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.