Nat Geo is at it again!

National Geographic has added a super cool interactive portion to their site: Explore the Human Body.

You have got to play with this site. You can even simulate a heart attack. What a great visual. I would have loved to have had this when my father was going through his heart issues a few summers back. It would have been great to help explain things to my son (and to me).

Thanks to Jim Coe at Bionic Teaching for pointing it out.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Google Docs Uploader A.K.A. Easy way to upload your files

Our district recently switched to Google Apps for Your Domain to host our email and more. One of the tools we now have for every teacher is Google Docs. Now our staff is fairly use to saving to the “S Drive” since we have Deep Freeze. But this new uploader tool will make their lives even easier since it will store their documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) where they can access them from any Internet connection, just like their email, all in the same place.  Here is what the Google Tutor has to say:

After downloading the tool, you just have to double-click it and the application starts working right away (my note: works on Windows PCs running the .NET Framework 2.0 or higher). You don’t have to install anything on your computer to make this work. So this would be an excellent tool to have on your USB stick if you upload files to Google Docs from various computer locations.

When you open it for the first time, you will be asked to log in and afterwards, the list of files currently stored in your Google Docs account will be shown :

You can then go to the file location on your PC and drag it into the main window. It will then be instantly uploaded to your Google account.

Or, as the screenshot also shows, you can enable a feature that will add a “Send to Google Docs” option in your Windows Explorer right-click menu :

Both options work equally well.

Thanks to Google Tutor for laying it out so easily for us. This will be a super add-on to our already powerful Google Suite.

Technorati Tags: ,

We must consider everyone

Michael Wesch, creator of the video Visions of Students Today, recently posted on how the digital divide occurs within all cultures. His video had what seemed to be an all-white make-up. While that was not the intent, it was the outcome. Consider his post and the discussion in the comments section. Nobody is pulling the race card here. What they are doing is generating the discussion about access. What are we doing to close the digital divide?

How can we get more technology in the hands of those who cannot afford it? More importantly, consider that the technology use we implement in the classroom may be all some of our students get anywhere. If every educator uses the same amount of technology you do with that student, how well prepared is he/she at the end of the day?

Thank you Michael and Mark for starting the conversation:
Download Video: Posted by markcmarino at

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Kenya Escape Through Digital Storytelling

Ellen Petry Leanse has a powerful story to tell of her escape from the political unrest in Kenya during the presidential elections over the 2007 Christmas holidays. She and her 12 year old son were there volunteering in an orphanage as well as other humanitarian work.

I first encountered her story January 15th on Guy Kawasaki’s blog as a guest post. Her writing moved me. Something inside of me kept saying to contact her and help her share what she and her son went through. As Google would have it, her email came up in the first try, and by 8:11 AM I sent off a personal plea to her to share her narrative through digital storytelling.

By 9:34 Ellen had taken me up on the offer and we were off on a plan. Since she lives in CA and I live in TX, logistics said the use of Web 2.0 tools were in need. With very little instruction, Ellen had read her blog post over the phone into my GCast account (I gave her my PIN to access it). The recording quality was awesome! My next step was to gather pictures of her events. By 9:57 she emailed me a picture to get my mind rolling with ideas. A trip to her Facebook photo album allowed me to harvest a number of great shots. I visited Flickr, did a Creative Commons search, and borrowed a few very well taken photos from others witnessing the events in Kenya. I was well on my way to helping Ellen and her son. Or so I thought.

Honestly, as I moved through the process, the story began to touch me even more. Then it hit me. Now, it was helping me. I needed to tell her story to others soon, and I had plans to present a professional development session to a private, Christian school. Their curriculum is driven by the Classical Education model(I can hear them shriek from here as I link that to Wikipedia ;). For those not familiar with the model, it is founded on a trivium consisting of the school of grammar (K-5), logic (6-8), and rhetoric (9-12). Students at this school must complete a rigorous course load that includes fine arts, several languages (Spanish, Latin, with Greek as a high school option), and a senior thesis. The thesis is based on a 20-30 minute presentation (after a year of research on a self-selected topic) in front of a panel of professionals and then defend it for a like amount of time from the panel’s questions. And this is high school. Wow! Now consider that they start defending and debating their work in middle school and you have some real world preparation going on there.

Since this was a curricular program unlike many that I had been involved with personally (although I had studied in my graduate work), I knew I needed some professional opinions. Enter Jen Wagner and Vicki Davis. These two ladies gave me advice about the Classical private school setting via email, previous blog posts, and even Twitter. Both offered even more assistance, but they had done such a wonderful job with the digital archives of their blogs sharing their work, I didn’t need to bother them any more. The common thread was found, and I knew what I needed to do. Not focus on technology. Huh?

I decided I was going to use digital storytelling to help drive home the importance of these tools for students to use on their own. My focus was the six senses Daniel Pink shares in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. Those senses really drive home the importance of preparing our youth for a continually changing economy.

Classical Education’s focus on logic and rhetoric in the secondary classes are a perfect fit for what Pink has in mind. I zeroed in on Story because it can drive emotion in a person. How you tell a story is so important to how it is perceived/received. The strength of logic and rhetoric from the presenter’s side of the table relies heavily on one’s ability to gain audience buy-in. Story can do that. Story can make or break a case in front of a panel (or classroom). This is what these students are looking for to give them an edge in the world outside of K-12 schooling. As we have read with the articles on over-achievers and their battles to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack for college admissions, Story can be more important than ever.

Here is what I shared with the teachers after presenting Vision of Students Today (both the K-12 and Wesch’s versions), Pink’s views, and renderings of revised Bloom’s:Blog post from Guy’s blog
How to Change the World- Guest Post- “We Got Out of Kenya, But What About the People Who Live There?”_1200867570845This post had an emotional appeal to it for me, but not everyone is as visual mentally when they read as I am. So there had to be another step.

GCast GCast Podcast (Click on MP3 link to hear audio recording.)Add to my PageEllen did a wonderful job of reading her ten minute post over the phone. Not only did this add to the impact of the story, it allowed me to have an audio archive in her voice to build on to the story’s presentation. And…GCast is FREE.

Download Video: Posted by woscholar at
This piece is perfect for those wanting a short, visually driven narrative. It delivers the story (without the personal narrative). Animoto offers a VERY easy method to create 30 second videos for FREE and with NO hassle. I find this to be a powerful way to begin a writing session. Use it for the prompt. See what develops.

[kml_flashembed movie=”″ width=”400″ height=”400″ wmode=”transparent” /]
Voicethread gave me the chance to use the entire audio clip with 25 pictures. As many of you know, the audio commenting feature of Voicethread will be a great way to extend the conversation for Ellen and her son with others interested in what they lived through. I have comment moderation on temporarily until I am sure Ellen is ready for the conversation to take place. After all, it is her story to tell.

My last piece needed to be high impact. While sorting through the pictures in my office, I dreaded the time it was going to take to choose music for the background. A story this emotional had to have something special. I had my iPod playing in my Altec docking station, randomly choosing the order of songs for me. Since I was concentrating on the photos and the story they were telling me, I was just subconsciously listening to the music. That is, until Brandon Heath’s “The Light” came on. I started humming while I was working. Then the lyrics started coming out (good thing everyone else had gone home for the day). I got to the chorus, and it hit me: “Stay close you people with your broken hearts….as we move toward the light” That was it. Perfect. The good Lord blessed me once again. I fired off an email to Brandon (music minister in The Woodlands, TX) to ensure permission to borrow his song for this cause with the understanding that if he did not like the final product I would pull his music out of it immediately.

Next thing, download Ellen’s audio narrative, edit out parts that fit the pictures and music and yet keep the strong storyline intact. After a bit of time in GarageBand editing the audio and iMovie piecing the video together, I was ready. One week, almost to the minute, after reading Ellen’s post, I found myself presenting her moving story to a K-12 school needing to hear what she has to say and willing to learn about the tools it takes to tell the world.

Download Video: Posted by woscholar at
Thank you, Ellen, for your wonderful heart and willing spirit. Your words are now a part of the many that hear them from this blog and beyond. I pray your works in Kenya expand the lives of the families you touched there.Thank you, teachers of CHS, for your open minds and hearts. I know you have the best things planned for your students. Your enthusiasm is unmatched by any group I have worked with. I thank you for inspiring me to keep up the faith. We can improve what our students face in the classroom. I will be your willing guide any opportunity you will let me.

Photo Credits from Presentations:
Ellen Petry Leanse
Music in iMovie:
The Light by Brandon HeathTechnorati Tags: , ,

Tech Forum Southwest – Wes Fryer Keynote

While I cannot take notes for sessions as well as Wes, I will still try my best. Ironic his note taking skills are a benchmark and here I am trying to notate his session. This was Wes’s keynote address titled “So the World is Flat. Now What?” Again, all notes/interpretations/reflections/etc are mine:

Wes Fryer Keynote – So the world is flat? Now what?

showed “vision of students” by Wesch @ KSU – audience laughed at 26.5 hours per day of activity (multi-tasking)

played Allentown – No they never taught us what was real (from song): whose responsibility is it to teach them what is real?
Wes is a witness, partial view of incident,
China puts up a new building of 30 or more stories every 6 days.
80% of cranes are in China
(personal note: I am chatting in UStream, Tweeting, and focusing on Wes all at the same time here; gotta love it; I can relate to the 26.5 hour day deal now)
20% of population is from China
Southwest Christian school in Texas is offering Mandarin for a language
Showed Skype pic of conversation with kids from last night
Called out Jakes for Tweeting during presentation, example of multi-tasking
“For those with access, the world is flat” – digital divide is real, and many do not have access
World is Flat book – show of hands
Dan Pink book – show of hands, causes fight or flight amongst people
Read Richard Florida – Creative Class Group
Shared Shanghai trip – K12 Online Conference – 2nd year offered 82 free PD sessions based on tech integration
divers group where common interest is students
superintendents listen to supers, teachers listen to teachers,
showed ClustrMap of K12, cannot see US for all of the red dots; 88,802 visits since 9/16/07
Anyone scared? – wife heard FBI talk to girl scouts about Internet predators – scared, keep eyes open to realities,
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay
“Most people try to predict the future by preventing it.” Alan Kay
focus on creativity – listen to Sir Ken on TEDTalks
my neighbor in session shows concern about assessment of creativity
DaVinci Institute –
Wes is worried about creativity in kids, not academics of his kids
AT&T is going through the change – 2 weeks ago AT&T 2.0 – “Connect people with their world everywhere they live and work, and do it better than anyone else” – phone, data services, entertainment,
Miguel & Wes are demoing the unconference – offered to help TCEA start one
30,000 level prescriptions:
time – change the bell schedule – (Note: MS has 80 minute blocks with us)
money – stop paying for seat time
standards – cut back, Robert Garzano “If you take every national standard in Nat. content area and talk them all in the time required, K12 turns into K22.”
recess – do not give it up
assessments – authentic, differentiated, messy (focussed on relationships)
metrics – perfection is not the minimum standard, students are not specifics, wealthy students score well on tests
PD – need more and in whole group settings less, differentiated
leadership – inspired, visionary, change agents, transformational leaders
creativity – 21st century show and tell
open content – open web publishing

differentiated content filtering – shows more trust to teachers than students
learn personal digital tool use: Flickr, Wikipedia, etc.
educators must experience the tool and think about it in their own contexts
NASB – Creating and Connecting Report – we have an opportunity in school to leverage social networking tools in school for learning (Google API recently released) – Look at stats for student usage of Internet tools
Great Book Stories – add to it
Ken Burns’s War – Wes is going to VC live from Pearl Harbor to OK schools to help teach students and document war and interview veterans
Use visual media – mind processes it over 60,000 times faster than text
peer work – easier for students to get involved
minimum expectations for collaboration – one internet based collab project per term per teacher

(Note to self: I did not do this justice since I do not do the Wes Fryer style of notes)

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy and the expression of knowledge – al einstein

Technorati Tags: ,

TechForum Southwest Notes – Roundtable with Anita Givens

The following are my few notes from my short meeting with Anita Givens and three other school districts held 11/2007. They are strictly my thoughts/perceptions/views/etc.

tech funding to support LRPT – will be asking for new money every session headed toward 75 to 100 per student

hb 2864 (point person – Richard Lagow) –

  • renewal for second year will place priority on first year districts looking at number of students served;
  • in other words, if we do 200 this year, we will get first consideration for 200 next year then second consideration with the additional students;
  • Anita suggests get in this year, or be prepared to miss out on the money next year due to limitations of renewal money amounts (My note as of 1/10/08 – This grant processing is not going well at TEA due to limited funds and more interest than expected; legislators should fund higher next year)

K12 databases being worked on

sb1788 (point person – Anita Givens) –

  • not funded, but what can we do until it is funded;
  • creating criteria for dl classes;
  • criteria for educators PD and certification;
  • look at web-based learning site for progress of this process;
  • if student is getting full day’s worth of ADA on a campus, they are going to be eligible to take up to two online course for additional ADA;
  • requires teacher to have PD about teaching online before they qualify to teach DL course; taking NCOL to help with standards/criteria for each area (student and faculty);
  • these standards must be in place 6 months prior to implementation;
  • bill says open program by 08-09, but no funding or time right now to get it all done in time, maybe by mid-year;
  • will not lose ADA based on taking online coursework, funding is lost via the network providing the courses;
  • districts will have autonomy to create their own VHS networks, rules are permissive to allowing students to take courses from other networks;
  • build ADA off kids in private schools and homeschooled;
  • “we do not get docked for having a kid fail and repeating a year so why would we get extra money for a kid that succeeded a year early?” (My response was that the doctor does not give me my money back for the visit and/or prescriptions when he does not heal me either.);

Tech Assessment Pilot –

  • going out for RFP to figure out costs;
  • waiting for this process to take place before proposal hits ISD’s;
  • vendor side takin gplace this month, maybe March-May to get it in place;

Notes for after event:

email Richard Lagow about our elementary online coursework

ask about textbook updates for software between adoptions, etc

I would like to thank Mrs. Givens for taking the time our of her schedule to meet with us at that event. It is refreshing to be able to talk to a face instead of a voice mail these days. Her candid answers are exactly what we need to be able to guide us in our planning. Sometimes what is not said is almost as powerful as what is said. Thanks again!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Online Photo Sharing in Plain English

I am double posting this here and here.

To piggyback my previous posts about design and photography and Flickr usage, I would like to offer this short tutorial video about online photo sharing. Thanks to the folks (Lee LeFever) at Common Craft for once again making this an easy to understand topic. So don’t let a little fear of a software program slow you down from joining the fun and learning of photo sharing.
Download Video: Posted by leelefever at

Technorati Tags: , ,

Just a Little Glitchy

WO_podcasting_iconI am not sure how many others use Google Apps for Your Domain, but our school district implemented the suite about four months ago. We love it. I only hear good things about the tools they can use and the power of the email engine. So we finally find a software package everyone can agree on! Yeah for us.

Well, we started noticing a few little tinks in the armor after the Christmas break. Just a few teachers a day have called to say when they access the start page it freezes up on them. Now, all of our staff have full control over their start pages as far as what widgets they add to it, so that leaves a lot of room for different scripts being run (as best I can tell from my little programming mind). After a few hours of playing with it, we found the solution that has taken care of every teacher so far.

Pretty simple, actually. Upgrade to IE7 or move to Firefox. Something in IE6 and older (yes there was one or two 5’s out there) did not play well with Google Apps for Your Domain (or some widget on it). Now we just have to get to every teacher machine, turn off deep freeze, update to IE7/Firefox, restart, test, refreeze, test again, and then move to the next one. Oh what a life!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Google Maps and the Political Machine

googlemaps_politicsThanks to Google Maps Mania for the link, you can view the caucus results for Iowa inside Google Maps to see which precinct voted which direction for their 2008 presidential primary. An even neater use of this is the sidebar that has current topical links to articles, videos, and even a “How the caucuses work” article link. How sweet is that? Those Google guys and gals are some innovative folks. Wonder if it has anything to do with the fact they get 20% of their work week for personal interest research and projects? Maybe? 

Technorati Tags: , , ,