Friday, November 18, 2011

TechKNOWLEDGEy Tips: Cutting Corners with Windows 7

Now that we've had a while to get used to the new computers. I wanted to let you know some of the time-saving shortcuts you may not have known about.

  1. I know you've experienced this scenario: You have 10 different programs or windows open and your taskbar across the bottom of your screen is a mess. You want to switch quickly between one program and another, but you end up wasting what seems like precious hours clicking on each window one at a time trying to find the one you want. Here's a great trick to assist you with that.

    The Keystroke: Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +Tab Here's what it looks like:

    (The screen shot was captured using; Users must sign in to access screencasts, but there are various ways to log in.)

    You can also press Alt + Tab to pick the window you want. Try it. It's fun!

  2. Don't forget that you can easily change display settings (Computer Only, Clone, Extended, Screen Only) by pressing:
    Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key + P.

  3. Another cool feature of Windows 7 is easy access to the screen shot feature. It's called the Snipping Tool. The snipping tool will take pictures of various things on your computer. This is great when you're trying to explain something on paper but know a picture would go much further.

    To open this tool: Go to the Windows button on your taskbar, type in Snipping Tool. Open it up and enjoy! Play with it. There are various options. You'll love it if you've ever had to take a screen shot an then try to crop before sending. This takes all those extra steps out.

  4. Lastly (for today), do you have an affinity for sticky notes? You're in luck! You can now make electronic sticky notes to place on your desktop to offer friendly reminders--and save the environment--all at the same time!

    To open this tool: Go to the Windows button on your taskbar, type in Sticky Notes. Open the program and start sticking away. Right click on the note to change the color.

Here are some links for additional information:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TechKNOWLEDGy Tips: Creating an Avatar

Do you ever feel like you need a change of pace? Your students are zoning out, and you're tired of saying the same thing 5,000 times a day? Try one of these ideas on for size... Speaking avatars; login required but worth it.

Perhaps you just need a different face to say the same thing you are saying:

Doppelme Animated Avatar--no login required

Here's mine:

Face Your Manga Requires an email. Your avatar is sent to you for download.
Here's mine:

Build Your Wild Self
It's a fun way to get a little crazy. This wouldn't work in many settings, but you might could think up some cool ideas. Here's the one I built:

Another fun way to say something is to use a celebrity (with permission, of course):


Go to to do this. You'll need to register to save and share your creations, but it's worth the fun. Just a forewarning....there are some inappropriate Blabbers that are part of the Browse section, so keep that in mind if you're thinking of doing this as a project.

You could go all out and create an avatar, save that picture, and then make it talk with Blabberize....Play around. It makes lessons a little more interesting for you too.

All of these are ways that students can create projects without putting their face in front of the camera. By creating an avatar, you can have them record their voice to turn in an assignment for an oral presentation. You can allow them to read you the steps to solving a problem. You can introduce new topics or review topics using images of the actual characters (think book reviews, history lessons, world leaders, or a "Who am I?" review game....)

Lots of ideas....Let me know if I can help.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Attack of the Robots!

Cedar Valley Robotics club.

Our students have won first place in Robot Design at the First Lego League competition held on Saturday Nov. 12 at Westwood HS. We now get to move on to the next level, the Central Texas Invitational Tournament.

First Lego League/Central Texas Invitational Tournament

Ms. Persad's website with specific information for interested students:


Want to volunteer? Go here for more information.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Leading the Way in STEM

What is STEM Education?
STEM is an acronym for the fields of study in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. There has been a big focus on this term since President Obama highlighted it in recent presentations on education.

But, in RRISD, STEM Education has been a focus for a while--most notably, through the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. CTE encompasses many different fields of study, but offers an opportunity to many students interested in engineering through a program called Project Lead the Way (PTLW). At the Middle School level, PTLW is taught in a class called Gateway to Technology (GTT). Another STEM-focused option at the middle school level is Career Portals which helps students decide on an academy focus for high school. Mr. Borinstein is the teacher of record for these classes at CeVMS.

Recently, I caught Mr. Borinstein's class using their STEM skills in some pretty amazing ways. Check out the cars that they've made (I didn't get any pictures of the planes...):

Photo edited with

In order to create these models, students learn the basics of engineering through specialized software and programs. They learn about design and functionality. Then, they put those theories to use in a practical manner.

What can you do?
Want to conjure some excitement for STEM? Check out this video created by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce:

Check out some of the other videos put together by this group. There may be one that you can show that will pique the interest of students who always seem to ask the question: "Why do I need to know this?..."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

TechKNOWLEDGEy Tips: Online Photo Editors

Do you want an easy way to spice up the pictures, but don't have access or the know-how to use PhotoShop?

Here are a few online photo editors that will do the trick.

This photo editor is not complicated, but it is for the more intense user. It has a lot more options and a user-friendly interface. It is fairly intuitive and fun to play around in. You don't need to log in or register in order to use the features.

Pixlr has two options from the main page: 1) Open Photo Editor -or- 2) Retro Vintage Effects.
I enjoy using the retro effects--pretty much it's just adding a layer or filter to the existing page. For blogging and just adding a little bit of flair, this is great. When you're in the Photo Editing feature, it has a very similar feel to PhotoShop--so if you've worked in PS or are leading students to that, this is a great bridge. This one does not require a log-in or registration to use the services.

Probably the easiest out of the three choices offered. It doesn't offer a lot of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done easily and effectively. It doesn't require you to register or log-in to use the services unless you want to upgrade to the Premium version.

Don't find what you need: Click here for additional choices. (I didn't preview most of these choices, so be forewarned and proceed at your own risk.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sing and make music....for your computer?

This image was edited using
RRISD Fine Arts programs have incorporated technology into music education through a program called SmartMusic. According to the website, SmartMusic is interactive music software that allows the user to practice with background accompaniment then get instant feedback about their performance. The program allows users to play an instrument (woodwind, brass, percussion, string--just to name a few) or sing a vocal performance while following along with the program in order to improve at a pace that is appropriate for the student. The band and choir directors have been incorporating this program into lessons and practice areas for students to use in class and out of class use for practicing music.

In addition to the great practice opportunities, Cedar Valley students were chosen to participate in a pilot for Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) in which they use SmartMusic to submit entries for individual contest. Students use the musical skills they learn in the classroom to play and record a pre-selected piece of contest music and then, using the program, sight-read a selection and submit it for judging. As with any pilot, there are some bugs to fix; but our Jags in band and choir gave peak performances!

This is a great example of how technology can be used to support the classroom teacher and allow students a little flexibility.

Until next time!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bonjour, parlez-vous français?

I sure don't, but some of our Cedar Valley Jags are using technology to practice their French fluency with their pen pals. Madame Macharia's French classes communicate regularly with their pen pals from le collège de la Vallée in Avon, near Paris. For their most recent correspondence, students created video tours of Cedar Valley Middle School. Not only were students challenged by perfecting their French accents and looking good for the camera, but also by integrating technology components such as operating a flip cam, uploading footage to a shared folder, converting video files, and editing the video in Windows Live Movie Maker.

Here are some of the groups collaborating in the computer Lab:

Photos edited with

Take a look at some of the finished products:

Aren't they talented?

Au revoir! Until next time, Jags!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Purpose of this Blog

I have accepted the challenge given to Instructional Technology Specialists in RRISD: Go forth and document the cool technology components that your campus(es) are integrating into instruction.

This blog is dedicated to zealously pursuing Jags who need to be in the spotlight because of their use of technology at Cedar Valley Middle School. I also want it to be a place where teachers/students/administrators can come to discover new technology components for the classroom or be reminded of interesting components that you may have forgotten about during the hectic daily life of middle school.

If you are part of the CeVMS family and are in the process of fulfilling this goal, please contact your friendly neighborhood ITS so that your activities can be documented.

Start following On The Prowl to be amazed by the digital prowess of the Jags at CeVMS.