Noel Erskine, Technology Coordinator Norris Schools

Welcome to my technology blog.
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Best student web tools for enabling 24x7 student access.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This list could go on for ever, but here are the major players you need to be with right now. (And some links to those long lists at the end.)

Google Apps. This set of tools is a must.  You have email, calendar, Google Docs, blogger, Picasa, sites, video, and more.  Not to mention many additional free add-ins from the apps market place including Easybib, Engrade and more. If you are not a Google Apps school, you should be asking the questions "Why Not"!

Google Chrome. This web tool along with it's extensions and Chrome web store brings a whole new set of resources to students and staff. The extensions and apps make this a must. And with Google Apps, it just works better. (Imagine that.) I know Google Apps gives you 1 gig of non-Google files... but dropbox gives you more, and a great set of tools for the computer, phone, web and more.  They even have a great Google Chrome extension.

Evernote This is a great tool for keeping notes, gathering research information, clipping web sites and more.

Diigo. This not only allows students to bookmark sights, but you can highlight and make notes on those sites.

Prezi or 280Slides Offer some great online presentation tools. SlideRocket is a must if you are a Google Apps school.  This free service will have you wondering why you ever used PowerPoint.

Animoto  Animoto takes your pictures, turns them into Videos and makes people think you spent hours instead of minutes.  Great tool for you and your classes.

Pixlr and Picnik make online photo editing a breeze.  And many people do not know about PhotoShop Express online , it has some great features too!

Some great lists of Web 2 tools:
Go2web20 has a great list of web 2 tools:
A couple great lists: and another great list contain collections of Web 2.0 tools and sites
Ultimate Web 2.0 list.  Large list of web 2.0 tools listed alphabetically

Does the future of great schools apps, require leveraging Google Apps for EDU?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I think the answer to this is yes.  Apps are moving to the cloud, and schools are moving to Google.  Apps that leverage the Google Apps account log-in, and integrate within the Google GUI make it easy for schools to deploy, as well as students and staff to utilize.  There are already some great free apps that integrate within the Google Apps GUI.
Easybib, Engrade, ExamGeneral, SlideRocket, and recently the new OpenClass product developed by Pearson. Everyone of these apps are currently free to schools. We recently deployed SlideRocket. This is an awesome presentation program that recently released the product free to schools with Google Apps.  This is a solid product, that brings the power of a top-tier presentation product combined with similar sharing and collaboration features of Google Docs.  Here is a sample, of a recent presentation I presented using this great tool.

Some educators may need to learn from these two 80 year old mothers using technology!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We must use technology to meet students needs in today's classrooms.

I believe that we are blessed with a lot of dedicated teachers in our country that are truly doing their best to educate the youth of today to prepare them for the world of tomorrow.  Many students bring a lot of baggage with them to the classroom that we must deal with in education. Combine that with state testing, student activities, and a variety of challenges we deal with on a daily basis... and it really makes you appreciate the value of a teacher and the impact they have on our students and ultimately our entire countries future. As one of my past Tweets indicated.... a teacher's impact can be amazing and a real bargain.  " The $320,000 Kindergarten Teacher."

I believe that a great teacher, will look to utilize any tool they can get their hands on to reach students in their classroom.  If you too believe that statement, then why would a teacher not be one of the most tech-savvy individuals you know? Yes, sometimes they are... and sometimes that may not be the case.  If you are an educator, I challenge you to improve your technology skills to increase your effectiveness in the classroom.  Yes, you still need discipline, student rapport, organization and empathy within the classroom... but with today's students you need the technology tools to really maximize student learning within your classroom.

Yesterday, I had one of our elementary teachers, send me an email about getting an iPad. Her email stated: "My sister just sent me this picture yesterday of my 80 year old mother and her 87 year old sister using their iPads to play bridge and e-mail each other!" She went on to indicate her interest in an iPad and her thought that "If my 80 year old mother can run one of these things, so can I". 
80 year old mother and her 87 year old sister using their iPads 

We need to be able to look at our parents, other educators, and our students and challenge ourselves with that same fervor and decide.... now is time for me to do this, and "Yes, I can use this technology."

After reading Tom Whitby blog article "Generational Divide in Education", October 17, 2011. I agree with his thoughts "This is not a generational problem. It is a learning problem. If I want to affect their lives (Students) in any way I need to do so on their terms with tools for learning that they accept and will use moving forward. I grew up with a slide rule, I don’t think they are even made any more. Why would I use it to teach a kid who has a mobile app that will take him much further than a slide rule ever could."

As educators, we must first learn to use this technology so we can meet students on their terms.  If we are not doing this, then are we challenging ourselves less than these 80 year old mothers that were willing to roll up their sleeves and learn to use a new technology!

Why we love Google Chrome books for our school district. 5 Stars Baby!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I am starting to field a lot of questions about our 120 + Google Chromebooks that we have purchased for our school district, so I figured I would answer these questions here, for all to see and share.

Which model and why?
For us, we went with the Samsung Chromebook series 5 Wi-Fi. .  Since these are not 1-to-1 take home devices in our district so the 3G was not a feature we were looking for.  I have not had a chance to look at the Acer models in person, but we chose the Samsung model for it's longer battery life. Acer does offer a better price point, so those are definitely worth looking at.  (As a side note... this is the first time I have ever had to call Samsung for tech support... but WOW... A real English speaking person in about 20 seconds every time... Kudos to Samsung on this one!)

Why the Chromebooks?
There are some limitations with each device, just like the iPad has it's limitations.  For long battery life, 8 seconds to log-in, and trouble free operation... we have been sold on the Chromebooks and love them so far.  To maximize their use, you really need to like the Chrome web browser type interface and plan on living on the cloud with Google Apps, Evernote, Dropbox, Diiago (My blog on Diiago here.)  and other cloud services.  One of the most overlooked features of the Chromebooks I blogged about here.  For a 1-to-1 device they may be the only device I would consider for our school district. (Battery life and low tech maintenance top the list.)  Personally I love the iPad, but I do not think it is a very good 1-to-1 device.

I love the Chrome Browser.
Being able to sync bookmarks, Chrome Apps, Chrome Extensions, history and more.... what's not to like?  There are so many awesome extensions that add to the functionality of web computing. Here are just a few from our web site. 

Where did you buy them from?
Right now, there are 3 companies that sell them, and we purchased them out-right for our district. As a school district we could purchase or lease them directly from Google.  If you purchase them from Google and have the Google Apps for Education, those Chromebooks will show up in your admin console where you have some management capabilities for them. (Set proxy, etc... )  In  our situation and deployment, this was not a feature we required, but may be something we would definitely want if we deployed them in a 1-to-1 program for students.

Cloud is a concept and must be taught?
Really.... Really.... Yes... Really.  Probably the hardest thing for a teacher to do, it to get used to going to the cloud (In our case Google Docs.) to start a new document.  They still want to click on the start menu and open up their favorite word processor, spreadsheet, etc...  These Chomebooks definitely help with forcing people to the cloud.  Students love the cloud... but teachers just need to be slowly moved to the cloud. One there, they like it.... but it is a process.

One final thought, I believe that Google Apps is a game-changer for schools, (Along with a lot of other cloud services.)  and these Chromebooks just help with that game. For more info, there is a nice YouTube video with more info on the program in schools:

This app doubles the value of an iPad in the classroom.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Splashtop's remote desktop tool allows your iPad tablet to control your desktop computer directly from your iPad. This allows a teacher to move around the classroom seamlessly while controlling their desktop computer, which in many classrooms is connected to an LCD projector.  It also allow's you to bring up flash content and other applications that normally could not be displayed on an iPad. 

As a technology coordinator, I appreciate how easy this application is to deploy and how seamlessly it works on the desktop computer and iPad. Currently a district can purchase this application for $2.99 so it's really an application that should probably be purchased for every staff member. (Which is what we are currently doing at Norris.)

Installing the desktop streaming software can be done on multiple computers, so a tech-savy teacher could even install it on a home computer that they could access from anywhere. (This would involve port forwarding on their home router, so this is why I say they would need to be tech-savy.)

This is a five star app for it's price and I really think it doubles the value of an iPad for a teacher in their classroom. 

Best resources for keeping up with iPads apps... Read on.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

With so many iPad applications, how is a teacher to stay current with what's available?  That's a tough question, and there may be numerous good answers, but here are a few sites to keep an eye on:
Are the iPads a great one-to-one device? My answer is no. (For reasons I will not go into for lack of time and space.)
Are the iPads a great tool for education? My answer is yes, they have a lot of potential in the hands of capable educators.
Happy app shopping!

Amazing what happens in 60 seconds with technology!!!!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's amazing what we do in 60 seconds!

What's happening on the Internet for sixty seconds here's a sampling:

1500+ blog posts
98,000 new tweets
12,000 new ads on Craigslist
20,000 new posts on Tumblr
600 new videos (25+ hours worth) on YouTube

Diigo is one great web tool you should be using!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Diigo (  is an awesome tool for bookmarking, but it goes beyond that!  That is like saying a Lamborghini is just transportation.  (If you have ridden in one of these things... I need to get to know you!)

This is a tool you should be using personally as well as with your students.  It allows you to bookmark websites, as well as highlight content on that site. It's a cloud based organization system.  They have great browser add-ins that add all of the functionality, as well as an iPad app (  (Make sure you try the Diigo Browser, it is one of the best browsers for the iPad. Formally it was the iChromy browser for the iPad.)  You can even download the content for off-line browsing.

If you are a teacher, apply for an educator account:

Many services are free, and they offer some premium features for a low cost.  Check it out... and add the Google Chrome extension here:  (Not using the Google Chrome web browser??? You should be!)

Some great Google apps features that most educators could benefit from.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

With the large number of Google apps and features being added constantly, it's hard to keep up as an educator. Here are just a few new features that you may not know exist, but could benefit your classes:

Comment only access in Google Docs.  you can now share a worksheet, book review, or any Google Doc with students and allow them to freely add comments, but not change the content.

Page Level Access in Google Sites.  You can now set permissions on individual pages in Google sites.  This allows you to turn access on or off for specific individuals.  You can share on your website that only a specific class or group of students can access.

Offline access for mail, calendar and docs: I have used Google Apps for over a year now, and have not really felt cheated by not having this option availbe to me, but it's a nice option to have avaialbe especially if you are headed out on a vacation and do not have access to the internet.  It's also a nice option to have available if you are using a Chomebook.  (I love these things.) Make sure you are using the Chrome Web browser (Shame on you if you are not.).

For more information:
Gmail offline:
Calendar offline:
Docs offline:

Scripting for Google Apps:  OK, this takes a little bit of reading and tech-savy use, but if you manage it, the power is unbelievable. Self-grading quizzes, forms that email you, and more.  Read more about this at my March 2011 blog entry.

Forms: I am amazed at how easy forms are to create and use with Google Apps. You can link that form right to your Google website to create a powerful online tool for registrations, surveys, quizzes and more.  Combine that with the spreadsheet features of scripting and conditional formatting and you are in control!  (For Example: Conditional formatting in a spreadsheet will turn a spreadsheet cell a certain color if a condition is met.)

And the changes keep coming...
You can always keep current with new updates and Google Apps features from this site:

Another awesome Chrome browser extension.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Adblock plus is a really nice Google Chrome extension that a friend of mine just turned me on to.  (Search the Chrome web store for this extension, or click here: ) This add-on helps block a lot of the adds that are displayed on many of the sites.  Does it catch all of them.. no, but it's a great start.  I will say, I do not necessarily hate all ads, after all they help keep  many sites free on the internet, but many adds, including flashing ones, or ones with skimpily-clad people selling weight loss supplements are really a pain.  I give this add-on five stars... give it a try. Thanks to my friend, @joegehr for tweeting about this one!

Don't overlook KMZ files for turning Google Earth into a great tool for your classroom.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

If you do not know what KMZ files are, you are not alone... but maybe now is the time to learn what you are missing for you and your students.  In short, KMZ files are data files opened by Google Earth. KMZ files can contain placemarks featuring a custom name; the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates for the location, and 3D model data.

Here are just a few sites and ideas to wet your appetite: 

Track Weather, Hungriness and more:  Visit from this site for more info:  

Take virtual field trips with Google Earth, by downloading KMZ files:

How to create a virtual field trip:

Identify key elements of what human life on the Moon would be like bu taking a Lunar Field Trip: 

Useful Google Earth Layers

Hopefully this has sparked your interest and opened up some ideas and ways you can use this within your classroom. A simple Google search for "kmz field trip"or "download kmz files" will turn up more resources and get you on your way to adding this resource within your classroom lessons.

Backup your Gmail with this tool.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You may never need this tool, but it's great to know that there is a tool like this. This tool allows you to backup your Gmail or even transfer your Gmail from one account to another.  This could come in handy if you ever want to backup your email from the cloud, or simply transfer to another account.

The most overlooked feature of the new Google Chromebooks.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I have used both the CR48 beta and now the Samsung Chromebook Models and there are a lot of things to love about the new Google ChromebooIks.  Battery life, quick boot up, low maintenance, light weight, and more... But the best feature and use may be easily over looked.  This is the perfect laptop for an older parent, tech-challenged person, or simply anyone who seems to break computers.  There are no programs that can be installed to break the system.  There are no settings to change. There is no need for anti-virus or anti-malware software to load.  This thing just runs, and runs for a long time between electrical fill ups.  This is the perfect notebook to give someone and not expect them to be asking you to reformat it six months later.  And as the saying might go.... price of a Chomebook - $430.  Not having to fix it later - PRICELESS.

Some nice desktop sharing tools.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I just ran across this tool, and it's great for sharing your desktop to a bunch of people at once... and the good news is that they do not have to install anything!  All they do is go to a web site to see your desktop.   With  you download a single program, run the program and then give your colleagues the URL you’re given. When they follow it, they see your desktop. Live. It’s as simple as that. Awesome for doing a webinar type presentation.

If you are doing a one-on-one computer support session, I still recommend Team Viewer. But this program requires more installs and downloads and is designed for only peer to peer connections, unlike the product which is more for the one to many presentations. 

Update- Turn your Nook eReader into an awesome Android tablet.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This is an update from my blog column in March 2011:
That was great, but it turned out to be a little slow,  this build is awesome and easy to do by using Nook Cyanogen.  Follow the steps on this website to have a speedy Android tablet running from a simple micros SD card on a Nook:
If you do not want your android tablet, you just pop out the micros SD card and boot to the Nook eReader!

Great tool for finding out what is taking up your hard drive space!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Often, old video projects, class slide shows, memory book projects, etc... are hanging out in folders on your computer or network drive and you forgot they were still there.  Sometimes it is really tough to figure out what is taking up your file storage space and where those old files are hanging out.

Fear no more Kimosabe.  (For those of you to old to remember the friend of the masked man.... I am envious, because you probably still have a full set of hair too. )

The Windirstat program ( (Windows only tool.) is a great tool for finding those files.  It is a free program, that is easy to run. It is a small utility that is easy to install and can even be dragged to a pen drive or a network drive and ran from there as well!

Just yesterday, we found one folder in a teachers network drive that they no longer needed from 2003.  This folder was taking up 250 meg of network space.

Give it a try, and start deleting!

A way to eliminate textbook costs?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can we get rid of textbooks and their associated costs in education? I know, this topic may open a can of worms for many in education, and especially for the text book and publishing companies!  As school districts adopt more 1-to-1 initiatives or BYOD (Bring your own device) initiatives, schools will need to provide more electronic resources for those devices.

Until the publishers and text-book companies come up with a reasonable price, as well as finding the best format and delivery mechanism .... we must look at developing our own materials.  

Here are just a couple resources to start with: 

The Khan Academy is a non-profit that is working on providing open-source distance learning curriculum. This institute provides user-paced lessons via hosted videos providing a free resource for students and teachers as well as supplemental exercises for the flexbooks (mentioned below).

Currently high school level math and science digital textbooks are available through the CK12 non-profit organization and I envision that the more topics will be added over time. The interactive student and teacher edition FlexBooks content is vetted, reviewed, core standards-based and also customizable. These books can be customized (Flexed) to meet your needs.  Check out their site for more information:

With these two resources alone, you would have a great start to customizing your math and science curriculum and optomizing it for the digital devices that are coming our way in education.

Google is giving away the Kitchen Sink - Will we use it?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

After seeing the Scripting capabilities of Google Apps, I was sold a year ago not only on Google Apps but what could be done with the scripting capabilities.  There are many things Google is giving us in education, but this may be the kitchen sink.

Back in my March blog I mentioned the self grading quizzes that you can do using a script called Flubaroo.  While attending the NETA 2011 conference a couple weeks ago, I attended a session that was put on by an administrator in a school here in Nebraska that highlighted several ways he used Google Forms and the power of scripts for many day-to-day activities including quick walk through evaluations. Many of his forms can be found here. 

While many of Google's tools are very easy to use, that is not necessarily the case concerning writing scripts. Thank goodness for individuals who create scripts like Flubaroo and are willing to share them for others to freely use.  There are many scripts out there that are free to use and add a lot of functionality to many Google apps.  I encourage you to look at those scripts and utilize them to accomplish many tasks that you did not realize were able to be completed using many of the Google Apps.

For those of you that have some coding experience or are willing to learn.... listen up "Grasshopper", this is where you can make the Google Apps do about anything you or your district wants it to do.  Will school districts be able to find qualified individuals who have some scripting capabilities to use the sink that Google is giving away?  I hope so, but in the mean time... I am hoping to learn a little bit about this scripting myself to be able to at least modify some great scripts that other good coders are willing to give away.

Happy scripting!

Why you should store all your files on the cloud!

Monday, April 25, 2011

When I sent my daughters off to college, I installed DropBox on their computers, setup a folder that is backed up to the cloud and told them to make sure they save all of their files to that folder.  What a great way to backup their files without them having to do a daily backup. Lost laptop- No Problem. Hard drive crashes- No Problem.

With Google Docs, Dropbox,,  SugarSync, Skydrive, and the Amazon Cloud... you can automatically backup your files, share files and even play music on your Android Phone all at my favorite cost... FREE.  In this article I will give you a short synopsis of each service and let you decide what services will fit your needs.  I will also share a great tool I just installed that adds a drive to your computer that shows up as a local drive, but is really storing files online.  (Yes, a drive that is in the cloud.)

DropBox:  I will share my favorite app first. You get 2 gigs of free online storage, software that installs on your computer and auto syncs your files, phone apps, web access, iPad apps, and more. This program is awesome and easy to use.  Install it from here, and you get an extra 250 meg too:

Google Docs: You can store 1 gig of non-Google docs, and unlimited Google Doc files. If you are not using Google Docs and all of the other Google tools, you are just missing out period.  Sign up for a Google account, right after you setup your DropBox account. They give you more free space (5 gig) but do not offer the free syncing that some of the other service do.  But hey... 5 Gig free and they do offer phone, iPad, and other apps.

SugarSync: Similar to DropBox, with a lot of the same features. You get 5 Gig Fee!  Sign-up here:

SkyDrive: This is a free 25 gig online storage area by Microsoft.  You do need a Microsoft Live ID to sign up for this free service.  Combine this with the the program (described below) and you have a 25 gig on-line flash drive connected to your computer at all times.

Amazon Cloud Drive: Another 5 gig of free space. They have a great Cloud music player for your Android mobile device that allows you to easily play your music you store on this cloud storage. Combine it with the program and you can easily drag and drop files to this service.  (Amazon's web site does not have a great interface for managing this. So use to do it!)  The Android phone app fro playing music is awesome. Cloud Desktop:  This program adds a drive letter to your computer that really maps that drive letter to your SkyDrive, Amazon Clud Drive and more. Easily drag and drop files just like you would to a flash drive.  The free version will do about anything you need, but the pro version adds some nice bells and whistles if you want to part with a few greenbacks.

Most of these online storage services offer the ability to share folders to the public along with other great features. Using the above sites and tools, you can easily backup over 40 gig of files and automate many of your backups and tasks using these free services.  The one's listed above are established companies, that should be around for the long haul.

Now is the time to use the cloud for you and your students!

Schools will have to offer WiFi, cellular, and more... if you want to keep up.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes, the cloud is coming to education, (The cloud is another whole story!) and we must offer the tools and access for students, teachers and parents to access that cloud in order to do their jobs in the future.  The question "Why can my kid get better WiFi access at a Burger King than at his school?" is a valid one.  Why can they??

From the Web I find:

On April 1, 2011 Project Tomorrow released the report “The New 3 E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered – How Today’s Students are Leveraging Emerging Technologies for Learning” at a Congressional Briefing held in Washington, DC.

The project surveyed almost 300,000 students (along with 43,000 parents, 35,000 teachers, 2000 librarians and 3500 administrators) from over 6500 private and public schools last fall about how they're using - and how they want to be using - technology for learning.

Julie Evans, Project Tomorrow CEO, discussed selected student and parent national findings from the Speak Up 2010 report and moderated a panel discussion with students and parents who shared their insights and experiences.

Key findings:

• 67 percent of parents said they would purchase a mobile device for their child to use for schoolwork if the school allowed it, and 61 percent said they liked the idea of students using mobile devices to access online textbooks.

• 53 percent of middle and high school students reported that the inability to use cell phones, smart phones or MP3 players was the largest obstacle when using technology in school. Additionally, 71 percent of high school students and 62 percent of middle school students said that the number one way schools could make it easier to use technology would be to allow greater access to the digital content and resources that Internet firewalls and school filters blocked.

• Parents are increasingly supportive of online textbooks. Two-thirds of parents view online textbooks as a good investment to enhance student achievement compared to 21 percent in 2008. However, E-textbooks are still a relatively novel concept in the classroom. Slightly over one-third of high school students report they are currently using an online textbook or other online curriculum as part of their regular schoolwork.

• Nearly 30 percent of high school students have experienced some type of online learning.


Parents are willing to purchase technologies, if the service is available

What are the implications for schools? 
We must be willing to adapt with the technologies as well as the needs of our students, staff and patrons. At my school district we currently embrace cell phones, and are in the process of deploying a next-generation WiFi deployment that will allow that access for students and staff.  What are your thoughts??? What is your school doing?? 

Self grading tests with Google Forms, one more reason to use Google Docs!

Monday, March 28, 2011

I tweeted months ago, (October 2010 to be exact) "I am convinced that Google Apps will make the biggest splash in technology change in Education that we have seen since the Internet."  And this is one more reason I stand by that.  Scripts for Google Docs. Scripts can add a lot of custom functionality to Google Docs.

Take a look at Flubaroo  Watch the 3 minute video, and see how this free add-in script will turn your Google Form into a self-grading quiz that will even email students the results as well as breakdown class results and question scores for the teacher.

This is a great script that will be handy for teachers, as well as a good demo of the possibilities and power in Google Doc scripts.

Take a look at this tutorial using Google Apps Script. It will amaze you at what can be done:

Very few of us want to be "Coders", but learning a few basics will unleash a lot of power at our fingertips with Google Apps Script.

A few great tools for recording classroom activities.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

After following the Twitter feed from the Omaha Ed camp, I ran across a lot of great web 2.0 tools, and several that are great for recording audio and video. Some of the resources listed here were from that event.

Audioboo has a lot of potential for incorporating audio and pictures from phones or the web, directly to social media. (I like the idea of this app, but from looking at the reviews on the Android market, it looks like the phone app has a ways to go.) Imagine students walking around with their phones taking pictures and recording comments about those pictures into a classroom Twitter feed.  Maybe they are looking at geological formations or identifying different plant types in the landscape for a biology class. The possibilities are limitless. A similar product, ipadio may be worth a look. It offeres similar functionality at the same price.... FREE!

There are numerous video streaming services, and many offer applications to stream events right from your smart phone. , and are just a few services.

In my recent Twitter posting I mentioned Mailvu that offers an easy way to send video emails. It has many features including limiting number of views, or deleting video after X number of days. Just like many of the tools mentioned above, this tool offers many features for the teacher with a lot of creative classroom projects and ideas.

Android on the Nook Our final project worked great! A tablet and eBook reader all for less than $270!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The New Android HoneyComb 3.0 on the Nook!! Final thoughts and directions.
I posted a few days ago, about loading the Android HoneyComb 3.0 on a micro SD card, and then booting to that card to have an Android Tablet and a Nook for the price of one!  We have this up and going... and it it awesome for the money.   Where else can your get a Color eBook reader (The nook) and a brand new wireless Android 3.0 (honeycomb) tablet all for the total price of $270.  (Nook= $250 and micros SD card = $20.)

You can find out more on the web, but here is a quick run down of the steps:
1) Purchase a Nook Color and an 8 Gig class 6 (or higher) micro SD card.
2) You will then go through a process for installing an Android Image on a micro SD card, then install the Android market on that card, and then you can boot to that card to have an Android tablet. If you want to go back to the Nook, you just remove the card, and boot the device to your Nook. Clean, simple and cheap!
3) Navigate to this page, and follow the instructions.
Some notes on this:
--I used WinImage instead of the one listed in the article. Download WinImage from here (last version is fine, winima85.exe) and install it. You can do without registration, the trial version will work well for 30 days.
--When articles mention ADB, it is a part of the Android SDK which you need to download and install.  It has a few requirements of it's own,
--Read this article on how to install ADB and the Android SDK.  (For some reason I could not get the path statement part to work, and I know it looks right... but just would not work.  Not a biggie, just make sure you navigate to the correct folder in the command prompt when you run the commands, and it works.)

--When you install ADB, the key is getting it to recognize the Nook through USB.  This is critical, because you need that in order for the market place to get installed.  (You can just install the image on your micro usb card and boot the Nook to it, and you would have a tablet, but no market app to install other apps.)
--Make sure you do the updated method described in the this article, for installing the market place.
--When you Download HoneyGApps v2  and extract the contents, make sure you put those files in the ADB folder on your computer.  Then open a command prompt in that folder and type HoneyGAppInstall to run the script to install the market place, along with a few Google Apps bundled in that script.

Once you get Android and the market installed, you should be ready to go. (There are some places that talk about over-clocking Android on the Nook, but it looks a little to complicated for me.)  You may want to grab another image of the pristine card with Android 3.0 and the market installed before you start to customize your Android system.  This step will allow you to create another card easily if you want to start over from scratch.

A new feature in Google Doc's worth looking at-- Discussions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Well, as I always tell everyone.... the only constant in technology is change.  The problem is that change is coming at an ever increasing rate!

Thought I would let everyone know about another new feature that was just added to Google Docs: Discussions.  This adds another feature similar to notes, but with a twist.  Could be great for students with group projects, English teachers, etc...

You may notice that the above link is to the Google Doc's blog, where you can follow their new features when they are released.... or find out about past features.  (I found out about this new feature by following them on Twitter.)  Did you know they will OCR a document from a PDF or picture and dump it right into a Google Doc??? (I just read about that in the blog!)

Have a great day! ..... it looks nice outside.... but in Nebraska the weather may change even faster than technology.  I guess with the weather if you do not keep up... you get wet or cold, with technology if you do not keep up.... you become a dinosaur, so keep plugging away.  We know what happened to the dinosaurs.  Oh wait... I guess we don't for sure. 

Make your own Android Tablet.for less than $250!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Buy a color Barnes and Nobel Nook for $250 and a Class 6 Micro SD card, and you can have a dual boot Nook eBook reader  and Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablet.  We are in the process of doing this, and it works great!  With the card in, the Nook boots to Android 3.0 and you have a great functional tablet, complete with WiFi. Pop the card out, and your Nook boots as normal and you have a great Nook eBook reader.

Follow these directions: Here

This is very easy to do, and works well.  The toughest part is getting the market app installed. We are still working on that, even though the directions tell you how... we are still having a few issues getting it to work.  We have been amazed at how responsive the Android tablet is running from the micro SD card.

This is probably the cheapest way to get not only an Android 3.0 tablet, but also a great eBook reader at the same time!

eBooks anyone? Free resources, format suggestions and more.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Yes, eBooks will be the future, but right now the industry is still young and publishers have not embraced the digital world fast enough for most of us.  There are a lot of formats, and Wikipedia has a great article "Comparison of e-book formats"  It makes it tough as a director of school technology to decide what format to recommend, because you do not want to bet on the wrong format, and have a lot of eBooks that are not really supported. (Think Beta vs. VHS or HD DVD vs. Blu Ray.)  And, as my resent tweet suggests, publishers want to protect their gold mines and not embrace the digital world. Tweet: "Publishers may limit number of times a library can checkout an eBook. This is Pathetic "

The disappointing part for school libraries and school districts is that most of the companies that offer eBooks, such as Kindles or Nooks, lack the management capabilities that a school district needs. How would you like to checkout a Kindle to a student, and have that Kindle tied to a school credit card where they can buy any book they want! There are many other management issues similar to the problems associated with iPads or other tablet devices in school districts. The sad part is, this hinders adoption and timelines for implementing those new technologies and resources. Maybe there is some hope... I have not used Calibre, but it looks like it has a lot of potential for libraries to manage eBooks and the price is right (Free).

There are several resources for free eBooks. Do not forget to look for free books in what ever device you are using.  I know the Kindle (as well as others) has a nice selection of free books, you just need to search for them. This article "How to Find Free ebooks for Nook" has a nice resource listing for finding free eBooks for all devices and formats. Free eBooks by Project Gutenberg, is often mentioned as a starting point for free eBooks in education.  And to find some more great eBook resources.... follow my advice to teachers and students... just Google it.

And another exciting blog post will be coming soon....  Install Android 3 (Honeycomb) on your removable SD card on your Nook, so you can turn a Nook into a Android tablet.  All for $250!

Need to find a time for your meeting- Doodle is the simple answer. Give it a try!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 Offers a great simple service for scheduling a meeting. Instead of emailing around to find times or solicit advice, this online tool allows you easily poll your group to find the best time.  Simple to use, and it will import your contacts as well as allow you to view your calendar right from the web app.  In less than 5 minutes I was able to setup and account, import my calendar and contacts and poll a group for meeting times.  Sweet!

Will the Google Laptop be the 1 to 1 choice for school districts?

Monday, February 28, 2011

After a week of time beta testing the Google Cr48 laptop, I think it has a lot of potential for a schools 1 to 1 laptop program. A lot of it's potential will be based on it's final sales price which has not yet been released.  If the price point comes in at $249 or less, it will be a huge winner. At $299 it's still a strong contender.  It's potential is also based on it's simplicity, quick power up time and long battery life.  Combine this laptop with Google Apps for education and it is a winner for students and staff.  I like the iPad for it's battery life, large application base, and presentation of electronic media, but I think the Google Laptop makes more sense for 1 to 1 deployments as well as deployment in mobile carts.  The iPad, or other tablet devices (read Android) will still be the product of choice for media centers, and eBook/media content delivery. Does Google have a winner here?  My vote is yes, but... time will tell!

What will school networks look like in the future?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quick answer: Wireless...Wireless...Wireless....  As a school networking person, I am still very fond of the fast speed, reliable, and controllable network wiring.  Yes, give me fiber, Cat5, Cat 6, or beyond.  But that is not what I see in the crystal ball for school networks in the next ten years.  We are not ready to totally cut the wires yet, but as wireless matures and wireless access is required, our school networks will evolve.  Students and staff will need Cellular service and wireless access for the many handheld devices that will service education and personal needs of our clients.  Our "wired" network will still support some file and print services, but most services will be supported on the cloud.  With all of our applications moving to the cloud,  we need more wireless and more bandwidth.

What wireless devices?  Well, the answer remains to be seen.  I like the iPad for it's battery life, but I do not see it as a total computer replacement.  The iPad is great as a media delivery device with good battery life, but I do not see it as a full service internet client, especially with it's lack of support for Adobe Flash.   There may be hope for the new Android tablets, but time will tell for their laptop replacement capabilities.

I have had the opportunity to review the Google Chrome Laptop and have been very impressed with it's battery life and possibility for use in a 1 to 1 computer initiative within a school district.  Second party review here: With many applications heading to the cloud, this device holds a lot of promise.  I think the deciding factor for this device will be it's price point.  If they can come in with a price point of $249, it will be a winner for education.

Why use Blogger in your Classroom?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

With Google Apps for Education, every student and staff member now has their own personal blog they can use for a variety of reasons and uses.

  • Kids love to Blog.
  • Students are motivated seeing their words published on the web.
  • Students who know they have an audience other than their teacher write more credibly, accurately, and carefully.
  • Blogs allow feedback and interaction. (Feature can be turned on or off.)

According to research published in The Journal (The Prose of Blogging and a Few Cons, Too.), students who blogged felt better about writing overall, and about writing research papers in particular. Combined with many other free resources, blogging has unlimited possibilities.  You may want to check out some of these great resources:  "50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills"

As with many tools, Blogging  is relevant based on the person using the tool. In the hands of a skilled educator blogging can become a great classroom tool motivating students and improving their writing and literary skills. This tool in the hands of a poor educator it can become a great time wasting tool for students to spend hours in the computer lab.

Blogging is one more great tool in the arsenal of web tools available to educators for use in their classrooms.  What are you doing reading this blog???? Get busy and start using this great resource in your classroom. :)