Wednesday, December 24, 2008

100 things

This list has been floating around the blogs of late. One of those 100 things to do before you die kind of thing. My wife thinks the whole concept of the things to do is morbid. With this list you are to bold the things you have done. So here goes

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo--not in front of a group. Does a shower count?
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Guide Biscuits
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a cheque
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Many of the travel ones I may never do.

But not bad

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A word, A tree, A ramble

Last night at about 2:30 as I lie awake, listening to my wife alternately snoring and coughing, the neighbor warming up his car with the radio on, the cats pa-dumping about the house, I thought of a wonderful essay with great logical arguments and it was quite funny. Somehow when I got out of bed, the arguments were not so logical, in fact there were many holes, and I am not as witty awake I guess.


Around this time of year, I hear people talking about how they are offended that the “PC” people don’t “let” them say Merry Christmas any more. If you want to, go ahead and say it. Knock yourself out. I think they want to find something to rail against. Sort of reminds me of the Offensensitivity cartoon from Bloom County.

This comes from all parts of the political spectrum, wanting to change the meaning of some words to their advantage; think 1984 with newspeak. I remember years ago, when living in the Charlestown section of Boston, a kid yelled “Liberal” at me. I sort of looked at him and said, “Yeah, what is your point?” I guess now that word have been used a derisive term by the right, that it has become somewhat of an insult.

People have taken over parts of the language for their own use, if you get the correct words, and stake them out yours, it is difficult to make a counter argument, think of the anti-abortion and pro-choice crowd, who wants to be known as pro-abortion or anti-choice?

How sensitive do you need to be toward people when referring to their ethnic group? Is there a reason to discuss ethnic groups? If you feel you must, how about using a term that would not get you beat up by members of the group? You know how violent we flat-headed Norskis get.

What got me going on this topic? I was on the forum pages of the Rochester, NY newspaper, the other day, and a guy posted some Christmas tree pictures and wrote words to the effect that ‘these are Christmas trees not holiday trees!’

Call it what you want. When I have a tree up, I usually refer to it as “the tree” It is normally the only tree in the house, so no further reference is needed. (By the way, I don’t think of a ficus as a tree, it is a leaf-dropping thing) When driving around town at this time of year, I point out trees to my wife, I think it is implied as to what type of tree we are talking about.

I think people consider what words they use to be the best choice, or they would not use these words. Perhaps, to coin a phrase, instead of “Politically Correct Speech” they are using “My Correct Speech”. And their choices are the correct ones.

Think about regional speech for a while. If you have lived in other areas than where you live now, you would understand. Around here a Hot dog is a Hot, either red or white, around the country you could also have a frank and other things. Worse example of this was soon after I moved to Boston and ordered a milkshake. I did not know what the rest of the world calls a milkshake was a frappe in Boston. “Wanna Coke?” ” Sure, what kind?” “ Sprite?”. My grandmother was confused when we asked her to buy us soda once. She went out and got baking soda.

Just call things what you want to call things and don’t sweat it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Two quick links and that is it

Just a couple of quick links today. Picked these up at NYSCATE from the SmartBoard for Apple guy. These work well with SmartBoards, or I guess I should say any interactive white board system.

One good time waster is Befuddlr. It will take images and make picture puzzles out of them. Don’t know if it works on an iPhone, but would be good stuck at the airport gizmo.

The second is an Browser extention called CoolIrus. It allows you to take photo galleries and view as 3D type interface. I can’t explain it well but have a look. You can also search websites using it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Filtering the students

On the Blog Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLeod writes about web filtering in schools. There has been much discussion on this topic for many years. Hearing Nancy Willard of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, speak about the topic at NECC '07 helped me form my opinions. How much filtering do we need in schools? I think minimal, and even that it is often times too much. Wes Fryer asked last February about differentiated filtering. Which is a good idea, I guess.
I really don't like any filtering. No different from any other book banning of editing out pages of an encyclopedia. The big problem is classroom management and having firm assignments for the students when they are on-line. The teacher needs to be aware of what is going on in the class and have an idea of appropriateness.
The Internet is a tool, and with any tool we need to show how to use it. I still monitor my teenagers when they are using my power tools, and monitor where they are on-line.
As with any other inappropriate classroom behavior, Internet use must be monitored.
I hear from other teachers on how tools such as skype, plurk and twitter are blocked by their school networks. Why? Bandwidth argument I can see with skype, but otherwise why? In schools we must pay attention to the fact that the network is there for education and access. So don't block useful tools.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lots 'o photos!

More Photos than you can shake a stick at. The buzz in many other blogs is the Google-Life collaboration. These are great, go back to the early days of photography.

On of my favorite sites for photos is the Sports Illustrated Vault. Some great photos here, and yes some swimsuit issue photos too.


But don't forget the Library of Congress and their digital collections.

Here is the needed warning:
Beware the copyright. I would think most of the Life and SI photos are covered by this. Get permission before using. Watermarks are on some larger photos, but that is not permission.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One Life to live

Some things I just don’t get.
I tend to understand the use of technology in the world, but I am lost in some ideas. Second Life is of these concepts. Generally any “other world” I don’t understand, but many people in my profession use Second Life for meeting, training and the like.

In a way I think of T.S, Garp in John Irving’s “The World According to Garp”, and how he feels about sports. He did not like sports that put something between you and your opponent. So ball games were out and wrestling was in.

When I need to go through other places to get information I lose interest and do not want to. I have had one meetings using Second Life, and thought it to be silly. Why not do a conference call or use a desktop meeting to do stuff? I have a hard enough time navigating around in SL, which makes it hard to pay attention. I think I last left my avatar underwater.

What are some expected responses to this? I need to give it more time. I don’t really have time. Is this similar to saying I would like ballroom dancing if I gave it time. I have no desire to learn how to ballroom dance, so I don’t want to give it any time.

I never really like role-playing in classes, thought it was dumb. So I guess I think of SL as a role-playing game. Dungeons and Dragons anyone? I have enough time figuring out who I am, and hardly have enough time for this life, much less another life.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Technology in the classroom

When I was hired here oh so many years ago, I was to work with teacher to integrate technology into their classrooms. The job changed quickly, to more of the fixing and planning technology for the district. I do very little integration work, but try hard to do some whenever possible. 

I have made many opportunities in terms of equipment and specific training for these pieces of equipment, but getting into the classroom to demonstrate is difficult. 

I ran across this blog post on why we are not integrating technology into the classroom.  He lists 5 reasons why:

  1.  Technology is expensive
  2.  Technology is broken or unavalable
  3.  Technology use is not tested
  4.  Technology lessons are not well planned
  5.  Fear of losing control

What is the reason the teachers here are not using technology? Looking point by point:

1. Technology is expensive. Yes it is. I have been lucky in that my funding level has remained the same for the 9 years I have been here. Which is cool as that the cost of technology has dropped over this time. We have good penetration of technology in the schools and classrooms. 

2. Technology is broken or unavailable: Our stuff works, and it is generally available, unless it is the end of the year when many teachers decide to do a "project". We worked on spreading these out last year and there was available technology. Here is what we have in a 6-12 school with less than 400 students: 2 mobile labs with 20 computers, a computer lab with 30 computers, a library with 20 computers, an on-line learning lab with 24 computers, and two technology labs with 25 each. 1 out of 4 classrooms have smartboards. Each classroom has at least one computer, many have more. Several digital camera and digital video cameras, available methods to post to the web. Technology  is available here.

3. Technology use is not tested. That is correct. It is not on our state tests. But do students who do technology projects do better on state tests? Do they learn higher level skills? I think so, or spending all of this money is useless

4. Technology lessons are not well planned. Many lessons are not well planned. That is why we need integration specialists to work with the teachers. Mentoring. 

5. Fear of losing control. See this with many teachers. They want to dispense the knowledge. Sometimes the students know more about topics than teachers do. Let them teach. I see many students helping teachers with SmartBoards, which is cool. I like to see that.

I would guess around here the problem goes to 4&5. We need to work on that.


Monday, November 3, 2008

The End of Blogging?

An essay in Wired Magazine says "Blogs are so 2004"
Twitter, Plurk, Facebook and others are the place to be. 

Could be. Sometimes it is shouting to the empty rooms here. I think that education bloggers still have some value. It is difficult to express complex ideas in 130 characters or less.

But for the most part I agree with vanity blogs, they can move over to facebook and leave it at that. 

I search are read edubloggers to get new ideas and thoughts in my field. Yes, other tools are used too, and I do more with Plurk than blogs, but what depth are these posts?

Back to work

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's been such a long time.....

It has been a long time since I last blogged. Lost time with many building projects going on at work, and the exhaustion related to that.
We now have a new VoIP system installed, which hooks into the Email system, making for unified communications. I love being able to “read” my voice mail. Voice mail has been something I have always hated, having to take notes while listening, and waiting to press repeat. Now the message is a sound file on the email, and easily playable. Email can be listened to on the phone too.
What else. Wireless throughout the district. Using Trapeze for that.
Had some server issues at the beginning of the school year, these are solved.
New electrical is being put in parts of the buildings and emergency generators. Problem is the power surges and is off for large block of time, such as 8 hours, during some of that work, we do not have 8 hour batteries on the servers, so stuff goes down, always fun with new equipment. One more large outage until all systems are set and life is good.
Still working on cleaning stuff up and making it work smoothly. Will see how that goes.
Installing several Smartboards with built in projectors. This year's model is much better than last year's. More solid and looks better.
Seems as if things are settling down and can get back to what I really want to do. Work with teachers to integrate technology into the classroom.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

First podcast project podcasts

The first interviews of my podcast project are up
http://www.gcast.com/u/tsakshaug/main
If you are interested in participating, let me know

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Audio Project

I have decided to start an audio project regarding learning and teaching. I want to find out from as many people as possible how they learn. There are some simple questions, and will post these to a site as soon as I get that set up and have more than my introduction recorded.

After some demographic info; age, level of education, profession.
The questions I will ask are:
How do you best learn something new?
Think of the best teacher you ever had, in or out of school, what made them a good teacher? No names please
If you were to teach someone a skill, how would you go about doing it?
Under what circumstances do you find it difficult to learn?

I am looking forward to doing this, and will have some info about how to contribute to the project later on.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Summer

It has been awhile since I last blogged, summer it seems, slips away quickly. Many things are happening, but right now, I am sitting on the Porch at camp, watching the sunset. Been up here a week, and have two more to enjoy. Need to move inside however, due to the dang mosquitoes.
It is nice to getaway from work for a bit. I did go into work Thursday to fix a server issue. Had to bring Eric home anyway, so it was not too bed. Five hours one-way is a bit excessive otherwise. Loaded Remote desktop on the laptop, so I can do some things, from here. Tried to talk someone at work through some of it by phone, but no dice.
I won the 140 character book review, I may have upset some administrators, but heck, I am an administrator also. Entered the Technology poetry contest, with a piece I wrote earlier when one of The Servers died on me. “The Dead Server Blues” not great, but it was already written.
Nice to get mentioned on another blog, I lead the blogs at Students from an education class, made some comments. This writer seems to understand how. Education and learning can be improved by technology.
Time to get back to important things, making Some chairs, re glazing windows, watching loons, an being with my wife.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pineapple chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can pineapple slices
4 slices provolone cheese
Teriyaki sauce


Drain pineapple juice into a container; add about ½ cup teriyaki sauce. Store about 1/3 cup of this for cooking; use the rest to marinate the chicken-use a plastic bag in the fridge overnight for best results

Grill Chicken over medium heat; put pineapple sliced on the grill a bit later on. Use the reserved pineapple/teriyaki marinade to baste.

When the chicken and pineapple are cooked, put a slice on pineapple on the chicken, slap the provolone on top and cook until the provolone is melted, serve

Simple to make and good to eat

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trying hard to get things done.

We go on vacation in a few days for 3 weeks of Adirondack wilderness, well not really wilderness, but it is nice. Here are some pictures from this spring up there. What needs to be done here before I go? You name it. The big problem is waiting for equipment to arrive. We did the paperwork in June, so that July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, the orders could go out. Have received one order, and that stuff is setup, but waiting for more stuff to come in to work on before school starts. Makes it tough to be up and running if there is no equipment.
We are working on a new phone system to make a unified communications system, and wireless network in all the buildings. Contractors are handling these, but it is making me nervous, as I will be in charge of both of these. The cutover date for the phones is when I am away.
Updating the computers is almost done, but having to figure out the somewhat random room cleaning pattern is difficult, not sure how they choose what room to clean. Do they draw lots or something?
Having some issues with the web server, or that is the old mail server that will be the new web server, looks like I need to do a clean install. So do I wait for software upgrade to 10.5 or do it with 10.4? hard to say. Just waiting for software.
Time to get back to updating things
Why do I go away at this time for so long? I am really a 10-month employee, with 20 extra days tacked on. This is just how it fell this year.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

narrowing the vision

In the blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLeod made and interesting post about The Personalization and Polarization of America. He makes the point that we are segregating ourselves more than before, and tend to listen to like-minded people. This is done in our neighborhood choices, work environment and new gathering choices.

A few days ago, I was watching a network news show, and they had a story regarding the downfall of newspapers, part of the reason is that younger readers get their information from the Internet. Getting news from the various sources is good, but generally a person will sign up for a news feed that shares their views and interests. The newspaper allows for diverse news and opinions to come into your busy closed world. In the time it takes to boot up my computer I can get a quick overview of what is going on. I have the ability to read opinions other than my own. This is one of the great things about a newspaper. You get depth unlike network news, not as much depth as in the past, but it is there. Yes there is a bias to any writer, so articles can have a right or left slant to them, just as my local paper’s sports page has a pro-Yankees stance.

We need to have an educated populace in this nation, part of education is opening your mind to opinions other than your own, listening to one or two voices is not the way to continue your education about the world.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pizza on the grill

Grill setup

Two level fire, that is one side hot, the other side not as hot.

Make pizza dough, my bread maker has a good recipe, and I use that, does not matter what you use, I guess you could buy dough too.

The ingredients of the pizza are up to you. I like fresh tomatoes, marinated artichokes, garlic and cheddar cheese. The tomatoes are sliced sort of thin, the artichokes are diced. I use pre-diced garlic, it is easier and quicker, not that much of a purist. The cheese is grated; we buy a big bag of cheese at the local bulk store.

Once the grill is heated, make sure it is sort of clean, use olive oil to coat the grates. Flatten out the dough on a greased pan; I grease it with olive oil. Coat one side of the dough with the olive oil. Slap the dough, oiled side down onto the hot side of the grill and cover. Check after about 3 minutes, the dough will bubble, you want the bottom to be browned, but not burned.

Flip the crust over to the cooler side of the grill, with the browned side up. Place ingredients onto the crust. Cover and cook about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and everything is nice and hot.

Do not allow the bottom to burn, that is why you have a cool side of the grill. Keep the cover on as much as possible.

Grilling

I have had a few posts about cooking. I like to cook using grills, charcoal only, no gas. I have used gas in the past, and understand it is quick and easy, but in my opinion, the taste is not the same, and if I were in a hurry I would not grill in the first place.

I own several grills, a 22”, 17” and two 7” Webers, a vertical water smoker and a horizontal barrel smoker. Just found the body of a 22” Weber on the street yesterday. The 17” was a side of the road find and the two smaller grills were $5 yard sale finds.

For grills, in my opinion, you cannot go wrong with a Weber, I love them. But if the grill has a cover, a way to control airflow and room, it is good. I grew up on the cheap braziers that you see for sale that have no cover, just a flattish pan and grate. These will work for some things, like thawed hotdogs, but that is about it.

Charcoal, I have no problem using briquettes, some purists do. I will also use hard charcoal. The hard stuff cooks faster and hotter; sometimes I will mix for flavor and heat. To start the charcoal I use chimneys, never fluid. With the chimney, I have started to use paraffin cubes, rather than newspaper, it goes faster.

I will add recipes as we go through the summer.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chicken wings

Continuing on the summer cookout theme..
I can write about what I know about

Chicken wings

I could give out my recipe for chicken rub, but you have your favorite. I use one with paprika, kosher salt, brown sugar, and some other things, garlic and onion. There are many recopies so find your own. If you really want mine let me know

Take a bag of wings, thawed. Put into a large bowl. Pour some olive oil over to coat all the wings. Pour rub over and stir, coating all the wings.

Put the wings on a smoker for at least an hour and make sure they are done. Transfer the wings to a hot grill coat with a tomato based bbq sauce, turn after a few moments and coat the other side.
Serve with napkins, wet wipes and blue cheese.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

summer time cooking

My favorite fast and good chicken recipe.. after all it is summer

About 20 thin asparagus spears
2 cloves garlic- diced
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
cup or so Feta
Pesto (optional) few tablespoons
Tomato based bbq sauce

Clean asparagus; simmer in water with garlic and some salt until tender
Remove asparagus, dump the water and garlic

Butterfly the breasts (cut open like a book) If wanted flatten with a mallet to 1/4 inch or less

Season with salt and pepper to taste

Quickly grill or pan fry in olive oil the breasts until cooked.

Mix feta with pesto in a bowl.

Place asparagus and feta inside of the breast; close the breast- you may need to use a toothpick. Season with paprika, salt, oregano.

Cook on grill or skillet until warmed through—

Lightly coat with bbq sauce to glaze the outside.

Remove and serve.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Naturalized Citizen

There has been much talk about digital immigrants and digital natives in the education field for the past several years. A digital native is someone that was born at a time when digital electronics were around, and they have used them all of their lives, things such as cell phones and mp3 players. Digital immigrants are those of us who saw these devices come into being.

I believe, and have stated there needs to be other terms to fit in with these two, as there is a great number of immigrants that keep up with technology and a great number that do not. I am of the age of digital immigrants, but with my job and interests have kept up and am beyond many natives in my knowledge of technology. I am not alone in this, as many blog readers and writers fit into this category of naturalized citizens. As with other naturalized citizens we can look at the changes to our country and decide what we like and embrace what we see as useful. There are also digital tourists (thanks Ginger) who use what they like, and not always use it well.

There should be other terms, but not for today. Need to get back to work.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

on the trade show floor

SIGTC is discussing having an award for The tech director of The year
I was on The exhibit floor looking for possible sponsors, Some are willing others not So. We will see

video
Sometimes falling off of a Bull, is just falling off a bull -Other times it can be a metafore for working win technology and people

New term

Before anyone else takes credit, I have plucked To the question "are you a digital native or Immigrant" That I am a naturalized citizen
And I believe many at us are

NECC Bull ride

Can ThiS Be a metafor ?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

testing ping.fm as others are doing to deal with twitter and plurk

Guess this shows that it works with Blogger too. Need to adjust the settings so it will not blog tweets.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And So it goes


Is this true? How do you interpret it?

NECC starts in a few days, I leave on Friday for a Saturday session. I hope to post about these sessions here, and other places. Looking forward to being there. When I get back, new equipment should be in for installing. I am excited about the new stuff and projects, including the new phone system.

Kids are finishing finals, or in the last few days of school here, they are all looking for down time, as are the teachers. One of my sons is off now, the other finishes today. Then the older son starts football conditioning next Monday. Younger son should be doing basketball camp for a week. Also, when I get back, three days of SmartBoard master training, then I can get to work.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Video

Yesterday I had the chance to take a bike ride with my boys. They live near the Erie Canal, so that is where we rode. I brought along my new Flip video camera to see what it could do. fairly easy to use while riding, good quality, not what I am used to with quality, but if I am just putting something on-line, then no problem.

My big issue with the flip is that there is no real Macintosh support for the camera, unless I buy QuickTime Pro, at about $25 per copy. I could get a school license for Visual Hub.

Due to this I used Windows Movie Maker for the first time, so the cut is a little rough. I am used to using iMovie over the past several years, prior to that I used Premier, when it was made for Mac.



The video came out well as you can see, the resolution is bad, but so it goes. I did not mess with the soundtrack, that would be for another time.

Perhaps I should turn it into a series on 100 places not to see before you die

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

End of year reflections

The school year slowly grinds to an end. Must be time to reflect back on what was good and what was not.
Think there was more good than bad

Good
Working with the 4th graders on the wiki, (http://wheatland-wiki.wikispaces.com/) this was one of the last things, but nice to do. Hope to work with more on this tool, pushing it at the end of the year to plant the seed over the summer for next year

New Email Server. The old one was almost dead, had to fight it nearly every day. It did not like to talk to the spam filter and would stop every now and then. The bad part, it would lull me to sleep by working well for a week or two, and then suddenly go bad for a few days. Now the new server is happy, have not had an issue with it yet. Improved features, archive service, going to link it with the voicemail this summer.

One-piece smartboards. Greatest thing since sliced bread. They do not get bumped during the day, projectors are there and are ready to go. What more is there to life? Getting more over the summer. Excited teachers.

New mobile lab in the elementary school. Replaced the 7-year-old one. People happy.

Seeing projects working without me to hold hands. Videos are being shot and edited without me working through the process. Some teachers get it.

Not so good
Switching to MS office 2007. The 2000 version was crashing left and right, we needed to upgrade and did so mid-year. Some technophobes wanted to make it union issue for “changing working conditions” The switch itself was not bad, it was the one or two loud whiners.

Old mobile lab in the HS. Needs replacing. No money. Got money at the end of the year. Next year will be better with this.

Walking around the building and seeing old teaching methods. Is it really necessary to stand in front of the class and read a book to the students?

Inflexibility on the part of some teachers who do not follow the IEP for my child.

Remember to check to see if the power cords and network cables are plugged in before calling.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What if

One of those serendipitous moments happened to me over the past day or two (does that make it a moment?)

Was thinking about vacation, and have had read some blogs about “unplugging from the net”, then started thinking about Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, not that I have read it in several years or anything, other things have been brewing along these lines. Recent news has stated me thinking about floods and earthquakes and how we would survive in the short term. Then I run into this promo for a book

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All of this comes together in my brain, now I need to squeeze these images and jumbled thoughts into some sort of coherent writing. Not always easy for me as readers of this blog can attest to—if there are really readers.

Can I survive in the world my grandparents lived in? We hear the other direction often, could my grandparents manage in this world. For some of you think of your great-grandparents or people that lived in the early 1900’s. My parents, now in their 80’s manage to deal with the world in their own way, and I am sure folks from the past could deal with what we have now, after a short adjustment time. But what about us?

I am not confident I could feed my family with what I raise and grow, even if I had the land on which to do this. I know my grandparents had a difficult time doing this in the Dakotas, would I be able to produce enough to sell? Sell to whom?

Planting and other work without motors, chemicals and the like, are we mentally and physically strong enough? I know my neck would not work, as it is too much yard work causes my arm to go numb or hurt like heck.

Could I cook? Sure, coal or wood work fine, but the menu would be dull, need to raise a bunch of chickens. Grind my own meal for flower? Don’t know how to build a mill. Could I build a house with lumber cut and hewn by hand? Nope.

How useless have we become?

Survive, sure.
Thrive, no.
I have a fair amount of survival experience, what about others?



Monday, June 9, 2008

sewing up another year

It is getting closer to the end of the 2007-2008 school year. I remember the first "real" teaching job, the freshman were the class of 1990-that sounded so far in the future. And here we are still alive, waiting for the hover cars that were promised to us at the 1964 world's fair.
So where are we now. first started teaching, had an overhead projector. Go to most of the classrooms today, see overhead projectors. We had an Apple IIe in the science department, well past that now, I hope.
I guess we could grumble, but things are better and the same.
we need to change, but it is hard when it is easier not to, pressure on teachers from other teachers, administrators, students and parents to do the things the same old way is hard to fight
fight fight fight
Too hot to think anymore or make any sense

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thinking of new teachers

I have been reading student blogs from Alac Couros’ students in one of his education courses (ECMP355). Very good, insightful posts by the students. I would think it is getting near the end of the semester for these students.

I enjoy the ideas of new and pre-service teachers, the excitement about education, their ideas, how excited they are. Sort of reminds me of early elementary students and believing they can do anything.

What happens to us? At what age do students no longer think they can do anything? When do new teachers gain the “forget it, I will do it the old way” attitude? What causes this downgrading of self expectations?

I wish I knew the answer. I remember each time starting the school year, things would be great this year, students will work on their projects, we will all have a great time working together. Then in a week or two, back to the old ways. Was it easier that way. Fewer ripples in the pond? This is what the students expect from school?

Wish I was a better teacher when I did teach.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dang it

I have had some great and funny ideas for blog posts, but keep forgetting them. That is frustrating. In the past, I could write and remember in my head, and then it comes running out onto the screen. Not any more. I need to keep my voice recorder with me to take care of this issue. What ever it was I was thinking about this morning was relevant and funny. Was going to write as soon as I got in the morning, but life happened.
What a drag it is getting old

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Now What?

Coming in the morning to a dead server, brings up the issue of We Have All of this Technology, What if it Does Not Work?

Things seem to be falling apart today, jammed printers, library catalog server was down (loose plug) and a server app is in hiding. Not to mention the server for Project Lead The Way. It holds many of the programs they use in that program, and the student and teacher files. Sort of shoots the day if it does not work. Sitting here feeling guilty that I do not have duplicate servers hanging around, but at what cost?

Two days of outage for this server. It is not much in the long run, but in the present, it is pretty bad. Sort of like when a server goes down for an hour, that can be the longest hour in the world. There are some folks that still remind me of the last time the teacher server was down, four years ago, for two hours, and say the server “never” works. When asked to define this, they are reminded it was four years ago for two hours, so it is pretty safe now. But I guess it is the point. If the technology does not work when you want to use it, how willing are they to try again?

A few days later: server back and running. Need to work on a couple of computers and scanners now.

Stuff needs to work or it is a waste of money.

Did any of that make sense?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Server Blues

Woke up this mornin'…
Back up was sending me a warnin'….
A server did not connect…
It was not runnin'…

I got the broke down server blues.

Opened the server room..
The air smelled funky…
Ozone in the air..
The machine was dead, it ain’t fair

I got the broke down server blues.

Power supply was shot…
We need the machine a lot…
Technology classes with out files..
Sever based programs, out for awhile….

I got the broke down server blues.

Contacted the vender….
A power supply he will render…
Tuesday will have it Fed-ex
Then I can relax

I got the broke down server blues.



I apologize to anyone with a sense of rhythm

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Following up the OLPC test.

Following up the OLPC test.

I have written on the blog about the XO laptop and using students in my school as test subjects in a RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) research project. The group of students came in yesterday and gave an overview of their findings to the superintendent and I.

Their data analysis is not finished yet, but hopefully it will be posted to the OLPC wiki soon, so everyone who is interested can see. From what I understand this was/is the first user testing of some of the features, hopefully this will give a base for other researchers to work from.

They found in part of their research that students do not always tell the truth! One of the screening questioned if the students have ever used the computer for word processing, some said no, one of the kids I had taken out of the computer lab where they were writing papers, all of the students have used the mobile lab and done word processing. Doesn’t Dr. House say everyone lies? Some of the students, in the interview, claimed they only go to “Age appropriate web sites, approved by my parents or teacher” uh huh.

Now to the actual testing.

When given “free play” time on the computer, some students would find applications they would be familiar with, based on the icons. Drawing, calculator and writing were commonly used. Once they found something they knew they tended to stay there. One student started to use the Turtle math program, looked at some help files and left. Two students figured out how to set up the mesh network, and set up the chat, but they could not find where to type for chatting. This was an issue the first time I used the XO. These two students, according to the superintendent, are not strong in regular academics, but this shows they are explorers and willing to work on things.

The real test was with the writing program. The students were to copy text onto the computer, each doing a specific section. This did not work as well as anticipated. One thing that distracted them was having more than one curser on the screen, and not being able to tell who is who. Perhaps if the cursers were of different colors or shapes, the confusion would be less.

The way writing is taught in grades 4-5 here may have been a factor. They are very structured with the idea that their writing is personal, and they use several prescribed steps in the writing process, perhaps a younger grade may have worked better on this, before this idea is imbued in their brains.

Writing may not have been the best activity for this, drawing may have worked better, but getting the mesh network to work with other activities has proven problematic, so the researchers went with what would work. A less linear activity would be more interesting to the students and perhaps lend itself to collaboration.

There are many other findings, and when they do the analysis they may find other things. We had an interesting discussion following their presentation regarding education and age appropriate things. It is thought provoking to have a couple of educators and a batch of techies sit around and have discussions. A bunch to learn from each group. Thoughts that the other group would not think of.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I'm sending this blog...

This was a test of using Jott to blog with. I spoke into my phone and it was translated in a few moments, below is what it heard, below that is the script I used. Very good, with some issues, started to speak faster at parts. You can listen to the post with the link below.

I'm sending this blog post through jott.com. I've recently begun using this tool to send messages to my family or to myself easily. If you're unfamiliar with Jott, please go to their website and check it out. Jott will transcribe your voice into text for email, IM, texting or, in this case, blogging. You(?) may(?) lay(?) out(?) events in the Google Calendar and send myself memos. Many possible applications for education, if we allowed students to use cell phones in the classroom. You(?) could email themselves assignments, add stuff to their To Do list or calendars. Talk about a great organization tool. I wanna look back a few posts to see my middle(?) school(?) rant to see what I'm talking about. One concern is the 30 second time limit. Hard for me to stop talking before that. Now we'll see how well this transcribes. Just bless(?), I wonder how well it would transcribe the song. listen

Powered by Jott


the real text:
I am sending this blog post through Jott.com. I have recently begun using this tool, and can send messages to my family or to myself easily.
If you are unfamiliar with Jott, please go to their website and check it out. Jott will transcribe your voice into text for email, IM, texting or in this case blogging.
I have been able to add events to my Google calendar, and send my self memos.

There are many possible applications for education, IF we allowed students to use cell phones in the classroom, they could email them selves assignments, add stuff to their to do list or calendars, talk about a great organization tool!

You might want to look back a few posts to see my middle school rant to see what I am talking about.

One constraint is 30 second time limit. Hard for me to stop before that.
Now we will see how this transcribes.

Just for laughs, I wonder how well it would translate a song?


Not too bad

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Personal learning networks and me

Having been a technology user for a long time—my first email account was in 91 or 92, first “web” browser was not graphical lynx, did not have a ppp (point to point protocol) account. I just now have gotten the time to develop my personal learning network (PLN). I am amazed how well this has been working and helped me re-energize and rethink some concepts.
I have been using mailing lists and listservs for most of my Internet life, but these are fairly general, and not always what I need. Responses get lost or the conversation never starts or veers off in some direction. I also needed information that I did not need to search for, often I would not remember to go to the blogs of many of the known ed tech bloggers, or I did not know who I should be reading.
I am on twitter, which allows me to track several people-I am following 34 people and for some reason 36 are following me. Twitter allows you to post short entries as to what you are doing. If you follow the wrong people you get things that are not relevant, finding good people is fairly easy. Most of the posts I receive reference web sites or blog posts that are useful to my job and in my interest. Not everything is important, but what is in life? I follow twitter using twhirl, which allows it to run in the corner of my computer so I do not need to keep the webpage open all of the time.
After following these people on twitter, and reading their blogs after they announced a post, I decided to use Google Reader to keep track of blogs I was interested in. Reader gets the feeds from the blogs and tells me what is new.
I then realized I could put Google reader on my iGoogle page, along with my Gmail. So now I do not need to check individual blogs for new posts or even go to Google Reader to check for new posts, it is all on my homepage.
How many years has this taken? too many. Has it made my life better and more efficient, you bet.
One day I will write about all the resources I have found on my PLN, the latest being read the words, I never would have found it on my own.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Testing the XO laptop


I have been working with some RIT students testing the XO laptop from the OLPC project. There have been earlier posts regarding this on my blog.

The idea of this test was to see how the students liked the laptops and to test a collaborative aspect of the machines.

The first few groups were given the laptops and were asked to explore, they found stuff and played around, but that was about it. They found some things and did not have too much trouble working with the machine

The rest of the groups were given a writing assignment. They were to collaboratively write a given paragraph. The paragraph was colored red and black, with one student assigned the red lines and the other the black words. One of the aspects of the xo laptop is that it can be used collaboratively, that is in the writing function, if the computers are meshed together, the screen is the same on both computers, that is both are working at the same time on the same text. Two cursers appear on the screen and each is a curser. They have the ability to write simultaneously.

Few of the groups took advantage of being able to write at the same time, most would wait until the other was done with their passage and then type theirs. Most were aware they could type together, but were confused by two people typing at once. I can see how this could be confusing at first.

Most of the students enjoyed the computer, liked the look and size, a few complained about the keyboard size, as I do. Other than that it was good.

The issue may be the ability to share. One student was afraid someone could steal her ideas if this was a classroom situation. One thought it would be good for sharing notes in class, not class notes mind you. All like the portability and weight.

The mesh network started to break down by the last three groups

There will be better results coming out in a paper from RIT, and will be on the Rochester OLPC webpage.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

National Teacher Day

National teacher day. A conversation on Twitter regarding which teacher inspired you or was your best teacher. This is so difficult to answer. I believe every teacher influenced me in one way or another. Some for the good, some for the not so good. One would assume I had the same influence on my students. I also have to think of my coaches as teachers, as they were, sometimes the coaches have more influence. What about parents and other folks we are in contact with on a daily basis.

Just dawned on me, perhaps the best teacher I had was my Scoutmaster in Boy Scouts, back in Lanesborough, MA. Don Coudert. I could ramble on about this, but there is no need to. Just thanks Don.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"The Funniest Video Ever"

It happens every year. There are students that think they know everything about making videos and are going to make the Funniest Video Ever!
Unfortunately this is usually what happens:

Class time to work on scripts and shooting schedules- the FVE group- having a great time discussing story ideas that are only tangentially related to the assignment, some things written down “We’re going to do the shooting at my house after school”.

Class time to shoot and clear up other issues- FVE “Yeah, we are going to do the shooing at home” “The script, that’s at home, don’t worry it is going to the Funniest Video Ever!”

Class time for editing and reshooting- FVE-“Yeah, we’re going to all come over to my house tonight and do the video, don’t worry I can edit, want to see my uTube videos?”

Day before the project is due, most groups finished and projects are burned to DVD- FVE-“Yeah, we are going to shoot and finish it tonight, you want that on DVD? I don’t know, is it OK if we show it from the camera? I don’t know if we can make a DVD, Oh we haven’t shot any video, do you think we need lights to shoot outside at night? What kind of lights? Oh yeah, the camera has night vision, so it’s cool.” “Wait until you see it, it is going to be The Funniest Video Ever.”

Video Show Day- all projects are shown to the class, some very good projects, some OK projects, but all worked hard and met the requirements except- FVE- Umm, can we turn it in tomorrow, we have just a few things left to do, we are going to finish it at my house tonight”

The Next Morning- FVE group brings in the camera to show the video from, or sometimes a CD with a small format movie. The rubric stated the video was to be turned in as a DVD. “Wait until you see it, it is like hilarious, it is the Funniest Video Ever.” The video starts, noise in the background, wind noises in the microphone, laughter in the sound. They left the day/time stamp on the video it was shot over a short period last night. The video is pretty much one take of something, don’t know what because the sound is awful. Lots of video of the group laughing, as they laugh watching it. “We ran out of time, so we did not get all the shots” None of the points on the Rubric are met.

This is actually a good learning experience, hopefully, for the Funniest Video Ever group. Part of what we want to accomplish in a unit like this is time management and planning. To effectively do video planning is necessary. Back from the era of my doing video, I learned that shooting is the shortest part of the production, while you are shooting, you are losing money had over fist. This is not the case with student produced video, but I try to instill in them that planning makes the shooting easier and the clips go together better. Most get this lesson, and the Funniest Video Ever group, learns this better than most.

Which brings me around to the “students know more about computers than we do” argument. I don’t buy it. Some students know some applications real well, such as MySpace or uTube. How much of this knowledge is transferred? They have the tools, but we need to guide and help them use the tools as effectively as possible.

As with anything, tools make the job easier and hopefully better. We can teach writing with pencil and paper or with a word processor. I never really learned to write very well using handwriting. But using the word processing tool, I can write something that people can read, not that many do. Students can make things on the computer, but what is the content? I can use PhotoShop fairly well, but my creativity level is near zero. What good does that do me? We have got to allow for more creativity in the students, and give them the necessary tools. I somewhat like the idea of introducing programs to students as they ask for them to do their work, rather than show the program and then add an assignment.

Tools are important, and the right tool is very helpful. I have a wood shop in my basement; does this make me a Greg Johnson or Wendell Castle? Far from it, I can do a serviceable job. I can shoot photographs, but I am no Ansell Adams or for that matter Sally Sakshaug. Tools are tools, we must work to use them correctly and teach students how to best use them for their education.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Video and the Spanish classes

For the past several years, I have been working with a Spanish teacher making videos, this project has grown over the years and has improved the language skills of these students.

The first years of the project I would meet with the students to discuss video planning and visual language in movies, the students would then put together scripts. The teacher now handles this part, which is great. Right now my role is to help out with editing, this being the labor intensive part, and the teacher cannot help all groups at all times.

In the beginning she only worked with Spanish 3 students, with the task of putting together a Spanish soap opera, each group of 4 would make their own. The later years the class would work together, with each group working on a subplot to the story, usually a large group scene in the end. These projects have become more sophisticated over time, and look better.

The Spanish teacher now has all levels of students doing videos, this morning I will work with them in editing a newscast. The idea is that all group have the same clips and they are to edit to make it look best. They worked together on the scripts and shooting, now need to put it together. This is similar to an assignment I had in a video class in college, we all shot the same thing and made different stories, we were not involved in the script, just had several takes of several scenes and had to make sense of it.

I have always felt that having students making a video is a valuable lesson, we are working in groups, developing ideas, writing scripts, thinking about visual language, budgeting time and resources. It is a form of expression that some students excel at, similar to some students excel at writing, some are good at video. I struggle to put my thoughts on paper, but to video the ideas is easy and effective for me to do.

I have been hoping that video making would expand to other classes, and it has to a small extent, not the level I would like. The ELA teacher who worked with me in having the students video short stories has left, and there has been no interest in picking this up in the creative writing class or any other ELA class. This is a disappointment.


For anyone that cares we use iMovie and various digital video cameras. Getting them to use a tripod when I am not there is another story.

Off I go to work with them…

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We have an issue....

Last year I installed a computer lab for students to use for on-line learning classes. We made the decision to set up the lab using PC rather than our normal Mac computers, the reason for this was, I was sure, somewhere down the line, there would be an issue with something that would only work with PC and not Mac, you know this was sure to happen. So to avoid that problem we did PC, and gave us a chance to mess around with Vista (which by the way works well).

In order for this project to work, we felt it was best to put a teacher in the room to supervise rather than someone else, as the students would take it seriously, and the teacher was needed to supervise quizzes and tests. Therein lies the problem. Due to factors not under my control, these classes have been greatly under enrolled, most teachers have one or two students, several have none. So a few teachers, with multiple computers in their rooms decided to hold the sessions in their classrooms, with two exceptions, these classrooms have Macintosh computers. And so yesterday the inevitable occurred. I get a call saying one of the on line teachers could not read an attached file sent by a student, and I need to fix it. I tried to explain to the teacher that the reason the classes are held on PCs is to avoid this very problem!

I guess that explanation is not good enough. Now I have to explain up the food chain why I cannot “Make it work” , and the reason why the online lab is set up as it is. I was given trouble for using PCs there, now I guess I am getting problems because the teacher does not want to give up time in their room to cover their class where the class is to be held.

I could set up these classroom computers at a cost, to run windows, but why if we are all set just down the hall?

and so it goes

Monday, April 28, 2008

Note to self:Don't let the blog die

This is where I run into trouble. Not sure what to write, and then forget to write.
Almost really spring, might have a frost this week, we shall see.
Did some planting this weekend, and the rain today is helpful.
The garden is coming up, so that is good.
that is all for today

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

OLPC continued

As mentioned earlier, our district is working with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to pilot some of their work with the One Laptop per Child Program (OLPC). Today we met with some of the students from RIT to discuss their plans and some details of the pilot tests. I want to make sure that the tests are educational relevant to our students so that we are not just supplying lab rats.
The big problems we are facing is that RIT is out of session in a few weeks, and the researchers need to get data and write it up. We need to get parent permission out, signed and returned, but the permission forms are still being reviewed by RIT. The draft form we saw today looks intimidating, if I was to receive it, not sure what I would say.
We will be working with 5th grade students; they will work in groups of two at a time. It will take a fair amount of time to do, but if we get the paperwork done, should be no issue.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a working relationship with RIT and their educational technology people. The more the better!

Job Interviews

Does anyone like the process of job interviews? I really hate the trend toward the “gang interviews” where all of the “stakeholders” get a chance to ask a question. I think the gang interview process is more of a PR stunt than anything else. I do not think the committee can get to know the person, nor can the interviewee understand the culture of where they are trying to get a job. I prefer one-on-one interviews or a maximum of 4 people, any more than four; I cannot get a feeling for the job or for the person being interviewed. I would prefer sitting through a series of interviews rather than trying to be everything to everyone, and would prefer to sit down one on one with perspective employees. I think it is helpful to know if you can communicate with the people you will be spending most of your time with.
In order to make the interviews “fair” the large committees have a list of questions that they assign to a person at the table, this does not allow for communications, but who says the right words when. Sometimes when asking for clarification of the question the person that asked it has to ask what the question meant. Is this good communications?
With the current interview process, I need to ask to spend time in the district before accepting a job, and have turned down offered positions after that.
I guess that is the way the world is now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

figuring

Not a great day, but things will pick up. Had a good break last week and am ready to sail through the next 10 weeks of the year, and then spend the summer setting up for next year.
Always time to plan and plot what is going to happen in the next few years, determine what is going to be the next big thing. I think we made the right call about SmartBoards, jumped into that five years ago or so, and have really made it an item the teachers now want.
It is difficult to predict the future, and that is part of the job of director of technology. I have made some wrong calls, but we were not heavily invested when we realized it was not what we needed to solve a problem.
The hardest thing is to look for needs and then find a technology to fill the need, and do this before people realize there is a need. The easiest thing is to find cool technology and try to force it to work, that is not a great strategy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

some tired thoughts

Some thoughts while sitting and waiting for a meeting.
We were to start at 12:45, I don’t wait well. Just a few moments late, but antsy. Contemplating education in general, looking at some questions. What do we want our students to learn and how can we support them? The students are going to be supporting us in our old age- at least my kids will be in a way. I want all students to be able to solve problems, think for themselves, solve the world’s problems, and find cures for everything.
So students need problem solving abilities, we must teach this from the beginning of their education, they must cooperate with others in their learning, be responsible for their knowledge. Share their knowledge

Waiting 10 min now

I have a job I enjoy, why look for a new one? Life quality? Tired of living paycheck to paycheck, more money will allow me to do more things with the family and the house. There will be a loss of time with the family, but it will be worth it.

Is on time the new early?
Don’t fall asleep. Tired from a long day yesterday.
Set cell phone to vibrate. Check.
1:00

Friday, April 11, 2008

so far this year

The school year is 3/4 done. Has there been progress made in how we teach and learn here? I know we need more direct work with the teachers to make it go. There are several on the bandwagon and working with technology and their students. 
Smartboards became hot this year, most want one, we are getting more, but the budget does not allow for all I want to get. More computers in more classrooms is always a good thing. Run out of computers before we run out of requests. 
Sometimes I need to look back over the years to see what has been accomplished in the district, and it looks good. The changes are slow at times, but are working. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I shall whine now

Email- the great thing about it is you should know what the subject is based on what the writer puts in the subject line--hey that makes sense.  I do not like getting email with a blank subject line. Especially if it is from a teacher here and I know that I need to read it. I guess I need to know before I open it if the message is good, bad or indifferent. What I think is worse, is reply email that is unrelated to the subject. For example, if I send out an email with a warning, such as a server will be down for a short time. I expect reply related to the outage, and need to reassure some folks about their data and connections (If the file server is down, you can still get onto the Internet, for example). But I get at least two replies that are so unrelated that I get irritated. I usually place bets on (a) Who will do it, and (b)How much time until they do it. But getting upset does no good, but when working on an issue, I need to concentrate on that problem. Is it worth getting frustrated about--no not really, and I should work on that.
So if you send me an email, have a subject or if you reply in an unrelated email, change the subject. 
That did not make me feel better!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thinking of education

What do we need to do to get the students ready to live? It seems we have many new ideas, but the best way to implement them? 
thinking back to how we were taught to teach. Did your methods match up with the methods taught? Mine usually did not. My first teaching job was many years ago - Early 1980's in rural North Carolina. At that time the state was into the 6 step lesson plan. We were to teach using these steps, no exceptions. I do not recall the author of this concept, but remember reading she did not think every lesson needed these steps nor should the lesson be one class period long. But the schools and state did not do the latter part in their evaluation. The teachers taught this way only when we were being observed. Otherwise we taught the way we were most effective and what met the objectives of the day. 
Now we need to see how to fit technology in to classes. Some teachers do this effectively, some don't. Is it a matter of training or the teacher's teaching style? I would hope all teachers would embrace technology, but is it effective for everything. Sometimes the best technology to use in a classroom is a piece of paper. Other times it would be other technology. Unless it is easy to use and makes sense, will teachers use the technology? They will if they see results, I hope. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Moving on

The voice recorder debacle has been resolved. He can use it for his assignments. No need for an IEP amendment, using technology for organization is covered in the document, as I thought. 

Now to other things.

We are in a short lull here this week. We have spring break next week, so no new projects going on. After break there are a few projects starting. 

Hope to be working with teachers on developing their personal learning networks using twitter, google reader, diigo and things like that. 

Think we need to re-think our technology plan, in terms of allowing more web 2.0 products to be used in the classroom. Generally we can use most things, but there needs to be clear information about blogs and the like and responsibility of the school, teacher, student and parents regarding posted information and replies. 

Hope that we get moving on the OLPC project, paperwork has been taken care of, now need to work with the students at RIT on this. Information on the project can be found here comments are more than welcome. Wondering if the lower priced PCs that Microsoft is working on will take the place of these machines?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Now where was I?

There are times that doing my job is impossible. I know that I am not alone in this problem. I was hired several years ago as an instructional technology coordinator, but don't think I really do that, I am more of a director of technology. Is there a difference? sure. An instructional technology coordinator helps to integrate technology into the educational setting. I would love to do this, as it is my training. What I spend most of my time on is working on the technology and developing planning for the network, technology purchaces, fixing and gettting ready. When I try to take the time to work on projects, there is some sort of technology crisis that must be taken care of. But if the technology does not work, then it cannot be integrated. 
If I was really the director I should be getting paid more, but that is life in a small district. At least I have a job that I enjoy. Am I doing the best for everyone? I think so. Could I do more? last week no, but with technology it is boom or bust. I hope this week I can get back to working on getting technology into the teachers hands and showing them what to do with it. 
I have a monthly meeting with people that do the "same" job as I. We sit around talking about what we are doing. It is great to hear about all of the training and projects they do. When it is my turn for sharing, it is not the same subject. They really don't want to hear about the new email server and system and the lead up work to the  VoIP system to be put in this summer or next summer depending on funding. This is not what they do, but they have larger departments than I do. Such is life

Thursday, April 3, 2008

to continue

After several phone calls, managed to get the school to agree to amend his IEP in order to allow the use of the recorder.
I thought technology was to help.
This is also a school that does not allow any streaming....

grumble, organize, and middle school

I don’t think I can learn how to organize like some people do. Never have. I am a firm believer in entropy and the laws of superposition. That is in other words, things fall apart and what is on top is newest. I guess the key for your personal organization is if you can find stuff and use the stuff you need. I have tried, different color folders, stacks for this and that, could never find stuff that way. I can find stuff on my computer, if all else fails use the search function. The only thing really in my filing cabinets is notebooks from different projects.

Part of the issue is I am ADD and have dyslexia, a difficult combination, and a deadly one in the middle school world, or at least what I see as a middle school world. The reason bring up middle school is that one of my children, who also has ADD is going through seventh grade right now, and I see what he is dealing with and remembering what I had to deal with.

I went to a 7-12 school back in the 70’s. 7th and 8th grades were the junior high at the start, I liked it. Generally it was the same as high school; you were responsible for yourself and did what you needed to do. When I made it to 8th grade, they turned it into a middle school. We had team meetings, did all sorts of touchy feely things. I thought is was stupid and took away from my learning. I just wanted to be left alone. We had study skills and had to keep our notebooks a certain way. I am more of stuff things into the book and use it when I need to. We had to use the little notebook reinforcement stickers on all of our loose-leaf paper, and got points off if we did not. Our notebooks were collected and graded! This I could not understand, my way of taking notes worked for me, it may not be the same as what works for you. I was getting good grades, and this notebook keeping was distracting from my learning. I was more stressed about keeping my notebook in order than learning. We had reading handouts, but we were to take notes about the reading on another piece of paper and put them in some other section of the notebook—that made no sense and still does not, I take notes on the reading on the papers itself, still do even on electronic readings and WebPages.

I remember one time in social studies class we were given a reading to do which the teacher considered advanced. It was taken from a magazine, which I read often. We were to underline in BLUE words we did not know and then on another paper we were to write the words and define them. I had no words underlined. The teacher, moving in for the kill asked me to define words as she picked them out of the reading, I did and she got madder and madder. What did this teach me? Not one whole heck of a lot. I don’t remember much from that class, except that incident.

After teaching high school for a few years, I took a job in a middle school. This was a difficult transition for me. The first time I met with my team of teachers, we were to write our supply list. The others wanted different color notebooks and specific color pens, crayons and the like. They did not understand when all I wanted was the kids to have “something to write on and something to write with”. One of the teachers explained that she liked the students to have four different color folders for her class, as we were on a four day rotation, red for day one, blue for day two, yellow for three and green for day four, she felt this helped their organization somehow. I think one day was spelling one reading one grammar and one whatever. I can imagine the mess I would be in if I was one of these kids.

I can understand the idea of transitioning from elementary to high school, but there were teachers in the eighth grade doing the same thing. When do the kids learn to be responsible? I understand for some students it is necessary to check that they have written their assignments in their book and initial that it was correct, I did that for students at any age if the parents asked me to do so, but at the beginning of 6th grade we were to do this for each student, so there goes 10 minutes of teaching every day. Do we put off the sink or swim until 9th grade, the first time some of these kids learn that if they don’t do the work they fail? Having taught 9th grade for several years, it came as a shock to the students that if they did not do the work they would have to take the class again. In the middle school we chased the kids down to do makeup work, I never liked that, a communication between the teacher and parent should have taken care of the student doing makeup work.

That was a divergence.

Not what I wanted to write about. My son as mentioned above has ADD, just like his dad. He has organizational problems and an IEP, which discusses the use of technology to help with his work. I bought him a little voice recorder/mp3 player; with the knowledge he was not to put anything on there except voice recording of his assignments. He has gone through several assignment books this year and they do not work for him. This seems like a good idea. One teacher does not like it, she wants him to use the assignment book, and this makes no sense to me. I want him to find what works and use it, not to be forced to use what does not work for him.

We need to nurture the students learning styles, not force them to try and fail a way that does not work for them.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Well, that didn't work

After the last post, I thought I had the dang Email server working, but there was a glitch. So worked on it for a few hours.  No luck. Shoot Darn it. That lost my train of thought on all the other things I was excited about. 
Need to put together some training for the elementary school regarding using the web to their advantage. iGoogle, twitter and a few other tools. Nothing heavy. 
hope to have the email done this week. 
Once that is done, we can switch web servers. Our current web server worries me due to its age and size. 

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bits and pieces for Saturday

Hope to be finished with the new Email server today, so I am at work this morning. 
Some bits and pieces have fallen from my brain as unformed thoughts so might as well jot these down. 
I have become more energized at my work over the past few weeks. I think most of this is due to reading twitter and seeing what people are doing out there in Educational Technology. I hope I can transfer this better to the teachers at work.
The new Sansa, which I bought cheap works well. I had three tests with it, one talking to a teacher in a crowded room, in a meeting with the superintendet, with the device on a table between three of us, and while driving. The sound was good in all of them, I was pleased. 
Issues with the mail startup. I'll be back

Friday, March 28, 2008

new toy

Picked up an inexpensive Sansa m240. Want to do some podcasts with it. the microphone works remarably well. Will play with it this weekend and see what happens.
Switching Email servers this weekend too. A little stress involved with that

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The XO laptop

Yesterday I had a chance to look at the XO laptop developed for the One Laptop Per Child program. There is a working group based out of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Students are being tasked with developing programs and testing the laptops in real world situations. Working in a school we have real world situations, and being a small school, the red tape to work on this stuff is only one to three people thick.

The laptop is small, with a small keyboard. I had to type with two fingers, but there are usb ports, so you could hook up a larger keyboard if needed. But the computer is designed for kids, so the keyboard may be just right for them. The machine seems to be durable, and they have done many tests in development of the computer, dropping it, burying it in sand, heating it and so on. Here is a piece on NPR regarding it http://tiny.cc/UnsRS

Why are we getting involved in this? These computers are designed for third world countries, and we are not that here outside of Rochester NY. There are a few answers for that.
First of all looking at school budgets and the technology needs for early elementary schools. Young kids can be tough on equipment; it is just the nature of the age. These computers can be dropped, get wet, and handle most things. The computers are built to stand up to this unintended abuse. The cost of the laptops is within the reach of most budgets. The current cost is about $200 per copy, with the goal being $100 per computer. This almost makes the idea of 1-to-1 computing reasonable in cost and insurance coverage.
The computers are designed to work as a mesh network. This allows for collaboration between students in the class, sharing information, checking each other’s work, a great tool for that.
The computer does not have unnecessary software, you can think of them as being stripped down laptops. New applications are being written all of the time, but what does a young user need. There is a drawing program, writing and a few others.
The software is open source; the operating system is Linux, stability and the ability for new applications to be written all of the time.
The school gets a chance to help others in working with software developers. The students at RIT are working to make educational programs and design learning activities for the XO. These programs need a real world test, and we can provide this. A win-win situation for all.

The XO computer is not designed to take the place of high-end laptops. They are relatively slow, and the graphics are not flashy. They do what is needed for computing and collaborative work. The developers were looking at what can be done with minimal computing power, and with that in mind they did a great job.

We must keep in mind the role of technology in education. It is not to replace the teacher, but be a tool in the teaching and learning process. The first of the discussion with the RIT students yesterday focused on what the xo cannot do, and what they wished it could do. Eventually they changed focus on what it can do, and its strengths are. It was fun to see the changes in their thinking in a short time. I am looking forward to seeing the projects they develop and how well they work with our students here.

Future of Education

David Warlick posted these questions on his blog http://tiny.cc/AfiwH
Here are my answers:


What does the future hold for education?
In the very near future, I hope that the state and national governments realize that standardized multiple choice tests are not teaching anything other than puke back the facts. Wit this behind us we can resume teaching. We have great tools for the students to develop their own learning communities with in and outside of their schools. We must open the walls of the classrooms to allow for open learning and collaboration. We must teach students to work together and learn how to filter information. All people are hunters and gatherers of information, and we need to teach with this in mind.



What do schools and districts need to do to prepare for the future?
Develop teaching and learning teams to learn new methods. We have been talking about this for years, lets get to it. Schools need to train teachers to re-learn how to learn. Give some of the control to the students to help direct their learning. I am not saying forget about the curriculum, but there are many ways to reach an objective, and for many students the traditional methods are not working.


What will this future require of me?
Become a learner. Learn how to work with others. Develop your own leaning communities.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A new beginning

I have not had an active blog in awhile. I hope to keep this one going. Hope to have some podcasts going too. I am an educator, involved in instructional technology, but do not want to be limited to that. We will see how it goes.
This is perhaps my fourth attempt at blogging.