Saturday, November 17, 2012

Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen - very handy in my new job

Two weeks ago I started a new job. I'm the Chief Information Officer for my district. In this capacity, I oversee the IT department and coordinate technology issues with all other departments, as well as advise on educational technology issues, products, and pedagogy.

This job entails a lot of meetings, issues, and challenges. One way I have been able to keep up with things is through my Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen. With this smartpen, I'm able to take notes in meetings on paper, which is very efficient, especially with my note taking style, which incorporates sketches, symbols, arrows, and more that don't translate well with a keyboard. The smartpen saves all of my notes and syncs them to Evernote over WiFi. This means that all of my notes are stored in Evernote so that I can access them anywhere. They are even searchable. I can also record audio in important or fast moving meetings to make sure I don't miss anything.

I have used it extensively and it has made me more efficient and organized. I am able to take notes quickly, and then have them saved and accessible from anywhere.


Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen - save notes and audio via WiFi to Evernote
Evernote for Education Resources

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

InstallFree Nexus & Rndr shutting down - any know of alternatives?

Nexus Logo

InstallFree Nexus and Rndr were two free applications that I found very useful. Unfortunately, they are shutting down on November 15th (tomorrow). 

InstallFree Nexus allowed you to use Microsoft Office or LibreOffice on an iPad, Android Tablet or Chromebook and access your files from a variety of cloud services to edit. 

Rndr enabled any browser to render plugins like Java that may not be compatible with the device. This is very useful for Google Chromebooks, since many educational sites use Java. 

I have not found an alternative for them yet. I'm really hoping for one for Rndr, as it made Java sites accessible on Chromebooks. 

Below is the notice from InstallFree:

November 9th, 2012

To our dedicated customers,
Seven months ago, we launched our InstallFree Nexus and Rndr platforms -- the first services of their kind that enabled users to work with full-featured Windows applications, and access their cloud-stored files, from any device with a web browser.
Unfortunately, we have not been successful in turning these services into a sustainable business for our company and must therefore reconsider our strategy. While this process is going on, we must make the painful decision to shut down these services.
The InstallFree Nexus and Rndr services will shut down on Thursday, November 15th, 2012.
I would like to thank the tens-of-thousands of customers currently using our Nexus and Rndr services. If you are currently subscribed to one of our InstallFree Nexus Premium plans, your subscription fees will be refunded.
We have also prepared a FAQ that you should review at 
For any questions, please contact us at

Online Tech Tips - free online tech help and tips

Online Tech Tips is a great resource for anyone who uses computers. The site has great information on tricks, tips, updates, and fixes for your computer.

There are tips for Windows, Mac, smartphones, and much more.

The site is well designed and easy to use and the tips are written in a way that most computer users can understand. It has a huge variety of information and resources that are very useful.

The site offers RSS feeds and email subscriptions so that you can keep up with any new tips.

Some recent articles that are very useful include: OTT Explains – Is It Better to Log Into Websites using Facebook, Google or Twitter Accounts? and OTT Guide to Understanding Google Chrome Advanced Features.

This site is great for anyone who uses technology.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prezi Interactive Presentation Tool gets a new interface

Prezi, the zooming presentation editor, has a new version of it's interface. Prezi is a nice alternative to things like PowerPoint for making presentations. Instead of slides, you create presentations using any thing as the basis, from a word to an image. You can change how the presentation moves from part to part and integrate video directly into the presentation.

The new interface is cleaner and standardized and looks more similar to other apps. It is easy to use and easy to find commands and features. The new design also allows for continued expansion and addition of features.

show mode, path mode-1

Path mode

The web version of Prezi is free and you can download your presentation to your computer for offline access. The pro account adds more features and a desktop app.


PreziU - educational community for Prezi in education

Google Lesson Plan Search - easily find great lessons

Google, one of my favorite resources (in addition to Evernote) has lots of great things for education, including free apps and services. They also have a great library of lesson plans for educators. There are thousands of lesson plans available and all are searchable and sortable. Sorting can be done by type of Google product used, subject, or age group. The search and sorting is almost immediate and there are some great resources here.

The Lesson Plan Search is a great way to find free lesson plans and ideas to use in your classroom.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A new chapter in my career - I'm now CIO for the district

Teacher >> Chief Information Officer

Monday, November 5th, is my first day in a new chapter in my education career. I am the new Chief Information Officer for the district and I will be overseeing the Educational Technology, Information Technology, and work closely with Data/Assessment/Accountability departments. 

I have already been working on some initiatives and there are some really great things in the works, including upgrades to much of the technology in the district. I have also been getting up to speed on some of the challenges and successes we have and will need to address. 

I spent 10 years as an engineer before becoming a Physics teacher and Educational Technology Specialist. I then spent 10 years in the classroom as a teacher and as an educational technology specialist and professional development facilitator. Now, I get to use my experience from all of these areas in one job. I'm looking forward to the challenges and am excited to get started. 

The staff I will be working with is talented and dedicated and have overcome many issues and challenges in the future and will continue to do so. 

As I transition into this new role, I will not have as much time to devote to this blog, so there will be less postings at first. I will continue to post to this blog though and will be adding some new features to it. 

I also look forward to continuing to collaborate, share and learn from the members of my PLN and will be looking for advice and help in the coming months. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"SuperStorm Sandy" - we have our power back

Superstorm Sandy has devastated NYC and Long Island, NJ and the CT shorelines. I live a few miles from the shore and was lucky to only lose power for 24 hours. No damage to our cars or condo. Other people in the area weren't so lucky, with many having serious damage or even total loss to their homes. A friend of mine from EMS lost his uncle, a CT Volunteer Firefighter who died after the fire engine was hit by a tree when on an emergency call during the storm. I hope all of the people affected by this storm find comfort and help during their time of need. I've seen a lot of charity happening as people who had power and/or hot water offered up their homes to those who didn't have it.

During the power outage, my wife and I had some help from technology. We had an emergency radio that has solar, hand crank, and battery power, to keep up on news. We charged our smartphones from my netbook, used my CR-48 Chromebook with 3G to access the internet for news and information, and used my Dell laptop to watch DVD's. We had no hot water, but were able to cook with the gas stove and my father let us go to his house one town over and take showers. We stayed for dinner and had a nice visit too and then came home to find our power restored.

I did get to participate in #Edchat at noon Tuesday using my Chromebook, so that was cool. No power but still able to connect with educators around the world.

Since I had limited access to the internet and didn't want to use up my batteries not knowing how long I would be out of power, I did not do any writing. I have a bunch of things to write about soon, so stay tuned.

Again, I hope every one affected by the storm gets the help and assistance they need and recover quickly.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Livescribe Sky WiFi Smartpen - save notes and audio via WiFi to Evernote

I love my Livescribe SmartPen. I use it all the time to take notes at meetings and keep myself organized. I love how it also records audio and keeps it in sync with your handwritten notes. The only issue was that I had to go back to my computer and plug in the pen to get the files uploaded to either Evernote, Google Docs, or other services.

That has now changed. Livescribe has just announced it's Sky WiFi Smartpen. It works just like the other smartpens - you write on special paper (buy or print your own) and it records what you write. It also has a built in voice recorder. The difference is that the Sky smartpen has WiFi built in and will automatically sync your written notes and audio recordings with your Evernote account. This is a great resource for anyone.


I received one last week to try out and it works great. It's very easy to set up and connect to WiFi. I used it in a meeting that was fast moving with a lot of information and as I took hand written notes, it was also recording the audio of the meeting. During a break, I synced everything with my Evernote account and it was all there for me to access anywhere. The audio files will come in handy when I need to review parts of the meeting that I didn't get good notes from. The notes, both written and audio, were immediately in my Evernote account and accessible on all of my devices. I didn't have to wait to get back to my computer to sync my notes.

The smartpen is also easier to take notes with then a keyboard, or even a stylus on a tablet. I use symbols, diagrams, arrows and more when I take notes and this allows me to do that very easily.


The Sky smartpen comes in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB varieties with costs from $170 to $250. They come with a starter notebook and two sets of stickers with the commands so that you can place them anywhere that is convenient, including your own printed notebook. These commands and "buttons" are how you record, connect to WiFi, and more. It handles secure WiFi also. Connections to Evernote are standard and future connections include Dropbox, Google Drive and Facebook (coming early next year).

The Livescribe team has an education group and they are working with schools on ways to utilize these smartpens in education. This type of device is excellent for special needs students to help them take notes and record audio. The audio is synced with your written notes, so you can tap a word in your written notes and the pen will play back the audio from that point. Students could also have others take notes for them and share them via Evernote, and eventually through other services.

I shared the notes from my meeting to others by sharing the Evernote note with them.

It's very easy to use and a great resource for anyone. They will be available in stores on November 1st.

I'll be sharing more about it and my use of it as I go along with it.


Livescribe SmartPen - 5 years of smartpen use and my review

Here's the press release from today.

Livescribe Launches Sky™ wifi smartpen Pilot Program with Education Institutions to Evaluate Uses and Impact on Learning

Oakland, Calif. — Oct. 29, 2012 —Livescribe Inc. announced today the consumer launch of its Sky wifi smartpen, the first digital pen to integrate WiFi technology and cloud services. Dedicated to the education industry, Livescribe is kicking off a pilot program with select school districts and higher education institutions to assess use cases, as well as the impact of using the Sky wifi smartpen both in and out of the classroom. The results of the pilot program will help influence education product bundles, training and additional services in the future. Livescribe will officially launch the Sky wifi smartpen in the education market in early 2013.

The Sky wifi smartpen digitizes everything students, educators or administrators write and hear and automatically syncs it to their personal Evernote® accounts, where it is securely stored and readily available to search, play back, organize and share. Now Livescribe customers can have fast, convenient access to their recorded notes and audio whether from paper, tablet, smartphone or computer – making notes and educational materials available any time, anywhere.

This allows students to listen to their teachers’ explanations of difficult concepts or new material as many times as they need on nearly any device. Similarly, teachers can record interactive lessons or homework assignments, called pencasts, and post them to their class blog or website, where students can review the material from their computers or mobile devices before or after class.

“The Sky wifi smartpen makes it easy for educators and students to create, share, review and collaborate using pen and paper,” said Byron Connell, chief marketing officer, Livescribe Inc. “With our pilot programs in K12 and higher education, we hope to advance our understanding of how to best integrate the Sky wifi smartpen into instruction and improve learning, assessment and collaboration.”

Higher Education Sky wifi smartpen Pilot Program
The higher education pilot program for Sky includes several highly esteemed institutions, including UC Berkeley, North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Tarrant County College – Southeast Campus. The disability services departments at both UC Berkeley and NCSU will loan Sky wifi smartpens to students in need of note-taking accommodations to use in their classes. They will evaluate the impact of providing students with the smartpen from both student and institutional perspectives. In addition, the pilot program at NCSU will also be extended to assess the impact of the Sky wifi smartpens on students in AP courses.

At Tarrant County College, the Sky wifi smartpen will be used in the mathematics department in classroom settings where the professor will use the Sky wifi smartpen to share interactive lessons and materials with students using Evernote.

“UC Berkeley prides itself on being at the forefront of delivering the best and most innovative services and accommodations to our students,” said Paul Hippolitus, Director, Disabled Students’ Services at UC Berkeley. “We look forward to the pilot program and evaluating the benefit and impact of Livescribe’s wireless smartpen to provide our students with additional ways to access, interact and share information they learn in class to not only improve understanding, but to also better prepare them for entering the workforce.”

K12 Sky wifi smartpen Pilot Program
A pilot program at Opal Public Charter School in Portland, Oregon will explore how elementary school students can use smartpens to create more dynamic and informative digital portfolios that show student growth over the school year, as well as year-over-year. Students and educators will use the Sky wifi smartpen to collect samples of student schoolwork and assignments, which can be stored in Evernote notebooks and privately shared with students, parents and other teachers.

“We’re creating digital student portfolios to catalog students’ ideas, assignments and projects throughout the school year and to give students a unique way to document, reflect upon and share their own learning. We believe the Sky wifi smartpen will make it simple to sync pencasts with Evernote notebooks for each student, bringing their portfolios to life,” said Rob van Nood, Anchor Teacher for the pilot program at Opal School. “These digital portfolios provide teachers and parents with a unique opportunity to track student growth and progression throughout the year, in a more dynamic, accessible and easy-to-share format. With digital portfolios we are able to identify and address each student’s individual needs.”

The Sky wifi smartpen pilot program will culminate in the spring 2013, at which time Livescribe will share highlights and results of the program.


About Livescribe for Education
Livescribe’s smartpens bring handwritten notes and lessons to life to enhance educator effectiveness and improve student learning. Livescribe syncs handwriting and audio so students can take better notes and educators can record interactive lessons. Teachers can easily capture, store and share difficult concepts and class lessons with Livescribe so students can study material at their own pace.  Used across K12, special education, and higher education institutions, Livescribe makes learning more engaging, customized and accessible.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Physics Front - teaching resources for Physics

The Physics Front

The Physics Front is a free site that contains teaching resources on Physics and Physical Science. The resources are searchable and are arranged by level: K-8 Physical Science, Physics First, Conceptual Physics, Algebra Based, and AP / Calculus. Resources are then organized by topic.

It's part of the ComPADRE education community resources.

There are lesson plans, links to other resources, technology, links, and other resources to help educators when teaching Physics or Physical Science. It's another great resource to add to your collection.


MyPhysicsLab - Free Physics Simulations

PhET - excellent, free, virtual labs and simulations for science

Physion - free Physics Simulation Software

Great Physics Resources for Students and Teachers

Symbolab - Science and Math Search Engine - search with symbols too

Symbolab is a site I learned about from David Kapuler on his blog. It is a "Science and Math Search Engine" and makes it easier to find science content online. It specifically searches for science content using semantic search tools.

You can search from the site, or use a free download for Chrome and Firefox.

The other unique feature that truly sets it apart is that it lets you use math and science symbols and equations to search. This is especially helpful when searching for topics that are related to a formula or symbol, vs. just a word.

Share this with your science and math educators and students.


STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Resources for Educators and Students

Another update to Google Drive - drag-and-drop to upload folders

Google has had drag-and-drop to upload files to Google Drive, upload pictures to Google docs and sites, and other drag-and-drop capabilities, for a while now. This makes it easier to use and work with these apps. Google just recently announced that you can now also drag-and-drop to upload folders to Google Drive. This makes Drive a much more usable cloud storage option and makes it easier to add your files to your Drive.

For more information:

Google now has one click access to Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Google just announced this week a nice addition to Google Drive - the ability to immediately start a new document. Instead of having to go into Drive and then click on New___, you can install Docs (documents), Sheets (spreadsheets) and Slides (presentations) as apps from the Chrome Web Store and use them to immediately start a new file. The shortcuts appear as apps on the new tab page in Chrome. Docs, Sheets, and Slides will appear in your apps list on a Chromebook by default. They will be automatically added to Chromebooks in the next Chrome OS update.

This will make it even easier and faster to create new docs files using Chrome Browser or Chrome OS.


Google for Education Resources (lots of great resources for students and educators)

Monday, October 22, 2012

TechForum NY was 10/22 - here are some resources from it

TechForum NY, a great educational technology conference, was this past Friday, October 19th. I presented two sessions and saw quite a few people from my PLN and added some more.

For those of you who couldn't or didn't attend, you can still get some great resources.

Presenters posted resources from their sessions here: (more are coming in so check back often)

During the Livestream, people were participating from home/school and we answered some of their questions during the sessions. The sessions that were Livestreamed were: "Tools for Education Professionals", "Flipping the Classroom" (roundtable discussion), "BYO: Goals, Policies, and Logistics".

In addition to the main sessions and roundtable discussions, there were demonstrations and presentations from vendors. There were also a lot of great conversations happening in the common areas in between sessions and some great networking going on. 

It was great to see Tom Whitby and Frank Nochese, as well as meet some great new educators to add to my PLN.

Check out the online resources from the event at the links above, and also check out the great resources on the Tech&Learning website

Woopid - free technology tutorial videos

Woopid is a site that has free video tutorials on a variety of tech topics. There are thousands of video tutorials for PCs, Macs, apps and software, hardware, internet, and Ubuntu. and include basic troubleshooting. The videos are searchable and the main page lists the most popular and new videos.

You can sign up for a free account to track your videos and create a favorites list, or you can just view videos. The videos are great quality and explain the topics well. There are also suggested videos that are more basic than the one you are watching (going back) or more advanced (going forward). They also have bundles, which are collections of videos that are grouped together by topic.

This is a great resource for students and educators for their own use, as well as to provide free tech training for them in school.


How to Support others with Tech Help

Lino - free Sticky Note and Canvas web service

Lino is a free sticky note and canvas web service I learned about from our school's webmaster. He is using it on the school's main website page as a place for teachers to post notices about clubs and other information. It was started because we have a large group of students who attend a regional aquaculture school in the morning and miss the morning announcements. This is a great, easy way for teachers to post updates and info.

Lino is free, easy to use and no account is needed. It allows you to add your canvas and notes to your website so that you can easily add notes and updates. There are different canvas's and designs you can use also. It's a great way for teachers and administrators to quickly and easily post notes and notices on their websites.

It's available for PC, iOS and Android. Check it out.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

SciencePrimer - free site with science resources and activities


SciencePrimer is a free web site that has some great science resources. The site has illustrations (animations with explanations) of concepts, practice questions and problems with hints and solutions, calculators and conversion tools, and a science glossary.

The illustrations are really good. They include interactive animations that let you change different specifications or characteristics, an explanation of the topic, and videos.

This site has some great resources that can help students understand and learn science resources.


MyPhysicsLab - Free Physics Simulations

PhET - excellent, free, virtual labs and simulations for science

Physion - free Physics Simulation Software

Great Physics Resources for Students and Teachers

TechForum NY is tomorrow - can't make it? Join in the LiveStream!

TechForum NY, a great educational technology conference, is tomorrow. I am presenting two sessions and looking forward to seeing a lot of people from my PLN.

For those of you not going, you can join in on the LiveStream of some of the sessions tomorrow. Check out the information below on how to join us live.

Tech Forum is Doing It Live!
Tune in this Friday, October 19 to Tech Forum Live OnlineTech & Learning's live broadcast stream direct from Tech Forum New York. Join this preeminent group of education leaders as they tackle some of the most pressing, and promising, issues for today's schools. Watch up to three sessions as they happen and even participate with a live chat session.
The schedule includes:
  • Tools for Education Professionals - 9:30-10:40 am
    Presenters: David Andrade, Sal Contes and Nancy Caramanico
    Looking for the best apps and Web 2.0 tools for planning, communicating, and building your own learning community? Dubious about tweeting or social networking as professional endeavors? Our panelists will share their favorite productivity tools for teachers and administrators and then invite you to do the same.
  • Flipping the Classroom (roundtable discussion) - 1:30-2:20 pm
    Join Marianthe Williams and Lorraine Brooks, and a team of innovative educators for a discussion on flipping the classroom.
  • BYO: Goals, Policies, and Logistics - 2:30-3:40 pm
    Presenters: Nancy Caramanico (moderator); Sandra Paul, Rick Cave and Rob Miller 
    Whether you call it BYOT, BYOD, or student-owned technology, the idea of allowing young people to bring their own laptops and mobile devices to school with them is gaining ground for a number of reasons. We've asked three different districts to talk about their BYO programs, explaining how and why they've chosen this course and responding to a series of questions concerning equity, policy-setting and technical challenges.
Simply visit this link during those times, tune in and participate. You can submit questions to the presenters using the Livestream chat feature. It's the next best thing to being there!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Clouds Over Cuba - intense interactive history lesson about Cuban Missile Crisis

Clouds Over Cuba is a new interactive history lesson about the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is a multimedia documentary on the Cuban Missile crisis and was just released, 50 years to the day that JFK learned that the Soviets were building missile sites in Cuba.

The project was developed by the Martin Agency for the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. This group also produced "We Choose the Moon" web site about the space race.

The interactive film has archival footage and goes through the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how it almost ended with nuclear war. There is a huge amount of information and resources available including the 26 minute documentary film and in-depth information on different topics, photos, actual documents and audio recordings and more. There are interviews with experts on each topic also.

The really interesting parts of this project include a digital dossier that will save any material you view so that you can access it at any time, including via smartphone. You can also sync your iCal and Google Calendars with it and you will get notifications of the 13 most critical days of the crisis and even virtually attend meetings held on those days about the situation.

There is also an additional film that looks at what life today might be like if nuclear war had occurred instead of the actual resolution to the crisis.

An Interactive History Lesson On The Cuban Missile Crisis And A Sobering What-If

This is an excellent project and is a great resource.

Even if you are not a teacher or student of history, this is a site to check out.

STEM Flix - STEM videos for middle school classes

Northrop Grumman Foundation's STEM Flix™

STEM Flix is a STEM Video series for middle school classes created by the Northrop Grumman Foundation and Science Bob. The videos include demonstrations that engage the students and then explore STEM career fields and topics and how they are applied in everyday life.

There are two videos - Having Fun with STEM and Fun with Microelectronics - and the site also has instructions for doing experiments shown in the films, as well as fact sheets on STEM areas.


STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Resources for Educators

Free Resources for Earth Science Week, Oct 14-20

Next week, October 14-20th, is Earth Science Week. It is a way to promote awareness of important Earth Science topics and the importance of Earth Science in education.

The theme for this year is "Discovering Careers in the Earth Sciences." There are classroom activity ideas and resources, including materials, lesson plans, and more at the site.

There are some really good materials available online and you can also order a full classroom kit of materials, for a small fee, from the site. Past years' kits are also available.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 popular to-do app adds 12 new languages - still free is a very popular, free, to-do list app for Android, iOS and Chrome. It has now added 12 new languages and is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Chinese (simplified & traditional) & Russian. 

This makes this highly popular task app even better.

What's nice about is that your task list is synced across all of the versions, from the Chrome app to the Android and iOS versions so you can access your task list from any device.

This is a great app for students, teachers and administrators to use to keep organized.

10 Great, Free Apps for Students for Notetaking and Class Planning

MyPhysicsLab - Free Physics Simulations

MyPhysicsLab is a free site that contains, you guessed it, physics lab simulations. They are simple and created in Java, but illustrate the physics concept quite well. They are organized into topics: springs, pendulums, combinations, collisions, roller coasters, molecules. There is also a section that explains how they work and the math/physics/programming behind creating them.

Simulations are a great way to really explore and visualize a topic. Many times, a simulation is better than a hands-on lab because of the manipulations and visual ques that exist. I use simulations in combination with hands-on labs.

This is another great resource for physics students and teachers to use to explore and learn about physics concepts.


PhET - excellent, free, virtual labs and simulations for science

Physion - free Physics Simulation Software

Great Physics Resources for Students and Teachers

Tackk - creatively share content online

Tackk is a free web service that allows you to instantly and easily create and share content online. No login, no fees. Just go to the Tackk page and start typing. When you are finished, you can share it via the web or social networks.

You can have a title, subtitles, photos, change fonts and colors, media, text and lists.

It's great for quick messages and notices, as well as for other projects. Tackk about the upcoming class project, the next school event, and much more. It's free and easy to use and is a great way to communicate in education, as well as use for student and teacher projects.

UPDATE: A reader asked if you could print your Tackk. I wasn't sure, so I Tweeted Tackk. They got back to me within a few minutes (that's quick service) and said you can. There is a print button at the bottom of the Tackk on the right next to the social media icons. Very happy to see how good their customer relations are.