Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Research to Be Done

In my school district, there has been a lot of negativity toward spending money on technology. The school board has questioned whether having students using technology in the classroom is even worthwhile in and of itself, much less spending millions of dollars for them to do it. They view technology as a distraction and they want to see concrete evidence to support its use.

Today, through a blog by Jim Gates, I learned about a research study that will be conducted by the University of Indiana. They received a grant for $3.1 million to conduct this research and it very well could provide some of the first real concrete evidence of the importance of students using a variety of technologies available to them.

I, for one, will keep a close eye on this one. It isn't enough for some people to see the connections, excitement, and real world application that these technologies provide...they need to see 'how it effects the test scores'. Personally, I think that we are helping our students learn and we are better preparing them for the world ahead by teaching them the skills they will need, regardless of whether scores go up or not as a result. Maybe this study will help convince those who view it in a different way...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Open Source Applications

A recent online article from CNET dissecting various open source applications that rival those that we pay thousands of dollars for! I, for one, have used 2 of the 10 applications highlighted in the article (Audacity and Firefox) and they are good alternatives to paying for applications. I will surely try out the other recommended apps, though. Let me know if you have used any of them and what you think!

Thanks to Jeff for the link!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks is Thanksgiving, and the start of a busy season in all of our lives for the next few weeks. As tradition has been upheld, today started with a parade (which we just finished watching) and will continue with food and family and some football watching later in the day. Beyond the traditional activities, though, today is a day to give thanks for what we have.

Today, I would like to give thanks for what I wife and two boys, my family and friends, and a profession unlike any other where we see the joy of our students come out in many different ways. I give thanks for my social and professional networks, allowing me to grow as an educator and a person. I also give thanks for the tools that we have available to allow for all of the connections to take place. We are in a world we take some of these technologies for granted (my boys will never know what life is like without a high speed internet connection) and it is important for us to remember that we indeed are lucky people.

So, my friends....Happy Thanksgiving to you....and be sure to give thanks for the wonderful things in your own life. Feel free to leave a comment here to share with everyone what you are thankful for.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Modeling Use

I was inspired by a couple of blogs that I read this week, just haven't had time to respond to them until tonight. It is important for us as educators to 'practice what we preach.' and this is true for educational technology as well.

If we are working with students with different technologies, then we should be modeling that in our own lives. This idea of modeling the use of technology has never been more evident than when I read Karl Fisch's post the other day about Dan Maas. In his post, Karl explains the Mr. Maas is the CIO of Littleton Public School in Littleton, CO and he has maintained his blog for about a year now. The blog is intended to be an open line of communication with the public. Here is the explanation from the blog:

The LPS Community Conversations Blog, which can be accessed on the home page of the district website, provides yet another way for LPS key decision makers to hear from students, parents, employees, and community members. Periodically, a new topic will be posted, and fellow bloggers are invited to share their thoughts and converse with one another on that topic.

Recently, Mr. Maas had a post about Maine's 1:1 laptop initiative showing that student writing is improving. After he published the post, there were over 20 comments in response. Interesting enough, most of those comments were from the ninth grade class at the Arapahoe High School (in Littleton) who have laptops in their classes and the impact that it has on their own classes. I am very impressed that these students, without an assignment, without prompting, responded to the post by their CIO. It is surely impressive the voice that the students were given, but
the students have clearly benefited not just from the technology they have been given, but from the teaching and modeling that has taken place in their school district starting at the top!

The other post that was encouraging was from Jeff Utecht. In his recent post he posted two projects done by students in his schools using Web 2.0 tools (one is using Voicethread...very cool!). It was encouraging to see students engaged in their projects, not just doing the projects. Jeff was obviously pleased with the results, as he should have been. Talk about enhancing an experience! It is evident that the students truly benefited from the technology they were given, not hindered by it. It was available, it was accessible, it was embedded in their classrooms!

We, as teachers, spend a lot of time with and for our students and sometimes the fruits of our efforts are not immediately evident. In the field of educational technology, it is fun to see positive results from our students and leaders.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


So..the world of social bookmarking is well in force, but I wanted to bring to your attention Diigo. According to their site, the name "Diigo" (pronounced dee'go) is an abbreviation for "Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff." Essentially, it allows to not only save your favorite sites and share them with others, but it allows you to comment, highlight and annotate sites, as well! In a school environment, this is a great resource to share approved sites with students and grade level teachers!

To get started, you can simply create an account (takes about 3 minutes) and install their toolbar (another minute) or mini-toolbar called a diigolet (no install required) and you are ready to roll! As you are navigating the web and find a site that you want to share, simply click on the 'Diigo' button or right click and choose the Diigo option and it brings up a window. There, you can name the link, tag it for subject areas, grade levels, etc. and add your own comments about the site. Where ever you are, as long as you have an internet connectioin, you can get to your links!

Also, in Diigo, you can add a network of friends to share sites or create and share sites as a member of a group. In this case, you can have multiple Diigo users grouped together and their resources can be easily shared with each other. Let's not reinvent the's fun and easy to share with each other!

There are other social bookmarking sites out there, but so far, this one is my favorite...go see for yourself!