Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu in Google Earth

OK, guess where I found this article about tracking the Swine Flu outbreaks on Google Earth. Right! Once again, the GearthBlog. This is yet another wonderful post that points us to a kml file (Google Earth format file) that will plot all cases of the Swine Flu on the map - and even post live updates! It shows both confirmed and suspected cases, too.

So, if your current events class is talking about this (and how can it NOT be, as the Swine Flu is also being blamed for fluctuating oil prices) then this is a must-read article.

Looking for data? Try (and link to) this

A recent post in the Official Google Blog really caught my eye. Now it's possible to not only find public data and view it in a chart, but now you can interact with it, adding other data for comparison, for example. Even better, you can link to your chart!

Take a look at the video at the end of that blog post and then try it yourself. Here is one that I made that compares the unemployment rate in PA with that in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) and Philadelphia.

Another great way for kids to create non-powerpoint presentations.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Impressions from One to One

In no particular order, some thoughts about this year's One to One conference held in Penn State over the past three days.

  • VERY frustrating Internet connectivity. ARRGGHHH!!!
  • The kids from the CLC Charter School did a GREAT job with their projects AND their presentations. One team created a video that told the story of "Flowers for Algernon" but from the perspective of the character of Miss Kinney. Excellent. Another team did a project that told the story of Nuclear power that rivaled the kinds of movies you might see at Three Mile Island. It was just incredible. And really, it was made in one day. OUTSTANDING! The last was a funny movie about Pirates. A fun and funny video and a nice presentation. All the students represented themselves and their school VERY well. I am SO glad I got to see them. Take a look at some of their archived projects on their website. (Y' know, I almost expected to hear one of these kids talk about, "the beauty of knowledge." They were so good!
  • The presentations by David Warlick, Chris Champion - er.. check that, Chris Lehman!! (Thanks, Kristen, for pointing that out), and Cole Camplese were all excellent. I enjoyed every second of each one.
  • I really enjoyed talking to the David Jurkiewicz, Rob Nelson, and Bill McRae, the teachers behind that Springfield High School's Inauguration project. They did a nice job presenting, too. One student comment that stuck with me was the one that a girl said when the project was over. She said, "I don't want this to end. I'm going to miss this project." When you see what they did and how they worked so hard to troubleshoot issues and to make the event a truly student-produced event you can understand why she would not want it to end - if it meant going back to classes as usual.
  • Not sure how I feel about watching a Prezi presention.
  • I was impressed and touched to watch a teacher give moral support to a shy student presenter. Just through proximity.
  • I envied the relationships that some teachers have with their students. It was obvious that there is a caring, nurturing, and supportive relationship there. Once again I longed for just one more year back in the classroom.
  • I was encouraged to hear some of the changes that Penn State faculty is making in their teacher education undergrad program. It sounded like those teachers will be MUCH better prepared to enter the kinds of classrooms they're going to find when entering PA's CFF classrooms.
  • I wish the VERY best to a friend who just discovered that his cancer has returned. Yet, he was here and talking about wanting another year to work with his teachers. Good luck, Larry. I hope you can have a DOZEN more years with your teachers, if you want to.
  • While we as a state have a long way to go before we're able to say that we're all providing World Class education for our students, we certainly have made great progress to that end.
  • Overheard: "I can't tell you how nice it is to be in the company of people who would use the word, 'Indeed!' in casual conversation." (That certainly tells a story, doesn't it?)
  • Did I mention that the Internet Connectivity STUNK?
  • Even when sitting with "The Converted" there are still many who don't know the whole story.
  • I get embarrassed when sitting with folks who feel compelled to talk - in a full voice - to a neighbor DURING A KEYNOTE PRESENTATION. SHUT UP! IT IS RUDE!
  • Why don't schools do more to 'celebrate' the many cultures within their district? What a missed opportunity to promote cultural and global understanding.
  • I'm VERY proud of the efforts and the work of the teachers who attended this conference. They were here to learn so that they can do a better job for their students.
  • It was GREAT to say hello st some of the folks I follow on twitter!
  • Backchannel conversations CAN be VERY focused and beneficial - especially if folks are directed to express their thoughts in the backchannel. It keeps them from perhaps talking about last night's hockey game.
Anyone else who was here care to share your thoughts?

Monday, April 27, 2009

PollDaddy Polls for Twitter

Thanks to @mackrellr for pointing me to this: Polldaddy polls for twitter.

There are others, for sure, but what I like about this one is the ability to leave comments on the poll to explain your vote.

Check out this sample:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"The Beauty of Knowledge"

In the latest daily email from the Diigo in Education group was this bookmarked site: Be Very Afraid."Prof. Stephen Heppell and his team once again brings together some of the best examples of Digital Creativity from schools, colleges and Higher Education in the South East." Note that along the top of the page are links to the various year's events. BVA1 thru BVA5. (BVA=Be Very Afraid) Spend some time watching the videos from the various years. Yo'l be glad you did.

This particular piece was done in 2005, but don't let that stop you from watching it. In particular, I was impressed by the two girls in the Matching Green School video. At one point these two girls talk about the work that they've been doing - solving a problem of a computer having crashed. The computer crashed and now has the knowledge of a 6 yr old. But, by solving problems and correctly answering questions, they are able to give the computer back, "...the beauty of knowledge."

"The beauty of knowledge."

Wow. Isn't that just.. beautiful?

YouTube Symphony Orchestra performance

I hadn't seen this part before. Here are three children playing a piano piece, Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vase from Two Pieces for Piano. It's the first piece when this starts.

Having spent the first part of my life as a (bad) music teacher, but still holding onto the soft spot in my heart for young musicians, this caught my breath when the camera moved the the image of these three young children seated at the piano.

If you've got some time, watch the entire piece. Oh, and don't forget to watch the first half of their performance here, too.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Stops Population Growth? - Hans Rosling

I'm sure that you know of the WONDERFUL website: (correction made to original post). You might have seen one of his presentations on Ted. I was browsing the site just now and was exploring some of the other , perhaps less well known features of the site. For example, under the Gapminder World link, click on the link for "Gaps Between" and watch data about the gaps between states in the US, or in China. Or, on the front page, click the links to watch some of the videos like the one I linked to at the top of this post.

First, watch the video (above) and then ask yourself if that data told the story. I think you'll agree that it did. Then ask yourself if giving a presentation like this is better than diving a PowerPoint presentation. I think you'll agree, again, that it is.

Now, if you're s social studies teacher who talks about global issues or how tries, at least, to put the events of the US into a global perspective, why not spend some time in Gapminder exploring the data? Why not find those data elements that, when plotted together, tell a story much more effectively than ANY PowerPoint could do?

Send this post along to your favorite Social Studies teacher after you watch the video. In a World Class education system, shouldn't the students be making presentations like this?

Falcon Cam active in Harrisburg again

Every year I try to remind folks about the camera atop the Rachel Carson building in Harrisburg, PA that is trained on the nest of a peregrine falcon. You can either watch the still images as they are updated every two minutees or you can watch the live camera.

Right now mama is sitting on the nest so there's not a whole lot of action. But, soon the egss will begin to hatch and the fun starts. Last year I watched as one or the other of the adults brought back a pigeon it had caught. It was fascinating watching it feed the four eyasess.

You can find lesson plans for teachers, and even register a class to receive updates and other information about the birds.

Check it out. Register your class so that you know when the eggs begin to hatch. Great fun!

Ocean Trash Vortex

Sorry this is too late for Earth Day, but not too late to make a lesson out of it. I hope you already knew about this and already built it into your lessons for Earth Day.

Enormous Ocean Vortex of Trash

Imagine garbage covering the entire state of Texas. Now imagine it floating in the ocean. Now imagine that it's not only floating, but it's swirling in the ocean and circumnavigating the globe.

"Researchers have discovered a Texas-sized area of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean. Composed primarily of plastic garbage from landlubbers, the area has become both a major threat to marine life and a frightening example of how polluted our oceans are."

There's a great animation of how this happens here on the GreenPeace site. Scroll down and click the blue map. Once you're viewing the map, click the tab in the bottom left corner to see an animation of how long it takes the trash to move around in the ocean currents.

Here's a quote from the GreenPeace site:
"Many seabirds and their chicks have been found dead, their stomachs filled with medium sized plastic items such as bottle tops, lighters and balloons. A turtle found dead in Hawaii had over a thousand pieces of plastic in its stomach and intestines. It has been estimated that over a million sea-birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics or entanglement. "

Remember, this is a problem that we're creating NOW and leaving the cleanup solution to our children. What a GREAT lesson this could be for your students, eh?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

YouTube Symphony Orchestra performance

This gives me goosebumps!

How cool is this?

2020 Forecast - a tool to help shape the future

Many thanks again to John Branson for sharing this one with me via email. Thank you, John. You'll see that John referred to this article back in that comment.

There are many changes taking place, and many trends taking shape, as well as may new technologies that allow us to do new things, involve more people, visualize data, take control of your own learning, and organize people like never before. This report identifies these factors and shows how they interact to create real change.

From the report: "Over the next decade, the most vibrant innovations in education will take place outside traditional institutions. This 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning presents a critical dilemma facing these institutions: how to reconcile bottom-up developments in education with the traditional top-down hierarchy that is currently in place. Such peripheral innovation will redefine how learning is organized, who comprises the broad “school community,” and what the actual experiences of learners will be like in the future. The validity and role of formal institutions of education will be challenged by key forces of change and will be reconsidered by an expanding group of stakeholders. Together, the pressures of change and new stakeholder demands will create a new future for learning."

And, "This 2020 Forecast is a tool for thinking about, preparing for, and shaping the future. It outlines key forces of change that will shape the landscape of learning over the next decade. The forecast does not predict what will happen, but rather serves as a guide to the as-yet-unwritten future. It is designed to help you see connections among things that once seemed unrelated and to help you consider the changes and challenges that you are facing today within the context of wider patterns of change."

My suggestion is to start here to create a login so you can download your own copy of this report. Share it with your Administrators. Talk about it in your next faculty meeting and in the lunchroom. Have a copy of the k12 Horizon report, too. This is good stuff.

Y' know, I just read (on one of the many sites I just skimmed) a rhetorical question that said something like, "Do you have to be a Principal to lead a school?" I would have to argue that no, you don't. You just have to be a leader. Be the change that you want to see in others, as Ghandi would say. Be a lifelong learner. Share your learning. Encourage others to think about and share their learning, as well. Lead these kinds of discussions that focus on the role of education in this rapidly changing world. When you're in meetings and the question comes up, "Does anyone have anything else to share?" you say yes, and you share what you've been reading and learning. Sned articles like this to your fellow teachers along with a question about the article that causes them to read the article closely. You will become known as the person who is a forward thinker, and one who is focused on the profession of being a teacher, and you will, in fact, lead your school by example.

You CAN do it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Electric cars - a REAL option?

I think that every Economics teacher should show this to each one of their classes. Here's a young man, Shai Agassi, who says that electric cars will become a reality - and a MAJOR player - by 2015. They will cost the owner just 2 cents per mile. His company, Better Place. Check it out. Google it!

There is SO much to talk about with this video that I'm SURE that teachers will be stopping the video from time to time to ask questions and allow the students to chew on the ideas some. (Forum opportunities, perhaps?)

  • Do they think it's REALLY possible to make 100 million electric cars by 2020?
  • What do they think will be the ramifications of a world no longer dependent upon oil? (If you've ever read, "The Pentagon's New Map" by Thomas Barnett then you will have read one philosophy that says that we should NOT remove our dependence of oil, as that would then shut down the economies of those countries. THEN what would they do? Some interesting ideas.)
  • What other side businesses would arise from all electric cars?
  • Why do they think that only one automobile manufacturer met with Shai Agassi?
  • Where will the electricity come from? Coal? Nuclear? We say electric cars as if electricity is free and has a zero carbon footprint.
This idea, I think, is the first ripple of a GIANT tidal wave that will change our world as we know it. By the time our students are ready to retire they will talk about gas-guzzling cars like my parents talked about the old Model T's, and their kids will laugh just like we laughed. (ANd I can't wait until there are electric motorcycles so we don't have to hear then from 3 miles away!)

WATCH THIS NOW! Send it to your favorite economics teacher. There is SO much here!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Setting Firefox to use Google Reader

I've been sitting here watching some tutorials for using Netvibes, Pageflakes, and Google Reader - RSS aggregators. In every one I've seen so far (three to five for each site) the tutorial describes how to copy and paste URLs into the aggregator in order to subscribe. Yes, that works. But there are MUCH easier ways.

In the one I'm watching now (which prompted this post) the author, a Firefox user, was telling folks to right click on the orange RSS icons in order to obtain the correct url to paste into the aggregator. But, if you know what to look for you can shorten this process by several steps.

First, set up Firefox to know that you wish to use Google Reader. If you use Netvibes or Pageflakes you should just download the Subscribe tool for your toolbar. One click on that tool copies the url and takes you to your Netvibes or Pageflakes site with the new feed added and awaiting your approval to add it. But, since I use Google Reader because it integrates into the other google tools so nicely, I'm going to show you how to set up Firefox to automatically take you to Google.

In the picture below you'll see the Preferences (or Options) for Firefox. Notice I'm in the Applications tab. I scrolled down until I found the "Web Feed" item in the list. I then clicked the dropdown menu on the right and chose Google. From now on, when I click on an RSS/XML icon the browser will take me to a Google page where I am given the choice to add it to my iGoogle page or to my Reader. How much more simple could it be?

Oh - one more thing. Rather than hunt all over a page looking for a feed that may or may not be there, look in the Location field (See image below) If you see the RSS icon there, click it to subscribe to that page.

OK.. ONE more thing. If you're NOT using Firefox, go here to get it. You'll LOVE the browsing experience.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

AMAZINGLY Tiny world

Today I had the pleasure of visiting a school in Lancaster County, PA, the Solanco High School. I saw many interesting things there, but this story made me shake my head in wonder.

The father of one of the students at the high school is a doctor and he shares his talents by traveling to the far reaches of the planet to help the needy. Recently he traveled to Kenya where he worked in a hut in a small village giving vaccines and providing general care to the natives in the area.

Imagine his surprise when a native woman came into the clinic with her child, and she was wearing a Solanco t-shirt! She, of course, had NO idea where she got it nor that there was any kind of connection with it. I don't think she could speak English, either, although I'm not certain of that. The story of how that t-shirt got to Kenya must be a fascinating story in its own right. But, what are the odds of that happening? You travel around the world into a VERY remote spot, and one of the natives is wearing a t-shirt from your high school.

Still think the world isn't shrinking?

Here's a picture that the good Doctor was willing to share.

Monday, April 06, 2009

"What's the answer?"

I was talking with a CFF coach today and she told me that one of her middle school classes is participating in the Netgen Project with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay and several other schools from around the country. I was SO glad to have the opportunity to talk, however briefly, with her today.

But she said something that really hit home. She said that when the time came for her students to make their videos the first thing they asked was, "Where's the answer?"

Doesn't that speak volumes about how students are conditioned? They want a "Go fetch" task!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Friday, April 03, 2009

Want perspective? Look at this

Thanks to @almarow who put this on twitter today.

This is very hard to watch and explore - from an emotional standpoint. Once you get past the emotion, think about what lesson you can make with this. Remember and the dynamic maps that show some data visually. That will help students further put this and their lives into perspective.

This is very sobering stuff.

(later: make sure you take note that the photos in the featured stories are panoramas. Trace your mouse left or right to see a 360 degree view)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Where are student wiki projects?

Isn't it very telling that when a large group of tech teachers had the opportunity to showcase some student-created wiki projects, NOT ONE could do so. They could show TEACHER-made wikis, but not ONE student-made wiki.

Very telling, is it not?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google Earth as Political Tool?

As always, one excellent blog pointed me to another ( which put me at this post. I confess I've not heard of this Sea before, have you? The Aral Sea? I'm feeling pretty illiterate at this point for NOT knowing about it, especially given what you'll see if you watch the movie on that post or try it yourself in Google Earth V 5.0 and the Historical Data feature. (I'll embed his video in here to entice you to check this out.)

More than the video, I liked what the blogger, Noel Jenkins, says about how governments are not able to lie and hide from the truth as much any more, when the proof is so readily available. This is a good page on the USGS site that explains what is happening and why. And here is the wikipedia page about it. The images are horrifying.

But I love this line from Noel, "Google Earth isn’t just an essential resource for teaching the Aral Sea issue, it’s a powerful political tool and students should be aware of this. Governments are becoming increasingly accountable in the face of unequivocal evidence from the Google database which has revealed slum clearance in Zimbabwe and genocide in Darfur."

Send this to your favorite science teacher who teaches about earth science and conservation, etc. There's a great lesson in here that could be co-taught by your science teacher and the social studies teacher, don't you think?

Here's the video:

Shrinking Aral Sea from Noel Jenkins on Vimeo.

Can't use Skype? Read this

Thanks to Kurt Paccio for sharing this one with me via email.

This page is an article from the Director of Customer Services at Lightspeed, makers of one of the filters that schools use. In it he not only gives a strong thumbs up to Skype as being serious about security, but he also mentions some of the good users for it.

Now, I don't know if it's blocked by default or not but if wikispaces is then I have to figure this is, too. Regardless, show this article to your tech person and ask again that skype be opened up on the network.

new look on Tipline

I'm in the process of having a website developed for myself, and as part of it, my blogger blog has had a face lift to match the theme from the site. If you receive these tips via a reader, stop in sometime to see the new blue look.

My site isn't ready for prime time, yet, so we won't go there. :-)

WordAhead - check out the widget!

Here's a site that, I think, is best suited for middle school students, but you're probably a better judge. WordAhead. Each word in the database has an animated video associated with it that pronounces the word, gives its definition, and uses it in a sentence. But, there's more.

There's a study room (that wouldn't come up on my laptop this AM) and a place where you can submit your own video that defines a word. Videos of under 15 mb, under 2 minutes in length, and in one of three common formats are accepted and reviewed. Maybe you've got a student who would LOVE this challenge.

The thing that hooked me was the widget. (below) I like that for on your teacher page somewhere.

What do you think?