Thursday, May 31, 2007

[TIPS] Science teachers - check this out before the kids leave

This is what it's about:
TeachersFirst is proud to offer this chance to experience the life of a physics researcher through the eyes and dry humor of our own physics blogger, Andy. As an undergraduate not long out of the high school physics lab, Andy brings us into the "real world" of scientific research but can still connect with the middle or high school student who may be wondering, "When am I ever gunna use this stuff?" Spending the summer of 2007 at Los Alamos National Labs, Andy shares his day-to-day discoveries and gives your students a chance to respond to the blog, perhaps connecting to a "real" scientist for the first time.
- -
This looks like it will be good. Check it out.

Thanks to Candice S for sharing this one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

a Photosynth demo

Wait until you see THIS! The future is NOW. Amazing technology.

This is what thet site says about this talk:
Using photos of oft-snapped subjects (like Notre Dame) scraped from around the Web, Photosynth creates breathtaking multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation. Its architect, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, shows it off in this standing-ovation demo. Curious about that speck in corner? Dive into a freefall and watch as the speck becomes a gargoyle. With an unpleasant grimace. And an ant-sized chip in its lower left molar. "Perhaps the most amazing demo I've seen this year," wrote Ethan Zuckerman, after TED2007. Indeed, Photosynth might utterly transform the way we manipulate and experience digital images.

Make sure you catch the meaning of things when he talks about doing a search on Flickr for a Notre Dame and then building a picture of it from the bits and pieces of the search results. Pictures will be linked together. Incredible!

Make sure you watch this if you'd like to see the future.

Another follow-up to the Celest story

This is a nice post about the media coverage that has happened as a result of the story of Celest being skyped into her 4th grade class while she was home recovering from cancer treatments. Make sure you read the whole thing, and DO check out their wikis and other projects.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A VERY cute video on Copyright and Fair Use

Steve Dembo points to this YouTube video done by Eric Faden of Bucknell University. You HAVE to watch it.

Oh, and remember the name Steve Dembo. I'll be mentioning his name again - as PETE&C draws closer.

Office and - very cool!!

How can kids get their work to and from school? That's been a big issue since the days of the 5 1/4" floppies. Now, some schools even block the use of usb drives so the problem continues.

Until now. (Does that sound like a Ted introduction?) :-) has announced that it has made a free add-in for Office that will integrate directly to Once you install the free add-in a special "Save to" option will appear in the add-ins section. Well... here is what the email release from says about it:

Save files from Microsoft Office to Box
In other news, Microsoft Office is now Box Enabled! We've released a plug-in for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher that conveniently uploads any document you're editing to Box. Once the software has been installed, a "Save to" link will appear in the "Add-Ins" section. Clicking on this button will save your file to Box, making it easy to access from anywhere, share with anyone, or keep safe for later.

Download the first version of it here:
Very cool, eh?

[TIPS] A Memorial Day Video

Thanks to John G for sharing this with me via the for:jgates513 tag on

This very moving video was done back in November of last year, but it is very appropriate for Memorial Day.

Note her comments. She had to turn OFF the comment feature for this video because so many folks had decided to turn the comments into a forum for public debates. Very sad. Sorta missed the point, eh?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

[TIPS] a writing prompt for your economics students

How's this...

"OK, class, imagine this: Today, an engineer in the oil fields somewhere in the Middle East area has just finished analyzing the data, and to his/her horror the data shows that the Earth has reached 'Peak Oil.' In other words, we have just hit the midway point of the world's oil supply. From now on we are consuming the final oil deposits on the planet. Talk to me about what would likely happen in the short run and the long run when this news is made public." (It just may be THIS generation who will be faced with this inevitability.) "Use whatever tools you feel appropriate (Inspiration, the outline feature in Word, whatever tool you think works best for you) to jot down ideas. Not complete sentences yet. Just ideas. Things like, "Gas prices rise sharply" or "Panic on Wall Street." - whatever thoughts come to mind. You'll have 10 minutes to record your thoughts. Go."

Ten minutes later you say, "Let's hear some of the things on your list. Say just two items. If you hear something that you like but you didn't think of it, feel free to add it to your list." Then you go around the class to let them tell what they thought of.

Then, give them a wiki and let them build this out. Show them the Discussion area and encourage them to use it to discuss how they will format the front page, etc. Will this be written as a futuristic 'story?' What is the "voice" of the wiki? Present tense, past tense, future tense? What are your ground rules? For example, will you agree that instead of deleting someone's post that you will use the strike out style to strike itout and then put your idea after it - perhaps with your initials to show who made the change? Let them decide all that.

What will be interesting is how they talk about what happens in response to the situation, what the governments do, etc, as those are their ideas for possible solutions, aren't they?

So, Do you like the idea for an economics class?

[TIPS] New Poptech videos

You've heard me speak about and their popcasts, right? Well, I wanted to alert you to a couple new movies that they've added. The one I just finished watching is of the architect, Blaine Brownell. Send this tip to your fellow teachers who are teaching this sort of thing. In this video Blaine shows and discusses the new materials that are being created now for building materials. You'll be amazed at the variety of the products and of their implications on buildings of the future. And if you're like me, you'll be in awe of the ingenuity behind these innovations.

See it here:

[TIPS] Ethanol - the big lie?

Here's another one for the science teachers among us. This video is an investigative news piece about ethanol. IS it all that it's hyped up to be? Is it the solution we're after? Show this to your classes and see what they think.

BTW - digg is itself a site you may want to check out. See what other folks are "digging." Subscribe to various categories, like educational videos, perhaps. That's how I found this movie.

[TIPS] an interesting school library wiki

Here is an interesting wiki that a school librarian recently started with her students. Here is how she described the project to me in an email:

"I created a good book wiki with 3 classes in my middle school building. Many books have multiple reviews but so far we have almost 300 unique titles in. With one class, I have taken it to the next level. They have been spending time adding links to the author's website, podcast of an excerpt and for further reading suggestions. Check out "Great and Terrible Beauty" under "Fantasy". "

Won't this be a good resource for the kids as this grows? And, it's THEIR resource! Check it out. I can see the kids linking to all sorts of outside resources in some cases. What if they also recorded themselves reading a short passage and then posted that file to the wiki? What if they made a splashcast ( to a wiki page? What about adding a slideshare ( There are lots of cool things that I'll bet will show up in this wiki over time.

If you've got an idea for this project, why not add your thoughts in the comments on the blog post? This will be fun to watch over time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

[TIPS] Pennsylvania wants to ban cell phones in schools

Get this:

"Section 1. Section 1317.1 of the act of March 10, 1949
11 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, added
12 December 22, 1989 (P.L.749, No.103), is amended to read:
13 Section 1317.1. Possession of [Telephone Pagers] Electronic
14 Devices Prohibited.--(a) The possession by students of
15 telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers,
16 cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record
17 or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school
18 grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other
19 vehicles provided by the school district.

First of all, why is the STATE involved in what is arguably a LOCAL issue? Second, why are people who have NO CLUE about this topic even involved in the conversation? Who are they? "INTRODUCED BY CRUZ, MAHONEY, SAYLOR, READSHAW, SABATINA, THOMAS AND KORTZ, MAY 18, 2007"

To be fair, they DO make exceptions for student volunteer firefighters or students with medical conditions.

Simon says, "Pennsylvania, take two giant steps backwards."

Here it is:

Monday, May 21, 2007

[TIPS] One for the musicians in the group

There are some WONDERFUL videos on YouTube. And remember, you can get them to show in your classes by using either or - and maybe others.

This is one that you will want to share with your musician friends. Bobby McFerrin is shown in this one performing a Bach prelude. But what's so VERY cool about this is that he invites the audience to sing the beautiful Ave Maria that Charles Gounod wrote to work as a descant to the prelude. The result just may send chills up your arms. What a beautiful moment this audience shared with this fabulous musician.

While you're there check out some of the other videos of his that you'll see listed.

[TIPS] More from Ted

I suddenly thought, "Why haven't I heard of new videos from Ted? I subscribe to it, after all." So, I went there to see if anything new had been added. I'm glad I did. LOTS of new videos have been added, so if you've not been there recently you should go back.
May I recommend a couple? This one is beautiful (even if his vocal inflections DO drive me up a wall): - Life through photography.
Here, James Watson talks about how he and his partner discovered DNA:
This one will fascinate you, too: The Bonobos - apes that write (and play Pacman).
And, Pilobolus performs a dance that merges dancing with biology here:
You can enlarge the videos by clicking the icon in the top right corner above the video. Oh, and you'll want to subscribe to it when you're there, too.

[TIPS] What a great bunch of students I met today

Today I had the pleasure of attending a student showcase held in the East wing of the PA Capitol building. Students from around the state attended to show off some of the great things they've been doing in their classrooms. I didn't get to talk to all of them, but those I did talk to were amazing.
Take Kristen, Hanan, and Nicole, for instance. Kristen, I believe, is in 5th grade. The other two are in 6th. I was actually on my way past their table when the line I was in stalled, putting me right in front of Kristen. I looked at her display (which I had seen earlier but I didn't have a chance to hear them talk) and she seized the moment, offering her hand to greet me. I'm SO glad she did. She proceeded to tell me about the projects that she and a team of six others have been working on for a while. They make vodcasts and podcasts.
Her natural use of the term vodcast caught my attention and the more I listened the more impressed I was with the projects, with their teacher's dedication to this endeavor, and with Kristen's fluid description. What a natural she was. So often kids that age don't quite put things together in a logical order, either out of the excitement of the moment, or from lack of experience. Not her. She told me of how their team meets to brainstorm their ideas, and how they write the scripts and how they shoot the scenes, and even made sure I saw and read a newspaper article that told their story. Then, when Hanan and Nicole came over, they, too, were just as poised and confident and excited about this project as Kristen, and they gave me even more information about how they work. It was their teacher who later told me that those kids are waiting for the teacher every morning so they can get started on the scripting or editing, and they sometimes have to chase the kids home at night or they'd stay all night doing this job that they love to do. You're doing something right when you've got kids who WANT to work on your projects, yes?
Want to see what they do? Go here: Team/Welcome.html. Click the Concept Library link at the top of that page. They've got four so far, and are working on another now. The videos take a while to load, but do invest the time. I think you'll like what you see. Oh, and check out the anchors links and .. well, visit all the links there. You'll be glad you did.
I hope to see those students at next year's PETE&C conference next February. Congratulations to the kids and their teachers.
What else did I see? Robots, wonderful programs written in C#, a website written in php, some podcasts done by second graders, some amazing Flash animations done for an art class, and SO much more. The future IS in good, creative hands.

[TIPS] A letter to Secretary Spellings

Two good things about that article. I like what it says about the use of technology in education and the "movement" it's trying to get started that will bring our opinions to the attention of the Secretary. But, I also know the guy who is quoted in the article. He's relatively new to blogging and already he's found his voice and has had some very good inputs. He's also a new daddy. :-)
Check out his blog here:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

[TIPS] Walk a straight line

Do you recall the mashup I talked about some time ago called,"If I dig a very deep hole, where will I end up?" It's a mashup found here: Let your students try it. They'll be amazed where they end up - and it's likely NOT to be in China.

Anyway, this one is from the same site: But here you choose a location and a direction and it wll plot out your path as if you walked a straight line in that direction. It's not going to be at all what they think for THIS one, either.

Dble click PA on the map, or zoom in and let them start on their house, if you wish. When you dble click that spot a green(ish) flag appears at that spot. Click it and it will let you choose the direction. When you do it will plot it. You can even see it the readl Google Earth, too, if you wish.

Pretty neat.

[TIPS] loss of privacy on Facebook

This blog post from the CoolCatTeacher points to a video that you MUST show to your students - and especially your college aged kids.

Before they create a Facebook account they should see this video. Does this scare you? If not, watch it again.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

[TIPS] Another virtual reality world

This article from TechCrunch - - tells us about The Entropia Universe. What is it? You should read the TechCrunch article, but here's what the site says about itself.

"The Entropia Universe is more than a game. The Entropia Universe is for real. Real people, real activities and a Real Cash Economy in a massive online universe.

Join people from around the globe who use the Entropia Universe currency, the PED, to develop their characters everyday on the untamed planet of Calypso. The unique and secure Real Cash Economy allows you to transfer your accumulated PED back into real world funds."

The NY Times calls it, "The buying game." I KNOW I'll pass on this one, thank you very much.

Besides, that ain't no way to raise test scores! :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

[TIPS] SEOmoz's Web 2.0 Awards - Just the Winners

Thanks again to Sue S for sharing this one. This is the 2007 list of winners in the Web 2.0 Awards contest. I've sent out last year's versions of this site but I didn't know that the 2007 version was available. Here 'tis. The page you'll see is the short list - just the winners in the various categories. To see the complete list which includes the runners up, go here:
This is a good way to see what the readers think are the best in each of the categories.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

[TIPS] A happy ending to a familiar story

In February I made this post about a "must-see video" that dealt with using Skype in the classroom to include a little girl who was at home fighting leukemia. Remember? Well, here is the happy update.

[TIPS] Third grade tech problem solvers - I FOUND IT!!!

Those of you who know me will know that I've often told this story that I had read somewhere online but I couldn't remember where I had read it. Finally, thanks to this post from Miguel I was able to track it down again.
This is the story of the a girl in his THIRD GRADE class...
"She was typing in Word - wanted to print, but could not - and could not save to her network folder. But she had Internet access. There was only one computer in the room that had access to our printer at that time."
Do you remember me telling that story? Anyway. If you've NOT heard me tell the story, read it for yourself at either of those top links. This made my day!! :-)

[TIPS] 'To Catch a Predator' -

This is VERY difficult to watch. Maybe you saw it on TV already. "To Catch A Predator" will shock you. Hopefully it will also scare you into talking with your kids about online safety. Maybe you should watch this WITH your kids.
The page is full of stories and videos of the confrontations they had with the ... "suspects." Start on the right side in the "As Seen on the Broadcast." Then check out those other links - if you can. Make SURE you watch The Legal Fallout section.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

[TIPS] background view of blogging using blogmeister

Are you interested in getting your students blogging but are unsure of how it works?
This video is from Mark Ahlness, a third grade teacher who put a powerpoint together for his parent night some time ago. He's now replaying the powerpoint and talking over it to tell us what he told the parents that night. In part of it he shows the backstage operations of a blogmeister blog - what he sees and what the student sees.
If your school won't allow students to blog without teacher moderation then you should watch this. It's a great insight into the workings of that blog service. It's also a great insight into the workings of a great teacher.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A wonderful moment, if I may share

was working in my office yesterday when someone knocked on the door. It was a woman who works at the IU, although not in our location so I rarely see her. The last time I saw her was at the employee recognition dinner when she commented that she had my tips in a notebook, all printed out, etc. I joked something like, "OH! So YOU'RE the one who's reading my tips!"

Anyway, yesterday she happened to be in the building so she stopped by to show me those notebooks. Yes, plural. Two thick binders FULL of the printed tips dating back to 2002, shortly after I started at the IU and began again to send daily tips. Back then they were Office tips, mostly. But, her notebooks had tabs to identify the categories of the tips, from Word and Excel to Protecting yourself online, to websites, etc. She had a third notebook started, as well, I believe, but I was too much in shock to absorb everything I was seeing and hearing.

One never knows who all is reading blog posts or emails, I suppose. But, it was an awesome experience to realize that she had been, and in fact had even been printing and organizing them. Maybe I should buy them back from her. I lost two years worth of tips when my hard drive crashed and the archived emails were lost. That's what made me start the blog - as an archive.

Anyway.... I had to share the moment.

Dear Bloglines, Tear down the wall!

I've been taking some wonderful Apple workshops in a district down the road a bit, and have been frustrated time after time when I try to check my bloglines account there. It's blocked. One reason for it to be blocked is that the url contains the word 'blog' and that organization (an IU) that provides the filter blocks everything with the word blog in it. Outrageous, I know. But, in the case of bloglines, the person in charge of the filtering decisions always points to the image wall in bloglines as the reason to have it blocked. Today I went back in there to see for myself, and the very first screen contained three images of topless women among the images. *FLAG!* *Sirens!* *Danger, Will Robinson!*

I've written to them before, but I wrote again to the bloglines folks to ask them to PLEASE remove that VERY UNNECESSARY "feature." It serves NO PURPOSE! Worse, it's forcing the schools in PA to block the site, which means that we must use other sites (netvibes, pageflakes, google reader). And, in my opinion, the bloglines site has some otherwise excellent features that keep me there for my home use. I LOVE the "Keep new" option, and the 'email this' option, for example. But, as long as that image wall remains I cannot use it in school, and what a shame that is. I can't even point folks to my public feed roll there.

I had commented on this before in this blog and a short while later, this response ( came from the bloglines folks, and I thought the situation was resolved. But, I never look at that feature so I didn’t know if it was resolved or not. It’s NOT.

So, I wonder if it would have ANY impact if the education blogosphere would join in on this campaign to get the image wall removed. Do you think? It certainly can’t hurt. Do YOU think that the feature is unnecessary and are you finding that it’s being blocked in your school, as a result? If so, PLEASE visit the bloglines site and use their Contact Us page to ask them to remove it. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan (and Pink Floyd), “Mr Bloglines, tear down the wall!”

Friday, May 11, 2007

[TIPS] PoducateMe Guide | PoducateMe

Since some of you receive these tips via email as opposed to RSS and so are not likely to be blog readers, you're not, then, likely to have seen today's post from Will Richardson. He points to that list as an, "incredibly extensive resource on podcasting..." And boy is it ever!
If you've been thinking about trying your hand at it, or even if you're a podcaster already, do check out that list. Wheeeeeooooo!
(Poducate?? I hope that term doesn't catch on, though.)

[TIPS] scrapblog

Thanks to Kurt who heard it from Miguel who read it on TechCrunch... (Isn't this fun? :-)  )
Scrapblog is a newcomer to the web 2.0 tools arena and it's a VERY cool tool. It lets you build scrapbook-like pages with photos, movies,  text, links, and more on some excellent templates or on blank pages that you can customize. Then you can make it public, private or even embed it on your own web page. There's more to it, as well. If you're into these kinds of tools, you should check it out. There's even a sample on the TechCrunch page above.
Sure looks like another fun way to share pictures of your classes that you've been taking all year.

[TIPS] StudentCam Winners

Thanks to Sue S for sharing this one. C-SPAN held a contest for students across the country to have students produce video documentaries. There is a Grand Prize winner, then First, Second, and Third Place winners. Do check them out. There is one winner, at least, that I'm wondering if some music copyright wasn't violated. See if you can find it.
Imagine a world whereby kids could have access to that kind of material (creative commons licensed, maybe?) for their school projects. Or, maybe it's best that they don't get used to thinking that everything on the Internet is fair game. What do you think?

[TIPS] Bits & Bytes newsletter online

Hello Everyone,
This is of interest to the local folks.
The May 2007 Edition of Bits & Bytes is now online, featuring:
  • Schools Adopt 21st Century Methods
  • Innovative Student Podcasting
Also, we would like to hear from you on your opinion on Bits & Bytes. Please fill out our online survey to help us take Bits & Bytes to the next level.
Bits & Bytes May 2007 Edition
Bits & Bytes User Opinion Survey

Thursday, May 10, 2007

[TIPS] Celebration of Collab oration

This is another post by Jennifer Wagner in Wes Fryer's blog. In this one she points to a number of different online collaboration projects that just may fit into what you're doing with your classes.
She says:
"The availability of collaboration tools (blogs, wikis, skype, podcasts, email, Google apps, web pages, photoshares, and more) has grown immensely in the last 12 months and if you haven't embraced the chance of collaborating with another classroom(s) you are missing many MANY opportunities of bringing some fantastic and valuable teaching moments into your classroom."
Then she lists several examples. Check them out. Wouldn't be exciting to expand your horizons as well as your classroom walls?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

[TIPS] Latin America wiki project

Kristin H points to a cool wiki project being run by two classes in her school. The students are studying Latin America. The two classes are working together to build this space. There is a nice personal and group rubric so they know how it will be graded, and they seem to have taken to it nicely.

What I like are the discussion pages. Take a moment to read down through those pages from time to time. It's fun to see the thought processes going on with it. The kids just don't quite know what to do. But, they gradually warm to it and now I think they are ready to go with it. Kristin said that one student commented that since people IN those countries can read what they write she feels she has to be REALLY accurate and she has to correct her grammar, etc. See what authentic assessment can do for motivation?

Wouldn't it be great if a school in one of those countries picked up on this and asked to join in? Just imagine the spark THAT would have with those kids. Next thing you know there is a kype meeting to introduce the classes. Then some brainstorming to see how the two groups could work together. THen some timetables set. Then the fun begins!

Any takers?

Monday, May 07, 2007

[TIPS] It is NOT the iPod's fault

While Wes Fryer is away from his blog, Jennifer Wagner is keeping it alive and well. Today she posted an article entitled "It is NOT the iPod's fault." Her district has just implemented a policy saying that ipods are NOT to be brought to school, basically. She has written a letter that she's going to send to her school board in which she lists all the things that can no longer happen if this policy is put into place. The letter is very well done and it does a good job, I think, of arguing against such a rigid policy.
See what you think.

[TIPS] Digital Billboards That Turn Your Head

There are a couple of things that I want you to note about this page. First, the article itself. Digital billboards. If you were driving down the highway and there was a billboard that was more like a mini commercial, would you be distracted by it? In my opinion, OF COURSE you would. And you would probably watch it more than once. How it's not considered a dangerous distraction is beyond me, except that money is involved and money can sway lots of important opinions.
It reminds me of a prototype of a device that I saw on a website years ago that projected larger than life 3D images into the air. Immediately I thought, "I can imagine a world where giant, scantily clad women are being projected into the night skies selling one thing or another. Not only will that be a major distraction (as long as there's a breath remaining! :-) ) but it will be sky pollution, as well, and I can see cities making laws to turn the lights out on such promotions." It doesn't have to be a human ad, of course. It could be a giant tire, or a 50 foot high soda or beer can pouring a perpetual beer into a frosty mug. Well, that hasn't happened yet, but I still think we'll see it, and we'll see the laws being created to control it.
Anyway, the first part is the article itself. Check it out.
But, the second part of the page that I want you to notice is the block on the right side under the image that is labeled, "Who's Blogging?" In that block it says, "Read what bloggers are saying about this article." and then it lists links to a few blogs.
Take a BIG notice of that, if you haven't seen it before, and watch for it. You're going to see more and more of this.

[TIPS] Top 25 Web 2.0 Apps to Improve a Student's or Professor's Productivity | OEDb

Thanks to Ken P (proud new pappa) for sharing this with me via the for:jgates513 tag on
This page lists 25 cool tools for school. Among those that I hadn't known before are Empressr , a slideshow and multimedia tool that looks very interesting (Y' see, web 2.0 sites just abhor putting the e before the r at the end of their site names. Witness Flickr, Dumpr, Mappr, splashr, and others), and Mindomo, a mindmapping tool.
Check out that entire list, if you don't know the sites already.

[TIPS] recalling the youtubex site

I would have thought that a site that is recommended by Kim Komando would be a bit more... family friendly.. thank this one turns out to be. Such is not the case, in this particular case, however. Therefore, I'm RETRACTING my suggestion about that site. One of the others should do you just fine, however.

[TIPS] download videos

Here's another one that comes from Kim Komando. This site will let you download videos from YouTube, Google Videos, MetaCafe, iFilm and more. Just be careful of copyright issues. You can't republish them, for example.

So, that's, what.. three different sites that help you download those videos? Surely ONE of them will be to your liking. :-)

[TIPS] some good fonts

This one was featured in Kim Komando's Cool Sites email late last week. I love fonts. The problem is that there is no easy way to include fonts in a document so that others can see that font. At least, not on the Macs, there isn't. Still, making pdf's or printing the page are options.

In any case, if you're looking from some good fonts, especially those that are movie fonts, check this site first.

And, if you're a windows user you can embed the fonts you're using right into your Word or Powerpoint document. Simply choose the Tools menu from your Save or Save as dialog box. It's up along the top near the right side. There you'll find the option to embed the font. Save the entire character set, and not just the characters in use.

Look around. You'll see what I mean.

[TIPS] an incredible Rube Goldberg machine

OK... I KNOW this won't increase a test score, but this is a video of one of the most incredible homemade contraptions you'll ever see. The video itself is often a bit too dark to get a real good look at what's going on, but by the time it's over you, too, will be amazed at the ingenuity behind it. (The url is WAYYY too long to post. If your school blocks these, that's OK. Send it home and watch it at home.)

Here's an idea... First, show this to your students. They'll get a kick out of it, I'm sure. Then, go back through and check off (from your handout) the different kinds of simple machines that these folks used in this contraption. OK... it was a reach... but really, you should see this video. It reminds me of this one from a while back: That one had professional lighting and took a spooky 666 times before it went off perfectly.)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

[TIPS] Creative Commons info

Thanks to Wes Fryer,, for pointing to this one. *

The Creative Commons ( is.. well... here's what it says about itself:
"Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." "

It might be described as a 'movement' that is encouraging folks to lighten up a bit on the copyright rules that they apply to their work. Of course, in some cases you just wouldn't want to do that. But, there are many, many cases where you just might. I've released several photographs on the creative Commons license. I'd release a lot more, but I didn't think anyone would possibly want them. But, just MAYBE someone might want to use this one, for example: The point is, I'm able to apply different, less strict, rules to the use of the photographs that I've posted on Flickr, so a school student could use it in a project without worry that the copyright police would be showing up to bring down the law.

The educause link above points to a nice guide to the Creative Commons. I hope you'll read it and pass it along to all your teacher friends. A school might be wise to focus a faculty meeting or two on the Creative Commons, I believe. I'm SURE that most teachers don't know about it. Is it taught in colleges, now? (I know that someone did talk about it in my last grad class this past week.)

Anyway, it's a nice guide. Share it.

* Tired of waiting for pdf's to load? Check out this tip on how to get them to load faster.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

[TIPS] mashup explores trends in your area

This one was posted on the Programmableweb site. This cool mashup lets you click on your hometown to find out the average cost of housing, the average rent, and the cost of living rate. Very interesting. Looking for a real life math example. There's got to be one in there, eh? And your economics class. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

[TIPS] VERY cool browser trick

Now, when I say browser I mean Firefox. I don't know if this works in IE or not, but you can try it. This was posted here on the Make site: or

Want to have TWO sites open when you open firefox? As the article says, simple go into the Options and in the field where you have your start page listed, add the pipe symbol - | - the shifted BACKspace key (the REAL backspace, not the one in URL's that some folks mistakenly call the backslash*) and then your second URL.

Mine looks like this:|

They each open in their own tab. I think I'll see if I can add a third.. and a fourth... and... OK, I'm calm now. Check it out!

* Sometimes I'll gently inform the person that it's NOT a backslash it's a forward slash, or just a slash. Embarassed, they'll sometimes say, "Well, that's just what I call it." Depending on my relationship with the person I'll say (or think), "Why don't you call it a CHICKEN? It's not THAT, EITHER!" :-)

Oh, and BTW... save yourself the time and aggrevation. You NEVER have to type the http:// in your url. Your browser assumes that. I've seen folks who OWN a computer or software company carefully drag-select the www, etc part in a url to leave the http:// when they type a new url. Don't bother. Just type the url: and off it goes. And, while we're at it, got a url that begins with http://www. and ends with .com? Just type in the part in the middle and press CTRL-ENTER (command-enter on the macs) and the browser will put in all the other stuff. There are ways to get the computer to the w's and the .org, too, but that's not one I've bothered to remember.

Try it now. Click in your address field and select the url (if it's not already selected). Now just type: vivisimo and press CTRL-ENTER. If you don't want to type vivisimo, try another favorite .com site. Type google, or ebay, or something like that.

OK.. I'm done now. Try out that double url thing in your home page field in the Options.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

[TIPS] Google's latest improvement that you wont see

You can image the power demands that the google servers require. What do you DO when you consume SO MUCH electricity? You install solar panels. They amount to 1.6 MEGAWATTS of solar power and they not only cover some rooftops, but they also cover some parking spaces. Well, they're raised so that cars can park under them for some shade. Clever? I suppose they didn't get where they are by being stupid, eh?

That article points to some Google Earth files that will show you a 3D drawing of that facility. Check it out.