Monday, January 23, 2006

Global Communications

As most of you know, Capuchino has been awarded Specialized Secondary Program Grant to create a Global Communications Pathway. The basic premise of the program is to integrate technology tools into students personal and educational repertoire and better prepare them for the world they will face when they graduate from Capuchino High School. Students would start in the 9th grade year taking a 'Global Communications' course. This course would be broken down into four areas (Basic Skills, Evaluation Skills, Communication Skills and Collaboration Skills) and will be used to assist students to become better consumers of the media and content they have access to on a daily basis. Students are already consuming the media at an ever increasing rate as a recent New York Times article points out. Why do students need Global Communications skills? The current New York Times best seller, 'The World is Flat,' outlines 10 'flatteners' that allow anyone from any place in the world to act like they are part of the biggest multinational corporation. This book has become so popular, that many Silicon Valley companies (Google and HP) are giving it away at their corporate events.

The students we teach have grown up with technology tools and adapt to new technologies easier than many teachers, who have recently learned to use many of these tools. (Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants) A recent USA Today article states that students are embracing the technology available to them, but don't apply the skills they have to school or work in a meaningful way. Just look at how many students have iPods or are trying to sneak onto 'MySpace,' but aren't able to cite their sources or format their papers correctly. During our faculty meeting we showed some students 'MySpace' sites and even some that students had created for teachers, but do the adults involved in a student's life really know what is posted on 'MySpace?' Instead of banning students from using certain web sites, as teachers we should be modeling the appropriate use of the technology tools available. One of the skills we should be teaching students is how to find and evaluate information on the Internet. Students using new technology tools to connect with friends and family are more likely to maintain and sustain meaningful relationships than those students who do not use these tools.

Apple is now expanding iTunes into the college market as a way for professors to post the material covered in class online in the form of 'podcasts.' K-12 classrooms are also getting into the podcasting scene, with students using iPods to listen to discussions or create their own 'radio' shows to post on the Internet for their classmates and parents.

Why are we doing this? Because for students to be successful after they leave high school they must have skills that allow them to function in the society of tomorrow effectively. Unfortunately, many students in college don't have some of the basic skills they will need as adults.

In the next few weeks you will start to hear more and more about the Global Communications program and we hope that you will give us input as how to improve what skills we are teaching and how we can best support all of our students. To illustrate what the possibilities are I am posting a link to a video. It was posted here before, but I think it really crystallizes the challenges that are ahead for teachers and students.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Getting across the "Divide."

There have already been many times on this blog, where the issue of the Digital Divide has come up and a variety of possible ways it can be dealt with. When speaking about the Digital Divide, there is really two issues to deal with; the first is a hardware issue and the second is a access issue. Great strides have been made on both of these fronts over the past year and presently, we are at a time when you can almost touch the other side. So, where are we at?

Previously on this blog there has been mention of free Wi-Fi access in many cities close to Capuchino. San Francisco, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Santa Clara will have some form of free Wi-Fi within the next year. In the past there was mention of the 'technological hurdles' that needed to be cleared for broadbased metropolitan Wi-Fi access, that isn't the case any more. The hurdles that need to be cleared now are definitely political and not technical. There are many small towns looking at creating their own high-speed fiber optic network. Some of the reasons are comical; like in Keene, NH, or economic; like South Dakota or Indiana. Some major cities believe that they must provide free and open Wi-Fi to truly be considered a 'TechCity.' There are even grassroots efforts to get people that have broadband access in their home to allow neighbors to share their connection with neighbors. In an attempt to keep market share, AT&T, formerly SBC, is offering a DSL line for $14.95 a month. There are also several dial-up connection companies providing access for $5.50 for the first three months and $11 a month after the trial period. With all of these things going on, one would believe that having access to a high bandwidth connection for anyone who really wants it is a reality.

The Internet access part of the equation is becoming a non-issue for anyone serious about having it. So, how do we solve the second part of the equation, getting hardware and software into the hands of students. Hardware is continually coming down in price, even some components that consumers were paying a premium for just a few months earlier. Hard drives, which once cost over $10 per Gigabyte, are now below $1 per Gigabyte. Most applications available today will run well on computer systems that are considered average or even a little on the slow side. The reality of the situation is that new computer systems that will run any application necessary for students to fully engage themselves into the content on the Internet can be built for less than $150 in parts. Add a surplus monitor, which are available for $5 - $10 and the student has a conduit to all of the information any of his classmates would have. We are also getting donations of computers form many different sources, including ROP, which the students in the Technology Arts classes can refurbish and give to students.

What about the operating system and software? Many of these computers will run better on some form Linux, (Free!) then they would in Windows. (See previous entry on Google rumor!) And many of the newer forms of Linux look and operate just like Windows. The step in this process that has improved greatly over the past 6 months is the huge increase in free software applications available to students. Google created their own 'Pack' of applications. There have been others, including one from 'Life Hacker.' These groupings of applications give any student access to all of the the tools necessary to become part of the 'Digital World.'

Now, there is no excuse... by early April, the Technology Arts students should have some computers to begin to give to students that do not have access to one at home.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Plagiarism...Education and verification

Over the past year cheating and plagiarism has been an issue on campus. We have started to use '' for formal papers turned in by students and in speaking to one of the Freshman English teachers, the plagiarism on the research paper for the first semester was higher than it had been in amy previous year. Currently, there is a group of teachers working on a comprehensive policy to address some of the issues surrounding cheating and plagiarism. In that vein, there are many resources on the Internet to assist teachers in identifying plagiarism and educating students on the appropriate citing of sources and search strategies.

For the most part, the initial Internet policy comes from the District level. TechLearning has an article of how three different school districts handle these issues. Other articles emphasize the role of educating students about copyright.

Why we have to use technology in our classrooms...

Several posts on this blog have been about different things teachers can do to integrate technology into their classroom. The question that most teachers ask is: Why should I do this? It is going to create more work for me. The thing with integrating technology into your classroom is that it takes a little longer to create new content for your class, but you get all of the extra time you spent back by making grading and collecting student work easier. So, why do you need to integrate technology into your classroom? Because that is the medium the students you teach are already using and will continue to use to communicate with each other. Besides what you see everyday on campus with students using their cell phones and MP3 players, what other evidence is there that students are using technology to communicate, invent and innovate? Here are a few references from the past few weeks showing how much students use the technology available to them.

More than half of all teenagers that use the Internet have created content, which could be a blog, podcast or web page. A USA Today article shows that many teenagers are using 'MySpace' to create their online content, currently there are 47 million 'MySpace' accounts leading Rupert Murdoch to buy the site for $580 million. Having seen all of these accounts around school and attempting to limit their use on campus, we find ourselves in a dilemma. Parents are also facing these same issues with their children. 'MySpace' and its college counterpart, '' have caught the attention of law enforcement officials. Colleges and Local police are using teen blogs to assist them in solving crimes. As you might expect, there are plenty of people using 'MySpace' to hide their identity and prey on teenagers that hang out there. Well, the teenagers turned the tables on one man. He claimed to be distant British royalty and teenagers who saw this blog, used other online tools to discredit him and report him to the police. Another story discredited a reporter from Hawaii, who was using parts of wikipedia in his articles without crediting the online encyclopedia. (Honolulu Star Bulletin apology to readers.)

Besides blogs, there are many other activities high school aged students are engaging in online. Many high school and college students would like to take more classes online. Some teachers are recording lectures and publishing them online in the form of podcasts. This allows students to review material in the teacher's own words prior to tests and allows students missing class to make up work without burdening the teacher.

Wiki's are another form of online collaboration where students create one document drawing from the work of all members of the group. You can use this in class with a small group of 3-4 or have a 'wiki-book' for your class. There are also open 'wiki-projects' that high school students can participate in. Since every change in a wiki is logged and archived, teachers can see who is contributing to the project and who hasn't. There are many free 'wiki' hosting services that you can create your own account for your classes. We can even host our own wiki on the Capuchino web site if there is enough interest.

If you have any questions or ideas you would like to put into action, please contact either Kyle or Dom.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Google... Where are they going and how does it effect the classroom?

Over the past few years, Google has increased its influence over the computing habits of most people. This influence has been extended in several different areas. There were rumors that Google was going to build their own PC and use Wal-Mart to market and sell it. (read previous blog post.) These rumors turned out to be unfounded, but what Google has done has extended into three major areas. The first initiative has been to create an online video library, allowing television networks and NBA to sell content to individuals. Secondly, Google has created the 'Google Pack' of free open source software for individuals to use. In this same vein, there are rumors that Google will launch an open source operating system (like Linux) and Office productivity suite (like Microsoft Office). Thirdly, Google has launched several municipal Wi-Fi initiatives that will provide free access to the Internet. The net effect of all of these initiatives would be to create an opportunity that would allow someone to purchase a low cost PC ($150) and have access to a wealth of media.

How can Google do all of this and still make money? Targeted advertizing in the margins and headers allows Google to create a strong and sustainable funding stream. The tool they use to do this is called 'AdSense.' Last year it is estimated that Google made $3,2 billion and will make more in 2006. They are in direct competition with eBay and Amazon over online retailing and increased their share of that business by 28% in 2005. They have launched a new service called 'Google Base' that competes with 'Craig's List' and their co-founder, Larry Page, has made it his goal to 'change the world.' So, there isn't a worry that Google will instantly dissappear. News organizations world-wide seem to feel threatened by Google, with both the BBC's "The World According to Google" and an ABC News feature report having been released in the past week, which you can see by clicking on the links. Google is also in the middle of a fight with the U.S. government over records.

The question that most of you are asking is: How does this effect me in the classroom?

Google has done more over the last year to make the content over the Internet accessible to you and your students. The issue of the Digital Divide has to be addressed in some meaningful way and Google has been a leader in this area. (See previous posts regarding municipal Wi-Fi.) Taking into account the applications listed above and Google's efforts in municipal Wi-Fi, most teacher's can feel confident that 70% of their students have access to these tools and the number of students that will have access will continue to increase over the next few years. Within the next three years, the number of students that will have computers and access to the Internet at home will increase to close to 90%. (See Recent Municipal Wi-Fi Post) This will allow teachers to become more connected to their students in ways that enhance the classroom experience, not detract from it. Capuchino teachers have had "School Loop" for the past year, and many have used it well, but we are still scratching the surface of the potential uses for School Loop and other educational technology tools. On the other hand, students have already embraced many tools that have potential educational uses. (iPods and Blogs-MySpace) One of the things we must recognize is that teachers are 'digital immigrants' and students are 'digital natives.' A recent study stated that teenagers are much more optimistic about innovation than adults and there is a growing number of students who prefer to take distance learning classes over being in the classroom.

Our job as teachers is to model the appropriate and ethical use of technology, encouraging students to become inventive and innovative. Gone are the days where teachers had complete control over the activities that students engage in to complete the assignments they have in class. We are moving in that direction, think back to 6 years ago and the amount of technology that was part of your classroom on a daily basis? How has it changed? Fifty-nine percent of teachers would consider using games as an aid to student learning. Because of these factors teachers, eventhough they are content masters, must become guides for each student's journey to their own education.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Stuff ... iPods and Simulations

Every year there seems to be some new electronics device that students have received as Christmas gifts that appear on our campus when we return from the Winter Break. This year is no exception. MP3 players (iPod / iPodNano / ZenMicro) have been popular for several years. Each year the devices become smaller and more advanced. Currently, there are smaller and smaller MP3 players, smaller micro (Thumb) drives with greater capacity, and a convergence of devices that were tradionally separate.

The iPod Nano and Video iPod were big sellers this year, one of the advantages of these devices is that you can record an audio or video stream post it on the web and have students subscribe through an RSS feed. (Podcasting) Many of the major broadcast television networks are allowing users to purchase the current episodes of hit shows, two to three days after they initially air for .99.

Some of the advancements in hard or flash drive technology include drives that have a 5GB capacity and are the size of a silver dollar and can hang on your belt loop. Other flash drives have a 256MB capacity and double as a bracelet, just like the one's that many students are wearing for certain causes these days.

Skype is a tool that you can use to make phone calls free over the Internet. Now, version 2.0 has just been released. Skype version 2.o allows you to create a video conference between your class and anyone around the world. Imagine connecting with another class in Europe or Asia and discussing historical events, interpretation of literature or conversing in each other's language.

Create your own Country.... Establish your democracy, autocracy or oligarchy. Create your own monitary system and control the foreign policy and make allies and enemies. allows you to do all of the above.

As mentioned in a previous post, there is an AJAX tool that will translate any typed passage for you as you type it in your native language. Now, there is a translation tool available for Yahoo Messenger.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Guerrilla Journalism and Fun Stuff

Has journalism changed over the past few years? Some would say that with blogs, like this one, there is a greater access to information and that it allows more people to read and comment on what is going on publically. Some of the top breaking news stories are now being reported by what are called 'Guerrilla Journalists.' Now, anyone with a notepad, laptop and a camera phone can be a reporter and have their accounts of events blasted all over the Internet and in many times picked up by reputable news agencies. And now the trend is actually flowing back the other way... Many of the big media agencies: Television networks, large newspapers and magazines have too much content to use in their regular editions and are posting blogs, podcasts and live video on their websites.

Want to talk to anyone in the country over your computer for free and use an interface that shows you their location using Google Maps? Kinda cool - Skype and Mapping There is also a site that uses Google Maps to show the location of open webcams from around the world. Find the area you want to see and narrow your search.

Theater hopping... Here's a site that will make it a little more interesting....

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bridging the Digital Divide

I know one of the issues that many educators deal with when looking at Technology as a way to deliver content to students is the equity and access issue, otherwise known as the Digital Divide. In some school districts (Palo Alto, Fullerton and San Diego), the district required students in certain schools to purchase laptops with their own resources. When talking about the Digital Divide, there are two pieces to the puzzle. The first being the Hardware / Software issue. How can we provide the actual computer, operating system and software for students. This issue has been mitigated to a certain extent. In any of our computer repair classes, we can build a computer, load an operating system (Linux) and open source software for less than $150 each. We can defray these costs through community donations and in-kind donations. MIT is currently working on a laptop that would cost $100 to produce. Rumors are flying around that Google is currently in negotiations with Wal-Mart to produce and market a low cost PC for those people who do not have access. Both Google and Wal-Mart deny that they are in the works to do this.

The other issue is access to the Internet. Having a laptop allows those users to gain access to the Internet through wireless hotspots. (Every library in San Mateo County has a wireless hotspot!) There are plenty of web sites that list free and pay for time wireless hot spots. (Boston's Logan Airport had free Wi-Fi, until some companies got upset!) Google and other companies are in the process of creating metropolitan free Wi-Fi zones. (Tempe, AZ - Wi-Fi Program) Google is in the process of providing free Wi-Fi to the entire city of Mountain View and MetroFi is doing the same in Sunnyvale. There are also plans to provide free Wi-Fi for all of downtown San Francisco.

Free Resources and Training

Want to brush up on your or learn new tech skills any time 24/7? There are plenty of free tutorials on the Internet.

First place to look is at the Capuchino Online Learning Community Page. The Capuchino OLC page will give you plenty of references for the things we have available at Capuchino and links to other resources on other pages.

Hewlett-Packard has established free tutorials for anyone to use. They focus on basic Microsoft Office Skills and other business applications, but they are there for anyone to use.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Cool Tools ....

At the present time there is a new revolution going on out on the Internet.

There are blogs, which this is one of, where you can subscribe to different news feeds, most of the time referred to as RSS feeds. I know as a Social Science teacher, there were times that I found an article that I wanted to use with my class that day or within the next week and had to go through the trouble of cutting the article out, pasting it on a piece of paper and taking it down to the copy room to have a class set made. Those days are over! If you create your own blog, and subcribe to several different news feeds you can post a link to any article or web page on the Internet on your blog. You can also post multiple pages or articles that support opposing views. There are plenty of free blogging tools on the Internet, including this one (Blogger). If you want a blogging tool that you can use for students or have students use to create their own blogs, try one of the following: Blogmeister, Learnerblogs, Edublogs. If you want to learn how to use blogs, send an e-mail to either Dom or Kyle.

There is free software everyplace... From Office productivity tools that have word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools (Open Office) that are completely interoperable with Microsoft Office. There are sites that are dedicated to online calendars and desktops. The coolest one out there is: Goowy. There are also sites that specialize in FREE software of all kinds, including 'tucows.' (Thanks, Bill!)

The other major development is that there is software applications that are designed to be run through a web browser at no cost to the user. Can computer users survive using nothing but open source software? Ever have a parent that speaks a language that you don't? Use the online translator.

Distance Learning Materials and Ideas

As most of us have heard over the past several years, there has been a movement toward 'Distance Learning.' Distance Learning is the use of some media to deliver content to students away from the traditional school setting. There has been Distance Learning courses for over 30 years. Most of us can remember the 'TV' courses that started in the 1970's, where students would watch the class content on a television at home and report to class for tests or to turn in assignments. Distance Learning using the Internet as the delivery medium has several advantages over older Distance Learning programs. Almost any type of activity that you can use in your regular face to face (F2F) class, you can adapt for use over the Internet. Delivering content over the Internet is going to get easier and easier as time goes by. Most of the text and still image based tools are already available (e-mail, assignments, calendars, document posting, digital lockers, etc.) to you via School Loop. As time goes by we will have many other tools available to you, including: podcasting and Breeze. Teaching with iPods.