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.