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...