Thursday, December 17, 2009

Elf Yourself

I just elf'd myself today

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Some of my favorite web sites

I have had the opportunity to share some of my favorite web sites with pre-service teachers as well as with some of our special education staff. Below are some of my favorites. Feel free to comment and I will add yours to the list. This list does not include all of my favorites, just some of them. - free "all access" pass for educators - free meeting scheduler - free polling with your cell phone - for autistic children - windows only - Pete's PowerPoint Station - social bookmarking site - my diigo bookmarks - docs, forms, spreadsheets, advanced searches, so many possibilities - Information about the Pulse Smartpen - Information about flip cameras - For ESU 4 area schools to connect to "enrichment" centers

Thank you!

Monday, November 30, 2009

ESU 4 December News

NETA in the News:

This time of year as schedules get busier and busier with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on a conference that has been going on in Nebraska since the late 1980's. It is the NETA conference and every year it gets bigger and better. Currently, NETA is held each year the last Thursday and Friday of April. The 2010 conference is slated for April 29-30, 2010 at the LaVista Embassy Suites and Conference Center. This year's theme is "Creative Journeys to Learning." Each year I am amazed at the quality of presenters and the different "strands" that are available to your district. "Strands" include information for technology directors, schools that are going 1:1, an administrative strand, and much more. NETA is a way for you to connect with others that have the same passion for teaching and learning through using technology effectively in the classroom. Through my experience, NETA has allowed me to learn new techniques and even share some with others that join the conference. NETA has many contests that students can submit entries to and there is even a teacher-trek contest that will send a selected to the National Conference (ISTE) to Denver in June, 2010 and an "Excellence in Leading with Technology Award." If you feel like a teacher or a leader in your district is deserving of one of these awards, would you please consider him or her for a nomination? Mark your calendars today and start planning to attend the NETA conference. For more information, please log onto the neta site at Be sure to check out the keynote presenters while at the neta site - Peter Reynolds and Rem Jackson!

2010 Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship Contest:

The ESUs of Nebraska in partnership with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office are sponsoring an Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship Poster and Public Service Announcement (PSA) Contest for students in K-12 Schools in Nebraska. 

  1. Eligibility
Any public or private school/district within an ESU may participate.
  1. Categories
Each school or district may submit one entry in each category from each grade grouping:  K-4, 5-8, 9-12, i.e. three entries per school for each of the five categories.
  1. Entry Formats
  • Poster - high quality computer generated (pdf, tiff, jpg, or png);
  • Poster - hand drawn
  • Audio PSA - submit on labeled CD (mp3, aiff, or wav format).
  • Video PSA - submit on labeled VHS, DVD, or CD (QT, WMV, or RM format)
  • Open - a submission which does not fit a poster or PSA category above—could be a brochure, video documentary, etc.
  1. Rules
  • No real names used on posters or in audio or video PSAs.
  • Copyright laws must be followed, i.e. images, sound, etc.
  • 29 second target time on PSAs (audio and video).
  • Label CDs and DVDs with ESU Internet Safety Entry Form info (see next page.).
  • Put ESU Contest Entry Form on back of posters
  • Poster Size:  minimum – 8.5” X 11”, maximum – 16” X 22” (recommended delivery in protected mailer, such as tube or flat box. Do not bend.)
  1. Deadline
Entries must be submitted to ESU 4 by March 12, 2010.

            Send entries to:         
                            ESU 4
                            Attn: Gregg Robke
                            919 16th Street
                            Auburn, NE 68305

Entries may be delivered via van mail or snail mail. Email Gregg for an entry form or you can download the entry form here.                  
  1. Award
One entry in each grade grouping from each ESU will be selected and given state ESU recognition. Winning posters and PSAs, audio and video, will then be eligible for awards and/or use by the ESUs and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office. A winning entry in each category will be selected and sent on to the Attorney General’s office for special recognition.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What learning would look like from a 16-year old persepective

Our son is a sophomore in high school. We had asked him the other evening, "If you could have the optimal high school setting, what would that look like?" Below is his writing. It has not been edited, but his response really got me started thinking about questions teachers and administrators should be asking. Are schools preparing our students for the 21st Century? What does that look like? How can technology help? My mind started getting full of thoughts and questions that would take considerable amount of time to answer. As educators and/or parents, we may not know all the answers, but perhaps we can glean a little understanding from what our students/kids are telling us.

I think the best kind of high school situation for me would look like this:

"Me learning through the use of technology but still being able to hang out with my friends at school. For example, Using laptops in class. That way, the teacher could tell us where to go and show us some examples of what we are learning. The teacher could also limit where we went on the laptops and have control over them so the students wouldn't abuse them. I like learning through the use of technology and I think it's fun. It would make researching for a class a lot easier along with essay writing. We would be able to send our work to our teachers and ask for suggestions and help via e-mail or some other type of chatting thing. I would also like to have big desks with enough room for my books and my work along with the big comfy office chairs like the ones in accounting. This is what I think the best kind of high school experience I would like to experience."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why should I have a web presence for my classroom?

I believe teachers, principals, and administrators should have a "web presence" - a place on the web where you put information for your district patrons, fellow staff members, or students. Some of you may be asking, "Why?" or thinking, "If only I had time!" Ed Tech Specialist Denise Hogan explains the importance:

"In a world where people can bank, order groceries, shop for a home, instant messenger friends around the world, and see exhibits from the Louvre online - I can understand why parents are coming to expect more information about their child's progress online. Even more importantly, our students live in an ever growing 'cyber-based world.'  The rich, interactive and authentic web sites that are out there, make us, as teachers, criminal if we don't get our students on them in meaningful ways."

When designing a web site, you must consider your audience. For a teacher, the audience will mostly likely be students and parents. For a principal, it will most likely be parents. For a counselor, it may be graduating seniors. The list goes on. Secondly, what will you put on your page? The idea is to publish information in a way that helps your day to day tasks. As a teacher, publishing your daily assingments on a web site eliminates the student excuse that they didn’t realize it was due (even though you had it written on the board for the last two weeks). Some parents have no idea an assignment was due, and that you assigned it two weeks ago.  

A teacher web page can also carry valuable information about instruction for students. I personally know of teachers who use SMARTBoards, Mimios, and eInstruction software (Clickers) to save information to pdf's from their whiteboards and link that to their web sites, especially in the area of math. These teachers can post on their sites not only lesson plans and assignments that are due, but also problems that were worked out together in class. If a student goes home and struggles with the homework, he or she can go to that teacher's web site and find the class notes from the day.

From a parent perspective, it would be great to know what my kids are doing in school. Yes, I can get their grades from PowerSchool, and yes, I can - and do - talk to them about what they are doing in school, but from a day to day point of view, I have little knowledge about what they are studying. If a web page was created for the class or classes they are taking, I could not only track their progress, but I could be more involved in what they are learning and ask them more specific questions. Young parents especially are used to referencing web pages. Before families move into your district, one of the first things they will do is look at your school web site. If teachers have a link from the district’s web page, parents can easily find information about your classroom.

Ultimately, as the web editor of your site, you will need to decide what to post on your page.  At the ESU, we have Manila that we use to host teacher-created web pages.  Some schools subscribe to a web site service like SOCS and allow each teacher space for a personal web page.  If you would rather create one on your own, there are services like Wordpress, Blogger, and Google sites that can easily get you up and running without much difficulty.

Here are some wonderful teacher-created web pages from teachers in our service area:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where, oh where, has my desktop gone?

Google Docs, flickr, de.licio.usEduBlogs, Wikipedia: These are some of the most widely-used Web 2.0 tools on the Internet.  Gone are the days when my files were created, edited, and saved in one permanent location: my desktop computer.  Getting them from home to work (or vise-versa) relied on available peripheral hardware such as a flash drive.  And collaborating with others required using email attachments of a limited size.  The introduction of Web 2.0 tools has changed they way we create, organize, save and collaborate on our digital information. The Mac vs Windows ‘thing’ is not really that big of deal. If you rely on some of the tools mentioned above, then there is a good chance all of your documents for teaching and learning can be stored online. All that is needed is a browser that can get out to the Internet.

I recently read an article in which Microsoft has just released its web-based version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. It is currently in testing, but look for it in the near future. Instead of running Word from your desktop, you'll be running it from the Internet, collaborating on documents with people from all over. In fact, that is how this article was originally published. I used Google docs to put it on the web, and then it was shared with my colleagues around the office for their editing. Another example of an education application that many people have used is Inspiration. Inspiration now has a web portal, called mywebspiration. You can get a free account and create the same things that Inspiration does without having it loaded onto your computer.

On many occasions I have been asked to present at some state conventions, like NETA. I lug my laptop, projector, and possibly extra electrical cords around so I can get everything ready to go before my presentation begins. With services mentioned above and my personal online dropbox, I can get my presentations from the Internet. I am even allowed to share files. Dropbox, with a free registration, gives you the ability to load files up to its servers. Upon registration, your dropbox is created, and you get 2 GB worth of storage for free. I refer to my dropbox as my free 2 GB virtual flash drive. I just upload my presentation files to my dropbox, and that allows me to have a backup in case my laptop decides to quit functioning. Dropbox even has a free application for your iPod touch that allows you to get your files on your iPod. It is a very nice tool to have in your web 2.0 tool box.

The future will tell for certain, but I would expect smaller, faster Internet-based machines, such as handhelds, to start gaining more popularity as applications become more and more web-based. Are you using some of the tools mentioned above? If not, climb on board the web 2.0 movement and start thinking about how you can incorporate some of these into your classroom. Comments are encouraged.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Geocaching in the classroom

Maybe you've heard about geocaching and maybe you haven't. Our family started to geocache this summer after a workshop was held on what geocaching is and how it applies to the classroom. We hear about gps devices - TomTom, Garmin, and Magellan all come to mind. What makes this "digital treasure hunting" so unique are the many ways it can be used to to help students learn.

First of all, if you have not heard about geocaching, it is "a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment." You start by going to and registering for a free account. Then, you download the waypoints (where the geocaches are) to your gps device. Our family uses the Garmin etrex Vista HCx. Once you get the waypoints onto your GPS, you're on your way to finding this "digital treasure." The treasure may contain trinkets you can trade for something else you may have brought with you. Other geocaches just contain a log for you to sign your visit. When you find your treasure, you go back to the website ( and log your visit.

We have been doing this throughout the summer as a family activity and hope to continue throughout the school year. One of us drives, one looks at the notes (for which we use an iPod ) and one of us tells the driver where to go (using the gps). The interesting thing is that we let the kids determine the route. We give them the tool and they tell us where we need to go. It has been really interesting to discuss longitude and latitude with them as they can link that to what they've learned about longitude and latitude in the classroom. You can also overlay your "track" (where you traveled) into Google Earth as well as determine the distance you have traveled. The GPS even tells you how fast your are driving.

So, how does geocaching relate to education? Think about hiding a geocache that travels. Those are called travel bugs. Place a travel bug in a geocache and tell it where you would like it to end up in its description on the geocaching website. Folks who find the travel bug take it from geocache to geocache until it reaches its destination. You can use the website to track where the bug currently resides. Mr. Leon Stall, a secondary social studies teacher in Gibbon, has been doing this for one year. His 12th grade U.S. Government class project involves circulating "BUFFY", their school mascot, around to the elected officials that represent citizens of Gibbon, Nebraska. Their goal is to have "BUFFY'S" picture taken with all of their elected officials all the way to President of the United States. If you want to look at his site for more information, you can go to When you get to his site, scroll down to the very bottom and click on "Government" or "Geography" under "Traveling Buffys". There are many more educational examples, hopefully you get the idea.

At the service unit, we are working on a way to purchase a GPS set that we would use to train and let our schools borrow. We hope to have a session next semester during the spring. Please refer to our upcoming workshop list if geocaching interests you.

Friday, August 28, 2009

iPods + iPhones = Engaged

First of all, I'd like to welcome you back to the 09-10 school year. I know the staff members at ESU 4 wish you a successful year as you strive to improve student learning. There are many changes the school year brings, especially in the area of technology. I am always grateful for the opportunities I get to learn new technology tools. I was fortunate to attend the NECC (National Educational Technology Association Conference) in Washington, D.C. this summer. I went to many sessions, but specifically, I wanted information on how iPods are used in the classroom. Here is an article I submitted to be printed in the next NETA newsletter. I hope you find it helpful if you want to use iPods in your classroom.

Imagine a classroom where a student walks in, grabs an iPod touch, and takes a pre-class survey, then moves on to an interactive lesson, then finally does some practice questions and a post-survey, all from an iPod. While at NECC 2009 in Washington, D.C. I chose sessions that dealt with using smartphones and iPods in the classroom. One session in particular I went to was a model lesson using iPod Touches in the classroom and what was described above actually happened in that session. It was very interesting, and the presenters did a great job of answering questions. They were in a pilot year and had found many ways to incorporate iPods into their school. This particular school received a grant from AT&T to purchase 70 iPods. The iPods allow for universal design, and they were amazed at the increase in student motivation. The presenters stressed that they were focusing primarily on increasing math scores in their K-5 classrooms.

The participants were given an iPod and a log sheet when they walked into the classroom. Then they performed a short lesson on adding fractions and kept track of applications they used on the log sheets. The participants were able to learn at their own pace by pausing, stopping, and/or replaying the content on the iPod. They were to record their data on their log and then go on to the next application. If they finished the lesson early, they were able to play any applications they wanted until instructed to quit. For security reasons, some settings, such as Internet connectivity on the iPod can be disabled so students do not have access. This session piqued my interest as I believe there are many classrooms that can benefit by using handhelds. But, what about charging and syncing? If you are familiar with iPods, then you understand that you can only sync on iPod to one account at a time. Take into consideration TriBeam. It allows you to charge and sync multiple iPods to one account at a time. In this session, they demonstrated that they can charge and sync up to 15 iPods at a time.

Other sessions I went to included the same idea - using handhelds (smartphones, iPods, etc) in the classroom. I believe that is where 1:1 learning can start to take place in more schools where budgets are tight. Handhelds have gained popularity in recent years and already have pre-built apps installed, such as calculators, calendar, and stopwatches. Some of them, including iPod Touches, have notes built-in that will sync back to your computer, provided you have the new 3.0 OS for your iPod Touch. Then, when youconsider all the free apps that Google has built, such as Goog411, Google SMS, and Google Maps (to name a few) there is a lot of teaching and learning that can be done with these small "computer-like" devices. For the iPod, many educational apps are free from the Apple store.

Monday, July 6, 2009

NECC 2009

I was fortunate to get to go the National Educational Computing Convention in Washington DC just a few weeks ago. This was my first trip to Washington DC but not to the convention. I am always amazed at how much can be learned during these conventions. My focus this year was to get as much information as I could about using iPods and cell phones in the classroom. Below are my notes from the convention. If you read this blog and have any questions about them, feel free to contact me or leave a reply.

Opening keynote - Malcolm Gladwell - Sunday, June 28, 2009
SpeakUp report
Twitter stream - #NECC2009MH
Behind learning there has to be effort
Compensation is more important than capitalization (trying harder is a more important learning skill than doing good)
We need to have respect for difficulty
There are different learning strategies that are not always linear
Conceptual genius - people who have a bold revolutionary video
Experimental genius - An innovator who finds their way through trial and error
Feedback lies at the core of effective learning

Tammy's tech tips - Monday, June 29, 2009
Todays meet - c am f c
Vozme - voice recorder on the web
Ge smartgrid augmented reality - multiple urls in one
Image mosaic generator
Imagination cubed - online drawing program
Jing/ Skitch
Random name picker -
Tag galaxy
Showcase for firefox
Add a keyword in firefox - cmd click - anywhere there is a search window

The missing link - preparing teachers to use smartphones in the classroom - Monday, June 29. 2009
Curriculum and instruction
Put it in their hands - letter recognition - teaching shapes
Standards and assessments - digital video - multiple representation - use photos - surveys using survey monkey -teacher created tools (checklist, self-assessments)
Learning environments
Celebrating success
Behavior management
Parent communication
Professional development - parent conferences, communication, grants, awards

Cell phones in the classroom - Monday, June 29, 2009
Tammy Worcester
Goog 411
Google SMS - text 466453
Google Maps - can send to your phone or gps
Email posting to your blog - think of a project specific blog that students can post to - be sure to have your students post their name
Cell phone photos to flickr
Pictobrowser - embed a slideshow into ppt from flickr or your blog
Gabcast and gcast - no longer free - sharing site for all types of files - can call and leave a voice message to a drop
Built in tools - calc, calendar, stopwatch
Rocketron - can listen to news on your phone
Mosquito ring tones
Send txt messages from computer to phone
Podlinez - can listen to news on your phone
Text memos to your cell phones
Slydial - sends a message right to voicemail on a persons cell phone

Things you didn't know you could do with video - Monday, june 29, 2009
Hall Davidson - click on handouts
Play videos across slides
Kids are media natives
Create your own backdrops in Photobooth - video or still
Use Bluetooth camera to connect to computer wireless via bluetooth - $149
Enter their world - ex. Crayon world
You can email a photostory or moviemaker
Create a chroma key in photobooth
You can create video bullets in ppt
Create citations in QuickTime pro
Place videos inside goggle earth

Bricks and mortar schools are detrimental to the future of Ed - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Michael Horn (against)
Does everyone learn in the same way? No
Bricks and mortar schools cannot meed the needs of students
They limit socialization to the local communities
Learning happens everywhere
Brad Jupp (for)
The teaching machine - schools are necessary and stand as a commitment to cause
Buildings can become great schools
Schools are the vessels of our wishes of democracy
Schools are where we gather our children to learn
We cannot leave the house of learning behind
Dr Gary Stager (against)
Problem lies with management
Depriving kids of rich educational experiences is the problem
What makes schools viable?
Schools vs online learning
Is technology used to teach the same old way?
Cheryl Lemke (for)
What bricks and mortar could really be
Let us get our kids reconnected with our local community as well as our online community
Where are our kids going to get access when they don't have that at home?
We need to re-define our schools
We do need online learning as well as face to face
We need socialization because of social capital
Marshall Thompson (rebuttal - against - student)
Why do I need to learn in a school?
Education cannot be limited
Students don't want to learn for 8 hours
Erik Bakke (for - rebuttal)
Schools create a strong connection
Students need to learn in a group environment and need to learn as a team

iPod touch/iPhone application support group - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Leslie Fisher (
Kensington charger for iPod
Solio - uses solar power to charge your iPod
Mophie juice pack - piggy back battery
Slider by Incase - iPod case
Showcase by contour - iPod case
Speck QuickDraw - iPod case
Take a screen shot - home button and power button (iPhone only)
Hold down .com for other domains
Jewelers loop - hold down and wait in notes or any other app that uses the keyboard
Check out presentation on Leslie's site
How to use the top 40 iPhone features and also 100+ hidden features - for up to date apps for your iPod or iPhone
Saisuke - calendar app - links to google - shows calendar view like google
Note pad - group notes into categories and you can email notes
Evernote - an extension of the online version
Twitterfon - Twitter app
RTM - remember the milk
Duck you undo - keeps track of mis-spellings and lets you choose whether or not to accept you mis-spelled words
Spotlight search - is now on the front screen if you have the new 3.0 software
Loopt - uses gps location services - hooks into FB and twitter
Around me - stores near you - uses location services
iFinder - uses gps to find your location
TomTom - turn by turn navigation for iPhone - will be available soon
Shazam - identifies name/artist of song
Skipit - turns your screen into a forward button
Beehive - multiple-supported txt messaging service
Tripit - builds a travel itenarary
iTV - lists programming
USA Today headlines
Weather channel
Yelp - get user reviews for food, supermarkets, etc
Ocarina - flute app
Trombone app is out as well
Star walk
Iridium flares
Roller coaster physics
Motion gps
Crazy machines
Google - bells and whistles - keep scrolloind down on settings
Links on the site for more

iPod touch Go - Enhancing student learning using iPod touches - A model lesson - a model K-5 classroom - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Allows for univeral design
Received a grant from AT&T to purchase 70 iPods for their school
MotivatIon level was amazing
Disabled Internet access on the iPods
Simulating a short lesson on adding fractions
Use logs to keep track of apps they used - a fun meeter
Watch a video on your iPod - use these as lessons - students can learn at their own pace - pause, stop, and replay
Use help cards - students can hold them up or raise their hands
Fraction math - work until you have completed 15 problems correctly, then record your data and go to the next game
Kids % Fun - work until you have completed 20 problems correctly, then record your data and go to the next game
Once you have finished, you can practice any game until instructed
Some of the applications don't allow data to be transferred so data is recorded on paper - the appa do keep track of high scores though
Kids math fun is a good app as well and is used with their students
Syncing iPods - you can purchase products that will sync multiple iPods at the same time - they have a product that will sync 15 iPods at a time - also charges the iPods using a/c power (Tribam) - also allows you to change settings on individual iPods
Currently, they do not allow students to take them home - they want to try it next year - want to get parents involved
Each student was given headphones at the beginning of the year. At the end of the year, they are disposed of and they start with fresh sets the next year
Only have to buy the app once, as long as it is for that account - use the same account for all the iPods and only buy one app from the app store - need to check into copyright issues for this - they seem to think it is OK to use this procedure
Might be reasonable to have an account per classroom
Turned on parental controls
Locked the Internet with a password
Reduced the volume to 50%
These settings can only be done one at a time on the iPod

Constructionism, duct tape, and preparing children for their future - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
David Thornburg
The changing landscape of education
Constructionism is taking what you know and making it external
Constructivism is keeping what you know inside (your head)
Let's create educational environments where kids do not forget what they learn
Theory of flow - if your skill exceeds your challenge you will be bored. If your challenge exceeds your skill you will feel anxiety. If they are in alignment then you are in the flow. You will be engaged in the task. Your comfort level is manageable and you will not forget your learning.
You must have clear goals, you must have a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (focus), distorted sense of time, a sense of personal control, activity is intrinsically rewarding
Build things from scratch - hands on activities in teacher workshops
Recycled materials allows people to be creative - it's where you go to show people what you have built
Let's turn libraries into blogs
Let's turn lectures into web videos
Let's turn cafeterias into chat rooms
What keeps education from changing? It isn't the cost of tech
"Think of a laptop as a vaccine. You don't vaccinate some of the children, you vaccinate them all" - Nicholas Negroponte
Connections - a website that lets you create your own textbooks
In the future, you'll be able to print your own textbook using the "Exspresso book machine"
Internet archives
Free resources from the US dept of education
Freedom toaster - burns software to a DVD from a kiosk

Literacy Isn't enough: 21st-century fluency for the digital age - Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Ian Jukes
Kids are nuerologically different
TTWADI - That's the way we've always done it
It is not about kids learning, it is about getting them to learn
There has to be a balance between traditional teaching and the future of schools
We need to move to an additional set of 21st century skills
5 skill sets - Obsolete skills (irrelevant), traditional skills (hand writing), traditional literacy skills, traditional skills (critical thinking), new skills (unique to the 21st century)
Technological fluency - being directly engaged - the primary focus is the task, not the tool
Media fluency - looking critically at content (web pages, wikis, blogs, etc)
Information fluency - must be able to ask good questions, acquire materials, analyze/authenticate raw material, apply that knowledge, and finally asess both the product and process. Not a linear process, bit cyclical
Teachers need to become facilitators of learning

Monday, June 1, 2009


I am featuring in our Teaching and Learning Workshop today. Here is an example of how you can embed a poll into your blog. Take the poll and you can see the real-time results.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Teaching and Learning NOW

Part of teaching includes learning, doesn't it? I think so. I believe as educators, we constantly need to be learning either through our own students, through a professional network, through RSS feeds, through blogs, through social interaction, the list goes on and on. As a teacher, have you developed a professional learning network? Have you subscribed to an RSS feed, a blog, or some other social network? Some of these questions will be addressed to our area teachers as we take them through the Art and Science of Teaching by Robert Marzano. We will take our local teachers, through a joint effort with ESU 6, through some of the essential questions found in his book. Technology will be shown that highlights how to develop life-long learning. Below is a short clip of what will be provided to those who are in attendance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Internet Safety and Sexting

April was Internet Safety Month. To kick that off, ESU representatives from across the state met at the Capitol building on March 11th, to witness the signing of the Internet Safety Proclamation by the Governor.

In an effort to teach children about the dangers of the Internet, local schools within each ESU participated in the Internet Safety Contest. The contest guidelines were published, and we had more schools participate this year than last. The projects were then sent to the state contest judges who picked winners from each category. Below are those entries submitted from our ESU and chosen at the state level:

Grades K-4 - Hand-drawn Poster 

Title: Never Tell Your Password

Student:  Sophie Clark (1st Grade)

School: Johnson-Brock Public School

Teacher:  Sandra Behrends

Video PSA – Tie

Title: Credit Card Safety

Students: Hans Christensen & 

Joy Beasterfield (12th Grade)

School:  Johnson-Brock

Teacher:  Tera Stutheit

Due to the fact that April was Internet Safety month, we have asked Syracuse/Dunbar/Avoca Technology Specialist Gary Stearley to share his article on “sexting” - a new and dangerous cell phone craze among teens:

In a world where the only constant in technology is change, parents should be as versed in technology as their children.  This has been increasingly true of cell phones and the uses of them.  For years a phone was just a device that could make a call from one individual to another, and while this is still true, there are many other features that parents need to be aware of.  The first and most dangerous part is the camera that has been conveniently integrated into the phone.  While this might seem like a good idea, it has started a new craze that has been coined “sexting.”  Sexting could be defined as the transfer of explicit images and/or sexually-based messages to any other phone, or more importantly, individual.  There are many reasons this could be potentially harmful to many people.  With a simple file transfer from picture messages to online accounts the message or image sent could be cataloged, or worse uploaded to many different Internet sites without the knowledge of the sender.  It is also illegal to possess or transfer child pornography even if the picture is of oneself and the image is on your personal phone for this could be considered manufacturing of child pornography with intent to distribute.  To restate this point in a little different manner… you could be charged and added to a state’s sex offender registry for having sexually-based pictures of yourself or others that are not of legal age on your phone.

For parents there are limited resources out there as of today, but I will list some sites below that might be able to help:

Helpful tips for parents in talking to their children

Is Your Teen “sexting”

ABC News – “Sexting” Teens can go too far

Thursday, March 19, 2009


We just held our electronic recycling event last month. Every year that we do this, we wonder if it is really worth it. Questions abound about whether or not we should offer a recycling event. We open it up to every school within the ESU 4 area. We even shared our successes with ESU 6, and they too joined the effort to keep these "old" devices out of our landfills.

As soon as the project starts, we realize it is worth it, and that it is a service our schools want and need. We keep thinking that we will have less e-waste each year, but then we realize that upgrades are needed and old equipment (and new) can fail unexpectedly. The amount in total freight that was brought to our warehouse was actually much larger than anticipated. We get the chore of stacking and shrink wrapping pallets in order for the waste to be shipped to the recycling company. The semi-truck will hold up to twenty-six pallets. We ended up with twenty-four.

So...why do we do this? For many reasons. We came up with some research that we found printed in the online version of USA today. Here are some statistics we should all be aware of when our old computers (school or personal) no longer function. This article was printed on July 6, 2008:

"E-waste, or electronics trash, is piling up faster than ever, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Americans discarded 47 million computers in 2005, up from 20 million in 1998. Factor in other forms of electronics, and the nation now dumps between 300 million and 400 million electronic items per year, according to estimates from the EPA and the TakeBack Coalition.

E-waste disposal rates are poised to accelerate in the run-up to a nationwide switch to digital television signals in February. Less than 20% of all electronic waste is recycled, according to the EPA. The rest ends up in landfills."

Furthermore, it is not good enough for us to choose just any electronic recycler. We spend a lot of time choosing a responsible recycler. According to the article in USA Today, "U.S. law (unlike Europe's) permits the export of electronic waste to developing nations." These nations include China, Pakistan, and India.

Some events are hosted for free, and some recyclers charge a fee to recycle electronic waste. Please take the time to do some research before recycling. And, please don't just throw those old electronics in the trash. After we read articles like the one mentioned above and see the pallets of electronic waste in our warehouse, we realize how important this is for our schools and our environment.

For more information about electronic recycling, please check out these links:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Is your school ready?

1:1 - What is it? Is your school prepared? Are your community members informed and supportive? The questions go on and on. The 1:1 initiative is all about giving laptops to students. 1:1 literally means one laptop per student. Most of us have heard of schools like Westside in Omaha who have started buying laptops for students as young as fifth grade. Those students carry the laptops with them all year long and check them in at the end of the year. They are then maintained throughout the summer and handed back out in the fall.

There are many items to take into consideration when considering 1:1. When the topic of 1:1 and school preparedness is discussed in our meetings here at the service unit, I ask participants to consider many factors. Are your classrooms equipped with whiteboards and projectors? Is there enough electrical capacity to charge the laptops when the batteries are low? Do you have a network that will support a large amount of wireless clients? Just because you have a wireless network does not mean it will support a surge in wireless activity. Your school may need to upgrade its current network to be able to handle this surge. Your school may also need to increase the number of wireless devices so it can handle more clients.

What about your staff? Does your staff have the adequate skills and knowledge to teach with technology? Getting the technology in the students' hands is only a matter of purchasing laptops. Your staff will need to know what to do with the laptops in the classroom. Teaching in a 1:1 environment looks and feels much different than teaching in a classroom with just one computer. Students will want to use the laptops for everything, so as teachers, we must be able to find ways to transform what we teach into digital content. Does your school currently subscribe to a Learning Management System such as ANGEL? ANGEL allows teachers to post online content that is available 24/7. Teachers can post assignments, assessments, and notes from the classroom on ANGEL. ANGEL has many other classroom uses besides these mentioned, but it is important that schools think about learning outside the classroom when adopting a 1:1 program.

Is your community in support of this project? You have to remember that tax payer dollars are largely funding this initiative. Therefore, it is necessary to have community support to keep this project ongoing. Do you have a plan for getting your community members involved?

What about future funding? Do you have a plan for sustainability? Once a school begins the 1:1 program, it is difficult to stop. A school may have the funding to buy laptops for students now, but what about the future? The life span of a laptop is about three years. What is your replacement plan?

Lastly, why are you considering buying laptops for students? Is it because other schools are doing it? Is there a plan to collect data showing an increase in student learning since the laptops were purchased?

As you can see, this list of considerations is long. I am not opposed to buying laptops for students. I am a big supporter of using technology with students. Students are wired for it. However, without proper planning and support, this program could fail at your school. I have visited schools and talked to professionals who have adopted this program, and they tell me the 1:1 implementation is a two to three year process: get your classrooms ready, get your staff trained, and then start handing laptops out to students.

The Nebraska Department of Education has a great site for schools looking into buying laptops for students. For more information, please check out their Laptop Initiative site at

As always, I'd be interested in hearing your comments. Please feel free to email them to me: grobke at or you can post a comment on this blog.

Friday, February 6, 2009

ESU 4 Midyear Inservice Handouts

If you came to my web 2.o presentation at the ESU 4 midyear Inservice, then you've found the right place. Below is a link to my presentation. Feel free to use it however you like. If you would like the actual keynote file, please send me an email. Thanks!