Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: September 2008

Supreme Court Primary Sources

After reading about a candidate who could name only one Supreme Court landmark case, I decided to examine my own knowledge of the subject. The only two I could think of to add to the candidate’s list were Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. Not so good if I consider myself a politically aware voter, right?

I ran my usual Google search and found the Landmark Cases website, full of teaching materials for a wide variety of Supreme Court cases. The background information for the cases is presented for different reading levels. There are suggested activities, suggested topics, and links to additional resources.

One of those links took me to the Oyez Project which aims to provide a complete source of audio from Supreme Court hearings all the way back to the installation of the recording equipment in 1955 (which, unfortunately, means Brown v. Board from 1954 is not there). Can you imagine being a fly on the wall at, say, Roe v. Wade? Here is your chance. Search by case, by issue, or by SC term. There is so much information there…Of course, some of it makes sense only to lawyers. But, hearing the testimony rather than reading about it is a powerful experience.


Last week I created a claymation clip for the first time. I knew I could use iStopMotion from Boinx Software, but I wanted to try it with what all teachers and students have available on their laptops.

I started with some borrowed modeling clay from the Art Department. I created a basic little character and posed him atop some books in my office.

Next I borrowed a document camera from the Media Center. I could have used any other camera, but the document camera had the advantage of being easy to set up without the need for a tripod. I took about 25 pictures as I adjusted the arms on my little clay man and changed the shape of the mouth by swapping out little pieces of paper.

I imported the pictures into iPhoto and then arranged them in sequence in an iMovie project. To “animate” my photos, I set the duration to .25 seconds, and reused some of the poses for repetitive motion.

Finally, I added introductory and a closing slides, some music, and a voice-over.

The entire process, which included locating and updating the drivers for my document camera, took approximately three hours.

When used with students, this would be a presentation technique that would foster higher-order thinking and creativity from planning to execution. And, a project like this would expose students to many technology tools working in concert to arrive at a very showy product.

Do You Believe In Them?

This past Thursday we launched our School Improvement Plan at GCPS. All teachers were involved in conversations that will hopefully make our schools better places to learn and work. I am very excited about this chance to give my input, however small.

Our students should always be the focus of any improvement effort. No matter what happens, we always have to believe they can live up to any challenge and be great.

Dalton Sherman of Dallas, TX, said it better at the Back To School Convocation in front of about 20,000 people. Hard to believe he is a 5th grade kid.

Promethean Bugs?

Some of you are having problems when using math symbols in your Promethean flipcharts. You are not doing anything wrong. There is a fix out there.

Check the version of ActivStudio you are running. Do this by clicking on the SUPPORT tab of your dashboard. You should be running version 3.6, build 117, If not, let me know and I’ll fix it for you. You could download the fix yourself, but you’ll save lots of time by installing off my flash drive.

Old Sites Folder and iWeb

Thinking fondly about our old blogs, many of you will remember how much fun it was having to store media files in your Sites folder. All iWeb projects were also stored there.

This year, we can simply upload our media files directly to the blogs. But, what about all the nice pictures, web pages, and movies we had before?

Take a look at this post from John Hendron’s blog and watch the short video to find out how to move all your old files and how to save new iWeb projects.

Using Pages and Keynote?

We are in the process of upgrading many of our applications to new versions here at GCPS. All student computers were upgraded over the summer. Teacher laptops will be upgraded throughout the year in preparation for scheduled staff development.

Here is some help for teachers who are planning student projects using Keynote or Pages. In order to view student files on a teacher computer, ask students to save their file as an iWork 06 file.

EdTech Conference Proposals

Today I received my invitation to submit a proposal to present at EdTech in Ashland, VA. I would like to extend this invitation to all the teachers at GCPS.

Last year I submitted proposals for a presentations that listed several teachers as co-presenters. This year I would love to see teachers taking the initiative and sharing their ideas with educators around Central Virginia.

For more information about EdTech and how to submit a proposal, visit the WCVE website.

What’s In Your Mac?

Today I am launching a series of podcasts to introduce our teachers and all other visitors to applications we don’t get a chance to cover in training. I hope to follow this first podcast with weekly installments throughout the year.

All Google All the Time

Rob Dubbin celebrated Google’s 10th birthday by abstaining from using any of its services for a day. His account of this adventure appear in the Washington Post.

Mr. Dubbin had an extremely difficult time avoiding Google, which seems to permeate so many computer users’ lives in so many ways. Just thinking about my typical morning at school, there are at least five instances of Google dependence. I check my GCal for cart reservations, my GReader for the latest updates to blogs, my GMail for messages from my family, look at a spreadsheet on GApps to see who still needs ActiVotes, often search Google for a definition or additional information on anyting that’s on my mind.

While I greatly benefit from Google and hardly give it a thought, there are those who worry, including Mr. Dubbin.

So why question a good deal? My liver does a nice job making bile, and I rarely feel the need to avoid it on a lark. Oh, that’s right — I was born with a liver. It didn’t slide into my ear canal one night while I was sleeping so it could eat my thoughts and digest them into advertisements. (…) Google converts what is essentially a waste product — the discarded spoor of browsing — into something we are literally fed.

I started writing this post, and I thought I knew where I was going. But, just like Mr. Dubbin, I’m not sure. Google has been good to me. However, there are drawbacks. Google saves information on all searches performed by all users, tracks where you click, how long you stay, and where you go next.

Between us, I don’t consider Google immoral. But the blind application of algorithms we don’t fully understand onto collections of data so vast, rich and personal is fundamentally amoral — we don’t know what we’re going to find. You and I don’t know, anyway.

Maybe the folks at Google do, maybe not. Not knowing is not good, and this is an answer we can’t Google (haha). I guess knowing what we don’t know will have to be good enough for now.

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