Going Google

We’ve done it.  This week I flipped the switch to transition our school district to Google Apps, with GMail as our primary e-mail system. We had been a Novell/Groupwise shop every since I’ve been in the district.  Novell had been a reliable, rock-solid product.  However, their latest version was on a linux-based platform, and it … Continue reading Going Google

If you build a dam here…

Lake Union 1

While kayaking on Parr Shoals Reservoir last Saturday, Alan and I started discussing lakes in general. Specifically we were talking about the placement of dams and the hydrology of water backing up to fill in the space. We laughed at one of the last scenes of “O Brother, Where Art Thou“, where the lake comes flooding in as a torrent, rather than rising gently as it should. As far as movies go, “Deliverance” was a more realistic view of how lakes are created.

As the conversation proceeded, I reminisced about the time I participated in the SC-MAPS project when I was a teacher. This was a three-day workshop where we learned how to use topographic maps and satellite imagery in the classroom. This was long before the days of Google Earth, so the ability to look at overhead images of where you live was still a novelty.

One of the activities they had us do was to draw a line across a river connecting contour lines at the same height. This line would represent a dam. Then we were to trace the contour line at that level all the way around, outlining the area that would be inundated by the new lake. It was a tedious process, but the results were fascinating. The lakes always turned out much larger than we expected.

As Alan and I talked, we wondered if there was some automated way to do this using Google Earth, so when I got home I started searching for a method. The automated systems I found were complex, requiring advanced knowledge of ArcGIS, hydrology, and GIS techniques in general. Even so, I think I’ve found a simple way in Google Earth. Here’s how… Continue reading “If you build a dam here…”

UTC12 Retrospective

This past week I participated in the Upstate Technology Conference, put on by the Greenville County School District.  UTC has been going on for many years now, but this is the first time I’ve participated.  This is time of year I’m either taking a vacation, or heading to the ISTE conference, or I’m swamped with computer upgrades.  This year I made a point of attending by submitting several proposals for presentations.

Actually, I submitted proposals for four topics – Google Earth, Aviary.com, Google Apps, and one on Making Music on Your iPad.  I figured they would select one or two.  They picked all four, and even had me doing the music session twice.  I was a bit surprised.  I would be presenting in five out of the eight available concurrent sessions – one on Tuesday and four on Wednesday.  I wasn’t going to have time to visit any of the other sessions.

The conference was held at Wade Hampton High School, just a hop and a skip from my house.  I arrived early Tuesday to check in and scout out my room.  I had the first session open, so I sat in on Cathy Jo Nelson’s presentation on using and manipulating images.  She had some great ideas, as usual. Continue reading “UTC12 Retrospective”

Research Tools in Google Docs

I really miss Google Notebook. Combined with the Firefox plugin, it was one of the most useful tools for online research. I was very disappointed when Google decided to discontinue the service. At least they copied all of my notes into my Google Docs account when they ended the service.

So, I’ve been trying to use Google Docs when I do research for this blog. It’s not quite as elegant, but it gets the job done. Now Google has released a new tool for Google Docs. While it doesn’t completely replace Notebook, it does have potential as a great research tool. Continue reading “Research Tools in Google Docs”

In-App Agony

Most apps for smart phones, whether iOS or Android, are relatively inexpensive.  They are certainly cheaper than the programs for PCs and Macs over the past decade or so.  As computing power increases and memory gets cheaper, software seems to pick up added bloatation, so it’s also nice to see powerful applications in a streamlined package.

Even though streamlined, powerful apps are fairly cost effective, there is on trend that bothers me – the “In-App Purchase.”  You purchase a cheap application, or perhaps find a free one, only to find that inside the app you have to purchase additional components to get it to do what you want.  I’ve found this to be the case with photography and music-related apps quite frequently.

For example, TC-Helicon’s VocalJam app is $6.99 in the app store.


By itself it’s a pretty good program. However, if you try to click on the effects buttons on the left side, you get the following message: Continue reading “In-App Agony”

iPad After Six Months


It’s been over six months since I’ve had my iPad (well, nearly seven, actually) and has been about that much time since I first wrote about it. Since then I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces and see what apps I like best.

I’m still frustrated by the lack of Flash. There are just too many online applications that I use on a regular basis that need it, from Aviary.com to Audioboo.fm to Flickr to…, well I think you get the point. Even though some of these sites advertise themselves as iPad compatible, or have apps, the embeddable players for blogs still run on Flash. I hope they are able to fix these.

I’m also still concerned about the “appification” of the web. Rather than making their sites HTML5 compatible, some sites are just creating apps to host their content, then charging for the apps. Content that use to be free on the web is now hidden behind an app fee if you want to read on an iPad. I’ve seen a couple of other editorials in the past month lamenting this practice, so I know it’s not just me.

That being said, I’ve found a whole host of other things that make the iPad an outstanding device, and one that I’ve come to rely on all the time. As one might imagine, I’m finding new uses beyond the traditional laptop/netbook that really make it a game changer. I guess the real clincher was when I recently reached up and tried to touch my laptop screen to select something. Continue reading “iPad After Six Months”

Sock Saga Update

Last week I mentioned that I had received one sock in the mail. The idea was that if i wanted the sock’s mate, i’d need to visit their booth on the vendor floor at EdTech. One of my colleagues, Jay Lindler, reads this blog, and and stopped by their booth. He pulled up RandomConnections and … Continue reading Sock Saga Update

A Sock in the Mail

In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading to Myrtle Beach for the SC EdTech conference. This is our annual instructional technology conference for the state, and I haven’t been in about three years. I figured I needed to go this time around, and I’ll also be giving one of my Google Earth talks as … Continue reading A Sock in the Mail

Where were you born?

Dear Twitterites, Facebook Friends, Google Plussers, and RandomConnections Readers: I need your help with a project.  This summer I’m doing several workshops for SCETV on Google products, including Google Earth and Google Docs. I’m hoping to include some information on Google Fusion Tables as part of the workshop, and in order to do that I … Continue reading Where were you born?