Category Archives: Uncategorized

Trouble loading images?

I just transferred to a new blog hosting provider, Edublogs (practice what you preach, after all – they are a great option for schools looking to implement system-wide blogging), and I’ve managed to break my image and file links.

I’m working on fixing them. In the meantime, if you’re having trouble with dead links or broken images that inhibit your understanding of the post, get in touch with me (Twitter is the fastest way) and I’ll do what I can.

Tools for Organizing Sources

Pinterest, Diigo and Zotero help you organize the torrent of information on the web, but each is appropriate in different contexts.
Pinterest, Diigo and Zotero help you organize the torrent of information on the web, but each is appropriate in different contexts.

Last week I was researching web design best practices for my middle school tech class’ unit on HTML and web page design. There are a ton of resources – but few that give a concise and comprehensive summary in a format appropriate for my students.  Therefore, I had to clip one or two main ideas from at least a dozen different pages. I wouldn’t have been able to keep them all straight were it not for Diigo’s ability to highlight, tag, and save online sources to the cloud. But Diigo isn’t the only tool that can help you with that: Pinterest and Zotero are at least two tools aimed at casual and academic scenarios.

It’s worth knowing all of them, hence HB270: Organize your Sources:

Even at its best, searching for information on the web can be a case of “too much of a good thing” – there are so many sources that you can’t sift through them all. At its worst, web searching can be too much of a bad thing, with sources containing one or two useful facts but much more fluff. Making the research process collaborative can make it more manageable, and in this session we reviewed three free tools available that facilitate this.

Show, not Tell, with ePortfolios

ePortfolios aren’t indispensable but they can be a powerful way to show student growth. Since we’re a Google Apps school, last week I led a session on using Blogger and Google Sites to create ePortfolios.

I could tell you about growth, but it is a lot easier to see if I just show you.


From HB231: 2×2 – Two Models and Two Tools for ePortfolios:

EPortfolios can be a complicated topic, but they don’t have to be. Broadly speaking, you’ll want to decide whether you want to focus on reflection or achievement. In the jargon of ed tech, a reflection-based eportfolio is known as a “workbench” because it’s where students post their work as they do it and reflect regularly (for example, weekly). An achievement-based portfolio is known as a “showcase” because it is designed to show the student’s best work rather than the process. Of course, ePortfolios may take elements from each of these models.

Google Sites for Student Projects

Our teachers asked for more training on using Google Apps. I draw from the very thorough materials at the Apps User Group for my sessions, with modifications made based on my student populations. From HB235 Creating Webpages with Google Sites:

PowerPoint is the most misused tool in ed tech. How many PowerPoints have you see where the student has tried to cram all the information they know onto the slide, then completely neglect their speaking?

Don’t get me wrong – cramming information into a product has its place in the classroom. Just not in Powerpoint. If you want to give students the opportunity to synthesize what they know in a variety of formats (written, visual, etc), then consider asking them to make a website.

Intermediate Video Production in a BYOD Environment

Last week we talked about making quality student video projects in regular classes as part of a BYOD environment. From HippoBytes HB250: Intermediate Video Production:

Video projects are fun to make, can assess students’ content knowledge, and help them practice new skills.

Too often, they are also poorly done. The fact that having a phone or tablet makes it easy to film something does not also mean that it is easy to make a good video.

There are, however, easy-to-teach principles that will help your students shoot and edit great video. This session taught us how.

Worst. Flight. Ever.

When I was in high school, at the beginning of every summer we would take a 6am Northwest Airlines flight out of Don Muang Airport to SeaTac via Narita. It involved waking up at 3am, hauling four to six suitcases into a Toyota Hiace van, and spending the next 1-2 hours shuffling bleary-eyed through the airport formalities. I used to think that was as hard as airplane travel got. Then, I moved to Africa. Continue reading Worst. Flight. Ever.

Powerful Presentations

My latest HippoBytes was about helping students to deliver powerful presentations, like the students in the video below:

From HB120: Powerful Presentations:

Before we tell our students to write essays, we teach them to write paragraphs. Before we tell them to play soccer, we teach them how to handle the ball. Before we tell them to do a science experiment, we teach them about safety and procedures. Yet so often we tell them to do presentations without actually teaching them how to present. And knowing how to make a Powerpoint is not the same thing as knowing how to present. In this session, we learned four principles for creating and delivering powerful presentations.

Setting Up Privileged Hosts in pfSense

We follow a whitelisting policy on our network, only allowing hosts through certain ports on the firewall, like 80 for HTTP and 443 for HTTPS. All other ports are blocked between 7am and 3pm. This helps us cut down on unwanted traffic, especially BitTorrent.

However, there are situations where we want to allow a host on the network access to wider range of ports. For example, Skype uses random ports to communicate; it’s not possible to whitelist it (unless you get Layer7 traffic shaping to work, which last I heard was dicey). When our teachers do Mystery Skypes or our director wants to interview prospective candidates they need unrestricted access through the firewall.

To do this, we set up a special IP address that has unlimited access, and assign that IP address to the computer we want using a static DHCP lease. What follows are the steps to do it. Continue reading Setting Up Privileged Hosts in pfSense

Optimal Workflow for Digital Storytelling

Just ran another session on digital storytelling. The big takeaway is that good workflows can maximize your students’ productivity. Teachers will already know how to teach the writing process, but transforming that into a multimedia production can require a lot of time teaching tech. By breaking the process down into distinct tasks, we leave time to focus on what matters the most: the message.

From HB243: Digital Storytelling:

Continuing on our theme of visual literacy, this session focused on how you can use video to practice research and citation skills, narrative or informational storytelling, and to provide students with an alternative, media-rich way to demonstrate knowledge of content standards. The vehicle for doing these things isdigital storytelling, which strictly speaking is using a combination of images and voiceover to tell an aspect of your life story, but can be more loosely thought of as using images and audio to communicate an important message to an audience.

Get Visual

A poster created with Canva, which includes many built-in elements like the red bars and purple circle frame.

I was going to start by talking about visual literacy as a new buzzword, but the skill of representing information visually is actually a developed field. The pie chart was first developed by William Playfair in 1801, and in 1858 Florence Nightingale create the world’s first infographic to impress upon Parliament the severity of British troop mortality in the Crimea1. Most standards relate to written literacy, with good cause, but being persuasive across multiple formats can only help our students. With that in mind, two of my recent trainings addressed using digital posters, graphic design, and image editing using browser-based tools in lieu of expensive, difficult-to-manage software:

HippoBytes HB241: Intro to Image Editing

Image editing programs are an under-appreciated tool. When I wanted to join the Hilton health club in Kuwait under the married couples’ rate, I was able to use Adobe Photoshop to create a marriage certificate by altering Barack Obama’s (available online) to have my name and my fake wife’s instead, saving me hundreds of dollars. There are numerous classroom applications as well, from creating posters to propaganda to collages. In this session we learned the basic principles underlying all image-editing programs, and applied those programs using the free web app Pixlr Editor.

HippoBytes HB242: Digital Canvas

Writing is a critical skills for success. It’s also important, though, to give students the opportunity to access content and show their understanding in a variety of ways, whether to keep weak writers engaged or to work on new skills such as visual literacy. The classic poster is an assignment that can be easily updated and extended to work with digital tools.

In this session, we went through three components of creating visualizations of knowledge (my fancy word for “posters”): finding Creative Commons-licensed images, learning and applying basic graphic design principles, and using a tool appropriate to the task.