Friday, August 25, 2006

How many planets are there?

Many of you know that I promote Wikipedia as a useful resource for staff and students. Wikipedia is the largest encyclopedia in electronic, online or print form.

There are several advantages to using Wikipedia ( in the classroom.

1) It is available anywhere you have an Internet connection. You are not limited to a few sets of encyclopedias located around the school building.

2) It has a lot of information that you would not find in a print version such as World Book. Ex: information about Zip to Zap (North Dakota) on May 10, 1969.

3) It has current information.

Below is information taken from Wikipedia about Pluto. This is accurate information based on a decision made yesterday and reported in the newspaper this morning. This information will not be found in a print version of an encyclopedia for many years.

Pluto is a dwarf planet (once classified as a true planet) in the solar system and the prototype of a yet to be named family of Trans-Neptunian objects.[1][2] From its discovery in 1930 to 2006, it was considered the ninth and smallest of the planets of the Solar System by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). However, after contemporary observations, recent discoveries and currently available scientific information were evaluated and debated, the IAU decided, on August 24, 2006, to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, requiring that a planet must “clear the neighborhood around its orbit.”[3] It had qualified as a planet under a draft definition[4] that had been proposed by a committee of the IAU, but which was not accepted by the IAU General Assembly.

Under Planets:

Officially, as of 2006, there are eight planets in our solar system. In increasing distance from the Sun they are (with the astronomical symbol in brackets and their natural satellites):

1. Mercury with no confirmed natural satellites
2. Venus with no confirmed natural satellites
3. Earth with one confirmed natural satellite, the Moon
4. Mars with two confirmed natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos
5. Jupiter with sixty-three confirmed natural satellites
6. Saturn with fifty-six confirmed natural satellites
7. Uranus with twenty-seven confirmed natural satellites
8. Neptune with thirteen confirmed natural satellites

Please note that the main advantage of Wikipedia is also it’s disadvantage. Anyone can contribute information to Wikipedia, which accounts for the large amount of information. But this information is being contributed by non academic researchers and sometimes the information is inaccurate and/or biased  Students should be made aware of this and encouraged to check the information they find on Wikipedia with other resources.

Wikipedia is peer reviewed, and if there is inaccurate or biased information it is often corrected by others. People who have proved themselves as reliable, accurate researchers have been given editing privileges in Wikipedia that allows them to remove questionable information.

I encourage you to use Wikipedia in your classroom as an inital source of information.

CNN Student News is a 10 minute news program designed for schools and is broadcast every weekday morning at 3:12 am EST. They also put a video of the broadcast on their website so that you can watch it (and even project it for your classroom to see) if you didn’t get it recorded.

Today’s broadcast, which includes a segment on Pluto, can be found at It is found in the green box under “Watch and Learn” on the right hand side of the page.

The transcript of the broadcast can be found at You can subscribe to the CNN Student News update and get an e-mail each morning describing the content of the day’s broadcast.

From their web site: CNN Student News is a 10-minute, commercial-free news program that airs on CNN Headline News at 3:12 a.m. EST as well as on Created by a team of journalists and educators, the program provides the top stories of the day, segments that encourage student participation, and in-depth special reports. In addition, CNN Student News provides free curriculum at to accompany each program’s content. CNN Student News, along with CNN Presents: Classroom Edition, is Turner’s contribution to Cable in the Classroom.

Another resource to follow up on this topic is United Streaming. Search on Pluto or Planets to find streaming video clips that you might want to use in class. This is truly “video on demand.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Great News About Windows for Intel Based Macs

As you know probably know, you can now set up an Intel based Macintosh computer so that it will start up in either Mac OS X or Windows XP. Now when you are wondering if you should purchase a Dell, Gateway, HP or other computer to run Windows XP, you can add Intel based Macintosh computers to that list.

Last week Microsoft had a conference call with four “Macintosh” schools across the United States concerning the purchase or licensing of Windows XP for these machines. The representatives from Microsoft wanted to know how many of our schools would want to have computers capable of running both platforms. The answer from all four schools was unanimous – we are all interested in having computers, especially in labs and laptop carts, capable of being used in this manner. One hour the room is used as a Windows XP lab, the next hour it could be used as a Macintosh OS X lab.

The result of this conference call is an official statement by Microsoft that Windows XP can be installed on the Intel based Macintosh computers under the XP Upgrade License. This price can vary from state to state, but is usually less than $75 per computer.

Discussions are also taking place inside Microsoft about the possibility of licensing MS Office so that both the Windows and Mac OS X versions can be installed on the same computer under one license. This would make it even more beneficial to having a dual boot computer lab in a middle school or high school.

Here is the official statement from Microsoft which was sent to me Friday, May 19, 2006:
The Mac OS is currently a qualifying OS for purchasing the Windows Upgrade License. The introduction of Apple’s “Boot Camp” does not change the implications of enrolling in volume licensing with a Mac OS.

Upgrading to Windows from a Mac OS in Volume Licensing does not prohibit the customer from continuing to use their Mac OS. Essentially “Boot Camp” lets a Mac user run licensed copies of Windows natively on the hardware. Before Boot Camp, Mac users had to run Windows in a virtual environment using VPC for the Mac. Customers are now able to partition their hardware and keep Mac OS in one and Windows OS in the other. At machine startup, they can choose to run the Mac OS or the Windows OS, but not both at the same time.

If Mac users want to run Windows on a Mac outside of VL, they would need to purchase an FPP copy of Windows for the Windows partition.

Regarding upgrade VS full bits……..though we have moved to the standard process of providing only upgrade bits in our VL kits, VL customers still have the right to request and obtain full Windows OS bits for and deployment either through free download or purchase through their Microsoft reseller.

Thank you to Eric Robertson and Shelley Furse from Microsoft for their work on this issue.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

A New Windows Computer

Yesterday Apple Computer announced they had released a free beta download of “Boot Camp.” This software allows you to install Windows XP on an Intel based Macintosh.

In our district we already have two iMac computers that are set up to dual boot into Mac OS 10.4 or Windows XP. You make the choice during startup.

There have been reports on the web about others who had been able to install Windows on an iMac. However the installation sounds very technical, time consuming, and not all the needed drivers are available. We were going to give this a try, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

The installation using Boot Camp, which was done by several members of our tech department (Brian Rossow, Chris Webb, Wes Halseth), was very easy and Windows XP installed faster than on any of the traditional Intel boxes we have in our district. Once booted into Windows XP they have run flawlessly (except the built in video camera doesn’t seem to work) and are as fast or faster than our newest Windows computers.

We are already talking about purchasing Intel based iMacs to put into all our computer labs, no matter if they are Mac or Windows labs. This will give us the flexibility to use either platform and any software in every lab, rather than having Mac labs and Windows labs across the hall from each other. The only downside is that we will have to purchase Windows XP for each computer.

Now I am waiting for the day when Windows applications can run seamlessly in Mac OS X so that you don’t need to restart to switch into Windows XP. Or maybe, just maybe, being able to purchase a Dell or Gateway computer and run Mac OS X on it…

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Preparing for the industrial age

I am sure that you have heard the following quotes. These are often used in presentations to make the point that many educators are not using technology to improve their instruction or the learning that takes place in their classroom.

“We need to educate our children for their future, not our past.”
A.C. Clark

It is easier to change the location of a cemetery than to change the curriculum.
Woodrow Wilson

Be concerned about the future
You’ll spend the rest of your life there!

Too many teachers teach the way they were taught.

We live in an technology age using an agricultural calendar and an education model from the industrial age.

David Warlick just added a new quote to this list of classics. This is a quote that I wish a lot of educational leaders and those who create laws like “No Child Left Behind” would take time to think about.

No generation in history has ever been so thoroughly prepared for the industrial age.

Thanks to Will Richardson for pointing out this quote in his blog. I had read David’s post, but got hung up in the numbers that he was throwing out and missed the quote at the end.

BTW – I have many more quotes dealing with technology and education on my personal web site. And you will find David’s quote there by tomorrow, at the top of the list!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Internet Safety for Kids

This was a question posted to a national technology listserv and my response to that listserv.

>Can anyone assist me in finding resources and/or presentors
>that deals with internet safety for kids?

Most of the schools in North Dakota use i-SAFE and we are very pleased with it. Our state has regional technology support staff through an organization called EduTech. They are trained in the i-SAFE curriculum and do staff development in schools across the state on request. (They do staff development on a lot of other technology topics also.)

On our January staff inservice day Alicia Eslinger, one of their regional technologists, did a 1 hour presentation to our entire staff on i-SAFE and it was very well received.

BTW – iSAFE is totally free, funded by federal grants and other contributions.

It isn’t just that we need to be concerned about, it is any web site that students tend to use. The predators, scam artists, etc. will follow. We need to teach students safe, appropriate use of the Internet rather than just block them from these sites.

We block and to keep kids from reading and posting during the school day, but you can’t stop them from posting when they are at home, and you can’t enforce school discipline on them for what they post at home.

You need to make the parents aware, as they often know far less about the Internet than their children and have know idea what they are putting online. But again, this has to be more general than just about and and …

If you do have instances of bullying, threats, rumors, etc. you can still bring the students in and talk to them, counsel them, call the parents, or get the local law enforcement involved.

Like any program, just like any textbook, I feel that you need to pick and choose. There are other very good resources out there that supplement/complement iSAFE.

Wired Safety

Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Playing it Safe
A webquest about Internet Safety for 6th Grade Computer Literacy

NetSmartz Workshop


FBI Publications – A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety

The Police Notebook – Kid Safety on the Internet

KidsCom – Tips for Internet Safety and good manners!

I keep links to many internet safety sites on my furl list – filter by topic on “Internet Safety”

And I made many of the resources from the NBC To Catch a Predator III site available to our staff under “Technology Department Documents” using our School Center web server. (Please don’t rag on me about copyright issues – I shouldn’t be sharing this site with you, it was just meant for our district teaching staff)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Concerns about student info on the web

Schools and parents around the country are becoming concerned about the information that students are posting on web sites such as The recent documentaries by NBC Dateline “To Catch a Predator III” and “Why parents must mind MySpace” have contributed to this concern .

Our district recently had a presentation about the iSafe program which included information about and the information that our students were putting online. Full names, age, grade, school, interests such as sports and activities, etc. Even photos. One example was a photo of a girl in her volleyball uniform with number and school prominently displayed. A lot of information for a predator to be able to use to make initial contact with the student.

This presentation raised the level of concern of our staff members, many of whom are parents of teens.

But what about other information that is being placed on the web about our students?

One of the articles recently highlighted in the“Around the Web” section was about a music teacher using podcasting in an elementary music class. Music teacher adds podcasting to curriculum is a very interesting article and it should attract a lot of readers interested in the use of podcasting in education.

What concerns me is that the online article includes a photograph of the teacher and two elementary students with full names and ages. Earlier in the article the elementary school is identified.

What about our school web sites that have photos of athletes in uniform with their name, grade and position. The school and city, often with phone numbers, are included on the home page of the site. Many schools honor the student of the month with a full “head and shoulders” photo along with the full name and grade.

Is the information that is being posted on really that dangerous? Are our newspapers and school sites just as bad as Or even worse, because the newspapers and schools are putting the information out about our students where the students themselves are responsible for what they put out on

There have been stories about the number of people who have been targeted by predators because of information that was found on What will happen when a student is abducted or molested because of information found on a school web site?