Tuesday, June 28, 2005 

Google Earth Rocks!

After downloading this software, I wish I had seen this before our schools had been ghosted. What I noticed after a few minutes was the way it moves. It's fast and allows you to move quickly from place to place. I also see that it has updated its satellite images even since March. A few places that didn't have have tightly zoomed images now have them. I can see applications from K-12+. Truly amazing. I'll make sure it's on our next school wide ghosting.

Monday, June 27, 2005 

Podcast Four...The Guy with a Truck

Today's podcast is a hodgepodge of ideas. First what is "the guy with a truck?"...I'll explain. Second my summer projects include delivering a workshop and a bunch of reading.
EdTech Posse rides again...stay tuned.

BTW, from start to finish meaning from record to edit to post took 51 minutes including uploading to ourmedia.org which used to take as much as 24 hours. That's not bad.


Blogger Images makes it easy

Blogger just added the ability to upload images right to blogger. This eliminates even the slightest need to code in an image or use an external resource like flickr. It just keeps getting easier.

Friday, June 24, 2005 

Quick updates

Just wanted to point out a few things of note and interest over the past few days.

  • EdTech Posse Podcast #2 via Rob W. Knowing how difficult it is trying to coordinate 4 people, he did a solo effort to provide a bit of background. I think we've got one planned for next week.
  • Ourmedia.org I've used it to store video and audio. Great place to house your large multimedia files
  • YouTube. A similar site to ourmedia. I haven't yet uploaded anything but started subscribing to the video feed. The verdict is still out.
  • My quest into discovering the best CMS solution for our school division is on. Not that it's my call to make but I'll definitely have some influence. BlackBoard vs. open source...let the games begin!
Hoping to do at least one more podcast myself as the school year
wraps up on Thursday. Oldest daughter's graduation activities
and son's baseball playoffs this weekend will keep me busy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 

Refusing to engage in debate

This article from the NY Times (you'll need to register if you want to read the whole article) mirrors of number of experience and issues that I've been faced with lately. As the Web 2.0 continues to grow and encourage open discussion, conversation and yes, debate, there are several examples where this philosophy is not embraced.

The debate in Kansas over evolution typifies what I feel is the anti-thesis of the open source and social software movement. It doesn't matter to me what side of the issue you're on, I see a level of intolerance on both sides to engage in an open discussion of the issue.

Dr. Scott said that until recently she believed scientists should seize opportunities to debate the opponents of evolution. "I was one of the holdouts, saying yes, appear with these guys, yes, tell them what is wrong with their ideas, go to their conferences, treat them like scholars," she said.

Like other scientists, she said that if someone identified a flaw in evolutionary theory that could not be dealt with, science would have to modify the theory or even scrap it. But the criticisms raised have fallen in the face of scientific scrutiny, she and others say, yet opponents of evolution raise them again and again.

So a few years ago, she said, "even I threw in the towel."

"Our willingness to engage their ideas," she went on, "was not being reciprocated."

Dr. West, of the Discovery Institute, argues that scientists have shown the same unwillingness to engage when they talk about evolution. In Kansas, he said, "there was a sort of arrogance - claiming that 'since we are the majority scientific view we don't owe an explanation to anyone, especially these public officials we think are stupid.

I realize this is a very emotional, controversial issue and without dealing with the content of the debate, I know that this "unwillingness to engage" is prevalent in many areas of society and in particular education. I recently (yesterday) questioned someone about the use of a particular technology in our province. I was basically told that this is the decision that was made and you don't need to know why (a few of my readers will know what I'm referring to).

Now I understand there are times in life when you need to stop asking why and just get on with the task. I use this a lot with my kids but at the same time, an effective organization is characterized by an openness to intense dialogue and debate. At some point, a decision has to be made but not until all voices are heard.

I understand that with a debate like evolution vs. intelligent design that consenus is not realistic. But to not engage in the discussion seems wrong.

My involvement with RSS, blogging and all the other tools of the Web 2.0, enable me to read, listen and watch the ideas of a variety of people. Most I agree with but I'm always interested when intelligent people disagree and can do it without prejudice. Allowing individuals to make an informed decision on any topic seems to be the foundation of a democratic society. With respect to my personal issues, that's all I'm asking.

Friday, June 17, 2005 

EdTech Posse and my PD

Thanks to the initiative of Rob Wall, I experienced a conference call using Skype that is now a podcast. Alec Couros, Rob and I chatted for about a hour last night (the podcast is about 40 minutes) about a variety of educational technology issues. For me it was a great professional development experience and I appreciate getting the opportunity to learn and share.

We talked about a number of issues including the increase of bandwidth, open source software and more. This morning, my Bloglines account led me to a lecture by Thomas Friedman on his book "The World is Flat". He actually tied in many of the ideas that the three of us discussed last night. I haven't read the book but after hearing his lecture, I will.

I'm guessing that between the Skype podcast and the lecture, I probably got several hundreds of dollars worth of Professional Development. I paid nothing. I love it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 

Five technology lessons I learned from my Father

With Father's Day coming on Sunday, I was thinking about what to get my Dad. He's a 73 year old widower who is a typically hard to buy for kind of guy. I usually get him a book. Quick story: A few years ago I was looking for a book and remembered a book called Fathers and Sons & Golf. Thinking this was a perfect book, I hunted around several sites and finally located a copy at a used book store halfway across the country. I ordered it online and had it delivered right to his door. I was waited selfishly for the obligatory thank you but never got it. Finally I asked if he enjoyed the book. He said, "Yea, but you got me the same book last year!"

Okay, so I'm not that bright and never claimed to be. This year, I'll likely get him something to support him in his technological pursuits. His immersion into digital photography, general computing and geocaching keeps his mind and body active. He's got all the golf shirts and ties he'll ever need. But besides the gift, here are technology lessons I learned from my Dad:

  1. commitment and loyalty...Dad's long term commitments to his friends, faith and church have stayed with me and is something I've tried to pass on to my kids. With technology you need a strong commitment to persevere through frustration and challenges. Anyone working with technology is well aware it doesn't always go as planned.
  2. openness to new ideas and viewpoints...My Dad will try almost anything. A few years ago he bought a 4x4 and went racing up and down the beaches in Corpus Christi and also went parasailing. His new found joy of technology makes him somewhat of an expert among his peers. I've been able to learn more in the past five years than I could have imagined. Finding new ways to help students and teachers is what makes my job so exciting.
  3. Make time for fun...As hard a worker as he is, he makes sure it's mixed with fun. As I help teachers find new technology I always encourage them to find a way to use it in their personal lives and have fun with it. Some of my best workshops have included some outrageous videos from teachers who felt the freedom to have fun. I've come to discover that learning is fun.
  4. Listen and ask questions...People enjoy his company because he listens and shows genuine interest in people. I'm especially thankful for the way RSS has opened my eyes to many new ideas and viewpoints. Not that I agree with everyone but I like the conversation. I read way more than I write and I hope I listen way more than I talk. I need to work on that one.
  5. Don't take yourself too seriously... My Dad often starts his phone conversation with, "you know what dumb thing I did today?" Being able to laugh at yourself shows humility and vulnerability. It also makes you more approachable. Teachers and students are put at ease when you let them know you don't have all the answers.
The nice thing is, I'm still learning. I'm sure Dad never knew all the things he taught me about technology.

Thanks Dad. Happy Father's Day.


Podcast three...Assessment and Motivation

My first car podcast on my drive home last Saturday from Saskatoon, deals with my own learning and thoughts on assessment and motiviation. Graduate work, among other things, has caused me to better understand the viewpoint of students. Not sure if there's anything real profound here, but two clear ideas seem to emerge.

Saturday, June 11, 2005 

Podcast two...What about Bob?

This podcast is a response to a podcast heard earlier in the week from David Warlick. He has a great interview with Bob Sprankle, an elementary teacher in Maine. Bob describes the learning in his classroom. It's a learning environment that I believe educators should be trying to create. My podcast examines why I think many of our teachers have not adopted this approach.

On the technical side, I encoded the mp3 at a 32kbps rate which is a fairly low quality but resulted in a 2.2MB file for a 12 minute podcast (sorry to go over my prescribed 10 minute limit...I'm learning). Let me know if I should up the quality level.

Show notes:
David Warlick
Bob Sprankle
Bud the Teacher

If you disagree with any of my reasons or feel I've left some out, which I have, join the conversation and leave a comment or write about it in your own space.

Friday, June 10, 2005 

PD opportunities in Saskatchewan

Just wanted to point out a few PD opportunities for those of us in the great province of Saskatchewan.

A day with Alan November...I heard him speak, read his book and he will motivate and provide you a great understanding of the digital age. He covers three major topics. Consider attending this one. November 3, Saskatoon.

Educational TechKnowledge E-Conference...Saskatchewan's premeire K-12 technology conference. The sessions are not set yet but the varieties of offerings make it perfect for everyone. November 17-19, Regina.

Summer short courses ... there are a number of technology related offerings around the province this summer. Most are application based but two I'll highlight:

Integrating the Internet into the Classroom
(K-Grade 8)

This course is designed to help you incorporate the Internet into your curriculum. Topics we will cover include:

  • sites to help introduce the Internet to students
  • Teacher Resources
  • Educational sites
  • gathering information
  • collaborating with others
  • Internet projects for the classroom

STF Member: $38.00 (GST included)
Non-Member: $76.00 (GST included)
Saskatoon Public School Division Office
Computer Lab, 310 - 21st Street East
Aug 16 Tues 9am-3:30pm
Facilitator: Judy Byers
Other courses by this facilitator:0408, 0411, 0412

I've worked with Judy before and she does a good job.

The other one is by some guy named "Shareski".

Home Movies Everyone Wants to Watch
(All Grades)

Take your video from the summer and transform it into a cinematic masterpiece. (Okay maybe not a masterpiece but much better than most.) Over two days participants will use existing footage (school activities, summer vacation, birthday parties, whatever you wish) and learn the basics of video editing using Windows Movie Maker which comes free on all Windows based computers. Learn how to capture video to your computer, cut out unwanted footage and enhance video with special effects such as titling, transitions and more. Topics covered will also include producing for various formats such as DVD, VHS and also for the web. Discussion and examples of specific classroom projects will be explored.

STF Member: $76.00 (GST included)
on-Member: $150.00 (GST included)
Moose Jaw Public Education Centre
MMRC Lab, 1075 9th Avenue NW
Aug 15-16 Mon-Tues 9am-3:30pm
Facilitator: Dean Shareski
Extra Cost: $5 payable at workshop

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 

Why punish the kids...they should be rewarded

In Virginia, some bright kid figured out how to bypass a disabled calculator function used in state testing.

Texas Instruments recalled the calculator and fixed the problem. The school did honor the students ingenious and TI gave him a new graphing calculator.

Without getting into the whole calculator or no calculator debate, we need to rethink many of our ideas about assessment and evaluation. What engineer or scientist or business person would ever be expected to do their work without technology? Would an architect be asked to design a building without his/her software application?

I know, kids need to learn how to do many of these tasks mentally and also understand what the calculator is doing for them. But I don't think it has to be done by isolating technology from the equation (no pun intended).

Nanotechnology is moving beyond any Moore's theory predicted. Wristwatch PC's are around the corner.

Students may have to be stripped search before tests in order to insure they don't have access to technology. I'm hoping there's a better way. I hope that we assess things that measure how we use the technology not if we use the technology. I think it would be akin to asking a mechanic to fix our car without her own tools. Too many tests still give way too much importance to knowledge and memorization. This math test was in part measuring student's ability to convert decimals to fractions. If there's no context in which that skill is measured, it's pretty meaningless. I don't really care if a mechanic can use a rachet set. Frankly I don't care what tools she uses as long as she can fix my car. Does that make sense?

Thursday, June 02, 2005 

The New Podcast is here!

I've been thinking about podcasting for a few months and here it with show notes and everything. I'd love to see a comment or two.

You'll notice in the middle it sounds like the record player got stuck on 33rpm instead of 45. It's only for about 10 seconds.
Unpolished as it is have a listen.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005 

CSS evolving

Teaching webdesign and blogging to teachers, I'm encouraging them to discover the power of css (Cascading Style Sheets). I've shown the The Zen Garden site which demonstrates the potential of css. They are usually impressed by this but it's an highly refined expert use of css. This
Animated Timeline does a better job of demonstrating in a timeline, how css can change the content of your website or blog into something visually appealing and functional.