Saturday, May 30, 2009

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

LTMS 600 Course at Harrisburg Univ

I'm very lucky (have I said that before?) to have the opportunity to teach the LTMS 600 course at Harrisburg University again this summer. Here is the description:

"LTMS 600: 3 semester-hour credits. This intensive course is designed for classroom educators to explore, and practice with, Web 2.0 learning technologies and how the integration of these technologies into teaching and learning impact their teaching and classroom dynamics. Tools to be explored and used, for example, include RSS feeds and aggregators, blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, mashups, podcasts and more. Students will begin to design a classroom activity incorporating one or more Web 2.0 tools for implementation in their classroom. Within a peer learning model, students will design, implement and evaluate a classroom activity that incorporates one or more Web 2.0 tools. The results of this applied project and experiment will be reported out and presented. Lessons created will become a part of a technology-based collection of classroom activities which participants can continue to access after the course."

This year we're going to change the schedule a bit. Last year we met for 5 days in a row, and then on two evenings (synchronously), and then a final Saturday. This year we're going to meet for three days in June, three days in July, and then a day later in the fall. This will allow us time to digest and practice and explore - something we didn't get a chance to do much of last time. I think this will work out much better.

If you are interested in taking this 3 credit Graduate level course, complete the application here:

I hope to see lots of you there this summer. We've got two sections blocked off, just in case.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thoughts on the Wave

This, of course, is THE HOTTEST topic of the.. year? Decade? Longer? And why? Because it changes everything about how we communicate. It's chat, email, backchannel, slideshows, collaboration and more, ALL IN ONE APPLICATION. Holy cow!! And, did you see the spell checker? Spellee ...Spellie.. er, Spelly? And linkee. It's just incredible.

What FUN this will be. Now, I know that most of you don't have an hour and a half to sit and watch a youtube video, but you might be able to let this run while you're working on something else. Then flip back to it to see it in action.

Oh, and this article (Thanks, Joanne R) is a great description of the Wave. Check it out, too.

The fact that it's Open Source (Are you paying attention, Apple?) is WONDERFUL! The fact that it brings together so many amazing tools into one INCREDIBLE application is... beyond words. It changes everything about how we communicate. Just now getting used to email? Don't get too comfortable, the Wave will pass this by instantly - where available. If you're the kind who MUST have Inbox (0) then this will freak you out, for sure. Start now to get over it. :-)

So how long before it will be allowed in our schools, do you think? ;-)

Another thing that I keep thinking of is the power demands of this technology. Bandwidth, too. This is surely going to up the ante in a HUGE way. Students, start NOW to be thinking about alternative energy sources.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

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Friday, May 22, 2009

See Google results AND WolframAlpha results together!

Once again, MANY thanks to John Branson for sharing this tip with us via a comment to a previous post.

An experimental Firefox add-on now lets you see both your Google search results AND your WolframAlpha search results on the same page - side by side. Holy cow!! Presenters are going to LOVE it, for sure, but so will teachers AND students - if they can get the add-on installed.

Check it out! Don't you just LOVE the Firefox browser?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How Discussion Forums Change Our Classrooms

On May 6 I had the opportunity to attend Capital Day at the PA state Capitol Building in Harrisburg. Students and teachers from around the state came to show off the kinds of projects that they've been doing in class. I LOVE these days. I LOVE to stop by to ask a student to tell me about his/her project and to hear the excitement and enthusiasm in their voices when they show off what they've done.

This year was no exception, as I went from station to station hearing these kids talk with that pride and confidence. I would ask a question about their topic to see if I could throw them off, but I never did. One project was all about landfills, and I asked a number of questions about how they keep them from polluting the ground water, and how they tap off the methane, and what they do with it, and what the outlook was for the future if the current trends continue. They knew the answers to every one of the questions and it was clear that the young man who was talking to me was enjoying the fact that he was so well informed. I loved it!

And then I stopped by to talk with some students from Radnor High School who were showing their ning site that they use in their Social Studies/English class. First of all, I thought the combination of the two classes was interesting, and the kids seemed to really take to it. In this assignment, they identified key ideas and themes for each chapter of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Minstry, and, with their blogging buddies, had conversations about the content of the posts. Yes, they could have done this by having a conversation in class, but we all know that that approach doesn't get all the students involved. Nor does it often give a student enough time to complete a thought without an interuption. Nor do the students often comment about a statement directly, as they will often simply follow up one statement with another which has its own point but which doesnt show a reflection on the first.

But, take a look at this conversation that was taken from their discussions. Ask your self if your students get a chance to talk like this in class. Finally, ask someone how you, too, can get your students into something like this. And, if nings are blocked in your school, send them this post so that they can see why you're after this kind of tool for your students.

Congratulations to their teacher, Abby Daniels, and their CFF coach, Andrea Frezel, for their work to get this set up for their students.
Posted by David: Chapter 13 of A Fine Balance is concerned with serious themes of disappearance and avoidance. While man has certain duties in life, sometimes it is easier to run away from those responsibilities than it is to confront them. Dina tells both Maneck and Om early on in the chapter that: "Ingratitude is not uncommon in the world. One day, you too will forget me -- all of you. When you go your own way and settle down, you will not know me....In two months you'll sit for your final exam, pack your things, then disappear" (455). That's exactly what Om wants to do when the subject of marriage comes up. He wants to run away. Increasingly, Om becomes emboldened when his Uncle Ishvar talks about his obligation to arrange Om's wedding. He realizes, however, that the topic will not go away. Om is devastated to think he'll have to marry soon. He wants nothing more than to disappear.

This theme continues when Dina makes the worms in Om's stomach disappear. Om's body is cleansed not just physically, but spiritually. He is maturing into an adult. He is looking more and more like Maneck, and if anything is disappearing, it's Om's connection to the untouchable world of his deceased parents. As for Rajaram, he also wants to disappear, as he is on the run after murdering Beggarmaster's husband-and-wife team. Literally, Rajaram's mind has disappeared as well. He is so obsessed with hair collection that he literally clips the plaits off of living beings. Perhaps this is what happens as well to the untouchables in this time of the Emergency. Their possessions were stripped bare, and their huts and shacks were knocked down. Everything they owned disappeared, much like the hair of Rajaram's victims. He says, "I want to reject the material world, become a sanyasi, spend my life meditating in a cave" (468). Yes, Rajaram wants to disappear into the Himalaya mountains, but his escape is motivated not by a Hindu spiritalism as much as it is to run from the authorities, who would execute him on the spot for his terrible crimes. Om is beginning to face the reality of his social and cultural demands, while Rajaram is supposedly running away to become an ascetic in the "hope of redeeming" himself (475). The tailors know better. They realize that Rajaram will be back some day, with more tales and adventures. He's disappearing for the time being, and the reader doesn't believe for an instant that his life of "abnegation" will last long (475). That, too, will disappear, when the time comes.


Comment by Andrew on March 27, 2009 at 10:32am
I very much disagree with your statement that Om wants to disappear. On the contrary, with the relationship between Dina, Om, and Ishvar becoming less business-like and more family-like, it would be harder than ever for Om to have to leave his life with Dina behind. Om and Ishvar are no longer just tailors to Dina, they are family. They eat dinner together, they live together, and they talk like a family would, joking together, laughing together, worrying together, and crying together. I believe the true turning point of the relationship of Dina and Om, a point that occurred before this chapter, was when Dina offered Om a red-rosed cup, instead of his usual pink-rosed cup that she segregated from the rest, which expressed the fact that she no longer saw him as just her worker, as just a tailor that she needed to make a living, but as a true part of her family, a friend. Though it may have been true that Om wanted to return to his village in earlier chapters, that he wanted to leave the horrible city as soon as he could, such is no longer the case. Dina, Om, Ishvar, and Maneck are now a family, and leaving Dina’s house, which is now their home, would be just as difficult as it was to leave their village. This can be seen in the difficulty that Om and Ishvar experienced in leaving Dina’s house to return to their village to get Om married. This would truly be a happy ending in a world where a Hindu woman like Dina would more than likely never cease to treat Om and Ishvar with condescendence. In the world, caste is a huge part of the Hindu religion, an aspect of the religion very much engraved in Hinduism, and a Hindu woman learning about her workers’ pasts (which is what turned around Dina’s attitude toward Om and Ishvar) would most likely only increase her haughtiness over the “low-castes”. Though such a situation would be unlikely, I believe that it is possible, and that this story describes how such a happening would play out as well.
Comment by David on March 31, 2009 at 5:17pm
My blog comment on the word disappear reflects Om's reaction to marriage. This topic is brought up time and again in A Fine Balance, and each time his response is the same. Om says that he's not ready, or he tries to avoid the subject. Wishing that the topic of marriage would disappear is different than saying Om wants to leave the comfort and security of living with Uncle Ishvar on the verandah's of Dina's flat.
Comment by Troy on April 1, 2009 at 10:19am
I agree with the blog because it shows how there is a lot of disappearance. This is also seen in how the tensions of the household are disappearing more, as seen in Dina calling Ishvar "Ishvarbai." This blog post connects to the way that Om and Ishvavr disappear from their village early in the book. This shows how Om and Ishvar are making their life better again as they were before by disappearing. This time Om's poor habits are disappearing with his sickness disapearing.This connects to the real world because it shows the way that the third world nations have parasites and worms but the people their don't worry or immediately get rid of them.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

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

Linking to a specific spot in youtube video

In the last post I needed to link to a specific spot in a youtube video. I knew that I had seen it done before but I didn't recall where or how it was done. Of course, a quick search (no, not on wolframAlpha) lead me to several posts that explained how to do just that.

You simply locate the spot in the video where you'd like to begin, in this case it's at 1 minute and ten seconds into the clip, and turn it into this format: #t=01m10 and then append that the url. Like this:

Note: The original tips says to be sure to put 01m in for the minutes instead of just 1m. I did it without the leading zero and it worked just fine, but I could see where it might be needed for the 'seconds' indicator. I also didn't put the s at the end and it seemed to work just fine. I could NOT find how to specify the ending point, unless you're embedding the video. If you know how to do that (other than by using please let us know.

Wolfram|Alpha - a little popular right now?

This is great! This, of course, means that there is a LOT of interest in this search engine, and that's great news. It means that a LOT of people are recognizing the potential that this has for changing forever how we search and what we expect to receive back when we search. This could mean that in ten years, say, folks might look back on "those old Google searches" and smile wistfully at how silly we were "back then." Kids today will be telling their kids, "Back when *I* was in school we had to sort through lists of web pages that contained our search words to see if they were what we we were looking for. You kids today just ask the computer a question and it tells you the answer."

An, as soon as we get the voice inputs down, the notion of typing will disappear, too. We'll just talk to our computers. Remember Scotty saying, "Hello, computer..." to an old Mac Plus?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Future of Humanities - videos to watch

I'm not going to embed anything this time. I'm only going to point you to Dr Scott Mcleod's blogpost so you can watch these movies there. There are three, and I think they should be shared with every Humanities teacher/professor you know. GREAT food for thought. In light of what's going on online, what is the future of humanities?

Go on over there to his blog and watch those videos. Share them with all your Humanities teachers. Start a discussion about what they say. Do you agree with everything? Just some?

Great stuff!

WolframAlpha Almost ready

Remember this post?:

Well, the time is almost here for the grand unveiling. I'm really anxious to try it out I just finished watching the video of it in action - the REAL promo video. But, even more exciting is that tonight, May 15, 2009, at 8:00pm ET, you can watch a live webcast of the grand opening. But, while you wait, watch THIS video about what is going on behind the scenes. This is fascinating!

So, why is this being treated like such a big deal? Because this is the future of the web. No longer will search engines simply return to a list of sites that include your keyword, but it will instead tell you the answer, even if what you typed wasn't really a question. This is HUGE!! Watch the video. Now think about how education should change when we've got this kind of intelligence at our fingertips.

This is the background of the launch:

An idea for Calculus Made Easy

In that post by Darren Kuropatwa, he embeds a version of a book called, "Calculus Made Easy." I'm not going to embed it here, as you should really check out his blog in person. He also provides a link to where you can download a copy of the book if you'd prefer.

Here's what I'm thinking. End of the year. Kids have already taken the AP Calc test and are dreaming of college life. What if you were to provide each student with a copy of the ebook, then pair them up. Maybe even give each team a different chapter. Their task is to review that chapter and report back with whether or not they think that the book does indeed make it easier to understand, and why. With examples.

Of course, having completed the class, some concepts will make perfect sense and therefore seem like it is easier. But, remind them to try to think back to a time before they knew the material. Would this approach have helped? Would it have skipped something important? Give specific examples.

I think it would be very interesting to have the kids talking about Calculus that way. Wouldn't it be fun to hear a discussion that might say, "I don't think you should skim over this part about ______ because when they start to ______ later they will really need to know this part." I think this would make a really good exercise for a day or two.

Yes? No?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Search Engine - spezify

First of all, MANY thanks (once again) to John Branson for sharing this with me via an email. He also wondered if there was a way to share things directly via the blog without via a comment. Has anyone seen that done?

Anyway, check out this new search engine, spezify. Click to add a search word at the top and then see the results appear in a graphical layout below. Click the "tabs" at the top to filter the results. Click and drag the screen around to see more.

Now, I'm wondering,, as did the person who first shared that site with John, is this eye candy that, when you get right down to it, just isn't functional? Or, does it have a certain appeal to a different kind of learner that I just can't appreciate? I mean, remember taggalaxy? It's GREAT eye candy, but is it REALLY useful beyond that? Yes, you can see the images and related images, but is it really functional beyond that? Maybe that wasn't a good example.

So, what do YOU think about spezify?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Announcing - a new venture - Gates Ideas

This falls under the categories of, "What Took You So Long?", and "If YOU Don't Promote Yourself, Who Will?"

A couple of weeks ago, after a LONG time in the making, my website is up and running. Take a quick look, if you're so inclined, and let me know what you think of the format. Now, it just opened so I don't have a lot of material in it, yet. I am hopeful that I'll get to spend some quality hours this summer working on rectifying that.

But, the purpose is to make it known that, while I say I'm "retired" that doesn't mean that I'm sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch at the cabin all day. I work at this stuff because I eat it up. I've had a career in education, from k-12 vocal music classes, to high school programming classes and Internet classes, and even middle school computer classes. And, I've been teaching adult computer classes since 1985. I love it.

Anyway, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on the site. Stop by to check it out, then you can use the Contact Us (well, it's just ME) web form.

The Story of Stuff

This is EXCELLENT! From the site:
"From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."

If you're an Environmental Science teacher, or an economics teacher, or if you teach anything at all about consumerism, then you MUST WATCH this video. According to this video, only one percent of the stuff we buy is in our homes and being used six months later! But, it gets better. Watch the whole video. This would be a great video to watch, stopping at the start of each chapter for a discussion forum activity, or a blog entry.

When you share it with kids, note that you can select the "Chapter" by clicking the tabs at the top of the video.

This really is excellent!!!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

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

Teaching Arts and Science together - on TED, of course

This will be quick. If you happen to be , "... an astronaut, a doctor, an art collector, a dancer ..." then I want to listen to what you have to say. You, obviously, have a world perspective that is unlike any other - or unlike the overwhelming majority of people. (How many do YOU know who are an astronaut, a doctor, an art collector, and a dancer?")

Listen to Mae Jemison as she talks about teaching art and science together.

Begging Robots

I don't know what to make of this. Once, again, I point to something that Alec Couros has written. This time it's about beggar robots. What do you do if you're homeless and totally broke, and the city in which you live bans begging? Well, apparently, one thing you can do is to build a beggar robot.

What does it say about humans if they'll give money to a robot but NOT to a human beggar? I wonder if this is a good writing prompt for kids. This just.. REALLY bothers me.

I'm going to embed the video, but I encourage you to visit Alec's blog and subscribe. I've learned TONS from him.

Friday, May 08, 2009

More on Global Warming

No matter what side of the issue you stand, one thing is clear - the earth appears to be warming. It's a shame that Al Gore is the spokesman for this issue, as it immediately turns it into a political one. People are divided on this issue based on political party affiliation. It's just the way it is.

But, watch this video. I'm sure that you show your students both sides of this debate, so here is just one more:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Mathematics of War

Math teachers, take note. This video, I think, is a fascinating discussion on the Mathematics of War. When your students ask where they'll use math in real life, have this video handy. Here's how the video is described on the Ted site: "By pulling raw data from the news and plotting it onto a graph, Sean Gourley and his team have come up with a stunning conclusion about the nature of modern war -- and perhaps a model for resolving conflicts."

Watch this discussion on what the data from wars around the globe tell us. Fascinating!

Now really, where else would you expect to hear something on this topic, if not on TED? :-)

Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind

I just heard this on an old podcast from This American Life, from December 12, 2008. It's based on the idea from a theater company in Chicago that performs two minute plays. They do 30 plays in 60 minutes. Apparently this is not a unique idea, as I discovered books of two minute plays. Of course, I don't know which came first, so maybe the theater company did come up with the concept. (I should investigate this more before ranting on about it, eh?)

But, one part of this episode I found especially funny. It's from the theater company itself. It starts at 24:35 into the show. In this play the actors don't talk in sentences but rather in phrases that describe the sentences. For example, they begin with the man saying, "Statement. Statement. Statement." The woman responds with, "Question?" He replies with, "Clarifying statement. Confident statement. OVER confident statement." See? They use phrases that describe the kind of sentence it is, rather than saying the sentence itself. Oh... one can't do it justice by typing it. You have to listen to it. I laughed out loud at it.

I just thought that it would be an interesting thing to play for students. Maybe even the whole idea of 2 minute plays could be a great idea for some creative writing classes. Listen to the show. They tell some great short stories. I can't help but think that it would be a FUN assignment to write one of your own. I thought about Anne Smith's classes right away. How about YOUR classes?

Give the show a listen, then tell me what you think of the idea.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

This could change EVERYTHING! Stop NOW! Read this!

Thanks to a tweet by Alec Couros, I saw this article: "An Invention That Could Change The Internet Forever." From the article: "The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet's Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does."

The Semantic Web.


What if you could ask a search engine a question and it would calculate the answer instead of just finding pages that contained your keywords.

What if you could ask a search engine to draw comparisons - and it would do it!

What if search engines understood what you MEANT!

Honestly - read this article then take a moment to consider what role education will play in that kind of world. What relevance will NCLB have then? How on earth can we get our schools trained to leverage that kind of power into our classrooms to promote creativity and true understanding?


Thanks, too, to Alec for sharing the url for this video.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Time to STOP teaching Office

This is a response I posted to a listserv for our coaches. The message was in responses to someone who asked about creating a survey to find out how kids learn media literacy skills.

"So much time is spent/wasted on teaching Office in our schools. What if our middle school computer programs spent their time teaching just enough office to get them by, and then taught them how to use a social bookmarking site (delicious or diigo) and tagging, and how to subscribe to rss feeds, and how to set up an aggregator and create custom searches to REALLY search the web, and how to use Power Library and Nettrekker, and how to use either Google Docs (or Microsoft Live) and really collaborate, and how to build a wiki and embed things, and how to use the Creative Commons, and what Copyright laws are, and how to manage file types, and netiquette, and the real pain of cyberbullying, and how to make really GOOD presentations? (see Ken Rodoff and Joyce Valenza for details)

We waste the middle school years on teaching why? Because 'Business' uses it? So what? We spent all those years teaching Office 2003 and then along came Office 2007 and everything we taught them was for naught. They had to relearn it all. In the meantime, all the REALLY necessary skills were ignored.

Here is one person's (mine) opinion that I expressed at the PSLA conference. This is a GREAT opportunity for librarians, I think, to become THE source for information and information management - especially if our computer classes continue to insist on teaching Office. Some of these are tips for personal enrichment and not for school, but it's something to consider. I suggested that librarians re-define their role in the school by doing the following. Instead of 'protecting the books', why not:
  • Hold classes to show kids how to set up an aggregator. Don't worry that they may subscribe to something less than appropriate. It won't get past the filter anyway.
  • Be the one in your building to set up a Diigo account for your teachers and students. Train teachers on how to use it so they can train the students. Question: How do YOUR students manage the resources they find while searching online? If they don't have a way, then they copy and paste.
  • Be the Media Literacy go-to person. Learn how to handle file formats. Learn how to convert. Hold classes to show teachers and students how. Become THE CENTER for information management.
  • Learn all you can about the Create Commons. Make this part of your Introduction to the library each year with new classes.
  • Advertise Advertise Advertise! For two days (three?) hold a class every class period. Fifteen minutes long. One topic repeated for those two or three days so kids with study halls can get in to get the training. Suggested topics: "Finding Copyright Safe Images", "Finding Copyright-safe Sounds and Music", "Managing Your Web Resources", "Making Better Presentations" (do's and don'ts of powerpoint), "All about Widgets/Gadgets", "Collecting Information Automatically from the Web", "Everything You DIDN'T Know About Searching the Web" - Can you think of others?
  • Learn all you can about Wikipedia. DO NOT BLOCK IT! TEACH with and about it! Know why and when to use it. It's a part of their life, now. Blocking it won't make it go away. Do YOU know how articles become articles? Do you know about veropedia? Teach the teachers and students about it, then.
  • Learn how to make screencasts. Install Jing or learn to use some of the free, online tools. Create screencasts of your lessons and put them up on your website.
  • Develop your own PLN (Personal Learning Network or PLC, Personal Learning Community) and share and learn from others. It will change your life!
  • Question: Has the process of researching changed in the last few years? If so, then how has the role of the librarian changed? Have YOU changed?
So, what do you think? Am I WAY off? Or, should we REALLY stop teaching Office and start teaching skills that will last a lifetime?"

So, am I wrong or do our middle schools need a curriculum rewrite in the computer classes?