Friday, June 27, 2008

Testing the FLIP video

Here's a short video of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums performing in Monroe, MI on June 20, 2008. I used the FLIP video to record it, and I was pleasantly surprised by the audio quality. It gets a little distorted at the loudest volumes, but overall I thought the audio was quite good.

Ordinarily the Fifes & Drums wear beautiful red coats, but the director pointed out that these were on their way to the Basel Tattoo, Basel, Switzerland, July 15-19.

For more info about the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums go to:

50 open source alternatives

Thanks to the Cool Cat Teacher for this link to the Top 50 Proprietary Programs that drive you crazy and their open source alternatives.

This list is nicely organized into the categories of Basics, Office Suites, Office Tools, Productivity, Graphic Programs, Web Editors, Publishing, Communications, Media, Utilities, Security, and Financial.

Lots of good stuff to explore!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Name that landmark

My kids used to enjoy the PBS show "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego" and the computer game.

Here's a modern day version using Google Maps. It would be very easy for a teacher to add a couple of clues and then a street view of the landmark to a classroom web page like this:

1. A famous Revolutionary War battle took place here on June 17, 1775.
2. The British Army was victorious, but lost over 800 men

View Larger Map

Today's useless (but fun) fact... photo M&Ms

They're expensive, but you can now get your photo on your very own customized M&Ms.
AND you can even get MLB team M&Ms like these for my favorite team, the Tigers:

Learn more here:

Here's a lesson for your math class...

Is it better to replace a car that gets 10 MPG with one that gets 20 MPG, OR should you replace a car that gets 25 MPG with one that gets 50 MPG???

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

View Larger Map

Another reason to get the Google Earth browser plug-in

Google Earth Hacks and the Google Earth Blog have collaborated on a site called "EarthSwoop." Here is their collection of MLB stadiums:

Powered by EarthSwoop More info about this collection

AMAZING! How did they do that?


Monday, June 23, 2008

Toffler was right!

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." Alvin Toffler

And I'm also reminded of Shift Happens: half of what college students learn in their 1st year will be outdated by their 3rd year...

...when I read this article in the USA Today about Pluto.

Here's the money quote: "Students who have just learned about the concept of dwarf planets must now be taught the new concept of plutoid," said Janis Milman, who teaches earth science at Thomas Stone High School in Maryland. "This will lead to confusion in the classroom and resistance to learning the new terms, because the students will question, why learn something that might change again in a year or so?"


Just read about this on the GPS Lodge blog: a "Knight Rider" GPS complete with the voice of the original KITT, William Daniels.

But seriously, if you are thinking about purchasing a GPS unit Scott Martin's GPS Lodge is an incredible website with VERY thorough reviews of just about every GPS on the market. He also keeps track of the best prices.

Go there now, you'll thank me later.

More photojournalism blogs

Reposted from the "Big Picture" blog by Alan Taylor:
"Until I get a proper blogroll running, here's a short list of some great photojournalism sites out there:-
Reuters Photographer Blogs some awesome stories behind the photos-
Getty Images News Blog some more stories behind the images-
World Press Photo Interviews video interviews with the photographers behind last year's award winners-
A Photo Editor blog by Rob Haggart, former Director of Photography for Men's Journal and Outside Magazine-
Best Seat in the House Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar
I can't believe I forgot to post this one as well - Another like-minded blog in the family, Long Jaunt. LJ is a travelogue/blog documenting a trip around the world, put together by my friend and co-worker Thushan Amarasiriwardena, and his two partners Michael Kurtz and Brian Rogers. They started in Central America last December, and have now made it as far as Sri Lanka, give it a look."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Free courses from great universities

I found this on the Open Culture blog: a link to over 200 free courses from "great" universities like Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Yale...

Take time to read through the comments. Here's a link to even more courses from UC Berkeley:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MapJack- high res street level photos

Despite the privacy concerns, I am fascinated by the street level photos in Google Maps. Today I found another similar site, MapJack, that has even higher quality street level photography on a much smaller scale.

You can view a few locations in California (including Yosemite National Park) and Chiang Mai, Thailand. The interface is similar to Google Maps.

I enjoyed exploring Alcatraz Island. I was just there in January and absolutely loved it! I took a photo of a hummingbird sitting on barbed wire and while exploring MapJack I found the very location where I shot the photo.

A friend found the house where he used to live in San Francisco and it was being painted when the photos were taken.

Click on the arrow in the upper left corner of any photo to see the latitude and longitude of that location (along with the date the photo was taken) or to copy a link to that photo.

What a great way to take students on a virtual field trip, or to make learning about latitude and longitude more fun.

BTW, the photos of Yosemite are absolutely beautiful! Here's the view from Glacier Point.

Windows movie maker

I can't remember where I first saw a link to this site, but Windows Movie Makers is worth a look if you are a user of the free video editing software that comes with Windows.

There are articles, tips, tutorials, add-ons (some for free), links to books, and a community forum.

Have a look:

Conduct a virtual orchestra with a wii controller!

I just read an article by David Pogue in which he talked about "virtual" orchestras replacing "real" musicians in a production of Les Miserables he attended recently.

Of the many comments to the post was one from Paul Henry Smith, the conductor of the "Fauxharmonic." Of course I had to visit his website where I discovered this astonishing video of Mr. Smith "conducting" with a wii controller. Amazing!

Time Magazine's 50 best websites of 2008

There just happened to be a link to this list from the Lookybook website. Very interesting! I'm sure I'll find at least a few more websites to write about.,28757,1809858,00.html

Have a look at Lookybook

Lookybook was selected by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2008.

"Our mission is to create a comfortable place where a curious and devoted audience can search, view, talk about, and buy from a diverse and rapidly expanding collection of picture books. We intend to create the greatest opportunity for authors, illustrators and publishers to reach interested consumers and dramatically extend the life of their books. Lookybook currently features over 300 titles and is growing daily."

I'm impressed by the ability to embed mini books, like the baseball book above. What a great way for teachers to share their favorite books, or books that were read in class with parents. The website creators acknowledge that this site is not meant to replace the actual experience of holding a real book and turning the pages, but it sure is a great way to preview books for later purchase or to check out at the library.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Frightening photo from the Big Picture blog

There are about 16 pictures from the Iowa flooding posted on the Boston Globe's Big Picture blog that I wrote about earlier.
This photo of a tornado really got my attention.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by the recent storms and flooding.

Convert .mov to .avi

My Kodak digital camera (which I dearly love) records video in .mov (aka QuickTime) format. My Windows PC video editing software would prefer to use .avi format. Now what???

Lucky for me I found a FREE .mov to .avi converter that is small in size (a little over 1 MB) and works great!

It's on SourceForge here:

And here's a sample clip I converted, then edited in Camtasia Studio.

Henry Saw Something...

This past weekend while visiting with one of my high school friends, I learned that his son had won a national story writing contest, the "Write On! Wetlands Challenge." How cool is that?!

Each year a story written by a student is turned into a book illustrated by other students. Although entries for this year's contest are no longer being accepted, I still think teachers would enjoy having their students create their own illustrations for Colin's story "Henry Saw Something." It's a great story about Henry the great blue heron's migration from Canada to Mexico. I mean it! It's a wonderful story that will be even better when your students draw their own pictures.

You'll find the story here:

But also check out the many other educational materials and resources on the Environmental Concern website.

And congratulations Colin! You're even smarter than your dad!

Chroma key in Windows Movie Maker??

Yes indeed! And here's a student, Colin, to show you how in less than 5 minutes!

Issuu- You Publish

Found a very interesting site while reading the Photojojo blog: Issuu (issue, get it?) allows you to publish your very own magazine online. You upload a PDF, and Issuu converts it and hosts it for FREE! Even more amazing, you can embed the finished product. Here's a sample that I found on their site of the Horizon Report.

Google Earth "hacks"

One of the websites I follow to learn more about Google Earth is Google Earth Hacks. They have a collection of over 20,000 interesting placemarks for Google Earth on their website. Now they've even posted the embed code so that you can put any of their placemarks on your own website or blog, like the one below for the Hoover Dam.

Read more about the GE browser plug-in here:
Now teachers can embed placemarks to interesting places right on their class web page or blog.

Quoting David Warlick

I've bookmarked this in my bloglines, but I wanted to repost it here because it's such a great quote from David Warlick's blog:

"...there really is a new connectedness today where information flows in logical and directable ways, connecting us not only to the content we need, but to the people we need, not merely because of proximity — but through the content. We simply have to understand how to harness this new information landscape."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Web 2.0 links, links, and more links!

Props to Cheryl Capozzoli of the Susquehanna Township School District for this very comprehensive list of Web 2.0 applications.

TeacherLED- SMARTboard activities

WOW! There are some really cool, fun, interactive math activities on the TeacherLED website. Probably about 30 in all-- I haven't been through all of them yet-- that would be great for your interactive whiteboard.

The activities are organized in the categories of Algebra; Data handling; Number, Shape, space & measure; General maths; and Spelling

The TeacherLED website and all of the resources are owned and produced by Spencer Riley, a teacher since 2002 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Good stuff! Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

The Big Picture-- fantastic photography

The Big Picture blog (part of the Boston Globe) features a short current news story from around the world accompanied by a spectacular photo (think National Geographic). Their motto is "news stories in photographs."

Here's a note from the author, Alan Taylor: "The Big Picture is still a very new blog, and even though the posting frequency is close to daily right now, that's mostly due to the backlog of ideas I've had sitting in my head. Expect the frequency of posts to slow down in a while - my goal is 2-3 posts per week eventually. Remember, we're trying for quality, not quantity."

Many of these stories won't make the evening news or your local paper. And in addition to the photo featured on the blog, there's a link to more images below each article.

What a great site to spark a discussion about important current events happening around the world.

Monday, June 09, 2008

This is why you should save your receipts!

Hallelujah! GM has finally agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit related to their "Dexcool" coolant.

They are reimbursing owners or lessees(??) of a variety of GM vehicles that may have suffered cooling system damage due to Dexcool within the first 7 years of ownership. BUT you must have your receipts-- one for proof of ownership, and one for the repair. Luckily, I still have mine even though I sold the vehicle last fall.

Unfortunately for me, I paid for the exact same repair (intake manifold) 4 years after the first one, but 2 years past GM's 7 year limitation.

You can submit your claim online if you can scan your receipts and submit them in PDF format, or you can print and mail the forms in, but you must complete the process by October of this year.

To see if you too may be a "lucky" winner (not really) or for more information go to:

I wonder how long this can possibly take to process all of these claims? Will I see the money before I retire in 6 years?

Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums video
Click HERE to purchase this DVD from the Colonial Williamsburg website.

Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums coming to Monroe!

Monroe, Michigan has a historic connection to the War of 1812. As a matter of fact, a study is currently underway to determine if our River Raisin Battlefield can be designated as a national park. Back in those days, fifes and drums were an integral part of a military unit.

Monroe is hosting a fife and drum "muster" on June 20-21 featuring the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums and about 10 other corps. Here's an article from the Monroe Evening News about this event, and a link to the Fifes and Drums page of the Colonial Williamsburg website which includes audio, video, and slideshows:

If you're in the area I hope you'll check it out! And bring a camera because the uniforms are historically accurate.

The Oregon Trail

If you've been around classroom computers for 20 years or so you'll remember the classic Oregon Trail computer game. It was interactive, it required students to choose their own "path" and resulting consequences, and occasionally you got to play a video game to hunt or to raft down the river.

Today I found listed in the TechLEARNing blog a link to the Oregon Trail website. Here's a description from the site:

This web site is brought to you by teachers Mike Trinklein and Steve Boettcher, creators of The Oregon Trail, the award-winning documentary film which aired nationally on PBS. During the three years we spent researching the film, we found lots of great material we thought would be great for teachers and home schoolers--so we built this this web site to make it all available. Enjoy the adventure! (If you are a teacher, don't miss our free online teacher's guide)

There's plenty to explore here, including diary entries and letters from 9 people who traveled on the trail. Some really interesting, fascinating information!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Today's required reading

Doug Johnson is one of my favorite bloggers. Today he outdid himself with his "Everything I know in 15 minutes" commencement address. Do yourself a favor and read it at:

Brilliant! Thanks Doug.

Do Something 101

This program, sponsored by Staples, is a school supply collection drive that begins in July. We do something similar in our church every year, but this is a nationwide program with the support of American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.

For more information visit the website:

Disney World in 3D in Google Earth

WOW! The folks at Disney have spent a lot of time creating a very realistic rendering of Disney World for Google Earth. You can read the official announcement here:

Below is a picture of the Tower of Terror I took a couple of years ago and a similar view of the same scene in Google Earth. Amazing likeness!

There is a measurement tool in Google Earth (the pro version has more measurement tools than the standard version) that would allow your students to determine how far it is from one ride to another, or to be able to compare the size of an attraction relative to your school building for example. You could even have students try to estimate distances from one place to another in Disney World, and then measure them "as the crow flies" or by following the pathways in the park. Lots of possibilities for creative teachers.

Sandra Day O'Connor's video game

Here's an interesting article from the New York Times: Sandra Day O'Connor's plan for Joystick Justice.

A video game is being developed in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin's James Gee, and will be available for free on the internet next year. The first episode of the game will center around the First Amendment, specifically on a controversial T-shirt a student wears to school (sound familiar?). Players of the game will assume various roles in the court proceedings.

O'Connor was speaking at the Games for Change conference in New York. She is also involved in Arizona State University's Our Courts website.

I can't wait to see it!

Going on vacation? Start a blog!

I came up with this idea a couple of years ago. My wife and I were going to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and we wanted to share photos, videos, and our observations with family and friends back home. It was very well received so I've kept it going. I have to admit, it's been fun for me to go back and re-read some of my posts and watch the videos.

If you've never had a blog before, why not get started with something fun for you and your friends, and maybe even your students too! I'm a big fan of Blogger because it's free and it's very easy to use. Who knows, you may even get enough experience that you'll start your own classroom blog next fall.

For video you can use your digital camera's video mode to take 30 seconds or 1 minute of video that will transfer via USB to your computer and upload to Google video or YouTube and look just fine on your blog.

You can enable comments so that visitors to your blog can keep in contact with you, or ask you questions.

I put weather underground "widgets" on my blog so that I can always keep tabs on the weather forecast. You can even find videos from your destination already on YouTube that you can easily "embed." It's also easy to embed Google Maps.

I don't have any plans for a "big" vacation this summer, but if you'd like to see my posts from previous trips to San Francisco and Vegas/Grand Canyon (along with some recent video of our puppy "Big Papi") go to

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Have you seen YouTube's video toolbox?

The short video tutorials in the Video Toolbox are intended for those uploading videos to YouTube, but the principles are the same for anyone getting started with digital video.

Videos include general information, sound, lighting, directing/producing, and post-production.

Many, but not all, are from Videomaker. Also check out Videomaker's YouTube channel, and Videomaker's tips and techniques on their website:

Here's a short video on using a wheelchair as a camera dolly (and believe it or not, I've actually seen this one done in person before!)

PolicyMap: easy GIS data maps

It seems like I've either seen or written about PolicyMap before, but I was reminded of it by the always outstanding Librarians Internet Index blog.

PolicyMap is produced by The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), a national leader in the financing of neighborhood revitalization.

A free (registration required) account allows the user access to most of the 4000 datasets, and the ability to save maps.

Here's a screenshot of a very basic map showing the amount of electricity consumed by residential users in 2004 (the last year data is available). You can zoom in for more detailed views, but in this instance the data is compiled at the state level.

A map legend is included, and the user can even determine the number of ranges to color the data in.

Also see the National Atlas, another site that allows the user to generate custom maps with a number of "layers" of data.

More on digital forensics

If you read the Scientific American article I cited in an earlier post, be sure to see the doctored Lance Armstrong photo with an explanation of how the original photo was altered.

World Wide Words

Have you ever used the expression "I have to see a man about a horse" and wondered where it came from? Well, I did, and I found a rather lengthy and interesting explanation on Wikipedia. One of the sources cited in the article was Michael Quinion's World Wide Words which attempts to explain a lot of English words and expressions in use around the world.

This isn't a place to let your students explore, as you can imagine there are some rather "colorful" and risque words and/or explanations, but it is a valuable resource for teachers.

Here is an explanation of the word "meme":

The idea, and the word, go back to Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene, published in 1976. He argued that ideas are capable of being transmitted through a population, to the extent that they must be thought of as somehow independent of the human brains that host and spawn them. He coined the word meme for such concepts as skills, habits, stories, songs, inventions or ideas that are passed from person to person by imitation. Dr Blackmore enlarges on this: “Everything you have learned from somebody else is a meme”.

You'll also find explanations for "throw in the towel", "cock and bull story", "crocodile tears", "acid test" and a whole lot more!

When seeing is NOT believing: How to spot a fake photo

From Photojojo I learned about this article in the June Scientific American. Some pretty high-end stuff, but this is a very important skill for us and our students to learn.

It used to be that only professional photographers had the ability to "doctor" photos. But now, thanks to Photoshop and all the other image-editing software, ANYONE can fake a photo AND put that photo on a webpage, or attach it to an email.

Wouldn't this be a great way to talk about propaganda? Or political campaigns?

Our students, and, unfortunately, many adults, assume that everything they see on the internet is true, especially if it's a photograph. This article will be a real eye-opener for many!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mr. Winkle Wakes

I think I'll use this little video when I teach some teachers about Web 2.0 this summer.

CleanMPG- an energy conservation community

I read an article on the technology blog about Wayne Gerdes, a "hypermiler" who tries to squeeze every mile he can from every drop of gasoline. The article linked to the CleanMPG website which looks very interesting.
I see some possibilities for math problems involving what Gerdes calls "MPGPP" or miles per gallon per person, not to mention some very real discussions about conserving energy when we drive, and around the house.
The price of gas is only going to go up. We can have some very important lessons in the classroom about personal finance, and, on a larger scale, the effect the price of gas is having on the world's economy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Cool tool for Google Earth

Check out what I created using the Thematic Mapping Engine. Here's a description from the website:

"Thematic Mapping Engine (TME) enables you to visualise global statistics on Google Earth. The primary data source is UNdata.

The engine returns a KMZ file that you can open in Google Earth or download to your computer.

So far only prism maps are supported, but other thematic mapping techniques will be added in the upcoming weeks."

You can even create GE files that use the "time slider" so you can see the map change over time. This picture shows the number of Internet users from around the world.
Your students can easily create and then interpret maps that show AIDS estimated deaths, infant mortality rates, life expectancy, population, tuberculosis deaths, GDP per capita, and for you fans of "The world is flat," patent applications.
Fascinating "stuff" that's easy to do, and sure to start some great discussions on these important issues.