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This cycle however is not as strict as it once was for universities as new technologies now make it possible for anytime and anywhere learning that can completely disregard the old-guard academic calendar cycles. This transition has been going on now for more than a decade for many universities and today the learning never ends. Whether you are taking a formal college-level course, pursuing work related training, or just updating your knowledge and skills in an area that interests you the possibilities for learning new things have never been greater. There is NO EXCUSE for not learning something new EVERYDAY. In fact in todays global economy it is absolutely necessary to be a continual learner otherwise you are falling behind. The days of getting a college degree and being set for life are long gone.
Now the other pieces to this story besides the anytime and anywhere learning opportunities are the any path and any pace possibilities. In the age of the Internet data is scattered everywhere, turning this data into knowledge that can be acted upon and learned from is a highly valued skill in this age of information overload.
We are just beginning to harness the power of any path and any pace learning. This new model presents significant challenges to traditional organizations that still use the agrarian calendar as the basis of grading periods. People are however harnessing this power for themselves as they pursue their own interests in the quest for continually improving themselves. Some seem better equipped than others to gain new knowledge and skills on their own and at their own pace and path.
It will be interesting watching the any path and any pace possibilities develop over the coming decade. Teaching is hard work, many teachers struggle to manage the learning of individuals that are grouped (we call these groups classrooms), the complexities become infinite when considering individual learning plans for each student for an any path and any pace model. I believe it can be, and indeed is being done, but it does represent significant challenges to traditional systems that have been organized around the classroom model of sit and get for the past 100 years.
The only way that I see that this any path and any pace model working is with the significant introduction of new technologies to assist teachers and students with developing, delivering, and managing their own learning goals. Many teachers do an admirable job with individualizing instruction even in a classroom environment by using project-based learning activities and other methods that draw upon student interests and knowledge levels. Taking the any path and any pace learning model to the next level however will require the development of new systems to assist with the individualization of learning goals and to assist with determining prerequisite knowledge so that previous knowledge can be built upon.
This evolution will be difficult as the current system is setup with a structured curriculum and is often monitored with standardized testing. This structure has often caused lock-step instructional methods and a teaching to the test mentality. I believe the technologies are already present and that the greater challenges will be the political and societal forces that are often satisfied with the status quo despite the rhetoric. This model will turn the current system upside down by working with individual students that will drive their own personalized curriculum rather than a top-down approach.
Another barrier is that computer-based instruction has left a bitter taste with many teachers as many of these systems have not fulfilled their early promises. In fact I myself have been a victim of computer-based instruction as a student where the curriculum was delivered via a computer with poor results so therefore I am both sensitive and skeptical of these systems when they are promoted. A combination of the teacher in the lead as the expert with carefully selected technologies will be needed to make this a reality and finding the right balance will be the key if this model is to become more prominent in the future. Going from the unknown to the desired known will require a combination of the teacher and the student working together on an appropriate learning plan to get there.
Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a fun site that will predict where you would end up if you were able to dig a hole through the center of the earth. A link is available in the show notes.
Dig a hole through the Earth
Of course there are all kinds of caveats to this imaginary journey such as gravity pulling you back to the center of the earth once you past the center point and it would be unbearably hot and the molten magma might prove a problem as you would never be able to survive the journey. Even given the impossibility it is interesting to note exactly where you would end up if this were possible. At this website you are presented with a Google Map and you are to click on your location on the map and then click the Start Digging link. When I selected my location in Illinois and clicked the Start Digging link I ended up in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia.
I grew up hearing the phrase digging a hole to China and that cliché has stuck with me all of these years, I believe the first time I heard this was from a Bugs Bunny cartoon from my childhood. After playing around with this website for a little while it was interesting to note that I actually had to be in the proximity of Argentina and Chile if I wanted to dig a hole through the center of the earth and end up in China. I guess Bugs Bunny lives in South America, who knew?
On a more serious note my second Technology Pick of the Week is a new service from Mogulus called Procaster that looks very promising for teachers wanting to produce television type streaming webcasts complete with picture-in-picture and screenshot capability.
Currently Procaster is free and available only for the Windows platform, a link is available in the show notes.
Procaster – Live Streaming and Broadcast Production Tool
Mogulus – streaming service
The Mogulus service is similar to Ustream in that it allows you to stream live content over the Internet. It is now possible for everyone to have their own broadcast channel. I have not had a chance to try this new offering of Procaster out yet but it is on my short list for promising new apps to be used to benefit teaching and learning. I only hope that some quality content is offered and that this service does not become a wasteland of inappropriate content. Of course this new technology provides yet another example for the need for organizations to update their policies of Internet use in the classroom and further refine acceptable use policies but the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
The one weakness to this type of video deployment is bandwidth availability. Using streaming video services requires massive amounts of bandwidth and a broadband connection is a must to use these types of services. The other factor that will limit the popularity of video streaming is that of bandwidth caps that some Internet providers now place on their services. I worry about both of these requirements being that I am from rural Illinois where broadband access choices are limited and my wireless data service is capped at 5GB per month. Trying to be innovative with these restrictions is difficult.
If you are very comfortable with using technology and interested in creating your own video content I would encourage you to give the free Procaster a try as I believe we are finally at a point where the technology has matured to a point of ease-of-use that anyone now has the opportunity to be a producer of quality content. The technical details are getting easier, the bigger challenge is coming up with the content. Just make sure you get approval if needed and always observe your organizations policies on Internet use. Now combine the anytime, anywhere, any path, and any pace learning possibilities with teachers creating their very own personalized video content then new opportunities become quite intriguing.
Let’s do something good with this technology and use it to improve the human condition, are you up to the challenge?
That wraps it up for episode 84 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at http://www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
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Sunday, April 19, 2009
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This week we have added a couple of additions that will make the eeeasaurus an even more powerful presentation solution. We have added a bluray DVD player and interactive whiteboard capability. I have provided a picture in the show notes of the eeeasaurus with the latest additions.
We added a bluray DVD player that will provide faculty the ability to play back bluray DVD videos and/or regular DVD videos on the large 42 inch HDTV screen. If you have not watched a bluray DVD video you owe it to yourself to watch one on a 1080p HDTV as you will be amazed at the high quality of high-definition content that is now available in the bluray format. Even if you do not have a library of bluray DVD’s the bluray DVD player selected has the capability of upscaling regular DVD playback to produce a stunning viewing experience. Because the eeeasaurus is mobile we can wheel it into a classroom on an ad hoc basis when bluray DVD playback is needed. A link is available in the show notes to the model of bluray player that was selected.
Sony Bluray DVD Player
The other addition to the eeeasaurus this past week is the capability of using a wireless slate with included software that adds interactive whiteboard and screen annotation capability. We are using the Qomo QIT30 wireless slate that costs approximately $400 and includes interactive whiteboard and annotation software. This RF wireless capability gives you the ability to use the wireless slate anywhere in the classroom with interactive whiteboard capability that is similar to a Smart Board. It does not have all the bells and whistles of a Smart Board solution but it does offer an affordable alternative. A link is provided in the show notes to the Qomo model we are using.
Qomo QIT30 Wireless Slate
The Qomo wireless slate is approximately 11 inches square, very thin and light-weight. The slate uses a stylus to control the mouse cursor as viewed on the HDTV screen. The wireless slate is simply a square surface with a stylus, to control the mouse you move the stylus above the slate surface. To move the cursor on the screen to the lower left-hand corner you simply move the stylus holding it slightly above the slate surface to the lower left-hand corner. To move to the upper right-hand corner you hold the stylus slightly above the slate surface and move the stylus to the upper right-hand corner. All of the stylus movements are relative to what is displayed on the HDTV screen. To click on an object you simply tap the slate surface with the stylus, to double-click you simply tap the slate surface twice. It does take a bit of getting use to but with a little practice you can operate the screen from anywhere in the room as easily as if you were using a mouse.
The Qomo wireless slate also comes with its own whiteboard and annotation software. The addition of the Qomo wireless slate turns the eeeasaurus into an interactive whiteboard. For approximately $400 this is a great addition to the eeeasaurus.
The wireless keyboard and wireless slate combination offer a one-two punch for controlling the eeeasaurus from anywhere in the classroom. The capability of the Qomo wireless slate gives the teacher the same flexibility as the selected Adesso wireless keyboard in that the teacher can roam around the room and control the eeeasaurus from anywhere in the classroom. Unlike the wireless keyboard the wireless slate is better suited to free-hand drawing movements when using the interactive whiteboard capability or when using the very nice screen annotation capability of the Qomo called Flow Works Live. When typing and keyboard control is needed you simply switch back to the wireless keyboard.
The wireless slate can also be easily handed off to a student so that the student can demonstrate, explain, and answer questions for the rest of the class providing another level of engagement for students.
The other really big benefit of the eeeasaurus is that it is an excellent low cost video conferencing unit. Because the eee PC 1000he model selected as the heart of the eeeasaurus has a built-in webcam I have been using the eeeasaurus with Skype for audio and video conferencing presentations. Because I am doing the Skype calls with a larger audience I have added a set of external PC speakers that allows for more volume control as the sound from the HDTV could be better. The simplicity of the eee PC webcam and Skype makes video conferencing a breeze compared to some other higher-end systems I have used in the past.
Another advantage of the eee PC 1000he is that it runs the XP Home operating system and we have also installed the Microsoft Office 2007 Suite and these apps run very well on the eee. The eee PC 1000he also has three USB ports so even though two of the USB ports are taken by the wireless receivers for the wireless keyboard and wireless slate one USB port is still available for the teacher or students to plug-in a flash drive so that they can open Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files. Add an up to a nine hour battery life for the 1000he model and you have a solution that can run from batteries most of the instructional day.
Even with the additions of the bluray DVD player and the Qomo wireless slate with interactive whiteboard capabilities the cost of the eeeasaurus still comes in under $2500 US. I am very pleased with the capability and the flexibility that this solution offers, it really does offer a lot of bang for the buck. About the only thing I would change for this project would be to go with a 52 inch or larger HDTV model but that choice will be driven by your available budget. Keep in mind that replicating this solution is very easy and if you need multiple units to equip several classrooms you should be able to get even better pricing. All-in-all I am very happy with the way the eeeasaurus project has turned out.
Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is a visualization tool that dramatically represents the way our Planet Earth is changing as a result of human activity. The name of the website is the Breathing Earth and a link is available in the show notes. I used this site a couple of weeks ago for a student presentation I was giving where I wanted to showcase some data visualization tools.
Breathing Earth Website
I recommend that you turn down the lights and get in a quiet room when first showing this site to your students and watching the site for at least three minutes in either silence or with some appropriate music selected to be playing in the background to set the mood for a follow-up conversation. The site simulates the level of CO2 being emitted by countries around the world along with a visual representation of human births and deaths in countries around the world. Be sure to note the statistics that are updated in the lower right-hand corner of the world map and be prepared for a class discussion about what this data visualization represents for the future fate of our planet with your students.
As a second technology pick this week I want to let listeners/readers know that Version 2 of the Lesson Activity Toolkit for the Smart Board is now out and available for download, a link is available in the show notes.
Lesson Activity Toolkit Version 2 Quick Reference
If you are a regular user of a Smart Board be sure to checkout the new version of the activity toolkit and let me know what you think.
That wraps it up for episode 83 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 http://www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to email@example.com or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
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Spending technology dollars wisely is more important now than ever. I have been working on a classroom/conference room presentation system that provides a lot of bang for the buck and offers several other benefits as well, for schools, that I would like to share with you. I have named this project the Eeeasaurus because it combines the affordability of an eee PC netbook with the functionality of a large screen HDTV for a peculiar combination of the small with the large that is surprisingly effective and affordable.
The name is also influenced by the Skypeasaurus that Colleen from twit.tv recently put together that combined four low-cost PC’s into one unit that allows for simultaneous Skype calls into a multi-display format. I admire solutions that are creative, elegant, affordable, and capable of being easily replicated by others. I believe the Eeeasaurus solution meets this criteria and can offer many schools a different way of thinking about an affordable presentation system for their classrooms.
Listeners of TechTalk4Teachers know that I am a big fan of netbooks. Netbooks are mini-laptops usually costing below $500 that are light in weight (usually around 3 pounds) and offer educators an affordable and portable computing solution. You can buy three or four netbooks for the same price as just one average mid-range laptop. This affordability factor is catching the attention of schools across the nation.
There are however a couple of weaknesses of netbooks that do get mentioned regularly by others when considering their purchase. The first one I usually hear about is that the screen is too small. My current netbook of choice is the eee PC 1000he model with a 10 inch screen. The native resolution is 1024x600. This small screen size is a tradeoff between weight, portability, and cost.
Now enter the Eeeasaurus solution. Pictures of the Eeeasaurus are provided in the show notes of this episode if you are interested in seeing it in its native habitat.
With the Eeeasaurus you can go from a 10 inch netbook screen to a 42 inch HDTV screen! The 42 inch screen is mounted on a portable stand with wheels that can be moved around as needed in a classroom providing the teacher flexibility with its placement. It also offers the advantage of minimum installation costs and this advantage cannot be overstated. I cannot tell you how many schools I have been in where I see a pile of boxes sitting in a corner waiting to be installed before the equipment can be used. Smart Boards, computer projectors, and speaker systems require installation and mounting. This usually requires additional wiring and electrical work before they can be used in the classroom. The installation process requires time and additional costs not to mention the frustration of not being able to use the purchased equipment in a timely manner. The Eeeasaurus as configured requires a minimum of assembly time and can be easily operational in less than a couple of hours.
Since the eee PC has 802.11n wireless built-in no hard-wired LAN connection is needed if you have a wireless network available for use in your classroom. If you do not have wireless the eee PC has an RJ-45 jack that can be plugged into a LAN connection. The eee PC 1000he model also has up to a 9 hour battery life and that will take most teachers through the entire school day of teaching!
All that is needed for the Eeeasaurus is one electrical outlet to plug-in the HDTV, that’s it. The eee PC also has a key combination (Fn, F4) that changes the screen resolution from 1024x600 to a 1024x768 full-size screen on the 42 inch HDTV negating the argument about the small eee PC netbook screen size. You get the best of both worlds, portability, so you take the eee PC with you when on the go, and the ability to connect the eee PC to the 42 inch HDTV for classroom presentations when needed.
The other common complaint I often hear from others about netbooks is that the keyboard is too small. Once again the Eeeasaurus offers a solution. The eee PC 1000he model has a 92% of full-size chiclet style keyboard. To get around this limitation I selected a RF wireless full-size trackball keyboard from Adesso that also has left and right mouse buttons built into the keyboard. This solves two problems, first you can now use a full-size keyboard with the eee PC, and secondly you are no longer tethered to the front of the room. You can walk around the room with the wireless RF keyboard in your hand and control the eee PC from anywhere in the room. Better yet, hand the wireless keyboard to your students and let them take control to teach others in the class.
For the cost of an average mid-range laptop you can build the Eeeasaurus. I have provided a list of equipment with links in the show notes to equipment listings showing information about the equipment models that I selected to build the first edition of the Eeeasaurus. You of course can use whatever source you want, the links provided are just for information about the products I used for those interested, we use many different vendors when purchasing equipment. Please keep in mind that prices are subject to change at any time. Estimated prices provided from the Amazon website were accurate at the time of this posting. You can shop around with other companies and you may be able to find lower prices or you may adapt the equipment selections and brand choices I made to fit your own needs. Be sure to also ask if additional shipping charges apply for the larger items. Here is the rundown of the equipment list.
Eeeasaurus equipment listing:
eee PC 1000he - Cost: $389
Peerless HDTV mobile stand - Cost: $453
LG 42 inch LCD HDTV 1080p - Cost: $917
Wireless Keyboard - Cost: $60
Example Total Cost for the Eeeasaurus as configured above (April 2009) is $1819
Lower cost alternative for the HDTV:
Vizio 32 inch LCD TV 720p – Cost: $450
If you substitute a lower cost alternative for the HDTV like the Vizio 32 inch HDTV 720p model the total cost comes in at $1352, essentially the price of one mid-range laptop. You can even find lower cost options for the HDTV stand and save another $100-$200 bringing the price to just above $1100. If you are buying in bulk your savings could be even more.
When it comes to shopping for HDTV’s the sky is the limit. The 42 inch model I chose is a compromise of price versus size. For classroom use a 52 inch or larger HDTV would be even better but I was not willing to pay an additional $600 - $700 in price to gain 10 inches in screen size due to the limited budget I was working with. The one thing that was important to me about the HDTV selected for the Eeeasaurus was that it have as many different types of connection capabilities as possible. The LG 42 inch HDTV model I selected has a PC connection (VGA) that is used to connect to the eee PC. In addition to the PC connection there are also component, composite, and HDMI connections. It was also important to me that the HDTV have buttons on the side of the TV to easily change the Input selections so that no remote control is needed to switch between the PC connection, component, composite, and HDMI connections. Remotes are notorious for disappearing in classrooms. Schools also may want to invest in a padlock and cable system to secure the equipment against theft for preventative security purposes if needed.
So there you have it, the Eeeasaurus. Could an Eeeasaurus be in your future? Drop me a note in the comments section of the TechTalk4Teachers blog and let me know what you think or if you build one yourself be sure to send me a picture. I do have more plans for improving the Eeeasaurus by adding a DVD player (bluray would be nice ) and I have a couple of other additions up my sleeve that I think will make the Eeeasaurus an even more effective presentation system for teachers and students so stay tuned for more.
Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a pick for students all across the nation as we approach the end of another school year and their studies come to a close. Quizlet is a website that provides flash cards for almost any subject imaginable and is a great study resource. If you cannot find what you like already created on the site you can sign-up for a free account and create your own. A link is available in the show notes.
Quizlet – Flash Cards and Study Resources
Most likely you will already find a set of flash cards to help you learn about the particular topic you are interested in as there are thousands of flash cards already made. The website provides immediate feedback on right and wrong answers. It offers different forms of learning activities from Familiarize, Learn, and Test. The feedback is immediate and provides correct answers for what you missed.
I have also provided a link in the show notes to an example State Capitals Quizlet section for you to try your hand using the wonderful learning tool to assess your knowledge. It has great learning games called Scatter and Space Race that allows you to match items to test your knowledge. It makes learning fun, but be forewarned you need to be a good typist for Space Race.
State Capitals Flash Cards
In addition there are other flash cards and activities for SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, etc… and advanced placement courses. I encourage you to let your students know about Quizlet as it provides immediate feedback for assessing basic knowledge and comprehension on a variety of subjects and levels and is very well done.
This site is definitely worth you taking some time and exploring its offerings. When you find subject matter that you think would be helpful for your students please send them a link so they can study for your upcoming tests. Give Quizlet a try and let me know if you and your students find it helpful. Best of all it is FREE!
That wraps it up for episode 82 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 http://www.eiu.edu/itcjust click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
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You also need to be aware that new technologies may be invented in the future that may be able to mine little nuggets of information about your online digital identity. In the future these nuggets of information may be used to put together a profile about your online life based upon what I call digital fossils. Alone any nugget of information may not be worth much but if collectively put together the information has the potential for enormous value.
The ability of using an application like face.com in conjunction with a facebook account should give one pause to consider the implications. A possible implication could be as benign as a goofy picture of yourself discovered on your friends facebook account that may have been shared with the rest of the world, or it could be more serious and have the potential to jeopardize a future employment opportunity. New uses for data in user accounts are being found to help improve Web 2.0 services as well as for developing business plans for monetizing the services that are provided.
Data mining technologies do exist and new uses are being found all of the time. While many of the Web 2.0 technologies are free for basic services we do need to keep in mind that the data that is stored online as well as the way it is being used is often monitored for business reasons by these services. Most often this use is in the form of advertising where advertisers target ads based upon one interests and demographic information. So please keep in mind that your current digital footprints may be collected in the future in ways that we cannot currently imagine as massive amounts of data may find new value.
Speaking of data living forever on the Internet, this week I discovered a Web 2.0 service called Etherpad that allows you to collaborate with a group of friends very easily online. A link is available in the show notes.
This application has a lot of potential for collaborative group work and can be used either synchronously or asynchronously. Etherpad reminds me a lot of a Google document where you can share a document with others and simultaneously edit the document together in real-time. Etherpad however has an advantage over a Google document in that you do not even need to sign-up for an account to begin using the service. You simply go to the Etherpad website and click the button labeled Create New Pad and you instantly have a collaborative simultaneous editing environment, it really could not be easier.
When you create a new pad you are given a URL for your newly created pad. Write down this URL and make sure you remember it as this is the address to your Etherpad that you will need to reference in the future. To share your pad you can simply copy and paste the URL of your newly created pad into an email and send it to a friend or friends so that they too can contribute to the editing process of your pad.
When I first found this service I thought of a thousand uses for such a collaborative editing environment from keeping meeting notes, using it for study groups, conference calls, etc… There is no userid or passwords required for the basic free service so you need to know that pads cannot be considered secure or private. You can also save various revisions of the shared pad if you have a need to.
One reason I wanted to discuss Etherpad this week is that I was browsing the Etherpad website and found this little tidbit of information on the FAQ section of the website. Here is the question and response:
“Can I delete a pad or revision?
No. Once you create a pad or save a revision, that pad or revision will be accessible forever.
In the future, we will offer paid accounts with greater control over your pads and revisions. See the pricing page for more info.”
Now you know why I named this episode “The Internet is forever”. The definition of forever can be debated as many Web 2.0 services are either bought out by bigger companies or the company may change the terms of service agreement at any time as they see fit. Many Web 2.0 services also go out of business and therefore may leave its users without access to their data when the doors close. Keep this in mind when using any service and be careful about the type of information that you post on these services. You should also have an off-line copy of important data as a backup copy just in case.
I have used many Web 2.0 services that have changed policies and/or have gone out of business in the past but the point is that it is the intent of Etherpad to keep this information available forever barring unforeseen circumstances. So as the saying goes “buyer beware” or in this case “user beware” that the information posted on this service may live forever. Because no userid or password is required, the basic free service is not secure, so you also need to be careful what you post. I would also recommend not storing any confidential or sensitive information on any service that does not offer adequate security procedures for securing data.
Like all technologies there is the potential for abuse of Etherpad and some users will most likely post inappropriate content. The system can identify individual computers that are contributing to the content but not having the ability to delete a pad especially if inappropriate and/or offensive could prove troublesome.
Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a fun pick that involves music that I pickedup up from my PLN this week. Virtual Keyboard is a browser based application that presents a basic piano keyboard on screen. A link is available in the show notes.
Virtual Piano Keyboard
The Virtual Keyboard would be a great site to bookmark for elementary teachers and music teachers to use in class to explain the basics of music and note playing. The site also offers different instrument voices including an organ, saxophone, flute, pan pipes, strings, guitar, steel drums, and double bass. The keyboard has a chord mode that you can use to demonstrate chords and also has six drum beat tracks if you want to perform a mini-composition. Add this virtual keyboard in conjunction with a Smart Board or other interactive white board and you have an excellent learning resource for the budding musicians in your class. If you have a Smart Board get your kids up out of there seats and let them play the keyboard using the touch-screen.
That wraps it up for episode 81 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 www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to email@example.com or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.