Sharing Enthusiasm for Technology in Education


Keyboarding the Neglected Everyday Skill

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2016-12-04

Keyboarding is an important skill (Wetzel, 1985) that is taught using one of many readily available programs for any situation. For Kinder through 2nd grade, use the program Tux Typing if your school uses PC's, as Tux Typing is easy for younger students to use. Also, it allows for custom word lists, to help with homeroom collaboration. If your school uses Macs or PC's, and you have good Internet connectivity, use the web based Dance Mat Typing from the BBC web site. The goal for K-2 is familiarization and basic techniques (Nieman, 1996). For 3rd through 5th we use a more comprehensive typing program such as All the Right Type, which is a client server based program for the PC. Non-web based typing programs often allow for tracking of student progress, unlike most of the online typing programs. For the Mac Mavis Beacon has a program that can be loaded on your school network. The goal is to have students learn basic typing skills using programs, then to incorporate the skills learned into existing projects where they can practice what they have learned. Web based applications are also a great choice,e specially since they can work on all devices. There are many browser based apps that are free and track progress such as the Chrome Browser app Typing Club, found in the Chrome Browser Store.
"After students achieve grade level WPM level, they should continue keyboarding familiarization using leveled word lists"
Three Areas of Importance for Typing

Posture - Students need to learn good poster while typing to decrease fatigue Nieman (1996) 
Homerow - Insuring that students keep their fingers on the homerow will help them become efficient Nieman (1996) 
No looking - Taking the time to look for keys demonstrates that more practice is needed. Nieman (1996) 
WPM - 3rd grade aims for 15wpm, 4th grade aims for 20wpm, and 5th grade will aim for 30wpm Sormunen (1988, 1991, 1993) 
Keyboarding Teaching Tip

When students are typing, they will tend to pick-up their hands in order to reach key certain keys such as Backspace. Allowing them to do so will hobble their ability to achieve a high typing rate. Show students that they can reach far-away keys, but have them keep their pointing finger on the initial home row keys J and F. This will allow them to quickly place their other fingers back on the home row keys.

To help students learn to type without looking at the keyboard, have them use the on-screen visual keyboard common with most typing programs. If the program you are using doesn't have an on-screen prompt, you should think about getting or using a different program.

Also, once students are taught Home Row, use a piece of felt or folded paper to cover their hands. This in conjunction with the online screen visual can really help them quickly learn proper finger placement.
Systems and Education Department website:

Nieman, P. (1996). Introducing early keyboard skills: Who, what, where, and how?. Business Education Forum, 51(1), 27-30.
Sormunen, C. (1988). A comparison of speed achievement of students in grades 3-6 who learn keyboarding on the microcomputer. The Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 30(2), 47-57.
Sormunen, C. (1991). Elementary school keyboarding: A case for skill development. Business Education Forum, 45(6), 28-30. Retrieved January 30, 2005 from Utah State University, Business Information 
Sormunen, C. (1993). Learning style: An analysis of factors affecting keyboarding achievement of elementary school students. The Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 35(1), 26-38. 

In Search of the Perfect Screen Sharing Device

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2016-11-05

Revised November 5th, 2016

In a school environment there’s a need to share one’s desktop in order to teach students, peer student sharing, or presenting at a meeting. Long gone are the days of transparencies, and now digital projects are ever present in school settings. At first as many of us know, cable connections were the mode in which we connected our devices, but soon Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections started to take over allowing easy access to our classroom and office projectors. However as BYOD has started to take hold, we found that wireless software was locked to particular platforms making it difficult to connect in an open platform environment. The Apple TV was a good example of a device that still dominates school settings that even though it is for Apple products only, AirServer, AirParrot and other third party vendors created software to help other devices connect wirelessly.

Apple TV was one of the first devices allowing for wireless connections allowing for students and others in a room to connect and share their screen using a projector. The cost is relatively affordable around $150, and the device is robust. The software and hardware have now gone through a few revisions making it relatively bug and trouble free. However having to manage the incorporation of third party software in order to allow other non-Apple devices to connect can be a drawback. However, using a third party software solution such as AirParrot adds additional functionality. In particular AirParrot allows Apple TV to be cross-platform, and adds the ability for all devices to display specific programs only versus the whole screen. The drawbacks for Apple TV is that the software was designed for viewing movies making presentations viewing less optimal. Finally, the constant barrage of the latest movie ads on the home screen is not perfect for a school setting.

Another new choice is MiraCast, which is designed as a full screen sharing device similar to Apple TV. They usually sell for around $50-100. I've had a few of them and they work well. Its primary purpose is for the business world, so there are no movie ads on the startup screen. However it only works on Android and Windows platforms, which is problematic in a cross-platform school. Additionally, I found that only the Microsoft branded MiraCast device work flawlessly. The other brands I tried were buggy and needed reboots every now and then.

Yet another choice that is truly cross platform is the Chromecast. It works extremely well, and never needed a reboot like Apple TV and MiraCast. It is very straight forward in setting up and is very affordable costing around $25-40. What is really cool about it is that students can all log into it and add there content to a playlist which advances through the queue on its own. ChromeCast can also share specific browser tabs, applications, or the whole desktop making it the most effective casting devices available. A new feature is that it can also cast your screen live to Google Hangouts, which can be recorder for later playback! It’s very share friendly. It is the best choice for a large scale deployment.

The final device which I’ve purchased and tried out is the AirTame. The cost is on par with the Apple TV at $150. It is very similar in design to the Miracast and Chromecast devices. It was designed from the ground up as an education and business centric device. The software is now in its second major revision and is more stable that the initial release version. However the device is still very bugging and needs rebooting often. Although billed as a cross platform device, Apple laptops seem to have difficulty more so than Windows computers in connecting and in maintaining a connection. The ability for phones and tablets to connect however make it a promising device. I was never able to get it to connect to the school’s network which uses a MAC Whitelist authentication. This means that people have to disconnect from the Internet enabled network losing connectivity and connect directly to the device which defeats the purpose.

Now that I’ve used all the major devices available today, what is my choice for schools? I’d still have to choose Google's ChromeCast. It is now a mature product line and allows for BYOD programs the ability to share screens across all devices. It also when taking into account the Pareto principle, is the best choice when implementing school wide. There is no compromise in functionality and the low implementation cost would allow for funds to be used for other projects.

Using Live Video to Extend the Classroom; Virtual Learning Day at the American International School Dhaka

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2016-11-04

During our last Virtual Learning Day, I came up with a few observations and tips that potentially can help others with their online teaching and learning practice. First off, all schools should participate, or hold a virtual learning day, as it gives everyone in the learning community an opportunity to practice and to become familiar with the tools and procedures. If a school for whatever reason needs to closed down for one or more days, having everyone prepared will save time and make the experience better. There are many reasons why schools might have to close down, from weather, communicable disease outbreaks to terrorism. Be prepared is better than not.

There are many tools available for use in a virtual learning day. For a class that is not needing direct live contact with students, the tools available that are multi-functional as well as designed for students include Google and Microsoft Classrooms, Moodle, and Edmodo to name a few of the more popular offerings. All of the mentioned online learning platforms are adequate for non-live interactions with students. If face to face interactions are needed there are two very strong offerings, Google Hangouts and Microsoft’s Skype. Both allow for multiple concurrent connections and both are cross-platform ensuring all students regardless of device can connect even if they have to borrow a device. The main strength of both is the ability to share screens as well as files with all participants making both an ideal solution for remote teaching.

Both options allow for multiple students to connect, but they both have a limit. It’s usually not wise to have too many students connected at once as it creates a bandwidth bottleneck thereby degrading the quality of audio. A great strategy is to allow students a range of time to connect for one on one, or small group discussions. Also, turning off video helps conserve bandwidth as well. I recommend training and requiring students to enable the chat feature, which helps students with bad audio situations as well as it allows for a backchannel discussion. The back channel can help guide the discussion as students can post questions while the live discussion is happening. Finally, training students how to use their device for live video use is recommended. Take time in class to have them practice before the online session to make sure the audio and video settings are correct. Also, informing them about ambient noise and light will make the experience much more fruitful and less frustrating.

Allowing students to sign up for a time slot is helpful, but also have students try to connect early on in your planned day leaving time in the end for those students who miss the initial connection time. When working with live video there are many obstacles and pitfalls that can prevent a student and teacher from connecting, leaving a buffer of time for emergency connections is wise. With all the free tools available, and the added potential for live remote learning perhaps it’s time for schools to not only use it for emergency situations, but for extending the classroom for other opportunities such as class trips to a more functional flipped classroom! 

Google Hangout (Skype) Tips & Tricks for Online Classroom Experience

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2016-10-23

For those of you who are interested in using Google Hangouts or Skype for an online classroom experience or virtual learning day, I have a few tips and tricks that will make the experience potentially less problematic. These tips can be shared with your class prior to meeting online. I'd recommend posting the pre-made Hangout link (URL, Web Address) in your Google Classroom or web site.

1. Some students may have a bad Internet connection. By turning off the video camera you can conserve a lot of bandwidth while still being able to share your screen when needed.

2. Immediately start the chat feature even if you're using voice. Some students once again may have a bad connection which will make their voice choppy and hard to understand. This feature can be found in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

3. Screen sharing allows you to show only a chosen open application, or you can share your whole desktop. This feature can be found in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

4. Position your laptop so you do not have a windows or bright light behind you. This makes for a better viewing experience.

The Fitness Tracker Administrator

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2016-09-01

Communication and collaboration are the two aspects of leadership that have the most impact of a leader’s ability to run a department in an efficient manner. These two aspects are the cornerstone of any department, and their lack of use will determine the atmosphere and effectiveness of a department. The atmosphere is directly tied to worker performance and happiness, which directly affects the bottom line in regards to staff turnover as well as quality of work expected from employees. When we consider the amount of communication and collaboration together with the three administrative styles of reluctance, reactive and responsive, we see a progressive picture of evolution of leadership styles. Progression or evolution of these styles makes the workplace more effective and efficient.

There are three stages that an administrators can fall into. The first stage is the reluctant boss. I use the term boss as this is different than a leader, or a person who facilitates workers to help them get their work done in the most efficient manner. A leader is typically not only is concerned with efficiency, but also in worker happiness and satisfaction with their job role. The reluctant boss is the one who can be found sitting at their desk behind closed doors. They will rarely mingle with the other members of the team, and will typically give orders with no collaboration of experts in the department. This is the most basic level of administrator.

The reactive administrator is the person who will have an open-door policy. They will sometimes invite members of the department to voice their opinions, and will usually keep other members in the loop in regards to issues at hand. The problem with this type of leader is that many members of the department as well as those whom the service may not feel comfortable in confronting or communicating with a leader who offers an open-door policy. This method supports the extrovert type personalities but leave the introverts, or those with little time on their hands with nowhere to go.

The last category is the responsive leader. This is a leader who not only has an open door policy, but they will purposely intermingle with everyone in the department and those they serve in order to gain knowledge of the inner workings of issue at hand. This method also allows for the braintrust of the department to be more transparent in regards to issues that may not have bubbled-up to the surface yet, allowing the leader to take action towards resolving potential future problems. The responsive leaders are people who work hard in building trust with each member of the team and both communicates and collaborates with all members and utilizes and takes advantage of their expertise to the fullest. In short, they don’t wait for problems or issues to come to them, but will seek them out. These administrators are rarely in their office, hence the term fitness tracker administrator. 


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