Thursday, December 24, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/25/2009

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/15/2009

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Microsoft Rips off Plurk

I am an avid user of Plurk, a microblogging site, it is in my opinion superior to Twitter in terms of the ability to communicate. Plurk is very popular in Asia, and our friends at MicroSoft are out to make a few quick bucks by stealing code from Plurk. Why a company such as M$ feels they can do this is just showing their arrogance. This is a company that will sue anyone at the drop of a hat, but has no problem stealing from others.
Please pass this around. Let others know.

12/15/09 This site is now down.

Cable in the Classroom, no longer relevant?

A week or so ago I received an email from a teacher asking about getting cable TV in the classrooms. This is perhaps one of the few school districts that did not run coax cable back in the past 20 years. Not too long after I started here, we ran a survey to see what the cost would be to wire up the buildings, and the costs were higher than we were willing to go. We have the one cable TV drop per building given to us by the local cable company, but that is it. Is this a concept we need to reconsider, or is the idea of cable in the classroom one that is no longer relevant?

I taught in a couple of “Channel One” schools during my carrier, if you do not know, Channel One will give you TVs and wire up your building in exchange for them showing a news cast with advertising to all students every day. Not a bad deal, having a captive audience for advertisers is great for Channel One, but taking time out of the school day for ads is a decision I do not want to make. We actually did some light investigation of Channel One here last year, but could not make it work with our schedule and we would not get a TV in each classroom.

As has been stated in this blog previously, we have a fairly robust Internet connection, and with each classroom having a SmartBoard with projector, we can access network-based content at any time to share with our students. So is having Cable in the classroom necessary any more?

How is cable used in classrooms? Due to the way programs are scheduled on TV, it is tough to arrange your time so that a program that may be relevant will be on when it is needed. It is true that the district can record shows for teachers to show, but we have a service from our BOCES that does this, or we could record from our drops in the building. When I was teaching weather in Earth Science, I sometimes had the weather channel on during class to show stuff, which was useful, but can now be more effectively done with various Internet sites. To tell the truth, the things that the TV was used for more than anything was to watch early round NCAA games, checking news and sports before school, and on occasion something school related. The five men that taught in one school would all meet in one classroom during lunch where we would watch Sports Center or Jerry Springer. Sometimes toward the end of class we would turn on MTV so that the students would have music to do labs or write-ups to (Back when MTV had music).

There are some nice things you can do with cable in the building, such as a student TV broadcast, but this can be done on the network. Really anything that can be done with the cable can now be done better with the Internet. So where does this leave us? We don’t need to rip out cables, how could we watch NCAA games? But I really don’t think we need to think about new installs for Cable in the Classroom.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/14/2009

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/12/2009

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/11/2009

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/10/2009

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One month until FIRST Robotics kick-off.

One month until FIRST Robotics kick-off.
One month.

This will be my second year doing this. Last  year I came in late, perhaps a month before kick-off. If you did not read my posts regarding FIRST last year, go back and have a look. 

This program is problem based learning (PBL) at its best. At the kick-off all teams are given information about what their robots need to do, and are given a parts kit, they then have six weeks to design, build and test the robot, a short time. I should say this stuff is really not given to the teams, there are many costs involved, this money issue is really another type of PBL for the students to learn. 

I have learned about this money raising issue during the "off season" of robotics. For a few years the team has had a major corporate sponsor. The sponsor paid for most expenses. With the way things are now, the funding has been cut down by a fair amount. Due to this we need to raise money, and so is every other organization. The competition for these few dollars has become fierce. Chicken BBQ, Bottle and Can drives, Pumpkin Chunkin, golf tournament, and just about anything else you can think of. Hard for parents, as we buy and help with all of these things, but if we want the kids to be able to do this, we work on it. 

The problem of raising money. A real world problem. An ugly problem. Businesses are tapped out at this time of year, the local businesses that try to give to everything in the community are feeling a squeeze. I sent out feelers to several businesses which I work with, and have only one interested, but so it goes. 

Anyone out there want to donate money to the team?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/07/2009

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/04/2009

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/03/2009

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 12/01/2009

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14 driving rules for Interstates

I don’t mind driving, really I don’t. With my wonderful wife unable to do much driving over the past few years, I have done the bulk of it. This puts me on interstates with many other people. I am not a provincial writer, having driven and lived in many other states, so the statement that the section of the NY Thruway (I-90) between Syracuse and Rochester is about the worse stretch of road I have ever had the pleasure to drive. Not the condition of the road, but the number of people on it. It would be nice if it were 3 lanes, but no dice. Why is it so bad? I don’t know, but often the traffic comes to a stop for no apparent reason. After being stopped or going slow for a half hour, the traffic suddenly picks up to normal speed. Does the road get tired and suddenly close? Hard to say, but it happens on Sunday afternoons and evenings almost every time I am on that road. When this happens on other sections of road, there is a lane closed or a big wreck ahead, but that section of the Thruway, who knows?

Here are some rules of the Interstates I came up with yesterday while going 30 mph between Syracuse and Rochester.

1. If you have cruse control, USE IT. On a 65 mph road, Let’s all set it to 73 and forget it.
2. If a cop has someone stopped on the other side of the divided highway, you do not have to slow to below the speed limit, he is not going to stop what he is doing, cross lanes and come after you.
3. If a cop has someone stopped in your direction, try to pull over to the left and continue on your way. See rule 2.
4. If you plan on driving the speed limit, stay out of the passing lane.
5. If you plan on driving the speed limit stay to the right.
6. If you are going to pass, do so, sitting on someone’s rear fender is stupid. If you were going fast enough to get there, pass. See rule 1.
7. If you pass someone, and then pull in front of them, do not slow down, keep your same speed. See rule 1
8. The left lane is for passing. After you pass, get back over to the right. See rules 1, 4 & 5
9. If you are in the passing lane, and you see a long line of cars behind you, and no body in front of you perhaps you should get out of the passing lane.
10. On a three-lane road, the center lane is not the slow lane. See rule 7.
11. Pay attention to the signs. It is not nice to do a 3-lane dive to make your exit because you failed to pay attention to the exit ahead signs.
12. Turn off your bright lights, no need for them on the Interstate.
13. SUV drivers, see rule 12. Especially behind a car. Sometimes a person can read by your lights
14. No tailgating. Relax; we will all get there. Allow for stopping space between cars. Flicking your lights while I am passing someone is just annoying. Your time will come. See rules 1, 12, and 13.

That, at least is a good start. Please add your own

A couple people have added via Plurk comments:
15. If you are in the right lane, and there are no cars in the left, pull to the left to allow cars to enter the highway
16. As you enter the highway, there is a short section for you to accelerate before going into traffic, please use it for this

Friday, November 27, 2009

design the FAT

Have been Emailing back and fourth with my oldest son about our plans for the floating arm trebuchet. Giving ideas back and fourth. Here is one of his CAD drawings.

Having discussions as to the best height of the track and the distance between the weight and wheels. I wanted to have the wheels start on the track, but given some thought, that would make the mechanical advantage fairly low. With the wheels starting above, and the arm resting on another wheel on the frame, this will make the wheels arrive onto the track on a tangent, rather than slapping right down, it took me some thought and sketches to believe that it would work that way.

Watched the pumpkin chunkin championships last night on the Science Channel. These were great! I will never have the time or money to go to that level, but what the heck, small is good.

We can start doing some work on this in the next few weeks

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 11/26/2009

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 11/25/2009

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Floating arm Trebuchet

This summer I plan on building a floating arm Trebuchet (FAT) for pumpkin chunkin. We ran a contest this fall, and this year I will run it and win it. I have been making sketches and figuring. These are my latest with what I think will work
Seems like it should work, but we will mess around with it and see what happens. I expect many failures before getting it right. It will be fun throwing things around the backyard no matter how bad it turns out.
I will continue posting about this

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 11/20/2009

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 11/18/2009

  • The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology (EET) is a collection of short multimedia articles on a variety of topics related to the fields of instructional design and education and training. The primary audiences for the EET are students and novice to intermediate practitioners in these fields, who need a brief overview as a starting point to further research on specific topics. Authors are graduate students, professors, and others who contribute voluntarily. Articles are short and use multimedia to enrich learning rather than merely decorate the pages.

    Tags: col, encyclopedia, technology, edtech, ICT in education, school2.0, ict4champions, reference

  • Excellent overview of Rupert Murdoch's taking on of Google and that they should not index his sites, even though he can easily opt out of indexing, that they are somehow demonetizing his work by searching since he wants to "reduce his audience to those who will pay" not "increase his audience." This is a fascinating read and case study for those following Fair Use.

    Tags: education, law, edu_news

  • While this article starts out about a lawfirm in Birmingham UK that is going to "track down people who make anonymous comments about companies online" it becomes an amazingly poignant article on the very nature of the Internet today and the push pull between anonymous commenting and accountability of the commenter. Push pull between free speech and online identity and brand protection.

    One person in this article claims that this sort of thing is the sign that the "wild west" of the INternet is coming to an end. Oh dear, I hope someone invents a new one if somehow anonymous commenters are now going to risk such!

    Also love the article's discussion of the Streisand effect wherein Barbara protested the sharing of some photos of her eroding beachfront which caused a stir and more people looking at the photos than if she had left it alone.

    This article is going to be a must read for Flat Classroom students and would be great for college-level discussions as well.

    Tags: education, digitalcitizenship, edu_news

  • Tags: teens, education, reports, school2.0

Posted from Diigo. The rest of educators group favorite links are here.

An article on schools blocking sites

Here is a piece I wrote this summer, which has been rejected for publication. So here it is.

When I present at conferences or train teachers on using technology tools in their classrooms. We discuss setting up Personal Learning Networks, for their professional development, sites to find and share activities for lessons, and sites their students can use to work with others around the world. Following these workshops the teachers are excited and ready to expand their classrooms beyond the walls of their school. When they get back to their school a new reality hits them. The sites that are collaborative and useful are blocked on their district network. This causes frustration and disappointment. The teachers write to me about their attempts to work with their technology department to get the sites unblocked, usually unsuccessfully. The impression they get is that the technology departments are concerned about security of the network, and afraid of consequences of the actions of some students. What is needed to overcome this problem, and what would the fallout from this be?

My children go to a different school system from where I work. Their school blocks several sites and has a restrictive Internet policy. Generally the students know how to go around the blocks, and this is fairly common knowledge. In my district, I block what I feel is the minimum needed to follow the requirements of The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and when reviewing computer and network logs, I find that students tend to do the work they are assigned on the computers, and spend little time attempting to go around the blocks in the system. In my children's school, pieces of network equipment are accessed and changed, simple things such as changing a printers default language, or putting passwords on printers are done by the students. This not an exception, I have found, in informal discussions, that districts that heavily block sites, have more issues with students working on going around the blocks rather than getting to work. It has become a game with the students, rather than using the computers they are attempting to get around or "fighting the system" out of frustration. I know that my district has its share of students attempting and succeeding getting around our filter, but with monitoring, we are able to see what is going on and try to fix the situation.

When we have young children, and take them to the park, we tend to keep close tabs on them, watching and correcting their behaviors. As the children age, we continue to monitor them, helping them make good choices. Eventually we hope we have taught them what they need to do in order to be safe in the park and getting to the park, so we let them go alone. We still check on them, and ask about what they did, and if something is not right, we help them understand. Using this we hope that we have taught our children what they should do out in the world, and what they should not do. We need to do similarly with Internet usage. The students need to learn and be guided on their behaviors. We need to educate and guide them in the basics of digital citizenship in early grades, and continue to guide them through the school years. Many educators and adults have the belief that students know more about technology and therefore there is nothing to teach, this is not true, anymore than if your child knows how to fix a car, that they know more about driving than you do. We are past a point that ignorance is an excuse. We need to understand that information on the Internet is no different than information found elsewhere. Some good, some bad. We need to teach how to tell the difference. Teachers have been able to do this while evaluating print material, this is no different.

Where the problems seem to stem from is confusion as to what is to be filtered or blocked according to CIPA requirements or if Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) demands some controls on teacher or student Internet access. One point is easily dismissed; FERPA is about student record privacy. It has nothing to do with Internet blocking; it has to do with local network security. CIPA requirements are surprisingly simple, it requires that there be technology protection measures (some sort of filter) to block access to pictures that "are obscene, child pornography or harmful to minors" nothing else. Any blocking above this is a district decision. One requirement of CIPA seems to be missing from many schools, that is "Schools and libraries must also certify that, as part of their Internet safety policy, they are educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including cyber bullying awareness and response and interacting with other individuals on social networking sites and in chat rooms. " It appears as if the writers of CIPA want schools to educate about using the Internet. Schools are to adopt a policy with this in mind. Is this being done in your district?

I tread in two worlds, I taught in the schools for 15 years before becoming a technology director, I know what it is like being in the classroom, and when I see some of the available tools for student and teacher use, I want to have teachers use them. In my technology director world, I seem to be in a minority, many of my peers come from a technology background in business or similar, and do not have classroom experience. I tend to look at networks from a different perspective than they do. I look at school Internet access as a resource for the students and teachers to use, and that we can, through training, guide students and staff in the correct usage of this resource. If there are abusers of the Internet, we deal with individual cases, such as the teacher that spent a good portion of her school year planning her wedding, or the student, who was doing research on bomb making, which was not a class topic. In these cases, the issue was dealt with, we did not suddenly close off sites, but educated these people on appropriate behavior, and used the necessary disciplinary methods to deal with them, by the way these disciplinary methods were spelled out in the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that students and staff are required to sign, and are actually required by CIPA.

Technology directors who do not have an education background tend to over block for one of two reasons. Fear. Fear of the unknown or fear of legal action. Web technologies are changing constantly, gone are the days of web pages tending to be static, today the web is about communications and collaboration. This is the world students are living in and will be living in. Some adminstrators, not just technologists, fear what is out there. Several years ago, I did an Internet awareness class for parents, they had heard all of the scare propaganda out there, one would believe that someone was going to reach through the computer screen and drag them into cyberspace. After the class, the parents had less fear and saw what a valuable resource the Internet would be. New advances in web-based technology are occurring all of the time. We need to educate the members of the district to see how these can be used, and we need to educate the students on proper behavior on these social sites, after all it is in CIPA that we do that. How can we teach about these technologies if they are all blocked? How much do we fear legal action in schools? Think about when you were in school and what it is like now. I recall recess with minimal supervision, swings, monkey bars, merry-go-round, slides, we do not see this anymore for fear of lawsuits. Now, if a school has recess, it is on a well-supervised playground with some very safe playground equipment in a padded area. The Internet is out there, we need to supervise younger students, and oversee what they are doing. They will get into places we don't want them to, just as kids will still break arms and legs at the playground. We need to teach what to do when in the "wrong place" on the Internet, just as students are admonished to not jump off the top of playground equipment onto another student. Fear is overcome by education.

The second major consideration for blocking is bandwidth. This is important. Bandwidth is the amount of data your network can carry, and there is a limit. In most homes this is not a big issue, but in schools it can be, we have hundreds or thousands of computers sharing an Internet connection, just like a highway, there could be too much traffic for the road to handle. My district is one of the smallest in our area, but we have more bandwidth than most districts. Several years ago we understood where technology was going, and saw that we needed bandwidth to handle streaming video and similar things. The school board and superintendent were educated about upcoming uses of the web and saw that there was a need, so we upgraded our connection. We now can increase our bandwidth fairly easily, at of course a cost. I have a tough time agreeing that bandwidth is a problem. If it is, update your network; allocate bandwidth resources to specific uses. Don't block, build.

Technology directors can be intimidating. They tend to talk in terms that most people don't understand, do not let them get away with it, control is important to them. Ask for them to speak in terms or analogies for all to understand. It is possible to give a non-answer to almost any query using technical gibberish, it is done in many other fields, and it is not acceptable. I know of a few cases where a superintendent has deferred all decisions about technology to the director, these include educational decisions, because the technology director 'knows more about this stuff'. Superintendents, principals and teachers are the educational experts in your districts, not the technology department. There are wonderful resources 'out there' on the Internet, which students and teachers should have access to. School districts have been pouring money and other resources into their data networks; they should see some results of this investment. The technology department should be held to task as to why the network is not as open as it could be. The network does not belong to the technology director, but to the school. It needs to be run as such. In so many districts I do not see this happening, the networks look like something for the technology department to parcel out, with students being the last consideration in the parcels. That should be reversed; students should be the first consideration.

Teachers want to have some sites unblocked. How do they do this? Does your district have a policy or procedure for evaluating web sites for blocking or unblocking? Some teachers and even administrators feel left out of the process, and have no idea why a site is blocked or why it is unblocked. What I do, is if a teacher wants a site unblocked, I look at the site, and generally open it, with some exceptions. Districts should have a way to review sites and have them opened or closed. Leaving this in the hands of the technology department is not always the best idea. Media specialists, teachers, administrators all have knowledge of age and educational appropriate materials, and if site meet this criteria, they should be opened up for student use.

A year or so ago went to a district to do a presentation, before going, I sent a list of websites I needed to have access to, these were not controversial sites, or high bandwidth sites. When I arrived to give my presentation, I was informed the technology director would not open the sites for me. I had some things on my computer to compensate for this, but my question is, if I was hired by the superintendent to teach something, gave him the list of sites, I would think that he would hold enough sway over the director to overrule his decision. I did not want to push the issue, as I had to do some re-thinking for my class, but in talking with the superintendent, he could not articulate the rational behind the decision. Who is really in charge of the schools ability to teach and learn? Should the technology department have final say? I hope not.

Get to know your school network, it is a wonderful resource for all, and should be opened with that in mind.

"Children's Internet Protection Act". Federal Communications Commission. 7/9/09 .

“Children and the Internet”. National Conference of State Legislatures. 7/10/09

"Unmasking the Digital Truth" 7/15/09

Monday, November 16, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 11/17/2009

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Diigo bookmarks for today 11/16/2009

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