networking and it co-exists quite nicely because of the dual band. It has worked flawlessly and has the added bonus of letting me access items stored on the data side when I am on the road.

Apple AirPort Express
I purchased three of these over the course of the year. The first two were purchased to extend the AirPort Extreme network to various areas of the house, which allowed me to roam far into the yard to work this past summer! The third one was purchased to carry with me on the road to allow, in some conference situations and hotel rooms, the ability to both be wireless and also allow others to share the connection.

Slingbox Solo
The Slingbox is one very cool invention. It attaches between your DVR and your wireless network to allow you to access, via a client on a computer or the iPhone, your DVR at home from wherever you are! You can watch live TV or your saved Days of Our Lives recordings (or any recording on the DVR). There is no monthly subscription charge or anything and it works like a charm!

Altec Lansing Orbit Portable Speaker
This little speaker is small and light, but produces a large sound. It works well in a classroom setting or a presentation room with about 75 chairs. The audio cable is rather short, so it has to sit next to your computer, but it is a great addition to your tech toolbox!

Scosche passPort Charging Adapter
This little adapter allows most Firewire iPod accessories to work with the newer USB-based devices like the iPod nano 4G, iPod touch 2G, and the iPhone 3G/3GS. This little adapter was the lifesaver to allow the Firewire iPod connection in my new Nissan Cube to work with my iPhone 3GS. The iPod part of the phone is controllable directly from the radio now! I know that others have had luck with older iHome radios and such working with their new devices with the addtion of the passPort charging adapter.

EyeFi Share Video Wi-Fi SD card
This SD card automatically uploads, while the card is still in your camera or camcorder, your photos or videos to your favorite photo-sharing, social networking, or blog site when you are in a wireless environment. I found it a bit disconcerting to automatically send everything as it is taken, so now chose to manually send only the things I want to be shown online.

iPhone 3Gs
What can I say? Best. Piece. of. Hardware. Ever.

MacbookPro 13.3”
I love the backlit keyboard, the SD slot, and everything about this laptop. I received it before Snow Leopard and Windows 7 were out, but upgraded immediately to both new operating systems and iLife 09 as soon as the all became available. I run Windows under Bootcamp, since I need to have access to all the processing power and RAM for some of the graphics and video-intensive apps I run on the Windows side.

Western Digital MyBook External 1TB Firewire Hard Drive

The link leads to the newer model of the one that I have, but this drive is rock solid for backup use on the Mac in conjunction with Time Machine.

Kodak Zi6 Pocket Camcorder
I purchased this at Radio Shack as they were getting ready to put the newer model on the shelf. It has an SD card slot and shoots in 720p HD. This camera has a following, as does the Flip Mino HD, and both groups are vocal on the best features of each. You can decide for yourself. (I have the Zi6 HD and the Flip Ultra 2, so I cannot compare the capabilities of each since one is HD and one is not.)

Wacom Bamboo Touch
I was very excited when the Wacom Bamboo Touch was released. I purchased it right away to see if I could replace my trackballs with it, and use it as an external touchpad on my computers. I also wanted to experiment with some of the neat features it added on both the Mac and Windows sides of my machine. It was not as smooth to use as I hoped it would be, so I wound up returning it. Soon after, the Bamboo Pen and Touch Tablet was released, and, since I already had a Wacom pen tablet, I did not purchase that one. I cannot speak to how well it works, but, it is really useful to have a small pen-based tablet available and, with the added bonus of touch, it probably would meet the needs of most occasional users. And Wacom products are well-made and often come bundled with some very useful software.

Dymo Label Writer 400 Duo
This model is still available new, but is at a very nice price point right now. If you have never had a Dymo Label Writer, you would be impressed with the speed, the ease of use, and the ability to print stamps and labels effortlessly. This model takes two types of tapes, so is extra useful!

Chumby One
With the release of the new version of this "desktop appliance", I took the plunge and purchased it. With over 1500 widgets to install, the inclusion of a faster processor, FM radio, streaming radio, and a simple network set-up, this little device is fun to have around! I wrote a blog post about my first impressions.

Cocoon Laptop Case
I was sold on the Cocoon Innovation products as soon as I saw their GRID-IT! organizers, which are sold separately and also come with the laptop cases. I purchased the hard-sided case, and, even though it is intended for a 15.4" laptop, the 13.3" MBP is held sturdily and the power cords fit nicely next to it. The GRID-IT! panel holds all the accessories for the laptop and is just so organized!

Canon Vixia HD Camcoder HF20

I did a lot of research before deciding what HD camcorder to purchase. I wanted one with flash internal memory (this one has 32gb) and it also has the ability to also hold up to a 32gb SD card, too. The features on this camera are varied, well-thought out, and it is fun to use. It is easy to get the video off of the camera and onto the computer for editing.

We are not huge movie-watchers in our house, but, with the ability to stream over 17,000 Netflix titles to one's computer, with the one-DVD at a time, unlimited account, I took the plunge. In addition, I am waiting patiently for my Samsung Blu-ray BD-P3600 player to arrive, since it streams Netflix right to the television! The Samsung comes with built-in wireless (and wired) access and also streams Pandora Radio and YouTube. Of course, it also plays DVDs and Blu-ray disks.

Well, the year is almost over, so this list is probably complete. I am looking forward next year to the possibility of an Apple Tablet of some sort as an bridge device between the iPhone and the laptop. Time will tell! Please feel free to share your opinions on any of these devices or share your favorite purchases of 2009.

Happy Holidays and New Year to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Edublog Awards - 1st Runner Up!

Thank you to all who supported me and voted in the Edublog Awards "Best Individual Blog" category! I came in second, which is amazing, and I am so honored and feel so lucky! Apparently it was a close race among the top three and the tallied numbers will be posted on their site soon.

Here is a screenshot from the awards show:

Thanks muchly to Steve Hargadon and Sue Waters who work so hard on this yearly program of bringing exciting new edubloggers to the attention of educators. And, of course, with social networking tools, you can follow some of the nominees, and then follow the blogs they follow, and on, and on, and on!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Edublog Awards 2009

This blog, Kathy Schrock's Kaffeeklatsch, was recently nominated for an Edublog Award for 2009 in the category of "Best Individual EduBlog." I was so excited and honored, since this was the first time my blog has been nominated in this competition!

I just finished looking through all of the other blogs nominated in the same category, and found some gems that I did not know about! I will be adding some of them to my blog page where many teachers start when trying to find some good stuff.

Every blog I looked at deserved to win, so please cast your vote for your favorite by December 16th!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Want 25 green screens in your computer lab?

Thanks to Tom Barrett for publicizing, on Twitter, the TeachMeet09 Ed Tech Roundup. I happened to catch one tweet and watched a two-minute tutorial about greenscreening and iMovie 2009 by Kevin McLaughlin. It was so easy, once the advanced tools were turned on!

I started thinking about the use of this in our technology classes, and suddenly realized that one could put a green background (#00FF00) as one of the user-created backgrounds in PhotoBooth on the Mac, record the greenscreen video, and then use Kevin's tip for using that in iMovie. This way, each student has their own green screen!


1. Import a 500x500 green (color #00FF00) solid color JPEG as the background in one of the effects boxes in PhotoBooth.
2. Record the video in front of this green background.
3. Save the MOV file.
4. Import the PhotoBooth MOV file into iMovie.
5. Import the background video into iMovie.
6. Use Kevin's tips.
(I realize you can import the background video into PhotoBooth and record yourself on top of it, but keeping the two videos separate gives you the option of applying additional effects and options to them in iMovie.)

Here is my feeble attempt to show you a quick finished product following the above steps.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Presenting Glogster Using Adobe Premiere Elements

I just returned from a technology conference that was chock full of presentations dealing with the effective use of Web 2.0 tools. I have presented a lot, and know the pitfalls of presenting in a venue that is unfamiliar to you. Will the bandwidth be sufficient? Will the projector work with my laptop? Will the sound be loud enough? Will the site I am about to demo be available? Will the site I am about to demo be accessible through the content filter at the conference venue?

Of course, I am always over-prepared for any emergency. I have the presentation on my computer, on a Flash drive, on a CD-R, in the cloud, in SlideShare, in Adobe Connect and even on paper. This works for a static presentation, but would not work well for an online application presentation.

My suggestion, for demonstration of Web 2.0 tools, to create a screencast of the things you want to show ahead of time and carry that along with you. It is better than simply static screenshots, and can get you through the time when the tech support team is frantically trying to get the Internet back up! Screencasts that you can carry with you can be created with Adobe Captivate or Techsmith's Jing Pro.

Screencasts work great except for those that incorporate video. At the conference this week, I watched a team of teachers successfully showcase their interdisciplinary Glogster project. I was contemplating what they would have done to show the multimedia Glogs if the Internet had not been available. (Don't forget, if you want to use Glogster with your students, sign up for a Glogster EDU account!)

I wanted to share the way I would prepare if I were planning a presentation about a site such as Glogster. I would first screencast myself creating the Glog, step-by-step, so the audience would understand how it works. And, if it were simply a Glog with images and text, I would screenshot the final product to show. A Glog shows up rather large on the computer screen, so you probably would have to make two screenshots and then stitch them together in an image-editing program such as Adobe Photoshop Elements. The other alternative, to avoid the stitching component, is to chose to embed the Glog on a blog or Google Doc, and change the dimensions in the embed code so you can see the entire Glog on your screen and simply create a single scereenshot.

However, if you create a Glogster project that includes videos, there is another easy solution I have discovered that will give your audience as close to a real-live experience as possible.
Adobe Premiere Elements, as opposed to Windows MovieMaker or Apple iMovie, includes three timelines of video and audio. By putting items on separate lines of video, one can layer and re-size one video on top of another. This is really easy to do, and it can help you simulate a multimedia Glogster page, with a limit of two videos. (Premiere Elements is a Windows-only program, but I use it on the Bootcamp side of my Mac.)

Here is a link to my original Glog and the one I am going to create a local copy of.


1. Create the screenshot of your Glog and have it saved as an image on your local hard drive.

2. Gather two original video files you uploaded to Glogster and have them available on your local hard drive, too.

3. Open Adobe Premiere Elements.

4. Place the screenshot JPEG on the Video 1 timeline. The default length will be 5 seconds, but you can stretch it wider.

5. Place one video on the Video 2 timeline and one on the Video 3 Timeline.

6. Drag the video on the Video 3 timeline to the right so it begins at the end of video on the Video 2 timeline.

7. Stretch the JPEG on the Video 1 timeline to match the end of the video on the Video 3 timeline. It will now stretch from the beginning to the end of the project.

8. When you move the playbar over each clip, the clip shows up large on top of the background JPEG in the preview window. Simply grab the handles of the clip, resize it, and place it on top of its static counterpart on the background JPEG.

9. Once you are done with placing both videos onto the background, export your project as a movie and show this movie when demonstrating your Glog. The videos will start automatically in your movie, but your audience will get a real flavor for your multimedia Glog! Here is the finished product that can live on your hard drive.

There are other options for creating "back-up" versions of your Glog, too, working on the same principle of placing the multimedia elements over the static background image. One can do this in a single slide in PowerPoint by rotating the slide to the portrait mode, putting the screenshot Glog as the background, and placing your local copy of the videos over this background and re-sizing and rotating them as needed. The advantage of using PowerPoint for your demo version is that you would be able to start and stop both the audio and video when you wanted to. Don't forget you would have to make sure your local videos traveled with the PowerPoint slide, since they are not embedded, but just referenced.

However, I love the multiple lines of video feature in Adobe Premiere Elements. I use it a lot for things like having videos show up in the background graphic of a vintage television set or having a moving image in a picture frame within another video.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Chumby is your friend!

Chumby One

I just received my Chumby One yesterday and all that you hear is true-- you cannot help but love the little information device! After setting up Chumby on your wireless (or wired) network, you simply visit the Chumby site to both activate your device and to choose from the list of applications to install.

The adding of applications to the Chumby takes place via your Chumby's personal page on the Web site. Here you add and customize (if necessary) the widgets. It could not be any simpler! The applications cycle through, each staying on the screen for the time you have determined in the set-up. There is also a large button to push that both allows you to pick a certain widget to show, but also allows it to stay on-screen if you wish. Some of the widgets are interactive, like the Twitter widget which allows you to tweet using an on-screen keyboard and the sticky-note app which allows you to leave notes to yourself. You select items from the screen using the tip of your finger or your fingernail (or a stylus), and it works easily.

In addition to the 1500+ widgets you can install, the Chumby also allows you to choose from a list of streaming radio stations and podcasts that can even play in the background as your widgets cycle by. Of course, there are lots of clocks to select from, and there is a nighttime setting that dims the screen or even shuts it completely off if you want.

If you want to see how to set it up and how it all works, simply visit their FAQ page.

Here are the specs from the Chumby One page:
  • 3.5 inch LCD color touchscreen
  • Access to free chumby content
  • Uses rechargeable lithium ion battery (not included)
  • USB 2.0 high-speed port
  • Stereo headphone output
  • 2W mono speaker
  • Volume knob
  • FM radio tuner
  • Accelerometer (motion sensor)
  • Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11 b/g)
  • USB Ethernet compatible
  • Over-the-air software updates
  • Dimmable backlight
  • 454 MHz ARM processor
  • 2 GB internal microSD card
  • AC adapter included
  • 3.5" wide x 4" tall x 3.5" deep
  • $119.95 with free US shipping