Video Blog…on Video

Take a look at my thoughts on using video. I am used to using my computer cam, so I decided to try something new and use my wife’s Canon PowerShot SX500 with video capability then edit it with Camtasia for Mac.

Oh, want to make it easier to do video? Try CuePrompter.

This helps the speaker keep their eyes more on the camera. It is free, and helpful when using a regular camera versus a computer (it can be used for a computer camera).



(Finally) excelling at Excel

by Cary L. Tyler

There is one part of the Office/Office-type suite that has eluded (okay, I have eluded) since its inception.


Roblyer and Doering almost nailed the reason for me right on the head: “Teachers who employ this versatile software must first address students’ tendency to fear math”.  They left out a piece.

They should have included: Teachers who might employ this versatile software must first address their own tendency to fear math.

I was not a good math student. Unfortunately, nearly every educational mistake that could be made in the instruction of math happened to me in high school and part of college. I made it only because I had to, but my undergraduate GPA bears the scars of a weak math instruction.

Thus, Excel has overwhelmed me for years. Word, Power Point, Adobe Photoshop, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, bring it. Excel. Nope.

I did not use Excel in any form until this school year. That’s right. My 23rd year of teaching, and I did not. Not for a grade book, not for anything. (I did use Microsoft Access back in 2000 for a statewide competition I was a part of, go figure, but only for that event and then I went back to the spreadsheet dark ages.

I also did not think it really worked for what I teach: high school English. My world initially was centered on books and a word processor, with some PowerPoint thrown in, and eventually to presentation software, but Excel?

This year, my lesson plans are running through it, and I did have a grade book, but I need time to refine it to my liking and right now I have not had time to build one that is more representative of my work and I have not found a template I like enough to refine.

However, as I am constructing the lessons for this week’s assignment, I have discovered that Excel could be an awesome tool (I am not saying this just for this class…I am going to be having my students use Excel for their work this month.

Without dragging down this post, one core example is a character flow chart, or a character algorithm. In it, students will develop a character growth approach, but then have at least two conditional/decision points where students can hypothesize where a character could have diverged from their course and perhaps changed not only their character but perhaps the course of the story.

I am excited to see what my students will do with this, and also will help my students see a mathematical/scientific tie to language arts (there already is with grammar and syntax).

As for myself: Self-training time. I still have three weeks of my subscription left, and between that an Excel for Dummies, I plan to dig deep and learn how to create my own templates.

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (6th ed.). Pearson Education Inc.

Presentation Approaches 2.0

Just as I am starting this blog, yet another way for students (and teachers) to present information outside of the PowerPoint box was released by Evernote.

For those not in tuned with Evernote, first go to of you who already use it, skip and ahead and examine the video:

Or, one can read through the new concept via their recent blog post to examine this powerful tool for organizing materials and research, saving web pages, recording audio, highlighting and annotating text, and as of this week, has a presentation mode, complete with pointer.

I have not had time to practice the options it affords as yet, but with this and many more options out there, it is a fun time to be creative and use presentations in the classroom.

Today’s software makes it fun, easy, and clear to produce project based instruction to our students, and also give them the opportunity to do the same.

Yet after watching my students do presentations earlier this week with the standard PowerPoint, it is clear that the dependency on it is something akin to “breaking bad”.

One presentation, however, did stand out:history of the congo

One of my students (Kelly) is an active user of infographics for her projects. She created the following infographic  (shown here with permission) for use for a presentation on the history behind Poisonwood Bible. The other two groups used standard power point fare, and they pretty much violated all the no-nos listed on this visual communications site:

Kelli’s presentation constructed with Inkscape and open source photo editing software (GIMP) had more power, as she also used the colors of the Congolese flag and photos to make a brief, but powerful looking information page based on the information compiled by her classmates. In addition, the students read from the screen 50 percent less than my students who had thrown up the PowerPoint.

This might have worked in a paper, but these types of presentations allow a variety of learners to pick up important information, and also have an option to review this before attacking another piece of an assignment.

Infographics may not be for everyone in terms of construction. There is a bit of a learning curve, but the ability to do them has improved considerably in the last year as software developers have added tools and made it easier to construct them. However, I made my first one two months ago for a teacher training (via Piktochart) and was pleased with the result:

Need a place to start: Here is a good source for learning the use of infographics:

Other tools can be found here:   Some are free or with subscription one can get advanced features. Others do have a charge, or, by using Adobe Fireworks, one can develop their own, but at $20 a month (academic cost as of October, 2013).