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End of America

This is not meant to be a political blog and I am sure I will regret posting this, but this interview with Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, is very, very scary.

An open Internet is probably the best guarantee we have of an open society. Do all kids have uncensored access to all political points of view? Do they have the skill to separate the truth from the hyperbole? (Do I?)


When I was a little boy growing up on the prairie...

My friend and colleague, Mary Ann Bell, sent me a request:

Hello Doug, I am working on a column about blogging, and am highlighting several popular educational blogs, one of which of course is yours, and another is Kathy Schrock's. This got me wondering how long you have maintained an online presence. I asked Kathy about her history and she responded that she had never thought to compile one but liked the idea. Shortly thereafter she sent me this link:

Now I am wondering about you! How long have you been sharing your wisdom online? It would be fun to include the information in my piece, which will  come out this spring in my column in Multimedia&Internet@School. If you have time, I would love to know and in any case, have a great holiday  season!--Mary Ann

While I've compiled a history of our district's technology efforts, I've never really tried to sit down and figure out my "personal history.' My memory is not all that good (and quite selective according to the LWW) so this is challenging. I am also humbled by Kathy's efforts (and memory!)

Here is a far less impressive "history," Mary Ann.

  • My first "on-line" experience was with the Dhahran (Saudi Arabia) Apple User Group bulletin board in about 1987-88 with an Apple Iic and a 300 baud modem. Hot stuff. I could get and share tips about computing with my other ARAMCO colleagues!
  • Friends from the local university gave me my first e-mail account: in 1991(?). It didn't start using it regularly until I joined LM_Net in 1992.  The LM_Net mailing list was really my first venue for sharing information and ideas on-line (and remains one to this day.)
  • I started teaching Introduction to the Internet classes for then Mankato State University in 1992(?) using dumb terminals. I wrote the first version of my teacher Internet rubrics as an outline for the class.
  • We secured 13 "vax" accounts for our Mankato school librarians and a debate coach (who turned it over to his kids) in 1992. These were well used until ISD77 put in its own mailserver in 1994 that provided all staff e-mail accounts.
  • I gave a talk "Why Minnesota's Children Need Access to the Internet" at a state tech meeting in 1994.
  • In March of 1995, my article Captured by the Web appeared in MultiMedia Schools magazine - one of the first writings about the WWW in an educational publication. I STILL think this was cool!
  • My "The Mankato Schools Internet Project" article appears in Internet Research, Winter 1995. It's a good summary of the process our district went through to become one of the first in the nation to have all buildings wired and connected to the Internet.
  • I think I "borrowed" space on the school's website that was up and running by 1994 or 1995 for my first web pages, then moved to my own domain/webhosting service in about 2000. I used (and still use) my site to give people easy access to my articles, columns and presentation handouts. It's a bit of shameless self-promotion for my speaking/consulting business too.
  • Taught an online class, Ethical Issues Surrounding Technology Use in Elementary Schools for Click! Computers and Learning in Classrooms K-6 (The University of Melbourne Australia) in 1998.
  • The Blue Skunk blog was started in August of 2005, after hearing David Weinberger's keynote speech at NECC in Philadephia about information = conversation. I continue to experiment with wikis, social bookmarking sites. media sharing sites, etc.
  • Begin writing a monthly column for the Education World website - a web-only publication - in 2005.
  • BlueSkunk Johnson is "born" in SecondLife in June 2006. (I will get my first chance to give a presentation in SecondLife in January 2008!)
  • Attended EdubloggerCon at NECC in 2007 which was cool.

As you can tell, I come from a very print-oriented mind-set and background, using tradional tools such as books and journals to communicate with others. I DO continue to use and try to understand the nearly constant changes in the online world. And increasingly, I feel like a turtle on the side of a very fast moving highway in absolute awe of educational visionaries, trend-setters, experimenters and models like Kathy.

There you are, Mary Ann. Hope it works for you!

All the very best,



Why wireless

Rob, a Canadian teacher-librarian, recently e-mailed asking if and why our schools are putting in wireless access points. He is looking at the educational benefits, especially. Below is my reply. I'm hoping other readers can provide additional ideas..

We are providing managed wireless connectivity in all our schools K-12. There is both “open access” which is only port 80 traffic for any visitor or student, and “closed access” which requires log-in by staff or students to get to other resources on our networks. The wireless access is filtered, seems to be working reliably, and is used extensively.

We embarked on the wireless project about four years ago for a number of reasons:

  • We wanted to provide more computer/Internet access to our students but did not have the physical space for additional labs or the funds for lots of classroom computers. Mobile carts of laptops made sense for us, and these really require wireless Internet/network storage access so they can be used throughout buildings.wireless.jpg
  • We wanted to provide a safe and convenient means for students, staff and visitors to use personal devices to access the Internet. Wireless connectivity does this for us. It decreases the incentive for people to bring Ethernet cables to school, getting unauthorized access to the networks.
  • More teachers want the convenience of using portable devices (PDAs, laptops) to do assessments and grades in real time, near students, and be able to use their laptops in a variety of locations in their classrooms and in the school.
  • All staff wanted wireless connectivity so that they could check their e-mail during really boring meetings ;-)
Blue Skunk readers, reasons you have or haven't put wireless in your schools?