Friday, October 29, 2010

Google Workshop for Educators

I you were not able to come to the recent Google Workshop for Educators, the presentations are available here and a PDF copy of the book is available here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Creating a Large QR Code

A QR code is that square barcode-like square that you see on products and in magazines and such. They are designed to be scanned by, for example, a smartphone app.

If you'd like to have a large printable QR code that links to your school website, a survey, or anything on the Internet, there are basically three steps:
  1. Generate a QR code. You can go to http://goo.gl/, paste in the URL of your website, click the Shorten button, and it will generate a short URL that people can type in to go to you your URL.
  2. Click Details >>. In addition to the statistics for visitors to that link, you'll see an image like the one here that you can right click and Save image as...
  3. Open that image in an image editing program such as Paint.net or Photoshop and resize it to 400% (or more) using the "Nearest Neighbor" resampling. This will make it higher resolution without making it blurry.

You will then have a high resolution QR code that you can print on a poster to direct people to your website.

Another option for steps 2. and 3. is to type in your new short URL and add .qr at the end (e.g. goo.gl/dqti.qr). This will display the QR code at 150x150 pixels, but you can change that by changing the 150x150 in the address bar to something like 400x400 and pressing enter (e.g. http://chart.googleapis.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=400x400&choe=UTF-8&chld=H&chl=http://goo.gl/dqti ).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting a list of current Google Apps users

To get a list of all Google Apps users for your domain:

  1. log in to your control panel (google.com/a/yourdomain.com)
  2. type in the URL:
    https://www.google.com/a/cpanel/yourdomain.com/DownloadUserData/UserData.csv
    replacing yourdomain.com with your actual domain name

This will download a list of all users in csv format, which you can then open in Excel.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Lamp-Based Document Cameras

We've made a few more document cameras from webcams and lamps, similar to a previous post.
Our current favourite webcam is the Microsoft Lifecam HD5000, since it is autofocus, good resolution, relatively cheap, and a fairly small device.

Here's that HD5000 webcam with a 1/4" hole (using a drill press) and bolted to an Ikea Tertial lamp.
 We could have used a shorter bolt, but that's just what was here.

We also mounted bolted on a piece of a soup can and used elastic bands to shock mount a $20 Rock Band microphone along with a pop filter.

And here's a Rocketfish webcam attached to an Ikea Sunnan lamp using self-stick velcro from a fabric store or department.


Have fun.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Deleting Google Apps User Accounts

Edit: As of April 20, 2015 Google has deprecated this API and this script will no longer work. For scripts that will work, check out:
https://github.com/misterhay/GoogleAppsProvisioning
or
https://github.com/jay0lee/GAM/tree/master.


Coming up to the end of a school year you may find yourself needing to bulk delete the Google Apps user accounts for your school (or district) domain for students that are moving on from your school. That is, if your district hasn't implemented automatic provisioning.


I've written a little script to help automate this process, everything you need is included in this zip file.


To bulk delete users from your domain:
  1. Enable the Provisioning API for your Google Apps domain (log in with your admin account at http://google.com/a/yourdomain , click the Users and groups tab, then the Settings subtab, select the checkbox to enable the Provisioning API, and save your changes).
  2. Unzip the his file that you downloaded by right clicking the downloaded file and choosing Extract All...
  3. Edit the text file named deleteaccounts.txt so that it contains each unwanted user account on its own line. You can likely get information for this from your student information system.
  4. Run the program GoogleAppsDeleteUsers.exe .
  5. The program will ask you for your Google Apps domain, administrator account, and password. Don't worry, it doesn't write these to a file or email them to anyone.
  6. Watch as the user accounts are slowly deleted one by one without you having to do anything else.


Since you shouldn't just run programs downloaded from people you don't trust, I've also made the source code available. It's written in Python 2.6, depends on the Google Data Python Library, and compiled for Windows with py2exe. Feel free to improve on it or reuse it. This is my first foray into Python, and I am indebted to jay0lee for some of the ideas in his Google Apps Manager.


Edit: Before deleting users, you may want to direct them to our post on Downloading Your Google Sites.

Edit: You can also check out a web-based version that I put together.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Using Twitter on Field Trips

The other day I went on a field trip with a few classes of students to experiment with using Twitter to communicate. Here are a few of my thoughts.

  • Twitter is a good tool for allowing text message communication between teachers and students, and among students, without having to exchange mobile phone numbers.
  • Students are generally comfortable with the communication style dictated by the 140 character limit.
  • Only about a third of students signed up for Twitter accounts. Perhaps with more notice and class time this could have been increased.
  • Of those students, only a handful actively used it during the day. They mostly used it communicate with each other rather than with their teachers.
  • A number of students continue to use their Twitter accounts, in a similar manner to how they would use Facebook.
  • Not all students had mobile phones with text messaging plans, but a quick show-of-hands survey showed that most did. Students without text messaging plans were encouraged to be in a group with someone who did and had set up a Twitter account.
  • In a loud environment, users sometimes missed the notification of a text message.
  • HootSuite was a good tool for teacher use, allowing for the monitoring of multiple accounts and hash tags. As well, the pending tweet function allowed us to set up messages such as "The bus will be leaving in ten minutes" that would automatically post at the appropriate time.

It probably would have worked better for the classes to have been using Twitter earlier in the year for questions and/or backchannel conversation. Hopefully this would increase the number of users, and increase the students' comfort level.

In general, I think using Twitter to communicate with students on a field trip is a good idea, especially for field trips where the students are not generally together as a single group. I think it also has potential for use in class as a communication channel for student questions or comments during lectures, class work time, or even while students are at home working on assignments.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Document Camera From a Lamp and a Webcam

Not sure why we didn't think of this years ago, but it's quick and easy to attach a webcam to a balanced arm lamp (from Ikea or Walmart) in order to use as a document camera.



You could also use a flexible arm lamp such as this one.


In both cases I just drilled a 1/4" hole in the hood of the lamp. This allows us to use a 1/4" inch bolt to attach a camera that uses a standard threaded tripod mount. In the above pictures there is just a screw driven into the bottom of the webcam. We have two different higher resolution cameras on order, and we're going to see if we can fit a smaller camera inside the lamp hood for aesthetics.

It's nice to have the option of lighting your subject with the lamp part of this. We use compact fluorescent bulbs, so the hood shouldn't get too hot.

Feel free to comment if you have other ideas for cheap hardware hacks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Webcams as Document Cameras

Edit: On closer inspection, we are much less impressed with the resolution of the Clique camera. The Markvision camera displays a much clearer image, but is no longer available. Stay tuned for some pictures of webcams/cameras mounted on stands allowing them to function as document cameras, similar to what JWatson14 mentions in the comments.

---
If you've ever looked longingly at document cameras but realized that there is no money in your budget for one, you could perhaps use a cheaper webcam instead. There are even webcams with stands and flexible necks that allow them to be used like a document camera.


The Clique CAM00131 Hue HD Webcam is an example of one of these, and it's currently on sale for $39.99. We've done some testing with it, and are very impressed. It has great framerate (30 frames per second), good resolution (1.3 megapixels),  a long enough USB cord (although you could use a USB extension if needed), and feels fairly sturdy. The camera can either be connected to the the base or to a USB port on the side of your laptop or monitor. There's a button on the top for taking snapshots, and a built-in microphone. It comes with fairly good software, allowing things like image flip and mirror (recommended) and digital zoom. The camera and built-in microphone also work with programs such as Skype and Ustream.

A few minor issues are that it has manual focus, only digital zoom, and the neck may be a little short for doing dissections underneath the camera. You could always just put a couple of textbooks under the base to raise it up.

There's a similar webcam available, the Markvision MVWC-SN4923 Snake Webcam. It's only $23.99, but it doesn't feel quite as sturdy, has a shorter neck, and some computers we tried had issues with the driver. TigerDirect also tells me that they have limited stock of this one, and don't know if they'll be getting more.

TigerDirect.ca is currently offering free shipping for orders over $100 and under 20 lbs. Our purchases arrived a week after ordering.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Canadian Goose!




A Canadian goose has nested outside of Curriculum Services.  Last Tuesday, April 6th, she (Ethel) laid two eggs and over the next couple of days laid four more.  We set up this web cam on the 7th and have been keeping a close eye on her ever since.  Come back every couple of days to check on Ethel and see if Fred comes around to check on his family.   Below are some interesting facts about Canadian geese!

The Canada goose finds a mate during its second year and once paired, the geese remain together for life. Contrary to popular belief, however, if one member of the pair is killed, the other will find a new mate.

Canada Geese breed earlier in the season than many birds. Breeding is timed so that the eggs hatch when the plants that the goslings, or young geese, eat have their highest nutritional value. The hatch date also allows enough time for the goslings to grow big enough to fly south before freeze-up. Canada Geese that breed in temperate areas, with mild temperatures, begin nesting as soon as conditions are favorable in spring, in some cases as early as mid-March. Canada Geese that breed in the north reach nesting areas in late April or early May, later for Arctic breeders.

Let us know where you are watching from and when you think the eggs will hatch!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moving/Downloading your Google Site

You spent all that time making your amazing Google Site, but now you're moving to a different school. If only there was a way to download your Site, then upload it to your new account at the new school.

It turns out that Google's own Data Liberation Front has a tool to accomplish just that. What you need to do is

  1. Download the "Escaping from Google Sites" tool.
  2. Double-click on the downloaded google-sites-liberation-1.0.3.jar file to run the program. If the program doesn't start up, perhaps you don't have Java installed.
  3. In the Host: box, leave it as sites.google.com
  4. In the Domain: box, fill in the domain where you have your existing Site (e.g. eipstech.com) or just the word  site  if you are not using Google Apps.
  5. In the Webspace: box, fill in the name of your Site; this should be the part of the URL after the / (e.g. if your Site's URL is http://eipstech.com/misterhay then your Site name is misterhay)
  6. Feel free to check the Import/Export Revisions: box if you want that.
  7. Username and Password should be your account information for the domain that you are trying to download from (e.g. dhay  and  mypassword )
  8. Click the Choose Target Directory button and select where you'd like the backup of your Site to be saved.
  9. Click the Export button, and the program will download your Site to your local computer.

Restoring your Site to your new account is the opposite of this process.

  1. Choose Target Directory (where you previously backed up your Site)
  2. Username and Password for your new school
  3. Webspace on the new domain where you'd like your site to be
  4. Domain where your new site will be
  5. Host is still sites.google.com
  6. Click the Import button, and everything should get uploaded to the new place

Hopefully that works for you, it did for me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Presentations are Posted

Just wanted to remind you that many of the presentations by the EIPS AISI Technology Consultants are posted at http://www.eipstech.com/presentations.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Podcasting Your Morning Announcements

There are a few schools in the district that record "podcasts" of the morning announcements for teachers to play from their computers rather than broadcasting them over the intercom or printing paper copies for teachers to read.

It's not as difficult as it sounds. Basically all you need is a microphone, perhaps one from Rock Band for about $20, and free software on your computer, such as Audacity. Click the record button, read the announcements, save it as an mp3, and post it on your webpage or "Staff News" folder.

If you want to get fancy, you can allow people to subscribe to your podcast (check out a previous post), or even record video like a morning newscast.

You just need a staff member or two, and perhaps some students, and you can have a daily (or weekly) announcements podcast.

Digital Signage Part 2

I mentioned before about schools setting up digital signs, and wanted to post an update. One school that I've worked with has two signs set up, both connected to regular PCs. One is a 24 inch monitor, the other is a 40 inch LCD TV; both are 1080p resolution.

The staff member who builds the "morning announcements" bulletin also makes a PowerPoint file that is set to loop on each screen. Unfortunately at this point she has to manually transfer the file to each computer using a USB drive.

This plan is still to set up more computers around the school, connected to 42 inch LCD TVs mounted on the walls, and use Xibo Open Source Digital Signage.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

All Staff Mailing List Creation (in FirstClass)

If you've ever found yourself wanting a list of all the staff at your school, there's a quick and easy way to make one in FirstClass.

  1. Go to your Address Book and under the File menu click New then New Mailing List.
  2. Name it whatever you'd like, then in the Members: field type your three digit school code (e.g. SAL) and wait for the program to load the list of all names containing those three letters.
  3. Hold down the Shift key and the down arrow key on your keyboard until all of the contact names are selected.
  4. Press the Enter key and all of those contacts have now been added to that mail list.
  5. Scroll back up if necessary, press the OK button, and you're done.
If you'd now like to have a staff contact list in another format, such as an Excel document, you can right-click your newly created mail list and choose Summarize Selected. This brings up a window where you can select and copy the list of members, allowing you to paste it into your program of choice.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sharing Your Presentations (and other files)

Whether it is posting your lecture notes and assignments for your class or sharing presentations or other documents with participants in a professional development session, it is often useful to have a place online where you can post documents. Here are a few suggestions for free sites, although this is certainly not an exhaustive list.



Probably the easiest way to share files with others, these are some examples of sites that allow you to create a free account and post documents and other files that can be shared or kept private.


Designed specifically for document sharing, these are sites that allow you to post and share your documents.



These online document creation/collaboration suites allow you to upload and share documents, and even create (and collaborate on) documents online.



These are just a few examples of website builders or blogs that will allow you to attach documents.

If you are just posting a few documents, or even a single presentation, I'd recommend Drop.io as a quick and easy way to do it. However I'm also a fan of creating web pages with Google Sites (check out eipstech.com/presentations). As with most tasks, your tool choice is a matter of preference. Hopefully this will help you get started.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

School Video Game Clubs

Disclaimer: this post is based solely on opinions and experiences of the author, Mr. Hay.

At the high school where I taught, I operated a student video game club for many years which continues on in my absence. I've had a number of people ask me about suggestions for starting their own video game club, so I thought I'd use this forum for posting my thoughts on what I sometimes call "intramurals for nerds".

  • make sure the school Administration is informed and on board with it
  • get some other staff members involved if possible, at least to help with supervision
  • parental consent forms are probably a good idea
  • lunch hours seem to work well, perhaps two a week at first
  • student fees, maybe $5 to $10 per semester, are not unreasonable, and help you to be able to purchase consoles and games
  • a Wii is probably a good starter system, since there are a number of good, safe multiplayer games available, and it is usually cheaper than the other two systems
  • students seem willing to bring their own games if you have consoles and TVs provided; some may be willing to bring consoles, but those don't transport as well and you may need to have policies in place for dealing with them
  • it is usually easy to find older TVs for free as people are upgrading to HDTVs, ask around or check out Freecycle
  • it doesn't hurt to ask businesses for donations, games, and/or systems
  • you may want to have network cables and a router or switch available for networking consoles for multiplayer games
  • online gaming (e.g. Xbox Live, PSN, WoW) is not recommended, and probably not an option in your school anyway
  • restricting game ratings is a good idea, especially if you have younger students involved; check ESRB
  • Rock Band and Guitar Hero style games are great, since they're multiplayer, generally not offensive, and getting less expensive
  • it's nice to have a room where the video game equipment can stay set up, or perhaps just pushed to the sides of the room
  • organizing tournaments, similar to intramurals, is good for involving more/new students, and you may even be able to organize competitions against other schools
  • you may be able to get the student council and/or parent council involved to help with fund raising and/or event planning
  • other groups or teams in the school may be interested in borrowing your equipment for their own events
  • probably the most important thing is to have the students involved and to keep communicating with them; this will give you ideas about what to do, what to buy, help prevent theft, and make the club more engaging for the students

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to run a video game club, but hopefully it helps or is at least interesting. Feel free to comment here or contact me if you have questions or concerns. I'd also be interested to hear about other school-based video game clubs or competitions.

- Hay

Monday, January 25, 2010

Internet Access in a Different Location

You may have issues accessing the Internet when you bring your school laptop home or to a Professional Development day, or use any computer in a different school.

This is usually because of the proxy setting for your user account, so I've written a little program to help you change this. The program can be downloaded from here.*

The easier option, though, is to just set your proxy to "Automatically detect settings".  Under the  Tools  menu click  Internet Options.  Click on the the  Connections  tab, then the  LAN settings  button:

On the LAN Setting window that comes up, check the  Automatically detect settings  box.

Then it should work both at home and in schools.


*It's written using the Autohotkey scripting language. Source code is available here for those interested in how it works, paranoid about running downloaded programs, or able to improve on it.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Multiple Mice as a Student Response System

Microsoft has released a free plugin for PowerPoint called Mouse Mischief that
allows teachers to work with Microsoft Office PowerPoint to make interactive presentations. With Mouse Mischief, teachers can add multiple choice questions to their presentations, and large groups of students can answer the questions using mice connected to the teacher’s PC.
I recorded a video of Mouse Mischief in action:


The software is currently in beta, meaning that there may still be some issues to work out before the official release.  In my testing, though, it seems to perform well at what it was designed to do.

There are a couple of other YouTube videos about this, here and here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Using Your Gmail or Google Apps Account to Get Other Email

There are two ways to use Gmail (from your school-based Google Apps account) to access get other email.
  1. Mail Fetcher, which allows Gmail to download messages from the other mail system:
    http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=21288
  2. Forwarding your other email, which is required for systems such as FirstClass (that don't support POP3)
To forward your email from FirstClass to your Gmail account:
  1. Log in to FirstClass
  2. Under the Edit menu choose Preferences...
  3. Click on the Messaging tab
  4. Under the heading Automatically forward , choose Yes for both Local mail: and Internet mail:
  5. In the Forward to: box on the right, type your Gmail (or Google Apps) email address
  6. Click OK at the bottom right, and you're done. You can exit the FirstClass client now.

Your FirstClass email will now forward to your Gmail account. You will still have to check FirstClass for any "Staff News" postings, or anything else that doesn't come directly to your MailBox.

I'd also recommend that you set up a "custom 'From' address" for any email addresses that you're accessing from your Gmail account. Instructions are at:
http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=22370

Edit: If you use the default Redirect method, your FirstClass inbox will keep all of the messages and eventually fill up. You'll have to go in occasionally to delete them, but you'll probably be going in to check shared folders (e.g. Staff News) anyway.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

MS Office: Solving the Disappearing Quick Access Toolbar

If you've customized your Quick Access Toolbar in Microsoft Office 2007 but been frustrated that your changes disappear when you log off, our technician Roger W. has a solution for you:
---
In regards to the Office 2007 issue and the toolbars quick launchers not saving. The issue can be resolved with the enclosed attachment.
  1. Exit from of Office 2007 (Word, Excel etc)
  2. Save the attached file to your desktop.
  3. Double click OfficeFix.bat. It performs the operation in just a few seconds.
  4. Close the window that is opened.
  5. Delete the attachment.
This is only required to be run one time only. It only works based on user computer accounts and not computers. There is no need to run this on your laptop if you also use one in addition to your workstation. It will remember by your user name.
Enjoy and happy toolbarring, Roger
---
The enclosed batch file that he's referring to contains the following two commands if you'd like to paste them into the command line yourself:

reg add HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Word\Options /v NoReReg /t REG_DWORD /d 1
reg add HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Common\Toolbars\ /v QuickAccessToolbarRoaming /t REG_DWORD /d 1