Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another great post from the Cool Cat Teacher

I'll be teaching some teachers to blog over the summer so this post from Vicki Davis will come in handy. I'm putting a link to it here so I'll be able to find it faster than in my bloglines aggregator.

It's called "Why I think More Teachers Don't Share Their Blog with Others"

I want (need) one of these!

The Walkstation by details

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Thanks to the Librarians Internet Index blog for pointing out this link to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Among the many resources on this site you will find their list of America's 11 most endangered historic places, "an annual list that highlights important examples of the nation's architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage."

Included on this year's list is Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, KS, one of the schools at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

Even better-- there is a list of what you (and your students) can do to help! In the case of Sumner Elementary School, there is a link to a petition with sample text that can be edited and sent to the Topeka City Council.

Another site on the 2008 list is the Great Falls Portage, one of the best preserved areas on the Lewis & Clark expedition.

Take a look at the Issues page to see a list of other areas of concern including historic schools and public lands that are endangered.

Your students can write a REAL letter that might make a difference in a cause that they care about and want to support.

Here in Monroe County we are trying to preserve the River Raisin Battlefield, made famous in the War of 1812. Recently an abandoned factory built on the site was torn down, and now there is a study underway to see if this area can be designated as a national park.

What are the historic places in your area that should be preserved, and how can your students make a difference?

Here's another embeddable map

I just had to try another embeddable map created by TakItWithMe. Their Google MyMaps converter tool is also very easy to use! And this one does NOT require the GE browser plug-in

New Google Earth browser plug-in now available

And almost instantly, programmers at TakItWithMe have created an embeddable Google Earth map. I quickly created this one (you may need to install the GE plug-in to be able to see this) of the world famous Tony Packo's restaurant in downtown Toledo, Ohio. The Google Earth Browser Plugin is available at

Intelligent YouTube Videos-- not an oxymoron

Here's a nice collection of links to YouTube content from sources like PBS, The New York Times, the BBC, and at least a dozen universities from openculture:

Here is openculture's mission: "Open Culture explores cultural and educational media (podcasts, videos, online courses, etc.) that’s freely available on the web, and that makes learning dynamic, productive, and fun. We sift through all the media, highlight the good and jettison the bad, and centralize it in one place. Trust us, you’ll find engaging content here that will keep you learning and sharp. And you will find it much more efficiently than if you spend your time searching with Google, Yahoo or iTunes."

This will be a real time saver for those wanting to find appropriate content to use in the classroom. I just added their RSS feed to my bloglines account.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ustreaming Commencement

An area principal had an interesting idea: create a live feed of the graduation ceremony and stream it on the school's website. How great would that be for relatives who live out of town, or those who aren't well enough to attend? makes it so easy to do! You can even record your broadcast for later playback. And best of all, is free! I've seen others play around with it before, so today I decided to take the plunge and to try it for myself.

I had previously set up an account, but today I hooked up my webcam and started broadcasting. It was very easy to do, and the embed code is provided much like it is on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

So here I am, typing away at my keyboard, boring you all to tears, I'm sure! I'll try to remember to smile occasionally, and maybe even pretend to pick my nose to keep you entertained. experiment

.TV online : provided by Ustream

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Brain Rules

I can't remember now where I first saw this book, but Brain Rules RULES! I just checked it out from the library and I have the book on CD on order. There are lots of applications to teaching.

The author, John Medina, is especially concerned about the lack of physical activity in our schools. He is an advocate of more exercise and activity during the school day. Here's a great quote: "Cutting off physical exercise-- the very activity most likely to promote cognitive performance-- to do better on a test score is like trying to gain weight by starving yourself." He goes on to explain why our brains work better when we're physically active, and he cites Jack LaLanne as the poster child for active brains and bodies into our 90's.

John Medina has a wonderful website with several videos: and here's a slideshare presentation:

Fascinating article on teacher education

I just happened to be visiting in the Cleveland area and I saw the Sunday Plain Dealer. On the front page was an outstanding article about the problems with teacher education programs. Here's how it starts:

"Imagine that commercial airline pilots were trained in schools where almost everyone who applied was admitted.

Imagine that their instructors had not been in a cockpit for decades and rarely spoke with active pilots about new equipment or cutting-edge techniques.

And imagine that those mythical training schools operated within an accreditation system that failed to ensure quality and rarely disciplined failure.

Fasten your seat belt.

That imaginary scenario is all too close to the way critics describe the training that America's teachers receive -- on average -- at the nation's 1,200 college- and university-based teacher education programs."

Read the rest of it here:
and here:
and here:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dangerous Decibels

5.2 million 6-19 year olds have hearing loss directly related to noise exposure. (3rd National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Niskar et al. 2000)

In my previous life as a band director, I would teach my 6th graders about NIHL, or noise induced hearing loss, right before Christmas when many students might receive a "Walkman" (remember those?) as a gift. I even used the opportunity to reinforce what they learned about the powers of 10 in math class when I talked about decibels.

Well now there is a great website with a lot of NIHL resources for teachers- Dangerous Decibels

You can order a DVD for $15, an entire kit of resources for $100, or download the FREE 108 page(!) teacher's resource guide "with A K-8 curriculum supplement with hands-on science activities about the anatomy and physiology of hearing, the physics of sound, and health-related behaviors for prevention of noise-induced hearing loss."

The good news is NIHL is easily prevented. I always wear earmuffs when using power tools or mowing the lawn. And while I love to crank up my stereo on occasion, I don't overdo it because I know the consequences.

Our students need to know these consequences too, and teachers can capture students attention very easily when talking about iPods, boomboxes, mp3 players... and then turning it into a "teachable moment."

If I can find my old NIHL resources (although most of them were in a printed format), I'll be sure to list them here.

Here's a very relevant example of GIS

I wonder if prices are archived on the website? What a great way to interpret the historical trend of gas prices in our country and compare this to the cost of crude oil.

I sure wish I lived in a green state!

Google Sites officially launched

I have got to find some time to try this out! After watching the video embedded below, I think Google Sites looks like a combination of wikispaces and weebly. It looks very easy to use and user friendly. Anyone with a Google account can sign up right now!

CustomGuides for common computer apps

Thanks to Jane's e-Learning pick of the day for pointing out CustomGuide. These short and sweet FREE quick references would take me a long time to create. I'm a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, so these handy PDFs are perfect for students and teachers to use as a ready-reference to common software applications like Microsoft Office, Mac OSX, and even Adobe apps.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Make-a-guide with your favorite birds-- for FREE!

I've been finding a number of bird-related websites in preparation for a summer bird camp I'll be helping a colleague with in June. Today I came across a wonderful FREE tool that allows the user to create a custom bird guide with up to 5 user-selected birds. You can also subscribe for a reasonable fee that allows you to create and print unlimited guides with any number of birds in them. You'll find this on the website by Mitch Waite. Here's an excerpt from the press release for the make-a-guide:

"Disrupting the status quo. My favorite thing" is the mantra of Mitchell Waite, former publisher of computer books who was among the first to include CD ROMs, posters, 3D glasses, and software in the back of tech books. Now Mr. Waite has a new spin on book buying: ala carte publishing, or what he calls the Make-a-Guide. Mr. Waite's spin on buying books is to let the reader choose just the content they want, and this may open a new chapter in the publishing industry.

His first example of the technology is birding guides. The site where the first MAG is found is, a search engine for identifying birds. The
Make-a Guide lets you build a field guide answering the questions in a set of screens, selecting for example all the birds of a particular state or family. Then a PDF of the book can be downloaded or a custom printed book ordered -- usually for much less than the cost of a traditional guide.

You and your students can make your own bird guide here:

Monday, May 19, 2008

To catch a predator, aka "The Shame Game"

While reading the comments on a blog post by Pete Reilly on Ed Tech Journeys, I came across a link to an excellent article on the Columbia Journalism Review entitled "The Shame Game." It's a rather lengthy article, but, I feel, well worth your time if you believe that the online predator scare has been overhyped by NBC's "To Catch a Predator" program.

It turns out that the decoys employed by Perverted Justice have at times encouraged the so-called "predators." Here's a quote from the article: "Many express doubts about what they’re doing and have to be egged along a bit by the decoys, many of whom come off as anything but innocent children."

And later this: "That doesn’t mean Internet sex predators don’t exist, but Dateline heavily skews reality by devoting hour after hour of primetime programming to the phenomenon. As Poynter’s Tompkins notes: “Is there any other issue that’s received that much airtime? The question is whether the level of coverage is proportional to the actual problem.” "

Is it any wonder that parents are hypersensitive and that school administrators won't allow teachers to engage in Web 2.0 learning as cited by Pete in his blog post?

So what's the solution? Let's educate our students (and our parents) about the real dangers on the internet, but let's not allow the perceived threat to eliminate the wonderful learning opportunities that are now available. As Pete points out later in the comments section of his post, if we eliminate everything from our schools because of the potential for danger we'd never have field trips (strangers), sports (injuries), playgrounds (injuries, bullying)….

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Totally worthless but WAY cool!

I am the choir director at our church. I've wanted to find the episode of Andy Griffith where Barney "sings" a solo-- well, actually, he lip syncs, but he thinks it's his voice. But I digress. is a website that will tell you the next time your favorite episode of a TV show will be on in your area, along with the channel. You can even set your service provider by inputting your zip code and then selecting from a list of providers in your area.

I'm happy to say that "Barney and the choir" is on THURSDAY, May 15 at 7 PM on TV Land. I've already emailed the choir members.

BTW, you can also embed a reminder badge in your blog or webpage like this:

The Andy Griffith Show » Barney and the Choir (Season 2 Episode 20) at

I know, I know, totally useless information, but we all have our favorite shows, and it's nice to be able to set the VCR, Tivo, or DVR to record them.

Check out these GREAT student videos!

Last July, while vacationing in New Orleans, I came across a group of students with video cameras, digital cameras, and GPS devices. I inquired what they were doing and eventually met up with their teacher, Craig Howat, from Luling Elementary School.

He just emailed me with a link to their completed videos of famous New Orleans landmarks, like St. Louis Cathedral, the Mississippi River, and the Cornstalk Fence.

They are SO GOOD! You've got to see them for yourself:

Craig tells me they'll be posting them to YouTube and/or Google video soon.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Here's the ESPN Video!

Feel good story of the week from ESPN

I saw this story on Sportscenter today. If I can find the video, I'll embed it later. For now, the story is on ESPNs website. Here's an excerpt:

"Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run in her career. Central Washington senior Mallory Holtman was already her school's career leader in them. But when a twist of fate and a torn knee ligament brought them face to face with each other and face to face with the end of their playing days, they combined on a home run trot that celebrated the collective human spirit far more than individual athletic achievement."

Read the rest of the story here and try not to get a lump in your throat!