Wednesday, November 23, 2011

iPad and SMART Board

People often ask how they can use their iPad together with their SMART Board (or other Interactive Whiteboard), and I was reminded of this when a teacher showed me today how he was using Doceri.

There are a few options for doing this:
  1. Connect the iPad to the projector that is shining on the SMART board, using the VGA or HDMI adaptor, or an Apple TV.
  2. Use an app that allows you to control your computer that is connected to the projector and SMART Board. You will also need to install a program on your computer, and usually you will need to have both on the same network.
  3. Use a collaborative whiteboard app on your iPad, and have the webpage or application open on your computer that is connected to the projector.
If you have other suggestions or experiences, feel free to add them in the comments.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Apple TV to a Projector for AirPlay

Using AirPlay to wirelessly display your iPad 2 screen on the projector feels a little like magic. Here's how you can set it up, hopefully I've covered all of the possibilities.

A. Apple TV for $109

B. If your projector (and cables) are VGA, which is the most likely situation:

HDMI to VGA adaptor (MonoPrice or DealExtreme) or cable for about $40
VGA switch (MonoPrice) for about $15

B. If your projector has a DVI input:

HDMI to DVI adaptor or cable (MonoPrice) for about $5
Unfortunately DVI doesn't carry audio, so to get audio to your speakers you'll also need a toslink to stereo audio converter ($25) and an optical audio cable ($2), or something like this for about $45.

B. If your projector has an HDMI input:

You may need a long HDMI cable, or just a short HDMI cable. You can often even get these at the dollar store.

C. Computer speakers (preferably with two audio inputs, at least 10 W or so) $30 to $60.
Unless you already have some speakers you can use, or if your projector's built-in speakers are loud enough.

A few other notes:
  • Apple TVs can now be connected to the XXXschoolguest networks in schools, see this blog post for AirPlay details.
  • Set the Apple TV to projector resolution, probably 1024x768 (Settings, Audio & Video, TV Resolution)
  • If the image is purple tinted (or some other color), set the color space to RGB (Settings, Audio & Video)
video on how to mirror your screen using AirPlay

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

PowerTeacher Mobile App For iPad

We now have PowerTeacher Mobile working on the iPads, please make sure that you have the latest version of the PowerTeacher App on your iPad. Under the settings area please set your server address to, the port number to 443, and ensure that the SSL Enabled switch is set to "ON"

It is not imperative that you have Location Services turned on or off in your iPad settings but if you do want to use the "Locate District Server" tool you will be able to utilize the "Use Current Location" tool to search for the EIPS PowerSchool production server otherwise you can enter just the "District Zip Code" as t8b1n2 and click "Search Now"

- Paul

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How To Create Tutorial Videos

Creating tutorial videos for your students, or for, is not especially difficult, in fact you probably already have all the tools you need.

We’ll start with how to record using programs that are likely installed on your computer already. The SMART Notebook software can be used as a blank canvas to draw on, similar to how Khan Academy videos are produced, or you can have a prepared Notebook file that you start from. Use the SMART Recorder to record your whole desktop, or just the drawing area.

As to hardware, you can use the microphone built into your laptop to record audio, or use a headset or a desktop microphone. For drawing or annotations, you can use a SMART Board if you have one, or just your mouse.

The way I like to record tutorials, though, is with the freeware program SmoothDraw for drawing, the Open source CamStudio for screen recording, a Wacom Bamboo tablet for drawing with, a headset, such as this one from or for recording audio, and Windows Movie Maker for editing the video if necessary.

Once a tutorial is finished, I upload it to YouTube, or you can use Vimeo if you prefer, and post the link on or on a class website.

The key, though, is to just get started and try it out. The tutorials don’t have to be pretty or polished to be useful.

Taking Screenshots with Greenshot (and inserting them into Google Docs)

How to get and use Greenshot for screen captures that can be saved and used elsewhere.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vernier Sensors and Arduino (or Teensy) for Data Logging

I've been thinking for a while about inexpensive data logging with Vernier educational sensors and a microcontroller development board. I played around with the TI MSP430 LaunchPad for a while, since it is only $4.30, but it's not quite as beginner-friendly as the Arduino. I eventually settled on the Arduino-compatible Teensy for its low price ($16) and small size.

Vernier does a good job of documenting sensor pinouts and calibration values in each sensor's manual, so I knew that this was a fairly easy project.

Unfortunately the sensors use a BT631A connector, which is difficult to find outside of the UK. I ordered this BT to RJ11 adaptor from DealExtreme, but unfortunately it's only 6P4C and we need 6P6C (6 conductors). All six pins are used by the sensor, but we really only need pins 2, 5, and 6. I'll try ordering something from UXCell or Vernier, but for now I've just used some breadboarding wires stuck into the back of the connector.

The required connections from the sensor are
pin 2 to ground (GND)
pin 5 to +5V (VCC)
pin 6 to an analog in (A0)
(I haven't gotten around to trying out the auto-ID function, but that's not an extremely useful function for my purposes anyway.)

Since this my first real microcontroller project, I followed the tutorials on the Teensy site regarding connecting something to the analog input. I modified some example code by Tom Igoe and came up with:

 Analog input, serial output
 Reads an analog input pin and prints the results to the serial monitor.
 The circuit:
 Vernier probe pin 2: Ground (GND)
 Vernier probe pin 5: +5 V (VCC)
 Vernier probe pin 6: Sensor output (A0)

 created 2011-09-08 by David Hay (misterhay)
 Some code borrowed from example by Tom Igoe

 This code is Creative Commons Attribution (

// Constants, used to give names to the pins used
const int analogInPin = A0;  // Analog input pin that the probe is attached to
const int ledPin = 11; // The Teensy on-board LED is on pin 11

// Variables
int sensorValue = 0;        // value read from the probe

// The setup, which runs once when the sketch starts
void setup()
  Serial.begin(38400);     // initialize serial communications at 38400 bps,
                           // not that this matters since it runs at USB speed
  pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);  // set the digital pin as an output

// The actual loop that does the sampling and output to the serial monitor
// This will continue to run as long as the Teensy is plugged in
// Use the Arduino Serial Monitor or some fancy GUI to see the output
void loop()
  // read the analog in value:
  sensorValue = analogRead(analogInPin);           
  // print the results to the serial monitor:

  // wait 10 milliseconds for the analog-to-digital converter to settle

Watch the output in a serial monitor program on your computer, and paste it into a spreadsheet program for graphing. Eventually I'll build a GUI for adjusting sample rates and number of sensors and maybe some live graphing, add some calibration, and put it in a better enclosure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Setting Up PowerTeacher Mobile on your iPad for EIPS

If you have an iPad and want to use it for inputting marks and such, you can use the PowerTeacher mobile app.
  1. Install and launch the app.
  2. Click on settings at the top right of the PowerTeacher Mobile login screen.
  3. Click on Server.
  4. Set your server address to
  5. Set the port number to 443
  6. Turn on SSL Enabled
  7. Click back to the main login screen to enter your username and password and then click on school > to select your school.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taking Your Data With You When You Leave a School

When you leave a school, your Google Account will sooner or later be deleted. All of those assignments and communications will be deleted as well, unless you "liberate" your data.

The easiest way to download your files is export them. Select the files you want, click Download... on the right hand side, choose a format for each file type, and then click the Download button. Your browser will then download a zip file containing those documents.

If you want to keep your email, you'll need to need to set up a program (or another online email account) to download your messages via POP. If you want to save copies of your contacts and filters, there are also tools for that on the related Data Liberation page.

Again, has a tool for "Escaping from Google Sites".

The best way to save your blog posts is to invite yourself as a collaborator, using a regular Gmail account (that you can create for free if you don't already have one). From the basic settings page of your blog, click Add authors and type your address (or the address of whichever Google account you will be able to use after you leave the school).

You can also follow the steps here to export your blog content.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Posting Marks Online Without the PowerSchool Portal

Since the PowerSchool parent and student portal will not be available this summer, here is a way that you can post marks online for parents and students.

1. In the gradebook on the Reports tab, choose Scoresheet and set the Output Type to Export (CSV) and the Student Field to Student Number.

2. Click Run Report at the bottom right and then click OK to open the report in Excel.

3. You will then have a spreadsheet in Excel containing student marks organized by student number. This should be anonymized for FOIP purposes.

4. You can print this (after you adjust the formatting) or paste it into an online spreadsheet. I recommend Google Docs for online spreadsheets. To set up a Google Doc that your students can access, sign into your Gmail account at (or school Google Apps account, e.g. and Create a new Spreadsheet.

5. Click on Unsaved spreadsheet to rename the spreadsheet, then click on Private only to me to change it to be a public spreadsheet (or to invite your students' email addresses as viewers).

6. Copy the data from your Excel spreadsheet into your new Google Docs spreadsheet, and your students will now be able to see the marks that you exported from PowerSchool.

7. Repeat steps 1, 2, and 6 when you have updated marks in PowerSchool.

Another possibility is to use Engrade, a free online gradebook, but then you need to be maintaining your marks in two different places.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Digital Signage

I've recently helped a school get digital signage set up in their hallways, library, and cafeteria. We went with a system that was much less expensive that other commercial systems, but still very flexible and functional. If you want to set up your own similar system, let me know or follow these steps.
  1. Displays: 40" - 50" LCD TVs (60 Hz is fine); shop around at local electronics stores and you should be able to get 42" displays for about $500.
  2. Mounting: best left to the professionals; you may be able to find wall mount brackets for a good price locally, but this one or one of these at should be sufficient.
  3. Power: the professionals will need to install power outlets in the ceiling for your TVs
  4. Connections: you will need to run a long VGA cable (or HDMI/DVI cable) running from each TV back to the computer that is driving it. You may also want a long audio cable for videos with sound.
  5. Internet connection: each computer will require a connection to the Internet. You may need to run some Cat 5E cable and terminate it with some plugs or jacks.
  6. Computers: the signage player software can run on a basic desktop computer that you have lying around or from Computers for Schools. You'll need one per TV.
  7. Software: is free for what we need to do with it. Setting this up probably requires a separate post.
  8. Content: probably the most important thing, but since it will be individual to your location I'll leave it to you (and/or us) to deal with this.
There are of course other ways to set this up, but this is what is working at Salisbury Composite.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Editing Flip videos in Windows Movie Maker

Flip video cameras, although unfortunately discontinued, are great for quickly and easily recording videos. Unfortunately Windows Movie Maker doesn't natively support the file formats they produce. A good software workflow for editing Flip videos in Movie Maker is:

  1. Convert the videos using MP4Cam2AVI, which is free, open source, and portable (doesn't require an install).
  2. Install the K-Lite Codec Pack (full or mega).
  3. Import videos into Movie Maker as usual.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Creating Tutorial Videos (Windows)

Recording tutorial videos for your students, or for, is not especially difficult, and you may already have all of the tools you need.

Using Freeware (and Inexpensive Hardware)
Using Existing Tools in Elk Island Public Schools

  • Input device: SMART Board
  • Drawing program: SMART Notebook, Paint, or PowerPoint
  • Screen recording program: SMART Recorder
  • Microphone: the one built into your laptop, or even a Rock Band microphone
  • Video editor (if necessary): Windows Movie Maker (free with Windows)
After you've recorded a video tutorial, upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and email the link or post it on your class website.

Monday, February 14, 2011

MonD Video Now Available from Home

MonD video titles are now available for viewing from home through Access Learning. As part of our Media on Demand service teachers and students now have access to view titles on the MonD media servers from home. We believe this will be useful when previewing or selecting video content to support lessons and lesson planning.

Teachers/students simply:
1. Go to the Access Learning website
2. In the Login screen on the home page key in your school's Promo Code
3. Click on Go.
4. You will then be prompted to create a personal username and password that will be linked to your school and the Elk Island Public School Board. You only have to do this the first time you log in, from then on you use your own username and password.

Only content available on the MonD servers will be available for streaming using this method.

We ask that you remember that this is for home access only. Using the Access Learning Website requires streaming over the Internet thus requiring bandwidth. You will notice a significant decrease in the speed and quality of the streamin experience from school rather than than streaming from you locally hosted MonD server.

Please let us know of any questions or problems you might have.

Monday, January 3, 2011

EIPS Tech Quick Tips Podcast 002

Episode 2: And People to See

This is episode two of the EIPS Tech Quick Tips podcast, recorded December 17, 2010. And People To See.

Let’s take a minute to introduce the people involved in this podcast, and put faces to names.

I’m David Hay
I’m Donna Griffin
I’m Aaron Tuckwood
And I’m Les Sereda

Check back often for more EIPS Tech Tips podcasts, and if you have any comments or suggestions, please contact us.

EIPS Tech Quick Tips Podcast 001

Episode 1 (2010-11-22): Places to Go

This is episode one of the EIPS Tech Quick Tips podcast, recorded November 23, 2010. Places to Go.

Currently in Elk Island Public Schools, there are a number of different online sites for staff to access. We’ll take a quick look through the list, in case there are any that you’ve forgotten or hadn’t heard about.

Staff Connect is the site for EIPS news and events, a bulletin board, the Superintendent’s blog, resource sharing, division documents, and contact information. It can be accessed at For more information, contact the Communications Department.

PD Place is where you go to browse and register for upcoming professional development sessions. It is at For more information, contact Professional Development and Reporting.

WebGuide, available at yourschooldomain/webguide, is how you edit your eTeacher page and/or your school website. More information is available from the Communications Department.

PowerSchool has four parts: for parents and guardians, or /admin, and for tutorials and support. More information is available from Technology Services.

Eluminate is the Elementary report card site, at is for remotely accessing your network files and folders.

SubFinder for booking substitutes, is available at

Hour Zero, at, is for assisting you in maintaining your emergency preparedness program.

We also have a subscription to for digital marking and originality checking. Contact your AISI Assessment Consulant for more information.

Google Apps have been set up for staff and students at your school. These include online collaborative documents, calendars, websites, email, and possibly other tools. You can start at mail.yourschooldomain and get more information from your AISI Technology Consultants.

Elluminate Live web conferencing is available for online meetings and classes. Talk to your AISI Technology Consultants for the URL. has been set up for staff interested in using Moodle. Help is available from your AISI Technology Consultants.

The EIPS Virtual Library, at, doesn’t require a password to access. It’s a site set up for elementary students and staff containing information resources and book resources.

As well, for more information on these and other tools, check out