Smartphone growth spurs rethinking of marketing – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Smartphone growth spurs rethinking of marketing

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App on a phone

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Kim Leonard is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer and can be reached at 412-380-5606 or via e-mail.

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More consumers who use their mobile phones to research and buy products are turning into moving targets.

That’s why businesses including several in Western Pennsylvania are creating applications, or “apps,” for Apple iPhones and Android-based mobile smartphones that point shoppers and service users to their products and offerings.

The article specifically discusses smartphone applications that are being made for Pittsburgh-based businesses. My question is, “Why aren’t schools, specifically K-12 entities capitalizing on this usage?”

Many of our students use some sort of smartphone, why don’t we allow them to use the phones in school. In my humble opinion, students should be allowed to use their technology from home in the classroom. Schools can then use their limited resources by allowing students without their own device to use a school machine. Not only would more students then have access to technology, but many would be using tools they are familiar with and have easy access to.

Teachers would have to monitor students better in class, to ensure they were on task, but why not make school more like reality…give the students access to information and technology at their fingertips. Eventually students will be using the same technology for work, the modern workplace demands it. We as educators need to teach them how to use it responsibly, not bury our heads in paper texts and claim there is no place for these devices in our classrooms.

ePub Bud – Publish, Convert, Store, and Download free children’s ebooks online for the iPad!

Free Children’s eBooks for the iPad

* as well as all other readers; and even some books for adults too!

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Write, edit, and publish a book online now… for your family and friends or share it with the world: FREE!

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Mail us any physical children’s book and we’ll “digitize” it for use on your iPad: FREE!

Convert an eBook
Upload any ebook file you want to read on your iPad or share with the world, and we’ll convert it to ePub: FREE!

Sell Your eBook
If you don’t want to make it free, you can also sell your book through ePub Bud (or the Apple iBookstore): FREE!

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Browse all the ebook files others have shared and import them to your iPad: FREE!

win an ipad!

This site came across my PLN on Twitter over the weekend. I forget who Tweeted the link and I apologize for not being able to give them proper recognition for the info…sorry. I think the site has many positive implications for education. In the day of shrinking budgets, who can afford to ignore free resources? The site is easy to use and you can view the ebooks on platforms other than an iPad.

I downloaded the free FireFox add-on and in minutes read a Dr. Seuss book to my daughter. It was just scanned images from the hard copy, but she enjoyed it. Imagine doing the same thing over an LCD projector onto an interactive whiteboard in your classroom? The students would go nuts, allow them to round robin read and turn the pages with the click of a mouse…even the high school students would enjoy it.

I forwarded the information to the administrators in my district, hopefully they will find the information as interesting as I did. At the minimum, I hope they look into the site, we could use any free help we can get!

KTI 2010: Some things I learned last week, Edmodo

I presented on Edmodo last week at the KTI Summit, but that is not why I am posting this.  I worked formally and informally with many people at the summit on how to incorporate Edmodo in their classrooms.  We worked in the small group sessions, open labs, and even in the dining hall discussing uses and “how to’s.”

I will be using Edmodo as my main classroom platform this year in school.  The main page looks much like a Facebook page, which makes it easy for my students to navigate.  The mobile app for iPods looks like a Twitter feed, it is streamlined and easy to use on mobile devices.

The one plus I brought up in my presentation was the ease of setting up an account and classes.  In a matter of a couple of minutes, you can create an account and classes.  You give your students the class code and they create accounts or log in with existing ones, then they just type in the code and are in your class.  Even if you only run one discussion board a year, Edmodo is the tool to use.  You do not waste time importing students and setting everything up.

Now, back to what I learned at the Summit.  We played with the “public” tab in Edmodo, this allows for any note, file, link, etc. to be pushed out to a public URL, which can then be viewed without logging in to your classroom.  This feature gives me another tool with which to keep parents updated on class events. I can push out my class calendar and any file I feel parents need access to, while keeping other information secure from strangers; all with the click of a mouse.

Another idea we came up with was to group students into general classes, then create sub-groups by period and as needed.  This allows for discussion and interaction between students in different periods, but also gives the teacher the option to push out information to specific groups without everyone else getting it.  This functionality happens by just giving the students your classroom code so they can enroll themselves into your course, then with a couple clicks of your mouse, you can group them as you wish.

I embedded my 30box calendar, that is on the front page of my class wiki, into my Edmodo classrooms, this will allow me to update in 30boxes and show up everywhere I have it embedded.  I can also do the same with a Google calendar or any calendar that embeds in a web page.

Edmodo just enabled the use of folders on the site.  This new development will allow me to better organize all of my links and files.  Instead of having to build a master class for organizing my curriculum, I can just upload everything into folders with detailed names.  This will allow me to open and close information to students as needed, without any hassle.

Last, but surely not least, I have communicate on Twitter with one of Edmodo’s co-founders, Jeff O’Hara on numerous occasions.  He has always been helpful with advice and quick to respond to any questions I have had.  Jeff has also asked for feedback from my students and others to make Edmodo user friendly.  This rates high in my opinion and is the main reason I talk up Edmodo as often as I can.

I have used Moodle, BlackBoard, and Web CT, they work great, but for overall ease of use and free cost, Edmodo is the way to expand your classroom beyond the traditional walls and times.

KTI Summit 2010: Some things I learned last week, Posterous

I have been reflecting on my experiences last week at the Keystone Technology Integrator’s Summit at Bucknell University.  I picked up many new ideas and worked on refining some strategies and tools that I already use in my classroom.  Today’s topic will be Posterous.

I have heard of Posterous before, but never really worked with it.  Posterous is a blogging/social media site that allows you to post various forms of media online and coordinate your posts with other websites you may use, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Here is the link to their FAQ page.  When I got home from the summit, I created an account and in minutes I was up and running.  The site is extremely intuitive to set up.  I created an account, linked my other accounts to Posterous, updated my profile, and found friends who are already using the site.  I have not posted yet, since I have been getting caught up on life after being away for a week at the KTI Summit.  Kristin Hokanson showed in her preso at the summit how to I am looking into the mobile app for Posterous, it may be usable on my iPod, even though it is designed for an iPhone.  The Firefox Toolbar add on is also an item I am looking forward to using in the near future.  The concept is that you can instantly grab web-based articles and information and create a post to be pushed out to other sites.  I will discuss this tool more once I use it more often.

iPod Project: Student Self-Reflection

Did you ever forget old standards because of new information? You get so busy looking forward you lose sight of what is around you…In a previous post I discussed how I was using Examview Test Generator to make short quizzes to embed on the class wiki for my students. I continued to do this with short quizzes to see how my students were understanding our class discussions. I was also printing out a single class set of a paper quiz. Students still took the quiz online via the iPod Touches, but they had a paper copy to read off of. Many prefer to read of the paper copies

The quizzes allow me to break up information into small chunks to work with for the students. The only issue I had was that we are covering a lot of new information and continuous quizzes would wear down my students. If they were not grasping the information well, the quizzes would pull students grades down markedly.

I usually ask questions and try and get discussions going, but even seniors do not like admitting publicly that they do not always understand concepts. I came up with an idea that I forgot about for awhile…I have started using a Google Form to have the students reflect back on the day’s lesson.

The concept is so simple, I cannot believe that I was not doing it sooner…I make a simple Google Form, four or five questions long and embed it on a wiki page.  The link to the page is placed in Edmodo and on the left hand navigation column of my class wiki, so the students have easy access to the form.  The questions are: Name, Period, What did you understand best, What did you understand least, and what do you feel you need/want to learn more about.  They receive participation points for taking the exercise seriously.  All questions have room for the students to explain why they answered they way they did.

I get a nice little spreadsheet of information to work from.  I review the students responses and create a file in Easiteach to hit the areas that students feel they need help with or are interested in.  My review requires the students to participate, I prompt them to their notes from past lessons and try to add to those notes.  The students use their iPods to find answers to the new questions and we work on bridging the gaps in understanding.  So far, the process seems to be working.  Hopefully the success will continue into the future.

iPod Project: Moving into the 21st Century

I will be the first to admit, that I did not start out using my classroom set of iPods as 21st Century Learning devices. The learning curve was not steep, but getting everyone, including myself, to full speed took some time. To paraphrase the drill instructor-like driving instructor who had a one episode cameo in SpongeBob Squarepants, ” Before you can run, you must learn to walk. Before you can walk, you must learn to crawl.”  We started at a crawl, and quickly moved to a walk. I am now in the process of getting up to full speed with the iPods.  I am attempting to make my lessons more interactive and have a true conversation with the students while getting them to learn.

In the past, getting information out to them was a chore.  If I made a PowerPoint the way they are supposed to be, there was not enough information for them on the screen.  They did not listen to what I was saying, and they struggled.  If I put all the info on the slides, they wrote to there fingers bled, still didn’t listen, and thought you needed to embed a Word Doc to make a good PowerPoint.  Neither option was acceptable, I had to practice, “Do as I say, not as I do,” when I assigned PowerPoints as projects.

I have a Polyvision Interactive Whiteboard in my room now, with a working copy of RM Easiteach, which I did not have last year.  I now import my PowerPoints into RM Easiteach, either with “Glass Mode” or “Merge” .JPG files into each page of a file.  I then make a bare bones outline page in between each PowerPoint slide page.  The bare bones contain a few critical questions I want the students to know.

I then flip through the Easiteach presentation, I state the topic, and pose a few questions.  The students are encouraged to brainstorm ideas.  I still need to remind them, “each of you has a computer in front of you, (iPod Touch), use it.”  They are getting better.  They search for answers, some on the mark, some not, but that is okay, we are learning.  We put the brainstormed and “Googled” ideas up on the board and sift through the information.  The critical thinking process is modeled and worked through as a class.  We discuss the points and see which is correct and which may not be.  The reasoning as to why each is correct or not on topic is discussed.

Once we answer these questions and narrow the focus to the correct topic, questions usually pop up to further the conversation.  If this does not happen, I ask a few more questions and the process is repeated.  Students still need prompted and I still need to circulate through the room, but they are working, they are thinking, and they are active.

Once we have a good bit of information, I pull the board into “Split Screen” and we compare the facts the students found to what I had on my PowerPoint.  Sometimes, the information I have is a few years old and out of date, we correct the information and move on. At the end of the period, I “Save” the file for that class and reopen a scaled down mater file for the next period.

The following class repeats the process, but does not always find the same results.  This is another lesson unto itself and we do work through the divergent information to see if one is correct and one not, or they are both correct, just different.  Students learn from the process.  They learn how to find information, how to discriminate and choose the correct information, and they learn the curriculum.

I can copy and paste the slides into grouped information, then upload it into my Edmodo classroom.  The students can use the free Easiteach reader download to view the files from home.  I also create a podcast for each file, nothing spectacular, just an audio of the focus points of the file.  I push the podcasts out to my account and iTunes.  In an unabashed act of egocentricity, I subscribe to my own podcast on iTunes and push it out on the iPods.  Now my students have access to the material even if they are not in class, or if they need to review information.

I know I name dropped some specific brand names, but we are a Polyvision school. I am pretty sure I could do similar style lessons with other brands of Interactive Whiteboards.  The concept is what is important, getting the students to participate in learning and thinking, not just sitting there…passively.

Jury Duty: A Teachable Moment

Okay, I explained in the last two posts about my jury duty experience. It probably sounded a lot like complaining, because I did complain a lot. I do not like to complain without offering a way to remedy my grievances; here is my attempt.

Now, here is what I can teach my classes about my experience. First and foremost, every employee I encountered at the Lawrence County Courthouse was helpful and seemed like a truly nice person. The were polite and professional, and they did their best with the situation at hand. I do not have anything but compliments for them.

My issue is with the process jury selection process itself. There have to be more eligible prospective jurors in the county than what they call. Please do not say it is a “Civic Duty” when it is not required that everyone show up in a cycle. That also goes with my premise that it is truly not a random selection process. There may be a bit of randomness to the procedures, but in today’s world, it should not be that complicated to expand the list of people to draw from.  It was also not a very diverse panel of potential jurors. The male to female ratio may have been close to being even, but ethnically there was no diversity whatsoever.  Use the county computer records to expand the juror pool to ALL eligible jurors. Cycle us through with everyone having to possibly show up before you go back through the list. People may still not have to go to the courthouse, but at least they are on the list.

The next issue is the selection process.  Prospective jurors are sent a questionnaire to fill out and send back. They then go into the courtroom, if on the list of possible jurors. They are then asked the questions again, and respond by standing up if their answer to a question is yes. Then the jurors can be called up the the sidebar to explain their answers to the Judge and attorneys.  We are already required to explain in writing why we answered the way we did. It may be petty, but why do it twice, especially if the first response does not count.  It reminds me of busy work, which I despise. Do it once, when we are called into the courtroom. Make people stand up for their convictions, if they truly are convictions, they will not mind standing up in front of others.

By the end of today, I do not believe a defendant would have had a fair trial.  The jurors all seemed like nice and rational people, but they had had enough. They did their duty yesterday, were told they did not make the cut, then were told the rules changed, we were not done with our “Civic Duty.” We had one more case then we would be done. Well, that case was settled on a plea bargain, yet we were not done, we had one more case. That is not right, even if they hold all the cards.  If I were to be called for duty, then do as I pleased, I could and probably would be charged with contempt of court.  Those with the authority must not abuse that authority if they want to be respected.  They played patriotic music in the movie we watched on Day One, quoted Thomas Jefferson, stated how important jurors are to a free society, then blew it all up with changing the rules as they went along. This goes back to including more jurors in the prospective pool, the more jurors, the less recycling jurors who did were pushed off of an earlier case.

I guess my main point of information for my students is, DO NOT choose a jury trial if you ever go to court.  You have no idea what the jurors have been though, or their frame of mind due to their experience.  A trial under the supervision of a judge takes out the variable of a group that may not be in a very objective mood through no fault of their own.

Once again, the court employees were very kind and very professional, they worked with a system I feel is inadequate in the 21st Century.  Adjust the system and the jury becomes what it was meant to be, an impartial panel of peers to view the facts and pass judgment on a situation based on the rules of a society.

On a personal note, I have only reinforced the fact that due to my family, friends, and working with “At-Risk” students for a number of years, I am not a good fit for a criminal trial. The court knows this by now, and if they do not, they can read my responses.  If that is not of any help, I stand up to respond yes to the questions, again, then I explain my answers on the sidebar. If I am turned away, why in the world would I be made to go through the process again.

Judge Piccione made a very good point and made me rethink my answers during the sidebar on Day One. He asked if I could put my biases aside due to my life experiences. I answered that I was reasonably sure that I could. He reminded me that it was a yes or no answer, not a matter of degree, which is true. I honestly cannot say that I could keep my personal experience out of my judgment of a case.  There is no rubric to use like I have for my class projects.

Because of this, I am toxic to a criminal defendant.  My grandparents were in a car accident caused by someone who was driving while impaired. I have many friends and family who are in law enforcement. I am a throw away juror, no competent defense attorney would choose me unless they were gunning for a mistrial.  By keeping me around, there is one less possible juror who could be unbiased to a defendant. That seems a bit unfair to the defendant. By pulling in all of the rejected jurors to another trial, you seriously cut the chances of an unbiased jury for a defendant. That just does not seem right. That seems to be against the spirit of Thomas Jefferson and the United States Constitution.

Jury Duty: Day Two

I returned to jury duty at the Lawrence County Court house this morning at 9:15 AM. On my way in I was able to apologize to the lady I was kind of short with yesterday. She was very kind and said no apology was necessary, but I thought I owed her one anyway. She explained that once you are summoned to jury duty, there is no limit to how often they can call you, unless you sit on a jury. In my humble opinion that is nonsense, my family situation is what it is, and cannot change.

I went in with laptop in bag hoping to get some work done. I still could not get on the Internet.  The courthouse system blocked me and wanted to download some sort of anti-virus software. Yeah…right Sporto, “That ain’t happenin'” For goodness sakes, I have a Macbook…but I digress yet again.

I was able to type a good bit of my Literature Review for grad school and work on an Easiteach file for Econ. I used the Google Form feedback from my students to find areas that needed addressed. So my day was not a total waste.

About 10:30ish the gentleman in charge of telling the prospective jurors what was going on came in. He let us know that the case we were to possibly sit on had reach a plea agreement. Sounded good, however the county changed the rules and did not release us as they had originally planned.  They were trying to organize another case and would need us to stay longer. Very dirty pool in my book.

Around 11 AM we were told that we could leave for lunch. No pizza today, the roads were passable. I was going to stay and continue working on my grad work, until I realized that we were getting TWO HOURS for lunch! What a waste of our time.  On the way out, we ran into the jurors from the case we were not chosen for. The defendant accepted a plea agreement right before the trial was to start. They were done.  I drove home and shoveled my driveway yet again. I was able to get some work accomplished because I have Internet access there.

Upon my return to the courthouse at 1:15 PM, I sat and talked with a number of jurors, none were too pleased with the rule change by the county.  Most of us had been thrown off the previous case jury because of knowing family members who were either victims or law enforcement officials. All were in agreement that we were not a very fair jury pool for a defendant.

About 2:15 we were summoned to the jury waiting room and were told we could leave, the last case had reached a plea agreement. The District Attorney, Josh Lamancusa, came in and thanked us for our service. Once again, we had no choice, so no thanks were necessary. I commented that is was a good thing because, “Only a moron of a defendant would want to pick a jury on a Thursday Afternoon and tie everyone up for another week. Like they would even get a fair trial.”

The District Attorney laughed, he must have thought I was joking.  In all seriousness, I do not believe there was a fair trial to be had, there were few people who were happy to be there and most were unhappy with the change in rules by the county. Many of us were repeat potential jurors and knew of many who never were summoned.

Overall, they showed us a video on jury duty, which played patriotic music, quoted Thomas Jefferson, then held us longer than necessary.  So much for my civic duty, but I did gain a teachable moment from the entire ordeal, but that is another post.

Jury Duty: A Lesson in Citizenship

I must preface this post with the the fact that I am not happy with being called to jury duty, every three years since moving to Lawrence County in 1997. I know people who have never been called for jury duty and they have lived here all of their lives. My wife never had jury duty until we were married 5 1/2 years ago, she has had it twice since then. I teach social studies and thought I was fairly well versed in Civics, but I am being reminded that book knowledge and practical knowledge are not equal.

I was summoned again to serve on a jury about a month or so ago.  When I received the summons, I called and talked with the county officials in charge of jury duty. I asked why I was being called every three years and others never get called. The answer from the older gentleman on the other end of the line was, “Names are picked randomly.” I explained my situation and was told, “If you aren’t actually picked for a jury, you could be called more often.” So much for my argument. In my defense, if random is every three years at this time, I should have hit the Powerball Lottery a couple of times by now.

So I filled out the questionnaire and returned it to the county. I was truthful, the threat of perjury for lying on the form has a tendency to do that to people. The two big questions that will usually disqualify me are, “Are you related to any law enforcement officials?” and “Were you are any family members ever the victim of a crime?” The answer to both is yes. I have several family members in various jobs within law enforcement, I have many friends in law enforcement, and my grandparents were almost killed by a driver who was impaired by some substance. There was another question asking to describe my answers, I filled up the space and used part of another section to be thorough.

I lucked out days 1 and 2, not having to go to the courthouse. Last night, in the middle of the snow storm, I called the courthouse and the recorded message said I had to report. I called back twice to make sure I typed my juror ID number in correctly, but the answer was always the same. Soon after I received the call from the school that we were closed. Yay.

I got up, dug out my truck and hoped for court to be canceled. No such luck. I dug out again, and forty-five minutes later I completed the normally fifteen minute drive. The courthouse employees were all very friendly, they even had donuts for us. We waited around and finally I was called for a criminal trial. The judge had us all sit in the court room and reviewed the details of a criminal case.On the way in, one of the court officers thanked us for showing up. Not to be a funny, or sarcastic, I mentioned that there was no need for thanks, “we didn’t have a choice, but to show up. Opting out is called contempt.” Another prospective juror chimed in, “If I don’t show up today, you’ll have me here in cuffs next week.” The court officer laughed and said we were still appreciated.

In the court room, we were asked if we were related or on friendly terms with any of the people in the court. Then they read the witness list and ask the same question. Then they started asking the questions from the questionnaire we had to fill out and send back. We were to stand if our answer to the question was “Yes.” Once again, I stood for the two questions I answered yes to on the questionnaire.We broke for lunch, the court house ordered pizza for everyone since it was still snowing outside.

After lunch, we returned to the court room and one by one, prospective jurors were called to the side barand asked the details to why we stood up during previous questioning. I had gotten this far three years ago and once again I was called up to the side bar. I was asked about the details of why I stood up. It was a lengthy answer. After each answer I was asked if I could still be impartial. I think I could be, but who knows for certain and I said as much. During the questioning I discovered that the Assistant District Attorney on this case and my wife are distantly related through marriage. The Assistant D.A.’s aunt is married to my wife’s uncle, who was a police officer. Needless to say, I was not picked to be on the jury for this criminal trial.

We were sent back to the jury holding room and were told that we had to report the next day at 9:15 AM. They still had one criminal case that possibly needed jurors. I asked why I needed to show up, I was just disqualified from a criminal case. I was told, that they needed prospective jurors so it didn’t matter that I would probably be dismissed. The message was simple, we need people and you have to show up.

Nice…the only way I make a criminal jury is if the defense attorney is totally incompetent, or they want a shot at a mistrial. I made the fifteen minute trip home in about thirty minutes, the roads were getting clearer. Once again, I received a call, school was canceled. Tomorrow I head back to court, to be someone they can send home after wasting a day sitting around doing nothing.

In Lawrence County, Pennsylvania we receive a whopping nine dollars a day for showing to the mandatory jury duty. I guess I just resent the fact that they try and make it sound that we are picked randomly. There were several people in the court who are picked every couple of years, so it is not just me who thinks the randomness is skewered. I also disliked the fact that I have to go back again, for another criminal trial tomorrow, when I was not picked for a jury today. My family situation isn’t going to change overnight, they know it, they just need bodies in a room, even if it is just to take up space. Whoever the defendant is, they will have a pool of rejected jurors to choose from, how fair is that?

I do owe one lady an apology. On my way out to my truck, in the snow and wind,  one of the court employees asked if I was in the jury room and knew I had to report back the next day. I said, “yes,” and I guess she could tell I was not happy about it at all. She tried to apologize for the inconvenience, but I brushed her off. I should not have done that, she may have been sincere.

I am just tired of the insincerity, “we randomly pick jurors,” “we need impartial jurors,” “we are sorry for your inconvenience.” If I am to take them at their word, I am sure they could sell me some oceanfront property in Nebraska. No wonder people hate being summoned.

Keystone Commons

Keystone Commons is an interesting concept. Keystone Commons was created by PAIUnet to link the Intermediate Units in Pennsylvania along with other educational institutions. You can find more information about PAIUnet by visiting their website. The Keystone Commons is for educators AND students to use. In my humble opinion, it is Facebook, Twitter, and Ning all rolled up into one site for education. I understand some people are unfamiliar with those names, or may have heard of them, but that is it. That’s okay, I think that is why the site was created.

The purpose of the site is to create a monitored online space for communication and show students the responsible way to behave online. Kids use the sites mentioned above, often times in inappropriate ways. By blocking these sites in schools we tend to contribute to the problem by ignoring it. However the problem does not go away, nor does the inappropriate behavior. This site gives us the opportunity to teach how to use these tools in a positive fashion. In today’s world students need these skills, their future employers and many institutions of higher learning demand them.

Just a quick overview of the site, I will write in more detail as we experiment with it more in class. You can create a profile page, and add files and bookmarks to your profile much like Facebook. You can post messages in 140 characters or less just like Twitter. There is a place for groups to collaborate in groups just like other sites such as Ning. The groups may have open or closed membership requirements, it is up to the group organizers.

Users must create an account from a school computer, initial access can only be successful in this fashion. Once an account is created, users can access the Keystone Commons from any computer that has Internet access. The nice thing is that all members in the state can monitor the behavior of students on the site. If a student is acting inappropriately, you hit a button that says “Report This” and the activity is sent to the site administrators. I do not know what happens once you hit the button, because I have not had to do so yet.

I started a group for New Brighton Staff on the site, you can check it out by searching for NBASD Educators. If you would like to join and check things out please do so. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me and I will do my best to answer them.