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EdTech Update





Could you live in the cloud?

I've been giving serious consideration to trying to move to totally cloud-based computing - in other words, trying to use applications and file storage only on the Internet with nothing on my computer's hard drive except a web browser.

Why try this? It would nice to be able to work on any project, anywhere regardless of the computer one is using. Any likely 1:1 computing scenario in our school would probably involve students getting low-cost netbooks that will use cloud-based apps and file storage. I would like to see about lowering my personal hardware computing costs by using an inexpensive netbook (that is lighter and has more battery life than my MacBook as well). I'd like to lower the potential "cost" of my loss of both physical and intellectual property should my computer ever be lost or stolen. And hey, and what else to I have to do?

I don't think it is going to be as difficult at might first appear.

I would rank these as my Top Seven computer uses:

  1. E-mail. Both my school Outlook and my personal Gmail accounts already have robust online e-mail clients. My biggest challenge would be moving all my saved e-mail from my hard drive-based Entourage client to my online Gmail account and then tagging all that old e-mail so I can find it again. (I have a folder mind, not a tag mind, I'm afraid.) GoogleMail can now be used off-line in conjunction with GoogleGears.
  2. Web searching and bookmarking. I already have a delicious account so I'd just need to reimport the bookmarks now saved in my current browser.
  3. Word processing. After years of using Office, I believe I need to move to GoogleDocs for this, and the next two applications. I need to see if these programs are sufficiently full-featured and robust. While the WP seems fine for writing short pieces, will it be practical for writing a book? The presentation program lacks animation, transitions, and in-program image editing - which may not be a bad thing. With the advent of GoogleGears, I can work on stuff even when I don't have an Internet connection.
  4. Presentation creation. See #3.
  5. Spreadsheet use. See #3.
  6. Photo storage and editing. I've been storing my best pictures in SmugMug (a commercial photo storage site) for years. I have a lot of pictures that still need to be moved there. I know there are a number of online photo editing programs, including an online version of Photoshop. I have no experience using these. I suspect it would be more cumbersome moving pictures from my camera, organizing and arranging them, and posting them online without the help of iPhoto.
  7. Web page editing and webmastering. My personal blog, wiki, and website are already completely managed via an application service provider who uses online tools for management and editing. As does our school website. As do the professional association websites I help manage - Kiwanis, our lakes association, our state library/tech association, etc.

I believe I would still need clients for these applications:

  • Antivirus and anti-spyware apps
  • Adobe or other PDF reader
  • My DropBox
  • iTunes (to manage my iPod apps)
  • Mozy (to do online file backup)
  • SecondLife
  • Skype

and little helper apps like:

  • Flash
  • Quicktime and other movie players
  • File compression/decompression programs

I also recognize that were I ever to try to edit video, I'd need a full blown computer and I wouldn't be using CDs or DVDs. (When are they going to start selling movies on flashdrives do you suppose?) I use Mozy for off-site file storage, but I don't know if that is a practical solution for storing documents to which I want easy access.

So what am I forgetting, readers more techie than I? Can it be done? Is it doable but impractical?

Can my virtual life be spent in the clouds?

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Don't confuse social networking with educational networking

Facebook Now Growing By Over 700,000 Users A Day - AllFacebook, Feb 27, 2009

I will be the first to admit that I don't really understand the attraction of Facebook and its ilk. Yes, I have a Facebook page and have some professional colleagues and family members as "friends," but the site is not something I check or use on a regular basis.

I mentioned Facebook today in a workshop I gave here in SC during a "Tool Talk." (!0 web 2.0 tools in about 20 minutes.) When I introduce Facebook, I basically say the same thing I said in the first paragraph - I don't see the fascination, and more over, I don't see its educational usefulness. Other Web 2.0 tools, yes; Facebook no. But I do believe educators need to have a familiarity with Facebook and even use it personally, just to know what kids (and a rapidly growing number of parents) are up to.

A question was raised I had not before considered: Should a teacher "friend" his/her students on Facebook? My off the cuff response was absolutely not. I thought it violated the teacher/student relationship and could lead to actual or perceived inappropriate interactions.

So it was a relief to see Nancy Willard's strongly worded email to WWWedu today second my opinion. She writes:

Any teacher who links to a student on MySpace or Facebook is an ABSOLUTE FOOL!!!!! I strongly support and advise district policies against this for 2 reasons:

  1. There is a vast amount of flirting that goes on on these sites. Student get crushes on teachers. When a teacher gets a flirtatious message from a student, that teacher is already in trouble. Respond back with warmth and you are an online predator. Respond critically and the student could exact revenge. The teachers who are most likely to get into major trouble are the younger ones – who have not had to deal with student crushes before and who may still be in the flirting online mode. The risks include arrest and life as a registered sex offender.
  2. People on these sites send friendship requests to friends of people they have linked to. A teacher would become the “guarantor” of all of his or her online friends – including all of the material these friends post and the friend’s interactions with students.

This being said, it is exceptionally important for teachers and student to be communicating in these interactive environments. Which means schools must set up carefully managed and monitored interactive environments.

Are we confusing social and educational networking? Again, Nancy warns:

There is – and should remain – a vast difference between “social media” and “educational media.” When educators blur the distinctions, this causes significant problems.

Are schools making this distinction in policy-making?

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Vote early and often - ISTE Board election is on


ISTE Members should have already received the information below via e-mail, but a reminder never hurts.

I hesitate to endorse individuals since I certainly don't know every candidate. My experience has been that the board members who are running for a second term are wise choices. You get experience and confidence from these folks. I've had the pleasure of serving with Ferdi Serim, Jeanne Biddle, Stephen Rainwater, Ralph Leonard, Carla Wade and Howard Levin and can vouch for the dedication and unique perspective each brings to ISTE leadership.

I would also highly recommend a vote for Annette Smith for the Affliiate slot on the board. I've worked with Annette on AASL committees and her experience and values as a library media specialist would be a benefit to the board. (SIGMS people - vote!)

Candidate profiles and link to online ballot. (Yes, you need to be an ISTE Member to vote and will need to remember your login and password. Write it down this time for goodness sakes!)

Welcome to the 2009 ISTE Board election! Online voting for open seats on the ISTE Board of Directors begins March 10, 2009 and lasts through midnight (PT) April 10, 2009.

This election year, with such vibrant hope in Washington, D.C. to improve teaching and learning through the systemic use of technology, we want to encourage full participation by all ISTE members. We urge you to review the candidate profiles and VOTE.

Please take the time to participate in the management of your professional organization. Cast your ballot for the members of the ISTE Board of Directors who will represent you.


Helen L. Padgett, PhD
President-Elect, ISTE
Chair, Nominations and
Appointments Committee

Trina J. Davis, PhD
President, ISTE

P.S. You will need your ISTE member login to view the slate of candidates, read their profiles and statements, and vote. As you know, voting is a benefit—and a responsibility—of membership.