Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bringing Tech to the Mock Election...

4 years ago I was a new teacher looking to make my mark in a new school. Being that it was an election year, a school-wide Mock Election seemed to fit the bill. We built a double stall voting booth and invited the entire school population (over 400 students K-8) to come and choose between George Bush and John Kerry. The day was quite a success.

4 years later, it was assumed that I would naturally host another Mock Election. It seemed to me to be a great opportunity to flex my tech muscle with some of the new tricks I've learned in the past 4 years.

This year's Mock Election featured the following upgrades:
  1. Touch Screen Voting via 2 booths, one with an 8" touch screen from eBay and another with a touch screen scavenged from a store kiosk.
  2. Live Updates via the Web: on Throughout the day, we submitted results as each class voted. Each submission would update the total number of votes, as well as updating the totals for each class and an "Electoral Map" based on the number of students in each class.
  3. Vote submission via Cell Phone: Using the free Textmarks service and a little bit of php wizardry, I was able to send a text message to submit the votes for each class as they left. This allowed us to instantly update the Mock Election Website in a room with no internet access.
Overall, the day was a great success. The lines moved quickly, every vote was counted, and the website made it possible for classes to follow the progress throughout the day. I won't get into the outcome of the vote (this is not a politics blog, there are plenty of those already), but it was a very revealing landslide.

I can only imagine what we will do in 2012.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Super Easy Teacher Websites...

ClassroomUpdate.comI have been experimenting with a platform that would allow school districts to easily get all of their teachers online posting homework and class announcements.

The idea to do this came to me after 4 years of watching my own district attempt several different approaches to getting our teachers online.  We tried everything from uploading MS Word files on a weekly basis (awkard and inconvenient for all involved) to giving teachers their own FTP accounts to let them update their own sites on their own (we might as well have tried to split the atom).

My coding skill finally caught up with my goals for an easy to use teacher website.  Thus ClassroomUpdate was born.  Every teacher has a username and a password to log in to their Control Panel.  The control panel is simply a web form that allows a user to enter homework assignments, announcements, links, and to update their contact info.  It could not be easier and allows you to maintain a website in seconds per day.

I am wondering if any of my loyal readers (both of you) would be interested in a free site on ClassroomUpdate to help me bug test it.  As far as I know, it works flawlessly, but a dozen real users may find things that I miss.

If you are interested, you can create a page at:
I have taken the liberty of putting in the admin password so you can create your page.  Anyone who creates a page can keep it indefinitely.  In the meantime, please let me know what you think and if anything is not working properly or could be improved.

The readers of this blog have been extremely helpful and supportive with the Jeopardy Review Game, and I do appreciate it.  Thank you in advance to those who help me with this.  (And it isn't entirely altruistic, you are getting a 100% free website!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Play Flash Jeopardy Online (finally)

I've gotten a lot of great feedback from the online community about my Flash Jeopardy Review game.  I've even received more than a few requests about upcoming features.  The most common request is the ability to play created games online.  This would be useful in schools where aggressive content filters do not allow the game client to be downloaded.  It would also serve as a way for teachers to allow students to play the review games as a study tool from home.

After a great deal of thought on how to accomplish this functionality, I finally sat down yesterday and coded until I could code no more.  I think users will be happy with the results.

When you create a new Jeopardy game, the confirmation screen will now give you two links: 1 is the link to download the game file to play offline.  This works exactly as it has since the beginning.  However, you are also given a link to click (or cut and paste into your own website).  This link will allow you to play (and/or test) your new game immediately online without the need to download the Jeopardy.exe offline player.

All newly created games are still added to the game library, including a link to play them online.

I have also added a Google Search to allow users to search the game library.

Next Up: The ability to edit previously created games, the ability to embed games in another site.

If you have not yet tried my Jeopardy Review Game, I encourage you to try it.  It is 100% customizable to your content and makes a great review game to prepare for tests and quizzes.  Paired with an LCD Projector and a SmartBoard, it makes a great teaching tool.

If you have other suggestions and or feedback, I encourage you to comment here or email me direct.  I always appreciate hearing how and where my Jeopardy game is being used!