Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wakeup Call for Online Service Users...

Ma.gnolia is down. If that means nothing to you, please keep reading.

"Ma.gnolia is a free, public service for saving links to websites. Most users rely on it as a bookmarking storage service, or a place to save links that they may want to revisit later. Links can be saved privately or shared publicly, so that they can be browsed by other users looking for new destinations. Many people prefer to use bookmark sharing services like Ma.gnolia rather than saving bookmarks locally — the main advantage being that while your browser's bookmarks are stored on your machine, you can access bookmarks you share on the web from any computer with an internet connection." (Description from's Blog, Epicenter)

Still don't care? Here's why you should. Magnolia is just one example of a web-based service many of us use to organize parts of our digital life. And if you are anything like me, your digital life represents a sizable chunk of your professional and personal life. If a major site like Magnolia can suffer a data meltdown such as this, it is not beyond the realm of belief to think that others might as well.

In an average day, it is not unusual for me to:
  1. Email documents, presentations, project files, etc. to myself in Gmail so I have access to them at home and work.
  2. Upload large files to my Skydrive account so I can download them from another location or share them with others.
  3. Upload pictures to Picasa to keep and share with others.
  4. Upload videos to Youtube.
  5. Work on shared documents via Google Docs.
  6. Post information to this blog.
This is not a complete list, but you get the idea. On any given day, if I were to visit one of the sites listed above and learn that all of my data had been lost, the ramifications would be unthinkable. In the past few years, as companies like Google and Microsoft are literally giving away gigabytes of storage space for free, I have moved away from transferring files with USB drives in favor of storing massing amounts of data online. This latest tragedy for Magnolia makes me wonder if I shouldn't take a step back and reevaluate the way I store and manage my digital data.

Imagine if these sites lost their data all of a sudden:
  • MySpace/Facebook
  • Tinyurl -- imagine the effect it would have in Twitter, where tinyurls are the link sharing method of choice!
  • Flickr
What about you? Where are you storing your digital life? It might be time to reevaluate some bad habits. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Share Your Screen for Free with YuuGuu... or...Reach out and Help Someone

It seems most of my posts lately have been about things that I have been creating. Today I am stepping down off my high horse and talking about a program called Yuuguu. Yuuguu is a free remote desktop and screen sharing tool.

I rediscovered Yuuguu today after several attempts to help a Flash Jeopardy user by email were unsuccessful. I decided it would be infinitely easier to show and tell rather than just tell. While pondering the best way to do that, a little voice in the back of my head shouted, "Hey remember that Yuuguu program? I seem to remember being able to use that program to share your screen with anyone, even if they do not have a Yuuguu screenname!" As it turns out, that voice was exactly right.

When you sign into Yuuguu, which is available for the PC, Mac, and even Linux, you are able to generate a link and temporary pin number that will allow a person or people of your choice to see your screen. Once they are connected, you can walk them through whatever it is you are trying to explain by doing it on your screen.

What if your user has a question about something you are doing on your screen? They have a little chat interface built into the session. They can message you and you can message them. I spent a couple minutes this evening with a user who needed some help with the proper way to save a game file from the Jeopardy Flash game. I fired up Yuuguu, and sent her the url and pin number to see my screen. Within minutes, I had shown her the proper way to solve her issue and we could both get on with our nights.

If you need a quick way to illustrate something for anyone, I highly recommend YuuGuu. It is extremely effective and best of all, 100% free.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Moving Day and some new tools to share...

If you have been a fan of my Flash Jeopardy, Flash Millionaire, or Flash Boardgame programs, you may have noticed that they were residing on a server that was not particularly well named for the programs I had been posting on it. After a little research and a lot of soul-searching, I packed up the virtual moving van and transferred everything to a new, more appropriately named domain.

You can now find all of my Flash Review Games at

But wait, there's more...

I have some new additions to the site as well. I have created tools that will allow you to quickly and easily create printable seating charts, generate groups, and generate names from your class randomly.

After several requests, I have also updated the Jeopardy review game so that you can embed urls for images in the questions slides.

Even though the domain name has changed, everything on the site is just as free as it ever was. Consider it my donation to the universe.

As always, I welcome feedback and questions from my readers as they try out these new tools at the new site. I hope you find the new tools useful.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Teacher Websites Required?

A colleague and I will giving a presentation on our school's Teacher website solution at the end of January in Atlantic City. I wanted to have some information about other schools and how/if they handle posting information online.

It would be great to have some feedback from my readers.

Here is what I would like to know:

  1. Do you post assignments, announcements, etc. online for students and parents?
    Why/Why not?

  2. Does your school district require teachers to post information online?
    If yes, what system does your school use and what has the general reaction from the staff been?

  3. What is your opinion on teacher/classroom websites?
    ie. They are positive/necessary because...

  4. Any other comments are welcome!

I appreciate any responses you have time to contribute! Feel free to pass this along to teachers you may know from other schools as well.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: Looking ahead...

What would New Year's be without resolutions? Life is so much more fulfilling when you have a set of goals that you are working toward. Without a clear and worthy destination, the ride can be pretty dull.

Here is a brief list of some of my personal technocentric aspirations for 2009:

  1. Blog more -- There were too many times this year when I allowed a month or more to pass by without adding anything to this blog. What a shame. There is always something interesting going on in or near my classroom. I plan to make more of an effort to chronicle my thoughts, opinions, and experiences with the technology around me this year. I have made some great connections through this space, hopefully 2009 will bring even more.

  2. Keep Learning -- For me, 2008 was the year of php. This powerful and free programming language has been at the center of almost every major project I undertook this year (Mock Election, Flash Jeopardy, etc, etc). In the months ahead, I hope to continue to learn more efficient ways to use php to add spice to my creations.

    I've been meaning to learn some MySQL database programming for a long time. I must have 3 different beginner's books sitting on my shelf to help me do it. In 2009, I hope to set aside some time to learn and experiment with what MySQL can do. I think that it will mesh nicely with what I have learned of php.

  3. Embrace Arduino -- I am very excited about learning more about the Arduino (see my earlier post about the Arduino) The more I read about it, the more excited I get. I already have ideas for half a dozen different devices that could potentially be created. Look for updates throughout 2009 as I experiment with this powerful piece of equipment. If you see no updates, know that I am softly weeping somewhere because my Arduino dreams have gone unfulfilled. :)

  4. Inspire Others -- I am an early adopter and a huge proponent of technology of all types, both in my personal life and in the eductional setting. This year I hope to continue to lead by example and help others to overcome fears and misconceptions about technology so that they can begin to embrace and experiment with new skills and tools in the new year.
This list is by no means all-inclusive. Most of my goals seem to mushroom into other inter-related goals. I predict this year will be no different.

What are you tech/educational goals for the year ahead?