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 and get it directly from

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.


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!