Wednesday Website of the Week

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 29-09-2010

Dear Cybersmart,Thank you for being you.  You are such an amazing resource!  Lessons that are interesting, varied, relevant, easy to implement, and more.  I am glad I can rely on you to help my students learn just about everything they need to learn about Internet Safety.  (And I learn a lot from you, too!)

Tech Tip – Thin Client Pros and Cons

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 29-09-2010

In my computer lab, we use a thin client system.  I have 30 total workstations, but only 9 computers in the room.  The teacher workstation is standalone, as is the print server, but the other 28 monitors are shared 4 to a computer.  We achieve this using NComputing boxes.  They look like little hubs, and attach to each monitor, connecting it to a special network card in the controlling computer.

Image credit: http://www.zdnet.co.uk/i/z5/rv/2008/02/ncomputing_x300_1_432x315.jpg

There are many benefits to using this system.  First of all, I love the way they save space.  No big bulky towers all over the place.  Second, there is energy savings – much cheaper to power 9 computers than 30!  Obviously, there is hardware savings – again, only purchasing 9 computers vs. 30, and replacement costs are kept down as upgrades are needed.  I also like the fact that if I have any software installs or system changes to make, I can get it done a lot faster.  It’s a giant pain to install software on an ENTIRE LAB of computers one…at…a…time.

However, I’ve recently come upon some drawbacks.  When one student workstation freezes (because the student has opened 25 instances of Microsoft Word because they kept clicking and clicking instead of waiting patiently for it to open! @#$!) they all freeze.  And it takes a while for them to recover.  Longer than 20 Kindergarteners want it to.

But the most annoying problem is the fact that when students log into online accounts, their workstations get all confused and they end up either a) Unable to log in, or b) Inadvertently switching between accounts of those seated at their shared thin clients.  This is a major problem, because I use a lot of web 2.0 tools where students have to log in to an account.

So here is what I did to fix it.  I installed 4 different browsers on each station.  Chrome (my personal favorite, and yes, its by Google), Safari, Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox.  I labeled each monitor with one of those four browsers so each computer has one monitor for each browser.  Then, when the students log into their accounts, they won’t have login issues as long as they are all on different browsers.

Too complicated? Maybe.  Does anyone know of a better way to solve this problem?  If so, I’d love to hear it!

My del.icio.us bookmarks for September 29th

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Steve Dembo on 29-09-2010

These are my links for September 29th:

5 Cool Search Tools

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 29-09-2010

1. I am an avid Google fan.  For my money (um, none) it is the simplest, easiest, and most effective search engine.  Have you ever tried, however, Google’s Advanced Search?  It lets you choose what words to exclude from your search and customize the results.  Another fun tool is Google’s Custom Search, which lets you name your own search engine, tell it what sites to search, and customize the look and feel.  This might be useful for teachers who want their students to stick to a few trusted sites for searching.

2. Wolfram Alpha- It is different from traditional search engines because instead of searching for web pages that might have the answer to your question, it actually ANSWERS your question.  This works best with mathematical queries, for example, a search for “population of china” results in a simple one page answer containing the current population right at the top of the page, a graph of recent and long term population history, and related demographical data.  There is also a great page available for teachers with ways to use W/A in the classroom.

3. Bing.  I hate Bing.  I don’t know why, I just find the results are geared towards selling me something instead of helping me answer my query.  But one thing I do like about Bing is it’s Price Predictor.  Anytime I need to purchase airplane tickets, I check Bing to see if the fares are expected to rise, fall, or hold steady (they measure this based on recent price trends).  I’ve gotten some great deals this way.

4. Delicious- Since I use Delicious to keep track of all my bookmarks (although I’ve started dabbling in Google Bookmarks as well) I like searching its database for other sites that have tags similar to what I have tagged.  A “tag” is a keyword that describes what a website is about, and is, at least on Delicious, user-defined.

5. Google Fast Flip – I know, another Google thing.  You’d think I work for them or something.  Hey, Google!  You hiring?  :)  But seriously, really, are you hiring? what I like about FastFlip is the visual aspect.  You type in a topic, and it shows you results as “front pages” of a newspaper.  My students find it easier to find current events this way, as opposed to a plain web search.

My del.icio.us bookmarks for September 24th through September 28th

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Steve Dembo on 28-09-2010

These are my links for September 24th through September 28th:

Introducing Quest Atlantis to my students…

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 24-09-2010

For the next few weeks, I will use the Friday Game-Related posts to chronicle the introduction of Quest Atlantis to my 5th grade Computer class.

QA is an online learning adventure game created by the Indiana University’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology.  They promote the concept of Transformational Play, or how learning through play can strengthen learning connections and make the learning experience more fun, enriching, and authentic.  Within the 3d world, students become researchers, historians, doctors, mathematicians, and so much more.  This is not just a game, this is a research-supported learning environment.

One of my favorite things about QA so far is the amazing Teacher Training they offer.  First of all, teachers must apply and be approved in order to enter their classes into the 3d world.  Then, teachers go through a mandatory 4 week training process.  I found this to be SO valuable!  They really take the time to make sure you understand every facet of the game before sharing it with your students.

They also have a set of guidelines to follow, the I-BURST rules, which I am introducing to my students today.  Good rules to follow in many different situations.

Also today, I am reviewing the Social Commitments the game is based on with my students.  It is my hope that these commitments will carry through into their real lives as well.

Well, I will keep you informed of our progress!  So far we are very excited and can’t wait to get started!

Wednesday and Thursday all rolled into one!

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 24-09-2010

So, on Wednesdays I usually talk about a website I use, and on Thursdays I discuss tech integration ideas.  So today here’s both:

Microsoft Office has a website with lesson plans on various subjects, from Geography to Phys.Ed!  Since I teach students the Office Suite, these lessons come in very handy.

I check with the classroom teachers to find out what subjects are coming up in the general classroom, and hand-pick lessons from the Microsoft website to go along with those topics.  Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to!

Tuesday’s Tech Tip…better late than never!

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 23-09-2010

I have been wanting to write about this one for a while, but I wanted to take the time to include screenshots, so here we go:

I have found very little information on the internet about file management in computer lab classes.  So here is what I do to keep things organized.  My Lab has 1 teacher workstation, 29 student workstations, and two servers.lab1.JPG

One of the servers runs the grading and student record system, and the other one runs the lunch ordering program and holds all the shared student and teacher file storage.

On the file server is where I keep a folder called “Students.”  On every computer in the lab, I mapped a network drive to this folder.  Then I put a link to it on the desktop.

Here are the steps if you have never mapped a drive before-

1. Go to Start-My Computer.  Click Tools-Map Network Drive.

mapnet1.png

2.  Set the letter you want your drive to be (I chose “S” for Students), then browse through the network list to find your shared drive.  Click “Ok” then “Finish.”mapnet2.png

3. Back in the My Computer window, right click the new network drive you just created and click “Create Shortcut.”  It will ask if you want this shortcut on the desktop, click OK.mapnet3.png

So now you can access this shared folder from each of your lab computers.  In it, I made a folder for each grade, and then subfolders for each teacher.When I have a file for the students to work on, I place that file in the appropriate folder and then make 29 copies of it (one for every computer in my lab).  Each monitor has a number sticker on it, and the students open the copy number that matches that sticker.  This works especially well for the kindergarteners who don’t have the skills yet to browse the network to find the right place to save their files.  Eventually, throughout the year, I teach the students how to find the “Student Drive” on their own, but this strategy saves me a lot of time and heartache at the beginning of the year.

How do you organize your files?

5 Ways to Encourage Colleagues to Use Technology

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 20-09-2010

1. Show them how YOU use it to make your life easier!  Do you have a tech tool that cuts down your prep time, grading time, searching time?  Share it with others!

2.  Share something FUN!  I went geocaching for the first time in my life this summer.  I had so much fun I wanted to go right out and buy my own GPS unit!

3. Focus on the teaching aspect, not the technology.  That is to say- don’t make it all about the technology tools.  Yes, insertcoolwebsitehere.com might be a great website, but what are students going to LEARN by using that site?

4. Take it S..L..O..W… I try to follow the 1-1-1 Rule.  1 new thing, with 1 class (or subject area) for 1 week.  That way you are not overwhelmed.

5. Let the STUDENTS teach!  Assign each student a web 2.0 website and have them demonstrate learning of a subject by creating a project with that site.  Then have them share with the class not just what they learned, but how they created their project.

My del.icio.us bookmarks for September 17th

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Steve Dembo on 17-09-2010

These are my links for September 17th:

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