Where it all began....

I started blogging in 2003 to share my lesson plans with other teachers. I'm still posting regularly!

Blacklists and you: some information

Posted by Bill in News on Tuesday, June 13, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



image

Here’s the thing.  This blog has been getting an increasing amount of trackback and comment spam.  Everytime I get some I simply add their IP to my blacklist.

However, these spammers are wiley folks, and I’m a bit nervous I may block some friends and interested guests. 

If you find you cannot leave a comment or a trackback, please use the handy contact form. I will be more than happy to un-block you.  You might want to put unblock me in the subject line.

The problem has not reached crisis proportions.  I suppose if it continues I’ll add the blocked IP’s to my .htaccess list.

Thanks and warmly,

Bill



Wiki help

Posted by Bill in Games in education ,  News on Friday, June 09, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Hey folks!

A new COTS games in education wiki is coming soon.  I’m just putting this up to create a page where I’ll add wiki help files.  If you are very curious to see what an empty wiki looks like, go ahead and take a peek.

I’m using textile formatting for the wiki.  Basically, instead of using HTML (which isn’t very friendly), we are using a way of formatting text.

The best way to learn how to wiki, is to simply register, and then edit a page. You can see the editing I’ve used to make the wiki. Very straight-forward stuff. If you have many more questions, please let me know.

Here’s a list, taken from textile’s site:


Quick block modifiers:
Header: hn.
Blockquote: bq.
Footnote: fnn.
Numeric list: #
Bulleted list: *

Quick phrase modifiers:
_emphasis_
*strong*
??citation??
-deleted text-
+inserted text+
^superscript^
~subscript~
%span%

To apply attributes:
(class)
(#id)
{style}
[language]

To align blocks:

< right
>

left
= center
<> justify

To insert a table:
|a|table|row|
|a|table|row|

To insert a link:
"linktext":url

To insert an image:
!imageurl!

To define an acronym:
ABC(Always Be Closing)

To reference a footnote:
[n]

So, if you wanted something to be strong, you would type it like this:  *I want this to be strong*

Pretty easy, huh?



OS X HOWTO: introduction to Word

Posted by Bill in HOWTO ,  office ,  os x on Monday, June 05, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



This short guide will help new users understand Microsoft Word.  This HOWTO is targetted towards new and novice users.



OS X HOWTO: Using iCal

Posted by Bill in HOWTO ,  os x on Monday, June 05, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



ICal is a really neat calendar / appointment application that comes with OS X.  This how to use iCal PDF will heelp new users manage appointments, alarms, and print calendars.



OS X HOWTO: Introduction to OS X

Posted by Bill in HOWTO ,  os x on Monday, June 05, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



This introduction to OS X will help new users familiarize themselves with OS X (version 10.4).



OS X HOWTO: backing up using a USB thumb drive

Posted by Bill in HOWTO ,  os x on Monday, June 05, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Backing up on USB drive is easy and everyone should be doing it daily.  This small PDF will help OS X users quickly back up their important files onto a usb disk.



OS X HOWTO: use a usb thumb drive

Posted by Bill in HOWTO ,  os x on Monday, June 05, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



This is a small PDF which provides very basic instruction for using a USB thumb drive.  These instructions are for OS X.

I will be uploading / adding several professional development documents I’ve made over the past few years.  You can find them in the ed-tech section, which has better organization.



USA Today quoted WHO?!

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Wednesday, May 31, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



image

Great story in USA Today about Serious Games! 

I’d invite readers from USA Today to check out an introduction for teachers, and as always, please feel free to post a question on our forums (which are totally RSS’ed now, thank you very much).

Thanks to the ever-vigilant David McDivitt for the link.



Jenkins talks about myspace and the future of learning and teaching.

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/myspaceissues.htm
pdf here (192 KB PDF)

From the article:

Q: What suggestions do you have for parents or other adults eager to learn more about MySpace and to understand what’s going on with it, kids and political reactions?

...

1. Communication with your daughter or son is key. Build a trusting relationship through dialogue. It is important to talk with them about your concerns; it is even more important to listen to what they have to say about their online experiences and why these sites are such an important part of their interactions with their peers. You need to recognize that some unfamiliar experiences look scarier from the outside than they are. Take time to understand what you are seeing and what it means to participants.

2. Create an account to understand how the site works, but not to stalk your kids. They need room to explore, but if you are familiar with the media and technology that they consume, you can provide valuable guidance and suggestions. Surveillance, while possible, damages a trusting parent/child relationship.

3. Ask your kids how they choose to represent themselves and why. Use MySpace as a resource to start a conversation about contemporary fashion, ideals, and media images.

4. Talk about private/ public issues with your kids. Help them to understand the consequences of making certain information publicly accessible. Get them to think through all of the possible audiences who might come into contact with their online information. Teens often imagine MySpace as a youth-only world. It isn’t and they need to consider what the consequences would be if their grandparents, their teachers, admissions officers or a future employer read what they said about themselves. Helping your children learn how to negotiate such public environments is a great educational opportunity.

5. Talk through what kids should do if they receive unwanted attention online or if they find themselves the victims of cyberbullying. A growing number of sites provide useful information about how to confront such problems, including Net Family News , NetSmartz and SafeTeens. The Safety Tips section of MySpace also provides information for both parents and teens, including MySpace policies.



Wiki’s and education?

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Wiki’s have been around for a while, but I never really “got it” until a friend asked me to contribute to a wiki.

After a few weeks of using the wiki (and starting one of my own), I’ve some thoughts on wiki’s and of course wikipedia.  For the curious, I’ve written a short entry about problems associated with verifying information and wiki’s.


Wiki’s are great for inter-organizational knoweldgebase stuff

Mr. Smith’s 5th grade wiki is organized topically (math, science, social studies, art, etc).  Kids can easily contribute to the wiki, look up information, and properly cite information they have posted. 

A computer teacher might create a wiki detailing all the different ways the schools are using technology to support learning.  With categories, teachers can browse “math” or “fourth grade”.

A science teacher might create a wiki for their eighth grade students arranged topically - genetics, biology, geology, etc… Students would add to the wiki as they learn about different things.

Keep in mind wiki’s are good at organization multiple sources of knowledge.  If more than one person isn’t helping, it might not be worth using a wiki. 


Wiki’s aren’t great for discussions and single-point-of-organization stuff

You may be have better luck with blogs if you are one person posting classroom notes, homework assignments, etc.

You will be better served to use discussion board software if your objective is to facilitate an online discussion (with threads, topics, forums, moderators, etc)

You would do well to use an image gallery tool (like flickr) to post many images and pictures.

I think it’s easy to think of wiki’s as helpful if more than 2 or 3 people need to organize their knowledge about something.  Using this definition, a classroom full of kids could really benefit, yes?

Wiki’s are good assessment tools

When students can “make their own encyclopedia” it serves as a powerful and potentially positive learning tool.  Topics can be covered in minute detail, and when finished, small segments of work are more easily seen as part of a broad whole.  You might be writing about the cell wall, but when you put it all together, Nucleus, cytoplasm, DNA, RNA, etc, you can see how your contribution “fits”. 

Wiki’s are easy to manage

Keeping track of recent changes is easy with wiki’s, and students can easily peer-edit their stuff. It is trivial to see differences in pages, to see exactly what was changed when. 

Setting up a wiki requires a small amount of knowledge (PHP and mySQL). 

Malicious users (cyber-bullies) can be stopped with IP blocking, and you can configure wiki’s to only be edited by signed-in users (which is very easy).

If you are behind a NAT (most schools are) you can configure your wiki to be only accessed from inside your school network! 

 



Out of the Office!

Posted by Bill in Personal on Saturday, May 13, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Hi all!

I’ll be out of the office from May 14th to May 25th.  Off to Poland to get married!

I’ll be back on Friday the 25th

Warmly,


Bill



Getting to Z: Part 6 - Final

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Thursday, May 11, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5.

We have finished, and here is the after action report:

The Good Stuff

Three of the five boys demonstrated working knowledge of the Z axis.  They were involved in engaging an opponent in three-dimensional space.  This opponent was moving, and they were moving as well.  They coordinated helm and science information to effectively position themselves in 3D space.  They demonstrated an understanding of yaw and pitch.

The other 2 boys did not demonstrate knowledge of the Z axis. They could not articulate how to best approach another ship, or demonstrate relative position using pencils as ships. They were, however, utterly engaged with this process. They would quickly type ‘sr’ (which generates a sensor report), loudly report if they saw anything.  The also repaired damage, and scanned for damage on the other ship.  Despite not “getting it” they continued to actively participate.

The activity was an outstanding success in terms of engagement and motivation.  The boys came as early as they could, and I often had to ask them two and three times to leave when class was finished. 

The textual nature of this activity should not be underestimated.  Everything was in text (see a space battle for an example.)The level of engagement was really quite remarkable, especially considering some of the boys were quite reluctant towards school-related activities related to reading.  They read and demonstrated comprehension very rapidly.

The administrators of the MUSH we used (Paradox) were fantastic.  After dealing with some potential safety issues (all the players were minors, after all), they were encouraging, enthusiastic, and supporting.  Paradox is a great MUSH which always welcomes new players.  Feel free to give them a look.

The Not-Good Stuff

Our biggest problem revolved around time. Field trips, band concerts, snow days, and other school-demands taxed out short time together.  Next time, I plan on arranging meetings after school, twice a week for about a month.

“What does a Klingon look like?”  I made an assumption they would be able to access the Star Trek mythos.  They could not. Next time, we’ll watch a couple of Star Trek movies together and maybe review some Star Trek websites.

Formalized pre and post testing. I didn’t do this, as I wanted to “sneak the learning in”.  While creating a good environment for play, I would have had stronger statistics as evidence.  As it stands, next time, we’ll do a formal assessment piece.

Overall

This was a tremendous activity, generating positive energy in a rarely-used milleau in education. The educational potential was clear and evident.  It would be fascinating to explore other text based worlds, with different themes for the kids. 

This activity highlighted the following characteristics of games in education:

1) Tremendous motivation and engagement
2) Failure is not an obstacle to learning; in fact, it encourages learning
3) Learning happens in the context of play, fun, and engagement. Students are intrinsically motivated to learn
4) Graphics, sound and “jazz” are not supremely important - it’s the essence of the game which matters
5) Suspension of time, place, and identity support learning and play



Inform 7 released! Interactive fiction

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech ,  Games in education on Sunday, May 07, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



I’m a long time fan of text-based games and text based gaming.  So it is with great delight I found a new version of Inform has been released!!!!



Announcement

Posted by Bill in Personal on Saturday, May 06, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



I have accepted a position at Hunter College Campus Schools in New York City.  I will be working as an instructional designer, helping teachers effectively use technology in their classrooms. Hunter College campus school teaches intellectually gifted students, grades K through 12. 

I must be quite frank; I do not know how this bodes for my use of games in the classroom.  If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to encourage teachers to use games in their classroom.  If I’m not so lucky, I won’t. I have every intention of continuing my work to use COTS games in the classroom.  In fact, with this population of students I suspect it may be even more interesting. 

Why move? You may ask.  I had a comfortable, secure job on a beautiful island.  My employers afforded every possible freedom to try new teaching techniques, and explore different pedagogies.  My school disctrict is well funded, we were never for want of anything major.

The thing of it is, my career goal is to be a district technology coordinator for a large size educational community.  As much as I love games in education and support the direction the movement is going, I simply cannot ignore the opportunity for living and working in New York City…it’s going to be great for my long term plans.

From May 14th to May 25th I’ll be in Poland getting married, and then the third weekend in June (the 17th) I’ll be moving to the city; during this time I expect my blogging will become quite quiet.

I simply cannot thank the wonderful readers who frequent this blog enough! Your insightful comments and ideas prove consistently wonderful. 

Very warmly yours,

Bill MacKenty, M.Ed.



The beautiful aha

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Wednesday, May 03, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



As previously discussed here I appreciate the “integration opportunity” when a staff members ask for technical help.  Such was the occasion yesterday, when one of our younger teachers came in to sign up for the lab and ask a tech question.

Our conversation quickly turned to blogging.  She posts great sites for her kids on her blog which is part of our school website. The trouble is, it is difficult to share these sites in an easy way.

Enter del.icio.us

For those who don’t know, del.icio.us is a great way to share and tag your favorite websites (see my delicious feed here). As an added bonus, delicious has an RSS feed - so we can subscribe to a teachers feed. All your links are available from any computer connected to the network, and we can aggregate educational links. 



Stand for sensible Immigration Reform

Posted by Bill in on Monday, May 01, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink



Hey gang.

I generally stay away from personal, and politcial issues, but this one hits close to home. 

I just wanted to take a minute and ask you to think about the immigration reform day today.  As you may know, there is a general strike planned to support sensible immigration reform.

Dagmara (my wife) is Polish.  Many of her friends and their friends come to the states during the summer to make some extra money and support our seasonal economy. 

I respectfully ask that you show solidarity today by refraining from buying anything.  I know it’s kind of a big thing to ask, but putting a bunch of cops and sending all the illegal immigrants home isn’t going to fix anything - we need sensible immigration reform, so these people can come to America and work, make a better life for themselves, and help our economy.  It truly is a win-win situation. 

If the Republican Right get’s their way, we won’t enjoy these seasonal workers.  We won’t be able to help people make a truly better life for themselves.  We won’t be able to support our seasonal economy. 

Aren’t we more than this reasonless, reactionary,fear-based thinking?  Isn’t the United States better than this?

Thanks.

Bill



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I'm the director of technology at the American School of Warsaw. I support the effective use of technology in schools and classrooms. I am also keen on the role of games in education. More than you ever wanted to know about Bill

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