Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What are your favorite websites?

I was recently asked to list my ten most favorite websites. Narrowing the list to 10 is no easy task, since I am always on the lookout for new sites, especially those that may be helpful for educators.

Some of my favorites have been listed in this blog, and a majority are "Web 2.0-based" -- social sites used for collaborating, such as Bloglines, del.icio.us, Furl, Flickr, pbwiki, Wikispaces, and Writeboard.

A great site for educators is USA Today Education Online
which advertises across the banner head, "Improving student performance through relevant, timely, real-world resources." The "Daily Lesson Plan" link (published Tuesdays and Thursdays over the summer) provides a printable 2-page handout for your classroom.

Another site I have recently discovered is NoodleTools. Created by teacher-librarian Debbie Abilock and her son, Damon, NoodleTools provides subscription-based services for schools, although many resources are available on their public website. Send your students to Information Literacy: Search Strategies or NoodleQuest to help them gather resources for their academic research. NoodleQuest is a "Search Strategy Wizard" containing a short form of 9 questions to help students get started.

What are some of your favorite sites?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In over my head... but determined...

I've spent a good deal of time in unfamiliar territory ... "Terminal" land. The quest began earlier today when several teachers in the lab were in search of a calendar template for their classroom planning. We have several "calendar" tools on hand: iCal, Now Up-to-Date, Palm, and Entourage. Each of these are great calendar programs in their own right. And, all seem to require creating and defining "events" which then become listed in the corresponding dates of the calendar.

In the past, teachers have used the nifty "Calendar Assistant" in AppleWorks which creates an AppleWorks Drawing document containing a table with the dates of the specific Month and Year entered when stepping through the assistant. Once the assistant has created the document, in a few clicks, you can change the page set-up to landscape, and drag the corner of the table to fill the page. Text and graphics are easily added by typing in the "dated" cells and inserting clip art from the clippings menu. When finished, the file can be printed to paper, or pdf, or saved as a .jpg file which is suitable for posting to the web (See http://www6.district125.k12.il.us/staffdev/train.html for the summer calendar). Alas, we are standardizing on the "Office" apps and moving away from AppleWorks, since it is being phased out by Apple. I will dearly miss this simple, and elegant application!

So, after a quick review of the templates included with Office, and not finding any calendars, we searched the Microsoft website and located the "Calendars, Labels, Planners, and Stationery" link. The selection looked promising, as there were several "2006-07 academic year" calendar templates among the 28 templates available in the "2007 Calendars" category. The templates are provided for a variety of Microsoft file formats; Visio and Publisher (PC-only), and Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

After locating several that looked good, I clicked the "Download" button only to end up on a page that stated "Your operating system does not meet system requirements. This template could not be downloaded automatically because your operating system does not meet the requirements for downloading Office Online templates." (The files are compressed in the .CAB format, which is not supported on Macintosh.) At the bottom of the page however states, "If you are using a Macintosh operating system, you can find templates at Mactopia Tools on the Web." Ok, so off to Mactopia Tools where we found 437 templates available, but not ONE calendar file for teachers or students (there was one meal planner calendar, but that was it).

So, returning to the "Calendars, Labels, Planners, and Stationery" link, I proceeding to download several of the .cab files. A Google search of "extract CAB files on Macintosh" led me to FileJuicer a program that could decompress the .cab files and also provides several other helpful conversion and extraction tools. FileJuicer is a shareware program, and for $12, seems like a good basic "tool" to own.

Further "Googling" pointed me to an open source (="free") file named "cabextract" that would run as a package for Fink. (The Fink project is an effort to port popular Unix programs to Mac OS X).

So, I proceeded to download and install Fink, and Fink Commander (GUI menu interface) to be able to use cabextract. This is where the scary part comes in. I have used the Terminal application in a few instances, but I am not a UNIX geek by any means, so I basically crossed my fingers and clicked through a series of prompts and was able to get cabextract installed. (I am not sure it's in the best place, but it is working).

In the end, I was able to open Terminal and enter the commands (as listed in the "--help" page) to extract the .cab files into their Word, PowerPoint and Excel templates, which I have re-saved as non-template Office files.

May I whine?! H-E-L-L-O! I think that Microsoft could at least provide these Office templates in a format that can be read and used by Macintosh users. All in all, I suppose that since I learned a little more about UNIX commands and using Terminal, it was worth the time and effort -- and now I have some calendar samples to share with everyone!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

NECC-ing in San Diego

Lori, Judy and me at NECC

From July 5-7, I spent a whirlwind 3 days at NECC. You too can "attend virtually!"

Listen and learn...
Take a few moments to search the iTunes "Podcast" channel for "NECC" and you will find 19 podcast episodes from sessions at the conference including the keynote address by Nicholas Negroponte who talked about the $100 laptop initiative. View additional pictures on the OLPC wiki page: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Home

There are additional podcast selections as well, such as "NECC Live" from Kidz Online, "NECC 2006 Poster Sessions from WestEd" and "In the NECC of Time" from Instructional Technology Specialists in update western New York.

Watch and learn...
Be sure to check out the Webcasts from WestEd, available on the NECC website:

Read and learn...
Many presenters have posted handouts from their sessions online. Browse or search through the NECC Presenters Handouts and Research Papers web page to view the many presentation topics.

And, finally, many NECC-ers have posted their pictures on Flickr... more than 700 (tagged as NECC06) are at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/necc06/ and about 600+ (tagged NECC2006) are at


What a great way to virtually attend NECC! Enjoy!
Thanks to ISTE!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

NECC 2006 - First Impressions....

This week I am attending NECC -- the National Education Computing Conference -- in San Diego, and I will be taking notes and gathering my ideas in this space. I am sitting in the ISTE-SIGTC (Special Interest Group for Tech. Coord). meeting, "The Role of Technology Leadership in a Changing Educational Landscape"

The Panel consists of David Warlick, Will Richardson, Tony Vincent, Thor Prichard, and John Hendron. Thor and John are new names for me -- I am not yet familiar with their work.

Tony shared his use of a "common" del.icio.us account that all teachers can subscribe to, and post links of interest, and then subscribe using an RSS catcher.

The discussion is revolving around the next "wave" of technology for education. Tony thinks it's the availability of online "applications" such as Google spreadsheet and Writely. Students and teachers who are limited by the "locked down" computers that have been placed in their hands, are finding online resources to do their work. Will says to check out http://techcrunch.com to learn about the apps that are coming out each week.

Tony shared a site called "secondlife" -- http://secondlife.com/ -- where you can create a character and "live" in a virtual world.

Thor says, We all love technology... why? He believes it can make our lives easier. It's about change... it's fundamentally less painful to do it the new way, instead of doing it the old way.

Will says that "everyday you have a professional development opportunity when you work with kids." There are a lot of opportunities to learn from our kids.

How do we convince parents that blogging and podcasting is safe? At Willowdale, Tony hosts a parent night to educate parents on the information. David says with the technology available, there can be parent nights every night.

Questions/commnets from the audience...
If teachers are expected to use these sites on their own time, when is their down time? Are we expecting too much of teachers? David mentioned that we are losing teachers because of the current "story" about what it is to be a teacher. Is the expectation that teachers spend their free time grading papers and working with these tools? He says we need to start talking about "Telling a Brand New Story" (BTW... his session is at 2 pm).

A quick summation from the panel...
David: told a story about a session in which he was live blogging during the presentation, and had several comments and conversations that were being carried on, one person was from Tasmania. Think of the possibilities for global communication in our classrooms.

Will: we are in a very disruptive moment now. Our classrooms will need to look and act differently. If we don't, we will become more irrelevant. It's going to get ugly, before it gets better. And, even with all that is available, there is still a digital divide.

We should not be engaging in the web 2.0 technologies because they exist. Think about the "sound" ways in which we know are ways to educate students. Then, look at how these tools can enhance or support these.

Part 2...
Thor: we are moving to an activity now to work with some of the online tools. He is taking us through del.icio.us. Bookmarks can be imported and tagged with popular terms. He demonstrated completing the registration process and how to add tags to websites that you bookmark. SIGTC is the tag that we can all use for websites we feel will be helpful to tech coordinators.

There is also a SIGTC "knowledge wiki" for notes, such as these from this morning's info:

Onto more learning ...

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