Saturday, December 31, 2005

Mount St. Helens releasing lava at astonishing pace

Roughly every three seconds, the equivalent of a large dump truck load of lava -- 10 cubic yards -- oozes into the crater of Mount St. Helens, and with the molten rock comes a steady drumfire of small earthquakes

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Predictions for Educational Technology in 2006

Anticipation of returning to school bright and early Monday morning, makes me a little nauseous. Maybe it is all the left-overs. Anyway-- while reading my blogines this morning, and drinking several cups of ginger bread flavored coffee, this useless information somehow made its way to my fingers: Predictions for Educational Technology in 2006.

Rob Hof’s article in the weeks BusinessWeek blog caused me to want to copy his writing idea. Thanks Rob. My writing style really lacks in many areas, but if you do not like it, go back to reading your aggregator, listen to PBS radio, or turn off your computer and go stand outside in the fresh air and run around the block.
It you are still read this, I hope you enjoy my stupid list of edtech predictions for the coming year-IMHO (in my humble opinion).

* In the wake of publicity about mistakes and fabrications on various entries, the online volunteer-written encyclopedia Wikipedia will see growth skyrocket.

* Psychologists will identify a new disease, tagophilia: the obsessive compulsion to label everything on the Web using and other tagging sites. However, when Web 2.0 companies hear about it, they hire them all, quickly turning a neurosis into a promising new profession. My source: Rob Hof BusinessWeek

* Steven Dembo’s video wish list will grow to include a huge HDTV screen, Sony Vaio PC (and a Linux box with all the software, to make Miguel smile)

* Skype conference calls will make their way into the science classroom for students to create podcasts that are more “two-way” conversations about science topics and less “one-way” reading of scripts from their textbooks. Marc Pensky will be proud of this.

* Moodle’s new version will be rolled-out. The question is–will I be able to safely update to the new version without distroying months of testbank editing. I predict a major backing-up of our back-up.

* Blogging using and others will continue to be of interest between students, teachers, and administrators and the community.

* Video blogs on the Internet will not be as popular in classrooms due to bandwidth and concern of security for students, but will be used more as a way to communicate with homes. “this week I learned ____ in math and ____in social studies___and about_____ in science”. Including work samples or video clips of student work. Now, for the hard part, I predict homes will continue to not pay attention to what is happening at school until something “goes wrong.” Note: this is not true for all homes, but way too many– IMHO.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Top "7" Personal Tech Highlights for 2005

Shared the "podcast-kool-aid" with many educational professionals

Quoted in nationally syndicated magazine: student's using wikis in the classroom

Moodle site launched for online courses in our school district

Posted 8 Classroom Podcast Episodes, listed in iTunes and Yahoo directories: middle school and high school students featured as they reflect on their learning in science class.

Classroom Podcasts noted on Techpod

Technology Facilitator - North Whiteville Academy

Launched P2LS blog

Watch NOVA programs online for free !

This is a great science classroom resource. The Einstein piece on E=mc^2 isn't online yet, but for now you can watch "Elegant Universe", "Cracking the Code of Life", "Life's Greatest Miracle", "MARS - Dead or Alive?", among many others. . .

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Savings With Open Source in Schools

This has been a point of discussion for some time. Let's assume that none of your school's families have computers and the students only use computers at school, then I can see using open source for teaching computer skills. As long as little Sally's grandmother has a PC with Works and her uncle has a PC with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint-- I see a problem. For example, I have a student that uses OpenOffice at home. When he downloads a template from our Moodle server to create his weekly current event, OpenOffice can open the file with not problem. However, he has never mastered to extra step to save his OpenOffice document to .doc file format. I know it should not bother me that his document does not display the same as the other students, but it actually makes my assessment process more difficult. When teachers use a Word document to assess student's work, we can post comments that can be read and responded to by the student. This comment feature reduces me from having to single out mistakes students make in their writing. From personal experience, and having received many writing assignments with so much red ink marked on them that I could not read them, I try to attach my comments with post-its. It is just one of those quarks of mine.

Using Open Source software Noxon School District saved $92,675.20. Linux and Open Source software allowed this school district to provide cutting edge technology to students.

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I have been schooled on this topic today (Dec. 27th). Now I have a list of links to Linux distros that may work better than Novell's and a list of video editing apps for Linux. Several really good points have surfaced over on Miguel's blog: I have enjoyed replying to this topic. It has provided me with an enlightened view of open source. I still will continue to use our commercial software to edit video with our students and teachers. It works, it is paid for and the teachers know how to use it. Our students are learning how to use it too. As for a question of why we teach them to use video equipment, our state has a standard course of study: In accordance to Objective 3SC.05, "Select and use technology tools for class presentations". This is my justification. I will keep looking for open source software to use in my classroom.

I wonder this: how many people who advocate the use of Open Source in schools are actually using it as their primary OS? We've all got our excuses, but at the end of the day, who's actually walking the talk? I use Moodle and tikiwiki everyday with my students. But, my PowerBook running OS X is what I prefer. I have several apps that are open source running on it. Would I use Linux--absolutely. Should I use it- not without tech support. Would it help our school district- that is a good question and in my humble opinion is out of my realm of influence, yet is still food for thought.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Top 10 little-known science stories of 2005

"A compilation of 10 amazing science stories, all quite interesting. Who would have ever thought that we could use honey bees to find land mines?"

I have a former student that told me after returning from Afganistan that this was something our troops really like to use in caves to go in ahead of his follow ground forces.

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A beautiful view of Saturn for Christmas

One of the latest colour shots of spectacular saturn, from the Cassini probe mission reveal our solar system's unique beauty for all to see as though we were viewing it with our eyes.Few sights in the solar system are more strikingly beautiful than softly hued Saturn embraced by the shadows of its stately rings.

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Using Performancing to Blog

I am writing this blog entry using my latest Firefox extension-- Performancing. I think this is the best thing I have seen in a while. I really like the way that this extension can be launched by clicking an icon in the lower corner of the browser and start typing. Well, it does not help me write any better, and it does not have a spell checker. This is the real thing.

I think I am going to stick with Blogger's text editor. I have to have spell checker. Not sure how to add an image with Performancing. Maybe it will work if I launch the editor while I am viewing my Flickr account. Have to try this tomorrow.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Mass Dodo Grave Found- Now this is Real Science!

Scientists have discovered the "beautifully preserved" bones of about 20 dodos at a dig site in Mauritius. This is amazing since no complete Dodo skeleton has ever been found. The mystery is why they are buried together like this...Ok, I have an idea. Maybe the birds were gathered for a Dodo seasonal ritual. They could have been waiting for their other Dodos in their family to arrive at Grandma's house for a dinner, when volcanic ash covered them in a flash. What clues will the scientists be able to pull together? It all depends on how many artifacts they can find still in the area. When lots of bones are found in a dig site, this indicates that the site was not disrupted by erosional forces and was quickly covered after the death of the animals.

I will be studying fossils with my students when we return from our break. This will be an interesting story to have them read.

Still have a couple of last minute shopping items. Have a Merry Christmas. Thanks for reading my blog. If you have just found it, I invite you to add me to your RSS aggregator and constructive comments are always appreciated. I know I can not spell and write like I talk, but blogging helps me try to reflect on what has worked and what needs some work on.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

OMG -- WWAY is using

In today's email from one of our local area tv stations, I noticed to my surprise that they had linked stories into their web site. I hope to get to the bottom of this. I will email the TWIT crew today and ask if Kevin Rose and the boys at DIGG a news source/syndication. I think it is cool. A little RSS goes a long way. I hope the web guys at WWAY are looking at the feeds. DIGG gets some weird stuff from now and then. The guys at WWAY may need a disclaimer. I wonder if there corporate legal department has signed off on this yet. This is so exciting. It is really a cool example of that Web 2.0 is all about. Hum, I wonder if DIGG news feed would be something our superintendent and school board would allow on our school district's web site? Heck no!!! If one parent called to complain about a single dirty word in a DIGG news article, the link would be DELETED in minutes. Not that DIGG contributors are all evil, but-- well-- call me cautious.

It will be interesting to see how long they keep this on their site.

Winter Solstice

Dave Winer blogged this morning: "Congratulations, you made it to the shortest day of the year. They all get longer from this point on." His post reminded me of interesting science lessons about seasons.

More Stuff
Cool Picture!
USNO Earth Seasons site

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Electricity generated by mixing sea and river water

Dutch and Norwegian scientists have invented devices that generate electricity by mixing sea and river water. Science news update!

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How Google woos the best and brightest

Free cafeteria food, annual ski trips to the Sierra and free laundry are just some of the fringe benefits of working at Google...

Maybe school systems that are having a difficult time attracting and retaining qualified teachers and administrators need to read this. Sure, principals eat free in the school cafeteria, but school pizza and french fries somehow pale to the cuisine of Google's cafeteria food. Annual ski trips...hum, I do not know too many teachers in our district that ski. Our district is 5-6 hours from the mountains. Maybe we could offer them a beach trip. Free laundry, now that would be nice! In our town, we could set them up an account at the two local laundries. Our school board actually gave our teachers a free car wash each month for 12 months. That was so nice. This past week, my wife noted that the local suppliment for two systems differs by $400 with about the same years of experience.

Bottom-line: Follow the money! We have only a short time to earn money. The cost of living is higher in different areas of the country, and job security is worthless these days. Buy cheap housing and term insurance. Drive the biggest SUV you can park in your mobile home parking lot space. Also, buy and sell everything at your local flea market. Drink the most expensive water you can find.

Last but not least-- do not follow any of my suggestions. I will have to teach until I am 60 before I can retire. Even then, I will not make enough to live the way I am right now, so I know I will have to continue working as log as my health can hold out or until I get fired.

This is why I work-out at the gym 4-5 times each week. I once told my family I wanted to rust-out, not wear-out. I regret having made that mistake many times. We never listen to advice. Well, I never have. But what do I know, I am just a teacher.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Merry Christmas From The RIAA

The music industry dropped 751 copyright-infringement lawsuits in the mail today. Today in my computer class, we were editing their iMovie. I did not read about this "Christmas Present" until after class was over. My students wanted to use their favorite rap star's music to play in the background of their iMovie. We took the time to mention copyright laws. They do not understand it is against the law. My student reply to my mini-lecture on copyright was--"it ain't against the law Mr. Blake, until you get caught."

We live in a challenging world.

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Friday is a Half-Day

This past week, our students have been very busy crafting plaster masks. After applying a layer of petroleum jelly on the faces of the students, three layers of cloth with plaster embedded in it was applied to their faces. We took tons of images of the process. We burned a CD of the images and loaded them on our mobile laptop lab and students edited a short iMovie. Teaching middle schoolers how to use iMovie is a real challenge. They do not get it. I know the project was too complicated for their first iMovie project, but they were engaged in the painting of the masks. I assumed that the students would like to see images of their masks and even take home a DVD to share with family. I am not sure they understand how much their parents would like to see what they have been doing at school. Maybe it is because they do not think that anyone will care?

I am just very thankful that Friday is a SHORT DAY! I will link a slide show of images posted in Flickr later. I need to rest up!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New coke to blend coffee and coke

New "Coke Blak" is a new coffee/coke drink by Coca-Cola. This will fast become a staple in teacher lounges across the nation. I am looking for a case to go in ours today. Maybe WallyWorld has it. Food Lion may have them in about 12 months. I have a friend that works at the Coke distributorship. Must-call-NOW.

Where is that coffee CUP? It is around here some where....later

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The iPod Mini is INCREASING in value.

iPod Mini's are selling on eBay for up to $76 more than the original price, as people now want the player as its less popular than other iPods. This is interesting because both my daughters have them. Sometimes the newest and best is not always the most popular tech toys.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Geek squad found a surprise inside of a PC.

Worth watching. (Google Video) Ok, that is not why I posted this link in my blog for, I did not really find the video that interesting. However, what about using this with college students to post short video productions. I could see my 12th graders, who are over the age of 16, creating short class projects to share with the class on this. The images and content would need to be original and not contain any copyrighted content. For example, I have my students create a video of how to sharpen a pencil. I know Google wants videos like the one I linked to in this blog post. But after reading the fine print, I could not see why my students, could with their own account upload them. I will need to run this by some folks before jumping on this one.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Apple rumours and realities

Quite a number of pundits have gone out and predicted the appearance of Intel based Powerbooks from Apple this January - but it isn't going to happen.

For my money, I think Steve would love to have announced it last month. He can wait til June now. iPods will carry him over this Quarter. The new PowerBooks will have to be right before they come out. If not, Dell and the other PC laptop companies will "burn Apple a new ONE".

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5000 Gnome Desktops in macedonian schools

The software group Free Software Macedonia has deployed Linux in 468 schools 182 computer labs. Specifically the Ubuntu distro.

This is a neat distro on Linux, I have been looking at it for a few weeks, and think it would really help schools with a bare-bones budget. But, I am not sure the students would like it. Our American students are spoiled rotten! I just wish my spoiled brats could see the smiles on the faces of the Macedonian student's as they learn how to "out score" our students on International math assessments. Oh well--time to head to work.

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Technology Enabled Leather Jacket

Add this to my Christmas List!!!

Definitely a cool idea for those who love taking their gadgets with them. This leather jacket is from the Technology Enabled Clothing line of Scottevest - and it has 41 pockets, many of them hidden, along with a tunnel architecture to keep headphone wires inside the lining of the jacket!

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Your Name On A NASA Microchip

How Cool is this?

Send your name to the asteroid belt on the Dawn spacecraft. Your name will be recorded onto a microchip that will be placed aboard the spacecraft accompanying it on its mission to the asteroid belt.

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Mars Rovers may be seeing their Last days....barely chugging along

Signs of fatigue are beginning to show: Around 10 days ago, the mechanical arm on Opportunity stopped moving, One of the steering actuators has also blown on Opportunity, Rock Abrasion Tool has worn out...

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Meteor Impact Craters - Google Satellite Map

Some of these craters in the Earth are massive, and many people don't even realize they're there...... see if there's one near you.....This is a great site for Earth Science students to view. We have the free version of Google Earth installed on our PCs. Nice tool, now we need to setup a workshop to create curriculum materials to use in our classrooms.

Anyone got any resources or links to share?

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NASA ditches IE in favor of Firefox

This got my attention:
According to Dan Turner "NASA has given up entirely on Internet Explorer. Now every time you go to a page using IE, you get up to three prompts telling you how risky it is to run scripts. The official line is that the newest IE vulnerability was the proverbial straw, and now NASA's standard browser is Firefox."

Firefox is the default on our school computers.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Open House Ideas for Our School? My 2 Cents

While reading my blogline rss feeds this morning, I ran across a neat idea at Education World's site.

What will you do at parent open house night to demonstrate that your classroom is one in which technology will be used appropriately and effectively? The Ed World Tech Team has some suggestions.

"is to have students create multimedia presentations depicting the experiences they had over the summer. Some students might use slide show technology to create their presentations; others might choose video/DVD. It depends on what's available. Having students create that kind of presentation early in the school year also can be a great introductory exercise to help them get to know a bit more about one another."

This sounds really interesting. However, in our alternative school, our students transfer in at different times. I am not sure this is an idea we could accomplish, but I still like it.

"Another idea is to have students create electronic portfolios of their activities over the summer or even during the school year,"

I have tried this, but it is a challenge for me to keep up with folders and files when students forget to save their work to the server and never remember which computer they created content on. I think the only way to do this would be if students had their own thumb or flash drive which they would be assigned to keep all their eportfolio activities on. Every week, they could back the info up on the server for safe keeping. They can not keep up with a pencil much less a $50-80 thumb drive. Sorry, printed copies are alot harder for teenages to drop in the toilet or someone steal them from them (just to list a couple fo the excuses I have heard). This is a work in progress with many challenges.

"PowerPoint presentations composed of pictures of each student and a quick sentence work well, too," Wonnacott noted. "I take a picture of each child at his/her desk, load them into PowerPoint and have students, one at a time, write a sentence of welcome to mom and dad. I want to expand on that idea this year with my eighth grade students. Because this is their last year here, I plan to use my Mavica to take a small video clip of each of my 8th graders and then ask each of them to relate a grade school memory."

Of the ideas that are in this article, this might really be the best. We have tried the student faces pics, but I like the idea about the students writing a sentence of welcome to the "parent figures." We also have taken short video clips, but not of everyone. We have students that do not allow their faces photographed. But, if they knew it was for parent night, that might work! I like it.. I like it

"I also have third graders make their own slide shows of math facts, with and without the answer," said Wonnacott. "I loop these together and show them on one computer, as well. My fifth graders currently are making PowerPoint presentations about our 50 states, researching and displaying facts as a technological poster, which I hope to be able to display at Open House night too."

This will work too. Our math teacher is tech savvy. He actually have created vodcasts of his students. I need to work with him on these, just do not know when. Not sure if I understand the idea of their states poster...I need more infor on this one.

"At open house," Greene noted, "the teacher can display as many projects as possible -- one to a computer. Parents can navigate through them to see what their kids can do. Hypermedia projects also can be posted online. Those parents who cannot attend the open house can still navigate through the class' projects through their Web browser."

Links to projects on our school website would be great. Nice touch and also involves the community

"For the teacher who has advanced computer skills," Lucy Gray told Education World, "I'd recommend doing a podcast of material you plan to cover with parents at Open House. Publish the podcast after the actual event so parents can download the audio file and listen to it on their computer or on their iPod. That really could be helpful to parents who miss open house, as well as to parents who want to review information. Mabry Online has some great examples of podcasts that benefit both parents and teachers. Teachers also might record students reflections on an assignment or on a particular aspect of school and make a podcast of their reflections too."

Oh man, I like this idea. I have been podcasting from my classroom for about 10 weeks or more. Creating an Open House podcast is a good idea. One tip I have picked up on it having a CD of our podcasts for students to check out and take home to shair with their family. We have a family holiday dinner coming up Dec 15th. This article gave me an idea to creat electronic portfolios for each family as a gift. If I can find time to do them!!!

"For less technically inclined teachers," Gray suggested digital photos in a slideshow format. "These always are a good way of giving parents an idea of what is going on in your classroom. Slide shows can be created in iPhoto or PowerPoint. They can be jazzed up by having students narrate the shows or by including music created by the students."

I try to take pictures of other teachers working in their classrooms. I just need to put the pictures on their H drives and show them how to access them for this great technology activity. I like this one!!!