Eye strain is a killer . . .

A productivity killer that is.


If you’re like me (for your sake I hope your not) you spend a lot of your time staring at screen. I mean I am a computer teacher after all. That being said, I also spend a lot of time looking at my iPhone, my friend’s computer screen, and let’s not forget the old boob-tube (that’s a TV folks-get your mind out of the gutter). Needless to say staring at a screen for too long can easily tire out your eyes and there are plenty of articles out there talking about what eye strain is and how to prevent it. Here are some symptoms (from the Mayo clinic’s website).

  • Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sore neck
  • Sore back
  • Shoulder pain
  • Increased sensitivity to light

But let’s be honest, it is easy for one to get lost in their work and just push one self until staring at that screen is just way too difficult. A good way to combat eye strain is by taking frequent breaks. One rule that helps many is the 20-20-20 rule (read about it here and here). It basically says that every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something that is over 20 feet away. This will help keep your eyes fresh.

Of course keeping an eye on the clock and then forcing yourself to stop working every 20 or so minutes ain’t the easiest thing to do (don’t shake your head, you know you’re guilty of working too hard at times). That’s why there are programs (free ones) out there that can help remind you when it is time to take your hands off the keyboard and focus your eyes and relax that mind of yours from time to time.

For Mac – TimeOutFree
Windows – WorkRave
Windows – EyeDefender

There are others that are also free, but I like TimeOutFree myself as it is fully customizable (you can set how long you should work, and how long the break should be, etc.).

Sometimes taking a break is just part of the solution. Often people work on computers whose screen is very bright. While dimming the screen on most computers is usually a few keystrokes away, it is often something that people aren’t aware of. That’s why there is f.lux (not to be confused with Flux for the Mac which is a program to develop and build websites).

f.lux runs automatically in the background of your computer. Basically it works with your time and location and dims (or colorizes) your screen based on if it’s night or day. At first glance it looks like my screen is failing as it turns yellow, but you get used to it. It is actually much easier on my eyes as opposed to my regular bright and beautiful screen. Check out my video below to get a better idea of what it looks like and does. Oh yeah it’s free too.

So before you chuckle and scoff at this piece, and say “Not me, I never do this.” Think of all those emails, your electronic gradebook, the worksheets and unit plans, or websites you wish to check out for your classes, and then think of how long you were staring at that screen. Do yourself a favor and give your eyes and your mind a short break every now and again. I think you’ll find that you’ll be able to work a little longer and feel a lot better afterwards.

Timeline Creator Summary

The spreadsheet

Finally the timeline reviews can put to rest . . . for now. Dipity was the winner this year but Timeglider and Tiki Toki were both great in their own right. To get a quick breakdown (in spreadsheet form no less) click on the picture of the Excel spreadsheet below. Feel free to use the infograph and the Excel spreadsheet however you see fit.


What are you doing this summer?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​…try adoption​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


Taking some time off this summer? Take a week or two to relax and get recoup some of your energy, be sure to reflect and then adopt. Not a child (but if that’s what you plan to do IT Babble wishes you the best of luck), but adopt a little technology to bring into your classroom for the fall. The summer is a perfect time to check out some of those cool programs we’ve been writing about and it gives you a chance to try it out. Read past the break to check out the game plan for the next school year.

Continue reading “What are you doing this summer?”

timetoast – The review!

Our reviews of timelines continue with timetoast! timetoast.com is nice. Not great, but nice. After working with xTimeline.com timetoast was a nice change of pace to see a timeline that actually looks like a timeline. It’s easy to use, like xTimeline, and the final product looks pretty good. There were things I liked and things I did not like (how about that for being vague). Read on past the break to see why timetoast earns a solid 2 DTs. There is also a quick video to see it in action and a link to my timetoast timeline

Continue reading “timetoast – The review!”

A changing of the guard

Way back in October I wrote a post about OpenOffice.org and how it is pretty awesome. Well bitter sweet news has befallen us. Oracle bought Sun in 2010 and took over the OpenOffice.org project. This week they have decided to stop supporting the project. Don’t reach for those hankies just yet people. When Oracle took over, a number of OpenOffice.org people jumped shipped and started their own project called LibreOffice.

Like OpenOffice, it is totally free and contains a word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, drawing, and more software. It is built off of OpenOffice.org (so it’s familiar to those who use it) and is supported, which means there were be updates to fix bugs, adding new features, and new releases. Get it today by following the link below. Oh yeah, it is wicked powerful and nearly as good as that paid version known as Microsoft Office.

UPDATE: This post is suggesting the OOo is dead but that is not the case. Oracle is opening it back up to the community as opposed to supporting it themselves. In the meantime, I still recommend switching to LibreOffice.

HootCourse – YES


Hopefully you’ve read my post on what HootCourse is, if not click here. My colleague and I Omar have discussed HootCourse and are torn on the matter. Omar doesn’t feel that HootCourse has any functional place in the classroom. You can read his well written and supported points here. This post is not to argue his points, I can see where he’s coming from. I am just going to layout how I think it can HELP teachers in the classrooms. Read on past the break to get all the Hootness you can handle.

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HootCourse – Twitter for the classroom – THE VIDEO!

What can I say, Omar and I are on a HootCourse kick. This is a quick video about how to get started with HootCourse. Later this week Omar and I are going to duke it out over what we think about HootCourse. If you’re curious, play the video and see what it’s all about.

Hootcourse – Twitter educationalized


That is definitely not a real word. Anyway, in this post I am going to share with you the online service HootCourse.com. This uses Twitter as a means to create a back channel chat, but it has some nice features that expand it beyond just the normal chat room experience. Basically you use your Twitter or Facebook account to log into HootCourse and it will create a Twitter feed specifically for you. Not sure what that is? Then click on past the break to get all the educationalized information.

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Get your Omm on!

There are a lot of no frills word processors out there, but I love to think back to my Brother Word Processor days when all I saw were the words on the screen. No menus, no icons, no rulers, no toolboxes, etc. I know that Word and Pages both provide a full screen minimalistic approach, but it just isn’t enough for me or less I should say. You see I wanted even less. Let me introduce you to Ommwriter. A word processing program for Mac and PC. It eliminates pretty much everything and gives you the writing experience you’ve been longing for. Read on past the break to get all the zen-like details.

Continue reading “Get your Omm on!”

WordPress – How to set up your class blog


OK folks, as promised here is the guide to how to set up your class blog. I won’t be hitting all the ins and outs of WordPress.com, just the basics on how to create a blog, add your students, and how to allow them or others to comment on the blog. It’ll be quick with loads of pictures, and if I have the energy (and I think I will) I’ll add a quick video. So read on past the break to get all the goodness.

Continue reading “WordPress – How to set up your class blog”