Making Decisions

October 7, 2007

So I was all geared up for the school year. I had roughly outlined my lessons for the semester, pretty happy about this since I have two new classes this year. I had outlined several blog article topics. I had also help several new teachers set-up ClassBlogmeister accounts. My summer of planning new ideas and learning new methods was ready to unfold. Then I logged-in to my school computer.

Blocked. Website Problems

In reviewing many of the sites I used last year and some of the new sites proposed for this year this is what I saw. I do not mean to add to the growing list of educational blog articles complaining of filtering; however, I must express my frustration and plan for this school year. I spread to many people at NECC this new blog site because I was frustrated with not being able to update my EduBlogs site; a problem since corrected by the addition of a new server. I choose WordPress because it is what my wife uses and I previously could read her blog at my school. This is no longer the case.

My dilemma is two fold: blogging and wikis

What to do about my blog:
I like the use of both sites, especially since EduBlogs has upgraded with the addition of a new server. However, I shared with many people my WordPress site. I also transferred my postings from EduBlogs to WordPress. Unfortunately the WordPress site looks horrible at school. I am trying to demonstrate the advantages of such applications, but the site looks bad. But if I transfer back, then what about those readers outside of my school? Will I loose readers, all twelve of them, if I just back to EduBlogs?

After weeks of debate I have decided to post on both sites. I realize the time I will waste, but until a proper solution can be determined this is what I have resolved at the best action.

I have grown to find several applications of wikis in the classroom. Since this type of site is often new to my students I must demonstrate its use. I also had a grand idea of using wikis to share lesson plans between teachers at not only my school, but other schools. Unfortunately Wikispaces and PB Wiki are blocked. I found it interesting that while I began debating my options I stumbled upon an article in Today’s Catholic Teacher an article specifically siting these sites as preferred wiki sites. Nothing against Susan Brooks-Young, the article is great and she is clearly educated in this topic, but I found it interesting that a site devoted to Catholic teachers, I teach at a Catholic school, notes for use the sites I have been told are not appropriate for education.

I have looked into creating a new wiki on a different website; although I feel that Wikispaces and PBWiki are great sites and hate to leave. Then in browsing various wiki sites I noticed that in over thirty wiki sites the only ones blocked are those I made popular at my school. I wonder if our filtering service would even know they exist had it not been for my students. I know they do not know the power within these sites. At least Susan knows and I trust that someone is able to enjoy the sites.

I am working without webmaster to integrate wiki technology within the schools web server. He tried MediaWiki and the requirements exceed our current system. However, Miguel Guhlin recommended to me PMWiki. You will know if this works because I will be ecstatic.

This is where I am. Now back to sharing the ideas from my class.

Preview of posts to come:

iPod magic–students actually reviewing vocabulary
SMARTBoards–I get to play with some fun new products and so do my students
NECC 2008–proposal is in, now we wait

Enjoy your day,


Wikis: Why Sharing Makes Sense

August 12, 2007

As July turns to August the temperatures continue to rise and the time to reorganize for the start of school is upon us. Since my first year of teaching I have always declared that I would spend June re-organizing my syllabus while everything is fresh in my mind. 0-4. At least this year I wrote down my ideas so I can continue my progress in mashing everything together.

The first task in my summer cleaning involved deleting duplicate files. Over the past four years I have adjusted most every document I have created. Technological improvements what they are, I have acquired a new storage device about every six months. While this is great as the number of files I own increased, I never properly took the time to update my files choosing instead to simply add to the files.

As I am now nearly complete in my task of eliminating duplicate files, I look to share my ideas and documents with my fellow teachers. The past few years I have copied my files onto CDs for new teachers who shared my courses. Not professing to have all of the answers, just looking to help a fellow teacher out and possible save him or her some time in reproducing a document from scratch.

While these new teachers have confirmed to me that this is helpful, eventually the CDs disappears. So for this year, how about a wiki.

Last year while answering the request of a teacher on an English list-serve I loaded up a Julius Caesar unit to my Wikispaces blog wiki. Over the summer I realized that this could be useful if our entire English department or possibly the entire school did the same. Coincidentally Miguel Guhlin wrote about the power of sharing around the same time. I must say that I agree with this idea.

As part of my summer reading this summer I finished Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. While I will present a more formal assessment of the book later, the most outstanding item from the book to me is that while business is embracing collaborative technology, schools are typically slow to respond to the same stimulus. One day the education field will realize that when we stop wasting time by holding on to the information, we can address more important tasks. Who cares about the credit as long as you get the job done. If we share our ideas and the grunt work of creating files, then we can use the time saved to improve the education of our students. If we can share our ideas with another school who is trying to figure a new way to teacher Julius Caesar, then someone else will help us in the future.

Enjoy your day,

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

iTune U: The Potential for Change

August 9, 2007

A few months ago Apple announced the launching of iTunes U as a separate feature. I am excited about this announcement for a variety of reasons. Podcasting is becoming a common theme for those who discuss Web 2.0 applications. However, some in education feel that podcasting is a fad, too complicated, or any of several excuses for not embracing this powerful tool. The launching of iTunes U provides a powerful endorsement of podcasting in education.

While universities have been taking advantage of iTunes and podcasting for the past few years, the introduction of iTunes U puts podcasting in education into a larger light. The number of K-12 podcasts in growing rapidly each day. When I first started exploring podcasting two years ago the Education category on iTunes had the sub-categories of K12 and Higher Education. Since then the sub-categories has expanded to include Ed Tech, Training and Language Courses. The number of educational podcasts is so great that if I do not place time limits on my searches I end up spending most of my evening searching and listening to various educational podcasts. The introduction of a specific University feed on iTunes can direct lifelong learners or educators.

Open/Free Learning

I embrace the fact that I am a nerd. At any given moment my TIVO will have between 10-20 hours or recordings from the History Channel. I recall in college using Yahoo to locate the syllabus or project assignments for courses at universities I did not attend, simply because of an interest in the topic. The only deterring factor to this practice, setting aside that I kept this practice a secret from my roommates, was the time involved in the process of searching for assessments. iTunes U will allow people with similar addictions the opportunity to attend courses as if they were at the school.

Continued Content Development

As an educator I am excited about the chance to continue my education. I have found that time is against me, preventing me for keeping active all of the podcast subscriptions on my iTunes. That said, the ability to subscribe to a college level course is a great tool. Last year I taught a course in economics. While I enjoy this topic, I have not studies this discipline since my junior year in college. The ability to enroll in college level economic courses is a great advantage for me. I cannot only use such courses to recall the explanations of topics that my and other professors use, but I can experience the changes in these explanations since my graduation.

Podcasting ideas

I began using podcasting in my English courses in reaction to the NPR series “This I Believe“. After my wife tipped me off to the series, I thought it would be a good essay topic for my students. This lesson is my favorite of the year and my students tend to enjoy the process. In planning this lesson, I realized that the odds were against one of our essay hitting the radio waves, so we began podcasting the essays. While I do not know that I will be able to get such ideas from courses on iTunes U, I am optimistic.

Future Change

The high of my excitement for iTunes U is the possibilities for change. In a podcast in early June, George Mason Professor Russ Roberts interviewed Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Towards the end of the podcast, beyond the 45 minute mark, Pink and Roberts begin to discuss the idea of great professors who cannot communicate their discipline. Pink notes that the common statement that, “Professor X knows his subject, but does not know how to teach,” is an incorrect statement. Pink argues that if a Professor truly knows his or her content, then they could relate this information to the students. I admit that until I heard this podcast I subscribed to the theory that a professor could be smart, but not a good teacher. Given time to digest Pink’s position, I must agree. If someone truly understands the information they teach, they can relate this information to the audience. In fact, I believe that understand how to connect with your audience holds more weight than being brilliant in your field.

Why mention this? I recall when Duke assessed their iPod initiative one of the concerns by professors was student attendance. One professor noted that he began implementing pop quizzes because students were passing exam by simply listening to his podcasts and quit attend class. The response to this professor, paraphrasing because I cannot find the bookmarked article, was to transform the way you conduct class. If your students can pass the course without attending class, then why should they. My hope is that more college professors will realize how podcasting can liberate them from lecturing as much as shift the learning in courses. Then again with the growth in K12 podcasting, if college professors do not embrace podcasting, students are going to eclipse them and by using the right brain thinking rule the university.

Enjoy your day,

NECC Podcasts are ready

July 2, 2007

The first two recordings from NECC are ready. You can either revisit the posted notes from Tony Vincent’s iPod presentation or Alan November‘s global learning presentation or visit me on iTunes at the Final Curve podcast. Look forward to a few more podcasts from NECC and future podcasts from Dallas.

Enjoy your day,

New Tools, New Schools: Starting the …

June 26, 2007

New Tools, New Schools: Starting the Conversation about Web 2.0




Gwen Solomon, with Timothy Magner, Will Richardson, Lynne Schrum and David Warlick


Technorati tag: necc, n07s702




  • Blogs motivate kid, real work changes classroom
  • Kids need to become learning environment
  • Challenges, yeah buts,
    • Lack of tech, admin understanding, time
    • Even though a lot of teacher who use these tools, pedagogy has not changes
      • Transfer from paper to cpu
    • Skills require deep understanding by teachers and admin in their own practice
    • Halfway down the road
      • Understand tools
      • Need to understand pedagogy



  • Staff development–topic
  • The kids are different, teachers are not
  • It is about respecting the audience
    • On-line handouts via wikis
    • Share password, respect audience to add to content
    • Tag presentation to draw in audience
  • Aggregator for del.ic.ious
    • NECC is emergence of learning, cannot turn around without learning
  • No one tool, always something new to facilitate learning


Schrum–higher ed representative

  • Technology is fun, but does it improve student learning
    • Not a lot of evidence on the bottom line, which is unfortunately test scores
    • How do we document this success
    • Everyone has stories, need documentation
    • How do we get the story out
  • Pre-Service piece
    • Need models
    • Research does show that educators will do anything to help students learn if they believe a task works
  • How do we do this?
    • Good models specific to content
      • Math, social studies, etc
      • Tools and teaching in each subject is different
      • Key is collaboration
      • Researchers willing and desire to work with teachers who use this new technology


Gwen Solomon

  • Need for models
  • Wonderful new tools, give new capabilities to teachers and kids that provide new experiences
  • One thing if principals and administrators tell teachers something works
  • Different if teachers tell each other, via stories



Timothy Magner

  • Everyone today went through industrial education for industrial society
  • None of us has idea who information school looks like
  • No common entry point
    • People know what school is like (football, prep assemblies, etc)
    • People know what Web 2.0 is
    • What is school 2.0?
  • School 2.0
    • Links home, school, community
    • Potential to fundamentally alter school
    • Cannot embrace everything or will lose mission, must embrace some to change dynamic of structure
    • What are students going to do in 6 hrs that will meet their needs?
      • Empowering education system not buying cool toys no one can use
    • Global community discussion
      • Teachers, administrators, parents–all must be involved
    • Visual world, need to create a common visual of this idea
      • Sketch is just that, must allow for something to be erased, added, collaboratively creative





  • Send your stories, experiences to:
  • David Jakes
    • Five guys on skype chatting about the panel while it is going on
    • Using it as idea to bounce ideas off each other
    • Using web 2.0 as professional development
  • Richardson
    • Must use the tools to understand networking
      • Myspace for better of worse is networking
    • How to engage ethically, safely is question
    • Teachers must be comfortable in personal, professional way
      • New tools transfer the power of learning
      • Teachers must engage in the technology so they can express the power of transfer to students
  • Magner
    • Technology allows for a lot of informal learning
      • Using Google to answer a question at lunch
    • Artificial discussions b/w home learning, after school learning, in-class learning
  • Schrum
    • Until people are comfortable in using these technologies they will not using them



  • Garrett (Gary) Brown–Sydney
    • Want to embrace web 2.0, noting will be blocked
    • Leadership team is required to blog as professional development
    • Building schools with open plans and learning teams
    • Seen bad uses of web 2.0 just for the sake of using web 2.0
    • Invite anyone who wants to join
      • Catholic school
    • School director taken some flack for opening all site
      • Principals discuss openly what myspace accounts and videos on youtube he or she has seen with students
      • Deters students from improper use of such tools
  • College student from Washington
    • Wants social network that will allow students to work and study together
    • Implementing
    • Plagiarism is an issue
    • Looking for teacher input
  • Skip Olson, Minneapolis–retired guy
    • Sees schools as spirit killers
    • Unless we change the business of school as learning environments…
      • 9-3, aug-may
    • these wonderful tools and opportunities will be shut down at school door
  • John Henderson, 32 years old
    • Did not know a world where VCR was difficult
    • Right now parents and students are becoming the same way
    • Do not know if we can be patient enough to wait for schools to change
  • Parent, created website for his kid’s school
    • Website was form of communication
      • Dates, handouts, volunteer opportunities
    • Parents now pushing teachers to keep up
  • Parent/Rutgers University instructor
    • Key is pre-service teachers
    • Have no idea of Web 2.0 apps
      • Google docs
    • By spring they are comfortable and have their own stories
  • Scott Garagan, Pennsylvania
    • Job is professional development
    • Face time is an issue
    • Library sites are great
      • Maryland create system to teach web 2.0 applications
      • Step by step, check the box system
      • Twenty-three tasks to complete
      • Library 2.0–google to locate
  • Question for panel members
    • Potential entrepreneur educators, is this something on the horizon that will challenge the current design
    • Lynne Schrum
      • No, system of education is so engrained that it does not allow challenges
      • Some charter school, but not much difference
    • Tim Magner
      • A lot of new models in charters, home school, etc
      • Challenge is how to make alternatives within the system
      • It is like diet and exercise
        • Must have incentive to make change (i.e. new swimsuit)
      • 2/3 People without kids in system, they do not see the need for change to system
    • Gwen Solomon
      • Web 2.0 tools will force systemic change
      • Again hitting the need for models
  • Edutopia has several video examples on-line
    • Ex. acme animation hooks up students with professional animators
  • Teacher from N. Carolina
    • Used United Streaming to demonstrate glass blowing
    • Kids where reading story, character was glass blower, they had no concept of the glass blowing industry
  • David Jakes


The Discussion of Web 2.0 and School 2.0

June 26, 2007

So I am a little frustrated because I have been better about typing blog posting, but I have not been able to submit them because by old blog has been having issues. After giving it some time I have decided to abandon the old site and create a new site. I will be uploading my previous post just as soon as I can get logged-in to the site. Anyway, on to bigger things.

Yesterday I particiapted in a great full-day training session with SMART Technologies (post to come). Our school began using SMART Boards shortly after I began at the school, and I have had a SMART Board for a year and a half. I do not want to ruin the anticipation post divulging my content now, but it was a worthwile session.

Considering this, today was my first day at the sessions at the GWCC. I started of with a bang. I attended the Web 2.0 panel discussion hosted by Gwen Solomon of with Timothy Magner, Will Richardson, Lynne Schrum and David Warlick. The quality of the information sitting behind the tabel is great. Also of great quality is the variety and quality of ideas in the audience. The overall theme I took away from the discussion is that we must demand and force a change in the education system. The views from the panel represented an empowering statement. Will Richardson make the statement of the day by saying that blogs and similar technology empower students by creating real work. The problem lies in the “yeah, buts”. To me this is a great attitude. While plenty of people are willing to embrace new technology, too many people allow obsticales to deter their motivation. This to me in the problems.

I agree with those who stated that school is in need for reform. To me this is a leadership issue. Either you are willing to adapt and make the change or you are not a leader. I admire school districts such as Garrett or Gary Brown from Sydney who spoke during the session. Apologies for the first name, difficulty to hear somethings clearly. Mr. Brown explained how his district choose not to battle with blocking websites and opened everything. Rather than just stick their head in the sand, they educate their students on the information available on these site and their administrators use this technology. This is great leadership. ( Mr. Brown, send me your email and I will not only correct your name, but would love to stay in contact with you.)

Aside from leadership is the issue of models. I agree that colleges are the best at resisting change. As Gwen Solomon stated currently exists a need for models. While many in education are doing great things, we need to provide universities with models to use for training purposes for upcoming teachers. So I encourage everyone reading this blog to email Gwen with your best story. By sharing the stories we can change the culture and begin the EDUCATION REVOLUTION.

Below are my published under GoogleDocs and I will soon have the podcast recording I made.

Enjoy your day,

New Blog site

June 26, 2007

I am at NECC trying to post a couple of blogs postings before I attend a web 2.0 panel.  Unfortunately I am having issues with my edublog account.  I have been having this problem for the past couple of weeks and out of frustration I am going to transfer my blog to this site.  I am looking to be more consistent this year and after one day at NECC I have enough ideas that will last me until the end of the first quarter of school.  Anyway, I trust the transition for those of you who subscribe will be easy.   Those new to this blog, welcome.