Archive for May 2006

Visual News

May 30, 2006

Kyle Stevens (my fiance) sent me a pretty cool link today. According to the site, “Buzztracker is software that visualizes frequencies and relationships between locations in the Google world news directory. Buzztracker tries to show you how interconnected the world is: big events in one area ripple to other areas across the globe. Connections between cities thousands of miles apart become apparent at a glance.” So basically, you can click on a location on the map and see how it is connected (through the news event) to other locations in the world.

As I was reading about Buzztracker, I came across another cool news site. “Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator.” Kyle thought this site was a little busy, but I really like it. You get a visual depiction of the news of the day by how often it is reported (it is really colorful), and you can click to turn on or off different categories so you are only seeing what you care about.

Wouldn’t these sites be fun to use when students are asked to locate and follow current events?

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Training Wiki

May 30, 2006

I will be teaching a short 1 1/2 hour session on wikis for about 25 teachers in my school district on Tuesday, June 6th. I brainstormed some ideas of how I would like to present the training, and then I thought, “Why not do it in a wiki?” So, that is what I have decided to do. I am not completely finished setting it up, but this is what I have so far. I would love your feedback and any additional resources you can send me.

You Can’t Graduate… Yes You Can… I Mean No You Can’t

May 27, 2006

Apparently we are back to square one… California High Court Reinstates School Exit Exam

Stop the Madness!!

May 23, 2006

I have been noticing a rather disturbing trend in my school district. More and more sites I think are useful instructional tools are being blocked. I have gone through Websense to try and have them re-categorized and have submitted the sites to the district admin. So far, I have successfully had two sites unblocked for the remainder of this school year only. When I questioned staff at the Ad Building about this trend I was told that unfortunately it may be the direction we are forced to go next year. I don’t accept this. Are we really going to let the negative media attention focused on social networking sites and the fear it has generated dictate the resources we use in our classrooms? Apparently, yes, this is a big possibility.

The logic I keep running up against is, “You can do that with another program.” The “program” being referred to is usually Blackboard. Yes, Blackboard is an outstanding course management system, and yes, you can do a lot of things with it, but you can’t do everything, and you certainly can’t do everything as well as you can by incorporating other tools as well. Let’s use blogs as an example… Yes, Blackboard offers a discussion board feature which enables hyperlinking via HTML coding so responses can “connect” to outside sources, but in my opinion, you lose one of the biggest positives of discussions when you limit them to enrolled users only… an authentic audience and a voice from outside the walls of the classroom.

This argument, “You can use another program,” makes me think of an analogous situation like, “Just use your shoe to hammer in the nail.” Sure, it can be done, but it is not the best tool for the job. Why do we feel we must limit what are students have access to in order to make them “safe”? Why can’t we educate them on how to use tools appropriately instead? And while we are at it, why don’t we educate parents, teachers and society at large about the positives of social networking sites and Web 2.0 technologies so they can see what there kids will be missing if we block access to these outstanding tools.

When you get some time, check some of the sites that could be on the chopping block and think about what the students might be missing…

WT Hanes Podcasts
Westwood Wikispaces
Global Voices
BD Room #304
BD Room #304 Wikispaces
Talking Teddies

Please comment and add some instructional Web 2.0 sites to the list. I can use all the positive examples I can get. 🙂

Curriculum is Dead… by David Warlick

May 22, 2006

I really enjoyed this post by David Warlick…

I especially like this statement, “My point? I’m getting tired of hearing people continue to ask for the evidence that technology helps students learn. It doesn’t matter. We know — that good teachers help students learn. We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.”

I Need Your Input

May 22, 2006

I am beginning to plan two sessions I will be teaching this summer for Irving ISD, and I could use your input. What do you think I should include? How do you think I should conduct the sessions? What advice do you have for me? What educational blogs and wikis would you show for examples?

The first session I will be conducting is Wikis. I have 1 1/2 hours for this course, and the majority of the attendees will most likely have little to no knowledge of what a wiki is or how to use them in class.

The second session I am teaching is Blogs in the Classroom. I have 3 hours for this session. I am sure several of the teachers signed up for this course know what blogging is, but they may not be aware of how to use them in class or how to create their own.

I am trying to put together a really good training that will get the instructors motivated to implement these teaching tools in their classes. I appreciate any help you can provide. Thanks in advance!!

Deleting Online Predators Act… BLAH!

May 17, 2006

I have been hearing and reading a lot about DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) lately, but I haven’t taken the time to really digest the bill and comment on it (imagine gagging noises here). I don’t support it, and I hate the knee-jerk reaction so many people always have that blocking sites is the best option. Most of the blogs and articles I have come across are opposed to the bill, and that makes me happy.

One of the comments I have most enjoyed was written by Chris Lehmann at Practical Theory. He says, “Some day, the public is going to really think about the values we hold as a society and realize that the internet only shows us the best and worst of what and who we are as a society. And some day, we’ll all realize that teaching kids to be active, involved citizens, able to make informed and intelligent decisions about the materials they read and post on the internet is the best defense against the dark side of the internet that gets splashed all over the news these days.”

Bravo!! He has more to say, so check it out.

I also really enjoyed a post by Vicki Davis of Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

There is a lot of discussion going on about this bill in the blogging world. Go out there and read some of the information, make some comments and get your voice heard.