Thursday, February 28, 2008

USM Parent to Present to Parent Study Group on February 29th!

Join us live via Ustream as school parent, Anne Reed, joins us at the Mequon Public Library to talk about her transformation from that of a Web 2.0 skeptic to that of an active blogger and user of social network tools in her career as an attorney.

The talk will begin about 10:10 CST her in Wisconsin (4:10 PM UTC/GMT) on Friday, February 29th. Click here to find the time in your time zone.

The link to the live video/audio feed may be accessed here. We will also have a chat room so you'll be able to participate in that manner as well.

We hope you can join us for this exciting presentation!

Students as Bloggers

Dear Parents-

It has been great to see such an active interest in our 5th grade students this year in blogging. Blogging has the potential to teach and foster a wide range of writing skills and of course it gives us the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with our children about what it means to be a good digital citizen. Clearly many students seem to be quite motivated to write on their blogs and I think this is absolutely wonderful!

My only concern with blogging is that the tool of choice seems to be This is the blogging platform that many teachers (including yours truly) utilize as our professional work spaces. One of the best things about blogger is that it incredibly easy to use. However, the terms of service state that users need to be 13 years old to use blogger. is a great platform for students to use as long as you are actively involved with your child and the development of the blog resource. We are in the process of finding a productive and developmentally appropriate blogging platform that will work for our teachers and students in the middle school. Stay tuned for more information.

Here are some general rules of thumb that we like to pass along to our students when they participate in online communities like blogs, voicethread, social networks and wikis:

1. Be selective about the kind of information you reveal online. You don't want to create a bogus identity because people in the online community will not come to trust you. However, you don't want to reveal everything about you either. To say something like, "My name is Bobby and I am a student from Wisconsin and I like football, fishing and playing golf," is much better than, "Hi, my name is Bobby Simmons and I am a 7th grader at Stevens Middle School and I live on Bedford Avenue in Stevens Point, WI." Last names, specific locations, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc are all examples of things that middle school students shouldn't post online.

2. Be smart about the kinds of images you use. Generally speaking, it is better to use a cartoonish digital avatar for your profile image than a true photo of yourself. Adults can use a a true photo, but middle school students should use an avatar. Create and use an avatar that is in good taste and is a positive representation of yourself and others around you. Check out the digital avatars that the 5th graders created for their educational Voicethread accounts and the avatars that the 6th graders created for their participation in the "Protecht Digital Citizenship" project.

3. Use the "Golden Rule" when leaving comments on blogs and communicating with others in the digital world.

4. Use your best writing! Of course mistakes will be made, but really try to put forth your best effort! Your blog and online profile is an extension of you!

5. Consider making the blog private for starters. Invite parents, teachers and a few friends to be readers and provide feedback. After you get comfortable with the blogging platform, then you can go public for the world to see.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the form of a comment or contact me directly.

Finally, I just ran across the following article that asks the question, "How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children?" I like this article because it provides a level overview and examination of this issue. It has some relevance to this whole notion of participating in online communities, blogs, etc. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on it.

Considering a laptop for your child? Consider the Asus Eee PC

About three months ago we purchased a $399 Eee PC from Asus. I blogged about this device back in December not too long after we received it. Several 8th grade students served as evaluators and trailed this device for several weeks at a time. A few wrote reviews, and those can be read here. One of our 8th grade student testers did an audio review with me a few weeks ago and you may listen to our conversation about the Eee PC online here.

The Eee PC is a super small, rugged and light weight computer that has more power than many desktop computer manufactured just a few years ago! If you are considering a laptop computer for your son or daughter, then you might want to take a look at the eeePC.

Here are some of the pros and cons of this device:

  • The price point can't be beat! This computer costs less than some cell phones!
  • Super small and highly portable computer.
  • Integrated WiFi-the wireless is really easy to setup on a home wireless network.
  • Excellent preloaded software package. It has a built in word processor, Skype for audio/video/chat, and many other useful software titles that our student test pilots have enjoyed (students have enjoyed the games piece quite a bit). You really don't need to buy ANY software for this computer initially. It has most everything a student user will need.
  • The laptop has a build in web camera and microphone for multimedia projects and applications.
  • For being so small, the device is surprisingly fast. The software runs smoothly and is quite snappy.
  • The operating system is Linux, but it looks and performs very much like Apple operating system or even windows. It is very easy to use and figure out. Our student testers received no pointers on using the device at all-they reported that is was quite easy to learn how to use the computer on their own.
  • The keyboard is small, but the student evaluators reported that they get used to it quite quickly.
  • Student evaluators reported that the clicker and trackpad were both kind of quirky. Some of the evaluators used it with a mouse and said this modification worked great.
  • The screen size is 7 inches, which means that surfing web pages will require more scrolling bother vertically AND horizontally.
  • Don't expect the Eee PC to do every last thing that a full sized MacBook can do. It isn't going to be able to edit video or store a great deal of data like photos and audio.
I've been pretty impressed with the capacity of this computer . When you consider the speed of this computer, the pre-loaded software, the WiFi capabilities, the other hardware features, and the price point, it is an attractive option for a low cost computer. There are rumors floating around that Asus will be releasing a new model in the future with a slightly larger 10" display, so this might be something to consider as well. If you end up purchasing one for your family, please let me know how you like it!

**Photo courtesy of SlipStreamJC on flickr. Photo is in the Creative Commons attribute non-commerical.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two Million Minutes

A parent that I work with in our web2.0 study group passed the following trailer along to me today. At some point I'd like to watch the entire movie and reflect upon this further.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Upcoming Parent Education Events

We have two interesting parent education opportunities taking place during the week of February 25th. I blogged about the "Parents as Partners" webcast earlier today in a previous post. This will be a great opportunity for parents to listen in to a conversation about participatory media tools and the classroom. Blogs, wikis, and many other tools are being used more and more in our classrooms. Join us tomorrow as we talk about effective ways that these tools are being used in the classroom.

The second exciting opportunity is taking place on Friday, February 29th at 16:00 GMT (10:00 am EST). Members of the Middle School "Web2.0" parent study group have the good fortune of being joined by Anne Reed, USM Parent, who will be speaking with us about how she uses participatory media tools in her career as an attorney. Anne's story is really quite interesting, so we're hopeful that you're able to join us at the Mequon public library this coming Friday. If you're not able to join us, we are most likely going to live broadcast the audio and video from the talk so you'll be able to watch from your office or home location. The link to the live broadcast will be posted on this blog and emailed out to parents on Thursday night. If you will be joining us in person at the Mequon Public Library this coming Friday, please be sure to RSVP by visiting the Middle School Web2.0 Parent Study Group at the link below. You may RSVP by clicking "Edit this Page" and entering your name on the page.

Blog Post Notes:
  1. Anne Reed being interviewed on the Lake Effect this past November. Be sure to click the audio player that says, "Jury Blogging."
  2. Middle School Web2.0 Parent Study Group
  3. Parents as Partners Website

Parents as Partners Webcast #2-Monday, February 25th at 9:00 PM EST

On Monday February 25th, 2008 at 9:00 pm EST, “Parents as Partners” online at will welcome Sharon Peters, Pedagogical Consultant from LEARN Quebec, Laval, QC . Lorna Costantini, Matt Montagne, Rhoda Cipparone, and Cindy Zautcke, a parent from the University School of Milwaukee in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will be discussing with Sharon how to use technology and the internet to support student learning. What does this mean to my child? What barriers must teachers overcome to communicate with parents online? Are parents ready?

Date: Monday, February 25th
Time: 8:00 PM CST/9:00 PM EST/2:00 AM on February 26th GMT

Join the conversation live by going to Click one of the three little audio player icons in the Edtechtalk-A box. Login to the chat with your name-be sure to choose EdtechTalk as the chat room. No password is necessary. If you are unable to join live, the conversation will be recorded and posted online at the Parents as Partners page on the Edtechtalk website.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

6th Grade Student Digital Citizenship and Protecht Update

Dear 6th Grade Parents:

Yesterday we had the 6th grade students come into the lab with their awesome science teacher, Kamie Fultz, to continue our work and conversations centered around the topic of digital citizenship. We worked through activities #2 and #3 in the Protecht Digital Citizenship project. As a reminder, several other schools from all across the country are participating in the protecht project as a means to give students an opportunity to explore what it means to be an effective digital citizen in the 21st century.

These lessons help the students take a look at online profiles, what they are, and the kind of information that they should and should not make available when participating in online communities. We also had the students create a simple digital avatar in paint that they uploaded to the profile in wikispaces.

Here is a bulleted summary of our work:
1. We discussed online profiles. We talked about how online profiles are important in building relationships and trust in the community. We talked about how, at their age, they should be restrictive in the kinds of information they reveal. It is OK for them to say, "My name is Billy and I am a middle school student in Wisconsin in the USA. I like the Green Bay Packers and I like to go fishing with my family." It isn't OK to say something like, "My name is Billy Smith and I go to Roosevelt Middle School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was born on August 24th, 1996 and I live at 1212 N. Maryland Ave in Milwaukee. My phone number is 414-444-1414." The understand the importance of guarding their personal information at this point in their life. We talked also about how adults can reveal more personal information such as pictures, age, city where they live, etc, but that it is not OK for young students to reveal this kind of information.

2. Students created a short, 1-2 sentence profile in the protected online community tool that we're using at I read many of the student profiles and they were excellent. It was clear that the students understood that their profiles should not reveal personal information such as cell phone numbers, addresses, pictures, home phone, etc.

3. At the end of the period the students created digital avatars to upload along with their profiles. The students enjoyed this process while practicing safe and responsible participation in online communities.

Please take a few minutes to have your son or daughter share their wikispaces profile and their digital avatar with you. Additionally, any follow up conversation with your child about what we did in the lab yesterday would be very helpful in our efforts to help the students gain an understanding of digital citizenship and "Netiquette."

Thanks much!
Matt Montagne

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Help minimize printing! adding the following tag line to your email program signature:

Before you print this or other documents, please consider the impact on the environment

One little thing that I think we can all do is make a concerted effort to use fewer resources. A simple little change would be to save your emails electronically instead of printing them out.

Below is a little screenshot of the signature that I've added to my email messages. Consider giving this a shot in your email program. Perhaps you'll encourage a few others to think twice before they indiscriminately hit the print button!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Parents as Partners Tonight!

Lorna Costantini will be moderating tonight's "Parents as Partners" conversation at GMT 1:30 am (8:30 pm EST in Canada/USA). The focus of the conversation will be social networking and parenting in a web 2.0 world. I'll be joining the conversation to talk about some of the parent education opportunities we're offering here at USM. Cindy Zautcke, USM parent, will be joining in the conversation to share her experiences with her three children and parenting in the web 2.0 world. We'll also be joined by Rhoda Cipparone, parent and community rep on the Niagara Catholic Regional School Council, who will share her experiences in this area as well. I'm really looking forward to the talk tonight with Lorna, Rhoda and Cindy. Social media and schools is a topic that I thoroughly enjoy talking about and it should be an interesting webcast.

To access the talk, you'll go to the Webcast Academy's "Live" page and click on one of the media players in Sandbox A. Follow the directions at the "Parents as Partners" page for a more detailed description of this process. We'll be using one of the World Bridges chat rooms, but at this point I'm not certain which one it will be. We will be sure to announce the chat room at the throughout the webcast.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Earth Day 2008 Webcast-athon!

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 this year. In today's Webcast Academy class of 2.4 meeting, we briefly discussed the possibility of doing some type of webcast-athon as a means to recognize and celebrare Earth Day 2008 around the globe. The idea involves a 24 hour conversation about an issue that every person on this this planet has a stake in-the health of our planet.

Here is what I am kind of envisioning at this point, and believe me, this is a total brainstorm and starting point for this project:

1. Ideally it would be nice if we could webcast for a 24 hour time period throughout Earth Day as it moves around the globe. Different people in different parts of the world would sign up for an hour long block as the lead moderator. In that hour long block they would moderate conversations with special guests.

2. Guests could include scientists, engineers, student leaders, parents who are passionate about environmental issues, teachers, local business owners, local grass roots environmental leaders, scientists in Antarctica, experts in the field of clean energy production, politicians, polar explorers, corporation sustainability representatives, etc. The sky is the limit to who could possibly participate.

3. I'm guessing that the conversations would mainly take place in English, but who knows, maybe this isn't necessary. The idea here is to get a world view on environmental challenges and solutions. If the conversations can't be in English in certain regions, perhaps that is OK and they can be transcribed into a document that is posted in the show resources (I have no idea about this as I'm very new to webcasting) .

4. All moderators should most likely either be interns or past interns of the Webcast Academy. I'm guessing we'll be streaming out via the shoutcast server at World Bridges, so it only makes sense that the lead moderator be a past or current intern.

5. If you are not a current or past intern at the webcast academy, there still will be many options for you to participate. You could co-moderate one of the hours, help with getting guests to be interviewed on the Earth Day 2008 Webcast-athon, help promote the event through your various networks, etc.

Further planning and a sign up schedule has been created online at a wiki page. Please visit this page and enter your contact information if you'd like to help out in any capacity

I look forward to your comments and suggestions on ways we can best implement the Earth Day 2008 Webcast-athon. Likewise, please let us know if you are interested in participating in any capacity whatsoever!

Photo courtesy of arimoore on flickr.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Middle School Student-Teacher Basketball Game

One of the reasons that I like working at USM is the educators that I work with are so fun! Below is a video to attest to this. Yesterday we had a student-teacher basketball game during the last period of the day. It was a blast! My teacher buddies work hard AND play hard!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

6th Grade Conference w/Wesley Fryer!

The 6th grade students and teachers had the good fortune of speaking with Wesley Fryer today live via Ustream. Other schools in the ProTecht Digital Citizenship Project (coordinated by Scott Meech) from Maryland, Illinois and California also joined in this conversation centering around the topic of digital citizenship. After answering several questions from students over the past couple of weeks via YouTube and Voicethread, Wesley met with our students live today to have an interactive conversation about this important topic.

During the conversation Wesley was talking about how we all have access to some of the most powerful communication tools in our history. He used a great quote relating to this power and the responsibility that comes with it. The quote says something to the effect, "To those who much is given...much is expected." This is a great quote for all of us to take pause and think about when considering what it means to be a good digital citizen. Please take this opportunity to have a conversation with your child about our talk today with Mr. Fryer.

To view the recorded conversation, click the play button below. The video is also embedded at Wesley's blog where he wrote a post about the talk.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Upcoming Web Events...

Our Middle School has two pretty neat events coming up at Thursday and Friday of this week:

#1-The 6th grade class will be 'meeting' with Wes Fryer and a few other middle schools in the "Protecht" Digital Citizenship project to do a live via ustream broadcast to chat about the concept and notion of digital citizenship. This will take place in Mellowes Hall from 1:00CST -1:45 CST GMT 6 on Thursday. Wesley has already responded to a few of our questions via the following blog posts:

#2-A handful of students from USM along with three middle schools in New Hampshire will be chatting live with Paul Goodyear, USS Oklahoma survivor (and Michigan native!) live starting at 12:15 CST. More on our conversation with Paul at: This conversation is also being streamed live and there is a chat room if you'd like to participate and ask Paul questions. It truly is an honor to be able to speak with Paul about his life experiences.

2-17-2008 Update:
The recorded conversation is posted online at:

Snow Day!

We're experiencing a pretty huge snow storm as we speak here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA). Of course this means that we don't have school today! I've lived in the "upper mid-west" region of the USA my entire life and this might be one of the craziest storms I've ever experienced. We'll probably end up receiving 15-20 inches of snowfall, but right now the wind is blowing pretty hard so I don't know how that will officially be measured. Below is a short video clip from a few hours ago after shoveling/snowblowing:

Parent Ed - Web 2.0 Study Group Meeting #1 Summary

Even with a nasty Wisconsin snow storm brewing, we still managed to have four hearty souls join us for this ongoing study group experience for our parents! A few additional parents listened in to the conversation from home via a live ustream broadcast (the broadcast has been archived and is available online).

I was seriously considering postponing due to weather, but as it turned out the drive home really wasn't that bad at all. And I'm glad we didn't cancel, because I enjoyed the conversation that was started last night. We have such a sharp group of folks assembled for this study group experience. While everyone last night shared a different set of goals for their participation, it was clear that everyone is eager to roll up their sleeves and personally engage in this new landscape. During our first class meeting we skyped with Vinnie Vrotny and our partner school for this project, North Shore County Day School, to do a little meet and greet exchange. We also spoke with Lorna Costantini, a parent involvement leader from St. Catherine's Ontario (Canada). Lorna will be working with be learning along with us and it was nice for everyone to have the opportunity to hear from her. As a side note, Lorna and I are looking for parents who are interested in joining us on upcoming editions of a live webcast show, "Parents as Partners." Please contact Lorna or myself if you are interested in joining us on an upcoming show. I'm thrilled to be working with this study group and I'm looking forward to learning and sharing throughout this experience.

At this point it looks like we are tentatively scheduling our next face to face meeting time for Friday, February 29th from 10:00 am - noon at the Mequon library. We hope to have school parent, Anne Reed, join us to talk about how she uses some of these 21st century tools in her career as an attorney. We'll also have a little "lab time" after Anne's talk, so be sure to bring your laptop computer along if you have one. Listen to a recording of Anne on the Lake Effect show from the Fall of 2007 as she talks about jury selection in the 21st century landscape (scroll down and click the media player that says, "Jury Blogging.")

In the event that any parents are reading this from our group, remember that you have two assignments:

#1 - Leave a comment (text comment, audio comment, or a video comment) about your goals for this experience on the voicethread that I started.

#2 - Join the North Shore Country Day online learning community at moodle. Vinnie created a brief screencast that leads you through the process of joining this community. When you are there, be sure to join both the "Growing Up Wired" course and the "Gaining Digital Citizenship" course (the digital citizenship course is from North Shore's study group experience from last year).

Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk on flickr (photo is licensed in the Creative Commons for non-commercial use)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Amazon Kindle Video Review

I just finished reading my first ever book on an electronic book reader. Thanks to Francine Eppelsheimer, our awesome Middle School librarian, for purchasing Kite Runner and loaning me the Kindle! Below is an 8 minute summary of my overall first impressions of the Amazon Kindle ebook reader.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Blogs, Wikis and Discussion Forums

Below you'll find a link to a picture of a Venn diagram that shows the similarities and differences between blogs, wikis and discussion boards. I thought this was a nice visual explanation.