Getting Cloudy

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Below is a copy of a recent artice I wrote titled, “Getting Cloudy.” This article was printed in the Florence Mining News on April 11, 2012. It is discussing how technology is having a big impact on both students and teachers at the Florence County School District.

If you were to walk through the classrooms in the high school and middle school you would find it to be “cloudy.” Of course there isn’t a fog settling in the rooms, but we are talking about the tech buzz term known as “Cloud Computing.” Cloud Computing allows students and staff to access their programs and files no matter where they are or what type of computer/smartphone they are using. This past summer the school district implemented a cloud computing program referred to as the FSD Cloud. Students and staff are able to log in to this single website and gain access to their files, grades, email, calendar, and more!

Students have been able to access this cloud by using netbooks provided by the school district, through the 1:1 initiative. Another buzz term, 1:1 means every student, in grades 7-12, have access to a netbook for classroom use. This puts students in a position where they can take direct control of their education and teachers in a position where their lessons can be interactive and student driven. In a recent survey a student stated, “(the netbooks) help make understanding in classes better and helps people focus on what’s being taught, and just makes classes better.” Also, the 1:1 initiative has allowed teachers and students to access material and information that otherwise would have been inaccessible. Students are now able to access up-to-date information on the fly and staff are able to provide students with relevant meaningful material.


It is truly the interaction of these two programs that have made a big impact on the school district. In the words of a teacher, the FSD Cloud and the 1:1 initiative “Expands lesson possibilities and can make learning more engaging and motivating.” These programs also prepare students for a world that has technology integrated into everyday life. The school district looks forward to further expanding these programs with the use of Google Apps (a cloud based productivity suite), our new interactive website (currently in development), and further training in Web2.0 websites for all staff and students!

Orginally publication:
Getting Cloudy, Florence Mining News, 4-11-12.

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Get More Out of Google Inforgraphic

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I am a sucker for neat infographics and couldn’t help but share this one, This infographic gives some awesome tips on better ways to find information using Google.

Hopefully you find a useful nugget of learning 🙂

Looking for some other awesome infographics? Check out the handy links below:

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My First Newspaper Article

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

On March 28, 2012, my article titled “Teaching the Teacher” was featured in the Florence Mining News!


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Teaching the Teacher

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment


Teaching the Teacher

By Justin Cowen

Florence County School District IT Technician

At Florence County School District, not only are the students learning, but so are the teachers and staff! With the recent technology implementations, it became clear that the school district needed to create a training program. Now, about twice a month, a tech training is offered to all district staff. The trainings are a time for staff to learn about websites and resources that available to both themselves and students. They have focused mostly on free “cloud” based websites. These cloud based sites allow students to access their projects and materials anywhere they have a internet connection.

Teachers have used websites like which is a great PowerPoint alternative and, which allows students to create engaging and exciting video slideshows. Staff has also learned how to use Google Apps to allow online collaboration between teachers and students.  

Using these new websites have allowed students to create projects that previously would have been impossible. Instead of just creating a poster about WWII to tape on a wall, students in Amy Johnson’s 8th grade History created interactive posters using Glogster.  Theses “glogs” allowed students to share information, images, videos, and resources online within their classroom. In addition, recently Terri Koehn’s Biology class students created music videos to demonstrate their understanding of assigned topics. Students utilized a collaborative cloud based video editor called WeVideo. The website allowed each student to be on their own netbook, yet still work together as a group. One teacher, Mike Jones, even got rid of book reports all together for a project and had students create a Animoto video to show their comprehension of the material. Students were then able to show theses video off to the class and create excitement about reading!

With all the new technology available to students and staff, learning has taken on a new exciting approach at the Florence County School District.  Staff challenge the students to tackle new ideas while the students challenge the staff to implement new methods of teaching.  As we move forward, the district is excited to see the awesome possibilities made possible with the ever changing technology!

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Random Tech Wednesday!

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment


All to often school administrators, teachers, staff, and tech folk forget to have fun.  To help combat this I decided to have a “Random Tech Wednesday.”  The school I am at has a half hour of built in PD time everyday, so I often get a chance to hold short training sessions throughout the year.  This past Wednesday I started hiding little pictures throughout the school, similiar to the image above.  On top of that I sent cryptic emails out to get staff excited about the tech training.  Sure enough it worked, in half a day I had all our staff buzzing and interested to find out what the training would be about. It was looking like I would have my best turn out ever for a tech training! Unfortunately we were hit by a huge snow storm and school was dismissed early.

I thought the training would be a lose and not occur because of this, but I was wrong. I was asked, and I note again, asked for the training to be made up! It seemed the mystry I created continued on in the minds of staff while they were at home enjoying the snow. I think we often forget that we ourselves are students and want to be wowed and surprised. We make our PD so strict and formal that no matter the topic, it is already a dud. So next time you present or are in charge of PD, add a little flare and have fun!

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Desktop Wallpaper Competition ~ via Photoshop

October 29, 2011 Leave a comment


Came across these great logo ideas ( the other day through a Twitter post by Adobe.  I thought this would make a great competition in our school.  So I have challenged our computer teachers to have students create desktop wallpapers based off these logos for our school.  I am excited to see the results and will post the winning designs on a later date!

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Halloween Lesson Plan For Photoshop (grades 7-12)

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment


As I was doing my nightly browsing, I came across a picture that got me thinking Halloween.  Below is a simple lesson plan that could be done in any Photoshop class.

Step 1: Have students watch an epsiode of Life After People by the History Channel. 

Step 2: Challenge students to take a photo and manipulate it to look like people have not been around for a long time.  This photo could be local city photos you provide, school photos, famous landmarks, etc.  It would be pretty cool, if time allowed for you to have students take pictures of their own homes.

  • Here is the picture that gave me this idea, original example, same as picture in this post.
  • HINT: Many students do have cellphones with camera capability.  You could have them take a picture of their house with their cellphones and then via a text message, have them email you the picture if cellphone use at school is not allowed.  All the student has to do is type your email address in the place they would normally type a phone number to send it too.

Step 3: At this point you could be done, but I like to have students show off their work.  You could use a website like Linoit to have student share their creations and expand upon them.  I did setup an example of what you can do on Linoit, Halloween Lesson Plan Linoit.

I hope this lesson plan finds you in time for Halloween, but it certainly could be used at any point during the year.  Have a great week everyone and a spooky Halloween!



Before and After Picture, semper_bibitur,


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Need 1:1 Guidelines

The school I am currently at has gone to 1:1.  This year all students grades 6-12 will receive a netbook for use in school.  We are currently forming a procedure and guideline sheet for students.  Does anyone out there have something that has worked well for their school?

Currently we are thinking that students will store the netbooks in their last hour class for charging and pick them back up during morning passing time.  Students at this time will not be taking them home.  We did think of having a centralized storage area, but unsure who we would then staff the room 

For the guideline sheet we were trying to decide how to handle what happens if the netbook is damaged.  They did a pilot program last year with 100 netbooks and 5 of them were damaged, so the school board really wants something set in stone.  Personally, I am a one strike and you are out kind of guy, but I am up for suggestions.

Please feel free to share any ideas, comments, or forms that you may have.  Thank you in advance!

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Netbook Cases

I just recently took a job as a It Technician at a small school district in Northern Wisconsin. My first major assignment is to find 300 cases for a Toshiba netbook.

The school had done a pilot program of 100 and 5 had been broken. So board members were thinking of a hard case. Do any you have recommendations or creative ideas?

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Computer Hardware Chart

June 26, 2011 1 comment
A neat graphical guide to computer hardware. Would be cool to have students use it to label the guts of a computer.


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