Friday, December 19, 2008

Support the EFF!


The Electronic Frontier Foundation is doing a fundraiser, and to kick it off they've released a short animated song to show just what they do.

If you're a long term follower of this blog then I don't need to tell you the EFF is awesome. While as an artist I feel I should have the final say with what's done with my media, I think current practices go too far towards enforcing outdated business models.

Image uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The rumors of my demise ... yadda yadda yadda.

Sorry I haven't been blogging much. I've been somewhat active, to which my Plurk stream will attest, but a variety of projects other than this website have left me either short on time, short on creativity, or a combination of the two.

I'll admit, when this school year started I bit off more than I could chew.  Not because I had started too many projects (which I had), but because I also have additional duties outside of school that were either nonexistant or not as time consuming as last year.

So this break I'm going to re-evaluate a few things.  I don't want to give up this blog, but I may be cutting back on other things to give myself more "free" time for other projects.

... anyone want to manage the community?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

PUWT 2008 - Session 4: Using the SMART Board - It's Elementary!


Presented by Cindy Savio. - a way to share interactive activities for the SMART board.

Showing a bunch of cool activities, some from the above site, others integrate media from Discovery Education Streaming.

Cover a whole picture in a solid color, then "erase" the picture to reveal it gradually.  Since the pens write in a layer on top of the screen, the images are preserved.

Drag-and-drop exercises, where students organize things (words, shapes, coins, etc.) by dragging them with their fingers.

Telling time with clocks taken right out of the school kit gallery.

You can make dice!  Import whatever images you want for each side.  The one she showed us was 6 sided, but there are polyhedral dice availible.

PUWT 2008 - Session 3: What's In A Ning? Online Social Netwoks in K-12 Education


Presented by Allison Archer

Started out with a Bob Dylan song about times and how they're a-changin'.  Rolled right into dialogue on MySpace.  (Boo!  Hiss!)  Social Networking is cool and helpful, but MySpace gives it all a bad name.

Enter: Ning - a site that allows us to build our own social networks.  Plenty of collaboration, but also plenty of control.  The presenter created a Ning for her students to share with students in Thailand.

Quick mention about wikis - another way to collaborate.

Now talking about cultural differences encountered between her 2nd grade class and their Thailand partners.    It was a new experience they'd never thought of, so they needed to get used to it.  As teachers we ned to get them used to social networking. Would you put a 16 year old alone in a car with no lessons?  No, we have driver's ed.

PUWT 2008 - Session 2: Pocket Size Multimedia Studio


Presented by Evylyn Quinones

1st choice was on 21st century collaboration, but presenter was a no-show.  Walked in on 2nd choice as she was showing off her Flip camera.  Never got to see the built in software before - it allows for basic editing, but also allows you to upload the video to the internet.  Even better, you can change your preferences to save the video in different formats.

Moving on to her voice recorder.  Olympus WS300 - looks like David Warlick's but I can't check the model number right now without wifi.  (EDIT: He uses the WS100.)  Looks slick - built in USB (no cord), input for external mic and output for headphones.  Whole thing runs off of a AAA battery.

Talking about Podcasting with GarageBand and Audacity.  Of course, I've been doing that since before it was cool. I'm a trend setter, I know. ;-)

Moving onto iPods & iTunes.  A mention of iTunesU and all the cool podcasts in the iTunes "store."

Talking about saving presentations to iPods as image files just like Hall Davidson.

Playing with the apps you can get for the iPhone.  I like the digital version of a level.

iMovie rocks.  iMovie 06 is so much better than 08 in my opinion, and apparently in the presenter's opinion as well.

Benefits of YouTube - bigger audience, lower bandwidth costs.

PUWT 2008 - Keynote: Tammy Worcester

Sitting in the front again, or at least the 3rd row.


She has a website, of course. :)

Today: Copy/Paste from web.  Our day: Copy from encyclopedia.  Not much different, really, but how can we change assignments so students can learn from them?

Mentioning David Warlick & using a "Building Block" model.

Making glyphs - using data to create personalized graphics - with younger kids.

Now she's talking about using PowerPoint in unorthodox ways.  Not so keen on PowerPoint myself, but it's on most computers so there's a low cost of entry to use it.  Makes sense as a graphics program, especially if you want simplicity.

Back to the glyphs, in this case a pizza.  Mentioning Mac & Windows commands.  She's continuously demonstrating why she's a good choice for today's keynote.  They're all little things, but they add up.

Moving on - Google Notebook to save resources as we research.  More than just bookmarks, it saves selected text & photos as well!  Want to share?  Publish it as a web page!

Google Docs now.  I Looove Google's survey feature.  It's how I do art class sign-ups in my multiple buildings.  She's talking about having students editing a spreadsheet simultaniously from multiple computers.  Data updates automatically.

Whee!  She's now using so those of us with laptops can play with her survey right now.  I've been doing the exact same thing.

"Get your cell phones out."  Looks like we'll be using  I remember Hall Davidson doing this as well.  It's still fun.

Acrostic - key word spelled out vertically, each letter in the word reperesents a fact about that word.  Again, building it in PowerPoint.

Making postcards with PowerPoint that contain facts about the places (or anything else) and citations for where they got the photos.  The limited space makes them think hard about what information should be included.  Print 2 slides/page and get the perfect post card size.

Pyramid Report: triangle filld with facts.  Short one on top and facts get longer as you scroll down.  Delete the triangle before printing.  Then fold it into a "hat" and do "Hats off to __________."  This idea just got her applause.

Build a Healthy Body - 2 PowerPoint slides cut apart and glued ogether to make a simple person.  Applause again.

Just noticed she's running Windows XP in a window on her Mac.

Making photos greyscale in PowerPoint to make them look more "classy."

ABC Biography - Acrostic on sterroids.  Using the whole alphabet to give facts about a person's life.  A covers the beginning, Z covers the end, and so on.  ... "X" is a little tricky.  May want to give some leeway.

Who (or what, or where) Am I? - photo slowly revealed along with text clues.  Don't chop up the photo, just cover it with rectangles.

PUWT2008 - Session 1: Treasure Hunting at the Library of Congress Online


OK, I admit it, my first impression of the session was based entirely on the room.  How's this?  They face forward to take notes, and turn around to use the computers.  The teacher can see every screen from the front of the room.  Sweet.

Presenter is Danna Bell-Russel, from the Library of Congress.

"Not about the site, but how to find things on the site."

Presenting with Microsoft Word - Simple, unorthodox, but effective.

LOC isn't in the business of censorship, but it does have a kid-freandly section.

"Digital Collections" - section with most of the content the LOC has digitized.  Start searches there.

They have a map collection!  I should have used that during my map lesson a few weeks ago...  In any case, their online maps allow you to zoom in and change views.  They even have election maps, as in red states vs. blue states.

Don't type "Civil War" - too many results.  Refine, refine, refine!  It's all about the terminology.  "Gas Station" vs. "Filling Station," for example.

They have Teacher's Pages with categorized topics and resources - even recorded sounds in mp3 format!  The lessons are created by teachers.  Some are quite huge, but there's of course no obligation to use the whole lesson as is.

Some of the resources are RealMedia files.  :P

Buuuuuut, they also have an RSS feed. :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Microblogging Addiction Study

The following are excerpts from lab notes taken by psychologist Dr. I. M. Nuts and sociologist Dr. R. U. There. Their study was on the effect of microblogs on human personalities. It should be noted that while Twitter was used for this experiment, Plurk is better.

Pre-Study Interview:

Subject looked confused. "Micro what? Is that like MySpace?"

Interview 1:

Subject was made aware of the microblogging format. Created an account and posted "Trying out Twitter. Is this any good?" Added everyone in the computer lab to their "Following" list. Did not log in again for three weeks.

Interview 2:

Subject asked a question on Twitter. Surprised to actually get a meaningful answer within five minutes, subject began checking Twitter daily. "Followed" list expanded to fifty people.

Interview 3:

Subject changed cell phone plan to include unlimited text messages in order to microblog from any location without spending a lot of money. "Followed" list expanded to 150 people, including several imaginary ones like Darth Vader and Fake Steve Jobs.

Interview 4:

Subject is posting regularly on Twitter, with more than 100 posts per day. Conversations range from links to cute kittens with funny words under their pictures to deep philosophical conversations. Subject seemed reluctant to visit for the mid-point interview though. Asked "Can't you just send me direct messages on Twitter?"

Interview 5:

Subject's microblog postings per day have expanded to more than 300. Postings like "Brushing my teeth" are common. Occasionally posts "At a red light."

Interview 6: 1,000 posts a day. Posts like "Brushing my teeth" are now preceded with "Getting the toothpaste" and followed with "Rinsing." With the inclusion of posts like "Changing lanes" several friends got together to perform an intervention. Those friends were removed from the subject's "Followed" list.

Interview 7:

Subject was too agitated during the exit interview at the end of the study, most likely due to the poor cell phone coverage and lack of computers in the interview room. Insisted on beginning each sentence with "@DrNuts" or "@DrThere," depending on who the subject was talking to. Seemed mentally unable to talk to any staff member if their name was unknown.

Exit Interview:

Subject is recovering nicely in the local hospital's mental health wing. We are optimistic that the subject will one day be able to enter an Amish community and continue to live a long and healthy life with minimal nervous twitches.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How 2.0: Building a PLN, Part 2/4

PLN Wordle

Due to popular demand (2 people asked), here's part 2 of my 4 part series on PLNs.  As before, I've cross-posted it to two locations:

Discovery Educator Network's Maryland Blog

Teachers 2.0

Audio and text only this time, sorry - I've been swamped.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A day in the life...

The following account is fictional, so far as anybody knows.  It is, however. inspired by an interpretation of a story that might be closer to the truth than an outright lie.

6:00 AM, Saturday

Went to bed early last night so I'd have all day to research my report on learning disabilities (probably focusing on ADD).

I have Eric and Google Scholar at my fingertips, so I should be done by noon at the latest.

6:05 AM

Hit the snooze button just one more time.  It's Saturday, after all.

7:00 AM

Finally got out of bed when I realized that I hadn't heard my alarm go off for maybe half an hour now.  No matter, still have plenty of time.

7:10 AM

Already found several articles that might be worth reading for my report.  Also found a mountain of material that reads like it was written by a team of lawyers used to writing End User License Agreements ... after they've all had frontal lobotomies but before their medication has worn off.  I need a break - time to check my email.

8:37 AM

Finished checking email.  Would have finished faster but my sister sent me a picture of a cat that reminded me of a funy website.  Spent far too long looking at pictures of cute fuzzy animals acting like people.  Focus! It's time to hit the grindstone again.

9:00 AM

Cat (the skinny one) decided to walk across my keyboard, closing several windows.  Realized that this behavior is only funny when seen on the silly website viewed earlier.

9:02 AM

Yelling at animals who don't understand English (or at least don't care) is not productive, in spite of its theraputic qualities.

9:30 AM

Found several more articles that may be worth reading.  Decided to narrow it down by weeding out the really long and/or boring ones.

2:00 PM

Woke up to the sound of a cat (the fat one) complaining that her food dish was empty.  Apparently I wasn't so good at finding decent articles after all.  Wife thought the indentations on my forehead made by my keyboard were very amusing.  I found the 587 pages of jibberish typed in my sleep less so.

Break for a late lunch while checking email, then back to the grindstone.

2:30 PM

Scrapped all previously located articles and started from scratch.

2:35 PM

Decided to check my RSS feeds for recent news.

3:00 PM

Finished checking all RSS feeds in my Bloglines account.  Refreshed page several times just to make sure I didn't miss any.  Went back to work.

4:32 PM

Was very happy with over an hour of uninterrupted productivity involving an ongoing discussion in a favorite online forum ... until I remembered that report.

5:00 PM

Cat (the fat one) decided she wanted more attention.  Wouldn't stop tapping me with her paw until I petted her.  Began again whenever I stopped, until she noticed the red dot my optical mouse could make on the floor.

5:03 PM

Borrowed wife's laser pointer to give cat (the fat one) some exercise.

5:04 PM

Gave up on exercising cat (the fat one) when I realized that "noticing" and "chasing" are not synonyms, particularly when dealing with a cat that's shaped like a lumpy bowling ball.

6:00 PM

Break to make supper.

7:30 PM

Wife's character in World of Warcraft was having difficulty with a quest.  Logged into the game to help her out with my level 70 Paladin.  Planned to help her quick then get back to work.

10:00 PM

Wife's character on World of Warcraft gained two levels.  I also created a new character and got it to level ten before I remembered I had work to do.  Oh well, I'll just have to finish that report on ADD tomorrow...

Friday, August 29, 2008

How 2(.0): Personal Learning Networks, 1/4

It occurs to me that I posted this here and here, but totally neglected to put it on my own site.  Oh well.

If you haven't seen my latest creation yet, here it is.  I'm hoping to record part 2 (or more, time permitting) this weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Not in fact a tribal serenade...

... but still darned fun.  We got to play with "Boomwhackers" at the recent DEN NI thanks to Paula White and I recorded a couple short clips with my own new toy.

I think the video could have been better, but the audio's half decent.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Art Club 2.0


originally uploaded by TheArtGuy.

OK, Personal Learning Network, I'd like to run an idea past you.

In the past I've made attempts to get my Art Club members blogging, but never got a lot of significant buy-in. This was partially because (following my ADD nature) I kept introducing the students to so many different media and projects that we spent very little time in front of a computer.

This is not a complaint. I made my choice for where to devote my time and energy, and I got good results from those projects. But now I'd like to revisit this newfangled blogging thing and see where it takes me.

So here's my idea: Every time the Art Club meets I want them to write a blog post. Some might be critiques of the artwork of others, some might be explanations of their own artwork (scanned or photographed and placed on the blog, of course...), and some might be responses to other blog posts. These will be 3rd through 6th graders (maybe just 5th & 6th graders), so the blog posts will be moderated, but just like last year's theme was photography, this year's theme will be blogging.

I might include other things along the way - maybe some movie or image editing with either built-in software or free websites, but I don't want to do any project that would keep a student from writing something every week.

So what do you think? Is this a god idea? Bad? Is there anything you'd add or leave out?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 166: Audio vs Video

Warning: The following podcast contains words which, when placed in a particular order, can be used to convey ideas.  People who are set in their ways should listen at their own discretion.

So this weekend I actually got caught up on my audio podcasts.  This was no small achievement, as I had several gigabytes of downloaded but unplayed podcasts on my hard drive before I went to the DEN National Institute, and while there I didn't really listen to any of them until after I got back home.

That being said, I still have 43 video podcasts waiting for me to watch them.  There was a time when video podcasting was unheard of, due to a combination of bandwidth, storage, and equipment costs.  Times have changed since then, and while audio podcasts still outnumber their video cousins, there seem to be a lot more .mp4 files showing up in my podcatcher these days.

Unfortunately for me, my method of experiencing these podcasts hasn't changed much at all.  I mostly play them when I'm in the car, playing video games, doing dishes, researching art lessons, folding laundry, and playing video games - you know, activities where my eyes are required to be actively engaged in something other than watching video.  It's this ability to multi-task that drew me in part to podcasting in the first place.

But with video - good video - your attention is demanded.  You might still be able to multi-task, but as you can't look at two things as well as one you'll always be missing something.

And that's my inspiration for this episode - a comparison of the pros and cons of video and audio formats.


Audio podcasts have a much lower entry cost, both for creating them and carrying them on portable devices.  I can spend $50 or less and get a half decent mp3 player, but it won't do video at that price.  Add to that the fact that all I need is a phone to record an episode and I don't even need a computer with a working microphone to get started.

Video podcasts have gotten cheaper over the years (due in no small part to the iPod's video capabilities and competitors' desire to give more value for a lower price), with portable video players selling for $100 or less.  Recording equipment is coming down in price too, with decent digital video cameras selling for $200 or less.  Digital still cameras are actually able to record half decent video nowadays,  and let's face it, lots of laptops have built in cameras so you might not even have to buy anything new at all.

Work Load

Audio is, in my opinion, easier to edit than video.  A lot easier.  I can very easily remove hums, haws, ers, ums, yawns, and so on without the listener ever knowing those things were in there, provided there are no visual cues.  When I cut something out of video using the same process, you notice.  Yes, there are ways to cover these things up, but they're not as simple to do as the tried and true "select, delete, and move on" method of editing audio.

Of course I suppose you could always go with the "I don't edit my podcasts" method that some people have adopted, but I'm not willing to go there ... yet.


I've already covered this a little bit.  When recording or listening to audio, it's very easy to be doing something else at the same time.  With video this is only possible if you don't care much for at least one of the things that's demanding your attention, and I for one don't want to put the extra work into a video podcast if no one's going to watch it.

Wow, I'm really hammering the video format in this episode, aren't I?  With all of these drawbacks, is there any reason to choose video over audio?  You bet there is!

Multiple Learning Styles

Using an audio only format appeals the most to people who learn that way, but some of us (myself included) are visual thinkers.  We can still digest information by hearing it, but it's so much easier if you show us as well.

And by "show," I mean it.  Talking heads add very little to a presentation, but you can still insert slides from a PowerPoint, images of examples, and the like to keep your viewer's interests.  It's true that many of the video podcasts I've made myself had that very problem (even if the times I waxed theatric helped a little bit), but I eventually came to realize that my audience wasn't getting much more out of it through the video I was including.

That's why I'm back to audio only for the most part, saving video for special occasions.  I think the only reason I got away with what I was doing was because video podcasts were still somewhat new at the time, and the "wow, this is new!" factor gave me a bit of an edge.

The problem is, newness doesn't last.

Now there are people out there that are doing it right.  If you ever get a chance to see one of Lawrence Lessig's presentations you'll see what I mean.  They're simple, true, but every slide reinforces the message he's trying to convey.

A recent presentation on the culture of YouTube (found via Will Richardson) would make another excellent, if a bit long, video podcast.  There's a lot of talking heads in it, but the scenes are varied, mixed with images and video from a variety of sources, and even the inserted still images move across the screen in a way to support his message.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 165: Twitter vs Plurk

Warning: If you're sick of hearing about micro-blogs like Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, and Plurk, today's podcast might not be for you.

Those of you who've been listening for a while (at least since show 128) may recall how enthusiastic I was over a website called Twitter.  I found micro-blogging to be incredibly addictive in spite of its 140 character limit because the conversations were worthwhile.  I quickly established a PLN (or Personal Learning Network) of fellow educators and thoroughly enjoyed the learning (and joking around) that ensued.

Then Jaiku came along, and I hoped with all my heart that the people in my PLN would all jump ship and move over to there.  Alas, while some did, most didn't bother, so I eventually abandoned Jaiku and reluctantly returned to Twitter.

Fast forward to the creation of Pownce, and history repeats itself.

I loved Pownce for many reasons, most of which I won't go over here.  It's coolest feature however was the ability to have threaded conversations.  Reading through the posts of everyone I'm following on Twitter is like standing in the middle of a crowded room.  You hear snippets, but not always a complete conversation.

Ok, usually not.  The problem was while I would often see people responding to other Twitter-ers, I wouldn't see what was being responded to unless I was also following that other person.  Through the creative use of putting "@" in front of user names I could find that individual, but if they were prolific with their tweets then it would still be hard to follow the conversation.

And remember, it was conversations that made Twitter cool in the first place.

The best way to solve this seemed to be following everyone that everyone else in my PLN followed, but there is a physical and mental limit to how many people I can follow so I merely replaced one problem with another.

I  still think Pownce is among the best micro-blog formats out there, but the only times my PLN moved over there were when Twitter was down. Granted, that meant they were there a lot, but never to stay.  Most conversations on Pownce could be summarized as follows:

"Oh, Twitter's down again."

"Is Twitter up yet?"

"No.  It's so annoying that it's down so often."

"I know!  I'm about ready to - hey, it's back up!"

And that's the last I would see of them on Pownce until the the next Twitter outage.

So once again, I abandoned a better service for Twitter.  As much as I liked Pownce, I had to stay with my PLN.

My Plurk TimelineAnd then came Plurk.

Plurk has a few annoying things about it, most notably a lack of text messaging support and a right-to-left scrolling "timeline," but every post can receive threaded responses so my main problem with Twitter is already solved.

Plurk also has something called "karma." This has nothing to do with reincarnation, it's simply a score for how well you're interacting with others.  I'm not too certain about the algorithm used, but I do know that your score goes up more for posting only a few "plurks" that generate responses from others than it does from posting 1,000 "plurks" and getting few, if any, responses.  Your karma can go up as you gain followers, but the method I've seen on Twitter of going through and following hundreds of people in an attempt to get them to follow you in return will actually hurt your score.

That's something cool that I didn't expect to see in a micro-blog.  In my opinion one of the cancers of Web 2.0 sites has been the large number of people who treat it as simply a game where whomever has the most followers wins.  I'd first heard of this happening on MySpace when a friend complained that her brother had more "friends" than she did, even though he didn't really know most of them and she knew all of hers.  (I think she wanted me to create an account so her score would go up by one ... I still didn't.)  I've since seen this problem on Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, Youtube, and even to a limited extent on Pownce.

But I've yet to se it on Plurk.  They've essentially replaced one score, your number of followers, with another score, karma.  There are still ways to game the system, I'm sure, but I'm not getting 20 friend requests a day from people who are already following over 1,000 others on this service, and I like it better that way.  (I often block those people when I see them on Twitter.)

On top of that, Plurk's karma score encourages more meaningful conversation than Twitter did.  Posts itemizing everything you're doing from minute to minute can actually lower your score, as you won't get many responses to "Hey, I just made some hashbrowns."

Plurk also has something else: Steve Dembo.  Steve's taken a liking to Plurk himself, and as a result many of those in my PLN have either made the switch or are now active in both. My one reason for staying on Twitter is gone. If I check only Plurk I feel that I have a sufficiently large and knowledgeable PLN.

Or do I?  There are enough people who haven't made the switch to make me wonder, so I did a little three part assessment of my PLNs on both services.  Using I posted to both sites simultaneously, setting up a series of hoops to jump through.

Round 1: "Is this thing on?"

This was simply to test the waters to see who was not only listening, but willing to respond.  I wasn't too surprised that my first response came from someone on Twitter - after all, I have more followers there, so at any given time it's more likely that someone's loading their Twitter client right after I've posted something.  What Twitter didn't have was staying power.  Responses there tapered off after only 6 responses out of 273 followers.

Plurk, on the other hand, had 18 different people respond out of a much smaller pool of 68 followers, some of them responding more than once.

These numbers included some people who were unbiased and used both services, and therefore responded using both services.

It should be noted that when I posted the round 1 results, at least two people on Twitter complained and more than one person on Plurk thought the result was very unexpected.

Round 1 Winner: Plurk

Round 2: "I have a question." (a: Work b: Play)

One of the reasons for having a PLN is to use it as a resource when looking for answers.  With that in mind, I asked two questions.  The first one asked for useful online tutorials for the free, open source Photoshop replacement known as GIMP.  Responses were limited to one on each side, but the one from Twitter was to a page that listed multiple tutorial sites, including the one that the Plurk responder provided.

My second question was for people to "waste my time" by letting me know what their favorite web based games were.  Chris Craft posted a creative game involving Google searches on Twitter, but on Plurk the same question got me two very well designed Flash games and one reference to building up one's karma score.  Oh yeah, and someone complaining that after they read the answers they wasted some of their own time playing those games.

On top of that the conversation in that thread continued on Plurk even after I posted the results, hammering in the solid win for Plurk.

Round 2 Winner: Tie (a: Twitter, b: Plurk)

Round 3: "Convince me."
For the third and final round I simply asked for people to tell me why their micro-blog of choice was better.  I received just one answer on Twitter, though it was concerning Twitter's compatibility with text messaging services so it was a darned good argument.

On Plurk I had several responses, ranging from short and sweet to links to full fledged blog posts on the subject.

Round 3 Winner: Plurk

So there you go, my take on the micro-blog battleground.  I don't expect Twitter to go away ay time soon, but apparently I'm getting a lot more out of Plurk than Twitter these days.

And hey, whether or not you agree with my somewhat subjective results, I'd love to hear your opinion in 140 characters or more.  You could always leave a comment here, but I'd much rather see you write your own blog post or record your own podcast on the subject.  If you link back to me when you post it, I'll be sure to see it when I search Technorati or Google.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 164: DEN NI 08

Academic Aesthetic 164: DEN NI 08

In today's show I interview a bunch of people here at the Discovery Educator Network National Institute for 2008.  (I decided to not put the full name in the title.)  See how many faces you can recognize.

Also, my voice is giving out and I feel sick.  Yay for conferences!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hangin' out at Discovery.

Yes, THAT Discovery.  They're doing an ed-tech conference all this week and I'm along for the ride.

You can be too, if you want.  Most of the content I'm collecting can be found either on my Flickr acount or my Plurk acount.  You don't need to sign up for those to follow along, but they're fun and free if that floats your boat.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 163: Communication

The following was written back in June, but I've been sitting on it until now because I wanted to be able to take a step back and look at my writing first before posting.

One would think that sleeping until noon would be one of life's simple pleasures afforded to teachers during the summer months. While I've nothing against prolonged inspection of the backs of my eyelids, I'm still dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 AM at least three days a week to help my wife get ready for dialysis.

Flickr PhotoI won't go into any great detail on her medical condition here (that's a subject for a different podcast), but it does leave me with several hours of alone time while she goes through the procedure. On days when I drive her to the dialysis center, gas prices are high enough for it to not make sense for me to drive home and back - making my period of solitude also one where I lack any ability to contact the internet. (UPDATE: I've since purchased a BlackBerry Curve, so now my addiction to the internet has reached the next level.)

Now granted, I've been incredibly lax in posting things on this site. I could go through lots of excuses, but the one I think I'll stick with is that it's a lot harder for me to do one of these entries when I'm not online, even though I feel most inspired when I can't get online.

Usually when I'm writing out my scripts I'll have three or four tabs open for reference purposes. Either I'm responding to someone else's blog post, or linking to another site that further explains a concept, or even looking for just the right picture to insert into the entry. I can't do any of these things without the internet at my fingertips.

But here I am in my car, in just such a situation. I can do whatever I want, so long as I only use the software and files in my little magic box. Cloud computing? Ha! That's no good to me here.

Flickr PhotoThis very much reminds me of a job interview I went to a few weeks ago. The position was for teaching technology to students and teachers in a Pre-K through 5th grade school, something that on the surface is really right up my alley. Still, I went in with more questions for them than they had for me.

And everything I encountered made it look like a dream job come true. The school was fairly new, so there weren't any old computers on the verge of breaking down. The computer lab, the ceiling mounted LCD projectors in every class, the three (THREE!) mobile labs that teachers actively fought over, the school-wide wi-fi, everything about it looked awesome.

Everything, until near the end of my visit when I started asking about wikis, blogs, and podcasts.

Oh, they don't do those.

In fact, anything that remotely resembles a blog or wiki is actively blocked. The school administration was very forward thinking, but the district had adopted a "walled garden" approach that would have prevented me from visiting even my own website from school.

Flickr PhotoContrast this with my current employer, which isn't throwing as much cash into tech programs but is actively encouraging teachers to use resources available to them on the internet - including workshops on blogging, podcasting, and wikiing.

"Wikiing?" Is that a word? Nevermind.

Long story short(er), I'm not pursuing the job. I only went to the interview because it sprung up at the last moment, and I felt I needed to dust the cobwebs off of the old portfolio. With the way technology is advancing, and the skills that I see successful people using right now, I feel I could do more to prepare kids for the real world with a lab of salvaged computers running linux and my current employer's filtering policy than all the high tech gadgetry in the world but no way to use it properly.

Because while the tech is cool, it's really not about the tech. It's about communication. It's about collaboration.

And it's about teaching students how to use these things responsibly, because locking kids in their rooms for fear that they'll go to the mall and something scary will happen will not prepare them for when they finally move out and go there themselves. Instead, we should take them there, hold their hands at first, and show them how to react in that environment.

Anything else is a disservice to the generation that will be running our nursing homes when we retire.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 162: Corporate Shill

SoundwavesToday's episode is brought to you by Sound Waves™

<announcer voice> That's right, in today's modern world there are many kind of waves, but only Sound Waves™ are capable of taking this podcast and transferring the information from your speakers to your ears in a format that you, the listener, can comprehend.

Sound Waves™: helping you hear quality audio ... and this show, too.</announcer voice>

...wait a minute, who wrote this ad, anyway?

But seriously, lately I've been thinking a bit about commercialization on educational websites. It's a topic I've visited before, though I think it bears revisiting.

I don't know exactly why I've been thinking about it recently. It might be because of some recent large purchases I've made. It might be because sites like Tips From The Top Floor and are doing pretty well with ads in their podcasts. Perhaps it's because Professor Bob from the History According to Bob podcast is able to sell CDs of things he originally gave away for free on his website, and even the great and powerful David Warlick and Will Richardson sell their books and/or ask for donations to their Starbucks cards on their websites.

Maybe its because sites like,, and are essentially advertising models for their parent companies - though I'll be the first to tell you that they're brilliant ad models because they draw in visitors with high quality content that makes them worth visiting repeatedly.

Or ... perhaps ... it's because of some emails I've seen over the past few months. You may have gotten them too, in fact.
How I feel when I sell things"I represent [insert company name here] and we'd like to pay you to blog about [insert product name here]. We're going to assume that [insert product name here] fits with the general theme of your website because you're a blogger and right now you're probably just happy that someone, anyone, has managed to find your little corner of the internet. We're certain that you'll be satisfied with the meager amount of shiny coins in exchange for linking to us repeatedly in your blog post and thus increasing our ranking on Google, even though it will most likely destroy your integrity and make you lose the small collection of loyal readers you've worked so hard to build over the years."

Well, they went something like that, at least. I might not have remembered the emails word for word, but I think that's an unbiased representation of what they said. You might even think that this posting would discourage future offers of a similar nature, but I don't think those people actually read the blogs they contact so I'm out of luck, there.

I've also gotten at least one offer from someone who wanted to be a "guest blogger" on my site. It was essentially very much like the previous email, except she offered to take the hard job of writing the post that would destroy my reader base off of my hands.

Not all emails from businesses were that bad, however. I've received at least one offer to sponsor my podcast on a repeated basis with a short audio ad placed in each show, which I politely turned down because while the product was educational in nature I hadn't used it myself and therefore felt uncomfortable promoting it.

Monopol-E-CommerceI even went so far as to hand out some books at this year's MICCA conference, but only because after looking through them I felt they were useful resources. The copies they provided for me to keep as "payment" were also given away, but that was because I already knew a lot about the subject mater already.

I've toyed now and again with turning my website into a moneymaker, but this was mostly through the addition of Google Ads - and those tend to mostly work on the kind of people who aren't likely to visit this website. Over the years they've been on and off of the site, but in all that time I still haven't earned enough for them to cut me a single check. To be perfectly honest, even if they did pay me all of my earnings right now it would be a drop in the bucket compared to what I've paid for domain name registration, hosting (my hosting is cheap, but not free), and equipment.

I've also included Amazon affiliate links in posts from time to time, but those have made even less revenue than the Google Ads - mainly because I've only ever done that for products I've owned, and zero minus the price of said products equals a negative number.

I'm not saying this to complain, mind you, but to prove a point that I'm not blogging or podcasting for the money. If I was, then I would have quit a long time ago. I do this because it's fun, and I enjoy it when I can become part of a conversation that is truly global in nature.

And then the bills come in, and I begin to think about how I can supplement my teacher's salary.

So, (and I hate to admit this,) I'm going to try a little revenue building experiment. No, I'm not going to be embedding ads in every podcast. Nor will I be placing flash banners where you get to shoot chickens or pick the next president all over the site either. I'm going to try something a little more low key than that.

On my site I'm creating a new page. That page will have links to things where if you buy them I might get a buck or two sent my way.


I think.

If you don't like seeing ads on education themed sites, then don't go to that page. If you don't mind, and throwing me a bone is something you might consider doing, well then you can go and check it out. My intention is to only become a corporate shill for products I've owned/used and enjoyed myself, so while I may be destroying my integrity here it shouldn't burn quite so bad.

And who knows - maybe I'll end up writing a book and promoting it there, eventually retiring from teaching to run around the world giving lectures and working as a freelance consultant.

... or, maybe I'll just make enough to pay some of my server costs.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Shiny New Toy

Shiny New Toy
... And my last new toy for a while, I'm afraid. Oh well.

As those of you who've been following me on Twitter, Plurk, Pownce, and who knows where else already know, I am now the proud owner of a BlackBerry Curve. To be honest I liked the Palm models better, but apparently unlimited data plans cost less with these little guys so my wallet had something to say about the decision making process.

Note that I didn't mention the iPod or any Windows Mobile device. These were both ruled out for different reasons, one being software issues and another being service issues. I'll let you pick which is which, but I'm moving on for now.

"Curve" is a great name for this model, since there definitely is a learning curve as you start to use it - especially if you've never owned a smart phone before. The qwerty keyboard really makes typing easier, though the small size does force me to type slower than normal. This isn't too bad, since I'm making considerably fewer typos now.

Within a couple minutes of Its activation I had already changed many of the "out of the box" settings, including but not limited to syncing up with my gmail account. Not having to use the web based interface for that is a real boon.

Oh yeah ... about web browsing ... that's a mixed bag. A lot of sites (Flickr, Bloglines, Youtube, and more) have smartphone-friendly versions that work pretty well. I actually prefer the "mobile" version of Plurk to the regular one. Sites that are text-heavy and use images just to break things up visually work pretty well also.

The problem sites are the ones that use a lot of Java, Flash, or focus on large images (like webcomics). The first two won't work at all most times, unless they have a mobile version. As for the large images ... well, you can enlarge them to full size and scroll around, but this involves more than one time consuming step and is awkward at best.

Still, I didn't get this to have it be my primary conduit to the interwebs. It's a backup and a way to make mobile blogging possible without depending on a conference's intermittent (or nonexistent) internet access.

And so far I think it's worth it. After all, I just wrote this whole post while sitting in my car and waiting for my wife. (I bought her one, too.)

More to come as I figure things out.
(Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry, edited later because adding links was darned difficult.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 161: Old vs. New

Creative Writing EnvironmentDownload .mp3

Written during last Wednesday's thunderstorm-induced power outage (which gave us off on Thursday...), and recorded during tonight's thunderstorm, I talk a bit about how the "old" should not always be replaced by the "new."

"We need to hack that system."

Education: as static as a brick wallA while back David Warlick expressed some regret about his daughter deciding to not follow in his footsteps as a teacher. I'm not sure how that feels (I'm a 4th generation teacher m'self...), but I find his musings on why she came to that decision (and who is to blame) to be very interesting.

My favorite quote:
Again, no blame to a system that’s worked for years. The blame goes to those who remain satisfied with a system that’s worked for years. We need to hack that system.

I've worked under no fewer than 4 Superintendents, and I think my current one is the best I've ever had. Why? Because he's the first I've seen that's made some very positive changes within the system.

Our current educational system?But he's still within the system. Test scores are still more important than attaining real world survival skills. It's what the School Board expects. It's what the system expects.

The more I teach, the more I feel like I'm a passenger on a cargo ship headed for a reef, desperately trying to paddle against the ship's own momentum. Granted, there are a lot of other people manning the oars alongside me, but we haven't been able to turn that boat around.

At least, not yet.

And I'm still rowing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

5 Essential Learner Outcomes in Art and Technology

Back when I taught high school, I was often in buildings that were fed by middle and elementary schools that did not hold art education in high esteem. This meant that I had to tailor my lessons to cover things most students learn in their K-8 years but make them interesting for a high school audience.

It also meant that I was able to make a list of things that, once I eventually taught elementary, would be able to drill into my students to prevent premature baldness and graying amongst the high school art teachers.

This list included the following five things:

  1. People ON sticks, rather than people who ARE sticks.People are not sticks. (I don't mind if a 3rd grader tries to draw a person and it doesn't turn out, but a 3rd grader drawing a stick figure isn't even trying.)

  2. Trees are not lollipops.

  3. Not every tree has to have a hole in the trunk. (Honestly, half of them draw the holes so they're wider than the trunks!)

  4. I've never seen a blue cloud in a white sky.

  5. Sky touches ground. (A blue bar at the top is ... a blue bar at the top. Not a sky.)

Granted, I didn't cover these things in every grade and every lesson. Not all students are developmentally able to comprehend my little list, and I still have room in my curriculum to do lessons that are more fun than they are nitpicky.

But at least by the time they leave elementary school all of my students know:Kindergarten kids paint the sky down to the ground!

  1. A way to draw people that have at least enough mass to wear some clothes.

  2. A way to draw trees that are more accurate depictions than a circle (or green cloud) on a stick.

  3. That because it can exist on one thing does not mean it exists on everything.

  4. More than one way to make cool looking skies , including sunsets, storm clouds, and more.

  5. What a horizon line is.

My official curriculum is much more detailed than this, but I suppose these items are my "pet peeves," if you will.

And this sort of got me thinking: Since I might become a technology teacher in a couple years, how will my list change? What are my technology pet peeves that I'll feel I must cover, above and beyond the official standards?

I came up with something like this:Tools of the Trade

  1. Be safe! There are ways to be safe from online predators, stalkers, identity thieves, cyberbullies, and so on. Use them.

  2. Be creative! The great thing about the internet is that anyone can create content, including you!

  3. Be skeptical! The bad thing about the internet is that anyone can create content, including people who mislead others. Take the things you see online with a grain of salt.

  4. Be cautious! Also, what happens on the internet stays on the internet, but not in a good way. Anything digital can be copied and archived, as well as indexed for easy searching. Don't put it online unless you want your mom, teacher, principal, significant others, and any future bosses to see it.

  5. Be clear! There media (PowerPoint, website, movie, etc.) should never be more important than the message it's used to convey. Overworked and poorly designed projects can both keep people from remembering the very things you wanted them to learn.

Well, that's my list, at least. What's yours?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Spare some Change?

(The following post has been the hardest thing I've had to write in the past 8 years.)

This is what I('ve) live(d) for.I am a teacher.

Every time I walk into a classroom, I walk out knowing that the people in that room have learned something new. Words cannot describe the feeling of accomplishment that gives.

For a teacher, that's incredibly addictive. It's why we put up with low pay, budget cuts, No Child Left Behind, piles of paperwork, security checks, and much more.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways to curb addictions. The stuff I just mentioned can be more effective than methadone with getting teachers to kick the habit of enjoying their jobs, but this year I've noticed some tell-tale signs that I'm suffering from something worse than all of those things combined:

How I feel right nowBurnout.

I've seen burned out "teachers" before. Ones that cut every corner they could (whether or not they should), gave the same lessons every year, and lived only for the weekend and summer vacation, where they could do anything other than walk into a classroom.

I don't want to be that person. Ever.

I need a change. A change of location, a change of work environment, a change of job description, a change of something. I don't know for certain what the change needs to be, but I do know that I can't keep doing this.

I need a job where I can be truly inspired, do what I love to do, and get a living wage for doing it. For 8 years, that job for me has been teaching art. I'm passionate about it, the kids seem to like it, and the classroom teachers will often participate along with the students. Just a couple of weeks ago I had a 4th grade teacher tell me I'd just taught her the best lesson she'd ever seen me do.

I am a teacher.

Every time I say those words my chest swells with the feelings of pride and fraternity (or gender neutral equivalent) that are shared by firefighters, police officers, and soldiers. This is not something I want to give up.

This is not something I'm going to give up, either.

I will not leave the classroom, but I will most likely be leaving my current classrooms after the 2008-2009 school year. That gives me one year to explore my options, whether it be a change of employer, job description, or schools.

Where I might go.I'll be weighing all of my options, and while that could include leaving the classroom that will be a last resort. I'd much rather have an art position in a single elementary school or a tech teaching position in an elementary or middle school.

I've been putting out feelers, and it seems if I want to stay with my present employer, teach technology, and earn a living wage, middle school is the youngest age bracket there is. I have not yet looked into other employers, but I will be if for no other reason than to compare and contrast.

There's a lot about the year after next that is totally up in the air. As I start to get a handle on what I want to do and what I can do, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 160: Flickr Video

Wow, 160 ... that's almost a milestone, isn't it?  I suppose I should take the time to try out something new then, huh?

In any case, here's a quick rundown on my opinions concerning Flickr's decision to host videos:

  • Flickr's video hosting is to most online videos as Twitter is to most blog posts.

  • 90 seconds is very short.

  • If you edit well, 90 seconds can be enough. (Remember, most commercials are 60 seconds or less.)

  • The first time I tried to cut one of my ramblings down to a minute and a half, it wasn't easy.

  • I say in the video that I cut 10 minutes of footage out to make it fit. I was exaggerating.

  • It wasn't more than 8 minutes. Honest.

  • Still, editing out everything except the core points took much longer than I thought it would.

  • Flickr Video ≠ YouTube

  • Flickr Video = Neat little toy

  • You can supposedly embed the videos as easily as the photos.

  • "Supposedly," because copy/pasting the provided HTML code did nothing but place a blank, black box in this blog entry.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Wrong Issue

This story, as horrible as it is, ends with a very misleading quote at the end.
Herrera said the violence could have been prevented if the school had enforced its cell phone ban.

I think this quote points at the wrong issue. Yes, the student used her cell phone to call her mom into the school and solve her issues with violence, but she could have also told her mom once she got home from school. The cell phone only sped up the process.

I see 2, maybe 3 issues here - none of which are centered on cell phones.

  1. The mom in this story has some serious anger management issues. I mean, come on - attacking someone and yelling profanities in front of kids? Way to be a role model there. Your "Mom of the Year" nomination is a sure thing.

  2. Behavior issues with the daughter. Repeatedly interrupting the class? Calling someone on a cell phone in class? Not exactly gold star behavior.

  3. Classroom Management issues with the teacher(?) I add this as a "maybe" because the information on how this teacher conducts her class is not present. I've no idea what strategies she used. Perhaps she tried various methods to diffuse the situation and calm the daughter (and later, the mom) down. Perhaps the methods she tried did nothing, perhaps they made things worse. Goodness knows I've been teaching long enough to see all three of those outcomes happen to me - although not nearly to this extreme.

Is it too much to ask that a news story portraying an all-around-bad situation not have anything in it that blames the technology along with (or instead of, in some cases) the people using it?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Getting Started in Video, with Bre Pettis

I've been a fan of Mr. Pettis' work for a while now, mostly because of stuff like this. I can't wait to see the rest of this series.

Hm, perhaps I should break out my old digital video camera again? I've been focusing on text and audio so much of late...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Teachers 2.0 Podcast: Podcasts, a Wiki, and Teacher Communities

I have a new podcast up over at Teachers 2.0. You might want to check it out if you're a Teachers 2.0 follower OR happen to like things like Second Life or World of Warcraft.

To be honest, I was inspired to record this (or at least the third part of the podcast) after finding out that there's more than one DEN member that plays Warcraft. We have edu-groups on Facebook, Second Life, and almost everywhere else, so why not Warcraft? (Or any other online environment you happen to like.)

Comments, of course, are welcome.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 159: Podcasting Tips and Tricks

I promised to have this uploaded before I crashed for the night - looks like I got to keep my promise.

This is the audio from my presentation at this year's MICCA conference. Forgive me if I keep things brief as I'm quite wiped by the experience of these past two days.

  • A pdf version of my PowerPoint, including a special bonus slide at the end, is available here.

  • Yes, I really do mention David Warlick that often. It's only because he does so much to help educators.

  • As I explain in the intro, I was able to use Audacity to remove the background noise but not the slight echo. It annoyed me at first but I got used to it ... I think.

  • I may be wrong about the new version of Audacity having LAME built in, but like I say in the podcast I do prefer iTunes for encoding my mp3 files.

  • I also over planned, and had very little time to do practical demonstrations. Perhaps next time I'll focus on one tool? We'll see.

  • I've said this a lot, but the wiki is still here. Edits are still encouraged.

  • I'm tired. Goodnight.

Open Source Software

Last seesion of the day, and I'm in the one for cheapskates people who like free software. Not just free, but created by everyone for everyone. Yeah, saving money is a big plus, but in many cases open source software has better features and fewer bugs. Everybody wins ... unless you sell software rather than services.

He's going over the history of open source, starting with IBM. Some of this I knew, most of it I didn't.

Just took the presenter's (Matt Burkhardt's) picture, and got a nice reaction from him in the process.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, his presentation was created in OpenOffice using a computer running Linux. Sweet.

Still going through the history lessons, but now we're getting to things I remember, rather than having just learne about. Ah, nostalgia.

Linked in uses software from the 80s.

Roundabout story that lead to a tale of "crowdsourcing," or having many people help a little bit to achieve an amazing goal.

More and more stories ... hoping for some software choices soon.

Ask and ye shall receive. Mozilla... Red Hat... MySQL... Trolltech... and more. Now he's going through project names quite fast. This is a broad overview.

Ubuntu Linux.

"Software as a Service" It's not important what's important on your hard drive, it matters what's online. "Thin clients," I've heard them called.

Answering questions from the audience - good questions.

Podcasting and more with Will Richardson

My presentation went very well - perhaps too well, since I kept answering questions and helping people out until the session after mine was over - along with half of lunch. As I said before, that's not exactly a complaint. I'm happy to help.

I was a few minutes late coming to Will Richardson's last session of the day, which I've (sort of) seen before. I say "sort of" because like any good presenter he revises his presentations to keep them current. Last year, didn't exist - or at least most people hadn't heard of it. His wiki handout, the same address as last year, has likewise been updated.

Heh, he's showcasing the Cog Dog himself.

Now discussing screencasts. There are a few free ways to do that, including Jing. Jing is very easy to use, but saves everything in a format that I've yet to figure out how to edit. People have suggested using, but not even tat wonder of file conversion can help me.

Went to his Ustream chat room to ask for links to resources. Very cool.

(Went up t osay "hi" afterwards, and once again Mr. Richardson recognized me. My ego knows no bounds.)

MICCA Keynote Day 2: FableVision

When I saw that FableVision was the keynote for today, I admit I was a little worried - but only as much as I'm always worried when I see a presentation by someone running a commercial business.  I suppose the idea that a company involved in education is more interested in the business than the education runs deep in me.  Goodness knows, I've had my share of bad experiences in this area...

But every now and then, I find a glaring exception.  The DEN, usually, is one.  FableVision is another.  We're a good way into their presentation so far and they've barely even mentioned a product that they sell.  (I think I caught a few references, but they weren't shameless plugs like I make.)  Rather, they're talking about using a child's interests to help them get excited about learning.  It started with a story about the twin brother of one of the founders getting in trouble in math class because he was drawing in class.

As you might imagine, I loved the story.

Raffle time.  Think I'll end this post here and stop by their booth later.

Now, they're talking about games in education.  Not much research supporting their importance, but a lot of anecdotal stories and Maryland is apparently at the forefront of the research supporting the idea of good games getting kids into learning.

Ok, now they're talking about a product, although it's not being released yet.  I think they spent enough time making the case for keeping the students' interest to spend some time talking about their bread-and-butter.  (But that's just my opinion.)

Labyrinth is a math game (mostly) for middle school students that uses a lot of comic book style storytelling to get the kids interested. It's being privately beta tested at the moment, but the booth in the hallway was offering a way to sign up for a chance to try it out.

There are no instructions, leaving the kids to figure out the mechanics.  Makes me think of MYST, a game series that sucked away countless hours of my life in college.

There's even a way for students to communicate with each other using the "Tasty Pet Communicator " (the name fits the plot, trust me), although according to the ThinkPort booth there are enough admin rights for teachers to make that communication safe.

"The people who learn the most from educational software are the people who make educational software."  He told us that quote was a secret.  Gee, I hope no one blogs it...

That was a segway to talking about Scratch and other programs that help students make their own games - products that FableVision doesn't make.  Encouraging students to compete against them in game development, or trying to encourage students to become future FableVision employees?  You decide.

MICCA, for most of yesterday

Forgive me if this reads like I'm just a bit distracted - I'm writing this during the awards presentations that are preceding today's keynote. It's hard for me to do 3 things at once sometimes.

I didn't blog from any sessions yesterday, as I spent the entire time showing people just how easy podcasting can be at the podcasting booth. As such, I missed all of yesterday's sessions.

Don't take this as a complaint, however. I would have loved to see all the cool things that were going on, but I also loved talking with the many cool people who stopped by to learn about a topic which I'm truly passionate about. I remembered several of them from last year, and was pleased to find that they remembered me, as well.

Granted, my extroverted nature makes me stand out in a crowd. Oh, well.

My goal was twofold - first, I wanted to show as many people I could that podcasting was not as scary or difficult that some people seem to think (including that darn "but don't I need an iPod?" question). The other goal was to get as many people as possible to call in to the Gcast account I set up for MICCA and let us know what they thought of the conference or podcasting in general.

That 2nd part was ... not as successful as I would have liked. At least I can promote it again during my presentation today.

More to follow.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

MICCA Keynote 2008

Kathy Schrock is today's keynote speaker. Naturally, her handout is all online. As such, I'm not going to blog too much about it - She does a much better job than I do.

Multi User Virtual Environment - the great-great-grandchild of the old Multi User Dungeons (or MUDs) that I used to play in college.

"We never say 'fun,' we always say 'engaging.'"

Tapped In


"Second life: It's like The Sims but not a game."

A lot of info on 2nd life. I've podcasted my opinion on SL before, and my opinion hasn't really changed. It's nice, but I can think of other educational online environments that use less bandwidth and do the same thing.

At MICCA, before it starts.

Taken with Photo BoothI'm sitting here at my Podcasting Booth, which is unfortunately right next to the conference bookstore. I say "unfortunately" because, as a bookworm, I've already found two that I will be buying as soon as they officially open. It's like those books held a vaccum cleaner up to my wallet and sucked the money right out!

... I have no willpower at all.

Here's my assessment of what's going on so far.

+Only took 7 minutes to realize that the horrible beeping noise I was hearing at 4AM this morning was my alarm going off. That's not much earlier than my usual wake-up time, but it usually takes longer for me to get out of my more primitive "ART GUY SMASH SNOOZE BUTTON!" stage of regaining consciousness.

+Found a good parking spot in a garage right next to the conference hall.

-After trying two other parking lots.

-And it'll cost almost $30. Ouch.

-When I got here Registration had no list with my name on it.

-Nor did they know where the podcasting booth was.

+A few minutes later they got their computers up and were able to answer both questions.

+Kathy Schrock signed in right next to me.

+She recognized me.

-This boosted my already overinflated ego.

+The wifi for the conference is working.

-For now.

So all things considered, I'd say I'm off to a good start. There are a few obstacles, but most of them are either already resolved or will be soon.

More to follow...

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Academic Aesthetic 158: MICCA Freebies

This time around I might sound a little different - that's because I'm using my Creative Zen again, rather than GarageBand. I figured since I would be demonstrating it tomorrow I should get back into he process of actually using it.

The books I ramble on about in this episode are Kidcast: Podcasting in the Classroom and Kidcast: Creative Podcasting Activities.

I was a bit hesitant when I got an email from the publisher asking if I wanted to give these books away at my presentation, mostly because I'd like to think I have some level of integrity and I don't want to look like I'm stooping low to hawk anything that comes by.

When the books showed up, I opened up the first one to give it a read-through.  I have to say, the only thing I didn't like about them was the fact that they have those plastic ring bindings.  Other than that, I'd say they answer 90% of the questions I get asked about podcasting.  I wouldn't recommend the Podcasting in the Classroom book to someone who's been podcasting for a year or more, but if you're just getting started I'd say it's definitely worth it to have one of these.

As for the activities book ... I didn't read that one, mostly because I was unsure if I should take the shrink wrap off of it or not.  These are door prizes for people who will be attending my session, after all.


Does this make me a sell-out?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Audio Overload

iTunes OverloadAs I write this, my wife and I are listening to one of the 80 unplayed podcasts on my computer, while even now iTunes is downloading more. This is after I've gone through and unsubscribed to many podcasts, some of which I miss already, complete with twinges of guilt. The "fat," so to speak, has been "trimmed."

I would feel like I'm treading water here, but with over a day's worth of audio (not even counting the video, mind you...), It's more like I'm in way over my head.

[Insert a few paragraphs where I whine a bit more, here. I wrote them, then deleted them in a moment of temporary sanity.]

As I see it there are three reasons why I have this problem:

  1. Some people are releasing daily content and others seem to have turned podcasting into a full time job. And alas, practice makes perfect. The daily episodes I listen to are very, very good.

  2. Believe it or not, I have a life outside of the edu-blogo-podcasto-sphere. I know, I know, even I find that comment to be suspicious. But still, not every activity allows me to listen to podcasts while I'm doing it. Teaching, reading, and sleeping are among these activities. (And I'm too old to cut back any more on my sleep.)

  3. We moved back in August, cutting over 15 minutes off of my commute. That half an hour (counting the round trip) of prime podcast listening time every school day adds up pretty fast.

I'm not the only one who's had this problem, either. Steve Dembo and Doug Belshaw went so far as to wipe their RSS feeds clean and start over. I don't think I'm ready to go that far, as I'm too attached to the ones to which I'm still subscribed. (Note: My account has zero unread blog posts, and no, I didn't just click "Mark All Read.")

I'm sure there's a solution to this, but I'm not going to come up with it this late on a school night. I guess I'll sleep on it.