Thursday, February 7, 2008

Computer Refurbishing Program

I run an after school technology club with another tech ed teacher. For several years, I had always thought about taking old computers that people are getting rid of and setting them up with Open Source (free) software so students could use them to do school work. I have been playing with linux distributions for quite some time. I was first introduced to them by my friend, Duncan McGreggor, when he was volunteering at TJ when he was between jobs. It was Duncan who piqued my interest in using freely available software to do the tasks for which most people will pay $100s or $1000s. So I figured why not put that value into the hands of students who could use it?

It was not until I met Chris Gregan, founder of Aptenix Desktop Solutions, that I realized it could be done. I met Chris at the 2007 Maryland Instructional Computer Coordinator Assocation's (MICCA) annual conference in the Baltimore Inner Harbor Convention Center where I have presented anually on technology. When I saw the big blue penguin logo on Chris's vendor kiosk, I had to talk to him. I'm happy I did.

I asked Chris about Aptenix. It turns out that his company does for business what I wanted to do for students - except I wouldn't charge the students. :-) It wasn't until October that I contacted him to get his advise on how to do the project. He developed a plan where the students in my technology club would do a standard linux install and then he would build a server with all the updates which the new desktops would use to update the installed software. He recommended Ubuntu because of it's ease of use and stability. I was very surprised that in the age of Microsoft, Dell has even started shipping its computer with Ubuntu as an option.

The first thing the students did was perform an autopsy on the computers. They took them apart and identified the parts. Then they put the computers back together in working order. After that they installed Ubuntu from CD and finally updated it using the server Chris set up.

The students have really enjoyed this project and when it was time to publisize it to our student population, we have had over 50 requests from families for one of our open source computers. This is not only a good project for students to meet their technology standards, but it also provides many of the students we are targeting for intervention with a tool to help them complete their school work.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

A New Year Just Begun ...

Well it has been an eventful summer. Time to start getting back to the daily grind of helping teachers with their technology needs. I always look forward to a new year with hope and optimism that we will be able to tackle the challenges which lay before us. This year we are focusing our efforts on students with special needs. Our test scores for students in that area are pretty low. I'm optimistic that I will be able to work with the Special Educators in the building to build a customized instructional technology intervention plan for our special education students. This is greatly dependent on many outside factors, but I am confident that we will make strides.

I really enjoy inspirational videos to get me pumped for a big task. This year is a BIG task. So I went on TeacherTube and located one of my favorite tech videos. It really shows how daunting the challenge is to education children in this rapidly changing world. But it is also very exciting. So I'm sharing it here with you so that it may provide you some inspiration as well. Then if you're interested, you can read on about my ideas about using technology for this school year.

I believe that using appropriate educational technologies with students who receive special education will bear many fruits. Our newly upgraded network now has Windows XP - yes, now that Vista is out it means we upgrade to XP. We need to take advantage of the technologies that existed 4 years ago to help our students today. With the text to speech and speech to text capabilities built into XP and Office 2003, many of our students will find reading and writing a little less intimidating. Confidence goes a long way. Students who believe they can accomplish a task often do. Wow! What a concept! With our new versions of Inspiration® software, Audacity, and VlogIt we can begin to put together lessons that students find engaging and motivating.

I have yet to explore Inspiration but I am excited to see that you can embed video directly into the diagram. How cool would it be to download a video segment from United Streaming so students can watch the video and fill out an organizer, pop it into outline form, and create a PowerPoint or Photo Story show? I wonder how many 8th graders will prefer that over writing a 5 point paragraph about the causes of the Civil War?

Audacity is now on every computer at our school and I am ready to start cranking out some TJPodcasts. With VlogIt now on the approved list I believe we can put many of our creative works to good use. Perhaps even an iTunes page? Dare to dream!

So here are the grand plan for the year. I'm hoping to work most all of the topics into lessons in a one-on-one training session throughout the year.

Technology Topics for 2007-2008

  • ExamView
  • Inspiration
  • United Streaming
  • Audacity

Suggested Topics for consideration:

  • Using Wiki pages for cooperative learning activities
  • Creating Podcast and VideoCast projects (goes with Audacity)
  • Text to Speech and Speech to Text features of XP and Office 2003
  • Improving communication with parents through the use of a teacher web site using Moodle (our ELC software).
  • Adapting Assignments for differentiated instruction and incorporating educational technology.
  • Proper formatting of a Word document
  • Using Excel spreadsheets to collect, analyze, and display data
  • Blogging ... it's a lot of fun!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

People don't always grasp the power of the "YouTube" generation. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of junk on there, but there are some really great nuggets that can be used for instruction. Web 2.0 technology is so useful for motivating and captivating students. A friend of mine sent me a link to the video below. I think it's a great introduction for art or music - two subject areas that are becoming more and more threatened by budget cuts and the hard choices necessary to meet NCLB requirements. It's about 6 minutes long but it can be used so many ways to motivate students.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Human Calendar Rocks Too!

My brother knows this guy named Craig who created the web site. It's a really cool web site he created by having people pose with carboard numbers during his travels. While cirumnavigating the continent of Austrailia (yes, Austrailia is also a continent) he was dreaming of Marcia Brady on the Brady Bunch and started thinking of making a calendar using a grid formation like the one at the beginning of the Brady Bunch. Really cool but the heat of the Outback must have been getting to him.

Anyway four years later I got an email from my brother that Craig had released publicly. So I went to check it out and saw that my brother, Mike, and his wife, Betsy, and some of his friends were all on it. It's pretty cool to see something that. I mean it's totally cool and yet totally insane at the same time. While some people fritter their lives away channel surfing for what's not good on TV, here's a guy who actually puts his idle time to good use. Good for him!

Oh by the way, if it happens to be July when you look at, #17 is my brother and #18 is his wife, Betsy.

My wife and I met Craig during Mike's "bachelor party" at the Lucky Labrador in Portland, OR. He had just returned from his bike trek around Austrailia and had really facinating stories to tell. It was a great night of food and fun as stories. Craig turns out to be this really cool guy who is mellow and just enjoys being creative. His tech skills are strong and I believe he is a powerful Jedi Knight fighting for good in the cyber universe. One day I'd love to be able to do the coding that he does but I really enjoy helping teachers and students take advantage of technology to aquire their own knowledge.

While at the wedding on Mt. Hood, we asked Craig to take out his cardboard clock numbers and we posed for a two pictures for 5:25 AM and PM. 5-25 is my anniversary!

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Google Calendar Rocks

I've been doing a lot of work with Google software lately and I find them to be so useful. When my wife was starting to get "confused" as to when I had appointments and meetings - even though I am officially on leave, I thought I would set up a Google calendar of events and share it with her. Then she will be able to see when I have different meetings and classes. Yes, we have Outlook, but she can't view it real time and if I print a calendar out at the beginning of the month and add an event, I have to keep printing revised versions to hang on my refrigerator.


You have the option to set reminders about your upcoming events. One of the methods of reminding you is to text message your cell phone!! I was so excited when I learned that!! I am so forgetful sometimes with all the things I have to do that the text message is a life saver. I have set it to remind me of an online discussion being held May 1st which I am to participate. So Now I have no excuse about forgetting! :-) Of course, it is possible that I leave my cell phone in the car and never see the text message. BEG

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kick Butts

This is a student made video about their research on Argentina.

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