Monday, April 28, 2008

23 Things...

As I work through the various "things" and read some of the comments posted by many educators, a few common themes seem to emerge:
  • Too much information
  • Not enough access
  • Safety and privacy issues
  • Not enough time

These are common problems in my district also. So here are my thoughts:

Too much information-- yep, you're right. We can't possibly keep up with the flow of information. 40 years ago we got 3 channels on our TV. Now we get 100's. Likewise, there are many more magazines and periodicals and other print media. And that's before we even begin to talk about the internet! So what do we do? We can say "OH WOE IS ME" and throw up our hands in defeat, or we can do our best to swim against the tidal wave of information, realizing that inevitably we'll have to just "go with the flow." We can't possibly keep up, nor should we ever expect to. But we can join together with other like-minded individuals to find those pearls of wisdom, those incredible websites, the engaging multimedia, and SHARE those with each other. There's a lot of great "stuff" out there! And a lot of great people! You won't know everything about everything, but if you love to learn you won't be disappointed. Overwhelmed, perhaps, but better informed than you ever thought possible.

Not enough access-- tech directors are just doing their job, protecting students from content that is less than wholesome. The good news is we live in a country with a lot of freedom to express ourselves and this venue called the internet where the whole world is literally our stage. But this blessing is also a curse. It's impossible to open up a web site with wonderful content to everyone because of the BAD content that is found there. I don't claim to be an expert on CIPA, but it's a fact of life that schools have to deal with. Read more about it here: and here:

Safety and privacy issues-- there are a lot of bad people in this world. Many of them exist in the "real" world, and now they're moving into the online world. It can be very scary for students and adults. Cyberbullying is on the rise. Identy theft is becoming easier. But ladies and gentlemen, the proverbial genie is out of the proverbial bottle. The internet is not going away. The best we can do is to educate ourselves (and our students) about how to protect ourselves and our computers while we're online. When you're in a big city, especially for the first time, you try to stay aware of your surroundings and to stay away from trouble. Likewise online. But just like the real world, there are random attacks on the internet. Bad things sometimes happen to good people, despite their attempts at protecting themselves and insulating themselves from trouble.

Not enough time-- we all only get 24 hours in a day and we have to balance our personal and professional lives according to a formula that is unique to each individual. More and more demands and expectations are placed on teachers each year. High stakes testing has caused many teachers to focus only on those areas to the exclusion of extras or options such as technology. Many teachers have graduate school to worry about. How in the world can they ever be expected to learn even more on their own time without any additional compensation, either financially, or in compensatory time? Thankfully teachers can engage in what I call professional development 2.0. They can participate in "23 things" on their own time without having to drive anyplace and without having to spend any money. They can literally engage in PD in their PJs. Hopefully they will realize the power and potential of these new technologies to transform their classrooms, but only after they have used them to improve their own teaching practice and ways of communicating with others.

Nothing earth-shattering here. These are very real concerns with no easy answers. I think in our current school climate the best we can hope for is a cadre of teachers who use Web 2.0 technologies, and somewhere down the road we can safely integrate these into the classroom.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The Gratitude Campaign

A friend sent me a link to this video today. It's a very simple way we can all thank our military personnel for their service. After viewing the video, check out the website for more information:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I am blown away by this music software!

Thanks to David Pogue for pointing out this software, and to one of his readers who posted a link to this YouTube video in the comment section.

I remember when I got my first music notation software and MIDI keyboard. This is WAY better! But so different looking than "traditional" music notation. Amazing.

I'm lovin' the flip video camera!

Check out their website:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Learning about shapes... in Google Earth!

JD Williams posted this lesson over a year ago, but I just came across it while browsing the Google Earth Community for Education.

It is very well done! Students will visit numerous shapes all around the world and answer questions about perimeter, area, and even a few questions about Geography.

This would make a great SMARTboard lesson as well.

FREE resources from ATEEC

Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC) has a lot of FREE downloadable resources on their website. Their mission statement is "The advancement of environmental and energy technology education through curriculum, professional, and program development and improvement." The Environmental Education Center is located on the campus of Scott Community College in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Browse their other publications and multimedia and you'll find lots of other intriguing titles. Free registration is required.

Fuel from salt water!

Internet safety resources

I've been thinking a lot about internet safety lately. I'll be attending a parent/community internet safety workshop next week sponsored by our State Attorney General. My concern is it will overemphasize "stranger danger" online predators, and underemphasize (is that a word?) cyberbullying.

I've come across three resources I'd like to share. The first is a well done 4 page PDF from the University of New Hampshire's "Crimes Against Children Research Center" that explains some of the myths and realities of internet safety:

The second is some very practical, succinct advice from Clarence Fisher which I will quote directly from his blog (but please read his entire post):

Five solid rules I teach the kids in my class to be safe online:

1.) Don't linger in places that may be high risk. While you may have the need occasionally to be in a chat room or in another space like that, just as you wouldn't hang out in dark back alleys for long, don't be in these spaces either.

2.) Work hard to protect your online identity. Protect the basics: your whole name, details about your family, your address, IM address, etc. These are the basics that are usually used to find you online. Work hard to keep the breadcrumbs to a minimum.

3.) IM is students' main way of communicating online. Keep your accounts safe and your password protected. Make sure nobody is messing with your FaceBook, Myspace, bebo, etc., accounts. Be aware.

4.) Read the stuff that is out there. I often pass on articles, write blog posts on our class blog, discuss things in class and ask for their input and opinions about some of the terrible things that happen online. I don't think by any stretch it is encouraging kids to do the same thing. It helps potential bullies to know that we are aware of some of the things that happen online and it lets potential victims be aware of some of the things that have happened.

5.) Know how your technology works. Know about your webcam, your audio software, your camera, know where your SD cards are and your cell phone. If students know this kind of stuff, they will again know when it has been messed with or when someone is trying to get them to turn it on at a time or in a place that is inappropriate.

And finally, an in-depth (18 page) article from the "Crimes Against Children Research Center" that appeared in the Feb-March issue of American Psychologist:


Thanks to Clarence for pointing this out in Twitter! Hilarious parody of Fegilicious by a very creative student.

SMART Lesson Activity Toolkit

SMART has released an all new version 10 of their Notebook software, but they've also released the full version of the Lesson Activity Toolkit (LAT). If you aren't ready or don't want to upgrade to V10, which has the Lesson Activity Toolkit already included, you can download the LAT separately and use it with V9.x of the Notebook software.

These activities are a fast and easy way for teachers to build an interactive SMART board lesson. I was especially happy to see a Sudoku board! It's been available in RM Easiteach, but now it's free with the LAT. They also include ready-made samples of the activities so teachers can get an idea of what each one does.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Win free stuff from eInstruction

Checking through my inbox, I came across this information from eInstruction, makers of the Classroom Performance System (CPS). They're having a random drawing in May.

Just visit to enter the sweepstakes and to submit, in 250 characters or less (approx. 25 words), your vision of a classroom that combines curriculum with technology. You will be able to see your entry pop-up on a Google® Map immediately, as well as all participating classrooms throughout the US. It’s our way of showing teachers and students everywhere the magic that happens when content meets technology with eInstruction.
Three classrooms will be chosen at random, one in grades K-5, one in grades 6-8 and one in grades 9-12. Enter the contest and you could win this interactive prize package:
  • Interwrite™ Workspace with ExamView™ reader
  • Interwrite™ Board
  • Interwrite™ Pad
  • 32-Pad CPS RF Clicker System
  • One year subscription to ExamView Learning Series
  • Epson PowerLite 400W Projector.
  • Epson Short-throw Projector Wall Mount
  • Free installation and online training

Help us to spread the word about this exciting contest and you can increase your odds of winning—see details when you visit the sweepstakes website!
The winners will be announced on Monday, May 19, 2008. Remember, your class could win an $8,000 Interactive Classroom Makeover!
Yours in Learning,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Take 4 minutes to watch this video

I just discovered a great blog today by Liz Davis. In one of her posts she linked to this video by Charles Leadbeater. A great introduction to the power of Web 2.0.

23 Things

Wayne RESA has done an excellent job of teaching teachers about Web 2.0 with their 23 Things project. You're welcome to participate in most of the activities too, but the official registration period is over.

Here's the assignment for Thing 2 and my responses:

Why are you participating in 23 Things? What do you hope to learn? What new insights did you have during Thing 1? How does writing on the Internet, knowing anyone could read it, change how you write or feel about writing?

My reason for participating in 23 things is purely selfish :) A colleague and I had been talking about a summer Web 2.0 camp for teachers when I received an email from Jacki at Wayne RESA. Talk about a coincidence! I'm using their program as a model for our own. I hope to learn from the participating teachers what works and what doesn't work-- and to figure out how much information is TOO MUCH information. There are so many Web 2.0 tools, that it can easily become overwhelming, especially to "newbies."

I don't know if there is a logical way to introduce Web 2.0, but RESA's way sure makes sense to me! And the scope of their project, in my opinion, is just right. Of course if you ask one of the other participants, they may disagree.

Writing for the web is very motivating for me, and I'm sure it would be for students as well. I've added a ClustrMap to my blog to boost my ego a little-- it's fun for me to see where my readers are from, even if they happened by my blog randomly. It feels like I'm part of a world-wide conversation, like my opinions just might matter to someone else.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Baseball Hall of Fame thematic units

These look very well done! 16 thematic units with lots of resources including worksheets, vocabulary lists, links to websites, online video... Have a look:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Have you seen this cool tool?

I haven't been to a tech conference lately, but a colleague went to MACUL recently and purchased an ONfinity C2. It's kind of like a SMART board in reverse. You use what looks something like an old fashioned "pointer" to touch any flat surface onto which your image is being projected. It's very portable and easy to get up and running.

Go to their website for more info, pictures and video:

A great idea! Help this teacher out!

Copied directly from the IMC Guy blog:

"A week ago, I purchased a webcam for our school, housed with me in the library, since I'm most likely the only one who knows how to use and will use it. After testing it out via Skype with Teryl_Magee and her students in Knoxville, Tennessee, I started thinking big.In about 3 weeks, our fourth graders will begin a unit on the United States. For their big project, they will pick a state and research it. Last year, the 2 fourth grade teachers and I collaborated on this project. This year, I'd like to take it a step further and I need as much help as I can get. As one form of research, I'd like our students to interview a student or teacher from each state. In other words, the student who is researching New Mexico would actually "talk" to someone who lives there to get a prospective they couldn't get in a book. I would love this interview to be done through video conferencing. Our students have never done that before and I think it would be great. Now, I realize that finding people in all 50 states for a video chat will be difficult, but I would settle for at least an email interview. I have 3 or 4 states covered already, but am looking for contacts all over the place. I would even think that touching base with someone outside of a school system would be fine - perhaps a grandparent or business person, someone like that. While having the students interview another student would be great, interviewing an adult would work as well. I'm really hoping my Twitter network, which has over 100 followers representing at least 25 states can be a great resource for this. They should be able to help, right? Some of my fellow blog readers should be able to help, right? I certainly cannot find all of these contacts myself. That's why I need your help - assist me spreading the word about this project. Are interested? Do you know someone who would be? If so, please leave me a comment with your info or send me an email. I think this could be really cool and more importantly, a great learning opportunity for everyone involved!"

A very simple, but powerful idea! Visit his blog and help him out!

Those @#$*&! Filter Keys!

Sometimes when I'm deep in thought, I'll have accidentally held down the "Shift" key for longer than 8 seconds and inadvertently turned on the dreaded "Filter Keys." Then I can't type numbers, or commas, or periods! It's like a horrible cap lock that only affects symbols and numbers.

I managed to find a helpful link to save the day! To turn filter keys off again, hold down BOTH shift keys at the same time. I tried it and it really works!a

Fit Brains- Guilt Free Fun

Update: These games work beautifully with the SMARTboard.
Thanks (again) to Jane Hart who finds and shares some great educational websites. Fit Brains has a lot of interesting brain exercise games. With a free account, you can actually have the site track your brain fitness level. They call it the FBI-- Fit Brain Index. They even provide a little research and info to explain each of the 5 key brain functions.

I'm wondering if this site would work on a SMART board? Can't wait to try it! Lots of fun, so go check it out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This sickens me!

What's worse than this vicious attack on a teacher is that several students just watch it happen and don't even try to break up the fight while another records it with her cell phone and later posts is on MySpace! What is happening to this country and our young people! God help us. Please. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victim.

EUREKA! Problem solved!

For the longest time I have not been able to open up a PDF in an IE7 window. It was driving me crazy! I can download the PDF file and then open it, but this is an extra step or two I'd rather not have to do. Today I found the solution! At least for Acrobat 6 (I don't know if the same work-around applies for Acrobat Reader). Click on Edit>Preferences>Internet and then uncheck 2 boxes: "Display PDF in browser", and "Allow fast web view." Works for me!

A must have for Google Earth users!

I just received my 3dconnexion spacenavigator today and it's a blast! You can get one for $52 shipped on Amazon. Check out the video.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Food for thought

I read this at lunch at a Jimmy John's. Maybe it's been around awhile, but it's the first time I had read it and it made an impact on me. I found it online today and thought I'd share it:

The Story of the Mexican Fisherman

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.

The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, ‘only a little while.’

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, ‘but what do you do with the rest of your time?’

The Mexican fisherman said, ‘I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.’

The American scoffed, ‘I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.’

The Mexican fisherman asked, ‘But, how long will this all take?’

To which the American replied, ‘15 - 20 years.’

‘But what then?’ Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, ‘That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions - then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Follow current events in Google Earth

Have you noticed how often both local and national television news relies on Google Earth to zoom in on the location of a story? Well now we can do the same thing in the classroom to follow current events.

In his Google Earth Blog, Frank Taylor pointed out a new real time news layer in Google Earth from the New York Times. This layer opens automatically-- no need to download a KML file-- provided you've turned on the "Geographic Web" layer. Frank also referenced one of his earlier blog posts about CBS News providing an RSS feed of a KML file that can be saved in Google Earth. Check out the picture: there are recognizable icons for both organizations. Clicking one opens up a "bubble" like the one shown here.

Near the bottom of the list you'll find the Google Earth feed along with instructions on how to use it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Sketchup Show

I've seen Google sketchup in action and it is fantastic! I've even used it to design the renovations in our church chancel area (but I'm by no means an expert). Well, on my long list of things I wish I had time to do is to learn more about Sketchup. Today I came across a very long list (44!) of videos on 'The Sketchup Show.' Looks very interesting! They even have an iTunes feed. And in case you didn't know, Sketchup is FREE in its basic version from Google:

"Flickrizing" Google Earth

AMAZING! After watching the video, check out the Viewfinder website:

Set your Tivo or VCR for Wednesday, 4/9, 10 PM, ABC

Follow the Olympic torch in Google Maps, Google Earth

If you don't already have Google Earth maybe this will motivate you to finally download and install it. You can follow the Olympic torch as it makes its way to China for the Summer Olympics. Along the way there will be "bubbles" with info about the cities it's passing through. You can also follow in Google Maps. More info and embeddable code for your blog or website at:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Explore Web 2.0 apps on 25 Tools

Jane Hart has created a Ning for 25 Tools. Here's her description:
"...this programme contains a mix of personal productivity tools (for managing personal learning) as well as authoring tools (for creating learning solutions) and that many of the tools are Web 2.0 tools that promote a social, collaborative, sharing approach to learning. " These are the "25 free tools every learning professional should have in their Learning Toolbox."

You can join too!

View my page on 25Tools

Have you heard of Cha Cha???

No, not the dance, the "revolutionary new mobile answers service for people on the go."

Cha Cha's "Guides" will answer your question via text message. Unlike the Google Mobile service (try this cool demo), you don't have to send your question via text-- you can actually call 800-2chacha on your mobile phone and ASK your question! In just a few minutes you'll get your answer.

I can't wait to try it! Check it out and learn more about how it works at: