Monday, April 28, 2008

tt4t_035 End of another semester

It’s Monday, April 28th 2008 and welcome to episode 35 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week is final exam week at EIU and as I look back over the past semester my classes have really accomplished a lot. We have taken a project-based learning approach to classes and we have covered the standard productivity software like Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Publisher. Every student has created a webpage and completed many other projects. We have covered many Web 2.0 technologies including blogs, wikis, and podcasts.

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Every student created their own Jeopardy-like game using the Smart Board notebook software. Students also created a PowerPoint that incorporated interactive questions using the TurningPoint Student Response System, better known an clickers, and have had the opportunity to spend an imaginary $5000 budget for technologies they would like to have in their first classroom. The last project of the semester featured the new Flip Video cameras that the ITC recently purchased. I gave my class the assignment of testing these cameras out and running them through their paces. For the most part the reviews were positive and most students were able to successfully use the cameras without reading the manual. Many students installed the supplied software and created their own mini-movie in less than a half-hour. Some students imported the clips into Windows movie maker and used that to edit, while others used Pinnacle Studio. For a fast way to produce videos I think the Flip cameras are going to be a big hit in upcoming classes and for special projects that require short video clips. Best of all the Flip video cameras are affordable for all classrooms. Looking back over all the projects we created we had a pretty full agenda this semester.

Flip Video Camera Link:

I am proud that all students successfully completed class and now that my students have the tech knowledge and skills to successfully utilize technology in the classroom it is time to learn more. I encourage all students to continue to utilize the technologies learned in class as they learn more about pedagogy in their upcoming teacher education courses.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is a recommendation that I gave a student in the hallway as they asked me if I knew of a flowcharting/brainstorming program for a quick diagram that she needed. I recommended a Web 2.0 website called and a link is provided in the show notes. As with many Web 2.0 services bubbl is spelled weird. To check it out go to

Free web application for Brainstorming

Now I have not signed up for an account at this website but I was able to create a flowchart diagram very easily and export the resulting file as a jpeg image by clicking on the Menu button at the bottom of the page and then selecting Export. This web service is like Inspiration but unlike Inspiration bubbl is free. It is not nearly as full featured as Inspiration but it will do in a pinch. If you signup for an account you will be able to save your bubbl files and link them to your website or blog. If you are in need of a simple concept map give bubbl a try and see if it meets your needs.

That wraps it up for episode 35 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode along with archived versions of previous shows are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to send your comments or suggestions please send an email to I would also like to thank the listener from Canada that left their comments on the TechTalk4Teachers blog regarding the audio versus video podcasts episode. For all the EIU students out there good luck on finals and we will see you again next semester. Have a great and safe summer break. Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning

Monday, April 21, 2008

tt4t_034 New choices for affordable small laptops for on-the-go teachers and students

It’s Monday, April 21st, 2008 and welcome to Episode 34 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. As the end of another school year approaches schools across the country are finalizing budgets as well as planning for next years budget needs. One thing that I am currently investigating is a new category of small laptop computers that have begun to get a lot of attention in the tech circles. The small laptops go by different names from subnotebook, mini-laptop, Ultra Mobile PC’s also known as UMPCs, and ultralight laptops among others.

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One thing that has recently caught my attention and the attention of technology coordinators and others responsible for budgeting decisions is the decline in price for many of these devices. The UMPC’s have been around for a number of years now but most UMPC’s were above the $1000 price point, at least the ones I wanted. The UMPC’s offer a small form factor and a high cool factor but justifying costs is difficult for the average school budget. This year the ASUS eee PC has generated a lot of buzz in the industry with a mini laptop that weighs less than three pounds and has a starting price of $399.00 for the 4G model. The eee PC by definition is an ultralight laptop. The keyboard is small but not so small as some of the smart phone devices that require a stylus to type with or the tiny thumb keyboards that I find difficult to operate.

The ASUS eee PC may fit a nice niche for schools. First the small keyboard is not a problem and may actually be better for children who have small fingers. Secondly with a price of $399 for the Linux version and $499 for a laptop configured with XP the eee PC is getting the attention of K-12 schools and universities alike. Linux offers users the basic functionality but the XP compatible version now allows the use Microsoft Office that nearly everyone is familiar with. The eee PC features 4GB and 8GB flash-based hard drives, 802.11 wireless networking, USB ports, built in web camera, a 7 inch screen with 800x 480 resolution, and a SD card slot. The other downside of the flash drive is a small amount of storage space but if users have Internet connection you can take advantage of Microsoft’s Skydrive for additional online storage space or purchase an external USB hard drive, or use a regular USB flash drive. This subnotebook space is also not standing still, a new model ASUS 900 will be coming out next month according to ASUS and will have a larger screen display. It is also expected that ASUS will be releasing the Intel ATOM based processor models later this summer. The ASUS eee PC’s have a lot going for them but there is also some new competition.

The other subnotebook that has caught my attention is the HP 2133 manufactured by Hewlett Packard. The 2133 features a 92% full size keyboard and is slightly larger than the ASUS eee PC form factor. The 2133 features a 120GB hard drive with prices beginning at $499 and a well configured model starting at $749 including a built in web camera. It is a little larger form factor than the eee PC but some of the things that attract me to this model is the larger sized keyboard, the higher resolution screen (1200x800) that reduces the amount of scrolling required when viewing web pages. The 2133 is available in Linux, XP, or Vista. Microsoft has recently stated that the XP operating system will be available until 2010 for the subnotebook category of computers such as the eee PC and 2133. If however you buy a full-size laptop or desktop Microsoft has stated that it will require users to buy Vista beginning June 30, 2008.
There are other smaller form factor devices on my radar screen including the Nokia 810n that is a small pocket sized device with a small pullout keyboard and uses 802.11 wireless networking to connect to the Internet. The Nokia 810n, like its sibling the Nokia 800, are Linux based devices that are meant for keeping in contact with the office while in the field. The keyboard on the 810n is so tiny that it is not practical for me to type letters easily for longer emails but it is an attractive choice for slipping into your pocket and taking it with you on the road where 802.11 wireless is available.

So there you have it three small form factor devices with a price of less than $500 for the basic models. This space is heating up and I am sure we will be seeing additional choices with more functionality going into the next school year. The new ATOM processors by Intel will also give manufactures the ability to increase battery life and experiment with smaller form factors. This is an interesting time in this market and the affordability along with portability and connectivity will be changing the way teachers and students are using these devices inside and outside of the classroom.

The ASUS eee PC, HP 2133, and Nokia 810n serve different niches in the small laptop line of products, there are tradeoffs between pocket-sized 810n and mini laptops but there are beginning to be some economical choices for educators. The form versus function debate continues to be challenge as the smaller devices lack the power that desktop users have come to expect. Links are available in the show notes for more information about the eee PC, the HP 2133, and the Nokia 810n.

ASUS eee PC (4G and 8G)

New ASUS eee PC Model 900 coming in May 2008 to USA

HP 2133 subnotebook:

Nokia 810n,n810

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is inspired once again from the Twitter service that I have recently reactivated. Please listen to episode 32 and 33 of TechTalk4Teachers if you would like to learn more about Twitter. Twitter allows users to send short messages that are less than 140 characters throughout the day to keep the people in your network updated on what you are doing. Because 140 characters is such a small amount of characters you need to be very brief and to the point when posting messages to the twitter service. Many users also want to post web addresses as part of their twitter message but many web addresses seem like they are a mile long and often take up too many characters for a twitter message, enter TinyURL. is a service that allows users to copy and past a long web address into the TinyURL website and the TinyURL will shorten the web address to a shorter address that users can use to share with others. This is great for Twitter users where space is at a premium.

TinyURL can also be useful to teachers that want to share URL’s with others or their students. To use the service just copy the web address of the webpage that you would like to have converted to a shorter format. Go to and paste the web link into the box that says Make TinyURL and click on the button. Wait a few seconds and in a moment a new smaller web address will be created to share with others. Now all you have to do is copy and paste this new TinyURL as the address and share with others. This is definitely helpful for Twitter users who are concerned about the number of characters used to post in their tweets. To give you a sense of the number of characters saved I just did an example where the original URL was 85 characters and the new converted URL was only 25 characters when I used Tiny URL, a savings of 60 characters! The next time you are in need of a shortened web address be sure to checkout

That wraps it up for episode 34 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode along with archived versions of previous shows are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to send your comments or suggestions please send an email to Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning

Monday, April 14, 2008

tt4t_033 Twittering and Free Technology

It’s Monday, April 14th, 2008 and welcome to episode 33 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Last week I introduced you to twitter. If you have not yet visited my twitter site I invite you to take a look to see how this service is working out for me. My account can be found at and a link is provided in the show notes. After two weeks of using Twitter I have been encouraged by my new extended family. The twitter postings are offering me a different perspective than my usual circuit of friends. I am still working out how many followers I want to follow as you can quickly become overwhelmed by this service. I am also working out the balance of meeting new friends versus gaining valuable information from fellow twitter-ers, if that is a word.

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I have offered my students the chance to follow my twitter account now that class is over to see what I am up to. If they so choose to get a twitter account we can keep up with each other and we can help each other out in the future. Another nice thing about Twitter is that you do not need an account if you do not want to make postings, you can simply type in the twitter address of a person and see what they are up to. I am always looking for new ways to extend the walls of the classroom and having practicing teachers and administrators as fellow twitter followers should help keep our classroom teachings real and practical.

Finding a balance is going to the hardest part of using twitter. I am not really into how many people follow me but rather the quality of the postings I get from the people I follow. My goal is that the people I follow share a common interest of improving the teaching and learning process via the use of technology. Having real world contacts will be helpful as part of my twitter network. I already find myself wanting to have multiple twitter accounts to keep my personal life separate from my professional life but in practice this is not really an option for me as I barely have time to manage one account. I am trying to use my twitter account for professional use and trying to keep out the noise that this service can quickly degenerate into if you are not careful. I see others commenting that they are getting addicted to twitter, some seem to share every aspect of their lives, while others are more selective in their postings.

I am sure that my twitter account will ebb and flow as I incorporate it into the different classes I teach. I would like to ask the audience if there is anyone out there using twitter with their classes? If so how much success are you finding with this approach? I work in both the K-12 and higher education worlds so there are differences in how teachers are using twitter. I invite you to leave a comment in the TechTalk4Teachers blog to share your experiences with twitter so that others can learn more about valuable uses for this service.

Tom's Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week has to do with free technologies that are available to teachers. My pick this week comes from my twitter network. Many schools are facing hard times and budgets are being cut to the bone. School funding for technology is getting more scarce but that is no excuse for creative teachers that have learned how to take advantage of free tools. My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a blog site called freetech4teachers and a link is available in the show notes. This site is maintained by a high school teacher from Maine and features many free technologies useful to teachers. I encourage you to check it out at:

a link is available in the show notes.

That wraps it up for episode 33 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode along with archived versions of previous shows are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to send your comments or suggestions to improve this podcast please send an email to Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Monday, April 7, 2008

tt4t_032 Do you Twitter?

It’s Monday, April 7th, 2008 and welcome to episode 32 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Trying new things is a requirement for those keeping up with the world of educational technology. If you are a previous listener you have probably noticed a slight change in the opening music. Nothing drastic but every now and then change is a good thing. I discussed in the last episode that Moore’s Law takes time for some technologies to mature to a point where others find them useful. Twitter is one of those technologies for me. I tried this service when it first came out a couple of years ago but found the premise a bit useless from my perspective as an educator. Twitter is a service that asks “What are you doing?” My response back then was “Who cares?” I am now giving twitter a second chance.

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Twitter users periodically go to the twitter site and type in a short description of what they are doing. The description is limited to 140 characters and can be described as microblogging. Twitter advertises that life happens between blog postings so shorter and more frequent posting give others a more complete view of what you do. My first impressions of twitter a couple of years ago was that nobody would want to “follow” other twitter users to see the mundane details of day-to-day life, that opinion is beginning to change for me. One reason that I am giving twitter a second chance is that this service is beginning to reach a critical mass of users where it is beginning to become useful if used selectively.

The idea behind twitter is for users to “follow” each other to see what everyone is doing. I guess the problem I had with the twitter service in the beginning was over my concerns privacy issues, I do not feel comfortable placing my entire life online for all to see yet many younger folks do not have this inhibition. Students think nothing of putting their life online through the use of Facebook and My Space.

Imagine having a class of students “twittering” about topics covered in class. If someone finds something interesting they can make a twitter post, called a “tweet”, and everyone that is following can immediately see the updates in their twitter account. Now I am not na├»ve enough to think that teachers and students are going to rush out and get twitter accounts so they can use them for educational purposes but it is an intriguing possibility. I am also curious to know if former students would be interested in following twitter feeds to keep up with their professional development needs. Once you finish a class the real learning begins and technology offers a way for continuing the conversation beyond the walls of a classroom.

The other thing that I have found useful in following other twitter users is that a sense of community can be built. I envision twitter as a useful professional development tool if you target the people you want to follow and post content that is relevant to learning.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is the Twitter service. My new twitter account is listed in the show notes along with the website to signup for a new twitter account if you are interested in exploring more about twitter.

Twitter Homepage

EIU Instructional Technology Center Twitter Account

If you are interested in following my twitter account you can visit to see what I am doing. If you do get a twitter account please follow my eiuitc account and I will place you on my list to follow. Some communities are being built using twitter, the key is to select the people you follow that have common interests.

That wraps it up for episode 32 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode along with archived versions of the show are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. I am changing things up a bit and am toying with the idea of a video podcast. Let me know what you think, would you be interested in seeing video demonstrations of educational technology? Send your comments or suggestions to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

tt4t_031 The Changing World of Education

It’s Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 and welcome to episode 31 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Keeping up in the world of Web 2.0 is in reality an impossible task as the rapid pace of innovations far outpace our abilities to absorb them. For those priding themselves with keeping up with the times this is unfortunately a sobering reality. Robert Cringely over at the PBS website recently had an interesting podcast devoted to the changing world we now live in and how society is adapting to Moore’s Law, with or without our schools. In his podcast he explores the effects of Moore’s Law on our society and institutions. Moore’s Law states that the processing power of computers doubles every 18 to 24 months but our society and institutions adapt at a much slower pace. He suggests that it takes 30 years, an entire generation, to absorb technological advancements before they become common place in our existing institutions.

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I have provided a link in the show notes to his podcast titled War of the Worlds: The Human Side of Moore’s Law in which he poses an ISO 9000 certification system for students. It is worth a listen if you get a chance and it is only ten minutes long.

War of the Worlds Podcast by Robert Cringely
Click on the sound icon under the title to listen to the podcast or you can read the article.

Cringely argues that we now have the technology that will change the face of our present school system structure. How long it will take is another matter. An ISO certification system has the potential to take schools out of the equation for certifying student knowledge. If a system similar to the ISO 9000 certification used by manufacturing can be replicated for certifying student knowledge then a system would exist regardless of the method of education to qualify student knowledge. Home schoolers, charter schools, private schools, and public schools would have a way to qualify student performance regardless of method of education.

One of the effects of ISO 9000 certification for the United States has been a mass exodus of US manufacturing jobs to overseas factories. Overseas factories have become equal or superior to US based manufacturing as proven by stringent ISO certification. What would happen to US schools if a similar system were developed? Would we then have a fair way to compare student performance across the world? Where would students receive instruction from? New technologies make it possible to receive instruction from anywhere in the world, will it be the norm in 30 years for students to receive instruction from teachers based outside their local community? These are interesting questions and I would love to hear your comments, leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog or send and email to so we can share your comments with others.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is for teachers and students that have the need for text material to be read out-loud. Many times we have students with Individual Education Plans or special needs that require the reading of material either for testing purposes or for those that need a little extra help with reading. If the material is in digital form there are programs available that are able to convert text-to-speech. Read Please 2003 is a FREE program that allows you to copy and paste text into the program and the program will “read” the text back to you in a synthesized computer voice. You have a choice of two male and two female voices to select from. This can save you valuable time as students can use this program for their text-to-speech needs and thus free up the teacher or aide for other duties. It can also help students with tracking problems while reading because as the program reads the text the word being read is highlighted allowing the reader to follow along one word at a time. A link is provided in the show notes. If you download this program be sure to select the free version and you can uncheck the box for the trial version of the paid product.

Read Please 2003

That wraps it up for episode 31 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode along with archived versions are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4

If you have questions or comments about using technology in the classroom of have some news you would like to share please send me an email to or you can leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.