Showing posts from November, 2008

Who Switched the Tags?

One of my favorite stories about getting your priorities straight comes from the famed Tony Campolo, that forehead sweat-mopping preacher (I say that with deep respect...please go listen to him, he's a hoot!) whom I listened to when I was attending the Baptist Student Union in Wichita Falls, Tx. I won't recite his story about how each of us is special because out of the million of sperm that swam upstream, and our's was the only one to make it.

Instead, I'm remembering his story about a fun activity one day was when 1-2 kids made it into a store and switched the price tags, assigning tags of great value to items of low value, and vice versa. The resulting confusion, writes Campolo, was fun to contemplate. As the reader, my main take-away was that each of us has "switched" the price tags on our lives and priorities. We spend our lives figuring out what is REALLY of value, and what is not.

The story comes to mind when I consider Steve Dembo's post on tag gene…

GUI 7zip Compression on UbuntuLinux, Windows and Mac

Screenshot of Q7Z GUI to P7zip on UbuntuLinux

Thanksgiving Break is a great time to clean up all the million folders and files that accumulate throughout the year. Often, it's just easier to "zip" them up into a single compressed file, slap a date into the filename and then forget about it until later (use Xmas break to explore the contents of old zip files).

While I'd settled on zip as my standard compression format, I've been experimenting with 7zip and using that format quite a bit.7Z is a modern, open source archive format, featuring AES encryption, native volume spanning, practically unlimited storage capacity and high compression ratio. 7-Zip was the winner of the 2007 community choice awards for "Technical Design" and for "Best Project". (Source)
Source: Wikipedia andFAQ - Open and extract 7z in Linux and Windows
Since I'm mostly compressing for my own purposes and 7zip is available across all platforms, I wondered how I…

Learning Nuggets


A bit of introspection: It's getting harder and harder to write blog entries. I'm not sure why but an idea occurred to me, so...exploring it might be fun. Here's why - when I started blogging 4 years ago, I had the idea that I could share what I was learning. I'm a "life-long learner," or at least, I like to think so, so why is sharing what I'm learning about so hard now?

Is it my standards for what I write have changed? Maybe I'm not as excited about the simple stuff. So what if schools are not being reformed successfully? I mean, that's been happening forever. I'm past the outrage these days. . .that's, like, such a waste of time and energy! I'm finding myself looking for the certainty of learning nuggets.

Learning nuggets...those solid facts you sluice out of the stream of life, pieces that are practical, useful, and constitute something you need to learn…

Remote Control of Student PCs

Two days ago, I received this inquiry:
We are looking at a program (hopefully free) that allows the instructor to view the computers in a lab setting (LAN) and if necessary project a student's computer to everyone through the data projector.Since none came to mind, I passed on the information request to TCEA's Strategic Open Source (SOS) Special Interest Group, a.k.a. SOS-SIG, and received the following responses:
iTALC is a useful and powerful didactical tool for teachers. It lets you view and control other computers in your network in several ways. It supports Linux and Windows 2000/XP (Vista support will come) and it even can be used transparently in mixed environments!LANView - LanView 3 contains many features such as listing all network stations, and their respective users, managing PC's and users individually or by group, remote control using the popular VNC tools, shutdown, reboot and logoff machines, and more.
Remote Control - A simple application to allow remote view…

Texas Tyranny - Email Retention

Increasingly, I've seen organizations get restrictive about sharing content for public schools as podcasts/vidcasts. Often, educators who attend those events take the initiative to record the event and share it for non-commercial, educational purposes...and then receive an email or warning that the content SHOULD NOT have been shared, even though, their audience was clearly public school educators who need to know the information.

It is difficult to imagine justifying the censorship of citizen-journalists to protect organizational principles...the juxtaposition of the organization's conflicting desire to "share this information with others" with their restrictive policies about podcasting the content. Perhaps, some of the reasoning is as follows:
Fear of how the information will be used. Maybe, the organization is afraid that they will be mis-quoted (how likely is that to be with a podcast/vidcast) or that
The presenter was particularly poor that day and they would jus…

Edutopia's Call for Digital Youth

Update: Note that this contest is still open to accepting entries through January, 2009. Original deadline had been November, 2008. Official announcement extending deadline is:
This is an update regarding the selection process for the Edutopia Digital Youth Project. We had originally hoped to make final selections by December.We have received many great submissions and want to provide more time for our selection committee to review them thoroughly.Therefore, we have extended the selection process through January in order to give the submissions the attention they deserve.Here is the text of the original invitation to participate...if your child is using digital media, encourage their participation! Winners get a FLIP video camera!

Text of the invitation:
The George Lucas Educational F oundation, publisher of Edutopia media,
including Edutopia video, Edutopia magazine, and , has received a
grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to produce ten

$250 Acer Aspire1

Wishing I had a spare $250 right now...

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5 Essential Tools for Admin-part 3

Here is part 3 of my 3 part series of essential technology tools for administrators. I lost track of time and forgot about it coming out, so my apologies for not writing about it sooner!

Here's the lead:
In this third in a series of three articles on “Five Essential Tools for Campus Administrators," I suggest that R.E.A.C.H. is a way to help schools engage parents, as well as their children, in achieving students’ academic success. Ask any principal or district administrator what they want most, and one of the responses is bound to include increased parental involvement. As a teacher, one of my most common complaints was, "Parents just do not seem to care about what’s happening at school." As I grew wiser, I realized it isn't that they fail to care -- sometimes, when one is a young educator, it’s easy to get fixated on assigning an "F" – but rather that they are no more engaged by schools than their children are. Imagine that parents, like their childre…

Capturing Images for Blog Posts

Wondering how to embed images in blog posts? Well, it's pretty easy with the right tools. Now that Flickr, PicasaWeb and Skitch accept images sent to them via email, you can pretty much upload photos you take with your mobile phone straight to your favorite one.

Some folks like to take screenshots--I do quite a bit--and there are a million ways to accomplish it. However, here are the easiest I've found on all 3 platforms that allow you to capture the whole screen, a window or a specific region you select on screen:
On a Macintosh computer, use Skitch. Skitch is easy to use, allows for easy annotation of images, and just works exceedingly well. And, it allows for 1-2 click uploading of any image you are working on to your MySkitch repository. Skitch is phenomenal and I can't say enough about it. You can capture the whole screen, a specific region you's an example of Skitch screen capture:
On a Windows computer, use FSCapture. Not only can you capture and anno…

Ubuntu Intrepid Setup Help

Note: This post is divided into two sections, one specific to Macbooks and the other for any PC running Ubuntu. I hope it's helpful to you. It reflects my own preferences and serves as a reference guide for setting up my own machines.SECTION 1 - MACBOOK UBUNTU SETUP

I've had the longest running install of Mac OS X Tiger ever--I resist the urge the reformat daily--AND my Boot Camp setup of Edubuntu was working very nicely, having upgraded successfully to Intrepid Ibex, the latest version of Ubuntu.

Unfortunately, I was tinkering and messed up my sound. I tried all the fixes I could find but none worked so I decided it would take less time to reformat the Ubuntu side of my dual-boot Macbook...of course, holding the OPTION key down at startup should have brought up another option for did not. In fact, it was as if the Ubuntu Intrepid just wasn't short, only the Mac option appeared, not both as appears below.

When I ran BootCamp Assistant, it shared that i…

Full Disclosure

Steve Dembo is kind enough to mention my simple disclosure, but due to the fact I recently moved to Blogspot/Blogger for my blog, I haven't updated my link to the full disclosure page I keep, inspired by Jeff Jarvis (

Here's my revised full disclosure.

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Converting AVI to FLV on UbuntuLinux

At NCTE, the ISTE NETS-A session went on for quite awhile...and I recorded it using the FLIP video camera. Since I'm using UbuntuLinux right now, I thought I'd convert the AVI video file that FLIP recorded to using some esoteric linux tool.

Here's what I found out that worked:

Slightly pixellated but passable for Web the command line, type (or paste)
ffmpeg -i original.avi -ar 44100 -ab 32 -f flv original.flvChange original.avi to reflect the name of the AVI file. I'm not sure how to improve the quality so that will mean doing some reading's nice to know how to do the file conversion on UbuntuLinux!

BTW, to go the other way:
The open source mencoder is one possibility. See this how-to for a simple usage example.Another common solution is to use ffmpeg. Here’s an example :
ffmpeg -i myvideo.flv -f avi -vcodec mpeg4 myvideo.avi
Or, if you prefer the MPG format :
ffmpeg -i myvideo.flv myvideo.mpgYou can also convert AVI to MP3 audio file:
ffmpeg -i origina…

Atomic Learning Tech Literacy Assessment Tool

Atomic Learning recently announced there Tech Assessment program for students, just in time for Thanksgiving Break, which means most Texas schools won't be able to use the assessment to assess 9th graders who were 8th graders during 2007-2008 school year.

However, it's perfect in advance of the 8th grade technology literacy assessments scheduled for end of school year, 2008-2009! Whether this assessment will be any better than, InfoSource Learning's Simple Assessment, or other assessment options...that's another question.

Here's a little information from their email announcement:
Assess student technology comprehension based on ISTE NETS-S 2007.Atomic Learning’s Tech Skills Assessment helps you gauge technology skill levels, demonstrating skills can actually be applied.
Pre test students to identify gaps Implement skills-based projects in the curriculum to target those gaps
Final test to gauge tech literacy levelsHow is the Tech Skills Assessment unique?Foc…

ISTE Podcasting Policy - DRAFT

The draft version is out, and I've let it sit in my inbox for too long. By now, most who are interested will probably already have read about it...however, here it is for my own keeping (and out of my inbox):
Draft Statement:
Video and audio recording – including streaming – of sessions for commercial use is strictly prohibited. Recordings for noncommercial use may be made only with permission of the presenter as outlined on the permission key for each session. Any permitted recording should respect the presenter's rights and not be disruptive.What do I think about it? As long as the permission key is on the web as well as the conference program--and no reason to think it wouldn't be--it won't be a problem. I don't care for the remark about not being "disruptive" since isn't that what Read/Write Web technologies are defined as? DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES?

That said, it will probably be alright. If not, we can always petition for change. It's a conversat…

Blogging Tips

Steve Dembo ( writes:
As some of you may know, I'm in the middle of running a 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger challenge on Teach42 right now. We're getting close to the end, and I thought as one of the final posts, it'd be nice to share blogging tips from some of my own personal favorite bloggers. So I'm hoping each of you would be willing to share one small tip for people who are striving to be a better blogger.

Don't need to type up a full paragraph or anything, just looking for one pearl of wisdom from each of you if possible. Something you'd tell people if they asked you what they could do to be a better blogger.
My poorly considered response appears below:
First tip - Listen to yourself as you experience other's writing, media, as well as your interactions. Juxtapose your thoughts and reactions with those ideas...explore the differences, challenge why you agree, or don't, with them. Then, write from that perspective...what you feel and …

Sound Not Working on Mac Headphones - Ubuntu

I plugged in my headphones to my Intel Macbook running Ubuntu Intrepid and nothing...not a sound. I knew there was sound because when I unplugged the headphones, the sound came through without problem.

To get the sound going again, I had to do the following at the command line:

1) sudo apt-get install gnome-alsamixer
and then opened
2) Applications:Sound & Video: GNOME ALSA Mixer
3) And turned off MUTE in the SURROUND section as shown in the screenshot above.

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True Self

“The false self consists of all of the efforts we make to nurture a reputation for ourselves in the mind of others. In our culture, we have a compulsive need to be validated by external sources. But the true self is one that is wholly separate from this fragile image that we try to construct in the imagination of others.

The true self is like a very shy wild animal that never appears at all whenever an alien presence is at hand, and comes out only when all is peaceful, when he is untroubled and alone. He cannot be lured by anyone or anything, because he responds to no lure except that of the divine freedom.”
Source: Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

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Bud Introduces

As I was walking back in the general direction of my car, regretful I'd missed much of what NCTE Conference had to offer, I was shocked to see Bud "The Teacher" Hunt sharing to a gathered group of educators. As I tried for anonymity in the small crowd of ooohing and aaahing onlookers, basking in the glory of Bud Unleashed (smile), hoping to be ignored and dismissed as a simple supplicant at the feet of Socrates Bud, he looked out and recognized me with a question I didn't know the answer to! Sigh, to be found wanting in the sight of Bud.

And, unsurprisingly, I learned about something I could use in the 5 minutes I stopped to listen, something I am eager to try out when I get back to work--
(or, for Bud sycophants, that's )

I'd never heard of Tokbox and I wonder if it wouldn't meet the needs of this principal:
My principal wants to be able to conference live with colleagues while she is in Washington DC. Can we use S…

Podcast - Writing as Spiritual Practice in Public Schools

Source: Shanna Peeples at NCTE

I didn't have much time on Saturday at NCTE, long enough to realize that I needed more time. However, after the ISTE-NETS-A refresh session, I walked out and visited some of the folks at the poster sessions. One of the titles that caught my eye was Writing as a Spiritual Practice.

Shanna P, shown above, encourages writing teachers to "pursue teachable moments." Her advice was for students to ask "the big questions," like "Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe? What happens when we die?" and encourage students to write about their responses...their honesty and "rawness of their responses" can catch you off-guard.

Now what really burns me up is that I either forgot to pick up Shana's handout in the excitement (my camera battery died) or lost it. Either way, I don't have any way to connect with her. She works in Amarillo ISD (Texas) but I was really looking forward to reviewing her handout when I had …

NCLB Reporting Requirements Reminder

REMINDER to all districts: NCLB Title II Part D, reporting requirements are due by November 30th. The reporting system will remain open until December 5 to allow campuses and districts to finalize their reports.The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is required to report on the progress of districts receiving funds from No Child Left Behind, Title II, Part D as of January 2002. Title II, Part D reporting requirements for NCLB have been documented as a part of the Texas Campus STaR Chart. The reporting requirements have been an essential part of the process for documenting progress to support continued technology funding. Beginning with the 2007- 2008 school year, additional data at the district level has been requested for districts receiving Title II, Part D funds (formula and/or competitive).New Reporting RequirementsThe additional reporting requirements consist of three sections. The first two sections will be completed by the district contact identified as the district's Texas S…

Converting WMAs to MP3 or OGG on Ubuntu GNU/Linux

Although there are a wealth of programs I am familiar with on Windows and Macintosh to convert WMA audio files generated by an Olympus WS-210, I wasn't sure how to accomplish the task in Ubuntu Linux (Intrepid Ibex).

While I was eyeing some interesting command line solutions, I stumbled on a simpler solution--a GUI program called Sound Converter.

Freephile shares the tip here:
Using Synaptic, I innstalled Sound Converter (soundconverter)[1]. This will give you a GUI to do conversions, with the added benefit that it uses a tag reader to preserve all tags -- except that it didn't preserve the tags. Sound Converter (and Amarok) read the tags from the .wma files just fine.Worked great!

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NCTE - ISTE Refresh of NETS-A

Rick Martinez (Asst. Superintendent of Technology, Southwest ISD) and Dr. Sandra Zuniga (UTSA)

NCTE Conference in San Antonio, Tx was a conference I'd intended to attend, but regrettably, I forgot about it in the midst of work. One of my team members announced he was leaving to another District in another town--a promotion--and so that kicked off a series of events that needed to be addressed prior to his departure.

My focus was on attending the ISTE NETS-Administrators session. I was strictly there as a blogger trying to record the conversations for posterity and share them with you. As such, I was fortunate enough to video record the entire event, as well as audio record and take notes. Unfortunately, the quality of the video and audio fault, as I shouldn't have put them so close to the projector which drowned out everything.

At the recent NCTE Conference (November, 2008), educators participated in a session entitled Refreshing ISTE's National Education Technolog…

How to Work from Anywhere

Fascinating video on working from home. Implications for schools?

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