Where it all began....

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

Blogging and eFolios

Posted by Bill in Blogging ,  Educational Tech on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

Got this great question about eFolio today…

I am not sure but I think your level of blog might be used with students instead of efolio?  Do you have any knowledge of these and/or suggestions? I’d like to pilot these with the 9th and 12th grade classes I teach.

For reference, here’s some stuff I’ve written about blog. Blogging is a tremendously valuable tool, but we need to deliberately design a lesson around the instructional goals…

Blogging and education part 1
Blogging and education part 2
How do I use blog in my classroom

Beginning blog does not allow for really dynamic content, which is necessary for good efolio management and presentation.  Blogger, for example, allows uploading pictures and sound, but there aren’t any galleries or file management tools.  If I wanted to add powerpoint presentations, videos, and lots of “zing”, I would be limited to simple expressions and site organization.

More advanced blog solutions (Expression Engine and Movable Type) offer tons of plug ins and extras.  These extras make blog an exceptional tool to use an eFolio.  Keep in mind it’s ease of use which really makes blogs a good choice.  If I want to add or edit to my eFolio (blog) it should be as simple and straight forward as possible.

The advantage blog hold over eFolio is RSS. Anytime my blog is updated, it is automatically propagated to aggregate sites, and to whomever is subscribed to my RSS feed.

The value of eFolio and online portfolios cannot be understated; we have a “live” constantly updated assessment record.  With multi-media, we have a tremendous opportunity to showcase learning!

Ah, Lem - Do widzenia

Posted by Bill in Personal on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink


As an avid science fiction fan I was saddened to learn Stanislaw Lem has died.

His writing was particularly succint.  Very to the point about things, in a beautiful way.

Do widzenia == goodbye in Polish

The time has come, the danger is real.  It’s time to ban pencils

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Thursday, March 23, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

Courtesy of Education World comes this great article from Doug Johnson.

It’s a tounge-in-cheek reply to the folks who don’t want to use iPods in the classroom. 

From the article:

  1. A student might use a pencil to poke out the eye of another student.
  2. A student might write a dirty word or, worse yet, a threatening note to another student, with a pencil.
  3. One student might have a mechanical pencil, making those with wooden ones feel bad.
  4. The pencil might get stolen.
  5. Pencils break and need repairing all the time.
  6. Kids who have pencils might doodle instead of working on their assignments or listening to the teacher.

Great stuff.  We should be teaching our kids how to use technology, not building a wall around technology! Doug asks this sterling question:

When are we going to learn to use the kids’ devices for their benefit rather than invent excuses to outlaw them?

Want a great blog?  do this…

Posted by Bill in Blogging on Thursday, March 23, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

I’ll be accepting an award tommorrow for my blog.  Thanks again to eSchool news. 

I wanted to include the criteria the team used to evaluate a good blog. I don’t know who thought of these, but these are truly exceptional criteria fir running an efective blog:

1. Personality: Is there a clear personality? Do
you feel like you know the writer? Is there a feel-
ing of intimacy that might be missing from main-
stream media or other forms of communication?

2. Usefulness: Is the information useful or enjoy-
able to read? Did it make you think, or laugh, or
click? Are there handy links to other places?

3. Writing style: Is the writing in the blog snappy,
crisp, and engaging to read? Or is it long-winded,
dull, convoluted, or sloppy? Worse, is it a sales
pitch disguised as a blog? Or just news briefs or
bullet-point items without any fresh perspective,
analysis, or insight?

4. Usability and design: Is the typeface easy
to read? Can you find links to archives? Is the
writing concise and easily skimmable?

5. Frequency: Is the blog updated regularly, and
with sufficient frequency? Or are there long, ran-
dom periods of inactivity between posts?

6. Relevancy: Does the blog stay on topic, and
is it relevant to the category in which it is being
judged? Or is it all over the map in terms of

7. Interactivity: Does the blog incorporate video
or audio in an engaging, interactive way? Does it
offer a forum for readers to respond, or use other
features to help develop a sense of community?

8. Fulfillment of purpose:How well does the
blog fulfill its intended mission?

9. Appropriateness: Does the blogger use lan-
guage and etiquette that is appropriate to a pro-
fessional educational setting? (i.e., no inappropri-
ate personal references, etc.)

10. Would you revisit: Is it useful or engaging
enough for you to visit it again someday? Or will
you forget it the minute after you vote?

Time Magazine: are kids too wired for their own good?

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

Great article in Time magazine (March 27 2006) about how media-saturated kids might not be such a good thing….

...as an instructional technology guy, I often wonder, how much is too much?  I see a place for technology in kids lives, and I also see the value of curling up with a good book.  The article, written by Wendy Cole, Sonja Steptoe, and Sarah Sturmon, is full of great quotes and observations.  some of my favorites:

“Decades of research ...indicate that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks…”  - In other words, we do better when we focus on one thing. But in todays world, how often do we need depth? I think when we we have acces to so much broad and deep information, we are more focused on how we use information wisely.  This is the great teaching challenge we face in 2006.

“Koonz and Turkle believe that todays students are less tolerant of ambiguity than the students they taught in the past. ‘They demand clarity’ says Koontz.  They want identifiable good guys and bad guys, which she finds problematic in teaching complex topics…”

As a self-confessed “extreme moderate” this worries me quite a bit.  There is quite a bit of grey in the world - we need young people to understand nuanced situations and be comfortable in ambiguity (this is why I love the Episcopal church, by the way).

“For all the handwringing about Generation M, technology is not really the problem…the problem…is what you are not doing if the electronic movement grows to large…”

In classic Time magazine fashion,  there are some wonderful, hands-on tips for parents (taken from Dr. Edward Hallowell’s great book CrazyBusy : Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD)

Parents should:

See for yourself what it’s all about. Get on IM. Download an MP3, Play a video game. Create a MYspace account, let your kids be your guide, but talk to them about how to use these technologies wisely. 

Set limits, monitor content and teach “techno manners”.  For everyone:  no cell phones at the dinner table. No playing video games while someone is trying to talk to you.  Np ignoring mom and dad when they come home because they are glued to a video screen.

Look for the good.  Search for what’s positive and innovative in the ways in which your children are using and adapting o the new technology.  Try to imagine how it could be used to enhance relationships and learning. 

Take time to hangout with your kids.  DO mundane, non-technological things .  Wash the car together, play ping-pong, debate politics, take them out for ice-cream (no ipods or cell phones).  Spend time together with eyes and ears available to them. 

All in all a great article, and a good treatment of the subject.

Games Developer Conference: Jesper Juul on broadening the game-meme

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

Jesper Juul’s presentation was really great.  He talked about, as promised, broadening our definition of what games can be.

Jesper had many good points, but I think his most important ideas centered around goals.

Basically, he said goals, while providing a framework for forward momentum, narrow the scope of the game. He explored this a bit in depth, pointing to The Sims 2 and Grand theft auto: San Andreas.  Both games offer an extraordinary play-space.  You could choose what you want to do, and it’s still fun. While there are goals in GTA, they are totally optional.  The idea of free choice in a game world presents as a compelling and engaging medium.  One in which players who might shun games are invited to meet the game on their own terms, and in their own way.

Kind of like how we need to meet our students, eh?  Instead of offering a looong line of easily digestible lessons in which the “teacher knows all”  we are exploring and encouraging our kids to explore, a learning space.  Cool stuff.

Another point Jesper made I think worth mentioning is equating games to languages.

Some games have:

Small vocabulary, flexible syntax
Small vocabulary, rigid syntax
Large vocabulary, very rigid syntax
Large vocabulary, flexible syntax.

It is basically a neat framework for understanding what we can do in a game world.

I’m off to Florida after this, to accept an award for mackenty.org.  I can’t wait to see the folks from eSchool News!

9 Paradoxes of learning through video games & simulation

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Saturday, March 18, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

The Serious Games mailing list recently received a wonderful note from Clark Aldrich (blog).

Mr. Aldrich has written some books on the topic of games of learning (which I haven’t read yet). Simulations and the Future of Learning : An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning and Learning by Doing : A Comprehensive Guide to Simulations, Computer Games, and Pedagogy in e-Learning and Other Educational Experiences”.

The First Paradox is that people learn more from the underlying systems and
interface in any educational experience than from the surface content.

The Second Paradox is that educational simulations can never be completely
comprehensive and accurate.

The Third Paradox is that one can’t even begin to understand a sim by watching someone else play it; one has to play it him or her self.  One can’t even begin to evaluate a sim by playing it; one has to measure the results of someone else playing it.

The Fourth Paradox is that things that seem simple, narrow, and isolated when “taught” through traditional linear means are deep, complex, and extendable when practiced in simulations.

The Fifth Paradox is that when educational simulations are first created, they are heavy on simulation elements, and casual players complain they are too hard. Over iterations, as a result of the complaints, educational simulations are made easier and more fun, and serious players then complain they are not
deep enough.

The Sixth Paradox is that vendors and builders of simulations like to describe them as vaguely and mystically as possible:

The Seventh Paradox Most deployments of simulation based programs look successful if measured forward from what a student learned, but most simulation deployments look like failures if measured backwards from what percentage of material that the students could have learned, they did learn.

The Eighth Paradox, is that things get worse before they get better, even when the transformation is sought after and desired.

The Ninth Paradox of Educational Simulations states that a good educational simulation takes traditional linear training just to use.

Real teachers, real games. The Games Developer Conference beckons!

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Thursday, March 16, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

I’m happy to report I’ll be speaking at the Games Developer Conference.  My session is entitled Real Teachers: Real Games.

It’s always such an honor to be invited to speak at events like this. I still feel sort of humbled and like “what the heck am I doing here?!”.  Looks like I’ll be speaking with Kurt Squire and David McDivitt

I’ll post up my slides shortly.  While some of my presentation will be typical (here’s what got me started), I plan on discussing my getting to Z project.  If I can swing it, I might even try a live demo.

I’m still using COTS games in my classroom - lately it’s been Age of Mythology, which has been moving in unexpected directions.  I’m seeing great teamwork, and perhaps more importantly, very careful strategic thinking.  I see groups of kids discussing, debating, and opining about various aspects of the game.  I should also note we are not playing against each other, we usually form a group of 4 or 5 students against the computer on the highest level of difficulty (we rarely win…yet).

The Sims 2 figures prominently in class as well - we only have 1 license, but there are often 3 or 4 kids huddled around the screen, pointing and giggling.  Our assistant principal came in,  and immediately accessed the potential.  She is a former consumer-science teacher, so when she saw all the cause and effect in the game, she seemed impressed. 

Games, public schools & religion

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

We are using the terrain editor in Age of Mythology.  This lets kids build virtually any geographic place in an easy-to-use way.  The terrain editor is clear, easy, and produces decent-looking output.  The kids can choose rivers, mountains, oceans, ice, etc…  The idea?  Explore geographic concepts through this terrain editor, and create real-world geographic maps using this tool.

As a precursor to creating their own terrain, we played a game of Age of Mythology (for a PDF version of a presentation I gave on Age of Mythology, click here). 

Today, a student came in and told me they were not allowed to play the game; after some brief conversation I realized the child’s parents had strong religious convictions, and did not want their child playing a game where other gods were worshipped.

From a strictly procedural point of view, this child can no longer play this particular game.  Once a parent says “no”, that’s it.  I’ll try to contact the parent to sort this out, but for now it’s no AOM for this child.  This is kind of sad, because he really loves this game, and it’s hard to watch your friends get excited about something and you can’t do it.

We fired up Sim City 4, which has an excellent terrain editor, and he made some good looking maps…

It’s an interesting issue; many games present their play in mythological context.  Games often include super-natural powers and flirt with the ideas of gods, creation, the universe, and the afterlife (FF X). I think that is part of good fantasy narrative.  Many books, films and television shows also dive into this area as well.

This is the first parent complaint I’ve heard about using games in the classroom. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised it would involve faith.  But still….

What do you think?

Getting to Z: part 5

Posted by Bill in Games in education on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Things are going slowly.  We meet every Thursday morning for about an hour - lately, though, there have been a barrage of field trips, assemblies, vacations and other engagements.  I suppose this is just the nature of public education, but I find it slightly frustrating. *sigh*

For those unfamiliar with text-based gaming, MUSHes, and 3D space, I invite you to check out the following videos.  I asked a fellow player on the mush we are playing on to simulate a space battle.  The following videos move through activating ship systems, very basic moving, allocating power to different systems, and of course, an engagement.

Multiplayer text-based gaming part 1- starting our ship, activating systems (4 MB Quicktime movie)
Multiplayer text-based gaming part 2 - allocating power (1.4 MB Quicktime movie)
Multiplayer text-based gaming part 3 - scanning, damage status, and detecting (3.9 MB Quicktime movie)
Multiplayer text-based gaming part 4 - ending the encounter! (10.6 MB Quicktime Movie)

I tried to keep the files reasonably small - I reduced screen size by 30% so some of the text might be a little bit difficult to read.

As you are watching these movies, I encourage you to think about 13 and 14 year old kids accessing the complexity and sophistication of this milieu! 


mackenty.org wins eSchool News award!

Posted by Bill in Personal on Thursday, March 09, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink


I’m very pleased to announce my blog has won second place in eSchool News first-ever Educational Blog awards!  I won in the class instruction - teacher category.  This is a real honor! here is a pdf (220KB pdf) detailing the event.  Although I would of loved to have earned first place, I am delighted and excited to be recognized!

I’m heading to Florida on March 23rd to accept the award.

Thank you eSchool News!!!!

How do I use blogs in my classroom: securing a blogger blog.

Posted by Bill in Blogging ,  Educational Tech on Tuesday, March 07, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

After responding to a friendly email question about blogging in the classroom, I found another question in my inbox…

I have some serious gaps in my understanding when it comes to security with blogs.  I realize your latest e-mail said you would be addressing security at a later date, but could you touch upon some of these important issues for me?


I have to say Bill, I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw MySpace listed as a recommended blog for use by an educator.

Myspace is inappropriate for school use.  Not because of some weird thing with myspace, but because of the current educational political climate…it’s to hot to handle right now. Fortunately, there are plenty of other choices for us to use.

If I were to use MySpace in my classroom and an administrator were to walk in - I would lose my job that day.

eek. Make sure you speak with your administrator about this before you start!  I think a list of everything you have done to secure the blog is helpful. Make sure you are very clear about the “this is a school blog”.

Here are three short movies for you to look at.  They both deal with basic security using blogger. The volume on the last one is really low because I had a group of kindergardeners in my room.

Securing a blog, part 1 (4.1 MB Quicktime movie)
Securing a blog, part 2 (3.6 MB Quicktime movie)
Securing a blog, part 3 (6.4 MB Quicktime movie)

I need to know how am I going to protect students from inappropriate material on a given blog?  Are there “G-Rated”  Blogs I can use?

No.  The success or failure of using blogs in education hinges on how well we structure the instruction. If you don’t monitor and closely supervise what your kids are writing, you could be in trouble. 

That being said, I blogged with almost 50 kids, and I only had one incident which was a little weird.

As James Farmer says in this great post:

You must incorporate blogs as key, task driven, elements of your course - This may sound obvious but simply providing blogs to learners and saying “Hey, use them however you want” is an absolute guarantee of failure as all but 1 or 2 people will take you up on it.

How am I going to evaluate the entries of my students?

Make a rubric. Keep in mind, they will be very excited about blogging, but you are going to have to be very clear about your instructional goals. Make sure the kids know:

1) This is what good work looks like
2) This is what minimal effort work looks like

I also suggest you do some testing. Make sure everyone knows how to post on a blog, and then

How do I use blogs in my classsroom: an answer.

Posted by Bill in Blogging ,  Educational Tech on Monday, March 06, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

I just got this great email question, and thought I’d share the answer!

I’m looking into ways to use blog based educational technologies for my students and other technology based ways to publish student writings on the internet.

Yea!!  Congratulation to you for being progressive and using technology in a really cool way!!

How do I get started?

I made up some getting started guides for new users.  There are some quuicktime videos, hopefully these will help you get started. 

Getting started with blogs, part 1

Getting started with blogs, part 2

What kinds of things do I need to be alert to,(obviously online safety), and who can I talk to that has used technology based publishing for written work in the classroom?

I have a few suggestions for you based on some hard-won experience.

1) Only create 1 blog for each class.  Don’t give each kid their own blog. It’s very difficult to manage!

2) Make sure comments are moderated.  You might want to check them first. After creating your blog, you might get a ton of comment spam.

3) Create ground-rules.  Make sure they understand not to say anything they wouldn’t say in school.

4) Enforce proper grammar.  I was quite embarrassed when my students started to post IM-speak on a public blog! Yuck!

5) Be wary of cyber-bullying. One lesson I won’t ever forget is to always monitor the blogs.  It may be helpful to subscribe to the RSS feeds for all your blogs.

6) Make sure you administrator knows! Tell your boss you doing this, keep everything above-board.  You might want to share this with some parents or the Parent-teacher organization. Be prepared to confront the myspace issue! 

7) SHARE YOUR SUCCESS!! Blog about this adventure, share your success and your failures!

8) Lastly, and most importantly, have clear learning objectives.  When this unit of instruction is over, the students will demonstrate knowledge of _____________ (or whatever verbiage you use).

Now.  As far as who you should talk with, don’t worry.  Trust google on this one. Try this google search.  Also, as you blog about this, other people will find your blog! 

Try to sign up with technorati and ping as many other blogs as you can.

Good luck!

Who is using technology in your school?

Posted by Bill in Educational Tech on Monday, February 27, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

How do we know who is using technology in a school?

I disburse and evaluate surveys
Note who is coming to my professional development
Keep track of who is filling out technology work orders
Pay attention to who stops me in the hallway
Listen at faculty and core meetings

But now I am administrating the bulk of the faculty network, I can easily see size of the users home directories

I was surprised to see some of my low-technology-aptitude teachers had massive (300+ MB) home directories (and this is after deleting cache files, too).  I’ll be targetting them for additional support and training.  Maybe we have some people on the cusp of using technology, who need a little encouragement!

I would encourage other instructional technology folks to check out home directories as a metric to gauge computer use!



Posted by Bill in Personal on Friday, February 24, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

Off for a week for holiday. 

I’ll stay here on Martha’s Vineyard…might blog, might not. 



A stampede ...

Posted by Bill in Games in education ,  Teaching Diary on Friday, February 24, 2006 (8 years ago) Permalink

Every Friday, we have some time during lunch recess in the computer lab.  Students are allowed to come up and play games, surf the net, or listen to music.

Today, we had a fifth grade in the lab doing some math problems (here), and as such, had limited seating available.

The result?

During lunch I witnessed an EXQUISITE planning process amongst 9 boys.  Teams were created, different boys planned how they would take multiple routes to the computer lab to get their first, and roles were assigned in the game. They ate their hotdogs & chips at light speed, and, without waiting for lunch to end travelled over the sound barrier to the lab.

They, of course, failed to plan on the following contingencies:

1) Other people on the stairs
2) Our “don’t leave the lunch room until lunch is over” rule. 
3) Each other (as they stumbled up the stairs)
4) The number of available computers (only 11 were being used, we had 18 free)

In the end, I asked them all to come to the   office, and we discussed proper behavior .  I’m happy to report we had no injuries, just some excited boys.  There was an animated discussion and debate about what actually constituted “lunch over” and “running on the stairs” (“Mr. MacKenty, I wasn’t running, I was just moving quickly!”). 

And as I was walking up the stairs, laughing out loud at the ludcridity of the situation, I was again reminded why I love working with kids.


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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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