Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: March 2009

Next Year In Twitter

Pharaoh, the king of ancient Egypt, is often d...Image via Wikipedia

Next week I will be hosting my family’s Passover Seder. It is a lengthy affair: a big meal preceded by the telling of the story of Moses, Pharaoh, the Plagues, and all the interpretations of each word through the ages.

This year I am tempted to print copies of this Facebook version of the story to hand out to all attendees. It certainly includes the details, despite the irreverence. I particularly like how the closing refrain, “Next year in Jerusalem,” has been modernized to “next year in Twitter.”

So it is Facebook, sort of, and it tells a story, absolutely. The page reminded me of the Facebook pages Mrs. Kuhns’s students created as character analyses for their novels. When I worked with Mrs. Kuhns, I limited the idea to Language Arts.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a history social network with kids taking on the roles of generals, presidents, inventors, etc? Instead of just images, students could link to videos, audio files, and outside sources.

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Rule Your Brain

Since learning happens in the brain, teachers should know how the brain works in order to make their teaching more effective. This was one of the lessons learned at last week’s staff development, which included hearing about a few of the Brain Rules in John Medina‘s book.

We now have a copy of the book in each of our media centers, and I hope they will be in high demand.

If you are waiting for your turn to check out the book, you can get a jump-start and watch all of Dr. Medina’s videos, which can be found on his YouTube page.

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21st Century Job Hunt

On Monday afternoon I listened to NPR’s All Tech Cinsidered segment focusing on finding a job in the current economic climate.

Employers and job-seekers alike are leaving the traditional bullet point, single-space, single-page, buzzword-overload sort of resume behind. Employers are looking for the REAL story behind the applicants, something a flat page can’t tell them. Job-seekers are getting creative with videos, web pages, blogs, and profiles on social networking sites to pump up their image and highlight their skills.

What many educators still see as “fluff” is now a vital part of the education our students need. Creating visually-applealing artifacts that communicate a story effectively is no longer just for kids going into careers like advertising and design.

Along with the story job applicants want to tell, they have to be aware of the story they tell unwittingly. The story of the Cisco Fatty (how to lose a job in one Tweet) is the perfect example.

Along with the skills to create the content, students need to learn how to manage their online presence. I would venture to guess that, as our students become more savvy nettizens, they will be more likely to be harmed by a poorly-worded online statement than by a predator.

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Clean Screen

Newspapers have been in the news lately. The Rocky Mountain News closed completely, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went online-only. I don’t mind, but some people don’t like looking at a busy screen with flashing banners and links going up and down the margins, like the Washington Post.

Here is the same article in a much more readable format.

On the right you have Readability. On the left you have TidyRead. They both make web pages easier to read. Play with them and pick the one you like best.

This would be a good tool to share with your students to help them read with fewer distractions.

And for watching video, give QuieTube a try. It lets you watch YouTube videos without the surrounding mess.

Ada Day

Ada LovelaceImage via Wikipedia

I read Webware and TechCrunch about once a week, and every week I have the same question. Where are the women?

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Take a few minutes to read about her and share with your students.

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Into Space

KSC-06PD-2670 KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, ...Image via Wikipedia

Tonight I watched the space shuttle launch, streamed live from NASA. The last time I watched a space shuttle launch was 23 years ago, in school, and we all got to see the Challenger break up. I had not intended to watch tonight, but my children kept calling and telling me to hurry up every time a 30-second mark was called.

What a difference! The image was so crisp. There were many different camera angles: from far away, from under the fuel tank, from the side of the fuel tank, from the tower. And as every milestone passed in the countdown, a narrator gave a brief explanation of what was going on.

Then we had liftoff, and the camera on the external fuel tank showed us the underside of the shuttle as it rotated and sped away from Earth. We got speed and distance updates for the next ten minutes, along with data regarding the thrust generated at liftoff, the weight of the shuttle and the tank, and the options available should one or two of the engines fail.

I have a long list of possible lessons for our Physics Wiki project, all much more exciting than “Pretend Peter drops a soccer ball from a bridge.”

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It is widely known that we are very fortunate to have so many technology resources here in Goochland. In the current economic climate, a decision  has been made not to expand those resources next year. When I first heard this, I frowned.

Today I found this quote on the e-rgonomic blog and I had to nod my head.

Negropontitis: “No vaya a ser que mañana nos encontremos llenos de computadoras de Negroponte para luego descubrir que, en realidad, no pasa nada pues lo que necesitamos cambiar no son las conexiones digitales sino las conexiones entre actividades y prácticas dentro del aula”.

Loosely translated, I hope we don’t find ourselves overloaded with Negroponte (OLPC) computers to later find out that, in truth, nothing is going on. What we need to change are not the digital connections, but the connections between activities and learning in the classroom.

No new resources may not be my dream come true, but we have to look at the situation as an opportunity to bring about some good.

I hope we can change the focus of our professional development offerings. We’ve taught the basics for all we currently use, and now we can move to classroom practice, to effective pedagogy, and aim at deeper student engagement and more meaningful learning activities.

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Video Composition, Literally

I’ve had a bit of blogger’s block this week, but here is a fun video for Friday. It is a nod to Jenny Luca and her School’s Out Friday posts.

YouTube user Kutiman finds beats and musical notes in videos, then mashes all the pieces together to create a musical composition. Maybe Mr. Dacey‘s students will be inspired by this feat in video editing when they piece their tutorials together from iSight and document camera clips next week.

NOAA Shares

Recently I worked with a group of 7th grade students who were creating a webquest for the 6th grade students to learn about the Vietnam war. They complained that the Creative Commons section of Flickr didn’t have much that was relevant to their project, but they really wanted to spruce up their pages with meaningful images. My response was to point them to the National Archives and Library of Congress websites. Their images are not CC, but they are in the public domain. After all, they are owned by the people of the United States.

But what about more current stuff? How about scientific exploration?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, offers thousands of images for download. All you need to do in order to use them is give accreditation to the agency. From coral reefs, to hailstones, to satellite imagery, the photo library is amazing. And, everything is fully explained in very readable language.There are sections specific for younger kids. My favorite is NOAA’a Ark, a collection full of furry and feathery creatures.

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