Life Long Learning in Action

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blogs in Plain English- Common Craft's New Video

Common Craft just put up a new short 3 minute video on blogging. I love their simplistic and friendly approach. Something like this video, as well as other productions from the crew, are fantastic for sharing with fellow staff members who are curious what a "wiki" is, what "RSS" is, or what "social bookmarking" is. Great stuff!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Instructify- a new fave of mine.

I found a great blog a few weeks back called Instructify. A nice stop for an elementary teacher like myself looking for internet resources.

I enjoy the new suggested resources and their take on sharing them. Here is a snippet from their "About" page.

The Instructify philosophy–Teach smarter, not harder.

Instructify is where teachers can stock their toolboxes with practical, time-saving classroom ideas and cutting edge methods of instruction. It’s where to find useful, free technology to utilize in the classroom. And it’s a fun place to spend your planning period.

Instructify is also a verb. To Instructify means to find new ways to present the same old content. Or MacGyvering anything from software to Post-it notes into something you can teach with. It also works great as a command. As in, “Don’t just teach, Instructify!

Through Instructify I have found many great resources. Just the other day I was able to use some of the ideas from EEK: Environmental Education for Kids with my third graders.

Leopard Update + Little Necessities for Mac Switchers

Leopard finally arrived after I sent my "Up-to-Date" form in 3 weeks ago. The Up To Date program is Apple's way of letting the people who purchased their Macs, a few weeks before the Leopard release, receive a copy for only the cost of shipping.

I really should not complain about the time for shipping considering it only cost me 9 bucks.

Regardless I made my purchase specifically before the release because I wanted to make sure that if anything went fishy with Leopard that I would at least still have a copy of Tiger. 2 weeks later...and many positive reports (the negatives seeming to come from people running Leopard on older machines or complaining about silly appearance issues) I decided to take the plunge and install last night.

I was scared.

There were plenty of clunking noises, periods of time when nothing happened, but magically after an hour and a half the machine was restarting and I was officially in the land of Leopard. I immediately started clicking around on all of my applications anticipating problems only to find that everything worked. I switched over to cover flow in the finder and zipped through picture files and pdf's and with the click of the space bar I was able to see larger versions. This is much better than having to start the application in order to see the file. The videos and audio files played nicely as well. All in all I know that I am not sharing anything earth shattering, but it worked for me and that is something I can not say about Vista on our other laptop.

Overall Impression= Quite pleased.

As far as the "switcher" tip. From what I understand the term switcher refers to those who make a switch from one OS to another OS. One feature I was extremely use to using on a PC is ye olde right click. Now I know that a regular mouse with right click works on the Mac, and I know that when you hold down Cmd and hit the trackpad bar that works too. With a little digging I discovered the need to go into the the System Preferences windows and play with the settings. Posted below is an image of my little discovery (something I am sure all Mac users will giggle at me for, but I was pretty darn happy when I found it).

Now with a little double touch (two finger tip tap) of the track pad I have myself the the right click functionality I was so use to on the PC. Let me just say that I am officially full of glee. Little discoveries like these make my day and little frustrations like these can certainly turn someone off to something that they are not familiar with. I hope my tip helps mac "newbs" like myself.

One little thing I like about Leopard that not many people are talking about....

The Apple at the top. It is a new sleek black.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I have been a Mac

Well after a two month hiatus from blogging I would like to get back into the swing of things. Sometimes it is hard to not just sit back and absorb the ideas and ponderings of other bloggers and writers. Certainly over the summer I was much better able to keep up with all my RSS reading, but so far this school year I have been slacking. The new house, a rambunctious son, plus doing all I can to support my wife while she chisels away on her thesis has really kept me away from posting more.

Excuses aside. No room for those!

So as I put in the title, we bought our first Mac 2 weeks ago.

The past few months have been brutal with Vista and the more I read about Macs, and all the cool programs, the more we were influenced to take the plunge.

So here are my top 5 favorite Mac apps so far....

1) Quicksilver- it is a free download but is an essential for me for navigating and finding things quickly with only a few keystrokes.

2) Garageband- it just rocks. I plan on producing some podcasts with my students. Already we made an intro. song for some sort of soon to be planned production.

3) NeoOffice- I do not like the Word program for Mac and I am not willing to spend 150 bucks for it. NeoOffice is basically Open Office for Mac. It works beautifully and does everything I need it to do.

4) iWork 08- Keynote has some spiffy features and is a fresh alternative to the drab features of Power Point. Now I just need to find the time to actually create a useful presentation!

5) Skitch- Thanks to John Pederson for the invite. I use this program every single day, regardless if I am publishing to the web. Very easy, quick, and free!

I am still waiting for my copy of Leopard to arrive and I am unsure if I will go ahead with an install right away. I had heard that some programs were not ready for it yet. I am impressed with what I see though!

Two links that certainly helped me find some tools for the Mac, as well as guidance into what freeware was out there....


Also I am slowly building using iWeb, FTP'ing the site folder with Cyberduck to my own web host. I have a Moodle installed on it but I need the time to play around... I wish the day was 36 hours.

How about a picture from the new place, using Skitch.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Planbook for Windows

Planbook for Windows!

Well not quite yet...

It is in the Beta testing phase right now, and Jeff has been working hard to respond to the suggestions that we have been sending him. This software package will allow teachers to create their lesson plans digitally, without having to hassle with a spreadsheet program. The publishing options, calendar functions, and the ease of input has impressed me. I keep reminding myself that the software is still in testing phases, all created and maintained by one person! I still will be using Excel for writing my lesson plans until more functionality is added in the upcoming beta releases. Just this weekend, Jeff updated to Beta 2 and fixed one of the bugs I was having with my weird schedule. He also added a "To Do" list and search functions. He has been absolutely wonderful with all of the testers. I am excited for when the product is finished. I plan on purchasing a copy to help support it.

Where's Waldo

I committed the cardinal sin of blogging, lack of posting! Many apologies. The school year started on the 5th for me and I have been going full steam since! Also I bought a house on the 7th. My free time has been limited. When I am not working on the house, planning for my class, or working on my graduate school work, I am with my wife and son... at Lowe's. They should include in the disclosure information how many trips you will need to take to a home improvement store before you can move in. The first weekend I think we had 7 total visits. Obviously you can tell we are first time home buyers!

Two quick pics of the house project...

Floor Before, tearing out the carpet (It smelled like a 20 year old Cat)

Floor After (Refinished! No more animal mess stains.)

What woke me up, out of my blogging slumber, was a mention on one of my favorite podcasts, The Ohio Treasure Chest Podcast. There I was, sitting in the teacher lounge today grading papers and waiting for Open House night to start, listening to my fancy new mp3 player. I was listening to the latest OTCP show when Eric began to share his favorite blogs. He mentioned el/ed/tech! I could not believe it. Thank you Eric, it is an honor!

The Ohio Treasure Chest
is an excellent resource for educators of every level. I have shared it with many of my fellow staff members and frequently use the site to find resources to support my instruction. The podcast is professional, informational, and I always leave with a new resource following Eric's review.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Bookmarks Meme

Alice Mercer just tagged me for the bookmarks meme. I shall share with you the last 6 entries on my bookmarking list (you can see these on my sidebar, unless you follow via an RSS reader). All of these come directly from my account.

Here they are!

ForgeFX- Eclipses and Moon Phases - A 3D simulation that allows the student to control and interact with solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, and the different phases of the moon. This pairs nicely with my other favorite space simulation.

The Atrocious Apostrophe's Flickr Collection
- A hearty collection of images portraying poor grammar.

The "Quotation Mark" Abuse Flickr Collection - Related to the group mentioned above.

Grammar Bytes! - Comma splices and fused sentences!

Math Cats: Naming Large Numbers - How do you say/write 1,243,640,975,123,890,211? Just input any number and see how to write it. This site will go together perfectly with the Mega Penny Project.

Google Maps Transparencies- A nifty little mash-up of Map View and Satellite View. A site that I feel is much better than this one, which I demonstrate a lot to fellow teachers, would be Flash Earth.

Now I shall pass it on to these lucky contestants...

S P1000961 R R DSC01554.JPG

(To be determined very soon, I am a meme newbie so please forgive me.)

*Images Courtesy of Flickr and Spell with Flickr.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Google Earth Flight Simulator

A pretty cool feature has been found in the new version of Google Earth. With the recent announcement of the addition of Google Sky, a new flight simulator has been discovered when you press Ctrl+Alt+ A. I had the older version of Google Earth, minus Google Sky, and all I needed to do was download the updated Google Sky version from the Google Earth website.

I am glad that I did not become a pilot because I certainly can not control the simulator. I do however enjoy the ability to fly over local terrain as well as choosing which runway to start off at.

Here is a link for the controls needed to fly.

As far as the implementation, exploration, and integration of Google Earth as a curricular resource and learning tool, Dean Shareski has created a wonderful collection of links and resources over at his wiki. He also presents a session called "Exploring Google Earth...moving beyond the Wow Factor." Bob Sprankle, with permission from Dean, recorded this presentation at the Building Learning Communities conference and in late July released the session via his Bit by Bit podcast. Here is the link to the MP3 file...

Thank you to Dean for compiling the Google Earth resources, and thank you to Bob for your podcast!

Friday, August 31, 2007

iScrybe, Google/Yahoo Tools, and Web Filters

A few days back I received an email invite to join the beta testing for the website iScrybe. I signed up late this spring for the announcement of release. Since I had not heard back from them I moved on and started playing with Google Calendar and Yahoo Calendar. A great feature for any of the new web calendars is the ability to export the calendar file, which I quickly imported to Scrybe. The Scrybe interface is slick, the thoughtpad is a neat feature that reminds me a lot of clipmarks/ gobbler, and the ability to work offline is much easier, and faster, than using Google Gears.

Here is the promo video from Oct. 2006

I really enjoy viewing, editing, and scrolling through the calendar in flash. I had it running on my laptop, offline, as I was adding events for the first week back. When I got home I logged in via wireless and it automatically sync'd all my work from the day. Simply awesome! I look forward to when we start seeing this functionality in more web services.

Note of frustration. Today I went to download my "beginning of the year" files from Google Docs and the web blocker popped up. I knew I had the files backed up at Yahoo Briefcase, only to find that blocked as well. Last but not least, I found my thumb drive with my last back up. In between the decorating, labeling, and crayon sorting, I was hoping to use Google Docs to put together a collection of creative commons flickr images that I plan on using for a bulletin board near my classroom library. Luckily Zoho Writer worked for creating a web based document containing the photos. Flickr Storm + Zoho Writer + Color Printer = Success. Now I have some nice scenic, global pictures to hang on my connections board!

Related links...(I think I will keep doing this related link sharing!)

Creative Commons Video- Wanna Work Together
Creative Commons Comic Book- Check out the Flash Animation Version!
Yahoo Creative Commons Search
Flickr Postcard Viewer


  • Question for everyone--pass the word, please comment!
Does anyone know of a place where I can host SWF files? I have a screencast I made, using Jing Project, for the Yahoo Gobbler. I have it hosted at on one of their free accounts, which has limited bandwidth. I am afraid that once 20 people watch it I will no longer have access to it for the month. I have already used up a quarter of the bandwidth showing it to my colleagues.

Thank you!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bloglines Beta vs. Google Reader

I feel like such a hypocrite.

Why...because this summer I sang the praises of Bloglines to many of my fellow teachers during one of the professional development courses that I attended. With a little pressure I even helped them set up an account (This I was hesitant about because learning about RSS and Feeds could be a whole day workshop, as compare to a 20 minute set-up). The difficult thing with RSS, Bloglines, or any news aggregator, is that many people have never heard of the nouns contained within this sentence. This is perfectly fine, I too was in their shoes, and now I seek daily to find resources to educate myself on these "web tools" as well as seek ways to better utilize them for gaining knowledge and sharing information.

Back to the hypocrite portion. The day after I shared with everyone how much I loved Bloglines for organizing and collecting incoming blog and news posts, I jumped ship to experiment with Google Reader. I fell in love with Google Reader. What I liked was having the ability to "tag" posts, "share" posts, and "star" posts. When I say posts, I mean new blog and news entries. Overtime I have developed a pretty expansive list of feeds that I follow. Some have posts that I star, in order to find later, some I share (via a neat Google Reader page, and even on the side of this blog) or some I just skim right over. Needless to say, Google Reader became my feed reader of choice.

(Bloglines Mobile dominates Google Reader's Mobile version however. This I shared with Derek Baird at the Yahoo Teachers Workshop, and with John Pederson on his blog.)

A new component to my RSS adventure has arisen. News broke a few days ago spreading the message about Bloglines Beta.

Photo from ReadWrite Web

Then I read this...

There are more features to come, as Beta Bloglines has iterated on - including new options for saving, sending and sharing posts, as well as building link blogs, managing blog rolls, etc. Also coming soon is upgraded developer APIs. One of the more exciting future features from my point of view will be Personalization Preferences, allowing users to edit a feed or settings.

So it seems as if Bloglines is innovating in order to catch up to the competition. Will it gain back my favor? Read/Write Web provides a nice piece on the history of Bloglines...
Then Bloglines got acquired by in February 2005 and the innovation ground to a halt. Bloglines did add some search elements in March 2005 and the service showed no signs of slowing its user growth - in May 2005 Bloglines dominated the RSS Reader market. But despite that, the rot had begun to set in. In October 2005 I lamented that Bloglines was no longer innovating. Fletcher left in June 2006 and for many more months Bloglines languished, with seemingly little interest within to improve the service - despite the regular protests by loyal users such as myself. So many of its early adopter users moved onto something else - in my case Google Reader, which was innovating in a big way during 2006.
My experimentations are fresh since Bloglines Beta has just come out. My opinion so far is..."WOW". Pretty lame description, for which I apologize. Only a few of the features promised are built into the current release. This comes from the Beta information page.

"Bloglines Beta is opening now with basic functionality and we will add features regularly over time until it reaches full functionality. Upcoming releases will be grouped along the following key activities.

  • Mobile – Bloglines on the cell phone.
  • Actions and activities involving a post – Save, Send, Share.
  • Personalization Preferences – Edit a Feed or Settings.
  • Creation of Disposable Email Addresses.
  • Upgraded Developer APIs.
  • Creation of a Link-Blog."
Once these are integrated I should be able to provide a better review. So far I love how it pulls in a lot of the AJAX (the super cool ability to drag and drop content around a webpage) functionality that I like about Netvibes, Pageflakes, Protopage, and the Yahoo Gobbler. With news of Bloglines releasing a new Beta service, and Yahoo Mail dropping its Beta label, I have had a super tech week.

Here are some links which help describe some of the tech. things mentioned in this blog entry.

Google Reader Introduction Screencast

100 Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators
RSS in Plain English
Bloglines Beta Video
How to get started with Google Reader
Using RSS Feeds Video from Teachertube
New Tools or the 21st Century from

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Zoho Writer using Google Gears!

This morning Zoho announced that their writer service will start providing users the ability to access their online writer files offline! I have used Google Gears for viewing my Google Reader feeds offline, and I am very excited about Zoho moving towards using Google Gears with the rest of their applications.

"We are taking our first steps towards offering Zoho Writer offline. With this update, you’ll now be able to access all your documents offline (Mac or PC) in read-only mode. We will offer offline editing capabilities in the coming weeks."- Zoho Blog

The ironic part of this story is how Zoho, a competitor/threat to the Google Documents service, is using Google open source technology to power their newest feature. I am pleased by Zoho's recognition of Google's efforts towards providing offline content. The question is now, how long till Google uses Google Gears with their Documents service?

Since the video is so tiny, you can view the screencast here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Social Bookmarking in Plain English

I posted a few days back a video produced by the same team that describes RSS. Enjoy this new one on social bookmarking!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Evolution of the Smartboard

Could something like this come into our classrooms in 20 years? 10 years? What do you think?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Knowledge Sharing with Tags

A well done screencast on what exactly "tagging" is. This resource is very useful to those who are just starting out with social bookmarking sites, photo sharing sites, and blogging.

Knowledge Sharing with Tags

Friday, July 27, 2007

Creative Commons Video

Copyright becomes a crucial issue as soon as someone begins to create content on the web. This video is a nice tool for helping others understand creative commons and copyright.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

RSS in Plain English Video

An excellent, super easy to understand, explanation of RSS. For me RSS feeds are a HUGE time saver. As far as RSS readers I am a big fan of Bloglines. I use Google Reader and Netvibes as well but until they both improve their mobile phone versions I will stick with Bloglines for collecting all of my incoming news and blog posts!

The creators of the "Common Craft Show" also have a great little video titled "Wikis in Plain English". Check it out!

Yahoo! for Teachers

Early in July I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to New York City to take part in a Yahoo! for Teachers workshop where they introduced us to the soon to be released Yahoo! for Teachers website. Collected with me were educators from throughout the tri-state area looking to learn more about the new service Yahoo! is creating. I must say that I was extremely impressed with the Yahoo! teachers site. As mentioned, on the launch announcement website, this service is a "peer network designed by and for teachers." The ability to develop lessons and units using their well thought out tools is simply fantastic. I look forward to sharing what I can with my fellow teachers this fall and hopefully with Yahoo's permission incorporate them into the testing phase. I will add more insight later on about the tools (Project building, "Gobbler", Peer-State/Grade Level sharing), and since everything is still in development and private testing I will leave you to be filled with suspense! Here is an informational video about Yahoo! for Teachers!

Bill Scott wrote a nice blog entry "Yahoo! Teachers and the Yahoo! Gobbler" that includes some photos as well as a video of the site in action.

Document vs. Web Document Image from

A nice representation highlighting the wonderful aspects of using web documents. is certainly worth a try, as well as Google Documents.

Excellent Resource Wiki

Only a few minutes ago I posted a Youtube video uploaded by Dean Shareski. He has created a wonderful resource wiki for educators which explains a lot of the tools on the net that can be utilized for collaboration, professional development, and even implementation in the classroom. Here is the link!

Telling the New Story

Thanks to Dean Shareski for this video.

Using Teacher Tube Video

Teacher Tube Video for RSS Feeds