How to Extend an Electrical Panel

How to Extend an Electrical Panel

An electrical panel can be extended by installing a secondary or sub-panel to expand the electrical services of the main panel without overloading the circuits. Sub-panels come in a variety of sizes, allowing you to add as many as 20 breakers that will be supplied with 220 volts of current. Because high electrical current is involved, safety precautions should be followed, and you should not complete this project unless you have electrical experience.

Prepare the Electrical Panel

Ask your local utility company to shut off the power to the main service panel from the street.

Find the exact location that you plan on installing the sub-panel. Use a measuring tape to find the location 48 inches above the wall and place a mark with a pencil on the closest wall stud.

Create a 3/4-inch opening in the top plate of the wall’s 2-by-4 with a drill so the electrical cable can go into the attic and be fed to the main panel.

Hold the bottom of the sub-panel against the mark you drew on the stud and position the panel box between the wall studs. Secure the panel box to the wall by inserting the screws into the holes.

Shut off the power for the main power panel. Flip the breaker labeled “main breaker” so it is in the “off” position. Remove the screws holding the front panel with a screwdriver.

Set the voltage tester leads on the terminals on the main power line, where it goes into the main panel from outside. If the lights do not come on, then the power is completely off.

Installing the Electrical Panel

Push the electrical tape into the hole in the sub-panel and through the openings in the top plate in the wall and into the attic. Feed the tape into the attic and over the wiring in the main panel. Insert the tape into the hole in the main panel.

Connect one end of the electrical wire to one end end of the fish tape with electrical tape. Ask a helper to feed the cable to you. Pull it through the openings and into the sub-panel; use the fish tape to guide you.

Slowly feed about 1.5 feet of the cable into the sub-panel and remove the electrical fish tape. Measure out about 1.5 feet of cable for the main panel; use lineman’s cutters to remove any excess.

Trim 10 inches of insulation with a utility knife from each end of the cable, which will reveal three wires and copper ground wire. Remove 1 inch of insulation from each end of the insulated wires.Attach the wiring in the main service panel to an unused 220-volt circuit breaker. Push bare ends of the black and red wires beneath the screws on the breaker and tighten them. Position the bare end of the white wire beneath the screw on the neutral bus strip and tighten it. Secure the screw on the bare copper ground wire on the ground strip at the base of the panel.Secure the wiring in the sub-panel to the main breaker. Position the stripped ends of the black and red wires beneath each screw in the breaker and secure the screws by tightening them. Feed the end of the white wire beneath a screw on the neutral bus strip and the bare copper wire beneath a screw on the ground strip. Secure and tighten the screws.

Tighten the screws to secure the main panel with a screwdriver.

Call the utility company and ask them to turn the power back on from the street. Turn the main breakers to the main service panel and sub-panel so they are on.


  • Enlist the help of an assistant to feed or pull the electrical cable so kinks do not form and damage the wiring installation process.
  • You should consult your local municipality on any local building codes to see whether you need any permits before beginning the project or are required to have the work inspected after it is completed.
  • Always make sure the power has been turned off before you begin working to prevent contact with high voltage, which could result in serious injury or death.

How to Make an Electric Remote Control Airplane

How to Make an Electric Remote Control Airplane

Flying RC plane is one the most exciting activities for kids and adults alike. Building RC planes can be a great hobby. The satisfaction you get from flying a creation of your own cannot be described. It is the outcome of your time and effort in the form of a truly beautiful RC plane. Such projects are great as a family activity or even to pass time during holidays. You may even join other RC plane enthusiasts and enjoy flying your plane or maybe join a club and participate in contests.

Supplies for the Electric Remote Control Airplane

Make the electric airplane by first gathering the following supplies: RC airplane kit, screws, screwdriver, glue, safety glasses, plastic containers, and wiring tools

Purchase an RC Airplane Kit

Buy a RC plane kit that fits the builder’s budget as well as meets the builder’s skill level. Each RC plane box has a skill level indicator on the package. A level 1 requires less skill than a higher number. The skill level is often determined by how the plane fits together. For example, a novice or young child might enjoy starting out with a snap together model. In these types, glue is avoided. There are also fewer parts in the beginner levels. As the planes progress in the skill level required, they increase in the number of parts to assemble and how they are assembled. Some kits have decals and are prepainted. More complex kits require the builder to paint and decorate the plane.

Building an Electric Airplane

Clear up enough space in your basement or the garage. There should be ample amount of space to work as well as store your plane so that it is safe from damage due to weather. This will also keep it safe from young children waiting to get their hands on it. Make sure the place you pick is dry and warm. It should also be well organized and tidy in order to have the most enjoyment while working on your project.

Gather all the equipment, materials and tools needed to assemble the RC plane. Organize them in the place of work. Decide a place around the work area where you will store the tools and the kit till the project is over. Organize all the tools such as glue, safety glasses, wire strippers, pliers and sandpaper so that they are within your reach as you work on your plane.

Inspect the Remote Control Plane Parts

Check all the pieces from the model kit and logically place them in the work area. For instance, place the propeller and its pieces as one pile, wheels and associated pieces as one pile, and so on. Keep them in separate plastic containers to ensure they do not get mixed up. This will also ensure that you do not lose any important pieces as you assemble your plane, thus saving money that would go into replacing the lost parts.

Read carefully through all the instructions given in the manual. Follow every step diligently as you begin working on your homemade RC plane. The step-by-step instructions given in the user manual help assemble all the pieces, including the motor and electronics, correctly.

Begin Construction on the RC Model Airplane

Smooth out the rough surfaces using sandpaper. Look out chips in the body of the plane as you assemble the pieces. Use sandpaper to smoothen these. If the model is unpainted, pain it in an attractive color. Let out your creative genius and come up with a unique design to paint your plane.

Take your airplane for a test spin. Make sure all of the pieces have been fixed tightly. Look out for any loose parts. Ensure that all the parts are working properly. In case the plane is not working properly, check the instructions manual for troubleshooting solutions.


PowerPoint and Lectures: Giving Effective Presentations to High School and College Students

PowerPoint and Lectures: Giving Effective Presentations to High School and College Students

PowerPoint can be as dry as a monotone lecture or as entertaining as an animated teacher. There are ways to make a typically boring lecture more exciting.

PowerPoint is more than a relief from writing on the board, and its ability to provide flashy transitions will not guarantee students will remember the information or topic. The goal when using presentations is not only to keep students awake but also engaged. There are several tricks and strategies that can take a formerly typical lecture and make it more entertaining and more effective for high school and college students.


When preparing slides for a lecture, keep each slide to a few key points. Provide a few words or phrases with bullets, a relevant picture or graph, and a subtle background color. This gives students an outline of the information while the teacher verbally provides more information. It also encourages students to listen instead of read the slides and to take notes on key points with which they are not familiar.


PowerPoint provides a print option called “handouts” that allows the teacher to print copies of the slides with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 or 9 per page. The choice of nine per page produces very small slides which only work well if the slides contain very little information in a large font size. The choice of three puts the three slides on the left and lined writing space for notes on the right.

Handouts are useful for assisting students with note taking skills, especially if the slides are limited to key points and students must take notes on more specific information. Another option would be to create a second version of the presentation with some pieces missing, thus requiring students to write in specific information. In either case, it encourages students to listen to the information and write down information that is important.

Special Effects

Features such as slide transitions, animated gifs and sounds can catch students’ attention, but use them too much or without connection to the lecture and students will remember the entertainment but not the content. To catch their attention but not with the loss of content engagement, choose one or two transition styles for slides and text and only add sounds or animated gifs if they are related to the information.

PowerPoint also provides the ability to embed videos or links to web sites. Short video or audio clips can be added to a slide to enhance a point, providing education and entertainment for students. Links to web sites allow the teacher to conveniently provide students with a copy of the link in their handouts as well as a click point during the lecture to show relevant, online resources or content.


Mathematics Teaching Tools: Using Smart Boards With Computers

Mathematics Teaching Tools: Using Smart Boards With Computers

One of the more useful tools available to mathematics teachers available is the use of a “Smart Board”. There are several manufacturers with different models but the important objective is making use of the board.

For example, as one teaches algebra 2, solving equations using the Algebraic Field Properties is very important for students to master the material. The teacher can present a topic, assign homework, and then review the homework the next day with the students. Using a Smart Board which is attached to a computer and an LCD display panel used to project a “virtual chalkboard” unto a screen. However, now there is no chalk but an electronic writing pen which allows one the opportunity to write on the screen just as if one were writing on a dry erase or chalkboard.

One of the advantages of the SmartBoard technology is that everything that is written is also captured as an image, and or audio file so that students that are absent as well as information the teacher wants to present again is saved as a file in the computer. And, whatever content was reviewed can be transferred to a website, a printed hard copy, or transferred anywhere as an electronic document.

The other advantage of use of the Smart Board in Mathematics is that today’s students like technology. So, they will enjoy using the “smart electronic pen” and write their work on the board to use the technology. So, in algebra 2, the students will be motivated to get out of their desks and show one their work using the SmartBoard. And, the teacher can have several students do the same or similar problems on different pages of the Smart Board. The students using the electronic “smart” pen can use different colors with different thickness and create their own individual style of writing to show the other students. In this manner, the Smart Board has now enabled students to change from being spectators but now become active participants in working out and showing the work solving those algebraic equations.

Consequently, one positive advantage of using the SmartBoard is increased student participation. Another advantage is that all work can be saved, is documented, and easily accessible for review purposes later in the course. And, it also provides a means for students who miss the class for any reason to have the actual material in electronic form that was missed on that particular day. It is also useful in that lessons can be written by the teacher, and presented comfortably in the classroom as a PowerPoint presentation with the added bonus of having the interactive tool where equations, and or material can be added by means of use of the electronic smart pen. These are just some of the features that can be used with the Smart board technology for mathematics, or for any subject for that matter.


Technology Resources for Visual Learners

Technology Resources for Visual Learners

Vocabulary instruction is a component of every academic subject. According the Reading Rockets Reading 101 series available on their website, when students increase their vocabulary, they increase their ability to comprehend written material. Teachers can use the following free technology resources to increase the effectiveness of vocabulary instruction. These resources bring the meaning of words to life in highly visual, interactive ways.

Presenting Vocabulary Words Visually

Visuwords is an online dictionary that presents the word meanings and associations in a graphical manner. When a student enters a word, Visuwords creates a “word tree” which presents the word, its meaning, and synonyms in an interactive, dynamic presentation. The different words are color-coded based upon the part of speech and how the word relates to the original word. Students can hover the mouse over words to read the definition of the different words. Visuwords uses Princeton University’s database, WordNet, which was created by students and language researchers.

Wordle is another free resource for presenting text in a visual manner. In Wordle, a student enters text from a blog, Web site, book passage, or vocabulary list. Wordle will analyze the text and then create a “word cloud” which arranges the words in visual layout. The words that appear most frequently in the text will have a larger font and have more visual prominence than words appearing less frequently. Students can manipulate the layout, color scheme and font. This program allows students to visually see what the theme or main idea of a passage or important document. Students can also analyze their own writing using Wordle.

Technology Resources for Vocabulary Practice

The Internet has allowed educators to take the concept of a flashcard to the next level. WordSteps and Vocabulix are two tools which allow a teacher or student to create a vocabulary list and generate a series of practice activities using the words. WordSteps offers nine language, which makes it an ideal tool for teachers providing vocabulary instruction to English Language Learners. Vocabulix also offers Spanish and German, in addition to English on the Web site. The Vocabulix site offers a social networking option, which matches learners with native speakers. Foreign language teachers could utilize this component allowing the students to actually use the language in a real, social setting.

Vocab Sushi is ideal for high school students preparing for the SAT and ACT. Students take a short quiz based upon the test they are preparing to take and Vocab Sushi will evaluate the student’s current skills and generate a list and practice activities to prepare him for the test. Vocab Sushi provides printable activities, as well as online tools that combine resources that reach both auditory and visual learners.

Teachers increase their ability to reach the different types of learners and the effectiveness of their vocabulary instruction when they implement quality instruction paired with technology. Technology resources allow teachers to present vocabulary words in a visual, interactive manner increasing student success in meeting state curriculum standards in the content area and allow them to become more comfortable using technology in their everyday life


Enter the iPad: Can Apple’s new media machine save the book industry?

Enter the iPad: Can Apple’s new media machine save the book industry?

Portable readers have already been touted as being the innovation that could save the ailing newspaper business. The next question is can these devices, most notably the iPad, save books as well. After a lackluster Christmas season, independent book retailer McNally Robinson closed the doors to its Toronto store and one of its Winnipeg locations. This came on the heels of Pages on Queen Street closing its doors in the fall, and countless other independents across the country doing the same in an industry that seems to breed failure to all but the Indigo/Chapters and Barnes&Noble cadre. With the release of the iPad last week, things may finally be turning around for the embattled publishing business.

The problem extends to the publishers as well. Independent publishers in Canada rarely survive without government assistance in the form of grant programs. This is coupled with mass consolidation in the industry resulting in fewer and fewer houses that are not owned by the big conglomerates like Time Warner and Bertelsmann.

At the heart of the matter comes publishing’s flawed business model. From the author’s inception of the manuscript to the end user who purchases the book at the store, the product passes through countless stages of development, each one pushing up the price. The result is that in Canada we are paying up to $40 for a hardcover, more if there are glossy photos (which push up the price along the way yet again). But this business model has been in place since book publishing became a mass production process, in fact it has even streamlined over the last few years thanks to improved desktop publishing applications and advancements in industrial printing technology. So why has selling books become tantamount to death sentence?

There is an old adage in book retailing that suggests most consumers do not know what book they will buy when they enter the store. They decide after reading numerous covers, holding the books in their hands, reading the author bios and so on. But with online retailers, the browsing component of the buying experience has changed. If we browse at all, we do so by way of browsing reviews written by customers. Rather than stumbling across the book itself, we stumble across a review or a recommendation that leads us to the online checkout. This change in our behaviour has made the physical bookstore more and more peripheral to our experience.

But here’s the problem. Were it just a matter of eliminating the physical location for book consumers to visit, there would be no issue. But the entire industry is designed to have physical stores as part of its equation. Publishers build precise schedules for their projects so they reach the stores at a given time. Distributers use exhaustive logistics operations to deliver the wares of the publishers. Designers spend weeks working on covers to attract customers from across the store. And closer up, papers of a specific weight and texture are used to entice the customer, photos and summaries carefully planned to hook the customer into carrying the book around the shop and eventually to the cash register. The entire industry hinges on the fact that the end user will buy the book in a physical store.

Evolution of the Word

Not only are we trained to shop for books in an actual store, but the books themselves are, for many, perfect just as they are. The book in its physical form holds something of a renaissance quality for those who are its main audience. Settling in on a cold winter’s eve, a glass of wine, and a favourite book create for its adherents an experience that is perfect and can not be replicated. As many publishers will also attest to, the book is something which is already perfect. Or is it?

Music has undergone several manifestations over the last half century. From vinyl, to cassettes, CD’s and now digital, music has continued to evolve with the demands of the consumer. Film has done the same. Books…not so much.

Consider this, Amazon reported this year that its Christmas sales in e-books to be used on its Kindle reader outpaced sales of physical books for the first time. With the recent arrival of the iPad, we can only expect the number of e-books to grow. And with gargantuan players like Google onboard as well, it would take little more than a few more quarters of slow sales for e-books to take over and paper books to enter a permanent phase of decline.

Can the Ipad Save our Ailing Book Industry?

But here’s the good news. Publishers are finally getting the message. The New York Times reported this week that five of the world’s largest publishers have signed on to provide e-books (or in Apple parlance, ibooks) for the new iPad. And because of the streamlined chain of production, publishers will get a larger return on their investment; 70 percent of the sale price, compared to the current 50-60 percent. The hope is that the savings will be passed on to the customer. Sounds attractive, but it’s not perfect.

As one might expect, Apple digital books are exclusive in their use. This means that for those who have already purchased Amazon’s Kindle e-reader they will be unable to directly copy their files to the iPad. If Apple is particularly clever, as they have often proven to be, they will offer to convert the files for new consumers, as they currently do for those converting from PC’s to Macs. This would require extensive circumnavigation of copyright laws enforced on e-books, so whether or not Apple will offer this service remains to be seen.

As for retailers, with the iPad set to make a serious dent in the sale of e-books, and a yawning gap in the sale of paper books, it may be time for retailers to go back to the drawing board.


Analyze Technology in Filmmaking Past and Present

Analyze Technology in Filmmaking Past and Present

Content analysis is a primary method of investigation in film and television studies. The skills developed in the process of making analyses are very useful to a career in screen production. Genre analyses may be made through a variety of ‘lenses’, depending on what the proposed outcome of the study may be. One such ‘lens’ is that of technology.

Genre analysis through filmmaking technology

Technologies of filming such as lighting, perspective, camera type, whether 3D, 35mm or digital photography can be considered. SFX, the application of computers in editing and post-production, and the dependence on CGI in image creation also deserve consideration as possible important factors in influencing screen genres. How has the technology influenced the visual facets of the story? How does this relate to the themes of the story?

Genre is about similarity and unity rather than difference and diversity, so analyses of codes and aesthetics are only part of how genre can be understood. Content needs to be understood not only descriptively, but through particular cultural perspectives as well. This approach to analysis moves beyond simply mining the text for meaning or author intent, and is concerned with relationships between form and context.

  • make a visual analysis – scrutinizing how the images convey meaning
  • make an auditory assessment – consider how the sound track conveys story, affects viewers’ emotions
  • it should also analyse what is said between characters – what discourses, discussions and preoccupations are present in the story that relate to real life

Knowing about how a film was made, technically, is a limited approach to analysing for genre, especially when trying to understand why a genre or a film (perhaps with low production values) remains relevant over a long period of time. That’s why approaches to genre also include analysing not only the text you are interested in, but that text’s relationship to other texts.

Filmmaking technology influence on style – film noir

The 1940s thriller sub-genre known as film noir was technologically determined, being constrained by low budgets and scant resources, but its stylistics were also determined by censorship. It’s original generic codes were identified retrospectively, by intellectual film critics.

Film noir stylistic features and iconography have provided creative materials for subsequent filmmakers to apply in a range of bestsellers from Chinatown (1974) through Blade Runner (1982) and Pulp Fiction (1994) to long-running television series such as C.S.I. Discourse analysis reveals that it is also culturally specific. These are urban narratives with an overall mood of pessimism. Discourse analyses of specific examples would discover

  • preoccupation with gender relations
  • concern around inequality in class relations
  • discussion of a relationship between social position and moral responsibility

Technology as a theme in special effects movies

A comparison of visual effects in Metropolis (1927), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Terminator (1984), The Matrix (1999) and Avatar (2009) will demonstrate historical links in content combined with technical innovation. The latter two exemplify how new digital camera technology converged with computer innovation to significantly change screen storytelling. Writing before that time, Ryan and Kellner identify the central concern of such movies as technophobia, yet technological innovation itself is used to promote the movies. Likewise, Ryan and Kellner call these stories ‘fantasy’ whereas ‘science fiction’ may seem more generically appropriate. Certainly, as generic narratives, several are closely related to the central premise of H.G. Wells’ archetypal novel, The Time Machine (1895).

A simplistic comparison of those five movies is in danger of being merely descriptive:

  • all these movies are celebrated for their innovative special effects
  • three feature iconic robots
  • three feature underground cities
  • three feature machines doing battle, two machines turned against humans, while the last features machines blasting against nature

These facts tell little about meanings that these films express, whereas discourse analysis allows more insight. All these movies discuss the relationship between human and machine, and express and discuss cultural fears about which could or should be dominant. By displacing the protagonists into other worlds in other times, they pose questions and criticisms that give voice to certain contemporary anxieties about what it means to be human.

Digital photography as stylistic influence

Questions can be asked about how the application of innovative technologies in contemporary cinema and television is currently affecting the development of genres and their audiences. For instance, the influx of digital photography, and the growing tendency to market movies on their unique technology, such as the 3D digital experience as opposed to the HD digital television experience, may seem to skew the industry in favour of particular genres, such as action adventure.

Further articles related to screen genres and technology include Digital 3D Cameras Revolutionize Mainstream Film Production and Where Does Animation in Feature Films Come From? while Post-production and Editing Phase in Filmmaking has more detail about innovation in Avatar.


TV Parental Guidelines and V-Chip Technology: Television Parental Control Versus the Negative Effects of TV

TV Parental Guidelines and V-Chip Technology: Television Parental Control Versus the Negative Effects of TV

As a result of concerns expressed by parents and children’s advocates in the 1990’s, the television and cable industry developed a rating system, known as the TV Parental Guidelines. By 2000, the FCC required V-chip technology to be built into most new television sets, in order to provide parents another tool to protect their children against the negative effects of TV. Despite the resources available to parents and caretakers, many are still concerned that children are overexposed to vulgar, indecent, and violent media. Does this imply that more government regulations are necessary, or is there a way to implement parental control after all?

The Controversy of TV Parental Control

Unless there is no TV found in the home, or there are strict rules against viewing, children watch cable television. They are entertained by it, intrigued by it, and influenced by it. There are a range of negative effects of TV watching on children, one of which is the impact of subjects that are too mature. Research has consistently supported the theory that violent media is a factor in creating violent adults. Few people would be comfortable with a young child listening to people talk about sex, or viewing sexual situations. Many parents do not want their son or daughter to start saying vulgar words that they heard on a TV show.

Parents and advocates have asked for a greater effort on the part of the cable industry and the government, to help regulate violence, offensive dialogue, crude language, and sexual situations. Both institutions have responded, one through regulation, and the other through compliance. Parents and advocacy groups, such as the Parents Television Council, believe this is not enough, that more should be done by either the government, the industry, or both.

Others are more afraid of increased regulation and the threat of censorship. Adam Thierer of The Progress and Freedom Foundation, points out that parents do indeed have everything that they need to protect their children. Anything more would infringe on the rights of the rest of society to both view and create whatever they want. With a rating system, filtering technology, and house rules, parents do have the power to combat the negative effects of TV.

Using the Rating System — TV Parental Guidelines

The rating system, TV Parental Guidelines, was established in 1997 by the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America. Modeled after the rating system used for movies, the TV rating system focuses on age recommendations. Some shows are appropriate for a general audience (TV-G) for example, others for children, seven years or older (TV-Y7), and others are recommended for older children, (TV-14 and TV-MA). There are also content recommendations. For example, shows with violent behavior are marked by a V, with explicit dialogue, a D.

Either the broadcast and cable network, or the program producers will designate a show rating. TV-14-V for example, will appear for fifteen seconds before a program begins, and in some cases, after each commercial break. This would signify that the producers of the show, or the broadcasting network, believes that the content is suitable for children of at least fourteen years of age, and warns of moderate violence. This system allows for more television parental control in that it alarms parents to potentially unacceptable programming. It is even more effective when used in conjunction with V-chip technology.

Using V-Chip Technology

The V-chip allows parents to regulate what their children are watching. It is a relatively new technology, which works with the TV Parental Guidelines, blocking shows according to their given rating. As all thirteen-inch or greater television sets, manufactured since 2000, are made with V-chip technology, many caretakers have the opportunity to use this tool. In most cases, the on-screen options menu will provide easy access to the V-chip menu. Simply choose which ratings are to be blocked, and activate the device by entering a password. It will become deactivated by using the same password.

Facing the Negative Effects of TV on Children

It is true that the negative effects of TV on children are a problem. Aggressive behavior, distorted perceptions of reality, and vapid conceptions of sex are not healthy characteristics of an individual, or of a society. Increased regulation and forced network censorship may not be the solution however, as this would negate some of society’s rights. The use of the television rating systems and filtering technology may not be enough either. With both supervision and communication from parents and care givers, as well as more efforts by society, children can be protected.

Teachers and parents can talk to kids about the influence of television, about what is real and what is not. The cable industry can make honest self-rating and regulation a real priority. The TV Parental Guidelines are a step in the right direction, but the rating system itself is confusing and inconsistent. The V-chip technology is a focused effort on the part of the government, although more could be done, such as the encouragement and support of quality, educational programming for children. If all of society makes the effort, then all of society will benefit.


Writing a School Technology Plan: Tech Helps Teachers Connect to Learning Standards

Writing a School Technology Plan: Tech Helps Teachers Connect to Learning Standards

The committee members sat quietly as each looked around at the others. The school board president had just thrown down the gauntlet challenging his technology team to figure out just what went wrong. Everyone thought that they had done it the right way. They had the costs of the computers all added up; they knew where the computers would be placed; they had looked at the latest software; they had even bought the best ergonomically designed chairs for the students. And yet the computers just sat there week after week and nobody used them.

There had been plenty of chatter as the team began its work. Concerns ranged from technology being a waste of money, to taking time away from the important things in the curriculum, to feeling that technology was just a fad and that it would go away soon. The truth was that the team in this example built the plans for the machines without asking the humans.

Focus on First Things First

With the sudden increase of new technologies and the deluge of expectations placed on teachers and principals from the new federal acts, there hasn’t been as much talk about technology plans these days. However, if done properly, a well-written technology plan can become a vital living document for helping schools achieve at the highest levels possible. Even if your school already has a technology plan, it is a good professional exercise to update it!

When schools decide to write a technology plan, the accent should always be on how the hardware and software support what is being taught at the school, and not on what equipment is on sale. In other words, begin with the end results in mind. Many schools have made the mistake of exploring what’s available on the market without first considering how the technology will ever be used. When this happens, the computers usually wind up in somebody’s closet. Even though technology has permeated every facet of modern life, it is important to remember that the emphasis for a technology plan is not on how to teach children to use computers; rather, it is on how technology helps teachers teach!

The key to making a technology plan that works is aligning the plan with the school’s goals and mission, and with the learning standards. Like everything else that happens in a school, the technology plan should always be about the improvement of instruction to boost student achievement. In this way, the technology plan is not a stand-alone policy, but rather it becomes an important plank in the school’s ongoing curriculum development. This means that before any decisions are made regarding purchasing technology, the school should have a good understanding of its standards and objectives, and what is needed to make them most likely to be achieved. For example, a discussion as simple as reviewing one grade level’s benchmarks and asking, ‘How could technology improve what students know or are able to do?’ can lead to some important conclusions about what technology is needed.

What is Needed to Make a Technology Plan?

By aligning the plan with the school’s goals, mission, and learning standards the plan becomes a part of the school’s pedagogical fabric. But, like any document, it is only as good as the people who wrote it. Therefore, it is critical that the school seeks a broad base of people to work on the tech team, including teachers, parents, curriculum leaders, administrators, community members, business leaders, and others. Try to make sure that the school’s business manager is on this team as well! The only requirement aside from being supportive of the school is that each member must have experience with technology – this is a team for making progress.

When the people are in place, a climate for change and improving instruction with technology needs to be cultivated. There are several ways to accomplish this goal including appropriate staff development classes, parents’ workshops, a need assessment, and others.

Once a school has reviewed its learning standards, has assembled a diverse technology team, and has created the environment for achievement, the table has been set for discussing the nuts ‘n bolts issues such as funding, hardware, software, review cycles, assessment plans and everything else it will take to effectively use technology to support the school’s mission.


Going Green in the Classroom With Blackboard: How On-Line Technology Eliminates Copying and Bubblesheet Testing

Going Green in the Classroom With Blackboard: How On-Line Technology Eliminates Copying and Bubblesheet Testing

Teachers love handouts. Whether at faculty meetings, professional development seminars, or for use in the classroom, teachers at all levels churn out innumerable copies daily. In the classroom, diligent students keep the handouts in three-ring binders, frequently amassing hundreds of pages throughout a semester. Often, these become part of a class portfolio.

Although many institutions offer Blackboard and similar on-line technologies, copiers are still busy printing, collating, and stapling. In almost ever case, using Blackboard will dramatically eliminate copying and the use of handouts. “Going green” in the classroom begins with the use of technology that is not only more efficient, but helps the environment and saves money.

How Blackboard use Affects Positive Change

Blackboard is highly user friendly. Teachers can post everything from syllabi to external links that direct students to internet content. This eliminates the need for extensive copying. Copying, in many schools and institutions, continues to be tightly regulated. The costs of paper and computer upkeep frequently limit the number of copies any one instructor can make. Some schools ration paper. Blackboard is the logical answer to this dilemma.

Regardless of the particular version being used, Blackboard allows teachers to:

  • Post regular announcements and email these to members of the class
  • Email individual students or the entire class
  • Utilize the Grade Book or Grade Center feature to post and calculate individual grades and semester averages
  • Provide links to outside material including external links to internet content
  • Manage assignments
  • Create a semester calendar
  • Develop and facilitate an on-line discussion board that allows students to respond with their own threads

Other features further enhance the classroom activities. While Blackboard is generally associated with Distance Learning, its value in face-to-face classes whether on the high school or college level is immense. For the institution, Blackboard will significantly lower copying and other related costs.

Blackboard Testing Eliminates Bubble Sheets

Many teachers use bubble sheets to test, particularly in lower level survey-type courses. The Test Manager on Blackboard can easily eliminate these costly assessments. Teachers can design objective tests, selecting from a number of format options like multiple choice, fill in the blank, and matching, and can assign a specific value to every test item.

Questions can be randomized to avoid student collaboration and a timing device limits students as to when the test can be taken and how long a student has to complete the assessment. Finally, Blackboard will grade the test and list the grade on the system.

Teachers can view each individual “attempt” (test modifications can include more than one attempt) and, if necessary, override the posted grade. On-line testing also includes essays which are graded on line with the ability to make comments.

Other Blackboard Considerations

The Blackboard system includes a feature that allows students to submit papers and essays for potential plagiarism. Given the many features, students absent from class can easily keep up with the work, particularly if the absence is long-term. Tutorials regarding each feature are available to teachers in order to maximize the benefit of Blackboard use.

Institutions and schools seeking ways to “go green” by eliminating copying costs should weigh the overall cost benefits of subscribing to Blackboard or a similar technology. In schools that already have Blackboard, all instructors should be required to use the system as a valuable, ancillary tool in order to enhance the classroom experience, make actual instruction more efficient, and help decrease instructional costs.