Friday, November 30, 2007

tt4t_014 Finding time to learn

It’s Friday, November 30, 2007 and welcome to Episode 14 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Finding the time to learn more about technology is always a challenge for the busy educator. Here are a few of my tips that I use to “find time” to improve my technology skills as well as to constantly improve myself in other areas of my life.

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1) First, making time to learn new things is a necessity. You do not have a choice. It has been said that human knowledge is doubling every 18 to 24 months. That means if you stop learning right now the half-life of your existing knowledge is roughly two years. While this may not be true in all content areas it is certainly true in the world of technology. It can be easy to give up and not try because this seems so overwhelming. If you are in the business of education giving up is not an option. An educators job is to prepare students for the future so continuous learning is a must. Remember my motto? Keep on learning…

2) Secondly, multitasking is your friend. Our children are wonderful multitaskers that the older generation often does not understand. Children text, (often having multiple conversations simultaneously), listen to music, and do homework. This leaves adults skeptics as to how much our children are really learning. Yet todays children multitask with little effort and are learning. How do I take advantage of multi-tasking? About my only so called free time is when I commute or exercise so I use this time by listening to podcasts about specific topics I am interested in. This has greatly influenced my professional development habits and has made me more productive at work and at home.

3) My third tip for better managing your time is to use a centralized scheduling program. I currently use the Microsoft Outlook Calendar program. By having a centralized calendar you can coordinate all of your activities in one place. This prevents time conflicts and keeps you on task. Since I have web access to Outlook I can look up and add to my calendar anywhere there is Internet access.

4) Time and place shifting. As much as we would like to you cannot be everywhere, consider making digital content available for repetitious duties that you currently perform. For example create a digital lesson that your students can use at a learning center. Produce minipodcasts of material for students that need material repeated over and over. This will free up your time to work with another student or group.

5) Access to information anytime and anywhere. By far one of the biggest productivity tools for me is having critical files available online that I can access anywhere there is an Internet connection. Getting away from the desktop computer paradigm as the central storage location of data and moving to the network paradigm will greatly increase your productivity. Google docs and spreadsheets offers this capability as well as other online storage solutions. Other Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis also make it easy for you to have information available to you and to others 24x7, 365 days a year.

How do you improve your productivity? Send me an email to with your suggestions on how you use technology to improve your productivity.

With all of that being said I also find it necessary to periodically unplug myself from the rapid pace of todays modern society. I call this going off the grid and for me personally this is necessary in order for me to keep up my enthusiasm and not become bruned out. Get away every now and then and go enjoy nature and the wonders of the world. There is much more to life than work so enjoy yourself.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week


A quick Tour of Rubistar

My Technology Pick of the week this week is called Rubistar and is an online rubric creator that is free to educators that want to create their own rubrics. This website has rubric templates for many different subject areas and is also searchable. Be sure to check out the Quick Tour of Rubistar link provided in the show notes for this episode to help get you started using this tool quickly. You may select standard templates for your rubrics or you may completely customize rubrics to meet your individual needs.

Having clearly defined rubrics especially for project based learning helps both the teacher and the students by clearly defining assessment criteria before a project is started. You can also create a rubric with the assistance of your students so that they can help you in defining the parameters of a project. This gives the students a sense of responsibility and prepares them for the actual project. Thousands of rubrics have been created at this site and rubrics may also be shared with others. There is also an interactive rubric but that requires registration and a login to the site. Be sure to check this site out the next time you are creating a rubric for your assignments.

That wraps it up for this episode. Show notes for Episode 14 and previous episodes are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 If you have a comment or suggestion for a future show or a suggestion for a Technology Pick of the Week then please email me at So until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

tt4t_013 A Smart Board Resource for Teachers

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It’s Saturday, November 24, 2007 and welcome to Episode 13 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the holiday break. I took a couple of days off this week so this will be an abbreviated podcast but I wanted to share with you my Technology Pick of the Week.

This coming week I will be giving another Smart Board presentation to the Ed Scholars group at EIU. We are having good success with the Smart Boards we have installed at the beginning of this semester and so far I have provided training sessions to over 400 professors and students in their use. One of the questions I get asked a lot is to provide resources about how other teachers are using Smart Boards in the classroom. Since I work with preservice teachers and other teachers from the Kindergarten level to the university level it is always a challenge to find age appropriate resources but I think I have found a resource that you will find valuable no matter what your subject area or grade level.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

The Smart Board Podcast

My Technology Pick of the week this week is a blog/podcast combination called the Smart Board Podcast. A link is provided in the show notes.

The tag line to this website is:
“Digital ink doesn't stain... it leaves a mark in the mind. Go leave your mark!”

This podcast has recently made it to episode 100 so congratulations goes out to its creators. If you look on the right side of the website you can find previous episodes organized by categories and if you scroll down near the middle of the page on the right side you will find the previous episode archives. Listening to these podcasts are a great way to hear what others are doing with Smart Boards in their classrooms. This is well worth a listen and if you find this resource valuable you can subscribe to the podcast using iTunes, Zune Marketplace, or your favorite podcast aggregator and listen to them at your convenience.

Show notes for this episode and previous episodes are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 If you have a comment or suggestion for a future show or a suggestion for a Technology Pick of the Week then please email me at That wraps it up for Episode 13 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

tt4t_012 Social Bookmarking, It’s Mmm, Mmm Delicious!

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It’s Saturday, November 17, 2007 and welcome to Episode 12 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Before I begin this week I would to answer a couple of questions I received about last weeks podcast on PowerPoint Producer. I forgot to mention that you do need to use the Internet Explorer browser to view the content created by Producer. Roughly 80 percent of Internet users use Internet Explorer as their main browser but there is a significant percentage that use other browsers. I have not tried using Mozilla Firefox with the Internet Explorer plug-in to view Producer content but I suspect that combination would work. If someone out there has the IE plug-in installed in Firefox I would be interested in knowing if PowerPoint Producer files do work with Firefox. Just wanted to clear that up if anyone was having trouble viewing some of the links I provided in last weeks show notes.

This week I am beginning to think about Thanksgiving dinner and thus the inspiration for the title of this podcast of Social Bookmarking, It’s Mmm, Mmm Delicious! We are expecting between 20 and 30 family members at our house for Thanksgiving dinner so I will be cooking three turkeys in preparation of the feast. OK, so what is the tie in with delicious theme? is an Internet website owned by Yahoo that is used for social bookmarking purposes. I have used this site regularly over the past couple of years and I find it very valuable as a teacher.

Think of just as you would your favorites list in Internet Explorer or your bookmark lists in other browsers. There is one major difference. bookmarks are saved on the Internet and thus are available to you anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection. They can travel with you. You just go to your account on the website and voila there are your bookmarks. Cool! This is so helpful to me as a teacher because I do a lot of workshops and therefore I am not always setting in front of my computer. In the old days (three or four years ago) if I needed to look up something I bookmarked on my computer when outside my office I was out of luck, but not with Now if I need to check a link when away from my desk I just go to my bookmarks on the Internet and there is my bookmark list.

The second major advantage to is that I can share my bookmarks with anyone that knows my account address. My account address is provided in the show notes for this episode.

Tom Grissom’s bookmarks:

By sharing my bookmarks others can take advantage of material that I have collected over the years and it is all freely available on the Internet.

The third advantage is that when I add a link in I can see if any other users have previously linked to the content that I am interested in. For example if others have linked to the same material I can click on the section in my bookmark listings that says saved by 21 other people (this is usually highlighted in pink) When clicked this brings up a list of other users that have also bookmarked the same content. If I would like I can click on their username to see their bookmarks. Sometimes you will get lucky and find someone that has similar interests to you and you can learn a lot from their bookmarks. This can save you hours and hours of searching on the Internet because other users has already vetted material for you. The key is finding an expert that has similar interests as you. As with anything on the Internet be careful when exploring because some other users may not share the same tastes as you.

The fourth big advantage of social bookmarking is something called tags or tagging. When you bookmark something in you are given the opportunity to write some notes about the link you wish to bookmark and you can also assign a tag to the entry which is like a keyword to categorize your links by. For example when I find something of interest for my edu2022 class I tag it with the keyword edu2022, when my student visit my links I tell them to select the edu2022 tag on the right side of the screen and they will only see the content that I have tagged as relevant for this class. I am sure you will find many uses for Please send me an email to with a story about how you use and I will pass it along to our listeners.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week website

My Technology Pick of the week this week is the website. User accounts are free if you would like to give it a try. As I have mentioned before the only downside is yet another userid and password to remember. The social part of bookmarking is finding other users that share similar interests and you can add them to your network if you like. You can also be notified when others update their links. You can even have a fan club. Right now under my account I have two fellow users that are listed as my fans. Cool, Thank You! I am not sure who they are but it does give you a good feeling knowing that you have helped out others enough that they would add themselves to your network as a fan.

Show notes for this episode and previous episodes are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 If you have a comment or suggestion for a future show or a suggestion for a Technology Pick of the Week then please email me at That wraps it up for Episode 12 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, November 9, 2007

tt4t_011 PowerPoint Producer a useful tool for teachers and students

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It’s Friday, November 9, 2007 and welcome to Episode 11 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week I would like to introduce you to a program that has been around for a number of years but I am surprised by how few teachers know about it. PowerPoint Producer 2003 is a free program available from Microsoft.

PowerPoint Producer has been around since Office XP in 2002 and PowerPoint Producer works with Microsoft Office 2003. Producer basically allows users to create virtual PowerPoint presentation that can be uploaded and delivered via your website. When you begin a Producer project you are given a wizard that allows you to select the type of format you would like to produce. If you have a video camera that will connect to your computer you can create a PowerPoint presentation with a talking head video of you in the upper left corner of the screen and the PowerPoint slide showing in the main portion of the screen. If you simply want to annotate the PowerPoint slides all you need is a microphone.

I have used this program in the past to create self-standing presentations to be used in learning centers. An individual student or small group of students can go to the learning station and watch and listen to the presentation created with PowerPoint Producer. If you wish you can upload the producer project folder and all associated files to the Internet so that anyone can view the presentation using a browser. You do not have to upload the files created to the Internet because this program creates a self-contained folder that can be burned to a CD or copied to a local computer for local access.

The other way that I have used PowerPoint Producer is for student presentations. Students use Producer to develop a virtual PowerPoint presentation that I and other students can view at a time of our choosing. This gives students the chance to practice PowerPoint presentations but not take up class time. Sometimes you do not want to give up class time for students to present, if you have 20 students and each one gives a 10 minute presentation that is 200 minutes of class time, over three hours! Students do need time to present in front of groups but I have found that students are just as motivated in giving virtual presentations. The other benefit is that they can upload the presentations to the Internet and share with anyone. This is a good motivator for students and I have found that the quality of work goes up if the students know ahead of time that the work will be posted to the Internet.

Links are provided in the show notes for the PowerPoint Producer 2003 download site and additional information about this program.

Download PowerPoint Producer 2003

PowerPoint Producer Tutorials and Examples (from McMurry University)

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

Voice Thread

My Technology Pick of the week this week is a new Web 2.0 tool called Voice Thread. A link to the Voice Thread website is provided in the show notes. Voice Thread is a service that allows users to narrate pictures and share with others. It is a lot like a blog but instead of commenting about a blog post in writing you create a voice recording associated with a picture. The real power comes when multiple people make vocal comments on a particular picture and thus a single picture can have multiple perspectives. This is an excellent story telling tool. Be sure to check out Voice Thread because I think it can have many uses in the classroom no matter what subject area or grade level you teach. They have some excellent demos at the website for you to get acquainted with this new tool.

Show notes for this episode and previous episodes are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 If you have a comment or suggestion for a future show or a suggestion for a Technology Pick of the Week then please email me at That wraps it up for Episode 11 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

tt4t_010 The Long Tail

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(or right click to download to your computer or portable MP3 player)

It’s Saturday, November 3, 2007 and welcome to Episode 10 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This episode marks a small milestone for this show as this is the 10th episode of TechTalk4Teachers. Hurray, we made it to double digits! According to Rob Walch of podcast411 one out of five podcast do not make it past the 10th episode. I made myself a promise to give this show a semester and re-evaluate at the end of the semester. If you find value from these shows please let me know. As with most podcasters we are truly interested in what our listeners think and love to hear from others.

In a previous episode I discussed podfading and how podfading has entered the vocabulary of podcasters. It is easy to get excited about educational technologies when they are in the novelty stage. It is much tougher to cut through the hype and utilize the technologies in a sound pedagogical manner to the benefit of teachers and students. Another thing that I have noticed about many of the successful longer lasting podcasts is that they evolved over time to fill a niche. This is a consequence of taking advantage of what has become known as the “long tail” that podcasting and other Web 2.0 technologies can target to be successful. The long tail is a statistical term that refers to the end areas of a power curve distribution where a small number of the population is represented. In professional markets broadcasters target the middle of the curve where most of the population is represented. The corporate media typically does not concern itself with the small numbers of the long tail and thus provides an opportunity for podcasters to serve this audience.

Successful podcasts, at least the ones that are well known, must also actively market their product so that podcasting directories pick up their coverage. This is something I have yet to do. Finding time to do a weekly podcast is challenging enough, throwing in time to market a podcast is beyond the resources most podcasters have. There is also a certain distaste that many feel regarding marketing efforts and many educators are uncomfortable with shameless self-promotion. That being said I do need to investigate further the requirements to be listed in iTunes and other directories. From what I currently understand all that is required for registering with iTunes is an iTunes account that requires a credit card. Why do you need to give out credit card information if all you want to do is register your podcast? This requirement can be a showstopper for many that do not want to give out credit card information over the Internet. If anyone has recently registered their podcast with iTunes please let me know the process you used and if you were satisfied with the results. You can email me at

I have also been reading several articles and listening to other podcasts about the misnomer of the word podcast. Listener statistics indicate that approximately 70 to 80 percent of all podcasts are listened to using a computer and not the branded MP3 players as the name implies. Are you listening to this podcast using your computer or your MP3 player? Adam Curry, the podfather himself, has reconsidered the definition of podcasting and has stated that while RSS feeds and subscriptions were in the original technical description of podcasting this has not turned out to be the reality for the majority of consumers of podcasts. While the iPod has captured the lions share of the publicity there is increasing competition which is a good thing. The evolution continues and while educators are sorting out effective uses of the technology the past has some important lessons to learn from. The podcast directories need to be much better and easier to contribute to. The MP3 players also need to be less expensive. More high-quality podcast choices are needed in niche markets such as education. This will all come with time as the technologies mature.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology pick of the week this week is a successful podcast series that now has over 100 shows to their credit. The show was formerly known as Podcasts for Teachers but has recently changed the showname to The Teachers Podcast. The shows host Dr. Kathy King and Mark Gura are from Fordham University in New York and were early adopters of podcasting. Their format is similar to a NPR radio show covering educational technology developments and often have guest interviews with educators in the know about educational technologies. I encourage you to give them a listen as they are entertaining and informative. A link is provided in the show notes for both the old show and new show locations.

That about wraps it up for this episode of TechTalk4Teachers, until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.