Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Congress Looking to Lock Down Social Networking at School

Andy Carvin blogs about Educational Technology at's TeacherSource. A couple of weeks ago he posted about how as an attempt to keep children safe from online predators, a noble cause, Congress is proposing legislation that would ban access to "social networking" sites like in schools or libraries receiving federal assistance for Internet connectivity. It would also limit access to things like Yahoo Instant Messenger. For us, this is no big deal because our filtering system already blocks those two sites.

The real fear is that as this gets all hashed out, the definition of social networking could be broadened and include anything interactive on the Internet that allows certain degrees of social networking where I can connect to your stuff and you can connect to mine.

Carvin states this in his article, "According to the proposed legislation, the bill:

'prohibits access by minors without parental authorization to a commercial social networking website or chat room through which minors may easily access or be presented with obscene or in- decent material; may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults may easily access other material that is harmful to minors.'

If you’re wondering what would qualify as an “online social network,” the bill defines it as “a commercially operated Internet website that allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users and offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.

That definition is rather broad, of course, though apparently it would not apply to noncommercial websites. My guess is that commercial blogging tools and email list services could be subject to this legislation as well - though I do not know if it would block access to these services writ large or on a blog-by-blog/list-by-list basis."

Here is my reaction to the whole thing: I see this as well intended, but it is an awfully slippery slope! Couldn’t almost all things Web 2.0 be eventually classified as a social network? We use, Flickr,, and Furl as a way to collaborate and pool information across my district and amongst my students.

The Internet is in the midst of a huge revolution where sharing work to open up new resources for educators grows each day. Hopefully, that will continue and not be banned due to the actions of a few freaks and losers, the ones on of course. I hope you didn't think I was referring to our lawmakers that way.

Please let your representatives and senators know that certain social networking tools are making our kids smarter and making us better teachers. Email and Addresses

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Infotech Spam 1.2

Here is a posting of another emailer.

GOOGLE Smokes Hotmail: More Bill bashing. Gmail, Google's email service whipped Microsoft's Hotmail in overall growth last year by nearly 114% to 16%. Hotmail is still the world's most popular service and is very nice, but GMAIL offers a cleaner interface and seems to really handle spam well. I have had a GMAIL account for over a year and love it. If you would like to try GMAIL, just email me at my GMAIL account . I have almost 100 accounts to hand out. Very Van Andel/De Vosian wouldn't you say? I sign up and get 100 accounts to give. Then you will get 100 accounts and then the next people get 100. No wonder they're growing.

Need Rulers? This site has free printable rulers. Just make sure that you follow their directions when printing. Talk about another money saver. Besides, it is pretty hard to impale your classmate with a paper ruler.

Summer Project Idea: offers an amazing free service. You can now catalog your classroom or home library (up to 200) books for free. To go beyond 200, the price is a mere $25 for life. Not only can you categorize your own library, you can subscribe and watch other people's libraries for new book ideas. Your kids' parents can subscribe to your list at home to see what new books are coming in. Well, maybe you don't want to make things that public with some parents. Anyway it is a great way to inventory and keep a handle on what you have in your classroom stash. This could be a great way to set up sharing across buildings or even the district. Give it a look.

Infotech Spam 1.1

This is a posting of the Infotech Spam email I sent out on April 21.

Don't just bookmark it. Furl it!
Furl at is a "social bookmarking" service that lets you save favorite pages online. Once you complete the free registration, you are given your own space to save and organize pages. This is nice because you can then access at school or at home. I use Furl with students so that they stay focused on exactly the sites I want them using. An example of this is our 4th grade study of prehistoric people and mammals in Michigan here . As nice as these features are, the hands-down thing that makes Furl so popular is the ability to view other users' bookmarks. If I see that another member is "furling" stuff on mastodons, I am going to check their page to see what sites might work for me too. Talk about letting others do the leg-work for you! When you get comfortable with Furl, there is a nifty little gadget you can save to your computer's favorites that lets you click one button to furl the page you are viewing. Other wise you have to copy and paste urls onto your furl page.

Can't Make the May 5 OAISD Conference?
Don't feel bad if you can't make it out to the ISD to hear Discovery Education Network's Steve Dembo deliver the luncheon keynote on May 5. Last night, Steve was the featured speaker on DEN's monthly webinar. A webinar is where you can join a huge online conference call and interact with a national speaker. Dembo gave the same presentation about online tools that he is planning for Cinco de Mayo in Holland. Discovery usually archives the audio from the program and should have it up shortly at . This way, you save $50, avoid the hassle of sub plans, and can still hear the information at your convenience.

Power School Preview
I, like many of you, was anxious to get more details yesterday about the incoming Power School initiative. Whatever the conflict we weren't able to do that yesterday, but Apple provides a bundle of information at their PS site . In fact, Apple even hosts a free, daily conference call/interactive demo for those looking for more information about Power School.

Infotech Spam 1.0

This is a post of the email I sent out earlier this spring:

Mail Maintenance: Many of us use a variety of different programs to receive and send email. Entourage, Outlook, Netscape, and Apple's OSX Mail are all in use and all seem to have the same problem. We delete our mail only to have it pop back up like a bad penny. The best advice I can give is for you to visit the REMC mail site and organize your mail that way. will allow you access into your account. Here you can delete the messages for good from the server. But, when you are there, you have to purge your trash, otherwise the message will remain in your trash.

Speaking of mail and spam, I know a lot of people have begun receiving a lot of nuisance emails in their school accounts. There isn't a lot you can do about it except ignore it. You can try the blacklist feature in the left top corner of the REMC mail page and block the sender. No fair trying this out on this message!

Beware of Google Images!: I felt really bad today when I told a teacher who was doing some really great vocabulary exercises with Google Images that it was really dangerous tool to use with kids. Of course it was probably more how I said it than what I said, but Google Images is pretty notorious for bringing back inappropriate pics, even on the most appropriate of searches. You can use Google Images when the kids aren't around, but it is just too risky to do it with them over your shoulder or on their own. Hats off to anyone who is using images to develop understanding. That is a great way to use our technology. Just be careful

Monday, May 01, 2006

ThinkFree could be a big help if........

Free From the Chain of Office Os9 (almost): I was all jazzed up last week to tell you about a new free online Microsoft Office-esque suite of free tools called Thinkfree at You can create fully compatible Word, Excel, and PPT documents online for free. I had heard one positive review, but before I started gushing about sticking it to Bill Gates and that painful OS9 version of Office many of us are using, I decided I had better check things out for myself. On the surface, the thing looks awesome. Quickly I created a Power Point, only tf calls the application "Show", complete with a Bill Gates mugshot from his time in the Albuquerque slam. The problems arose when I tried to save the project. It froze Firefox every time. Thinkfree will not load in either Internet Explorer or Safari. You are probably wondering why I am even telling you about Thinkfree if it doesn't work right, well it could be a PC/MAC issue. If you have a PC at home, give it a shot. Also, we need to understand that this is beta software, meaning not quite finished. The programmers put it out there so that little bugs could be fixed. I emailed them to share my experience. None the less, the potential of this site is enormous both in convenience and cost. Being web-based, there is no trapesing around floppies or cds. All is saved online and you get a whole Gigabyte of space. If we ever get caught up enough with the abilities of our student computers, we will have office already for free, office they can work on at home! I am really pulling for the folks at Thinkfree to get things worked out. This could be really helpful take a look and send some email to keep the demand up.

Thanks to the Seedlings group podcast at Bit by Bit for mentioning ThinkFree.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Steve Dembo Webinar

So, let's say that you are all pumped about seeing one of your favorite tech speakers and attending some great sessions at the May 5th OAISD Connecting and Collaborate Conference when your principal tells you that you can't go because of Power School training being rescheduled.

Well, I just found out that Steve Dembo is this the featured speaker in this month's EdTech Connect Webinarfrom Discovery Education Network.

Here is what Steve has to say about it at theDEN blog.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Absolute Michigan News Blog

Check out the Absolute Michigan News Blog where any and all Michigan related news is blogged. There is an amazing amount of Michigan related news aggregated from news sites and other blogs around the state.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dig This!

Bentheim and Blue Star 4th Graders have begun a collaborative study with Dr. Anthony Swinehart at Hillsdale College. He is leading the excavation of a mastodon in Hillsdale County. As the 4th graders research prehistoric Michigan, Dr. Swinehart has agreed to answer questions about his dig and the mammals roaming the state at the time.

Follow our work at

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cosmeo: Taking United Streaming to New Heights

I just read a post from Steve Dembo's Teach 42 blog about Discovery Education's new venture called Cosmeo.

This thing looks amazing and a 30 day free trial is available. It makes many of the United Streaming features plus an addition 30,000, yes 30 large, videos available to families in the home plus games that correlate like United Streaming to the GLCEs.

Right now Cosmeo runs for $9.95 a month per subscription. I have not looked at what school access might be. Maybe we will get lucky and get some help from the OAISD like we did with United Streaming. I passed on the 30 day trial because you have to give your credit card and pick a subscription to begin after the trial. Of course you can cancel before the 30 days is up and not be charged, but I seem to have a hard time remebering to cancel.

The Ultimate Web 2.0 List

The term Web 2.0 refers to the revolutionary changes the Internet is experiencing, making it a truly interactive communication tool.

Bob Stumpel's Web 2.0 Group has assembled links to an amazing set of online tools, mostly free, that allow web users to connect and collaborate.

All Things Web 2.0 - "The List"