Google+ School Equals?

Image from GoogleGoogle+ has captured the attention and curiosity of many people around the world. This is Google's latest attempt at creating a social network to compete with both Facebook and Twitter. Google+ is currently in a beta test right now and it is a real beta test because invitations are needed to create Google+ accounts at this time (we all know Google never releases a product out of beta). I was fortunate enough to receive an invite from an EdTech friend who likes to use me as her personal guinea pig which I usually don't mind. The concept is basically like both Facebook and Twitter, just enter whatever you want to share with your network. This can be links to articles to ever popular what you had for lunch on a given day. Right away the big difference is you can direct your message whatever group or circle you wish to see it. Circles are groups of friends, followers, or whatever you call the people you share your life with online. I like the circle concept Google uses because circles can be created for whatever purpose you need. For example, everyone has a everyone and public circle. Along with those circles I also have Acquaintances, Friends, Ed Tech, Family, and Work circles. Whenever you wish to add someone in Google+ you can just drop them into whatever circles you wish him or her to be in.. Then when you post a message just choose the circle who gets the message. Sounds like a social networking teacher's dream right?

Not so fast. While I do have segregated circles involving a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and teachers I work with, I don't think you will be seeing a student circle anytime soon in my group of circles. While the privacy settings on Google+ look a lot better and simpler than on Facebook, I am still not trusting Google totally yet. Also, While your messages might be delivered to select groups which would not include students, what about their messages? Until they learn about what information should be shared and to whom you will might get blasted with student messages including some inappropriate ones. Of course, you might let a message slip through as well. I still like that high wall that separates me from my students online and I don't think the circles are a high enough wall. Finally, what about turning-in assignments? Yes, you can chat on Google+. Yes, you can exchange links to website too. Yes, you can even post assignments on Google+. However, you really should not post a grade on it or discuss the work on the site and I would think having to search for each student to send a message would become tiresome. While schools and their media centers can use this effectively, I think teachers should stick to learning social networks such as Edmodo or Schoology for the time being.

Personally, I am excited about Google+ and the promise it has as a social network. It will be great for PLN's. Will it be the Facebook "killer"? Not anytime soon. However, Twitter is the social network that should worry. Google+ does not have the same restrictions Twitter has on space. You can insert a link and know where it is going which beats just looking at those URL shorteners which are handy but potentially dangerous since you don't really know where the link will take you or what it can do to your computer. Big pluses in my book. I also, hope some of the collaboration tools from the defunct Google Wave will make it to Google+ to turn a potentially great communication application into a great collaboration application as well. If you wish to join one of my circles just look me or up.

New Course Questions

I have spent just about everyday of my so-called summer vacation working or at least thinking about how our school's new Computer Tech 7, the seventh grade course, is going to look (at least for the first semester). Last year we decided to put Computer Tech 7 on the back burner and just teach Computer Tech 6, the course for sixth graders. The reasons for this move were:

    •    It allowed us to develop one course at a time.
    •    All students had a course of basics from which to start with and grow from there.
    •    Gave us a chance to see what technology would and would not work in relation to computers and the district network.
    •    I really wanted to procrastinate on the Computer Tech 7 subject.

The principal was reluctant at first but I was able to win him over and bought myself some time which I wisely used tweaking the Computer Tech 6 course. When summer came I knew I had to stop procrasinating and get to work on Computer Tech 7 and I have. So far the course is going to be split into four main areas of concentration: Cybersafety, Online Media and Presentations, Web Presence, and Computer and Application Programing. Another piece of the puzzle is animation and I will get to that shortly. As i have been jotting notes down and evaluating various applications I wish to use, there are many questions that still need answering. Here are my main ones:

    •    What should I do about email addresses? Most of the applications I wish students to use in Computer Tech 7 require email addresses to sign-up for accounts. While most of my students already have an email address there are those few who have not signed up for one. Should I make having an email address a prerequiesite for the course? Should students have to go outside of school to obtain either a Gmail or Yahoo account. Should students sign-up for application accounts outside of school because sometimes checking email is required and something students cannot do. Is there a service that could help me circumvent this dilema and not get me fired?
    •    Should Computer Tech 7 (and even Computer Tech 6) become flipped classes? Last year I taught a couple of sections blogging via some videos I created out of necessity. Little did I know I had flipped my classroom. As I was watching what was happening at ISTE 2011 on Twitter, I kept seeing mentions of Flipped Classes. This new way of education has the teacher automating or videoing mundane tasks such as lectures. Students are expected to watch these videos at home and take notes on what they saw. Application practice and homework would actually be done in the classroom where the teacher can give more individualized attention to those students who need it since time is not taken doing a lecture. it is an interesting concept but i wonder how well this can work in reality. When I did the blogging lesson it worked surprisingly well. I am willing to give it a try this year but I have another teacher to think about who might not be so willing to try flipping his class. Will he be able to pull it off?
    •    What should students use to blog? My students will be continuing to research and write. That will never change as long as I have a say in the matter. It is the method of delivery that I am thinking about. Should I continue using Kidblog which is more like a traditional blog or should I just have students write in Edmodo. The reason this is becoming an issue is I found out Kidblog is not the independent blogging platform I thought it would be. Students blogs have to be organized into classes and while the blogs can be transffered it is not an easy task. Especially when talking about 240 students and some of the students were not in my class last year. Students should remember their Edmodo logins (yeah right, good luck with that one). All is needed is the new student code. Also, do students really need to learn to use a Word Press engine blog?
    •    What web presence should students create for themselves? Right now most of the students have a Edmodo account but is a learning social network enough? I believe students should have a central location they can have links to their work so they have an online digital portfolio that can be shared when needed. I have tried Wikispaces in the past but there were problems because students accidentally did edits on other pages. This was quickly taken care of but it took away instructional time. Google Sites looks interesting but again I am running into the email problem. Other options is PBWorks but email requirements will be a problem too. I am still looking for other solutions.

I am sure other questions an problems will come up during the first semester Computer Tech 7 is taught but like Computer Tech 6, they will be addressed in the second semester. If any of you readers have any suggestions, especially about the email problem, I am all ears.

Confession of a Nookaholic

Hi, I'm John! Hi John! I am a Nookaholic and have been since February of 2010. My story starts with my desire to try out an eReader with my choices being the Amazon Kindle and the new Barnes and Noble Nook. I selected the Nook because of the touch screen and value-added features such as Free books on Fridays, Read-in-Store, and in-store deals. My new Nook became what I thought was a friend when I had to spend long hours in the hospital with father-in-law before he passed away and later with my wife's surgeries. Many genres such as technology, business, economics, mysteries, politics, science fiction, fantasy, classics, and history flashed on that eInk screen. My Nook was a constant companion in my various adventures. The WiFi and 3G connections helped satisfy my cravings for new reading material no matter if I was at home, a relative's, or a hotel.

Little did I know when Barnes and Noble announced the Nook Color last fall I would be plucking down my credit card on not one but two of those eReaders. One was for my wife and the other for my son. Both wanted to be able to read books but also do some light Internet surfing and the Nook Color filled the bill. My wife got to read her favorite author, Patricia Cornwell, and catch up with family and friends via Facebook. Unfortunately for me, she also learned how to show for goods other than books on the device. My son got to read some of the books he needed for school and surf the net with his Nook Color. I just downloaded his summer reading titles he better start reading. Hopefully, he will use the highlighting and note taking functions so he can be ready when school starts back in August.  I thought it was rather funny, maybe even cute that every member of my family had their own Nook eReader. Little did I know I had a problem.

I hit my bottom and was forced to admit to a problem this past May. As I was reading some books on education, I wanted to do some highlighting and note taking when I noticed I was not happy with the experience. I had to use directional arrows to highlight passages on my Nook. This quickly became an unpleasant chore and I gave up on the endeavor. Then I started looking at my wife's Nook Color with jealous envy. The ability to just touch the screen to highlight a passage and the better touch keyboard mocked me and made me feel inadequate. I began to wonder if I should go ahead and get my own Nook Color. It was like a siren song beckoning me to financial ruin but I could not resist its call. Then Barnes and Noble added to my torment by announcing the new Nook Touch or Nook 2nd Edition. A simple, eInk reader with a touch screen interface much like the Nook Color. However, this new Nook did not have the ability to surf the Internet or download apps like its colorized sibling. Actually, I did not need these features. I just wanted a simple eReader that was smaller, lighter, and was easier to highlight text. How did Barnes and Noble crawl into my mind and design such a device?! Before I knew it I was on the Barnes and Noble site with credit card in hand. My hands shook and sweat poured from my body as I quickly selected express shipping. Sleepless nights came and went as I eagerly awaited the arrival. As my son and I returned home from school one day I noticed a package by the front door of my house. My son noticed it too and we both sprinted for it. Shamelessly, I body checked my son into the bushes in front of the house and quickly grabbed up my prize. I locked myself into my room and hungrily tore open the packaging. There it was in all its glory, my new Nook eReader. My fix at last.

My new Nook has been a constant companion like my old friend. I think about how Theodore Roosevelt always had a book with him wherever he went and I am sure he would have worn out many more Nooks than I have. The features I wanted are all there. It is very light. It is so small I can put it into my pocket sometimes. The interface is simple and works fast. Finally, I can easily hightlight text on the device. The only complaint I have is that the time is not displayed on the screen as you are reading like the other Nook devices. This should be taken care of with a simple software fix. It would also be nice if it had a sudoku game too but I am satisfied for now. Satisfied until a new Nook is announced and the hunger grows again. Then again, is an addiction to reading such a terrible thing?

Thoughts from the Upstate Technology Conference 2011

The 2011 edition of the Upstate Technology Conference just wrapped up for another year. UTC has become one of my favorite conferences because of the quality of the sessions and keynotes. This is the result of the hard work of the Instructional Technology Staff of the Greenville County School District. Not is this hard work done to provide quality educational technology training for Greenville teachers, they also invite anyone to attend free of charge. Those Greenville folks know how to share and collaborate!

I was fortunate enough to give two presentations. One was on using mobile devices in the classroom and the other was on using Edmodo to communicate with my students. In the session on mobile devices there was some great discussion among the participants. It surprised me that the group mostly accepted the fact that technology is becoming more mobile and it will filter into the classroom soon. The biggest discussion was around how to do manage students to make sure they stay on task. There was agreement with the analogy of when paper was introduced to students to use there was some resistance by teachers who feared there would be doodling and note passing going on. We don't see spiral notebooks be taken away and teachers have developed classroom management techniques to combat these problems but it has not gone away. Students texting each other just presents new challenges in classroom management but this group seemed up to the challenge. The group also thought about ways to incorporate the mobile devices and agreed that school-funded 1:1 initiatives will never happen. Parents are going to have to pony up the money. As far as Edmodo was concerned, this group was very accepting and liked the idea of a way to interact with their students online in a variety of ways safely.

When I was not giving presentations I was attending some to see what others are doing. With the large list of opportunities it was difficult to choose six to sit in on. One thing the planners of UTC did was to bring in some fresh ideas. While podcasting is a great classroom tool, do we need more of it? Sprint had an interesting idea of managing content with the Sprint ID Pack which allows IT managers to select which apps will be allowed for a business or school. This will need work if students are allowed to bring their own mobile devices but it is a start. The next session allowed me to see an application I am considering for Computer Tech 7 at Bluffton Middle School, goAnimate4Schools. It was good to hear how a teacher in Greenwood, SC used this application with her students. A session of some web applications stimulated my thinking towards looking at some more offerings for my Computer Tech 7 class. This might become a two-year class with all of the possibilities. I gave some time to the historian in me as I learned about the Library of Congress's program to video interviews America's war veterans to get their authentic story. I love researching primary resources in history and this would be a way to engage student to help create those sources for future generations. Finally, my good friend Shirley Smith reported on South Carolina's e-Textbook experiment. She brought two participating teacher from the project to tell their story. One had netbooks and the other had iPads with textbooks loaded on them. One thing that stuck out was that the teachers really did not need the textbooks when they had other resources at hand. While did not go to the session on QR Codes, from what I hear they may be over used by teachers. Turing-in homework assignments as QR Codes? Really?

I still have a lot to digest from the two days at UTC and will over the summer. I am also looking forward to next year as I get to always see old friends and make new ones. Thanks Greenville for your hard work!

Gadget Updates

Barnes and Noble announced a way for my to hand over $139 gladly for a new touch screen Nook. Yes, I already have the original Nook and each of the other members of my immediate family have Nook Colors. Why do I need another Nook? The biggest reason is the ability to highlight passages of text with the swipe of my finger. The other day I was reading a book on my original Nook in which I wanted to highlight some passages and take a few notes. While it can be done on my eReader, it is a real pain. I had to use arrows to scroll to the start of the passage, start the highlighting, scroll to the end of the passage using the same arrows. After attempting this a few times I gave up because it was too time consuming! The size (6 inches) and the batter life (up to two months) are appealing as well. This Nook does not have apps but will have all of the magazines in the store. Also, it is a WiFi only device. The eReaders will be due out June 10 although you can pre-order yours now on Barnes and Noble's website.

Another of my favorite devices, Livescribe, announced Livescribe Connect recently. The free Connect Basic allows users to send notes and audio done by the Echo or Pulse pens to MyLivescribe, Facebook, Evernote, and mobile connectors. Connect Premium allows users access to Connect Basic features along with uploading notes and audio to email and Google Docs. 4GB and 8GB Echo users can download Connect Premium for free while all other Livescribe smartpen users can download the service for $14.99. Thank goodness this did not require a new pen to purchase. The ability to send notes and audio to Livescribe and Google Docs can be useful in a variety of ways. However, you probably will not see me sending Livescribe pencasts to Facebook unless there is no other way. If you have ever seen my hand writing you will totally understand why.

Photo of Nook: Barnes and Noble

Photo of Livescribe Pulse Pen: Livescribe


Research Assistant on the Go

Doing researchphoto © 2006 View D'World | more info (via: Wylio)

Recently I wrote a post about Easy Bib and how it can help with research projects. One of the things I said Easy Bib needed was mobile apps. Well I guess they listened because today Easy Bib announced a iOS app that can be downloaded for free on the iTunes App Store. All the user has to do to create a MLA, APA, or Chicago style citation entry is scan the barcode or typing the title of a book then presto, you have a properly formatted citation. Once you have your citation you can email it or export it to the Easy Bib site. This should be a welcome addition for researchers who don't want to lug around a laptop everywhere. Now if they could get that Android app out.

Should schools privatize technology?

Disagreementphoto © 2011 Michael Coghlan | more info (via: Wylio)
The annual Beaufort County Budget War is about to begin and this year's battle looks to be a near fight to the death if you believe the political rhetoric that is flying around the press and local blogs. Each year the school district has to submit its budget for the coming fiscal year to the Beaufort County Council for its approval. It seems the councilmen and women always kick the buget back to the school board with two words in big bold red letters: CUT IT! Despite the rhetoric, a compromise that will please no one will eventually be reached because both groups of politicians don't want to actually kill public education with an election year coming up. However, the reality is that school districts do need to look at what they need to fund and possibly cut. One thing that has not been mentioned too much, yet, is technology. There is a lot of people screaming that schools should be privatize, which would be a mistake, so they could run more efficiently. South Carolina Governor Nicki Haley wants to privatize school buses, another mistake based on my experience as a soccer coach. So why not get schools out of the technology business? How could education technology be privatized so school districts can save a few bucks?

  1. Take Google up on their offer for Chrome netbooks: Google wants to get their new cloud-based Cr48: Disabling boot verificationphoto © 2010 Jamal Fanaian | more info (via: Wylio)
    operating system into the mainstream by offering schools a sweet deal. For $20 monthly subscription, each student would receive his or her own netbook running the Chrome operating system with all of the software added on. Even better, the subscription also includes all hardware and software upgrades. With this deal you could possibly cut down your Instructional Technology staff and forget having to purchase software such as Microsoft Office per user. There are potential savings of thousands of dollars there alone. Would schools be willing to switch to Google Docs and other cloud-based applications? Some computers would be needed to do tasks such as MAP testing or other assessments. However, if schools actually jump on these deals the NWEA would migrate over to Chrome just to keep its customers. The school wireless network would also have to be maintained or even strengthened because if it goes down the netbooks don't work.
  2. Cloud-based applications: If schools don't want to get into bed with Google totally they could keep their computers and just go with the cloud-based applications. The savings would be in software alone because the computers would need people to service them as in-house or contracted technology staff. Also, networks would need to be larger to allow the machines to work or at least go to the Internet for the applications.
  3. Open-source: Similar to cloud-based because it can be had for next to nothing. Even the operating system, Linux would be open-sourced. While this sounds good on paper, it can be a nightmare trying to support on network systems. I have seen one open-sourced software disappoint students when they tried to run it on the network system. Flashing screens come up as the computer crashes. This would require more staff to service and maintain the network and we are not talking security issues here.
  4. Parents provide the equipment: Maybe it is time for schools to tell parents they may have to purchase either computers or mobile devices and let the schools save those hardware and software costs. All the schools have to provide is the Internet as they would in the Google Chrome deal. Actually, schools could entice AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to put up towers near the schools so the devices could receive a 3G or 4G signal and schools don't need the Internet that much. Just a small network for services. Of course the telcos would have to have an education plan for all that data being iPhone 4 Bumper + Universal Dock w/o Adapterphoto © 2010 Yutaka Tsutano | more info (via: Wylio)
    used. or they could setup wifi hotspots. All maintenance would be the responsibility of the parents who would make sure their children take care of those expensive devices. All the schools would do is require hardware and software standards each student brings whether it is tablets or netbooks. Schools could just upload textbooks so students would have them. The textbooks would delete themselves at the end of the school year. Some might say classroom management would be a nightmare.

Well here are some options for Instructional Technology to do its part for cutting school budgets while providing quality education experiences for students. While some of these ideas might work, each one is not a magic bullet to save education. Would schools be better off passing technology to outside parties? If you have any other ideas to save money through technology I am all ears.

Nook Color Tablet?

Just a little while ago I recieved an email from Barnes and Noble saying the long awaited Nook Color App store is now ready. This is what I had been waiting for because it now unleashes some of the Android operating system on the Nook Color to give a tablet experience. I went over the the Nook Apps site to see what was in the initial offering. As to be expected, the offerings are rather slim but there are a few apps teachers should look at if they have the Nook Color or thinking about one. Here are some of the apps that caught my attention:


Word of the Day (Free): Could be a way to review vocabulary or pickout those great SAT words.

Study Droid ($2): Allows users to create flash cards on the web and study anywhere.

Miss Spell's Class ($1.99): another way to learn vocabulary from ($2.99): handy dictionary app never hurt anyone.

Math ($1.99): Basic math tutor.


Fliq Calendar and Fliq Notes (Free)

Quickoffice Pro (Unknown): Allows users to create and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on the go.

Goodreads (Free): Possibly a great way to get kids to read. Users can keep track of what they read, give recommendations for books, form small book clubs, and more.

My6Sense (Free): Allows users to read their RSS and Social Media feeds on the go. Could be good for picking out those blogs and tweets that are valuable to class.


GoBeeChallenge (Free): Surprised this offering was not located in the learn section but looks like a great way to learn geography from the National Geographic.

Pulse News Reader (Free): Another blog reader which has a limit on the number of blogs one can subscribe to.


Drawing Pad ($1.99)

Tikatok (Free) Barnes and Noble is trying to hook budding young authors with their free app that allows kids to create and share books they create.

Matching Zoo ($1.99), My First Zoo ($.99), Animal Show ($1.99): Looks like some Nook Color App developers have a soft spot for animals. Should be good to teach students about the other creatures that inhabit the Earth with us.

Tap To Talk (Free): This could help ESOL and students learning to read.

There are other offerings such as language tutors available as well. If you did not see something you like, you could get the developer's kit and start programming your own apps. The Nook Color should give developers with an interest in education an interesting challenge to create apps that tap into the reader's abilities. I could see some interesting apps that could help students read better in the future. In the meantime enjoy Angry Birds.

Left is Right, Up is Down

Every so often we all have to go through a technological refresh. I just seem to do it more often than others which annoys my wife. My latest one happened this past February and March when I purchased a new smartphone and computer. What I purchased would have surprised even me as early as January of this year. However, I wanted to try new things for the experience and challenge different technologies provide. Here is what I decided on and why.

Motorola Atrixphoto © 2011 ETC@USC | more info (via: Wylio)
The first thing I did was replace my beloved iPhone 3GS with the Motorola Atrix 4G. I know I said I loved my Blackberry Curve when it was sent to the technological bench. Now the iPhone? My original plan was to wait for the iPhone 5 and I may still go that way when it ever appears. However, some Android users, including my son, kept after me to try Android. I was reluctant because of the apps I had invested in my iPhone and the thought of spending more money on apps. Another hang-up I had with Android was the limited memory on the phone. This was somewhat solved with Android 2.2 which allows users to store apps on the SD card in your phone. Then there was the learning curve of how the phone would work with an alien operating system. I wish I could tell you it was flawless transition. However, once I learned the basics, I found Android offered users more than iOS devices. The thing I like most is the ability to install widgets on the phone's screen which allows quicker access to apps. If I want to play music on my music app I just press the play button and I have music. Should I need to jot a quick note in Evernote, then no problem. Widgets is one thing Apple could learn to make iOS even better. I do miss some apps like Awesome Note and Netflix and it took me a long time to find a podcast player I liked but for the most part life has been good.

After shopping around and even taking the HTC Inspire home for a spin, I finally settled on Motorola's Atrix 4G. The first thing I noticed was this phone is fast! The 1GHz Dual Core processor really makes this phone zip along. When I went to do something in my iPod Touch 3GS (the iPhone without a SIM card), it seemed very slow. Some Android apps are buggy but no more so than some iOS apps I worked with. I found out that many apps need updating to work with dual core processors which explain some of the crashes. So far I have not been able to take advantage of the 4G speeds because of AT&T and they way they treat one of the fastest growing areas in the state of South Carolina. We have not had 3G in this area very long so I am not holding my breath for 4G (or AT&T's version of it anyway) but I did not buy the phone for data speeds just the processor and it has not disappointed me yet.

Nuevo MacBook PRO!photo © 2008 Marco Paköeningrat | more info (via: Wylio)
My next technological upgrade actually caused some of my friends to raise their eyebrows. I bit the bullet and got a MacBook Pro. The reason was simple, I wanted a upscale performance laptop that would give me many years of service. My son will graduate high school (hopefully) in a couple of years and will need a good laptop to take to college (again I hope). While my Acer Aspire One netbook gave and still gives good service, I wanted something larger and with more horsepower. Plus, when I went shopping for PC's the selection was large and somewhat disappointing because they did not have the Sandy Bridge processor. The Mac I selected has Intel's latest processor, Thunderbolt connectivity which is Intel's answer to USB 3.0. Of course there needs to be some Thunderbolt peripherals which have not come to market yet. This is how new it is.

When I announced my Mac purchase my Facebook and Twitter sites went nuts. Some of my friends, thinking I was a die hard Windows man who would only give up his PC when they pried it from my cold dead fingers, welcomed me from the clutches of the darkside of the computer force. I don't know why people thought this because I have wanted a Mac for years. Ever since I saw Garage Band I started drooling over Macs but the machines are darned expensive. Finally, I had the money and had run out of excuses so I bit the bullet and got one. So far I have not missed the Windows system at all because I have a Windows 7 machine at work. Actually, I could lose that HP and not miss a beat thanks to inter operable programs and cloud storage. Plus, I have not had needed to make expensive software purchases. The most expensive programs I purchased was iWorks 11 and Scrivener. Garage Band is everything I expected it to be and more. iMovie has been a pleasant surprise. Safari and Chrome gave me trouble when I needed to show a full webpage I was mirroring during a presentation but the new Firefox came through. Finally, the battery life has been incredible! I rarely have to take my charger with me when I hit the library or Starbucks.

They say that change is good and I have had my share of change in the last year. I guess I needed new challenges in technology with both my smartphone and computer. Now, I believe I have the resources to tackle new challenges like learning how to program with students using Scratch and for iOS and Android apps on my own. While I still draft some writings on my smartphone, it is nice to have a larger platform to write than my netbook offered. Perhaps I can use that famous Mac creative ability to squeeze that great American novel that is supposedly in all of us or get back to producing some creative videos and audio projects. At least one can dream.

Flip Camera RIP

24 Hour Tombstonesphoto © 2009 Lenore Edman | more info (via: Wylio)
I was sadden to hear that from Read Write Web and other sources that Cisco is discontinuing the Flip camera brand it purchased in March of 2009. In my opinion the Flip camera totally revolutionized education technology and the way media could be produced in the classroom. In fact, it was on the back of Flip cameras that helped win a Technology Innovative Program award for my former school. First, Flips were easy to use. Just point and press the big red button to start and stop recording. Editing was a snap with the Flip Share software that was developed for the camera. Both of these features allowed teachers and students to easily video all kinds of class activities on the fly. Flips could also accommodate those who wanted to do more with better video editing software. Second, the cameras were inexpensive. Teachers could purchase one or schools could purchase dozens of the little cameras and it would not break the bank.

While there are similar cameras from Sony, Kodak, RCA, and other manufactures, they may all eventually fall to rise of quality video cameras in mobile phones. My Motorola Atrix can shoot 720P HD video and the quality is very good. However, the operative term is mobile phone and many educators are not ready to embrace the mobile phone as a learning tool yet. Maybe the demise of Flip may force naysayers into experimenting with mobile phones. Only time will tell.

As for me, I still carry around my trusty Flip just about everywhere I go and use it for various things. One of the last uses of my Flip was to record South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's recent visit to our school. Some of the video was shot with my Flip while other video was shot with my Atrix. My trusty Flip will continue to be a companion, always waiting for that perfect moment to record and share.

Kirk schools Khan

Something I always wanted to do is teach a lesson on a new concept to students via video while I had to be away from school. I wanted to see how well this could work in delivering instruction and avoid giving make-work to students to keep them occupied. While creating how-to videos are nothing new to me, I had usually given instruction and used the videos as a supplement for teachers and students to use for review if I was not available for questions. However, I have never created a video that would replace me as an instructor. There were some questions about this always running through my mind. Would students totally understand it? Would they be totally lost? Would I do such a good job that I might actually produce my way out of a job?

The perfect opportunity to test my theory came last week when I had to miss two classes. I needed to teach a lesson on blogging I could no longer put off. Again, I did not want to create another make-work assignment of having students read a cybersafety or technology article online then answer some questions in Edmodo or the technological worksheet. I started putting together my video plan two days before I was to be absent. First, I wanted to outline what needed to be taught which turned into six individual lessons. Next, I used Jing to get the screen shots and screen captures of the blogging tool we were going to use. To create the edited video I used Microsoft Live Movie Maker (educator's guide)because I was doing this at school and I needed the practice since I was teaching it later. Finally, I created the blogging assignment the students would do while working with the videos and uploaded it all to Edmodo. I was amazed Edmodo was able to digest a blogging assignment, six video lessons, and a link to Later these videos were uploaded to YouTube so students could access them from home easily. When the day came, fortune smiled on me because the substitute who took my classes was a retired teacher I had worked with in the pass and greatly respected for her professionalism. I could have no better person to try this stunt with because she would keep the students on task.

Today was the first day back with the students I used with my little video experiment. I posted a poll in Edmodo to see what they thought of the video experience. The question was "How well did the video lessons on blogging work for you when I was out?" Forty-two students responded to my poll. 30.95% of the respondents said they "Understood everything about blogging now. 40.48% said they understood some of what the videos showed but still needed me to answer some questions. 14.29% said they still wanted me to teach them in class but the videos could be helpful later if they got stuck on something. Another 14.29% said the videos were not helpful at all and they needed the teacher to teach them. What I gathered from this small, unscientific sampling is while video instruction can be helpful but a teacher is still needed to guide and help the students totally understand a lesson.

Teachers can easily create their own lessons using screen shots, screen capture, Livescribe pencasts, and other recording methods. The biggest investment is the time it takes to create these lessons. Also, as one teacher friend who I helped in a similar project said, "It is disconcerting to be teaching to an empty classroom." He could never do a recording when students were around because he had to edit out so much. The Khan Academy and it's wealth of videos on a variety of math, science, economic, and other subject areas is another great resource. While there are some misguided people who think videotaping "great" teachers teaching and showing them to all students will help solve education's problems, it will be the best teachers who will use videos as one more tool in their toolbox of learning to reach all students.


Research Assistant

For students and others writing research projects the task of creating a properly formatted bibliography can be a chore. I showed students in my Computer Technology class how to use Microsoft Word's ability to create bibliographies but what if you cannot use Word where you are doing your research? There are some Internet-based apps such as Son of Citation Machine but it requires the input of information before producing a bibliography. Then there is EasyBib which makes creating a bibliography as easy doing a couple of clicks. Recently, the people at EasyBib asked me to try out their premium service to see what I think. I used it to help organize my resources and notes for an upcoming blog post.

I first learned of EasyBib a few years ago when an English teacher told me about showing the site to her students. I was impressed on how easy it was to create entries for a properly formatted bibliography. Improvements have been made over time to make the site even easier to use. For example, all one needs to create a citation for a website is copy the URL of the website then click Autocite. A form with much of the website's information entered is created. Just fill in any missing information if available, then click Create Citation. Just enter a title, ISBN number, or keyword for books, magazines, or other materials to create the citation. There is an outlining application in the notes section to help organize your thoughts on the project. When you are finished you can save the bibliography formatted in one of the popular styles as a Word or Google Doc. This allows you to copy and paste the bibliography into your paper. If you are a premium subscriber, you can save your work as a project and come back to it later. To help the research process, premium subscribers can also create notes that can be linked to citations. The cost to be a premium subscriber is $4.99 per month; $14.99 per 6 months; and $19.99 per year. K-12 schools can provide the service for $165 per year.

EasyBib makes the process of gathering and citing research materials, well, easy. However, there are a few issues with EasyBib. First, while the price for subscriptions is not very high, cash strapped students and schools may still balk at the costs. Considering the number of research papers K-12 students every year, EasyBib may be a luxury that can be done without. To make well-earned money advertising on the site could be sold, then sell subscriptions to do away with the advertisments. Another thing I think would help would be a crude word processing application which allows researchers to write drafts of their paper which can be copied and pasted to a word processor for final editing and publishing. Finally, there needs an EasyBib mobile app for iOS and Android. This app can capture website information and save it with the click of a button. Also, barcodes of books, magazines, and other sources can be scanned by the camera of the mobile device and a citation be automatically created and saved in a project. Smart phones and similar devices are growing with popularity with students. Plus, there are other apps that can do similar tasks I described so a mobile app is almost a must for EasyBib today.

Overall, EasyBib is a good site to help create bibliographies and organize research in the cloud. The easy way of imputing information makes it a great time saver for anyone doing research projects. Being able to save your projects is helpful if you cannot carry a laptop between the library, coffee shop or home where a paper can is written. While the price is not terribly high, it can dissuade students and schools who must watch their budgets in these difficult economic times. Finally, a moblie app is needed for iOS and Andriod phones, tablets, and other devices that can scan barcodes to create citations on the go. If you have to write research projects then EasyBib will prove to be a valuable research tool.