Category Archives: Productivity

Name Tags in Picasa

Alvin Trusty posted about Picasa Name Tags on his blog called Alvin’s Educational Technology Blog. Well, I was in a position to take a look having just gotten some photos of my daughter uploaded and organized in Picasa as a Web Album.

Now, you have to turn this feature on in your Settings. After this, a button will appear on the right-hand side of the page. Click it to start processing your photos for faces. It took about 3-4 minutes to process about 175 photos I had uploaded. I’ve got to say my results were mixed. Different lighting situations that the photos were taken under seems to throw off the face matching. But that’s OK! It did match most of the faces correctly and I found that the first suggestion of a face it wasn’t sure about was always correct.

My biggest complaint had to do with the face of my daughter. She’s about 2 months old and the program didn’t match her face that well, but what can you expect from a brand new technology and photos of a newborn going back to her birth? It also matched a pacifier she happened to have in her mouth as a face!

Clearly the technology isn’t perfected, but it’s still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and it worked well enough for me to identify the faces it couldn’t very quickly. (A quick word of advice: when adding people to pictures remember to position the frame over the person’s face BEFORE selecting the person’s name. If you need to delete the outline click the X in the People section on the right-hand side of the screen. You have to click X once to remove the name and a second time to remove the frame.) Google continues to push the limits of what’s possible. I am quite impressed with this new feat. It’s definitely a feature I plan to leave on.

[Update!] The Picasa 3 Beta is out! They’ve probably included this new technology in the new version!

YouTube Video: Picasa Web Albums: Introducing name tags

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Partner Evaluation Worksheet

Partner Evaluation

Partner Evaluation Worksheet

A few years ago I became aware of the need for group members to evaluate each other. When students work in groups, it’s very easy for one person to do the vast majority of the work while another simply goes along for the ride contributing essentially nothing to the group project.

I find this practice unacceptable and difficult to diagnose properly. So, I created this partner evaluation form to help me weed out the lazy students and give them the grade that they earn. It’s gone through a few versions now and I’m quite proud of it. Use it to your benefit and the benefit of your hard-working students.

Downloads

Course Evaluation

After 8 years of teaching, I’ve finally done it. I finally made a course evaluation for my students. After some research into the kinds of questions that are best to ask, I came up with the following list:

My Course Evaluation Questions

  1. How would you rate the classroom climate?
    • Temperature, lighting, and other classroom conditions were favorable.
    • Furniture and equipment were up to date and maintained in good working order.
  2. How would you rate the teacher?
    • The teacher was knowledgeable about the topics presented.
    • The teacher was well prepared for class.
    • The teacher was accessible when I needed help.
  3. How would you rate the course content?
    • Course assignments were interesting and stimulating.
    • Directions for course assignments were clear and easy to understand.
    • Books and handouts were helpful in completing assignments and understanding concepts.
  4. How would you rate the organization of the course?
    • The amount and difficulty of material covered was appropriate.
    • There was a coherent progression of the course from beginning to end.
    • The teacher maintained a pacing guide, calendar, or schedule of topics to be covered.
  5. How would you rate the quality of the teaching?
    • The amount and quality of feedback on assignments was appropriate.
    • The instructor answered questions carefully and completely.
    • Throughout the course, I was aware of my progress in completing assignments and understanding concepts.
  6. How would you rate the grading system used in the course?
    • The grading system was clear and fair.
    • Assignments were worth the time they took.
    • Test were at a reasonable level of difficulty relative to the material covered.
  7. How would you rate the classroom management and discipline?
    • Students were treated fairly and felt comfortable and respected.
    • Classroom and school rules were applied consistently and fairly to all students.
    • Inappropriate behavior was confronted and necessary action was taken.
  8. What aspects of the course did you like best? Why?
  9. What aspects of the course were the weakest and should be changed? How?
  10. Overall, how would you rate this course?
    • This course has increased my interest and appreciation for the subject.
    • I would recommend this course to a friend.

    My Course Evaluation Questions Online

    Since online forms are so much better at gathering and displaying information, I put these questions into Wufoo at http://dsmith77.wufoo.com/forms/course-evaluation/. Wufoo makes creating surveys and forms simple. A free account lets you create 3 forms with 10 questions apiece and only limits you to 100 responses within a month’s time. The 10 questions above fit quite nicely.

    Pass-Fail Course Grade Algorithm

    I routinely use a spreadsheet program to calculate my course grades. It’s just easier for me than to use the software supplied by our state which isn’t quite so user friendly. I currently use Microsoft Excel 2003 and the algorithms below are written to work with it.

    Variables and Conventions

    • S1 = Attendance Status as either “LOST CREDIT”, “CONCERN”, or “OK”
    • T1 = Appeal Status and Conditions for loss of credit as either empty (blank) or containing written conditions
    • Z1 = Course Grade in the range 0 to 100 with rounding active and 70 being the lowest passing score.
    • LC is short for Lost Credit
    • CR is short for Credit Restored

    Algorithm

    =IF(S1<>”LOST CREDIT”,IF(Z1<69.5,”FAILING”,”PASSING”),IF(T1=””,IF(Z1>=69.5,”LOST CREDIT PASSING”,”LOST CREDIT FAILING”),IF(Z1<69.5,”CREDIT RESTORED FAILING”,”CREDIT RESTORED PASSING”)))

    Now, since the only practical categories are either Passing, Failing, and Lost Credit Passing (LC Passing) and the other results fall within these categories, we can simplify the algorithm like so:

    =IF(S1<>”LOST CREDIT”,IF(Z1<69.5,”FAILING”,”PASSING”),IF(T1=””,IF(Z1>=69.5,”LC PASSING”,”FAILING”),IF(Z1<69.5,”FAILING”,”PASSING”)))

    This has an additional benefit in Microsoft Excel. Having only 3 categories allows Conditional Formatting to be applied to emphasize the contrast. I changed the background color on cells in these categories to be either green, yellow, or red depending on the category.

    Invalid Formula Error

    If you copy and paste the above algorithm into Excel, you may get an invalid formula error even if you correctly swap out the variables (Z1, T1, etc.) for cell references. I am assuming that the version above gets pasted in as smart quotes and excel only recognizes straight quotes. The problem was fixed once I typed over the pasted double quotes using the keyboard.

    Money Deposit Worksheet

    Money Deposit Worksheet

    This is a simple worksheet I made to organize the various bills and coins received from school fundraisers. It can be used two ways: either digital as a functioning spreadsheet that automatically calculates amounts or printed and filled out manually. It has simplified my efforts considerably and more than made up for the time I spent creating it. I hope you can benefit from it too.

    Download

    How to Block or Remove Web Site Cookies

    Web Site Cookie Blocking

    To block cookies using Internet Explorer, do the following:

    • Click Tools > Internet Options.
    • Select the Privacy tab.
    • Click Advanced.
    • Check the box beside “Override automatic cookie handling”.
    • Beneath Third-party Cookies, select Block.
    • Click OK and OK.

    To block cookies using Mozilla Firefox, do the following:

    • Click Tools > Options.
    • Select the Privacy tab.
    • Click on Cookies.
    • Check the box beside “for the originating web site only”. (If you cannot, make sure the box just above it is checked first.)
    • Click OK.

    Web Site Cookie Removal

    To remove cookies using Internet Explorer, do the following:

    • Click Tools > Internet Options.
    • Select the General tab.
    • Click Delete Cookies.
    • Click OK and OK.

    To remove cookies using Mozilla Firefox, do the following:

    • Click Tools > Options.
    • Select the Privacy tab.
    • Click the Clear button beside Cookies.
    • Click OK.

    Inexpensive Interactive Whiteboards are Coming

    For our graduate school coursework, Rebecca and I gave a short presentation on how the Nintendo Wii will change the future of education. Currently, school systems across the nation are paying thousands and thousands of dollars for very expensive interactive whiteboards. A quick look at the Tags used with this post will give you the names for some of the more common varieties.

    What follows is the outline used in the presentation.


    The Nintendo Wii and the Future of Education An Exploration of New Technologies to catalyze School Reform

    • Introduction
      • The Nintendo Wii home gaming console
      • Statistics from vgchartz.com showing market penetration
      • Demonstration with Volunteers
    • Educational Uses Now
      • Physical Education
      • YMCA
    • HOPSports – The future of kid’s fitness?
    • Wii Remote Projects with Johnny Chung Lee
      • Web Site: www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/projects/wii/
      • “Tracking Your Fingers with the Wiimote” Video (4:08)
      • “Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the Wii Remote” Video (4:46)
      • “Low-Cost Multi-point Interactive Whiteboards Using the Wiimote” Video (4:04)
    • Conclusion

    It’s only a matter of time before someone takes advantage of Johnny Chung Lee’s software to produce a very inexpensive interactive whiteboard. In fact, you can do this yourself if you are so technically inclined. The Wiimote costs around $40 US, the pen is cheap too, and the software is freely available. Compare that cost to the thousands of dollars companies are currently charging for these displays and you can quickly see why they are marketing their products so heavily. They know that the technology is changing and they have a limited amount of time to turn a profit.

    So, what is my advice for a company, organization, or school system interested in purchasing this technology? Wait. If you must have this functionality now in order to stay competitive then don’t invest your money in the expensive wall displays. The smaller hand-held pads and tablets give arguably similar experiences at a fraction of the cost. My own school system uses InterWrite Pads extensively with a few Smartboards here and there.