Monday, December 17, 2007

The First 6 Months

I have been at the new job for about 6 months and the Superintendent asked for a mid-year recap. Here is an overview of what we have don in the last 6 months. There is more coming soon too!

Updates in Educational Technology since July 1st include:

  • · Blackberry roll-out to all District administrators, principals, assistant principals, athletic directors, deans, and technology staff. This has increased the ability to communicate via e-mail and has increased productivity.
  • · Currently, we are half-way through a new technology planning process which has involved students, teachers, staff, and community members.
  • · Department chairs all have new laptops this year and have been using them for staff development and evaluations.
  • · Each building is now running i-Tech sessions, which provide for staff development opportunities for integrating technology into the curriculum. Nearly 150 teachers, administrators, and staff are participating throughout the district this year. Topics covered have included use of network resources, PowerPoint, podcasting, image editing, and digital storytelling.
  • · Gradebook Training took place at the first two institute days and was well received. The technology staff followed up with individual instruction where required and support was provided by Al Michalik, Linda Rutchke, and Mike Smith who have been working on the development of the gradebook program and enhancement of the student information system. All teachers are using the gradebook program to maintain and post grades.
  • · In late October ten members of 207 attended the National School Board Association’s Technology and Learning Conference in Nashville, TN. This conference has sparked a great deal of creativity and energy in the area of technology development in our district.
  • · New Language Labs were outfitted this summer allowing for greater functionality and interaction in Foreign Language classes.
  • · Parent and Student Portals were opened in October. There are approximately 9000 users signed up. 67% of portal users are students and 33% are parents. We average 4000 visits to the portal each school day.
  • · Teachers and Staff have been trained on how to use the new Xerox copiers to scan documents to PDF files which should allow greater flexibility in digital information.
  • · The district purchased Adobe’s Master Suite, which will allow us to deploy all 22 of Adobe’s products throughout our schools over the next year. Teachers also can take the software home for their home computers.
  • · The network team has enabled a guest wireless network that allows visitors to the Maine schools filtered access to the Internet.
  • · The process has begun for creating a formal timeline of events for the new web environment, which will be deployed next year.
  • · There is now an emergency alert system up and running in the case of inclement weather or other school cancellations.
  • · We are in the process of connecting all three buildings with fiber optics. When completed in early January we will be able to support 154mbps of data traffic between the buildings (100mbps via fiber and 54mbps via wireless) and 50mbps out to the Internet.
  • · Within the next week we will be putting in place a new Internet filter that will allow more access to the Internet while providing better tracking of Internet use.

Tech Planning Process - Continuing...

Here is what went out Friday as the next step in the tech planning process. I have linked to the planning graphic organizer. I am not releasing the actual requests to the public though. The process is starting to gather some steam...

Suggestions or ideas are always welcome!

We are reaching the cut-off point for all of the tech requests. I wanted to describe what will happen during the next step and outline the schedule from here.
After the window for tech requests closes department chairs have a couple of weeks to review and revise submissions. I will then organize and group the items while adding some supplemental information. I will use all of that information to create a technology "wishbook" that will have all of the requests in it. That book will be circulated to all of the technology planning committee members and the department chairs. I am attaching a pdf of the requests that have come in to this point and excel spreadsheet that summarizes that same information.
On January 29th Maine South will meet to prioritize the requests in the "wishbook". Maine West meets on January 30th (after collaboration) and Maine East meets on January 31st. I will be sending an agenda for this meeting after break.
If you need sub coverage for the day your school is meeting you must request it by December 21st.
When we meet to prioritize we are not giving each proposed resource a numerical rank. We are placing it on a map that visually represents how each building feels how important each need is and when in the 3 year time frame it should fall. I have attached a pdf of the graphic organizer we will be using for this. When you open the pdf you will see how it will work for prioritizing the resources. Each building's recommendations will be brought to the district planning committee.
Thanks for all that you have done so far. We are getting close to seeing this process through. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.


Here is the Time line:
December 21st - Tech Request Window Closes
December 22nd-January 11th - Department Chairs review/revise submissions
January 16th - "Wish Books" are forwarded to all technology planning committee members and department chairs. (Wish books are a collection of all of the requests with ancillary information)
January 29th - Maine South Planning Committee and department chairs meet for prioritization meeting
January 30th-Maine West Planning Committee and department chairs meet for prioritization meeting (after collaboration)
January 31st-Maine East Planning Committee and department chairs meet for prioritization meeting

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tech Tip 12/5 -Tech Tip 12/5 - Looking for some educational blogs to read?

Well the snow has arrived and we are reaching that point in the year where it is good to curl up on the couch with a good book - or maybe a good blog :) I will talk about the following things below - skip to what you might find interesting
1 - What is a blog
2- Where can I find good blogs to read?
3 - How can I keep track of all of this stuff? Will RSS help? Do I need an Aggregator? Where do I get that stuff anyway?
1. What exactly is a blog? (from Wikipedia)

A blog (a portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are written in chronological order and commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting) and are part of a wider network of social media. Micro-blogging is another type of blogging which consists of blogs with very short posts.

As of September 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 106 million blogs.[1]

2. What are some good blogs to read?
This one depends on your interest. There is a great list of educational blogs at and you can see what I read at
There are a lot of good (and bad) content out there. I have found mine over the years by finding someone I like to read and then looking at what they read. This way I have built a selection of things that meet my interest.
Another great spot to find good educational blogs is through the Edublog Awards - this is like the Pulitzers of Educational Blogs. You can find this year's nominations and prior year winners at
3. How can I keep track of all of this stuff? Will RSS help? Do I need an Aggregator? Where do I get that stuff anyway?
The great thing about the web today is that you don't always have to go out looking for things to read. Once you find something you like you can tell the web to send newly updated articles to you. It is like subscribing to a magazine you like to read. There is a tool built into many websites called an RSS feed. RSS (really simple syndication) is a feature that sends out an alert everytime someone updates a blog or webpage you are reading. You don't just have to use it for blogs, I also use it to tell me when the White Sox make a player move (not much of that happening right now though). You know a webpage supports RSS when you see this symbol in the address bar or on the page. That means you can use an Aggregator to keep track of changes on these pages.
The two most popular Aggregators right now are Bloglines and Google Reader you can go to either site and sign up for an aggregator where all of your articles come directly to (they have great step-bystep directions on their sites). Once you read an article it is marked as read and dissapears from your reading list.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Approved! New Maine 207 "Web Environment"

Last night was a huge day for our district. Our board of education approved us to move forward on a project that will revolutionize our web presence and what we can do on the web.

Here are the main parts:

A main site for each school in the district governed by a CMS.
A branch in the site for each activity/sport/teacher/etc... with the same CMS tools
Each teacher will have a portal page that will bring their customized content to them

Here is the real kicker -

Each student will have their own portal page that will populate with important information from around the school - and they will have the ability to post content to it - AND SHARE that content with other teachers and students

This will be a collaborative web 2.0 environment that gives our teachers and students the power to change the way they work in a classroom.

American Eagle has given me permission to post part of the proposal so anyone who is interested can get a better idea of the direction we are heading in.

When we started this process my goal was to create a web presence that had the power influence change what we do in the classroom - I think we are on the way to that goal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Asus Eee Series Pc - Day II

So I showed the Asus off yesterday at a staff development meeting. Lots of wide eyes and a few good questions. It will be in the hands of a couple of kids over the next few weeks. I had this article passed on to me about Fresno Unified School District that has put them in several classrooms to work on student portfolios. Here are a couple of quotes:

"Anything we can do as a district to engage students in learning and keep them here is a good thing," Superintendent Michael Hanson said
Yes - engagement is a key piece here. Changing the way we teach is an even bigger one which is why I like this statement better

school officials said they purchased 1,000 wireless laptops that fit on a desk alongside textbooks and notebooks, as well as give students the opportunity to build a digital portfolio of essays, drawings and other creations
But what really scares me is that we continue to see statements like these:

Stephen Lewis, a geology professor at California State University, Fresno, thinks laptops are a useful tool, but they can also hinder the teaching process -- he often sees students with their heads buried in their laptops instead of paying attention to a lecture
Professor Lewis doesn't get it - if you engage the students they will be interested in your area of study - your lecture just ain't cutting it.

These two individuals on the other hand do:

Roy Bohlin, an education technology professor at Fresno State, however, said laptops can motivate students to solve problems that affect their friends or community or the world.

"Problems in textbooks are sometimes boring," Bohlin said. "Laptops can increase critical thinking because students will have access to resources on the Internet."

Kurt Madden, the district's chief technology officer, said he has heard the debate before. In his final analysis, he said: "Teachers will always be a critical part of the classroom."

What it comes down to is boring classrooms with laptops are boring classrooms with expensive furniture (stole that from Bob Johnstone). Exciting engaging classrooms can be more effective with a tool to access information - like a laptop (or a really good library - the Internet is just faster - when used correctly). When you start to do things with the laptop that could never be done before - like collaborative, multi-media, on-line, project based, thematic, problem solving activities you are getting somewhere.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Asus Eee Series Pc

I responded yesterday to Jeff Utecht's post on R&D in education - by coincidence our R&D Asus Eee Series Pc arrived on the same day (yeah that is the one - right there next to my business card - so you can get an idea of size). I have already lined up some students that are going to each carry it around for a few days and use it in their classes and at home - with the agreement that they will meet with me afterwards to give me feedback.

Here is the question for you - what should I ask them? What do you want to know about the student experience with this type of device?

We have also ordered an XO to do the same thing with. I will use the same students. So please consider that when submitting your suggested questions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Ran across this site called brainfood that has logic puzzles and it reminded me of how I used to start my class periods. Many times I would have a logic puzzle on the board or a question of the day. It gave the students something to think about while I took attendance and put their focus on what we were about to do. Especially in my chemistry classes where logical thinking got you further than memorizing the periodic table.

This gets me thinking again about the skill based approach. What should I have been more concerned about as a chemistry teacher? I did make it a habit of telling my students that they should take chemistry because it taught you how to logically think through complex problems and find abstract relationships. I don't know how I came up with that, or where it came from, but I remember saying it a lot. I would tell my students that it really wouldn't matter for most of them if they could "do chemistry" later in life - what mattered was if they could connect the type of thinking we were doing to other things in their life.

I see a connection to the 21st Century Skills but when I look at them - I feel like there is stuff missing. I know - that is a very insightful and helpful statement. As I have been saying I am still trying to work my way around this whole philosophy and I just havent had time to work it all out yet...but it is coming.

The Tech Plan

As a first time tech director I have spent more time planning and dreading this process more than anything I have done in my professional career. I could have played this safe and just done what had been done before - instead I sent this email (I have changed the survey links to a copy of the same survey) - this is the start - I am open to it changing and developing as we move forward, but this is where we are now...

We are beginning the phase of the technology planning stage where we are gathering the organization’s trends and needs for the next few years. Each staff member has the opportunity to submit resources that should be considered in the technology planning process. You can choose to submit items we already have and need to refresh or maintain, or resources that we should add to the district in the future. The plan will be in place for 3-years, so forecast appropriately.

I have attached a pdf and word document that show what the online survey looks like. The survey is somewhat lengthy and detailed. It may make sense to work on the word document first then cut and paste your responses into the form. Please fill in as much of the information as possible. It is best to fill in every field in the survey so that the tech planning committee understands the nature and need of your request. You are strongly encouraged, but not required, to work on submitting a resource in a group, department, or MCC – if this is the case choose one representative to be the contact person. Submissions can be made at this link:

Copy of the actual survey - for demonstration purposes

Do not assume that anything (outside of SIS classroom computers, lab computers, projectors, existing printers, Microsoft office, adobe products, and administrative/support staff equipment - all of which is replaced on a pre-determined cycle) will be included in the technology plan unless it is submitted in this survey.

Items may be, but are not limited to, hardware, software, network equipment, on-line subscriptions, or any other technology resource.

Please limit your responses to 1 resource per submission. You may submit as many items as you like. You must enter an entire submission when you start the survey - you cannot start one and go back to it later. Once you submit it there is no way to go back and edit it.

The window for submissions closes on December 21st 2007.

Submitting an item ensures that it will be considered by the planning committees. It does not guarantee that it will be part of the technology plan - not submitting it ensures that it won't be considered.

Every staff member also has the ability to see the submissions - they can be accessed at:

Once there you can filter the responses by any field (ie. by department, school, use, etc…), download all of the responses, or browse them one by one. This gives you the opportunity to determine if you need to submit a request or if someone has already done it. If you feel that one has not been submitted correctly, you can submit your own, by copying and pasting from another and editing on the fly. No resource will be considered more, or less, based on the number of submissions. One detailed submission is better than ten without specifics.

After winter break the technology committees and administrative councils from each school will come together to prioritize the submissions from their school’s perspective.

Every member of the technology staff is available to help you through this process. We will answer your questions, point you in the direction of research, helpers, ideas, and provide opinions (when asked). However, you must submit your own requests through the on-line form. I am available to meet with individuals, departments, or MCCs as well.

I recognize that this is different from the past, but this is the only way I have found that will allow everyone to submit their ideas on an equal footing.

Thanks for your time and efforts in maintaining and improving technology in our schools. Let me know if you have any questions.

So, that is the start. We are also working on a district technology vision that will be used when we prioritize requests.

I am hoping really hard that this crazy idea actually works...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How I Spent 10 Minutes Changing the World Tonight

I spent 10 minutes today correctly identifying 100 words at
For my time of brushing up on a few words and making myself a little smarter I donated 1000 grains of rice through the United Nations.

It is pretty fun and is basically a creative billboard, but it also serves to show that games work. I wouldn't have stuck around as long as I did if a little game wasn't at work here. Plus I felt good every time I got a word right. Seeing as that it is very similar to many of the vocabulary tests that show up in standardized tests I could also see this used as a tool in the classroom. Maybe an enrichment exercize or as part of a center.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog Readability

Passed on from Doug Johnson

cash advance

I guess I am hitting the target audience...

the rambling draft of a developing philosophy...

I am into day 2 of the IETC Conference -

These are the ideas that continue to become solidified in my mind - They might not make a lot of sense yet, but I am working on many of the details...

I guess this has been building - consider this the rambling draft of a developing philosophy...

1. The key to developing prepared students is skills - refining the traditional skills that we know that all kids must have (3r's, communication, life skills) with the new ones that are developing through the power of technology (multimedia, social networking, living an online persona, etc(i still need to make a list of these things)

2. We need to understand that teaching content is a dying art. The collaborative informational tools on the internet are replacing the need for teachers as informers. We are more in need of teachers as connectors. Education must become an activity that shows how to find and use the infinite growing quantity of information. Information Literacy + Authentic Learning + Other Stuff (yeah working on that part too) = the future classroom...

3. Tools matter - you can't teach a bricklayer to be a mason without bricks, mortar, trowels, and chisels. Sure the tools may change - you might get a saw to cut the bricks with - but the skills that you learned with the basic tools translate to the other tools. You just have to learn the skill of learning how to use tools. Part of this is understanding that the tools will continue to get better and will continue to change. That tools go through a development cycle - which the length of fluctuates wildly depending on the tool. Sometimes, before a tool is perfected another on will step in and take it's place and we need to be able to give up the old tool for the better one.

4. The way we build relationships is changing - but the fundamental truths of human relationships will not. We still need trust, caring, love, understanding, conflict, support, etc (need more here too) in our relationships. Social networks may be helping to increase the quantity of individuals we can build relationships with - however, it may make it more difficult to establish those fundamental needs - in virtual settings. Our kids are getting better at this through MMORGs, social networks, chat environments, and virtual worlds.

5. Our teachers were not taught how to create learners in this new environment. They were taught to be conveyors of content. Skills are secondary to content - unless the skill is content. This will be the killer change - or the killer of change. We need to prepare our teachers to teach skills and use them to share content. This idea of the net as our brain's usb hard drive. Why keep information I don't use all of the time in my head when I can get it from my back-up - off the net? Why should I take time storing information when it is out there somewhere?

Well - of course I need some of that stuff so I can connect it, mold it, use it...

But - I want to spend more time doing that then memorizing junk - It is more important that I can convert Inches to Centimeters that remembering that there are 2.54cm/inch.

Or maybe it is just important to know that I CAN convert between units of measurements - because I can just type "convert 1 inch to cm" into my google search bar and get the answer.

Knowing what we need to do, what we want to do, and knowing that there are really no limits to that (if you have skills) is what we need to know.

6. So - this is what it all comes down to in my head right now. We need to teach kids (and teachers) to learn how to learn using today's tools while maintaining the flexibility to do the same with tomorrow's tools.

I believe that if people can do that they can do anything.

They could even learn to be a guy who is a learner/teacher/parent/trombonist/band director/husband/tech guy/administrator/writer/communicator/talker/geek/blah-blah just like me. Or they could be something totally different - just like me.

When people are empowered to become learners without limits they have the ability to extend beyond the walls and labels that have been placed upon them by themselves or the world.

I know I am missing stuff...

To be continued...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tech Tip 11/9 - Introduction/Refresher Web 2.0

My quick definition of Web 2.0 is a collection of tools that allow for 2-way (or more) communication, collaboration, and creation across the web and its nature causes sharing to shape the content.
If you aren't familiar with web 2.0 (or would like a refresher) check out the following resources:
Web 2.0 Workshop from Atomic Learning
The Machines are Us/ing Us
Web 2.0 Workshop
Go To Web 2.0 - the complete Web 2.0 Directory

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tough Questions - Social Networking

I just got asked 4 tough questions from one of the schools' newspaper.

1.Is a program like Facebook safe for kids? Why?

2.What measures are taken to protect kids and prevent online predators?

3.Are online predators as big a threat as they are made out to be?

4.Do you feel that it is fair for school administrators to look at students' facebooks sites and punish them in school if they have inappropriate pictures or comments?

Here were my responses:

1.Is a program like Facebook safe for kids? Why? Like anything else there is a level of safety that is based on how it is used. It is easy to forget in virtual worlds that the same social rules apply. We have all learned from an early age not to trust strangers, this advice holds true in our virtual environments as well. Facebook, and other social network sites, do have policies in place to help maintain safe atmospheres but there are always people that are on the fringes of society that will look for ways to take advantage of people. It is up to the companies that provide social networks to create safe environments and for the people within them to be safe within them. Problems can occur when an adult with more advanced social and communication skills use these environments to prey on people that are not as experienced in social situations.

2.What measures are taken to protect kids and prevent online predators? There are several governmental agencies, private interest groups, and educational organizations that have put together information on how to be safe online. Some of the most widely known are:

The 2 most popular social networks have safety information as well:

3.Are online predators as big a threat as they are made out to be? Yes, if they do manage to lure someone into their grasp there is a very real danger there. However, research is showing that this doesn’t happen that often. There was a recent report released by PEW ( that shows that most teens are conscious of internet dangers and many do not post sensitive information, or put content on their web that is misleading to deliberately lead people away from truthful personal information. Yet 11% of teens still make profiles using their full names. PEW also reports the following:

Fully 32% of online teens have been contacted by someone with no connection to them or any of their friends, and 7% of online teens say they have felt scared or uncomfortable as a result of contact by an online stranger. Several behaviors are associated with high levels of online stranger contact, including social networking profile ownership, posting photos online and using social networking sites to flirt. Although several factors are linked with increased levels of stranger contact in general, gender is the only variable with a consistent association with contact that is scary or uncomfortable--girls are much more likely to report scary or uncomfortable contact than boys.

Teens need to take measures to protect themselves from people who would seek to do them harm. They can do this by following a couple of quick tips:

· Don’t post personal information about yourself to the mass public on the web – things like your name, phone number, or calendar

· Be wary of complete strangers that contact you – just like you would be if you were talking in person

· Don’t agree to meet people in person that you meet in a virtual environment

· Share your online experiences with your parents – it helps them to understand how things have changed – and allows you to get another perspective on the people you meet

· Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want to wear on a t-shirt and walk around school in. The internet is virtual, but what you do there can follow you around forever.

4.Do you feel that it is fair for school administrators to look at students' facebooks sites and punish them in school if they have inappropriate pictures or comments?

Fair or unfair really doesn’t play into this. Administrators, parents, and the public can (and do) see what you post on-line. Legally, administrators have a responsibility to maintain a safe atmosphere. If things are happening on-line that challenge the safety of students they must be investigated. Also, it is within the rights of the school to prevent substantial disruption in the educational process. Activities that happen outside of school, live or virtually, can cause interference inside of the school. If an administrator perceives that something outside of the school walls will stop the school from serving its purpose they have the right and responsibility to investigate the issue (including looking at websites) and outline a course of discipline.

Those were my thoughts anyway...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tech Tip 10/31 - Scary Emails

A scary tip for a scary day...
Today's tech tip is about circulating those scary emails and rumors. Over the years email has become a quick and easy way to pass along rumors, hoaxes, and threats. Most of these emails are untrue and contunue to make the rounds.
To ensure that the information you are passing along is truthful you can validate it at the following websites:
They are the utmost experts on these kinds of stories and claims. So before scaring someone with a story about a computer virus, phone bill scam, or similar warnings run it through the fact checkers first.
It is also a great site to use with your kids about substaniating sources and claims. Many of the stories on these sites are fun to go through. A good exercize in researching is to pick a couple and have the students determine if they are true or false using a varity of sources.
One of my favorites is:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tech Tip 10/11 - Google Maps Street View

Today's tech tip is just something fun and geeky. Check out Google Maps Street View.
There are 15 cities in the US that are now offering street view.
What is it? Why must you have it?
Well, its cool. You virtually drive down the street and see around you. You can twist your head and look around 360 degrees as well. I just took a virtual trip down Michigan Avenue.
How can it help your kids? Here is the really cool part. Google Street View is in 15 cities. Use it to drive by Ground Zero, or follow Holden Caulfield through the streets of New York in a modern Catcher in the Rye, compare architecture in different cities, or use proportional triangles to determine the height of a building...there is a lot of potential there.
I don't know if you have used other features of Google maps yet in your classroom, but I will be showing you how over the next few weeks as we embark on another thread of tech tips.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tech Tip 9/24 - preventing spam

Since I have joined the 207 family I receive about 10 emails a week from staff members concerned about the amount of SPAM they receive. I would like to take a moment to explain the reasons why spam gets through, ways you can prevent it, and what we are doing to combat it.
What is SPAM?
  • A spicy canned meat...I mean - a Monty Python sketch...I mean - - Electronic SPAM - is defined as mail that is unsolicited and bulk.
  • It can come in many forms and include text, attachments, or photos
  • Up to 80% of all email sent each day is SPAM and spam involving images is on the rise. Up to 50% of all SPAM sent each day is in the form of image files. Spam as pdf's is the new trend with up to 8% of all daily SPAM as pdf files. The #1 type of SPAM is greeting card SPAM.
How do they get my email address?
The most common way is from posting it on message boards, using it to make purchases, or posting it on websites. The less often you use your school email for these purposes the less likely you are to get spam. Also, do not click on the spot in an email that says "click here to unsubscribe" this just confirms that you have an active email address and the messages can start pouring in.
How does it get through?
We use the top SPAM filter on the market, a barracuda spam filter. There are still ways to sneak by it. All spam filters sort by text. There are certain words that when are used in an email mean something to us, but are innocent to a computer. Also, spammers try to trick the spam filter. "There are millions of ways to write a word using punctuation, numbers, and other symbols. One mathematically minded blogger who looked into it found that there are 600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell Viagra" ( Pictures are not text, so they can get through easier - the same thing applies to pdfs.
What can you do to prevent it:
  • Don't post your email anywhere it isn't necessary
  • Use a personal free email account for purchases and sites like ebay. This is a list of free email providers:
  • Don't open suspicions emails and never click on a link you don't know where it is going to.
  • Be wary of online greeting cards
  • Never open an attachment from someone you don't know
  • Don't buy from spam or forward it on to others
  • Don't unsubscribe using links in a spammer's email
What is the tech staff doing to prevent it?
Our tech staff members have been attending seminars to become better at teaching our spam filter to block the spam we are getting. This is a never ending battle. Over 90% of the emails that arrive in the district is spam. For every 100 legitimate emails you receive over 900 are blocked. We are also going to be introducing a new way of listing emails on pages so that they cannot be stolen off of them.
I hope this gives you an idea of why and how spam gets through.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Two Sides of Tech

It has been an interesting few weeks. We are rolling out our new gradebook program and I have had a great chance to work 1 on 1 with a bunch of teachers of varied abilities. It is interesting how many times I am perceived as a helper and a hindrance. To be more precise - I am helping them through their hindrance. However, most teachers are very happy to work really hard at something difficult, because they care about their kids.

What has struck me strangely through this process - is how often one question has come up: "Have you ever been in the classroom?".

It usually comes up as we start discussing how the teacher grades. I get the feeling that if I say no that they will give up all hope of me bing able to help them through the sometimes difficult task of setting up the gradebook. I guess in some ways I am lucky that I can say - yes I was in a Science or Music classroom for the last 10 years.

It is weird having to say that to people. Where I am coming from I was a teacher first in the building. Because of that I rarely was accused of not understanding the classroom teachers. Sometimes my staff was - but that was never directed my way. It is strange to see it now.

Anyway - I have been going through this experience and then I stumbled upon this blog trail. Is that a term? If not I want full credit for inventing it.

Anyway follow the links to see the back and forth...

When Teachers Don't Get It: Myths, Misconceptions, and other Taradiddle

When Techies Don't Get It

The Teacher’s Technology Manifesto

My “teacher’s technology manifesto”

The Start of the School Year

Technically Instruction

From the Tech Department

I have the perspective from both of that as a teacher that pushed the envelope with technology and as a tech coordinator. I have made some of the arguments on both sides of this issue. It really concerns me that there are tech coordinators out there in the world that think that teachers are out there just trying not to get it. I also am stumped as to why there are teachers that think that the goal of technology coordinators is to make them miserable.

My professional life is now that of a Technology Director and there are many times that I feel that I am the referee in the match between those in technology and those in the classroom. I wish everyone could see the conversations that go back and forth between the "two sides".

As if there are two-sides. There should be one side - one goal.

The kids.

What do kids need?

Tools that will help them succeed and adults that will help them add those tools to their tool box and teach kids how to use those tools.

What is a tool?

Any skill that will help them do more in this life than they could have without it. (IMO anyway)

So tools could be computing skills, or writing skills, or how to tell a good joke in a social situation.

We all have something to offer and we each bring it in out own way. What one has to offer is not better than the other. Not one adult can give every kid the tools they need. Other adults (and kids) can give staff new tools they can use as well. As long as we are willing to learn from each other. To do so, please avoid the following:

Tech People: Don't assume that just because a teacher is slower at picking up technology, or has yet to see a way to integrate that skill in to the classroom they don't think at some time it will have its place.

Teacher People: Don't assume that tech people don't have skills to offer. They might just have something that can help in your classroom even though they may not have ever been in front of one.

Everyone - remember why we are here and together we can make any difficult change in our schools work - for our kids.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

TechTip 9/5 - Quintura

Good Evening,

Busy day today - so here is a short late night tip:

Here is a rather cool site that is in the ballpark of tagging, which is the theme we are on this week.

Quintura is a visual search engine. It extracts keywords from search results and builds a word cloud. By clicking words in the cloud, you refine your query.

It is really cool to see your search morph and change as you click on words. It is a great tool for visual learners. It is also helpful if you are searching "around" a topic and can't come up with the exact right term.

Check out the search for rubrics:

I am only showing you 1/2 of the screen. On the right is the listing of sites that changes as you click on terms in the cloud.

A real fun thing to search for when using quintura is pictures. The images will show on the right and also change as you maneuver through the cloud. Try it I think you will agree.

Quintura is just another search engine - but it does it visually. Kinda cool!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

TechTip 9/4 - Cool Tag Uses

I wanted to continue the theme of tagging and the possible uses. One of the neatest uses of tags is to create tag clouds. A tag cloud is a visual representation of the common words in a group of text - words that appear more frequently are larger and bolder. This text can be from any source and can be in any language.
Here is one for Act I of Romeo and Juliet (I'll show you how to do this later in this tip)

I am sure something like this could be a great discussion starter - or could be excellent in the review of a particular piece of text.

One of my favorites is a website that has taken many of the past Presidential speeches and has created clouds for each speech. It is really interesting to see what words (topics) have changed or remained over the years.

Here are other good clouds:
Flickr Photos - popular photos - popular bookmarks
Technorati - popular blogs

The coolest option is to have your students do it themselves. If you go to you can cut and paste in text or upload a document for it to analyze the text.
For my example I just found Act I from Romeo and Juliet online and then cut and paste it into tagcrowd.

Here are some ideas:
Compare and contrast similar authors and their use of grammar
Look at what words a student uses in their own writing
Use it to find common themes in a piece of text or in a group of written surveys
I'm sure there are lots of others that I haven't even brushed on...

Friday, August 31, 2007

TechTip 8/30 - del.icio.ous

Here is the tip I promised you on

Besides having an incredibly cool name is an awesome tool. It is a social bookmarking service. "A What" you say...

Here is the skinny:
You can create an account at
You can then start saving your bookmarks there
You can then retrieve your bookmarks anywhere in the world
Big deal - right? Wait there is more:

Once you have your bookmarks you can choose ones to share with your friends - like mine
You can also search other's bookmarks for good stuff - instead of trying to find the best sites on your own

For example - lets say I wanted to find the best sites on literacy. I could go and search for literacy on google and sift through the 45,700,000 results that are found. Or, I can go to and do the same search and find the sites that other people have deemed good enough to bookmark.

They key to all of this is tags. Tagging is a term you should be familiar with in 2007. When you tag something you give it a label. I know we are against this in education, but it is really helpful on the web. When you create a bookmark in your account you will have the opportunity to tag it as well. So, lets say you bookmarked the ESPN site. Instead of it just being ESPN it would be cross referenced as sports, scores, news, teams, and boo-yah!. Tags give a lot of quick simple descriptions to something and make cross-referencing much easier on the net.

If you go to my blog you will see that each entry gets a tag. You can then click on the tags and see all of the posts that are similar. Eventually everything you make electronically you will tag. When you make a word document you will save it with a name and tag it with descriptions. This way when you search you won't have to remember the exact name - you will look for tags.

For example: You have a document called 8-31-07techtip.doc Great, what does that file name mean to you 3 years from now? Nothing. However, if you tagged it with the descriptions, tag, techtip, and social bookmarking you would know immediately what was in that document.

A neat visual that is generated from tags are tag clouds. Tag clouds are graphical representations of words that show up commonly as tags. I will be showing you a really cool educational use of tag clouds next week.

Try out and get an idea of what social bookmarking is all about. It can really be a time saver for finding great sites. There are also a couple of people out there that I really respect in the educational field where I just go and see what they are bookmarking. I figure if they are bookmarking it then it must be worth a visit. I stumble upon great stuff that way.
You can see the people who I follow here:

That is it for now - have a great safe weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

TechTip 8/30 - Top 100 Tech Tools

It has been a busy day, so this one is going out late. David Jakes turned me on to this site through his account. If that last sentence made no sense - don't worry - I'll describe tomorrow morning.

Anyway, the site I want to tell you about is

This list has been compiled from the Top 10 Tools lists of over 100 learning professionals (consultants, analysts, developers, practitioners, academics, etc).

This is a great spot to go to and look for things you don't know about in technology. Take a minute to click on the link of something you aren't familiar with and peruse it for a little while.
Don't worry you won't wast your time - they are the top 100 after all!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TechTip 8/29 - Finding Photos without Breaking Copyright Laws

So, you want to use great photos in your presentations, powerpoints, movies, whatever. You could also crawl through flickr - but the quality there isn't always the best. Sure, you could just steal stuff off of google images, but you don't want to break copyright laws. Plus you would like to teach your students how to be responsible when you have them do similar projects.

Where can you find this stuff?
Well, you want to look for sites that offer royalty free stock photos. Stock photos tend to be of a better quality and resolution. There are a bunch sites out there that sell stock photos and carry free ones like:
But you don't want to spend all day bouncing between sites looking for good free stuff. So where do you go?
Yotophoto is now indexing well over a quarter million Creative Commons, Public Domain, GNU FDL, and various other 'copyleft' images.
It does it all - it will go grab pics from flickr and from other stock photo companies. One stop searching!
Here is a sample of what you will get:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

TechTip 8/28 - Timelines

Today's TechTip is by request. I have had several teachers of the past couple of days asking for the best way to do a timeline on-line.
The best site I have found for a truly graphical timeline is
Here are a couple good examples of what you can do with this technology
There are some great sites out there that have text-based timelines that would be great ti integrate in the xtimeline format. You can find some great information at these sites:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Unlocked iPhone

I don't know if you have been following this story - but it is pretty interesting and gives us a clear idea of what our kids are able to do when we let them use their talents...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

TechTip 8/23 - The Educators Reference Desk

The Educator's Desk Reference: - here is what they say about it:
The Educator's Reference Desk builds on over a quarter century of experience providing high-quality resources and services to the education community. From the Information Institute of Syracuse, the people who created AskERIC, the Gateway to Educational Materials, and the Virtual Reference Desk, the Educator's Reference Desk brings you the resources you have come to depend on. 2,000+ lesson plans, 3,000+ links to online education information, and 200+ question archive responses.
In other words one-stop shopping for great stuff on-line for integrating technology and information into your classroom.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tech Tip 8/22 - Using the Net as Your Calculator

My Grandfather always used to joke that a computer was nothing more than an oversized calculator (in a way he was right).
Did you know that there are a bunch of awesome calculators on-line and you probably type words into one quite often?
Here are 3 cool calculator tools:
Yes that is right - Google! If you type something in the search bar as a calculation and click search - the first results back will be your answer. You can do this for just about any math - including conversions (sorry factor-label method lovers). Here are directions.
Very Cool. Does calculations, conversions, and keeps a history of your calculations. Real nice for teaching students to follow their steps in calculations without carrying around rolls of calculator tape.

Those TI's are pretty expensive. Get your graph groove on for free!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tech Tip 8/21

Happy 1st day of school! As we go into this year I will be sending out Technology Tips on a pretty regular basis (a few times a week). Some of these will be cool websites or tools you can use. Most will be helpers or ideas for the classroom. Every so often they may just be good stuff to know. Either way you can be assured that I will be delivering a daily dose of geekiness. Past tech tips will be available at my blog.
Here is your first installment...
I want to introduce you to a couple of concept-mapping sites. Both of these sites allow you and your students to build mind-maps which take large difficult concepts and break them down into smaller manageable pieces. Here are some websites that have great examples or discussion:
Anyway back to the cool tools...
The 2 most popular sites for concept mapping are
Here are my reviews:
If the incredibly unique URL didn't tip you off, this site is oozing with creativity.
You can do these things with it (from their site):
  • Create colorful mind maps online
  • Share and work with friends
  • Embed your mind map in your blog or website
  • Email and print your mind map
  • Save your mind map as an image
So, you can quickly outline a concept and share it with your class as an image on your website, or project it up in the class, or even print it out. Even better, you can have students working real time on different computers collaborating on a concept-map. It even supports 207's new language courses and recognizes Chinese character sets.
Mindmeister isn't as artsy - but don't let that burst your bubble (he-he). Here is their pitch:

Users can create, manage and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere. In brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeister's from around the world (or just in different rooms) can simultaneously work on the same mind map - and see each other's changes as they happen. Using integrated Skype calls, they can throw around new ideas and put them down on "paper" at the same time.

It is very similar to except it also integrates Skype. Which is an on-line Voice-over-IP (VOIP) service. So people creating a mind map can discuss it as they create it. Very cool if students leave and go separate directions while working on a map together (or if you are teaming up with a class somewhere in South Africa)!

Well there you go - first tip. Look for more to come. Hopefully somewhere down the line I will offer up something you can use.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

David Jakes account turned me on to this awesome website within TED (I can't believe I didn't stuble on it myself with my TED crush lately) - Top 100 websites you gotta see and will probably be using.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Free Federal Resources for Educators

I stumbled upon this today:

Some great free resources and has a rss feed so you can keep up with the changes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


I read about this company this morning - they have developed a wireless product that creates a wireless mesh from access point to access point. They can communicate up to 150 feet indoors and 750 feet outdoors. They are small and the company provides software updates for the life of the product.

Big Deal for Schools?

Yes -

Here is why -

Each access point can be set up to offer a secure and open internet connection. What if...schools worked with local businesses and homeowners to create a wireless grid? The school provides the bandwidth - the business buys the access point and agrees to host it on top of their building. The community works together to provide free wireless to their students everywhere in the school boundaries.

Talk about eliminating the digital divide.

Mange your network over the web with Dashboard, the simple control panel for the Meraki system. Keep track of dozens or hundreds of network users, set bandwidth limits, brand your network, or optionally charge for access.

Here is the payoff for the business owners - free (or cheap) internet to them! Using Meraki's software you can provide internet to users for free - or for a charge. So you can get as creative as you want. A school could charge a small fee for non-student users and use it to pay for additional bandwidth. Bandwidth can also be regulated all the way down to the user level.

Think about the power of equally offering internet access to your entire student body...

Friday, July 27, 2007


I forgot how much I like TED. Here are some favorites:

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Photosynth demo

Unveiling the genius of multi-touch interface design

Links for Student Software

I saw this article today in USA Today regarding software for student purchase. It is a decent reference guide about getting student software at a decent price. Here are some other good products out there - that students might like to have on their computers that are free:
Product - link - similar product it replaces (if there is one)
OpenOffice (Microsoft Office)
AbiWord (Word)
Google Earth
GIMP (photoshop)
Picassa (photoshop)
Scribs (pagemaker)
Audacity for Windows
Dia for Windows (Visio)
Nvu (frontpage/dreamweaver)
Google Sketch-up (CAD software)
Celestia (Star Charts/Space)
Feed Reader (RSS)
MediaCoder (video encoder)
HandBrake (DVD ripper)
(inspiration) (note taking)
NASA World Wind (NASA's version of Google Maps)
What am I missing that should go on this list?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Digital Copyright

A patent has been filed for a new technology that will allow you to put a digital "watermark"  on any digital media that you put out there. you will be alerted when someone publishes your "stuff" elsewhere.

Now that some sites are sharing profits with posters, I can really see this catch on.


"violent video games" and our "violent youth"

I was waiting for the videogame community to start it's backlash against the "violent" label it has been given.   This will probably be one of many articles that begin to push back against the  common assertion that videogames are destroying our childrens' futures'.  I am waiting for educators to figure out that there are reasons why kids like these games more than eating. By the way... how come football and other sports are not blamed for our "violent" youth that are not really violent.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sony UX

I have spent my last week with a Sony-UX as the only PC I have used.   I got the tablet features working it is much better on Vista.  The tablet interface eliminates the keyboard in most cases.   I think all of you will be impressed.  I can't imagine how awesome this would be with a wireless projector!

It has easily made me one of the most popular people at  the Ice conference!

Here is a link to the product 

Illinois DOPA

Just in case you hadn't seen the actual wording...

my $.02 - doesn't define a social networking site - looks like it leaves it up to the "State Librarian" to determine this...  In case you were wondering her name is Anne Craig and here is some info on her

She seems to be quite accomplished. Including being named librarian of the year.

 I still question giving this decision to one person.

Nick Version of YouTube

looks like web 2.0 is coming to a 7 year old near you!