Friday, December 31, 2010

Community Engine | A Social Networking Plugin for Ruby on Rails
Yes, you can have your own social network baked right in. With lots of features.

And (this is good cause he has a revenue stream), there's addon plugins you can buy e.g. Facebook and Twitter plugins, support for premium members, geolocation, more.

I did think this was gonna be a cake installation
>gem install community_plugin
but 'tis not. ...yet. There's actually a lengthy install process to go by, starting with downloading it from git.

Still, developer Bruno Bornsztein has given us a beautious project site...and that's not nothin either. Of the 18000+ gems available for Ruby developers, precious few have even a recent update history, let alone a fine project site like this one.

A project to keep an eye one.

Here's a couple more found in a quick search: Insoshi and Loved by Les. For Twitter and Facebook specifically, Twitter gem and Rfacebook.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

sketchpad : compose
Want animation, but worry about the drawbacks of Adobe Flash®? IE lack of support on some operating systems, cost of the development environment? Then maybe processing.js is for you!

Processing the language is actually a Java library. Processing.js is the Javascript port, which will run natively in a browser, without any plugin.

Want to try it out? Sketchpad is for you. Just modify the code in the left window, press CTL-R, and the resulting animation runs to the right. Easy as custard pie.

Want to see what others have done? The site has many game examples, but here's one with a knowledge web--maybe the future replacement of Wikpedia, who knows? Ask Ken--I asked about Baron "von Steuben", then "quark".

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 2010 Census data is partly out; the Congressional Apportionment data has been delivered to the President. Here in Ohio, we'll be losing 2 seats of 18. (This is unsettling if you live in the 18th district, as we do!) Overall, the "rust belt"--though maybe not as rusty as it was--will be losing nine seats.

This interactive map shows the population gains/losses in the various states, over the course of the century.

Note that the map is still Adobe Flash. Nothing wrong with AS2/AS3, but...a static animation in an uber data-rich site seems a bit 1990's-ish?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Finnish Schools are Compete Failures
Secretary Duncan, speaking just now, urges us to emulate Finland. There, only the top 10% of college grads need apply to be a teacher, and they'll face stiff competition at that.

How did Finnish Education become such a failure? Where did they go so wrong? In this nation, the top 10% of grads are not going on to cure cancer, not going forward to provide security and sustenance for the most needful in the world, not aiming for Mars or deep sea discovery, not making the world flat with new Internet apps and networks, not financing and building the world's supply chains, grocery stores, medical networks; not reaching into the past to uncover our shared legacy, not working to engineering intelligent highways, electrical grids, a cleaner, greener, more sustainable planet.

Finnish teachers are so bad that the height they teach their pupils to aspire to is returning to whence they came, spending all but four years of their life in the K-12 school building.*

Don't beat me. I'm not dissing teachers here. Nor Finland. None of this is to say that first rate American grads who have a passion to teach should not do so. Our schools need you. Especially if you are smart enough to go around the entrenched systems by which adults slow down the learning of youth.

Yet grades are not the only measure of a student, an education, or of a nation. And there's another thing. Who really wants a nation where only the best test-takers teach our kids?

I want teachers who floundered in college. I want teachers who reached for subjects that would try both their brains and their mettle. I want teachers who took degrees so far beyond them that "C-" is the best they could do.

We want such teachers for three reasons. One, because they will be more sensitive to their struggling pupils. Two, because their own learning, and the learning they pass on, will be richer, deeper, more empowering. Three because they will confront their 'best' students and tell them to reach farther, higher, harder than they think they are capable.

*About 20% of Finns get Bachelor level education;  teachers make up about 4.3% of the labor force. You can see that taking the top 10% of college grads for teaching positions doesn't leave much top talent for any other professions.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Dozen Aspirations edReformer
Thought I'd share this sort-of-mission-statement from City Prep. Good strong educations have pretty high demands of kids.

From our perspective, there's a lot buried in that "know enough about their world"--the whole of the education battles, in fact.

Years back, I peeked samples from the Ohio achievement tests. Several of the questions required the student to identify different Native American tribe's telephone--oops, Totem--poles. Match the pole with the Miami, Wyandot, or Seneca tribes.

Now, I have no problem at all with using these as a one-period lesson in how non-western cultures of the time thought and communicated. It's a graphic lesson, a nice break for kids who struggle with print. It probably gives a hint of how the tribes differed, and one could look into why.

Yet how under-educated were the morons who decided this was testable required knowledge for every student in the state? That of the small time allotted to history studies in K-12, the most important, the most accountable knowledge would be the design of totem poles in a society that really was on the fringe of the march toward civilization?

When we make demands, then, we should demand that the 500 words a day of writing usually have some greater content objective. Something that truly helps understand the world of today. A friend recently had a substantial college writing assignment to write her own obituary, "how others see me", and other death-and-narcissism-related items. Bah.

So, great aspirations...if they have good content.

BTW, how cool is the City Prep movie?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

This is one take on the America's Promise (Colin Powell) report.

Good news: 1/8 of the dropout factories dropped that label. Bad news: 2.2 million students still attend dropout factories.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Headlining (sort of) the assessment section of the US Dept. of Education's new tech plan was this cool assessment tool. Although it gives educational feedback, the tool is intended for assessment alone; you'll be guessing if you try to learn first through this.

I took a question set on Acceleration (after first making myself a teacher and assigning it!). Herewith the final question, where you really need to understand these concepts and graphs. Since I got it, we'll assume I didn't forget all my pricey degree in physics. And, we'll applaud creater Jim Minstrell for a job well done.

Here's the limitation, though. After completing the assessment, the app had this to say of my mastery of acceleration:
You gave best possible answers on 8 out of 9 of the questions in this set. You seem to have a pretty good grasp of this topic. After completing this set you reported that your understanding of this material was "Great! I feel like I could explain the ideas to a friend."

The following feedback addresses some of the ideas that may cause you trouble. You may have had these problematic ideas while answering the questions in this set.

* You seem to be confusing position data with speed data. Typically you need to work with speed vs. time data to arrive at acceleration. Check the definition of acceleration and be sure you are working with speed time data.
Well, that's not exactly the case.

Monday, November 29, 2010

TimeMaps: The Fall of Rome
TimeMaps software for classrooms are beautifully done dynamic vector maps. They also illustrate both the inadequacies and huge potential of history software.

I'll let you play, with just this one thought: History was meant to be Story. How well does this do storytelling? How well does it draw the viewer into the tale?
edReformer: Rocketship Tour Notes

edReformer jots some notes from a site visit with Rocketship (charter) elementary schools. I've picked out items relating to online ed (but the others are fascinating as well):
School Model:
  • 25% student time on computer-based basic skills learning (non-cert supervision)
Learning lab:
  • Content: DreamBox, Rosetta, Accelerated Reader, Reasoning Mind, Head Sprout
  • embedded assessment of little value
  • big variation in data export ease & transferability
  • common tagging & data management scheme would help
  • Assessment: Promethean and Synaptic Mash
  • little online assessment; questions are read out loud and kids type into online environment
  • looking for philanthropic support for better assessments
Growth plans (and they’re aggressive):
  • Powerschools SIS and Google apps for education
  • PD all focused on traditional instructional strategies

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Teachers' Domain: Regulating Genes PBS Nova
Was searching for interactives promised on last night's Searching for Solomon's Mines (Great program!), didn't find any, but stumbled on this. Not sure I get it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Pivot to Digital Learning: 40 Predictions

"The education sector has not historically been very dynamic, but this year things changed. Despite the recession, we have seen more start-ups and more cool applications than ever before. More investors have joined the space, and the big guys remain acquisitive. The pivot from print to digital learning, classes to students, seat time to competence is on. Here is how it will play out over one, five, and ten years from now.
One Year
2. The Facebook-like ability to create groups, messages, and share content is fueling the rapid growth of social learning platforms, and 2011 will be the breakout year—hitting 5% market penetration—on a rapid growth curve.
4. A state and a handful of urban districts will stop buying print textbooks in 2011 and will shift to customizable digital texts and open education resources.
Five Years
6. The Common Core and Web 2.0 platforms will boost 2011-2012 venture and philanthropic investment in digital content, yielding innovative, engaging, and adaptive content libraries and related mobile apps.
8. Widget-rich social interfaces will dominate personal digital learning platforms (what replaces LMS).
9. The instant feedback from content-embedded assessment, especially learning games, simulations, virtual environments, and MMOs (massively multiplayer online games), will be widely used in formal and informal learning and will build persistence and time on task.
10. Adaptive content will result in more time on task (in some cases, two times the productive learning time over the course of a year), and better targeted learning experiences will boost achievement, particularly among low-income and minority students.
12. Most learning platforms will feature a smart recommendation engine, like iTunes Genius, that will build recommended learning playlists for students.
22. All of these five-year advances will be made possible by a dramatic increase in learning venture investment,including foundations joining the ranks of impact investors. Learning will no longer be a cottage industry.
23. Second-generation online learning will replace courseware with adaptive components in a digital content library (objects, lessons, units, and sequences).
Ten Years
26. With nearly a decade of data, second-generation recommendation engines will drive tutoring applications more effective than one-on-one tutoring.
27. Most high school students will do most of their learning online and will attend a blended school.
28. More than one-third of all learning professionals will be in roles that do not exist today; more than 10% will be in organizations that do not exist today.
31. The U.S. K-12 instructional materials and related technologies segment of the K-12 market will double in size despite slow top-line growth.
33. Blended high-tech/high-touch school models in every urban area will leverage community resources, including museums, theaters, and parks.
35. As online options expand, a three-year highschool experience including college credit will be common. Early college pathways to degrees/certifications in emerging industry clusters will be common.
The pivot to personal digital learning will change the world—and you have a chance to be part of it."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Things Start to Get Interesting: Samsung GALAXY Tab tablet.
Have you seen the new Samsung Fascinate? Sure looks like an iPone to me, only with the Android operating system. Today cometh Samsung's Tab tablet. True, it looks more like Dell's wee entry, only a seven inch screen. But, people do like their Kindles so it's probably not a bad idea for Samsung to aim for that before fully taking on iPad.

For students and schools, it means more choices, of course, for good or bad. It also means costs must start to come down. Competition does that. 

For developers, here's yet another worry. Your app that came in a 10"iPad, 3"iPhone, 3"Android, now must be scaled to a 7" version. (Maybe those ubiquitous Flash 640x480 apps were right all along.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fred Belmont: Obama's New Digital Learning Plan: A Killer App
Tuesday was the release of the National Education Technology Plan. A notable math teacher reviews it here. We'll be looking at this more.
Earmarks Everywhere: How Does Your State Stack Up? | PBS NewsHour
I love these little data interactives. They're simple and clean and invite you to ask your own questions.
Earmarks Everywhere: How Does Your State Stack Up?

In this one for example, one is curious if Montana's status holds up over a 5 year period, or if its a one year spike. Of course it would be good to know what this money actually went for.

Having aimed for some earmark money myself, and also run the normal grants processes, I'm not 100% clear that one path is inherently more evil than the other. Yet data interactives like these make it easier to expose the abuses of any govenrment spending, so let's open up the source code and make many more.

...Wait. Someone has. There are 75,000 such visualizations at IBM's Many Eyes project.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rocketship Education Presentation 3 (of 3)
Worth a look to see how this EMO thinks about technology, teacher specialization in elementary schools, and the use of "para-educators"--something other licensed professions understand they couldn't live without.

Here's an interview over at EdReformer (with another video). And Rocketship's own site.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Webrangers Activity: Powder Monkey
Speaking of the National Parks, here's some old friends, expanded along the way.

It's tempting to dismiss the core educational value of these. And we'll admit, it's hard to state where exactly these might fit in a solid curriculum. Let's explore this.

An educated person has a huge reservoir of words and mental images they may draw on. Some in this interactive are berth, wardroom, sickbay, bilge, bow, aft, starboard, port, wheel, mast, cannon, and even deck are all words which might make their way into a fictional story, an inspiring and lyrical story, or (importantly!) an editorial piece educating people on the benefits of one policy or leader versus another.

If you're of the Kennedy clan, these terms and mental pictures are part of early childhood. If you're even Ed, raised in rural Ohio, but with a yearly visit to the shore, having a cousin with a sunfish class sailboat, and parents who read to you constantly, you'll get some of these.

If you're born in central Chicago, to a 17 year old parent raised in Cabrini Green, these may not be part of your vocabulary, may not be among the mental pictures you can summon when reading a book or opinion piece, hearing a speech or debate.

Thumbs up then, for at least the Powder Boy interactive. Tomorrow we'll look at how to make learning a bit more efficient.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

How Divided We Remain II
Click on each of these maps to go to the interactive. I love these type of simple interactives (OK, maybe not so simple to produce, but not an epic game, either!) It is so cool to be able to zoom in at will to get more detailed data.

So, I asked some questions. Like,... what's up with this map being so red?

Remember, Democrat candidates took 44% of the races. That's a lot.
To make even more unbalanced than they appear visually, something like 10 of the 192 blue districts make up, what 65% of the blue land area? So what's going on here?

Remember, this was the 2008 Presidential election map by county--even with the big Obama win:

Monday, November 01, 2010

How Divided We Remain
This week, Oprah Windfrey and producer/friend Gayle travel to Yosemite National Park; Ranger Shelton Johnson invited and welcomed her: National parks have room for all races -
Some readers may be stunned to learn that this well-traveled celebrity had never before visited a national park. Most people of color won't be.
As the only African American permanent ranger in Yosemite National Park in California, I often lament that I'm more likely to meet visitors from Japan or France than I am to see an African-American family from nearby Sacramento or Oakland.
Think about that for awhile. Think about what Oprah, and too many Black Americans, have missed.

Never visited Gettysburg National Military Park, premier monument to the battle and war that eliminated slavery.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It Won't Be That Fast Again. And that's OK.

Everyone feels it. It's not just the recession, extended perhaps by policy decisions but destined to join the past late if not sooner. It's more. We feel in our guts things can't be as they were. The last thirty years were an unsustainable and unrepeatable time. It will be a slower decade--and probably longer or forever.

That doesn't mean it won't be better. It will.

We've been explosive builders these past thirty years. 11,000 Starbucks just in the US. Chickfilla's and Verizon centers, Borders and Lowes, Old Navys and Staples all to go with them. Every sizable community has had its downtown duplicated at the city limits by a shopping center it's equal in size.

We've remade the downtowns as well. Look at yours. Drive to the next city. And the next. If you're 20, you won't know it didn't mostly always look that way. If you can remember 1990, didn't.
We've totally rehabilitated our urban neighborhoods. Smaller wooden structures that were unrepairable we tore down and replaced. Yet most homes of any character were restored and enhanced.

Our neighborhood shops went from abandoned, boarded up, or seedy stalls to quaint or glamorous boutique shops. Some of them got Starbucks. Some were filled with the exotic goods of the world. All were filled with curious, engaged, cash-laden patrons. We're wondering now about that latter.
We've built arenas and stadiums and museums of every imaginable field. They are huge, extravagant. beautiful. And we're wondering about the debt, and how long til we can afford to build again.
We're worried about much more than debt, though. We worry about an aging population. A changing population. A changing world that has noticed our system, imitated it, and now seriously competes.

Can we, too, still compete? Can we go head to head with the Asian engineers, the Indian support teams, the Central American laborers, the world's cheap manufacturing labor? The ruthlessly efficient robots and machines? 

Must we lose our hard-earned luxuries to so do?

And what about the Muslim evangelists? Do they threaten the foundations, values, traditions we've built up from? 

Ah, and there's the rub. Did some of us forget those core

We might lose some of that breathless excitement. We're all used to caramel mochiato expresso cherry frape surprise. It's just a caffeine fix now. Where's that feeling of youthful thrill?

The thrill that's with the youth? It's in those digital boxes, and it's in the world. Yes, many of us reached out and touched the world these past two decades, and were touched by it. We'll be doing that a whole lot more.

We are drifting back--or forward--to the one room schoolhouse. For many students it's now the kitchen table, the family computer desk. For others its a tutoring center next to Starbucks. For still others its a small neighborhood charter school, the kind of schools community progressives built and ran back at our founding, the kind of personal attention you get when moms and dads kick into the pot to buy their own building and teacher.

Which raises our fears of lives spent staring at 20" portholes. Or smaller. Much smaller. Many of us did that for long work hours, but were amply rewarded. What about that gnawing competition from abroad, that increasingly well-educated and well-connected workforce outside?

What about our debts and maintenance commitments? Our no longer pricey houses and our still pricey mortgages and upkeep bills?

And age. Our nation is aging. Baby boomers are retiring, moving into takers, not producers. Who will pay, care, cover for them? Our pension/retirement/healthcare systems seem actuarial unsound; maybe unsustainable.

Is the gig up? Have we built all we can build, borrowed all we can borrow, promised what we cannot deliver, come to the end of the age of Camelot?

I say no. For now, though, a volleyball scrimmage.

Meanwhile, one hint: those brown people knocking at our door, the ones already hear, hiding from the books and the law? We need them paying taxes, insurance premiums, mortgages payments. We need them buying our homes. We need them filling nursing and care positions. We need them as engineers.

More to come....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Maybe I/m Against Humans.

(A repsponse to Miguel Guhlin and too many other well-meaning writers.).

Being neither rich nor powerful, I’m unqualified to comment on ‘empowering’ vs. ‘domesticating’ education…wait, I did redesign the world’s most complex (and powerful) sensor-processor-effector system…at age 23. What the heck, my one cent:

We are ‘creativity’-ing ourselves down the path of the Roman Empire. We are a nation where it’s not important to walk from your touchdown to thank your blockers and focus ahead; it’s how creative a dance you do in the end zone. (Yes, those athletes are conditioned, but which part do the children see every week?). Now it’s to be unimportant to master math and logic, as long as we “create stuff”, no matter how distracting that might be.

Like the Roman citizens who grew bored with engineering and democracy and military art, turning instead to circuses and outdoing each other in bad poetry, we ‘create’ 500 bland television programs per hour, 24/365.

We build 14,000 ‘apps’ on top of Twitter alone. 250,000 for the iPhone. Every minute we upload another 24 hours of video to YouTube.

What do we know of the world? Our place in it? How many readers here know the fundamental difference between Shia and Sunni? Can describe the Iraqi and Afghan borders? Know the difference between a battalion and a brigade? Can guess the percentage of a school’s budget spent on personnel? Know—really know—why  Washington was considered the “Father of our Country’? Understand why we don’t use much of the oil lying under our feet?

We need people who are productive and dependable. Especially when they are young and still learning what it is to be an adult, let alone lead adults. We need people who can care for the elderly and do repetitive research on sickle-cell anemia. We need people who will plant the seed each spring and gather the harvest each fall to feed a malnourished world.

We are, by the way, not as poor or unpowerful as you might think. Barack Obama is slave to his staff, cabinet, guards, and politicos. We have evenings and weekends free, can learn whatever we like, volunteer if we like to build parks, sing, deliver meals, guide youth groups, gather in spiritual need, organize a festival, build a business, golf, run.

There is, true, slavery in having a family at eighteen or twenty when you have no skill or education. And there’s the rub because you will not have time to read to your children, speak with them, sing to them. And they too will not learn, will head to slavery. Unless great teachers intervene.

Great teachers don’t teach you to be dangerous. All those dangerous people—they’re the ones keeping the sub-par teachers in place, distracting funds and resources from those in need, muddling the debate, spreading false economics, electing status-quo leaders. The useful idiots gathering at G-20 meetings to protest…well, to protest something, they have no idea what.

Great teachers don’t teacher you to be creative because no one is creative standing alone. All build on the shoulders of giants. It’s getting harder to learn everything the giants have given us. To be truly powerful you must master accounting and capital asset modeling and something of proteomics. Of foreign policy, but also of the difficulties of leading and sustaining a platoon in the field. Of statistics,…and of their limits. Of all the little things it takes to build something in your community.

One ought have time to have gathered intelligence like Sadaam Hussein’s offer of $25,000 to the family of every suicide bomber in Palestine. That 1 in 1200 teachers is delicensed, compared to more like 1 in 100 doctors or lawyers. That churches built most of our universities and hospitals. That the local auto-body shop is funding many of the local scholarships and public activities.

Things all learned over time, while being productive and dependable. While learning mental discipline, logical thought, patient disinterested analytical rigor.

Quadratic formulae, Schrödinger equations, and enantiomeric tranformations are hardly passionless, obsolete areas of study. They are the stuff of stars, of philosophy, of digital and analog empowerment.

Washington, by the way (with von Steuben) transformed a creative, individualistic, and un-dangerous army into a productive, dependable one which could throw off a Despotic King.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Alternative High School - Engines for Education
Last night brought an online seminar with Roger Schank, he long of artificail intelligence and cognitive psychology fame.

One project he's working is Alternative High School, a school which truly shakes up the curriculum model. "The four years currently being offered are:
Year 1: Health Sciences
Year 2: Computer Science
Year 3: Communication
Year 4: Business
Yep, that's a different way of doing things.

About a year ago I experienced my first Twitter re-enactment.

First, you may know that normally, I am not a big fan of Twitter. I use it, as a personal diary and to follow a couple of close, reserved friends.  Otherwise, the race to 'retweet' every last utterance on the planet seems to be loud static, approaching as a limit the cosmic background noise.

That said, the 'twitternactment' of Revolutionary battle of Trenton was a fun learning experience.

In my case, I was out on a Sunday afternoon walk/drive for the event, which made it all the easier to pay attention to the flow of the story.  The 140 character snippets made the story quite easy to digest, withtime to savor each scene, forget about the event, and then be brought into the story again later as events unfolded.

Today the Wall Street Journal reports that The Texting Revolution is Here. Well, duh, yeah. However, we can still complete the revolution by incorporating it into education.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

God In America - Inside the tumultuous 400-year history of the intersection of religion and public life in America | PBS
If you were expecting a show about religious people or religion, this isn't it. It's about America's very essence.

In 1776 political freedom was perhaps not even the main topic of concern to the average American. Their faith, how to express it, with whom...these were the debates of the day among many of our countrymen.

From the Spanish Missionaries trying to convert the Pueblo, to the undoing of the separate colony's state religions, last night's premier was just fascinating.

The website does the story little justice; however the timeline interactive is a great review tool, the quiz tests your knowledge of basic religious knowledge.

Last night's show gave an overview of the role of congregations in building our hospitals, schools, anti-slavery movement, prison reform, etc. I hope later episodes will go into much deeper into this.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A wiki guide to some of the apps you can use in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pax Americana and the New Iraq Fouad Ajami
An aside to put yesterday's discussion of Learning Patterns in perspective. It's tempting to dis the games mentioned below as 'memorization' (now a pejorative term), as regurgitating facts, as not serious learning.

Take not that path. Fact bits let us learn at a later date. They give us pause to ask questions later.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Interactive Learning Patterns II - and
This morn I discussed how students interact with teachers in the schools. This afternoon, a word on two busy history interactive sites out of the UK.

Consider Interactive history games - Historical Hoop Shoot, Fling the Teacher, Walk the Plank, Historical Shootout, Historical Hangman, Historical Duckshoot, Wordsearches. At face, this seems a diverse set of lessons. Especially if you've assayed what other interactives offer, where interacting is defined as clicking through photos and text, with little feedback or assessment capability.

There is much to choose from here: nine games engines, custom skins for each, 235 available topics, 6442 questions at this writing. The learner is always clicking something, getting a response, moving on, getting a periodic assessment of knowledge retained.

She also gets exactly one learning pattern.

Interactive Learning Patterns I
What's an interactive learning pattern? I mentioned this Friday. Maybe my keywords aren't the best, but for all the talk of how tech can save us, you'd think there's be more mention of this.

Let's take the one pattern everyone is talking about: multiple choice. It's the most common assessment because it was for years the easiest to automate. But those days are gone, so why are we doing it?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Ed's Ed Week
Often people wonder why we have so little to show in Ed technology--at least as far as content mastery and assessment. Yes, we have the proprietary libraries built by the traditional textbook publishers. There's tons of original source material, and even more HTML-based content of varying pedagogical quality. But the individualized engagement/mastery/assessment factors we've all feel in our guts should be there...usually isn't.

From the beginning, was designed to get people working together to change this.

Monday, September 27, 2010
Without comment for now, I'll post this as prelude to a longer series of comments on where we're at in integrated online, individualizes learning.
"Effect Games provides free, online tools for building, sharing and playing your own browser based games.

"Your games may include sound effects, music, and multiple layers of parallax-scrolling tiles and sprites.

"Users can play your games right in their browsers, without needing any new plugins or extensions. Publish your games on your website or blog, share on social networking sites, and submit them to our featured games section!
"Build your games using JavaScript and our custom browser game engine, level editor, and suite of developer tools."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reform Surge?
If your TV is stuck on ESPN, you might not have heard. Otherwise, you've likely been told of the premier of Waiting for Superman. Somehow, this film has ignited in the main stream media the passion we have been seeking since 1990 at least.

First Oprah, who reviewed the movie on Monday, and then on Friday hosted Geoffrey Canada, Mayor Corie Booker and Gov. Todd Christy, and Mark Zuckerberg for a $100,000,000 reform and challenge announcement.

NBC has taken up the baton with its Education Nation effort (pressroom). (Kudos to the VP of Strategic Initiatives Lisa Gersh). All weekend and into the week, shows from Today to Meet the Press to a special 2 hour Teacher Town Hall. They've converted the plaza at 30 Rock to a Learning Plaza for the Week, and tomorrow a primetime interview with the President. Tonight, a townhall meeting, and there's also a great resource for looking up school performance info:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Viewing historical numbers, e.g. U.S. Income and Poverty
Take a look at how differently today's student can explore data from the past. Some of it's just a timesaver--rollover for a specific data point rather than use your straightedge. Yet there's ease and elegance and interactivity here which also invited deeper inquiry.

Take my midwestern neighbors, whose income climbed by a fifth from 93-2000--much sharper than other regions--then plunged til '05. Toward what deeper insight does this hint? (Age? Land prices? Job types?)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HTML5 + JS: The Future of Open EducationThere's much to think about here.

The Background: the One Laptop Per Child project offers  cheap computing in remote locations. However, 1) Flash™ has many issues, especially with internationalization and 2) most open source contributors aren't sitting around with an OLPC platform, nor do they see that their friends, family, and future employers will be. So how to entice them?

The Proposal: create Flash™ equivalent education apps that run only in the browser, that use only HTML5 plus JavaScript. For example, Adding Up to 10; more lessons.

This presentation was essentially a plea for help extending the work began in a Google Summer of Code project. Yet it's also a great thought piece on the issues confronting anyone who aims to teach the world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Illiterate Afghan Non-Com
Dr. Seuss and the Afghan Military
Many of our countrymen, convinced in 2003-4 and again in 2008 that Afghanistan was the "right" war, are now not so sure. It's taking too long.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

HTML5 vs. Flash
Apparently there was a challenge, and here's an HTML5 response:
"This demo uses Mozilla's Audio Data API for beat detection, FFT and waveform rendering; SVG Filters for the bloom effect; WebGL for the 3D box'o'Jackson in full-awesome; Ogg Theora HTML5 video playback and some special JavaScript libraries by the Mozilla #Audio hacking team that brought you Flight of The Navigator in all of it's WebGL glory.  (HTML5 Can Dance! from Bocoup on Vimeo.)
The actual demo renders fully only if you have Firefox 4.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The End of Management -
Are efforts like Open History Project the "new 21st Century organization"? What about and the dreams we have for it and its sister sites?
"British economist Ronald Coase laid out the basic logic of the managed corporation in his 1937 work, "The Nature of the Firm." He argued corporations were necessary because of what he called "transaction costs." It was simply too complicated and too costly

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Education Apps Review
Don't know how many more there are like this, but it's a good start. Look to the left menu: app reviews are classed by grade level.

At this writing, the reviews include:
Early Elementary: 31
Late elementary: 31
Middle school: 40
High school: 27

Unfortunately, these aren't app reviews as the title indicates; they're blog posts. Some posts review, some don't. But...persevere! iPads in Science for example, discusses quite a few science apps.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The New Assessments
"The New Assessments" is the topic over at National Journal's Education Experts Blogs, and I wanted to highlight Tom Vander Ark’s response. He summarizes as:
“I’d much rather see a marketplace of powerful instructional systems that invisibly embed assessment.”
I’d love to be building part of this marketplace.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010 | Sticky vs Noise
Just got off the phone with Neeru Khosla of and the substance of our agreement was that technology is too often noise--and how do we get around that?

This site (part of the Active History sites) at first seems to fit the category noise. And yet....
it's worth remembering chapter 3 of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point--"The Stickiness Factor: Sesame Street, Blue's Clues, and the Educational Virus".

Noise in education is stuff that doesn't make sense. 'Stickiness' is the stuff that helps you pay attention and perhaps remember.

Will a hamburger essay diagram or a fishbone diagram help you better learn and remember? I don't know the research. We'll bet though, that it depends on the quality and appropriateness of the content being engaged.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Adobe - Flash CS3 resources
How to help interactives developers focus on
  • Content
  • Curricular relevance
  • Composition
instead of technology and gadgets?

That's the road we're on, especially as I look toward assembling the SXSW Panel (Building Open Platforms for Learning K-12 Core Content).

Monday, September 06, 2010

New Ruby Project Support in Sprouts - ProjectSprouts
Your pardons while we drill a bit into a few more techie things. Following up on Sprouts, it installed very nicely, but the first run out of the box ran into issues with my Ruby Gems installation. Investigations underway.

Meanwhile, this thread in their support group gives more insight into where things were heading c. late June. If the first couple posts scare you, read on to Matt's questions and the answers for reassurance.

Speaking of reassurance, my previous query about sustainment of the project seems settled for now. The users bb shows some 226 members--pretty good. And a core team that seems committed to the long haul, not just to sustaining, but to expanding in perhaps even new directions.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Rails & Actionscript: Project Sprouts Screencast
Oh, my. This is just too sweet.

Want to embed a nice Flash™ animation/interactive in a oh-so-adaptable Rails app? The very thing I've been exploring the past couple weeks. And look, here's...

  1. Install it with your Rails setup.
  2. Generate a project.
  3. Type in your Actionscript (or MXML) code into the appropriate .as file.
  4. Run the generator, and woo-hoo! your .swf file is ready to go!!

Just seems like right where my head was at today, in planning out the content for the SXSW panel!
Union on strike against Ohio teachers union
I'm sorry, but this is just toooo funny.

It appears that the OEA is stiffing these poor, oppressed members of the working class. The heartless bastards! The imperious, greedy corporate overlords!!
"OEA officers and managers need to practice what they preach. It's a pretty high form of hypocrisy for OEA officers and managers to be giving us this treatment when they expect us to protect OEA members from the same treatment out in the schools," said Norm Young, president of the Professional Staff Union.
Young said the workers are dealing with the same issues they help teachers deal with - protecting pensions, health-care benefits, job security, workload and compensation.
Uh, wait. The workers on strike make how much? $111,350, on average?! About $10,000 more than the average school superintendent?

Seriously, does no one at NEA/OEA get how this illustrates the absurdity of the current situation in public schools? We pretend that people making $80,000 are members of working class on the edge of poverty, ready to be squashed by the man the minute they let go of collective bargaining. When, in reality, they are generally treated as good or better than most professionals. Only with silly working conditions imposed by their own (silly) 240 page contracts.

Don't get me wrong. I am fairly sure the negotiators are well worth the price (and more) to their customers, the teachers.

In the real world, though, wouldn't they all form a company, negotiate a contract without the threat of federal intervention, and provide the best services for the best price? The way the rest of us do it; the way teachers buy everything else in their lives?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Only in Japan, Real Men Go to a Hotel With Virtual Girlfriends -
I don't even understand this, and I lost interest before giving reading enough to try.

Still, there's a lesson here to would be builders of Individualized Networked Learning. Maybe. I think.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI wears a 'saturno hat', inspired by the ringed planet Saturn

Images are powerful things, even the simplest. This hat, for example.

Like the arrival of ripe raspberries, one can count on the appearance in July of some version of Pope in A Summer Hat. Last month I had but to glance on the paper from across the room, and knew the topic of the article. It was time for the Pope to vacation at Castle Gandolfo.

There's more message even than that. The hat says--lets the church say--its time for you, our flock, to vacation, to relax, have some summer fun. (OK, the half the flock in the northern hemisphere, anyway).

We're down to the end of Summer 2010. Take it in. Store up summer images, feelings, memories.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Funnies: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?; Montessori School of Dentistry
Everyone's heading back to school. With all that we've read the past months about students learning on their own,...two takes on how learning might work.
In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit? | The Onion

Montessori School Of Dentistry Lets Students Discover Their Own Root Canal Procedures | The Onion

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Schott Foundation - 50 State Black Boys Report

Apparently computers aren't helping yet.
The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education reveals that the overall 2007/8 graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent. New York's graduation rate for its Regents diploma is only 25 percent for Black male students. New York City, the district with the nation's highest enrollment of Black students, only graduates 28 percent of its Black male students with Regents diplomas on time.
It's certainly not just New York:
If you're a parent, the solution may be to move your child to Maine, Montana, or New Hampshire, where Black boys graduate more than their state peers, or the national average.

Or, you can drive for change in your district. Newark--long suffering Newark, NJ, in the shadow of New York City and a mecca for ESL, 73% non-white, and 30% below poverty--has closed its graduation race gap.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New study shows blacks closing digital divide with whites
"from 2009 to 2010, the home broadband year-over-year usage rate of African-Americans increased [...] from 46 percent to 56 percent"
Closing in on a white connectivity rate of 67%, very good news. I do wonder about the size of that one year jump. Maybe better polling?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Victory in Iraq
We started this blog on 20 March, 2003, the day that combat troops poured into Iraq. Wednesday, the last of the US combat brigades left Iraq. Their convoy headed over the Kuawait border, with MSNBC running a ticker reminiscent of the 1991 invasion by Iraq of that small nation. It's been a long span since.

No one dared hoist a celebratory parade this week. George Bush' landing on the carrier saluting the troops for accomplishing the first mission remains...the single salute we have made to all the accomplishments of our brave and tenacious troops.

There was another war like this. In 1776, the streets celebrated with the news that America had declared independence. Not til October of 1781 did combat end (do you know the decisive battle?). Washington's troops remained in garison til Sept of 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Later--in 1787--a woman famously asked Ben Franklin what kind of government "we got--a Republic or a Monarchy?" "A Republic," replied the good doctor. "If you can keep it."

Good luck Iraq. Good job soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

StayCation Sucks!
OK, I knew the budget was gonna be tighter than usual this summer, that they're probably be no ten days in Carolina mountains and beaches. But, Gees!

The annual weekend with the family at a camp (cabin sounds too suave) was supposed to lead into at least a couple days on the North Coast (hey, they have beaches, too), a taste or two of wine in the Finger Lakes regions, and a "working" stop at Cornell to put up some fliers and enjoy a bagel and coffee at College Town Bagels. Plus, of course, a few historical discoveries (e.g.Women's Rights National Historical Park)

Instead, I'm home in the office, just finishing an uninformative webinar with Linda Darling Hammond, teaching myself new Actionscript tricks, and trying to pretend I'm not here to deal with the daily junk.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The White Savage - Trumpet in the Land.
In keeping with the past five year's tradition, we took in another historic play this summer. And boy did we have to drive. :-;. One county over for this one, and a great job they did!

If one man's life could capture the complexity of an age, Simon Girty is it. His is a fascinating story of fickle history.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Going for Cheap: India’s $35 Computer - Digits - WSJ
I know I'm not the brightest guy in the world. But thank God I'm not a journalism graduate.

So, variants of the above article have been running all over the Internet, newsrooms, and blogoshpere this week. India has a $35 computer. Great!

Except that they don't, probably won't anytime soon, and likely shouldn't anyway. Shouldn't? Yep, they shouldn't. Yet don't expect any of our journalism corps to ask where, when, how, or why.

Here's my questions, the one our journalist friends won't ask:

Does a $35 computer leaves anything for the family of the person producing said computer? Should it? Consider: a $35 coffee maker is complicated enough to make. It has a case, a coil, and one electronic chip–the clock.

A computer, though, must have dozens of chips. Those chips are in turn constructed from gallium-arsenide and silicon and copper and gold and all sorts of minerals which must be pulled from the ground by men who put their lives at risk. Men who have families to feed, house, and educate.

Those minerals must be refined and shipped by smelters and truckers and longshoremen with families. The minerals must be grown into wafers, the other material deposited on them, then etched away in various long, complex processes. The chips themselves must be packaged; motherboards must be built to host the system; the lot all packaged.

Each of these processes requires intensely complicated machines; machines again designed, built, and operated by people with families to feed, house and educate. Likewise the display units have their own unique chain of families to support.

Add in all the supporting cast–the shippers who deliver the computer first to India itself, then to the remote areas of that vast nation, the accountants who make sure the miners and technicians and shippers are paid, the support staff who deal with firmware revisions, … that’s a long way to drag out $35!!!

What about these families; the children of all these workers?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rails 3 RC is out!
OK, this may not excite all readers here; its a bit on the technical end of things. But it is a long-awaited moment.

You see, we were promised Rails 3 like this winter. And it was to change everything. Turns out, the beta did change much, and it wasn't clear what all would work and stay. Hence the waiting on the Release Candidate.

To add to the suspense, the principles promised the first week on 8 June that the RC would come that week!

Riding Rails: Rails 3.0: Release candidate! has the last of the story. Hopefully the tutorial writers will be updating and releasing their works as well.

Mine is installed. Time to build an app from 3!

Monday, July 19, 2010

CK12.ORG - FlexBooks, edu 2.0, and the future of Education platforms.
Wednesday brought an Elluminate show with Neeru Khosla, leader of ck-12. ck-12 has done some amazing work the past three years in building open k-12 textbooks.

Amazingly coincidentally (maybe not), Steve Hargadon the next night interviewed Graham Glass, founder of edu2.0.

Both of these principles spoke of their vision of the future of online, tech-enhanced learning. Giving hope is what they have done so far, in such a small amount of time. Both efforts are under three years old, yet have very large and significant user bases. That would be amazing if they were simple web apps, but each is much more than that. Each is a robust, rich platform with a deep community and process built up around it.

Graham gives an example of what has changed to make this possible. One, cloud computing, lets him do remarkable things with little cash and time outlay for server assets. A second, Ruby-on-rails, lets him develop software at a fraction of the effort, time, and cost. The figure he uses is
  • Blackboard Moodle, the competing, locally installed, learning management platform, took 1.5 million lines of code.
  • edu2.0, with additional community features, and published api's for add-ons, took only 40,000 lines of code.
That's a huge difference in time and money to bring a platform forward.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Europe Map Puzzle

Europe Map Puzzle
Maybe I'm not seeing enough, but this is one of the better learning aides I've seen! Simple, yet productive. Action.

What would I want with it? A wee bit of sound. Some hints, dealing with historic events. Maybe some people?

There's also map puzzles for around the world.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Can you name the historical figures from Tweets they might have sent? - sporcle
A hilarious example of combining a trendy tech with learning. The graphic style may not look like much, but the functionality of the page is actually way above average.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Can you name the countries of Europe? - sporcle
OK, I didn't do so good. But this is a pretty good interactive!
There are lots more Sporcles, some better than others. How do you do?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Skill of Describing, SmArtHistory, a multimedia web-book about art

Wandering through SmArtHistory again, found a few introductory videos, including this, The Skill of Describing
Thinking back to mine own education, can't remember anyone really describing a work of art, let alone describing the skill of describing! (We did make it to the National Art Gallery by HS, so maybe it happened there).

What I'm wondering today is, surely this site would make at least a quarter's credit for any and every HS student in the nation. How, though, to evaluate? This beautiful and rich site has so much--and yet, a teacher has to assess somehow. Write their own?

If anyone has seen assessments based on SmArtHistory, We'd love to see them!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mr. Roughton's Class 2.0
Can't tell if this is a trend yet. Having grown up gamers themselves, many teachers are turning to gameplay for help in reaching their students. As we've documented here, this can be hit and miss as far as covering any particular content.

The next step to some teachers is to make the entire class a game. Rather than waiting each week for the assgnments to be announced on Monday, with all work done or else by Friday, teachers are allowing students to accumulate points in different manners and times.

We'll look at this more later. For now, have a look 'round Mr. Roughton's digital classroom, check out some of his resources, and see how he assigns/offers lessons and grants points.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Online history lessons - history and ICT -
It's been awhile since we looked around Those who have been around the digital History frontier know it's one of the oldies. Fling the Teacher goes way, way back. They've modified it a bit. (Of course students can "skin" their chosen teacher.) Some 2665 questions on 68 possible topics are available.

Another eight game types are available, including Hangman, Noughts and Crosses and Hoopshoot. I like Walk the Plank. In all, some 6500 questions on 235 topics are available.

And that's not all to!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

learninreturn | Robotics
Learninreturn offers nice lessons relating to real science and engineering projects. I know as a hs student, the most memorable work I did was a simple term paper on what here in the boondocks seemed science fiction, stuff that was actually out of the labs and into the field.

The interactive and assessment part runs more in the worksheet vein, though it is online. Still, cool content...if it inspires to do the hard work of science discipline and math.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Ben Robinson on Prezi
Have you seen Prezi?! Think of a presentation where you guide the audience around a whiteboard, focusing in here and there.

It's a free service for the basic web-based creator; more if you want extras, or a desktop-based editor.

Here's a very nice example. There's a video embedded, too. (You can add Flash swf's).

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Astronomers challenge - Mesopotamia!
This challenge from the British Museum accompanies a number of interactives on Assyria, Babylonia, and Sumer. Haven't got to play in depth yet, but my they are gorgeous.

Another is Trading Places: 'Your relations are all merchants and they want you to learn their trade. You will work for three different people, buying goods from other merchants in Anatolia, Dilmun and Susa. Your challenge is to be as good a merchant as possible.'

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

C-Span Puts Its Full Archives on the Web -
Do you ever step back and think how unexpected all this was? Even those of us who dreamed of a network that connected us all and provided us books and article--could any of us have expected in 2010 instant access to full video like this?

Monday, February 08, 2010

@TimeGlider :: World War I (source: Wikipedia)
Another timeline app is Timeglider. Timeglider seems to show you few actual timelines, the purpose is more to create your own? Not sure yet why they don't publish more.

I point you here to the World War 1 timeline. As you can see, there's a bit of sensory overload here. Which tends to be the problem with many of these. The authors just can't stop! You'll recall HyperHistory, which is now much improved, yet which long suffered the same problem.

Timeglider says it has 12,000 users. They show 4 timelines. Are you a user? What's yours look like?
We talk much of timelines and this was presented to me as a timeline app; it's byline is "Time Captured". A quick exploration shows it to be more of a narrated presentation engine. Much of the content reminds one of TV: much self congratulation and omphaloskepsis.

Yet consider Paul Revere's Ride, a reading of Longfellow's The Midnight Ride.... Every student should have heard this poem professionally read, and what a way to do it, with beautiful pictures and maps of the era all available for exploration.

There's a History section, to help get away from the more personal uses. Yu still get James Bond Movie Posters, Helmut Newton, and 2009 Dodge Challenger. Still, 75 Years of the Popemobile perhaps has potential to draw in a young man interested in cars to some connection with the 2000 year old papacy?

Black Death quickly shows learners a map of the plague's spread; the dead, the dead rats, and a contemporary sketch of the ill, with the body parts appropriately censored as the age demanded.

Capsules can be a platform for students to roll their own, and sports a few good themes. Meta-app for showcasing the richer content, anyone?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Movie Theater in My Bedroom
"I have like this moovie theater in my bedrooom. I got like the surround sound all set up. Its really cool.

"My Dad's always tryin to one-up me though. Like he has a 65" screen. And I have a hundred inch screen. But now he's tryin to get better than me."

I wouldn't object so much if this were a 23yr old bio-engineer or financial analyst.

The offended party is a teen working at Einstein's bagel, talking about her room in Dad's house.

How do you educate such a youth?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Last night was a live webinar with Steve Hargadon and James Paul Gee on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy. (Recording to be published).

We've mentioned Gee's books here before, and it was interesting to hear him speak at this later date to a new audience. I didn't feel I learned much, nor did I feel that he convincingly reinforced what I thought I knew. Instead, I felt the opposite, a desire to push against gaming as learning.

Maybe it was Tuesday's Frontline: Digital Nation. Maybe it was because he had no convincing examples.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Ruh-ro. Blogger says they're going to suspend FTP service, which is how this blog works. Yet another fun computer productivity loss!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Primary Games Arena - School Curriculum Games
Don't think we've highlighted this set of games for children. They're Flash based, and cover all the subjects. You can select by grades: 1-6. Also, a few teachers games, like Captain Broadband, designed to guide teachers on Internet safety.

If you have a way to access the journal Computers in Schools, Google Scholar indicates that several articles mention it. Would be great to see some paralytics on these things.