The Latest App Smash – OneNote and ShareX: A Great Combination

Introducing a great way to build easily followed lessons and interactive material; the OneNote Classroom Notebook and ShareX, the ultimate screen capture workshop.  ShareX allows you to sahrexOneNOtecapture still and video images from any screen and you can upload it to any possible destination on the web, all from inside the program.  OneNote allows you to build shared lessons and provides a way to present the information (the content library) as well as a way for students to securely complete and turn in assignments (the student area).  These two make a great combination.  ShareX is the best capture software I have ever used.  Find a video that you would like to use but can’t find an app or web site to download it?  ShareX to the rescue (Remember that just because you CAN download or capture a video does not mean you should.  Respect the copyright and the owners)  You can catch whole screens, whole windows, or selected areas just as fast as you can click the “Print Screen” button.  OneNote holds all this material and makes creating interactive lessons and flipped work as easy as pie.  Trust me when I tell you that I can build dozens of lessons per week that are professional looking with plenty of visual material to make learning a breeze.  You DEFINITELY need to try this.

Lights, Camera, Action…

One piece of software that can be a great benefit to students and educators alike is a free inclusion from Microsoft Windows.  The lowly Movie moviemakerMaker application. is a great addition to your educational arsenal.  Often denigrated by professional video creators, the Microsoft Movie Maker application is probably not a tool for the professional videographer.  It’s simple interface and shallow learning curve, however, make it ideal for students who have no video editing experience.  It allows the neophyte editor to have very acceptable results without spending the time necessary to learn something like Premiere Pro or Sony Vegas.

Movie maker allows students to create a video timeline and then create smooth transitions from scene to scene.  Titles are easy to add and it is possible to add primitive special effects via templates.  Video can be captured through a web cam and audio may be added and edited.  While this is not a perfect solution for a seasoned video editor, middle school and high school students alike will enjoy creating and presenting their work to an audience of their peers.

Schools that use Windows OS will have Movie Maker available and it does not require any specialized hardware.  Most schools have at least one video camera that is compatible through a USB interface or SD card.  Given these resources, students can have a ball learning to present information and ideas through the video medium.

Microsoft is NOT just for Business Anymore

certinsTonight I am offering a program geared specifically for the instructor who wishes to learn, not only more about integrating ICT (Information, Communication Technology) into their classroom, but who is also interested in becoming a better teacher in general.  Education should be geared to the learner.  We need to teach those things which are relevant to the learner’s world and beneficial to the learner’s future.  One way of getting the training that we need as teachers is through the Microsoft Certified Educator program.

Microsoft has created a curriculum that is geared toward providing more than just programs and technology for the teacher.  They provide insight into the “why” as well as the “how”.  Why do we need to integrate technology into the classroom?  Do we use technology for it’s own sake?  The curriculum takes us as teachers and helps us to become learners.  It is important for us, especially in this time of almost forced technology integration, to remember what we are trying to accomplish and why.

It is easy to get caught up in the techno-wave.  My class is building web sites, blogging, producing videos, and writing code.  GREAT!  Why?  Putting technology into a classroom because it is expected of us or because we have to spend a budget to justify it for next year is NOT the goal we are trying to accomplish.  The curriculum presented in the Certified Educator curriculum helps the teacher to understand the most important aspect of technology; when NOT to use it.

Weather or Not….

wundergroundI have an unusual spin on technology in the classroom tonight.  This is something that might not be expected in a Computer Science class and yet it is one of the most useful tools I can think of.  I am talking about an automated weather station like those available at Accurite.com  While weather stations provide an education experience and foster interest in technology and science in general, most CTE educators would be hard pressed to justify having one in the computer science room.  That is a shame.

Weather stations, aside from providing an interesting conversation piece, are an excellent source of retrievable, sortable, and useful data.  Weather stations, for the most part, will connect to a PC and provide a great way to learn about collating and manipulating scientific data  and making predictions.  This is one of the most important uses of computer technology.  Computers are wonderful tools for statistics.  Weather data is tailor made for this kind of work.  Weather data is one of the best sources of data for practice with data bases, SQL language, and spreadsheet construction and analysis.  At a cost of $150, the data generated and lesson possibilities make a weather station a great investment.  For the STEM instructors among us, building an Arduino based weather station to upload data to a classroom website or service is a great project.

A few caveats are in order.  Make sure that your weather station will store and upload data.  It is also a plus if the station can upload to a service like http://www.wunderground.com but it definitely needs to be able to store data and upload it to a spreadsheet or some other data container.  The Accurite 1036 is a great example.  If a weather station is outside of your classroom budget, many sites like wunderground and weather.com offer a data stream that can be accessed via the Internet.  Whatever the source, weather data can make teaching data analysis and storage much easier on the instructor and must more interesting for the student.

TCEA 2016: Here We Go Again

tcea2016Here I come again now Babaaayy!  I never knew what In a gad da davita meant and I was afraid to Google it just in case it was something bad and I had to quit listening to Iron Butterfly.  Anyhow, TCEA is already posting the web site for TCEA2016.  I had an outstanding time at the expo this year, and with any luck we will be taking another group in February ’16.

My 2015 presentation was a great success.  A member of TCCA was in the audience and he invited me to apply to present at the TCCA conference in October.  With any luck I will be introducing those folks to the wonder of Greenfoot next year.  The TCEA 2016 presentation window should also be opening pretty soon.  This year I am proposing two half day presentations: Modding Minecraft Made Easy and Getting Green Again: Greenfoot Java. It would be nice to have two days of presenting for next year.

Why do I care about educational technology and Computer Science you may ask. I see the opportunities that kids today have and I think back to my own educational experience. The year I graduated college, our university put in the first computer lab for general student use. I took programming with Basic and was hooked. I suspect my life would have been quite different if the current level of technology had been available to me then.  Regardless, it is important that we do everything we can to encourage student interest in technology and development in particular. Not everyone has the knack for programming but for those who do, it is better that they start early. I look forward each year to introducing students to the satisfaction that comes with seeing something they build run and work as expected.

If you are a teacher, find a reason to introduce coding into your curriculum. HourOfCode.org is a great place to start.  If you are a student, get involved, learn,  buy in.  If you are an administrator, find a teacher that is willing to try this and support them.  Give them the latitude to work technology into the curriculum.  If you are a parent, give your kids the opportunity to learn something besides facebook and twitter and instagram.  Encourage them to learn, to explore, and grow on their own.  Sign them up for a camp, let them join a club,  buy them a computer and get involved.  You never know…You might learn something as well.

You Get An A+ (Certification)

compFor my final education technology tool I am going to report on a relationship that I have become a part of through one of the most widely recognized industry certification programs available.  My school has become an authorized academy partner with Comp TIA.  The people that provide A+ certification to computer techs everywhere.  I have 12 students who, in the next few weeks, will be testing for their A+ certification.

Too often, education in America has been accused, not without cause, of lacking relevance.  We try desperately to prepare our students, ALL OUR STUDENTS, for a traditional college education when there are perfectly acceptable careers available that can easily be obtained with a high school diploma and the right training.   Too often we inflict a traditional education on students who have no inclination, aptitude or interest in a traditional college or a career that follows.  We have developed the idea that anyone who doesn’t want to attend Harvard or Yale must have some basic flaw and we label anyone who even suggests that one of our students may, in fact, not be college material as cruel and not having the student’s best interests at heart.  Nothing could be further form the truth.

The partnership with CompTIA costs nothing, and in fact, allows the school to purchase vouchers for certification exams at a greatly reduced prices.  The certifications, in turn, allow students to find rewarding and lucrative careers without the time or money involved in pursuing a traditional degree.  Don’t be caught up in the trap of trying to cram every round peg into a square hole.  Educate your students in things that they are interested in and you will set them on the path to a career they can enjoy AND make a living at.  Lets make high school relevant again and not just a stop along the way to a traditional four year degree.

Lync Up With Those Who’re No Longer With Us

We’ll keep the Microsoft train rolling a while longer by introducing a business cross-over to the academic world.  The lynccommunication package called Lync that Microsoft has graciously bundled with MS Office 365 and SharePoint.  Until this week I knew very little about Lync.  I had heard that it was an effective product for holding muti-location business meetings but I had not paused to consider the possibilities for its use in a school setting.  It struck me today as I took role in my Computer Maintenance class.  One of my best and brightest was absent and missed an exam.  I knew she was ill and at home and I knew that if she had the opportunity she would have still taken the exam and done the class work.  If only there were a way to communicate effectively with someone who was not in our classroom.  I had used Skype before but it does not lend itself to academic interaction.  Then it hit me…I had only two days ago, installed the OneNote Class Notebook Creator on our SharePoint server so the interactive part would be available to her anywhere with Internet.  What else did Microsoft offer?  Well, since we have Office 365 as our email solution and a license for SharePoint, then we already possessed Lync.  It cost nothing to set up and the app is browser based so any device with a browser will do.  Given the combination of Lync and OneNote Class Notebook, there is no reason for any reasonably motivated student to miss a lesson.  They can hear and see the classroom via the web cam.  They can interact with the class in the collaboration area, and they can complete the assignments in their own secure sections.

Lync contains a audio/video chat feature, an interactive whiteboard (though not as nice a OneNote) a text chat, the ability to use conference calls over phone lines, the ability to project PowerPoint presentations over the Internet, and it’s all browser based.  It works with anything that I have been able to throw at it; Chrome Books, Android phones, iPads, PCs.  The only thing I didn’t have to test with was a Mac laptop or desktop.  There is no reason for any student who wishes to be present in a class, to miss the lesson.  Chances are your district already has the licenses and software in place (unless you are strictly Google or Apple)  It is well worth your time to look into.

‘night All.