Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How does YOUR state measure up with Graduation Rates?

One link leads to another which leads to another... and for me they ended up here. Something I read said that the US still only graduates 75% of its public school students. I had to check that out. After all, NCLB has been around long enough to have made a difference, if it was going to, right?

PA graduates 80%. Of course, when broken down by race there is a 35% gap from highest to lowest, but when I first saw that figure I thought, "Go PA!" But then the reality of that figure set in and I just shook my head in disbelief. We fail to educate 1 in 5 kids in PA. The figures by municipalities are REALLY depressing. How is YOUR state doing?

I wonder if this is a good lesson somewhere. A writing prompt, maybe? "PA's dropout rate is 20%. What do YOU think are some of the reasons for that amount, and what needs to change in order to improve it? Prioritize your choices." Or, "Working with a partner, list five things that must change in order for PA's dropout rate to improve. Prioritize your choices."

Relevance? Authentic assessments and authentic audiences? Being able to learn based on individual learning styles? Having school at least RECOGNIZE the reality of new technologies and incorporate them into our lessons? What would they say, I wonder.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Almost forgot - John Henry Faulk's Christmas story

I've been sending this link out for years. Almost forgot this year. If you're new to my blog, make CERTAIN that you listen to this story. I've made it a Christmas tradition.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Can YOU help keep Wikipedia free to all?

I stopped in to Wikipedia just a few moments ago and saw that the headlines asked us to read a special appeal from founder Jimmy Wales. I did. In it he asks for our help to keep Wikipedia free and open to the World. Their small staff of just 23 - and their 150,000 volunteers - have helped to publish over 11 million articles in 265 languages. Their site is among the first to visit when we look for things on the web. (Sorry, librarians, it's true.) "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's our commitment."

There are a couple great videos of Jimmy Wales telling folks about how Wikipedia works. This one on and this one on TED are two that I point to frequently. In them, Jimmy tells how articles are monitored, edited, and their strict enforcement of the rules for writing. It's MUCH more than many give it credit for.

In any case, Jimmy Wales is asking for a small donation to help the site stay free to the world. There are servers to maintain, bandwidth to pay for, and much more. I sent in a small donation immediately. I can't begin to imagine this site ceasing to be free to the world. Wouldn't you agree that it's FAR too important to permit that fate?

Yes, times are VERY hard for all of us. But, if YOU can spare a small donation you will be helping to ensure that this site remains free to all. An important goal, yes?

Thank you in advance for whatever you can do.

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Friday, December 19, 2008

Slideshare plugins for powerpoint AND Keynote!

I don't suppose that this is coming as much of a surprise to many of you, but now you can upload your powerpoint or keynote (Mac) presentations directly to Slideshare without even opening your browser. Very nice, eh?
- details for powerpoint (requires .net framework) I couldn't get the code to embed this one. It wouldn't load for me) - for keynote

Mac Tip - get TAB key to tab into checkboxes, etc

I don't know about you, but one thing about the Mac that was driving me nutty (until moments ago) was the fact that, when filling in forms I couldn't tab to a checkbox or to a dropdown menu like I could in Windows. What a shame, I thought. Until I read the above post.

Turns out it's a system preference. Now I'm a happy camper again.

System Preferences>Keyboard and Mouse > Keyboard shortcuts. At the very bottom of that screen, underneath the list of your options. Click the All Controls option.


Don't subscribe to the Mactips blog, Mac owner? Get on over there and sign up. Great stuff!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

new images in Google Earth

Have you seen the new hi-res images in Google Earth? Check out New York City. Then, go check out Dubai, UAE. THAT'S how the OTHER half lives, for sure.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Top 100 Inventions of 2008

Thanks to a former student, Eric, for sharing this with me tonight via the Gmail chat. The Top 100 Inventions of 2008.

I didn't get very far before I thought I should just stop and point you folks to it. No, it's not going to raise test scores, but these inventions will amaze and inspire. From buildings that generate 15% of the electricity that they use, to car finishes that repair themselves, to Photosynth and Spore and beyond. The world is an amazing place, eh?

Career Forward

Just saw this in the ASCD Brief.

"The CareerFoward program takes on the challenge of assisting young people as they prepare for careers in the global market that is impacting their lives now and in the future."

It's for students, parents, and teachers of US citizens only, I believe. Share this with your guidance counselors.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Electronic Graveyard - Wanna be depressed?

Thanks to Chris Champion and his post ( I saw this video on what happens to our old computers and printers and cell phones when we get rid of them. I, too, had thought that they were being properly recycled. I had once heard that the plastics in the cases were being used in materials to repair potholes, for instance. And I THOUGHT that a safe practice was used to remove the gold and lead, etc.

Such is NOT the case. Watch that video from 60 minutes. Show it to your students.

But, maybe you'll want to wait until after the Holidays. This is most depressing.

This one may well be of interest to the sociology classes out there. I was pointed to this from a post in the Long Now blog. This self-paced animation site plots demographic and resource trend data from the past to ninety years out. Do YOU agree with its vision? Would your students?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flight Simulator in Google Earth

Am I the last one to know about this? Flight Simulator in Google Earth?

Read about it here:

Check it out: Getting the most out of Google Maps

Again, one thing in my reader pointed to another which led me to another, etc, and I landed here:

You say you can't use Google Earth at school? This may just be a very acceptable alternative. The trick to getting the most out of it is having a gmail account. Schools should REALLY be looking hard at getting the Google Docs for education. It opens up SO much!

Anyway, check out the tips on this page, including the video that he did that shows some great tricks in Google Earth. They may not all be for you, but there's sure to be at least one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"What's nice is only THEY can see each other's posts."

Scenario 1:
A teacher assigns a paper, maybe for a grade, that is an essay statement. Maybe it's a piece of creative writing. On the due date the students turn it into the teacher on a piece of 8.5 x 11" paper as it came off the printer. The teacher reads it, secretly grades it, and tacks it up on the wall for the students to see. Nobody else sees it. Students await next assignment.

Scenario 2:
A teacher assigns a blog post to be entered on the school's own blog server. On the due date the students type their posts. Since the blog server is not visible outside the school network, nobody else can see it. Only the students can view each other's posts. The teacher secretly grades them. Students await next assignment.

Is there a difference? Yes, the one uses a different tool, a blog vs a printer, but is there a difference to the student? Maybe some - for a while.

But, watch this video and THEN ask yourself the same question: Is there a difference?

Of course there is. Don't be fooled by the fact that someone is saying that the students are, "blogging." They're bloging only in the sense that they're using a blogging TOOL. But, hammering nails into a 2x4 isn't building a house, even though you're using the tool.

I want to know WHO is making the decision that this is acceptable. Rather, who is saying that having REAL blogs is NOT acceptable. As I've said before, (in 2006, for crying out loud!) this is very much like having the kids drive a stock car in the parking lot and calling it racing. COME ON!! WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS FEAR-DISABLED THINKING ANY MORE! WHEN WILL REAL CHANGE HAPPEN IN OUR SCHOOLS?

Recently, a teacher said that their HIGH SCHOOL geometry teacher had kids take pictures of "real world shapes" and they made some sort of animation out of them. THIS is HIGH SCHOOL Geometry? ARGHHHHH! Second graders do this stuff! Why not use something like: if you want "real world" activities. Something that is WORTHY of a 17 yr old student. Oh... that's right.. Google Earth is blocked in school, too.

When will someone step up and say, "This is no longer acceptable!" It's malpractice! Come on, Curriculum Directors. Find out what is going on in your classrooms and what COULD be going on and start demanding REAL changes. The world is passing you by!

Tabbloid - a great alternative to an aggregator

I had mentioned this neat little site (Sorry, but I've forgotten now where I first learned of it) in a previous post, but unless you read the entire post you wouldn't have seen it. (note the two b's)

Just go there and tell it the addresses of the sites that you want to follow. They have to have RSS feeds, of course, but all blogs have feeds, for example. Or, the news sites on the web have feeds for their columns and latest news, etc. So you just build a list like this one:

Then, each day you'll receive an email with a pdf attachment that is laid out like a tabloid newspaper, containing all the latest feeds from those sites. Of course, then, the length of the tabloid varies depending upon how many new posts there have been on those sites. But, it's VERY easy to read, and it includes all the pictures from the posts, as well.

I love this idea for the social studies classes who are studying current events, or for the English classes who are using blogs for their writing. They can receive a daily tabloid with a copy of every person's post.

What a cool, free service.

Here's a screenshot of a past issue.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A nice image search engine

Once again my PLN comes through. This time (again) from Michelle Krill who posted this link to her Diigo account and to the CFFCoaches group in Diigo.

This is just a custom search engine in Google, but it's especially nice for teachers and students who are looking for appropriate images to use in projects. It searches in,,, and others. Now, it doesn't display the images like the image search sites do, with the thumbnails, but the links are excellent.

BTW - I love the idea of making your own search engines. Science teachers could create one that searches only the top science journals and blogs. Social studies teachers.... wow... this could be great.

Better yet, have your STUDENTS get together and create one for your class.

Create your own here:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Teaching with Google Earth

Speaking of Google Earth, here is a great website that has links to all sorts of tools for teaching GeoScience classes.

There are files to tell you what Google Earth is, why bother teaching with it, and TONS more, including this page of classroom activities.

Go there now and check it out. I'l bet you know someone who should be using this tool.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Google Earth Pro - Free to Educators!

Once again, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) came through. This time via a Diigo post from Vicki Davis pointing to this post: that tells how you (if you're an educator) can get Google Earth Pro for FREE!!

Really, if you teach Social Studies, History, Geography, or any similar subject, and you're NOT using Google Earth, I have to wonder why not. PLEASE read the article to hear about some GREAT layers available in Google Earth. I've mentioned some great google earth layers and discoveries before. Remember, you should also subscribe to the gearthblog.

Do check out that article!

Philip Rosedale talks about Second Life

Yes, another TED video. This time, Phillip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life, talks about how it got started and what he thinks it's all about. Did you know that Second Life is being run on 20,000 computers? Whoa! It's expanding at 5% per month, too.

But this talk is abut much more than just some statistics. Check it out.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Voicethread updates - Have you 'seen 'em yet?

I'm sure by now you've quite familiar with that cool web app called Voicethread. There are SO many great examples of how teachers and students are using it in the classrooms. Check out their pricing for schools, too. This is one of the rare (IMHO) sites that has set a price point that's affordable. OUTSTANDING! Check out this page of suggestions and helpful tips, too.

But today I received an email (as did most of you, I'll bet) that announced some new features, two of which I think are excellent. First, you can now put a copy of your voicethread on your ipod or iphone. Second, you can now clone a presentation so that you can present it to a different audience. It just clears the current comments. Very nice, eh?