Friday, May 29, 2009

What Was It I Needed to Do?

Sometimes you just need a little nudge to be reminded to get something done. Here are four online services that can help.

What makes different is semantic or natural language input. That means that instead of having to manually enter a date, time and event - like other reminder apps - is smart enough to understand and process your language just like another human can. For example enter "meeting with Jack next Tuesday at noon" and will recognize the date, time, event and will remind you automatically. If you are having trouble getting to translate your reminder, you can use the "advanced reminder" option to manually enter the date and time.
Unlimited email reminders are free. charges a fee for SMS and phone call messages. SMS and Voice reminders cost 1 credit. You may purchase 20 credits for $2.


Superminder is an online micro-application that will make sure you don't forget. It was designed with simplicity as the main focus. It's uncomplicated and should not confuse you with options you don't need. It looks good with a friendly, stylish interface.
Superminder can remind you by email but you can take it a step further by enabling your cellphone to receive your reminders. There is a fee for this feature, however. SMS reminders cost 1 credit, 15 credits will cost you $4.


Wakerupper is a service to schedule telephone reminders. You enter text messages up to 140 characters which are then converted and delivered as speech.

No signup is needed for basic service. You can direct as many reminders as you like to any US or Canadian phone number. Basic service is free, but there is a premium version offering added features.
Wakerupper also offers a slimmed down version for mobile devices at


This one is my favorite. From a remarkably simple interface, Remindr allows you to send reminders via Twitter, email, IM (Jabber or Gtalk), and/or cell phone.

It's totally free and no sign-up is needed. You can direct your reminder to any phone number or any email address so you can send reminders to others as well as yourself.
A couple of notes on Remindr: Time must be set in 24-hour format (2:30 PM = 14:30) and to get reminders via Twitter, you need to follow Remindr's bot.

So, don't forget to check out these handy services soon.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sir Ken Robinson: Educating Creativity

"We are educating people out of their creativity." - Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and passionate case for revamping our current education system geared to developing good workers into one that nurtures creativity.

Sir Ken led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, an inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ShowDocument: Easy Document Collaboration

ShowDocument is an instant live online cross-platform collaboration tool used to quickly share documents with friends and coworkers. It allows simultaneous viewing of almost any common document type, including MS Office and OpenDocument formats, pdf, rtf, jpg, gif, png, txt, xml, and more.

The presenter uploads one or more documents and invites up to 50 colleagues to view it with him live. All the participants in the session see each others' annotations, markings, highlights, etc. There is a chat window to allow real-time communication among the participants and a whiteboard function.

Each participant can save the annotated document to his own computer as a PDF. The duration of a session is limited to one hour. ShowDocument is free.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Whiteboard Needed

DemoHelper is a free, small (76k) Windows application to facilitate presentations and demos. It can give you some of the effects that would be available if using an interactive whiteboard. DemoHelper runs unobtrusively in the system tray and is activated by either hotkeys or its context menu.

Using your mouse, you can easily highlight or annotate on top of anything on your computer's display. Use the left and right arrow keys to cycle through the available pen colors. The up and down arrow keys will change the pen width. Hit ESC to clear your mark ups.

DemoHelper is also a zoom tool. Use the up and down arrows to zoom in and out. ESC returns you to normal view. Use your mouse to drag the zoom window around the screen.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What If We Could ...?

Explore the Impact of Educational Achievement on a Community

The Common Good Forecaster™ explores the consequences of education in a specific community of your choice. This online tool was created by United Way and the American Human Development Project to forecast how things might change in your community if educational outcomes were changed.

You begin by selecting a state, and optionally, a county. You'll see a page of demographic data for that locale. There are tabs to display Health, Financial Stability, Education, and Community Involvement statistics. On the left are sliders you can use to modify the data on highest education level achieved.

For instance, in the county where I live 10% of the population is currently below the federal poverty level. If I use the slider to increase the percent of residents completing high school by 7%, from 47% to 54%, the percent of the population living below the poverty threshold would be expected to fall to 8.7%. The voting rate would increase from 54.7% to 55.6%.

This tool could be used to dramatically demonstrate how improved local educational achievement can benefit the general well-being of the community.

Additional Information

United Way is a national network of nearly 1,300 local organizations that work to advance the common good by focusing on education, income and health. These are the building blocks for a good life: a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health. They have a goal to cut the high school dropout rate in half by 2018.

The American Human Development Project is a nonpartisan, non-profit initiative established to introduce to the United States a well-honed international approach and tool for measuring human well-being: the human development approach and the human development index. The project’s mission is to stimulate fact-based public debate about and political attention to human development issues in the United States and to empower people with an instrument to hold elected officials accountable for progress on issues we all care about: health, education and income.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eight Habits of Highly Effective 21st Century Teachers

The following is a reprint of an article by Andrew Churches, HOD Information Technology, Kristin School, Auckland, NZ. It appeared in New Zealand Interface Magazine.

What are the characteristics we would expect to see in a successful 21st century educator? Well, we know they are student-centric, holistic, and they’re teaching about how to learn as much as teaching about the subject area. We know, too, that they must be 21st century learners as well. But highly effective teachers in today’s classrooms are more than this – much more.

1. Adapting
Harnessed as we are to an assessment-focused education model, the 21st century educator must be able to adapt the curriculum and the requirements to teach to the curriculum in imaginative ways. They must also be able to adapt software and hardware designed for a business model into tools to be used by a variety of age groups and abilities. They must also be able to adapt to a dynamic teaching experience. When it all goes wrong in the middle of a class, when the technologies fail, the show must go on.

2. Being visionary
Imagination is a crucial component of the educator of today and tomorrow. They must look across the disciplines and through the curricula; they must see the potential in the emerging tools and Web technologies, grasp these and manipulate them to serve their needs. If we look at the technologies we currently see emerging, how many are developed for education? The visionary teacher can look at others’ ideas and envisage how they would use these in their class.

3. Collaborating
Blogger, Wikispaces, Bebo, MSN, MySpace, Second life, Twitter, RSS – as an educator we must be able to leverage these collaborative tools to enhance and captivate our learners. We, too, must be collaborators; sharing, contributing, adapting and inventing.
4. Taking risks
There’s so much to learn. How can you as an educator know all these things? You must take risks and sometimes surrender yourself to the students’ knowledge. Have a vision of what you want and what the technology can achieve, identify the goals and facilitate the learning. Use the strengths of the digital natives to understand and navigate new products, have them teach each other. Trust your students.
5. Learning
We expect our students to be life-long learners. Teachers, must continue to absorb experiences and knowledge, as well. We must endeavour to stay current. I wonder how many people are still using their lesson and unit plans from five years ago. To be a teacher, you must learn and adapt as the horizons and landscapes change.
6. Communicating
To have anywhere, anytime learning, the teacher must be anywhere and anytime. The 21st century teacher is fluent in tools and technologies that enable communication and collaboration. They go beyond learning just how to do it; they also know how to facilitate it, stimulate and control it, moderate and manage it.

7. Modelling behaviour
There is an expectation that teachers will teach values, so we must model the behaviors that we expect from our students. We are often the most consistent part of their life, seeing them more often, for longer and more reliably than even their parents. The 21st century educator also models tolerance, global awareness, and reflective practice, whether it’s the quiet, personal inspection of their teaching and learning, or through blogs, twitter and other media, effective educators look both inwards and outwards.

8. Leading
Whether they are a champion of the process of ICT integration, a quiet technology coach, the 21st century educator is a leader. Like clear goals and objectives, leadership is crucial to the success or failure of any project.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Two Tools for Clipping YouTube Video

More and more teachers and their students are implementing YouTube video into their classroom presentations, wikis, blogs, and web sites. Often, however, there's only a portion of a YouTube video which is really relevant to the lesson. In this post, I will be presenting two online tools that allow a teacher or student to embed only the salient part of the video, Splicd and TubeChop .

Both work in a similar way. Find the YouTube video containing the clip you plan to embed, copy its URL, paste it into a text box on either the Splicd or TubeChop home page, select the endpoints of the pertinent section of the video, and an HTML embed code for just that part of the video will be generated as well as a direct link for sharing through Twitter , email, and so forth.

The main difference between Splicd and TubeChop is the interface and exactly how you define where your clip begins and ends. Splicd takes a more direct bare-bones approach while TubeChop has a slicker UI, though it will require a few more steps to get the job done.


To use Splicd, you need to make note of the time points where the part of the video you wish to use begins and ends, then manually enter these at the same time you enter the URL of the video. Click Continue.

The code is generated along with a preview of the clip.


To use TubeChop, enter the URL. Click search.

Next, you'll see a thumbnail preview of the source YouTube video. Click chop it.

Then as the video plays, use the pause/play control and the black slider bars on the timeline to mark the clip, click chop it once more.

Finally you will see a preview of the clip with the embed code as well as a direct link. There are also links to share your clip online.


As examples, I used both tools to clip the same section using this Penguins/Flyers 2009 Playoff video as a source.

There is a fight that starts at about 0:17 and ends at 0:33. Here is the fight clipped with Splicd.
powered by
Here is the same portion of the video clipped using TubeChop.

I should note that in my limited experience using both of these tools, clipping to exact start and end times appears to be a not yet perfect science. But, clipping source videos can save both time and bandwidth. Both Splicd and TubeChop are well worth trying out.

Mindmap visualization of Splicd/TubeChop

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

VocabGrabber: Visual Vocabulary

Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus has launched an interesting new tool called VocabGrabber that helps teachers and students to quickly focus on the important vocabulary from almost any text.

VocabGrabber intelligently extracts words from any document and shows how those words are used in context. It's an asset to language arts teachers or anyone who wants extended insights into how language works.

Copy and paste a passage into a box on the VocabGrabber web site, click the Grab Vocabulary button, and an organized interactive visualization of vocabulary words and phrases in that text quickly appears. How often words appear in the text is compared with the frequency of these words in standard written English.

Students get to see how words are used in context instead of memorizing tedious, boring word lists. VocabGrabber makes words come alive, providing relevant authentic examples of words in action. Students can explore the connections between words and meanings through visually interesting word maps.

Teachers can use VocabGrabber to highlight vocabulary specific to a curricular subject area. It can also be useful to students preparing for state standardized tests, or national tests like the SAT and ACT. Teachers can choose the most appropriate vocabulary words and can preview, along with their students, the words that are most important to improving reading comprehension .


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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Visualize Text with WordSift

I'm trying a different kind of post. I created a concept map centered on WordSift, a text visualization and word analysis tool. As such, I thought a visual presentation of the tool might be appropriate. You can click on live links by switching to outline view.

I created the map using Xmind.
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Monday, May 4, 2009

Through a Kid's Eyes

About two months ago 14 students from four diverse Pennsylvania high schools were given the task of considering what they thought 21st century high school education should become.

They initially met in early March, established two teams each consisting of members from each of the four schools, and laid the groundwork for their projects. Since that time, they have worked collaboratively using cell phones and the Internet to research the current state of US education, to generate ideas as to where high schools should be going, and to suggest potential ways to make American students more globally competitive.

Today, the kids all came together once again to present their projects to an audience of teachers, administrators, and a PDE official. Each team presented its case for reshaping 21st century education and responded to questions from the observers related to the content of their presentation. In conclusion, the entire group of students engaged in a less formal Q&A with the audience that engaged the students in discussion both of the content and the process of their projects.

All in all, I was impressed by the thoughtfulness, the scope, and the insights demonstrated by these kids. The product was theirs and theirs alone. We, as their faculty advisers, kept "hands off" their work. We provided only technical and logistical support.

When the full body of their work is consolidated I hope to be able to present more of their conclusions, but I will summarize some of the more salient points.

  • Students feel that the technology they use in school is too limited.
  • Schools should leverage technology to provide students with a wider range of experiences.
  • Students should spend less time physically in a classroom with greater opportunity for online access to educational opportunities.
  • Students should have the chance to use personal laptops and other devices in the school setting with a higher level of trust.
  • Some way should be established to help kids with a genuine need and their families afford a personal laptop and internet access.
  • Schools should provide full access to coursework, teaching, and testing outside the traditional classroom.
  • The cost of providing technology should be lessened through increased use of free and open-source software.
  • All of the students involved indicated they would be willing to do coursework on their own time if they had the opportunity.
In my opinion, these kids all did a commendable job. Further, I think they learned some invaluable life-lessons about working with people you don't really know in a collaborative situation.

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