Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weekly Tech Tip - Distributed Research with Google Forms

Now that school has started, we are over the beginning of the year hurdles, and homecoming is out of the way the time is right to resume our weekly technology tips. Each week I will create a video with an education technology tip and post links (listed under "Link Stew") of interesting and useful websites, literature, videos, or other online content I come across. I am adding a new category this year called the blog carnival where from time to time I will post a series links to interesting and thought provoking education blog posts.

Weekly Tech Tip:

Related links:

Links Stew:

This week's link stew is really a highlights list of sites I found over the summer.
  • World Texting - Send free text messages to cell phones from your computer (I have used this with students in the past to curb problems with cell phone use in the classroom. Text questions to students, send private messages such as "Pay attention!," or give quizzes.
  • Poll Everywhere - Create online polls and allow your audience (or students) to submit answers via SMS text messaging, Twitter, or on an online website.
  • ZuiTube - Kind of like YouTube for younger kids.
  • Lectr - YouTube for school lectures.
  • Storybird - Storybird is a site perfect for creative writing assignments. Students are given a bunch of photos that they are prompted to create a story around. The site allows you to arrange the photos and your text however you like in as many pages as you like. When you are done you get an ebook of your story. On the site it says that soon they will be adding the ability to order print copies of the books you create.
  • twittearth - This is sort of a mix between Twitter and Google Earth. It displays a globe and shows where people are Tweeting from.
  • Librivox - From this site you can dowload free audio books of books in the public domain. You can also volunteer to contribute by sending them recordings of book chapters you read. Could be a service learning project for any class.

Blog Carnival:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Would you be able to unplug for 3 weeks?

I just finished watching this student film about students at Carlton College who, for a project for a documentary film class, went three weeks without using computers. It was interesting and raised some interesting questions. Have we really grown so dependent on technology? How much of our online time is wasted? What are we missing out by being plugged in?

What I found most interesting was the feeling all participants had that their choice to unplug inconvenienced others. It illustrates that we are not only dependent on technology ourselves but we are dependent on others using it as well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

iTeach App Directory

I have been spending the past week creating a directory of iPod Touch and iPhone apps that may be useful for teachers and students. It is a new feature in the Digital Backpack but the Digital Backpack doesn't work in Safari on these devices because it uses iframes. The stand alone site works fine in the mobile browser. All links to apps in the directory will open iTunes to the download page for each app both on your computer and on your iPod or iPhone. Right now this directory contains about 100 different apps. Most of them are free. The only apps included that are not free are ones that I find extremely valuable. Over the course of the year I will add others that I find and delete ones that I have not fully tested yet. If you are a teacher, administrator, or student who uses one of these devices and have apps you find useful I would love for you to let me know so I can include them in this directory.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Off the Grid

I have always been fascinated by people who make radically different life decisions than most of us. I think often about people who choose to live "off the grid" for whatever reason. Having grown up with technology playing such a huge part in my life and having been indoctrinated into a western world of consumerist values both through my upbringing and my own psudo-enslavement by consumer credit I simultaneously struggle to understand the choices some people make while also envy them on some level for making such choices. There is a freedom in going off the grid that is hard to deny and there is always a little part of me that thinks I myself am only a thread away from shedding my obligation to uphold cultural values and participate in society in conventional ways.

Our world is full of people who choose to shed conformity to mainstream culture. There are people who are intentionally homeless, there are those who choose to move to the Mesa in New Mexico and live hard but free lives, there are those who leave mainstream culture for religious asceticism such as the Sadus in India, there are the Amish people in the U.S. While the decision to make these life choices for many are influenced by problems such as substance abuse, mental illness, or refuge from the law this is not the case for all people. This leaves me always returning to the same question which I don't have a definitive answer to yet but I know must exist: What is it about our society that produces these counter cultures and why might a person of sound mind and body choose to disconnect?

This also brings up some questions about our education system. If these counter cultures are legitimate and acceptable ways of life in our country do our school systems serve the education needs of these communities? The answer to that question is obviously no. When was the last time you saw an Amish student in a public school? But, our public schools are charged with meeting the needs of all citizens under the age of 21. There is a fundamental problem here. How can this be resolved? What does this mean for No Child Left Behind? Are students who drop out of school because of a clash between the culture our schools are educating students for and the culture they themselves belong to to be considered "Left Behind?" Do we change the definition of "Left Behind," do we change the policy that public schools should serve the needs of all, do we adopt different curriculum and pedagogy that is somehow all inclusive at the expense of calling into question the value of mainstream culture, or do we open separate schools for all? How do I reconcile that what I teach students is inherently charged with both my own biases and the biases native to the system?

Tuesday, Arne Duncan introduced President Obama to our nation's school children by first telling the students to be quiet. Then, Obama began his speech by telling everyone to sit down. (Sit down and shut up). While I enjoyed his speech and felt is was far better than the addresses given by George H. W. Bush or Ronald Regan his message to stay in school and work hard still does scream indoctrination. It was not an indoctrination into the left wing ideology that far right-wingers had worried about preceding this talk. Those fears were quickly placated. Instead, his call to sit down, be quiet, work hard, and stay in school was a call to stay "on the grid." It was an indoctrination into the grid that encompasses both sides of the political debate. A debate that ignores and leaves behind countless people who choose to live "off the grid."

For now I think I will stay "on the grid" but who knows, maybe one day like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bobby Fisher, William Burroughs, or Henry David Thoreau, I will decide to check out and move to the Mesa.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Additions to the Digital Backpack

I spent some time this afternoon updating and adding services to the Digital Backpack. Here are the new additions:
  • - Collaborative storytelling for families and friends (perfect for creative writing)
  • - organic online mind mapping tool
  • - Free books online
  • - Classic literature for download as free eBooks
  • - Huge collection of over 24,760 free eBooks
  • - Upload 20-30 photographs of a single object and this tool produces a 3D image of that object.
  • - Online application that allows you to create custom police portrait sketches
  • - free website builder and hosting platform that allows you to create useful websites, grow your traffic, and earn money for your efforts
  • - Recordr is a way you record yourself live just with a microphone and a web camera, and share it with others.
  • - supposedly the largest video collection for kids anywhere online
  • - Generates an embed code for displaying two YouTube videos simultaneously side by side.
  • - Powerful online collaborative mind mapping tool
  • - Allows you to host a video conference, record the meeting, and publish it online.
  • - Twitter screencasting mashup tool
  • - Turns spreadsheet data into HTML tables
  • - See Twitter like someone else
  • - Create embeddable audio recordings using a mic, telephone call, audio file upload, or text to speech.
  • - Music search engine.
  • - Icon search engine
  • - collaborative photo encyclopedia
  • - Convert any file into a website
  • - PDF restriction remover
  • - Leave a private voicemail for anyone on Twitter and they'll be notified via @reply.
  • - Allows you to tweet audio.
  • - lets you easily create a video by mixing together video clips, music tracks, and photos
  • Stream live from a camera, desktop, or webcam. Creates a channel that loops previously recorded content when not live. Formerly called Mogulus.
  • - build and share your own 3D games online
  • - free tool that lets you create your own cell phone ringtones
  • - Detects motion on your webcam, records what is happening, and allows you to watch online.
  • - Stream live from your webcam on Twitter
  • - an audio book publisher providing audio book downloads of philosophy and classic literature titles
  • - lists free science e-books, textbooks, lecture notes, monographs, and other science related documents
  • - Lyric Rat is naming that tune in 140 characters or less on Twitter.
  • - message board builder for your website
  • -DesignYourDorm.com is a web-based 3-D interior design tool that allows college students to customize their dorm room interiors and purchase their favorite room selections online.
  • - animated gif maker
  • - search for 3D models
  • - Real Time Feed Search