Category Archives: TechNews

PBwiki and YackPack give wikis a voice for education

I received an email from Curt Hopkins today about PBwiki and YackPack getting together to offer a widget you can download into your wiki that allows anyone visiting your site to just press a button and talk. I downloaded it and Lani and I tried it out. It was amazing! It is so cool and so easy!


Clips from the press release:

  • “There is something magical about hearing someone else’s voice,” said Ramit Sethi, PBwiki co-founder. “It takes collaboration to an entirely different level.”
  • Dr. BJ Fogg said, “Voice builds unity.”
  • To use the widget, sign up for a PBwiki at, click the edit button on any page on your wiki, and insert the Walkie Talke plugin.

An online press conference, via the WalkieTalkie widget will be held on their press wiki, on Thursday at 6pm (PST). You just have to click this link and then click the YackPack button to talk. Both Ramit from PB wiki and Dr. BJ Fogg from YackPack witll be there. I am going to try to be there!

I have been constantly amazed at PBwiki. They have been front and center with doing things to help educators and really seek educators’ input. I serve on their board but regretfully I have not participated as much as I would like to. I’ve been following all they are doing but not been involved myself too much. This year has been one filled with learning for me but somehow the research aspects of my blogging project have consumed me. Many things that I would like to be doing have had to put on hold. The end is in sight but the end means no more blogging with a special group of kids and that I don’t like!

I installed the widget on a wiki I had created in the past. I called the page Voices. I’ll have it open off and on for a while today. Yack if you like!

Accolades to PBwiki and YackPack for providing this benefit to educators and students! We appreciate you!

U.K. survey: Teachers say tech boosts students’ learning

The second annual Dell survey on information and communications technology in education found that 90% of teachers, compared with 68% a year ago, regard ICT as very important to their school. Nearly 74% of educators in this year’s poll said technology has helped motivate students, while 68% agreed that ICT had made learning more enjoyable for most pupils.

See the article in the Guardian. Way to go U.K.!

Hey, maybe the next survey can say blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 programs have made learning more enjoyable for most pupils! While we’re at let’s include the USA! And Scotland and Canada and Japan and Brazil and all other countries!

Skype in the Classroom

Wesley Fryer has written an article on Skype in the Classroom. It was published in TechEdge, the quarterly magazine of the Texas Computer Education. On his blog he notes his beginning and concluding thoughts:

Beginning thoughts:

Internet connectivity in educational settings provides opportunities

for interactive exchange and collaboration between students living on

other sides of town or the other side of the planet. These synchronous,

real-time discussions using free software like “Skype” can tangibly

expand the walls of the traditional classroom and engage students to

write, share, and communicate with an authentic audience inaccessible

just a few years ago. Educators interested in helping motivate students

to develop both traditional as well as twenty-first century literacy

skills in the classroom can and should use audio conferencing

technologies like Skype to literally plug their students into

collaborative exchanges with global partners on a variety of projects.

Concluding thoughts:

Be safe using Skype and any other type of Internet communication technology. Refer to the Staying Secure with Skype User Guide ( and Skype Privacy FAQ ( for helpful suggestions about using Skype as well as other computer programs safely when online.


is an example of a potentially ≥disruptive≈ educational technology tool

because it can fundamentally change the teaching and learning

environment. As Wayne Morren, principal of Floydada High School noted

recently, teaching and learning in the 21st Century can no longer be a traditional experience of ≥sit and get.

Teachers as well as students must strive to creatively employ

technology tools to access, evaluate, synthesize and communicate

information. Only by engaging in this active process can ≥information≈

from the Internet be translated into knowledge in the minds of

learners. Classroom teachers can leverage the potential of disruptive

technologies like Skype, weblogs, podcasts, or one to one technology

immersion initiatives to increase student motivation to communicate

with authentic audiences, spend more time on assigned tasks, and

develop essential literacy skills needed for vocational and lifetime

success in the twenty-first century. Translated, this means increasing

student achievement, while simultaneously encouraging students as well

as teachers to engage in worthwhile and creative tasks. Twenty-first

century educators should aspire for nothing less.

It’s good to see articles like this coming out for educational use. If you’re not reading Wesley’s blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, add it to your list. Lots of insightful reading there.


With a little bit of luck

Now this is news! I read Paul’s post, ‘The aim in Maine stays plainly in the game’ where

he reports that “Middle schoolers and some 9th and 10th graders across

the state of

Maine will benefit further from Maine’s laptop initiative with free

home internet access.”  Now that is leveling the playing field!

I’d love to see that at the best elementary blogging school in Georgia! 🙂 Read Paul’s blog to get all the details and enjoy a very creative post. He must have seen “My Fair Lady” recently as I did at the Fox in Atlanta. So to Paul I say…

With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,

We’ll be movin’ up to blogging schools.

With a little bit…with a little bit…

With a little bit of luck, We’re movin’ up.

With a little bit…with a little bit…

With a little bit of bloggin luck!

Find free photos….fast!


is a search engine for finding free-to-use stock photographs and

images. There are different licenses with different restrictions, but

all images are free. They’ve indexed over 100,00 images. I like that

you can see the licensing immediately when the pictures are

displayed.  conducted an interview  with Mark Thompson, the founder of Yotophoto. 

He stated that “The idea was to unify the disjointed collections of

free images on the web.There are so many of these excellent resources

on the internet but they can be difficult to find, and to

search.”  For those of you who use Firefox, the pointed to the Yotophot Firefox search plugin.


New Tools: Blogs, Podcasts and Virtual Classrooms

“New Tools: Blogs, Podcasts and Virtual Classrooms” in the New York Times today gives snippets from educators using these new tools.

Listen to podcasts by  third and

fourth graders in Bob Sprankle’s classroom at Wells Elementary School

in Wells, Me. The online radio show features “Student News,” “The Week in Sports” and “Word of the

Week.” Mr. Sprinkle says, “The kids are incredibly motivated to read, research, and write.”

Next  we hear from Joel Arquillos, a social studies teacher at the Galileo Academy of

Science and Technology in San Francisco,  “I want

to give these kids the tools to say, “Hey, my voice is important in

this world,”  “This

blog helps me do that.” I love that quote.  His 11th-grade Amereican

history students participated in a group blog

as a joint project with David Boardman’s English class at Winthrop High

School in Maine. They discussed issues like drug dealing, gang

violence,urban legends, the new SAT’s, good reasons to skip the prom,

etc.” The diversity of topics was great. Patrick Delaney, Galileo’s

librarian helped the teachers set up the blogs. Nice to hear in a round

about way from Patrick. Patrick is probably one of the first “original

blogging pioneers.” He pointed out how “Having an audience compelled

these kids to step it up a notch.”

The article had some quotes from educators who were not sold on the

value of interactivity. Check out this line in the article: “Testing

requires a known body of material, but interactive learning often

involves students’ seeking out topics on their own. ” Heaven forbid,


However, Mr. Cunningham, a high school speech and debate teacher at Del

Valle High School in Del Valle, Tx closed with this simple but true

statement, “I think the testing model is working against education.

With Skype, you’re opening up the whole world to the student, and that

can’t help but be good.”  By the way, he runs the Skype Foreign

Language Lab, a program that allows students around the world to talk

with one another via computers and headsets using the free VoIP phone

service Skype. How cool is that?

One interesting side note was that the article linked to some of the

tools like the iPod, Google, and VoIP but all the links kept me on the

New York Times site. No links to the school sites. I had to look those up

myself. When you get to the Galileo site, check out all the good links.

It’s an incredible web site chock-full of interesting links to

resources. You’ll learn a lot!

I did not find a link to the Skype Foreign Language Lab but I ran

across these interesting Language and International Resources at

Dickinson College that links to blogs and how to use Skype with foreign

language learning. Ahhhh, why wouldn’t we want our students to have

some time to pursue learning branched off of what they have already

learned? Don’t we want them to make connections and build on their knowledge? But that’s a post for another time…..

WiFi access at hotels

HotelChatter has compiled a list of the top five hotel chains for free WiFi access. At the top are the Kimpton properties who offer free WiFi access in both lobbys and rooms. It’s reported that they even offer great in-room service if your connection isn’t going as planned. Other chains at the top include Omni Hotels, Marriott Residence Inn, Best Western, and Holiday Inn.

They also included a report on the worst WiFi hotels – the Marriott Flagship, Fairmont, Hilton, Hyatt and any other hotel that charges for wireless access in the lobby.

This site even tells where you can find hotels that offer their guests iPods, either in the rooms or in and around common areas, or both.

There’s lots of other interesting tidbits of information on this site. I am constantly amazed at the resources available on the web.


Blogs – a “must-have”

eSchool news points us to a great article entitled, “CoSN profiles ‘must-have’ technolgies. One of those must-haves is blogs!

The article states:

“Most schools embracing technology today have primarily focused on its deployment for administrative purposes or for the back office,” said Keith Krueger, CoSN’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Our hope is that this guide will provide technology leaders with a strategic understanding of technologies that can truly transform their schools over the next three to five years.”

One of the aspects of this report that I like is that they based their list of technologies to include what they believed would not only make a fundamental impact on education, but would be economically and financially feasible enough for schools to implement in the very near future.

Datacasting, radio frequency identification (RDIF) chips, student weblogs (blogs), and intelligent essay graders made their list. Here’s the part about blogs:

Rolfes also touched on the growing importance of comprehensive student information systems used to track and monitor student progress, as well as the use of blogs as an increasingly popular tool for building stronger school communities–spurring much-needed communication among students, parents, and educators.

Hey, I couldn’t agree more with including blogs but I do wish the report had also highlighted the learning possiblilites and how they can be used to challenge our students to use their voices in thoughtful, persuasive ways that can reach way out past just students, parents, and educators.


eSchool News

eSchool News online published an article today, Ed tech: What do students want? They reminded us that students who want to speak out on the state of educational technology in our schools have until Nov. 12 to participate in Speak Up Day 2004. This is an online survey that gives our K-12 students a voice.

Excerpts from the article:

Approximately 40 percent of the questions on this year’s survey are new questions, Evans said. Topics will include timely inquiries into cyber-bullying, plagiarism, the educational value of video games, and what types of writing students do using technology.

NetDay also hopes to get a better sense for how schools are integrating technology into the curriculum. Questions such as “How do you use technology to help you learn about science?” and “When you are doing math homework, or assignments, which of these technologies are you most likely to use?” are meant to move the national conversation away from specific hardware and software applications to the value of technology in improving instruction.

The survey also gives students a chance to make suggestions for policy reform.

One open-ended question asks, “What is the one thing you would like to tell the next president about how you use technology for learning?”

I love that they are giving the students a voice but wouldn’t it be great if more students could have been introduced to weblogs as one of the ways to use technology in a most effective manner to integrate technology into the curriculum?

Get your students involved in this survey! The article links to some other articles relevant to the topic. eSchool News is a great site.

On another note, I’m really delighted to have the opportunity to post to the “Ed-Tech Insider” weblog that is sponsored by eSchool News. Clarity Innovations did the work and had the insight to pull it all together – great company!  Will, Tim, Tom, Steve, Tim W and some others are part of the group posting to the weblog – great company there, too! The RSS feed is located here.