Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 63

Click to listenI'd like to make a clarification on my last podcast.

When I talked about Second Life not being the best place for education, I was referring specifically to the standard model that most administrators would probably try out. Mainly: "Hey, let's make a virtual classroom and have all of the students hang out in the same room while the teacher teaches."

You can do meetings like this, but really they would be little more than bandwidth heavy chat rooms.

There is, however, another way. Imagine an area filled with interactive tools and toys, where students could interface with a variety of media at their leisure. Teachers would select the curriculum (or most of it), as always, but students would choose the order and the pace. That, I think, would work much better in Second Life.

But still, I could build a web quest that does the same thing for a fraction of the bandwidth and without the chance of it being blocked by my school's firewall.

Second Life CAN be a tool for educators, and it may even be a good one. Unfortunately, other than it's user interface I don't see too much that I can't get elsewhere.

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 62

Click to listenMy 62nd podcast is mostly my opinion of Second Life.

Second life is a fun, addictive game that can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Since users are encouraged to create modifications/additions/etc. there is a growing movement striving to see how Second Life could help educators. I'm not convinced, but that's just my opinion.

That being said, it's still addictive.

Here's some sites that have dissenting opinions:

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Adventures in Wordpress

I still want to move this site over to a more dynamic host than Blogger, but I don't want to dive in head first without checking how deep the water is.

I've heard very nice things about WordPress, but not every host will support it. Lucky for me it only took a quick search on to find something that would suit my needs ... for now.

You see, right now all I need is a sandbox to flesh things out. I've had others offer space on their own servers, but I don't like to impose when I don't have to.

My experiments will not stay on that server for long. Once I'm comfortable enough with everything I'll be moving it over to a paid server.

EDIT: I should specify that my wordpress blog right now is JUST an expiriment. This will continue to be my main site and when I'm ready to move it I'll be sure to let you know.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Inventory Progress

  1. Days so far: 2
  2. Days until inventory is due: 3 school days
  3. # of items on inventory: @300 (so far)
  4. # of trips to the dumpster: 4, plus a computer monitor box full of garbage that I haven't taken out yet.
  5. % completed: 40
  6. Weirdest item found: rubber snake, complete with plastic rattling tail
  7. Weirdest thought while working: I can see the foot wide stain on the carpet for the first time in months, and I'm oddly satisfied by that.
  8. Number of bugs seen scurrying for cover: 1
  9. Glad I'm done counting: acrylic paints
  10. Not looking forward to counting: 50-100 books, each of which is unique. (I may end up donating some of the more damaged books, as they were for the most part all donated to me in the first place.)
  11. I didn't know I had so much: white paper (That's not a complaint.)
  12. Sanity maintained by: podcasts, educational and otherwise.
...I needed a break, so I took stock of my accomplishments so far.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 61

Click to listenIn my 61st podcast I'm starting my end-of-year inventory and talking about the difference between message boards and blogs.

Not much in the way of show notes for this one, I was just talking while I worked on organizing the things in my office.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Flickr Updated!

hammerLooks like my favorite photo sharing website has made some recent changes, replacing the "beta" in their logo with "gamma" to show just how far they've come.

The first thing I said to myself when loading up Flickr this morning was "Holy cow, I've got a LOT of photos on each page here!" Yep, by abandoning the Yahoo! ads (Which I never paid attention to, anyway) and doing some other adjustments, they've managed to give me two columns of photos on the first page of my photostream. (So now it looks like all of the other pages in my photostream.)

I'm curious as to why they abandoned the ads altogether, though. I mean, sure, I didn't use them ... but Yahoo! isn't exactly making money off of Flickr as it is.

In any case, they're also posting more TOS notices, in particular the reminder I see after clicking on "all sizes." You're not supposed to put Flickr hosted images on your website/blog/etc. unless they link back to that image's Flickr page. This could mean trouble for a lot of Google Earth enthusiasts, including myself, who like to embed images in their maps.

I'll be renting server space from a 3rd party soon, so hopefully it won't bother me so much.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Baltimore's WTC

WTCDid you know Baltimore has its own World Trade Center? Well it does, and here it is.

Learn what Wikipedia has to say about this building.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Steve Dembo knows your permanent record!

Listen to the podcast!Do you?

Seriously though, I was hoping to record a podcast tonight but my voice just isn't into it right now. Instead, how about you listen to Steve's latest endeavor? He even has his PowerPoint online for you.

During his presentation he makes a good point about starting off with a strictly controlled environment, then opening it up slowly as the students become more responsible. I've been thinking for a while now about moving this blog to a server capable of handling WordPress this summer, and depending on the server space I rent I could probably host just such an environment for my students using Moodle or another fun tool.

If not, there's still Class Blogmeister,, and Anyone out there have good/bad experiences with those last two?

Save the Edu-Blogosphere

Blogs in education are endagered. Why? Read what Weblogg-ed has to say about it. Then get ahold of your representatives in Congress and tell them how you feel.

Yes, I know they're mainly targeting MySpace. Unfortunately, the bill is so broadly written that most if not all blogs will have to be banned at school.

I'll have more to say about this later, when I've had time to collect my thoughts.

EDIT: A wiki has been set up to create a collaborative letter to our congresspeople. I've already added my (minor) contributions and sent one to my Representative. A link is included near the top to allow you to contact your Representative quickly and easily.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

You're online. No, really!

artclublab"I don't like it when people read what I write."
That's a direct quote from one of my Art Club kids. I've met many students (and adults) who had that same opinion, but this particular student had just finished posting to her Art Club blog.

And she was very surprised when she walked over to me and saw her words on my screen. (I was in the process of approving it for publication on the web.)

We had a nice little conversation about how we should always assume everything we write will be read by somebody, and I think it's finally sinking in that her actions on a web site make her part of a larger community. Not only that, but now she also knows things she wants to be private should not be placed in a public forum. (No, she didn't put private stuff in her blog.)

At least, it's a start.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Baltimore Inner Harbor's Power Plant

PowerPlant.jpgThe "Power Plant" was once just that, but now it has the best looking storefronts in the Inner Harbor.

Learn more here.

The Mildred Belle

MildredBelle.jpgWatch this video to learn about this floating classroom that used to be a Buy Boat.

This is more footage from the Discovery Educator Network's "Capture the Inner Harbor" event. I'm slowly going through everything and placing it online.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 60 - Baffled By Blogging

Listen to the podcast!My 60th podcast is a recording of my session at MICCA. (I talked about blogging, as you can see in the title.) I promised to have it up on the same day, so here you go.

Blogging 101 (My Wiki about blogging) (The class blog maintained by Bre Pettis)
Weblogg-ed (The website of Will Richardson, a pioneer in edu-blogging) (Google for blogs) (Just like Microsoft Office ... but FREE) (My blog host) (The site I use to check other blogs), Class Blogmeister, & (These three are all free services that offer a "closed" blogging environment.)

Other MICCA Attendees

Wondering who else has been mentioning MICCA in their blogs? A quick search on brought up the following results:
  • Will Richardson did a workshop here, and even graced my own session with his presence.
  • Cristina Runkles had a session on podcasting next door to my blogging session. Being the tech savvy person she is, she's placed her notes online.
If you attended MICCA as well, I encourage you to write up your opinions on the conference. What do you think?

MICCA Day 2 Keynote

Day 2, and the Keynote speaker is Deneen Frazier Bowen. Her presentation is apparently called "The Natives Are Restless." I can only assume at this point that she'll be talking about the distinction between "digital natives" and "digital immigrants," but from a slightly different angle. (Otherwise, she wouldn't be the Keynote.)

HA! She's really doing a nice take on this, assuming a personality and presenting as someone else. There won't be many people walking out early for this one.

I won't be typing much, because with this I've already missed several good parts.

UPDATE: Oh wow, that Keynote speaker had some acting skills! She assumed multiple personalities, most of them of different digital natives. I don't know if I should be happy or upset that I was able to follow along with 99% of what those personas were talking about.

The personalities were real kids. Apparently she spent months interviewing and working with kids, and today she shared their stories.

I need to see this person present again.

Waiting for Day 2 of MICCA

It's the start of day 2 of MICCA, and the students are starting to roll in.

That's right, I said students.

Yesterday they handed out some awards to teachers and administrators, but today the pre-keynote award ceremony is for students doing cool things with technology. In all honesty I think today's awards are much more important than yesterday's.

Why? Because in education the bottom line should always be the student and what he or she is achieving. If I have to explain that then you're not really a teacher.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Session 4: Using NASA's Online Problem-Based Learning Activities

Last session of the day, and believe it or not I'm not attending the one on unitedstreaming. It's worth seeing, but I experienced the same session at the PETE&C conference a while back.

With unitedstreaming out of the picture, it was almost a toss up as to which session I should see, but I finally picked one.

NASA's got a bunch of projects at their NASA Quest website. Some of it's a little dinky on the content (coloring pages), but other parts are a little more robust (design an aircraft). They even have Spanish and Chinese language versions - which I didn't expect from a government site.

At this point the presenter (Valerie Hawkins) is continuing with a walkthrough. She's shown us that the NASA Quest page is diverse in features, but the back row was crowded when she started and now I'm the only one in it. (I would be sitting closer to the front with the rest of the remaining 25 or so teachers, but I'm making use of the power outlet back here.)

My guess is that there's nothing wrong with the presentation, but as the last session of the day it's cursed to have a large percentage of walk-outs. The same thing's probably happening in all the sessions, and it will most likely be even worse tomorrow.

Session 3: Let's Make Literacy Accessible for All!

I promised myself this morning that I wouldn't attend any sessions that mentioned the words "PowerPoint, "Office," or "Inspiration." Not because the programs are bad, but because conferences like this are often beyond saturated with sessions that show how to use those programs. I want something more.

So now I'm sitting here waiting for this session about PowerPoint (Presented by Jeanne Noorisa and Marsye Kaplan) to start. Why? Because it's about making books. Now that's just cool.

Hm, this is the first session I've been to all day that actually has a handout. Using three sessions isn't much of a sample size, but it seems like we're moving from dead tree handouts to digital ones - a welcome change.

This session's al about "talking books," which are more or less digital presentations that include text, images, and audio components. They're created to help students that have mental, physical, or motivational reasons why they can't always enjoy paper books.

With those requirements in place, the rest is totally up to you. You don't even have to make the book yourself, since your students can create their own books to enjoy. I'm imagining my students creating a story, then having each kid illustrate a different page which they will then read into a microphone.

Hm, she's focussing mostly on Windows. I'm not surprised, since that's what most people use. This stuff will all work with Mac anyway.

Ah, she's touching on copyright - there's a copyright law amendment that allows teachers to make multimedia copies of books for students with disabilities. If your students fit into that category then remixing an existing book is fair game.

Tricks to make the books better:
  • Time delays to prevent "happy clickers" from fast forwarding to the end of the book.
  • A back button so students can read previous pages.
  • Include pictures to go with the words to help beginning readers. (She used a program called "Boardmaker Plus," but I found a website called Phrasr that does something similar.
More Talking Books:
(I'll add these later)

... what, no Flickr: Creative Commons or YoToPhoto?

Lunch Musings

The last time I attended this conference was two years ago, and things have changed a lot since then. Most notable is the fact that MICCA is taking up a lot less real estate.

Back then they took up three floors, with the sessions on the 2nd floor, administration, registration, souvenirs, etc. on the 1st floor, and the vendors all regulated to the basement. Now, except for registration and a small art exhibit, we're all on the 2nd floor.

If I hadn't been here two years ago when the building was so crowded it was hard to find a seat, I wouldn't have noticed. I have a good idea why MICCA shrank, but I won't get into that right now.

The good news is I got to see all the vendors during lunch, and I didn't even have to skip a session to do it. This bodes well for me tomorrow, as it means people will be less likely to skip out of my session to play with the Macs that Apple has set up.

Session 2: The 21st Century Art Room

Woohoo! The next session doesn't hae any outlets, but it's about art, education, and technology. This is right up my alley. :)

It's being presented by Aileen Pugliese-Castro, who is forward thinking enough to not have a handout, but rather put things online.

She used a company called Original Works to do some fund raising and buy all kinds of tech goodies for her art classroom. I'll have to check that company out when I have the time. I've used Cafe Press in the past to put my own artwork on t-shirts and the like, but they have a high overhead that makes fundraisers much less productive.

This is great - she has enough computers in her room to have students frequently use them for worksheets, poster making, research (World Book Online, mostly), and even self portraits using drawing programs. She also keeps hard copies around just in case there was a bad 'net day.

I would love to do things like this in my classroom, but as I don't have one I need to find ways to modify these plans. Perhaps for some classes I'll have the kids meet me in the computer lab rather than have them wait for me to push my cart into their classroom. That'll take more time to plan and set up, but I know it'll be worth it.

I'll have to ask her about blogging...

Session 1: Making Better Readers with Digital Photography

Sally DeVincentis is a vendor, but she was a Special Education teacher for 25 years. With a background like that she's got my interest. (This is why I love this WiFi connection. In less than a minute I looked up her business and linked in her website.)

The key to this session seems to be "Visual Literacy," a skill that begins to develop before verbal literacy.

Ok, we're 12 minutes in and she's still talking about theory. I know a lot about this already, but I'm not faulting her for this - I'm sure most of the people in this room are learning this for the first time.

"TV is a student's FIRST professional teacher." As much cash as we spend on learning how students think and learn, advertising companies spend much, much more. What can we learn from them?
  • Tell a story.
  • Bombard with visuals.
  • Make it relevant to the viewer's life. (Personalize it!)
  • Limit the words.
  • Provide multi-sensory cues.
  • Go from the concrete to the abstract.
The theories are done, now she's showing the products. While she says she'd like us to like her products, she does mention that we can do similar activities on our own without their software.

The first program has a library of digital pictures that can be organized so that every student has their own gallery, but you can add your own. It has a section that will let students edit photos in your gallery, but the coolest part is where students can create a book using their gallery.

The result is a digital product that has the page turns animated as it speaks to students in a distorted computer voice. You can also print the book so students can take it home.

Aaaaah! She's showing off all of the transitions it can put into a slide show. I know she's deliberately showing the variety, but how many people who use this product will do the same thing? Bad, bad, bad design.

The session's winding down. I think I got a few ideas out of this, but I'm still hoping the other sessions speak to me more.

Before the 1st session

HPIM3547.JPGI'm at what will be my first session of the day: "Making Better Readers with Digital Photography." Once again I'm in range of a strong WiFi signal, but this time it's password protected so I'll have to save this summary for later. As an added bonus I'm even close to a wall outlet! (No more putting my laptop to sleep between each burst of writing. Curse you, old battery!)

I hope the network isn't encrypted when I present tomorrow, or at the very least I hope they share the password with me. I have a "Plan B" worked into my presentation just in case, but I'd much prefer to do everything live.

UPDATE: The password protection's been dropped. Boo-ya!

I'm hoping to get a few good things out of this one although they'll have to close the giant picture window behind the projector screen. Even if we could see the visual aides with this much light in the room, we'd all be looking out the window instead. (You can see the National Aquarium from here.)

MICCA Day 1 Keynote

Today's Keynote is unusual for me. Rather than having just one person standing in front of a PowerPoint presentation we have several individuals (Linda Roberts, Senator Patrick J. Hogan, Dr. Karen B. Salmon, Jim Potter, and Sterlind S. Burke, Sr.) discussing "21st century skills."

They're having some microphone problems, but it's not too bad.

Jim Potter has a few good sound bits, including "We need a balance between perspiration and inspiration," and "We don't know what we don't know."

Dr. Salmon started a 1:1 laptop program where the students could take their computers home at the end of the day. The 1:1 initiative is seeping into Maryland, and so far it's working.

Sterlind Burke says we need to focus on ethics and how the technology can be used IN the curriculum, not just AS a curriculum. I'm on board with both points.

Senator Hogan makes a point about how most U.S. Senators know very little about how technology works and thus how it can affect education.

"Technology in service of curriculum"

Four key elements for the 21st century schools, according to Potter:
1. Administrative Support (including the community)
2. Facilities Planning (help students access anything, any time.)
3. Professional Development
4. Students! (Oh yeah, did we forget that part?)

Burke again - "All of these bells and whistles will be scary for County Commissioners. We need to answer the question of 'What's in it for me?'"

Potter answers - Better tech ed. will lead to better jobs, which lead to better salaries, which lead to a better economy. (On the down side, this is not an overnight change.)

On my way to MICCA

I'm about to head over to the Baltimore Convention Center or day 1 of MICCA. I'm presenting on blogging, but not until tomorrow. Today I'm just going to see what I can see and blog about it.

If they have wireless access I'll post from there. If not, I'll post when I get home.

UPDATE: I'm sitting in the room for the Keynote speaker. Obviously, MICCA has WiFi. Life is good, or at least it will be until my battery dies.

Monday, May 01, 2006

American Visionary Art Museum

AVAM.jpgThis 2.4 MB video is more or less an ad for the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.