Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Non-Designer's Design Book

Are there any Desktop Publishing or Web Design teachers out there? If so, are you like me? I can code html or use DTP software with the best of them, but does my final product look good design wise? Not always. Sometimes I manage to stumble upon a good design or layout, but not often. Lets face it, I struggle drawing stick figures and my clothes don't always match. This is where my new favorite book comes to the rescue. The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin William (no, not that Robin Williams) is the cure for all of us with the affliction of being poor at matters concerning design.

This book is a must for your students to read or simply as a classroom resource. It breaks down your designs into four easy to remember parts:





Along with explaining these concepts in terms the everyday person can understand, with provides a ton of fantastic examples to drive the point home.

But that's not all. There are also sections in the book on the different types of type, designing with type, ways to use contrast effectively, and tips on how to apply everything you learn to a variety of documents from business cards to newsletters to brochures. Again, there are great examples to show how the design concepts actually make documents more appealing to our readers.

So, if you teach Web Design, DTP, or simply want to improve your design skills check this book out. You will be glad you did!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Meet "The Dream Team"

Welcome to this post on shameless self-promotion!

Do your students like sports? Have they ever dreamed of owning their own professional sports franchise? If so, then The Dream Team is for your students.

This hands-on simulation takes students in a Computer Applications course covering Microsoft Office or a class in Sports Marketing through the process of creating a professional team in the sport of their choice. The Dream Team simulation leads students through a variety of tasks using Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Publisher to create a team, craft its image, market it, and even draft players.

This is the second student simulation that I have written and was published by B.E. Publishing earlier this year. It is the perfect end of the semester/year capstone project that will allow students to use their imagination, showcase the skills they have learned in your class, and most of all, have fun. My 9th grade Intro to Computers class uses The Dream Team at the end of the semester and my students have given it a big thumbs up!

For more information on this simulation and many others, follow the link above to the B.E. Publishing Web site and take a closer look.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blogs Revisted

Hey, welcome back! I have been slacking on my posts during the football season. Since this is the last week of the season for my team, I am going to sneak in a quick post.

When I last talked to you, the topic was blogs in the classroom and how we could use them in our quest to improve student reading and writing. Since then, a couple of staff members have created their own classroom blogs. Let's hear it for Bob Toole and Lance Roark. Lance has actually created three separate blogs. One for each class he teaches. Students and parents can visit them to get their assignments or updates on what their students are working on.

Remember that blogs are short for "Web logs." They are an online journal of sorts that is updated periodically. Here is an example of my sister's blog. She lives in Denver and uses it to keep in touch with the rest of our family here in Michigan. The beauty of a blog is that you can combine text, links, photos, and video in a blog post.

For staff members interested in creating their own blog, watch the video below to get a review on how to sign up and create a blog, make a post, and add a picture. Blogger makes it easy!

There have been questions in the past few weeks on how to add video or embed You Tube videos into a blog. I have added a great video below that takes you through the process. Check out the mock rock video Bob added to his blog.

Another big question from staff members has been, "Can we blog from our own network without using something like Blogger? The answer is yes! Welcome to Sparta's "Learn Sites." You can visit my classroom wiki and blog from my Learn Site. WARNING: While both of these items can be extremely useful in your classroom, they are not as easy as a blog on Blogger or a wiki on Wikispaces. As my schedule opens up after football, I will be developing some "How To" videos to use each of them. To get set up with a Learn Site, contact David Marker.

Here is my hope for Sparta. Check out the number of staff blogs at Fruitport High School.

That is all for this time, I am off to football practice. Email me with any questions!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blogging 101

What is blogging and how can you use it! Here is a synopsis of our presentation from the PD day the first week of school.

Blogs are part of what is know as "Web 2.0" tools that are increasingly being used in schools these days. Other tools might include:

  • Wikis
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Social Networking
  • Social Bookmarking
  • RSS
  • Many more

Let's start at the beginning though, watch Blogs in Plain English for an excellent primer on what blogs are and why they are so cool.

But what do real, live, breathing blogs actually look like? If you don't know, try visiting my sister's blog that keeps our family updated, my favorite U of M Blog, or a couple of blogs that I write myself such as Paul and Todd’s Excellent Ed Tech Adventure and Mr. Toporski’s Classroom Blog.

Why is blogging in the classroom being talked about so much these days you might ask? Well, several reasons come quickly to mind. Blogs:

  • Provides a centralized place for regular writing practice.
  • Allows teachers and students to comment and provide feedback.
  • Allows for student reflection on assignments or discussion topics.
  • Creates a greater sense of community within a classroom.
  • Gives a voice to students who may not feel comfortable speaking in in class.
But how can you use blogs in the classroom specifically you say? Well, try blogs as:
  • Writing Journals
  • E-portfolios
  • Reflections on assignments
  • Sharing resources or ideas
  • Sharing Web links
  • Putting course materials on the Web
  • Dialogue from group work
  • Student feedback

If you are interested in finding out more about blogs, trying some of these resources:

Thanks for visiting. Now try leaving Paul and I comment.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blogs, Wikis, Reading and Writing

Hi folks!

I hope everyone had a great summer. I did and I am ready for school to start (well almost ready). I am heading to a district "Content Literacy" meeting soon and the focus will be on reading and writing and how blogs and wikis might be used in the process. In preparation for the meeting I gathered some great links that you might enjoy. I tried to explain what blogs and wikis are, along with what the term "Web 2.0" encompasses.

What Does This Stuff Mean?

Using Web 2.0 Technologies in Working with Today’s Learners

Blogs in Plain English

Wikis in Plain English

How Can I Use This Stuff?

Weblogs in Education

Blogging Techniques for the K12 Classroom

Using Blogs as Writing Portfolios

Blogs as Writing Practice

Teaching Digital Writing (table of contents is on the right side of the wiki page)

Professors Using Blogs, Podcasts as Teaching Tools

Wiki as a Teaching Tool

Defining Purposes for Using Web 2.0 Tools (On-line slide show)

Blogs, Wikis, & Web 2.0 in the Classroom

Wikis in Education

Until next time,


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summertime Hiatus

Hey folks. Sorry you haven't heard from us in a few weeks. But, it is summertime now and Paul and Todd are on official hiatus until the fall. We hope everyone has a most excellent summer vacation and we will see you in the fall.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Most Excellent Product Endorsement--The Flip Video Camcorder

Here is a product the your will literally "flip" over. It is the Flip Video Camcorder. The cameras come in several versions and price ranges. A trip to their Web site is recommended. There is the more expensive Mino with all the bells and whistles or the less expensive and more basic Ultra model to choose from. There also are upgrades for such things as HD quality and more memory. I was lucky enough to be awarded a grant and purchased seven of these cameras for my classroom. It was a $500 grant and I chose to buy seven Ultra cameras with 30 minutes of memory on each. (This model was not show on their Web site, but I found them on Amazon. Bonus!) For my Freshman Computer classes, this was a perfect choice. We normally shoot short videos and then the students transfer the video right to their computers. They are easy to use, durable, and the students love to use them.

This is where the beauty of the Flip Video Camcorder really jumps out. With the flip of a switch, there is a Built-in flip-out USB arm to transfer the video. That is right, no fire wire and no fire wire card. Here is a quick video of some nice lady putting the Flip to work.

I have found only two small problems with this camera. It runs on AA batteries. If you have rechargeable batteries (which I do), no problem. The second problem was the software that came with the camera. Probably great for home use, but not so much in a school setting. The camera wanted to install it's own software on each computer it was plugged into. No way. I like to hook up the camera, and quickly get my videos off it.After a little searching, I quickly found out this was a common complaint and found a link to the MPEG 4 encoder needed to do this. You can find it here. Once this is installed, it treats the Flip like a USB memory stick. Plug it in and cut or copy your video to your desktop.

My students and I have really enjoyed capturing ourselves on video this semester and using it in various projects. Try one out yourself!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wiki, wiki, wiki--Part 3

A quick shout out to Ms. Joslyn Hemingway at Kent City Middle School. She is using a wiki with her Science classes to explore endangered species. (She used Wikispaces by the way.) Students in different hour classes are grouped together and have to gather data on a specific endangered species. Students use the wiki space to collaborate with each other and post information for the project. I happened to find out about it because my daughter is in Ms. Hemingway's class. Check it out here. Nicely done!

Now that you know what a wiki is, how a wiki works, and how a wiki can be used in class, it is time to experiment a little. Go ahead and try setting up your own wiki. Come on, you know you want to. You will be the envy of all the other teachers, right? There are a lot of wiki sites out there such as PBwiki (now PBworks) , Wikispaces (designed for educators), Wet Paint, and others.

Below is a movie on how Wetpaint Wikis work.

Pretty good, huh? Free too! Give it a try. Good luck!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wiki, wiki, wiki--Part 2

Now that you know how a wiki works, the question is now, "How can I use it in my classroom?" The main way Paul and I use our class wikis to showcase student projects. First, student post links to their completed projects to our wiki. Second, students can visit the wiki to veiw each others projects. Finally, they can easily leave comments (positive ones or constructive suggestions.) Students enjoy showing off their projects and try to do a nice job because they know it will be on display and other will not only be looking at it, but also commenting on it.

Watch the following video to take a tour of wiki pages for a few projects in two of my classes.

Next time we will look at how to set up a wiki for free at PBWiki.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wiki, wiki, wiki--Part 1

Wikis. You have probably heard about them, you may have even been on one , but beyond Wikipedia, how can you use wikis in your classroom. Great question! Well, wikis are fast becoming the hottest tool on the Web to allow your students (or colleagues) to collaborate on projects, evaluate information, and comment on other students' work. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Lets take it slow. Lets start at the beginning with a nice video explaining how wikis work.

Next time we will continue our series by showing different ways to use wikis in the classroom.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Web Site of the

I love a good video to tie into my lesson plans. Many times I use them to begin lessons so students can get an overview of the concepts I am going to present. One of the Web sites that I have found good videos for Technology concepts is Wydea. This Web site specializes in videos about Science and Technology topics. What they do best is answer the question "How does it work?" Everything from jet engines to E-mail to touch screens, and many more.

Check out this site and find a video to show your class!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring Break Update

First, it is spring break here in Sparta. After break, look for posts for our series on how we use wikis in the classroom, some PD on Office 2007, and more. See you in a week!

Second, I have turned off comments on this blog. We use this blog as a professional development tool around our district and the comments section was open to anyone, including students who might find their way on here. If you would like to comment to Paul or I on one of our posts or ask a question, please drop us an E-mail.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Using the Source Manager Feature in Word 2007

Do you have Word 2007? Are you an English teacher? Are you a teacher that has students do research papers? Are you a teacher taking a graduate class? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the "Source Manager" feature in Word 2007 is for you. Located on the References Tab, the Source Manager enables you to you to add, edit, search for and delete sources used in a research paper. Better yet, once you type the text of the paper, it will allow you to put citations in throughout your paper, as well as create a works cited or bibliography page depending on the style of paper. If all this is confusing , watch the video I made for my Computer classes below.

Source Manager Video (Sorry, no embedded video this week.)

How cool is the Source Manager as a way to organize the sources in a research paper? Very! Hopefully, you enjoyed this topic and it will be a great help to you and your students.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Use YouTube in the Classroom

By now, everyone has heard about YouTube. If you haven't, get out from under the rock you have been hiding and go check it out. YouTube has videos for almost any topic you can think of; some are silly and some are inappropriate, but many of them are fantastic teaching tools. Current event videos, informational videos, and especially (my favorite) software tutorials are among videos that can be used in your classroom. For example. . .

After Spring break, our Intro to Computers classes are doing a brief unit on computer hardware. Using YouTube, I was able to find three great videos for that unit. Computer Hardware in Plain English, What Components are Inside My Computer, and one on How to Install Computer Memory. I found them in less than five minutes. Not bad! Now I can talk about the concept of computer hardware with my students, and also show them a video each day to help them grasp the concepts.

Like some of you, I am very leery about just linking to resources on the Web, especially if I really like them. You never know when someone is going to remove information or change an address rendering my link useless. So, if I find a video to use in the classroom, I use a great Web site called KeepVid to let me download and save videos from YouTube or Google Video to my computer. That way, I always have them. If YouTube is blocked at your school, you can use KeepVid at home and then take the videos into school to use in class. You can download a free Flash video player here.

I have included a video below that I made with Camtasia to show how easy downloading a video off of YouTube can be. Enjoy.

Now head on over to YouTube, find a video to use in class, and use to download it. Good luck!


I love to learn new things! None other than Kathy Schrock just e-mailed to let me know that "The YouTube user agreement clearly outlines use of YouTube videos are to be embedded or used on their site. There is no provision for downloading locally."

Furthermore, Kathy has "been in contact with the YouTube team, asking about the fair use guidelines, and they agree that the best thing to do is to ask the person who created the video for permission to "rip" the video as you suggest and/or ask them to send you the original, since it is of better quality anyhow."

Another great lesson to use with our students when talking about copyright issues and online materials. Thanks for the information Kathy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Welcome to the adventure!

Welcome to Paul and Todd’s Excellent Ed Tech Adventure!

We hope that you find the information posted here to be most excellent. Our goal is to provide educators with a resource that they can visit to find out more about using technology in the classroom. Topics that we will cover in the coming months include great education videos from the Web, lesson plans, projects, software, book, and product reviews, Web 2.0 tools, great links, and much more! Save us to your favorites and visit us each week for ideas you can put to work in your classroom right away. As we begin our blogging journey, we are hoping to post new information on a weekly basis and hopefully add more posts as time allows. We still have to teach our classes. :) If you have questions or would like us to talk about a specific topic in one of our upcoming posts, drop us an e-mail.

A little bit about us. Paul and I (Todd) are computer teachers at Sparta High School in Sparta, Michigan. This is my 19th year in education and Paul’s 25th. Between us, we have taught classes in Introduction to Computers, Desktop publishing, Computer Programming, Website Design, Digital Graphics/Multimedia, and Microsoft Certification. Feel free to look around our Websites linked on the right.

Welcome to the adventure and come back soon!