Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back to the Blog

It's been a while. What's up with that?

So I happened upon one of the best Cheers episodes ever - definitely the best after Diane left. You know the one where Cliff tries out stand up comedy and just keeps bringing up stuff and saying, "What's up with that?" Reminds me of college. All day, everytime I notice something that bugs/interests/amuses me, I think, "What's up with that?" A few of my thoughts today:

New lanes on Military in front of the high school: what's up with that?

My kid watching every episode of Johnny Test ever in order: what's up with that?

The fact that my 6 year old can watch instant Netflix on on the Wii and I can't: what's up with that?

Those signs that digitally tell me my speed: what's up with that?

My mailman comes at 5 pm: what's up with that?

My family never eats a whole can of refried beans: what's up with that?

Okay, enough of that. Just some random thoughts I felt the need to write down.

Feeling the need to write and post random stuff: what's up with that?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ed Tech News for the Cool People of EDU 740.B

week of 3/12/09

Happy Teen Tech Week everyone! Here are a few of the interesting things we found in the ed tech news of the week. Prepare to be amazed ... well, at least mildly amused. We've got an article about a flexbook. (What's that you ask? Read on my friends.) Check out the cool gadgets wish we could buy for our classrooms. Don't miss the big news from NCTE (that's the National Council of Teachers of English for your math-sci people) which only took 9 years into the new century to update writing standards.

Open Source Education
The state of Virginia pilots a physics FlexBook, providing students with real-time information and affording teachers ultimate flexibility.
By Jessica Renee Napier

It's no news that students can access information at the click of a button. With the Internet, students learn the most up-to-date classroom material from industry experts, news Web sites, and online encyclopedias and journals. However, in most school districts, these resources aren't in classrooms. Instead, they're still in textbooks -- and in many cases, they're dated to the mid-20th century.But in Virginia, things are changing: The state is piloting an open source physics textbook project that ensures students are learning the most pertinent subject matter. Though it's still in the beginning stages, it could revolutionize the textbook industry. Imagine an iTunes for textbooks: Teachers can download a few chapters from different publishers to use in a physics class, and students wouldn't need to thumb through hand-me-down, out-of-date textbooks.

Aneesh Chopra, Virginia's secretary of technology, said that this type of collaborative textbook -- called a FlexBook -- could be a platform to close the information gap."We're going to measure our goals by the improvement in the quality of our education system," he said. "If you think about transformation in the music industry, iTunes said it's not the CD, it's the song. The question for the textbook industry is: Are we prepared to disaggregate our content? We will have created a unit of value to deliver a greater return."
FlexBook's birth

Three collaborative, independent circumstances led to the FlexBook pilot. First, Virginia's Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) established an Open Source Education Advisory Committee that advised expanding the definition of a textbook to include online and electronic materials.At the same time, NASA recognized that to prepare the next generation of workers with accurate information, it would have to start at the state level to update materials in K-12 curriculum. FlexBook project leader Jim Batterson, in collaboration with NASA and Virginia's Secretary of Education Tom Morris, formed panels of scientists, engineers and other experts to review the state's physics, chemistry and engineering curriculum. Their recommendations would be used in 2010 by the state's Board of Education when it reviews state science standards.The panels found that the information was dated and suggested the creation of a wiki -- an open source Web-based application that allowed teachers to create content in real-time -- that aligned with JCOTS's interest in electronic academic materials. The missing link was a medium to put the idea into action.Enter CK-12, a nonprofit organization founded in January 2007 that uses a Web-based compilation model to display educational content as an adaptive textbook -- coined the FlexBook."The tool can be as simple as a Web image of what might normally be in the textbook -- which is the current state of the CK-12 platform," Batterson said. "Teachers and students can print certain pages or run off copies of a particular chapter. The beauty of it is that you can run off one chapter and not have to run off 10 chapters. This flexibility is CK-12's innovation. With further development, a Web-based book that takes advantage of Web 2.0 would be desirable."At the end of February, the joint efforts of JCOTS, Batterson's expert panels and CK-12 were released to a group of teachers who are using the physics FlexBook in their classrooms.

A+ information
Eventually, the FlexBook project could involve academic publishers and other providers of educational text, but for now, the FlexBook material is produced at the source -- physics teachers. A team of teachers will develop supplemental material to currently approved physics texts that contains contemporary and emerging physics and laboratory modules."We requested statements from interested educators and developed three levels of editing," Batterson said, "because the state needs some way to assure the integrity of the material."The first level of editing involved careful securitization of writers, each of which contributed one to two chapters to the FlexBook. Candidates were required to write a statement of interest, an overview of their capacity to contribute, a road map for using the instructional material and a summary of ideas and concerns. Using a scoring grid to select qualified participants, the secretaries of education and technology chose 13 people to write 10 chapters.Once the chapters were written, they went through a peer-editing process, after which, the content was reviewed by a content expert to ensure the technical material's integrity. The first release of Virginia's physics FlexBook is labeled version 0.9. This will allow for a couple weeks of public comment and review before the release of version 1.0. The next round of modifications and additions will follow the same editing process and will be released as version 2.0."I believe this phenomenon will take hold," Chopra said. "It may be a little slower than the way iTunes changed the music industry -- in large part because we have a big bureaucratic procurement problem that slows the pace of innovation -- but we will see an explosion in content creators who validate the tool."
Coming to a classroom near you

As teachers begin integrating the content, Chopra said he hopes that more schools can go without buying textbooks for the following semester. The CK-12 platform will be provided to schools at no cost."They're really our partners in this," Batterson said. "They're not just providing the platform, but they're supporting us by helping us to understand intellectual property law, get images uploaded and write text into HTML format."In its first launch, the FlexBook is a basic Web 1.0 activity -- teachers use the content similar to a traditional textbook -- but in the future, it could be an interactive model."While it may not be seen in the first release of the FlexBook, a near-future goal is one of interactivity," Batterson said. "As students go through the chapter, the e-book asks questions that they answer online. The e-book reveals whether it's right or wrong, or helps them. Another goal is to have students on a computer doing activities such as modeling and simulation. As the e-book asks questions, students actually start to build mathematical models."Beginning last month, the physics FlexBook is being put to the test, providing students and teachers with flexible content and 21st-century material.*This story is from Converge magazine's Winter 2009 issue.

Wed, Mar 04, 2009
NCTE defines writing for the 21st century New report offers guidance on how to update writing curriculum to include blogs, wikis, and other forms of communication By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor

The prevalence of blogs, wikis, and social-networking web sites has changed the way students learn to write, according to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)--and schools must adapt in turn by developing new modes of writing, designing new curricula to support these models, and creating plans for teaching these curricula.
"It's time for us to join the future and support all forms of 21st-century literacies, [both] inside ... and outside school," said Kathleen Blake Yancey, a professor of English at Florida State University, past NCTE president, and author of a new report titled "Writing in the 21st Century."

Just as the invention of the personal computer transformed writing, Yancey said, digital technologies--and especially Web 2.0 tools--have created writers of everyone, meaning that even before students learn to write personal essays, they're often writing online in many different forms.

"This is self-sponsored writing," Yancey explained. "It's on bulletin boards and in chat rooms, in eMails and in text messages, and on blogs responding to news reports and, indeed, reporting the news themselves. ... This is a writing that belongs to the writer, not to an institution."
She continued: "In much of this new composing, we are writing to share, yes; to encourage dialogue, perhaps; but mostly, I think, to participate."
The report defines this new age of writing as the Age of Composition: a period where writers become composers not through "direct and formal instruction alone (if at all), but rather through what might be called an extracurricular social co-apprenticeship."
Students who go online today and participate in the web's many forms of communication compose their writing in informal contexts, where a hierarchy of the expert-apprentice (or teacher-student) does not exist. Instead, there is a peer co-apprenticeship, where communicative knowledge is exchanged freely.

Yancey provided the recent example of a 16-year-old girl named Tiffany Monk who saved her neighborhood after Tropical Storm Fay hit Melbourne, Fla. By taking pictures and writing eMail messages, she managed to garner enough attention to her stranded neighbors--and all were rescued from the flood.
Everyone was saved because "a 16-year-old saw a need, because she knew how to compose in a 21st-century way, and because she knew her audience," said Yancey. "And what did she learn in this situation? That if you actually take action, then someone might listen to you. That's a real lesson in composition."

Yancey cited another example of composing in which Facebook users decided to write "THIS IS SPARTA" during an Advanced Placement test, then cross it out so that no points would be deducted. More than 30,000 students reportedly participated.
According to Yancey, this light prank shows that students understand the power of networking, and they understand the new audiences of 21st-century composing--their peers across the country and faceless AP graders alike.

For the full article visit: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=57558

The Buzz of School Library Journal
Scanned Books into MP3s

Scanned Books into MP3sA new text-to-speech device has been making some noise of its own. At last month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Plustek showed off its latest scanner, the BookReader V100, which turns printed text into a spoken audio file. To use, simply place a book or document on the scanner, and in a one-button operation, the BookReader will convert the print to high-quality speech, which can be saved in MP3 format. $700. http://www.plustek.com/.

Micro Projectors
New from WowWee A trio of micro projectors—one designed to pair with the iPod and iPhone—debuted at CES. The Cinemin suite of pico projectors by WowWee boasts DLP Technology and comes in three highly portable models: the candy bar-like Swivel ($299), which features a 90-degree hinge; the Stick ($349), equipped with an expandable SD card and slot; and the alarm-clock-size Cinemin Station ($399) with an iPod dock. http://www.wowwee.com/.

Teen Tech Week March 8-14
Did you know it's Teen Tech Week? (Before you read this blog?) Check it out by clicking on the link.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The "I HATE JANUARY" Edition

I freaking hate January! I thought since my little girl was born last Jan. I would come to like it better, but no! I hate the gray weather. I hate the let down from the holidays. They moved the superbowl to February. This year, I had the masters thesis chapter 1 hanging over my head most the month to dampen the only fun thing: MJ's pink poodle birthday party. (Please note pink high top Chucks in the pic to the left.)

I get the blues in January. The kids (students and those living in my house) get cabin fever goofy. My loyal old dog suffers arthritis in the cold, so we leave him in often and clean up his old age accidents. I find January to be the worst month of the year. I bet more people die in Jan. than any other month. We teachers are so broke (see Leiser's blog) we are taking the dimes in the couch to coinstar so we can have a fancy dinner out at Sac's Hotdogs. And it gets dark at like 4 pm. Why don't more people feel this way? I'd like to plan a revolt! Inaugurate the new president Jan. 2, then have MLK day and move on to Valentine's Day. Really! Is there some reason January can't be the 28 day month? One year, FDR moved Tahnksgiving to improve the economy. Isn't this the same thing?

All those in favor of some kind of January boycott please sing up with your comments. Next year, we can change this. It can be a grass roots thing like nominating Sarah Palin VP. OK, so that's a bad example, but join me! The anti-January movement begins now!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." The almost cliche quote still fits my mood.

MaryJane is walking. Here is an actual picture of the first four steps in a row! (As opposed to the first picture of Nolan walking which the scrapbook says is his first steps, but really a few staged, prodded steps the next day...) Amazing. I know, every kid does it, but it still takes my breath away. And she did it at party where everyone saw and gasped and shared in my awe. Except my husband who couldn't be there. But I'm trying to let this go.

My parents have been visiting at my house for six days. I was confronted with a bracing realization that I have refused to face before: My mother with MS will never admit/realize she can't do most things. Case in point: she tried to do a load a laundry and upon hearing this I darted to the washing machine, only to find she had put an entire cup of detergent in the dryer. I was so angry. Why can't she just ask me to help her? Then I saw her face: she was humiliated. She failed at something so simple, so core to her life as PTA room mother turned travel agent, that it represented to her an entire end to all she is, ever was, and never will be. The next day, the previous night's horrors completely forgotten, she attempted to hem her new pants. I found the needle on the floor of the hall, now roamed by an 11 month old who puts everything in her mouth. "Mom, I found this needle on the floor. I said I would hem your pants," I told her. My mom's response? "I didn't need you to hem the pants. I did it." She didn't grasp the gravity of the situation. My mom will not/cannot change. I will not/cannot change this.

Last thought today - hey- isn't Pink Eye fun? How come I never got this as a child? I think it's because my mom was so much better of a mom than me. Karma can suck.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mad Science

Nolan had a Mad Science birthday party which is amazing, if you aren't familiar. So much fun!(http://www.madscience.com/)
We got to explode stuff, play with dry ice, and make slime; a five year old's dream!

I got a new overhead this week. Amazing what a difference it makes. The old one melted inside. It was there when I started in 1996 so who knows how old it was. I kept the melted part with which to make an art installation. The most unbelievable part - by far - was that fact that it only took 3 phone calls! I am definitely kissing the correct butts!

There is student teacher who joins our little lunch group. We have begun making a list of things she should know to be successful at our work site:

1) horde supplies
2) it if has no one's name on it, take it
3) if you get a good overhead, never let it go

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I am so thankful for my friends, my sublime husband, and all the blessings in my life. I think I must have done something very good in my past life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

All Jumped Out

MaryJane loves this Jumperoo. A Jumperoo is an item a new parent cannot live without. It is a little pricey and is used in a baby's life for 9 months at the most. But, if you have no Jumperoo - or the old stand by The Johnnie Jump Up -I pity you. Here MJ has jumped until she can jump no more.