Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Faster Web Experience with Disconnect

Hello fellow Tech Ninjas! I have a very unique job that really gives me the opportunity to learn something new almost everyday.  Did you know that when you go to some websites that there are invisible websites that track your search and browsing history? Well I didn't.  When I learned about this my friend, Tech Jedi, Lou Plummer told me about the chrome extension Disconnect.  It boost speed, encrypts data shared with other sites, and stops tracking by third party sites.  It is an open source pay what you want software. I think the minimum is 10 dollars and as an added bonus part of your payment goes to a charity and you decide how much of your payment goes to charity.  I have been using Disconnect for several weeks now and pages do seem to load faster. So if you want a faster more secure web experience give Disconnect a try!  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Look Back: Ninja Focus on Soundcloud

We have been asked by several followers of the The Tech Ninja Blog  to share some of our favorite tools.  We thought that we would share some of our early posts about the tools and why we like them.  You can link to the original post by clicking here.

Pic from

Hello my fellow technology ninjas and gadget Samurais, I wanted to tell you about a website I came across called SoundCloud.  It is a site where you can create, upload, share, and follow sound.  I signed up for the free account which will give you a limit to the amount of sounds you can upload.  I think it provides an easy way to make your music, podcast, or audio bites public.  It provides you with some cool statistics about your uploads like the number of plays per day and where in the world your uploads are being played. When I clicked on the explore tab a list of music genre appeared along with some other subjects like business, technology, comedy, and books just to name a few.  If you have the dollars to do so you can opt to go for the upgraded paid version SoundCloud Pro and Pro Unlimited. This of course gives you more upload space and access to some other features that I have not looked into yet, but will.  I am not sure of the price because it advertises the price in Euros (I think).  Anyway,  I just started looking into this site and as I learn more about it I will post my discoveries.  Here is a sample of one of my uploads. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Look Back: Camel Camel Camel

We have been asked by several followers of the The Tech Ninja Blog  to share some of our favorite tools.  We thought that we would share some of our early posts about the tools and why we like them.  You can link to the original post by clicking here.

Picture by Johnny Automactic

             So I love buying new tech gadgets and accessories.  I have more bins of wire and cable than some people have clothes.  Yet, I am a teacher, so I am always looking for a good deal.  One of my favorite places to shop, .  Now on many things Amazon has a great everyday price and there is no hesitation about buying what I need.  But if I have seen what I am look for on sale for a lower price in the past, I always hesitate about buying.  I’m not only a tech ninja, but a thrifty ninja as well.
            So that’s where comes into play.  It is an Amazon price tracker.  You just put in the URL for the Amazon product that you want, and then you can see the price history with the date of the highest price and lowest price.  The coolest part, you can set an alert to you are notified when the item you want hits your target price.  Never miss out on a good deal again. 
            Now I may not know why its called CamelCamelCamel, but then I just call it awesome.  Don’t forget that besides from just following the blog you can like us on Facebook 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Look Back: ThingLink

We have been asked by several followers of the The Tech Ninja Blog  to share some of our favorite tools.  We thought that we would share some of our early posts about the tools and why we like them.  You can link to the original post by clicking here.

The next awesome online application I want to post about is called ThingLink.  The following description is from their website, "ThingLink interactive images help students develop 21st century skills and enrich their enthusiasm for learning. Teachers can use ThingLink images as interactive learning modules (ILMs) that activate and inspire students with creative and effective learning experiences. Our Basic (free) account provides teachers and students with the ability to store and tag 50 images at" I was told about ThingLink by a friend of mine that also happens to be an awesome 2nd grade Teacher.  She did a project with her class on the life cycle of eggs and chicks.  The students created a presentation image using Google Draw and then used ThingLink to link sections of the image to informational sites about the life cycle.  If you want to find out more about her lesson using  ThingLink just visit her blog at or hear one of her students talk about it at  

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Look Back: Google Draw

We have been asked by several followers of the The Tech Ninja Blog  to share some of our favorite tools.  We thought that we would share some of our early posts about the tools and why we like them.  You can link to the original post by clicking here.

Greetings fellow techno geeks!  I want to talk a little about Google Draw and how it may be one of the most under utilized features in Google Drive.  The Google Draw application is really user friendly which makes it perfect for K-2 students to use for instruction.  I have already collaborated with several teachers on projects where students use this application to illustrate stories, work math problems, create tessellations, and learn shapes.  The shape tool gives you a drop down menue of shapes that include their geometric title when you hover over them with the mouse.  Shapes can be resized and rotated within the picture plane.   I thought that this would be a great tool for teaching Geometric shapes and angles.  When shapes are rotated a display shows you the degree of the angle that it is rotated.  Another feature I thought was helpful is the scribble line.  This feature allows you simply to use the mouse or track pad to free draw lines and shapes into the picture plane.  Students used this to demonstrate to their teacher how to solve a three digit addition problem and then shared it with her via the share feature within Google Drive.  If you haven't checked out Google Draw go ahead and give it a try.  I think you will find that it can add a little creative spice to your instruction!

Quilt Project Created With Google Draw

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Look Back: Vocaroo

We have been asked by several followers of the The Tech Ninja Blog  to share some of our favorite tools.  We thought that we would share some of our early posts about the tools and why we like them.  You can link to the original post by clicking here.

So Jay let me know about this cool website,  It lets you record your voice ( or anything else for that matter) and then creates an URL to an MP3 of the recording.  He had a teacher at his school using it for a biography project, he had a picture of the person the students were researching an then used the Vocaroo url to create a QR code, then put the QR code over the mouth of the person.  Then when you scan the QR code the student explains all about their person in their own voice.
     I LOVE this idea and I would almost say that any piece of student work that is out in the hallway or even hanging up in the room should have a QR code that explains about that project.  Now I know everyone might not be that extreme about it, but I am interested in the possibilities and see that as a better way to use QR codes them some of the other-ways that I see them being used.
     Now what about if you are not a teacher, you have a child that you have to be away from, you could create a Vocaroo for each page of a book, turn it into a qr code and paste it into the corner of each page, then your child could listen to you reading the book to them even if you are not there.  Just some ideas and I am sure more will pop up.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Heart Bleed: What is it and How to Avoid a Broken Heart

Millions of passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information may be at risk as a result of a major breakdown in Internet security revealed earlier this week.  The damage caused by the “Heartbleed” bug (note this is not a virus and normal security software will not catch it) is currently unknown. There isn’t much that people can do to protect themselves until the affected websites implement a fix.

What is the Heartbleed bug?

Heartbleed is a flaw in OpenSSL, the open-source encryption standard used by the majority of websites that need to transmit the data that users want to keep secure. It basically gives you a secure line when you're sending an email or chatting on IM.

Encryption works by making it so that data being sent looks like nonsense to anyone but the intended recipient.  Occasionally, one computer might want to check that there's still a computer at the end of its secure connection, and it will send out what's known as a heartbeat, a small packet of data that asks for a response. 

Because of a programming error in the implementation of OpenSSL, the researchers found that it was possible to send a well-disguised packet of data that looked like one of these heartbeats to trick the computer at the other end into sending data stored in its memory.

According to the researchers who discovered the flaw, the security hole exists on a vast number of the Internet’s Web servers and went undetected for more than two years. While it’s conceivable that the flaw was never discovered by hackers, it’s nearly impossible to tell.

Q: Am I safe now that it's been identified?

A: It depends on the website. A fixed version of OpenSSL has been released, but it’s up to the individual website administrators to put it into place.  Yahoo Inc., which has more than 800 million users around the world, said Tuesday that most of its popular services — including sports, finance and Tumblr — had been fixed, but work was still being done on other products that it didn’t identify.

Q: So what can I do to protect myself?

A: Ultimately, you’ll need to change your passwords, but that won’t do any good until the sites you use adopt the fix. It’s also up to the Internet services affected by the bug to let users know of the potential risks and encourage them to change their passwords.  Mashable has list some of the most popular websites and tells if they were affected and if they have patched their site yet.

Now you are able to check to see if the websites that you use that have been patched.  You can go to and paste in the link for the website you want to test.  I wouldn't test the homepage of the site, but rather the login in page.

Tips for changing passwords

Don’t fall for “phishing” attacks: Be very careful before clicking on a link (even if it appears to be from a legitimate site) asking you to log in, change your password or provide any other personal information. It might be legit or it might be a “phishing” scam where the information you enter goes to a hacker. When in doubt, log on manually by typing what you know to be the site’s URL into your browser window.

Never give out your password to anyone (except your parents). Never give it to friends, even if they’re really good friends. A friend can – accidentally, we hope – pass your password along to others or even become an ex-friend and abuse it.

Don’t just use one password. It’s possible that someone working at a site where you use that password could pass it on or use it to break into your accounts at other sites.

Create passwords that are easy to remember but hard for others to guess. When possible, use a phrase such as “I started 7th grade at Lincoln Middle School in 2004” and use the initial of each word like this: “Is7gaLMSi2004.”

Make the password at least 8 characters long. The longer the better. Longer passwords are harder for thieves to crack.

Include numbers, capital letters and symbols. Consider using a $ instead of an S or a 1 instead of an L, or including an & or % – but note that $1ngle is NOT a good password. Password thieves are onto this. But Mf$1avng (short for “My friend Sam is a very nice guy) is an excellent password.

Don’t use dictionary words:  If it’s in the dictionary, there is a chance someone will guess it. There’s even software that criminals use that can guess words used in dictionaries.

Don’t post it in plain sight: This might seem obvious but studies have found that a lot of people post their password on their monitor with a sticky note. Bad idea.  If you must write it down, hide the note somewhere where no one can find it.

Consider using a password manager: Programs or Web services like RoboForm (Windows only) or Lastpass (Windows and Mac) let you create a different very strong password for each of your sites. But you only have to remember the one password to access the program or secure site that stores your passwords for you.

Make sure your computer is secure: The best password in the world might not do you any good if someone is looking over your shoulder while you type or if you forget to log out on a cybercafe computer. Malicious software, including “keyboard loggers” that record all of your keystrokes, has been used to steal passwords and other information. To increase security, make sure you’re using up-to-date anti-malware software and that your operating system is up-to-date.

So what do the Tech Ninja's recommend?

  1. First follow the Tech Ninja Blog 
  2. Make a list of the websites that you use that use a password (and group them together if you use the same password)
  3. Do a Google search to see if the websites have been patched from Heart Bleed
  4. Check and see if any websites were you store personal or financial information is safe.
  5. Change your passwords to a secure, unique password.  Check out our post on Last Pass to see why this would be such a great resource to use.  LastPass will not only alert you to which sites are vulnerable, but also tell you the last time you updated your password for the site, when that site last updated their certificates and what action we recommend taking at this time.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tech Ninja Roundup

Want a way to keep your online passwords in order?  Try Last Pass which is easier to use than find out Ryan Gosling's phone #

We discuss that Facebook's purchase of Oculus VR means for the future of both companies

If you are stuck using a PC and are looking for a fast way to install programs try Ninite

Jay talks about how to become a tech ninja you need to Transform into a producer rather than a consumer of technology

Learn about some great 3D & 4D apps for you to expand your dimensions

Friday, April 4, 2014

Going 3D and 4D in Education

One of the greatest sessions that I attended at the NCTIES conference this year had to do with using 3D and 4D technology.  Through the use of certain apps, students can make their pictures, elements, and studies of the brain and anatomy more engaging and fun.  Here are some of the apps that were shared:

colAR is an app that allows kids to color one of their coloring sheets and then use the app to make it come alive.  You get three color sheets with the free app and can purchase other page packets for $2.99.  This app can be a huge motivator for writing and covering such skills as details in writing and making predictions.  To view a demonstration of this app in action, go to .

Elements 4D by DAQRI is a science teacher's dream!  By going to their website and printing out the pages to make element cubes, you begin to make learning the Periodic Table much more interesting.  After making the paper cubes and downloading the free app, you simply point your device at the block face of the element that you want to view.  Magically, the block becomes transparent and you are looking at the element!  It gets really exciting when you combine two elements by pushing two blocks together.  That's when you will see the reaction of the two chemicals and the chemical make-up.  Science teachers or anyone who is interested can also purchase the wooden version of the blocks.

goREACT is another app that shows the reaction of different elements.  In this one, there is no need to print anything.  When you turn on the app you will see a periodic table.  You simply drag and drop the elements to make combinations and the app shows you what that reaction is.  It also has a featured reaction section that shows the chemical makeup of things in nature, around the house, and more.

The Brain AR Anatomy and Anatomy 4D offer an inside look to the human body.  You can remove layers, view multiple layers or just one, and move the animation around to take different views.  Students can get close up views of such things as the respiratory, circulatory, skeletal, muscular, nervous, as well as other systems in the human body.  These apps are free but do require a free printout for it to work.  To get a view of how The Brain app works click here:

I hope you enjoy the 3D and 4D world of apps!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ok today I want to talk about a moment of transformation. I work with great Teachers but not all of them have reached what I call the "TRANSFORMATION"stage.  What I am speaking of is the transformation of a teacher who goes from waiting for someone to show them ways to use technology to a teacher who is creating ways to use technology. I work with great third grade teachers. One in particular has recently become a creator instead of a consumer in terms of how she views and uses technology. The best part is that she is excited about teaching again and her students are excited to participate in every new lesson. She is combining applications in innovative ways to create meaningful, challenging, and engaging lessons. This is what I hope will happen to all teachers sooner than later. In the past this teacher was satisfied waiting for instructional technology that was delivered in staff development and or attached in emails (and there is a need for that but why are teachers waiting?). Now she no longer waits for technology to come to her but actively seeks it out. I have watched her classroom environment change and other teachers have begun to take notice as well. So I want to congratulate all those who have strived to evolve to a new level of instruction and who truly embrace The Tech Ninja motto to BE FEARLESS!