Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Internet to get much needed cleaning

Many years ago, back in the 90's ('97, I think) I had a mailing list for folks who were interested in getting some Mac Tips. We had just installed a Mac lab and I was HOOKED on a computer with a mouse, baby!! Woohoo!!!


One March 31st I sent out (forwarded) a notice that the Internet was going to be shut down starting at midnight that night in order for "them" to flush out the bad links and to reset the servers. It would take 24 hours, so don't make plans for the next day. Disconnect everything! ("Step awayyy from the computer...") I THINK I put a smiley face at the bottom of that email, but I'm not sure. Regardless, I THOUGHT it was perfectly obvious what this was about.

However, the next morning I received an email from someone who thanked me sincerely for giving that heads up. He had quickly forwarded it on to his Superintendent so he could alert the rest of the staff of this outage.

I emailed back right away to tell him that it was an April Fool's joke. (for Pete's sake!) There IS NO "them" who go around cleaning out dead links nor resetting servers. It was a JOKE!

A few minutes later I received another email from this person (the last time I ever heard from him) saying that I had no idea the amount of trouble I had caused, and that the 'joke' was neither funny nor appreciated.

Well, here is the Snopes entry for this not-so-obvious hoax (for some, at least). http://www.snopes.com/holidays/aprilfools/cleaning.asp

It DOES sound official, doesn't it? If Snopes is blocked, here's the text:

*** Attention ***

It's that time again!

As many of you know, each year the Internet must be shut down for 24 hours in order to allow us to clean it. The cleaning process, which eliminates dead email, inactive ftp and www sites, and empty USENET groups, allows for a better working and faster Internet.

This year, the cleaning process will take place from 12:01 a.m. GMT on April 1 until 12:01 a.m. GMT on April 2 (the time least likely to interfere with ongoing work). During that 24-hour period, five powerful Internet search engines situated around the world will search the Internet and delete any data that they find.

In order to protect your valuable data from deletion we ask that you do the following:

1. Disconnect all terminals and local area networks from their Internet connections.

2. Shut down all Internet servers, or disconnect them from the Internet.

3. Disconnect all disks and hard drives from any connections to the Internet.

4. Refrain from connecting any computer to the Internet in any way.

We understand the inconvenience that this may cause some Internet users, and we apologize. However, we are certain that any inconveniences will be more than made up for by the increased speed and efficiency of the Internet, once it has been cleared of electronic flotsam and jetsam.

We thank you for your cooperation.

Kim Dereksen
Interconnected Network Maintenance staff,
Main branch,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sysops and others: Since the last Internet cleaning, the number of Internet users has grown dramatically. Please assist us in alerting the public of the upcoming Internet cleaning by posting this message where your users will be able to read it. Please pass this message on to other sysops and Internet users as well.

Thank you."

Students caught sexting. Now what?

Two girls got caught sending nude pictures of themselves to their friends. But, they did it while in school. The question now is, "Now what?" "How should the school react?"

Should they:
1) Stiffen the rules and penalties for having cell phones in school?
2) Hold an assembly to help to educate the kids on why this is inappropriate, etc

Geez, I hope you didn't pick #1 as one district is doing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I wish I could take this class -"Let's Get Serious - Games"

Yes, I do teach at Harrisburg University, so this will come off sounding like a University promotional post. But, I really DO wish I could take this class. If you live in the Harrisburg area and the notion of educational games interests you, you might want to take a long look at it.

"Central PA ASTD is offering a FREE broadcast of an eLearning Guild Online Forum - "Let's Get Serious...Games." The event will be broadcast at Harrisburg University and is sponsored by JPL.

Games are intriguing as a learning solution for many, but they question whether games really are effective, whether games can really be developed without a huge budget or complex tools, and whether stakeholder support can be found for implementing serious games as part of a learning strategy.

Take a look at different approaches for designing, developing and implementing gaming strategies as part of your organization's learning initiatives by attending a broadcast of the eLearning Guild's "Let's Get Serious . . . Games" Online Forum at Harrisburg University on Thursday, April 2 and Friday, April 3.

This is a two-afternoon event. You can register for only a single afternoon or register for both afternoons. If you want to attend both days you will need to register twice. The agenda for both days is from 10:30 am to 4:45 pm.

Learn more and register at http://www.centralpaastd.org/events.asp

This FREE event is a $495.00 value!

This central PA ASTD event is hosted by Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and sponsored by JPL."


Every time I turn around I see more and more VERY cool things that you can do with an iPhone. I WANT ONE!!! Come on, Apple. When will you let other carriers handle that phone, too? If we can't get a signal where we use that phone we can't use it!! Just IMAGINE how many of those phones you'd sell if you allowed other carriers to sell it!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Horizon Report for K12 Education


We all know about the Horizon report, right?
"Each year, an Advisory Board considers the results of these dialogs and also looks at a wide range of articles, published and unpublished research, papers, and websites to generate a list of technologies, trends, challenges, and issues that knowledgeable people in technology industries, higher education, and museums are thinking about."

But I hadn't known about this version of it - the K12 Edition.
"Each edition of the Horizon Report introduces six emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use in the educational community within three adoption horizons over the next one to five years."

I think this is an important document. I think you should download this pdf version (once you've read the web version, maybe) and send it to your Principal, your Superintendent, and your Curriculum person - and you Tech Director. Then suggest that the five of you meet to discuss it. Far too many of our districts operate without proper context, focused solely on test data, or attendance data, etc.

Wouldn't this be an excellent conversation to have with those stakeholders? Wait - invite some parents, as well. And some students. And some other teachers. If they don't know about a particular trend, educate them about it. Talk about them. What do they enable? Why is that important?

This COULD be exactly what is needed to help spark real change in your district.

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I admit it: I was wrong about twitter

OK, Kristin. I'll admit it. Yes, I was VERY wrong about twitter. Kristin kindly reminded me of this post in which I said that I just didn't "Get" twitter. But there are two things to factor into account here. First, it was August of 2007. Second, I *did* point out that it might take me a while, saying it took a full six pack before I could stand the taste of Schlitz. :-)

Since then, however, I've learned to ignore the noise and embrace the learning that comes from it. Most recently I wrote about the experience with trying to find a teacher in Vietnam, or this post about images of the global recession, or this one that pointed me to the GE Smartgrid site, (Have you tried that yet?), or some of these posts about twittter.

So, I will gladly eat my words. I DO get it, now, and I LOVE it! I just wish I had THOUGHT of it first.

Annotating in Preview (Mac)

I kept seeing the Annotate menu options in Preview but they were always greyed out, so I figured their use was limited. Not so.

Read this post on the MacOSX Tips blog that tells you just what to do to greatly enhance the power of Preview. Well written article that tells you exactly what to do. Permanent improvement!

The Story of Money

A friend just pointed me to this excellent video about how money is made. It's called "Money as Debt." It's 42 minutes long, animated, but it could/should be broken into two or even three viewings in order to facilitate the conversations that are sure to arise from it.

I'll embed it here, but you'll still likely have to "work with it" at home since Google Video is probably blocked at your school.

Great stuff!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

One tool for learning - pick one

Kurt Paccio over there at Tech Ruminations has asked a good question.

"Imagine for a moment that your son or daughter will be going off to college shortly. The college sends you a letter that due to circumstances students may only be provided with ONE learning tool. ONE.

You may choose a textbook or you may choose a pen, calculator, or whatever. One tool.
What would that tool be?"

I would also have you say WHY you chose that tool. You'd say something like, "With that one tool I can do everything." Right?

Kurt then suggests that we ask that simple question of our school leaders and post back to him with the responses you hear. That would be interesting wouldn't it? I think especially if you ask them to support their choice. How much is spent each year for textbooks and calculators? Is it THAT big of a reach to go 1-to-1?

Of course, the hidden costs aren't factored in here. Costs like upgrading your network to support all those computers. And increasing your bandwidth. And the costs of maintianing all those computers. Still, it's an interesting quesiton. WHy not ask it and get back to Kurt with your responses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The reality of the global recession


Enough said?

Yes, I suppose it is - for US. But what about your students? What context do they have for this? What are their thoughts about it? Wouldn't a discussion forum or a blog be a great tool for them to talk about this right now? Who even asks them what they think? Shouldn't YOU?

(Thanks to @ryanbretag for this tweet tonight)

Smartgrid - This is VERY COOL!

Science teachers - do you have a camera attached to your laptop or desktop? If so, you MUST check this out: http://ge.ecomagination.com/smartgrid/#/augmented_reality

First, print the document that the page points to (on the right side of the page). Then, turn on your webcam, hold the paper to face the camera, and click one of the buttons on the bottom right corner of the page. Allow flash to use your camera.

You're going to LOVE showing this to your classes!

Many thanks to @kditzler for tweeting this tonight. What fun!

A nice back-channeling story

What is backchanneling? Imagine being able to talk and ask and answer questions that were arising from watching a video or listening to a speaker. Imagine it being done in a "chat room" of some kind and not orally. That is backchanneling.

This is one of the best descriptions of a class period in whcih the students tried their hands at this kind of learning. Chris Webb is the author. Give it a read.

Time Lapse photos of glaciers

I was lucky enough to hear a great episode on Fresh Air today. It features an interview with James Balog, a photographer who has been spending years documenting the disappearance of the glaciers. Yes, I KNOW that there is a debate, not about the warming of the planet, but about who is to blame for it. But regardless, I REALLY think you'll enjoy this interview. Click the Listen Now link near the top of the page. I loved his description of the huge lakes that simply vanish in seconds - right before your eyes when the ice beneath the water ruptures, and the water is sucked down into the enormous hole.

When you're done, go here to see the picture show and to see the movie. (It's a youtbue video, so... do what you have to do to see it.)

Nova will be airing an episode entitled, "Extreme Ice" on March 24th. A must-see for any science teacher, I'd think. Also, check out the website and the incredible photography and videos there.

Mark your calendars. March 24th. Watch it! This is the kind of documentary that is sure to be a life-changing experience for a student somewhere who will think, "*I* want to be a photographer like that!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Sixth Sense + Semantic Web = TOTAL change

On Friday I shared some sites and ideas with some Superintendents and Principals in one part of the state. BOY, do I now wish that I had been caught up with my feeds! That would have really changed the way that I ended the session.

After the session one one Principal said that he has been pushing for his teachers to use this kind of technology (to DO things like collaborate, etc) for a couple of years but he's meeting with great resistance. One teacher (about 40 yrs old) told him that he felt that computers were ruining education and that they needed to get back top books and pencils. Keep that quote in mind as you read on.

Until I saw this video on TED of Pattie Maes I was thinking that the next really big change in technology would be in the form of the Semantic Web. That's the web that researchers like Tim-Berners Lee, the inventor of the current World Wide Web, are now working on. (See Tim Berners-Lee on Ted talking about his next idea here) Imagine having the web understanding context of words and ideas, not just matching words as it does now with search engines. Want to know more? Watch this video. (Or this one. It's very good.)

That's what I THOUGHT would be the biggest revolution. But I was wrong. (I think. :-) ) I think the next thing to RADICALLY change things is the invention that Pattie Maes demonstrated. Imagine wearing a device that interacted with the environment. What will we/education do then? When kids are walking around (at home, not at school because it will be banned, of course) with a device that can tell them whatever they want to know about the object they're looking at, what will be the purpose of school? The part of the demo that blew me away was when he was in the grocery store and got data on a product displayed right on the product. And linking to Amazon to see what readers have rated a given book - displayed right on the book!

This technology works right now. And she said that it costs less than $350 to build the one she demonstrated. That means that it's very possible (likely?) that we'll begin to see it in the stores within ten years. What if it takes twenty years? That's still within the career lifetimes of many of you. In your career you're going to go from Google on a laptop to the world around your neck. You've already got the world in your cell phone (also banned in most schools).

It's impossible to begin to train yourself on how to use a technology that doesn't yet exist, but it IS possible to begin to rethink old ideas about the role of our schools. Think about the person who argued that computers are ruining education and that we should go back to book and pencils. That guy will still be teaching in 15 years. At SOME point along the way, if that attitude doesn't change, it would HAVE to be considered malpractice to be so backward. Would you want YOUR kids to be in his class? Sure, he may be very nice, and he may be real good at getting his students to remember what he's saying - at least long enough for the test. But, at some point that just HAS to be irrelevant, doesn't it? The test-taking skills that he would be teaching would have no further relevance. At SOME point we MUST acknowledge that the role of schools should change.

Am I wrong?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The long arm of the school


The ignorance and fear and, perhaps, paranoia of some districts STILL makes me crazy. Today, for example, we heard of one school who told their teachers that they were not to access Ning sites using their school laptops - not even from home! AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!

So, their staff can't participate in the classroom 2.0 ning, for example. This is a professional ning which, at the time of this writing, has 19,768 members (educators) from around the world. It's a place where they could make the global connections for their classes. (It's where I would have gone had my six degrees test failed.) It's a place where they could ENJOY learning from others, receiving professional development for FREE! Where they could be learning about teaching strategies, web tools, software, cool videos to see, and SO much more. Nor could they be a part of the MoodleMeet ning, or any of the MANY nings intended for professionals.

Where does this kind of fear come from? And more importantly, perhaps, what has to happen in this country to shake us up enough - to WAKE US UP! - to the point that we are ALL DEMANDING a world class education for our kids? Anything less is criminal. If we told people that there was a terrorist plot to deprive our kids of the BEST possible education that our tax dollars can buy, there would (I HOPE!) be such an outcry as to wake up even the legislators. But, this travesty is NOT being perpetrated by terrorists. It's being done by our own hands. And it's all due to ignorance and fear. IMHO.

OH.. and get THIS... Another teacher told me that his new Tech Director informed him that he would be REMOVING GOOGLE EARTH from the computers in the elementary buildings because, "They have no educational value." ARRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!





Thanks a LOT, Aly and Robin. Now I'm hoarse from screaming. Again. :-)

Download this free ebook


This is a link to a pdf file based on the series that Vicki Davis did for Atomic Learning. It's now being made available to you for FREE. My suggestion - download it. Print it. Get out your highlighter and mark it up. Add notes to the margins. But, most importantly, make it happen in YOUR school!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation put to the test

This just blows my little mind.

I'd been working with a Social Studies teacher and I knew that he taught a unit on the War in Vietnam. I asked if he'd like to somehow connect with a class in Vietnam to study the war from the two perspectives. He was all for it. But, how to find a partnering school? I tried epals but I haven't heard anything yet. I tried TigEd but somehow my subscription lapsed. So today I tried Twitter.

My post read something like this: "testing 6 degrees of Separation theory. I'm looking for a class in Vietnam to work w/ 1 of mine. Can anyone get me started?" Not long afterwards one follower re-tweeted my plea. (Much appreciated, too, BTW) Shortly after that I received another reply saying that she was connected to Morgan Freeman, if I ever needed that connection. That, alone, was pretty interesting.

But, within another half hour os so I was replied to from a woman whose friend's brother teaches in Vietnam! BAM! That fast, and just 3 degrees of separation away, is the connection.

SO, NOW ask me what good is twitter.


Google Reader for Beginners

That's actually the title of Google Reader's blog post: http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2009/01/google-reader-for-beginners.html

If you know folks who are just getting started with RSS, and you're thinking of showing them the Google Reader, check out this post on their blog. It points to some great video tutorials and a nice Getting Started guide.

Check it out.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Grad class PowerPoint Assignment - ARGH!

I can't let this go. C, I won't use your name, and I don't know where you're taking this grad class, so I won't be bashing the fine institution, but I HAVE to share this.

I just read a tweet from a person who is taking a Grad course in "Technology and Leadership" for Principal certification. Got it? "Technology and Leadership" is the name of the course. An assignment was made to make an 8 slide presentation to analyze your school's tech plan, etc. This person was penalized 1/2 point because the PowerPoint didn't have any transitions or animations!

That scream you heard just a bit ago? That was me, again. ARRRGGGHHH!!!!!

A few years ago I sent out a tip (that was in my pre-blog days, so that tip is LONG gone) that pointed to a study that showed some fascinating results. Three control groups were used. In the first group the professor used overhead transparencies. IN the second group the professor used PowerPoint slides with NO animation or transitions. In the third group the professor used a PowerPoint that DID contain animations and transitions. Test scores between the first two groups were consistently even. But, test scores of the third group (the group that suffered through the animations) were consistently 10% (ten percent) LOWER! I SO wish I could find that article again (I FOUND IT!!) to give to this person to share with this professor.

So, several things bother me with this assignment.
  • First, assigning a PowerPoint for this kind of a question pretty much guarantees that there will be a lot of text and bullets on those 8 slides. To fully discuss your school's tech plan requires more than 8 slides - or lots of text, I would think.
  • Second, to insist that the person use transitions and animations presumes that these folks don't yet know how to do that, and they are being told to do so, in spite of the need for a transition or animation to make a point. Heaven help us if a person going for Principal certification doesn't know enough HOW to animate a slide AND know enough WHEN to do so.
  • Third, it is an unstated perception, then, that the use of transitions and animations is a good thing, and therefore a "look-for" that a principal should use when observing a teacher or students and their PowerPoints.
  • Fourth, in a Grad class dealing with technology, holding PowerPoint up as the ultimate in personal expression is outrageous! Don't you wonder what other wonders of technology these folks will be exposed to? Perhaps... Frontpage?
Help me out here. Am I wrong to be outraged over this? A Grad class for Principal certification and THAT is the best that can be assigned? Where is the modeling of GOOD, effective technology? Where is... ARGH!.... ANY value at all in that assignment? There is FAR too much at stake for us to be tolerant any longer with such CRAP! Agreed?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

New Energy Idea

We know that our future depends on breaking our dependence on fossil fuels. But the question is how. This video, again from TED, is one that wil blow your mind. Well, it blew MY mind, at least.

A couple things impressed me. First, his passion. He is DRIVEN! Second, WHEN he became interested - when he was 15, in high school. Third, his product - GREAT potential for energy al over the planet.

Check this out. Send it to your favorite science teacher to share with his/her classes. Great stuff.

JB, is THIS the one you mentioned?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Power Down Science Challenge

This post from the Google Blog, told me about this video contest. It's Power Down For The Planet.

I recently read somewhere how much electricity this nation could save just by turning off our printers and computers and copiers, instead of just letting them go to sleep on low lower. It was the equivalent of 3 power plants - as best as my memory serves me. So, let's just say ONE power plant (to take the pressure off my failing memory) That's a lot of energy.

The google blog post will start you off thinking about saving power, and then it will send you to the Power Down site. Check out the video contest. Even if your students didn't win a thing the research and effort that would go into making the video would certainly pay off, don't you think?

An alarming statistic that Thomas Friedman mentioned in his talk about his new book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" has been sticking in my mind a lot recently for some reason. One of his assistants mentioned to him, that there will be another billion people on the planet by 2020. (Just ten more years, folks) Give each one of them just ONE 60 watt incandescent light bulb which they will run for just four hours per day. That would be 10,000 megawatts. And THAT would mean we'd need TWENTY more, 500 megawatt, coal-fired powerplants! Does that scare you? Let's say he's wrong. Let's say it would only require 2 more - and we KNOW that with another billion people on the planet that 2 more won't cut it. Scarey, indeed.

Anyway, isn't this a topic worth discussing with your students? Maybe a way to get them more involved would be produce a video for that contest. Or, maybe it would be for them to interview your township or borough manager to find out where they find the greatest waste of power to be, and start a campaign to raise public awareness. Maybe it would be for them to do a study about how much electricity the school could save by installing the motion-detecting lights in the bathrooms, and how long before they'd p[ay for themselves. Maybe it would end up with them just turning their computers off at night. Now, if YOUR students do that, and MY students do that...

I do hope you can find a way to introduce this concept to your students. After all, it's not a problem YET. But it WILL be in their adult lifetimes.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The next viral video? Check it out.


Check out this video from Suffern Middle School. Here is the description as it appears on TeacherTube:

"This film was created as the Keynote for Net Generation Education Project: http://netgened.wikispaces.com When kids at the Suffern Middle School were asked to talk about education and their future, they gave Peggy Sheehy, the SMS media specialist, an earful. Listen and learn the bits of wisdom that can be gleaned from the students, if we only dare to ask them. Students from The Elisabeth Morrow School Tech Club contributed machinima created in Quest Atlantis. Marianne Malmstrom (aka Knowclue) worked remotely with the students of Suffern to create machinima of their avatars on Teen Second Life. Original music,"

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Video to watch for Earth Day

I just finished watching this video, another one from TED. In it, Captain Charles Moore talks about how plastics are polluting our oceans and killing fish and other wildlife.

With Earth Day coming up again in April, save this one to show to your students. They will be inheriting this problem. It might be interesting to hear what they have to say about it now, don't you think?

TED - TV worth watching! :-)

Monday, March 02, 2009

YouTube Symphony Orchestra auditions

Many of you have already seen this video by Mike Wesch, creator of the other viral video of his, The Machine is Us/ing Us. If you haven't yet seen that first video link, watch it soon. CAUTION: there are a couple words in it that may not be suitable for public airplay - at least not in school. But, it's VERY well worth your time. It talks about how YouTube has become more than just a place to upload videos, it's shaping our cultures - and more.

Case in point, the YouTube Youth Symphony Orchestra. Record yourself playing your instrument and send it in where it will be judged. The winners get to participatein the world's first online collaborative orchestra. (I REALLY thought I had blogged about it a while back, too, but I guess not.)

Anyway, the idea is very cool, I think. The WORLD is auditioning! And wait until you hear some of the talent that the youth around the world possess. LIke this young lady who will dazzle you with her amazing piano playing. Then check out some on this page. I'm not sure if they are, indeed, winners, as my search sought to find, but they are amazingly talented kids, nonetheless.

Send this to your favorite music teacher.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Please read this blog post

No, not mine. THIS one.

When you finish, tell me how you FEEL.

Update: 5 minutes later
RATS! I pasted the wrong URL into that link. If you got a Youtube video, try the link again.

Kick Youtube

I read this in a blog somewhere, but I'm sorry to say that I've forgotten which one. If it was yours, please leave a comment below to let me know.

I didn't post about it right away because I wasn't sure I wanted to talk about ways to illegally download youtube videos. (From the Youtube TOS: "Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners.")

But, this exists, and I know that many teachers will download a video to show in class when youtube is blocked. (Of course, giving the teachers the 'key' to the filter would eliminate that, but that's another story.) So here it is. Kickyoutube.

Here's how it works. When someone sends you the url for a youtube video, simply replace the www. portion of the url with the word kick. It'll look something like this:

Original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?=...etc etc
New: http://kickyoutube.com/watch?=...etc etc

In a couple moments you're taken to the new site that has the video showing, and a new mennu bar appears above it that contains the names of common file extensions, from mp4 to avi and more. Click the file type you want, then click GO. The word Go changes to the word DOWN. When it does, right-click the word DOWN and choose Save target as...

That simple.

I've no doubt that kickyoutube is also blocked at school, so you'll have to do this at home, too. And, make sure that when you finish showing this to your class you delete it.

There. But I'm STILL not sure about the ethical part of sharing this.