Giveaway – WinX #Blu-ray Decrypter #free #edchat

Around the and Digiarty Software have launched an exciting giveaway for the WinX Blu-ray Decrypter software! Read the rest of this blog entry to find out how you can qualify for one of ten licenses being given away on November 15, 2011!

WinX Blu-ray Decrypter is a professional Blu-ray decrypting and copy tool for users to decrypt and backup Blu-ray to M2TS video file or Blu-ray folder (compatible with Win7 Media Player). It is able to remove and decrypt encryption (AACS MKB v25), BD+ copy protection, etc. in Blu-ray disc. With this program, you can effortlessly protect your beloved Blu-ray discs from scratch or loss. 

WinX Blu-ray Decrypter is an ideal Blu-ray backup solution which supports both Full Disc Blu-ray Backup and Title Copy modes. It allows you to decrypt Blu-ray Disc with all known copy protections and encryptions and backup 3D Blu-ray to 2D video in only 3 clicks. It also brings fast decrypting speed while preserving original video/audio quality. If you are looking for powerful software to backup and decrypt Blu-ray video disc, WinX Blu-ray Decrypter is the way to go.

Read more about WinX Blu-ray Decrypter online…. 

Interested in qualifying for a free copy? Here’s how:
  1. Simply go to the Around the Corner-Giveaway Facebook group and join up AND 
  2. Leave a comment on the group announcement by no later than midnight, November 14th.

Winners will be announced via Facebook on November 15th. Note that all software must be installed and registered prior to November 30, 2011.

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Buying Ubuntu Dedicated hardware

Just a quick note…here are two vendors that sell free software (e.g. UbuntuLinux) based computers:

  1. System76
  2. ZaReason

Two computers I’d like a closer look at include the following:

Strata 6880 from ZaReason
Lemur Ultra from System76
Of course, the only problem is that Keynote (on Mac) isn’t available on either of the systems above, and there isn’t anything comparable on Linux yet. 

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All The Truth – Andy Rooney

At 4 minutes and 57 seconds, Andy Rooney says something that reflects my perspective about blogs and writing…and life. I often imagine the voices of writers like Rooney, asking myself, what would they say about something I’m writing about, if I could only imagine them whispering.

Listen to Andy Rooney at 4 minutes and 57 seconds. It’s worth a minute or two of your time.

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Expires Nov 6 – #Mac X DVD Ripper Pro

Just received exciting news about MacX DVD Ripper Pro…it’s a nice piece of software that works for Mac and Windows platforms. Here’s the press release:

We are giving away MacX Video Converter Pro (both Mac and Windows version) till Nov 6. Would you please help to share this exciting news with your readers?The giveaway link:

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Apple, Mosquitoes, and Lasers – Ripping Space-Time


Wow, it was just a short time ago I was reading that Windows 8 had the potential to prevent PCs from running any other operating system except Windows. Of course, Windows 8 may not turn out to be so bad…

In an e-mail exchange and a follow-up phone conversation, a Dell spokesperson told me, “Dell has plans to make SecureBoot an enable/disable option in BIOS setup.” (That’s exactly what the FSF is demanding.)
The spokesperson [for HP] confirmed for me that HP has no plans to participate in any conspiracy against a non-Windows OS: “HP will continue to offer its customers a choice of operating systems. We are working with industry partners to evaluate the options that will best serve our customers.”

Source:  Leading PC makers confirm: no Windows 8 plot to lock out Linux

But wait! If you were looking for some piratical plot to purloin users from GNU/Linux, maybe there’s something else coming up that will help lock in the helpless to an Apple operating system.

Now, it’s interesting to read that Apple may only allow apps purchased from its “App store:”

“And so it begins: Apple will require that all Mac apps submitted to the Mac App store stick to strict sandboxing requirements. This means you must ask Apple for read or read/write entitlements for additional folders outside your Application Support folder before your app is approved. There are also restrictions on direct hardware access, communication to processes your app did not start, or even something simple as taking a screenshot. All that is needed after this to turn your Mac into an appliance is to only allow app installations from App Store.”

via Slashdot

You know, GNU/Linux never looked so good. Have you checked out Ubuntu 11.10 or Peppermint Two? Two nice options that are beautiful to look at and don’t lock you into whatever the Microsoft/Apple folks constraints are that they need to put in place to make you spend more money.

I’m sure it’s an over-reaction. I was considering buying a Mac Air for my senior about to leave for college next year (I’m accepting donations for that! 8->) but may have to reconsider if you can’t have dual boot on the device.

Since I’m completely ignorant on sandboxing–see? I admitted that, so no comments alleging that I don’t know what I’m talking about since I’ve disclosed that fact already–does this mean solutions like VirtualBox might not work on Apple computers? Would I still be able to dual boot using a solution like rEFIT?

On a positive note, these acts by Microsoft and Apple may not matter in the slightest, given the news below:
those pesky physicists are at it again; they want to build a laser so powerful that it will literally rip spacetime apart.  (Read source)

Why don’t we spend precious funding on important stuff like mosquito prevention? Instead of using fancy technologies to rip space-time apart….
 If you have an invisible wall of light, how will mosquitoes and fruit flies react? They do walk or fly into it. Then they turn back. They don’t want to cross it,” says Márka. (Watch this video here to see how the mosquitoes stop at the invisible wall of light.) 

Read sourceUsing a Light Barrier to Repel Mosquitoes

Imagine what a 200 petawatt, space-time ripping laser could do for mosquito prevention!! Now that is something worth doing! 

Image Source:

Of course, maybe we should just use a NASA tractor beam to capture and relocate errant mosquitoes with a taste for human flesh?

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CTO Wannabe – Interview Questions


Here are some questions you may want to ask your next CTO candidate…below each question are resources to check out and be better prepared! While the questions were suggested, my responses and/or list of resources is “my research” in response to the question in anticipation of an article. As such, any interpretation of the question that is flawed is mine, not the original questionner.

Note that this list has been online in various places but I originally compiled it via tweeted/emailed questions.

1. What is it that you monitor or assess to determine your effectiveness in the organization? (Joel Adkins)
2. What are your top 3 priorities for what you must do well in the first 100 days of this position to be an effective leader?(Joel Adkins)3. Please describe an issue in the past 12 months that has tested your ethical being?
4. Describe yourself in the context of being a reflective leader. (Joel Adkins)5. Describe how you see “technology” in the broader context of the school’s core mission of teaching and learning??(Joel Adkins)6. What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?

8. Do you have any experience in curriculum development? (Dan Rezac)
9. How do you determine if a teacher is effectively integrating technology? (Joel Adkins)
10. Describe your last experience in a classroom as 1) an instructor and 2) as a learner. What would you change about each experience? (Joel Adkins)??

11. Have you ever heard of: NETS A , TA TEKS, NETS T, NETS S, SBEC standards for new teachers…how would you support these? (Tim Holt)
12. How do you incorporate new ideas from the grass roots level? (Carolyn Foote)
13. What technology ideas worry you right now? (Joel Adkins)

14. What is more important: a pencil or internet access? (Tim Holt)
15. What is your BHAG – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal? (Joel Adkins)??16. How will you operate as a support for teachers? (Carolyn Foote)

17. How do you stay current with technology issues, apps, innovations? How do you stay current with educational research, reforms, etc.? (Judith Epcke)
18. Who do they percieve as the most important clients? (GDahlby)
19. Why do you want 2 work in K12 public schools? (GDahlby)

20. How would you direct/handle/deploy a new district wide initiative? (Amber Teamann)

21. Is learning w/technology appropriate 4 everyone? (Is teaching w/technology appropriate 4 everyone?) (Andrew Forgrave)??
22. What are you passionate about? (Gail Lovely)

23. In your opinion, what single technology holds greatest potential to significantly enhance learning? (Andrew Forgrave)
24. Discuss where you believe we need to look to identify our “pace” for technology integration. (Andrew Forgrave)
25. Discuss how frequently and how comfortable you would be asking, “How can I help? What can I do?” (Andrew Forgrave)??

26. How will you integrate technology without treating teachers and students like felons? (Shawn McGirr)
27. What is your vision of a 21st Century Learning environment? (Jennifer Spille)
28. What is your vision around mobile learning in K-12? (Jennifer Spille)

29. May we see what stocks you own? (Tim Holt)
30. How do you balance providing the electronic resources needed for the classroom environment while securing the network and related technology that you are responsible for? (Patricia Holub)

Some other questions I’ve used over the years:

  1. What in your past job experience has prepared you for this position? Be sure to connect that experience to the state and national virtual learning initiatives.
  2. Describe your experience taking an online course. What did you like and dislike? What would you have done differently if you were the instructor?
  3. Students with learning disabilities may encounter challenges working online. How would you support students with learning disabilities in being successful in a virtual learning environment?
  4. This job requires a lot of collaboration with other offices and departments.  Give an example of  how you have used online tools—like wikis, GoogleDocs–to collaborate online with others.
  5. What strategies would you employ to better engage K-12 and/or adult learners in an online learning course?
  6. What strengths or assets do you bring to this position that make you the best choice for this position?
  7. How would you help create an environment that supported online professional learning in a district like this one?
  8. Your job will often involve travel within the district from campus to campus. You will also be required at times to work from 4:30–7:30 pm and/or on Saturdays. Do you have a reliable form of transportation (e.g. car) and do you foresee any difficulty in completing the requirements of the job?
  9. Maintaining confidential data integrity is a key responsibility of this position. Do you foresee any obstacles to maintaining information confidential?
  10. In a work situation where you found you disagreed with your co-workers, what steps did you take to positively resolve the conflict?
  11. In a situation where you had more work than could be completed in the time allotted, what did you do?
  12. Online professional development has become a popular trend for school districts.  What are the characteristics of successful online professional development?  Use your own experiences to illustrate those characteristics.
  13. What do you think is more important:  Giving your attention to details or getting the job done?  Why?  Please share an example that illustrates your reasoning. 
  14. What is your experience with course management systems such as Moodle, Blackboard, Sakai, to name 3 examples?
  15. Could you describe some of your recent efforts at facilitating professional development for adult learners?
  16. Have you developed curriculum for use in the K-12 classroom that address integration of technology?
  17. There are a lot of audio/video creation and editing tools available for developing content for online consumption. Which tools in particular are you familiar with and could you cite some examples?
  18. What level of interaction have you had with student information systems?
  19. Professional development tracking and delivery programs—also known as learning management systems—are valuable tools. What has been your experience with those?
  20. How has your knowledge of required state and federal technology assessment tools and reports been helpful at the campus and/or district level?
  21. We all have encountered challenged learners in our teaching.  Could you share with us an example of how you made a difference for one of those learners in your care?
  22. What is your problem-solving experience with resolving hardware/software issues?A teacher approaches you and wants to integrate technology.  How do you respond?
  23. There are many ways to provide instructional materials.  Please share some specific examples that illustrate the ways you are familiar with in one to one, one to many situations.
  24. What content management systems—such as blogs, wikis, Joomla—have you had experience with?
  25. What experiences have you had with Windows/Macintosh servers? Internet Information Systems (IIS)? Apache?

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Demotivating Staff – How to Avoid it

This video posted over at Dan Pink’s blog from Jim Collins really struck home. I had a chance to see this process in action recently and it was so…on target. Take a moment to watch the video and find out about the 3 ways to avoid demotivating your staff:

1) Confront the brutal facts.
2) Disagree and Commit prior to making the decision
3) Show people what’s working as it’s happening.
In terms of my own leadership, I’m grateful to my team for helping achieve #1 and learn #2 and #3. 

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Hard Drive Prices Going Up!

via Google Images “external hard drives” search

When a colleague’s Windows computer was infested with malware, one of the first questions she asked me was, “Do I need to buy a…what do you call it?”

“An external USB hard drive,” I clarified.
“Yes, one of those. Do I?”
Although the problem of saving the data has been solved, I’m still mulling over that question. The price of external USB hard drives is going to go up, isn’t it? Consider this piece of news:
The severe flooding in Thailand is causing a ripple effect in the electronics industry, as hard disk drive (HDD) manufacturers based there have been forced to close down. Thanks to HDD shortages, prices on hard drives are going up–and at least one PC manufacturer, Acer, is planning on raising laptop prices accordingly.
About 40 percent of the world’s hard disk drives are made in Thailand,according to Western Digital, who was forced to close all its factories in Thailand. (Read Source)

So, if you want to buy while the prices are low, what should you do? Check out the following (via TechBargains) but be aware that these are time-sensitive deals….
Note: I’ll be sharing these with my friend so she can get herself set up with one or more of these!

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ePub, DRM and GoogleBooks – Oh #Nook!


Want to buy a book through Google Books but not sure what the process is? You’re not alone! I started to go through the process but stopped short of buying a book. What stopped me was whether I would have to deal with Adobe Digital Rights Management (DRM) or not. It’s a bit of a pain to go through DRM books and deal with “Adobe Digital Designs”–a nice way of saying you can’t make copies of books you buy–and I understand why some folks want to go Kindle or Nook and buy all their books there.

In truth, the only real way is to strip DRM from books and sell them that way. Of course, that’s crazy talk, isn’t it? In the meantime, how do you get a Google Book in ePub DRM’d format over to your Nook?

One question to ask is, “Is the Google Book ePub format locked down with DRM?”

The ePub book IS DRM’d (or protected) and will require Adobe Digital Designs be installed on your computer to enable the transfer. There is a nice video and more instructions available online at the link below that explain the situation:

Knowing that this is Adobe Digital Designs, I’m going to go with the answer shown below:

…you are free to move your items to up to six computers and six devices that have been authorized with Digital Editions.
Source: under “How do I enable content portability?

and, for even better clarity…
You can activate up to six computers or devices . If you reach the limit, contact Customer Service to reset your activations.
Source: FAQ, 

What is the maximum number of computers and devices that I can authorize?

That means your Adobe Digital Design AdobeID can be used–and all content attached to that Adobe ID–on 6 devices.
Does that work with ipad? Hmm…not sure since no mention of number is made.
Another interesting tool for iOS and Android focused folks is the BlueFire Reader. I will have to play around with that.
Will I buy a GoogleBook? Well, no. Who wants to mess with Adobe Digital Design that is tied to one computer? They obviously have no idea how many times I reformat computers, use GNU/Linux, or switch machines. Right now, I’ll stick with Barnes & Noble for my Nook, and Amazon for the Kindles in the family.

I can’t imagine buying newspapers that have been DRM’d….

Future print and online publications of the popular newspaper will now include bestseller rankings for ebook sales, alongside their print counterparts. Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and Google will be among the retailers that pass on numbers to Nielsen, where the WSJ takes its figures from.
The WSJ will follow the New York Times and USA Today who include similar lists.

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Trying Out Ubuntu 11.10

Once Ubuntu started with its Unity thing, I decided to switch to something else (e.g. Peppermint ICE/Two) and, for the most part, I’ve been pretty happy except for little things. Today, though, helping out a friend with an infested Dell d520, I found none of my USB flash drives running Peppermint or SystemRescue would work on it. . .that is, until I tried my UbuntuLinux 11.10 USB drive.

I’d made the Ubuntu 11.10 bootable USB flash drive for fun, to experiment with the new version of one of my favorite Linux distros, and wow, I wasn’t prepared for how nice it was. Sure enough, it booted on the d520 and I managed to save my friend’s phD research (no backups…none whatsoever anywhere else), which totalled about 375 megs of MS Word documents, Powerpoint presentations, and other critical stuff (tears in the eyes when she was able to pull up the stuff she’d been slaving over).
Since Ubuntu 11.10 had worked where other distros had failed, I’ve created a persistent USB flash drive, replacing my Peppermint Two installation on my 16gig flash drive. I’m hoping that it will serve me better in the future.
If the killer app is the cloud these days, Google Chrome Sync made getting back to speed a no-brainer. One sync and everything is working great.

Some helpful reading:

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Sending Bulk SMS (Txt Messages) at No Cost

Image Source:

Ever wanted to send txt messages to people’s phone en masse? You are not alone:

I run a few list serves but I am looking for a way to take the concept over to texting?  I would prefer free (Open Source) but would look at a pay for service.  
I would like to be able to have a site that people can go to and register their cell phone to receive txt messages.  I could then send messages, “This is a reminder that all servers will be offline for maintenance starting at 6PM tonight.” Anyone using such a system or know of one?

Here’s one possible solution that is no-cost if you have your own web/mail server:

Howdy! Have you considered this approach? I just tested it successfully…here’s what the txt message looks like:

Web server is offline until 10pm for maintenance  / . — _
Here’s how to do it….
1) Have end users fill out an online form (e.g. Googleform) that includes their firstname,lastname,email address, and phone email address.
The phone number email address would look like this for ATT:
or for Tmobile:
If you don’t want to trouble them, you could always ask them to choose their provider, concactenate the phone number with the appropriate 
Data fields for the form would look like this:
  • firstname
  • lastname
  • district email
  • your mobile phone provider (this would be a drop down of TMobile, Sprint, AT&T, etc.
  • Mobile Phone #
  • Do you understand there may be charges for receiving txt messages? You are encouraged to have an unlimited texting plan.
Then, after data collection is complete, concactenate the mobile phone number with the appropriate
2) Install PHPList on a server that has a mail server; more about it here
When you import the data into PHPList gathered from Step 1, only pull in this info:
a) firstname
b) lastname
c) phone email address as “email”
Alternative Possibility: Note that if you don’t have your own server, you could use a bulk email solution like Fairlogic’s Worldcast (free for education use) to send the messages out

3) You can create your own distribution lists, organizing people into various people into groups like Principals, WorkshopTraining, etc. That’s what I do and can spam thousands (oh, it’s a heady power ;-> ) as I need to.

4) Enter the txt message in the subject and simply put a period “.” in the body of the email. That way, the user gets a brief message.

This is one possibility. You can read about another using a similar solution:

BTW, I’d considered Moodle, but this approach is easier. Email headers mess up the Moodle solution. Another possibility is to use WordPress subscribe list and have people subscribe to updates posted there. Again, message headers and the length of the message may cause problems.

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#iPad Document Sharing with #ourpad #dropcopy


Update: The colleague below posted a solution they prefer to the one outlined in this blog entry. It appears at the end and is well worth-reading if you have some money to spend!

A colleague recently shared the following scenario:
We have purchased an iPad cart for the high school. Different students throughout the day use the iPads for research and projects. The problem becomes when students want to share documents or projects.  Dropbox, gamil, bump and actually apps all want the email account to be set up on the ipad.  With 8 or more students using a single iPad how are others handling this?   Does anyone know of an app or work around so that students can collaborate without having to establish an email account on the iPad?

My response to the scenario was as follows….

1) Have students login with a “” account (or whatever username you choose to create). That login would be used across different iPads because it’s “app” specific not an iPad-wide setup requirement. 

2) Then, use that has 50 gig for life if you create the account now from an iPad. More info at the link below (time-sensitive, so move fast):
Set one email up per teacher grade level and you’d have a common storage area.
Remember, the email account is only for the app, and does NOT appear in the iPad settings. 

3) Login on each student iPad with the shared username and password. Students will then be able to place documents in the shared space on

Can anyone see why this approach would not work (aside from usual permission forms for student work on external sites)?

Update #1 – Solution My Colleague Settled on:
Great News!  We have found a solution….Thanks to this wonderful forum……an app called Dropcopy.  We are able to send docs, pic, presentations, etc to each other using this app.  The lite version is o.k. but the real success was when we paid the $4.99 for the paid version.  Professional development with the teachers was a lot harder than showing the students.  They just ran with it.

Update #2 - You start to appreciate the expression, “There’s an app for that!” There sure is. A colleague (@mrhooker) suggests the following app, OurPad ($2.99), as a possible solution to the problem scenario.

I share my precious iPad with three other members of my family, and with occasional guests who drop by from time to time. Each user has his or her own e-mail and Facebook accounts, which typically means they have to log out of my accounts to access theirs. This is not a huge problem, but since Apple has already established a multiple sign-in accounts feature for Macs, it only makes sense to have something similar for iOS devices.

Read more about it online at

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MyNotes – Networked Science


This is an article I enjoyed, sharing the story of Tim Gowers to run an experiment in a way that his PLN could help him solve. Although the article states that “most such wikis have failed,” the idea of solving problems completely in the open is appealing!

What do you think of the “open sharing of knowledge?” Good or bad? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Michael Nielsen on Networked Science –
    • The New Einsteins Will Be Scientists Who Share From cancer to cosmology, researchers could race ahead by working together—online and in the open
      • In January 2009, a mathematician at Cambridge University named Tim Gowers decided to use his blog to run an unusual social experiment. He picked out a difficult mathematical problem and tried to solve it completely in the open, using his blog to post ideas and partial progress.
        • The discussion ignited, and in just six weeks, the mathematical problem had been solved.
          • they have pioneered a new approach to problem-solving. Their work is an example of the experiments in networked science that are now being done to study everything from galaxies to dinosaurs.
            • These projects use online tools as cognitive tools to amplify our collective intelligence. The tools are a way of connecting the right people to the right problems at the right time, activating what would otherwise be latent expertise.
              • Ventures such as the Polymath Project remain the exception, not the rule.
                • If you’re a scientist applying for a job or a grant, the biggest factor determining your success will be your record of scientific publications. If that record is stellar, you’ll do well. If not, you’ll have a problem. So you devote your working hours to tasks that will lead to papers in scientific journals.
                  • Consider, for example, the open scientific wikis launched by a few brave pioneers in fields like quantum computing, string theory and genetics (a wiki allows the sharing and collaborative editing of an interlinked body of information, the best-known example being Wikipedia). Specialized wikis could serve as up-to-date reference works on the latest research in a field, like rapidly evolving super-textbooks. They could include descriptions of major unsolved scientific problems and serve as a tool to find solutions.
                    • most such wikis have failed.
                      • We have to overthrow the idea that it’s a diversion from “real” work when scientists conduct high-quality research in the open.
                        • we must first choose to create a scientific culture that embraces the open sharing of knowledge.
                          • Mr. Nielsen is a pioneer in the field of quantum computing and the author of “Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science,” from which this is adapted.

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                            Image Curation with EverNote (Updated)

                            Image curation with…sounds serious, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. For fun, you may want to read something more serious on curating digital content from the famous Joyce Valenza:

                            The stuff I personally need most–the stuff I am passionate about–is published in the most diverse sources, across all sorts of platforms and formats.  Much of it is dynamic, and feedy.  Much of it is a moving target.
                            I’ve been playing a bit with the notion of curating–for myself and my personal practice, for the librarians in our District, for my practicum students, and perhaps for a broader audience, for synchronizing our community  So here is a beta version of my curation effort–Guide for Teacher Librarians.

                            Or, check out this entry where students are working on sharing content with

                            That seriousness aside, does the idea of curating also apply to images you stumble across everywhere?

                            Like a lot of other folks, I’m starting to turn into a Facebook and Google+ image junkie…G+ has so many awesome photographers online, I now “get” why it’s so much fun to follow them and see the pictures they come up with. 
                            It was inevitable but I fell in love with the image at the top of this blog post–I pray my “G” rating for this blog won’t be revoked–and couldn’t stop quoting it to my family to endless laughter.
                            The laughs have been hysterical in our family over this baby and where he gets his milk. I realized that I needed an easy way to collect these pictures, no matter where and when I ran across them. Evernote, the web clipper that works on every computer I have and Android phone, makes clipping easy to accomplish and put them in an Images Notebook that can be easily shared with others.

                            I hope that clipping images with Evernote will help keep track of the origin site–at least, where I ran across an image–and alleviate copyright concerns. Still, since I’m still learning, I’m not sure how well EverNote will serve in this way.

                            I’ve had a lot of fun clipping images from my social media feeds, but also, collecting articles to share with a friend who is going on a job interview. One of the questions asked in the interview is, “How would you describe technology integration in K-12 today?” It’s a fun question to consider, so as I skimmed my RSS feeds, I started clipping relevant stuff in the hopes it might be useful.
                            Still, I have to admit that my favorite use of Evernote remains clipping photos:
                            There’s just so many of these floating out there….
                            I’m using Chrome and the Clip to Evernote Add-on, which works great via right-click. I created a notebook in Evernote just for images and move stuff there from my WebClips periodically.
                            How are you using Evernote more constructively? 8->
                            Joyce quotes Clay Shirky on curation:

                            Part of the reason that human curation is so critical is simply the vast number of people who are now making and sharing media. Everyone is a media outlet. The point of everyone being a media outlet is really not at all complicated. It just means that we can all put things out in the public view now.

                            “Everyone is a media outlet”…Evernote makes it easy for me to capture and share images with family and friends. Will Evernote make it possible for others to contribute images or other stuff to my Notebooks? How would that work?

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                            Podcasting Tool for K-3 Students with the Easi-Speak Microphone @learninghandson

                            Source: Easi-Speak USB Recorder -

                            Over the last week or so–thanks to a review version provided–my kids and I have been playing around with the $69 Learning Resources (@learninghandson via Twitter) Easi-Speak digital audio recorder. For a real test, I gave it to my 5 year old niece to try out as well as my other kids. They immediately started recording with it! Wow, what an easy digital audio recorder to work with!

                            Here’s a quick video overview of the device:

                            As you can see from the image above, the Easi-Speak is a handheld digital audio recorder in the shape of a microphone that kids just are dying to pick up and use, as my children and niece did! Some of the neat features of the Easi-Speak that separate it from other digital audio recorders:
                            • Has 4 hours of “battery” power stored up by connecting to USB.
                            • You have 128 megabytes of storage space on the onboard USB drive
                            • Records directly to MP3 instead of WMA like other digital audio recorders, eliminating the need for audio conversion.
                            • The microphone comes with an introductory audio file and
                            • Includes the Windows version of Audacity free open source software loaded on the USB drive and includes NyQuist Plug-ins for special effects (I didn’t know about these, so it’s nice they included them!)
                            • Remove a cap and then plug the microphone directly into a USB port on your computer (although I recommend getting a cheap USB cable extender)
                            • You can get an Easi-Speak charging hub ($25) (shown below) if you have multiple microphones to charge…look’s like it can charge up to 5 total per hub.
                            • Audio-playback immediately lets you hear what the recording was like
                            • Easy recording and playback buttons make it easy for 5 year olds to use (my niece did after one demonstration) and she absolutely loved using it.

                            When first checking out the Easi-Speak, what impressed me–aside from recording directly to MP3, the easy off/on button, the simple recording/playback controls–was the audio playback. I immediately compared it to an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder that I like to carry around ($31). The simplicity of the controls make the little silver and blue Easi-Speak recorder a solid product for use with K-5 students. The only drawback in my mind is the 4 hour duration to the charge time, no indicator as to how much battery is left.

                            Still, the Easi-Speak’s recording quality is comparable to more highly priced products.

                            Here are two audio files, the first an audio file that actually comes loaded on the microphone and a recording I made with my 5 year old niece…those of you who have youngster may want to have them listen to the audio straight through to the end since she has some advice on how to get started in dancing and singing!

                            EasiSpeak Intro/Welcome

                            Interview with 5-year old dancer

                            Full Disclosure: In the interests of full disclosure, this blog was provided a free Easi-Speak microphone.  This review was not otherwise solicited or compensated from Learning Resources, and the opinions of the review are the opinion of its author.

                            Update: Via Twitter:

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                            #Moodle for Dummies @moodler_radana

                            Over the last few weeks, I’ve been mentoring a colleague in a school district Human Resources department focused on Risk Management and Compliance Training. The tutorial sessions focus on the use of Moodle as a tool to facilitate self-paced training and certification. The courses being developed are fairly straightforward and simple, but plans are for more in-depth development. Through it all, I kept wondering, Which book would be good to share with her so she could get comfortable with basic Moodle functions? And, of course, this is already after she’s gone through a brief 1-week introduction to Moodle in an online course.

                            Like an onion, Moodle’s course management features can be slowly peeled back a bit at a time as they are needed. You don’t have to start at the top level of complexity, instead starting simple and then adding on as you or your students need to. Radana Dvorak’s Moodle for Dummies–which has taken some time to find itself into my hands since the DRM ePub version wouldn’t work on my Nook, so they ended up shipping me a print copy which arrived last week–is actually a book I can see sharing with Moodle newbies. Unlike other intro to Moodle books I’ve review, Moodle for Dummies isn’t necessarily oriented towards K-16 learners, but instead, eLearners.
                            The Moodle for Dummies book is intended for “instructors and trainers working in educational organizations or the business world who want to put their teaching content online.” The book comes with a companion web site you can visit, too.
                            My Reflections on the Text: At $30, this is a straightforward “Moodle manual” you could give to new Moodlers to learn how to use it. Screenshots are illustrative without completely dominating the text. It’s not school-centric, but rather, elearner-centric and provides an excellent how-to overview blended with eLearning principles from the get-go. I strongly recommend this book, not only for educators, but businesses interested in facilitating online learning using Moodle. The book occasionally slips into a listing of Moodle features, but that’s hard NOT to do in a book for folks new to Moodle and Radana hits the fundamental Moodle group quite well. Another neat point about Moodle for Dummies is the price-tag, making it the least expensive text available on the subject (Packt Publishing usually runs $45+ for their books). It even provides some useful tips on Moodle administration, which can be tough to cover in a chapter or so. Kudos to the author for keeping a subject that could get pretty convoluted simple and to the point.
                            Nice job, Radana (shown below)! Catch her on Twitter at moodler_radana!
                            Here are some of my take-aways and comments from the book as I read it:
                            1. The author describes Moodle as a learning content management system. That is, an LCMS combines the powers of CMS and LMS. An LCMS is defined as a system that creates, stores, assembles, and delivers eLearning content that can be personalized. It delivers the content in the form of learning objects. Though an LMS manages and administers all forms of learning within an organization, an LCMS concentrates on online learning content. I liked this definition that acknowledges Moodle as more than a course management system.
                            2. The goal of an LCMS is to create small chunks of content to meet the needs of individual students or groups of learners and to offer capabilities to update and change the content as and when needed with ease.
                            3. The book is intended to cover Moodle 1.8 through 2.x. The screenshots are really Moodle 1.9ish and I’d be concerned that Moodle 2.x version will be radically different from 1.9x…and 1.9x goes away in Summer, 2012, so the shelf-life of this book is limited. If you’re using 1.9x, get it. If you’re using 2.x, you may want to take a moment to reflect. If the latter, the online portions of the book provide some insights into what you need to take forward from one Moodle version to another.
                            4. The author has a great chart breaking down instructional strategy, pedagogy, description, and the features of Moodle that can support 9 varied Instructional Strategies. For example, just to look at one of the strategies, consider the following example:
                              1. Instructional Strategy: Brainstorming. 
                              2. Pedagogy: Goal-oriented communicative and collaborative interactions effective for problem solving; using cognitive strategies such as understanding, analyzing, applying and evaluating.
                              3. Description: Individual or group problem-solving where analysis, critical reviewing, and imaginative methods are used to achieve understanding and improvement to an agreed outcome.
                              4. Moodle Features: Forum discussions, chat, wikis and databases.
                            5. Unfortunately, the book references Digital Natives vs Immigrants, a dated conversation that has fallen out of favor in the last few years. Still, the conversation helps readers better understand what strategies are appropriate for use with the different groups.
                            6. Course-building checklist (click the link to access it online)–from starting point, to organization and design to collaborative activities, course communication, assessment and evaluation, instructor feedback, and miscellaneous topics covers the gamut of questions Moodle designers–or any eLearning designer–needs to ask). Some of my favorite questions include:
                              1. How will you engage learners in the course? How will they collaborate with other learners?
                              2. When will you give feedback? How will the learners be informed that you have given them feedback through the duration of the course?
                              3. How will you protect learner information?
                              4. Has an email been prepared/sent to your learners informing them about how to gain access to your course? (typo on page 32 – question reads “about how to gain access your course?” when it should read “about how to gain access to your course?”)
                            7. Myth-busting, such as:
                              1. Myth1: I have to be terribly techsavvy to use Moodle.
                              2. Using Moodle effectively means being on the computer 24/7.
                              3. Moodle is not designed for my group of learners or customers.
                              4. and many others worth reading.
                            8. Great overview–simple and approachable–of various course creation options. One piece that is seldom addressed is the PayPal enrollment plugin, that allowing you to charge for your courses and set up a payment system. The book explains how to accomplish this. 
                            9. Chapters 4-5 really help a Moodle course creator get going with setting up and designing their course. Chapter 6 does a nice job of introducing Multimedia Plugins and discusses embedding content. Some other neat resources shared in Chapter 6 include the following:
                              1. Richard Bryne’s Free Technology for Teachers (great you were mentioned, Richard!)
                              2. – how to make a video clip tutorial
                              3. – lots of resources
                            10. Discussion of various audio and podcast resources and tools.
                            11. There’s a discussion of tools like DimDim, Elluminate, GoToMeeting, Oovoo which appears dated, given the acquisition of Elluminate by Blackboard Collaborate, DimDim not being easily available, as well as lack of mention of BigBlueButton, Sclipo Moodle Add-on, and Still, the concepts are introduced!
                            12. One of the tough things to discuss is how to grade assignments, use the grader report, and Chapter 7 does a nice job of explaining it.
                            13. A discussion of Moodle “scales” is also had. Scales are a different way instructors can evaluate learners’ performance instead of using traditional letter or percentage grades..scales can be completely nonnumeric, or without values attached, or you can attach values. The author walks you through creating scales of your own. Not having played with scales at all, I found the overview helpful.
                            14. Lessons are discussed in Chapter 9 (so are wikis and other collaborative modules). The best discussion of lessons I’ve read so far has been in a Packt Publishing’s book, so I was eager to see how Dvorak handled it in the Moodle for Dummies book. The book certainly doesn’t go into as much detail as one would expect in the book, but provides an online component you can review that explains aspects of Lessons in 6 different documents centered on Flashcards, RolePlays, learning paths, and two path questions! The author did a nice job adding this extra resource online and “not scaring away” folks.
                            15. Another challenging area for Moodle newbies includes quiz setup and Dvorak makes this straightforward and easy to understand. The author could have provided more helpful links on how to import questions from Blackboard and other CMS tools, but simply mentions there are imperfect solutions. 
                            16. The author mentions Hot Potatoes (free) and TexToys ($32). Although I’d heard and used Hot Potatoes, I wasn’t familiar with TexToys.
                            17. It’s apalling how many grown-ups and students don’t know how to create and use databases to organize information, relying instead on spreadsheets. Moodle’s database is a nice first step–as opposed to MS Access–for folks, and the author helps you get going with databases. Although the author does provide a list of some creative database uses, I was hoping for a bit more. Of course, you can always find lessons on creating databases online. (By the way, did you know about this free online Stanford University Intro to Databases course available?)
                            18. Moodle administration is one of my favorite subjects and I was surprised to see it in Chapter 13 of the Moodle for Dummies book. The author does a nice job of hitting the high points of administration, including user authentication and a lot of other neat stuff.
                              1. It’s hard not to make a list of all the neat Moodle features available (there’s so many of them) in a book like this, just to provide “coverage” but at least, they’re not covered ad nauseum…just general stuff to help you make an intelligent decision about whether you should investigate more or not. 
                              2. I’d probably want to invest in a Alex Buchner’s Moodle Admin book rather than rely solely on this chapter, but it’s enough to help you appreciate what you don’t know!
                            19. Chapter 14 really seemed like a catch-all section, but missed one of the important tips when re-using courses. Instead of backing them up and restoring them for a new course, just use separate groups.
                            20. Little mention was made of how to extend Moodle via add-ons, mods/blocks, other sources for online resources, so be aware that has some great resources.
                            21. My other complaint is that no mention was made of !! Or MoodleNews! Or! What’s up with that?!?
                            Full Disclosure: In the interests of full disclosure, please be aware that I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. Of course, if I thought it was poor or not worth reading, I’d say so. My thanks to the publisher for a copy and Radana Dvorak for her hard work!

                            Here’s what the invite letter/email looked like:

                            I’m writing to offer you a free review copy of Moodle For Dummies – a new guide that provides the resources needed to take advantage of all the eLearning and eTraining possibilities that Moodle offers. Additional book details are below: 

                            Moodle For Dummies by Radana DvorakISBN: 978-0-470-94942-9; US $29.99Paperback; 408 pages; May 2011 

                            Moodle For Dummies uses simple language and fun humor to tackle the intricate world of Moodle eLearning and eTraining. While Moodle ForDummies will provide instructors of all sorts with the resources they need to maximize their Moodle experience, it does so by catering to the specific needs of teachers and business trainers. As primary and secondary schools, colleges and businesses continue to flock to the Moodle-enabled realms of eLearning and eTraining, instructors need all the tools necessary to exploit the advantages afforded by Moodle. This book provides educators with these tools while keeping readers engaged through a hands-on approach and accessible, entertaining information. 

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                            Survey Says – Wikis in Schools


                            Recently, I asked people to share their insights into using wikis. I would certainly welcome more feedback on that since the survey provides valuable information for school districts who are using wikis. For fun, some of that information is shared in this blog entry.
                            Contribute Your perspective on wikis
                            Wondering what wiki solution is the best to use in K-12? Having explored various solutions, I feel comfortable in advising folks what wiki is the best one for K-12 schools. However, there are various solutions in actual use in K-12. 
                            I’m sure this summary data will change as others get a chance to contribute, especially given the number of Wikispaces users and GoogleSites users.
                            For many, wikis have become the easiest way to throw up a web site without the frequent commitment of updates, as expected in blogs. This makes wikis the collaboration tool for teachers and students. Of course, it can be a tool for district departments as well!
                            Some of the comments folks shared about wikis included the following:
                            Great for collaboration and for sharing writing, projects, etc. 

                            Wikis & blogs provide students with an opportunity to collaborate and to publish ethically and responsibly. They are able to learn that their thoughts and communication skills are quickly acceptable or non-acceptable to a digital world. They are able to compose meaningful realworld information. I call this “expanding the global database of knowledge” through their efforts to express themselves. Helen Keller once said, “Humans live to express themselves”….and she should know! 

                            We could not function without wikis. Great way to keep parents in the loop and present student work. Also works well for collaborative work. Easy for students to access at home and school. Note the last wiki. It’s an all junior/senior/faculty book read. Having the Wiki allows us to organize the notes for the book discussion. Everything is in one place.  

                            I love working in wikis, but they can be frustrating at times with editing tools. I think it takes perseverance and patience. After working in Google Docs though, I prefer collaborating synchronously and using the chat window instead of the discussion type forum in wikis. 

                            “Building wikis fits under
                            (1) Creativity and innovation and
                            (2) Communication and collaboration”
                            It is a great 21st century collaborative tool that simplifies the communicaton and sharing of information between students and classrooms.  

                            I maintain a Wikispace as a requirement of the Educational Technology Leadership master’s program at Lamar University. I believe wikis are powerful tools, but their use is not generally supported in the district where I am employed as an instructional technology specialist. ”by officially I am thinking of the fact that they let it through the filters and even put a link to it on zenworks window if I ask  ;-) 

                            Getting folks to actually contribute can be trickier than getting them to look at it and using items from it” 

                            The class wiki helped me communicate with my students and parents.  Students from last year still return to the wiki! 

                            I just shared out district page, we have teachers using them in the classroom everyday.  We have several resource pages for each campus as well.

                            Some of the wiki sites shared by comment providers included the following:

                            I’ve also spent a lot of time working with wikis and appreciate how wonderful they are for sharing information with others.

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                            New IMA Resource Available


                            Trying to figure out what to do with Instructional Materials Allocation (IMA)? Well, you probably know what YOU want to do with it–either buy traditional textbooks, divert it all to technology, or best yet, fund instructional technology positions cut by the loss of the State Technology Allotment–but not sure how to go about it?

                            The Education Service Center, Region 20 has put together a new resource site, IMA Basics. They’ve put together a nice collection, including images like the following:

                            Source: ESC-20′s IMA Basics

                            The toughest questions for District folks is how to allocate funding over the biennium…save it for later? Some districts are also pondering whether they should spend precious funding to cover the cost of Technology Applications:TEKS curriculum for K-8. Some districts are pondering NOT buying curriculum and instead, crafting their own or adapting some from free resources.

                            For example, one school district shared the following:
                            We did make the purchase out of IMA funds. We felt we needed to so as to ensure coverage for the current school year. For 2012-2013, we are moving ahead with developing our in-house, blended curriculum and using Moodle as the course management system.

                            another shared:

                            This is how I feel but unfortunately because of scheduling in grades 2-8, Technology Application TEKS are not being taught in a consistent manner, if at all, and IMA committee does not want to spend the money on the subscription for this school year, 11-12.  Our subscription is up and the lab aids do not use it much and it is not used at all in middle school.  When the state took the technology requirement away in grades 9-12 they sent a terrible message, they devalued the importance of technology.


                            Our district purchased it for K-3 only.


                            We purchased for 5th-8th.  I don’t think I will continue with the subscription next year.I am curious to know if anyone has found a less expensive (or possibly free) alternative to Easy Tech? 


                            We liked their system, but we are not renewing with IMA due to cost. Any good open source solutions?

                            While many IMA web sites do not answer these questions as well as others–since it’s up to the District, a process fraught with trouble in places where leadership doesn’t understand or appreciate the value of technology–they can provide a lot of information to get the conversation started. It’s such an important topic that TCEA Advocate, Jennifer Bergland, brought it up at the TECSIG meeting using GoogleModerator. And, of course, she shared a presentation on the subject that is valuable to consider.

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                            Digital Signage Solutions

                            When I first read the phrase “digital signage” I didn’t have a clue what it meant. Are you talking about electronic signatures? But no, that’s not what those two words mean when they are next to each other. According to Wikipedia, digital signage is described in this way:

                            Digital signage is a form of electronic display that shows Television programming, menus, information, advertising and other messages. Digital signs (such as LCDLEDplasma displays, orprojected images) can be found in public and private environments, such as retail stores, hotels, restaurants and corporate buildings.

                            and might look like this but, of course, adapted for use in schools:

                            Since I’m on multiple email lists for technology directors, questions like the following show up periodically:
                            Is anyone using Digital Signage hardware and software in their schools?   If so, what software and digital media players are you using and what are the ball-park costs involved?  I’m looking for a basic system that would cost I get asked about this about once per year but am always shocked at the cost.  ($3000-$4000 per device, all in including hardware, software, installation, etc.)  We currently just have old PCs running powerpoint, but we probably have 100 displays district-wide and it would be nice to be able to centralize the presentations and authenticate who can manage them.

                            Some of the possible responses include the following:

                            Response #1: Xibo Open Source Digital Signage

                            I have been testing this off and on – easy to set up and easy to use. Highly customizable.

                            Xibo (pronounced eX-E-bO) is an an open source, multi-display, multi-zone, fully scheduled digital signage solution controlled from a centrally managed web interface. 

                            Response #2: Javascript
                            This is something I’ve played around with, but not yet implemented.  Instead of having actually LED signs that need to be programmed I had the idea of using the Internet and a website to do this.  I was thinking about displays at our entries, offices, libraries, and teachers could have them up on their computers and/or Smartboards between classes if they chose to.
                            I have a test page up now.  It’s a free javascript that I got from “” for a scrolling marquee.  I have it setup in a share directory with only a single file to update.  It’s basically just a bulleted list like you would have in Word.  Whoever, I give access to can change this bulleted list and that’s all they have to do.

                            NOTE:  It only works with IE right now.  I’m sure someone with some javascript skills can produce something that works with Firefox and Chrome.

                            You can view my testpage at:
                            NOTE:  It only works with IE right now.  I’m sure someone with some javascript skills can produce something that works with Firefox and Chrome.  
                            You can view my testpage at:

                            Response #3 – Flat Panels displaying Powerpoint

                            We have flat panels are hooked back into a “video multiplier” that in turn is hooked to the child nutrition manager’s PC.  As you suggested, they use Power point for the displays, all running in kiosk mode. 

                            We did have another solution that was implemented in one of our schools, but it required each display to have its own “mini-pc” installed with it which had a wireless card which allowed it to connect to ouor network.  Really complicated and expensive by comparison, I think.

                            Response #4 – Navori and Visix Solutions
                            We have been running a server based software called Navori and its player as our digital signage at our Administration building.  It has worked for us for that one building, but you do have to make changes at the physical server.

                            We are now looking at a company called Visix, Inc. for a more web-based content managing solution for visual communications. 

                            Response #5 – Cisco Digital Media Suite through E-Net
                            Our district implemented  CISCO Digital Media Suite through E-Net Solutions  . This includes Digital Media Signage and Show & Share. We use (digital media player’s) DMP’s connected to flat panels (IP reserved) that will display announcements and student work in common areas of the building (foyers, cafeterias, hallways). 

                            Currently, each new building will acquire these displays as well in the future. The media technology teachers currently at each campus (2) are in charge of uploading and deploying content. The program includes a variety of templates (including a menu). At this point, the media teachers use a variety of programs, including PPT. to create the content and deploy them as JPG/PNG or create a presentation in .WMV format.

                            The other module is the Show & Share portal, which will allow (at one point) each campus to upload or even stream live video throughout the district. At this time, we are only posting videos in our digital library. The content server is located at central administration building and can reached  (intranet) by the server address (Cisco Digital Manager). The Show & Share can be accessed by any campus to add to the video library. We have a two digital media encoders, one hooked up to our satellite cable, where we can choose to play live, cable TV and another “portable” encoder to record live video, which will store the content on the server and  eventually upload the content online. 

                            Response #6 – Panasonic and Haivision (via THE Journal)

                            Panasonic and Haivision have combined efforts to create four bundled digital signage solutions that have the ability to drive multiple displays through a variety of networks, including DSL, satellite, LAN, and 3G.The new solutions, the TH42LF20CSMNT, the TH47LF20CSMNT, the TH42LF20CS, and the TH47LF20CS, consist of Haivision’s CoolSign software, a Panasonic F20 series LCD display, and a pre-configured media player PC.

                            Response #7 – Texas Digital’s Vitalcast -
                            PDF available online.

                            Response #8 – Firecast EasyStart -

                            Sometimes, questions are focused on more limited digital signage, such as what is described below:

                            For our new campus, we are planning on having TVs mounted in various locations for displaying announcements and other messages. I am in need of suggestions for ways of controlling the images on these TVs.

                            One small district reports success using Firecast EasyStart for digital signage solution.
                            I hope this blog entry helps those of you who are trying to find digital signage answers from year to year! I’m grateful to the Texas and Oklahoma technology directors who responded to their peers and shared information.

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                            What #Nook Advice Do You Have?


                            With 3 sources reporting a new Barnes and Noble Color Nook getting ready to launch November 7, 2011, schools are probably taking hard looks at the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color. Has your school implemented?

                            I’ve often wished to be a part of an implementation–I’m not sure if you count everyone in my family having a Nook (me) or Kindle4 (kids) or AluraTek (wife) an eReader implementation but it’s fun to pretend–like the one described below. The email appeared on an email listserv for campus technologists, and since the questions were so good, I thought I’d share them here (anonymized to protect the innocent).  Following the question is my imperfect response.
                            What would you have said in regards to one or more of the questions below?
                            We are in the process of implementing approximately 400+ Nook Color readers in the district.
                            If you have experience in this area, would you please share any tips, tricks, advice you have – in particularly on the following…
                             1.      How the district setup the Nooks (Did they use credit cards for the campuses? Or use the Barnes and Noble service to oversee the accounts?)
                            2.      Recommended process for purchasing the books (How do teachers request books for purchase?)
                            If a form was used, what information was on the form?
                            If a form was used, what information was on the form?3.      Documentation process for knowing what books are on what Nook
                            4.      Any permission forms, etc. that were used
                            5.      Did district allow Nooks to go home? If so, what procedures were used and consequences for not returning the Nook
                            6.      Also – any links to any FREE books J

                            ONE RESPONSE
                            Great questions! Please find my resources on ePub (the ebook format for Nooks) online at:

                            The link includes info on how to create ePub ebooks, as well as 12 sources of free ebooks.
                            In regards to your question, my district hasn’t deployed eReaders of any sort at this time. 

                            However, some general tips: 

                            1) Focus on WIFI version of Nook rather than 3G. That way you can load content via WIFI and not worry about inappropriate access via 3G.
                            2) Use Calibre to mass convert non-DRM content and create grade level folders of reading titles. When you get a grade level Nook, drag the appropriate folder onto the device in the MyDocuments folder.
                            3) You might put together procedures like those outlined here. This is done per every 6 Nooks because copies of a book can be shared among 6 Nooks:
                            4) Connect with Carolyn Foote, a librarian from Eanes ISD who shares her story with eReaders:

                            I know my response doesn’t cover all the questions originally asked. How would you fill in the gaps?

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                            MS Windows 8 = Tyranny. What else is new?

                            What else is new? Windows 8 equates to tyranny and evil. Of course, could this mean that school districts will now enable Secure Boot and disable students with portable flash drive running Linux? Probably so.
                            Microsoft has announced that if computer makers wish to distribute machines with the Windows 8 compatibility logo, they will have to implement a measure called “Secure Boot.” However, it is currently up for grabs whether this technology will live up to its name, or will instead earn the name Restricted Boot…Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement these boot restrictions in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than Windows. In this case, we are better off calling the technology Restricted Boot, since such a requirement would be a disastrous restriction on computer users and not a security feature at all.

                            Sign the petition.

                            We, the undersigned, urge all computer makers implementing UEFI’s so-called “Secure Boot” to do it in a way that allows free software operating systems to be installed. To respect user freedom and truly protect user security, manufacturers must either allow computer owners to disable the boot restrictions, or provide a sure-fire way for them to install and run a free software operating system of their choice. We commit that we will neither purchase nor recommend computers that strip users of this critical freedom, and we will actively urge people in our communities to avoid such jailed systems.

                            Great article on this at And, OMGUbuntu links to a white paper that proposes an alternative solution:

                            Canonical and Red Hat propose a different solution in their whitepaper, one that provides users with both the security afforded by Secure Boot, but also allows the addition of additional software and OSes – such as Linux – to the approval list. This would, it’s hoped, allow users to run both Windows 8 and Linux, be it installed or on live media, on a PC with Secure Boot enabled.
                            Further still, the white paper suggests that PCs ship with a user-friendly interface for disabling/enabling secure boot altogether.

                            What? That’s not enough for you? Well, remember Microsoft acquired Skype?

                            “It appears Microsoft’s Skype Division is cracking down on reverse-engineering of the Skype client. Skype recently rolled out a new set of APIs for integration into other desktop applications, but they have issued multiple DMCA takedown notices to a researcher publishing open-source code to send Skype messages.” via Slashdot

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                            GoogleApps – Better than Sliced Bread


                            As more wonderful solutions proliferate in schools, it’s great to come in on the tail end of a conversation and see how others are sharing what works for them. For example, an email request came in from one Texas Technology Director and immediately received several responses.

                            Here’s the request (all questions/responses anonymized to protect the innocent):

                            I am looking at replacing our traditional Exchange server this summer with a cloud-based email solution that will be E-Rate eligible.  I just know that the costs are not comparable to continue to maintain an in house system.  Could you please tell me what product you are using for your managed email services, and if you truly think it is better than “sliced bread”?

                            The responses appear below:

                            Google Apps. Sliced bread is pretty darn awesome, but for a small district with limited resources and personnel, having Google maintain the servers comes real close.

                            Then, another district tech director jumped into the conversation with the question:

                            What’s the maximum users Google can handle?

                            And the responses to that follow-up:

                            I have 350 students on Google email but I can add up to 500 before I have to request more. I only have 102 staff email addresses but each has 25 gig storage. I think Google is unlimited you just request what you need. BUT make sure you have the bandwidth if you start using it for students and staff (we are moving from 6mb to 20mb because of it) But over all it have been a VERY good move and it is FREE…


                            We are in the investigatory and testing stages of Google Docs for Education, but I also understand it is unlimited and you just ask for more.  To avoid going back so fast to ask, I requested 61,000 accounts and received them.  It did take a number of days for them to do it though, probably almost a week.  I had opened a ticket finally to follow-up on it with them.

                            We were an Exchange shop for about a decade, then in 2009 we went with Google Apps, mainly after suffering for a few days of outage in 2008 with Hurricane Ike.  We had went round and round trying to do a hosted Exchange but Google had a no charge offer which included spam filtering, I couldn’t resist and I’m glad I didn’t.  The biggest change in going to Google was getting people away from the Outlook client (you don’t have to but to really take advantage of “in the cloud” you might want to think about it).  Leaving behind the weekly Exchange chores I did not regret a bit.  

                            Email has now become a very reliable service that no longer gives me worries.  Lots of storage, hosted for free, cool interface and Google is always looking for ways to improve the service.  I love it.  Plus with that Google account you can add services such as Aviary and Sliderocket that are all the buzz, and they integrate with your Google login.  Its also easy to configure for every mobile device roaming the streets and halls.  We have had very few downsides….some of our old Xerox’s that are on the network have trouble emailing to secure http but there is a way around that also.  No regrets.

                            So, to review:

                            • What’s as good as sliced bread for email for students and staff? GoogleApps for Education
                            • How many users can you have? Unlimited amount.
                            • How long does it take to setup? Anywhere from a week to two weeks but you can always submit a ticket if you need a status update.
                            • Email+ Other Great stuff? You can add Aviary and Sliderocket apps to GoogleApps for all users.
                            • How much does it cost? FREE.
                            Of course, this is a cloud-based solution. Do you have an exit strategy? If not, you may want to consider Henry Thiele’s post on this subject.

                            What folks really need to ask themselves, though, is why aren’t they using FREE when education jobs are on the line? The simple answer is for some, “It’s out of my comfort zone and I don’t want to learn something aside from MS Exchange.” Of course, they’ll never admit to it.

                            Already, an estimated 294,000 jobs in the education sector have been lost since 2008, including those in higher education.Source: Already Financially Hurting School Districts Brace for More Cuts Ahead, The Washington Post

                            It’s the economy….

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                            #BYOD on the Cheap

                            Image Source:

                            Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) has a list of excellent suggestions for achieving BYOD on the Cheap in schools. One of the points she makes is intriguing:
                            When we shift our thinking from demanding the government provides one-size-fits-some solutions and move it to let’s empower families to take ownership of securing tools for their learning, change can happen.  

                            Here are my top 3 favorites from Lisa’s list:

                            1. Community Tech Day - Invite the community to come to your school and donate technology for children in need.
                            2. Business Refresh - Reach out to companies to see when they refresh equipment. Ask if they would consider giving old devices to students.
                            3. Hold a fundraiser - There are fundraisers for all sorts of things.  Let kids work to raise funds for technology.  Be creative. Hold a race, a car wash, a tournament. 
                            How would you approach this problem in your socio-economically challenged area?

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                            Custom Wallplate Solutions

                            Source: RapidRun

                            Not unlike my earlier blog post on Digital Signage, I found myself asking what the heck are custom wallplates when I read the following question:

                            Anyone have a vendor for customized faceplates?  Need VGA/RCA/USB/Audio.

                            Then, I read this on a vendor web site:
                            Whether you need VGA ports for lobby displays or overhead projectors, USB ports for special computer enclosures, Ethernet ports for clean networking, or anything else, you can cut a wall plate with just the right configuration for your application. (Adapted from this source,

                            Some of the responses provided by technology directors include the following:

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                            Job Postings in Ft Worth and Manor ISDs

                            Recently, two job postings came into my inbox. I’ve shared the details online at Texas4TEE Facebook page.

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                            MyNotes – Twitter and PLN Research


                            • The End of Isolation Elizabeth Alderton University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI 54901 USA Eric Brunsell University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI 54901 USA Damian Bariexca Lawrence Township Public Schools Lawrenceville, NJ 08648 USA
                            • This research study provides new insight into how teachers use social networking sites, such as Twitter, as professional learning networks.
                            • The K-12 educators in this study engaged in true dialogue, where evidence of actual conversation occurred in Twitter over 61% of the time. Additionally, over 82% of the time, the educators in this study chose to follow other educators or content experts related to their field of teaching so they were able to create a personal learning network meaningful to their professional needs. Analysis of data shows that a majority of tweets were educationally focused and were primarily in the categories of practice/philosophy, questions, and sharing of resources.
                            • As professionals collaborate and construct knowledge together, communities of practice are formed (Wenger, 1991, 1998: Wenger, White, Smith, & Rowe, 2005), which is viewed as a valuable practice that supports professional learning and development. Teachers need to be able to engage in dialogue with others who can give support and advice so they can try new and different techniques. These experiences in turn allow for knowledge growth and for a person’s cognitive schema to assimilate and change. There have been significant benefits found in relation to the power of continual collaborative professional development (Musanti & Pence, 2010).
                            • No longer is it necessary for collaboration and learning to take place in face-to-face settings, or even within the same building, city, state or country.
                            • Instead, interactions may take place in various online settings such as Twitter (in the form of short 140 character interactions) as members ask questions, formulate responses, or make statements, which instantaneously allows for the end of isolation, even as a teacher sits alone in a classroom.
                            • the concept of social network sites (SNSs) has emerged and such sites are now seen as a venue for collaboration to transpire. Boyd and Ellison (2007) have defined a social network site as a place on the Internet where people are able to: construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.
                            • SNSs offer the opportunity for people to find “significant others that can help them in their personal development” (Harrison & Thomas, 2009, p. 121).
                            • Others have found that SNSs such as Twitter are a way to give a group or network a sense of itself (Thompson, 2007) as people are in contact with each other.
                            • There is also a growing body of research to show that the use of backchannels has positive results for students, including increased engagement, empowerment, increased collaborative interactions, and enhanced learning (Toledo & Peters, 2010). Additionally, Reinhardt et al. found that conference attendees could communicate, share resources and be active participants in the conference along with the ability to view and learn from streams occurring in other sectionals (2009). These positive backchannel results have prompted the need to look at individual teachers and their personal use of Twitter rather than just during a professional development opportunity.
                            • “I think that about 90% of those I network with are related to my job in some way. I really don’t use Twitter for my personal life. I follow many teachers who are science/ biology/marine science teachers, educators, or other sources of such information because it pertains for my job.”
                            • In the survey, participants were asked how using Twitter has benefited them professionally. Four unique themes emerged from their responses: Access to resources Supportive relationships Increased leadership capacity Development of a professional vision
                            • “I have been able to implement ideas from others in my own classroom, and share my own ideas which people have helped me improve.”
                            • “It’s great to be able to connect with people who are useful resources. They can point me to activities, lessons, etc. that will directly impact my students.” Participant 1 describes the importance of this type of networking in the face of decreasing school budgets:
                            • “I am the only biology teacher at my school. Collaboration is a bit difficult when others don’t know the subject or don’t understand the content because of the level that I teach…Twitter has provided me the means to connect with others and help me find answers that I would have trouble obtaining otherwise.“
                            • Little (1993) claims that “the test of teachers’ professional development is its capacity to equip teachers individually and collectively to act as shapers, promoters, and well-informed critics of reform” (p. 130).
                            • Additionally, Richardson (1997) suggests that the main objective of professional development should be to foster changes in teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes because these components of teacher cognition are closely tied to teaching practice.
                            • The K-12 educators in this study engaged in true dialogue, where evidence of actual conversation occurred in Twitter over 61% of the time. Additionally, over 82% of the time, the educators in this study chose to follow other educators or content experts related to their field of teaching so they were able to create a personal learning network meaningful to their professional needs.
                            • Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin (1995) state that teachers need professional development that extends far beyond the one-shot workshop. They need opportunities to learn how to question, analyze and change instruction to teach challenging content.
                            • Loucks-Horsley and colleagues (Loucks-Horsley, Love, Stiles, Mundry, & Hewson, 2003) argue that effective professional development should: provide opportunities for teachers to build content and pedagogical content knowledge; be research based and engages teachers in the learning approaches they will use with their students; provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate; supports teachers to serve in leadership roles, links with other parts of the education system and; is based on student data and is continuously evaluated.
                            • Professional learning networks created through social networking, like Twitter, can provide these opportunities. However, collaborative conversations alone are often not enough to promote teacher learning and change.
                            • Teachers must try complex innovations in their classroom and reflect upon these implementations in order to extract from experience the knowledge that leads to improved teaching (Ladewski, Krakcik, & Harvey, 1994).
                            • This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike License For details please go to:

                            THEY LIVE – Dealing with the #iPad Infected

                            First of all, I want to apologize to all the technology directors who felt they were improperly characterized as camels in my previous blog entry, The iPad, uh Straw, that Broke the Camel’s back. I know this was tough for you to take, and that you would have preferred a different approach. Remember, though, I didn’t say it originally (neither did Shakespeare or Anonymous); I just brought it to your attention in K-16 education.

                            The guilt, which I seldom spend time on, came upon shortly after I hit the PUBLISH button. I reflected long and hard over this while watching television, reading a fascinating series of professional journals. I even reached back to my brief stint as a movie theatre usher, fondly recalling a movie…let’s see, what was it? Oh, yeah…THEY LIVE. (watch the whole movie online). 

                            Of course, whether you believe the iPad–solar-powered or not– advocates are aliens masquerading as humans or zombie-infected, you still have to deal with it.

                            In a wonderful list of questions/points, Royan Lee (The Spicy Teacher) discusses Why You Shouldn’t Do BYOD. Although all of the points Royan Lee raises in his blog entry resonated with me, I found myself particularly sensitive to one of the points. That sensitivity was sparked by a response my blog entry on The iPad, uh Straw, that Broke the Camel’s back given by Wayne Bridges

                            Wayne writes the following, and at the end of which, asks for advice from myself and others:
                            I am a new teacher in the 25,000 iPad district [McAllen ISD] you referenced above. I feel this is a unique spot for me to be in, having served in my old district as EdTech Coordinator for a couple of years and arriving here with absolutely no technology clout. I am not even a member of the district’s technology cadre that will pilot the iPads this year. 

                            I enjoyed the post – but let me try to turn the conversation a little more in the direction of pedagogy. These devices have now been approved by the district and they’ll be arriving – some now and many more in a year. This is the hand that teachers and students have been dealt. So now what?

                            Keeping in mind that I’m on the outside looking in, there seem to be some pockets of excellence when it comes to the devices’ use within the district, but no overall “plan” that I’m aware of. 

                            What would you, or your commenters, propose as a means to ensure that these devices are utilized in meaningful ways in all classrooms, even those of teachers who may not necessarily embrace them initially? How can we be certain that teachers will take a few extra steps to employ the technology tool when that tool is the thing that will provide a relevant and valuable experience for the student, instead of opting for what might be easier to understand for that teacher?

                            When you read the two questions that Wayne asks, it’s clear what the challenges he’s facing are. Royan Lee’s points as cited in The Spicy Teacher blog, shown below, are particularly relevant, aren’t they?

                            1. Your staff does not understand why or how someone might use personal technology for learning, collaboration, creativity, communication, organization, and productivity.
                            2. Your curriculum focusses heavily on knowledge transmission.

                            Before we jump into anything, let’s remember that iPads in schools ARE an expensive experiment. They are expensive because we could be choosing to NOT use technology at all in schools…and many do, no matter that schools receive technology funding. As Stephen Downes shares, such experimentation happens in schools:

                             There’s no way to get the evidence other than by experimentation - demanding “best practices” with no experimentation is inherently self-contradictory.

                            Please allow me to consolidate Wayne’s two questions into one:

                            How would one ensure that these devices are utilized in meaningful ways with K-12 and adult learners, even those who may not necessarily embrace them initially or may be tempted to only use iPads for personal rather than academic reasons?

                            The last part of that question tries to get at the idea that we’re bring a rich variety of devices developed to be PERSONAL (e.g. ain’t this a cool wallpaper app?) into an ACADEMIC arena. Here’s one dramatic example of using technology for personal gain, but there are many others…perhaps, you know of some?
                            Music teacher Brian Kingrey has won $1 million for throwing a perfect game in MLB 2K11. 2K sports offered the prize to the first person to throw a perfect game after the game’s April launch. The teacher says he knew nothing about baseball, and even had to go to Google to learn the basics of the game.
                            Source: Teacher Wins $1 Million in video game

                            And, just because a teacher may be expert at using the iPad and all its apps, that’s not enough, right? I mean, just because I know how to use the top 10 digital storytelling apps, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to use them in a classroom to support curriculum, right? (well, I think I am but if I only tell personal stories for family but never use it in the classroom with students, what’s the point?). In schools, we’re called on to do more than just consume information…we have to create.

                            Still, iPads, as fonts of information, offer benefits worthy of consideration:

                            …access to information. This access has allowed them to shorten their learning curve, make quicker decisions on what’s important to them, find like-minded individuals in far-away places to collaborate with, and develop a deeper and wider vision for imagining a world they want to live in and be a part of creating. (Source: Leading Millennials: What Millennials Want Leaders to Know by Lisa Petrilli via MindDump)

                            The challenge is that like-minded individuals far away are usually viewed with healthy suspicion a la Stranger Danger. With that in mind, here are some of the steps I would encourage take place in the school district, steps that involve more than one particular department (e.g. Tech Dept) can bring about alone. And, while it’s easy to point the way, it’s another thing to getting a herd of zombies moving in the right direction, unless it’s loud noises pontificators (myself included) make at keynote addresses.
                            “You can do everything that the iPad can with existing off-the-shelf technology and hardware for probably $300 to $400 less per device,” Professor Soloway said. (Source: as cited in the New York Times)

                            “As an IT director,” shares Matt Montagne (shown right), “I have zero interest in applying classic IT approaches to these devices. They work best when users own them and are able to self manage. When I hear about these schools that have to manually update 180 iPads to iOS 5, I just simply cringe and laugh all at the same time.”  

                            “Hear, hear,” agrees Kern Kelly (shown left). “As an educator and tax payer I cringe at thinking of how much money, time, pro dev. etc. has and will go into single user electronic toys. Don’t get me wrong, there are absolutely valuable educational uses for them, but the ‘bang for the buck’ equation tilts too far the wrong way.” (Source: Google+ Conversation)

                            A starting point….

                            Step 1 – Pick one thing, your choice. 
                            I would expect all curriculum and instruction staff, including teachers, to spend some serious (at least ten, 8 hour days) getting comfortable with the technology, and then spending time revising the scope and sequence to allow for the learning opportunities. John Holt points out that “Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” What changes do we need to make that change the activity of iPad-wielding learners in classrooms?

                            Working with grown-ups, one of the things I’ve noticed is encouraging them to use web-based apps to allow for portability of data. I’m sure the same problem exists for students…in fact, one of the best podcasts never published (I lost the audio file) involved discussion of the use of and an iPad with a special education child in a way that changed their life. Of course, even though has DOUBLED its storage for EDU users, I hope folks are also away of’s offer of 50 gigs for LIFE which expires 50 days from 10/12/2011:

                            iOS users, if you haven’t got your free 50GB from yet, hurry up and do so. A couple of weeks ago, announced that any iOS user that logs into the Box app from an iOS device will get 50GB of storage, for life. (Source:

                            A point that makes folks feel like, a la It’s a Wonderful Life, a warped, frustrated, old man like Potter: Often, central office administration launches technology to campuses without any expectation of change for the district staff that have to support them, especially those in curriculum and instruction. And, if you’re curriculum framework or vision doesn’t include technology as an integral part, then you need to re-think your approach and who you are listening to.

                            Obviously, we want kids to do great in a variety of core content areas, but that change isn’t going to happen all at once. Let’s pick ONE area that having access to technology can help in. 

                            Step 2 – Encourage reflection and sharing among iPad infected folks. No matter how you do it, it’s key that teachers and administrators reflect on what they are doing in their classrooms. Often, initiatives can pick up speed simply because people are working through the problems, possibilities, and sharing those with each other. It seems simplistic but works powerfully.
                            Reflection can be used as a way to integrate theory with practice and can facilitate insight and stimulate self-discovery. By causing one to question and perhaps even change one’s personal assumptions, reflection broadens perspectives which lead to a more holistic understanding of complex or ambiguous situations (Densten & Gray, 2001; Kayes, 2002). It can assist in developing moral and ethical responsibility by encouraging one to draw upon experiences and values while attending to interpersonal relations, feelings and politics (Grey, 2004). Daudelin’s studies suggest that just one hour spent on reflecting about a challenging situation can significantly enhance the manager’s learning from that situation (1996). 

                            According to Goleman et. al., self-directed learning which employs reflective questioning throughout its cycle, has been shown to be an effective strategy for developing emotional intelligence and ultimately leadership competency (2002). (Source: Cynthia Roberts’ The Role of Reflection)

                            That’s not to say I think everyone in such an effort should blog (well, actually, I DO think so but I also know throwing too much change at folks is a recipe for failure), but that opportunities for reflecting and sharing are critical. If a professional learning community works for you, great!

                            A quick cautionary note….

                            Scott McLeod points out that schools strongly emphasize compliance in the name of order and discipline (as cited here)Getting others to swim in the right direction is tough work, but it’s made tougher when some say you can’t do things because it’s against the rules…rules that inhibit teaching, learning and leading at a time when communication, creativity have to be team sports involving online collaboration. What happens when these kinds of polices and procedures–which maintain the status quo and help network technicians do their job, usurping the role of instruction for the role of tech-maintenance–become de facto? 

                            The idea of co-learners is also fun to consider or cite:

                            …teachers must become comfortable as co-learners with their students and with colleagues around the world. Today it is less about staying ahead and more about moving ahead as members of dynamic learning communities. The Digital Age teaching professional must demonstrate a vision of technology infusion and develop the technology skills of others.

                            Dynamic learning communities. In a fascinating article at THE Journal, Crossing the Digital Divide, Sara Bernard describes how the landscape has changed, citing literacy as one important way and quotes Shelley Blake-Pollock (Teach Paperless):

                            …there is a gap between those who are “getting connected into broader networks, building their capacity and their social capital, creating the new wave of learning” and those who are, for a slew of complex reasons, not doing so. Addressing this means beefing up effective technology-integration programs at schools of education, encouraging and enabling students to create media and to participate in collaborations with others around the world, and making sure that every computer lab — whether at a school or elsewhere — has a way for users to tap into an educational component.

                            So, that brings up to step 3.

                            Step 3 – Increase digital literacy among the iPad infected. It’s hard to make someone learn something if they don’t want to but there is one sure way to engage them–get them connected to people who are interested in the same things they are. After all, if the iPad is a device for communication, collaboration, you’d want to see more of that. And, it doesn’t hurt that this type of action is expressed in Technology Applications:TEKS for Texas…and it makes sense for core content areas, even though technology isn’t part of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP):
                            The student collaborates and communicates both locally and globally to reinforce and promote learning. The student is expected to:  create personal learning networks to collaborate and publish with peers, experts, or others via current and emerging technologies, such as blogs, wikis, audio/video communication; (as I cite here)

                            In my inbox this morning, an email from Google is titled, “Zombies Make Over $5 Billion in the U.S.” The image of the zombie that appears above is from that email received unsolicited on 10/27/2011.

                            Now, if a 32gig iPad (WIFI) costs around $600 and Wayne’s district bought 25,000 of them, that’s approximately $1.5 million. Wow. For 45 million iPads sold, though, that’s $27,000,000,000. A billion is 9 zeroes, right? (wink). How many in education? When you figure so much money is being spent, isn’t it mission-critical that every stakeholder be “infected” with enthusiasm?

                            Consider this story from Doug “Blue Skunk” Johnson‘s daughter…would the teacher described in Doug’s blog entry be willing to be subject to infection? BTW, in the story below, Paul is Doug’s grandson (that’s what I understood).

                            I am looking forward to hearing from Paul’s teacher at conferences. 5th grade seems to skew heavily toward doing things the teacher’s way procedurally rather than actually learning anything or God forbid, making it interesting. Paul was all ready to bring his Vasco da Gama oral report alive with visuals and lots of fascinating tidbits about the “long and uncertain voyage” around the Horn of Africa when he came home and glumly reported, “No props. And we have to stick to the outline.” (Read the rest of the story)

                            There’s a lot–digital reading, digital writing, digital math, screencasting–that can happen with iPads or any digital device. Will we take advantage of it?

                            Experiencing the profound joy of creating something that has never existed before is not only found in the arts. And I think that when you allow children to experience this feeling, we do them and the world a great favor. (Source: GenYES Blog: Ten Lessons The Arts and STEM Teach by Sylvia Martinez)

                            I worked really hard to resist the temptation to put recommendations of iPad apps in this post, as well as web-based tools (e.g. GoogleApps for Education, Moodle as a common platform where everyone can find their content, wikis for leadership sharing, playing with media, etc.). 

                            An instructional technology specialist, responding to a thread entitled, “My Struggle with Technology,” shares the viewpoint that I find myself identifying with, that resists falling in love with any one tool and monogamous approach to technology:

                            I have been a tech specialist/trainer for going on 12 years now – after spending 10 years in the classroom. And I liken that story of teachers to other professions  – say that of construction workers building a house. Not everyone wants to be extremely proficient using a table saw or a jack hammer – some prefer finishing sheetrock or using the tools required to build custom cabinets. The goal is the same – build a quality house. 

                            There is just too much technology for every teacher to use every piece of technology that many districts (try to) implement. No doubt – a good working knowledge is required – and basic skills – just to remain a valued member of the “crew.” But if they were allowed to choose their tools, I believe it would be more beneficial and productive – for teachers and students. Some become masters of integrating CPS units and projectors – others with video and a MAC Book Pro – others are geniuses with SMART board applications…if we teach the same way we always have – and just use newer tools – we end up building a house no one wants to live in anymore. 

                            I think the teacher buy-in and acceptance is much better when they have a voice in choosing the tools they use in their area of expertise.

                            WAIT, THAT’S IT?
                            What, you think these steps are insufficient? Well, so do I. Maybe you’d find 7 Slices of PIE more filling? 

                            However, if you’d like to hire a high-priced consultant (me), I’d be happy to come over and tell you what to do, as well as give you a pair of cheap sunglasses (go watch THEY LIVE online).

                            Image source:

                            If I didn’t answer your questions, Wayne, then I’m sure you will have better answers for us all in a year or two.

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                            Google+ for GoogleApps

                            Interesting announcement…how will this change your interactions at work, at your higher ed school?
                            Google Apps fans, today we’re ready to add you to our circles. Google+ makes sharing on the web more like sharing in the real world, and now Google+ is available to people who useGoogle Apps at college, at work or at home. 
                            Starting now you can manually turn on Google+ for your organization. Once Google+ is turned on, your users will just need to sign up at to get started. For customers who use Google Apps for Business or the free version of Google Apps and who have chosen to automatically enable new services, Google+ will automatically become available to all of your users over the next several days.*

                            More stuff:

                            One reminder…Google+ is only available in for GoogleApps areas–primarily, higher education institutions–that have 18 or older participants.

                            Could it ever be as dramatic as what’s shown in the video below, but in education?

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                            Increased Storage Opportunities for #iOS #iPad #iPhone #iPod #dropbox #box

                            Image Source:

                            Did you miss the news about Dropbox and offering free storage?

                            1) has DOUBLED its storage for EDU users; get started with this here (you’ll need to login with your EDU account). If your domain name doesn’t end with EDU, you can submit your school’s domain name for consideration, as illustrated below:
                            Click the image to enlarge

                            2)‘s offer of 50 gigs for LIFE which expires 50 days from 10/12/2011.

                            You will need an iOS device to seize the 50gigs of LIFE time storage. To get it, follow the steps outlined at this blog entry or summarized below:

                            a) Get the Box app and install it
                            b) Login with your Box account from the iOS device via the Box app
                            c) Wait for the message of 50 gigs of storage and increased upload capability (100 megs instead of the usual 25megs).

                            That’s it! Free storage. Not sure you want to have more than one? Well, here’s a blog entry that compares the two.

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                            The iPad, uh, Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

                            Formula Camel for iPad

                            Update: Read the sequel, THEY LIVE – Dealing with the iPad Infected

                            Hate ‘em or love ‘em, the iPad has really had a profound impact on schools. You have but to read all the advice columns on how to best manage iPads in K-12 schools to realize, well, they’re unmanageable. It’s like throwing a bit of chaos into a well-oiled machine and watching it wreak havoc.

                            When teachers in the Clint Independent School District want a new classroom activity, they turn to their iPads — because there’s an application for it…She [teacher] pulled up a flashcard application and quickly flipped through each word on her iPad while students read it aloud. Carroll then passed the iPad around to each student, letting them unscramble a word or correct a number sequence.
                            The district has purchased about 750 iPad 2′s with $480,000 in federal stimulus money. (read more)


                            A Rio Grande Valley school district plans to equip every one of its 25,000 students with Apple iPads, rolling ahead with a digitally enhanced curriculum effort that’s among the largest of its type in the nation…The school board last month unanimously approved the first phase of the project, a $3.6 million purchase of more than 5,000 iPad 2′s and 425 iPod Touch devices…“I think it will be a huge motivational tool to get students more involved, be more interested in their subject matter,” said Joshua Villarreal, a junior at McAllen High School. “You won’t be measuring angles with a protractor, you’ll be tilting your iPAD and using the accelerometer.”  Read more:

                            Flashcard and Accelerometer apps aside, challenges abound for managing them. One recent question that came into my inbox includes the following:

                            I am sure this has been in some of the conversations recently, but I have a teacher at a local university that wants to know if there is a way to “…send out purchased apps to IPads all at one time? “

                            The response from @mrhooker?

                            Yes – You have to have a MDM server set up like Casper to do this though.  We put apps into the “app stream” so to speak in Casper and then enable which iPads we want to “see” the apps and download.  This ties the apps to a specific user though and you won’t be able to reclaim the app.

                            Update: For a frightening (it’s October, gimmeabreak!) walkthrough the haunted house of iPad “un-management” read Andrew Schwab’s The Trouble with Tribbles.

                            Of course, this highlights the title of a blog entry that hits the nail on the head — iPad broke IT’s back. That assertion shows that while various devices threatened the stability of the school IT departments, they were never quite able to break the door down. But in the case of the iPad, everyone seems to want one–except for curmudgeons like me who can’t stand the iPad because “why should I buy a $100 keyboard for a $500 device when I have a $200 netbook that comes with a keyboard and does the job fine?”–even though it’s a step in the wrong direction?

                            We’ve been hearing about the “consumerization of IT” for years and the phenomenon has only continued to grow…“What broke the camel’s back was the iPad, because executives brought it into the company and said ‘Hey, you’ve got to support this.’” (read more)

                            How are iPads changing how your school technology department provides support?


                            We use the Apple Volume Purchasing Program to purchase iPad apps in quantity.  We have encountered and issue with these apps when upgrading to iOS 5. Our iPad 1 units upgraded without issue and all Apps, including those purchased through the VPP program, came back after the upgrade to 5. However, our iPad 2 upgrades did not go so well.  The upgrade to iOS 5 went OK and Apps purchased through the standard process came back.  But Apps purchased through the Volume Purchase Program are lost.  They show up in the account history as having been purchased but are nowhere to be downloaded and no longer on iTuens. If you try to redeem the original codes, you get a “This code has already been redeemed” message. At this point, Apple has not been able to resolve the issue.  Nothing they have sent us has let us retrieve the VPP Apps. Is anyone else experiencing the same thing and have you found a solution?

                            Response from a Texas technology director:
                            Actually just had this happen to my IPad2. What we did was google where ITunes stores the backup Apps on your machine. We copied them over to another machine, then had to point to each app, then did a did a sync and FINALLY got all the apps back….took us about 3 hours and we were laughing about how people make fun of MS updates…. ;-)

                            In the meantime, did you know you can view Powerpoints on your iPad now without converting them using SlideShark? Thanks to Kim Caise for pointing that out!

                            Update: Read the sequel, THEY LIVE – Dealing with the iPad Infected

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                            Making the Run for Freedom

                            In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.  -Chuck Reid as cited here

                            What a profound quote. In theory, we can do anything. In practice, our work can be constrained by resources, time available, unrealistic perceptions, and a host of other variables. In recent conversations, the “theory” is that we are hearing cries that schools abandon successful solutions to embrace ones that are forced on them by others.

                            At a time when we have ubiquitous access to technology, isn’t platform independence desirable? It’s a quest Mark Hall consider in his blog entry entitled, Platform Agnostic? The most important part of his entry comes at the bottom, when he admits his biases:
                            I am a “Google” guy, a GCT. I prefer the Google tools, they work well for me in my environment. But my students are not always going to be in my environment. And I am learning that Google tools are not always going to work in MY environment. I need to make sure me students know how to use a range of tools, and if that makes me less of a Google guy, then so be it.

                            Mark shares that working in education keeps him bouncing from one application or solution to another, hustling to find the solutions that will best meet the needs of his/her students. Rather than suffer “vendor lock-in,” Mark reaches for the solution most appropriate for his students, a view summarized by Ira Socol:

                            “I’m not “Platform Agnostic” because I’m a crazed techie, I’m “Platform Agnostic” because I work in education, and education is about helping students prepare for any possible future, not my particular vision of a future.” (Source: Ira Socol as cited by Mark Hall)

                            Image Source:

                            Any possible future. Consider that image (not the robot) above (source – Principal’s Page LIFE)…what would it look like for eLearning? Hmm…

                            PreSchool – Connect online and click on links to drill-n-kill games.

                            School - Connect to the state’s curriculum delivery system and use only the web tools they let you use.

                            High School – Passively consume information disseminated via the state’s course management system.

                            College/University – Discuss how you can use the state’s course management system with others in your class.

                            Real World Job – Find out about open source tools and set up your own Moodle/Sakai course management system, blogs, wikis, and help others understand which will work best for them.

                            Emerging from the closed environment in Logan’s Run
                            Want to be platform agnostic or independent? Start looking at free, open source solutions now, no matter what age. There’s a world waiting out there for you….

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                            BYOD/BYOT Podcast


                            Eric Curts (North Canton City Schools’ Technology Director)from The State of Tech was kind enough to point out that they have an entire podcast dedicated to this topic–BYOT/BYOD to Schools–available online:

                            Summary: In this episode we talk about schools using Bring Your Own Technology initiatives (BYOT, BYOD, BYOL); where students bring personal laptops, tablets, smart phones, and other devices to school. We also explore practical uses, benefits, challenges, and resources.Download Episode 3 Video: DownloadDownload Episode 3 Audio: Download

                            You may recall we explored this issue in a blog entry and podcast:

                            1. BYOD Blog Entry
                            2. Texas4TEE Podcast on BYOD

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                            7 Slices of PIE – 1 to 1 Computing @drezac

                            Dan Rezac recently shared the following question about 1 to 1 Computing via Twitter and GoogleModerator:
                            What is the future of 1 to 1 computing?

                            Let’s review what 1 to 1 is, even though it is extremely expensive:

                            One-to-one computing means putting a computer — a PC, laptop, handheld, or tablet PC — into the hands of every student. While many educators say that one-to-one computing is transforming education for the better, others say it’s making the classroom teacher’s job harder than ever. Some even believe that the emphasis on technology actually preventsstudents from learning. (Source: Education World)

                            I started to respond to him but soon achieved the character limit on an idea in GoogleModerator (with endless space, why are we limiting content? Is brevity really the soul of wit?). So, I’m writing this blog entry for fun and will post the link once the blog entry is posted.

                            When Richtel and his Grading the Digital School series discusses schools with technology that don’t raise performance on standardized tests, standardized testing is treated as a near absolute be-all, end-all of educational success, but when celebrating a school approach without technology (serving then the anti-tech agenda), the importance of standardized testing success is happily set aside.  This is not journalism, this is hatchet work.
                            Source: Jonathan Martin via via Dr. Scott McLeod

                            In the meantime, here’s one possible take on the 1 to 1 question:
                            Technology expenditures are siphoning critical funds from the changes to teaching and learning that need to be happening in schools. While admins and teachers run around trying to get a $500 device (e.g. iPad), add a $100 keyboard to make it into a glorified note-taking tool, the truth is, couldn’t that money have been better spent with professional learning for instructional approaches that actually impact the “bottom line,” where “bottom line” is standardized testing?
                            You see, if high-stakes testing is what our country has decided to invest in as THE determining factor for success in the K-16 education system, shouldn’t we be doing everything humanly possible to get those scores up? Whether you think testing is THE WORST THING EVER (and I do myself the way it’s been implemented as the measuring stick for life, the pursuit of happiness and the big dollar for testing companies and the legislators who get campaign donations from them) or not, it’s clear that schools have been set up to achieve this one measurable objective–make sure everyone graduates.
                            Unless you have the money to put your kids in private/charter schools, our goal as parents, educators, citizens has to be to put ALL funding in the HELP JACK AND JILL PASS THE TEST, right? When you take a look at the 1 to 1 computing research out there, it appears that 1 to 1 doesn’t translate into significant gains for improved student academic achievement. 
                            A compilation of four new studies of one-to-one computing projects in K-12 schools identifies several factors that are key to the projects’ success, including adequate planning, stakeholder buy-in, and strong school or district leadership. Not surprisingly, the researchers say the most important factor of all is the teaching practices of instructors—suggesting school laptop programs are only as effective as the teachers who apply them. (Read Source)

                            Read that bold, italicized section above. Where should we be spending money? Repeat after me–we should spend the money on maximizing teacher effectiveness. Whether it’s 1 to 1 or BYOD, the focus MUST BE on the teachers’ effectiveness.

                            Every time I see an administrator walking around with an iPad, or a teacher doing cartwheels over the latest free iPad app, I ask myself, How has this person fundamentally changed what they are doing with technology to be more effective? The answer is a bit depressing. Most of us still use technology in the classroom in ways that are ineffective for improving student achievement.
                            For example, in a recent online conversation, a technology administrator said, “We want to use BYOD so kids can do more research.” Hmm…really?!? More research? 
                            While knowing how to do research is critical, has there been any discussion about employing the approach or taking the time out to do problem-based learning or case study method? Or, is the approach still driven by something like this:

                            “You need to do a research study on why a platypus is a marsupial, a bird, and a mammal. You can present your findings as a multimedia slideshow or a written paper or a series of tweets with the hashtag #schoolnameplatypusproject2011adnauseum

                            The focus on any project has to be on impacting specific learning objectives.
                            Over the last few years as federal funding had steadily decreased under President Bush–and now has been cut altogether thanks to progressive leadership under President Obama–I’ve often reflected on the priority we give technology in schools. Time and again, one reads that “It’s the pedagogy, not the technology, that makes the difference.” And, if that statement is true–echoed by many educational technology bloggers and pundits–then let’s focus our limited funding on pedagogy.
                            As a writing teacher whose children produced great writing over the course of a year–and I received nice teacher appraisals for it, although some would argue that neither measure is valid in the face of high-stakes testing–I did not need technology. As Jim Collins advocates point out (and which administrator in public schools doesn’t cite Good to Great), technology accelerates…it makes what you’re doing happen better and faster, but it fundamentally comes down to what you’re doing at the bedrock level.

                            In a one-to-one teaching and learning environment, each participating student is provided access to a personal computing device on a direct and continuous basis throughout the school day, and beyond, if possible. Students do not share laptops with other students at the same point in time. It is the intent of one-to-one programs to empower students with “anytime and anywhere” learning. When a student is in class, the laptop is in their immediate proximity and is used regularly and with purpose. (Source: What is One-to-One? From the One-to-One Institute as cited

                            And, when a student is out of class and the technology is locked up at school, does anytime/anywhere learning still take place? Have we falsely equated “anytime/anywhere learning” with “1 to 1 access?” I suggest we have done so. This is like stating that reading  a stream of tweets is equivalent to learning, or listening to a keynote speaker is equivalent to learning.
                            What is the unique process where we convert information that is public into knowledge we can carry around with us? If this process is not clearly articulated, then there is little hope for a 1 to 1 program, even before it gets started:
                            Success often depends on program managers having a clear roadmap for how enhancing access will eventually lead to other more ambitious goals such as transforming instruction or improving student learning. (Source: Apple 1 to 1 Research)

                            Since we’ve established that all American schools are failures, we shouldn’t be spending precious funds on technology in schools because that’s NOT where it is at…it’s where we WANT it to be. 

                            While America’s students are stuck in a ditch, the rest of the world is moving ahead. The World Economic Forum ranks us 48th in math and science education. On international math tests, the United States is near the bottom of industrialized countries (the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and we’re in the middle in science and reading. Similarly, although we used to have one of the top percentages of high-school and college graduates among the OECD countries, we’re now in the basement for high-school and the middle for college graduates. And these figures don’t take into account the leaps in educational attainment in China, Singapore, and many developing countries…The net effect is that we’re rapidly moving toward two Americas—a wealthy elite, and an increasingly large underclass that lacks the skills to succeed.
                            (Source: The Failure of American Schools)

                            Does a technology-illiterate administrator, selected for that position irrespective of his ability to use technology or learn how to use technology, really need an iPod or iPad or Android tablet to achieve his job? The answer is, “No, they are really just acquiring mobile devices that are cool, hip, ‘hot’ according to inventory purposes.” Can students learn effectively without technology at all? Yes, of course they can. If the answer were NO, the majority of students in the top 20 in the World Economic Forum would be out of luck, right?

                            The World Economic Forum, based in Davos, Switzerland, holds that technological progress is the principal driver of innovation, productivity and efficiency. (read source)

                            Wait a sec…is it possible that what we do in schools flies in the face of productivity, innovation, and efficiency (PIE)? When we eschew technology in schools to address high stakes testing, are we prioritizing the opposite of what we set out to achieve?
                            (And, the obligatory list)

                            If we could prioritize what we do in schools to achieve innovation, productivity and efficiency, it should be this:

                            1. Eliminate the digital divide in K-16 public schools between “instructional techie-propeller-heads” and “instructional tech-weenies”
                            2. Focus on problem-based learning in schools
                            3. Allow ubiquitous access to technology a la BYOD but don’t break the budget. Use what’s available in the community and encourage business cash donations rather than hardware dumping.
                            4. Enable collaboration through the strategic use of technology.
                            5. Maximize teacher effectiveness by simplifying expectations unrelated to increased PIE
                            6. Allow the use of course management systems that scaffold learning rather than lock-in schools to proprietary, closed (e.g. can’t export content created by students and staff), taxpayer supported systems.
                            7. Kick tech companies out of K-12 education because their money is doing to education what special interests have done to politics a la campaign donations.
                            That’s just one take on 1 to 1. How would you have written this differently?

                            Image References
                            Pie in the face.

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                            A Plurality of Solutions @timholt2007 @woscholar @slaleman @jennifermiller9


                            While some of us are debating the merits of one course management system over another, others may suggest that the CMS/LMS debate is fruitless in itself. Will Richardson recently shared this Clay Shirky quote:
                            “Institutions will always try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

                            As I’ve pointed out previously, solutions like Project Share (and now, OpenClass) and Moodle are fit to problems that school organizations perpetuate. Arguing about which solution is the best one to an old problem–delivering instructional activities to students, tracking them, etc.–won’t really address the challenges K-12 learners and their teachers/administrators are facing–schools and those who work in them are increasingly being “disintermediated.” Or, to put it another way, it’s a waste of time arguing about the most comfortable chair to sit on while the Titanic sinks beneath us.

                            In Shirky’s blog entry, he points out the following:

                            In the future…It’s tempting, at least for the people benefitting from the old complexity, to imagine that if things used to be complex, and they’re going to be complex, then everything can just stay complex in the meantime. That’s not how it works, however.

                            This happens with tech, doesn’t it? But we’ve seen consistently “complex” technology replaced by even simpler tech. From HTML web sites maintained with Dreamweaver to blogs and wikis, it’s gotten a lot easier to maintain a web presence. From Blackboard/WebCT/Desire2Learn to Moodle, it’s gotten easier. Is the progression from Moodle to Pearson’s OpenClass (or, in Texas, Project Share) the next logical step? I don’t think so.

                            When I recently examined Canvas/Instructure, Sakai–other free open source course management systems–and OpenClass, I had hoped that these systems would simplify what needs to be done in Moodle and provide all the functionality provided by feature-rich sets. Alas, it wasn’t to be. In spite of my hunting for a feature-rich set of tools that found a home in greater simplicity, there was none. Then, it occurred to me that the problem isn’t with the tools but the questions those tools are “answers” to. 

                            Are we asking the right questions in Texas public schools? Should we be building or advocating course management systems that preserve the problems they are a solution to, or is there another way ahead?

                            After reviewing different course management systems, I turned back to Moodle’s feature-set with a new appreciation of the problems it allows educators to solve. If we–who embrace Moodle as the solution to problems that are relevant in Texas schools–are urged to use other solutions with different feature-sets, maybe schools need to be focused on different problems…different problems for which solutions like Project SHARE and OpenClass ARE appropriate for.

                            Here are some of the problems that Moodle helps school organizations solve:
                            1. Facilitating a virtual classroom environment with a wealth of activities that can be graded.
                            2. Tracking of online activities in an electronic gradebook that allows exporting of data in a wide variety of formats (excel, libreoffice, csv) to ensure compatibility.
                            3. Easy addition of tools like blogs and wikis within the context of activities, or 
                            4. Easy embedding of discussion forums (a variety of choices here, too)
                            5. Easy embedding and hosting of media in a variety of formats
                            6. Single sign-on through LDAP authentication, as well as a variety of other authentication approaches.
                            7. Create online learning communities that are closed and don’t have to be run through an external hosting provider.
                            Finally, it’s important to note that while this discussion may be perceived as an either-or (PS or Moodle for the sake of debate) proposition, schools have the option of using Project Share, Moodle, and many other systems simultaneously to match solutions to the kinds of problems their institution has to solve.

                            the use of terms like “Learning Management System” and “Virtual Learning Environment” are misleading. The correct term should be “Course Management System.” These programs should really only be used for administrative purposes – class roles, grades, content repository (all classes need some content – even though it should be kept to a minimum), etc. Also, tools need to be provided for student safety when sensitive topics are discussed. Some topics should be discussed in a closed corner rather than out on the world wide web in some cases. 

                            To say a program manages learning or is a learning environment will give the impression that it is a closed place where learning is imprisoned. It doesn’t have to be that way. Use the LMS program as an adminstrative hub for your class – and then insert a link to something else and get the students out there learning. (Read EduGeek Journal – The Death of the LMS)

                            Let’s not be so divisive about the tools available to us, and instead embrace a plurality of solutions that empower us–the stakeholders in public schools–to solve the problems our students and teachers have.

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                            Moodle Roundup


                            In skimming my RSS feed for Moodle resources, these jumped out at me (most are from the awesome work Joseph Thibault is doing at

                            1. Online Courses Using Moodle (PDF) – a presentation on how to Moodle.
                            2. A 10 minute video of Moodle on Mobile devices
                            3. A Virtual Student for Your Moodle - Nicholas Walker, an ESL teacher at Montmorency College (Canada), has embeded into Moodle a Virtual Student. It is as part of a English Language Lab  activity that Nicholas and his colleague, Melvin Shantz, are currently testing.
                            4. A Moodle course on how to push RSS information from your Moodle course (forum postings) to a Twitter account.
                            5. Move2Moo is a new service which has partnered with Lambda Solutions to provide course content migration services to institutions and companies adopting/migrating to Moodle from another LMS.

                            and, a bonus via Julian “Moodleman” Ridden tweet that I found in my RSSOwl feed:

                            • Great new block available for #moodle 2 allows for bulk delete, hide and move activities or resources –

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                            Publishing eBooks

                            Great article…Everything You Need to Know About How to Digitally Self-Publish

                            Some of my take-aways:
                            • I discovered that most people don’t care all that much about my hippie publishing experiments. Before someone puts time and/or money behind a project, they want to make certain nobody else can claim ownership of it, and part of that reassurance is registration with the United States Copyright Office.
                            • Which platforms you decide to target is up to you, but in my opinion, there’s really no reason not to target them all. 
                            • Just make sure to validate your EPUB files either with an online tool, or a tool you can download and run yourself before attempting to upload them. 
                            • Amazon’s EPUB support is not documented…Use KindleGen to test your books. KindleGen is a free tool that Amazon provides for converting EPUB files into Mobipocket files.
                            • I actually don’t think the world has figured out what a tremendous revolution digital self-publishing is yet, and just how disruptive it will prove to be. Digital self-publishing is to traditional publishing what blogging is to traditional news media.

                            Great stuff worth reading if you’re thinking about publishing an ebook!

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                            Grumpy Old Men (and Women) – An exercise in Satire


                            One of my Dad’s favorite movies, Walter Matheau and Jack Lemon (right to left) pictured above gave him a chuckle every time. Today, esteemed colleague Tim Holt seeks to get our blood up arguing about something that we really don’t have any control over–the affection of school leadership for programs thrust into schools without a by-your-leave. Should we embrace inadequate course management systems, casting aside what works better, simply because “Mama Government” thinks that’s the best solution?

                            In America, we come from pioneer stock. Our ancestors explored, conquered, and civilized a continent one wagon train and settlement at a time. They crossed hundreds of miles of hostile territory, risked starvation, murder by Indians, and dying alone in the wilderness to try to carve out a decent living for their families. That same ferociously independent spirit was what inspired our ancestors to throw off Britian’s shackles and forge America into the greatest economic and military power the world has ever seen.
                            These accomplishments were because of the decency, work ethic, and self-reliance of the American people, not because of the greatness of our leadership in Washington, D.C. The Founding Fathers understood that, which was why they considered government to be a necessary evil that was to be hemmed in, contained, and bound at every opportunity. (Read Source)

                            Self-reliant, decent school districts have worked hard to implement course management systems–like Moodle–that make things better in their K-12 learning environments, rather than wait for Mama Government to rescue them. Tim suggests that self-reliance is wrong, that such a work ethic is the result of simple grumpiness.

                            Like some flawed Texas version of Grumpy Old Men, Tim Holt suggests that technology directors who are continuing to use Moodle over a state-funded course management system are doing so simply because they are, well, grumpy. In a comment on my original post, Tim writes the following:
                            To me, the real sin is after the state purchases something, people decide not to use it because it doesn’t “Meet MY needs.” Geesh! How ego centric! We saw the same thing with the K12 databases, which were awesome, but a bunch of grumpy old guys that didn’t like it for whatever reason, didn’t push it like it could have been, and it died..all because it wasn’t their coup of tea.

                            The real sin in any collaborative venture isn’t that people passed on embracing a solution foisted upon them by the Government–wait, isn’t this America? Isn’t this Republican-dominated Texas? What about local control and independent school districts?–run by a corporation, but that anyone thinks technology directors could actually STOP school district leaders from being American. Do we have to ask permission to run course management systems that serve our children well? Do we have to ask permission from state legislature to set aside their solutions when they don’t fit the needs of the students and teachers served? I hope not. 

                            Meanwhile, the list of things “Mama” wants to control seem to be rapidly and endlessly expanding…The government wants to tell us what course management system to use, tell us what professional development we need to have, what our children have to learn, deciding who are the experts you need to listen to, using RFID chips to track children, what’s up with all that? (this paragraph adapted from one that appears online).

                            Wake up, America!
                            Note: I had a lot of fun writing this. If you’re taking this seriously, please take a moment to laugh and remember that in Grumpy Old men, despite professing to be bitter enemies, Jack and Walter’s character cared for one another. Oh, and I hope you caught my reverent reference to Earl Pitts, whom you can listen to on YouTube here. 

                            For a more serious discussion, check this post on Plurality of Solutions.

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                            Remembering To Be @woscholar @timholt2007 @slaleman


                            The First Amendment was designed to allow for disruption of business as usual. It is not a quiet and subdued amendment or right….Dr. King, when asked about disruption, said that the disruption caused by peaceful protest is good and healthy in a society, because it is the result of festering problems that need to be addressed and that are buried being brought into light to be dealt with constructively. (Source: Naomi Wolf at Huffington Post)

                            Update 10/24/2011: Tim Holt writes a response to this blog entry, which I’ve responded to in the comments of his blog post.

                            You’ve heard the term before. Disruptive Innovation. What does it means in regards to the coming apocalypse for self-hosted course management systems (e.g. Moodle, Sakai)?
                            disruptive innovation. This is an innovation that transforms an existing sector–or creates a new one–by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, reliability, and affordability, where before the product or service was complicated, expensive, and inaccessible. (Read more here)

                            There’s been some hand-wringing on whether Texas schools should be using Project Share (from the Texas Legislature, paid for in the midst of an economic crisis for years in advance it seems), or investing efforts into using Moodle, the premier, free (and no-cost) open source software (FOSS) solution that whips Project Share’s backend in both feature-set and activities.

                            Let’s take stock of course management systems or tools for teaching online (in order of my preference):
                            1. Moodle
                            2. Building Online Courses with WikisWikis and discussion boards cobbled together
                            3. Sakai or some other self-hosted course management system
                            4. Project Share – a state education agency tool available to public school educators and students.
                            5. OpenClass – Pearson’s venture into a GoogleApps for Education delivered CMS.
                            It’s ironic that my belief we should “own our data,” avoid dumping countless hours (actually, 24 hours per 1 week online course is my count) into proprietary systems that have no exit strategy puts me on the side of those who don’t want to use cloud-computing tools in schools like GoogleApps for Education. Obviously, I’m a GAFE supporter but counsel against choosing tools that lock up our content, unlike Moodle and it’s distant cousins.

                            One of the hard lessons of using an outsourced system–whether for student information systems, ePortfolios–districts should learn vicariously is that they should never, ever move their data into a system unless they have a clearly articulated exit strategy. That exit strategy should not only involve control of the data, but also how to make that data work on their own systems. One obvious solution would be for GoogleApps for Education to make a “standalone” version that works on school district servers, OR provide migration tools to other systems that exist. Data and the structures that house that data should be as portable as possible. 

                            (Source: On Exit Strategies via Henry Thiele)

                            That’s what makes blog entries helpful…an opportunity to evaluate whether you’re being inconsistent in your thinking, a point Tim Holt calls me on via Twitter:

                            timholt2007@mguhlin You trust lots of others with proprietary systems. That is a straw man for not wanting to implement it.

                            That’s true, isn’t it? I’m not a purist a la Richard Stallman. I like to have my cake and eat it, too, even if it fattens my waistline. I have to ask, “Would you rather trust the State with a proprietary system where they hold the keys or host your own content?”  For those whose organizations bother to even consider this, rather than do what is politically expedient or aligned with their ever-changing values, Scott Floyd points out the following:

                            woscholar@timholt2007 @mguhlin We prefer our staff and students to be portable with their digital lives. Not locked up in NY Times Epsilen Land.

                            I suppose that I just don’t like web-based, proprietary CMSs–like Project Share and OpenClass–because their current design tools lack substance. It’s not that you can’t make things happen with them but that after spending a lot of time working with other tools, like blogs, wikis and Moodle, those proprietary systems’ tools are anemic by comparison. It is a criticism I’ve documented before. What’s frightening is that I now have to worry whether the million/billion-dollar companies that host these products will look over my shoulder and say, “You know, Miguel, why can’t we just get along?”
                            Or, I could pray for a more enlightened response — “Let’s work together to make these tools more like what you imagine Texas schools need.” In virtual spaces, there’s plenty of room, isn’t there?

                            Either way, my biases are showing, aren’t they? What fun to explore them in public.

                            MY BIAS
                            If you’re curious as to my bias, I haven’t backed down from this opinion piece published by ISTE in September, 2005:

                             Is open source the right direction for schools/districts?
                            Yes to open knowledge sharing. As a Texas schoolteacher, I learned a lesson about sharing ideas–the more open we are about what we we do in our classrooms, the more significant the impact on teaching and learning is. Our planning period table-talks changed what we did in the classroom. In a similar manner, our children are transforming our attitudes regarding the role open knowledge and software plays in our schools. As they sit around a global table, it is our students’ ideas that we would do well to heed.

                            Yes to open source software tools. Today’s students are already using the Internet, writing programs and designing licensed as free, open source software. They collaborate with each other, relying on global experts, building systems that they can use in various settings. Through open knowledge sharing they create tools such as the following: graphic organizers, Office suites, instructional software, blogs, wikis, web/graphic design, web-enabled databases, and podcasts. Open knowledge sharing is quickly allowing these students to construct a digital reality.

                            Yes to a new digital reality. Students are using open-source software–compatible with proprietary tools–to create an online world outside the bounds of costly, proprietary software. For example, one urban school district pays as much as $75 for MS Office, $65 for Norton Anti-Virus, $120 for Macromedia Studio MX 2004 software per seat. Contrast the cost of these proprietary software titles with the free, open source software titles such as OpenOfficeClamWin AntivirusNVU Web Design, and //THE Graphics Image Manipulation Program//, all Windows compatible. A potential savings of $410 per computer or in a district with 18,000 workstations, a total of $7,380,000. Or, consider another combination of software tools: MS Office, Norton AntiVirus, and Inspiration (let’s say $14.00 for a large district purchase) for a total of $212. Savings would be $2.7 million if you went with the free OpenOffice, ClamWin, and //Cmap Tools// (alternative graphic organizer software). Couldn’t we do something else with a couple million?

                            We all must ask, “How does this expensive software support me as I learn, teach and communicate in a global economy?” Locked into a cycle of increasingly expensive software purchases and licensing…shouldn’t American school districts seeking to heighten problem-solving, collaboration, as well as decrease costs, use open source software?

                            Yes to rigor and relevance. As the world changes, we seek to prepare our students to think critically and solve problems collaboratively. Yet, those who abandoned the factory model approach to schooling need software tools. Educators require tools that enhance rigor and heighten relevance within the curriculum. We are educators striving, not to make our pupils, software developers, but rather, enable them with software they can use without fear of becoming digital pirates.

                            Yes to collaborative problem-solving. If our students have the courage to use open source software solutions, then we, as educators, must also. If we do not, we will fail those who will face the competitive nations of a world that has already capitalized on the open source software development process. America will have been defined by its failure to reach out and tap into the digital partnerships, the creative power it ushered in.

                            Yes to ambiguity and flexibility. In business, we look for rock-steady environments. In education, we seek out opportunities that will force us to think different, thrive amidst ambiguity, and foster flexibility. Advocating Open source in K-12 goes to the heart of what it means to be educated in the 21st Century, as well as how we can no longer fund proprietary software companies at the expense of our education systems.

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                            Having Fun Reading RSS Feeds

                            The other day, I had to shake myself awake as I pored through my RSS feeds. Certainly, looking at the feeds in GoogleReader isn’t as visually engaging as watching a few hundred tweets flit by. At that moment of insight, I realized what blogging had come down to for me–no profound acts of reflection, only moments of whimsy whispered across the ether.


                            A bad thing? Not really. My brain turns off sometimes, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information flowing into GoogleReader. In fact, RSS feeds serve as placid pools compared to the burbling, bustling Twitter/Facebook/G+/Plurk streams that combine to wash any coherent thoughts away.

                            In the next week, we’ll be making some highly requested changes to Google Reader. First, we’re going to introduce a brand new design (like many of Google’s other products) that we hope you love. Second, we’re going to bring Reader and Google+ closer together, so you can share the best of your feeds with just the right circles. (Official Google Reader Blog) via Donald Jenkins

                            Among those features that will soon be retired are “friending, following and shared link blog inside of Reader.” (Source: Silicon Filter)

                            And, that first piece of vague news coupled with the second that GoogleReader will morph into something a bit more social sent me running for a free, open source RSS aggregator, RSSOwl, which works on Linux, Mac and Windows. 

                            RSSOwl is something I’ve come back to, not having mentioned it back in 2009 when I looked at RSS Aggregators (a dying breed of tool)…RSSOwl has certainly improved over the years and will stay installed on my computer.

                             I am pretty sure people have snickered at my interest in RSS more then once, and even then it’s only when I am in the company of people who know what the hell RSS is, an every shrinking pool of people. All that aside I think Google Reader is a powerful tool, and powerful people use it. (Source: Alex Kessinger)

                            Well, you’re not alone, Alex. I have to admit, it’s a bit weird pondering an RSS aggregator you install on your computer, that isn’t “cloud-based” and all that.

                            Yet, sure enough, in a second, RSSOwl had imported my GoogleReader feed, and I found myself making connections via blog entries that I never would have seen juxtaposed in G-Reader. While I’ll give the new G-Reader a chance, it’s nice to be able to take a bird eye’s view, to twist the streams and get something new out of them…and the very least, to wake me up again and plant my feet firmly on the ground.

                            Get RSSOwl 

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                            The Best Learner


                            Should one build on his strengths or shore up weaknesses? It’s the eternal question for a leader, or anyone for that matter. Finding an answer you can live with can be a worthwhile quest, whether you are a school district administrator or a custodian and all the different roles played in between. And, this blog entry is going to fall

                            “Thank goodness,” one principal told me recently at a conference, “that technology stuff doesn’t count for AYP.” I’m still in shock. The principal in question had not made any effort to learn how to use technology, whether to measure student progress or as a tool to facilitate professional learning. Technology for this person involves watching other people do something out of her reach. So, to bring the question home for this campus school administrator, should she build on her strengths–whatever those may be–or try to shore up her weakness to learn new “technical stuff?”
                            Skimming the oft-visited Around the Corner blog pages–pages that others have found worth visiting today–can be fun. I run into ideas and thoughts that once were mine but now have slipped away into forgetfulness. For example, in response to a question by Tammy Lenski (Conflict Zen, When you experience stress, what is it whispering to you? I took the time to write the following:
                            The urgent whispers ask, “Do you have the answers to these questions? Provide them NOW!” or the insidious, “You didn’t really think you were good enough to do this job, did you? You’re just pretending, aren’t you?”

                            The second question–good enough to do the job–touches on a point that Dan Oestreich (Unfolding Leadership) writes about. I often wonder, do people who make utterances like the principal at the start of this blog entry ever ask themselves that question?

                            Yet, and this has also been the case, especially when I’ve watched clients over a longer period of time — and watched myself in the same way, too, I guess — the shifts people make through their growth over time don’t go against the natural style of their personality so much as they open up or “resolve” those styles. This happens in a way that the person naturally has more capability in exactly the places he or she would most like to grow...If we took the perspective that we do have a natural, internal learning curve, then it seems that we ought to pay more attention to that than simply pushing ourselves for adaptation that’s not likely to hold anyway. 

                            Maybe it doesn’t matter for them. They baldly know what they’re good at, and what they’re not. “Leave the technology stuff to the techies,” one with positional authority might say to an underling dingaling, “you focus on what you’re good at.” But don’t we all have to be good at this tech stuff?

                            When I reflect on that point–that we resolve or settle into those natural styles of our personality rather than fight against them–I’m worried that schools will never change given the crop of leaders. If a school administrator chooses to build on his or her strengths–and those don’t involve learning to use technology in a globally connected world that requires collaborative problem-solving from students–then what hope will students in that school have?

                            What are school leaders natural styles? If I had to make a list off the top of my head, it would be this (and I’m only going for top 5…what am I missing? Is there bias in my list?):
                            1. Dresses well and “for the camera.” It’s the “wax the cabinet” instead of teach the kids because it needs to look good on the evening news when we feature this classroom.
                            2. Makes decisions without consulting anyone and informs people AFTER the fact.
                            3. Avoids learning new things, instead delegates those to others with greater aptitude.
                            4. They accept orders without question and do what they are told.
                            5. They can spout the latest leadership book psycho-babble and act like they care about it on Monday then switch to a different book by Friday.
                            Are those a bit negative? That’s my perspective of poor leaders in schools. What should “good” leaders aspire to? You know, at this point in my observation of educational leaders, I’d go for folks like this:
                            1. A real enthusiasm to manage well and do the tasks required.
                            2. An excellent communicator who knows that collaboration with stakeholders makes the difference.
                            3. A person who admits mistakes publicly, and 
                            4. Allows others to see him/her learning new things, while s/he
                            5. Encourages others to learn.
                            A few nights ago, dead-dog tired after getting off the treadmill and cooling down, The Best Man featuring Henry Fonda was on television. A black-n-white show, I couldn’t help myself and forestalled my shower until the end of the movie. It was quotes like the ones in the video clip below that have made me reconsider the petty politics of school district administration. You can hear the best quotes at 25-47 seconds. After 50 seconds, you’re on your own.

                            Can you guess which quote in the movie clip, in less than 50 seconds, makes me the angriest? The end of The Best Man comes as no surprise to me. Is the best man the one who seizes the power, ruthless to consolidate it and use it as s/he sees fit, or the one who realizes that compromising one’s integrity and principles is not worth the effort?

                            It’s a question I’ve been struggling with. You?

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                            Giveaway – WinXDVD Ripper for #mac and #windows #free

                            Windows version | Mac version
                            Image Source:

                            A press release worth reading…I’ve used the software and it works great. Get it for no-cost for both mac and windows:

                            Good day! I’m writing to you by hoping that you can spare your precious time to review our newly released software, and also hoping that you can kindly recommend this FREEWARE to your users/subscribers/readers. My name is Molly. I’m from Digiarty Software (WinXDVD) who focuses on multimedia software developing and marketing. Our current product lines include DVD Authoring, DVD/Video Player, Video Format Transcoder, Blu-ray DVD Clone/Copy software, as well as iPhone iPad Video Streaming software – Air Playit. Recently we rebuilt our main freeware – WinX DVD Ripper. I sincerely hope to introduce this FREEWARE to your readers. WinX DVD Ripper is free DVD ripping/backup software that will help your readers backup DVD to MP4, WMV, FLV, Music, and also rip DVD to Apple iPhone (4S), iPod, Android, etc. With this free software, users can watch video on the fly and enjoy movies on the go. WinX DVD Ripper has been downloaded about 80 thousand times within 7 days since its release on our Facebook page 10 days ago. ( Hope your readers will like it.
                             Highlights of WinX DVD Ripper:1. It is 100% free, no watermark, no adware, or other malicious tricks – tested daily by McAfee SECURE.
                            2. Fast, about 14x real time. Convert DVD to iPhone video within 10 minutes.
                            3. Very easy to use with well designed UI. Rip DVD with only 3 clicks.
                            4. High output video quality, as good as the original DVD.
                            5. Lots of preset profiles, including iPhone, iPod, Android, etc.
                            6. Support removing almost all DVD encryption and copy protections internally, including CSS, UOP, RCE, Sony ARccOS, APS, etc. WinX DVD Ripper is really the best DVD ripping & backup software in the market. Hope you’ll like it. More information please visit: the press-kit PDF:

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                            Chromebook Priced to Sell?

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                            Interesting news regarding the Chromebook…. 

                            Exciting news about Chromebooks for Education! We heard a lot of feedback from schools that they were interested in an upfront, 1 year pricing option that would fit better in budgeting cycles. 
                            Today, we’re adding a new one year payment plan in addition to our three year subscription plan that provides you 1 year of management services, support, and warranty ($5/month for management and support – but NOT warranty – after that).

                            Updated: AND we have a special offer out to schools With your first order 30 or more Chromebooks, you’ll receive a Chromebook charging cart and a Google Cloud Print printer!

                            1 year upfront payment: $449 (Wi-Fi), $519 (3G)- $5/month for management services and support after
                            3 year subscription: $20/month (WiFi), $23/month (3G)includes management services, support, and warranty.

                            There’s also some new features in the management panel! Group policy management (so you can set different policies for teachers vs students), shipping tracking, and asset management. Check out the blog for the full story:

                            Also, if you’re interested in finding out more about Chromebooks, check out the webinar series! More info below:

                            New Chromebook Classroom Webinar Series!Wednesdays at 9AM PT/12PM ET starting October 26We’ll be covering all things Chromebooks – a general overview, the management console, getting around the chrome browser, finding useful web apps and extensions, hearing from schools using Chromebooks, and tips for moving your classroom to the cloud.

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                            Celebrating Texas Vision @woscholar @mikegras

                            From Left to Right: Mike Gras, Scott Floyd
                            Image Courtesy of Kristy Vincent

                            When my secretary dropped a copy of Scholastic Administrator on my desk, I had no idea that it would reference some of the hottest leaders in Texas! 

                            Pam Derringer‘s “Last Week’s Technology: How to Balance trends, finances, and teacher and student demands to create a tech plan you can follow” sweeps readers off their feet with a simple bold face, large-print quote from Michael Gras, White Oak (Texas) ISD:

                            “I don’t need a room full of desktops if a kid can do research with the device in his pocket.”

                            Michael goes on to make other wild-eyed claims–that is, claims that leave one wide-eyed rather than imply the lunacy of the claimer–including the following:
                            • “Who am I as tech director to deprive a student of connectivity?” Gras asks. “My job is to foster innovation.”
                            • “I don’t think I need computers anymore if a kid can do research with the device in his pocket,” says the district’s chief of technology. “Certainly, we need a lot less.”
                            • “We have so much going on for so little cost, it’s unbelievable.”
                            And, Scott Floyd (White Oak ISD), playing Robin to Gras’ Batman (at least in this article), isn’t left out, getting the final word of the article in:
                            • “CK-12″ is the future,” They are the leaders and will have many statewide initiatives in the next few years.”


                            Note: is a free, online curriculum provider.
                            Of course, Ed Zaiontz (RoundRock ISD) also is quoted and lauded as a pioneer:
                            • All a teacher needs is a computer, an AMX touch-control panel, a ceiling-mounted projector, and a convention AV screen to watch live events, school presentations, or programming saved on the server, Zaiontz explains.
                            • The irony is that the school network no longer has an iron lock on what teachers can access or store…”The schools have lost that battle [for control],” Zaiontz declares.
                            Kudos to Texas leaders who have been celebrated in the latest issue of (Fall, 2011).
                            Of course, the issue would not be complete without mentioning the voice of the counter-culture in the article, an urban technology director forced to sit on the sidelines of a torrent of changes sweeping through schools. Pam Derringer (the author) has placed this “urban technology director” as the voice of what is NOT happening in some school settings due to lack of vision, unwillingness to change, a fixation with the status quo that belongs to yester-year.
                            Some of the quotes ascribed to the “disgruntled urban technology director” include the following:

                            • “Instead of being strategic about personal mobile devices and managing them, we just don’t allow them.”
                            • “It’s crazy to build up [server] infrastructure in-house,” says the disgruntled urban IT director. “The cloud happens so much faster, and the district would get more storage space.”
                            • As for network challenges, some districts have opted to keep tight, across-the-board access controls for teachers and students with blanket filters that prevent teachers from downloading class materials from the Internet. Some IT Departments want to lock out bandwidth-hogging video and audio files, forcing teachers to wait several weeks for authorization, and, in the process, missing the teachable moment.
                            • There are also districts that deny teachers storage on the network or access to cloud storage. The restricts can create a digital divide, keeping teachers from forming professional learning networks and sometimes even depriving them of what they need to do their jobs. 
                            Which words best represent YOUR reality? That of Gras, Floyd and Zaointz, as well as others quoted by name in the article, or that of the “disgruntled urban technology director?”

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                            Opening the Door to @OpenClass

                            Like lots of folks who have access to GoogleApps for Education, when OpenClass LMS opened up today, I jumped in to explore and took some screenshots to build a virtual tour. Since my biases are undoubtedly going to color my view of OpenClass, allow me to throw them out there in the interests of fair play:

                            1. I’m looking for a feature-rich environment that is as modular and activity-heavy as Moodle.
                            2. I’m looking for flexible creation environment that allows me to embed content from GoogleSites, GoogleCalendar, and other web-based, Read/Write resources and tools.
                            3. I am looking for a drop-dead easy to use system.
                            First impression? OpenClass isn’t there yet. That may mean, of course, that I didn’t know how to make it work in the short time I was logged in or whatever. For Texas folks, Project Share still looks to be a better alternative than OpenClass, but not quite as good as Moodle in terms of features.

                            After signing up, here’s what showed up in my email:

                            Hello Miguel,
                             Welcome to OpenClass!  We’re glad you joined us.  There’s a lot to do in OpenClass – here are a few suggestions on how to get started. Add new users and courses through the Admin link at the top of the page.  (When you create users, just be sure to use their Google Apps email address so we can connect them with their Google account.) Setup your profile by clicking on your name in the toolbar.  Upload a picture, add your Skype address and tell everyone a little about yourself! Learn more about OpenClass or send us feedback through the Knowledge Base If you have any questions – let us know by emailing Thanks!

                            The OpenClass Team PearsonAlways LearningLearn more at

                            Here’s a quick visual tour as I explored OpenClass:

                            As you might guess from the visual tour, the Loading… messages never disappeared. 

                            So far, my biases are keeping me from fully opening the door on OpenClass. I’m more tempted to slam the door, but that would be overly hasty. There has to be more to it than what I’m seeing in the screenshots above…I just don’t know how to get to it.

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                            ETAN Alert – EDTECH Funding and Bingaman Amendment

                            Image Source:!.jpg

                            This arrived in my inbox today.

                            URGENT: We Must ACT NOW to Include Ed Tech in ESEA/NCLB!
                            The Senate HELP Committee is debating its version of ESEA Reauthorization this coming Tuesday (October 18th). This version does NOT contain the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation Act (ATTAIN), legislation that would revamp the current Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program. Fortunately, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the principal author of ATTAIN and EETT will offer an amendment during Tuesday’s debate that would add ATTAIN to the Senate ESEA Reauthorization bill.
                            We need you to support Senator Bingaman’s amendment by asking your Senators to include ATTAIN in ESEA Reauthorization

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                            Have Faith When Movin’ On

                            Fungus on a Rock

                            New things grow on you, not unlike a fungus slowly creeping its way up a tree. In The Conqueror Worms (an end of the world tale by Brian Keene (language warning), fungus finds its way onto living creatures and earthworms explode from the ground to devour the bird out to get them. Unfortunately, it’s the idea of the fungus that grows in the midst of a deluge that covers the world underwater that’s sticking to me right now.

                            New ideas, new things grow on us. It’s a point that Dave Meister makes eloquently when he writes the following:
                            When did the stone age flintknappers actually realize that their skills had become obsolete?  Do you think they looked around at the folks who were working on making a hotter fire, shake their heads and say, “We have to emphasize stone flaking and drawing pictures of our hunts on the walls of caves. This playing with fire will only get us burnt–glowing coals, UGH!”? 

                            Over the last 17 years, I have always been on the side of change. “Bring it on!” my youthful self would cry, even as I sought to help those slow to embrace new technologies, in one case, with an 80-year old’s hand shaking so uncontrollably the mouse pointer danced on the screen.

                            Today, though, sitting in my office at day’s end, I contemplated the end of all things. Education funding has disemboweled educational technology budgets in Texas, the instructional materials allocation aside. The lack of emphasis on NCLB Title 2, Part D-Enhancing Education Through Technology, the joke that is the 8th grade technology literacy assessment–as one principal put it succinctly, “Thank goodness, we don’t need technology to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)!”–makes my job and that of my colleagues across Texas dangerously close to being swallowed up by a fungus. 
                            Whether you go slow or fast, edtech is breathing its last gasp. Consider this remark by a colleague–who shall remain anonymous–in a small, rural Texas school district:

                            This is how I feel but unfortunately because of scheduling in grades 2-8, Technology Application TEKS are not being taught in a consistent manner, if at all, and IMA committee does not want to spend the money on the subscription for this school year, 11-12.  Our subscription is up and the lab aids do not use it much and it is not used at all in middle school.  When the state took the technology requirement away in grades 9-12 they sent a terrible message, they devalued the importance of technology. 

                            I don’t know about you but I feel so frustrated with upper leadership (an oxymoron for sure), and upper administration – they seem not to have a clue about technology and learning.  They all like to prance around at TASA and rave about Ian Jukes but when it gets down to it, when they return to their districts, it’s business as usual and their district technology people are cut out of the loop of major decision making.  We should sit at the top because today, everything is “1s” and “0s”.

                            Since I interact with educators from all over Texas, I can honestly say that the expression of frustration above is accurate of many. I have become disillusioned, disheartened at the pace of change in schools with the focus on high-stakes assessment, the “commoditization” of every aspect of technology–especially online learning–in schools. Don’t get me wrong…we’re quickly moving to ubiquitous access to technology that has no need for an edtech clergy…we’ve been disintermediated. As a veteran middle-man, a conduit, a bridge from the time I traded Apple //e free utilities and games as a high school junior, I’m having trouble just “movin’ on.”
                            I wonder if by encouraging profound change, we haven’t sped up the selling out of America’s schools. When I read Dave’s remarks about flint-knappers–flashback to Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear stories–holding onto the past, I think less of the stick-in-the-muds who don’t want to change to next greatest thing (e.g. iPad), and more about the companies siphoning funding.
                            Do you ever feel, “Man, thank goodness we don’t need technology to meet AYP, ’cause there ain’t no way we could get this aircraft carrier moving in the right direction?” (the second part of that question is one a colleague a top 5 largest school district in the Houston area would say to me…get that aircraft carrier moving in a different direction was her equivalent of doing the impossible). How is your “learning organization” preparing itself to be nimble, quick and be ready to move on?
                            Scott’s final point urges us to embrace the change, give up what we want to hold on to. Heck, I’ve never disagreed with that perspective. The problem is, I don’t know what to hold onto next. Who ever thought I’d be in the old man’s chair?
                            Ah, gotta have faith. ;->

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                            MyNotes – Pearson Debuts Free LMS with Google Apps Integration (Update)

                            Update 10/20/2011: This is NOT a joint launch of a Pearson and GoogleApps LMS, just clever advertising on Pearson’s part. What a relief!

                            Update 10/18/2011: Here’s a quick visual tour of the site.  

                            Today Pearson, the publishing and learning technology group, has joined the software giant Google to launch OpenClass, a free LMS that combines standard course-management tools with advanced social networking and community-building, and an open architecture that allows instructors to import whatever material they want, from e-books to YouTube videos. 
                            The program will launch through Google Apps for Education, a very popular e-mail, calendar, and document-sharing service that has more than 1,000 higher-education customers, and it will be hosted by Pearson with the intent of freeing institutions from the burden of providing resources to run it. It enters a market that has been dominated by costly institution-anchored services like Blackboard, and open-source but labor-intensive systems like Moodle.Source: Wired Campus 

                            Like others – read HackedEducation’s take via Michael Penney (RemoteLearner) tweet– who read the news of a Google-Pearson partnership to integrate a free learning management system (OpenClass) into GoogleApps for Education (GAFE), I sat stunned for a moment. 

                            For many educators, Pearson represents “evil” in education, a perspective that is perpetuated by its focus on accountability through high-stakes testing, it’s failure to allow such testing to occur on free, open source solutions (e.g. Firefox, thin client, GNU/Linux based computers) and instead requiring the use of proprietary operating systems like MS Windows. The list of the issues educators have with Pearson are legion, but matching the darling of education–GoogleApps for Education, which rode in on its white horse to save school districts millions with it’s suite of tools–with Pearson makes for a learning management system with a split personality.

                            Can the FOSS movement withstand the cloud computing venture capital being spent? Yes. Will it want to? Unsure.

                            Of course, this is all immaterial. There’s a lot of heavy-duty work being put into OpenClass, the LMS that rode in on a piebald horse. As Cory Plough mentions in a Facebook conversation, OpenClass isn’t the first LMS to be acquired by Pearson. Connections preceeded it…

                            September 15, 2011. Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, is announcing today the acquisition of Connections Education from an investor group led by Apollo Management, L.P.
                            Through its Connections Academy business, the company operates online or ‘virtual’ public schools in 21 states in the US—serving more than 40,000 students in the current school year. These virtual charter schools are accredited and funded by the relevant state and are free to parents and students who choose a virtual school in place of a traditional public institution or other schooling options.
                            Virtual schools serve a diverse population of students including those who may be gifted, struggling, pursuing careers in sports or the arts, in need of scheduling flexibility, or who have chosen home schooling.  It is a large and rapidly-growing segment in US K–12 education: in 2010, 48 states and Washington, D.C. had virtual school programs and 27 states allowed virtual charter schools. Approximately 200,000 students attended full-time online courses and an estimated 1.5 million students took one or more courses online. (Source: Keeping Pace with K–12 Online Learning, 2010, Evergreen Education Group).

                            As I’ve shared previously, online learning is big business and do it yourself folks–Moodle, Sakai users–should probably expect large sums of money to start floating online learning and making their work look…well, shoddy. With millions of dollars to toss around, it is very well possible that the transformation of online learning from something teachers and schools manage a la free open source tools will disappear. Is this a bad thing for schools, teachers, and tech directors who’ve spent countless hours slaving away over their courses? Have you read The Little Engine that Could? Melted down, sold for scrap…don’t we all get old?

                            OpenClass is just another app in the appstore,” tweets Michael Penney (RemoteLearner VP, a Moodle Partner). So, it’s obvious Pearson is up to its next move–buy all LMSs and corner the market. The Moodle Community is undoubtedly watching, and Blackboard is probably hoping to be next in line (opinion).

                            The only question going around in my head is, How can I get in front of the tidal wave?

                            A whisper…”Too late.”

                            MyNotes (via Joseph Hartman on Google-Certified Teachers List)

                            Pearson Debuts Free LMS with Google Apps Integration — Campus Technology

                            • By Dian Schaffhauser 10/13/11
                            • Publishing and education tech behemoth Pearson has introduced a new, free, cloud-based LMS for higher education. OpenClass, as the LMS is named, is expected to appear in the Google Apps Marketplace for Education Oct. 18.
                            • Users will be able to launch OpenClass from within Google Apps or access their Google applications from OpenClass, which, the company declared, has no hardware, licensing, or hosting costs. “OpenClass has huge potential for higher education,” said Adrian Sannier, senior vice president of Learning Technologies at Pearson. “OpenClass accelerates what technology will do for learning with a free, open and innovative platform that easily scales and lets students work via social media, with an intense focus on learning that elevates achievement.”
                            • OpenClass, the application will eventually provide tools to enable an instructor to import existing materials from “most of the major LMSes.” Once inside OpenClass, both student and faculty users can access e-mail, documents, and calendars. The program has two primary feeds, “Activity” and “People,” which show up within an individual’s workspace, representing all of the courses he or she is in.
                            • A user can launch a chat session with somebody else through a native chat feature built into the service or he or she can launch a Skype session with audio, video conferencing, and screen sharing.
                            •  Both students and faculty can create collaboration spaces, which allow groups of students to share digital artifacts and work on projects together; it also provides a way for instructors to monitor the evolution and dynamics of a group project.
                            • The program introduces Sharing, a blogging tool that lets a user write and post blog entries and bring in video content while also integrating with YouTube, photo-sharing site Flickr, and microblogging site Tumblr. What sets Sharing apart from the standard blogging tool is that Pearson intends to allow the user to share entries outside of the immediate course or campus by letting people “follow” each other and to make those entries available across institutions.
                            • Nine institutions are participating as “design partners” in the development of OpenClass. Those are:
                            • Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at

                            Image Source
                            Piebald horse.

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                            #Rockstar Blog Your World #Meme

                            The RockStar blog meme–which I kicked off due to a presentation I was doing yesterday and thought it might be valuable for others to reflect on their experiences with others–continues…answering the question, how has blogging “rocked your world?” It’s a deceptively simple question. Here are some of the responses so far that I thought I’d highlight:

                            1. Dave Mesiter (@phsprincipal -  PCHS Director Blog) - Read Dave’s Contribution!
                            2. Matthew “Mr. Foteah” Ray - Read his contribution!
                            3. Joan Young’s video response (The Gift of Blogging) – which appears above as a thoughtful, reflective video that I encourage you to watch.

                            One of the recurring themes is summed up by Dan Oestreich’s contribution:

                            What I did not imagine when I started is that it also would connect me to such great people. Although we may never have met in person, I feel the kinship of spirit and perspective with any number of folks anywhere in the world.

                            Matthew Ray also expresses his surprise as he found his voice through blogging and the satisfaction he derives from it:

                            It amazes me that so many people care about what I write, that I am generating debate and discussion among people much smarter than me, and that I am inspiring others to try new things with their students and themselves. It is my great joy to be able to impact the lives of others...I never expected blogging would open up a network as vast as mine. 

                            Dave Mesiter (PHPPrincipal) also makes this point:

                            When I was challenged to write a blog (by my school librarian), I had no idea that participating in the world of education blogs would lead me to joining a learning network that includes some of the brightest minds in education today.

                            If there is a dark side to blogging, it is that blogging accelerates our expectation of positive changes we expect to see in the world around us. Dave writes something that I have observed in our blogging community over the years:

                            In a way, writing here has led to a lot of frustration.  I think the online network of educators that I interact with are primarily progressive types who long for meaningful change in the way we do our jobs.  The lack of true change is very frustrating especially for an educator like me who has children currently in the system.

                            I still remember when I realized that other education bloggers were actually LEAVING the classroom and education altogether because they were so frustrated with change. If one were to look at many of the popular voices in the edublogging community, some of them would undoubtedly be frustrated educators.

                            At times like these, I’m reminded of Spiderman 2 movie and the words of Aunt May:

                            Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.

                            Given the choice between being steady or being a rockstar or hero, which would you choose?

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                            Extending #Moodle Compact Course Design @jenhegna @diben

                            Slide 2 from Jen Hegna’s MoodleMayhem Episode 9 Presentation – View it online

                            Thanks to the excellent prep work of Diana Benner–which helped me better appreciate Adobe Connect as a webinar platform–the Moodle Mayhem LIVE Chat with Jen Hegna went off without a hitch! Although the audience was small, you can catch the whole presentation–essentially, a video recording–online at the Moodle Mayhem web site page setup for today’s episode.

                            Jon Fila ( took the time to share his reflections on today’s Podcast on his blog. Here’s an excerpt from Jon’s email summarizing his blog entry:

                            Here’s are reasons for why you might/might not design courses like this.
                            • The extra time it takes to create these is more than made up.
                            • It gets easier.
                            • Teachers need to take more care in the presentation/design of their content.

                            It is safe to say that the first bullet really goes towards addressing Jim Judge’s question, which was the same thought crossing my mind–Compact Course Design looks like a LOT of work. That thought is immediately countermanded by the understanding that such work is well-worth the results.

                            Jon makes the following point in his blog entry, extending the conversation Jen began in her preso on MoodleMayhem Show:

                            Visual appeal matters. Like it or not, teachers have to learn some elements of design to sell their content. I had an interesting discussion with an IT person once who asked why I spend so much time on layout/design of content. I could just upload the text/PDF files the old way. He couldn’t wrap his head around why someone would not just read what they were supposed to. Even if they did, I would still argue that participants will remember more of the content if they are visually engaged.

                            Certainly, visual appeal makes a difference. As a person who made an F in kindergarten and never improved his visual design skills, I have found this to be a tough realization. While my focus is on the written word, I often have to partner and rely on others to create visually appealing content.
                            DesignFlair blogger points this out in this opening paragraph about blogging (10 Steps to a Killer Blog), and, obviously, it’s a human thing. We are often attracted to the beautiful.

                            No matter how much marketers say otherwise, an attractive design is a significant influence to bounce rate and what visitors think of your site (yes, I had to emphasize this). Design is about making information more legible, and attractiveness is one factor that affects usability. 

                            It’s a perspective that has found advocates:

                            Considering what we discussed earlier about cognitive loads, you can already see how this approach is effective for elearning.  The learner is better able to understand and process the information, making it more memorable… to lessen the cognitive load you can:

                            • progressively reveal information
                            • condense the text on the screen
                            • replace text with relevant images

                            Read more at, which has an great blog entry on this topic and eLearning.

                            Jon Fila includes more advice online in this entry. It makes me wonder how much longer before all of us are following in these footsteps?

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                            #Rockstar Meme – How Blogging Rocked Your World @wfryer @blueskunkblog @danoestreich @dwarlick @pernilleripp

                            On Saturday (10/08/2011) at around 11:15 am CST, Rushton Hurley will allow me to give a short presentation–check back here for the Elluminate link–on how blogging has changed my life. Wow, what a difficult topic to speak about! (smile). Rushton sent the invite months ago:

                            I run a professional development program called MERIT at the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College (Los Altos, California).  It’s a group of 48 teachers from around the world chosen competitively, and they work together for a year, highlighted by a two-week summer program in the second half of July.  We call that the Summer Institute, and everyone comes together to learn about all sorts of tools and resources, design projects, hear a bunch of amazing speakers, and generally have a great time.

                            Last year’s speakers included Kern Kelly, Ken Shelton, Lucy Gray, Carol Anne McGuire, Steve Hargadon, Jim Sill, and Jon Corippo.  It’s done using Elluminate…if there is a topic you’d love to share with four dozen dynamic teachers, it would be an honor to have you connect with them.

                            When I wrote Rushton back that life has been quite busy (this was when I was wondering if my team and I would still be employed come August, 2011), he agreed to a time extension and suggested a topic:

                            For the topic, you might want to talk about how technology in general and blogging in particular changed your professional life.

                            So, with blogging in particular, and to help things along, I’ve prepared this presentation knowing that such a topic will never do my experience justice. 
                            THE MEME
                            To help Rushton’s caravan of learners, I’m hoping you will share–via a blog entry, a video clip posted on YouTube, or audio file (podcast)–how blogging has ROCKED your world…or not. A meme is born!

                            In case you haven’t played around with a meme before–they’re a bit out of fashion these days–here are some expectations:

                            1. you respond the meme and link back to this blog entry
                            2. leave a comment on this blog entry and then ask 5 more people to participate
                            3. Notify those 5 people by sending them a quick note (a tweet prob would work).

                            I’m going to tag some veteran bloggers who have been around since I started doing this:

                            1. Wes Fryer (
                            2. Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog)
                            3. David Warlick (2cents)
                              as well as some folks that haven’t been around too long (relatively speaking):
                            4. Ms. Ripp (Blogging through the Fourth Dimension)
                            5. Dan Oestreich (Unfolding Leadership) – Read Dan’s Contribution to the Meme!
                            Rockstar Meme Responses:

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