Archive for February, 2007

International Children’s Digital Library The International Children’s Digital Library is another excellent reading resource. Several books can be accessed and read online. Their mission statement is as follows:

“The mission of the International Children’s Digital Library Foundation is to excite and inspire the world’s children to become members of the global community – children who understand the value of tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas — by making the best in children’s literature available online.”

This resource is another associated with an earlier post: Reading is Fundamental. Enjoy!

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Global GangIn the latest issue of Tech Trends from the AECT was a review of the online Flash based game Disaster Watch. The game, from Christian Aid, shows students “how to limit damage to a local community when disaster strikes.” At the end of the game students are given an opportunity to read about real-life stories of children who have survived disasters. This game follows along the lines of the Third World Farmer Game I shared a few days ago. The game is part of a larger educational site called Global Gang that has other activities and resources that are interesting too. Although these role playing games are far from real life, they do surround and address important issues that can facilitate discussion and reflection on the everyday lives of people from around the world. Try Disaster Watch today!

TuxYesterday I read about the Ohio school district that is planning to replace the operating systems on computers running Windows ME in their school district with Linux. The savings by not upgrading to Windows XP is estimated to be around $412,000.00. Obviously these computers do not have the capabilities to upgrade to Windows Vista, but with Linux the life of the machines will be extended. What to do with legacy equipment is often an issue in school districts. Getting the biggest bang for your buck in an institution with a limited budget is important. Linux is a viable choice, and I am curious as to what version of Linux the Ohio district has chosen or will choose. Whatever it is, they appear to be making a wise decision that will save money, utilize operable equipment, and expose their students to another operating system choice that is for the most part FREE!

Edubuntu is a FREE version of Linux that is expressly designed for use in schools. You can try the operating system without installing it on a computer by downloading, burning, and using a Live CD version. After you try it out, it can easily be installed from this CD and placed on a PC or Mac computer. Edubuntu also comes with OpenOffice.org installed and provides a nice alternative office suite of software for word processing, etc. Other versions of this “family” of Linux distributions include Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu. Each version can have education software installed later if one wanted to choose specific programs found in Edubuntu for specifc grade level needs. Xubuntu is designed to work on computers with limited capabilities (memory, processor, etc.) and may be a good choice for an old computer you want to continue using at home or would like to donate to a school or a student in your family or neighborhood. There are many other possibilities with other versions of Linux.

The concern for many people is the ability to be able to use Windows dependent programs, and this is being addressed with emulation software via WINE or Crossover Linux. Some of these solutions will have cost, but when compared to upgrading commercial software and/or hardware there is a huge savings. With tightening budgets for technology, open source solutions are becoming popular, and we will probably see more schools like the one in Ohio making the move to Linux.

As I mentioned a few days ago I have been reading David Warlick’s book Raw Materials for the Mind. Having been a “technocentric” educator for the past 13 years much of Mr. Warlick’s information is review for me (I can always use a good review!); nevertheless, this is an excellent text for those who are getting in on the technology integration process in their classrooms. David surveys various web tools in a systematic process that enables the reader to utilize the vast resources found on the Internet in an easy to follow manner. I highly recommend this book to teachers that want to increase their technology “toolkit” as it is literally an “owner’s manual” and “how to guide” on web utilization. Administrators, instructional technology directors, and department heads would be wise to digest and pass on the information found within.

Now, this begs the question, why are so many educators not utilizing technology and the Internet to supplement and diversify their classrooms? With texts like Warlick’s Raw Materials for the Mind and so many other resources, it seems, from my observations, that many are only scraping the surface of these powerful tools. Innovation is obviously carried out via diffusion, and as I spend my days I see technology incoporated and integrated into almost every aspect of human life in the developed world. American education seems so far behind as an institution when it comes to the rest of daily life. Granted, there are examples of technology use in schools today, but it does not exist in a seamless fashion. Technology in education is almost a novelty or something to “do” separately rather than “be” natural to a certain extent.

I believe that things are changing, but the diffusion process in schools is tortoise like. Levels of use seem to hang at the awareness level but can’t seem to overcome some huge barrier that prevents extended, deeper utilization. In part, I think there is some resistance based on fear, but there are so many new teachers entering the workforce that I would think we would see a large upturn in technology use. I think that it is a matter of a lack of support and training in school districts today that serves as a major stumbling block in this dilemma. Not enough central office administrators recognize the need for a knowlegeable instructional technology support staff that can diffuse technology integration via professional development by training, assisting, encouraging, and nuturing educator’s technology use and integration. District office personnel see the need for information technology support staff that administer networks or repair hardware, but these important service people often do not have the experience, training, or skills to transfer the application of this “heartware” into a classrom setting. The heart is maintained, but the rest of the body doesn’t seem as active as it could or should be! I think a few districts are starting to figure this out, but they seem few and far between at this point in time.

Do you agree, and if so how do we change this?

A few days ago I posted about my foray in publishing a book through Lulu.com. Today the book arrived and it was quite fun to see the “finished” work. I plan to go through it and refine a few things before offering it up, but for now I am just pleased with the process and especially the results from Lulu.

Instructional Technology in Theory and Practice by Neil Hokanson

Developing Beginning and Early Readers

With growing readers at my house it becomes imperative that we provide a supportive, positive, and modeled environment that encourages reading. My 6 year-old son is reading books that his kindergarten teacher sends home each day. My 14 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son are avid readers, and my 8 year-old son recognizes activities that often trump reading. My 3 year-old daughter loves stories and is fascinated that her 6 year-old big brother can now read! Reading is important in our home, and that is a key element in the success of any child’s reading development. Three sites that have been part of our early reading support in our home are as follows:

BookPALS Storyline Online

Learn to Read at Starfall

Reading is Fundamental

My son’s kindergarten reading program: Little Books

My older children’s school reading programs: Reading Mastery Horizons and Accelerated Reader

Please share your online finds that provide support for early and continuing readers!

“Computing award goes to female for first time” CNN.com

On another note, I was pleased to read the following article (linked here) about Frances E. Allen, the first woman to receive the Turing Award:

“One of the most prestigious prizes in computing, the $100,000 Turing Award, went to a woman Wednesday for the first time in the award’s 40-year history. Frances E. Allen, 74, was honored for her work at IBM Corp. on techniques for optimizing the performance of compilers, the programs that translate one computer language into another. This process is required to turn programming code into the binary zeros and ones actually read by a computer’s colossal array of minuscule switches.” (CNN.com)

For my two daughters, and the “flat world,” Allen serves as a great role-model for young girls and women around the world. Congratulations!!!

Annenberg Media

Annenberg Media is an excellent educational resource. As the site states:

“Teacher resources and teacher professional development programming for K-12 teachers FREE through our satellite channel and Video on Demand.”

I have used this site for several years, and I highly recommend educators take a look at the multiple, interdisciplinary resources you will find there. It is excellent for content specific professional development, and the “Video on Demand” resources are superior!!!