The Airwaves Have Been Freed


On November 4, 2008, by a vote of 5-0, the Federal Communications Commission agreed to free the unused TV airwaves for unlicensed public use.

This is a tremendous victory for Internet users.

Thanks and congratulations to the more than 20,000 of you who signed the Free the Airwaves petition to the FCC. This historic vote would not have been possible without your effort.

To understand what this could mean for public wifi access, listen to Minnie Ingersoll of Google.

More at Google blog.

Spheres of Influence (Sharon Peters)

Sharon Peters gave an amazing presentation to EC&I 831 this past Tuesday around the theme “Spheres of Influence”. Sharon presented via Elluminate and the session was streamed to Ustream. Below is the recorded broadcast and Sharon’s slides.

I really believe that the combination of Sharon’s great enthusiasm and her strong experience with collaborative projects will have inspired some of my students. And this comes at a crucial time where many are beginning to connect these learning theories to practice as they create their own connections and begin their final projects for the course.

Thanks again Sharon. We were very lucky to have you as a presenter.

Viral Professional Development

I don’t have the time to adequately respond to Jennifer Jones’ excellent post on what she calls “viral professional development”. Once I do get time, I would like to talk to Jen more about this because it has really hit some parallel thoughts in my own recent thinking.

So, for now … read this post. There are several important points for anyone involved in professional development programs at their institutions or are concerned with their own professional learning.

Thanks Jen. Great post.

Differentiated Instruction: Observations of a Preservice Teacher

I’m very lucky to be a big part of the Digital Internship Project. The Digital Internship Project is a government-sponsored project which enables my colleagues and I to connect our preservice teachers to tools, resources and ideas related to the integration of technology and media in the classroom. For instance, we are able to provide each of our interns with a laptop, assorted hardware and software (e.g, digital video cameras, projectors, interactive whiteboards), an online collaborative community and formal professional development opportunities. The project isn’t perfect, but it has come a long way, and I’m happy to see the insights, abilities and growth evident in our interns as they become practicing teachers.

I was able to observe Tyler, one of these interns, about a week ago. Tyler is teaching physics and math, and I am happy to say that I am very impressed with his work so far. Here’s why:

Tyler prepared a lessons on waves. Students gathered in available spaces using real coils, observing wave patterns, writing and analyzing their results. Pretty standard so far. As we went back into the classroom, Tyler had a number of approaches to simulate and model the same phenomenon. He used various applets and videos to help explain wave interference. He had students create an iMovie video to record the motion of waves in water. He posted all of these resources to his course wiki. Beyond the use of the newer technologies, Tyler also engaged in the use of the chalkboard and even the overhead projector.

Obviously, using many different tools doesn’t automatically make a lesson great. This fact alone does not engage students. What was important in all of this was how Tyler moved from one resource to the next in response to his students questioning or their lack of understanding. Tyler’s movement from chalkboard, to applet, to wiki, to overhead, etc., demonstrated a deep empathy with the needs of his learners. Simply stated, Tyler was able to choose the most appropriate tool, at the correct moment, in order to engage students and help them best understand very difficult concepts.

While it’s not a new concept, this was a wonderful example of differentiated instruction.

Differentiating instruction means creating multiple paths so that students of different abilities, interest or learning needs experience equally appropriate ways to absorb, use, develop and present concepts as a part of the daily learning process. It allows students to take greater responsibility and ownership for their own learning, and provides opportunities for peer teaching and cooperative learning.

This is a skill that is very difficult, if possible, to master. I’m feeling very good to know that it’s happening in our young teacher population. I’m happy to know that the wise use of technology can help make these experiences happen.

Lingro – Interactive Language Learning Tool

Ewan McIntosh points to Lingro, a service which “takes any webpage and then allows you to click on any word in that page to get its translation back into English, Spanish, French, Polish, German or Italian.”

It’s the free, real-world, webpage equivalent of the interactive texts CD-Roms that we used to find handy when I was a pupil at school, but it’s got a far more interactive interface that allows you some real flexibility:

* Zip between languages in a click;
* Listen to the pronunciation of every word;
* Multiple definitions, and examples in use;
* Where a word does not exist, the social media kicks in: you suggest a translation;
* It keeps a record of all the words you’ve had to look up in your wordlist, so that you can go off and learn them yourself.

Very cool! Check out my blog via Lingro, or try Lingro for yourself. This may be the greatest website translation tool since the Web 1.0 Dialectizer.

Cyberbullying Resources

I’ve been putting together a few Cyberbullying resources for a presentation to 14-18 year old students. I’ve covered the topic dozens of times, to many different target audiences. Overall, I think I’ve been fairly successful in getting the message across.

I’ve been trying my best to avoid the “checklist” approach to the topic, in other words, I’m not much for presenting a list of do’s and don’t re: cyberbullying or Internet safety. I’m looking to promptg much deeper, more serious responses to this topic. I think that the only way we’ll be successful in this is to have our children emotionally connected to the problem. In some cases this emotional connection comes too late. I’ve unfortunately been called in to a couple of cases where cyberbullying education came after major incidents, including suicides.

While looking for resources tonight, I found a couple of new ones I hadn’t noticed before. First, this tear-jerking ABC News report was particularly powerful. As a parent, this really affected me.

Also, several of these NetSmartz “Real Life Stories” were very well done. Most were done as narratives or based on true stories, and I find this approach can be much more powerful than sensationalized fictions.

For more cyberbullying resources, see my Wikispaces wiki. Please feel free to add others.

Media Literacy/Awareness Wikis

I’m putting together a couple of wikis for upcoming presentations. They’re related:

Media Representation: At this point, includes resources (articles, videos, other links) that help in understanding media representation and race, gender, ethnicity, culture, sexual, preference, etc.

Media Literacy/Awareness
: A wiki focused on two major themes, media literacy and web awareness.

Both of these wikis are just beginning. I hope they are valuable to people out there, and I encourage any of my readers to give feedback or to contribute to these spaces.

FotoFlexer – Online Photo Editing

I’ve been playing around with a couple of online photo editing tools. I’ve discovered Picnik and Phixr and these are both neat tools. Today TechCrunch covered FotoFlexer, another online photo-editing tool. FotoFlexer has recently integrated the much-hyped “seam carving” technology. Their implementation is called “smart resize”. Here’s a demo.

I like what FotoFlexer is capable of, and it’s an easy tool to use. However, I don’t know who their marketing department is, but c’mon, change the image on the front page of your website. I was 10 years old the last time I thought virtual breast augmentation was funny. If you ever want to break the education market, your page and product need a refocus.