Thursday, March 30, 2006

Student newsletter podcast

I've been thinking for some time about how to get more than my classroom involved in a podcast, blog, whatever. Yesterday I met with the student reporters at my school for a special podcasting session. They each read the article they had written for the March edition of the Jr. Seahawk Newsletter (which I've been publishing online since 1994). Thankfully, it was one of those months where not every classroom remembered to write a report, so there were only eight reports to be read. They did a wonderful job, we had several redo's, and a couple of perfect reads. It was fun - especially getting to know and work with kids in other classes, different grade levels, etc. Managed to get eight clips recorded, using Audacity, during recess and my prep period.

After school I recorded an intro and ending - I had really wanted to have kids do this, but there simply was no time to get that together - next month, for sure! Anyway, while I had an hour before my second Family Internet Night, I figured out how to put the clips in order on one new track, and I added my own to the beginning and end. Burned it all on a CD after the meeting, and brought it home.

That's when the fun began - not. I found this music I wanted to use as a lead in/out - a midi track - which of course I found out will not play or record in Audacity. So I used my little Total Recorder program, Winamp, and Audacity - to play, record, save in different formats, equalize volume levels on all the different reports, resample the audio in at a lower mp3 quality, etc. It was crazy, and extremely frustrating at times. At 11 PM I started to get somewhere. At 1:30 AM I had something I could present to the world as a first attempt. Nowhere to go but up:

The March 2006 edition of the Jr. Seahawk Newsletter, as a podcast. Best way to enjoy is by following along with the pdf version -

Links to it from:

But will I remember what I did in April?!!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Blocking Flickr - can't get past it

Having a terrible time dealing with having Flickr blocked in my school. Blogs using it look awful, and there are quite a few (!) - including my own classroom blog. All this energy into getting set up there, getting proficient at it, installing uploading tools, upgrading to "pro", etc, etc, etc - and for what? It's nothing my kids will ever see. Promises I've made that I now have to break and explain with...?

Happened about a month ago. No warning. A teacher complained, and now all of flickr is blocked in my school district. Decision made by technical staff, not educators. No discussion. The end.

I have protested, sent emails. Nothing. It's a done deal. Paranoia is so much easier than common sense. It requires so many less brain cells...

Those who preach the gospel of web 2.0 and wonder why teachers are not embracing it enthusiastically need a serious reality check.

Of course, has been blocked for some time, and all domain sites have been blocked since the first of the year.

Just waiting for the next big block....

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Good reading, 3/26/06

Going to try and establish a routine here. I've been spending so much time reading wonderful things on blogs - mostly on the weekends, when I have a little time. So my thought is so start an open blog Saturday, and close it out Sunday, listing basically the places I've been, with brief comment or two. Why? Two reasons:

  • to help me remember, come back to later, etc. - some of the great stuff I'm reading
  • to share this good reading with others who happen by here

Here goes:

There. By no means all that I've read, just some worth remembering. Will see if I can do it again next weekend - or if that's enough. It's not like I don't read stuff during the week!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

One more blogging teacher

So there is one more teacher out there, blogging with her students - not monumental news any more - but it is at my school! Welcome to Kelly Fullerton and her ten fifth grade writers! Congratulations, Kelly! They are using the wonderful tool offered by David Warlick, classblogmeister.

I just added an rss feed to her group at the bottom of our school's web page at I don't know why more people don't use this tool - makes old boring web pages into aggregators - seems very powerful to me.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Many things

Had a very fun time listening to Bob Sprankle this morning with “It’s Not About the Technology” Oh my goodness! Tomorrow I listen to another one of his. He is doing such amazing stuff!

Two more kids posted podcasts on today at morning recess. Still experimenting with my new little mp3 player/recorder. The kids think it's real cool. I'm trying to keep up with them :)

Posted a note for the News reporters at school on their blog that we're doing a podcast edition of the Jr. Seahawk Newsletter for March. This will be the first one, and I'm only a little sure how to proceed. Got to figure out how to do a couple of tracks using Audacity. I know it's possible, just have to find the time to sit down, read the documentation, and try it out a bit. And then find some free music, of course!

Biggest news of all is that there is ANOTHER BLOGGING TEACHER - with classroom - at my school! On David Warlick's Classblogmeister. Links to follow for sure, when she lets me know she is ready to meet the world. Isn't it funny? You can have conversations with folks halfway around the world, but when a colleague just down the hall joins in on the new conversation, it almost means more.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Podcast for breakfast

I just entered this comment to Wesley Fryer's post, Podcast42: Can you hear me now? Composing Connections between Classrooms and Communities:
Wesley, thanks so much for publishing this podcast - and all the others! Last night I saved the podcast, dragged it over to my little mp3 player, hooked up my earbuds as I went about the mindless but frantic 1+1/2 hours before school this morning, and had a wonderful hour listening to a dynamic, inspirational speaker! At a keynote at a conference in Orlando!

The technology is so easy. Any teacher in any classroom anywhere could prep for school listening to Janet Swensen, as I did today.

And tomorrow, who knows? And the next day? Find a way to make this happen easily and seamlessly, and web 2.0 begins to make a difference to mainstream teachers.

Now to find another good one for tomorrow… - Mark

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Slowing down

I've shot my mouth off way more than I'm comfortable with during the past week. It stems from being involved in this really exciting, motivational Skypecast from Wesley Fryer - and then dealing with things working against all the stuff we talked about in my classroom. For instance, my district now blocks of all sites. Then last week Flickr was put on the global block list as well. That was a real heart breaker for me - and it will be for my kids, as the promises I made them about their artwork on their bogs just went out the window - but they don't know yet. Next - how about Not long on the unblocked list, I bet. Skype? Not long, either. It gets me down. Then Nancy Willard posted another warning to the wwedu list about all the dangers of I wrote back saying it was discouraging to see that message, another nail in the coffin of education embracing web 2.0 stuff, and now I must write back saying why. Don't have the time or energy tonight.

So, going from sky high to bummed out has put me in a contrary, cynical mood. I should know better than to blog at that point - and should certainly not be posting comments on blogs. Time to take a deep breath and slow down.

Stuff I'll do very soon that WILL make a difference:
  • Work with my kids on discussing what makes an interesting blog posting - finish up the conversation that started when a boy asked in class, "why do the girls get all the comments?" Then we'll write/blog about it, of course!
  • Schedule and do a second Family Internet Night - for the families that couldn't make the first one.

Got to leave the other stuff behind, let the world go where it wants, make a difference where I can.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Warlick responds - in blog and podcast

David Warlick just posted a very thoughtful blog response to the skypecast from March 16 - and not surprisingly, left even more thought-provoking ideas than he had expressed from his post which spawned the skypecast. David also produced a podcast of his blog response, which is definitely worth a listen.

Blogging and report cards

I'm sitting here at the kitchen table on one of the unfunnest weekends of the school year - report card weekend. Yecch. But I did have some fun yesterday when I was doing writing evaluations. I had sent this email to the teachers in my school Friday afternoon, I called it "report card smile":

Hi teachers,
It's Friday, 4 PM, I'm not done with those suckers - not even
close, but I had to share a moment that made me smile, in light of my little
presentation today... You know that place on the report card where you're
supposed to put little checks in the boxes telling what measures you used to
assess with this period? There's a box for "Other" at the end that I've never
used before - until today. Now I put a check in the box and write on the line
"blog". Then I smile and go on to the next one. Wonder when they'll add it in? Ha! Have a good weekend, all - Mark

So what fun was it to call up when I did those writing evaluations. I have never had such a depth of writing samples at my fingertips. Back and forth from the report card form to the student's blog on my laptop. No more digging around in file folders, rustling through all kinds of papers. What a great way to review my kids' writing! Another score for blogging. Now back to the mill.... math grades (:

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Skype Notes

Skype Notes
Skype Notes,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
Frenetic scribblings during my part of the skypecast - Defining and Telling the New Story - on any pieces of paper I could grab close to where I was sitting. Trying hard to stay tuned in on the conversaton and say something reasonable when my turn came 'round again.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The New Story - The Skypecast

So many things have happened in the last few days, life has been so absolutely packed, that I cannot possibly recount it all here. I will just mention the Skypecast I participated in today. See Wesley Fryer's posting, Defining and Telling the New Story For half an hour in the middle of my school day I was lucky enough to be a part of an hour long Skypecast organized by Wesley Fryer, featuring Darren Kuropatwa, Ewan Mcintsoh, Miguel Guhlin, Jeff Allen, and me. Incredibly exciting and stimulating, it was so wonderful to be in the company of such forward thinking folks. Here's the direct link to the podcast:

Program Length: 58 min, 09 sec
File size: 14.0 MB
(Click here to listen to this podcast)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Visit to Helen Keller Center

Video relay system
Video relay system,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
One of the most amazing parts of the visit that my brother Dave and I made to the Helen Keller Center was seeing their state of the art Video relay system in action. In this picture Dave is having a conversation with a relay interpreter - who is connected with a hearing person making a phone call to Dave. Dave took to this real easily, having a conversation to somebody on the TV. Kind of leaves TTY technology in the dust. Plenty of other wonderful stuff from our visit in pictures at Flickr

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Family Internet Night

On March 7, I hosted a Family Internet Night in Room 12. Nine families - about 25 people - attended. It was a wonderful time, great to share successes and challenges with such receptive and perceptive families. I will have more to say about this in the future, but I wanted to share the PowerPoint presentation that guided the evening here. I did record the event. Not sure if it's worthy of a podcast. We'll see...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Earth Day Groceries Project update

(Just posted to the Earth Day Groceries Project blog)

One of the most exciting times for me running this project is when I get to unveil the new desktop wallpaper for the year. Well, 2006 is now ready to go - and it is by far the most exciting we've ever had to offer! Thanks to the wonderful generosity of expert birder and project friend Marv Breece, we have some incredible photographs of birds, for use as desktop wallpaper.

The picture here is of a northern saw-whet owl - one of over a dozen exquisite photos ready to go.

Head over to The Project Starter kit, and click on "Desktop Wallpaper".

Friday, March 03, 2006

Local connections

Have had a little email exchange recently with Conn McQuinn, a nearby ed-tech leader I've known for many years. Conn mentioned my classroom blog in a workshop he recently offered, and asked teachers to send comments to my kids - to encourage, reinforce, etc - their writing. Kind of like what Wesley Fryer suggested teachers of teachers should do in his podcast... Several of my kids received comments from Conn's group and were so excited! One of my kids even mentioned the comments I received from the group of teachers - they DO read beyond their own blogs - even in third grade. Anyway, it has been a great lead-up week to Family Internet Night, next Tuesday. Gotta get busy on the "presentation" this weekend.