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