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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.

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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 Photobucket.com. 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 iLounge.com 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 Bloglines.com 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 Grazr.com 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 BubbleShare.com, 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 http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/071706dnmetrequired.1a20f17.html.

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 --