Tuesday, December 28, 2004


If you have the ability to download on your system's computer, I suggest that you try Mozilla's new Firefox browser. I have been using it exclusively for the last few months (starting with the beta version), and I have noticed that the problems of pop-ups and annoying ads don't occur. I'm told by my son-in-law (who is our home network guru) that the security puts Microsoft products to shame.

I also love the ability to create tabs in a single window. They're easier to close when I want to return to the previously open tab than the multiple windows in IE or Netscape.

I've experienced no difficulty with viewing any sites. It doesn't appear that incompatibilities are much of a problem. Either that, or website developers are getting savvier about not using browser-specific tags.

There's also a new email viewer, called Thunderbird, that many are calling an "Outlook killer". I haven't tried it - I generally use my Yahoo account, or Popmail.

In general, the Open Source software that I've tried is functional and easy to use (Open Office, Linux, Firefox, etc.). I must caution, however, I don't generally push the envelope. I'm a lazy user - if the software does 80-90% of what the commercial product does, I'm satisfied with it. Minor differences don't bother me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


I'm on vacation for the next 2weeks. After that, I don't know right now. I'm of the belief that, right now, the most important quality for a teacher is to be flexible. The employment situation is tight, improvements in class sizes or pay seem unlikely, and most districts are operating in no-frills modes.

On the positive side, it's nearly Christmas. My kids are nearby or staying with us for the holidays, my extended family is healthy, and I'm baking cookies with my daughters today.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Good Night!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I've been researching sources of funding for professional development. The following places, I've found, explain a little about ESEA (Elementary & Secondary Education Act), and other grant sources. I think I need to pick someone's brains about the specifics of how I help districts get the money for workshops and training.

I fear that I will need to become engulfed in the jargon and esoterica of the grant world to be able to make this happen. Well, if I have to, I have to.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Blogs have hit the recognition level. People outside of the blogging community have heard of them (and perhaps even started following one), but they have difficulty seeing the utility of them. I've talked to many teachers about blogs, even urged them to use them as a way of updating parents and students about the happenings in their classroom. But, few have responded. They don't perceive the value as great enough to justify the steep learning curve.

Over the next few months, I'm going to re-visit this issue on multiple occasions. I use blogs, I read other people's blogs, and I am passionate about their potential for education. I will be spotlighting my favorite blogs, posting about tips and techniques that are easy-to-use, and generally promoting their use in education.


I'm telling everyone I know about this:
"Yellow ribbons tied around trees and red, white and blue
stickers on the backs SUVs saying "Support our Troops"
are things that make civilians feel good but do nothing
for the men and women actually in uniform.

So please consider the following:

The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home.

Locally, some inexpensive places to get phone cards are - Marc's, Walmart, and Target.

So, while you are trekking around town, picking up things for your loved ones, consider adding a phone card (any size) to your purchases, and sending it to:

Medical Family Assistance Center
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001

You won't be sorry.


The "Winter Break" is fast approaching, and it's likely that the overload of responsibilities will make updates less frequent. I should be back by January 3rd, if not sooner.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


I often have workshop participants comment on how much I know about a particular technology. At first, I was more than a little embarassed about it, protesting that I wasn't all that knowledgeable.

Over time, however, I came to realize that my knowledge base WAS larger and more comprehensive than many other teachers, at least in the area of technology. I eventually came to some conclusions about the time I spent, and what other people were willing to do to further their expertise.

On the average, I spend 5-10 hours a week either online, reading about technology topics, attending workshops, testing out hardware and software, and otherwise keeping myself up-to-date on technology. That's in addition to preparing to present workshops, taking classes in the summer, and attending seminars and conferences.

All that is W-A-A-A-y more than the average teacher. So, it's perhaps not surprising that I can use the technology more effectively. On the other hand, many teachers spend more time on lesson planning than I; the quality of their planning shows in the lessons. I also am terrible about keeping up-to-date on the grading. I need to budget more time for formal feedback via corrected papers.

In the end, you get better in the areas that you focus on. For me, it ends up being the tech.


On the blog University Diaries, you will find this link to the University of Michigan student newspaper:

So, why, with the equipment so readily available in the college classroom, are so few professors using it?
Of the 184 professors surveyed, 24 percent said they didn’t have the time to learn the technology. Twenty-seven percent said they didn’t know about the benefits, 17 percent said the technology was inappropriate for their classes and 23 percent said it wasn’t worth using.

It sounds as though schools are much the same at every level. Relatively few experienced teachers will change radically what they have been doing all along.

I've found that to be true in the corporate world as well. Unless an employer mandates use of the technology, only the few who enjoy being on the cutting edge will learn new tricks.

This will change 2 ways:
  • New teachers will bring in a different skill set, one that includes a certain comfort with the technology
  • Teachers will adopt technology if they can see what the benefit to them will be (WIIFM - What's In It For ME). One strong motivator is a reduction in time spent doing a task. Another is if using the technology brings them recognition as an educational leader.


I found these gifts on the Wired Magazine website.

Some gift mugs with a science theme.

A tote that's literally out of this world! Made with materials that were on the space station.

The Science Mall

This site contains items I've never seen anywhere, such as the Meteorite Pendant.


This area of technology is not one that I'm the most expert on, to say the least. However, many teachers have weather stations, and it looks as though the National Weather Service is going to have their data available in a more user-friendly format. That will, of course, affect the commercial services that have traditionally served as a filter for the publicly-funded program's data.

From what I can see, it may be worth your while taking the time to become familiar with the format, particularly for the Biology and Earth Science teachers. I'm just making the decision that it's not worth it for me, personally.

Friday, December 03, 2004


I was in a meeting with the principal today, and he said something very sweet - "We are going to have to find some way to keep you here with us".

I've been working as a long-term sub for the computer teacher (who had a baby at the end of the summer). The assignment ends next week on Friday. So, I've been working hard to make sure the grading is up to date, the room is returned to the way it was, and I start packing up my stuff to schlep it back home. I'm really going to miss that place.

But, wait! There's more!

I've found another sub possibility, this time at Gilmour Academy. It won't start until January, though. But, this job is in SCIENCE! Wouldn't that be great?

It's been hard keeping my spirits up, since the shutdown of teacher hiring is nearly total in the Greater Cleveland area. It doesn't look good even now, since the Cleveland schools levy failed. I fear there's more cutbacks to come.

Still, I have to say, I'm cautiously hopeful. I may not be working on a permanent position, but I've been very lucky with the work I've been getting. And I plan to beat the bushes to drum up some training opportunities. I've been talking to teachers at local conferences (such as the T3 conference at John Carroll last month), and it's clear that they would like to find a way to get professional development in technology, particularly if the focus is on ways to use the technology in a classroom by an experienced teacher.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Sometimes I have difficulty conveying just what it is about technology that I find so fascinating. It's not just the coolness of the stuff, it's the possibilities for what you can do with it.

Some of those neat things:
  • Using the Logger Pro software to create digital reports. Schools are always trying to get content-area teachers to include more language-arts activities in their lessons, and the software makes it easy to create a modifiable template for the report.
  • Immediacy of results. The quick response time of the digital equipment (probes and such) reinforces the lesson in real-time. The kids don't have to figure out what the meaning of the experiment was, it's evident in the graph that is produced.
  • Everybody likes to be master of the cool tech. The kids get a real kick out of becoming expert in something that others don't know how to use.
  • Multi-purpose technology. Rather than buying specialized equipment, that otherwise sits on a shelf and takes up space, the various digital probes can be used in a variety of activities.
  • Speed of set-up. Because it doesn't take long to put the probes into action, it's an easy matter to use the equipment on a daily basis.


I wanted to update everybody on the current status of teaching in Ohio.

There aren't many jobs. I mean, of course some of the parochial schools have a couple of openings, and the charter schools are always looking, but, effectively, there really are no jobs.

Except a FEW special ed jobs.

That's unheard of. There has been a shortage for over 10 years, at least in science and math. At any given moment, open positions exist in urban districts. That fact has been helpful for the young teachers. For many years, the urban schools were the employer of the last resort.

Not now. And, perhaps, not for some time in the future. The urban districts have consolidated existing classes, and the numbers are approaching Hoo-Boy. I don't have to say that such a crowded class is less effective in providing education. That's pretty obvious. But it also diminishes the school climate, and makes both teaching and learning more of a hassle, and less of a good thing.

I'll be back on the street in a little less than 2 weeks (I knew that it was a short-term job). I'm a little nervous about the prospect, but I have to believe that there is a purpose for all this turmoil.

If anyone wants to talk about setting up a workshop, I'm available. Don't be shy.


If you haven't checked out the new Vernier GoTemp! and GoLink! probes, you're really missing something. The bundled software is slick and easy to use, and the set-up is simplicity itself.

We got a couple when they first came out (my husband and I are big fans of the Vernier people), and we've been more impressed the more we use them.

They've been designed for the beginner crowd that has never used science probes in the classroom. There's a exploration book ($15) that's designed for the upper elementary/middle school level student. If you'd like to see a sample, Click on this link.

In the Logger Lite software that's bundled with the probe, users can make use of a Predict mode, which fits right in with the constructivist methods of learning. You can see the red Predict Line on this screen shot.


Normally, I r-e-a-l-l-y cheap. I don't spend, for hardware or software, until I'm fully convinced that it will be worth the purchase.

So when a friend, Lynn King, a very techno-savvy teacher in Cleveland, said that I needed to try QuizLab, I followed her advice.

QuizLab is definitely worth the expense. It's $ 30/yr. per teacher. You can buy an individual license, or get a slightly better deal in combination with other teachers. Either way, and even if you have to pay for it, it's very much worth it.

To begin with, imagine entering a quiz, having the students take it online, with the scores sent directly to you via email. Or you can check out how the kids did on the site. Reports are generated as soon as the test is completed, and, here's the best part, if a student is not present, they can take the test either with you present, or at their convenience.

Believe it or not, I was able to enter 2 classes, set up the test, and generate the students' login ID and passwords in only about an hour. I left the instructions for the sub, and she was able to proctor the test with absolutely no trouble. Because I chose to have the questions randomized, cheating wasn't a problem.

I'm currently setting up a final for all my classes. Part of the finals will be the same (basic computer operations), and part based on the activities of the classes, which differ.

You can import other people's tests, which can then be modified for your unique situation.

I can't describe how really good this site is. Go check it out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Technology in Teaching

NOVEMBER 24, 2004


I just was looking over old blogs, and I noticed I hadn't used this one for a while. I've been blogging on the political one, Right As Usual.

But, with the election over, it seems time to turn the focus to other issues and concerns.

Where I'm at:

Semi-employed, in a local middle school, on a long-term sub assignment as a technology teacher. It's been a really good experience, since it's allowed me to try out things in the classroom in an atmosphere of little pressure. If it works, great. If it doesn't, ahh- what the heck, I'm only subbing.

The students have been pussycats, just adorable (with occasional slight moments). In general, teaching in a suburb is FAR easier than the urban districts. It's not that the kids are so different (OK, they're a little quieter and less volatile), but the administration has the attitude that the kids CAN and WILL behave, or there will be consequences.

That's not generally the case in the city. There, the automatic assumption is that any challenges in the classroom are strictly the teacher's fault, probably because the teacher hates minority kids, or is not competent at his/her job, or just didn't have a good enough lesson plan.

Lesson Plans - yeah, that's the ticket. Just get a good one, align it to the state standards, and the kid with the substance abuse problem will sober up.

Yeah, right.