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CODE: Planning Parent Engagement

It has been a while since I have done any writing on this blog.  So please excuse my absence, I thought I would give it a try again.

I missed “Planning Parent Engagement: A Guidebook for Parents and Schools” when it was released recently from Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE).  There is a Guidebook and a Parent Toolkit that an Administrator and/or a School Parent Committee would find useful.
I was particularly interested in the number of technology connections that were presented in the toolkit.

  • Powerful Presentations
  • Taking a Virtual Trip Together
  • Raising Responsible Digital Citizens
  • Using the Internet for Research
  • Sharing Information in the Internet

Enjoy this resource:

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Updated Wiki

After many different requests I have finally updated the content that was in the Teaching Hacks wiki.  The content had been hacked by a spammer and the content had been lost.  I did some recovery using the Google Cache and also the WayBackMachine on  I will continue to update the content on wiki.

I have used a 301 Redirect to automatically move the old urls to go to the new urls.

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More Contact Spam: The Economist-Does Social Networking add Value to the Classroom?

This was recently emailed to me from Sparkpr (and I am sure it was emailed to thousands of others as well).   I have included a slightly editted version below, with a little less marketing.  All in all, an interesting debate.


I saw your blog and thought that you and your readers would like to know that today, kicked off a new Oxford-style online debate tomorrow on social networking and the value it adds to the classroom. Since you’re a member of the technology and blogger community that is highly relevant to this topic, The Economist wanted us to give you a heads up.

This month’s debate proposition is: “The house believes that social networking technologies will bring large [positive] changes to educational methods, in and out of the classroom.”

  • Our expert debaters are two leaders in education and technology, and will square off for three rounds of debate.
    • CON Michael Bugeja, Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. The author of 21 books whose research is often cited by the New York Times, Dr. Bugeja was among the first to analyze the use of social networks (Facebook & Second Life) before their use by students and educators was widespread and well-understood.
    • PRO – Ewan McIntosh, National Adviser on Learning and Technology Futures for Learning and Teaching Scotland, the education agency responsible for curriculum development, and a member of the Channel 4 Media Advisory Board. He writes about social media and learning for the Guardian and the BBC, speaks internationally and consults for organizations including the British Council, the RSA, General Teaching Council of Scotland, RM and Scottish Enterprise, advising on how social media can be harnessed for to improve learning. He blogs at

o Parry Aftab, Founder & Executive Director,

o Judith Krug, Directory, Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association (ALA)

o Ann Flynn, Director, Education Technology, National School Board Association (NSBA)

o Nancy Willard, Executive Director, The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Here’s a short debate schedule:

· Tuesday, January 15 – Opening statements & floor opens to comments from public

· Wednesday, January 16 – Guest Participant, Parry Aftab,

· Thursday, January 17 – Rebuttals

· Monday, January 21 – Guest Participant, Judith Krug, American Library Association

· Tuesday, January 22 – Guest Participant, Ann Flynn, National School Boards Association

· Wednesday, January 23 – Closing statements

· Thursday, January 24 – Guest Participant, Nancy Willard, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

· Friday, January 25 – Debate winner announced

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Professional Development VOD

VODEvery member of Ontario Teachers Federation is invited to access in-depth professional development workshops from leading educational producers. There are hundreds of hours of Professional Development streaming video content available here. The programs will be available from early November 2007 to November 30th,2008.

There is no registration to access the materials at this time, although the registration process will be simple enough for any educator to access the content.

One can only speculate why this information is not more widely known to educators in Ontario, or promoted by other organizations under its umbrella. So spread the word!

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Administrative Note-Taking Hack

Paper PilesAdministrators and educators are often recording notes describing incidences that occur on or around the school. The process of constantly writing notes can be a tedious but necessary process.

This little administrative hack facilitates a more efficient use of time for any professional. The administrator makes use of Ontario Ministry licensed software (OSAPAC) and a digital audio recorder in order to speed up the note taking process.

What You Will Need:

• Dragon Naturally Speaking 8 (speech to text software) installed on your computer (this software is licensed in Ontario for all schools)
• Digital Audio Recorder – (The recorder must record in 16 bit .wav format and download to your computer via USB, for example Olympus VN-960PC or a PDA)

Step 1 – Training Dragon Naturally Speaking

In order to use speech to text software you will need to train Dragon Naturally Speaking to recognize your voice.

1. When you start Dragon Naturally Speaking for the first time in will set you up as a new user. Enter a username and select your dictation source from the dropdown menu.

2. You will be prompted to ensure your microphone and sound quality is correct.

3. You will read aloud several passages that will train the software to your voice. The longer you spend training the software the more accurate your speech to text transcription will be. The program will also scan your documents and email to get a sense of your writing style.

Tip: Start with about 20 minutes of training and then test for accuracy. If there are too many errors train the software again.

Step 2: – Record Your Audio Notes

Use the digital audio recorder to record your notes on a sample incident. Be sure to include time, date and who was involved in the incident, before you begin dictating into the recorder.

You will need to use the Quick Reference Card when referring to punctuation in the format of your audio notes.

Step 3 – Download Your Audio Notes

Your digital audio recorder will create a .wav file based on your audio notes. You want to download the .wav files from your recorder on to your computer. The process usually takes less than a minute.

Each digital audio recorder is different. You must look at the manufacturer’s instructions in order to complete this step.

Step 4 – Transcribing Your Audio Notes

1. Click on the Transcribe button when you are ready to convert your audio notes to text.

DNS Screen1

2. You will see a pop-up window that will ask you to locate your audio file. Select “Audio File” and the “Browse” button and locate the .wav file on your computer, and the “Transcribe” button.

DNS Screen2

3. Dragon Naturally Speaking will open the file and start transcribing your audio notes.

DNS Screen3

4. Once the transcription process is complete you can edit the notes. If you would like to hear what was actually said, you can highlight the words, right click, and choose “Play That Back”.

DNS Screen4

5. You can then do what you need to your typed notes – print and/or save them on your computer.

Tip: If you are doing this for the first time start with a short audio clip. After you understand the process you can transcribe hours of audio notes with much more efficiency then writing them out.

Please share any tips or methods that you use to speed up note-taking of school or class incidents.

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Secret Google Tips for Researchers

Well okay, I admit, these tips are not so secret. The videos will help neophytes improve their Google searching skills. These tips come via John Evans @ IMYM from the Inside the CBC blog. (Use the left and right arrows to move betwen the four parts.)

Direct link to playlist. 

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Smart Notebook Hacks

Ye Old HackerI have been super busy over the last few months and will be writing more often in the new year. I have a few big projects to finish up and a course that will be ending this month. Just another quick post.

Smart Notebook, is free software that you can use if your school or district has purchased the Smart Board brand of interactive whiteboards. Here are a few alternative ways to use Smart Notebook software.

Turn Any Document into a PDF
Many district networks are locked down from installing free software or don’t include software that will generate a PDF for you. Sure you can use online PDF generators but when you install Smart Board software you have a PDF generator built in.

Open up your document and print to the “Smart Notebook Print Capture.” This will pull your document into the Smart Notebook. Then go to the File Menu and Export your Notebook file into a PDF. You can play with your settings until you get a decent PDF version of your original document.

Need a FLV Player
If you don’t have a Flash Video player on your computer use Smart Notebook. It has a built in FLV player so that you can play Flash videos that you download for video sharing web sites directly in Smart Notebook.

Open Promethean Files
Just say you wanted to use a lesson that was made for the Promethean brand of interactive whiteboards and has the .flp file extension. No problem, go to file import and change the “Files of Type” to “All Promethean Files.” You can import those lessons into your Smart Notebook.

Download Flash Content for Offline Activities
You can use an SWF downloader to move flash web site content from a web based artifact to an item in your Smart Notebook gallery. (Beware of copyright infringement – always ask permission don’t assume).

1-Use an SWF Catcher (I use the SoThink Add-in for Firefox)
2-Go to your favourite flash web site and Hit Alt+C (if your using SoThink)
3-Download the file to your computer.

The SWF file can be embedded into a Smart Notebook file or your library. This will only work for stand-alone SWF files that are not connected to a database.

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The Anatomy of “Contact” Spam

I recognize the irony of posting the content of this message that I received through my “Contact” page since I am giving it more eyeballs.

Posting information on a blog requires a few critical media literacy skills, especially on what you decide to post and why you post it.  I’m not interested in being someones marketing tool.

Spam Contact Email

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