Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Yard, Updated

When last I posted it was raining, on the 20th. The 21st wasn't much better, and it made me sad. Very sad.

More work has been done on the yard project. Last Thursday I stayed home, trying to use up my days at work before I leave, and I got some good work done...

I got to work for a short time last Saturday prior to Maryland Day then Sunday and Monday began monsoon season again.

Monday of this week I had planned to take the day off so my car could get worked on. Lots of plans for getting work done outside, then guess what? Yup, God is seriously displeased with me right now for some reason. Rain. More a-monsoon-would-be-proud kind of rain. But, because my car took two days to work on I took another day off on Tuesday (I love using up these days!!!) and got a ton done. The planter box is complete and I started working on the walkway while wifey was at her meeting and the kids played outside.

And seriously, how good are these kids? They let me work while the JAM and Red played and Pudge just chilled out next to me playing on his bouncey seat. I love these kids!!!

MICCA #2 - Will Richardson (again) on "Podcast, Vodcast, Screencast Nation"

I'm sitting in on another session with Will Richardson. This session should give us plenty of information about creating and using podcasts, vcasts and the like. I am looking forward to it.

Will is once again streaming his session using the ustream service that I am extremely intreigued with. His channel on ustream is

Lots of interest with ustream so he spent the first few minutes, unplanned, talking about this service. I love presenters who go with their participant's interests rather than sticking to some contrived script.

Ustreamtv - live streaming of presentations, recordable for achival
Will used camtwist for Macs - nice tools for video production - use with Windows?
Search YouTube for ustreamtv for instructional videos
You can password protect streams and send links out to certain people - great for use with schools.
Embedding possibilities - post into a teacher blog post rather than use the commercial ustream site - for teachers to use to create copyright - creativecommons section - 50 million photos to use as long as you cite the source

3 steps-Capture, produce, distribute
captureing - 3 choices - ipods w/italk connection, iriver, built-in mic
recording software - audacity, export as an mp3 - need lame plugin
upload to a server, send out a link
gcast - use phone to record, get a url to share
podomatic or odio - record right to their server,

capture - dv camera (look for a camera w/an external mic port and a firewire cable but usb2 is faster than firewire) or a flipvideo camera
produce w/ imovie or moviemaker
(see links on his wiki)

_digital storytelling_
combination of media
Alan Levine - cogdog - used 50 tools to create storytelling projects-

Will Richardson @ MICCA - read/write web

I'm at the MICCA conference today and I had the lucky pleasure to sit in on Will Richardson's Read/Write Web presentation. I saw his presentiaotn last year on RSS feeds and it literally changed the way I look at information and the possibilities for education.

His site for this presentation:

I took notes during the presentation, my comments are interwoven with quotes and ideas of Wills....

discussed limitations of physical space and how the web is erasing those problems through social networking - service collecting links to pirated shows and movies - not advocating its use *wink*

children going from a filtered environment at school to an unfiltered env. @ home and not knowing what to do, how to act

lack of creativity in pulic schools, prescribed curriculum

showed his cluster map from his blog - I thought of Warlick's cluster
he mentioned that every visitor to his blog was potentially his teacher and how you can't do that in physical space - social site relating to literature, mentioned that these tools are not being used in schools. how could they be used when you can't control the content? teaching smart security is one thing but you can't control the content. you can tell them to look away but the first glance will still happen. parents will not accept that.

using phone as a text finder - "all" students have these devices, why not teach them how to use them as an educational tool? have to start in early grades, can't expect students who've used them inappropriately for 6 or 7 years to all of a sudden use them in an educationally appropriate way.

MIT Open Courseware - sharing knowledge, content is everywhere. teach students how to find it, vet it (this site happens to be worthy content but not all sites share that distinction), find others who are also passionate about it, and they can build their own learning using new tools.

wikipedia - "collaborative construction of truth"
Colbert's "truthiness" - truth is what we feel is true, not what is actually true
kids are going to be creating content but without us teaching them to check their facts, ideas, find and use worthy sources

google docs running with skype at the same time, just like sittign next to another person who shares their interests

teach them to find up to date info rather than memorize info - example of memorizing # of planets.

errors in text books - problem is not that there are errors, it is that we or they can't fix it. so why still have text books????

getting outside the classroom - thinwalled classrooms. skype to bring outside resources in.
scratch from MIT?
having a network of anyone, kid 13 y.o. from perth teaching will's kids using skype !!!!! anyone can be a teacher.

"if you have a computer in the room you are no longer the smartest person in the room."

physical space is not where the best learning takes place. don't get rid of teachers, physical space is still important, but we need to tap into outside resources to access the best learning.

the "friday folder" - all the paper in the world coming home but kids will never look at them again -->
willowdale elementary - willowweb - podcasting - authentic assessments and activities

spoke about the people who don't get the need to change or are unable to affect the change. so, think about it differently. connect with other people, get more dots on your map. presentation was running on weblogged-tv - proved that people are getting together to discuss interests that are common to the group.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An old tool with a new face

I saw this post ( to Tony Karrer’s eLearning Technology blog ( and it intrigued me. Remember flash cards? Some teachers and students swore (still do?) by them, some hate them as another example of rote memorization that contradicts true learning. But, with the addition of interesting multimedia capabilities, and the ability of students to share their work and for teachers to create assessments based on these multimedia enriched flash cards, does this change the game enough for these tools to become appreciated and useful again?

An interesting conversation to have… I wonder if JAM is old enough to need these yet. Definitely next year when The Tests start. I hope he appreciates 2nd grade, 3rd grade will be all test all the time. I hate this monster we call public education and what the politicians have done to it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rain, rain, go away...

Please? No, seriously, GO AWAY!!!!!

Day 2 of the monsoon. It is really lovely to watch all of our hard work get literally washed away.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Here we go again...

Another project.... Someday I look forward to being happy with my environment. No major projects left, just maintenance to keep things going. But, today is not that day.

So, still no ceiling in my dining room (waiting on Dad to come up and help me with that last tidbit to finish up the bathroom project) but I had to start on the last outdoor project. I say "had to" because I needed to get the grass growing so the kids might get to use the lawn at some point later in the year. Why did I decide to take this on? The side of our yard is a swamp when it rains and any other time it is a barren, dusty waste where I can't get grass to take. When they built this place they put about a quarter inch of "topsoil" on top of a solid layer of clay and nothing will grow. To make things worse as JAM has been getting older and more active with playing games we have really killed anything that was trying to grow right around where we usually put home plate. :)

A face lift was seriously in order. You can sort of see the sorry state of the lawn in the pictures below. And up near the sidewalk is where the grass was growing the best! This isn't only a lawn project. I am going to finish off the planters by building the final planter between the front door and the back gate with a spot for a bench and a marble stone walkway. With all the tromping we do back to the gate the grass doesn't have a chance there so the walkway is a necessity.

Rented a pickup to help out with the project. On Saturday I made two trips to Home Depot and Lowe's to pick up supplies. They guy at Lowe's were not happy with me when I asked him to help me load all this junk into the truck. :)

I have really REALLY good friends. I can't comprehend how lucky I am, what I did to deserve such amazing friends. I asked, begged really, a few buddies to come over and help me bring in a few truckloads of dirt. Yup, shovel after shovel of dirt in a rented pickup on a cold and rainy day.

The families joined us for a cookout, or cookin as the weather still stunk later in the day, and it was a really good kind of exhausted.

Started really working on the installation part of the project yesterday. The install has been delayed a bit because after beautiful days in the 60's and 70's it got so cold during the overnights this week. I needed to put Thompsons on the landscape ties but the directions said not to if it was going to dip below 50 degrees. I finally gave up on that and treated the boards on Friday.

We had a lot going on yesterday, with our family participating in the March of Dimes walk and JAM's art class in the morning and then JAM's friends coming over to play I didn't have all day to work. I started to lay down the first course of landscape ties but realized that I needed to think about the drainage so I stopped that and only got to dig the drainage trench (man that was next to impossible - DAMN CLAY!!!!).

I was really looking forward to getting some boards laid down today but I wasn't sure because the forecast wasn't looking too promising. I knew it was a washout when I woke up to the rain (and Pudge's crying) at 6 this morning. It didn't stop for more than 5 minutes all day so half a weekend down the drain, literally.

He's growing up

A right of passage. As a kid I remember looking forward to baseball season and its first big event, the parade of teams. After playing soccer for two seasons JAM has joined his first baseball team and last weekend was his first parade. It was wonderful, and he was as goofy and happy as ever. Notice him putting his glove up in front of his face? Is he seriously old enough to think I am annoying or embarrassing when I want to take his picture?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yanks vs. Sox

I'm a Yankee fan. Have been since I could remember, like the late 80's early 90's. Remember the Yanks during that time? 1989, 74-87... 1990, 67-95... 1991, 71-91... Yeah, they weren't all that good. The last 10 years or so have been a lot more fun. Now, we have a new stadium to look forward to. Walking in to the old Stadium is almost a magical experience and if you have never done it I would recommend it highly. I took JAM on a pilgrimage in the fall of 2006 to see his first game there. I hope it won't be his last.

But, if you want to see a game there you'd better hurry, time is running out. And, tickets are being snatched up by J-A's looking to make some money on other people in the same boat as I am - wanting to watch one final game and having to try and find overly expensive tickets from scalpers. F'ers. I'm trying to plan a trip up there in June and I can't seem to get enough tickets for everyone who wants to go. Gotta find a way...

Anyway, if you've paid attention to the sports news lately you should have heard about the moron Red Sox fan who put the Otriz jersey in the concrete of the stadium. I hate Sox fans, sorry Drew. They take things way to seriously. Too many years of losing to the Yanks I would guess. This article was really funny and put a nice touch on the whole thing.

Yankees Bury Bernie Williams Under New Stadium For Good Luck

If this whole situation is any indication, it's going to be a long year.

Go Yanks!

Monday, April 14, 2008

I was working, really

In the process of searching for online training videos for my students to review and reflect on I was searching Google and found the following video. With a title like ninja training camp you just have to click on it. I was blown away. You've got to watch, and the bloopers are kind of funny too.


The miracles of modern life

I've been reading and learning about a very interesting thing we are all doing to ourselves without even realizing it. To set the stage - think about all of those plastic water bottles we all tote around. Even the refillable ones, the ones we all use thinking we are saving the environment by not buying throw-away water bottles from the vending machine. Good intentioned right? Well, not so much I guess. If you are like me, you never heard of or considered BPA. HUH? Is that like ERA or RBI? (no, and sorry, baseball is upon us once again and I am a very happy guy.) BPA is bisphenol A. Yup, bisphenol A. And what I want to know is if this stuff is so bad for us, I'd hate to see what bisphenol B or C would do. :)

So, why is this stuff on my mind? Check out a report by Consumer Reports:
Q&A: Baby bottles and bisphenol A

Now think about all of those bottles that our kids use. Are you one of the parents that boil your baby bottles in the hopes of making them cleaner? Well, thank goodness wifey and I are so lazy! No boiling for us! But we do use a ton of plastic reusable water bottles each and every day. Modern convenience is wonderful, but we have to think about all the garbage we are putting into our bodies. We will either all kick it at 55 or live to be 200 with all the chemicals we are ingesting.

***Update*** 4-21-08 - Another reason to move to Canada...
Canada may designate BPA a toxic substance

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Which network is right for me? diigo vs.

I am confronting a conundrum. I recently started using, I mean really using, I started a while ago but only recently did I realize its potential. Too many times I had to try and remember a site that I saw ... on or an article that I read. Too often I couldn't come up with the answer and it was affecting my work. Not in a huge way, but I certainly would have been more efficient had I started really using this a while back. Live and learn. seemed easy enough to learn and use. I really enjoyed Lee Lefever's video that explained social bookmarking and focused on It was a new tool that I didn't really understand at first and it was simple and intuitive enough to let me get it.

Now, a colleague of mine has started talking to me about diigo. It seemed overwhelming to me. The video they have on their site gives a good description of its capabilities but I am wondering if it is too much. Do I need to do more than bookmark sites? The diigo people I think have sensed this conundrum and created a page that highlights the differences between their service and and regular 'ol computer based bookmarking. Here >>

Diigo seems to do some cool things that might take my bookmarking to a new level, allowing me to remember or find those small tidbits of info you think of days or weeks later. Not only can I save the URL but I can highlight parts of the page to draw my attention to specific things later. Sounds good, but I have a feeling that I am like some other users and this tool seems a little overwhelming to me right now. I also have a feeling that I will be fine once I jump in (I'm a total chicken when it comes to jumping in the cold pool at first too :-D).

More later I guess....

Friday, April 4, 2008

"Kids just being kids" certainly has changed

I came across this article today about a group of third graders who hatched a plan to knock their teacher out, tie her up, handcuff her, then stab her while other students kept watch.

Hell in a hand basket folks. That is where we are going...

My favorite line of the story came at the end where the Principal stated: "We have good kids." I'm sorry, WHAT? Don't jump on me about a few bad apples and all that. Sure, I am certain that most of the students in her school are great kids. But to try to downplay the situation with this statement is just rediculous to me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My long haired rocker

A son is born. The father imagines all the possibilities. Doctor, lawyer, President, teacher (sorry, had to throw that one in there), maybe even a world famous rocker? Yeah, my son, in front of 80,000 screaming people. Adored by fans the world over. Sounds good right?

How is this for a start?

Not exactly hard rocking, although he does have the head banging going pretty well. The long hair makes it look cool too. Not sure the sisters Sledge had a young white kid in mind when they performed this particular song. :)