Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Google Tool - Reader

Discover - Learn - Share

I have blogged in the past about the importance of RSS or Real Simple Syndication. It is a way to read blogs or subscribe to web pages so you don't have to visit the site every day to see if there are updates. Google Reader is a simple free tool to keep track of your subscriptions and let you know if there are any feeds you have not viewed.

CommonCraft - Blogs in Plain English

Take a tour of Google Reader.

Getting Started

Google Reader Help

Google Reader Help Group

Official Google Reader Blog

Interesting blogs to check out and subscribe to:

Directory of Education Blogs -

Directory of Teacher Blogs -

Kindergarten Blog -

Monday, November 3, 2008

Web Tool - Twitter

There are some things that you look at on the web and think - "I just don't have time for this!" When I first looked at Twitter a year ago, that's exactly what I thought. I created an account and left it sit for months. But then came back to it and was amazed at the potential. As with most tools, it can be a huge time waster and for a lot of people, that's just what it is. But for me, it is an invaluable tool. A tool I use for collaboration, personal professional learning, and sometimes a release from the real office.

So what is Twitter? By definition, it is a social micro-blogging service. That means you have 140 characters to communicate important ideas with your network of friends and/or colleagues. I have heard it called a "slow motion chat room" also. Some have referred to it as a group instant messaging system. However you think of it, the main point is that it connects you to those people you feel are important. You determine who your network of friends are and what you want to share.

Since my field is educational technology, these are the people I choose to befriend on Twitter. Our conversations include websites, ideas, surveys, etc. on how we can better use technology in the classroom.

There are really two major components of Twitter and they both have to do with building your network of friends. They are your Followers and those you are Following. You can see who others are following and who is following them. So, for example, if you know Tony Vincent is a great resource and you find him in Twitter you may start "following" him. He will update with some great posts and give us all some really valuable resources. Then, you can see who Tony is following and you'll see there are some people he is connected with that are pretty intelligent too! You'll soon have a bunch of really smart people to follow and be up to date with all the latest and greatest news they know.

As you find more people to follow, those people will start following you. To see what YOU have to share. Soon you'll have just as many followers as you have of those following you. You'll soon have a network of colleagues you can bounce ideas off, share resources, frustrations, coffee habits or whatever.

Get an account - it's free and if you don't like it, maybe there will be something else you can try. Good luck and have fun! Add me to your network!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Creative Inspiration

Computer MonitorIt was many moons ago that I started in my education technology career. As a student at UNK I was hired by Graci Gillming (who is now our tech training team leader at ESU 10.) At that point in my life my job title was "Internet Specialist." This included being the webmaster, showing faculty, staff and students about how to surf the Internet, send email, and all other things Internet. I loved it! All the networking (machine type) and programming was right up my alley. I had never turned on a computer before college and I took to this like a duck to water. It was my thing! Well a few years rolled by. I was "upgraded" to a full time staffer at UNK. Things were good.

During this time, Graci left UNK to work at ESU 10. She and her boss Alan tried to get me to move but I was getting college classes for $1/credit, insurance, the whole nine yards. It would have been tough to leave. I suggested they offer the job to Todd. He and I were good friends and talked a lot about technology and it's impact in education. He was a great fit and is still at ESU 10 as one of our top Windows support people.

Well, I finally succumbed to the pressure and left UNK. Although, I didn't go directly to work at ESU 10. My first stop was Centura Public Schools as a Technology Coordinator. I also moonlighted installing networks for several schools in the area and teaching adult night classes for the community college until a position opened at ESU 10. It was great. I was hired as the webmaster and programmer for the media catalog. I was the typical computer geek programmer type. Left brained like you wouldn't believe. I was the epitome of linear thinking. Bing, bing, bing - everything had order and a place and I was comfortable with that.

Peter H. ReynoldsUntil one day, I sat in on a presentation - a keynote actually - by Peter H. Reynolds at the NETA conference in Omaha, Nebraska. He inspired me to move on from by left brain ways and start working in both hemispheres. He inspired me to "Make your mark and see where it takes you." I started using his material more and more in workshops and it changed how I see the world and work with educators. The world is no longer black and white as it had been before, but now was covered in color and brilliance. It was an awakening.

Now I don't leave my office without my pencil bag filled with scissors, colored pencils, paint, glue and other creative tools. Instead of using the command line text editors, my computer has 3d tools, animation programs, photo editing software and more creative software. I believe creativity should be infused in every task we undertake. Splash it with color! As such, I have been enthralled with Fablevision and the mission it has undertaken infusing creativity and education. My wife and I are now Fablevision Ambassadors and we love to show the great things they are doing to spark the creative fires in teachers and students.

Crayon Line

Stay tuned for more on next Sunday's creative app - Animation-ish. Tomorrow's blog is a Web 2.0 site I can't wait to share with you! Until then...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November Blog Challenge

There are a couple of us at ESU 10 who have taken on a challenge to write a blog post every day for the month of November. Several people in the educational technology career field have posted challenges and tips to better blogging. (See links below) As I thought about blogging, what I wanted to share with you, and how I was going to go about it, I came up with a plan. And so here it is...

For the month of November:

  1. On Sundays, I will write about creativity applications.

  2. On Mondays, I will share and write about web 2.0 websites.

  3. On Tuesdays, I will write about Google tools that you can use in the classroom.

  4. On Wednesdays, I will write about how you might consider use a cell phone in education.

  5. On Thursdays, I will write about using an iPod or other handheld.

  6. On Fridays, I will share a blog for you to read.

  7. On Saturdays, I will review the week and for a bonus, share a "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works" tip.

Shared by Deanna Stall:
30 Days to a Better Blog -
Blogging Tips for Beginners -
31-Days to Building a Better Blog -
10-Steps to Become an Edublogger -
Ten Secrets to Better Blogging -

Monday, October 27, 2008

Building a 21st Century PLN

Building a 21st Century PLN (Personal Learning Network)

As the clock ticks and pulls us further into the 21st century, it is imperative we give our students the skills they will need to succeed in their lifetime. I believe we all know and understand they will have jobs and a future of which we cannot even dream at this point in 2008. Technology and communication is changing faster than ever before and information is generating at mind boggling rates. It's hard to predict the next five years, let alone 15 or more years down the road.

This begs the question, how do we as educators keep up with the ever changing technology and information landscape. In the past when we needed to expand our skills, we went to college and received degrees in our content areas. We went to summer classes or took workshops throughout the year. We built networks of trusted friends and colleagues. We relied on books we received from curriculum publishers, periodicals and other print material. And, only recently, we began to depend on the Internet for other sources of knowledge.

We are finding out, however, this isn't enough.

So how does an educator in the 21st century survive the onslaught of information and new technology? By building "Personal Learning Networks," or PLNs. We already do this in the concrete world of people and books. Things we can touch and see. Now we need to expand that network so it covers new technologies to help us stay afloat. There are many ways to organize and categorize your PLNs but I challenge you to gather all the resources available to you in one location.

Knowledge may be obtained from people, places, events or resources. When we think of these four centers, we recognize they are the who, what, when or where in our knowledge mining process. Is it possible then, to build our PLN upon these centers?

People - This center's focus is on human contact, conversation, and the basic interactions we have with people on a regular basis. They are friends, colleagues, business partners, family, parents and others with whom we communicate.
Building your People network:
  • Mobile Phone - List of contacts, similar to your address book. The phone also allows for texting messages, sending and receiving pictures and other media, and even accessing Internet resources.
  • Instant Messaging - Create a buddy list of people who also use instant messaging tools such as MSN, AOL, iChat, Skype or other service.
  • Video Conferencing - The ability to have meetings with video cameras is becoming more and more accessible to the average educator. You may have access to a distance-learning system with a video camera in your district. There are also desktop based utilities to hold desktop-conferencing sessions right from your computer. These would also include video based MSN, AOL, iChat, and Skype to name a few.

Places - This center's focus is a location or geographic setting in which you can learn.
Building your Place network:
  • Distance-Learning Enrichment Sites - These are places you can visit with distance-learning equipment located in your district. Visit and tour zoos, museums, labs, parks and other locations that would otherwise be inaccessible.
  • Colleges and Universities - These pillars of academic excellence provide a wealth of knowledge and resources on their websites, course-management systems and iTunes U.
  • Businesses - Businesses may provide resources for you in your community, regionally, or internationally.
  • Online Communities - There are so many "social" networks being built now, it is important to use those also popular with your students and colleagues. Twitter is a popular micro-blogging utility. You may also find Facebook, Ning, Diigo or a similar community useful.
  • MUVE - or Multi-User Virtual Environments are becoming more and more popular. You will see services such as Webkinz or Second Life being used by your students or colleagues.

Events - This center's focus is an event you could attend. One advantage of virtual events is you can review the content after the fact.
Building your Event network:
  • Webinars - A webinar can be a meeting, course or other event that is held with (usually) only a web browser and a phone connection. Many organizations are using webinar-type connections to bridge the gap of time and distance.
  • Podcasts - Many events provide podcasts or audio/video subscriptions to their content. The Nebraska Education Technology Association and the National Educational Computing Conference both record many of the featured presentations as podcasts you can review later.
  • Online Conferences - A new phenomenon is the advent of a completely online conference using course-management software and video content with presentation slides and handouts available to the participants. The K12 Online Conference is one such example of an educational technology conference held completely online!

Resources - This center's focus is something connected to the Internet to help gain knowledge. Below are only a few examples. You will find many other resources that fit your needs.
Building your Resource network:
  • Periodicals - Many information sources are providing material in the form of RSS feeds or blogs/podcasts. Subscribing to these services keeps you from having to connect to their site to see if they have updated their content.
  • Websites - We keep overwhelming lists of websites on our computers. With the advent of social bookmarking sites such as Delicious and Diigo, it is easier than ever to organize and share your bookmarks online.
  • Network Dashboards - Routers and switches have long been used to connect resources to the Internet. These devices will also provide you valuable insight in the use of your resources or just to find out if "the Internet is down."
  • Household Appliances & Everyday Items - More and more resources are being connected to the grid every day. It is quite helpful to know when your car needs an oil change or when you need to buy more milk. Your projection unit in your classroom may be need a new lamp soon. All of these devices can let you know a host of information via a simple text message or email.

So I challenge you, take a few minutes and gather these resources in one place so you have them available when you need them. You may even wish to invest in a device that allows you to hold most of these resources in the palm of your hand. New technologies like Google Android or the iPod/iPhone allow you to carry and access most resources anywhere, anytime. Other services provide tools like a dashboard that would provide you with needed resources at the click of a button.

It's not enough to only be content experts in our core subject areas and grade levels. We need to be connectors. Be able to connect with other educators in a multitude of subject areas, parents, community members and business leaders, and also regional, national, and global partners. These connections will allow our students to have a diverse perspective, and you will be a model of life-long networking skills.

For a list of links to resources referenced in this article, visit

Monday, September 29, 2008

2008 Trends in Technology

2008 Trends in Technology

What our 21st Century Students will face.

Everywhere we turn, we are faced with new advances in information and technology and how we consume or contribute to these. Good Morning America is using Google Maps to animate where the latest hurricane is hitting. NTV is asking for stories and pictures from viewers to share on "The Community Correspondent." Oprah has 3 live conversations of remote hosts via Skype. CNN is posting back-channel chats live as the news rolls on. Presidential candidate Barack Obama sends us regionally appropriate and timely updates of campaign news to our mobile devices. We are surrounded with an ever growing mountain of information and technology is the only way to sort through it all!

I believe these topics will be a few of the most important technology topics teachers can get acquainted with to better prepare our students for what they will face when they graduate.

  • 3D Modeling
  • Motion & Animation
  • Programming & Scripting
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Mobile Devices
  • User Controlled Environments

3D Modeling
Programs such as Google Earth and Google Sketchup will give you a feel for what it is like to navigate in a 3D modeling environment. We are so used to working in a 2D paper society, it is hard for us as educators to envision this type of world. I really like Google Earth because we have all used and touched a globe before. We know how it moves and what should happen when we apply motion to it.

Motion & Animation
Writing, drawing, pictures... these are the medium in which we have communicated for thousands of years. We now have the tools to take these objects and bring them to life with motion. With applications such as Animation-ish from Fablevision, we can start introducing students to basic motion and animation at a very young age extending all the way through their education.

Programming & Scripting
I am going to go out on a limb and generalize when I say most people think of programming a computer as a geeky, computer scientist, brain surgery skill level activity that only the brightest students can handle. A new wave of programming languages are popping up aimed at all age groups and all curricular areas. Most are based on the premise of teaching logic but also have the ability to tell digital stories, build games, explore new concepts, and manipulate and build dynamic, interactive media. With programs like Scratch from MIT and Alice from Carnagie Mellon U, we all have the opportunity to have fun programming.

Communication & Collaboration
This area has exploded with the advent of the "Web 2.0" tools available to us as educators. Social Networks have taken our students lives by storm. MySpace and Facebook are a perfect example of how students are using online communications to its fullest. Tools like Skype are bringing remote presenters and experts into our classrooms on a daily basis. Google docs allows us to share documents online in real-time for group collaboration and idea sharing. Web sites such as iEarn are global project sharing sites getting students and educators together all over the globe. The Internet is just beginning to show how the whole world is available to us if we want it.

Mobile Devices
We cannot foresee what our technology landscape will look like in 20 years. With the growth of information and technology, it's anyone's guess. But be sure, mobile devices will become more prevalent and more connected to the "grid." We already see more and more student acquiring mobile phones and at younger and younger ages. What does this mean for education and how we communicate with our students? Mobile phones, iPods and MP3 players, PSP's and other handheld gaming units are already showing us a glimpse of what is to come.

User Controlled Environments
Virtual worlds, games and other user controlled environments are coming on the scene with more and more veracity. It's hard for us to imagine these environments and how our students can spend so much time and money on them. Our minds are just transitioning from concrete music CDs and movie DVDs to virtual forms of the same information in mediums such as iTunes and Youtube. The idea of spending real money for virtual environments such as Second Life will take some time but it is already happening. Webkinz is even becoming more and more popular with younger children. And this experience of having control of your own online personality has an appeal to our students. They get to succeed or fail on their own, virtually!
These are just a few of the techno trends happening in our world. Our students are already participating and now we need to help them find relevance and rigor as they assess these tools for their own use.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I think blogs are about the most important communication tool of our time. There is much research to support this claim but what I really want to tell you is you should be blogging. You should be reading blogs for professional growth and personal pleasure. You should be commenting on others blogs. And lastly, you should have your own blog. We are ALL educators. You have experiences and opinions that matter.You have knowledge stored up in that gray matter - share it!

We are currently starting a new project at ESU 10 to support blogging on a whole new level. In the past we have provided a web presence for every teacher using Manila. We are refocusing our efforts and will be installing and implementing WordPress mu. A rough mission statement I created for the project:
Every educator should have access to easy to use, reliable and well supported technology infrastructures to support 21st century classroom communications. This project will yield a system of technology, support and training, established by ESU 10 staff and partners, to provide educators the opportunity to have a modern web presence.
Along these same lines, I ran across an article from Merlin Mann. The article is "What Makes for a Good Blog?" Check it out. I think you'll enjoy it. In the article, Merlin mentions a great blog directory if you are looking for a good place to start finding great content.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Model a learning environment...

"[Kids] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
Jim Henson (It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider)

Learning how to learn is the key to survival in the 21st century! The technology, tools, information, and everything we value now WILL change. Model a great learning environment and everything else will fall in to place.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Internet Filters

I just had to post this email I received to get your response. I would love to respond but as I learned from the keynote at NECC, the wisdom of the crowds is greater than the individual. What do you think so I can respond with wisdom and understanding?
Has anyone read the recent article in Network administrator. I
usually throw most magazines (junk mail) away but this front page
caught my eye. It describes how students are getting around filters.
Particularly 8e6.

Google 8e6 and you will be shocked.

Check this out.
To which a coworker responded...
If you want to read that article you will have to read it
from home though as it is classified as a "Web-based Proxies/Anonymizer"
site and will be blocked at schools.
I have left off names to protect the innocent! The the thoughts flow...