Please Don’t Call Me!

Dont call me for a quote or demo…just gimme instant downloadable trials!

I don’t post much here on ITBabble and Patrick rightfully makes fun of my anemic post count. So, what better way than to jump in again with a rant.

When evaluating tools, Patrick and I often at the complexity of getting started. Is there a complicated or confusing sign up process? Is there something you have to download? Do they make it easy? Is there a sensible and easy to understand pricing structure? All these are important considerations.

Today I wanted to evaluated Matlabs from Mathworks for possible use in our school’s robotics program. I wanted to download a trial, plug in my NXT Brick (the robot’s main device) and start playing around with it. I knew I would have to spend some time going through the manuals and tutorials but was ready to get started. Continue reading “Please Don’t Call Me!”

Notice Something Different?

Before you start tagging us sell-outs (hopefully no one is doing that because Patrick can be sensitive),  I wanted to inform you guys that we are testing out adverts on our site. It will be a limited run (30 days starting on the 20th of April and ending May 20 at which point we will evaluate the decision)

We are doing this for two reasons:
a) Omar is addicted to coffee and buying his premium espresso capsules needs to be subsidized
b) Patrick needs to fund his wife’s Hello Kitty habit
a) Running a blog has some minor expenses…nothing that will break the bank but it would be nice to cover those fees especially as we will be moving our site to our own hosting account
b) We are hosting our blog on WordPress and since our blog has picked up speed, we were invited to WordPress’ ad network, WordAds and were finally approved. Getting some information on the efficacy of the program for a modest little site like ours would be very helpful for our friends and colleagues that would like to run a blog and pay for the inordinate amounts of coffee consumed while painstakingly drafting their posts on riveting topics like the migration habits of the rare and beautiful Valenza Lark   🙂

So, go ahead and post a comment here on your thoughts regarding ads on blogs and what you think of the selection of ads you see here on ITBabble as we have no control over the content (unlike AdSense) – if you wish to tar and feather us for this experiment, we have detailed directions to Tony D’s apartment.

Virginia wants kids to learn online!

So a new bill in Virginia, where I spent a good portion of my childhood and attended high school is now (starting fall 2013) requiring students to take an online course to graduate.

With that news comes a whole lot of ballyhoo against it. Settle down folks. Its one class, online.

The biggest arguments against this plan is budget, legitimacy of providers and efficacy of online learning. Valid concerns – but they are over thinking this.

Continue reading “Virginia wants kids to learn online!”

Youtube Trickery

Right Click on Youtube VideoYoutube has become a part of almost every teacher’s repertoire. It is a massive digital library with loads of great stuff.

What I want to highlight in a short post is a couple cool little tricks/options when you right click on video.

Copying the video URL is self explanatory but there is a similar option…

Copy video URL at current time
This is perfect for those videos that you want to show at a certain point. You dont want to waste class time watching the first several minutes of a video and you simply want to show a 2 minute clip somewhere in the middle or even at the end. Rather than pausing and waiting for it load so you can find your spot while your kids are getting antsy, simply use the this feature to start your video loading from the exact point you want to show.

Pop Out
This is a very handy option as it pops the video up in a pop-up with no other distractions. This is particularly handy if you have a projector and or a dual screen setup – you can simply drag the popup over to the projected area. This way, you are not dragging the entire browser to the screen and the video is separate from all your other tabs (assuming you are ADHD like me and always have 17 tabs open)

You then have a couple other options like showing the video info, copying the embed code to place on your blog or website and a handy speed test that will basically evaluate your Youtube download speeds compared to your ISP, region and country.

Well, that is it folks.

Symbaloo missed the mark with my students

“Symbaloo sir? Its more like Symbaloser!”

Ouch! I had started a project with my students about one-to-one laptop initiatives. Its very relevant to them as our school is moving in that direction. With loads of articles and blog posts about the topic, I figured I would have them test out a service called Symbaloo, an online bookmarking tool with a visual twist.

I thought it would be great for them to share their links and resources  with one another.

The links and resources you add are icons or as they call them tiles. If done well, your “webmix” or collection of links looks pretty darn cool – a matrix of colorful icons. You can also flip through different webmixes you create via tabs.

Its a neat concept but in practice…it, well, FAILED! Dismally I must say.

A tool can be great in theory but if a bunch of users all try and all say it was a failure, then it must not be a good tool for that particular subset.

Problems stated by students:

  • It took too much effort to add your icons. This of course is relative but you cant just click a button to add the site your are on. You need to have symbaloo open, copy the link, go to to add tile, edit the title, select the text color, color of icon and possibly an image or clipart for the tile.
  • My students were signing in to each other’s accounts because we were on the same network.
  • You could share but not there wasnt an easy way to combine your resources.

So there you have it. Its a cool tool if you want a visual representation of your favorite sites. But as a resource sharing site, it did not work as anticipated.

I’m not upset that we tried it and it failed. Its good to try different things. However, it can get overwhelming for students and teachers alike if they are continuously chasing the next cool tool. A standard Wiki would have been so much better for this and many more tasks.

I’ll live you with one tidbit…if something you tries fails in class, scrap it and ask the students for the tool may not have been a good choice. Then blog about it, email the service with the issues so they can maybe improve their service, or move on 🙂

Edutainment … Gamification … Recycling?

So we chatted about educational games in our latest podcast, more specifically DimensionU. I’m working on a longer post about educational games but in the meantime, I found an awesome video that exemplifies gamification.

Click on the break and watch the video. Did they accomplish their goal? What effects did the “game” have? Continue reading “Edutainment … Gamification … Recycling?”

Dad Shoots Daughters Laptop Over Facebook Comments

The headline,”Dad Shoots Daughter’s Laptop…” seems sensational but it is very true. It is referring to a viral video on YouTube where a gun totting, good old boy with an IT background finds a post by his daughter on Facebook despite her attempts to block her parents. The comments were, well, quite immature, bratty and disrespectful.

Here is how it played out:

  1. Daughter posts nasty “open letter” to her parents but blocks them
  2. Dad, an IT guy, gets past block and finds letter
  3. Dad reads post on camera and proceeds to respond to it
  4. Dad executes daughter’s laptop, wild west style with his 45mm
  5. Dad goes so far as to explain what bullets he is using and bills his daughter for them

I can understand how a father would be frustrated in a situation like that. But the headline should really read…

How we as parents imagine handling situations but think better of it!

Kids will be kids. If this girl did not have Facebook, she would have ranted and raved the same way to her friends at a sleep over or at the cafeteria. But venting to friends does not have a “paper trail” that the Internet is so good and keeping.

How many of our kids went off on us without us knowing when they got frustrated about chores or were simply having a bad day; or felt pressured to join the conversation?

But with the Internet comes a whole new level of “digital citizenship” that most of us are not prepared for, both kids and adults.

The daughter aired out her dirty laundry for all to see. Her dad caught her and did the exact same thing but took it too far. This father has obviously written his child off and probably does not care about the ramifications of this video. He posted it with intent. he posted it on her Facebook wall for her and her friends to see.

The dad has also now propelled himself into Internet infamy by doing what he did. His present or future employers may not be fans of his actions (vengeful, violent and more). Will he do the same in the workplace? Will he air out his dirty laundry if he finds runs across a colleagues email venting about the IT guy? It’s all kinds of bad.

Sure we think it…”Man I would love to smash her laptop on camera and show her!” But most of us take the high road. And I’m sorry, despite the bratty and spoiled comments of his daughter, she will remain his daughter. She is 15…not 18. It is his responsibility to teach her and guide her and be there for her.

Yes it is very painful to hear those words coming from your own child and worse yet to know that they were “semi-public”. But we as adults need to take the high road. Not to mention he wasted a perfectly good laptop that he invested money in.

Post a well crafted response to his daughter on her Facebook wall, letting her know how disappointed he is in her actions. He can post a link to the ebay page (a private auction) that will allow her to buy back her laptop. The money can then be donated to a charity.

Or, post your comments to your daughter and post a link to the charity that you will donate her laptop to but that she has the chance to raise money for the charity and that if she matches the cost of the laptop in donations, she will get her laptop back.

Distracting Gadgets in the Classroom

Facebook fans following friends forfeit focus

Top that one people!
This article ends in a poll…read through or skip to the end to partake…

In a recent article in the Economist  about “Radio Silence” talks of the controversy brought about by a Yale professor’s decision to hold his lecture in a “dead spot”.

Nemerov, a art history professor was in search of a darker venue to project the works he would be lecturing about. He found a space that was not ideal in terms of lighting and seating capacity – yet he jumped all over it when he found that it had no wi-fi and cell phone signals were very weak to none in there. He chose this venue, despite excluding around 200 students (it seats 270 and avg attendance used toe in the 400+ range), because he felt it would provide less distractions for students.

Of course, the tech pundits jumped all over this attacking for being “old school” and thinking that a 60 minute lecture is any way to conduct a class. Some said that people who were distracted with Facebook were the same people who would be doodling or talking to friends or passing notes.

I totally disagree. I don’t have any scientific proof, but a laptop or device with connectivity is much more distracting than an empty page on your notebook. Further to that point, you can doodle while listening. You cannot update your status and check your wall while paying attention to a lecture.

The critics of his decision also state that there should not be a lecture conducted in the manner that he does and that his lectures should be online with open discussions. Some went as far as to say that if his lecture cannot captivate his audience then no amount of tricks will help.

As a high school teacher, and a tech teacher for that matter, I am very concerned with how distracting devices can be. When I walk around my lab I often catch kids trying to SMS or BBM their friends. Those working at a computer may look like they are working but in fact they are playing chess, checking scores, or youtube. They have learnt the shortcut keys to minimize their windows and I often hear furious clicking at the last second as I pass by someone I suspect to be distracted.

A notebook and book cannot provide the same amount of distraction. How many kids have you caught flipping to the next chapter to read what Napoleon is up to? What was his status? We would award that kid medals for reading ahead….”Good job buddy! I’m glad you are taking an interest in this unit”

Is there a middle ground? A proper use of technology in the classroom that is limited to what we want them to see and do? Yes. There’s gotta be an app for that 🙂 With Apple’s new digital text book move, I can see this as being a very good middle ground. An iPad with textbooks and organizational tools but no games or social networking and you now have the best of both worlds!

So I would like to know whether you feel laptops and mobile devices are more or less of a distraction in class and whether you feel students at the high school level can control their impulse to check FB status and more…

QR Codes Will Revolutinize Education!


I just watched a video by Kevin Starr (that I will attach below) about the impact of certain initiatives on the communities they are trying to help such as the One Laptop, Life Straw and the likes. Many of these “game changers” tend to miss the boat.

Likewise, educators and ed tech folks are trying to help engage their students when they introduce ideas like QR Codes or back channel chats as a learning/support tools. However, these initiatives tend to miss the boat as well because they dont look at the impact and don’t look at the numbers. Flipped classrooms on the other hand have some data to support that it is working. They are using technology to assist the learning process and it is working. There was a marked improvement after introducing the flipped classroom. But I have no idea how qr codes, back channel chats and fancy visual Twitter feeds could ever improve grades.

On the contrary, I think constantly trying to introduce new tech to the classroom can be counterproductive. It has to be well thought out and supported by data that matters!

Example. Recording the grading process as I alluded to in an earlier post is a great idea in theory. However, consider the impact (all the cons listed in this post) such as cost, limitations, time and now you have an initiative that could add more stress and work hours for a teacher – which is fine I guess if you have real data to support whether the ROI is worthwhile or not

Just my morning IT babble 🙂 Do with what you will

Recording Your Grading Process

Accuse me of milking the flipped classroom post and Scott Meech’s lengthy comment and I would say – damn skippy!

But cute cows are not the focus of this post. The focus is technology in the classroom! More specifically, screen-casting (recording) your grading process for students to watch at their leisure.

This is a very interesting concept. Teacher has a set of essays. Sits down at their desk that is rigged with a camera pointing at the papers. The teachers starts grading as they normally would, but with the additional ability to sound out their thoughts for the student benefit. Comments that would normally be said under ones breath can now be vocalized and recorded.

“Woah, that sentence runs on for a while!” or “I’m having a really hard time following the train of thought here…you may need to reorganize your essay by…” or “Sandy, next time try avoiding SMS language such as lol, brb, and others”

This is really cool. The teacher is combing the grading process and the elaboration into one. This saves time theoretically since teachers have provided verbal feedback in the screen-cast

Here are the pros and some of the cons:

  • students gets corrections and teacher’s train of thought at the same time
  • saves time as it requires fewer conferences about the assignment
  • makes the grading process transparent
  • helps students understand how a teacher grades


  • requires a permanent set-up restricting the teacher to one grading area
  • requires additional equipment in the form of a decent webcam that would be good enough to show the corrections clearly
  • puts added stress on the process as teacher is always “live”… sure things can be edited later
  • how many kids would take the time to watch a 15 minute video of their essay being graded and discussed? in face-to-face meetings, they at least have to listen
  • 60-100 videos to upload to a server depending in how many students you have
  • a system needs to be in place to secure the graded works for the privacy of the students

Although I love the concept in theory, in practice it is a lot less practical. A good alternative would be to do as one of my colleague’s does – fire up the ol’ laptop and record your voice making comments about the essay/paper/project and upload. The comments are fresh and will come out quick and on point.

What do you think? Chime in and let us know how you feel about recording the grading process?