Sunday, July 26, 2009

My PLN helped me with Google Earth issue

Once again the power of my PLN was evident tonight as I struggled to get something to work in Google Earth, Mac version. Many thank to @tiutmcclain for giving me the suggestion that lead to the ultimate answer. But first, an explanation of the problem.

In Google Earth, it's possible to add a picture, or youtube video, or embeddable things, into a placemark using some basic html code. Well, basic for some things, but of course the code for the embeddable things is left up to the site. But here's the important thing to remember. When you Save the placemark into a .kmz file it saves the image, as well. The Z in kmZ stands for Zipped. So the image is zipped into the placemark. This means that you can send that saved file to someone and they will be able to open it in Google Earth and see the image. That's a biggie, and lots of folks aren't aware of that. (As a side note, I thought I'd also be able to import it into Google Maps and see the image, but I wasn't able to. I'll let you know if I'm successful later.)

The only problem is that you need to know some html code to make it work. And, you need to know something about path structures. Neither of those concepts is difficult (the techie guy says) but it's something that must be taught to most folks.

On a Windows machine finding the path is very easy. Right-click an image and choose properties and you'll see the path listed in the Location field. All you have to do is add the file name to the end of it. For example, it might read something like, C:\Documents and Settings\Jim Gates\My Documents\My Pictures\favorite cabin pics\. If the picture itself is called: mypic.jpg then the complete path is: C:\Documents and Settings\Jim Gates\My Documents\My Pictures\favorite cabin pics\mypic.jpg.

The next issue is how to write the code so that the picture shows up when you open the placemark. You use the img tag. It would end up looking like this: There, now I REALY think that those two ideas could be taught to a relatively comfortable computer user with little trouble, Would you agree? First, how to find the path. Second, how to write the syntax for the img tag to get it to display.

I should mention here that if the image was online somewhere this whole thing would have been easier, still. The tag would be something like: (fake address) If you can see the picture in its own window in the browser, just copy the url inside those quotes and you're done. But, I wanted an image from my hard drive.

The problem that I was having is that I'm on a Mac and the path isn't as easy to find. And, when you do find it you can't copy it, unlike in Windows where you CAN copy it. (Come on, Apple, what's with that?) That just means that you have to type it, but when you start to type you start to have opportunities for typos.

Well, I tried everything I would think of. When I couldn't solve it, i turned to my twitter friends. I asked if anyone knew how to write the path. Eventually, @tiutmcclain gave the suggestion of using the file:// format that you see when you open an image, for example, in your browser. The url reads: file://c:\Documents and Settings\..." etc etc. So, I tried it, but it still wasn't working. But, I KNEW this would be the answer, eventually. I then searched online for a forum in which someone had asked how to write a path on the mac, and sure enough, once I saw that it worked like a charm.

So, for you mac users out there, if you want to put a picture (on your desktop) in a Google Earth placemark, the syntax is:

  • Just replace the jamesgates with YOUR username that you'll find inside the Users folder.
  • Oh, and make sure there are THREE forward slashes after the colon after file.
  • And, the mac path uses forward slashes; windows uses BACKslashes. Did you notice that?
And remember, when you save the placemark you also are saving the image so you can send it to others who can then open the placemark in Google Earth and see your image.
Follow up
Thanks to Jim Beeler from Apple who gave me this GREAT suggestion. Drag the picture from its folder and drop it onto your browser icon in the dock. When the browser opens the url will show the file path. Example: file:///Users/jamesgates/Desktop/s4_2.jpg Just copy and paste that into the tag and it should work. GREAT solution, Jim!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Too Far Out There?

I'm sitting here in a daze. I just got some feedback from someone who has been traveling around the state talking to school districts about networks, wiring closets, etc etc. During his conversations he's been mentioning my services. I was very pleased to hear that they knew of me. A good thing. But, they say that I'm "... so far out there and they were no where near ready to implement any of that stuff. They couldn't even relate to getting it" (This is how it was put to me this evening.)

What? Too far out there? I show examples of student and teacher blogs and I suggest that authentic audiences would be a VERY high motivation factor for students when they write. I show the Flat World Wikis and the Horizon Project wikis as examples of collaboration ideas. I show skype and talk about how it can be used to bring authors into class. I ask them how their students manage the resources they find when doing online research, and when nobody has ANY idea how the kids manage their resources, I show them Diigo and talk about the wonderful enhancements it makes to their classes. I talk about using a Discussion forum to allow kids to carry on conversations about their content after the class period or even the unit of study ends. I talk about the Creative Commons. I demo google docs and a form with some data being plotted while they submit the forms and I talk about how using Google Docs (or Office Live) solves so many problems that they have with regard to how kids collaborate or how they transport files, etc. I show them what an important tool an aggregator is - both for them and for their students. I show them how to search. These are ALL skills that carry forward with the student through their college lives and even their personal lives, wouldn't you agree?

So, I don't get it. What am I supposed to do? Go in there and say, "Hey, nice work on that PowerPoint stuff, guys." Or, "Check it! I can show you how to automate the process of making worksheets." If we DON'T talk about this, how do they expect to EVER see anything different? Has the bar been raised then Super Glued at the level of PowerPoint, and that's just fine with us, thank you very much?

If not now, WHEN, for crying out loud? If not THIS school, then WHICH school? I REFUSE to even consider the notion that what we see now in the schools in terms of technology use is as good as it can get. But, they say I'm too far out there? They're not ready for that, yet? THEN WHEN WILL THEY BE READY TO AT LEAST HEAR ABOUT IT??

I watched students researching on their laptops, then printing the pages they found, and then using the highlighters from the teacher's desk to highlight the important stuff. And yet they don't want to hear about Diigo? I watched kids getting back their writing assignments and tossing them in the garbage can, but they don't want to hear about blogging? I watched as a class went up front, one by one, to give a powerpoint presentation - all on the same subject, but they don't want to hear about backchanneling. I saw a classroom full of students with laptops, watching the teacher write notes on the board and then typing them into their own Word Documents to be printed and put into their notebooks. They were Juniors. IS THAT WHAT THEY WANT? I'M TOO FAR OUT THERE?

At the top of my blog it says, I DEMAND A WORLD CLASS EDUCATION FOR MY KIDS!! Say it with me. "I DEMAND A WORLD CLASS EDUCATION FOR MY KIDS!" Well, DAMNIT, I DO! And I REFUSE to stop sharing this with teachers whenever I can. It's not acceptable to say that they're not ready to hear this. It's malpractice to say that, "That stuff is just too far out there for me."

If not now, WHEN? If not YOUR school, WHICH school?

Monday, July 13, 2009

New testing proposed for PA

I'm going to TRY to keep my thoughts out of this one and just put it out there. What do YOU think?

PA is considering a new way to test its students. Instead of testing (PSSA) every three years there would be a series tests given when the course is completed. Fine. I suppose. There's more to the article than that, of course.

But, I'm haunted by the comments of one person (not mentioned in the article) who suggested to me that it's better to give the tests when the kids have just finished the course and can therefore still remember the material, than to wait two or three years to test them when they've forgotten it.

That's where I'll leave this to your comments.

Attention Music Teachers - watch this

This group may not be new to you, but it was to me. Start this video and close your eyes. What do you hear? Now open your eyes. Is that fun or what?

Many years ago a regional chorus of PA sang a song that had something similar in it, but it was the audience who did it. In the program were listed some names of soldiers who had been killed in Vietnam. The audience was to quietly whisper that list of names in whatever pace they wished. The conductor directed them to do so very quietly. The result was that it sounded for all the world like the sounds of the woods t night. You could hear the peepers, the crickets, and other sounds from the woods.

The lights on the stage were also dimmed a bit and the conductor allowed this sound enough time to create the atmosphere in the room. Then he led the chorus in the song about the fallen soldiers. It was haunting, for sure, and I've obviously never forgotten it.

In any case, send this to your favorite music teacher.


Post For Leadership Day

My thoughts for Leadership Day

Some thoughts for building principals and Curriculum Directors. No answers, just some questions to consider as you look around at what is happening in your schools. I'm going to TRY to resist the temptation to expound on the ideas with my personal views. Rather, I'd like to ask the question and present points to consider and then move on. This is all food for thought.

What does a World Class Education Look like?
What is your definition of, for want of a better term, a "World Class" education? (Trying to avoid the tired, '21st Century' term) Given all that is happening in this 'flat world', what skills do you truly believe are necessary to compete in a global market? Don't talk in metaphors or generalities; talk in specifics as much as you can. If you have a difficult time talking in specifics then your vision isn't clear.

What is being taught in your school's computer classes?
What is included in your "Computer Curriculum"? If you stop at "Microsoft Office" then you may want to mark that one down as an area to keep in mind as you think about this topic. Things have changed SO quickly that it's not anyone's 'fault' that the computer and Business curriculums haven't yet caught up. But, it's not something that can wait any longer, either. Between the computer teacher and the librarian these two can be teaching the skills that the students need as they take other classes.

The role of the librarian
What role does your librarian play in the overall information literacy of your students, besides controlling the inventory of books? For example, who teaches your students how to do real research? A google search isn't it. And, who teaches your students how to manage the information they find when researching? I asked that question to some juniors who were doing Internet research on their laptops in an English class. They said that they print out the pages and use the highlighters that the teacher has provided to mark the important content on the pages. I'm not kidding. My ideal library would be one in which mini classes are taught several times throughout the course of the year to try to match student's schedules. There would be mini-classes on effective research, both in the databases and online searching (who else shows the kids how to do that?), how to cite internet sources, how to manage them, how to tag them, and where to find copyright friendly images and sounds. Who teaches that now? That's not a rhetorical question, either. In your school, who teaches that?

Understanding Copyright
Do your students (and teachers) truly understand copyright? Do they know what Creative Commons is? (Ask the next ten teachers you see if they know what it is.) Do they know where to go to get images and music and sounds that they may use in their projects? If you've sat in on a student presentation and heard an entire song being played in the background to a powerpoint or a digital movie, then you've got an opportunity there.

The role of the school filter
Do your teachers have a different filtering policy than your students? Can your teachers, for example, access youtube? If not, you've got the wrong filter. Can your students and teachers access sites like social bookmarking sites, wikis, and blogs? If the answer is no, then you've got the wrong filter - or the wrong vision on the purpose of the filter. Kurt Paccio sent this article to me just this morning: Read it. Then think about your filter. Ask yourself if the filter itself is shaping your curriculum, or does your curriculum determine what's filtered? No, citing CIPA and walking away from the discussion won't do, any longer. If you say, "We can't use blogs in our creative writing classes because blogs are blocked", then your filter IS shaping your curriculum. If you say, "We can't use wikis for collaborative projects with students from other countries because wikis are blocked", then, again, your filter is in the way. Try this: Call an emergency meeting of all "concerned" parents in your district for the purpose of discussing their child's education. In that meeting tell them that you'd love to be using blogs and wikis, and you'd love to allow teachers access to youtube, and you'd love to be able to use Flickr and social bookmarking sites, but you can't. Why? A foreign country - as yet undetermined - is blocking it. What do you think their reaction would be? They'd want to declare WAR! But a foreign country is NOT blocking it, we are.

Something else to consider: if you've not seen the WolframAlpha site, go there now and check it out. Try some of the examples. You'll see that this site is a search engine, but instead of it just returning a list of sites that contain those keywords, it computes the answer. You read that correctly - it computes the answer. And, where appropriate, it will show you the step by step solution. When this technology matures you're going to have some teachers who will want this site blocked. They'll want it blocked, not because it's inappropriate material as defined by CIPA, but because it's a distraction. Now, project that out another 5 years as the web grows more and more sophisticated. Now what? Block it all? Or teach with it?

Global Connections
How many of your teachers have ever done a project that involved the students working with other students from another country? This is safe and easy to do, yet I see so few examples of it. When you think of your vision for a "World Class" education, is the idea of collaborating with students from other countries part of it? Can anyone say that this is not good, sound education? Can you make the case against doing collaborative projects? Then who is doing them in your school? Does your staff know where to go to begin to find a partner to collaborate with? Has your staff seen examples of such projects? Do students with experience in global collaborations have an advantage over students who have not?

Think about this: How many different languages are spoken in your buildings? Or, how many different countries have your students come from? What is your building doing to take advantage of this situation? There are some amazing opportunities there for students to learn about the cultures, politics, religions, etc from those students. They may even be new enough to the US that they can help to connect their classes to ones from their country. This is a Golden Opportunity that is going untouched in most schools. There are websites that are perfect for managing this networking, too. Celebrate your cultural differences!

Who are the leaders in your district who can help?
Nobody can fault you for not being as clear on what this vision looks like as, perhaps, some of your teachers who are taking grad classes and who are being exposed to these issues. So, who are they? How can you empower/enable them to teach both you and your staff? Yes, they do summer workshops with titles like, "Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom", etc, but do you know what that is? Do you know if the tools are being shown as tools to help facilitate a more rigorous classroom environment, or just fluff? Do you know if those tools help to accomplish your vision?

Failure is not an option
You've seen the videos that talk about the new global marketplace and global competition for jobs and how kids are coming to school expecting to be able to use current tools and how the world is flat and ... ALL that. Ask yourself, "What's at stake if we don't begin to raise digitally smart and information literate students?" And that isn't a rhetorical question, either. What IS at stake? If we are satisfied to keep turning out kids whose sole technology experience in school amounts to Microsoft Word and Powerpoint, then have we failed them? And, if we don't start right NOW on insisting that our classes reflect that new vision, then WHEN DO we start? Do we wait another year or two? Three? Five? If the building leadership doesn't begin to understand it, recognize it, model it, and expect it, then WHO will? If not you, who? If not now, when?

Things have changed so much and so fast over the past few years that it's an entirely different world, now. It's not going away, and it's only going to become more sophisticated. The more we see of the incredible things that we can do online (Make sure you see wolfram alpha!) the more we can also see what a misfit our curriculum is. Not all Don't throw it all out, certainly. Just update it. Talk to your computer department and your librarians and see if they can help to create the curriculum that will teach the kids the skills they truly need to access and manage the vast amounts of information that your students will be exposed to while in school.

If not now, when?
Part of the posts for Leadership Day:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Thursday, July 09, 2009

To (ipod) Touch or Not to (ipod) Touch

I am trying to get my thoughts around the issue of using the ipod touch with students. I know of a few people who have managed to get approval for a cart of ipod touches for next year, and I know of several others who are either trying to get one or who WISH they could get a cart full. But, I'm just not yet convinced of their value. I'm not trying to start a flame war; I'm just trying to get my mind around it.

Here's my thinking.
1) It appears that the 8gig model costs $229 from the Apple store. Educators can get a slight discount, maybe, so let's go with $200 as the comparison price. I'm seeing netbooks for around $300. With the education discount and bulk purchase price, let's figure on $300/machine. So, right away you can get 45 ipod touches for the price of 30 netbooks. Chalk up one for ipod touches
2) Applications. There are 35000 applications available for the iphone and most of them work on the ipod touch, as well. However, they're not all free. Even at $.99 each it'll be an expense to furnish them with some of the best applications. The netbooks, however, have access to all the applications and applets and sites on the web, and the vast majority are free. Many require flash, so although the Safari browser is on the ipod touch, you won't be able to use those applications. You're limited to those you can download. Chalk up one for the netbooks
3) Typing. Typing anything on the ipod touch is a slow process compared to even an 80% keyboard, so you're not going to be typing up homework on them. With the netbooks you're not limited that way. Chalk another one up for the netbooks.
4) Battery life. Maybe the battery in my ipod touch isn't as good as the one in yours, but I don't get a lot of time on mine. Listening to music is fine, but even then I don't get 3 hours from the battery. From what I was able to see, some netbook batteries last as long as 4.5, but most are around 3. Let's call that one a draw, then.
5) Cool factor. If a student had his or her own ipod touch and could put his own music on it and his own pictures then the cool factor would be huge. Similarly, if a student had his/her own netbook and could customize as desired, the cool factor would still be pretty good - not as good as the ipod touch, but not bad. But, they're NOT going to be able to put music or images on them. No advantage to either.
6) Versatility. With the ipod touch you can only do pretty much whatever applications you download. Yes, you can surf the Internet, but seeing it and doing anything with it is an issue. The netbooks, on the other hand, are simply much more versatile. Another one for the netbooks - unless this could be the same as the Applications category.

We were always told, decide on what you need and then look for the closest match. I'm just not seeing the ipod touch as being the closest match to what I want to do, even if I *can* get 50% more of them for the same amount of money.

What am I missing?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Perhaps I stand corrected - and happy to do so

A recent post of mine dealt with why I felt that Twitter was not a tool that I'd choose to use with my students. I regret that it took the tone that it did, but maybe that's a good thing, as it resulted in the most number of comments I've ever had. A couple agreed with me. Others took exception.

One person commented and I responded and then he commented back. It's that second message that has begun to sway my opinion on the matter. Nate Kogan is the one who took the time to tel me of his experience using Twitter with his students. I thought it was so good that I DM'd him on Twitter as well as emailing him via his blog and asked permission to turn his comment into its own post so that you could see another side to the story. I thought it deserved more exposure than just sitting there in the comments. He agreed, so here it is:


I did read your response and I appreciate your feedback. While I recognize the logistical hassles involved in getting Twitter set up with a class, I think that the tool does help facilitate communication with students in a more consistent and authentic way. For instance, I had my students create Twitter accounts for our final exam review, which they enjoyed and I think found productive.

However, what I didn't anticipate was the way in which they used Twitter to DM and message me throughout the weekend leading up to the final exam to ask question, seek clarification, and get feedback about their ideas. Moreover, the public nature of some of their questions enabled students to receive answers from their peers rather than exclusively from me. I think students found Twitter to be a more amenable, and immediate, medium for communication with me, as I responded faster than via email and was able to check and respond pretty quickly via my phone. Additionally, I found the 140 characters constraint to be a useful one, as it forced both me and my students to be direct and concise in our questions and responses. Of course larger, more complex issues could be dealt with via email, but for those concerns students typically DMed me that they sent me an email, which I could then check.

Perhaps for an exclusive backchannel a website like Chatzy or Today's Meet would be better than Twitter in terms of creating a centralized archive of the conversation. However, by using specially selected hastags, one can use Twitter search to then essentially recreate that day's specific backchannel and its contents.

As for your point about privacy and the public nature of the communication, I actually found that element of Twitter to have an interesting effect on the student's behavior. One student in particular noted to me that since he began communicating with some of his teachers and older relatives via various forms of social media (including Twitter), he found himself being more thoughtful about how he wrote, punctuated, and structured his messages. Direct engagement and experience with this particular form of media (e.g. that which is necessarily public) helped this student make important realizations about how we present ourselves in various venues and the lasting effects those presentations of self could have. In this case, I think the student's personal experience with Twitter proved far more useful in educating him about the powers and perils of social media than any pedantic speaker could have.

Thanks again for your post. These types of exchanges are really valuable and important ones to have, and are ones, I hope, that help people clarify and refine their thinking about these tools in the classroom.



My sincere thanks to Nate for his thoughts and his permission to use them.

Award winning videos from ASCD

I was going to embed these, but I thought you should read the article, too. Here's a short intro from the article: "Two ASCD videos took home prizes at the 30th Annual Telly Awards and at the U.S. International Film and Video Festival last month. The winning videos focus on hot topics in education: 21st century skills and Robert Marzano’s Art and Science of Teaching instructional framework."

The videos on this page are clips from the full versions which you can purchase. It's just nice to see two videos about education winning some recognition, don't you think?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Twitter with students?

Twitter with students?

I'm just not sure I see a fit for twitter in schools. Promoting it with teachers also, then, promotes the idea of sitting behind your desk glued to the twitter stream, and Heaven knows we don't need any more of that. Skype, at least, isn't a stream and therefore you don't have to be watching it in order to use it.

And I know I'm swimming against the current with this one, too, but I don't think it's a tool for students at all. I do hear folks talking about it but I just don't see it being used effectively. Sometimes I think that folks dream of the following as being the kinds of conversations that students would have using twitter:

S1: In Bio listening to a great lecture on cell division. She ROCKS!
S2: Reading "Chapter 7" for Mr Wilson. Not my favorite so far but I'll get through it
S3: Great quote from Mr B: "History is written by the winners." He said it's not his original quote, tho'
S4: @S1 Mrs D is awesome! Looking forward to 5th period when I'll hear it, too
S4: @S2 Tell me about it. I've got to read it tonight. But I'm a fast reader.
S2: Anyone know a good website to help me to understand Chapter 7?
S1: @S3 Yeah, I heard that quote before, too. Hold on and I'll look it up for you.

Now, THIS is what would PROBABLY happen if students used twitter:
S1: wht's 4 lunch? I'm staving!
S2: NFW I'm readg that @#$ Chapter 7. Hes got 2 B Sh*ttin' me!
S3: "History is writn by th winners?" DUH!
S4: I get out of her class 5th period, dude! S*cks 2 B U!
S4: @S1 its only 9:30 dude! U cnt B hungry alrdy U pig!
S2: Any1 know if any of ths @#$% in Ch 7 will B on the test?
S1: @S3 No duh! Who ELSE wld write it. Hes so lame!

We just CAN'T project our learning styles and our love of our PLN onto the students. Just doesn't work - IMHO.

Update: Juy 8, 2009
This post has drawn more comments than anything I've done in the past. Too bad, too, because it certainly wasn't my best work, and it may have hurt my readership base. I certainly don't want that. And, since the comments to this post aren't initially visible when you read the post, I want to add some additional comments here before you rush to comment.

First of all, I am a BIG advocate for backchanneling. I have heard from many teachers who have used it (either Chatsy or CoverItLive or another tool) and who have reported wonderful, thoughtful, responsible posts from students. So, I'm not opposed to twitter for that reason. I object to its use in schools for other reasons, and I'd like to explain. It's MUCH more than that cynical, sarcastic post.

In order to use twitter you must set up an account and that involves supplying an email address. Problem number 1 - student email accounts. Yes, I've heard of some districts giving kids email accounts, but the overwhelming majority do not. And yes, there are disposable email accounts that you can use, but they're not widely accepted by schools around these parts, either.

Then, in order to tweet in a safe envirnoment you need to protect your posts. We can certainly tell them to do that, but there's no easy way to find out if they are, or not. If they're not, then their posts are out on the twitter stream for all to see. Problem number 2.

If a teacher wanted to use it as a backchannel then there's no easy way to obtain the transcript of your session. Yes, it can be done, but not easily - at least not a way that I've found that's easy. So, the transcript cannot be used for notes for someone who was absent, nor as a reflection tool. Problem number 3. Sites like Chatsy and Backnoise, or Coveritlive, allow for privacy, AND you can get the transcript very easily. You can set up "rooms" with passwords ahead of time, and students would just know to go to that room.

I have been teaching since 1971, and my last several years at the high school were with some excellent young adults who would NEVER have abused a virtual room intended for a backchannel. Of course, back then there was no such thing as a backchannel. Bulletin board systems and AOL ruled. But, I do think that if twitter was just opened up for students, they'd be DM'ing each other more than they would be talking about the topic in class. I just don't happen to think that twitter is the right tool.

I wish I could retract my original post, as the more I read it the less funny it sounds and the uglier the tone that I'm hearing from it. But, I wouldn't do that, especially since it has sparked such comments from so many people.

Thanks to each of you who has taken the time to comment. If you still disagree with my reasons for using twitter in school - or if you agree with them - I'd love to hear from you.

Resisting the Inevitable?

This article was tweeted by @smartbrief today: It's the story about a district that is trying to get its best and brightest students to come to school more often. "While the attendance rate for the district is very good, Stockman said, 26.6 percent of the Top 50 students in the district’s seven high schools have missed between 10 and 19 days of school and 6.3 percent missed 20 days or more."

When you do the math, this isn't a lot of kids we're talking about. What is 6.3% of 50, anyway? 3.15? It must be either an exceptionally large student that makes up the .15 or a VERY small one. But, the point, of course, is that this district is making the statement that the only place that a student can learn (properly?) is in school. Note, however, that the article does mention that many of these students are taking online courses, as well.

How about this quote from the article, "'We have students who miss 50 days of school and graduate in the Top 50 of their class. And we know the reasons. A lot of them are working on Florida Virtual School to get (Advanced Placement) and honors credits.'"

I wonder if the reason for this fuss doesn't have more to do with NCLB and the attendance requirement than it doesw any question about the nature and quality of the education. Ya think?

No Fear of Lawsuits, eh?

You're right, this is NOT a scientific survey. But, the results are interesting, nonetheless. Add your vote here ( and see the new results.

I asked the question, "The reason my school blocks web 2.0 tools is due to the following:" I didn't want to use the term 'web 2.0 tools', but I figured that would be a good umbrella term.

As of this writing, here are the results:
48% said the sites were blocked out of fear of lawsuits regarding CIPA
25% said that the Curriculum Department wasn't convinced of their value
26% said that it's because the default filter settings blocked them, and they don't override anything

Did you see that, Mr Jupp? "What lawsuits?", indeed!

I think the part that disturbs me the most is the last figure. I think that many of those votes could have gone into the first category, don't you? It's unbelievable that someone would simply say, "We don't change our filter" just out of laziness, although I was told one time that they didn't change the settings because, "We don't want to start going down that road." ARGH! If you can pass the blame onto someone else, "It's the IU's fault. They set up the filter." then you can wash your hands of any responsibility. (IU= "Intermediate Unit" Regional Service Center?) But, doesn't it sound like an underlying fear of lawsuits there? If they leave the filter alone, someone else gets the blame. If they change it, now THEY are on the hook.

I've said that I'm not a fan of this gentleman, but I do like his quote that says something like, "We have filtering policies that treat our staff and our students like either morons or felons." I was giving a workshop at an IU recently and blogs were blocked to all staff, though nobody could tell me why. Back in 2007 I wrote about an IU who wanted to hire Will Richardson to come talk to their teachers, but they couldn't find his contact information. Why? His blog was blocked - even for the adults in the IU. Seriously! Many of the schools in my area use a filter that allows different filters by permissions determined at login. Login as a teacher and get more rights than a student. Yet, some of the tech folks don't use it. They don't even tell their teachers that they have that ability. "I don't want to get started with that." You may have heard me scream that day. ;-)

I still believe that if anything is going to bring down the Brick and Mortar schools it's going to be this kind of issue. Curriculum is based soley with the focus on the state tests and shaped by the fear of a lawsuit. That's a limitation that a home schooled student doesn't have They CAN use social bookmarking sites to collect and organize the sites they find. (Did I tell you that one school blocks Diigo and Delicious because they said that the bookmarked sites get around their filter? Huh?) They CAN write a blog and READ one, too. Imagine that! They CAN set up an account on a site and build something meaningful there. They can USE the web and all its tools as a personal learning environment. How, do you think, our students see the school-provided web?

Oh well. Jump on over there to take the poll yourself. It closes on Wednesday.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hashtag troubles

Are you on Twitter? Do you know what a hastag is? It was originally conceived to be the same as tags on flickr or Delicious or Diigo. It's a way of categorizing your posts so folks can track your conversations. But lately they're being used as clever promotional gimmicks. Mention their hashtag and be entered to win something. Got it?

Then read this:

ARGH! Some folks are now calling it spamming. What do you think? It's annoying, at least.

Thanks to @mtechman for that link.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Opportunity Lost

This year, the Tuesday morning Keynote at the NECC conference in Washington, DC was replaced with a panel debate. Darn. I look forward to hearing those speakers. And, debates don't get us anywhere, usually. Still, I took the opportunity to get involved by agreeing to ask the panel a question.

Among the panelists were two students (both of whom did an AMAZING job!), Brad Jupp, advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Gary Stager, professor, blogger and well-known speaker in the Education circles. As soon as the debate began I realized that my question wasn't going to fit so I took out my pen and paper (yes, I carry a small notepad and pen to jot down quick notes) and began to write ideas for the question. The debate theme was, "Brick and Mortar schools are detrimental to the future of Education." As it turned out, both sides really argued the same points, I thought, but elephant in the room question hadn't been raised. That was - the issue of the fear of lawsuits.

So, I wrote out my question, hastily rewording and rewording it in a (failed) effort to make it clear yet concise. Here's what asked, "Brick and mortar schools also carry with them the burden of the fear of lawsuits. That fear, both real and imagined, defines their limits and shapes their curriculum. Can B&M schools break the bonds of that fear to become the vision that both sides here have expressed, or is it a burden so heavy that it will crush them?" ARGH! See what I mean by a failed attempt? What I wanted to ask was simply, "How can our schools function and be competitive with schools in other nations when our curriculum is shaped, not on sound educational practices and good data, but on fear of lawsuits?" Or something like that.

Regardless, I asked the question of Mr Jupp. I wanted HIM to respond to the issue. I knew I was in trouble when he couldn't answer. He appeared not to understand the question. Can't fault him there, I suppose. But he said, "Lawsuits? What lawsuits?" He asked me to explain - give examples. I said, "Schools can't use blogs because they're afraid that a student may say something inappropriate, or they can't use wikis because anyone can put anything on a wiki." Instead of addressing the question then, he gave me an example of a teacher in.. someplace... who uses Facebook with the students and he uses other social media with his students."

He COMPLETELY avoided the issue. Everyone in the room recognized it, and everyone in the room who is remotely connected to public or private schools knew exactly what I TRIED to say, and he dismissed it. Does he not know that this fear exists? If not, he's the wrong person to be advising Secretary Duncan, for sure. He may be right that there aren't any lawsuits as yet over the issues that I mentioned, but the fear is quite palpable in schools everywhere in this country.

Mr Siegel then asked the other side if they wished to comment. Here, I thought, was the PERFECT opportunity to enlighten Mr Jupp and to make an excellent point for their side of the debate. But, their side declined to comment.

Now, I'm not a fan of Mr Stager. I just don't care for his tone and sarcasm. When asked if his side wanted to comment he just sneered and shook his head. Opportunity lost. Had he not been so ??? he could have scored a MAJOR point for his side AND given Mr Jupp an education of his own to take back to The Hill.

Oh well. I take full blame for botching the question and making it far more confusing than it needed to be. But, I REALLY wish someone would have picked up the torch on that question. It's a VERY important one, and one that Mr Jupp should understand so that his department could at least TRY to address. What a difference that MIGHT have made.