Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How does YOUR state measure up with Graduation Rates?

One link leads to another which leads to another... and for me they ended up here. Something I read said that the US still only graduates 75% of its public school students. I had to check that out. After all, NCLB has been around long enough to have made a difference, if it was going to, right?

PA graduates 80%. Of course, when broken down by race there is a 35% gap from highest to lowest, but when I first saw that figure I thought, "Go PA!" But then the reality of that figure set in and I just shook my head in disbelief. We fail to educate 1 in 5 kids in PA. The figures by municipalities are REALLY depressing. How is YOUR state doing?

I wonder if this is a good lesson somewhere. A writing prompt, maybe? "PA's dropout rate is 20%. What do YOU think are some of the reasons for that amount, and what needs to change in order to improve it? Prioritize your choices." Or, "Working with a partner, list five things that must change in order for PA's dropout rate to improve. Prioritize your choices."

Relevance? Authentic assessments and authentic audiences? Being able to learn based on individual learning styles? Having school at least RECOGNIZE the reality of new technologies and incorporate them into our lessons? What would they say, I wonder.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Almost forgot - John Henry Faulk's Christmas story

I've been sending this link out for years. Almost forgot this year. If you're new to my blog, make CERTAIN that you listen to this story. I've made it a Christmas tradition.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Can YOU help keep Wikipedia free to all?

I stopped in to Wikipedia just a few moments ago and saw that the headlines asked us to read a special appeal from founder Jimmy Wales. I did. In it he asks for our help to keep Wikipedia free and open to the World. Their small staff of just 23 - and their 150,000 volunteers - have helped to publish over 11 million articles in 265 languages. Their site is among the first to visit when we look for things on the web. (Sorry, librarians, it's true.) "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's our commitment."

There are a couple great videos of Jimmy Wales telling folks about how Wikipedia works. This one on and this one on TED are two that I point to frequently. In them, Jimmy tells how articles are monitored, edited, and their strict enforcement of the rules for writing. It's MUCH more than many give it credit for.

In any case, Jimmy Wales is asking for a small donation to help the site stay free to the world. There are servers to maintain, bandwidth to pay for, and much more. I sent in a small donation immediately. I can't begin to imagine this site ceasing to be free to the world. Wouldn't you agree that it's FAR too important to permit that fate?

Yes, times are VERY hard for all of us. But, if YOU can spare a small donation you will be helping to ensure that this site remains free to all. An important goal, yes?

Thank you in advance for whatever you can do.

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Friday, December 19, 2008

Slideshare plugins for powerpoint AND Keynote!

I don't suppose that this is coming as much of a surprise to many of you, but now you can upload your powerpoint or keynote (Mac) presentations directly to Slideshare without even opening your browser. Very nice, eh?
- details for powerpoint (requires .net framework) I couldn't get the code to embed this one. It wouldn't load for me) - for keynote

Mac Tip - get TAB key to tab into checkboxes, etc

I don't know about you, but one thing about the Mac that was driving me nutty (until moments ago) was the fact that, when filling in forms I couldn't tab to a checkbox or to a dropdown menu like I could in Windows. What a shame, I thought. Until I read the above post.

Turns out it's a system preference. Now I'm a happy camper again.

System Preferences>Keyboard and Mouse > Keyboard shortcuts. At the very bottom of that screen, underneath the list of your options. Click the All Controls option.


Don't subscribe to the Mactips blog, Mac owner? Get on over there and sign up. Great stuff!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

new images in Google Earth

Have you seen the new hi-res images in Google Earth? Check out New York City. Then, go check out Dubai, UAE. THAT'S how the OTHER half lives, for sure.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Top 100 Inventions of 2008

Thanks to a former student, Eric, for sharing this with me tonight via the Gmail chat. The Top 100 Inventions of 2008.

I didn't get very far before I thought I should just stop and point you folks to it. No, it's not going to raise test scores, but these inventions will amaze and inspire. From buildings that generate 15% of the electricity that they use, to car finishes that repair themselves, to Photosynth and Spore and beyond. The world is an amazing place, eh?

Career Forward

Just saw this in the ASCD Brief.

"The CareerFoward program takes on the challenge of assisting young people as they prepare for careers in the global market that is impacting their lives now and in the future."

It's for students, parents, and teachers of US citizens only, I believe. Share this with your guidance counselors.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Electronic Graveyard - Wanna be depressed?

Thanks to Chris Champion and his post ( I saw this video on what happens to our old computers and printers and cell phones when we get rid of them. I, too, had thought that they were being properly recycled. I had once heard that the plastics in the cases were being used in materials to repair potholes, for instance. And I THOUGHT that a safe practice was used to remove the gold and lead, etc.

Such is NOT the case. Watch that video from 60 minutes. Show it to your students.

But, maybe you'll want to wait until after the Holidays. This is most depressing.

This one may well be of interest to the sociology classes out there. I was pointed to this from a post in the Long Now blog. This self-paced animation site plots demographic and resource trend data from the past to ninety years out. Do YOU agree with its vision? Would your students?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flight Simulator in Google Earth

Am I the last one to know about this? Flight Simulator in Google Earth?

Read about it here:

Check it out: Getting the most out of Google Maps

Again, one thing in my reader pointed to another which led me to another, etc, and I landed here:

You say you can't use Google Earth at school? This may just be a very acceptable alternative. The trick to getting the most out of it is having a gmail account. Schools should REALLY be looking hard at getting the Google Docs for education. It opens up SO much!

Anyway, check out the tips on this page, including the video that he did that shows some great tricks in Google Earth. They may not all be for you, but there's sure to be at least one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"What's nice is only THEY can see each other's posts."

Scenario 1:
A teacher assigns a paper, maybe for a grade, that is an essay statement. Maybe it's a piece of creative writing. On the due date the students turn it into the teacher on a piece of 8.5 x 11" paper as it came off the printer. The teacher reads it, secretly grades it, and tacks it up on the wall for the students to see. Nobody else sees it. Students await next assignment.

Scenario 2:
A teacher assigns a blog post to be entered on the school's own blog server. On the due date the students type their posts. Since the blog server is not visible outside the school network, nobody else can see it. Only the students can view each other's posts. The teacher secretly grades them. Students await next assignment.

Is there a difference? Yes, the one uses a different tool, a blog vs a printer, but is there a difference to the student? Maybe some - for a while.

But, watch this video and THEN ask yourself the same question: Is there a difference?

Of course there is. Don't be fooled by the fact that someone is saying that the students are, "blogging." They're bloging only in the sense that they're using a blogging TOOL. But, hammering nails into a 2x4 isn't building a house, even though you're using the tool.

I want to know WHO is making the decision that this is acceptable. Rather, who is saying that having REAL blogs is NOT acceptable. As I've said before, (in 2006, for crying out loud!) this is very much like having the kids drive a stock car in the parking lot and calling it racing. COME ON!! WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS FEAR-DISABLED THINKING ANY MORE! WHEN WILL REAL CHANGE HAPPEN IN OUR SCHOOLS?

Recently, a teacher said that their HIGH SCHOOL geometry teacher had kids take pictures of "real world shapes" and they made some sort of animation out of them. THIS is HIGH SCHOOL Geometry? ARGHHHHH! Second graders do this stuff! Why not use something like: if you want "real world" activities. Something that is WORTHY of a 17 yr old student. Oh... that's right.. Google Earth is blocked in school, too.

When will someone step up and say, "This is no longer acceptable!" It's malpractice! Come on, Curriculum Directors. Find out what is going on in your classrooms and what COULD be going on and start demanding REAL changes. The world is passing you by!

Tabbloid - a great alternative to an aggregator

I had mentioned this neat little site (Sorry, but I've forgotten now where I first learned of it) in a previous post, but unless you read the entire post you wouldn't have seen it. (note the two b's)

Just go there and tell it the addresses of the sites that you want to follow. They have to have RSS feeds, of course, but all blogs have feeds, for example. Or, the news sites on the web have feeds for their columns and latest news, etc. So you just build a list like this one:

Then, each day you'll receive an email with a pdf attachment that is laid out like a tabloid newspaper, containing all the latest feeds from those sites. Of course, then, the length of the tabloid varies depending upon how many new posts there have been on those sites. But, it's VERY easy to read, and it includes all the pictures from the posts, as well.

I love this idea for the social studies classes who are studying current events, or for the English classes who are using blogs for their writing. They can receive a daily tabloid with a copy of every person's post.

What a cool, free service.

Here's a screenshot of a past issue.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A nice image search engine

Once again my PLN comes through. This time (again) from Michelle Krill who posted this link to her Diigo account and to the CFFCoaches group in Diigo.

This is just a custom search engine in Google, but it's especially nice for teachers and students who are looking for appropriate images to use in projects. It searches in,,, and others. Now, it doesn't display the images like the image search sites do, with the thumbnails, but the links are excellent.

BTW - I love the idea of making your own search engines. Science teachers could create one that searches only the top science journals and blogs. Social studies teachers.... wow... this could be great.

Better yet, have your STUDENTS get together and create one for your class.

Create your own here:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Teaching with Google Earth

Speaking of Google Earth, here is a great website that has links to all sorts of tools for teaching GeoScience classes.

There are files to tell you what Google Earth is, why bother teaching with it, and TONS more, including this page of classroom activities.

Go there now and check it out. I'l bet you know someone who should be using this tool.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Google Earth Pro - Free to Educators!

Once again, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) came through. This time via a Diigo post from Vicki Davis pointing to this post: that tells how you (if you're an educator) can get Google Earth Pro for FREE!!

Really, if you teach Social Studies, History, Geography, or any similar subject, and you're NOT using Google Earth, I have to wonder why not. PLEASE read the article to hear about some GREAT layers available in Google Earth. I've mentioned some great google earth layers and discoveries before. Remember, you should also subscribe to the gearthblog.

Do check out that article!

Philip Rosedale talks about Second Life

Yes, another TED video. This time, Phillip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life, talks about how it got started and what he thinks it's all about. Did you know that Second Life is being run on 20,000 computers? Whoa! It's expanding at 5% per month, too.

But this talk is abut much more than just some statistics. Check it out.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Voicethread updates - Have you 'seen 'em yet?

I'm sure by now you've quite familiar with that cool web app called Voicethread. There are SO many great examples of how teachers and students are using it in the classrooms. Check out their pricing for schools, too. This is one of the rare (IMHO) sites that has set a price point that's affordable. OUTSTANDING! Check out this page of suggestions and helpful tips, too.

But today I received an email (as did most of you, I'll bet) that announced some new features, two of which I think are excellent. First, you can now put a copy of your voicethread on your ipod or iphone. Second, you can now clone a presentation so that you can present it to a different audience. It just clears the current comments. Very nice, eh?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Google Search Wiki

Once again, my PLN (personal learning network) has alerted me to something VERY interesting. (Thanks, @AngelaMaeirs!) A google search wiki.

Imagine if you could perform a search, arrange the results according to the way YOU want them, and even leave yourself notes about the sites you've found. You can even remove sites from the list. There's more, too. Check out that blog post above and watch that demo video.

Very nice!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

[TIPS] This is just.. Surreal

This is just too strange to wrap my mind around. Today is my last day with the IU. At close of business today I will be retired.

Holy cow!

Where did the time go? There are still so many things that I’ve not yet done. There is still so much to learn. How did it come to this? ;-)

If you’re interested, I am not going to disappear – at least not for a few years (Good Lawd willin’ and the cricks don’t rise). I’ll be working with the Classrooms for the Future program in PA at least 10 days a month. And I will continue to do workshops, etc for as long as I’m being asked to do so. And I plan to continue with this blog. This is an effort of pure joy for me. Its not work.

I’m resisting the temptation to wax philosophical. It’s a strong urge, but one that I’ll save for a bartender somewhere. :-)

I’m going to be leaving for a week’s vacation on Tuesday, so this blog will be quiet during that time. Don’t unsubscribe just yet. After that you wont be able to reach me via the CAIU email address. You’ll have to use my gmail address. And those of you who receive my tips via email – you’re going to HAVE to learn to use RSS. You can do it. I KNOW you can.

So, the next time you hear from me (unless I just HAVE to share something else today) I’ll be a “retired” man. A retired, LUCKY man.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

[TIPS] What does technology do well?

An interesting question posed rhetorically in today’s meeting with Tech Directors: What does technology do well?

The reverse: Where does technology fail to make a difference?


[TIPS] 3D Virtual Rome

How’s this for the power of Personal Learning Networks? This morning while waiting for a meeting to start, I was invited in to a group chat in skype by a woman who was doing a workshop with some college sophomore education majors. She asked our group if they would be available to speak to this class about the need for tech integration. Several of us did. But while we were waiting, Justine Kobeski, one of the CFF TIMS reps, dropped that url into the chat.

Students can now view virtual Rome is an amazing way. As I explored it ( Open Google Earth and select "Ancient Rome 3D" in the Gallery layer) I kept thinking, “If we are teaching about Ancient Rome in our schools today, and were NOT using this tool, then isn’t that now unacceptable? Haven’t we finally gotten to the point that we can expect that this – even DEMAND it?”

Harsh words, I know. But, this is NOT business as usual in our schools. If the current global economic meltdown and the election of our new President aren’t enough to convince us then I don’t know what WOULD be enough. I’m reminded FREQUENTLY of this post by Karl Fisch: He asks, Is it okay to be technologically illiterate in today’s world?

Hmmm.... THIS post sure took an interesting turn, didn’t it? :-)

[TIPS] The election map - seven views

Many thanks to Mary Bigelow for sharing this one via email.

This is a different way of seeing how the country voted in this last election. The only problem is that I’d love to see how it voted in the last COUPLE of elections, too. But, DO check this out. VERY interesting.

[TIPS] Part Iv - Weaning off the listserv (Tabbloid)

How did you do? Were you able to set up an account? Were you then able to subscribe to my blog? If not, you know how to get in touch with me. I’ll help however I can. I want you to be successful.

If you WERE successful in subscribing to my blog then you’re on your way to the best way to gather information that you’ve ever seen. You just have to kep your eye open for RSS feeds. For example, let’s say that you’re a science teacher and you’d like to gather feeds from a newspaper’s science column. Let’s choose Go there now ( and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Just up from the bottom a bit, and over on the left side, is a list of items that include RSS. Click that orange icon. You’ll then be taken to a page that lists all the feeds for all the columns. Do you know what to do from here?

Here’s one reason why I LOVE the Firefox browser. I’ve already gone into the Preferences (options) and in the Applications tab I’ve set up my aggregator as the default. The picture (You may have to go to my blog to see it) shows the details. It’s under Web Feed in the list. Just set your chosen aggregator as the default. Then, all I do to subscribe is click the RSS icon and it takes me right to the aggregator and it’s ready for me to finish the subscription process. Very easy. LOVE this browser!

Don’t want usatoday, how about See if you can find the link to the cnn feeds. Or the msnbc feeds, or the fox news feeds. With firefox you can tell if there’s a feed on the page very easily as the rss icon appears in the right corner of the address field.

TRY THIS! Make it work for you! You will NOT regret the time you spend learning it. I promise!

Now, let me tell you today about a tool that might just be the way that you choose to get the tips. It’s called It’s pretty neat. No account necessary. Just go there, and pate in the url’s of the sites that have the feeds you want. In the case of cnn and usatoday, etc you will have to be specific or you may get ALL the columns. But, what this site does is it gathers the new feeds and puts it into a newsletter format in a pdf document and emails it to you daily – or twice daily, or weekly, or whatever you choose. This could be a fun way for social studies teachers to collect feeds, too. Then print them and display them. But, you could choose to get my blog feed in tabbloid style instead of in the aggregator. Your choice.

I do hope that you’ve been successful with this. If not, let me know (comments) and when I get a chance I’ll make a little movie of my own to help you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

[TIPS] Is Skype blocked in your school? Listen to THIS

Dave Solon scores big again. This time he talks with an engineer at SKYPE and they talk about the various concerns that some folks have with the software and they debunk some myths about it.

Give this a listen, then pass it along to the appropriate people. There is HOPE!!

[TIPS] Part III - Weaning off the mailinglist

So far, we’ve discussed some terms, and we looked at some aggregators. Today we’re going to take the plunge and create an account and subscribe to a feed. Ready?

I should say here that I always use the Firefox browser. I find that it makes this process (and the entire browsing experience, in my opinion) so much nicer. But, of course this will work with IE, as well.

Now, I COULD take the time to write out all the directions for each reader (aggregator), but why re-invent the microchip? So, I’m going to list a few tutorials that you might use to get a handle on how to set them up and add feeds. Cowardly? Well, yes. What’s your point? :-)

Netvibes: - from the source – links to a couple videos – also talks about Pageflakes
Pageflakes: – nice faq’s – a video tutorial

Igoogle – getting lazy. Here’s a search results page for tutorials

Google Reader – another search results page


I’m feeling really hurried with this. I had such great plans for writing our detailed instructions. <sigh>

Now, here’s what you need to do. Check out these tutorials and choose an aggregator that you think you might like. Then go there and create an account, if you’ve not already done so. Finally, go to and subscribe to my blog, following the directions you learned about in those tutorials. After Friday this will be the best way for you to get these tips. Then, start looking at my “blogroll” and subscribe to some others. You’ve read about other blogs in my tips, ranging from gearthblog to Dangerously Irrelevant to Assorted Stuff, and Couros’ blog and the TED blog, and.. SO many more.

You CAN do this. Stay with it. You will LIKE what this does for you, once you learn how to subscribe.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about some other places where you can find rss feeds. Plus, I’ll show you a cool website that will let you subscribe to a site, or multiple sites, and have them delivered to your EMAIL in one pdf document each day. It’s a nice alternative for some.

Good luck!

[TIPS] Part II - Weaning off the mailinglist

Sorry – I was busy yesterday and didn’t get this out. Maybe two today.

In the last tip I gave you a few definitions that we’re going use during this process. Don’t worry if you can’t remember them, as we’ll be using them enough that you’ll know them by the time we’re done.

We’re now going to take a look at the aggregators. (An application that collects ‘feeds’) There are several out there, but I’ll be referring to just four. Google Reader, Netvibes, Pageflakes, and Bloglines. Another, iGoogle, is a lot like Pageflakes and Netvibes, although it IS easier to subscribe with when you’re using Firefox. Each site functions a bit differently. I wasn’t going to go into detail with each one due to all the writing that would take. But, since this step is the make or break step I think I’ll have to.

Let’s first hear about the four options so you can decide for yourself which one you might want to start with . You’re not stuck with one forever should you change your mind later, however, so relax. Read the descriptions and pick one that sounds interesting.

Google reader (
This one is fairly straight forward once you’re set up. Feeds can be arranged into folders. I’ve got an education folder, an entertainment folder, a delicious folder, a Mac Tips folder, etc, and I put the feeds into the corresponding folders. All folders and feeds are listed down the left side of the page. When you click on a feed in the left side it opens up in the middle so you can read it, email it to someone, save it, star it, and more. I like this reader because it will let me read the posts right within the reader rather than having to read a sample of the post and then rush click again to go to the actual blog to read it.

Netvibes (
This one (and Pageflakes) are completely different in the “look and feel” department. Instead of arranging your feeds into folders you put them into tabs. Clicking a tab name will show all the feeds in that tab, arranged in columns and you can drag and drop the feeds around on the page to suit. Each feed appears in a block which can be collapsed to relieve crowding issues. You could have a tab for sports feeds, another for education feeds, etc., just as I have folders for my education feeds. The problem I see with it, however, is that if you have a lot of feeds you have to do a lot of scrolling. And, I’m not crazy about how the feeds themselves can be read. But that’s just me. There are TONS of folks who prefer this aggregator. It makes a great “home page”, as well. And, there are lots of little widgets, etc that you can add to add some fun to your tabs.

Pageflakes (
Similar to Netvibes this one uses tabs to organize the feeds. Again, the ajax coding allows you to rearrange them by dragging and dropping. You can add widgets, and you can even share a tab with others – even to the point of allowing them to contribute to your page. Both this and Netvibes allow you to make your tabs public. (At least I THINK they both do) As with Netvibes, Pageflakes is popular enough that many blogs especially had buttons on them to aid in subscribing using that service. Also a very nice choice that makes a great home page. You can add a lot of cool widgets, too.

Bloglines (
This one was my favorite for years, but I found that a feature in it, the Image Wall, was enough to have it blocked in some districts. However, I did like how the feeds were arranged (in a column on the left) and how you could read them. You can make some folders publicly viewable, too. Here’s mine: Of course, it looks a bit different from the owner’s viewpoint, but the layout is the same. If only that Image Wall weren’t there.

We won’t do anything today, if you don’t want, but tomorrow for SURE we’ll create the account in the aggregator of your choice. You brave souls can go ahead and do that today, if you wish.

Monday, November 10, 2008

[TIPS] New copyright laws announced - READ THIS NOW!

Once again I learned something great from my PLN (personal learning network). Just moments ago, Coolcatteacher (Vicki Davis at tweeted about this blog post from Doug Johnson- (The Blue Skunk Blog)

This is HUGE! Go there NOW. READ the announcement that he points to. Subscribe to his blog while you’re at it.

And, if you’re near a computer around 9:00 on the 11th of November, 2008, tune in to this page to hear and perhaps chat with others as PA’s own Joyce Valenza talks about this wonderful announcement.

[TIPS] Hot, Flat, and Crowded

That’s the name of Thomas Friedman’s (The World is Flat guy) latest book. You may or may not agree with him, but this is an interesting book. If you can’t read it, then give this a listen.

If you’re on a Mac you’ll be asked to install Microsoft’s Silverlight and restart your browser.

Could this be a good social studies lesson? Or, does it smack of a political opinion? Regardless of whether or not we can show this in school, you may want to listen to it for yourself.

BTW – see if you can catch a little Fahrenheit/Centigrade slight of hand.

[TIPS] Weaning off the listserv

Do you receive these tips via email? What are you planning to do once that is no longer an option? You’ve got two choices. One, you can just plan to go visit my blog ( every day to see if I’ve added anything. Or, you can set up an aggregator (Don’t panic!) to collect my new posts for you. It’s my hope that you’ll choose the latter, so this tip is the first in a series about HOW you do that.

Today, some definitions.
Feed (or RSS feed) ( - it’s a type of web page format that provides for the ability to send updates when the content on the page changes. Blogs are examples of the kinds of web pages that have feeds, as the content on blogs changes frequently. A static page about a particular topic, say a History site) likely will not have a feed, since their content doesn’t change much.

RSS – Really Simple Syndication. Another name for the formatting of those pages. There are html pages (the kind we’re most familiar with), and xml pages (extensible markup language) that make feeds possible. Fortunately, we don’t need to know this. It’s the web designers and programmers who need to know that part. But, you’ll hear folks ask if a page, “..has an rss feed?”

Aggregator – an application, either desktop or web based, that collects feeds from the web. Examples are,, pageflakes,com, and the Google Reader. This allows us to collect the feeds (content) from many websites all in one spot.

Subscribe – to collect the feed (in your aggregator) from a site so that you’ll know when new content has been published there. (You will subscribe to my blog, for example.)

So, in this series of tips I’ll have you do a few things. I’ll have you create an account at one of the aggregators. I’ll show you how to subscribe to my blog and one or two others. Finally, I’ll point you to some others that you may want to subscribe to. At that point you’ll be ready to be on your own when the mailinglist disappears.

Ready? Tune in tomorrow for part II.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

[TIPS] Interesting article about filters - will you read it?

This has become a topic similar to politics. If I were to point you to a page that talked about a particular candidate in either the positive or negative sense, many folks wouldn’t go there. They just don’t want to hear it. Their minds are made up, and no amount of information will change their minds.

Such, I believe, is the case with web filtering. Those folks who are more liberal with their policies may feel that they don’t need to hear it. Those who are more heavy handed will certainly not read it, as it doesn’t apply to them. “YOU’re not in charge of this network, I am, and I make the rules.”

But, here’s an article that you may want to read:  Both sides to the story are listed. I think you know my side – you’ve heard me screaming more than once. :-)

Give it a read. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I read it! :-)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

[TIPS] Political Cartoons - having a field day!

I LOVE my twitter network. I learn SO much from them. For example, @dancallahan just tweeted this link:

There you’ll find a great collection of political cartoons centered, of course, around the US election results. Another wonderful lesson in a box, just about, eh? Got a discussion forum set up? Point them to these cartoons and let the discussions begin!

[TIPS] Moodle stash of goodies

MANY thanks to Ann Johnston, from IU12, who pointed me to this page on the site. The Exchange course. There, people are freely exchanging courses, glossaries, and much more. You need only a login to see these resources. Create your login here: and then you can get to the above link and download course, glossaries, quiz question banks, SCORM content, SWF files.. Great stuff!

Wow, Ann! Thank you for sharing this site with us. I know that many of us are getting into Moodle in a big way, and these kinds of finds make it fun.

[TIPS] Want more global viewpoints?

Michael Burke, a CFF coach in PA, sent me an email this afternoon saying that he had been listening to the BBC radio news ( and had been impressed and enlightened as to what others are thinking and saying about the US after yesterday’s election. So, I’ve been listening to it off and on all day, too. VERY interesting, indeed.

Social Studies teachers, are you providing a link to these world radio stations? Like:, maybe? What if you were to play a bit of the news and then make the link available to them. Assign it for a discussion forum. Provide a question such as, “What are other countries asking of Barack Obama as he prepares to take office?” The BBC news is just one station that provides an entirely different viewpoint, with different people being interviewed. They don’t have a political interest, necessarily, in this election, so their perspective is from the context of how affairs in the US impact their daily lives. This just HAS to make for good discussions, don’t you think?

What fun!! Now, join epals or Taking it Global and find a school in another country to partner with as your class tries to make sense of the impact of this election. It can turn into something that they won’t ever forget.

[TIPS] World views - TODAY more than ever before

Today, possibly moreso than any other day, don’t you think it would be a GREAT lesson to have the kids read about yesterday’s election from the perspective of, say, Iran, or Iraq, or France, and ANY other country? Will Richardson ( pointed to the site (  , but it must be getting slammed, as I was unable to get in until just a minute or so ago. But, being able to read the world’s views of the election is a MUST-DO, in my opinion. With yesterday being such a milestone in our History, let’s see what the rest of the world has to say.

So, using the above site to find the country’s domains, do some advanced searching to find out what they’re saying.
Obama election -  returns Iranian sites that are discussing the election (in Google)
Obama election – returns Iraqi sites, etc

Don’t use Google? Fine. AL search engines allow for advanced searching. Try that same syntax in, for example.

Also, try going to: and using that same search technique to find news articles. But, you can then also get the rss feed for the page to continue to find other articles.

NOW is when you just CANNOT do business as usual. This is the perfect time to show the kids these skills. This is the perfect time to have them team up and research opinions of papers from the various nations and present a compare and contrast report, don’t you think? Even asking them to determine which countries they’d like to examine is a good exercise, I think. “Which countries do YOU think would be most interesting to see what they think of our election yesterday, and why?”

What a very exciting time to be a social studies teacher!!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

[TIPS] Dr Christensen - Technology will revolutionize Education
(Pointed to from ASCD Brief – again)

Recall the other day when I pointed to Dr Scott McLeod’s presentation at the K12online conference? ( Well, he based some of his presentation on the work done by this man, Dr Christensen. In this article he is talking to some business leaders but sharing the principals of ‘disruptive technology’ with them, much like he did with education. An interesting read.

[TIPS] MS Office to go online?

As if to answer the question, “Why bother teaching Office when you can use web tools?”, Microsoft is announcing that they’ll be putting the office suite online.

The article is good, and the product is.. who knows? But, what’s very interesting is that this article, being a blog post, allows for comments. Read some of the comments in there, as well.

It reminds me of things that were mentioned in Shirky’s book, “Here Comes Everybody.” Have you read it, yet?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

[TIPS] More TED winners

If you’ve been a regular at reading the TED blog, or if you’ve just watched the videos that I’ve pointed to, then you’re aware that each year since 2005 TED grants a wish to three speakers from the year. These are folks with a mission in mind and TED grants them $100,000 towards that goal. A few days ago I received an email notice telling that the winners for 2009 have been chosen. If I may quote the email:
“They are:
- the woman leading the world's search for extra-terrestrial life
- the deep-sea explorer who's spent her life campaigning for the oceans
- the maestro who's transformed the lives of tens of thousands of kids... through classical music

Meet them here! (

Each wins $100,000 plus "One Wish to Change The World. No Restrictions." Their wishes will be unveiled at TED2009 on February 5th, 2009.”

While you’re there reading about the winners and their passions, check out the links on the right said that point to past winners.

(I wonder if they had a cancellation for that event and they’re trying to find someone who might want to go. Y’ think? ;-)    )

[TIPS] (in)effective presentations - Dr Scott McLeod

What a great way to LEARN how to make presentations - to see the before and after.

In this post you can download his slides, both the before and after versions, as he made the transformation from bullets to ideas. Great timing on this, too. I had just finished reaing Ken Rodoff's post:

Download Scott's presentation and use it when you teach powerpoint to your students. Remember, don't assigna a powerpoint, as Ken says, assign a presentation. And use Scott's ppt to show the difference.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

[TIPS] An English lesson gone global

If you read my blog then I KNOW that you also read Karl Fisch’s blog, You may also read Ann Smith’s blog, Learning and Laptops. So this is just a post in case you’re behind on your reading.

Do you recall me mentioning the “This I believe” lesson that a couple of his teachers have done? (I mention it everywhere I go) I wrote about them on a couple of occasions; and Ann Smith is the teacher/blogger behind this assignment. Well, she’s at it again. Here’s an excerpt from her blog post in Learning and Laptops (

“We are approaching that time of year when I am going to start the kids on this writing adventure, but this year I wanted to add a little twist with the help of you out there in the blog-o-sphere. I want “This I Believe” to go global. I want my students to benefit not only from knowing what their peers believe, or what the other AHS classes believe, but to hear and see what the world values. What do kids elsewhere in the U.S. believe in? What do kids elsewhere in the world believe in? What do some of the learned professionals that I know believe in?”

She’s taking this lesson global. If you’re a classroom teacher, blogger, administrator or student, you should stop what you’re doing right now and go read either of those two links (It’s the same article, cross-posted). Pass this along to your favorite English teacher. Get involved. You’re going to be a part of something BIG.

Once again, congratulations to Ann and Maura and to Karl for their inspiration for us all, and for the inevitable hard work that will be involved with this project. This will be VERY fun to watch! It just ay take on a life of its own. Just watch and see!

[TIPS] Great Google Docs tips

I LOVE my blogs. I learn SO much from them. Today, for example, I realized that I had lost track of Tim Lauer’s blog ( somehow, so I re-subscribed. (He’s the principal at On the first page of his posts (he does LOTS of tips) was a post that pointed me here:

In that GoogleDocs presentation were 11 tips about using the applications. I didn’t know, for example, that you could have up to 50 users in a spreadsheet at one time. Did you know that? And I didn’t know that the chat feature supported links to youtube, google video, and even flickr and picasa web albums. Try it out.

Go to the presentation about and paste in this youtube link: When you hit enter watch how it displays in the chat.  Got a flickr account? Paste in the url to an image to see how it shows up in the chat area. Very cool!

I LOVE my blogs! (I like my blogging buddies, I like them very much...)    :-)

[TIPS] Blog Action Day - missed

I had every intention to participate in Blog Action Day ( ) on October 15th. I even had the badge proudly displayed on my blog. But, CFF bootcamp sorta consumed all of my time that week and I didn’t get to write that article. It was to be an article that raised awareness of poverty issues around the world. I was planning to point to this site again - and to some of the great TED videos dealing with world poverty. Alas, I just couldn’t do it.

So, I just removed the badge from the blog.

But, the statistics are impressive of those who did participate: Over 14,000 blog posts read by almost 13.5 million people.

Remember this post that points to the “Miniature World” description: Did you watch that? Do you recall that 6% of the population (the world) own 59% of the world. And, if you keep your food a in refrigerator and your clothes in a closet and you sleep in a bed with a roof over your head – you’re wealthier than 75% of the world!

Does that little bit of perspective change your outlook of the day?

[TIPS] 15 things that will change everything

Thanks to a Diigo post by Cheryl Capozzoli I was pointed to this article:

Very interesting. This article talks about the top 15 new technological innovations that will change everything we now know about computing. From chips with memory (making them instant-on machines, for example) to USB 3.0 (10 times faster than USB 2.0), to wireless electricity (remember this post – GEEZ! I just noticed that I misspelled electricity in that title!!!) and even to open access cellular networks (allowing us to use ANY phone with our carrier – iphone here I come!).*

To get a glimpse of what awaits us in the next four to five years, read this article. It’s clear that manufacturers aren’t sitting on their thumbs – they’re inventing the future. Are we ready for it?

*You like that idea of using any phone on your network? Check out this article that the top article points to:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

[TIPS] Dr Scott McLeod's Presentation at K12Online Conference - WATCH IT!

I just finished watching Dr Scott McLeod’s presentation at the k12online conference and I can’t seem to move fast enough to share it. It’s entitled: Leading The Change: Current Leadership Models are Inadequate for Disruptive Innovations” It’s 21 minutes long, and I truly believe it’s a presentation that every administrator should see.

He based his presentation of Dr. Clayton Christensen’s books, The Innovator’s Dilemma and Disrupting Class. Dr McLeod does an outstanding job of laying out the logic and presenting his case.

Now, some of you who know me and who have heard my occasional rants may think, “If HE likes it, then it’s got to be confrontational.” It’s NOT. He’s not saying that everything is broken and we’re doing it all wrong and it’s all your fault. Not at all. He talks about how disruptive technologies have historically functioned and how they came to take over the older models. Examples are cell phones taking over from ‘land line phones’ and cd’s taking over from cassette tapes and now mp3 players replacing the cd’s. He does a great job of explaining that, and then drawing a parallel with the disruptive innovations occurring in education.

Send this tip to every administrator you know and ask them to give you their feedback on it. Watch it for yourself, first, of course. It’s a great conversation starter. In particular, near the end of his presentation he suggests that instead of resisting change (i.e. Cyber schools, etc) we should embrace them. WHAT? I know what you’re thinking. That’s why you need to watch his presentation. It ties back to an earlier comment, “The existing educational model is not a given.” In the face of all the global changes, how can we argue that? But, there’s more. You need to watch and listen for yourself.

So, watch it for yourself and then send it to your principal, your fellow teachers, your curriculum director, and your superintendent. Wouldn’t this make an interesting discussion in a faculty meeting sometime?

Oh, and you can also download it in the original format, in ipod video format, and in audio only.

Way to go Scott!!!

[TIPS] k12online conference

The problem with being busy is that you don’t have the time to do some of the things that you really enjoy. (“Oh really, Jim? We’re teachers. We didn’t know that.” )  ;-)

For example, I didn’t get to try to participate in the k12online conference this year, nor even view the presentations as they were being released. But, the good news is that all of the presentations are available on the website for you to watch when you DO have the time.

Then I read in Darren Kuropatwa’s blog (A Difference – about this cool stack that shows the pages in the k12onlineconference  site. Scroll through them and click on those that interest you to be taken right to the page. (Darren gives the nod the David Warlick for showing this to him originally)

Give this a try. Very cool. And invest some time going through the presentations. You’re going to find LOTS of great information and ideas in there. Sheryl and Wes and the whole gang do a GREAT job with this every year. If you’ve not yet seen the site, GO THERE!

Oh, and be sure to check out Kathy Cassidy’s page about her “blogging buddies.”  Remember her VERY cute video? (

(“Hmmm. First graders blogging?  WHAT?? They can’t do that! Blogging is NOT permitted – even with our staff. Not sure why, exactly. Something to do with.. something, I’m sure. But, blogging? NEVER!”


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

[TIPS] Headlines from ASCD Brief

If you’ve read my tips for any period of time you know that I frequently mention something that I learned in the ASCD Smartbrief that I receive daily. I’ve even encouraged you to sign up. Here’s another reason why I think it’s a great publication. Just look at some of the headlines that point to stories on the web.

Survey: Three of Four teachers require Internet-based homework (encouraging article about teachers using technology to teach)

Technology transforms how students learn about presidential elections (featuring PA’s own Kristin Hokanson)

New Jersey leaders tackle dropout rates (lots of eyes will be watching how they make out)

Ed Dept.: Transcripts should avoid mentioning student disabilities (but report cards MAY include that info)

N.J. Proficiency rates plunge after standards change - (They made the test more rigorous and –BAM! - proficiency rates fall

Students address future issues in letters to next president (getting kids to focus on the issues)

Classroom politics in Racine (mother objects to using a text that mentions Obama)

Expecting Excellence: Rigor Redefined (Rigor in a global economy. Is it different, now?)

Wouldn’t you agree that this amounts to some interesting reading? LOVE that brief!

Monday, October 27, 2008

[TIPS] This song says it all

Thomas Boito posted this song clip this AM in his blog. Check out the lyrics. Here’s a sample:
Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way
Maybe then they'll listen to whatcha have to say
Cause they're the ones who's coming up and the world is in their hands
When you teach the children teach em the very best you can.

BTW – the song was published in 1975!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

[TIPS] Web two point over? - a Newsweek article

Dan Lyons writes about how the current economic woes (I’d rather not think about them, thank you very much) are impacting Silicon valley. Will this be another round of dot com collapses? Will twitter see its last tweet? Will ning disappear?

So there y’ go. As if you didn’t have enough to worry about, eh? Someone else will have to worry about this one, though. I’m too busy worrying about retiring in the midst of all this. ;-(

Oh, and thanks to Betsy Riter and Pete Winkler for sharing this with me in our last session of our grad class at Harrisburg University.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

[TIPS] Election rap

Have you seen this:

Thanks to Julie Lehmer for sharing this with me today in our Web 2.0 grad class. What fun.

Friday, October 24, 2008

[TIPS] Universal Declaration of Human Rights - animated

Many years ago – maybe fifteen or more – I acquired a cdrom about human rights. It was a haunting cd with incredible graphics that told of the basic human rights as set forth by the General assembly of the United Nations in 1949. I’ve still got it around here someplace, I’m sure.

This is another animation showing those basic human rights.

WAIT!!! I found it! It’s on YouTube, as well. CHECK THIS OUT:


Now, if this isn’t at least a writing prompt for you then I don’t know what is. Combine this with the other site I sent out recently ( and you’ve got a powerful lesson. Wouldn’t you agree?

Send this to your favorite social studies teacher.

[TIPS] uses google earth

I once read about a math lesson that went something like this:

The teacher pointed the students to a link to a kmz (google earth) file that flew them to a zoomed in view of a particular building. Of course, the view is from the very top looking straight down. It wasn’t a famous building, but a rather tall one. The test was one question: How tall is that building?

Hmmm. So how would YOU find out how tall it was? You couldn’t look it up  online because it wasn’t that famous a building. The image shows a nice sunny day and this building casting a shadow. Where do you begin? Get in a group with four others and brainstorm how you’d solve this question. (Yes, I read it on the gearthblog a year or more ago)

Well, this realworld math site just may include that lesson. It does include lessons that involve using google earth. Lessons are grouped in four major areas: Concepts, Measurements, Project-based lessons, and exploratory. There are at least four lessons in each topic – mapped to the NETS-S standards.

And don’t even THINK of telling me that google earth is blocked in your school.

[TIPS] Miniature world

Thanks again to Sue Sheffer for sharing this one with me via email.

You may have already seen one of the emails or websites that describe the world as if it were made up of 100 people. It’s a wonderful teaching tool for kids – it sure puts us into world perspective.

This one is very nicely done. Nice graphics. Haunting music.

If your students haven’t seen this yet, here’s a good one to share with them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

[TIPS] Mathway

Robin Seneta just tweeted this:

Enter a math problem and this site will solve it. Now, entering the problem isn’t foolproof, but when you get the syntax right it’s very nice. Would it be helpful for students to see this site solve problems? I think so. It’s not like they can use this on a test, so if they do use it to get their homework answers, then this shortcut will catch up with them at test time. But, the way it solves the problems is that it TALKS the user through the the steps. “First, we multiply both sides by 5 to remove the fractions” - or something like that. I HAVE to believe that if they use this site frequently that the written instructions will HAVE to help even the student who is just seeking an answer.

Do you agree?

[TIPS] k12 online conference

I’ve been just too doggone busy of late to stop in here to view the presentations, but I WILL. If you’ve not “been to” the k12online conference before then this is a MUST DO! The top teachers in the world (yes, the WORLD) have prepared presentations on a wide variety of topics. They are EXCELLENT. This is your own personal professional development.

Trust me on this. Stop in there and look at the topics for the various days. Then plan to view those that interest you. You will NOT be disappointed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

[TIPS] Google spreadsheets - new and improved

Have you seen the changes to the spreadsheets in Google Docs? Very nice! Stop in to see for yourself, but in the meantime, check out this blog post about the changes:

Very nice!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

[TIPS] a national filter?

Do this:
Click April 2008
Scroll to the bottom of the page.
But I'll bet youtube is open!
btw- the owner of that site is Rives. You may have seen him on TED in one of these videos.
Moral of the story - find something that nobody else is doing and do it well. Maybe?

[TIPS] An interesting discussion (not a tip)

It’s Saturday after our 2008 cff (Pa’s Classroom for the Future) bootcamp. It was a great week, but a long one and I swore I wasn’t going to even turn my computer on. (“So, Jim, how’d that work out for you?) <sigh>


I wanted to talk about a conversation I had Thursday night with Sharon Gould, CFF coach from Shippensburg Area School district. We began by talking about “the good old days” (teaching DOS, Commodore 64’s, Hypercard, and more) And we then got to talking about how different people had different viewpoints about that new (Hypercard, at that point) software. Sharon’s remark made me laugh – cuz it was true. “All you needed to do to get an A was to make something move.” LOL! But true. They had no idea what it took to move things, nor had they enough experience, yet, to know to look past the movements to the content.It took too long to make that switch. 


She also mentioned that she had grown up in a tech family and was one of the very few kids in class who had a computer at home. But, for school she wasn’t permitted to use it. One of her teachers even went so far as to give the reason as, “You can’t use a computer because it’ll write it for you. You may type it or handwrite it.” (I’ll bet a lot of have similar stories, eh?)


Then we talked about her role as a cff coach. She said that she never told a teacher that they had to use a computer. Some teachers are just very good teachers, with very engaging, collaborative lessons. So good, in fact, that kids don’t even WANT to use the computers in that class because they miss the discussions. Do you know someone like that? She even suggested that a good undergrad class for education majors might be one in Improv Theatre, because “some folks just don’t have the personality for being an engaging teacher.” Hmmm.. Improv theatre. Interesting idea.


Finally, we talked about the misuse of technology. One person wanted to use discussion threads. No problem, right? But the teacher would have them use the discussion forums in class. The kids didn’t like that at all. It just wasn’t right. You don’t use discussion forums in class, you use them at night.


It was a good talk. I wish I could read the rest of my notes. ;-)


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

[TIPS] Wikispaces "Favorites"

I just made a series of wikis for an event. During the event I was swamped with requests from attendees to join the wiki. I couldn’t figure out why they wanted to join since they could see everything there without joining.

I asked a couple of them and it turns out that they wanted to join just so that the wiki name would appear in their list of wikis when they viewed their account. (Click your name when you log in to see that list) I wrote to the good folks at wikispaces to suggest that they add a “Favorites” feature and they wrote back to say that there is already such a feature. Did you know that?

When you click your name you’re taken to your account and the Dashboard Tab. At the bottom of that page is a field where you can type in the url of a wiki and it’ll be added to your favorites.

We’ll I’ll be....

So, if you’re requesting to jion one of my wikis and there’s no real reason to do so, don’t be offended if I reject you. I’m going to assume that you just want to add it to your favorites.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bootcamp Post - Coveritlive

Check it out!

Please let's just have one person per table try to leave comments. We don't want to bring down the internet!

Friday, October 10, 2008

[TIPS] fixing a gizmoz gadget

In the past couple of months I've had about four people ask me for help to get their gizmoz ( gadget to work when embedded. It so happens that there is a bit of code in there that is rejected (at least by wikispaces) and it won't embed.

The solution: remove the: " wmode='transparent' " piece of code before you save it. Works just fine. See a sample here:


Friday, October 03, 2008

[TIPS] Now a VERY serious one

Extreme Drug Resistant TB

Maybe a topic for the Xprize?

This is VERY disturbing. For many it will fall into their “circle of concern” and outside their “circle of influence” and will then be dismissed. For others this will be a cal to action. Maybe one of your students?

Or is this too brutal to share with students?

[TIPS] Internet Overdose

OK – another one that’s just for fun. This one was shared on a listserv that I read (about 575 times per day)

Very funny. Er... Is it just cuz I’m a geek? Did YOU laugh? Come on. Say you did!

[TIPS] The iTunes 8 visualizer - GREAT eye candy

In this blog post  I learned about a cool visualizer for iTunes that one could download. But, when I followed the link in the article it turns out that the plugin in question is ALREADY IN iTunes 8. When I saw some of the screenshots I knew I had to check it out.

Launch iTunes then press cmd-T to start the visualizer. Press cmd-F to put it in full screen mode. Then sit back and enjoy some VERY cool visuals.

The article tells of some hidden secrets to adjust the displays a bit. Like, M will cycle you through the different variations. A and S will wither Add or Subtract the little.. Thingies (I forget what he calls them) Anyway, read the article find more controls.

Yes, I KNOW this won’t do a THING to raise a single test score. It’s just cool, hypnotic visuals.

Where was this in the 60’s? ;-)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

[TIPS] Android - open platform phone

It’s REALLY a shame that, for all the cool stuff that Apple makes, they still don’t quite “get it.” Their stuff is completely proprietary. The problem with that is that you really can’t attract the geeks among us to come out and build a really cool app. But, as linux has shown us, if you open it up to the world’s creative powers you can come up with TRULY superior and outrageously powerful applications. Moodle, Drupal, Joomla, Firefox –all open source applications. Yes, developers CAN write programs for the Mac, but the OS is protected. It’s not really open.

Take a look at the video above. It shows a couple neat features on this new phone, and it talks about the open platform upon which those applications were built. Now the world really CAN focus on a tool and start making things for it.

Are we watching the end of the iphone? Well, again, not if it’s only available for t-mobile users. When these folks make it so that you can use ANY carrier with the phone then. I don’t see anything stopping it. Do you?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

[TIPS] Florida virtual school mandate - the bellwether?

Again, this article comes from the ASCD brief.
Starting next school year, the first generation of Florida students can earn a diploma from their public schools entirely online, without ever setting foot in a classroom from kindergarten through 12th grade.

A new state law requires districts to create their own full-time virtual schools, collaborate with other districts or contract with providers approved by the state.

NOW what? Still think it’s business as usual?

[TIPS] Livescribe pen - electronic pen

Remember this post from 2005:

It’s about an electronic pen that stores the things you write, right inside the pen. Hard to believe that was back in 2005.

Now comes this version:

Play the video on the front page. Pretty amazing technology, eh?

Now think about this. We’ve got phones that can browse the web, store podcasts (REAL podcasts, not just mp3’s), store images and documents, as well as SO many other things. (iphone) Now we’ve got pens that store what we hear and connect it to your notes. We’ve got free web app’s that allow us to connect to people around the world and build things together. (wikis) We’ve got other web apps that allow us to collaborate on the same document at the same time and embed the results. (Zoho, Google Docs, etc) We’ve got RSS feeds that allow us to have information brought right to our desktops. (netvibes, pageflakes, google reader) We’ve got free presentation websites that allow us to post our projects and collect audio feedback. (vimeo) SO VERY MUCH MORE! This could be an exciting time to be a student.

Forget it. Put that away and get back to your seats. Get out your book and turn to page...

Monday, September 29, 2008

[TIPS] Daniel Pink talks to students

Yes, you CAN block ustream,tv and skype in your school. But if you do you prevent things like this from happening:

Congratulations to Chris Smith and mardy McGraw for puling this off for their students.

Here, Daniel Pink visits a classroom in PA via skype and the conversation is ustreamed out for others. Hurry up, now, see if you can find two people in your district who will tell you that this is bad education. Go ahead. I’ll wait.


I didn’t think you’d find anyone. So, if it’s blocked in your school, find out WHY.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve said this before, but, “We don’t have time to waste.” We can’t lose one more day. We MUST make some radical changes in the experiences that we offer our students.  This is SUCH serious business that if you’re in a district that won’t allow things like this, then you’ve GOT to press the issue. I can’t think of a single issue (save for this disastrous economy) that is more important – making sure our students are prepared for this ENORMOUS challenge that we in this country face. To stand here in the face of all those challenges and to continue to say, “We don’t DO skype” is, in my opinion, a crime.

Good luck! Fight the good fight!

[TIPS] Digital Natives? Really?

When some folks argue as to why we need to be using technology in the schools they will say that “The kids are already doing this stuff”, or “The kids today are digital natives and they think differently” and even, “Their brains are different.” And, in the area of teacher preparation we used to say, “When the next batch of new teachers hits the schools THEN we’ll see the change we’re looking for.” But that hasn’t happened, has it?

I admit that I, too, used to say that. But then, about three years ago I began to question that assumption. I wasn’t seeing it. Nor was I hearing it when talking with teachers. In fact, I wanted to put together a survey (And Scott McLeod was going to host it) that would try to find out how ‘native’ the ‘natives’ actually were. Alas, it just never happened. And a part of me was a little reluctant to actually find out the truth. If it turned out that the kids truly were NOT al that tech savvy as we were assuming, THEN what would our rallying cry be? And, how much credibility would we have lost when forced to shift gears with our assumptions?

Yes, we can point to some kids who are phenomenal programmers, or who are creating some very clever mashups, or even some that ARE using the tools for personal learning. But, I can also point to some who can do NONE of those things. And I can point to a lot of others who can type and save and print but who cannot tell you what a blog is (“Oh! My Space is a blog? Well then I have one.”) or what a wiki is, unless they can point to wikipedia.

Regardless, check out these three articles:

I’d LOVE to hear what you think.

Friday, September 26, 2008

[TIPS] webspiration

Did y'all see this:

The popular concept mapping program, Inspiration, has gone online in Webspitation. I just opened it for the first time this AM and haven't had a chance to test it with others, but this web version allows for kids to collaborate on the same document! Yes, others have been doing that, but this is especially nice since so many kids have used Inspiration in school already. Should be an easy move to this version.

I don't know how many kids can collaborate on a document at one time, or any of the other particulars. But, this is one o check out, for sure, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

[TIPS] Games on Google Earth?

Have you seen that post? Games (can we say that word here?) on Google Earth. Ten of them. From a football game (doesn’t THAT pique your interest?) to Battleship to Where in the World? (Anyone here remember Carmen SanDiego?)

Very cool stuff. But, I forgot. You’re already subscribing to that blog, aren’t you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

[TIPS] Do YOUR students write like this?

Read that post. You’ll probably find yourself thinking a few different thoughts. Like, “How interesting that she would write about Oedipus.” And, “What an interesting comparison she’s making to her life and that of Oedipus.” And, “Wow. Very nice.”

Now ask yourself if YOUR students would EVER write something like that. Maybe they COULD, but WOULD they? DO they? Maybe they do, but in a smaller scale. Maybe they do, but their analogies aren’t quite as good. Maybe they do, but YOU never see it.

Why do you suppose that is? I think the answer might lie in this statement:
“I built my blog on the idea of exploration: expressing myself without limits and without a clear idea of what exactly I was expressing.”

“Expressing myself without limits”, eh? What? Not for a grade? Without fear of little, “Gotcha’s?” Without someone telling you to write so many words about a topic you couldn’t care less about?

This is NOT a slam on teaching methods. NOT AT ALL! I’m merely pointing out there the blog is a medium that allows a student to publish and be read by someone other than a teacher who is looking to give a grade. This girl is always writing, reading, and reflecting on her writing in order to improve herself. The medium is its own motivator. She’s MOTIVATED to write this post in which she reveals some personal vulnerabilities. Yes, she’s not your typical student, I’ll give you that. But, don’t YOU have a non-typical student who loves to write? What are you offering that student to help her/him develop that talent? Are you Ok with just letting him/her post to MySpace? Or, do you see that perhaps if this student had a blog for REAL, and some guidance (so as not to write about things that would give away identity, for example) that this talent could develop into something? And, even if it didn’t, when that student applies to a college and points the Admissions Office to the blog as evidence of her abilities, don’t you agree that it would make a MUCH greater impression?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

[TIPS] Different graduation requirements

A group of high school students today proposed dramatic changes to the state’s tough new graduation requirements that would create separate routes to a high school diploma based on whether a student planned to attend college, enter the work force or pursue a career in the fine arts. Some routes would require less rigorous coursework for students.

Sorry. No can do. NCLB, y’ know.

BTW - this was in another ASCD Brief today. You need to subscribe to that!

[TIPS] Track satellites and space debris in real time- Google Earth

If you’re a science teacher, or if you KNOW a science teacher, then send them to that post. It will direct you to download this file:

You MUST see this. Give it time to load. It loads a database that will plot the position of every known bit of space debris and satellites, both active and inactive. You won’t believe how crowded our skies are.

Then, click on an icon of a satellite and it will bring up the information about it – including whether or not it’s active. It could be just a dead hunk of metal floating around up there.

Did you read about how the space station had to side-step some space junk? Take a look at this AMAZING overlay on Google Earth and you’ll know WHY.


[TIPS] Blogging about a class - VERY interesting

Just read this post from Tim Stahmer in his Assorted Stuff blog:

A student in a college class was blogging about the class. The professor took exception to it.

But here’s an interesting point, I think. Isn’t the point of blogging to create and participate in the conversation about the blog post? Let’s assume that the student is blogging about the topic of the class and NOT about how lame the professor is. If that happened with one of MY students I’d be THRILLED! I’d encourage others to read the blog and comment. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

But then, what if the student WAS prof-bashing? Should there be a rule that says you can blog, but only positive blogs? Or, is that an infringement on 1st amendment rights?

Interesting article. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

[TIPS] Brave New World-Wide-Web video

This has been around a while but I just now took the time to view it.

Watch it the whole way through.

(Not sure how legal the music is in it, but the message is very good)

[TIPS] Constitution Day activity

How’s this for a clever activity for Constitution day?

First, the students made this video:

Then they made this blog post: and invited other students to comment.

Why not show the video to your class and have them contribute, too? In this election year our constitution is even more significant than ever, wouldn’t you say?

Monday, September 15, 2008

[TIPS] A short video to see - How to ensure mastery of content?

Here is a short video that Scott McLeod created that doesn’t preach, it ASKS a question. Based on the new Bloom’ taxonomy, it asks us to consider some questions about how we structure our curriculum in order to ensure that our students are leaning.

I don’t want to give it away. Watch it. It’s one to show to your faculty.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

[TIPS] Another thought-provoking movie to watch

Another gem from Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant blog. This time he points us to a pretty cool movie that you can either stream or download. It’s from the Mesquite (TX) Independent School District Administrative Officer for Technology.

Rather than put the links to the movie in here I want you to go to Scott’s blog to get the links. While you’re there read some of his other posts. Then subscribe to it before you leave it. His is one of the blogs that I look forward to reading. Good stuff. Like this video, for example.

[TIPS] Another video from under the sea - from TED

Remember this post? Or this one:

That first talk was given in 2007 and posted in 2008.

But here is one that was given in 1998 and posted in 2008. Same guy. David Gallo. This time he’s showing some truly beautiful images taken from miles under the ocean.

If you liked the other two video you’ll also love this one. Send this to your favorite Earth Science teacher.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

[TIPS] x-prize foundation

This is such a great concept, and certainly not new. But this latest contest is for a grand prize of $25,000. All you have to do is make a two minute video and post it to youtube. Then, of course, be selected as the winner from all the entries. :-)

So what's the contest about? It's called, "What's Your Crazy Green Idea?" From the site:

The X PRIZE Foundation and Prize Capital, LLC are offering $25,000 for the best video proposing a new Energy and Environment X PRIZE. Contestants need to submit a 2-minute video via Entrants will be narrowed down to 3 finalists by the X PRIZE Foundation. Once the 3 finalists are identified, users will vote to determine the winner. The winner will be announced on in December 2008.

The winning video must answer the following three questions:
1. What is the specific prize idea?
2. What is the Grand Challenge or world-wide problem that you are trying to solve?
3. How will this prize benefit humanity?

Got some social minded gifted kids? Why not suggest this to them and let them run with it. I have a great idea - if I only had time to go out and take the video. And mix it. But it might be a great team project - even if they don't win.

I was reading an email from the LongNow group about this xprize. Now they've got what they call the Mega-xprize that gives awards in the amount of $100 Million up to $1 BILLION. How can that be, you ask? They explained it this way. The AIDS epidemic costs around $80 billion a year to combat, $800 billion per decade. Giving someone (group/company) $1 billion for finding the cure would be a great investment, wouldn't it? What about offering $1 Billion to find the best alternative fuel or the best solar charged battery, etc. A great investment, yes?

So, show this prize to your students. Maybe have your own district or county wide event. Yes? No?