Friday, January 26, 2007

So cool, you have to try it to believe it!

Have you ever not known the name of a song, or who recorded it, even though you can remember how to sing or hum even a small part of it? Well then, you'll have to try out a new search engine called midomi.

Here's a brief description from their website:

midomi is the ultimate music search tool because it is powered by your voice. Sing, hum, or whistle to instantly find your favorite music and connect with a community that shares your musical interests. Give it a try. It's truly amazing!

I was skeptical until I tried it. I plugged in my microphone and sang a couple of bars of "Happy Birthday", and sure enough, midomi figured it out and provided links to recordings of other midomi users singing the song, and to professional recordings available for purchase.

Then I sang the first phrase of the "Star Spangeled Banner", and BINGO! Another match! My hummed rendition of "Na na, hey hey, kiss him goodbye" didn't yield a correct match, but remarkably, my WHISTLED version of "Billie Jean" brought up a link to the Michael Jackson original, cued up to the phrase I had just whistled!

It really is amazing! Give it a try.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't let this happen to you or your students!

UPDATE: Check out this blog post from Mr. Herbert Horner, a computer forensics expert who testified in defense of Julie Amero.

Two recent articles are making me think it's time to teach my "Viruses, Spyware, and Spoofs, Oh My!" workshop again.

Julie Amero, a 40 year old substitute teacher, was recently convicted of counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child. While substituting at a school in 2004, Amero's computer would not stop displaying adult images on the screen. An endless cycle of popup windows kept appearing, despite her best efforts to close them. A computer expert testifying in her defense confirmed that there was spyware on the computer. According to some reports, the school's filter was not working because the license had expired. Here's the complete article from the Norwich Bulletin.

An Arizona teenager faced child pornography charges after his home was raided and computer confiscated by authorities. Computer forensic expert Tammi Loehrs discovered over 200 infected files on the family computer, opening up "back doors" for hackers to control their computer remotely. The young man's story was featured on ABC's 20/20 and you may view a video and transcript of the story here. The family has also started a website called Justice for Matt--

Two very scary stories that could have been prevented. Too often we put our trust in Internet filters, but some bad stuff still makes it through (i.e. Google images). We require students to sign AUPs every year, but I wonder how often someone takes the time to explain the potential risks, and to teach students how to protect themselves and their computers AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL. The students in turn could teach their parents. There are so many free anti virus and spyware tools available, there's no reason this should have ever happened in the first place.

We don't allow students to drive without driver's education, and they can't go hunting until they take a gun safety class. We would never think of sending an elementary or middle school student off alone into a big city, but as long as they sign their AUP they can get on the Internet. I think it's time to require some sort of classroom instruction in Internet safety for all students (and their parents and teachers too). Many schools are already doing this using free resources like NetSmartz or iSafe, but the two stories I cited are evidence that we're not doing enough yet.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Quntura for Kids

Wow! Check out this new search engine for kids at:

Here's a short description from the website:
Designed specifically for kids, this new experience demonstrates Quintura’s continued commitment to change the way people search and find information on the Web. Based on the same cutting edge Neural Network technology used on, Quintura for Kids utilizes the Quintura cloud, which allows kids to find what they are looking for faster and easier than ever before

For instance, if I click on the word "animal" the Quintura cloud changes to include descriptors such as species, territory, habitat... and my search results change as I continue to click on the ever-changing cloud.

It's powered by Yahoo! Kids. Very cool. So helpful for kids who may not be able to spell "big" words.

Thanks to the SVSD Classroom Technology blog for the tip.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More wisdom from Robert Fulghum

"One pleasure of being alive in the 21st century is the infinity of available tools. You don’t need them all – just the ones that work for you. "

I think it's important for teachers to be aware of all of the technology tools, and to maybe even kick the tires and take them for a test drive. And just like buying a car, you pick the one(s) that works best for you. So while a minivan is great for a growing family, a two-seater just wouldn't be practical. Same with all the Web 2.0 tools. Depending on your grade level, and subject area, certain tools make more sense than others.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Robert Fulghum's website

I stumbled across Robert Fulghum's website while creating a previous post, and I'm glad I did! I've added him to my Bloglines account thanks to the RSS feed available from the website. Here's a short quote from a recent post that resonates with me as Mr. Fulghum talks about his recent purchase of a 200 disk CD player:

Sometimes I think there must be a Random Button in my head that I unwittingly punch sometime between bed and breakfast. Whatever order I had in mind for the day gets over-ridden, and I come to the end of the day having done nothing I set out to do or think about.

I can relate! How about you?

Compose an online newsletter with LetterPop

From the K12 Hotlinks blog via the SVSD Classroom Technology blog I learned about LetterPop. You can create your own online newsletter that you can email to up to 100 addresses. OR... you can publish your newsletter to its own unique URL like this sample Christmas newsletter that I created in about 10 minutes.

Lots of fun! Check it out! What an easy way for teachers to create newsletters, or photo pages.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Grad School

(with apologies to Robert Fulghum) I've been doing a lot of thinking the past several days, and I got to thinking of when I started the Educational Media and Technology master's degree program at Eastern Michigan University and how much technology has changed in that relatively short time.

The big research findings we discussed (way back in 1999 or 2000) were related to ACOT, the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow. So while I was on the Apple website today checking out Apple TV, I wondered if any of the ACOT stuff was still available, and sure enough, it is!

I downloaded the 24 page summary report "A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research." There are some great quotes that still ring true today, 12 years after this report was published, like this one:

As you work into using the computer in the classroom, you start questioning everything you have done in the past, and wonder how you can adapt it to the computer. Then, you start questioning the whole concept of what you originally did. --Paula Fistick, Columbus, Ohio

Another part of the report talks about the various stages that teachers progressed through--Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Appropriation, Invention-- as they learned to use the technology. And then I had my epiphany! This is the way it has to work with all the Web 2.0 stuff-- blogs, wikis, podcasts, digital stories, etc. Before the teachers can use this competently in the classroom with their students, they have to feel comfortable using it for their own professional practice. How else will they know or imagine what the possibilities are?

And here's some more wisdom from ACOT: "A framework for collaboration can support teachers in the change process." And isn't collaboration and communication what Web 2.0 is all about?

Thinking back on my EMU experience, and how much the technology has changed, there are some things that HAVEN'T changed. The buzzwords I remembered (probably because they were so revolutionary to me at that time) were COLLABORATION, REFLECTION, and PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES. And, again, isn't that what Web 2.0 is all about???

It's all starting to become a little clearer to me now as I've had time to reflect on, process, and synthesize all the stuff that has bombarded my weary little brain.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Protopuppy from

Another site recommended by my colleague is
It seems like this might be a more graphical way to aggregate RSS feeds, bookmarks, etc. Plus you can also add your very own Protopuppy like this one. You can click on him to pet him, throw the ball for him to fetch, or feed him a bone. AWWWWW, how cute!

Click here to get your own Protopuppy

It's a free service based in London. Another fun site to explore!

Rock you!

UPDATE: The code doesn't work as promised so my show will never finish loading! Click on the "view show" link to see my creation. A colleague shared a really cool, fun website with me today:
It allows you to upload photos and create slideshow/photo montage/digital story type presentations, and then generates the necessary code that you copy and paste into your blog or website like this:

View Show Create Your Own

I did this in about 2 minutes without even exploring all the possibilities. Registration is not required, and you have the option to share, or not share your creation with the world.

Looks worthy of further exploration.

Collaborator vs. Isolator

I just found Quentin D'Souza's Teaching Hacks blog (and immediately added it to my Bloglines) and really appreciated his Venn diagram on a teacher as either a Collaborator or an Isolator. Good stuff!

I've always thought the easiest way to find the isolators is to see how often their classroom door is shut. And although it's probably a cliche, you can add "guide on the side" or "sage on the stage" to the diagram.

Monday, January 08, 2007

And while we're on the subject...

Here's what Kelly had to say on his blog, Educational Discourse:

...frank discussions with teachers resisting the use of technology may not change their minds, ever. We have to accept that, move on, and open discussions with other people. Maybe a self-help group for newbies I read how frustrated people are with the lack of swift change and the need for education k12 to begin using these new tools in a more comprehensive way, embracing the changes that are coming. Well, some will embrace and others, who are unsure, will watch and still others, who have been overrun with initiatives and directions, will retreat and resist. That’s part of the life-cycle of change. I think we need to get use to it because I have a feeling our lives are going to be experiencing this for a few years to come.

I think my initial rant was caused by my realization that teachers really ARE "overrun with initiatives and directions," and not all of them are technology related. I think that many teachers really would use technology more, if they felt they had the time. It's not that they don't want to, it's just further down their list of priorities than they would like it to be. They are simply overwhelmed by all the stuff they HAVE to do, that they don't have time for the stuff they would LIKE to do.

I have been blaming myself for not being a more motivating technology evangelist, but after reading just a couple of other blog posts I can see that it's time for me to (as a friend's mother liked to say) "snap out of it" and to keep on preaching.

It's not just me that feels this way!

Here's a great quote we work to transform our schools, we can get frustrated. It is not unusual to feel powerless. Things don’t happen quickly enough or exactly as we would like them. We feel passionate about the benefits of educational technology while others seem apathetic. We can’t seem to transfer our views of the benefits and possiblities of our vision to the staff or the leadership. No one seems to care as much as we do.

from the EdTech Journeys blog.

And a little later in the post...

I believe it’s not possible to change an educational culture and individual behaviors that have existed for decades on the strength of logic alone. If that were the case, no one would be overweight, or smoke, or leave their seatbelt unbuckled.

Some good reading! Check it out.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Making sense of it all


After a nice Christmas break, when I didn't think too much about technology, I'm back to the real world and deep in thought. I guess it all started when I read an interesting online article that dated back to 1994 or 1995 in which a few "experts" made predictions about what the Internet would be like 10 years in the future. Some very accurate prognostications, but also some that were way off, but I suppose that's the nature of technology-- we're never exactly sure of what's next. Certain technologies disappear almost overnight, some explode, then slowly fade away, and others have been around a long time and may always be with us. We're all at the mercy of the next "big thing."

That got me to thinking about how technological changes have affected the classroom. Remember laserdiscs? How cool was it to scan a barcode in the teacher's textbook and instantly see a picture on the TV? POOF! Obsolete.

How about creating a classroom website? I started out using Front Page, but then web-based tools became available. Then came Edline. Now there are blogs. What's next?

How about electronic gradebooks? I started out with my own spreadsheet. Then came GradeQuick. Now GradeQuick may be going away in our county as we move to a more all-encompassing student data management system with its own gradebook component.

Think about the hours invested by the average classroom teacher in learning any of the above, or anything else related to instructional technology. I get the idea that "the hurrieder I go the behinder I get." And if I'm feeling overwhelmed, I can only imagine what teachers must be feeling.

I am also discouraged by the many blog posts and magazine and newspaper articles that remind me that our educational system is still, for the most part, mired in the 19th or 20th century. Societal change is much too slow to keep up with the rapid advances in technology. We pay lip service to preparing our students for the "global economy" in our school mission statements, but the reality is we're preparing them to compete in the past.

I love all of the Web 2.0 stuff, but I'm frustrated by not knowing how to convince teachers that it's all worth their valuable time and effort. We all know the barriers: access, filtering, safety, responsibility, time... not to mention the increased importance of standardized testing.

I just feel like I'm not having an impact. If I were still a classroom teacher, I'd know that I had some influence over my students and their learning. Now I'm not so sure.

A friend of mine got out of the field of instructional technology for some of the same reasons I've cited. How do I keep myself from burning out as I mentally spin my wheels?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Does this sound familiar?

" of the saddest but most common conditions in elementary school computer labs (when they exist in the developing world), is the children are being trained to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I consider that criminal, because children should be making things, communicating, exploring, sharing, not running office automation tools."

It's from an article in today's USA Today entitled Low-cost laptop could transform learning. Nicholas Negroponte, from MIT, is responsible for the development of the $100 (now $150) laptop project.

The "condition" he speaks of is not limited to the developing world-- I see it on an almost daily basis in our technology-rich county-- and, sadly, I don't see it changing any time soon. Office tools are convenient and safe, and although they fulfill the purpose for which they were intended quite well, they should not be the only tools for students and teachers. Too many of the Web 2.0 tools are blocked, or software (like Microsoft's Photostory) isn't installed in either the computer labs or classroom computers. Students and teachers may be limited to a standard office suite of applications for creating their projects through no fault of their own.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture!

After visiting with family over Christmas break and taking some pictures and video, I got to thinking about the "good old days."

Remember when taking pictures meant having to take your film (or as my grandmother used to say "fill-em") to the drugstore and waiting a week for your photos to be developed? And how about shooting home movies without sound, and then finally getting that 3 minute film spool back, then having to thread it through the projector only to see some underexposed silhouettes? Then we got a Polaroid Swinger camera, which allowed us to see our pictures (in glorious black and white) in mere minutes!

I couldn't go back to those days. I love being able to see my pictures and video instantly, knowing if I need to take another photo because someone's eyes were closed. I love being able to crop and edit, and upload photos to the web, and making calendars or photo mugs or T-shirts.

Remember that Outkast song, about shaking it "like a Polaroid picture"? How much longer until no one has any idea what they were talking about?

Five things you don't know about me

My friend Cheryl Lykowski (an amazing teacher!) has "tagged" me to play the 5 things you don't know about me game so here goes...

1. My father-in-law is Jimmy Carter! No, not THAT Jimmy Carter, but really, his given name is JIMMY, not James. So now that I have your attention...

2. My first teaching job was on the Crow Indian Reservation in Lodge Grass, Montana. One of my education profs at Bowling Green State University had taken the job of high school principal there. He kept an index card on every one of his students with contact information and college major. When he needed a band director in the middle of January, I was on a very short list of people he contacted. I had just graduated in December, and on February 1st, after a 2 day trip on a Greyhound bus with a suitcase full of clothes, I started a full time teaching job. Oh, to be young, carefree, and foolish again. Even better, I met my wife there (and she was also a BGSU grad, but that's another story).

3. Yes, you read correctly: band director. Before my current gig as an instructional technology specialist, I was a school band director for 20 years! I've also been our church's organist for 18+ years, and the choir director for 5 or 6 (I lost count).

4. I was THIS CLOSE to enlisting in the Air Force in the mid 80's. I had heard the Air Force Band perform at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, and I really missed performing. I talked to some of the band members after the concert, and was encouraged to audition (and enlist). Some of my stand partners in the band and orchestra at Bowling Green went on to play in symphony orchestras, so I thought I had the "chops" to play in the Air Force Band. I then met with a recruiter who talked me out of enlisting. I had two young children at the time, and I couldn't imagine putting the Air Force ahead of my family.

5. I am a HUGE baseball fan! I've attended games in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee, and visited the baseball hall of fame. This past spring my college-aged sons and I attended a few spring training games in Florida, and we also went to the all-star game in Chicago in 2003. If we ever meet in person remind me to tell you the story about the "incident" at the baseball hall of fame!

And now I'm supposed to tag 5 others. The problem is, my favorite bloggers have already been tagged with the exception of Clarence Fisher. So Clarence, TAG, you're it!