Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Child is This

Merry Christmas everyone. I just thought that I would wish everyone holiday greetings with this little ditty. Enjoy your time with your families and keep it safe on the roads (if you have to travel).

P.S. I know that this video is aweful, but that is kinda what makes it awaesome.

Monday, December 15, 2008

50+ Digital Storytelling Tools - For Free!

Google is awesome. It just lead me to this awesome wiki created by Alan Levine.

It has 64 different digital storytelling tools. Tools that are free. Tools that he has tested to make sure that they work. Tools that he has posted examples that he made. Awesome. I will be busy for days, no weeks trying them out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Mac Loses

So I finally got to play a little bit with one of our school's Mac laptops (apparently everyone else shares as poorly as I do). I figured that I would try to create a time lapse video just like I did in Windows Movie Maker (see the post here). There were a significant number of swears, throwing things, curses, threats, and finally tears before I finally got Windows Movie Maker to work - but iMovie still lost.

DISCLAIMER - (Stuff the Lawyer made me put in)
I am not a Mac user. This is the first significant experience I have ever had with a Mac. I don't really know how to use them. But I did approach the project with an open mind.

I had guides up on the screen (of my PC that is). I pressed buttons. I slid sliders. I attempted to right click. I read help guides. Then I gave up. I was unable to create a time lapse video with iMovie. I did not find iMovie to be as intuitive as I expected. Windows Movie Maker made more sense to me. This might be because I am unfamiliar with Macs but I had never really used Windows Movie Maker before either.

The good thing about the Mac? No cussing and swearing (I did try this in school with little ears around). That and it never crashed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Time Lapse Holiday Cheer

Well I finally got it to work. My time lapse video works! Windows Movie Maker was painful to work with - but it did work. I shouldn't complain about a free tool - but I am going to. My computer crashed three times while trying to make the movie. Converting the photos into a video in the program was actually quite easy (read about how to do it here). Title and credits were easy to add. However I almost gave up when I tried to save the video. I could save the project quite easily but had problems trying to save it in a format that could be played in any other player. Turns out that I am not alone in having this problem. I think that the problem was that my computer did not have enough memory. I finally got it to work by lowering the output video quality. Thanks to the people who gave me any help getting Windows Movie Maker to work.

I took the pictures with a little Logitech webcamera that my school division bought for me. It did not handle the low light in my living room very well (as you can see). I think that it would work fine in a brighter room. I used the Microsoft Powertoys program Webcam Timershot to take a picture every two seconds. This guide pointed me to the tools I needed. It also showed some other methods that also looked good (both Mac and PC). Next time I try this I will use another camera - maybe a hacked Cannon camera like in this post.

I guess that I should also point to Dean Shareski's post Supper's Ready in 80 Seconds that originally gave me the idea.

My next step is to try to recreate this video (using the same pictures) on a Mac in iMovie. I will let you know how the process compared to Windows.

Skittles and Bits (Again)

Another day, another tech meeting, another head full of ideas. Today we talked about digital citizenship - what is it, what does it look like ("What does it smell like when it goes wrong" - Terrel Hill), and how to teach it.

True to some of the new pedagogical teachings it was not a stand a deliver day - it was collaborative. 25 people working together on one Google Document. We all edited it at the same time (that was an fascinating exercise). I liike that tool.

My thoughts - we all think along similar lines - at least when it comes to education. No running in the halls. When a bunch of teachers get together to create a policy we first think about what behaviors to ban/limit/control. Our Digital Citizinship curricum started out looking like that. (I am not innocent in that regard.) It didn't stay that way - we moved onto more constructive thoughts.

All in all, another great day.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Computer Science Taught through Games

Play Games at AddictingGames

Here is a cute little game that helps teach programming. I think that it does a great job of teaching functions. My students picked up the idea right quick.

In case the embedded game does not work here is the link.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Laptops are Coming, The Laptops are Coming!!!

I feel a little bit like Chicken Little. This just arrived.

Now we have not been told anything about the laptop lab yet but the big bulky cart is a good sign. It is all sorts of rolling power bar happiness.

One problem - it is a great, awesome, amazing, and practical solution - for another school. Here is our problem.

And here is the rest of our problem. All of our highschool classrooms are not accessable by the rolling lump of laptop happiness.
I am not sure what to do about it. We need to find a solution that works with stairs. I am going to email the head of our tech support and see what we can do. (I am going to try the collaborative approach.) I would like some sort of tub that we can carry up the stairs with one person. Anybody have any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Concentration and Video Games

Watch that video. Then watch your kids playing video games. Then tell me how it compares. (My son just turned 2 so he isn't into video games yet - I am living vicariously through you other parents.)
To tell the truth the video doesn't really surprise me a lot. Just watch other people when they are concentrating on driving - we tend to focus like that too (at least we had better).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Do schools today kill creativity? (Ken Robinson, TEDTalks)

An intern and one of the other (non-teacher) staff member shared this video with me today. Who would have guessed! Bah - these ideas get in the way of the system.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Warm and Fuzzy Sharing

Well, I finally got around to it. This blog is officially licensced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License. I mean that I had always operated under that kind of sharing philosophy but I guess that I never told anyone else. Okay - for the record - I am sharing.

Oh, and since I haven't made any money off of this blog please don't show me up by finding a way (unless you ask nicely).

Monday, October 27, 2008

AHHHHHH - Zombies are REAL!!!

No, seriously. They are.

Despite my last post which was made in fun, zombies do really exist in the animal world. Tonight I stumbled across this slideshow - and am now really creeped out. Parasites that control the host. There is even one that affects us! The slideshow was created by Discover Magazine so they should be genuine.

Check out the slideshow and become slightly less comfortable with the natural world. Pass this on to your favorite science teacher before Halloween.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Zombies in Plain English

The folks at Common Craft had some fun last Halloween. I figured I should bring it up again. Enjoy this little gem.

No One Cares How Long You Work

I have to thank Morag for finding this wonderful article. If you already read her blog then you can probably ignore this post.

by Morag Riddell
I found this gem on the Leader Talk blog.
I loved this quote:

My observation is that folks who ROUTINELY work more than a standard work

* Have poor time management skills; or
* They don't know how to delegate; or
* They cannot prioritize [HINT: Family comes first!]; or
* They are Wannabe Martyrs.

[OMG!, did he really just say that?]

Listen? I hear eggshells being stepped on.

Look, if you're a school administrator and you consider football games,
plays, concerts, academic and athletic events to be WORK, you're in the wrong
career. I think it is so true and not just about administrators but
teachers in general. On my staff we're always talking about time and the
lack there of but may be we shouldn't be. Everyone needs to decide what is
most important to them. Should teaching be a 24-7 job or is it possible to
make it a 40 hours/week?

Well I want to add - Nobody may care how long you work but there is always somebody who cares how long you don't work.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Could This Work?

So I had an idea the other day. Now usually when I get an idea it either is expensive or gets me into trouble (or both). I don't think that this is either.

We are having bandwidth issues at school. Not a secret to any of you who are in the same division as me. One of the culprits is YouTube. YouTube is a wonderful teaching tool - but it is also a great big bandwidth pig. Lots of our students run it in the backgroud so they can listen to music as they work (and many just use that as an excuse to get out of trouble). If it truly is just for music then the video is wasted bandwidth. We should be pushing internet radio stations instead. If I am not mistaken internet radio should use less bandwidth - it only has the audio part of the stream.

Ok - the problem isn't solved yet but wait until I get to phase two of my idea. I remember a conversation I had with a buddy of mine (who used to be a network tech for another division). Their office was in the same building as one of the schools. All of the office staff (about 7-8 people) listened to internet radio stations. During working hours those 7-8 machines running internet radio where enough to slow the entire school down.

Phase two - How do we provide music to the entire school without slowing everyone down? What about streaming music from our server at school? Only one machine would need to be downloading the internet radio and then distribute it out to the workstations. We should be able handle the traffic within our local network. One machine streaming music vs a bunch plugging the pipe? Sounds like a solution that gives the students what they want and helps us get more work done.

A side benefit of us streaming the music in is that we have some control over whether the music is appropriate or not. (There I go thinking like a teacher again!)

There would be a couple of technical details that would need to be worked out but isn't that what we have a Tech Department for?

So could it work or is there a big ole flaw in the plan?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

Survey Question: How can we improve communication in the school?

My Response:

Give us more time. A lot of us use school time to have professional conversations with our co-workers (admin included). More planning days would definately lead to more of those conversations.

Note that those days must be unstructured planning time. Planning days where we just given more paperwork does not facilitate positive communication. It creates an us vs. them mentality where admin (both locally here and up at the division level) are definately not in the us part. That sort of thinking leads to lots of communication - negative communication.

More paper does not mean better communication. Too much information being passed down (paper and email) leads to cognitive overload and the message is never heard.

Ok, the cat is out of the bag. If my admin read this then they will know who filled out that particular annomous survey. (I suspect they would have anyways - I filled it out in crayon - and handed it directly to one of them).
Photo Credit: Maury McMown - used under a Creative Commons License

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Skittles and Bits

Today we had our first installment of the new season of In School Instructional Support PD. We all complain about not having enough time to do things - well here we got that time. I really enjoyed having time to talk to other people. Time to discuss questions, issues, and successes. After talking to other people here I always leave with a good idea or two. I always appreciate having time to network with other people.

Donna DesRoches had a few warm up activities planned for us. They were great for getting us into the groove of things. (And lots of fun - check out REAL).

The afternoon sessions were interesting as well. I had requested a topic for discussion - and then I got to lead the discussion. That is ok - if I can wing it in class (just kidding administrators).......

More to be added later.....when I have time......

Sunday, October 5, 2008

You Know that you are a Bureaucracy when.......

The other day I received an email from the folks up at the division office. The Living Sky School Division Glossary of Terms. What have we become now that we need a glossary of terms to operate? Oh yeah, one step closer to a bureaucracy. The document contains 57 items of administrative happiness (kind of like the ketchup but not nearly as tasty and just as messy). To quote the email that it came with it is "designed as a reference tool to decipher many of the acronyms and terms we frequently use in use in education." If we need to decipher the terms then we are using too much jargon. Why do we always feel the need to make ourselves feel more important by fancy terms that just confuse the layman? I would expect better from us - from educators. It is our job to take ideas and concepts and explain them in simpler and easier to understand ways.

There is a blog that I read titled Common Craft - Explanations in Plain English. They create a wonderful line of videos that do exactly what the title says. They explain things - simply and clearly. No extra fluff - just the bare concept. A lot of us can learn from them. Little to no jargon.

A friend and I once put on a session at one of our conferences (the title and content is not really relevant to this conversation). What applies is how we sold ourselves to our participants. At the door to one of the keynotes we hand out our calling cards - Buzzword Bingo handouts. Each square on the bingo chart had a different educational buzzword. Our goal was to get people to really think about the message that was being said. Don't just hear the buzzwords, listen for the meaning and the message. Anyways back to the point - one of the things we discussed was handing out the bingo sheets at a staff meeting (and letting our admin know about it). The purpose was to get them to use less jargon and fewer buzzwords.

The point? Well, lets look something I learned in my first year at the College of Engineering. The KISS principle - Keep It Simple Stupid. We are educators. Lets keep it simple.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Buzy - zzzzzZZZZZZzzzzz

Why am I so busy? None of my classes are new this year. (Yes I am trying new things but the content and curriculum stays similar.) I have more preps than I did last year - (No preps at all first term last year). I even have one period set aside for tech. Why am I always so rushed?

At home time spent with my son is SPENT with my son. It is actually about the calmest part of my day because I try not to let other distractions creep in. It's all playtime! At home I have even cut wwwwaaaaayyyy back on the amount of TV I watch. I only really watch TV now while working on something else. I don't do any gaming any more either (no X-box, no Wii, no Playstation, and no gaming capeable laptop). Ok I tried to sneak back into World of Warcraft but I very, very quickly got bored.

So where does my time go? More importantly - am I more productive? I don't think so. Definately not at school. At home? Ya probably. Despite what my wife thinks I am getting projects done at home - at the cost of sleep. Maybe that is why I feel so busy. In fact maybe I should go to sleep instead of writing any more blog posts.

P.S. I have to thank the decision making part of the Technology Department for streamlining procedures and making them simpler - especially with respect to logins.

Oh Yeah - thanks to Daniel Morris for the Creative Commons picture.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Poor Man's IWB in Action

Another update on the tool that jealosy built. I am using it daily and loving it. I used to use a chalkboard all of the time. (I tend to think best with a writing/drawing instrument in my hand). Now I am only on my second peice of chalk. I am constantly changing pen colors (especially in math). In fact I use it exclusively for my math notes. I am getting better and better at writing legibly.
Today one of my previous math students came looking for some his past reviews (which I am not sure I still had). I remembered that I had tested out my IWB on that subject last year with them - luckily I had saved the notes. A quick hit of the print button and he had a set of review notes.
I have not yet figured out how to fix the audio on my recordings (but I have not had a lot of time to monkey with it).
Good news however - I found a new program for running the IWB. I still use the genuine notebook software but this new program has a lot more functionality than the original software by Johnny Chung Lee. It builds on what he wrote and adds lots more. It also includes some WiiMote presenter software (that uses a second WiiMote as a remote handheld mouse and presenter remote). There's more!! I can now RIGHT CLICK!! The new program uses the space outside of the screen to add clickable hotkeys (one of them being a right click). The improved program also has some cursor smoothing as well. The smoothing helps my writing. Were was smoothing back in the primary grades?
Anyways, I was right about one thing. Putting together my poor man's IWB means that I will probably never get a real one. Looks like our school is getting two SmartBoards. Neither is going into my classroom. Rats. Still jealous.........

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Job Application to Remember

My cousin pointed this guy out to me. He is apparently from Saskatoon and has a wonderful sense of humor. His video Garson Hampfield, Crossword Inker is also a work of genius.

Too bad he did not get the job.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Solving Systems of Linear Equations by Elimination

Here is one of the things I have been working on for the upcoming year. Using my Poor Man's Interactive White Board I want to record the examples I do in the classroom (and other examples when I will be away). The plan is to record it using the SmartBoard software and to include audio with my example. I think that examples are much more powerful when you see and hear how the question is done. Reading a written example can get quite confusing. This is one of my solutions to having to do the same example 3 or 4 times for students who are either ahead, behind, or absent.

This video (a third attempt) is my first example. Unfortunatly the audio came out quite poorly. I can't understand what I was saying - and I said it! I am using a Motorola H500 Bluetooth headset (one of those little ear clip deals). I will continue to monkey with the settings but if anybody has any tips as to how to tweak the audio let me know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An Omen.........

With a week and a half left to go last June my son lost my work keys. No matter how much I looked I could not find them - until today. I guess that someone or something is trying to tell me it is time to go back to work. Damn - summer holidays were just getting comfortable.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 14, 2008

End of the Year Teaching - Another Fun Parody

Pcone and P. Fjeldstrom both have been having some fun with Monty Python teaching parody videos. I figured I should add in my impressions of end of the year teaching. Pay close attention to the monks.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Video Games and Sex

Thankyou Alec Couros for pointing me to this video.

It is a great little video talking about how sex is used in the video game industry. I goes beyond complaining about it. It talks about appropriate ways to include it. A video like this is almost enough to make we wish that I taught some sort of social studes class...almost.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Update on the Tool that Jealousy Built

Just a little bit of an update.....
One of the techs installed the software from a SMARTboard on my laptop yesterday. Great news - it works with my WiiMote interactive whiteboard! You can also download a free trial version of the the SMARTboard Notebook software. (Download it here.)

Here is the slideshow that I showed at my demo yesterday (just in case anyone wanted to see the pictures again).

Here is a link to my wiki where I have linked many of the resources I have found for the poor man's IWB.

Well today I actually used the IWB for teaching (not just playing games!). I like it. I created a flash arcade game quiz using Lots of fun!

P.S. I am still jealous of anyone with a real SMARTboard.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wiimote Whiteboard - IT WORKS!!!

Well I got the WiiMote Whiteboard working! Can't type any more - too busy playing. I will post a video when I get a moment. Yee haw!

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Interactive Whiteboard on the Cheap (Like $100 Cheap)!!!!!!!

Wow. A Wii remote hacked into a DIY interactive whiteboard. It even works to turn your regular monitor into a tablet!

All that you need is a projector, a Wii remote, a laptop with Bluetooth, and some sort of IR light source (an easy DIY project) - oh and some open source downloads.

Thanks to Vicki Davis (CoolCatTeacher) who pointed this out in her blog and Johnny Chung Lee (the creator).

Time to start rolling my loose change to buy the parts for one.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Plausible Deniability

Well Donna has been talking about memes. Yes Donna I will probably get around to responding to your challenge - eventually. But in the meantime here is a meme challenge of my own. The rules? Quite simple. It must involve an administrator (preferably a higher up one) - and they can't be a willing participant. The goal - plausible deniability. Who do I challenge? I am definately not getting my name associated with anything. Remember - plausible deniability.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I have been following P. Fjeldstrom and Luseland School's work at developing a student internet use policy. Let me quote section 5 of their second draft.

5. Any websites containing the following information listed below is forbidden. Any students caught on websites containing any of this information without direct teacher supervision will be have their computer privileges removed. Items used in research for information in reports, essays, etc. are only acceptable if being viewed under direct teacher supervision.

i. Violence (guns, killing, injuring, punching, kicking, etc.)

ii. Alcohol abuse

iii. Sexual content

iv. Drug abuse

v. Manipulation

vi. Profanity (swearing)

vii. Harming of others/themselves

First let me point out that this part is complete enough to be the core of an acceptable use policy. Add some consequences and then you are good to go. Good work Luseland.

Now wait a minute. How many books in our libraries would pass these restrictions? (This comes from a conversation I had with my Principal). The great bard himself (Shakespeare) includes lots of i) murder and war, ii)public drunkeness, iii) incest and lewdness, iv) reference to drug use, v) tons of manipulation (the three witches in Macbeth), vi) swearing (ok maybe today this one is a stretch), and vii)suicide (harming yourself). Heaven forbid that one of our students should actually try and check one of his books out of the library! The moral implications are endless!

Really. When is the last time you read a book that did not break any of these restrictions?

I have said it before and I will say it again, I wonder if they had any of these problems when the ballpoint pen was first introduced?

Monday, April 21, 2008


Lifehacker - Tech tricks, tips and downloads for getting things done.

I have a love-hate relationship with this blog. It has been off and on my Google Reader subscription list and I can't quite decide what to do with it. They post tons of good articles ranging from downloads, organizational tips, and hardware reviews to household cleaning tips. I end up bookmarking about 1 in 10 of their posts.
Here are some of my favorites:

Easy Ways to go Green With Your Computer
Stitch Photos into Panoramas
Diagnose Why You are Whining
How to Remove Permanent Marker from any Surface (This one impressed my wife)

The problem? Well Lifehacker floods my reader with 6-7 posts a day. It is quite overwhelming. I know I don't have to read them all but I am always scared I will miss something.

I also need to wade through a torrent of Mac and Linux tips that are useless to me as a Windows based PC user. Is there a way to add a filter to Google Reader?

What do any of you do with overwhelming blogs like Lifehacker?

Bridge Building Bonanaza!

Well today is a snow day (yes in April). Luckily my brother in law showed me the Bridge Building Game. It is a great game - I mean educational tool. It is also harder than it looks. I took 3 years of Engineering and some of the bridges are giving me trouble. I like it because it has some really good tools to help analize your structure. (The stressed structure members chage colour to show strain).

This game has been around for a little while (the first version was created in 2000). I has a following with people competing to build the most minimalist or strongest bridges.

The game can be found here.

A good fansite can be found here.

Fire it up and wave goodbye to your free time.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Downloading YouTube Videos

So the Network Powers That Be won't let you use your own laptop at school (or YouTube is blocked) and you really want to show that awesome YouTube video you found the night before. What do you do? Whine, Moan, and Complain - right? Well not anymore.

This link describes how to download YouTube videos onto your computer. It saves them as MP4 files that should work on many players (except Windows Media Player). I am hooked.
One little problem - downloading these videos violates YouTube's terms of use.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hack Your Canon

Ever wondered if your electronic devices can do more than what the manual says? Well they can - at least in the case of Canon cameras. They have tons of features and abilities that are simply locked up for the average user. So unlock them. Here is the key.

I read through this particular wiki and turns out that you can edit the firmware on your camera. You can load userwriten programs to unlock those hidden features on your camera - features usually reserved to much more expensive cameras. Features like superfast shutter speeds (1/60,000), time lapse shooting, and HDR pictures.

Can you wreak your camera? Nope. The programs are loaded from your memory card and don't change anything on the camera itself. If the program turns your camera into a brick simply pull out the memory card and the camera reverts to factory settings.
Photo by Keoeeit.

We Think

Here is a video I just came across from CharlesLeadBeater. (Thanks to Scott McLeod for posting up this video).

In the past we were what we owned, now we are what we share.

That is one of my favorite quotes from the video.

This video once again touches on what I think is the most important thing about the internet today. The internet is NOT AN ENCYCLOPEDIA! It is a communication tool. It is a way for us to communicate with each other. We create a web of contacts. Donna Desroches put it quite well.

One of the most interesting questions that came from the audience after my
presentation was, “can you give a specific example of how information literacy
has changed”? My response was to share how little I now use a search engine
since the growth of my personal learning network - my twitter friends, my network and the
blogs that I read via my bloglines account. Information can now come to me - and I need
the skills to be able to create the PLN that will bring me the information I
need and the ability to filter the information.

PLN - Personal Learning Network. We also need to remember that we should give back. A network implies a give and take. Information and ideas flow both ways - especially with Web 2.0. Don't just be a leech. Share. Give back to the community and your peers. Dean Shareski talked about sharing in this well written post.

Gestalt - The whole is more and different than the sum of its parts. Gestalt describes Web 2.0 quite well. Our network is more than my part plus your part plus the next persons part. It grows and becomes something bigger when we all join together as a PLN. The mathemetition in me has a real problem with this idea but it is true. We are something more when we truely collaborate.

P.S. This video is awesome because it make reference to World of Warcraft. I will write about it in an upcoming post. We could really learn about using Web 2.0 from WarCrack players.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Talk Hard

I just finished watching Christian Slater in the movie Pump Up the Volume. For those of you who live under a rock it is about a teenager with a voice - a voice that the adult establishment doesn't really want heard. He speaks his mind through illegal pirate radio. While there is a lot of fear and misunderstanding amoungst the adults he really strikes up a chord with his peers.
"You hear about some kid who did something stupid, something desperate; what possessed him? How could he do such a terrible thing? Well, it's really quite simple, actually. Consider the life of a teenager - you have parents, teachers telling you what to do, you have movies, magazines and TV telling you what to do, but you know what you have to do. Your job, your purpose is to get accepted, get a cute girlfriend, think up something great to do with the rest of your life. What if you're confused and can't imagine a career? What if you're funny looking and can't get a girlfriend? You see, no-one wants to hear it. But the terrible secret is that being young is sometimes less fun than being dead. ."
- Hard Harry

There are lots of parrallels to today's bloggers. Pirate radio was free, uncensored (albiet illegal) media. Today blogs are the more accessable (and legal) alternative. Hard Harry would be sending out his subversive ideas over the internet and would be able to reach a much wider audience than with his basement transmitter.

Just think of the freedoms that voices like Harry's have now. Without an intimite knowledge of RadioShack he never would have been able to air his voice. Now the internet with its push button publishing makes it easier for anyone to have their say. Just let Pricipal Creswood try and silence these voices today (almost 20 years after this movie first hit the theaters).

Jim Gates (a blogger I read regularly) posted about a student with an interesting voice. The boy was easily able to voice his critizism of his educational system. Read the students comment. Then I will tell you that he is only in Grade 5. Do we really want to miss voices like these?

Until next time.......
"Talk hard, I like that. It's like a dirty thought in a nice clean mind. "
- Hard Harry

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Smiles of Ridiculous Magnitude

This is pretty entertaining.
A primary school in Clacton, Essex has decided to cover the all faces of their students in any pictures they put online. They covered them with smiley faces! (Ok - one exception had a frown on it.) They took privacy and security to the realm of the ridiculous.
How much pride are they showing in their students if they won't show their faces? What is the point of putting up one of these photos?
It has been said before and I will say it again. How many of these people are tickled pink when their child or student is featured in a tradition print newspaper? There is no real difference between a photo on a website and a photo in a newspaper. The photos are out in the public for everyone to see. Besides, most newspapers are available online anyways.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Free Photoshop!!!

Ok, so it is not the full version of Photoshop - it is Photoshop Express, Adobe's contribution to the world of online photos. It comes with 2GB of online storage - which is pretty sweet. Add in a bunch of tools to play with and it looks like fun.

Something neat is that it will link with other photo sites like Picasa, Photobucket, and Facebook. It was quite quick and simple to pull in my Picasa albums.

Lets wait and see how it compares to the other sites. Will it gain the huge following of Flickr? How about the simplicity and accessibility of Picasa? Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Looking for Pictures

Well the title describes it. I am looking for a picture database. Blog entries always look better with pictures to spice them up. The problem is that thanks to some new found morality I would prefer to not break any copyrights (and most of my pictures are of my son). That leaves out the Google Image search, and Flickr, and most of the other picture sites. Anyone got any suggestions?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Too Tired

I like this video. It made me rethink some of my reasons for doing (or not doing) things.

Remind anyone of staff meetings?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Doodles and Off Task Writing

Sometimes I like when presenters give out handouts. I leave with proof that I was there. I end up with a bag of stuff to show me what I have done. What do I do with them afterwards? I put them into a binder, on a shelf, or into a drawer, and if I am lucky, later when I clean my room, into the recycle bin. I always think that I will go back and read what is in the handout. I don't and I don't expect that to change.

I also take notes. My notes are usually filled with quotes and sayings that caught my ear or eye. If the presenter is engaging all I find is writing on the page. If the presenter really gets me thinking my notes end up all over the page as I jump to new ideas and make my own connections. It is a messy web of writing. If the presentation is mediocre I end up doodling on my notes. If I take very little interest (and it is not quite bad enough to walk out of) I write about something else entirely (like this bit of writing here). The nice thing about writing is that people think that you are on task.

So what do I do with my notes when I am done with them? I put them into a binder, on a shelf, or into a drawer, and if I am lucky, later when I clean my room, into the recycle bin. So why do I take them? I am a bit of a visual and tactile learner. I think and learn best when I either see or do it myself. I remember things that I write down. Well, I remember them better anyways. My notes are often just a thought process. If they were meant to be great works to be saved for posterity they would be legible. Only I can follow or read my notes.

Back to the presenters handouts. There is nothing worse than getting a complete set of PowerPoint handouts at the beginning of a session. At my first off task moment I usually browse through them and then..........rats, none of this is what I was expecting. Do I get up and leave or do I stay and hope that I can get something out of it? Decisions, decisions.

So what is the end result of all these handouts and notes? Well at least I am supporting the forest industry.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

E-Learning Solutions for Rural Schools

My first session today was called E-Learning Solutions for Rural Schools. It was put on by Robert and Thad from the North East School division.

ELearning Definition: Learning assisted by technology. Notice that it is not teaching computers but teaching assisted by computers.

Two buzz terms that they used (and I will also unfortunately use) are Synchronous Delivery and Asynchronous Delivery.
Synchronous Delivery:
This is where students are all online and watching the teacher teach at the same time.
Asynchronous Delivery: Modules are presented and the student works at their own pace (much like a correspondence course).

The NESD school division has been working with distance learning solutions for rural schools now for about 5 years. The powers that be realized that it was not economically feasible to have a class with 4 or 5 students. It also doesn’t really work to have a teacher teaching two or three classes at the same time. (Ask me – I tried to teach Math C30, B30, and A30 all in one classroom. We did not have success.) The teacher load is just too much, both in prep and in class demands. The NESD School Division decided to create Synchronous Clusters. Six small rural schools coordinated their timetables and they pooled their students to make delivery viable. Using Adobe Connect, Moodle, and Blackboard they are able to have a teacher in one school teach a class to students in all six of the schools. Their programs vary from asynchronous (pure online) delivery to a more synchronous method (stand and deliver). In many cases (synchronous delivery) a teacher teaches using a webcam, an interactive whiteboard, and an internet connection. In the teacher’s home school it is more like a traditional classroom. The difference is in the other schools. The students work in a computer lab where they can see, hear, and respond (using a built in chat program or a webcam) to what the teacher is saying. Students who had timetable conflicts (or were absent/sick) were able to simply view recordings of the lesson. Other classes were offered in a more go at your own pace type of model (asynchronous delivery).

They found that the best delivery method depended upon what course was being taught. Asynchronous delivery was better when flexibility was needed where as the synchronous delivery method was better for sciences and maths.

My thoughts:

ELearning looks like a much better option than a multi class classroom. It is a much more effective use of a teacher’s time. They don’t have to prep for as many classes. I personally find it hard to get excited about a class where there are only a couple of students. Once you get over the initial technical hurdles I think that it would be much like teaching a regular classroom. In this context the internet doesn’t really change the assignment. It is a communication tool. A class set up along the asynchronous model really is just like a correspondence course (with a faster teacher response time).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yeehaw Convention Time

First thing that I have to say is that I love conventions. I get to see old acquaintances (I don’t say friends because not all of them are). I also get to learn new ideas. I love hearing people talk about things that they are passionate about. And face it - if you are not passionate about your subject don’t waste my time with a PD session.

I don’t really understand people who skip conventions, especially ones with as many choices as Showcase. (I am not picking on people who use this time to go on a major trip – that in itself is a type of personal development.) Do you already know everything?

It took me almost an hour to pick what sessions I wanted to go to. I had a hard time. There were about 12 sessions I was interested in and only 4 slots that I could attend. I find that to be a happy problem.

I almost skipped an afternoon of my convention once. It was a tiny little convention and there really wasn’t very much that caught my eye. For that one session that I had trouble filling I almost skipped my convention. I was going to go to another division’s convention. It was right next door - with no nametags – or security. I still wish that I had.

Let’s go back to being passionate about your subject. I was a co-facilitator at a convention once. My apologies to anybody who went to the session “Thinking Outside of the Cracker Jack Box – 7 Simple Rules to Liberating Your Inner Child.” A co-worker and I put in a session application just to see how much we could get away with. We wrote a catchy title and vague description filled with lots of education buzz words. The organizing committee never even batted an eye and we were given a conference slot. No questions asked. (They must have been desperate). Our reaction? Uh oh – we got away with it, now what do we do? Well we ran with it. We even had fun. And got paid for it. Oh yeah.

Was I passionate about my subject? Not fanatically. Did I believe in it? Well I believed that the joke was funny and yes I did actually believe in the subject. How did it go over with the audience? Only one person got up and left…… Perhaps I should elaborate. This particular conference did not actually have a lunch break. The expectation was that we would go to 4 out of the 5 sessions and take one off for lunch. So the general consensus among teachers was to take the first four sessions and skip the last one. Guess who was scheduled during session 5 on Friday. Well we managed to attract a half full room and got an audience that participated in the session. I thought that was not too bad. No we did not let them in on the joke.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

In a Land Called Honali

My wife and I recently bought the book Puff the Magic Dragon for my son. The book is the words to the song drawn up as a childs book but the pictures caught my eye. I fondly remember the song from when I was a wee gaffer myself. It even came with a CD with 4 songs by Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary) and his daughter.

I couldn't wait for bedtime so that I could read it to him. I popped in the CD and read the book to him (with the music). I was not disappointed but it also wasn't quite how I remembered it. I never realized just how sad the song is. Puff gets abandoned when his best friend grows up.

"Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,So Puff that mighty
dragon sadly slipped into his cave."

My son is 14 months old and a ton of fun. I really didn't need the reminder that he may grow up one day and lose his innocence.

As a child I think that I only focused on the first half of the song. Jacky Paper was cool - he had a dragon for a friend and had lots of adventures with pirates and stuff! Now as an adult my focus has changed and so has the song. I think I need to go back and revisit more of my childhood classics and see how they have changed. It is also time to share them with my son. I guess I will have to experience them again through him.

Until then I'm hoping that my son, (like his dad), never grows up completely.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Green Eggs and Spam

I think Google has labeled our school as a spammer!

I was setting up a my IP 10 students with Gmail accounts yesterday when I ran into a problem. We all were creating Gmail accounts with a similar form. We all clicked the create account button and only the first few students were able to create accounts. The rest of us got an error message. We couldn't create any more accounts from school. Every attempt at creating a Gmail account after that brought up the error screen!

A little research and I found out that if enough accounts are created from one area Gmail starts disallowing them assuming a spammer is setting up shop. They did mention that teachers setting up class accounts can run into this problem. They recommended Google Apps. Google Apps looked interesting but not something to learn about in the middle of a class with students waiting.

So what did I do? I went home and created the IP accounts at home and will have the students just change the passwords tomorrow. Fun, fun, fun.

At least Google is trying to cut down on automated spammers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Photos - a Different Perspective

Well, Donna you asked for a slideshow. While I took these with my own camera I could do it with the work camera. Just kidding. I would only risk my own stuff. The slideshow is created using Picasa Web Albums.

Last winter I decided to set up an RC airplane with some photo gear. I got a little wild and crazy and set up a video downlink and a remote trigger for the camera shutter.

Well while trying to take some pictures of my father-in-law's farm I ran into some gusty wind. I ripped a horizontal stabililzer off of my plane and watched it go into a spiral of death. It fell for at least 9 seconds because I got 3 pictures of spinning sky (the camera was set to take a picture every 3 seconds). To make matters worse I only got pictures of the neighbor's farm and not his. I never got time to put the camera back together last summer. This winter I have it mostly fixed and will try it again this coming summer. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Should we Gripe?

Here is somebody who is really ticked off with his division IT department. His name is Jim Gates. At a PD meeting today I quoted him and it drew a few winces from the other participants.

Once again, I guess YOUR students will just have to wait until they get OUT
of school to get their education.

He was complaining about how the Iron Curtain of blocked websites and reduced permissions can really get in the way of education.

Who is supporting whom? Isn't the network supposed to support the
curriculum? Not there. The curriculum must be rewritten to allow for the
crippled computers.

Wow. They disabled right clicking.

I may complain about the computer powers that be here in my division,



(Oh and Here too)

but we don't have it anywhere as bad as in Jim Gates' story. We also don't have it as good as others. Our conversation with Stu Harris and his description of what they do at the Regina Public School system almost made me reach for my resume. Every teacher is given a work laptop and they run a fairly free and open network. No Iron Curtain! Everybody has access to the tools they need. That is awesome.

Well I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I am typing from my division laptop right now. (It would be awesome for everyone to have one of these). I have been given four days of release time for tech PD. The content filter at our school has either been removed or scaled waaaaaayyyyyyy back. It also sounds like many of the other teachers in other schools are doing some amazing things. For the most part our division really is probably someplace in the middle of Nazi control and hippie freedom.

Okay, I will cut down on the griping, I promise. Lets just continue moving forward.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Saturating the Download Pipe

We have been having some latency problems at school recently. Our administrators have not been able to log into their interactive network applications at the Division office. They have been timing out. For you technical geeks out there the latency has been anywhere from 1000 to 1400 ms. Not good. Well, the computer powers that be have found one of the problems.

The delays are being caused by extensive internet use at the school
saturating the download pipe.

In plain English we were plugging up our connection with internet use. So they looked at our webpage hits. Here is some of what the logs said: - 30% - 10% - 8%

Wow. That is almost half of our webpage hits. Well the authority figure in me automatically jumped to "We have to stop that - ban those sites, block them, make them go away!" That voice in my head immediatly want to control things. Another little voice said that those figures are embarrasing. I already knew that the computer powers that be are convinced that our students are out of control.

"But wait a minute, what do those numbers mean? Get over the initial gut reaction and have a real good look at them." Great, another voice. This is the one that makes my life difficult. - 10%
Ok some teachers use this site for teaching purposes. At least one uses it extensively in Social Studies and Native Studies. The students often also use this site to listen to music while they work. (And I see them listening to things like this as often as mainstream music). "And didn't we fight to get YouTube unblocked?" But we do seem to spend a lot of time fighting the students who are just watching videos for entertainment. It does also use a whole pile of bandwidth. Maybe internet radio is a better choice for music. Does it use much less bandwidth? - 8%
Umm, can't think of too many legitimate educational reasons our students are using MSN messenger. "But really, how much bandwidth does it really take up?" "It distracts the students from their learning!" There go the voices again. - 30%
This site does seem to be the first thing students log onto when they get their hands on the keyboard. It is chock full of big fat pictures as well. I just had a discussion about it with one of my co-workers. He doesn't have a real problem with it. He tells his students that if they have been researching hard and need to take a 5 min Bebo break to refresh then go ahead. And some of them follow this guideline fairly well. He also claims to have seen students chatting about an assignment through this site. "That's crazy talk!" "No they are social networking!" I don't know about this site. I personally find that it really distracts students when they are supposed to be working. I suspect it also chews through the bandwidth with all those pictures.

So what do we do? I do know that our whole system really bogs down when the computer lab is full. Any work involving the internet is difficult to do. I guess that it should be fairly obvious. Keep the students off of entertainment based YouTube during classtime (same with Bebo). "This should be fun."

I am curious to find out what these numbers look like in other schools. Are we as out of control as the computer powers that be claim? (Please say no, please say no, please say no.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Inspiration Comes in Bits and Bytes

Apparently it is time for the Canadian 2007 Blog Awards. Check out the nominated education blogs. The first thing that came to mind was time to add some new blogs to my Google Reader. The second thing that I thought of is that two of them are in my Google Reader and I have trolled through at least one of the other ones.

Well Patricia gave me an idea. Why not share some of the blogs I enjoy reading. So here goes. (In no particular order.)

Classroom Tech Tips
Donna's blog. Through one of her PD days she introduced me to the wonders of RSS readers and educational blogs.

Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech
Dean Shareski has some interesting things to say. I like the way he thinks. Plus he is pretty much a video guru.

Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis. An active blogger. A VERY active blogger. She is quite well connected and has written some insightful posts.

Dangerously Irrelevant
This guy is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. I just discovered Scott McLeod's blog recently but his posts are making me think.

Common Craft - Explanations in Plain English
"Our product is explanation." That is it right there. Simple but effective explanations.

I have lots more blogs on my Google Reader but these are the ones that I jump on reading right away. And after looking at these top Canadian bloggers I suspect I will be adding a few more to the list.

P.S. I also subscribe to The Despair Inc. Blog because these guys are just damn funny.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Discovery Streaming Video

Well I just sign up for my account at Discovery Streaming Video. It was pretty easy. Go to and put in your school passcode. After that just pick a username and a password and fill in the other information. After that you just have to go ahead and download some videos.

Wow are there ever a lot of videos! I like, I like, I like! One suggestion I have is to download the video before hand and either show it from a projector hooked directly into your computer or else burn it to a disk and play it in a dvd player.

Now you must have a school passcode. My division has purchased a subscription for all of our schools (at a pretty penny I might add). If you don't know it talk to your administrator. If your school doesn't have one, talk to your administrator and get one!

Since When Do Lawyers and Insurance Companies Get to Run OUR Show?

In Perpetual Fear of the Sue Sue Sue

Here is a post written by Vicky Davis. She talks about how we (as teachers) are always afraid of being sued. The lawyers and administrators insist that we be 100% compliant with the legal requirements.

What do we do with 100% legal requirements when we're lucky to get 85% in
the classroom? We know how rare (100%) hundreds are in the classroom, however
the legal professionals (and our administrators) require that we are 100%
compliant and 100% perfect.

How practical is it to be 100% compliant? Can we eliminate every possible risk? No. We can minimize it but not eliminate it. Anyone with an 80% in my classroom gets told they are doing a pretty good job.

Now I think that Vicky Davis was aiming her article towards copyright infringement. Plagiarism has been a problem since the first caveman copied another caveman's paintings. Vicky didn't just moan and complain about the problem she offered some solutions.

Automated citation building wikis and blogs that extract the links from the blog or wiki page and automatically post the citations in the proper format at the bottom of the page.

Computers have to tools to quickly and easily do this. Teach the students the legal way to use somebody elses ideas. We often indirectly take credit for someone elses work not because we are thiefs at heart but because we are lazy. So make the process easy.

Let me leave you with one last quote.

We have work to do. The nature of lawyers is to say NO. The nature of
administrators is to say NO. The nature of a good teacher is to advocate for
her/his students.

In the end it is about student learning.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Little Too Strong Methinks

I just came across a blog post titled Rite of Refusal written by Scott McLeod.
can anyone else think of an employment sector other than K-12 and postsecondary education where employees have the right to refuse to use technology?

He raises an interesting point but he comes on a little too strong.
a grocery store checker doesn't get to say 'No thanks, I don't think I'll
use a register.' A stockbroker doesn't get to say, 'No thanks, I don't think
I'll use a computer.' An architect doesn't get to say, 'No thanks, I don't
think I'll use AutoCAD.' But in education, we plead and implore and
incentivize but we never seem to require.

Actually, I think that he is wrong here. What did those industries look like when the new technologies first came out? When AutoCAD first came out I bet that not everybody jumped on the bandwagon right away. At first only the progressive architects and engineers used it. Then slowly as it was proven to be useful more groups started drafting with CAD programs. Now, 26 years later everybody uses it. 26 years! How long has the internet been a major presence in our schools? Long enough that some teachers should be using Web 2.0 tools to teach but not everyone has tried it. Give it time and don't force it.

Teaching involves a very wide range of styles, methods, and tools. It also involves a certain amount of autonomy in our classrooms. I like being able to pick and choose what ways I teach and what tools I use to teach with. That way I can fit the curriculum content in best with my strengths and with how I feel my students will learn best. I am quite sure that other teachers do the same. Technology or no technology, student learning comes first. Sometimes a wiki is the best tool sometimes a chalkboard is. Please count on me to choose wisely.