Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Evernote and Skitch (about workflows again ?)

One topic that always intruiges me is the aspect of peoples "work flow". There seems to be an incredible amount of variation - what someones says is a very effective and efficient workflow - can be someones else's "hours spent experimenting to achieve the same result as they were doing before". There is a lot to be said for sticking to one method or program and utilising it fully. 
I have recently been through my own elipical journey - only to arrive back at my starting point. 
I have tried many programs and apps that would allow me to work seamlessly between work computer, home laptop and ipad and across different systems - Windows and Apple. After trying many I keep coming back to Evernote.
I originally tried it. Didn't really get into it. Came back to it at various times. Tried other apps. Came back to it again. 
My latest arrival back to it made me think - "if I want to do something quickly and have it available across all platforms - this is the one I keep coming back to!" It does notes, audio, checklists, web links, adds files (of any sort) and across all platforms. In fact I am typing this on it now - because I know later I will want to finish it (or add to it ) working on my ipad. In other words - a work flow that works for me. I had mentioned about Evernote in this blog before http://woodbutchersguide.blogspot.com/2011/04/some-older-things-revisited.html but had been going in and out of it at various times. But I have found the more I use it, the more handy I find it. 
The other program I have found extremely handy on a mac is one called Skitch. This was originally an independent program but got taken over by Evernote. I had also mentioned this one earlier. http://woodbutchersguide.blogspot.com/2011/04/skitch-another-old-one-revisited.html#links.  I had used this one extensively doing screen shots for people - making notes or explanations. A very handy and again, very quick (I really don't want to spend a long time getting to learn a program).
The exciting news is , that the people from Skitch (or Evernote) have now made an app for the ipad. Free and links in with Evernote. So it enhances your workflow with Evernote.

As you can see - you can do most of the things you could do with the full program - shapes, text, arrows or lines, writing and then link it to Evernote or email it.

I must admit - I like things that make my time more efficient and this fits the bill.

If you haven't given Evernote and Skitch a try, I suggest you do. You may be like me and find they are very handy and useable. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Touch, Voice, Sight - is smell next ? Google App for iPad.

It is quite interesting the "rivalry " between Google and Apple. Amusing for us users because the more they compete with each other the more benefit we consumers gain. Many of us think of "Google" as a search engine. I even have a friend who refers to looking something up as - why not use "the google" as if it is a noun. Others, of course, know Google as the maker of a wide range of very useful apps.
I came across one recently that I hadn't noticed before (in fact I'm not sure whether it was just released or whether I hadn't noticed it before). It was one I downloaded for my iPad but it is also available for iPhone,  (I also believe there is a version for Android). The app is simply called "Google Search".  This little app has quite a number of handy features.

When the app first opens you get the normal looking Google search bar . But down below there are three interesting connections. I'll start in the middle first. The yellow circle - Voice Search.Activate this and a microphone appears. Say a word or phrase for what you are searching and a second or two later a list of web sites appear. Very nifty.

The red one on the left "Applications". This brings up a page of Google apps - gmail, google docs, Youtube, calendar etc. Most people have a gmail and probably some goggle docs - so it is handy to have these connections come up on the one interface. Although I must admit I don't care for their calendar app here - much prefer iCal or even the web interface for Google calendar.

The third one , the blue one, goggles, is the exciting one. Click on this and your camera comes up. Take a photo of a well known landmark, book cover, bottle of wine, artwork, text, and it comes up with a listing of websites, photos, information and so on. It's early days yet and it's fairly limited to what it will find but it really takes the aspect of the visual search that one step further on.

Like the aspect of touch that was introduced to our computing use (iPads, smartphones etc) - the voice and visual aspect is the next game changer. That is what Goggle is trying to incorporate here - and reasonably successfully. These new but subtle changes have a habit of creeping in and by the time we turn around twice everybody is using them and they are a normal aspect of their computing/communication. I am amazed how underrated the the introduction of Siri is with the new iPhone. I personally find this little feature is going to be the big change maker in the next couple of years - but at the moment most people just yawn and go "big deal - so what - it doesn't even work that well". But I think they underrate the potential of what is happening. Time will tell.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

FlipSnack and Edmodo

I have been trying to sort out aspects that might be useful for my teaching next term. Two things that I came across that I feel will be very useful.  One is a sight called "FlipSnack". These guys can convert your pdf files into flip books. I think this would be extremely interesting for students to publish their stories or booklets in a different form.  Here is the link: http://www.flipsnack.com/.  An example of the flip book is given below. If you find it takes over your whole screen - just hit the escape button to bring it back.

The other aspect that has me quite excited (and I want to check out fully) is "Edmodo". This is an extremely interesting social education network. It can be set up for class or school use.  It is a place where you post student assignments, homework, discussions - including any form of media. You can have students post their assignments to the site as well as give them grades and feed back. It is all secure. You can set up class or subject groups. Well worth a look.  I have been looking around for alternatives for my class web site. I maintained a iWeb class web site and blog this year - but with the demise of iWeb with Lion - I thought I would scrap it next year. Therefore - either back to Google sites or something different. Edmodo looks like it could be an exciting and viable option. Check it out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

To Lion or not to Lion - that is the question !

I recently had to incorporate a number of new laptops into our bank. With the demise of the Macbook (of which I was never a BIG fan) the decision had to made to what we would purchase. The macbook is still available for education but it is technology that is a few years old (and obviously on the way out). The choices were the Air or Macbook Pro. To fit into the educational price range (at least for our budget) it would have to be the 11" Air. This isn't much bigger than the iPad ( but a dearer price) and the 13" Air was going out of our budget. The decision was to go with the base model MBP 13".  I felt fairly happy about this as I feel that the MBP is a much sturdier product than the MacBook and will live up to the riggers of multiple users. Also a 13" laptop fitted the needs of the present Stage 3 classes. They will be using the iPads as well but I'll explain that in a future blog. The major decision was to be "What operating system ?" All of our computers run Snow Leopard and we also have a Mac mini server that runs Snow Leopard. Although they will come with Lion will we bring them back to Snow Leopard or keep the existing ?

I decided to see how Lion fitted in. I had a few weeks before they needed to be fully integrated so I started with one. I had ordered a couple of teacher units with 8G of Ram and set one of these up as a trial unit. My first impressions were rather reserved. I thought that most of the changes were cosmetic - therefore no real reason not to back date them to Snow Leopard. But the more I used it - the more I found and the more I liked. Everyone finds things they like and dislike that are different to popular opinion. I was no different.

The two major aspects , Launch Pad and Mission Control, I rather dismissed at first. Until I started to use them a little more effectively. Launch Pad, which looks like an iPad or iPhone, I decided was a fairly quick way of students finding the programs you want them to use (and tucking away the ones you don't - such as the App store). You can make folders - therefore have all the programs that a particular class uses often (say a Year 5 folder with Google Earth, Sketchup, Scratch etc).  Mission Control would help the students find where they were and what they had open.  The scrolling for different desktops is great. You could have one desktop with Safari open, one with Pages and one with a PDF of your lesson notes. Very handy!
Preview has also been revamped and made more useful. You can do a lot more editing in it. The aspect of "full screen" view - I was at first rather cynical - but I find I use it a lot. If you are working on a 13" screen, to easily go from full screen to showing toolbars is a God send. Even the "backwards" scrolling I found no issue with. I go from a Lion machine to a SL machine and I haven't found a need to change the scrolling direction. The changes in Mail and iCal, which the critics all raved about, I find rather ho-hum. Students won't really use them in my set up. I am yet to road run Airdrop, but I am thinking this could be very handy for distributing files to students as well as students sharing work with each other. All in all, Lion  - a winner - therefore stay with it.

My next dilemma  - can I clone Lion and have the machines boot off the server ? With Snow Leopard my work was minimised by being able to ghost an image , with all the programs and settings I wanted, putting it on the server, and then having a laptop boot from the server. This meant that if a computer had an issue (other than hardware) I would have it boot off the server and re-image the machine. This was quicker and more effecient than spending hours trying to find out what little, niggle issue, was causing issues.  What I had done in the past was to use Carbon Copy Clone. At first I cloned an image to a portable hard drive and set the laptops on this. When we got our mini mac server - I put that image on the server. Because Lion has a recovery partition I wasn't sure it would be straight forward.
Here's where I ran into difficulties! I tried CCC, making an image and then putting it on the server. When I booted up the new machines - they couldn't find the server. Hours were spent trying to figure this one out. I   also tried booting off the portable hard drive - it still couldn't see the image ! Frustration - as I've stated earlier - I am a wood butcher - therefore have no real knowledge of these matters. Ironically - I attended an iPad  presentation, where an Apple engineer was present. I asked him about my problems. He said that I would need a Lion server to deploy a Lion image. Ok - one issue solved. But why wouldn't my Lion machines see the image off a portable Hard Drive ?
I did a lot of reading off the net and trials. I ended up trying "Super Duper".  This worked ! I managed to clone a Lion machine (with all programs and settings) to a Hard Drive. I then used this image to boot a number of MBP's . Then loading the image to the HD. Success !
As far as using Lion on my network - I have found no issues. It picks up the network printers, I have linked the student home drives from our windows server , as well as their folders from the mac server. It manages to pick up everything that the Snow Leopard machines could.
I can see and control them through Apple Remote Desktop which helps immensely. I can update them and send packages. I may upgrade the server to Lion at a future date (certainly expense is not a factor) but will hold off for the moment. It will be to my advantage because I can administer the SL machines as well as Lion (which is going to be any new machines) as well as the iPads. But, to save myself the learning curve (I am just getting a handle on SL server) and to make sure there are no hic ups (after all - it is only version one)
Bottom line - upgrade to Lion ? Yeah , why not ?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ah - are we too old to learn ? I don't think so ! Marco Torres and Beyond Chalk.

The last week have been extremely stimulating and has lifted my spirits in regards to education and the use of technology. Notice that I wrote "education" first. Gone are the days tinkering for technology for technology sake.THe modern approach is " I want to do such and such - what tools can assist me ? " Not " How am I going to make technology fit into the task I have to do ?" This is certainly not the thinking of students today. This was exemplified by an example I heard today, which was reflected within my own family. On two occasions my son was bought a wristwatch by well intentioned relatives.  They both have never been worn. He has always used his phone to tell the time. Today I heard a similar story of a young lady who gave  her niece a wristwatch - only to be asked "What else does it do?" Kids today - or should I say - reality today.

Last week I went to a very stimulating presentation by Marco Torres, a LA educationist, film producer, and keynote speaker at numerous International Technology and Education Conferences. It was a day of stimulating thought and discussion. He was a man who appears to be one of the people who initiated  the Apple “Challenge Based Learning” (have a look at the Apple Educational website). He also produced a number of the “Myth Busters” TV series and the show is based on the Challenge Based Learning concept. When you look at the show you certainly see two guys learning ( not two guys teaching). Many of the aspects he spoke about are too involved to go into here - but as a brief summary these are some of the points that struck a cord with me. 

He spoke about people who have a passion for what they do. One thing they all had in common - they had a hobby ! He had made a study over a number of occupations and the most successful and passionate people were the ones who had an outside interest. They were able to make associations or connections with their interests and their jobs. He found the same for the teaching profession. If you want to be a remarkable teacher - get a hobby!
He also gave many examples of students who were not overly academic - but had drive and passion. The ones who were curious and endeavored to take things one step further. Really - the mode of which we should be teaching. The approach of the modern learner is  “ Learn, Create, Share”. We should be accommodating this style - not fighting against it because its not the way we have always done things. 
If I had to sum up two brief aspects I got out of his talk it would have to be “Teach Curiosity “.  Fits very comfortably with the concept of “teaching for life long learning”. When it all boils down - it is the main skill we can give kids in this every changing, turbulent world. 
The second was “Solve and issue and tell a story”.  His web site is rather chaotic but worth a look. Also if you get a chance to hear him speak or attend his workshops - I highly recommend it. His web site is http://torres21.squarespace.com/
The second workshop I went to was of a more practical, hands on style. It was presented by “Beyond Chalk” - a group I have had dealings with before. This was more about “you want to use the technology for your students - here’s how”. Beyond Chalk are a group who use young, enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenters - no easy task considering the aging teacher population (in Australia at least). I always come away from these sessions invigorated, enthused and more knowledgable. Tori, the young lady presenting took us through various aspects of working with the mac platform to help and enhance our students learning. Very practical, student focussed and a spurt of student focussed enthusiasm. I always come away impressed and invigorated.  
If you get a chance to attend any of their workshops - if you keep an open mind, - you will certainly get something out of it.
Ah - it's good to be stimulated and invigorated !

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Many of us spend a lot of time cruising the web for suitable programs to help with our teaching. We all tend to appreciate help - if someone can suggest a program or app - that might fit our needs. Like a lot of others, I too, have started trying to keep a list of things that might be helpful. Like others as well, I tend to have them all over the place.

Will any of this make any difference to Education ?

Two things,  that some people might find helpful, I have included here.
The first one is a list of Web 2 programs. These are programs that anyone can use  (windows or mac). I have listed them here (with screen shots) and although not extensive (only 11 pages and being added to all the time) someone may find them useful. The following pdf is the list.

WEB 2 Programs

I have also included a list of ipad apps that my be useful. You may want to check the "ipad 2" page (which tends to be neglected a bit - as this blog seems to have taken a different direction) for a few questions regarding schools introducing ipads.
But I have included a list of apps that we are looking at regarding our school introduction of ipads. It also has a list for Asian Studies (that I have mentioned on the other page) because of my connection to the Asia Teachers Association.
So - it is a bit of a mixture. Infant apps ; primary apps; and apps for Asian Studies (mainly Secondary). Hope it is helpful.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Doceri (something different for your Interactive Whiteboard)

I was reading about a number of interactive "smartboard", "whiteboard" apps for the ipad - to make it a little more usable in the classroom for a larger group of students. When you start investigating there are a number of apps out there that do a variation of the same thing.
One that impressed me was a product called "Doceri". This one is a little different because it does a whole range of things.
First of all - it mirrors your laptop for Interactive Whiteboard presentations. From your ipad you can control your laptop and any presentation to your Interactive Whiteboard. For example - it may be as simple as a Keynote presentation that you control from the back of the room. Or it may be the Smartboard software and a lesson you have prepared. Instead of asking the student to come to the front and manipulate the smartboard - take the ipad to where the student is sitting, hand the ipad to them and ask them to do the same thing. Great for students who are a little hesitant or shy. Anything that can appear on your laptop can be used through Doceri on your ipad.

That isn't the only thing it will do. You can also write, annotate over any program on your computer. Anything on your computer (including interactive software) you can control (mac or windows), easily launch any document and annotate over them. You can record and save any drawings or presentations for later use. If you just want to use it as a whiteboard - you can. Write or draw on it (or have your students do it). I have tried it in the classroom with  students for Interactive whiteboard lessons and it works great. The shy students appreciate not being the centre of attention (just their work). I also used it for a ipad users group presentation which worked great. You can even use it to control projectors, DVD's and other audiovisuals (although I haven't tried that).  All in all - a great and very useful program. You need to download it onto your computer. It costs $50 to buy but you can trial it for nothing (but a reminder comes up about every hour or so - that it is a trial.) But other than that - it is fully functional. The app for your ipad is free - from itunes. Here is the link. Give it a go - a very impressive product.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Few Little Changes in Technology !

We all realise that technology changes our life style but I wonder how often we stop to think how much has changed in a very short time. When we think the first computer happened in 1975 when Ed Roberts coined the term personal computer and introduced the Altair 8800. It was 1976/1978 that the first real consumer computers were introduced. It then took another 10 years for them to become more readily used. The Internet hit in the nineties as well as mobile phones.  In the twenty years from 1990 to 2010, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions grew from 12.4 million to over 4.6 billion, penetrating the developing economies and reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid. The iPhone came into being in 2007 and the iPad in April 2010. Wow. - how quick things have changed in a very, very short time.
Now let's put this into perspective for the over 40's/50's.  Black and white TV was started roughly in 1956. It really took another 10 years before it became common for most  ( I remember watching TV with my older brothers in the window of the local hardware store). Coloured TV was introduced in 1967 and again wasn't overly common for many until another 10 yrs. I think it was about  1982 before I got my first coloured set ( one of those small portable sets). VHS verse Beta, the cassette tape then  Cd,s introduced in 1981, Walkmans with cassette and then cd,s to be replaced with mp3 players in 1997 ( God forbid that was only 14 years ago !  Where did I put my vinyl record collection ?) 
Mobile phones - another very recent addition. Remember the first ones - looked like bricks and you just about had to yell into them because the reception was so poor! Probably up until 2001 my idea of a mobile phone was the TARDIS  (Dr Who)!  Why on earth would you want to be contacted away from home or work. Enjoy the quiet . 
Then the world changed. Very quickly and irreversibly. And we all got caught up in it - regardless of age. We bought CD's because we couldn't get anything else. We bought computers for our kids to do their homework on. We bought mobile phones so our teenagers could contact us in emergencies. The kids (and not so little kids) wanted digital cameras (“If you want quality kids - stick to film”). Suddenly  - these items became ours and we couldn't do with out them.
Phones got smaller, computers got faster, media entertainment became thinner, more high res with surround sound. In education we got interactive whiteboards and computer banks.  Things went along for a few years with really only minor change. 
Then the iphone hit ! It really did change a whole way of thinking. Call it clever marketing or what you like but it did cause a major mind shift. Phones weren’t being used for just phone conversations. You could interact with it. Receive emails, play games, listen to music, take photos, watch videos (suddenly because of screen size and quality - this became realistic ) and the introduction of “apps”. This was a personal device and mainly taken up by the younger, hipper members of society. Business wasn’t far behind. Linking calendars , emails, phone, notes, video chat had the business community flocking to it in droves. Suddenly - every business man had an iphone. The change of attitude had happened again - and without anyone really noticing. This was a major shift in communication. Phones, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, mulberries could do all this stuff before - but no one really bothered before the iphone. My old 5 yr old nokia has calendars, games, email etc but I have never used it. It just didn’t seem practical. Because of the screen and size the iphone was able to make these things practical and desirable. 

The arrival of the ipad !
Another major shift in thinking. Not a computer or iphone replacement but something in between that will appeal for many reasons. I managed to borrow an ipad 1 for about 4 months to see what uses they could be for education. I stayed with the brief of “education” apps and could see how beneficial they could be for children (although many of my colleagues were going off on tangents of how they would use them for administration or personal use). My conclusion at the end of 2010 was - yes - great for education but I personally wouldn’t own one. Then the ipad2 was released. My school purchased a number to trial. We looked at the educational use, tried them with special needs kids in our classrooms and did our administration on them. I must admit - I became hooked. I can’t really explain why. Maybe it was the smaller, lighter size. Maybe the screen was nicer. I don’t really know. I bought one for my wife. She loves reading, photography, games and using the web. She also became hooked (all for personal, non work related reasons - although she is now looking to how she can utilize it for work related tasks - for use with ESL children). The range of activities one can do on it. Read a book, watch TV, send an email, look up on the net, play a game, make a video call, listen to music, check your calendar - and that’s just scratching the surface. 
Apple seem to have that knack of, not necessarily creating something new, but of being able to put together a number of newer technologies in a format that people will use. Therefore , effectively changing the way people  engage with it.  My - how the world has changed (and me with it).
Ah well- time to reach over and turn the off button on my Black & White telle, duck down to the phone booth on the corner and make a call on my way down to the local library.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Procrastinate - or do I ?

I sometimes wonder how many diaries/ organisers/ calendars/ task managers one can use. There seems to be a zillion of them on the market - often repeating many operations that the last or rival program offered.
But occasionally a little gem comes along that hits the mark.
I was prowling the app store the other day. Something I rarely do (there lies madness !). I don't even have it in my dock - that's how often I go there !
I came across this little program called "iProcrastinate". The title caught my eye. I am the biggest procrastinator I know. My house is never so clean as when I need to finish (or start) some project. Does this sound familiar ? When you need to settle to a task - you just notice how the photos hanging on the wall need a dust or that kitchen cupboard needs a clean out ! It really can't wait - it needs to be done now !
So ___ the name appealed to me. Better still - it was free. The generosity of some people never ceases to amaze me. Some of the programs I find most useful are given for nothing by people who obviously slave away for hours trying to make it work.
What does iProcrastinate do ?
iProcrastinate is a fairly simple task manager that syncs wirelessly with your iphone or through Dropbox over the internet. It was the connection with Dropbox that caught my attention. To me, Dropbox is the Queens Bees of cloud computing. I love it. I operate both Mobile Me and Dropbox. I prefer Dropbox for my day to day files. It is quicker, can be used with any platform and operates like a normal hard drive. Mobile Me I use to host a web site, mail and a calendar.
Enter iProcrastinate. It doesn't replace either - but it does fill a gap. If you have a task or project to work on. You can list the tasks you need to do, link them with a calendar, attach any necessary files, have a check list of whether they have been done or need doing as well as sync them with Dropbox.
Very handy if you are working on a project at home but want to see a checklist at work or on your iphone. You need to have the app on both computers (or iphone). Working at home - you sync to Dropbox.  At work -assuming you have both Dropbox and iProcrastinate loaded, click on your Dropbox file and it updates  your tasks on iProcrastinate at work.
There are a thousand and one uses you will find for this handy little program. I have just given you one example. I am thinking of the education sphere - but because of it's link with the iphone (which I don't have) I could see the use for travelling business men as fantastic.

Give it a go. From mac to mac I have found it really handy (wish they would make an ipad version - but considering it's free I can't complain).

You can see more at

Maybe there is no further reason to procrastinate with this handy tool ! Or is there ?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The "eye" in ipad.

It goes without saying that the ipad is a great administration tool and a fantastic teaching aid for students with disabilities. Most people have found a thousand and one uses for it.
 One little aspect that I came across last week reminded me how good the apple platform is for people with little or no sight. Yes - it does sound like a contradiction. But it isn't.
Considering the effort apple goes to to make the display of it's products hard to beat - one would wonder why on earth you would want something like an ipad if you had limited vision.
Well - the ipad has one nifty little feature that makes it accessible to all. It has "VoiceOver". This allows the ipad to talk to you.
It will tell you what app your finger is on, what orientation the screen is at, read email and webpages to you. It enables you to operate the ipad even if you were totally blind. If you touch an item it tells you the item. Double click and it activates, flick three fingers to scroll.

It is found in your settings. In "General" - then "Accessibility" - "VoiceOver". There are a number of functions in the Accessibility tab that are worth experimenting with.

Have a play. Just when you think you know all there is to know about the ipad - you discover something new. At least I do.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Twitter, podcasts and all things Stephen Fry !

One of the technical advances that I do have trouble understanding is that of twitter. I have tried - believe you me. I have truly! But I just don’t get it. If you were Oscar Wilde - yes I can understand. In fact one of my secret joys is looking up witty, one line quotes from Oscar. Many years ago my wife bought me a present - a lovely soft leather bound edition of the complete works of Oscar Wilde. I love diving into the book, reading his one line witty sayings (but boy- he must have been a pain in the arse to have known personally - no pun intended). In fact I even used his “one liners” as captions for a series of photos I did for bookmarks. But the fact is, that, very (oh so very) few of us have the verbal wit of Oscar. So why do we think that our one line of communication is going to be witty, funny, illuminating, intelligent, thought provoking or in the least of any interest to others ? 

Getting on the phone for Twitter

Maybe it’s my age (I have already admitted elsewhere that I am not 21 !) - but I tend to need quite a few sentences, paragraphs and a word count , to be able to elucidate the main point of any argument, discussion or communicative intercourse. Where does that leave Twitter ?  I know others will argue for it -”get with it” , “it’s the communication of the 21st century” . Sorry - I still don’t get it.
What led me to even discuss this is because of a person I am a fan off - that of the entertainer, author, comedian, actor and public speaker - Stephen Fry. Why he comes up in this blog is because the quality I greater admire in him ( none of the above - although I do appreciate and admire his work) is that of a “word smith”. I think I need to explain this definition, as I had thought the title of this blog “Wood Butchers” was self explanatory. But I have discovered since - very few people understand the term.
A “word Smith” is someone who makes a real craft out of playing with, manipulating, arranging and articulating words. They can entertain you for hours with their phrasing, structure and thought processes regarding words and ideas. This is their strength. This is what I see Stephen Fry’s strength as. And the fact that he combines this ability with technology. 
Stephen has written a number of books, plays, TV sketches as well as appeared as a speaker in a wide variety of places and events. His education is that of what I would call “the humanities” - highlighting Language, History, the Arts. Nothing of any practical use in the modern world, but Language based. Personally, I am of the age where I see this style of education truly giving you the bases for later life, but that is for another time and another  discussion.
The thing that makes Stephen unique (not really unique - but interesting for this conversation)  is the combination of this form of education and his absolute love of all things technical. He has emphasised  his word smith skills with that of modern technology. This is worded the wrong way around - and I have deliberately done this to emphasise the point! He has utilised technology to emphasise his word smith skills. 
He has a web site that keeps people up to date with his doings; he has a blog that keeps us up to date with his views; he produces podcasts to keep people abreast of his spoken views and he is constantly on twitter to keep you abreast of his immediate thoughts. 
He is a self professed technology nerd. To quote him - “I’ve never met a smartphone that I haven’t bought”. He is always the first to adopt any new technology. He claims to have the 3rd MacIntosh ever sold in the UK. He is a great fan of the ipad, iphone - anything Apple. He is even asked to “test drive” new apple products. So - here is a man who is totally absorbed in new technology. But - he makes it work for him, in a relative  and productive way. 
This is the main point - that I think a lot of educators miss. Technology is fun - but we have to make it meaningful and productive. If it is just fun - then it is really only a playstation or Xbox. It has to impart meaning.  This is where I think Stephen Fry has got it right. He is using technology to get his message across - without sacrificing  quality of thought. Granted - he is dealing with a narrow field - in regards to spreading his thoughts (as opposed to his acting or TV work). But he has incorporated new technologies extremely well. His main focus is communication. Whether this be by the old fashion pen - or newer methods such as Twitter, blogs or podcasts. 

Ah - one has to admit - he has style. 

Stephen Fry's website can be found here: http://www.stephenfry.com/

His podcasts can be found on itunes or here

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Skitch "- another old one revisited

Another older program that some people might find handy on a mac (mac only at this stage but they are looking for a win version this year). Skitch is the program. It is a freebie - but you can get the pro version for $19.95 US for a year. It has a number of extra and handy features. But I am just going to mention the free version.
What does it do ? Well - first and foremost - it will grab (or skitch) any screen shot. Doesn't "command,shift &3" do the same thing on a mac ? Yes it does but sketch has a few handy and concise features. It can grab a whole screen or part of; it can save it to a number of formats (png or jpeg on free version - a lot more on paid version); you can draw or write on the screen shot. This is particularly handy for presentations or instructional work. The screen shot below was "drawn" on using sketch.

It also can be used as a drawing program - to construct diagrams or illustrations for web or print use. Photo's can be treated. It will even use your iview camera. Sharing, of course is a strong point of the program. It has it's own storage area or you can choose to share your pieces in the usual way.
Skitch doesn't do anything that a number of other programs can't do - but it's handy having them in one place and easily accessible. It can screen capture, crop, resize, sketch , text and share - all very fast and easily.
If you haven't come across it before - download it and give it a go. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some older things revisited

Sometimes you look at things and go "ah yeah - but I don't think I would really use it". The danger of the web or cloud based programs is that there is so much out there you can download heaps of programs that you never really use or utilise.
I must admit I am one of those people. I see a "cloud" based program and think "yeah - I would use that", only to find later - I downloaded it and it just sits there on my computer. I use it as an experiment but I don't really utilise it or find out what it really can do. Or it just doesn't fit the flow of what I find increases my productivity.
I have looked at a number of products to save notes, web pages, lists of jobs to do, files and reminders.
I really liked the notebook view in Office 2011 for Mac. It had an old fashioned "tabbed" notebook view with the ability to include audio files. Looked like it could be a usable format for me. The problem being - it wasn't viewable on another computer unless they had Office 2007 or above.
Another program I looked at about a year ago was "Evernote". I played with it - used it for a short time and dismissed it. Just recently I have come back to it. Why? Well first of all - it was because I wanted to save web pages/ bookmarks etc. I found programs like "Delicious" too involved and convoluted. I wanted something simple. I don't really want to share my bookmarks, favourite sites etc with the general public. I just want to locate a site or page -that I can easily locate on another computer.
This is how I started to use "Evernote" again. It has the ability to have a plug in on your browser (say Safari) that will do a screen shot of the page. You then can add notes, URL or any extra information. I started using it to bookmark subject bookmarks.
Let's say I found a website that I would like to use with HSIE later. I could bookmark it (including screen shot), give some detail about why I would use it, save it into a category listed HSIE- which I then could easily locate later using a search, listing the topic, HSIE or any other keys words I have used. I could even include a video or pdf I had found.
The other use I found was the ability to make "to do lists". Not something I normally think of (except on paper). But when you are going from one computer to another (as we are now in teaching - from the home computer to the school computer) - it suddenly becomes viable. I made a list of things I have to do at school (with a check button that would be ticked as I completed each task). At school I would activate my Evernote list and check what I had to do and tick them off as I accomplished each task. Very handy.

The beauty of the program is that it can be loaded on a range of OS - therefore it is like a travelling diary/notebook. I have it loaded on my mac's at home as well as my mac's and windows machines at school. You can also use it on iphone/ipad and android phones. Therefore it can give you access to your information regardless of what devices you are using or where.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Reading Experience ?

As a teacher - there is one thing that concerns me with technology and that is the aspect of reading. Whether people do it ? The quality of what they read! Is reading a book the same as a Kindle/ipad ?

But should I worry ? Books seem to be booming. JK Rowling is one of the richest women in Britain - everyone was reading Harry Potter. Best sellers on the New York best sellers list seem to guarantee the author fame and a comfortable income. Personally - I find this good. It indicates people are reading (maybe not my preferred titles )- but at least they are engaging with the written word.
But this is where the ground has shifted. What is the written word ? How long does it have to be ? What is the audience ?
One thing I am sure of - the ground has shifted from my safe perspective of a cozy book in bed on a winters night. Fantasy/ thriller when I want to escape. Autobiographical/ philosophical when I feel like taxing the brain. Magazine/ pictorial when I feel like the artistic, light and visual. But the thing they all have in common - they are paper copy, hold in hand traditional aspects of publishing. Love the smell of a newly printer book (that no one else has touched) - an ipad just doesn't smell the same ! But - things are changing. Anyone under the age of 35 see's the aspect of reading differently - twitter, blogs, Facebook, emails, texts - these are all the main forms of communication for anyone under the age of 30 - they don't know anything else!  I may not like it - but to engage this generation I need to change my thinking. It's only going to change more as time goes on ! Or is it ?
Paper may be replaced with a "digital form" but it seems like it really is just a shift of the medium rather than the content. Granted - there is more of the "one liners" - Twitter (Oscar Wilde and Stephen Fry would love it) - but I think these also will be replaced. Granted , probably by something similar, but this "one line" form of communication has always been around in some form or another. And I think with phone/ personal communication devices, will maintain and grow as a form of communication for the young ("remember when the old farts were on twitter and Facebook - how 2010ish- !!).
But - the conventional content doesn't die in all this ! It just changes. Best selling novels become PDF's or ebooks; magazines and newspapers become RSS or even interactive emags.
I personally buy a number of photographic magazines. Enjoy reading articles, reviews of equipment, tips etc. Recently I saw a digital version of the magazine. Instead of just having the review of the new camera - it had video footage, examples and 3D views of all aspects. Novel - but added another dimension to the information I was given.
Blogging is another form of reading that I have discovered recently. I always thought that blogging was something that 20 year olds did to talk about their great "unique" Thailand holiday or the great night out in town (who really cares except their friends ?).
I hadn't realised that many academics, educators, thinkers etc used Bloggs to share thoughts, information, ideas and communicate research. In fact, a whole range of thoughts and ideas that may not be exposed in the traditional press.
One that I found lately I thought may be of interest to others - regarding the main purpose of this blog - that of publishing. Have a read of it - see what you think.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Growly Bird Notetaking

About a year ago I came across a note taking format that I really liked. It was actually the Notebook layout in MS Word. This sort of layout - like an old fashion notebook (with the ability to do oral notes as well) really appealed to me. This led me on a hunt for some sort of mac equivalent.

This was when I came across a free program called "Growly Notes". A free program that does quite a lot. It is generously put out by two people (a couple I think) who have designed and produced a number of mac based "home" programs.

You can add booklets and pages; incorporate video and sound; draw notes on pages etc.  Worth checking out.
Have a look at

Sunday, April 3, 2011

All laptops are created equal ?

I'm not one of those people who falls in love with a bit of technology or talks about "how powerful" a piece of technology or software is. But, I must admit -sometimes one piece of kit does the job just a little better than another.
As mentioned in the other page regarding our journey into apple software and hardware - my own views were rather guarded. I had been a long time win user and only "tried" apple hardware to see if it was better for photographic purposes than win. My opinion in this regard is still undecided. When I first entered the realm of apple I argued quite heatedly with "apple" friends about the need for virus protection (surely you needed it - it only stood to reason).
I was (and still am) using a 15inch macbook pro for my personal purposes. I must admit, over time I have really come to like the apple software and especially their hardware. I enjoy working on my MBP for both work and personal purposes. The trackpad (I have not experienced on any other laptop I have used), the backlight keyboard (I know - not unique), the slim, light design. All made for an enjoyable and easy experience.
Twelve months ago we decided to embark on a 1 to 1 apple laptop for the students. Because of costing limitations and insurances from apple - it was decided that we would purchase MacBooks (the white ones). These had been proven in the US - suitable for students and would stand up to the job. It was necessary for the two class teachers, who would conduct the classes, to also have a macbook. These two would be upgraded to 4G of memory as well as run Fusions (for win XP).
The teachers would be encouraged to treat the laptops as their own. Take them from school to home, work directly onto them, returning each day to attach them to smartboards etc. This proved very successful and showed us the way forward regarding the deployment of class laptops for teachers. "Ownership" - had a high baring on productivity.
I was one of these teachers using a macbook and transferring it from home to school. I must admit the convenience of doing so was very productive. To be able to work directly onto the machine, set it up the way you wished, organise your folders to your manner of thinking - I found increased my productivity greatly. But, probably more importantly, increased my organisational skills. While you still drowned in a pile of paper - if you couldn't locate that worksheet or file - you knew where you had a copy on the laptop. The buzz of working like this lasted for quite a while.
Over time I found myself drifting back to my macbook pro. I didn't notice at first, but if I was doing something in low light - the illuminated keyboard of the pro was very handy. I had dropbox set up on both computers - so saving between the two wasn't an issue. But I found myself using my pro more and more and the white - less and less. Surely this defeated the purpose and convenience  of being able to work and plan on the same machine? So I started to examine my own rationale to why.
Let me say - there is nothing wrong with the white mac. It is reliable, sturdy and I certainly didn't notice any major difference in speed. But when you are working on the same machine for extended hours of the day (both at work and at home) - it's the little things that start to add up.
I noticed the difference in the keyboard, the illuminated keys as well as a difference in the key pressure. The weight of the machine was slightly less. The pad - a nicer and smoother feel. A built in SD card reader (handy for school cameras - which all seem to use SD cards). It came with 4G of Ram - as opposed to ordering it separately (needed to run Fusions more smoothly). All in all - seems like a nicer to machine to work on - and the price difference of $200!  If you include the extra Ram cost ($120) - then the difference is actually $80!
On the next round of laptops I was able to forward a convincing argument for equipping the teachers (who were going to be using theirs a lot more extensively than the students) with the Pro's.
Like all things in life - some things are not necessarily created equal.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blooms Digital Taxonomy

I am always amazed at the thought processes, intelligence and the willingness to share that some people have. I came across a wiki by a New Zealand educator by the name of Andrew Churches. He has done some amazing work on Blooms Taxonomy and relating it to the digital approach. It is called "Educational Origami" and you will get lost in there for hours. He has been a keynote speaker and noted educational blogger for a number of years.
Check it out at    http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Google Art Project

A really interesting site I read about the other day was from google - their "Art project" site. This is a work in progress and will only improve further (although a fantastic site as is). Many of the world's leading art galleries have come on board. There are tours around the gallery, visits to different floors and rooms. You can zoom in on a painting to examine the smallest detail or brush stroke. Incredible ! A fantastic resource for any student - regardless of age. Mainly European art at the moment - but plans for Australian galleries to join at a later date. Have a look.


Sharing Information

It hit home to me today about the aspect of sharing information and trying to avoid "re-inventing the wheel". A fellow from another school wanted to come and see what we were doing with our mac laptop program. After showing him around and talking about our journey over the last 18 months, he mentioned about his own school plans. To trial a one on one laptop program with a mac wiki server. His plan was to highlight the whole thing at the end by having a "sharing" session with the IT powers to be, the Director and any interested parties. I might add our system is a windows system therefore anything apple is considered in the "we don't support that" category. I pointed out we had already done that very same thing 12 months previously - to the very same people. He was rather surprised and wondered why he hadn't heard about it or been told about it. The need to share information. Hence, I suppose why this blog was started. We often have ideas which we try and learn from - only to find someone has done that very same thing previously and we could have learnt from their efforts - and probably been a little further on with our journey. Not that everyone's journey is the same. It depends on fellow workers, expertise, interest, support as well as community. But often someone's mistakes, hiccups or viewpoints can save us some time, and supply knowledge or information to make our journey quicker or smoother.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting this Blog Going !

I thought it was about time I started getting this blog going. It is a work in progress. So I will warn you before you start.
The purpose of this blog is to share my information and "knowledge" of how I got to this point. My "knowledge" is limited and is simply gained by trying things, reading and asking. Therefore the title "The wood butchers guide to Technology". I have not been trained in technology - I am an older teacher who simply found that I needed to keep abreast of things for the sake of our students. Classified as a computer "Nerd" by fellow staff members because of the clever skill of being able to fix 90% of their computer problems by - you guest it - "reboot" (clever aren't I ?).
I only came to computers (as many older users would relate to) in about 1995 because my wife and I were doing a Uni course (ironically - language - NOT technology) and our old type writer kept missing keys (the lecturers would not be amused). Will we buy a new type writer or one of those new fangled things - a computer. We also had a 9 year old son - so maybe get hip with the latest technology for his sake. After that - it was just getting familiar as one saw the need.
I won't bore people with the journey of the dial up modem, the joys of powerpoint etc. We all went through that.
My purpose of this blog is to share with people where I am now. An apple one on one program' class websites, cloud computing. This is the information I wish to share - not because I am an expert. Simply - I am a wood butcher.
I suppose the thing that has held me back is trying to put tabs into this post - so I can share some of the documentation I have done on the way. But I will figure that out later.