IMSafer: Helping Responsible Parents

My wife and I were talking about personal responsibility last night. It was the age-old debate about who to blame for the state of the world. More specifically, the state of children (we are both teachers). We both recognized that there are companies actively marketing products, services, and entertainment to teenagers that is clearly inappropriate for their age. As most of these conversations go, we both agreed that in a free-market based economy, the people still have the power (whether they use it or not). We can always vote with our money and time. Parents have the added burden of keeping tabs on their children and the choice they make. I encountered IMSafer a couple weeks ago and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The site/software monitors chats and notifies you via email if something fishy seems to be going on. I worry about parents who keep such a tight grip on their children that the kids end up more deviant. IMSafer has the potential of being used in an abusive way. I suppose it would depend on how you went about using it. Looking at the product information, the site claims to have talked with law enforcement officials about how inappropriate relationships are initiated and maintained. The monitor can even pick up […]

Disaster Events Map

RSOE HAVARIA Want that certain student motivated and interested in exploring the globe while learning about some interesting current events? This looks like just the right thing to spark some interest in some students I know. A map covering all sorts of unpleasant real time events (natural disasters, disease outbreaks, etc) from the National Association of Radio-Distress Signaling and Info-communications. It’s got a RSS feed and daily downloads for Google Earth. You’ve got lots of options regarding researching certain areas and disasters as well as graphing the data itself. How many disasters occurred in Asia compared to Canada over the last week? That type of thing. Via

Geni Fixes Familial Woes is neat. A great option for dealing with complicated family relationships in history or novels (Richard III for instance). Have your students plot out the family tree and upload pictures all for free in a very easy ajaxy environment. You can move around and zoom in and out to get the big picture. It allows multiple authors so it’s great for group projects and it also has a list view which might be better for some learners. It’s also searchable and you can easily add pictures. The negatives seem to be that you need to have an email address to use it and to invite others in as well. I can’t figure out a way to share a link with non-invited users as of yet either. All in all really cool and I heard about it on Net@Night.


The Communist Manifesto on YouTube as a Cartoon Remix

A great idea and great project type for kids. You could do this with any number of fairly dry historical documents and while it would take quite a while the level of comprehension, analysis and retention the creators would get from this project would be incredible. The movie itself makes for a nice resource if you’re covering Communism. via BoingBoing some time ago

How big is Azeroth?- Who says word problems can’t be interesting?

From Tobold’s MMORPG Blog: How big is Azeroth? To measure a square mile, you first need to define what a mile is. As “a mile” doesn’t even have the same length on different places on our earth, that isn’t trivial. The basic definition of a mile is coming from Roman times, defining a mile a 1000 double steps of a marching legion. The soldiers had to walk through all of Europe anyway, so you just needed to count their steps and had the place all measured up with few extra effort. Clever guys, these Romans. But on Azeroth “steps” aren’t that easy to count, and the length of legs between the different races varies widely. But interestingly all races move at the same running speed, so it makes sense to define the mile by the time it takes to run it. On earth, a marathon runner has a running speed of about 12 miles per hour. As everybody on Azeroth is a hero, lets just define the Azerothian running speed as 12 mph as well. This effectively defines an Azerothian mile as “the distance you can run in 5 minutes”, without using any speed enhancing items of course. So this guy took the time and expended the effort to do this. Why? Because it interested him. It’s a fairly difficult […]

Crystal Clear Instructions with OmniDazzle and KeyCastr

I’m teaching my students how to post to a blog this week (so far they have only commented). Tom showed me OmniDazzle last spring, which makes guiding my students to specific links or pages unbelievably easy. OmniDazzle has plenty of plug-ins that create highlighted windows, flashlight focal points, and other fun attention-getters at the tip of your pointer. As I was thinking of my first day of working with The Outsiders Blog, I realized I would need to walk them through step by step. “But how will I make sure the kid who doesn’t know how copy and paste keeps up with the class?” I asked myself last night, and followed up with this thought: “If only I could display keystrokes on my screen.” Enter KeyCastr. A simple program that places a small translucent screen on your desktop that displays every key you hit. So, you want to teach someone how to take a screen shot? Start up KeyCastr, take a screenshot, and the keystroke combo is displayed for all to see. I used the OmniDazzle/KeyCastr combo today with amazing success. Both programs are for Mac. Sorry PCers, but if you use something comperable, please share!

The Cliche Rotation Project- Act Now!

Defective Yeti (a very funny blog which has nothing to do with yetis or defects) had the following post- Of course, the problem with cliches is that they are just so darned … you know. Cliche. That’s why I am initiating the Cliche Rotation Project, to replace our current set of cliches with new ones of equivalent meaning. For example: Old & Busted New Hotness Made a mountain out of a molehill Saw a duck and shouted “dragon!” Quiet as a church mouse Silent as a shadow’s whisper Ready and willing On it like a bonnet Wore his heart on his sleeve Flew his feelings from a flagpole I’d love to do that in an English class. It could be done to reinforce the ideas of cliches (and avoiding them). You could use it as way to approach vocabulary (each “New Hottness” cliche has to use one of our vocabulary words). I think it’d even work well with a poetry unit. You could also have them illustrate their cliches. They’d make good journal or story prompts. (Draw three new cliches out of the hat and include them in your story) All in all just a great way to get kids having fun with words and focusing on language. He’s inviting submissions through comments on the post. Why not try your […]

Make Your Own Widgets!!!

If you use a Mac it is now really easy to make your own custom widgets. Dashcode (beta- so no promises) is a neat little WYSIWYG that makes widget construction quick and easy. You can make all of the default widgets above or make your own from scratch. It’s free to download once you join the Apple Developer’s Connection (which is free but requires you to give some information). Not a bad deal. Educationally, it’d be a fun way to do a number of things. An easy intro to RSS for staff and/or students but with you in control Countdown timers for Spring Break, exams etc. An upcoming events widget for your school with sports, meetings etc. A staffdev feed of recommended articles and posts I realize these are all things you could do easily other ways (and in some cases with greater ease and flexibility).  The thing is widgets will often succeed where you would fail utterly with a less “cool” or “fun” option. Our school has widget mania so I’m going to try to tap in. If you’d like a widget for BionicTeaching’s rss feed click here. Yeah, I know it’s probably useless for the majority of you but like I said- It’s all about the widgets baby.


1:1 Programs and Expectations

Mr. Guhlin asked “How have laptop programs helped?” and the responses depressed me. Maybe, I’m over analyzing but quote like “Imagine anything one could do on an overhead projector. You can do the same on a tablet if you have an LCD.” brought me close to tears. Clearly, replacing an overhead and pen with several thousands of dollars worth of equipment to do “the same” is not a cost efficient trade. Other quotes that made me wince: my laptop/tablet has replaced a paper notebook during meetings. Have students do grammar exercises. Math teachers do the same. Not exactly what you’d want to hear if you’re paying for those laptops. Now, I also realize these are quick reports but I don’t see anything in there about students doing anything they couldn’t do with paper for far less money.  The whole point of a 1:1 is to get students producing with laptops and to have no comment on that worries me. Don’t get me wrong- I’m for 1:1 initiatives and that’s why I’m concerned. I work in a district going on the 6th year of a 1:1 initiative and I worry that some teachers might give similar “proof” that our program is working. So here’s how our 1:1 has helped students in our school- everyone now has a computer no matter their […]


AppleScript for Instant File Uploads and URLs

Let me preface this with the fact that I am not a programmer (knowing laughs from anyone who is) and I managed to write this using AppleScript. It is a little scary looking but really isn’t that bad. If you’ve got a Mac, give it a shot! The Issue It is always a hassle for me to stop in the middle of writing a post to log on to a server and upload files that I need to link to. I also have server space in several locations so remembering that ~ in one or that I’m woodward_t in the other was a hassle. So . . . Here’s a little AppleScript I wrote to help myself out. It’s a droplet (you drag files onto it to make it work) that I leave on my desktop. It uploads the file to the server (I have three, one for each server) and puts the URL to that file on my clipboard so I can then paste directly into the post. Stuff to keep in mind- I tried to comment (denoted by –) it up so you could see clearly what was going on. All things you’ll have to change are in all caps. It’ll handle multiple files but it’d only give you the URL of the last one that uploads. If […]