EdTech @ETHS

Volume 2

Talkin’ Tech Since 2010

March 27, 2012


Confessions from a Gadget Addict

Confession: I have a mobile gadget addiction. Ever since my first Sony Walkman, I have always been in love with portable electronics. I could name dozens of products that have found a way into my hands, mostly through purchasing with my hard earned money. From a Palm Pilot Professional to my first cell phone, a Samsung (but boy, did I ever want a Motorola StarTac). From the more tech nerdy HP Jornada Pocket PC to the ubiquitous iPod (I actually didn’t get on board until the 3rd generation). From the iPhone 3G to my current Samsung Galaxy Nexus (yes, I swapped out my HTC Thunderbolt after just 2 months). Mobile devices have always intrigued me, and it seems that the rest of the world is realizing all of the things that you can do with such a small device.

Today’s mobile devices contain so much computer processing power, it’s getting hard to imagine tasks that cannot be done with a smartphone or Tablet. The latest non-Apple push is to blend the phone and the tablet into one device (Samsung Galaxy Note), and recent sales seem to indicate that there may indeed be a market for such a device (I tried it - too big for a phone if you ask me). With the ETHS_GUEST wireless network about to go live after spring break, I suspect we’ll see an increase in mobile device usage by our students, just as we have already seen a spike by our faculty and staff.

Although I’m sure students will want to use their devices to engage in social media and communicate via email, I’m confident that they’ll also use their new access to the

Internet for search (a seemingly small feature, but one that reaps huge benefits for any student).  They will share information to help each other study, and they’ll be more engaged with learning because they can access information anytime and anywhere.

In this month’s EdTech @ETHS, we review a few of our mobile initiatives at ETHS. For those with a shiny new iPad, you’ll find tons of free and paid apps waiting for your download. For those interested in bringing computers to the classroom, you’ll learn more about laptop and iPad cart possibilities. Angie Tomcik offers some great suggestions for free books, and I give you yet another reason to consider using Google Apps for education if you are not already. Get mobilized!


iPads in Education - What everyone is talking about

I have been observing a few new iPads (a.k.a. iPad 3s) in the hallways recently, and over the past few months, many teachers have been inquiring about how to connect their personal iPad to our wireless network and to a classroom projector. The tablet device has taken the world by storm, and ETHS is not to be left out. So, where does the “magical” device fit into our grand technology plan?

Apps - WIth 25 billion apps downloaded from Apple’s App Store, there are plenty to choose from and many have found a place in the classroom. One of the best places to begin your search for classroom relevant apps is to search by subject matter. Also, while the App Store has an Education section, and many useful apps are housed here, some of the best classroom apps will actually be found elsewhere in the store, specifically in the productivity, utilities, or even social networking. You can find specific app recommendations, lists, and websites in the links section below.

Textbooks - This is the buzz around iPads since Apple announced the update to its iBooks app. Digital textbooks sold through iBooks will cost no more than $14.99, and we’re talking about some high quality learning experiences, and not just a digital copy of the print textbook.

With the possibility of holding multiple textbooks on one device, accessible anytime anywhere (this would require a download), the digital textbook is finally making a push towards becoming more commonplace. Pricing is naturally a concern and many schools are seeking to fund a 1:1 iPad initiative using either the same or less money found in current budgets.

Students as Creators - Although it is tempting to imagine what a teacher could do with an iPad in the classroom, many believe that the true power of the device doesn’t really manifest itself until you get the iPad into the hands of the student. So many of the available apps allow for the student to become a creator. Instead of passively consuming content, the student becomes an active learner, using the touch screen to interact with demonstrations, tutorials, and animations.

The student can access videos repeatedly until he/she feels confident and then create his/her own video to demonstrate mastery of the content. Traditional projects that often ended in the hands of the teacher can now be shared as digital works with the entire class at any time taking advantage of the appeal of an authentic audience.

Green Tech Tip



Paperless Classrooms

Teaching and Learning Tech

Sites Worth Saving

Hapara - Google Apps Dashboard


A key tool in going “paperless” is Google Apps for Education. The collaborative suite of web applications allows for students and teachers to work on documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more simultaneously from wherever they have access to a computer and the Internet.  

However, as many teachers who have “Gone Google” quickly find out, organization of the classes of documents that students share can be a bit cumbersome.

Enter Teacher Dashboard. This web application allows teachers to:

  1. See all of their student names as opposed to ID numbers
  2. View all documents that have been shared with the teacher via a specifically designated folder in their Docs.
  3. View all documents even those that haven’t been shared and gain immediate read/write access to the document.

There are many more features embedded in this robust application. Please let me know if you are interested in trying it out (simply click on the click above) or if you would like additional information on how to use this tool effectively to manage your paperless classroom.

ICE 2012 Notes http://www.chanatown.net/search/label/cilatice2012 - I used CoverItLive again to document my conference experience. Most of my notes and links are included above.

The new iPad


Thoughts on the iPad 3, um, I mean the new iPad.

Accessorizing Apple:

iPod watches: iWatchz review, HEX Vision review

iPad Cases: SealShield review

Chanatown’s Best iPad Apps of 2011

Paid: http://www.chanatown.net/2012/01/best-paid-apple-ipad-apps-of-2011.html



My own personal lists of the best apps from the previous year.

Top 200 Apps (free and paid) for 2012

http://beta.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/tablets/top-200-best-ipad-apps-2012-681998 - There’s a ton of stuff out there in the App Store. These are some of the tried and true.

75 Best Android Apps

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2393097,00.asp - Similarly, there are thousands of apps in the Market (now Google Play), though with quality control much less in effect, it can be more challenging to discern the good from the bad.

I Education App Review

http://www.iear.org/ - locally sourced, founder Scott Meech is joined by over 500 educators in curating a nice collection of apps specifically for the classroom.

The Central Locus

Great Books and More on the Cheap

Have you ever wanted to fill your bookshelves with all of the classics you’ve been meaning to read, but don’t have the budget to purchase? Well, there are three ways you can read from the Great Books Canon, and never drop one slim dime— free books on the Internet!

Bartleby.com http://bartleby.com/ is a highly user/student friendly site that allows you to search for: quotations, verse, fiction, short stories and even non-fiction, published by various well known publishers, like Oxford and Harvard that have gone into public domain. You can search by author, title or even by theme. In fact, Bartleby.com is so user friendly that it has been added to our Research Web Sites from the Library link on the homepage. This is an excellent place for students to go to get full text versions of these classic works; and each entry has its original printed bibliographic record that students can easily enter into their Works Cited pages or into Noodle Tools.

Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ also has books that have gone into public domain, but they have much more to offer than just the classics. You will also find diverse works by world authors from Hermann Hesse and Franz Kafka, to Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. You will also find works by African American authors, like a collection of short stories by Paul Laurence Dunbar; House Behind the Cedars, by Charles W. Chestnutt; and The Quest of the Silver Fleece by W.E.B. Du Bois. You will also find unexpected authors like science fiction’s Philip K. Dick. Here you can browse “Bookshelves” for categories such as: Countries, Education, Fine Arts, History, Language and Literature, Music, Psychology and Philosophy, Religion and more. It is also possible to search for a book by author, title or by subject. You can download as HTML for a printable version, or you can have a work downloaded to your Kindle.

Last, but certainly not least, is ManyBooks.net http://manybooks.net/ for free titles. What is especially nice about the way in which they’ve categorized their titles is that they have them listed by “Genres” which include: African American Studies (perfect for primary source materials for projects), Banned Books, Biography, Criticism, Drama, Essays, Gay/Lesbian, Myth, Politics and Women’s Studies, plus many more. You can also search by author and title, and you can choose titles from numerous world languages. You may download books in a wide variety of formats from: PDF, HTML, Kindle, eReader, Sony Reader and Audiobook, to name a few. How’s that for mobility?

With spring break imminent and summer break on the horizon—two times when you might actually have the time to pleasure read—I hope that you will give these three websites a try.

Angie Tomcik


Laptop Carts - Bringing the Computer Lab to the Classroom

We have come a long way since our initial group of laptop carts. I remember using an older computer cart as a science teacher, and everything from the sluggish machines to the makeshift WiFi network made for a temperamental experience.

Flash forward to the present day, and one will quickly notice the difference in machine and network when using a laptop cart. Starting with several carts in Reading and English classes, and expanding into each science wing this year, many teachers are enjoying the convenience that having a mobile computer lab brings to their classroom.

With laptops, lab experiments can still be done in the safe confines of the classroom, yet real time data can be shared and lab reports can be collaborated on using Google Apps. Using Google Docs can also allow students to access their materials quickly and efficiently regardless of computer as long as they have access to the Internet. And teachers can now view the documents for their entire roster of students in each class on one screen thanks to the Teacher Dashboard.

As we move forward with additional laptop carts in areas that would benefit from having such access, we may offer opportunities to place carts in shared areas such as Central Library or in a certain wing (as we have done with Science). Eventually, this may include iPad carts as well as we continue to evaluate this technology. If you have a specific idea or vision of how a laptop cart could help make a transformative impact on your teaching, please let us know.  

All Programs

Professional Development - Anytime, Anywhere

ICE - Illinois Computer Educators (February 28-March 2, 2012)

This year’s ICE conference was another jam packed and heavily attended one. I presented a workshop on Screencasting, and then learned from several fantastic presenters on topics including iPad deployment, SMARTBoard lesson design, and Digital Storytelling. For a debrief and summary, click here.

Tech Forum


My first edTech event (back in 2009) and still a solid one for local attendees. Great for networking, learning about future product updates from companies, and engaging discussions around very current and relevant topics in education.



The edTech conference to rule them all.  I’ll be presenting a workshop this year, and I look forward to attending the remainder of the conference to pick up new ideas for the 2012-2013 school year.

Log Off

That’s it for this issue. Hope you picked up a few tips and tricks to try out on your mobile device.

After spring break, we’ll focus on a few project ideas as AP classes are gearing up for their final push and then need to think about what to do with the

remaining few weeks. Other teachers will also benefit from an updated list of tools to support project based learning.

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