Several years ago, I found an amazing PowerPoint presentation online and immediately, exuberantly and shamelessly stole it.

It was a template for a round of Jeopardy that could be customized with any topics, questions, pictures, sounds, etc..

It worked so well that I started using it to review with my classes before all major exams. (This one on the left is to review before our Geography Final Exam. The category "Cute Boys, Hot Girls", by the way, deals mostly with Hummel figurines and saunas. It's never too early to introduce teenagers to the concept of Bait and Switch.)

This tool was so cool that over time, I tended to show it off to any teacher who would stand still long enough for me to shove my laptop in their face. Almost everyone's response (after, "Hey! Get that laptop out of my face!") was "Wow! Where can I get that?"

Unfortunately, I was somehow never able to find it online again. I went under the assumption that Viacom's lawyers had had the website taken down or something, so I generally passed on my copy of the basic template to other teachers on disk.


Jump ahead several years:

Lately, I've been enthusiastically right-clicking all sorts of images and choosing the "Properties" icon.

A few days ago, I had the WAYYYYY-overdue brainstorm of doing this to my Jeopardy PowerPoint template.


Yup.

There it was under "Authors". This PowerPoint was designed by a guy named Matt Hamlyn and was worked on by some guy named John...

Oh, wait - that's me.

Anyway, I googled "Matt Hamlyn" and the first search result to come up said, "If you're looking for the Jeopardy PowerPoint, go to this link..."

"Doh!"

Anyway, if you'd like to download a very cool tool for your classroom, please go to Matt Hamlyn's website at:

http://staff.fcps.net/mhamlyn/ppt.htm

I'll be over in the corner trying to figure out how doorknobs work and other hard stuff like that.


 
 

It took me a year or so to figure this one out. (Sometimes I'm blinded by the intensity of my cluelessness...)

If you listen to podcasts long enough, sooner or later, you'll find one that you could really use in the classroom. Here's how:

 

In iTunes, click the listing for the podcast you want to save.

Either press the "Delete"key in the upper-right corner of your keyboard, or right-click the listing and select "Delete".




 

You will be presented with three choices. Choose "Move to Recycle Bin".




Double-click on the "Recycle Bin" icon on your desktop and there it will be! Now just click and drag it to whatever file you want to store it in or cut-and-paste it there.

Now you can edit it with Audacity or your favorite sound editor.

Yay, you!


 
 

So how in the WORLD can eBay make you a more effective teacher?

Okay, granted - you can find and bid on cool stuff on eBay that would be useful in the classroom. In the past, I've bought African masks for geography lessons, raw cotton bolls from a farm in Virginia to teach a lesson about the Cotton Gin and thousands of little golf pencils to use as emergency replacements when 8th graders "forget" their own and want to visit their lockers.

That's not what we're talking about today.

As it turns out, eBay is a tremendous source of historical images. A hundred years or so ago, photography was a new and trendy hobby. Personal cameras were incredibly popular! Everyone who could afford one bought a camera and started snapping everything in sight, then started subjecting their family and friends to endless slide shows and prints of shots they'd taken:

"Hey Stanley! You've GOT to see these pictures I took of my Model T! And here's another one! And ANOTHER one!!"

If you were one of these turn-of-the-century camera nuts, one of the best ways to subject the world to your photography was to have one of your pictures printed as a postcard. It was relatively cheap and postage was only a penny or so - not much even at the time.

Over time, fewer and fewer private people had their own postcards printed, but businesses and institutions continued to do it in really silly numbers.

Well, now it's a hundred years later and these postcards are collectible, but - and here's the key - not TOO collectible! So there are zillions of them for sale fairly cheaply on eBay.


Let's say you wanted to find pictures of Concord back before it was the scary, booming metropolis that it is today. All you would need to do is type, "Concord, NH" in the search box and let eBay do its thing.

Here are some of the images that came up the day I wrote this:


 

 

A postcard of St. Paul's School, circa 1910




 



 

Louis' Diner

(Where the Elite Meet To Eat?)






 

 

The State House in the 1940s




 

 



The Old Hampshire Steak House 

Presumably this was taken in the late 60s or early 70s.

Concord was a swinging place!

(If you liked steak.)




Most of these postcards aren't terribly valuable to the average person, so they are usually not very expensive, but even if you don't decide to buy one, it is really easy to copy one of these pictures for your own use. (Don't try to publish it or sell it for money and you are probably covered, copyright-wise.)

Just right-click the photo you want to save, then select the "Save Picture As..." option.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I suddenly feel like steak for lunch...

 
 

Geek Alert! - Warning: This post is pretty tech-geeky (unless you actually know something about computers, in which case, you'll wonder why I'm making such a big deal out of something so simple...)

I teach a Computer Applications class to 7th and 8th graders as an IA. It is a half-year class. For the first marking period of the class, the students do a lot of exploration and learn a bit about doing internet searches, editing photos and sounds, using PowerPoint, word-processing and other basic computer applications. For the second half of the course, I have each student choose a topic, then build a project that includes aspects of everything he or she has learned over the course so far. This generally means a PowerPoint that showcases other types of work.

One of my 8th graders is fascinated by a one-celled organism called euglena. This particular student is extremely tech-savvy and enthusiastic. (He knows much more than I do about many computer applications.) While searching online, he found a website with a short movie featuring these one-celled organisms. He really wanted to include this movie in his PowerPoint. (I don't have a problem with that, as long as he cites his source - he's not going to try to make money with this or anything.)

Unfortunately, this was easier said than done:


The website simply has a window that shows the movie. When you go there, a box appears in the middle of the screen and a moment later, there is a short movie running there. There aren't any options for downloading the video.

I addressed this in a typically over-elaborate and complicated way. There is a command called "View Source" that allows you to read the computer code that a webpage is written in. (See the picture on the right.) By reading the code, this student and I found out the actual filename of the video, then used Zamzar to convert and download it. (See previous post for information on Zamzar.)

It was only later, that I realized there was a simpler way of doing this.


I could have just right-clicked.

On the any pc-type computer mouse, there are usually two buttons. the "left-click" button that you almost always use with your index finger and the mysterious, almost threatening button on the right that most computer users never use and try to avoid because it confuses them.

The right click is your secret best friend.

Clicking anything with that right-hand button will open up a window of options in any given situation that you never dreamed about.

Including, in this case, the option to just download the darn video without having to search through all that code.


(As it turns out, though, this particular movie is a Quicktime movie - meaning that it is Apple-based. PowerPoint is PC-based and the two don't get along. I would have still needed to use Zamzar to convert the Quicktime movie (.mov) to a format more suitable for PowerPoint (.mpg). Did I just make your eyes glaze over? I'm really, really sorry. I'll try not to do that again.)

Once I had actually downloaded the euglena video though, there was a second problem - it was an insanely large file. Yes, the video was "short" compared to Citizen Kane or something, but it was over nine minutes long and really, really huge - 26 megabites: way too big to fit easily into a PowerPoint presentation.

There had to be another way of finding euglena video footage that was a little more user friendly.

As it turns out, there was. Is. Er... whatever...

On a whim, I looked up the word "Euglena" on YouTube. "What are the odds," I asked myself, "that anyone would be geeky enough to actually post footage of a single-celled animal-like alga on YouTube?"*

As it turns out, quite a few. My student and I are somewhat spoiled for choice vis-avis euglenic video footage.

So I guess the main lesson to be learned from all this is, K.I.S.S. - "Keep It Simple, Student". Or Teacher. Er...whatever...


* When I asked my wife this question, she pointed out, "You would."

Sadly, she's right.