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OneNote Classroom Notebook Creator and the Flipped Classroom Environment May 14, 2015

Posted by regan222 in Education, Software, Technology.
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onenoteiconAs you may know, I am a huge proponent of the OneNote®Classroom Notebook system created by Microsoft®.  I realize that it was not originally intended for education and that it is primarily a business application, however, it works really well for information presentation as well as storage and evaluation.  Serendipitously it is ALSO a great business application that students will be familiar with when they enter the workforce in a corporate environment.

To teachers who have SharePoint® available it could not be easier to install and use the product.  Classroom creator is available as a free download in the SharePoint App store.  Someone with admin. permission can install it and then it is available for all to use.  It took me, with no previous experience, about 10 minutes to get it up and running on our domain.  Once the app is installed it is incredibly easy to follow the instructions to create notebooks, add students and teachers, and publish your class notebooks to the system.

Students find the application to be intuitive and easy to work with.  They really enjoy the collaboration area that allows their contributions to appear in real time.  I generally open that section of the Notebook on the class smart board during topic discussions.  All entries are labeled with the student’s name so inappropriate comments are never a problem.  Once discussion is complete, I direct the students to the Content Library to begin the day’s assignment.  I can either create a worksheet or lab page individually for each student or I can simply create a page in the Content Library and have the students copy and paste the questions into their personal homework sections.  The sections are completely private and available only to myself and the each student.  They do the work, I grade the work and enter a grade on the homework page that they create.  Once the grade is entered, any further entries onto that page are labeled and time-stamped to prevent students from changing grades or answers.

It is very easy to create content for lessons in OneNote.  Images can be copied and pasted easily into pages.  Video can be embedded or even recorded directly into the page.  Audio can be synchronized to follow along with text and images and other embedded objects can be made searchable with OCR.  There is a very friendly community of users accessible online to provide help, and, as a member of the Office Suite from Microsoft, the control ribbons will be very familiar to most people.  Objects like Flash or other presentation content can be linked and will open in their native players at a click.

There are some features that I wish were available, perhaps in a special educational version of OneNote.  I would like to see OneNote support OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) to allow ActiveX controls or other native support for different formats.  I would like to see VBA support so that Macro creation could be made simple.  I would really like to see a way to lock pages within the student’s notebooks to prevent unauthorized or accidental editing.  These are the only real complaints that I have with an otherwise excellent application.  Microsoft really found a winner here.


Search Engine Tips and Tricks March 20, 2015

Posted by regan222 in Computers, Education, Internet, Search Engines, Technology.
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Here is a short lesson I presented to my class on Search Engine Techniques.  Most of this information was gathered up on About.com and from other sources.

Three Tips for Getting More Precise Hits (Boolean Search Criteria)

  1. Use AND. Sometimes you may need to use more than one keyword when searching, without making a phrase. (Ex. Batman AND Robin)
  2. Use OR. Let’s say you perform a search using two keywords. (Ex. Superman OR Kryptonite)
  3. Use NOT. Sometimes by typing one keyword, you’ll get many results that have nothing to do with your topic. (Ex. Star Wars NOT Jar Jar)

These are the three best ways to get the results you want but very few people use them.  Everyone has experienced Search Engine Frustration.  You type in key words and then get hundreds of returns that have nothing to do with what you are trying to find.  The following is a short lesson how to optimize your searching and get the results you really want.  Here are 10 ways to find what you are looking for.

  1.  Use quotations marks when you are looking for specific quotes or phrases.
  2. Search within a specific web site using Google Site Search
  3. Use the INURL Syntax to search within URLs and addresses.
  4. Use basic math to search on the web.
  5. Use the Google Cheat Sheet.
  6. Search within specific domain prefixes
  7. Use Google to search for the weather.
  8. Use specific search engines for different purposes.
  9. Use Online Dictionaries.
  10. The final entry is using Tool bars.  These can be useful if you find yourself searching for the same types of things over and over.  The problem with search bars is that they take up space on your browser page and they are often tied to trojans or other malware.  I don’t recommend search bars but they can be useful if you understand the risks.

Using the links above, answer the following questions in the Homework section of your notebook.  Create a page and title it Ten Tips to Better Searching.  Paste the questions in and answer them in your own words.

  1.  What can you use to make sure that the search engine returns only pages with your search terms in exact order?
  2. What would you use if you wanted to search within our hs.whitesboroisd.org site for all things related to football? (hint: site:URL “keyphrase”)
  3.  How would you enter a search for all the web addresses that contained the word “bearcat”? (hint: inUrl: “keyword”)
  4. How can you search for references to Captain America and omit references to his shield?
  5. Use Google as a calculator to add 12456 + 8894837.
  6. What search term would you enter to search all the .gov sites for references to law enforcement? (hint site: .prefix “search terms”)
  7. What is the forcast for 3/22/2015 according to weather underground?
  8. List three book search engines.
  9. What is the format for getting a definition for a word on Google or Bing?  What is it on Yahoo?

How Smart Can A Board Really Be February 4, 2014

Posted by regan222 in Uncategorized.
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Smart boad content creation is the subject today.  Hopefully it will be as useful as yesteday’s offering.  I really feel that this technology will make education much easier if I can just get the kids to use it.


Anticipation February 3, 2014

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In an hour these halls will be filled with thousands of educators all seeking the same unatainable objective…an open bathroom and coffee. Welcome to the 2014 edition of the Texas Computor Educators Association here at the convention center in beautiful (but weird) Austin, TX. I am here today for the robotics workshop and will try to faithfully record experiences and observations for the benefit of…well..me.

Syndication for the Really Simple May 3, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Books, Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, General Ranting, News and politics.
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The family gathers around the wireless

           The Internet is rapidly transitioning from a text-based to a media based venue.  One of the most popular methods today to share information on the Internet is to establish an RSS feed to share your message with the world. 

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  It is a set of Internet protocols (or rules) for spreading information in the form of audio and video media.  It allows for devices other than PCs to download and save the content of the feed in question and allow it to be viewed/listened to.  Things like iPads, iPods, tablets, PCs, and even newer model car and home radios can access the information, most commonly through the Apple iStore.  The feed files are downloaded behind the scenes and stored on board the device until it is accessed.  The  feed is easy to set up, the media is easy to generate, and the  connection is completely reliable.  Along with social media outlets like twitter.com and facebook.com, the RSS feed is a perfect way to present information, promote a business or site, and generate steam over an issue.

The heart of an RSS feed is a document written in a format called Extensible Markup Language or XML.  This markup language allows for the entering of text that can be described like an entry in a database.  The layout is similar to HTML in that it uses tags and brackets to designate your tags.  Instead of using tags like <bold> and <center> todemark text, XML uses tags to describe what the text stands for.  If you are making a list of books, for example, you might create a tag called <author> to describe who wrote the book.  When viewed in a browser, the tab is not visible but the text is.  More importantly you can then use various database operations on the text file to search and analyze the data without having to create a database of the information.  The tags let you manipulate the data. In creating a syndication feed, only a few tags are needed in a very simple layout.  No special software of any type is needed.  I do most of mine in notepad.  XML documents must have  a proper header.  I am not going into the creation of every tag in a document but I will show you the most important ones.  You can download the example I am using, it is the XML document that feeds the news tag embedded in this page.  Right-click HERE and select “Save target as…”  Tell it to save on your desktop and you can open it in notepad and examine it at your leisure.  You can also use it as a template to make your own feeds.

The tags determine if the feed is of proper format.  If not, the browsers and devices will not be able to read the feed.  That is why it is called a protocol.  The word means rule or procedure.  If you don’t follow the rules, the feed won’t work.  Since this feed concerns audio mp3 files, we need to create tags that associate with that kind of media.  The first thing we need is a tag to designate the title fo the file.  We use the really imaginative tag <title> to designate the title of the file.  When we read the feed in a browser, the tag won’t show up but the title will be there and it will act as a link to the file.  On a PC you can click and listen.  On an iPad or iPod the file will automatically download if it has not already downloaded.  That is the great thing about RSS.  The feed only gets things you don’t already have. 

Each file needs a text description that is visible in the feed so that we know if we want to listen to it or not.  The tag we use is (once again very descriptive and imaginatively)  called <description>.  Remember, each tag must have a closing tag that relates to it.  For each <title> there must be a </title> and so on.

Download and use the file above as a template for your own RSS feed.  You will need an Internet server to host with.  Godaddy.com is a combination of best, easiest, and cheapest and I use it exclusively.  You don’t have to establish a web site but you need a directory that is accessible to the Internet.  Put your XML file and all your media into this folder and use the folder/domain name to acces it via the Internet.  If you are not familiar with registering a domain or setting up directories and links google something like “setting up a domain and web site” and you will get everything you need.  Once you have the feed set up and connected, be sure to set up an account with Apple’s iTunes so you can use it to distribute your feed.  You can also put links into every page you own or can talk to owner into.

If you own a business or publicize via social media or have any message to present to the world, you would be hard press to find an easier way to reach more people.  The iTunes app does all the promotion for you.  Just remember to get the tags right and be sure you have an iTunes account and you are on the way.  If you choose, you can forgo the iTunes completely and just publish and promote the feed yourself but iTunes is free and it is a shame not to take advantage of it.  You will need some special tags for the feed to be iTunes compatible but they are already in place in the template I have provided you.  Happy Podcasting – nite all.