Life Long Learning in Action

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The SMART Table: Classroom Desktop Computing

Hmm. Interesting. Reminds me of the Microsoft Surface.

SMART - SMART Table.jpg

It is hard to form an opinion yet based on an advertisement. I would like to see how this is used within the context of an actual classroom. Also I wonder if the table runs with its own open source operating system, or comes with a proprietary SMART O.S. Most likely I assume the table will function like the SMART Board and can be plugged into a local computer.

What do you think about this?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Acquia Debuts Drupal for Free": My Thoughts...

Drupal - Content Management System | Acquia-1.jpg

This is pretty exciting news especially since I use Drupal for my classroom website! It could mean improvements in the future such as a one click update module (I have hoped for this for a LONG TIME) just like the Wordpress InstantUpgrade plugin that I love. I looked around a little to find some business information on Acquia and I found out who is running the show over there.

Acquia Readies Commercial Drupal CMS

"Acquia is headed up by Dries Buytaert, the founder and still a lead developer of Drupal."

(Via GigaOM.)

I believe that this is a good thing because it hopefully means that there will be significant initiative to push out updates/improvements to the community instead of keeping them proprietary and closed source.

At least this is what I hope!

I just installed Acquia's flavor of Drupal on my hosted server (the same that hosts this blog) and already I really like the administration panel across the top of the page.

Site building | Mr. Circe_s Website.jpg

Later on I will have to copy over some of the modules I use over at my classroom website to see how they are compatible.

Still looking forward to the DrupalEd update that should be coming soon. I will wait until then to make my decision on which version to start pulling my content over to.

Acquia Debuts Drupal for Free

"Acquia has announced the availability of Acquia Drupal, a free and commercially supported distribution of the popular Drupal open source social publishing system. They also unveiled the Acquia Network, which offers subscription-based access to technical support and remote network services that simplify the development and operation of Drupal Web sites. Entry level subscriptions to the Acquia Network will be free of charge through the end of the year.

For those that aren’t overly familiar with Drupal, it’s an open source web development and content management platform that publishes, manages and organizes a wide variety of content on websites. Tens of thousands of people and organizations are using Drupal.

With the release of Acquia Drupal with its streamlined packaging of Drupal and a support system via the Acquia Network, there will definitely be a tremendous increase in Drupal developers and websites powered by this Drupal.

All subscribers to the Acquia Network will gain access to the Acquia Network’s subscriber forums, remote network services such as software update notifications, uptime monitoring, Mollom spam blocking, and Acquia Drupal documentation.

What all this means is that many more companies, especially enterprise class entities, will be much more willing to dip their toes in the Drupal pool now that there’s a commercial grade package available that includes tech support. If all this sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking about Linux and how similar its path has been to the corporate world. At one point, only extreme geeks used Linux, until some big names like IBM and Novell started proving technical support plans with their Linux offerings. That allowed larger companies to try Linux much the same way they will try Drupal thanks to the Acquia partnership and support offering.

It seems like the natural evolutionary progression for all open source projects to go from a handful of geek’s using it in their basement to the corporate enterprise once a commercial package with tech support is distributed. It will be interesting to see what kind of websites and social networks are born from this marriage between Acquia and Drupal."

(Via Mashable!.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Found this ironic...

Yesterday I was at the store and instead of seeing a traditional paper shredder I saw this instead...


Would this have caught your eye as well?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shiny Eyes

The other day my wife, son, and I traveled upstate to spend some time with our family. Along the way we listened to a couple TED talks. These talks are free to download via the TED website or you can subscribe to a feed through iTunes. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design and their annual conference brings together some of the most interesting speakers from around the world. These individuals range from famous politicians to scientists doing some amazing work. They are given 18 minutes to give the "talk of their lives." Often I look for talks related to education or technology but somehow a talk on classical music slipped in.

We had finished listening to four other talks when I decided we should give the last one a listen.

We listened and we loved it.

The talk was given by Benjamin Zander and the most memorable part of the talk is when he speaks about "shiny eyes". He relates his experiences as a conductor and his personal realization that he wanted to consistently "awaken possibilities in other people." In order to assess how he was "awakening" these possibilities all he had to do was look at their eyes to see if they were "shining".

"Who am I being if my players eyes are not shining?"

For parents, relatives, and teachers...

"Who am I being that my children's eyes are not shining?"

As a parent and a teacher this caused me to pause and think about what I do daily to awaken possibilities in my son's life and the lives of my students. Often we can get caught up in the daily grind leading to the simple things and glorious opportunities passing us by.

Take a listen to the talk and enjoy. We loved it and I hope you do too!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

iTunes U for K-12

Pretty exciting news came my way via Kelly Dumont.

iTunes U, a wonderful free service full of rich content from universities and community colleges across the nation, is now spreading to K-12!

Kelly has a great post on his blog where he talks a little bit about the program.

"I believe this project will be somewhat of a game changer. Here K12 ed will have a central gathering place for resources, be they audio, video, text-based, etc." - Kelly Dumont

In order to check out some of the schools and state programs who were part of the the launch you can find the K-12 link within iTunes. After launching iTunes and the iTunes Store all you need to do is click on "iTunes U"

Then click on "K-12"...


After you have navigated your way through you can select one of the schools or organizations from the list. For right now the list is short but I am sure the list and interface will grow with time.

Here is a look at Michigan's MILearning page...


While you are checking out the K-12 content you should definitely take some time to explore the university content. Neat stuff!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Google Applications and Google Sketchup

Tonight is my last night of class for a ten session graduate class at SUNY New Paltz which is part of the Classroom Technology Institute (CTI) summer classes. The title of the course is Google Applications for Teachers. I had a lot of fun taking this course! Here is a list of some of the different Google tools that we have explored.


Google Calendar

Google Documents

Google SketchUp


Google Reader

Google Earth


and iGoogle

Quite a bit of these web-based applications I am familiar with and use. Regardless of what I use I find there is always new things to learn about these types of tools. It is interesting hearing from other teachers how they look to use these tools in their classrooms.

One tool I had a lot of fun playing and working with was Google SketchUp. This application brings me back to my technical drawing classes back in high school!

Here is a quick snapshot I took from the project I worked on for the course. I decided to try my best at drafting up a model of the school I teach in.

Google Sketchup

On the left monitor is an aerial view of my school via Google Earth. On the right screen I tried my best to draw the different portions. It is amazing how powerful a free application such as this is. Kevin Jarrett informed me via Twitter that Google SketchUp Pro is free for educators. I look forward to going through the process of obtaining one of these free teacher licenses in order to see the type of features that are present in the Pro version.

Enough about me...

My question for teachers out there is...what Google tool do you use the most personally? Also, which is your favorite to use with your students?

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!

Monday, June 16, 2008

New Free Apps for the Mac

Found these free apps the other day when looking for presentation support software.

One is called Desktop Curtain which displays a blank desktop right in front of your cluttered desktop.
Many Tricks · Desktop Curtain.jpg

The other application is called Plainview. Plainview is a full screen web browser.
plainview _ software _ the barbarian group.jpg

Both are free and both work great. I am the type of user who does not like anything on my desktop but I still leave folders and files there that I am working on. Sometimes I just turn on the Desktop Curtain in order to "forget" about what it is I probably should be working on!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Internet Video and Copyright Infringement: Be careful!

I am least in the eyes of the music industry. For my evilness they have slapped my wrist.

1 year and 8 months ago I made a video containing short clips of my son's first four months. I also added in 5 minutes of Lynryd Skynrd's song "Simple Man" as a background track. I shared the video with family members and on a whim decided to add it to Youtube along with clips of my son's first Halloween and first words. This is where I messed up. It is a mistake many make, and probably do not realize they are making.

I foolishly thought my little video would be seen only by my own family and the friends they shared the video with. I knew the risks. I knew online videos are open to everyone unless the user makes their videos private. But I decided to fight the law and see what would happen. (In reality, I was just naive, and did not feel there was a threat to my video).

Even after I started learning more about content online and copyright issues, I did not take the video down because I was curious to see if it would be noticed.

Almost two years later my video has performed as I predicted...

YouTube - Noah Music Video.jpg

With 300+ views I can tell you that 90% were from my own mother showing the video to her friends. Regardless, this does not excuse my usage of protected works.

Today I received notification from Youtube that this video had been found to contain music belonging to Universal Music Group. Or at least, I assume "UMG" stands for Universal.

Here is a screenshot of the email that was sent to me...


As you can see my punishment is weak. Their claim allows them to include advertisements on my video page. At first I was relieved my little video could still stay up. This seemed very fair, until I visited my page and saw this...

YouTube - Noah Music Video-1.jpg

I have since removed the video and hope to hear from others. Has this happened to you?

How can we as educators share an experience such as this with our students as they venture out and create digital projects?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Been gone too long...

It seems like it was forever ago when I last updated this blog! The end of the school year has been hectic but I plan on getting back into the swing of things soon.

For now I hope that everyone is having a wonderful end of the school year and keep checking back for new content!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope: "Google Earth" reversed!

I have used tools such as Celestia and Stellarium before but this one truly looks like I can slide these two to the side. Excitement aside, we will just have to wait and see how it works once it is released and how it can be integrated into a learning environment.

When you visit the TEDTalks website there is a little button on the bottom for downloading the video as a Mp4. I have already popped it into iTunes so I can show some teachers at school today!

TED | Talks | Roy Gould: WorldWide Telescope

"Science educator Roy Gould gives an astonishing sneak preview of Microsoft's new WorldWide Telescope -- a technology that combines feds from satellites and telescopes all over the world and the heavens, and builds a comprehensive view of our universe. (Yes, it's the technology that made Robert Scoble cry.)"

(Via TED Talks.)

So what do you think?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Attention: Moving El/Ed/Tech!

I shall be moving to


Not much of a change in URL but it is a change in RSS. I have been quite partial to Wordpress for a while now and decided over the weekend to do my own Wordpress install on my hosted server. It went great and I would love to start posting exclusively over there.

So for my RSS subscribers please subscribe to the new feed. For the meanwhile I will be cross posting in both locations.

Thank You!

Very Neat Plugin from Flickr for your Wordpress Blog!

I saw this new plugin mentioned by Tim, so I decided to test it out from within my Wordpress account. The installation of the plugin went smooth and once I migrate everything over from Blogger to there I am looking forward to utilizing it! I really love the way it automatically places in the citation. At first I did not like how it only showed 5 pictures at a time, so within the options pane I found that you can increase the number of photos shown as well as change the selection to display the "most interesting" photos first.

All the instructions for using the plugin can be found here.

Wordpress + Flickr + Creative Commons = Awesome New Plugin for Bloggers

"Adding photos to your blog is one of the best ways to enhance your content and attract attention to your writings. The only problem is that finding quality photos to use can be difficult. Bloggers end up going with one of three options: stealing, buying, or using Creative Commons licensed photos. Now, that third option just got easier with the introduction of the Photo Dropper Wordpress plugin. This new plugin searches flickr for Creative Commons licensed photos for you to add to your Wordpress blog.

There are millions of Creative Commons photos in flickr's database, but finding the right one can take time. The new Photo Dropper plugin simplifies the process by adding a panel to the 'Write Post' screen that allows you to search flickr's database for Creative Commons photos.

After entering in your keyword and clicking 'search,' the plugin will return photos from flickr matching your search terms. Underneath each photo are four links. Three links, 'S', 'M', and 'L', allow you to post that size photo into your blog. The fourth link will open the flickr page in a new window, so you can double-check the licensing requirements if necessary.

The photo which is placed into your blog automatically has text appended underneath it that says 'photo credit' and links to the user who is licensing the photo. The small Creative Commons logo precedes the text as well.

Photo Dropper also offers an option for commercial users. In the Options section, they can check the 'commercial' check box to exclude photos whose license contains a non-commercial limitation.

You can download Photo Dropper for free from here."

(Via ReadWriteWeb.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lunar Eclipse This Wednesday!

Image via NASA

I know I will be outside for this. Hopefully it is a clear night!

Full Lunar Eclipse for the Americas on Wednesday
"'It will be the last lunar eclipse until December 2010, and it should be spectacular. Shades of turquoise and red will pour over the moon's surface as it moves into the Earth's shadow around 8:43pm EST. As NASA reports: 'Transiting the shadow's core takes about an hour. The first hints of red appear around 10 pm EST (7 pm PST), heralding a profusion of coppery hues that roll across the Moon's surface enveloping every crater, mountain and moon rock, only to fade away again after 11 pm EST (8 pm PST). No special filter or telescope is required to see this spectacular event. It is a bright and leisurely display visible from cities and countryside alike. While you're watching, be alert for another color: turquoise. Observers of several recent lunar eclipses have reported a flash of turquoise bracketing the red of totality ... The source of the turquoise is ozone.' So, all of you amateur astronomers need to get out there and take pictures. It might be worthwhile sharing them on sites like SpaceWeather or Flickr so that our Asian, European, African, and Australian brethren can witness the sight as well."

(Via Slashdot.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Textbook of the future?

Came across this story today in my RSS feeds. What does this mean for the traditional publishing companies? For right now I do not think they need to worry.

CK-12: Remix and Share Your Own Text Books as FlexBooks

"CK-12 wants to bring open data to school textbooks under the name of FlexBooks. Through the tools on their site they'll let schools, teachers, parents and students can pull articles from different sources . The books will be available to others via the site. The demo that they showed this morning at TOC really wowed the publisher-heavy audience. The non-profit, currently in limited beta, will be launching in August."

"The UI for book creation is simple and attractive (the Engineering Book above was made during the demo). You can search content from CK12, Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and WikiUniversity. The results are articles that can be previewed. Once an article is selected for inclusion in the book it can simply be dragged over to the Table of Contents. At any point in the process the book can be downloaded, viewed as a PDF or saved to CK-12. The internal storage format is DocBook, a format used by book publishers (like us; in fact the tool is very similar in concept to our own Safari U -- just different source materials and pricing)."

(Via O'Reilly Radar.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Great PDF Document Viewer for the Mac: Skim

A trend that I am beginning to see more and more of in the graduate classes that I am taking is the lack of textbook purchases that I am having to make. I think that this is wonderful. There were plenty of textbooks from my undergraduate years that cost a ton, yet were rarely used. In the place of textbooks the professors select journal articles or specific chapters from books that the library scans in using an electronic reserve system. The journal articles are typically accessible through the university library subscription service database (ProQuest, EBSCO, JSTOR, etc.) In the past I would go straight to the campus computer lab and print 20-25 page articles out, one at a time.

Such a waste of paper!

Instead of this I have been doing the best I can to utilize Adobe Reader as a way to read the PDF's and take notes on paper or with a word processor. The new Adobe Reader 8 has some nice highlighting and note taking features. However, with any free software released by a major corporation, it is expected that the consumer pay for more functionality (Adobe Acrobat).

I found a really nice, open source, PDF/Note taker application called Skim.


For a free application there is plenty of functionality. Below is an image I snapped along with some text pointing out the key components of the user interface.

101 Resources.pdf (page 4 of 20).jpg

Even when switching to full screen mode the user still has the ability to use all of the markup tools for commenting and taking notes on the content of the document. There are a few easy to remember keyboard shortcuts which helps the user accomplish the task much smoother. Using it today in full screen mode I had a new discovery when I moved my cursor toward the edge of the screen. The notes window pane and the thumbnail window pane would appear, alternating based upon the side of the screen that I moved the cursor towards. I was pleasantly surprised and I feel that this is great for jumping from page to page, or note to note without ever leaving the fullscreen mode.

Overall I am quite pleased with the application, and it serves my educational reading needs! For the Mac user I would suggest it over using Preview or Adobe.

Oh dear: Logo Mash-ups galore!

Microsoft and Yahoo? Part Deux. Mash-up Imagery.

The Daily Poll_ Should Yahoo Accept Microsoft’s Offer?.jpg
(Via Mashable)

Microhoo? | The Boy Genius Report.jpg
(Via The Boy Genius Report)

Poll_ What do you call a combined Yahoo! and Microsoft? - Engadget.jpg
(Via Engadget)

and this...

You Know, the AOL-Time Warner Merger Sounded Like a Good Idea at the Time, Too | John Paczkowski | Digital Daily | AllThingsD.jpg

(Via All Things Digital)

Microsoft and Yahoo? An Educator's Perspective.

Flickr Photo Download_ Yahoo! purple Ford Fairlane 500.jpg

Creative Commons Photo Courtesy of

I must say that I was quite surprised this morning to read the news regarding Microsoft's announcement of their 44 Billion dollar bid for Yahoo!. In today's search engine race it is obvious that Google is continuing to climb in the market and clearly is the dominant player. It seems reasonable for Microsoft, who has the cash on hand, to put forth an effort to salvage their own

In many ways the easiest and most habitual action is to reach out to Google for the tools and services that they provide. Google Earth, Google Docs, and GMail are all extremely popular services utilized by educators around the country and the world. I use all of these tools but there are some aspects of, specifically that I really like. The bird's eye view is by far my favorite.

Live Search Maps.jpg

I have utilized the bird's eye view in my classroom during lessons involving locations around our community. Something about the aerial view/hybrid view just does not cut it. In my opinion seeing a side angle of a building or a local landmark is preferable to pixelated views of roofs and tree tops. That opinion can certainly be debated, but based on the response of my third graders they tend to recognize the location much more once I switch over to

I believe this news is a good thing for both Yahoo! and Microsoft as they seek to hold ground, and users, in the web search industry. If anything, I believe that it will create more competition (I hope) which in the end leads to better products for the end users (you and I). Better applications, that are intuitive and stable, can lead to more confidence for the reluctant teacher. Variety can be healthy. Even if in 3-5 years it is Google vs. Microsoft Yahoo! Ask Search.

Now I wonder, if this all goes through...will Yahoo! become Yahoo! Live?
Will Yahoo! drop the "!"?
Simply puzzling...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Challenger: 22 years later...

On January 28th, 1986, the seven member crew aboard space shuttle Challenger lost their lives 73 seconds after launch. I was too young then to realize the impact of that mission and the disaster. Today though, as an educator, I asked my students to pause for a moment and reflect upon their own goals. To think of where they see themselves in 22 years and how America still can learn from triumphs as well as tragedies in our past. Our students are the future. I only wish that they continue to work hard and dream as big as the seven aboard that ship 22 years ago.


Photo Courtesy of NASA

Saturday, January 19, 2008 and Yahoo Search?

edtechtalk - Yahoo! Search Results.jpg
It will be interesting to start seeing results along with Yahoo searches. It is an intriguing blend of search bot and human powered input!

Delicious Integrated Into Yahoo Search Results: "I just got word that Yahoo is testing the integration of Delicious user generated bookmarks into Yahoo search results pages (Yahoo acquired Delicious in late 2005). Some users will see the Delicious icon as part of their normal search results, which tells them how many people have bookmarked those pages, as well as the tags people have supplied for those pages."
(Via Techcrunch.)

Give it a try here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cool products coming out of MacWorld 08

I am a huge fan of Plasq. The makers of Comic Life and Skitch. Skitch has been in private beta since last year but is now open as a public beta.

Their newest application for children, Doozla, is quite fresh and very affordable. The clip below only shows Doozla for the first half, and Comic Life Magiq for the second half. Regardless, it is exciting to see simple programs like these coming out at the same time all the hub bub is broiling over products such as the Mac Air.

Library of Congress- Flickr Images

Flickr_ Photos from The Library of Congress.jpg

The Library of Congress has recently launched a photo pilot program on Flickr where they are posting over 3000 high quality images from their most popular collections. Not only are these images available on Flickr, they are also available there with no copyright restrictions. According to the Library of Congress article they hope to address some challenges that they face...

If all goes according to plan, the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity. In many senses, we are looking to enhance our metadata (one of those Web 2.0 buzzwords that 90 percent of our readers could probably explain better than me).

Below I have included a couple of my favorite images from the collection. Enjoy and explore for yourself!




Needless to say this one caught my eye in the "News in the 1910s set"