Thursday, December 18, 2014

Aviary Photo Editor Acquired by Adobe

Aviary, the popular web based (and mobile app) photo and imaging editor has been acquired by Adobe.

Aviary's site has the announcement front and center and there is a full press release from Adobe.

I've used Aviary for years and loved it, especially for capturing images online and editing them for use in this blog.

The press release from Adobe says that they acquired Aviary to help them "Accelerates Delivery of Mobile Apps that Integrate with Adobe Creative Cloud". They also state that "This is great news for developers because thousands of mobile apps will have the opportunity to become compatible with industry-defining desktop tools like Photoshop CC, as well as new Creative Cloud services."

There is no information on what will happen with the current portfolio of free Aviary apps. Hopefully, they will stay free and just get better.

Analog (ie paper) resources that work with digital

Not everyone likes to, feel comfortable, or can go completely paperless. Some like the feel of paper. Sometimes it's easier to take notes on paper. Sometimes, digital equipment isn't allowed in an area. Whatever the reason, there are some great paper-based resources that work with digital.

I often share tips and resources for getting organized and have shared some paper-based solutions in the past.

Here are some tips/resources that are paper based or similar:

1. plain old paper - yup, plain old paper is still around. You can easily take notes, sketches and more with any notepad and pen or pencil. Want or need it digital? Just take a photo of it with your smartphone or scan it. You can also use paper based organizers and do the same thing.

Evernote Planner

2. Moleskin Notebooks - these are specially made to work with Evernote and your smartphone camera. Write in the notebooks and then take a photo of it with the Evernote app and your notes are now in Evernote. You can make them private, share, tag and more with them.

3. Livescribe Pen - write with the special pen on the special paper and capture your notes digitally. The WiFi version automatically syncs over WiFi. I love mine and sync it to my Evernote account. No WiFi where you are? No worries, the data is stored in the pen and can be synced to your computer later. This is a great compromise for using paper while saving the info digitally. You can also record audio with it.

4. Boogie Board - the Boogie Board is an electronic pad that allows you to write on it with a stylus and then erase it. There are also models that let you store what you write and sync it to your computer. I use the basic model for quick notes at home and the Sync model for notes at my desk (instead of using post-its). I can then save the notes if I want by syncing it to my computer (and my Evernote account) or via Bluetooth to my smartphone. Nice for quick notes and meetings.

There are a variety of ways to capture information - use what works for you.


Tips and Resources for Getting Organized

Getting Students and Teachers Organized - includes some tips for paper based systems

Evernote for Education Resources

A great comparison of Chromebooks vs Windows

I'm a huge believer and user of Chromebooks in education. Even with the huge popularity of Chromebooks, there are still a lot of people who don't understand them or think that they can't do a lot of things.

I found a great article that compares Chromebooks vs Windows, explores the claims and misconceptions and is a great resource for anyone thinking about Chromebooks. Many people don't realize how powerful Chromebooks are and how much they can really do.

Microsoft has a bunch of cheap laptops coming out from different manufacturers (around $200) to compete with Chromebooks. People may be swayed to buy them - I recommend against it. They are underpowered and will not perform well.

Chromebooks vs. Windows - The Real Story
The article is setup with a nice column structure and explains each point. I highly recommend taking a look at this.


Chromebooks - definitely awesome for education

Google Apps and Chromebooks resources for Education

Prezi - the zooming presentation tool - gets mobile presenting features

Prezi is a very cool presentation tool that allows you to create zooming presentations with images, text, video and animations. It has a thriving educational community and is easy to use.

Prezi has just announced Mobile Presenting. With this, you can deliver and watch the presentations in real time. It is currently only available on iOS and web (ie laptops), but I'd imagine the feature will come to Android soon.

Your audience (students) can follow along on their own device and stay in sync with where you are in the presentation. You can share with up to 30 people at a time and it is as simple as selecting "present remotely" and sharing the link it generates.

I use Prezi for certain presentations. I like it because I can be more creative than with PowerPoint or Google Slides for some things.

Acer has some new Chromebooks coming

chromebook  Acers Chromebook Plans for 2015: A Rugged Broadwell Powered Chromebook and One with a 15.6 Screen

According to this article, Acer has some nice new Chromebooks coming in early 2015. My district has around 6,000 Acer C720 Chromebooks and they are great - fast, powerful, relatively sturdy and a great price. These new ones sound even better. I'm a huge believer of Chromebooks as an technology tool that works great in schools.

The first one is the Acer C740 which is supposedly going to be a rugged Chromebook with Intel's 5th gen Broadwell processor with a starting price of $259 for 2GB RAM/16GB SSD and $279 for the 4GB RAM/16GB SSD. I recommend 4 GB of RAM. The rugged features are a huge plus for education. There will also be a 32 GB SSD option, it will have AC WiFi and Bluetooth 4, USB 3 an SD Card Reader and HDMI out wiht a 8.5 hour battery life.

In addition, the article states that Acer will introduce a 15.6 inch Chromebook with the same specs as the C740. This is great for those wanting a larger screen.

Both are great news for the education market. Keep and eye out for more information on these and other new Chromebooks.

Some Great Chrome Apps for Chromebook Classrooms

Holly Clark has a great article with some great apps for Chromebook classrooms. It has an interactive image of the apps. As you hover over the app icon, it gives short description. Click on it and it takes you to the Google Play page so you can install it.

There are some great apps here. Take a look and see what might be useful for you and your students.

There are also some other great resources on her site.


2014 was a banner year for Google Docs, Slides, Forms and Sheets

Google is known for providing constant updates to it's products. In a post on the Google Drive Blog, Google summarizes some of the updates that they did to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms over the last year. It's pretty impressive and made these products much more useful, especially for Google Apps and Chromebooks users.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Work with any file - this was huge - now you can open and edit Office Files in Docs, Sheets and Slides which was great for Chromebook users.
  • Editing images directly in Docs, Slides and Drawings - great for people like me who insert images a lot. Now I don't need a separate image editor for basic edits. 
  • Updated mobile apps to make working with your files easier while on the go
  • Tables in Docs and updates features in Slides
  • Improved screen reader, text-to-voice and keyboard navigation across all the products. 
  • Improvements in the backend to make the apps work better and faster.

Google Translate adds 10 more languages.

Google Translate adds 10 more languages, bringing the total to 90 supported languages.

This is great news for education - with so many ESL/ELL students in our schools, Google Translate can help them learn English, as well as provide resources for them and their families in their native language.

The 10 new languages supported by Google Translate include:



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bioman Biology - The Fun Place to Learn Biology

Bioman Biology

Bioman Biology is a site I just found out about from my wife, who teaches Biology. The site was created by a Biology teacher and has games and virtual labs that teach students concepts in Biology. It is standards based, interactive, and free.

There are games, simulations and virtual labs for the following areas: Body Systems (Physiology), Cells, Ecology, Evolution, Classification, Genetics, Meiosis, Life Chemistry, Respiration, Photosynthesis and Scientific Methods.

There are also quizzes for each area available and a teacher section to help teachers use the site to it's fullest.

The activities are fun and educational.

More Biology Resources:

Chromebooks - definitely awesome for education

Back in May of 2012, I wrote about Google Chromebooks and how they were great for education. Two and a half years and 11,000 Chromebooks later, I stand by this even more.

Our district has over 11,000 Chromebooks deployed in grades 3-12. We also have a high school using Windows laptops.

Here's why I recommend Chromebooks:

  1. inexpensive - average cost, with laser etching, Chrome management and setup is around $310 per device. Compare to around $600-$900 for comparable Windows laptop and around $600 for an iPad with keyboard. 
  2. Performance - I use an Acer C720 Chromebook with 4GB RAM (we have thousands of these in district) and the performance is excellent - very fast, even with multiple tabs open.
  3. You can do anything - there is a web app to match pretty much any software and they even work offline and you can now run some Android apps on them. You can also view, edit and create Office documents right inside Google Drive on a Chromebook. 
  4. Work for testing - they are compatible with PARCC and SBAC.
  5. Easy to deploy - we got them pre-enrolled in our domain and setup in the carts. All we had to do was deliver the cart to the school.
  6. Easy to manage - a thousand times easier to manage than laptops or tablets. Everything happens in the Admin Console, which is very easy to use. 
  7. Easy to support - most problems are fixed with a simple reset (takes 10 seconds). If that doesn't work a factory wipe and re-enroll often fixes the issue (about 10 minutes). If that doesn't work, send it back to the manufacturer. 
  8. Easy to use - teachers and students need little training to use them.
  9. Google Apps for Education - great apps that work perfectly with Chromebooks.
  10. Resources - websites, communities and resources galore for using Chromebooks in the classroom. And Google provides excellent support. 
Chromebooks aren't for everyone or every application. For instance, they can't run PowerSchool's Gradebook app (it's still based on Java) and online CAD programs are limited. But, they are a great device for most education (and business and personal) use. I even recommend Chromeboxes as desktop replacements.

If you are interested in learning more about Chromebooks and Google Apps in Education, I am available for consulting about selection, deployment, setup and training and use. 


Illustrate - Word Quiz - free English quiz app on iOS and Android

Illustrate - Word Quiz is a free English quiz app available on iOS and Android. It uses illustrations and videos for each question to help students understand, retain, and stay focuses. It is a fun way to learn English and is useful for ESL and EFL programs.

illustrate - Word Quiz - screenshotillustrate - Word Quiz - screenshotillustrate - Word Quiz - screenshot

There are multiple topics and levels for a variety of student levels and the topic list is constantly updated. The more you play, the more topics that become unlocked to access.


* illustrations and videos for all questions
* Fun and interesting topics
* Increasing levels of difficulty
* Unlock brand new topics based on your performance
* View your performance and track rankings

It's free, easy to use, and fun. I had a blast playing with it. 

It's free and available on iOS App Store and Google Play:

iOS App Store:
Google Play Store:

K12 Blueprint - great resource for technology in education


K12Blueprint is a great resource for technology in education. There are toolkits with information and resources for developing and deploying technology initiatives, information on choosing the right device for your schools, software and apps, curriculum, news, research, and blogs from educators and edtech leaders. The information and resources are timely, relevant and easy to use.

Here are the list of toolkits:

There are a ton of resources and information on this site - take a look around and see what it has to offer.

It is sponsored by Intel Education, Tech&Learning, and Clarity Innovations.

Disclosure: I am a Tech&Learning TL Advisor and blog for them, write articles for them, and  present at TechForum events. 

What does your desk say about you?

I saw this press release below about a contest about office desks and found the contest to be a fun thing. I'm wondering if any teachers had seen it, as teachers' desks do say a lot about them, their personality and how they work.

Lifehacker does a lot of features like this about people's workspaces and I always find it interesting.

If you want to be more organized, check out the tips HERE.

Take a look at the winners' desks (click on their name below) and look a the Lifehacker features - it's fun.

What's your desk look like? What does it say about you?

Here is my desk.

  • Calendar and schedules posted on the cubicle wall.
  • Reference books and notebooks (and good ol' Al Einstein) on the left - I still have a couple of books and notebooks that I use in paper form
  • Photos of my wife and daughter
  • water bottles
  • Evernote split cup holder - holds a couple of pens and my smartphone when charging
  • spot for laptop with power cable, Ethernet cable, and mouse ready to go
  • desktop organizer with pens, binder clips, tools and such
  • Evernote scanner (scans right into Evernote) 
  • And the most important item - coffee mug

Simple, clean, efficient. (I'm very organized at work, not as much at home - hard to do with a toddler running around :-) )

 Alison Beckwith, 301-699-0148,
      OFM Announces Winners of ‘My Desk Says’ Contest
Contestants let their desks speak for themselves

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — OFM, a leading office and school furniture manufacturer, distributor, and wholesaler, announced the winners of the “My Desk Says” social media contest. The contest asked office workers to share photos on Twitter of their desks along with the hashtag #MyDeskSays and a brief description of what their desk said about them and their work.
“The office desk is really just an extension of the human mind,” said Blake Zalcberg, chief executive officer at OFM. “This is the workshop where you do your thinking every day, basically, and it can be revealing, often unintentionally, about what’s going through your head. It was fascinating to see what people thought about their desks in this contest.”
Jan Repman of Etters, Pa., won the “Messiest Desk” award, while Philip Bock of Kohler, Wis., was the winner of the “Most Organized Desk”.Krista Bainbridge of Milwaukee won the “Catch-All Desk” award. The winners will all receive an OFM chair of their choice.
In previous contests, OFM has asked office workers to share creative ways they prevent coworkers from stealing their stapler, what kinds of doodles they draw in long meetings, and why they deserved an “office makeover.”
“Contests like this allow OFM to see office furniture in its natural habitat,” added Zalcberg. “We always learn something new about how people use our products when we ask them to share photos or even just stories about what they do at work. And I think that people get a kick out of sharing them too. The modern office can be an interesting place.”
About OFM
Founded in 1995, OFM is a leading office and school furniture manufacturer, distributor, and wholesaler with headquarters in Holly Springs, N.C. and operations in Phoenix, Ariz., and Taiwan. OFM contracts with manufacturers in Mexico, Taiwan and China to design furniture and products that meet the highest industry standards. It specializes in providing affordable, quality furniture through a dealer network to businesses, government offices, health care and educational facilities. OFM products are sold through a variety of retailers, mail-order catalogs and online dealers including Office Depot, Wayfair, Overstock, and National Business Furniture. 

To learn more about OFM, visit:


Get Organized - tips and resources for students, teachers, admin and more

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Molecular Workbench - Visual, Interactive Simulations for Teaching & Learning Science

Molecular Workbench is a free and open source site with some really nice interactive simulations in science.

There are hundreds of simulations in physics, chemistry, biology, biotechnology and nanotechnology. There are embedded assessments and the ability to create your own simulations and even create modules with text, simulations and more all together.

It is a download for Windows, OS X and Linux and they are creating the next generation of simulations using HTML5 so they can be used online. Google is helping them with this.

Take a look - there are some great activities on here.


PhET - excellent, free, virtual labs and simulations for science - new materials available  

Free alternatives to Microsoft Access, including a web based one

Access is Microsoft's well known data base tool. However, it only comes in the higher priced versions of Office and many people don't use Office at all. Here are two alternatives:


1. Grubba - free, web based, easy to use database app. Useful for Chromebook users and others looking for a web based solution. There is also a growing community of users and tutorial videos and support. There are pre-made templates to help you get started too. There are a lot of features, so take a look.

2. OpenOffice / LibreOffice Base - OpenOffice and LibreOffice are free alternatives to Microsoft Office and both have a database tool called Base. It is easy to use, with a lot of great features and support and training resources, including an excellent manual. It also can work with SQL and Access files.

I've used LibreOffice for years and love it and prefer it over OpenOffice.


LibreOffice - free office suite software

Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Why do schools still pay so much for software? Free alternatives to paid software and services.


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