Found an interesting product that might help to bring down the cost of technology to schools. We all know about Negroponte’s $100 laptop and hope that his vision does not leave students in the United States out of focus. But just in case it does, there is a relatively new company called nComputing who has a product that takes an old idea, server-based computing, and brings that to a school and classroom. What I really like about the product is that it uses simple technology and off-the-shelf computers to complete the task. It takes advantage of the under used CPU processor we all have on our desktops and delivers that to other workstations. The cost of their core product is about $99 and a workstation will need a monitor (recycled CRTs will work) and a keyboard. For districts looking to expand access to technology and especially access to the web you might want to take a look at nComputing’s solution. I found it quite intriguing. 

Frank

Wouldn’t you just love to have an unlimited supply of canvas and paint along with all the core tools artists use and never have to worry about wasting precious and costly materials? Here is a link to a wonderful program that allows to paint to your heart’s content. You can paint with oils, sketch with pencils, highlight with chalk and even give a crayon a try too. ArtRage2 even offers the ability to load tracing paper and when you make a mistake don’t worry, it has both undo and redo edit features.

 

ArtRage2 is a ton of fun for any age and the best part … it’s FREE!

 

Enjoy!

Frank

Blink  

Just finished Malcomb Gladwell’s book called Blink and it really kept me interested. What I found most intriguing was the concept that humans instinctively form opinions about a variety of things almost instantaneously. (I recommend that you follow this link at Amazon for a more complete review of the book.) What I like to do is correlate what I have found or read to how it may apply to instructional technology. As soon as I finished Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, I realized that I “Blink” all the time when it comes to instructional technology. Whenever I pick up new technology I always get a gut instinct about it. I am always asking will it make learning easier, at least for some students. What I found is that in the long run my “Blinks” are right most of the time. Not always, but most of the time. I bet you do it too. Think of the last time you picked up a new piece of technology say an Ipod or a new cell phone, maybe an electronic spell checker, whatever it was, What was your reaction when you first saw? The very instant you picked it up or even just looked at it. You can try it with anything. Pick something you have never seen before, maybe it is a disposable new coffee cup from the café, did you notice those internal feelings going through your body? If you did you just “Blinked”. I found it amazing that once I learned to focus on the way I “Blink” I realized I need to trust my instincts, especially those I make when it comes to instructional technology. If you get a chance, read the book.

 

Frank

I just finished reading a review on eWeek comparing the beta version of Internet Explorer 7 and the first alpha version of Firefox 2.0. Both have some nice new features and I am looking forward to the upgrades. Especially with IE finally adding a tab feature. What both browsers will include is the addition of RSS feeds built into the browser. Personally I really like using Firefox’s extension called infoRSS which provides a headline bar at the bottom of my screen with all my favorite news feeds.

 

While I will welcome the addition to IE and the upgrades in the new version of Firefox I see that both my cause many educators to take notice. The problem for schools comes in their ability to block inappropriate feeds. Many schools already do not allow RSS aggregators such as Google Reader, Bloglines, or RSS Bandit for student use because of their inability to filter the feeds. Once the new versions of IE and Firefox are released their new features may bring a whole new headache to IT departments. Hopefully they will include the option to simply turn off the feature.

This is a follow-up to my last post. I just finished reading eSchool News and a report from the CoSN conference held last week. (I was at the MACUL conference and will post an update hopefully soon. If only my job and my life did not get in the way.) Anyway, in my last post about what will tip the use of technology in education I said I believed it would be 1-1 computing. I guess I am not the only one who feels that way. In the article titled, “School leaders mull ed-tech evaluation” by, Laura Ascione, she comments that the second day of the conference opened on just that issue.

 

The second day's opening talks focused on one-to-one computing: how both teaching and learning would change if schools implement one-to-one computing initiatives, whether one-to-one computing is necessary, and some of the changes that must accompany it.”

 

 

If you get a chance to read the whole article it goes on to talk about how. “executive educators must focus on ensuring that technology is easily accessible for children who do not have desktop computers or laptops at home.” This lends itself to the same issue I discussed in the posting titled. This WILL Change Everything. I really do believe these two issues are critical if we expect students to use technology in school the way they will use it in their daily lives after they graduate.

 

Frank

      I went to the Blackboard World conference last week and their keynote speaker was a gentleman by the name of Malcolm Gladwell. If you have never heard of him, neither had I. He has written two books. One is titled “The Tipping Point” and the other is “Blink”.

 

I must admit. It is not often a speaker excites me enough that I run out and purchase their books. Malcolm was different. His speech reflected on the events, people, and/or situations that tip the direction of something. For example he discussed the events that tipped the crime rate to start falling in New York city. The key to his speech was that there are factors that do the tipping. I started reading Tipping Point during my first session and finished it on the plane ride home. What I took away from the book is that there must be something that will tip the use of technology in education.

 

What I am referring to is the common use of technology. Right now, in the classes I visit the best I see is a ratio of 1 computer to 5-7 students. In most cases it is much higher. I can’t help but believe that something will tip that ratio to 1-1 or 1-2. Maybe it will be Nicolas Negroponte’s $100 laptop or the new GQ desktop for $159 from Fry Electronics. Or, might it be those factors along with the fact that so many people in the United States are connected to the Internet. (According to Internet World Stats website, 68.1% of the US population is connected and from 2000 that represents a 108% increase.) I am not sure what it will be. My hope is that something will do the tipping. A ratio of 1-7 is not going to make it. Just imagine if your boss told you to share your computer with 7 people. I know it would not work for me and it is not working in classrooms today. It needs to change and my fingers are crossed that the tipping will happen soon.

freecalctitle.jpg

This free calculator by Moffsoft is the best I have seen. Turns out that I am not the only one who likes it. Moffsoft FreeCalc is a “Top 5” download at CNET/Download.com. My favorite feature is that it includes a history tape. The tape keeps track of your calculations as the are entered along with the ability to save and print the tape. This is really nice when you have multiple calculations and need a history of what you entered. FreeCalc also includes an “always on top” feature which will float the calculator on top of whatever you are working on along with“visible memory value” so that you always see what was added to the memory. There are many more features that make FreeCalc a great product. But the best part, it’s FREE!

Primo PDF

Need to convert a document to PDF? Primo PDF is a really good program that has easy to follow instructions and is very simple to use. There are no pop-up ads to deal with either. Takes a whole two minutes to download and you are ready to start converting your files or anything you would send to a printer. Oh, the best part, it’s FREE!

 

Enjoy,

 

Frank

 

Like most, I now have wonderful digital camera and take all my photos at the highest quality possible. I am sure that sounds familiar to many. Taking high quality photos is a good thing especially if you want to print large images or you want to zoom and crop your photos. The only problem is that if I want to share my photos the files sizes can get a bit overwhelming. I found a solution. It is a free program called Photo Gadget. On their website it states that Photo Gadget’s “purpose is to make the process of resizing many pictures at once incredibly easy”. I can honestly say it could not be easier.

Just go to their site, download the software and you are ready to go. The program has four default sizes, 800x600, 1024x768, 240x320 or 320x240 along with a custom size option. Once the program is downloaded, it fully integrates with Windows Explorer. You will not start Photo Gadget to get it to work. Instead, find the folder with your images, highlight the ones you want resized and right-click. One of the options will be “Photo Gadget Picture Resize”. Just pick your image size and the location you want to save the images to and in an instant they will be saved in the size you selected. You even have the option of overwriting the originals. Using Photo Gadget to resize your images could not be easier or faster.

Enjoy!

Frank

Sage Advice, great idea especially when the advice is limited to 25-100 words. You can find these words of wisdom for educators at Edutopia. Edutopia is the George Lucas Educational Foundation's on-line magazine that deals with education innovation and reform. Besides their great articles they always are looking for reader feedback, comments and participation. They have started a new feature called Sage Advice, where the reader gets to suggest solutions to the challenges educators face every day. I like their quote, “Think of a reverse Dear Abby.”

The last three topics have included;

  • What works to ensure that middle school and high school students are proficient in reading and writing?

  • What's the best way to stay healthy in a class full of sniffling children?

  • How do you successfully accommodate English-language learners in the classroom

This month the topic is, “How do you keep parents involved in their child's education?” You can send your 25- to 100-words of wisdom to sage@edutopia.org. Take a few minutes and check out Sage Advice. Whether you want to share your wisdom or read what others have said it will be worth your time.

Frank

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