Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Schlopping

Well I've just spent the afternoon Christmas shopping in the CBD of Perth. I'm always surprised how small Perth City CBD seems, yet it is fairly big compared to some of the cities I have lived and visited around the world.

So I got some of my Christmas shopping done, and picked up the latest Girl Talk album. Yes I still buy CD's on occasion - and this one has blown me away. As an old DJ it is like taking me back to the days behind the decks during the 90's. I've got my headphones on and smiling as he mixes a bit of grunge with club with hip hop with rap and old school rock all in one and it bloody works.

On a sad note George Oats lost her job with Fickr/Yahoo as part of some mass layoffs. George was responsible for the Flickr commons, where public photo collections from major museums and libraries were uploaded with a CC licence. This was a very worthwhile project as it allowed people to tag and make relevent a huge range of public images.

This effects eBeam to some degree as it has a link to Flickr content that is public domain or CC licenced. But the fact this project has now been effectively killed makes me sad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's biology man!

I have been asked several times for biology interactive software... I'm still looking. In the mean time I have found a couple of lists of interactive webpages.

edinformatics - lists of good biology and chem interactive animations and tutorials.

The University of Arizona - the Biology Project.

Biology in Motion - a small range of applets for lower secondary biology.

Lone Star College - a veritable motherload of interactive biology bits.

There you go - as always there is room for more so if you find something good send me a line.

Facebook a place to find stuff

Just on Facebook today and saw an add for this site. Now I don't usually click on ad's but this seemed like it was worth it... and it was.

The site aggregates videos from other sites into a more organised arragment

Have a look, at least it is better than trawling through youtube looking for something to watch.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Sometimes you think you are the only one out there doing stuff - In my case collecting resources for teachers... Then you come across someone who has been doing it longer than you... far longer.

Here is a new site/blog to check out. Based in Canada The teacher List is a great multinational resource for teachers from k-12.

Here is a coupple of the links on his site

School WAX TV - Mini lessons both live action or animated

DOC COP - An anti plagerism service based in Melbourne, with a couple of free option to upload students work and find out if it was all or partly ripped off the net or a fellow student. - Documentaries, teaching ideas, forums and discussions - UK based this is a gold mine for teachers to expand their horizons.

Best online Docos - Name says it all really -

Shodor Interactivate - A huge amount of maths based activities from primary to secondary.

Go have a look and see what you find useful.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I take it many of you have heard about scratch - a visual programming environment for kids (and adults) that allows code without coding.

Well I have just come across it's bigger better brother - err sister Alice.

It looks like it takes that middle step between pictures and icon based programming and real coding and puting it in a 3D environment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NASA Software

NASA is a strange beast... Kind of like a university where lots of departments are all interconnected but still work independently. They make great open source software too.

Here is a new one I've come across - GMAT General Mission Analysis Tool

The software is designed to work out trajectories and launch timings for space craft from earth.
So if you have ever wondered what it was like to be a rocket scientist here is your chance.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Curtin University Lecturer

Ahh the fun I have.

On Wednesday I had the pleasure... nay the privilege to give a talk and demonstration with my boss (Paul Broadbridge) to a range of university lecturers about interactive lectures.

We pulled out all the toys for this one... eBeam, TurningPoint, Graphire Bluetooth Tablets and our latest toy - the Wacom Interactive Pen Display.

Paul and I work in a very different way to most technology sales people. Because we were both teachers (Paul has had a lot more years at the coal face than me), we focus on sound pedagogy and using technology as an enabler.

We had a lot of fun and we have a lot of visitors coming down to our office in the next couple of weeks to talk about how they can use technology to augment their lectures.

Nothing on TV?

Yep another Friday night and nothing on TV right? Scrabble anyone?

Two places to go on your computer for brain food - not mush. - An annual conference of the best thinkers in the world in a range of fields sharing their discoveries and ideas. Absolutely gold, especially if you are interested in the future and what will happen next. It is also a great bonus that the content is Creative Commons, so that you can share this stuff with your peer groups. - Missed something on auntie? This is a selection of content from the ABC - from news to docos. Great if you have a fast Internet connection. I use it for when the other half is watching H&A or some other commercial crap. I just wish they would put Spicks and Specks on it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Edusim and Google Sketch-up

I haven't written anything about Edusim on this blog - Something about it screams Beta software more than most but things are definitely changing.

Edusim is a 3D Networked environment that you can place learning objects into.

They are starting to put google sketchup items into the Edusim environment...

Now this is getting good. Now you can create 3D learning environments populated with a choice of thousands of 3D models for free. Awesome.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mind the gap!!

I keep forgetting how cool is.

I was watching a few videos while the other half was watching a chick flick in the lounge room. (yes we only have one TV in our house and sometimes even that is too many).

And came across this little gem -

Followed it up and went to his website - this is the coolest way to play with statistics I have ever seen. Click on Gapminder world and you can visually see a whole range of data and how it related to other data all from places like the UN and it's agencies.

OK so not strictly something that I would use on an interactive whiteboard but - well you can - each bubble is clickable and the whole graph is interactive. Actually it would work quite well with eBeam or a Wacom tablet now that I think about it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bryce 5.5 - It's free

Back in 1998 (that's 10 years ago) I got a cover disk off some UK computer magazine - it was for Bryce2. It was amazing - I could ray trace and construct with ease - and my friends were amazed when their invites had customized ray traced images on them.

Bryce changed companies a few times and is now in the hands of DAZ software. The generous people there have released Bryce5.5 for free as they release Bryce 6 onto the market.

I was amazed at how easy it was to get restarted with Bryce - the image above took me about 5 mins to create - and about the same to render. Yes I know it's pretty simple but I'm at work so playing with this stuff is not really my job.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Open Source Software

So now my list is feeling a little redundant....

This is a whole DVD of free software for Windows Mac and Linux. Most of it is for education.

If you can't find it here it probably doesn't exist.... maybe. Actually there are a couple of things on my list that is not on theirs, and very much visa versa.

It looks like the University of Central Queensland is very open source orientated, which is great to see.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ebeam GNU/Linux

OK so it is not entirely native (works under wine) but eBeam Interact and Scrapbook work on my little Japanese Hitachi Laptop. Who Hoo - great job luidia - now all you have to do is get capture organised and we will be on the same level.

After work I'm taking it down to the back training room to fire it up with the projector!!!

Go to for drivers for ubuntu and openSUSE

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Australian First

I just got back from my Albany trip - It was amazing - we saw over 11 schools and everyone likes ebeam and TurningPoint - we will be very busy over the next couple of weeks I think with quotes and orders.

Speaking of eBeam check this out

I work with Kath and we are always looking at new and wonderful ways to use our gear. I'm now going to scrounge for the largest CRT I can get my hands on.

Now about the title -
Today I was privilaged to help set up the first Australian Remote Poll network and successfully test it in an AccessGrid environment. The Test linked up both UWA and Curtin University and we could run one lecture with both campuses seeing and hearing and polling - all in real time over an IP network.

So what this means is that you can poll using keepads in two locations and combine the polling into one presentation in real time as if the people in the remote location are in the same lecture theatre.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Linux interactive whiteboard !!!!!!

O.K. So i'm a bit of a fan of GNU/Linux, I have had a version of Ubuntu on my little Hitachi laptop for over 2 years now. It's a great little machine PIII running at 800mhz whoo hoo, and with Ubuntu it does everything that I need - including a little bit of video editing. I bought it second hand in Japan so it has a Japanese keyboard that is always cool to spring on someone.

So one of my hopes was that Luidia would come out with at least a driver for eBeam on linux and it looks like they have. YES!! I went to fire up my Hitachi but I left my power supply at work so it will have to be when I get back to the office on Thursday. I can't wait because I've always wanted to demo on Linux for conferences to freak people out.

I'm off to Albany to do a bit of a roadshow with Paul so I will be out of the office until Thursday.

To see what eBeam and linux actually looked like on my laptop click here -
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chem 08

I have a confession to make. I know nothing about chemistry - I bypassed it during my high school education and just did biology. Now it has become a problem because I will be presenting at the ChemED08 Conference in Perth...

So I am going to have to figure out a little crash course between now and late November and try and find some cool software to demonstrate with the eBeam. Life is full of crunchy bits.

I have found at least one program that is pretty spectacular - Avogadro. It almost feels like playing god, editing molecules and animating them. If that doesn't engage students I don't know what will.

If anyone has any more software on this topic please let me know and I'll put it up on the blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Literacy & Numeracy Interactive Websites

Sometimes resources come from out of the blue.

My girlfriend is a teacher and is also participating in "an even start" National Tuition Program. So she was looking for resources for numeracy and literacy and came across this awesome site.

Holy Cow! It's the motherload of interactive websites and most can be used with an eBeam. Some of these sites are in my list but a fair few are not - one of the great things though is that it is organised by teaching concept. Much easier to find exactly what you are looking for.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

TP Anywhere for Mac

Great news

Turning Point Anywhere for mac has been released - this is massive because now you can use TurningPoint in Keynote or any other mac program. It also solve the problem of the new Mac Office version that just didn't work like the old one.

For a change the Mac version looks a little more featured than the Windows version so now I can really get some traction in some of the Mac only schools in Perth.

Now eBeam has to step up and fix some of the stuff in the Mac version of Interact to include recording.

PD Day

Student Free Days, PD days, warm up days, call them what you like they are the busiest days for me.

Every time one rolls around I start getting requests to come over to do a demo for the whole staff. While this can be a great way of spreading the word it usually ends up with me visiting 3 or 4 schools in a day and having to regretfully postpone about the same amount for another PD day.

So tomorrow I go to 3 schools to spread the word and get people excited about technology in the classroom.

I suppose for me it is a bit of a rude shock as I have had no school for two weeks as well so I'm a but rusty in front of a crowd. I'll have to pace myself tomorrow - I have a meeting with the DET executive committee on the Tuesday and I want to be in top form for them.

I have recently come across a great piece of software to help with my productivity. We are supposed to fill out time sheets for all the tasks I do in a day - the trouble is that I multi task and get interrupted so often I loose track of what I'm doing and then have to spend 1/2 an hour trying to figure out what I have been doing and logging it - Tomorrow is obvious, but days in the office are hard to track.

The program is called rescuetime from . It polls your computer to find out what you are doing every 5 seconds - it then produces reports on what you have been doing - automatically. It only reports on the window that is active so you can have stuff running in the background. You then set productivity levels on activities - IE working on a word document is productive - opening you personal email is not. You can also set goals on what you want to concentrate on and it nags you to keep up with your goals. You can compare different days/months/weeks on how productive you have been.

I just hope the boss over east doesn't get the work version then he can spy on what I am up to....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Another Conference - ACEC

For those who are in Perth, you may (or may not) have noticed that I have been absent for a week. No I don't think anybody noticed.

I have been doing my thing for Keepad Interactive at the biannual Australian Computers in Education Conference (ACEC)

So as I sit here in Sydney waiting to catch my flight back to Perth, I am reflecting on a very busy couple of days.

Money from the federal government is funny stuff - for years schools have been asking for money for ICT in the classroom, then the Fed's give them $1000 per two students to buy computers... and everyone has freaked out. Especially NSW...

The Catholic system in most states are the only ones that seem to have got the money flowing in the schools, most of the rest for Governement schools has been tied up with "bean counters" figuring out how to make the most of the money given... not neccessarily what is best for the students - See NSW for that predicament to it's fullest.

It was a great conference and I will post more on it in the coming days...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Get some OATS

People often ask me where I get time to find good educational software to use with their Interactive White Board. I have a couple of secrets that reduce the time it takes to search for stuff.

One of my secrets is OATS - Open Source Assistive Technology Software. This is a great site for those people working with clients with special needs, but also any educator who is after software that might fit a particular need in the classroom.

OATS is how I found one of my favorite pieces of software - Edword. Similar to Clicker, it allows teachers to make on screen concept keyboards, then use them in a very simple talking (SAPI)text editor. This can be used in a range of classrooms from early childhood right up to remedial reading and writing.

It's also a great idea to to go and visit these site regularly - once every couple of months to see what has changed. Luckily I did just before writing this up.

We have been looking for a way to turn the NOVA5000 into a Alternative Communication Board, but we have had trouble finding suitable software at a decent price (one vendor's software was the same price of a retail version of a Nova5000).

So while looking in OATS to see if anything new had been added I noticed a open sourced com-board solution had just been added. Not only that but had been tested on a NOVA5000. It basicly makes interactive com-board webpages.

I'll tell you some of my other sources of free software later... if your lucky.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Let me catch my breath......

There was a reason for my lack of writing... work.
More specifically two conferences back to back.

The First was the AASE conference (Australian Association of Special Educators - pronounced "ace"). We were there not only as an exhibitor but also to do Pre and post evaluation using TurningPoint ARS. That was from Friday to Saturday.

We had a lot of interest in both eBeam and Turning Point, but what surprised us was the interest in the NOVA5000. We were the only ICT hardware exibitor there so a lot of interest focused on how to use the technology in their very specific learning environments.

It was great to see teachers so enthused, there was lot of discussion on how they could really help their kids with our technology.

From Sunday to Wednesday was the ASPA (Australian Secondary Principal Association)conference. Same amount of delegates, but a lot more sponsors and exhibitors. I think every competitor was there trying to get the attention of a lot of decision makers in the room.

For us it was a great conference; speakers were using TurningPoint as part of the presentations, and it gave principals the chance to compare different IWB technologies, which his a great thing for us.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Interactive labs

Science teacher have it tough. They have one of the most costly subjects in a school to teach, yet get a very small budget. In my website of links to good software I have things like virtual lab, Phet and Phun that can simulate some experiments, but are mostly focused on Physics. I have recently come across HHMI Biointeractive. This focuses on high end biology, and directs students through simulations commonly done in high end labs. Being a primary teacher means that a lot of this is beyond my background knowledge, but it looks like it covers many of the topics in year 11 and 12.

For a lower stage of learning there is Science Lab by Schlumberger - a range of interative applets that let students experiment with things like trains for the dopler effect.

I keep looking for great science web ages, Java/Flash applets, but if you have a favourite that I haven't found yet, please drop me a line.

Conference conference conference

It must be conference season...

I have two that I am involved in - back to back next weekend. The first is the Australian Association of Special Educators, a nation conference to be held in Fremantle. We are the gold sponsor and are supplying them with pre and post conference evaluation. This will be a great way to get in contact with a range of educators who specialise in students that need that extra help due to a physical or mental disability.

The second is the Australian Secondary Principals Association. This is a national conference held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Both conferences are using TurningPoint ARS for surveying their audience. TP is great for this but I often worry that people don't get to see the other things that the technology can do, especially in assessment and reports. At least the technology is getting into the hands of educators.

Speaking of getting into the hands of educators - One of my primary school clients came up with a novel way to get their staff involved and more familiar with their TurningPoint kit. I'm sure you have heard of the 2 truths and a lie game. What they did was to compile a PowerPont and gave each teacher a slide on which they could put two truths and a lie. The rest of the staff voted, and using the participant list, were able to give away prizes for correct guesses. It was a great ice breaker for the staff and made them more comfortable with the technology.

If you have used TP in a novel way, please email me so I can pass on great ideas.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Speaking in front of the Australian Computer Society

Sometimes I do things in my job that I never thought I would do. Yesterday I had the privilege to talk at a meeting of the Australian Computer Society. This group was set up and long time before computers became ubiquitous, and has members from university professors to IT managers from some of the top multinationals.

In front of these esteemed people I go and do a very quick demonstration of eBeam, while my colleague does the same thing for TurningPoint ARS.

It is always satisfying to get the jaw drop from people who haven't seen eBeam or TurningPoint, it was even better when you had the calibre of the people in that room.

Both of us got a lot of questions after our demonstrations, and we realised that these guys were so into the management side of things that they hardly got to see all the new technology used effectively.

Makes me glad I have the opportunity to play with new technology on a daily basis.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


So many times I have seen "computer time" end up being "word/clip art time", where kids try out all the different ways they can write their title and put a border around it. What you get is a pastiche of colour and images, but not much content.

There are simple and free ways around this problem. One of my favourites is the graduate program, where kids start with the basics of word in notepad - it does most of the things you need it to do, not least of which is putting words on the page. Graduating from that is Wordpad, which adds more formatting tools, and then on to Abiword for a proper word processing package.

All of these programs are free and you can find the first two under the accessories folder in you program menu. For creating real published documents you can go past Scribus. This is purely and simply a powerful page layout program, perfect for anything from brochures to signs. We use it in our office for all our marketing gumph.

For those that remember the BBC micro, you may also remember the concept keyboard. An A3 Sized touch panel that teachers could program and use overlays on to give students a customised interface. Often used for language activities and story writing.

If you are looking for an equivalent today the closest thing I can get to is Edword, put out by sense in the UK. It is a talking word processor, with the ability to use grids to give student whole words and phrases to click on to include into their writing. For free software it is certainly comparable to some of the stuff out there that cost in the hundreds of dollars.

Keep looking for the good stuff.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Aboriginal Students and ARS

I got a great email recently from two of my clients Terry and Christine Hinchcliffe. Both of them have "retired" from teaching and are traveling up through the north west of Western Australia. As they pass through some of the remote communities, they offer their services as relief (supply/substitute) teachers and as professional development consultants. This gives them the opportunity to keep their hand in and to give support to those teaching in isolated areas that don't usually get to have a day of PD in their own school.

They took with them an eBeam and a Turningpoint IR kit. Here is what he wrote to me recently regarding his use of TurningPoint Audience Response System.

We have had considerable success with Turning Point at La Grange, Derby and
Wananami. As I suspected, the aboriginal kids love it. We have developed a
series of interactive stories where the kids "pick their own pathway" by voting
for a choice of decisions then hyperlinking off to other slides

As educators who have specialised in Aboriginal education for most of their teaching careers, this is high praise. They have used the technology to engage students, and give them control of the lesson, something that most kids would love.

It's always great hearing success stories from clients, so if you have a success story you would like to share, please feel free to leave a post or drop me a line.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

eBeam software upgrade

It's no secret that I really like my eBeam Pod. The fact that I show it off everyday to clients doesn't diminish my appreciation for what it can do in a classroom with a little practice and the right software.

Not long ago a new update for the eBeam pod came out, and has really added to the functionality of scrapbook. Now you can add content directly from flicker which gives you millions of images to use on your scrapbook. You can also 'print' from any application directly into scrapbook. So now PDFs can join in on the fun of eBeam.

Of course you can still use your eBeam with any other program and it will work just like your mouse or as an annotation pen.

You will need to un-install 2.0 and then install 2.1, so go get the download already.

Being Googable

I just got an email this weekend from the president of our state association of computer educators. I seems someone was looking for me an found to their dismay that I'm "ungoogable" - his word not mine.

It got me thinking, in the old days you were nobody if you weren't in the papers or on TV, now if people can't find you on Google, then your pretty much a nobody.

Now there are certain advantages to being a nobody. Being able to do things without people recognising you, your work or your mistakes means that some stuff can be accomplished more successfully. It also means that you can change direction without the baggage of your previous life catching up to you.

Unfortunately in my current role I have to be "somebody". It suits me fine by the way. It forces me to step up and to put 100% into everything I do everyday. So building my somebody status includes making a mark on the nets, be they interpersonal or electronic.

So the purpose of this and coming prose is for me to be found by those who seek, to give to the open source community the only thing I can - publicity, and to push the barrow of my current employer (Keepad Interactive).

Feel free to comment on the posts I put up, and if you have any suggestions for inclusion on my links page of FLOSS software for educators, please send it along.