I've moved the blog!

I've moved my blog to www.coolcatteacher.com as well as all of the posts from this blog. Learn more...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

31 Day Comment Challenge Draws to a Close

I loved njtechteacher's reflections on the 31 day comment challenge started by Sue Waters (see their amazing wiki)

Ann says:

"This is something I tend to do as I read blogs and post comments. Blog comments fall into three categories for me: I respond with my feelings on a post, I write to congratulate someone on something they are doing, I am uncertain about what was written about and I leave a question. The use of Cocomment and co.mment both help me see when people respond. This had not always been my practice. It was, looking back, more of a hit and run process."

Commenting is something important to me and I believe has been essential to my own blog. (See How to comment like a King (or Queen)).

Commenting and realizing that you have a voice is so very important. So, as a tribute to Sue today and these amazing women who have coordinated the 31 Day comment challenge (
Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino) -- I ask everyone leaving this post to find a blog (other than mine) and comment right now!

Let's end this well! (oh and mention that you're commenting b/c of the challenge -- it will help people to understand how far reaching this effort has been at building conversation in the edublogosphere.)

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Try some Hunkin's Home Experiments this Summer

Good learning never stops. This summer, my children have time that they spend each day learning but I work really hard to make it fun!

I fell in love with Hunkin's Home Experiments and plan to have my children pick one and plan to do for the other two.

These are also great for school. What experiment sites do you like?

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Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/31/2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/30/2008

  • This is a cool grant requiring a 100 word essay about how technology benefits and helps education and is one I'll be doing in the fall -- it is only open to schools in the US but it is public and private -- check the website for rules and good luck.

    Info from their site:
    "Each year, Samsung's Hope for Education holds a contest where students from schools nationwide can write a 100-word essay about how technology benefits and helps education. In 2008, the top winner receives a grand prize of over $200,000 worth of Samsung technology, Microsoft software and cash grants from DIRECTV, as well as the SCHOOL CHOICE® educational television programming package. Entries are open now. Contest will run until August 31, 2008."

    tags: education, grants, edu_news, administrator, all_teachers

  • I love the pictures on this blog showing the students using the computer, on the floor... everywhere, working on individual research projects. (Got to this blog to see the final products.) At first I said, "display boards?" but then I realized the amount of computer work required to create these display boards and I saw the age of the students and the number of computers in this classroom.

    This is a tremendous amount of work. Applause here from me to Kristi, another teacher blogger who I "met" from yesterday's post (hey go back to yesterdays and leave yours!)

    tags: edublog, education, edu_news, curriculum, all_teachers, bestpractices, edublogger

  • Fascinating ponderings by Mike Curtain about how many of us are relinquishing our own privacy. This is a very thought provoking post and yet another one I wouldn't have read, had he not linked to my blog post yesterday asking for bloggers to share their links.

    This is a very powerful blog post. Wow! I personally think there is a balance here, but also agree than many are not considering the privacy they are relinquishing when they post things that don't belong out there for everyone to see. Internet privacy is an illusion, it really is.

    tags: education, privacy, ad4dcss, digital_responsibilities

  • Kudos to Brooksie, a new blogger that I found when she left her link on my blog today. Such a great resource. She's doing a nice job!

    tags: education, edublog

  • Brooksie over at CD Tech (http://gcedtech.blogspot.com/2008/04/animoto.html) showed me this. Brooksie left a message introducing me to her blog on yesterday's post and wow, I learned something new!

    Animoto will giv eyou a FREE code to make full length videos on animoto! This is a really cool free tool but we've been using the 30 second version! I didn't know we could use the full version for fREE! Wow! So cool

    tags: animoto, education, edu_newapp

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Incredible Motivational Videofrom some Teachers: What will you do today?

Phenomenal video! What a great way to summarize the learning in a professional development course for a school! What a great way to let the teachers at your school understand what all of this means.

These teachers made this video and guess what... now they will be blogged around the world. Pass them along by going to the original page and grabbing the "embed" code. Paste it on your blog in a post and add your thoughts. Viola!

via a tweet from http://twitter.com/carcher, Christine from Ramblings of a Technology Coordinator. Whoo hoo, Christine, you've got it going on! Amazing teachers! Wow!

What will you do today?

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Thank you readers for putting me on this Edutopia List!

Wow, I am flabbergasted just to be included on this list by edutopia as part of their 2008 Readers Survey. It always makes me nervous to have my name listed alongside the great perpetual bloggers (Edublogs, David Warlick's 2 Cents Worth) since I'm such a newcomer. (2 1/2 years is nothing!) (Of course this list seems a bit mixed since Edublogs is a platform, I wonder if they meant to link to Sue Waters blog instead of the Edublogs homepage?)

So, thank you readers of Edutopia who put my name on this list. I am honored and grateful.

I wish I could say that I want to become more or be something spectacular but all I really am is me. I'm flawed, sometimes don't have enough time to blog, and I can't seem to keep the dishes washed and laundry done.

And yet blogging and teaching for me are inexorably intertwined and now neither of them could ever be separated from who I am.

Although I'm a blogger, teacher, Mom, wife and more, I'm really just so grateful for the opportunity to learn and be a part of such exciting times.

When I left Atlanta to move home to tiny Camilla, Georgia, I had one "friend" who said to me:

"If you had stayed in Atlanta, you could have been something really great. Now that you're moving to nowhere you are destined for anonymity."

I'm grateful for an internet that lets me speak out and be a part of something much bigger than myself. And now that I'm done with this post, I'm going to go back and read some more about the amazing new bloggers on the last post where I asked some of you to share your blogs with me! Some great comments are coming in.

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8 Reasons Bloggers Hide Their Blog: A Call for You to share a link to your blog

I love making new friends but for some reason it seems very challenging to find new teacher blogs. As I've talked to teacher bloggers, these are some of the reasons I hear for teachers not sharing their links more openly.

Why I think More Teachers Don't Share Their Blog with Others
  1. Humility. I think many teachers are naturally humble and perhaps don't share their blogs outright. They don't want to be misconstrued as just another teacher who is looking for a "ticket out" of the classroom. (I'm happy in the classroom but enjoy a few excursions a year.)

  2. Inferiority. Or, teachers might just feel like their blog isn't good enough. "I'll wait until I'm better at it."

    No, you're fine now, jump in! Don't have an inferiority complex. I've gotten in trouble many a time for saying, "I'm just a teacher" and don't you make my mistake. You're not just a teacher -- you're a teacher, for goodness sakes and more teachers need to be heard. We need Science, History, Literature, and more teachers coming on. This needs to move past edtech and into mainstream education, now. Will you be THE blogger for literature or THE blogger for science. You could be... but ultimately I do this not to be THE blogger of anything but to be a blogger who makes a difference and helps other teachers.

  3. Paranoia. Teachers organizations have come out against blogging. Somehow we are pariah's. Why? Be a professional, don't share confidential information and focus on best practices and you should be OK. Sort of a "I"ll dip my toe in the water and maybe no one will catch me."

    I've been open since day one with my administration, going so far as to set up an e-mail subscription and subscribing them to my blog! I want my school to read my blog. And we've gotten grants and opportunities for my classroom over the last year because of it!

  4. Fear. Sort of like #3, but sometimes we're afraid of success. Success brings with it a lot of things... pressure to keep posting. Sometimes it will get one into unhealthy contemplations that make the blog overimportant. (Like being up at night trying to come up with THE post of the century.)

  5. A Feeling of Being overwhelmed - When I started, I often wondered, "what can I add?" There's too much. I cannot do this. I don't have the time.

    Follow principles of good blogging, good commenting, and just add your thoughts. No blogger can replace the Wall Street Journal or professional media outlet. You're not the single-handed newsbreaker of education, you're adding your opinion.

  6. Not wanting to be microanalyzed - This is a tough one. There are always those "Drive by commenters" who drive in, unload a few clips, and drive off. They have killed not a few great bloggers in the beginning.

    Early on I had people bug me about spelling, grammar, and all the mistakes I make naturally. Maybe I should hire an editor. Or maybe I should just be me and live with the fact I'm human. I love reading blogs because they are human.

    I appreciate the person who privately e-mails me about my mistakes so that I may correct it. I don't appreciate people who act unkindly and mean about a mistake. They seem to forget that what we dish out has a habit of being passed back around to us.

  7. Not wanting to become embroiled in debate. This took some getting used to. Sometimes I'm drug into debates that I simply don't have time for and didn't ask for. I used to let them bother me. I guess two years has given me a thicker skin somewhat.

    Debates are part of life and really, your blog is as controversial as you make it. I've always found, however, that treating people on both sides of every disagreement with respect and modeling for our future leaders how to disagree is very important.

    When some bloggers treat others with disrespect or make mistakes and do not correct them, they go down a notch in my book. I'm so glad we're not carbon copies of one another... we are beautifully, wonderfully different.

    Every person on this planet deserves respect. I don't care if they are mowing your grass or sitting behind the desk in your mayor's office. People deserve respect because they are people and this is something that the blogosphere needs to work on.

    We can be part of the problem or part of the solution. I know few people better than teachers at mediating disputes! You can be part of the problem or part of the solution and apathy too is a problem. Learning how to disagree respectfully online is part of life, don't let that deter you from blogging or sharing your blog URL.

  8. They don't see the point. "Why share my blog? Vicki or any of the other bloggers already have enough people vying for their attention."

    I disagree.. we have enough of the WRONG people vying for our attention. I WANT to hear from teachers... always. I want to hear from educators. I want to learn from people in the "trenches."

    I want to be an early encourager to newcomers like David Warlick, Jennifer Wagner, Wes Fryer, Miguel Guhlin, Ewan McIntosh, Darren Kuropatwa, Stephen Downes, and others did for me.

    I want to be the first commenter on new blogs. (Which is why I try to comment on those who link to me that I can tell are newcomers.) We all need some encouragement.

The point of sharing your link is to let others know that you're there and engage in conversation. Just do it. I'm asking you to share your blog.

Share Away

So, this summer, I would like to spend some time finding cool teacher blogs. I'd like to hear and find a few new voices and I'm sure others would too.

I know there are lots of places that list edubloggers, but I'm asking you to share your link here and share a few more things - use this template.

Share your link
-- unfortunately, in blogger comments, you must do this manually, but if you share your link, make it into a "live link." (Don't worry, if it doesn't work the first time, try again -- I won't be bothered by multiple entries.)

This graphic from my post 10 habits of bloggers that win, shares it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
Who are you? Why do you teach? What do you teach? Where are you located? Not a complete bio, but the blurb you would tell someone if you had 20 seconds to introduce yourself.

Who are you writing for?
Who is your audience? Do you know? (If you don't, think about it.)

Why are you blogging?
What are your reasons for blogging? We all have reasons!

I'm ready to meet you! (Even if I already know your blog, feel free to share, others may want to meet you too.)

Here is my intro.

I'm Vicki Davis and I write the Cool Cat Teacher blog. I am a teacher at a small K12 private school in south Georgia USA and I believe passionately that teachers need encouragement, practical best practices in the classroom, and should be treated with nobility as the world's greatest calling! I believe that global collaborative projects are an essential part of learning. I believe that we all need to laugh and be inspired if we're going to make it through this high burnout profession.

I have two children of my three children with Learning disabilities who must be accommodated with technology and so I adamantly know and believe in the results I've seen with technology with my own children. I believe that children are amazing gifts from God and each one has something that they can do best. (I also know that LD often means children are wired more artistically and creatively and believe wholeheartedly in differentiated learning.) Children aren't production items in a manufacturing plant, but individualized, amazing packages of hope and opportunity and teachers have the ability to treat them well or do great harm.

My audience is educators and other teachers, however, I'm really geek too, so I find that technical type people read my blog too. I love dreaming and coming up with ideas but more importantly, reflecting practically on what I SEE in my classroom to be true based upon what people are saying.

I see a great disconnect sometimes between what experts SAY and what is really happening in the classroom (at least mine.) So, I blog to share my own perspectives and to learn from others. (I learn more than I give.)

I started blogging to learn "how to blog" so that I could teach it. I am still blogging because it has become part of who I am.

I don't know how many of these will come in, but I'll do my best to follow the links and say "hi." If you like, share your best blog post!

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Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/29/2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

HOrizon Teacher Summit 4-5 pm EDT 5/28/2008

Twitter is out AGAIN! So, I hate to do this, but here is another alert that really belongs in my twitter.

In 17 minutes we will be hosting the Teacher Summit in Elluminate. Please join us as the teachers reflect.

Flat Classroom Live presentation today w/ Julie and I

If you're online -- in about 19 minutes at approximately 11 am EDT, Julie Lindsay and I will be joining Steve Hargadon to do the Classroom Live presentation we've been planning to do for some time.

It is free and open and in elluminate. If you wish to join us, come on. If not, the recording will be available later. Hope to see you there.

Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/28/2008

  • HotCity Wireless, a non-profit organization, has been established to promote the use of low-cost wireless technology as a media and tool for economic, social and educational advancement to underprivileged citizens in the Philippines.

    Organizations such as this that work to provide access should be encouraged. Wow!

    tags: education, ad4dcss, digital_access

  • Cool cool cool firefox extension that creates and edits screenshots of web pages. Soo cool!

    tags: education, geeks4, tools, edu_newapp

  • World Environment Day - -share what you'redoing -- this is June 5th - it is for New Zealand but it is something I think that others may participate in.

    tags: education, environment

  • A cool project for middle school students - Living archives is fascinating.

    tags: education, learning, history, flatclassroom, curriculum, edu_news

  • Japanese government becoming "involved" in the overuse of cell phones by japanese teenagers. This program emphasizes cell phone addiction.

    1/3 of japanese 6th graders and cell phones and 2/3rds of 9th graders have them. Interestingly, one panel wants to take texting off the phones?

    How about using texting iN school? How about letting them define words on it instead of using a dictionary? How about letting them use it in the classroom?

    Seems kind of like damming up the Mississippi - it may work for a while, but eventually, the dam is going to break.

    Yes, this is something to talk about and discuss... internet and cell phone addiction is a real issue with many kids I talk to reporting that they literally sleep with it under their pillow.

    However, just getting rid of texting, I don't think that is a good idea. As with anything in human history, every tool may be used for good or bad.

    tags: education, edu_trends, digitalcitizenship

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I M possible

We know not where the digital revolution may take us.

We do know the great inventors of history dreamed impossible dreams and took steps to make it happen... electricity, the light bulb, the telephone, the Internet...

virtual worlds, humanoid robots, 3 d virtual immersive worlds, intelligent agents. These things all seem impossible as do time travel, true interplanetary space travel, and colonizing other planets.

Yet impossible dreams lived by impossible dreamers and backed up by a lot of hard work often have a way of happening.

My impossible dreams?

That we could have a flat classroom project followed up by a face to face meeting of the award winning students. (Believe it or not, this is something Julie and I ARE working on now -- seeking ways to make this happen.)

True, sustainable, collaborative projects that run year round with students moving in and out of them as fits the curriculum and communicating with others.

Legacy projects in virtual worlds where students create things and future generations enjoy them. (Indeed this is happening now at places like Suffern Middle School.)

Using cell phones, 3d environments, and all of the technologies deemed "the enemy" by academia in useful, meaningful, ways in pursuit of a truly excellent academic curriculum and results.

Perhaps my biggest dreams personally have to do with authoring books that improve people's lives... not just this year but are passed down to others including my own children as a legacy of how to live life amidst the struggles, challenges, and problems. Life is not like a novel where something new happens around each corner, but rather it is often a struggle and a challenge, and often when one turns a corner there are empty corridors. (However, living life in service of my Savior is truly my greatest calling in life... and I'm thankful that is not an impossible dream. )

Although this youtube video is commercial for Honda, I really see in it something more.

I see many educators dreaming dreams that were impossible a few years a go... of joining with other classrooms and educators around the world with joint projects. Overcoming distance, time, space, cultural, and curricular barriers.

Go ahead... dream that impossible dream. But remember this... it seems impossible to others and that is fine.

The greatest hurdle you must overcome is the erasure of the "im" in your own mind and transformation of im-possible to possible.

i m possible

Through me... it is possible.

So, lets agree to let impossible stand for something else.

I say that

i m possible should stand for "I make possible."

How about you... what can you turn from "impossible" to "I make possible?"

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Flat Classroom Conversation Live tomorrow 5/28/2008 - 11 am EDT

A special episode of Classroom 2.0 LIVE Conversations will "air" live 5/28/2008 at 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern / 3pm GMT. Julie Lindsay and and I will discuss our global collaborative programs, Flat Classrooms and the Horizon Project.

Here is Steve's announcement on Classroom 2.0 about this:

"In the two years that Julie and Vicki have been collaborating, their five global collaborative projects have included more than 20 classrooms and 500 students from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and geographic locations. Their Flat Classroom project was featured in the latest edition of Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat, upon which it was based.

Julie joins us from Qatar, Vicki from Georgia, USA. There will be time for audience Q & A. To attend the Elluminate session, see the link at http://www.classroom20wiki.com/live+conversations/. Or use the direct login URL: https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=1101&password=M.8DAFD346DA4B268DC185FED8466556 "

We're excited about the Flat Classroom workshop that Julie and I will be doing in St. Louis on July 8th and 9th -- there is still room if you wish to join us.

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Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/27/2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Videos from Me on Horizon, Flat Classroom, and More

Every teacher knows that the end of the school year is usually as scary as hiding under the bed with Chucky the wonder doll coming after you!

I'm a bit behind over here, however, took some time to talk with my friend Alan Levine (aka CogDog) about some of the projects that we've done recently as well as the pros and cons. (Just proof that cats and dogs can work together ;-) I'd like to share the video with you and plan to be blogging quite a bit AFTER I can get my laundry done!


Hope you're having a great memorial day!

I also find very interesting Alan's ruminations about "The Ning" -- he is right on, I think. For those of us who use Ning for class projects, The Ning and The Wiki are really The Thing -- the glue that holds us together and without which we could not function.
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/25/2008

  • A cool video from a teacher about how she is innovating in her classroom. This is an application for Google Teacher Academy and was made on Animoto and uploaded to Google Video. Great job!

    More applications for events and organizations are moving to the video format. Knowing how to produce compelling video will help your students get scholarships and you move ahead. Learn how to tell digital stories.

    Oh, and I'm so excited, it looks like I'll be at Google teacher academy in June -- it is going to be great!

    tags: education, technology, techintegrator, professionaldevelopment, edu_trends

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/23/2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Student Summits Today and you're invited! 10:45 AM EST and 1:40 PM EST

Find more photos like this on Horizon Project 2008

These graphics are just some of the "jpeg" files that students will take with them into elluminate today for the Westwood student summits for the 2008 Horizon Project.

Each student will present in elluminate and may take with them one graphic file. This is the photo album on the Horizon Ning of these files that I'm compiling for the event.

Today we should be presenting from around 10:45 (class starts at 10:29 but it will take a moment to get in the room) until 11:15 and again from around 1:40 until 2:10. Each student will take a moment to discuss what they've learned and we will also take questions from the "audience."

This is free and open for participation using our elluminate room. Please feel free to join us and see what the students have to say.

How do I join?
  1. Click on the elluminate link after 10:15 am EST.
  2. Follow the instructions (sometimes your IT dept has to give you permission to install the java applet.)
  3. If you want to ask questions, plug in your mike. (There is an audio set up wizard to help you do your settings under "tools.")
See you there! (Oh, and if you KNOW you're coming to either one and want to leave me a message here letting me know where you're from, the students would love for me to introduce you.)

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/19/2008

  • This 10th grade student has written an exceptional post-project reflection. I hope you'll take time to read it. Here is an excerpt:

    "There is no doubt that this technology is dangerous. It is apparent that few people, not adults, not teenagers, truly understand how collaboration, conduct, and manners affect the internet. This project has to teach others that as well. It is necessary to know how to handle yourself on the internet. That’s why Horizon Project is so important. We have to educate tomorrow’s leaders how to use new technology without abusing it. The highlight of this project is the education we are giving every single person who has been a part of the Horizon Project."

    tags: education, hz08, technology, digitalcitizenship, ad4dcss, digital_safety

  • This is where they post the status and maintenace downtimes for Ning, if you ever have an outage or a plant o demo it, you might want to check it out.

    tags: education, techintegrator, technology

  • I am really enjoying Julie Lindsay's discussion about games in the classroom on this video. (Please forgive the student typo at the end.)

    tags: education, hz08

  • Wow! This student says so much very eloquently about Don Tapscott's keynote:

    My tenth grader says in this blog post:

    "A teacher should, as Don Tapscott said, no longer be a transmitter of information, but a regulator of educational settings. Our teacher Mrs. Vicki could stand in from of the class room all day and lecture us on exactly what to do and how to do it. We would ace tests and learn a lot . . . for a while… However by next year about 65% of what we learned will be irrelevant due to technology changes and development. Instead, she gives us projects to complete that pose challenges to us that can repeat themselves. Such as giving us a project to make a video by using a program we are unfamiliar with. Though we may not ever make another video, it is inevitable that we face the challenge of having to use an unfamiliar program, ergo, we will be prepared to deal with this for the rest of our lives.

    So in conclusion, the role of a teacher is now: to regulate the educational environment; to introduce students to the realm of ambiguities; and to no longer evaluate our overall knowledge, but our constructive, creative, and adaptive capabilities."

    Wow! I am humbled and impressed at what students have to say when asked and challenged!

    tags: education, hz08, hz08_keynote, Don Tapscott

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My student's video on World Domination

I'm laughing so hard that I am crying. This student for the horizon project seemed not to be doing much filming. That is because she was literally taking over the county with this short 8 minute film.

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

Her point was to demonstrate the emotions of those who are using Youtube and grassroots video and how many times it can give false impressions of grandeur to those who become "youtube" stars. I am just amazed she did this film in 2 weeks!

During the course of this film she:
  • Had a police officer "arrest" her friend (it was staged except her aunt didn't know and came driving up as the actress was leaving! It scared her!)
  • Hypnotized her math teacher
  • Included our headmaster (in the orange shirt halfway through)
  • Used greenscreen
  • Got her father to be on the film at the end.
She really did a nice job. We did encourage the students to use creativity to get their point across and one not knowing the topic might think this was just for fun, however, for those who know the topic, I think she conveyed the emotions of those using grassroots video quite well, albeit in a humorous fashion.

I just cannot believe she did it!

Now, I can honestly say that my projects have reached a new high (or low depending upon the way you look at it) -- with a staged arrest on film. I'm laughing!

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Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/18/2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Nightmare of Social Networking (And of seeing yourself on film)

Besides the fact that I DON'T LIKE how I look in this film (I'm hitting the gym this summer), my student Jamie C. did a nice job with this film for horizon on Social Operating systems.

It was just featured on the home page by AFI Screen Nation (to enter the contest you have to be in the US, although any student anywhere may still submit videos. Who knows, a real Hollywood producer or actor may even leave you a message!)

He is trying to highlight the evolution from social networks to social operating systems and I think he's done a nice job. (Even if he did have to use me!)

This is an example of a film that was made in tools I would never have "prescribed" if I truly was a "prescriptive" computer science teacher. He used Paint (for animations,) PowerPoint (for jpgs), Movie Maker, Audacity (to remix Beethoven), and a webcam (to grab his teacher for a quick interview.)

Good job, Jamie! If you want to peruse more videos, drop by the Ning where they are being uploaded as fast as chickens fly away from a fox. If you want to join the Ning and comment, just let us know who you are, and join in the feedback process for the videos. Judging will start soon!

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Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/17/2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Digiteen: Teaching Digital Citizenship - teens teaching ten year olds

Today was the fourth "class" in our digiteen project. In this project, students researched the nine aspects of digital citizenship and had to create an offline action project.

Some students chose to work with middle school students and others chose elementary age. Each group is responsible for 20 minutes of "training" and discussion with the age group they have selected.

Today was the second day of the fourth grade student training. Yesterday we talked about the ways they can access the Internet including the new smaller laptops for kids AND cell phones. They discussed how to report problems in webkins and the importance of being wary of public chat rooms and "checking out" offline before adding them online.

We also discussed xbox and wii live and safe ways to play online (by finding friends ahead of time.) Students cautioned the younger students about chatting via xbox live with headsets to strangers. (a completely unmonitored activity.)

Yesterday, they also discussed addictive behaviors and how much is too much? It is amazing to see the rapt attention and nodding heads from fourth graders with the ninth graders leading the discussions. It is also interesting to see the ninth graders step back and see their own behaviors differently.

My ninth graders were adults to the younger children. They were well educated and well spoken and they had what most of us teachers couldn't have in a million years... they were cool!

Today we talked about cell phones. How to pay attention to the people right in front of you and not ignore them because of texting. "People face to face should be in first place," was our saying I created for them.

It breaks my heart as we talk about this, though. Some kids said, "Well, my mom is always on the phone and never talks to me. She always talks on the phone instead of to me."

Again, think parents about putting your family in first place. (Guess I'd better cut this post short and spend time with hubby.)

We also talked about how the cell phone IS on the internet. The students told the younger ones that every photo or video being taken on a cell phone could be on the internet immediately.

To demonstrate this, I twittered from my cell phone and people from around the world responded. They asked Sue Waters in Australia about the sharks and were amazed at how the Internet connects.

Then, we did a gcast podcast that I recorded and posted live on the Internet (I took it back down afterwards.) They were amazed.

Our point: the cell phone IS the Internet.

The teacher was amazed but we were too when two students confessed to sending 500 text messages a day on the first day. The students ALL decided together that the best thing to do is to charge the phone in the kitchen away from the bedroom or to put it in a drawer in the kitchen.

It was fascinating to see the students recognize what was wrong and propose what should happen to fix it.

It is about taking time to pull students back and reflect upon what they are doing in order to decide if that is what they want. Sometimes talking in third person helps kids decide what they want to do with their first person.

Overall, it has been one of the best things we've done this year. We are going to do more of it next year, that is for sure. The teachers love it and I do too!

My students rock!

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Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/15/2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Heartfelt posts from the Horizon

This week a student from the Horizon Project had a very heartfelt blog post. Every time we do these projects we have one or two teams who don't "engage" and a few students who just "goof off" and wander aimlessly. (This is where a good teacher comes in.)

The student says:

"If you are reading this right now, I thank you, because no one seems to understand the concept of communication. We have all these problems regarding completion, because people are wondering what they are supposed to be doing. Well, if you don't check the discussion on the wiki pages, or if you don't check your group, well, then it is awfully hard to know much of anything, now isn't it?

Because people are not taking the time to look into what they are supposed to be doing, or they are not taking time to contact their project managers, there is a little bit of a problem, in terms of horizon project completion. Project Managers and Assistant Project Managers can only do so much. Sub groups need to be taking the initiative, and they need to start working together to solve problems. No matter how much cyber urging the PM does, if you do not check your discussion on the wiki, or if you do not check your main page, than the group is doomed to failure.

Another problem that I am seeing across the board, is a problem with activity and motivation. A few students are working because their grade depends on this assignment. Others are contributing because they feel it is their duty, not to let others down. Others aren't contributing because they don't know what to do. Others aren't contributing because they don't have the tech, or do not have the grasp of English. Other's simply aren't . There is not much that someone can do to urge someone who has no interest in the project. You can't yell at them in person, you can't plead with them, you can't do anything. They simply disappear. They see that email notification of a post on their Ning, but they won't check it. They will see that their was a comment on a discussion board, but they won't check it. Follow up is key to the survival of this project, and the fact that people are in la la land, is not helping.

So now that I have talked about the problems that i have observed, specifically with the metatrend, computing in three dimensions, what do other people see? APMs at GBA are reporting similar problems, but how can we remedy them? Is there any one out there who will answer this question?"

Don't we see this in the real world all of the time? Here was my response.

This is something that we see in a project such as this and I talked about it in a blog post a few days a go. This is why the teacher is so important -- they have to reach over and give their students a nudge (if they're doing their job) -- but sometimes there are students who want to make excuses.

As I always tell my students who get frustrated with this - -and it happens in a good 30% of the groups in this sort of thing -- often you learn the most by having troubles happen. Anyone can succeed in a group where everyone is connecting. Anyone can succeed in a world where everyone is working and doing their best.

Truly, those who are world class succeed anyway. In the business world, one time I inherited a team of people to manage who didn't communicate, pretended they didn't know what to do (or maybe they really didn't) and didn't connect with their task. They showed up at work, took up space, took home a paycheck and added nothing to the bottom line. Nothing.

It was my job as their manager to 1) get their attention and 2) hold them accountable. That is the job of the teacher in this case. And yet we struggle that sometimes we as teachers are learning something new too! Some teachers are overwhelmed!

This is the largest project of its kind done to date.

The pioneers out West in the US had a difficult trail -- in fact, they had to make the trail. And when they found the best way to go, the trail out west became deep deep ruts for others to follow.

As we work through this, we are the pioneers. We are finding the best way to go. The best way to do things. You are a pioneer because you are taking the task to heart and you are openly and transparently discussing the struggle.

I applaud you with thunderous applause. I wish there was a way I could literally reach through the Internet to those who have not engaged in this project and "snatch a knot" as we say in South Georgia, but there is not.

I can, however, reach through the Internet and tell you that you "get it." The beautiful thing about wiki projects is that although a wiki could literally be a "C" wiki, that an outstanding student can still make an "A." And vice versa -- a student may be on a team that has an "A" wiki and still make an "F." Think about it, in the history of school, never before has their been such a tool to allow us to create team projects AND STILL reward individual effort towards that team goal.

I am here and will do what I can to help you in any way. Send me a private message to let me know what I can do and make sure that you submit your PM report each week (if you are a PM).

I'm sorry for your struggle and yet, I hope that you emerge as a strongly opinionated person about the importance of online engagement in collaborative teams.

Online activites have offline consequences and it is glaringly apparent that our global education system, except in a very few instances, is not conveying that. We see evidence in the news each night and evidence in this project.

Some would rather surf and pretend to work than to get the job done and engage. It is harder to engage. It is a struggle to do the right thing. It is tough to grapple with new subjects and draw conclusions. In education, we call this higher order thinking. Keep going -- keep reflecting -- keep being honest.

But also be aware, sometimes the greatest life lessons come from the most difficult of circumstances. Be the pioneer.

I've seen PM's in the past make last minute adjustments and agreements with the team members who are engaged and simply take over, reorganize and get it done anyway. Use your judgment.

We have Project Managers and Assistant Project Managers report weekly and teachers address each student privately who is on "the list" of those not engaged. Typically we reach 95% engagement -- now we have 250 students and perhaps at this point are 75% engaged. All students are on the wiki and ning and doing something, however, true "engagement" is obvious and lack of it even more so. And to students, anything less than 100% engagement on their team is unacceptable.

They get angry when even one student isn't doing their part.

I say, let them get angry. Let them understand what online collaboration means and emerge into the world knowing how to be successful. For, truly their success will come from their online collaboration abilities - it is an inevitable part of their future.

Should we give up because we cannot reach 100% engagement. Well, we haven't given up because every kid in the classroom doesn't pass. We work to improve, make it better and MAKE SURE that we are fair to those students who do put forth the effort.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My prayers are with you Tucker Beam: Building a Skype Bridge from School to hospital room

This story is so moving and amazing and was forwarded to me by my new friend Amanda Stone from the Hoover City School District. Tucker Beam is an eight year old in Amanda's Alabama town.

This is the story in Amanda's words:

"We declared May 9, 2008 Tucker Beam Day in Hoover, Alabama (South Shades Crest Elementary). We have been planning this event for some time....mom can not work during this time and we do not want her to worry about money. We have raised over 28,000 dollars. ***I don't even know you and I am just sharing my heart with you...sorry. When we found out that he could not be at the school....I immediately starting working on the technology. We skyped [him] in....and well, tears poured out across our gym. We had 1,000 kids in our gym when he came up on the big screen. He was able to watch the ceremonies and his second grade class sang "This Little Light of Mine"...there he was ....an 8 year old, ....with the biggest smile on his face. Technology IS a power tool. God was diffently there....Joshua 1:9

These are the stories that make me have chills. Technology can build bridges to places where we have never been able to go before. It brings people THERE who are a part and makes them feel loved. It enables us to connect.

Amanda, I applaud you and the progressive administration that has empowered you and enabled you to do this (how many schools can't because Skype is blocked?) and my personal prayers will be with little Tucker. To experience such pain and hurt at such a young age is truly one of life's tragedies.

I applaud you for sharing your story... technologies are just tools and can be used for good or evil, much like the human hand or anything ever invented. You are using technology for good. More power to you.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Funday Monday

I haven't had a Funday Monday in a while, so its time again. I asked on twitter last week for some funny posts and these just made me roll.

#1 Social Networking Parody
Sent in by: jalam from the Random Thoughts Blog
My Rating: PG
My Laugh Rating: 9 stars out of 10

It is so funny because it is so true.

#2 - Rowan Atkinson Live parodies Shakespearean Tragedy
Sent in by: adrianbruce from Australia (has a cool games website)
Rating: G up until 3/4 of way through
The first half of this is hilarious to me.

#3 The Overzealous Principal by Rowan Atkinson
Sent in by: adrianbruce
Rating: PG (for one word at the end)
This is so funny.

#4 Wii Fit Parody
From: kpruitt
Rating: G

So, have a little funday with your Monday.

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Sites that Caught My Eye Today 05/12/2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Mom Wanted for Mother's Day: Downgrade me to XP!

Last Mother's Day I was commissioned to pick out the best laptop in the world for Mom by Dad. I did, or so I thought. It is an amazing IBM Thinkpad and we got everything for her.

Mom is a former computer teacher and pretty proficient, but she has a temperamental satellite internet connection and doesn't like to be a "geek," she raised one (me) so she's earned the right to let me do it.

So, we went with Vista because that was "the thing" (and IBM recommended it - now they've posted information on downgrading on their site however Mom just called and they said "there is nothing we can do for you legally, mam, and if you downgrade you will have a mess." )

Buying Vista was a big mistake!

It has been nothing but trouble! It upgrades and updates every moment. The joke was when my sister got broadband cellular this week that I would borrow the card and blog on trips, she'd teach her online course for SCAD and Mom chimed in and said,

"Hey, Microsoft Vista can update while we're on vacation."

Vista has been a Disaster

To say VISTA is unusable is an understatement. I set Mom up personally and as soon as I leave, sometime during the week it asks a question that she doesn't know how to answer and she's down again.

I turned off the nasty user interface only to have it come back again like an awful hangnail.

And this week was the final straw. We're all on gmail so we can chat and my daughter tried chatting her grandmother.

Despite the fact we've chatted before and I set it up, now Vista is blocking gmail chat -- the point was, things work and then they somehow stop working.

Mom is no dummy -- she's taken over 500 hours of computer related courses at the local college from A+ certification to every application known to man. The problem is, she's not a geek because it would take a geek to make the darn thing work.

Maintenance Nightmare
Four months a go, I just had her bring me the laptop once a month to do all of the updates and fixes here, just to keep it working.

We have three Vista laptops on our campus of 85 computers and 3 servers. I've spent more time on the Vista computers than all of the other ones combined this year.

I've stayed quiet on the VISTA bashing, however, I'm completely fed up. I don't like doing things that make Mom's life miserable and that is what I've done.

If this is what Microsoft is going to do without Bill Gates, they are in trouble. I have no "dog in this fight," however, I will not have another VISTA computer on campus.

Mom asked me to give her this for Mother's Day:

"Will you downgrade my computer to XP so that I can use it?"

My answer: "Yes." And when I figure out how, I'm going to do it at school too.

I'm issuing this Complaint on Behalf of My Mom
Mom also asked me how she could best complain to Microsoft and that is when I promised to make this blog post. You see, computers are our lives now.

Mom's computer is her link to her grandchildren, her cookbook that she wants to publish (and can barely work on) her e-mail link with her family that lives out of town, and her calendar. It is simply her life.

And this part of her life is broken. I don't know why, but it is.

And the answer isn't in sending another enormous update that will cause her computer to freeze, stop responding, and be unable to use anything and for me to drive out there AGAIN... the answer is in having some programmers work out a way for every single person to downgrade and send them a CD.

As for now, more people than ever are looking at Mac's and Linux alternatives.

It is not just because Microsoft has released a bad operating system, it is because they are messing with our lives, and amidst all of the great tools that do work, we just don't have time for one that doesn't.

I've been using Microsoft since Windows 1.0 in 1987 and computers since the TRS-80 in the 1970's when I was eight and have never, I repeat, never had an operating system upgrade that I didn't eventually get used to and take to -- but this is it.

I've listened with interest on the "techies" I love like Leo Laporte and John C. Dvorak but this is the most important opinion. Windows Vista ... if Mom hates you, so do I.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. This blog's for you.

Update at 8:19 pm:
Mom called IBM to ask for the downgrade CD and they told her there is nothing they can do for her and "If you downgrade, you will have a mess, Mam." Mom is upset and says "Why bother, Maybe I should buy a Mac." This was a $2000 computer -- she should be able to use it! (They will only downgrade OEM Professional or something like that.)

Update at 8:53 pm: A friend of mine from Microsoft is helping me out with this problem. I am so grateful that I'm in tears. Although I was ready to take time off tomorrow and go get XP, Mom has already spent enough money on this and to have Microsoft do the right thing, even if it is in a roundabout way will restore her faith. I'm going to call her now.

(I have to add this -- I adore Windows XP and I LOVE Office 2007, they did get that right. Smart Art is amazing! I also really like the Expression web product as well that we taught in my class this year but this is just WRONG!)

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Help with Horizon: Do you have time to do a quick video?

We're putting out a call for help on the Horizon Project. We have deadlines fast approaching and would appreciate your help. Each video has a portion called an "outsourced video." This outsourced piece comes from another place in the world.

Ideally, this comes from the other students, but sometimes students struggle with getting these up and have technical problems. This is how you can help and learn something too.

Fulfilling an outsourced Video Request

1) Take a look at our outsourced video requests on the Wiki.
2) When you find a video you wish to sign up for, follow the instructions on this video to sign up:

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

3) Join our Ning (just let me know why you're joining and fill in the profile)
4) Film your video. (Please give the licensing and attribution information on the description. They must know who to cite and that you give them permission to use the film.)
5) Upload the video to the Ning.

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

That is it! We're trying to get these in by tomorrow or Tuesday the 13th at the latest, so we are on a tight deadline!

If you want to see how the entire process works, follow the video tutorials on this page, here is an overview of how the students will retrieve these photos. (This was designed to make the students the controller of the process - having the teachers funnel all videos created a bottleneck and there were compatibility issues.)

How they retrieve the videos

1) Install the Download Helper plug in for firefox (you must use firefox web browser for this to work.)

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

2) Retrieve the Video
A - Go to the Outsourced Video Clips page
B - Click on the hyperlink of your turned in video (which should be pasted under "received video"
C - Right click on the area outside your video and select the name of the video on the page you wish to download (it should be at the bottom of the menu.
D - Save it to your computer where you may find it (Suggestion: Make an hz08 folder)

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

3) Convert the video to a format that you may use

A- Go to www.zamzar.com and ask your teacher the file type that you will be editing. (Most PC's may edit .avi or .wmv files and most Mac's may edit .mov files.)
B- Select the file you just downloaded and e-mail it TO YOURSELF. Select the proper file type that you need.
C- Go in your e-mail and download the converted copy. You are now ready to edit it in your program

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

Why Creative Commons Licensing is important in this scenario
Yes, if you're wondering, this process may be used to "snag" just about any video on the Internet.

Once again, if it is digital, it can be taken, used, or "snagged." Teaching internal respect for copyrighted works is essential and we do this. Does this mean that some might use this improperly? Yes.

However, it is something we discuss and teach. We require citations.

Thank you for doing this -- remember to add the licensing for your work.
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