Saturday, December 31, 2005

End of the year tech thoughts

As I think back trying to sum up the year in technology - within my classroom, at least - the developments at the start of this school year this fall just plain eclipse whatever memories I have of have of the last half of the previous school year. Student bloggers, for goodness sake!

The same could be said of my personal growth and development in technology. Until NECC at the end of June - which I attended virtually, thanks to some wonderful bloggers - I felt like I had been treading water with tech use and integration for the past five years.

So, I look forward to continuing to learn, continuing to be inspired by others leading the way with all the new stuff, learning to use the new apps that are sure to appear in 2006, and passing all this on to my third graders! It will be a good year! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Flickr, finally

I finally decided to go with Flickr - pro - and pay $25/year. I'd been playing around with it, deciding how I might use it, learning the ins and outs, seeing how much I could get for free, etc. What really changed my mind was needing to have more than the three "set" maximum you get with the free account. Some of the sets I hope to create are collections of the kids' artwork - for display on their blogs at - there are kids right now who I'm pretty sure could get the html coding thing down well enough to add pics to their blogs. And then, of course, it will be a nice place to leave pics for anybody - particularly family. Like I just set up 18 from our trip to Iron Springs. I just ordered a few prints from Flickr, will see how that one goes.... I can see having them sent to Mom and Dad. And the url isn't too bad:

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Greetings

We finally finished, on the day after Christmas, our letter for the year. We'll get it in the mail on the 27th. It's also here, if you'd like to take a look. Merry Christmas! - Mark

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Snowy Owl at Ocean Shores

Snowy Owl at Ocean Shores
Snowy Owl at Ocean Shores,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
One of the five snowy owls we saw today, 12-22-05, at Damon Point in Ocean Shores, WA. It was worth the rain, cold, and wind to see these beautiful birds - and to be so close! We had seen six a couple of days earlier, but had forgotten the camera...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Off to the ocean!

Today Janeanne and I head off for three days of isolation and regeneration - on the Washington coast, at Iron Springs. No phone, no TV - just the sound of the surf below, an incredible view west, and a fireplace to stare into and ponder things on the shortest day of the year.

Since the weather forecast calls for lots of rain, we'll probably do more book reading than bird watching - maybe. We certainly hope to see a few of the snowy owls that have been reported there.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Men's Cookie Exchange

Men's Cookie Exchange
Men's Cookie Exchange,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
A small but determined group carried on the tradition of the Men's Cookie Exchange this year at Arbor Heights Elementary. More at

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Tictech, the list I moderate in Seattle, carried a couple of negative responses to a message I posted about blogging Very upsetting to me, as I would love to see more folks involved in discussions locally. So, after some (probably too much) thought, I posted this message to the list:

There was some negative response to a message I posted today. The whole reason I do tictech is to give folks one more way to communicate, discuss, share ideas, etc. - to encourage discussion, not to limit it. So I'm really sorry I offended anybody. My message was one of excitement and enthusiasm. Obviously, it did not work that way for everyone - but another viewpoint was expressed in the process, and as Martha would say, that's a good thing. I encourage folks to freely express ideas, share discoveries, ask questions, and engage in debate. There is a lot to discuss in edtech land right now, and that's what tictech is here for. - Mark

Mark Ahlness

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Email flurry

Very little time to post here lately, mostly because all my writing energy has gone to discussion lists. I have definitely had thoughts to express:

Plus a few forwards of some of these to other lists, minor comments, etc

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What's good about blogging, part 1

Yesterday I posted a note to wwwedu and classblogmeister in reaction to a lengthy messsage listing and detailing all the dangers of students blogging. I'm sure many will read my response and think, "touchy, isn't he?" I suppose I am. There are many things I take for granted that I probably should have noted. Before I start with my list of what's good about blogging, here are some things that most folks don't know...

They don't know that when my kids write, I approve every word before it appears on their blog. That I can and do edit, that I send their writing back to them with comments about how it needs to be improved before it can appear on their blog.

They don't know that I can approve, edit, or delete any comments to student blogs before they appear.

They don't know that we have a blogger's contract, thanks to David Warlick, that all kids have signed, and that we refer to contantly.

They don't know how much I worry about my kids' safety online.

They don't know that my classroom computers all face the center of the room, so that I can see all of them all the time.

They don't know that my kids have absolutely taken off with this, that they blog from home. That they stay in from recess, reading blogs from other kids, writing comments on other kids' writing, composing their own next entries.

They don't know that I have never seen more motivation to write well in 14 years of teaching third graders. That kids blog from home, that their parents are commenting on their blogs, aunts and grandmas, cousins and siblings - all giving public feedback.

They don't know that I am a capable teacher, someone they can trust with kids.

They don't know that blogging, along with rss, holds the biggest potential for positive educational experiences using technology since - well, since web pages became commonplace. Like about 10 years ago.

It's clear to me that what I've just said here isn't so much about what's good about blogging, as it is just providing background, setting the table for my answer - which will come later.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Progress and struggles

There has been so much progress lately, but it's tough to remember sometimes.

First the progress. My class is doing an incredible job in their new blogging environment at I've never seen so much enthusiasm for writing. We're talking kids wanting to come in at recess, read their writing and the writing of other kids - from Seattle to New York to New Zealand, write comments on the writing of others - or add new content to their own blogs. It is absolutely incredible. Many grownups are writing eloquently about this, and I try my best to stay current with a few, but it does take time. Still, every time I look at the blogs of David Warlick, Andy Carvin, Will Richardson, and Tim Lauer, I find something fantastic, some new tool, some great way of thinking about what's going on in tech right now in school, etc. Rss feeds to those guys' blogs are on the right of this page.

The struggle has been to fit all this in to the school day. Kids shouldn't have to come in at recess to write, for goodness sake. They ought to be able to do it right in class. So what are we doing in class that's so much more important than blogging? Gosh, I'm digging myself into a hole it will take way too long to get out of.

I will say the biggest impediment is to have to spend so much class time implementing a mandated (schoolwide) writing curriculum that has no tech component. Not a mention of a computer - ever. Kids are expected to write with pencil and paper for an hour a day, five days a week, much of it in those little Mead notebooks we all remember from our childhood. I feel like I'm back in 1956.

So I've tried to re-create, re-constitute, or whatever this curriculum into a classroom environment that has 17 multimedia computers with high speed Internet access, an LCD projector - and where the third graders, after two months, are extremely facile and fluid with a computer. They learn new things quickly. They share, they teach each other, and they enjoy it, take pride in their ownership and prowess.

Adapting this tech-less writing curriculum while starting the kids out blogging has been a challenge, to say the least. Sometimes it's too much. The kids want to spend more time writing on their blogs. They struggle gamely with the one story they have been working on for over a month in our writing curriculum. We'll finish the story up, but their hearts are not in it. It's a struggle.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Broken window

Broken window
Broken window,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
How upsetting, for us to return to our car after a beautiful 45 minute walk in the woods (Lincoln Park)... aaargh. Was a good thing I had the trunk release locked. Nothing taken, but what a pain to get fixed, pay for, etc. - and Janeanne had to cancel a day of teaching at PLU.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turkey escape stories

turkey escape
turkey escape,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
For the last several years I've had my kids write on the day before Thanksgiving, responding to "Pretend you are a turkey. How will you escape being served for Thanksgiving dinner?" Off the tops of their heads in about 20 minutes, these have always been fun. This year I introduced the idea a couple of days ago, to get the wheels turning - and also to give my kids a chance to publish their stories on their blogs.

If you are looking for some entertaining kid storytelling, head over to and read what they said. They will start appearing there by 1:00 Wed, and should all be there by Thanksgiving morning. You might even find a few good "leads" and "hot spots" :) Feel free to add comments! Several of my kids blog from home, and would be very excited to hear from folks. Happy Thanksgiving! - Mark

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Barred owl loss in Lincoln Park

Barred owl in LIncoln Park
Barred owl in LIncoln Park,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
Sad news to report today. Janeanne and I were walking in Lincoln Park today, ran into park regular and friend Chris... who had sad news to tell. A couple of weeks ago he had told us that the barred owl (he called her Sophie) was sitting on the ground in a field, and he was able to walk right up to her. Turns out, later that day, someone else actually picked up the owl, took her to a shelter - but she died before she got there. They think maybe of internal injuries - might have been hit by a car.

Anyway, we are very sad today. We had seen her in the park for the last six years or so, hunting on at least three occasions, eating on a few more... We will still look at her roost atop a tree in the redwood grove, where we saw her dozens of times. That's where she sits in this picture, which I took about a month before she died.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Classroom bloggers doing well!

Sitting here in between parent conferences in an early evening. My third graders are doing an incredible job with their blogs! They are so motivated, I really can't believe it. This is at I knew they would get into it, but some have really just taken off. I have kids blogging in wonderful articles from home, for goodness sake. What really gets me though, is being able to comment on their writing, and send it back to them for repairs. This is just truly amazing. Somebody just tonight sent in an article on "what it takes to be a champion". It'll be published when the author takes care of a few technical details, which I was able to give him on line. Much more exciting stuff to come....

Monday, November 14, 2005

chilly start

chilly start
chilly start,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
My watch and my classroom thermostat this morning. Yes, it does say 50 degrees. It warmed up to a balmy 54 by 8:15.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Re: blogger's contract

my message to Classblogmeister, Nov 5

Re: blogger's contract

RE: [WWWEDU] Pew report on teen-age blogging

my post to wwwedu on Nov 5:

RE: [WWWEDU] Pew report on teen-age blogging

Getting all the writing together - reporting online

I've been posting a lot to discussion lists lately. So it seems the blog gets overlooked, and I've been trying to think of a way to bring it all together - easily and quickly.

Here's what I'll try. I'll post the title of the message, linked to the archived message, so if it looks interesting enough, somebody can go from this space to my list message.

Here's what I posted to tictech, the list I moderate, tonight:
reporting online

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bloggers' contract

Forgot to mention this in my previous post. Before going to their blogs, all the kids signed a "Blogger's Contract", which I adapted from David Warlick's on Blogmeister. We had a good discussion about all the points, I think. The kids only asked a few questions, but they were good ones. A link to my version is here, for a while. I'm happy to have this as a guide. We'll refer to it a lot.

Student bloggers, finally

Well, I finally bit the bullet and said the kids were ready to use their blog. The space has been there since August. It's taken this long for them to get to the point where they can actually use the space productively. On Wed and Thurs they each took a few minutes to type up a little "welcome" message, saving it, hopefully. Then, Friday was launch day. In a couple of hours, most everyone had their intial blog posting.

Naturally, it was very chaotic, but a lot of fun at the same time. It didn't take long for somebody to figure out how to change their blog template, and pretty soon everybody had to give that a try. Then there were a few who got their message posted in their description field - but I think we managed to get everybody straightened out. A couple of kids were not there for this, and a couple more did not actually get theirs posted, so I will work with them individually on Monday.

At the end of the day, I mentioned making comments to blogs. In retrospect, I should not have done that - just too much to talk about before suggesting they try commenting on each others' writing. Anyway, several kids posted comments from home on Friday. A couple were ok, but most had several errors in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization - but the main reason I did not approve them was because they were simply not appropriate for our blog. Sounded more like chat room or IM stuff - which their blog will definitely not become. So I deleted all the comments. I'll have some explaining to do on Monday :)

But I am very proud of my kids. In their articles, they wrote well, and they wrote with purpose. I'm VERY excited to see where this will take us.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Beauty berry surprise

Beauty berry surprise
Beauty berry surprise,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
As I was framing the beauty berry shot, I heard a hummingbird zooming around. Sometimes you just sort of point, shoot, hope, and get very lucky. This male Anna's hummingbird was very interested in this bush at twilight in Seattle on October 29th.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Workshop going on

Well, we are sitting here in the lab exploring a little about blogs, rss, and whatever!. Unfortunately, my camera wouldn't get recognized right away by this student computer (always plan WAY ahead!), so there won't be a picture here (I'll add it from home). But trust me, everybody is really engaged and having a pretty good time :)
The web page we were working from is here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Busy days

It's been an awfully busy time the last few days, and no let-up in sight. Janeanne and I see each other at strange times, as she is in the thick of preparing Costanza for Tacoma Opera. It's a very exciting time for her.

Tomorrow I'm doing a slap dash one hour tech inservice in our computer lab - all about the new stuff: rss, blogs, podcasts, etc. For a change, I'm going to try and focus on presenting information that staff may use first for themselves - and not even really worry about classroom implications. Oh sure, I'll show some classroom applications, but I figure if some of this sticks with a few folks, they'll get into it, and it will come into the classroom naturally - because they see the potential, the need, understand the application, and are ready to try it - rather than, "here's what you really ought to try in your classroom - it's not that hard!" There is no better way to turn off a teacher, no matter what the topic.

Tonight we went to the opening night of the brand new Barnes and Noble in West Seattle. It's really exciting to have such a great business so close to us. Ran into a couple of Arbor Heights folks, including one of my kids. But we really had fun talking with Darwin. He's having a great time working there (sort of, I think), and we've had lots to talk about lately, as he and Rebecca have been working hard on the art design for Janeanne's new CD, The Shining Place. It's going to be beautiful.

Better tool off and grade a few papers - busy day again tomorrow.

Friday, October 21, 2005

In-house digital divide

So much is made of the digital divide between countries, social and economic classes. Today I witnessed another one, smaller scale, but just as real.

In my daily reading group, there are kids from all three third grade classrooms. Today, for the first time, I put them each (15) on a computer for a writing assignment. The content was not hard - the challenging part was the medium. As I assigned computers, I put kids from my own classroom in places where they could help the others, who I knew would have problems - and I explained this to the kids, too. Naturally, my kids felt pleased I was counting on them to help teach - and they did a great job helping the others.

My kids write on a computer at least twice a day. After six weeks of third grade, their word processing skills are getting pretty good. In contrast, the other third graders who came in were stumped at times, with questions like, "how do I get down to the next line?" or "how do I erase that?" Truly, there were kids from my class who quietly shook their heads in disbelief.

I figure my school is pretty typical. My classroom is not, in terms of tech usage and integration. The gap I saw today, after just the beginning of the school year, will widen as the school year goes on.

I don't know what to make of this exactly, except to feel bad that others are being left in tech dust. I truly believe this early prep will make my kids not only stronger masters of technology as they go through school - but better learners of systems - more adaptable, flexible, and curious - and stonger, more confident learners in general.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Quick learners

Back to the classroom. The kids are learning prerequisite tech skills, having a good time, and learning at the same time. Great at teaching and helping each other. The last two days during an LA block we hit stuff like basic browser operation, program minimizing/maximizing, printing to a non-default printer - and reinforcing the saving to and opening from their own directories. Not to mention playing audio files, getting comfortable with headphones, speaker operation, etc. A web assignment about owls ( and a look at some paintings of Rousseau during art made the tech learning happen pretty naturally, although content acquisition is slowed at this stage... Still doing writing daily on a computer (and paper/pencil of course). My eyes are on their first blog posting - trying to see if I can possibly tie it in to the new writing program.

I am concerned over the drastic reduction of computer use in our school so far this year. The lab is used rarely. Some classrooms still don't even have their computers plugged in. Way too many demands incompatible with computer use are on the plates of teachers. We still have no budget for technology or tech support.

But on the bright side, the PTSA has approved the use of a blog I set up ( This should be a great way to get out timely news, meeting minutes, etc. I wonder how many will tak advantage of an rss feed? I have a feeling quite a few - if content is added regularly. Plus, a couple of officers may become blog members and join in on the posting process. This is very encouraging!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Making a deposit

Making a deposit
Making a deposit,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
Dave, at Bank of America on Friday afternoon, getting some of our $1,243 in coins ready for deposit. Result of our school coin drive sending $ to the Humane Society to help with the animals impacted by hurricane Katrina. More pictures at Flickr...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Addition to the classroom

Addition to the classroom
Addition to the classroom,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
Friday I brought in an item for "Show and Tell", but we ran out of time, so mine will have to wait until next week. This bentwood box was a very special gift - it has my twin orca design on two sides. I kinda like where it sits right now in my classroom - on top of an air intake vent, between a couple of big plants.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Classroom progress

The kids are behind where I usually expect them to be at this time of the year. Not their fault, just not as much time to spend on the basics this year. They are, though, doing very well navigating through the My Docs folder on the server to create and save work to their own directories. Haven't been able to touch on much more than writing. I think I'm going back to the "pull out" model for individual web assignments that I used for so many years. I had discarded it the last couple of years because the whole class could go on at once, with so many computers. But now, the problem is not having enough computers, it's finding the time to use them. Have tried charting a little with Excel - actually had them create a chart, copy and paste it into Word, and write a little (1-2 sentence) evaluation of the graph results. They did really well! Smart kids, lots of potential. Can't wait to do more. Have lots of ideas for an initial PowerPoint presentation (and to teach the program). Just have to find the time.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Chief Seattle audio

I finally got up the audio file of Wes Felty's interpretation of Chief Seattle's speech on the school web site. This is just part of a multimedia piece Wes did, but it was much too large for web distribution as video. Wish I know how to reduce video file sizes. Anyway, Wes' words and music are truly moving, and haunting. Just a small part of the CD he is sending out to anyone who asks.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


originally uploaded by mahlness.
Staff at Arbor Heights counting coins on Friday afternoon, after kids filled up the giant mason jar in a week... $811.50... and one more week to go! All proceeds, plus a matching $1,000 from staff will go to the Humane Society, to help the animals affected by Katrina.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Coins for Katrina Relief

Coins for Katrina Relief
Coins for Katrina Relief,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
Here's the giant coin jar being topped off after a week's worth of kids bringing in coins. Tomorrow the teachers will empty it (so we can fill it up again next week!), and count it. We'll also weigh it, just for fun. Proceeds will go to the Humane Society to help animals affected by Katrina - matched by up to $1,000.00 from personal school staff donations.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Signs of hope, looking ahead...

It's funny how sometimes good things come from unexpected places - to lift you out of a rut, show the puropose, or whatever...

I still have not decided how to respond to the criticism that came to me from suggesting admininstrators talk directly with classroom teachers about technology. Have spent way too much time writing and crumpling up virtual replies to individuals - or the list, must decide what to do soon. Writing in my classroom and fitting it in to the new writing program still continues to eat up chunks of my time and leaves me anxious. Wish I had an answer there. But then I get a request from Andy Carvin to guest moderate wwwedu for a few days. Being more involved with a larger community on issues near and dear will be nice.

Then the local scene has been hard in terms of people stuff. The fix for that was attending our school's first PTSA meeting of the year last night. What a wonderful, dedicated group of parents we have. I again feel lucky to be where I am. Must attend more often this year - and spread the word to my colleagues.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The world is not as flat as I thought

Well, I think I managed to alienate most anybody I've spoken with about technology in the past couple of days - from asking the upstairs teachers at school not to put a table with a paper cutter in front of the white board in the computer lab - to probably every secondary teacher, tech support person, and tech administrator in the district (see previous post). Tomorrow I lead a discussion of tech issues at our building staff meeting. I've prepared and emailed everybody the key points, but we need at least half a day to get anywhere on this, and I have 20 minutes. I know folks will be frustrated. And then to pass on the news they will not get what I told them they would be getting.

I still don't know how my approach to literacy can possibly fit in to our building mandated adoption of a writing curriculum with no tech component.

It's funny how the wind can go out of your sails so quickly. I started the year so high on technology - exciting ideas, sparked by inspirational educators, I just couldn't wait to get back in the classroom and get after it.

I have to find the spark again. Time to follow some blogs more closely, read some more.

Monday, September 12, 2005

elementary schools go first

There is a spirited discussion raging in one section of the Seattle district email system. It is about the changing of what the district promised its schools from the tech levy. I will not go on about the details, but I will summarize the changes by saying elementary schools are getting much less than they were told to expect.

This decision leaves me absolutely stunned. It comes on the heels of
a weekend article in the Seattle Times about the huge amounts of money school districts (particularly Seattle) are spending on their "crown jewel" high schools.

So, elementary folks are outraged that they are being shorted because the projections weren't exactly accurate. Here is what I say to those making such decisions:

It is a clear no-brainer that the newest, best, and fastest technology MUST go to the youngest students first. No question, no discussion. The best does NOT go first to the oldest students. Ask any educator. Ask anyone who understands the educational process, the way kids learn, and a little bit about technology.

Several years ago I sat next to John Stanford (Joseph O. was the finance guy at the time, sitting across the table), surrounded by all the suits representing technology in the district (with execs from IBM and Microsoft). I was one of two teachers asked to sit in with this group, as they were planning the strategic implementation of an upcoming technology levy. I expressed the above idea to them when they asked how money ought to be allocated. They listened. They said, "Yes, that makes good sense, thank you". It is so very discouraging that big decisions like this are still made based on an outdated and groundless model of deciding who should get the best and fastest equipment.

This space is too short and my time is too limited to go into explaining why this is so. I suggest administrators get together with classroom teachers (not those who have not taught for several years, but those who are front of a classroom every day) and listen to what I am talking about.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


originally uploaded by
This project I did in 1980 or 1981 in a class taught by Marvin Oliver at the UW. Designed and painted totally freehand, hard to believe these days (12x16). We were learning all the symbols, rules of design and color of the NW Coast Native Americans. The design is comprised of two killer whales facing each other (tails join at the bottom, noses and mouths touch at the top). I finally photographed this after I got inspired by a posting of wonderful resources by Wes Felty, on Tictech.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

First two days

Well, the first two days with my new class are history, and I think the kids and I have both learned a lot. The first day I bit off a way too big a tech bite - sent the whole class over to computers - a doer and an observer/helper, open Word, try and type a heading, then try to save - and THEN switch places. Demonstrated on the laptop/projector beforehand, but this was just plain too much, and I should have known better. I was just so hoping to skip some of the basic stuff, hoping it had become second nature, I guess. Wrong. Whatever was I thinking?

So today, half went over to computers while half stayed at their desks and wrote. Managed to open yesterday's documents, add to them, save and exit. I was able to get around to everyone, at desk or computer, in a ten minute period. The desk workers were good observers of the computer process. Wow - they were great! Small, patient steps, remember, remember....

And yet, after just this small beginning, I can clearly see kids who will go so much farther using technology than last year's class. They are already so much more comfortable at a computer than I have ever seen at this age. Next week: Inspiration intro and Excel charting. After that, PowerPoint task analysis and web work. We're off!!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Banner ads and web sites

It's been a long time since I've even considered putting a banner ad on the school web site. But the Katrina disaster requires we all put ourselves out there as never before. So I added links to the Red Cross and the Humane Society to the Arbor Heights home page:

Arbor Heights Home Page

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Ed Tech Coast to Coast

I just listened to a 40 minute podcast that was fascinating: Ed Tech Coast to Coast, with Tim Wilson (MN), Tim Lauer (Portland, OR), and Will Richardson (NJ) on “barriers to technology implementation”. A must listen for anyone hoping to get teachers to use technology more. These guys speak from experience, and they have a very good understanding of the barriers that get in the way - as well as a lot of good ideas for overcoming those barriers.

Friday, September 02, 2005

International blogging for disaster relief day

A couple of thoughts on Katrina and how to help. I came to school today hoping and trusting that something would come to me. I was up until a few minutes unsure of how I could lend a hand. Then an email came in from the Recording Academy (the Grammy people), suggesting donations to

We all are painfully aware of the devastation and destruction in New Orleansand the surrounding areas. As one of our nation's important music cities,it is not only a national tragedy, but a cultural one as well. Afterspending serious time and thought on an appropriate response and action fromour Academy, we have come up with an initial plan reflected in the attachedpress statement, which we are releasing this morning. Although we willcontinue to find ways to take care of those music makers in need, we feelthat the most important goal right now is to get our message out and to takea leadership position which we are uniquely qualified to fill at thiscritical time.

Thanks for your support in what we believe will be one of the mostsignificant and meaningful initiatives for The Recording Academy andMusiCares.

So I'm making my contribution today to - I think it's important that we contribute in ways and through means that are meaningful to us, that we have a passion for, etc. Below is the press release from the Recording Academy:

Neil Portnow, President
The Recording Academy
Statement on Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts
September 2, 2005

The Hurricane Katrina disaster has been devastating, profound and life altering for its victims, their families, friends and the nation. This is the time when we must come together and take care of those who need our help. Therefore, The Recording Academy, the nonprofit organization that is the voice of thousands of music makers nationwide, along with its MusiCares Foundation, which provides a safety net of critical services for music people in crisis, is committing an initial donation of $1 million for music people affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The MusiCares Hurricane Relief Fund has been set up so these people in crisis can get help. Assistance includes basic living expenses such as shelter, food, utilities, transportation; medical expenses including doctor, dentist and hospital bills, medications; clothing; instrument and recording equipment replacement; relocation costs; school supplies for students; insurance payments and more.

Along with this donation, each of The Academy’s 12 regional Chapters will designate local programming that will continue the fundraising efforts to help the thousands of music people whose lives and livelihoods have been impacted by these tragic events. The Recording Academy, The Latin Recording Academy, MusiCares Foundation and the GRAMMY Foundation also have created a matching fund with their employees to help ensure that music continues to be the thread that brings people together and helps us all heal. We encourage the industry and the world to help in any way they can. To help music people affected by Hurricane Katrina, log on to

# # #

Media Contact:
Ron Roecker

Monday, August 29, 2005

Setting up class

One of the biggest hurdles in getting ready for the year is always setting up the computers. With 15 in my room, it's like setting up a small lab. I'm pretty good with all the wires by now, but this year's big challenge was working around a new heater, which changed the location of 8 of the computers. Four hours later, I had replaced a table, sawed off 8 table legs (and part of the chalkboard tray), and was ready to start hooking up wires. A couple of pictures, both sides of my classroom:

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Tictech is back

The technology part of what I do is quickly springing to life. I just activated Tictech, on Yahoo Groups. Was going to wait until the start of next week, but there was this great IMac giveaway message that I had pending approval... I guess I posted it on the weekend to reward those who are really into their school tech program, always hitting their email, etc. I did put myself in the running for a couple, but bowed out. I was just looking for a couple of machines for us to learn on - we have nary a Mac in our school. Anyway, half an hour after the posting, the IMacs were spoken for. I did make list messages available to the public (before, only list members could read them on yahoogroups). My primary reason was to enable an rss feed for the millions who are using aggregators like Bloglines or MyYahoo.

Biggest moment of yesterday's birding trip to the ocean was the spotting of three lapland longspurs at Midway Beach near Grayland. Besides being lifers for us, these guys are just not that easy to see in WA. Very cool birds - they are "tundra nesters", so they are spending the winter here, where it's balmy :) Worst tech moment of the day was when I discovered the batteries in my camera were dead - head-banging time, as I thought about bringing extras along, but decided not to worry about it.

Most inspiring moment of the trip to the coast was arriving at Bottle Beach 3 1/2 hours before high tide, and sitting back on the sand with scope and binocs, while thousands of migrating shorebirds were brought imperceptibly closer - started out probably 200 yards away, and over a two hour period closed to within 25 yards away - when everybody spooked and flew away. Very cool!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Getting out of Dodge

One last chance to get in a day away. With all of next week spoken for in meetings and classroom setup, Janeanne and I head out once again to the WA coast to catch a bit more of the shorebird migration. Aside from the snowy plover, pickings were mighty slim two weeks ago. I think we were just rushing the season. Maybe I'll get a chance to do some rough digiscoping... We will hit Bottle Beach a couple of hours before high tide.

This morning my desktop did something strange and disturbing. Outlook starts and then exits immediately. Have done the usual reboot and so on. Am now running a system scan. Beyond that, I'm hitting the web this evening for help.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Air update, moving on...

I just posted an update to Arbor Heights Air, the little (hopefully temporary) blog I started to help keep folks informed in a more immediate way of the progress cleaning up my school this summer. I am really ready to move on from this mess.

So many exciting tech ideas swirling around in my head - and so much prep necessary to get them in motion.... But first, I have my class list now, so it's time to set up student blog accounts on Blogmeister

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Air news from back east

Well, the news finally is good regarding the air quality at Arbor Heights. I just updated the little blog with the latest parent update - and sent it out via email to all staff. I think I've had more communication with folks in Seattle since I've been out here on the east coast...

Meanwhile, this little laptop is slowing down to a crawl - trying to do too much, and I'm real impatient with the dail up/aol access - trying not to tie up mom and dad's phone....

Anyway, here'a a picture of me, brother Dave, Dad and Mom having turkey dinner (!) the other night. It's great to be here. Janeanne's comment on looking at this pic was, "where's the green food?" Wish I could say it was out of the picture :)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Air and heading east

The Arbor Heights Air blog was suprisingly easy to set up. It will probably just have a short life, as I hope the issues around the air quality will be resolved soon. I did manage to get the rss feed set up on the original web page, so I won't have to do as much ftp stuff. Anyway, no comments to the site so far, not that I really expected any, but I do hope some people will find it helpful.

Well, I'm about to head back to CT, but have a few extra minutes here at home, due to a flight delay - yikes, not a good start.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Snowy plover

Janeanne and I just got back from a day trip to the Washington coast. Our target bird was the snowy plover, an endangered species, one we've been after for a couple of years. Today we did see him, at Midway Beach (they nest there) - scared up by a couple of kids setting off firecrackers (shame on them, but thanks!), he landed just a few yards away, and I was even able to snap a quick picture of they guy - an adult male in breeding plumage. What a handsome fellow!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New blog

Well, after saying this morning that I should probably set up a blog for the air quality problems at Arbor Heights - I decided to just go ahead and do it! "Arbor Heights Air" - how clever! I let the Task Force know, am hoping some will actually read what I have to say. I do intend to keep at least my observations and reflections pretty current. I went to school today, and posted this:

Well, I just set this blog up, so that people can ask questions, make comments, etc. in a more public way. We'll see how it goes.

I did visit Arbor Heights this afternoon, and there is a LOT of activity going on - from the univent heaters being put in, the classrooms sinks (with filters) are now set, hallway water fountains now have new supply pipes, there were people working in many classrooms (including 16, one of the worst) on air/water stuff, there are holes cut in all classroom walls to expose the roof drains, and there was a crew doing soil/water samples, I guess, on the playground, marking white arrows here and there.

Lots of activity and effort, I guess the big question remains - will it all be done in time for school to start? I sure hope so. And I do think it's possible.

The task force meets again this Friday, with an ambitious agenda. Ever hopeful - Mark

School in trouble

This summer has been a hard one on the school. It is still uncertain whether Arbor Heights will open on time. The Mold Task Force has met, but there is so much work yet to be done - and we're still getting new information from toxicoligist Anderson almost on a daily basis. Where was all this information a couple of months ago? I've gotten so frustrated with the lack of information being made public (teachers contact me regularly because I'm on the task force), that I've decided to just go ahead and post updates on the air quality web site when I feel there is more info to share. I only wish it were easier to post - I have to edit the page and do an ftp upload. Maybe there should be a blog on this!! The latest talk is preparing for the school not being able to open - relocating half or all the school somewhere else - yikes! And then of course, there are the unanswered questions of who will be teaching what...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Shining Place web site

I finally launched the baby web site for Janeanne's new CD at It's not much more than a few pictures I took during the recording process, but it will look great soon. With Darwin and Rebecca working on the art and layout, it will be stunning. Oh yeah, the music isn't bad either...

Inspiration and plane tickets

Today I got the CD and documentation for 15 copies of Inspiration. So all my classroom computers and my home computer will have it on them. Now I really have to buckle down and study this stuff. I did look at a couple of online tutorials that seem promising. I wonder where the $ will come from to buy copies for all the classrooms at school, like our tech plan stipulates :) It's been SO long since I actually purchased a software program! I installed it on this laptop, and it seems to run just fine, so I imagine the PIII' s in the classroom will be pretty zippy. Must remember to fax in the license agreement.

Then I just made another reservation from Seattle to Hartford. My saved itinerary on Expedia jumped from $403 this morning to $1,400 this evening, so I scurried around and got a good deal ($437) on
Continental. Man, it's unnerving being your own travel agent. Good news is I'm earning frequent flyer miles on the same airline as last time. I know i'll be doing this trip a lot more frequently in the near future, helping out with my folks and my brother...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Block party

We went to our annual block party tonight, hosted by Wally and Wilma, as always. It was great to see, and actually get a chance to talk with, many of our neighbors. Met a few new ones, as well. Another chance to get a little faster with using the new Cyber-shot.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Good birding

We got back last night, very tired - and tired of being hot - but still pretty excited by the birds and scenery we took in. One of the most beautiful spots was Biscuit Ridge, just outside of Dixie, which is just outside of Walla Walla. Birding highlight for Janeanne and me was the burrowing owl family we saw on Dodson Road, near Ellensburg. Then visiting with Tom, the guy running the show at Hummingbird Heaven (?) - 80 and going strong. It was refreshing to meet somebody like Tom, who basically throws open the doors to his backyard and 30+ hummingbird feeders - to anybody who wants to stop by. Thanks, Tom! Oh yeah, I got 17 lifers on this trip - yikes! Thanks, Marv!

Most disappointing tech moment (actually the ONLY tech moment) was failing to get this laptop connected to the wireless network at the hotal. Think I better reinstall the card software. When we got home and I checked in to email, etc, it looks like I missed absolutely nothing.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Change of pace - birding!

Tomorrow morning we head off to toasty eastern WA (Walla Walla) with our friend Marv for some birding adventures. We are not (hardly) daunted by the triple digit temp forecasts... I hope we can get some good bird pics to post - Marv has a great setup with a digital camera hooked up to his spotting scope. I wonder if I can get his camera hooked up to my laptop and post a picture or two?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

rss for tictech

I finally made the move and set access to the tictech discussion list to public. There was some concern a while ago that things might be said which might compromise the integrity of district security. Hopefully, people will see that as security overkill - by now members should have enough trust in the moderator to have that not be a concern. One of the main reasons for doing this is to enable an rss feed for tictech out of yahoogroups. I've set up a feed on the right column here. Great site, that one that generates the javascript to just plop an rss feed anywhere! Build a Feed You Can Cut 'n Paste We'll see how it goes when I start up the list the end of August. I did add this info to the monthly "rules of the road", so for those still reading email in the summer, they'll find out about it Aug 1.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 Downers Grove

OK, i'm following along with the Downers Grove Summit, and today I picked up the idea, so have set up one for myself. It's just a beginning, but I see, as many of the Downers participants, the incredible potential of this one! Will be just adding to it as I can. There MUST be a way to import a list of bookmarks...?

I loved reading the blogs from today's sessions - from first timers to some who have been doing this for a while, the ideas expressed are wonderful, thoughtful, insightful - reminds me of what Sundance said to Butch, "Who ARE these guys?!!" I'll learn more tomorrow, I'm sure...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Downers Grove Summit

David Warlick is hosting a workshop in Downers Grove for the next coupla days. I remember visiting my cousins in Downers Grove when I was growing up inthe 50's. I'm very interested in what David will probably be demonstrating - and wishing we could have him at my school - or in Seattle. As with NECC, I'll participate by reading and listening to what they make public.

I'm still struggling mightily with how I am going to deal with a school adopted writing program (for a fair chunk of change) that has no tech component. I am ready to move out on my own, with 16 licenses for Inspiration, a classroom blog spot ready to go on blogmeister, digital camera ready to add spice and incentive, plenty of ideas and experience with Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.... It was a 30 to 1 vote to go for this program next year, so I will have no backing from my colleagues. There is so much I'd like to try and explain about where literacy is NOW - and why our kids deserve to be taught with the tools of today, etc, etc....

We are all supposed to have the kids writing with a pencil in Mead notebooks every day. I think I'll contact the folks running the program (Powerful Writers) and see how flexible they are willing to be.

Random thoughts update - at last

This morning I finished updating the Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier. I was behind over four months! Guess that's an indicator of how much extra time I've had... whine, whine. I really have to figure out a better html editor for doing these things. I like working in straight html, with a little bit of an editor behind me, but the program automatically saving file names as CAPS is just a bit irritating. Been using htmlwriter since 1994, and with my recent move to XP, this is a new byproduct. I'm sure I can find another program - just have to find the time.

Went in to school this morning to download new virus definitions on this laptop. Also took the opportunity to swap the hd, battery, and ram on my classroom computer with a body that works. I think part of the reason for the trackpoint failure was that the fan wasn't working.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The day after...

Well, Janeanne's recording is finished - and it went very well yesterday (day 3).

I was really shocked to read/hear the news about the hotel bombings in Egypt. Something about the name struck me, and then I realized I had gotten a report on the Earth Day Groceries Project this year - from that place! I scrambled to find the report, not sure if I was remembering the name of the hotel, or what was exactly what... re-read the AP coverage, and finally figured out that the hotel sending in the report was part of the same resort community - but was not bombed. Senseless. This brings the world violence to a doorstep very close to my heart. I am so thankful those at the Radisson were not hit directly, but my heart goes out to the families of the other victims - which I am sure include friends and relatives of those from the Radisson:

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The shining place

The new digital camera has done good work. Much improved quality with a tripod on the second day of recording (duh). Tomorrow I hope to get some good pictures of Janeanne and Shannon, with her oboe. Got the website started off with one picture ( Went with Godaddy again, as they are very cheap, and I know the drill, after having transferred several domains from Network Solutions. Going from $47.50 to $7.95 a year is a no-brainer. While I was at it, I initiated the transfer of - next up, in August, will be

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ready for recording

Janeanne had a great rehearsal with pianist Robert and producer Dean on Saturday at PLU in Tacoma. The music is amazing! Really excited (and nervous) about helping out - turning pages and feeding everybody. Hope I can get some good shots with the new camera that will work for the CD booklet...

Mr Lincoln

The cat, not the president....
busy at work stalking hummers.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Backyard bliss

Sitting here at the picnic table in our beautiful little back yard. Keeping an eye on Lincoln, the notorious hummingbird eater... Been back from CT for two days now, and it does finally feel as though I'm catching up. Not that I've done anything yet, just that I finally think I'll be able to...

Is so nice to have a broadband connection again, vs. AOL dialup. Makes me wonder how Amanda (teacher from Arbor Heights) is managing all those emails from Europe. I imagine the next one will be from a beach cafe in Croatia - really! Had to re-install my wireless card, as I think I messed it up, changing settings for the Newark airport. Looking forward to getting on to a little bit faster laptop this school year.

Making progress on the classroom blog site, have played around a bit with a coupla test students. Want to see how realistic it will be for me to do all the editing of their work. Also think it would be nice to have two class sites - one public, one private (class only). We'll see... Am more determined than ever to go this direction instead of Mead notebooks (saw an ad for them in an Office Depot ad last night - great deal - for somebody else!). We'll show folks some Powerful Writers!

Today we meet Marv for a birding lunch, then I hope to go camera shopping - gotta have a new one for Janeanne's recording sessions next week.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sleepless in Newark

What a drag. Sitting here in the Newark airport. My flight to Hartford was cancelled due to thunderstorms. So I leave at 8:30 in the morning, if the skies are clear. I've tried draping myself over seats, laying on the floor, nothing close to comfortable yet...

But it is nice to be able to fire up my laptop and get connected. They have wireless access pretty much throughout the airport. The occasional user like me can get 24 hours of service for $6.95 - so I'm gonna get my money's worth :) Gotta keep up with the email anyway.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Gaylord Nelson dies

Just read with sadness the passing of Gaylord Nelson, founder (with Dennis Hayes) of Earth Day. Reminds me to get crackin' on a few more reports and pics on the web site before I head back East Tues.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Planning for next year

Have been learning how to add rss feeds to this page - have a couple over on the right side right now. Feel like I'm back learning html again or something. It is nice to use this part of my brain again - acquiring new skills.

But really exciting today was setting up a classroom blog site through BlogMeister How truly cool! This is exactly the thing I had in mind when I had such a cow last spring about a staff decision to go with a schoolwide writing program with -O- tech component. David Warlick has really created an amazing tool for classroom teachers! Now I have to be sure the district will allow access to that domain.

A big personal relief that my mom had a pacemaker put in today, and is doing great. Go Mom!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fits and starts

Didn't hear much from NECC today, due to the end of the conference - and most were in a going home mode, and then my laptop gave up the ghost. Actually, just a bad trackpoint (and maybe nonfunctional fan?), but managed to swap out the hard drive into another chassis, so am back in business. Back to school (isn't that over yet?) for parts. Was especially worried about the failure, as I'm heading back east in a few days, and will be depending on the laptop quite a bit, in different locations. Will catch up on the last NECC blogs and podcasts tomorrow...

Did manage to order 15 copies of Inspiration for my classroom next year. Not the end all, be all - but it will be part of my tech answer to the all school pencil and paper writing program in the fall. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

NECC proceedings

Many thanks to all the bloggers and podcasters at NECC. Feel like I am there, in a way. Had intended to go a coupla months ago, but then finances and family stuff made it a nogo. Anyway, I've listened to a few sessions and read the writing of many astute edtech champions.

Am more determined than ever to MOVE ON in these areas of technology in my classroom this year - in spite of reluctance of my colleagues and lack of leadership from those who could make a difference. Am still reeling from the all school adoption of a writing program that has NO tech component. We'll be writing in Mead composition books, for goodness sakes - talk about returning to the 19th century. I thought I left them behind in jr. high school.

For this reason, it it especially exciting and encouraging to read and hear the thoughts of those at the head of the pack. Anyway, my plans are to move into the regular use of Inspiration, explore the possibilities of blogging with my third graders., and so on.

Read about Andy Carvin's panel presentation at NECC - ten years on the web for wwwedu, luminaries like Bonnie Bracey, Ed Gragert, David Warlick - wished I could have heard it - and then I did, via Andy's podcast. Today I updated the Young Authors' Conf. web page at Arbor Heights for the ELEVENTH year. Made me think about how things have changed and remained the same - and how I've sat too still this past year.

Very cool voices speaking. Steve Dembo also has some real interesting things to say in his blog. Can't wait for reports from tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

NECC blogs - and locals

Since starting this up yesterday I've been following my nose from blog to blog, with NECC and local blogs as a focus. NECC sounds very exciting, but also monstrously huge. A couple of good blog spots are Andy Carvin's and a listing of current postings at and several blogs listed by author at

The last one led me on to Bremerton's Jeff Allen's blog - which led me on to Conn McQuinn's - so, it is good to hear about some local folks out there.

Speaking of local, I did get a couple of personal responses to my posting to tictech asking about local blogs. Great hear from them - really lifts to the spirit, but I wish folks weren't so shy about posting back to the list.

Monday, June 27, 2005

School's over - really

The laptop mess from the 100 we had donated last September is now finally put away. Holy cow, what a mess. But most put to good use (31 to staff for personal use, 30 as replacement cpu's for our lab, and 24 in mobile carts to be used in classrooms). Just to top off the year and feel as though big headway had been made somewhere, I spent a few hours in our lab, throwing out about a dozen years worth of assorted programs, manuals. Several trips to the dumpster got it done.

Just posted a note to tictech, asking if anybody in the area is blogging edtech stuff. I sure don't hear much about it locally, but the national stuff (like at NECC right now) is pretty impressive and cool.

Another try...

It's been too long since I've tried my hand at this. Here's a lovely picture of me from last summer, visiting sister Kristin in Ithaca. Back to school for a half day of cleaning up the laptop mess....