Thursday, December 22, 2011

JayCut Users: The Free Video Editing Tool is Being Discontinued

Message from JayCut:
While we continue to develop our video editing tools, after careful consideration we have decided to no longer offer the free video editing service. As a result, we will close down the JayCut community and the video editor after January 31st, 2012. 

The service will remain fully functional untilJanuary 31st, but please be sure to download your project(s) before then. Information about how to download your projects can be found here 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

HippoCampus Update

The new HippoCampus site was launched over the holiday break.  If you previously set up a D219-branded HippoCampus site all of your settings will also be enabled in the new environment on that date.  If not...take some time to explore the interactive videos and tutorials from NROC, PhET and Khan Academy.

HippoCampus was designed as part of Open Education Resources (OER), a worldwide effort to improve access to quality education for everyone. HippoCampus content has been developed by some of the finest colleges and universities in the world and contributed to the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC), another MITE project.

The new HippoCampus site features:
·         new design
·         new content collections (including NROC’s new Algebra 1–An Open Course), and
·         a new playlist feature for logged-in users. 
Member sites also now include mappings to the Common Core standards, as well as state standards.

The User's Guide will assist you in navigating the new site. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Google Apps Update

The new look is now the permanent interface for Google Docs, Docslist, Spreadsheets and Sites.

Major changes to your Documents List include -
- The Upload button is now an icon rather than a text button. It shows an up-arrow coming out of a hard drive.
- To access the Narrow by options, click the down arrow in the search box at the top of your window.
- To create a doc from a template, click the Create button, and select From template....

Major changes to Docs, Spreadsheets, and Sites include -
- Click the Share button to share your item with other people or modify the sharing settings. Options such as Publish to a web page and Email collaborators have moved to the File menu.
- The Share button will now show the visibility state of your doc when you mouse over it.
- Since Google Docs continuously saves your work, the Save button has been removed. The last updated time now shows near the menu bar.
- There's now a button that lets you navigate back to your Documents List, in place of the Google Docs logo. Mouse over the doc name, and click the left arrow icon to get back to your Documents List.

Flipping The Classroom? … 12 Resources To Keep You On Your Feet

This post from Michael Gorman's Blog 21 st Century Educational Technology and Learning titled Part 1: Flipping the Classroom? ...12 Resources To Keep You On Your Feet offers 12 resources to help you successfully Flip your classroom.

Get More Out of Google

This infographic demonstrates how to effectively use Google. Great resource for both teachers and students.
Get more out of Google
Created by: HackCollege

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Minutes of the September 20th TCSI Meeting

TCSI Meeting
Technology Committee for School Improvement
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 4:00-5:30pm
District Office Board Room

The Niles Township High Schools District 219’s Technology Committee for School Improvement met on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 in the District 219 Board Room at the District Office. In attendance were:Matt Fahrenbacher, Josef Neumayer, Mike Beeftink, Kubrat Vrachinski, Jourf Baghdisar, Joseph Edwards, Phil Lacey, Angie Condon, Chris Powell, Sheri Doniger, Florence Yun, Carol Rahim, Keith Shaffer, and Guy Ballard. Absent were: Liz Shay, Dave Ruth, Chris Achim, Judy Duesenberg, and Toby Greenwalt

All materials are posted at
Meeting Facilitator: Matt Fahrenbacher

The District 219 2nd annual Technology Conference will focus on 1:1 experiences in the classroom, Web 2.0 apps, and Google. The conference will be held at Niles West on Saturday, April 21, 2012 and will run from 9am to 3pm and is laid out in five-45 minute sessions with time built in for networking in between each session.

At the Google Midwest Summit last month Mr. Ballard and Dr. Lacey attended sessions which featured Google Certified presenters. Mr. Ballard has asked some of them to present at the April 21, 2012 Tech Conference as Featured Speakers. As a Featured Speaker, they would be excluded from the presentation selection process. A call for presenters has been made to District 219. The presentation selection will take place at TCSI at a future meeting.

Mr. Ballard decided to take a different approach with the conference by having the keynote over lunch. Jeff Havens, a non-traditional, humorous motivational speaker. has been booked as the Keynote and is presenting “How to Uncrapify Your Life.”

Dr. Lacey added that the feedback from last year’s conference was overwhelmingly positive and Mr. Ballard was encouraged to make this an annual event. Many attendees stated that they were hoping to see more District 219 teachers in attendance and presenting. More districts are looking to implementing their own one-to-one program and have come to District 219 to gain first-hand knowledge from faculty and staff, to better help refine their own one-to-one programs.

Although this conference is geared towards middle and high school faculty, staff, and administration there are opportunities for student to participate. Last year a group of student Tech Leaders presented a session. This was a great opportunity for the students to share their experiences and other districts to find out how a one-to-one works.

It is expected that there will be 300 people in attendance based on the number of concurrent sessions and that each room can hold close to 30 adults. Once registration approaches 250, then the venue and presenters may need to be expanded.

It was asked how the Technology Department manages the software on individual computers. Mr. Ballard answered that each summer all computers in the District are “blasted” to wipe the hard drive clean. A standard inventory of software is installed which includes a productivity suite, multiple web browsers, Adobe software, a PDF creator, and many other useful tools. In addition to the standard titles, there are a number of department-specific programs that are installed.

If a teacher finds that they are in need of a particular program, they can review the titles in their “Programs” list and begin the installation process from there. Each user is a “Local Administrator” so in most cases, they are able to install and update software and drivers without the assistance from the Help Desk. This model allows the Tech Dept to recoup unused licences so software is available where needed and not installed where it will not be used. A list of base software will be posted in the next Technology newsletter.

Mr. Fahrenbacher asked how the installation of Libre Office would be handled. Mr. Ballard answered that it would be installed along side Open Office for the next school year. Mr. Fahrenbacher suggested to make a generic “Office” shortcut, which points to Libre Office and that OpenOffice be removed from computers, to avoid confusion. Both programs work the same and look nearly identical.

Mr. Ballard passed around an evaluation model of an Asus netbook and informed the group that Dell has stopped making netbooks and he has been exploring the Asus. Mr. Shaffer added that District 69 has been using Asus for three years, in grades 3 and up, for classrooms and carts and is very pleased with their performance.

Mr. Fahrenbacher asked if any other alternative devices have been investigated. Mr. Ballard answered that he has looked at tablets, but their cost points are higher than the netbooks and do not include an affordable extended warranty option. The Asus netbook is $279, with a three-year warranty, the price rises to $325. Mr. Shaffer stated that he too has been exploring tablets, but has found that they are not as robust for his students needs as consumers and producers of information. Additional components are needed, such as a keyboard, which become a price-barrier.

District 219 is a Google-heavy district and students are encouraged to use Google Docs on a regular basis. Performing this same work on most tablets does not provide the same end-user experience. Editing is done one line at a time and is not very efficient.

Mr. Beeftink asked if the current freshmen and sophomores would get blasted with the new classes’ image. Mr. Ballard answered that the image is class and device specific. Each class has a unique netbook image that works best for their specifically issued device. There are approximately 1300 netbooks purchased each year, with 10% of that set aside as loaners, replacements, and for transfer students. The largest challenge Mr. Ballard perceives is how to get support from a new vendor.

When considering a new netbook, there is a standard set of requirements. CDWg was contacted because they have the largest selection. Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Asus were viable options. The Asus netbooks that are being considered have an eight-hour battery life, the same as the Dell models the District currently uses.

The netbook batteries aren’t expected to perform the same from year one to year four. Replacement batteries are currently available at the Student Help Desk. It is anticipated that before the class of 2014 graduates, there will a Bring Your Own Device policy in effect along with the possibility of extending our K-12 pricing to students, the same as what is available to faculty and staff purchases.  

Mr. Fahrenbacher suggested that feedback be gathered from teachers as to what software should be pre-installed on the netbooks before they are distributed to students; Skype would be a useful addition.

A number of different document camera models were available for evaluation in the Niles West PDC through the week of December 5 and at Niles North the following week. Anyone testing the devices has been encouraged to put them through their paces, just as they would use them in their classrooms. Each person who requested a document camera as a part of their TCSI Technology Innovation grant was encouraged to evaluate them. A survey was developed to help determine the most popular model. Price was not included in the evaluation.

As of the meeting date the IPEVO was the most popular based solely on ratings. It has a simple design and interface and is priced remarkably lower than the others at less than $80. The reason for the low price is because the camera has no controls, buttons, or lights. Operation is done through a USB connection; zoom and other actions can be completed through the computer or with a wireless remote.

Mr. Ballard suggested that the IPEVO be purchased for check-out in the PDCs as on-demand web and document cameras. The decision-making process will be weighted with TCSI requester preference first, then evaluation results weighted second.

Mobile video conferencing equipment labs have been set up as part of the ICCP (Illinois Cloud Computing Project) grant. They will be available for check-out in the PDCs after the first of the year. Dr. Lacey and his team are evaluating them to create simple, user-friendly instructions.

A vendor has been selected to increase bandwidth throughout the district. RCN was selected because of the quick turn-around and price. Installation will take place in the next few weeks.

Website caching engines are being explored to store popular sites in order to improve the end-user’s experience. This was not budgeted for and Mr. Ballard is investigating where monies can be moved to complete this purchase.

The way a caching engine works is if someone clicks on a link to open a file or video - the first one who looks at it will have to endure the download, but the next person who clicks on that same link will retrieve the file from a local server and will load much faster.

Dr. Gatta gave Mr. Ballard permission to inform all administrators that they have to move from Microsoft Office to Open Office by the end of the school year; this includes their secretaries.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:45pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Daphne Watson
Secretary for the Committee

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Online Substitute Evaluation Form

We have created an on-line sub evaluation form that will aid us in the selection and evaluation of subs for sub assignments.  Each time your class is supervised by a substitute teacher you will receive and e-mail with a link to the form to fill-out with your evaluation of the performance.  These directions explain the process.

Google G-Mail Keyboard Shortcuts has developed a number of useful “cheat sheets” for popular web-based products. To download any of them, use the password “makeuseof” where indicated. It is best to right click on the download link and hit “Save As.”

Did you know that pressing “C” is the command to compose a new message and Tab+Enter sends the message? This short document provides many useful ways to create and send email without so much as one click of the mouse.

The PDC has developed a more comprehensive list of keyboard shortcuts, located here:

Niles West is Hosting D219’s 2nd Technology Conference on April 21, 2012

D219 is planning a tech conference at Niles West for April 21, 2012. The conference allows us an opportunity to share with colleagues what we have learned in the first years of the AAL roll-out and the chance to highlight engaging activities and lessons.  No matter what new tools you have learned about and/or incorporated in your classrooms, we can all benefit from your experiences.  

The conference will feature a luncheon presentation from Jeff Havens, an accomplished motivational speaker. His thoughts on How to Uncrapify Your Life”  promises to be  enlightening and thought-provoking.

Please consider presenting during one of the concurrent sessions throughout the day. Follow this link,, to the short form.

Thanks in advance for making this a memorable day for all involved.

Monday, November 28, 2011

December PDC Quick Classes

Please check out the list of December's Quick Classes offered during lunch periods.  

Click on the link for the workshop description and schedule:

The Professional Development Centers are located at North in room 1405 and at West in room 2153. We are here to help you, please feel free to set up an individual appointment if you need  help on additional topics.

Entering Assignment Comments for Students in the Gradebook

Many teachers have been employing the "Comments" feature on Pinnacle gradebook.  This feature has the capability to make such comments regarding students "Public" or "Private."  Unfortunately, simple and understandable error has resulted in comments that should be private and confidential unintentionally being made public to other teachers, parents, or the students themselves.  Therefore, the IS department is switching the "Public" feature OFF completely, meaning that teachers can continue to make comments, but for their own note-taking purposes only.  

Check out how to use Quick Grades to easily enter grades or individual comments for students tied to specific assignments that appear in PIV. Entering Assignment Comments and Quick Grades

Need help setting up that grab bag name drawing?

Draw names from a virtual hat. Over the Holidays, avoid those awkward moments when the last person to get the hat draws his/her own name from the grab bag. Use this Web2.0 app to generate about 21 trillion ways to draw 17 names from a hat (for you math types, it's n-1!) Check out Virtual Hat.

Mentoring Your Students in Social Media or Vice Versa

Generation Z is moving so fast we can only track their contrails. They have advertisers, marketers, and educators flummoxed with how they operate. What makes the Zs so different from the Boomers, Xs, and Ys? Quite simply, the Internet. 
Check out this blog post from GETTING SMART for more details.

Social Networking Sites and Our Lives

Questions have been raised about the social impact of widespread use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter. Do these technologies isolate people and truncate their relationships? Or are there benefits associated with being connected to others in this way? The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project decided to examine SNS in a survey that explored people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

PDC November Quick Classes

Quick Classes are back! Your PDC will run mini workshops during lunch periods in November. This month’s offerings will cover topics in Open Office and Google Forms and Calendar. Bring your lunch in and join us. 

Check out the schedule and full descriptions for classes on Open Office Batch Conversions, Fluberoo quizzes in Google Docs, Open Office Settings/Formatting and Google Calendar Settings/Appointment Slots on the PDC Courses Site.

Host Virtual Student Meetings

District 219 has acquired Adobe Connect, it is a web enabled video conferencing tool which teachers can use to host virtual meetings with students or peers. It works great to hold virtual review sessions and enhance collaboration and synchronous communication in cases where meeting face to face, just isn't feasible. Adobe connect allows presenters to share resources such as pdf documents, presentations and the presenter's desktop. Stop by the PDC for a demo and details on setting up your first session.

QR Codes

QR codes (quick response) are similar to the barcodes you see in stores when you purchase an item, the big difference is that these are designed to be used with smart phones and can be used to direct users to a website, a geolocation (place on map), contact information, or even trigger an sms (text message). Unitags Costomized QR Code Generator allows users to generate a full color QR code with an embedded logo. Check out the example below.

Use a barcode reader program on your smart phone to scan the QR code and see what happens. Barcode Scanner for Android or Pic2Shop for iPhone (both are free) are two great starting points. You can include these codes on flyers posted in the buildings to have students or parents go to a web resource or have an event added to their calendars or even have students incorporate QR codes into projects to take an audience to an explanation or reflection on a piece of art, project or other display.

Chrome Extensions

Google's browser named Chrome is a great tool, not only for working with apps, but also its many features. Use extension to help you and your students quickly access “add-in” features without having to leave the internet...

The Picnik Extension for Chrome lets you easily edit the images you come across while browsing the web. With a click you can create a snapshot of your current web page and open it in Picnik for easy editing, annotation and sharing. Do the same for all the images on your current browser page -- just pick one from the image list that pops up and then edit, embellish, then share with Picnik.

Picnik is an award winning photo editing application that lives online, in your browser. Do basic editing fixes with easy but powerful editing tools. Tweak to your heart’s content, then get creative with oodles of effects, fonts, shapes, and frames, plus an advanced set of professional-quality tools It's fast, easy, and fun.

Get a button on your browser toolbar that you can easily click to see upcoming events from Google Calendar, without ever leaving your page. And if you're on sites like Facebook or Evite, you can click the button to instantly add events to your calendar. The button shows a green plus sign whenever there are events on the page you're viewing that can be added to your calendar. The extension detects events on any site that uses the hCalendar microformat or derivative microformats like hResume.

The Desmos calculator just got way better! Now with:
  • slider bars for variables
  • trace, intercepts, roots, and even intersections
  • support for polar inequalities
  • dashed lines for strict inequalities
  • full, multi-language support-- works on any keyboard!

IE Tab
Use Internet Explorer to display web pages in a Chrome tab. Some sites can only be displayed using IE, and with this extension you can now see those sites without leaving Chrome.---- WINDOWS ONLY

Easily add and manage your tasks from Chrome in one of three ways:
Simply type "t Your new task" into the Chrome Omnibar to easily add a task from whatever web page you're on. Click the Tasks icon to add a task, see your tasks and task lists and mark a task as completed.   Highlight text on any web page, right click and add that text to a new task. Tasks are visible everywhere that you can see your Google Tasks - in Gmail, Calendar, iGoogle, Mobile and via the Google Tasks API.

Working with intricately formatted text documents in OpenOffice?

Usually there are no issues when opening Word documents in OpenOffice (OO) or saving them back out as a .doc. To save an OO document as a MS Office Word document (.doc) go to File, Save As and select Microsoft Word 97/200Xp doc. (2007 and 2010 home users take note: .docx files cause issues)

When editing an intricately formatted MS Office document in Open Office, it is important to save the working copy as an OO document. Often, new users will open a .doc (Word file), format it in OO and then save it back out as a .doc. This may effectively undo all of the formatting changes that were just made in Open Office. The process of opening a .doc in OO, converting the .doc to an .odt (OO format for a word processor document), making the changes in OO and then saving it back out as an MS Document  "re-converts" the OO formatting back to the MS version - which are often different. 

So....if you are editing a document made in MS Word, open it in Open Office and save in ODF format. This will make a new copy (not overwrite your original) and maintain the formatting. If you need to get OpenOffice for home use, use this link and download a copy, it works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

If you are still having issues with documents, contact the Professional Development Center in your building, they are happy to help convert your documents. 

Portal Login Improvements

Following the district's plan to give all employees simplified, yet secure, way to access services and information, the login process has been improved within the Employee Portal.  

Along with your five-digit employee ID and password, the Portal can now be accessed using your Active Directory (computer login) username and password.  Keep in mind that your passwords using your employee ID may not be the same as your active directory password. This will be the case if you have changed one of the passwords without changing the other.  

Also, when requesting to recover your password via the portal login, the password that is sent to your email address will be the password associated to your employee ID and not your active directory username if both happen to be different.  

If you have any questions or issues regarding your ability to login to the portal, please contact Help Desk support.

Improved Naviance Access

The Naviance login links are now accessible through the Niles West and Niles North sites.  There are two areas where you can now find the links to login to Naviance as a faculty member, student or parent.  

Depending on who you are, go to your school’s homepage, then click on the orange tab that pertains to you (Faculty and Staff, Parents, or Students).  From there, you will find the "Naviance" link and that will then take you to the login screen.  

Another way to find it would be to go to your school’s homepage, then click on "Web Links" in the upper right corner of the site.  If you are a faculty member be sure to click the "Naviance" link that is in the Faculty/Staff column.  Faculty, students, and parents have a different login screen so be sure to click on the correct "Naviance" link that pertains to you.

Pinnacle Web Custom Reports

As you know, many reports are available in Pinnacle Web.  In both the Administrative and Other categories, there are 219Niles reports at the top of the list - these are customized, or "District 219 specific", reports that the IS team has developed to supplement the system-provided reports. Currently there are 7-8 of these reports, but others will be added in the future. Check it out!

Internet Bandwidth Adjustments

We are working on a plan to double the internet bandwidth by January 1, 2012. In the meantime, we have taken steps to limit the bandwidth for non-instructional purposes, particularly on the wireless network
Here are the details;
  • anyone ( wired or wireless) going to Google will get guaranteed egress of  50MB with a maximum of 90MB
  • wireless minis going to Pandora will get guaranteed egress of  2MB with a maximum of 10MB
  • anyone (wired or wireless BUT not minis) going to Pandora get a "medium" priority... no guarantees
  • wireless minis going to YouTube will get guaranteed egress of  10MB with a maximum of 30MB
  • anyone (wired or wireless BUT not minis) going to YouTube get a "medium" priority... no guarantees
  • all other traffic get medium priority... no guarantees - it may be fast, it may  be slow, it all depends as to how much bandwidth is been used.
Just to clarify:
Wireless minis and any other device using  NTHS-STUDENT (the one that bypasses the portal) will be affected by these new rate-limits.  NTHS-FACULTY falls under wireless that are exempt of the rate limits applied to Pandora and Youtube.

10-20-11TCSIMinutes.doc (

Technology Committee for School Improvement
Thursday, October  20, 2011 4:00-5:30pm
 District Office Board Room

The Niles Township High Schools District 219’s Technology Committee for School Improvement met on Thursday, October 20, 2011 in the District 219 Technology Center Conference Room. In attendance were: Matt Fahrenbacher, Josef Neumayer, Mike Beeftink, David Ruth, Liz Shay, Toby Greenwalt, Kubrat Vrachanski, Chris Powell, Phil Lacey, Mike Utter, Judy Duesenberg, Keith Shaffer, Dr. Sheri Doniger, Florence Yun, Carol Rahim, and Guy Ballard. Absent were: Angie Condon and Joseph Edwards.

All materials are posted at
Mr. Ballard took a moment to introduce Liz Shay, Special Education teacher at Niles North; Florence Yun and Carol Rahim, Niles West parents; and Sara Beladi and Sarah Benjamin, Niles North Student Government representatives, to the group.
April 21, 2012 has been set at the date for the District 219 Technology Conference. Last year’s conference at Niles North was very successful. This year’s conference will be held at Niles West. Planning is still in the early stages.
Mr. Ballard informed the group that a new procedure was in development to address the rise in iOS devices in use throughout the district. This procedure was drafted in response to the large number of requests for iPads during the 2011-2012 Technology Innovations grants.
The procedure states that the Technology Department is not responsible for the support or maintenance of any portable iOS devices, such as iPads and iPod/iTouch. Any such devices issued will be that department’s responsibility, including creating an iTunes account ( which will be connected to the authorized user(s) d219 email address) and adding funds to that iTunes account for purchasing of apps. Maintenance, such as system updates and any repairs, will be the responsibility of the end-user as agreed upon by their department chief. Accessories, data plans, etc. are the responsibility of the authorized user(s).
Mrs. Yun suggested that iOS devices issued for communal use should not be allowed to sync their D219 accounts with those devices.
Each year District 219 sponsors the Technology Innovations Grant which provides $25,000 in competitive funding at Niles North and Niles West/Central for teachers to be more innovative in the classroom. The application process closed on Friday, October 14, 2011 and all submissions were presented to the committee to decide upon.
All members present broke into groups based, upon building,  to decide on funding. All requester will be notified by a TCSI representative of the committee’s decisions.
As a general rule; requests for classroom printers were not approved. The Technology Department will assess the walk-up print kiosks and install additional printers in common areas for student use.
There were several requests for document cameras. Mr. Ballard suggested evaluating various makes and models to determine one device that will meet the requester’s needs.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6pm.
Respectfully submitted,
Daphne Watson
Secretary for the Committee

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mark Your Calendar

Mark your calendar for District 219’s 1:1 technology and Web 2.0 learning event .
This dynamic program will include featured speakers, lunch, entertainment and engaging teacher presentations. All focusing on a variety of cutting-edge technologies and
instructional strategies;
  • Internet and Web 2.0
  • Hybrid and blended models of instruction 
  • Free and Open-Source applications
  • Google Apps in the classroom
  • Student success and assessment strategies
  • Professional networking

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Read Write Gold now available as Texthelp Web Apps for Netbooks

Texthelp Systems, leading provider of award-winning literacy software solutions, has released their new Suite of Web Apps. The Texthelp Web Apps work within browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Firefox) on mobile devices including our students netbooks. The Apps include: Read&Write Web, eBook Reader for Bookshare® eBooks, Speech, and Dictionary.
With the proliferation of iPads and other mobile devices, schools and colleges are looking for Assistive Technology (AT) solutions that allow their students to use these devices at school and at home to access digital content. Read&Write GOLD users can now benefit from access to familiar support features, including Read Aloud with dual color highlighting, Dictionary, Translator, and Study Skills, anywhere, anytime.
Texthelp Web Apps include:

  • Read&Write Web - The Read&Write Web toolbar opens within a browser and interacts with web content providing: Text-to-Speech to read HTML content aloud with dual color highlighting, Dictionary and Picture Dictionary to look up unfamiliar words, Translator to translate selected words into multiple languages, Study Skills to highlight and extract important pieces of information, and Fact Finder to research on the web. Users can also control the speed of the reading voice.

  • eBook Reader - The innovative eBook Reader for Bookshare eBooks allows a user to log in to Bookshare, search for and open or save a Bookshare eBook and read the book aloud with dual color highlighting. eBook Reader also provides access to the same support tools found in Read&Write Web as well as personalization options for reading and speech.

  • Speech - Designed for smaller mobile devices such as iPhones, Speech allows users to read aloud any typed or pasted text with color highlighting.

  • Dictionary - Another App meant for smaller devices, the Dictionary App allows users to look up typed or pasted words and get text definitions as well as image representations. Definitions can also be read aloud.

Link to preview video:

Installation Instructions

To install the apps go to

  • For North teachers and students use nilesnorth as both the username and password.

  • For West Teachers and students use nileswest as both the username and password.

Select a browser app to install and follow the instruction for the browser of your choice.

User will be prompted to log in each time the app is launched and will remain logged for 24 hours.

Users will need launch the app from the browser bookmark each time it is to be used.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Google Calendar Settings

The google calendar is a great tool to schedule meetings, appointments and events.  To make to most of your calendar, make sure your settings are correct...
Follow this link for details and note the highlighted settings

Open Office Support

As the school year progresses and you continue to work on new and existing office files, keep in mind that the Technology Department is here to help:

Open Office (OO) offers batch conversion (the conversion of entire folders of documents in a single pass) for files generated in Office 2002 (XP). You can even convert Word, Excel and Powerpoint files at the same time.

  • File → Wizards → Document Converter

Professional Development Center Staff

  • 1:1 support for working in new and existing documents

  • Will convert document from legacy formats to OO

  • Available from 7:30 – 4 Mon – Fri.

Machines will be placed in each departmental area with MS Office for converting documents

  • Will be accessible through the end of the first semester

Summer projects for conversion of curricular materials

  • Projects to convert existing legacy MS Office files to OO

Check out these resources:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wireless Access after School Hours

Wireless services are available around the clock within the boundaries of our facilities for any NTHS Faculty or Student. If you are using a wireless device that has been pre-configured to use the NTHS-Faculty wireless network, then there is no further action required and you should be able to connect to our network seamlessly. If you choose to connect via the NTHS-Student wireless network, upon opening your browser, you will be prompted to log in with your regular credentials. Even thou our wireless network is available at all the times, access to it by visitors and guests is only possible by using the guest account. The guest account is for temporary use only and active (enabled) only during weekdays between 7:00 a.m and 9:00 p.m. Faculty and staff members hosting events or visitors that will require guest access to our wireless network should contact the HelpDesk, ahead of time, to enquire about the guest account information and also to inform the IS office of their intentions. It is possible to expand the hours or even enable weekend access to the guest account but we need early notification and also, we need you to test ahead of time to avoid last minute pitfalls. Finally, since the guest account information gets shared a lot, we feel that in order to protect our data network and limit access to uninvited guests, its password needs to be reset very often thus we ask you to find out from the Help Desk the new password EVERY time that you plan on using it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

AAL Training Is Up And Running

The AAL Help Desk is happy to report that our training program is up and running. Students can sign up for training with our Tuesdays With Google program or Web Applications Thursdays. On these days, student Tech Leaders offer small workshops on specific topics. So far, the Tech Leaders have offered courses in Basic Google Docs, Using the Calendar and Task Bar for Homework Management, and Configuring Dropbox. Topics change weekly and can be suggested by the students.

In addition, the Tech Leaders continue to offer one-to-one tutorials on all netbook-related topics. Any student is welcome to request a tutorial. We train individuals on all aspects of Google Apps as well as on virtually any Web 2.0 application. Students sign up for tutorials here.

Gmail Power User Tools

PC World recently published an article touting Gmail labs called 15 Add-OnstoBecomeaGmailPowerUser. We’ve combined some of those tips along with a few of our favorites to help you get the most out of Gmail.

imageTo enable labs, click on the options icon in the upper right corner of the screen and click on Labs.

Judy and Cindy’s Favorite Gmail Labs:

Undo Send: Hit "Send" too soon? Stop messages from being sent for a few seconds (5 to 30 seconds) after hitting the send button. After enabling Undo Send, go to the ‘General’ tab in Mail Settings and change the cancellation period to the desired duration.image

Send and Archive: Adds a button to the compose email box that allows you to reply and file away a conversation in one step.

Canned Responses: Are there email messages that are repeated over and over? Save them and then send your common messages by just clicking a button and selecting the specific canned response!

Inserting Images: Adding images to emails can make them more interesting and can include content in the email that would otherwise need to be an attachment. Enable this lab in order to have access to the Insert Image icon on the ‘Compose Mail’ toolbar.

Default Text Styling: Would you prefer Times New Roman to Arial, or perhaps large text to small text, in your email messages? Once this lab is enabled, go to the 'General' tab on the 'Settings' page and change the default text styling to better suit your preferences.

Message Sneak Peek: Peek into a conversation without opening it by right-clicking on a message in your inbox.

Signature tweaks: Places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the "--" line that appears before signatures.

Create a Document: Allows you to create a Google Document from within email conversation. By going to More, Create a Document, your email message will automatically become a Google Doc!

Preview Pane: Provides a horizontal or vertical pane to read mail right next to or below your list of conversations, making mail reading faster without leaving your inbox.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wireless Issues

Net_DiagnosisEarlier this school year at Niles West, our wireless infrastructure hardware experienced a critical malfunction, causing a lack of connectivity and ongoing disconnects throughout the building. The hardware manufacturer, Meru, has provided us with a replacement controller, which is now in place. We have also increased the bandwidth to the controller four-fold, for better throughput between the wi-fi and the rest of our network. As a result, connectivity has improved exponentially. 
One thing to be aware of: during the first 3-5 minutes of a class period, when all the students in the building are authenticating to the Wireless Web Portal at the same time, a slowdown may occur in loading the authentication page. This is a known issue and we are currently addressing it with Meru's engineers. 
Meanwhile, here are some tips for improving your students' wireless experience:
  • Firefox loads the Wireless Web Portal page faster, and times out less often than Chrome; when students experience the above scenario, have them switch to Firefox.
  • When a netbook does not connect to the NTHS-STUDENT network at all, please have students delete all the locally cached wireless networks and reboot the netbook - see this video for step by step instructions
  • If the same students have repeated problems, have them stop by the AAL Help Desk to have their netbooks reimaged. We've noticed that the students who have connectivity issues also tend to be the ones who make changes to the netbook's Operating System or perform other system tweaks, which in turn can render the wireless drivers unstable. Reimaging the netbook will bring it back to the District's tested and approved specs.
As we are continually testing and assessing the state of the network, one important component is your input regarding any outstanding Wi-Fi issues in your classroom(s). Please fill out our Wi-Fi troubleshooting form with the specifics of any particular issue you are experiencing and we will contact you directly to further address your specific issue. The Wi-Fi troubleshooting form can be found at:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Technology Innovation Grants

DiffusionOfInnovationEach year the Technology Committee for School Improvement (TCSI) and the Board of Education provides a grant to foster technology innovations in the classroom. There is $25,000 available in competitive funds for each building.  Each application will be judged by members of TCSI.  If you have questions about the programs or need help with your application, your TCSI representative will be happy to help you.

To complete the online form, please follow this link: - NO PAPER SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.October 20, 2011.

Mike Beeftink
Angela Condon
Judy Duesenberg
David Ruth
Mike Utter
Joe Edwards
Matt Fahrenbacher
Liz Shay
Phil Lacey
Josef Neumayer
Chris Powell

All requests must be submitted by Friday, October 14, 2011 and will be decided upon at the next TCSI meeting on