Aug 8 2013

What’s Tweeting in your Neighborhood?


If you are a user of Twitter and/or Tweetdeck (and, of course, all great educators are), here’s a little trick that I am often asked about in my Twitter training sessions. How can you find out what people are tweeting about in your own neighborhood? Surprisingly, the answer is pretty easy! Yes, you can snoop in! Twitter lets you feel the pulse of any neighborhood or area!

In Twitter or Tweetdeck, enter these parameters in your search field (but use your own values- the following shows the tweets within a one-mile radius of our local mall):


You must get your latitude and longitude in decimal format. You can get this from Google Maps or from If you are using Google Maps, right-click on the center of your neighborhood and select “What’s Here?” Then under the menu options (top right), click on the numerical latitude and longitude. Then you’ll be able to copy it.



Once you have the latitude and longitude, then decide the radius of your search (in my example I used “1mi” to search a one mile radius).

When you search around your neighborhood, be prepared for what you will find! The language on Twitter is not censored- and neither is the content. You may find out more than you ever wanted to know about your neighbors… and their children!

Want to snoop around in some other areas? Twitter lets you listen in on the local conversations! Try searching around:

  • Schools and universities
  • Amusement parks
  • Airports
  • Local hangouts
  • National landmarks
  • The neighborhood where you grew up

Using the Geocode feature is sort of like listening in on the old “party lines” back in the rural America of the past!

Apr 6 2013

How I quickly share text online- and avoid character limits (take that, Twitter!)


There may be times when you need to post some text somewhere online but don’t want to mess with editing a website, making a new blog post, or logging in to edit your wiki, etc. For example, someone recently asked me (via Twitter) about my presentation schedule for an upcoming conference. The problem- Twitter only allows me 140 characters and I needed to share quite a bit more than that. And I didn’t want to log in and make a post on my blog and give out the URL- what a hassle!

A while back, I would’ve used to enter some text and just paste the link to my note. Unfortunately, that website is now in the Web 2.0 graveyard. So why not

The idea is simple- just type or paste text into the text box on the website, click “Paste Online” and it generates a unique URL for your note. You just share the URL (or just the code) and give it to whomever you want. That’s it! No accounts. No logins. Just paste & share. It’s not fancy, doesn’t have some of the more advanced features that other similar sites have (like But it’s clean and simple.

If you want to see how it looks on the receiving end, here’s my note I referred to earlier about an upcoming conference schedule: Notice you can download the text as a file (.txt).

I can think of all kinds of uses for this. I’m sure you can too- but will you remember it’s there for you when you need it? And will the website still be there or will they have been gobbled up by Google? Only time will tell. Until then, I’m going to use it to my advantage!

Apr 1 2013

For April Fool’s: Flip text upside down with Flip Text!


This site has no real practical uses other than to annoy your readers, email recipients, or students. But it does make for a great prank!

Simply go to the site, enter your text, click the button to flip it, then copy the resulting text to paste back into an email, blog, website, or wherever you want. See, this blog post looks like this when flipped:

Annoying, right? Just a word of caution- not all blogs, websites, and email clients will accept this upside-down text and will substitute something entirely different (like a font substitution) filled with illegible symbols and characters.

Want to be even more vexatious- turn the font color to white! Just saying…



May 8 2012

Embedding Local Images in Google Earth (since the Update)


Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Google Earth users such as ourselves could embed images into a Google Earth balloon by referencing an image that was already hosted online. When Google Earth 4.0 came along, many new features were added, most notably, the capability to include local images in Google Earth balloons with a little HTML. This used to work:

<img src=”C:\Users\jholland\Desktop\mountain.jpg”>

Photo by Templarion

By inserting this line of code, the image would be saved within the KMZ file (using the “Save Placemark…” menu item). That was totally awesome!

When Google Earth updated (somewhere around version 5.2 or so), this capability was lost. Grrrr! We scoured the blogs, forums, and help documentation for an easy solution but were left puzzled. That is, until about 6 months ago I really got to experimenting. My thinking was that Google Earth acts as a browser, much like Firefox or IE (who is seriously using IE these days?). With that in mind, I tried referencing an image the way you can reference a file in your browser’s address bar. And look what I found that actually works:

<img src=”file:\\\C:\Users\jholland\Desktop\mountain.jpg”>

That was simple! <Press “Easy Button” here>

Of course, you can still reference a hosted image using the same syntax:

<img src=””>

And don’t forget, you can adjust the width and/or height of the image with a simple size attribute. Tip: You only need to specify either the height or width. Google Earth will maintain the aspect ratio of the image automatically!

<img src=”” width=400>
<img src=”file:\\\C:\Users\jholland\Desktop\mountain.jpg” height=525>

More HTML tags can be used inside Google Earth balloons. For more information, check out our Advanced Google Earth handout on our Presentations page!

BTW- we have found no way in this world to do this on a Mac! The above methods won’t work because of the difference in the way the Mac OS references files. Once the KMZ is built, of course you can view it on a Mac. And you can insert online, hosted images using a Mac (using the directions above). But we have not found a way to take a local image from a Mac and insert it into a Google Earth balloon. If you find a way to do this, please let us know!

Aug 3 2010

OtherInbox- protecting your “real” email address from overload


Using Web 2.0 tools often requires registering for an account at each site. Doing this with students gets to be pretty tricky since most sites require a unique email address to be used. Not many of our younger students have email addresses! There are several ways around this- and our favorite method is piggy-backing (See Susan’s post-  about doing this with Gmail). Otherinbox has become a lifesaver! Here’s how it works…

1. Teacher creates an account at Otherinbox (yes, it’s free). So let’s say the teacher’s username at Otherinbox is bradpitt. That means the teacher has been assigned the email root of “”

2. Anytime a student (let’s say SallyA) registers at any website, she can enter her email address as Continue reading

May 17 2010

Piggyback anyone?


Some of the Web 2.0 tools we have discussed in this blog require you to register with a real email address. Some of you may have assigned email addresses for students, but many of us do not, particularly at the elementary level. Although there are some products out there that provide free email addresses for students ( and as well as others), we have found a quick and easy method to manage this problem… piggy-backing on a gmail account!

Create a gmail account with a name you can share with students such as This probably isn’t the place to share your account!

Students can then piggy-back off your account by adding anything after a + sign. For example:

Each of these will create a unique email address that the student can use to register for a Web 2.0 tool. The email will still go to your gmail account, but students will not be able to log into your gmail account, or ever actually receive any emails.

If the login requires you to click on a link to activate the account, you’ll still have to click on each of the emails sent. This may be a little time consuming if you have a lot of students, but you know you are keeping your students safe and allowing them to create cool projects that you might otherwise have to pass on!

Feb 19 2010

“If it’s on the internet, it must be true!”


OK, so it’s a ridiculous statement. But I guarantee that students think like this! Even my 10 year-old daughter gets caught up in this when her friends pass on email chain letters promising great fortunes. (By the way, I monitor her email using… that’s right, no privacy in my household!)

Students have a tough time discerning the validity of a website. Even for many adults this can be a real challenge!

I have created this lesson (Revised-Expand Your Horizons) to demonstrate for students that you can’t always believe everything you read. In short, students will form groups with each group investigating one of the following fake/hoax websites:

Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (save the endangered tree octopus)
Dog Island (send your dog away to eternal bliss to roam free and natural on this paradise island)
Republic of Cascadia. (a new republic in the Northwest Terrirtory)
Music Faun Ear Enhancement (modern plastic surgery to enhance enjoyment of music) (research page for Dihydrogen Monoxide, better known as water)

The groups will research each of the sites using the sheet as a guide. They will then present their findings to the class, followed by a Q & A. What a bluff! Students fall for this all the time. It’s up to you when to let the cat out of the bag and discuss how to evaluate their findings. You might want to refer to Teaching Zack to Think, an article by Alan November. It’s an outdated article (1998) but has some great methods for evaluating websites for validity!

A few more fake/hoax sites to come soon!

Jan 5 2010

Teaching in the Computer Lab



I’ve discovered a few things as I transitioned from teaching in a traditional junior high classroom to teaching adults. One thing is that often my junior high students were better behaved! The other thing is that when they misbehaved I could assign consequences… with adults, not so much! :-)

Teaching in a lab setting with either adults or students requires a little bit different classroom management. You have to be on your toes much more than in the classroom because with the internet, kids can get into places they shouldn’t with just a click of the mouse. Also, especially with older students, they are continually trying to find ways to “beat the system”, such as going around the filter with a proxy server. Continue reading

Nov 18 2009

Focus Attention on your Cursor (make it flash)!


Many times in training we often tell people to look at the cursor on the screen. Often, the cursor is so small (and white) that it blends in with the application we are training on. To help remedy this, you can make your mouse “come alive” at the press of a key like this:


To accomplish this (on a PC):

  1. Go to the control panel (Start –> Control Panel) and select the mouse properties. Continue reading

Nov 9 2009

Sly Dial- When you don’t want to talk, but just want to leave voice mail…


Admit it- there have been many times when you needed to deliver a message to someone (say a parent) but you really didn’t have time for a long drawn out conversation. You know- those times when you make that call and pray for voice mail or the answering machine instead of the potentially-volatile person on the other end. Yeah, we’ve all been there. And now, our prayers for getting the call to go to voice mail directly have been answered!slydial2

The folks over at SlyDial have made it easy! Just call the SlyDial number Continue reading