Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Maine is on the map!

Maine now has Streetview enabled in Google Maps. If you haven't tried it, check it out. Below is my school. You can get an idea of how to move around. Too cool!

View Larger Map

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Is Your Web 2.0 Recession Proof?

While the current recession affects all parts of the economy I think it's going to really hit Web 2.0  hard. Many of the services that we've all come to rely on have been living on Angel investors and VC capital and have never found a way to make money. (I'm looking at you Sandy.)  That 'Easter egg' hunting we all do for the next cool web tool is going to get a lot harder. 

Now, I'm certain that long term this will simply be a lull and we'll press on, but has this reality influenced the tools we've selected to use? What do you do when your Web app of choice up and walks out on you? (This especially worries me with those I've pushed others to use the tech and it goes away.)  Of course to live with technology is to live with change, but if you have students work on a project for an extended amount of time and the tool they were using is discontinued, it's a hard thing to take.

 Vicki Davis and her students are going through this right now with Google's Lively. I don't think Google pulled Livelry because of money, but it's going away nontheless.  I love how the students are using this set back as a learning moment and suggesting to Google reasons and ways they could keep it going. I wish them luck and hope it works. (BTW the easiest place I've found to track the next company to go is: http://www.techcrunch.com/tag/deadpool)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Being Thankful

This week our eighth graders took part in an immigration unit. They were randomly split into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class citizens and had various things happen to them depending on their class. 1st class students sat in the front of the class, were first in line, etc. while 2nd and 3rd class had fewer perks 'deported' from free time back to the work room. You get the idea.

The whole experience was to have the kids get a better understanding of how influential the class structure has been in the United States. Students joked with each other about where they sat in the class and so forth and everything was going fine until lunchtime.

At lunch the small group of 1st class citizens were treated to pizza, soda and cake, they sat with each other and had a great time. The others had the regular school lunch, and if looks could kill . . . I hadn't seen these kids get that emotionally invested in anything so far this year. There were some who were really, REALLY mad. Back in class we talked about it, and their biggest complaint was how unfair it was. That some students, randomly mind you, were allowed to be selected for the 1st class life.

So, teachable moment. We talked about fair. What is fair, and how in almost every conceivable way, globally they would fall in the 1st class category. Not because of anything they did, but the freedoms and opportunities available to them.

Radiohead "All I Need."

I showed them this video by Radiohead and we discussed what's fair. And how, in this new flatter world, they will be in direct competition with these kids if there is any way they are able to get out of that life. Hopefully, my students not only become thankful for what they have, but will also become mindful of those who have not.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reflection on Google Teacher Academy NYC

I've finally been able to etch out some time to reflect about this last Google Teacher Academy. I usually like to wait a week anyway to think about them, but with Thanksgiving that turned into wayyy longer.

Anyway, once again the Google team pulled together an amazing group of educators and of course any attempt of making a list of attendees would invariably leave someone out, so I'll just focus on the day.

I've been lucky enough to have attended three GTA's and the one in New York seemed to have the best pace of the three. (I'm sure some felt it was too fast, but for me it was brisk but comfortable.) I heard as many comments about needed more pedagogy as needing more tech instruction, which I think says the day fell somewhere in the middle. For any group people you just try to strike that balance.

My only suggestion for next time would be to have the 'office hours' segment all in the larger room where we started the day. I think people could have grazed a little more going from table to table, asking questions. A very minor thing for a terrific day!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Student Tech Teams

This week I'll be presenting at the Maine ACTEM conference on Student Tech Teams. I bring students to most of the conferences that I attend and I'm very excited at the opportunity to showcase more of my students talents at this one.

I included my presentation below:

For more information: http://www.thetechclub.org

Friday, September 26, 2008

On GTA Chicago and "Dogfood"

So, I took the week to reflect about what I learned at the Google Teacher's Academy in Chicago. At the GTA in June, my major take away was the idea of space and environment and how much that influences one's thought. The Google experience is very much one of wonder and the joy from learning. It recognizes that your surroundings encourage innovation as much as those who you are with. I only hope to mimic that feeling in my own classroom, if not with brightly colored balls, at least I want my students to feel "innovative" when they come in.

This time it was the people. Not to say everyone I met in June wasn't fantastic, or to diminish the space of GTA Chicago in any way, (I was blown away by the local) but personally I think I was able to focus more on the other attendees. And what amazed and delighted me most was how, for many of us there, we'd been networked in ways we didn't even realize. I had a number of new GCTr's come up and tell me they heard me interviewed on a Seedlings podcast with Cheryl Oakes, Alice Barr and Bob Sprankle from a week prior to the GTA. I hadn't really thought about the reach of it all.

And of course the online conversations have continued as if they never stopped. What an amazing resource of people from all over. There was a phrase I picked up from one of the Googlers that I met there, it was to "Eat their own dogfood." I hadn't heard that before and she said it basically meant for them to use the products that Google makes. Now, in Google's case that didn't seem like a stretch for me, but it made me think about what I can offer in education.
Would I want to take the class that I teach? How much of my teachings are customized for me, rather then rest of the group? Would I 'eat my own dogfood' if I had the choice?

I like to think that I do all of these, but a little introspection is always a good thing, especially when it affects my students.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

K12 Online Conference

This year's K12 Online Conference is coming up in October. If you haven't heard of the conference before, this is the explanation from their site about the event.
"The K-12 Online Conference is a FREE conference is run by volunteers and open to everyone. The 2008 conference theme is “Amplifying Possibilities”. This year’s conference begins with a pre-conference keynote the week of October 13, 2008. The following two weeks, October 20-24 and October 27-31, forty presentations will be posted online to the conference blog for participants to download and view."
This year I was fortunate enough to be selected to present and I'm very excited! It's in the Getting Started strand and called The Google Gamut. The presentation will walk new users through the steps of getting started with the Web 2.0 world. Focusing on the services offered by Google.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Art Rage

When a small child approaches a PC for the first time and you want to give them a chance to play, what's the first program that you usually launch? I would guess Paint, which is exactly what I did for my three year old this week.

He loved moving the mouse and seeing the colors zipping across the screen, but I thought that there must be a better program out there for him to 'play' with and I found Art Rage 2.5

It's a graphic program where the tools try to mimic real art tools. The Paint Brush tool is not a single color but looks more like actual paint that 'globs' on and spreads thin as you use it. You can mix colors with the Knife tool and so on. You can add layers, stencils, and much more. It works with Mac or PC and there's a free download with some of the tools missing and it cost $25 for the full versions.

And most importantly, my son loves it ;)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Going Global

Dean Shareski recently posted a presentation he made called Going Global, Going Public. (It was even featured on the front page of Slideshare as the Slideshow of the Day.) My high school was mentioned in it for gifting domain names to every senior.

"Nokomis Regional High 2008 graduating class received their own name as a web address (or domain) that they would control. It's reserved for one year at which time they can purchase it, transfer the address or let it lapse, it's up to them. It is the equivalent of their 21st century business card and now they need to be active managers of their digital identity."

Friday, July 18, 2008

BLC08 Keynote - Ewan McIntosh

Watching Ewan McIntosh's keynote at Alan November's BLC08 conference reminded me of Will Richardson's post from last year's conference, he's a rock star plain and simple. He really has his head in the right place when it comes to working with students and getting the most out of them. Work with them as kids first, then worry about the technology.

During the conference last year I was lucky enough to bring students with me and one of them interviewed Ewan. You can hear it HERE. He is as real as it gets and an amazing resource of ideas.

Here's the keynote:

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Picture Book Websites

I've used these sites for awhile and commented about them on Wes Fryer's Speed of Creativity blog but I'm now realizing that I've never covered them here. They are www.lookybook.com and www.biguniverse.com

Both have a ton of picture books that you or your students can read and Lookybook even allows you to embed them which would be especially helpful if you wanted students to focus on a single story from the collection.

At the Big Universe site you not only can read picture books, you can create your own which is a great way for student to publish stories.

Monday, July 07, 2008


What's Plurk? Well, if you use Twitter, than you've got the idea plus or minus some features. (if you don't know what Twitter is, watch this video and you'll get the idea.)

The interesting thing to me about Plurk isn't the microblogging (we've had that) or another way to build a personal learning network (there are MANY ways for this to happen) but how one uses Plurk to build 'Karma.' Every users builds a karma value. One gets more karma by
  • Updating your profile (picture, location, birth day etc.) will gain your more karma
  • Quality plurking each day
  • Responses from other plurkers will gain you karma.
  • Inviting your real friends will boost your karma
So this concept immediately got me thinking about. Gaia Online. This site was a huge draw for many of my students last year. It's market's itself as the

"Gaia provides a fun, social environment that inspires individuality and creativity. With everything from art contests to discussion forums on poetry, politics, celebrities and more, to fully customizable profiles, digital characters and cars, Gaia is a place where teens can create their own space and express their individual style."

Sound familiar? Users, mostly teens, can go there and by chatting or playing collaborative games with each other earn gold to buy virtual clothes for their avatars. And believe me, they work they tail off for some digital image of a shirt or mask or whatever.

Educationally we must ask why they do this and how can we tap into this desire to produce. I had students who did not consider themselves writers who had made hundreds of posts to deck out their avatar.

For more info, here are my students explaining Gaia Online here in Part 1 and Part 2.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Reflections on the Golden Google Ticket

Yes, that's exactly what was going through my head as I walked through the Googleplex. I had received the 'Golden Ticket' and was wandering around the Chocolate Factory.

Google had this aura of creativity, fun and magic running through it. Exactly the feeling I want in my classroom. And it wasn't due to the hi-tech toys or heaps of food, it was the attitude that everyone is valued by their thoughts and contributions. Employees were respected for what they add to the mix. As were we. And for that, I thank the Google Teacher Academy and can't wait to start working with all those amazing GCTer's. (gotta come up with a better name:)

Just a note: There were some of us looking for more detailed answers about Google than were provided by our tour guides, (like how many worldwide employees - 19,156 as of March, etc.) so for those looking for more details, check out The Google Story. I read it before I went out and it put an interesting angle on the day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Google Teacher Academy

To kick off my summer personal/professional development I'm headed to the Google Teacher Academy. I have high hopes for the conference and look forward to what I'll learn from the experience!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

iPods in Education

This is part of the presentation on the educational use of iPods for staff at one of our year-end workshops. The district is providing iPods for teachers to sign out over the summer and to become familiar with them. (and do some professional / personal development in the process.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Osprey of Sebasticook

Early last month the students and I set up a live web camera on an osprey nest near the Sebasticook Valley Middle School. To check out the webcam click HERE.

We also created a photo book of the experience. Click HERE to see it in full screen or to purchase the book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Student Technology Showcase

Our Fourth Student Technology Showcase was a great success. We had well over 100 students, parents and teachers. Students showed their parents some of the technology that they use in school everyday. For more information click: Student Technology Showcase

Channel 5 Story on our 2008 Student Technology Showcase

Monday, June 09, 2008

"What's in a Name?"

This weekend the Nokomis Regional High 2008 graduating class received their own name as a web address (or domain) that they would control. It's reserved for one year at which time they can purchase it, transfer the address or let it lapse, it's up to them. It is the equivalent of their 21st century business card and now they need to be active managers of their digital identity.

You can see the information that the students were given, here:


This is the video students were shown giving them ideas on the benefits of the gift.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Variations of Design

Thinking about the flood video in my last post, I though it would be useful show variations of the production that my students went through. The text is the same throughout, the only difference is design. Going from a written essay, to a slide show, to an audio 'photo story' and finally to full video. This isn't to say that the video option is always the best one, but from a presentation standpoint, which one do you prefer?


Click to see the text.





Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Flood of '87

An example of one of our video projects. One student wrote the script, another narrated and another edited the video. It's an interesting way for the kids to learn to work together and how their part of the creative effort goes toward a larger goal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Google Suite

View a full screen version of this overview of the Google Suite of online applications.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spreading the Word

A big thank you goes out to Will Richardson for the mention of The Tech Curve in his latest article in District Administration magazine.

The article entitled, "Now Playing: The Live Web" discusses how live interaction on the internet is changing the game.

"...more and more tools are allowing realtime
and interaction among global audiences."

Also a great big thank you goes to Cheryl Oakes who mentioned my students on the Tech Learning Blog referring to the interview they did on the latest WOW20 podcast.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"What does technology integration look like?"

A question had been circulating throughout the ACTEM list serv that I subscribe to. (ACTEM is the Maine technology educators group) and one member asked

"What does technology integration look like?"

Being a Technology Integrator myself I find this question really important and like David Jakes I realize that we should be well beyond the need for the term integration and the tech should be part of the daily life of a teacher. Because that is not yet the case, here are three rules of thumb I use for tech integration in the classroom:

#1) Replace, don't add on.
Nothing seems so trendy as education, and this is especially true when talking tech. I think the approach should be to replace an existing task teachers have rather than piling one more thing on. And if a task isn't going to be improved by using technology, don't force it!

#2) Honesty about the tech curve.
The 'Tech Curve' is that period of time it takes to learn anything new (not just tech) and how during that time your productivity actually will go down. Integrators must build enough trust that the teachers will take that initial effort to see their productivity go farther than they ever could have without the technology.

#3) Use the technology yourself, WITH STUDENTS!
I often read or hear suggestions about using this gadget or that website. But, unless the integrator has used the tech in a classroom setting with students I hold off passing it on. It's difficult to answer all the inevitable questions that will come up, usually it's the things you don't plan for, but could thwart a great idea. If you don't take the time, teachers will pay the price and you'll lose some of that trust you've built. (See #2)

This list doesn't cover everything, of course, but it seems to work for me as a rule of thumb when I'm looking a new projects to work on with teachers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Women of Web 2.0

Too cool for school!! Alice Barr and I were asked to bring some students with us to be interviewed on this weeks Women of Web 2.0 podcast.

You can find the audio here: http://www.edtechtalk.com/node/3078

The kids did an amazing job, and I hope it starts something more - maybe a student led tech help show of some kind, much like The Tech Curve Show, we'll have to see . . .

Monday, March 17, 2008

Student Technology Showcase

The third Student Technology Showcase at Sebasticook Valley Middle School was a great success. Sebasticook students showed off many of the technology projects they've been working on this year. It was a real hands on day where students, parents, and friends were encouraged to participate in activities throughout the school.
These included, programming robots, racing boats or building a skateboard. Attendees commented on student weblogs, created songs with GarageBand, found satellite images of their homes with Google Earth, created programs using the language Scratch, watched animated stories from Mrs. Bickford's fifth grade class and much, much more.

There were a few contests going on as well. The People's Choice Award for skateboard design won a Zoo York board. The winner from those who completed the scavenger hunt drawing with over 100 entries also won an iPod. Be looking for another Technology Showcase at the end of the year at Somerset Valley Middle School. Please go to www.itsvms.com for more information.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Twitter Two-Step

Bob Sprankle recently posted about Twitter and it's something I've been thinking about with my own experience. (For a better explanation of what Twitter is than I could easily make, check out Common Craft's video below.)

So what happens is what I call the Twitter Two-Step. Someone follows me, then I receive an email asking to follow them. A quick scan of their page and I make the snap decision of whether to follow them or not. Talk about superficial. 99% of my how I lean is based on who they're following. Though I only have about 100 followers, (chump change compared to many) it still seems an odd way to develop a network.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Presentation Zen

I just finished the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds which carries the subtitle: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. If I had to sum it up in three words, 'Less is more.'
Not that it's surprising, but still a worthwhile reminder. Especially for anyone who has been stuck in front of The Powerpoint Presentation from H---

I think a great video that showcases how much design influences content, in done in an easily accessible way is this Youtube video which was actually created by some members of Microsoft.

"Microsoft Re-Designs the Ipod Packaging

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008


Here's a sample of the www.issuu.com website where you can take PDF files, upload them to your account and offer them as a 'webzine' or web based magazine. If you do not have a PDF creator, try Primo PDF Creator, a free application that creates PDF's from Microsoft Word.

Friday, February 22, 2008


A group of student from Nokomis Regional High were lucky enough to tour Italy during the February break.

They have been sharing some of the stories and pictures from their trip here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Last Wednesday we had a snow day throughout much of the State, and I was lucky enough to join Alice Barr, Cheryl Oakes and Bob Sprankle in a Seedlings podcast.

Find the show notes that Bob has on his site here.

We cover some education netiquette, crowdsourcing, and the PBS Frontline piece "Growing Up Online." And yes, that is my son yelling for me in the background :)

Saturday, February 09, 2008


My son has really been into puzzles lately.

When I say 'in' I mean that almost every evening we pull out a box, spill it on the floor and start putting it back together again. As we're playing, the teacher in me wants to keep nudging, guiding or (what I consider) helping him find the place for each piece. I have to make myself stop 'helping' and let him try forcing a piece somewhere it won't go or try, fail and get frustrated with the same piece until . . . ahhhh, it fits.

This nightly practice has made me think about teaching and how in our genuine effort to help our students, we find it realllly hard to watch them stub their toe when we know it's coming and we can stop it. With a word sometimes we know we can guide them, but we have to let them fail successfully, and learn in the process. There's a great quote by Garr Reynolds,"The destructive process is part of the creative process." If the work students are doing, doesn't provide the rigor where mistakes are expected, understood as part of the process and built on, how do they learn.

Of course they must be expected to move beyond the setback, but when it's existence is understood to be part of the route students must take to complete the task, well lets just say it's a lot more meaningful to them when they're done.

Thanks to Sharon Peters linking me to Miguel Guhlin's presentation which got me thinking about all of this.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Tech Curve Show - Episode 7

As follow up to my previous post, some of my high school students watch and discussed parts of the Frontline video 'Growing Up Online' and there is some discussion of the OLPC.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Frontline's "Growing Up Online"

The Frontline had an interesting episode earlier this week called Growing Up Online. It's certainly worth your time if you're a parent or teacher and there were are number of posts across the net about it. One post I thought was noteworthy was from Doug Johnson's blog. He makes the distinction between 'entertain' and 'engage' and I couldn't agree more.

The entertainment angle is something I'm hearing in more and more in edutech conversations around games in education or 'edutainment' (dreadful word) and something that would get the hackles up of many of my staff, "I'm not here to entertain them!" is a direct quote. At the same time just doing the traditional Chalk Talk is going to lose them. So, where do we go from here? We have to find, what Seymour Papert calls, the hard fun in what we're doing.

The most critical thing I took from the Frontline piece is how the students were craving the attention of others, not that that's anything new. A favorite past time of my 2 year old is to mug in front of the camera on our Mac (like I assume everyone does the first time they discover PhotoBooth.) But we no longer provide the audience our kids are looking for. It's a strange new world where everyone is a 'friend' with each other, before they even know their name. This is where we, as educators, must come in. Providing a real audience for our students is a way not only to engage them but tap into something they already are passionate about.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Multiple User Google Accounts

For anyone with more than one Google account who's tired of logging out and in again, and uses Firefox - I have the addon for you! (Two actually)

First install the Grease Monkey Firefox add-on Grease Monkey "Allows you to customize the way a webpage displays using small bits of JavaScript" but it's certainly more geared to the technically minded. The good thing is many people have made scripts to share like:

Second go to userscripts.org and install it. Once you are logged into your Google Account, where it had once said Sign Out, it now has a pull down to easily switch between different accounts.

For anyone not familiar with Google Apps here's a previous post about what's offered.

Stimulating Survery

One of the blogs I read is Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevant and he recently posted an Edublogger's survey Which I recommend for anyone with a blog, the thing is . . . once I did the survey, I realized how much I've enjoyed blogging and how much I miss doing it. I keep putting it on the back burner whenever something else comes up. And so, I've made a New Year's resolution (the first ever I think) to start being more diligent about posting, ok, here goes . . .

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Tech Curve - Episode 5

The Tech Curve
Episode 5
(If you cannot see the video below, please unblock BESS)


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Google Presentations now Embeddable

Google Presentations now can be embedded into web pages, blogs or where ever. It was just a matter of time for this feature, like YouTube videos, or other gadgets. And now it's here!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Analog television

Even though this seems like an unlikely subject for the new year, I had someone tell me that over the holiday break that they had been in a nameless electronics box store and "the guy there told me I would have to by a new T.V. this year because everything's going digital and my old one isn't going to work."

First off, not true. Of course the salesperson there is going to tell you whatever you need to hear to get you to buy that new, big screen 50' plasma TV with optional cup holders.
What is really going to happen can be found here: http://dtv2009.gov