Thursday, October 26, 2006

Digital Media Production-October Update

We are nearing the end of the first quarter for our digital media production class. Students completed three video projects this quarter and we're in the middle of a project where we are practicing some new camera shots and techniques. Additionally, all students are working on a collaborative "wiki" project that outlines and elaborates on the skills we're learning in this class. Check the wiki out by visiting: . Feel free to add to the wiki if you have some experience in film, photography, or video production.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Game 2 of the World Series

I had a great time going back to Detroit to catch game two of the Tiger-Cardinal series. It was cool because on my way back home to Motown on Saturday I heard a replay of the '68 World Series game between the Tigs and the Cards where Bob Gibson struck out 17 batters in a single game...that was really quite cool. Saturday when I got home I went straight over to my sister's home to watch game 1. Many family members were there watching the game-my brother from DC, my nephew from Michgain, aunts, uncles, etc. it was alot of fun. On Sunday the weather was pretty foul leading right up until game time. My brother-in-law drove us downtown as he had tickets to the game as well. On our way to the parking garage we drove by the Spirit of Detroit statue and snapped the photo that you see here. My brother and I went to Comerica park about 2.5 hours prior to the game starting...we walked around and took tons of photos (see the attached group of pictures). Fortunately it stopped raining about 30 minutes prior to the first pitch. The game itself was awesome--Doug Jones even managed to create a little un-needed stress at the end of the game by loading up the bases before getting the final out. All-in-all, it truly was an epic weekend-while the tickets were expensive, it was a great time that I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Tigers are going to the World Series!!!

And so am I! I'll be out of the building on Monday, October 23rd due to the fact that I'll be at Comerica Park for game 2 of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and either the Cards or the Mets! My brother, Mike, is coming in from DC to go to the game as well. Who knows, maybe I'll even make a little podcast with some pictures from the big game in Detroit. Go Tigers!!!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

October Division Meeting

Chuck gave a really cool presentation on his summer civil war travel/camp experience going through Virginia. He shared some really nice pictures from his trip and told some neat stories (eg-the grave of Jackson's arm, the guy he talked to at the baseball game about "Yankee Aggression," etc). His trip was funded by a faculty grant program here at USM...his presentation inspired me to put together a proposal to go to a summer film institute of some sort.

Trudi gave an overview of our new portal system by Whipple Hill. She gave a preview of what the system looks like during a student, parent, and faculty login. At a minimum, teachers in the MS will use the portal to post nightly homework assignments-this doesn't require any more work on the part of a teacher as they're already posting homework assignments on web pages.

A 1/2 will be set aside for each grade level to work with Whipple Hill. We'll also take examine and explore some possibilities with tools of the "New Web." Blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks and their academic implications will be covered during this 1/2 day.

Monday, October 16, 2006

5th Grade Collaborative Wiki Project

I will be working with the entire 5th grade class during our computer skills meetings on a couple of collaborative Wiki projects. My goal here is to explore the frontiers of Wiki technology with a couple of projects in our computer skills class. We talked in class this week about how we all have a responsibility to use the wiki as a tool to effectively promote our ideas. We'll use this experience with our students and wikis to teach principles of ethical use of computer technology.

We will create two Wiki projects for starters...the first project is a computer "Tips and Tricks" Wiki. In this Wiki we'll highlight all of the cool tips and tricks that we know for working with computer hardware and software. We'll see what this collaborative Wiki becomes as we delve into this project more.

This first one is titled, "Milwaukee...from a Kid's Perspective," and may be viewed by visiting: . The project is fairly self explanatory, but our goal is to use our own background knowledge about fun/cool things to do in the city in creating a collaborative guide of sorts. This will kind of be an "" from the vanatage point of a kid. Again, we'll see what this grows and morphs into as we move along.

Later in the school year when we complete our Internet safety sessions during advising, 5th grade student will collaborate on a wiki about cyber safety topics.

Stay tuned for more information on our wiki projects!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

October LMAIS Meeting Summary

Kristin, the Upper School Technology Coordinator, and I traveled down to North Shore Country Day school today for the first of our two meetings for this academic year (the next meeting is schedule for Lake Forest CD on April 19th).

We started out with a lively discussion of social networking...most schools indicated that they block the big social networks such as myspace, facebook, xanga etc. All schools, however talked about the importance of figuring out ways to incorporate the popularity of social networking/blogging into the curriculum. We discussed the importance of educating students about the kind of content that should/should not post on their spaces. And we moved into a conversation about leveraging this technology in the classrooms—perhaps something this popular could be used to expand classroom discussions outside of the classroom.

Later in the meeting we talked about the role of technology support personnel in a school…is the role to provide services that teachers ask for, or should technology staff provide teachers with materials, support and suggestions that they think are applicable in the classroom--probably a never ending discussion but an important one to continue to come back to as technology and the needs of teachers/students change.

I asked a question about managing podcasting on an enterprise level…nobody really had a strong opinion on best practices for this tool. It is still hard for me to picture a way to do this on a large scale. It is nice that we're starting small with this technology!!

I asked another question about providing public side WiFi access in schools…some already have it, and some are preparing to make that service available. Some schools filter their public side access, some do not.

Near the end of the morning we talked about classroom presentation systems, their replacement cycle, and how they’re installed/managed. Latin school actually did 70 in-house installations this past summer for a cost of $5000/room. I think most people were pretty shocked by this. They do have a central control consul via a web browser/Crestron control solution that at a minimum allows all projectors to be shut down at a certain time if they’re still on. They also have a simple wall control that allows the teacher to push a button to select a source and it has a knob to adjust volume. That sounded like a nice, simple system with a central management solution that has the potential to lower maintenance/system operating costs over time (eg-bulb replacement should theoretically be less as projectors will not remain in the on position 24/7).

We had a nice lunch and walked around the school a bit before driving back to USM. All-in-all, it was definitely a day very well spent. It was fun connecting with this group once again as it has been over 2 years since I’ve been to a meeting.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Teacher Blogs and Wikis

In this post I'll create links to some innovative teacher blogs, Wikis, and interactive classroom websites.

Chris Craft's Website:
Excellent site-each student in this teacher's class maintains his/her own blog...the teacher also does some cool stuff with podcasting and Gcast (he leaves an audio file on his website through a telephone cool is that!!!)

What did the 5th graders do in computer skills this week?

Between October 6th and October 13th, 5th graders are shooting digital still photographs of the school campus. The tower, Victory Bell, Fine Arts Center, athletic fields, and the new Science Center are just a few of the places that we've been taking pictures of. The students really seem to be enjoying the experience...many have taken some really unusual and clever photographs using close ups and angles.

Next week in class we'll take these photos and arrange them in a timeline using Garage Band. Students will narrate the photos and add a little music--when they're done, they'll have a podcast tour of the campus at University School.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these project turns really is my first attempt to do a podcast with an entire group/grade of students.

Perhaps we'll start our own blogs next...who knows!!

6th Grade Cybersafety talk...round 1

On Monday I began the first of three meetings that I'll be having with the 6th graders on the topic of cybersafety. We met in Mellowes, which is an excellent space for large group meetings like this. During our talk we talked about the following points:

1. The importance of not revealing personal information in online forums...personal information includes things like (but is not limited to) age, sex, location, address, phone number, school, names of family members, etc...we discussed the importance of leaving profile sections blank when creating an account with any online communication service.

2. Choosing goog screen names and passwords...screen names shouldn't identify a student's A/S/L or other identifying features. The password should be a random set of letters, numbers and characters and should never be shared with anyone. Sharing a password with someone is NOT a sign of friendship.

3. We discussed the importance having a full understanding of communication software prior to actively using an account. Students and parents must know how to fully control the experience to minimize risk.

4. Homework assignment for 6th graders-complete the parent-student internet safety pledge.

5. Finally, we discussed the 6th grade outreach/community awareness activity...6th graders will be designing bumper stickers to highlight this topic in the community. The 1-2 most effective bumpers from each grade level will be printed as bumper stickers and passed out at the January Internet safety presentation.

Students and advisors will do a short bingo game review at some point over the next month in advising. Our next meeting isn't until January, so hopefully this will provide some kind of bridge between our sessions.

Next up for the cybersafety talks...meetings with the 7th graders in November and December.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blogging 101-Some Ideas and Suggestions for blogger wannabees!!

In this post I will attempt to break down the myths about blogging, compare/contrast blogs with traditional web sites, and give some tips for getting started with blogs if you are interested in doing so…I’m certainly not an expert in this area, but I hope this serves as a useful guide if you’re considering a blog…

What is a blog??
Blogging really seems to be the craze of the Internet of late. It seems like just about everyone is blogging these days…from Marines stationed in Iraq, mountaineers in the Himilaya, the over 100 million registered users, to Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. What is all this hulaboo about? Some people blog to keep in touch with their families, others blog due to a special interest, and some blog because they are simply outstanding writers who are looking for a venue to share their thoughts. A blog is basically a web page that has features that allow for more interaction between the blog author/editor and the visitors to the blog. Typically speaking, the blog editor (aka-“blogger”) will leave a post on a certain topic. A reader of the blog has the option of leaving a comment or spurring off in another direction relating to the blogger’s original post. A blog can provide a forum for individuals with like interests to express themselves and exchange thoughts and ideas. Myspace,,, typepad, and Windows live spaces, are all examples of web logs, or “Blogs.” By the way, the term “Blog,” is a contraction of two words: the “B” from the word “web” and the “log” from the word log (just like MODEM is a contraction of modulator/demodulator). Unlike traditional websites, blogs require no specialized software, are easy to update, and can be updated from any Internet connected computer on the face of the earth (unless you happen to be in China or any other country whose government applies heavy censorship on thought).

Aren’t blogs bad and dangerous?
Yes and no. Some blogs, like many different pages on the Internet, are full of content that is highly offensive, objectionable, scary, etc. If used inappropriately, a blog certainly has the potential to create a dangerous or embarrassing situation for a young person and/or family. Just search the news at google for myspace and you’ll get countless stories dealing with incredibly dangerous or embarrassing situations that young people have put themselves in. However, many blogs are extremely entertaining, informative, and enjoyable to read. From first hand accounts of an aid worker in Africa to the musings of an owner of a professional sports team, blogs have the promise to be an excellent forum for individuals interested in discussing their interests, the news of the day, sports topics, etc. Some people blog as a form of entertainment…it is really a hobby to some. Blogging definitely isn’t for everyone—some people view blogs as very boring and uninteresting (and many are incredibly dull). It is important that any blogger fully understands how to control their blog via software settings prior to creating blog posts.

Controlling the blog experience:
A host of settings for the blog allow the user to customize and control the experience to his/her liking. It is essential that an individual who is interested in blogging become knowledgeable about these settings prior to going live with the blog. For example, will you allow anyone in the world to leave a comment relating to your posts? Or, will you allow just the “members” that you invite to join your blog to leave comments? Some blog services even allow the blogger to control whether or not the blog is set to public (so anyone can read it) or private, which limits readership to the members of the blog. Student and family bloggers really need to become educated about the settings used to manage the content that will be visible/invisible to the world. My recommendation for student and family bloggers is to only use blogging services that allow a blog to be set to private, which means it is only visible to individuals that the blogger chooses. And just because a blog is set to private doesn’t mean it is totally secure. With that said, the student/family blogger should think carefully about the kind of content (pictures and text) that will be shared via the blog.

Choosing a user name for a student/family blogger when registering with the blogging service is critical. Even though it is fun to do so, the user name should not reveal any identifying traits, characteristics, hobbies, special interests, age/sex/location, etc.

Students, prior to blogging make sure you do the following:

  1. Talk to your parents and let them know what you would like to do with a blog—make sure they fully understand what you intend to do with your blog and make certain you have their permission to continue on.
  2. Read some blogs by others to see the types of things that folks blog about…this will help you develop a framework for what you would like to blog about.
  3. Determine with your parents the kind of material that your family is comfortable sharing in a blog format. Set rules and expectations for your blog. Read the safety tips at for more ideas and follow the links at the bottom of the myspace's safety page for more ideas on blog safety.

  4. Become extremely comfortable with the privacy settings and controls of the blogging service prior to posting. Again, I strongly recommend that families and young people restrict their blogs to only being visible by selected individuals that they know in the real world.

  5. Do not use your blog as a bashboard, bullying tool, or as a forum to spew foul language. Think of your blog as a resume of sorts—one that will set you apart from your peers in a few years when you apply for the college of your dreams or the job of your dreams. Good writers and good thinkers with character are in high demand in any university, corporation or organization. Make your blog something that you are proud of.

  6. Choose a non-descript user name—your user name should not reveal any info about you’re A/S/L. Your blog password should be made up of random numbers, letters and characters and should never, ever be given away to someone else. Password length should be 6-8 characters or so.

  7. Do not fill out any profile information (eg-questions relating to age, sex, location, special interests, etc. And although it might seem fun to do so, do not fill out surveys-they typically reveal information that should not be shared in a public forum). Profiles are typically public even if the blog and blog posts are set to private—this means that others can search and read your profile, even if your blog is private.

  8. Remember, the Internet is a very public place. Even when totally restricting your blog, there is still a chance that information could get out to people who aren’t members of your blog. Because your blog isn’t totally secure, you should never reveal private information in your blog posts. There are always risks involved with setting up a blog, even if you do everything the “right way.”
  9. Be discerning about the kinds of pictures you reveal. Pictures of you or your friends in comprimising situations and positions could come back to haunt you some day.

  10. Share your blog with your parents, family members, friends and teachers. Your mom and dad should be regular readers of your blog.

  11. Also, some blogging tools have a feature that prevents automated spamming computer systems from leaving comments on your blog. Some blogging services call this feature “word verification,” and I recommend turning this on. Word verification requires that a user completes a word verification step prior to creating a post or comment. This makes your blog less susceptible to unwanted comments from these spam systems.

  12. Take an oath that you won’t use your blog as a substitute for an old school journal where you write down your thoughts and feelings. Using a blog as a replacement for a personal journal has the potential to make you feel extremely embarrassed at some point in the future—and doing so could put you in an incredibly dangerous situation as well. Keeping a personal journal is a wonderful idea—just do so with a pen and notebook and place it under your bed where nobody else but you can read it.
Blogging Tips for Teachers-
Many of the above tips are applicable to teacher bloggers as well. Plan your blog carefully and consider the privacy settings thoroughly prior to proceeding. Below you will find some additional tips:

  1. If creating an online community via a blog with your students, you should inform the parents of your intentions. Let parents know the reason for blogging with your students—explain the educational value. You might even have the parents sign a short permission slip for their student.

  2. Consider using a blogging tool with your students that sets the blog to private. And then only grant access to reading, creating, and commenting on posts to the students in your class.

  3. Depending on the blogging service, students will need to create an account prior to beginning. See the above recommendations for having students create user names and passwords. Students should not add any information to their profile-a user name and password typically are the only two things required to get going on this.

What might a teacher use a blog for?
The possibilities are absolutely endless and are only limited by the scope of one’s imagination…

A few ideas for your blog:

  1. Reflections on the world of teaching…

  2. Share ideas with other teachers about best practices….what worked well for you in that lesson? Or what totally tanked? Share some clever classroom management techniques that you’ve acquired through the years…have others leave comments and share their own suggestions.

  3. Use your blog as an extension or replacement for your current static website. You could use it to give homework assignments out and make general announcements.

  4. As a means to conduct peer review and editing sessions with students-have students post their writing samples as a blog entry and then encourage others to post comments.

  5. Continue your class discussions outside of the four walls of your classroom…what about the quiet, yet thoughtful kid who doesn’t feel comfortable talking in front of the class. Or don’t you hate it when you are in the middle of a great discussion and the bell rings? Blogs have the potential to address these situations in very meaningful ways.
  6. Book clubs/discussion with other colleagues, friends and/or students.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Technology in the Middle School--what is your vision??

Given the fact that we're going to experience a fairly significant remodel in the next few years, I began thinking about what technology will look like here in the Middle School after the remodel takes place. How many labs will we have?? Will we continue to have a mobile laptop lab? Will Apple computers be used more and more in the Middle School? What will we be doing with fine arts and technology in 3-5 years? What will faculty websites in the Middle School look like? Will they come to be more interactive, or will they more or less remain the same? What about student owned a survey from last year, over 90 students indicated they own a laptop computer of recent it possible for us in a meaningful and coherent manner to leverage these student owned computers here on campus?

What about student portfolios-it might be interesting to have each student in the Middle School maintain his/her own digital portfolio in the form of a blog. That might be kinda cool. We currently have all of our faculty members maintaining a web space-might we do the same with students??

Is there any new hardware or software that we might envision using here in the next few years??

Please respond in any manner that you'd like...whether you want to write narrative or bullet points, I really would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the future of educational technology here at USM.

September Division Meeting

Thanks to Chuck for sharing how he utilizes United Streaming and Microsoft's ClassServer in his classroom and curriculum. Chuck showed us a live demo of both of these interesting tools United Streaming is an educational video on demand service where you can download excellent materials for sharing with your students. ClassServer is a tool used to create assignments for students to complete and submit electronically.

Several teachers are now using ClassServer with their students...thanks again for Chuck for sharing these tools with us.

At the October division meeting Miriam will be giving an overview of Garage Band, which is a cool software application that runs only on a Mac.

Perhaps in a future division meeting we'll do a demo on blogging...what is is, how it works, how it might be used, etc.