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Sunday, October 24, 2010

'Cherish Our Teachers'

Early in the month, I blogged about whether any U.S. politician of note would recognize the work of American teachers with a few good words on World Teachers' Day. Surely that would have been a big boost to educators down south as beseiged as they are by reform mania.

North of the 49th, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Canada's new Governor General David Johnston - former president of the University of Waterloo and father to five daughters - took a few moments to praise Canadian teachers during his installation ceremony in Ottawa.

Johnston talked about Canada being a "smart and caring nation" and outlined the work we had to do to become even more so.
  1. Support families and children,
  2. Reinforcing learning and innovation, and
  3. Encourage philanthropy and volunteerism.
But what most struck a chord with me was his verbal bouquet to the nation's teachers. If you scrub ahead to the 49 sec. mark in the above video, you will hear this:

"Anyone who has achieved any degree of success and been placed in a leadership position can point to dozens of teachers, mentors and coaches who have made them better along the way...

"In my case, they number in the hundreds. During my term, we will find ways to properly recognize our teachers who are responsible for our intellectual development. If there is one trumpet call from my remarks today, let it be 'Cherish our teachers.'"

Hear, hear, Your Excellency. Nothing says eloquence like a heartfelt 'thank you.'

Friday, October 15, 2010

Host a Web Conference From Your iPad or iPhone

Fuze Meeting HD lets you host and join audio/screen sharing conferences right from your iPad or iPhone. And it doesn't leave out Android or Blackberry either.

The demo above speaks for itself. There are more on YouTube. The website is cool. The blog is amazing. And there's even a live daily demo you can peek in on to whet your appetite.

While the Fuze Meeting app is free, you pay $10 for 24 hours of what I assume is non-consecutive conferencing time - with up to 15 attendees.

The service looks affordable for small groups or associations. The other pricing options scale from there. If you have the time and interest, this cool production seems like it's worth a look.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Make Your Own iPad Stylus

Why would you even want an iPad stylus? Well, have you ever grabbed a phone call and wanted to quickly jot down a phone number or short bit of information? How about making a quick sketch of furniture placement in a room or making a simple back-of-napkin drawing?

The iPad fires up so quickly, you've probably been tempted to use it like this. But as much the iPad's keyboard is functional and fast, it's not as fast as grabbing a notebook and scribbling as someone fires a phone number at you.

To use the iPad like this you need an app that will capture your writing in all it's hasty glory.

Enter Penultimate (iTunes), a great little notebook app that let's you do that. With Penultimate, you can create as many notebooks as you want; select lined, graph or plain paper; use multiple colours; even change the thickness of your lines.

The drawback is you're still using your finger to write or draw, and with your palm resting on the glass, writing with your finger doesn't feel as natural as holding a pen.

No, what you need is a stylus. But your old Palm or DS stylus isn't going to do the trick. They're made for resistive touchscreens, not the capacitive touchscreen of your iPad.

So, you'll have to buy a third-party stylus that will set you back between $20 - $35. Can you say Ouch? I shudder to think what the Apple product sells for.

The secret to any iPad stylus, no matter what the price, is a little capacitive foam nib. Pull any brand of stylus off the shelf and you'll see the nib looks fuzzy and unremarkable. I went to my local London Drugs last week, bought one for $35 and thought, "This much for a feather light stick and a piece of foam?" I tested it in the store and returned it right away, hoping to find the $20 version across town.

Then, I saw this simple video that shows how to make a capactive stylus for your iPad out of an old pen, a piece of wire, and - you guessed it - a piece of capacitive foam.

The end result may not draw oohs and aahs for style, but it works. And if you're around kids all day, they certainly won't mind.

Sometimes, good enough is all you need.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Picapp - millions of free blog pics, elegantly simple

Teacher in art class

I love using Picapp to post photos to my blog. It's quick, free, easy to use, has an elegantly simple interface and gives you access to millions of stock and news photos. No attribution is required: readers simply click on the gallery button visible on every photo you embed for full details. And you don't need to register to use the service.

An elementary schoolgirl takes part in an abacus contest in Tokyo May 19, 2010. About 100 students from American schools in U.S. military bases in Japan participated in the contest which made use of the soroban, a traditional Japanese calculating tool. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (JAPAN - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY)
Try punching in a few teacher terms using both "creative" and "editorial" searches. Creative will pull up a huge library of stock photos. Editorial will get you wire service pics from Reuters and others on everything from international news to politicians to celebs. You can illustrate virtually any domestic, international or opinion piece. Take your pick, remember they're free. Picapp photos are only for blogs and can be embedded on any blogging platform.

The Picapp site is still in beta. Enjoy.

Download Video Directly to iPad with Dropbox

Mar. 28, 2013 Note - The iCab Mobile app I refer to below has removed the YouTube download feature no doubt because of YT's TOS. No worries, though, because the free iBolt Downloader and Manager app will do the same for you, in much the same way. Works very nicely. Play with it for a while and you'll figure it out. If you get seriously stuck, drop me a comment and I'll be glad to help.

Dec. 31, 2012 Note - Thanks so much for clicking on this post. It's a couple of years old now, so I feel I owe it to you - and hundreds of others who view it every day - to tell you there's a much faster and cleaner way to download video directly to your iPad. The trick is a wonderful browser app called iCab Mobile. Use that browser to go to YouTube and search for the video you want. Once you find it, click play, let it run for a few seconds, then press and hold your finger on the video itself. You'll see a download button pop up. Hit that and your download starts automatically. When it finishes it will be much higher resolution that you'll ever get from the Dropbox method I describe below. You also have a choice to let that video reside within iCab Mobile or download it to your Camera Roll. If you need a few more instructions please see the reference to this browser in my post Cool stuff I learned over the summer on social media.

You can download video directly to your iPad over wi-fi or 3G without using iTunes. The trick is to first upload video to your Dropbox account on your desktop or laptop, then favorite it in the free Dropbox for iPad app.

The simple act of favouriting in Dropbox for iPad begins a download process you barely notice. Somehow your vid is saved directly to the iPad in no time flat.

So if you want to pull a YouTube video down to your iPad:
  1. Go to Keepvid on your desktop and save your video as an mp4.
  2. Upload to your Dropbox account.
  3. Download the free Dropbox for iPad app.
  4. Find your video on the iPad app and favorite it.
Voila, your video now resides on your iPad. No iTunes. No cable. Lovely.

The Thanksgiving video above was the first one I download with this method. It took five minutes to upload to Dropbox on my laptop over wi-fi, but almost nothing to download to my iPad after clicking star in Dropbox for iPad.

Still scratching my head over how fast this works.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Create Your Own 'Dropbox' with Pogoplug

I first heard about the Pogoplug in an interview with @CaliLewis and was left scratching my head as to why it would be one of two items she could not live without. After poking around a bit, I found out why.

This product lets you create your own cloud.

Plug your hard drive or USB-drive into one of the four slots, plug the ethernet cable from your router into the Pogoplug and voila, your very own Dropbox. No fees - and as much storage as your hard drive can handle.

Throw in the free Pogoplug iPhone app and you can stream your entire music or video collection - not to mention accessing your documents - through your phone or desktop.

Too good to be true? We'll see.

In Canada, London Drugs was selling them for $49 this week.

(You guessed it, I have no affiliation with PogoPlug or London Drugs, and you're right, the pitchman in the video is cheesy.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Who Will Thank the American Teacher?

Teacher in classroom
Did you know that next Tuesday, October 5, is World Teachers' Day?

You'd be forgiven if you said no.

Somehow, teachers think it's unseemly and self-serving to tell the world all the good they do, even on their own day. Yet, every October it rolls around, a day to showcase their work with the growing minds of the world's children - and comparatively few people know about it.

Here in my corner of Canada, our provincial government sends out a release thanking teachers for their service in educating students. We believe they really mean it.

Our national and local teachers' unions promote the day. Australia has been known to make a big deal of it. And in Uganda, the government recently declared that starting next year October 5 will be a national holiday in honour of teachers.

But I wonder about our American colleagues. With all the hyperbole and hyperventilation happening down south with Waiting for Superman, the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC's Education Nation, I wonder if anyone on the cutting edge of edu-bashing is planning to fete American teachers on their day.

Will MSNBC toss a bouquet to the nation's teachers by running an homage to the very folks they've largely left out of their examination of stateside school reform? Will David Guggenheim, the director of Waiting for Superman, consider a balanced sequel to his polemic film? Will the Los Angeles times simply say "sorry?"

More importantly, will reform's heavy hitters soften and speak words of gratitude for those toiling in the educational trenches? Will Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laud the daily efforts of the teachers who love teaching and nurture kids. Will President Obama finally decide to inspire hope in and respect for American educators?

Simply put, will the critics chill on World Teachers' Day? And will anyone who has benefitted from the experience, professional knowledge and care of their teachers issue a simple statement of appreciation for the work they do?

Surely U.S. teachers don't need a Hallmark card to raise public awareness of World Teachers' Day 2010 and feel good about their contribution to society.

They just need more people who are humble and gracious enough to say "thanks."