Sunday, December 23, 2007

Follow Your Cash


Well it is Christmas and we all know that the money just seems to fly from our wallets. Why not have some fun with it and find out exactly where it goes! Yesterday I got this $20 at Walmart. The writing caught my eye so I thought I would check it out. The address led me here. It is a fun little website where people enter the serial numbers on their bills and they can track where and when they have travelled. This $20 of mine came from Quebec, a little over a year ago. There is no other entries for where it has been. After I spend this little beauty I will be waiting with baited breath for somebody else to enter it at the website. When I have a spare minute I will have some fun entering new bills of my own.
There can also be an educational aspect to this website. Wouldn't it be fun for students to see just how far across the country our money travels?
Anyways, back to wrapping presents. If you come across a bill like this in your travels have some fun and enter it in the website.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays

Well this past month has been quite busy. Between preparing for my son's first birthday party, Christmas preparations, and working for a living I have not made enough time for blogging. Don't worry, I have found a few gems to write about and will post them up when I find the time.

Until then, have a safe and merry holiday!

(And remember to take it easy on the eggnog........)


Friday, November 30, 2007

So just what are these Blog things?





Common Craft is a production company. To quote their website "Our product is explanation." Explanations are what they do and they do it well (with great diagrams and simple common words). I really enjoy their videos - clear, concise, and to the point. The little paper animations are lots of fun too.

What I learned from this particular video describes exactly how and why WebBlogs (Blogs) have been an important innovation. Yes they are an easy way for somebody to post up their daily thoughts and ramblings, but they are much, much more. Blogs take the media out of the hands of the giants and gives it to us little guys (and no not all of us are Davids). Anybody with access to a computer can easily become a publisher.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Google Documents Basics

Yay! Rob Wall has been at it again! He has created two more screencasts showing how to use Google Documents.

Here they are:

Using Google Docs, Part 1 and

Using Google Docs, Part 2 (Formatting)

Google Documents is an excellent FREE web based set of office tools (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations). The nice thing about them is that you can access your files from any computer with an internet connection.

Part 1 of Rob's screencast is the basics of opening, using, and saving documents in Google docs. Part 2 shows how to use formatting options like alignment, text fonts, and text colours. If you are familar with other word processors than Part 2 will seem a little elementary but that is ok.

What I am waiting for is for Rob to get to adding collaborators to a Google document - that way multiple people can work on the same document at the same time! Lots of possibilities for us teachers!

Good work Rob. (And thanks for letting me post them here. Blogging is so much easier when you don't actually have to make up anything yourself.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

This is a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today - how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

Umm, how many of us are old school teachers. Come on admit it (as I sheepishly raise my hand). Are we really giving students what they need? Do you hate the question "Why do we need to learn this?" Am I delivering content in the most appropriate way? Is it the right content?

(sarcasm)

Bah, what am I thinking. Since I am always right my methods must always be right. These students just don't know what they need to know. No need to change how things are done.

(/sarcasm)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Keeping Little Red Riding Hood from the Big Bad Internet Wolves

So we all want our children to be safe on the internet. How do we do that? Vicki Davis (also known as Cool Cat Teacher) has written a wonderful guide to keeping your children safe on the internet.

11 Steps to Online Parental Supervision of Your Children

She makes some great points about how to supervise them. The main points I picked up is that you have to be online with them. If they Facebook then join them as a friend. Comment on what they post online. She also advocates educating your children. Yes, use blocking software but don't overblock.

Vicki also has a policy of "my house, my business." I like that policy. Keep in mind that out in the corporate world email and web histories are never private, so let them get used to it.

Read her post. To me it strikes a good balance between safety, security, and freedom.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grrrr......

We have been testing the new content filter (ie the everything is blocked problem). Everytime we hit a blocked site we wanted to use we sent an email to the computer techs. Turns out now they did not get ANY of them!!! None of the emails we have sent in the last month and a half. None. Nada. Rien. Niets. Keine.

More posts coming when I calm down. Why? Because there is more.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Twisting in the Internet Swings



!!!!!DISCLAIMER!!!!!


I am sorry to have to do it but this post is not a informative, instructional post. It is a rant. If you are here to learn how to use the internet and technology, good. But ignore this post. If you are interested in reading the opinion of somebody who is completely and utterly right then read on.


Let me start with an analogy. I have a small child at home (11 months old tomorrow). Since he is crawling and almost walking he tends to move around a lot and get into EVERYTHING. He is also a very active boy. I have two options with him. I can either tether him to a chain in the center of the living room or I can let him move around and get into things. So my wife and I give him freedom. Yes he falls. Yes he bumps his head. Yes he gets scrapes and bruises. Yes he gets underfoot. Yes there are tears. And yes he sometimes gets into dangerous things he shouldn't. But we are right there with him. Every time he either gets hurt or gets a stern NO from us he learns about his limits. He finds out what is safe and what is not. This knowlege will be useful when he is older.

If we raise him in the padded room (and in a straight jacket like the cartoon) he will never get hurt. In that room. The minute he hits 8 years old and we finally let him out of his safe bubble he is going to go and get himself seriously hurt on the playground. He won't have learned that maybe jumping 2 meters to the ground is going to hurt. He has been so tightly protected and babied that he has no clue what his limits are! He will fail Darwin's natural selection because when it comes to real life common sense, my son would be STUPID! He would never have been given a chance to test his limits, to see what he can and can't do. And whose fault would it be? Mine.

We are doing exactly that with our internet content filtering. Ok so our students should never be allowed to view pornography at school. Fair. My son doesn't get to play in the knife drawer either. But we do let him play in many of the kitchen cupboards. We are not letting our students learn internet resposibility in a supervised environment. My school has almost everything blocked (including this blog) but they have none of these restrictions at home. We need to teach them how to identify and avoid risks, but we have to do that by exposing them to risk along the way. And we need to be there right beside them.

We are an older generation. We don't know, understand, and use the internet at anywhere near the same level as some of our students. Many of us are functionally illiterate on the web. That scares us. We may not even realize it, but we are. We are scared. So we try and shut down and block out what scares us. We even lie to ourselves that we are doing it for someone else's own good.

A collegue and I were talking about it (so I need to give him credit for this part). What are we trying to hide with our network security? Are we a bank with sensitive banking information? Are we some sort of national security agency with international secrets? All of our marks are stored at SaskLearning so getting into our local system won't really hurt that. Most teachers use paper and pencil books for marks anyways. Besides 15 to 20 minutes of searching on Google will often let you know how to crack many systems anyways.

So what do we do? Do we actually teach them be responsible (and let them practice and show proficiency at it) or do we force them to remain ignorant because they are overprotected. A tough decision but I think I know where I am leaning.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

From a Distance.........


So I just found out that you can post to Blogger remotely. You can email pictures along with a caption from a cellphone. Unfortunately I bought my cellphone over three years ago and picked the cheapest one available. That means no camera phone for me. That also means that you will have to figure out posting pictures from a camera yourself.


However I can still post to blogger remotely through email. In settings there is an email tab. In there you can set up an email address to send your posts to. This way you can post to your blog any time that you can access email. Just as a test I am sending this post through email. It looks as if the subject of the email becomes the title of your post.
Be careful about that email address. Anybody who knows it can post to your blog.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Skype - Essentially an Internet Telephone

A friend and I were talking about using voice chat over the internet. He was looking at something that his dad could use to talk overseas for free. I have a fair bit of experience with voice chat servers. I have used them a fair bit when playing computer games with my brother and my friends. I have used Teamspeak and Ventrilo a fair bit. They are great for running in the background while playing a game but they don't have the best sound quality. The other problem is that one of you has to run a server or else you have to pay money to get somebody else to host a server.

I have heard many good things about Skype. It is a free program that lets you talk over the internet just like you would on a telephone. You need to download a 22mb aplication (and so does everyone you wish to talk to.) A microphone and an internet connection and away you go. It also looks like you can call real phone numbers using Skype as well (but not for free).

On any of these programs always take a minute or two to set up the microphone. It seems that every microphone seems to record at different levels. Expect to take a few minutes online during your first phone conversation to get the levels set up right. I find that the quality of the microphone makes a real difference. Chances are you won't be all that happy with the bargain bin microphone. I am not saying to go out and spend a fortune on a microphone. I use a Logitech headset that I bought for about $40. I prefer to use a headset. If you use a desktop microphone and your computer speakers sometimes the microphone will pick up the sound from the speakers. The other party in your conversation will hear themselves talking back to themselves through your microphone.

Check Skype out. Be cheap and talk over the internet for free.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Creating a Google Account

Google has come out with a pile of new tools. They have a document writer, spreadsheet, a presentation creator (like powerpoint), and a web page creator. Your files are saved online and accessable from any computer (unless the tech department decides to block these useful tools). Check out these tools.

In order to use these tools you will need to sign up for a Google account. Rob Wall, one of the other fellows that attended the In School Technical Support PD made a really good screencast of how to sign up for a Google account. (A screencast is a video captured from your computer screen.)

Creating a Google Account

Here is a link to Rob Wall's blog.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Have bookmarks, will travel.

So now with 3 computers at home and computers at school that I can't save bookmarks on, I needed some sort of way to have community bookmarks. Now I believe you can save your bookmarks in iGoogle. I already use iGoogle as my homepage but I wanted to try out something else. Donna recommended Del.icio.us. So I exported all of my bookmarks from my home computers and tried it out. Now I have access to my bookmarks anywhere that I have the internet. There is a button to download and attach to your web browser (a quite simple process). The button makes it quick and easy to access my links.

Del.icio.us has some other features that aren't available in most web browser bookmarks. It has a more powerful organizing tool. You can apply numerous tags to each link. You can then organize your links based on tags. You can also sort them by how often you use them. Del.icio.us even lets you subscribe to other users bookmarks. This means that when they add a new bookmark you will get access to it as well. (I haven't tried that feature yet.)

I have mixed feelings about Del.icio.us.
PROS:
- I can access and edit my links from any computer.
- Sorting options. (Love the tag idea.)
- Networking your bookmarks with other users.
- You can export your existing bookmarks to and from Del.icio.us

CONS:
- It is not quite as quick to use as the built in bookmarks tab on my web browser.
- I can't install the Del.icio.us buttons on the work machines.

Well, I will keep using it and I will make my final decision later. You can check out my Del.icio.us links on the right side of this page. Please ignore the fact that I obsess over my hobbies.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Telling the New Story

A good example of using blogs in the classroom.

For those of you who were at the inservice you have all seen this video. For the rest of you this lady makes great use of blogs to teach writing. Watch it. She is definatly not a tech geek so it goes to show that anyone can do it.

Coming soon - video posting instructions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Well I added some HTML text.

I think I just did something a little dangerous. I added a hits counter to the bottom of the blog. (For those not quite so web savvy that is a little application that shows how many times somebody visits my blog.) I say dangerous because the last thing I want to know is how few people actually visit my blog.

Anyways, how did I do it? I Googled hits counter. It led me to a how to article on the Blogger site itself. The site listed several free counters and I picked EasyHitCounters at random. It gave me some HTML code to put directly into my blog. I added a new page element. When it asked me what type I chose an HTML element. I cut and paste the code from the counter directly onto that element. Done.

Okay- a couple of thoughts. First of all the free counter I used requires me to leave a link to the website that created it. Advertising for them. I am not the most comfortable about that (and may try a different counter later). I guess that they did provide a service. The other thing is that I could have set the starting number at any number I wanted. I thought about it for a minute, but who would believe me if it said that over 1000 people had visited my blog in the first week?

Difficulties and Roadblocks Already?

So I got to school today and was utterly excited about what we learned yesterday. My pricipal was asking what we had done so I went to show her the blog I started developing. I was completely surprised to find out that our computer techs had seen fit to block http://www.blogger.com/www.blogger.com and Blogmeister. How am I supposed to create and maintain a blog for my staff if they can't even access it at school? Now we talked to the division techs and I hope that they have cleared it up. Unfortunatly they believe that it is better to block anything with even the slightest chance at problems rather than to let us teach students how to use the internet appropriately.

It doesn't help that they took out the section of the blocking pages that allowed us to respond to the administrator (about the blocked pages). Apparently some of our more expressive students were sending colorful messages when they were blocked.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Next In-school Instructional Support Teacher PD Day

The next day is November 6.

Ohh, lookie, lookie!

We now have links on the side! Yipee!

The links page really wasn't very hard to add. I just went and edited the blog template. I clicked on the link "Add Page Element." I was asked next what tipe of element I wanted to add. There were about 10 types. A link list is what I used.

Adding animations.

Here is another test of adding animations. It is created by http://http://www.fodey.com/generators/animated/wizard.asp

Wizard Animation

An experiement.

Learning and Technology

I am just experimenting with adding web links to my blog. Here is the address to the In-school Instructional Support Teacher PD information. This is from the presentation where I got all my information from. There are tons of links here to tools that help you use the web to teach.

Adding the link was not too tough. I typed the label I wanted to show. Then I highlighted the words and then clicked on the link button in the window (button has a globe and a chain link on it). It prompted me for a web address to attach to the label and then I was done.

If you want to just show the raw web address then just skip adding a label. Hit the link button without having anything highlighted.

Now I say that it was not too tough but it took me 3 tries to get it right. I just made some silly mistakes.

Just started.......

Well, here I am. Finally published on the web. Under my own name no less! No hiding behind anonomous usernames for me. Now I just need to see how much I will use this for work and how much for play. Check back to get an insight into my head.