So, you’d like your own blog…

I was recently asked by a colleague about how I help my teachers decide what (if any) type of blog is for them.  Below is my process.  It may be helpful. You may react to it with hives and distain. Either way, take the following with a Tylenol and a grain of salt: I usually start my conversation with the teacher by asking what they want to accomplish with the blog. How do they want to use it as a tool in their classroom. This gives some immediate insight into the format they will need. Then, I give them my brief tour of how a blog can be used: An information center (like Blackboard or another content management system) A teacher-centered blog (where the teacher guides the conversation and students respond in the comments) A student-centered blog (where the students guide the conversation and respond) A collaborative project (where students build the content together) Once I determine the format, I begin to ask questions that help me figure out how the blog needs to be modified (usually with plugins): Will it be used for discussion? How do you plan to manage the discussion? How many classes will be accessing the blog? Some points I make to the teacher to help them make the decision: Teacher-centered blog: You can intentionally guide […]


Killing People with Bronze Axes

Bronze Age Orientation The “lessons” in the video are funny because they’re true (I think I’m quoting Homer Simpson)- don’t be a pompous ass (period, but especially not when advocating for a major change) positive version – Be humble. You don’t know everything and your way is not the only way. don’t make change a threat or tie it to a threat (the tribes with the bronze axes will kill you, the kids won’t learn etc.) positive version – Tie the change to positive outcomes for those involved. Focus on how it will improve their life. Why is it worthwhile for them? don’t put down the old ways (and then they’ll throw away your stone axes because they’re rubbish) positive version – Honor the past*. Even if you hate the old way, insulting it will tend to increase resistance to change. In education, the focus should be on adding tools and exploring options rather than in taking them away. The bronze shoes and window are also pretty similar to the “must use twitter based podcasts wikis” in class mentality too often seen in EduBlogosphere Land. Tools are tools and each has its place. This video shows the hypothetical meeting held to discuss changing from stone age technology to bronze age technology. You’ve got the reluctance you normally see (funny but […]

Bestiary Images & Copyright

I’m going to be doing a presentation before too long where I look at blogging and web 2.0 through the lens of a Medieval bestiary. I thought this was a solid concept in part because I figured none of the images would be under copyright since they’d have long since passed into public domain. What I found on a number of different sites did not reflect that. Many of the .edu sites that had quality bestiary images also had pretty restrictive copyright claims as well. This didn’t make sense to me and so I started digging around and found a number of well referenced claims that said, essentially, that scans of public domain works are not derivatives and so are not under separate copyright. The case repeatedly cited was Bridgeman v. Corel. I’m not a lawyer and am not giving you legal advice but you can read one lawyer’s take on all this at the Library Law Blog (Mary Minow, J.D., A.M.L.S.). She’s got a lot more nuance in her post so if you’re nervous I’d read it and make your own decision but I feel good about what I’m doing. I’m cleaning up the images and posting them to Flickr if you think they’d be of use to you. The majority are pngs with transparent backgrounds (some of which […]

The Pirate’s Dilemma Meets Felton Design

I wandered into the The Pirate’s Dilemma keynote video the other day and found it pretty interesting. It’s worth watching if you’ve got some time. There’s also an accompanying book and blog. I subscribed to the blog and got an interesting bonus recently. Nicholas Felton ( of dy/dan fame) worked with Matt Mason (Pirate’s Dilemma author) as part of the We Tell Stories series. My brief was to come up with something based Hard Times, the Dickens classic which illustrates the growing pains of the industrial revolution. My story was to be about the growing pains of the information revolution, the subject covered in The Pirate’s Dilemma. If that wasn’t an intimidating enough way to enter the world of fiction for the first time, the story also had to be told as an ‘info-graphic novel’, using mostly statistics and numbers, mirroring Mr Thomas Gradgrind’s (the main character in Hard Times) obsession with cold hard facts. He didn’t quite follow those directions but I like what he came up with. It takes some focus to really appreciate it (or understand it in some cases) but I think that’s a good thing. We Tell Stories is an interesting project with 6 authors telling 6 stories in interesting ways. There’s a lot of variety and some interesting things to think about in terms […]


Shakespeare Writes For Tarantino

Darthparadox on Live Journal translated some chunks of Pulp Fiction into Shakespearian prose. This would be a very interesting way to get students really delving into the language of Shakespeare and a great way to make them interested in understanding it. Let them choose what they want to “Shakespeare-rize.” You might have to add some propriety restrictions for high school but it’d be a lot of fun. J: And know’st thou what the French name cottage pie? V: Say they not cottage pie, in their own tongue? J: But nay, their tongues, for speech and taste alike Are strange to ours, with their own history: Gaul knoweth not a cottage from a house. V: What say they then, pray? J: Hachis Parmentier. V: Hachis Parmentier! What name they cream? J: Cream is but cream, only they say le crème. V: What do they name black pudding? J: I know not; I visited no inn it could be bought. The original, in case you’ve forgotten it. Vincent Vega: You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris? Jules Winnfield: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese? Vincent Vega: No, man, they got the metric system, they don’t know what the fu** a Quarter Pounder is. Jules Winnfield: What do they call it? Vincent Vega: They call […]

Creating a Safe Space: Hacking WP

60% of my teachers have been in our county for less than 3 years (and, most of these newcomers, have never worked with a 1 to 1 initiative). More than 40% of my teachers have put less than 3 years into this vocation. With this in mind, I have created a space, online, for teachers to discuss instruction, vocation, and solutions for our school. I hope it will be a community building experience that gives teachers as much time as they can to the process without having to commit to meetings. Following the lead of Alan Levine with Tom’s guidance, I started by sketching out my vision. I wanted a place that was password protected and required unique usernames for participation. This site would be a  safe place where teachers could speak their minds in a professional manner. At the same time, I wanted to foster open communication, so anonymous responses would not be an option. I didn’t want a traditional blog format. The U/I needed to be as intuitive as possible, and I wanted meta-data to be presented in a way that encourage conversation. I sketched up two different layouts and solicited some feedback from my faculty.    The overwhelming response was for the second layout. After sifting through themes that mirrored my sketch, I decided on Blue Earth. […]

Everything New is Bad

It’s fun to watch the reaction to change change that I am not involved in guiding, forcing or in any way ensuring occurs. I’d seen the over the top reaction to allowing video on flickr but hadn’t seen the humorous counter attack until Merlin Mann’s twitter post. In a useful way it is interesting to see how people are dealing with this change. Some have no problem and roll on while others completely freak out. It all depends, it seems, on their investment with the concept/community and their perception of the change as a threat to that. I guess that’s obvious but it does explain why change in teaching is so hard. People are completely irate by the addition of the option to have 90 second videos on a photo sharing site. Some of those people are even digital natives (previously believed to be immune to any issues dealing with change)! Now imagine instead you’re trying to change one of the core elements of a person’s life. How long will that take? What do you need to do to make that person make the effort, feel comfortable, enjoy it? Is that even possible?


Avoiding the Echo

Dan’s got a post about how- . . . much easier (it is) in this tech-enamored ‘sphere of ours to write those posts than it is to criticize them. I’m not saying my rejoinders don’t demand a more objective tone (I’m saying the opposite) just that, having exhumed a lot of dusty blog posts the last few days, a lot of people seem less offended by my tone and more offended that someone bothered to contradict their majority opinion. I think he’s right and I’m glad to hear he’s working on his tone (just a little- generally I find him funny) because I see his ideas as rock solid and it’s too easy to end up dismissing ideas because of things like tone. I’m thinking of the stock edtech conference. Why not have debate style presentations on the topics? It’s an idea that’s old as dirt but edtech conferences tend to just have one point of view presentations. Why not a timed debate style? Something with over the top titles like those below 1 to 1: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Internet Safety: Pedophiles’ Playground or Digital Utopia? Digital Natives: Naive Name Calling or Nuclear Children? I saw this done really well at our law school Friday. The two law professors wrote a humorous biographical introduction for their […]

Stepping Up: Non-Programistan/Non-HTML Exhibit Page

Ben called me on the fact that Exhibit really was too much for most teachers/humans. It seems no one wants to know HTML these days has ever wanted to know html. So my “no programming” claim was weak and as a true patriot of Non-Programistan I had to step up. Here is a spreadsheet where you can put in some basic fields. It builds you the Google Spreadsheet headers (you have to cut and paste them in) and with a little simple work on your part in the spreadsheet the HTML is made for you. You have to cut and paste it into a text editor and save it as html. I made this page with it. Now, this version if fairly rough but it works. The whole thing is limited and will only do the sortable table view but it’s a decent start. There’s a lot you could do to expand this to allow mapping, time lines etc. as Exhibit is built to be modular. I might have to learn enough programming to make this work in a web interface some day. Step 1 You put in the data types, headers etc. you want. Step 2 After pasting in the URL headers into a Google spreadsheet you publish it and copy the XML feed and paste it into the […]


Lord of the Rings – Web 2.0 Style

[kml_flashembed movie=”” width=”425″ height=”350″ wmode=”transparent” /] I saw this on Neatorama. It’s worth checking out for the mix of web 2.0 story telling twists. You’ve got chat, emoticons, a Middle Earth twist on Google Maps some texting. It’s a multimedia extension of the chat room colonization of the US concept. You’ve got lots of room to play with this concept in a variety of subjects – history and English are pretty obvious but you could use it wherever there’s an interaction of objects and create a narrative around it. It’d work in chemistry (enzymes as instigators comes to mind), science (biomes, cell interactions) and government (it’d be a fun way to look at the bill to law process- maybe as a Google Map).