Thursday, December 30, 2010

Project 365 (Rewind)

Well, the last photo is posted and it is bittersweet. No more going out at 6am to get just the right light on that very special door. No more going out at 6am in order to stand in the middle of the road to get just that right angle for that perfect door photograph. No more surreptitious photos of doors out the window of the car while driving by a house. No more trying to act casual as I photograph a series of doors in the same neighborhood as I stroll down the street (and not appear as a stalker). No more making every family member turn around or park by the side of the road as I jump out to take that very special door photo. No more 30 mile drives to get that great door since I did not have my camera handy when I saw it the first time. No more editing of house numbers off of the photos so I do not put anyone's home at risk.

I will miss all these things, and will continue to see doors everywhere I go for a long time to come. This project, which required me to take a photo a day for a year, was a really fun project! I did not really take a door photo each day, since I found some streets with stretches of really nice doors and used them for an entire week. However, I did take door photos wherever I was, and even lamented when there was a storm door over a really awesome door. (The reflection off of storm doors is awful for photos, so I only took a very few of those.)

I received a small number of "guest" doors (and the guest door idea came from Roberta Sallee, BTW) from some of my buddies and relatives, Bodie Fulford, Bob Cotter, my mother-in-law, my dad, my mom, Melanie Holtsman, and one other (who I forget). I appreciate them taking the time to gather some photographs to enhance my project.

During the year, the gallery of doors was hosted on my Gallery. This allowed RSS aggregation and an automatic Twitter feed each day to my stream to alert people to the new photo. The funniest comment of the year came when I posted the "Adobe Door". One follower wrote and told me he was expecting a door on an adobe building, somewhere out west. In reality, it was the door at the Adobe Software Headquarters in San Jose while I was there for the summer institute.

I have moved all of the photos to Flickr, and here is the link to the set.

Below is the embedded slide show from Flickr. Thanks for all the kind words and comments throughout the year!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Twitter Year in Review

Since much of my "best" work is now done in 140 characters (or less) on Twitter, I figured I would try an embed of my last 100 posts to my Twitter feed as my year-end post. For those of you that do not tweet, this will give you a good idea of the items that I share on Twitter. Of course, this list will continue to change as I add new tweets. Maybe you will be convinced to try Twitter or add my Twitter feed to your Google newsreader! (You can see more here if you are interested!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Global Education: What I learned this week

I have been to Europe and Australia in the past. However, I have not had the time to really get out and about and become familiar with the culture of the places I have visited. I arrived two days early to the ECIS (European Council of International Schools) Conference in Nice, France. I had a little time to explore, and I learned some things here in France.

I know many of my respected colleagues in my PLN teach in other parts of the world, in both international schools and DoDEA schools, and I will be meeting many more this week at this conference. I live in a rather sheltered spot, Cape Cod, MA, and this week has made me realize that we must have our students become comfortable with dealing with people from other parts of the world.  This is nothing earth-shattering to most of you, but it really became apparent to me this week. Can we successfully do this virtually? Probably not to the extent we need to acclimate our students, but technology can play a big role in at least starting the process of global and cultural understanding.

Here is what I learned this week.

It is lonely if you do not know the language of the country you visit. I could not engage in any small talk with anyone. That was hard for me.  After being immersed in the French language for two days, and reading it everywhere, I can now understand signs, menus, and basic items. I do not even begin to say anything but thank-you, please, hello, and good-bye. Oh, and "I cannot speak French." Note to self-- always help non-speaking visitors in the US whenever possible.

Everyone in Nice has been more than helpful. I tried to pay the graciousness forward by taking lots of family photo shots for other tourists, from wherever they came.

I realize I can follow a map written in another language without knowing that language. However, I miss having GPS and interactive maps on the phone since I have no phone plan here. I had to download PDF maps to get around. Using the cell phone camera, however, helped me to leave a trail of bread crumbs so I could get back to transportation hubs and such.

People on subways act the same everywhere, even with no conversation involved. I was proud I figured out how to use public transport, even if someone had to show me how to purchase the tram ticket. No conversation necessary, just a lot of gesticulation!

One needs to notice when one is walking in the bicycle-only lane on the Promenade Des Anglais along the beach in Nice. Enough said.

One has to wear black here. Everyone does. And since Nice is a summer resort, everyone bundles up with scarves and mittens when it hits 50 degrees. I am thinking the weather is spring-like, as the New England cold weather has already begun to show up at home.

Everyone has a scooter-type motorcycle like mine! However, ATVs are street-legal and I even saw a regular motorcycle with two front wheels! (I want one of those.)

Now, after two days, I am feeling more comfortable, but certainly not totally. If our students have the chance to communicate, both synchronously and asynchronously with others, I think we should all make that happen. There should be no worries about streaming chat software, screen-sharing, and the like. Just make it happen to allow students from whatever country gain a better understanding of both what is the same and different about each other. Au revoir!

Here is a slide show of my photos for the past two days. (The Flickr set contains the object in the photo in the title of the slide.)


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Macbook Air 11.6"

I had the first Macbook Air a few years ago for about a minute and a half. It was so slow and underpowered and it had that weird door that dropped down to plug things into that nothing could plug-in to! I sold it after a very short time.

I wavered on the purchase of the new Macbook Air for almost 24 hours, and, for those of you that know me, you will realize this is odd. I had done all the research ahead of time, drove to an Apple store to see one (but they had not received one yet), and talked to some very smart colleagues who talked me out of it.

Photo by

I then polled my Twitter followers, but no one had yet touched one, let alone purchased one. However, I looked carefully at both the specs and the hype, and decided to get the 11.6" version,  doubled the RAM to 4GB, doubled the SSD to 128GB and upgraded the processor to the 1.6 GHz. I did not want to get caught with an underpowered machine again, but the total price was a little daunting!

I cannot believe this little machine! It is powerful enough to do Second Life (my avatar is iffy, but everything else renders perfectly!), it can video edit using Adobe Premiere Elements 9 for the Mac, and opens all apps so speedily, it takes your breath away!

I restored a Time Machine backup of my Macbook Pro and the new MBA was all ready to go! With the smaller amount of internal storage, I did uninstall most of the Adobe CS apps, but kept the ones I am most likely to use away from home like Dreamweaver and Acrobat Pro.

After the install of all my applications, I have about 60GB of data storage left, and that is fine for my purposes. With so much of my data available "in the cloud" and on my home computer via "Back to My Mac", I am all set by having everything available to me all of the time!

I miss a couple of things so far. Not the optical drive, but the back-lit keyboard and SD card slot. The larger model has the SD card slot, and I know that the battery life is longer without the back-lit keyboard, but I still wish it had it.

I have to remember to carry both the VGA dongle and the Ethernet dongle with me now, but that is not a problem. I have hooked the computer up to a older projector and the "non-standard" resolution works just fine.

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments of things you want me to try out or concerns of yours I might have missed!

Kindle 3 Overview

I have been using the Kindle 3 for a couple of months, and also using the iPad to read my Kindle selections, and I wanted to offer a few additional thoughts.

I still enjoy reading my books on the Kindle because of the electronic ink and the lack of backlighting, which makes it much easier on the eyes for long periods of time.

The added weight of the Kindle when in the case with the built-in light has not been noticeable. Folding back the cover when reading works well, so I have not taken it out of the case to read at all.

I do like having the 3G version for both purchasing and previewing new titles, and for using the Web browser anywhere I am. Of course, the iPad wins, hands down, for Web browsing, but the Kindle works in a pinch to check e-mail, tweet, or get ready-reference information. (I am one of those people who feels the need to have access to the Net and information with me 24x7, so I always can make do with the tool I have on hand!)

I have a more complete review of the Kindle 3 here, if you are interested.

Below you will find links to the two versions of the Kindle 3, the WIFi-only and WiFi/3G version and also links to all the apps for reading Kindle books on other devices. One of the main reasons I prefer the Kindle device is the number of titles available in the Kindle bookstore.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One more IPEVO device

Okay, audio-conferencing and attending Webinars just got a lot easier for me when I have a group of staff members watching and listening with me.

The problem always was lack of a speakerphone. I managed to solve the problem by purchasing Skype-out credits so I could dial-in to the landline we needed to connect to via the computer, so we could hear and participate in various online webinars. If the hosts used VOIP, we were all set for audio, but still each had to come up to use the microphone on the computer to ask a question. And, for simple conference calls, it got a little bit crowded as everyone huddled around the speakerphone in my office.

IPEVO X1-N6 Internet Conference Station

Well, I can now go mobile with the IPEVO X1-N6 Internet Conference Station ($139)!  This device is both a USB speaker and a USB microphone. I will simply have to bring the laptop to a conference room, plug in the IPEVO Internet Conference Station to a USB port, log-on to the webinar, choose the device as both the audio input and output devices, and everyone in the room will be able to clearly hear the webinar over the speaker in the Internet Conference Station, as well as easily contribute to the collaborative conversations that might occur. The device also has a mute button to mute the local sound when just listening to the online presentation.

However, the Internet Conference Station can be used ANY time one wants to get a group together to discuss something. For example, students creating an audio file as the backdrop for a slide show or movie can just plug in the device and each can easily add their thoughts. I also see the device being used by a student podcaster who is interviewing a small group of students, staff, or community members. The Internet Conference Station can be chosen as the audio input for apps such as Jing, GarageBand, Audacity, Adobe Connect, Microsoft PowerPoint, and any other app that allows the choice of the audio input device.

If you have any ideas on how the IPEVO Internet Conference Station might be used in an educational setting, add a comment! Thanks!

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Gadgets from IPEVO

I am starting to appreciate IPEVO's innovations more and more! Even though they are a consumer-oriented company, many of their items are useful for schools and support of teaching and learning. Of course, the IPEVO Point 2 View document camera has been a big hit in my district and everywhere else I demo it.

I got the chance to take a look at three new gadgets from IPEVO. The first is the Icon Power Pack for iPhone and iPod, an external battery charger for these devices. I have used the Kensington Mini Battery Pack for a number of years, and have always been happy with it. I cannot tell you how many times an external battery has helped me out, especially with the earlier iPhones with the shorter battery life.

The Icon works in the same way. You charge it via a USB port on your computer, then, when you plug it into the 30-port connector on the iPhone or iPod, the handheld recharges itself from the Icon. The blinking lights on the Icon let you know how much battery life is left for charging.

The Icon is rated to give 3 hours of additional talk time, or 5.5 hours of Internet use, or 18 hours of additional audio playback for the iPhone 3/3gs or iPhone 4. I can definitely see having a few of these on-hand in classrooms that are piloting 1-to-1 iPod or iPod Touch initiatives, especially when going out in the "field".

The second gadget I tried out was the Open Stereo Headphones. These headphones are the over-the ear type, sit outside of the ear canal and are quite comfortable. They have an in-line remote and mic for use with iPods and iPhones. However, the coolest feature is they allow you be aware of external sounds even while listening to music with the headphones on!

I tested it out today in a 7th grade computer class, where students were working on projects, and discussing content and navigation and set-up aloud the entire time. I could easily listen to music at a fairly high volume, and still hear what they were saying as well as the teacher giving instructions. I let a few of the students try them out, too, and they were impressed. If a computer lab had a classroom set of these, there would be no more hand signals or flicking off of classroom lights to get the student's attention. In addition, students would no longer have to raise their voices (as 7th graders are wont to do) when both wearing headphones and talking loud when trying to get the attention of another student.

When I showed them to the computer teacher, her only concern was examining them to see how rugged they were, since they would have to put up with five classes of middle schoolers each day. I am not sure of that, but I do know there are not many larger, more expensive headphones that have been able to withstand the middleschooler, either!

The third new gadget I tried out was the one I had the most fun with -- the IPEVO Tubular Wireless Speakers.

These portable speakers come connected together in an easy-to-transport tube. To use them, they twist apart to reveal a USB connection for charging with the computer in the base of one and an audio cable to connect the speakers together in the base of the other.

These speakers attach to the iPod, the iPod Touch, and the iPhone via a Bluetooth pairing connection, and they should work with any laptop or device that has Bluetooth capabilities.

I easily paired them with my iPad, and then carried the speakers throughout my house, streaming the music wherever I went! In a classroom setting, these would be very useful for sharing audiobooks and podcasts in small groups of students, or even with the entire class.

(One tip: I found that I needed to make sure the two speakers were attached to one another via the audio cable BEFORE doing the pairing with the iPad in order to get sound from both speakers.)

Can't wait to see what IPEVO comes up with next!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

iPad app for presenting with speaker notes!

When Keynote for the iPad was released, I was really excited about the possibility of leaving the laptop at home and using the iPad for presentations. With Keynote's ability to project the slide via the iPad's 30-pin to VGA connector, I thought I was all set.

I was disappointed to find out the Keynote app just mirrored the presentation, and did not allow for the presenter's notes to be seen on the iPad while the viewers just viewed the slides. I always use the presenter's mode in PowerPoint and Keynote, and find it very handy to have my notes available to me.

I came across an iPad app called 2Screens- Presentation Expert a few weeks ago, and suggested to the developer, Edwin Lam, that perhaps he could come up with a way to allow the presenter's notes to be seen on the iPad. Edwin told me he was already figuring out a way for that to happen, and a new version was released on September 23rd with this capability! Yippee!

Here is how it works, as outlined in the directions in the FAQ section of the Web site.
  1. Open your Keynote or PowerPoint file with the Keynote app on Mac.
  2. Select File > Export > PDF and choose “Export Slides With Notes”.
  3. Check “Print each stage of builds” and UNCHECK all other options (please make sure NOT to check the options for “Include slide numbers” and “Include date”).
  4. Click “Next” to enter file name and select the destination folder for the output PDF.
  5. Transfer the output PDF to 2Screens' local folder on iPad through iTunes file sharing function.
  6. Open 2Screens app on iPad and make sure “Fast PDF Mode” is turned ON in the “Tools” menu.
  7. Select the PDF from the Folder menu.
  8. After the PDF is loaded, click on the “PN” button on the bottom bar menu to show/hide the semi-transparent yellow area where the presenter notes are shown.
It may sound like a lot of steps, but it is really very easy, quick, and, as you can see from the images below, works like a charm!

Original Keynote presentation with presenter notes

Screen shot from the iPad of the exported PDF of the Keynote with the presenter notes popped up (they scroll)

Photo of the iPad attached to the VGA connection of the TV. Slide on external device, slide and notes on iPad!

Kudos to Edwin for working this out! If you are a Windows user, find a friend with a Mac and Keynote to import and then export your PowerPoint presentation for use on the iPad!

Information page with the manual and an FAQ page for 2Screens. 
Link to the iTunes store and the app here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interesting Virtual Experience

Today the entire middle school went to the auditorium to watch the live, streamed back-to-school speech given by President Obama. An interesting phenomenon occurred.

As you can see by the photo below, for the quarter-hour before the speech, the stream was live from a school auditorium in Philadelphia. The camera in that auditorium was situated behind the first couple of rows of students, so, without anything else on the stage at that point, there was nothing to do but watch the students in the audience. They were talking, pointing, using their cell phones to take photos, and just acting like "regular" kids. The students sitting near me asked me why those students could have cell phones in school (since they could not) and mentioned how, with the students on the screen and with our audience flowing down to the screen, it looked like we were there in person, too!

The interesting thing occurred as President Obama was introduced. The students in the auditorium in Philadelphia stood up and clapped and cheered, and the students in our auditorium did the same! When President Obama introduced the special guests in his audience, our group of 500+ students clapped right along with the audience on the screen.

It was mind-boggling to me that the students truly felt as if they were participating in the event in Philadelphia. They acted like they were there. The virtual video stream, to them, was not even evident, and they were an attentive audience, on their best behavior, as if they were present at the event in person.

I know the camera angle before the event helped make the students feel as if they were there in person. Someone at the White House gave some thought to how the event would appear to the virtual connections, and did a great job at making us all feel as if we were there!

I have to give this some more thought, but it truly was amazing to me to see the students so engaged in a virtual event. (And the speech was great, too!)

Blogger's Post Summary

Tammy Worcester recently posted about Blogger's new "post summary" feature. It allows you to just show a small part of a post on your Blogger page, with a link to a "read more" link to allow users to see the rest. The toolbar now includes  a "jump break" button you insert in the text where you want the "read more" break to be.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Kindle 3 is kool!

Kindle 3 shots
My first impression of the Kindle 3 is wow! As an early adopter and heavy user of both the Kindle 1 and 2, I am really impressed with the updates!

The device is smaller (7.5" x 4 7/8"). The device is light (weighed it on my postal scale: 8.3 oz.) The page turns are as quick as lightning! The screen is more readable.

You can highlight a passage from anything you are reading and share it via Twitter or Facebook.

In the collage above you will see (click on it to make it larger)...
  1. A photo of the iPad and the Kindle together to demonstrate size.
  2. The new Kindle cover with a built-in light. It weighs almost as much as the Kindle itself (7.8 oz.) which brings the total weight of the Kindle and this case to a tad over 1 pound.
  3. The new case with the built-in light is very well-done, though! You hook the Kindle in the case via two small metal hooks that go into small slots (that must create the circuit) on the left side of the Kindle. Then you simply pull up the upper right-hand corner of the case and a rigid plastic strip with a bright light comes out, and turns on to light up the Kindle screen. The light gets its power from the Kindle, so I will have to do some testing to see what the battery drain is like when using the light. But it works great in the dark!
  4. The experimental Web browser now shows Web pages in their native form.  This is the shot of my Web page when typing in the URL.
  5. The pop-up menu for the experimental browser allows you to zoom in on the page to make it readable, bookmark the page, or access your previously bookmarked pages.
  6. This pop-up menu even has an "article mode" which reformats the Web page for easy reading as seen in the last image.
The changes are all good on the new Kindle, and, if you have been holding off, I think this is the time to get one! Of course, you should compare all the other models on the market, too, but I am partial to the Kindle because of the large digital library of choices and the fact that the electronic ink and non-backlit screen allows me to read for a long time without tiring out my eyes!

Anybody else get the new model? Please leave your comments below and share your thoughts!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What's up with the door pics?

I get lots of email asking why I am taking (and posting) a picture of a door every day. This phenomenon started in 2004 and has morphed into an international project entitled Project365. The original goal was to document each day of a year of your life in photos for reflection on the passing time. I am not sure where the actual official Project365 page is located, but this may be it!

There are many different flavors of this project. Some people participate in Project365 groups that assign them a type of photo to take each day ("Take something yellow." "Take something that contains an equilateral triangle." "Take something that makes you feel happy.")

Others of these Project365 groups concentrate on teaching the participants to be more effective photographers by providing photography instruction and methodology in the day's assignment.

Other people, like me, pick a theme and carry it out in photos throughout the year; hence my door project, which you can view below. (For a much better experience, link to the full MobileMe gallery here.)

Here are some links to places you can find postings of Project365 photos. (BTW, I am not responsible for any content that you see that might be inappropriate!)

Anyone else participating in a Project365 group? Feel free to share your URL in a comment!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Point 2 View Document Camera Review

Good things come in small (low-cost) packages! With so many of us trying to demo our smartphones, iPads, or other devices to an audience of educators, the IPEVO Point 2 View ($69) is something to consider for your toolbox! It easily connects to a computer to project to a large group using an LCD projector for real-time viewing of the screens of the electronic devices we are trying to show. Of course, you can project anything flat or 3-dimensional, too, when teaching other content areas. Typical examples include documents for whole-class discussion and mark-up, coins for teaching money for the elementary grades, or tiny bugs and shells in science class.

The iPhone screen projected on the laptop via the Point 2 View
The Point 2 View is a USB document camera. You simply install the software (Win or Mac) on your laptop, plug the camera into an available USB port, and you are good to go! The software allows you to change the zoom on the camera, change the exposure if you are in a light or dark situation, set a timer to take a photo, mirror the item you are looking at, and change the camera resolution from 1600x1200 all the way down to 320x240. The camera itself can auto-focus on your object or also lets you focus manually.

Entire iPad screen projected with the Point 2 View

The Point 2 View is used by attaching it to the included weighted, adjustable base. (It also comes with a laptop/LCD screen clip in case you want to use it as a Web cam.) It is 9"x5"x3" and weighs 1.5 pounds (with most of the weight in the base of the holder). Because of this weighted base, however, you can telescope it way out from the base to show an item if you need to. It stays very sturdy and does not shake.

Locating my house in Google Earth using the camera's zoom function.

The Point 2 View can also be used "in the field" since it is powered by the USB port. Students working outside with a laptop or netbook could use it to view items as close as 2" away and take photographs to share with the rest of the class. In addition, it even works as a long distance camera, as you can see by the shot below!

An interior shot in lower light in my house.

The feature I like best is the ease of zooming in on the object being presented using the zoom functionality in the software. I have just included a couple of sample shots below, but imagine the possibilities! Please share some ideas you have for use of the Point 2 View in the comments section!
Using the 1x zoom setting on the Point 2 View

Using the 2.5x zoom setting on the Point 2 View

Follow up (10/27/10): One person asked in the comments if one could capture moving objects with the Point2View. I did not have any amoeba swimming in a Petri dish at home, so I used Adobe Premiere Elements 9 for the Mac to record a video playing on my iPhone using the Point2 View as the capture source. The unedited result follows:

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Apple's Magic Trackpad Review

Magic Trackpad
I received my Apple Magic Trackpad yesterday and have been putting it through its paces.

For the past 5 years, I have most often used a trackball on my desktops at home and at school. The ergonomic aspect of keeping my hand in one place seemed to protect me from the stress and strain oftentimes brought on by mouse use. The Magic Trackpad provides that same "hand and arm in one place" option.

I am also a unibody MacBook Pro user and have never used a mouse with any laptop I have owned.

I still continue to watch some teachers struggle with the use of a trackpad and do realize it is an acquired skill that takes a lot of practice. However, I feel it is well worth the time it takes to perfect it! (How else can you use a laptop on your lap?)

The Apple Magic Trackpad includes all of the cool functionality of the trackpads on the Apple laptops. Features can be customized, and include:
  • Point
  • Click
  • Double-click
  • Right-click
  • Click and drag
  • Two-finger scroll
  • Rotate
  • Pinch/Zoon
  • Page back and forward
  • Switch applications
Installation of the trackpad required a software update, which did not seem to show up until I had paired the device with the desktop. You will probably need to keep your current pointing device available during the set-up process, as I did.

I have found, as with the trackpad on the laptop, your hands have to be rather dry in order to use it smoothly. Use in areas of high humidity, with damper hands, may cause a bit of a problem.

I tweeted about the device yesterday, and received some inquiries as to the suitability of the Magic Trackpad over the use of the mouse for the youngest students. I think the device is a viable option for easy navigation by the PreK to 1 set, who often find the use of a mouse difficult. (A regular trackball works well for this group, too!) Once students realize they can simply tap to place and double-tap to open, I feel the input device will no longer be a barrier for the younger students. Clicking and dragging may take some getting used to, and you should experiment with drag lock for these students. I would also suggest that most of the other functions of the Magic Trackpad be turned off because of the possibility of swiping and zooming by accident.

I tried the Magic Trackpad on the Windows side of Bootcamp, and it connected with no problem. I have not yet installed the Windows drivers (64-bit available, too) Apple offers, but the comparison chart here shows the functionality on the Mac and three flavors of Windows.

All in all, I am really impressed with the Magic Trackpad as an alternative input device!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tech thoughts

I have not published a post in a while but have not been avoiding technology! This post is simply to talk about some of my recent thoughts and discoveries.

ISTE10 was a blast! I find the ad-hoc conversations with educators in queues waiting for sessions to open, in restaurants, and on the floor while resting and planning the next session to attend, were probably the most important for me. I was able to ask questions and share my thoughts with everyone from classroom teachers just starting their technology journey, to the respected keynotes like Bernie Dodge, Dave Warlick, and Hall Davidson.  I love to talk (no surprise there!) and learned so much from these conversations and questions with ed-tech colleagues.

The Apple iPad is still highest on my list of useful technology tools! Although I have the new iPhone 4 now, and love the new iOS4 with the ability to put apps into folders, I know this same capability will be coming to the iPad in a few months, and will make the iPad even that much better. There were hundreds of iPads at ISTE10,  everyone shared their favorite apps for support of teaching and learning, and that sharing was invaluable! I have been carrying the iPad everywhere, and with the 3G version, I can be very productive. The only real sticking point for me is trying to use the desktop version of Google Docs on the iPad. It still lacks some key things, like the ability to scroll and the ability to create a share to a document. I am hoping a future update to Google Docs will allow these functions to be usable on the iPad. The mobile version of Google Docs works great for most things, but I need the desktop version to administer the domain and complete some other tasks. However, as more and more apps are developed or redesigned to take advantage of the iPad's larger screen, it is definitely becoming a laptop replacement for me.

I have also been spending quality time with my new iPhone4. The resolution is beautiful and the real-time videoconferencing app, Facetime, is really a lot of fun to work with and I can see its potential power to support teaching and learning. I will be taking a look at some of the Android phones for classroom use (without the cell service) and comparing them to the iPod Touch and the iPad. The Touch is rumored to be having a refresh in the fall, with a camera, Facetime, and some other updates. Time will tell what will be the best 1-to-1 device for students for information access and some creation ability, too.

What are your recent technology discoveries? Please share!

Photo credit: 
Andrea Wiggins

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tweeting a meeting and more...

Tweeting Meetings

I once tweeted an entire Steve Jobs press conference, 140 characters at a time, for over an hour to all of my followers. Oops! Did I stop to think that everyone might not be interested in the topic. Nope. Did I stop to think that some people get their tweets on their cell phones via SMS and I was sending them tons of text messages? Nope.

Well, many of my followers dropped me a tweet and let me know that my constant tweeting was a problem that day. I thought about a way to solve the problem and still give those that WANT to receive the tweets the option to do so. Here is my solution.
  1. I set up another Twitter account (schrock_bkchan) for tweeting meetings and conferences. I call it my Schrock Backchannel account.
  2. When I am going to be tweeting a meeting or conference sessions, I tweet in my regular "kathyschrock" Twitter account that I will be doing so, and also include the link to the schrock_bkchan account in the tweet.
  3. Users can choose to follow the alternate account if they are interested in the topic, and unfollow once the event is over.
Using this method, followers who are not interested in my pithy comments about a conference session do not get overwhelmed with lots of tweets. This is a good way to keep your followers happy! (Hint, hint to many of the educators I follow!)


There are more good practices for Twitter-using educators I would like to share.
  1. Put something in the bio area about being a teacher. I check the bio of everyone who follows me, and I sometimes block those that are not educators. My tweets are pretty much all educational in nature, and intended for a certain audience, and I try to keep the followers that fit that demographic.
  2. If you are going to be using Twitter, do not protect your tweets. Part of being a good Netizen is sharing your expertise with others. Someone may not necessarily want to follow you, but your great comments don't even show up in the Twitter search tool if you don't make your tweets public. (I often find great educators to follow when searching in the Twitter search tool.) Keep another Twitter account for personal stuff, and protect only those tweets. 
  3. Don't feel upset if someone you follow is not following you. I have lots and lots of followers (thank you very much!), but I only follow about 160. No one can possibly follow 6000+ people and get anything else done! I know you cannot DM me if I do not follow you, and I apologize. But I check all the @responses and will respond back to you in a timely fashion.  My Personal Learning Network is small, but good, and I often expand it as I see RT of those that I do not follow yet in a post by someone I follow. (Using Twitter effectively does take some practice!)
Twitter is a wonderful professional collaboration and learning tool. Don't forget to be cognizant of your followers, identify what you do, add to the Twitterverse with your open tweets, and create a well-honed PLN!

Monday, May 31, 2010

GoodReader for the iPad

Well, I had heard a lot of talk about the power of the GoodReader app for the iPad and I finally had some time to spend with it. I am currently using the newest version 2.7.7.

It is a very powerful piece of software! Created by Good.iware, GoodReader is available for the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the iPad. Some of the add-on features cost money if you are using it on the iPhone or Touch, but the iPad version includes all of the features for no cost.

Okay, GoodReader is a great PDF file reader. However, it can also read Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. It can hook to MobileMe, DropBox,, and other WebDAV servers. It can interface with iMap and POP email servers and FTP servers. You can move files up and down with it to and from all these places. You can connect to your Google Apps and Google Apps for Ed documents for easy access and transfer of documents, too.

You can download Web pages through Safari for offline reading. You can download and play videos and audio files. It will reformat a PDF file as plain text for easier reading if you need it to.

There are several ways to get files to and from the computer to the GoodReader app and vice versa; there is a wireless transfer option, connection to online file storage sites and email attachments, and more. (There used to be a way to move files back and forth via a USB connection between the device running GoodReader and the computer, but that was removed at Apple's request a few versions back.)

GoodReader does so much, you will probably find yourself using it all of the time! It truly is the one of the best $.99 purchases you will ever make for your iPad!

Useful links to learn more

I used Safari to download the main page of the user manual from GoodReader's site to my iPad. The only question I have is why the manual is not available as a PDF download for this great PDF reader!

Photo courtesy of ChrisDag via Creative Commons licensing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

iPad apps that project

I tried to find a list of iPad apps that will allow projecting via the VGA/composite/component cables and could not find one. I decided to use the power of the crowd to compile a list of the ones that work this way.

Here is the direct link to the spreadsheet with the compiled data.

Here is the link to the form to fill out once you have checked to see if the one you know about still needs to be added to the list! Thanks for contributing!

(Photo credit)

Monday, May 17, 2010

iPad Thoughts, part 4

Well, this is the first time I have turned on my laptop this week...that says something about how much I am using the iPad! It has become my constant tech companion along with the iPhone. This blog post is a series of disconnected iPad thoughts and experiences...

I have been experimenting with lots of apps-- loading them on the iPad and then removing them. It is so easy to install items, try them out, and then remove them.

I did have one major (almost total) meltdown this week. I installed a to-do app on the iPad that syncs with iCal and it immediately blanked out 3 of my 4 calendars; those on my home desktop, my iPhone, and the iPad. Luckily I noticed it and quickly chose to not sync my work desktop, exported the calendar data file with 470 items, and setup all my MobileMe accounts again. It worked, and life was good. I did uninstall the to-do app, even though it had a beautiful interface. I am not sure if I made the mistake or the app took over, but I did not keep it installed long enough to figure that out!

I watched another movie via Netflix, played Scrabble with family members with the use of iPhones and Touches, and created some Keynote presentations. I still love the fact that it is so easy to show the students things via the large screen, and I feel like the Pied Piper at times as the middle schoolers follow me down the hallway for their try with the iPad.

I recently had a Twitter discussion with an ed-tech trainer who asked me which model schools should purchase.  I gave it some thought, and have decided that, if the iPad purchases are to create a 1-1 program, with students having the devices 24x7, I think it behooves schools to purchase the 3G version. Within the current budget constraints, most schools cannot afford the data plan for students. However, if a student or student's family wanted to purchase that service for the iPad, they could easily do that through iTunes. It could be an easy way to get Internet into some homes that do not have it. In addition, since it is a pay-as-you go option with no long-term contract, families could opt-in and opt-out of the monthly fee as needed.

There are all types of new iPad in education sites showing up. Here are links to a few.

Cool find for the week: Macworld created the ebook "iPad Starter Guide" and is offering it at no cost on their site. Install it into iBooks and learn the finer points of this great device!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

iPad part 3

I have not had time to blog about the iPad because I have been too busy using the iPad! I carry it with me all of the time and, with the 3G, use it everywhere! I have decided on a neoprene CaseLogic netbook case for toting the iPad since it makes it easy tom put in my school tote bag and easily allows access to the 30-pin connector for syncing and other tasks.

I continue to be amazed at the speed of the device. I can easily move back and forth between apps and hardly miss multitasking. The apps that are being updated for the iPad are taking advantage of the increased real estate and are just so pretty (okay, and useful, too)!

I keep a plate stand and BT keyboard at work and use the keyboard dock at home. There is no fear of the battery running out and it gets me through an entire school day. (This bodes well for classroom use!) However, in landscape mode, the built-in keyboard is very usable and I do not use the external keyboards much.

Some of the most impressive apps I have seen for the iPad have been on my storm-chaser son's iPad. He was easily able to track and view the storm activity in Oklahoma this week using some good weather apps on the device and can't wait to use the iPad on his upcoming chase next month. (

With the larger screen, many of the popular apps (like Twitter and Facebook) are easily able to be used on their full Web pages versus via an app or mobile version of the site. This allows access to all functionality of the sites.

I am still loving this PC (Personal Communication) device!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Additional iPad thoughts

I have now spent a couple of days with the iPad and find it more and more useful every day! I am just trying out features as I need them, not testing every little option on the device.

I just tried the USB camera connection component and the wired, full-size aluminum keyboard, but the iPad popped up a message that the keyboard accessory took too much power. So, I have moved to the iPad keyboard dock, and it works like a dream!

I have hand-carried the iPad, put it on a table, used it in landscape and portrait mode, and have concluded that it truly is a lap device. During the Jobs iPad announcement conference, when he showed it off for the first time, Steve was sitting with it resting on his legs. It really feels natural to use it that way, and, with the touch-screen interaction, it becomes a very usable personal device! (I hope schools that pilot classroom sets will remember to let students use the devices while sitting in easy chairs, and not tie them to a desk or table for use.)

I hooked up the iPad via the VGA connector to an external monitor today, and practiced going through a Keynote presentation while going into the Videos area to show movies and then going back into the Keynote presentation. It is not dis-similar to moving back and forth between a presentation and a helper app on a desktop, and the iPad is so quick, it really should not impact the audience as you go in and out of Keynote. One suggestion is to put both apps on your taskbar, at least for the presentation time, so you can easily locate the icons. (Tip: I am assuming you already know that you can actually put 6 icons on the taskbar, even though the default is 4.)

Today at lunch, of course I lugged (okay, carried) the iPad along to show it off. One teacher had a question about Twitter and three of us were comfortably able to view and share the screen when I showed them Tweetie in 2x view-- the big image is a tad fuzzy, but very usable. The teachers were not wowed by the iPad itself, but by the fact we could actually collaborate easily! w00t! I love being an unintentional mentor!

Being such a heavy iPhone user, I do miss having a camera. I downloaded Camera A and Camera B, which are two apps-- one that runs on the iPhone and one on the iPad. You start them both up, they connect with each other, and then the camera view on your iPhone shows up on the iPad. Once you take the photo, it is on the iPad! You really have to have a steady iPad hand, but it will work in a pinch! (Of course, you can always email yourself the photo from the iPhone...)

When I wrote my first iPad post, I noticed some weird things about Blogger. After doing some research, I found out Blogger's regular interface does not play well with the iPad, so I purchased the program I am using now, BlogPress, and it seems to work well with the iPad. We will see what the live post looks like in a few!

I attended a Discovery Educator Network webinar today via WebEx, and I tried to log-in with Safari on the iPad. That did not work because of the lack of Java support on the iPad. I then downloaded the WebEx app for iPad, but, since Discovery did not schedule their presentation directly through the WebEx meeting scheduler, I could not join via the iPad. The app informed me that I would have to use a computer to view that particular webinar. (This is just a reminder in case you want people with iPads to attend your WebEx!) I will be trying an Adobe Connect presentation tomorrow when I create a meeting on the computer and join with the iPad/iPhone client. It works well on the iPhone, so I am sure it will work on the iPad with no problem.

The only thing I am impatient about is waiting for updated iPad-designed versions of my favorite apps, like Tweetie, SlingPlayer, and some others that I use regularly. With the increased screen real estate of the iPad, it is great to see some of the updated apps and how they take advantage of the space to add additional features and/or allow more information to be viewed at one time.

That's it for now. Bottom is a fun, fast, intuitive, usable, useful, and the 3G is just the icing on the cake for anytime, anywhere access. I think Apple got it right!

- Kathy Schrock

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Notes from (and about) the iPad 3G

I received the iPad 3G late on Friday and have not spent tons of time putting it through its paces. However, knowing I was going away for the weekend motivated me to get it set-up right away to take with me as my device of choice. I had been reading and rereading the online manual since the WiFi version was released and had bookmarked all the good advice from the blogs on how best to set it up, so I was prepared. Here are my thoughts thus far:

It is lightning fast! It moves between apps so fast, I hardly miss multi-tasking. There are times when it would come in handy, but I managed to make liberal use of cut-and-paste to make things work between apps when necessary.

Set-up was easy. I followed the advice online and manually moved media and apps to the iPad to allow me to pick the apps that would work best on it. I had a lot of photo apps on the iPhone that were not necessary to install on the iPad.

I cannot recommend the 3G version highly enough! I have used it to grade papers in Moodle while waiting in the car and in this hotel room where wireless access is spotty at best. The purchase of the 3G service through iTunes was easy, too.

I moved photos of the honors graduation ceremony up to the iPad using the camera connection kit SD card component and it went easily and I was able to both share the photos on the iPad itself and email them to others.

It is truly a "different" type of device and it takes a bit to get a feel for it. At first it seemed a bit awkward when I was treating it like a big iPhone. However, once I got past that, I realized it truly is in a class of technology by itself!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Google Docs Viewer

I just tried out a feature from Google that was released last September-- the Google Docs Viewer. It is a pretty cool little tool once you realize its power!

The Google Docs Viewer allows you to email a link, place a link on your Web page or blog, or embed a stand-alone viewer to read PowerPoint, PDF, and TIFF image files directly in the browser. Right now, if you put a link to a PowerPoint presentation on a Web page, it has to be downloaded and opened with the PowerPoint software on the user's computers. And PDF and TIFF files will not open in a Web browser, either, and require software on the local computer to read these file formats.

Following are some examples using the Google Docs Viewer.

A PDF version of an ergonomics manual developed for our district. This will open in another window, but right within the Web browser.

A PowerPoint presentation created when we first began our current unit design process in the district.

Here is the embedded version using that option of the Google Docs Viewer.

I uploaded an image in the TIFF file format so you could see how that works, too!

The Google Docs Viewer is a interesting tool for you to try out! Let me know if you come up with other creative ways to use it!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Educators' Use of Twitter: Survey Results

This survey was open to participants from March 10 through April 1, 2010. The data was collected via a Google form. The survey was originally created by Emily Embury of C. Blohm & Associates ( for a session at COSN 2010 dealing with Twitter. She gathered data from the pre-registered educators for COSN, and summarized it online. 

I liked the survey, and, because her data set was rather small, I asked if I could send it out through my personal learning network to gather additional data.  She graciously agreed, and the only changes I have made on the presentation are the first three questions.

I sent out the survey link to 5800+ educators on Twitter, and asked them to share the link with those in their school and/or district, whether or not they were current Twitter users. I received 284 valid responses.

The first section of the survey was a collection of demographic data from the responders.

The second section dealt with personal and professional use of Twitter.

The third section dealt with school or district use of Twitter.

Here is a slide show of the survey results.

Thank you to all who participated in the survey. Feel free to use this data if you need it to justify the use of Twitter in your school or district, to provide data to get it unblocked in your school or district, or for any other reason. 

Citation for the study:
Schrock, Kathleen. (2010, April 2). Educators' Use of Twitter: Survey Results. Retrieved Month Day, Year, from

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

iPad Hype (and why I love it!)

Things are heating up in the iPad arena with the upcoming launch of the wireless version in stores on April 3! And, in addition to being available in the Apple store, Apple confirmed today that most Best Buy stores will carry them, too!

I ordered the 3G version, so will have to wait a few more weeks for mine, but will be living vicariously through all the unboxing videos and screenshots that should soon be flooding the tech blogs, YouTube, and Twitter.

Seton Hill University announced today all incoming freshmen will be getting an iPad. Apple is offering a 10-pack of the WiFi devices with AppleCare at a slight discount for schools. There are reports of some school districts ordering lots of them!

The capabilities and features of the iPad have been covered in depth by Macworld and MacLife as well as by anyone else who has had the chance to get their hands on one. However, the creative possibilities for this new device are just coming to light.

A few of my favorite ideas include this blog post about the use of the iPad for reading sheet music and Gizmodo's weekly Photoshop contest focused on "designing your dream iPad app". I love the design contests, since an iPad app programmer might see something that sparks the actual creation of one of these cool app ideas! And here are some videos of iPad apps that have been submitted to the App Store for approval. Very cool...

I hope those of you getting the WiFi version will post your comments here for all of us to share! 

Monday, March 15, 2010

VariQuest Cutout Maker

Our middle school was lucky enough to purchase a VariQuest Cutout Maker recently. The Cutout Maker is an electronic die-cut machine that allows easy creation of various sizes of graphics as well as the use of many types of paper from notebook paper to card stock. I liken it to a robot that can cut out anything for you while you watch!

I have been offering a series of workshops for teachers at all levels, and I wanted to share some of the photos I took during the workshops, the method I used to teach the workshop, and some creative ideas for use of the Cutout Maker from my teachers. Take a look at the video and at the links at the end, in case you are considering the purchase of one or need justification for including one in a grant to support teaching and learning!



PS Thanks to my teachers for their great ideas and permission to "star" in my video!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro Mobile for iPhone

I am an Adobe Education Leader and use Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro a lot to present, showcase it to other districts and schools, and to attend Adobe meetings.

Today I downloaded Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro Mobile for the iPhone and tried it out. It worked perfectly and is easy-to-use.

I opened a Connect meeting on the laptop, and then joined the meeting as another user via the iPhone. The interface on the iPhone is easy to use since you only have three choices-- watch the presentation, watch the presenter, or chat. The sound on the mobile app was good and only a tiny bit laggy. (I was using it over 3G). The video was tolerable and, since the presentation was clear, it was easy to follow along. The user can watch the presentation in any orientation and can set to view full-screen, too.

I would imagine, on the iPhone, if you were viewing a shared desktop in a Connect meeting, it might be rather tiny. However, I am guessing that there may soon be larger screen mobile devices that can take care of this problem!

Here are some screenshots from the iPhone.

Of course, the power of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro on the desktop is the ability to allow the participants to present, put them in breakout rooms, share their desktops, and much more. This app is just a view-only app (with the ability to chat and join an audio-bridge if there is one set-up) but this app will allow users on-the-move to attend all types of great sessions! The next time I do an open Connect session, I will post the meeting URL to Twitter so some of you can try it out!

Here is a quickstart guide from Adobe with much more information.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Educators' Use of Twitter Survey

I recently came across some interesting data compiled by Emily Embury of C. Blohm & Associates from the results of a survey administered to the educators on the pre-registration list of COSN 2010.

Her pool of survey-takers were the people in the session, and I asked her for permission to send out the survey to my personal learning network to gather more data. She graciously agreed, so here it is!

Make sure to send the link to the survey page
( to others to complete the survey! We need info from Twitter and non-Twitter users alike!

Take the survey!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

NCTIES Conference

The NCTIES Conference was awesome, and I was able to spend some quality time with Leslie Fisher and Gail Lovely. We were such geeks as Leslie introduced us to Gowalla, which we now describe as a cross between geo-caching, FourSquare, and Where's George? You get to add new places, check-in, and pick-up, drop, and trade items at these spots. In addition, you can see the history of where the item you have picked up has been, hence the "Where's George" similarity.

Interestingly enough, although we were all at one dinner table, my iPhone GPS had my location as across the street, so I could not even check-in at the restaurant. Obviously the waitress got a big kick out of us learning and working while waiting for our food...we are so nerdy.

The sessions at the conference I attended were full of great information from the presenters, with excitement and good questions from the participants. I was able to meet some tech people I virtually knew, like Kevin Honeycutt and see many of the other very tech-savvy crew!

My session dealt with Twitter and was well-attended. Since the theme of the conference was safari and discovery, of course I dressed the part! The audience was primarily made up of those who could not figure out why they would ever want to use Twitter and those who were already heavy-duty tweeters. I tried not to overwhelm the "newbies" and I did get a bunch of new follower on Twitter the next day, so perhaps I did convince some of them!

I even had a giveway at the session. My VariQuest rep here in MA, Cheryl Rowe, contacted the reps from Presentation Systems South, Arlene and Randy Hobart, who had the board delivered to their booth. It was put together at the home office in MN and shipped to the Hobarts and all I had to do was carry it to my presentation! (Thanks to those in MN who put it together for me!)

It was a safari-themed wildlife adventure bulletin board made from their Cutout Maker, and the teacher who was able to bring it home was ecstatic!  (Our middle school just got the DesignCenter and the Cutout Maker and I am doing workshops on it for the next couple of weeks.)

I chose to attend some sessions containing tips, tricks and successful practices about the items we already use in the district-- Google Apps for Education, Google Wave, and Discovery Education Streaming (given by Hall Davidson). I learned tons of new stuff that I can use the next time I am doing professional development in the district. In addition, the very vibrant Ron Clark was the luncheon keynote and he absolutely got everyone jazzed!

The NCTIES conference wiki is filled with all types of links and information, so I suggest you check it out! In addition, all the links that were tweeted with the #ncties hashtag are linked from that wiki and are in delicious, all 569 of them!