This blog is my attempt to share information with faculty, introducing new apps, websites, or other snippets of information that may be of use to faculty. I am also using it to keep track of projects I'm working on that might be good to reference in the future.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Free Office Replacement - with mobile editing capability as well! WPS Office (Kingsoft)

I'm always looking for free or cheap alternatives for students, friends or family who want to be able to edit MS Office files, but not spend the yearly fee on a Microsoft Office Suite that may be too much for their needs.

I have tried  Open Office and Libre Office and have liked the functionality for both, but one area was that somewhat of a drawback was the ability to save Office files.  Many office alternatives, like these, have no problem opening and editing MS Office files, but by default they saved in their native format (.ODT).  When recommending these (and other) Office alternatives, you always have to remind users to do a File & Save As, and not just a Save.  Not always something a novice user wants to do, as they just want it 'to work'.   If they didn't do that save step correctly, when they emailed the edited file to someone, that person could not easily open it, if all they had was MS Office.  It seems if you are using something as an Office alternative, it should work seamlessly for the end users, so that no one that is sending or receiving files has even an opportunity for incompatibility.

I recently heard that KingOffice helped with that.  I looked up KingOffice and they have changed their name to WPS Office.  The BIG, BIG deal for me is that when you run the install, they ask if you want to save files in Microsoft Office format (.doc, .xls, .ppt) by default.  This should have been a no-brainer option for other replacement suites as well.  So now a novice user can install the software and not have to worry about Office compatibility issues when sending or receiving files.

KingOffice seems 'light' as it only does Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Presentation (PowerPoint).  That is all I need, I don't use Outlook or OneNote.  I use the web interface for Gmail, and prefer to use Evernote instead of OneNote.  It seems powerful enough for most users.

The other thing that made this Office Replacement Suite stand out even more was that it allows users to edit (yes, EDIT) office files on mobile devices - for no cost.  WPS Office has a Windows version, a Linux version, an Android version and an iOS version.  There is no MacOSX version.

With Linux this means that if someone wants to go with an all Linux machine, they will not have any hassles sharing files with other Office users, whether they are on Windows or Mac.

On the mobility front, this is a big feature.  Many products that claim to edit Word, Excel or PowerPoint files on a mobile device usually have some compatibility issues, but still cost quite a bit of money.   I have yet to test the mobile versions, but if they do even half of what they claim, it is a great free app that should be a must install on any mobile Android or iOS device.

We are replacing our old Windows Laptops, and so on mine I will NOT be installing MS Office, but will be going with WPS Office only instead, just to see what type of compatibility issues I come across as a regular end user of Word, Excel or PowerPoint.  I've been trying to use Google Docs more and more, but sometimes you need more editing features than Google docs allows.  I don't use MS Outlook.  There are many 3rd party programs one could use as a front-end email client, but at this point I prefer to use the default Google interface.  If I do find something that stands out, I will write about it.

For now: I will be recommending WPS Office to students that need a MS Office alternative so they can easily edit and share Word, Excel or PowerPoint files with their fellow students who use MS Office.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Email to Faculty - end of summer professional development

Aloha Faculty: 

Over the summer I have done some Professional Development on the technical side, and wanted to share some info with you.

As we all know, the internet is full of exceptional opportunities to learn something new, though it can be daunting figuring out where to begin.  This summer I had several things I wanted to explore.  One was Twitter, and it is a great resource for educators and life-long learners.  

I've had a twitter account for at least the past two year, but did not really understand how I could benefit from it, or why I wanted to get on ANOTHER social media platform.  Following Linda Lindsay's (@MauiLibrarian2) lead, I started investigating Twitter (she's a pro).  Using Twitter can provide opportunities to meet experts in education, find out popular trends and topics in our field, and feel connected - but beware, you can also loose time like any other social media platform....don't become an addict. I use it as a research tool, and have not used it to follow the kardashians or vote on American Idol, or anything like that.  
Twitter is much more than what you see on TV :-)

There are a ton of beginner resources, but I found that I liked these to begin: - This is an ongoing weekly challenge that allows you to  practice using Twitter while building your professional learning network (PLN)  #summerls   I'm only on week 4 of this challenge as i started late, but that is fine - they are on week seven right now.  If you are only going to look at one, look at this.  This will walk you thru how to use it to help you as an educator.  - this site has some info and beginner tutorials for twitter, but they also highlight some cool websites/tools/apps that can be used in the classroom.  

To me, one of the hardest things to do is figure out what videos to watch, what courses to take or what areas to look at, but Twitter can help with all that once you figure out how to use it - but it can be overwhelming at first, so don't get discouraged.  This could take up a bunch of time at first, so plan to start looking into this before school starts, and you will definitely find a lot of cool information you can use in your classes.

STEP #2:
Become a follower/fan of our own Linda Lindsay.
Twitter @MauiLibrarian2 -


The great thing about her hangouts is that you can go back at anytime later and watch the videos to just keep up with things.  She also has show notes so that you can check out links or apps they talk about on the hangout.  I've watched last the 3-4 weeks worth, and I feel lazy for missing out on this earlier.  I usually can't make the live hangouts, but going back and watching it after the fact is still really beneficial.

I've always thought Linda was an amazing librarian, and kind human being, and I know the kids love and appreciate her - but I didn't realize what a celebrity she is in the world of Google and Education online.  She has almost 14,000 followers on Google+, over 2,000 on Twitter, and she has guests on her hangout show from all over the world and shares information that she gathers from so many sources.

What a super 'Rock Star' we have on campus.

Step #3 - Apps/Tools I thought some might find interesting

Voxer: This is more than just a walkie-talkie tool.  Though we will use it for our Chaperone activities to help stay in touch, and I hope to get us started for Orientation day.  I really think using it as a tool in our world language classes could be great.  It is also an easy way to communicate easily via voice, text and pictures, with students on assignments, etc. Everything is saved so students and teachers can go back later to check things. Many educators use as a tool to expand their PLN, but I haven't gotten that far yet. or  This web site lets you take a picture and embed some clickable links that will display pictures or videos.  it's fun to play with and could have many uses....I think the kids will like it.
You can also learn more about using in your classes: 

I've been trying to use this to save interesting papers or web sites I come across.  Using Twitter I come across so many interesting articles that I want to be able to refer to later, and so saving it in Evernote is great.  I'm also trying to put meeting notes in it and such. I used it recently for some First Lego League meetings I had on Oahu. 

It can do more than just take notes, and one project i'll be testing year will be using it to take my morning attendance and then emailing it in - that way it is quick, accurate and I won't forget to walk to attendance folder up to drop off.  For each student all I'll have to do is tap a little checkbox to mark them present, tardy or absent...perfect use for a phone screen.  I think I've figured it out with Evernote and look forward to trying it out. 

Google just came out with Google Classroom, a new tool for google apps for education.  I have requested an account, and will try to test it out this semester.
Here is a short description of it from Google:
"Classroom is designed to help teachers create and collect assignments paperlessly, including time-saving features like the ability to automatically make a copy of a Google Document for each student. It also creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student to help keep everyone organized.

Students can keep track of what’s due on the Assignments page and begin working with just a click. Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn't completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom."
You can go to Google and request an invitation to check this out.

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Google Maps - Determining Distances

Found a neat little feature in Google Maps today that lets you easily measure distances on a map.

When on a map, right click and one of the menu choices should be "Measure Distance".
You can follow the prompts, but basically everywhere you click on a map is a drop point and it gives you the total distance traveled from the first point.  It is really easy to use and gives you an accurate reading.
As you continue to click points, it gives you the total distance from your starting point.

How can you use this at a school? I'm sure once you think on it you can come up with many ways to use this tool (much more than I possibly could list).  

One thing that quickly came to my mind is to use it for field trips or races (fun runs) where you will need to know how far you will be going. Below I mapped out a course on campus for the fun of it.

I also did a quick route of how far of a distance Hawaiian paddlers would have to had to travel to go from Waianae on Oahu to Lahaina on Maui, with a stop at Kaunakakai on Molokai.

This neat feature is something that I think could be useful for history projects by students.
What do you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tried out this web site today: - which takes pictures and adds interactivity to them.  Below is a trial I did on our school map.

Let me know what you think:

[Here is the embedded code]

They have a special link, with some guides and examples for educators:

----------------Email with link info from ThingLink------------------------------------
Subject: Welcome to ThingLink for Teachers!

ThingLink for Teachers allows you to use interactive images as a new visual learning platform. You can create interactive lesson plans, calendars, and study books. Teachers can sign up students with a quick list import, arrange images into channels or projects, and use our mobile app for adding notes to images on field trips. The creative possibilities are endless!

Please save this email as a reference for optimizing your ThingLink for Teachers account.





Happy tagging!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Online learning - a new experience

For the next month or so I want to try several online courses/class as professional development.  The criteria: it had to be relevant to what I want to learn, and most importantly, it has to be free.

The first thing I'm trying is a course from, called "Do It Yourself Web 2.0 Tools"
A lot of the opportunities on this web site cost money, but there are a few free things available.

The format is interesting in that they send you one email a day with your lesson plan for the day.  The first day was about blogging and the second about RSS.  I will also be trying a couple of other course, and wanted to keep track of what I'm working on, in case others may be interested.

Another great site to visit is
It is Edublogs Teacher Challenge - billed as Free Professional Learning for Educators by Educators.  There are a lot of great links to do and tutorials to follow to become more experienced in educational related technologies.

Another great site this summer to visit is
This is set up by (@TechNinjaToddTodd Neslony (  Here is what his stated goal is:  "I'm starting a Summer Learning Series.  Every week I'm going to send you a challenge to learn something NEW!  Something that will help make you an even better educator." 

You click on the blog he started for this every week to get a new lesson.  I have looked thru the first two weeks and it is very interesting.  He has gotten folks from around the web to help him create this fun and educational challenges.  He also has a Google Form for you to fill out so you can track where you are and he can motivate you and track how many people are doing the challenge: over 1,500 people as of two weeks ago.  It seems to have a lot to do with connections with others, and will build your PLN.  If you want to learn about twitter, then this is a great place to start.

Here is a list of other site you can check out for good education related bloggers....courtesy of PLPNetwork.

#plp-pregame  #SummerLearning # #SummerLS

Friday, July 11, 2014


Chromecast is Google's device to show video from mobile apps or from your laptop computer to your TV.  It uses an HDMI connection and your wi-fi network to communicate between your device and the TV.  Since most of our newer video projectors in the classroom have HDMI I wanted to see if I could hook it up to the projector and 'chromecast' from my laptop (or desktop computer) and my old iPhone4.  In the end, both worked well.

First I wanted to test chromecasting from a laptop.  This could be useful for our classes that use Chromebooks, or teachers that need to hookup via HDMI for some reason.  Our current connections from the wall to the overhead projectors is only VGA and RCA.  On the few occasions we've had presenters with only an HDMI port on their laptop (no VGA), we had to run a long HDMI cable from their laptop to the projector.

Taking the Chromecast out of the box, it was very easy to set up.  The only downside that I didn't expect is that it uses a power source - your options are using a USB cable (included) to plug either into the projector/TV USB port to power, or use the included power adaptor.  It's not a big issues, but we need to make sure the projector has a USB port (which our's do), or there is an open power outlet within 3 feet.  Most of our projectors are hung more than three feet from a power outlet.  Here I have it plugged into the HDMI port with the optional HDMI extender, and then plugged the USB for power into the USB slot on the far right.  Fairly easy with our NEC 311W projectors.

When you plug in the Chromecast, turn on the projector and set input to HDMI you will get this set-up screen.  You need to do the initial setup on the local wireless network, via a computer.   It can see the network, and your computer will see it also, even though it is not logged into the network.  You will have to tell it which network the Chromecast will use and enter the password.  The instructions they provide are fairly easy to follow, if you have no issues.

Once you have it set up, you will have to download the Chrome browser extension to get it to work from your computer.  

Once you install extension, once you are in Chrome you just have to click on the icon at the top right address bar and choose the Chromecast you want to connect to.  As long as you are on the same wireless network you can connect easily.  

I also took the device home and installed to a TV, just to test it, and it worked easily the first time out.  The only concern I had with the install was that my TV didn't have a USB port, so I had to use the power adapter, and fortunately it was close enough to use the included USB cables.

Everything is working great now!