Monday, April 30, 2012

Google I/O (Input/ Output)

I have a new favorite App for Google Chrome... Input/Output allows users to build machines... put some middle school students in front of it and watch how they begin building. This is not a replacement for Legos, but it is a fun digital version of such building toys.


I know cyberbullying continues to be on the radar of many school leaders and parents. EdWeek featured an article last week indicating that some parents whose children have been victims of this type of treatment have turned to the courts to fight back. I am not sure that is the first step, but certainly, it points to the serious nature of the issue and it should encourage all adults to become active in their efforts to prevent this type of activity through education and awareness.

Friday, April 27, 2012

App Tracks Your Teenager's Driving Habits

Here is an advance in information technology that parents will be happy to have, teens probably will be less receptive.

I thought you might be interested in the following story on

"App Tracks Your Teenager's Driving Habits"
The prototype could also monitor an elderly driver's aptitude over time.

To view this story, click the link above or paste it into your browser.

- Dr. Gary Ackerman

Students' online presence

Help Students Understand and Manage Their Digital Footprint: Free Webinar!

Don't forget, there is an opportunity to attend a free webinar focusing on helping students understand the importance of maintaining a positive web presence (and some strategies for adults to them them do that) coming up soon. Find out more (including the link to register) here.

Common Core Standards

NELMS friend Jill Spencer shares her great ideas about teaching and learning in many ways... here is a recent post on planning to help students achieve Common Core standards relative to reading:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

TED education

TED has been called "YouTube for smart people." While I am neither confirming nor denying that, I do think it is a great source of videos of interesting and smart people talking about things that are important to them. There has been TED ED launched recently in an attempt to create content appropriate for inclusion in K-12 curriculum.

ESchoolNews has a story about it...


A colleague sent me this web site this morning... on first look it seems very interesting and engaging. Registered user create games using a wide range of tool. Interestingly also, there is noting in the terms of service about a minimum age for registering nad using the site.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Scholar leader dinners

NELMS and its associated groups in each of the New England states sponsor scholar-leader dinners each spring. This is a chance for those young people who have taken an active leadership role over their middle school careers to be recognized.

Find out the details of the event in your state by following this link:

Google's Drive Could Complicate the Cloud

After my post yesterday about Google Drive, this showed up on the TechReview app on my iPhone.

Maybe this is evidence Google seeks world domination, maybe this is evidence computing is changing from a local experience to a network experience. Nicholas Carr described similar changes in Electricity production (check out his book The Big Switch.)

thought you might be interested in the following story on

"Google's Drive Could Complicate the Cloud "
A new cloud-storage service from the search giant steps on the toes of startups like Dropbox and opens a new front against Apple and Microsoft.

To view this story, click the link above or paste it into your browser.

- Dr. Gary Ackerman

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Google Drive

I am not yet sure what these means for privacy, or how this is different from any other other tools we have available for online storage, or how this fits into Google plans for world domination, but Google has announced Google Drive today...

Emerging technologies

These are not information technologies, but here is a terrific spring-stand alone... have your middle school students research what this 17-year-old young man is talking about and showing viewers:

Skills inversion

In the 21s century, educators must come to grips with the fact that there is (for the first time in human history) an information technology skills inversion-- the young people are more skilled at using the dominant information technology than the adults.

Certainly, they have more experience finding YouTube videos and texting and dealing with multiple information sources at the same time... but it is unlikely they have more experience creating understanding. (I used to include evaluating information in the list of skills that adults had over young people, but I have seen in recent months many students who were far more critical of dubious information presented on the web than adults were!)

Every so often, I notice students who are dismissive of teachers attempts to "use technology." (This is typically expressed as students bypassing the teachers' instruction and just getting to work... sometimes as giggles or even outright laughter at the teacher promoting as "cutting edge" what students have been using for years.) This seems to be happening now relative to mobile technology. If students cannot get what they need on their phones, then the technology is viewed as primitive.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A project for middle school students if I ever saw one

After watching this video and exploring the web sites for the "toys" demonstrated, I think I want to go back to teaching middle school math and science with a room full of these!

Davitily Math Academy

I have been investigating some of the math tutorial apps on Google Chrome in the last few days... I have been interested in how this site provides some of the basic math knowledge that students should review and practice. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

ifttt articles

In the May2012 edition of MidLines, the tech column will describe changes in the nature of the Internet (from information source to venue for interaction to programmable technology).

This post includes links to several sources relevant to that column and can be reached using the QR code in that article.

A sign of the changing times...

My kids (now adults) took our annual April trip to Fenway Park this week... we saw the 18-3 loss :(

As usual, I was struck by the way that going to a baseball game has changed since I was a kid:

1) We were sharing our trip with friends in New England and across the continent via FaceBook updates before and during the game.

2) We were asking people who were watching the game on TV about plays, and they were asking us about events at the game.

3) We were paying close attention to the other games underway, especially for those players on our fantasy teams.

4) We were having great conversations about the game around our table (we had seats in the right field deck!) and we were all talking about what others were saying about the game.

Yup times are changing, and getting better, because of technology!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Morning Edition included a very interesting story about privacy on the Internet  this morning.

A Startup Puts the Internet in Your Couch Cushions

After reading this article, I am forced to think about the future of science fair projects in middle school. What ingenious ideas are lurking in the brains of creative middle schoolers that can become reality for a budget that can be raised with a bake sale.

I thought you might be interested in the following story on

"A Startup Puts the Internet in Your Couch Cushions"
Sensor-filled Ninja Blocks connect the Web with whatever's nearby.

To view this story, click the link above or paste it into your browser.

- Dr. Gary Ackerman

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring break...

Today is one of my favorite days of the year... Marathon Monday... even though I am in Vermont:

1) Today it is supposed to be 89 degrees where I live... Red Sox game on the radio and working in the garden... oh yeah, gardens and baseball statistics are two of the authentic settings I have seen middle school teachers embed in their classrooms.

2) I have a week off from school... time to spend at the computer (and on the iPad) working on a book-- trying to summarize some of what I have learned in recent years relative to using technology in ways other than "integration."

3) And best of all, my adult sons and I have tickets to the Sox game on Tuesday!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Computing Trend that Will Change Everything

How funny is it that I am reading stories such as this as a computer teacher in a classroom with no electricity. Mt students are using laptops and local applications... the count down is on until all batteries are discharged and we are left to only read books!

thought you might be interested in the following story on

"The Computing Trend that Will Change Everything"
Computing isn't just getting cheaper. It's becoming more energy efficient. That means a world populated by ubiquitous sensors and streams of nanodata.

To view this story, click the link above or paste it into your browser.

- Dr. Gary Ackerman

NELMS session 2013

So, our town has a wide-spread power outage today. Maybe we should start planning a session for the 2013 annual conference: "The Computer Teacher in the Electricity-Free Classroom."

- Dr. Gary Ackerman

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Iceland Exports Energy as Data

Let's consider this article with middle school students... it points to the importance of deep understanding (most would not predict that energy is a serious expense related to the Internet) and innovative thinking.

I thought you might be interested in the following story on

"Iceland Exports Energy as Data"
An arctic nation looks to large-scale computing for an economic boost.

To view this story, click the link above or paste it into your browser.

- Dr. Gary Ackerman

Rethinking technology...

Sherry Turkle's TED Talk "Connected, But Alone" points out the need for humans to build relationships through conversation... the contradictions are striking, but seems to suggest we attempt to build a healthy relationship with technology.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I am always on the look-out for technology tools that are "teacher easy" (so easy to use even a teacher can do it!). I found one today-- actually my wife found it--

Popplet allows users to create graphic organizers... and then share them. Simple is always good.

A view on education

Vermont Public Radio has some excellent and insightful contributors to their Commentary Series. Today, Bill Schubart spoke about how Americans must rediscover the importance of education as a necessary aspect of our future--including our economic future.

He points to parents and business leaders and politicians as having played a role damaging our educational system. He ends his commentary with these words,

"We must finally stop blaming everyone but ourselves."

Take the three and a half minutes necessary to listen to Schubart's comments... then stop and see what "problems" you encounter that you blame on others. Finally stop blaming them and fix it.

Another SOPA/ PIPA threat?

Some of the websites of advocates for Internet openness and privacy are starting to generate some buzz around CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.

Ostensibly, it is designed to protect computer systems and networks and the information contained on them, but some are claiming that it could be too broadly interpreted and inhibit sharing and and innovation even of information that is in the public domain or that individuals own.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Virtual knee surgery

Looking for an interesting experience in which students can understand the importance of "procedure pieces?" I have had middle school students perform virtual knee surgery and record the steps... then review them to see if they can be arranged into groups-- preparation... cleaning up... those that remove damage... those that require significant math... those that require manual dexterity... etc.

Positive web presence

NELMS friends Jill Spencer and Chris To are offering a webinar for parents, students, and teachers on creating a positive web presence--

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tech-free digital natives?

At a college in Vermont, students went "technology-free" for a week. What does it say that this is a project for anthropology class? I know that several research groups have begun to use ethnographic methods to study "digital natives," which suggests that the research methods used for previous generations are no longer applicable to the young people who are so immersed in information technology.

Read about their experiences here...

The Computing Trend that Will Change Everything

Here is a view of energy and the "green" movement that most of us have never considered. Powering computing devices may become effectively infinite and free! One must wonder how this will change "the digital divide?"

I thought you might be interested in the following story on

"The Computing Trend that Will Change Everything"
Computing isn't just getting cheaper. It's becoming more energy efficient. That means a world populated by ubiquitous sensors and streams of nanodata.

To view this story, click the link above or paste it into your browser.

- Dr. Gary Ackerman

Friday, April 6, 2012

Google Art Project

For several years now, Google has made available some interesting art collections... not the same as visiting a museum, but this is a chance to see some works that are not easily available otherwise.

I have used this as a "spring stand-alone" which is my term for a lesson that can be engaging and interesting on those spring days when half of the class is gone for a field trip, or there are other worthwhile disruptions to the school day. I have also used these as prompts for writing when team-teaching with English teachers.