Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday Web of the Week: Google Books!

Web Address:

We've talked about Google Books here before, but there have been some new developments that make Google Books even more appealing.  Along with yesterday's tech tip, I wanted to mention some great ways to get some books.  With the new agreement between the publishing industry, authors, and Google. Even more books will be available through Google's Book search and now there will be options for purchasing books even those that are out of print otherwise.  You can read more about the new agreement here:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday: Read a book, anywhere you want!

Something happened last year.  It was a tipping point.  For years there have been eBooks.  All kinds and varieties of eBooks.  An eBook is a digital version of a regular paper and ink book.  An eBook is the literary equivalent of an MP3 Audio file.  There have been two troubles with eBooks in the past.  First of all multiple players have been involved in creating different formats.  Microsoft, Adobe, and independent groups have all created text formats for reading.  It would seem simple to convert text to text, but it hasn't been the text that is a problem, but rather how do you navigate through the text in a way that feels as intuitive and simple as reading a book.  This vast variety of formats and software to read the formats has created the second problem. The second problem has been distribution.  Because there are a variety of formats there have also been a variety of stores.  Different online stores have sold or distributed these eBooks.

The tipping point?  Amazon's Kindle.  By creating not only a format that was useful but also a distribution mechanism that was simple and easy and importantly: vast, eBooks became viable. I have been an eBook reader for years, but I am probably the exception and I have used several different formats and softwares for reading eBooks.  But now, that there is a distribution portal for the books eBooks became truly mainstream. But of course as soon as somebody starts making some serious money, somebody else is going to compete.  There are now several different eBook reader devices but importantly there are several distribution sources.  Barnes and Noble launched their Nook reader just in time for Christmas, Borders bookstore has formed a relationship with Sony and markets books for Sony's Reader.

But the best of all of this in my mind, I don't have to buy their readers at all.  When Barnes and Noble launched their Nook, they also made Reader Software available for the iPod Touch/iPhone, for the Mac, for Windows, and for the Blackberry.  Amazon, not to be outdone also has an application for the iPod Touch/iPhone, for Windows, and are working on versions for the Mac and Blackberry.  The Sony Reader uses a format that also has software available for other devices.

An important element of all these new distribution outlets is that they usually offer free books for older books that are in the public domain.

So what are you waiting for?  Read a book!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Web of the Week: Pre-school Pioneer

Web Address:

Pioneer, Utah's online Library has been around for more than a decade.  It has been the source for relaiable results and research for students from kindergarten through Doctoral work.  The Utah Education Network has helped develop and manage this resource for the state.  Pioneer provides Database searches, instructional media and access to subscription services like CultureGrams for the whole state.  This has ensured that every student and every School District has access to the same high quality materials.

Now, Pioneer has a baby brother  (or sister or sibling if you like) Pre-School Pioneer brings together some of the best resources around for pre-school age children.  These resources are available to pre-school teachers, and parents to help encourage early learning.  One of the prime indicators of success is positive early experience with learning and reading.  Pre-school Pioneer is there to help Utah's youngest learners get that positive push from learning.

Check out the variuous tools available including: Pre=media, PBS Kids Island, and fun activity calendars for timely learning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday: Share video the eMedia way - Tip #3

Using video in class is a fantastic way to teach difficult and abstract ideas.  If a picture is worth a thousand words a video must be worth 10,000.  Learning to effectively consume and learn from video resources seems as useful today as reading was in generations past.  In order to help students use video effectively to learn we should use it to teach.  Specifically, we can use video outside of class instead of or in addition to textbooks and reading assignments.

The third eMedia tip is to assign some video as homework.  Spending a few minutes to teach students how to access the resources in emedia and how to view them will make it possible to assign enrichment assignments outside of the classroom.  One, caution, be conscious o the digital divide and that not all students will have video ready internet at home, or internet at all.  However, having said that, if we give students a week or two to view a video or two, then they have time to visit a public library, the school media center, or even the computer lab before or after school.  As a teacher, we can assign a video or one of a series to students and ask them to report on it.  It becomes really about the same as a reading assignment.  Then instead of using two class periods to watch and discuss a video, we can focus on using the time face to face for those activities that can only be done face to face.  Discussion, skill acquisition, feedback and the direct interventions that students need.

This is the end of this mini-series of eMedia tips about video, but feel free to post some comments about how you use video or suggest using video.  Also, as new tools, resources and techniques become available for eMedia we will revisit it with new suggestions.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Social Guardians, Social Innovators, or Social Reformers

What is our job as teachers?

I get really frustrated with this. There seems to be at least three roles we have to fulfill as educators.

Social Guardians:
As teachers, we have a responsibility to be guardians of the society and culture that hires us. We may not want this, but the reality is we (at least in public schools in the United States) are hired as public servants. We belong to 'the man'. As such, I have an obligation to fulfill the role asked of me by the public. The District I belong to, the State that issues my license, the parents in the commnity I teach in all have a reasonable expectation that I teach the children in my care the morals, values, knowledge and skills that they want me to. In this way, we are guardians who maintain the society we are part of. This is the role the teacher, shaman, wise-man, priest or matriarch took when they initiated rites that kept the societies values in the center of the communities view. Teachers to some extent do the same. We do our best to entrench the societies dogma into the students.

Social Innovators:
We are also, expected to some extent or other to be agents for social and societal change. We are expected to inspire the young generations to new heights, to encourage them to right the wrongs in our society, we are expected to help them achieve their dreams, This doesn't jive to well with the first role. They are at odds with each other.

Social Reformers:
We are also often supposed to be actively fixing what's wrong with society. All the ills of the world can be cured if we can just teach the kids right. Teachers bear the burden of trying to fix what's wrong with families, the media, society, the government, and even education itself, because we are the ones who teach the younger generation to leave aside the old ineffective ways and adopt bold new ways of thinking?

And people wonder why teachers have a hard time.

Computer learning as culture learning.

I have been helping my wife study for her finals. She is in a college course : Methods of Teaching a foreign language. She was asked to read an interesting article about the role of culture learning in a language course. There were several major obstacles to effective culture learning:
  • Social Distance
  • Ethnocentrism and Identity
  • Negative Attitudes
  • Sliding Attitudes
As I read through this I was struck with the resonance this has with helping folks adopt Educational Technology.

Social Distance when learning a language is the concept that the greater distance the learner percieves between himself and the target culture the greater difficulty the learner will have relating to and adapting to the target culture and language. When teaching teachers about technology they often express the distance they feel from what students are doing. The archetypal question is: "Why would anyone want to ______" You fill in the blank: Twitter, blog, facebook, MMORPG or any other online activity. The article also pointed out that the closer the similarities between the target culture and the native culture. This may speak to the reason teachers easily adopt technologies that fit in with the paradigm they are used to. Presenting with PowerPoint is similar to presenting with Overhead Projectors. Using an Interactive Whiteboard is similar enough to using a whiteboard that teachers can adapt to it. But video editing is not similar to other things they are used to doing.

Ethnocentrism and Identity: There is a tendency amongst teachers to want to hold on to things the way they are. We are often trying to instill cultural values, traditions and information to our students. As we see culture that is different than ours we judge it as bad. We look at the changes to our traditions or the way things were and are anxious about where it is going. In educational technology this manifests as resistance to these new technologies. We don't adopt cell phones as a learning tool, because we see it as rude to interrupt class. We worry about cheating on tests instead of designing cheat proof performance assessements

Citation nod:
Mantle-Bromley, Corinne "Preparing Students for Meaningful Culture Learning." Foreign Language Annals 25.2 (1992): 117-27. ERIC. EBSCO. Web. 13 Dec. 2009.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday Web of the Week:

Web Address:

Screen shot 2009-12-07 at 6.52.18 AM

If you are one of our readers chances are you've taken one or more of our UEN Professional Development courses. If you have you may want to know where UEN's trainers learn all that great stuff.  One of the places is  On this site you can find resources based on the Product: PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Access, or OneNote.  The help and how to has text based tutorials with  audio enhancements.  These tutorials are quick and very well writtten, and being text-based they don't require as much bandwidth (or as fast a connection) to use.  You can download great templates, with dozens and dozens if not hundreds specifically designed for educators.  If you are a registered Microsoft 2007 user you can also join the community and share your own templates, designs and resources.  The Clip art gallery expands your library to an almost limitless size with images, line-drawings, animated picturess and audio.

So try your hand at something new.  Learn a trick for Excel, or download a new holiday image.

For Apple Mac users: is the place to go for tutorials, help, hints and tips on the Mac version of office.  Downloading clip art is still available on but is best accessed with Safari. Errors occur when using Firefox and the downloaded clips don't open properly.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Kindle won't kill the textbook!

I was talking to a friend who fears that the Kindle will be the death of the physical book. I think it may be but I hope it doesn't kill the textbook. I hope something else does.

There has been a lot of talk about Kindle replacing textbooks, but personally, I don't see the sense in trading one static medium for another. A textbook is full of text and pictures. A Kindle book would be the same. Text and pictures. Kindle currently has the big drawback of being not just text and picture only but not even color. Hopefully that will change eventually, because color plays a vital role in navigating informational text, but I digress.

Textbooks are static and Kindle books are static. What I want is instead of only static diagrams and pictures, I want interactives and 3-d images. I'm a Science geek. Don't replace my textbook with static materials. If something kills the textbook I want it to be something better. Something that explains a Composite Volcano and then shows an animation of the different types of eruptions.

I hope Kindle doesn't kill the textbook. I hope something better does.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday Web of the Week: Google Image Swirl

Web Address:

When you are searching for just the right images, sometimes what you want is the ability to look for more pictures like the one you have found.  Whether it's a specific kind of fault or images of Jim Crow era segregation, Google's image search is a big help.  Well currently in the works is Image Swirl from Google.  Google has a 'labs' section where they preview new ideas they are working on and the image swirl tool works like Visual Thesaraus or like a Concept Map.  You pick one image and related or similar images are show around it.

Give it a try.  See what you get.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

@windowslive and @MSWindows I hope your listening.

I am proud to be a Microserf. I really enjoy Microsfts products. I'm a PC. Well really, I am bilingual, I use an Apple computer, but I run Windows as well. I have been a Hotmail user for more than 10 years. I have an MSN account that I have enjoyed. I have watched as they have improved and refined and increased what I can do with my hotmail account. One of my favorite things is my SkyDrive. This is Hotmail's little known feature that gives you 25gb of online storage. (Yes 25 gigabytes. It's huge) My online complaint about the Skydrive is the file size limit. But I can live with it.

I have also set up and used a Live Office Space which on my PC allows me to save directly to the web. It allows for checkout of files that a group is collaborating on. It works well as a project management tool.

I praise first because I don't want anyone to mistake what I am about to say as vitriol. Here's what I want Windows Live to do. There are 3 things.

1st and most important. Stop STOP STOP rebranding. When I first started using Hotmail it was not owned by Microsoft. Then Microsoft bought it. It has been re-branded at least 3 times. from Hotmail to MSN to Windows Live and now to Bing. Well Hotmail hasn't been re-branded yet... but. Please stop. Google has been Google since their inception (well almost it was BackRub very early on) Let Windows Live stand. Grow the brand you have.

2nd and nearly as important as ending the rebranding. Here's what I want. Here's how to beat Google docs. Make sure that I can seamlessly integrate all my documents. Something I create on the new Live Web apps should be obviously and immediately available when I get to a computer with Microsoft Office. Documents I create on my computer should be one click to put on my Live Web apps. Integrate the following three tools. Windows Live Mesh, SkyDrive and Live Office Space. I don't want to use three tools but each of these tools is great and would complement each other, just not as separate tools. When you add the WORD features in Live Web apps please give me reviewer tools. Google Docs is great for seeing versions, but terrible for making suggestions. I can change a document but I can't add commentary. Commentary and annotations especially as an educator are more important to me than actually making the corrections. Simple annotations like being able to add comments and show inline changes would be awesome. The features currently in word are fantastic but require that I email documents back and forth. Give me one document that lives online but please give me reviewing tools. Also, don't forget Forms. The Google forms feature will beat you if you don't have it in Windows Live Web Apps. I love being able to collect information from students, parents and participants in conferences and workshops, but oh how much better it would be if I could with one click bring those result into my full featured Microsoft Excel.

Finally, keep up the work on Windows Mobile. I haven't switched away from my Windows Mobile phone for one simple reason. I can edit documents on it. Google Docs don't do it and neither do the Android phones. iPhone don't do it. Windows does. I love it. I personally would love a Windows Live Phone. Meaning one where Windows actually puts their name on the hardware. I don't care if you actually get somebody else to build it. You brand the Xbox. Time to take ownership of some more hardware.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Share video the eMedia way - Tip #2

Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 10.00.08 AMUEN's eMedia library has some great video collections.  Series of videos that are all related.  For example: Disney's Animal World which includes videos about bears, frogs, meerkats, and giraffes.  PBS's Building Big which is series about Heavy Construction projects like: Dams, Tunnels, and Bridges.  There are other series' available, and when there is such a great series it's tempting to show the whole series.  It's like having a trilogy of novels, the whole series helps students learn more than just one can.  However, there simply isn't enough time for showing all of a series in a typical year. So what can you do?

By selecting a series' of videos and previewing one or two as the teacher, it's possible to create a generic activity sheet for students to work on while viewing the video.  Questions that can be answered and discussed regardless of which specific video in the series was chosen.  Then teach students to access the videos on eMedia and in a Computer lab each student can choose their own video to watch.  After some time viewing the video each student can share the specifics about their video either in a whole class discussion or in small groups.  Either way, students are able to create generalizations about the topic from the specifics that each learned.

So, visit UEN's eMedia library and pick a series today!

Welcome to Jorgie Learning

I really am learning and this blog is maintained both as a record of some of what I am doing as well as a place for me to train and teach others about creating an online presence. So please don't mind the dust. We aren't remodeling we are learning!

Visit some of my other blogs or the other blogs I find mildly entertaining for a more polished feel.