Saturday, January 31, 2009

tt4t_072 January 2009, What a month

It’s Saturday, January 31st, 2009 and welcome to episode 72 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. January 2009 has been an extremely busy month here at the Instructional Technology Center with another new semester started, a new computer lab installed, and a new set of laptops setup and delivered to our Student Teaching coordinators across the State of Illinois. Add to this the inauguration of a new President of the United States and the impeachment of the Illinois Governor and we definitely have a month to remember.

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We are currently working on departmental computer purchases within our college but we still need to deal with the older computers that have recently been replaced. All the older computers need to have the hard drives wiped to remove all data and then prepared to be re-deployed or surplused. Dealing with older computers is another one of those hidden costs of supporting technology that requires time and resources to complete and goes on behind the scenes often unnoticed. It is a good feeling once the replacement cycle has been completed and all the old computers are out of the storage room so we can be ready for the next round of technology purchases. The cycle never ends as new technologies continually develop and the old must make way for the new, such is the cycle of progress.

Back on Episode 54 of TechTalk4Teachers I offered a lesson about higher order thinking skills using Wordle. On that episode I made a Wordle word cloud of John McCain’s Republican convention speech and Barack Obama’s Democratic convention speech and compared the two word clouds.


As I listened to President Obama’s inauguration speech earlier this month I thought it would be interesting to compare then Senator Obama’s convention speech to now President Obama’s inauguration speech. How do you think the two would compare?

The inauguration speech was definitely a different tone than the convention speech. The inauguration speech was much more somber and business like due to all the troubles the American economy is facing. I have provided a picture of each speech as a word cloud in the show notes if you would like to see the comparison. Do you think you could identify each speech based solely on the word cloud? Take a look in the show notes to see.

Click on image to enlarge.

Compare and contrast is a powerful learning strategy to get students out of the rote memorization of facts mode. This gets students above the standard knowledge, comprehension, and application levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy into the higher levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Teachers are always searching for effective lessons that can prompt higher order thinking skills and comparing word clouds is yet another tool teachers can use to help students think about important issues at the higher levels.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is the latest version of a report that I also made my Technology Pick of the week last year about this time of year.

Episode 26

Every January the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative produces a report that provides an overview of up-and-coming educational technologies and their impact upon higher education. The report looks at recent technologies and projects out to five years down the road. It is definitely worth your time to read this report and is recommended reading for anyone interested in educational technologies.

The name of this report is called the Horizon Report and the 2009 version has recently been released. A link is provided in the show notes to the website and the PDF version of this report.

Horizon Report 2009 Website

Horizon Report 2009 PDF Version

This report is licensed with a Creative Commons License and is free to share with others provided you do so in its entirety.

I did see something missing from the report this year, namely the impact netbooks have had in education this past year. It is possible that the authors consider netbooks to be in the mobile category or classify them as part of cloud computing but I believe netbooks deserve a category of their own in this report or at least a mention. We shall see if netbooks make the list in the 2010 version of the Horizon Report next year.

That wraps it up for episode 72 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment or suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

tt4t_071 Another new semester, get organized

It’s Saturday, January 17th, 2009 and welcome to episode 71 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This past week was the first full week of the new semester and students of EIU descended upon the ITC in mass. The new computers just installed in the lab all worked flawlessly and our students are now enjoying the updated technology.

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We did install both Office 2007 and Office 2003 with the newer version being the default. Many students were already using Office 2007 and those that have not seemed to adjust rather easily to the new ribbon interface of Office 2007. For those that did need a little extra help my student workers in the ITC were able to assist with basic questions.

Since this is the beginning of a new semester let me share a couple of tips in setting up your electronic file system to get organized whether you are a faculty member or student. I previously have shared in a prior episode of TechTalk4Teachers that I create a new folder on my computer at the beginning of every academic year that I label with the letters ay and then the academic year, for example this year I created a folder called ay20082009.

This helps me in a couple of ways. First since the folder name starts with the letter A it is always at the top of my folder list when I view files using My Computer in windows explorer. Secondly the academic year is clearly identified and this helps me with managing archives of past academic years and helps make it easy to find things I may need to retrieve in the future.

The other thing that I do at the start of each new semester is create a folder for each course that I teach named with the course number, section number, and semester. Anything related to this course is saved in this folder. For example I am currently teaching EDU2022 Section 8 so I created a folder called EDU2022_008_SP2009. I save all information related to this course in this folder so I can easily find it in the future. It also makes it very easy for me to make backup copies of this information. It is easy to copy this folder and the information contained within it to a flash drive that I can take with me to the classroom computer where I teach. This makes it easy to share assignments and resources located in this folder from the flash drive.

The final benefit of this system that I have used over the years is that I have files and folders organized chronologically that are easily referenced if I ever need to refer back to a previous year, which I often do.

It also helps with my backup process because once an academic year is over I can burn an archive DVD with the entire years content. Once the old information is archived I leave it on my computer but I do not have to make regular backups of the old information, I can concentrate my backup strategy only on the files in the current academic year that change regularly.

For very large files like audio and video files I generally save large files and folders outside the academic year folder system and backup those folders as needed. This keeps my backup process streamlined and fast. When I switched computers last summer this system made it painless to copy work-related files and folders to the new computer and I was productive right away not missing a beat.

I encourage students to setup a similar system and save all course related information in the appropriate labeled folders. If you do so you will have an archive of all your work you do here at EIU as you progress through your coursework. This can be very helpful when you graduate and need to find examples of your work to share with future employers. This also encourages you to make backups because it is easy and fast. Remember to always have your data in two places for backup purposes.

Technology Pick of the Week

Since everyone wants to get off to a great start this semester My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a website called Study Stack that offers great study resources for a variety of subjects and levels. The tagline for this website is “Study tools for hungry learners”.

Study Stack

I went to the Math section of Study Stack and the website listed flashcards, study stacks, study tables, crosswords, word searches, matching, and a hangman game all related to Math content by topic and level. The site listed math subjects from the elementary level of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division up through algebra, geometry, and calculus.

The Study Stack website does contain quite a bit of advertising but if you can get past the advertisers the site offers tons of resources that can help you and your students with studying or reviewing material.

One interesting benefit of the study stacks is that you can discard study stack cards as you study through them. For example, I went to the Geography section and selected the 50 States/Capitals category then selected the Study Stack option at the bottom of the page. You are presented with a flash card that is divided in half, on the top half the state and on the bottom half the capital but this information is concealed until you click on it. You simple reveal the state and then the capital by clicking, if you were correct with your answer you can discard the flash card and go on to the next or keep it so it will be presented to you again. What this does is get rid of the information you already know and therefore you can concentrate on the information you are having trouble remembering.

Since many of the activities are interactive and based upon Java there is also the potential to use selected study stacks and other activities in the classroom with a Smart Board to get students to interact with the content in class. Study Stacks can help you provide lots of practice and repetition to reinforce the learning for your students. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

That wraps it up for episode 71 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment of suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

tt4t_070 A New Year, A New Computer Lab

It’s Saturday, January 10th, 2009 and welcome to episode 70 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This has been a busy time for myself and countless other folks that help keep technology working in schools. I had planned on taking off several days over break but we received 34 new Dell computers the week after Christmas for the ITC Lab to replace the old ones. All 34 computers needed to be installed and configured before our students come back for the new semester. I am not alone in that there are many dedicated technology coordinators and support staff across the country that work to make sure the technology is ready for faculty and students when they come back for a new semester.

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Unfortunately the best time to do such major work is when everyone else is off so you do not interfere with the day-to-day activities of school. The same is true over the summer breaks as technology coordinators plan their upgrade activities so that there is the least amount of disruption as possible.

Setting up a new lab is a daunting task especially when you are under time constraints. First all the existing old machines have to be removed then the new computers unboxed and setup. All the required software has to be loaded on the new computers and then each computer desktop needs to be customized for the preferred standards that have developed over the years. We installed the Office 2007 suite of applications along with about a dozen other applications that we regularly use in the ITC Lab. You also have to install JAVA, QuickTime, Flash, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and other common plug-ins. Finally you need to make sure an anti-virus program is installed along with all operating system updates.

Once you are satisfied that you have one computer configured the way that you want it, it is time to make an image which leads me to my Technology Pick of the Week.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a free program from Microsoft that allows you to make an image of a computers hard drive, the name of this method is called ImageX. I have provided a couple of links in the show notes articles that explain ImageX in greater detail for those interested.

PC Deployment with ImageX

Windows Automated Installation Kit

I apologize upfront for the heavy technical detail that is involved with this weeks tech pick but I strongly encourage all technology coordinators that support Microsoft Windows to take a look at ImageX. If your school uses Microsoft Windows computers please pass along this information to your technology support staff in case they do not know about ImageX. The benefit in time savings that this method has saved me this past week is definitely worth the learning curve. ImageX can save you many hours of time when installing and managing large numbers of machines and is a great solution for Windows computer labs.

The advantage of making an image and then copying it to multiple machines is two-fold. First it saves great amounts of time because you do not have to install software applications on every machine individually, the Office 2007 Suite alone takes about 15 minutes to install not to mention the dozens of other programs that may need to be installed on each machine. Secondly, imaging provides consistency in that you setup one machine once and get it as close to perfect as you can, then make this machine your master image. This includes setting up your browser preferences, desktop icons, and program menus the way you want. Of course after you think you have that perfect image someone requests an additional application for the lab that you did not know about, sigh. Now back to step one…

I used the ImageX approach in setting up the new computers in the ITC Lab this time and I am pleased with this new method. For years I have used a program called “Ghost” by Symantec that allows you to make an image of a hard drive that can then be copied to multiple like machines. After the image is copied to a new computer you then have to customize each image so that each “ghosted” machine has a unique name on the network.

ImageX differs from the Ghost software that I have previously used in that ImageX is a file-based imaging process rather than a sector-based image process like Ghost. The advantage of the file-based imaging process is that it is a lot faster. Previously restoring a 5GB image using Ghost took me about 20 minutes per machine but with the new ImageX method I was able to cut the time down to about 5 minutes per machine for a 5GB image. That may not sound like a lot but consider 34 machines times 20 minutes and you end up with about 11.5 hours if you ghosted machines individually. You can cut that time down to about 3 hours with ImageX. Now work a little bit smarter and image multiple machines in batches of ten and you can really cut down on deployment time.

Oh, did I mention ImageX is free! Ghost software is a commercial product.

The ImageX process did take me quite a bit of time to figure out but I can now reap the benefits of this new method and I am so glad I took the time to learn it. If you would like a little more detail in how I use the ImageX process send me an email. So this week has been quite busy getting the ITC Lab ready for the new semester but we have met our deadlines and are ready for the students on Monday.

I am sure there will be a few tweaks that we will need to do to the new computers but the lab really looks nice and I hope the faculty and students appreciate the large screen monitors and much faster computers. Happy New Year!

That wraps it up for episode 70 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at > just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment of suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.