3rd Podcast – Corrections and Questions

Click to play or download.[EDIT: I’ve moved this mp3 file to archive.org and changed the link to match the new location.]I just keep cranking these out, don’t I? This time I have a few corrections / clarifications from my last podcast, as well as a very important question.

The question is: why do those of you that return to this page come back? what is it about this site that you like and you would like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Ok, so that’s more than one question, but you get the idea.

Shownote Links:

Opus Instrumentalus – the album by Trance Blackman that includes this episode’s background music, “Blue Sky & Rain.”

Feedburner – RSS stats and more

Podcast Alley: Education Podcasts – C’mon, you know you want to vote for me … right?

2nd Podcast

Click to play or download.[EDIT: I’ve moved this mp3 file to archive.org and changed the link to match the new location.]Looks like I didn’t learn my lesson – here’s my second podcast in all it’s glory! (And it’s a day early, no less!) It’s much shorter this time, so it only came to 12.3 MB.

It also looks like practice makes perfect. I still flub things here and there, but I heard fewer “ums” and unintelligible dialogue this time around.

This time through I stuck to my notes, discussing my quest for a Linux server, my school’s multimedia multicultural extravaganza, and the start of a multimedia club for next year.

Shownote Links:

acapulco sunset – A song by Martin Sarna, hosted on archive.org

Archive.org – All kinds of media with all kinds of licenses.

Teach42.com: The web site of Steve Dembo – the man, the myth, and my inspiration for podcasting.

How to install Knoppix on a hard drive.

Linux Home Networking – tips, tricks, and forums for help.

Distrowatch.com – Linux versions galore, and information about them.

Ourmedia.org – Have a large file you want stored somewhere, but don’t have the space on your own server? Check this place out.

YaGoohoo!gle – It’s Google, it’s Yahoo! Stop, you’re both right!

Linux, me, and the 1 to 1 ratio.

circuit boardI’ve been wanting to move this site onto it’s own dedicated server for a while now, which for me involves getting working versions of Linux and Apache on a clunky 6 year old Compaq and combining that with a high speed connection.A while back I tried Linspire (Formerly Lindows). The installer hung up every time.

Then I got my hands on a copy of Simply MEPIS. It would boot, but the GUI wouldn’t load well and I’m not enough of a tech person too do command line stuff all the time.

Last night I burned myself a copy of KNOPPIX and, miraculously, IT WORKED! Alas, I couldn’t figure out how to install it onto the hard drive. It’s a Live CD, after all.

So now I’m torn between Debian (KNOPPIX is based off of Debian, so I’m guessing they’re quite similar…) or KANOTIX (which says it’s a Live CD but that it can install Debian). I’ll probably try KANOTIX first, since it’s fewer CDs to mess with, but if I can’t create a swap file like I could with KNOPPIX then I just don’t have enough RAM to run it.

So where am I finding out about all of these Linux versions and where to get them? Why, Distrowatch.com of course! If you have any interest in playing around with Linux (Even if you want to put it on a Mac – there are versions made for Mac hardware now!) I sincerely recommend trying that site out. You’ll have to do a bit of searching, but it’s worth it.

But why am I talking about all of this? It’s partially so you all know what’s going through this twisted mind of mine, partially because some Linux guru might email me and give me some sage advice on what to do or not to do, but mostly as an example.

I’ve learned more Linux stuff in the past week of playing with Linux installations than I have in the previous 27 years of my life. Why? Because I’m experimenting with it. I’m playing with the software and doing trial and error things that might crash my computer, but it’s a spare anyway. I have a feeling that if you ask me again next week I’ll know five times or more about Linux than I do right now. It’s not as hard a learning curve as most people think it is, thanks to the graphical user interfaces that they have in most distributions now.

Imagine if a school on a budget crunch got a bunch of old PCs or stretched their tech budget by buying 10 old computers instead of 1 new one (That’s not much of a stretch – I can easily get my hands on a computer with an 8 gig hard drive and 64 meg of ram for $70 or less), then installed Linux, OpenOffice, The GIMP, and Mozilla on them. They would have 90% of the functionality of a Windows machine for a fraction of the cost, and the school’s Technology Coordinator wouldn’t suffer too much from culture shock because of the change – provided he or she was given a little advance warning. I see this as a powerful option for schools who want to come closer to that 1 computer per student ratio. On top of that is of course the increased security found from using a non-Windows machine. (Yes I know Symantec just came out and said that Macs might be less safe now, but perhaps they should focus more on their own concrete flaws before they start talking about hypothetical ones.)

Now do I think that it’s the best option? Personally I’d rather that every student was handed a shiny new Powerbook or iBook, but there aren’t many school districts that are willing to toss out the cash for that. … Maybe a Mac Mini for every student. After all, you can get an education discount whether you’re a school, teacher, or student. (Yes I know Symantec just came out and said that Macs might be less safe now, but perhaps they should focus more on they’re not so perfect either. Windows is still the least secure OS I’ve ever experienced.) When push comes to shove I’m willing to set aside my zeal for the Mac OS in favor of still having a computer available to as many students as possible.

Aw nuts, now I want my own computer lab more than ever.

I’m now on Podcast Alley!

circuit boardSo if you feel moved to do so, you can vote for me there. They ask for an email address for verification purposes, but you can use a throw-away one if you feel especially paranoid.At the time I’m writing this I’m ranked #21 out of 51 Educational podcasts, but that’s with a single vote so any support would be greatly appreciated. (However, if you find a podcast there that you like more I would not feel insulted if you vote for that instead.)

My first podcast!

Click to play or download.[EDIT: I’ve moved this mp3 file to archive.org and changed the link to match the new location.]Once again I’m bandwagon jumping, but now I present to you my first audio rambling in all it’s glory! (Just click in the little icon to get it.)

I’m not sure how many of these I’ll be able to fit on this server before moving them over to ourmedia.org (This one’s 26.3 meg! Ouch!), but as I only have high speed at school and our firewalls here block ourmedia.org’s nifty uploading tool, I’ll hold out for as long as I can.

Two things I noticed when editing this: As everyone finds out when they first record themselves, I say “Um” a lot. I edited a good many of them out, but left them in when I felt doing so would hurt the rhythm of what I was saying too much (In other words, it was too much work to cut them all out.)

Also, I tend to speed up or slow down when I’m talking, thus making my words a little hard to understand at times. This was a little harder to fix in post-production, so I just hope that I can work on this next time I’m recording.

Shownote Links:

Creative MuVo TX FM 1 gig: My mp3 player / audio recorder of choice. It’s small, it’s cute, it’s USB 2.0!

Teach42.com: The web site of Steve Dembo – the man, the myth, and my inspiration for podcasting.

Wikibooks: I mentioned this when I was recording but couldn’t remember the name of the site. Wikibooks is an online collaboration open to anyone that wants to help create free online textbooks.

In defense of analog.

brushes icon

That’s right, analog. Just because you can go digital doesn’t mean you should go digital with everything.

No, I’m not one of those people who still only listens to records because I think they sound nicer, but analog does have it’s benefits.

I decided to write about this after reading about a study where technology was found to have no positive impact on student performance. In fact, the study said they did better if they didn’t have computers. Shocking, I know. As a culture, educators often do tend to think (even if only subconsciously) that a computer is a magical device that will alter our students’ DNA to make their brainpower increase tenfold. (Edit: Although technology can and does help raise test scores in some instances.)

You see it’s not whether or not you’re using technology, it’s whether or not you’re a good teacher. A shiny new Macintosh will not magically make your student ace his or her SAT because it’s not a magic pill. However if you already are a good teacher, the increased use of technology can be a boon to the classroom as you now are better able to address the multiple intelligences found among your students – provided you do not then decide to get lazy and let the educational software do all the work for you. (I’ve seen that happen too, fortunately not at my current place of employment.)

This is even more obvious in an Art classroom. I love technology – I routinely play around with computers, digital cameras, digital video, web pages, RSS feeds, podcasts, the list goes on. I’m planning on having my 6th graders make a video for the upcoming multicultural dinner, and I’m really excited about it too.

However, I don’t do these things in every class. There’s still something to be said for the act of putting a pencil onto paper, for painting over crayons with watercolors and watching the crayon show through, and for following a series of folds to make an origami frog that can jump across your table. Sure, I could do some of this on a computer, but I could not do it as well.

A computer, like any other educational resource, is a tool – and tools are only useful if they’re used for the jobs for which they are best suited. Perhaps that aforementioned study found such low progress because too many people thought you could hammer a nail with a screwdriver. You can get it to work, but it’s a lot more effort than using the right tool for the right job.

So I’m all for computers and digital arts. Bring on the 1 to 1 computer/student ratio, I’m all for it!

… but when I show up to teach your class you shouldn’t be surprised to see my cart’s still full of markers, crayons and paint. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an art supply budget to complete.

Ego Boost

Wow, since my last posting my Feedburner stats have gone from 2 (not counting me) to 11! (again not counting me). You’re all making me feel obligated to include some more original content … oh, alright, I will.

Copyright Warnings

brushesCopyright infringement is a big deal. I mean, a really REALLY big deal. A “cease and desist or our army of lawyers will sue you and everyone associated with you for your entire life savings” big deal. And for the longest time, many people have felt that they were (or should be) exempt from copyright restrictions. Unfortunately, they weren’t and/or aren’t. The following stuff is cautionary in nature based on facts. If you want to see my personal opinion on this I’ll mention that at the bottom of this posting.For many of you that stay up to date with tech news the first thing you thought of when reading the above paragraph was “stealing MP3s.” Yeah, people distributing copies of music without permission is a big chunk of the pie, but there’s more to it than just that.

Infringement in the arts…

Look at Andy Warhol if you don’t believe me – his most famous works were all appropriated pop culture references, and most (if not all) of them were copyrighted by others. If he tried to do today what he did then (assuming he was still alive), he might need to put all his profits into legal expenses.

Infringement in Education…

But wait, there’s more! Did you know that a lot of copyright infringement happens in school? Unfortunately, it does. There is a “fair use clause” that allows educators to do a little more, but the shield of fair use isn’t as big as some teachers think it is.

Want to show a movie in class? Well you can probably get away with short clips preceded and followed with class discussion, but if you would rather just turn off the lights and hit play you’re providing a public viewing. You know that little FBI warning you fast-forwarded through? Yeah, you just broke federal law and made you and your school liable. There are some tapes that when purchased include permission for viewing in their entirety in an educational setting, but I doubt Disney’s “The Lion King” is one of them.

Want to photocopy a book for your students? Last I heard you’ve got two choices: Copy no more than a chapter at a time and disposing of (NOT reusing) the copies when you’re done, or making sure you have an actual book for EVERY set of copies you make. Making 25-30 copies of a book you borrowed from the library can get your principal very angry at you if you get caught, and believe me people have been caught. (Some substitutes turn teachers/schools in for a small finder’s fee.) When in doubt ask your Media Specialist (or Librarian for you old-schoolers) or Technology Coordinator. They may deal with copyright law on a more frequent basis than you do.

So what’s my opinion on copyrights / file sharing / etc.?

I think some people are a little too zealous with their opinions. On one hand, the copyright holders sometimes go out of their way to enforce their intellectual property rights. Disney has served papers on teachers who put Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” on “Welcome Back” signs in September. Some CDs are modified so they won’t play in computers. I don’t think these steps are necessary (and in some cases they can be bad PR), but those companies have the right to do things like that – it’s their products, after all.

On the other hand, those that promote the breaking of copyright laws seem to say “Let us do what we want or we’ll do whatever we want anyway!” Seriously, I’ve heard people interviewed who said they didn’t agree with the price of something so that’s why they downloaded it illegally. If you try that at Walmart they’ll haul you away in cuffs, and rightly so. A thief is a thief, whether it’s a 25 cent pack of gum, 99 cent song, or a $1,000 stereo system. Oh, and saying it should be ok because the person you robbed is rich will at best make the judge laugh at you for acting like you have a below average intelligence. “…and justice for all” includes the rich too, you know.)

As for me…

I am an artist. As an artist, I would feel greatly offended if someone else made a profit off of my creations without giving me a cut. I would also feel cheated if something I based my livelihood on was being distributed for free whether I wanted it to be or not. I mean, why buy something if you have something else of equal quality for free, right?

Now as an artist, I also see reasons to have my work shared with others. It can get my name out and increase my popularity, for starters. I’m not concerned about financial gain (although my student loans aren’t due yet…), so I’m just happy for the ego boost I get from people telling me they think my stuff’s cool. That right there is payment enough for me. But the free distribution of my art is and should always be my choice. That right there is in my opinion the bottom line. Promoters of file sharing have given good reasons for what they do, but not a single one of them can or should trump the copyright holder’s wishes.

You may be missing out.

circuit boardLooking at my visitor stats tells me that I’m getting a decent amount of traffic, which is cool, but I’m not sure you’re seeing everything this site has to offer.

You see, whenever I see a cool site that has to do with art, tech, or education I add it to my Furl account. (You can see it sitting there inconspicuously in that left hand column there.) Thanks to Feedburner those of you who have subscribed to my RSS feed can also see my Furled links as soon as I add them, or you can always browse through my old links.

So I might not add full entries every day, but I do add things often. I’ll be adding more images in my flickr account soon as well, but I seem to have hit my monthly quota already.