Tuesday, February 28, 2006 

I helped Einstein

I helped Einstein

I couldn't resist...via Alan Levine

Make your own

Monday, February 20, 2006 

MySpace hits home

There is so much out there on MySpace that it's hard to ignore. This weekend I spent sometime and discovered the following:
  • There are 403 people between the ages of 18-21 within 5 miles of my house. (Moose Jaw is a town of 35,000)
  • Most don't actually blog, they only post photos and receive comments. In that sense, I hope we stop calling MySpace a blog site when for the most part it's simply a social networking site.
  • My daughter has a space.... as someone who considers themselves fairly in touch with my kids, this might seem shocking. In my defence she set up a site in the fall and has not updated it. We had a chat.
  • The "f-word" is pretty common place.
  • Most of the conversations, while not what I would consider appropriate was not malicious but mostly encouraging
  • Some sites are used to post their personal music and video productions.
  • I'm not opposed to the concept of myspace.
The overall experience felt somewhat voyeuristic but at the same time, while they may not be aware of how or who is reading their stuff, I'm sure they realize it's not a private environment. I encourage all educators to spend some time browsing around your neigbourhoods.

So what do I do now? I'm sure most teachers and parents have no clue what's going on, just like many of them have no clue about what these kids do outside of school. Obviously the discussion about privacy and appropriateness needs to happen both at home and at school. Yet I wonder with some students if this would change their online persona and actions. Many of these postings I feel are done for their shock factor and the more that read them the better.
  • So do we just let kids be kids and consider it a non-school issue?
  • Do we invade their perceived privacy and expose them?
  • By pointing this out, do we risk creating more of an audience for the inappropriate?
As Will writes,
I'm in no way condoning the harassment or the cheating, but I still think trying to take away from kids the technologies they communicate and learn with is the wrong approach. We can clamp down and ultimately fail as the kids and the technology overwhelm us, or try to educate and model and repurpose our curricula to take advantage of what these technologies offer.

I hope I can come up with a good strategy for creating meaningful conversation among teachers and parents that would help address the issue at a local level. I hope I can come up with a good strategy for creating meaningful conversation among teachers and parents that would help address the issue at a local level. It may even begin with Alec's video suggested from the Daily Show.

Saturday, February 18, 2006 

I call it a bit weird but maybe there's more to it

I'm a sucker for things on the web that are just plain weird. Case in point my furl account has a separate topic called "A Bit Weird". The lastest two are courtesy of Clarence.

At first glance the only word I could think of to describe them was weird but I knew there was more to it. There are stories here. Thousands of them. As we try to tell students, almost anything can make a good story. Look at Seinfeld, it's a show about nothing. Not really but the point is there's good and interesting stuff in everyday life. Nothing new, but these sites help to illustrate that well.

On Tuesday, I'm giving a presentation on digital storytelling. I'll talk about the need for digital stories, show some examples, consider tools and include some resources. I need to add these sites as inspirations for stories as well. I did a photo essay a few months back that reminds of this, though not nearly as interesting.

Oh, one more weird site from Google Maps.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 


As I prepare for my presentation on Tuesday on Digital Storytelling, I came across SlideStory. SlideStory is a Windows only program that offers a simple photo story creator and even a podcasting tool.

I've used Photo Story 3 for windws and will continue to use it as it is a more powerful tool but this one is not only simple to use but offers direct publishing/hosting and the ability to use cue cards. Here's an example I created in about 15 minutes.

It offers RSS feeds for authors, tagging and comments. A true Web 2.o tool. Leave a comment on the site about the slidestory.


Technology Coordnator or Supporter

Tim Eirich posts this on the difference between a coordinator, supporter and integrater. Tim is a consultant??? in a neigbouring school division. Always exciting to be able to read a local edublogger. Are there any others lurking in the shadows?

Monday, February 13, 2006 

Conversations about gaming and technology in schools

Often good conversations aren't documented or available for others to witness. This conversation began live with a colleague and shifted to email as my colleague's spouse got into it with me. So here's the transcript of our discussion.

Dean: I sent this article to Joyleen who passed it on to Dan.

Dan: Joyleen shared the info with me that you sent her. It was an interesting read... This would be the counterpoint...



I think there are better ways to develop hand-eye coordination such as hockey, baseball, etc. This would also help combat the obesity epidemic in our society. I fear that many of our young kids are going to develop into a generation of people that can think about things a great deal, but can't do anything.


Dean: Well taken, here’s another argument.


It seems to be another issue of moderation. There are many who are “anti-games” or “anti-TV” and take the position that it’s an either or argument. I think the majority of educators take the stance take this view. My approach is to recognize that some video games are of an extremely high level of thinking and strategy and as such we should be promoting this type of gaming. No different from TV in that few would say all TV is bad. Too much TV is bad and watching certain programming has negative effects as well.

I think we need to recognize that just like TV, video gaming is not going to go away so given that fact, what do we do as parents and teachers to promote healthy, balanced lifestyle? Simply dismissing video gaming as a totally negative experience is neither realistic, true or helpful.

I’m just looking for balance.

Dan: agreed... all things in moderation. Where I am coming from is that too often the kids get the games and the parents are happy because they are quiet. We sit down as a family and play 'scene it' Disney. That is a much more productive activity in my eyes. I am a firm believer that we need to decide what we need to accomplish before we buy things. I am sure you are familar with Alan November. He talks about going to the store to buy a drill because you need to make a hole in your wall. You can't buy holes at the store, so you buy a drill to make holes. Likewise, we should first decide what we want to accomplish and then go out and get the correct tool. The correct tool for hand eye coordination and critical and creative thinking skills may be something other than video games. To go out and buy a gaming system because your three year old's friend has one seems like a bad idea. If a child wants to communicate with somebody in Russia for a good reason, one now has the impetus to go shopping. Finally, I have no doubt that you can get positive results from playing countless hours of video games, but at what cost? I am not convinced that the positive effects warrant the results of the negative effects. Like I said, all things in moderation. The problem is that it is very difficult to moderate. Kids are quickly addicted to the games, and moderation is tough to enforce. I guess I just think that to allow my kids to use video games at the age of three calls into question my judgment as a parent.

Dean: So having said all that which is hard to argue with, what should our response as educators be?

I’ll give you an example of why I think this is a critical question. An educator was asking me the other day about some of the new web technologies that are out there and some possibilities for his school. I mentioned podcasting as a possible way to harness the use of the ipod and other mp3 players that many students already have. He said, “We’re trying to keep the ipods out of our school”.

To me that’s wrong. Obviously at this point, schools have not addressed how they can properly deal with this type of technology so the easy answer is keep them at home. Same with cell phones. So the message we send kids is those type of technology have no place in schools. The ipod, cellphone, computer, TV, video games all fall into the same category as far as I can see. They are tools that serve different purposes. But all of them, if used correctly can be powerful learning tools.

We are not as teachers going to promote balance and wise use of technology if our response is simply to state or infer that these tools are bad. That’s the message we give when we tell kids to leave keep your technology out of the schools. Most of these tools are as communication tools and often misused. We need to get in there and utilize all these tools as learning opportunities. Not at the expense of real world experiences and activities but as part of our world.

Thanks for engaging.

Dan:I couldn't agree more. Schools are about maintaining the status quo. For example: School in 1915 was guided by bells. All students went to one building where one adult led the activities. A bell ended the day. Sound familiar? Ever wonder why educators got computers in their classes before phones? We need to get the message out that the status quo is not on. Teachers need to let the students run with what they know. The days of checking your brain at the door are over. Students need to learn how to manage information rather than knowing everything since information is changing daily. We need to focus on communication rather than technology. If the technology helps you to communicate more effectively, then you should use it. Herein lies the problem. What if the students begin to question our all-knowing attitudes as teachers???? Finally, there are some issues with phones, cameras, ipods, etc at school. What if indecent pictures are snapped in a locker room without anyone knowing and then they are posted on the net? But, what we need is ethics education on the use of technology rather than banning the technology.

see... we're on the same side after all...haha

Dean: Beautiful


Picture Cloud

Thanks to Alec for this link, this particular picture cloud took me all of 5 minutes to shoot and upload. Not the greatest since I should have taken twice the number of pictures but in interesting application and of course if it comes from Alec, you know it will be free.

by picturecloud.com

Saturday, February 11, 2006 

Thank you Bernie Dodge

If you read my blog this weekend, you would have found a post I wrote in response to Bernie Dodge's rather candid, and in my mind, somewhat unprofessional post regarding a presenter at a conference he was presenting at in Texas.

I posted a comment on his blog expressing my concern and posted here in regards to my fears that we as educators were not modelling the kind of conversation and dialouge we want our students and other teachers to engage in.

I checked back tonight to see that Mr. Dodge has retracted his post to now exclude the name of the presenter to which he was referring. He is still upset with the presenter but now his post addresses a greater problem that is worth writing about. I'm sure it wasn't my post that changed his mind but rather, as he stated, a wiser wife.

Bravo Bernie Dodge.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 

Asking the hard questions

On the 1 year anniversary of my blog, I thought I should try and write something so deep and profound that it would shake all my readers.

Okay so that's not likely to happen so I'll just throw out some thoughts around relevancy and communication.

When I think about our provincial language arts curriculum it seems to cover the 6 basic strands of communication: reading/writing speaking/listening viewing/representing
Most would acknowledge that we've over emphasized the reading/writing aspect and definitely are working towards incorporating more of the viewing/representing strand. The thought that occurred to me yesterday was about relevancy. If you asked the 10 adults if they did any writing in the past few days, I wonder how many actually did any writing other than making a list or a quick email or text message. While there are definitely a number of vocations where writing is part of the daily routine, my instinct tells me this is the minority. Most people do not engage in much writing. In fact, of these 6 strands, it is definitely the consumption strands (reading, listening and viewing) that we engage in. Speaking is obviously right up there as well but writing and representing do not really have a regular place in the life of your average adult.

So if this is true, why do we continue to spend the time we do helping students to write? I suspect the initial response to that is to help them communicate and also be better readers. I agree. David Warlick often talks about the future and how our students will be asked to create movies and other multimedia projects. Many of our enlightened educators are helping students to be contributors of this new read/write web. Creators not just contributors. It seems that we believe because of the new tools and openness of the web, all can be creators of content.

All can be but my feeling is few will be.

I say this because of two observations. One as I've alluded to earlier was that few adults communicate with writing or representing (ie. video/imagery). Even if they were given an audience, most people aren't interested in sharing with a larger audience. This number is obviously growing as evidenced by the number of teenage blogs. But it still is a small percentage of the total population.

The second observation is that just because the tools are there, doesn't make the creation of content and less stringent. I do a lot of video editing. I love it and appreciate the advancement of hardware and software to make the process almost as easy as it can get. But creating a quality video is hard work. My son spent 5 hours last night working on a short video for school. That doesn't include the pre-planning and actual filming. Anyone who has created video understands this. I think teaching kids this is important more because it helps them better view the media they see everyday. I don't think the majority of citizens will be creating video. It's just way too hard. Same with writing. Although it's easier than video, crafting a well written, readable document takes time; more time than most people are willing to give.

So after all that here is the hard question...

Should we be teaching the creation aspects of communication in equal proportion to the consumption, if indeed very few will be regular contributors?