Sunday, August 31, 2008

Best Buy Teach Grant - Another Great Opportunity!

Creatively integrate interactive technology into your curriculum and win! Some of us are doing this already. Others have a great idea, but haven't put it down on paper. Here's your chance to get that piece of equipment or those high tech resources you've always wanted for your class. Teachers, if we want our students to have access to up-to-the-date technology, we have to be proactive and aggressively pursue funding opportunities like this. Here's a line from Best Buy's Teach Grant promo page:
Best Buy Teach Awards ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 will be granted to programs that engage students at any grade level by creatively integrating interactive technology into the curriculum. All awards are in the form of Best Buy Gift Cards.
I've won this grant before, and you can too. I purchased an Apple Powerbook for use in my classroom video editing program. It also doubles as the digital hub for my classroom presentations.

Each year, big companies allocate X number of dollars towards philanthropic endeavors. In return for their contributions, they receive huge tax breaks and a high degree of positive press. Teachers who are willing to expend some effort, creativity, and persistence are eventually rewarded. My attitude has always been, some one is going to win this grant money, so why not me! So go for it!

The guidelines for this grant are somewhat more involved than other grants I've recommended, such as the 100 word essay for Samsung's Hope For Education Grant, but don't let the extra work intimidate you -- there is plenty of time to work on this. The Best Buy Teach Grant is due October 12, 2008 and winners will be announced online on March 2, 2009. Get creative! Get excited! Think outside your four walls and dream big. What does your classroom need to enhance student learning? What would you buy with $2,500 if Best Buy handed you a gift card and said, "Spend this on your classroom?" I can think of a lot. How about flash drives for students to use all year? What about a class set of Palm PDAs that students can use as eReaders: you can beam PDFs to every student to supplement your lessons. What about a few camcorders or digital cameras to encourage student journalism...? Your kids will love this! What's your idea?

This year $2 million will be awarded to accredited K-12 public, private, parochial, magnet and charter schools in the United States and Puerto Rico through the Best Buy Teach Award program. Additionally, $10,000 Best Buy Teach Awards will be granted to up to fifteen (15) schools serving 9th grade students that display the greatest creativity in their programs/projects and the clearest vision of how to increase the school's use of interactive technology. Best Buy Teach Awards of $10,000 are NOT in addition to the $1,000 - $5,000 awards. The emphasis on 9th grade classrooms aligns with Best Buy's new @15™ philanthropic focus.

Learn more at

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Roz Rows the Pacific - Almost to Hawaii

AddThis Feed Button If you haven't heard of Roz Savage, it's only a matter of time... Within a few short days, she will arrive on Waikiki Beach. Roz plans to be the first woman to row across the Pacific. She's very close to reaching Hawaii, which is a huge milestone. There, she plans to bathe in fresh water, wash her hair, get dressed up, and among other luxuries, enjoy a caramel latte. Then, after a few weeks, she'll be on her way to Australia. What's admirable about Roz is her determination and commitment to the environment. But what makes this adventure even more compelling is the way she uses modern technology to communicate with people, young and old, about her adventure -- in real time. My students and I first began following Roz during last year's Pacific-crossing attempt. Although plagued with rough weather and equipment failure which ultimately led to postponing the voyage, she maintained her blog up to the end. Students begged me to check it every day for the latest Roz updates, which were transmitted from her row boat, the Bracade, via satellite. In addition, the more hardcore fans signed up for text-message updates from Roz, sent directly to their phones. Messages ranged in topics from the horrible weather to happier moments: For example, the time she was being escorted by scores of dolphins.

In addition to maintaining a blog and sending text messages, Roz participates in a weekly podcast with Leo Laporte called Roz Rows the Pacific, available on the TWIT network. Audience members can post questions or comments in the chat room, e-mail, Twitter, and by calling into the show. Each episode is recorded live each week, and uploaded as a podcast. Shows can then be downloaded to a variety of devices such as iPods and computers for playback. One memorable moment was when I logged into Leo's chat room during the show. I relayed to Leo that my class of sixth graders are big fans, and that my daughter really loves following Roz. Leo then shared this information with Roz, who then promptly gave a shout out to my sixth graders and even mentioned my daughter by name! When I played that portion of the podcast to the class the next day, my students were beside themselves. Roz's hi-tech row boat is equipped with satellite navigation equipment, including a TomTom GPS. Her location is updated on her website using a BETA version of Marinetrack Event Viewer Console. It's a map that shows her up-to-the-second position. Some of her video clips are also available on for viewing on Youtube.

To follow Roz, visit her website:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Make Contact: Ask a NASA Astronaut a Question

What was it like to walk out into space for the first time? Is fixing the telescope like fixing a car, with all of its little parts? What does it feel like being in space, and how would you describe the takeoff? These are just some of the questions children (and adults) are asking astronauts -- but these astronauts are not answering these questions on the ground...they're answering these questions from 220 miles above the Earth. Astronaut Greg Chamitoff, aboard the International Space Station is ready to take your questions. Here is your chance to hear direct from space. Click Here to submit your own questions. Each week, questions will be transmitted to Greg from Mission Control and his answers to a few of them will be available.>View Greg Chamitoff's answers to your questions Make contact! Take advantage of the opportunity to communicate with a real live astronaut while he's on the job.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teachers, Jump on this Grant Opportunity!

AddThis Feed Button How many times have you thought to yourself, "If money was no object, I'd buy my students..." Grants are one way we as teachers can attain the resources we know will benefit our students in an outside-the-box manner. This grant is very easy to enter: it's an on-line essay with a 100 word limit. Anyone can enter! Read contest rules carefully - if a student under 18 enters, the parent must have an email address. Entries are open now. Contest will run until August 31, 2008. Read this selection from the grant's website:
Each year the program challenges students, teachers, parents or anyone who knows of a school in need to write an essay regarding the importance of technology in education, and how it can benefit a school in their community. Essays are evaluated by an independent judging committee, and winners earn various awards of Samsung products for their designated school. In the four years since its inception, the program has awarded more than 250 U.S. schools with over $7,000,000 in Samsung electronics and Microsoft software. In 2008, the top winner receives a grand prize of over $200,000 worth of Samsung technology, Microsoft software and cash grants from DIRECTV, as well as the SCHOOL CHOICE® educational television programming package.
Click Here to read more about this grant and to enter. Forward this post to your students and parents. Consider offering the essay topic as a writing prompt or as a "homework challenge." Good luck!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Simple Username and Password Management

AddThis Feed ButtonOne problem our school's technology committee began working on is how to handle the exorbitant number of username/passwords we as teachers have accumulated for the numerous off- and online applications we use: from Accelerated Reader to UnitedStreaming, there are at least 20 different applications or websites that require a username/password or some long website address we may or may not remember in our moment of need. 

One low-tech but effective solution, suggested by Mike (Mr. K as he's known to students) is to design an editable username/password table in Excel spreadsheet which can then be e-mailed to the entire staff. The form will come be pre-filled with our school's most commonly used applications and website addresses leaving the username/password column blank. Teachers can simply input their own unique username/password in the appropriate row, save the file on their computer desktop or print it out. They can tape this under their laptop or stick it in a file in their desk. It's kind of like having our own personal phonebook for our username/passwords.

One word of caution: This solution is not recommended for critical data such as online banking, Amazon, or other sensitive information.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Streamline your School's Computer Repair Cycle

AddThis Feed ButtonWhen one of our classroom computers have a problem, we have to first locate our school's computer tech person, which can be difficult because we are usually in the middle of teaching. And once we find the individual, she has to come in our room and identify the problem. If she can't fix it, she has to write up a work order. This all wastes too much time. One step in the right direction is to design a computer REPAIR FORM in Microsoft Word, save it as a template, then e-mail it to the entire staff.

This template can then be saved to the teacher's desktop and filled out whenever a computer problem occurs. Teachers can simply fill in the information: i.e. computer make, inventory sticker number, teacher name, room number, problem, etc. and print or e-mail the form to the tech lab person. If she thinks it's a problem she can fix, she can attend to it at her earliest convenience. If she can't fix it, then she has all the information right there in front of her to input into the system to submit the work order.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Keyspan Presentation Remote with Laser Pointer

AddThis Feed ButtonIf you're fortunate to have an LCD projector in your classroom but tired of being strapped within arms length of your computer during presentations (so you can be close enough to tap the space bar to advance the slides) then you need this device! The Keyspan Presentation Remote with Laser Pointer is a great two-in-one device. I have used this now for about two years, and it operates as well now as it did when I first began using it. I especially love the thumb-mouse to navigate to websites from the back of the room. When technology works, it's like magic!

If you threw out your quick start guide, you may have forgotten how to operate this gizmo. Here's a refresher: The remote has two modes which are controlled via the Mode button, which is a white button, located at the bottom. When the Mode button is not showing a green light, the remote is in Standard mode. When the Mode button is lit green, then the remote is in Media mode.

To turn on the Laser Pointer, hold down the Laser Pointer button (blue button) AND the Mode button (white button) simultaneously. The Mode button will blink red when the Laser is activated. To deactivate the laser again, hold down the Laser Pointer button (blue) and Mode button (white) simultaneously again until the Mode button flashes rapidly.

Another great feature is the media controls. Lots of times, I'll be streaming a clip from the Internet. With the Keyspan Presentation Remote with Laser Pointer, you can pause, rewind, and fast-forward from anywhere in the room -- great for adding your own, personal, LIVE commentary.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cell Phones Headed Back To School

AddThis Feed ButtonLast month, one of my students called her mom during recess to complain that girls were teasing her. Within a few minutes, the girl's mother appeared in the front office and demanded that the principal investigate the situation immediately. As it turned out, the girl admitted that she, too, was involved in the name-calling. We all informed her that she should have sought the assistance of one of the adults on duty, but she admitted she preferred to call her mother on the cell phone instead. This begs the question: Should students be allowed to use their cell phones at school? This week, one school board ruled to give it a try:
"A trial policy approved by the Grand Blanc Board of Education on Monday will allow students at Grand Blanc High School this fall to use their cellphones before or after school, between classes or during lunch. The new rule also applies to iPods, pagers, CD or MP3 players and other electronic gadgets. But the classroom -- or any area during class time -- will remain a "sacred place," free of calls and text-messaging." --quote from Sally York | The Flint Journal, August 5, 2008

I, for one, wouldn't be caught dead without my cell phone -- it's my life-line to the world. If I receive an e-mail from my boss, I try to respond right away. If I get a voice mail from my wife, I'll listen to it at by break and call her back when the students are at recess or lunch, which is my earliest convenience. But should students carry cell phones on campus? If so, under what conditions should they be allowed to use them? I have no problem with cell phones at school, as long as they do not interfere with the learning experiences I have prepared for them. The Grand Blanc, Michigan Board of Education seems to side with me and are going to give it a go. In the long run, I think cell phones and other gadgets on campus will win. What do you think? 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Send and Receive School District E-mail

AddThis Feed ButtonWhen Apple announced iPhone 3G support for Microsoft Exchange, I had no idea how easy it would be to set up and how convenient it would be to use. Now, I'm no longer tethered to my desktop or laptop computer, checking for the latest action item. One five minute call to my school district's IT department and I was reading my corporate e-mail on my iPhone! And it couldn't have come at a better time. Our new principal is an e-mail powerhouse. So, if you're wondering how you can set up Microsoft Exchange on the iPhone 3G, it's quite simple.

On the iPhone, press Settings; then press "Mail, Contacts, Calendars." Press "Add Account"; Then touch the Microsoft Exchange logo. If you don't know your username and/or password, you'll need to ask your principal, computer lab tech (if you have one) or the district's IT department. Input your username and password, the same thing you use to retrieve corporate web e-mail. The only information you need from your district's IT department is the server name. If you are part of the Corona-Norco Unified School District (CNUSD), it's:

You'll be given the option to sync your mail, contacts, and calendar items. I played it safe and only opted to sync my mail. With MobileMe services so new, I didn't want to confuse the system and possibly break things by syncing everything. However, if you're feeling brave, try it for yourself and tell us about it! Good luck!

Apple Brings Authors to the Classroom

AddThis Feed ButtonThe MYVisit Virtual Author Series is a great opportunity for your students to interact with some of todays best children's book creators LIVE! Each visit brings the author into your classroom via interactive video, discussion forums, and downloadable learning activities to create a unique learning experience that expands some of today's most popular children's titles.

On October 7, 2008 viewers will meet Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, author and illustrators of Duck for President. Each MYVisit consists of a 45 minute web-based broadcast, Live Q&A, a Discussion Forum, and curriculum models. You'll also have access to various web-based videos after the live broadcast.

You have to register to receive access to web-based curriculum materials. Click Here to register. The registration process requires you to submit your phone number -- not sure why!?