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 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 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.