Category Archives: Netcast

Academic Aesthetic 163: Communication

The following was written back in June, but I’ve been sitting on it until now because I wanted to be able to take a step back and look at my writing first before posting.

One would think that sleeping until noon would be one of life’s simple pleasures afforded to teachers during the summer months. While I’ve nothing against prolonged inspection of the backs of my eyelids, I’m still dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 AM at least three days a week to help my wife get ready for dialysis.

Flickr PhotoI won’t go into any great detail on her medical condition here (that’s a subject for a different podcast), but it does leave me with several hours of alone time while she goes through the procedure. On days when I drive her to the dialysis center, gas prices are high enough for it to not make sense for me to drive home and back – making my period of solitude also one where I lack any ability to contact the internet. (UPDATE: I’ve since purchased a BlackBerry Curve, so now my addiction to the internet has reached the next level.)

Now granted, I’ve been incredibly lax in posting things on this site. I could go through lots of excuses, but the one I think I’ll stick with is that it’s a lot harder for me to do one of these entries when I’m not online, even though I feel most inspired when I can’t get online.

Usually when I’m writing out my scripts I’ll have three or four tabs open for reference purposes. Either I’m responding to someone else’s blog post, or linking to another site that further explains a concept, or even looking for just the right picture to insert into the entry. I can’t do any of these things without the internet at my fingertips.

But here I am in my car, in just such a situation. I can do whatever I want, so long as I only use the software and files in my little magic box. Cloud computing? Ha! That’s no good to me here.

Flickr PhotoThis very much reminds me of a job interview I went to a few weeks ago. The position was for teaching technology to students and teachers in a Pre-K through 5th grade school, something that on the surface is really right up my alley. Still, I went in with more questions for them than they had for me.

And everything I encountered made it look like a dream job come true. The school was fairly new, so there weren’t any old computers on the verge of breaking down. The computer lab, the ceiling mounted LCD projectors in every class, the three (THREE!) mobile labs that teachers actively fought over, the school-wide wi-fi, everything about it looked awesome.

Everything, until near the end of my visit when I started asking about wikis, blogs, and podcasts.

Oh, they don’t do those.

In fact, anything that remotely resembles a blog or wiki is actively blocked. The school administration was very forward thinking, but the district had adopted a “walled garden” approach that would have prevented me from visiting even my own website from school.

Flickr PhotoContrast this with my current employer, which isn’t throwing as much cash into tech programs but is actively encouraging teachers to use resources available to them on the internet – including workshops on blogging, podcasting, and wikiing.

“Wikiing?” Is that a word? Nevermind.

Long story short(er), I’m not pursuing the job. I only went to the interview because it sprung up at the last moment, and I felt I needed to dust the cobwebs off of the old portfolio. With the way technology is advancing, and the skills that I see successful people using right now, I feel I could do more to prepare kids for the real world with a lab of salvaged computers running linux and my current employer’s filtering policy than all the high tech gadgetry in the world but no way to use it properly.

Because while the tech is cool, it’s really not about the tech. It’s about communication. It’s about collaboration.

And it’s about teaching students how to use these things responsibly, because locking kids in their rooms for fear that they’ll go to the mall and something scary will happen will not prepare them for when they finally move out and go there themselves. Instead, we should take them there, hold their hands at first, and show them how to react in that environment.

Anything else is a disservice to the generation that will be running our nursing homes when we retire.

Academic Aesthetic 162: Corporate Shill

SoundwavesToday’s episode is brought to you by Sound Waves™

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Sound Waves™: helping you hear quality audio … and this show, too.</announcer voice>

…wait a minute, who wrote this ad, anyway?

But seriously, lately I’ve been thinking a bit about commercialization on educational websites. It’s a topic I’ve visited before, though I think it bears revisiting.

Richardson's BookI don’t know exactly why I’ve been thinking about it recently. It might be because of some recent large purchases I’ve made. It might be because sites like Tips From The Top Floor and are doing pretty well with ads in their podcasts. Perhaps it’s because Professor Bob from the History According to Bob podcast is able to sell CDs of things he originally gave away for free on his website, and even the great and powerful David Warlick and Will Richardson sell their books and/or ask for donations to their Starbucks cards on their websites.

Maybe its because sites like,, and are essentially advertising models for their parent companies – though I’ll be the first to tell you that they’re brilliant ad models because they draw in visitors with high quality content that makes them worth visiting repeatedly.

Or … perhaps … it’s because of some emails I’ve seen over the past few months. You may have gotten them too, in fact.

How I feel when I sell things“I represent [insert company name here] and we’d like to pay you to blog about [insert product name here]. We’re going to assume that [insert product name here] fits with the general theme of your website because you’re a blogger and right now you’re probably just happy that someone, anyone, has managed to find your little corner of the internet. We’re certain that you’ll be satisfied with the meager amount of shiny coins in exchange for linking to us repeatedly in your blog post and thus increasing our ranking on Google, even though it will most likely destroy your integrity and make you lose the small collection of loyal readers you’ve worked so hard to build over the years.”

Well, they went something like that, at least. I might not have remembered the emails word for word, but I think that’s an unbiased representation of what they said. You might even think that this posting would discourage future offers of a similar nature, but I don’t think those people actually read the blogs they contact so I’m out of luck, there.

I’ve also gotten at least one offer from someone who wanted to be a “guest blogger” on my site. It was essentially very much like the previous email, except she offered to take the hard job of writing the post that would destroy my reader base off of my hands.

Not all emails from businesses were that bad, however. I’ve received at least one offer to sponsor my podcast on a repeated basis with a short audio ad placed in each show, which I politely turned down because while the product was educational in nature I hadn’t used it myself and therefore felt uncomfortable promoting it.

Monopol-E-CommerceI even went so far as to hand out some books at this year’s MICCA conference, but only because after looking through them I felt they were useful resources. The copies they provided for me to keep as “payment” were also given away, but that was because I already knew a lot about the subject mater already.

I’ve toyed now and again with turning my website into a moneymaker, but this was mostly through the addition of Google Ads – and those tend to mostly work on the kind of people who aren’t likely to visit this website. Over the years they’ve been on and off of the site, but in all that time I still haven’t earned enough for them to cut me a single check. To be perfectly honest, even if they did pay me all of my earnings right now it would be a drop in the bucket compared to what I’ve paid for domain name registration, hosting (my hosting is cheap, but not free), and equipment.

I’ve also included Amazon affiliate links in posts from time to time, but those have made even less revenue than the Google Ads – mainly because I’ve only ever done that for products I’ve owned, and zero minus the price of said products equals a negative number.

I’m not saying this to complain, mind you, but to prove a point that I’m not blogging or podcasting for the money. If I was, then I would have quit a long time ago. I do this because it’s fun, and I enjoy it when I can become part of a conversation that is truly global in nature.

And then the bills come in, and I begin to think about how I can supplement my teacher’s salary.

So, (and I hate to admit this,) I’m going to try a little revenue building experiment. No, I’m not going to be embedding ads in every podcast. Nor will I be placing flash banners where you get to shoot chickens or pick the next president all over the site either. I’m going to try something a little more low key than that.

On my site I’m creating a new page. That page will have links to things where if you buy them I might get a buck or two sent my way.


I think.

If you don’t like seeing ads on education themed sites, then don’t go to that page. If you don’t mind, and throwing me a bone is something you might consider doing, well then you can go and check it out. My intention is to only become a corporate shill for products I’ve owned/used and enjoyed myself, so while I may be destroying my integrity here it shouldn’t burn quite so bad.

And who knows – maybe I’ll end up writing a book and promoting it there, eventually retiring from teaching to run around the world giving lectures and working as a freelance consultant.

… or, maybe I’ll just make enough to pay some of my server costs.

Academic Aesthetic 160: Flickr Video

Wow, 160 … that’s almost a milestone, isn’t it?  I suppose I should take the time to try out something new then, huh?

In any case, here’s a quick rundown on my opinions concerning Flickr’s decision to host videos:

  • Flickr’s video hosting is to most online videos as Twitter is to most blog posts.
  • 90 seconds is very short.
  • If you edit well, 90 seconds can be enough. (Remember, most commercials are 60 seconds or less.)
  • The first time I tried to cut one of my ramblings down to a minute and a half, it wasn’t easy.
  • I say in the video that I cut 10 minutes of footage out to make it fit. I was exaggerating.
  • It wasn’t more than 8 minutes. Honest.
  • Still, editing out everything except the core points took much longer than I thought it would.
  • Flickr Video ≠ YouTube
  • Flickr Video = Neat little toy
  • You can supposedly embed the videos as easily as the photos.
  • “Supposedly,” because copy/pasting the provided HTML code did nothing but place a blank, black box in this blog entry.

Teachers 2.0 Podcast: Podcasts, a Wiki, and Teacher Communities

I have a new podcast up over at Teachers 2.0. You might want to check it out if you’re a Teachers 2.0 follower OR happen to like things like Second Life or World of Warcraft.

To be honest, I was inspired to record this (or at least the third part of the podcast) after finding out that there’s more than one DEN member that plays Warcraft. We have edu-groups on Facebook, Second Life, and almost everywhere else, so why not Warcraft? (Or any other online environment you happen to like.)

Comments, of course, are welcome.

Academic Aesthetic 159: Podcasting Tips and Tricks

I promised to have this uploaded before I crashed for the night – looks like I got to keep my promise.

This is the audio from my presentation at this year’s MICCA conference. Forgive me if I keep things brief as I’m quite wiped by the experience of these past two days.

  • A pdf version of my PowerPoint, including a special bonus slide at the end, is available here.
  • Yes, I really do mention David Warlick that often. It’s only because he does so much to help educators.
  • As I explain in the intro, I was able to use Audacity to remove the background noise but not the slight echo. It annoyed me at first but I got used to it … I think.
  • I may be wrong about the new version of Audacity having LAME built in, but like I say in the podcast I do prefer iTunes for encoding my mp3 files.
  • I also over planned, and had very little time to do practical demonstrations. Perhaps next time I’ll focus on one tool? We’ll see.
  • I’ve said this a lot, but the wiki is still here. Edits are still encouraged.
  • I’m tired. Goodnight.

Academic Aesthetic 157

Help!In this podcast I’m looking for a few good podcasters.

I’ll be presenting a session at MICCA called “Podcasting Tips and Tricks.” As I’ve done before (*cough* Edublogging 101 *cough*), I’ve created a wiki rather than print out a bunch of dead tree copies. I think I have it fleshed out enough for a 45 minute presentation, but it could always use more work – that’s where you come in.

If you’re someone who’s learned something while creating podcasts, or even if you just know of a good resource or how-to guide, why not go over to my wiki and add it in? Even if you do nothing more than add a link to someone else’s wiki on podcasting, it’ll still be a big help.

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Academic Aesthetic 156

I’ve been inspired!

More on the inspiration later, but first two things: Yesterday on a whim (since it has nothing to do with my usual ed/tech/art ramblings) I posted a blog entry that included 20 things about myself … but one of them was a lie.  I invited readers to guess which one is false, and at the time I’m writing this 4 people have made their guesses but no one’s gotten it right, yet.  If you feel like playing along, you can go here.

Next up, I’m cross-posting this on Teachers 2.0 strictly for item three on today’s agenda.  Teachers 2.0 is a much larger community, as evidenced in more than one significant way, and I really want to hear people’s feedback.  You can comment here or there, although to be honest more people might read your response if you post it there.


Ok, on to the heart of today’s episode.  In the past I’ve expressed mixed feelings about high stakes standardized testing.  I feel that our goal as educators should be to prepare students to be successful in the “real world,” and that teaching to the test (which seems to be an inevitable outcome of this kind of assessment) does not do this – especially if and when the test itself is not assessing skills that will be required in the real world.

People in the U.S. reading this now may immediately think of NCLB, but I was teaching before that legislation passed I recall high stakes assessment  being disproportionately emphasized back then, too.

Now in the past every time I expressed this opinion, I added that while I dislike tests like this I feel I can’t complain too much because it’s difficult to think of another way to compare schools from year to year across a district, county, or nation without some sort of one-size-fits-all non-subjective bar with which we can measure student achievement.

But the other day, I put two and two together.  What’s our goal again?  To prepare students for the real world.  So how should we assess them?  How about by looking at how they perform in the real world, or at least in response to real world situations.

What if, instead of subjecting our students to tests that stress out everyone involved, we created some form of rubric to evaluate how they do after they stop calling themselves students? The rubric could include things like salary, job satisfaction, and any one of a number of variables that we apply to ourselves when we ask ourselves if we think we’ve been successful.

Of course if we adopted this system there would still be some problems.  True assessment would not be able to be measured until they were no longer our students, thus keeping us from correcting discrepancies that a well written standardized test may have caught.  Maybe a combination of the two?  I don’t know.

I’m not saying this is the perfect solution.  I’m not even saying I’ve thought this completely through yet, but it is something I’ve been mulling over, and I’d love to hear your opinion on the whole thing.  What have I overlooked?  Why would or wouldn’t this type of assessment be a good idea?  If it was your job to create the real life rubric, what would be the core variables worth measuring?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Academic Aesthetic 155

Today’s show shares some more links, for your listening enjoyment.

Academic Aesthetic 154

logot20_podcast_300.gifThree in one week! Am I back on the ball again? We’ll see.

Academic Aesthetic 153

?This episode is a call for help! (No, not THAT call for help …)

As I announced on Pownce, this will be my third consecutive year as a presenter at MICCA. In the past I’ve used wikis as my “handouts,” but I’m not sure I should create a new one from scratch if there’s already a definitive one out there that’s ready for use.

So my question to you is this: What are some of the better podcasting wikis out there, and should I use one of those for my presentation or make my own? I’m leaning away from reinventing the wheel, but I won’t mind building one from the ground up if the wikis that exist don’t meet my needs.

Let me know what you think.