Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
There is software for doing this, but an online one that I've used is on hamienet.com. Unfortunately the site launches some "pop-up" advertising, but you can just close those windows. The process for creating an mp3 from a midi file should be fairly evident from the instructions on the page. It basically involves uploading the midi file by clicking the Browse button, then setting the options (or leaving the options as they are), and clicking Convert File. After it converts the file, it gives you the option to download it as an mp3, which can then be put on your music player or burned to an audio CD.
At many schools this is accomplished by clearing the memory and having the supervisors look for the "Memory Cleared" screen:
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I've mentioned the OLPC XO before, I got one as part of the 2007 Give One Get One program. They are offering this program again this year through Amazon.com/xo, but for some reason this time Canada is considered "international" and must be ordered through Amazon.co.uk/xo starting December 16th. It is also possible to just Give One or Give Many.
In the words of the OLPC Foundation, however, "it's an education project, not a laptop project". They are not just dropping a box of laptops in a classroom and hoping that will somehow change things. Among other things, they are helping with support resources, Internet access, and teacher training in the developing nations where these laptops are being deployed. The vision of the foundation, from their website, is:
Education is Our Motivation
Founded in 2005 by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) has a simple mission: to create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each and every one with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.
By giving a laptop, you are helping bring education to children in some of the world's most remote areas. You are connecting them to each other. To us. To hope. And to a better future.
For more details please visit laptop.org.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
There are other terms that are being applied, such as dork (socially awkward), or invented, such as griefer (intentionally aggravates others). As well, you can take online quizzes to see which category you might fit into. In case you're not self-aware enough to have diagnosed this already.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Usually this sort of thing happens naturally, that there is some geek (or nerd) who fills this role, but sometimes this needs to be encouraged.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
You could, of course, have a separate set of speakers for each of these purposes, but it's easier and cheaper to have one set. To do this, you can connect the DVD/VCR audio output to the speakers and the computer audio output to the audio input of the DVD/VCR.
To connect the computer audio output to the DVD/VCR, use a 3.5mm Stereo Plug to 2 RCA Plug cable connected to the speaker (or headphone) output of the computer.
To connect the DVD/VCR to computer speakers, you need another 3.5mm Stereo Plug to 2 RCA Plug cable connected to the audio output and a headphone "gender changer" for connecting the male end of that cable to the male end of the speaker cable. Instead of a "gender changer", however, you can use a headphone splitter which also allows you to plug in your iPod without unplugging anything.
Of course if you use speakers with RCA inputs, such as the Behringer MS16s, you can just connect the DVD/VCR audio output with the RCA cable that came with the DVD/VCR.
If you want to show videos from your iPod and your DVD/VCR has a second "line in" connection (other than the one you are using for your computer), you can use an iPod video cable that connects to the headphone jack or to the dock connector. Of course if you have a newer iPod these cables won't work, you'll need to buy an expensive one from Apple. Or plug your iPod into your computer with a USB cable and show the videos using iTunes.
As to video to the projector, computer video goes over a VGA cable and the DVD/VCR video goes over an S-Video cable, composite cable, or component cable.
That ended up being a longer post that intended, and a bit of a commercial for monoprice.com (one of my favourite online retailers), but hopefully there was enough information there to get you set up.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
In general it's not a bad mouse and PowerPoint remote, but considering you can buy a wireless mouse for about $20 and a presenter remote for about $50, I don't know if this device is worth the cost.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I've known that I'm too old to be a "digital native" but I've always considered myself a citizen of the country... perhaps digital pioneer is a good term for people like us.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The rules for the event were:
The contest will be on the PS3 system, all instruments will be provided.
An Xbox 360 and Rock Band system that will be awarded as a prize to the winning team.
Your band must consist of at least three members (bass player is optional), all of whom are employees.
Your band's song must be chosen from the songs included on the disc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_in_Rock_Band
Your song can be either from the main set list or the bonus songs, with the exception of the few very long songs at the discretion of the organizers.
Each member of the band can choose their own difficulty level.
The winning team will be decided based on
(percent score for each band member) × (difficulty factor) ÷ (number of band members)
where (difficulty factor) is: easy=2 medium=2.5 hard=3 expert=4
If you skip past the scoring screen before your score can be recorded, your band will be disqualified.
Judgments are indisputable, professionalism is required, fun is recommended.
Prize package will be announced and awarded at the completion of the competition.
A few things we would change for next time:
Have an organizer on stage to set up each band (choose their song and difficulty and get the song loading).
Make sure we get more information from the band ahead of time (song, team members names, difficulties, etc).
Have some sort of system for screen capture for the points screen... some bands hit a button to move off of that screen before the scorekeeper could record them. Thankfully there were four other people watching for the numbers. We didn't enforce the disqualification, I think we'll remove that from the rules.
The math would be a little more complicated, but we could correct for the song difficulty (per instrument) based on the numbers on the wikipedia page.
Perhaps arrange a meeting or videoconference with the leader of each band to make sure everything is communicated and all questions are answered.
Limit the number of bands to about eight, in the interest of time, perhaps with a video "audition" if there are more that want to play.
Plan to have someone actually MC the event, with jokes and/or information during load screens (rather than me just making it up on the spur of the moment).
Have the middle screen (behind the band) showing the gameplay at all times, with the side screens switching live video of the players (perhaps with a mobile camera as well).
I'm sure that there are other things we could change as well, those are just the ones that I've come up with based on a few conversations with the other organizers and those who helped make this happen. And this is likely the first time there has been an event of this scale with this sort of group (school district employees). Hopefully it won't be the last.
One of the teams videoed their performance, so you can get some idea of what it the event was like.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
There are a number of companies that allow you to store files online for free ("file hosting services") for personal use, public sharing, or a combination of the two. These are sometime ad-supported and sometimes supported by a premium tier. Or else the company is just offering the service for good will and to build their brand.
Some that I've used and liked are:
Box.net - 1 GB, ad-supported, many features
SkyDrive - 5 GB, pretty easy to use, by Microsoft
DropBox - easiest to use once set up, automatic syncronization
YouSendIt - mostly for emailing large files (upload the file then email a link to the recipient)
Mozy - 2 GB, designed for data backup
There are, of course, others available.
I should also point out that your data are not necessarily secure as soon as you upload it somewhere else, such as to one of these sites. As well, there may not be any guarantees of availablility of your files, particularly with free services. That being said, I find these very useful.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Create, Edit, and Share Documents
Google Docs is like an online Office Suite. It includes a word processor, as well as spreadsheet and presentation programs. I've used it for student assignments (both that I assign and that they submit) and for sharing lab data amoung the students. Not quite as many features as Microsoft Office, but available from any computer with an Internet connection.
The interface of Google calendar is, imho, better than any other calendar software I've used. It also allows for private, public, and shared calendars. I've used it for class test schedule reminders (embedded in my website) as well as for staff supervision scheduling. You can even integrate your calendar with out district's mandated school site. And it syncronizes with my iPod Touch.
Quick and easy way to create feature-rich websites for your domain, of which my website is an example. Teams, clubs, and even individual students can create "sites" if it is enabled.
All of these features, and a few that I haven't mentioned, can be enabled or disabled as you see fit. Google Apps Education Edition is not without its shortcomings, as I've mentioned, but I do have to say that I'm a big fan.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I'll assume that you're using the official Adobe Acrobat Reader, even though I recommend Foxit Reader. The process is basically the same for for any pdf reader, to copy text just select the text (you may have to first choose the text select tool or the select tool). You can then paste it into whatever other document you are working on.
To copy a graphic of any sort you want the snapshot tool. With the snapshot tool you just put a box around whatever you want to copy and then paste it into your document. However I would recommend zooming in on the part you want to copy first, because the zoom level of the Acrobat Reader affects the resolution of the copied image.
Note that these tools should certainly not be used to violate copyright law.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
If you haven't seen Dr. Pausch's lecture, sit down and watch it. It is inspiring.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
So we'll assume that you have downloaded the video in Flash format. I started to write out the steps, but then decided that the wheel had been invented. So here are instructions from http://support.microsoft.com/kb/291875.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
This year you can look forward to a blog post here every week. There may be posts more often if necessary, but there should at least be new posts on Wednesdays.
As always, feel free to comment on any of the posts.
Monday, June 23, 2008
If you've accidentally deleted an email in FirstClass, you can undelete it as long as the "trash" hasn't been "emptied". I think the trash is emptied nightly.
In order to see what you've deleted, open your mailbox and choose "show deleted items" from the "View" menu. Find the message you want to undelete, right click it, and choose "Undelete".
You can then hide the deleted items by choosing that option under the view menu.
Have a good summer.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
- My desktop PC, of course
- wireless keyboard
- wired and a wireless mouse
- wireless presenter
- VGA video splitter
- VGA video switch
- VCR and DVD
- remotes for these, and for my projector
- speakers hooked up to the computer, DVD, and VCR
- USB DVD burner
- a stack of blank DVDs
- USB external hard drive
- USB webcam (not sure where that came from)
- Bamboo tablet
- Wii remote
- OLPC XO laptop
- three EeePCs (two that I'm setting up for other people)
- half a dozen USB flash drives
- two SD cards
- USB card reader/USB hub
- clock radio with an iPod dock
- a students' iPod touch (charging in the dock)
- and many cables, connected and disconnected
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
There is also a phone version that you may have heard of, the iPhone. I've seen a few of these around, but they are officially coming to Canada July 11th (the second generation iPhone). Everything I just wrote about, plus mobile phone and GPS.
We have gmail (Google email) accounts for all 1250 or so of our students, as well as gmail accounts for the staff. Students can use their to forward assignments home, collaborate with other students, and get in touch with their teachers outside of class. I have also had students use them to hand in assignments (either as attachements or as Google documents), as email reminders or class communications (I have a group email list for each of my classes), and I have a shared calendar of upcoming assessments.
We've made up a list of the pros and cons of using Google Apps Education Edition.
- No uptime guarantee
- Who owns your data?
- No control over spam filter, password policies, logs, blacklists, etc (some of this is available through the API)
- No directory lookup for >200 users
- Advertising (although targeted text ads only)
- Free (but there are paid options)
- Easy to setup and administrate
- Bulk account upload/update
- Good Spam Filtering
- Other Apps (calendar, docs, etc.)
- POP and IMAP
- Lots of space (>6 GB per user)
- API (provisioning, usage reports, SSO, etc.)
I recommend GAEE, and in fact there are quite a number of Universities implementing it as well. And hopefully we won't have to worry about Google going out of business.
Monday, June 9, 2008
That being said, the way I recommend to download YouTube videos is:
- find the video
- copy the ULR (uniform resource locator, aka the location) from the address bar of your web browser; probably the easiest way is the right click it and choose copy
- past the URL into the "Enter YouTube URL:" box on TechCrunch's Video Download Tool and click Get Video
- if you are using Internet Explorer, you'll probably see a yellow bar come up at the top of the page... click that to download the file
- you should now have the video file saved to where you had specified
Now, the video is in Flash video format, so you need some player like VLC to play it. If you are not able to install VLC because you are not the administrator of your computer, you can use the portable version.
That's it in a nutshell, comment if there's something I'm missing.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
To use the format painter, select the part that has the desired formatting and click the button on the toolbar that looks like a paint brush (or you can press the c key while holding down the Shift and Ctrl keys). Then select the part that you want formatted (if you used Shift-Ctrl-c, you then need to use Shift-Ctrl-v). You've now applied the desired formatting.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Because of the small form factor, they tend to have smaller-than-normal keyboards, but I find them easy to get used to, and certainly better then trying to type on a PDA or iPod Touch. The screens are also fairly small, but usable.
The other attractive part about these ULPCs is price. There are some very expensive ones, but for the most part they are $300 to $500. Which, in my opinion, is the most you should spend on a laptop. If you're looking for a portable computer, particularly to supplement a desktop back home, I recommend a cheap subnotebook.
Friday, May 30, 2008
That being said, though, for the high school level I am more in favor of tablets or, if you prefer and can afford them, touch screens. Tablets, such as the Wacom Bamboo, are nice because they are inexpensive ($80 and up), portable, durable, pressure-sensitive, and have a quick response to drawing motions. Touch screens have some of these features, but are certainly not inexpensive.
In my classroom, I use a tablet for drawing on PowerPoint presentations, among other things. I also use the free program ZoomIt. At some point I may get a wireless tablet, but for now I'm just using a long USB cable. I like the flexibility of being able to click through the prepared show, but also add or embellish as we go along. And my penmanship is improving.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Until that time, here's an outline of how we do it here.
- Get photos of all of your students. Hopefully the company that does your ID cards can provide you with this.
- Use the photo class lists export function from our student information system.
- Put the photos and the html files (from step two) into the same folder.
- Open the file PHOTO_COURSE_LIST.HTML
Easy as that.
Okay, it's not that easy. But it is possible. And useful.Edit: apparently other schools are accomplishing this differently... but that's as much as I know.
Monday, May 26, 2008
The RSS feeds that I made reference to in a previous post are also useful for subscribing to podcasts, that's what I mean by having a program download them automatically for you. Basically you need to find a podcast that looks interesting, and subscribe to it. To subscribe I recommend iTunes, but there are many other programs. Or you can listen to, or watch, them just by going to their web page.
Finding interesting podcasts may be an issue if you don't live online as much as I do. I'd recommend starting with CBC's lineup, I like Comedy Factory, Quirks and Quarks, and Search Engine. If you're into technology, try This Week in Tech. If you have kids, Jumping Monkeys. For Science, Science Update.
For video podcasts, try TED talks, Ask a Ninja for comedy, Tekzilla for technology, Experiment of the Week for Science, or many others.
Remember, you don't need an iPod, or even a portable media player to listen to or watch podcasts. You just need a computer and a connection to the Internet.
Friday, May 23, 2008
My preferred way is to have a video card with two outputs, which gives you the flexibility to display the same thing on both screens, or different things on each. This is how we use PowerPoint at my church; the PowerPoint show displays on the data projectors, but on the monitor you can edit the show, even the currently displayed slide.
The easier option is to use a VGA (or DVI) splitter or switch. VGA is the term for the video output from a computer (Video Graphics Array), although DVI (Digital Video Interface) is the newer standard. At any rate, you have the option of a splitter or a switch.
A splitter takes the output from your computer and displays it on both the monitor and the projector, usually amplifying the signal as well so that it doesn't get too dark. A switch allows you to change whether the computer output is displayed on the monitor or on the projector. Splitter amplifiers range in price from $20 to $200 or so, while switches are usually cheaper.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
You can "subscribe" to things like blogs or podcasts, using an RSS reader. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it is actually fairly simple. Let's say that you wanted to read the posts on a particular blog whenever the author posted a new one. You want to subscribe to the feed. There are a number of different ways to do this, we'll look at a couple.
Web Browsers: Internet Explorer 7, Firefox, Opera, and others.
Using this blog as an example, when you go to haytech.blogspot.com you should see a little orange icon appear on your brower. Click that, and it gives you options for subscribing to the feed.
Websites: Google Reader, My Yahoo, and many others
There are various ways to set this up, but basically you need to sign up for one of these, then get the link to the RSS feed and paste it into the appropriate place. This is a little more difficult, but means that you can access your feeds from any computer.
You can also usually subscribe to RSS feeds in your email program, desktop widgets, or dedicated newsreader programs.
Does this work for you? How do you usually subscribe to feeds? Post questions and answers in the comments.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
As well, I've heard good things about Blue Jeans Cable. Haven't ordered anything from them myself, though.
You can, of course, use a wireless keyboard and/or mouse, but I usually use a Targus Wireless Presenter. It seems that the model I have (AMP02CA) has been discontinued, but the new one has most of the same functions. Other companies make similar products, but I haven't used them. I have used one with a voice recorder, but the audio quality is terrible.
A number of people like the Microsoft Presenter Mouse, but it is a little more expensive and requires a bluetooth receiver.
Most data projectors also come with "Page Up" and "Page Down" buttons, all you have to do is connect a USB cable between the projector and the computer. This does require you to point the remote at the projector, but if it's in the ceiling that shouldn't be a problem.
Another option is to use a tablet, either wired or wireless, which I'll write more about in a future post.
If you want to get creative, you can use a Wii Remote, iPhone/iPod Touch, PDA, or a mobile phone headset. I'll have to try the Wiimote one.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I should also provide some disclaimers:
- I'm not affiliated with any company other than my school board.
- Views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer, or anyone else for that matter.
- When evaluating gadgets, my opinions are most influenced by price and usability.
- Talking about a product does not necessarily consitute an endorsement of that particular product, there may be better or cheaper options that I don't know about.
- Wherever possible, I recommend free and/or open source software. I think that's important.
- I will try to have up-to-date information, but let me know if there are things I should change, update, or re-evaluate.
- I'm very open to feedback, please comment.