Saturday, August 30, 2008

tt4t_052 Happy Anniversary Episode

It’s Saturday, August 30th, 2008 and welcome to episode 52 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. We survived the first week back-to-school and this week has been a whirlwind of activity. The first week back to school is always extremely busy as everyone hits the doors at the same time and many need a little extra help with getting started. There are always new things to adjust to and new things to learn as summer has led to updates in both hardware and software in many classrooms.

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Yesterday we had our all college back-to-school meeting and I shared many of these updates with faculty. For those EIU faculty interested in the PowerPoint and other resources I shared please visit the ITC website at

Today is the one year anniversary of TechTalk4Teachers. As I reflect back over the past episodes we have built up quite a resource for teachers wanting to learn more about educational technologies. There are now over four hours of audio in the TechTalk4Teachers archives. To access past shows go to the TechTalk4Teachers blog at and look on the right hand side of the webpage, scroll down until you see the Blog archive. If you click on the triangle symbols next to the month you will expand the choices to see all episodes for that particular month. Some episodes are time sensitive but most are still valuable to listen to (or read) particularly the Technology Pick of the Week section.

In looking at the statistics for webpage visits we have had visits from all states in the union with the exception of Montana, so if you know anyone in Montana please have them visit the TechTalk4Teachers website so we can mark Montana off the list. In addition, TechTalk4Teachers has had visitors from 66 countries all around the world. On this anniversary I would like to thank all the TechTalk4Teachers listeners out there. Please tell others about our podcast and help spread the word as you help keep me motivated to continue this podcast.

It has been so busy this week that I have not had time to do this podcast until today. Many teachers including myself are exhausted after the first week of school and could use a little pick-me-up. If you visit my blog you will find an embedded video from Teacher Tube that is going around the blogosphere about 5th grader Dalton Sherman of Dallas, Texas. Dalton gave an inspirational back-to-school message to teachers in his district and is definitely worth watching. This is why we teach, the video clip runs about nine minutes.

Yesterday I offered Smart Board training for faculty and many took advantage of the opportunity. As always there were a few faculty that could not make it to the training sessions because their schedules would not allow it. I put together a little screencast as a sort of quickstart video tutorial to help faculty in using the new Smart Board Notebook Version 10 software whether they could attend the training or not and that leads to my Technology Pick of the Week.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is a Web 2.0 service that allows teachers to easily make screencasts and post them to the Internet. A screencast is a short video recording of the computer screen and is often accompanied with a voice over. We have all heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true then a video must be worth a million words. No matter how hard I try I can never get to all the faculty I need to and show them everything I would like to about a new piece of software. So I decided to use Jing, Jing is a screencapture tool that allows you to record a video of the computer screen and if you have a microphone plugged into your computer you can also narrate at the same time to produce a very quick video tutorial. A link to the Jing Project is available in the shownotes.

The Jing Project

Jing is from TechSmith, the makers of the popular screen capture programs Snagit and Camtasia. What is great about Jing is that it is currently free for educators as long as you do not go over the 2GB storage limit and 2 GB of bandwidth limit per month.

What is really powerful with Jing is that it can be used in combination with is a service that offers a place to upload and share your screencasts. A complimentary 2GB account is currently provided with the Jing Project but there are also a paid subscription models based upon selected usage plans.

One of the most common questions I received from faculty this past week about the new Version 10 Smart Notebook was about the floating toolbar. When you click on a pen in the floating toolbar a digital ink layer is overlaid on top of the computer screen. You cannot do anything but annotate while in this mode and this can cause some confusion. So I made a quick screencast to illustrate this common problem and how to solve it. Here is what I did with Jing yesterday. A video of the screencast is available at the TechTalk4Teachers blog.

FloatingToolbar Screencast

This most likely will be temporarily available because of the 2 GB bandwidth limit so if you would like to see this Jing screencast it should be available for the next two weeks as long as the bandwidth caps are not reached.

That wraps it up for this anniversary episode 52 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

tt4t_051 Ready or not here we go!

It’s Friday, August 22nd, 2008 and welcome to episode 51 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Today is the last weekday before school officially starts here at Eastern Illinois University. The past couple of weeks have been a mad dash to the finish line and I can report that we are ready for the new school year. At the ITC we have updated all the computers to the latest service packs and have installed the new Version 10 of the Smart Board software in 24 classrooms in the College of Education & Professional Studies.

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We do have one setback in that 34 new ITC computers have not yet arrived on campus and therefore will be installed at some point during the semester when they finally arrive. We also have 18 new computers that were installed over the summer in BUZ 2445 and the Special Education Tech Lab computers have also been updated. In addition the wireless mobile laptop carts are also ready for classroom checkout and we have 16 new Flip Video Cameras for use in our EDU2022 course and for faculty checkout.

Many who listen to this podcast provide technical support to their respective schools and I know many of you have been working at a furious pace to ensure that technologies are ready for teachers and students for the upcoming school year. I would like to salute this invisible army for all that you do behind the scenes. When things work we hear very little yet when things do not work as planned we hear all about it. Here is to hoping you have an uneventful and quiet start to the school year.

Now that much of the prep work is completed I am looking forward to actually using all of this technology that we have been working so hard to get ready. I have several to do items for the new Version of WebCT that EIU is now using and will undoubtedly get many questions from faculty about differences from the previous version. We are also still in the process of staffing the ITC with student workers and still have a few evening hours that we need to have covered. Thankfully we have several returning student workers that are ready to hit the ground running.

It is always exciting coming back to the start of another school year and meeting fresh faces and new students. Getting off on the right foot is very important for both teachers and students. First impressions matter and that first day of class can set the tone for the rest of the semester. Be extra prepared for that first day and have backup plans like all good teachers do if you are using technology just in case something does not work as planned. We become more and more dependent upon technology with each passing year. Remember that the pedagogy comes first and technology plays a support role. Be prepared to adapt if necessary.

I am really excited that we now have a critical mass of Smart Boards installed in the College of Education & Professional Studies classrooms and that they are nearly ubiquitous. Implementing technology beyond pilot projects and scaling it up to full production takes planning and commitment to see projects through to completion. The Smart Boards in the hands of a technologically adept teacher can really take learning to a whole new level. I will be offering several Smart Board training sessions in the coming weeks for faculty and students of EIU so be on the lookout for these sessions if you are interested. Check the ITC website for more information in the coming weeks. For those of you not from EIU, if you would like to try some collaborative projects at a distance please contact me to see what we could arrange.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is another cell phone service similar to a previous Technology Pick of the Week from Episode 36 of TechTalk4Teachers. This week I received an email from one of the Web 2.0 services that I use periodically that stated they would now be charging for some services that were previously free. Jott still offers a free account but certain functions will now be available for a monthly fee. Jott is a service that translates voice messages to text. I am trying out another service that is currently free that is similar to Jott called reqall and a link is available in the show notes. As with many Web 2.0 services this service has a weird spelling, reqall. So far reqall has translated my voice messages to text just fine and delivered them to my email inbox in a timely fashion.

Teachers are very busy people and if you are like me you have tons of things to remember throughout the day. Unfortunately, remembering things doesn’t get any easier as we get older. I use this service when things pop into my head that I need to remember and make note of. I can just call reqall leave a voice message and a transcribed email message will be waiting in my inbox when I get back to the office. Nice!

To use the reqall service sign-up for a free account, provide the service your name, email, and phone number and you are ready to go in seconds. In the settings it has the ability to send you a summary email everyday that I find helpful to keep me on track of that pesky to do list. Reqall does not seem as feature rich as Jott and does not offer Twitter feeds but for a simple reminder service that translates voice-to-text and sends the translation to you in an email if is working for me so far.

That wraps it up for episode 51 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at by clicking on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, August 15, 2008

tt4t_050 Getting closer to starting another school year

It’s Friday, August 15th, 2008 and welcome to episode 50 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Episode 50 is a small milestone for any podcast and the time has really flown by this past year. When I began this show I committed myself to one podcast a week for a year and as I come closer to that goal it is time to take stock of where we have been. As with all shows of this nature the show has evolved over the past 50 episodes. If you are a long-time listener thank you and if you are a new listener you will find many interesting topics related to using technology for educational purposes. All previous episodes are currently archived on the TechTalk4Teachers blog at

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If you are new to TechTalk4Teachers welcome to a show that talks about educational technology and some of the issues and trends that are occurring in the education field. This show is for all educators from Kindergarten teachers to university professors so we have a little something for everyone. Every week I offer a Technology Pick of the Week that can be used by teachers or administrators for educational purposes. If you would like to offer a comment or suggestion or have something new you would like to have discussed on TechTalk4Teachers drop me an email at

The TechTalk4Teachers audience is quite diverse primarily consisting of listeners from all across the United States and many other countries from around the world. I would like to give a shout out to the listeners from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia as your countries are also well represented.

The next two to three weeks will find millions of teachers and students returning to school from the summer break. Like many of you I am getting ready for the onslaught as everyone hits the doors at the same time and many will have technology requests that they want to have fixed. If you are a teacher please be kind to the tech support people who have most likely worked through the summer to improve the technology infrastructure while many teachers and students were away on holiday. Much of this work occurs behind the scenes and goes unnoticed, that is unless it does not work. Last minute updates seem to always be a part of the back to school rush so please be patient as tech issues are addressed.

You can also help by diagnosing problems. Try to trouble-shoot any problems yourself to avoid unnecessary visits from busy tech staff. Often times a simple re-booting of the computer will fix many problems.

Before I continue a trouble-shooting section I must ask, where is your backup? It only takes a few minutes to backup your data and it is your responsibility to protect your data by regularly backing it up. So, now that you have an up-to-date backup we can continue…

Always check to carefully make sure all cables are plugged in and that all surge bars are turned on. Oh, and make sure you press the On button, don’t laugh, I can’t count the times that this has been the “problem” :)

If you do not have power to a device plug in a radio or a light to make sure that the outlet has power. If the outlet does not have power then you probably need to call the electricians.

If you are having network connection problems check the network cable to make sure it is plugged in to both the wall connection and the computer, many times custodial staff may have moved something to clean and a cable may be left unplugged. Check with a neighbor and see if they have a network connection. If they do not then the problem is probably more wide-spread than just your computer.

If you do not have sound check that the speakers are turned on and plugged into the correct sound card jack (this is usually the green one, microphones are generally plugged into the red jack of the sound card). Make sure your speakers have power and that the speakers have not been muted through software.

Make sure you are using the correct input channel if you are using a projector connected to a computer. These are usually called something like RGB, RGB1, or RGB2 depending upon your setup.

You may want to delay minor requests and non-mission critical tech requests until after the first full week of school is completed to help your tech support staff out, the first couple of weeks are more stressful as everyone gets back up to speed. I can tell you from past experience that the ITC will see between 800 and 1000 students a day using our facilities for the first couple of weeks of school so this is a busy time.

Keep in mind alternatives that may solve your problem temporarily. If you cannot print a document save the file to a thumb drive and ask your neighbor if you can use their printer. If you are having trouble with a userid or password issue make sure the CAPS Lock Key is off and that you carefully type in your password. You may want to login using a different computer just to make sure there is nothing wrong with your computer. If you can login to your account using a different computer then you have diagnosed the problem as a computer specific problem and not a userid/password problem.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
Now it is now time for my Technology Pick of the Week but first I would like to update listeners that one of my favorite long time applications for social bookmarking has recently received an update. The name of the service is called delicious and is a free service from Yahoo. I have provided a link in the show notes for my delicious account.

I first mentioned delicious back in episode 12 so you can revisit episode 12 if you like to learn more about social bookmarking and how I use it in the classroom.

I really do like the updates this site has received over the past couple of weeks. This service is very simplistic in design and I find it very helpful as a teacher. This site makes it easy to tag websites and share with others. Best of all your bookmarks are online and can be accessed from anywhere in the world that there is an Internet connection.

The biggest news for the update for me is that you can now use the word for the web address instead of the awkward for the domain name and from now on I am giving out my delicious account as This is a very simple change and a very welcome one, thank you delicious!

My technology pick of the week this week is an application that falls into the classroom management category and can be used by teachers and administrators for keeping classes and meetings on schedule. The name of the site is and a link is provided in the show notes. Please note there is a hyphen in the web address. The site offers both stop watch and countdown timer functionality.

If you have access to the Internet you can visit this website and display a full screen timer that will countdown the time for special activities or for keeping track of breaks. Simply click in the time you would like to use and then press Set. When you are ready to use the timer press Start.

I use this for keeping track of break-time and find it really helps keeping students on task. I set it for a five or ten minute countdown where I can display the time full-screen and it keeps students on track for returning from breaks and getting ready for the next activity. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

That wraps it up for episode 50 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at by clicking on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, August 8, 2008

tt4t_049 Smart Board Version 10 Upgrades

It’s Friday, August 8th, 2008 and welcome to episode 49 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. That’s right it’s 8/8/08 and I am really looking forward to the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics tonight on TV. It has been a really crazy week as the beginning of the semester is getting closer and closer. Like many of you I am doing a lot of behind the scenes work to get ready for the beginning of another semester.

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Last week I took four days off and I have really paid for it this week, getting caught back up is always a challenge. The new Smart Boards have finally arrived and this week we had the facilities crew installing them in the classrooms. The electricians now need to follow behind this crew and install the long USB cables in the walls and run them to the classroom computers. Technology support is often a team effort.

Our media services department has also been adjusting the projectors in the room so that the projected image fills the entire screen. We have been purchasing the wide-screen format Smart Boards for the past couple of years and this requires some projector movement to get things dialed in just right. This was a good call as nearly all new media being created today is now produced in the wide-screen format and it looks so much more modern than the old 4:3 TV format we have lived with for years. After all the crews finish with the hardware installations it is my turn to uninstall Version 9 Smart Board software and install the new Version 10 in all of the Smart Board classrooms.

With the addition of 13 new Smart Boards this summer and the 11 that we had installed last summer we will have a total 24 classrooms equipped with Smart Boards. This is a great addition for our faculty and preservice teachers as approximately 80 percent of the College of Education & Professional Studies classrooms will be equipped with this technology. Many of our K-12 area schools have significantly invested in Smart Boards and now our students have the opportunity be well versed in Smart Board use before they begin their practicum and student teaching experiences.

Back in Episode 37 of TechTalk4Teachers I made Version 10 of the Smart Notebook software my technology pick of the week when it was first released. If you have not listened to Episode 37 you may want to go back and review it because I gave an overview of the new features available in Version 10. We have elected to upgrade all 24 classrooms to Version 10 of the Smart Notebook software. These decisions are not made lightly and can have considerable impact.

Since we had 11 classrooms that were using Version 9 of the software last year we did not want to have a mixed environment of versions for our faculty and students to deal with. After talking with department chairs and faculty the decision was made to go to all version 10 of the software in our classrooms. Since many of our faculty float from one classroom to another we did not want to have a situation where a faculty member or student created and saved something in version 10 and then went to another classroom that had version 9 software that would not open the newer version.

Some of my friends in the Twitterverse helped ease my mind this week with this decision as some of them have also been using Version 10 and the consensus was to move forward with the new version in all classrooms. Moving forward is always a tough call as most new technology products often have a few bugs to work out. After using Version 10 over the summer we have experienced few problems and the new features do warrant this upgrade. I do have a concern about the Gallery of Essentials that seems to be quite a bit different and would offer my recommendation to Smart to keep all artifacts in the gallery from one upgrade cycle to another. It is disappointing when you get used to using certain clip art only to find that it has disappeared in a newer version. This will help keep minimum disruption for future upgrades and keep users happy. It is fine for Smart to keep adding to this collection, just do not take anything away.

Installing the Smart Notebook software is a bit of a messy process as all of our classrooms have security software that must first be disabled before permanent changes can be made for updates and this requires a reboot of the computer. If Version 9 of the Smart Notebook software has already been installed then it must first be removed using the Add/Remove Programs feature in the Control Panel and a second reboot after Version 9 is uninstalled. After the second reboot the installation for Version 10 can be completed. Finally the security program for the computer must be reapplied and a final reboot of the computer. Repeat this 23 times and that should take care of the software installations! It can be a bit time consuming but I think having all classrooms at the same version will be worth it so as to not have to deal with compatibility issues.

Be sure to checkout the link I have provided in the shownotes to the Smart website that features an overview and demos of some of the new features in Version 10 of the Smart Notebook software.

New Version 10 Smart Notebook Features

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is an application that I ran across while researching a need to post some family photos online in a scrapbook fashion. The name of the web application is Scrapblog and allows users to easily create electronic scrapbooks online with the added benefit of allowing blog-like comments about your creations. Think of this services as a social networking site for scrapbook creators that allows for easy sharing and commenting.


Scrapblog FAQ

The other really nice thing about the scrapblog service is that you can send a link via email to your friends so they can view your scrapbook online or you can copy an embed code and post it directly into your blog. For those that are not so creative or those of us that need a little help on the design-side of things this service provides hundreds of pre-made designs and objects for you to adorn your pages. Music can be added and the end result is an attractive online version of your own scrapbook to share with others. This Web 2.0 service can actually be a free substitute for iMovie or MovieMaker and has an intuitive interface that teachers may find helpful in preparing quick presentations with professional design elements. Scrapblog also offers the ability to work with other services such as YouTube for videos and Flickr for photos.

That wraps it up for episode 49 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at by clicking on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. Do you have a story about the new Smart Notebook Version 10 to share or a tip on how you are using Smart Boards in the classroom? How are your upgrades going with Smart Notebook Version 10? I would love to hear your experiences. To leave a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.