Friday, May 30, 2008

Careful Conversations

I talked to a stranger today. Obviously my mom never said not to, or I didn't listen to well. It was someone I met on Skype. Normally I ignore all the requests I get unless I know them. However, I talked to this guy a week or so ago, and again today.

Now I remember why I don't like the Internet Chat rooms. While you have anonymity and can be whoever you want, I never lied. I'm not the kid from the song by Brad Paisley with an online personality that is very different than my own. So the first alarm should have been that he asked me for a picture. He's a great looking guy from his picture, I'm a plain Jane. My picture is not going to impress him. Great. Then I decided to send the picture anyway, this is just a friendship, no big deal. I think I hit strike one, and lost his attention. The conversation shifted.

It shifted to politics. Strike two. I'm not good at keeping up with the views of the world and I hate discussing politics and today's economy. I agree that McDonalds is making a huge profit, but how can we compare something we need (gas to get to McDonalds or our job) to something we think we want (that Big Mac at McDonalds). And McDonalds raises their prices because the cost to ship their food all over is higher with the higher gas prices. He made a comment about one of the candidates, I responded and boom, the conversation went south. Not because we disagreed, but something changed.

I decided to end the conversation before I hit strike three. I need to stick with only talking to people I know or meet in real life instead.

Copyright Law

I'm trying to fix the video I created showing how to use netTrekker d.i. and eChalk together. Unfortunately, I broke my mic on the way to Georgia and the sound quality on the retake is horrible. So I have to re-do a few of the selections and need it to be quiet in the house. Must wait for tonight.

Anyway, as I closed the project I saw the latest eSchool News in my inbox. One of the articles was about the YouTube Law Suit that they say will have an effect on the school's application of using Web 2.0 tools. I have not read the article in full yet, so I don't have the details.

But the title of it reminded me of another article where this kid who had an awesome voice auditioned for American Idol, had a real great chance of making it, but then goofed up on his final audition in a major way (showing more ego than Simon) and therefore never made the show. It was for the best because he'd NEVER have beat out David Cook, and I don't think he'd have been able to cope to losing. Anyway, now that American Idol has crowned the new King, this kid (okay, Josiah Lemming), gave an interview to MTV and said that [American Idol] "it's glorified karaoke -- they pick people with pretty faces and the pretty voices, and they don't let them write their own songs," he explained to MTV News. "They pick these good-looking people with voices, and they have them sing these songs that other people have written. And therefore, it lacks passion, it lacks emotion and it lacks the things that set an artist off from being good to being great. So that's my feeling on it."

Hmmm. David Cook fans would disagree. And I think so would David A.'s fans. David Cook for one had the talent to play with the arrangements and put some passion and soul. The proof though will be in the pudding, when David Cook sells more records than this kid.

But as Tom would say, I digress for the real reason I am about to post. It's not about the number of records David Cook will sell, it's about the whole karaoke deal. I'm going to guess that even a show like American Idol has to pay royalties for each song they play. Their royalties are probably lower than what they would have to pay the contestant if the contestant were to sing their own song. Or, American Idol knows that if they let David Cook sing one of his songs, then David Cook (or other artists) will have to sign the rights over to the show for the use of that song. The copyright use of that song would cause an issue too. Did David Cook write the song himself? Did he have a partner? Do they have to pay for the use of the song to both the performer and the artists. No, it's easier if they buy a song list from various record companies and tell the kids to go at it.

Which is why schools who are creating those wonderful DVD Yearbooks need to be careful before using today's popular music for the slideshows. Are they paying for the rights to use that music? Are they paying the RIGHT people for those rights? Is there a limited time on those rights? (American Idol pulled all the songs at the end of the season. I would bet that part of it is due to paying royalties for using the songs.)

Just some blabberings.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

DimDim is Bright!

One of the definitions that Webster Dictionary gives for dim is lacking pronounced, clear-cut, or vigorous quality or character. So when a product is called Dimdim, it makes you wonder if maybe the product is not going to be of quality.
But, it could also mean that the rest of us are being dim if we're not using this tool.
First, Dimdim is FREE! Now hopefully that has your attention. Now to the meat of the product. Dimdim is a web conferencing service, where you can share your desktop with others, show your presentations, chat in a given area, use VOIP, use a webcam to broadcast live and the next best thing - NOTHING TO DOWNLOAD!
The only drawback for some is that it only allows 20 people at a time to log on. Now for a very small cost you can get the pro, where more can log in. There will also be ads for the free version, but if you're like me - you probably have learned to ignore them.
Okay, so that's what it says up front. Now lets check it out.
It was pretty easy to sign up. That's a plus.
Now time to start a meeting.
Pretty easy. Oh, wait - I had to download a plug-in. Thought there wasn't suppose to be anything to install? Hmmm. A bit misleading to the average computer user. So I download the plugin and I restart Firefox.
Two buttons on the left offer me a chance to either share the desktop or the whiteboard.
The one to share the desktop is giving me a fit. Says there's another meeting open. Wonder what that's about. Nothing else but this blog is open.
Oh, and my email and my messenger program.
Skip that.
The whiteboard wasn't too bad. All participants were able to draw.
Was only able to share a PowerPoint or a PDF file. Not Excel.
I didn't check out VOIP and Video because I'm on the PC that does not have those items built in. I'll try it later on my Mac. And maybe even see what's going on with my sharing desktop.
So be bright bright and try Dimdim.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Inspirational Quotes and How I Killed George Burns

Karen Seddon has another great posting about how she uses Inspirational Quotes in the classroom. She asked us to leave our favorite quote on her website as a comment. So I did. Mine is from George Burns. One night, during my senior year spring break on a late night TV show, George Burns said, "It's better to fail at something you love, than to succeed at something you hate." Year was 1991. What show? I can't remember. I know I went to the beach the next day and kept quoting it over and over, that was the last time I wore a bikini, and I won a bet by getting a fake tattoo. But I can't remember what late night tv show I was watching.
So when I realized I wasn't into the drama off the stage that often came with theatre and movies, I changed my career path to education. Yeah, I prefer the drama there. George's quote inspired me to try a different route, and I was pretty happy teaching the kids in the Gingerbread Theatre classes.
So how did I kill George Burns? Well in High School I told a friend of mine that I would know I was a success the day I got to star in a movie with George Burns. She commented on the fact that he was old and I told her not to worry - he wasn't going to die until we starred in that movie together.
It was around Spring Break (again) and I was back home (March 1996). I ran into that old friend and we caught up. I was getting ready to graduate with my degree in education and she was a bit shocked. She asked me about starring in the movie with George and joked about me putting him off indefinitely like that wasn't a very nice thing to do. I nonchalently said that George could go ahead and rest in peace now and die now, I was going into education. I didn't mean it literally! But the next day she called and informed me that I killed George Burns! Possibly of a broken heart because I was giving up my dream. Either way, I was horrified!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I killed George Burns. (But don't sue me for it. I was no where near him and unless he really was God there is no way he could have heard me!)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Making it Work

I wanted to create a project folder to showcase in Palm Beach, FL for a recent training. I love project based learning, giving students the rubrics up front, and organizing projects in order to keep everyone on task. Since it was time to celebrate Earth Day (which should be celebrated every day), I decided to have students do a project on recycling.
I used netTrekker d.i. to gather my resources. First I created a folder about recycling. Then, I put images in one folder and websites in another (a folder within a folder structure). Then, using the new Template that is offered in My Portfolio by netTrekker d.i., I added the directions. I love the user-defined template! I added the title, gave the intro to the project in the description spot, and in the body I added the task/directions, the evaluation, and the conclusion. That's right, it's somewhat based on a WebQuest.
Now I ran into a problem when it came to posting the rubric. I wanted to use my favorite rubric builder - However, it produces either an HTML document you must host somewhere or an Excel File. I cannot upload documents into netTrekker d.i.'s My Portfolio, so what's a teacher to do? I used Zoho. I uploaded the Excel file into my Zoho account, made it a public URL and then added this external link to My Porfolio. I'm not printing out my rubric only for it to be trashed or lost or made into an airplane and my students still have access to it.
The other thing I wanted to do was have my students watch a video from BrainPop. I have an account from BrainPop, so I added the direct link to the videos I wanted them to watch and in the description I reminded them of the username/password. It was nice that everything is right there for them to view and I'm not sending them off into many directions.
The final project itself was a multimedia "commercial" sharing a simple way to help save the Earth and why you should carry out this simple step. Students could use one of the great multimedia tools from Tech4Learning, PhotoStory, or MovieMaker or other multimedia program of their choice. They used netTrekker d.i. to find images, articles, and other sites of interest to help with the background information needed for the project. Students also wrote a blog entry with their own take on the project.
Now I need to share that information with my students. One way is to bookmark the folder and place it into the school or district folder in netTrekker d.i. But I work with a few schools that are huge and they wanted another way of sharing that folder. We (participants in a meeting) brainstormed a few ideas and one SMART man gave the perfect option.
If you use a Learning Management System (LMS) or Course/Content Management System (CMS) such as eChalk, BlackBoard, Learning Village, Moodle or other program, you can right click on the folder and copy the shortcut and paste it into that location. First, I need to click on EDIT, ADVANCED OPTIONS, and make sure my students have the right to view that folder. Then I right click on the folder, copy shortcut, and paste.

So here's my link to that recycling project:

Let me guess, you tried to click on that link and it won't let you in? That's right. You can only view folders that belong to the account you are registered to. So if your district has an account, even though you are registered to a school, you'll be able to see folders within your district. Your work is protected! If you are IP Authenticated, it takes you straight to the folder. If you have to log in, once you log in it will take you directly to that folder.

With budget crunches and time savers desperately needed, it's nice to see how products work together. It's always been my firm belief that if products play nicely together, then those are the ones I should invest in. Knowing that netTrekker d.i. works with my LMS/CMS, other web tools, and keeps my students safe- well, I'd be more likely to invest.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Public Servant?

Oh my goodness! As everyone knows, education budgets are being cut nationwide, and Florida is being hit extremely hard with a bill that was passed in January due to misleading information.
So what's my oh my goodness remark about? Our politicians have FREE insurance. That's right - FREE! They do not pay a premium for their insurance. One politician was seen on Bay News 9 saying that he's a public servant and that he gave up a lot to go into service for his state.
Hello? You're doing a service? What about the police officers and the firefighters who do a service? I bet they pay a premium for their insurance - and they RISK their lives in the line of duty. What about the teachers who are qualified for other fields in corporate America, could earn a lot more money, but instead live pay check to pay check because they are dedicated? And we hold them to a very high standard - higher than our politicians who get the perks for being a servant to our society.
But here we have politicians who have their ENTIRE family on the FREE plan. It costs 1.5 million dollars for taxpayers to cover these politicians and their families. Only six of the 160 opt out and use the insurance their full time employer has to offer.
Wait, it gets better!
Our high level state workers also get this beautiful fringe benefit. The total bill for their FREE, no premium insurance is $278,000,000. Yes, that is Two hundred seventy-eight MILLION dollars.
They could pay a premium and save us at least $46,000,000.
My dad is retired Air Force and when he retired he chose to keep his TriCare. Now my mom worked for a school district and they offered this great additional service for TriCare covered employees that was FREE. The state finally said, "whoa, that's not legal. They have to pay for something." So they are. It was worth it in the long run because their premium still cost less than what they saved.
So why isn't it illegal here I wonder? We can cut educational programs, health insurance coverage of others, but we cannot get our politicians to pay a premium for their own insurance?
One billion was cut from the education and health care budgets in Florida. $46 million could be given back.
If teachers, police officers, and