Sunday, October 18, 2009

Postcard from Edtech 2009

Beyond The Limits
South Carolina EdTech 2009

This was my sixth EdTech conference. This year’s conference used a favorite theme of mine: science fiction. I had the opportunity to catch up with some familiar faces and make some new connections as well. These are a summary of the sessions that I attended:

Engaging Staff & Students- Using Web 2.0 Tools for Global Collaboration
In this session, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach tried to answer this question: Why Do We Need a Learning Community? I had a chance to speak to her briefly since I was the first person in the room and she seemed very approachable. One of the items that Sheryl wanted to emphasize was professional development. Too often professional development is viewed as something that is done to teachers and this must change. Teachers need to be responsible for their own professional learning. During the presentation she explained that we need Personal Learning Networks and Personal Learning Communities. Sometimes we think of these as the same thing, but her view was that learning networks are much larger and more impersonal; in other words, what can I get out of it? However, out of these networks, learning communities develop were the members have a vested interest in each other and have a relationship whether they have meet face-to-face or not. Her presentation along with additional information may be viewed on the 21st Century Learning wiki at Engaging Staff & Students- Using Web 2.0 Tools for Global Collaboration

An Augmented Reality Check

This was my own session to show the work that we had done this past year in our pilot of augmented reality (AR). This session was not well attended, but it may still be too ‘bleeding edge’ for the average conference attendee. Susan Herndon and Chris Craft were there to offer support and learn a little bit more about this emerging technology. The augmented reality we piloted used an iPAQ Travel Companion with integrated GPS to track student movement. When the students reached a designated point, they were automatically provided with appropriate documents, images, sounds, or videos. I demonstrated Harry Potter’s Lab Safety (using a drawn map of Hogwarts) that I used to place various hazards that contained quiz questions to be answered. I also demonstrated Frieda Foxworth’s World War II-Pacific Theater simulation that used Discovery Streaming videos to teach the content. The small group seemed very interested and asked a number of good questions. Information from my session may be found at:

Keynote Address by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach Schooling for the 21st Century: Unleashing Student Passion
This session focused on a term that I had never heard before: passion based learning. I have always thought that if you can get students interested, that this is more than half the battle in the learning process. Sheryl gave many great examples of using students’ interests and passions to jump start the learning process. She also used another term that I had never heard before: deficit based instruction. After hearing her description, I realized that she was exactly right about how our schools work. In our schools we tend to try to work toward our students’ weaknesses rather than their strengths. Yet adults are asked to work from their strengths. The starting lineup for a sports team is never the weakest players so they will improve for next year. Instead the intrinsic motivation for the sport spurs the players on to improve. I have known for years of the potential for change that problem/project based learning has for the classroom. After all these years it finally clicked as to why it is so important to give students choices in the way that they prove that they have learned the material. I also learned about the TPCK model. (Technological, Pedagogical, Content, Knowledge) Her presentation along with additional information may be viewed on the 21st Century Learning wiki at Schooling for the 21st Century: Unleashing Student Passion

Cool Free Tech Tools For Teacher Use
This was my own session to show some applications designed for classroom use. I had about 100 participants in this session so I could not really ask for more. Because I used Mediator to create several of the PC review tools, many thanks to Dave Hamilton of Matchware for giving a door prize for my session. Other than three commercial applications linked from the site, the other programs I created using Visual Basic. The session seemed to go well with many questions from the participants. Probably the most excitement from the audience came with the description of my newest application, Smart Power Toolkit. This application is designed to facilitate the exchange of data between PowerTeacher Gradebook and the SMART Response System. A description and download instructions for each program may be found at:

Cool Student Projects
This session by Robin Mitchell (I did not get the other presenter’s name) started out looking like a simple session on digital storytelling, but it ended up being very good. Early in the presentation they presented the Visual Bloom’s model using Web 2.0 tools to reinforcement the different levels. They gave a number of good creative examples of possible classroom projects including the following:
• Biome Movie Assignment: Internet (Streamline, photos), MovieMaker, and microphone. Students seem to remember more when they must write a script than simply copying and pasting into PowerPoint.
• Graphing Assignment: survey instrument ( and Excel. When student create their own graphs this seems to result in greater understanding than simply looking graphs in the book.
• Mathematician Trading Card Assignment. Research Biography Resource Center – Facts. Using Publisher, create a Trading Card using the Postcard template. Include a picture on the front and information on the back
• 21st Century Poster: in PowerPoint (HP poster printer 24” x 36”) or
• Clay Animation (use digital cameras or document camera time lapse feature) eg mitosis
• Children’s Books – PowerPoint or postcard template in Publisher for flipbook.
• Book Advertisement (with narration)- PowerPoint (collaboration for MS/HS and ES)
• Book Advertisement (music only; includes PowerPoint slides as jpegs)
• PowerPoint: Scrapbook, e-Portfolio, digital photo frames (to display work), comic strip/graphic novel (or
• Website with FrontPage – character page or informational site (eg disease)

Smartphones Are Taking Us Beyond the Limits! Are You Ready?!
Tom Smyth of USC Aiken gave this first session on Smartphones. During his presentation he looked at these three major areas:
1. “Speak Up” 2008 findings
2. Examples in Education
3. Tools for Instruction
He gave a number of good examples of how and why cell phones should be used in the classroom. He also provided a handout of websites resources. I have retyped them so they may be viewed here.

Keynote Address by David Merrill
In this presentation, David Merrill made the case for having physical inputs to the computer besides the mouse. The computer mouse is now over 40 years old and has changed relatively little compared to other technologies. He gave a historical view of input devices including LOGO and the Theremin. The ability to manipulate objects rather than simply visualize the data is an important part of learning as described by Distributed Cognition Theory. Siftables are compact computers with sensing, graphical display, and wireless communication. By manipulating the blocks, the user(s) may be able to complete math problems, complete simple sentences, sequence music, do photo editing, and with a visual display, even tell stories. Below is a video of his earlier TED presentation.

Many new devices use physical manipulation to enter data including accelerometers, Wii controllers, and GPS to Google Earth.
I had the opportunity to speak to David briefly after his presentation. One of the things he mentioned during his presentation was augmented reality. I was interested as to how a Siftable knew its location compared to other Siftables because I am interested in moving augmented reality indoors. He explained that they interacted via infrared transmitters/receivers. After a short discussion, we both felt that the best way to do indoor AR in the short run is the use of QR codes. More information about Siftables may be found at

Leveraging Smart Phones as an Education Tool
This presentation by Linda Uhrenholt of AT&T was my second Smart phone session of the day. She also gave ideas and a number of good resources listed below:
• Dial-in to get guided tour of parks or schools.
• Rocklin HS, Rocklin CA – AP Video Lectures (
• Liz Kolb, Author of “Connecting Student Cell Phones in Education”
• Greeneville Tennessee Cell Phones in the High School /Uploads/Forms/Cell_phones_as_Learning_Tools_at_GHS.pdf
• EveryTrail Smart Phone App (eg. Ziggy’s Walk to Coffee (it includes map of final route from Google Map) Maybe for digital stories.
• Image Smart Phones for More School Security -iRa Pro mobile surveillance application
• Create a virtual insect collection on a site like Flicker
• Visit Body Farm via YouTube
• Bug Parade for the iPhone
• Record an Insect Podcast Using the iPhone and VoiceThread (it calls you to record a message)
• Turning Technologies: web-enabled survey and quiz tool (fee based) (iPhone and Touch)
• iPhone Focus for Science
 Stopwatch
 Calculator
 Flash cards
• Authentic Learning -
• QR Codes
• Geocaching for anatomy: Bury bones and have students dig them up
• BlackBoard iPhone App

Mind Mapping: Building a Better Foundation for the Thinking Skills Process
This presentation by Dave Hamilton of Matchware looked at the features of MindView 3 (the replacement of OpenMind 2) He demonstrated the general features of the software that I was already familiar with in OpenMind. There were several new features in the Business Edition. This new version allows the creation of Gantt charts for project plans according to the rules of project management along with mind maps and timelines. The software also allows the branches to do calculations using an Excel type of operation allowing computations from multiple branches. There are several new export options including MS Project, Excel, and Outlook tasks. The software appears to just get better and better.

Calling on the Community: A Capital Idea
This presentation was done by Madell Dobrushin of the neighboring district of Richland One. Richland One has been using video conferencing in its high schools since about 2003. Now all middle schools have video conference equipment. Six elementary schools have video conference equipment. Seven schools will be added this school year. This is for classroom to classroom. They have two “portable” units, but this must be set up by someone that knows what they are doing.
First Decisions
Infrastructure (border controller and Gatekeepers) They use Tandberg Management
System, but Cisco has this as well
Speak to Principals (to get their goals)

How to Add Equipment
• E-rate
• Grants (NASA and Tandberg
• Work closely with vendors

How Do They Use It?
They offer a paid vendor video conference for each school yearly
They encourage taking free video conferences (NASA or Eli Lily)
They promote free video conference happenings
• KC3 (Kids Creating Community Content)
• Pittsburgh MegaConference
• Read Around The Planet

Finding Video Conferences and Collaborations
Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC free, but $50 gives you discounts a 50 class Eluminate (

Engaging Our Community
South Carolina State Museum
They offered the use of our equipment and technical expertise

Suggestions to make connections with other schools
Linked In

A Teacher's Guide to ToonDoo
Michael Carothers and Andrea Wright presented during the last session of the conference. Normally this is not a good time slot, but you certainly could not tell from the enthusiastic crowd that showed up. Here is a summary of their presentation:
Cartoons in the Classroom
Teachers – grab student attention, increase student emotional internet, communicate complex processes, “rephrase” or summarize information, no copyright issue!
Students – Synthesize information into visual form, organized information to fit a limited form (3 panel is largest), create a unique interpretation (constructivism), appreciate the difficulty of communicating ideas, student can comment of each others work

What is ToonDoo?
Online service, click and drag creation, personalize, share (free for private use)
Private domains are fee based with student logins and passwords. Prices vary depending on the number of students and time.
(eg 9 months, 1000 students, @ $0.13/month, would be a little over $1000)

The software gives a large number of items to import into your cartoon and appears to be very flexible. Cartoons may be printed, downloaded as .png, keep it private or make it public, or copy/paste embed code. this has a lesson plan that shows students how to create a simple sample cartoon and possible rubric.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disrupting Class

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, many school districts throughout the nation are updating their technology infrastructure. My district also has an advantage that our voters passed a rather large bond referendum. On the drawing board are plans for new schools: three elementary, one middle, and one high. There is also money for technology upgrades to include mobile student devices at each of our current 27 schools over the next three years. All of our elementary schools will have 5:1 student:computer ratios. The middle schools will have 3:1 student:computer ratios. Finally, the high schools will have 1:1 student:computer ratios! We as a district are busily planning for the integration of all this new technology into our schools. There is much work to be done. I guess that is my fear. Not in the large amount of work, but that all the work will be spent in integration of technology rather than transformation of our schools.

This probably seems strange since my job title is Technology Integration Specialist, but I have been studying. I recently finished reading a book entitled “Disrupting Class.” The authors describe how industries are forced out of business by disruptive innovations – technologies that give choices to people that never really had a choice before and ultimately grow to replace the dominate industries in the field. For example, RCA and Zenith made televisions using vacuum tubes for many years. My dad was a television repairman and made a living going to people’s homes to replace the burned out tubes. With the development of the transistor, Zenith and others invested millions of dollars trying to force these new devices into the power requirements of big floor model televisions with no success. However, companies like Sony first used transistors to make devices such as hearing aids and small radios for teens. The big television manufacturers did not even notice. Eventually transistors got better and better until they ultimately put vacuum tube television makers like RCA and Zenith out of business (my dad retired in the 1980’s as vacuum tube manufacturers ceased production).

In this book the authors are now looking at public education and they say that we are in the early stages of disruptive innovation. Areas where students and parents have had no choices before are now seeing choices through things like Florida Virtual School and APEX Learning for course recovery. I have seen the results first hand in the areas of unit and credit recovery at my high school. In some cases this has given kids hope of success where they had none before. The authors say this type of technology will get better and better and eventually lead to disruption in public education. Because schools are essentially public monopolies, it is believed that we will not go out of business like others. However, we will have major internal changes. The authors used the analogy of trying to fly an airplane while you are building it, something no corporation has ever been able to do.

My real fear is that what we seem to be doing with our district plan is what is described as “cramming.” We are pushing technology into many areas of teaching and at students in arbitrary 1:5, 1:3, and 1:1 ratios depending on the grade level. We are doing things faster and with more flare, but only doing a marginally better job. For instance, much of the English teachers’ time in computer labs at my school are having students do online research and write papers in Microsoft Word. These assignments are essentially unchanged from 30 years ago when students used books to do research and either turned in hand written papers or typed them on a typewriter. To be truly effective, I believe these assignments and grading must change.

If the authors are correct, we need to prepare in earnest for the transition to a truly student centered learning environment. We need to put a HUGE emphasis on training for PBL and assessment. Teachers will have a very hard time creating problem or project based learning units because of our current focus on teaching individual standards and preparing daily lessons tends to be teacher centered. Assessment for mastery will be tough as well because of our current grade levels (developed during the industrial revolution) and their “fixed time, variable learning” that results. The best we can probably do is place greater emphasis on formative assessment until better technologies allow teachers the option of “variable time, fixed learning” because we know students learn at different rates. So what is really going to happen to learning in my school district? Ask me again in about five years and I hope to give you an educated answer.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Teach Tomorrow Today! 2009 Upstate Technology Conference

This was my second UTC conference and it was a good one just like last year. I was still recovering from poison ivy after doing too much geocaching the week before, but I tried not to let it get me down. These are a summary of the sessions that I attended:

Keynote Address by Chris Craft
Superpowers for Everyday Heroes
I have been tweeting with Chris the last few months so I made a point to go up and introduce myself prior to his presentation. Chris is a Spanish teacher in Lexington/Richland 5 at Crossroads Middle School and is a genuinely nice guy. Because he is still a classroom teacher, he brought a down-to-earth feel to how he approaches education and gave some great examples of inspiring uses of technology in the classroom. Because my descriptions would not do it justice, you really need to see his presentation found on his blog Crucial Thought.
Chris got the geocaching bug at UTC 2009 so I may have to call him up when I am forced to go to the mall and show him how to find benchmarks.

Cool Free Tech Tools For Teacher Use
This was my own session to show some PC apps for classroom use. I had over 50 participants in this session. I also did a repeat on the last session of the conference and had 30 participants. Because I used Mediator to create several of these PC tools, many thanks to Dave Hamilton of Matchmare for giving two copies of Mediator 9 to give away as door prizes. Other than the three commercial programs, the other programs I created using Visual Basic. A description and download instructions for each program may be found at:

Don’t Read to Me: A Presentation on Presentations
Chris Craft

After seeing his wonderful keynote address, I thought I would see what Chris had to say again and I was not disappointed. After giving some background information on Cognitive Load Theory, he gave several specific examples about presentations. Here is the basic summary about using PowerPoint:

PowerPoint backgrounds are generally bad
Transitions are generally bad
No bullets
Comic Sans is not your friend
10/20/30 No more 10 slides/No more than 20 minutes/No less than 30 point font
Graphics need to be focused (A carefully selected image can go a long way)
Graphic Sources:
Creative Commons

This session may be found on his blog Crucial Thought.

Are Intel Thinking Tools For You?
This was my own session to show these great free tools for classroom use. This last session of the day was not well attended, but I think it went well. The three thinking tools Visual Ranking (used for prioritizing lists), Seeing Reason (used for determining cause-effect relationships), and Showing Evidence (used for developing good arguments) were shown. Also the Assessment Application was demonstrated so that teachers could organize and find various rubrics and checklists. Each tool has a tutorial section, instructional strategies, and sample projects to get the user started. Items from my presentation may be found at

Hot Potatoes Interactive Web-base Program
Michelle O’Malley

This session showed how to use the free set of Hot Potatoes programs. Each application allows the user to create activities and then export these as javascript enabled HTML pages that may be uploaded for student practice and review. The programs are:
JCloze – creates gap filled exercises
JMatch – creates matching or ordering exercises
JQuiz – creates question based quizzes including multiple choice and short answer
JCross – creates crossword puzzles
JMix – creates jumbled sentence answers

The program may be downloaded for free from but must be registered to fully function. Sample activities and the presentation may be downloaded from the presenter’s webpage at:

An Augmented Reality Check
This was my own session to show the work that we had done this year in our pilot of augmented reality. This session was not well attended, but it may have been too ‘bleeding edge’ for this conference. Frieda Foxworth was there to offer support and answer some questions about the World War II – Pacific Theater activity that she helped to create. The Augmented Reality we piloted used an iPAQ Travel Companion with integrated GPS to track student movement. When the students reached a designated point, they were automatically provided with appropriate documents, images, sounds, or videos. Information from my session may be found at:

Place Based Stories
This was my own session to show the work that Priscilla Kelley and I had done this year in preserving some of the local history near our school. This session was better attended. Kristin Magee was nice enough to attend to offer support. I also got to meet a Twitter friend Heather Loy. This session was designed to show how Google Earth and an iPod in ‘museum mode’ could be used to store and present local history projects. Google Earth allows the user to see the location of a place and find out the facts and see and hear the local stories from a computer. The iPod includes the latitude and longitude measurements and allows the users to truly visit the locations and experience the stories for themselves. The presentation, product files, and the help file links to learn how to do all this may be found at:

Creating Online Pools and Self-Grading Quizzes
Kim Pauls

This presentation showed how to use Google Forms (a part of Google Docs) to create quizzes and polls. This seems to be a powerful way to get feedback in the classroom using the free tool. For the data analysis, knowledge of Excel was necessary so I am not sure how much the teachers at my school would use it. While I watched, it occurred to me that if the forms were downloaded to the user computer, then maybe I can write a little visual basic app that would read the Excel spreadsheet and automate the process for the creation of the data analysis formulas.
Sample forms and the presentation may be downloaded from the presenter’s webpage at:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Copyright Conundrum

Over the past year and a half, I and several district Technology Integration Specialists (TIS) along with our web developer have been working to create an online searchable teacher resource center. The idea is to gather together great district teacher resources including documents, spreadsheets, SMART Notebook lessons, presentations, unit plans, etc and place them where our teachers can access them over the internet. While the idea is good in concept, over the past year we have figuratively hit a brick wall when we looked closely at copyright.

The “Fair Use” clause allows individual teachers working in their own classroom to use many resources available from the internet for up to two years. Unfortunately, shared resources do not have the same copyright protection under Fair Use Guidelines as do materials created by an individual teacher for use in his or her classroom. Last summer, I created a set of multimedia guidelines for our district technology classes that would serve as a guide for resources that our district currently licenses and could use without invoking fair use. This document was approved by the district; however, this still does not seem to be enough. Guideline two allows for the use of “Media sources that utilize alternative copyright standards (royalty free) …” so I have been trying to compile a list of potential royalty free and public domain websites for our district teachers to use. Here is my current list that has yet to be approved. Coincidently, an Intel Teach colleague of mine recently posted a listing of websites that appear to have free use of images and sounds. Dyane Smokorowski’s Best Sites to Find Public Domain Images and Sounds for Student Projects is a good attempt to give educators a place to go to find great resources, yet not have to worry about fair use guidelines. (Although, in my opinion the copyright statement of the Library of Congress disqualifies it.)

But our efforts are simply piecemeal at best. Until our legislators or the courts clarify this chaos, perhaps we need one place that all teachers can go to get information like this. While Creative Commons is the right way to go for letting us know what we can and cannot do with some creation, teachers still need a place to find great resources that they know are truly free to use for educational purposes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Who Am I?

This title to a recent contemporary Christian song has had new meaning for me this last week or so? Sunday, May 3, was my 48th birthday and I had much to think about. Three days before my birthday, my district boss and Director of Instructional Technology tells me that the district test coordinator position will be vacant because of retirement and he has told the Director of Assessment that I might be a suitable candidate. This was so out of the blue that I did not know what to say. I would certainly like to make more money, but all I have worked for over more than two decades has been to become a better teacher. Nowhere in anything that I had imagined had led me to this outcome. So being perplexed, I have prayed and pondered during the last week. I remember during my original job interview in 1986 for the chemistry teacher job at BLHS that I was asked if I considered myself a scientist or a teacher. As I was in the process of finishing my MS in chemistry in the area of organometallics, I answered truthfully that I considered myself a scientist. Well, they offered me the job anyway and I have never looked back. Over the past 23 years, the refining fires of public education have removed the dross and left the purified teacher within. For over a dozen years I have tried to implement technology in my teaching whenever possible. In 2000, I started teaching a preservice technology classes as an adjunct professor for Newberry College. In 2001, I became a Master Teacher for the Intel Teach program and taught seven classes while in Lexington District Three. In 2004, I was accepted as a Senior Trainer for the Intel Teach program and was able to offer training anywhere in the USA. At the end of the 2003-2004 school year, Lexington District One expanded the number of technology integration specialists (TIS) so I applied and was offered a job. It was very hard to leave the school and the people that I had worked with for 18 years. Still this was an opportunity for which I had been preparing for many years and so I took the job. Even though I am a shy person, I feel like it has been a good fit over these past five years and I have been able to work with some great colleagues. In addition to my normal duties, I have been able to be innovative by learning how to more effectively create software tools for teachers using Mediator and Visual Basic. Over the last year and a half, I have worked with a group of TIS and our district webmaster to create a teacher resource center, a database for storing all kinds of digital artifacts that teachers can use. Since last summer, I have become very interested in place based learning. This year, I have been working with a retiring ELA teacher to capture the local history of the community where I work using iPods and Google Earth. I and two other TIS, Frieda Foxworth and John Geanangel have been working on creating augmented reality activities using mobile computers with embedded GPS. With the exception of impending budget cuts due to the Great Recession and our governor’s limited vision of public education, it has been an incredibly good year professionally. Then why do I ask, “Who am I?” At the end of all this, I realize that whether it is an art or a science or a calling, I am a teacher.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What to do with an iPod Touch

On April 29, I watched a live Ustream video of Tony Vincent describing educational applications that he has found useful for the iPod Touch/iPhone. Here is his list of suggested applications:
Lemonade Stand – adapted from Apple IIe app running a business of the same name
Oregon Trail – adapted from Apple IIe app describing frontier travel
Whiteboard – allows users to share over the network as an interactive whiteboard
Dictionary – free dictionary and thesaurus
Word Warp – find all the words from the given letters
Mad Libs – add different words and it makes stories
Star Walk – astronomy program $4.99
Comic Touch – allows users to create comics with messages
Airport Mania – help at an airport $0.99
Flight Control – users control takeoff and landings at an airport
Iclean – dogs or cats are used to lick the screen

There were also some helpful items offered during the broadcast. In the new 2.0 fireware update for the Touch/iPhone, a screen shot may be taken by holding the select button then clicking the power button. This sends the screen shot to the photos.

Viewers writing in also gave out some helpful information. One was a link that described an iPhone app Trails This makes your iPhone into a great GPS unit. Someone else mentioned that an account may be set up at This lets you use the iPod touch and iPhone as a student response system for up to 32 students. There is an organization for sharing iphone/itouch apps with teachers K-12 teachers:
The Ning Community iEAR

I am still interested in how these devices may be used in augmented reality such as ARIS, but overall the review was very interesting. The entire one hour video may be viewed below:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Laboratory Safety Augmented Reality

Yesterday was the unofficial “Senior cut day” at Pelion High. Yes, it was the day before the prom so things were running at a slower pace than normal for me in the tech area. I thought that I would go out and test the laboratory safety augmented reality simulation that I had created earlier. Because this used a drawn map, I used the Google Earth measuring tool to determine three corners of a rectangle located in our open field area that was the approximate aspect ratio of my drawn map. I think my map looks pretty good if I say so myself.
After entering the coordinates, I walked out into the 90o F (wasn’t it just 70o last week?) and tried it out. The QuizGame Flash file from the mscape forum worked well, but I kept finding little things that were wrong or that I wanted to change. Some of the items on the webpage documents that had seemed fine on the computer now were misplaced on the iPAQ screen or hard to read in the bright sunlight. After several trips inside to make changes then testing outside, I think I now have it the way I want it. This behaves more like a video game where the user wanders around the field for clues and questions. The theme is based on Harry Potter and lab safety at Hogwarts. The QuizGame Flash file keeps score of the questions, but I still do not really know how to end the simulation. I guess when I test it with students I will just tell them to come back when they have answered all nine questions. Otherwise I guess I am going to have to learn how to do Flash Actionscripts and modify the program myself.