Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wild Thing and now Library Thing. Cool!

I’m always trying to find and learn new things. You could say that I love information, but this isn’t exactly the case. I do value information, but I love knowledge. Hence, I try to take time daily to visit some of my favorite RSS feeds. However, I have been really busy lately with my doctoral classes, playing PS2 with my seven year old, and chasing my toddler around the house. As a result, I missed the post by Will Richardson about Library Thing. This could have been a tragedy. Who knows when I would have found LT? I know what you're thinking, what is LT?

According to Will Richardson, “… Library Thing allows you to easily catalog all of the books in your personal library which, in turn, leads to all sorts of social goodness. I can easily find out who else is reading the books I have, see what’s in their libraries, and start conversations with them about what they are reading and recommending. Of course, I can tag the books in my collection, rate them, write a review, add comments to the listing, and access all of the Library of Congress information about the book in an instant. (They just added their 9 millionth book to their database.) There are widgets to add (scroll down and see mine in the right hand column) and it has a great zeitgeist page that gives an overview of all things…um…Library Things. (For instance, the largest collection is 14, 954 books…whoa!)

Obviously, this is a great way to not only track what you’re reading but find other stuff to read (although one look at the stack of books next to my bed and I wonder if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.) But I also thing it’s a wonderful example of the social potential of Web 2.0 in a very concrete way. I mean is a powerful tool, but I’m not sure how many people really “get it” without some bit of brainwork. This is easy and obvious, and let’s face it, everyone has a library…right?”

LT sounds really cool doesn’t it? I signed up and I will try and add some books to the library over the next few days. Until then, you will just have to look at Will’s example.

Thanks Will for another great find!

William Bishop (Bill)

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Absolutely Delicious!

I have been thinking about taking some time to locate resources and create a page to help fellow educators. Well, now I don’t have to bother. John Norton a very intellectual individual working with Alabama Best Practices Center and the 21st Century Learning Collaborative has done the work for me. You can see the site at . Trust me when I say that you will find this page worthwhile.

Thanks John!

William Bishop (Bill)

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Is technology integration viable in 2007 at the K12 Level?

True integation of technology sounds great, but is it viable in 2007 at the K12 level? According to Chayefsky, “When seamless technology integration is a priority, sound scientific research shows that students begin taking greater responsibility for their own education, teachers become facilitators instead of lecturers, classrooms become dynamic and flexible environments that develop a love of learning and knowledge. And technology integration naturally develops critical thinking skills.” Nevertheless, almost at every turn it seems like someone is setting up roadblocks or trying to sabotage the integration of technology in the name of student or network safety. When network protocols are not data driven or planned carefully they greatly interfere with the learning process and the use of technology. In many cases these premature measures actually prevent teachers from utilizing technology in a proficient manner. What do I mean?

Most teachers are digital immigrants, yet some have been able to keep up with technology better than a lot of digital natives (i.e. students and new teachers) especially when it comes to emergent technologies. As educators these teachers have and continue to devote a great deal of personal time helping students work with technology. They have their students using blogs, wikis, presentation software, podcasts and videocasts. Unfortunately, just about the time students get acclimated to the software and begin to move forward with these technologies they are often stopped in their tracks in the name of student or network safety. Understandably, we have to have safety nets in place for the sake our networks and our students, but the safety nets that we put in place should be strategically placed and evaluated by tech savvy educators before they are implemented into the school setting.

Why are such controls implemented? More often than not individuals that know little about technology implement controls bureaucratically after consulting only the IT department. These controls more often than not are based on hearsay rather than data driven. These are generally networking controls and are often counterproductive to student learning. They are like the email that we get that warns us of some malicious virus that will meltdown our computers if we open it. You know the one I’m talking about, the one that nine times out of ten turns out to be a hoax, but people still feel like they have to warn us without checking for factuality. Unfortunately, unlike the hoax email that we can simply dismiss, delete, or validate as a hoax, these network controls are network embedded IT measures that burden the most innovative of educators. As such, the integration of technology into the classroom in a Web 2.0 format may not be currently viable in many systems.

If educators are just using technology for word processing, presentations, and random Internet research, they could care less about unneeded safety measures. However, some educators spend at great deal of personal time designing blogs, wikis, websites, and other applications for students to better prepare them for our global economy only to be denied access to controls that allow software instillation on their classroom machines or lab computers. Understandably, students should have limited abilities on network machines, but most teachers on the other hand should have administrative privileges that allow them to use the machines in a productive manner. Imagine telling software engineers that they had to call the IT department or submit a work order anytime they wanted to test new software on their computers. The software engineers’ work would come to an abrupt standstill and productivity would be nonexistent.

In our schools these limitations are implemented sporadically and many educators rather than embracing technology are simply refusing to use it in their classrooms. Can you blame them? In many cases it would be easier and a lot less stressful to just go back to using the chalkboard and overhead. The irony of it all is that the same individuals creating these limitations are the ones that keep asking educators to implement technology into the pedagogy. It’s like asking a carpenter to build a house, and then taking away his tools after he begins the job. It would be preposterous to expect a carpenter to build a house without the proper tools, but in many systems teachers are expected to implement technologies efficiently without sufficient access. True intregation of technology into the classroom sounds great, but is it viable in 2007? I’d like to think that it is, but I often wonder. I suppose that I will keep on keeping on for the sake of my students, but I will also continue to question unnecessary security measures and protocols.

William Bishop (Bill)

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

World War I Wiki

I'm not a History teacher, but I recently had the opportunity to work up a WWI Wiki with a library media specialist. All in all, I think the wiki turned out rather well. I'd love to take the credit for the total content of the wiki, but I found a wealth of information via the Internet at Dan McDowell's site. His site was great and he has a number of wikis linked the site. If you're a History teacher maybe you will find some useful information at the WWI Wiki or at Dan's site. I showed the wiki to some of my students and they seemed excited about the site and its resources.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Plunge into technology!

Take the plunge into technology... Recently, I read an article in Alabama Education News entitled “Technology is Changing the World…DIVE IN” by Cameron McKinley. Although many of my fellow Alabamians may have read the article, I thought it was relevant enough to blog about. In the past I have discussed Google Earth, Google Tools, Flash Earth, and the need to cross the technological divide as educators, but McKinley’s article provides even more validity for my past and current proposals. Thomas Friedman, author of “The World is Flat,” mentions in many of his articles, our children need to be able to learn how to learn! Therefore, as educators we have a responsibility to do more than just teach content for the sake of teaching. As educators we have to find new exciting delivery systems and use them as a medium for delivering our content. Dipping our toes into technology isn’t enough anymore. Currently, we must be willing to dive into technology and model lifelong learning for our student’s sake. If you’re interested in or agree with the above proposal, Cameron McKinley suggests the following sites to help you take the plunge…


Language arts

Wikis, Podcasts, Photos

Use Google Earth.


Go digital with United Streaming digital content.


Problem solving

Internet safety

Explore! (click on your grade level)

Additionally, I have created links to help teachers in my Spanish blog and in a number of my previous posts on this site. I will list a few of these below. I hope some of the some or all of the above and below links will help you take the technological plunge... (All teachers) (K-6) (unique)

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Moodle it, just a little bit!

Moodle it, just a little bit!

We have just got Moodle up and running in my school. Actually another teacher/tech guy and I are the only two teachers currently utilizing the software and we are just getting started. I had an orientation session last Friday with all of my classes to help them learn to Moodle. Mainly, they just learned how to navigate Moodle. This week I plan to use the software to teach course content. Wish me luck.

If you’re not familiar with Moodle, it is free open source software (FOSS) that allows educators to set up online style courses. More specifically,

“Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. You can download and use it on any computer you have handy (including webhosts), yet it can scale from a single-teacher site to a 50,000-student University. This site itself is created using Moodle, so check out the Moodle Demonstration Courses or read the latest Moodle Buzz.”

It reminds me a lot of BlackBoard and other non-foss software that is currently available on the market. As for my classes, I plan to continue to use the Moodle in combination with our blog and wiki to better prepare my students for the 21 century.

What can educators do with Moodle? Moodle gives educators a medium for setting up online style classes. The applications built in the software package allow educators to build exams, tests, quizzes, and set up assignments. Additionally, a resource area allows importation of a variety of files and/or links. There is a messaging area, forum, wiki and chat area within Moodle as well. I will keep you all posted as to how the software is working for my classes as we Moodle about some more. If you’re interested in adding some zest to your classes through technology, then I suggest that you talk with your technology coordinator about looking into Moodle for your system. After all, you can’t argue with the price of the software. It’s FREE.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

“We cannot change the past, but we can direct the future.”

“We cannot change the past, but we can direct the future.”

Are your students bored or are they engaged in learning? More specifically, is rigorous learning occurring in your classroom? If not, then maybe you should rethink the way you teach. Students today are not the students of yesteryear. Students today are plugged in. Televisions, cell phones, I-Pods, game boys, palm pilots and monitors all have screens and according to recent data, the average student spends at least six hours a day in front of one or a combination of these screens. Unfortunately, in the typical school setting, most screens are taken from students for the majority of the day. As a result, students are bored and teachers and administrators can’t figure out why students aren’t excited about learning. If teachers and administrators want to get students excited about learning then they have to integrate the above screens into the school’s curriculum. Screens can be brought into the classroom in a number of ways, but one of the best ways to bring screens into the classroom is to take students on virtual field trips.

What are virtual field trips? Virtual field trips AKA virtual tours are guided explorations through the Web that organizes a collection of pre-screened, thematically based web pages into a structured online learning experience. (Foley, 2003) More importantly, these trips are are great learning tools that get students excited about learning. I just finished reading an article from the Chicago Tribune about David Freeman and his virtual field trips. It seems that David has been helping students take virtual field trips for a few years now.

David Freeman founded an organization called the Wilderness Classroom Program in an effort to take students on exotic cyberspace field trips. Freeman says that the "program is designed to get students excited about learning ... We want the program to motivate students, especially those who aren't motivated by textbooks." Hats off to Mr. Freeman and people like Mr. Freeman that are doing more than their share to promote 21st Century learning. If you would like to read the article from the Chicago Tribune about David Freeman and the virtual project, CLICK HERE. If you are interested in going directly to the Wilderness Classroom program then CLICK HERE.

Here are some other virtual field trip resources. I hope you find them useful…

Teacher Created Resources by Core Area

Volcano World

Bob Godwin-Jones resources for emerging technologies

The teachers guide


Best regards,

William Bishop (Bill)

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Getting back to blogging!

Sorry, I have been busy getting some much needed rest and relaxation. I hope I haven’t lost all of my readers. Being a teacher, blogger, student, dad, and husband, I felt that I needed to take a little time off. Well, I have had enough R and R and I plan to get back into the blogging grove over the weekend. I hope that last year was great for everyone and I hope this year brings many more blessings to you and yours.