Thursday, December 28, 2006

IRS to allow educator expense deduction for 2006 tax return

According to a December 22, 2006 article on the IRS website, educators will again be allowed to deduct up to $250 in out-of-pocket classroom expenses. The article explains the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 just signed into law by President Bush. HOWEVER, the article also says that the IRS will not be able to process returns that claim these deductions until February!

If you're like me (I like to get a refund each year), I file our federal tax returns as soon as I get my W-2's. This year, though, I'll wait just a little longer so that my wife can claim her $250 deduction.

From the article:
    • Educators must file Form 1040 in order to take the deduction for up to $250 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses. It cannot be claimed on Form 1040A.
    • The deduction for educator expenses will be claimed on Form 1040, line 23, “Archer MSA Deduction.” Enter "E" on the dotted line to the left of that line entry if claiming educator expenses, or "B" if claiming both an Archer MSA deduction and the deduction for educator expenses on Form 1040. If entering "B," taxpayers must attach a breakdown showing the amounts claimed for each deduction.

The IRS has a PDF that explains the instructions above.

Hope I haven't bored you too much with this post, but I know from experience how much teachers spend on their classrooms each year, and I want all eligible teachers to be aware of this very recent change. This deduction was claimed on 3.5 million returns last year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

TechBargains Coupon Codes

I love the TechBargains website! Especially since they saved me an extra 50 bucks on a purchase I recently made on They find some outstanding deals from hundreds of electronics stores. You can even get an RSS feed to get the latest deals.

Check out their LONG list of coupon codes here.

Digital storytelling in comic book format

From CNET's

Now you can tell your story in comic book format using Planetwide Media's Marvel Heroes Comic Book Creator software.

Here's a quote from another CNET story about the software that I found interesting:
"For us, the Comic Book Creator will allow kids, and families in general, people of all ages, to utilize the product to engage them in the storytelling that National Geographic is all about," said John Dumbacher, senior vice president of licensing at the National Geographic Society.

Although I am not a big fan of comic books (or "graphic novels"), many students are, so this may be a new outlet for their creativity.

Awhile back, Garr Reynolds wrote about a book on his Presentation Zen Blog that I've kept in my aggregator. Learning from the Art of Comics was the title of the post, and in it he recommended buying Scott McCloud's book, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Here's a quote from Garr that resonated with me:

...if you read McCloud's book with an eye toward presentations or any other form of storytelling and graphic design, you will find many fundamental concepts and techniques that will surely help you think differently about the power of visual communication and the art of combining words and images. This book is not just for fans of comics — not by a long shot.

Check out the comic book creator website to see the variety of software they sell. Maybe this is another way to create a digital story?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

G'day mate!

Recently I added a ClustrMap to my blog, just to see where site visitors were from. Yesterday I noticed a dot on Australia so I just wanted to acknowledge that person with a heartfelt G'day mate!

This whole Web 2.0 thing is all about connectivity, so it's nice to know that I'm connecting in some small way to visitors from across the USA, and now all the way to Australia.

Top 100 Education Blogs

From the staff of the Online Education Database comes this list of the top 100 education blogs.

The list is broken down into the categories of: college, e-learning, education news, education policy, internet culture, learning, library & research, specialty, teaching, and technology.

Many of my favorite bloggers are on the list, but now I have a whole bunch more to check out.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time magazine's person of the year is...

"You. Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world. "

This article gives me hope for our world. In a time of terrorists, civil war, starvation, and other disasters both natural and man-made, Time has chosen to recognize US, the people who put the world into the world wide web:
It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

I am constantly amazed at the many free resources, and the wealth of knowledge and experiences literally at my fingertips, every time I log on to the Internet-- people who share willingly without the need or even the desire for fame or fortune, who do something for the common good. I come in contact with a lot of people who still believe that computers will isolate us from each other when exactly the opposite has happened. We are connected with like-minded individuals from across town, or around the world. I've never really thought about how powerful that is.

Thank you, Time magazine, for reminding us that

This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not
politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person
to person. It's a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really,
genuinely wonder who's out there looking back at them.

This evening my wife was working on her school's Christmas card that will be displayed on their website. The verse she selected comes from the book of Luke... "and on earth peace, good will toward men." I feel like we have a real opportunity to spread that good will on a scale we've never before imagined possible. I'm not naive-- but I am hopeful.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Lights, Camera, Education!

If you are a unitedstreaming subscriber and you're interested in video production in your classroom you absolutely MUST see the series of nine videos from the American Film Institute entitled Lights, Camera, Education!

The videos range in length from about 8 minutes to 37 minutes, and will walk you and your students through the entire movie making process from pre-production through post-production, viewing and reviewing student projects, and even student reflection on the project.

There is also an 88 page teacher guide that correlates to the process. To download it click on the "Related Materials" tab for any one of the Light, Camera, Education videos in unitedstreaming.

unitedstreaming rates the videos as appropriate for grades 9-12, but I believe the lessons could be adapted for younger grades. The videos are hosted by actor Sean Astin, best known for his roles in Rudy and The Lord of the Rings.

To find the videos in the unitedstreaming collection conduct a keyword search for "lights camera education"

Are cheap digital camcorders any good?

Once upon a time there was a classroom teacher who wanted to do a digital video project with her students. The problem was, there was only ONE computer with a firewire port! As you can imagine, this created a logistical nightmare for her and her students.

So I got to thinking... could a cheap digital camcorder be a solution to this problem? For about $100 at Target, you can purchase a camcorder that records on SD cards. These nifty little devices are also digital cameras, mp3 players, and voice recorders and they'll record or playback on VCRs or TVs. Their smaller size means they're easier for smaller hands. SD cards are getting cheaper all the time. So are card readers.

But since I don't have one (yet), I can't be sure of the video and sound quality they produce. Are the video files editable in Windows Movie Maker?

If anyone out there has experience with one of these camcorders, please post a comment or send me an email. If Santa should happen to bring me one, or the boss allows me to order one, I'll be sure to provide my own review and some sample video.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mozart's works available online

From AFP via Yahoo:

In celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday

The "Digital Mozart Edition" (DME) website -- -- features over 600 works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, separated into ten categories, from concertos for orchestra to chamber music and pieces for piano.

It's important to note that the demand has been far greater than anticipated and the server is running a little slow. From the website: "NOTE: We are overvelmed by the resonance of this website. We regret any delays in accessing this site and are working on expanding our server capacities." Even at 3:30 AM EST I couldn't do much.

Read the complete AFP article here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Podcasting How-to Guide

From the MAKE blog:

Here's a nicely illustrated, colorful 10 page PDF with step-by-step instructions on how to make a podcast entitled Podcasting 101 by Phillip Torrone.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

School 2.0 Wiki

You've heard of Web 2.0, but how about School 2.0? Check out and add to the resources found on the School 2.0 Wiki. (

Learn about blogging, wikis, podcasts, open source resources, and other Web 2.0 "stuff" with a growing collection of links to websites, presentations and relevant articles. I'm not an expert, but I'm willing to learn, and maybe even add a link or two.

Thanks (again!) to the Cool Cat Teacher for listing this valuable resource on her blog.

The Christmas Story from the Met

A beautiful online "exhibit" telling the Christmas story featuring historical art works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The new Edutopia online-- way cool!

I learned about this resource from David Jakes' The Strength of Weak Ties blog.

Edutopia has a way cool new format that allows the reader to virtually "turn" the pages of the magazine, zoom in, display one or two pages at a time, search for text, print... you've got to see it and try it out:

Can online textbooks in a similar format be far behind?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Campaign Urges Online Youth To Type Smart, Post Wisely

From an email I received this morning:

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the primary law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service, has launched a campaign to encourage youth to practice safe, smart habits when posting information about themselves on social networking Web sites and blogs. As Chief Postal Inspector Lee Heath observes: "As the popularity and usage of online social networking sites continue to flourish, it is essential that we empower youth to be cautious, aware and intelligent about the information they post. "

The 2 SMRT 4U campaign, and its tagline, "Type Smart, Post Wisely," is a Postal Inspection Service-led effort designed to reinforce the U.S. Attorney General's Project Safe Childhood initiative to promote Internet safety. We hope it will help remind teens of the importance of navigating smartly and thinking before posting personal information online.

Resources: To learn more about 2 SMRT 4U campaign, visit additional information about Project Safe Childhood, visit

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Progams in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Welcome UT Students

Today we welcomed 18 doctoral students from the University of Toledo to MCISD. We learned about RSS, Blogging, and tried to learn about Podcasting until the computer refused to cooperate!

I hope you enjoyed today's session. Please subscribe to my blog with the Bloglines button found on the right side of this web page. And feel free to leave comments and suggestions and let me know when you've set up your own blog.

Friday, November 17, 2006

RSS Workshop Resources

RSS: The next killer app for education

Bloglines- A free online RSS feed aggregator

RSS Compendium - A comprehensive list of RSS feeds organized into various categories.

RSS: A quick start guide for educators, by Will Richardson - A MUST READ 11 page guide

Using Bloglines - An excellent tutorial from the betterdays blog by Preetam Rai of Singapore

Mathematics assessment generator

"The Michigan Mathematics Leadership Academy is a partnership between Michigan's regional Mathematics and Science Centers, Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and Michigan Department of Education. Our mission is to promote student understanding and skill in mathematics through professional development, curriculum rejuvenation, and professional networking.

MMLA works through the Mathematics and Science Centers to develop teams of knowledgable teachers and consultants who provide services across the state. We set annual goals for instructional improvement based on state and national priorities.

Given the importance of the new 3rd-8th grade MEAP assessments, MMLA compiled MEAP-like assessment items aligned to the Grade Level Content Expectations from several sources (Jackson County ISD, Mid-Michigan Consortium, Manistee ISD, MCTM, NAEP, TIMSS, and others). Math/Science Center teams then gathered from across the state to jury the items. Those items that were judged to be aligned and appropriate are included in this data base. Items will be updated as needed. MEAP released items will be added to this item bank each year. MMLA continues to invite submissions of new items from individuals and item writing groups."

You can create a customized math assessment based on Michigan grade level content expectations (GLCE). The website will generate PDF documents that include the Student Test, Teacher Test, Answer Key, and GLCE analysis.

Teachers that have CPS clickers can use the PDF to create a "Fast Grade" lesson very quickly.

What a great FREE resource!

The NEW Seven Wonders of the World

ABC News and USA Today have reported on the new seven wonders of the world. You can see pictures, videos, and read more about all of them at:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Palm handheld computer tips and tricks

The teachers I'm working with on implementing Palm Tungsten E2 handheld computers have created a tips and tricks notebook. They also log "fatal alerts" and hot synch error messages, and even when they've changed the batteries in the wireless keyboards. We've come up with quite a list in the last 2 weeks. This will help us determine which of the handhelds are most troublesome, and probably in need of a hard reset!

We discovered by accident that the wireless keyboards have an on/off switch that is dependent upon opening the keyboard up correctly. There is a very small, easily overlooked white line and the word "off" located on the left side of the keyboard above the number 1 key. When we slide the top part of the keyboard (the part where the handheld rests) over to the right, the keyboard magically comes to life! Up to that point we were replacing the batteries, and reopening the keyboard (the correct way) without even thinking about it. We'll save a fortune in batteries!

Several of the teachers will be attending the Michigan Handheld Computer Conference in Ann Arbor. I told them that next year they'll be able to present a session on all of the valuable tips and tricks they are learning.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Welcome workshop participants!

I hope you will find the information on my blog helpful. Please leave a comment for me if you find other helpful websites you'd like to share.

Please visit the MCISD website.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blogging workshop links

New Educational Technologies: Blogs

I. Internet Safety
A. isafe
B. CyberSmart
C. NetSmartz

II. Blogging Tools

III. Exemplars
A. Guerilla Season
B. History 360
C. Cool Cat Teacher Blog
D. The Secret Life of Bees
E. Remote Access
F. weblogg-ed

IV. Blogs for Learning

These are links to the websites I presented in the blogging workshop at Monroe County ISD on Tuesday, November 7, 2006. If you find more links you'd like to share, please leave a comment with the URL.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Blogger tutorial for blogging newbies

Michigan State University's Blogs for Learning has several flash tutorials on various aspects of blogging.

If you're just getting started with Blogger, here's a brief tutorial on what you need to do to set up your Blogger account and blog.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I love technology... when it works!

Let me tell you about my day!

A middle school that I work with frequently purchased a classroom set of Palm Tungsten E2 handheld computers, and the GoKnow Handheld Learning Environment. Last week (or maybe it was earlier this week??? It's all such a blur) one of the Science teachers and I downloaded a great website on Constellation Mythology put together by Legg Middle School in Coldwater, MI. We've used this website before without any issues on our old Palm m130s. Today was a disaster!

Although I was already in the building to meet with a couple of other teachers, I had to help this poor, frazzled Science teacher deal with "Fatal Alerts" that kept about 1/3 of her handheld computers out of commission at any given time. She is very tech savvy, and tried resetting the affected Palms, but as soon as students tried to open the website they'd get another fatal alert.

My workaround was to delete the FlingIt software from the "bad" Palms, then reinstall by beaming it from a "good" Palm, and finally beaming the constellations website from a "good" Palm. It seemed to work.

The Science teacher was a real trooper. She had her students pair up and share a Palm while I did my best to keep up. I think by the time the whole incident was over about 15-20 Palms were affected by this mysterious problem.

Remember the old saying "Once bitten, twice shy"??? Why in the world would any teacher want to subject themself to this stressful, headache inducing scenario again? Technology is SUPPOSED to make our lives easier, no? This teacher understands how engaged the students are when the technology works. But had I not been there to troubleshoot and correct the problem (at least temporarily), I would not have blamed this teacher for saying "well I'll never try THAT again!"

I don't know if the problem was hardware (Palm) or software (GoKnow) or website related. GoKnow is aware of the situation and hopefully will offer some advice. I do know that this school has made a significant investment in hardware and software. The teachers are willing to use it, the students enjoy using it-- WHEN IT WORKS!

I'm going to Wiki with Vicki!

Vicki Davis is one of my favorite bloggers, and I've linked to her coolcatteacher blog many times. She has put together an outstanding presentation on Wikis on the K12 online conference site (including a 27 minute video), and a very cool follow-up activity. I've signed on to participate in the Tagging To Help Teachers Wiki. This will help me to learn more about tagging AND more about Wikis.

In the very near future you'll probably see me using some tags on this blog. Just as soon as I figure out how to do them.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The importance of administrative support

I can't stress enough how important it is to get the support of your principal and tech department BEFORE you begin a project that involves the use of computers or other technology.

I had a phone call this morning from a teacher who is excited about doing a digital storytelling project with several of her classes. Well, the school's computers are set up to re-image themselves every time they are powered up-- consequently, the software and the student project files would be deleted.

Because digital video is involved, the project files and raw video would require MASSIVE amounts of space, so CDs or flash drives, or even a network folder are not an option.

There may be similar hurdles in place in your district. Get the support of your principal BEFORE you begin a project. Tell your principal what you want to do, why you want to do it, and maybe even show them a finished project of your own or from the web. Talk about student motivation, and audience, and WRITING, and standards and benchmarks-- show some real passion about what you're planning to do-- and, with the principal's blessing and support, perhaps it will be easier to get the cooperation of the tech department in removing some of the barriers. But no guarantees. After all, there are viruses, and spyware and all kinds of nasty things out there that students just might possibly potentially bring down upon the school's network. It happens!

Good luck!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Podcasting workshop

powered by ODEO

Music by Kevin MacCleod, available from

The participants in the "What in the world is podcasting?" workshop at the Monroe County ISD came up with six ways to use podcasting in the classroom. My post-production work is less than perfect, but we recorded, edited, exported, and uploaded this podcast in about 15 minutes.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Halloween Hangman

A friend sent me a link to this fun, animated hangman game, just in time for Halloween.

Halloween Hangman created by The Dimension's Edge, Inc.

Podcasting in Japanese Classes

Another MCISD ITS and I are attempting to get the teacher and students in the interactive video Japanese classes to record speaking assignments using the free Odeo Studio.

Here's how it will work: The teacher will record the assignment in Odeo Studio, then copy the HTML code generated by Odeo to embed a flash player on the class Moodle page. Like this:

powered by ODEO

After students listen to their assignment in Moodle, they will log in to their Odeo Studio account to record their podcast. Odeo has a simple web based recording tool so the students will not need any other software on their computer. Odeo Studio also automatically generates an RSS feed, so the teacher will use an aggregator (we'll use Bloglines) to subscribe to each student's podcast.

Another nice feature of Odeo Studio is that the teacher can then record verbal comments (like the correct pronunciation of a word) and/or type in feedback right on the student's Odeo podcast page.

Traditional foreign language classes could also podcast, but we wanted to initially focus our attention on our distance learning classes.

UPDATE: I'm very disappointed that Bloglines hasn't yet picked up our sample recording. So I subscribed to the podcast in iTunes and VOILA! it went right out and got it! I think I'll have the Japanese instructor use iTunes instead.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

David Warlick's Pre-Conference Keynote

The K12 Online Conference officially begins next week, but you can check out David Warlick's pre-conference presentation entitled "Derailing Education: Taking Sidetrips for Learning" at

You can download the presentation video (85 MB) in mp4 format, or just check out some of the helpful handouts on using Web 2.0 technologies like Blogger, Bloglines, flickr, and EduBlogs.

After reading some of the comments on the K12 Online Conference blog about Warlick's presentation, I can't wait to watch the video! It is getting rave reviews!

But in spite of all the great things people have to say about David, here is a great observation posted by Laura B. Fogle about Web 2.0 technologies that really hits home:

I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and six years as a
computer technical support engineer, one year as a programmer. Yet, I haven’t
gotten the RSS feed from my blog working the way I want. I don’t have Technorati
tags on it, but I don’t really get how they work. How do we expect teachers, who
are up to all hours grading papers and preparing lessons after THEY get home
from open house and put their kids to bed, to figure this stuff out? We have to
push to make it less cumbersome. The tools have to become more user friendly.

And I will second that motion! Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher, said that she had difficulty viewing Warlick's video. She's posted some instructions on her blog to assist others in getting it to play. She had the determination and took the time to make it work. How many teachers would have given up within 5 minutes because of all the other stuff (see paragraph above) they still had to do?

Fortunately for me, I didn't have the same codec issues as Vicki. I just had to double-click the mp4 file and it opened right up in QuickTime player. I don't have QuickTime Pro, but I do have QuickTime Player 7.1

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Wiki About Blogging

Check out this wiki about blogging in a school setting:

Here's what you'll find:

What's a blog?
RSS: Really Simple ... no, really!
Blogs ... in school?
Why students should(n't) blog
Bloggers Beware!!
Permission Slips
Blog Services
Teacher Blogs
Class Blogs
Other Blogs

A nice primer.

Will Richardson hits a home run!

Forgive the baseball analogy, but my beloved Tigers are in the ALCS, and I've got playoff fever!

But seriously, take two minutes to read this BRILLIANT post by Will Richardson on the The Pulse blog.

We're REALLY Famous!

A MCISD colleague read yesterday's post about the Mason 1:1 laptop initiative and sent me this link:

I know how hard our webmaster, Janet Russeau, works on maintaining the 100s of pages on our MCISD website, so this recognition is well deserved.

Mr. Losik's blog

I learned about Mr. Losik's classroom blog by reading Will Richardson's weblogg-ed. He has several short, but sweet, posts with some great links to curriculum related websites and video clips. Here's what he has to say about his blog (from a post on Will's blog)

I post content for my students in grades K-5 to access efficiently. The
blog has become a favorite of the students and parents alike. Students show their
folks at home the online activities and websites we use at school.

Remember when your parents would ask you "What did you do in school today?", or perhaps you've asked your own children the same question. Mr. Losik's students are not just telling, they are SHOWING their parents what they are doing.

Visit Mr. Losik's blog at:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

We're famous!

The October Apple eNews for Education just arrived in my inbox and I was pleasantly surprised to read this:

For the 2006-2007 school year, all Mason Middle School students in Monroe County, Michigan, will get their own Apple notebook as part of a pilot on 1 to 1 learning. "We are all very excited about it," says Ben Russow, associate principal. "Teachers will have access to so many resources and the students will be able to create podcasts, slideshows, and iMovies. It's an important tool with tremendous opportunity. The teachers are calling it the pen and pencil of the 21st century."

K-12 Online Conference

"Announcing the first annual “K12 Online 2006″ convention for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. This year’s conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30- Nov. 3 with the theme “Unleashing the Potential.” The K12 Online 2006 blog has just gone live."

For more detailed information on the strands and keynote speakers go to:

Tags: k12online, k12online06

Google for Educators

While reading the C-NET blog I learned that Google has created a Google for Educators website with teacher guides for their products, such as Google Earth, SketchUp, Picasa... some of the FREE software I enjoy using and have written about on this blog.

You can also sign up for the Google Teacher Newsletter, and learn more about the Google Certified Teacher Training Academy.

From the website...

We think of this site as a platform of teaching resources – for everything
from blogging and collaborative writing to geographical search tools and 3D
modeling software – and we want you to fill it in with your great ideas.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

MSU's Blogs for Learning

While reading Will Richardson's weblogg-ed blog I found Michigan State University's blogs for learning.

Blogs for Learning is an online resource designed for students and instructors who are interested in instructional blogging...The goal of the site is to provide information and resources surrounding the technical, legal, and pedagogical aspects of blogging in the classroom.

You'll find about a half-dozen articles about blogging, several Word Press and Blogger tutorials, and, of course, the blogs for learning blog. It's worth checking out.

Monday, October 09, 2006

FREE School Wikis!

Technology Enhanced Lesson Plans

From the Michigan Department of Education, here are DOZENS of technology enhanced lesson plans: created by REAL MICHIGAN TEACHERS!

You'll also find the 2005 lesson plans on this page, along with links to other interesting sites.

School Year 2006

I've had a LOOOOOOOONG break from posting to the blog, but now I'm starting to get the bug again.

This school year I'd like to focus my attention on finding those rare and wonderful classroom websites that utilize Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, wikis, and podcasts. I hope to share with you the "exemplars" and the "best practices" from those gifted classroom teachers who are eager to learn and share.

Here are two of my favorites, that I'm sure I've shared before on this blog:

Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Remote Access

By all means, please post a comment and share your favorites.

Media Advisory Council Meeting Links

Here are links to the websites we discussed at the meeting on Thursday, October 12.

Pew Internet:
Teen Content Creators and Consumers

Free Blogging sites:
Class Blogmeister


Free Wiki sites:

Free Podcasting tools:
Odeo Studio

RSS Aggregator:

Must see websites:
Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Remote Access
Podcasting in Education

Monday, June 12, 2006

Can you hear this?

I came across an interesting article in the New York Times technology section today. Students are downloading a high frequency ring tone to their cell phones that many "older" adults cannot hear! The pitch of the ring tone is about 17 kiloherz, and as we age we tend to lose that spectrum of sound first.

In my informal survey here at work, a 19 year old, 30 year old, and I (46) could hear the ring tone. Another 40-something and a 50-something could not!

Many schools require students to turn their cell phones off during classes. Leave it to our ingenious youth to figure out a way to get around that rule! They may not be able to speak on their cell phone without being noticed, but they can probably text message surreptitiously enough.

Click on the embedded player below to hear (or not) the ring tone for yourself.

powered by ODEO

Thursday, June 08, 2006

FREE Internet safety guide for parents

USA Today had an interesting article in their Tech section on what parents like and fear most about the Internet (Parents mark Internet favorites and dislikes).

The article featured a couple of quotations from James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. This San Francisco based non-profit organization has just released the results of a survey of parental attitudes toward the Internet. They've also begun an educational campaign on their website, and have produced public service announcements to appear in print, online, television and radio.

Featured on the website is a downloadable 24 page PDF entitled "Keeping your kids Internet safe and smart: a survival guide for parents" (free registration is required). The guide contains sections on communicating, social networking, web surfing, downloading, and gaming. Each section explains "What is it?", "Why you should care", "Hot words", and "Common Sense says"

There are also color coded "On", "Off" and "Pause" buttons that explains what is good and bad about each subject, and also what parents and students must be cautious of. This helpful booklet concludes with Internet survival tips for kids, teens, parents, and teachers.

There is a wealth of information about Internet safety available online. I especially like this guide because it seems very up to date with information about social networking sites, and for the very frank advice it offers: "There is no such thing as private on the Internet."

I wish I'd said that!

Vicki Davis has such great, thought-provoking posts on her Cool Cat Teacher Blog, and today was no exception. Here's the line I wish I had said:
"An effective educator can no longer be a stingy island of information but
must work to encourage, help, and teach others."

Many teachers today still "close their door" and do their own thing. Forget about collaborating online, they don't even work with the teacher down the hall. I tried to point out to a group of teachers last fall that they don't need to reinvent the wheel! There are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of passionate teachers who would LOVE to collaborate, to share ideas and success stories, and even to commiserate. And with blogs and podcasts and RSS and wikis and other Web 2.0 applications it's easier than ever, and it's even FREE.

I am inspired by reading the blogs of Vicki Davis, David Warlick, Will Richardson, Tony Vincent, and others. They are truly "big thinkers" who express themselves so eloquently. I am in awe of their gift and that they are willing to share themselves with the rest of the world.

I'll keep on trying to spread the gospel and to share the good news, but I sometimes wish I could just flip a switch to turn on the lightbulbs above other teachers' heads so that they could just GET IT!

450K Digital Images from NY Public Library

"Free and open online access to hundreds of thousands of digital images..." is the greeting you'll see on the home page for the New York Public Library's Digital Gallery.

I browsed the site for only a few minutes and was amazed at the quality and variety of the images: pictures of the Empire State Building under construction (like the one shown here), sketches from the 1840's of archaeological sites in the Yucatan, George Catlin's historic paintings of North American Indians to name just a few.

You can search by keyword, or browse by category and collection, and you may legally download images from the online gallery for personal, research, or study use including classroom use and student projects.

Friday, June 02, 2006

New Blog Search Feature on Bloglines

I am a huge fan of Bloglines, and recently they added a cool new search feature that makes this service even better!

There is a search box on the upper right that will return a list of blog posts and feeds that match your search criteria.

Best of all, you can then subscribe to your search by clicking on the Bloglines or RSS links.

Here's a better description of this new feature right from the Bloglines News feed:

    • Search for Posts, Feeds or Citations (a.k.a. links).
    • Limit your search to your Bloglines feeds, or exclude them.
    • View additional results for matching feeds & news are offered in the right column.
    • Give us a name and we'll also present you with posts Authored by and About them.
    • Preview 5 most recent posts for any feed by mousing over Preview Feed.
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When I conducted a search for Digital Storytelling, I was amazed to find a link to my previous blog post (that I had posted only a few hours earlier) among the results.

What a great feature!

Digital Storytelling Resources

In preparing to lead a workshop on digital storytelling in the classroom in August, I have come across several great resources that I wanted to share:

Tom Banaszewski has an excellent blog called Teach Story with a lot of great information and links, including his 121 page thesis written for his Master of Science in Information Design and Technology degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

While reading Tom's thesis I came across the name Jason Ohler. I immediately Googled Jason and found many more outstanding resources on his website Jason will be publishing a new book entitled Digital Stories in the Classroom: A Telling Experience this fall, but you can download his 96 page book Telling Your Story from his website!

David Jakes has a very comprehensive list of resources, handouts, and screencasts on his website and his blog Strength of Weak Ties. As a matter of fact, thanks to David I found my next resource...

...The Adobe Digital Kids Club: Digital Storytelling with great articles written by Bernajean Porter, author of DigiTales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories who has her own website at:

There are others, but I consider these the best of the best.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Attention Podcasting Workshop Participants!

Wouldn't you know... Odeo changed their website! They now have a separate URL for the Odeo Studio that I used yesterday to upload our podcast. It is

The other website is for subscribing and listening to others' podcasts.

As I learn more about the new studio site I may add some additional information to the EdTech Update blog.

Don't you just LOVE technology? Always changing, never a dull moment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

FREE Vernier USB temperature probe

Head over to and register to receive your FREE Go!Temp temperature probe and Logger Lite software. Vernier is giving them away in honor of their 25th anniversary. Every elementary, middle and high school in the United States is eligible!

You'll also find two sample activities on the website that make use of the temperature probe.

Friday, April 21, 2006

TILT- Teachers Improving Learning With Technology

I don't remember how I found the TILT TV blog, but I have to share this great resource! Danny Maas has created several screencasts related to educational technology. He has uploaded them to Google Video and provides them FREE for anyone to use! Here is his latest episode in which he demonstrates a simple, yet impressive project for beginning users of Excel in LESS THAN 9 MINUTES!

Be sure to check out the TILT TV blog at:


Earth and Moon Viewer

This is a fascinating site that enables you to view live pictures of the earth and moon through the use of satellite imagery. If I followed the directions on the site correctly, the image here should change throughout the day as the sun rises and sets.

There are lots of parameters to play around with. I just know it's a lot of fun! The site is provided by Fourmilab Switzerland and it is developed and maintained by John Walker, the founder of AutoDesk and co-author of AutoCad.

The URL for Earth and Moon Viewer is:

Monday, April 17, 2006

Orbit MP video from Google Video

It seems like my previous post with the demo video does not work with my Yahoo Briefcase. So I uploaded my Orbit MP video to Google Video. It was very easy to create a free account. Now that the video has been approved it is available on the Google Video website. They even generate the HTML code that allows me to embed the video here on my blog.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Logitech Orbit MP QuickCam: TOO MUCH FUN!

For more information about the Logitech camera and software, click here.

I know very little about HTML, but I was able to quickly and painlessly generate the necessary code that provided the embedded video player above thanks to

Free Video Coding!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why Phishing works

A recent study published by Rachna Dhamija of Harvard University, and J. D. Tygar and Marti Hearst of UC Berkeley addressed the question of why phishing works.

For the uninformed, phishing attempts to direct unsuspecting individuals to fraudulent websites in hopes of getting them to divulge personal information such as passwords, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, drivers license numbers, or social security numbers. Typically an email informs a potential victim that they have to update their information, or that someone has attempted to make unauthorized charges on a credit card. A sense of urgency is created by the scammers telling the intended victim that an immediate response is required to prevent further fraudulent charges. A hyperlink in the email directs the victim to a bogus website set up to look like a legitimate bank or business.

Here are a couple of sample phishing scams documented by

According to the published paper:

Data suggest that some phishing attacks have convinced
up to 5% of their recipients to provide sensitive information
to spoofed websites. About two million users gave information to
spoofed websites resulting in direct losses of $1.2 billion for U.S. banks and card issuers in 2003.

The authors recently conducted a study involving 22 subjects who each viewed 20 websites and had to determine if the websites were authentic or fraudulent. The “best” phishing websites fooled 90% of the participants, and on average the group of subjects was fooled 40% of the time!

I have received many such emails, and the best ones really do look legit! How can you tell the difference?

My strategy is to search . Type in the name of the business or bank in the search box, and watch what happens. Often times you’ll find the exact text of the email you received cited on the Snopes website along with an explanation of why it's a hoax.

A relatively new resource, the Anti-Phishing Working Group has posted a list of common phishing scams on their website at:

The Federal Trade Commission has some very helpful information on phishing and other online commerce topics at:

The Christian Science Monitor has a very informative article about phishing here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Take me out to the ballgame!

My absolute favorite thing (outside of family and work of course) is BASEBALL! And with opening day just a few days away, I wanted to share with you a very long list of lesson plan ideas on Education World that have something to do with the greatest sport in the world.

NOTE: I found this error in the list (maybe there are others?): the link for the "Bat-o-matic Fantasy Baseball" should be:

You'll find lesson suggestions for Science, Math, Language Arts, Social Studies... you get the idea.

As a former band director, I used baseball team names to help teach sixteenth note rhythms to my sixth graders. I would have students chant the team names rhythmically to a steady beat, then figure out the underlying rhythmic notation. And with the FREE Finale NotePad software, students could even use the computer to notate and listen to the rhythms.

Work smarter, not harder!

My wife recently heard this story, and after sharing it with me I had to track it down on the Internet. What would I do without Google???

Working Smarter, Not Harder? A Story told by Dale Carnegie . . . (from

Once upon a time, two men were chopping wood.
One man worked all day, took no breaks, and stopped for lunch only briefly.
The other man took numerous breaks throughout the day, and even enjoyed a nap after lunch.
At day's end, the fellow who had taken no breaks was upset to find that the "break-taker" had chopped far more wood than he had.
"I simply don't understand it," said the first guy. "Every time I looked up, there you were, sitting down."
The other fellow replied, "Well, I guess you didn't notice -- every time I took a break to sit down, I sharpened my ax."

"What does this have to do with technology?" you might ask. Well, it seems like 90% of the teachers I come in contact with have NO TIME to learn about and/or use technology in the classroom. Believe me, I totally understand how demanding the teaching profession is! I was one for 20 years, my wife still is, and her parents are both retired teachers. But here's my point: if these teachers would invest some time now, it would pay HUGE dividends in the future! I believe their teaching (and consequently their classroom) would be ENERGIZED, and they could accomplish more than ever before.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for allowing me to vent.

Streaming video- Total eclipse of the sun, March 29, 2006

The Exploratorium has a website devoted to the solar eclipse at:

There's lots of information about eclipses, and links to archived streaming video of the actual eclipse. You can view the webcast with narration here (Windows media format):

If you'd prefer to see the telescope images only click here:

FYI: The New York Times has a great article about the Exploratorium on their website.

Visit to see incredible computer animation

I saw part of an amazing DVD called Animusic today-- unbelievably complex and gorgeous computer animation of musical instruments set to spectacular music! Truly state of the art! Click the Odeo player below to listen to a short excerpt that can be downloaded from the Animusic website

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More Dynamic Images

Three more fun sites for creating dynamic images (and no problem allowing students to access these).

Create FREE dynamic images

There are some really fun websites for teachers that will allow you to create dynamic images like these at (Caution: I wouldn't recommend sending your students there because others have saved some rather "adult" captions on the website)

I didn't know you could do that with Hello

You can capture a snapshot of a web page (like this one) using the "Share in Hello" icon found on the Internet Explorer toolbar. Click the picture above to enlarge it to full screen and the icon will be easier to see. Then you can send the screenshot to your Blogger blog instantly with the "BloggerBot." You can even add a caption.

You'll need the free Picasa software (which I blogged about here) and hello software from the good folks at Google. creates a podcast from blog posts!

Do you see the little podcast icon at the bottom of every blog post? (It looks like this )

Clicking the link next to it will automatically create and then play a recording of a female voice reading the words in the post.

Thanks (again) to Vicki A. Davis and her Cool Cat Teacher Blog, I learned about, the free website that makes this possible. Vicki has a great Talkr "how-to" article posted on her blog here.

Even more amazing, is that Talkr will generate a "feed" that will enable users to download each audio blog post to their iPod!

The computer generated voice is no replacement for a real live human, but it's not bad! The text-to-speech synthesis has improved tremendously in the past few years. (Check out this demo at the AT&T Labs)

I'll be spending more time at the Talkr website to see what else I can learn about this cool new resource.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Logitech Video Effects--- ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!

While perusing my Bloglines feeds this morning, I came across this "viral video" of a girl who recently went through a breakup. She recorded the video using a Logitech webcam, and used some amazing animated effects that were generated with the Logitech Video Effects software. I had to go to Logitech's website to check it out for myself. What I saw blew me away!

Here's another demo from the viral video girl that shows the capabilities of the software.

I swear a little animated light bulb immediately appeared over my head! Students can create a story, and then videotape themselves as the actual character in the story! There are dozens of avatars and "face accessories" that can be added to videos recorded with the compatible Logitech webcams. The software is free, and so are the avatars and face accessories-- with a webcam that sells for under a hundred bucks!

We placed an order for one today. Watch for a sample video on this blog soon!

A Podcast About Podcasting

I had an absolute BLAST putting together this 5 minute podcast about podcasting! First of all, full disclosure: there is no podcasting studio at the Monroe County ISD! But it sure sounds impressive, doesn't it??? And the listener might just imagine me sitting in a recording studio rather than in my cubicle!

The teacher I interviewed really has recorded some podcasts with her class, but she recorded her answers to my questions at her school and emailed them to me as attachments. I just imported them into Audacity and moved them to the right location in the timeline. You can listen to her 5th graders' podcasts by clicking here.

Now then, about those links to FREE online podcasting resources:

Check out Gary Stager's long list of Podcasting Resources for Educators & Students.

The software I used to create my podcast was Audacity. It's fairly intuitive, but not without a learning curve. It may be free software, but it's very impressive! If you want to export your podcast as an mp3 file (and you will) you will also need to download the LAME mp3 encoder. You'll see a link on the Audacity download page. Audacity is available in both Windows and OSX formats.

There are a number of free music resources to use in your podcast. I found some great music in a wide variety of styles at Their motto is "we are not evil." Check out their podcasting terms of use here.

Another music site to visit is Incompetech. Their motto is "ugly website, brilliant content."

You can also create your own music using GarageBand (if you're a mac user), or the free version of Sony's Acid Music Studio (see a previous blog post here). The CTC Music Mixer is a free online site that will allow you to create and save a 1 minute mp3 music file.

OK, your podcast has been recorded, NOW WHAT?! This is the most difficult part of the process for most people.

In my case, I exported my completed podcast as an mp3 file in Audacity, then uploaded the file to Odeo ( Then I cut and paste the HTML code Odeo automatically generates to my blog. This results in the embedded Odeo player you used above.

I use a Plantronics DSP-100 USB headset microphone. It's about $50-$60 online. I was not satisfied with the sound quality of a standard computer microphone, but you may find it acceptable for your students' use.

I hope you found this information helpful, and that you'll be motivated to try podcasting in your classroom.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Create a Podcast with Odeo

Thanks to the Cool Cat Teacher Blog I learned about Odeo. This FREE service will host your audio recordings! Classrooms who wish to record podcasts now have a repository for their creations. You can use the free online tool from Odeo to make your recording, record over the phone, or upload a recording. Odeo even provides you with the HTML coding to add to your website so that you can play your recordings using an embedded flash player, like this one:

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Civil Rights Photos- Unseen. Unforgotten.

The Birmingham News has an outstanding collection of never before published photos of the civil rights era on their website entitled Unseen. Unforgotten.

Five thousand photos dating from 1950-1965 were discovered in an equipment closet in November 2004 by Alexander Cohn, a former intern at the Birmingham News. In February 2006 the paper published a special eight page section with dozens of the newly discovered photos.

The website features many more photos, along with recordings of interviews with the original photographers, witnesses to the events, and participants in the civil rights movement. There are sections devoted to desegregating the schools, the freedom riders, civil disobedience, challenging segregation, and voting rights.

The study of Black History should not end on February 28! Check out this very moving website with its never before seen photos of the civil rights movement.

Friday, January 27, 2006


this is an audio post - click to play

This is a very brief recording I made on my cell phone to demonstrate the new FREE Audioblogger service now available at

After setting up your account, you'll get an email that contains the phone number you'll call to record an audio post from your cell phone. You'll be prompted to enter the cell phone number you used to set up your account, and your PIN.

After that, you're recording, much like you would leave a voicemail. You can review or re-record your post, and create multiple audio posts in the same phone call.

The audio post was added to my Blogger blog IMMEDIATELY! By the time I hung up the phone and typed in my URL, the post was already there! Then you can go in to add text, links, etc. just like any other blog post.

WAY COOL! Check it out!