Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Win Boardmaker Plus

Just a quick note - enter to win Boardmaker Plus. It is worth a shot and win your own copy. Just remember don't use your work email or do it during work hours. If so, technically it belongs to the establishment that you work for.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Road Warrior - My personal top 10

I have been a road warrior for the past 7 years. For those that are wondering what I define as a road warrior, I define anyone that is a road warrior if they spend more time in the car or plane then they do in their own bed or home. I travel on average 1300 miles a month just for appointments. In the years, I have traveled I have found ways to make my life just a little easier.

1. GPS - if you don't have one, you need to get one. I strongly suggest one that is active updates (Satellite) and gives you traffic updates.

2. Neat Receipt Scanner - this has made my life so much easier. I am the first to admit that I have a horrible with paper. This device allows me to manage my receipts, reports from school districts, worksheets for students and anything that can be scanned in single sheet. If you are a road warrior, you have to save your gas receipts, food receipts, store receipts for expense sheets. This device makes it super easy with just a push of a button. You can organize your material fast and easy. Runs off the USB.

3. Portable Printer - I don't use my portable printer. I have a lightweight printer that I use for evaluations or just fast reports. I have found that it comes in handy when you need it RIGHT NOW. The printer cartilages can be expensive but if you only print what you have to it isn't that much. Runs off the USB.

There are other options but I have found them to be inconvenient such as Printeron or Printme which allow you to virtual print to specific hot spots. I found that Staples or Kinkos can take a PDF and print it just as easily with no contract or monthly service.

4. Paper - I hate paper being left in an open package in the car. It allows dust, moister and other stuff to get on the paper so I found a plastic case that is perfect for holding a ream of paper. It keeps it protected; I always have clean and dry paper. The plastic case actually looks like a plastic brief case.

5. Sharpie or Felt tip markers for writing messages or directions. Pens always run out of ink, they don't write on many services and the sharpie or felt pens are perfect for fast notes.

6. Large Post it note pad - Nothing works better when you are on the side of the road trying to retrieve voicemail or take directions. Stick it to the steering wheel and write away you don't have to worry about the note moving as you write.

7. Car adaptor for your electronics - A laptop battery or your cell phone can only last so long. The car adaptors allow you to charge your batteries when you are working on the car. Now don't get silly don't try to run all your electronics at a time, pick and choose what is a must have.

8. WIFI finder – Yes, I admit it, I borrow strangers opened WIFI. If they are going to leave it open, I am going to us it for checking and sending email. Rarely would I send files. If you feel guilty about using someone’s free WIFI then you can find many stores or restaurants that have free WIFI while you eat or sit outside the building.

9. File Tote – offers you document holders, binder space and a surface to lean on when working. I like the file totes that are canvas and zipper because when school ends for the year, I can fold up and store for the next season.

10. Internet back up space – I go for the free space especially if you use encrypted files. It allows me not to worry about thumb drives, which computer a file is one or if someone has to wait for something. The best is that you don’t have to stress that the computer hard drive has lost your files.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Syncing Files to the Jumpdrives

It seems that technology and I have come to an impasse. My work laptop is on its last byte and it needs to hold off just a little longer until a replacement comes. My home system apparently thinks that it needs an overhaul piece by piece. In the last three weeks I have replaced the power supply, the video card and now the hard drive is working so slow, I think it is a commodore 64. So to say the least I have been very cranky with the anxiety of backing up my files and securing that everything I need is off the systems before they finally tell me good-bye for the last time.

In the past Windows had the briefcase system which I think was the most valuable under utilized free useful program that Microsoft offered. The Briefcase is like a folder only better because it synchronizes the files. For anyone that is jumping from computer system to computer system this is extremely helpful especially when updating communication boards, reports or note files. The Briefcase synchronizes and updates the files on your original computer to the modified versions when you reconnect your portable drive to the desktop computer. I like this system because the Briefcase stores and displays the update status of files. It keeps track of whether a file is linked to the original file on your main computer, or whether it is a stray file (a file that is not connected to another file on your original computer). Since I am losing the battle of the computer systems, it is extremely helpful to keep track to keep my files organized and to keep track of the most recent versions of your files. I use this with all file formats not just MS Products.

Most do not know that the Briefcase is still on their computer systems. In Microsoft wisdom they hid it. Here are the steps to locating it:

How to Create a New Briefcase

  1. Right click on your desktop. A menu will appear.
  2. Click on New.
  3. Click on Briefcase.
  4. Right click on the briefcase. A menu will appear
  5. Click on rename – name the briefcase.
  6. Locate the files you want to move – drag the files to the briefcase.
  7. When you double click on the briefcase you will receive a message – click ok your files are now in the briefcase.

Now you know Microsoft is always looking to improve. They have made a new improved, faster way to move data. The new application is called SyncToy. It is a little more advance then the Briefcase because of the way it synchronizes files and tracks files. SyncToy is a free download from Microsoft .

The first thing you have to do is create a folder pair. A folder pair is a collection of data items that tells SyncToy how to synchronize two folders. What is cool is you can have subfolders. For example, one folder pair might be defined to synchronize a copy of a folder named "My Pictures" on your desktop computer and a folder named "My Photos" on your laptop computer. SyncToy saves how you want your folder pairs synced so you can sync again and again with a single click of a button.

Remember this is a BETA tool so things don’t always work seamlessly. I have been only running it a week. So far so good but the forums talk about some of the issues. I am optimistic that SyncToy is going to be a wonderful tool when it comes out of BETA.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What is there to be excited about


Then let's move onto what can we get excited about.

How about a new product from Crick Software? I am so bummed that I didn't get to beta test this product for them. The WriteOnline tool is all a tight little talking word processor, word prediction and their Word Bar. Honestly, I love Crick products. One of my all time favorite products from Crick is the Word Bar. I use this with my niece for her frequently asked "how to spell words" and giving her a functional word bank to cover the topic that she is writing about. Now I haven't seen the software so I cannot sing the praises of the software. I can tell you from the screenshots that the talking word processor has the look of MS Word. You have to look very hard to realize that it isn't MS Word you are looking at. The layout for the word predication opens as a toolbar on the side of the screen. I would like to know if I can pick where the word prediction is positioned or if I can make the word prediction follow my cursor. There are pros and cons to each of these. My guess is that the word prediction has been improved, it was a decent tool prior so I am sure it is going to be up there in with WordQ and Co:Writer. From the description offered on the website it looks like they have given you many options for different levels of your writers. I am excited about the possibility of offering this tool as a possibility for the UDL toolkits in school districts. The next big question would be can you purchase the word prediction as a stand alone for students that just need that tool. I can't say enough nice things about Word Bar. It is one of those tools that never gets talked about but it is a great product for the student that doesn't need word prediction but does need support with word retrieval, topic specific words and the personal word wall. It is just enough support for some students. The biggest question that I have is will this product be available for stand alone machines without internet access. I like the fact that companies are moving toward internet portals for applications. However, there is still a need for stand alone products because there are districts that do not have wireless access or internet access in general. I know it is hard to believe but there are students that do not have internet access at home so even though the student can access these tools over the internet it is difficult to do if you don't have that tool. I am hoping that Crick considers the possibility of having this writing tool for individual stand alone machines that doesn’t require internet access. Even if they don't, I am still excited about the possibility of this tool.

Boardmaker Plus Player is something I am excited about. It is something that has been needed for a long time. I am glad that Mayer-Johnson took this route for parents and classrooms. I think they may still find that the sales of Plus decreases and the number of players increase. I can see districts purchasing 2 copies of plus but 20 copies of the player. At first glance you think the price is steep for a player at $79 but you can install the Plus Player on one computer per computer disc allowing students to use the activities you create without having to worry about your Boardmaker Plus disc getting ruined.