Monday, January 30, 2006 

Weed the Feeds

How many feeds is too many? 50? 100? 200? I've got 250. To be fair, probably half of them aren't very active and so they really don't create much work or time to read. But I do have a number of feeds that rarely offer anything of value. My most useless feeds are:

  1. Boing Boing....very popular but total fluff. They usually have 20 or so posts per day and maybe I've found 5 posts mildly interesting. Not necessary but amusing. Can 39,392 subscribers be wrong? Change that to 39,391.
  2. Tech Bargains.... nice if you spend alot online or are an American but for me I think I've only taken advantage of one offer.
  3. NY Times Op-Ed...since they've moved to a pay model for most of the columns it's a waste. I originally subscribed because of Thomas Friedman but he's not free anymore
  4. CBBC Newsround....I started a folder called Kids Feeds which was intended to find RSS feeds for kids. This is one I thought might be suitable but I'm not sure anymore. Still looking for a good kids news source. I'm still waiting for yahooligans to offer a feed.
  5. "Classroom Blogging" news feed. I have this coming in from Google and Yahoo. In general I'm not happy with most news feeds. They tend to repeat too many stories from various sources and also the same story seems to reappear about 58 times before it dies.
Okay those are my top 5 worst feeds. I'm going to go and remove the subscriptions. I'm still frustrated by the number or times the same post gets republished. I know I've done it a few times after correcting or updating a feed but it seems that it happens more than it should from my other feeds. Maybe there's a technical issue I'm missing here.

Anyway, maybe I should weed more often. Now I'm down to 245.


Assignment for a Geography Class

I think Google Maps and Google Earth should be incorporated into virtually every classroom on a daily basis. Rarely does a day go by in my routine where I don't do a quick look up of a location or directions.

But here's what I'd love a classroom to do:
Take this link filled with Google Earth/Map hacks and tools and sort them and categorize them. There are so many incredible applications. As a fan of 24, here's a neat little application that plots the various locations of each episode. Not only that but most of the applications provide photos and links to additional information.

As Clarence wrote,
One thing I have seen this year is the kids grow and respond to certain tools. Some kids have turned in to great prolific bloggers. Other prefer our wiki. Some kids have made great use of their Bloglines accounts while others have hardly touched them. Now we are moving on to Skype. I have been discussing it with the kids in my class and now at least half a dozen of them have set up Skype accounts. I have learned this year valuable lessons about exposing kids to tools, teaching them how to sue them safely and ethically, and then allowing them to use those which suit their purposes best. While I expect them to be able to use any of the tools, I need to allow them choices and responsibility in their communication channels.

So there's the challenge. Get your kids to dig into these tools and their value and post the findings.

Friday, January 27, 2006 

Encouraging Student blogging

This is a bit of a guilt post.

Darren just Skyped me about talking to some teachers on Monday as he's doing another one of his great sessions on the tools of Web 2.0 (at least I think that's what he's doing). He asked me to talk about folks that I've been helping and the impact it's had on their students.

I have a little folder in my aggregrator called PS 210 bloggers. These are all the teachers that I've worked with in starting a weblog. There area about 50 or so bloggers in there. Of those, perhaps 15 have maintained there blog. Most use it as a classroom announcement/information site which I've always encouraged but also tried to promote the more reflective/connective aspect. That's been tougher. I'd say I only have 2 really reflective bloggers. Here's where I really feel guilty, none of them at this point have introduced blogging to their students. I have worked with a few classes and got them started but not very successfully.

So when Darren calls me on Monday (I'm sure Darren, you'll read this before then) and asks about the impact with students, I'll have to confess it's been minimal. The teachers who use them as classroom portals/sites are happy but it's been slow in moving beyond that.

So in light of that, I dug around my clippings in Bloglines and found 3 posts from the past that may encourage teachers to start student weblogs.

Now if any Prairie South teachers are interested, I'd love to work with you and your students in discovering the power of blogging.

Confession is over.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 

Laptops for all Florida teachers

This is interesting.
Laptops for teachers.

"This initiative to provide a laptop to every teacher will be a critical catalyst to ensuring that all of Florida's teachers have the opportunity and the ability to harness the benefits of technology.".

You might be cyncial of the motives or question the initiative itself, but at least they are doing something to change instruction. If not to change instruction at least to state clearly the importance of technology in teaching and learning.

Friday, January 20, 2006 

A little reminder to us all

I don't want to be these guys...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 

Curriculum Actualization of Authentic Learning

Curriculum Actualization is a term used in our province to indicate the completion of implementation of a curriculum.

Miguel has been having some great discussion about curriculum and its worth a read.

I spend a lot of time reading and writing about the way things ought to be in terms of creating an authentic, relevant classroom. Bob Sprankle, if you aren't aware is a grade 3-4 teacher in Maine. He's been podcasting for some time now and if you visit his classroom site, you'll get a sense of what he and his students are doing.

I listened to his podcast last week where he talks about his students investigation of a false accusation on wikipedia. That in itself is powerful stuff. David Warlick did a session last week and used their podcast as an example of K-12 podcasting. During the session, he had participants comment on what they heard. One person questioned the validity of the students work and wondered if Bob Sprankle had done the writing for them.

In the most recent podcast by Bob Sprankle, he records a classroom discussion where students respond to the accusation that perhaps they aren't doing the writing. Listen to their response.
I like this exchange, when Bob plays devil's advocate and says:
"How would you even know a word like 'false accuation'."
"I read books"
I love how Bob let's the kids hammer out their ideas and simply offers leading questions. This is great teaching and even greater learning.

Miguel said,
So, although we may perceive that students are developing skills more efficiently as they "wikify" knowledge, we could still achieve the same results with other approaches.
Really? What other approaches could match this learning?

If you can find a better or comparable example of authentic learning that doesn't incorporate technology, I'd like to know.

Monday, January 16, 2006 

4 Cool Tools

Here are three free tools that I've discovered this week. I haven't had the chance to fully explore them all but my first impressions are good.

  • ProtoPage....based on AJAX technology, this page allows you to create, edit and customize your page. I haven't paid much attention to ajax but know it's used with other services like Netvibes and others. This might be a great application for and teachers and students to create temporary spaces. Here's one I created for our consultants. Try either of these web apps, it's quite cool.

  • FreeMind...this one comes courtesy of DanToday. I might be one of the only educators not to use Inspiration. At first glance this might be a nice alternative. Probably not as easy to use but for quick graphically maps, it seems quite powerful. I work with a number of people who like graphics/charts/maps as products of discussion.

  • YackPack...thanks to Wes Fryer for this one. Web-based voice messaging allows you to create groups and leave voice messages. I like the simple interface. I've already started using this one with the Posse and Wes had open invitations to his disruptive technology group.

  • Pandora...Not sure if this is a tool persae, but certainly is interesting. You can create your own personal radio station based on an artist or song. It analyzes songs based on its musical components so making recommendations are more likely to match your taste. You also decide whether or not you want a particular song included in your station. There have been other services similar to this but in terms of matching your musical tastes, this one seems a cut above.

  • Thursday, January 12, 2006 

    What's in Your Bloglines?

    Due to the busyness of starting a brand new school division, my time to fully absorb and analyze my feeds, has been diminished.

    So instead, I check the "Keep New" box and wait until I've fully considered the post. In some cases I even read the post but haven't had enough time to wrap my head around them all.

    So I thought I'd show you the articles that I'm thinking about. If you've written, written about or thought about these topics, please consider leaving a comment.

    So in no particular order....

    More Loose Change
    Discussion about assessment and educational change. I just completed a presentation on assessment and I continue to struggle with presenting assessment ideas beyond the first impressions of standardized testing. David Warlick warns that one day students might say:
    "No!". "I'm not going to take your tests any more.“ I'’m not going to read your ancient textbooks any more. I'’m not going to listen to your boring lectures, fiddle with your ridiculous worksheets, or worry over your irrelevant grades any more."

    I addressed this somewhat in my last podcast on WYWWYW.

    Merit Pay
    Miguel's post on a Houston school district offering incentive to teacher's who have improved test scores. My first reaction is YIKES! Once again it seems to me that policy makers resort to the lowest common denominator in order to easily meaure something. Wesley Fryer's recent podcast mentions "sucking the joy" out of learning with testing.

    Student Laptops as a Menance

    Recently I've become a strong advocate for one 2 one computing. I'm hoping to pilot some projects in my new division. This article addresses how one study questions the effectiveness of laptops since they cause so many distractions. Wesley counters the arguement with asking the question of pedagogy. Laptops without a change in traditional teaching and learning won't make a difference. Laptops for students are for classrooms where students are empowered learners and teachers are smart enough to get out of the way much of the time.

    Questions about Coffee and Education
    I like this:
    What drives us to pay $2 - $4 for a cup of coffee?

    Is there something wrong with Folgers?

    Here’s a secret. At the successful shops, coffee isn’t their business. Experience. Conversation. Networking. Quality. Story. Meaning. Design. Play. Service. Wireless. Comfort.

    What does this mean for education? What can we learn?

    These are a few of the things rattling around my brain.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006 

    WYWYW Podcast 12

    Today's podcast comes from my van travelling through southern Saskatchewan. I talk about WYWWYW (What you want, when you want) and how it changes in the way we receive audio and video and may impact education, specifically in my new school division Prairie South

    Google Earth File of Prairie South Schools (choose save link as if you're using Firefox)

    open prairie

    More photos are found here:

    Sunday, January 08, 2006 

    Posse Talk with Stephen Downes Part 4

    This concludes the longest breakfast ever....cheque please.

    Show notes are found here.