Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wall decorations - Part 2

The students are all back to school, now, and the school year is officially in full swing. Things here have started getting back to their usual fast pace and hectic schedule. I had a request to work on some horses for another teacher's room, and finished them just in time for the students to return to school on Monday. Actually, I finished them on Thursday as I was running out the door trying to get my middle schooler, and my high schooler off to their own schools for Open Houses (both, at the same time).

The technique I described in my last blog was easy enough to follow that my friend ended up tracing some of the spots on the palomino I was making for her, and helping to finish the horse. I think after watching me trace two horses out for her this year from clip art I found in Appleworks, she will be able to work on her own bulletin board and wall decorations next year.

I managed to snap a few photos of the cows and pigs I wrote about in my last blog. Unfortunately, it was late in the day and the hallway lights had already been dimmed for the day. But, I think these will show enough detail to get the idea across.

The cows are about 4 to 5 feet in length and take up the majority of the wall in the hallway. Their hooves are starting to curl up from where I colored them black with a marker, instead of using black construction paper or bulletin board paper. This was a lesson learned. When I made the horses, I used scrap pieces of black butcher paper, tracing, cutting, and gluing in place.

The cows and the pigs are separated by a fire door but are on the same wall in the hallway outside the room. One of the aides in the room collects pigs, porcelain pigs, that is, so the idea of the pigs was for her. I found a clip art online of a cute cowboy riding the pig, which lends itself to the Wild West theme we have for our school this year.

Another hint I learned in the process of doing them was to disable to screen saver and sleep mode on the laptops. It can be quite frustrating as the screen suddenly goes black and then have the screen saver dance around on the board as you are trying to trace your animal.

I hope this helps to inspire some that feel they cannot draw or lack creativity. I did both of these wall decorations in a couple of afternoons. The horses were a little smaller and took me just a couple of hours. This also has other applications that can be useful in the classroom with the students, such as character studies in Language arts, and tracing maps of states and countries for social studies. The only limit to creativity with this is your resourcefulness in doing searches for clip art, drawings, and photographs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New take on an old trick

I was helping a friend decorate her classroom today, or rather, the wall in the hallway outside her classroom, when I was shown a new trick (Thanks, Adriane!). Actually, its not really a new trick, but more of a new take on an old trick. For years teachers have been creating wonderful decorations for their wall or bulletin board by projecting an image on the wall and tracing it. The old way that I remember of doing this, and have used for years, has been to sort through books or coloring books for a picture you like and use an opaque projector, or an overhead projector. If using an overhead projector, you had to make a transparency of the picture you wanted to use. This took some time, not only in the actual creation of the decoration, but also in the prep work. Time was spent rifling through books and copying the image first onto a piece of acetate.

I was sort of expecting my friend to show me a file that had some cute images already copied onto transparency film, or books to use, when she instead opened up her Internet browser and Googled for cow clip art. I thought of printing the image out and using the ELMO (or other document camera), but she told me that wasn't necessary. All we needed to do was to hook the computer (ibook) up to the projector and voila! No printer was necessary! (Why waste more paper, right?)

After doing a "web search" on Google, we then decided to look through AppleWorks clip art instead and found just the cow we were looking for. She was using her laptop at the time, so I opened up AppleWorks on another ibook and found the same image. We made the image to fit a full standard size sheet of paper, hooked up the projector and I was in business. I also did another Google search, this time using the "image search" and found a perfect mate for the other cow. I had a blank page open in AppleWorks in the window right behind my browser window, so I just dragged the image onto my AW document and I was set to create the other cow.

For those that have never done this before, I taped a piece of brown bulletin board paper to the whiteboard which I was using as my drawing surface. It's hard and extremely smooth so it makes for a good tracing surface rather than a bumpy painted wall. I used brown because it was my base color. Once I had the outline of the cow, or bull, traced with a black marker (I chose to use a regular Crayola marker rather than a Sharpie so it didn't bleed through the thin paper and mark up her white board), I taped, or in some cases, held up pieces of other colors for the spots, nose, horns, and eyes and traced the details. Afterwards, I cut out those pieces and glued them in place while I still had the projected image up. (Glue sticks are such a marvelous invention! No mess or wrinkles in the paper. Now if only we can come up with an easier method for cutting these large figures out!)

Tomorrow I'm making pigs for her using the same method, and adding more grass around the cows that I hung in the hallway. I'll have to take some pictures of the completed scene and post them in here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Resizing images for the web

Friends often ask me about resizing their images for the web. What size is a good size for the web? Or how can they go about resizing their images for the web?

First, let's start with some recommended image sizes for the web. For normal graphics on the web, not including a header or banner, I would not go above 400 pixels wide. This is a good medium-sized image for displaying group shots, class pictures (pictures from field trips, class projects, etc.). It is enough to see what is going on in the picture, but not large enough to be obtrusive, or take up most of the web page.

If you are on a Mac, and do not have access to Photoshop, you can resize your images using the Export settings (File>Export) in iPhoto. Set the image quality to medium, and then use the drop down menu under Size to go to Custom, and set your maximum width to 400px (or less). If you do not have iPhoto (part of iLife), you can use GIMP, which is a free download (open source) to resize, as well as touch up your images. Apple's website also has quite a few image editors that will also do the trick for you. Look under the Image & 3D section under Apple Downloads. Be sure to read the description of the one you want to download. Some of the apps available for download are Demo versions (or trial versions, meaning they will work for a limited amount of days, or limited in processes or allowed amount of edits). Some of the apps are shareware, which could mean there is a minimal price for the app, or it is a trial version of the app. If it is an app you want to use on a regular basis, and do not have the funds to pay for an app (as teachers we often spend more on items for the classroom, then we take home or to the bank), look for an app that says freeware.

GIMP is also available for Windows, if you are using Windows, and do not have access to Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or the likes.

Another thing to consider when sizing your images for the web, is the amount of images you have on a page. If you are doing a photo gallery type page, consider using thumbnail images to a larger image. Your visitors using older browsers, or older computers will appreciate not having to wait for long periods of time while your page loads a bunch of larger images. Size your thumbnails to 200px, or less.

iPhoto can create web pages for you with thumbnails that link to larger images. The larger images are shown one image per page. You can set your maximum widths for both the thumbnails and the larger images under the Export settings. (iPhoto will place the images and the thumbnails in separate folders for you, if you would like to use these images in other ways rather than on an image gallery.)

If you take an image from a digital camera, most cameras are set to either 96 dpi (Dots Per Inch), or 72 dpi, depending on your camera settings. (Raw image settings are considerably higher, set at 240 dpi or higher, designed for print.) 72 dpi is the recommended setting for images on the web. In iPhoto, you can only change the file type (.jpg, .png, or .tiff), and the image quality (low, medium, large, maximum). Changing the image quality in iPhoto does NOT change the resolution (dpi size) of an image. It only changes the file size through compression. You can also change the file type to .png (Portable Net Graphic) which will change the file size without too much of a loss to your image quality.

You can change the resolution in Photoshop, or Gimp, under the Image>Image size menu. (Check the box to "Constrain proportion", and remember to reset the image pixel size to your desired size for the web, if you change the resolution after resizing your image.) Changing the resolution of your image WILL resize your image! so be sure to check your image size, again.

Another setting that will help in Photoshop, or Gimp, is to "save image for web" (under the File menu) rather than the standard "Save As" option. If you click on the "4-up" tab in the "Save for web" window, you can see the original image and three other options, for comparison of file size and quality. You can also manually change the image quality by typing the percentage in the box on the right (or moving the slider up or down). (I normally save my images at a compression rate of 60 percent for .jpgs under the "Save for web" file setting.)

Again, if you do not have Photoshop, or Gimp, try one of the "staff picks" under the Images & 3D section in Apple Downloads. Graphic Converter, or XnViewMP, will also allow you to change your image resolution very nicely. Remember, 300 dpi is for print, but 72 dpi is for the web.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Customizing Blog background and images

Whoohooo, I think I finally have this figured out after many attempts, and editing each and every page every time I posted something to the blog. I KNEW there had to be an easier way to do all this! (Not to mention, while it was easy enough to edit four to six pages, for now, in the future, there will not just be four to six pages to edit...) This is a case, where it is handy to be fluent and literate enough in html, css, and php coding. (See, Steven? I HAVE paid attention to all your squablings...)

If you click on Dashboard, and then on Template, you can go into the code and edit the code, thus customizing your template to match the looks of your site.

Beware, Facebook users

Facebook users out there should beware of perils lurking in the guise of Facebook apps. Trojans, viruses, spyware, and adware await unsuspecting FB bloggers. And while the quizzes on FB can be entertaining, do you know the person that created the quiz you are taking? Some of the quizzes ask for your permission to allow information to be added to your wall, or taken from your profile. Some users will be shocked to discover though, that some of these quizzes, and other apps, are distractions for trojans that sneak in and take over your computer. My sister was the victim of one such attack. Fortunately for her, her husband is a trained computer tech and was able to clean her infected laptop, saving her a bundle of money on computer repair. It took him the better part of the day to wipe her computer of the infecting virus and restore her defaults. I bet she is more careful of the quizzes she takes on Facebook now.

Today, I made the mistake of clicking on one of the advertisements on the right side of my FB home page thinking I was going to upload or give an online link to a picture of mine and have a characature or cartoonization of me digitally drawn. I should have known better when it asked me to download its applet. My second clue should have been when it did NOT ask me to upload any pictures, but instead I was asked to pick and customize my facial features from choices provided to me from a javascript applet online. If all I had to do was pick out features from a javascript applet online, then why did it need me to download an applet?! After posting the personalized cartoon tattoo to my wall, I logged out of Facebook, closed my browser and continued to do things on my computer. The next time I opened my browser, however, I was slightly irked to find this app that I had downloaded changed my home page without my knowledge nor consent. (My teatimer usually asks my permission to change my home page. This time, it did not!) Not only did it change my starting home page, it also added a custom search bar to my browser. Okay, this is a bit much, I thought... And set about trying to uninstall this app.

The directions page the link on the tool bar took me to, to unistall this app told me to looking in my computer's control panel and remove it through the add/remove programs feature. Interestingly enough, this toolbar did not show up under the list of programs. Nor, did it show up in the programs under my Start>Programs menu. I finally had to use my browser's Tools menu to remove the toolbar from my browser. (Tools>Add-ons>Extensions)

After going through all this, and resetting my home page, I logged back in to Facebook and removed the tattoo from my wall so that any of my friends would NOT stumble upon this same problem from me.

The name of this app that gave me so much trouble, you ask? It's called "Tattoodle", and my history says its a Facebook app. (

So, the next time you feel like taking a Facebook quiz, or trying out a cute new app, ask yourself this, "Do I really know the person that created this quiz?", and "Do I really need this app, or could I do without it, and save my computer?"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Customizing Blog

This is Day 3 of my blog and I am still learning more as I go along. I hope there never comes a day when I don't learn something about living on the Internet. Today I redid my dns pointing, again, and decided that it was better to not have the blog pointed to my domain and just upload it myself. This came after I discovered I was no longer able to see my main site as it kept being redirected to google for the hosting. Oops! I guess I didn't follow those directions very well that I was reading yesterday.

So, for now, going to try to use my own ftp and upload it myself. I've discovered that I can also add more of my own customizations to the blog this way, like the background, and typewriter image, so its all good.

I'm also changing the name from Tona's Tidings and Tidbits. I think Tech Talk is more suiting since most of the jargin will be technically speaking, anyway. I have so many ideas in my head right at the moment for things I would like to post in this blog, but I figure I will save them for a rainy day. For now I want to concentrate the blogs on setting up this blog. Maybe next week I will get into some other postings.

Along with this blog, while I have the time, I think I will be redoing my main site, freshening up the content, changing the dates, and perhaps working on my ESOL pages. Also in the works is a photogallery index page that will connect all of my photogallery pages for ease of viewing. I'm hoping to be able to showcase some of my photographs on the site for family and friends. I prefer this method to posting them on Facebook. I know that some would think its all the same because this is the Internet where everyone has access to it all, so what is the difference whether the photos are housed on this site, or on Facebook - but to me I feel more secure about posting my children's photos on my website, where the traffic is considerable lower than on Facebook, which has tons of traffic everyday.

Stay tuned for more changes to come to Tona's Tidings this week, and for more blogs in Tech Talk each day.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 2 - DNS trials and tribulations

After a few go rounds with the DNS manager I finally and successfully was able to add this blog to Although, like most things, it does help if you read the manual, and ALL of the manual.

Oh, well, live and learn... But, yippee! It works! I love it when a plan comes together.

Now I just need to work on reskinning the blog to fit with the scheme of my website. This, too, will be a new adventure for me. I chose this theme in blogger because it is the closest in color schemes to go along with my old time newspaper/Einstein skin.

So, for now, the adventure continues...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome! This is a new feature to my website that I am hoping will add to the site's functionality and usefulness to you, as educators. In the weeks and months to come I will be using this blog to share ideas, tips, hints, and tricks I have learned for integrating technology into the classroom. Perhaps some lesson plan ideas or activities, or maybe even a simple modification to a lesson plan.

I will admit, I am not much of a blogger, and have never done well with daily journals, but hope to be able to keep this blog up as the school year progresses.

Today I discovered another great feature on Apple's website. I knew it had been there all along, I just never realized all of the wonderful apps that were in store for teachers in their downloads section. In the math and science section, for instance, are many great freeware and shareware downloads that can be used in the classroom, like their RPN scientific calculator, or the stop watch that actually records all of your trial times. There are graphing apps that accept equations from text files, and algebraic equation apps that let you create interactive practice pages for your students.'s download pages are definitely worth the looksey: