Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kindle, Twitter and Other Tidbits

My parents were worried that burning books would be the end of reading as we know it. They are boomers and have become convinced that all of Gutenbergs hard work would go up in the flames of every book burning. I don't have a lot of experience with it myself, my only recollection is Reverend Shaw Moore going crazy over a book buring in Footloose. (For you youngins who aren't familiar with Footloose, never fear, a remake with Zac Effron is in the works.)

So what the heck is a Kindle? It's an electronic book. Actually, it's far more than that. Not only can you read books on it, but you can purchase them directly from amazon and they will appear on your kindle in seconds. Imagine being in line, on a train, in the car etc. and ordering a book, only to start reading it in seconds. This is Kindle.

Kindle can be viewed as an extremely useful piece of techonology or it could be perceived to detrimental to books as we know them. Or, it could be both. We know reading has changed in the 21st century. In a must read article, Steven Johnson examines just how much devices like the Kindle (or Sony's version, the e-reader) will change reading forever. Consider books as digital devices:

  • Parts of books will be available for purchase. Individual chapters.
  • Discussion boards, blogs etc. will quote passages from books with links to the passage.
  • We may enter an age where whole books aren't read in chronological order.
  • Books will be read in sections; or, maybe just sections of books will be read.
  • Days of writing notes to yourself or underlining key passages may be gone; replaced by computer-generated highlighting and keyboard-led notes.
As we approach the digital revolution, maintaing the balance between our virtual world and the real world will be important. This educator is worried about kindle replacing books, at least the good ones. It would be interesting to examine textbooks in this version however. In fact, see why many students desire online textbooks. Kindle could possibly handle this type of formatted text.

Micheal J. Miller, who provides outstanding work in his techie blog, Forward Thinking, loves the new Kindle. And many of you are sitting on the edge of your seats, begging for the answer to the question ringing in your head, yes can get the Kindle on your iphone.

On a sad and shocking note, I did not make the list of top1oo educators on Twitter. All that campaigning and money spent on bribing the commission goes for naught. It's during times like this in which my wife is of great comfort to me. She reminds me that I'm "really not that bright" and to "get a grip loser." Can I just tell you how great it is to have the love of a good woman? Yeah, it feels great.

Some tunes to consider: (please keep in mind, just scored an XM radio and drove to Florida listening mostly to the 80s channel.) Our House, Madness. Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel. Burnin Down the House, Talking Heads. If your feeling really saucy, check out You Spend me Round, by Dead or Alive. And while your at it, check out Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi.

Red Sox vs. Yankees this year, 8-0. It just doesn't get any better than that. And I have to say this, but I say it with love and mean no disrespect to anyone; eat it yankee fans. Red Sox who must be in the all-star game: Kevin Youkalis, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon.

Until next time, here's wishing peace and happiness to all those who seek it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Twitter or Tweet?

My youngest daughter has said twitter or tweet numerous times in her life. All in attempt to get a bag full of what she calls "the good stuff." Chocolate gold. Sweet satisfaction. Candy to the lay person. Of course, when she says twitter or tweet, she is trying to say trick or treat. Her speech teacher assures me she's doing better.

What is Twitter? How is it useful? How can educators use it? Can we use it as an instructional tool? Is it just a waste of time? All common questions; All fair questions. Let me enlighten you with an answer that should help everyone: I don't know. (Any flashbacks to Mr. Hand writing that on the board? That crazy Spicoli)

I use twitter and I have no idea if it's useful. Or if it can be used by educators. Or if it could be an instructional tool. Or if it's a waste of time. But, I am willing to explore these questions. (If you are a audio learner, you can scroll down to the bottom and watch/listen to Rich Voltz explain how twitter is used.)

What is it?

Here's the skinny of it: it's a social network where people can update (called a tweet) in 140 characters or less. (That's about 1 or 2 sentences.) This can be done from the website,, or from your mobile phone. The update can be literally an update of (A) what someone is doing at the moment, or it can be (B) used as a sharing of information. Examples:

A. Going to Walmart to pick up toilet paper, then off to White Castle!

B. Worried that web 2.0 tools may create cheaters? "Unauthentic assessment will produce cheaters." Awesome blog!

Twitter is simple to use. Sign up for a free account and start searching for people to "follow." This can be done through twitter, although, you are more likely to find people through blogs you read, facebook, or friends you have. People can choose to follow you as well, although you have the option of blocking them. Updates will come to your webpage on, or you can choose to have them go to your phone as a text message.

How is it useful?

The usefulness of twitter is still up for debate. See this article for each side of the argument.

The bottom line is Twitter is useful if you want it to be. For me personally, it's a complete waste of time for me to send or receive the "what are you doing right now" updates. For one, I am not that interested in what my friends are doing. And for two, my wife and kids could care less what I am doing, let alone anyone else. I'm not that interesting, and quite frankly, neither are any of my friends. However, I have personally found twitter to be useful as a professional development tool. More on that later. (That's what people in the media profession call a teaser. A hook, if you will. I know that will keep everyone reading. Who wouldn't want to know how twitter can be used as a professional development tool?)

How can educators use it?

Through conferences, articles I've read, or suggestions from other educators, I began following a few blogs this past fall. Upon learning about Twitter at a conference in January, I noticed that most all of the blogs I was following had a Twitter update on them. So I signed up for an account, then went to each of the blogs and simply clicked on the "follow" button. Booyah, I was following three prominent leaders in education. Each one sends a few tweets a day with a link or some helpful tool to use in education. Many of them have been helpful, some not. Users can organize their favorite tweets on Twitter by starring them, creating a favorites list. Or, if you are already using an RSS feed reader, you can have all your twitter updates forwarded to your reader where you can do the same thing.

I've gained valuable knowledge through Twitter. I've found valuable people to follow and those that weren't worth following, I simply deleted. Like most things in life, Twitter seems to give us whatever we put into it. It can be a very helpful tool. A suggestion if you're curious: find other people in your position to follow. If you're a teacher, find a few interesting blogs and follow them on twitter. Give it a shot. Decide for yourself.

Can we use it as an instructional tool?

Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. But I know this: it's always good to seek the advice or your building administrators before attempting to do so. One of the blogs I follow is from a teacher in Maryland who uses technology in an effort to eliminate paper. ( Beyond that, he offers some very interesting ideas for engaging students. Check out his blog and you will see him using Twitter for immediate, anonymous responses in class (research indicates that students who can anonymously respond in class will participate and be more engaged), collaborate on projects and even take Latin exams via Twitter. Is it proper to use Twitter for these instructional strategies? I don't know, but if it engages students and helps them learn, it's probably worth looking into.

Is it just a waste of time?

Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. I think it will be different for each of us. I have found a groove in which Twitter is one of my top three resources for current information on education. A friend told me earlier today, "twitter sucks. It's a waste of time." It appears as if each of us will have to decide on our own.

For a quick tutorial on twitter, Rich Voltz put together this video. Rich is a retired superintendent in the state of Illinois who now leads educators in implementing Web 2.0 tools in schools. He's a tremendous resource for all educators.

For an interesting sound, check out the Black Keys doing Stack Shot Billy. This group is one guitar player and one drummer pounding out some power rock blues stuff.

My top three most awesome reasons for being a Red Sox fan: 3. Dustin Pedroia is 5'5 and the reigning MVP. 2. 2004 World Series title and 2007 World Series title. 1. Manny Ramirez is now on the Dodgers.

More on RSS Feed Readers

My original post to this under-achieving blog involved using RSS Feed Readers, such as Google Reader. Amazingly, I did not due justice to the significant contributions an RSS feed readers can make to our lives. I was young and naive, but don't fret. I am 36 days older now and clearly, far more experienced than when the original post was written. Here's my latest knowledge:

Star your favorites:

Here are some things I know: 1. I am not a strong reader. 2. I do not have an abundance of time. 3. I have 4 kids who suck the energy out of me on a minute-by-minute basis. 4. I am not that smart. 5. My weekly "honey-do" list resembles a dissertation. 6. My boss is very, very demanding and expects me to put in at least an 8 hour day (the nerve!).

So you get it. I don't have time, and even if I did, am I really smart enough to read all this? (Rhetorical question, please do not post or send responses to this question. I'm fragile.)

As I pointed out in the original post, a feed reader can change all of this. However, I'm not sure if I did an adequate job of explaining how. Well, here's how:

Once you've subscribed to your favorite blogs, news sources etc., you will be given brief abstracts of the articles or postings in your reader. You can breeze through these quickly. If it is not something of interest, keep moving. If it is something that strikes your fancy, click on the yellow star in the corner. This will store the post/article as a "favorite" for your viewing pleasure at a later date. So I do this daily, then on a Friday night (insert my wife calling me a loser here) after the kiddies are down and I have no energy to do anything physical, I get caught up on my starred items.


How do we keep track of things we've starred and read in case we want to refer to them later? At the bottom of each post/article, in the right hand corner, you will see "add tags." Simply click on this and enter a key word for the article. You will then notice on the left-hand side, google reader has put all of the articles that you've "tagged" in a folder.

For example, my next post will be on twitter (please try to keep your composure). I tagged all of the posts/articles in my reader that were relevant with the keyword "twitter." I now have a folder with several resources for my next post, and for future reference.

My suggested song of the day is Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown. A 1974 classic, it's just good stuff. For another tremendous tune in a similar genre, check out Jim Croce's You Don't Mess Around With Jim.

The Red Sox swept the Yankees. That felt so good I'm gonna say it again. The Red Sox swept the Yankees. The Bulls have played in one of the best series in the history of the NBA. And I'll tell you what, no matter how game 7 goes, I'll still be very happy with the Bulls. That being said, if the Bulls lose game 7, I will be extremely angry with the Bulls.