Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Need to send a large file? Senduit.com can help.

There are many times when it is necessary to send large files online. Whether the file in question is a movie file, a zip file, a program, or something else, it is often inconvenient to send it via email. Some email services put limits on attachment sizes as well as the amount of storage space you are given.

Enter Senduit.com. The site allows you to upload any file under 100 MB to their server. The process is simple:

  1. Browse for the file on your machine.
  2. Choose how long you would like it to be available. You can choose anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 week. (No, they won't host your huge file forever for free, you mooch).
  3. Upload your file.
  4. Share the new web address given to you by Senduit.
It's really that easy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

And the award for creepiest innovation goes to...

Can you say Big Brother? I know this has little to nothing to do with education, but I figured it would be interesting to any thinking person. And the potential for this to affect schools, children, and indeed everyone is vast.

The device you see pictured to the right is in fact a GPS implant. This is not a prop from Mission:Impossible or the Hitman movie. This is a real device that can be implanted under someone's skin to track their movements 24-7-365.

The GPS Tracker is so small it can be easily implanted under the skin quickly and easily with our included pain free kit with light implant gun. For short term use the rice sized tracker can be swallowed like a pill and will stay in your system for up to 72 hours. Implant or swallow this tiny tracker and you or the trackee can be located anyplace on the planet.
(Accurate to 5 feet even in buildings)

View Live satellite video showing your exact location and situation over our secure network.

Tracking Service:

  • 24/7/365 Hour monitoring
  • View Maps, Photos and Video on you Phone or Computer
  • Cost Per Month: $166.95

Emergency Recovery Service:

  • Military Trained Hostage rescue Team ready to dispatch
  • Cost per recovery will vary biased on the time and staff required.

Includes:

  • 1 Bio-Track micro tracker
  • 1 Injector Gun (light) - Heavy Duty Gun requires license

After reading an article this morning about tracking suspects using the signal from cellphones, I talked to my students about the implications of being tracked by their cell phones. Most of them were disturbed by this possibility. I can't wait to update them tomorrow on this little item. Imagine the implications of a GPS device such as this that can possibly be implanted into the human body without the knowledge of the subject! Scary.

Ditch your old Voicemail for free Youmail!

If you have a cellphone (if you don't, you probably aren't reading this blog either, are you?) and you are still using the Voicemail provided by your carrier, stop. Immediately. I just started using a service called Youmail that works seamlessly with my carrier (Verizon) and brings much more power and convenience to my Voicemail. Best of all, it is completely free!

Signing up for Youmail is simple. You register with the site, then enter your phone number. They will send you a text message to verify you actually own that phone. You use the pin from the text message to begin the setup. They walk you through forwarding your voice messages to the Youmail server rather than your carrier. For me, the process took less than 5 minutes. From there the features are very exciting and easy to use:

  1. Check and listen to your voicemail from your email.
    For me, the best feature and reason enough to sign up. Someone called me today at 3:00 when I was sitting in a faculty meeting. When I got back to my computer I had an email telling who the message was from and giving me a link to hear it online. You can also set up Youmail to send MP3 or Wav attachments.
  2. Share your Voicemail.
    Once someone leaves you a voicemail, you have some options. If the voicemail is important, funny, annoying, or otherwise noteworthy, you can forward it to anyone else with an email address.
    You can also embed the message in a Flashplayer on any blog or website (this might make your friends think twice before leaving you any more voicemails).
  3. Custom Greetings:
    Do you sometimes feel that your voicemail greeting is too friendly for colleagues or too formal for friends and family? Youmail has this problem solved too. You can set up more than one greeting and forward callers depending on which category they fall into.
  4. Ditch Caller:
    Another great feature is the ability to define numbers that you do not wish to grant voicemail access to. When these people call, they are given a custom message and promptly hung up on. Great for annoying telemarketers and anyone else you don't need leaving a 4 minute message for you to suffer through.

I've been using the service for a few days and I am very impressed. I wish I could replace my landline and school voicemail with Youmail (hopefully they will add this later). It is great to be able to manage email and voicemail all from one computer screen.

**Prediction: this seems like the kind of company Google might snatch up. You heard it here first.**

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Virtual Teachers?

Massey University in New Zealand has developed a Virtual Tutor named Eve, which they claim can adjust its teaching style based on the body language and facial expressions of the learner. The system is designed to be able to react accordingly if a student is upset, angry, or frustrated.

The goal of this system is to replicate the effectiveness of one-to-one teaching methods without actually requiring one human teacher per student.

I understand the theory behind this software, but I have difficulty believing that students will react the same way to getting positive feedback from a virtual avatar that they do when they receive a compliment from a living, breathing person.

I think this type of technology might be more useful for teaching older students and adults who are looking for a more personalized learning experience and might not require the emotional reassurance that only a human can provide.

Although this is definitely an interesting development, I am not too worried yet about being phased out by a virtual substitute.

video

Feedburner Test....

I am testing the FeedBurner email delivery method.
We seem to be having some technical issues with it. Or maybe just a very persistent spam filter. Either way, it is slightly annoying.

Please disregard this post.

A Totally Free Cell Phone Ringtone Generator...

Create your own ringtones and graphics, for free, at Mobile17. Check it out! Click-here.This might not qualify as true "educational technology" but it my goal with this blog is to save teachers time and money. And ringtones are definitely something I know a lot of people have spent a lot of money on. Even if you are only spending a dollar per ringtone, that is money you could be putting toward other things (like coffee).

Mobile17 is a truly free and easy ringtone site. I have been using the site for about 3 months now. I have probably created about 2 dozen ringtones. And I have never received a single email from the company. That's right: no spam, no daily newsletters, nothing. Ever.

It is very easy. You create an account and choose the model of your phone. Don't worry if you don't know the model, you can choose from a picture list based on your service provider. Then you upload the music fie you want to use (.MP3, .M4A, .OGG, or .WMA)
and it will be sent to your phone. It may take a few hours to get to you, depending on your place in line, but who cares, it's free!

If you are really in a rush, you can pay for an "Express Mail" to have your tones delivered immediately. This it totally optional.

The service can also send pictures to use as your wallpaper. I've sent myself a few jpg's.

If you want to liven up your cell phone and it's ringers, check it out!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Next up: Sketchup...

My next big classroom experiment will be to attempt to unleash Google's free 3d design software Sketchup on my 7th grade classes. We will be using Sketchup to design Roman style buildings to create a "Virtual Rome" in Google Earth.

The first few times I attempted to use Sketchup, I was slightly frustrated and was unable to create much beyond a 3 dimensional cube. After a few days time to cool off and read the first chapter of Sketchup for Dummies, I gave it another shot. The second try was much more productive (see this post). I am hoping that I can use my own experiences thus far to help my students dive into using the software and skipping the frustration step.

More on that as it develops.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More thoughts on Amazon Kindle...

It seems everywhere I went today, Amazon's Kindle was calling my name. From the Newsweek magazine in the school library to half a dozen different online articles lurking in the RSS feeds above my Gmail account, I couldn't keep the Kindle out of my mind. I still can't help but think that this could really be a paradigm changing device.

I teach at a K-8 public school. Due to some issues last year, we no longer allow backpacks during the day. Due to a "new and improved" schedule which only allows 1 minute between classes, we also no longer allow students to visit lockers between classes. Students are restricted to visiting their lockers once in the morning, once at lunch, and once at the end of the day. This means students are carrying all of their books for each half of the day. Imagine if students had all of their textbooks on the Kindle!

Naturally the $400 price tag makes the Kindle a little prohibitive for most schools to outfit students with them. However, I'm sure the price will come down eventually. Also, consider the amount of money spent on textbooks that will quickly become worn and out of date. Not to mention the copying paper which could be saved if students could access reading material from their Kindle at their desks and at home. If the Kindle could be programmed to receive messages from the school district (maybe via an RSS feed, which the Kindle supports), it could also hold all of the information that we try to send home in homeroom every morning. This would undoubtedly save hundreds of dollars in paper each year.

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect to see schools trading in their textbooks for Kindles en masse. But I do see some great potential in the future. If the Kindle reaches a point where the price comes down, the screen goes color, and it can still access all of that information free and via wireless, I can really see schools starting to come on board.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Will Amazon Kindle Change Education?


Amazon.com is touting their new product, the Amazon Kindle, as the most revolutionary device since the wheel. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the device is clearly meant to make waves for the company. Is it worth the $400 price tag?

It sounds like a great device. You can access more than 88,000 books for $9.99, read more than 250 top blogs, and enjoy unlimited access to Wikipedia.

Sony had a similar idea with their reader product. Where the Kindle expands on Sony's idea is in the way you access new material. All of this comes wirelessly to your unit via the same technology that your cell phone uses, so you never need to find a hot spot to find new content.

I think this will be a wildly popular item for people who are on the go and don't want to carry a library with them to keep in touch with the latest news and blogs.

I also think that with some tweaking, it could have tremendous potential for educational applications. Imagine if students could each be given such a device. Their Kindle would contain all of the textbooks for the year, as well as any other novels or books being discussed. They could be given access to newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals to peruse up to the second information. I'm sure with some tweaking, the unit could even be made to receive news and announcements relevant to the school district. If all of this were available to the students at school or at home via the cell signal, it could really change the way we deliver information to our students.

This is definitely a piece of technology I will be watching with excitement!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Virtual Tech Classroom Design Project....


I am taking some Educational Technology Master's Courses through Lesley University. One of the courses required us to design a Technology Assisted Classroom. Part of the assignment was to make a sketch of the layout of the room.

This couldn't have come at a better time! I've recently been playing around with Sketchup. This seemed like the perfect chance to flex my newly developed Sketchup muscle!

I designed the overall layout of the classroom on my own in Sketchup. I made the podium/desk myself with Sketchup as well. The laptops, desk chairs, and all of the equipment on the podium were downloaded from the Google 3d warehouse. When I was done, I used Sketchup's built-in animation export feature to create an avi movie that would pan around the various sections of the classroom. I then dropped that movie into Movie Maker to add background music, special effects, and transitions.

The rendered pictures of the classroom were created using a commercial Sketchup plugin called Turbosketch.

The finished product is shown below:

video

Sunday, November 18, 2007

High Server resource consumption by your account!!

I was informed by my webhost Friday afternoon that my installation of Moodle (the open source CMS that I run my entire classroom website with) was

"consuming a very high percentage of the server resources (processors' time and memory usage), thus endangering the overall performance of all the sites on the server."

Not good.

This happened at 11:00 AM and promptly brought my website to a screeching halt. Naturally, I had a day's worth of activities planned which required my students to be using the website. As students attempted to log in to the class website, they were greeted with a full screen error 503 message.

Extremely Not Good.

This caused the site to be down for the entire day until I could find the time to sit down and disable all logging and stats features for the entire site.

Downright bad.


Definitely a warning about relying on technology too much. When my Moodle site (www.planetkries.com) is working, it works great and the students can do interesting and varied activities with it. When it ceases to work, I am left frustrated and often without a Plan B.

Something to keep in mind...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Google Earth....

If you haven't started using Google Earth as an educational tool, you aren't just missing the boat, you are missing the whole fleet! Google's free tool is effectively replacing the globe and even wall mounted maps in my Social Studies classroom. There are just so many things you can do with it!

Find Spots Instantly
I am ashamed to admit that there have been times (1 or 2) when a student asked about a part of the world and I wasn't exactly sure where the country was located. Google Earth eliminates this worry, as you can easily type in locations and zoom right to the correct spot. You can search by country, by city name, by latitude and longitude, even by entering landmarks such as the Grand Canyon or the Colosseum.

Measure Distances Accurately
Google Earth also has a built in tools for measuring distances on the globe. This is such a great tool for teaching! Let's say you wanted to find out exactly how far it is from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Google Earth takes the guesswork out of the equation and lets you find out within inches.




3D Buildings
Possibly the most exciting new tool in Google Earth is the 3D buildings option. Many buildings have been modeled in 3d, with textures, and can be viewed right within Google Earth.


You can even create your own models with Google Sketchup. More on that in another post!

If you haven't installed Google Earth yet, you can install it here.



Sunday, August 12, 2007

Post from within Word 2007

Did you know that you can post to your blog from within Microsoft Word 2007? It's true.

When you choose a new document, you can choose the "New Blog" option. You can then connect to your blog. Most popular Blogging services are supported.

Pretty simple!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Screenshot Capture Software....

If you've ever wanted to capture a snapshot of anything on your computer screen, there is an easy and free tool that lets you capture part or all of your screen.

http://wisdom-soft.com/products/screenhunter_free.htm

Monday, June 4, 2007

Does your website make the grade?

I just found a link to a clever site that will give your website a quick checkup. All you do is type your website into the site and it will give your site a grade. The score is on a 100 point scale. The site will then proceed to explain why your site is hot or why it is not.



Saturday, June 2, 2007

Custom Avatars!

I just found a free site that can be used to make talking avatars for your website, blog, myspace, etc.

It is http://www.voki.com/

Check it out!



Get a Voki now!

Who's on your site....

Ever wonder if anyone is on your site?

I found this really cool site that lets you find out how many people are on your site at any given moment! It can even tell you what pages they are looking at!

Click here to check out the page.


This is what you and your users see:

website counter
If it says "1", then you are all alone. :(

Mosaic Maker.....

If you need something clever for a quick extra credit or to burn a few minutes on a half day or something like that, I found a great plug-in for Flash that will make any picture into a mosaic to be solved. You can choose the number of tiles (the sample has 8).

http://www.rmschool.com/kries2/file.php/5/puzzlehard.swf

Friday, June 1, 2007

Welcome to the Blog....

This blog was created with the intention of helping teachers to make sense of all the technology available to us. After giving an in-service not long ago, I realized that most teachers have no idea how easy and how available these tools are.

I think that technology is becoming more and more crucial to giving our students a full and rewarding education. In our fast paced world with so much information, our students must be trained to find and understand this information and the tools for using and managing it. I find and hear and read about so many different websites, software titles, and pieces of hardware that can be used in the educational setting. I hope that this blog will serve as a tool to spread the word about these educational tools and also give me an avenue for learning about new ones.

When I come across something useful, I will talk about it here. I hope that other teachers will find it useful.