Sunday, January 27, 2008

Keeping Score on Who's Using Your Blog

Ever wonder who is actually looking at your blog? Does it seem like you are writing a lot but no one is responding? There ARE services that you can use to track your blog activity. Many of them are free. They are making their money with Google ads and the like or, as with ClustrMaps, when your site becomes so popular that you are willing to spend some money to get a more sophisiticated reading on your visitors.


is a service that you can use for tracking Blogger. You just need to add it as one of the services for your Google/gmail Account or go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ to sign up. Google Analytics will ask you to identify the blog you want to follow. It will also provide you with some specific code that you need to add to your blog or web page that you want to track. This is so that it can ensure that you are someone who is authorized to enable such a tracking and so that it knows where to store the information in its own database when it reviews your website.

is a visual world map that keeps track of "Where in the World" are your viewers. Look in the upper right corner of this blog and you will see such a map. It's kind of neat when you consider that I have viewers on five continents (need a new friend from Africa.) You can add this to your blog or website by just going to http://clustrmaps.com. They will also provide you with a handful of code that you need to add to your site, but it's worth it. It will also tell you how any hits they have recorded since you began using clustrmaps.

There are a bunch of other trackers that you probably use. Leave some suggestions as comments for this posting.

Image: www.crann.tcd

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Who is the MySpace Generation? Why Do We Care?

Who is the MySpace Generation? What is different about them? Why should we care?

ISTE will be holding a Webinar on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2008 at 3:00 CST entitled Learner 2.0: The MySpace Generation by Chris O'Neal. These are some resources that might be useful for you to review before (or after) webinar.

BusinessWeek headed an issue with their article by Jessie Hempel entitled The MySpace Generation: How Companies are Reaching Them. This article investigates the Social Networking phenomenon. It talks about how youth are using MySpace, Facebook, and a variety of social networking systems to make contact with others. Their group is not geographically limited. It is primarily defined by like interests. BusinessWeek provides a podcast about its cover stories (CoverCast). This is an interview with the author about the content included in the cover story. Jessie Hempel provides an insightful perspective on this topic in the podcast. This podcast does an effective job of describing what is happening and how it displays youth's priorities.

Dinah Boyd has spent a great deal of time investigating the social networking world and I found an informative 71 minute lecture by her on YouTube Dinah Boyd: A Discussion with Danah Boyd.(2005) She is talking with a group of university students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Boy does she know what she is talking about. She cuts through the baloney and "tells it like it is."

A more recent lecture by Dinah Boyd (2007) is her presentation at the Australian Library and Information Association - Generation MySpace - Social networking and Its Impact on Students and Education.

PODCAST: A Discussion of the Issues Surrounding Social Networking Between Faculty and Students This is an interesting 25-minute discussion between a couple of K-12 teachers. They discuss how Facebook fits into their interactions with students and what new challenges it provides. Quite informative.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How Would YOU Create Your Future?


The best way to predict the future ...
is to create it
. - Alan Kay

Yes, it is exciting, bewildering and even scary to try to decide you would like to be able to do if you could do ANYTHING in the future.

I recently asked the students in one of my undergraduate classes, "What would you want to be able to do if you could do ANYTHING? Imagine that it's possible. Think about what you would like to be able to do personally, professionally, and educationally." This yielded a number of interesting responses. Here is what they replied:

"I want a computer that will read my mind. I can think of thinks and it will write documents, answer questions and take pictures of my memories.,"
"Technology shoujld be more accessible - cost wise."
"I want to see the next generation of electronic portfolios where we can actually see students teaching."
"We need a better way to show our skills in portfolios. Not just paper and text."
" I would like to see a computer/webpage that changes automatically based upon the grade level of the user. Modifies the audio, text, and even the vocabulary."
"I would like to see how webcams can help sick students attend school."

There are more to come . . .

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Interesting Places on Second Life


There are a bunch of great places on Second Life but I can never find them when I need them. Thought that I might place the here on a posting at Second Life so that I could always refer people to the SLurl for the site. A SLurl is a web address that you can use get to a place on Second Life.

Here's a site where you can create your own SLurl, SLurl Builder. All that you need to do is enter the coordinates and it will create the SLurl for you.

My House (& UNI IT House)

More to come . .

This is a wonderful opportunity for you to share your URLs as well. Add your URLs as comments. I look forward to seeing what you have to share.

Z

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's Your Epsonality?

I don't believe it. I actually enjoyed having Epson survey me and select a printer that will best fit my needs.

Don't know if you have seen this yet, but Epson now has a website where you can answer a few questions and then they will suggest a printer for you. It is called Epsonality It isn't the printer that impresses me but the creativity that this interactive site can bring to the table.

This is the sort of creativity that needs to be in our schools. It would be useful to have this sort of video to identify learning styles and then propose various strategies that would best fit the learner's needs.

What are your thoughts? "Post an idea using the comments button below."

Leave it to Epson. In the 80s they had their Epson Connection books where they enlisted the top authors to write books about how their printers could be used with various computers and in various professions. ;-)

Z

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mapping My Friends with Frappr

R U My Friend (or colleague or associate or have heard of me or read this blog or semi-interested complete stranger)?


If so, Click the Join button in the upper left corner of the map and place yourself on this Frappr map. You will notice that I already have a ClustrMap (love how everybody drops the E in ER in Web 2.0 titles) in the upper right corner of this blog. It shows who has visited the blog. Looks like they are from all over the world. But this is an involuntary recording of people's visits.

Frappr allows you to create an active community of members who are there by choice. It is a way to create a global (or State-al) community of members. Sure it would be interesting to do this with a number of people who are from the same state (much like my Classroom Computer Applications students) but imagine if you were running a collaborative learning experience between 3 classes in different states (or countries).

Think of the community that it would build if every student identified where they lived and posted their photos and other interesting information about them. Imagine further (don't know if this is possible yet) if this could be linked with Google Map or Google Earth so we can actually see the cities, neighborhoods and maybe schools or homes where our collaborative students live. The connections between them will be stronger and more immediate than with a mere handwritten penpal.

How do you see this as a useful tool in your learning situations? What else can you do? Can you find any suggestions on the web or in Google Scholar or any original ideas that you can suggest? If you found your ideas on the web, provide a link to your reference.

Z

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Life is Easier with Shorter URLs


I want to share an article from Businessweek that describes the best releases from the recent Consumer Electronics Show.

This is easy, right?

Just find the article on the web and then copy the URL to an email or blog post for you to use.

Here's one we can use . . .
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/01/0111_ces/source/1.htm?technology+slideshows&technology+slideshows

HUH? What is this address? It's as long as my arm and twice as hairy. It's running off the page. How many times have you pasted a long URL into an email to send to your friend and the end was cut off? Lots, eh

What's a guy to do?

Enter the URL ECONOMIZERS!!!!! Imagine a magical website that will take that mammoth URL and chop it down to a URL Mini-me . These websites are actually huge databases that generate a string of characters that they connect with your inserted URL.


http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/01/0111_ces/source/1.htm?technology+slideshows&technology+slideshows

Turns into

http://tinyurl.com/ypva6q

I would imagine that if that address is already in their database, that it will economize their work by just providing you with the link they created earlier.

Who are the URL Economizers?

TinyURL is the first one I ever found. It is easy to use. You can simply copy the URL, go to TinyURL.com and paste the link into the URL box on their page. It will create a TinyURL that you can use. BUT the REAL benefit of TinyURL.com is when you place the TinyURL link in your browser's tool bar. THEN, all that you have to do is go to your desired website and then click on the new link in your toolbar. It will immediately take you to their website with the TinyURL link already waiting for you to use.

SnipURL (or SNURL) is another one that I have found. It does the economizes URLs BUT it also copies the new address directly to your clipboard. This cuts out the copy and paste process that you need with TinyURL. It means that you just copy the huge URL into the URL box, snipit, and then paste it directly into your email or blog or ?? where you need it. The best part is that if you place a SNURL link in your browser's tool bar, it will automatically create the URL and place it into your clipboard without you even going to the SnipURL website. I love the feature but I don't understand the business model because these companies make their money on the Google Ads they have on their websites. The more times you visit the website, the more money they make.

I would assume that there are a number of other URL economizers on the web. If you know of one, leave a comment so that I can share it with our readers.

VERY INTERESTING NOTE!!!!!! I just realized something about URL economizers and Twittering. I just sent out a long URL on Twitterrific (the interface software for Twitter that I use on my Mac) and it came back as a TinyURL address. That means that the software is smart enough to run long URLs through the economizer to save on space. SOO SMART!!!!

Have a great day and remember - Economize!

Dr. Z





Thursday, January 10, 2008

Governor Richardson Ends His Campaign


Well, it happened.

Governor Bill Richardson has decided that he is no longer a viable candidate in the democratic race for president. Having received 2% in Iowa and 5% in New Hampshire, the governor didn't have the money to continue through to Tsunami Tuesday in early February.

I know that this is not a post about educational technology, but I still believe that Governor Richardson is the best qualified candidate for running our country and his decision to end his campaign is important to me.

The shining light in this decision is that Governor Richardson will be able to return to New Mexico to continue improving his state through his vision and innovations. While I will support whatever decisions he makes about his political future, I hope that he doesn't pursue vice president. The vice president doesn't do much and the Gov. will be able to affect many more lives as the New Mexico governor.

Governor Richardson was a catalyst for bringing forth important issues like an immediate end to the Iraq war. He has advocated immediate withdrawal from the beginning but his opponents wouldn't even commit to withdrawal in 5 years. Because of his untiring advocacy for this position, all of the democratic candidates are now advancing withdrawal in 18 months or less. Thank you, Gov.

It has just been announced but some journalists have already posted their articles covering this change in the presidential race. Guess they had it already written because of the governor's low returns.

Richardson Leaves the Personality Contest (Yahoo)

I must admit that I learned a great deal about elections through the Richardson race. As you may have noticed on my earlier postings, I assumed the role of Precinct Captain for Richardson and actually the first work I have ever done on a campaign. It was exiting.

I guess the next question is whether or not I will work as hard on the Obama campaign after he receives the Democratic nomination.

In closing, let me say "You're FIRED, Gov. Richardson!!!"

(This is a joke that only Gov. Richardson and campaign employees will understand. I know about this because my son, Jeff, worked on Richardson's campaign in Des Moines.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Living Through Caucuses in Iowa - Part II

Continuation of Living Through Caucuses in Iowa - Part I

Thursday night came and it was time to visit Schindler Education Center at the University of Northern Iowa to assume my role as a Richardson precinct captain. Three different democratic caucuses were begin held in this building in three different lecture halls.

We arrived at 6:00 for the 6:30 caucus and I was amazed by the number of people who were there already. Signs were posted for all of the candidates in each of the halls. Some of the campaigns even had sandwiches and goodies to eat.

Everybody was there. This was as much a social happening as it was a political event. We checked in at the front table. Would you believe that we were even given a survey where we could note which candidate we were going to support. Unlike balloting, the caucus process is completely public so it is OK to ask who you are supporting. You weren't required to complete the survey, but if you did, it will probably be added to your voting record somewhere.

An interesting aspect of the evening is that if you were not registered on the list out front, you could actually register to vote inside. This is handy for the first time voters. This also means that if you were a republican and wanted to vote for Hillary, you could register that night as a democrat and then change it the next day. While this may seem a little fishy, since the doors were locked at 7:00 and you were not allowed to leave or reenter, there was no chance of people running over to another caucus and voting twice.

Each of the support groups were sitting in a specific section in the hall. The Obama group was huge. Edwards was well-represented as well as Hillary. Our Richardson group had about 15 people in it. The question was whether or not this was going to be enough to make Richardson a viable candidate for the caucus.

Viability is the crux of a democratic caucus. A candidate is required to have at least 15% of the total attendance to be considered viable. We were anticipating about 210 attendees so we would need 31 supporters for Richardson to be considered viable. Things were not looking good for the Richardson camp.

The activities actually began at 7:00. The doors were locked and the number of attendees were counted. The number that was given as the total number of registered attendees was identified as 233. Whether this number came from the registration list or a head count is not certain. The caucus leaders took care of some administrative activities like nominating and electing the permanent precinct chair and secretary.

Next it was time to identify the viability for each candidate. The Richardson campaign had a spreadsheet to calcuate the caucus math. Our son, Chris, ran it for me. Fifteen percent of 233 computed to 35 people. Our precinct had a total of 7 delegates to share between the candidates and it was time to begin the process of splitting them up. The captains were to group their supporters together and provide a headcount. Turned out that Hillary, Edwards, and Obama were viable. Richardson, Kucinich, and Biden did not have enough people. There was even a group of uncommitted voters.

Having identified the viability levels, we now had 30 minutes to drum up enough supporters to make our candidates viable. The representatives from the viable camps were allowed to give a short speech to "sell" their candidates. Having completed those, the non-viable candidate supporters were allowed to make their speeches. I took the podium and made a pretty good speech to support Governor Richardson. I emphasized his experience and proven policies. We were really hoping to convince the uncommitted to join us.

Now it was time to get people on our side. We had more supporters than Kucinich so we tried to bring them into our fold. We got a couple of uncommitted voters but it only reached 25. Finally, we decided that we were not going to be viable so we released the supporters to go to the camp of their choice. Some members of our group decided that if they couldn't support Richardson, they would remain uncommitted. The rest of the group moved to the Clinton, Edwards or Obama groups. I joined the Obama crew. Obama had been my second choice.
Now it was time to present another head count for the viable candiates. Ultimately, it turned out that Obama earned 4 delegates, Edwards earned 2 and Clinton earned 1.

After the delegates were divided, it was time to elect who would actually attend the Iowa Democratic Convention on Saturday, March 15. I decided to get involved in the convention. You won't believe it, but I am now a democratic delegate for Obama!
This elected group of delegates was then ratified by the precinct as a whole. It was answered with a resounding "Aye!"

Finally, it was time to discuss resolutions that would be added to the Democratic platform. These planks had been submitted on paper in the back of the room before the caucus and this was the time where voters could discuss these issues. Unfortunately, we had been at this for almost an hour and a half already and everyone just voted to accept the resolutions without even discussing them.

The group voted to adjourn and the primary elections had begun . . .

The democratic caucus process is by no means scientific or even consistent between precincts. The structure is there, but the public aspect of the democratic caucus adds a variety of dimensions that don't exist in private polling. The 3-hour process during a designated time eliminates interested voters who have to work during that period. This is not a problem with the typical primary polling situation where voters can cast their votes from 7 AM - 8 PM.
It should be noted that the Republican caucus is not public like this. Voters come together in a caucus the same as the democrats, but they hold private election where ballots are submitted and then counted.

Here are some other bloggers' comments on the Iowa Caucus:

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Living Through Caucuses in Iowa - Part I


The Iowa caucus experience is different than anything in the country. I just learned that Wyoming just had their caucus but it isn't anything that anyone noticed. (Will Anyone Notice Wyoming's Caucuses) Besides, it is only for Republicans. Romney won 8 of the 12 delegates. Interestingly enough, the Democrats won't have their caucuses until March 8.

In search of victory in these early January caucuses, candidates have been visiting us since March of 2007. I haven't spent too much time visiting with all of the candidates (I have met and spoken with Richardson twice and Obama once.) The picture up there includes Me (Dr. Z), Gov. Richardson, and our son, Jeff. Some of my friends have been making a point of seeing as many candidates as possible (Clinton, Biden).

We LOVE all the attention that Iowans receive from the candidates and the nation . . . at least we enjoy it for the first 8 months. The last few months are utter chaos. The cities are invaded by politicians and their entourages and their campaign workers. There is another reason "Why Iowa Wants to Be First." The New York Times says that they spent over $13 million dollars in the state while trying to win us over.

The campaign workers are an important part of the campaigns. Our son, Jeffrey Zeitz, worked as a fields operative in Des Moines since June. He was in charge of organizing the campaign in Dallas County (yes, we DO have a Dallas in Iowa.) I was able to meet the Gov at a salsa-tasting party outside of Des Moines. Here you can see that he knows something about grilling chilies. Of course he does, he's from New Mexico.

As we looked closer at Gov. Richardson and what he could bring to the presidency, both my wife, Kathy, and I became Richardson supporters. We contributed to his campaign and housed 3 "road runners" from New Mexico during the final week of the campaign. Road runners are volunteers who came to Iowa to provide the added people power for the final onslaught of the campaign assault. They were wonderful people. One of our visitors, Terry, blogged on his experiences from Dec. 25 - Jan. 5 in his blog, Ennui - Personal & Political. His writings provide a deep understanding of the inner workings of caucuses.

I also volunteered as a precinct captain. In this role, I will organize and lead the Richardson contingent for our precinct at the caucus. The caucus rules require each candidate to have at least 15% of the total number of voters attending to be viable. (I will explain this in more depth in Part II of this series. ;-) Based upon previous turnout, we were expecting to have about 210 attendees which would mean that we would need 31 voters. We only had 18 registered voters in our precinct who had identified themselves as Richardson supporters so we had some work to do to build support.

I decided to become one of those annoying phone callers who call you to ask you to support our candidates. The Richardson campaign had a web-based system that allowed me to phone from home. It provided me with names phone numbers and caucusing locations. I used Skype Out to make the phone calls. This service enables me to call any landline phone in the US or Canada from my computer for only $3/month. Therefore, I was able to call potential supporters all over Iowa. It was pretty cool to sit at my computer wearing my headphones and mic. I really got into the groove and made about 130 calls. Talked with a number of interesting people. Iowans are amazingly cordial. I only had about 3 or 4 people hang up on me.

I also helped Don and Terry (our New Mexican Road Runners) in distributing door hangers around Cedar Falls. These were cards telling them about the location of their caucusing location. Interestingly, we didn't place them on all of the houses. In the interest of conservation, we hung them on the doors of specific houses. These were the houses of supporters and those who indicated that they were "leaning towards Richardson" or indicated that the Governor was their second choice. It wasn't difficult work, but it was about 2 degrees (-15 degrees when considering the wind chill.) It was REALLY cold and our New Mexican guests had quite an experience.

Well, this all led up to the actual caucus night on Wednesday, January 3. I will discuss this further in the next episode.

Map of OLPC Schools Around the World


GUESS WHAT? I found a map of the schools that are using the OLPC XO computers. I have embedded the map into this posting (pretty cool, eh?) but you can find the map along with the listing of schools on the OLPC wiki at this Google Map site. It's unusual that there are three schools in Vermont who are using the XOs. I thought that they were limited to developing nations. Maybe those Vermontians are as far along as I have thought. ;-)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Google, UNICEF, and OLPC Team Up for "Our Stories" Oral History Project

The XO computer is being used to create oral histories. I just read about this program where Google, UNICEF and OLPC are going to support an oral history program called Our Stories.
UNICEF launched this program on December 7. They launched a website www.ourstories.org where children are sharing their perceptions of their world. There are stories from Brazil, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Pakistan. They say that it will soon feature children's stories from Argentina, Ethiopia and Nigeria, and translations of the site into eight languages.

This is a miraculous project. It appears that the original stories were created in booths that were set up as part of an international trip to a children's conference at the UN. This is a powerful opening for this project, but Google, UNICE and OLPC are trying to expand the project so that children will be able to use their XO computers record their stories and then submit them to the Ourstories project.

There is great potential for this project. I was involved in an oral history project here in Iowa back in 1995 and it changed those students' lives. Those 5th and 6th graders interviewed their grandparents and community members about their experiences living during the period of 1920-1945. This opened their eyes (and their hearts) to the stories of their elders when they were younger. It added a whole new perspective to history. I believe that these recorded childrens' stories will be able to provide a whole new perspective on the world. It can give the children of developing countries a voice that they never had before.

Photo: www.unicef.org

Thursday, January 03, 2008

OLPC computer in Action in Peru




I have an OLPC XO computer in my house here in Iowa, but it wasn't designed for me. The XO was designed for children in developing countries. I just received a link to a posting in the Generation YES blog where Sylvia Martinez is discussing using XO computers in Peru.

In October of 2007, it was announced that Peru had decided to be the second country to commit to purchasing XO computers for their children. They committed to purchasing 40,000 then and another 250,000 in 2008. This is a country of 28 million people where the per capita income is $3,375, and 51.6 of its population is identified as poor (Wikipedia, 2008).

Now, I have read articles from authors like John Dvorak (PC Magazine) who say that it makes more sense to spend money on feeding the children than buying them computers. I will spend some time discussing this in a future post but for now, I want to say that people will ALWAYS be hungry and just feeding them is not the way to bring about change. It sounds heartless, but unless national officials look for new ways to change the status and knowledgebase of their children, they will always be poor. Bringing the Peruvian educational system up to the 21st century can be the beginning of a significant change for Peru. Computers won't cause the change by themselves (as we have seen in 2.5 decades of computer use in our schools) but they can be a start.

Now I know that the video at the top of this posting is in Spanish. Just in case "No hablas Espanol," here is the link to the article which contains a transcript of the video. The beauty of having the transcript is that I have run it though the Google translator to give you a crude translation. Now don't make lots of nasty comments about the inaccuracies of the translation (no, go ahead and make some comments so that I know that I am not just talking with myself here). I KNOW that a machine doesn't translate as well as a human, but "Yo hablo un pocito de Espanol, pero no mucho."

Reportaje NAPA 26: OLPC, laptops en Arahuay

Report NAPA 26: OLPC, Laptops in Arahuay (Google Translated)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Periscope: Webcam or Security Cam

I was just surfing the web today when I dropped by freeverse.com. You may know about this company because of the wonderful games that they make. I was just perusing their applications when I found Periscope. This Mac-only software ($40) is billed as the "next generation of web camp software." I don't know if it is the next generation, but it is truly unique.

Periscope is primarily designed as a surveillance tool. It will enable you to monitor a room by taking a photo when it sees motion, hears sound, or at timed intervals. I am not too sure how to use the surveillance tool in the classroom, but imagine using this to create time-lapsed photography to study processes. The greatest part was that all of these photos can be sent to your e-mail, .Mac web page, or FTP site, and can even be uploaded to Flickr!

Ideas for time-lapsed photography: Watch a bean pod grow over a week (set it to click every 6 hours); Study the shadows as the sun progresses across the sky (point the camera out the window and click every 10 minutes); or Watch a geranium flower bloom over two hours (click every 7 minutes).

Stop Motion Animation: I was struck with the possibilities for creating my own stop motion animation. I set it up using the iSight camera built into my MacBook. I wasn't very imaginative, but I created this Roaming Jax video.



True, there are other programs that are designed for creating stop motion animation, like Frames by Tech4Learning. Frames was created specifically to make stop motion animation simple for kids, but I will have to review that at another time.