Three Programs You Need Now

Here is my first Tech Tip Blog Post. It deals with the basic practicalities of making your job easier. There are three programs you need right now, and they are all free. The reason that you need them is that they will allow you to work with others and will make life so much easier once you become comfortable with them.

The first one mentioned, Google Apps, is supplied by the District. It allows you to store documents, PowerPoints, and Excel files online. You can not only access them from anywhere there is an Internet connection, but you can also collaborate with others easily, no cutting and pasting, no e-mailing attachments, and all that other rigamarole. New Brighton’s start page to log in is If you need your log in information, please e-mail me. We are setting up student accounts so they can have the same sort of access to their work. By creating accounts for the district we will be able to administer student accounts for such tasks as fixing lost or fogotten passwords. You can also set up a personal account at

The second is Diigo, a social bookmarking site. It allows you to store your favorites, or bookmarks online, so you can access them on any computer once you log in to the site. You can also share bookmarks with other individuals and groups. This allows you to have access to the research of others, once again without much effort. There is a group for New Brighton Teachers, and there are numerous other groups for educators. You can also create groups for your classes to give students access to approved bookmarks for your class in a secure setting, see me for details. The general site to create an account is Once you have created your own account, you can go to sign up for an educator’s account at

The third program dovetails nicely with existing programs in the district. Many teachers use Kidspiration and Inspiration software to create graphic organizers for use in the classroom. There is a free web-based, (online), program called Webspiration that allows you to do the same thing. Webspiration allows you to upload existing files to the Internet, download files to your desktop, and share your files with others, just by typing in their e-mail address. The people you share with must also have a free account to acces your files. You can edit the files together, or just pass them around by sharing. Webspiration also contains free clip art and media to drop into your graphic organizers to make them more interesting for the students. The program has many other features that I will not get into yet. This tool is available at

The main themes that bind these three programs together, beside the fact that they are all free, is that they allow you to access information from anywhere in the world, and that they allow you to easily collaborate with others. Let’s face the fact that there is not enough time in the day to accomplish everything we would like to do. By working together, we make tasks easier and can accomplish more in the limited time we have. if you would like help setting up any of these accounts feel free to contact me at school.

Q & A with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

Q: Why did Australia’s GDP hold up better than most in the developed world?

A: Mostly because of our trading with China, that has helped us recover from this global crisis.

Q: What are you trying to get out of the G20 summit?

A: The key of the G20 summit is for us to go beyond the trilateral Australia-China-U.S. relationship.

Q: What helps your economy during this economic crisis?

A:  Mostly the aggressive action we take spending money on infrastructure and also our trading with China.

Q:  Why do you think China should have greater voting rights in the IMF?

A: China has recently become more economically important and because of the they should have a greater say.

Q: Do you expect Australia’s GDP to shrink or grow in the future?

A:  I expect there will be some ups and downs. Our economy has been better than others because of our aggressive actions and trade with China, but it still is fragile.


Today’s Rollout (Part I)

Today was going to be the roll out…again…I only needed 5 iPods for the small group work, so I figured we would be okay. I could update the iPods during the school benchmark testing, I have seniors who do not take them. I pulled the cart out of the secure location when I arrived at 6:45 AM and plugged it in to make sure the iPods were fully charged.

Things started well, the iPods started to sync when I plugged in my computer, then something happened. All of the newly downloaded apps I pulled into my account for my daughter Arianna began to sync on the iPods. That was a bit of a problem, I figured my seniors did not need the “Curious George Dictionary” or ” Bright Puzzles Puppies Light,” so I went in and began taking those apps off of each iPod, one iPod at a time.

Next, each iPod needed an update to the software. This update process bogs down the system. I had to go in a approve each iPod update. I have since made sure the automatic update is enabled on each iPod. This takes some time and even though I was using the cart, you can only manipulate one iPod at a time when updating…major bottleneck when trying to work with 25.

On top of all of this, iTunes recently came out with version 9. I did not know this, I thought I had the most recent version. The new version went to my Macbook, which required a restart, then we started the entire process over again. I like the new iTunes version, sharp looking easy to use, you can even see how the apps are arranged on your iPod screens.

I eventually worked through all of this and had enough units to use in class. I planed on 1 per group, using five iPods at the most. I went to put the iPods online through our wireless network and…nothing. They would not connect. They found the wireless network, I typed in the correct password, but they would not connect. We ahve been having these issues as of late and cannot figure out why it is happening. I texted our Tech Director, we have a fix on the way, but i was dead in the water. We ended up in the pc lab…

I did learn many things from the experience. First and foremost, keep the iPods updated even if they are not being used. It is vital to sync them often even if they are not being used. I had to get my students logged in and acclimated to the web-based programs I will be using before I put them on the iPods. This kept the iPods locked up in a super-secret location until we begin using them regularly. This includes checking for iTunes updates daily with my Macbook, I do not want to be blindsided again.

I believe it would benefit me to create an entirely different iTunes account for the school iPods, which was my plan. However, I purchased the update for my iPod and I needed to keep them all on the same account or pay a second update fee. To save ten dollars, I will deal with the inconvenience…call me cheap. This will be addressed by updating the iPods more often.

All in all, the iPod project is delayed a bit, but I would rather wait and roll it out properly than to rush things and screw it up. This means I am leanring the most important lesson I will need during this project, patience.

iPod Rollout and Delay

I had a plan to roll out the iPod Touches tomorrow, Thursday, September 10, 2009, to my classes. The plan was to begin the roll out by introducing the iPods to the students with 1 iPod per group of 3 to 5 students. The two classes I will be mainly working with have almost 25 students per class. I feel that 25 iPods on day one is too much to successfully work with. With about 5 iPods out on day one, the project will be more manageable. This will allow me to float about, keep tabs on the equipment, and let the students ease into the overall situation. After a few tries with group work, I will gradually increase the number of iPods out until we build up to a 1 to 1 situation.

The reason for the delay is technology and sensory overload. Over the last two days I rolled out Google Apps for my classes, Evernote, and Diigo, along with all of my students signing up for the class wiki. I did this in the computer lab next to my room, because many of my students have not used this amount of technology in a school setting in awhile.  I believe that it is better to introduce the new programs on a familiar piece of equipment, such as a conventional desktop. This lets the students experiment with the new programs while not having to worry about the unfamiliar uses of the iPods too.

Oh, we also started a project about the upcoming G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. The project requires the students to work cooperatively with the new tools to create a presentation about each participating country. Each group has a member country that they are responsible for. The format is open to any type of presentation, except a paper. They may create videos, audio files, PowerPoints, screencasts, Glogs, wikipages, or any other format or combination of formats for their projects.  The projects are an open format so the students can work in a format that they are comfortable with and claim ownership over. It is an aggressive project, but my students are running with it.

The students are also working well with the new programs and helping us deal with any of the issues we are encountering. Overall, we are moving full speed ahead on all fronts and I do not want to lose momentum. Another day in the lab will clear up any lingering issues with the new programs, and we can then introduce the iPods to the students while still continuing with the projects. This slight delay will allow us to move forward with a new technology platform, the iPods, while using a newer group of programs that the students are grasping and using more effectively every day. I feel this will give us the best chance for success on all fronts.