mind42.com is a web based mindmapping tool that recently came out of beta. I find their web interface intuitive and easy to use. Features include the ability to collaborate with others and to publish your maps via a direct link, or embedded in web pages.
Schools and Technology
Dan Meyer has produced another great video, this time documenting his experience using a data projector and video to help his students understand algebra. In the process he discusses his teaching process and how it has changed because of these tools. I plan to share this with my staff when we come back in August.
Stanza, currently in beta, is an electronic book reading application for Mac OS which also allows you to export content for use on a variety of portable devices. It features the ability to customize the display of text in multiple column layouts or in full screen mode. Scrolling can be set to advance automatically, like a teleprompter, based on your reading speed, or manually. You can import content from a variety of sources including directly from the Project Gutenberg site. It also provides for the ability to export content to mobile devices such as the iPhone and the Amazon Kindle.
I spent some time this morning playing with Stanza and went to the Project Gutenberg site and found the listing for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. I copied the url for the full text version and used the Open Location feature in Stanza to download and display the book. Stanza went out and got the file and displayed the book in the default view. I then used the export feature to create versions for my iPhone and for my Kindle.
The export to the iPhone is accomplished by converting the content to a .plist file (bookmarklet file) and then importing the bookmarklet into Safari. Once imported the content is transfered to your phone on your next sync. Once it is on your iPhone you can customize the reading experience including the ability to auto-scroll the text at various rates of speed based on your reading speed. As noted in their FAQ, very large books, or documents can slow down your the iPhone browser when initially opening the document.
I tried to use the open location feature to display a print friendly article from the New York Times, but ran into an issue with authenticating on the Times site. I worked around this by displaying the print friendly version of the article and then selecting and copying the text of the article. Stanza has an import form clipboard command that then imported and displayed the article.
Stanza is an interesting way to display and read text on your Mac. It's ability to export in various mobile formats makes it a great tool for getting content on your mobile devices.
Clay Shirky has a post up this morning that is a transcription of a speech he recently gave at the Web 2.0 conference. He discusses the social surplus that for the last 50 years has been consumed by television watching and is now being used by people to create, share and interact using technology. His arguments about "finding time" are something to think about as we work with our colleagues who are constantly asking that same question...
"From now on, that's what I'm going to tell them: We're looking for the mouse. We're going to look at every place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, "If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?" And I'm betting the answer is yes."
Update: Here is the video...
He also has a Drupal site set up for his school, Flushing International High School. With the ongoing New York transit strike, it is a good example of how a school can use a site to provide timely information to its community.Read More
Tim Wilson points to Stellarium an open source desktop planetarium for Linux/Unix, Windows and MacOSX.... I've wanted to include an astronomy tool like this on our disk image at Lewis, but could not afford to pay the licensing fee for something like Starry Night.Read More
The New Literacies Research Team at the University of Connecticut is a continually evolving consortium of professors, graduate research assistants, school districts, organizations, policy makers, teachers, and school leaders who seek to prepare students for the new learning and literacy skills required by information and communication technologies such as the Internet. I have known and worked with Don since my days as a kindergarten teacher at Buckman Elementary and I look forward to learning more about the work of his team and following their New Literacies Team Blog...Read More
This morning, Eamonn Sullivan has a very good post about children and the Internet. He outlines some ideas for keeping children safe while using the Internet and suggests some strategies for monitoring and more importantly discussing with children their life on the Internet, and their lives in general.Read More
Over at AssortedStuff, Tim Stahmer has a great post about the current state of most school, and school district web sites and the thinking, or lack of, behind them...... It’s actually a very appropriate title since many school, and central office, sites are updated as often as most museums."Read More
Boards Get Brains, Chalk Vanishes: "Schools across the country dump dusty chalkboards for touch-sensitive whiteboards connected to computers. Kids can solve problems, surf the web and even edit video with their fingertips..."
Today Wired reports on the rise in popularity of interactive whiteboards. At Lewis Elementary we currently have 6 classrooms equipped with these and with plans to add one more over the summer. The boards aren't cheap and the ideal installation involves ceiling mounts which can be rather expensive. At Lewis we choose to use projectors on carts, but would love to have them installed with ceiling mounts. The Wired article also has a slide show with examples of classroom use.
With Irreverence and an iPod, Recreating the Museum Tour: "The rise of podcasting is now enabling museumgoers to concoct their own unofficial audio guides and tours."
Today the New York Times has a piece about the rise of do it yourself museum audio tours. Instead of renting the museum audio device, you might download to your MP3 player a narration created by someone else other than the museum staff. Another example of a use of podcasting for something other than Wayne and Garth ramblings.
College Libraries Set Aside Books in a Digital Age: "Books are being cleared away to make room for digital learning laboratories, a phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country."
(Via NYT > Most E-mailed Articles.)
Liz Lane Lawley is teaching a graduate course entitled Current Themes in Information Technology. It’s a distance learning course and she is using a course weblog to organize and present content and is having her students create weblogs where they post their assignments. She has subscribed to their RSS feeds so can easily see when students "turn in" assignments. Office hours are via instant messenger and class discussions take place on IRC. By using "off the shelf" tools such as weblogs, IM and IRC, she has constructed a course space at a fraction of what it would cost to use such tools as WebCT or Blackboard.
This past week I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego to attend and present at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference. Tom Hoffman and I presented a short talk entitled, From the Classroom: Remixing Wikis with Rendezvous, Web Services and SchoolTool. Chris Jablonski of ZD-Net has a nice summary of our talk. Tom did a great job introducing SchoolTool, the open source student information system, to the audience and pointed them to the just released SchoolBell, the stand alone calendar component of SchoolTool. Over spring break, I plan to install SchoolBell to run a web based calendar for scheduling resources (computer lab, gym, cafeteria...) at Lewis Elementary.
While I won't be able to run SchoolTool as our student information system, I am very happy to see it being developed and supported. I am looking forward to the day when I can point people to a school in the developing world that is keeping track of student information using SchoolTool, and point out how they are doing so using a tool that is customizable and extendable and is free... Take that A.L.L. ...
Something Less Than A CadillacTim Stahmer has a great post today about a computer based literacy program that Los Angeles Unified invested over $50 million dollars in and found that their results are less than stellar... Tim asks some very good questions...
Is it really a good thing to have five and six-year olds sitting in front of computers drilling their reading skills? Is this kind of drill and practice software the best use of $50 million? Couldn’t that money have been spent on programs that put the students in contact with people instead of machines?
I have to agree with him. I'm a firm believer that access to technology is something that needs to be appropriate and developmentally sound. Having five year olds sit in front of a computer screen for over 30 minutes a day seems just crazy to me. There is a difference between using technology as a tool for research and self expression, and using technology to bypass the interaction between student and teacher. I wonder how many additional teachers $50 million could of bought that could of lowered class size?
Not only has the Perry study set records for longevity, but it also asks the truly pertinent question: what is the impact of preschool, not on the test scores of 7-year-olds but on their life chances? The answer is positive -- a well-designed program really works.
An article from the Sunday New York Times Magazine that highlights the most recent findings from the Perry Preschool Project. The study examines the lives of 123 African Americans born in poverty and at high risk of failing in school in Ypsilanti, Michigan.The subjects were randomly divided into a program group who received a high-quality preschool program based on High/Scope's participatory learning approach and a comparison group who received no preschool program. In the study's most recent phase, 97% of the study participants still living were interviewed at age 40.
The Times article does a nice job of outlining the findings... mainly that adults at age 40 who had the preschool program had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes, and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not have preschool. The Perry Preschool Project Fact Sheet gives a good overview of the main research questions answered by the ongoing study.
Our music teacher at Lewis, Mr. Jamesbarry, had a great idea that we recently implemented. Last year we had talked about setting up a server to share some of the music he uses with classrooms. This summer when we moved all of our machines to OS X, he got the idea of setting up a machine with iTunes and loading it with all the music he uses in his music program. With the music installed on the music classroom machine, and running under iTunes, it can be set up so that the music on that machine is available to any other machine on the network via iTunes music sharing and Rendezvous. Now Mr. Jamesbarry can point our classroom teachers to the selections on our iTunes jukebox that correspond to the lessons he has shared with our students. Again, ZeroConfig/Rendezvous provides a very easy way to share our resources within the building without any of us having to be a networking genius. Just boot up iTunes and you’ll find Mr. Jamesbarry’s music. Not much U2, but he does have all those cool tunes that go with 5th grade square dancing unit...
While this report sounds like another industry lobbying group trying to scare Congress into giving their companies lots of money, they do make one good point. We don't do a good job of math and science instruction in this country. Part of the blame for that goes to society in general which gives lots of lip service to learning those subjects but then has an adult population which is largely (and often proudly) ignorant of even the most basic math and science concepts. How many people actually understand the odds behind the lottery or what the theory of evolution actually says?
Over at Assorted Stuff, Tim Stahmer is discussing the state of math and science education and how it is being linked to the exporting of jobs to other countries.
I imagine a network of school websites, or portals, which are independently maintained but are interconnected using RSS feeds. Imagine a school district with a district site, and individual school sites. Info. from the district site RSS feeds to school sites, and vice versa. Top to bottom, bottom to top. Parents with PDA's or pocket pc's or laptops or desktops can get feeds from their school and stay up to date on happenings and news. (Is there an RSS aggregator available for PDA's, cell phones, or pocket PC's? Could be a cool new project to work on. The idea is exciting. [by way ofTuttle SVC]
One of the nice pieces of of Moveable Type is the ability to use plug-ins such as MTOtherBlog. MTOtherBlog allows me to pull content from several independently produced web sites on to the Lewis Elementary web page. For example, items from our music teacher, Tony Jamesbarrry are nested in the left sidebar of the Lewis site. Our weekly parent newsletter is listed on the right sidebar. Also the main page features a photo gallery. All three are independent weblogs, but via the Moveable Type plug-in architecture, I am able to have them all appear "loosely coupled" on the main school web page.