Archive for the 'Essential Technologies' Category

Social Networking for Professional Educators

November 12, 2010

Looking over the 2010 update to the National Educational Technology Plan, I’m excited to see that the authors recognize and promote the value of social networking technologies in education. The community of teachers and learners that I connect with through sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In is in the thousands. The value that instant access to these folks brings is incalculable.

One of the recommendations is that professional educators

Leverage social networking technologies and platforms to create communities of
practice that provide career-long personal learning opportunities for educators within and across schools, preservice preparation and in-service educational institutions, and professional organizations.

The report goes on…

Social networks can be used to provide educators with career-long personal learning tools and resources that make professional learning timely and relevant as well as an ongoing activity that continually improves practice and evolves their skills over time. Online communities should enable educators to take online courses, tap into experts and best practices for just-in-time problem solving, and provide platforms and tools for educators to design and develop resources with and for their colleagues.

Unfortunately, my current institution is blind to the value that comes from access to such resources. Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and many other sites are blocked for employees on some network segments. Where we can reach these resources, we have been warned very sternly not to. Consider this message from my institution’s president about sites such as Facebook:

Beginning tomorrow, we are asking our IT Department to give us lists of all [college] employees who are on these and other social networks. In turn, we will contact those employees and require that they submit to their supervisors and then to their up line vice president a written justification for this use and a detailed business purpose for it. Then, by reference to this memo, we are requesting that our IT department conduct random checks each week of employees logged into social network sites and these employees will be contacted and required to submit to their supervisors and then to their up line vice president a written justification for this use and a detailed business purpose for it. Most use of social networks by employees cannot be justified by a business purpose and is classified as personal use which is prohibited.

How do your schools treat social media? What approaches have you used to soften the stance of an otherwise progressive administration on this issue? Is this a battle worth fighting?

I’d better sign off before the Gestapo find out that I’ve been blogging… If you wish to reach me at work, I’d recommend sending a fax.

PS:  This blog post came out after I wrote this entry.  It’s a perfect example of how professional educators are using social media.  Give it a read.

Discover Arkansas History

October 27, 2010

I’m presenting the Prezi portion of this workshop next weekend.  It promises to be a good mix of content, technology, and hands-on exploration.  It’s offered at no cost, and they’re covering lunch!  Hope to see you there!

Join Discovery Education’s Arkansas Leadership Council for a fabulous event on Saturday, November 6, 2010, as we explore Hot Springs, the perfect site to learn about Arkansas History. Hot Springs has a colorful heritage and the honor of having one of the first national parks. This event, which focuses on Arkansas History, emphasizes how Discovery Education Streaming and Streaming Plus can be used to supplement the Arkansas History curriculum.

During this event we will be teaching participants how to use Discovery media in Prezi, a presentation editor used to create live and online presentations. Participants will be encouraged to take photographs of the historic Fordyce Bathhouse, the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, and numerous other historic buildings, artifacts, and primary sources that surround the downtown area. Participants will then be able to include these photographs in their Arkansas history Prezi. The event will also include a presentation from the Director of the Garland County Historical Society as well as a National Park tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse. The event will finish with lunch at the historic Brickhouse Grill.

The entire event is sponsored by Discovery Education and is completely free to the first 25 participants who register at

Display foursquare Data on Google Maps

July 18, 2010

Just a quick post — I’m stretched really thin working two summer camps simultaneously, but this was just too cool to pass up!

When they first start using Google Maps, most people want to make a “places I’ve been” map.  The Google Maps interface is clunky to say the least, and the requirement to place the pin in just the right place causes some to abandon this project early.  Even when you have a cheat sheet, it’s easy to get lost in the process.

Enter foursquare.  This is a social tool that lets you “check in” with your location-aware mobile phone when you visit a place.  Recently, Starbucks offered discounts to people who were the most frequent checker-inners at their nearby locations.  While I was explaining to a group of middle school students how to use $5,000 Trimble GPS systems to collect and plot geolocation data points in Google Earth this week it occurred to me that it should be possible to do the same thing with foursquare data on a Google Map.

I’m not the first person to make this discovery, but it was my own idea, I swear!

To access your foursquare location feed in Google-friendly KML format, click on History and then pick the orange RSS icon.  From there, copy the second link, labeled KML.  Pay attention to the bottom note about adding ?count=25 to the address you just copied to specify the maximum number of most recent points to pull.  This defaults to 25.  The easiest part of this whole process is on Google’s end.  Just go to and paste your KML URL right into the search box!  Finally, click the “Save to My Maps” link (which only appears if you’re signed into your Google account).

If I survive this middle school camp I promise to blog again soon!