Friday, September 25, 2009

tt4t_099 The journey to episode 100, one more to go

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It’s Friday, September 25th, 2009 and welcome to episode 99 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. We have finally made it to 99 episodes and with only one more show go to reach triple digits. Reaching 100 shows was one my goals when I first started this podcast and if feels good to be so close. Back in the day when podcasting was THE “hot topic” for educators it was rare for a podcast series to last 20 episodes, many shows started and then quickly “podfaded” as time went on.

Podcasting has succumbed to the cycle of technological innovation from being the next big thing to just another tool in the quiver of learning technologies available for teachers and students. It remains however an important tool that has much potential for teachers and students as an instructional tool and to also share their stories with the world.

Reaching 99 episodes of course could not have happened without your support and I would like to thank each and everyone of you who has tuned in over the past two plus years to listen to TechTalk4Teachers . We have had listeners from 98 different countries from around the world and I am still amazed at the geographic diversity this podcast has had. As we enter our third year it is time to re-evaluate where this podcast has been as well determine what direction to head into the future.

Recently I have been thinking about changing the format from a once a week show to an every other week show. One thing we teachers know is that there is not just one learning strategy that works all the time, we need to mix it up. I also do not want to get stuck in a rut as this show is produced from a labor of love. It can be a challenge to produce a show every week while working a regular day job with many duties and responsibilities. Those of you that have produced your own podcasts know what I mean. Episodes just do not magically appear. I want to keep things fresh and useful. The plus side of a weekly show is that we now have 99 Technology Picks of the Week and this has been an excellent way to share tech tools that can be used with an educational purpose in the classroom.

What do you think? Please drop me an email or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. This show is for all of us and your input is greatly valued. Let me know what you like, what you might change, and if you have time let me know what was your favorite episode of TechTalk4Teachers or what is your favorite Tech Pick of the Week. I look forward to hearing from you so please take that extra effort and drop me a short note, it will just take a minute and it means so much to podcasters like myself to hear from you.

Part of the purpose of TechTalk4Teachers is to discuss the issues and trends that are occurring in the world of teaching and learning with technology. We are living in tumultuous times and there are many issues on the table that will directly impact the education of our students for years to come.

K-12 schools are working through filtering issues and finding working methods of accessing Web 2.0 resources while at the same time maintaining a safe learning environment for our children.

Technology is expensive and many schools and universities struggle with finding a balance between accessing modern technologies while at the same time managing the budgets required for sustained technological integration which can be costly and recurring as old equipment is replaced with new.

Unfortunately the digital divide is still alive and well in America and the US government is currently working on a national technology plan, the FCC is studying ways to increase affordable broadband access for ALL Americans. Living in rural Illinois the digital divide issue is one that I have been personally affected by. Broadband access is increasingly becoming the currency for learning and those without high-speed Internet access will be left behind. Schools that do not have ubiquitous Internet access are also being left behind. We are living in a world of global competition and other countries in the world often have better Internet access than is available in many parts of the USA. We must be an advocate for affordable broadband access for our students.

There is also a big movement to e-books that is challenging the traditional dead-tree model of textbooks. We are at the beginning of this adoption curve and as standards evolve e-books will increasingly become an attractive option to traditional textbooks.

One-to-one laptop programs are becoming more common as laptops become more affordable and I believe the new low-cost netbooks will accelerate this trend.

These are just a few of the topics that have been discussed over the past 99 episodes of TechTalk4Teachers and as you can see there is plenty of material to cover for the future.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a Web 2.0 service called Live Binder that allows you to build your own online 3-Ring Binder, a link is available in the show notes.

Live Binder : Online 3–Ring Binder

Getting started was easy and free and after signing up for an account you add a button called Live Binder It to your favorites in the toolbar of your browser. After signing in to your account any time you find something you would like to add to your binder you just click the Live Binder It link in your browsers toolbar.

You do have an option to make the binder public or private however the real power of this service is the ability to share your binders with others. If you decide to share your binder you are given options to email a link to others, share a web address with others or copy an embed code to place it into a webpage or blog. If you go to the livebinder webpage you will see a link to watch a video about some of the many features live binder has to offer, best of all its free.

That wraps it up for episode 99 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, and the 100th episode, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

tt4t_098 EIU tech fair, netbooks, and the eeeasaurus

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It’s Sunday, September 20th, 2009 and welcome to episode 98 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This past week was our annual technology fair here at EIU and the Instructional Technology Center had a booth at this years event to share some of the many innovations that we have been working on in the College of Education and Professional Studies.

There was a lot of interest in our netbook project and also in what we call our eeeasaurus classroom presentation system. The netbook project is going very well in our college and we shared what we have been doing with these very affordable alternatives to traditional laptops.

Netbooks are miniature laptops that typically cost between three and four-hundred dollars that offer a viable solution for use by our students in the classroom when lessons require technology integration.

Last year we needed to replace one of our mobile laptop carts and after much research and testing we elected to replace them with a netbook solution. We use technologies extensively throughout all of our programs and we serve a large number of students. Trying to reserve time in the ITC Lab is nearly impossible as we have 13 scheduled courses in our lab every week.

To help meet these needs the ITC utilizes mobile laptop carts for faculty to checkout for classroom use by our students for on-demand computing needs. This essentially makes every classroom in our building a computer lab when needed. We have been using this solution for over eight years now and our faculty and students use the mobile laptop carts regularly. Last year the ITC checked-out our mobile laptop carts 365 times to classrooms for faculty and students to use as part of lessons that required technology-integrated activites.

A mobile laptop cart solution requires a strong wireless access component so if you are considering a netbook solution you also need to address wireless access in your buildings if you plan on using Internet resources with netbooks.

The low-cost of the new netbooks meant that we were able to purchase twice the number of units for less than half the cost of traditional laptops. Because we were able to double the number of units purchased, at less than the price of a conventional solution ,we were able to place an additional set of netbook carts in another building that previously never had the ITC mobile cart service available. We can now serve more students and offer more technology-integrated lessons in our classrooms using this on-demand mobile netbook cart solution and we have done so without breaking the budget.

Here is a table of approximate costs comparing a netbook solution to a laptop solution for our needs.

Netbook Solution A
60 units x $400 per unit = $24,000

Traditional Laptop Solution B
60 units x $1000 per unit = $60,000

Thus in the example above we were able to save $36,000 over a traditional laptop solution. It is true that you can now buy a traditional laptop for much less than $1000 but it is also true that you can spend a lot more than $1000 on a traditional laptop. For schools that are experiencing budget constraints or schools that need to serve a large number of students a netbook solution makes a lot of sense.

Now if this were expanded school-wide or state-wide the savings become even more significant. 1000 units at $1000 each would cost $1,000,000 compared to a netbook solution of 1000 units costing $400 each where the cost would be $400,000, a $600,000 savings. Looking at it in a different way you could supply 2000 netbook units for a total of $800,000 and still have $200,000 savings while serving double the number of students compared to the traditional approach. That $200,000 in savings would go a long way for improving the required wireless access points that are also needed for a campus solution. In these days and times of economic turmoil netbooks are certainly something to be considered. Tax payers will also be appreciative of solutions that save significant amounts of public money that provide similar results to the old way of doing business.

Opponents of netbooks often state that the processing power of a netbook is not great enough for all computing needs and it is true that if you do need to do processor intensive applications like video production the current crop of netbooks would not be a good choice. However, netbooks were not designed for video editing, instead they have evolved to take advantage of Web 2.0 services in the cloud by accessing the Internet and thus the name netbook.

I have been using netbooks since they first became available in 2007 and a netbook easily serves 80 to 90 percent of the computing activities that I do. Most of the TechTalk4Teachers episodes have been produced on a netbook.

The other big advantage of the netbooks that we have discovered is the extended battery life that the netbooks offer. We easily get over 8 hours of battery life out of our netbooks and the latest models offer more than 10 hours. Compare that to the 1.5 to 2 hours of battery life that the old laptops were getting and you can see that we are quite pleased with the new netbooks. We checkout mobile laptop carts to classrooms regularly at the ITC and this advantage in battery life is HUGE, recharging between checkouts has been significantly reduced.

I also had several questions from visitors at the Tech Fair regarding the HDTV and netbook setup we were using in our ITC booth. I have provided a picture of our booth in the show notes.

The eeeasaurus is a very simple system and can be built today for under $1500. Rather than re-count the system here I will point you back to epidodes 82 and 83 of TechTalk4Teachers where I shared in detail how we built the now famous eeeasaurus classroom presentation system. Links to episode 82 and 83 are provided in the show notes.

tt4t_082 Meet the Eeeasaurus an affordable classroom presentation solution

tt4t_083 The eeeasaurus netbook project, part 2

I also received several questions about the netbook connected to the eeeasaurus that was running the Windows 7 operating system. For those of you that are a bit more technical you will appreciate the fact that I had the full version of Windows 7 Ultimate Release Candidate OS, Office 2007, and Smart Notebook Version 10 applications running on the netbook in the ITC booth at the Tech Fair and it all ran very well.

The netbook I was using in the booth running Windows 7 had the Intel N280 1.6GHz Atom processor with only 1GB of RAM, it was a stock netbook with no modifications or upgrades, a pretty impressive feat.

So, if your school is experiencing budget cuts, as many are, or if you need to be frugal with technology purchases and get the most bang for the buck to serve more students I would encourage you to purchase a netbook and test it out for the situations you foresee your school using. You may be surprised at just how versatile these little guys are.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a link to an article from Wired magazine from back in February of this year that provides additional background information about the netbook phenomenon. Since I have received many questions about netbooks this article does a nice job in describing the history of netbook development and a glimpse to where netbooks are heading in the future. A link is available in the show notes.

The Netbook Effect: How Cheap Little Laptops Hit the Big Time by Clive Thompson

The computer industry is still reacting to netbooks. Many manufacturers have jumped on the netbook bandwagon but the netbook market is still evolving and time will tell if manufacturers can keep costs low. We are beginning to see a blurring of netbook models with new models sporting screen sizes larger than 10 inches, with increased screen size typically comes increased costs.

For many schools netbooks may offer an affordable solution to meet the computing needs of students. Time will tell if these small devices continue in their rise in popularity. Are you using a netbook? If you are drop me a note and let me know how you and your students are using them in the classroom.

That wraps it up for episode 98 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, September 11, 2009

tt4t_097 Working with a net on the Internet

It’s Friday, September 11th, 2009 and welcome to episode 97 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. On the last episode of TechTalk4Teachers I discussed how we are increasingly seeing stories in the news related to the warning signs regarding Web 2.0 services. Over the past couple of weeks there have been a couple more high-profile cases that give some credence to the dangers of relying solely upon Web 2.0 services in the cloud.

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Cloud computing is the general term used where companies host their services on servers connected to the Internet and customers use the Internet to gain access to them. Many Web 2.0 services are free and therefore appeal to educators. As long as the servers are in good working condition and as long as customers have a good connection to the Internet everything works fine. The problems typically come when you do not have access to the Internet and therefore cannot use any Web 2.0 service. Another common problem for schools is that many schools filter and block these Web 2.0 services and therefore cannot be used at school.

This past week Google’s gmail web services experienced an outage lasting approximately 100 minutes. An outage on any of Googles servers is extremely rare so when an outage occurs it is big news. For those relying soley upon gmail for their email services users could not access their accounts through web access. If you were one of these users I suspect you may have panicked to find out that you could not log into gmail to check your email during this brief outage period.

I have provided links in the show notes to a couple of articles related to the Google gmail outage if you would like to learn more including a link to Google’s official blog with an explanation of what happened.

CNN Article on gmail outage

Google’s Official Blog

There was another Web 2.0 incident that recently occurred involving well known technology blogger Robert Scoble who had his WordPress blog hacked and the hackers deleted some of his content along with some other nefarious activities. Hackers also broke into Scoble’s blog back in May of this year and he thought he had the issue resolved until the incident last week.

I have provided links to a couple of articles related to this incident in the show notes.

Scoble – I don’t feel safe with WordPress

Here is a quote from Robert Scoble from a Venture Beat article regarding the recent hacker attack.

“They broke back in, but this time they did a lot more damage. They deleted about two months of my blog. Yes, I didn’t have a backup. I should learn to do backups (we’re doing them now). Life has a way of beating you if you don’t have backups.”

Venture Beat Article

This is very sad knowing that someone deleted files from your account and is even worse when you know you did not backup your files.

Web 2.0 services in this regard are becoming their own worst enemy because they have been so reliable in the past that we begin to take them for granted. We get lazy and do not routinely backup files because we rarely have a need to use backup files. However when we do need them we REALLY need them and kick ourselves for not taking a few minutes to protect hundreds of hours of work by simply copying important files to a backup device.

It really is RULE #1 of computing, ALWAYS have a backup of your important data files.

How do you know what’s important? I use the pain theory, if it would be painful for me to re-create something I have done using a computer then it is time for a backup. The seconds and minutes that it takes to make a backup is my insurance policy against disaster.

As Director of the ITC I occasionally get a student that comes to me with a flash drive that contains their 25 page report (that is usually due in the next hour) and says that their flash drive will not open their report, somehow the files have become corrupted. Maybe it was that trip through the washing machine. The first thing I ask them is, “Do you have a backup?” You can guess what the answer is most of the time.

Now this can happen to the best of us as illustrated by Robert Scoble’s case. The Scobleizer Blog ranks among the top 500 most popular blogs on Technorati and even a person with his knowledge and abilities has been burned by not adhering to Rule #1. He has paid the price and has lost about two months worth of content.

So the moral of this story is to always have a backup. For Web 2.0 services I call this working with a net on the Internet. When I post an Episode of TechTalk4Teachers to my blog site I also keep a local copy on my computer. That way in the unlikely event that my Google blog account gets deleted or hacked in to I have the original source files in a different location and I can recover if necessary.

It is also why I have a skydrive account where I save selected files to the Internet so I have access to them from anywhere there is an Internet connection. If you would like to learn more about skydrive checkout episode 67 of TechTalk4Teachers, a link is in the show notes.

Episode 67 Crunch Time (Skydrive)

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is from fellow listener Dr. Jake Emmett from our Kinesiology and Sports Studies department here at EIU. Dr. Emmett submitted Evernote to be considered for this weeks tech pick.

Evernote is a great Web 2.0 service especially for people who need a little help with finding things over time. Evernote’s slogan is “Remember Everything”

A link to the Evernote service is also provided in the show notes along with a link to learn more about this innovative service, as usual the basic Evernote account is free.


Evernote - Learn More

Evernote is great service for teachers and students and if you use this service you can place notes, documents, and pictures into your account and they all become searchable. If you need to find something and it is in your Evernote account you just type a search term and Evernote will find everything related to your search. Pretty handy for remembering everything for you.

One of the neatest technologies built into Evernote is the ability to read information stored in picture format (JPG). For example you can take a picture of someones business card and Evernote will recognize the text on the card and the text becomes searchable. Pretty Cool!

Thanks Dr. Emmett for the recommendation. I also invite other listeners of TechTalk4Teachers to submit your favorite tech tools to be considered as a future Tech Pick of the Week. This podcast is all about sharing so let’s share our favorites so we can all become better teachers.

That wraps it up for episode 97 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.