Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve 2006.

I have been using Performancing to edit posts. Now, I can use Google Docs to craft my rambling rants. I can not seem to make the insert images work on Google Docs. I keep getting a error message that says "Sorry, this image is an invalid format." Hello, it is .jpg. What is wrong with it? No, the file is not over the 2 M limit. I also do not like the way Google Docs does not handle the title part of the post. Guess, I will stick with Performancing.

Hopefully, they will add some way to insert images from Picasa.

This is how Google Docs quotes look when added to Blogger posts. John Blake

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sharing Picasa photo album on Blogger

I have been experimenting with Picasa and trying to share images with my family. Using their built in feature, Picasa only creates a link to the album. Bubbleshare and some of the other photo sharing sites offer slideshows you can make from your images, and copy and paste the proper code to generate dynamic content. Hopefully, Picasa will add this in a coming update.

How I Used My Internet Time in 2006's new features have taken up hours of my vacation time. But, I am not complaining here. As a Bloggerhead since 2004, the updates are past-due. A quick glance at the number of blog post made by me during 2006 vs. 2005, one can immediately note that I have not posted on a regular basis. A 50% reduction of posts in significant. One can attribute this to user-friendly features of WordPress blogs. It could be a result of other interests. YouTube, Google Video, and even Embarq's video just to name a few. Learning to embed video content into my class Moodle and using clips to enhance learning has captured some of my online surfing and attention in 2006.

Looking at my Blogroll, I must have spent more time online reading what others are saying. I have been spending time shopping, and viewing photos on Flickr and Google. Hours and hours of this past year was eaten up reading posts. Tech industry rumors and news, gadgets, and blogs by educators also grabbed my attention.

2007 is just around the corner, and who knows what new web apps will grab my attention and eat up my down time.

My Random 2007 Predictions:
  • Apple will continue to postpone unveiling their cellular device.
  • China will buy Google or Yahoo or both.
  • Public education will pay teachers what they are worth.
  • Discovery Education will be bought out by Walmart.
  • Email will be replaced by enhanced mental telepathy or laser powered paper cups and strings.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Classroom Podcasting in the New Year

This past September, I purchased a new iPod Video. Thousands of them have been bought, and so far it is working fine. My Belkin microphone word fine. I do not like the way it sounds when it is set on stereo. My favorite audio recording device for classroom podcasts is not my iPod and Belkin mic. I prefer recording directly into GarageBand with a USB headphone with mic. My students rehearse their podcast using the built in mic on our classroom iBooks. To prepare for their segment by reading, researching, discussing, and writing about their assignment. If we are introducing a chapter in science, instead of outlining the chapter, or reading it out loud, students are assigned short answer questions and are asked to correctly answer on the tape. I know, you are thinking, but this is nothing more than using technology for as a worksheet.

This criticism is true. However, this is a strategy I have been using with that are reluctant readers. I discovered that when given the proper topic, they can develop questions, and conduct very professional interviews. One that worked for me surfaced last year. Our district developed a student dress code. After the students listened to the newly board approved rules, I turned on the recorder in GarageBand and backed away and just observed. They interviewed each other and discussed their feelings about the new dress code. I was blown away. They did not write a word down, it was all live. After they listened to it, they commented that they wished they had remembered to say "this and that". The teachable moment: I reminded them that a good interviewer makes a list of questions before conducting their interviews. If I had made them write ten questions before they started recording, they would have wined and complained and probably never completed the podcast. So, my constant struggle with having students create podcasts has been pre-writing and rough-draft stuff. My students want immediate gratification. They are all about "playing" with computers, and do not like "doing work." I have used the podcast templates from Willow Radio. I was not able to find the link to their page. Must have been moved.

Try it, you will like it. Bottomline, podcasts are not easy, but the kids like them if they think that someone is listening.

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Flippin Awesome Wii Controler Hack

This is an great idea to share with my middle school science students. We will be working with electricity concepts in a few weeks, and this would be such a cool project. Now all we need is one of our student's to donate their new Wii and borrow a Roomba. Maybe they will record a video of the Wiimote - Roomba and post it on Google Video.


People have come up with numerous ways to control their Roombas -- USB, Bluetooth, MacBook tilt sensors, and even a MIDI keyboard -- and now that the Wiimote has been hacked to operate several non-Wii devices -- computers, home automation systems, and even an RC truck -- it's no surprise that some clever modder would make these two great tastes taste great together. And sure enough, a gentleman named Chris Hughes has just completed a script that merges Tod Kurt's Roomba control software with the recently released DarwinRemote, resulting in a little slavebot that scoots around using just a flick of your wrist. As you might expect, tilting the Wiimote forward and backward causes Roomba to move in those directions, while tilting it side to side sends the vacuum spinning either clockwise or counter-clockwise. There's a slight delay between manipulating the Wiimote and Roomba actually executing a command, though luckily Chris has kindly provided his RoombaWii script for download, so perhaps you can play around with it and reduce some of that latency. You can check out a short vid of his setup after the break, but if the term "flippin' awesome" is considered a little too racy for your office, you may have to file this one under NSFW....
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Core Course Revamp or Train Jumping the Track?

NEWS RELEASES 2006-07 :: DECEMBER 8, 2006

The [North Carolina] State Board of Education yesterday approved a proposed core course of study framework that will guide high school course requirements beginning in 2008-09. Current seventh graders would be the first students potentially affected by this change.

This change would replace the current courses of study (college prep, college tech prep, career) from which students select their high school coursework. Graduates in the Class of 2011 could be the last group to graduate under the old courses of study framework, depending on the Board’s final action on this plan later this winter. The occupational course of study will continue to be available for students with disabilities if their individualized education program specifies it.

The proposed core framework requires that all freshmen entering high school in the fall 2008 participate in a 21 unit core course of study that will include a four-unit endorsement in a specialty area of their choice.

The new core course of study will require:

* 4 units of English
* 4 units of mathematics
* 3 units of science
* 3 units of social studies
* 2 units of a second language
* 1 unit of health/physical education
* an endorsement of at least four units in one of the following areas: Career-Technical Education, Arts Education, JROTC, Advanced Placement/IB, Second Language or other.

(The endorsement is in addition to the 17 specified core courses.)

State Board of Education’s approval of the proposed framework is a product of work done by its Ad Hoc Academic Rigor, Relevance and Relationships committee over the past several months. This committee also has indicated strong support for a course substitution opportunity, which would enable students to take a substitute course if that course would better serve their academic needs. A professional review team consisting of a teacher, counselor and administrator would decide these requests. Parents would be required to sign off on the substitute courses recommended for their children.

This winter, the Board will hold town hall meetings across the state to receive input and ideas from local educators, parents and community members about implementing the core course of study. In approving the proposed framework, Board members noted that a number of implementation details need to be finalized and that community input will be invaluable in that process. Possible areas for input include course substitution, the sequence of mathematics courses in light of 21st century skills and objectives of a foreign language study. The schedule of meetings is being finalized and will be distributed widely soon.

Other graduation requirements will continue to be in place. These include passing the five common end-of-course tests (Algebra I, English I, US History, Civics and Economics and Biology) and successfully completing a graduation project in addition to local graduation requirements.

For more information, please contact the NCDPI Communications and Information division at 919.807.3450.

After reading the above "proposed changes" in the core courses, I know why Dr. McPherson is retiring this July from his job in our district. I have a couple of two cents worth about these proposals. However, as a classroom teacher, I have to remember that teachers are not paid to have opinions; I do not want to sound negative or just come out has ask the obvious but HAVE THEY BUMPED THEIR HEADS? Challenge number one form my point of view is that alternative schools will need physical plan expansions by the 2008-2009 school year. Alternative schools, and all sorts of creative solutions will be needed if this proposed plan makes its way to the LEAs in our state. State wide, our dropout rates are horrible. How would the increase in "academic requirements" impact our current at risk students. Word is that the proposal would affect our current 7th grade students when they enter high school. Well, I teach a few 5th, 6th, and 7th graders and they are already so far behind academically, increased pressure probably will not have a positive impact on their academic success. They could well be the lost generation already. We have no factory jobs in our area. They have all been done away with. Jobs in textiles, tobacco, furniture manufacturing, plywood manufacturing, paper clip factory-- they are gone or on their last leg in our area. In view of these changes, it is easy to see we need to change schools. However, can we do it in two years? Can we afford not to?

With the exception of students with disabilities, every student will be required to complete four units of math including Algebra I-A, Algebra I-B, geometry and Algebra II.

Every student will be required to have two units (semesters) of a foreign language. Currently, only students in the college/university track are required to have foreign languages.
Cindy Williamson, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instructional services said that nearly everything surrounding the overhaul is still in the discussion stage; the final details will not be known until early next year.

The curriculum of every high school course will have to be completely rewritten to reflect the state’s new goals and guidelines.

New materials, resources and textbooks will have to be developed.

So, this is going to be interesting.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Futurist: To fix education, think Web 2.0

Had to write this so I can remember it...
"Rather than treat pedagogy as the transfer of knowledge from teachers who are experts to students who are receptacles, educators should consider more hands-on and informal types of learning. These methods are closer to an apprenticeship, a farther-reaching, more multi layered approach than traditional formal education, he said." John Seely Brown spoke at a conference on technology and education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The conference was organized to mark the end next year of an eight-year partnership between Microsoft and MIT to explore the use of technology in learning.

Will Richardson agrees with Brown and calls online communities of learners that are passionate about specific topics like Linux, or any of the gazillion forums and blogs can attest. I experienced this passion based learning as I researched which smartphone to buy, and trying to learn how to install some distro of Linux on an older desktop that is running Windows ME. My mother checks her email, chats with her grandchildren, and writes letters to her sister then prints it out and mails it to her. She does not need a new Dell desktop, running Vista with a surround sound to do this. Yet with all the passioniate participants, the only thing I got out of looking for Linux was more confused. Ok, I download 5 CDs as ISOs, burn them, follow 10 sets to install and then hope like heck that the HP printer will print, and the CRT monitor with work, and her mouse will work. If not, then use a rescue disc or throw it out the window. I think Microsoft would love my wasted time online this weekend trying to learn from passioniate Linux users if my mom's XL768 HP Pavilion needs to be dumped or if Linux can give it a few more months of service.

After listening to Kevin Rose tell about his "good inside source" that Apple will be more than likely introduce the infamous iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007. I think I have heard the same thing now for at least three years. Steve Job-- hey if you read this, I was going to buy a new Treo 700wx. The salesman at the local Alltel store let me know that they had one with my name on it, but had not gotten the pricing information. I know the Alltel folks will be cussing you Steve, because just a rumor is keeping me from springing for the new phone. My old phone does everything I want it to do. It rings everytime I am in a boring teachers meeting, when my wife wants me to run by or favorite sub shop and pick up supper on my way home from the gym, she can get me, also, when my daughter has a flat tire 50 miles away, she still and reach me. So, why would I really need EvDO, web enabled, bluetooth, Windows sync, and a built-in crappy quality camera? Just because I can. Smartphones are like having a Mazzarati in that you never can run 200 mph, but it is knowing that you could if you wanted to.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Vickie A. Davis-- "Keyboarding: The Hidden Giant of Web 2.0"

Vicki A. Davis mades some really great points that I am including in this post to help remind us of how important keyboarding skills are to our kids.
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Educators are trying to put more into the day. Reviewing this article, I see two great ways to improve student performance:

1) Teach effective keyboarding skills
This is my second semester with over 70 words per minute. (I had a year before with over 60 words per minute.) Every student has broken 30 words per minute for the last two years. We keyboard daily for a semester. I have other curricular objectives, but the focus is keyboarding.

I was a failure my first year. I had to teach students every other day either two or three times a week. My class average was in the high 20's. I felt like a failure!

There is a right and a wrong way to teach keyboarding. I use the methodologies (and textbook) used by my mother, an expert business education teacher. I use a book supplemented by Mavis Beacon, however 90% of the work is supervised by me and uses the book. I focus on technique.

Look at the lifetime difference of my students versus a student not taught. At 70 words per minute, my students will be able to get work done almost three times as fast as another person. They will e-mail faster. They will IM faster. They will be able to focus on thinking and not on getting a product on paper!

2) Teach Speed Reading

When I look back at the article, they mention the effect of speed reading. The article says that using Rapid Serial Visualization Representation (RSVP) speed reading, a person can read at speeds of 600 to 800 words per minute. I actually did a speed reading book last summer and have seen a significant increase in my reading speeds. What would this do in schools?

How can schools afford to NOT teach keyboarding?

As we discussed this issue via skypecast this week, the overriding comment is that schools do not seem to have the time to teach keyboarding.

Faster typists can cover more material

I look at it from a production standpoint. When a student can type faster they can take notes faster, wiki faster, type papers faster, and have more time to study, so in effect they will become a better student!

We teach keyboarding for 6 weeks in 5th grade and a semester in eighth. Yes, it is tough to fit in, but good education is never easy. There is great research on this topic.

Keyboarding is not a vocational subject
I also take issue with the fact that keyboarding is considered a vocational subject. It is the most college prep subject that I know of!

Look at the world! We are producing INFORMATION! Widgets are going overseas. And now, information is beginning to go overseas because they can produce it faster. We're still training vocational students to be secretaries when I know CEO's who type their own letters!

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Moodle 1.7 is released!

Moodle 1.7 is released!

by Martin Dougiamas.

We're proud to announce the latest major version of Moodle fresh from the oven: Moodle 1.7 !

The four big headline features are:

  • Roles - Moodle has a complete new architecture for assigning people permissions. It's very flexible, allowing you to give just a single person the right to delete posts in one particular forum, if you want that! Thanks to Open University for sponsoring Moodle HQ in this development!
  • XML database schema - Moodle now supports a single way of specifying database structures using XML, which not only makes development a lot easier for programmers, but allows us to support a wider range of databases. One of our frequent requests is now a reality - in addition to MySQL and PostgreSQL, Moodle can now run out of the box on Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle (with more databases to come). Thanks to Microsoft for sponsoring Moodle HQ in this development!
  • New admin interface - admins get a productivity boost with a new interface designed to make it much easier to find settings and configure Moodle properly. Thanks to Google for sponsoring most of this development!
  • Unit testing framework - developers can now easily write unit tests that can be run as part of a system check to make sure Moodle code is performing as expected. As Moodle grows this will really help us maintain certain levels of quality. Thanks to Open University for contributing this!

There are plenty of other smaller features and fixes created by developers and testers from all over the place (thanks!!). You can find out all the details from the Release notes in our comprehensive Moodle Docs. (Some of the documentation for 1.7 is still catching up!)

Of course, you can download Moodle as always from our Moodle Download server.

Enjoy! Good luck with all your Moodle sites [[yes]] and wish us well for Moodle 1.8 (already well under way!)


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Monday, November 06, 2006

High Schoolers on "Pottie Lock Down"?

Talk about cracking down... This article appeared in our media.  I had to blog it.  First, I applaud the administration for addressing the issue of discipline.  However, there are probably more to the the story that is reported.
Kristen Hughes says if she and her classmates are going to be treated like kindergarteners, they should at least get recess and nap time.

The West Brunswick High School student is reacting to new policies established in the wake of several incidents.

School officials began revoking student privileges after three bathroom trash cans were set on fire and fire alarms pulled intentionally. Each incident required an evacuation, cutting into class time for students and teachers.

Security cameras helped catch the culprits, who were apparently smoking in the restroom during times they should have been in class or on their way to lunch. Now, teachers must escort students to the bathroom and to the cafeteria.

The last school I worked in had bathroom issues, so teachers were assigned bathroom duty. Between classes, one of our teachers dashed to the student bathroom and stood in there. If possible, the teach slipped in a few seconds before the bell, stand in the stall, and when the smokers lit up, walk out and lead the offenders to the office and report the incident. Teachers can not take a smoke break, go drink a cup of coffee, or call on their cell phone to see if their nail appointment can be changed to another day. Teachers are not suppose to even be able to go to the bathroom themselves. That is why so many of us have bladder and kidney problems.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

The Earth Science World Image Bank

The Earth Science World Image Bank is a service provided by the American Geological Institute (AGI). This Image Bank is designed to provide quality geoscience images to the public, educators, and the geoscience community. Click on one of the images below to browse that category or go to the Search Images page for an advanced search.

January 2006 - The Image Bank now has over 6,000 images available to search, making it one of the largest sources of Earth Science imagery available on the web! So start searching today!!!

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Professional Development Ideas

Our school subscribes to UnitedStreaming. This connection with Google Earth is interesting. I am personnally interested in learning how these tools can help our students learn math skills. Our math scores on standardized tests are horrible. The scores are showing growth, but they are still very low. This only means we must think outside the box to reach our learners.

The challenge is to find time to retool our staff. Discovery has the right idea- Professional development is critical. I will not try to use new strategies without some idea of how to do it.

Develop Dynamic Lessons for Geography, Math, Social Studies, and Language Arts Using Google Earth and Google SketchUp! > Professional Development > Project Demonstrations

Discovery Education and Google have created a series of lesson plans that bring together unitedstreaming video and images with two of Google's products, Google Earth and Google SketchUp. Available for elementary-, middle-, and high-school classrooms, these lessons, tutorials, and demonstrations represent a unique method of incorporating digital media into the curriculum.

Project Demonstrations > Professional Development > Project Demonstrations

Visit the Project Demonstrations page to review and download sample Google Earth and Google SketchUp lessons, tutorials, and getting-started guides, as well as demonstrations of completed projects. Additional lessons and projects are available for popular educational software - e.g., creating digital stories with Adobe Premiere Elements, brainstorming activities with Inspiration, or incorporating interactive whiteboards into your classroom activities. Each project area contains lesson plans tied to state standards, examples of integration of digital media, templates, and tutorials on how to integrate unitedstreaming content.

Webinars and Webinar Workshops > Professional Development > Live Online Webinar Sessions > Webinar Workshops

You can attend complimentary webinars (30-minute Web- and phone-based tutorials) on using Google Earth, SketchUp, and other software to develop classroom projects for your curriculum. Sign up at

Our online instructors are eager to collaborate with you to develop a customized Webinar Workshop that supports your school-based in-service. These sessions combine live online instruction with hands-on activities in your computer lab.

Choose a half- or full-day session, which give teachers ample time to create classroom projects. Participants will view multimedia examples, learn how to integrate unitedstreaming content with software they already have and use digital media to enhance student learning. Select a subject area that's right for your group.

Contact your Account Representative today at 800.323.9084 to schedule a Webinar Workshop.

Conducting a Staff Development Session? Use Interactive Training As a Pre-Requisite! > Professional Development > Interactive Training

To prepare for an upcoming staff development session on technology, have your participants complete the online Interactive Tutorial. With this engaging series of lessons, teachers can learn online at their own pace, print a certificate after successfully completing each lesson, and submit certificates and assignments to their staff development coordinator for possible continuing education credit. Each lesson is equivalent to a half-hour online and two hours offline doing related activities.

Lesson 1: Features and Navigation
Learn to use the features and resources that correlate to your curriculum, subject area, and grade level.

Lesson 2: Integration Strategies
Learn to use digital media to create multimedia lesson plans with PowerPoint and Inspiration.

Lesson 3: Differentiated Instruction
Explore ways digital media can be used to meet the diverse needs of students.

Lesson 4: Teacher Training and Technical Considerations
Examine strategies, support materials, and technical considerations for training other teachers.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New Version of Flock

Oh-- Man. They fixed whatever it was and I am in love with Flock 0.7.7. It works. I installed Performancing in my Firefox browser and until someone comes up with a spell checker, I am not interested in leaving Flock's blog editor.
I am testing to see if version 0.7.7 of Flock has any improved compatiblity with Blogger.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Kick Off Fireside Chat with Preconference Keynote

K-12 Online Conference 2006   Please make plans to attend the K12 Online 2006 Unleashing the Potential Kick Off Fireside chat with Preconference Keynoter David Warlick on October 16, 2006 at 6pm EDT. This informal virtual chat will take place online using Elluminate Live software.

Here is the link for gaining access to the room:

See you there!

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Claymation Project - Week 4 - Update

This week's Friday Learning Institute here at North Whiteville Academy we continued working on claymation projects.  Students in half the groups actually captured most of their images.  One group will begin editing their presentation this coming Friday.  During next week, students will be able to take their images of their clay figures.

Student seen in this image is hard at work molding the stalk of his sunflower plant. 

This is an example of how one of our teams utilized the storyboard to check to make sure his seed clay model is the correct size.  This project requires a tremendous amount of problem solving skills.  Decissions about scale, color, sequencing, timelines.  Students that have problems following directions seem to be having the most difficulty with this project.  Basically, it requires students to focus and pay attention to lots of details.  Those students in the class that lack self-discipline, or are authoritatize defiant, make you not want to do any thing with them but worksheets...but that would like "giving up" on them.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Morning Coffee- More Sugar Please!

Sitting here looking at my half full coffee cup, makes me think about my students. We feed them "breakfast" each morning. The milk is either sour or they do not like the cereal. It is always something. They complain about it being to cold in the rooms if the AC is on or the teacher next door is too hot. Somedays, I wish it would stop, but -- I owe, I owe, it off to work I go...(hummed to the tune of a famous family classic).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Motivating Middle School Students with Technology

I noticed at drop in the folks reading my blog that occured after I included a YouTube video clip. I am not sure if reader dropped my blog from the their reading list because I had included a video clip, or because I have not been finding the time to write. Seems the only time I deleted the YouTube clip, but hope to include student claymation project we are working on in class on my Junk EduBlog. I have to write is on Sunday morning. This morning, my mind really sparked fire when I ran across this product from the creative thinkers at Griffin Technology.

While reading an article found in iLounge The iPod Book 2.2, I followed a link to Griffin Technology's upcoming gadget for iPods: iKaraoke. I was almost read to turn the page before I remembered a resent presentation conducted by Larry Bell, national presenter, educational
consultant and author,
and how he used tunes of Calendar Girl, My Girl, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Accentuate the Positive, Oscar Mayer Weiner, The Adams Family, and Are You Sleeping to help students learn twelve words. These twelve words are critical links to students scoring better on standardized testing. They include analyze, infer, evaluate, formulate, describe, support, explain, compare, contrast, summarize and predict. I can just see a classroom full of elementary or middle school kids being throughly entertained with a teacher using their iPod and iKaraoke. Man, would that be fun. I know, you do not have to go out and buy any of this to accomplish this instructional strategy. Heck, a hair brush and anyone that can carry a tune can lead students in a chorus of The Adams Family-- if the kids know the song. But, most of our students do not know that tune. My middle school kids do not know any of the tunes Bell mentioned. In the Flat World, the author lists adaptivity as a skill that successful folks must possess in a this day and time. Well, using this iKaraoke to teach kids to know 12 words to help them score better on standardized tests has to be adaptive thinking. Maybe I am just crazy as heck. Hey, we have to use whatever it takes to motivate and engage learners.

Griffin Technology: iKaraoke - Karaoke for your iPod

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Professional Development - Closing the Achievement Gap

The Southeast Education Alliance for Professional Development sponsored a wonderful presentation today in Wilimington, NC.  The title of the presentation was "Practical Strategies for Closing the Achievement Gap," with Larry I. Bell, National Education Consultant. 

I was simply blown away by his energy and really practical strategies.  After about the first hour, my mind began to focus on how I was going to use one of his main tools in my classroom.  I have been using Moodle in my classroom for almost two years now.  My students like Moodle activities like Hot Potatoes J Matching but they get tired of it.  I have struggled with creating reading activities that engage my students.  Mr. Bell has a reading strategy he calls "UNRAAVEL". 

Let me try to outline how I plan to initially implement this in a Moodle lesson.  I am not sure how it will work, but I will be blogging about it soon.  The first step is to find an appropriate reading passage.  This could be a challenge.  Let's say for now that I have an original story about a science concept.  More than likely, I will use materials from Wikipedia, or our textbook, it I can acquire permission from the textbook publishers.  Since I am not opening the class outside my classroom, I  am banking on traditional fair-use protection of copyrights.  Our Moodle site, WCS WebCampus

is password protected.  Anyway,  Moodle has a module called a lesson.  In the first part of the , students will first see the reading passage.  Next, they will have to complete a series of edits to the reading passage.  Finally, they will answer a multiple choice question about that passage. 

I am just in the initial thinking stage about this process, but I think it will work.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekly Update

This past week, my students began a project in science. Student will demonstrate knowledge of concepts of plant growth cycles. We are using clay figures and stop motion animation to illustrate the growth cycle of plants. Friday, we introduced the students to some of the tools they will be using to tell their story. We used a couple of examples of animation for them to see how animation works. They seemed to understand it. Well, it was very obvious that some of them did not get it. When we started having them complete a concept map on the four main stages of the life cycle of a plant, after watching two examples on movies, they also had a packet of images from a bean plant with diagrams of its life cycle, they had a difficult time completing the concept map. I was ready to throw up my hands. What in the world was wrong? Then it hit me, these children have never studied plants. In seven to eight years in school, they had never mastered the basic concept of the life cycle of a plant. The next challenge was to have them work in teams to create a storyboard of the life cycle. In past experiences of teaching middle school students claymation animation, I have learned that students must sketch every frame, not just four or five. If they just sketch a few of the frames, they think that when they start shooting with the digital camera, all they need are four pictures.

I did not think about it until while talking to our communications teacher that I should have passed out a pack of post-its and asked them to sketch the life cycle on the post-its. So, tomorrow, I plan to pass out the post-its and have them create a simple animation of a bouncing ball (gravity demo). I found a great example on YouTube that I would love to share with my students, but our school district blocks So, to get around the block, I emailed the guy that created the movie on YouTube and convienced him to email me a copy of his animation. I will put it on a thumb drive and bootleg the file in the back door! Where there is a Will, there is a Way.

This week, students will finish their storyboards and on this coming Friday, they will begin shooting the frames. If they complete the required 30 frames. Students think that they can take their clay figure and in a couple of minutes, shot their movie. It is a process, like science, which requires critical thinking, problem solving, technology skills, and time. This process of creating claymation animation is engaging, but is enraging to kids with no attention span. We have a few students that none of their classmates want to have in their group. It is a real challenge. We spend as much time teaching the other kids in their group how to cope with class clowns and disruptive behavior as we do helping them master the science concepts. We had to have one group removed from the room. I hated it, we rearranged the initial groups, and still, the disruptors continued. The dynamics of the group changed significantly after they were removed. Maybe we need a behavior contract for our next group activity. Maybe we need to invite the parents of the kids that are misbehaving to sit in class with them.

I know we need to figure out what the root cause for their inappropriate behavior is and deal with it. I know why teachers burn out. It is not enough to prepare, plan, setup, reschedule, correlate the lesson with the Standard Course of Study, facilitate and still have to negociate with kids with behavioral issues. This is exactly why worksheets are the number one way to teach science-- IMHO!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

10 PM and Ernesto is Strengthing

I just can back in from taking the dog out for his nightly walk, and man, is it rough out there. We are experiencing strong gusts here inland.


Things have changed in two hours!  Winds have been reported in Wilmington, NC to be in the 70 mph range.  My daughter is in Wilmington tonight, and called earlier, around 7 pm and said that the weather was rough, high winds and heavy rains.  The NWS reported 0ver 6 inches of rain has fallen in Wilmington.  We have received over four inches here inland in Chadbourn.

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Two Hour Delay - Public Safety is Job One

Our school district will start the school day Friday, Sept. 1, 2006, on a two hour delay. This is in anticipation of Tropic Storm Ernesto. In the era of post-Katrina politics, everyone seems to be covering our tails in royal fashion. But, this is a good thing. Mother nature is unpredictable. I sure would not want my 6 year old riding in any vehicle, school bus or family truck or car on a muddy, rain slick, dirt road after a storm like Ernesto. No, I do not have a child that young, but I remember an incidence when one of my daughters was in elementary school. The school bus she was coming home on was in a wreck. The weather conditions worsened rapidly and they had to drive in a rain/sleet storm. Luckily, she and all the other bus passengers and the car were fine. I remember being a nervous wreck as I rushed to the wreck site. No one has to tell me that schools have to do everything they can to avoid dangerous conditions.

How will this impact student learning? I am not sure, but we can basically draw a line through our lesson plans. It is not going to happen. Combine the fact that everyone is on a different schedule, teachers have to remember that children may not sleep well. When they do not sleep well, they are cranky and hyper. I over heard my high school students telling each other that they are going to... [let's say they will not be reading the Bible, if you know what I mean] because they do not have to get up as early as they usually do. Now, I hope they were just "bragging" and "running their mouth." They will not be very receptive to learning about controlled variables, the scientific method and science models. Friday morning, with a two hour delay, will make the day-- a real challenge. Any change in routine, automatically compounds disorganization. Since students will be "off their schedule", teachers have planned an alternate activity day.

On the topic of planning, I have been trying to pull together another episode of our podcast. However, this week has been filled with hours of meetings and discussion as we edit our school's improvement plan. This is a very important process for our school. We have received input from parents, teachers,

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Day One - Photo

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
NWA welcomed our students back to school on Friday. This photo was posted using This works much faster than Flickr. I tried to email images to Flickr, tried uploading and was frustrated with my Flickr account. So, I switched quickly to my account on Photobucket, and in a snap, had the photos uploaded. I have been using Flickr for a few years, but from this experience, I am re-evaluting which of these to use as my primary service.

Fossils of new dinosaur species unearthed in China

Fossils of a new dinosaur species have been unearthed near Lingwu City in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, said experts on Saturday afternoon. Eight sauropods, or huge, long-necked herbivorous dinosaurs living in the middle Jurassic period some 160 million years ago, were unearthed in a 3,000-square meter area,

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Things That Make the Earth Go Hm

The Earth hums.... Long dismissed as "background noise" by seismologists, a new look at this constant hum is opening a window on ocean activity, providing insight into the Earth's structure that may one day be used to give advance warning of earthquakes.

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Can This Machine Rescue Physics?

When the world's biggest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, opens next year near Geneva, the focal point of the high-energy physics world will shift from U.S. soil for the first time in half a century. But America's brightest are busy devising a rescue plan.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Classroom III Episode 1 for 2006-07 School Year

Show Notes:

Today's podcasts features a chat with Mr. Leon Dockery, mathematics teacher at North Whiteville Academy. We discuss the beginning of school and technology in our classes. We used the TuneTalk from Belkin on a 5thGen iPod Video to record this podcast.

Classroom III Podcast, August 24, 2006

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Classroom Tech Idea?

While trying to catch up on my Flock News aggregator's backlog of articles, I scanned across this interesting story. Our school just purchased nine new Lenovo desktops and ordered Office for each of them. My question is what will software look like in 5 years when we upgrade five or six more computers? As far as that goes, what will it look like in 5 weeks?

Teachers will be interested to know that instead of Microsoft, we may be sending our tech dollars to Google in the near future.

The guys over at TechCrunch posted this and I had to repost it. Sorry guys, you did such a great job, I could not help myself.

Google’s Writely released; will another sector be squashed?

Online ajax-rich word processor Writely began accepting new accounts today after closing registration when the company was acquired by Google in March. A number of startups who used to compete with Writely will now have to challenge Google.

Writely’s acquisition fueled talk of a Google Office suite of services, a vision made more real by the subsequent launch of Google Spreadsheets and Google Calender. A Google Drive for online storage has long been rumored to be just around the corner and analysts at Gartner have predicted that a Google PowerPoint type service will be released some time this year. (Garnter references Thumbstacks, see also Zoho Show and our coverage of both.)

Writely is collaboration friendly, can import Word documents, save to PDF, OpenOffice, Rich Text Format and zip. The system autosaves your documents every 10 seconds and offers online storage. Google Accounts will soon be used for signing in. Writely works on Mozilla based browsers and IE only.

Writely got the best review in a recent CNet round-up that goes into detail on its features and compares it to Zoho Writer (our coverage), Think Free Online and Glide Write. Other tools in this class include Rallypoint and WriteBoard.

Now that Writely is publicly available in the Google suite, do these other vendors stand a chance? They certainly may, but yesterday’s surrender from calendar company Kiko - with a nod to Google Calendar - certainly makes you wonder.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Blogging in my classroom

This week has been a busy one. Yesterday was the first day back from summer break. Today, we had our district's annual "kick-off" breakfast and day-long staff development session.

I have been trying to pick a new device to create podcasts with and finally made a decision between several really good choices. After listening to Aaron Smith's podcast using the new Belkin TuneTalk, I read reviews from the guys over at on them. While reading their review, they pointed to thought I wanted an Edirol R 09. Aaron's podcast showed how good the TuneTalk could work. I am not sure how high the gain was on his podcast, but it sounded fine. So, with his example and the fact that the TuneTalk has USB port to supply external power while recording, I thought the iPod video would do what I wanted it to. In addition to voice recording at a high quality than my old iPod, plus my educator's discount, I got real serious about selecting the iPod. While looking at the iPod, and articles about the TuneTalk, I started having second thoughts because after spending time creating podcasts the summer, I ran into one big issue: you need two microphones to record a conversation between two folks. If a podcast is just a TV news style interview, were the reporter basically asks his/her question off camera and the interviewee responds into the mic, the iPod works fine. So, I started looking for a way to get around this.

No one makes a device that I could find that allows two microphone to be feed into an iPod. Someone needs to build it. They need a cheap mixer so the volumes and gain levels can be controlled and then can be connected to the iPod for recording. I found that a Marantz 660 has two XLR mic jacks. I am not sure if Marantz makes them, but there is a company that ships what they call conference microphones, which are twin mics, which are perfect for a two person interview situation.

I saw a podcaster at the PodcasterCon event, that had a pro set up with a mixer and compressor, and could mic up to five panelists or performers. He ran this through a PowerBook. Ok, that is like the ultimate podcaster setup. Not realistic for my use.

Another option, the Edirol R09, was so hard to find, I gave up on it. Last weekend, I made a trip to Walmart, again, to see if they had an iPod instock. Much to my surprise, the electronic department associate I talked to told me that they had been out of them for three or four weeks and "Apple" just sent them what they wanted to, they had not control over what they got in. I smiled at the acne-faced teenager employee and thanked him for his time. Within 30 minutes from almost having an "Apple Basher" tell me how sorry the batteries are on the iPod video, I went home, got online, ordered the black iPod Video/ 30 GB, and Belkin TuneTalk. I got a confirmation the next day from Apple. The estimated ship date was initially two weeks. This made me a little disappointed. However, arriving home Wednesday, only four days later, there was a sicker on door and when I got closer to the door, the note was from the FedEx driver. I was amazed. Looking back at my email, somehow, I had overlooked another email from Apple with a FedEx shipping tracking info. The info supplied showed that the iPod has been shipped from Shanghai, China Sunday night, flew to Alaska, then Wilmington, NC and FedEx's driver had not left it in the door because no one was home to sign for it. I almost fell out of the chair. It was almost here.

I have to go this weekend to Walmart and show the Walmart clerk that on one has to "wait for Apple to ship" an iPod to Wally World. Get online and they can build it in China, ship it via FedEx and you can be watching videos by Wednesday! This is a Flat World. Walmart - you have to do a better job if you want to sell electronics! Wally World must make more profit on the Creative products. I know they have their own Walmart Music store, or did they close that?

The Belkin mic worked with my brief testing the night my iPod arrived. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to record some audio from various teachers and ask them what they did during their break, and what one thing they were looking forward to for this new school year. So, I charged up the battery on my new toy. I arrived slightly late for the breakfast that began at 8:00 am. My iPod was in my pocket. Evidently, sitting down during the breakfast, the battery ran down. Pulling it out of my pocket and punching the play button, nothing happened!

Crap. No recording during the breakfast. After the breakfast, it was time for a mad dash back to my vehicle. In the glove compartment, was my trusty iPod cigarette lighter converter. Plugging it in, the iPod powered up. Crap crap crap. Lesson learned #1- USE THE HOLD BUTTON to make sure you do not accidental turn on the iPod in you dang packet. Lesson learned #2 Allows carry a power converter. I have one for my old iPod that uses Firewire to connect to an AC wall outlet. I am not sure if the new iPod works with the firewire cable. But if it will, I have that AC adapter. Hum, got to try it. Better read the Apple Support page first to check for issues.

Have a great school year! Life is too short to be miserable.

I am looking forward to working with my students to create this year's podcast series.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Podcast Episode: Transportation Technologies Career Pathways

Check out this episode of our CCTPC podcast as we investigate the transportation technologies career pathway here in Columbus County.

Podcast Episode: Bio Ag, Build It and They Will Come

Bio Ag, Build It and They Will Come

This episode explores the Agricultural and Natural Resources Technologies career pathway featuring a special guest, Rebecca Westbooks, director of Agricultural Biotechnology at Southeastern Community College, Whiteville, NC.

  • Interesting Fact #1: The North Carolina is one of the top three states in biotechnology in the United States
  • Interesting Fact #2: Out of the 50 states, only California and Massachusetts rank higher than NC.
  • Interesting Fact #3: NC is a worldwide BioAg leader
  • Interesting Fact #4: Salaries in biotechnology field are very attractive. Annual salaries for entry-level technicians start at $25,000 to $30,000 and can progress to $50, 000 in five years.
  • Interesting Fact #5: The NC biotechnology industry is growing 10-15% each year. At this rate, 125,000 workers will be needed by 2025.
  • Interesting Fact #6: NC has more thatn 150 biotechnology companies. These companies generate about $3 billion in annual revenue and employee more than 18,500.

    Southeastern Community College, in Columbus County, North Carolina. We are going to explore one relatively new career pathway and course offering in the field of Agricultural Biotechnology – or BioAg. Our guest for this episode of CCTPC podcast is Rebecca Westbrooks, project director of the Agricultural Biotechnology curriculum at Southeastern Community College. She is also the lead instructor and developer of SCC’s Environmental Science Technology program. Westbrooks was awarded a Biotechnology Innovation Fund grant to develop the Agricultural Biotechnology curriculum back in 2005. The first class start(s or stated depending on when you listen to this podcast) in August 2006. Westbrooks also was awarded a grant to develop six Biotechnology course lectures for Internet delivery. She was selected to receive a full fellowship to attend the BioLink Conference “New Frontiers in Biotechnology” in Berkley, California in June 2006. She was one of 50 nationally to receive this fellowship. She has been teaching at SCC for more than 18 years and has taught for a total of 32 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology, and chemistry from Austin Peay State University, and a master’s degree from University of South Carolina with an interdisciplinary concentration in biology (botany), chemistry and physics. Welcome Mrs. Westbooks to our podcast.

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Podcast Episode: Business Technologies Career Pathway

Business Technologies

This podcast features a description of the business technologies career pathway and an interview with a West Columbus High School graduate and a conversation about his career exploration.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

What is OPML?

This morning, I had an interesting conversation with a brilliant 8th grader.  Talk about a digital native, this child is a classic example.  Her second toy, behind a pacifier, was sitting in her dads lap and slobbering on the keyboard.  I think she preferred the taste of the keys to her baby formula.  She has already be through more cell phones than a Cingular Account Exec.  I may be overly biased in that she is my niece, but my two daughters are amazed at her tech skills.  She could transfer TV game consoles from one TV to another by the time she could walk.  I still have to call Tech Support. 

I tried to explain, in a hurry, what OPML was and why she needed to know about it.  I must have sounded like a Senate Stevens trying to explain that the Internet was a "system of tubes".  I really got lost in the description.  So, I promised to email her the "Clarence Update" version of  what  it is. 

First, what is a feed? 

A feed is a text file that contains a series of items, such as blog posts, news stories and search engine results.Feeds can come in many formats, including RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0 and Atom. These formats have differences in the way a feed is described internally, but conceptually all feeds are a series of text items.

I showed her how trying to keep up with changing content on multiple web sites that school teachers can learn about how other teachers are making their classes interesting or how they are trying to deal with challenges they face in their classrooms is easier for me when I use something called and aggregator to help organize and how I can save interesting parts or post to my blog so I can learn from others and construct a better understanding for myself, she got it.  She has an ah ha moment.  She asked how could she get an aggregator, and told her I would show her the ones I had tried.  I showed her for the reason that I had been using it myself for a relatively long time.  Now, I know there are tons of aggregators on the web, and I am not going to  "pimp" one over another in this post.  I'll track that one soon and try to give an educators point of view. 

The guys at say on their page that: "An aggregator is a program that allows you to read or view the contents of a feed. They can also be called feed readers. Most aggregators are either desktop clients, which means they must be downloaded and installed, or Web-based, so they can be run as a Web page in any browser. Grazr is an aggregator that runs on the Web, but looks like a client program in its own window. There is no installation necessary to use Grazr. When you open a Web page containing Grazr, it is automatically displayed along with its feed. 

This is good for those using blogs like WordPress, and Blogger, that I have used where I can edit the template.  However, I have a couple of blogs on James Farmer's wonderful multi-user WordPress blogs and individual users can not access the templates.  Maybe you can, but I have not figured it out.  Maybe I need to ask James or even better, search MU WordPress.  I have not tried in awhile to see if you can like add code to the template.  Got to remember to try and learn about this...

Ok, now we know what a feed is and an aggregator, we need to understand OPML. 

Multiple feeds can be combined in a outline structure using a format called OPML.  The most common use of OPML is to store a list of blog feeds as a way of publishing a set of feed subscriptions. To facilitate this practice many feed aggregators provide OPML import and export of the current subscriptions.  Now what would that mean to a classroom teacher?  Let me just tell what I have experienced.  Last year, I wanted my students to create a series of digital storys about the topics they were learning about in science.  Things like elements, cells division, water quality, and a few other projects.  We used a free program online called, and students created their projects using digital cameras, and titles to tell about the concepts.  They learn how to add audio comments, which could have been dangerous if they had wanted to be vulgar.  I made sure that they were old enough according to Bubbleshare's policy to create an account, we took a long time to discuss the ramifications of inappropriate use of school property, and used this as an ethics lessons first. 

I am not sure I would try this lesson with students under 16 years old.  Anyway, the point is that all these projects on Bubbleshare had the option of having their own feed.  So, to be able to grade their work, I taught them to email me their RSS feed and I copied and pasted them to my aggregator.  I also learned that iPhoto allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds and that was just too cool.  I still enjoy glancing at them in iPhoto.  I had hoped some of the students would continue to add images.  However, none of my students in that class owned a digital camera.  They all had cell phones, but only one of them had a camera built in.  We do not allow students to carry their phones in our school, they can have them on the bus, but not on campus. 

I plan to try to teach my students how to use aggregators at the beginning of the school year and challenge them to create folders for each of the topics they study during the semester.  We are using Moodle and the newest version has a blog feature. 

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Will Social Software Become Another Product of "Wikialiaty"?

How many stories like this could an elected official ignore before his voters would remove him from office? Here is another "Wikialiaty" -- 'the Internet is full of evil, so let's block it.' Ironically, enough folks believe it, so it must be true. Right? Wes Fryer mentioned in his recent podcast that the current version of DOPA that was passed in the US House and is now in the Senate Trade committee, has a stipulation that Blogging is allowable in schools if the project is approved by a teacher. Fryer interviewed Jonathan and Michelle Moore about the role of Moodle in schools. This is a very good podcast and one I will listen to again. I wonder if how many schools will allow Blogging or Moodle at all if any Federal Laws are passed banning blogs like in the article below.

I think educators that are trying to use Blogs in their classroom will find that there will be a "throwing out the bathwater with the baby" of all social software in the majority of school districts if DOPA is passed into Federal Law. School Boards are not going to stick their necks out for a few early adopters for technology. It ain't going to happen. If DOPA passes, watch, teachers will not use blogs and Moodle and anything that could get them in trouble. Teachers go by the rules. They will not invest the energy to learn how to effectively include blogging strategies in their instruction. I am sorry if I sound negative, it is just reality speaking here. Educators should not fold your cards on this issue.

What will be blocked next? Should schools even have Internet access? Do we really even need computers to teach reading, (w)riting, and (A)rithmatic? Where will it stop? We all know teachers that would be just happy as a clam if they took all the computers in the school out tomorrow anyway. No it is not just the "old farts", I know beginning teachers too that never to check their email and never take their students to the lab or ask for the laptops, because it is too much trouble. The issue is out of my hands. Just interesting to follow and observe which way the politicians go with it.

Teen arrested for MySpace meet-up

Aug 1, 2006 04:17 PM

PENDER COUNTY -- The internet is a source of endless information, but it's also a place where predators can lurk, waiting to prey on underage teens and children.

Just recently authorities arrested a 19-year-old Virginia man for encounters with a 14-year-old Pender County girl.

Investigators say the two met through the popular website MySpace.

Authorities say 19-year-old Jonathan Nylen was caught red-handed having relations with an underage Pender County girl he met on the popular website MySpace. They say the relationship started in early 2006 and escaladed to the point where Nylen drove more than 300 miles to pursue the girl.

Det. Scott Lawson of the Pender County Sheriff's Office said, "He began contacting and conversing with a 14-year-old Pender County girl. Over the course of a couple of months they eventually exchanged enough information to where they met up with each other."

Authorities say Nylen drove down from his hometown of Springfield, Va. and met up with the girl on more than one occasion.

"And on one of those occasions some alleged inappropriate sexual activity took place," Det. Lawson said.

The girl's guardians did some investigating into her MySpace account and found out about the relationship. They then notified authorities who began their investigation into what kind of information was exchanged between the two through MySpace.

"I think what people don't understand is that if you type it and you save it we can access it. We can find out what you've talked about, what you've planned, what you know because someone has told you as far as who you are, where you live, or how old they may be," Det. Lawson said.

Investigators say Nylen knew the girl was 14 but pursued the relationship anyway. Now he's facing felony charges of statutory rape and first-degree kidnapping.

"He did not have, he being an adult, the right to take her anywhere, in North Carolina that's considered kidnapping."

Prosecutors in the case hope to have Nylen in front of a grand jury by next month. Until then Nylen is banned from coming to North Carolina and from having any contact with girl or anyone she knows.

Since the incident in Pender County authorities there are working to get parents more educated on protecting their children.

The Pender County Sheriff's Office now has free computer software called Computer Cop available to anyone who requests it.

The software is designed to run a scan of chats and websites visited on a computer and then flag certain hot-button words.

The software is also available if you live in New Hanover County. You can pick it software up at the Sheriff's Office, the Wilmington Police Department or the District Attorney's office. SOURCE

Colbert Analyzes Wikipedia

Over 100,000 views of this video from YouTube already. If you have not seen it take a look. Many comments are posted about how ironic this humor is and how they are offended by it, but the part I get from this is how "Wikialiaty" will impact our educational system. Education has this major issue with resistance to change. Ironically, technology can be an instrument of change in our classrooms if used for something besides an electronic worksheet. As a look forward a couple of days to the opening of a new school year, my mind tries to deal with changes and things that will never change. Knowledge and the ideas we ask our student to master has some major unchanged concepts. Like matter is made of atoms. 2000 years ago, this idea was a joke. Yet, we measure our schools on how successful we are, if we made AYP and such, based on shifting this? Wikialiaty would lead one to believe this is a valid and proper function of educational funding. If enough folks think it is the thing to do for children, then it must be a fact.

I read this today: Staff Relationships
Positive, self-motivated teachers are more receptive to good ideas and achieving than negative people—and they are more likely to work and put ideas to good use.

Therefore, when you choose a committee member, teammate, or mentor, consider attitude over experience.

Experience is very helpful, but it’s much easier to share new ideas and skills with a positive person than it is to change a negative person’s thinking.

It must be a Wikialiaty thing...

Texas Will Require Students to Complete Four Years of Science and Math: More Yee Haw for Schools

Texas Will Require Students to Complete Four Years of Science and Math

Beginning with freshmen in 2007-2008, Texas will require students to complete four years of science and math to graduate from high school. Struggling students may have the requirement reduced to three years of math and two years of science with school and parent permission. Teachers of electives concerned about their subject areas are asking state lawmakers to raise the number of elective credits for graduation. The only other state with a four-year requirement is Alabama. To read more in this online story from the Dallas Morning News, visit

North Carolina now requires Biology, Earth/Environmental Science, and one physical science, and 4 years of math only if the potential graduate is seeking admission to the UNC system of 4-year colleges.
(4th credit effective for first time ninth graders in 2002-2003)

Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and higher level math course with Algebra II as prerequisite OR Integrated Mathematics I, II, III, and a credit beyond Integrated Mathematics III.

CAREER PREP and COLLEGE TECH PREP Course of Study Requirements in mathematics require only 3 credits. These students are on a career pathway to attend 2 year community colleges and then transfer to a 4 year college, go to work, or the military. I understand through the grapevine that some higher level talks in our state are suggesting we do away with these two less challenging pathways for graduation. This could spell trouble IMHO. I remember when our schools removed summer school programs and said it was a waste of time and money. Drop out rates remained high and students continued to fail and those that could bare the stigma and stick around for a 5th year of high school finally, sometimes by the Grace of God, somehow passed enough courses to graduate. Are our students going to be better off with more science and math courses on the high school transcript? That is a good question. Will it increase our all ready horrible track record of 9th graders never making it to graduation night? I say probably it will. I think the current requirements are challenging for our students. I could see how it would make our state's curriculum look good, but how will it impact the lives of our students? What does the research say? Is the research valid and compelling?

Lots of questions. I have no answers, and am glad I am in the classroom, not having to way this issue. It is too hot to worry about it. My gout is trying to flare up and I need to get some more work done before starting back to work the 15th of August --

Monday, July 31, 2006

Brainiac Thermite and Liquid Nitrogen

This is an interesting demonstration for my science students to view.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

My Sunday Morning "Laptop Rant"

If you are reading this you must have lots of time for thinking, early on Sunday morning. In rural North Carolina, the birds are making their morning noises, and the traffic on old 74 Highway, outside my home, is peaceful. With gas at $2.98 per gallon, one would expect only those with a nicotine habit or the baby needing diapers, or a fool would be on the roads unless it was an emergency. The AC is running and the ceiling fan is on high. As I sit here reflecting on how much difference 24 hours makes, it was 97 degrees yesterday. Going to be hot as heck again today. With a nice breeze blowing and the shade of an old loblolly pine, it was almost pleasant. I convinced myself, with some loving help from my wife, to use my new Black and Decker hedge trimmer to trim four over grown Red Tips in the yard. (product placement time- wink) The hedge trimmer model I bought was battery powered. That tool must have been designed by my clone, because it has a limited run time. The moment both my arms were about to fall off, the battery began to die. Halleluiah Brother! I just smiled at my wife and said this dang battery is about dead. That was all it took. She has known me log enough to know I was so darn happy that be battery was dead. She said it would be ok to stop. My Saturday of yard work was almost finished; Black and Decker battery powered hedge trimmer-- my new best friend. I put the trimmed branches in the bed of my F150, filling it to capacity, and drove them to a brush pile on our property for composting. It was time for a cold shower and a power-nap.

My family deliberately sleeps late on Sunday. I got up early to take the dog for a walk. My arms are still weak from running that hedger the morning before. They will be sore on Monday. I need to get back in the gym. This hot weather saps my energy and I just can’t stand burning four dollars worth of gas to drive round-trip to Whiteville. It might be worth it, but for now, the heat is my excuse.

I really think watching TV depresses me way too much. All I see on TV is death and destruction on the news, violence and sassy-talk on the networks, and sex and drugs on FX, and the rest of satellite TV. If junk food can make one fat, then a diet of junk TV can make your brain fat...hum could this be is a good analogy? Basically, this is one of the issues education is in such a bad state in the US. No one has the guts to really stick there necks out and say, ok, our kids watch way to much brain junk food, they are eating to much crap and developing diabetes and other weight related maladies and we are way to spoiled. Take for example, borrowing from the words of an AP writer concerning the 10-day power outage in the Queens, New York:

City Council hearings on the blackout are scheduled for Monday, while a state Assembly hearing is scheduled for Thursday. On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, demanded an investigation of the utility's power grid capacity and infrastructure.

"It's clear we need an independent assessment of what ails the power grid before we have another blackout," the senator said in a statement.

On Friday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, toured the affected Queens streets and called the outage "a classic case of blunder after blunder."

Clinton asked the president to declare the neighborhood a disaster area, a step that could trigger federal aid.

Officials working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who resisted taking that move, said they don't believe the aftermath of the blackout meets federal criteria for a disaster.

New York Gov. George Pataki asked the federal government to offer low-interest disaster loans to Queens residents who suffered heavy losses.

By watching and listening to news from that region, you would have thought they had been hit by a terrorist attack. Special news bulletins, speeches from the mayor, hello, the flipping power grid broke and it takes time to fix it. Federal Disaster? PLEASE, it's a potential scam artist epidemic.

When North Carolina citizens were hit by hurricanes, and the power was off for nearly 15 days, folks just shook their heads and said thank God we are alive. I was appalled by the way folks that were interviewed in the Queens area and were asked how much business they lost during the power outage and one restaurant owner had the gall to try to say he lost $40,000 in business. Ah, from the looks of the diner, he would be lucky to have $40,000 of business in a whole year. Well it isn't a New Yorker thing, do not misunderstand what I am trying to say. Just look at all the reports of those Katrina scams. They are enough to make a taxpayer throw their hands up and demand that the next natural disaster, just let the victims fend for themselves. What is wrong with PEOPLE? This same mentality spills over into our schools.

IMHO, we are in deep poop and not a whole heck of a lot we can do to dig out of it in a hurry...PEACE

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The 100 science fiction books you just have to read!

Looking for something to do before school starts back? Tired of watching the crap on TV- re-runs and talk about a possible WWIII and the junk on YouTube?
Here is good place to start.
"Take my word for it; all science fiction books are not created equal. Many of these novels are award winners, and most have inspired profound trends in science fiction."

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Jellyfish swam N.C. shoreline

My daughter is visiting friends at the beach.  I hope she does not get stung. 

Here is what to watch for: (I know she is not reading this but, it makes me feel better)

CAROLINA BEACH -- Biologists at the Fort Fisher Aquarium say the recent tropical storm may be to blame for an over-abundance of jellyfish in local waters.

Several people are recovering Thursday from painful stings they got at Carolina Beach.

They're fun to see all lit up in an aquarium tank, but you don't want to run into jellyfish out in open water. Unfortunately our shore is seeing a spike in jellyfish numbers.

Fort Fisher aquarist Sandra Johnson said, "The recent tropical storm and other storms we might have during the summer just increases the wind speed, and jellies are dependent on winds and currents, so that pushes them ashore."  Source: webpage.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Informal Mentoring- Writing Your First Pacing Guide

Time is flying by during this summer break from teaching.

This week, a second year 6th grade science teacher asked an interesting question of me. How do I know what to teach so I can cover our standard course of study? That was an easy one of me to handle. Pacing Guides are what teacher calls them. My brother is an engineer and tells me they call it project management. I do not think this 6th grade teacher would want to devote the energy create a spreadsheet or database to track progress in his class. He knows how to check his email, make a CD play music on a computer, and how to search the web to find out who to call to book a goose hunting trip half way across the US. I do not mean anything ugly by this, he just does not have time to sit in front of a computer and click a bunch of boxes to keep up with data. Heck, there are not very many teachers that want to spend that kind of time on progress reporting. Electronic grade books are nice when it comes to printing out progress reports and averaging columns of grades. But it takes hours to set the preferences and enter assignments and then go back in and update the grades...

Personally, I hate electronic grade book programs. We are required to put numerical values on student assignments, heck it is the law. But, the law does not say you have to use electronic grade books- yet. I prefer portfolio assessments, but back to the pacing guide. I told him to get his teacher's edition and drop by the house and we would do some planning.

Over the past 20 years, I have made many many pacing guides. There are a few tricks that I have learned about hacking out these roadmaps to success. Now, these tips are not the only way to attempt them, they are straight from my thoughts. No, I not a PhD and do not play one on TV.

Materials needed for creating your own pacing guide for your 6th grade science class:
Computer, word processing program, printer and paper, photocopy machine, plastic tape and scissors, School Calendar, and testing schedule, length of class period devoted to science. This is important. If your school teaches science all year, which is best in humble opinion, or like some schools that teach science half the school year and social studies the rest of the year, this means you have to compress or layer the curriculum. Photocopy of National Standards and State Standard (in North Carolina, we call it our Standard Course of Study), If you have access to different colors of photocopy paper, copy the National Standards in a different color from you State or local standards. Teacher's Ancillaries- Textbook, lab manuals and test banks. Get a large 2 liter Diet Sundrop and some ice. Oh, get a couple of cups, clear off a big table, and adjust the AC to make sure the room is comfy. Turn off the darn cell phones and turn on some classical music. I don't care if you do like Country; it is not the time for that. Make sure your chair is comfortable not too comfortable- no napping allowed. I like to use a large flip chart and easel with chart markers. I take the flip chart sheet and fold it in to six equally sized columns. If your school uses 9 week grading periods, you can figure out how many columns you will need...anyway, now the environmental conditions are ready, lets looks at some steps to create our pacing guide.

Step 1: Rough Draft - Calendar/Dates Framework
Using the calendar, write in the dates that the grading periods begin and end on your flip chart. Now, use the teacher’s edition. Most textbook publishers, include a number of days it takes to cover specific chapters in your text. This is not a "written in stone" number. It is only a guide. Seasoned science teachers can tell you that you cannot teach rocks and minerals to 6th graders in a week. But if you spend six weeks on them, you will never cover the curriculum. Use a pencil and write in the number of days the teacher's edition recommends devoting to the chapters on rock, motion, etc.

Step 2: Correlation of Curriculum and textbook
Now, if you do not have a correlation between your textbook and your standard course of study, you have several avenues to try. Contact the textbook coordinator (your assistant principal if he/she is working in the summer, most are 10 month employees and you will not find them). Contact the principal of your school. If you can find the email address or website for your textbook see if they have free ones for your state. You could ask the teacher down the hall (but they are working at Wal-Mart or home working in their garden or in school getting certified). Don't panic, do what I do, just google it! Use enough keywords to narrow your search, like include words like 6th grade, science curriculum, and pacing guide, North Carolina. It worked great to find a Word document in just a few seconds. Dang, I love the Internet. Remember, it is only a "guide". You could make your own, but believe me, this is going to take hours and hours to complete.

Step 3: Cut and Paste
Cut your standard course of study into strips and lay them on the chart paper. Basically, it is time to cut and paste the curriculum on the chart paper to give you an idea of what it will look like at a glance. Using the correlation document, and the textbook's suggested amount of time it takes to instruct and access specific goals and objectives decide where it could fit. Write in the page and Chapter numbers on the chart paper next to the objectives.

Step 4: Tape it to the chart paper
So you can fold it up, tape everything down. Put up you work and let it rest a couple of days.

Step 5: Revision Time
Use the chart paper and the info you have (rough draft) and create a document from your work so far. If you have access to a digital document of the curriculum, you are going to be ahead of the game. Copy and paste it into your document. Be sure to include the National standards too. If you have a fellow science teacher that is teaching the same grade level, this is when you could email them a copy of what you have done and ask them to edit the number of days (keep an original). Again, this is something that you will be changing as you write your lesson plans and access student's mastery of the topics. You need time to reteach some lessons. Check to make sure you have included all the objectives and not left anything out! If you can not find an objective that is in your standard course of study in your textbook, you have to find lesson and activities that correlate with them. North Carolina has a site called that has correlated lesson plans.

Step 6: Publish it
Ok, after you have gone through all the goals and objectives, recorded the number of days to spend of them, and even pages numbers and chapters, and it has been checked by a couple of teachers that have experience teaching the subject and grade level, you may want to print out a copy and insert it in a three ring binder. Keep this notebook near your lesson planner. Revise, rewrite and revise again. One thing you might try is to set up a free wiki page at somewhere like Pbwiki or Wikispace. Then envite teachers that you know to contribute to the version during the school year. Posting links to online resources right in a pacing guide would be a great resource.

Well, time to sign off. This is a tough job, but teachers only work from 8-3 and have "all summer off". Yeah right.