Friday, May 23, 2008

Ed Articles and Firefox

Before I begin my blog on Firefox - I wanted to share a couple of excellent educational articles and blogs I came across this week.

The first is an article on eSchool News about scientists who have created an educational video game that helps students explore and learn about the immune system. Very good read:;_hbguid=4609205f-a221-4478-8d09-80bcfe89aecc

The second is an educational blog I found through the micro-blogging tool I use called Twitter: on to Firefox 3.0 RC1.

I installed and have been running Firefox 3.0 RC1 on my home PC for over a week now. I was very impressed with the download and installation - smooth. The new layout and features (location bar autocomplete, full page zoom and bookmark restore) are an improvement. My initial concern was not being able to use a few familiar extensions (fireshot and clipmarks) - however those were soon added.

A fellow CIO utilizes Zemanta for suggesting pictures, links and articles that relate to your blog. This extension was not available immediately with the new release either.

Speed is amazing with 3.0. Going from IE7 to Firefox 2.0 was an amazing speed difference, and I almost noticed the same increase going from 2.0 to 3.0.

One new feature in the install is Firefox does ask if you want it to be the default browser. In previous versions, you weren't asked this until after you had installed and launched the browser for the first time. Firefox is attempting to slip that one past us. :)

Overall...Firefox 3.0 RC1 is fast, reliable and in my opinion soon to be the best available browser.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Google Tools / Educators

Over the past few years Google has expanded from an Internet Search Engine to a company that provides resources and tools for a variety of users. Everything from Google Docs to SketchUp to Blogger provides a tool that enhances and enriches our online experience.

Google also has a site specifically for educators designed to showcase their tools that educators can utilize in their classroom.

This site focuses on Google Earth, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail and other educational related applications. The site also includes classroom activities as well as teacher guides for implementing these tools. Here are some specific examples of how these applications can impact the classroom:

Google Earth is a satellite imagery-based mapping product that lets users view the earth from space or at street level and is essentially a three-dimensional model of the planet that users can grab, spin, and manipulate. Different versions offer tools for measuring, drawing, saving, printing, and supporting Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

Using Google Earth, teachers can enhance lessons on geography, economics, and demographics, Google says. They can use the application for geographical units on volcanoes, continents, mountain ranges, and other landforms. Educators also can download GEGraph, a free tool that enables Windows users to create charts and graphs inside Google Earth.

The Google for Educators site also helps schools take advantage of Google Apps for Education, an IT solution that brings communication and collaboration tools to the academic community free of charge.

The solution helps school IT administrators provide eMail, online calendars, instant messaging tools, and a dedicated web site for faculty, students, and staff. All aspects are delivered online, and no hardware or software needs to be installed or is needed to maintain the systems, Google says.

Google is offering its Gmail service free of charge to school domains, performing all of the upkeep of the domain and freeing up valuable IT staff time that often is spent maintaining the overwhelming amount of eMail that must be housed on any school's servers.

Google Gmail gives school faculty, students, and staff two gigabytes of storage per account, as well as search tools and built-in instant messaging that easily can be disabled for the entire school.

Google Docs allows students to create, save and modify documents, spreadsheets and presentations from a web-based online application. These documents are available 24/7 no matter the user's location. They also allow users to collaborate and modify/create documents together.

Google has the tools necessary for our classroom teachers to share, collaborate and actively engage our students every day. It is our charge to share these applications with our teachers and instruct them on how to effectively integrate it into their classroom.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Two Cool Tools

I was searching today for a good free photo editing program to share with my schools. I began by researching products on the web and installed two different programs. Neither one really met the expectations I was looking for. However a friend of mine recommended a web based photo editing tool called picnik.

This tool allows you free uploads of photos and all the basic editing tools a user would need. I highly recommend this for K-12 users who are looking for a quick, easy and free way to modify photos.

The second tool I came across is called Evernote.

Evernote allows you to capture information from any environment (PC, PDA, phone, web, etc.) and make that information accessible from any location. I can see this being useful for a teacher who is searching content on the web and would like to be able to access a specific piece of that content for later use either via their home PC or PDA. The teacher simply captures the information and Evernote stores it until the user requests the info.

Here is a video showing how Evernote works:


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Open Office 3.0 Beta

I downloaded and installed Open Office 3.0 Beta yesterday. This morning I began the evaluation process. Here are my thoughts and opinions - for what it is worth:

  • The install was very easy and quick, and I was not required to restart my PC.
  • Navigation in Writer, Calc and Impress are similar to the Microsoft products. The learning curve here was small. (or similar to that of XP or 2003 to 2007)
  • The Draw tool was a bit tough to figure out at first, but once I did - I find this to be a valuable piece of the Open Office suite.
  • I was able to easily transfer files back and forth between Open Office and Office 2007, 2003 and XP. (see cons below for follow-up testing)
  • The first two times I attempted to save a file in the Text program - it locked up on me. After I restarted my machine, I noticed improved speed in the program. So, while a restart is not required after installation - it seems to improve performance.
  • While simple text and data transfer between Microsoft and Open Office wasn't an issue, trying to transfer Clip Art and Shapes from Office 2007 to Writer created layout issues. The font colors and style changed as well as the location of a few pieces of clip art.
  • There some formatting issues once you create a document, spreadsheet or presentation in a Microsoft product, open it Open Office and then attempt to resave it back to the appropriate Microsoft format; however, I believe this is something that will be resolved once they full version is released.
For someone like myself who doesn't use Clip Art or Shapes in Office 2007, this is an easy decision. Open Office offers the ease of use, functionality and compatibility any standard user could ask for. Obviously, the advantage goes to Open Office with the price point as well.

I now plan to follow the footsteps of a fellow CIO in KY and test Open Office for our students. We will begin this summer by installing Open Office on all new labs and mobile devices purchased. Once the beta testing has met our expectations, we will look to roll out Open Office on a larger scale.

I give Open Office 3.0 Beta an 8.8 out of 10.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Mini PC

As most of you are aware, HP recently released their HP Mini-Note 2133 device. (Click here for press release.)

I recently had the opportunity to demo this device and thought I would share two cents on the device.

  • Cost - you can purchase a 2133 for around $700. This is approximately 70% of the standard laptop. Meaning you could purchase 7 Mini-Note 2133 devices for every 5 standard laptops.
  • Lightweight and durable case.
  • 2GB of RAM, 120GB HD - standard.
  • The keyboard is not full size. Also, the keys are flat making difficult to "touch type" proficiently.
  • The processor is a VIA C7-M ULV - non-Intel, so is this a concern? Maybe.
  • The battery drains rather quickly. (2 hours of use on a 3-cell battery.)
Overall - I give the HP Mini-Note 2133 a 7 out of 10. I believe these devices are a step in right direction towards the one-to-one initiatives many school districts are pursuing.