Don’t Tell Me, Show Me

I am the king of help sheets. Here at my school I’ve created and distributed tech help sheets that explain everything from “How to check your school e-mail at home” to “How to link to UnitedStreaming video assignments from your Blackboard course“.

Unfortunately, what takes 30 minutes to explain in writing, I can usually demonstrate in 30 seconds on my computer screen. Well now my days of help sheet writing may be over.

Windows Media Encoder is a free download from Microsoft. (Thanks Steve Dembo for mentioning it in your blog.) It has several capabilities, but the one that caught my attention is its ability to record your screen activity.

Now I can hook a microphone up to my computer and record myself demonstrating various computer tasks for our students or teachers. When I’m done I have a Windows Media file that can be posted or e-mailed to whoever needs help. When anyone watches the video, it will be just like they are watching my screen and listening to me explain what to do.

Using the medium quality setting, 90 seconds of video takes up about 512K (1/2 MB) of space. What I’ve found works best is to break a task into several short 1-2 minute clips rather than record one long 10 minute clip. The shorter clips let your viewers select the part of the demo they want to watch, plus the smaller file size means they’ll download faster.

Since I was not able to use Windows Media Encoder to record itself, I’ve posted a help sheet that explains how to use it.

[Using Windows Media Encoder]

Okay, so my days of help sheet writing aren’t completely over.

‘Tis the Season…

TO: School Administrators

“A Christmas Wish from Your Teachers”

It came to pass in those days that there went out a decree that all schools should integrate technology into their curriculum. And everyone purchased Microsoft Office and went online to register. So our teachers also went up from their classrooms and attended technology training, because they had received a substitute teacher and paid in-service time from their administrator. They went to learn Power Point and how to make their own classroom blogs. They learned how to find all kinds of Unitedstreaming videos and they pledged to use all this knowledge in their teaching.

Several weeks later, the school’s administrator was in his office keeping watch over his fall enrollment lists by night. When lo, the parents of his students appeared before him, and he was terrified.

But the parents said unto him, “Fear not. For we bring you good news of our great joy which overflows because of the accomplishments of our children. And this will be a sign to you. You will go into their classrooms and you will find them learning with technology.”

Then suddenly there was for the administrator, a phone call from the chairman of the school board praising him and saying,

“Glorious things have been happening in our classrooms. Special thanks to you, administrator, on whom our favor rests.”

When the parents had left, the administrator said, “I shall go to these classrooms and see these things that have happened that the parents have told me about.”

So he hurried off and found it was just as the parents had said. Teachers were presenting lessons using these wonderful new technology tools. They were posting homework, class information, and helpful homework links on their own blogs. They also had created online assignments and quizzes.

Students were taught how check the validity of Internet information. They were encouraged to use wikis for writing and editing. Their multimedia reports were filled with colorful pictures, graphics, sounds, and animations. Some even created their own videos!

The administrator was both pleased and amazed by all he had seen, which was just as the parents had told him. He praised the teachers at the next staff meeting, thanking them for their efforts and vowing to give them more time –time to prepare lessons, time to evaluate new web sites and new technologies (like podcasting), and time to meet with other teachers and share ideas.

The teachers treasured up all these things and pondered them in their hearts.


If I had to choose the biggest obstacle that is preventing our teachers from integrating technology, that obstacle would be time.

Teachers that are using technology regularly in their classrooms have paid the price in lost evenings and weekends. They have spent countless hours of their own personal time in front of the computer struggling to create presentations for their classes. They have dealt with the frustrations of trying to get their web pages and blogs to look the way they want them to and have pulled out their hair trying to upload those same pages to the Internet. Old lesson plans have been re-written to enable students to use various technology and multimedia tools in their assignments and projects.

Ask teachers if this was time well spent? The answer would be a resounding “Yes!” Ask them if they would like more time for training and planning, and they would probably look at you as if you had just asked them if they regularly breathe oxygen.

Why is this time so important? Many who are new to technology are afraid to touch it because they don’t want to mess it up or break it. That fear is multiplied if they are told they must use it with their class next week. No one wants to look stupid. It takes time to learn how to use these new technology tools. Teachers need time to explore and experiment. They need a non-threatening environment that allows them to make mistakes and provides time to learn from those mistakes. This environment helps them become comfortable with the technology and feel confident using it in their classroom. This confidence can be cultivated by giving teachers time off for technology training, allowing them to visit other schools where these tools are being used effectively, and providing teachers with additional time each week for planning lessons.

With the support and encouragement of school administration, technology integration can indeed become a reality in your school. Just give your teachers a little extra time and glorious things can happen.

Brochure Maker

I like things that are easy to use. It’s even better when those things are also FREE. Our 8th grade teacher shared this site with me this morning ( Her students are using it for their writing class. They are designing brochures for the upcoming trip to Washington DC (May 2007).
To create a brochure using this online tool, you start by selecting a type and style from one of their templates. You can select pictures in their template and upload your own pictures to replace them. Then you just click in the text frames and type your own text. For our writing class, students first wrote and proofread their text using a word processor. Getting the text into the brochure was just a matter of copying and pasting.
Pictures upload quite easily and I was even able drag and center my pictures within their frames, similar to the way you can using Apple’s Pages or iPhoto . When you finish, you just print it out or you can save it for later retrieval by giving them your e-mail address.
Quick, easy, and FREE. What could be better?

Would It Make A Sound?

This is a test to see if I can post pictures to my blog directly from Picasa. I’m already a fan of Picasa for quick and dirty photo editing. Many of our teachers use it for class pictures (parties, field trips, etc.) and to show slideshows to their class. This is just one more cool feature. (No Honda CR-V’s were hurt in the making of this picture.)
Did I mention it’s FREE? [] Posted by Picasa

Here’s a very basic help sheet for creating slide shows using Picasa.
[Make a Slide Show with Picasa]

The Power Point Diet

If you’ve ever used your own digital pictures in Power Point presentations, you may have noticed that your Power Point files tend to be quite large. If you’ve got a 6 or 8 megapixel camera, just a few photos can make your presentation eat up as much as 20 or 30 MB on your hard disk. (You don’t want to e-mail that to any of your friends who still use dial-up.)

How would you like to trim that file by as much as 80 or 90%? You can! Here’s how…

Open one of your “overweight” Power Point files.
Find a slide that has one of your pictures on it.
Double-click on the picture to bring up the “Format Picture” window.

For maximum file compression use the settings indicated in the figure above. You should not notice any significant loss of quality in your pictures, but when you save your presentation, you’ll see that you’ve trimmed quite a bit off the file size.

FREE Video Podcasts for Classrooms

You know how much I love the word “FREE”. Now you can get free videos to share with your students by subscribing to video podcasts on iTunes.


  • a computer
  • Internet access (cable, DSL or something fast is definately a plus!)
  • iTunes Software (version 7 is available free at

an iPod – Believe it or not, you don’t need an iPod to watch a podcast. You can watch it on your computer. Or you can connect your computer to a data projector.

Okay, so what do I have to do?
Launch iTunes and go to the Music Store. I found some great video podcasts by searching for the following…

  • “Ecogeeks” – Science video podcasts that explain science topics in a fun and exciting way. Hosts and filmmakers are trained biologists. For more info about the episodes visit their site:
  • “Electronic Field Trips” – A series of 4 – 8 minute Webisodes from the Ball State University Electronic Field Trip Program. The current list includes videos from Field Trips to Hawaii (Volcanos, rainforests, etc.) and Historic Philadelphia (Independence Hall, Revolutionary War).
  • “isallaboutmath” – (no spaces) Covers various topics in mathematics. Good for upper elementary & middle school. Topics include: triangular numbers, summations, mathematical induction.

Not all video podcasts are available in the podcast directory. NASA’s Brain Bites are a collection of 30 second to 1 minute videos on various topics including “What happens if you drop an hammer and a feather on the moon?” and “What time is it in space?”
To subscribe to these podcasts you’ll need to go the “Advanced” menu in iTunes. Select “Subscribe to Podcast”. Type the following URL in the box and click “Add”:

These are just 4 video podcasts I was able to find last weekend. If you find any other good ones, please let me know.


[Click here to download this post in a printable handout.]