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.