Friday, June 30, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 76

In today's podcast, I talk about Steve Dembo's presentation on "Office 2.0."

Last night I slept in my own bed - something I hadn't done since a week ago, thanks to a trip to Pennsylvania to see my father-in-law and attend the Northeast Regional DEN event.

Yes, I know I've been talking about it a lot, recently, but any time you have 50 educators from 8 different states getting together to learn about technology integration I feel that I can't say enough.

Will Richardson wasn't the only big name presenting at the event this week. We also had Steve Dembo ... more or less.

Steve presented through the use of, a free website that lets you do live presentations over the internet. I'll admit it had some minor bugs, but with us communicating back and forth via Skype (I don't think Vyew supports voice) it still had more than enough bandwidth to work decently.

Mr. Dembo's workshop was all about what he called "Office 2.0," which I thought would refer to, a free alternative to Microsoft Office that just recently reached version 2.0.

I was wrong.

Steve did give us free alternatives to Microsoft Office, but also for Photoshop and iMovie. The most notable thing about his alternatives was that they weren't programs - they were all websites!

Having a website with the functionality of a desktop program opens a lot of doors. I've been in many buildings where the computers weren't powerful enough to handle Adobe Photoshop, but did have enough RAM to load an image editing website. Add to that the possibility of remote storage and collaborations with schools across the country and across the world just got a whole lot easier.

Sound interesting? well you're in luck, because Steve put all of his links on the DEN North East Event wiki's Workshops section.

That's all for now, so if you don't mind I'm going to go edit some video.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 75

More from the Northeast Regional DEN Event ... now with 100% better audio quality!

It's after midnight, so it's a little late in the day for podcasting (or early, depending on your perspective), but here I am. I was tempted to just whip out my phone and do another quick and dirty recording, but instead I decided to belay any fears that I was going to stick to the low quality format from Monday.

It's taken a while for me to make my podcasts sound as good as they do, and while I know they still have room for improvement, I don't really feel like taking a permanent step backward in quality.

Today was the last full day of the Northeast Regional DEN Event, so most of us spent our time working on our team projects. Not me, however. I was a small group co-leader along with Kristin (a great DEN member whose last name I won't try to pronounce), and as such we didn't have teams.

Instead, I gave technical assistance to a few teams while working on my own projects. Monday's podcasts were just one of my activities, as I've also recorded a Mini Lesson or two that will find their way onto my website sooner or later.

My biggest project, however, was to summarize this week using video and still images. I'll save my comments on that for a later date, since this event is about more than just me.

After dinner today, Will Richardson (yes, THE Will Richardson) gave a presentation to the DEN attendees. I was unable to see it due to a personal emergency, but I did manage to snag autographed copies of his book for my wife and myself. (I'm also pleased that he remembered me from MICCA).

I've already started reading Mr. Richardson's book, and I must say that it fails to do what most books on educational technology do. Mainly, it doesn't feel like I'm reading a VCR manual. It's almost as if Will Richardson wrote the book for people to read, rather than just put it on their bookshelves to make themselves feel important. I'll elaborate further once I've read through a few more chapters.

The grand finale of the evening was movie night. The team projects were presented to great and well deserved applause. Even though many of these teachers had never used iMovie or Movie Maker before, they were still able to produce informative and aesthetically pleasing presentations. I can only hope that the teachers that attended this conference are as eager to share their newfound skills with their coworkers in September as they are today. I can't wait for them to show up online so I can link to them.

... I'll have to bug Lance about that.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 74c

The power went out, so I recorded another short podcast. Never fear, we have power once more. I just got a kick out of being able to podcast when nothing else on the campus was working.

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Academic Aesthetic Podcast 74b

Download .mp3

Today the participants in the DEN Northeast Regional Conference took a field trip into Valley Forge with video and still cameras to work on their projects.

As for myself, I brought my camera and an account. This is "part b" of my podcast.

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Academic Aesthetic Podcast 74a

Download .mp3

Today the participants in the DEN Northeast Regional Conference took a field trip into Valley Forge with video and still cameras to work on their projects.

As for myself, I brought my camera, phone, and an account. This is "part a" of my podcast.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 73

Today I talk about the third and final part of my summer listening list: "Radio Leo."

Hello to everyone, and congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Steve Dembo . For more details, head over to

Next week I plan to be podcasting from the Northeast Regional DEN Event at Valley Forge, but today I'd like to continue with my summer listening list.

The first true podcast (as in audio distributed via an RSS feed) I ever listened to was Leo Laporte's weekend radio show, "The Tech Guy on KFI." Far from limiting himself, Mr. Laporte has expanded his domain to a variety of podcasts that usually update on a weekly basis. All of them are centered on technology, but each has a different cohost and covers a different aspect of it.

My favorites include:
  • This Week in Tech (the flagship podcast, where Leo and others discuss the tech news from the past week)
  • Inside the Net with Amber MacArthur (Amber interviews people from different web based companies)
  • Security Now with Steve Gibson (guess what this one's about)
  • The Daily Giz Wiz with Dick DeBartolo (this one has little educational value, but it's so darn fun so I still like it)

Mr. Laporte does maintain a website where you can subscribe to his podcasts individually, along with one RSS feed called "Radio Leo." That one's my choice, because it includes all of his podcasts in a single RSS feed.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 72

In my 72nd podcast I continue talking about my "Summer Listening List," focusing on Chris Marquardt's "Tips From the Top Floor."

I'm beginning to get psyched for the Northeast Regional DEN Event in Valley Forge. I won't say too much about it now, but I will post a link to the event's wiki.

Instead, I'd like to talk about part two of my summer listening list. Last time I plugged History According to Bob, which is a great resource for anyone interested in history. Today, let's talk digital photography.

With the proliferation of camera phones and photo sharing sites like Flickr, it's obvious that there are many more people getting interested in the digital side of photography. Alas, like in all things, having the ability to do something is not the same as knowing how to do it well. (Have you ever seen a PowerPoint presentation that was so bad it hurt your eyes to look at it, in spite of the useful information it contained? I have.)

Enter Chris Marquardt, master of both sound and photography. First from his home in southern Germany and now from his studio in ... southern Germany, Chris produces his Tips From the Top Floor three times a week.

Rather than focus on just the high end professional stuff, Tips From the Top Floor covers the gamut from point and click camera phones to 8 megapixel Nikon DSLRs, with some image manipulation tips using Photoshop and GIMP for good measure.

Rather than stop there, you can also find a thriving forum on his site that discusses photography news, tips, tricks, and is more than willing to offer constructive criticism for your own photos.

If you have any interest in the medium of digital photography, you should really check this one out.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 71

In my 71st podcast I begin going over my summer listening list.

Teachers (at least the good ones) give it their all during the school year. For 180 days, not including weekends and holidays, we grade tests, write lesson plans, and brave rooms full of thirty screaming children armed with only a collection of mismatched paintbrushes, watercolors, and enough blank paper for every kid to have one sheet.

Then summer hits, and we crawl into our dens to hibernate through the warm summer months until the first cries of back to school sales wake us from our slumber.

Ok, maybe we don't spend the whole time sleeping, but I would be lying if I said I missed getting up before the sun every day. As someone who gets most of his work done in the morning, this means that my productivity has taken a huge downturn of late.

I'm not alone in this - my usual edu-blogs and edu-podcasts have had a marked decline in postings. I'm not shocked by this - after all, it's summer. We're on vacation, aren't we?

Lucky for me, there are still plenty of podcasts out there that are educational, yet aren't done by teachers who have chosen to hibernate. (That's one way of saying that they still update regularly.)

So, for my next few podcasts I think I'll share some of my other favorites with you. Think of this as my summer listening list.

First up is one of my all time favorite podcasts: History According to Bob is the brain child of a history teacher named ... Bob. Six days a week (sometimes seven, if he has something special like a video) Bob graces the internet with a 5-20 minute segment on a history topic, from Austria to the Zoroastrians.

I've been a history buff since I was little, and I just love learning new things about all kinds of topics. You'd also be surprised at how many times I've used the things he's podcasted in an art lesson.

My only complaint is that he doesn't leave his podcasts up forever. Once he has a bunch of them on his site, he takes them down and combines them into a CD that you can purchase. This is a neat way to earn revenue, I'm sure, but when I decide on the spur of the moment that I want to hear is podcast on the life of Benjamin Franklin I really don't want to have to wait for it to be shipped.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 70

Today's podcast's subject was changed at the last moment, as I thought this was a good time to remind everyone to think about who their audience is - that task is more important than you might realize.

Remember a podcast or two ago when I talked about Flickr blocking some pictures? Looks like I actually scooped Wired News, as today they posted an article on the exact same thing. Granted, they had the clout to interview some of the big names out there, but at least I actually mentioned it before them.

Nowadays there appears to be a switch so far as content providing web sites are concerned. In the past, most site administrators picked their content carefully, selecting images or words that fit with their own vision of what they wanted. Users still had the ability to upload their own content, but for the most part that was limited to Usenet and certain sections of AOL.

Now, it seems content management is doing a flip-flop. Taking a page out of Wikipedia's book (so to speak), many websites now let you upload or select your own content. Digg,, and YouTube aren't big hits because they have great editors, but because everything on them has been user selected.

But this change of events is not a full 180 degree turn, as evidenced by Flickr's practice of censoring. Wikipedia has some editors as well, which go through and weed out the entries that just don't belong in an encyclopedia.

It's as if these content collecting sites are parents caring for their children - they're willing to let their kids run all over the place, but little Billy and Tammy are still going to get a scolding the next time they follow a ball out into the street.

This makes sense to me. As an art teacher I often try to find ways for my students to express themselves creatively. It often comes as a shock to them when I tell them they're free to choose what to draw, although I do stipulate that "pictures of the art teacher getting beat up aren't allowed."

Whenever content creators do the thing they do, they should always remember their audience. Since I always hang up finished projects, the audience for my lessons is the entire building. Students drawing pictures of guns or other students getting hurt get at the very least a lecture and at most ... well, let's not go there.

If you post a picture to Flickr, video to YouTube, or so on, your audience is the entire internet - including the people who own those servers. If you put something there that they don't like, don't be surprised if it disappears.

And of course, the same is true for the world of blogging. Unless you have some way of password protecting your postings, your blog's audience is everyone with an internet connection - including that administrator and/or coworker you just satirized in a rather catchy limerick. Believe me, people have been fired for less.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 69

I've been putting some thought into my mini lessons.

If you've been subscribed to my site for a while then you've seen the five short videos I did to teach different projects that I thought were neat and / or unique.

You've also noticed that I haven't done any for quite some time.

I could tell you that it's because I haven't had the time. After all, it takes a lot longer to process video than it does to process audio. I could also say that some computer problems a while back caused a long delay, as I had to install a new hard drive and do a reinstall or three this year.

These are all partially true reasons, but none of them is the real one.

The truth is, I've been lazy and uninspired.

But I have an idea. I want to do some more mini lessons next year, but instead of my own ideas I think I'll get the Art Club involved.

Students have a lot of cool ideas, and I'd love to give them a format to share them. I already tried it this year with a podcast, but if I start early enough next year I should be able to get several episodes out each marking period.

I think I'll stick with the same format, however - and by that I mean with the camera focussed on the art project and the student sitting out of sight. I think they'll feel much more comfortable if they know that they don't have to be in front of the camera, and with my concerns for student safety, I'll feel much more comfortable then them because of the same thing.

Who knows? At the end I might even be able to hand out CDs with all of that year's mini lessons burned onto them as a keepsake. We'll see how that turns out.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Podcasting hassles

Today's podcast is ready to go, but both Big in Japan and Ourmedia are giving me problems. I'll have it up as soon as one of the two services is feeling better.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 68

Many of you are already familiar with that great photo sharing site known as Flickr, but have you ever heard of NIPSA?

NIPSA came to my attention when I was searching Flickr for photos tagged with "Second Life." I'll admit it, that game is very addictive, and one of the ways I find neat places to explore is to look at photos placed online on various sites.

Well, I started to run into some discussion about photos and whole accounts being marked as NIPSA. NIPSA? What was that? Naturally I did what anyone would do in that situation.

I Googled it.

Figuring that the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance was not the NIPSA I was looking for, I looked a little harder.

It turns out that as it relates to Flickr, NIPSA stands for "Not In Public Site Areas." In a nutshell, it's Flickr's way of censoring without deleting.

Out of a nutshell (it was cramped in there anyway), a Flickr photo that's marked as NIPSA is still viewable, can be submitted to groups, placed on websites, downloaded, and so on. What you can't do is search for it by using tags or paging through the "Everyone's Photos" section.

The key to NIPSA is a little check box labeled "May Offend." If you see a photo that you don't think a 14 year old should be looking at, you check the box. If enough people do that, the photo is NIPSAed. This sort of social police work appeals to me, as it's rather empowering for users to know they can do something about inappropriate material besides whining to a moderator. I have my suspicions that a check from Flickr staff might hold more weight than the average user, but hey, they're getting paid to do that so I don't mind.

You can even mark your own photos as "May Offend," if you feel that while your images are artistic they may not appeal to everyone.

Naturally, I see NIPSA as a good thing. If I'm going to recommend Flickr as an educational resource (which I do...) then I don't want to hear about some unsuspecting 3rd grade teacher generating fodder for 30 phone calls from concerned parents because of a couple mouse clicks.

There is another side to NIPSA, though. You see, Flickr is marketing itself as a photo site. Drawings, paintings, collages, CGI screen captures, and of course works that appear to be copyrighted by others don't fit into this category, so they often will NIPSA those pictures as well. This has a lot of Second Life enthusiasts foaming at the mouth, since any "photo" from the world of Second Life is in reality a screen capture.

Truth be told, Flickr has every right to do this. It's their freely provided service, so they can enforce their terms of use as they see fit.

That being said, I'm a little worried. My own Flickr account is full of artworks created by my students, which I've uploaded to showcase various lesson ideas. The line between a drawing and a photo of a drawing is thin and, at best, merely philosophical. All I need is one Flickr staff member having a bad day to visit my site, and suddenly I'm off the grid.

But I've had my account for over a year and it hasn't happened yet, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 67

In this podcast I address one of the most feared questions ever.

As I'm typing this I'm just finishing part 2 of the Edupodder Pizzacast. (Part 1's here, FYI.) Edupodder is a blog/podcast focussing mostly on topics that would be of interest to journalism majors in college, but naturally there's plenty of overlap since blogging is itself a form of journalism. (It's role in journalism is still being debated, but there it is.)

Their "pizzacast" was a meeting of teachers, students, and even at least one member of the community. While chowing down on the official food of higher education they discussed the curriculum for a new course that would be starting in the fall.

This conversation got me thinking. You see, a lot of the conversation was on what the students would need to know after they graduated. This hit home for me, since that is in fact what every teacher should think about daily. If you have a student who asks you "When will we need to know this?" and you don't have an answer, then maybe you really are wasting their time.

Now granted there are plenty of exceptions to this. I knew early on that I wanted to be an art teacher and never strayed from that path, but many of my friends had drastic career changes that forced them to draw on otherwise unused talents or learn new skills altogether. Their laments of "When will we need to know THIS?" became "Oh, I'm glad I knew THAT!"

My point is that as teachers we need to look ahead to "life after school" and come up with answers not only for WHAT the students need to know, but WHY they need to know it. Our curriculum guides that are provided by our school, county, or state often take care of that first part for us, but we still need to know why what we're teaching is so important. Not just the subject, but each lesson.

If you use a standardized lesson plan format like my county does, there probably isn't a place for the "why" in there. Still, I recommend finding a spot somewhere and answering that question anyway. It's one more thing to keep us from teaching for teaching's sake, and instead prepare our students for life in the real world. (Or at the very least, for their next step in education.)

As an added bonus, the next time you have a student ask "Why?" you'll have a snappier comeback than just "Because."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 66

In this podcast I play with RSS feeds.

A while back I ran into a problem. I'm sure you've had it too, but I'll tell you about it anyway.

I came to the conclusion that I didn't have enough RSS feeds in my aggregator.

(Ok, I'm assuming that most of you know what an aggregator is since there's a good chance you're using one right now to see this. An RSS aggregator checks blogs for you so you don't have to. Check out Bloglines - that one's my favorite.)

I came to the decision that I wasn't subscribed to enough stuff because I had gone a whole hour without something new being posted. This was a travesty, so I had to do something about it.

Lucky for me, blogs aren't the only things with RSS feeds. News sites will often include them as well. The best sites are ones like Yahoo! News and Google News, which collect stories from a variety of sources for you. Since they're run by search engines, you can also customize your news to fit your own tastes.

The first thing I did was head to Google News and do a search for "education." Tada! Every recent story that mentioned education was now there in my browser window.

But I didn't stop there. Looking over on the left hand side I found a little link that said "RSS." I copied that link into my Bloglines account, and I instantly had more things to read every day than I had time to check out.

Perhaps I should have narrowed it with some other key words? Oh well, I'm too lazy to change it.

My laziness was in this case a good thing, because now I'm getting a much larger view of education. Just a quick glance at the datelines right now is showing me education stories out of Singapore, Moscow, Santiago, Dubai, and more.

Looks like Google News knows the world is flat when it comes to tech.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 65

In this podcast I lament the possible upcoming drought of educational blogs/podcasts, then review my plans for next year's Art Club.

This is the time of year when educators (at least in this hemisphere) start talking about the fast approaching summer vacation. Last year there was a trend among the edubloggers and edupodcasters - one that involved paying more attention to the real world than the blogosphere.

I understand this perfectly. Frankly, when I'm visiting my father-in-law in Pennsylvania and using a dial-up connection because where he lives even my cell phone works only half the time, I really don't want to be uploading (or downloading) any large mp3 files.

Still, this concerns me. Yes, summer vacation is a time for teachers to recharge and relax after having braved 180 days with screaming, crying, and papers not handed in on time (and that's just their coworkers!), but it should also be a time for looking ahead to the next year.

So that's what I'll hopefully be podcasting on this summer. Well, that and the couple of conferences I'll be attending.

Case in point: Art Club this year was a lot of fun, but I think I can make it better. I've already teamed up with my base school's music teacher, and next year the club will be half visual arts and half music/drama. We'll each get 15 kids for an hour, then swap.

I'll try to handle the blogging differently as well. I was so hung up about trying to schedule days where all the kids could blog at once that I didn't even think about having a couple of kids on the computers at a time until the year was almost over. With me running the blogging time like a station I should be able to do a more analog lesson at the same time the students are showing off the fact that they're digital natives.

I may still schedule a computer lab day next year, but only one day. We normally meet in the media canter, and the three computers in there should do just fine for the rest of the year.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 64

Click to listenToday's podcast is one of those stories where a problem leads to a better solution.

A couple days ago Ourmedia had a rather interesting glitch., as you may or may not know, is a free, snazzy interface that allows you to upload almost any media file you wish to's servers. provides everyone with lots of space, but their method of uploading files is a little more ... involved.

In any case, after recording my Podcast # 62 I tried to upload it to Ourmedia, but instead was greeted with an error message telling me that my password and user name weren't correct. This could be a problem, since without those you can't upload ANYTHING through Ourmedia.

A quick trip to confirmed that my password was indeed correct, so I tried retyping it in

I still had the same error message.

Well, I was a bit annoyed at all of this. I had my new podcast ready to be listened to by the world (or at least the 20 or so of you that actually put up with me), and I had no way of getting the mp3 file out there. Sure, I had a friend with some server space that could hook me up, but I felt I'd leaned on him enough for now so I needed some other kind of solution.

Enter "Big in Japan."

Big In Japan is not, in fact, a website that's big in Japan. Rather, it's a collection of free tools that, to quote their site, "can make you Big in Japan. And Jersey City. And Genoa. And Jakarta." In a nutshell, they do some of the back end work so you don't have to.

Now Big In Japan has a bunch of tools that you may or may not find useful, and may in fact find in other places. elfURL, for example, provides the same URL shortening feature that TinyURL provides. (I want to expiriment with SocialMail, though. Email converted into an RSS feed sounds intriguing.)

But I digress. The feature I was looking for that day was PodServe. PodServe is a podcast hosting service. You bring the mp3, and they'll give you a gigabyte of space, serve up an RSS feed for you, and even list you on iTunes & Odeo.

It's in Alpha testing still, but the only bug I've seen so far is a page that didn't load well the first time I tried it. I found the interface to be slick and more or less intuitive. The best part is they provide you with direct links to your uploaded files, so you can plug them in just about anywhere. (Like, say, this blog.)

So, that's Big In Japan, for you. is working again as of this morning, but I think I'm going to stick with Big In Japan for now. I'll still upload files to Ourmedia, but mostly for backup purposes.