Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Windows 7 in Education: 2 months later

Well it has been a few months since Microsoft updated their much anticipated operating system update and overall it has been an excellent experience. Did a session for teachers yesterday who are considering getting Windows 7 on their home computer(s) and here are some of the links that I shared.

My original blog post ‘7 reasons to switch to Windows 7’ http://jamesmcconville.blogspot.com/2009/11/7-reasons-to-switch-to-windows-7.html

Window 7 for teachers by Microsoft. Great post by the Microsoft team that highlights some of the features that teachers will love and use in the classroom. For example check out the SNIP tool and the ZOOM that is now built right into the operating system. SNIP allows anyone to take a screen shot of the whole, or part of the screen and then add pen marks or highlighting. This feature will be great for creating how-to guides or worksheets for students. The ZOOM will work great when connected to a classroom LCD projector to enlarge the key area of the screen to make the text or pictures more readable by students. See more: http://blogs.msdn.com/teachertech/archive/2009/10/22/7-things-teachers-will-like-about-windows-7.aspx

Pros and cons of switching to Windows 7- it is always valuable to think of the reasons to NOT switch. Here are a few. http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/entdev/article.php/3845916/Windows-7-Upgrade-Pro-and-Con.htm

Our district has licensing to offer Windows 7 and MS Office at a reduced price for educators. Ask your district for the link.

From the Microsoft site - Help and How-to that have videos on how to use many of the new features like SNAP and JumpLists. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/help

Unsure what version is best, check out this chart: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/compare

Videos of Windows 7 features from the Microsoft site

HomeGroup

HomeGroup

Takes the headache out of sharing files and printers on a home network.

Jump Lists

Jump Lists

Speedy access to your favorite pictures, songs, websites, and documents.

Snap

Snap

A quick (and fun!) new way to resize and compare windows on your desktop.

Windows Live Essentials

Windows Live Essentials

7 great programs, 1 free download. Mail, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, and more.

Windows Search

Windows Search

Find virtually anything on your PC, instantly.

Windows Taskbar

Windows Taskbar

Better thumbnail previews, easier-to-see icons, and more ways to customize.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SMARTNotebook Software: take it home teachers and students

Did you know that the SMARTNotebook software (currently version 10) can be installed on any school and home computer by staff and students?  I’ve confirmed this is a representative from SMARTTech and our district reseller that for every SMARTBoard that is purchased anywhere in the district, teachers and students can install on 1000 machines.  For our district, with a growing number of SMARTBoards, we have virtually unlimited installation capabilities.

Notebook 10 is amazing teacher presentation software that works really well for teachers with computers and a projector.  It does not need the SMARTBoard hardware to run the software and it runs on Windows and Mac.  There are hundreds of subject specific tools and templates that are included for FREE.

For some links on the use of SMARTBoards and the Notebook software visit Anita Strang’s amazing website and blog.  She is constantly adding new templates for teachers.  There is a great Christmas template she just posted!

More notebook files online.  Did you know that when doing a google search, you can add filetype:notebook to your search text to find SMARTNotebook files that other teachers have shared on their websites?  Give it a try!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Painting and Drawing with students: Sumo Paint

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There are a number of free online drawing programs available on the internet right now.  I’ve tried Aviary, Pixlr and Sumo PaintSumo Paint is a standout for me in terms of application in education K-12.  From the image above you’ll see an amazing tool set that it has available.  The most commonly install drawing program in schools right now is KidPix.  Part of what made kid pix so popular was the great stamp and brush tools.  This is where Sumo Paint is a standout in the crowd of free online painting program.

Look at the different brushes available.  Don’t forget that brushes can be used as stamps if the flow is set to 100%.

image image

image 

Shapes are also amazing in the program.  Try adding shapes onto the canvas and then, while holding the mouse button, move the mouse up and down, left and right.  The shape will be transformed and resized as a preview before you have to release and create the shape.  Brilliant feature!

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Below are pdf and word documents of the file that I shared with teachers in the workshop.  My thinking was that in the following eight steps, teachers would have enough skill to introduce the same skills to their students.  These are basic drawing skills in whatever program you have:

  1. Draw a shape
  2. Saving and sharing files
  3. Working with layers – this is a big one a most people don’t have experience in multi-layered programs like photoshop.
  4. Brushes
  5. Text
  6. Importing pictures
  7. Effects (or filters)
  8. Saving (again!)

I’d be curious to hear what curriculum integration and assessment ideas that people have to an online painting program like Sumo Paint.

 

 

Monday, November 2, 2009

7 reasons to switch to Windows 7

Like many of you, I have a number of computers at home and work.  They are a wide range of vintages of processors and hardware.  I was lucky enough to be asked by Microsoft to host a Windows 7 launch party.  Despite the comments from my wife about being such a geek, Windows 7 has been a huge improvement in our computing at home and work.  If you are still contemplating switching over, here are some compelling reasons, and yes, this includes those of you using Mac’s, Windows 7 is simply the best operating system ever!

  1. Homegroup.  Networking has never been so easy to setup and connect computers.  On Vista and XP I had a number of file shares for things like documents, music libraries..etc.  Windows 7 introduced a concept called homegroup.  Once I installed Windows 7 on a second computer at home it instantly recognized that I had a homegroup on my network, simply enter the supplied password and instantly all music, video, documents and even printers were shared.  The best surprise was last night when my wife was wanting to print to print wirelessly to a local printer on another machine, worked without any setup!
  2. Libraries.  In XP Microsoft created folders called my Pictures, my Videos etc.  The problem was that different applications put pictures in other locations on the hard drive creating a challenge in locating them.  Libraries is a fresh new concept where any folder that contains pictures can be right-clicked on and added to that library.  Finding the 1000’s of pictures of my family vacations could be easier! In the graphic below there you can see that for each type of library you can see my personal documents and the public ones on this computer.  image
  3. Taskbar.  The revamped taskbar with live preview is amazing.  If you are like me, you typically have 5-10 browser windows and/or tabs open in addition to 3-4 other programs.  For example, right now I’m running Chrome, Live Writer (to write this), IE 8 with 4 tabs and Outlook.  Check out this graph of live preview of all my IE tabs.  Depending on your computer performance, the preview will even run videos.  It is now very quick to find each window and even close tabs that I don’t need any more.image
  4. Bitlocker  Vista introduced the idea of drive encryption.  While it is essential to think about the security of your data, especially on laptops that are more easily lost/stolen, most people didn’t use the encryption.  Bitlocker makes this much easier to implement.  The most amazing feature is BitLocker to Go.  This allows you to encrypt USB keys.  I always have a least one key in my work bag or pocket but rarely put much data on in the fear that I leave it behind somewhere.  With BitLocker I can password protect the drive in a way that I can make it read/write from another Windows 7 computer or read-only from XP or Vista.  It is easy to add a drive to Bitlocker.  From the control panel, select BitLocker Encryption, insert the USB key, turn on BitLocker, enter the password you want to use, click next and a few minutes later it is ready to go.image
  5. 64 bit operating system.  I’m a speed junkie, I really like to have a fast machine that is snappy to open files and programs when I want.  Windows 7 64 bit is much faster.  If you aren’t sure if your computer can run Windows 7 in 32 or 64 bit then there is a application that you can download and run.
  6. Snap and JumpLists.  These fun features enhance the way many of us work.  With SNAP you can drag an application to the right side of the monitor and it will snap to be 1/2 the width of the screen.  Simply drag another application to the other side and it snaps to that 1/2.  Great way to compare document or do research while working in Word.  The JumpLists are an evolution of ‘recent documents’ from XP.  With XP you had recent document for all programs.  Now every program can show you the most recent documents or windows you had open.  Here is my jumplist for Internet Explorer.   image
  7. Performance.  I’ve been stunned at the broad range of my machines that are capable of running Windows 7.  In all cases, Windows 7 was as fast or faster on every machine.  Here is what I’ve tested so far:
    1. Acer Netbook with 1Gb RAM with Windows 7 32 bit RC.  Ran as fast as XP.
    2. Dell Latitude with 4Gb Ram (my work machine) with 32 bit, just waiting for my tech to get the 64 bit installed.
    3. My main computer less than 6 months old with 4Gb or RAM is way faster with 64 bit.
    4. Dell Inspiron 1525 (wife’s computer), 1.5 years old with 32 bit version is faster and homegroup is amazing.
    5. Other computers I’ve tried out the Release Candidate (RC) without issues, it did a great job of finding all my drivers.

In the links above for each of the items there is a link to a video on the Microsoft site that demos how this feature is used.

Post a comment here and let me know what you think about Windows 7 or if you have any questions about if it is time for you to switch.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hope. Future. Now. young writers.. voices for the world.

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 9.24.16 PMI was looking for ways of using technology that couldn’t be done without the technology.  Way to provide a real audience for my students. There are certain things that I struggle to do in the walls of my classroom.  I hope to develop an appreciation of my student’s writing

-Jen Whiffin

I was at an inspiring session with master teacher Jen Whiffin yesterday and had to post the information to my blog.  Here students are thinking, writing and reflecting on Social Responsibility and their global role and responsibility as citizens.  This is the broad umbrella of social responsibility including environmental responsibility…etc

Why it is so imperative that we let other educators know about this is that Jen is looking for an audience for her students.  As you can imagine, students are thrilled to have comments on their posts.  Take some time to read their writing and leave them a comment with your thoughts and perhaps a personal connection.

Her class is also looking for other students to join their community of of writers.  They will accept a story, a poem or even a drawing like the one above with a description.  Send your submissions to futurehopenow@gmail.com

photo by 9 year old –Grace

Interested in your comments or thoughts about blogging with students.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Educational Technology Conference – October 23rd, 2009

The Computer Using Educators of BC

Invite you to the largest

Educational Technology Conference of the year

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Hosted in Surrey, BC at Sullivan Heights Secondary School.

Attend this year to find over 50 sessions (including a French strand), two keynotes, 2 mini-keynotes, vendor displays, Friday lunch, Thursday Wine and Cheese, networking with your colleagues, Saturday 1/2 and full day sessions and a CUEBC PSA Membership all included in the $100 conference fee.

List of Workshops

Conference Schedule

Register Now!

Conference Schedule

Thursday

6:00 Registration Opens

7:00 Wine and Cheese

8:00 Keynote – Chris Kennedy - Assistant Superintendent of Schools for West Vancouver.

Friday (Vendor Floor open 7:30 to 2:00)

7:00 Registration Opens

7:30 Breakfast

8:30 Keynote - Steve Hargadon - Web 2.0 as the Future of Education – Founder of Classroom2.0

9:45 Sessions

11:30 Lunch / CUEBC AGM

12:15 FSL/Immersion Mini Keynote

12:45 Sessions

1:00 Changing faces of Distributed Learning – Mini Keynote

2:45 Thank you and Door Prizes

 

Saturday (Lunch on your own)

7:30 Registration

8:30 to 2:30 – Four All Day Sessions: Classroom 2.0, Quest Atlantis, 3DS Max and

9:30 to 11:00 SMART Notebook 10: Embedding interactivity into your Lessons

11:45 to 2:00 SMART Notebook 10: Best Practices for Digital Content Development

Register at http://cuebc.ca/horizons2009/

by September 30, 2009

to get the $100 Early Bird Rate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blog Birthday – great to be one year old!

image Well today is the one year anniversary for my blog.  For those of you still thinking if you have enough time/motivation/content for a blog, I can tell you that it has been well worth it.

Reasons to have a blog!

  1. Time.  While it does take time to write the blog, find pictures (what is a post without something to look at) and create the links it has been well worth the time. I’ve been a very modest blogger with just 27 posts in the past year.  My goal has always to just find about two topics a month to share.  In some ways it has been a time saver.  Some of the emails that I get about things like FREE software, can be responded to with a simple link the post.
  2. Motivation.  It is great to have a consistent (albeit modest) daily hit count for my blog.  In the past year there have been readers from 43 countries.  Welcome to all, leave a comment and a link to your blog!
  3. Content.  One of my beliefs is that we all have something to share.  To others, we are always an expert on something.  As an avid reader of 30 or so educational blogs and 100’s of news RSS feeds, I wanted to contribute after years of reading (and lurking).

If you don’t have a website hit tracker I highly recommend Google Analytics. Here are the stats from my blog.

Most viewed posts:

  1. The Perfect Student Computer (November 2008)
  2. The Perfect Student Computer (December 2008)
  3. Free student and teacher software (December 2008)
  4. What students have to say (January 2009)

Most commented posts:

  1. Free student and teacher software
  2. Blood donation
  3. Twitter – two words

Map of visitors from 43 countries courtesy of Google Analytics.

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Thanks again for reading, if you are still sitting on the fence then time to get moving, sign up for a blog and start writing!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Digital Immersion at Riverside Secondary

This morning I’m working with a grade 9 class at Riverside Secondary.  Under the amazing leadership of Jeremy Brown and Elizabeth Bancroft with the support of the administration team they launched an exciting, engaging program for students.  Student stay together for the full mornings each day this semester take Science 9 and a Digital Immersion course.  Next semester, Elizabeth Bancroft takes over with English and Socials.  There are a number of structures that their team has put together to ensure student and program success.  All the student self-elected to join the program, they are engaged and enthusiastic.  They are also very patient, as you can imagine when working with technology, there are times when things go wrong.  The school has a robust wireless infrastructure and the room is well supplied with electricity around the walls and in the centre of the room.  The students all have modern laptops.  Some have privately-owned computers but the majority are using Dell Netbooks supplied by the school.

My small contribution this morning was to have the students download and install Windows Live Writer (see previous blog post).  They then connected the program to post blogs on their internal sharepoint blogs.  Their topic was researching and sharing “Breakfasts from around the world”.  They will then have access to read and respond to each other’s blogs.

The teachers have approached this like an action research where they are actively learning and experimenting with new ways to have student make the best uses of Web2.0 technologies while covering the prescribed learning outcomes of their respective courses. 

One of my key determinate of a quality program is would I choose it for my children if they were in Grade 9.  The answer is a resounding YES.  I couldn’t help thinking how this program would be great social environment to use the internet to research the topics and share.  As a teacher I would be thrilled to teach in an setting like the one designed for these students.  I hope we see more of these types of programs.

Reference: The picture from the internet.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Internet Filtering in Schools

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Under the guise of student safety, many school districts are choosing to block various websites.  My personal favourite excuses for blocking sites because students are ‘off task’ and ‘facebooking’ too much.  Using this train of thinking, students will somehow be more on-task and focused when we block sites.  I guess this would mean banning books would improve student reading?

I work in aimage great district which blocks almost nothing beyond the most inappropriate sites.  We have a broad belief that the internet is an educational resource that should be open to all current and unanticipated future uses.  We believe that educators are creative caring individuals and will think of ways to use social media and other sites in ways we can’t even imagine right now.  I’m a huge proponent of keeping the internet open and free for all students and teachers.

There was a great twitter discussion on September 9th about this topic.  You can find the tweets under the search term #edchat.  There was an amazing response and re-tweet to this original post ‘RT @plevy: All schools and universities should open access to social media #edchat

Thanks to my blogging colleague Lisa Reid for getting me to think about this topic in her blog.

I’d be interested in hearing from others. How much is filtered at your school/district?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Traveling with family in Oregon

Just returned from an amazing trip through central Oregon and the coast.  Here are some of the details for those interested in visiting these amazing locations.

Sun River, Oregon

A master designed community in the high desert in Oregon.  It is mostly large, custom home on large lots.  It has an extensive network of cycling paths to and from every part of the community.  Although you can get anywhere on a bike, the distances are quite long due to the sprawling lots that the houses sit on.  When at the resort be sure to visit the Observatory for star gazing, the pool with slide, the stables.  Also, be sure to pack an inflatable boat or inner tube as the Descutes river is a calm two hour float and can be shuttled as the rentals are expensive from the marina.

Oregon 009 Oregon 115

Newberry National Monument

This state park is an amazing collection of volcanic sites.  We visited the following locations and highly recommend them.

Lava Butte great views of the surrounding area. Oregon 037
Lava River Cave Lava ran through this tunnel cave for years and hardened around the outside to make a mile long underground hike. Oregon 063
Lava Cast Forest

These are the remains of tree trucks that were surrounded by lava and then burned away.

Oregon 139

Bend, Oregon

Bend is a city that reminds me of Nelson, BC.  It is full of local businesses that cater to an active lifestyle.  Everything from yoga studios to bike shops to noodle houses (two visits there!) and coffee roasters to service our every need.

Oregon 161

Lincoln City, Oregon Coast

Surfing and skimboarding at Devil’s Punchbowl.  This stretch of beach is protected by an off-shore reef that keeps the waves to a 3-5 foot safe beginner’s size.  The cliff on one side acts as a wind barrier making this a great location to spend the day.  Visit the state park website.

Oregon 222 Oregon 223

Surf lessons and rentals.  At the south end of Lincoln City is the Lincoln City Surf Shop.  The owner, Mike Jipp took me out for a lesson and I ended up renting a board and great wetsuit from him for only $40/day.  Also check out the awesome staff at Oregon Surf Shop they have fabulous gear at great prices.  Check out the deals I got.  A cool T-shirt $10, skimboards for the kids $20 and a wetsuit for the two year-old $34.  In Oregon there are no sales taxes!

Oregon 257

That me about to head out for a chilly, fun dip in the Pacific Ocean at Devil’s Punch Bowl.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

G.ho.st Virtual Computer – not quite ready for education

image If you haven’t already tried this out, there is a free virtual computer that is available online. 

This is like having a personal computer that you can have anywhere that you get internet access.  The G.ho.st VC has chat & email applications and can store plenty of files in its 15 Gb of space.

Features that work well

  • The interface, in general, is excellent.  It is flash based and unlike most flash content on the web today doesn’t have the functionality such as the right-click.  G.ho.st has a rich interface with many of the Windows like functionality under the right-click such as new files, copy and paste.
  • Mail – here is the email client, it works very well and is featured similar to Gmail or hotmail and can of course send to addresses outside of g.ho.st.  You can also configure the client to pickup your email from any POP or IMAP server.

image

Technical issues

  • zoho word processor and spreadsheets.  It was a great feature that G.ho.st included Zoho applications in the Virtual Computer.  However, despite multiple attempts and re-boots I’ve never been able to run the zoho word processor or spreadsheets.  The first few attempts there was an error message, now nothing happens.

Here is a picture of my g.ho.st desktop.  I’ve got my personal background, sticky notes, CBC top news RSS feed and quick access to my files.

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Some unusual facts about g.ho.st that educators should be aware of before having students use this service.  There is a powerful set of tools to share files.  You can share with ‘friends’ which would work well for teachers and students in a class.  It is also possible to connect your g.ho.st account with your Google Docs.  When I did this all my Google docs showed up in an explorer view, it even displayed all my Google folders.  As an educational environment, my concern is about the publically shared files.  A quick browse of ‘most viewed’ and ‘most stared’ returned a lot of pornography and cracked files.  Seems like this might become an alternative hacker community.  At this point in time there doesn’t seem to be a safe search filter.

Learn more about G.ho.st

I’d be interested to connect to other educators using ghost.  My g.ho.st ID is jmcconville

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Perfect Student Computer: part IV

We had our first warranty repair on one of the six netbooks that we purchased.  For those of you that have been following this series of posts, the Computer Using Educators of BC purchased six netbooks to test the use of and promote student computers in education.  We were looking for low-cost, high-use computers.  Archive of previous posts: part I, part II, part III.

Another highlight of this project is that we will be giving the six computers away to delegates at our fall conferenceRegister now for ‘Turning the Classroom on the Edge of 2.0’, a conference about using the best of the web in your classroom.

Problems with the Acer Aspire One netbooks

Here are the notes from Dennis in regards to the recent repair.

    1. Went to the website found the warranty/support link.
    2. Entered in the serial # and purchase date of the computer.
    3. Acer sent me an email with instructions on how return the product – choice of drop off or pickup; I chose pickup by Purolator. Repair depot was located in Burnaby
    4. Sent an email when the repair was finished and couriered it back by Fed Ex
    5. Picked up on May 4, delivered on May 14. Total of 10 days. A little long for a repair I thought considering the repair depot was in Burnaby.
    6. Acer paid for all shipping costs.
    7. Repair comment on the invoice: “Replaced Battery” and “It has been thoroughly tested”

The bottom line was that it was fairly quick and very easy to get it repaired.  Kudos to Acer.

Here are the notes from a problem that Anita had.

  • I also wanted to update you on my Son’s Acer Aspire. I wrote the following out for Staples when I brought it in – I am just passing it along to you FYI as I know you have been collecting info about them. I had to take it in to Staples as it has been giving him trouble lately and now it will not boot up at all. They are looking into it. What has been happening:
  • On boot-up a “checking file system” screen would come up (looks like the screen that happens when you run a ‘check disk’)
  • It would run through and then boot up fine (thought Graham says it has been quite slow)
  • The last time this happened prior to bringing it in it indicated:
    • “windows is verifying files and folders”
    • “Windows found problems with the file system that could not be corrected”
  • Following this it just cycles through the “checking file system” screen again repeatedly
  • A while back I found out that Graham has been powering off with the power button rather than going through the correct processes – I am wondering if this has damaged it.

Would be interesting to hear from others on your model of netbook and issues that you have experience.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Windows Live Writer

Microsoft in an effort not to outdone by Google recently released an amazing suite of free tools that are Web2.0 enabled.

I’m writing this post in a program called Windows Live Writer. Download for free from http://download.live.com/

Here is a preview of the interface. It follows a similar layout to MS Word but is simplified and optimized for blogging.

Overview

Here are some of the great features to check out:

  • it’s free – maybe I mentioned that :) but one of the barriers of having something all students can use a common product is overcome by having it for free on any district owned or personally owned computer.
  • It allows any picture to be copies and pasted from the internet. It then uploads them automatically to the server in a photos folder. Functional simplicity at its best.
  • Works with multiple blog sites. I can use Windows Live Writer to post to my sharepoint site, my live account and more.
  • Great options to control layout in tables, font colours and more. Personalize at will!
  • Can insert with one click links to sites, pictures, photo albums, maps, video and more.

I’d be interested to hear what others think of this program.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Live Mesh: your files everywhere you want them


Here is some amazing software that every Computer Using Educator needs to install.

It is called Live Mesh Beta from Microsoft and the tag line on the website is 'Synchronizing life: sync, share and access the information you care about- wherever you happen to be.  There are so many possibilities with this software.  The feature list is so deep and I can't think of any other simple application that does so much.  

  1. Sync files between two or more computers.  LiveMesh uses any messenger account that you already have.  Once the client is installed your operating system will have an option to 'add folder to Live Mesh...'.  Selecting this option will start the sync process.  When you get to any other computer with live mesh installed the folder will be there but semi-transparent.  Clicking on the folder will allow you to select the location that you'd like the folder stored on that computer.  That's it, the folders are now synced between the computers.  Add a file, make a change and it is replicated across all computers.
  2. View files online.  This is an amazing feature.  Even when I'm not on one of my computers with LiveMesh installed I can still log into mesh.com to view and open my files.
  3. Share files.  Once you you have selected a folder to add to LiveMesh you can then invite other members to that folder.  You even have three permission levels of owners, contributors and readers.
  4. Remote control another computer.  There are lots of free applications such as VNC that allow remote desktop.  The challenge is knowing the IP address of each computer you want to connect to.  LiveMesh takes care of all this.  From the same website mesh.com, there is a tab called 'Devices'.  Simply select the device such as work laptop and click 'Connect'.  It is the same as sitting at that computer.  The interface is quite slow but this is useful for the times where you just need a file or information from another computer.
  5. Work on Mac and PC's.  While I haven't tested the Mac client there are lots of posts on the LiveMesh developers blog about how this works and information about the fixes they have put into place to get this running.  This is big progress for Microsoft to build an application that works right on a Mac.  Can someone test and let me know how it works?
  6. Lots of storage.  Even in the beta version there are 5Gb available.
If you are looking for resources and support, here is the getting started guide and an overview to read.

What uses have others found for Live Mesh?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What is your Professional Development Passion?

Big Ideas in this post:
  • Be singular in your Professional Development focus.
  • Professional development needs passioncommitment and accountability.
As educators, there are many areas of our practice that we would like to improve, change, revamp and even discard.  This is the time of year, during the final learning stretch before the summer break, that we think about our focus for the following year.  As educators, we take time to reflect and think about what worked with students, what to do more of and what to change.

Our district staff development department had a planning session with my favourite mentor Sharon Jeroski. I went away with a renewed belief that to have effective personal professional development, educators need to select one single focus, find a group of similarly minded educators that want to work together.  In other words, professional development needs passion, commitment and accountability.  There are always many aspects that we want to change but to be successful we need to focus on one singular item each year.  In our district, here are the broad topics for our action research learning teams that educators select as a focus of inquiry: assessment, critical thinking, diverse learners, ESL, french, healthy living, leadership, literacy, music, numeracy, social responsibility and technology.

We at the Computer Using Educators of BC hope that your focus includes the integration of technology into classroom instruction and that you will join us at our annual fall conference.  Our theme this year is "Turning the Classroom...on the Edge of 2.0".

Feel free to comment on this blog post.  What is one thing you would like to implement, tackle or take on next year?  What is one problem that you would like to change?  What significant thing would you like to accomplish?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why don't our leaders Twitter?


Feeling a bit lost lately, hopefully others can shine a light on what is going on.

Here is my personal journey to twitter and how it became a core part of my Personal Learning Network (PLN).  I was introduced to it by Brian Kuhn and Chris Kennedy.  Like many, I didn't get it at first and didn't even get an account, sticking to social networking in Facebook.  It was the star power and dynamic social energy of Barack Obama that hooked me to twitter.  He now has almost a million followers.  The idea that a major politician would talk directly to me was electrifying.  I was thrilled to learn about the views of a politician without having the filter of the media.  Don't get me wrong, I'm an avid newsreader however, it was the idea of having a direct, first-person connection that drew me to the free social network that twitter provides.

Here is my current conundrum.  We are in the midst of a provincial election and there seems to be a void in social networks and direct connections being put out by our would-be political leaders.  Not only that but the president of the NDP is now telling me that I don't know about facebook (see Globe and Mail article).  Comments like that seems to tell me that the party isn't serious about reaching out to the socially connected, and might I suggest, younger generation.

I've been looking for the candidates.  Take for example Ray Lam who has now resigned due to his inappropriate photos on facebook (see CBC article).  While he is clearly active on facebook, a twitter search turned up nothing.  My local riding candidates are Ian Black and Shannon Watkins.  Here are links to the public sites that I could find:  Traditional Website (Shannon, Ian) Facebook (Ian has a link to Gordon Cambell), LinkedIn (Shannon, Ian), Twitter (nothing, note that Ian had a link to Twitter on his site but it lead me to the Liberal leader, Gordon Campbell).  The standard webpage that the NDP party is using has a lot to be desired, at least the leader, Carole James is on Twitter and currently has about 1200 followers. However on the NDP party site, there isn't even a mention of social networks like twitter, facebook or YouTube.  Looks like the Liberal party is at least aware of these environments.

What do others think?  Does it matter that our political leaders aren't part of social digital networks?  Post a comment here or tweet me at: http://twitter.com/jmcconville1000


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blood Donation #41


As promised in my previous post.  I'm blogging about my blood donations.  My goal to have 50 donations before I'm 40 years old.  I might have a snag in that the next clinic close to my home is out of booking times for the next session.  This means I can't donate until July.  I'll probably keep checking to see if they have a cancellation.

Here is some more information that I've learned about blood donation in Canada.  The person who puts in the needle used to always be a Registered Nurse.  They no longer have RN's do this task, there is a new category of workers called Phlebotomists.  If you read this news alert from the CBS site, they talk about shortages of staff, my guess is that there is also a cost savings over having to pay RN salaries for all parts of the blood donation service.

Here is a neat home-made video from someone wanting to promote blood donation.  Check back here for updates on my progress towards my goal.  Looking to book your appointment?  Find a clinic and then call the booking number: 1-888-2-donate



Monday, March 23, 2009

The Perfect Student Computer: part III


The quest by the Computer Using Educators of BC for 'The Perfect Student Computer' has been wildly successful.  For those of you reading this post for the first time, here is the link to the research on the different netbooks available, and the initial review of the Acer Aspire One device we selected.

As a recap, our organization is looking for a computer that, in the hands of students, would transform education across the province.  Our belief is that if students have a full-featured device, with software capable of accessing information, creating documents and other multimedia representations of their learning, it would provide educators with the freedom to change how they teach.

To this end, we purchased six computers, and distributed them to the members of our executive.  Each of use has used them in different ways.  In my case, I've loaned the computer to a number of educators at different grade levels to try the computer them self, but more importantly, to get the computer in the hands of students.

Here is some of the feedback:
  • Dennis lent the computer to a teacher-librarian at his school that used it with primary and intemediate students for researching the internet.  She liked that it had a good battery and was even useful for students working in pairs on one computer.  Another classroom teach in the school loved it so much that she bought one the next day at Costco.
  • Carol is a district student services teacher who works with teachers and parents of special needs students, after using the CUEBC netbook, many of the parents immediately purchased a device for their child as they quickly realized the potential of having constant access to a computer in school would benefit their son or daughter.  We also found that the netbook was even able to run DragonSpeak Natural (voice recognition software).
  • Mike uses the netbook in his classroom each and every day.  He already had a number of netbooks running Linux but the students prefer the Windows XP operating system for its ease of use and familiarity.
  • Terry used it with his grade 4/5 class and they were impressed by with the speed and portability.  Many are considering purchasing their own as they fit nicely into their back packs.
  • Anita purchased an Acer Aspire for her son about 3 months ago after James showed her one. Her son already had a laptop but it was quite heavy for him to be carrying to and from school each day. He read and agrees with the comments of the other users in this blog. It was a bit of a learning curve for me to network it (having had no previous experience with networking) but it was doable. There are video tutorials on You Tube which were helpful. He said he especially likes that the Acer is not heavy, and that it has good speakers -- meaning he can turn them up nice and loud to watch ACDC videos :-) Overall Anita and her son are very happy with it's performance so far.
  • Julia passed the netbook around to TLITE teachers and we found the size and weight ideal for kids. The keyboard was great for small hands but there was an initial challenge for my hands to get used to the repositioning. It eliminated the need for trolleys and enabled teachers, like myself, who move from school to school to be able to carry several computers to the users, redefining notions of “classroom” and where learning can take place.  
Things we would like improved
As it can be expected, these machines are not 'perfect', I just use the work to increase hits on this post :)  Here are some issues to consider:
  • Hardware issues - out of the six machines, there is a trackpad that isn't working and one that occasionally can't find the boot drive.  They are currently under warantee but long-term durability will have to be considered in a future post.

Other advances in the technology
As to be expected in computer hardware, there have already been advances on the technology and reductions in cost.  For example:
  • ASUS now has a 10 inch screen model for about the same price and a multi-touch trackpad.  See the current price.
  • Most excitingly ASUS has a full touchscreen model on the horizon.  See news article.
If you are an educator or student who has one of these netbook for use in teaching or learning we would like to hear from you.  What are your thoughts, are these the 'perfect student computers?'  Feel free to comment to this post!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Twitter - Two Words

I've been looking to post about Twitter.  I was spurned into action by a posting from Angela Maiers (an EduBlog award winner) posting about twitter in two words.  She asked us to answer the question that we get asked constantly by those who don't twitter, "why bother"

My two words to describe why I twitter.
  • Learn - each and every time I open twitter there is at least one link to a new idea, resource or interesting news article.  While this may be great, it does lead me in 
  • Share - As I work or research topics of interest, I select tidbits to post to others.
Below is an image mosaic of my twitter network.  I learn from these people every day.  My clicking on their image you can follow them too.



Get your twitter mosaic here.

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