21st Century Learning – Wordle

In EDTL 6360 at BGSU we were required to utilize Wordle (wordle.com) and produce a digital artifact that contained words about education and technology. We were further instructed to use words related to our content area and grade level. I am currently not in the classroom as a teacher so I chose to focus on words that were related to 21st century learning and technology.

The Book Shelf – Post 1 (2011)

This post was originally posted on April 16th, 2012.

I had set a goal in 2011 to read a total of 12 books but fell short of the goal by three books. While it is always disappointing not to reach a goal, the nine books that I did read were good and I enjoyed them. I feel as though all the books helped me on a professional level to improve my work. All the books I read were through the Amazon Kindle App.
The 4 Hour Work Week: Expanded and Updated by Tim Ferriss
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds
Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge by Bob Probert, Dani Probert and Kristie McLellan Day with a foreword by Steve Yzerman.
Rework by Jason Friedman and David Heinemeier Hansson
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley and Ron Powers
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
A later post will have a list of books that I want to read this year. Again my goal will be 12 books this year.


In my experiences programmers are known to be a bit odd and tend to think in terms of their preferred programming language structure. One common element amongst languages is they have ability to do similar things…but may go about it in different ways or call it something different. A common task for programmers is to evaluate an input and then decide what to do based on the input and either do a task or do something else. This is called an If Then Else Statement. This logic way of thinking has moved to the Internet in a service called IFTTT.com (If This Then That).
One thing I want to do is collect all of the e-mails that are related to a project I am working on that contain a certain label and then send them into an Evernote Notebook. The challenge is I am working with multiple people from different organizations so establishing a filter within Gmail would prove challenging. There could be e-mails that have no relation to to the project at hand so do a blanket filter of any e-mail from their domain would not work. Here is my workflow:

Locate e-mail within my account and assign a label to the message.
When a new e-mail comes in that matches that label it should trigger a response and send the e-mail automatically to the correct Evernote notebook.
This will allow me to have all communication within Evernote and easily searchable.

IFTTT is currently a free service that is in beta that operates through a point and click creation of recipes (programs). You have two options when deciding how you will create a task. You can create the task from scratch or edit an existing recipe. The first step in creating a task is to select the trigger channel. I first looked through the existing recipes and found one that fit my needs so I edited the recipe.
The recipe I have selected states the following:
If an e-mail within GMAIL is labeled EVERNOTE then create a note in Evernote with the following conditions:

Subject and Received Date
The body of the message will contain the following information:
From Address, Subject, Received At and the body of the message.

The created note is placed into a defined notebook that I placed in the recipe. I then created tags to more easily identify the message when searching.
The group of schools I am working with right now is a total of four so the email messages could be regarding all four schools or one particular school. Once I examine the contents of the message, I can adjust the tagging system and apply the tags necessary to the contents of that e-mail for improved search results based on tags.
How can we use IFTTT in a school setting to simplify tasks? I have been thinking about this and know there is a use for this program but I am coming up empty on a good example to provide. Usually when I come up with an idea it is to resolve an issue that I am faced with so I think that is part of the block that is making it hard for me to figure out this answer. I am going to think about this longer and will hopefully come up with solutions.

Thinking of a Different Classroom

On March 3rd 2012 I was able to attend Edcamp Columbus held at Upper Arlington High School. This event was a gathering of people who were there because they are passionate about education, technology and were willing to spend a Saturday discussing these topics. This event was mentioned here because in the discussions at the conference, lunch and a random shopping spree to Microcenter were valuable and one of those led to me searching out more answers about the topic. Unfortunately I can’t remember who or how the topic came about but it is worth discussion here.
As technology coordinators, we face the challenge of integrating technology into the classroom and have that integration mean something more than being a check mark we can cross off and say we have technology in our schools. The technology that we support and aide our teachers and administrators in implementing has to be able to add value from the standpoint of tax payers, students, parents, teachers and administration. Does adding an interactive white board, projector or any other devices change the way we actually teach or is it just building upon methods that we established previously?
CHALLENGE: Can we replace the projector in the classroom and provide the teacher with a device that can be free of chords while also allowing the teacher to have full functionality of a traditional computer? Could it be extended to the whole classroom? Is it cost effective over time?
SOLUTION: The projector has started to become a common element in the classroom along with an interactive whiteboard. The limits of these technologies require that they stay in a fixed location and require that the user be within a fixed location approximate to the technology.
Apple has implemented a technology that they refer to as AirPlay (Wikipedia.org) which allows streaming of audio and video between devices on the same wireless network that have the technology implemented within them. A strong wireless network is essential to this technology being practical. The iPad and Apple TV both have this technology which allows for this setup to be practical. In having this technology is it possible that we can replace the projector and the smart board?
It should be noted that these prices are retail and not reflective of possible discounts for buying in bulk or buying as an educational facility. A typical projector costs any where from $400 on up depending on what options one selects when pricing the projector. In our case here we are going to look at the Epson PowerLite X12 which costs a suggested $499.00. This projector was chosen because it has a small foot print, 5,000 hour bulb life and inputs that are configured for future display technologies that will begin to replace existing VGA connections in the near future. A replacement bulb looks to cost around $200. The next piece in the puzzle is the interactive technology (Mimio, Smartboard etc.). A Mimio device can cost around $700 while a smartboard can cost around $2,000 – $3,000. We will settle on a price of $2,500 for the Smartboard. A cost of $500 will be figured in for mounting of projectors and misc. hardware.
The Mimio setup will cost the following:
Projector – $500
Extra Bulb – $200
Mimio – $700
Mounting/Misc. Cost – $500
Total Cost: $1,900
The Smart Board setup will cost the following:
Projector – $500
Extra Bulb – $200
Smartboard – $2,500
Mounting/Misc. Cost – $500
Total cost: $3,700
The Apple Solution setup will cost the following:
Apple iPad 2 – $400
Apple TV – $100
55″ LG TV – $1,800
Mounting/Misc. Cost – $500
Total Cost: $2,800
In examining the three solutions we need to ask our selves if the goal of allowing the teacher to move freely is achieved? The Apple TV solution achieves the goal of allowing the teacher to move freely through the classroom without the need to worry about a cord. The other two solutions do not allow this free movement. The Apple TV also has additional features which can be utilized in a classroom setting such as podcast downloads (audio/video), Netflix streaming (where applicable in a classroom) and others. In addition to the allowing this free movement the Apple solution also incorporates another key element that we hadn’t proposed in our original solution.
Any number of iPads can connect to a single Apple TV (one at a time) and display the screen. Imagine a classroom setting where each student has an iPad and they take turns sharing their work by connecting to the Apple TV through the iPad. The next question for another post is it possible to afford a classroom set of iPad’s? The ways to use this technology to transform the way a topic is taught is endless.
In the example I tried setting up with my iPad and Apple TV I did the following:

Created Evernote notebook with lesson resources
Resources included a PDF, pictures, Word Documents, Audio Recording, Video Recording and templates for an assignment.
During the lesson I used the iPad to take a picture and uploaded it into Evernote.
I opened the pictures and made notations to the pictures and saved them back to Evernote.
I played the videos and audio recordings.

In a real classroom setting we would have been doing this in real time and handed the iPad over to the student at any time and had them for example label the parts of a bug using Skitch. If we had a classroom set we could have reviewed the students work in real time by displaying it on the board. Most of what we just discussed is still that traditional teacher leading the discussion but with the iPad in the hand of the student the teaching has been transferred to the student and using technology that allows the work to be carried on with the student once that academic year is over.
The Apple solution achieves the goal of letting the teacher move freely through the classroom, utilize technology and change the way they teach. Students can be further engaged if it can be afforded to supply the student with the same technology and move the student to the center of the classroom experience. This solution also allows for the technology to move with the end user and not be limited to a fixed room like a projector and interactive whiteboard would be. I would like to see this in action in a classroom, it is one thing to think and theorize that this would be practical but it is another to actually implement and see it in action.

TSBC – A Spreadsheet, Table and Query

*Please note that the values found in here are hockey player names and the phone number is the Detroit Redwings Ticket Line and do not reflect the opinons of the people or organizations with which they are involved. The values were used as a test data set to produce valid results.
Initially this module’s post for the Technology Skills Boot Camp (Tools of the Trade) series was going to cover Livebinders but a question posed to me at work presented a new topic. It all started with a form that we created in Google Docs to collect inquiries from people interested in starting a charter school. The entries are stored in a spreadsheet and the question posed was can we create a report with the information in the spreadsheet and oh yea…can we set a start and finish date? The skills learned in the original task were also able to be implemented into a spreadsheet that I have on charter school eRate information and technology plan statuses. I will be the first to admit that there is probably a better way to do this and this is by no means the best method to use in a production setting. How ever with that being said, my goal here is to create a working report that will be used by a few people.

Create a user friendly form that generates a quick report of entries.
Create a user friendly form that generates a running report based on date ranges.
The running report only needs to have certain fields from the whole spreadsheet

On the surface it appears simple and would appear it wouldn’t take to long for someone to piece this together…right? It took me a total of four days to figure out how to make this work and there were plenty of learning moments along the way.
The reports were all created using two different formulas as the basis for extracting the information from the established spreadsheet. A formula is an entry in a spreadsheet cell that will generate a value based on the functions found within the formula. In the case of our reports the following two formulas were used:


The links above will take you to the Google Docs Help Section entry for each of the function. In this case, I am using the INDIRECT function to reference the value based on a record level found in a different sheet. The QUERY function allowed me to use the SQL programming syntax that I am familiar with to be select in the fields and values I selected.
In creating the running report, I used the INDIRECT function which I learned about through Eric Curts and the Google Apps User Group…so THANK YOU! Also a shout out goes to Shawn F. who aided me in this challenge. The INDIRECT function is pretty cool in the fact that it can be used as a placeholder value. In the report the user enters the record value in the spreadsheet to generate the value. In this example we are using the record number 8 that the user entered in column B3. Here is the statement that is used to generate the value for the report: =INDIRECT(“responses!A”&B$3)
In this case, INDIRECT is the function and the information within the parentheses is being pulled from a spreadsheet called responses and the value found within column A of the 8th record (value entered in B3).
Now on to the more challenging part of the tasks…giving the user the ability to set a start/end date to generate a report. Simple right?
The first step I took was to create a new sheet within the spreadsheet document. This was done in order to create a separate environment where no changes to the data can occur because the values are being pulled from a different spreadsheet.
I assigned the name querytable to the sheet and then entered the following string into cell A1: =QUERY(‘responses’!A2:N101,!A2:N101). The = sign is an instruction to the spreadsheet that this is going to be a formula. The word QUERY identifies the function that the formula will be using. The items found within the parentheses is where the values for query table will be populated. techplaninfo identifies another spreadsheet within the document, the exclamation point tells the program that it should expect a range value. A2:N101 are the values found in the cells of the techplaninfo spreadsheet. If I only wanted to select certain fields within the range (A2:N101) I could build the query statement as follows: =query(‘responses’!A2:N101, “SELECT B,C,G,D,F,I,J”) and the end result would be a querytable populated only with the values found in columns A,B,C,G,D,F,I,J in that order. At this point further refining of the data could occur using the commands found on this website.
Now that the querytable has data, we can proceed to start building the report. The next challenge I had was establishing a way for the user to specify a start and end date for the report. When the form is submitted a time/date stamp in this format 2/29/2012 21:04:33 is created as an entry in the spreadsheet. In this instance I could care less about the time and more about the date so I created a new column and used =DATEVALUE(A2) as the value. This takes the value in A2 and formats it into a date value minus the time stamp. During my initial testing the date format was giving me error messages so I had to think outside of the box. I then set the entire column to be formatted as a normal number. This takes the date value and formats it into a number that takes the date and enters the number of days since January 1st 1900. Example: November 21st 2011 is 40,868.
At this point the next challenge is presented and I am left scratching my head. The user will not know how to use the DATEVALUE function or that November 21st 2011 is the 40,868 day from January 1st 1900. I left the start and end dates as date values that the user can enter as 11/21/11 and be unaware of the trickery taking place behind the scenes. In my querytable I created two new columns used the QUERY function to pull the values found in the start/end date columns on the report. I then used the DATEVALUE and established the numeric value.
The following query was used to select the required values in the report and to generate only those results that were within the given date range stated by the user.
=query(‘querytable’!A1:I100,”SELECT A,B,C, D, E, F, G where A >= H and A <= I”)
In my querytable column A (A) is the date value that is assigned to the entry when the user submits the form. Columns H and I (H,I) are the date values entered by the user on the report form. Remember that the date values entered were converted to a numeric value through the DATEVALUE function and this is where those converted values are stored unbeknown to the end user. The word WHERE tells that program that a conditional setting will be coming up. The word AND tells the program that both conditions stated must be matched in order for a valid entry to be generated. The symbols >= and <= are two operators that are used to compare the values in the entire table. The >= means that the value found in column A must be grater than or equal to the value found in H AND the value found in column A must be less than or equal to the value found in column I.
At this point we have completed all of the goals we stated at the start of the project. The user only needs to know the start/end dates that they want for the report and how to print the report if desired. As always the goal is to provide the end user with what they need and do it as simply as possible from the end users perspective. While it appears simple to the end user, the actions taking place in the background are more than simple. This task further illustrates that the position of technology coordinator within a school district is much more than just knowing one side of the job.

Tools of the Trade – Livescribe

Livescribe is one of those devices that you don’t realize you need until you have purchased it and are using it. One of the challenges that we as people face is the differences in how we process and retain information. I may be able to write down a few key words and remember what was being discussed at that point. Another person may end up writing a whole paragraph. Either way the issue at hand is we talk faster than we can write (or type). How do we retain the information and recall it later if we can’t accurately take notes to begin with?
The Livescribe pen is a hardware device that records the audio being spoken and through the use of the special paper (dot paper) can record your handwritten notes. The key here is that the paper interacts with the pen and can replay the audio that was being spoken at the time the note was written. A software component is integrated with the hardware and can be ran on both Windows and Mac operating systems. There is a limited mobile component for iOS devices that allow for the playback of pen casts that are created from recordings but other than that there is no mobile application.
When pricing the cost of the entire setup it is important to note that there is a hardware cost and a consumable cost. The consumable cost is defined as the cost of the paper. The Livescribe pens come in 2, 4 and 8 GB options and they also offer a Pro Pack which includes the pen along with other components. The cheapest pen is the 2 GB pen which is priced at $99. The cheapest paper option is a 3 subject notebook for $7.95. It is not required that you purchase the paper as the Livescribe Desktop software will allow you to print your own paper. I would advise checking the Livescribe website for the details on how to print your own paper.
This pen is a unique tool because it can be used at every grade level and every subject. It could be used by student, teacher or both depending on the age of the student but it really has no limitation. This product also have a very applicable use outside of the classroom in the real world. I use the pen in everyday business from meetings, notes, ideas and drawings just to name a few. The pen and a flip notepad are always with me.
The pen and software are geared towards a single user environment. I don’t have multiple pens to test with so I am not sure how the Livescribe software would react if a different pen would connect to the system. I do have my pen synched between two computers and have not noticed any issues with docking a single pen between two computers.
The pen can have applications stored on the pen that do various items. The applications can either be free or have a cost associated with them. Applications can be found within the Livescribe store. Livescribe Desktop software also has the ability to connect to various services such as Google Docs, Evernote and Livescribe Storage just to name a few. In this case you write down the word of the service and draw a line under it and then are prompted to tap the pages you wish to include. When you are done, you connect your pen and those pages are automatically uploaded to that service.
USE IDEA: Digital Portfolio
A teacher provides a list of spelling words at the start of the week. The teacher records the audio of the word and then writes the word out on the Livescribe paper. The recording can be uploaded into the students Evernote account where the student can review both the written (visual) and audio (listening) versions of the word. When it is time for the spelling test, the students can take the test one at a time where they are recorded saying the word and spelling the word. This can also be uploaded into the students Evernote account. This could then be used to see where the student may have struggled with the word. Did they struggle with the writing of the word or did they not hear the word correctly. These samples could also be shared with a speech therapist for aiding the student if they are receiving speech therapy.

Tools of the Trade – Evernote

Evernote (www.evernote.com) is a tool that I wish would have been around when I was in school lugging around a 3-ring binder with notes and assignments for different classes. When it comes to physical things that can be touched organization and retrieval are not my strong areas. I will be the first to admit that I tend to search for something in the form of a SQL (Structured Query Language) where I look for something in a certain place that meets a certain condition. This is hard to do when an item is not in a digital format. Evernote takes items whether they be a digital or physical object and stores them within the cloud offering me that ability to think in an SQL mind frame and find what I need easily. Evernote does one better and offers the ability to search text that is found within an image.
I am currently using Evernote for a number of different items that I work on. In my classes at Bowling Green State University I create a notebook for each class I am enrolled in and place any thing related to the class into this. I create a check list for each module and check items off as I progress. I put notes from our readings in there and links to documents all tagged with relevance to the content of the note. I also am using the Livescribe Connector that allows me to transfer my Livescribe notes (upcoming post) into Evernote by docking the smart pen. I plan my trips for work putting any thing and every thing into a notebook from registration forms, maps, invoices, receipts etc. You name it and I am trying to use Evernote for it. I use Evernote to share notes between my work and personal accounts.
Evernote is a tool that is based on being available to the user no matter which device that they have with them at the time. The software is available via any modern day web browser and has extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari which allows the user to clip any information found while browsing for the web without having to leave the web browser. There is a desktop application that is supported on Windows and Mac OS X. The application also has a mobile application that is supported on Android, Blackberry, iOS, WebOS and Windows phone 7. This truly is one application that can be easily integrated into any combination of devices that a user may have. Notes created within Evernote are synched to the Evernote server and are able to be viewed on any of the devices that the user has connected to their account.
Evernote has both a free version and a pay version. The free version has limitations of 60 MB of data transfer a month, slower image recognition and reduced note sharing capabilities just to name a few items. The paid version is available at a cost of $5.00 (USD) per user per month or $45 per user per year. Discounts are available to qualified educational users and institutions at 50% off the pries listed above. The paid version increases the data transfer to 1000 MB, faster image recognition and increased functionality when sharing notes just to name a few items. More information on the paid version can be found HERE.
The software and the concept does not limit the product to a strictly educational setting but can easily be incorporated into situations outside of education. A quick view over on the Evernote Blog demonstrates the practical uses that Evernote has in everyday life. While initially designed as a single user environment, the premium version allows for an increased power of sharing and collaboration amongst users and could be very useful in an educational setting.
USE IDEA – Digital Portfolio – These steps are done from the Mac OS X desktop version of Evernote.

Create a notebook stack for each of your classes
Inside of the notebook create an additional notebook for each of your students
Right click on each of the notebooks for your students and click on Share Notebook
Click on Invite Individuals to Access this Notebook* – SEE NOTE BELOW
Enter the e-mail addresses to share the notebook with (student, parents, other teachers etc.)
Select what your recipients may do with the notebook (view and or edit). You can also require them to login to Evernote if you desire. This will require an Evernote account for them.
Add a message and click Invite.

    • If you are using the free version you will only be able to allow the user to view the notebook. If you are using the paid version the viewer can also modify the note.
      This setup can be used by you as the teacher to record artifacts that the student creates during the year. The artifacts can be anything from a document, drawing, picture, video or audio recording to name a few. As the year progresses a digital copy of their work is being produced. The fun part is if you have the premium version you can allow the student, parent or other teacher to add to the digital portfolio. In the paid version of Evernote a snapshot of the notebooks and notes are taken daily by Evernote and the note history can be viewed. This also allows for the ability to import a note back to the account as it was that time stamp. At the end of the year the data is easily exported as either an HTML or ENEX (Evernote XML File) which will allow it to be imported into another Evernote account.
      At the present time, I do not see a way to transfer ownership of a notebook from one Evernote user to another. If this were an option it would remove the step required to export the notebook at the end of the school year.

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade (TOT) will be an ongoing series of posts regarding tools that I use in my everyday life. While the tools can be used in my ever day life, I want to ask the question can the tool be used in an educational setting or vice versa and how the tool can be used in an educational setting. While many of the items in the TOT series will tend to fall under software, there is the possibility that hardware could be included. Each entry initially will follow a set of questions. I will evaluate if these are applicable questions as I progress and may change them up. The TOT series will aim to answer the following questions:

Is the item web based or software based? If software based what operating systems does it support?
Does the item have a mobile application and if so what operating systems does it support?
The cost involved in using the product.
Applicable grade level use if the product would make a good educational tool.
Practicality of use in the world outside of education.
Is the software based towards a single user environment or a multi-user environment?
Misc. items that need discussed but do not fit with the previous six questions.