Thursday, December 22, 2005

FREE Music Software from Sony

Garage Band is outstanding music creation software for Apple users. Windows PC users like me wish there was something similar for us. Well, there's something close, and best of all there's a FREE version available from Sony's website.

ACID® XPress 5.0 allows you to create loop based music, similar to Garage Band. The software includes several "show me how" tutorials to get you up and composing in no time. You'll also find many free sample mixes and loops to download from Sony's ACIDPlanet.

In my brief experience with the software, the only limitations I've noticed are a limit of 10 tracks, and 20 renders to mp3. This would be an excellent opportunity for students to create their own music to accompany a digital video, PowerPoint, or other project.

An upgrade to the full Academic version of the software costs about $45.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bloglines Tip of the Day

While reading Will Richardson's blog I came across this excellent tip from Steve Dembo's Teach42 blog:
If you go into Bloglines, click on My Feeds and scroll down to the bottom of the left hand frame, you’ll see a link called “Tell a friend”. Clicking on it allows you to enter in a list of email addresses and to pick among blogs you currently subscribe to. It will send out an email with a link to bloglines that will allow someone to register a new account at bloglines prepopulated with your chosen blogs!

WOW! Had I only known about this about 12 hours ago!!! But it's still not too late! If you attended the Technology Summit and you haven't yet set up a Bloglines account, I can send you an email that will enable you to start your very own account with all of my RSS feeds. Just send ME an email and I'll get going on this ASAP.

OR you can do the same thing for a friend or colleague to tell THEM about this cool new technology.

Technology Summit

My thanks to the 25 or so elementary teachers who attended today's Technology Summit at the Monroe County ISD.

I hope you will find the time to create your own blog (Blogger), and that you find and subscribe to many worthwhile RSS feeds in Bloglines.

Please share your comments with me in the EdTech Update blog, and allow me to post links to your blogs on this one.

Here are links to the interactive websites and RSS and blogging sites we explored today. Let me know of other interesting websites that you have discovered so that I may share them.

Remember, all of us are better than any of us. Let's not reinvent the wheel!

The First Thanksgiving

Discover what REALLY happened at the first Thanksgiving by going to Plimoth Plantation's you are the Historian website.

This highly interactive site offers students a chance to play history detective by examining evidence including the text from a letter written by Edward Winslow in 1621, the only eyewitness account still in existence.

By exploring this site you can learn what foods were served, how many people attended, and many of the myths that are still assumed to be true nearly 400 years later.

There's also a printable glossary, and an EXCELLENT teacher's guide with several blackline masters.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Google Earth tips

While reading the Google Earth Community bulletin board I came across a post that recommended this website:

The Earth Explorer website has posted pictures of hundreds of locations from around the world. Even better, you can then open the site in Google Earth, Google Maps, MSN VirtualEarth, TerraServer, or NASA World Wind by clicking the appropriate hyperlink.

A "KML" file loads the selected site in Google Earth (GE). What a time saver! It can be very difficult to find what you're looking for in GE, kind of like the proverbial needle in a haystack!

Here's a GE picture of one of my favorite places in Detroit...Comerica Park.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sudoku is addictive!

Have you discovered Sudoku? I first saw these puzzles in the newspaper about a month ago. They require no math skills, only logic to place the numbers 1 to 9 in each row, column, and 3X3 grid only once. I think these would be a great brain teaser for any classroom. They really are addictive!

There's a great website, The Daily SuDoku, with a new printable puzzle every day. You can also print out the archived puzzles. They even have a Sudoku for kids page with easier puzzles, and downloadable blank grids in PDF.

You can have puzzles emailed to you each day, or subscribe to the RSS feed. Or you can check back here each day, because I've embedded the HTML code that will display their daily puzzle right here on the EdTech Update (with their permission of course!)

But wait! There's more!!! If you would like to try Sudoku on your Palm handheld computer, there is a freeware version (although the developer is accepting donations) available from Andrew Gregory's website.

An online Sudoku Flash tutorial is available at:

[print version]

Visit for more puzzles, solutions, hints, books and other resources.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

FREE Microsoft Photo Story Software

Thanks to David Jakes' excellent blog, The Strength of Weak Ties, I learned about some free software that tries its best to be a Windows alternative to Apple's iPhoto. It's called Photo Story 3 for Windows. Here's the overview taken from the Microsoft website:

Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or a Windows Mobile–based portable device.

Digital storytelling is HUGE! Apple has made this very easy with the outstanding iLife software for Macs. Now PC users have an alternative to the free Windows Movie Maker software. Please observe the following system requirements: Windows Genuine Advantage, Microsoft Windows Media Player 10, Microsoft DirectX 9.0

I downloaded and installed the software and was able to create a 2:30 slideshow with zooming, panning and background music (generated by the software!) in about 20 minutes. I found the software very intuitive and very user friendly. You can render a movie for playback on a computer or handheld Windows device, or even in a smaller format that's perfect for emailing. Bravo Microsoft!

You can read David's review of the software by clicking the link to his blog above.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I want to...

I came across this helpful website while reading the excellent CNET blog.

It's called "I want to- a page of utilities that help you do stuff you want to" created by Phil Bradley.

The categories of utilities include: Share stuff, Manage myself more effectively, Find things that I'd enjoy, Do things with web sites, Create tutorials, Do a bunch of other stuff!

There are DOZENS of links to practical online resources that will help you do the stuff you want to do but didn't know how to or where to go. (Does that last sentence make sense?)

For example: you can create an online, sharable spreadsheet at Numsum. You can set up online bookmarks that are accessible from any computer at Furl. Create tutorials with Wink. Some really cool technology related STUFF that you may have heard about but had no idea how to get started.

Online Interactive Sky Chart

Jeff N, a science teacher at one of our county schools, showed me this great website today: Sky and Telescope Magazine's Interactive Sky Chart. Here is the description from their website:

Create a custom naked-eye map of the whole sky for any place
on Earth, at any time of day or night, on any date from 1600 to 2400. Our Interactive Sky Chart works in most Java-enabled Web browsers.

You can enter the location by zip code, latitude and longitude, or city and country, then select the date and time and get an interactive sky chart that shows the position of stars and planets. Best of all, you can then create and print a PDF that will help you to find these celestial objects in the night time sky in your own backyard!

Because it gets dark so early, this is the perfect time of year to help elementary students learn about the Moon and stars. Here is a "Real World Context" from the Michigan Curriculum Framework:
Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/Elementary/Benchmark 2: Outdoor observation of the Sun’s and stars’ motions during the night and the Moon’s motions over several days
To avoid any browser "issues" be sure to check out the extensive help files posted on the Sky and Telescope website.

Tonight's Sky over Toledo, Ohio

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Free Beta Version of Vlog It! Software

Serious Magic, creators of the awesome Visual Communicator video editing software, are beta testing Vlog It!, which allows you to create a video blog. You can download the software from the Vlog It! page.

After downloading the software, you will need to acquire an activation key code from Serious Magic. Upon activation the Vlog It! software will run for 16 days. You will also receive a free trial account to a hosting site where your Vlogs will be uploaded.

Below is a Vlog of photos I took in Denver this past week. I am somewhat familiar with the Visual Communicator interface, so this very basic Vlog took only a few minutes to drag and drop the photos, add the text, and then to render and upload the completed project.

Update: Since my free trial has expired I have removed the link to my Vlog.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Using Science & Math to Solve REAL Problems

eCYBERMISSION, sponsored by the U.S. Army, is an online science, math and technology competition for students in grades 6 through 9.

Your team will propose a solution to a real problem in your community and compete for regional and national awards. eCYBERMISSION challenges you to explore how science, math and technology work in your world.

Teams consist or 3 or 4 students in the same grade, and one advisor. Your team must register at the website by December 12, 2005. Regional and National awards are quite generous! Thousands of dollars in U.S. Savings Bonds for each student on the team!!

Your team will use the Scientific Method to find a solution in one of four Mission Challenges:

  • Sports & Recreation
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Environment
  • Health & Safety

You can even see winning entries from previous competitions here.

The eCYBERMISSION website URL is:

Denver Convention Center

Tim Wilson, one of the presenters at the NSBA T+L2 conference, has posted a couple of great pictures on his page of a giant bear statue that appears to be looking through the glass walls of the Denver Convention Center.

Read about the NSBA T+L2 conference sessions

I have created a couple of posts for the NSBA T+L2 conference blog. If you'd like to read about several of the conference sessions as reported by the conference "blog team" go to:

Podcasting Resources

Although I didn't get to hear Gary Stager speak about 21st century literacy, I did attend his session entitled "A Joyful Noise-- Digital Audio Across the Curriculum."

He has posted an EXTENSIVE list of podcasting resources at
If you've heard about podcasting but aren't really sure about what it is and what it can do, I suggest you check out Gary's website. He's done all the hard work in aggregating the links, we just have to click and read.

Thank you Gary! You're still my hero.

Interactive Cloning Website

While reading the blog I learned about the Click and Clone website at the University of Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center. At this highly interactive site, you'll click on animated drawings of Mimi the mouse, petri dishes, cells, and others as you proceed through a six step process to create a "Mini Mimi." This site reminds me a lot of Brain Pop.

There are lots of great vocabulary words like enucleated and somatic cell. The whole process takes only a few minutes and is based on actual research conducted at the University of Hawaii in 1998.

I then browsed the Michigan Curriculum Framework using MI CLiMB (available online at and discovered this suggested assessment and extension for a lesson on cloning:

Assessment Example
With a partner, students will write a story in which a student becomes a nitrogen base. Each pair of students will explain the events, step by step, that happen to the student (nitrogen base) from the beginning to the end of DNA replication. Each pair of students will use their knowledge of this scientific process and appropriate scientific vocabulary in the story.

1. Research cloning and present a speech explaining reasons for or against human cloning.
2. Research gene manipulation and present a speech explaining reasons for or against gene manipulation.)

There are even a few videos on unitedstreaming that could be used to further explain the cloning process.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Greetings from Denver!

I'm attending and presenting at the NSBA T+L2 conference in Denver, Colorado. I'm also a member of the NSBA "blog team." I'll be contributing summaries of the conference sessions that I am attending, along with 11 other bloggers from Maine to Alaska. Although I haven't been blogging very long, I thought this would be a great opportunity for professional growth.

I'll be attending a session by Gary Stager tomorrow at 7:30 AM entitled "21st Century Literacy: The Time is NOW". I've read lots of articles and a book or two by Gary but I've never seen him in person before. Should be a great session on a timely topic.

I checked into the Holiday Inn this evening and was treated to this SPECTACULAR view of the conference center and the Rocky Mountains that I thought I'd share with you.

P.S.- Stager didn't present the session this morning, and it wasn't on 21st century literacy! Boy was I disappointed!

Friday, October 14, 2005

FREE Data Eraser Software

UPDATE: There is an excellent article on the topic of data destruction posted on the New York Times technology page:

Before selling, donating, or disposing of an old computer you need to first destroy your old data files. Using a variety of online resources, including PC World, SmartComputing, and CNET, I have located a highly rated piece of freeware called Eraser 5.7 by Heidi Computer Ltd.

This software allows Windows users to completely delete AND overwrite sensitive data on their computer's hard drive.

The average computer user assumes that emptying the recycle bin eliminates data forever, but those with sinister intentions know how to recover the deleted files. According to data cited in a ZDNet article, 7 out of 10 hard drives purchased on eBay still had readable data on them!

The physical location of the data on the hard drive must be overwritten and rewritten SEVERAL TIMES with a random pattern of zeroes and ones for it to be erased and unrecoverable.

You may download the free software from the Eraser website:

Read CNET's review of Eraser here.

If your old computer no longer works, the data on the hard drive is still vulnerable! You can physically destroy the hard drive or use a demagnetizer (known as "degaussing").

Recycle old computers/electronics at Goodwill

Goodwill Industries and Dell have joined forces in a new computer and electronics recycling program called "Reconnect."

Reconnect allows FREE consumer drop-off of unwanted electronic devices that will be responsibly recycled OR refurbished and reused at participating Goodwill stores and drop-off sites.

According to the Reconnect website, you are responsible for removing data from your computer before dropping it off. There are many freeware and shareware programs that will do this. (I'll find a few and share them in a future post)

You will also find a list of participating Michigan Goodwill stores and drop-off locations on the Reconnect website:
While there be sure to check out the FAQs to see what may be donated.

In addition to helping our environment, proceeds will assist Goodwill Industries with its many community programs. AND, you may even be able to take a tax deduction!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Fun Science Experiments

Science teachers looking for some fun experiments to demonstrate in class need to look no further than Steve Spangler's outstanding website.

You'll find DOZENS of experiments involving common household objects guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of your students. The experiments are sorted into various categories such as magnetism, light and sound, air, electricity, density, forces and motion and more.

He also explains the science behind each experiment so that once you've captured your students attention and imagination you can do a little teaching too.

Steve Spangler has been featured on a Denver television station many times, and you can watch streaming video of several of his experiments before trying it in your own classroom.

Steve has an entire section devoted to Halloween themed experiments. Be sure to check out the exploding pumpkin video!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

StarOffice 8 now available from Sun!

The most recent version of StarOffice is now available for Windows and Linux users. Educators and students can download the software for free after creating a free account at the Sun website.

StarOffice is a full featured office suite: word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database applications. Files are Microsoft Office compatible.

There's even an online StarOffice tutorial for kids. There are separate tutorials for primary, elementary, junior high and high school students.

Mac users will need to visit

Online Office Suites

Having read several recent articles and blog posts about online office suites, I can now see the proverbial "writing on the wall." CNET's reports that Sun and Google will announce a "collaborative effort" TODAY! Sun has developed the open source Open Office suite and the commercially available Star Office. Could it be that Google will take either of these applications online, and make them freely available to anyone? Stay tuned!

We all know that Microsoft Office is the industry standard for office suites, but at a price point that many schools are finding difficult to afford. Several more affordable office suites promise Microsoft Office compatibility and these are becoming increasingly popular:

You can download the free Open Office here.

NewsForge has a review of Star Office 8 posted on their website. Schools can license Star Office for $25 and this includes allowing students to install the software on their home computers!

For links to several currently available online office suites, see Richard McManus' ZD Net Blog.

UPDATE from the Sun Microsystems website:

The agreement between Sun and Google also kicks off further collaboration between the companies on projects like, the open source productivity suite that is the world's leading suite on the Solaris Operating System (Solaris OS) and Linux--and the leading alternative suite on Microsoft Windows.

(It's the handwriting on the wall! Do you see it too?)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Wayne State University report on e-learning

Thanks to Mike Wendland's Tech Today column in the Freep (Detroit Free Press) I learned about the recently completed 6 month study on e-learning conducted by Wayne State University.

The 94 page (yikes!) report, written by former Michigan state superintendent Tom Watkins, has a long list of recommendations for Michigan students and educators regarding e-learning. He says:
Some of the recommendations are bolder than others. Some are more plausible and do-able than others. Some will require changes in vision, imagination, and attitude; others will require changes in the law and bold leadership. All are offered to serve as a catalyst for productive change for our students and teachers.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Technology Enhanced Lesson Plans

Over 40 Michigan educators convened over the summer to create dozens of technology enhanced lesson plans.

In addition to the lesson plans, this website contains links to other sites that will be especially helpful to Michigan educators--links to the new "METS" (Michigan Educational Technology Standards), the Michigan Curriculum Framework, and the "GLCE" (Grade Level Content Expectations, aka the 'glicks').

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see links to the lesson plans, organized by the content areas of ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Technology.

And be sure to take a look at the list of educators who developed the lessons.

Hands on Banking Website

I picked up the fall Consumer Informaton Catalog from the credit union today and discovered a free CD called "Hands on Banking." Then I checked out the CIC website and found that "Hands on Banking" is available on the web!

Wow! What a thorough tutorial on banking, budgeting, and personal finance in general. The site is available in both English and Spanish, and there are four interactive tutorials to choose from: Kids (4th-5th grade), Teens (6th-8th grade), High School, and Adults.

There are downloadable teachers' guides for each level and even an online or downloadable financial dictionary. The site is closed captioned, and the narration may be turned off if desired.

Under "User Options" you'll also find a loan calculator and a savings calculator to help you with "what if" questions.

According to the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the average high school student answered only 52.3 percent of questions correctly on their 2004 survey! You can read the complete press release in Word format here.

Students love money! And I'm sure they'd love learning about personal finance with interactive sites like those listed above.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office

This free* add-on to Microsoft Office is long overdue. Here is the description from Microsoft's website:

Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office provides students and educators with new education-specific tools for their familiar Office applications. Learning Essentials includes curriculum-based templates and toolbars for Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentation graphics program, and Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet software, plus academic tutorials from leading education publishers. Learning Essentials helps students get started, stay organized, and successfully complete high-quality assignments. And for educators, Learning Essentials can help them easily create effective instructional resources, complete administrative tasks, and implement new teaching strategies.

Learn more about it on the Microsoft website.

*Learning Essentials is FREE with Microsoft Office volume academic licensing.

You can download a Flash demo of Learning Essentials here. At first glance, this looks like a nice addition to Office. I've only downloaded and watched the demo, however, and I'd really like to "test drive" the actual product. It looks very promising.

FREE LEGO Digital Designer Software

This free software is available for both Mac and Windows. The LEGO Digital Designer software allows you to create virtual LEGO models, and then to upload and share your creations with other designers on the LEGO website. Likewise, you can download models from other designers.

The software also keeps track of the pieces needed to actually build your model, and you can then purchase the bricks you need from the LEGO online store.

There are even 6 brief tutorials on such topics as how to build a flat roof, and how to build a basic house or a basic car.

Sure, it may not be as much fun as the real thing, but it's a lot easier to clean up and you'll never step on any LEGO pieces with your bare feet.

The picture is a car created by Julian Li, a 28-year old from Hong Kong. I downloaded this car from the LEGO site and took a screen shot of it in the LEGO Digital Designer Software.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Free Online Music Mixer Creates MP3s!

Don't laugh, but while reading my cereal box this morning I learned about the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Music Mixer.

This site allows you to play DJ and create your own music mix by using 6 of the over 50 available loops with fun names like "what up", "crazykeyz" and "glugglug."

If you choose to register for the site (email address required), you will be able to save your mixes online and, best of all, you can download an MP3 of your creations!

Although not as sophisticated as GarageBand, CTC Music Mixer is a lot of fun and your students will be able to create their own music to accompany a classroom multimedia presentation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Free Streaming Video from PBS

While browsing ISTE's website I came across a link to PBS' American Field Guide. There are over 1400 streaming video clips in either Real Player or Windows Media Player format.

You may browse the categories-- animals, ecosystems, human history, livelihoods, earth & space, plants, public policy and recreation-- or conduct a keyword search and even limit your search by state.

In the Teacher Resources section you will find several "Units of Inquiry" intended for middle school or high school students. Topics include: fires, floods, flowers and plants, insects, landfills, mammals and others. Each unit includes lesson plans, content standards, downloadable documents, and links to the featured video clips for each activity in the unit.

The streaming videos pop up in a small window, but right-clicking on a Windows Media Player video will allow you to enlarge it to full screen. (I don't have Real Player, but I assume it will also enlarge the video.)

If your school is fortunate to have a unitedstreaming subscription you may find similar content in their collection, but this free service from PBS is definitely worth a look.

P.S.- I just discovered you can email a link to a specific clip! Teachers with a classroom website would be able to copy the URL and link directly to a video clip for students to access from home.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Internet Safety Site

Primary and Elementary students will enjoy learning about Internet safety from Faux Paw the Techno Cat. From the home page students will select their state, and then be taken to a screen with a short printed greeting from the "first lady" or "first gentleman" of that state.

There is a 5-10 minute Looney Toons style cartoon movie created by Brigham Young University that may be streamed or downloaded from the site. Or if you prefer, the story is also presented as an online book, and in a printable format.

Teachers may also download a worksheet, a discussion guide and vocabulary quiz and other printables to use in conjunction with the cartoon. There are even Faux Paw screensavers and wallpaper, and a fun & games section for kids.

This important information on Internet safety is presented in a way that is non-threatening to elementary age students.

Classroom Clipart and Photos

Rather than sending your students to Google to search for images (and having to cross your fingers and hold your breath that nothing inappropriate pops up), have them use Classroom Clipart where they will be able to choose from thousands of classroom appropriate pictures and clip art images.

Scroll to the bottom of their home page to the pictures of the week section and you can click on a link to dozens of pictures from Hurricane Katrina.

Please observe these terms of use:
These images can be used solely EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES in the K-12 classroom. This means that K-12 students may use these images for school projects and reports. Images in the Classroom Clipart collection may be used by teachers and students in print, multimedia, and video productions. Uses include, school projects, school webpages, school contests, and for school fund raising activities. These images are watermarked. A Classroom Clipart Logo/Copyright must be included and must not be removed from the image. When using an image on a webpage the image must include this link "Image Provided by Classroom Clipart"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Orleans Satellite Imagery on Google Maps

Google Maps ( has just posted recent satellite imagery of New Orleans that allows the user to compare sections of the city pre- and post-Katrina.

There is an update link on the right side of the Google Maps home page, or you may type New Orleans in the search box.

To view the city pre-Katrina click on the satellite button. There is a red Katrina button that will display the same area post-Katrina.

I have posted a picture of the Superdome.

Outstanding Egyptology Site- Theban Mapping Project

I came across this site while reading the Christian Science Monitor's Sci/Tech RSS feed. The Theban Mapping Project is a very comprehensive and highly interactive site for anyone wanting to learn about Egyptology.

There are two main sections to the site: The Atlas of the Valley of the Kings features over 2000 images, interactive models of the tombs, 65 narrated tours, and a 3D rendering of one of the tombs. WOW! I could easily spend hours exploring this section.

The Atlas of the Theban Necropolis allows users a Google Earth-like view of the entire archaeological site using aerial photos that were taken back in 1979. You can zoom in and out, and mouse-over to see the name of each site, but clicking on the site for some reason did not provide the more detailed description that was supposed to occur. Until the additional interactivity is added, I believe most students and teachers will enjoy the first section more.

You'll also find a user guide, glossary, bibliography, timeline, links to additional Egyptology sites, and even information on becoming an Egyptologist!

I hope I have an opportunity to see these ancient sites in person someday. But until then I will have to enjoy a virtual visit at

For a more detailed description of this outstanding website, read the Christian Science Monitor article by Jim Regan here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Emergency Preparedness

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I can't even begin to imagine what the thousands of survivors have to deal with in the aftermath. I, like many Americans, would not know where to go, or what to do during the recovery process. A big thank you to the Librarians Index to the Internet ( for providing a link to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) "Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness."

This 21 MB PDF file (204 pages!) includes sections on floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms and lightning, winter storms and extreme cold, extreme heat, earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and mudslides, tsunamis, fires, hazardous materials, household chemical emergencies, nuclear power plant disasters, and terrorism.

This is, without a doubt, unpleasant reading material, but so very necessary to our very survival in the face of disaster, either natural or man-made.

FEMA also has sites for teachers, parents and kids with lesson plans, activities and many links to helpful websites that may be more age appropriate. Perhaps all teachers could use the Hurricane Katrina disaster as a teachable moment using these resources, and the thousands of pictures and first hand accounts that are already available on the Internet.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Technology in Schools Articles

Thanks to a post by ScuttleMonkey on Slashdot I learned of a three part series of articles by Amy Hetzner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal on the future of technology in schools (you may need to register for the MJS site to be able to access the articles).

  • Is technology in schools the future or just a fad?
  • Schools must weigh costs vs. benefits of technology
  • Some push schools to put computers in front of all students
GOOD STUFF! Check it out.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

FREE Online Legal guide for Bloggers

While reading Wesley Fryer's blog, "Moving at the Speed of Creativity," I found a link to a FREE "Legal Guide for Bloggers" published online by EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF page says it is "defending freedom in the digital world."

Look for the "Print this guide" link on the lower left side of the page. Since I'm a newbie to the world of blogging, this looks like interesting (and practical) reading material.

Thank you Wesley for finding and sharing this link.

Free Anti-virus software

While reading the excellent Christian Science Monitor Sci/Tech page I came across this interesting tidbit:

'An unprotected computer running Windows XP survives an average of 26 minutes on the Internet before hackers identify it as vulnerable.'
--The SANS Institute, a cooperative Internet security organization

WOW! It's even worse than I thought! You can read the entire article here.

If you haven't yet invested in anti-virus software I thought you might be interested to know that there are some excellent free products that may be downloaded. These are intended for HOME use only, and ARE NOT to be distributed to an entire school or business.

AVG Anti-Virus

Avast 4 Home

If you think your computer is already infected, try McAfee's AVERT Stinger.

And remember, use just one anti-virus software product and keep it updated to provide protection against the latest mutations and variations that occur almost daily.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

This has nothing to do with education, but everything to do with educators. All US residents are entitled to a FREE credit report from the three major credit bureaus at (not to be confused with the commercial site

When I mentioned in a Spring workshop on Viruses, Spyware & Spoofs, probably 90% of the teachers in the room had no idea what I was talking about. They grabbed their pens and wrote the URL down like it was going to be on a final exam!

Since everyone is concerned about identity theft, it is extremely important to check one's credit reports for accuracy. When I checked mine, I discovered I was mistakenly listed as having several joint credit card accounts with someone in Texas whose name was not even close to my own! Fortunately for me this was not identity theft, nor did it affect my credit rating since the folks in Texas paid their (our?) credit cards on time and were not over their limits. With one toll free phone call to the credit bureau my file was cleaned up and I received an updated, corrected credit report by mail. WHEW!

It takes about 15 minutes to jump through all the hoops and print your credit reports from all three bureaus. You'll need to confirm your identity by answering some multiple choice questions about your mortgage and other loans you've recently taken out so you may want to have the necessary paperwork handy if you haven't committed this info to memory.

Helpful hint: instead of immediately printing your credit reports on paper, print it to a PDF and save it on your computer. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat you can download the free PrimoPDF software I raved about in a previous post.

This program was rolled out in geographic stages so as not to overwhelm the system. Western, Midwestern and Southern states may request their free credit reports immediately. Residents of Eastern states must wait until September 1.

MoMA strikes again!

After raving about the Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) Cezanne and Pissarro online exhibit in a previous post, I started exploring the MoMA education website and found a really fun site for elementary students called "Destination Modern Art." It's very colorful and highly interactive!

The premise of this site is that a friendly alien is traveling to Earth to learn about modern art. His spaceship lands at MoMA and the user guides him through the museum to interact with several exhibits including Van Gogh's "A Starry Night" shown above.


Museum of Modern Art:

Art Appreciation 101

I'm not an artist, nor an art teacher, but even I am impressed by the beautiful online exhibit which compares the works of Cezanne and Pissarro.

I came across this site while reading the Christian Science Monitor's Sci/Tech RSS feed. Here's an excerpt from "The friendship that changed painting":

After a brief Splash Page introduction (and a warning about file sizes), the Flash-based exhibition opens into a new window - with a rotating handful of paired paintings and an introduction to the site by Joachim Pissarro. (Curator of the exhibit and great-grandson of Camille.) Compared to the roughly 80 paintings in the physical exhibit, the website makes 48 "selected works" available for online perusal, accessible through three interactive -and interwoven- interfaces.

You can read the entire article here.

I will be sharing this site with a group of Art teachers I'll be working with tomorrow. I hope you'll show it to art lovers and teachers that you know.

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool Online

Here we go again. With the recent "Zotob" worm that is making the rounds, we Windows users are probably in for another flurry of activity as hackers try to out do each other and impress us with their "skills."

Through CNET I learned of an online tool that will check for and remove "malicious software" from your Windows XP, 2000 or Server 2003 computer.

The scan took about a minute on my XP machine and the good news for me is that it's clean. At least for now!

You can also download the tool from Microsoft's website.

Online Tutorial Movies for Palm Handhelds

Atomic Learning has 23 FREE tutorial movies for Palm handheld computers on their website. These QuickTime movies are between 1 and 5 minutes in length and are perfect for those new to Palms, or for those who can't remember how to do a certain task such as changing the font size or sound preferences.

If you are an Atomic Learning subscriber you have access to 26 more movies for Palms. I really enjoy using Atomic Learning. Because the tutorials are in a video format with narration they are much easier to understand than reading the same information in a PDF, or in a user manual or book.

Remember those infomercials for the video professor CDs? That guy was ahead of his time (he's been around for 18 years according to their website). The rest of us have finally caught up with him. This on-demand, just-in-time type training is finally catching on.

While you're at the Atomic Learning website be sure to check out their other free video tutorials on a wide variety of software applications (both Mac and Windows), and sign up for a free trial account.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Free PowerPoint Templates

The good people at TechSmith, makers of the outstanding Camtasia Studio and SnagIt software, have posted HUNDREDS of free PowerPoint templates on their website.

If you're burnt out on the pre-installed templates on your computer I encourage you to browse the many colorful templates on TechSmith's site. Some are obviously better than others, but I'm sure you'll find several that you'll enjoy adding to your collection:

While you're there you can download fully functioning 30 day free trials of their excellent, award-winning software.

20,000+ Public Domain Digital Photos

The USDA Online Photography Center has beautiful digital photos that may be downloaded free! The photos are organized into several galleries such as Animals, Crops, Forestry, Historical, Nutrition, People, Transportation, Washington DC. and more. (Scroll to the bottom of the USDA web page to see the complete list of categories)

The picture I've included is from the Historical gallery and was taken in 1941 in New Hampshire. The caption reads: "The Blue School teacher is a Massachusetts girl, new this year. She boards with the Chandlers for $7.50 a week, receives an annual salary of $800. Most of Landaff teachers don't stay on since if they are well qualified, they can get better paying jobs elsewhere. "

Beautiful scenery, wildlife photos, all taken by professional photographers, and all in the public domain. Check it out for yourself:

Monday, August 15, 2005

PdaReach for Palm Zires, Tungstens, Treos

If you would like to display and control your Palm Zire, Tungsten or Treo from your computer have I got a solution for you! PdaReach is only $24 and it's worth every penny! I just learned about it through a Palm Education Training Coordinator bulletin board.

I have used a Margi Presenter to Go to connect my Palm handheld to a projector. While it works great with my m130 and Tungsten E, the Margi PTG is incompatible with my Zire 72. Here is a very economical solution that works!

"Ever dream of controlling your Palm Handheld directly from your PC? With PdaReach now it is possible! All you need to do is just connect your PDA to your PC with the HotSync cable, and PdaReach will take care of the rest to bring you the what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience live on the PC monitor."

Much easier to use than the Palm Emulator! The photo is a screen capture of my Tungsten E. Check out the PdaReach website at:

Saturday, August 13, 2005

PrimoPDF-- Free PDF conversion software

Although I couldn't find the relevant statistics to back me up, I think it's safe to say that almost every computer has the free Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. Far fewer computers have the means to convert documents to PDF (portable document format) using Adobe Acrobat or some other software. (Those of you who understand PDF may now skip to the next paragraph.) PDF allows computer users to exchange documents electronically even if they don't have the same software. So if I have Microsoft Word and you don't, I can't email you a Word document because you wouldn't be able to open it. But, I can convert my Word document to a PDF and then you'd be able to open it, see it and print it on your computer, assuming your computer is one of the 99.9% that have Acrobat Reader.

I have Adobe Acrobat at work and I LOVE it! It has all the "bells and whistles" that I need and use, and other features that I may never even understand let alone use. But for many people Adobe Acrobat is overkill. It's like buying a Ferrari that you can only drive 65 on the Interstate. I've discovered a wonderful FREE PDF converter-- PrimoPDF at:

Here's a promotional blurb from their website:

-FREE PDF Converter - not a trial version.
-Print to PDF from virtually any application.
-Create PDF output optmized for print, screen, ebook, or prepress.
-No annoying pop-up ads, no registration requirement - no catch!

The site features a support forum, and a user manual that may be viewed online or downloaded as a-- what else-- PDF.

Friday, August 12, 2005

My first Cmap

MyPyramid software for handheld computers has made their MyPyramid food guidance software for handheld computers available for FREE from their website:
The software puts the newly revised USDA food pyramid into the palm of your hand!
"Receive personalized guidance on what and how much food to eat from each food group by simply entering your age, gender and physical activity level."
It's possible to extract the files and to install them using the Palm Installer by following the instructions posted at--

You may also use MyPyramid on the USDA website:

FREE concept mapping software

While participating in a unitedstreaming "webinar" I learned of CMAP concept mapping software. Here is the description of their software from their website:
"The CmapTools program empowers users to construct, navigate, share and criticize knowledge models represented as concept maps. It allows users to, among many other features, construct their Cmaps in their personal computer, share them on servers (CmapServers) anywhere on the Internet, link their Cmaps to other Cmaps on servers, automatically create web pages of their concept maps on servers, edit their maps synchronously (at the same time) with other users on the Internet, and search the web for information relevant to a concept map."

The software is FREE for educational or commercial use and it is available for Windows, OSX, and Linux. I've just downloaded the software this morning and I'll try to give you my first impressions in a future post.

The Cmap URL is:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Google Earth-- must have software!

I am blown away by Google Earth! ( Google calls it "a 3D interface to the planet."

This FREE software requires a high speed Internet connection. Using satellite imagery, Google Earth allows the user to zoom in on virtually any location on the planet. You can type in a city name, a zip code, or address and fly away! Here's a picture I just took of the Hoover Dam.

I highly recommend the Google Earth Community bulletin board ( for all new users. You can download placemarks to famous world landmarks and share ideas for integrating this software in your classroom with other educators (and some very savvy students).

Sorry Mac users, but Google Earth is not available for your computer yet, but Google says they're working on it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Share this site with a K-1 teacher is the site "Where children have fun learning to read" and K-1 teachers have fun downloading and printing the many outstanding FREE resources!

There are many online activities for students and lots of printables for teachers and parents. You may also order classroom quantities of their printed materials for only 50 cents per copy with no shipping charges and free Starfall pencils for your students.

Please share this site with your colleagues who teach Kindergarten and first grade.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Free photo editing software-- Picasa

Those of you who use Blogger probably already know about Picasa software. For those who don't, it's another of the free tools provided by the good people at Google. Picasa does not have all of the features of a Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, but it's easy to use and has just enough photo editing tools to keep 99% of the general population very pleased with the results of our efforts.

Picasa automatically scans and displays all the photos on your computer (I have a lot of old photos eating up my hard drive to get rid of!). The coolest tool has got to be the "I'm feeling lucky" tool. With just one click your photo is automatically adjusted for color, brightness, contrast, etc. Picasa works in conjunction with Hello!, which is described as "a new way to look at pictures with friends and family." This allows you to easily post pictures to your blog, just like I did with my mugshot above. Go Green!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Do you suffer from password fatigue?

If you're like most computer users, you have too many usernames and passwords to remember. I recently found a cool technology tool that has simplified my Internet browsing: Microsoft's fingerprint reader. Although Microsoft makes a mouse and a keyboard with a built-in fingerprint reader, I purchased their USB device that's about the size of a pack of Tic-tacs. After installing the necessary software, you then scan one or more fingerprints by placing your finger on the fingerprint reader. You will then need to access the websites that require a username and password. Placing your finger on the reader will trigger the software to prompt you to enter your username and password FOR THE VERY LAST TIME! On future visits to the same website you will place a finger on the fingerprint reader and the software will automatically enter your username and password faster than you can type it. The Microsoft Fingerprint Reader has a retail price of about $55 and is discounted at many online and retail stores. Check out the link above for more information and an online demo. Please note this disclamier found on Microsoft's website: "The Fingerprint Reader should not be used for protecting sensitive data such as financial information or for accessing corporate networks. We continue to recommend that you use a strong password for these types of activities. "

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Cool website! I Know That

While perusing some teacher websites a couple of weeks ago I came across a link to This site features dozens of educational interactive multimedia games for students in grades K-6 (maybe even 7 or 8?). The site is divided into the categories of the Arts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Engineering, but games are also sorted by grade level if you prefer. There is even a teacher guide which explains the various games. The games feature excellent animation and sound effects using the Shockwave plug-in. I had a blast playing the games myself. I really enjoyed the "Bots" in the Engineering section of the website. If you are familiar with Lego Robotics programming, the site would provide an excellent introduction for students. The site is free, and registration is NOT required, but you will see a number of kid-friendly ads displayed throughout the website. For an ad-free experience, teachers will need to purchase a $199 annual classroom subscription. There is also a family subscription available for $34.95 per year. Just think, a few years ago schools spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars for software that had to be installed and configured and periodically upgraded. This website provides all of the benefits with fewer hassles for FREE!

Monday, March 21, 2005

$100 laptops?!?

According to a special report from eSchool News online, MIT researchers are attempting to mass produce "basic, durable" laptop computers that will cost about $100 and be marketed worldwide. A noble endeavour, but I'm not overly optimistic. First of all, I belive "durable laptop" is an oxymoron. In my experience, laptops are very temperamental. Two that my family has owned have had major repairs and have since been replaced. I'm crossing my fingers that the three we now own will fare better. Our laptops are used by adults and college aged students. K-12 students are even harder on both desktop and laptop computers. I can only assume these basic laptops in the MIT initiative will be disposable, much like ink-jet printers have become. The University of Michigan's Elliot Soloway has said that true technology integration is achieved only when there is a 1:1 ratio of students to computers. The $100 laptop would enable many more K-12 schools to achieve that lofty goal. I really hope the folks at MIT can pull it off. But I'm not holding my breath. Like Soloway, I am a big proponent of handheld technology. But that's the subject of another post.


Welcome to the EdTech Update. This is my first attempt at a blog. I was inspired by Will Richardson after hearing him speak at the MACUL Conference in Detroit, Michigan last week. He made it look so easy! In his presentation at MACUL, Richardson said that the Internet is no longer just for reading, it is also for writing. We can be producers of web content as well as consumers. I hope you will bear with me as I find my way in the wonderful world of blogging. I plan to share websites and news related to educational (or instructional) technology. I want to "spread the gospel" to K-12 educators everywhere on how computers and other technology can make their jobs easier, in spite of all the glitches they may be experiencing. I invite your comments and suggestions.