Friday, December 18, 2009

The Apps in Google Apps

All of our schools are set up with Google Apps accounts, so here's an overview of the available features (adapted from  These may not all be enabled by your local administrator.

  • Email: 7+ GB storage, mobile access, spam and virus protection, contact sharing, IMAP, and POP.  If chat is enabled, it includes built-in instant messaging, voice and video chat.  Can include message filtering and security through Postini.
  • Calendar: Multiple calendars, shared and public calendars, room/resource scheduling, mobile access
  • Docs: Online word processing, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, mobile access
  • Sites: Collaborative website creation with videos, images, gadgets, and documents integration
  • Groups: User-created groups providing mailing lists, easy content sharing, searchable archives
  • Video: Securely share videos with your school - anyone can add comments, tags and ratings - with 10GB included free with every domain

If you have questions or comments about any of this, feel free to contact any of the consultants or comment on this post.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Online Reference Centre

In case you haven't had a look recently, we wanted to draw your attention to the Online Reference Centre that is hosted by  It gets you in to quite a few online resources that you have access to as an Educator in Alberta.

Go check it out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tools4Teachers Resources on our Moodle

We've put the Learn EveryWare resources from Tools4Teachers up on our Moodle site under the Misce.  If you'd like to copy them to your own course, use the following steps.
  1. Go to, or make, the new course.  Make sure it has the same number of sections/weeks/topics as the old course.
  2. In the new course, click Import in the Administration block on the left.
  3. In the Search courses box, type  T4T  to find the Tools4Teachers courses/resources that we've uploaded.
  4. Click Use this course next to the one that you'd like to use. 
  5. Make sure all of the boxes are checked for the resources that you want to copy, and click Continue.
  6. Click Continue again on the next screen.  It will probably take a few minutes at this point.
  7. Hopefully everything worked and you can see the copied materials in your new course.
These instructions were adapted from .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Digital Signage

A few schools have expressed interest in having monitors/TVs in the hallways for announcements, photos, and such.  I've looked at a few different options for this, including Cisco's impressive Digital Management Solution, but I think the best idea for most schools is Xibo Open Source Digital Signage running on a regular computer connected to a TV.

I'll post more once we have it up and running somewhere.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Using Google Docs for Sharing Your PowerPoints

With the transition to new file formats in Office 2007, your students may not be able to view the PowerPoint files of your lectures that you post on your website/page.  One of the easiest ways to avoid this is to use Google Docs.  Unfortunately at the time of writing Google Docs doesn't support pptx files (PowerPoint 2007), so you'll have to save your presentation as PowerPoint 97-2003 Presentation or use a site like Zamzar to convert it.

  1. Log in at (e.g., or just if your school doesn't have Google Apps set up and you have your own Gmail account.
  2. Click the upload button, click Select files to upload, and find the presentation file(s) that you want to upload.  Unfortunately they need to be 10 MB or smaller each, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem.
  3. Click Start Upload.
  4. Once the file has uploaded, click on it to view it.  Click the Share button at the top right and choose Get the link to share.
  5. Click the box for Allow anyone with the link to view and you'll see the link in the box below that.  This is the link you put on your website, copy it and click Save & Close.
  6. Paste the link into the appropriate place on your website/page.
Hopefully that works out.  Feel free to leave a comment if that did or didn't work for you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Open Email Links in FirstClass

If you want to be able to click on an email link and have it come up in FirstClass rather than in Outlook, click on the  Edit  menu and choose  Preferences...  Check the box for Register FirstClass as default mail client.

Click OK or Apply and you're done.

It may give you an error, but it should still work.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Event Reminders Using Google Calendar

Your school has set you up with a Google Apps account that includes an online calendar. This calendar can be used for keeping track of your schedule, and can also remind you of upcoming events.

To access your calendar, either go to http://calendar.yourdomin (e.g. or go to your gmail account (mail.yourdomain) and click on the calendar link at the top left.

Adding events can be done either by clicking Create Event or Quick Add at the top left of the calendar, or by clicking on the place on the calendar where you would like to have the event.

The “edit event details” link takes you to the page where you can add reminders for that event. The reminders can be email, pop-up (in the calendar itself, if you have it open at the time), or SMS*.

Make sure you click the Save button when you are done, and the calendar will remind you the specified time before that event.

You can also set the default event reminders for all new events by clicking Settings at the top right of the calendar, then clicking on the Calendars tab. You’ll see a Notifications link for each calendar that you’ve got set up, click that to add a default reminder. This can, of course, be changed for individual events as well.

*text message; set that up by clicking Settings at the top right and then clicking the tab for Mobile Setup

MS Office: Format Painter

A seldom used but useful feature of Microsoft Office programs, such as Word and PowerPoint, is the format painter. This is for those situations where you would like something to be formatted like something else.

To use the format painter, select the part that has the desired formatting and click the button on the toolbar that looks like a paint brush (or you can press the c key while holding down the Shift and Ctrl keys). Then select the part that you want formatted (if you used Shift-Ctrl-c, you then need to use Shift-Ctrl-v). You've now applied the desired formatting.

Embedding YouTube (or other flash videos) in PowerPoint

When there is an online video that I want to play during a lesson, I like to have it downloaded (or at least cached) ahead of time, so that I know it will work. Having Flash videos play in PowerPoint is very slick and not that difficult, although it does involve a few steps. Unfortunately this only works in the Windows version.

So we'll assume that you have downloaded the video in Flash format. I started to write out the steps, but then decided that the wheel had been invented. So here are instructions from

PowerPoint 2003, 2002, and 2000

To add a Shockwave Flash Object control to a slide, follow these steps:
1. Start PowerPoint, and then locate the slide that you want to insert the control into.
2. If the Control Toolbox is not already visible, point to Toolbarson the View menu, and then click Control Toolbox.
3. In the Control Toolbox, click More Controls (which looks like a hammer and wrench), and then click Shockwave Flash Object.
Note: Shockwave Flash must be installed on your computer for the Shockwave Flash Object to be listed in the Control Toolbox.
4. Draw the control on your slide. The Shockwave Flash Object ActiveX control now appears on your slide.

To make the Shockwave Flash control play back your Flash animation file, follow these steps:

5. Right-click the inserted Shockwave Flash control, and then clickProperties.
6. Click the Movie property. In the Value box, type the full drive path, including the file name (for example, C\:MyFile.swf) to the Flash file that you want to play.
7. Make sure that the Playing property is set to True.

PowerPoint 2007

Make sure that the Flash Player is installed on the computer. Then, follow these steps:
1. In PowerPoint, display in normal view the slide on which you want to play the animation.
2. Click the Microsoft Office Button at the top left, and then click PowerPoint Options.
3. Click Popular, and then click to select the Show Developer tab in the Ribbon check box under Top options for working with PowerPoint, and then click OK.
4. On the Developer tab, click More Controls (which looks like a hammer and wrench) in the Controls group.
5. In the list of controls, click Shockwave Flash Object, clickOK, and then drag on the slide to draw the control.
6. Resize the control by dragging the sizing handles.
7. Right-click the Shockwave Flash Object, and then clickProperties.
8. On the Alphabetic tab, click the Movie property.
9. In the value column (the blank cell next to Movie), type the full drive path, including the file name (for example, C\:MyFile.swf) to the Flash file that you want to play.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mail Merge with Microsoft Word

Mail Merge is a feature of Microsoft Word (and other word processing programs) that allows you to do things like write a form letter and then make copies of it with individuals names on it. Some teachers also use this for pre-printing students names on exams and quizzes. The series of steps seems a little daunting at first, but it's not that bad.

Microsoft has a series of articles describing the process, but it basically involves two parts, the main document and a data file. The Microsoft article applies to Word 2003/2002, but we'll assume that you are using Word 2007.

The Main Document
  1. Open or compose the document (letter, exam, etc.) that you want to use
  2. In Word 2007 click on the Mailings tab, click Start Mail Merge then click Step by Step Mail Merge Wizard... the Mail Merge wizard pops up on the right
  3. You'll likely want to choose Letters as the document type, then click Next: Starting document at the bottom right
  4. Choose Use the current document unless you skipped step 1. above. Click Next: Select recipients
  5. You are now given the option to Use an existing list or Type a new list . If you have the list of names and/or other inf0rmation in an Excel spreadsheet then you'll choose the first.
The Data File
  1. Hopefully you have a data file that is a list of students' names and/or other data that you want to put into your letter or test title page. This will likely be an Excel spreadsheet. The first line in each column should be the label for that column (e.g. firstname, lastname, ID#).
  2. Click the Browse... link on the Mail Merge Wizard that you've been using and then find your data file from the previous step. If you don't have a data file, select Type a new list .
  3. If everything worked out, the Mail Merge Wizard should read something like "Currently, your recipients are selected from:" and you can click Next: Write your letter at the bottom.
  4. It's now time to add the fields to your main document.
Back to The Main Document
  1. In the appropriate places you can now add fields from your data file (firstname, lastname, etc.) by clicking More items... and selecting fields from your data file. You can also try out the preset Address block... or Greeting line... options and/or use the buttons in the ribbon bar at the top to insert the fields you want to merge.
  2. Once you have the fields in the appropriate places, click Next: Preview your letters (or the Preview Results button on the ribbon bar). You can use the forward and back buttons to go through the individual copies of your resulting mail merge to make sure everything looks like it should.
  3. When you click Next: Complete the merge you are given the option to Print... your mail merged documents or Edit individual letters... which creates a new document with each mail merge result starting on a new page.
It's up to you what you want to do from here. Hopefully everything worked and you can impress your students and colleagues with your ability to create customized field trip letters, exam title pages, and the like. Let us know if this works for you, or especially if it doesn't.

Monday, November 2, 2009


A podcast is episodic downloadable audio (or video) content. Despite the name, it does not require an iPod, you can listen to (or watch) a podcast on a computer or almost any portable media device. A podcast also usually has an associated RSS feed to allow listeners to subscribe to it.

Creating a podcast.

To record a podcast you will need a microphone, although you can use the microphone built into your laptop. I'm a fan of the Rock Band microphone, which you can get for about $20. You may also want to look at getting a pop filter to put in front of it.

You will also need recording software on your computer. On the Mac, GarageBand is excellent. On any platform there's Audacity, which can be run portably if you can't install software on your computer, or the online audio editor Myna.

Unless you just want to save your mp3 (or video) podcasts in a shared folder, publishing your podcast requires some sort of hosting provider. Some free options, that also set up an RSS feed for you are,, or

To make your podcast sound more professional, you can add some intro and outtro music. Some sites that have podsafe music and sound effects that you can use include:,, and

Speaking of podsafe, when using or creating content it is good to become familiar with Creative Commons, how it is different from Copyright.

Some recommended podcasts for you to listen to:

Technology: This Week in Tech
Science: Quirks and Quarks, Science Update
Social Studies: Stuff You Missed in History Class
Math: Math Grad
English Language Arts: CSTW Writers Talk
Arts: CBC Arts Podcasts
Medicine: White Coat, Black Art


Some school libraries are starting audiobook collections, an easy (and free) way to do so is with Creative Commons and public domain titles.

Librivox - volunteer-read public domain works
Spoken Alexandria Project - creating audio books of creative commons works
Podiobooks - free serialized audio books
Lit2Go - a free online collection of audio stories and poems
Project Gutenberg - human read public domain audio books
X Minus One - a series of science fiction radio plays, not technically audio books
Cory Doctorow - an author who creative commons licenses his works, a number of them have been recorded as audio books by him or by fans

Photo Mosaics

If you're looking for a different way to present photos, especially on posters, AndreaMosaic is a free photographic mosaic creation program. It's great for sports teams, international field trips, or even for the school yearbook.

Basically you give it the image that you want to create, then a lot of other images to use as tiles. There are a few settings to tweak if you'd like, and the images it creates are very cool.

On the Mac, there's a similar program called MacOSaiX.

Facebook Fan Pages

If you are, like some schools, using social networking with your students, Facebook fan pages may be a better way to go than "friending" your students. Having students as fans rather than friends means you have more control over the interactions and you can't see their status updates, or in fact any of their private information.

Of course a Ning or even a Moodle would probably be a better idea for online social network-style interactions with students, but that would mean another login for them and for you. These are also less likely to be blocked by your school district's network policies. This is still relatively uncharted territory, though, so it is recommended that you proceed with caution.

Flash Drives Die

It bears repeating that your USB flash drive (or thumb drive, or however you refer to it) will stop working entirely at some point. Soon. So make sure you have only duplicate files on it. When it dies, the files will likely be unrecoverable.

The same goes for hard drives and iPods for that matter, but they don't seem to die as frequently.

Be safe out there.

Book Recommendations from Mr. Hay

Some books that I've recently read (or in most cases listened to) and would like to recommend are:

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist - Michael J. Fox

The Four Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich - Timothy Ferriss

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference - Malcolm Gladwell

Free: The Future of a Radical Price - Chris Anderson

Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future - Cory Doctorow

The Closing of the American Mind /
How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students- Allan Bloom

Star Trek Movie Tie-In - Alan Dean Foster

Ask a Ninja Presents The Ninja Handbook: This Book Looks Forward to Killing You Soon - Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols

All Creatures Great and Small - James Herriot

The links on the left are audio versions, on the right are dead tree editions. Enjoy.

New to Microsoft Office 2007?

For users unfamiliar with the "ribbon interface" of Office 2007, Microsoft has a great resource:
Guides to the Ribbon: Use Office 2003 menus to learn the Office 2007 user interface

New Features in Google Docs

Just a quick post to mention two new(ish) features of Google Docs.

The word count now includes some readability information.

It is now possible to insert an equation using an equation editor (LaTeX syntax, just like Wikipedia).

If your laptop disconnects from the wireless

A number of staff have been experiencing the issue of files not being available on their laptop because the wireless connection has been disconnected. This short screencast shows you how to reconnect so that you will see all of your files again.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Transforming Learning Through Technology

The overarching goal of this AISI project is to improve student engagement and, ultimately, student achievement by transforming teaching and learning through technology. The project focuses on students in grades k-12.