Thursday, July 13, 2006

No Family Left Behind Law

This is from Michael Winerip's NYT's column of July 12, 2006

"We need a No Family Left Behind Law. This would measure economic
growth of families and punish politicians in charge of states with
poor economic growth for minority families.

FOR example, in Ohio, black families earn only 62 percent of white
household income, one of the biggest disparities nationally. So every
year, under No Family Left Behind, Ohio would be expected to close
that income gap. If it failed to make adequate yearly progress for
black families' wealth, the governor and legislators would be judged
failing, and after five years, could be removed from office. This way
public schools wouldn't be the only institutions singled out for
failing poor children.

And if states succeeded in closing the economic gap, test scores would
be expected to rise, giving politicians and teachers a chance to
celebrate together."

I think that this is an idea that most teachers can get behind!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NECC, 2006 - Random Thoughts

The Read/Write Web, also referred to as Web 2.0, was a big part of the conference. Many sessions dealt with wikis, blogs and podcasts as easy ways for teachers and especially students to contribute content to the web. As Will Richardson put it, “A society of authors.” This was also said about the web not too long ago. The difference is that learning html or Dreamweaver requires lots of time while setting up a blog or a wiki on one of the many sites that offer them is relatively easy.

Many people were blogging the conference. I sat next to someone in one session who was typing right into her blog . She said everyone in her district who is at NECC is blogging the conference. This is one great way to create a district resource that teachers who did not attend the conference can use. Also, teachers who attended the conference have a blog to refer back if they forget something.

During one session the person sitting in front of me was looking at my blog during the session. I tapped her on the shoulder and said hello. Small world. In another session, I met a person who had emailed me about my blog the day before. The great thing about NECC is that the people who are using technology are at NECC using technology. There were laptops everywhere and the entire conference site offered free wifi access.

Some people were saying that educators should not take away the tools that kids are using at home when the come to school. The tools that they were referring to are cell phones, blogs and myspace pages. I believe it was Will Richardson who compared a myspace page to a beer commercial. He pointed out that there was the same amount of commercialism and sexual innuendo in the beer commercial as in the myspace page. The important thing is to teach students how to use these tools for educational purposes and publish responsibly.

In the exhibits area I was impressed by This company offers a web based file storage system for students and teachers. For about $1.00 per user in a school each student gets 100Mb of storage and teachers get 1Gb of storage. Students and teachers can take files that they are working on at school and upload them to the server. When they get home the files can be downloaded to their home computer. This is a great way to give students and teachers the opportunity to store, access and transfer files at school or at home. had a booth at NECC and their website,, is a useful research tool for k-12 students.

NECC, 2006 - Podcasting

How We Created Our Education and Technology Podcast Series
Richard A. Smith University of Houston-Clear Lake
Caroline M. Crawford University of Houston-Clear Lake

Smith defined a podcast as an old thing a radio broadcast with the difference being that the broadcast is distributed over the Internet. The history of radio and education goes back. In the 1920s – 40s instructional radio was the new thing. In 1930s there was even an instructional radio program to teach gymnastics.

Creating a podcast has more to do with creative ability rather than technical ability. Podcasts help students focus on written and spoken language. It is important to have students write it first. Check out this elementary school website WillowWeb -

Ideas for podcasts include:
News and sports program and other types of reports
Posting announcements and recording lectures but he is not too keen on recording lectures.

Presenters have a show called Education and Technology Today
Show has 3 formats:
Discussion between hosts
Hosts interview a guest
Guest serves as a third host/discussant

Their early podcasts were a bit slow, wordy and stilted.

They tried vodcast – video added to podcast but that added too much work so they stopped doing it. If you have a production crew it makes it more possible. They use an old laptop to record and edit their audio.

A headset is important to create a podcast. Omni-directional microphones record too much background noise. He recommends Audacity. Open source and converts audio to mp3.

Acting and speaking slowly is good. It is important to rehearse. Pay attention to the quality of your voice. Focus on speaking clearly, slowly and distinctly. Reading questions sounds stilted so be familiar with the questions if you are doing an interview and let the guest know the questions in advance.

Keep in mind that radio and TV productions have set the bar high for podcasting. Listen to radio shows like those on NPR to get an idea of how to do a show.

They recommended a limit of about 20 minutes for a podcast.

Web site considerations:
Web page identifies the people involved in the podcast and links to iTunes and ipodder. Need to set up a RSS file so that people can subscribe to it.

Education Podcast Network,, is a good resource. David Warlick set up this site.

NECC, 2006 - One Laptop Per Child

It was exciting to hear Negroponte talk about his One Laptop Per Child Program. I have been a fan of his and really enjoyed his book Being Digital.

Negroponte started by talking about Papert and programming and how it develops thinking skills. The act of debugging a program was key to learning about learning. Debugging programs got kids interested in thinking about how to fix what they did wrong. Negroponte thought that teaches kids applications like MS Word or Excel was not teaching kids how to think. He said it was a false notion that learning how to use MS Word or Excel well help them get a job. Technology is not about teaching it is about learning.

1. Use technology to learn learning not to learn something
2. Teaching is one, but not the only way to achieve something
3. Leverage children themselves – bring the children into the equation so they are doing more teaching and learning on their own.

Negroponte stated that Costa Rica is the poster child for success in technology education. He felt that telecommunications is not the problem, there are lots of ways to get online. The problem is laptops. One Laptop Per Child is the equivalent of the cost of a few airplanes. This is not about laptops it is about learning.

Sales marketing and distribution is 50% of the cost of a laptop. The display costs 25%. 75% of the rest of a laptop’s cost is used to support bloated programs. He feels that commercial programs have too many features that slow things down.

Their laptop operates at 2 watts so that a crank can generate enough power to run the laptop. Commercial laptops may use up to 40 watts.

$100 laptop is Open Source. Kids will do the maintenance. Peripherals include cheap servers, DVD drives and more will be made available. A global satellite provider will provide the Internet connectivity.

In October the program should be launched in several countries, Brazil, Nigeria, Thailand and Argentina with other places discussing it. Launching globally is very important. Nigeria is the primary test site because the environment is most challenging, heat, dust and lack of power.

Go to for any feedback to Negroponte about the program.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

NECC, 2006 California Streaming

California Streaming: A Golden Model for Rich Media Delivery!
Julie Drake, Central California Educational Technology Consortium with Laurie Maclin, John Magneson, Laura Smith and Steve Woods

California Streaming was my favorite session title at NECC. The session showcased a very exciting project – the creation of a statewide resource of streaming multi-media projects. Presently about 13 counties are participating in the project. Their website,, offers California educators an opportunity to join and download lots of free resources but, some resources on the site require a fee. This sounds like or other websites that provide media but there is an important difference here. Educators who are members of the group can upload their students’ projects or their own presentations. They hope that this participation by students and teachers will help them develop resources specifically focused on CA needs and standards.

California Streaming has set up an organized structure for searching viewing and sharing the work of students and teachers. The presenters pointed out that the projects on their site are great for learning and appeal to a variety of learning styles and are made by students.

California Streaming provides a safe environment for teachers to post digital media projects and to preserve and make available exemplary student projects. In effect, the more students and teachers contribute to the project the more they will have. This service is a non-commercial alternative for streaming and downloading multimedia.

Several student projects were showcased during the session and ideas about how teachers and students from across the state may collaborate on projects were also presented.

The model provided by this project should be used by other states to develop educational resources. Large and small school districts alike could also work together to share and develop classroom resources creating their own “wikipedia” of resources.

Monday, July 10, 2006

NECC, 2006 - eJournalism

eJournalism: Authentic Learning with Technology and Journalism
Gloria Antifaiff, Qu'Appelle Valley School Division with Kelly Ireland

I was drawn to this presentation because the title implied using technology as a tool for journalism. I wasn’t disappointed. This presentation showcased several successful eJournalism projects that have been completed by Saskatchewan high school students.

eJournalism began is Saskatchewan in 1999 and since then they have done more than 16 formal projects. eJournalism involves students working as teams to report on events such as a conferences or some other community event. The products of the reporting are newsletters that are distributed at the conference and web sites about the event. In the examples discussed at this presentation groups of 8 to 23 high school students in 11th and 12th grade were trained in the skills needed to do an eJournalism project and then traveled to a conference to do the reporting. Students get a special credit for the time out into the project.

Schools often sponsor sports teams or musical groups to participate in festivals or play in other towns. The great thing about this project is that high school students interested in journalism, writing and website development are given the same opportunity to travel that student athletes and musicians have.

The students selected to work on the projects have interests in writing and journalism and work in teams. The students participating in the projects come from across the school district and they start with some team building skills. This is an extra project that students do in their after school time. Students are assigned shifts and have to meet deadlines. Teachers take a minor role and are there for guidance and support

If you are interested in starting an eJournalism project the presenters suggested that you:
Get district approval first
Apply for grants to fund the project in addition to funds from your school district
Think about possible venues, they target conferences
Staff team should include students with knowledge of website design, video editing, photojournalism, newsletter skills, interviews skills, publicity and computer tech skills
Involve students that are self-motivated
Have in-district training days in school to build team skills and spirit before a trip

On site organization is also an important consideration. Where are you going to be located – the presenters liked to be in the display area so conference delegates can see the students working. They split things up into stations – writing, web page development, video editing, photojournalism, PR and newsletter interviews.. They rotate students though jobs over several shifts. At the end of each shift students had to complete a part of the project.

On site teachers go with students to sessions and provide some support but it is all about the students doing the work. Students are exhausted at the completion of the project but exhilarated. At the end of the project they meet celebrate and have closure.

I was very impressed with the quality of the planning by the teachers and the quality of work of the students. I suggested that the group seek funding from the conferences they were covering to help fund this exciting opportunity for student journalists.

NECC, 2006 GlobalSchoolNet Presentation

Reaching Beyond the Walls: International Projects and Partners Collaboration Center
Global SchoolNet Foundation,
Presented by: Yvonne Marie Andres and Al Rogers

Yvonne Marie Andres and Al Rogers made this presentation. They started Global SchoolNet, a site that is all about the power of global learning and reaching beyond the classroom. They have a long history of working to create shared learning experiences for students and teachers and their Global SchoolNet web site is one of the best free resources for setting up global projects. Global SchoolNet also connects schools to real explorers, competitions and virtual exhibitions.

If you haven’t come across their website it is a must visit. The description posted on their site says it all. “Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN), founded in 1984 by teachers who believed that in a connected world students need a global perspective, brings together youth online from 194 countries to explore community, cultural and scientific issues that prepare them for the workforce and help them to become responsible and literate global citizens.” Their goal is to move beyond the Internet as a library and use it as a communication and collaboration tool.

A library of about 2500 finished model projects is available on the site. There is a template that teachers can use to post a project proposal. Filling this out creates a project announcement that a moderator will review. If it is approved then the site lets other educators know about the project within 24-48 hours.

At this session they also talked about a Microsoft Partners in Learning grant they are using to set up the next version of their Global SchoolNet web site called iPOPP, International Projects or Partners Place. The new site is scheduled to go live in September 2006. This new improved site will offer the same free services as the old site with some exciting new tools. The new projects registry will have a tool that lets teachers who are proposing a project include the State Standards that the project addresses. Logs, wikis and journals will also be available so that the projects will live on.

The second part of the presentation was showcasing projects that have received awards. They give one US and one International award. Jennifer Wagner’s award winning US project was based on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Her website,, lists and presents many of her other collaborative projects.

Marsha Goren received the international award. In her emotional acceptance she stated that she learned that if we all share we all learn and that her project is about making people better people. She also said that her students reading and critical thinking skills have improved because of her sharing projects.

In addition, Sherry Rinkel McKay and Brenda Gladstone talked about their project on native Canadian people’s oral tradition and included videos of stories told by Native Americans.

The program with the participants encouraging teachers to look at the award winning projects and start collaborating on line.