YouTube Proves It

While I don’t post a lot (time, time, time), I do read all of the blogs found on the right side of this page (plus about 30 more not published).  I really try to at least track the “conversations” in education and educational technology.  Every couple weeks I also wander around YouTube a bit, just to see what the “people” are buzzing about for the moment.

A couple weeks ago I ran across this video of a student jumping from a balcony at his school onto a large Christmas tree.  I guess the kid was suspended or maybe even expelled for endangering his life and those around him (it was a crowded area with potential for injury).  I started reading the comments (which turned into a conversation about why there was even a Christmas tree at a public school).  Finally, I looked at the video comments (where people can respond to a video with videos of their own).  This video is an interview with the “jumper” featured in the original.  The interviewer asks if the infamous stunt was a political statement (it wasn’t) and then asks if he had a video sharing site in mind when he decided to make the plunge.  Guess what, he did.  He watches YouTube every night and wanted to be a participant.
What a perfect example of Web 2.0 through the eyes of a teenager.  Whenever I talk about Web 2.0 in one of my presentations or workshops I tell them the students are already using many of these technologies and if could just harness those skills and use them for good instead of evil (not really evil in the biblical sense of course), then we could really make some progress preparing our students for the world that awaits them.  As it is, most students have absolutely no guidance online.  No one telling them how to act appropriate, no one telling them how to act professionally.  What do have is stupid people tricks.

This video has been viewed over a million times and has over 6000 comments.  I think he got what he wanted and learned a life lesson that makes his school punishment irrelevant.  And over a million people think he’s the bomb.


Edublogs Awards

My APWH Wiki has been nominated as one of the best educational wikis for 2006. I am in amazing company – and really can’t compete with the likes of Vicki Davis and David Warlick.

The APWH wiki holds two projects I did with my AP World History classes last spring which I detailed in previous posts.

  • I talked about the AP World History Review Project here and here.
  • I talked about the Holocaust Wiki Project here.

My wiki is certainly modest in comparison, but (in an attempt of self promotion) it represents a couple project ideas that other teachers could realistically incorporate in their own classrooms. The other wikis in this category are generally bigger then life (which, don’t get me wrong, is amazing).

Anyway, if you would like to vote, you can click here.


YouTube Blocked? Cool Tool #1

If you haven’t been to YouTube, you should go check it out. It is an amazing site. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can now upload videos. As a result, a lot of questionable material has made its way on to the site. Not really anything TOO bad, but it has created enough controversy that many districts (including mine) block it through a filtering/censoring system. I have mixed feelings about blocking the Internet in K-12 schools, but I’ve seen some outlandish and fringe videos on YouTube.

By blocking YouTube we are eliminating another possible educational tool from our toolbelt. The ability for students to easily share school projects is lost (at school). Additionally, there are videos on YouTube that potentially could be used in an educational setting. It could be video clips from a television program, an expert discussing a specific topic, or maybe just some nice home movie footage of a place you are teaching about. What then?

Well, you have options. You should not bypass your school’s filter, nor will you probably successfully persuade your district to stop blocking the site (though you might want to try!). So what is a teacher to do?

One easy solution is to download the video at home and then bring it to school to show your students. There are a number of tools and web sites that can help you with this process.

Downloading the video

KeepVid and Oyoom are sites that will allow you to download the FLV (Flash video) file to your computer.

  1. Find the video you wish to download on YouTube.
  2. Select and copy the URL of the video you wish to download.
  3. Go to either KeepVid or Oyoom and paste the URL into the specified text box.
  4. Hit submit.

A simple process to acquire the video.

Playing the video

To play the video you have a couple options.

  1. You can download a player that supports FLV files (like this one). I’m sure there are several others out there. This one is free and it works on Mac OSX and Windows.
  2. Convert the FLV file to a Quicktime or WMV player for easier use. There are applications for both platforms that will do this for you, but in the spirit of Web 2.0 and free, I am suggesting two online conversion sites. Zamzar and Media-Covert allow you to upload the FLV file and select one of several output formats (including MPG and WMV). Larger videos will take some time because of the upload/download time involved. Now you can embed it into a PowerPoint (or Impress) presentation or just show it through the player. Reposting the video will probably conflict with the YouTube copyright agreement.

For more on this and for info on automatically taking a YouTube video and adding it to iTunes, see TechCrunch. For an interesting teacher perspective on YouTube in the classroom, read this post over at Education Wonks.
(Inspired by Dean Shareski’s post)

[tags]web2.0, youtube[/tags]

Why WordPress?

I recently made the switch from Blogger over to WordPress. This move has been planned for a long time, but I didn’t really find the time until a couple weeks ago. Based upon the comments and occasional e-mails I receive, I think my audience is blend of educational technologists and teachers with varied amounts of tech savvy-ness. So the rest of this is aimed at the teacher with some knowledge of blogging, but probably not the high end user.

While Blogger was great, I felt limited with the number of features. Even with Blogger-Beta there is still limited potential. WordPress can be as simple or complex as you want it. Use it as a simple blog or transform it to a content management system.

There are two ways you can use WordPress.

  1. Install it (or have it installed) on a server. By doing this you can have a specific domain name, but you have to have access to a MySQL control panel. The installation is pretty easy for the moderate techie, but if you have any doubts either have someone help you or go with option two. You can download it at
  2. You second choice is to set up a free hosted account at Like Blogger, you can have a blog set up in minutes. You can still upload images and documents with the hosted account and there are NO ads. Your address shows up as

Regardless of the option you select, you can import ALL of you posts and comments from most other types of blog engines (I brought over almost 200 posts and 400 comments). Once you have your account up, there is an import option in the administration section.

I’m going to go through a handful of the major features that distinguish WordPress from Blogger.


It seems like I always come across one of the five decent templates available from Blogger. If using the hosted WordPress account, there are some 60 templates to chose from. They are much more sophisticated, but still have a simplicity that is essential for a blog. If hosting yourself, then there hundreds to select from at (you just have to download them and then upload them to the templates folder).


This is one of the best features of WordPress. You can add “static” pages to your blog with information you don’t want to put in a regular post or to disappear into the archives. This feature allows you to make WordPress a simplified content management system. I will go into more detail about how to use WordPress as a classroom web site in a future post.


This blog is a smorgasbord of topics. I’ve discussed politics, teaching, technology in general, wikis, blogs, Moodle, my kids, my students, labor issues, and probably a number of other items. With WordPress, I can now categorize each post.


At the site are numerous addons, including templates and plug-ins to increase the functionality of your blog. They range from adding a calendar, password protecting your entire blog, or adding Technorati tags easily.

Should you move?

The moving process for me took about 15 minutes plus the time to customize the template (about two hours). You have to change address which might cause your readership to drop, but most who were reading in the first place should follow (that’s what I’m hope at least). In the end, it is personal preference, if these features don’t matter, stay where you are! As I discovered more about WordPress, I just felt like I needed to move.

I’ve also used Moveable Type which has a similar number of bells and whistles as far as plug-ins are concerned (it does not the pages feature), but the hosted service (TypePad) requires a fee and the free individual license limits the number of contributors you can have on your own server.


Web 2.0 Overview

Over the last couple months, I’ve done five day-long sessions with different teachers in my district. My main goal has been to explain to them why they should start using technology (other then PowerPoint) as one of their regular teaching tools and introduce them to specific technologies they could use with their students now (especially since all of these teachers just received a shiny new Mac Book).

After talking about QuestGarden (the WebQuest creation tool), I gave an overview of Web 2.0 and then discussed blogs and wikis as instructional tools.

As I discussed Web 2.0, I kept talking around an idea that I didn’t quite know how to verbalize. Today I can across a presentation by Andy Budd of Clearleft Web Design that really hit it perfectly. Web 2.0 is a state of mind. He uses the example of the steam engine which was intially invented in the 1st century, but its time didn’t come about until 18th century England. That era was full of innovators who looked at the technologies available in a different way and were able to build and innovate in a way not seen before. The same is true today, the conceptual foundation of Web 2.0 is actually quite natural and basic, but people are looking at functionality and integration of these new technologies into our live in a much more meaningful and useful manner. There have been a number of information revolutions, dating back to the printing press, but this phase of it is exponentially expanding the creation of content and the number of ways we can interact with it. It is a state of mind and as the teachers in my workshops started to wrap their brains around it, I saw lights going on (and then heads shaking – there is always too much to do!).

Quick side note: As soon as I read this, all I good think about was Joel’s departure from Alaska in Northern Exposure (my favorite TV show of all time), “New York is a state of mind.” It was a perfect way to summarize his departure.

Go through Andy’s presentation, it is well worth the time.


Save MLK

One of the examples many presenters use to show how important it is for students to understand that Internet content needs to be critically examined for reliability is a site that run by a white supremicist group that negatively depicts Martin Luther King. As Tom at Tuttle SVC points out, some of those presenters/writers out there don’t understand how Google and other search engines work, because they actually link to this web site. Essentially, the more web pages that link to a specific web site, the high up in the Google ratings it appears. So while these people are actually working against this web site, by linking to it they are promoting it.

So while I may not be a big gun ed-tech blogger, but I’ll join this effort to push other legitmate MLK web sites up in the rankings and hopefully move the less desirable one down. All of us can help do this by participating in a Google Bomb. Essentially, if we place these links in our blog, then we can manipulate the Google rankings. It does seem a little subversive, but it is for a good cause!

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Want to help? Go to Tuttle SVC then copy and paste the code he provides into your blog!

UPDATE: Tom has taken this campaign a step further and has asked people linking to the site to stop.

Taking My Own Advice

Over the last few weeks I have taught four different groups of teachers about various technology topics. The emphasis in three of them has been on Web 2.0 – the read/write web. Every time I do one of these workshops I get the same types of responses about technology:

  • This is very cool
  • This is a priority
  • I don’t know how to use it
  • I’m overwhelmed

In response, I try to emphasize that this technology is not the answer to everything. While I have a web page that ideally drives my classes and serves as the backbone, most activities, on a day-to-day basis are actually not where the students directly use computers. They have to take small steps. Do one or two things. Get comfortable with those things first. Otherwise it is overwhelming.

In a moment of exhaustion last night I finally decided to take my own advice. The first six weeks of my AP World History curriculum need some major revisions, but I also decided that my college prep curriculum needed some retooling. So I have spent an inordinate amount of time reinventing and fine tuning lessons I’ve been doing for years. Part of my plan from the start was to changing my Industrial Revolution major project to a branching simulation (like my Holocaust Wiki Project). However, seeing that I still had hours work to do, I realized I have done a lot already and my students will survive if I do another non-technology lesson in its place that I have implemented successfully in previous years. I will work on it over the summer and have it ready to go next year.

This hits at the core of the problem that most teachers face when trying to do new things. Time. There is simply not enough time. For all the cool ideas that Will Richardson, David Warlick, and others have, those of us actually in the trenches have to find the time and resources to actually put these great ideas into practice. There are some schools and districts that are making these ideas happen (how I wish I could be a part of Chris Lehmann’s new school), but for most it is difficult. How can we tell the new story or have new conversations when we barely have time to do the same old thing.

I love the ideas that will be central to the k12 Online Conference (I knew I would be over extended so I didn’t submit a proposal) – but schools have a lot of changing to do in order make them mainstream. Individual teachers, even with the Internet and the blogosphere, can only generate so much progress.

We are still a minority in the teaching world.

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They Don’t Get It, We Can Help

Each year I spend the first couple weeks of my college prep world history classes looking at why history is important and the process of creating histories. During my Evaluating Evidence lesson I set up a criteria that historians and students need to consider when using a source. I really focused on point of view and bias. Then I started talking about the Internet. Our students now turn to the Internet for information first; few make special trips to the library to find something out. As I started talking about having to be very critical of the sources we find online, I got a lot of blank stares.

I started getting concerned, so I conduct a quick, informal survey (which I would repeat with my two other college prep classes). The results struck a cord. Most claim they don’t consider the source. If it shows up in Google, they are good to go. I mentioned the Martin Luther King, Junior page that use to show up in the top ten of Google searches on MLK which was really a skewed attack clandestinely sponsored by a white supremacist group (I believe Alan November used this example for a while). They were a bit shocked.

As this conversation developed in my first class, I decided that I would take them over to Wikipedia. About half of the students had been to Wikipedia, but only a handful actually understood it. Several mentioned that it was a cool place to easily get information. One person across three classes claimed he had contributed. When I clicked on the edit this page tab, I saw mouths drop open.

“You mean anyone can edit it?”
“Can you change it now?”
“Wait, it only changes it on your computer, right?”

The history tab (where you can see the past changes) surprised almost everyone. They have a good concept of creating content on the web (no doubt many of them have a MySpace account), but they were having trouble wrapping their head around the central concept of Wikipedia and wikis in general. When we got back to our discussion on evaluating evidence and examining information for validity, they seemed to get it a little more. We will certainly work on it all year.

It seems like no really owns teaching these skills. Who should do it? English teachers? Social studies? Technology classes? Everyone? I’m sure there are schools and districts that have made the effort and passed the policies to incorporated them, but I am betting a vast majority do not. We already have too much to cover and do. Throw in the issues I discussed in an earlier post and the problem becomes even more complex. It seems like technology is evolving so fast that education simply can’t keep up.

Perhaps, like wikis and blogs, it has to be bottom up. Squeeze it in between lessons or build a skill builder into an existing unit. They don’t get it. I can help my students. Can you help yours?

Wiki Podcast

Vicki Davis (a computer science teacher in Georgia) and Adam Fray (from Wikispaces) were interviewed by Steve Hargadon of (the podcast can be found here). They discussed using wikis in the classroom – a topic that has become near and dear to my heart.

Vicki has done some amazing things with wikis in her classroom, really bringing the spirit of Web 2.0 and wikis directly to the students. Her educational wikis are great examples as to how to make a wiki central to a class. I have been inspired by this podcast to take the integration of wikis into my AP World History classes a step further then I had initially planned. Instead of using one single wiki project closer to the AP exam as a review guide (as I did last year), I am going to start it now – building a bigger collective of world history knowledge that will help them prepare for the exam. Hopefully the students will buy in and participate.

I did like another point Vicki made about the difference between blogs and wikis. Blogs are for opinions and wikis are for facts. I really think that nails the standard using of blogs and wikis right on the head. In a recent post on her blog, she also outlines ways she uses wikis (each of these are fully explained on her blog):

  1. Lesson Summaries
  2. Collaboration of Notes
  3. Concept Introduction and Exploratory Projects
  4. Dissemination of Important Classroom Information beyond the Classroom
  5. Individual assessment projects

I have long used traditional web pages and even a blog to accomplish #3 and #4. Now I am using Moodle, which allows a different sort of collaboration and communication. I really like the idea of the collaboration of notes and lesson summaries, perhaps created by an assigned scribe. What I would like to see more flushed out is the individual assessment projects. The Design Patterns for EduWikis is certainly a good place to start. Wikis are an incredible publishing tool which provides teachers and students ability to easily create web pages AND collaborate online.

Organize Through Orchestrate

One of my goals this school year is to move away from apps like Word and PowerPoint to the open source or online versions that are popping up all over the place. For the last few years I’ve been using OmniOutliner to set priorities, print out lists, and keep basic to do lists. As with all organization tools in my life, I have periods of intense use followed by periods of sporadic use. One of the reasons why I usually end up not using it is actually quite simple – it is just another application, sometimes one of 10 or more that are open. Plus, I have so many “projects” that my list ended up being cluterred, and in the end, unorganized. I did try and use Entourage’s project management feature, but that was the space shuttle solution for my skateboard problem.

I may have just found the perfect tool and solution.

Orchestrate is an online task manager created by a guy named Yongfook. He created it out of a personal need to manage multiple tasks easily. Essentially, you can create any number of task lists, which are subjects, projects, etc. These are always visible on the left side of the screen. You can pull one or more of the task lists to the right side of the screen where they open up into simple lists with check boxes. Adding task lists or items to the list is as simple as typing it in a small text box and hitting return. It is incredibly simple to use and elegant in its simplicity. When you check a box, it smoothly moves the item to the bottom of the list, greys it out, and makes it smaller.

Here are a couple screen shots.

Here we have the Task List. It tells you how many items you have completed and how many are “pending.”

Next we have the actual to do lists. You can hide these if they are not currently what you need, but they the list title will always appear in the task list above.

During the last week, I’ve had it sitting open in a tab in FireFox and have found that with it right there, instead of another application, I am referencing it more often AND the tab is constantly in view (unless I have more then about 10 tabs open, which does happen sometimes…).

While not necessarily a community Web 2.0 application, it shows what many, including Will Richardson, have been saying. The web is the new OS. I think I originally found Orchestrate on Techcrunch.

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