Monday, December 28, 2009

Project Based Presents

For Christmas, my family swaps gifts that we make for each other. We draw names from a hat the year before and even the youngest toddler is in the mix. Everyone participates, everyone creates something and everyone loves it. (My brother Keith usually out does us all with some ridiculous computer he builds for one of the kids ;)

This year, I helped my four year old son create this one minute video as his gift to his five year old cousin Liz. He wrote the story, painted the pictures and then I recorded his narration. I built what is basically a moving slideshow. The final step was to put it on StoryKit on her iPod Touch. Here's the iPhone version.

Unmitigated cuteness aside, I've thought a lot about the educational process that went on here.
  • How fun it was for him, even though it could have been perceived by him as an 'assignment.'
  • How much the public presentation of the video influenced the work.
  • What he learned about story telling and the writing process.
Now granted, Dad had a heavy hand with the technological parts of the gift, but the images and words were all his.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Updating iTunes on a Maine MLTI MacBook

Every year the iPod is one of the most popular holiday gifts out there and I'm sure this season will be no different. Especially since the new iPod Nano has a built in video camera and my personal favorite there's the iPod Touch. The issue is that the newer iPod's need iTunes 9 to work. iTunes 9 needs Safari 4 to work, however if you download Safari you get version 4.0.4 which only works on OSX 10.5.8, and the MLTI MacBooks have 10.5.7

Confused yet?

All you have to know is this:
Enjoy that new iPod!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The iPod Touch in the Classroom

For the recent K12 Online Conference, I did a session on the iPod Touch in the Classroom. Now that it has been published, I can blog here with the link for the supporting documentation: and below I strung the videos together using Prezi. I've been wanting to try Prezi out and this was a good reason to do so. (Also for those who watched the video on the K12 site, there's an additional 'easter egg' at the end.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

GTA DC Gadgets

One of the highlights of the Google Teacher Academy is Ronald Ho's run through of hidden features in Google Spreadsheets. On the plane home I was thinking about how some of the gadgets he shared and how I could use them with my teachers. Here's a few I came up with.

The first is way for teachers to create a Flashcard gadget they can post on their site or blog. What excited one of my teachers specifically was the ability for her to create different sets of terms for different unit and put them on different spreadsheet tabs. That way, she only needs to alter the range (where the gadget pulls the list from) and her site is updated with flashcards for the next unit.

Next is a template for Book Entry. We have a requirement that students must read 25 books a year and the management of recording all that data can become overwhelming. This Booklist Template uses a Form to enter the information, and dates, counts and creates a graph of the data. Not the coolest use of a gadget, but useful. (BTW I went with the BookWorm in the Bars of Stuff Gadget, but I really wish they would have some more educational oriented images like books, apples or school buses. I think it would get used a lot more.)

Finally, a teacher was making a Word Find for elementary students. She wanted a holiday theme, so we put three words in the spreadsheet, (holiday, tree, ornament) used the Magic Fill for the rest (explanation here) and we had a list of 20 holiday themed words. Insert the Word Find gadget that pulls from the list and wahlah you have a Word Find to print or embed in a webpage. I did remind her that this pure unadulterated busy work but if the time she saved in making it translates into something more educationally meaningful, then I was all for it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

RSU #19 Google Apps for Education Plan

At the recent Maine Google Workshop for Educators I promised to post how my district R.S.U. #19 is using Google Apps for Education (G.A.E.) from a long term managerial perspective. We are using Apps for our student's electronic portfolios as well as expansive communication throughout the district. The structure of our district is 5 buildings PreK - 4, two 5 - 8, one PreK - 8 and a 9 - 12 high school. We have under 3,000 students district wide.

Why Google? Rather than revisit this, please see my previous post and presentation I will be giving to the state superintendents with my students on the topic.

We created a separate domain for each grade level. Because the settings in a G.A.E. domain are the same throughout, we opted to currently do not have granular controls on settings, this way one domains settings apply to a single grade level, which may look different from a 1st grade to a 7th grade.

Naming Conventions
We have students choose an avatar (a nickname) to use for their account. Most students are familiar with the concept of creating an avatar for Club Penguin or Runescape. We have students create an name that will be their online presence until 8th grade (more on that later.) There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I want students to appreciate the importance of selecting a name online that portrays an image that they are comfortable with later on. Invariably I have students who in 5th grade chose something like Fuzzy Bunny and by 7th grade want to change it. The purpose is so they understand when they apply for that job or college interview and the interviewer asks for an email address to reach them they're not using or something equally unprofessional.

Here are the rules we use for student avatars.
1) Nothing that relates to or stems from a students real name.
2) No copyrighted names. I want these to be the students, not simply their favorite cartoon character of the day.
3) Not an avatar name they've used elsewhere.
3) No numbers (the reason why below.)

What they can use to create their avatar names:
Colors, animals, foods, nature, sports.

We follow the name selected with a number with district and year of graduation. This makes it easier for us to sort later on by grade level, and assures the student will be able to get the name in 8th Grade.

Pre-K through 4th Grade
Of course at the younger grades of course the teachers play a greater part in helping students digitizing their work, but as a platform for teachers to use for staff work and collaboration.

5th and 6th Grade
Students at these grade are far more involved and with each G.A.E. domain, student collaborate on work and hand in assignments to their teachers. It's also important to note that all the students in a grade level are within the same domain, this means that students work collaboratively on projects across the district. Last year, students work together in groups and the stipulation we told the kids was that the other kids in your group cannot be in the same room. We're developing a similar project, but the groups cannot be in the same school.

7th Grade
Since all students and teachers have 1 to 1 laptops, that raises the bar as to what can be expected. The 7th Grade is in a domain, but the expectation is working toward paperless classrooms. The best way to understand how this works is to see it in action. The classes in our district that have embraced it fully are so fun to watch. The best part, the students have no idea that it could be different. "Of course we hand in work this way Mr. Kelley, how else would you do it?" Reminds me of the saying, "How do you explain water to a fish?"

Side Bar: It's important that the onus of the digitization of work ultimately falls upon the students. The teachers are expected to score the results, but the students are responsible on converting, uploading, or whatever needs to be done to get the work there. The students are in charge of their work. They have to be. That doesn't mean that every student jumps on board initially just because they're using a computer. The reality is, if they are allowed to get away with the excuse. "the computer ate my homework," then they'll use it. But if the understanding up front is that they have to develop ways to manage they're own work, that's a life lesson we all need. Back up often.

Eighth Grade
Here it gets interesting. Eighth grade starts with the work of creating individual Google accounts outside of domains with students and transfer their work from the existing domain to the new account. This is a good time for portfolio weeding as the digital portfolio was never meant to be a 'glut' folder of everything. This can be a time for students to manage what stays and what goes. Remember, no real names, no scores and permission slips.

There are a couple reasons we go from the G.A.E. domain to individual accounts.

1) Portability. A portfolio's got to be web based now. The idea of handing out a Powerpoint on a CD isn't going to cut it. Traditionally the work a student creates in school, stays there when they leave. I think it's important for students to realize what they've learned is worth taking with them.

2) More features. A full account has a ton more services available to the students than a Google Apps.

As for Google Account creation, there are a couple important things to know before you dive in. Since we presently use First Class for our student email, that is the address used as a second account. This technically gives us a 'back door' into the account if something dramatic occurs and we have to take action. At the same time, because we are not going to maintain a students First Class account once they've graduated, we release our way in once they graduate.

9th & 10th Grade
Portfolio building time.

11th Grade
Student manages their portfolio. At this point a student probably has a good idea of what career path they're interested in pursuing. If it's the arts, then they can focus the portfolio on the arts, if science, then they can splash their best science work on the front. They can customize and focus their portfolio.

12th Grade
For a few years now, R.S.U. #19 has gifted every graduating senior with their own domain name. Something like, This is the first time we have linked the students real name with their virtual one. When my students go to a job or college interview, they can give their website as their 21st century business card.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Breakthrough Learning Conference

Last week I was honored to be invited to the Breakthrough Learning Conference the Googleplex in Mountain View. This event brought together some of the brightest and most influential minds about education out there, and put them together at one place and time. (Check out the list of attendees here.) One of the recurring themes throughout the event seemed to be, "Let's really make something happen here." with some discussion about it being a sprint or marathon to substantive change in the education system. I felt that an important aspect was this conference was bringing together top players from all the sectors, education, tech companies, philanthropic organizations, etc. Of course we all have a vested interest in the outcome of a quality education system. One thing that came up was the question of, if it's too late. John Merrow stated it clearly which Mike Lawrence tweeted here:

And regardless if you feel that way, the change is imminent. Building off of this, I see this momentum as the perfect opportunity to conduct the practices that we've always wanted. If technology is the medium in which teachers feel comfortable sitting beside their students and learning with them, then fine. There's no better way to learn a topic than to have to teach it to others. And where teachers may no feel comfortable learning beside their students on algebra or reading, they usually have no problem having a student show them how to post to a blog. If you are not a learner, then you are not a teacher. Since this 'tech stuff' is the latest wave, we should use it as the medium to change the learning for the better. If I had been given the power to give out an actionable item to the group, it would be go to the source. Start bottom up with students as mentors for the adults in their lives. When the onus of their education is put on them, they will respond.

Side Note: One of the highlights of the trip (and the envy of my 4 year old) had to be seeing Grover.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Google?

Recently I was in a conversation with Richard Byrne and my Tech Director and she was teasing me that I should read Richard's blog more often, I might find more tools out there than Google. It was all in fun, but it got me thinking, exactly, why do I default to Google tools when asked? I thought that articulating my rationale would be beneficial. There's always the concern that someone might think I suggest a service because I like the brand rather than its worth. It's important that my staff realizes that I've looked at all the choices out there and pick what I think is the best fit for them. So here goes,

Reason One - With a single login, teachers have access to dozens of free services. I include a list that shows the Google service and its equivalent. I didn't include every one, but you get the idea. Arguably there are some on the right that are better than those from Google and there are many more that cannot appear on the left, (Animoto, VoiceThread, Prezi to name a few) but you get the idea. Most educators don't want 25 sets of logins and passwords.

Google Tool Equivalent
Google Search Yahoo (now Bing) / Ask
Gmail Yahoo / Hotmail
Google Docs Zoho
Google Calendar
Bookmarks Delicious
Blogger WordPress,
YouTube Vimeo,
Google Maps MapQuest
Google Earth
Google Groups
Image Search
Sites Wikispaces, PBWorks, Wetpaint
Reader Bloglines, Netvibes
Talk / Video Skype
Translate Babelfish
Picasa Flickr / iPhoto

Reason Two - Google's not going anywhere. Last year I wrote a post "Is your Web 2.0 Recession Proof." There are many web 2.0 services that I love to use with the implicate understanding that they can go away for finicial, legal or no reason at all and the time and energy I put into that service is gone. Now, I'm comfortable with that possibility, but that would make many of my staff nervous. I can envision the conversation, "You mean all my stuff is just . . . gone?" So, while I'll push certain sites for projects, I never want a teacher's year long tech project work to appear on TechCrunch's Deadpool list. When was the last time you asked yourself, I don't think I should use Apple products, because they might 'go away.' Here's a brand comparison between Google, Microsoft and others. To be fair, Google has discontinued services too (Lively and Notebook come to mind) but I don't think the core services are going anywhere.

Reason Three - It's good stuff. Almost all services are free, and are good. Gmail, for instance, I almost forgot to include it in my list because I take Gmail so much for granted as the hub of most of my communication. (Probably what Google Wave will become.) And as Google focuses more on providing resources for educatoin we all benefit.

The Flip Side.

There are two major arguements against a move to Google tools beyond simply having accounts strewn all over the web. First, the continued fear of putting data in the cloud and second, having all of ones data stored with a single company.

Arguement One - I don't want my data in the cloud. Usually when people express concern about having their stuff online I ask them if they've ever bought anything, done banking, or paid their taxes online? They have probably put a lot of information out there. It continuely surprises me at the personal details found on the average Facebook page. If there's still a question as to the legitimacy of moving online, just look at Microsoft's push with Office 10.

Arguement Two - But all my stuff is in one place. There's the concern that if I put all my data in one place it's like putting all my eggs in one basket. This is true, yet one of the reasons for using a computer is the relative ease it is to backup in multiple places (with a service like Mozy for instance.) The problem is that most people don't do it. How many times have I had someone ask me to help them retrieve lost data. I think it's important to recognize what a company having all the information might look like. To see what's possible check out the Googlezon video.

Overall, as the web becomes more like the OS, much of this will be taken for granted. The access, the security questions. It's really just a matter of time.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Augmented Reality

"Any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from magic."
- Arthur C. Clark

This quote pretty much sums up how most of us feel the first time we see augmented reality in. If you are wondering what it is, ReadWriteWeb has a great post explaining it while keeping it in perspective of it's importance in relationship to other new technologies. There's even a cool graph of tech-hype vs long term usefulness:

I had the chance to show AR in action to a number of new Google Certified Teachers at the latest GTA in Boulder, Colorado. While it is as cool and magical as it seems, (Wes Fryer said it reminded him of being on the Jedi Counsel in Star Wars.)

How to I set it up?
  • Download Google Sketchup, a 3D modeling tool for MAC or PC.
  • Then, create a 3D model or download one from the 3D Model Warehouse. Note: The smoothness is dependant on the speed of your computer, so I'd start with a model without a ton of detail. Like this.
  • Go to the AR-Plugin page and download the 30sec trial.
  • Then download and print the marker needed to display the object.
  • Copy the plugin into the plugin folder in Sketchup. The locations will be dependant on your computer, but here are the MAC and PC user guides.
  • Turn on your webcam, load a model, click on the AR icon, and let the amazement begin.
The second question to be asked after, "How did you do that!" is, "How can I use this in the classroom?" And like most technologies, it depends on your age level and purpose. All levels will react to how cool it is initially, but like more new technologies, by the 3rd time they've seen it the novelity has worn off. This is how we use it my district. All of our 8th graders build projects for their Integrated Technology class and make Sketchup prototypes of their items before construction can start. This is a way for students to 'hold' the item in their hand and turn it around and see if their model reflects what they were trying to create.


Another very cool application of the technology.

GTA Colorado Reflection

I like to give myself a couple days after a Google Teacher Academy to collect my thoughts. First of all, once again, Google and the CUE team did a tremendous job. The day was fun, educational and in a word, 'Googley'. All the presenters and participants were such an exergizing group to work with, I can't wait to see them again online for more converstion and collaboration.

One of my favorite memories was getting to show Scott Green (the self described 'principal' of the Google office) the augmented reality plugin for Google Sketchup. He hadn't seen it yet and agreed it was very cool. I wonder if it will influence anything in Sketchup's development going forward.

Once home my four year son asked, "Dad, did you bring me something from Google?" Since my previous GTA trips he's become accustomed to getting primary colored pens, notpads and yo-yos when I return. This time I gave him a chocolate bar with the Google logo embossed in it. He grinned and took a large bite. Then he asked, "Is this what Google tastes like?" All I could think to say was, "Um, in a way, yeah, it's that good."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Google Workshop for Educators at Rutgers

Last week I had the opportunity to work with Lisa Thumann and Kevin Jarrett (and his daughter Holly) at a Google Workshop for Educators. I brought a couple of my students along as well. It was a two workshop with 30 educators from across New Jersey. It was a real treat to work with Lisa again and it was my first chance to present with Kevin though I hope to again soon!

The kids had a great time, John presented Google Sketchup and Doran did Google Maps while helping the attendees throughout the two days. For me having the students present and get the experience of helping others was the best aspect of the workshop. It has become a cliche, but if students learn best by teaching, then we need to get them infront of educators more.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sheryl Nussbaum Beach Presentation

A few weeks ago Sheryl Nussbaum Beach presented to my district from Virgina Beach. She was unable to attend physically, but we were able to run the workshop using Skype and projecting her slides along side. It was fun and I know my staff will be able to use the day as a springboard for the work we will continue in the fall.

I've included a couple videos of the day.

Monday, June 08, 2009

You are invited . . .

. . . to the 6th Bi-Annual


Come to Sebasticook Valley Middle School on Saturday, June 13th from 10:00 to 2:00 to see the incredible work students have been doing throughout the year. Build a robot, vote on a skateboard design, bid on an item in the Imagination Gallery, construct a car and race against your friends, watch student animated movies, and much much more!

Everyone who tours the event is entered into a drawing for a digital video camera, students who volunteer are entered to win an Acer Netbook!
(If you would like to help out please sign up HERE.)

If you can't make it physically, take a VIRTUAL TOUR with a student as your tour guide through the projects. We'll be using Skype for viewers online to show them what the day is all about.

For more information check out:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MLTI Student Tech Team Conference

Working with Cheryl Oakes, Alice Barr, Sarah Sutter and Jim Moulton we're offering a super-session around the ability to ask questions and collect data. So, in preparation for this session, we have prepared a "tell us about school where you learn" survey that I would like to ask you to provide anonymous input about your school.

Thank you in advance for helping us show students the power of people
and thoughtful questions!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SEEDLINGS Google Fest Show

Last Thursday I was invited to another Seedlings Edtech Talk show with Alice Barr, Cheryl Oakes and Sarah Sutter. It was terrific fun and focused on some Google Certified Teacher stuff as well as much more, check it out here:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Presentation for Teacher Workshop

Presentation "What your students know."
for the March 25th teacher workshop.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Renting Movies and Other Historic Activities

I can't remember the last time I had rented an actual movie from a store, but last weekend my wife and I wanted to see something that night wasn't on Hulu or Netflix so I went over to our local rental place and I realized why I hadn't been there in so long. It reminded me of this Onion spoof and I see how it's only a matter of time for this to be a reality . . . 

Historic Blockbuster Store Offers Glimpse Of How Movies Were Rented In The Past

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photo Gallery

Trying out and seeing what it looks like embedded.

Sebasticook V.M.S. on PhotoPeach