Having it All

If there was a big world event happening, what would you do to bring that resource into your classroom?

  • probably search for that term on Google or some other search engine?  Check.
  • read a blog or two on the topic?  Check.
  • check out Twitter to see what’s happening in real time?  Check.
  • check out Facebook to see what your friends are saying?  Check.

What if you were able to do all of this in one spot?  You can with IceRocket.

Touted as a real-time search engine, IceRocket brings all of the above together in one spot.  (and more…)

Head over to the site and type a search term and check out the results.  They will look familiar.  There’s the title of the article, a descriptor, the link to the article of course, but look at the other content.  There’s a link to indicate authority or credibility of the resource by identifying the author.  That’s nice.  But, even more powerfully, you’ll see a calendar reference for the links.  Because the focus of this resource is “real-time”, it’s important to get a date stamp on the results and they’re up front.

So, from a single point of search, head off to look for blogs, the web, Twitter, … or for them all in one spot, opt for the “Big Buzz”.

Like any good search engine, IceRocket features advanced search.  Each area whether it be blog or web or whatever has a custom set of items that can be set for each search.  One of the tips of internet presence is to look for incoming links.  So, ego pops up when I do a search under Web for link:dougpete.wordpress.com to see what web sites have links to my blog.  It was particularly interesting to try that search under blogs to see just what blogs link here.  I guess people actually do read this thing.

So, give IceRocket a shot.  It may not become your daily use search engine but when you’re looking for an easily customizable approach to searching, its design may well yield answers quicker and more relevantly than any other.


Getting it Right … Financially

One of the best inspirational things that I do for myself is subscribe to The Daily Papert.  In this mailing list, I get a daily bit of inspiration from one of the greatest minds  in educational technology as curated by Gary Stager.  Every day, there’s a quotation related to education and usually with a technology overture.  I would encourage you to enter your email address for a daily shot of inspiration yourself.

I don’t think that there are too many naysayers about the use of technology in education these days.  But, for all of the enthusiasts and for those remaining naysayers, the conversation almost inevitably turns to money and how we can’t afford the technology.  For years, we’ve tinkered and tried pilot projects (how many times do we have to prove that technology can motivate students?)  We’ve talked about Maine and other 1:1 projects and lusted after the opportunity to replicate but it always comes back to money.  In Monday’s Daily Papert, it was addressed.

From The Daily Papert, April 4, 2011

Now, what’s really interesting is that the prices in Mr. Papert’s quotations are from 1983.  It isn’t a huge leap to imagine what the dollar figures are today, almost 30 years later.  Now, we’re not about to sink dollars into Apple II computers, but there are current technologies that would be equivalent in terms of today’s functionalities.

We do have to be financially responsible.  Of that, there is no question.  That’s why another article that appeared has so much interest.  Ewan McIntosh’s entry “Why the cloud’s important for education: saving $199,995 on one test” will make you stand up and think.  Look at the issues that Mr. McIntosh identifies.  School boards spending all kinds of money providing internal services when there are free and/or better services readily available on the web.  Of real interest to me is that amount reportedly saved on the administration of just one test.  Imagine the possibility of removing all of the administrative costs and paper booklets and all the costs that go into offering these things.

However, a computer is just a computer until you load it up with the necessary software.  In Ontario, we are fortunate to have a program like the OESS which licenses software recommended by OSAPAC for publically funded schools.  We are also lucky to have resources like those provided by eLearning Ontario.  Despite the successes of these programs, they don’t provide all that is required for a well-rounded suite of software for students.  Fortunately, there are other great alternatives.  If we delve into the concept of appropriate FLOSS, the opportunities get better.  If we expand our definition of just what software is, web services can fill the job nicely.

Web services remain an emphasized question.  Some districts have policies that are restrictive while others less so.  These policies are undoubtely created by well meaning internal structures.  However, a thoughtful, structured approach identifying just what is needed would send a set of guidelines to districts throughout the province.  After all, we have an Ontario Curriculum loaded with references.  Getting serious about all of this would enable a suite consistent throughout the province.  And, if a web service proves to be not needed on a particular date, the provincially licensed Net Support School software lets the teacher turn it off at the class level.

In this link, I would encourage you to add your favourite software (however you elect to define it).  I’ll collate all of the responses and report back in a later post.

Are we ready for more pilots and more tinkering or is it time to get at it?  If we take the finances out of the discussion, does it make a difference?

Flock 2.5

I awoke this morning to some exciting news.  Overnight, the folks at Flock had released version 2.5 which they’re saying is built on the latest version of Firefox.  This news came from their web ambassador Evan Hamilton.

For the longest of times, Flock was my browser of choice.  I like its clean interface, its compatibility with Firefox and the Firefox Add-ons, but most importantly, the integration of so many of the web experiences that I use regularly.  Integrated Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Gmail, WordPress, and Digg are part of my regular routine.  Flock made it so easy to pull it all together.  Built in RSS reading just puts it over the top in terms of what I need my browser to do.

As life progressed, something happened.  Out of the blue, the old version of Flock began to run a high CPU temperature and would cause chaos with 100% CPU usage.  I anguished and fought and drove myself crazy (crazier?) trying to find a solution.  About the same time, I had the same performance issues with Firefox.  Since they are developed in parallel, I tried my best to figure out what was happening to no avail.  Even doing the first recommended action which was to disable add-ons, try safe mode, etc., had no effect.  The best that I could figure is that there was a chance in OS that caused the problems or perhaps the Flash plug-in.  Eventually, the problem was resolved with Firefox and my computers ran smoothly again so whatever it was had been resolved.  I’m hoping that the new version of Flock continues to be a good actor.  I tire of trying to gather add-ons to give me the same functionality.

There are things that are uniquely Flock as well.  You can’t beat the opening My World, now with an integrated Twitter search widget.  There is so much good in this browser for my web experiences.  A particularly helpful add-on is the OpenID tool.  Rather than digging around when I get to a website that supports ID, it’s right there in the toolbar.

In support of the new release, take a few moments to watch their demo videos.  Flock’s strengths has always been in its support for social media and there are new features like their self-named Flockcast to get your information out to your networks quickly and easily.

And, for the blogger, the integrated blog editor has always been a wonderful feature.  Straight forward, it does what I need to do.  I must admit that the integrated Zemanta of Scribefire was nice.  I’ve downloaded the Zemanta extension and will give it a shot.

Anyway, so far so good.  The new version downloaded and installed and this post was created with the updated editor.  I’m going to spend some more time with the features and see what’s up.  It’s been a while since releases and so I’m looking forward to renewing my acquaintances with my favourite browser.

Social Bookmarks:
Blogged with the Flock Browser

When Web 2.0 Goes Down

I’ve taken a real interest in Web 2.0 applications over the past year.  If there is any doubt, check out my Delicious collection of resources tagged with Web 2.0.  There are 378 of them and growing.

They are fascinating and I applaud the developers for their originality and creativity in bringing such resources to the web and the pricing is usually quite right.

Or, is it?

Yesterday, I’m in a meeting giving 100% attention to the proceedings of course, and during the break scroll through the accumulated Twitter postings in Twhirl.  It’s open all day and just collects the posts from my friends and others in my network.

In the middle, there was a panic Tweet.

“Can anyone get into ########?”  where ######## is a Web 2.0 resource.  And, it’s not just a fly by night one.  It was one of the big names, lots of people made reference to it at the NECC Conference.

I give it a shot and sure enough, the resource isn’t there.

I’m now thinking about this poor person.  It may well be a classroom teacher prepping for a class, might be in the middle of a class, might be taking a summer school upgrading course, might be just someone following a link…  But, it’s not there.

What happens now?

What happens if this was going to be the lesson of the year?  What happens if this was a teacher testing the Web 2.0 waters for the first time?  What happens if this was a final assessment for an education course? What happens if this was a final evaluation from a superintendent before you get a contract and you’re pulling out all the stops?


Let’s consider another scenario.

Your school district subscribes to a web filtering service designed to keep business people on task.  Today, you find a dynamite simulation or animation resource that you wish to use in your classroom.  Works great, you test it, and you dream of the possibilities for student learning and engagement in class tomorrow.  However, overnight, the filtering service sends out an update and the site is now blocked.  And, unfortunately, the keeper of the white list is ill and not checking email.

What do you do?

Of course, as educators, we always have a whack of “Plan B”s.

How many times can you get burned, though, before you throw up your hands and revert to tried and true ways?

What would you do?

Social Bookmarks:
Blogged with the Flock Browser

End of an Era

I suppose that it was bound to happen. This week, Netscape announces the end of support for the Netscape product in February, 2008.


This is a really sad announcement. With the popularity of the web in the 1990s, Netscape was the real alternative to the Internet Explorer browser. People tried both and Netscape proved to be a really functional alternative. Over the time of its development, Netscape tried to become your choice in an all-in-one internet suite. Not only could you browse, but you could do email, design webpages, read newsgroups, …

It was a powerful alternative that I chose to use with one of my first ISPs. The problem with an all-in-one solution is that it gets big in a hurry. Longer download times, and more things that needed patching turned me to using Firefox when all that I wanted to do was quickly get started and browse the web.

If the all-in-one suite appeals to you, continue to use Netscape. It’s as good as it ever was. Or, there are related products like Mozilla or Sea Monkey that you may find appealing as development for these product should continue.

It’s sad to see Netscape end up like this. My thanks to the developers who helped forge the web and desktop connectivity to what it is today.

Posted on January 4…eWeek has a tribute outlining all of Netscape’s contributions.