Archive for March, 2007

Link: Update on CBS News

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Update on CBS News (Via Dave McDivitt.) I’m not sure if the CBS story on Dave McDivitt’s use of video games in his classroom has aired yet, but the story is available online.

Link: Using Google documents

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Using Google documents (Via Bill Mackenty.) Bill Mackenty is still sharing the how-to documents he is creating for the staff at his site. Here he shares 10 pages (with illustrations) about Google Documents, a tool for collaborative online word processing.

Link: The Ethics Game – A Universal Language for Gaming?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

The Ethics Game – A Universal Language for Gaming? (Via Academic Gamers.) The game itself is in Thai, but the concept (which is in keeping with Steven Johnson’s ideas about the value of video games) is not lost in translation: “teaching ethics through a video game is perfectly logical since a game can be used to model decisions and consequences.”

Professional Development: Training, Planning, and Sharing

Monday, March 19th, 2007

On Wednesday I was once again at the Laguna Beach Unified School District to work with teachers involved in their Tablet PC pilot program. I found the experience worth reflecting on for three reasons.

First, like the Palm Springs Tech Plan, this project has been an opportunity for me to use a wiki for collaboration over a longer period of time (as opposed to in support of a specific workshop). You can find the agendas, links, and session notes from each of our workshops and sharing sessions at

Given the shortage of “Tablet PC in Education” resources I found prior to beginning this project, I want to be sure as many people know about this wiki as possible – so that others might benefit from it, and so that we might benefit from their contributions. Unfortunately, like many of the wikis I use for workshops, this one has been largely created and maintained by me. Partly, though, this is because we are meeting face-to-face every month and I want to take advantage of that opportunity rather than forcing the use of an online tool. Still, the running record of our work together (especially the PDF notes of our sessions) is something I appreciate. If you have any suggestions for improving this resource (or its use), please leave a comment here – or at the wiki.

Second, I think it is noteworthy that when Victor Guthrie, the technology director at the district, ordered the workshops, he did not order a hands-on training for each session. He asked for every other session to be a shorter “sharing session” during which the participants would share challenges and best practices. The value of this has been apparent at each of our three sharing sessions. Victor and his staff have been able to be more responsive to the teacher’s needs, and innovations have had an opportunity to propagate between classrooms and even between sites. I’ve been amazed at how many problems were solved merely by one teacher bringing up an issue, and another responding right away “oh, just do X.” At this point I think the notes from these sessions are probably the most powerful product of the program (and the best information available at the wiki, even if some of it is in my chicken-scratch handwriting). The interesting thing is, we could have used even more of this SHARING time. The teachers are still requesting more time to absorb and apply the things they have learned.

So the third thing that made last week’s meeting blog-worthy for me was that when we discussed the topic for the final three-hour hands-on workshop scheduled for next month, the participants asked not for more training, but for time to develop lessons and units using what they’ve already learned this year (and admittedly we’ve thrown a lot at them during the first three workshops). This is the first time I’ll be formally facilitating a “lesson planning” session (though I’ve done “hybrid” workshops in which participants were trained and then had time to create). As I’ve begun thinking about how to best structure the session, I’ve realized this might be a formula that would make a good professional development rule of thumb: training, sharing, and planing.

What if when preparing professional development we planned to spend only a third of our time on training, a third on sharing, and a third on planning? This could work for planning a series of workshops, or for planning a particular workshop.
Maybe the elements should not necessarily be in that order. Perhaps it should be: Training, Planning, and Sharing.

In any case, the Laguna Beach teachers not in the pilot program (and teachers in other districts, for that matter) are also often asking for repeat workshops or part II workshops or simple lesson planning time… for topics such as blogging and podcasting, for example. Perhaps the next time I book a series of workshops will be an opportunity to apply this new rule of thumb.

The wiki, of course, would seem to fall under the “sharing” part of the plan, but could really be used to facilitate all three of these elements.

I look forward to trying this out. In the meantime, if any of you have any comments, I’d love to hear from you. :)

Friday Links: Internet Safety

Friday, March 16th, 2007

In keeping with my efforts to try something new with this blog, I post-dated a new entry for each day this week, Monday through Friday. Though I haven’t made the time yet to really catch up in reading my RSS feeds (I have about 2800 unread items at this point), I did manage to post a few new link posts this week, too. The third part of the new plan is to offer a collection of links each Friday, the purpose being to post some of the links that never got out of draft form as individual posts. Some go back more than a year!

At any rate, because I am making a presentation about Internet Awareness, Safety, and Ethics to the Orange County District Technology Leaders (DTL) meeting on Monday morning, I am beginning with my Internet Safety category today, which also has the added benefit of being a relatively small category in my list of drafts.

Some of the links are very old… others were already dead, and they are not included. Still, I hope they wills serve as resources for others as they have for me.

So, here they are… one dozen internet safety links (in chronological order):

  1. Filters and student decision-making (Via Moving at the Speed of Creativity.) On March 14th of last year, Wes Freyer addressed the importance of digital citizenship in the face of Internet safety fears.
  2. Don’t Talk to Invisible Strangers – ANNA BAHNEY, New York Times (Via Educational Technology.) This brief article from March 15th of last year focuses on the sort of fear-mongering presentation I want to avoid. This is why the presentations I do focus on the benefits of the social web first. :)
  3. A VC: MySpace Musings (Via David Brussin.) My friend David Brussin sent me a link to these musings on danah boyd’s work last March 18th.
  4. Password protection for your feed? (Via Teach42) On March 20th 2006, Steve Dembo posted about password protecting an RSS feed, which you might do to protect student information that is syndicated online.
  5. Article: News – MySpace spoofs irk school officials (Via Furl – The rcraven Archive.) Robert Craven linked to this local example last March 24th.
  6. Filter your feeds with Feed Rinse (Via Lifehacker.) Something like Feed Rinse might be used to filter inappropriate material out of student or teacher RSS feeds. This was also posted on March 24, 2006.
  7. Greenhill School: Technology Information: “An Internet safety presentation delivered to upper school parents at Greenhill School. The presentation was delivered on March 27th, 2006 by Chris Bigenho- Director of Educational Technology at Greenhill. All audio files are mp3 format and the slides are provided in pdf and PowerPoint formats. There were 3 video clips used in the presentation. Two of these can be found on the parent resource page and were part of a series produced by Dateline NBC.”
  8. My Space and Our Space (Via Weblogg-ed News: The Read/Write Web in the Classroom.) Will Richardson quotes social networking expert danah boyd: “‘Support people in learning how to negotiate it.’ What a concept.”
  9. An Alternative to DOPA (Via 2 Cents Worth.) A post by David Warlick back on 08/09/06 focusing on the Adam Walsh act.
  10. Student Thoughts on The Danger of MySpace (Via Gary Bertoia.) Who better to go to then the real experts… students. (12/05/06)
  11. Greatest Challenge (Via 2 Cents Worth.) The comments in this more recent (01/24/07) Warlick post are the valuable part. He poses the question: ““What is your greatest challenge in teaching appropriate, ethical use of web-based media to your students?”
  12. Internet Safety Videos (Via Computer Science Teacher – Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson.) Posted on 08/25/2006: “The web site is a joint effort of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. They have a number of excellent videos on cyberbullying and the risks of strangers children can meet online. Most of the videos also have activity cards (often different ones for middle school and high school students), links to related news articles and other supporting resources. These are easily used as part of a curriculum to teach students about safe and responsible behavior on the Internet.”

Enjoy. And please feel free to offer reactions (or additional resources) in the comments.

Collaborative Tech Planning With A Wiki (Or: It’s A Plan, Not a Commitment)

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

On Tuesday night I presented a new educational technology plan to the school board of the Palm Springs Unified School District. The board was gracious enough to give me 15 minutes to present, several of the planning committee members were in attendance to show their support (including Dr. Lee Grafton who was my partner in leading the process and writing the plan), and the superintendent, Dr. Lorri McCune, was downright enthusiastic… so it was a positive experience for me and well worth the drive out there.

The plan is the result of a truly collaborative effort, and I think that is reflected in the length. My colleague Ranjit Mayadas in CTAP Region 9 told me months ago that a tech plan for the state doesn’t need to be more than 50 pages in length, but this one comes in at about 150 before appendixes. I really do feel sorry for his counterpart in Region 10, Jenny Thomas, who is reviewing the plan now. :)

Obviously, I was only able to touch on the highlights in my presentation, the things that made it stand out from other more formulaic plans. Check out the slides if you are interested. (Or read the two page executive summary.)

When I say that writing the plan was a collaborative effort, I actually mean we collaboratively authored the plan using… a wiki. Check it out at if you are interested. Each week we met in a computer lab (or with laptops) so anyone could read or edit the wiki at any time. Many of the edits were mine (or made with my account) as I led or facilitated discussions. You’ll see a lot of anonymous edits early on. Later, I password protected the site once the plan-in-progress was released to the press and the public. After that you’ll see edits by a user called pstechplan, which was shared by the entire committee. I focused on ease-of-use over security and accountability. (Of course, I backed it up after each meeting.)

Late in the process we ended up using the discussion feature to discuss changes without altering the text of the main wiki pages. In one of our final group editing sessions, the committee made 40 changes and posted 38 discussion questions in only 90 minutes. I was amazed… and thrilled that the collaborative tool was working even better than I’d hoped by that point. I was then able to make any necessary changes and respond to each concern in the discussion area. Finally, we moved the content into a word template and made the final changes.

It’s not groundbreaking or impressive if you dial into specific pages or posts on the wiki, but the process really was collaborative… and easy, so I thought I’d share it here. I really appreciate having months of work archived there, especially in the “More…” section.

One final thought that came up while I was preparing the slides for this evening’s presentation was the phrase, “It’s a plan, not a commitment.” I initially included it as the lead in to my explanation that the board could approve the plan (which called for an average spending of $5.2 million per year MORE than they are already spending) without fear that they would be held accountable for committing those funds. (Tech plans don’t have much teeth in California.) I realized this phrase really captured the reality of the plan, but it also made me realize that the key to making it work (in addition to keeping it a living document) will be making a continued and consistent commitment to the plan. Happily, Dr. McCune really took the lead on this during the discussion and I almost didn’t have to say another word. :)

She, and the board, seemed to latch onto another phrase I shared (after hearing Jackie Francoeur use it often)… “built it and they will come” or “plan it, and the money will come.” One board member called the $5.2 million a “funding opportunity.” The best part was that by the end of the discussion they were asking the superintendent how long it would be until all students had a laptop… and when one of her staff threw out the goal of five years, one of the board members said, “that’s too long.”

I can’t wait to see what happens there… and I hope some of you will share your tech planning successes (or nightmares) in the comments below, too. Is anyone else using web 2.0 or other collaboration tools to facilitate the process?

“Tips” for Ph.D. Students (Or Higher Education 2.0?)

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I’ve gotten a lot of email (and even a few comments) as a result of the things I’ve shared about Walden University on this blog… early on I was primarily sharing posts from my online classes that I repurposed here on the blog… then it become my KAMs (papers due before our dissertation), letters to prospective students, and answers to people’s questions. Now, Walden students in the dissertation stage who have the same faculty mentor are given an online “class” of their own in which to discuss issues related to our research, and more importantly, find a measure of camaraderie or fellowship. So, once again I can actually share posts from our discussion forums.

These might be most helpful for other doctoral students, but they may be interested to others of you because my experience might indicate some of the ways new technologies are effecting (or could effect) higher education. I’m including two recent posts including “tips” (if I’m in any position to offer tips) for my fellow students.

This first post is about the prospectus that precedes the dissertation, and really doesn’t concern technology at all:

Prospectus “Tips”I’m not sure this will be all that helpful to you [fellow student], but the most important thing is to have a clear idea what you want to study. Everything else flows quite easily from that. The particular method is the only really big decision left, and even that may be obvious once you’ve settled on a problem or research question to explore.

The other important thing to remember is that the prospectus is only a form to fill out at the very beginning of your research. It is not a matter of writing anything down in stone. Your final study and dissertation may wind up looking significantly different. The prospectus just gets you pointed in the right direction – and serves as a tool for recruiting your committee… as I understand it. ;)

For me, the prospectus was a relatively minor task. I had more or less been focused on a particular topic (video games in education) and research question (what are the potential uses of MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments?) for two years by the time I wrote the prospectus. (I settled on the topic by the end of my first year.) By the time I wrote the prospectus I had “nearly 80 theorists and more than 100 sources” identified as relevant to my study (and it’s much more than that now). I suspect this is excessive, but my point is that whatever has interested you so far can be a guide… and serve as the foundation of the prospectus – and the dissertation.

Good luck in any case!


This next one focuses on “tips” for conducting efficient research, and I was (strangely) surprised by what I found myself writing… it is all very different than spending a lot of time “in the stacks.” Is this higher education 2.0?

Research “Tips”Again, I’m not sure just how helpful this will all be, but here are a few of the things I have found valuable in my research…

1. I do as much research as possible online and in electronic format. For this reason I’m more than happy to pay $119/yr for a memebership to, an online library. You can search issues related to your topic prior to purchasing a membership, so there’s little risk of wasting your money. [This is in addition to the online databases Walden University pays for.]

2. I use an outliner. (In my case, I use OmniOutliner for Mac OS X.) One of the advantages of having digital resources is that I can cut and paste. So, I’ve been saving quotes right into the appropriate section of my outliner. Then, writing is just a matter of re-organizing these, weeding them down to the few I really need to make my points, and then “connecting the dots” with my writing. Supporting my points has not been a problem for me… though my writing has been a bit dry and “quote heavy” the last year or so.

3. I use RSS feeds. I subscribe to relevant blogs and news feeds, and I create RSS feeds from MSN, Google, and Technorati searches so that my computer is essentially researching for me 24-7 and the updates come to me in my aggregator. If you are researching something contemporary and/or cutting edge, which I suspect you all are in Ed Tech, well managed RSS feeds can be a valuable resource.

4. I write about my research on my own blog. I can’t believe I haven’t said this here before, but you could all benefit from this. I’ve been connected with more practitioners and experts in my field by blogging my research than I could ever hope by simply emailing it off to Jock [our advisor]. I actually know and correspond with many of the most influential authors I’ve been studying. More resources come to me because of what I share online than I can possibly tell you about here. I would not have had the same experience in this phd program without my blog. (Even without a blog, I would highly recommend making an effort to correspond with key authors and researchers… you are, after all, becoming an expert in your field, and there is a good chance they will be willing to help… and even a good chance you will earn their respect.)

Again, I don’t know how useful this “advice” will be for anyone else, but I hope it helps.


Any other graduate students out there have anything to add to this list of suggestions? Or any responses to them?

PS. I guess it’s high time I start a “higher education” category here. Done.

Blog Comment Misconduct and Teachable Moments (Again)

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Occasionally I get an email like the one below, and sometimes I write a response that I think is worth sharing here as well. I know this is not “news” in the world of edublogs, but I felt I articulated my response well and want to be able to refer to it later. I also hit on a humorous example from my own teaching experience. And, of course, maybe one (or some) of you will have better answers to this call for help.

At any rate, a colleague of mine, a district technology coordinator, recently forwarded me the following email from a teacher (with the subject line “I need your help”):

Hi [Technology Coordinator],I need you to help me with a blog problem. I have been using edublogs… [and] it has been going well until last week. One of my students was upset with another one because she thought she was prank calling her. She logged in as the other student and then said inappropriate stuff. We were able to trace it in the “Manage” section of the blog and match the IP address, so we knew who the student was. Unfortunately, there was a copycat who wanted in on this action. He/she did the same thing, but I can’t match the IP address. I tried in all 3 sixth grade classes. I’m in over my head here. Can we trace IP addresses? Should I just not use blogs? I need some tech help and some guidance.


My response addressed the technical issue only briefly (and here someone else may be able to suggest better tools), and then turned to what I think of as the teaching-heart of the problem:

Well, she can trace an IP address to a particular ISP by using tools like this one:, she can trace an IP to a particular city using tools like this one:

But without going to the police to get a warrant for the ISP’s DNS records, it would be tough (or near impossible) to sort out who it actually was… unless the ISP turned out to be the county or district (if it happened at school)… then by contacting the right people you could trace it to a particular computer at that date and time (if they have the necessary records).

All this is to say, no, she can’t trace it. And in any case it is far more important to treat this as a teachable moment and to handle it the same way she would a similar infraction in her classroom.

Imagine kids were writing on the board when her back was turned and blaming it on each other. Would she stop using chalk boards (or white boards)? At one point some of my sophomores used to say “word” whenever I turned by back (after I made the mistake of getting mad at one student for saying “word” all the time). I couldn’t tell who was doing it at any given time… and I didn’t have the option of, say, taking away the air in the room. The way she would handle this situation is how she should handle the blog situation. (Or perhaps its more analogous to vandalism that happens when other kids aren’t around to see it, but I think the point is clear.)

For my money, I’d say have an earnest conversation about it with the kids. Address the initial inappropriate response to the alleged prank calling, and the inappropriateness of the copy cat “crimes.” I think you can make students understand how “low” that is. A dose of guilt wouldn’t hurt and you can call them to something higher. Make sure they know that any further infractions will be deleted and ignored. Then delete and ignore any more copy cats. Why do you think they wanted “in on the action” – or rather, attention – in the first place? (You might later impose consequences for the class if it is still bothering you or other students too much.)

This is definitely what I would call an educational technology “and life” response to the question. I hope it helps and doesn’t come off to preachy. ;)


Any of you (particularly those of you who have dealt with this in your own classes) have anything to add to this?

Link: A conversation with Doug Belshaw – blogs

Monday, March 12th, 2007

A conversation with Doug Belshaw – blogs (Via Google News – Educational Technology.) Look what showed up my Google News feed this morning (and on my custom Google News page, it turns out)… a conversation with one of my favorite edubloggers, Doug Belshaw in the UK. I’m as behind on reading his blog as all my other subscriptions right now, but I took a moment to skim this article. Doug talks about his experience with blogging and his use of wikis with his students and for his own studies. I think the biggest gem in the article is this quote from Doug:

It’s easier to talk to others in the blogosphere than others at my school.

I also appreciated this sentiment from his interviewer, Stewart… it’s something I’ve often thought, especially with respect to my own online classes at Walden Univeristy – and something I’ve complained about there, but have never written about here:

my biggest gripe with traditional course management systems is they take a transient approach to content – it’s there for the term, but gone afterward which ruins the real long-term benefit of putting work online.

Feedback on the Wiki While You Work video

Monday, March 12th, 2007

I’ve gotten a surprising amount of positive feedback on the Wiki While You Work video I recorded for the k12onlineconference. However, I’ve also gotten some more critical feedback. The following email is one such example, and one I responded to in some detail, so I thought I’d share it here… in case anyone else felt the same way as the woman who emailed me, or in case anyone else is considering recording similar videos and sharing them… well, that and it just makes a good story.

Here is the email I received a few weeks ago (before the CUE conference):

Mark:I was assigned to facilitate the viewing of your video, Wiki While You Work, to three groups of teachers from our district during our annual technology conference tomorrow. After reviewing the video, I was in a panic! I would like to offer you some constructive criticism and hope that it will help you as you continue in your future endeavors:

  • My district technology personnel and I tried long and hard to adjust the audio to a level that could be heard through external speakers. We tried everything, it could not be done. Was there a problem with the audio for this video?
  • When the video shows a webpage, the webpage is blurred and can not be read. So a lot of the video is of poor quality and does not hold the viewers attention.
  • The two long sections where you interview your wife and the English teacher need work. The viewer needs to be able to see what you are viewing on the computers! It is very boring to sit and watch both of you view and talk about things you are viewing on your computers when we can’t see what you are talking about! Did the English teacher have a bird in the room? What was with the dog? Very unprofessional!
  • The video was way too long. The content could have been presented in a shorter video.
  • I am probably showing my age, 48, but I just would have been more impressed with a more professional environment in the video—not your personal bedroom, kitchen, friend’s living room, etc. Your attire (t-shirt and hat) and the background environment took away from the integrity of the content. Remember that your work will often be viewed in a professional environment!

The content is very informative, but the quality of the video makes it unsuitable for general educational audiences in my opinion. I have been working all day to try to figure out which parts I can show, which parts I need to try to share on my own, what else I can do keep my group engaged, etc. There is just no way that I can show the video as it is and expect our teachers to remain engaged for over an hour. What was supposed to be a “watch the video and facilitate a discussion” assignment for me has turned into an all day ordeal. I guess you sense my frustration.

You obviously have a bright future in the field of educational technology…I encourage you to consider the fact that your audiences will be varied in age, expertise, and location. Don’t let a poor quality product overshadow the excellent content you have to share!

Name Removed
Technology Teacher

These are all valid criticisms of the video, particularly with respect to the audio levels and the visual resolution… and here is my (hopefully appropriate and sympathetic) response:

Name Removed,Thanks for your feedback. I’m sorry to hear about your situation and I hope that you are able to find an interactive solution that works for you. I think demonstrating the use of a wiki (and any examples) yourself is ideal. Any of the other content from the video that you’d rather present or discuss would probably be better coming from a live person, too.At best I would only ever show the first five minutes or so of the video in a workshop situation myself. I’m sorry to hear that this means more work for you today. I cansympathize. I know technology teachers get last minute (and critical) projects dumped on them often.

In any case, I appreciate your criticisms and your willingness to share them with me. I generally present in a suit and tie when I lead a workshop, but this video (and the other two I did for the k12 online conference) were created for free (and in a very limited time) to support an online conference put together by my peers – an audience I hoped to reach in a more informal fashion. In length it was meant to take the place of a conference session rather than a more focused podcast. Sadly, the file size also had to be limited for this purpose and the visual quality is not what I would have hoped it would be. Still, I think it provides an opportunity for teachers interested in the topic to get exposure to real examples and real practitioners even when their own district is not providing a workshop. I’m happy to see the video finding a wider audience, and I’ve gotten some very positive feedback on it as well, but given that your district *is* providing a workshop, I don’t think the video is appropriate myself. ;)

Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you prepare for your presentation. I’m always happy to help if I can.


I suppose that by sharing these criticisms here, I’m making an effort at being transparent… then again, maybe I’m just interested in publicly explaining myself to anyone else who felt the same way. :)