Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eco Challenge

Dear Danielle,

The Lexus Eco Challenge is an opportunity for you, your 6th–12th grade students, and your school to make a difference in your community and win a share of $1 million in grants and scholarships!
Click here for entry details and to read the official rules.
What’s new in 2008–2009?
3 Challenges: Compete in as many as three Challenges (Land, Water, Air/Climate), for three chances to win and to qualify for a Final Challenge!
Exciting Prizes: Win larger grants and scholarships in the three Challenges.
Easy Entry Submission: Submit your Action Plan online with MS Word.
Customized Team Info: Edit your team’s profile online.
More Time: Take advantage of the extended prep time to complete the Challenges!
New Lesson Plans and Activities: Inspire students to get involved.Mark your calendar. Click here to see the dates for each Challenge.

Sincerely, Scholastic and Lexus

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Random, Random, Random

During trainings I use either a random number picker or a random name picker to give away doorprizes, depending on the size and mentality of the group. (I did the fruit machine with one group of high school people and got the strangest look!)

With I have variety of tools, graphic organizers, and timeliners at my disposal. My favorites are the Random Name Picker using the fruit machine and the countdown timer. I once even had my son tell me all the punishments he thought was fair for his very bad behavior and then we let the random picker select his punishment. He stood in timeout for 10 minutes that time because the computer told him to and mommy was no longer the bad guy. I have also used the counter. Joey loves the music to race against. I use the A-Team and grant him an extra 9 seconds when we only need a minute.

The site is dry at first glance, but there's a lot here. The flipping a coin can be fun, especially if you select an antique coin. I use to use the random number picker here. We used the dice once when I couldn't find the dice I needed for a game (I forgot them at home actually).

Today I used the randomizer to pick the Florida Lottery numbers. Should I really go play them? Hmmm.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Social Networking

Last year eSchool News said that social networking sites would be in the top six trends for this year. Today a new study was posted that proved that social networking has surpassed porn activity online.
However, teachers are still held back. We, as professionals, can find organizations to exchange lesson plans and to discuss hot topics. We try to keep these sites on the downlow so the techs do not block them. Twitter, Twhirl, For our students use though, the sites are often blocked. YouTube, even embedded in a lesson plan, is blocked from most schools. I understand there are some poor taste YouTube videos out there, but there's also a great bit of relevant videos. It's a shame that embedded videos are also blocked.
Certain other web 2.0 tools are also blocked. Again, I understand, but a teacher should be able to log in and access certain tools. The should be trusted to know which tools are best for students, what videos can help reach the standards, etc.
Our students are no longer looking at porn. They are using social media. Shouldn't we encourage proper usage of social media in the classroom?

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Tissues

I'm not feeling well and have a box of Kleenex in front of me that are Anti-Viral. On the bottom of the box it says "It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Use only as a facial tissue."

Uh oh. How many of you have broken the tissue law?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Izea, Part Three, Last Post

I saved this for last because the presenter really irked me today with his flippant answer. He gave HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE advice to someone who asked a great, legitimate question. (Here is the video, and the remark was at around 45:40)

It was about copyright.

The speaker was Loren Feldman, and he was speaking on Video Blogs. The question was about where to find music that is copyright friendly. He gave the young lady permission to use whatever she wanted for her YouTube Video because basically YouTube has given permission or has come to an agreement with the artists on the use of the music.

He tells them to "go for it." Do not take this advice. You tarnish your reputation if you have to backtrack work because of a violation notice.

Yes it is hard to police this, and no one wants to be seen as a bad guy for doing so. At the same time when other presenters were asked what to do if someone copied part of your blog, there was irate and passion over send a cease and desist letter and how wrong that was. Hello! These artists are also being wronged when you use their music without their permission to make a profit.

YouTube has several mentions of this topic in their Help Section. I personally liked this entry from rewboss: "As a general rule of thumb, if it's a commercial piece, you'll only be allowed to use the music for your own personal use -- typically, you will not be allowed to "distribute" or "broadcast" it. Uploading to YouTube counts as "broadcasting". If you cannot find any information, you should assume that the music is protected under copyright and you can't broadcast it. It's only in the public domain if the author or the performer (whichever is appropriate) actually declares it to be in the public domain. "

And YouTube does have an agreement with Sony BMG and Universal. They do not cover EVERY musical artist out there, nor does that agreement give final say so.

As a matter of fact, if your music is used in a video that links back to your site and says that this video is sponsored by and gives a link - you are in violation no matter what. No longer are you using the music for personal use and expression, but you just gave PROOF that you are making money off that video. For instance, the video on Loren's blog is hosted on YouTube. If you go to his website, the video is there with YouTube in the corner of the video. UNDER the video it says "Today’s show brought to you by" Why did he need someone to bring you a show? Because he's getting some money from it.

Now let's pretend (I haven't watched the video yet) that there's a song used in the background that really enhances the video. And let's pretend the artist who recorded that song either is being sponsored by Payoneer's competitor or totally disagree's with their company philosophy. If the song was used as part of the video, it's misleading. And the average person is going to think they are linked. Big Snaffu issue!

Safest bet, don't use music that can be questioned. Instead either create your own using GarageBand and the special software they have to mix in different band sounds (watched a seminar on this at International Mall, but did not buy into it since I am musically declined), create your own music using Microsoft PhotoStory's music generator, find public domain music, or royalty free music (which you may have to purchase once, but at least you have it).

By the way, Creative Commons does not say that anything can be used creatively - you still have to follow copyright law. Creative Commons is a right that an artist can place on their art if they chose to.

We are really trying to encourage students to be conscience of the copyright law. It would be great if they could realize well respected bloggers, vloggers, and business people in general are also following the law that protects YOU!

IzeaFest Part Two- the Social Network Forum

I thought it was interesting that there was a question from the audience from two current college students about being too personal on the Internet in the social networking circles. I want to re-emphasize what the panel was saying.

Anything you do or say online is apart of your new permanent record (popular presentation by Steve Dembo). If you join a site such as FaceBook or MySpace you do have the option to make it to where only your friends, peeps, etc can see your updates. With that said, if you want to show all fun, sassy, and possibly racy images online but you want to keep it within your approved circle, make sure you check your settings. And if you plan on going in a field where your personality and profile will be checked (education, politics, entertainment, etc) then think twice because private stuff can be copied and pasted. Right now it might be cool -but 20 years from now do you want it known that you "inhaled" true social media? Politicians really need to worry because they will find it harder to deny the actions when there is a photo, messages, and more to back up the claim.

Also, I like the points they made about keeping certain networks for your true personal friends. I agree that Face Book needs to be for friends and families. Join a group from Ning or websites with social components that have a similar interests as you. And if for some reason you are worried about personal information, create an online profile that has same personality as you, but the username, the birthdate, etc is no where near the real information.

I think that's one area they did not stress. Get off Twitter and Facebook already, what other professional networks do you belong to? Lena mentioned a professional network, but she never really detailed this area. I, as a educator and technology trainer, have joined many networks that relate to educational technology and a few with personal interests. As an educator we have many choices, some better than others. But where do these people go?

Last think I want to point out is it's okay for Mommy Bloggers to blog about their children if that's where they are comfortable and they take the precautions that need to be taken. As a mother of a ADHD/LD/OCD, High Anxiety, Sleep disorder, seizure prone child- I often look for other mothers who are going through the same thing. I don't need your child's name, but I would like to know age and if they are a boy or girl. It helps me make a connection. I personally add Joey's name, and include photos such as the one from his last sleep study. I never considered myself a Mommy Blogger though, and the people who follow me on a normal basis know my son. If they didn't, or if I had a more well read popular blog, I might consider twice before posting that information.

I did go back and watch this session, and some of the things that I took out of context there, I was able to put into context after listening to it a second time.

Izea Fest Part One

This Friday and Saturday I was able to attend the IzeaFest in Orlando, FL. I'll admit the first day was not my favorite and I was very skeptical about returning for the second day. I mean, I learned a lot from the sessions but I didn't think they were truly geared towards my goals and learning objectives. I am very glad I stayed behind and did the second day though.
There was no evaluation form, so I'm going to use my blog to give my thoughts. I might even, for the first time, post my blog on Twitter. :-)
I already mentioned the first day was not my thrill point. However, if I could have done the second day first and then the first day second (reverse), I think I would have gotten more out of it. See, today we talked about Content with Merlin Mann (AWESOME!!!!), then had a network forum (uh - one participant irked me), then we talked about design (LOVED the fact that they talked about accessibility issues) and makeovers (great at sharing before and after and why). So today was all about the start to finish of setting up a good blog. Then Friday we talked about making money off the blogs, content, advertising and affiliates. The content part was alright, but the rest needed to be shared today so we would have the full view and concept, working forward instead of backward. Heck, you can't make money on a blog until you have content, people following and a layout that works for your viewers.
Other than that, I think things went really great and I might even consider going back next year. I will look at actually going to the night events and really socializing.
But I have two complaints and I'm going to make those in the next blog post.

Shouldn't be a big deal

I'm at a blogging conference and I was going to pull up my old DEN blog for one person in the room who was curious about my style. Yeah, I could show this blog, but we were talking about comments, voice, etc. and I had more of a voice, community, and comments there. He wanted to learn more about social networking with teachers, so I wanted to show off one of the best social networks for teachers today. My log in for the community no longer works, but our blogs were still there. Hidden, but there. A former DEN member pointed them out to me and told me how they go back there to check a few tools I had mentioned.
Anyway, so I go to one blog I knew was still posted: He then asked me if I changed my name.
All my blog entries are no longer credited to me. Debbie Bohanan gets credit. Which shouldn't matter but goodness, it does. I feel like that whole 11 months was just wiped clean and they're gone. They were great times, and I don't hold a grudge against them for the restructuring - but goodness graciousness, can't they at least leave us as the author of those blogs?
Oh well.

Wall Flower

I was hit smack in the head last night with a "God Awful" truth. I'm an introvert. I am not a social butterfly.

Thursday night there was an event social for IzeaFest. I got into Orlando a bit later than planned and chose to go to dinner with Kelly instead and then go watch America's Got Talent or read. I told myself it was because I didn't want to pay for parking, didn't want to get dressed up in a little or even big black dress, and I wasn't a drinker. Then yesterday I found a spot up against the wall, third table back. I told myself I chose this spot because of the power connection was right there. Last night I chose not to go to the bar event. I told myself I was really tired and wanted to go to dinner.

Truth was in all those events I didn't know anyone and didn't want to stand out as the loser. Yeah, I know I'm not a loser. Give me a bunch of my friends or teachers, and I can be a great social butterfly or social planner. Put me with a bunch of corporate people, or people I don't see an immediate connection to (because there are a lot of people here that are not a lot of corporate people here), and I freeze. I freeze at talking to higher ups in education - superintendent level- even my own old super. I freeze at talking to people who are financially savvy like these people who know how to work from home and make money blogging. I freeze at talking to those who know how to relax, have a drink, and have fun. I have slight panic attacks at the thought. Heck, I froze the first time I spoke to Hall Davidson!

But then I chastise myself each time I don't follow through with the social plans, don't take advantage to network, and sit back to be the wallflower.

Me, the one who was a manager for what I believe was a successful state (North Florida actually) DEN. Me, who will talk to total strangers and invite them to an event - but then don't know how to relax and enjoy Howl At the Moon the way it was meant.

So do I want to re-invent myself? Do I want to change? Yes. How do I expect to meet Mr. Right or a new great friend if I don't learn to really socialize outside of my comfort zone.

How many of you are really good at stepping out of your comfort zone? Think about it. Are you good at stepping out of the comfort zone? Do you get nervous? Freeze like I do?

Let's bring this back to education. How many of you ask your students to step out of their comfort zone? Do you forget to be compassionate in your grading when they do, but are not as successful as others that are in their comfort zone?

Is your professional development plan asking you to step out of your comfort zone? How do they help you step out and be successful?

I signed up for tonight's scavenger hunt. Let's see if I can do this.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Social Network

BrainPop is a fun site, and I enjoy the videos immensely. So does Joey and Zoe. But often times I'm asked, "aside from showing the video, how do you USE BrainPop?"

BrainPop has decided to answer that question by giving their users a great gift. Welcome to BrainPop Educators. Here you can read their updated blog (I wanted to make sure it was going to be updated regularly before I announced it here), find lessons or submit your own, find videos from other users on how they use BrainPop, and more. Check it out!

It'll be interesting to see how much this community grows over the next few months and if it's going to be viral like Discovery Educator Network, or sort of dry like another one I won't mention. I have a feeling it's going to be very engaging!


I'm at the Izea Fest with a bunch of people who have products or services like mobile ringtones, etc. This guy speaking is telling us how he was a failure first. Told us his whole life history of failures. Then he shows us his successes. He has websites that in 2005 earned over $30K a month based on ads.
So I feel totally out of place here. I honestly don't want to earn $30K a month. I know, how silly of me.
And since I don't follow these people normally, I don't know half, okay 98%, of what they are talking about.
But if I don't take away something then I realize that I missed out on time spent calling my customers and getting my email back to normal. So my takeaways:
  • Prioritize the potentially profitable projects
  • Do what others are unwilling to do
  • Make sure that there is still a need for service
  • Build your product for people, not for search engines or profits. If it's for people first then the profits will follow.
  • Grammatical errors on a blog are okay
I like that last one.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Aha Moment of the Day!

I'm running WAY late! I was suppose to be at Debbie's school by now, but I've been so busy - I can't get out the door!
So now since Debbie and I just went over a few things, I can relax before hitting the road. Tomorrow, I'll be attending a blogging conference, and so I decided I would spend my 15 minutes of calm time to see who the presenters are. It's not an educational group, so I don't know them at all.
They all sound interesting, and part of me is wondering why I asked to go now. I have nothing in common with any of them. But this one guy has a post that caught my eye and his opening sentence made me realize WHY I have problems writing "technical" help items for work, or even the third person article for our newsletters. James Chartand's post "What Jergens Hand Soap Can Teach You About Crafting Compelling Copy" starts off with the statement, "Want to be a better writer? Read. That’s a given."
I read all the time! But I don't read the proper books. For instance, I just read "Can You Keep A Secret" by Sophie Kinsella. In the book Emma pretends to have read "Dickens". I pretend too! But I have read James Patterson, Janet Evonich, JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, Vince Flynn - you get the picture. I just read four books since Thursday! Smoking would be a cheaper hobby! I also have a ton of books on my shelves, including The World Is Flat. I think I read part of the first chapter while traveling. Fastest dinner I ever ate! I finished in a hurry to make it to the bookstore. I had to have something entertaining to read. I have skimmed the book since then, but never read it cover to cover, and never will.
I have other books on my shelf like that.
So when I write, I write the way of the authors I enjoy. Stephanie Plum is telling her own story - not Janet. Nora writes details and is expressive, not straight and to the point. And so I want to give the background, the details, and I want to write the story as if I was the one reading it to you. Like we're having a conversation.
My suitcase is packed. I just guiltily looked at the latest ASCD book sitting on my desk.
I grabbed the Jayne Ann Krentz book I picked up yesterday instead.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Travel Stories

This week I had a training in Birmingham, AL. I was excited because this is where one of my former students was going to school and where "Ms. Alabama" Pam Walker lives. I couldn't get a hold of Pam, but I did get a hold of Jay. Thanks to him, a book wasn't my dinner partner on Thursday night.
My adventures started in a Nissan Versa. I drove about a mile away from the airport, looked down, and saw all these ants coming out of the dash, cup holder, and the steering wheel. I think I killed about twenty before I even had the car turned around. For my problems the rental company upgraded me to a Mountaineer. It was either that or a Mustang, but that was not an option. I did NOT want to drive He told me he was giving me a small SUV like the Ford Escape. I've driven the Escape -that I can handle. This car was more like the Explorer or Edge.
And if I had realized how narrow some of the streets were, how ing, and that Alabama is not as flat as I once pictured, I would have begged for the smaller car without the ants.
Anyway, so I get to the hotel and the room is freezing and has a wet floor. Can't turn the air off without smelling the damp. Can't walk in the bathroom without slipping since the bottom of my shoes are now wet. And the air has to stay on so you can mask the smell, but it's not a comforting sound. But the room is clean - so I'll deal.
Jay and I had a great dinner at Johnny Rockets, caught up with how school's been going, gave him a talking to about performance in classes, etc. He even gave me a few minutes in the bookstore and didn't complain about my driving. Such a good kid.
The next morning I left the hotel for the 12 minute drive to the district office. I printed directions off in case my Garmin was wrong. The directions matched, I was good to go. I was leaving early so I could stop and buy black socks. Never got the socks. And I didn't get to the school board by 7:20 as planned. Instead, I was scared witless by 7:30!
I got to the location and it didn't look right. There was no school board offices, the houses looked run down, there were large empty lots that had the appearance of either construction work that stopped or never got started, and things just didn't feel right. But there was a McDonalds and a gas station so I pulled into the gas station for directions. The first person was from Mississippi - didn't know the area. The lady behind the counter didn't speak English. Three guys walked in, and I decided to ask them for help. They said they were from the area and when I said I was looking for 18th Street South or the School Board offices of Jefferson County. The bigger of the three guys asked me if I was crazy, "don't you know not to go asking no stranger for directions? You don't know where they goin' to send you." I responded that I was lost and was just hoping they would be nice enough to help me out. The guy said, "okay, I'll be nice. That here road is 18th Street. You came the north. Head that way for the south side. Just turn right out of the lot."
I walked super fast back to my car, and looked back inside the store. The guys were laughing. The big guy had his back to me, and when he bent at the waist, I saw the gun tucked in the back of his pants. I stepped on the gas and turned right.
Quickly I realized I was not going the right direction. Nope. Nada. See, I was headed down a dead end. No sign saying so, but the road stopped, there were trees all around, and no where to go. I did a three point turn, looked in my rear view mirror and saw the guys still at the store, and turned around. When I drove past them, they were laughing and pointing at me and one of them made the gun signal, shot it my way and then waved goodbye.
That episode of "The District" where Jack had to go to California for something to do with a case, and the car he rented had a navigational device or computer in it that had been tampered with. It sent him to a destitute, deserted lot. He was a cop who knew no fear. I knew fear.
I got back on the Interstate, pulled over at the next exit, plugged in Jay's dorm (on 14th Street South) and found my way from there.
Found 18th Street. Went the wrong way at first, so I turned around. Got to the 900 area and I'm not sure how far up it went, but all the sudden, the road dead ended into a beautiful historic looking school on a hill. I went around the school, thinking 18th street continued on the other side. Nope. But I did find a Police Station with an officer and a janitor standing outside.
I explained I was lost. I told him what happened. He said white girls shouldn't be on the north streets. Told me how to get to where I was going. It wasn't on 18th Street as I would find it. I called Jane. Her soothing voice helped calm me down. I was nervous I wouldn't find the site. But I did find it. I signed in at 8:15, still a bit shaking.
And I guess the training went okay. I had abotu 50 + hard working media specialists in there. We were cramped for time, barely covering everything. But I heard great comments and they said they wanted me to come back.
Especially since I know my way now. :-)