Friday, December 28, 2007

Top 25 Google Earth stories of 2007

From the excellent Google Earth blog by Frank Taylor, here's a post that lists the top 25 GE stories of the year. Cool new features, layers, Easter eggs, the California fires, trying to find Steve Fossett, rising sea levels... and much, much more!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I LOVE these guys!

The Common Craft Show has some fantastic tutorials on Web 2.0 technologies explained in plain English. Here's the social bookmarking tutorial:

Kwout is too cool!

I use the screenshot tool extensively here on this blog and in many presentations and tutorials I've created. But this new tool kwout is amazing! AND FREE!! You can even put a kwout tool on your browser toolbar. It captures a webpage, then allows you to draw a box around the specific region of the page you wish to use, then generates the code to embed that into your webpage, flickr, or blog. Like this:

Monroe County Intermediate School District's web site (home page) via kwout

But it's even BETTER than that! The links in the image above are live! Go ahead and try it! And how about the way it creates a citation and link to the original webpage?

A great big THANK YOU to Jane Hart's E-learning pick of the day blog for sharing this great website!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Copyright, or Copywrong?

I just read an interesting post by David Pogue on his blog entitled "The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality."

This would be a great article for your students to read, discuss, and debate. Be sure to read the MANY insightful comments as well!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Watch this video!

It was created by Greg Craven, a high school teacher in Oregon. You may have your own opinion about global warming, but you can't argue with this man's logic. "What's the worst that can happen?" Have you ever said that? I'm sure I have in the last week! Well, that's the basis for this 9 minute video.

At the conclusion of the video, Mr. Craven shares what is so powerful about the Web 2.0 world in which we live: "In today's information age, you can change the culture. You CAN help change public policy and remarkably, some times just a few mouse clicks is all it takes to start an avalanche."

Read more about this video in an article on the USA Today website.

Monday, December 17, 2007

JFK video from a Dallas TV station now online

Thanks to the Librarians' Internet Index blog for this link to JFK Video: The Dallas Tapes.
This website has dozens of video clips, some of which are available nowhere else on the Internet!
This is a great resource! A unique collection of historic video. Practically a primary resource.
Browse the collection on the left side of the home page. You'll find video of the president's arrival in Dallas, coverage of his breakfast speech in Fort Worth, interviews with Governor Connally, Marina Oswald, and some more recent Dallas TV news reports from 1992.
Fascinating stuff!

Cool math website

Check out Math Playground. There are a lot of interactive activities, screencast tutorials, manipulatives, games, problems and puzzles. The site was created by Colleen King who also created the SAT Math Pro site I recommended last month! You can even create the dreaded math worksheet!


I was reading Clarence Fisher's blog this morning, in which he talked about his school's blocking of the scribd website. I noticed this site was blocked in our district for about the past month or so. I used to recommend scribd as a site where one could upload a document and then download an mp3 file that could be transferred to an iPod or other audio device for students to listen to.

Then while reading the REMC Ramblings blog I came across a reference for vozMe which allows you to input text and then download an mp3 file. I'm not particularly fond of the computer voice it uses, but it works! You can even input Spanish or Italian!

Google Maps mashups at Google Maps Mania

A "mashup" takes data from one or more sources and displays it visually in Google Maps. Take some time to explore lots of "mashups" at:

In addition to transit and traffic maps you'll find crime statistics, homes for sale, flight data, animal tracking, weather, history... WOW!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Daniel Pink's presentation on Discovery Education

Here's a link to the archived EdTechConnect presentations from Discovery Education:

They've just added the presentation Daniel Pink did on December 13 on his book "A Whole New Mind."

Here's a screenshot of a very important part of Pink's presentation. On the left is the business world, based on novelty, nuance, and customization. On the right is the world of education, based on routines, right answers, and standardization. OUCH!

A very nice intro to his book. I might have to reread it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nostaligia time: C-64 turns 25!

Wow! I watched a cool video on C-NET about the big celebration for the Commodore 64's 25th birthday and got all nostalgiac. I didn't buy mine until the price dropped to $199. And I spent that much or more on a floppy disk drive because the Target store in Billings, MT didn't have any more cassette tape drives in stock. I hooked mine up to a 150 pound (or so it seemed) 19" color TV (I was way ahead of my time!) that probably gave me the equivalent of a chest X-ray every time I used it.

I learned BASIC back in high school, but I learned even more with the C-64, like programming "sprites." I remember buying RUN magazine, and probably a couple others whose names I can't remember, and TYPING in page after page of code to play a silly game. And heaven forbid you misspelled a word, or skipped a comma or the thing wouldn't work!

I learned how to use a spreadsheet on a C-64 when I convinced a bunch of teachers to start up a fantasy baseball league some time around 1985 or 86. I even did some pretty neat desktop publishing on a couple of different programs I can't remember, and printed out my newsletters on a dot matrix printer that I ordered, coincidentally, on the day of the Challenger disaster. And, amazingly, it all ran on 64K of memory! Not MB, and certainly not GB, it was KB!

I joined several BBS (bulletin board services), and subscribed to a service I think was called QuantumLink. I also tried out the DowJones service, and another one I can't remember any longer. I actually "shopped" online back in the mid 80's, even though you couldn't actually see a picture of what you were buying. ON A 300 BAUD MODEM!!!

You had to load a program from the floppy drive and it seemed like it took 15 minutes. I still remember using a hole punch to punch a hole in the floppy jacket so that you could flip the disk over to double your storage capacity!

To quote Barbra Streisand, "misty watercolored memories, of the way we were... Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time re-written every line? If we had the chance to do it all again Tell me, would we? could we?"
Songwriters: Bergman, Alan; Hamlisch, Marvin; Bergman, Marilyn
Label: Columbia

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Virtual Field Trip on the War of 1812

I am happy to share with you a story from the Monroe Evening News about a series of virtual field trips conducted by the Monroe County ISD and the Monroe County Historical Museum over the past 3 weeks on the Battle of Frenchtown. (also see

The amount of work that went into the planning and preparation was incredible. I personally did nothing more than run the teleprompter for several sessions, but in addition to some hard-working folks at the historical museum and ISD there were several re-enactors, and history teachers involved since last summer.

After what seemed like 100 sessions over 3 weeks, close to 2000 students from Monroe County schools participated.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Create a snow globe and fight hunger

Pepsi is donating up to $50,000 to America's Second Harvest, the Nation's Food Bank Network. Make a snow globe on their website, and they'll make a donation. You upload a picture, or use one of theirs, add decorations, and finally make it snow by "shaking" your snow globe. Then you can email it to friends if you like. You'll also receive the URL of your snow globe so you can visit it from time to time.

Go to: to make your own. You can click the link below to see mine.

I think this would make a great way to start a food collection drive in the classroom.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Science videos on

I'll admit that the videos I browsed at were WAY over my head! I didn't create an account, so I couldn't search the collection, but it may be worth checking out further.
Here's a video I could actually understand, "Where does water go when it rains?"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

SAT math practice site

SAT Math Pro was developed by Colleen King, a math teacher, SAT instructor and co-director of Math Advantage, a test prep and math tutoring center located in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

This free website features practice sets of 5 problems of medium difficulty in the areas of: number properties, ratio and proportion, percent, probability, data analysis, algebra, word problems, circles, lines and angles, triangles, quadrilaterals, solids, coordinate geometry, multiple figures, roman numerals, counting problems, and unusual symbols.

There is a step by step video solution for each question, and a follow up “Zap It!” problem that is very similar to the original problem.

Students can take three different 12 question quizzes and receive a list of math topics that need further study. You will also find an area that discusses SAT problem solving strategies and a downloadable list of the top ten “traps” to avoid.

Although SAT Math Pro is supported by Google Ads, I observed only links to other math related or tutoring websites. You’ll find SAT Math Pro at:

Teachers union warns against using social networking sites

I just read an interesting article in the eSchool News about the Ohio Education Association (OEA) recommending that teachers not use social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook.

“OEA advises members not to join [these sites], and for existing users to complete the steps involved in removing their profiles. While this advice might seem extreme, the dangers of participating in these two sites outweigh the benefits.”

What's even more interesting is what the Columbus Dispatch found in their investigation into the profiles of at least 3 teachers. It's obvious that these (and probably other) teachers are using the social networking sites inappropriately. The OEA sent it's memo to teachers just 2 days after the Columbus Dispatch started its investigation. You can read the social networking article, "Teachers' saucy Web profiles risk jobs," here.

As James Miller, director of the Office of Professional Conduct at the Ohio Department of Education, says about the teacher profiles, “It’s their right to have it up. But I’d make sure it’s appropriate for my students to look at.”

I have spoken out many times on this blog for the need to educate students on Internet safety, including the do's and don'ts of social networking. Apparently, many teachers could use a little training themselves! I just don't get it. What are they thinking?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Feed the hungry while practicing your vocabulary???

Yep. It's possible at, a website that's been around for just over a month now.
Here's a description of how to play from the website:

  • Click on the answer that best defines the word.
  • If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word.
  • For each word you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.
  • WARNING: This game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance...
There are 50 difficulty levels in all, although the website admits it's difficult to get above a 48. I played for a few minutes and got up to level 37 while earning 200 grains of rice.

The rice is paid for by advertisers whose logos appear at the bottom of the game screen. The site was launched on October 7 and only 830 grains of rice were donated. On November 12 this number had grown to 188,987,290 for a grand total of 1.5 billion grains of rice. I wonder what that translates to in pounds???

What a great way for students to build their vocabulary and feed the world at the same time! Who knows, maybe you can even have a class discussion about world hunger?

David Warlick interview

Royalty free music by Soundzabound

Click here to get your own player.

And speaking of textbooks...

Another interesting article from the Webware blog talks about the high cost of textbooks, and how Sony's eBook reader might help.

According to the author, Rafe Needleman, textbooks are in a death spiral of cost: textbooks cost so much, at least at the university level, because students sell their books back to the bookstore, depriving the textbook publisher of additional profits on multiple students. But the more expensive the books become, the more likely students are to resell them.

By publishing textbooks electronically, students can't resell the books. There is no secondary market, and publishers could reduce the price of their books because they have more customers to make a profit from. Furthermore, there are no printing costs. The content is delivered electronically.

Rather than downloading and reading the textbook on a laptop computer with limited battery life, or worse yet, lugging around a 40 pound book bag, students will be able to carry around and read their books on the Sony electronic book.

But Needleman shares this warning:
"Now, there are dozens of ways publishers could screw this up, mostly by overpricing their content, which would encourage hacking of the DRM, which would in response lead to onerous copy protection that could make e-books unworkable. But if--and it's a big if--publishers get on board and start selling licenses to their texts instead of the books themselves, everyone (except bookstores) could benefit."

Open source curriculum

An article in USA Today entitled "Free online materials could save schools billions" lists a few interesting opportunities for schools. offers "an open resource center and community for early literacy teachers." This very colorful wiki site has 326 activities to date, and offers members an opportunity to create and upload their own. A Florida textbook adoption committee approved Free-Reading for K-12 public schools. The site is designed by Wireless Generation who's CEO, Larry Berger, turned the free DIBELS reading test into a for-profit venture by developing software that allowed the test to be scored by teachers on a handheld computer. He hopes to make a profit on Free-Reading by providing tech support and teacher training.

HippoCampus offers multimedia course materials for Algebra, American Government, Biology, Calculus, Environmental Science, Physics, Religion, and US History. Algebra, for example, has dozens of online activities related to six Algebra textbooks. HippoCampus is a project of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE).

These sites look very promising! Let's hope schools take advantage of these free resources.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Professional Development Sourcebook

I just received an email from EdWeek that announced what appears to be an outstanding online resource: Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook, a guide to ideas and resources on teacher learning. The first issue includes these articles:

  • Team-oriented teaching
  • Giving teachers the reins
  • One size doesn't fit all
  • Time for reflection
  • Researchers in the classroom
  • New thinking on staff development
  • Report roundup
  • Web sites to know
  • New in print
  • Databank
You'll find a link on the left side of the page where you can subscribe for free! Check it out for yourself at:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Too many urban legends!

Lately I've received several emails that continue to spread false rumors as factual. I typically run these through and send the URL of the resulting page back to the original sender along with a request that they check their facts before forwarding any more such emails.

The other day I received a humorous email that summarized everything I now know thanks to the wonder of email. Please enjoy it and share it with those who bombard you with urban legends, lies, rumors, and innuendos.

Thanks to email:
  • I now scrub the top of every can I open
  • I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time.
  • I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.
  • I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St. Theresa's novena has granted my every wish
  • I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.
  • I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.
  • I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.
  • I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.
  • I no longer can buy gasoline without taking someone along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl in my back seat when I'm pumping gas.
  • I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr.. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans
  • I no longer use plastic wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.
  • I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face...disfiguring me for life.
  • I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with an infected needle.
  • I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.
  • I no longer receive packages from UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.
  • I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.
  • I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore and Uzbekistan.
  • I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe.
  • I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat to cause me instant death when it bites my butt.
  • I can't ever pick up $5.00 I dropped in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a sex molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.
  • I can no longer drive my car because I can't buy gas from certain gas companies!
  • If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM this afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician...

P.S.- I also refuse to use the new dollar coins because the government no longer puts "In God We Trust" on them

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Newest member of the family

I couldn't wait until spring to get a new dog! Meet Big Papi, our Boston Terrier puppy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

David Thornburg apologizes

From the Thornburg Center blog via Lucy Gray's A Teacher's Life:

"The designation of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" suggests a difference that is, at best, largely innacurate and, at worst, demeaning to educators."

I've had a problem with that designation myself. It's too black & white, cut & dried. It's a stereotype. But as a 3 second sound bite it sure gets media attention and sells books!

Read David Thornburg's entire post here:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Whiteboard resources

Thanks to my wife for sending me this link to some outstanding whiteboard resources compiled by Annette Lamb.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How to partition a hard drive

Watch this video on how and why to partition a computer hard drive from VCS.
Oh, by the way, the video was done by a 14 year old!!!!

Back from recess

I hadn't planned to be "away" from the EdTech Update for so long, but sometimes life gets in the way. It's been crazy hectic at home and work the past few weeks. Mostly GOOD crazy hectic, I can honestly say. I bought a new car, sold an old car, conducted some after school technology workshops, created a handout and links wiki, applied to adopt a dog, and got involved with the Webcast Academy among other things.

I can thank Cheryl Lykowski for getting me into the Academy. And before I say anything else about it, I have to point you all toward Cheryl's latest and greatest project, Global Explorers. In a nutshell, 5th grade students at Cheryl's school will be collaborating with and learning about students in Columbia! And I don't mean South Carolina. Seriously, go check it out.

The Webcast Academy is my first real venture into an online learning community. OK, maybe my online classes count, but this is way better. We've used Skype to connect in a large group chat-- people from China and Germany and Spain and Canada and all parts of the USA. And everybody helps everybody. If I leave my Skype window open I'll see a steady stream of conversations taking place during the day (and night if they are in a different part of the world). People post questions and get answers, and sometimes just chat with their online friends about life in general. It's like having your very own tech support 24/7.

There are several WA screencasts produced by Jeff Lebow using a free online tool called Jing. I've used Camtasia and Captivate, but they're both relatively expensive products. I'll have to try Jing for myself and write up a review. Here's a quote from Jeff about Webcast Academy: "It's been great to work with fellow interns at the Academy to collaborate, commiserate, and extrapolate possibilities for this new media world of live, interactive webcasting."

One of the Academy Interns from California said he would like to use Skype to connect with some professors at a California university to talk with his students about the San Andreas fault. Great idea!

This got me to thinking about how expensive videoconferencing equipment is, and while dedicated VC rooms are sometimes necessary, a webcam and Skype may be all that is needed to break down the classroom walls and to introduce your students to the rest of the world.

Well, it's time to start getting ready for church, and since I'm the organist and choir director, I guess I need to be going. Hopefully it won't be another month until my next post.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Animoto-- you have to try it!

Upload pictures, select music, and let animoto put together a very cool slideshow. A free account let's you create a 30 second presentation. Full length videos require a subscription. Here's a quote from their "about us" page:

Animoto Productions is a bunch of techies and film/tv producers who decided to lock themselves in a room together and nerd out.

Their first release is Animoto, a web application that automatically generates professionally produced videos using their own patent-pending technology and high-end motion design. Each video is a fully customized orchestration of user-selected images and music. Produced on a widescreen format, Animoto videos have the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Getting started with RSS

Here are some links to get you started with RSS:

Create your own FREE account on this well known RSS aggregator

RSS Compendium:
You'll find at least a few things of interest to add to your Bloglines feeds here

Will Richardson's RSS quick start guide:
The best guide I've seen for getting started with RSS.

Will Richardon's RSS Wiki:
Will has posted many RSS links on his handout wiki site.

RSS: The next killer app for education:
This article was published over 4 years ago, but it has a few nice examples on the relevance of RSS to education.

Using Bloglines:
An excellent tutorial from the betterdays blog by Preetam Rai of Singapore. Print this out and refer to it when you're getting started on Bloglines.

My Bloglines feeds:

Spam Scam Alert!

Don't be fooled by an invitation to join the Quechup social network! It's a scam! Here's a screen shot of the email I received. I have no idea who the person is who supposedly invited me, but even if I did, that doesn't mean it is legit. Identities and email addresses are easily spoofed by the phishers
...for more details

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More about Elluminate vRoom

Here's a link to an interesting article on how schools are using Elluminate vRoom for distance learning:

The article points out that distance learning has been around awhile, but typically schools invest in dedicated rooms with videoconferencing equipment, speakers, microphones, etc. or in portable videoconferencing equipment. In my opinion, a solution like Elluminate is better because with very little additional hardware (a webcam and/or microphone) students and teachers can participate in a variety of online field trips, webinars, meetings, and collaborative projects, whether it's in a computer lab, or at one workstation, with or without a webcam, with no additional software to purchase. Sessions can be recorded and replayed later for review, or for absent students.

We are using a new electronic gradebook in our county this fall. I'm hoping I can use my Elluminate vRoom to have several webinars with teachers at their convenience without either of us having to drive. And because I can share or remotely control applications, the sessions can still be interactive.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to roll out this "paradigm shift" in PD.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gamer Revolution

By accident I came across a very well done documentary on video games on CBC. Gamer Revolution. Here's the companion website:

This program will be repeated on September 13 at 8 PM. Set your VCR, Tivo, or DVR. You have GOT to see this program!

I am not a gamer, except for my minimal skills on our Nintendo Wii. I was dumbfounded by how huge this industry is! In Japan and Korea the best gamers are as well known as rock stars or athletes in this country. And although the average "career" of these elite gamers is only about 6 years, in Korea they are actively recruited by the banking industry to be stock traders. In the United States gamers are recruited by the Army!

Here's a quote from the website: "The U.S. military developed America's Army as a recruitment tool. It was released in July 2002. Since then it has been downloaded by 8 million players in 60 countries and updated 23 times. There have been 3 billion player rounds and nearly 200 million player hours have been logged. Approximately 150,000 new accounts are created each month. Only two years after the game launched, the U.S. met its recruitment goals."

This show is fascinating! It's a must see! I've already emailed CBC to see if this outstanding documentary is available on DVD. Here's a promo video:

Blogger has a new button!

I just noticed the upload video button today. Here's a Photo Story I created a couple of years ago after attending the NSBA conference in Denver.

This is a lot easier than uploading to YouTube or Google Video!

Guinea pigs needed

Have you seen Elluminate yet? WOW! Good stuff! Expensive, but good! They offer a free "vRoom" that allows up to 3 simultaneous users to have a free online conference or "webinar."

Since one of my goals this year is to get PD 2.0 up and running around these parts, I'm asking for volunteers (aka guinea pigs) to test out my very own Elluminate vRoom.

If you're interested, please leave a comment or email me at dornberg at misd dot com. We'll set up a time and I'll send you a link to my vRoom.


Drum Corps International

Lucky for me, before heading up to bed last night I hit the guide button on the DVR one last time and noticed that ESPN2 was broadcasting the Drum Corps International (DCI) championship recorded last month at the Rose Bowl. The 2 hour program featured highlights of the top 12 corps from around the country, including the Toledo Glassmen, just down the road from me.

I remember watching DCI on PBS back in the mid 70's when it was broadcast live for about 4 hours. I think it's one of the reasons I became a band director. The music, the rhythm, the visuals were all so amazing and exciting even back then. I think I even have a record album of some of my favorite corps some place.

I had not seen a DCI championship on TV in several years. I used to record it and show it to my own marching band students. As a matter of fact, my former school actually hosted an overnight stay for one of the corps featured on TV, the Colts, when they competed in Toledo several years ago.

If you have never seen DCI, you've got to check out their website, and also a new site that will be premiering this fall, . Even better, see if ESPN2 will be airing the championship again some time.

I could probably take the time to draw all kinds of comparisons to what these 16-21 year old students are doing and Daniel Pink's Whole New Mind (and maybe I will in a future post), but instead I want to reflect on how complex the music and marching drills have become since the 1970's due in great part to the availability of computer software. I only had a marching band of about 30 or so students, so I never invested in the drill writing software, but I played around with a demo version enough to realize how powerful it was. It is possible to animate formations not only for the entire band, but also for individual marchers. You could change the perspective of the animation to see what the drill looked like from lower or higher bleachers. What a great teaching/visualization tool!

My point in saying all of this is that the band directors and corps directors who decided to use this software made a financial and personal investment that was no doubt daunting at first. There were a lot of computer crashes and lost files and hours and hours of time spent in front of the computer screen. But the end result is an art form that has opened up new possibilities that weren't "humanly" possible before the software came along. There are band directors who still do their charting the old fashioned way and do great things with their students. But the most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, wow-inducing marching drills are created in the "2.0" mode of drill design.

The same can be said for a lot of the new technology tools available to today's classroom teachers. Lots of hours spent figuring the things out, maybe some lost files or computer crashes, maybe even a financial commitment to new hardware or peripherals. There are plenty of excellent teachers who have decided not to pursue any of these new tools for those very reasons. But the ones who have decided to push the envelope with their students will reap the rewards just as the drum corps have. There are so many more possibilities that weren't humanly possible just a few years ago.

The conversation continues

Jeff Utecht has continued the discussion he and David Warlick started a few days ago. I was pleased to see that he also appreciates the same quote from Stephen Downes that I cited here the other day. He went on to include this terrific observation that I also would like to cite here for me to remember:
It’s not about Web 2.0 it’s about learning! It’s about changing the way we all learn and then as good teachers do take those skills and teach others. If our teachers are still learning in traditional ways they will continue to teach in traditional ways. However if you’ve ever been with a teacher that has learned these new literacy skills, who has embraced them and seen their power like all of us, then they teach them to their students.

Haven't you heard or even said "Teachers teach the way they were taught." ??? So unless we somehow move forward and try something new, we'll be stuck in the 20th century. Not that there's anything wrong with that, unless you consider that we will continue to reach fewer and fewer students.

It's not about blogging, it's about writing or conversing. It's not about creating podcasts or digital videos, it's about telling a story. It's not about RSS, it's about listening to voices around the world. It's a new way to engage students that didn't exist just a few years ago.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I love this quote...

...from Stephen Downes:

"When I speak to teachers these days, I don't tell them how to improve the way they teach their students. I talk to them about how they can improve the way they teach themselves."

Stephen's quote is what I've been trying to convey myself at various times on this blog, that before teachers can use new Web 2.0 technologies with their students, they have to be comfortable with them and understand their potential for themselves.

You can read Stephen's entire post here. It's Stephen's response to a post by Gary Stager responding to David Warlick responding to Jeff Utecht. Confused yet?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Teachable moment

Have your students read and debate this story:

It involves a man who was arrested for not showing his receipt when exiting a Circuit City store. Be sure to find the links to the 500 or so comments that were posted before he finally turned commenting off.

In our heightened sense of security since 9/11, have we given up our civil rights too easily? Do stores have the right to presume we are "guily until proven innocent"? It's very easy to see both sides on this issue. Is there a right or wrong answer to this debate?

This sounds familiar...

Here's something I read on the Slashdot blog:
"I work in a retirement/assisted living home. Many of the residents had never used the Internet but really find it fascinating once they are given a little training. However, I've stopped introducing it to them because of the drain it puts on me. There are a million and one things that a computer novice can screw up, and I don't have time to solve all of them. These folks don't need any sophistication. and they need only the most basic options. Adjustable text size would be nice, but otherwise — no email, no word processing or editing, no printing — just Internet browsing. This may not seem like a big market, but it's getting bigger every day! Is there an absolutely fool-proof device that can provide this without requiring virus scanners and constant attention?"

Substitute "school" for "retirement/assisted living home" and "teachers" for "residents" and I think I can understand what so many tech directors struggle with in providing access, filtering, virus protection, etc.

Read the responses to the post here:

I'm getting very, very angry!

Please read Andy Carvin's recent blog post in which he responds to a article by Mathew Honan. Also read Wes Fryer's response. I'll wait...

Now, are you as mad as I am??? Then please send an electronic letter to the editor of Wired here:

In my own letter, I pointed out the irony that Mr. Honan is being a cyberbully as he makes fun of the cyberbullying website (and the other 5 social networking sites for that matter). He will no doubt defend himself by saying he was "just kidding" as so many other cyberbullies have.

Sigh... Has cyberbullying become so pervasive, and "normal" that now even mainstream media has joined in the "fun"???? Is it any wonder that schools and teachers don't want to waste their time to have to deal with this crap and are just not allowing students to access the Internet?

Now more than ever, we need to take the time to educate our students on how serious this problem is. We can't ignore it, or block it and hope it will go away.

Read just one tragic story on . Here's a very brief excerpt:

"I believe bullying through technology has the effect of accelerating and amplifying the hurt to levels that will probably result in a rise in teen suicide rates."

Now go write that letter to the editor. Maybe Wired will do a story on cyberbullying if enough of us respond.

Monday, August 27, 2007

College athletes and social networking

I happened to catch an excellent story on ESPN's SportsCenter this morning. It was about college athletes getting in trouble for posting pictures and other controversial content on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace. There are interviews with athletes, coaches, and administrators.

In some instances the athletic departments banned their athletes from using the sites. A female athlete admits to using Facebook under a fake name to get around the ban. Other colleges make it a point to educate their student athletes about the dangers of posting photos that the entire world can see, even if the students assume they're only for friends to view.

You can see the complete story on the ESPN website at:

This would make for an excellent classroom discussion with all students, not just athletes.

This grant writing site looks good!

Featured K-12 Grants
They also have a blog:

Thanks again TechLEARNING blog for pointing out another great website.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google SKY!

There's a brand new upgrade to Google Earth today that includes THE SKY! Yes, now you can zoom through space to see planets, constellations, the moon, and much more. I've raved about other stellar (no pun intended) astronomy websites and programs before on this blog, and now GE has topped even them. The biggest difference is in the amount of information, Hubble photos, and links provided in GE. There are several "layers" that can be turned on including Backyard Astronomy, Hubble Showcase, User's Guide to Galaxies, and Life of a Star to name a few. Here's an image captured in GE Sky from the Google LatLong blog, created by the Google Earth and Maps team:

Wanna Wiki? Then learn from the cool cat teacher

I love Vicki Davis' blog, Cool Cat Teacher. Today she has a MUST READ post for any teacher wondering about wikis. With her extensive experience using wikis in the classroom, Vicki has figured out what to do and, probably more importantly, what NOT to do.

I especially like Vicki's blog because she is a real, live teacher. She does some amazing, incredible, unbelievable things with her students, and yet you have a real sense that she's HUMAN. She understands the frustrations of teaching because she lives them every day. Her blog has great advice about the "nuts and bolts" of teaching with technology, but she also includes at least a weekly pep talk for her readers around the world, like this:
It is a fight to keep positive when you're a teacher. And if you're empathetic (like me) watch out! It can be like living on a roller coaster! However, keeping the hope of a better tomorrow is vital to being a teacher who gets things done. Knowing that you can make a difference is a key ingredient to the recipe of a good education.

Examples of "bad" email messages

Here's a very long list of sample "bad" email messages compiled by Michael Horowitz. (Hmmm. can't get the link to work! Here is the URL:
On his web page Horowitz explains each "bad" email, and how to tell it's a phony. Believe it or not, I actually keep PDFs of phishing or virus emails to use during workshops on email. Michael has documented many of the most common scams that are out there including eBay, PayPal, the Nigerian scam, and several banks. He also provides links to several important websites and online articles. This is a great resource that I plan to use in future workshops.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Don't buy a Microsoft Xbox 360 EVER!!!

I can't believe what an expensive hunk of junk my son's Xbox 360 is! While using it this afternoon, POOF the picture suddenly turns a funny color. We tried hooking it up to a different TV, a friend's TV, and even tried a friend's A/V cable, and now there's NO video or audio signal at all!

I called Microsoft's repair service number, and while on hold for a half hour (at least), I googled the symptoms. Low and behold, there are a number of Xbox users reporting the EXACT SAME PROBLEM! Read the article (and comments) for yourself on the Engadget website:

And when I finally got through to Microsoft, I learned that this issue is not covered under warranty. Well, it would be if it were less than a year old, but of course my son's console is about a month or two past that milestone. So, I can either ante up another 100 bucks, or have a really nice $500 (or was it $600) door stop/paperweight. My son had saved birthday and Christmas money, and had originally wanted a PS3, but if you'll recall Sony was VERY late in getting that console to market. He finally caved in and bought the 360.

I expressed my frustration to the Microsoft rep, and I asked for another name, email address, or phone number to contact and complain to someone higher up the "food chain." He could not provide me with any, unfortunately.

Had this been an isolated incident, I would not feel so ripped off. However, Microsoft has had previous large scale problems with the 360, so much so it extend the warranty to 3 years for any console that displayed 3 blinking red lights. Read this article:
Another article claims this will cost Microsoft about a billion dollars!

My point to the Microsoft rep is that failing to address this latest issue will cost Microsoft MUCH more than if they just bite the bullet and pay for the repairs: lost game revenue, online subscriptions, accessories, and all the other stuff that makes up this multi billion dollar gaming industry will find it's way to Sony's revenue stream.

Other frustrated 360 users have said that only a class action lawsuit will get Bill Gates attention. I'm trying the grass roots approach. If I and all the others who feel ripped off tell everyone they know of their experience, and tell others to buy a PS3 NOT an Xbox, I will feel somewhat vindicated if we make even a small dent in Microsoft's cash flow. This is not a simple video game or toy, it's a $600 COMPUTER (not including games and accessories)! It should last for more than a year, and there should not be such widespread problems that are simply ignored by the manufacturer.

Forgive my rant, but my son truly feels ripped off! And so do hundreds or even thousands of other Xbox users.

Embeddable Google Maps-- easy as pie!

Here's where I used to live and teach about 25 years ago. I can't believe how easy it is to embed the map-- just copy and paste the HTML code, just like you would for a YouTube video. What's amazing is that the embedded map works just like the one on the Google Maps site. You can drag it, zoom in or out, etc. Try it!

See if you can find the school where I used to teach. Zoom out far enough, and you'll get a real appreciation for how isolated this town is. It was 48 miles to the nearest K-mart in Sheridan, WY.
View Larger Map

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane tracking in Google Earth

Lovin' that Google Earth Blog! There is an incredible set of weather tracking tools that can be downloaded to Google Earth. Once activated, there are dozens of layers that can be turned on or off to include lightning data, watch and warning boxes, and...drumroll please... hurricane tracking! Check out this picture I captured after playing around in GE for a couple of minutes.

Here's a YouTube video posted on the GE Blog that explains the GE weather layers in greater detail.

Ancient Egyptian Agriculture

I was reading a post on the CNET blog by Amy Tiemann where she tells a story about writing a research paper on some obscure topic in high school: the difficulty in finding 5 "required" resources, using a card catalog, and typing the report on an electric typewriter... boy can I relate! And now, of course, with the Internet, one can find THOUSANDS of resources with any search engine in a fraction of a second.

This reminded me of the first time I truly realized the power of the Internet. My son, currently in college, was in the 3rd or 4th grade at the time and he was assigned the topic of "Ancient Egyptian Agriculture." We had made a trip to the local public library, but had found very little information-- just the usual "broad strokes" and generalities. I don't even think Google was around yet in 1994 or 95, but I remember using a search engine to help my son with his project. One resource in particular was from a professor at a university in Illinois, if I remember correctly, that even had illustrations and diagrams. JACKPOT! Then we had to figure out how to cite the resource for the bibliography, back before OttoBib, Noodle Tools, or Citation Machine. The website was just static information-- text and pictures-- but it was one of those obscure moments that I still remember because it was like a great discovery.

Back in the day when I went to the school library to find a book on a particular topic, I crossed my fingers that someone else had not beat me to it. It's tough to do a report on ancient Rome when the R volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica is missing! Today students have the opposite problem-- TOO MUCH information. They have to know how to separate the good from the bad, the fair from the biased, the reliable from the questionable resources. Amy Tiemann sums it up nicely: "Whatever quality control issues the web may have, it's good to remember that it is a luxury to be able to analyze information for its quality and relevance, rather than hunt for facts like a needle in a haystack."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

eBay phishing scam! Beware!

I almost fell for this one. My gut told me something's "phishy" and sure enough, I forwarded the email to eBay and they confirmed it as a fake. Clicking the sign-up link took me to a page that exactly duplicated the eBay sign-in page, but the URL looked suspicious. Don't fall for this one!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I wonder...

This week I helped support an Environmental Camp for 10 elementary school students. The kids had a great time catching, observing, and releasing various insects, observing birds and wildflowers, feeding fish and turtles, and all in all having fun interacting with nature. We even got to meet a beekeeper with a hive and some bees and tasted fresh honey right from the honeycomb. We also had our own version of "Mythbusters" and proved that crickets really CAN tell us the temperature by counting their chirps.

As the week went on, I became aware of myself thinking aloud in front of the students "I wonder..." And I wasn't pretending, or putting on an act for the students, I truly DID wonder about 100 or so questions I had that I couldn't answer, like "do fish yawn", or "what do dragonflies eat?"

It made me think not only about how much I still have to learn, but also about how much I still ENJOY learning. Although I'm not in a classroom full time anymore, I would hope that when I was I modeled my curiosity and love of learning for my students. And maybe "model" isn't the right word because, in my mind, it somehow implies I'm faking it. I'm still, at age 47, filled with a sense of wonder at the big, wide, "wonder"ful world around me.

I hope the students I met this week encounter a teacher or have a parent or guardian that will instill in them the love of learning, a sense of wonder, and will be able to guide them to find the answers to their questions with the many incredible resources on the Internet. I wonder how they'll turn out???

My latest brilliant idea

So I'm thinking, ACOT (Apple classroom of tomorrow) taught us that teachers have to be comfortable using technology before they'll let their students use it in class (or at least attempt to teach with it), likewise with all the cool Web 2.0 stuff like blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc.

My brilliant idea is to develop a series of workshops that revolve around the idea of Professional Development 2.0 (I know, I know, enough with the 2.0 already!). Trying to help teachers get past the paradigm of the face to face workshop, and on to the myriad of online opportunities currently available: like attending a conference "virtually", reading blogs, listening to podcasts, attending a webinar, viewing online just-in-time tutorials, participating in a wiki, and joining an online community of practice (I can't remember where I first saw that term), or professional learning community, or finding or being a mentor.

So dear readers (both of you!), let me know what you think of my latest brainstorm, and be sure to offer your suggestions for websites and resources related to the above.

This is a real eye-opener!

Via the TechLEARNING blog, here's an online media literacy quiz from PBS:

Here's a sample question: What percentage of Americans under the age of 30 read a newspaper on a typical day?

Wow! I thought I was pretty savvy, but I only got 4 questions right! Even better, after you take the quiz, you'll see an explanation for each answer and the source for all of the data cited. There are even links to related websites and classroom activity ideas. If nothing else you'll be able to start some great discussions, especially after you survey your own students.

8 random things

Thank you Cheryl for "tagging" me to tell you 8 random things about myself.

First, the rules:
1. Post these rules before you give your facts.
2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them.
4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Hmmm... I seem to remember posting 5 facts about myself a few months ago, but I'll try to come up with something original...

1. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and ended up in Michigan via Montana. I still love it in Cleveland, also known as "the best location in the nation." I didn't make that up, it was an oft repeated mantra from the Cleveland media or some civic organization in the 60's.
2. I learned to play the flute in 3rd grade. Other students didn't start until 5th grade, but I didn't know that and just asked the school orchestra director if I could join in the 3rd grade. Knowing what I know now, having been a band director for 20 years, I can't believe I was able to reach the keys and produce a tone at such a young age! Why the flute? Because my sister had dropped out of band as a senior in high school and my parents didn't have to buy me another instrument.
3. While in college I competed in the Yamaha organ competition and earned a distinguished performance award at a regional finals competition in Illinois. I was THIS close to going to the national finals.
4. The first foul ball I ever got at a baseball game was off the bat of my baseball idol Cal Ripken Jr. It took a few years of trying, but I finally got him to autograph it the last year he played.
5. And speaking of autographs, I have a print by James Bama entitled "Oldest Living Crow" that I had autographed by the subject in the print, Robbie Yellowtail. My first teaching job was on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, and Robbie was still alive back then. A very quiet, dignified, intelligent man. Google his name some time.
6. I'm not a very good cook, but I make a mean macaroni & cheese!
7. Sometimes I catch myself sounding EXACTLY like my dad! Even my wife notices, and we both have a good laugh remembering him. I hope my kids do the same for me some day (a LONG time from now!)
8. To paraphrase Lou Gehrig, "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth." Truly, I have been blessed, and I love listening to Montgomery Gentry's song "Lucky man." to remind me of that fact.

So there you go. I'm having a tough time coming up with 8 bloggers who haven't already been tagged. I'll think about it and give you a list later. Thanks again Cheryl, this was fun.

Robert Fulghum does it again!

I have quoted Robert Fulghum at least a few times on this blog, and his most recent post was another gem! He writes about a favorite teacher who recently passed away at the age of 97. Please, do yourself a favor, take a few minutes to go to his blog and read the whole thing, but I especially enjoyed this quotation that is applicable to teachers everywhere:

His advice to me, when I went to some length to tell him how he affected my life was classic Lynn. “Mr. Fulghum, don’t bother me with talk about great teachers, just concentrate on trying to be one. How? Always be a great student and pass the disease along.”

Friday, August 10, 2007

Best dog ever

I lost one of my best friends today. Our beloved 14 year old Boston Terrier had to be put to sleep today. K.C. (short for Kahlua and Creme) and I had our own special routine in the morning as I got ready for work. He'd usually be waiting for me to come down the stairs for his "treat" and while he ate it I'd put my contact lenses in. Then he'd wait by the door for me to let him out and after I'd finish shaving I'd let him back in. Some days he'd try to work me over for another treat before I left for work (and most days I couldn't resist his charms). I noticed his health slowly but surely deteriorating over the past year or so. I knew this day would come, but it didn't make it any easier for me or my family when it did. Luckily for me, I have a very special remembrance of him from a few years ago. I had just gotten my Palm Zire 72 and I wanted to try out the built-in video camera. I shot a few seconds of video that included our beloved, faithful companion. It still exists on the memory card. I don't know why I suddenly remembered that I had it today, but I'm glad I did. If I can, I'll upload it here to share it with the world.

Rest in peace dear friend. Good boy.

(P.S.-- for those of you reading this in an aggregator (i.e. Bloglines), I found and uploaded my short video to YouTube. You may have to return to my blog to click on the video player. I don't know why I can't get them to show up in Bloglines although other bloggers have.)

Southwest canyon wonders

I came across a GORGEOUS collection of photos by CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman. My wife and I visited the Grand Canyon for a few days last summer (this picture is one I took) and I can't wait to get back. I would love to see the other canyons featured in Daniel's photo album in person some day. Until then, I'll have to settle for a virtual visit.

I love this quote by Doug Johnson

from the Blue Skunk Blog:

"Can you instill a love of life-long learning in others if you aren't an enthusiastic life-long learner yourself?"

Amen, brother. How many school mission statements have you read that have "life-long learner" or "compete in a global economy" in them?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Learning From Mistakes With School-Based Technology

Take a few minutes to read this excellent article from TechLEARNing. Matthew Ohlson offers advice on what NOT to do based on his experience as tech director of a K-8 school. Good stuff! Helpful, AND humorous!

Microsoft's fresh start for donated computers

Every year schools receive donated computers of all shapes, sizes, conditions, and ages, and every year tech coordinators struggle with the issue of keeping everything "legal" in terms of software licensing and especially operating systems that may or may not be installed.

Microsoft has made the job just a little easier with their fresh start program:
"Microsoft's Fresh Start for Donated Computers program helps primary and secondary (K-12) schools ensure its donated computers are properly licensed—so students and teachers can gain additional access to technology... A school completes a short online application. Once Microsoft has reviewed and approved the application, we will provide the school with a letter that serves as proof of valid Windows 2000 licenses for their donated personal computers. Microsoft also will provide one copy of the software on CD for customers who have received donated personal computers."
To learn more or to apply go to:

This is fun!

Came across this site on the TechLEARNing blog.

"Our educational video games offer an innovative approach to teaching basic academic skills by incorporating features of arcade games and educational practices that into online games that will motivate, intrigue, and teach your students."

I'm intrigued by the fact that their games are playable on the Nintendo wii using the wii browser and controllers! Can't wait to try it! It's from the same folks who brought us QuizStar and RubiStar.

Free coffee?? Count me in!

Folgers Gourmet Selections. Get A Free Sample

This is a sample blog post

Type in the box, and hit publish. Easy as pie.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Handheld Computing 2.0: GPS

GPS Links:

Google Earth Links
Google Earth:
Google Earth Blog:
Google LatLong Blog:
Using Google Earth Blog:

Other links
Geocaching- The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site:

NOVA Online Lost at Sea- The Search for Longitude:

GPS Tracklog Blog:

GPS Visualizer:

Free Geography Tools:

Groundspeak GPS in Education forum:


Dr. Alice Christie's Geocaching site:

Dr. Christie's GPS and Geocaching Guide for Educators:

How GPS Receivers Work:

USGS Educational Resources:

GPS in the Classroom:

GPS & Place-based Learning:

Geocache Simulator:

How to use

I love this well done video!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jott from Jim Dornberg

Jott From Jim Dornberg

Hi this is Jim, bloging(?) from my cell phone using the Jott service. Just trying this out to see, if its really works.
Listen to Audio

Brought to you by Jott Networks, Inc.

Note: This took about 2 minutes to arrive on my blog. There are just a couple of minor errors, but overall it's pretty amazing, don't you think?

Handheld Computing 2.0: Cell Phones

Cell Phone Links to explore---

Google Mobile:


How to send a text message (4Info):

CNN Mobile:


NY Times Daily Lesson Plan:

USA Today Mobile:
(content provided by 4Info)



The Wireless Wizard:

Think Mobile Phones for Learning:

Handheld Computing 2.0: iPods

Audiobooks and eBooks
American Rhetoric – Top 100 historic speeches
Audible- free 14 day trial
eBooks and Education
Free Audio Books -
Free Classic AudioBooks
The Audio Books Project - Gutenberg
The Official Robert Munsch Website – children’s author reads his own books

Lesson plan resources
Apple Education - iPod in the Classroom - Lesson Plans
Apple Learning Interchange 2007 - Teaching with iPod and iTunes

Articles, links, and other resources
Are iPod-banning schools cheating our kids?
iPod Helps Special-Needs Students Make the Grade
iPod in Education Links - iPods in Education
Louisa-Muscatine iPod Project
PBS Teachers The iPod of the Beholder
Schools banning iPods to beat cheaters -
The Stingy Scholar ipod

Podcasts (many of these are in the iTunes music store)
10 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids-
ABC News
Colonial Williamsburg Past and Present Podcasts
Discovery Channel
Earth & Sky for Kids
ESL and Archie Comics
Family Health Radio
Historical Sounds in MP3 Format - The Free Information Society
Kids Music, Children's Music - Free MP3 Downloads of Kids Songs
Living on Earth-- Sound Journalism for the Whole Planet
Monticello Podcasts
NASA - Digital Learning Network Podcast Directory
NASA Podcasting
National Geographic
NPR Podcast Directory
Reader's Digest- RD Out Loud
San Diego Zoo Podcasts
Storynory- Free Audio Stories for Kids
Vocab Minute Podcasts- The Princeton Review

Software and file conversion
iPod Notes Packager—create ebooks for your iPod
iQuiz Maker – works with iQuiz game available from iTunes music store
iTunes—free download from Apple, works with or without an iPod
mogopop – create your own content for the iPod
Scribd – convert documents to spoken words and download -- free online flash video converter

Tips and tutorials iPod Education Resources Portal
iTunes - Hot Tips
iTunes 6 - Atomic Learning, Inc.
Apple iTunes Tutorial Apple - Introduction
playlistmag- iPod and iTunes Product Guide, News, Reviews, How-To’s and More

National Archives – historic video on Google Video
TeacherTube – teacher created content
ScienceHack- math and science videos pre-screened for quality and accuracy

Monday, August 06, 2007

Handheld Computing 2.0: CPS Links

The creators of the CPS. You can download the latest version of the CPS software here. Also check out the video tutorials for this new software which debuted in July:

MMLA Mathematics Assessments:
Generate MEAP like items for grades K-8 aligned with Michigan GLCEs. It's very easy to use these PDFs as a "fast grade" lesson in CPS. CPS video tutorials:

and even more tutorials on the Tevebaugh Group website:

FSCreations Title Track:
Does your textbook come with ExamView question banks? Find out by searching the FSCreations database. ExamView questions can be used with the CPS.

Kenton County Kentucky CPS lessons:
Lots of sample CPS lesson files can be downloaded here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Palm workshop links

Here are some helpful resources related to Palm handheld computers:

Tony Vincent's Learning in Hand: (if you have time to visit only ONE Palm related website, make it this one!)

District Administration's Education in Hand:

University of Virginia eBooks:

The PDA Librarian:

GoKnow: (be sure to see the Sketchy contest winners!)

Palm Education Solutions:

Another thing on my list of things to do... to learn more about Google SketchUp. I played around with it a little bit last year to create a design for our church chancel. Great program, and you can't beat the price!

Well, here is a website with about 30 video podcasts on SketchUp: Haven't looked at them yet, but they come highly recommended from the Google Earth Blog. They even have an RSS feed and an iTunes subscription.

You can purchase their complete DVD for $79. Or you can buy the new SketchUp for Dummies book.

I think my list of things to do has about 1000 things right now.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New Orleans, part deux

I have so many incredible memories of my week in New Orleans. Not just the historic buildings, but the people, many who willingly shared their Katrina stories. (On a side note, wouldn't it be great if these stories were preserved in a digital format for future generations?)

I also took a Gray Line Katrina tour to see first hand the devastation from the hurricane. The premise of the tour is that Katrina was a huge natural disaster, but an even bigger man-made disaster. If you're ever in New Orleans, I highly recommend you take this tour. Unbelievable.
A fellow tourist noted that the good people of New Orleans seem "exhausted" from all they've had to deal with in the past 2 years, and I totally agree with that observation.

The French Quarter, near the Mississippi River, sits on the highest ground, and is almost back to normal. I observed only a few stores and restaurants that are either closed, or on reduced hours, and the merchants I talked to say business is much better in 2007 than in 2006. The streets were much more crowded on Thursday, Friday and Saturday than they were earlier in the week, but I can't say if this was typical pre-Katrina.

I got to thinking (and thinking and thinking) about all I had observed, and I wondered how many lessons could be devoted to New Orleans. Obviously the incredibly rich history, but now, post-Katrina, the many lessons to be learned about Geography, human adaptation, and some of the other major "themes" in Social Studies. Also Science: the weather, animals and their habitat, the Mississippi river, global warming... well, you get the idea.

Luckily for me, the August 2007 issue of the National Geographic hit the newsstands while I was there, so I had some interesting reading for the plane ride home. You can see the online version of an excellent article entitled New Orleans: A Perilous Future with photos and videos on the National Geographic website.

And now for one of my "epiphanies." Many of the remaining houses are being raised up onto a first floor basement (click on the 3rd picture). Because of the high water table a "typical" basement isn't doable. Ironically, the French settlers had this figured out in the 18th century. Without getting into a lot of the city's history (which I'd probably get wrong anyway), after getting hit with a couple of hurricanes, the residents of the French Quarter figured out that having a living space on the first floor was not very practical. I saw and photographed one of the few remaining examples of a typical French style home in the French Quarter, and once I get my camera back from my wife, I'll upload it here so that you can see it for yourself.

This example got me to thinking that in spite of our many technological advances, we still can't fool Mother Nature. And now, some 200 years or so later, the residents of New Orleans have reverted back to an older architectural design for their homes. I wonder if at some point we might be doing the same thing in our classrooms with technology, deciding, perhaps, that the "old" ways are better or more dependable???

New Orleans

Last week my wife and I vacationed in New Orleans. Well, I got to vacation more than she did, because she went to Eric Jensen's Brain Expo Conference, while I played and toured and shopped and ate and... well, you get the idea.

I absolutely LOVE this city! The French Quarter is just amazing! I think I learned more American history in a 90 minute guided tour than I ever did from a textbook (I think this is called location based learning???).

But how is this for serendipity: while on the tour, I noticed some 5th or 6th grade aged students snapping pictures with digital cameras. And then one student approached one of the others on the tour and proceeded to interview her while recording their conversation on a digital voice recorder. For the next 5 minutes, I didn't hear anything our excellent tour guide, Jim, a NPS Ranger, said. I spotted one of the adults chaperoning the students, and immediately began asking questions. Luckily for me, I also connected with the Science & Technology Coordinator in charge of the technology camp and we traded business cards. I don't have all of the details yet, and my memory is a little fuzzy (no, not from a Hurricane), but the gist of the project they are working on involves creating a downloadable audio tour (with pictures) of the historic buildings in the French Quarter. How cool is that?

I'm thinking we could do something similar in historic Monroe County, especially with the prospect of having our River Raisin battlefield designated as a National Park. And the War of 1812 gives us an opportunity to collaborate with my new found friends in Louisiana-- ever heard of the Battle of New Orleans?

My mind is buzzing with the anticipation of the possibilities based on this incredible little coincidence.