TCEA Day 2 Success!

liveJust came back from a great time at TCEA presenting Arduino to some of the best teachers in the state.  We covered the basics of circuit design and building withe a bread-board.  We learned the fundamentals of making an Arduino sketch and the basic syntax for coding.  The people who shared my class were the absolute best.  They got it.  They could see how using this type of technology in a classroom might inspire a student to pursue a career and find a satisfying path in life.  What else matters?

In the end, I think that is my calling.  I’m not sure I will ever be a great teacher that turns out to be incredibly brilliant at whatever it is that I am teaching.  On the other hand, I hope that some day a student will come to me and say, “Ya know Mr. White, it was what I got to do in your class and the toys we played with that inspired me to become a famous engineer and rocket scientist.  Here’s $1,000,000 to express my appreciation.”  Well, maybe that last part might be stretching it but still….

Meanwhile I will keep doing my best to get toys for my students.  Right now my primary focus is going to be video related.  If you think it would be a good idea to present live streaming techniques for classrooms then do me a favor and comment below.  Say,”Mr. White…or if you are out of High School, call me Regan, I would like to see information about how to produce and edit video and live stream footage to YouTube.”  Actually I am going to continue presenting information like that anyhow but it is nice to know that some people actually want it.


Useful Skills in Canvas

Canvas_vertical_colorDuring this edition of Technology in Education I will demonstrate the easiest method (that I know of anyhow) to integrate video into Canvas pages.  This technique will work with YouTube, Microsoft SharePoint, or any other video hosting service that allows embedding via the iframe tag.  Once again we will be using the HTML editor.First we need to select the video we wish to embed into the page we are editing.  On YouTube, videos that are available for embedding, as most are, will have a link to create the embed code for you.  You will merely need to copy this code and paste it into the html already in your page.  If we wish to include this video from OnRamps, for example, we first need to find it on YouTube…chrome_2017-03-10_17-22-58

Once we have located our video we need to find the “Share” link located directly under the title…

chrome_2017-03-10_17-26-10As you can see, the “Share” link is marked with a curved arrow and the word “Share”.





Clicking that link will reveal the sharing options we can make use of. The option we want to select is “Embed”.


Selecting “Embed” will generate a snippet of html code containing our “iframe” that will allow us to embed the video into our page and have it play as though it were part of the page we are creating.  We need to copy the highlighted code and then paste it into the page we are editing using the HTML Editor.


Once the code is pasted into our page’s html we can click the “Save” button and view the results of our work…


Your students will be able to watch this video, assuming they have access to YouTube, without the distraction of the “Up Next” list along the right border of the page.  .


They can access only the material that you want them to view.  Be aware that if the video is hosted on a secure server like Microsoft SharePoint, your students may have to provide a username and password to access the content.  If you look carefully at the code pasted in the example above you will notice that it says rather than as the source of the video.  This is because I am forced to download all videos originating from YouTube and re-host them on our SharePoint video server because students at my school do not have unlimited access to the YouTube site.  It does not matter what source you use, as long as their material is available via an “iframe”

If the material in this post has been of any help, please leave a like a comment, if nothing else, to let me know you are out there 🙂


#TCEA16 Reflections

tcea2016I just got in from unpacking the car after an exhausting and thrilling week at TCEA’s state-wide convention in Austin, TX and now I have a moment to pause and sort out my thoughts before I go take a nap.  (As you might suspect, this will be a short post.  I really need the nap.)

First let me say that there is a great deal of talent, passion, and enthusiasm for technology in education in Texas.  I have spent the week with several thousand people who genuinely care about educating YOUR children.  Public school teachers in Texas are not lazy by any stretch of the imagination.  They are not uncaring.  They want nothing more out of life than to see your child succeed.  They work in the face of impossible odds and with very little in the way of appreciation, either financial or social.  They don’t need a lot.  Texas teachers will teach your kids using old fashioned text books, pen and ink, or the newest SMART board and laptop.  They don’t need a lot but they make use of anything and everything.  This week I saw people using computers and robotics and I saw people using rubber bands and paper clips.  Each was just a excited and committed as the other.  Both groups are now home and reinvigorated and ready to teach on Monday, or at least they will be ready after a good night’s sleep.

To all the teachers who have spent the last week at TCEA I have some suggestions that will make the experience a bit more meaningful…

  1.  Sit down ASAP and write down your impressions and thoughts about the past week.  Don’t let all that experience go to waste.  If you met someone interesting or who offered worthwhile information, write down their contact information and enter it into your phone or email address book.  Make a committment to contact them and continue the relationship.
  2. Recopy any notes that you may have taken.  Use OneNote or some other organizational aid to put what you learned in order.  Don’t let all those brochures and handouts get wadded up into the bottom of a suitcase and tossed out with the trash.  Organize what you brought back.
  3. Commit now to work next year.  We need volunteers.  Every member should spend at least one session as a facilitator or a worker at the TCEA booth or something.  Much of the work for this convention is done by a very few people.  Be one of them.  Besides you get a really cool T-shirt that is different from everyone else’s and it is not one that can be bought or given as a door prize.  The only way to get an “I can help you get connected” T-shirt is to earn it (or you could mug someone else who earned one but that would not be very nice).
  4. REST this weekend.  Sleep late tomorrow.  This convention stuff takes it out of you.  Be ready to get busy on Monday.  Get some sleep.  Take a break tomorrow.
  5. Pick three things that really impressed you and implement or involve them in your classroom.  Don’t try to cram everything in your notes into your daily routine but do incorporate three things.  If one doesn’t work, choose another but you should be able to add three tools to your belt that will make your job easier, better, more effective, or more fun.  Write the other things down and keep them for later but make sure you add three things when you go back to work.
  6. And finally, the most important thing you can do is go back to school and share what you learned.  This is the purpose of the convention in a nutshell.  “Learn and then Teach”.  You have been given a great many opportunities, tools, and tips; share them.  Give a class on something that impressed you.  Build a document that all the teachers from your school can access.  Just don’t waste what you’ve been given.

Well that is my take on it anyhow.  I am going to start organizing my notes while I can still keep my eyes open and I will see you in the classroom on Monday.

Remind Me Again

As teachers we are constantly needing to communicate with students, other teachers, parents, and other stake holders in the educational process.


Great care must be taken to secure the student’s contact information and protect yourself from potentially career threatening liabilities.  Remind101 (now makes the process easy and secure.

Remind is a web site using the twitter engine to send text messages to groups of students, parents, or anyone you choose.  The text messages are sent from a third party phone number and can not be replied to in any way.  While it may seem a bit frustrating at first, you can see how this is necessary to protect both student and teacher from any possible hint of impropriety.  The message is sent from the web site by the teacher to groups of students.  Each students receives the same message.  It is impossible to sent a private message to a single student.

Remind is a free service with basically unlimited group creation and student messaging.  It is also possible to embed HTML widgets into class web pages and blog sites to show the last message sent.  Students, parents, or other recipients must register at the web site or they may send a text to a number that the web site provides in order to sign up for a specific class.  Students who have multiple teachers using the service will get all their messages from the same number.

If you are sending SMS private messages to your student’s personal phones or devices you are placing your career and reputation at great risk.  Most schools have strict rules against this practice for good reason.  To avoid the liability and still provide the information your students need, check out  You might find it worth your while.

Get in Kahoots!!


One of the best uses of technology in a classroom setting is to facilitate engagement in the audience.  Students retain more when they are authentically interested in and invested in the lessons we are presenting.  Technology can make presentations more interesting and thus easier to retain.

One tool that I have found to fill this role is an online review and quiz creation tool called Kahoot.  The URL is and accounts are available for no cost.  This site allows an instructor to create interesting and interactive short quizzes that students may participate in from any Internet enabled device.  I have tested it with iPhones, Android, Chromebooks, Surfaces, and traditional computers, and all will work perfectly.  The presentation is energetic and fast-paced.  The content environment is very similar to a video game.  Every student to whom I have presented these activities has pronounced them a success.

The process is simple and intuitive.  The instructor creates a short quiz using questions of their own design as well as images that support the content.  If you can’t find an image for a particular question, Kahoot will supply one.  Once the quiz is built, Kahoot generates a random access code and provides a URL for the students to log in.  When they access the site they are required to enter a name.  Part of the fun is allowing the student to select their own username rather than limiting them to the name they were given at birth.  As the students log on, their usernames appear on the web site, which should be visible to all in the class via a screen or white board.  Either will work.  When all participants have logged in, the quiz may be started by means of a button on the main screen.  Review questions are presented on the main screen at short intervals, maybe 30 seconds.  The time limit may be changed according to the instructor’s wishes.  The students read the questions from the main screen but THEIR device shows a simple interface of four buttons.  When a question appears, the students have a limited amount of time to select one of the buttons.  When all students have answered, or the time has expired, the correct answer is automatically displayed and the page moves on to the next question.  This continues, along with a sound track of lively music, until all questions have been answered.  The overall experience is very much like a fast-paced video game.  By the third or fourth question, most, if not all, students are authentically engaged in the learning process.  I have seen a marked improvement in test scores when using this tool as a review compared to the traditional pen and paper assignment method.

When selecting a piece of technology to use in the classroom it is important to realize that different tools are for different purposes.  The questions in Kahoot must, of necessity, be short, as the engine that makes this site work is Twitter.  This is a tool designed for review and reinforcement.  It is not a place to present new material or assign questions that require extended answers.  For an application like that, a site like, which allows for extended questions and detailed answers as well as embedded content, would be more appropriate.  If, however, you need to review your students for a chapter or unit vocabulary test for example, then this site is perfect.

I am seeing a good bit of criticism today concerning the ever expanding role of technology in the classroom.  I am also seeing students who are learning to read at 4 or 5 instead of 6 years old.  Many people, particularly older folks, sneer at more modern educational methods as though somehow they are inferior to the “good old days”.  Life in the now makes more and different demands on those who live it, and education must necessarily change to meet those demands.  Don’t let anyone intimidate you away from trying new and different methods of teaching.  Tailor the method to the audience,  make sure the content is there, and you are guaranteed success.

Tools for Teachers


I am starting a new series of blog entries aimed at providing reviews for some of my favorite teacher technology tools.  Hopefully it will be useful to others of my profession.  If nothing else, it might save you some time by showing you what you don’t want to use.

Tonight our first entry will concern a tool that I have used for several years now to create online content and evaluations. is a web site that allows the user to import class rosters, build games, activities, and quizzes, and then compile the results into a grade book.  Students are provided a unique user name and password and must log in for the activities to be credited to them.  This is a paid application that I cover out of my own pocket.  The cost is only about $40 per year.  It is well worth the price.  Using this site it is possible to create engaging review games like Hangman, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, virtual flash cards, Battleship, Concentration, and many others.  The games are all content based and provide and thorough and engaging review.  It is also possible to create online quizzes and formal evaluations involving true/false, multiple choice, matching, short answer, and essay questions.  The quizzes and activities with absolute answers (eg. multiple choice or matching questions) grade themselves.  The written questions (eg. short answer or essay) may then be graded by the instructor.  It is possible to embed video, PowerPoint, Flash, and other interactive content directly into the activities to provide a guided learning environment.  For all you flippers out there, this is an excellent tool to provide guided instruction outside of the classroom.  Images, sounds, and other files may be embedded into the activities as instructional material or feedback.

There is an extensive online community to provide support and ideas for the new user.  It is possible to share activities between instructors so if you need inspiration for building a lesson, something is always available and people are willing to help.  Questions may be imported via text files and stored as question banks for year to year continuity.  Every part of the quiz or activity is HTML and LaTex enabled to add a personal touch or emphasis to the questions.  Grading of the questions that require review is simple and different point values may be assigned to each question to provide emphasis.  Students may work the assignments multiple times or be limited to one time only for testing purposes.  Of all the online assignment environments I have used, this is the most complete and the easiest to get started and become adept at.

Free evaluation memberships are available and the cost for a full membership is very reasonable.  I have used for the past 4 years and I will continue to use it for the foreseeable future.  It has allowed me to convert to an almost completely paperless classroom environment, and is well worth the time to evaluate.  I would highly recommend this site to any educator in almost any grade level.  High school students are engaged by the more complex games and younger students will find activities to match their level of development.  All in all, and excellent educational tool.

Update: To this point…

education kidIt is now exactly three weeks since the 2014/15 school year began.  I have been teaching Computer Science/Programming for approximately 105 class periods now.  Such are my views to this point:

1.  This is MUCH nicer than teaching Biology.  I taught Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Aquatic Science, and Pre-AP Biology for 7 years.  Each of those subjects is a required core that every student must slog through in order to graduate.  I now teach electives.  Imagine…most of my students are actually INTERESTED in the material.  You can’t imagine what that does to the teaching process.  Do we NEED to educate every student in ALL the sciences?  Do they all need classical physics?  Do they all need to know how to balance an equation?  Does being able to do these things qualify us as educated?  The more I am exposed to public education, the more I am convinced that we are doing it wrong.  Texas has, for the past 20 or 30 years, been of the opinion that any person who left High School with any desire but to go to Harvard Med and become a brain surgeon was somehow defective.  In the last year, House Bill 5 has been a HUGE step forward in education and a HUGE step away from that silly notion.  Not every student is college material.  <gasp>  I know that is a 50’s stereotype and, in our ridiculously uber-PC world, considered tantamount to slander but it is the truth.  The percentage of students passing from Freshman to Sophomore in a traditional four year university runs about 30 percent.  7 out of 10 kids go off to college, fail out or loose interest, and come home to the military, trade school, or McDonalds. (This does not hold true for schools like Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Stanford, or other “ivy league” universities.  These stats are attributed to the University of Texas at Austin and other Division I public colleges.)   The percentage of students who survive from Sophomore to Junior, however, turns that statistic almost completely on its head.  Meaning that most of the people who go off to college fail out but the ones who survive the first year are almost assured of graduating.  It’s not the system or lack of preparation or even fluoride in drinking water, most of these kids are not able to handle the work load or just flat don’t have the interest in those fields of study.  They didn’t have it in High School and they don’t develop it by going off to a four year college.  On the other hand, many of those self-same college “failures” do extremely well in vo-tech training or some other none traditional path to education.  Many of the best computer programmers in the gaming industry are self-taught.  It’s not about being smart or dumb, it is about being interested in the material you are trying to learn.  Nothing is more boring than listening to someone talk about something you have no interest in what so ever.  Pedagogy tells us that we need to engage our students with awe inspiring lessons and snappy edu-tainment presentations to hold their attention.  I believe we need to find their interests and educate them along those lines.  Some people REALLY just want to fix cars.  Some people like to build houses.  Some people can install and repair home appliances and are good at it.  I say we encourage them and train them to do what they like.

2.  Spending priorities in public school are the cause of many of our budget issues.  We spend an incredible amount of money on athletic stadiums, extracurricular activities, and programs that have little to nothing to do with education.  A very small percentage of the yearly budget is actually spent in the classroom.  I am not, in any way, anti-sports.  I was an athlete for all of my public school years until I determined that I had more talent in music than sports and moved to band.  These programs build character, encourage physical fitness (which we desperately need in America’s youth) and do all the Norman Rockwell clichés that you have heard for all your life.  However, they are NOT, and should NOT be, the primary focus of education.  Why then,  are they the primary focus of our spending?  Only about 300 players per year, of all the thousands of college football players in all the colleges in the US, make it to the NFL combine.  A tiny fraction of those get chosen.  The odds of even making it into college football are just a few thousand out of the millions of high players around the country, and yet the vast majority of money in a school budget goes to, at least in Texas, the football team.  Stadiums that would rival most colleges are found in the tiniest of Single-A schools.  Those same schools are having trouble keeping math, science, or vo-tech teachers because they don’t pay enough, and unlike coaches, math and science teachers don’t get stipends even though they spend many hours over40 per week doing the job.  We also spend a large portion of the yearly budget on benevolence and support for under privileged and economically disadvantaged kids.  I know… your heart bleeds for them every time you see one without a coat on a cold day but teachers are NOT parents.  We should not try to take the place of parents.  The argument runs that the student’s basic needs must be met in order to be able to excel at education but there are government agencies and departments geared to provide those things MUCH more efficiently than schools.  We should let them do their job.  THEY have the budget for it.  We see a student in need and we IMMEDIATELY refer them to the proper agency in social welfare to handle those things.  When the student’s environment is stable THEN they return to education.  Given the ease at which on-line and distance education are becoming mainstream, it is unnecessary for them to even miss a class.  Also, involving outside government agencies holds parents accountable.   Once again…Teachers are NOT Mom and Dad.  Parents need to be held responsible for the way they raise their kids.

3.  (Let’s just see if I can offend EVERYONE tonight.)  Teacher evaluation and accountability is critical.  However, student performance should be the last thing we base it on.  As was mentioned above, a great many students, at least at the High School level, are completely disinterested in the material being presented.  It is nearly impossible to force a disinterested student to succeed.  No two students are alike.  No two classes of students are alike and yet we look at this year’s class and compare their scores to last years and the year before and expect to see a constant increase.  I am sorry to inform you that, in spite of what you may have read in the Declaration of Independence, not all people are created equal.  Bell curve distribution does not always hold true, especially in very small to medium sized schools.  You have good years and bad years.  It is unfair to the student as well as the teacher to expect this year’s freshman to perform at a higher level than last year’s crop and yet that is exactly how we judge education.  If we are going to continue in this manner then I propose we start an evaluation system for lawmakers as well.  We can judge them on the yearly performance of major economic indicators like the GNP or the unemployment rate in their area.  If the economy does not get better every year then they need to be retrained…oops how silly of me…lawmakers require no special training.  They just need to be popular.  Hmmm  I wonder what is wrong with that picture??