Monday, October 27, 2008

ILC 2008 Reflections

I am tardy in my report and reflections about the Innovative Learning Conference 2008, the first educational technology conference where I presented. I posted my Presentation and Notes so if you missed my presentation you can still get the content! My presentation was well-attended, with about thirty people learning how to use Scratch, a multimedia programming environment that teaches you how to program. I received some good follow-up email from people who attended my session, and Alice Mercer was even kind enough to blog about her positive experience at my presenation: thanks Alice!

Next I attended Marcia Fay's "Take a Trip with Technology!" presentation, geared at the elementary school classroom. Using a variety of tools like wireless Apple laptops,MapQuest,, Google Earth,, and classroom books, students plan and take virtual fieldtrips. They use Apple's KeyNote to build multimedia presentations of what they would visit in Washington D.C., for example, narrating orally the history or purpose of the attractions. Parents were invited into the classroom for an evening presentation, which looked to be well-attended in the photos Marcia shared. It was a fun presentation and a good way to integrate technology into elementary curriculum.

I took myself out for lunch at Chacho's Mexican Restaurant for lunch. I was excited to eat Mexican food when in San Jose, and Chacho's was within walking distance of the Convention Center and very tasty as well.

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I made it back to the Convention Center sated and ready for former Pepperdine classmate Colette Casinelli's VoiceThread presentation. This presentation was packed with interested educators who were excited to put VoiceThread to work in their classrooms. I've used VoiceThread for a bit now and still find myself recommending it to other educators as a particularly fun and effective use of technology to better communicate, whether it be an art critique or a means of teaching Spanish. Colette posted her handouts on her amazing VoiceThread wiki, which she started and which has subsequently taken off and grown to be a definitive source for showcasing VoiceThread in K-12 education. She also ran a back channel chat session through Google Docs during her presentation so people could post questions through a moderator. Colette continues to impress me as _the_ person who put her Pepperdine Online Masters in Educational Technology degree to best use.

Joe Wood put on an energetic and engaging presentation about how he uses Google Maps and Google Earth in his classroom. He had many practical explanations of how to use these powerful tools, such as exporting from Google Maps to Google Earth, one of my favorite tricks. He also showed the audience how to set a particular perspective in a Google Earth fly-over, so you can create dramatic effects for the viewer as your swoop around the world. Joe's blog is well worth checking out. He also pointed us to the Google Earth blog, where all sorts of fun uses of Google Earth are documented. Google Lit Trips, of which Joe demonstrated a Google Earth version of _Grapes of Wrath_, was a great use of this interactive technology, and I was glad he included We Tell Stories, which I had previously interacted with, a Penguin Books-launched site that uses Google Maps to tell stories that are location-aware, as it were.

The last session I attended was Gayle Berthiaume's Literacy in a Digital Classroom workshop. This was an excellent brain-dump as Gayle showed us many, many great projects to encourage literacy in elementary school students. Her site is a great place to start looking for projects that you, too, can replicate in your classroom. The session was not well attended as it was the last of the day, but I have to say it was one of the best sessions in terms of practical advice and good examples. Gayle is also a teacher mentor and technology tutor for the Scholastic web site and she showed off some great tools available there, too.

It would have been great to see better attendance at ILC 2008 but it was great presenting there and to see Colette again.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Don't Forget the Pets

Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

In these tough economic times, pets are going unfed and being given to shelters. Please do not forget to support your local animal shelters through donations, volunteering, and adoption.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Visiting Ire-land with The Peter & Ians

My friend Peter sent me a copy of The Peter & Ians latest release "The Peter & Ians Visit Ire-land" shortly after I arrived in Connecticut, but with life as busy as it is and my second generation iPod filled to its capacity, I had not yet had a chance to listen to this album on my headphones and to pay close attention to the production values I loved so much on their first release, The Peter & Ians Sing! Acoustic Renditions of the Lost Songs of Die Klammern. I listened to the CD a bunch of times in Meg's car but that is hardly the optimum listening environment. That all changed this morning when I removed some music from the iPod, loaded the Peter & Ians oeuvre onto the iPod and walked my way to the Stratford train station.

Much like the first album, there are themes of loss, anger, and love in their second release. I continue to be reminded of Ween in some of their sound, which is a great thing. "Hot Noon-Day Sun" conjures memories of Ween's "The Blarney Stone," appropriate as Peter and Ian explore one of my favorite emotions, ire. The production on the first few listens seems not as "expansive" as their first release; I really loved how wide the sound was on "Sing!," with the banging cookie sheets, claps, and whiskey bottle taps surrounding my head. The "found" instrumentation does make an appearance on some tracks, however, and by the time you get to "You're a Bum" the familiar bangs, finger-snaps, and pots and pans are back in place. In terms of a thematic album "Visit Ire-land" definitely does a great job of picking up where the last album left off and exploring the anger and emotions surrounding what must have been a doozy of a break-up.

As I mentioned in the interview Meg and I conducted with the band, they holed up with a bottle of Inventing Whiskey in a studio apartment in Portland and churned out another EP. This time the "instrumentation" is a bit more sparse than their first release, though the title track, "Ire-land," has a great laugh-out-loud crash of dishes, glasses, claps and empty bottles in the track and "Carpet Floor Drunk" has some great ambient discussions I wish I could catch in the background. They also seem to have gotten their hands on a violin and give us some great sounds very reminiscent of John Cage's work with Velvet Underground on the tracks "You're a Bum" and particularly "Our Evening." I know that VU was a big influence for the brothers, so it's cool to hear that come out a bit.

I like this album because we get a more unified narrative; their first album has many different characters on it, but this album seems to have a more singular narrator who is lamenting his lost love, the anger surrounding the breakup, and the booze that keeps the demons at bay.

As always, Peter's artwork is awesome, with Ian swinging the shelalagh while Peter lays passed out under the hot noon-day sun. The liner notes contain all the lyrics, hand-lettered. The songs are as catchy as those on "Sing!" I appreciate that they keep their unique sound intact yet do not remain tied to a particular sound. This album has some great Irish-sounding jig guitar runs on it. It's harsher and more brash than their first, as if they gained confidence in their sound and their message. I would have loved to have been present at the recording of this one, and to perhaps have taken a pull from the whiskey bottle and added a couple claps and crashes of my own to the sounds.