Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Getting Van Halen Tickets (28 Years Later)

Sometimes I forget what a convenience the Internet is. How much it has changed the little things in life that we do. Let me tell you all a story. The year was 1984, and my favorite band (along with a lot of other people) was Van Halen. Not Van Halen with Sammy Hagar, but Van Halen with David Lee Roth. I had the albums and cassettes. When the the tour plans for their 1984 album were released, I knew I had to get tickets. Like some cruel trick, tickets went on sale at the local Ticket Master outlet which was located on the second floor of Hudsons at Genesee Valley Mall at 10:00 a.m. Monday morning while I was supposed to be in school. Not to be deterred, by buddy Tom and I skipped school and drove out to the mall in search of tickets. Unfortunately so did a lot of other people. What followed was a desperate mob of people pushing on the doors of Hudsons. The doors broke and a small riot ensued as teens stormed through the department store trying to get to the second floor. Displays were knocked down, people running up the down escalator, craziness! Tom and I made it to within ten people of the ticket window when the concert sold out. Devastated, we left. Never to see Van Halen in concert. Of course, a year later the band broke up and our hopes of catching Van Halen on their next tour disappeared.

Fast-forward 28 years. My friend Dave emails me that there is a Van Halen reunion tour (yes, with David Lee Roth) and tickets go on this weekend. From the comfort of my couch, I simply logged on to the Ticket Master Website, and quickly purchased four tickets to see Van Halen at The Palace on February 20th. Done. Quickly. Easily. No skipping school. No riot at Hudsons. Having the Internet 28 years ago would have really helped me out, but it seems like things are going to work out fine after all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Paperless Classroom

Several years ago, I made a concerted effort to go paperless with my computer classes. I would like to share some of my success and failures. I have to admit, as time goes by and technology gets better, going paperless is getting much easier. In the beginning, I was either screen-checking assignments or having students email them to me. Now days, with Google Docs or the Share Point Site our school uses, things are a little smoother. Every student in each of my classes has an online drop box and Wiki. All projects and assignments are posted as PDFs or converted to graphics (for my DTP classes) and linked to student Wikis where I can quickly find them.

All of my assignments are linked to my three class Websites. Students can access them from school or home. Many of my lectures are captured on screencasts using Camtasia. Students can view most of them from home also. (Some are still stuck on the school's shared network). Most of the documents I am working on are in a Dropbox account where I can access them from home, school, Web, iPad, or iPhone. I have a classroom blog with Blogger to keep parents updated. My classroom is 99.9% in the cloud.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't hate paper. We did typed letters to former teachers that had made an impact on our lives a few months ago and we did print them. Some of the students didn't realize we have a laser printer in the back of the room because they had never used it up until that assignment. :)
What has going paperless done for me? First, I am more organized. My assignments are linked and available. No copies. I also don't carry papers back and forth to school and home. Assignments are in the cloud. I carried a briefcase for a few years, mainly out of habit or so I would have a spot to keep my school keys, but stopped earlier this year. My wife doesn't like it. She is a teacher also and does carry a lot of papers back and forth. But, it is working out well for me and my students. Once they are in the practice of uploading documents to their dropbox and linking to the Wiki, they do it without having to be told. It is great.

I enjoy being paperless!
If you are thinking about trying it, checkout such tools mentioned above as Google Docs, Google Sites, Weebly, Dropbox, Share Point, and others. Search my blog. I have talked about many of these tools as well. Start small and work into it. You will enjoy going paperless also.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Be Social with Your Bookmarks

When I am searching the Web for information on a topic, I am a bookmarking madman. I find the sites I like, and when I have the time, I try and go back, read the info, and get what I want off of the sites I bookmarked. The problem is that I sometimes to this over three computers, my favorites are never on computer I happen to be working on, and if they are, there are a hundred or so that I need to filter through to find what I need. Social bookmarking is here to help!

You may have heard of Delicious, which was one of the first big social bookmarking sites, but I have been using Diigo lately and really like it. They also have a great video explaining their product. As the video above explains, both of these services are free, keep your bookmarks organized by the use of tags, and allows you to find your bookmarks wherever you happen to be since it is saved on the Web. The thing I like about Diigo is the ability to highlight text or even leave yourself a sticky note so you are easily reminded why you bookmarked the site in the first place. Cool! Of course, the really fun part of these types of social bookmarking is the sharing of your bookmarks. Again, as the video says, you can take advantage of other people's bookmark's and vice versa. Nice!

So, if you are like me and drowning in bookmarks and your favorites are in chaos, try social bookmarking with Diigo or Delicious. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Screencasting in the Classroom Part 3

If you have been reading the last two posts, I have been writing about products that teachers can use in the classroom to get started. Camtasia Studio and Jing have been covered. In this post I would like to talk about the other options out there for you when it comes to screencasting. First is screencast-o-matic. Besides the totally cool name, it is free and doesn't require a download. Overview below:

I have used screencast-o-matic several times last spring while working with a local business to develop training videos and it turned out to be a good tool for them and fun for me to learn. I like the fact that you can use it anywhere. (It does require Java)and the video can be downloaded and edited in Windows Movie Maker. It is a good option if Jing doesn't fit the bill for you. Other screencasting tools that are available include AviScreen, CamStudio, or Copernicus (Mac Users). I have not tried these last three, so I can't give you an honest opinion one way or the other.

What ever you try, try something, and try screencasting in your classroom soon!