Ponderings About the Gifts of Blogging and Technology

the-battle-of-the-bulge-timeline-2A friend of mine has passed on to his eternal reward and is now dancing on streets of gold after a victorious fight with an enemy. Dan fought a noble fight against an enemy named cancer. In December of 2007, after going to the doctor about why he felt so poorly (he and his wife were going on a cruise soon), the diagnosis ended with him hearing that he had stage four Melanoma and was given six months to live. The six months turned to two years. Dan often said, “What a gift to be able to prepare my goodbyes to my wife, family, and loved ones!” Always the one to cheer others, he left a legacy of how to live life to the fullest and prioritize it.

While I wish I could write a tribute to him (a public school technology blog, remember!), I have spent the late afternoon reading his blog as a way for me to remember his life and his gift of himself to those around him. As I read, I was overwhelmed with what technology has left me: his blogging is letting me visit him as if he were right here saying, “Hey! Look Above!” What a gift to leave his family a blog as a reminder of who Dr. Dan was! Although I could write much more in regards to him, one tribute that I’d like to acknowledge is how he used technology to keep his memories alive for his family.

I also read the links to his daughters’ blogs which made me think of the heritage for the future generations to read about this amazing family. Just the other night my daughter asked me, “Dad, if you could travel back to ANY time in history, what would it be?” My first response, even before contemplating, was, “I’d go back to meet my dad.” He died when I was 18 months old and I have no memory of him. I have some pictures, but no letters, no personal thoughts, or anything that gives me a snapshot of him. I have heard nothing but praise from those who knew him, but I only have their words about dad to go by. Oh, if I could have a blog to read that my father had left behind like Dan’s — I could get a snapshot of his thinking, his personality, his being! All I have is a picture to look at. I’m thankful to know he was considered a good and ethical man with the highest of character. Dan’s grandchildren will have grandpa with him for many generations.

Consider what legacy that you can leave and how to give the gift of yourself to your family’s future generations. Don’t only think of technology as a school based purpose, but also as a personal one. I think of one movie making workshop I gave, and for one participant’s project, he chose to film his grandmother. The house that she raised her children was soon to be torn down, and realizing the importance of capturing this, he sat grandma on the steps of the boarded up house, set up the camera on a tripod, and filmed her talking about her memories. He rendered the video, put these on DVD’s, and gave them to the extended family as presents. She is gone now, and look how her legacy continues through technology!

Bye, Dan. Thanks for the gift of your life.

And now, if you excuse me, I’m going back to read the posts for 2009.

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If you wish to read Dan’s blog, please let me know.

NECC Cool Tip #8: How Do I Organize All the Blogs/Websites that I Read?

When I left the classroom to become an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, one task that befell me was to organize my eight drawers of two filing cabinets, eight shelves under the counter, and five shelves of books. After 20 years of teaching, the accumulation of “stuff” was overwhelming. Trash cans handy, I started pulling open filing cabinet drawers, and to summarize the common discoveries and things that I said out loud to myself was, “I had no idea that I had this” to “Oh I wish I would have known I had this when I taught such-and-such a unit!” Sometimes it can seem like this with blogs that I read regularly. There is not enough time to just sit and check each one nightly, so I do I know when something new has been posted?

Bloglines is an aggregator that is free (requires registration) that you can post your RSS feeds too of webpages, blogs, Wikis, and the like. Imagine just opening up ONE page and there, before your eyes, are update notices of what is new on your sites! Click here, click there, click click click! Imagine being able to streamline your day, and have time left to read a chapter of your favorite book…as the website says, grab a cup of coffee, and relax as you read!

I.S.T.E.’s Top Ten EduBlogs for October 2008

I.S.T.E. announces their top ten blogs for October 2008:

1) Weblogg-ed Learning with the read/write web
2) Teach42 : Education and Technology by Steve Dembo.
3) Tom March: Bright Ideas for Education
4) Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins
5) The Story of My “Second Life.”
6) The Boo-Skunk Blog
7) Practical Theory: A View from the Classroom
(8) Chalkdust 101
9) The Connected Classroom: committed to creating constructivist learning experiences for students
10) The Intrepid Teacher: networking with other 21st Century teachers

Raising the Bar with Educational Technology Blogs

ISTE globeI am sitting in my “bunker,” AKA my office, and am planning, thinking, and strategizing for next school year. The impetus for my train of thought is that my morning started with two opposing comments from staff members today: “We’re not sure what questions to ask you,” (sad!) to a comment from another teacher who is already planning for what we can do in classrooms next year (good).

Now, how can I convince teachers to step over into the 21st century? And, how can I stay on top of the latest trends?

I try to keep on top of latest trends in educational technology by reading top notch blogs. There are the usual to-go-to blogs, such as Cool Cat Teacher, Will Richardson, David Warlick, and Kathy Schrock’s, but there are others out there that we can easily overlook.

ISTE has just posted the top ten technology education blogs for June 2008:

==>Speed of Creativity
==>Technology strengthens, deepens, and broadens our learning...Bill Mackenty
==>The Daily Grind
Musings and Mutterings from a Primary Head Teacher
==>The Shifted Librarian: Sharing libraries at the speed of byte
==>Blog of Proximal Development: teaching.blogging.learning
==>Metonia: 4 eyed technologist
==>Left Lane Ends
when the road narrows … we begin to think
==>Cogdogblog: Alan Levine’s place to talk about instructional technology
==>Gordon’s Ramblings
The random thoughts and reflections of someone involved in education in Scotland
==>Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom:
Joe Dale offers practical tips and advice on using ICT to enhance the teaching of modern foreign languages

Analyzing Your Blog Traffic; Google Analytics

Google Analytics logoIf you are a teacher and have a blog (as our department asks us to do), one often wonders if it is effective or not. What is its purpose, and what audience does it serve? I signed up for Google Analytics, a data analysis site that tracks traffic and gives statistics for which pages are viewed the most, how many visit, and the like. Wow! What an eye opener!

Tonight, after analyzing it, I discovered the following:
==>There were no visits from Portsmouth teachers.
==>There were 47 visits from three continents and all corners of the U.S.
==>The most visits were for resources.
==>Visits from Classroom 2.0 were NOT the biggest director of traffic (I thought it might be).
==>There ARE folks out there that have Colonial Fairs.

Obviously, John Tyler and Olive Branch (schools I service) are not using it for resources as often as I thought. Could it be the present state of testing frenzy? Am I not serving their needs? Is blogging not as common in eastern Virginia as I thought? Time for me to start planning some inservices!

I can check for updates weekly, so I’m interested in seeing what happens after testing is done and teachers can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Are you a blogger? What have you found out to be successful for your sites?

21st Century Hits Olive Branch Fifth Graders

blog classroomI am presently sitting in the classroom of Mrs. Daniels and the only sound I can hear, minus the water cooler humming outside the door, is the light tapping of keys of 30-some students as they type on their blogs. For you see, Mrs. Daniels is home recovering from surgery, and instead of a myriad of worksheets and other sundry busy work, students are having class as usual via the Internet.
Mrs. Daniels has posted (click here) her weekly writing assignment and students, instead of composing on paper, are posting on their blogs. Amazingly enough, not ONE student is struggling and not one is looking bored. Every single one is keyboarding (not pecking) and as I strolled around the room, the composing I’ve observed is quite excellent. The enthusiasm is high. I compare this to those who are wondering how to get their children to write more and to also ENJOY it. Although it is hard to leave our comfort zones, Mrs. Daniels excels in meeting the needs of her students and making it fun. Are test scores affected? Quite affected, if you consider percentages of 95% and above.
Interested? Please let me know and I’ll be happy to share her secrets for success!