Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CEDO 535 - Week 2: Choice

This week I haven't done much studying or work for the class as I was inundated with administrative work for my school preparing and compiling documents for our December Department of Public Instruction (DPI) pupil and financial audit. Since I don't have much to comment about classwork-wise, I'll fill you in a little bit about what I was working on this week.

I work at a Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) school, a voucher school system that the whole country is watching in order to evaluate how voucher schools are run and how they perform. (All WKCE test scores from MPCP students are submitted to researchers at the University of Arkansas for a longitudinal study of MPCP schools/students compared to a sampling of MPS students.)

For those of you don't now much about MPCP (and now in Racine as well) here's some info.
  • MPCP schools are independent schools. WI DPI holds the strings and MPCP schools are accountable to DPI but are not under their direct jurisdiction. MPCP schools have relationships with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) for certain items such as Title I, II, III & IV funding and a few other services but do not fall under their jurisdiction either.
  • All MPCP schools must be accredited. Something most public schools don't have to go through individually. I'm sure if they would have to go through the accreditation process, many would fail (as do some MPCP candidates).
  • Students (parents) have a "Choice" to enroll in an MPCP school based on family income eligibility and residency.
  • MPCP schools are funded by the State, not local property taxes. We get about $3200 per student per semester, about 50%-60% of what MPS gets for each student.
  • We get our money based on student count/attendance in September and January. 
  • We need extensive documentation for each and every student that includes family financial and residency information. Without this, we don't get paid.
  • DPI requires 2 pupil and financial audits per year. A missing or incorrect form, documentation or signature results in non-payment for a student. Financial information is checked and audited down to the last Office Depot receipt spent on pencils. I don't know what kind of financial accountability individual public schools must go through (as opposed to district accountability) but I know MPCP school numbers have to be spot on or they can boot you out of the program.
  • Besides the accreditation and audits, there are numerous other requirements that MPCP schools must comply with and document that I don't think public schools need to do.
MPCP schools are a mixed bag, just like individual schools in Milwaukee Public Schools. Some good, some bad. I don't think we're "stealing" students away from MPS schools. In fact, we end up getting a lot of students that can no longer enroll in MPS (read: rejects, problem students - those who have been expelled).

I think Choice schools will be around to stay. I have mixed feelings about Gov. Scott Walker. I don't necessarily agree with everything he does and how he goes about doing them. However, he is pro Choice schools. This year Racine was added and I believe more counties and districts are to be added in the near future.

Now that my time, energy and mind are off the audit, I can begin to play catch-up with my coursework and next week my post shall directly relate to items at hand.

Any questions about MPCP? Comment here and I'll try to answer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CEDO 535 - Week 1: Blog Blog

Brought to You by the Department of Redundancy Department: Affairs of Internal Affairs
A Blog about Blogs.

I've never been much of a writer and I still don't like to write though I'm much better at it now than I was doing Civil War assignments. I don't think it's just writing either because I tend to be a quiet person when gathered around people and often have a hard time jumping in. Sometimes by the time I've collected my thoughts the conversation has moved to another universe. Mostly it's a matter of I don't have (or think I have) anything important or exciting to share or start a verbal or written conversation about.

I've been OK with writing this blog because it's something I have to do. Time will tell if I will continue this or create another one when this program is over. I'll probably try to continue this one to maintain a professional presence. If I were actively teaching I would most certainly have one for my courses/classes. I think I will need to find my voice for a blog. What is it that I know well? I'm good at How-To's but for me to do this sort of thing I wouldn't be satisfied unless I could fill an empty niche. No need to be redundant.

Another thing about blogging as well as following blogs is the time I spend at the computer. A lot of the work I do is on the computer. Working on this program I'm on the computer. I'm already on the computer enough as it is. I don't have the time right now to invest in actively interacting professionally with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linked In, Diigo and the like. I'm also not a very networking kind of a guy. I know I should change this but it's not going to happen at the moment. As for following Blogs and getting feeds, I just haven't done it yet but know I should probably give it a try. I usually don't have much of a problem finding things that I'm looking for on the Internet and quite often I get to meandering and find cool things by chance. I suppose the chances of finding interesting things are a bit greater if you follow a trusted or favorite source.

And as like always, I wish I was actively involved with teaching or training so I could begin to share the wealth. School audit coming up. Nope no time for my teachers. My posts for the reading of Will Richardson's Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts were a bit skeptical about how well blogging would work with a lot of the students at my school but I'd still love to have my teachers give it a go. But first I'd have to get them blogging.

No Cost to You Information for Free: 

Actually, I saw this perchance on my Google+, right on top as the page opened. I didn't peruse anything but it was just in my face. I want one!

USB stick size computer. FXI Cotton Candy Android and maybe Ubuntu Linux. Plug into any monitor or TV with a USB or HDMI and you have a WIFI enabled computer. Will run in a separate window on any PC running OS X, WIN or Linux as well. Coming soon! $200.

Or how about this one? Raspberry Pi. A $25/$35 credit card size PC board. Vendors are anxiously awaiting final specs so they can build cases. It will run GNU/Linux and a few other open Source OSes. Sorry, no Windows yet as they don't have an OS for the ARM processor.

The product is intended for education, hence the price point. There is a lot of interest in this project and developers are working on software to make this thing ready to run for education. One of their main goals is to try to get a return to learning programming in schools. Since office productivity software came of age and now with Web 2.0, the focus has moved to learning how to use apps. They are working on getting the operating systems and available software geared towards programming. Of course you can use it for anything you would normally use a lightweight computer/tablet for.

Small but capable. Here's a video of it playing 3-D game Quake.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Birthday Graphics

Fun Fun -  Two December birthdays coming up.

Making invitations is much more fun than buying them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

CEDO 530 Week 6: The End

Another close to another good class. I'm glad I got a chance to try a few things out that I just haven't had the time to try out before. I know I'll be taking the process and style of creating presentations to heart and will even be thinking about how to use presentations for other things, not just presenting in front of an audience.

Another thing I'll be taking to heart is the mindset of telling stories, no matter what you are presenting. I think that if I can start to incorporate this mindset in how I present anything to anyone I will be more effective at what I do. I know I'll have to work on it but I think the payoffs will be worth it.

I wasn't disappointed, but surprised that we didn't actually do a personal digital story seeing as a lot of what we talked about, studied, watched and read dealt with personal stories. I'd like to try one sometime just to have the experience.

CEDO 530 Week 5: Pecha Kucha

I spent too much time this week working on my Pecha Kucha, a 20 slide presentation - 20 seconds each. My presentation is a primer for newbies to 2D graphics, informing them about things they will need to learn about in order to create the kind of presentation that this displays. Actually, this presentation is really about itself.

Planning & Process: Before this week I had spent some time looking for a good online story boarding app but didn't come up with anything satisfactory. The static table based template we used was cumbersome because it would have taken a lot of work to rearrange the slides, cell text by cell text. Barring finding a good app, I think next time I'll just use a presentation program itself and create a storyboard template. Then I'll be able to just rearrange the sides if/when the need arises as it did in the one that I did.

I created each slide using Inkscape and Gimp graphics editors with either original graphics and photos or found images. I set up a template for layout, fonts, colors and other elements. I learned a lot about how to go about creating a nice uniform presentation style and so from now on the process will be much easier.

Linear Video Editing: I did my very first ever video production using WeVideo. The program itself worked out fine except I'm not happy with how it's almost impossible to get all the tracks in a scene to synchronize exactly at the start and end times. I didn't use any video footage but used all custom graphics and text. I started out animating (fade in & out) elements of each slide to synchronize with the voice over. This was a tedious task because I had to save each element of the slide individually as well as position it on the timeline. I only did this for the first 4 slides. I had to do the rest with just the static slide for the rest because of time constraints. I now know the amount of work it is to create professional quality multi-media (though mine is still nowhere near professional quality yet). I haven't looked yet but my next app to look for is a an online video editing program that can cut and splice.

Graphics: I love working with graphics. Period. And my hope is that this presentation will inspire others to take the plunge and try doing some.

Voice Over: Writing the script for the voice over wasn't that hard once I decided on the essential concepts to be presented. Occasionally, I changed the voice over from the draft depending on what the content of the slide actually turned out to be. I sometimes changed the content depending on what images I could find to convey my thoughts. This in turn changed what I would say. The real challenge was recording. Many slides had from 20-27 seconds of recorded text. Editing the text down to bare essentials while still conveying the necessary meaning was an interesting task.


Monday, November 7, 2011

CEDO Week 4: Virtually

I was very impressed with the Prezi sample from the Digital Media group, "Techno-kinship: the new virtual". Besides the polished production of it, the content is something to ponder about. I remember a few years back (1992) while I was traveling in Indonesia and visited a village and into the terraced rice/vegetable fields in the mountains. The scattered roadside shops and coffee houses were the gathering and focal points of the village. Every one lives here and there throughout the fields but comes up to the shops for socialization, gossip and news as well as to make the occasional phone call somewhere. I wondered then how the introduction of cell phones would change the social structure of the people. They would no longer have the same need to gather and socialize. Not that it would stop completely, but that things would certainly change. It probably has by now and I wonder how their lives have been affected.

It's a bit different with people in developed countries. We've lived with, in and through logarithmic change for about 150 years now, being both the creators and recipients of technological advancements. We are more used to it. But for people who have lived practically the same for centuries to have the latest future come upon them - it must be an overwhelming change.

Even though we live in the midst of it however, we still can't foresee its blessings or consequences because of the rate of change. Virtual technology certainly has some great positive applications. But then it also has some deep questions about what will become societal norms. I've never played a lot of video games. I like to drive at night, especially through orange cone infested construction zones, because it reminds me of a video game. Only I like the real driving better because you have to be 100%. I guess now with video remote controlled warfare you need to be 100% as well. I still prefer reality to virtual but perhaps coming generations will think the other way.

I love the technology I work with. I can see its usefulness in many applications. I know I'm in the middle of it. I'm not so sure about where societies and cultural norms are headed with it. The Jetson's is a fun cartoon but I still really love the smell of fresh baked apple pie with vanilla ice cream melting on the top. Selling a slice in 2nd Life for a couple of credits won't do anything for me.

Speaking of virtual worlds ... I remember in the 70's when holograms first came out. I thought for sure that smart investors would make a killing on holographic TV, just like Yoda in Star Wars. I always wonder why holographic technology hasn't been developed and mainstreamed to consumers?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CEDO 530: Week 3 - Story & Design

Before I got to reading  the assigned chapter 6 of Presentation Zen I began to think about the book and what the author is saying. I got just as much from his introductory videos as I did from reading the book. That's good for the video presentation part. As for the book, I was beginning to to become annoyed with the ramblings and with Garr saying that it's not really Zen and Zen has nothing to do with this but if we think about it we can fit it in somehow.

It didn't seem as if he was following his own advice. I also began to think that Garr is using paragraphs and chapters as his bullet points, filing up space with words that many may not be paying attention to. In my opinion, he could have used bullet points in his book outlining the points he mentions in his video. Then he should have used the saved space to give/show more examples. Until chapter 6, this design book didn't have much in the way of practical graphic design using graphics. Graphic techniques are not always best explained with words.

CreditA picture is 

Finally in chapter 6, we get some before/after and exemplary examples. I think more of the same should have been included in some of the previous chapters as well.

Remixing my older slide show was fun but time consuming. It's easy to slap some nice images into a slide. It's harder to find just what you are looking for to convey the message & emotions you want. It's even more time consuming to plan everything and take the time to get all the details right, especially deciding on common elements and fonts to give continuity throughout the presentation. I could spend a couple of hours or more on just one slide getting everything perfect.

I'm getting to like the idea of Voicethread more and more as I work with it. The one thing I wish it had more of was the ability to link within the slides themselves. You can add a title to a slide and have that link to something but sometimes I'd like more.

Question: How are we to responsibly attribute the author/artists of material we use in something like Voicethread? Do we create a credit slide at the end? Do we create 10 credit pages if we have that many? How about something like Vuvox, where I made a show about me for a course in the beginning? Or Glogster?

By the way, if you haven't checked out Vuvox you should. It's a cross between Animoto and Glogster. The presentation auto scrolls right to left in a linear fashion, not slide-to-slide. You can also add audio but it doesn't have a stock sample selection like Animoto yet.

Speaking of Animoto, I've to work on mine yet. Better go.

Monday, October 24, 2011

CEDO 530 Week 2

I hate writing and have always hated writing. I've gotten much better at it since I started out hating it. Practice makes perfect. Practice makes better. Perfect practice makes perfect. I haven't gotten to the perfect part yet. Though I'm excited about  digital storytelling, I think the excitement is more of the digital and less of the storytelling.

I was glad reading chapter 4 in Digitales because like all so many of our students who stare at the paper  with a broken pencil or play with all the possible fonts on the title, I need help with ideas. Chapter 4 gave a lot of ideas and I thought with many, "Hey! I could do that. This won't be THAT hard."

Going analog? I like to play acoustic guitar once in a while but prefer my electric. As for digital projects, I do a mix but the greater percentage is digital within the medium(s). I guess I'm no different from the moaning students, "What? We have to hand in pencil notes too?"

As for presentations? I don't have any. I've never given any. Never used a slide show and projector for teaching. My school had a projector but it's gone AWOL.  I'm taking a look at this whole presentation thing as something I'll be better prepared for when time comes for actually making and doing one. In the meantime, I'm gathering in the tips, tricks and suggestions and will also be generalizing them to be used in other media and presentation venues such as project website design and even my training website design.  

I think we need a few definitions of what presentations are in order for us to get this all right. I understand why we should take the time and think through a presentation that may bring in a few million start-up dollars from investors. Teachers making a dozen slides with bulleted highlights for a civil war lesson will never go away and I don't they they ought to if they serve the purpose well. Realistically, teachers aren't going to take the extra 30-40 minutes for tomorrow's class to go to the coffee shop and think analog, then another 30-40 minutes to get it all right with the sticky graphics, text & layout. They might do this occasionally but not for every day stuff. I do think that it is possible and recommended to take some of this in and make some changes that may end up with something more effective than bullets for those that use slides/presentations regularly.

What kind of presentations are we talking about here for teachers to make? Who is the audience? What are the presentations about? What is their purpose?

Question?: Does any one know of an accessible/downloadable database of the Wisconsin State Standards or Common Core Standards. I hate looking through all the individual documents and wish I could access it easily. I know many proprietary programs like Build your Own Curriculum have it built in as a feature but can us common folk get it some where?

Monday, October 17, 2011

CEDO 530 Week 1

I'm looking forward to getting into the meat of this course. Anything with design... I'm there. Learning how to create great stories and using new tools to create them - something I just haven't had the time to do before but now will have to and will enjoy.

I've never thought of myself as a great storyteller. I've told lots of people about my experiences, episodes and traveling but I've never approached them in the context of "storytelling" as I think we will learn about.

About presentations. I know there has been/is much ballyhoo about bad presentations and agree for the most part. Here are some thoughts I wrote while looking at some of the readings:

Powerpoint is Evil: I think the author is just ranting, not even showing what a great presentation should be. Though I know his rants have merits, his presentation lost my regard. Anti-Kudos back to you.

Research Points a Finger at PowerPoint: Yes, a slide should focus attention on the topic, not be a redundant visual echo. I’d have to disagree with speaking/listening and reading at the same time at least to some extent. How do children learn to read? They follow along as you read aloud to them. Duh! but I guess that wasn't the focus of this argument. Showing students a solution is called giving an example, something I think teachers do all the time. I don't think giving solutions to students and not having them come up with their own is a great idea. Maybe I missed something there???

Here is a freebie for you. Found it while looking for copyright/usable media. An new on-line video editor that seems to work pretty well. 1GB storage with free account Early adopters get "Plus" account benefits (10GB and more). Not too many bells and whistles, but enough for learning and students. I haven't been to a lot of other on-line video editors lately so I'm not sure how it stacks up but it worked fine for me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 6 - Final Thoughts on CEDO 525

For me, somewhere during this course everything just clicked with me. I got it. Though we've been talking about, reviewing and using a lot of these technology tools for a while and even longer, connecting them to the learning strategies in the way presented in the book just made sense. In retrospect, I feel that this course and text should be switched with CEDO 515 with its useful, but dry text. I think that a lot of the material in that text would have made a lot more sense after reading and using the text for this course. The short and simple suggestions and examples in this text were just enough to get started and understand how technology can enhance and support learning. The text for 515 got into a lot of detail and revisions of lessons, which s where this course ended.

I am making it a point to include both the learning strategies and the technology to support it part of my training program for my teachers so they have intimate examples of how this all works. I feel this could be done more in this program as well. Our instructors could use more of the technology tools paired with relevant instructional strategies for us to use and see firsthand. While building my teacher training course, I can see that this takes a while to find just the right tool that makes it as painless as possible for the teachers being trained. As an example; finding a collaborative app that doesn't require participant login or account sign up to make it as easy as possible to use.

Looking forward to the digital story telling coming up next.

Monday, September 26, 2011

CEDO Week 5: Similarities & Diferences, Homework & Practice, and Generating & Testing Hypothesis

Identifying Similarities & Differences:

I think this is one strategy that a lot of teachers use regularly but not with a systematic or conscious effort and plan or with produced student work that can be used for later analysis and synthesis.

Homework & Practice:

According to US Census Bureau statistics from 2007, in-home Internet use for the USA is somewhere around 61% and use anywhere is around 71%. This means that there is a high probability that some of our students still are not connected at home and may or may not have the ability to use publicly available computers such as at the library. While there is a plethora of ways to use technology for homework and practice - in school - , we need to still think about not requiring any “homework” to be done on the Internet unless everyone involved has access.

Generating & Testing  Hypothesis:

Like identifying similarities and differences, this strategy seems to be one that teachers use regularly without knowing it such as asking a question during a discussion like, "What do you think would happen if ....". However, I can see the benefits of including activities specifically addressing an issue or problem. In my own thinking, creating a lesson or project geared towards Generating & Testing a Hypothesis at first seems very academic and scholarly and best left for an expert who knows about these things. But after looking at some of items in the book and brainstorming on my own I can see how a planned activity can be beneficial.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CEDO 525 Week 4: Collaboration & Effort

Clay Shirky: Institutions vs. Collaboration

Clay discusses the mechanisms and ramifications of institutionalized vs. collaborative work.

As I was watching this talk I kept thinking about the institution of education and wondered, will this institution dissolve in the future? I think it already is starting to. Many school institutions are under criticism for under-performance and the calls for change are loud. Home schooling, online learning and virtual schools I think are a beginning to an answer. Though all of these are still very institutionalized, it is but just a step towards collaboration and cooperation. This institutionalized step is necessary for the transformation because it will take a couple of generations for people to become habitualized to this format of learning (or about 50 years as Clay mentioned). It will also take this long to put into place the mechanisms, tools and resources necessary for education to become non-institutional. Will it be more effective? ??? Will institutionalized education disappear? Probably not but the choice will be there. Are we participating in this transformation right now. I believe we are, by the fact that we are enrolled in this program and that we will be promoting the use of technology for learning.

Cooperative Learning & Reinforcing Effort:

As I discussed with my group last week and posted remarks about cooperative learning, I used this extensively with my ESL conversation teaching in Taiwan. Some of the most fun and effective activities were extended role plays. First the situation and the problem is discussed. Roles are assigned. Students with the same roles are grouped together first to discuss their role and possible things they might have to say or do. When groups of same roles are ready then groups are put together for run-throughs of the role play. I can see how this could be adapted to cooperative/collaborative learning projects in K-12. Having students with same roles get together collaborating and sharing ideas can benefit individual groups/teams. Of course this work can be done using technology as well.

As for reinforcing effort. Throw me in the cell and lock me up. It’s something I need to work on more.

Wild Ride: Intel Roller Coaster Curriculum

I’d love to be part of a project like this. However, it looks like something like this would take a lot of coordinated effort and planning with a school and teachers that know each other well and can work together.
On a related note, I and two other dads are starting up a First Lego League club at my son's school. We won't be competing this year but rather learning about FLL, how to build and program the Lego Mindstorms robots. It should be fun.

Links to Online Roller Coaster activities:

Monday, September 12, 2011

CEDO 525 Week 3:

Online Mind Mapping Review:
I reviewed the following 3 Mind Mapping apps from the course list but as I found all of these lacking in one way or another, I did some other searching as well.
  • MindMeister
  • CMAP

Available for Chrome Browser/App Integration from: (some can be used in other browsers outside of Chrome/Google account)
  • Concept Board
  • MindMapr
  • Mind 42
  • Connected Mind (
Pros: Very simple to use, can have more than one central idea, can connect bubbles to desperate other bubbles, can create a map without an account and print (but not save)
Cons: only text entry - no images, collaboration only with other members, free account limited to 3 maps
Best Use: Simple text/URL only maps and webs if you need more than one central idea.

Pros: Can create very polished design, add multiple different media types, signing up for an account after being invited to collaborate is very simple, can sign up for account with various OpenID’s
Cons: free account limited to 3 maps and basic features
Best Use: Creating nice looking media rich maps. Middle school/High school use for advanced features. Pay for premium for more features.

Pros: It was hard to tell?? Non-linear concept webbing. It may very well be a good program but see the cons.
Cons: The home page and navigation using an example of itself was hard to look at and understand what you could do with it - a very cluttered and confusing example violating one of the basic tenents of website user design: make your site so that people can easily and quickly find and navigate to the information they want. It took me a long time to find out that this is a client/server program that must be installed. I could not find any provided demo to try it out (perhaps it is there but camouflaged in the thicket of snippits buried amongst it’s broken sentences and multiple links to more snippits).
Best Use: If you need to create a complex concept web and have IT infrastructure to support its implementation.

Concept Board not strictly a mind mapping app but can be used as one.
Pros: Doesn’t require Chrome to use, can invite collaborators who can collaborate as guests without an account, has discussion/comment boxes that keep track of who added comments, can import .pdf, MS & OO documents and images, participants may take control and present information while others follow as read only, great for collaborating and discussion.
Cons: If you want a mind map, you need to manually add and connect everything, cannot add any other media types or links.
Best Use: Collaborate, comment & discuss ideas - import advanced organizer docs to comment on.

Pros: Very easy and quick to use for basic mapping and ideas
Cons: No collaboration, no additional media, only save to local disk.
Best Use: For a quick, easy and simple map. Great for younger kids because of its simplicity.

Mind 42 Very-very similar to Mindmeister
Pros: Collaborative, free (unlimited?)
Cons: can’t change the background color like in Mindmeister.
Best Use:

Connected Mind
Pros: A more free and distinctive graphic design of maps /webs.
Cons: no collaboration, tricky getting used to drawing the branches in the freeform style.
Best Use: For those desiring a more free looking design to a map/web

***Editor’s Pick For Education***
MindMapr: for elementary students
Mind 42: for middle school & high school
Concept Board: for collaboration & discussion

Learning Topics:
Once again I am frustrated that I cannot yet begin using any of thee wonderful tools and strategies. I hopefully will be soon because I’m still working at my old school but on administrative thing at the moment and our computers/network/Internet are not set up yet but I’m doing my best to move all of that along. When the crazy rush of the first month of school is over and we’re set up, I hope to be able to start training our teachers in all of this stuff.

Cues, Questions and Advance Organizers
This is something I’ve never really done and hope to get a chance using it. I think I’ll be trying it as I train our teachers in using technology.

Non-Linguistic Representation
Love it. Used it all the time teaching ESL. Will try to promote it’s use more with the teachers I work with.

Summarizing & Notetaking
I tried a couple of years ago to teach some mdidle schoolers about note-taking but not with a lot of sucess. I really like the the subtractive method mentioned in the book where students work on a text, strategically whittling it down until the bare bones necessities remain. I’d like to try this. I’ve done something similar but in the opposite direction teaching reading to ESL students. I take a reading and black out all the non-essentials and just leaving the parts/phrases that I know they will understand. Too often struggling readers are daunted by trying to read something that contains a lot of stuff they don’t understand. By reducing the reading to a minimum that contains essential information, I show them that they can understand the main ideas. I then show them how to block out/ignore the things they don’t understand with the whole text. Then I teach them how to guess about what some of the words might mean such as a word preceding a noun is very often an adjective. Don’t worry about it’s meaning this time. Just remember that it’s an adjective. If you see this word a few more times, then look it up. So, this summarizing/note-taking strategy I guess is a bit like this in reverse.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

CEDO 525 Week 2: Objectives, Feedback & recognition

Feedback that Fits ( ):

Giving feedback about the quality of work or process was what I thought most relevant combined with the feedback being related to the goals of the lesson/activity. Having feedback about positive things is also important. I think a lot of teachers focus on what is wrong with something and not on what is right.

Setting Objectives, Providing Feedback and Providing Recognition:
I’ll be the first to admit that my lesson planning and classroom strategies for teaching in schools in America need some work. My past experience teaching was mostly teaching 8 week ESL conversation courses in Taiwan. There was no formal assessment and homework was not mandatory but mostly in preview and preparation for the next class. At the end of the course we would informally evaluate students ability and performance and judge whether or not they were ready for the next level. There were no grades given, just advance or retake the same level. Yes, we set objectives for individual classes and activities and gave verbal feedback throughout the class. All-in-all, teaching ESL conversation in a relaxed, informal environment in Taiwan is a very different animal than teaching K-12 in the USA.

I look back now on the computer lessons I taught in the past few years to high school students and realize that I need to rethink how I plan and prepare. Just taking courses for this program I can see how valuable the objectives and rubrics are for each course and assignment. I know what is expected and what I have to do. I f I do any teaching this year (my future is still up in the air) I’ll be taking these matters to my planning for sure.

Giving appropriate feedback is also something I need to work on and it follows from the objectives that are set. I feel that there isn’t very much feedback on our work given in this program as a whole. One instructor made a point to comment on our blog occasionally and also wanted to be included in our first team discussion just to check in but that has been just about all of the feedback we’ve been given.

On providing recognition I have been guilty of providing little or none to my students. I know thi is another thing I need to work on.

Future Thoughts:

I’m still working at my old school part time. I’ll be training whoever to do all the clerical and administrative tasks I’ve been doing the past few years. I’ll also be in charge of the technology as soon as it gets up and running as we’ve moved into a new building and the internet & network haven’t been set up yet. I’m hoping I can begin training the teachers to start implementing some of these ideas, perhaps one by one, training them to use a few select tools to get them used to using technology and computers in their teaching and learning. I have no problem seeing how the example technology tools can be effective. I just don't have the ability to implement them as of yet.

Free Idea for You:Students who Need Spelling Help

My 2nd grade son keeps asking me how to spell words. I directed him to either Google search or Google translate (set English to English). The new voice search lets you speak a word or short phrase and bingo, it pops up with the (mostly) correct spelling. The only problem is that f using the computer to write, it is too easy to cut and paste but it works pretty well. I’d like to see a similar function that returns the word/sentence as a graphic (like a captcha) so that if using the computer, students would have to type it in manually, thus getting spelling practice as well.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Deviations and Controls and Effects Oh My!


Waxman, H.C., Lin, M., & Michko, G. M. (2004) A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of teaching and learning, NCREL available online at

A study of studies based on research from 1997 to 2003. At best, the technology and studies themselves are already 10 years old. Research for researchers. Statistics for statisticians and citations from those who like to be cited. The conclusion? “Encouraging.”

I am happy that the textbook for this course is readable and has practical examples that can be used immediately with little thought even though it is already 5 years old (35 in dog years and who knows how many in tech years) and that there are even more and better Web 2.0 apps and tools to accomplish many of the goals. The problem with studying technology is it’s ever changing nature. How about a study that could give us results in say... realtime?

Another problem of studying the effectiveness of technology on learning is the control group of the “have-not’s” or “didn’t use technology”. Can we morally use them as a control? Let’s just equip the have-not’s and train the teachers instead of spending and giving money to people who like to research for their PHD’s or maintain their tenure and plot standard deviations. Sometimes enough is enough. After all, we now already know that the results are encouraging.

(I understand that the research company, NCREL/Learning Point does lots of valuable research and provides useful information to the education industry. I just don’t want to read the methods and statistics. I want practical, useful information which they do in fact provide as well.)

Principles of Learning:

Principles of Teaching and Learning available online at

Ahhh... Here we go. Somebody took all those effect percentiles and converted them into plain English. Thinking back, I was wondering where were all these practical snippets of information when I was doing my ed courses. reading all those books where you get interrupted 5 times a sentence by a citation. Maybe it took that long for someone to decipher the means and deviations.

Tools for our Textbook:

Creately is an on-line diagramming tool that has a slew of templates including an K-12 Education category that includes many of the document styles mentioned in our textbook; KWHL, Compare - Contrast and more. With the free version you can save a few things or use to print templates. Paid version with collaboration may get a bit pricey. Alternatively for collaboration you could download an image of a template you made and then use that as a background in a Goggle doc or presentation where students then add text and other stuff as needed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cyber-Bullying, Sexual Predators and Internet Anonymity

While doing research for Internet safety I came across an interesting current topic regarding internet anonymity. Anonymous society such as living in a large city has created conditions for many social ills that most of us would rather not have. Few would argue against that living in Mayberry with Andy Griffith has its perks with regard to setting and enforcing social and moral norms. You can't afford to be an outcast in a place where everybody knows your name, while having the whole community watch your back can be an advantage.

Though much cyber-bullying is done on social networks between parties that know each other and know each others pseudonyms there is a lot that goes on between strangers as well. Sexual predators need to be anonymous. Recently both Google+ and Facebook have been discussing having users use "real" names:

One point of all of this is that some people think that people would be more responsible with what they say, post and publish if they had to use their real names. Here are some issues as I see it.
  • The "real" looking names still don't have to be your real name. You can use something that appears to be a real name but there is no check for validity.
  • Having minors use real names goes against all Internet safety conventions.

In reading some comments on the above articles I have the following propositions.
  • A "Certified Me" service and logo that guarantees that you are who you say you are. This of course would be a voluntary thing for people to do (and not government controlled). It would act much like "Certified Organic" or "100% Juice". (I am assuming the Certified Me servers will be ultra secure since they hold your real information.) (Perhaps an existing service like OpenID, Verisign or Paypal could start this.)
  • People who really want to know who you are could request information from you via an anonymous email address like Craigslist uses when you reply. You could choose to respond or not (and of course the person you are responding to has an anonymous address as well.)
  • Certified Me service would under court order, reveal the identity details to the court of those involved with documented criminal charges related to and under the name of a "Certified Me" user. In reality, this condition is what would keep Certified Me posts and publications reliable and law abiding.
  • Internet services and accounts would give you the option of using either your screen name or your "Certified Me". When posting on Twitter or Facebook you could choose which byline you want to use. You can choose to let people know that this is me and I stand by what I just said. 
Having a "Certified Me" service could accomplish a few things. It could increase the reliability of the information that is being published or at least help set your own criteria for what you accept as reliable. After being informed, minors would at once know if someone they are chatting or communicating with is real or is hiding in anonymity.

The anonymous Internet certainly has its advantages for many things and I plan to continue using it. Knowing for certain that there are real people behind some of what is out there could also have its advantages. What do you think? I know this opens a big can of worms and might be a lot more complex than what I described, but is it an idea worth considering?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Web Conferencing Tools - High & Low End

If you've been following me you will know that I think a lot about design, user interface and usability. In looking for other web conferencing apps I was happy to finally find a graphic oriented conference program, Sococo. About 8 years ago when I first got involved in eLearning and was doing a lot of investigating, I wanted what I couldn't find. Sococo has it. A total rethinking of the way web conferencing / remote business should be conducted.
  • Everyone gets an avatar that displays connectivity and spatial information.
  • There are offices and meeting rooms that look like offices and meeting rooms.
$50/month gets you 1000 participants and you can set up multiple spaces. There are a slew of other features that make this app something to consider including multiple teamscreens/app sharing with a built in browser for surfing the net together while in a conference rather than relying on an external browser and an app share for the moderator.

I hope that other companies follow this model because it makes so much more sense than what everyone else has and does. Look-See-Understand.

On the other end of the web conferencing spectrum is Big Blue Button, an open source web conferencing app. Those interested in open source and have the ability to deploy apps from their own servers should look at this one. Though it is not graphically oriented but follows the same layout as all the rest, it looks like a promising alternative to commercial products. It integrates with a few eLearning platforms such as Moodle and Sakai as well as some CMS such as Drupal and Wordpress. It does not yet have the full feature set of others but I'm sure it will if there is continued support and development.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What's on the Web?

I've thought for while now the same thing as Tom March, that there is a short supply of actual learning activities on the web. Yes there are quite a few that actually guide students through the process but sometimes I get so frustrated when I frequently end up on purported educational sites that are full of: ads, links to print a black and white outline of a cartoon character or anything else, games that test knowledge instead of teach it.

Children's educational websites need to be focused on one thing. Learning. There should be no other distractions on the site and if absolutely necessary, links to things not related to the learning part should be unobtrusive and hidden in a corner. Even PBS Kids has a prominent print button on almost every activity and when I turn on my printer I find that there is a cue of 10 things to be printed from my kids, most were probably by accident by my 2 1/2 year old while her big brother helps her with Elmo.

Scouring through the web there are lots of wonderful things you could use if it happens to fit into what you are or could be doing. The problem arises when you are looking for something specific and only manage to find a printable word search or a hangman game.

Searching for information appropriate for younger audiences is also very tricky. The advanced searches and the dedicated searches and the hidden searches we tried out are great for doing hard core research. Third graders on the other hand need something they can read and understand. Google advanced search has a reading level filter for basic, intermediate and advance but I don't think it's always very accurate. I was happy to find SweetSearch, a dedicated search engine for students from Dulcinea Media. Check out their search and services.

Speaking of younger audiences, I was pretty disappointed with Google forms and even Zoho Creator and their inability to have any decent layout and design. Vertical block layout and no ability to put a graphic right where you need it. The form tools are very limited. Younger audiences should be presented with forms one question or idea at a time with a next button to go to continue. The design of the form/questions needs to allow for graphics to aid in understanding. I wish I had time to show you an example of what I'm thinking. Maybe down the road.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Web 2.0 and Design

    I had a bit more than a brief comment about What is Web 2.0? from for our “What are Internet Learning “Resources?” post, so I’ll talk about it here. They make a statement that a lot of the technology for Web 2.0 has been around for a long time and that perhaps a lot of the hype about the “new” Web 2.0 is unfounded because there is nothing new about a lot of the technology itself. This brings me to think that it’s not what the technology can do, but what you can do with the technology.

    As for web design (I am not a web designer but like to tinker), I occasionally check up on a few things to find out what is current and what are good practices just so I know a little more and it has helped me in my own criteria for deciding what are good websites and resources or not.

    Every one in a while I visit Jakob Neilson’s Alertbox, dedicated to promoting good usability in web design. There are some very good pointers in there for evaluating websites. Another I go to for fun is Stu Nichols CSSPlay, having examples of the latest in good CSS design, tips, tricks and mostly sharable code. He does some amazing things with pure CSS without any Javascript.

    I’m part designer inside of me and when designing a database in MS-Access, I start with the forms first, thinking about what information the user wants and how they will interact with it. Then I create the database tables and queries to populate the forms and reports. I’ve never been trained in database or user interface design but building this way just seemed right to me.

    Thus, I was was happy to find this from Bret Victor at Worrydream a very good read on web graphic design among other things. In the article Magic Ink, he shows much improved examples of how data and information can be presented in a different graphical style that makes information much easier to see and understand. He also starts his projects from a graphical design point of view, thinking about what is really important that the user to wants to know and should be able to find easily and intuitively. Scroll down the page of Magic Ink and find the section “Demonstration: Arraigning the Data” about how to reformat a typical movie listing section on a web site. His example of the BART subway timetable app is excellent too.

    Web 2.0 will not be only about the advanced tools we have to make it, but more importantly, it will be about how we use the tools we have to create excellence. Good Internet learning resources of any type in the future will have to be designed well in order to be most effective and useful.

    An example of what I think is a well designed and excellent learning resource is for learning ABCs, 123s, colors and shapes. The only gripe I have about it is that the activities open in a new window and the 3-6 year old target audience gets confused when they want to go back and try a different activity. Otherwise it is designed purely for learning. There are no quizzes or puzzles or stupid games or any other distractions. It is a 100% success website. There is nothing you can do wrong. Just learn. My other favorite for the same audience is Poisson Rouge, which I mentioned in my bio page for CEDO 520.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rethink Reflection on Using Productivity Tools Effectively

For me, this was a good course and thanks to David, our instructor, for making it so. During this course I got more practice with collaborative learning with my partner Kristy. We used both synchronous and asynchronous methods to complete our assignments. Perhaps we'd meet for a bit to talk about what to do, then work independently on a shared doc and then come back together to discuss what we had and refine it together. Sometimes we didn't use voice while together but just typed messages. All in all I feel much better about having collaborative experience for helping both teachers and students in the future.

I didn't really learn very many new software tricks since I am an intermediate / advanced user for most of the software we used. I used on-line versions more and am getting more comfortable with them and their limitations. When I start a new job/position, I'll be using either Google or Zoho for my documents more and depending on where I work and what I do, I'll try promoting these services within for in-house documents.

For me, the content of some of the course seemed almost opposing and contradictory. On the one hand, the stress on standards and measurable output and getting those matched up in the lesson plans was on one end of the spectrum. On the other end was the call for less measurable things like creativity and critical thinking. I guess great teachers are able to marry the two and the outcomes will live happily ever after.

One thing I got from this course was the exposure to a lot more resources that I didn't know about. Can't remember if I've bookmarked them all. If I did, then I have to remember what tags I used.

I think the biggest thing I got was help on integrating technology into the current curriculum which is what I think a lot of this degree/program/job is or will be about. I've always had this on my mind since I started my job 4 1/2 years ago but it never almost never worked out that way fro reasons I won't get into here. This is what I'd really like to do, integrate the technology into the every-day learning in schools.

End Note / Suggestion:

One thing I just thought of for introducing teachers and staff to some of the new technology and tools we have been using  would be to begin holding occasional teacher/staff meetings on-line instead of at the usual meeting place. The time s already set aside for the meetings and chances are that many teachers have a computer (hopefully mics and earphones as well) in their room. Teachers could be paired up so that newbies and gurus work together in the meeting. Just a thought that came to me. This would give them the exposure and hopefully the same confidence we have gained in using these tools.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Teaching Future

It's always been kind of difficult for me to answer questions or talk in class about what we are doing in this class and what we are doing in our schools/teaching. To keep it simple, my situation at work is much less than desirable. Things that can be even loosely called normal in other schools are way out of the ball park in my school and I will not be working there in the fall. Anyone need me?

How does what we are studying affect me and my work? Hard to say at this point. We'll have to see what I find.

About this week's Google Sites assignment? I wouldn't mind making something that I could actually use but I'm not inclined to make much of it because I know that once this program is done I will no longer have access to it/my wolfmail account. As of now to my knowledge, there is no simple one click method to download or change ownership to a different Google account for any of the wolfmail/Google services / documents. In regular Google accounts you can transfer ownership of documents and sites but with a Google Apps account like Wolfmail, you can only transfer ownership to someone in the same domain.

This brings me to think about the future. I see coming up a few courses down the road we will be creating an ePortfolio (I've already found the template). Here is an excerpt from a discussion/homework post I did on the subject from last week about ePortfolios in case you didn't read that post.

"There are a multitude of options for creating ePortfolios and learning to create them can address many technology learning standards. For elementary through middle grades the creation of ePortfolios may be created and published in a closed system such as a dedicated school portal, eLearning system or the like where teachers may have a bit more control over the process, technology and content. However, for high school students, it is recommended that they create an ePortfolio independent of a closed system. The reasons for this is that if a student changes schools, her/his portfolio will not be lost since the portfolio is not on a system they will no longer have access to but has been created using the web 2.0/cloud tools of choice. And for the same reason, when a student graduates from high school they will still have access to it and can control who has access to it (or parts of it) for future employment and/or education."

Will we be able to create these ePortfolios using a service of our choice? I don't even mind using Google sites but I'd rather do it with my personal account. I won't feel like putting in the 110% making if I know that once my Wolfmail is gone, I won't be able to access it or have others be able to access it for it's intended purpose.

I've already started/played around with an online ePortfoilio at VisualCV because it may prove useful for my current job search. VisualCV is a pretty straightforward resume site that also lets you add portfolio and other items in a sidebar.  

When this program is done, I'd like to be able to use the ePortfolio we will be creating for this program for real. I've already emailed a message to Louis a message similar to this asking about this. 

As the textbook says, allow your students choices in how they may complete a given task/project.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Real Player-In Time Video(no time video): Student News Broadcasts

The first thing I did before I started this assignment is do a search for "is Real Player dead", and got some amusing results. I've never been a fan of Real Player. Well, it is certainly dead on my computer. I happened to be on my Win 7 (64 bit) boot so I installed it. Searched for a video and found one about "Producing a Daily News Broadcast" for middle school students. The page opens in Firefox and the player is there, but the video never plays. Chrome doesn't work either.

Fast forward to my Linux Mint boot. Get the .deb installer - wrong architecture (32 bit). Found a fix, installed some other libraries and stuff. Installed with command line and force architecture. Does it ... Nope! Player is there but nothing plays, Firefox or Chrome.

Real Player is dead for me.

The information provided in the lesson (sans video) included a lot of useful information about what can and does go on with the teacher's ongoing news production such as skills learned and standards addressed. However, it is not a lesson plan in the sense that it lays out processes and procedures for someone doing this for the first time could follow and be successful.  For a better lesson plan to begin such a project use this from the Media Awareness Network about video production of a newscast. (The Media Awareness website has a lot of great resources and lessons.)

Since I was interested in the student news broadcast I did a search and found some interesting stuff. Fox News in Connecticut has FOX CT Student News. FOX TV news professionals work with middle & high school students to produce news shorts (50 seconds max) and the best are aired on TV. The website has great guidelines and materials for the news production.

Sample: Bishop Gorman Weekly Student Newscast

I've always thought it would be interesting and fun to work with creating student produced news. The news stories produced by FOX TV are stories for, by and about the students. It's relevant, engaging, has a real audience, practices real skills and obviously involves a lot of technology.

I'd love to work somewhere where I could do this.

More resources and student produced news programs:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spreadsheets and Blankets

Blankets really don't have anything to do with this week's work or post but it made a good title. Excel was one of the first programs I began exploring when I started to really get into computers and was more or less responsible for me getting really, really into computers and programming. (See a post a few back where the whole story was told.)

Since that time I've used spreadsheets here and there for various tasks. Currently I use one for student transcripts with calculated GPAs and credits required for graduation. I keep some employee hours tallied on one. Nothing too fancy. I like to make things look nice and always enjoy a design challenge such as the transcript spreadsheet, fitting everything nicely on one page. If you look at my recipe spreadsheet you'll see what I mean about design and formatting.

Some of what I read about how my classmates use spreadsheets I would do in a database instead. I can just as easily create a database in MS Access for keeping track of, sorting and filtering information. I haven't found the time to learn to code in OpenOffice Base or Zoho Reports/Creator yet but learning Zoho coding is on my list of things to do some day. In my opinion, spreadsheets are best used for number crunching, graphing or testing out different scenarios. Long lists of information for analysis belong in a database. Short lists of read only information can be put in a document table where you will have more formatting options for presenting the information.

As for student use, If I were teaching I could think of lots of ways to use a spreadsheet, even ones that don't fit in my opinion of how to best use a spreadsheet. Online spreadsheets have enough features for students to learn how to use them. As with other online productivity software, the full feature set is still not there for power users.

For those of you wondering about spreadsheets for the younger grades, I suggest you check out OpenOffice for Kids. The whole OpenOffice suite has been reformatted into 3 levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, with the latter having all the normal toolbars and options and features available and visible. Choosing the Beginner user interface, kids are presented with a stripped down version of features and tools. The different interfaces apply to all of the office programs so that young beginners can focus on learning the basics without getting confused with the clutter of features and options.