Monday, December 24, 2007

NORAD Updates Santa Tracking Technology

It is Christmas Eve and my son and I are doing our annual ritual of tracking Santa's movements with the help of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on their website NORAD started declassified Santa tracking in 1955 when a newspaper erroneously published the phone number to military command. The Air Force personnel on duty gave the children who called the latest radar information on Santa's location and a tradition was born.

This year's version is making use of Google technology. Google Maps is pinpointing Santa's location with updates every 5 minutes. Each spot marked is a link to a Google search page on the particular location Santa has visited. From here you can learn all about the cities Santa has visited. There is also a plug-in for Google Earth for those who want a better look at the terrain Santa and his reindeer are navigating. While it might be easy to criticize Google for finding a way to commercialize Santa, this actually could become a great lesson in geography. Thanks to the United States Air Force and the Canadian Air Force (who jointly run NORAD) and Google for making a fun holiday activity into fun lesson in geography.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Remedial Gaming

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Leslie Mabry of Houghton Mifflin, who came to our school to teach us Skills Tutor . Skills Tutor is a diagnostic and remediation application for Reading, Language Arts, Math, Writing, Information Skills, Language, and Workforce Readiness Skills. Students take pretests which are used to prescribe activities and assessments to help student weaknesses. Teachers can create various reports of student progress which can be shared with students, parents, and administrators. Leslie did a great job showing us how this worked.

However, while she was showing us the various multimedia activities and other parts of Skills Tutor, I wondered what the product would be like if the problems followed a story line like a game. Students could have a hero whose mission is to save the world, civilization, etc.... During the course of play, students would have to solve various interdisciplinary problems to achieve objectives set for them in the game based on pretest results. Teachers could access reports on how well the student is solving problems during game play.

Purists might think this is heresy but this could be more engaging for the students while making the problems more realistic. I have observed this with my son who just turned 13. Two of his favorite games are Animal Crossing and MySims. Both of these games allow the player to build, tear down, and rebuild towns and communities. Other skills such as economics, money management, trade with other towns are also part of the game. Needless to say, a career interest inventory he took earlier this school year showed he had a aptitude in architecture. Maybe the games he is playing are giving him a head start.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why I am Glad Medicine is Not Like Education

I have been battling kidney stones ever since Thanksgiving and they don't want to leave. However, there is something I am thankful for after two trips to the emergency room, one trip to the doctor, untold gallons of water consumed, and lots of pain medication. I am thankful the medical profession does not treat technology like education sometimes does. If it did I might be dead!

When I was in college I worked as a patient transporter in a hospital's radiology department which allowed me to observe various exams and equipment. Back in those days, doctors ordered an Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP) for patients complaining of kidney stones. This exam involved injecting a contrast dye of iodine into the patient that would eventually pass into the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. Wherever the dye stopped, that is where the stone usually was. A series of x-rays were taken over time to track the flow of dye through the body. There are some risks with this procedure. The biggest was the contrast dye could cause serious, even fatal reactions to those who were allergic to iodine. Another negative is the exposure to radiation in the groin area with the series of x-rays requried for the exam. While this exposure was usually not threating, you always want to reduce exposure to any radition. I had this procedure done the first time I had kidney stones over 8 years ago.

This time doctors ordered a Computer Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan. This non-invasive procedure can render a 3-dimensional picture of the targeted area of the body, which in my case showed exactly where the stone was and exactly how large it is. Due to non-invasive nature of the procedure, no potentially harmful chemicals are put into the body. Also, CT-Scan technology has improved so much better that better images can be taken with less exposure with x-ray radiation. Training using CT-Scan equipment must have gotten more widespread over the years. When I worked in Radiology, the department only had about 4 specially trained technologists who operated the equipment. For a CT-Scan to be done in the early hours of a holiday or the evening of a weekend, it required calling in a technologists for life or death situations. More routine procedures would have to wait for normal business hours. This time with my kidney stones I was given CT-Scans at 4:00 AM on Thanksgiving and 8:00 PM on a Saturday with a technologists already on site.

Obviously I lived through one IVP but I would never recommend it. Fortunately there is something better. This is because the medical profession is striving to produce better procedures which save more lives, provide more comfort to the patient, and hopefully lower the costs for healthcare. Imagine where education might be if it was as willing to adopt new technology like healthcare.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Busy Short Week

It was a very short but packed week. Monday, I had the pleasure of working with a education professor from the University of Nevada - Las Vegas about video podcasts. We also talked about some other technology challenges for teachers. Tuesday, I did a Tech Tuesday on creating movies with Microsoft Windows Movie Maker. Everyone who participated had a great time. Finally, a group of science teachers wanted their students to explore websites on sound and light. Despite claims to the contrary, a test of the sites was done and they worked. What did not work was the URL to a website that led to the other sites. I had recommended the teachers put together a wiki linking the sites, providing student instructions when they got to the sites, and assessment questions. This fell on deaf ears. Fortunately, myself and tech savvy teacher got together to create a wiki with the desired links. It worked perfectly and now these science teachers are believers.

Sorry I look like I am yawning. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Too Much Information or Not Enough

An ARS Technica article tells about a Ohio Education Association (OEA) memo recommending teachers to not participate in social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. The reason given is to keep any possible inappropriate postings from being used against teachers by administration or parents which could jeopardize careers. Another reason given by the OEA is to make sure there is no question if students post fake sites in an attempt to embarrass teachers. A third reason is students using these sites to contact teachers could be considered inappropriate contact even if the site is considered professional.

While it is commendable for the OEA to take these steps to protect is members which is one of the purposes of the organization, this position is too drastic. What the OEA should do is sponsor workshops and in services to educate teachers about social networking and how they work. These workshops could include information on appropriate use, how to spot fake sites and what to do when one is found, and how they can be used for professional development and networking. Social networking sites are being used by professionals to network and share information with other professionals more and more. For teachers to not make use of these professional opportunities is short sighted.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Education: A Matter of National Security

According to a CNET article, former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley claimed national security is "going to be won the classrooms" and "A train wreck is going to happen unless we wake up in this country. " Bradley was speaking to a group of technology elites about education's inability to produce enough skilled workers. To change the situation, the former New Jersey Senator called for national standards, doubling teacher's salaries, and pay schemes based on student achievement. Bradley further went on to say it is time for the federal government to enforce national education standards because of the to produce the qualified workers needed for the future of our country. Anticipating critics who would cry local control of schools would be taken away he responds, "Well, sorry. This is a national issue."

This is not the first time education was considered a matter of national security. The National Defense Education Act of 1958, a response to the launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, provided the first federal funds for education. The purpose of the act was to increase math, science, and modern language abilities in students to counter a perceived education gap with the Soviets that threatened national security. In Senator Bradley's claim education is a matter of national security has validity. The ability of today's students to learn how to learn, problem solve, and work collaboratively is important. Considering the current war against a loosely organized terrorist group transcending the borders of sovereign nations, the argument that the future of our national security is in the classrooms has merit. The military is constantly reviewing its strategy and tactics and developing new ones to achieve its objectives with the constraints set by civilian authorities.

One of the biggest problems with the No Child Left Behind law is the fact that while every student is supposed to show they are learning according to standards, each state develops those standards and definitions of success. This inconsistency further hinders the ability to produce highly skilled and adaptable workers needed to meet the challenges of the future. National standards can be achieved with continued local control of schools. Adopting national standards could free school boards and district administrations to concentrate more on providing tools, training, and support for teachers to meet those standards.

While no teacher or administrator will ever claim to be overpaid, care must be taken when implementing pay scales based on achievement. There is an old story from the Soviet Union about a nail factory. The manager of the plant, whose position and salary was based on performance, was given a goal to produce one million nails in a year. The nails that were produced were too small and weak to be of any use for construction purposes and the industry suffered. However, the manager met his targeted goal. The next year, the central planners set the plant goal to produce one million pounds of nails during the year thinking the manager would correct the situation. The manager achieved his goal but the nails produced where like heavy spikes and proved to be too big for construction purposes. The industry still suffered and the housing shortage continued. If teachers are told their pay is based strictly on academic achievement based on test scores, then students will be highly skilled in taking tests but those skills will not help students in the real world. While their pay may be based on achievement, teachers must be assured they will have creative freedom to make learning more meaningful for their students without fear of economic loss.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Teacher Bytes November 13, 2007

Here are some random thoughts about using camcorders in the classrooms.

Learn Vocabulary, Feed the Hungary

An English Language Arts teacher came into the lab with her class today to finish unp an assignment. She directed those students who were finished to go to a website called She explained the purpose of this website is for students to learn vocabulary. However, this site has an interesting twist. presents you with a vocabulary word and four choices, all you have to do is select the answer you believe is correct. For each correct answer you give, the site's sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. The site is adaptive, as the user gets more answers correct, the words get harder. If you get an answer wrong, the words get easier. For those who are competitive, there are levels 1-50 with 50 being the highest. There is also a little bowl that tracks how much rice you have earned. This site can be used in all classes as part of the curriculum or a reward for good work. I must give this warning: this site is very addictive.

Please share how you would use in your classes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

No Child Left Behind Left Behind

Click on the following links to view the rest of Senator McCain's speech: Part 2, Part 3

In a November 2, 2007 article about the No Child Left Behind law, US News and World Report writer Eddy Ramirez wrote the law was "expected to be one of the most contentious debates of the political year...But as the calendar ticks into November, little has been heard since early summer...." I went to a meet and greet for Republican Presidential hopeful John McCain in Hilton Head Island recently. Here are the topics Senator McCain covered during his half hour stop: the war in Iraq (we are winning but the Democrats want to surrender), illegal immigration (backed off the amnesty program because we need to secure the borders first), Social Security (lady had a good idea and he would study it), beating Hillary Clinton (I guess she won the Democratic nomination but she is a liberal who voted to cut funds from the troops in Iraq), Iran is evil (Iranians are transporting powerful bombs that kill American soldiers), cutting back on pork barrel spending (drunken sailors don't like to be compared to Congress), health care (our system is the best in the world and government would mess it up, just look at Canada), and claimed to be the only conservative Republican running who has experience in national security affairs (invoked Ronald Reagan's City on a Hill). Other topics included not letting soldiers die in vain, close the Guantanamo prison for Enemy Combatants and send the occupants to Fort Leavenworth, forbid the use of torture because it is immoral and it could be used on American soldiers in future wars (McCain should know).

The one topic that was not covered was education, No Child Left behind in particular. In the Republican debate in Orlando, Florida (October 21, 2007), only Fred Thompson was asked if No Child Left Behind was it a mistake? Rudy Giuliani danced around the issue before finally saying parents should enforce the standards. No other candidates were even challenged. It is mid-November and No Child Left behind is supposed to be reauthorized before the end of the year. While our country faces serious challenges the the next president must face, education must be one of these challenges. Our economy is changing from an industrial to an information based economy. The War on Terror is a new type of war that will require new tactics and weapons that have probably never been thought of before 9/11. Attention to education will be very important if the United States is to continue leading the world.

Please let me know what you feel Presidential candidates should do about No Child Left Behind or education in general.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Teaching Media Literacy

Wikipedia defines media literacy as "the process of accessing, analyzing, evaluating and creating messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres and forms." Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather calls for more education in media literacy. Andy Carvin of Learning.Now recently engaged in a conversation on his blog with students about how media literacy should be taught in schools. According to students who participated in the discussion there is agreement on the importance of consuming and producing media responsibly. How to teach responsible media literacy is different story. There seems to be three diverse groups. One group believes there should be separate courses on media literacy. Another group believes media literacy should be incorporated into courses on technology. A third group thinks media literacy should be incorporated into existing academic courses such as English or Social Studies. Other debates focused on when it should be taught. Considering students start creating original media content are marketed to at an early age, and politicians such as Howard Dean and Ron Paul signal a changes in the rules of politics by effectively using the Internet, media literacy should start in elementary schools and become standard in all curriculum at all levels.

When do you think media literacy should be taught and how?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Movies to Flip Out Over! Teacher Bytes Episode 16

I never really could get into video blogging, vlogging, video podcasting, vodcasting, or whatever you called. The reasons included carrying relatively big camcorders, trying to connect them to a computer, or fooling with web cams that made me look like I was in a 1970's Kung Fu movie. Pure Digital Technology has created a simple video camcorder called The Flip which gives you all of the tools needed to create great videos in one small inexpensive package. With the Flip Video Camera you may be seeing more of my mug than you wish.

The model I recommend is the Ultra with 60 minutes of recording time. This digital camera is fairly well designed. The dimensions of this camera are 4.17" x 2.16" x 1.25" which allows you to carry it in your pocket and carry it anywhere. Whenever you want to record something just turn the camcorder on, point and shoot with one button. There is a 2x digital zoom to get a little closer to the action but not much. It has 2 gigabyte memory which allows for 60 minutes of recording so you don't have to worry about buying and carrying tapes or memory cards. The power source is is two AA batteries which is surprising since most electronic devices have rechargeable batteries these days. Yet, this could be a blessing in disguise since you could purchase rechargeable AA batteries but still purchase alkaline batteries if a back up power source is needed. The viewfinder is a 1.5 inch transflective TFT which should work in bright daylight. Video output can be done in two ways: a TV out jack which you can connect with televisions through RCA jacks or to a computer via a USB jack that pops out the side. Finally, the Flip Ultra has a tripod mount while the Flip does not.

The Flip has a good selection of simple video editing and sharing software built in. There are three different ways to save videos. You can save to a folder the built-in software can put into your computer, save on the camcorder to take to a retail store and burn a DVD, or save for e-mailing. There are some basic editing tools which can trim video on either end and you can create a movie. provides a limited version of its software which can allow you to create a movie in different styles with background music the software selects or you can upload (make sure its legal). You could create voice overs in Audacity, Garage Band, or other audio creation software and import them into your movie creation. Too bad Pure Digital or did not include title and end credit slides in the Flip which could make creations look much better but you can do that in iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. The Flip really shines with its online share capabilities. Finished videos can be uploaded to either AOL Video or YouTube with the push of a button. For more artistic creation you can create video greeting cards online and e-mail links to the site.

For teachers who are looking for a cheap (around $149 for the Flip Ultra) and easy way to integrate video projects into their classes they will be doing back flips over the Flip Camcorder.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Teacher Bytes Episode 15

This is the first attempt at video blogging. The Flip Video camcorder was used to create this posting. I have also used this camcorder to record some video around school with success. I will post more about the Flip in a later blog post. I also discuss how video did liven a class up I was working with today.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Let's invite the Huns

Since I got back from the South Carolina EdTech Conference, things have been hectic around here but I wanted to share some things I got from the conference. It seemed for me and some others I spoke with, this conference could be a transition conference. What I mean is that we have been hearing Web 2.0 hype for awhile. While Web 2.0 is important for the future of education I feel there is something bigger building up and coming down the pike soon. My guess is distance learning will be the coming thing because it will bring together all of the Web 2.0 tools and can link students to teachers who can help them.

The other thing I took away is it may be time to bring students into the conversation on how best to educate them. For the second year in a row, we heard experts talk about how today's students are different because they are "Digital Natives" and have a different way of doing things. Districts across the country are spending millions or maybe billions of dollars, hiring and firing consultants, hiring and firing school administrators, to make Federal Government mandates. Yet, I have never heard of any true discussions about education which involves students. There was one brave young man who entered the Fireside Chat during the K12 Online Conference who provided thoughtful contributions to the conversation that night. Perhaps we need to hear more from young people like him. Perhaps it can give some fresh perspective on what needs to be done.

All in all, it was a good conference and I am looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Deneen Frazier Bowen was the Wednesday keynote speaker at the South Carolina EdTech Conference and it has to rate as one of the best keynotes addresses I have seen. The message was how kids and adults viewed technology and each other’s view of technology or the Digital Native verses Digital Immigrant battle currently taking place. However, it was not so much what she said but how she said it. She dramatized real stories from studies such as Net Day, blogs, newspaper reports, etc…. The message was real. Yet, this still was not the compelling part of her keynote. Ms. Bowen is an actor as well as an educator. She got into character to show how each side of the battle viewed what they did was right and what the other side did was wrong. What is more important is she was able to give voice on how students are able to use technology they are comfortable with to learn and wish adults would have some understanding. Make sure to see the videos of Deneen, Edy, Joanne, Maria, and Priscilla Normal to see for yourself.

On a final note, in my blog posting, Gotta Look Good on TV, mentioned education schools needed to teach media tools to education majors. After seeing Ms. Bowen talk about digital storytelling, I am more convinced than ever these skills need to be taught.

Digital Voice? Who Should Be Listening?

Deneen Frazier Bowen led a preconference session at the South Carolina EdTech Conference entitled Engaging & Involving the Digital Mindset - Student Voices which was another talk about how today's students think differently than most teachers because of the impact of technology on personal lives. Ms. Bowen further talked about a generational disconnect greater than any in history and how students view the world around them through the use of technology and Web 2.0 applications. Most everyone here at the conference will agree with what Ms. Bowen said and then take the message back to their schools. I did this last year when I saw David Warlick give basically the same talk. Some teachers back home will even buy into this notion. However, this will really make little difference because the one group of people that needs to hear this message is parents.

The other day a couple parents called my school complaining their children accessed MySpace at school. I really don't know if the kids did or did not get into the social networking site. Yet, I am almost certain these kids are sneaking into MySpace because their parents have forbidden its use at home. School administrators are likely to defer to defer to the parents partially because they don't totally understand the technology themselves and, in administrators' minds, more important battles to fight. Deneen Frazier Bowen did tell us if parents forbid technology in their minds is a waste of time or dangerous then children (who view technology as necessary for daily life) will begin to hide their activities. This is when it hit me that someone needs to start explaining to parents about the technology their children are using to foster better understanding which will, hopefully, lead to more responsible use.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SC EdTech 2007

I arrived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the South Carolina EdTech conference. Over the next three days I will be giving updates at this blog or at or

Things I am looking forward to:
Innovative use of Web 2.0 in the classroom
Dr. Jim Rex's keynote address
New web portal applications
Distance Learning

Things that concern me:
More podcasting
Non discript Web 2.0 sessions

It should be an interesting 3 days. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gotta Look Good on TV

In the movie Back to the Future there was a scene when Dr. Brown realized why Ronald Reagan became president. He was looking at a video camera and says, "No wonder your president has to be an actor, he's gotta look good on TV." After using WIZiQ for two staff development projects, teaching our Smart Board teachers how to record Smart Board use, Animoto for some slide shows, Voice Thread (thanks Cathy Nelson for this tip) for annotated slide shows. and observing, I realize teachers of the future will not only have to look good on video, they will have to become producers, directors, videographers, editors, set designers, and anything else needed to produce a video. Maybe it is time education schools start looking into introducing media creation skills into education curriculum.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Building Relationships to Change Society

In August of 2004, Dr. Laurie Bassi of McBassi & Company met with a group of teacher from the new Bluffton High School (SC) which I was a part of. During a break Dr. Bassi told me the factors of production have changed to reflect a service based economy. The new factors of productions are Land, Human Capital, and Relational Capital. This stayed with me and I used them in an honors economics class I taught. Today I heard Clarence Fisher talk about how education will be built on relationships with no regard to geography in his keynote address for the K12 Online Conference. This will be very important as the walls of classrooms are torn down bit by bit as technology progresses.

I see this happening in two ways. First, students with specific educational needs will be matched with teachers who can meet those needs regardless of physical proximity. Technology will bring the two together. Virtual schools are just the beginning of this trend. Next will come classrooms where a teacher might only be teaching half of the students in the room. The rest of the students will interact with the teacher via distance learning. The group of students who are not working with the physical teacher will be working with another teacher at another school. Second, as teachers and students search for new experiences, they will build relationships with groups of students and teachers from anywhere in the world.

Mr. Fisher mentioned something else that interested me. He said society will have to change for our classrooms to change from the current model of rows of desks with the teacher at the front. Fisher sees classrooms becoming more like studios where there will many different activities going on at once managed by the teacher. This classroom will be noisy and chaotic which current administrators and teachers will have a hard time with. Will society change? Absolutely! Society is already changing as digital natives are moving into adulthood and going to work. Blogs, wikis, social networks, and other Web 2.0 applications are finding their way into business. Eventually, this way of thinking will find its way into education but education moves very slow. It will take time for the changing of the guard to effect the total change in education as digital immigrants will inevitably move out and pass the torch to the new generations.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

David Warlick said in his keynote address for the K12 Online Conference the walls are coming down. What he means is that technology has progressed to the point where boundaries set classrooms, offices, and other traditional places where people interact are disappearing. Two events that happened to me this week have proven him right. First was participating in the Fireside Chat with David Warlick and personally conducted an in service for the teachers at my school online.

I have participated in chat rooms before and talked to friends via instant messaging. Hey, I even had an interesting conversation with someone from Hong Kong years ago using ICQ. The event this past Monday was different for me. I was participating in an online event that had professional purpose with colleagues from all over the world. Just like physical conferences, I was able to interact and even made a friend or two. However, it was the side chat while David Warlick was fielding questions that impressed me the most. There was some interesting conversations going on and I learned more from this than David. I am looking forward to the rest of the conference which lasts for the next two weeks. If you want more information you can click on the link above or on the right of the blog site.

The other event was born out of necessity to inform teachers about their technology portfolio requirements for this school year. I had tried to do this earlier but could not get the time to do it after school approved. It was recommended I do it on a staff development day this past Tuesday but Teachers were going to be busy with parent conferences. I scheduled several sessions but I remembered hearing about an online conferencing application called WizIQ. I set up the sessions and informed teachers about the session times and how to particpate. Over one third of the teachers participated online. There were a few technical difficulties but overall the sessions went well. So well, I am planning to do it again Tuesday for a session on One-Computer Classrooms. This means any teacher can hold class but not have all the students physically present such as those who are too sick to come to school.

I have been looking out for other online meeting applications and three stand out and all are free. First, is Google Presentation which has a chat function when you share a link to a presentation. Next is Zoho Meeting which is part of the Zoho Online Office Suite. The drawback to Zoho is there is no voice unless you use Skype. The final application is which allows you to stream video live over the Internet. There are also several fee-based applications and I am sure there will be more to come which will break those walls down a little more.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Do your homework or your grounded Mom!

Every once in a while I threaten to write my Congressman suggesting the need for a Parent Accountability Act that would help give NCLB more teeth in helping schools meet Federal objectives. Basically, this law would help schools force parents to become more involved in their child's education, and hopefully produce better students. Of course that would never sit well with voters so it must remain a fantasy.

However, a New Jersey English teacher has come up with an interesting way to motivate parents into getting more involved with their child's education: he assigns parents mandatory homework. According to The New York Times, Damion Frye, an English teacher at Montclair High School, assigns parents the same reading list he gives his students and asks parents to write responses on a blog he setup. Students whose parents don't do their homework could have points taken off their grade. The idea is for parents to share in what is going on in class.

Some parents like the dialog it has created with their children and participate enthusiastically. Other parents don't like the idea of having homework but do it anyway or have creative excuses for not getting it done. Of course there are some parents who refuse to do the homework at all (I wonder what their child's grades, especially homework, are like). Only one child in three years has been docked points for parents not doing an assignment. This is because the parent did not communicate at all with Mr. Frye but it did not affect the student's overall grade.

Is Mr. Frye on the right track? How much would you like to see parents become involved in class?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What a tangled web we weave

Yesterday, our school had two non-related training sessions conducted by our district office staff. One was training us on the new professional development system, The other was taking care of benefit questions and showing everyone how our benefit tracking has now moved to a website. It later struck me how more and more services are moving to the Internet and the Web.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Video Killed the Podcasting Star?

Yahoo will be shutting down Yahoo Podcasts on October 31st after two years. According to a Yahoo News story from Associated Press, the move is part of the company's cost cutting program to make the company more profitable. Other podcast listing services are also hurting as interest is shifting to online video according to a Tech Crunch article.

Most people, including myself , who jumped on the podcasting bandwagon are finding that keeping a sustained podcast going is a difficult task or they get bored and move on to other things such as video. Another thing is most commercially successful podcasts are done by those with broadcasting experience and better equipment which will attract and keep audiences. Finally, like all hot trends, the market gets saturated and cannot sustain 100 podcasts on a particular topic.

This does not mean podcasting is no longer useful in education. While sustaining a podcast on one topic can be tough, schools can always come up with fresh material as different students use their talents and personality in a podcast. Schools and teachers that use podcasts to showcase their school and its students will always fill a niche that no one else can fill. It still is a good exercise for students to open up or do something new to do for projects. It still opens the door for those outside of school to see what is going on. This audience can be from grandparents living miles away or local community members who want to know what their schools, for which they pay hard-earned tax dollars to support, are doing. Video production may be increasing but nothing beats podcasting for being a cheap, easy, and quick media for education.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wiki for the Left Brained

While I am known in my district as "that podcast guy" the Web 2.0 tools I like the most are wikis. The ability to create a web page quickly that allows others to edit is like a dream come true for teachers who want to do collaborative projects but not sure how to spread out the credit for participation in completing the project. There is always one or two groups where one person does most of the work while the rest sit back and take credit. Good wikis allow people to see a history of a page's development with who has done particular edits to a page.

PBWiki has become popular because of its ease of use and its word processor-like wysiwyg interface. Now there is a new wiki for the more random, left-brain, creative types: PikiWiki. PikiWiki is like doing a scrapbook, you start with a blank sheet then paste text, pictures, video, audio anywhere on the page. Each item on the page is like a note. If you don't like the look of your page you can slide the notes around to suit you. There are also tools to help you with the alignment of your items. The concept is good and should prove popular to teachers who embrace wikis as classroom tools. Click here for a sample page I put together using PikiWiki.

Keep in mind, PikiWiki is in a public alpha which means this wiki site is just getting started and still has bugs to work out. One problem is the site does not show the page history which shows page comparisons detailing the evolution of a page. Since you cannot see the page comparisons, you cannot restore an earlier version of the page if someone attempts to sabotage the page (we all know students who might try this). Once the kinks are worked out of the system, the people of the PikiWiki told me they will, PikiWiki should become a great tool for teachers and students.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Google Presentations gets you talking

Ok, forget what I said about presentations being boring. Google has now added Presentation to its list of Google Apps. Google Presentation has been panned by reviewers for not having enough tools to create presentations like Microsoft PowerPoint. However, there is one thing I have found that I like if you teach online or have do a presentation where every participant has a computer, the ability to chat. This communication method would be useful for allowing participants to ask questions during a presentation or communicate with other participants. To access this feature you just have to post the presentation and Google takes care of the rest. You will be given a URL to share which you will give out. This could make presentations more interesting by allowing the audience to participate more.

Technorati Profile

It that a DS in your bookbag? Get it out and open it up!

A teacher telling a student to get out his or her Nintendo DS and start playing an assigned game sounds like a dream to all gamers, including my son. However, Japanese students (and adults) are using their gaming systems for educational pursuits. According to Newsweek International report the Japanese are increasingly viewing the DS as a self-improvement device instead of a time-waster. Top-selling programs include educational games that improve vocabulary, cultural literacy, math skills, and foreign language instruction. Educational games and software have sold over 20 million copies in Japan.

This trend may sweep the United States in the near future. Brain Age for Nintendo DS has been a top seller, drawing adults to purchase the portable gaming devices. The publisher recently released a sequel, Brain Age II which has inspired a bundle package with a special edition Nintendo DS. Other "brain training" games have sold well in the U.S. as well. The Nintendo Wii is also drawing praise for making players physically active, which is drawing traditionally non-gamers into the market. Soon Americans should see some of the educational and self-improvement games currently popular in Japan.

What has this got to do with schools? Last year I attended a break-out session on gaming at the South Carolina EdTech Conference. The presenters in that session pointed out something educators should take note of. In most games, to get to the next level you must master assigned tasks. Players will try different tactics, research the game, and/or work with other players to achieve the goal of advancement. Now imagine a game where a player must have a knowledge of math, science, history, etc..., to play a game and we are not talking about repetitive drills either. The hero must solve a geometry problem to cross an obstacle, then use history to crack a code, a knowledge of science to figure out a way out of a trap. If the game is interesting enough, students will flock to their textbooks or the internet to help them play the game. With the mark-up in educational software, this could prove lucrative to game designers.

Gina Hughes Yahoo Blog
Learning Game, Newsweek International

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Photo Essays That Rock!

I hate to admit this but sometimes I would almost nod off when students would present their projects. It was not the student's fault for having what seemed like the one billionth PowerPoint on some country in the world or a Civil War event. Face it, Power Points get dull after awhile. At the 2006 South Carolina EdTech Conference David Warlick closed his keynote address with a simple video done by a high school that was captivating. What made this video so captivating was it effectively used both pictures and music to help convey the message while holding the audiences' attention.

While the video David Warlick showed may have looked simple it may have taken many hours to produce given existing software a couple of years ago. Now similar videos can be created through an online application called Animoto. Just select the digital pictures you wish to use, about 12-20 for a 30 second video, add some music you can import or use music provided by Animoto, and the application will do the rest. Videos can be e-mailed or posted online to blogs or social networking sites.

30 second clips are free but longer videos will cost $3 each. Not a bad price considering what has been spent on supplies for more conventional projects. If you find yourself creating more than 10 videos per year then there is a $30 option that allows you to create unlimited videos per year. Students can now put together picture essays with the right music that no one could ever sleep through.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A touch of hope

Earlier today I was privileged to observe a group of teachers from our district present Smart Board lesson plans for a class they were taking. These lesson plans, ranging from elementary to high school, were very creative. Yet, what impressed me the most was their excitement in being able to use this technology. When I asked the group if it changed the way they teach for the better, the answer was a loud and clear YES! I also asked them how their students liked using Smart Boards. The answer was "THEY LOVE IT!" One 30 year veteran told me "I don't know how I got along without a Smart Board." Another teacher called Smart Boards "God's gift to teaching!" They believe Smart Boards can help students learn, they asked when the district was going to add more so there would be continuity in learning. I have never seen or heard such excitement from teachers about technology. After blogging about a teacher who claimed teachers who don't adapt will be heading into "the tar pits of tomorrow, what I saw today has given me hope our profession can and will change.

BCSD Smart Board Lesson Plans

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pownce on posting assignments

Yesterday I received an invitation to join Pownce, a new social networking site that allows users to post mini-blogs easily. I already am a member of Twitter which does basically the same thing. The biggest difference, and one that will be of use to teachers, is the ability to attach files to postings. This would be a great tool for teachers to post homework assignments with any worksheets or handouts needed to complete the assignment.

Won't websites do the same thing? Yes but you have to login to your website or boot the software, make your changes, save your work, then post it on the Internet. With Pownce, a teacher can have the site open on their web browser. When they need to post something, they just type it in, add any attachments, then click the send button. Students can view postings on the site directly or can subscribe using RSS news feeders. Teachers can also post any changes to an assignment just as easy.

Pownce is still in beta and users can join by invitation but when they open up to everyone, I will let you know.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How's the tar dinosaurs?

William Penn Charter School English teacher Mark Franek discovered that using web tools such as blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and other applications has improved the quality of his students' writing. The reason for this improvement? Students quickly realized the teacher is not the only one reviewing their work. As he puts it in his editorial in the Christian Science Monitor:

Teachers who are using blogs, social-networking sites, and video-sharing sites in school settings are giving young people the opportunity to tune their thinking and writing to a larger audience. When students know that anyone in the school with an Internet connection – or around the world, for that matter – can read what they have written or created, it is remarkable how quickly their thinking improves, not to mention the final product."

Mr. Franek's next observation might not get him invited to Friday after school happy hours with his fellow teachers in many schools, "The first dinosaurs into the tar pits of tomorrow will be teachers who refuse to adapt to new technology." This is fairly strong language. I know teachers who absolutely refuse to adapt because they believe their overhead projectors and slides with a video thrown in occasionally are all the technology they need to do their jobs. They are not lazy teachers either, their students score high on Advanced Placement exams. What they don't realize are students are comfortable with blogs, social-networking sites, and video-sharing sites and know how to make them work. These are the tools students will be using when they join the working world.

However, since these teachers perform, administrators are willing to over look these technological shortcomings and this is understandable. Yet, I sometimes wonder how the students of these high performing teachers students would feel if these teachers decided to update technology skills. What would happen to scores of the free response sections AP exams if students practiced using blogs going to millions of readers (some of whom might be experienced exam readers) instead of papers going to one teacher.

Web pulls world into classroom

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Educational Good and Evil: Apple's New iPods

With the September 5th iPod announcements Apple may have, or should have, started a discussion on how their products should be received in the classroom. Schools across the country are coming up with policies regarding electronic devices such as mobile phones and music players. These policies range from zero tolerance and confiscation on site to students may have the device as long as it is turned off and kept out of site.

Tne Apple products that should have schools rethinking their stance on electronic devices: the iPod Touch and is brother the iPhone. Let's put aside the phone and music players functions for a moment and focus on the Internet feature and its value to the classroom. The iPod Touch and iPhone have the ability to receive Wi-Fi which allows the devices to connect to the Internet wirelessly. The Sony Play Station Portable also has the capability to connect to the Internet wirelessly. This means another portable device that can be used to conduct Internet searches and use online apps such as Google Docs. Unlike the PSP, the Apple devices do have keyboards for easier input.

The problems with the iPhone and the iPod Touch are being a phone and a music/video player. This means administrators will have to weigh the benefits of Apple's devices and eventual clones against the devices seen as disruptions in the classroom. All-in-one devices which have Internet, phones, music players, etc... are only multiplying. Another thing, while the cost of both the iPhone and iPod Touch are still prohibitive for the average student they are cheaper than previous devices with similar features. It is just a matter of time before students will have devices that have educational benefits (Internet, writing tools, book readers) in the same package with educational taboos (phones, music players, texting) stuffed in their book bags. Now should be a time to start thinking about they will be received when they come to school.

ARS Technica article

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

If done outside of class is it still writing?

Duke University writing professor, Bradley Hammer, claims students are writing more today than in the past due to blogging, posting on social network sites, text messages, and e-mail. While they are not writings in the classical sense, he claims "...blogging and all online communication open the door for people of all ages to write, express an opinion, then back it up and defend it." There are two point that can be learned from this:

1. Like it or not, blogging and texting are not going away. They have become the pencil and paper of the new age and our students are comfortable with it. Students are using these tools to do all kinds of writing on their own.

2. Students need to learn that writing is a useful tool to convey thoughts and ideas when done properly. If writing is not done properly, then it can become a very destructive weapon.

Teachers do not have to accept the attitude of 'well its their way of doing things and I will never understand it' or . While I like technology and advocate its use in education, I have always believed the ability to write will serve one well in life. Teachers will have to accept the changes in the technology then guide their students on better ways to use it by incorporating it in their curriculm but still insist on quality when writing. Think about this, your students are writing to a potentially large audience (yes they are). Like it or not their writing is a reflection on you.

Kids Who Blog, Text Are Writing

Why the blog beats the essay in writing class

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Designing Students

TechCruch reports Swatchbox Technologies launched DesignMyRoom which allows users to decorate rooms online. The idea is simple, select a room then decorate it by dragging and dropping furniture, accents, paint, or anything needed to create your dream room. You can only have one project for free (no word on pricing for multiple projects) but you can upload your project for others to see. Also, if you wish, projects can be altered by other users. One feature I liked was that you are using real products with pricing information and links to a store so you can purchase them.

DesignMyRoom could make a wonderful art project for just about any grade. With the thousands of choices students could make some interesting creations. The drag and drop interface is easy but placement may take some practice. The cost listing feature of products would allow teachers to set a budget for the project. This would be a great assignment for economics students learning about personal finance. Finally, since uploaded projects can be altered by other users, assignments can be cooperative as well.

DesignMyRoom - Very Useful Tool For Virtual Interior Design

DesignMyRoom launched this afternoon - It’s a new product from a company called Swatchbox Technologies that allows people to decorate a real room virtually via a photograph of the room and DesignMyRoom’s library of stuff. Previously the company, which has been around for 11 years, sold 2 million copies of desktop software that has similar functionality as the online tool.

If you thought MyMiniLife was cool, wait until you spend some time playing around with this.

The first step is to pick an empty room, or upload a photo of your own room. You then start decorating it by adding a floor, paint, fixtures, furniture, etc. I made my own room during testing - see the before and after photos above. I also made the project public, so anyone can log in to it and make changes. Have at it.

Objects can be resized, rotated and moved around the room. The next step, the company says, is to allow users to upload their own images and insert them into the room. They’ve also paid attention to details - notice the shadows behind the clover and the lamp, for example, and the light coming into the room from the windows.

It also would be great if they created an embeddable version of the projects (something I assume they’ll do eventually).

There is a clear and really good business model here - selling people the real stuff once they’ve seen it virtually in their room. The company also makes money through product placement and other advertising.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Unlocking a Future

Normally I don't advocate illegal or unethical activities but this one is too hard to pass up. George Hotz, 17, of Glen Rock, New Hampshire gained fame last week as the first person to successfully unlock Apple's iPhone so it can work on other networks other than AT&T. Cell phone companies in the United States are notorious for disabling features or locking their phones so they only work with the carrier who sold you the phone. I can also rant and rave about blocking features so companies force you to purchase add-on services and increase revenues but life is too short.

Well young Mr. Hotz has profited by his ingenuity to the tune of 3 more iPhones and a new sports car. CetiCell, a mobile phone repair service purchased Hotz's unlocked phone for the above mentioned items and an offer of a job consulting for the company. Not bad for someone who recently graduated high school.

It should be no surprise that AT&T and Apple are not happy about what Mr. Hotz has done to their prized product. However, this is an example of a digital native using technology skills he probably gained outside of school and profited by it. While I am sure Phone Hacking was not a course at Mr. Hotz's high school, I do wonder how teachers put his skills to use in his education. Did the teachers allow Hotz to use his creativity or did they hold him back? Teachers, I am sure there are other George Hotz's wandering your halls. Now are you willing to channel that creative talent by tapping into technology skills they obviously possess?

Teacher Bytes Episode 14

It has been busy here so I am a little late getting this edition out. Here is what I cover in this episode:
Yahoo Teachers
Firefox Campus
Google Sky

I also talk about a program that helps young girls get excited about science and technology, where do students go to first when starting a research project, and Gmail invades college campuses.

Here is the link to the podcast:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cutting class is now obsolete

Many schools in the United States are debating making students wear school uniforms but in the United Kingdom school uniforms have been around for many years. However, Lancashire-based manufacturer Trutex will be selling uniforms with tracking devices so parents can track their children's' movements. This decision was done after an Internet marketing survey showed 59% of parents would be willing to purchase the high-tech uniforms. While 50% of elementary-aged would wear the uniforms, teens are naturally more reluctant. This move by Trutex is based on parents' fears of children being abducted or leaving campus with the wrong people. You can be sure civil libertarians and conspiracy theorists will see this as evidence of "Big Brother" taking another step towards spying on citizens by of tracking their every movement.

Sydney Morning Herald article

Friday, August 24, 2007

Procrastinate yes! Wikipedia no!

ARS Technica reports on a study done at St. Mary's, a small liberal arts college in California and can be found in First Monday that shows Wikipedia and search engines such as Yahoo or Google are not the first place students look when starting a research project. Only 13% of students surveyed went to search engines and 3% went to Wikipedia first. This is compared to 40% who went to course materials for information and 23% who went to their library website first. Not surprisingly confusion and procrastination were cited as the top two things students first do for a research project.

Before you Wikipedia haters start celebrating, this is only one small college that attracts above average students. The article says instruction on proper research methods is still needed.

Research tools online and offline make for a harrowing research experience, according to a new study. While students are wary of Wikipedia and the like, there's also a clear need for resources like it.


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Yahoo Goes to School

ARS Technica reports about the announcement of Yahoo Teachers, a website to help teachers use the Internet for doing lesson planning. First, to help collect materials for lesson planning there is widget called the gobbler. The gobbler has three buckets on the side of the website assigned to lesson plans and teachers drag highlighted text, images, or entire websites into one of the buckets. The information is then formated and saved into the teacher's portfolio. The saved information can then be formated into lesson plans with search tags. There are other lesson plans teachers can search and use. The lesson plans also have information on what state standards are covered in the lessons. The site will also allow teachers to network so they could collaborate on lessons. The goal developers at Yahoo are after is to create a tool that allows teachers create lesson plans easily. Yahoo Teachers not available yet but you can sign up to receive notification and view preview videos. If Yahoo Teachers works as promised this would be a great help to already overworked teachers.

Hacking education with Yahoo! Teachers

At the recent User Experience Week Conference, Yahoo showed off Yahoo! Teachers, a new collaboration space for educators, and talked about what went into its development.


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Google Sky: explore the stars

What Google Earth did for teaching World Geography, Google Sky can do for teaching about the universe around us. ARS Technica reports Google has added to Google Earth a view of over 200 million galaxies and 100 million stars that can be explored with the click of a mouse. Google is using material from the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Digital Sky Survey Consortium, CalTech's Palomar Observatory, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the United Kingdom Astronomy Technology Centre, and the Anglo-Australian Observatory to recreate the universe. Some of the other features of Google Sky include searching for a celestial body by name, viewing constellations, accessing Hubble Space Telescope pictures, views of the Moon and planets, a guide to the galaxies, and the life of a star. Science teachers should make great use of this latest offering by Google.

Google Earth

Google launched Sky today, a new feature in Google Earth 4.2 that lets users explore not only our home planet but other galaxies, too.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A New Web Browser for Students

Firefox will be introducing a new Campus version of their web browser targeting students. This version will include three education friendly extensions. Zotero helps students collect, manage, and cite research sources on the Internet. With one click you can receive automatic capture of citation information from any webpage. The extension allows you to collect information about pages, organize the information, make notes on sites visited, store a variety of files attached to a selected webpage. Zotero works with both Microsoft Office and Open Office.

The second extension is FoxyTunes, which will control any media player while you are surfing. FoxyTunes is very Web 2.0 by allowing users to share what they are playing with friends via Twitter, receive information about album art and lyrics. You also may sign blog postings and e-mails with music you are currently playing. Just be careful of the RIAA.

The third extension of Firefox Campus is StumbleUpon. This extension helps you find material on the Internet based on your interests. This along with Zotero would be a great help in conducting research online. Another feature, good or bad, is the ability of a network of friends to share information on a particular subject.

While you can take or leave FoxyTunes, the other extensions have a lot of promise for students working on the online world. The Internet is changing the way students search for information and the extensions found on the Firefox Campus edition. However, these tools are no guarantee the information found online is legitimate. Teachers and Media Specialists still need to guide students on how to conduct research online by instructing students to question information gathered online by trying to finding other information that either proves or disproves other sources found on the Internet. However, it is encouraging there are tools that help get the job done.

Firefox Campus Edition

Friday, August 17, 2007

A New Begining

Today we had a district-wide pep rally to kick off the new school year and officially meet our new superintendent, Dr. Valarie Truesdale. The central theme of her message, as I understood it, was change is happening at such a rapid pace that we need to prepare our children to do things we can't even imagine. Dr. Truesdale stressed the importance of technology but her main challenge was to increase the literacy and thinking ability of the children in our district so they can meet the challenges facing them in the future.

No one can ever accuse me of telling teachers to use technology for the sake of using technology. Technology is one tool to use to educate children, like a hammer or a saw is used to build a house. You can't use just one tool and expect to build a quality house. Builders use blueprints to plan what a house will look like after it is finished. Then they assemble the necessary tools, supplies, and labor to turn the blueprint into reality.

When you use technology, not only have a plan on how to use it but how technology will fit into the overall goal of educating children to successfully function in a society that is not even defined yet. Don't be afraid to try new things with technology either. Set a goal to learn and master a new skill to use in the classroom and in your personal life. It is scary to step out into a new, unfamiliar area to do things you have never done before. Yet, it is what we are asking the students we will soon be entrusted with to do in the future. Should we not be willing to do the same thing we are going to ask of them?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Lesson Plan Wiki

As I was reading a Wired story on the top online educational resources one site intrigued me. is a site that has been around for a while but with a new face. Formally known as the Education and Learning Community created by Sun Microsystems, the site continues to be a site where teachers can share and collaborate on best teaching practices.

The site hosts lesson plans members (membership is free) have uploaded. Since the site is a wiki this means other members can contribute ideas to strengthen these lesson plans. There is a review process in place lead by a team of experts in the fields of technology and education to ensure content is valid.

This would be a great site to visit for any new teacher looking for ideas in lesson planning. Veteran teachers could also benefit from this site to get fresh perspectives on a variety of subjects and provide input on this process. When I was going through teacher education in graduate school, a professor told me that teachers need to be good thieves of ideas from other teachers. While that may be one way of looking at it, this site should remind us that we should also be good sharers of ideas. If you use this site, make sure you eventually give back

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wikis taking over education

The people who changed the way we look up information is now wanting to change the way we get an education according to a PC World report. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., the people who bring you Wikipedia are now building a school using online collaboration. Most media specialists I know are probably now convinced this is a sign of the end of civilization as we know it because they despise Wikipedia. Critics of Wikipedia claim the information cannot be considered valid because anyone can edit articles on the site. However, David Warlick said at a conference I attended that Wikipedia should be a starting point of research. Find the information then the assignment should then try to prove or disprove the Wikipedia entry.

I digress. The coordinators are claiming the Wikiversity project is growing. The project has free online courses complete with free materials. The idea is to not only provide free education opportunities but to try different theories in education to see what works and what doesn't. This the part the that should interest the education community. Educators need to monitor this project to gain ideas on what works in online learning. Distance learning and online learning have rapidly become buzzwords in conferences and high level discussions. From credit recovery, to alternative learning environments, to helping children who can't get to school, online learning is getting a serious look with lots of money being spent to create these opportunities. Perhaps the Wikiversity project will be a low cost, low risk means of study. Just don't tell the Media Specialists.

Wikiversity Gains Momentum (PC World)

PC World - The online collaboration that has made Wikipedia one of the most used sources of information on the Internet is also being used to build a school and offer classes across the online world, and the project is taking off.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Need a quick PDF converter?

One of my pet peeves is getting a document to put on our school's website only to find it has been created in Microsoft Publisher. Unfortunately, Publisher files do not work well with other Microsoft Office applications such as Word. In other words, you cannot open a Publisher file using Word. Therefore if someone is trying to open a Publisher document Windows will look for a program to open the file unless you have Publisher, which many people don't.

The best way to upload any document is to convert the file into a PDF file first. There are two reasons for this. First, the Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free download and most computers have the program. Second, PDF files are smaller which saves space on websites. I have found an online PDF file converter by Neevia. All you do is go to the website,, click the browse button to select the file you wish to convert, then click convert. Once the conversion process is complete you can open the PDF file and save it. The website is free but there is a 1MB size limit on the file you wish to convert.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

An easy way to edit webpages?

Crunch Gear announced Texty which would allow you to edit web pages on the fly. After signing up for a Texty account you create a Texty edit using the site's WYSIWYG editor. After you are finished you copy and paste the HTML code into you website editor. Then whenever you wish to make any changes to your website away from your computer you log onto Texty, edit the appropriate Texty, including images, and your edits will automatically show up on you website.

The key is your ability of your website to be able to use Java. I tried Texty out on a website I manage for a school. The edits would show up on page previews but failed to show when I saved the page. This would be a good tool if you need to make quick changes, such as homework assignments to a website you manage from home. Also, if you are away from school and your computer you can post sub plans on your website away. The site is free so give it a try to see if you works for you.

Texty: Dead Simple Content Creation And Editing

Texty is a dead simple but useful new Internet service that you can use to quickly create and edit content on a web page with zero HTML or programming skills.

Go to the site, start typing text in a WYSIWYG editor, format it and add images. Click a button and get an embed code. Your text will appear in whatever website you add the code to. And if you want to make changes, go back to Texty and edit it. The changes will flow to whatever sites you’ve embedded it on. You can also add comment functionality to a piece of text, and create a RSS feed.

There are lots of great and easy to use content management systems on the web already. Blogging software is just one example. But if someone is working on a web page outside of something like a blog and wants to add a bit of text and graphics, this is a good solution. See our coverage of JS-Kit which has similar tools. I was surprised at how many people are looking for something exactly like this.

I’ve embedded a bit of text and an image below. Everything below this paragraph, including the image, is actually embedded from Texty.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Teacher with the Right Stuff

The space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, August 8, 2007. Endeavour blasted off on Wednesday to resume construction of the International Space Station, freshly overhauled and carrying a teacher-turned-astronaut who trained for the ill-fated Challenger mission. (Charles W Luzier/Reuters)

I am a huge fan of the Space Program. When I was younger I would follow all of the Apollo Moon Missions with great excitement that has never gone away. Last July 4th, I got to watch a Shuttle launch from Walt Disney World and consider it one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Idaho teacher Barbara Morgan got to do something I can only dream of when she lifted off on the Space Shuttle Endeavour yesterday for a two-week mission to the International Space Station. Morgan was Christa McAuliffe's backup when NASA decided to put a teacher in space. Unfortunately, McAuliffe was killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded moments after lift off. Morgan stepped in and fulfilled McAuliffe's mission in discussing space exploration to students then she went back into teaching.

In 1998, Morgan returned to the Astronaut program full time and now is getting her turn as a Mission Specialist charged with helping build the International Space Station. Morgan will also do some educational activities during the mission which teachers and students can participate in. I wish you Godspeed Barbara Morgan on your mission and a safe return to tell us about the adventure of a lifetime.

Reuters - The U.S. space shuttle
Endeavour blasted off on Wednesday to resume construction of
the International Space Station, freshly overhauled and
carrying a teacher-turned-astronaut who trained for the
ill-fated Challenger mission.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Teacher Bytes Episode 12

Episode 12 of Teacher Bytes is now available. Here are some links to items mentioned on the show.

Open Office
Google Docs and Spreadsheets
Think Free Office

What do people say about your school?

Forrester Research CEO George Colony makes a case that businesses cannot ignore Web 2.0 in an editorial on Colony basically says that the days where businesses dictate the message they want people to hear about their company are over. Thanks to the Internet, the world has become more interactive through websites, blogging, wikis, podcasts, and other interactive tools. This old way of thinking can also apply to the way schools wish to give out information. Of course there are schools that do things like allowing parents to view grades online, have e-mail lists of teachers and administrators but is that enough? The main thing that struck me about the Colony's article is how companies and their CEO's are oblivious to what customers are really saying about products. Products such as Kryptonite Locks almost got destroyed because company executives failed to acknowledge what was written in blogs was true about their product being deficient.

Think schools are above all of this? Think again. Here are two websites whose purpose is to gather parent and student opinions about schools and teachers. rates schools and also allows parents to rate schools. I looked at my schools review and it was not good. Another site,'s purpose is for parents and students to rate and give opinions about teachers in their schools. I recently looked at both sites for my school and the reviews on was not good and alot of teachers were reviewed on I am sure not too many of these teachers know what is being said about them on the Internet.

Again, you may ask so what? Probably some disgruntled parent or student venting about not getting a grade they felt they deserved or some discipline matter so it shouldn't matter. Well remember, as these sites become more popular more people will be writing in them and worse, reading them. A bad review in one of these sites could mean the difference between getting a student who actually do well in your school and parents who could be an assest or having them go to another school. A local newspaper has a very active blog section. One of the topics that gets the most activity is schools. Also, people who are considering moving to the community will get on the blog and ask about the quality of the schools.

Do you know the answer?

Forrester Research CEO George Colony says today's boss can't afford to remain clueless about the burgeoning world of Web 2.0.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

$150 Laptop: Machine or Myth

Mathew Elliot wrote in the Crave blog about a Swedish company selling a laptop for $150. The Medison Celebrity features a large, wide-screen 14-inch WXGA display and weighs a reasonable 4.8 pounds. Powering the Medison Celebrity is a 1.5GHz Intel Celeron M 370 processor and 256MB of memory, a CD/DVD drive, wireless Internet, 40 GB hard drive, stereo speakers, 3 USB ports, and other features. The Operating system is the Fedora Linux OS.

On paper this sounds like a great deal and possibly doable given the components listed. In the present configuration the Medison would not be able to run Windows Vista. However, you can do some tweaking like upgrading the RAM to 1 GB so it could run at least a basic version of Vista or XP. At $150 you could buy two. One to use and one to experiment with.

Now before head online to find a way to purchase a Medison beware of this machine. You know the old cliche's about if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are many skeptics who wonder if this is a fraud. No major details have been given out or versions of the machine shown to the press or anyone else. Also, the president of the Medison, Valdi Ivancic, has plans to become Sweden's prime minister. The company who will be handling U.S. sales,, has posted a letter about these concerns and are promising customers' credit cards will not be billed until the item is shipped. The company further says they know Medison has been in business since 1996 but has not inspected the company or the product. Looks like is already doing damage control over this.

Medison says the Celebrity will start shipping in mid-August. Elliot, along with others, managed to order a Medison to see if the machine lives up to the hype. I will be keeping up with this story and will let you know what happens. Please stay tuned.

Meet the cheapest laptop in the world