Thursday, June 29, 2006

NECC and SupportBlogging! Buttons :)

Yes, Will, there are 1000 buttons that will be available at the Open Source lab at NECC in the Sails Pavilion. We'll have them at our "Blogs & Wikis" booth. And yes, they did cost $335 to have made, so we'd love to get some help from anyone willing to donate.

Please do go to the SupportBlogging! website and add your own links if you have material on educational blogging. There should be a short piece in this month’s School Library Journal, so we expect some traffic and don't want anyone to feel left out!

Will also created an NECC EdBlogger Meetup wiki page for a Thursday night event where you can add your name to indicate you will attend. Hope to see some of you at NECC!

Major Dell Recycling (and Reuse!) Announcement

Brian Hamlin at reports:

"Dell Inc. has announced its intention to offer cost free and convenient consumer collections for every Dell product. The policy will be applied world-wide, available to North American customers by roughly September of this year."

This is a huge announcement, as Brian emphasizes: "In one stroke, the new Dell take-back policy changes the entire economic landscape of collections, reuse and recycling."

He quotes Michael Dell as saying, "“Our first order of priority is reuse, then reuse in its component
form, and then finally recycling and the reuse of those raw materials
.” This is significant because one of the huge concerns about manufacturer-led recycling programs is that recycling, which is a great buzzword that people have warm fuzzies about, isn't nearly as good for the environment and the consumer as reuse. It will be interesting (to say the least) for those of us in the reuse business to see what this will mean for computer resale, but however that plays out, this certainly will be good for the environment and the consumer.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Thin-client Linux in Australian Correctional Facility

ZDNet Australia is reporting the use of a Knoppix thin-client setup for 120 computers in a state correctional facility. It has surprised me that this hasn't happened sooner, or maybe it has and I just haven't been aware of it. Thin-client Linux is a great solution for situations for providing basic productivity computers that are significantly resistant to hacking or tampering. Now, without opening a can of worms by comparing prisons to schools, we can just say that schools also have accountability and security concerns that are also well-addressed by Linux running in thin-client mode. :)


Monday, June 26, 2006

Open Souce in K-12 Email List Started

On one of the technical Linux/Open Source lists I am subscribed to, a teacher complained about the lack of a mailing list for Free and Open Source Software for the non-technical users in schools.

As I'm working currently on a book on the use of Free and Open Source software in K-12 schools, and have talked to hundreds of teachers at our Open Source labs at the NECC and shows, I think the complaint is reasonable. I think there is a huge group of teachers interested in FLOSS programs who will absolutely not be ready for, or want to be on, a list that is highly technical. They are just at the stage of looking for something that works, that they can use in their classroom, and that doesn't cost them anything. They aren't ready to wrap themselves around the whole discussion of Open Source Software, and it's not fair to expect that they will do so at this stage.

There needs to be an easy entry point, and while there are some good websites that do this (see below), I don't believe there has been an email list for them. So: We'll publicize the list at NECC and hope that it makes a difference moving forward.

I'm also starting a wiki that we'll make public in the next few weeks as well that will hopefully add to the resources in this arena.

For those who are interested, there are other K12 Open Source resources available at the following websites: (K12LTSP map)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Red Hat's Lucy Ringland on Open Source in Education

Red Hat's Lucy Ringland has finagled her way to NECC 2006, and it should be fun to have her as a part of the dialogue on Open Source Software in Education. Lucy and I recently traded emails, and here is what she had to say:

My background: years of working with the Cooperative Extension Service/4-H Youth Development, designing and presenting technology camps and workshops for kids/parents/teachers/anybody who would listen, organizing hardware recycling/refurbishing events and using the hardware to teach Computer Camps to kids in rural NC who don't have access to computers at home...teaching them about the hardware, how to upgrade/troubleshoot/repair, install an Open Source operating system (any flavor that would load on the machines - SuSe, Mandrake, various RH distros - as far back as 5.0, Slackware, etc, etc.) and providing tech support followup for the kids (they took the machines home with them). MA in Curriculum Design. Dad was a high school principal, which scared me off of being a public school teacher! But I like working with kids, so the non-formal route seemed the way to go.

My personal philosophy on OSS in Education - any distro/application that works is a good distro/app to use. Some are better at certain parts of the picture than others. All of them can potentially reduce costs, allow for extended use of hardware, and put choice into the hands of teachers/administrators, and open the world to kids. The OSS in Ed landscape seems pretty scattered - pockets of people working on their own thing, often on top of their own distro - the community in action. It would be really great -to band together and support each other. Not consume each other, but complement each other. Expand the "mindshare" - any effort that expands OSS and the community/collaboration philosophy helps us all, right? LTSP/K12LTSP may be a good choice for some schools/situations. Something else might be better for others. It needs to be bigger than that. Let's help people find the right fit for them - whatever that is. Or help them figure out how to create/adapt what will work for themselves.

A first thing we can do is really educate the education community on what OSS is, how community/collaboration works, what stuff is already out there, what it can do for them, what it will cost them (in time/money/whatever), what help they can expect and where to look for that help. Give them an opportunity to safely examine the software - Open CD, LiveCDs, etc. And start building a "global" repository - for software, for curriculum, for administrative tools, for information. And a place for kids to explore OSS and share their work.

This isn't a Red Hat thing, or a Novell thing, or a's a supporting kids and education thing - an Open Source thing. A choice thing. Am I too far out there? or does this sound similar to what you're thinking?

Right on the money for me, Lucy!

What is a Wiki?

What is a Wiki?

Invented by Ward Cunningham, wikis are a read/write web technology that allow for easy, fast, and collaborative websites to be built without the need for special software or a lot of training. A wiki is a web-based tool that trades simplicity in design for sophisticated multi-user publishing capability--all from a common web browser.

As such, a wiki can be used in three basic ways.

Simple Web Publishing

First, a wiki can serve as an easy web-publishing tool that is managed by a single individual. Whereas a blog can serve a simlar function, a blog has an inherent chronological structure which is limiting. A wiki, on the other hand, has the capacity to allow for the organization of data in either a hierarchical or hyperlink fashion, according to the designs of the publisher. With no expense for a web publishing program, and with the independence of being able to work from any computer with a connection to the Internet and a web browser, a wiki is an incredibly effective tool for writing to the web.

Two Can Tango

Second, a wiki can be "partially collaborative." Multiple individuals, again only requiring access to a web browser, can participate together in the building of information in one website. In a "partially collaborative" wiki, while they are publishing together to a single website, their content does not overlap and may be delegated or assigned.

Full Collaboration

Third (and arguably the "secret sauce" to wonderful world of wikis) a wiki can be "fully collaborative." In this method of using a wiki, multiple individuals work together and often work on the same content. While it might seem that allowing many people the ability to work on, modify, or overwrite each others work would result in chaos, it typically results in the participants choosing to write in a thoughtful, non-partisan fashion so that others will feel comfortable with the content and minimizing the need for a tug-of-war. Most wiki software allows for a mirrored "discussion" page for each page of content, where contributors can actually talk over the content of the page and their feelings about how it should be presented. A good example of a "fully collaborative" wiki that many people are familiar with is Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows anyone to edit any page that they want to, with pretty amazing results.

Why It Works

There are two safety features (I like to call them "anchors") that allow the deep and free level of collaboration in wikis. The first is the ability to see every change that has taken place on every page of a wiki--either in the history tab of an individual page, or in an overall view of the wiki's changes. Thus, nothing is lost forever, and changes can be undone. The second feature is the ability to "watch" particular content pages, which means that the wiki software alerts the user to any changes that have taken place on a page or pages that he or she cares about. This helps to explain to the uninitiated how it is that an error in a site like Wikipedia can be corrected in a matter of a few minutes.

What's Next?

Wikis are an amazing technology. You can try them out (for free, of course), at or My site for SupportBlogging! is a Wikispaces wiki--if you want to see what that is like, you can go to An example of a PBWiki site is the wiki for coordinating our efforts at the NECC 2006 show in San Diego:


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Web 2.0 and Computer Reuse

A great societal change is taking place. The new read/write web, now commonly referred to as "Web 2.0," is providing amazing opportunities for the use of computers in education. The ability to write to the web as well as to read from the web is fundamentally altering society, and ushering in a culture of participation the world has never before seen. Children in the poorest slums in Brazil keep online journals and correspond with affluent college students; political prisoners in repressive countries pass notes to family members who post them on blogs with a worldwide readership; families now store, catalog, and then share photo and video memories online. Many observers have likened the advent of these technologies to the invention of the printing press, and it seems likely the comparisons are accurate, and the that societal changes will be just as significant.

We now face both challenges and opportunities. Just as the invention of moveable type allowed the wide disemmination of all kinds of printed material, both good and bad, the read/write web presents parents and educators with the challenge of a medium where there are both perceived and real dangers. As we sort those challenges out, we have a unique opportunity to teach the technologies of the web to today's youth, and to coach them not only in the appropriate use of these technologies, but in becoming true contributors to the accumulated knowledge of the world.

There is some really good news. The educational applications inherent in Web 2.0 have taken basic computer use well beyond the traditional teaching of office-productivity applications and web research, but the computing power needed for these technologies is actually very low--in many cases, just a web browser is needed. This means that at the very time that we are likely to conclude that we really do need a computer for every student in school, we should now be able to afford them. Current estimates are that close to 100,000 computers are obsoleted in the US every day, less than 5% of which get reused here in this country, but the great majority of which are fully capable of running Web 2.0 applications.

What an incredible opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: to provide computers in classrooms at a time when they can really make a difference, by re-using existing technology.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

SupportBlogging! Logo Available

We've created a version of the SupportBlogging! logo that can be placed on websites to express support for educational blogging and to direct interested parties to the website. I'm hoping you might pass this along to your blogging friends, including (especially?) those who blog professionally and may see the importance of helping foster a thoughtful dialogue about the read/write web in schools.

I've written some guidelines for the use of the logo which appear at and which essentially boil down to trying to protect it from being pre-empted for commercial use. Please link the logo to

I'm also thinking of having some hats or t-shirts made up with the logo for the NECC show. If you think you'd want to express your support for educational blogging in this public sort of way, let me know so I can figure out how many I would need to order.

I was interviewed yesterday by School Library Journal, which is planning a short piece on SupportBlogging! in their July issue. Pretty amazing what a wiki can do--a week and a day after registering the domain and starting to put up some content and a reporter calls. Good stuff!

"Don't ban the blog" from The Times Educational Supplement

A relatively shallow take on the concerns about banning access in schools to the read/write web appears in the TES at

I do think that the read/write web is going to usher in social changes that will rival or exceed the effect of the printing press. So we need to be thoughtful and really look at all sides of the issue of student access to blogs, wikis, and social networking sites--both for reading and for writing. Some thoughts:

1. A lot of the negative behavior being showcased in social networking sites has always gone on, but only now is being so publicly displayed. It's not clear how much the medium causes and how much it just documents. What we can say is that it is clearly more visible on the web, and more likely to be seen. So it is important to take some care.

2. The term "disinhibition" is being used to desribe saying or doing things online that you wouldn't do in person, and is clearly a real phenomenon. This is a valid argument that the medium itself does contribute to behavior problems.

3. Most parents have no idea how many social networking sites and web-based email accounts kids have.

4. One of the best ways to teach social responsibility online is with an adult working with youth through these new technologies. Parents should be the primary solution; but as the tools of the read/write web are becoming more and more prerequisites for college and business, it seems appropriate that schools start to teach kids about responsible online behavior in the same way that they would teach responsible journalism.

5. Many schools are blocking any and all blogging, social networking, or read/write websites because of content concerns--and thereby ensuring that kids in those districts will do all of their online contributing without teacher oversight. A very tricky problem, and one that DOPA is bringing to the forefront.

I started the website last week for the very purpose of trying to bring a thoughtful, positive voice to the debate on the educational use of blogging. I hope this valuable dialogue can continue with appreciation for both the concerns and the promise of the new technologies of the web.

Consolidating My Blogs

I've combined my two blogs, both on educational technology but originally somewhat different, into the blog. I'll still cover both topic areas (educational technology/open source software for K12 schools), but they seem to be less and less distinct and really can fit into one blog.

The domain name will now point to a wiki site, where I will be asking for contributions and thoughts as I prepare a book on the use of Free and Open Source software in schools. Please feel free to contact me or to contribute to the wiki.

Thank you!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

NECC Booth: Blogs, Wikis, and the Read/Write Web

SupportBlogging! will be hosting a "hands-on" BLOGS, WIKIS, & THE READ/WRITE WEB booth at NECC 2006 (National Educational Computing Conference) in San Diego. The show is from July 5th - 7th, but the booth will only be open Thursday and Friday, the 6th and 7th.

The booth is part of a number of "playground" booths sponsored by the Open Source Software Lab (in the Sails Pavilion). Other booths will be showcasing Ubuntu, Moodle, SchoolTool, OpenOffice, Firefox, and more.

Come to learn, share your enthusiasm, or help others. For more information or to volunteer to help see or email

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Educational Blogging vs. Social Networking

Most people (OK, most adults) don't know the difference between "blogs" and "social networking" sites.

Blogging is the posting of journal-like pages to a website. While these pages can contain photos or media, they are primarily focused on the easy ability to post written thoughts to a website. The postings are organized chronologically. Typically, a blog "post" can be "commented" on by others, allowing for a dialogue on a the topic of the post. Teachers and educators have used blogs to allow for what is commonly called "peer review," meaning that students can post writings or assignments to the web, and other students can respond or encourage through the comment feature.

Social networking sites, while they include the ability to post written material to the web, revolve much more around the ability of an individual to build a web "presence" and to create visible links with others in the network. What writing there is on a social networking site is often in computer slang, intended to be "different." These sites often allow the ability to place music, photo, and video content on the site, allowing the individual to showcase their likes and dislikes. A form of text messaging is often included as well, with a history of the messages appearing on the site. Again, all of the features of social networking sites are intended to create social interactions with others.

Many parents understand the appeal of social networking sites, as they are used to the lengths that youth will go to receive attention--whether positive or negative. Our individual needs to be acknowleged, to be valued, and to be part of a group are heightened during teenage years. Social networking sites provide a fast and effective way to give and receive attention, and not all of it appropriate. Because technology often provides a perceived buffer from regular consequences, people will say and do things through technology that they would not do face-to-face. If this is apparent with text messaging on cell phones, it seems even more glaring on social networking sites. Youth who do not have any real understanding of the dangers or consequences of certain behavior will often talk openly about sexual issues or post provocative pictures online. While this may sometimes reflect their actual behavior, it is believe that more youth are being provocative in order to gain attention--not realizing how dangerous this actually is.

Educational blogging takes advantage of the desire to express oneself and to receive feedback, but within the confines of the technology and the educational environment it is implemented in. And when done as part of a teacher- or parent-initiated program, educational blogging starts with the assumption that the teacher or parent will be actively watching the content and the dialogue. The ability to contribute, through posting content and comments to the web, in an academic discipline accomplishes something of significance: it gives youth a vision of their ability to add to the accumulated knowledge and understanding of the world.

Both social networking and blogging carry a risk of an "online predator" seeking to gain information about individuals through their online content. Blogging sites are relatively easier for parents or teachers to protect (and can often limit their ability to viewed to only to certain other individuals), but it does require thoughtful oversite and discussion to make sure that personal details are not divulged that would create risk (e.g., "today I went to my regular yoga class that I go to every Tuesday at 6:00 on Douglas Road..."). Blogging sites devoted to educational topics are less likely to carry this type of "journaling" content as well.

Social networking sites are accurately described as typically revealing personal details that would put a youth at risk of a predator. By their very nature, social networking sites are intended to create social connections. While there are many youth using social networking sites in responsible ways, such sites are just inherently revealing. Many parents are either unaware that their children have social networking "presences," or that these sites even exist.

Clearly, the best remedy for making sure that parents are comfortable with the online behavior of their children is awareness and oversight. And it would be a shame for the very real risks of social networking to discourage parents and teachers from active involvement in educational blogging.

What is Educational Blogging?

From the new SupportBlogging! website:

Educational Blogging is blogging by students, teachers, administrators, industry experts, and other involved entities that focus primarily on the educational process and educational interests.

In the context of the SupportBlogging! website, we focus primarily on the use of blogging as an educational tool that teachers introduce to their students, then use as a means of promoting learning. One of the great educational benefits of the read/write web, and blogging particularly, is the opportunity for the student to become a "teacher" by presenting material to an audience. When we teach, we learn.

Another benefit to educational blogging (and wiki-writing) is the opportunity for the student to find a personal "voice" and to develop individual interests. Much like journal-writing, blogging gives wings to ideas that otherwise may can stay trapped in the mind. Many individuals find that blog-writing changes their lives in a significant way by allowing them to express their ideas in a medium that appears to have life and longevity--and that might find a kindred audience.

It is not expected that all students will take to blogging (just as not all students enjoy writing), but it is believed that blogging has a unique ability to create enthusiasm for writing and the communication of ideas.


Today I set up SupportBlogging! ( to provide an opportunity for students, teachers, administrators, parents, and others to help promote an understanding of the benefits of educational blogging.

"Educational Blogging" is a positive, tranformational technology that is often confused with "Social Networking" sites like While there are similarities in the web technologies used for blogging and social networking sites, they serve different purposes. The current backlash against social networking sites has the potential to overshadow the benefits of educational blogging. Hopefully, this site will provide materials for decision-makers as they determine policies for their schools and districts that would impact the use of educational blogging or potentially restrict access to sites that provide blogging services.

The website is actually a "wiki," which means that is it hoped that you will contribute to the content of the website. Instructions on how to do so are on the website.

Topic links on the site are currently:

  • What is a Blog?
  • What is Educational Blogging?
  • What is the Difference Between Educational Blogging and Social Networking (e.g., MySpace)?
  • Articles and Resources on Educational Blogging
  • Links to Teachers, Schools, and Districts Using Educational Blogging
  • Testimonials for Educational Blogging
  • Starting to Blog
  • What is DOPA?
  • SupportBlogging! Petition
  • Help Needed