Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update





Anything you tweet may be held against you

From You have the right to remain silent..and tweetless, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, August 20, 2009:

"Any thing you say, tweet, blog or post can and will be used against you" in the court of public discourse -- and that includes potential legal challenges.

"People tend to use Twitter and Facebook as if they were engaged in casual conversation and think they don't create legal risk; they are wrong," said William McGeveran, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School who focuses on digital issues. "They don't realize their statements are public, archived and searchable."

The rest of the article is worth reading and sharing with staff and students.

So for those of you plotting your next bank job, assassination or extra-marital rendezvous, just use the phone like I do.



Shameless self-promotion department


While I certainly remember sweating over it last winter, I just never checked to see if Saywire had ever made the white paper I wrote for them available. But what do you know? Here it is: Connections for Learning, 2009. I've read worse, I guess.

That, in combination with the guidelines I've been working on with Jen Hegna, suggested that the topic of the smart use of (social) networks might be of interest to conference goers and the subject of a new presentation. So, here are my three (new) 2009-10 presentations/workshops:

Change Your Image: 13 Simple Tools to Alter Digital Photographs

While much of the appeal of digital photography is in being able to edit images, Photoshop is a program that just takes too long for most of us to learn. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with images -- thanks to some easy-to-use online tools. Learn 13 simple program features and websites that allow you and your students to manipulate, change and use digital photographs. Create posters, customized images, and other creative products. Fun even for the beginner.

To Friend or Not To Friend: A Guide for Teachers Using Social and Educational Networking Sites

Should you friend your students on your Facebook page? Will writing a blog cost you your job? What expectations should you have of your students who discuss issues on your class Ning? Learn some practical guidelines for using both social and educational networking tools that will both improve your teaching and prevent possible problems with your administration.

Change from the Radical Center

While the Radical Center political movement has been around for thirty years, I suggest that leaders in educational technology and school library media programs adopt a similar view on hot button topics. While polarized views of reading methodologies, filtering, DRM, Open Source, copyright/copyleft, constructivism, e- books, computer labs, fixed schedules, Mac/PC/Linux, and the One Laptop Per Child project all make for entertaining reading and a raised blood pressure, radical stances rarely create educational change or impact educational institutions enough to change kids’ chances of success. This presentation suggests 10 principles to follow from the Radical Center of Education that will actually result in positive change.

On a related note, it's tough dropping old presentations from my oeeuvre. They are like old shoes - comfortable, familiar, reliable, and still (I think) with value since I do update each regularly. But I did whack a few. I do believe Guy Kawasaki when he advises:

Kill the cash cows. This is the only acceptable perspective for both intrapreneurs and their upper management. Cash cows are wonderful—but they should be milked and killed, not sustained until—no pun intended—the cows come home. Truly brave companies understand that if they don’t kill their cash cows, two guys/gals in a garage will do it for them. Macintosh killed the Apple II: Do you think Apple would be around today if it tried to “protect” the Apple II cash cow ad infinitum? The true purpose of cash cows is to fund new calves.

He's right, but it's hard to kill your cow if you've named her Bossie.


Networking Guidelines, Revised

It is comments like these that give blogging it professional value to me:

This list of advice sure seems heavy on the "Thou Shalt Nots" without much to inspire teachers to get online and create a powerful, educational online presence. In my experience, teachers are already sufficiently terrified by the "bogey man" of life online... they don't need to be made more frightened: instead, they need to learn about how to build their online identity in a way that benefits themselves professionally, benefits their students educationally, and contributes to the overall use of the Internet for teaching and learning. - Laura


Well I'm in BIG trouble. I use my Facebook account almost exclusively for educational purposes.

Almost all of my "friends" are students. I share their photos of their artwork, links to videos i want them to view (tutorials, documentaries, animations) and make recomendations about websites and even TV programs they might be interested in.

i joke with the parents when they come to open house that i can show a clip during school and half the class is asleep. I post the same video to Facebook and 5 minutes later I have 10 comments all telling me how cool it is.

A hammer can be used to build a house or break your thumb. It's just a tool. It's all about how you use it.


As a result of thoughtful challenges like these, Jen Hegna and I decided to revise The Guidelines for Educators Using Social Networking Sites shared on the Blue Skunk a couple weeks ago. What do you think?


Guidelines for Educators Using Social and Educational Networking Sites
August 20, 2009

Social networks are rapidly growing in popularity and use by all ages in society. The most popular social networks are web-based, commercial, and not purposely designed for educational use. They include sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and Xanga. For individuals, social networking sites provide tremendous opportunities for staying in touch with friends and family.

Educational networking sites are also growing in use. These sites are used by educators for both professional development and as a teaching tool, and are usually restricted to selected users and not available to the general public. These include networking tools such as Moodle, educational wikis, specially created Nings, or district adoptions of online applications such as Saywire, Live@edu or Google Apps for Education.

As educators, we have a professional image to uphold and how we conduct ourselves online impacts this image. As reported by the media, there have been instances of educators demonstrating professional misconduct while engaging in inappropriate dialogue about their schools and/or students or posting pictures and videos of themselves engaged in inappropriate activity online. Mistakenly, some educators feel that being online shields them from having their personal lives examined. But educators’ online identities are very public and can cause serious repercussions if their behavior is careless.

One of the hallmarks of online networks, both social and educational, is the ability to “friend” others – creating a group of others that share interests and personal news. The district strongly discourages teachers from accepting invitations to friend students within personal social networking sites. When students gain access into a teacher’s network of friends and acquaintances and are able to view personal photos and communications, the student-teacher dynamic is altered. By friending students, teachers provide more information than one should share in an educational setting. It is important to maintain a professional relationship with students to avoid relationships that could cause bias in the classroom.

The district does recognize the value of student/teacher interaction on educational networking sites. Collaboration, resource sharing, and student/teacher and student/student dialog can all be facilitated by the judicious use of educational networking tools. Such interactivity is a critical component of any online class and can greatly enhance face-to-face classes. Yet since this is a new means of communication, some guidelines are in order for educational networking as well.

For the protection of your professional reputation, the district recommends the following practices:

Guidelines for the use of social networking sites by professional staff:

  • Do not accept students as friends on personal social networking sites. Decline any student-initiated friend requests.
  • Do not initiate friendships with students
  • Remember that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
  • Post only what you want the world to see. Imagine your students, their parents, your administrator, visiting your site. It is not like posting something to your web site or blog and then realizing that a story or photo should be taken down. On a social networking site, basically once you post something it may be available, even after it is removed from the site.
  • Do not discuss students or coworkers or publicly criticize school policies or personnel.
  • Visit your profile’s security and privacy settings. At a minimum, educators should have all privacy settings set to “only friends”. “Friends of friends” and “Networks and Friends” open your content to a large group of unknown people. Your privacy and that of your family may be a risk.

Guidelines for the use of educational networking sites by professional staff:

  • Let your administrator, fellow teachers and parents know about your educational network.
  • When available, use school-supported networking tools.
  • Do not say or do any thing that you would not say or do in as a teacher in the classroom. (Remember that all online communications are stored and can be monitored.)
  • Have a clear statement of purpose and outcomes for the use of the networking tool.
  • Establish a code of conduct for all network participants.
  • Do not post images that include students without parental release forms on file.
  • Pay close attention to the site's security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.

Guidelines for all networking sites by professional staff:

  • Do not use commentary deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, obscenity, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.
  • Weigh whether a particular posting puts your effectiveness as a teacher at risk.
  • Due to security risks, be cautious when installing the external applications that work with the social networking site. Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games.
  • Run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your computer.
  • Be careful not to fall for phishing scams that arrive via email or on your wall, providing a link for you to click, leading to a fake login page.
  • If a staff member learns of information, on the social networking site, that falls under the mandatory reporting guidelines, they must report it as required by law.

Please stay informed and cautious in the use of all new networking technologies.


Written by Jen Hegna, Information Systems Manager, Byron (MN) Public Schools and Doug Johnson, Director of Media and Technology, Mankato (MN) Public Schools