Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Teachers often ask me to help them with their file management. Often I have found that the most unorganized people in the real world have some of the best digital file management habits and those who are real good about organizing their physical environment in the real world often have the worst organization of digital resources. Of course this is not always true. Today I found out about Bumptop, a system extension for Windows that makes your operating system resemble more closely your real world desk. Such a tool might be what many people who have trouble with digital file management need. Now, where did I put that video?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Blogger and Firefox Compatibility Issues?

For the past week, every time I try to sign into my blogger account to edit this blog using Firefox there seems to be a problem. This problem did not exist before and it only seems to be with Blogger that I am experiencing this issue. I have no problem using IE Tab though. I am wondering if anyone else has had this problem or if those at Google are aware of this issue.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Prensky Rubish? A Response to a Skeptical Native

Back in January a post was made on TipLine - Gates' Computer Tips regarding a student response to Prensky's, "The Need For Change."
The following is my response to this blogpost. I don't normally repost my comments on others blogs but I feel strong enough about this topic to do so here:

I have always been skeptical of Prensky's work though I am always intrigued by his ideas and inspired by much of what he says. Prensky has a way of convincing most of us that our there is a neurological difference between the generations and that the current young generation is significantly different. He does this by pointing to things that all of us see and speaks to frustrations we all have. He does this in nearly every book or scholarly article he writes. I have to admit that I have at times been convinced by some of his arguments and I still think he has some valid points. Our students are different and the world is changing. That is nothing new. The world is always constantly changing. Change happens in different ways in different fields. Ask a 60 yr old in 1890 if the world was the same as when they were young and I am sure you would get a similar response. Ask an illustrator in the mid 1800s if technology is changing the world and I am sure you would hear an earful since photography brought that profession to a near standstill.

It is the nature of our brains to shape and form based on external stimulus. The stimulus that is around now is different than the stimulus that was around before and is different than the stimulus that will be around in the future. However, there is no affirmative evidence that the way we learn is significantly different today than it was in the past. The way we teach is changing and as Scott McLeod pointed out we have twenty years of research that affirms that a constructivist approach to teaching and learning is more effective than other known models. This does affirm what Prensky tells us about how we teach but what I have always been skeptical of and critical of is the method of content delivery Prensky prescribes. It is not that I don't think games have a place in education, to the contrary I think there is solid research to support their effectiveness (see Malone & Lepper, 1987). The problem is that Prensky represents a business interest that benefits financially from the adoption of a game centered curriculum. Also, as
Jamie McKenzie points out, Prensky is not really a researcher and the whole basis for his Native/Immigrant argument is based on one study that he misquotes and spells the author's name wrong.

Prensky represents a polar end of the argument/topic of technology integration in school. I feel his writings are important for reflective practice but that we are building our houses in the sand by basing important pedagogical and curricular components of our practice on his iterations. The other polar end of this argument is represented by the student/teacher response to Prensky's article. I have to say I whole heartedly disagree with most of what this student/teacher writes, although I must admit that I had some similar responses the first time I read any of Prenskys work. I will address each point separately here:

  1. he wrote: "The problem with constructing a "student-centered" curriculum where the
    students spend their time "learning" by connecting with their peers all
    over the world through blogs and whatnot is that this only works if the
    student knows the material already...The whole point of a teacher is that the teacher knows more about the
    topic than you do, and you need them to impart their knowledge to you
    before you can really do anything with it.
    " -This response missed the point. The use of online publication tools in education is not always meant to be some kind of summative assessment. The value in activities such s blogging or collaborating on a wiki is that these tools are fluid. Students learn from interacting with others. A blog can be used to keep a record of progress on a project and to invite feedback from others outside the classroom community. These tools open up a whole world of human resources to students that were not available, or not easily available, before. Also, a student-centered curriculum is not one where the student dictates what is taught or what they will learn but rather a curriculum where the student interests drive the learning. Idealy this would look something like a student and a teacher both taking turns driving somewhere.
  2. he wrote: "so just because kids seem disconnected in school doesn't necessarily
    have to do with technology. More likely its the usual reasons - they
    see us, like their parents, as authority figures trying to "keep them
    "." I don't think this comment is totally off-base. I do agree that drop-out rates probably have less to do with technology than they have to do with other factors. However, technology can play a factor in possible solutions. I worked at an alternative school for two years. I have seen a lot of students drop out and understand the reasons pretty well in each case. Most of the time these students dropped out for reasons stemming from external factors such as homelessness, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, or involvement in organized crime. Of all the students I saw drop out of high school in the past two years I can only point to engagement as being the prime reason in two cases and those were two of the brightest students I ever encountered in eight years of teaching. In those two cases it was less about the technology but rather the methods of teaching and learning that were at fault. Had we been able to personalize their learning more and teach them, or rather guide them, in academic study that was more rigorous they may not have dropped out. However, both students were not motivated to do more because they knew it would not be sufficiently rewarded. I am sure both of these students will go on, much like this teacher/student's father, and have a successful career and life despite their drop-out status.
  3. he wrote: "What matters is not necessarily how much technology you are using.
    Instead, what matters is if you are moving past pure memorization to
    higher level thinking. If you can use technology to do that, so be it,
    but if not, it doesn't make it any less authentic
    ." I completely agree.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Firefox Add-ons

I may never log-in manually to my Blogger account again to publish posts. I may be slow to this and am feeling a bit like I missed the boat big time but I am just now discovering the extraordinary value of Firefox Add-ons.

My interest in Firefox Add-ons started about a month ago when I first buttons to my browser. Before then I was using Firefox as-is. It seems to me that add-ons must be a huge reason Firefox has taken off so well in the browser battle. Today I added three new add-ons to my browser that I think have great value for education.

  1. ScribeFire - coordinates with your blog account to allow you to publish blogposts directly from Firefox without having to login yourself to your account. The post editor looks pretty good too.
  2. Zotero - This amazing add-on is meant specifically for education and scholarly research. It is a way of keeping track of research and other literature that is out there in electronic format. There are just too many features this add-on offers to describe. Basically, it combines a bookmark feature with note taking and citation tools. You just have to see it.
  3. IE Tab - Before installing this I had to use IE7 to adequately login to the course managemnt system for my part-time online teaching job. This would be a big problem if my full-time school district switched to Linux. What this add-on does is emulate IE in Firefox so Firefox will display IE only websites. I tried it and it seemed to work better than IE.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    Free Image Editors

    Yesterday I blogged about some of the online operating systems featured in PC Magazine's March 2008 article "The Best Free Software." Today I had a chance to evaluate some of the graphics programs they include in their list.

    As an artist and art educator I have long had a love affair with Adobe Photoshop and for that matter most Adobe products but last summer when I first was introduced to GIMP I started to have a change of heart. I found GIMP inspiring because, just like most open source software, it leveled the playing field for those who cannot afford premium applications like Photoshop. However, I never really found myself using it. I still preferred Adobe because of the look and feel of the program. GIMP with all of its windows is cumbersome to manage. Commands are not located in the same place, or even very similar places as they are in Photoshop.

    Today I found two other free programs that look and feel like Adobe Photoshop, offer the basic features that I use Photoshop for, and are more user friendly than GIMP. First is According to their website this program was originally developed by an undergraduate student with the help of Microsoft. It was at one time slated to replace Paint as the free image editing software to come with the Windows OS. Why they did not go with it I am not sure. Now it is in open source. This program looks and feels like Paint but has the functionality of an early version of Adobe Photoshop.
    The only real problem I see with this program is it is only currently available on Windows. Our district is seriously looking at moving to Linux next year and if we do this program will not be supported.

    The other program I found and am just ecstatic about is Splashup. Splashup is a flash based image editing program that looks almost exactly like Adobe Photoshop in your browser. It does all the basic things you need a good photo editor to do. Since it is web based you don't have to download anything. If you have an internet connection you can edit your photos. You also do not need to sign up for an account with Splashup the way you do with other online image editing tools. Since it is flash based it is then also cross platform. The only downside to this application is that it cannot be downloaded.

    One cool feature that I like in Splashup is the webcam capture feature as demonstrated in this picture. The only big problem I found with Splashup is the inability to copy and paste between programs. I tried pasting this screen capture of Splashup in Splashup but it would not let me. I had to use to save this final screen cap.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Online Operating Systems

    In the March 2008 issue of PC Magazine there is a great article, "The Best Free Software." In that article they list, among many other things, free online operating systems. I spent a little bit of time exploring some of these programs. The first they list, ajaxWindows crashed my browser when I tried to use it. The second I used, eyeOS, worked well and seemed simple to use but was not all that versatile. The third one I used, Glide, sparked some excitement for me. This tool, while similar to Google Docs & Spreadsheets, is much flashier. It's graphic interface is very user friendly. Most interesting is how Glide seems to merge basic elements of an operating system with the collaborative potential of web 2.0 tools like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook,, and online office programs. The 2gb storage space they give you free makes Glide a nice service for anytime, anywhere computing. The other nice feature that is present with Glide that is not readily present on other similar programs is the ease of creating websites with editable CSS templates. I can definitely see how this could evolve over the next five years into what the Horizon Report talks about when they say that social operating systems will greatly influence education in the future.

    Glide Write

    Glide Present

    Glide Edit

    Glide Publish

    Sunday, February 10, 2008

    Fixing the Web - Greesemonkey

    Yet another gold nugget passed on by the Cool Cat Teacher:

    Friday, February 8, 2008


    I just learned of this new open source virtual world. It is called Croquet and in the next few weeks I definitely have to give this platform a whirl. If Croquet is as easy to use as this video suggests it might just be the perfect virtual world app for education (I am making this prediction prematurely I know). I especially like the ability to broadcast your webcam image over the top of your avatar and how the program appears to display the 2d web within the world(s).

    Goodhue Techspo - Rescheduled

    In January I posted that Goodhue Public School would be holding a Technology Expo at the end of the month. Due to a makeup day that event had to be postponed. It is now scheduled for February 18th. All are welcome to attend (teachers, administrators, parents, community members, etc.). I extend this invitation to anyone, especially teachers in schools in SE Minnesota. This will be an afternoon for us to share some new things we are doing with technology and a time for reflection. For more information on the sessions click on the links below.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    Social Bookmarking in Plain English

    Links for Social Bookmarking:
    Social Marker
    Wikipedia-Social Bookmarking
    7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking
    5 Things You Need to Know Before Using, a Social Bookmark and teaching - How one teacher uses with students - social bookmarking for education (appears to be a tagging site for blogposts, not all weblinks)

    Email Subscriptions to My Curricular Tags

    The following is a list of the email subscriptions I wrote about in my last post. It is also the text that appears on my school webpage for teachers to use:

    Click to Subscribe to my tags in the following categories

    Teacher Resources - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Teacher_Resources by Email

    Special Education - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Special Education Links by Email

    High School Science - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Science Links by Email

    High School Social Studies - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Social Studies Links by Email

    High School Language Arts - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Language Arts Links by Email

    High School Math - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Math Links by Email

    Music - Link Feed

    Subscribe to by Email

    Art - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Art Links by Email

    High School Health & Physical Education - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Health & PE Links by Email

    High School Media Arts - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Media Arts Links by Email

    School Administration - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Links for Admin by Email

    Kindergarten - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Kindergarten Links by Email

    1st Grade - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 1 Links by Email

    2nd Grade - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 2 Links by Email

    3rd Grade (Science & Math) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 3 (Science and Math) Links by Email

    3rd Grade (Reading, Writing, & Social Studies) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 3 (Reading_Writing_and _Social Studies) Links by Email

    4th Grade (Science & Math) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 4 (Science and Math) by Email

    4th Grade (Reading, Writing, & Social Studies) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 4 (Reading_Writing_and _Social Studies) Links by Email

    5th Grade (Science & Social Studies) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 5 (Science and Social Studies) Links by Email

    5th Grade (Reading & Writing) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 5 (Reading and Writing) Links by Email

    5th Grade (Math) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 5 (Math) Links by Email

    6th Grade (Reading & Writing) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 6 (Reading_Writing_and _Social Studies) Links by Email

    6th Grade (Science & Math) - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Grade 6 (Science and Math) Links by Email

    Education Technology - Link Feed

    Subscribe to Education Technology by Email & feeburner email - Tech Integration Synergy





    As a technology curriculum integration specialist a large part of my job is locating and sharing online resources with teachers in my district. While I enjoy this task immensely I don't enjoy the process I have had to go through to document this process. Today I finished setting up a system that I hope will eliminate the the cumbersome part of this task, make my work more productive, and increase my communication with teachers.

    What I have done is combine the web 2.0 tools of, FeedBlendr, and FeedBurner in such a way that when I tag a link it automatically gets sent to the appropriate teacher in an email.

    The reason my searching was cumbersome before was to do this I would have to first copy the link, paste it in an email, address that email, send it, then login to our website, navigate to my curricular links page, add the link there in the correct location, then publish the page. If there was more than one link I wanted to post I would have to do these steps multiple times. In all, I had 10 steps I had to go through for each link I wanted to share and archive. Now, I only have two steps: tag and save.

    Here is how I did it:
    1. set up a account
    2. invented unique tags for each subject area and grade level that I would normally find sites for
    3. imported all my bookmarks and favorites as well as those of teachers in the district and tagged their links according to my tagging system
    4. used FeedBlendr to combine feeds of related tags so each teacher can receive in one feed all the links I find relevant to them

    5. Converted the feed to an email with FeedBurner email (located in the "publish" tab on Feedburner)
    6. Created a page on our school website for teachers to subscribe to these emails - I also subscribed all teachers to the Feedblendr feeds using their Bloglines accounts but most teachers still prefer to use email.
    7. I also changed the subfolders on my "curricular links" page to link to relevant tags in my account. This makes for an organized way of locating my archived links.
    Next steps:
    1. On my next round of individual teacher meetings I will show each teacher the subscription site and have each one subscribe the the feeds that will be of most use to them.
    2. Search for other educators who have active accounts and start tagging their links
    3. Align these links with state and national standards.
    Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Scott Schwister for help in troubleshooting rss to email technical issues.