Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More thoughts on Amazon Kindle...

It seems everywhere I went today, Amazon's Kindle was calling my name. From the Newsweek magazine in the school library to half a dozen different online articles lurking in the RSS feeds above my Gmail account, I couldn't keep the Kindle out of my mind. I still can't help but think that this could really be a paradigm changing device.

I teach at a K-8 public school. Due to some issues last year, we no longer allow backpacks during the day. Due to a "new and improved" schedule which only allows 1 minute between classes, we also no longer allow students to visit lockers between classes. Students are restricted to visiting their lockers once in the morning, once at lunch, and once at the end of the day. This means students are carrying all of their books for each half of the day. Imagine if students had all of their textbooks on the Kindle!

Naturally the $400 price tag makes the Kindle a little prohibitive for most schools to outfit students with them. However, I'm sure the price will come down eventually. Also, consider the amount of money spent on textbooks that will quickly become worn and out of date. Not to mention the copying paper which could be saved if students could access reading material from their Kindle at their desks and at home. If the Kindle could be programmed to receive messages from the school district (maybe via an RSS feed, which the Kindle supports), it could also hold all of the information that we try to send home in homeroom every morning. This would undoubtedly save hundreds of dollars in paper each year.

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect to see schools trading in their textbooks for Kindles en masse. But I do see some great potential in the future. If the Kindle reaches a point where the price comes down, the screen goes color, and it can still access all of that information free and via wireless, I can really see schools starting to come on board.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Will Amazon Kindle Change Education? is touting their new product, the Amazon Kindle, as the most revolutionary device since the wheel. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the device is clearly meant to make waves for the company. Is it worth the $400 price tag?

It sounds like a great device. You can access more than 88,000 books for $9.99, read more than 250 top blogs, and enjoy unlimited access to Wikipedia.

Sony had a similar idea with their reader product. Where the Kindle expands on Sony's idea is in the way you access new material. All of this comes wirelessly to your unit via the same technology that your cell phone uses, so you never need to find a hot spot to find new content.

I think this will be a wildly popular item for people who are on the go and don't want to carry a library with them to keep in touch with the latest news and blogs.

I also think that with some tweaking, it could have tremendous potential for educational applications. Imagine if students could each be given such a device. Their Kindle would contain all of the textbooks for the year, as well as any other novels or books being discussed. They could be given access to newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals to peruse up to the second information. I'm sure with some tweaking, the unit could even be made to receive news and announcements relevant to the school district. If all of this were available to the students at school or at home via the cell signal, it could really change the way we deliver information to our students.

This is definitely a piece of technology I will be watching with excitement!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Virtual Tech Classroom Design Project....

I am taking some Educational Technology Master's Courses through Lesley University. One of the courses required us to design a Technology Assisted Classroom. Part of the assignment was to make a sketch of the layout of the room.

This couldn't have come at a better time! I've recently been playing around with Sketchup. This seemed like the perfect chance to flex my newly developed Sketchup muscle!

I designed the overall layout of the classroom on my own in Sketchup. I made the podium/desk myself with Sketchup as well. The laptops, desk chairs, and all of the equipment on the podium were downloaded from the Google 3d warehouse. When I was done, I used Sketchup's built-in animation export feature to create an avi movie that would pan around the various sections of the classroom. I then dropped that movie into Movie Maker to add background music, special effects, and transitions.

The rendered pictures of the classroom were created using a commercial Sketchup plugin called Turbosketch.

The finished product is shown below:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

High Server resource consumption by your account!!

I was informed by my webhost Friday afternoon that my installation of Moodle (the open source CMS that I run my entire classroom website with) was

"consuming a very high percentage of the server resources (processors' time and memory usage), thus endangering the overall performance of all the sites on the server."

Not good.

This happened at 11:00 AM and promptly brought my website to a screeching halt. Naturally, I had a day's worth of activities planned which required my students to be using the website. As students attempted to log in to the class website, they were greeted with a full screen error 503 message.

Extremely Not Good.

This caused the site to be down for the entire day until I could find the time to sit down and disable all logging and stats features for the entire site.

Downright bad.

Definitely a warning about relying on technology too much. When my Moodle site ( is working, it works great and the students can do interesting and varied activities with it. When it ceases to work, I am left frustrated and often without a Plan B.

Something to keep in mind...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Google Earth....

If you haven't started using Google Earth as an educational tool, you aren't just missing the boat, you are missing the whole fleet! Google's free tool is effectively replacing the globe and even wall mounted maps in my Social Studies classroom. There are just so many things you can do with it!

Find Spots Instantly
I am ashamed to admit that there have been times (1 or 2) when a student asked about a part of the world and I wasn't exactly sure where the country was located. Google Earth eliminates this worry, as you can easily type in locations and zoom right to the correct spot. You can search by country, by city name, by latitude and longitude, even by entering landmarks such as the Grand Canyon or the Colosseum.

Measure Distances Accurately
Google Earth also has a built in tools for measuring distances on the globe. This is such a great tool for teaching! Let's say you wanted to find out exactly how far it is from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Google Earth takes the guesswork out of the equation and lets you find out within inches.

3D Buildings
Possibly the most exciting new tool in Google Earth is the 3D buildings option. Many buildings have been modeled in 3d, with textures, and can be viewed right within Google Earth.

You can even create your own models with Google Sketchup. More on that in another post!

If you haven't installed Google Earth yet, you can install it here.