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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