Tuesday, March 29, 2005 

Schools Ban Blogs

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :: "School Bans Blogs"

Once again, paranoia reigns. As I think about school's efforts to "protect" students, I am puzzled by how many choose to simply ban or restrict rather than educate on appropriate use. My litmus test continues to be, does the value outweigh the negative? For me, blogging has such powerful potential that it requires teachers to teach ethics and protocol. If we don't do this, they'll still blog only they'll do it at home with little or no supervision or training in handling the technology.

Monday, March 28, 2005 

Flickr: The Transparent Screens Pool

As I continue to explore Flickr, for my upcoming workshop, I discover more and more tools and functionality.

Flickr groups are where people of like minds get together to form a...well, a group. These can be centered around interests (Extreme Knitting, Judy Garland Memorabilia), regions (Vancouver, Deep South) or anything else really. Each has its own home page and discussion board.

I dabble a bit with graphics and found this impressive. Have a look a this creative graphics group.

Friday, March 25, 2005 

Browse Amazon in a cool way

Try this: amaztype


Pretty cool huh?


Spell with flickr

This via Tim Lauer

SHA undergroundSe\Esscrabble kI

Spell with flickr

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 

What's the point...Uncovering the truth behind anti-tech studies

Stephen Downes writes about a study done stating "Computers can harm learning" These studies usually end up pointing people in the wrong direction. At first glance it might appear that removing technology from schools would be a good thing. It seems that's the message that's being promoted.

Todd Oppenheimer wrote a book called The Flickering Mind in which he tries to make the point that technology is largely a waste of money. I wrote a paper on his premise last year and found that he didn't do an especially good job of getting to the real issue. We all know that computers and technology on their own do nothing to support learning. We get that and we also know that teachers are working hard for the most part to use technology in effective ways.

Read Jamie Mckenzie's review of The Flickering Mind. Also NPR has an archived broadcast of an interview with Tood Oppenheimer.

I'm trying to figure out the motive behind these studies. Again if it's trying to stay that teachers need to be more effective in their use of technology, few would argue. If it's to say let's cut back on the use of technology in learning...I have a big problem with that!


Blogging at Empire

We had a noon session on blogging at Empire. I think we have a great crew of potential bloggers.


Watch for good things to come out of this school.

Sunday, March 20, 2005 

My own music game

My friends know that on my birthday, they will be subjected to some game I invent. My rules, my game, my birthday. This year I created a game called 41 (named after my new age). Guys against girls as usual.

I created six categories:
  • TV Themes
  • Movies
  • Classic Rock (songs most guys like)
  • Chick Songs (songs your wives like...they usually complain the questions are slanted toward men which is probably true, thus the invention of this category)
  • O' Canada (songs by Canadian artists)
  • Seinfeld
So I download the files and and bring them into my audio editor. If you don't have one, download Audacity. Then I create little clips and it becomes a modified "Name that tune". I award bonus points if teams will break into spontaneous song or answer some other trivia related question such as what year was the movie released. Teams must answer at least 2 questions in each category. 2 points are awarded for correct answers plus bonuses.

Audio editing can be a lot of fun. With the advent of podcasting it will become more prevalent. A few friends of mine have gotten into audio editing because their daughters are dancers or figure skaters and they need to create music for thier performances. I always encourage teachers to explore how they use technology outside the classroom and it won't be long before they bring it into their classroom.

BTW, the guys won 41 to 40.

Thursday, March 17, 2005 

More on Testing

Not 100% applicable to our local situation, but it's a nice piece of writing.

Kim Cavanaugh's Brain Frieze


Who needs outcomes?

My university advisor belongs to a neat think tank. He shared a video of these folks with us at one of my rare face to face meeting last year. He is meeting with them in the next few days. I like this line: "The things I like best about this is the fine people, the informality (there is no agenda), and the intentional avoidance of intended outcomes" This seems odd, no outcomes? How can this possibly be a worthwhile process in our day and age of data driven, testing and accountability? I guess given that they pay their own way means they can do whatever they like but still, he'll tell you how valuable these sessions are.

I struggle with balancing these two seemingly contrary ideas of accountability and "open-ended inquiry". I'm sure many can articulate how these two work together. Either I haven't given it enough thought or I'm just not bright enough to settle the issue.

For now, I'll keep living and working in cognitive dissonance.


Tests and Tools

Reading this post from Bud the teacher triggered thoughts of previous discussions I've had recently with colleagues regarding the use of technology and student assessment.

Bud's post deals with the use of a dictionary for an English test, but this can easily be applied to the use of calculators or the internet in a testing environment. If we want to test students on their knowledge and memorization skills, then perhaps prohibiting students from using these tools may be important. But what real world environment would tell people they couldn't use these everyday tools? Another example of why testing needs serious revamping.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 

How to speed up FireFox - For broadband Internet connections

Here's a way to customize your browser to super charge it. It is a bit greedy and if everyone did this it may cause issues. Just don't tell everybody this tip. Think of it as a door crasher special with limited supply. You wouldn't tell everybody.How to speed up FireFox - For broadband Internet connections


My Favorite Firefox Extensions

If you haven't yet switched to FireFox, stop reading and install it! Everytime a friend asks for help on their computer, I begin by installing FireFox. Everytime I'm forced to use IE I'm reminded how much tabbed browsing has improved my online experience. Then I feel sorry for those who aren't using FireFox. I'm on a bit of a mission (aka teach42) I won't go into all the reasons it's the superior browser, but here are my favourite extensions:
  • Autofill...completes html forms
  • Forecast Fox...built in weather forecastor
  • Stumble Upon..choose your interests and do some real surfing
  • Just Blogit...a must if you're a blogger
  • Image Toolbar...saving and copying features
  • Furl Tools...Quick access to furl
  • Bloglines Toolkit...a nice supplement to my news aggregator
  • Hotmail Tabs...opens hotmail links in new tabs
  • Link Preview...mouse over a link and you get a thumbnail preview
  • Foxytunes..puts a built in media player in your browser
  • ieview..right click to open a window in IE
  • Lasttab..close a tab and it returns you to your last tab
  • Sessionsaver 1.2 restores your tabs when your reopen FireFox, espescially handy if it crashes (it's happened 3 times in the last 2 months) and even
  • Tabbrowser Preferences...enhanced control over tabbed browsing
The ones in bold are key for all users and I'm talking to our IT dept to include FireFox in our next ghosting. We already have it installed on our thin client systems. Again, if you've read all this and still haven't downloaded FireFox...do it now!


Human Clock

Here's one of those things that make you go..."Hmm... I'm sure there's something educational here I'm just not sure what it is!"

(via David Jakes)

humanclock.com - March 15, 2005 (Tuesday) / 8:53 am: ""

Monday, March 14, 2005 

Wikis and WordPress

I finally got around to looking at Jotspot. I managed to set up a wiki for our Assessment and Evaluation Committe as well as my University class.

This looks like a potentially powerful tool.

Our IT dept. installed WordPress today. I played with it a bit and managed to have them install a few templates. I still need more time to explore it but I know many bloggers in education use it. ( I listened to a podcast from a WordPress user this morning, Steve Dembo aka teach42)
Not that we're ready for it yet but as over the past few days, I recieved several requests for blogs and would like to offer more options than blogger even though up until this point, it serves my purposes.
Have a look at the Wordpress blog. If you have any good tutorials on using it, please post them. I haven't looked for any yet.

Friday, March 11, 2005 

Preparing Students for our Changing World

This article is from Willard Daggett that I had the priviledge of hearing back in January.

Here are my rather sketchy notes on his speech. Reading the full article will provide the background.

A partnership with K-12, higher ed and the businsess community is the ONLY model for effective change
Study based on examining the 30 top achieving High schools in the US

  • We need to spend more time explaining WHY we need to change
  • if you start with the HOW the majority will respond with, "this too shall pass"
  • make change voluntary
  • understand your three groups :
    • lunatic fringe...never heard an idea they didn't like
    • realists
    • those who will always say, "this too shall pass"
  • spend your first year explaining why
  • year two the realists will move over
  • year three some of the "this too shall pass" group joins
Main Characteristics of these schools

  • Learning Communities
  • High Expectations...espescially in the area of literacy (see the article for his definition)
  • 9th Grade is different
    • 20-40% weren't ready for 9th grade
    • Research does not validate remediation
    • Core subjects taught in context of electives
    • looping of 8th grade teachers to 9th grade
  • 12th Grade...kids that were ready got all requirements by 11th grade and used 12th grade to acquire AP classes
  • Data at the classroom level revealed curriculum was too heavy. Pared it down to essentials. Critical benchmarks taught in multiple subjects
  • Emphasis on Relationships and Reflective thought...looping teachers develops relationships with students. Reflective thought cannot take place with no relationships.
  • Professional Development is NOT mandated.
  • Strong Leadership

He gave me lots to think about. What are your thoughts???

Thursday, March 10, 2005 

Little Bloggers

Kathy Cassidy's Grade one students are blogging using David Warlick's Blogmeister. You've never heard so many excited writers...."I've had 30 reads", "Someone commented on my article!", "Look at my story!"
Westmount bloggers
Head over to her blog and write back to these eager writers. Click on the student's name, and comment. (leave the class password are blank)

I'll be doing some sessions for our teachers over the next few months. Topics include:
  • Blogging Basics
  • Blogmeister
  • Furl
  • RSS
  • Flickr
  • Geocaching
I'm always looking for resources for these topics so if you think you have any hidden gems, send them my way!


Bloggers gain crediblity

This story sent to me by my colleague Dustin Swanson. Blogging seems to be getting recognition as legitimate media.

CNN.com - White House admits first blogger to news briefing - Mar 7, 2005


HOW-TO: Make your own annotated multimedia Google map

Now this is cool. I've mentioned Google maps before but didn't realize you could make your own. I'd to see if anyone has done this. Again, my only complaint is lack of detail on the Canadian side. Also, Alec Couros (via Rick's Canadian cafe) pointed me to Map24 which is an excellent mapping service as well.

But the ability to make it your own...I like that. Okay, it's fairly technical but it can be done. The instructions are all there. Anyone up for a challenge? I also see a direct connection to my new passion of Geocaching. I'll likely refrain from showing this one to my father as the daily phone calls from Florida for technology coaching will increase beyond my current capacity.

HOW-TO: Make your own annotated multimedia Google map

Wednesday, March 09, 2005 

Bangor librarians face internet threat

This is a bit scary. I hope teachers begin to stand up and let the public know the internet by itself, cannot provide all the answers. Some people really do think computers can replace teachers. It's unfortunate we haven't been able to make our message about information literacy more clear.
The Guardian | Bangor librarians face internet threat

Tuesday, March 08, 2005 

43 Things

As questions about blogging arise among my colleagues, I'm constantly trying to broaden the definition from a website or journal to its full possibilities. This article, while not specifically about blogging, begins to get at some of the connectedness that could happen.

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom : Web of Connections

After reading the article, be sure to check out 43 things.


Digital Natives vs. Immigrants

A nice piece on the value of teachers. I like his line..."Life is an open-book test if you know where and how to look."

Digital Natives vs. Immigrants

Monday, March 07, 2005 

Who decides?

Jack Mcleod told us of his school decision to ban certain sites. I'm fortunate to work with a school division that values the opinions of teachers. Our local ITST (Instructional Technology Support Teams), has a strong voice in determing the direction of policies related to technology in our schools. Some of the questions we have begun to discuss include technologies such as using instant messaging, cell phones, and other acceptable use policy issues.

As educators we need to be prepared to deal with new technologies as they become more pervasive and accessible.
Chris Dede of Harvard has used video games developed as virtual learning environments specifically designed to promote learning. He says, "Kids also are fascinated by virtual interaction with their peers, as exemplified by the ubiquity of instant messaging and similar synchronous communication. Repurposing inexpensive devices bought for entertainment to use for learning in and out of school potentially offers powerful leverage for increasing achievement and equity."

Although technology is never "value free", I suggest we consider all technology and begin to "leverage it" for increased student achievement.

Are you with me?

Sunday, March 06, 2005 

Blogs vs. Traditional Websites

We've been showing teachers and students how to build websites for years. Now we're talking about blogs. What's the difference? This site address the key differences. Edublogs

Websites are still useful and do things the blog can't. But for pure writing, publishing, transparency and community, blogs are better.

Thursday, March 03, 2005 

Blogging Workshop

Today I had the priviledge of working with a very enthusiatic group of teachers were are ready to enter the exciting world of blogging. They are very patient with me and somehow think I'm an expert (See previous post). I look forward to seeing them and helping them discover the potential of social software.

Have a look a the good start they got on their blogger pages:

Mrs. Blash-Principal
Ms. Gray-Wilson-PreK/K
Ms. Booth-Resource
Mrs. Pavier-Grade2/3 and 6

Wednesday, March 02, 2005 

A Day in the Life

After rummaging around Will Richardson's blog, I amazed at the depth of content considering that he has a full time job. (Check out his notes)

People often say to me, "You have too much time on your hands." usually in reference to some type of fun type of project or experiment I'm working on or "When do you sleep?". So I thought I'd break down a typical day in terms of how technology specifically impacts my day to day world.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

8:25 Began my work day as usual by checking email and repsonding to email. Voice mail is on the decline.
9:10 Received a fax from a teacher needing some ideas placed in a PowerPoint for a meeting in the afternoon. I would prefer it sent electronically but I understand everyone's not there yet.
9:15 Worked on PowerPoint for the afternoon Assessment workshop. My role in the meeting was minimal so I simply created an agenda
10:00 Created an online secure space for the Teacher's local agreement in Dreamweaver. I had never used a password protected area and although our techs set it up, I had to convert the document to PDF, link and upload.
10:15 Received an email from a teacher requesting a blog workshop. Started looking into other blog resources and signed up for a Flickr account. Installed the upload program and uploaded some pictures. Used Fireworks to resize and edit, then realized it wasn't necessary. Flickr will take care of most of that.
10:45 Worked on survey for Graduate class using Advanced Survey.
11:10 Went back to the PowerPoint to make some last minute editions as well as include a Word document.
11:45 Lunch...I hate the South Beach Diet!
12:30 Time to set up for the meeting. Set up the laptop and LCD.
1:00 Assessment and Evaluation workshop. Good meeting and discussion.

Assessment meeting March 2005

3:45 Debriefed meeting
4:10 Realized there was a problem with the javascript on our Graduate class website and searched for a fix....no luck. I'll need the group's web designer to zip me the site again.
5:15 Head for home
In between all these things, there was a fairly steady inclusion of email checks/responses as well as reading the odd blog post from my RSS.

7:30 Began working on my daughter's application video to Sheridan College. I'm pulling old video from her past musical performances. Found out some are on Digital8 so I needed another camera to capture. I think I've got it. Used both Movie Maker and Pinnacle.
8:30 Head over to watch some High School basketball.
10:00 Completed Survey for Grad class and uploaded URL to prof. Got caught up on all the postings on the grad site.
11:00 Taped my daughter's little introduction for her audition. Used a green screen but did not like the results when I went to edit. There's no time to redo it.
11:45 Completed editing but now have to transfer the video over the network to my laptop. I love wireless but it's quite slow. I'll do some more reading while I wait for the video to transfer.
12:30 Worked on the final version of the video. Tomorrow (I guess today) I'll tape her singing and monologue and we'll ship it off to Toronto by Thursday morning.
1:15 Sleep.

So there you have it. As George Costanza once said, "If you take my entire life and condense it into one day....IT LOOKS DECENT!"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005 

My move from novice to expert

Further to my last post, in the last month I've graduated from a novice blogger to an expert. Expert only in the sense that I have to do a workshop on what I know about blogging and help some teachers set up their own professional/classroom blogs. Really and truly I know I'm still a novice but this won't be the first time I've posed as someone with knowledge.
The weird thing is with this one, everyone is still figuring out what works. Thankfully folks like Will R. have been working hard at developing this concept for students. He talks about Shaking Society.
Blogging is about a conversation that doesn't end.