The XO Arrival

A few months ago, I decided to parlay some workshop stipends into supporting the One Laptop Per Child movement by buying one of their new XO laptops (and then they send the second one that comes as part of the purchase to a child in a developing country). Part of it was wanting to support the effort and part of it was wondering what these machines were like, as they surely are the first step towards cheap and durable computers for children around the world.

One of their missions statements that I like:

We want the child to interact with the laptop on as deep a level as he or she desires. Children program the machine, not the other way around

Yesterday, the XO arrived in a small package and in about five minutes, my three year old son and I were taking pictures of ourselves, videos of us being goofy and audio of us singing. There are no instructions (I have to go online to get some more details about using the laptop) but it seemed pretty easy to use.

The drawback is that it is slow (not much RAM, I guess) and the keyboard and screen are small. I’ll have to delve in a bit more over holiday break. Over at the OLPC wiki site, you can see how many programs come with the machine and how many are being developed for the future. Very cool.

Peace (in little green machines),

PS — here is a cool little video from the perspective of a child explaining the XO.

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Day in a Sentence: December 19

Larry did an outstanding job with the Day in the Sentence feature last week and I want to invite you all to join the growing community of contributors. And thanks to Cheryl for the mention at the TechLearning site, too. Day in Sentence Icon

It is simple:

  • Boil down your week or a day into a single sentence
  • Use the comment feature here to share your sentence (comments are moderated so be alarmed if they don’t show up)
  • Please leave your blog address so that we can link to you and expand our community of Web-based contacts
  • I encourage you to podcast your sentence — either provide a link to your own podcast hosting site or you can email your mp3 file to me at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com if you want.
  • I will compile all of the writing all for release on Sunday

Here is my sentence (and you can listen as a podcast, too):

I entered the delicate art of negotiations with 11 year olds this week as I tried to make them understand that a puppet play for little kids should probably not have references to Brittany Spears coming out of rehab nor should the play have characters being sent off to a “special needs facility” as some kind of punishment nor should we celebrate the life of “gangsters,” and I once again realized how much my students are caught up in the collision of pop culture and media overload.

Peace (in collaboration),

A Podcasting Gift to Students

I normally don’t give out class presents. I figure that my presence and energy each and every day is enough (hopefully) of a gift to my students. They work hard, and I work hard, and we all have fun. This year, however, as I was sharing some of my podcast work with the sixth graders at this blog, a friend suggested that I burn the audio files onto a CD for families who might not have access to the classroom blog where the podcasts are shared.

What a great idea, and so I went ahead, and burned each of my homeroom students (20 of ’em) a copy of their voices, with a quick intro and outro from me, and then used some new CD package software to create CD covers for them.

It didn’t take much time and I believe it will be most appreciated by the parents and students.

Peace (in sharing voices),

Students 2.0

A group of students — reflective, opinionated and resourceful — have started up a wonderful site to give voice to those minds in our classrooms who feel frustrated and confined by much of the educational practice of our world.

The site is called Students 2.o and you can sense the exploration and learning and leadership that is being developed there by these students from across the world, as they use a blog for a platform for their views. They are advocates for change, and they are articulating the need for that change in new ways.

I hope teachers are listening (or it is another case of the teachers who are reading Students 2.0 already believe and the ones these students need to reach don’t even know how to find such a blog? I know the answer to my question, don’t you?)

Here is the first part of the Students 2.0 mission statement:

For decades, students have been stuck in classrooms, behind desks, being told how and what to learn. For a time, when students were expected to become widgets for the vast machine of industry, this model of education was highly effective. However, we have now entered a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where thoughts out-do the facts. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and anybody can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost.

Peace (in empowering students),

The Puppets! The Puppets!

Each December is puppet creation and theater writing for my sixth graders, and it is always a flurry of panic (we perform for younger kids this week!!) as time runs out, scripts are completed and puppets are constructed. I usually try to film the puppet shows for the web (and will try this week) but until then, I created this little video so that parents can get a glimpse of what we are doing.

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(I taught a group of my students how to use my Super Dooper Music Looper software and then I asked them to create the soundtrack for the video)

You can also access a few of the scripts as PDF files (all plays revolve around an invented holiday):

Peace (in puppets),

Day in a Sentence: New Voices

Larry Ferlazzo took the reins of Day in a Sentence this week (head to Larry’s site) and as a result, there were many new and wonderful voices as part of the mix, including some of Larry’s own students (which is an interesting concept). I like that Larry’s connections brought in people from other parts of the world and I hope they continue to contribute to the feature.

I am going to host the feature again this coming week (be on the lookout for the typical midweek announcement) and then we may take a week off for holiday vacation, and then return with Matt Needleman at the helm as guest host.

Peace (in collaboration),

A Poem for Bella

We put our family dog, Bella, down to sleep yesterday and so it was a very sad time for all of us here, as our three young boys have known her as a friend and protector, and she was the first dog that I ever owned.

We also had a snowstorm here in New England during her final days and the pure whiteness of the snow, and its temporary nature, reminded me of her white coat of fur and those thoughts and the sadness of making the decision to end her life to spare her suffering sparked this poem in her memory.

All One of the Same (for Bella)
Listen to the Poem

I covet the unblemished snow —
the blanket of white replenished in this candlelight’s flickering glow —
knowing all the while how temporary this is
and how this earth will surely rise up to reclaim it
for another time;
another place.
It is all one of the same.
This flurry of contemplation brings on such a sudden sadness of loss,
so I reach out my fingers to gather up every flake falling
in order to watch the world disappear.
I hold tight to the memory of the moment
so that it
— all of it: the snow, the whiteness, the love —
may live on inside of me forever.

Peace (in dog heaven),

Radio Lab

This site crossed my Bloglines from Brian Lamb’s site and I listened to it with headphones and was blown away. (It kind of reminded me of Pink Floyd, but as a podcast and around the topic of science, if that makes any sense at all).

It’s called Radio Lab and it a radio show from NYC that is also a podcast. It’s worth your time to take a listen. Notice how they effectively use audio editing and the concept of the Internet connections and Web 2.0 in their shows.


Here is one of the shows that could be called Sound is Touch at a Distance in which the creators of the show talk about what sound is and how it can be used to tell a story. I particularly like the “telling” of what sound waves look like and what that means to us as listeners and scientists (heck, we are all scientists, if you think about it, charting new discoveries every day).

Peace (in podcasts),

Happy Birthday to Blogs

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What has blogging meant for you as a teacher and writer?
Wikipedia marks December 17 as the official Birthday of the Weblog and some folks — including Steve, the creator of Classroom 2.0 — have created a site (via a blog, of course) to celebrate its impact. The site is called Celebrating Educational Blogging and the VoiceThread above is from that blog and it asks you to post some reflections on what impact blogging has had for you. (You can also leave comments right at the celebration blog site).

I love this intro from the site:

Some of us believe that blogging, as one of the great entry points into the “read/write” web (or “Web 2.0”), is having a transformative impact on education and learning, and that we are at the start of a new renaissance that will be defined by the participatory, contributive, and collaborative nature of the Web.

What? You haven’t tried VoiceThread yet? Here is a wonderful chance. Just sign up and click your microphone and start threading your thoughts.

Peace (in blogs),

Day in Sentence on the move: Larry’s Place

We continue to expand the ownership of the Day in a Sentence and this week, Larry Ferlazzo has agreed to become your gentle host of sentences. (no words will be hurt in this production — promise).

Larry has a terrific resource blog that may be geared towards ESL/ELL families and teachers but it proves the concept of universal design — everything he shares seems valuable to anyone.

So, please, meander over to Larry’s site, take a look around and then boil down your week or day into a sentence and post it at his site. He intends to release our words to the world on Sunday.

Peace (in virtual partnerships),