Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: October 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Staying Afloat

Sometimes, when I am working with a teacher, the teacher will interrupt and say, “Wait! How did you do THAT?”

It happened this week while I was working with Ms. Curfman (blog) on her G21 plan for a Google Earth tour of Washington DC landmarks. I was also trying to update the news section of our website with some information Coach Gordon had just sent me. I had to add dates, times, and locations to a news item, but the Mail window kept hiding behind the browser window. When I activated Afloat, Ms. Curfman wanted to know about it.

Afloat is a nifty little tool (free download) that lets you tell windows not to go to the background when you click away from them. I find this utility especially useful when using a Promethean board, or just a regular projector, since my display resolution is decreased and things overlap much more than usual.

How does it work? Well, easy. Afloat adds a group of items to your WINDOW pull-down menu that lets you activate or deactivate features with a single click. Give it a try. It is easy.

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Classroom Communications

Yesterday after school I met with nine teachers to learn about using our Macs for communicating in our schools, across the county, and around the world.

We explored every function of iChat, from the basic text chat, to file transfers, video conferencing, and screen sharing. We spent quite some time discussing how lucky we are that the leadership here in Goochland treats us like professionals and allows us to use this powerful tool. The teachers were appalled to hear there are many, many school districts that disable this feature.

Next we covered what to do if we needed to communicate with someone who doesn’t have access to iChat. All the teachers downloaded and installed Skype, and created an account. I was able to demonstrate how great this tool is when, just a few seconds after launching the application, my “phone” rang and we were able to see and hear my cousin who lives in Cali, Colombia. He didn’t realize I was still at school when he saw me come online. He chatted with the teachers for a few minutes, so it was a very welcome interruption that served as the perfect demo for the product.

We finished our session by brainstorming ideas for taking advantage of video conferencing in the classroom. From bringing in experts to sharing work with other classrooms, the possibilities are out there. We all agreed that Classroom 2.0 would be a great place to find educators willing to partner with us to collaborate globally using video conferencing, blogs, wikis, Google Apps, and many other tools we have at our disposal in our schools.

For those who missed the session, there is a very brief handout available on our wiki.

iPods in the Gym

Yesterday I spent some time with the Phys Ed department and got them started using their iPod Touch devices. These were devices that had previously been used in other classrooms and by our administrators, and now we have repurposed them to help gym teachers. Having the portable devices will help these teachers keep up with attendance, fitness testing data collection, and up-to-the minute weather information without having to take their laptops where they might be in danger from flying basketballs.

WeDo Scratch Fun

This afternoon I got my amazing Lego WeDo sensors. I had a great time making Scratch move up and down as I tilted the tilt sensor. Then I made Scratch drum every time the distance sensor got within two inches of any object.

I love the Pico Board, and I love Scratch, and now I have one more cool toy to love. I can’t wait to start working with Ms. Harden’s students on their big Scratch games over the next few months.

Technology Infographic

I love infographics. They are an interesting way to look at data. Here’s one with some sobering numbers about technology in schools.

We don’t realize how lucky we are here in Goochland County. We are way above average in most respects. Our student to computer ratio is roughly 2:1. All our schools have wireless connectivity, digital projectors and cameras, and most importantly, people who know how to use all this and can help. Take a look at some of the numbers.

Technology in the Classroom Via: Online Colleges and Universities

The one number that sticks out for me is that only 2% of 7th graders know how to identify a hoax website. I hope we can change that a bit on our Internet Safety Day, teaching kids how to verify sources.

And speaking on hoax websites and verifying sources, this infographic was created by Jason, the owner of the blog Jay Jay Pow Pow. He lists the sources for the infographic at the bottom of it, and he also lets us know his sponsor is Online Colleges and Universities. That site does not inspire much confidence, having no authorship listed, no “about” page, and no outgoing links. So, take the data presented with a grain of salt.

Microscopic Beauty

Last week I enjoyed looking at Wired’s Top 20 Microscopic Photos of the Year. My favorites were the crystalized soy sauce and the soap film.

We don’t have microscopes and cameras powerful enough to do this at our school, but we do have students with impressive artistic abilities. It would be great to see students create representations of microscopic structures such as these in a cross-curricular collaborative project between chemistry and art.

Soap Film

UPDATE: A new link came in today’s Diigo update, and it had five new images I had not seen. I have a new favorite. Doesn’t it look like a cross between origami and basket weaving?

Deb_18437_1 2

Update to the update: You can find even more beautiful pictures at the Nikon Small World Gallery. Amazing!

The Landlady

Yesterday afternoon I got to spend an hour with Mr. James’s students (blog) as they tried out VoiceThread for the first time. They were recording their own endings to Roald Dahl’s story The Landlady, which ends in a cliffhanger. The story endings were very entertaining and read with much enthusiasm.

I hope to work with these kids many more times during the year as they share more of their creative writing.

Special Characters

Here is a video tutorial I made to help teachers insert special characters into Promethean Inspire flipcharts.


I think a few people are tired of hearing me rave about DesignBlocks. I’ve blogged about it, talked about it, and now I’ve made a short video showing off what anyone can do using this very cool tool.

Graphene – Science and Creativity

Last week I was fascinated by the news reports about Graphene, a continuous sheet of carbon the thickness of a single atom. The possibilities for this flexible, resilient, and conductive material are endless.

I would love to read science fiction written with Graphene as the subject by chemistry/physics/language arts students. Giant touch screens, teeny batteries, superconductive surfaces tracking everything that happens inside a building…

750px-Graphen 2

Graphene structure

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