Monday, December 21, 2009

What is a word cloud?

A word cloud is a bunch of words all lumped together, with the size of each word dependent on how many times it appears in the original document.  A word that appears many times within one piece of writing will be larger than a word that is only there once or twice.  For example, if you listed all the words in one of President Obama's speeches in one big jumble, then made the words that appear most often larger than the others, it would look something like this:

Word clouds are mathematical, they're visual, and  they're a different way to view information in order to gain understanding. 

Go to Wordle's website <> to create yours today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Online safety

The laws regarding privacy and protection on the Internet are rapidly changing, but the overall message is clear: we will protect our children from harmful things on the Internet, and we will teach our children how to protect themselves.  Below is a link to OnGuard Online, a federal website regarding Internet safety.  Within that site is Net Cetera which has resources to help parents and teachers talk to their children about the dangers associated with using the Internet.

OnGuard Online <>
Net Cetera <>

Net Cetera

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Internet search results in a table format

Google has a different way to search for information.  It's called Google Squared <> and instead of returning a list of websites it instead presents information in a sortable table.  It's different.  For some searches it's a better way to do things, and for others it's worse.  You'll have to make that determination.  Choosing the best way to find and use information is an important skill for our students and this website is just one more way students are doing just that.

Look at the two images below to see the difference between a regular Google search and the new Google Squared search.



Monday, November 30, 2009

Office 2010 beta

We're going to see two different versions of Microsoft Office 2010 next year.  One will be a free online version with limited features, and the other will be the standard full-blown version with many new additions.  I think both will offer new ways to connect with people and share information and data. 

There are no plans right now to use either one next year in D211, but we will continue to monitor the situation as Office 2010 gets closer to its release date.  For now, feel free to get a closer look at Office 2010.  You can download the Office 2010 beta or read about the Top 10 benefits of using Office 2010.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life expectancy of a laptop computer

A recent study by a company that sells extended warranties on electronic items found that approximately 1/3 of all laptops will no longer function after three years due to either mechanical failure or accidental damage.  D211 often buys 3 or 4 year warranties with all computers.  However, it might be to our advantage to purchase computers that have a better chance of survival even if it means paying more for the product.

Below is one of many charts found in the report.  I've included links to the blog written by Christopher Null as well as a link to the entire report by SquareTrade.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Free anti-virus software for home use

Microsoft has released a free version of their security software called Security Essentials. It protects your computer from viruses, spyware, and mal-ware. While there are several different free anti-virus software titles available today, our tests have shown that Security Essentials is easy to use and offers very good protection for individual users.

Download the software from Microsoft's website:

Virtualization saves us money

Server virtualization, in a nutshell, is when several different servers are combined onto one machine. Combining servers and clustering them together is great for our users; it makes the network safer and more reliable. It also saves us money. Lots of money. Each high school used to have 14 servers. We have reduced that number to eight, and by next summer there will only be four. Eliminating 10 servers at each building saves us more than $50,000 annually just in electricity costs. On top of that, it costs less money to cool the server rooms and it will cost us less money in the future when we need to replace 4 servers instead of 14.

We began virtualizing servers to provide a better experience for our students and our staff members. We didn't realize how much money we would save each year in electricity costs until our energy consultant sat down with us and worked on the numbers.

For more information on virtualization please visit Microsoft's website:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Next generation tablets

At some point in the future we will see all students (yes, all students) with some kind of computing device in their hands. Smart phones, netbooks, laptops, eReaders and iTouch devices are already visible in our classrooms and hallways, but what will the landscape look like in the next five years?

With the Amazon Kindle being seen more as an electronic reader and not the all-around textbook we had hoped for (read the Daily Princetonian article), we may need to look back at a more powerful computer-like device. Here's a blog article from CrunchGear about Microsoft's latest tablet PC, the Courier, which shows a lot of promise.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Connecting to online storage

D211 uses Microsoft's Unified Access Gateway (UAG) to allow students and teachers to access their files remotely from any location with Internet access. It is similar to last year's NetStorage but with more security and more features.

Here are your directions for logging in to UAG and accessing your files.

1.Go to the district Online Storage web page which can be found on the web page of every D211 school. The direct link is

2.Click on the LOG IN button.

3.You will get an error message stating that there is a problem with the security certificate on this web page. Click on CONTINUE TO THIS WEB SITE.

4.A box will pop up that states the web site is already in your trusted sites list and ask if you want to allow opening the site. Click YES.

5.An add-on needs to be installed onto your computer to make the software work. Click on the INSTALL button if this box pops up. You will only have to do this the first time you use the Online Storage.

6.The software is being installed onto your computer and needs access to the district Online Storage page for it to work. When you get the security alert asking if you trust the certificate, click on TRUST THIS SITE and then choose ALWAYS. Then click on the TRUST button at the bottom. Again, you will only have to do this the first time you use the Online Storage.

7.You can now log in . Add the phrase d211\ to the beginning of your username. Without adding d211\ you will not be able to access your files. It is required! Enter your password and then click on LOG ON.

For more information on UAG please visit Microsoft's website.