Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 101

Are we helping other teachers see just how easy technology can make things? We should be.

Send me an audio comment!

Post in the forums!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 100

That's right, it's my 100th podcast! Woohoo!

I'm tired and it's a school night, so I'll forgo any lengthy explanations. A special thank you to everyone who made this all possible, especially you, the listeners.

Missed out on leaving an audio comment? Well, send one in now!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 99

Not THAT kind of forum...Download .mp3


What? Oh, sorry - I was just posting something in Chris Craft's new Open Source Classroom Forum.

What's a forum? Well, I'm glad you asked!

Forums are another kind of online meeting place. They're like chat rooms, since multiple people have access to the same space, but they're also like blogs, since what's written will usually stay online for a long time. I guess that puts them in the middle of the venn diagram.

Hm, that seems to be a recurring theme here.

...THIS kind of forum!In any case, forums can be better and worse than blogs. Better, because it's easier to find like-minded individuals interested in what you have to say, but worse because it's not your personal space.

That drawback is more of an issue to some people than others. If you post things on a forum that are too far off topic, or do something else that a forum moderator doesn't care for, you could find your posts deleted or in some cases even get your account banned. There's a lot less censorship in the blogosphere, although I know there are exceptions to that rule.

So which is better? That's like asking if a ball peen hammer is better than the traditional claw hammer. While there is some crossover, both of them are meant to be used for different purposes. I've found that many people who post regularly on forums also have blogs, and they say different things on each.

My sister, for example, is a regular participant in a punk rock forum. She also has a LiveJournal blog that she uses to communicate with her friends. While some of them are also participants in the punk forum, others aren't, so she uses her blog to talk about the random happenings of her life and only posts a little about punk rock there.

Dropkick Murphys in concertThis is for the best, I think. While I enjoy punk covers of popular '80s songs as much as the next guy, I've never heard of even half of her favorite bands. The Dropkick Murphys rock, though. You can't beat loud punk rockers playing Amazing Grace while being accompanied by a bagpipe player.

And of course forums aren't just for people with nonconformist hairstyles. Leo Laporte runs one of the best forums for tech support I've ever seen, Chris Marquardt has a forum on digital photography, The Discovery Educator Network has a wonderful forum for people interested in integrating technology into education, and like I mentioned earlier, Chris Craft has a forum on open source software in the classroom.

There's one more forum out there, but I don't know if you'd be interested or not.

Why don’t you send me an audio comment for my 100th podcast? The big event hapens on Monday! Time's running out! I can't stop yelling! Aaaaaaaaaaagh!... Ok, I'm done channneling Howard Dean now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 98

100th podcast in progressDownload .mp3

Yesterday I started editing my 100th podcast. It's not done yet, but I'm happy with what I have so far and I think you'll be too when you hear it.

I have noticed something, though. Almost all of my previous podcasts were made by me simply talking into a mic, throwing in some background music, then uploading the mp3. Most of my editing was done while writing the script, with the exception of the occasional moment where I read the same line twice.

But my 100th episode is different. I have lots of clips to play, including the ones provided by listeners like you. (Thanks, by the way. I'm still accepting more if you want to send one in.) Now I have to drag audio back and forth, adjust music volumes, readjust music volumes, wonder why those last five clips I imported deleted themselves, and of course import a 45 minute recording because I want to use the first 60 seconds.

In short, this isn't easy. If I had to do all of this on a regular basis you wouldn't be getting 3 podcasts a week from me, especially now that school's started again.

I suppose there's a lesson to be learned here. Just because you can do a lot of nifty things with a program doesn't mean you need to. Yes, PowerPoint offers enough transitions for you to use a different one on each of your slides, but will that really help your presentation? Only if you're doing a presentation on the transitions.

When you're working on audio, video, PowerPoint, or even an MS Word document, it helps to find or create a template in the beginning and just use it over and over again. When you're giving information to your students you should not be spending half an hour finding just the right animated clip art for your PowerPoint on Indonesia when you only spent 5 minutes typing up your bullet points. And really, that dancing baby just isn't cool anymore.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 97

This time around I talk about personal professional development.

Today's the first day of school for students. Summer vacation is but a memory, as now it's time for all of us to buckle down and do some serious learning.

Yes, I said "all of us." You may be a teacher, but you're not exempt from learning until you're dead. (And perhaps not even then, but I digress.)

There are many ways for teachers to expand their skills as teachers. There are inservices (well, at least the good inservices...), graduate courses, and more literature available for self-paced study than you can shake a stick at.

Of course there's another way, too. Remember all of the times a teacher has asked a class to write a report on something? Did that teacher honestly need to know more about that subject, or did he or she want the class to explore the subject themselves?

I suggest that we, as teachers, should all write reports regularly in order to help improve ourselves. Now I'm not suggesting 50 page papers on Mediaeval France, unless of course you're that much into Mediaeval France. Rather, I propose that we write shorter essays on educational topics at least once a week. Trust me, it doesn't take as long as you think to write up a single page of thoughts.

If you have a brainstorm and come up with several ideas at once, make a list and save them for later. I thought of two topics this morning before I came up with this one on the drive to work, but those other ones are safely recorded for future droughts of inspiration.

These essays could be kept private, but I hope that they wouldn't be. One of the basic tenants of education is the sharing of knowledge, and you don't need a doctorate to share concepts with your peers.

The only question is what media would best be used to share these essays with the world? It would have to be something easy to use, and something that would allow readers to give you feedback would be a plus.

I think I've heard of something like this somewhere. If only I could remember what it was...

Why don’t you send me an audio comment for my 100th podcast? Only a few more podcasts untill the big event!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 96

Download .mp3

After four frenzied days of preparing for students next week, teachers in my county have been given today off so that we might be tan, rested, and ready come Monday morning.

Well, I don't get much sun so I'm not tan. And I tend to stay up too late so I'm not rested. But I'm ready! No, really!

Much of what I'll be doing will be the same as last year, with me reinforcing the other curriculums with my lessons. The big changes will be in my Art Club.

The music teacher in my base school will be helping out again this year, but instead of something random every week she suggested that we put on a combination art show and concert. I was simultaneously thrilled with the idea and embarrassed that I hadn't suggested it myself, but oh well.

So while she's teaching the drama and chorus portions of the art club to groups of 15 kids, I'll be teaching the visual arts portions and having the students work towards producing artworks they feel are worthy of showcasing in the spring. With us staying after school two nights a week, we'll have 60 students to work with. That'll give us quite a large show, and I look forward to the challenge.

Another added bonus is that we have some money left over from last year. It's only $300, but that's enough to buy several half-decent digital cameras if you shop around and don't need 15 megapixel digital SLR cameras complete with macro, wide angle, and telephoto lenses. If I'm lucky I'll be able to snag some cameras that can record video in addition to stills, but we'll cross that bridge when I go shopping.

Why don’t you send me an audio comment for my 100th podcast? Only a few more podcasts untill the big event!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 95

artclublabDownload .mp3

Today many of the art teachers in my county got together for a beginning of the year inservice. Along with the free art material sample packs and lesson workshops, we also had time to hobnob and network.

HPIM2038While having lunch with a high school photography teacher, I shared with him my desire to expand my lessons that involve digital photography. He let me know that when his students use digital cameras he tries to get them to do as little post editing as possible, so that he doesn't cross the line from photography teacher to computer graphics teacher. (His school has one of each, and he doesn't want to step on his coworker's toes at all.)

brushesicnThis made perfect sense to me, but as I'm less an art specialist than a jack-of-all-trades, I don't feel that I need to stick to the same limits. To be honest, my requirement of aligning the art curriculum with other subjects means that the more circles I have in the venn diagram, the more likely I'm doing my job.

This also got me thinking about technology. (but then, what doesn't?)

techicnSometimes I'm referred to as an art teacher who's into technology, or a technologist who's into art. Do they really have to be separate things? It's my opinion that anything that allows for creative expression is art, and therefore fair game for one of my lesson plans. It's true that there's some art that normally falls outside of the realm of the digital, but scanning it or taking a picture can quickly change that issue.

writeOn the other side of the spectrum, I can't remember the last program or website I've seen that didn't have an artistic touch to it. (The BIOS doesn't count.)

I'll wrap this up with a question from one of my colleagues. Today I was asked if I'd ever considered teaching technology all the time.

I answered without hesitation:

"I already do."

Why don't you send me an audio comment for my 100th podcast? Only a few more podcasts untill the big event!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 94

I'm not from Australia.

I have nothing against the land down under, but I can't even fake a decent Australian accent. I bring this up because a recent posting on a blog called "Using Wiki in Education" gave me a nice write-up, but got that minor detail incorrect.

I'm sure the author, one Stewart Mader, wrote the inaccuracy as an honest mistake. This is unfortunately more than I can say for some others out there.

It seems that people wiping their feet on the truth are coming out of the woodwork. Wired News had to pull more than one story by a freelance reporter who faked his sources, Reuters got its own black eye thanks to some doctored photos, and don't get me started about fake MySpace accounts.

You'd think that at least textbooks would remain pure, with all of the checking and rechecking before they go to print, but no. I've used both art and health books (Yes, I taught health. My training as a Boy Scout and the son of an RN worked out well.) where I had to say "The book says this, but in reality, this."

This all goes to show how much we need to verify our sources, and how much we, as teachers, need to teach our students that not everything they read is true just because someone managed to publish it.

Just think - if we could raise an entire generation of people that weren't gullible enough to fall for spam, junk email might actually cease to exist. A daydream, I know, but hope springs eternal.

Why don’t you send me an audio comment for my 100th podcast? Only a few more podcasts untill the big event!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 93

In my last podcast from PA, I talk about what I intend to do with my new thumb drive.

I also briefly mention three good sources for video -,, and

Why don’t you send me an audio comment?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Audio Apology

Podcast buttonThis isn't so much a podcast as it is an audio apology. I don't have any ideas for topics today. Sorry.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 91

Download .mp3

I'll be in Pennsylvania all next week to visit with friends and family and perhaps spend a day or two at Musikfest in beautiful Bethlehem, PA. This doesn't mean that I'll be taking a break from podcasting, although I probably won't be posting the MP3s in the middle of the day like I normally do.

This will be my last big fling before I head back to school, and I'm really looking forward to this coming year. I may not have a classroom to set up, but after two years in the same buildings (more or less) I'm familiar enough with the curriculum to start planning my lessons.

I'm actually under more restrictions than you might think. As an Interrelated Art Teacher I'm not allowed to just stroll into the classroom and teach whatever I want. insects.jpgI have to develop lessons that don't just match the state standards for art, but also the standards for other subjects.

So my 3rd grade origami lesson must also be a review of fractions and geometry. Or when we use Model Magic to make insects my 6th graders need to identify the body parts by their proper names.

But there's more to my motives than just teaching cross-curricular lessons to students. You see, with four buildings there's no way I can see each class as often as I would like.

I need to find someone who spends more time with the kids than me ... gee, who could that be? Oh yeah, the classroom teacher!

redcross13While I teach the students, it's also my job to teach their teacher at the same time. Lucky for me, this can be as easy as making sure my student helpers hand paper out to everyone including the teacher. Everyone seems to love art, and in my experience the better teachers are more than happy to join in.

They might not repeat that lesson the same year, but the following year when they're covering the same part of their curriculum they might just remember how that crayon and watercolor project helped reinforce their lesson on hurricanes.

It means I'll need to plan something different each year, but that's OK - I think it's fun.

Send me audio! Hear yourself on my upcoming 100th podcast spectacular! Just click here and your web browser will use your computer’s microphone to send me an audio comment.

I’ll accept just about anything, including simple greetings or congratulations, shout-outs, reviews of products or services, commentary on recent events, or even plugs for other podcasts.

This is, of course, provided everything is kid-safe.

Think of it as free advertising that will reach an exclusive listener base. And yes, by “exclusive” I mean “small.”

Thursday, August 03, 2006


What are you still doing here? I moved the whole site over to yesterday!

If this post is showing up in your RSS reader, then please point it to to make sure you don't miss out on anything. You shouldn't need to change anything in iTunes.

And if you're subscribed to my Feedburner feed in Bloglines and you're still seeing this ... well, Bloglines is the only RSS reader that's doing that. I reported the problem but they haven't gotten around to fixing it.

For those of you using Bloglines, subscribe to this feed instead:

It has fewer frills, but it works.

Hometown Tales

One of my favorite diversions is listening to a good story. It could be about someone beating incredible odds, or just something incredibly odd.

I suppose that's why I listen to Hometown Tales - they'll do a podcast on just about any story, from ghosts to good sandwiches. My only complaint is that it looks like they'll do their 100th podcast before I do, as evidenced by the fact that they've just put out their 99th half hour bundle of goodness.

Give it a listen, and let me know if you hear any familiar names mentioned.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 90

My last podcast was all about the DIY movement, and I suppose this is a continuation of that.

I've been building web pages since the early days of My first attempts were the moderately ugly templates that free hosts often provide, but as I learned more HTML, Javascript, CSS code, and changed servers more times than I care to remember, I was able to do more customization.

Now I've taken the next step and found a web host that gives me unlimited MySQL databases. MySQL databases, in an oversimplified nutshell, are things that sit around quietly in the background and make your blogs, wikis, and message boards so dynamic and, well, usable.

Of course I'm still in the process of moving in. WordPress has a feature that allows me to import all of my posts and comments from Blogger, but I still want to tweak the code here and there to make it look more like it belongs to an art teacher.

Once that's done, I'll be a little mad with power, I think. I mean, I've got more space and bandwidth than I've ever had before. I can install ANYTHING on this server, and just might.

So what should I play with next? I'm already toying with a Moodle install for my Art Club (provided it doesn't get me sued), but what else? Should I install a wiki? How about a forum or image gallery? I'd really like to have your input on this before I do anything like devoting hours of effort into a forum that no one uses or a wiki that no one edits.

Send me a message!And speaking of input, I'm still looking for audio comments to use in my 100th podcast. All you need is a microphone and this link, which makes it very easy to do. With only 10 episodes before the big event I'm starting to get some comments rolling in, but I want more! Don't forget that you can also promote your own blog or podcast in your recording.

And of course this is my first podcast of the month, so if you like what you've been hearing I'd love it if you voted for me on Podcast Alley. C'mon, you know you want to. They ask for an email address to prevent voter fraud, but I've never gotten spam because of them.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Changing Servers (again!)

After a few hours of mad panic, I've switched servers. (I told you I was bitten by the DIY bug, didn't I?)

I'll be leaving all of the old stuff up because so many of you have linked to it, but from now on please visit instead of The RSS feed will remain the same, so you don't need to worry about adjusting any aggregators.

And yes, I know the site looks plain now. I'll get working on that almost immediately.

RSS Switchover

If you can see this in your RSS aggregator of choice, then Feedburner has been successfully redirected.

Can everybody see me now?

DreamHostAfter a few hours of mad panic, I've switched servers. Why? Because $7.95/month for 20 GB of space, unlimited MySQL accounts, and a terabyte (that's right, a terabyte!) of bandwidth seemed too good to pass up. I'll be leaving all of the old stuff up because so many of you have linked to it, but from now on please visit instead of The RSS feed will remain the same, so you don't need to worry about adjusting any aggregators like iTunes or Bloglines.
And yes, I know the site looks plain now. I'll get working on that almost immediately.