Monday, September 19, 2011

Using LiveScribe in Education

When new technology comes out (which seems like everyday), I have to consider how it would be used in education. I go to conferences and ask questions, listen to suggestions, and try to find out how and where it could be used in education.

Recently, I was able to sit in on a LiveScribe training with Engaging Technologies. I was able to follow along and think of ways to use this pen that I've heard about. When LiveScribe first came out, I was cautious thinking that it would be great for special education. After seeing the new features, I now know that it can be used in any educational setting (including college).

So, what's new? As with any technology, if it doesn't get frequent updates, then it gets outdated. LiveScribe has built into it's technology, connectors. Connectors allow you to quickly take pen cast you've created and upload them to various sites such as Google Docs and Google Sites. You can also upload them to MyLiveScribe, which gives you free storage. How cool is that?

If you see below, you have the option of embedding pen cast into webpages created for your classroom. All I did was click one button once I registered my pen, then linked it to my computer, and was given some html code. Oh, and as updates come out, your pen gets automatically updated. You can also install apps on your pen found at the LiveScribe store.

brought to you by Livescribe

Happy LiveScribing!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ISTE 2011

First of all, welcome back to the 2011-2012 school year. It is always nice to be able to start fresh with a new class and a bunch of new faces each year. I certainly hope you found some time for rest and relaxation over the summer.

One of the things I enjoy each summer is a trip to the National Ed Tech Conference that ISTE hosts. This year it was in Philadelphia and the theme was "Unlocking Potential." I heard many great speakers and attended many great sessions.

As I sat through one of the sessions, I was caught by one of the statements made by the presenter. Basically, he mentioned that there are lots of web tools out there for teachers to use. All I ask is that you find one this year and try it. If it doesn't work, throw it out, and pick anther one. His site has tons of resources for educators. As I went from session to session, I heard the same statement over and over.

As part of what I do, I encourage teachers to try new things in the classroom. It gets overwhelming sometimes to read and figure how a web tool works. However, if we limit ourselves to trying one at a time, then it doesn't seem too intimidating.

Each year, after attending the conference, I try to share my notes. This year, however, instead of sharing my notes, I thought I would share resources to those notes. In other words, every presenter I went to had a link to his/her presentation. Plus, each of the presenters were searchable in the conference planner online. To get to my links, you can use my diigo page for ISTE 2011. Remember, as you look through the links, pick one thing that interests you and find a way to use it this year in your classroom.

Welcome back to 2011-2012! Have a great year!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Internet Safety Contest Winners Announced

Wow! What a great turnout of entries for this year’s Internet Safety Contest! I am very pleased with the number of entries and also with the quality of work that went into the contest. I’d like to give a quick review the rules before describing the process of selecting ESU 4 entries to be judged at the State level. Each year, the ESU’s across the state host an Internet Safety Contest. There are several categories that students can enter in grades K-4, 5-8, or 9-12.

  • hand drawn poster
  • computer generated poster
  • audio public service announcement
  • video public service announcement
  • an open category

This year, we had an entry from each grade level, but not each category. Each school can have its own contest for everyone in each grade, and then decide which entry out of that category to send to ESU 4. My colleague and I enjoy looking over the entries and choosing who will represent ESU 4 at the State level.

The following entries were selected to represent ESU 4 at the State level. For their efforts, they will be receiving a certificate and a small prize for their hard work as well as recognition in the newsletter and on this blog.

K-4 hand drawn poster: Cody of Johnson-Brock

K-4 public service announcement video: Mrs. Smith’s class at Johnson County Central

5-8 hand drawn poster: Mrs. Reid’s 2nd hour enrichment class at Auburn Middle School

5-8 computer generated poster: Kolton of Johnson-Brock

5-8 public service announcement video: Mrs. Smith’s class at Johnson County Central

9-12 public service announcement video: Erin, Grahm, and Nathan at Johnson-Brock

Out of the entries above, the following were selected as the State winners. For their efforts, they will be receiving a certificate from the Attorney General’s office.
  • K-4 public service announcement video: Mrs. Smith’s class at Johnson County Central
  • 9-12 public service announcement video: Erin, Grahm, and Nathan at Johnson-Brock
Again, many thanks to all those that participated. To view all the winning entries from across the state, please visit

Friday, March 25, 2011

What's with the tablets?

Since last year, the market for tablet (iPad and others) has dramatically increased. In fact, according to a recent article, there are more tablets and handhelds being sold than personal computers and laptops (SmartPhones pass PCs in sales). Within the context of this article, I would like to talk about two that have been very popullar in the news lately - the Motorola Xoom (Zoom) and the new Apple iPad. The reason for comparing these two is simply the specs are about the same.

What do they both have or don’t?

Both the Motorola Xoom and Apple iPad 2 have front and rear facing cameras. How cool is that! Imagine students being able to video tape examples of things they are doing in class. Imagine where students could go and interview people for projects, all with a tablet. Both say that battery life can last a full school day - Apple states the iPad will run for 10 hours - Motorola states the Xoom will run for 9 hours.

They both are missing some things. Apple has had a chance to improve since it’s first revision and has made some big improvements - lighter, thinner, and faster than the previous version. It still is missing the ability to support flash for web pages. Apple designs all of the hardware and the operating system from the ground up. All the research is done on the Apple campus. They invented the iOS, the operating system that runs on it’s iPads and iPods. On the other hand, the Motorola Xoom is built on the Android Operating System for tablets, Honeycomb. The Android Operating System is built by Google, which is sells to third party vendors like Motorola. Since Motorola did not make the Operating System, they have added cost that consumers will have to pay for. The Android System is really gaining popularity and Google has even launched an app store much like Apple has the iTunes store. There really is an “app” for almost anything.

Back to Education

So, imagine the possibilities of these devices in the classroom. Imagine a student carrying one that houses all of his/her textbooks. Imagine that same student creating a movie or a documentary about a specific subject. Imagine then, that student projecting and presenting to the entire class or even the entire school. Just think of the possibilities! A recent article I read even suggested the possibility of students bringing their own devices to school. Just like you have a list of “materials” needed each year for particular classes, maybe you have a list of “apps” students need to provide for your class. Each app is between $1.00 and $2.00, unless a very specific app is needed, in which the cost of the app could vary. A lot of educational apps are even free.

How to pick?

I tell those who are seriously considering purchasing these devices to go check them out first. There is an Apple Store in Omaha and you can go and see how this device works. Apple also has put stores inside of Best Buy stores. So, you could go to Best Buy and check out the Xoom and the iPad and compare them to each other.

The Future

A lot of companies are devoting time and money into smart phones and tablets and there is a huge competition among developers. Then, there is competition on the app side to develop an app that everyone needs. No matter what you or your school decides to do though, make sure you have a plan and are willing to follow through with it. The better the plan, the more bang you’ll get out of your technology purchases.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gearing up for NETA 2011!

Each year as the NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association) conference approaches, I get excited about all the possibilities this two-day conference offers. Each year, NETA brings in some very good keynoters and offers a wide variety of break out sessions. I am always amazed at how the conference unfolds each year.

Going to NETA?:
As in the past, you can use NETA’s website ( to find and select sessions that you are interested in attending. When you go to the website, look for the session search link, click on it, and you can look at the “Schedule-at-a-Glance.”  Rushton Hurley will be a keynote and featured speaker this year at the conference. We featured his website in a past newsletter ( On Friday, attendees will get to pick between Tony Vincent and Richard Byrne. We featured Richard’s website in the newsletter also ( If there are several teachers going from one district, you might consider selecting sessions you each can attend and then collaborating on notes. Another idea would be to use a Google Document in your district to take notes on sessions you attend. After the conference, your district representatives can use the document as a source for technology improvement in your district.

There are also “strands” for folks who have particular needs. A strand is a series of sessions that highlight a particular technology topic. The NETA Conference includes strands both days for tech support specialists, laptop environments, assistive technology, and more.

I find the conversations going on in the hallways between sessions, at the dinner table, and even during sessions are very valuable. Teachers and administrators from different districts get together to discuss how their schools are using different technologies. Questions get asked and a healthy discussion ensues. Those are conversations that cannot be replicated in your district. 

Not going to NETA?:
Even if you are not able to attend the NETA conference, you still can become a member or follow the conference online or both. To become a member without going to the conference, simple go to the NETA website and click the Membership button on the left. The cost of membership per year is $25. By attending the conference, your membership is included in your registration. If you do not wish to become a member, but still want to get some benefit out of the conference, you can follow the conference online. NETA uses multiple forms of social media during and after the conference. You can follow by joining the NETA facebook page, checking NETA out on Twitter, Ning, YouTube, and Flickr. The keynote presentations are recorded (if allowed by the speaker), which can be viewed via a podcast at a later date. Featured presenters are also recorded. And, if you happen to find a session you really wanted to attend, the presenters can be contacted and you can get their handouts. By doing a session search on the NETA page, you can find the session and download any materials associated with that session.

What else do I need to know about NETA?
NETA is also an ISTE affiliate. ISTE is the International Society of Technology in Education. The NETA organization joins with approximately 70 other affiliated technology associations around the world. The mission of ISTE is to advance excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology. For schools and districts, ISTE has released NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) for teachers, students, and administrators. Not familiar with these standards?  You can check them out at the ISTE site ( ISTE also offers resources, such as books, from it’s online store for districts.

See you at NETA!

Monday, January 31, 2011

What My Son did over Christmas Break

For some of us, Christmas break is a time of relaxing and spending time with family and friends. For others, it involves projects of varying kinds.   As parents, we find ourselves asking what to do to keep our kids occupied during their time off from school. We don’t want our kids to necessarily sit around and do nothing, but we also don’t want to make them do things they are not interested in doing. I would like to share with you how one of my sons chose to spend his break.

Motivation: It all began with a contest on Youtube.  My son is a big fan of Legos, and was browsing videos of some neat Lego creations.  Another kid about his age had issued a challenge for others to build a Lego candy machine and post a video of it to his Youtube channel.

Process: My son opted to build a Starburst candy machine that would give you a Starburst for a nickel. It took him several days of trial and error to build the machine, but when he finished, he had accomplished his goal: a Lego Starburst machine that would take no other coin than a nickel. It even has a trash dispenser for the wrapper. He used his iPod Nano to record a video of the project, he used iMovie to edit the video, and published the video to Youtube.

Outcome: He won the contest!  He was very pleased with the result of his hard work.  The interesting part is, the prize was recognition - a recommendation from the contest host to “subscribe” to my son’s Youtube channel, and almost 300 views of his video to date.  Of course, this success lead to several other Lego creations with videos on his own Youtube channel.

What’s the educational point? This is a great example of how kids learn in the 21st century.  In this case, video (Youtube) was used as the delivery of instruction in coming up with Lego project ideas. It was also a tool in accomplishing his goal, and was an excellent method of evaluation from his peers.  

How can teachers use video to motivate students?  The great thing about using video is it can be used cross-curriculum. From creating video book reports to viewing science experiments, from creating history reenactments to viewing specific steps in a building process, using video to deliver instruction or to record student work is a powerful technology tool!  Teachers can create a Youtube channel for their classroom’s videos with very little effort.  Is Youtube blocked at your school? There are a host of very similar video sites available to educators for free, including,, and

Website of the month:  Next Vista for Learning  An online library of free videos for learners everywhere. Their goal is to gather a set of resources to help you learn just about anything, meet people who make a difference in their communities, and even discover new parts of the world. Next Vista for Learning wants to post your educational videos online, too. Everyone has an insight to share and yours may be just what some student or teacher somewhere needs!