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.