Monday, August 07, 2006

"Blog" Days of Summer

As I read through the feeds on my Bloglines account this morning, I came away a bit disappointed. This had nothing to do with the quality of the articles I read, the one from School Me! was thought-provoking, but I began to wonder -- Where is everybody?

I subscribe to 50 blogs, mostly education and technology-based, and quite frankly it is a good thing that they don't all have new content at once, but I discovered more than 1/2 of my blogs have not been updated for a month or more. While publishing a blog does not commit a person to daily discourse, I am left to consider why this has happened.

Perhaps it is summer vacation, and not everyone has the resources to appoint a guest blogger to fill in during their absence. Maybe some blogger-educators are too busy getting things ready for the start of the school year; although that sounds like perfect blog material to me. I know that some bloggers describe needing a break from blogging ~ read writer's block? Are others more of a "school year blogger", meaning their need to blog is fueled by what is happening during the school year? Or has this beastly heat made it simply too hot to blog?

For me, summer is the perfect time to catch up on my reading, blogging, update my website, etc. There's nothing like curling up in the air conditioning with a warm laptop on your bare legs.

Clearly bloggers don't need to answer to me why they haven't been writing. I just wanted you all to know that you are missed and I'll be here when you get back.

photo credit:

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bad Press for Prof = $126

USA Today article from 8/04/06

Professor wins suit against blog site

A professor in China won $126 from a blog hosting site that refused to remove critical remarks posted by a former student about him. While the amount of the settlement is inconsequential, the implication is not.

The blog host site stated it had no right to remove the comments from the blog, but has decided to delete comments deemed offensive in the future.

The article also mentions that China has an Internet "police force", but it does not elaborate on what they do or how much power they hold.

This all leaves me wondering what the implications will be here in the US. Does a blog hosting site have the right to delete or censor the remarks of its bloggers? Would this kind of accountability change the way teenagers and 20-somethings post to myspace?

Would this ruling have gone the same way in this country? My suspicion is we won't have to wait long to get the answer.


cartoon credit:

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wanted: blog proofreaders

This summer, not a day has gone by that I haven't found a typo or mistake in a blog or on a web page? Most of the blogs I read are written by educators and highly educated people, which seems to make this phenomenon more egregious. Is it that in their rush to publish they neglect to proofread what is being posted? Do blogging sites need to offer a better "spell check" ?

Now, I'm not talking about complex independent clause rules or misuses of a semi-colon, I'm talking about typing "at" for "it" or "its" for "it's", or leaving out entire words. These are mistakes that would drop a student's English 101 grade!

As a teacher who has taught the writing process to hundreds of students, I understand the need to get one's ideas down. But rereading what one has written is ALSO part of the writing process and takes but a minute. This would eliminate many of the typos out there. I realize that proofreading one's own work is hard and we will often read what we "think we said" rather that what is right in front of us, but come on people.

Just out of curiosity, I have looked back at some blog posts to see if authors have gone back and changed mistakes in their posts; I know I do this if I find a mistake. Sadly, none were corrected.

I would like to put out a call to all bloggers and webmasters to proofread before hitting the publish button. And use the "spell check" feature! Mistakes in spelling and forgotten words may alter your meaning or negatively effect the way your post is received.

FYI: Before pressing "publish," I have corrected more than 10 errors in this post.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

21st Century Librarians

Here are some key ideas from the EdTech Talk podcast with Joyce Valenza as synthesized by jschinker in his Taste of Tech blog:
  • Audio books can actually motivate students to do more reading.
  • There’s no “best” search tool.
  • Students need media resources 24/7.
  • Students need challenging projects that ask them to analyze, compare, synthesize, and draw conclusions.
  • TurnItIn and citation generators can be used to teach students how to write original work instead of simply policing plagiarism.
  • Schools have to be consistent about fair use and copyright law. Looking the other way with a wink and a smile doesn’t cut it.
  • Subscription databases are an information goldmine.
  • Blogs are the ultimate primary source. If you want to know what’s really happening in Iraq, read a soldier’s blog.
  • Google works best when asking very focused questions. “Which 20th century president did the most to promote civil rights?” is a hard question to answer with Google.
  • Researchers have to use multiple sources and compare and validate information.
I enjoy Joyce's blog even though I am not a librarian. I am very interested in her ideas and realize they are applicable to all teachers. Some of the ideas from the podcast are already a part of what I believe and practice, others are new to me (eg. subscription databases) and give me new areas to explore.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Second Look at Open Source

I admit, I have been a bit of a snob about open source software. I never really saw that it would be relevant to me or my district. If figured it was for places that were looking to outfit a large number of students with computers and had little money left for software. And I thought open source software was for places that were building computers, as opposed to buying them from Dell or Apple or whoever. I didn't even think they would work on Macs or Dells. I also assumed (and we know what happens when you do THAT!) open source software (oss) was very limited. Boy was I wrong.

I began to think about all the free web tools and software I have downloaded for my personal use. Why do I download this free software? Because it works. And why should I pay for something when I can get something just as good (or better) for free? (AOL mail vs hotmail, gmail, yahoomail, etc, or Moodle - lots of buzz about this) There are also times when a free download is the only way to get something (Writely is sooo cool) -- count me in! I am a dedicated Mac gal through and through, but I dabble with PCs when I must, so obviously a "frankenstein" computer is not needed for oss.

And today I read a blog post that stated there are over 1500 oss titles with more being added everyday. Incredible. As I watched a TILT (Teachers Improving Learning with Technology) video of ThinkFree Office Online (their version of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) I became a convert. Documents created with ThinkFree are even compatible with Word! I can't wait to find more oss that I can use and download for use with my 1st-5th graders.

Watch this spot for links to my favorite open source/free sites.

  • Like Stickies for Mac , but better. The ultimate organizing, to-do tool.
  • Allows you to resize images and apply some effects, like shapes or even text. Drag and drop interface. I love it! So much easier than PhotoShop or Graphics Converter.

  • What's not to like about this browser?: tabbed browsing, auto-updates, lots of add-ons and themes. A great alternative to IE for Mac users and imo, far superior to Safari,

  • a word processing, presentation program, and spreadsheet/graph program, compatible withMicrosoftt Office Suite
Project Cam
  • • an application to facilitate videoconferencing, allows 2 "participant" screens, audio, and a text message area, you supply the web cams, from Cable in the Classroom
Thanks for Kathy Schrock's Kaffeeklastch for these 3:

LEGO Digital Designer 1.6
  • a free virtual building system available for both the Windows and Mac OSX platform
Google SketchUp
  • a powerful 3-D modeling program avaiable for Windows 2000 and better and Mac OS10.3.9 and better; can be used in conjunction with Google Earth or on its own
  • an easy-to-use drawing program available for Windows and Mac OSX

Friday, July 21, 2006

Love these quotes

  • Teaching is not the same as learning. Learning takes effort. We’re not exactly sure how it happens, but it can either feel like work or it can feel like play. It feels like play when you have engagement. Kids know what engagement feels like. Engaged learning is active and passionate.

~Steve Dembo's Teach 42 blog of Marc Prensky's keynote@ Building Learning Communities conference in Boston 07.21.06

  • Learning is often a messy business. "Messy" learning is part trial and error, part waiting and waiting for something to happen, part excitement in discovery, part trying things in a very controlled, very step by step fashion, part trying anything you can think of no matter how preposterous it might seem, part excruciating frustration and part the most fun you'll ever have. Time can seem to stand still - or seem to go by in a flash. It is not unusual at all for messy learning to be ...messy! But the best part of messy learning is that besides staining your clothes, or the carpet, or the classroom sink in ways that are very difficult to get out ... it is also difficult to get out of your memory!

~website: Learning is Messy

  • Podcasting is like a factory making apple pies for whales.
~Ask Ninja video about podcasting from YouTube

  • "I think this is a great example of people using new technology to solve a problem that doesn't exist," said Laura Champine, a home products analyst for Morgan Keegan. "I've done my own laundry for four decades and I've never been away from my home and wondered how it's doing. Until the cellphone can load the dryer, I don't know how this technology will work for me."
~from a USA Today article about using cellphones to program washers/dryers

  • When I educate adults, they want comfortable chairs. They want a drink in their hand. They want a candy dish on the table. They want to have a stretch break every forty five minutes or so. They want to be allowed to interact sometimes. To break things up, they want to laugh a little. When I combine these things with some knock your socks off information that will change their lives, I have a great learning environment for adults. Why should kids be different?
~ from Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis 7.21.06

  • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
~Arthur C. Clarke

  • I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.
~Isaac Asimov

  • Whom computers would destroy, they must first drive mad.

Not tech or learning related, but still good:
  • Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge and doing nothing; its when you had everything to do, and you've done it.
~Margaret Thatcher

  • Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you, you aren't.
~Margaret Thatcher

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ecto trial

So I'm reading Bethany's Education Blog and she refers to Ecto. I need to find out what it is and POOF!, my life is changed. I had always figured there must be a way to create content for a blog offline. I was typing on Word and then copying and pasting. It is weird when the technosphere can read my mind. It has been doing it a lot lately.

This is my first attempt at using eEcto. We'll see how it goes and if it is worth $18. Gosh, I spend more than that on dry cleaning! There is a part of me that says, why wouldn't I just be able to post "live"? I mean there is wireless access just about everywhere. Aha! Not on airplanes!!

UPDATE: This is soooo cool! It is worth $118!!
ANOTHER UPDATE: I found out that I can purchase 1 CD and load it on both my home and work laptops! This deal keeps getting sweeter!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Savvy Technologist March 14, 2006

guest- Joe Lambert on Digital Storytelling

What is Digital Storytelling?
2 Things:
• Digital video production to create a story based on personal life experiences; short film has become its own genre
• Many ways that new media has allowed people to express themselves (many media and many web 2.0 technologies make this possible)
Digital Storytelling is more about the heart and soul and less about the organization (is it a fine film?), it’s the message that counts
For Doubters:
• Students are looking more closely (more critically) at their writing because they have to add the visuals
• The edit is more effective since the student is hearing and seeing his work played back
• Students are working from the base that most of their experiences are visual (multimedia)
• Don’t worry about the technology -- only basic skills are needed.
• Show students only how to do what they will need: how to record audio, input video, photos, etc.
Should have strong themes; emotional, get to the heart of a topic: why should you care about…

Podcast Link

Bit-By-Bit Seedlings #4 April 30, 2006

Sites to Check Out:
!? Rather than emailing a “class set” of documents, like letters to an author, why not put them on a class blog and just email the URL

Online Professional Development
  • Podcasts: listen for credit
  • Tailor to individual needs (differentiation for adults, PLC)
  • Blogging staff development as reflective practice:
    • Build in time to reflect
    • End 15 minutes early to honor this practice
  • Blogging as note taking (like I’m doing now)
  • Create a wiki of common vocabulary

Also: Go North project

Podcast Link