Showing posts from February, 2011

Free Live Tutoring for Students!

Okay, before you get too excited, let me rephrase the title - some students can get free live tutoring. It depends on where you live or whether or not you're part of a military family.

This is all from a great website called  This site offers live tutors in four content areas (math, science, social studies, and English) in all grade levels. The tutors are extremely knowledgeable and won't just give students the answers - they actually help the student reach answers and understand the content! They can also proofread papers and offer constructive feedback.

Pricing plans start at $35 a month for one hour of help a month, but ... here comes the free part! Many cities around the country are paying for the service for library card holders! In San Antonio, you can access through the library portal and get free help by entering your library card number! Check your local public library to see if it's offered in your area.

Or, if you are a military fa…

Friday Freebie - An App You Can Talk To!

This week's "Friday Freebie" is an app I found for my iPhone and my iPad that had made life much simpler! It's Dragon Dictation and it's a free program that allows you to talk into your device and it transcribes everything you say into text.  It's an amazing little product and I've been surprised at just how accurately it transcribes. In fact,  I'm not typing any of this blog entry today. I've "talked" all this into my iPhone!

On the iPhone, you can e-mail your transcribed text to someone, send it as an SMS message, or copy and paste it into another program. The iPad has additional features like saving your text for use at later time. It doesn't add punctuation automatically, but you can add it by simply saying "comma", "period", "exclamation point", etc.

Free? Simple to use? Makes life easier? This Friday Freebie is a no-brainer!

Cutting the Cord in the Digital Age

I received this post on my Facebook wall from my daughter Ariana, a sophomore at UT Austin:
You wrote a blog post about Aaron (my son) .... I have yet to see one about me. :( So Ariana, this one's for you!

In today's digital age, parents who send their kids off to college have the ability to stay connected like never before. With e-mail, texting, Facebook, Skype, and other tools, we can digitally hover over our kids as if they were still in their bedrooms at home. With Ariana, we can check her daily progress on Facebook. We can Skype with her face-to-face like she's in the room with us. On occasion, I proofread her papers by sharing her computer screen.

When "our generation" left for college, there were no cell phones, there was no Internet. An occasional collect call home (and the occasional visit to wash our clothes) were our only check-ins with the home front. We were "free" to experience life on our own. If we had our roommates trained right, they kn…

Information Fluency and InfoWhelm!

In an energetic day-long presentation On February 21st, author and educator Ian Jukes addressed the faculty and staff of Fort Sam Houston ISD. It was an incredible day filled with startling facts about the future of technology, our students, and our emerging new roles as educators. In the end, we seemed to have more questions than answers, but it was great "food for thought."

One of Jukes' projects is his 21st Century Fluency Project, an online resource for educators "designed to cultivate 21st century fluencies while fostering engagement and adventure in the learning experience." I've posted once before about all five of Jukes' fluencies, but want to focus on Information Fluency here.

Jukes is quick to point out that, with the wealth of digital information, we are experiencing "InfoWhelm". That is, information is growing at an exponential growth and we live in a world of disposable information. In 2003, there were about 5 exabytes of digital…

Teachers - If you can't post something nice, then don't post anything at all.

On my way back from Austin today I was listening to the radio and heard yet another story about a teacher suspended for comments made online. This particular teacher posted insulting comments about parents she has dealt with on her Facebook account. This incident is on the heels of another teacher who was placed on leave for comments she made on her blog. She had posted things she would say to parents about their kids if she had the chance. Trust me, they were not nice.

Both these teachers, and others before them, have cited "Freedom of Speech" laws and have claimed their school districts should have no say in what they post on their private social networking accounts.

But they're missing a huge point here - social network accounts are not private. While one can add some privacy settings to their accounts, the fact is they are posting this information on the most easily assessable network in the world! When you post something online, anyone - colleagues, students, parent…

Friday Freebie: Make Some Beautiful Music!

Want an easy (and FREE) way to edit sound? I know many people use Audacity and Mac folks are extremely fond of GarageBand, but there's an online tool that's just as easy and has some really nice features.
Head on over to Aviary (  and you'll find a suite of free editing tools. Each tool is named after a bird (thus, the name "Aviary.") There's Phoenix (the image editor), Toucan (the color editor), Peacock (the effects editor), and more. But my favorite is Myna, the sound and music editor.
Myna allows you to mix multi-track recordings. There are available music loops offered and you can record your own voice and upload to your library. Add automated fades ands pans, throw in some effects like reverb and delay and you've got yourself a cool music mix! You can even mixdown your creation and download it as an mp3! You need to create an account, but it's free and you'll be able to save all your work online. It is a ton of fun!
I put together…

Rock Melt Rocks!

As many of you well know, there are many ways to "surf the net." Most people use Internet Explorer, some prefer "Mozilla Firefox." You'll see some using "Google Chrome" and Mac users love "Safari." And for many of you, Facebook is the best way to keep in touch with friends and family.

Wouldn't it be great if we could browse our favorite sites and stay connected to friends at the same time? Well, say no more - Rock Melt is here. This new browser is a happy marriage between browsing and social networking. It's powered by Chromium, the same software that powers Google Chrome, but with Rock Melt, you log in to your Facebook account when it launches.

Then, while you flip through sites, your Facebook friends profile pics are shown on the left "sidebar." Hover over their pic at any time to see their latest status update. On the right "sidebar" reside your other favorite sites and RSS feeds. My right sidebar includes Face…

Homework? There's an app for that.

In my ever present struggle to help my son keep up with his class assignments, I had idea that just might help. Emphasis on the word "might."

He is always misplacing his agenda, so that tool doesn't help in keeping track of assignments, tests, and projects. But his Android-based Evo phone is always at his side. So, we did a quick Internet search for student organizing apps for his phone and, as expected, found a plethora of applications. A+ Homework, Homework, and Grades are just a few of the many that we found. My son downloaded Homework. Its a sleek looking app that, hopefully, will inspire him to enter his assignments. Reminder alerts could also help him remember due dates and upcoming tests.

iPhone users also have help at their fingertips. My Homework and iStudiez were the two that continually popped up when I searched.

Some of these are completely free, some have both free and paid versions, and some are paid versions only. None are very expensive.

I'll let you …

A Late Friday Freebie

I guess TCEA had me so busy, I forgot to post this week's "Friday Freebie", so you're getting a belated one this week. Belated, but well worth it.

When my students and I presented our breakout session at TCEA, we used a terrific free site, Today's Meet  ( This free site allows you to quickly and easily create an online "backchannel" room that will allow your audience to post real-time comments and questions during your presentation. And the really cool things is, there is absolutely no registration required (by you or your audience). Our audience was able to ask us questions "on the fly" and we were able to address their questions during our presentation.

Tzo use this great resource, simply go to the site, name your room, decide how long you want it to stay active, and create your website. Then, give your audience the web address and they can post away! Ours was simply

I can see use of t…

21st Century Fluencies - What We Should Be Teaching Our Students

I've been reading Living on the Future Edge: The Impact of Global Exponential Trends on Education in the 21st Century by Ian Jukes. It 's a fascinating look at technology and its current and future effect on education. Jukes carefully examines the exponential growth of technology, our current state of affairs in education, and where we need to focus efforts to prepare our students for their future.

Jukes bluntly points out that our current educational institutions are based on an industrial society and on outdated paradigms. After illustrating the rapid growth of technology, Jukes clearly states the case for change in how we teach. In my favorite passage from the book (thus far), Jukes states that "we need to prepare our students for their futurenot our past." (Jukes, Kindle Location 2385) 

In his chapter on "New Skills for a New World", Jukes outlines the skills today's youth will need to succeed in their future - they are the skills he calls "The …

This is One Proud Techology Director!

Early this morning at the TCEA conference in Austin, my five technology student interns and I presented a concurrent season on "Creating Video Tutorials using TechSmith's Jing!" Jing is an amazing tool and you can find our PowerPoint presentation and all related links in the "Using Jing" pages section of this blog. But, that's not what this blog entry is about.

What this entry is about is the incredible pride I felt when my student interns presented today. Their poise, their presentation of the material, and their professionalism is what made our session successful. Not only were they knowledgeable about the software, but their wonderful personalities came through brilliantly in their delivery. Several attendees commented that the students did a remarkable job in the session.

It didn't hurt  that  the night before, they passed out fliers advertising their session in a shameless attempt of self-promotion! It apparently helped attract quite a few of our …

A Story You'll Never See on TV

GREAT STUDENTS ENJOY AN EVENING OUT"On Saturday night at a downtown San Antonio hotel, close to 200 students gathered together for a celebration. The boys were dressed immaculately and the young ladies looked lovely in their elegant dresses.All the students attending the event behaved wonderfully. No one was under the influence of alcohol. No one had drugs. There were no fights.The boys seated their dates at the beginning of the evening. When the American flag was posted,  every student stood in solemn respect. All the students enjoyed the dinner and dance that they had all worked hard to plan for. The teachers and administrators in attendance enjoyed the company of the kids and a good time was has by all."That's a story you'll never see on TV. But that's exactly what happened at this year's Military Ball at Cole High School. It's what happens over and over again in schools all around our city, our state, our country. Students behave exactly how we ask th…

Friday Freebie - DropBox - The app I can't live without!

This week's Friday Freebie is the one application I simply can't do without. I use it every day!

Dropbox,, is an online backup service that allows you to back up documents, pictures, video, or anything on your computer. There are a lot of back up services online, but what sets Dropbox apart is the Dropbox utility you install on your computers.

After creating a free account (2 GB of space), you can download the Dropbox application on any computer you want synced to your account. You can install Dropbox on as many computers as you want, PC or Mac. The application creates a Dropbox folder on you computer. Then, any file you save in your Dropbox folder is backed up online and downloaded to every machine that has Dropbox on it! Create a document at work, save it Dropbox, and it's instantly on your computer at home! I currently have nine different devices synced to Dropbox. It's amazing.

Make a mistake and really screw up a document? No problem. Go to…

I'll Take "The Future is Now" for 500, Alex.

In 1997, "Deep Blue" - an IBM supercomputer - successfully defeated World Champion chess master Gary Kasparov. It was revolutionary at the time. Today, we can play chess on our iPhones and we think nothing of it.

Well this month (February 14-16 to be exact), IBM will attempt to wow us again. "Watson", the newest supercomputer from IBM, will take on Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in the Jeopardy IBM Challenge. What makes this competition so incredible is the scope and breadth of information Watson must be able to access. As we all know, categories in Jeopardy run the gamut and the clues given are in answer form and sometimes include puns and hidden hints.

Watson will process all this information through voice recognition. No one will type in the clues for Watson. The computer will simply "listen" to Alex Trebek and analyze its extensive database, buzz in, and deliver the response in the form of a question.

Ask me, and this is a little scar…