Monday, July 31, 2006

Everything Bad

Great book. Easy read. Read an excerpt.

Think video games are wiping out several generations? They're not.

Think television sucks compared to the good old days? Johnson convinced me that you're wrong about that.

The popular sentiment these days is that pop culture is on a noticeable downward slide. Johnson makes a strong case for what he calls the Sleeper Curve, which basically says that conventional wisdom (or popular opinion) is wrong, and that all this stuff is actually making us smarter, more engaged, and better critical thinkers.

Naturally, there are many people who think that Johnson is all wet. That's probably why I like his views and his books so much.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Not Stale

The single best presentation that I attended at the Noel-Levitz conference was by Constance Staley, a faculty member from CU-Colorado Springs. She is a passionate educator and a proud grandma.... both good things. A few snippets:

  • All teachers can improve their teaching skills
  • The level of student learning can always be increased
  • Faculty must always be authentic (at least with their students!)
  • Meet students where they are and THEN move them
  • Freshman seminar is not just another course.... it is THE most important course
  • Know your students, individually and collectively
  • Learn all you can about learning
  • Make the case for active learning....bring content to life
  • Teach by design, not by default
  • Get engaged yourself
  • Income stratification in the U.S.: 8.6% of the poorest 25% of population get a college degree while 74.9% of the richest 25% of population get a college degree
  • Student boredom is a huge concern and they get bored in straight lecture courses
  • She cited a source where they did a study that showed that 4 months after the course ended, the students from the course had 8% more knowledge about the subject than a control group who had not taken the class (and yes, it was a straight lecture course)
I'll post more about this after I return from vacation in about ten days. She has some great classroom techniques that need to be shared.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hellodeo Rodeo

Just a quick trial of this new video creation tool (FREE) from the Odeo folks. Gawdawful name of Hellodeo and can be found at

National Satisfaction Report

The 2005 National Satisfaction and Priorities Report for college students from Noel-Levitz has lots of information gathered from more 675,000 students and more than 860 institutions across North America. They categorize higher ed in four ways: 1) Four-yr. Private Schools, 2) Four-yr Public Schools, 3) Community Colleges, 4) Career/Private Colleges.

There were ten items that were found to be strengths at all four types of institutions. They include:

  • I am able to experience intellectual growth (hooray!).
  • My academic advisor is approachable (not grouchy, I assume).
  • It is an enjoyable experience to be a student on this campus.
  • Faculty are available after class and during office hours.
  • Nearly all faculty are knowledgeable in their fields (nearly, but not all?).
  • The quality of instruction in most classes is excellent (most, but not all?).
The only challenge that was determined for all types of institutions was with the statement "Adequate financial aid is available for most students."

There were also three items that were identified as challenges for community colleges that were not challenges for any of the other three types:
  • My academic advisor is knowledgeable regarding transfer requirements (but remember, they're not grumpy!).
  • Faculty are understanding of students unique life circumstances (they NEVER think that we can possibly understand what they're going through!).
  • Classes are scheduled at times that are convenient (we really need to figure out how every class can be held between 10 AM and noon).
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Website Graphs and Such

These are some things that I've found interesting in the last 24 hours.

The "website as graph" application was something I saw a month or to ago, but couldn't find it again. Luckily, I stumbled across it this morning. This is the graph of this blog. To learn what the different colors are, go to their website where you'll have to build a graph in order to see the color-coded key. It is kind of fascinating to watch the graph grow on the screen. It happens kinda slowly and I'm not sure if that is from necessity or by design.

Who are the twentysomethings?
"I'm 24 years old, have a good job, friends. But like many of my generation, I consistently trade actual human contact for the more reliable emotional high of smiles on MySpace, winks on and pokes on Facebook." Read more...

Broadband: Narrowly Applied.
Let's have a party to celebrate slipping to 20th place in the world in broadband penetration to households. The U.S. is now at 44% household penetration as of the most recent data. South Korea leads all countries with 83% broadband penetration, followed by Hong Kong with 81%, Iceland at 74%, Israel at 69.%, and Taiwan at 65% penetration.

Livin' in the Web World
Here's a guy who tries to use nothing but Web 2.0 apps for two weeks (2.0 weeks!). It's not written in the most engaging style, but he does have some interesting observations sprinkled throughout. One quote: "
For years, software makers, notably Microsoft, have struggled with the bloatware dilemma. A small fraction of their users want specialized, elaborate new functions; moreover, the software makers themselves need to keep adding features to justify upgrades. But the more niche features they add, the more complex, buggy, and expensive their programs become, and the more off-putting they can seem to most users. The likes of Voo2do, iOutliner, Google Calendar, and the new Google Spreadsheets have solved this problem by ignoring it." Here's the whole thing...

Chinese Language and Culture Classes
LSC Online
finally got a little press (very little) about our Chinese class offerings. What is most interesting is that the Twin Cities operation (see WCCC story) gives us a much more favorable story about LSC than the Duluth newspaper story, who as always, feels obligated to make any story about LSC into a story about UMD and LSC. My point is that they each received the same press release from the college.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

College Student Blogs

I attended a session today titled "Creating a Successful Web Strategy and E-communications Program" at the Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention.

The discussion came around to some of the social networking sites (FaceBook and MySpace in particular) and hosting blogs on the campus website. Many of the audience members had very strong objections about letting students speak their truths. The air of censorship and denial was very thick. I think there is very little evidence to show that this fear is warranted when we are talking about students posting on official college websites (and no, FaceBook and MySpace are not official college sites and there's not much we can do about them, nor should we). A few examples and snippets: University of the Pacific has student bloggers (they call them journals...whatever). Very nicely produced, but a little too controlled for me. For example, no dates listed on the posts and no opportunity for comments...which I think are essential for blogs. Here are a few quotes from their students:

Vickie says: "Even though the work is hard, I have to admit that I am enjoying my classes. I’m taking Public Speaking (easy), Economic Principles and Problems (shudder), Interpersonal Communication and Mass Communication. Mass Communication has to be the best class ever invented. It is taught by a guy named Alan Ray. Prof. Ray is from down south and has the best sense of humor. He actually makes it worth waking up at 9:45 to make it to the ten o’clock class (gotta love small campuses). Best of all, I get to have my own radio show. Imagine that, making learning fun … what a novel concept."

Jennifer says: "After receiving my paper with the grade, I quickly realized opposing arguments do not fly with this professor. I have never seen more comments and marks on one of my papers in my whole life. I mean, it is as though he was just trying to tear me down. This grade prevented me from receiving the 4.0 I was working so hard to obtain this semester. I then did what any college student in the right mind would have done; I wrote a rebuttal."
    "Let me tell you, writing a rebuttal is the best advice. Not only did I get a chance to defend my position on the book, my paper was looked at again with a sharper eye. My arguments were strong and my word choice eloquent. With that being said, I am happy to announce that my grade was changed. The new grade is still lower then I am used to, however; at least it was the grade I earned and deserved."
    "I have learned a valuable lesson — It is important to stand up for your opinions, even if someone else disagrees."

Marcel says: "I didn’t plan on half of the things I got myself into, and these pleasant surprises began the moment I started class. I changed my major to Religious Studies, became a cheerleader, and met one of my closest friends in exactly one week. The rest is campus lore, but I can leave all of you college prospects a token of advice from a rotting away senior. If you’re going to college to read textbooks then you’re wasting your money—that’s what public libraries are for. If it’s for the future salary, to dribble the ball, or to drink to oblivion…these are probably not the best reasons either. Do the college thing for something more."

Gee, it's easy to see what they're so afraid of, isn't it?

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Web Analytics

Things they are a-changing, at least in the online world.

TechCruch announced recently that usage of the Firefox browser has grown to 16% in the U.S. That might not sound like much until you realize that this is the first serious bite made into Microsoft's dominance in the browser market since AOL/Netscape basically gave up on the Netscape browser. Some countries such as Germany (39%) and Australia (24%) have much larger percentages of Firefox users.

Another change that is finally being realized is in screen resolutions. I think that web developers can finally give up on the idea that they must design pages for the 800 X 600 resolution crowd. Clearly that ship has sailed. reports the following about screen resolutions:

The most popular screen resolutions in the world now are:

  1. 1024 X 768 = 56%
  2. 1280 X 1024 = 16%
  3. 800 X 600 = 12%
  4. 1280 X 800 = 4%
  5. 1152 X 864 = 4%

Through my Blogflux account, I can get similar analytics for the people who visit my blogs.

  • Browsers: IE = 50%, Firefox = 46%, Safari = 4%
  • Resolutions: 1024 X 768 = 61%, 1280 X 1024 = 13%, 800 X 600 = 3%

I think this clearly shows that the higher education crowd and the blog-reading crowd are way ahead of the curve, especially in the browser battle. Notice that this post was blogged using Flock, another of the new entries into the browser market. It will interesting to see how the adoptions of this browser grow in the next year or two.

Lastly, the one thing that I never see anyone measure is the number of multiple-browser users that are out there. My guess is that they are significant. I currently use four browsers on a fairly regular basis: Firefox, Flock, IE, and Netscape 8. I also have installed and occasionally use the following: Maxthon, Opera, and AvantBrowser. Each one has features that I like, but none are perfect.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Online Gambling

Funny how news stories sometimes cross paths in the same day. Today there was news out of Carnegie-Mellon and also out of Congress that create an interesting situation. The School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon today announced that they have programmed a pokerbot that can probably outplay all but the very best human poker players. Much like the chessbot wars of many years ago, I expect that before long the pokerbot will be created that is almost impossible to beat if the game goes on long enough to eliminate the short-term luck factors.

Also today, CNN reports that the House of Representatives is trying to clarify the illegal nature of online gambling sites. It has always been illegal, but most people either don't want to believe that or think that it is a harmless crime, or that they won't get caught, or any one or more of the various reasons that people choose to publically engage in illegal activity. I've often been astounded by the radio stations (usually sports talk) that run commercials for online gambling sites, EVEN THOUGHT THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL has said they are illegal. Granted, those ads have mostly dissapeared in the past few months, but you can still get bombarded with information about gambling from all sorts of media sites, and they aren't trying to get you to go to Vegas, they're trying to get you to go online. Even better is how Jesse Ventura has become a shill for an online betting site, actually they call him a "pitchman." How proper for a former governor.

Of course online poker is the newest star in the online gambling galaxy. Red Herring says that online poker has grown to a $3.3 billion industry, and it is still just getting starting. It's kinda funny to read what the online gambling sites think about the possible new legislation, look here and also here for just a couple of examples.

So here's my solution. Carnegie-Mellon is a respected member of the education community (very respected). Let's have CMU create accounts for their pokerbots at all of the online gambling sites and have the pokerbots clean house on all the less-than-excellent poker players. Take all the money that they win from the millions of losers and use the money to fill in the financial gaps for higher education. Let's send a million kids to school with the "I'm all-in before the flop" scholarship.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Gadgets NECC2006

Leslie Fisher presented this afternoon on geeky gadgets.

  • Snapz Pro (Mac $49) and Snaggit (Windows $39)
    • screen shot software
    • also makes Quicktime movies with sound
  • Squeeze compresses video for web-viewing
  • Instant Messaging
  • Fonts - Font Reserve (Mac or PC $99) will create a central font database
    • You can still get to the others (the 13 core fonts are always avail)
    • Your system will run faster by not having all the fonts load each time
  • Clipart
  • Affordable photos
  • Camera slow?
    • Could be a slow speed digital camera card
    • Lexar Professional 1 gig $58
    • San Disk Extreme III $63
    • Use a card reader rather than hookup camera directly to computer
    • Lexar has cool USB drive for flash memory
  • Show off your photos
  • Photo printer
    • Epson R800 ($399)
    • Fade resistant ink 100-200 years
    • 8 color cartridges
    • 11X14 photo in under 2 minutes
  • Image rescue by Lexar ($30)
    • works with any flash memory card
    • Buy a Lexar card and it comes with the rescue software

Okay stop!!! This is stupid. After midnight tonight all her slides will be available online at

Go to to agree to her conditions for viewing her slides. Right now the old version of her slides are online, but she promised to load the new version within the next 24 hours.

After agreeing, scroll down to "Topic Based Handouts" and click on "Gadgets! 2006" (she might rename it when she uploads the new ones, but you'll figure it out.)

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Online Pedophiles NECC2006

Attended a good session this morning hosted by Chuck Favata who is a Computer Integration Teacher for Holland Middle School in Pennsylvania. He has been making presentations and providing workshops about Internet safety snce 1999.

Chuck is a supporter of DOPA which I think is crazy,(see Will's post and his DOPA wiki) but he really didn't talk about that very much. He down played the "shut 'em down" aspects of DOPA and talked about the main goal as being a one-stop-shop on the web for parents to get information about dealing with online pedophiles. If that was all it was about then it would be harmless enough, but we don't need legislation to create a rich web resource of information. I think most people in the room were supportive of 95% of what Chuck had to say, but I bet that almost that same percentage would not support DOPA as it is written.

Some of Chuck's questions and quotes:

  1. Would you, as a parent, allow a 40 year old man to go into your daughter’s bedroom at night and talk to her?
  2. Teen….Perfect combination of OVERCONFIDENCE And INEXPERIENCE
  3. Teens may be "TECH" SAVVY but they are not “RELATIONSHIP” SAVVY (these are learned behaviors that must become equivalent for Adults and Teens)
  4. The number of pedophiles online at any given time is 50,000
  5. 1 in 5 students have been “APPROACHED” while in a chatroom
  6. Females targeted 66% of time, 14-16 years old are the prime targets
  7. Kids must remember what WWW means! The Whole World is Watching!
  8. Kids don't generally lie about sex/gender and location, but they tend to lie about age by an average of 3 years. A 14-year old will say she's 17. Boys do it too.
  9. There's lots of good information available on the web (such as, but there's also a tremendous amount of icky stuff out there from organizations such as the Natonal Man-Boy Love Association, Pedophile Education Website Mirror, Child-Love Freedom Society, IPCE (a forum for people who are engaged in scholarly discussion about the understanding and emancipation of mutual relationships between children or adolescents and adults), and several hundred more (sorry, I don't want to provide links to these).
Chuck provided some good demonstrations of just how easy it is to track down information about a kid that you meet online, especially if you can get them to do something that captures their I.P. address such as audio chat with a microphone in IM, or send them a file (fake photo perhaps) in IM.

Overall it was a good session, with just a few concerns for me regarding DOPA. Audience members especially jumped on the theme that without parents getting involved in this mess there will be very little progress made. That's exactly why I will be working with PTA groups in the region during the next year to inform parents of what they can do and must do to protect their children.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Eating at NECC2006

I almost forgot about another favorite eating place near the Convention Center. The Kansas City Barbeque is where the infamous "sleazy bar" scene was shot for the movie Top Gun. Click on the photos to see them in full size. The first one is a montage of a few interior shots plus the view from the Hyatt which is right across the street. The second one is a compilation of a few of the goofy signs and bumper stickers that they have in the place.

You can actually get a sandwich with fries here for $6.75. Beer is extra. If you're really hungry, try one of the two-meat or three-meat combos and the odds are good that you'll never finish it. Jerry is a good old boy, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. He doesn't own the place but he acts like he does (he said that, not me). If you like real BBQ then this is a must-stop. If your idea of good BBQ is riblets at Applebees then you might want to keep looking for one of those.

When Jerry found out that I'm from Minnesota (and Wisonsin) he felt compelled to tell me about one of their regular patrons from Fridley, MN. Her name is Chelsea and let's just say that she is a businesswoman who spends a few days on Harbor Drive every three months. I really can't tell you any more but Jerry would be happy to if you stop in for a cold one. Oh yeah, the sessions were good today, too.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

San Diego Travelogue NECC2006

I put together a video of some of the sights and scenes of San Diego. It has ALMOST nothing to do with NECC2006. Most of it was shot today but a few shots came from my last trip here when the Padres were in town and I went to the zoo.

We're just barely past the longest day of the year but it sure gets dark early here. Twilight before 8 PM and totally dark by 8:20. Padres pulled it out today on a 3-run dinger by my favorite player Jeff Spicoli (Kahlil Greene)'s on the video. First time I've ever shot video off a large flat-screen TV, I guess that's how depressed I am that the Padres are not in town. I'm hoping that the bottle of very cheap champagne that I'm drinking will also help me make it through the night.

I don't have good shots of all of it, but you newcomers to San Diego should check out the toolbox skyline. The Hyatt is a standard screwdriver, then there's a phillips head screwdriver close by, and near that is a set of allen wrenches (hex shaped tops on 5 or 6 towers clustered together). They haven't built a claw hammer building yet.

Some of the zoo pics show some of my practice efforts using the cloning tool in a photo editing program. I'll start it off with an obligatory NECC shot, toss in some Padres, some zoo animals, some skyline shots, the Hotel Del Coronado, a little video from the Tin Fish restaurant, Seaport Village, and the view from my room at the Hyatt. I don't even know why I'm doing it, I'm just killing time. (Also, I didn't feel like editing the error where I say "powerpoint" instead of video.)

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Fish Tacos in Sun Diego NECC2006

Aaahhhh, I finally got to go to the Tin Fish for my favorite fish tacos. They're not cheap (nothing is here) but they are worth it. They have fried fish tacos, but you definitely want to go top shelf with the grilled fish tacos. You can get swordfish, salmon, halibut, as well as shrimp (that's not a fish taco!!). I like the first three, with a slight nod to the halibut (premium price) with the swordfish a very close second.

The Tin Fish is right at the base of the Omni Hotel which is connected to my favorite ballpark (Petco) where my beloved Padres play. I wish I had stayed at the Omni again this time. The Hyatt is incredibly expensive and farther away from the Tin Fish and the rest of the Gaslamp Quarter such as Dick's Last Resort (enter on 5th Street between J and K into the outdoor courtyard) and the Padres paraphernalia stores. Including tax, this room is over $400 per night. That's insane. I don't care how popular a destination the Sun Diego beaches might be.

I gotta go to a sports bar (boo hoo). The Padres are leading the Phillies 3-1 in the 6th but the game is not on in my room. I hope to get there before Trevor Time.

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The Savvy Technologist Wins

Faced a tough decision today when the session scheduling gurus put three of my favorite presenters against each other at the 2:00-3:00 time slot. David Warlick was "Telling the New Story," Will Richardson was "Learning with Blogs," and Tim Wilson was talking about "Introducing the Read/Write Web: Challenges, Opportunities, and and Implications."

I chose Tim's session (not because he's from Minnesota) since I've more recently seen both David and Will make presentations. Also, I had to duck out at the beginning of Tim's podcasting presentation at the Minnesota e-Learning Summit in May, so this was a chance to fill that void although this was on a different topic.

After several good examples of how the read/write web is totally different from the read-only web, he went through a few bullet lists that I found interesting.

How do we keep kids safe?

  • Keep student work on your network and servers. (legally, you need to be able to pull the plug.)
  • Monitor what they are doing
  • Implement a curriculum to teach students about appropriate online behavior.
  • Recognize that young people will encounter wierdos online. Get over it.

Professional Development Needed

  • Consider a shift from “just in case” training to “just in time” training.
  • Feed the rabbits and starve the snails. (Identify and support the champions)
  • Easier to run with 20, than drag 100.
  • Leaders have to lead. Administrators, you need to step up to the plate.

How do you assess student work in this environment?

  • Develop or adopt curriculum standards for information literacy.
  • Develop rubrics that cut across units and classrooms.
  • De-emphasize individual assessments.
  • Embrace self-assessment.

How will you ensure equitable access to technology for all learners?

  • Establish a baseline for hardware and software for all classrooms.
  • Consider extending the hours of your school’s media center and computer labs to better serve your community.
  • Have a serious equity conversation in your school.

Implications if we don’t get it right?

  • Change in next 10 years will dwarf the change of last 10 years.
  • Schools are at-risk of falling more and more behind
  • We are in a relevance race with our students.
  • Their real life becomes more and more different than life at school.
  • Our digital accents keep us from being understood.
  • What are you doing right now to prepare your students to collaborate seamlessly across cultures in jobs that probably don’t yet exist?
Tim's podcast, The Savvy Technologist, is one of the more popular educational technology podcasts on iTunes.

Links from Tim's presentation

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NECC2006 Podcasting and Podcatching

I'm not sure that this video is any good, I captured three snippets of the podcating session this morning. It's just ending now. David Warlick, Tim Wilson, and Ted Lai are the only presenters that I got on the video. The lighting is very bad, but I hope you can hear the audio. If this really stinks, I'll get rid of it.

David Warlick's wiki
with presentation resources

My wiki comments during the presentation

Blogger Bethany Smith has something to say

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My first session at Necc2006 was true to my theme for this conference about Internet Safety for kids. I came away with several useful resources. Here are a few takeaways from the session.
According to

Most significant dangers in cyberspace

  • #1: cyber-bullying
  • #2: responsible use
  • #3: cyber predation
A few of their many stats:
  • 38% of students (gr. 5-12) visit chat rooms
  • 61% of 13-17 year olds have personal profiles on social networking sites
  • 27% (gr. 5-12) say it is easier to be accepted into online groups than real world groups at school
  • 25% of students believed there was nothing wrong with chatting with strangers on the Internet
  • 10% okay to post their pictures
  • 10% have met someone F2F originally met online
  • 47% of parents feel limited in their ability to monitor
    their kids’ online behaviors and shelter them from inappropriate material

Are filters the answer?

  • They provide some protection when used
  • Kids will get around them
  • Kids will be on unfiltered computers at least part of the time (at friends and other places)
  • Google “MySpace at school” to see how they get around filters at school (backdoors)
i-SAFE resources are free

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Independence at NECC2006

Opening Day at NECC 2006 in San Diego.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I'm writing this while on the plane from MSP to San Diego for the 2006 NECC annual meetings. I'm a fist-timer at this conference and I'm pretty excited about it because many of my favorite edubloggers will be here. Besides, I just love San Diego and can't wait to enjoy good fish tacos which are pretty hard to come by in Minnesota and Wisconsin. My only disappointment is that my beloved Padres are not playing in town this week. Last time here I was able to catch 3 home games during their 2005 run to the Western Division title.

This conference has a K-12 focus but definitely includes useful info for higher ed as well. I'm actually coming here mainly because of the K-12 focus since I am working on creating materials to use during the next year (and beyond) to offer workshops around the region on Internet safety for kids. I plan to have at least 2 different workshops, and maybe 3. One will be focused on teachers and what they can do to promote and model safe web surfing for their students. A different version will be directed to parents and their kids. I would like to have them together for these workshops but there is a chance that it might prove more effective to talk to the students (through assemblies) separately from the parents (through PTA meetings).

Okay, now I'm here, I'm registered, I'm connected, and I'm heading up to the July 4th opening celebration...but I'm posting this first.

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