Saturday, July 26, 2008

Need Ideas on Ultimate Intro Flipcharts

In a week, my staff returns for a week of workshops and then the start of teaching. 14 of my staff will have a Promethean IWB for the first time. Between now and our Back to School Night in mid-August, they will be in a huge number of inservices not involving IWBs. I'm having trouble finding a time to do more than show them the most basic tools. However, parents will want to see the board in use at Back to School Night.

I'd like to set my teachers up to look great and feel confident. Since I haven't figured out how to add hours to the days, I'm thinking I'd like to create a few flip charts for them. The first would be a flipchart that they could all use with their students to help the students learn to use the board. It should be fun, engaging, and help to meet some of the teacher's first week's of school needs, such as community building, formative assessment or the establishing of routines.

The second flipchart would be a specific to each grade level. It would include a few activities to use with parents that showed how the board will be used to teach some of the content their children will be learning during the year. For example, it could have a container activity where participants recycle the fractions that are not equivalent to 2/3. Another activity could involve using the transparency feature with two photos of glaciers to create a time lapse effect to show their melting retreat. Another could be a self-checking vocabulary matching idea. And so on.

Searching the newly remodeled Promethean Planet, I was suprised to not find what I needed. I did find a few good resources to use with my teachers. You will need to create a free account at PrometheanPlanet to follow these links.

  • Activstudio Benefits was created to show off the uses of an IWB. Original target was school boards and other funding sources, but it would also be a great tool to use with teachers to give them idea of how to use their IWB.

  • Creating in Activstudio shows different techniques to designing flipcharts.

  • Layers and Groups Resource Pack includes 15 activities with detailed notes on how to use them and to adapt them to your own uses.

  • Reviewing Activstudio would be great to use after you have given your teachers some training. It uses the format of the game show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader to review concepts such as layering and the use of various tools.
So now I'd appreciate your help. I'd love to hear your ideas of what I can include in the student flipchart and the parent flipchart. I'd love to see any reasources that you have created which meet these needs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Embed Live Spreadsheet into a Web Page

I just had a Geek Moment...

As my family plans our trip to New Zealand, the need arose to have a place on the wiki to record expenses as they are accrued. For example, much to her surprise, my sister just discovered that the hotel rooms she booked for us on Stewart Island have already appeared on her Visa bill.

My first thought was to create a table on the wiki. It wouldn't have formulas, but we can all handle the math. However, as much as I love Wetpaint as a wiki platform, their tables aren't full featured. I can't figure out how to add a new row to a table that has already been created. Tabbing doesn't work. I can't find a hot place or menu that allows me to expand the table. If you know of one, please tell me.

Since that didn't seem to be a good option, I started thinking of ways to embed a spreadsheet into the wiki. I know you can embed a Google Form into a wiki and even show a live chart as people add data, but I didn't find a way to do that with Google Sheets.

Fortunately a web search pulled up an article on the Zoho blog that lead me to this post on the Digital Inspiration blog. It shows step-by-step directions for embedding a live spreadsheet onto a webpage using Zoho Sheet, a free, online spreadsheet. It even provides a link which allows viewers to download a copy of the spreadsheet to their computer.

I already have a Zoho account. I think their suite of online applications is far superior to Google's. So I...
  1. Logged in to ZohoSheet.
  2. Created a spreadsheet. (Or I could have uploaded one from my computer.)
  3. Clicked on the menu item to created code to embed the spreadsheet.
  4. Copied the code to my clipboard.
  5. Using the toolbar on my wikipage, I clicked the tool to allow me to embed a widget.
  6. I pasted the code in the box that appeared, chose whether I wanted to change the size or justification of the spreadsheet on the page, and clicked "OK."

When I saved the wiki page, the live spreadsheet appeared on the page. It is like magic! I can scroll around, add data, click on the tabs. My lovely colors, bolds, filled formulas, etc. are all there because the spreadsheet is embedded using an I-frame - something you web design gurus will understand.

As I experimented, I learned the follow things.
  • If I change the spreadsheet in Zoho Sheet, and save my changes, those changes appear on the wiki when I refresh the wiki page.
  • If I make changes to the spreadsheet on the wiki, those changes are not reflected in Zoho Sheet.
I can forsee a few potential problems embedding spreadsheets this way. First, to embed a spreadsheet you must make it public. That means that even though my wiki is private, it is humanly possible that someone could find the public spreadsheet and mess with our data. However, they would need to know the unpublished URL to get to it. This doesn't seem likely.

Another problem is that Zoho's servers can be a bit slow. That was a big problem in the past, but now I'm finding them to work just fine. I suspect they upgraded to eliminate that problem.

A final problem is that not all blogs or wikis allow you to embed i-frames. I was able to do so in Wetpaint via the "insert widget" button and here in Blogger by clicking the "Edit Html" tab and then pasting the code where I wanted the spreadsheet to appear. Check your platform's editing toolbar to see if you have that option.

So, give it a try. Add some data to my spreadsheet. And let me know if you have found other or better ways to embed a live spreadsheet into a web page.

[UPDATE: Bad news. My sister tried using it on our wiki, and as old math man says here in the comments, the spreadsheet works great until you navigate away from the page. At that point, all your data is lost. So, this is an elegant solution for data that you don't want to keep. For example, making a web site on the solar system and allowing visitors to enter their own weight in pounds or kg to find out how much they would weigh on different planets.

Can you think of any other times you wouldn't want to retain the data after the visitor leaves your site?]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

FlickrCC - Another Flickr Creative Commons Search Tool

A few weeks ago I wrote about Compfight, a helpful search engine for finding images in the Creative Commons section of Flickr. Today, on one of my groups in Diigo, I learned about FlickrCC. (Sorry, I deleted the original message so I can't say which group or who posted it.)

I really like the speed and layout of FlickrCC. Simple search field with tick boxes to indicate if you want photos you can edit and/or use commercially. Your search results appear on the left half of the window. Click on a thumbnail and the image appears on the right side of the screen. Attribribution and URL appear with it, along with links to allow you to edit the image in Picnik or on your computer. Along the bottom are links to the other sizes of the image.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I plan use this for myself. However, since it does not have a safe search feature, I plan to use Compfight with students. Do you have a favorite way to locate images in the Creative Commons domain?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Ning for Promethean Users

One of my challenges for the coming school year is to help my teachers and myself use our Promethean boards in powerful ways. Since we already have wireless mice and keyboards and data projectors, we can already perform low-level interactive white board tasks without IWBs. However, we'll have more than 20 boards in our division next year so it is time for the pilot to gain momentum, for us to use the boards for higher order thinking and deep learning.

I had hoped to garnish great ideas at NECC, but I was unable to get into most of the IWB sessions I had planned on attending. Fortunately, I stumbled across two resources via Diigo. The first is Ms. Jruczak's Instructional Technology blog. Although the blog does not yet have many entries, each one is a gem full of useful information. It is not focused specifically on IWB uses, but it worth a look.

The second resource is only hours old but I'm hoping it will grow into a rich source of support. Kim Jurczak has started a Ning for Promethean IWB users. Her vision is for this Ning to be a place where users of the Promethean IWB Activclassroom tools can collaborate and share ideas for classroom use.

Since I am needing just such a community, I joined as soon as I found it, making me member #2. Despite my poor track record with other Nings, will make an effort to be an active member. How about you? Will you be member #3?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Spiffy Wetpaint Feature

I've long been a fan of the Wetpaint wiki platform. I was originally drawn to it because it is one of the only wikis that creates visually appealing websites. Often, when I have a need for a wiki, I turn to them because their feature set is good and the wiki is so easy to use.

My family is planning a trip to New Zealand. Unfortunately, most of the planning will be done with me in Singapore and the rest of them in the USA. Right from the start, I thought this was a great use for a wiki, but other family members thought Google Docs would be easier. A few weeks ago I started a number of documents and shared them, but we've had lots of trouble with permissions and people needing to sign up for Google. (That seems to be a change. Last fall I was able to invite people who didn't have Gmail accounts to edit Google documents and they were successful. Now it wants my family members to create Google accounts to view or edit the documents.)

Last night, tired of the hassles, I set up a private Wetpaint wiki. Since it is private, my family members will need to sign up with Wetpaint, but that is quick and easy and ends right there.

As I copied the pages over, I was amazed to discover...
  • Graphics in my Google docs copied right into the wiki. No need to upload and insert them.

  • When websurfing, I could highlight diagrams from the internet and copy them directly onto the wiki. They came in as images so formatting was preserved.
In both cases, a message appeared briefly on the screen informing me that the item was being reformatted and then Voilá! It was there looking great.

I only encountered two problems. The first was when copying Google Docs tables. They did copy legibly, but not attractively. The second was with tables in Wetpaint. Unlike other wikis, I wasn't able to add a new row by tabbing. As a result, I decided to make lists for our to-dos instead of handy tables.

My mom and I worked a bit later than everyone else and already the wiki was proving useful as we captured airfare searches, flight time tables and other useful bits of info. The pages are quickly turning into a mishmash of data. They aren't pretty with all the fonts and colors from different web sites, but they are a goldmine of useful info.

What wiki platform are you using? Is it meeting your needs? What features doesn't it have that you'd like to see?

Help End the Julie Amero Debacle

Who hasn't heard of the terrible story of substitute teacher Julie Amero? If you have felt as helpless as I have to take action to help her, click on the link below to sign a petition. The link was posted to the EdTech listserv by Nancy Willard. She encourages us to sign the petition to let the prosecutors in Connecticut know that the rest of the world has not lost interest in this case.

For more information on the case...
The case against Julie Amero needs to be deleted

Let's end teacher's long nightmare