Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Greatest Lesson I Never Planned

In 1999, I retired from teaching after 30 years in the classroom. During those 30 years, 15 of which involved teaching with technology, there were many incidents that reminded me of why I went into the classroom. There are many that come to mind, but there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, because it touched and transformed so many lives. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I called the greatest lesson I never planned.

In November of 1996, Beth Klemens, our foreign language coordinator, came to my room and introduced me to eighty-one year old Curtis Clancy. She told me had had a picture of ten children and was wondering if we could help him locate them. He wanted each one to have a copy of the photo.

My initial words to Beth were, "Why don't you take him to the guidance office and start there."

Smiling she said, "I don't think that will help." The she handed me the picture which was taken in 1945 on the island of Etajima about 18 mile off the coast of Hiroshima.

Curtis didn't have a great deal more in the way of information. He told us his Army unit and a few other details. Keep in mind that this was 1997, the "early days" of the Internet, long before social networking. I knew that it was not likely that we would be able to locate ten people on the other side of the world from a few bits of information and a fifty year old picture, but how could I not try?

My students were in the middle of their term projects, but our high school foreign language department taught Japanese. The teacher, Tsuneko Kojima, three students from her fourth year class, and I met to decide how to proceed.

We began working in January. The first step was research and it provided a glimmer of hope, because Etajima was the site of the Japanese Naval Academy. The students began to see history in a different way than is presented in texts. They were seeing it from a different perspective. It came alive.

From the research came addresses. We found Etajima High School and Yasuda University which hosted the high school web site. We were excited by what we had found in a few short days.

Next came email. We began putting our our quest to as many education lists as we could find. We began to wrote letters to teachers, university professors, and anyone we thought might be able to help.

Days turned in to weeks and weeks turned into months. Every lead we found turned out to be a dead end. Students were learning history by reliving it. They were writing to adults and government officials and learning that detective work is not always exciting.




This blog post is part of the Inspiring Education Blog Contest

Hosted by: Guide to Online Schools

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Arlo Guthrie at Bowditch Field

One of the best kept musical secrets in Massachusetts is hiding in Framingham. It's the Amazing Things Arts Center. Mike Moran and his staff of volunteers manage to attract some great talent. Thanks to their efforts and contributions from local businesses, they bring high class talent at bargain prices.

On September 10, they organized a concert for the opening of the Bowditch Field Athletic and Cultural Complex, with Arlo Guthrie as the headliner.

I've seen Arlo about four or five times over the years. I feel a deep connection to him and his music for a number of reasons including being a fan of Woodie Guthrie, having my own Alice's Restaurant story, and having survived the 60's. His music is as fresh today as it was back then and every time I hear him, his stories are new.

This was the first stop on his new "Journey On" tour. There was a great mix of old standards, some tributes to great musicians like Lead Belly, and a new song that gave the tour its name.

One of the most amazing things was that the tickets were only $10, which is a tribute to the fund raising efforts of Mike Moran and his staff. We got there at 12:00 thinking that Arlo was going to be on at 2:00, but I didn't do my research very well. When we arrived there were about a half dozen other people parked on the grass in front of the stage.

One look at the program and we knew we were in for a long wait, but the time went by quickly as we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, some good food, and local talent including the Amazing Hooligans, Marian High School 'Mainstagers', Framingham High School Musical Review, Rust Never Sleeps - a Neil Young Tribute Band, Eguie Castrillo and his 18 piece Latin band, and HELP! with Mark Poulan and Roy Orbison.

I took a lot of stills and captured a few sounds on the video below. No artists were harmed in the making of this video, because all sounds are presented under Fair Use Guidelines, without violating any copyrights.

You may have missed this great concert, but keep visit the the Amazing Things Arts Center and check out the lineup for the rest of the year!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lowe's and Home Depot French Door Saga

It all started when I wrote about my problem with an estimate from Home Depot, which prompted me to call on Lowe's for an estimate.

Today, the Lowe's installer, Ken Bishop of Bishop Contracting in Bedford, and his helper Brian installed the door. They arrived at 10:00 AM, worked right through lunch and finished at 2:00.

The Home Depot installer was going to charge $100 to get the door into the house. Ken took the doors off the frame, brought them in and then Brian handed the frame up to him from the outside of deck. A piece of cake!

Home Depot said they couldn't reuse the molding, they would have to replace it and we would have to paint it. Ken was going to reuse our molding. I assumed that I would have repaint it. I was hoping against hope that it would be able to get away with just be touch up nail holes and fills. They did such meticulous work that you would never know the door wasn't there from the day we moved in. It need NO paint at all.

Jill and I couldn't be happier with the door and the work.

For our Sherwood Glen members, you can find Ken's full contact information on the vendor list in the Members section. For those of you who are not members, you can reach Ken at kbishopcontracting@comcast.net .

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Need a Little Help from My Friends

Well, Kaptain Klutz strikes again! I thought I entered this picture of my grandson in the I Love It Here! photo contest about summer life in NH. That was back in June, but I just found out the entry never made it there. I just entered again, but there's a popular vote portion and my entry is about a month behind the others.

I'd love to win the Dream Vacation, but mostly as a test of our family's social network connections, I'd like to ask for your help in the voting. No ballot stuffing desired. Just go to http://www.nhdreamvacation.com/browse-and-vote/
Use the drop down menu and go to At the Hampton Beach Sand Sculpturing Competition. Then look at the pictures and vote your conscience. Then please post this link to your FB friends or other social networks, Tweet it, or pass it on via passenger pigeon.

For what it's worth, it really IS more of a social networking experiment than an attempt to win, because the popular vote may get the attention of the judges, but the final decision will be made them them using the contest criteria.

Even if you don't vote or pass it on, wish me luck.

Monday, August 9, 2010

LG Accolade's Totally Useless Feature

After looking over the free phones available to me on my calling plan, I settled on the LG Accolade. I've had it for a few months. It meets my needs nicely and I'm satisfied with the over all performance, but for some odd reason, someone thought it would be a good idea to enable the cell phone's camera to work even if the flip phone is closed. The problem is that the buttons on the side of the phone are sensitive. As a result, every few days I have to go to my photos and delete 10 or 12 pictures of the inside of my pocket. Heaven forbid that I have a hole in the pocket. I might accidentally sext someone.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Hampshire Ground Hogs

Yesterday I walked out my back door and less than 30 years away was a family of ground hogs who live near the pond in back of our condo. They were grazing on the clover and getting ready of the evening's activities.



I also got show shots of a chipmunk, some birds, and a big white cat. We also have beavers in the pond. Between the ground hogs, the beavers and the cat, I could have come up with a title for this blog that would have attracted every pervert who was capable of typing a search term. While that might do wonders for my cluster map, one can never predict what will happen tomorrow from something posted today. I'll stay with this less provocative edition.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tall Ships - Portsmouth, NH 2010

Today Jill and I headed out early to beat the crowds to see the tall ships that came into the commercial fishing pier at Portsmouth yesterday. The tours started at 10 and we arrived around 9:45. There was plenty of parking at that hour, but it was to fill up quickly!

The H.M.S. Bounty, which was made for Mutiny on the Bounty, was the main attraction, but I was more impressed with the Lynx, the "American Privateer". It's 2001 replica of a the 1812 square top sail schooner that operated under "letters of marque" preying on the enemy during the war of 1812.

I took a few shots and headed over to Animoto to create this slide show.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NH School Transformation Conference

I'm at tlhe University of Southern New Hampshire attending the nation's first state level summit designed to transform teacher education NH.

Much of the conference is being streamed live. You can go to the summit website to find the schedule and tune in. After the conference, the videos will be posted to the website.

Here are some points that have stood out so far.

Schools of education must go beyond partnerships and merge with K-12 to form K-20 systems.

Accountability is done to educators, not by educators. We have to take back and the direction of education from the testing companies.

Every job in the future is a learning job. It's not about teaching. It's about learning. Schools of education need to get out of the teacher prep business and get into educator talent development business.

Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future presented last night's keynote from which many of the above points are drawn. Visit the site for more information.

I often hear people saying that our system of education is broken. I disagree. It is working perfectly. It is doing exactly what it was supposed to do and as David Warlick points out. No generation in history had been better prepared for work in the 19th century.

The system is NOT broken. It is OBSOLETE. Since it isn't broken, it can't be fixed. It must be replaced by something that works.

Today working groups comprised of state level policy makers, schools of education administration and faculty, and K-12 administrators and staff began figuring out how to built the new learning communities that will be needed in the 21st Century.

The first round of breakouts identified what they felt were the 6 biggest obstacles to transforming teacher education. Here's what the consensus was.
1) Shared vision is the number one barrier
2) Systems that limit the landscape of possibilities
3) Business as usual for public schools and universities
4) Limited clear leadership vision/accountabilities
5) Changing schools of ed and schools at the same time
6) Embedded time for Professional Development

Right now groups are beginning to develop action plans to overcome these obstacles. The commitment is here. The state board and regulators recognize that policy and rule must change in order to allow transformation. To that end, they have already eliminated the Carnegie Unit and mandated performance based assessment in place of time based assessment.

Many of the state's teacher institutions are here and want to retool, but some are not here. Only time will tell how this all plays out, but from what I see, NH is on the right track, but it's not going to be easy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dress Code for Machester Teachers

This week the Manchester Board of Education met to come up with a dress code for students, but instead came up with a dress code for teachers. According to WBZ the dress the dress code says,


"No shorts, no flip flops, no jeans.

Brennan explains that if the teacher is wearing one of those items, or the others on the list, they'll be given an opportunity to "put something on more appropriate."

He said the next step would be to put a letter in their file.

Brennan said if it continues, he would look for consideration of insubordination.

Donna McQuade's daughter, Mallory, is a student at Hillside Middle School, and told WBZ that she's happy there's a dress code for teachers after an experience Mallory had.

"She [The teacher] got up in front of a group of parents with the most incredibly low cut blouse," said McQuade. "Her skirt was as short as her jacket and go-go boots."

The school committee debated the dress code for five hours.


Student dress in the school needs to be improved and the idea is to lead by example. However it is imperative that teachers actively work to improve get students to change their habits. Professional development is required and lesson resources must be provided.

At great personal sacrifice, I have worked to find material that will help teach guide students and give them an understanding of what it means to be well groomed.

Through the magic of the Internet, I give you Coronet Film's "How to be Well Groomed".

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Won't Let Facebook Do It!


Yesterday I posted about Facebook's move to allow 3rd party web sites to access your data. The privacy implications were so significant that I created a presentation showing how to check your privacy settings in light of the change.

Well, I'm back today with another presentation, because something happened today that made me realize just how vulnerable we are as a result of this new change. I also realized that I missed a very important privacy setting.

The presentation explains the incident that took advantage of one of my friends and me, because of a simple oversight on my part. Here's the downloadable PDF version.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Protect Your Privacy On (and FROM) Facebook

This week, Facebook announced that you AND your friends will now be able to share information about you with websites. Needless to say, this has huge impact on the very nature of the web and the privacy of every Facebook member.

It is causing quite a stir in the blogsphere. There are quite a few people who don't have their privacy setting secure and are already sharing too much information through and on Facebook. These people may have just had that problem compounded to the Nth degree with this latest change. Even people who are sharing things only with friends can be significantly impacted.

I've made a presentation that goes over some of the key settings you need to check to make sure your information is private and what takes place in Facebook stays in Facebook. Well, that isn't really true. Once you post something online, you lose control of it and it can go anywhere. However, there is no need to make it that much easier for you to share unwanted information with the world.

Here is a link to the presentation and if you want to download it to show to others, here is a link to a downloadable version in PDF format.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Windsty Windows Tune Up Suite Review

A few weeks ago I received an email from a Technical Writer at Windsty.com asking me to link to their Windows 7 Tune Up Suite in return for a full license to their product. I wrote back and told them that I would not simply link to their product, but I was willing to give it an honest review. I’m offering this full disclaimer, but as you read on, you’ll see their license didn’t result in a glowing review.

If you want to see what the software claims to do, just do a search for Windsty and you will see page after page after page of sites that either simply link to the site or have posted material directly from the web site. Even CNet doesn’t actually review the software and has taken the easy way out by posting the company line.

I ran the software on a 3 year old Dell Dimension E520 that was BADLY in need of some tender loving care. Over the three years, I’ve installed and uninstalled literally hundreds of programs. As of this writing, I have 128 programs in my Programs directory.

The first thing I did was back up EVERYTHING including the registry. The registry backup was actually unnecessary, because Windsty will do it for you.

The machine takes just a little over 5 minutes to boot and I figured that boot time was about the best benchmark I could use. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that after I finished running the most of the suite, my boot time improved by about 15%. It was an improvement, but not overly impressive.

I have Comcast, which offers Norton’s virus and malware protection along with some light duty clean up tools. I ran Norton’s Registry Clean Up. I found and corrected 54 errors. Then I ran Windsty’s cleanup and it came up with an additional 3,511 errors. That was interesting to say the least. In glancing over the errors, many were entries which led to impressive numbers, but had little impact on load speed.

I cleaned up my temp files and emptied the trash manually and then I ran their junk file clean up utility. It came up with 2130 junk files, which I deleted in order to free up drive space. It turned out that some of the junk files were junk to them, but not to me.

I didn’t run their duplicate file finder, because I make a lot of presentations that have duplicate files. The average user could probably save considerable disk space, but at least 20% of my hard drive space is taken up by necessary duplicates. Deleting them would cause a lot of problems.

So far I didn’t have any real problems or complaints. It was my hope that their Start Up Manager would be the key to getting increased performance. I had used two different Start Up Managers in the past with mixed results. This would be my first disappointment which led to more.

Up to this point, I was comfortable enough to use the utilities without having to refer to documentation or help files, but their Start Up Manager wasn’t as user friendly as I had hoped. I didn’t see how I could order or delay the programs. Since messing around with start up can be a lot trickier than cleaning junk files, I decided to head to the help files only to find THERE WERE NONE.

My only option for finding help through the Help menu was to go to their web site and fill out the web form at their support page. There is only one problem with that. I got NO response at all from the company. I waited three days and sent another message with the same results.

After further investigation, I found that there was no phone number and no email address for contacting the company.

What’s even more interesting is that between my first and second tech support request, I received ANOTHER request from ANOTHER technical writer for Windsty to do exactly what I was already doing. Coupled with the lack of documentation, help files, and tech support, this had me wondering about the legitimacy of the company and their customer support.

Then just this morning, I received another request from a different utility company to add a link to their product to my blog. I did some quick checking to see if I there were ties between the two companies, but came up with nothing, but it appears to be a marketing ploy to use the blogsphere to promote products through questionable social networking practices.

I try to keep my word. I agreed to link to their tune up suite and review it in return for the license, but I'm not going to endorse the product. To me, the most important features of ANY software are the help files and technical support. Unless I missed something, Windsty is devoid of both. If someone from Windsty contacts me with different information or if I hear back from their tech support, I’ll write a follow up to this blog. Under those conditions, there is no way I can recommend it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How Visible Are You on the Web?

In class we are talking about privacy, online identities, and online dossiers. Today, Linda Vincent, one of my students, tipped me off to an Interesting site. It's webmii.com You put in your name and it returns information about you and give you a People Ranking somewhere between 0 and 10. It shows how visible you are on the web.

I had a ball playing with it. A while back putting in your name at Google used to be called a vanity search or Googling yourself. The information retrieval and ranking twist here really makes it fun and interesting.

I just ran some quick searches. I put in a bunch of people from different walks of life. The $64,000 is, Who is the perfect 10? It's certainly not Bo Derek. She's only an 8.2 on the Internet. Can you find the perfect 10? The closest I've been able to come so far is a 9.4.

Here they are my searches lowest (me) to highest (William Shakespeare). You can draw your own conclusions.

Art Wolinsky 5, David Warkick 6.9, John Palfrey was 6.9, Kathy Schrock 7.3, Tiger Woods 8.2, Mickey Mouse 8.3, Bo Derek 8.2, Bill Gates 8.4, Lady Gaga 8.4, Will Richardson 8.5, Mao Tse-Tung 8.5, Barack Obama 8.6, Jesus Christ 8.6, Adolph Hitler, 8.6, Martha Stuart 8.6, Queen Elizabeth 8.6, Walt Disney 8.7, Bruce Willis 8.8, Tom Cruise 8.8, George Clooney 8.9, Oprah Winfree 9.0, Angelina Joli 6.3, Marilyn Monroe 9.1, William Shakespeare 9.4.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Digital Age of Aquarius


Last night I attended a Second Life education event billed as the Digital Age of Aquarius. It was a 60's style presentation by Kevin Honeycutt (In-world:Kevinski Braveheart) It was sponsored by ISTE on Hippy Island , a fun place to explore and find hidden professional development resources.

I've been on SL for two years, but consider myself a newbie, because I never got into building or costumes. I just walked around in my standard jeans and t-shirt, which is probably more like real life than Second Life for me.

For this event you were encouraged to dress in 60's style. Fortunately, I was using the new client which offers a variety of optional clothing choices. There really wasn't anything 60's in the choices, but in the 60's I was a huge Peter, Paul, and Mary fan and my kids were raise on me playing Puff the Magic Dragon on the guitar. So I figured this choice was very dragonish, and it was as close as I would get to a 60's costume.

If you have never seen or heard Kevin before, you have to make it a point. If we could clone him, our education system would soar. His presentation was all about empowering teachers and children to use Web 2.0. Not only does he make a case for breaking down the firewalls, he does it well, by providing powerful examples of students making a difference in the world. He shows how to model and teach good cyber citizenship even if you are behind a firewall that prevents it. They are analog ways of teaching students digital skill, such as using a bulletin board, paper and pencil to simulate Twitter in the classroom. He offers good solid suggestions for professional development that empowers teachers to become digital leaders, and he even writes songs about it.

Archimedes said, "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." On his site, Kevin says, "I am a veteran teacher and a current educational technology specialist who gets up every day on a mission to help educators improve education by leveraging 21st century tools!"

First, listen to an audio file of his presentation and then visit his website. If it's a fulcrum, we can all be part of the lever that helps move the education world in the right direction.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hammacher Schlemmer has an Interesting Marketing Ploy


Ever get a catalog in the mail and immediately file it in the garbage? That's what I do with most catalogs, but not with Hammacher Schlemmer's Spring Supplement. They managed to get me to look thought it from cover to cover FOUR TIMES!

How could this be? We'll if you are looking at the cover and saying, "WTF is that?" you can just pick up and issue and thumb through the pages until you find it. The problem is that you won't find it! The cover item is nowhere to be found.

It's a nice little ploy. I checked twice to be sure and then two more times, just to make sure I wouldn't be making a fool of myself with this blog.

Now this might work the next issue, because I'll probably thumb through it to see if it is in that issue, but if they don't have it or try the same trick again, I'll probably file the following issue faster than you can say, "Where's the shredder?"

On the other hand, they might just be on to something, because this offers and opportunity to turn the catalog into a "Where's Waldo" type adventure. Who knows? Maybe it already is. Maybe the copy is hiding somewhere.

I know there were a few opportunities that they could have taken to place a stealth copy of the article. For example, on page 13 there is a portable Internet encyclopedia. They could have had some copy on the screen there or in any number of other places in the catalog.

So, Hammacher Schlemmer, are you listening? Why not take my idea and run with it? While you're at it you could run over to the check book and send me a few dollars for my idea. Heck, I'd even take one of those things on the cover, whatever it is!

Riddle: When is $118 = $177?

Answer: When you rent a car from Budget at Manchester, NH airport for 1 week, at $118/per week and return it two days early.

We recently ordered a new car and sold our old one about a week before delivery of the new one. As a result, we had to rent a car. After checking the rates, I saw I could rent a car from Budget at the Manchester, NH airport for $118 per week.

We returned the car today, actually two days early, but still got charged the weekly rate. No problem there. I can understand that, but check out the "other" charges.
$3 per day vehicle license fee
$2 per day customer facility charge
10% additional because it was an airport
9% sales tax

For a grand total of $177.01, which leads me to my next riddle. When is $118 = $199? Answer: When you rent a car from Budget, at Manchester airport for 1 week and actually keep it for a week.

Life is full of little surprises.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Ultimate Rube Goldberg Machine

I have seen literally hundreds of Rube Goldberg machines, aside from being an avid follower of his when I was a kid, but this is the Mother of All Rube Goldberg Machines!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

48 Hours without Power

Listening to the roaring winds outside our new home in New Hampshire, we settled in to watch Burn Notice. About 5 minutes into the show, the power flickered and we lost the TV signal. As the cable box reacquired the signal, we settled in for a second time, only to have the entire house go black.

A quick look outside confirmed that we were not alone. Grabbing a flashlight, some candles, and a portable radio, we settle in for a third time. At 11:30 we called it a night. At least we didn’t have to turn out the lights. Not giving it much thought, we went to bed, because we were used to losing power for short periods of time when we lived in New Jersey.

When I awoke at 6 AM, I was surprised to see that we still had no power. One of the first thoughts I had was about an online class that I have to give on Friday night. I normally teach it face-to-face at Pace University in NY, but they had snow and classes were cancelled on campus. We had plans in place to have the students attend online from their homes, but it was looking like I might have a problem.

Time for contingency plans. McDonald’s has free wi-fi. If worse comes to worse, I could always sip a Coke and munch on a Big Mac while I teach.

A few minutes later my cell phone beeped with a text message from my daughter who lives about 25 miles away in MA. She also had no power. I pressed the send button to call her back, but there is no connection. Hanging up, I checked the signal and see that I have only one bar and as soon as I press any button, I have no signal at all. Time to turn on the radio to see what’s up.

The news indicated that those roaring winds I mentioned reached 68 mph and downed trees and power lines across the state. Roads were blocked, and 300,000 people are without electricity. It may be days before power is restored in some places.
It was pretty obvious that McDonald’s was not going to be an option. I wondered how I would get in touch with my daughter, who is obviously concerned about not hearing from us, and how would I get the message to Pace?

It was time to hope into the car and go in search of a cell phone signal. Hopefully the two mile stretch to 101 would be clear. As I walk into the garage, I automatically reach to hit the garage door opener. Little by little, I was beginning to really appreciate the things we take for granted.

As I head out to Rt. 101 in the direction of Epping, it was surreal. No stores were open. No traffic lights were working, but traffic was light and moving smoothly as people are courteously letting cars turn and get on the highway from side streets.
As I drove, I glance at the phone and see 1 bar, then two. I was only a mile from Epping so I decided to get off at Exit 5, see if the McDonald, Lowes, or Walmart were open and place my calls.

As I got off, It was obvious they too had no power. I pulled into the Wallgreen’s parking lot and called my daughter. After easing her mind, I decide it’s too early to wake Dr. Sachs, so I send him a text message to let him know things are not looking good for that night, and head back home.

Having been up for an hour and a half, was I’m hungry. I look at the Mr. Coffee longingly and realize was not lost. We have a gas stove. I heat water, pour it through the filter, grabbed a breakfast bar, open the morning paper, and turn on the radio.

It was now 8:45 and I began typing this blog entry in the present tense, but the battery was low and I had to shut down. (It is now three days later and I just changed it all to past tense.) There wasn’t anything to do, but wait. I figured in a few hours I would head back to Epping to call the some family members back in NJ who might be trying to get in touch and contact Dr. Sachs to figure out what we would do with class. There wasn’t much to do except listen to the radio and assess the situation.

Later that day as the damage became apparent, the Governor declared a state of emergency. They announced that it would take multiple days to restore power to everyone and that it could take up to a week in some areas.

Things were looking serious, but I thought we would be ok. The house is new and well insulated. It was 70 degrees when the lights went out and 12 hours later, it was only down to 65. We have a gas stove and the new refrigerator is tight. It should keep things cool and frozen for a day or two with no problem.

The rest of the day was spent reading, playing backgammon, and going to bed an hour earlier than usual. The computer battery was dead and I was writing with one of those things called a pen, something I had done only on rare occasions. The worse time was the hours between twilight and bed. It’s hard to read or play games by candle light. I guess we’re not as hardy as our forefathers. Let’s be honest, we’re just spoiled.

After dinner, when things got quiet and we could no longer read or play games, we got out the cheese that might spoil, grabbed a box of crackers, and opened a bottle of wine. That did the trick and it was candles out at 10:30.

Normally we are up and around by 7:30, but we figured we would be up earlier because we went to bed early. Imagine my surprise when my wife whispered, “Are you awake? It’s ten of nine.” She had checked her cell phone and bolted awake when she saw the time. Reaching for my phone I squinted and surprisingly confirmed her read. Apparently, doing nothing is tiring.

It was now down to 60 degrees and time to add a layer of clothing. A few years ago, I had an online site for providing professional development. The domain name was fuzzyslippersuniversity.com, because you could take courses online while sitting in your fuzzy slippers. My daughter made a logo of pair of fuzzy bunny slippers with a mouse attached and I found the real McCoy online. I couldn’t resist getting them just as a lark. Now they were proving useful and somewhat interesting to the cats.
We headed down stairs, boiled water and turned on the radio to get some updates on the situation.


Looking out the window, there was about three inches of snow on the ground. That would not make things easier for the linemen. The roads were clear and we were planning to take a ride to MA, because we needed a few things and from talking to my daughter, we knew some stores were open.

Just about that time, the disc jockey said, “…and it’s now 7:12.” Huh! We both checked our cell phones, and sure enough, he was right. Note to selves: Put on glasses before checking time, because 6:50 looks like 8:50 on the small digital display.

By this time, things were getting a little questionable in the refrigerator. Jill cooked up the half pound of bacon. We would have some of it with the scrambled eggs I was making and munch on the rest later.

After breakfast we decided to take a drive to see what was opened. I plugged in my computer to the adapter in the car and automatically reached for the garage door opener. Oops! After manually opening the garage door, we were on our way.

As we passed the Hannaford’s supermarket, we saw they had trailer with an emergency generator and were opened for business. We could stop there on the way home. We headed to Epping and saw that the commercial center there had electricity. We did some shopping at the Super Walmart for batteries and other essentials like cat food and munchies for us. After that, we headed over to McDonalds where I used their wi-fi to check email and answer a few essential communications. Then it was back home for a quick stop at Hannafords for some essentials in case the outage lasted much longer. We picked up three bottles of wine, some ice, and headed off down the road secure in the knowledge we were prepared.

When we got home I took three plastic buckets and loaded them with frozen and refrigerator goods that were in danger of spoiling, packed them in snow and ice, and put them on the back deck. It was then I saw Jim, the construction manager for the condos. He told me that NH Co-op's power lines ended a few hundred feet east of our development and that PSNH’s lines started there. We had lines behind our clubhouse that were down and then had just moved some equipment in to begin working. He thought we might have electricity by that afternoon.

That would be none too soon, because the temperature was now down to 55 in the house. The cats were none too happy about that and were had just added another layer of clothing. The rest of the day passed much like the previous one, but a little colder. At 10:00 there was still no power. We killed the candles and went to sleep.

It’s funny how your mind works when you are in that twilight sleep. I awoke to my wife screaming, “Yay!” and thought to myself, “Why did she turn on the lights and wake me up”? Then I realized we had power! It had come one just a little more than 48 hours after it went off.

It’s now the third day. Because of our fortuitous location between two power companies, we have electricity, but most of the rest of our town is still dark as is the majority of the 300,000 others who lost power. Many will be without power for days yet.

Our daughter’s family spend the night with friends who had power. From what I gathered on the radio, they are probably still without power and will probably head over here until they get back on the grid.

So that’s our little adventure. While it's insignificant compared to the suffering in Haiti and other places around the globe, it certainly makes one thankful for what we do have.

I’ll post this now and begin catching up on email and planning for making up the class that was canceled by the storm. Hopefully, the next storm scheduled to come through this weekend, will be gentler.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to Lose at Russian Roulette

Peeping Tom image from Cult Gigolo on Flickr.com
I've made a few posts about ChatRoulette, but that's not the topic of this post. The only relationship is that when you go to ChatRoulette, the site automatically turns on your web camera. That is the topic of this post. If you have a web camera, you need to know that it is not entirely under your control. Malware or other software installed on your computer can be accessed remotely and can turn it on.

The most recent example of this took place in the Lower Marion School District in PA. In the past few days there have been more than 2000 articles posted about this. A quick Google search for web camera spying will round up most of them for you.

In case you haven't read anything about out, the administration had the ability to turn on web cameras on laptops issued in the schools 1-to-1 program. Apparently, an assistant principal disciplined a student for improper use of the computer at home and used a picture taken with the web camera as evidence. The result is a class action suit and an F.B.I. investigation.

I can't begin to fathom what was going through the asst. principal's mind when he started to activate cameras in order to police inside students' homes. The idea that anyone would do this is almost beyond comprehension. It's like playing Russian roulette with a revolver carefully loaded with 6 live rounds. You can spin the chamber as many times as you like, but the first time you pull the trigger, you will shoot yourself in the head.

Who knows how many cameras were activated or a how what he saw before he found someone doing something wrong, but the first time he acted on what he saw, the shot was heard around the world.

Aside from quickly ending his career, this incident will have significant impact on programs in both education and business. Software similar to that used in Lower Marion is used routinely by business. In all cases, the use is supposed to be for security, but the potential for abuse is something that is built into every computer that carries that kind of software.

It's going to be interesting to watch how far the ripples of this incident travel.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What's the Problem with Filters in Education

One of the only places student and teachers have a problem accessing the information they need is in schools. It used to be that the filters themselves were the main problem. Then CIPA came along and the problem was compounded by people using them poorly. Today, the filters have improved, but not the people. Filters are still being used poorly, if not worse. If filtering management and strategies had improved 1/10 as much as filters have improved, there would be no significant problem.

The ONLY thing CIPA requires in the way of technology is that you protect against accidental access to pornograhy, but too many schools use filters in lieu of supervision and education. The block everything from violence to nose picking. They are not protecting the children. They are trying to cover their collective asses and in the process are hindering education and access to the material that students and teachers need.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More on ChatRoulette

Hopefully, by now that you have all digested the initial announcement of the appearance of the new video chat stranger danger. Let's take a step or two back and put this in perspective.

Many times in the past, I've said that for the most part, kids are safe and want to be safe. Indeed, the research backs up my contention. However, the research also points out that there is a small part of the teen population that is at risk. These are the same kids who would be at risk even if the Internet didn't exist.

Beth Martin of Everest Middle School had a talk with her 16 year-old daughter and her friend. She said, "They didn't seem fazed by it. They told me that fact that I was shocked showed how naive I was about the web. Their response was that kids should be smart enough to know not to do that. Wow! That shocked me too. I think they are right about a lot of kids but I think kids on the fringe would try this."

The fact is that when sites like this come along, not only the kids on the fringe, but many mainstream kids will check it out. Curiosity is natural. For most, their curiosity will be quenched and it will quickly fade. However, it is still important to talk to kids about it, but do so by recognizing that most are safe. We have to begin to build a culture based on trust that treats kid as intelligent beings. We have to get them to help each other and held us help the few who might be in danger.

Let them know you realize that only a small group of individuals will be endangered by this kind of site and that THEY know who these kids are. They are the ones in the best position to help. Ask them to be alert to friends who might be hurt by using sites like this. Ask them to help their friends avoid trouble. Ask them to contact a trusted adult if they think someone might be endangering themselves.

It may or may not be effective, but it WILL start building a community of trust and perhaps it will result in at at least one tragedy being avoided. Let's treat our teens as online partners, not naive sheep.

Incidentally, when I went online to check this out. This is what the people on the other end saw. My web camera software does face movement tracking and allows me to overlay (wear) hats, wigs, masks, and distort my face numerous ways.

When kids saw this, one of three things happened.
1) They clicked off immediately
2) They called me a pedophile
3) They gave me a thumbs up.

The Power of Social Media

If you ever wondered about what social media is really all about, how it works, and whether one persion (or web site) can really make a difference, watch this four minute video.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chat Roulette: A Gamble We Can Do Without!

When I first started giving Internet workshops in 1995, there were a few
sites that I used to give people a snapshot of what the web was all about. The most popular of these sites was called WebRoulette. You would click a button and be taken to a random web site.

But this post is not about WebRoulette. These sites still exist though WebRoulette has long since been bought by a casino site. Random web site generators still exist, but be careful. According to Norton Safe Search, some harbor spyware, but this post is not about spyware. It's about the 21st century version iteration of this phenomenon, Random Video Chats.

You read that right. If you go to chatroulette.com and click the start button, your web camera will start up in one window and you will be face to face with a random stranger in another.

I first heard about it in a Facebook post from Kerstein Creative that said, "The most unusual, intriguing, weird, frightening concept in social networking I've read about yet. (Can't say I've seen it, because I'm a little freaked out by it.)" and pointed to this article in the New York Magazine. http://nymag.com/news/media/63663/

After reading the article, I had to check it our for myself. The results were very much as described in the article. Here's a snapshot of what I saw. It really reflects the part of my block description that says "with great latitude given in the definition of human."

In a four minute period I saw 66 males and 7 females mostly in the teens and 20's. There were 22 connections that had their cameras blacked out and 6 "others". Others were cameras pointing at signs, walls, or other object.

The disturbing part was that of the 66 males, 6 were X-rated. There was one set of breasts displayed and unquestionably the most bizarre connection was this one.

Do I even have to say it? A web camera in the hands of an unsupervised teen, is an invitation to trouble. I understand that they might use it to talk to grandma or aunt Tillie, but do you want them talking to this guy? If your child has a web camera, at the very least, have a long talk with them!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What's Wrong with this Picture?

The George Lucas Foundation and Edutopia.org are great resources for educators. Watch this video before reading the rest of this post.








This kind of video is one of my pet peeves. While it is a wonderful snapshot of what schools should be, it is strictly a vision piece.

I'm sure many people who watch it are asking themselves, "Where are we going to find funds for this sort of technology? We can barely keep our students supplied with paper and pencils." But that's not the important question. The important question is, "How did the teachers arrive at the point of being able to provide this kind of education?"

Clearly, there is team teaching and cross curricular collaboration. There is problem based curriculum in action. There are teachers comfortable with technology. Where is the video that shows the steps that went into the making of this kind of educational institution.

I think we know what education should look like. We need to know how to make it so. Let's produce videos and articles that are blueprint and plans, not pretty finished products.

Post Script: When I copied the code to embed the video, Blogger pointed out an error in the code that lies behind the embedded video. I think it's ironic that I'm complaining about a video that doesn't show the behind the scenes action and the code behind the scenes has an error in it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

NH Animal Track Mystery

Sipping my morning coffee and looking out the bay window in the dining room, I saw these strange tracks in the snow. (Click on any image to enlarge.) I finished the coffee, grabbed my camera, bundled up and headed out to investigate.

There are about thirty feet between our houses and these tracks covered about 4/5 of that distance and seemed to start a few feet from my air conditioning unit, which is the most likely domicile of the critter (at least until spring when I'll evict him/her or them). Assuming that's correct the tracks would start from the lower right. Other than the obvious, what is it, there are a few other observations and questions.

At first glance they seem to be alternating prints of the left and right legs, but it's more likely that one side is the outward bound journey and the other side is the inbound trail. If left-right, there are about 2"-2 1/2" between right and left tracks. If inbound-outbound, there are 4-5 inches between tracks.

There was a similar set of tracks about four days ago when the snow was fresh, but no undulating path. That's the part that has me scratching my head. It seems to start near my house, and there aren't any visible tracks inside the trail.

Even though they don't look like mouse or chipmunk track pictures I've located online, I'm guessing mouse, but the trail has me stumped. It seems to it begin near my house, but if the critter was dragging something there no evidence of what it was and more importantly, the drag marks don't go to either end of the trail, and there are no apparent footprints in the drag trail.

I wish I was still teaching. This would be a great way to combine writing and science. If you are a teacher and would like to use these photos, feel free to grab them and craft them into any kind of lesson you so desire. If you do, I'd love to hear about it.

If you are a relative of Davy Crockett and have a good idea of what's happening here, I'd also love to hear from you.

Until then, I'll be watching future snowfalls carefully!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NH Public Safety and Violence Prevention Act to be Expanded

This is one of those posts where I have to point out that I'm not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV, but it's not going to stop me from putting my opinion out there.

NH House Bill 1523 seeks to expand the current Public Safety and Violence Prevention Act to include harassment, intimidation, bullying, and cyberbullying, and to give schools more power to act.

It adds definitions for bullying and cyberbullying and requires schools to set policies and procedures for dealing with it. It also mandates training for staff and the involvement of pupils, parents, administrators, school staff, school volunteers, community representatives, and local law enforcement agencies in the process of developing the policy.

Overall, I think the law will do a good job of addressing the issue. There are some provisions that I really like, and two that cause concern.

Having community involvement in the development of policy is an good idea and the inclusion of students in the process even better.

I also love the idea that the law puts the emphasis on staff training, rather than requiring specific curriculum. My stance on this is well documented. Cybersafety and cyberbullying are part of online citizenship which should be naturally infused throughout the curriculum.

I also holds schools harmless if they act in good faith in dealing with the matter. On the other hand it doesn't a suit if there is a failure because of negligence or if policy and procedures are not followed. Too many schools make a show of creating policy and then ignore them.

The first thing that concerns me is the requirement of the schools to report incidents to the state. This wouldn't be a bad idea if the state was providing resources, training, and funds to help support the goals of the law, but with out that, it is nothing but additional paperwork and liability placed on already overburdened school.

The next thing gives me concern is the definition that includes a one time incident. It appears to be to be an attempt to deal with incidents like the Megan Meier case, but this will become a rallying point for free speech advocates and possibly a basis for a Constitutional challenge.

Leaving it out wouldn't preclude acting against a single incident. I think the law has enough in it to allow following up on that kind of case. While excluding it wouldn't preclude following up on a single incident that is severe enough, it lessens the likelihood of abusing the law and raising the wrath of free speech organizations.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Education and legislation go hand in hand. One must inform and help the other.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Right Picture Wrong Message

Here's a wonderful presentation to a Congressional committee about transforming education with technology. Watch it and tell me if you see anything wrong with the message that is being given.



Yes, it was a great presentation. The Congressmen nailed the answer to her first question about how many schools had interactive whiteboards, and ending with the 70% rate in India was a nice touch but, I think she needed to ask one more very important question. How many of the 10% of schools with whiteboards have teachers trained use it the way she did and how many are using it like this?

(Image from TweetDeck)

Whiteboards without teachers who know how to create transformational lessons are a waste of money. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT,PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT,PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Common Sense Cyber Safety

The FTC has just launched Netcetera, a fee downloadable publication about Cyber Safety. It's aimed at parents and Teachers and offers good common sense information and advice. They will also send out free printed copies in English or Spanish. No scare tactics or sensationalism here. Just good solid information and advice. You can find out more at http://www2.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/netcetera.shtm and get it directly from http://www.onguardonline.gov/pdf/tec04.pdf

Monday, January 11, 2010

Screen Real Estate

On Saturday I had a flat forehead moment, you know, one of those moments when you want to say "DOH!" and smack yourself on the forehead head because you just had a blinding flash of the obvious.

On Saturday I had a flat We were working with iGoogle and I had just given the class a tour of my page. You see it here, but without the additional half dozen gadgets you don't see at the bottom of the screen.

I was circulating the as they built their own pages. Michael Kollmer, the Director of Technology for Mamaroneck Public Schools, already an iGoogle user. He showed me how he had it organized. He explained it was all about screen real estate. He had all of his gadgets minimized and was able to see everything on his page in a single screen. That was the flat forehead moment.

It was such a simple thing to do, but I had never thought about it. Now my page looks like this. I use my bookmarks and calendar many times a day, but the other gadgets see far less action. The two I use remain one and the rest remain closed until I need them.

One of the things I love most about teaching is learning from the students.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

21st Century Skills, YouTube, and Education

Do you remember the Powers of Ten video which starts out with a picnic scene and then begins zooming out by a power of 10 every ten second? We realize very quickly that the further back we step, the more we see and each step adds new information and new insights. I had an experience today online that took me on a similar journey.

The Powers of Ten video starts out with a picture of one square meter. My story starts out with an email from a student about job hunting online in the digital age. I haven’t had to job hunt since long before the Internet was invented and didn’t have wealth of specific information at my fingertips, but I knew that with more than a half century employment and my knowledge of the web, online life, and social media, equipped me to get it quickly.

It didn’t take long to locate the information and send back the advice. After sending it, I began thinking about all of the skills that I was using in the hunt. I didn't have much time to think, because shortly after sending the message, my thoughts were interrupted by the ding from TweetDeck with a Facebook update from Leigh Zeitz via Twitter.

It was a link to a video about 21st Century Skills. When I visited the site, I immediately recognized the music as that which Michael Wesch had used in the Machine is Us/ing Us. As I watched, I was sure it was a new Michael Wesch video, and I realized that my thoughts had not been interrupted, they have been expanded upon by the video I was watching. WOW!

As the movie came to an end, I was pleasently surprised to find that it wasn't Michael Wesch, but the Weymouth High School social studies department who had been inspired by Wesch’s video. WOW!

Then something caught my eye. The video had been posted to YouTube as a response to another video, Curriculum 2.0. As I watched this, I began to get that Powers of Ten feeling. It was like mentally taking a step back and seeing a great deal more. A universe of connections powered by 21st century skills was unfolding in my mine and in front of my eyes. WOW!

Then for some reason, I went to The Machine is Us/ing Us for about the 100th time, this time I noticed the version I was watching was a video response, or in this case an update to an earlier version, which was a response to the Web 2.0 video. WOW!

Web 2.0 - 523,269 views
The Machine is Us/ing Us V.1 - 10,728,239 views
The Machine is Us/ing Us V.2 - 1,174,007
21st Century Skills - 6,249 views

That's almost 12 million views on YouTube alone. There's no way to tell how many other viewings took place around the web. WOW!

But why aren't we translating what we see here into our every day practice? Maybe it's because we still have to catch up to The Evolution of Dance and its 134,417,368 YouTube views. OW!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mass. Mess Gets Messier

If you read the, Mass. Mess post, you can skip this paragraph. If you didn't, I'll save you the trouble of reading it. Here's the synopsis. When I tried to turn in my NJ driver's license for a NH license, I found out that my diving privileges were suspended in MA. Yesterday I spent more than an hour and a half on hold with MA RMV and never got to speak to anyone. Fast forward to today...

I called DMv (or RMV as it is know in MA) again today and held for an hour before hanging up. So I decided to try finding another number other than the suspension number. I found a number for an RMV I will be passing by tomorrow on my way to NY.

I was only on hold 20 minutes there before I heard a heard a quiet, monotone, human voice who's words asked if she could help, but who's tone seemed to hide the unspoken words, "I know you've been on hold nearly forever, but it's not my fault. If you take it out on me, so help me I'll (---insert your thoughts here---)"

Knowing that there is no way in the world I would want her job, I counted my blessings, first among which was the fact that I was able to reach someone.

I cheerfully explained my problem. My tone changed her tone and the rest of the call went smoothly and relatively painlessly. The pain came when I had to pay.

My license was suspended because of a 1992 parking ticket that I paid, but that they did not receive on time! I had to pay $90 in penalties.

All I can think of is, "You're call is available to us and will be answered by the next available representative." ROTFLOL! If MA gave a damn about me or any other driver, they would have more people manning the phones and would have the decency to let you know that your license has been suspended instead of finding out 18 years later!

I guess I should count myself lucky. I could have gotten stopped for some other kind of violation in MA and found out that my driving privileges were suspended when I got arrested.

MA RMV is one HUGE FAIL!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mass. Mess!

If you get your license suspended today for 30 days in Mass. and have a question about it, you had better call today, because it might be 30 days on hold before you can talk to a person.

I went to the NH DMV to turn in my NJ license and get a NH one. People at the NH DMV were cheerful, friendly, professional, and actually used their heads for something other than a hat rack. I wish I could say the same for other states.

All went well up to a point. As the process was winding down, the clerk said, "I can't issue you a NH license. Your license is suspended in Massachusetts. You'll have to clear things up with them."

She gave me all the information and the number to call and instructed me on what to do when I cleared things up with them. Never mind the fact that I never had a MA license, I guess that my driving privileges must have been suspended for so other reason. The most likely candidate is an unpaid parking ticket.

When I called, I had to listen to a recording of what to do if my license was suspended for this, or that, or the other. It went on for at least three minutes with no options to push any buttons. When the recording stopped I was greeted with the dreaded words, "We are experiencing heavy call volume and apologize for the delay. You call will be answered by the next available agent."

I'll bet that when they made that recording there was a lot of snickering and giggling when it was done, because I was on hold at the DMV for a half hour. I couldn't hold any longer and had to leave for an appointment. I figured I would try again later.

Well, later came about four or five minutes before I started typing this entry. I have been on hold for another half hour at this point. I'm going to save this as a draft and come back to it when and if someone picks up the phone and I can find out what's going on.

I'm back, but guess what? I spent an hour on hold and still no one to talk to. It is 4:00PM and I suspect it is their policy to leave for the day and just let anyone who is on hold either hang up in frustration or hold on until the morning when they come back. I would hold on that long if I thought it would do any good, but I suspect the system will reset in the morning and disconnect me. I will hang on for about ten more minutes. I'll try again in the morning and report any progress, if any is to be made.

Wish me luck!