Apr 20 2013

Socrative now includes ability to add images to questions!



I have previously raved about Socrative, the website that turns any device into a “clicker” (student response system). I still love and recommend this site!

In an email blast this past week, the company announced a couple new features it has now implemented (if you “activate” them on your account- read on). The first feature is great- the ability to add an image to a question! While you can’t add images for the answer choices, this does allow you to add a single image to your question:

OK, so it’s not earth-shattering, but it does open up some possibilities. Just think- you can now add a diagram, chart, or graph and ask questions about that image. This has some possibilities! And if you did want an image for each answer choice in a question? Use something like iPiccy to create a single image containing the answer choices as such:

The other feature that Socrative has added is the ability to grade free-text short answers. You do this by entering in all possible answer choices and spelling variations. These open-ended answers can then be evaluated and included in the grading!

To activate these features, you must first fill out the quick survey to complete your teacher profile at their website! Enjoy!

BTW- the answers to the above questions: Ronald Reagan did not win the state of Minnesota (Walter Mondale’s home state). And Joan Jett, answer C, sang “I Love Rock and Roll.” Can you name the others pictured? Answers here.

Mar 31 2013

Susan’s Invisible Blog Post


Has anyone seen Susan lately?

Mar 19 2013

Death of iGoogle and Google Reader- Consider Protopage as a Replacement!



In the beginning, Google created Google Personalized Homepages- and they saw it was good. Next they improved upon it and created iGoogle- and we saw it as very good. Then they decided to kill iGoogle- which prompted tens of thousands of users to launch “Save iGoogle campaigns” and such (probably to no avail).  Google is putting iGoogle to rest November 1st, 2013. To deliver our personalized news, website changes, and RSS feeds, we switched to Google Reader (as Google themselves suggested). And just last week, Google announced the end of life for Google Reader for July 1, 2013. Grrrrr.

Those of you who liked Google Reader and want to stay with that look and feel, try www.feedly.com. They even have tools there to help you transition from Google Reader. That website has a much more polished look than Reader, but the basic layout and features are similar.

For those of you still mourning the loss of iGoogle or you just like the ability to add and rearrange widgets on a custom screen, try www.protopage.com. This is very similar to iGoogle and you can actually import your iGoogle or Reader OPML files right into your own start page.


Features of Protopage I really like:


  • Page is not tied to a Google account so I can share it easily with others (want to see mine? Look at http://www.protopage.com/talljim)
  • Can add multiple “tabs” (pages) like iGoogle
  • Can share only certain tabs of your portal
  • Can add built-in widgets or RSS feeds from various sites
  • I love the Web Widget which allows you to paste in embed code from Web 2.0 sites to test & display




Apr 29 2012

Did Hunger Games rip off the Japanese novel “Battle Royale?”


What? This is not our typical blog post. It is not a free and cool web tool for educators to use. However, since our audience is comprised mainly of educators, I thought I’d post my comparison and review here- so please indulge me just this once:

After reading the Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, I stumbled across several websites mentioning Battle Royale- with many claiming that Collins “ripped off” Battle Royale for her own Hunger Games. I only found a handful of reviews by people who had actually read both, so I set out to do it myself.

When my book arrived (unexpectedly early from a hold at our public library), I was intimidated by it’s mere length- over 600 pages (in standard trade paperback size). This book was a difficult read on many levels. But the fact that it was translated from Japanese complicated matters. Engaging with over 40 character with similar Japanese names was quite confusing (see notes at bottom about the translation). But after a month or so of sporadic reading, I finally finished it!

So here’s my review. But rather than bore you with extraneous words, here’s a bulleted list for you…

Commonalities of both:

  • Dystopian, Post-modern setting
  • Annual game
  • Controlled by the government
  • Location of game differs every time
  • Purpose of the game: to quench any idea of rebelling against government (punishment for defiance)*
  • Contestants chosen at random
  • Boys and girls numbered*
  • Starting point is a bloodbath
  • Small group of thugs make alliance and travel together killing others*
  • Whistle of a bird used to reunite players when they were separated*
  • The dead are announced to all players at regular intervals
  • Tragic loss of innocent players
  • Climax battle scene with leader of the thugs
  • Surprise ending with a twist- allows for more than one survivor
  • Room left for sequel

Unique to Hunger Games:

  • Tributes have a little time to say good-bye to families and mentally prepare
  • Strong female lead
  • Game televised
  • Pageantry in the Capitol
  • Players are coached/trained
  • Players enter game simultaneously without supplies
  • Use of genetically modified animals/insects
  • Sponsors lavish gifts on players
  • Government manipulates the environment
  • Explicit romantic involvement between characters (though implied in Battle Royale)

Unique to Battle Royale:

  • Over 40 students in game- back stories told by author
  • Whole class is chosen to play, unknowingly to all players and families
  • Players all know each other- have grown up with each other (making killing more personal)
  • Students given maps
  • Time limit to make sure the action proceeds
  • Students enter game from same point, alphabetically
  • Forbidden zones every hour to keep players moving
  • Steel collars around necks explode if boundaries are violated
  • Steel collars also serve to spy on the players (microphones, GPS tracking)
  • All players have a day pack with bread and water and a weapon
  • Way more violent- think ripping eyeballs out with fingernails

My Conclusion

As you can see, both novels are very similar in some aspects, but differ in a great number of others. The basic premise is the same- kids must fight for survival in a horrible “game” that they were forced into by a relentless government as a reminder that defiance will not be tolerated.

But the two books differ greatly in their handling of the game. In Battle Royale, it’s all about bloodshed and gore from the very beginning- and most of the kids turn into psychotic killers. No wonder the movie was banned in the U.S. in wake of the Columbine tragedy at the time. I have not seen the movie- but can’t imagine the movie would be thorough in any way. They would have to cut way too much out to do a good job. It would be better as a TV series- OK, a rated R cable series, that followed the characters and their back stories per each episode (fans of FOX’s Alcatraz series can relate).

Hunger Games focuses more on a couple characters, the love that drives them and makes them human. Battle Royale does a great job of characterization also- but in many brief splotches through flashbacks. The main characters in Hunger Games seemed to have a higher purpose for manipulating the game- rather than just for the sake of personal survival.

Still, there are very uncanny similarities (as noted by the asterisks in the similarities list). But what really made me stop and question was the use of a unique bird call to reunite players once they were separated. What are the chances of that being coincidence? I’ll let you decide.

My final verdict… I must agree with Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;there is nothing new under the sun.” This basic plotline has been around for years- think Steven King’s “The Running Man” or even earlier with the “Lord of the Flies.” It’s even been suggested to me to read Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story “The Lottery” and Aldous Huxley’s 1932 “Brave New World” to see glimpses of this same plotline.

Did Suzanne Collins creatively “borrow” from Battle Royale? I’d say there’s a good possibility (though she denies having even heard about it until her novel was turned in). But was it anything illegal or unethical? Probably not. As a fellow author and writer, I understand that the stories inside us are comprised of our life experiences- things we have read, heard, seen, and lived. So it’s only natural that similarities exist in any form of art, music, or literature.

The author of Battle Royale sums it up quite nicely. “I think every novel has something to offer,” Takami told ABC News, in an email. “If readers find value in either book, that’s all an author can ask for.”

About the Translation
Like I said, the original story was written in Japanese. So some of the customs and behaviors came across as a little peculiar. Keeping up with so many characters with similar foreign names was burdensome. Thankfully, the translator prefaced the names with the gender and alphabetical number of each student the first time they appeared in each chapter. Example: Shuya Nanahara (Male Student No. 15).

And I’m not sure if the original text included this or not, but the translation summed up the body count at the end of each chapter. Example: “17 students remaining.”

With these two helps, reading the book, while difficult in some ways, was at least possible. Go ahead, read it for yourself!

Mar 23 2011

CUE 2011 and onward!



We had an awesome time in Palm Springs last week and enjoyed meeting so many great people. As always, we learned  much from talking with y’all (that’s the way we say it here in Texas)! Our sessions went great overall- Web 2.0, Google Earth (Earth Mashing), and Print, Cut, Fold. Here are a couple things we wanted to share with you..

1. If you didn’t get a chance to make it to one of our presentations that you wanted to, you can find all the links and materials on the Presentations page here on this site (look at the top of this page). Feel free to share those materials with your colleagues if you think it will help them out!

2. Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter using the Newsletter link at the top of the page. We send out an email newsletter once every 2-3 months (OK, maybe 6 months here lately) with a summary of the new, cool websites we’ve found for you!

3. You can subscribe to our RSS feed if you know how to use an RSS reader. There is a link in the address bar as well as at the bottom of the page. Or if you want to subscribe manually, the feed is: http://digitalgoonies.com/?feed=rss2.

4. Please comment on our posts to let us know you’re there! We know our blog is getting an average of 4500 hits each day- but we don’t really know how many of those are bots and spiders. Every now and then, please just comment to let us know what we are posting you find useful. That is always encouraging!

Once again, thank you to our California CUE friends. And if you are one of our regular readers, we’d like to hear from you as well!

Nov 22 2010

Welcome to our CAST 2010 friends!


For those of you who we had the privilege of meeting at CAST a couple weeks ago in Houston, we want to welcome you! We hope you find our site full of some great and useful tools for you to use! Here are a couple things to remember:

  1. You can subscribe to our newsletter using the Newsletter link above. We’ll send out updates periodically summarizing our latest treasure of free websites.
  2. Help support our habit by clicking on an ad or two on the site. This helps keep our hosting free and available to all!

Once again, it was great to meet you all!

As a bonus, I uploaded this density demo to TeacherTube. If you’ve never seen or done this, try it out- it’s great!

Apr 6 2010

We are Trippin!



Although this tool probably doesn’t have a classroom use, it’s outstanding for helping to keep your life in order. TripIt allows you to organize all your travel information in one place. You can add flight information, hotel reservations, rental car, activities, meetings, notes, maps, and whatever else you have. You can type all this information in directly, or best of all- forward your confirmation emails from hotels, airlines, etc. and TripIt will fill in all the information. Continue reading

Mar 6 2010

A Big “Thank You!” to our California (CUE) Friends



Susan and I had a great time at the California Computer-Using Educator’s conference for the past few days. This was our first time to attend/present at this conference- and our first time in Palm Springs ever! We were amazed at how beautiful everything was.

While we didn’t get a chance to get out and do much during our stay, we got to meet so many great educators with a love for technology and students! We did take a quick trip to the windmill farm pictured above. Ironically, this was the first Google Earth placemark we ever created for our Google Earth books- so it was great to see this in person.

For our new friends, we hope you find this blog useful and that you will check back often! Don’t forget, you can subscribe to our newsletter (using the Newsletter link above). You can also download the resources from our presentations (using the Presentations link above). As always, we value your feedback, so if you have any comments, feel free to leave them here!

Thanks again to our west coast friends for a great experience!

Feb 15 2010

Thanks to our TCEA Friends!



For those of you who joined us in Austin, TX for TCEA…


Thanks for a great conference! As featured presenters, Susan and I presented a total of nine combined sessions within two days. The Web 2.0, Google Earth, and Print, Cut, Fold sessions went very well. For those of you that attended, we thank you and hope that you left with some great ideas to start using in your own pursuits! Three things to remember:

1. If you missed our presentations or want to see our handouts, click on the Presentations link at the top of this page!

2. Please sign up for our e-mail newsletter by clicking the Newsletter link at the top of the page. We’ll keep you informed of the latest and greatest findings on the web.

3. Many TCEA participants asked us if we deliver staff development at other districts. Yes! Yes! And a thousand times Yes! We love doing this and wish we could do this more. We are, however, limited by our own personal schedules and full-time jobs in our own district. For more information email jim@digitalgoonies.com or susan@digitalgoonies.com.

Oh, I thought of one more thing- if you haven’t joined us on Plurk, check it out (see Jim’s Plurk page here)! If you aren’t aware, Plurk is a great way to build your own PLN (Personal Learning Network). We have come to rely on it for some great ideas and feedback!

Dec 24 2009

Merry Christmas!


This is my daughter (an older photo mind you) wishing you a great Christmas!

By the way, this was made at PQDVD! OK, so it’s not very educational, but it was fun!