Thursday, May 26, 2011

What is a Teacher Lock?

Did you know that in ActivInspire you can lock down your flipchart page? No, well guess what... you have the option to do that. If we have it how do we use it. Very easily, from the main toolbar at the top of the window select Tools then More Tools... and once you are there you will select Teacher Lock which the second to last option on the menu list. You can also access the Teacher Lock from the ActivInspire Toolbox by first clicking on the Menu button then select Tools --> More Tools... and Teacher Lock.

Now that you know how to turn Teacher Lock on, what is it? Basically the lock allows you to make it so that you cannot leave the ActivInspire software to go to another desktop application or to save a modified flipchart. It will disengage many of the quick key features and tools that you normally have access to.

Now you have to ask So What? Why would I turn this on. Well think of it this way, if you have created this wonderful flipchart that has your students interacting with it and collaborating with other students. Do you want the student to accidentally overwrite the original version of the flipchart? You would hope that you have an original copy but sometimes you do not, things happen. Lets also say that you have your students using ActivInspire on the Promethean Board as a station during class time. Would you want the students to have the opportunity to go and see your email, personal documents, or go to websites that you did not preset for them. The Teacher Lock gives you the security that things like what I have just talked about do not happen when your students are working with ActivInspire as a station or individually.

Lastly I do have to mention that there is a password that you have set so that when you want to go and use your computer again regularly you can. When you click the option you get a password box that pops up in the middle of the screen. Just pick a simple password that you can remember. So go on and try it out see if you like and if it is something that you can incorporate into your daily instruction.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I got the opportunity to review this website after I was directed to it by a colleague a week ago. At first I have to say that I was not really impressed by the samples that they offer on their site homepage but kept an open mind. After doing a little bit of research through the site I can now say that I was wrong and the site does show signs of usefulness. The possibility of using in education is also a plus as teachers can use it to record quick videos and tutorials that their students can review over and over again. This is also something that can be done on any type of computer and even on your Interactive White Board (IWB).

So we need to now talk shop about the Sketchcast website. The site refers to this tool "a new way to express yourself." You can Explore the site a little bit so that you can get a look at what you can do by allowing you to see some examples of completed Sketchcasts. Currently there are 4 categories to choose from but I would have to guess that over time the number of categories will increase as more users go to the site.

You do have to register and create a login for the site, I know I know another username and password to keep up with. As I have always said make it simple so that you can keep up with it. The Registration screen has 7 items to fill out, very easy to do and once you are registered you get a URL address to your public site.

The description as provided by their website: "...
Sketchcasting is a new way to communicate something online by recording a sketch, optionally with your voice speaking. Any sketch can then be embedded on your blog/ homepage for people to play-back, and you can also point people to your sketchcast channel here (or let them subscribe to your sketchcast RSS feed)."

Now you may be asking, how does it work? Really easily there are three steps to follow to create your final product. First you start by entering in the Title of your Sketchcast and start Recording. You have some features that are available to you in the ability to enter text and change color, write on the screen and import images. After you have recorded your Sketchcast you then have the opportunity to Preview what it looks like to see if you need to adjust or start over and record again. The last step is to Publish your final work, which gives you the option to make the product Public or Private. That's it you cannot get any more simplistic than that. Three steps and the most amount of work you have to do is the actual recording of the information that you want to create in your Sketchcast. Now that your product is finalized you have the option to allow it to either auto play or not as well as the embedding code so that you can take your Sketchcast and put it into your Wiki, Blog or even your own personal webpage.

How can you apply Sketchcast to your job? If you are in business this allows you to create a brainstorming strategy online and save it so that you can email it to your peers. If you are a teacher this can be a tool that allows you to record your daily instruction for students that are not in class so that they can review the material that was missed when they come back to class. Because you have the ability to embed this in a web space you can make this available to a broader population.

Try out Sketchcast and see what you think, for me it looks like it could be a great tool for creating quick information that can be shared instantly once the recording is done. And the possibilities for those Companies and Schools that have Interactive White Boards are limitless.

Tickertape: What is it?

Now that you are using ActivInspire in your ActivClassroom have you explored some of the other Tools that are available to you? Let's take a look at one of the right now called Tickertape. You can access this tool by one of a couple of ways. The most common way to access is to click on Tools and More Tools... on the top toolbar. You can also Click the Menu Button from the Toolbox, then choose Tools --> More Tools... and Tickertape. Another way to access it on the fly is to use the Quick Key combination of Ctrl+Shift+T or set up and apply and action option to an object using the Action Browser in ActivInspire.

So now that the Tickertape Tool is open how do you use it? You enter your message to be displayed in the provided text box. You have the ability to edit how the text is displayed on the screen by changing the font style, colors, shading, background and position on the screen. You can also Create, Save and Load Tickertapes so you can have more than one to choose from. The save in location defaults to the My Tickertapes folder that is stored in your My Resources folder of the Resource Browser. You can also choose a different Save In location if you want to share your created Tickertapes with others.

Well now that you know what to do, it's time to figure out Why should you use it? There are numerous ways that you can use the Tickertape. It is great for identifying your Essential Questions, Vocabulary/Spelling words, Science/Math terms, Current Events from the News. Also you can use it to display a Question of the Day, Instructions/Directions for students, Math problem of the day. This day in History facts, you could even use it for the Wonder of the Day (Wonderopolis). Even just using it for general announcements and reminders.

Give the Tickertape a try and see how your students react to the information. Who knows they might get more out of it than you think and maybe you could have the students provide feedback on what to show.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thoughts on Thoughtboxes

I was reading some email the other day and came across a link for Thoughtboxes and had to take a look at it.

"Thoughtboxes is a simple tool that helps to organize your thoughts so you can make things happen." So what does it mean and why would I use this website to do for me? Thoughtboxes allows you to organize ideas, activities, To-do lists and others so that you can keep track of them all in one location right on the screen in front of you. How many times do you write down all of these great lists on little pieces of paper that are strone out all over your desk, house or car. You know the ones that usually get lost, washed or lost in the bottom of your purse. Come on now I am not saying anything that is new to anyone. What I am saying is this, why not have it electronically so that you can refer back, add and check off the items as needed.

Now you might be saying, hey but I like the ease of writing down my ideas and then referring back to them later. I understand but what if you can do that Brainstorming and mind mapping in one location and then be able to share it out with others as well. Thoughtboxes allows you in one click the ability to share your "thoughts" with anyone via a link to your site.
What do you do now, how do you sign up? Really easy, go to and click on the Sign Up now link. You then get to choose how you want to participate on the site. There is a Free version and a Super version, now unfortunately the Super version does have a cost attached to it. So give the Free version a try and see how you like it and if you do switch over to the Super side.

Once you are signed up and on your splash page everything is laid out right in front of you. You can Add a new thought or Upgrade to the Super account. On the right side of the screen you have and informational section with a What's New and Speak your Mind section.

When you click to Add a new thought, it will ask you create a Box and give it a color scheme. Once you have done that you have some choices to pick from to enter information into your thoughtbox. You can add a Note, Task or a Link within each box. The Note is just what it is a text note. The Task option puts a Check mark next to the line item so that you can click on it to show that it is completed. The Link as well is just what it is, you enter in the web link and a name and it is a live link. After you create a couple of ideas/thoughts inside of the box you have the ability to drag and drop them in a different order, simulating their importance, and that is it. Over along the right hand side of the screen is a Padlock that shows Private, meaning that the thought you have just entered is not available to anyone. If you click it will now be Public and you can give someone the URL so that they can view the thoughts that you have put within the site.

Now some bad, yes you do have to create yet another login, but you can always make it similar to what you have used before. You might think that it is a little basic when it comes to additional features, but hey isn't that what the Comment Section is for. So go to the site, check it out for yourself and see if you like it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ActivExpression Update?

Do you have ActivExpressions in your school? Do you know if they are up to date and current with the version of Firmware that is on them? Do you even know what I am talking about?

If not, then keep reading so that you can make sure that your ActivExpressions are up to date so they can work with the newest version of ActivInspire and the features that are available in the Question Editing system.

So how do you know what version of firmware is on your ActivExpression. Well if you can turn on the device you can pretty much know what version you have. If you look at the bottom of the screen when you turn on the device the firmware version number shows up briefly and then disappears. Now don't worry there is another way to see the information without having to keep turning the device on and off to catch a glimpse. When the Expression is on you will need to press the Menu button. After you do that in the display area you will see three options press the "Dot" next to the word Diagnostic. The second line down in the list is the Firmware version that the Expression is running. You should have 9.02.39 which is the current version. The 9.02 is the software and 39 is the Build number which is also shown as B39. If you did not completely understand the above directions I have a short video that demos the steps to see the version number.


So what do you do next if you need to update your ActivExpressions? There are a number of steps that are involved to make sure that each unit in your bag is updated properly. The best way to accomplish this is to sit down and update all of them at the same time instead of trying to do some here and there. That is unless you keep up with the ones that you have updated each time you start another group of units. The easiest for me that I have found is to do them all at once. It leaves no room for marginal error and you can determine any problems that occur right then.

Below is the full video of how to check and update your ActivExpressions.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Question A Day

So we have now had a new multi-touch mobile SMARTBoard with the extreme short throw projector in our office for a little over a month now and I have to weigh in on it.

First off the multi-touch capability for me has to be one of the best features of the board. The ability to have two people working on the board at the same time is a great feature. As well the ability to size images similarly to what an iPad/iPod, SMARTTable or Microsoft Surface can do with the multi-point drag feature. Most of the rest of the board features are the same as they were before but with a couple of tweaks here and there for upgrades and add-ons.

So what have we been doing with it for the past month? We have been asking questions. I know you may be thinking, why or what? We wanted to see how people reacted to the board as they were coming into and through the office. The questions are more of a prompt than anything else in that we want people to touch and interact with the board. Some people have come in and asked us what it is, while others know what it is and just keep going. We have had some takers with the questions that we have been asking. Things like, what is your favorite cereal, to thought provoking ones about your favorite quotes. The main thing is that people are touching the board and asking questions about it.

So as a teacher, I have to ask you how do you use your interactive white board (IWB)? Whether it is a Promethean ActiveBoard or a SMARTBoard. Do you just look at it in the room? Is it just a fixture on the wall, or stand? Or is it a tool that you use within your classroom? The best thing that you can do with your IWB is use it, and if you do not understand something just ask. I am pretty sure that there is someone in your building that can answer or is willing to help you to get the answers to your questions. Remember that you have an on-site technology facilitator as well as a District Instructional Technologist that are here to help you to better understand the tool so that you can make it an effective, integrated and productive part of your instructional day.