Thursday, December 31, 2009


Welcome to the William Annin Middle School Technology Tips Blog. I decided to set this up as a forum to share ideas related to technology, particularly as they pertain to the needs of the staff and students at William Annin Middle School. Posts will come from responses to inquiries around the building as well as ideas that I believe you can use to enhance your use of technology. Feel free to comment on any of the posts or email me with questions / suggestions. I hope you find my entries helpful.

Mr. Isaacs

Monday, December 7, 2009

Google Wave

Hi Everyone. I have been enjoying playing with Google Wave ( Right now, google wave is in a limited preview mode, but more and more invitations are being sent, meaning more and more participants are getting involved. I recently created a public wave that I am managing on the topic of Middle / High School Game Design and Development. My intent is to collaborate with other professionals regarding teaching game design and introductory computer programming concepts.

If you are interested in participating in the wave, please let me know and I will be happy to add you. If you already have a google wave account, please provide me with your google wave email address. If you do not have a wave account yet, I might be able to help you to get involved. I have a few invitations available and am especially interested in giving them to other educators (especially if you are interested in game design and development). If you would like an invite, please provide me with your email address.

Interested in finding out more about google wave?

Monday, November 2, 2009


ToonDoo - The Cartoon Strip Creator!

Thanks to one of my new google wave contacts for pointing me to ToonDoo. ToonDoo is a very user friendly web based application that allows you to create cartoon strips and even cartoon books. The site is designed to encourage participants to create new strips, share their work, and discuss cartooning. What a great way to get students involved in the writing / digital story telling process. The Toon Creator is full of backgrounds, character, props, and other useful tools to aid in creating your masterpieces. I would say that the site is certainly appropriate and easy enough to use for elementary students but is entirely appropriate for older students as well. What a find :)

ToonDoo is free to use, but also offers a nice package for schools in order to create a ToonDoo Space exclusively for your school. Naturally, this helps in terms of creating a safe space for your students. Rates are reasonable. For example, to create a ToonDoo space for 12 months for 100 students would cost $206. Seems reasonable for a grade level project.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Web 2.0 Pick of the Day: 30 Boxes

Thanks, once again to the facilitators of the Web 2.0 course I am taking for today's Web 2.0 Pick of the Day. Today, I feature 30 boxes, an online interactive calendar that can be shared among a number of participants.

The 30 boxes online calendar tool is simple, yet has enough features to make it worthwhile. Participants can collaborate on adding to the events on the calendar. Events can even be generated automatically from RSS feeds. You can use the drag and drop functionality to move events around the calendar. I could see great value in this tool as a simple online family calendar, a teacher's calendar of due dates, or a calendar for after school groups. I know for our school musical, there are dates for different groups to rehearse, days for the crew to meet, and of course all of the full cast rehearsals and shows.

While playing around, I found at least two added features that I really liked. One is the built in task list. You never can have enough 'Things to do' lists floating around. And finally, and maybe the best feature...When you register, you enter your zipcode. 30Boxes automatically includes and updates the 5 day forecast.

I am not sure if it includes all of the functionality of something like the Google Calendar, which my family uses. We especially like the Google Calendar as it allows you to color code and superimpose a number of calendars on the master calendar. We can see our whole family's ridiculously busy schedule all in one place :)

Try them both out. I am interested in hearing your comments.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Web 2.0 pick of the day: Gliffy

Currently, I am taking a Web 2.0 Professional Development course through the Virtual High School Consortium ( The course has been great and over the next 20 days we will be introduced to 20 new web 2.0 applications. I figured I should pass them along to you so that you can enjoy playing with some of the MANY interactive and collaborative resources available online.

Above: Screenshot from Gliffy

The 'pick of the day' for today is Gliffy, a tool intended for creating diagrams online. There are a variety of types of diagrams that you can design using gliffy including:
  • Floorplans

  • Flow Charts

  • User Interfaces

One of the best features of Gliffy is that it allows for collaboration among users. I can see great value in using this for teams planning for group projects or students for pre-writing, etc. Many possibilities!

Please visit now to try it out! I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google Wave

WOW! I'd like to thank my wife for sharing this video with me earlier today. Check out the video demonstrating Google Wave. This may be the next HUGE step in online collaboration, email, and Social Networking. Did I say WOW?

Friday, September 25, 2009

21st Century Skills Webinar

21st Century Skills:
What Do They Look Like?

Tech&Learning Webinar

Date: Thursday October 8th
Time: 10 a.m. West Coast/ 1 p.m. East Coast
Duration: 60 minutes
Sponsors: Atomic Learning

Wondering exactly what 21st Century Skills are all about? Trying to determine what steps to take to begin bringing 21st Century Skills into classroom projects? Join this presentation and discussion around 21st Century Skills concepts, examples, and real world advice on how to bring them into the classroom.


Brad Flickinger, Education Futurist and Educator

Although being born and raised in Canada, Brad is proud of what he calls his "Perfect American Accent." After high school Brad studied journalism at the University of Western Australia, returned home to Canada, married his high school sweetheart and started his own weekly newspaper. At the age of 24 he won the Young Entrepreneur of Canada for the work he had done in getting newspapers into the digital age. A few years later he moved his young family to a beach town in Costa Rica for a few years to work as a schoolteacher at a private elementary school before returning to the United States. By this time, the Internet was booming and Brad spent the next few years managing a technology and design company near Seattle before returning to teaching for the past seven years. Recently Brad has combined is passions for teaching and technology by working a consultant and speaker on new and emerging educational technologies.

Click here to register for this FREE webinar.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Vision of Students Today

The following video was presented in an online class I am currently taking. It speaks volumes...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Discovery Education Network Virtual Conference

The Discovery Educational Network is hosting a FREE Online Conference on Saturday, April 25, 2009 from 11:00 am - 3:00 pm (ET)

Highlights Include:
  • Building School 2.0 - examine ideas of constructivist pedagogy and the use of 21st century tools to create schools that are engaging, caring and relevant places of learning for everyone involved.
  • The Benjamin Button Effect
  • Turning Data Into Action: Explore the Reporting Features of Discovery Education streaming
  • Closing the Global Achievement Gap: Beyond Test-Prep, Toward Life-Prep
  • Special presentations featuring projects, ideas, and tips from STAR Discovery Educators
  • Collaborate with educators who are passionate about integrating media in instruction to improve student achievement.
Click here to register online.

FETC Virtual Conference and Expo

On April 23, 2009 FETC (The Florida Educational Technology Conference) and The Journal (Transforming Education Through Technology) will be hosting a FREE Online Conference and Expo from 11:00 am - 7:00 pm addressing issues related to 21st Century Skills. This event will feature the keynote address, "21st Century Learning: A Necessity for our Students" presented by Dr. Steve Paine. Other highlights include
  • dynamic speakers
  • virtual 'exhibit hall' time
  • exchange of best practices and tips
  • a 'virtual netwoking lounge'
  • product demos
  • free content downloads.

Register online at
Use Promo Code NQ9V04

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


myEbook is the place to read existing eBooks, or publish your own. The publishing tool is web based and very easy to use, so anyone can be an eBook author! As a test, I converted my HTML tutorial that I provide as a resource for my students. The process was fairly simple. I converted it into a .pdf. If you are not sure how to do so, visit my cutePDF tutorial article in my blog. Once the file was in .pdf format, the eBook builder converted the file into the proper format to be viewed with their free online viewer. The concept is great. There are even opportunities to make money with your eBook. The site provides tools that deal with the use of advertiser support for revenue generation as well as other methods. Most of the books are free to read and can be read right in the browser window. The eBook format is aesthetically pleasing and very easy to use.

Go check out the site and peruse one of the many magazines or books available online. Below is my simple example.

Myebook - HTML Tutorial - click here to open my ebook

Friday, April 3, 2009

WOW! The Mecca for Web 2.0 Applications

Thanks to a friend at, I was pointed to Go2Web20. This site provides an immense library of web 2.0 resources. The site allows you to filter the list provided by sub category and there are MANY sub-categories including apps for photos, video, music, e-learning, games, collaboration, blogging, communication, online community, etc. etc. etc. Prepare to waste a LOT of time, while finding some fun and useful apps.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Six Technologies soon to affect education

Today's eSchool News had an interesting article regarding upcoming web 2.0 tools that will impact the educational community. The article breaks up the emerging technology in several categories, based on the type of technology and the timeframe for widespread integration.

I encourage you to read the entire article, and I plan to dedicate future entries to some of the individual tools discussed.

The first categories discussed include Collaborative Environments, like Moodle or Ning, and VoiceThread and Online Communication tools, including twitter, skype, and edmodo . It is believed that these tools will be widely used within the next year or two. I have seen a number of these tools used in education already, while others are still not being widely utilized because of concern regarding possible liability. It will be interesting to see how these tools become incorporated. In the spirit of encouraging 21st century skills, I believe these are valuable tools and with proper guidance should be utilized to enhance instruction.

The next categories, which are projected to be widely used in the next two to three years include mobile devices and cloud computing.

The article states...

"The combination of available applications and a device that [students] can carry provides an opportunity to introduce students to tools for study and time management that will help them later in life," says the report. "The implications for K-12 education are dramatic: the potential for mobile gaming and simulation, research aids, field work, and tools for learning of all kinds is there, awaiting development."

It is amazing what is available on a phone these days. Phones have become people's communication devices far beyond the simple telephone functionality. People can gather all of their email and messaging on a mobile device, manage their appointments (wouldn't it be great for all students to use a digital management system for assignments, etc). In addition, a smart phone or mobile device can be used to store and analyze data, research online, view photos and video, etc. Currently, we have many rules in place regarding the use of cell phones in school, whereby students are not allowed to have them on in at all during the school day (if even allowed to be carried). At some point, the mindset will have to change, but with proper guidelines. As a tool, including the available applications that are available, mobile phones and other wireless devices will become an incredible teaching and learning tool. What better way to teach, then by encouraging the technology that children are using in the real world.

The concept of cloud computing refers to applications that are hosted remotely including google documents and other collaborative writing tools in addition to a variety of other applications like YouTube where the content is hosted remotely.

The final categories (3 to 4 years out) include smart objects and The Personal Web. Smart objects include items that can be coded and tracked. The peronal web speaks of the notion of using tools to organize content on the web, rather than just view it. This will certainly provide the opportunity for students to learn more sophisticated means of researching, managing, and effecively utilizing information over time.

It is interesting to see how many of these ideas are already being utilized. At this point, they are being utilized sporadically and generally by educators who have dedicated the effort to learn these tools on their own. In time, utilization of these tools will be more common and integrated in the curriculum. Exciting stuff :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Can't see video when playing a DVD with your Tablet?

I have received a number of inquiries recently regarding video issues with the Lenovo Tablet PCs. Essentially, people are having issues viewing a DVD on the Tablet. Generally speaking, sound is working, but the display is not. The issue is occurring because the video card is not equipped for certain graphic capabilities. This can be fixed by setting the hardware acceleration higher on the display settings. Following are the necessary steps.

Step 1:
right click on a blank area on the desktop (not on an icon) and choose 'Properties"

Step 2:

When in the Display Properties, click on the Settings Tab.

Step 3:

Click the 'Advanced Button' at the bottom of the Settings Page.

Step 4:
Click on the Troubleshoot Tab on the Advanced Page


Step 5:
In the 'Troubleshoot' Tab, click the and drag the slider for hardware acceleration from the present location to 'Full'. Then click Apply and OK and you are done. Your DVD should play, video and all.

Note: This also works for some other graphic issues on the tablet. If you are using GameMaker, this will be required in order to run the games once created.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This seemed like a timely post in light of our current budget crisis...

Classwish is a nonprofit organization that makes it easy for teachers ans schools to create Wish Lists of the supplies they need for students to excel. Parents and others in the community see exactly what is needed and contribute online.

Visit and set up a teacher profile and wish list today!

Monday, March 9, 2009

How to Embed a YouTube Video in your PowerPoint presentation

This tutorial will show you how to embed a video from YouTube right in a PowerPoint presentation. The method in the video is intended for use in PowerPoint 2003, but should work in PowerPoint 2000 as well. If you are using PowerPoint 2007, do a search on YouTube as there are many videos for 2007. The video is also assuming you are online and can access the video from the YouTube server. If you need to use the video offline, there are additional steps required, which make the process a little more complicated. My students have been using this method to include video in their PowerPoint and have had great success. Hopefully, this will work for you!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blogs in Plain English

You are reading my blog, so I guess you have some concept of what a blog is. This video breaks down the idea of blogging and will hopefully inspire you to create your own blog about a topic that speaks to you. Enjoy!

Help! I can't open that file at school...

My wife, Cathy Cheo-Isaacs posted an entry in her blog that addresses the age old issue of incompatibility regarding versions of Microsoft Office. I am continually asked to open files for students because they completed them at home using a different version of Office. For example, they may have Office 2007 at home, and our computers have Office 2000 or 2003. Whatever the case may be, Cathy provides the answer with a link to the Microsoft compatibility pack.

Visit her entry here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

GameMaker - Free Game Development Program

GameMaker is a wonderful drag and drop gamemaking tool. It is easy enough for elementary students to use to create games and robust enough for the hard core programmer. I have used this to teach programming concepts and constructs with students from grade 2 through 10. I am continually amazed by the creations of my students and the countless hours they put into creating their games. The toolset is openended and provides the game designer with the opportunity to create any type of game they can think of without limitation.

GameMaker is supported by an online community called yoyogames ( The site allows you to download a plethora of resources. The program is available for free and an additional set of tools can be unlocked by purchasing the Pro version at a nominal fee. The pro version is not necessary, but for the small donation it is certainly worth supporting the development team. You can also download resources including tutorials, graphics, sounds, etc. Finally, you can post your games to the yoyogames site for others to enjoy or download games created by others.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nine Year Old Writes Popular iPhone App!

Nine Year Old, Lim Thye Chean (left) created a drawing application for the iPhone. The application was originally created for his younger sisters (ages 3 and 5) so they could draw on the iPhone. The program allows users to draw on the iPhone touch screen with their fingers and erase the 'slate' by shaking the iPhone. So far, this application has been downloaded more than 4,000 time from the iTunes store.

One of my passions is teaching game design and development, so I am especially excited by the possibilities regarding the potential for distribution of games created by students. This is quite motivating for the developer and inspiring for budding developers. Way to go Lim Thye!

Please view the entire article at

Thursday, February 5, 2009 Where the Education Community Connects

Today, I stumbled upon a new Social Networking site for Educators. It's kind of like Facebook for Educators. The site is designed to connect educators. On this site, you can:
  • create a profile
  • maintain a blog
  • create or join education communities
  • share resources (lesson plans, weblinks, etc.)
  • communicate with 'friends' in the education community
  • upload and share pictures and videos
I joined today and encourage you to do the same. If you do, please send me a 'friend' request (Steven Isaacs). Click here to find out more or join.

So far, I joined the 21st Century Skills community and am interested to see what kind of discussion ensues.

See you online!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Education well represented in stimulus package

I'm not sure about everyone else, but there has been a feeling of gloom and doom lately with regards to the state of education funding. It sounds like this could result in many program cuts, which certainly compromise the education of our students. With program cuts, come job cuts. This certainly wouldn't help the current economic climate any (and would have a huge impact on my family for sure).

The following article should spark a feeling of hope as the House has ok'd a record $142 billion dollars for education as part of the stimulus package. The package still has to go before the Senate, but it sounds like the Senate will be ironing out differences of opinion regarding the package. However, the bottom line sounds like there will be a substantial amount of money put into the education system to try to help with our current economic crisis.

Please read the article, and post your comments.

I especially like this part ...

"Both measures include $79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cutbacks to key educational services, including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities using existing formulas, $15 billion to states as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures, and $25 billion to states for other high-priority needs, such as preventing the layoffs of public safety employees and teachers."

The article can be found on eSchool News.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Online Text to Speech Translator

Special thanks to Bill Paris for today's entry. He shared this great website with me today.

The text to speech translator allows you to enter text into a text area and the translator will speak the text in your choice of languages. One of the nice features is that you can set the speed of the text and the text is spoken in a very lifelike voice (as opposed to most computer generated text to speech programs).

Currently, the languages available are: English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Russian and Spanish. You can copy and paste the text from a document or website. The translator accepts Asian characters as well.

This is a great tool for the classroom. What a great addition to the Language or ESL classroom. In addition, this site has great application for students with special needs and those with visual impairments.

The translator can be found at:


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Creating a Group in Groupwise

I have been planning on posting a blog entry on how to create a group in Groupwise, but was struggling with the motivation to put it together. Today, a help request came in asking about creating groups in groupwise. Just the motivation I needed! So, here it is...
What is a group? A group (or distribution list) is a list of email recipients that you can send mail to by selecting the group (once you have definted the group).
Follow these stepst to create a group in Groupwise

Step 1: Open Groupwise and click on the Address Book icon (highlighted to the left)

Once you have opened the Address Book, you will see a list of your current address books, as shown on the left.

Step 2: When in the Address book, click on File -> New Book. This will allow you to create a new address book. I tend to do this so that my group is easy to find and that my address book remains organized.

Once created, you will see the address book in your list of address books (in the example here, the address book is called Sample Address Book). As you see, I have a number of address books that I have created.

Step 3: Once you have created your new address book (or decided to put the group in an existing address book), click on the triangle (pull down) next to New and select group.

Step 4: Enter a name for the group that makes sense to you.

Step 5: Click Add to begin adding members to your group.

Step 6: After clicking add, you will see a screen like the one to the right. If you are creating a group of staff members, you would want to look in the Novell Groupwise Address Book (as shown). Notice that I changed the filter (match) to Last Name. Type in a last name and the list of names below will start to match what you typed. Double click on the selected name and they will appear in the right (Selected) area.

When you have entered all of the desired names, click OK and your group will be created.

Step 7: In order to send an email to your group, click on New Mail in Groupwise in order to start drafting an email. Click on Address. Make sure the correct address book is selected. Click on the group you want to send the email to. You can select To: if you want it to show up in the to field, CC: if you would like it to show in the Carbon Copy field, or BC: if you prefer for the group not to show up for users to see when they receive the email.
Give it a try!!!! Let me know if you have any questions.