Friday, September 14, 2012


Cardboard Box

Thank you very much for reading this blog. We are moving to a new centralized location on my website.  The new location can be found here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

To 365 or Not to 365

As the year 2010 draws to a close there are many educators and non-educators alike that are either completing and/or considering doing a Project 365 photo a day assignment. This is the end of my 2nd year in a row, although I have missed some days, doing a Project 365. Doing a Project 365 has most certainly been an eye opener in so many ways more than simply holding a camera and pressing the shutter release. In fact my list of goals and accomplishments are as follows:

  • My image library has reached just over 18,000 images
  • I am able to make use of my images for delivery of instruction or presentations, thus eliminating a need to navigate the myriad of Creative Commons and Copyright licensing regulations
  • My photographic skill set has significantly increased far beyond my own expectations, due in large part to using either my camera or iPhone literally every day
  • My knowledge base of Aperture, Lightroom, and Photoshop has more than quadrupled
  • And most importantly my use of Photography as a form of creative expression has been such a welcomed addition to my personal life
I have seen on twitter and facebook a number of friends, colleagues, and contacts either considering or committing to doing a Project 365. It led me to writing this post and thinking more carefully if I want to continue for a third year. At times the Project 365 can seem monotonous, arduous, and quite frankly a nuisance. This year alone I even did a Project 52 weekly photo, although my goal with that was to make at least 75% of those images be HDR images in order to expand my photographic repertoire. I probably will not make my decision until after 12am December 31st, but if you are considering doing it I would emphatically say GO FOR IT!! There is no need to feel pressured or obligated to post photos daily, but just like going to the gym, once you get into a groove it can be quite easy. Perhaps you will be able to accomplish your own set of goals and share in the documentation of your daily life as well as your creative expression with others, like myself. I would like to include a few resources that can help you get started and help you along the way.

My favorite website to refer to for a "daily assignment" is the Dailyshoot website. This site is a great resource for not only assignments, but also forcing you to really open your eyes to the images you make.

While there are many flickr groups devoted to a Project 365, one group I have found to be very worthwhile that is not geographically limited is the 365 Community. This is not your typical dump and run group in which images are posted and there is no "community" interaction. All members are encouraged/required to at least interact with others by posting comments and/or feedback where appropriate. This group also provides a suggested theme to help you with your creative expression.

I will soon be creating a Google Site to aggregate all of the Project 365 and Project 52 resources I know of and/or use regularly. So I hope you will consider taking on this commitment and if you really feel daily photos would be too much, try weekly for the first few months and see how that goes. Feel free to post a link to your blog, flickr feed, posterous, tumblr, or any other method you use for posting your images so that I can follow along with you on your Project.

Note: The mosaic at the top is a collection of some of my Project 365 photos for 2010

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Statement of Purpose NOT Willing to be Heard

Recently there has been a major uproar over President Obama's upcoming speech to America's youth. At first I thought this was just a faction of those that are against his policies and his political affiliation. As things, statements, and positions have come to the forefront we have seen that it is not just those against his policies, but also those against Education. Why do I say this? Well here are my thoughts sprinkled with some opinions.

The purpose of the speech is to encourage America's youth to perform well in school this year and to discourage, those who are considering it or that would do it, not to drop out. In fact, on the Education Department website is says specifically, "During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation's children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school." What is the harm in that?!? In fact, based upon my years of teaching and research, a message from the President will carry a significant amount of validity to many of the youth that will hear it. Oh wait, there is a significant percentage of our youth that will not hear it.

The unfortunate, no sad, NO pathetic reason many of our youth will not hear it, is because many parents and school districts are refusing to air the speech. They have folded (feel free to insert cut and run here) under the pressure of a bunch of pundits and political persona's. Therefore, arguably the rights of the students and their teachers are being violated since they are being told what they can and cannot hear. Again, what is the harm in the President encouraging children to make a conscious effort to persist and succeed in school?

Many times in Educational circles you will hear the words "teachable moment" and this is not only one of those, but districts and parents are completely clueless to it. Instead of censorship, why not promote discussions? Instead of keeping your children out of school for the day, why not discuss the speech at the dinner table with your children (Of course this assumes many are even assuming their parental responsibilities)? Instead of blocking the speech in the district why not create a district wide assignment in which the students utilize multi-media (this assumes districts have a clue about the use of technology which will be addressed another time) or any other means of creative expression on how they would commit to themselves and stay in school as well as perform to the greatest of their capabilities?

Sadly these things are NOT happening. This whole issue has turned into partisian positioning and just another way to condemn the Presidents actions regardless of the good intentions. I recently read a statement that if the President were to give a speech on oxygen those in protest would suffocate themselves rather than take a deep breath. I also read the uproar over the lesson plans provided. I have perused them myself and while I am not that fond of a few items on them for pedagogical reasons I see no problem with them. The Prek-6th grade lesson plan can be found here and the 7th-12th grade plan here. The thing here is the those that are vehemently against these lesson plans have yet to propose a viable alternative. They are the classic complainers that are not willing or perhaps even capable of developing an alternative.

The bigger picture here is that our youth are far more influenced by their parents or guardians. The statement that Obama is going to "indoctrinate and brainwash" our youth with this speech is about as preposterous as thinking he has the ability to use a Jedi mind trick on the kids. Therefore, what message are they sending to their children about authority, the President, Education, Free Speech, Differing Opinions, Public Trust, and worse the things they feel are most important for their kids. This is a golden opportunity to get the students to evaluate, analyze, and apply the message about the importance of Education and School. Having meaningful discussions in which students can freely express their opinions in whatever method the teacher feels suitable is the call of order here. In fact this would really get students what I am constantly stressing and even have a huge poster on a wall in classroom of, the word THINK. I was inspired to write this blog posting after reading postings by Will Richardson and Heather Wolport-Gawron who both wrote very poignant and brilliant pieces on this. I kindly thank you for your attention and welcome your comments, yes even if they differ from my position on this matter. After all productive discourse is how we learn, respect, and appreciate others positions. Is it not?
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NECC Redux

It has been almost one month since the ISTE 2009 (formerly National Education Computing Conference) and I am still abuzz about many things from it. I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on Professional Learning Networks, which is something that I have very strong feelings about. While I did not have a full standing room only crowd, after all I was competing against the likes of Steve Hargadon and Hall Davidson, I did have the perfect audience. Those who chose to attend my session provided valuable insights into their professional learning networks, actively participated in the discussion, and were a key component to a rich discussion along with the panel. I want to thank Kristin Hokanson for live blogging and participating in the discussion (she was multi-tasking brilliantly). I want to thank Alice Mercer who had to hustle to another session, but was gracious enough to set up the live stream of the session. And finally, I want to thank Paula White, Meg Griffin, Teryl Magee, Lisa Parisi, Adina Sullivan, and Dennis Grice for being the best panel one could ask for. The presentation slides that helped drive the conversation are here

PLN Panel Discussion Questions

I did receive a number of complements on a few things, of which I am extremely appreciative. The most important comment I received was that my panel was the most diverse and well represented panels some have ever seen. I think this says a lot about the Educational Technology landscape and something that was expressed by a number of people at the conference. There has to be a move towards being inclusive of everybody, rather than the same people doing the same things year after year. It has been mentioned within my PLN circle that perhaps new presenters work with an experienced presenter as a mentor and a co-presenter. This will foster a higher level of involvement and create a culture of inclusion, rather than exclusion. I would love to see ISTE and its' state affiliates develop a database whereby those submitting for the first time can request an experienced co-presenter or mentor to assist them in preparing for and delivering their presentation session or workshop. This would encourage many more to submit for presentations and increase involvement by those that want to be more involved, but just need some assistance. Feel free to post comments and suggestions on how we as an Ed Tech community can facilitate this change.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

CLMS Annual Conference

Last month the California League of Middle Schools had their annual conference in San Diego, CA. The goal of this conference is generally to provide Middle School teachers, administrators, etc. with a rich opportunity for meaningful and relevant professional development. Unfortunately, leading up to the conference, there were a number of underlying challenges, as attendance was down (budget constraints), and the number of attendees signing up for the paid sessions was also severely affected. As a result many of the presenters that were due to receive a stipend were told they would not receive it (lodging would still be covered) and were given the opportunity to decline conducting their scheduled presentation. The educational troops rallied and as far as I know, not one person declined to conduct their presentation. This is yet another one of the wonderful things about educators. Even when the circumstances change the greater good and message is not lost in the minutia of the moment.

I had to privilege and pleasure of presenting two sessions at CLMS. One session was titled, "How to turn PowerPoint into an Interactive Multimedia Instructional Tool" and the other was a three hour hands-on workshop titled, "Build it Better: Project Based Learning from the Ground Up with Google Sketchup. The PowerPoint session was very well attended and I only wish I had more than an hour to really share and demonstrate how to develop, plan, design, and implement a PowerPoint in that manner. Perhaps at next year's conference I will submit for a three hour session and really get into the nuts and bolts of instructional design as well as utilizing PowerPoint in way beyond a linear presentation tool. Given the numerous requests for that PowerPoint I am posting the session here and encourage any readers of this posting to contact me for any help you may need in creating a PowerPoint like this.

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by chocxtc

In addition, the schedule and format for the sketchup session can be found here

I am very pleased with all my fellow educators that took the time to present at this conference and to borrow from my good friend Kyle we certainly, "brought water to the desert."

I also would like to thank my good friend Dr. Mark Wagner for his support and efforts to spread the ed tech word.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

CUE Sessions/Reflections

Earlier in the month of March I had the fortunate opportunity to conduct two different hands on session at the Computer Using Educators Annual Conference. One of the sessions I co-hosted was the Google Workshop for Educators (Google Learning Institute). My co-host was another Google Certified Teacher, Lainie McGann. This session was the first to fill up and sell out and was very well attended. Lots of google apps and google tools were covered during this session. One of the things that I shared on how to make and use, which also happens to be my favorite is a custom search engine. I am of the perspective that rather than rely on school/district filters, educators can provide a more streamlined method for their students to conduct research on the internet utilizing a custom search engine. By building a custom search engine you can control which sites your students access, which sites to specifically exclude from the search results, and you can remove the ads from the search results. I build a custom search engine for images. The purpose of this search engine was for students to find images that are in the public domain and/or have a creative commons license. By searching only these sites I also ensure that all of the results are K-12 appropriate images for assignments such as digital storytelling, powerpoint presentations, etc. Feel free to link to my site or contact me if you would like the embed code to add to your site or blog. My custom image search can be found here.

The other session I had the privilege to conduct at CUE was an iPhone/iPod Touch in education supersession. I have already shared and posted a cell phone in education presentation I conducted last year, so there is no need to state my position on that subject. What I will add is that these tools and various other smartphone technologies are transforming and will continue to transform education as we know it. These tools can most certainly help classes and schools work towards increasing access to the curriculum in a much more meaningful and engaging manner. My session covered many of the applications that are available for each piece of hardware in a variety of subject areas. I would like to add that most of the applications are currently free to download onto your iPhone or iPod Touch. The session keynote presentation is below:

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by chocxtc
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Lack Of Clarity In A Connected School

With the events of today happening right before many of our eyes and in some cases our ears I could not help but ponder the following: What is the deal with a lack of adequate bandwidth in schools? Why aren't all schools connected to either cable television or satellite television? Why is so much money spent on more and more equipment, but not on the infrastructure to support the use of that equipment?

I reached a dizzying level of frustration at school today. During my planning for the day's events and seizing the many teachable moments that were destined to occur I was met with a complete disaster. Despite my many attempts to stream the Inauguration into my classroom, first with many computers and then ultimately through one computer, my students and I were left with a simple audio feed of the Inauguration. I wondered how can a school and district continually discuss the need for more technology, more computers, an increased use of these tools, and greater use of Web 2.0 applications yet we could not even adequately stream one of the most important events in recent time.

Not to become too distraught I immediately reached for the television and figured perhaps I can get a signal so that we can simply view the day's events on a small television. After all something was better than nothing. As soon as I pushed the power button our anticipation, excitement, and fervor was met with, static. I even feebly attempted to maneuver the antenna delicately making micro adjustments in the hopes I would get that one slight signal. Some signal, any signal, just let me get an image on the screen so we can see the excitement of all attendance in Washington DC. We wanted to get the classic picture of the President taking the oath of office and then delivering their Inauguration address. My hopes were crushed and we were left with a periodic audio feed.

Thus, leading me to this blog posting and the aforementioned questions. With all the talk about tech in schools, it is imperative that talk includes infrastructure. No matter how technologically advanced a school is or has a vision to become, it will only be as good as the network infrastructure it most likely already has in place. Bandwidth pipes are only able to handle so many connections and unless you have a situation where the network can be expanded along with the increased technological load schools are actually doing their teachers and students a disservice.

In addition the television troubles had me thinking, in the event of an emergency how would I get my information? Yes I have a cell phone as do most of my students. But when a major catastrophe occurs, are most looking to their cell phones for information or the television. No matter how effective twitter, SMS, and email can be, but to not have a reliable television connection is not appropriate. Of course I can see it now, if we set up cable or satellite in all the rooms the teachers will just show television rather than teach, hmmm are the teachers adults that need to be babysat or are they highly educated trained adults that are fully capable of managing things for them and their students without a need for ridiculous innuendo and interventions?

Seems to me safety, connectivity, accessiblitily, and reliability are more than just key technology vocabulary words. They need to be applied to all facets of the school infrastructure with a plan for scalability as well as proper implementation.
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