Saturday, February 28, 2009

Earth Science teachers - another TED video for you

Yes, I'm addicted to TED. (Is there a support group for that?) I just watched two more excellent TED videos this evening, the second being this one of Sylvia Earle talking about the shocking statistics of the dramatic decline of the health of our Oceans. Oh my...

This is an excellent lesson in the making. Send this to your favorite Earth Science teacher right away.

Post weekly (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Something new in Gmail

This isn't NEW news, by any means, but I was just admiring it so I thought I'd point it out in case you haven't yet seen it.

Have you ever attached a file and then sent the email before the file was truly attached? I have. Several times. It didn't tell you that it was working to attaching it, did it? NO! You thought it worked like desktop clients.

Well, it still doesn't work like a desktop client, but at least now when you attach a file you'll see a thermometer that shows the progress of the attachment. YES!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Test Side Effects - Africa doesn't exist

Here's the gist of a conversation from today.

Upon hearing of a wonderful middle school project on Africa, this coach sent it off to her middle school teachers, suggesting that it would be a lot of fun, etc etc. The response she got back, "We wrote Africa out of the curriculum three years ago."

They are devoting more time to Western Civilization topics. Nobody else has picked up the topic, either, although one person does refer to it in a geography class.

This HAS to be because Africa doesn't appear on any state tests. Why else would you stop talking about the world's second largest continent? It has both the largest and the smallest countries, deserts, rain forests.. and AIDS, and Darfur, and ... oh my. We've heard speakers at TED talking about how Africa is the world's hottest emerging market, too.

Oh, and they're now debating removing the Middle East next. I HAVE to believe that SOMEBODY at the high school will at least address that topic, tho. Don't you? But, who will do Africa?

Can you hear me screaming? "Wait, Jim. Investigate first. Maybe they DID just shuffle it around to another grade."

Yes. That's it. That's what's happening. I overreacted. Hopefully.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

  • TimeSpace is an interactive map that allows you to navigate articles, photos, video and commentary from around the globe. Discover news hot-spots where coverage is clustered. Use the timeline to illustrate peaks in coverage, and customize your news searches to a particular day or specific hour. (Many Washington Post stories appear at midnight; others are published throughout the day as news happens)

    tags: news, map

  • The Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra contains the best high school musicians from Venezuela's life-changing music program, El Sistema. Led here by Gustavo Dudamel, they play Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez' Danzón No. 2.

    tags:, music

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Watch this TED video. Right now.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a live broadcast of this session. When it was over I stood in front of my computer and applauded for these kids. This is simply astounding. Here is the background of it:

"The Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra contains the best high school musicians from Venezuela's life-changing music program, El Sistema. Led here by Gustavo Dudamel, they play Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez' Danzón No. 2."

Read more about it here. Then, pass this link along to every music teacher you know. This youth symphony is unlike anything you're likely to hear in your lifetime. Make sure you watch both pieces. See if you, too, don't leap to your feet when it's over.

The Inauguration Project continues

A few days ago I mentioned this project that was conducted by some students at Springfield High School here in PA. What an event it was, too. A major step into being creators and managers of content/news, and taking charge of their learning. Very cool.

Now comes this blog. SHSPresidential Watch blog. Here, students will be posting questions, thoughts, and observations to the blog and replying to comments on their posts. How will this develop for them? I'm anxious to see. When they get a chance to reply to a comment, I'm anxious to see if they do so thoughtfully, respectfully, and in a way that might even promote further discussion.

I like this. They have to be aware of the news in order to post meaningful and timely messages, and at the same time try to be neutral in their position. Nice. What do you think? Would YOUR class like to get involved? Start with the comments. What if your class came up with a Point/CounterPoint position and made two comments? Who knows what might develop from there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Just imagine this... an iphone for everyone

What would the U.S. be like if we had the same sort of phone plans that they have in some European countries where you buy a phone and THEN choose your carrier? In yesterday's workshop I asked the teachers who had an iPhone. Not one! Why? No ATT&T service out there.

Just imagine what life would be like if we all had the option of an iPhone. Wow!

Then, add to that dream the notion of a jailbroken version, and people writing apps and making it an absolutely KILLER device. Dare we dream. Set the world free to develop for it and you won't be able to keep them on the shelves. Yes, they're developing now, but they're restricted. Just imagine, tho', how VERY powerful that would be.

What's happening with the Android phone anyway?

Another TED video to watch

Here is another great TED video that I think is VERY well worth your time to watch. He gets a standing ovation from the audience at the end - no easy task, I'd think.

In particular, listen to his comments at the end when he talks about schools.

Very interesting, I think. In a world gone mad with rules and 'incentives' his thoughts paralleled mine, and apparently those of the audience, as well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gmail address book gets needed improvement

If you've ever tried to add someone to the address book of gmail then you know how frustrating that is - or, rather, WAS. They've made a HUGE improvement to it that I just now experienced.

I went to change an address but was told that I could do it because it already existed. ARGH! But this time it showed both entries AND a link that allowed me to merge them. WOOHOO!! With one click it showed me both addresses, each with a remove button next to it that allowed me to remove the one with the old address. Two clicks was all it took to get this issue resolved. Very nice.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Inaugural Project Summary

Thanks to Rob Nelson for taking the time to write this article. I had posted about it before, and had encouraged you to participate. I hope you did. Now, Rob talks about how the day went. I sure wish I could have been there. (Sorry this took so long to post, Rob. I hurried you just so you could wait. :-) )
"Four years ago, one of my 8th grade students participated in a career project, his career goal was to become a reporter. Just three weeks ago I found myself talking to the same student, it was five in the morning, he was in the school, I was in Washington and we were ready to broadcast live.

On January 20th, Springfield High School, in Pennsylvania hosted a project designed to engage as many students as possible in a discussion on Barack Obama’s historic inauguration. This project started off as an idea for a video documentary during the student’s yearly Close-Up trip to Washington DC that coincided with the Inauguration. Government teacher Bill McRae thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to get some primary source materials in a video format for this historic event. As the event got closer, Mr. McRae began to share his ideas with the Classrooms for the Future coach and Dave Jurkiewicz, our Video Production teacher. By the end of the brainstorming, a simple documentary had evolved into a documentary news project that would ultimately involve 10-15 teachers, 200-300 students, 3 distinct venues, and 20 to 30 short student produced videos that spanned the content areas. All of the resources were made available using web tools such as Blogger, TeacherTube, and Ustream that teachers can, provided they are not blocked by content filters, access free of charge and at their discretion.

This was a people project. It is true that we used abundant technological resources and we really would not have been able to take it as far as we did without the cameras, laptops, blogs, and Internet resources but in the end it was about the experience the students gained and the knowledge and practice that came with that experience. As the project progressed and, in one students words, “We found out how big it was”; we saw just how energetic, innovative, and filled with initiative our students truly were. They became real world problem solvers as they anticipated potential problems to avoid as well as developing solutions to overcome existing challenges.

“It’s amazing” was the quote from one news anchor after spending an hour and a half with the students on January 20th. Time after time reporters commented on how realistic the preparations were for the project. To quote Bill Mcrae,” We just got out of the kids way”. The authentic nature of the project allowed students to make connections that they would not ordinarily have made. Broadcast journalism students filmed other students conducting math lessons that focused on how experts figured out the crowds on the mall. Government students honed interview techniques as they prepared for trips to the National Constitution Center and Washington DC. Time after time students commented on how the project based approach enhanced their understanding and appreciation of the events. Just the other day, one of the students who went to Washington told me that “I miss it.” “Yeah, the trip was fun” I responded, assuming that she meant the trip itself. “No,” the student corrected,” I mean the whole project, I miss working, and getting ready, it was exciting.”

It’s not done yet…keep an eye out for shspresidentialwatch"

Here are the links: video
Don't you just LOVE what technology is doing in some schools? GREAT stuff!

Friday, February 13, 2009

More 3-d objects in Google Ocean

By now you'll have guessed where I found this. Yes, the gearthblog. This post talks about lots of new things that have been added to Google Ocean. Check out the fun image in the aricle, too.

What a great time to be an Earth Science teacher, eh?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PA Reps want to ban pagers and cell phones from schools

First, thanks to an anonymous source for sharing this with me today via twitter.

Dateline Feb 11, 2009. PA House Bill 363 is introduced and sent to committee. Read it here.

What it does want to do? Here:


Section 1317.1. Possession of [Telephone Pagers] Electronic


Devices Prohibited.--(a) The possession by students of


telephone paging devices, commonly referred to as beepers,


cellular telephones and portable electronic devices that record


or play audio or video material shall be prohibited on school


grounds, at school sponsored activities and on buses or other


vehicles provided by the school district.

If you are opposed to this idea, perhaps you might email your Rep ( and let them know. These folks are the ones who sponsored it: INTRODUCED BY Cruz, Youngblood, Mustio, Caltagirone, Kortz,Reichley, Readshaw, Sabatina, Siptroth, and Thomas

On twitter, @rkiker said, "Who carries pagers anymore, anyway?" Very true. And THAT speak volumes to the understanding of those who sponsored the bill?

OK, folks, go here and find your rep and let them know what you think.

Oh my. With ALL of the problems facing this state on SO many fronts, what a shame to waste even one minute discussing this.

Update (2-12-09, 10:45PM)
Lots of folks are up in arms over this one. This blog post (from Dan Callahan) pointed me to this petition that you can sign if you, too, are against this bill.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Still not sure about twitter

For those who may still be unsure of the value of twitter, and for those who dn't already follow Karl, check out this post:

This is a short story of how twitter came to the rescue for a student project. So, if you're still not sure if you want to get "into" twitter, this may tip the scale for you.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

PAEducators - a new ning for PA teachers

I just received an invitation to join a new ning that I'm excited about. It's Here's what it says about itself:

Welcome to the Pennsylvania Educators Online Network! This professional learning network has been created to assist PA Educators with finding important state information, and to offer an online area where teachers can connect, collaborate and share experiences and knowledge while teaching in PA.

Are YOU a PA teacher? Rush over there and join in. Yes, I know there's the Classroom2.0 ning that you may belong to, but this group is more specific to PA teachers.

See you there!

Merging Districts from 500+ down to 100

Like every other state, PA is struggling with the state budget. It's ugly, at best. One of the things being proposed by Governor Rendell is to consolidate our 501 districts down to 100. Read the article.

My questions is: What do you think of that idea? Pros and cons. I like to suggest that, when faced with making a decision which has such emotion tied to it, that we ask ourselves, "In this case, with our desired outcome being ____, what would a really smart person do?" That removes the emotion.

So, ask yourself ,"What would a really smart person do if the goal was to make our state's educational system be more efficient, more equitable, and more cost effective for the years to come?"

I'd LOVE to hear your answers.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Some kids are just born artists

I wanted to get permission before I made this post. Remember the story and link to the girl who did the performance art piece for Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday? Well, in the words of the infamous Paul Harvey, "Now it's time for the REST of the story."

This is a story that's fun to tell, as it always gets the "Ahhhh"'s from the group. I've even seen tears. What's your reaction?

First, if you didn't do it before, go back and watch that video on Michelle's blog. Now you'll know the girl I'm talking about.

Michelle told the story of how she talked to the girl's mother recently, and her mother told this story which I'll re-tell to the best of my recollection. (This was at Educon at 10:00pm - or later - so you'll have to grant me some wiggle room here. )

It seems that when this girl was just four years old her mother found her outside in the yard, staring up at the sky. "What are you doing", her mother asked. "I'm just looking at God's painting.", she replied.

As I say, some kids are just BORN artists, wouldn't you agree?

A nice 4th grade blog project

Michelle Krill's post pointed us to this blog where students will discuss the book, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", by Brian Selznick. This is such a neat idea for these kids, I think. Here is how the teacher, Erik Wittmer, introduces the project on the blog:

"Hello. Would you like to join us for our 2009 The Invention of Hugo Book Blog Project? This is the first year of this project but we have many great ideas planned. We are scheduled to do the book blog project between February 23 through April 3rd.

If you would like to join us - either an entire class, just yourself, a couple of students would love to read, etc. - just e-mail Erik Wittmer at ..."

This sounds like such fun. Do you know someone who is reading or had read that book? Maybe your son or daughter would like to join in. Send this post to your favorite 4th grade teacher. I'm sure the more the merrier. This will be fun to watch.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Inauguration Scrapbook

The next time Clay Shirky talks about his book, "Here Comes Everybody" he may very well mention this site as an example. Here's a clip from the About Us page:

"This site was built over a couple of days right after the 2009 presidential inauguration by a group of Obama-supporters/friends in various states. We were unable to make it to D.C for various reasons but still wished to engage in the moment. There are many (infact millions!) of other people that wished to make it to D.C., but were unable due to family, work, and other obligations. We therefore created this site for anyone to share, view, and vote on images capturing that special series of days. Whether you were in D.C. or not, you probably did something special. Yes, YOU! Because really, this was the people's election"

Very cool, eh? Folks just decided to create a site to allow anyone to share pictures from the Inaugural. This does something that no magazine could afford to do, and it's a perfect example of what Mr Shirky is talking about in his book.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Google Earth 5.0 is here!

I didn't even know that a new version was due out, but here it is. There are some outstanding new features, too. Check out the Historical imagery slider and watch as an area changes over time. Or the Ocean layer where you can watch video of some of Jacques Cousteau's dives in the National Geographic videos. And, it's now as easy as clicking a button to record your tours of Google Earth.

Did you catch that last part? You can record your time that you spend in Google Earth and save it (in a KML file) that you can share with friends. That video will even show the placemark pins that you open , or those you create. Imagine the kinds of projects your students can do now!

Run over (again) to the gearth blog to read more about these new features. I'd LOVE to see some of the tours that you create.

This kind of thing changes EVERYTHING about how we approach teaching earth science, doesn't it?