Thursday, February 24, 2011

My First and Second Conference

For the past couple of years I have been working on ideas to present at local conferences. I toyed with ideas on what to present whether it would be beneficial or if it was something that had already been presented so many times that it was old news. I struggled on and off with the dilemma of what to do along with personal issues that have arisen in recent history that have kept me from presenting. Well this year I have finally gotten everything together both personally and professionally enough to be able to present not only once but twice within three weeks of each other.

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to present at the @ActivCarolina Conference which was held in our school district. In working with one of the organizers of the event we discussed some things that could be done to increase usage of our Interactive White Boards with document cameras in our district. Since I, along with others in our district have made a real push for the integration of document cameras in our district we discussed a presentation that could be done for the ActivCarolina Conference. This then ballooned out to where I could also retool the presentation and take it to @NCTIES, which is our statewide technology conference.

As the time had been drawing nearer to the date of the conferences I have to admit that I had/have been getting more and more nervous that I was forgetting something or needed to add more or take away from the presentation in order to make it as successful as possible. With the help of some of my colleagues I worked to create a Livebinder of resources and information that would go along with the presentation for the attendees to refer back to after the conferences. Now that one has passed, which I have been told was very good. We all know that we, ourselves, are our biggest critics and I always think that I could have done some different or changed the delivery in certain ways. So again I am in that mind set of possibly not being prepared enough for the next presentation. I want it to be perfect, but we all know that we can over analyze the situation and go completely in the opposite direction.

Now I am preparing for the next conference which will be my second ever. It's kind of funny to think back now and after almost 7 years I have never presented at any type of conference. I had never even considered doing it in any way shape or form because I never felt that I had anything real to contribute for my peers that could constitute the opportunity to present at a conference. As I gather up all the items and props that I will need I am still saying to myself, are you ready? Part of me says yes while I am also in panic mode. I think it will go great but there is always that fear of having to drop back and punt.

...but such is the life you live when you present at conferences, whether big or small, tech or not. I look forward to the conference and maybe the possibility of doing this again down the road or next year.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Document Cameras and Skype

In our district we have been working over the past few years to really ramp up the technology that is in the classrooms to benefit both our teachers and students. We have instituted a Classroom Solution specific to the grade levels with one design for the Elementary and one for the Middle/High Schools. Included in this solution we have chosen to provide document cameras as an additional input device for teachers and students to use.

Over the past couple of years I have blogged about the benefits of document cameras versus the traditional overhead projector. I have discussed its uses as a digital camera and camcorder as well as techniques to integrate it into classroom instruction. One thing I have yet to talk about is how the document camera camera can be used as a(n) webcam. Yes I said webcam.

The primary version of document cameras that we have in our district are made by the Lumens Company, but we also have others versions which will act in the same manner. When the document cameras are installed correctly and the included software is setup the computers will see them as webcams, depending of course on what programs or websites you are utilizing. In our district we have been using Skype as a method of global communications in which our teachers are collaborating with in and out of county schools, businesses, colleges and universities and interesting people.

You have to make sure that when you are using Skype the program must be able to see the doc cam and set it as the default visual device. To do this you will have to make sure that the doc cam drivers are installed on the computer you are using, see specific doc cam installation guide for setup informaiton. Once the doc cam is installed properly make sure that it is turned on and open the Skype program and log in. After you are on the Skype dashboard you will click on Tools--> Options and then Video Settings. In the video settings, depending on your setup, the live video should show up. Now one thing to remember on the video settings for Skype, in order to make sure you do not get any random video calls you need to make sure that your settings are checked to only accept video from people in your contact list. This alleviates any issues that could arise during a Skype call.

Now for two technical issues that have come up, in our district that is, when we have been using the doc cams with Skype. I will list them out and the solutions we have used to correct the problem.
  1. Image shows upside down in Skype - This usually happens when using older doc cams like the Lumens DC-133, 150, 155, 160 or 162. The solution is to turn the doc cam around and the lens unit turns down so that the image will be right-side-up.
  2. The image does not show up at all and you have an error on the screen - This has been just recently discovered. From what I have ascertained it is due to the recent upgrade of software by Skype to version 5.1 from version 4.1 - In our network version 4.1 is stable and has been the standard so what we have done is to uninstall the 5.1 software and reinstall the 4.1 which will then allow Skype to see the doc cam again.

Now this is just one of the things that you can do with your doc cam, but if you are looking for more ideas you can click on my LiveBinder below to get some additional resources.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Need Tuition Money for College?

Are you a graduating senior in high school this May? Are you thinking about going to college but do not know if you can afford to go?

There are many different ways in which you can help yourself to get your education paid for. One of those ways is to go to the College Foundation of North Carolina otherwise known as
This is a great website set up for residents of North Carolina to "Help you Plan, Apply and Pay for College." You will create an account to go in and setup your profile information and identify which colleges that you would like to apply to. Then you will enter in additional financial information with the help of your parents to identify your needs. If you then are awarded any amounts you are notified and offered the amount in which you will accept or decline according you the amounts and what your needs are.

One thing that is beneficial to residents of North Carolina is that on February 19, 2011 CFNC is having a statewide FAFSA Day. CFNC will have areas setup around the state that will help you fill out and answer questions about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA) for those who are planning to attend a College or University during the 2011-2012 academic year.
There are 9 locations in Forsyth Co. from Kernersville to Clemmons that will be set up to answer your questions and help you fill out the form. If you do not live in Forsyth County but still live in North Carolina you can follow this link to an interactive map to find locations in your county.

If you are planning on attending college it wouldn't it be great to see if you are able to get a little help with paying for your tuition. Check out the site, look for local locations and if you can visit one of them to help you get the forms filled out and submitted.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Art Work presented by Google

As an Art teacher are you always wondering how you can help your students to understand the feeling behind a Chagall, Rembrandt or Picasso painting? Do you struggle to try and show line and depth using a 2D photograph from a textbook?

Well it just so happens that Google has brought you a new way to look at Art with Art Project. This website is the culmination of a collaborative effort of 17 museums from around the world to share their artwork for all to see. What I think is interesting about the site is that when you are looking at the art you see a small compass tool like object along the left side of the screen that allows you to zoom in and out as well as to pan and move. It is very similar to what Google offers you in its Street View add on for Google Maps. I don't know about you but I immediately started thinking about Virtual Field Trips when I saw this site.

When you land on the sites homepage you choose from the museums listed(17), once you make your selection the website background will change to a theme inspired by the chosen museum. You will then see to the right of the list a work of art and an explore museum option.

When you click on the View Artwork the work comes full screen where you can interact with it either by using the zoom in/out tool in the top left or bottom right of the screen. Once you have zoomed in you can pan around the picture by clicking and dragging around. There is a small photo shot of the artwork in the bottom left that shows you where you are on the image when you are using the zoom in feature.

Along what I would call the toolbar there are some additional options to choose from. One is an informational link at the far right of the page displays information about the work of art. On the left side of the toolbar you can choose a new location as well as another piece of art from the drop down menus.

If you had chosen the Explore Museum option you are taken to a similar screen which displays a point of view look of the museum. As you move the mouse onto the screen you will see arrows that allow you to walk around and move in on a specific area of the page. Just as you would if you were using Street View on Google Maps. When you walk around the room looking at the artwork the ones with a plus(+) sign will allow you to view/inspect them more.

This tool is a great opportunity for teachers to give their students a completely different view of art without having to look through a book or travel to a museum. The Virtual Field trip idea is what hooked me. Art in the virtual world and in a computer lab situation could allow students to walk through the National Gallery in London or the The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Places that many students may never have an opportunity to visit.

The website also offers you a Learn More button that gives you some general information about the site and how to use it. You are provided with an FAQ section as well as the list of all participating museums. And if that was not enough Google has provided you with a link to the Art Project You Tube channel so that you can view some of the created videos that go along with this site.