November 16, 2010

Preschoolers and Mobile Technology

A November 2010 report describes the affects of new media and mobile technologies on young children and their families. The report, Learning: Is there an app for that?, touts the educational benefits of well-designed mobile apps for preschoolers. It also cites the reality of preschoolers using mobile devices--often, their parent's device passed to them in the backseat, a phenomenon labeled the "pass-back" effect. I'm familiar with the practice.

This Tech & Learning article summarizes the findings of the report and provides additional information. For example, a 2009 content analysis of the iTunes App Store (education section) revealed that 60% of the top-selling paid applications targeted toddlers and preschoolers.

When I upgraded my smartphone recently, I removed the sim card from my old iPhone and Magda set it up for Lucy to use as an iPod Touch. When I commented about this recently in a backchannel during class, one of our students (future teacher) asked what does a 3-year old need with an iPod? Well, Lucy loves to...

  • Take pictures--even photo essays of sorts of her dolls and environment. 
  • Swipe thru pictures she has taken and also of our family and friends
  • Watch movies--home movies from our Flip camera, episodes of her favorite shows, movies downloaded from YouTube (her channel and others)
  • Record and listen to herself singing songs--sometimes to recall the melody of a song to begin singing it. 
  • Listen to music
  • Play--some apps support cognitive development while others build fine motor skills (psychomotor) or appeal to her emotionally (affective domain).
  • Explore. She's just curious to figure out what the device can do. I believe this is particularly important, because she is developing a fluency with new interfaces and input devices (gestures, voice recognition, etc.). 
Now, we just need to mount one of these interactive displays on the wall in her preschool classroom!

Lucy's teacher, Donna, just directed me to this related Sesame Street video. :-)

October 22, 2010

Help me choose new glasses

It's time for a new look. Please help me choose from these three frames. Use the poll in the sidebar to the right to vote for your preference. Thanks!

The results are in. With 44 votes, it seems Frame A was the favorite. Thanks to everyone who participated! I'm still not convinced to go with Frame A--seems a bit boring to me overall. But your input is persuasive. I think you might be a better judge than me. :-)

October 14, 2010

Google Reader Play

Thanks to a tweet from Stephen Ransom, I just discovered Google Reader Play. It displays the RSS feeds you've subscribed to via Google Reader in a nice slide show format, and it encourages you to star, like, or share the things that catch your eye. You can trigger it either by clicking the link above or choosing "View in Reader Play" from the folder settings as pictured here.

October 10, 2010

ITEC 2010 Conference Ticker

The annual Iowa Technology & Education Connection conference (Twitter hashtag #itec10) is underway! To keep up with the events and dialogue, I've created this CIL Ticker. Join the conversation! To add comments, click the icons below to sign-in with your Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace account. Or just include #itec10 with your tweets during (and after) the conference.

Be sure to stop by the University of Northern Iowa booth in the vendor area to say hi, speak geek, or learn about our masters degree program in Instructional Technology.

September 27, 2010

Introducing Lilian and Vivian

Introducing Lilian and Vivian, weighing in at 6 pounds 12 ounces and 6 pounds 14 ounces. Everyone is doing well, and Lucy is proud to be a big sister! We hope you enjoy these pictures...

June 6, 2010

Paper not done yet? Corupt [sic] it!

Well, here's a creative solution. Don't have that paper done yet? Buy yourself some extra time by submitting a corrupted file to your teacher. I just discovered the Document Corrupter web site via the Tech :-) Happy blog where Keith Ferrell points out the humorous misspelling of "corrupted" on the site. There's even a shuffle option to "make it harder for tech-savvy teachers to recover the file"--well done, slackers. 

Of course, I had to try it. Sure enough, attempting to open the corrupted file inexplicably crashes my copy of Word, though it opens fine with Text Edit. So, if any of my students get any ideas--forget it. I'm on to you!

June 5, 2010

Smartphones in 3rd grade

This morning's Classroom 2.0 Live webinar about an innovative partnership between Verizon and an Ohio public school district providing smartphones to students beginning in third grade was amazing! If you don't catch the full recording archive (or even if you do), do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to watch this 21st Century Learning Preview (1 minute) and then 21st Century Learning Mobile Learning Devices (8 minutes).

Kudos to St. Marys City Schools and Verizon for a truly inspiring achievement!

Image: Screen capture from the Verizon Business Tools web site

Listen to Rob Blog, thanks to Odiogo

See that listen now button above each post? Dr. Z turned me on to a very cool text-to-speech service he recently added to (take a drink).   

Odiogo creates a free audio podcast from RSS feeds. It's super easy to install. Just sign-up by providing your email and blog address then follow a few simple steps customized for Blogger, TypePad, or other blog services. I really expected it to be at least a bit more complicated. It wasn't. Odiogo installs a widget alongside your blog layout so people can subscribe to the content as an audio podcast, and it adds a "listen now" button above each post (old and new). Voila! Done.

The quality of the synthesized voice is impressive. It seems to correctly pronounce Diigo (not quite so good with Magda, however). It speaks the abbreviated letters C S T as Central Standard Time. It even announces the beginning and end of quotes (not just in quotation marks but those formatted with the HTML blockquote tag). Listeners using iTunes or an iPod can speed up or slow down the playback to suit their listening preferences. Also, Odiogo provides download statistics, so you can discover how many people are listening to your blog this way.

Scientists and engineers once believed we'd be having regular conversations with our computers by now. It's proven to be a bit more difficult than they expected. There are, however, some impressive speech recognition and voice-operated features in today's cars and mobile phones. There are even some intriguing voice translation apps for iPhones and Android devices. Though text-to-speech (TTS) has been around for quite a while, the quality of synthesized human voices has gotten noticeably better in recent years. Web 2.0 continues to deliver in this area too. Check out Voki and YakiToMe as examples.

April 27, 2010

One-Computer Classroom

The 1988 article by Jim Watson entitled Database Activities in a One-Computer Classroom began...
Students who leave school with just a set of facts will be ill-prepared for a world in which they will change careers 6-10 times. Students need to know how to get the facts and how to use them well. 
Pretty much the same language used 22 years later to get educators to change the way our kids learn at school.

April 17, 2010



Trying whatever it takes today to potty-train our digital native. :-)

April 15, 2010

Using Backchannels to Enrich the Learning Experience

Magda and I are presenting at the IACON Conference on the topic of using backchannels to support learning activities in both traditional and distance learning environments. Many of our resources can be found in my Diigo bookmarks. We hope you'll join the conversation below beginning at 2:50 PM CST.

ITEC Student Technology Fair

Some amazing work was displayed at today's student technology fair hosted by the Iowa Technology Education Connection and University of Northern Iowa. Thanks to everyone who volunteered to help judge or otherwise assist today!

Check out this stop motion video created by 16-yr old Mukund Martin. It's comprised of more than 1500 images!

And this video by two Mid-Prairie Tech Club students.

Today's technology fair was one of three regional events in Iowa and showcased 31 projects created by K-12 students in Eastern Iowa. Two projects earned purple ribbons, and those students are now invited to share their work with educators and administrators from around the state at the annual ITEC Conference in October.

Ning's future questionable

Sadly, Ning just announced that they've cut over 40% of their staff and are discontinuing their free product. Existing free networks will have to start paying or migrate to another service. It's difficult to imagine migrating content from a Ning site to something else and how that could be anything other than copy and paste. However, parts of a Ning site could be ported to other services. For example, Posterous committed to developing a Ning blog importer

Related stories: 

It's unfortunate that K-12 education customers won't be able to continue using Ning for free. Educators have flocked to Ning in the past couple of years. Many teachers have built social networks to support learning activities, and for most it's a good alternative to using Facebook at school. Ning's troubles are going to impact higher education too, though not to the extent that it could derail innovative efforts in K-12 education.

Web 2.0 is a double-edged sword for schools. Educators flock to free tools for good reason ($$$), but they question how long those services will be around. To what extent should they commit their time and energies to innovative web-based services that could disappear or start charging money tomorrow? Henry Thiele argues that we should always have an exit strategy planned for the tools we use. That's easier said than done--innovation in teaching and learning typically stems from the creativity and ambition of a classroom teacher, not the strategic planning of a technology coordinator or district administrator. 

To most of us, Ning seemed well established and their support to K-12 education has been exemplary. Hopefully, even in this very challenging time for the company, they'll find a way to continue supporting schools for free. On the other hand, maybe it's time for school districts who are adopting Ning on a large scale to start supporting the company too. 

April 13, 2010

Innovations in Learning, School

Iowa Public Television recently interviewed John Carver, superintendent of Van Meter schools (one of the 15 Iowa districts with a 1:1 laptop program) and Judy Jeffrey, director of the Iowa Department of Education. The 16-min video is online at:

Topics addressed:

New Editors, Features Announced in Google Docs

Real time collaboration, better comments, autofill and formula bar in spreadsheets, faster performance, standalone drawings. Awesome improvements announced for Google Docs!

April 3, 2010

Second Life Viewer 2 and Shared Media

Second Life just became way more useful! Viewer 2 uses WebKit, making it easy for content creators to rely on Flash and other web browser plug-ins to display dynamic and interactive content from the web in world. This is really exciting!

Imagine the possibilities for working with email, EtherPad, Google Docs, Wikis, You Tube and other typical Web 2.0 tools within the immersive environments of Second LIfe!

For more information, check out this post on the Second Life blog: Shared Media: Bringing the Web Inworld with Viewer 2

Get Viewer 2 and start exploring on your own.

March 19, 2010

Live views of spring flooding via USTREAM

As spring flooding threatens the upper midwest, the Grand Forks Herald is using USTREAM to broadcast live video of the Red River at Grand Forks, North Dakota. A similar stream provides a view of the river further south at Moorhead, Minnesota (across from Fargo, N.D.). Where's our live stream of the Cedar River in Cedar Falls/Waterloo, IA?

Free live streaming by Ustream

Webcam chat at Ustream

February 28, 2010

2.5 year old discovers virtual world

It began innocently enough--Lucy was trying to play with mommy's laptop, I thought maybe she'd like to see some pretty pictures on the computer, and I'd been meaning to check out the latest SecondLife viewer (I haven't been using SL much at all lately). Together, we arrived in Iowa (virtual Iowa) to see what's new at Dr. Z's place in world. A few minutes later, my 2.5 year old daughter had figured out how to walk, turn and fly in a virtual world. What just happened?

I realized that I had just witnessed something remarkable (I think). I had observed how a digital native makes sense out of a virtual world--a totally new and different environment. In a span of about 15-20 minutes she had discovered how to navigate this virtual world--how to walk, turn and fly. She expressed real emotion (humor, curiosity, frustration, reward, and even a bit of fear that she was up too high or going to get in the water). Through trial and error, she very quickly learned how to manipulate the avatar on the screen and make him not only walk about in open areas but travel in and out of buildings. And she wanted more!

Amazing (I think). Watch... (and listen)...

Afterward (about 30 min), I put Lucy down for her nap and my head filled with questions...
  1. Am I a horrible father? 
  2. Is there anything very novel about this? Is it really much different than watching a child learn how to use a remote control car? 
  3. Will Lucy think she can fly now? Will she try to jump off a building or something? 
  4. If she can do this at 2.5 years old, what will she be capable of (and what will she expect from media and technology) when she is 5, 10, or 15 years old? 
  5. How much will she remember tomorrow? She had no trouble remembering that the E key made the avatar fly and the C key made him land. That's pretty abstract. Will she go right back to those keys the next time we play in Second Life? 
  6. Did I just violate SL's terms of use? 
  7. There's a Second Life Teen Grid. Should there be a Baby Grid? Or do WebKinz and Club Penguin have that covered?  
  8. What would my students think of this? (maybe they'll blog about it)

February 11, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

I walked into a classroom today, and this is what I saw. :-(