Thursday, March 27, 2014

What would you do with your $2,000,000,000.00? Facebook buys Oculus VR

CC imaged use from
This past Tuesday Facebook agreed to by the tech startup Oculus VR for two billion dollars.  While this seems like a lot of money it's just a drop in the bucket for Facebook.  However this brings up some interesting points.  Oculus VR started as a Kickstarter campaign. Now many of you may not heard of Ocuus VR at all and even fewer of you have actually used the product Oculus Rift.  However I was lucky enough to slip one on at one of the tech conferences that I have attended.  Now let me tell you it is a pretty amazing technology  with the potential to do some amazing things, but there are some draw backs.  For instance some people have said that using it made them motion sick, but I did not experience that sensation.  What I can say about the technology is that Oculus Rift is that it's big and it's slightly uncomfortable to wear on your head.  The version that I was using was easy to tell it wasn't ready to be a full-time gadget to use everyday. This is not to say that the device you didn't hold a lot of promise.   I think it's been one of the more innovative products that have come out over the past few years, however there's been a lot of hype surrounding it for the past couple years more hype than I think it has deserves.  

So now why did Facebook decide to buy this company for $2 billion.  I feel that it is all about trying to anticipate the next big trend in technology.  The thought is that wearable technology is the next big thing.  You already see wearable tech all around you.  It started with those very stylish bluetooth earpieces. Lately its been smart watches and those fitness trackers that everyone is wearing. The problem with that is that you need a phone a laptop to send the data too.  This is an area where most people think consumer tech is heading and they are really predicting a lot of future growth.  I agree  and especially with with Sony is coming out with their own virtual-reality device this area will grow.  

Facebook felt that it  would be left behind and the easiest way they can get into the game was by purchasing the company at the forefront.  Considering they just bought WhatsApp for 19 billion dollars I guess you could say they got it for relatively cheap.  I love the fact that the bought Oculus weeks after Sony announced their VR headset.  Nothing helps consumers more than competition, especially in the gaming world.  Nintendo didn't have to improve until Sega began competing with them.  The when sony came out with playstation, they had to innovate again.  We will have better products sooner, the more competition there is.    

Now this story takes an interesting twist because Oculus VR, specifically the Oculus Rift started as a Kickstarter campaign (that raised over 2 million dollars) a lot of people who contributed money are hurt and the feel that they sold out.  Now I may think they wish they were getting some of the 2 billion dollars, and I don't think any of them would have passed on the offer.  There are no promise that Kickstarter projects will not get bought out and as a tech company, I think they should have expected it.  Tech companies get bought out all the time.  I think some people make their companies just to be bought out by a bigger consumer like Facebook.  

So where does this all leave Oculus VR?   Oculus started as a gaming company and there's a lot of concern they will no longer be a gaming company because of Facebook.  I'm not convinced, because part of the appeal of Facebook is their social games like Farmville and more lately Candy Crush.  But I think they realize that social sites do not stay popular for long, so they have to innovate.  Jus think about the last time you used Myspace.  I would guess that besides showing you pictures of what your friends are doing, you are able to virtually join them. Is this is what's going to happen? I don't know  and know does yet.  I think the technology isn't there yet but it's getting closer and Facebook wants to be at the lead.   I think over the next year we are going to see a lot more smart devices.  Whether or not that is wearable technology, home automation systems, or what.  As we talked about IFTTT, with the right Wifi light bulbs you can have them turn on as soon as you check in at your house on Foursquared.  I mean it is amazing to think about what you're able to do with that little computer you keep in your pocket called a phone.  
CC imaged use from sergesegal on Flickr

A technology like Oculus would be wonderful for schools to use to explore other areas with virtual field trips.  They already have some wonderful virtual field trips online where it gives you 360° views kind of like Google Street View, but to be able to experience that in a world that is similar to a 3-D environment would be amazing. Those upcoming opportunities for these kids that don't have them access to travel will changed how education is experienced.  Now cost will always be a factor but we need to keep an eye on how this is going to revolutionize how we experience and use technology.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ryan Gosling's Phone Number

Password Purgatory

Password Purgatory

We all experience the web in a personalized way. Whether through social media sites, a financial service or even, our favorite web sites need to know who we are. They identify us is by our username and password. If you're like most people you have probably lost count of the number of websites that require you to login and thus choose a password. Since no one has the mental capacity to remember dozens of thosy pesky annoyances most of us have at worst one, or slightly less worse, a few that we choose to use and reuse and reuse. We know this isn't a best practice and it leaves us open for all sorts of evil, but how else are we going to keep track of what we need to access the services we have come to depend on? We get frustrated by websites that require us to use uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols and numbers, not to mention eight or more characters (and sometimes the blood of a virgin).

Last Pass

LastPass, a service available for free on desktop and laptop computers and for a fee on mobile devices, can solve your password problems. It installs as an add-on to the most popular web browsers: Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome. Using the same level of encryption that protects the most sensitive data in the world (think nuclear secrets or Ryan Gosling's phone number) LastPass keeps a database of all your passwords. It stores the information from multiple credit cards to plug into web forms along with more routine data like your name, address and phone number. It will save secure notes for PINs and programs (e.g., the Apple App Store) that don't run in a browser. In short, LastPass will securely store any information that could be misused to hurt you online.
When you use LastPass "[all] sensitive data is encrypted and decrypted locally before syncing... Your key never leaves your device, and is never shared with LastPass. Your data stays accessible only to you." You can also choose to use two-factor authentication. This requires something you know, your password and something you have, usually your phone (to receive an authentication text).

Good Security Habits

Using good Internet security is like flossing your teeth. You don't see an immediate reward but when you go to the dentist for a $1200 root canal you could kick yourself for not being concerned in the past. The Internet is really not a scary place. A computer is a tool. Sure people can use it to threaten you or steal from you. They can also do the same with a pencil, a typewriter, or a telephone. So let's get past the idea that we need to be scared. What we need to be is careful.
In cases where password databases have been stolen and leaked, analysis reveals some unsurprising information. None of the commonly used passwords include a capital letter or a symbol. In fact, passwords used over and over again include 12345, "password" and the always popular qwerty. If you are being explicitly targeted, programs readily available for free on the Internet can try millions of combinations of the most common phrases and variations of birthdays, initials, addresses, SSNs and colleges for you and your family. If your pet's name is on Facebook or Twitter, add that to the mix as well.
The only protection is to use different passwords on every single website you go to you and to make sure those passwords are extremely difficult for any person or computer to crack. Your passwords need to be so complex that there's no way you could remember more than one or two of them.

Still Not Convinced?

Not only will LastPass provide additional security, it will also increase efficiency, speeding up browsing by plugging passwords into any website requiring one. Enter your LastPass authentication when opening a browser and then let the service take over. For use on desktops and laptops LastPass is free. It costs $1 a month to use on a mobile device.
You may think that you really don't have anything to hide and don't require any special sorts of security. But if you use social media you stand a chance of having your identity used in all sorts of embarrassing ways. But what if you occasionally buy things online? And, certainly you know that if you access your bank or credit card accounts, you have a definite reason to be concerned about security.
LastPass is easy to use. If you've been saving your passwords in a web browser, LastPass can import them for you and then delete them from the browser's history. You can also build your LastPass database one website at the time. Anytime you log into a page with which LastPass is not familiar, it will ask you if you'd like to create a secure password. The correct answer is yes. Of course you can also sit down and in one marathon session, log in to every site important to you and choose the secure passwords offered to you by LastPass.

Yeah but...

Don't worry about your computer's platform. LastPass works on Macs, PCs and even Linux boxes. The mobile app works on both iOS and on Android phones. Should you be away from your own computer and need to use someone else's, don't worry, you can log in to
I've been using a computer for over 20 years. I was on the Internet before there was an Internet. For me to use something every day, it's got to be pretty special. The fact that the first thing I install on any browser I use is LastPass, should tell you how important I think it is. Try it. You have nothing to lose if you do and a lot to lose if you don't.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tech Ninja Roundup

Creating webmixes that help you organize your online experience with Symbaloo

Dealing with technology and dealing with life is all about Attitude, not Aptitude

Foap is an app that will help you earn a little extra $$ from all those pictures you take with your phone

Rebecca shares a great site for getting game templates to use in your classroom

Matt thinks that when dealing with technology its easy to have a condescending attitude

The first in a series about student response systems, we learn about GoSoapbox

Jay shared how he set up an Island of Communication, Collaboration and Creation at his school

Lou shares how If This Then That helps can make you a better participant of the Internet

Another first in a series, we go in depth with Google Drive and learn more about the awesome research  tool.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

If This Then That, or How IFTTT Changed my Life

Today we have another guest post.  Lou Plummer is the Mac/iOS specialist for a school district in NC. In the early 90s he helped Al Gore invent the Internet. Lou does not know how to turn on any computer running Microsoft Windows.

We don't just read on the Internet today. We participate in the Internet. We use it to store data, to interact with our friends and family, to tell the world what we're doing, to inform us, and every day there is an opportunity to discover some service we didn't know existed. The variety of opportunities available create one big problem. How do we tie all of this together? How do we keep a record of our tweets, our Facebook posts and our Foursquare check ins? How do we keep track of our photos and our documents? Are our documents on Google Drive or Dropbox? Are our photos on Flickr or somewhere else? What in the world would we do if one of these services suddenly and spectacularly went out of business with our stuff lost forever?

The answer is simple and it's free. It's easy-to-use, requires no highly technical skills and certainly doesn't require any programming ability. Allow me to introduce If This This Then That ( where, using set it and forget it rules, users can tie social networking sites together, back up data between cloud storage sites and have information brought to them via email and SMS messages.

IFTTT (If This Then That) has a library of what it calls recipes to make things simple for users. Here are some recipes I use:

1. If I post a picture on Instagram, the picture is also Tweeted to my Twitter account.
2. If I take a picture with my iPhone, it automatically backs up to
3. If I use a certain label on a message in Gmail, a note with the contents of that message is created in Evernote.
4. Every time I post to Facebook, the contents of my post are appended to a note in Evernote.
5. If I leave a reminder for myself through IFTTT, I get a text every Thursday morning telling me to put my trash cans by the road.

The number of IFTTT channels (calls the variety of web and information services it ties together) currently exceeds 50 with more being added on a regular basis. In addition to the channels already mentioned some popular sites include: Craigslist, Etsy, ESPN, The New York Times, Tumbler, LinkedIn and on and on.

You may find yourself investigating new web services just to take advantage of IFTTT's capabilities.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Island of Communication, Collaboration, and Creation (IC3)

In this post I want to talk about a project I am in the process of implementing in our media center. I call it the island of communication, collaboration, and creation (IC3). I discussed this idea with the media coordinator and I asked her if it would be okay to take a section of the library and put a large hexagon table where four to five computers would be placed and used for the sole purpose of collaboration and creation. Not only did I want this spot to be a central location for students to create and collaborate but I also wanted it to be a social hub, a place where students can see other students working in what I like to call A real-world environment. I want students to be curious about what other students are creating. The key word being “CREATING”. This area is also home to our small TV studio, complete with video cameras, lighting, and green screen. Students and teachers are welcome to use this area with the understanding that it must be used for projects where students invent, innovate, deconstruct, reconstruct, and the projects should encourage collaboration between students and or between students and teachers. 

The first group to use the island worked on a project that included lessons in social studies, math, science, reading, as well as digital skills. The students were using language that consisted of vocabulary like: (what if) (my design) (lets think about this) (i don’t think that will work) (hey wait a minute lets try this) (wow I never knew that). I stood by and facilitated and offered support when needed and more than an hour passed by in a flash. The students asked if they had to stop, would they be able to come back and continue tomorrow? IMAGINE if this was what learning was like all the time. So far I am pleased with the space we have created. Hope this inspires all to THINK DIFFERENT and to BE FEARLESS!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Condescending Attitude with Technology

Well first I want to apologize for not having another post specifically about technology, I know most of you are not coming for my opinions, but I just wanted to get something off my chest.  Technology still makes a lot of people afraid (but mainly adults).  It is for this reason that if you are able to manipulate technology well then, you may intimidate others.  However, those who do will with technology often have a condescending attitude to those who don't.  Now I will be the first to admit that I am as guilty of this as the next person.  Some of it is me, some of it is the people I am trying to help.  But, what I do know is that it needs to stop.

Technology needs to be a great equalizer, not a divergent force.  I had the pleasure a few days ago of sitting through a presentation from someone who thought they were doing a great job, but in reality taught me nothing.  He clearly was not prepare, but that didn't bother him, he thought he was showing us these amazing apps.  He wasn't, there wasn't anything new, just the same old hits.

But this got me thinking, and I know that at times I can come across the same way.  I don't mean to, and know it happens more when I am in a rush, trying to get 101 things done in my spare 15 minutes.  But that is no excuse.  I will have to try hard to make sure I am not coming across as a condescending jerk face.  As you continue you tech ninja training, try and be aware of how you come across to other.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Tech Ninja Blog is Expanding

Besides writing this blog, both Jay and I are full time technology facilitators.  While we use technology all day, we don't always have a chance to try out some of the new websites and apps with a class full of students.  Because of this, if we have a new resource we will explain it to a teacher and have them try it out with their class.  Now we have a working knowledge of the site or app, but we can't always explain it as fully or know the ins and outs of how it works.  We know that this is the information that you need, so we will be having some guest bloggers write post about technologies that they are using in their classrooms.  We hope that we will be able to share the details that you need to know to make sure that you are successful in integrating these technologies in your classroom.  Rebecca started us off today talking about some wonderful Educational Game Templates.  We hope you like this and if you think you have something you want to share, leave a comment or contact us through twitter or Facebook and we will see what we can do.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ed Games

My name is Rebecca Thomas. I have been teaching for 5 years. I had a wonderful opportunity to attend the NCTIES Technology Conference and Jay and Matt asked me to share  with you….

      Okay, let’s face it. Educators of any kind are extremely busy wearing many different hats and completing various tasks. One hat is to create a fun, engaging classroom that involves technology!  Well, to create this type of atmosphere, educators need great resources/ tools!  I have a great resource tool just for you! This resource tool comes from an amazing professor, Dr. Jeff Ertzberger from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Located at you will find numerous, simple but sophisticated game templates. All the game templates are created using PowerPoint, Excel, or Word. The website states that the templates save time, are of high quality, there is no copyright, and we all love games! Some templates you have to “pre-create” while other templates you can use “on the go.” 

The game templates range from “Big Board Facts” (Jeopardy) to “Sunken Treasure” (Battleship). The BINGO cards really caught my attention because it is set up in Excel, you type in one card the terms/numbers you would like to use, and then hit the Shuffle button to generate an entire set of BINGO cards! Ta-Da! I also liked “What’s Behind the Box?” because you would not have to create a game. The questions would be right in your hand and if a student gets the answer correct then they can click on a piece of the box until a picture is revealed. There are so many different templates you will not have a problem finding something to meet the needs of your students! I can “see” them right now being very engaged in your lesson because you chose to utilize a game template! Try it out!


Two questions for you, How many of you would like an extra $5. How many of you have pictures that you have taken on your phone or ipad?  Foap offers smartphone users a chance to earn money from the photos that they have taken.  The creates of Foap were disappointed at the quantity and quality of stock photos that are available so they created a marketplace that would incorporate the millions of photos that are taken everyday.  Best of all, the photographer can sell the same photo over and over again.  Which means you don’t lose your copyright when your photos are sold on Foap. Buyers get non-exclusive rights to your photos, which essentially means that after the sale you can keep using them in any way you want. 

Here’s how it works: Download Foap for free. After the signup you start uploading photos from your phone you would like to sell, tagging them (the better you tag them the more likey that they will be discovered in the marketplace), Foap will first have to approve your photos. Those that make it through are put on the market, which is viewable through your own Foap profile page on the Web or via the app. All photos are priced at $10; Foap gets $5, you get $5.

Right now Foap does not have the quickest upload process, so don't go thinking you are going to flood the market with your pictures.  Also your photos need to be reviewed by 5 Foap users and average at least a 2 star (out of 50 rating to be put into the market place.  There is a catch to get five people to rate your photos, you must rate five photos for each photo that you upload.  

Interesting concepts, I am not much a photographer (ask my wife), but it seems like a pretty easy way to earn a little extra cash, especially if you hit it big with a really money maker.  I have also heard of companies paying more for photos if they are using them in a variety of ways.  So check out Foap, you might just be very glad that you did.  

Attitude Not Aptitude

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude” ― Zig Ziglar
Original quote

 I have always enjoyed this particular quote. I liked it so much, a started a blog based on it. That blog has long since vanished from the internet, but I still am drawn to the quote. One of the reasons “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude” resonates with me so much is that it is one of the few things that we have control over, either in our lives or our classrooms. We can not control what others will do and we can not change what we have done in the past, but we can change our attitude. As Yogi Berra would have said, life is twenty five percent of what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it.

 When I work with teachers, I see this happen all the time. many have the attitude that the technology will not work and any little hiccup will send them in a tailspin of failure. Why does the technology just seem to work when I walk into the room? It has to do with my attitude, I believe that the technology will work and even if it doesn't I believe that I can make it. I don't have a magic tech ninja touch, but I do have a positive attitude. I believe that technology can enhance your teaching and student learning. I know it can lead to distractions, but the good out weighs the bad by a lot. So when you are working with other or even working by yourself, make sure you keep a positive attitude, it will do you more good than you might think.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I remember seeing Symbaloo at a conference and thinking to myself that it was just another bookmarking solution.  After revisiting the site several months later I realized that it was much more.  I really like the visual appeal of Symbaloo because I am a very visual person.  Symbaloo lets the user arrange and organize not only bookmarks but links as well. It does this with a TILE system which makes it incredibly easy to locate what you are looking for. You can create multiple pages of what Symbaloo call web mixes. A web mix can be customized and shared within a public gallery or shared privately. I created a web mix of the most frequented sites by the Teachers at my school and made it available to them.  Check out the screen shot.

 I also like that you can determine what application goes in the middle box of the web mix. There are Teachers at my school who create unit specific web mixes and share then with the students. This helps to insure that time on the computer is more focused. You can also put links to quizzes made from google forms as well as links to videos. The interface is very user friendly and clean (not a bunch of blinky things).  So give Symbaloo a try if you haven't already it really is a great way to organize the places you visit most.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy Numbers

How do you guys feel about sponsored posts on Twitter?  Most times I find them very annoying or irrelevant to what I am interested in, but a couple of nights ago, they really hit the mark.  What was the post?  Happy Numbers, and what got me hooked was the base ten number blocks.  Before I get too far ahead of myself, happy numbers is free to sign up for.  I saw on some pages that it said trial, and on others it didn't, so I don't know if they will charge in the future, but for right now you are good.  You then create a class and add students.  When adding students you only have to add their first names.  They you will be assigned a class number, which students will need to type in when logging in, they then have a password (which in my case was a two digit number.  Simple log in process.  There are number sense activities that need to be completed for you to go on to the next step.
     You are able to preview each of the activities as a student before you assign it to the class.  Now this works great on a laptop, it also works on the Ipad, and if you have a whiteboard it would be a wonderful activity.  However, it is skewed towards younger aged children, I would say maybe to the beginning of third grade, and that would be pushing it.  They say on the site that multiplication is coming soon, and I hope that they continue to update the site.  Overall it worth a look at and would be a great center activity in the classroom.

Don’t forget that besides from just following the blog you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @Tech_Ninja_Blog  and now subscribe to our YouTube channel

30 seconds, it's a short amount of time that can feel like forever. is a online application that allows you to record your voice or any other sound in thirty second clips.  It then posts them online.  You can create a free account or just use it as a guest.  You can have students read a story they wrote, read a story and check for fluency later on.  Now you may have to be careful with what you just pull up in your classroom, because the homepage has lots of random goodness.  Sometimes you get stuff like So you never know what might show up.  But its quick, easy and can be anonymous, so it would be fine for students to use.  It's avvailable for the computer, IOS, or android. Check it out.

Don’t forget that besides from just following the blog you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @Tech_Ninja_Blog  and now subscribe to our YouTube channel

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Well it is about time!

Hello folks sorry I have not posted in such a long time but I have been busy busy.  My favorite time of the year is almost upon us and that is the NCTIES conference. I really like this conference because it gives the opportunity for geeks like myself to see whats new in educational technology and to collaborate with others who share the same passion for technology. I am really looking forward to see what is new.  I feel like technology has reached a saturation point and it will be interesting to see the new as well as remixes of current and old applications. In any case I am pumped up and ready to go! OH YEAH Matt and I along with some of our friends will be sporting some killer Tech Ninja Tshirts! So if you happen to be at the NCTIES and you see us give us a thumbs up!

Don’t forget that besides from just following the blog you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @Tech_Ninja_Blog  and now subscribe to our YouTube channel