Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Yoda

Marco Torres often talks about finding one's Yoda. A mentor who you can look to for guidance and help from but it technology questions or educational ones.

Today I found mine - My two year old son.

Here's the story:
My wife, two year old son and I were getting ready for dinner and he told his mom, "I'm hungry." While preparing the meal she said, "It's not quite ready yet."

He looked at her, tilted his head to one side and asked,
"Is it buffering?"

As this school year begins, my son reminds me that we as educators must always be mindful of what we say and do around our kids. Anything you say or do may be an educational experience for a child.

And you never know what will stick with them!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Digital Information Literacy

A good video about digital literacy, thanks to Jim Burke for the link!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Following up on my last post, I realized that with the use of one Google login, a really good password is more important that ever. The best kinds incorporate numbers and symbols and are at least eight characters.

One way I use to remember longer passwords with a variety of symbols is to come up with a phrase where the first letter of each word comprising the password. The phrase should have at least eight words in it.

For example: "I Like To Work With Students And Teachers" becomes: "iltwwsat"

Because you're using a phrase, just say it in your head as you type the (seemingly) nonsensical word. Also, you can replace words like 'To' with '2' and maybe an 'S' with a '$' so the final result would be

Another thing you can do is add the first letter of whatever website you're on to the end of the password. That way, you have a different password for every site, but you still only have to remember one. So if you went to Amazon it would be:


while in Ebay it would be:

Don't forget to periodically it too because all the security and firewalls in the world can't stop someone if they have your password.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Ok, we all know Google is the uber-search engine of the net. Able to find all kinds of info in a single bound. But, many do not know about all the services Google offers and most users are not interested in having another login for each of them. One of things I love of about Google for Educators is that users can have one login to access a ton of services, Now, there may be better examples of individual services, but when users can log on to all of them from one place - it's well worth it.

Take Blogger for instance, there are arguably better blogging platforms available, (Wordpress, Typepad, etc) but with Blogger, you can post directly from Google Docs or link to images in Picassa or video in Google Video - all with one login.

I'm going to get what I see as two biggest problems out of the way, 1) Access 2) Privacy 1) If you do not have reliable internet access, then you don't have Google Apps. They are working on something called Google Gears that will allow blogs from Google Reader and Gmail to download and sync with your computer whenever you on the net. 2) Privacy concerns are always a part of being online. Having so much information about yourself in one place can be scary, depending on what they do with it. For a far more detailed discussion about online privacy than I can put here, check out

So, here are some of things you get when you 'Go Google.' (BTW It's better to setup a GMail Account not a Google Account. You'd think there should be any difference, but a GMail Account gives you more access to services.

Some of the biggest boons of using the services is hardware doesn't matter, Mac, PC, Linux as long as you have web access. And your data follows you on what ever computer you're using.
And it's all FREE. The only costs if you want to upgrade some of the services, but I have yet to have had to do that with any of them.

GMail - a web based email service, much like Hotmail or Yahoo but with 3gigs of free space.

Google Calendar - Very useful to share, publish or just manage your calendars. Especially when those you have to coordinate with have an account too.

Google Docs - an online word processing and spreadsheet application that lets you easily collaborate with other Google users. This is a terrific service that I use daily.

Blogger - Google's blogging platform

Google Reader
- An aggragator that pulls info from all those blogs into on place. Works great with an iGoogle page.

iGoogle - Set up a personalize homepage that follows you with every computer you log in to.

Page Creator - Create a template driven webpage in seconds. Literally. The hardest part is selecting a color scheme. Here are a couple examples: and

Google Browser Sync - If you use multiple computers, this will sync all your preferences bringing passwords and bookmarks with you.

Google Anayltics - Anyone that has a blog or web page can use this to get incredibly detailed information about their site.

Google Groups - Create, manage and work with forums. A easy way to store and encourage discussion.

Google Talk - Much like Skype, but without the ability to call a landline number. This may change, however, because Google bought Grand Central. A service that coordinates ones phone numbers.

Google Blog Search - Even though Technorati is more well known, I've found this search to actually be more thorough when looking for something.

Picassa - Google's image editor and thumbnail viewer. There are better lightweight free image editors out there (Irfanview I'm looking at you.) But, with the ability to make a Web Album with the click of a button, it can't be beat.

Google Video - This is one of those services that you can find better quality out there, but If you only need to quickly load something (and larger that 100mb YouTube) than this works fine.

Google Earth - Not a web based app, but too cool not to mention.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spreading F.U.D.

What is F.U.D. you ask?
F.U.D. stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.
Something that usually Freezes, Upsets and Discourages progress.

Jeff Utecht from the Thinking Stick blog commented on this recently stating we're "Putting them in a Bubble" and I couldn't agree more.

When I discuss the use of disruptive technologies in the classroom with some teachers, their first response is, "Yeah, but how can I control it."

I am, of course, not in favor of a classroom free-for-all, but if we can't beyond the possibility that one student might type a naughty word (just like they could do now) and weigh that against all the positive discussions and collaboration that can happen, then we are truly stuck.

Yes, it's easier to ignore what the students are doing on their own at home, but what a disservice to our students. For me, it would be the equivalent of not teaching drivers education because one of the students might do something dangerous. As a system we've weighed the pros and cons and recognize value is worth more than the possible pitfalls. I hope this will carry over to the use of communication tech tools in the classroom, and we can help our students see outside the bubble.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Old Dog - New Tricks

As the new school year rapidly approaches, I want to ask something I usually begin my workshops with. Do you know where the layout of your QWERTY keyboard came from?

No? Well, the placement of letters comes from a time when people could type faster than their typewriters could keep up. Keys would get jammed in a terrific mess of metal and ink. By placing frequently used keys, like vowels, in harder to reach places, users were slowed down.

Now, examine keyboard in front of you.

The placement of the keys has been the same since 1873. There are newer, redesigned keyboards that allow faster typing such as the Dvorak keyboard. Introduced in 1936 it arranges the keys for the greatest efficiency. But, overwhelmingly we use what is given to us.
What we have always known and are comfortable with.

Sound familiar?

Many teach how they were taught, and I won't belabor the point, but the world is different. It's flat right?

If I handed you a new keyboard, it would undoubtedly take time to unlearn how you type and relearn the new positions. During that time, productivity would down and frustration would ensue. Yet, with the understanding that ultimately, speed and accuracy will improve with time and practice until you have surpassed what you were capable of before.

Such is all new learning.
Don't let only what you're comfortable with limit where you can go!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

iPod Manual

For anyone looking for a easy to read manual for their iPod Nano, I had students last year take the 60 page manual from Apple and reduce it to a 8 page graphic FAQ that covers the typical questions new users ask. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2007

OLPC Machine

Matthew Hockenberry of demonstrates the one laptop per child's fourth production prototype of the 'hundred-dollar laptop' at siggraph 2007 - video by Leonardo Bonanni of

Monday, August 06, 2007

Firefox Addons

Some time ago on Twitter John Pederson asked what other blogger's desktops looked like. It got me thinking about my own desktop and I realized, my Firefox web browser has become my desktop. It's so customizable and with the use of so many web 2.0 web applications I have my desktop where ever I go.

I know there are virtual desktops available, but I've found I can tweak the browser to my own specs. So, I decided to put together some of the add-ons that I've found most useful.

8 Random Facts

First, the Rules:

1. Post these rules before you give your facts
2. List 8 random facts about yourself
3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) other people and list their names, linking to them
4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

So here are the 8 facts:

1. I do not like chocolate.

2. I can balance with one foot on a basketball and juggle.

3. I taught in New Zealand.

4. I'm something of a Simpsons-aholic.

5. I took an astronomy course at Colby College in 6th Grade.

6. I'm teaching my two year old to recognize Star Wars characters on sight.

7. I usually have three books going at the same time.

8. I love my job!

Tag - you're it.

Sharon P.

Keith K.

Ben W.

Jayson C.

Dan V.


For those of you who haven't tried Microsoft's Photosynth - now is the time. They have 1000's of images of the Endeavour Space Shuttle on the launch pad. You can fly around and zoom in. A cool way to see the shuttle.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Kid Logic

I know the NPR radio show This American Life covers a lot of ground, not all of it appropriate for kids, but one of the best episodes they've done was called Kid Logic. "Stories of kids using perfectly logical arguments, and arriving at perfectly wrong conclusions."

Very cute and worth a listen.

The Binary Bubble

When being more connected makes you less informed.

I've always been a news junkie, rarely listening to music on the radio when I can listen to news. When the TV was on it was usually on a 24 hour news channels.

Enter Web 2.0

Now, because I readily have news, blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. all sent to me with minimal effort, I have not watched or read or listened to a traditional news source in a looooong while. Every time I tune in, a commercial starts or a story I'm not interested in. So I fire up the iPod or feed reader and pull up something that I find more engaging.

I thought it something of an informational nirvana - few ads, compelling content and all tailored to my schedule.

And yet, I've been recently wondering about what I'm missing. I don't mean the ads of course, but the information that I used to pick up with traditional, passive, media. When I'd flip through the news paper, I would invariably see stories that I wouldn't have been looking for, but because they're there read, find interesting and ultimately make me more informed. I wonder that because it's so easy to narrow the information stream that comes to me, am I becoming less knowledgeable about what's going on beyond my news reader.

One resource I use that helps is Digg (or better yet, Digg Swarm.) The problem is, it's not local stuff and is still pretty tech heavy in content. I haven't decided how this will all pan out yet, but in the mean time, I think I'm going to start reading the paper again.

Two Cool Web Tools

Two cool web tools that I thought might work well together in the classroom as a resource or just as an easy way to see and manipulate a lot of data fast.

The World Clock

Google Gapminder

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Maine is Different

David Warlick discusses our conversations with students at the Summer Teacher Leader Institute on his blog here entitled Maine is Different.

And as a side note, I truly believe in that title. It would be easy to say that it's the tech - (our 1to1 Maine Learning Technology Initiative has put laptops in the hands of every 7th and 8th grader, and is now moving to high school staff statewide.)

But if it was just about the technology, it would have failed long ago as so many other programs without a specific educational rational to them. There has to be an educational baseline to the technology, period. Without that, why bother.

As David mentioned, one of my students is an Apple Developer and has the opportunity to preview Apple software before release. He, as well as a number of my students, help conduct professional development for teachers throughout the year. Once again, students as teachers - teachers as students.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Even Elmo uses email.

Anyone who has young children knows Elmo - intimately. Yet watching Sesame Street with my son today, something stuck me. In every episode of Elmo's World, he gets a video email from someone on Sesame Street. Now, in context that's pretty tame compared to talking dinosaurs and green monsters. But, for my two year old, it must seem completely natural and probably wonders why dad doesn't get as many video emails as Elmo does.

I noticed this in the Curious George movie last year. In one scene, the man in the yellow hat takes a cell phone image in Africa and sends it to his bosses computer in the U.S. The audience takes it in stride, but I was thinking through all the techie steps it would take pull that off. Now I know, it's a cartoon movie, but it's quite a process and I'm sure the kids see it as no big deal.

I'm not sure what to make of it yet with my own son, but I know he's already hooked.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The best laid plans . . .

. . . well you know the rest.

I brought a couple of my students to Castine to interview David Warlick. We did have a great opportunity to hear him present and talk with him afterwards. David was very gracious to the kids and one of the students showed him Leopard - the new Mac OS that's coming out in October. (The student is a Mac Developer, that's right and 14 :)

Anyway, on the way home we tried listening to the interview and something had happened to it. I'm not sure but it was probably a setting or something. Ahhh, technology, you're a fickle mistress. Oh well, we took some great pictures and the students had a good time. If you want more information about the conference, check out Jim Burke's blog and Cheryl Oakes entries on the wiki

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Digital Students in Analog Schools

I shared this on the Maine ACTEM listserv and received quite a few responses, so I thought I'd re-post it here. Also, we had the change to interview the students of Marco Torres that created this video, you can find it here.