Transferring with Tone

I’ve been reading a lot about the new Tone extension for Google Chrome so I had to check it out.

The premise is that the extension, when installed, will send a URL from one computer using Google Chrome to another via sound.  

Now, the concept of transferring via sound isn’t new for us long timers.  If you’ve ever connected to another source via modem you’ve done it.  Who hasn’t picked up the phone line only to hear the sounds of two modems communicating?  NO CARRIER  Or, a fax machine?  

This extension gets rid of the wires!  It uses your computer’s microphone to head what another computer is sending.  The extension descriptor gives you all kinds of caveats about situations where it wouldn’t work – noisy rooms, distance, etc.  That only makes sense.  

So, I had to try it out here at the labs, er, reclining chair.  Proof of concept confirmed!

Now, there are the sort of issues that you need to be aware.  The extension doesn’t ask for permission to use your microphone; it just does it.  So, you should have a bit of concern of what else the extension is listening to!  In terms of public etiquette, a certain volume is required in order for the transfer to be successful.  Hopefully, that won’t destroy the ambience of a conversation at a coffee shop with people sharing URLs!

The bottom line here is that the innovation world is all right.  Good people thinking about new ways to push technology.  

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I hope that everyone is staying warm.  You wouldn’t know it if you watched the Toronto News – they sometimes report temperatures as far west as London so, around here, you have to watch Detroit news in the morning to get the updates. As, I write this, our temperatures are the coldest in Southwestern Ontario. I make no restrictions here – I love reading blog posts from all over the province.  Here’s some of what I caught recently.

gamification continues

Adele Stanfield posted a reply to my post earlier this week about using Badges in her classroom.  She confesses that it wasn’t a complete success for a number of reasons.  Kudos though for giving it a shot.

Perhaps this should be filed under “your mileage may vary”?

Back off the link and read her entire blog post for some interesting insights.  I always find it interesting to read opinions and thoughts that run counter to what I’m thinking.  It always helps to focus on the target.

Like most things, I suspect that it might be exciting in the beginning and then the excitement wanes over time.  Does it need to be in place for a substantial period of time to become “the way we do things” as opposed to “trying this out”?  Lots to think about here.

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions From Going in One Year and Out the Other

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I probably did a few years ago and, like most people, forgot or gave up shortly into a new year because life and reality gets in the road.  I think it needs to be part of your life instead of a promise to yourself to do something different.  As I sit at the keyboard here, I can’t help but think about the number of people who make resolutions to blog regularly, get off to a good start, and then don’t follow through.

Resolutions require time and a change of mindset.  If you can’t come to grips with either of these concepts, a resolution isn’t worth the memory to hold it.  Donna Fry offers some ideas about how to make them succeed for you.

I did smile a bit about podcasting and brushing teeth…

The 4-Part Math Lesson

Only Kyle Pearce could take a 3-part math lesson and make it into four parts.  He makes reference to the Ministry of Education’s support for John Van De Walle’s work and identifies an additional component that he sees as necessary.

He makes a good argument and I can see his point.

I think the bigger picture item here is not necessarily debating the 3-part versus 4-part question but to admire a teaching professional who doesn’t just template a message that he heard but, instead, is doing some deep thinking about his own profession.

Almost anybody can be a parrot.

While you’re at Kyle’s site reading this post, if you fancy yourself as a leader in educational technology, complete the form to have your profile added to his collection.

5 Reasons You Should Try Edmettle – Teach Your Students Grit

This just in….literally.

As I write this post, I received a notification that Brian Aspinall had written a post of his own about edmettle.

I had written a review of this new resource earlier this week.

It was interesting to read his post to see if I got his software right.  I think I did pretty well.

It was a little disappointing to see some of the comments about edmettle that came from people who a) aren’t Ontario teachers or b) hadn’t tried the software likening it to another popular product on the market.  edmettle targets the areas of feedback, parent participation, report card generation, and a whole bunch of other things.  I think people focussed on the technical aspect as opposed to the advantages of actually using the software would be.  If you were in that camp, create yourself an account and kick the tires yourself.  And, like all of Brian’s creations, don’t overlook the fact that he doesn’t require student email accounts and you know exactly who is the keeper of your data.

2015: 365 Pivotal Quotes

One of my favourite stops of the day used to be at Paul Cornies’ Quoteflections blog.  Notice that I said “used”.  Sometimes, I get busy and miss out.  Then, when I realize this, I go back and read to catch up.  I don’t find that as satisfying so I’ve changed my routine and subscribe to his posts by email so that I enjoy them daily.

There are a couple of new things on his blog – first, he’s taking a different approach to his posting and secondly, he’s posted over 4 500 quotes to his blog.  He’s taken to publishing them in a book.  You can find out how to order by visiting the link above.

This has been another week of terrific reading.  Thanks so much to those who continue to write and share.  Please check out their blog posts at the links above and then head over to the Ontario Edublogger collection.  Add yourself if you’re an Ontario blogger and would like to be listed.

Is The Writing On The Wall?

One of the nice things about being an early riser is that it doesn’t bother me to schedule a doctor or dentist appointment first thing in the morning.  Of course, everything is computerized and so in a couple of recent trips, I watched and the receptionists/clerks would come into the office, turn their computers on and then go about doing a bunch of other things.  I asked both of them about this and the response was the same – “I don’t have time to waste watching this thing start”.  I took a peek and one machine was Windows 7 and the other Windows XP.  It really was minutes of waiting for booting before they were able to log in and get started.

I remember doing the same thing at our professional learning labs.  For a workshop starting at 4pm, I’d be there at 3:30 to boot the machines and have things ready to go when the teachers would show up.  More often than not, they would show up a bit early to check email because the rigours of the job prohibit it during the school day.  That’s totally understood so I wanted the computers to be ready.  After all, they were giving up family time for their own learning.

I had a correspondence with a colleague recently who indicated that they had both iPads and Windows 7 computers at their elementary school.  The Windows computers were virtually abandoned because of the time that it takes to boot, login to the active directory, solve password problems, etc.  In essence, the iPads were of greater use because they were almost instant on and away you go with your lesson.  Time is such a precious commodity in the classroom and so sitting there waiting causes all kinds of delay in instruction, not to mention the things that bored, busy fingers get in to.

I do the same thing myself.  This computer is dual boot to Ubuntu and Windows.  With Ubuntu, I can turn it on and be functional within a minute or two.  With Windows, I will start the process and then have breakfast or walk the dog and then come back and hopefully everything is ready to go.  As you might imagine, I don’t do that often but on days like this, I’ll have an urge to use Windows Live Writer which is just an excellent blogging tool.

So, it was with real interest that I read about Doug Johnson’s technology implementation plan in this post “Out of the lab, off the cart, into the classroom“.  I was particularly intrigued by his move and rationale for a movement to Chromebooks. 

I think that we all recognized that Windows and Macintosh computers with their full-blown set of features for business were overkill in the classroom.  A friend of mine was fond of the expression “giving phasers to cavemen”.  As so much more is available through the web, having all the horsepower in the world in front of you isn’t all that necessary anymore.  Even your basic productivity suites are available in a web version so having a full blown desktop is becoming a luxury and a niche product.  Computer Science and Business Education come to mind but an argument for taking them to an appropriate network solution could be made as well.

So, is the writing on the wall?

Apple has certainly taken their education solution into a different direction.  I recall standing on the stage at the recent Bring IT, Together conference and looked out to the audience.  I saw so many of the trademarked Apples shining back at me.  Over the course of the three days, I saw one Surface and it was in the hands of a committee members who worked in an IT Department and not teaching. 

It’s only a few school districts that have ventured into a full blown implementation of Windows 8.  I think that the make or break moment will come in 2015 with the release of Windows 10.  I do recognize that Microsoft’s core clients are business and Windows 10 will have to handle their needs.  But, millions are spent on gear for the K-12 market.  Their needs, which include reducing wasted time at the keyboard, have to be addressed.

Otherwise, you’ll find progressive boards following Mr. Johnson’s lead or other boards using the alternatives that are provided for them.

Google Forms Really Mature

I’ve been a user of Google Forms forever, it seems.  They’re a great way to collect opinions, quick testing, gathering observations, going paperless, …  Entries come in with a timestamp and you can ask for identifying information or just keep it random.  Things are done at the user keyboard and I think that, properly done, it’s one of the better electronic activities that you can use right in your classroom.

There are a couple of really neat features that you can use to make your work look and act even more professionally.  Google continues to work at their offerings to make them mature and just add additional functionality.


Of course, there’s nothing better than a great looking form.  But, don’t stick to the boring default – choose a cool theme.  Select “Change Theme” from the menu bar and select from some looks that range from fun to professional looking.

Even the best theme can sometimes use a little tweak!

Within each theme (or the blank default), select the “Customise” option and change to your hearts content!

Once you have the perfect customised theme, you may not want to use it just once.  In fact, you may have a theme that you’d like to use consistently throughout that class or that subject area.  

Copy and apply that perfect theme to your new form!  With a background or header image, you can have a consistent display (or even class messages) that appear every time you use that theme.  Lots of ideas can be incorporated.

Mix It Up (but not too much)

Now, I don’t want to say that I went to school with a bunch of cheaters, but I can remember paper tests that were labelled “Test A” and “Test B” and even duplicated on different coloured paper.  They were distributed such that even if you decided to take a peek at the person beside you the questions, while the same, were in a different order.  That functionality is available for your Google Form.  Of course, you could create two separate forms – but that’s old school!  This is 2014.

Just click the “Shuffle question order” and each visitor to the form will have their questions shuffled.  You’ve got to like that.

While you’re at it – there may be people trying to “game” your form by submitting multiple copies of it.  Supposed you’re doing a little quiz and you don’t want to take the best results for an individual making multiples in the hopes of getting one that’s right!  If they have and are logged into a Google account, check “Only allow one response per person”.

If you’re a Google Forms user, check out these features.  Your forms will look, and work, awesomely.

You’ll look like the professional you are with these features.

Popcorn Tour of Essex County

I’ve heard many reasons why students aren’t allowed to create movies in class …

  • installing the video creation software takes up too much room on the image;
  • we don’t have licenses for all students;
  • movie making is reserved for this course;
  • our computers don’t have enough hard drive space;
  • we’ve got to constantly apply updates for bug fixes;
  • <fill in your own>

It results in frustration from the need to put together digital resources and to present them as a movie.

If that’s the case, or you want to get an easy to use, fully functional cloud based creation tool, you need to check out Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker.

It’s got most of the functionality that you need to create your content – layers, timeline, transitions, scrubber bar, preview in the environment, the ability to import created content from a wide variety of sources …

To kick the wheels, I decided to make a video promoting Essex County.  Well, sort of…

I figured the four cornerstones would be Windsor, Amherstburg, Leamington, and Belle River.  (Sorry, Stoney Point)

As I looked at the sources available (Popcorn calls them Events), a couple immediately caught my eye…  Google Maps and a Flickr search.

So, I created a separate layer for each municipality’s map using Google Maps.  Double clicking in the window presented lets you zoom in and move around to get things positioned just the way you want them to be.  Images are randomly generated from a search of Flickr for the community.  Of course, you can upload your own but I thought this was an interesting concept and it worked so quickly.

Once a layer has been created, objects can be moved or stretched on the timeline.  As you would expect, the layers themselves can be ordered after the fact.  I had complete freedom to mix and match.  I started with an idea and it kept evolving as I experimented.  There was nothing in Popcorm Maker to slow me down.

Of course, you need a title and a good kiosk program just runs a continuous loop.  Literally, within five minutes, I had created my first movie!

Creating and logging in with a Mozilla Persona unlocks additional features like bringing in YouTube movies for remixing or the ability to permanently save your efforts in the cloud.  This really did generate some wow at my keyboard.

After playing around with Popcorn Maker for a while, I could easily see how it addresses the issues above. 

If your students have a browser and internet access, that’s all that’s needed to start to create productions from their efforts.  This is the real deal.