Sunday, March 29, 2009

Technology and the Source

Dr.Fifer1863, officially Dr. Jim Beeghley, shared a wonderful posting on technology and primary source photographs. Any teacher who wants to learn more about using technology and primary sources to teach the American Civil War or any other educational topic, should read and learn from his blog. I also would like to direct you to another colleague who teaches using primary sources, Nancy Bosch. Her work in CSI is one of my favorites among her many project ideas.

Many of us are interested in using primary sources in our work and the work of students. I am especially reminded of our friend Nancy Bosch and her excellent work with students as shared with us in A Very Old Place. Many of us would like to use primary sources in teaching our students. We may need a bit of guidance, so I would refer you to Nancy's blog and the efforts of Dr. Jim Beeghley.

Primary sources can be more interesting, and are usually without bias, but not all. Dr. Jim Beeghley explains in his Teaching the Civil War with Technology blog post,Using Photographs from the LOC, that sometimes even primary sources can be flawed when the author inflates or changes the story in some small way.

Some authors of Civil War photographs, including famous ones such as Alexander Gardner, manipulated the scenes to make the photographs more graphic or exceptional. Their view of the "scene" may have been different than we think of today.

Dr. Beeghley provides several excellent ways that you and your students can use modern, available technology to lead "...our students to some analysis of these photos..." He explains how to access the wonderful resources of the Library of Congress photographs and their activities.

These lessons and related activities are ready to roll. I don't think you need to know much about photography or technology to achieve good results in the classroom. Just follow the directions, practice before and then use the tools and guidelines with your students.

Photograph Bibliography:
Photographed by: Barnard, George N. Compiled by:Hirst D. Milhollen and Donald H. Mugridge. Atlanta, Ga. View on Decatur Street, showing Trout House and Masonic Hall. 1864. Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865. 1977. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. No. 0698. March 29, 2009 Electronic address.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Winsome Wednesday

rtw - 0334 by neil banas
Attribution-NonCommercial License

Today, I am introducing Winsome Wednesdays.

I will discuss interesting, curious and joyous ideas.

These are topics of interest to me that I think are related to education.

I hope you will enjoy them.

For my first Winsome Wednesday whimsy, I am featuring, Muxicall, so other educators can learn more about this simple, yet powerful web application.

Muxicall is an interactive online web application that helps people, anywhere online, interface through music. Created by a young student, Diana Antunes, Muxicall is a superb online application that everyone should enjoy.

You don't need to know anything about music to use Muxicall. Just go to the website and play around with the interface. I was most impressed when a friend joined me there. After a few squeaks and squarks, we fell into a synchronicity of musical interactions. It was a type of communications.

I will leave it up to you to decide, but I think there are a multitude of uses for this web application, Muxicall.

Particularly, I thought it might help children with interaction issues. It has a clean, minimalist interface. Its ease of use and wonderfully vibrant results could help draw them into interactions online that might lead to more face to face interactions with music. Music Therapy and Play Therapy have always been a powerful force to help children reach out to the world.

Try Muxicall. If you need a partner, let me know. We can find a time to evaluate Muxicall for future use in the classroom and have fun.

Professional Opportunities in Times of Uncertainty

One of the hallmarks of the American Experience is the mobility of the population. From our immigrant ancestor's original trip here to our ability to move to better our conditions, Americans value mobility across the country and through the class ranks. This mobility remains especially important in times of economic stress. As educators, we can move to new schools or educational settings.

Educators have a variety of reasons for moving, but two important ones include, finding a new school to earn more money and finding a better working environment.

As individual educators, you don't have to be young to change jobs, just be willing to adapt. Children all over Earth need our help, so we can always find places to skillfully practice our craft.

What about those of us whose spouses or families cannot adapt with us? Well, in my experience, you can always commute. My husband's work and investments are in the land, so he must stay where we live to keep everything working.

In 1998-99, I was following a professional dream to be an independent contractor helping various schools with their curriculum and professional development inservices. I discovered that I needed more economic stability. I chose to take a job in Wichita, Kansas where I found a high level of professionalism and pay in their school district. I taught there from 1999 through 2004. Even though I had never taught in a city, I found the experience exhilarating.

Since this was a weekly commute, I rented an apartment. My daughter joined me in 2000 and we lived in the city during the week. We drove home on Friday afternoon. My husband's help was critical to the success of this mission, and my daughter enjoyed her elementary school years in Wichita.

My family's experience is not unique, but I wanted to share it to let others know that when you need them, you can find professional opportunities out there. During this time of economic upheaval, I hope anyone who needs to improve their teaching or economic situation will consider such viable options as moving, short commutes or weekly commutes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day: Honoring Tamsin WeatherPixie

Life often becomes more powerful through the relationships we make. Whether the opportunities are face-to-face or online, we can meet people in the most serendipitous ways. If it hadn't been for a fire in a Texas server center that shut down Weather Pixie, I would have never met Tamsin, the young woman, the talented programmer, who created Weather Pixie. I want to honor my Ada Lovelace Day pledge by sharing a brief description of her contribution to technology.

Tamsin is the programmer who developed the awesome widget called WeatherPixie or What to Wear. In my professional opinion, as an educator, I believe WeatherPixie is one of the most valuable web applications that teachers can use.

Not just educators love Weather Pixie, so you might want to try it out, especially if you like knowing about the weather. You can set up Weather Pixie for your area or for any area on Earth.

Weather Pixie is a web application or widget that anyone can use. I believe parents and educators of children of the preschool through elementary ages can use Weather Pixie to help little ones learn about the weather and what types of clothing to be worn each day. If it is raining, the Weather person (select a boy or girl) will have an umbrella or raincoat. When it is sunny and warm, they may wear shorts.

A colleague first shared Weather Pixie with me in September of 2007. In turn, I share it, as a widget and blog postings, with my readers. I hope you will download and use a Weather Pixie for your blog, website or wiki to teach your children or students or just for your own enjoyment.

Tamsin Bowles is a young, very resourceful programmer who appreciates her privacy. She lives in a metropolitan area of the United Kingdom where she works as a programmer. She made Weather Pixie because she wanted to keep up with the weather throughout the day, and we are the beneficiaries of her idea. If you like her work, you can donate at her website. She has a wishlist and Weather Pixie swag. Her family and peers have every reason to be very proud of her. I'm glad she loves technology and programming, and I look forward to hearing more from Tamsin in the future.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Opportunity to Comment: Elevate Educators to Professional Status

As the American Education Historian David B. Tyack asserted in his book, The One Best System, on page 10:

It is more important to expose and correct the injustice of the social system [ie. the educational system] than to scold its agents. Indeed, one of the chief reasons for the failures of educational reforms of the past has been precisely that they called for a change of philosophy or tactics on the part of the individual school employee rather than systemic change---and concurrent transformations in the distribution of power....
It seems to me that a single, yet powerful reform can change the way in which educators think and work, as well as, increasing the compensation they receive. Your comments, pro and con, would be greatly appreciated.

If the current reforms in education, as they relate to staffing the ranks of educators, are to be successful, educator status should be raised to the same level as lawyers, accountants and doctors by professionalizing those who meet education and testing standards set by a self-regulatory body, possibly called the American Education Association.

All currently licensed educators, of Masters level or higher, would receive professional status. This would allow them advantages that could be monetized, including income tax deductions similar to those available among other professionals, such as ALL TECHNOLOGY: HARDWARE & SOFTWARE and ALL MATERIALS FOR OUR WORK ($250.00 doesn't cut it). This would provide an automatic pay increase that local governments would not need to pay, because it would be generated through reduced income taxes and more money retained by educators.

This professionalization process would allow for interns and residents to be trained under professional educators and that should be more effective for education reform as well.

As educators, we should avoid the diatribe that has blemished our positive attitudes and educational backgrounds for decades.

No longer are our ranks being filled by young, naive, single girls whose only options, in earlier times, were marriage and family or life as a teacher. This was the case earlier in our American History, as Carl F. Kaestle carefully explains. In Pillars of the Republic his history of American Common Schools, Mr. Kaestle explains the history of the precursors of public schools.

Historically, the use of cheap labor, young local women, exasperating those who considered teaching a profession. This caused the ranks of doctors and lawyers and accountants to expand and professionalize to prevent the same from happening to their positions in these other fields.

Today, most educators have excellent training, yet now the reformers are going after education graduate schools. This has to end, it seems to me. Professionalize and we will no longer be unsure who is qualified. Professionalize and anyone who can pass the professional educators exam would be qualified to teach. Educators should stand up for themselves and claim their professional status.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Opportunity to Adapt: 20th Century Preconceptions

wishes and regrets by McMorr
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

If we want to think of ourselves as Twenty-first Century educators, we must remove some of the old paradigms that affect this view of learning. One of the most prevalent preconceptions is the definition of TEACHER.

What is a 21st Century Teacher?
Who is a 21st Century Teacher?
Where does a 21st Century Teacher function?
Do all 21st Century Teachers have an official class?
Do all 21st Century Teachers have an official school?
When does a 21st Century Teacher teach?
Why does a 21st Century Teacher teach?

While there may be some new words for teacher, educator comes to mind, I am wondering how the lines between informal education and formal education through the advances of web applications and other technologies are blurring the definitions of teachers or educators?

It seems to me that this blurring of the learning place is an opportunity for all of us to change our 20th Century preconceptions of teacher/educator into the 21st Century paradigms. Are you doing that? Do you respect all educators no matter their place of being? OR Are you stuck in the 20th Century?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lighten the Load

Lighten the load and save money on your electric bill. Test your various electric appliances and other devices with this inexpensive electronic gadget. Once you determine the electrical usage of each device, you can decide how to eliminate or control electricity usage. I've seen this gadget being demonstrated, and it is easy to use.

This could really help schools or businesses save money also.
clipped from

P3 International

P3 Kill A Watt Electricity Load Meter and Monitor

P3 International P4400 Kill A WATT Electricity Load Meter and Monitor

Feeling environmentally conscious? Worried about rising fuel and electricity costs? Cut down on those costs and find out which of your appliances, lamps and computers are actually are costing you the most! Just plug them into the Kill-A-Watt electricity usage monitor and it will tell you how efficient they are. The Kill-A-Watt’s easily-readable LCD display measures consumption by the kilowatt-hour, just like the electric company.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Legacy

When I moved to my own home, my grandmother and I dug up some bulbs of one of the most amazing plants I have ever seen, the Surprise Lily. I shared them with my sisters and planted them in my yard. I will be moving soon and so will they.

Plants, recipes and other traditions can provide an enduring legacy to the giver upon all who were touched by their lives. My grandmother is no longer with us, but her legacy remains.

Using Amplify, a social bookmarking site with a group blog, for such a project to begin or end Grandparents' Day would be a great way to encourage students to share their histories and legacies.

Plant of the Week
Surprise Lily,
Magic Lily, Naked Lady
Latin: Lycoris squamigera

Picture of Surprise Lillies (or Magic Lilies, or Naked Ladies) with tall stems and light pink flowers clustered at top of stems.

With the arrival of August, gardeners throughout the state are delighted to
see their gaudy and somewhat ungainly surprise lilies come into bloom. These
bulbous plants belong to the amaryllis family and are native to southern Japan.

The bulbs are as long as three inches in diameter with long necks and persist
for years once established. The foliage comes up in late winter and looks like a
large-leafed clump of daffodils, but without flowers. There will be one bloom
for about every 10 leaves produced by the clump. The leaves die away with the
arrival of the first warm days of late spring, usually disappearing below ground
by late May. This growth pattern is an adaptation of the species to survive in
an area with moist springs and prolonged periods of summer drought.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Plumped Poster Presentation

Glogster is a very popular web application among teachers and students.

You can use Glogster as a static poster or background. For instance, I have seen glogsters used as backgrounds for wikispace pages.

I believe its most important use is as a front page portal to an entire presentation.
clipped from - New tool for education

New tool for education

Teachers, try education 2.0

Glogster is proud to present, a NEW addition to the site for all your educational needs!

  • Glogster provides master-accounts for teachers integrating all student accounts. Click for detailed info.
  • Register your class and try education 2.0 now. EDU accounts are PRIVATE. 
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    Spring into Training

    Sunset at T-Ball by Stuck in Customs
    Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License
    Tim Walker, historian, writer and teacher shares ways to improve your work capabilities through specific "deliberate practice". His use of the Professional Baseball Spring Training analogy is effective and fun to read. This would be a good article for teachers to use with students. It's a good place to start when thinking of professional development or streamlining work to make it more fun.
    clipped from

    Those baseball players, young and old, go through practice regimes of increasing intensity over the weeks, preparing themselves to play full-bore by Opening Day. The best of them hone their games, winter and summer, through deliberate practice.

    in the business world could emulate ballplayers
    in their systematic pursuit of improvement. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

    Break your WORK down into components.

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    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Get to the Point....PLEASE!

    Inside the Monument - London by nick.garrod
    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
    Today's post is an editorial statement that professional blogs should be written in a professional manner!

    Have you ever had a teacher who took half the class time for their lesson introduction, aka anticipatory set? Well, it seems that can also happen online. Today, I read an author's post that rambled across the topic throughout half the blog, and the introduction still didn't INTRODUCE the main focus of the article.

    I am wondering if I should have higher expectations for a university official with a doctorate than a high school student?

    What could the author do to more effectively get to the point? I think the wandering blogger should eliminate the top part of the post, it wouldn't have been missed. Minimally, the author could let the post rest and look at it again later. Maximally, a university official could enlist an editor.

    This experience taught me a good lesson today. Every story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, and the author should not make you wander in the desert before they get to the point. It takes time to read or even scan recommended articles, and TIME is a fixed parameter, even in the virtual world.