Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Day With My Son

Today I took my son to school.  I kissed him and hugged him.  I let him know that I will be there to pick him up.  I assured him that I work hard for him.  He already knows all this.  I tell him everyday.

Today I felt the void that my son feels in his life.  Today I realized that I am just not enough.  While I love him with all my heart, I am just that- one heart.  He used to be loved by two hearts.  No matter how much I love on him, I cannot kiss both cheeks at once, hug him with four arms, or cuddle with him on both sides.

Today I must be strong for him.  My face must stay dry and my eyes must stay focused.  I must listen when he talks and show that I understand.  He tries to stay strong for me too.  Who is there for us if we can't be strong?  Who picks up Mommy at the end of the day?

Today, I cry, hard, on the inside.  My mind wanders.  My thoughts travel at light speed.  My heart is heavy with stabbing pangs of guilt but I will wear a smile.  If anyone asks, I will say that I'm fine. . . but no one will ask.  No one has called in a while.  If anyone were to ask what I accomplished today, I will list tasks of importance and never mention how hard they were to complete.

Today, just like every other day, I accept the fact that I am not a perfect parent.  Normally, I just tell myself to learn from my mistakes and move on to better things.  This time is different, however.  This time I promised my son something without having the ability to deliver on that promise.  He went from not wondering to ecstatically hoping.  When I failed, my son's heartbreak and my nightmares won't let me forget.  To move on, do I try to fix what happened?  Do I just apologize?  Do I, can I stop it from happening ever again?  I've never claimed to have all the answers.  No parent does. . . but this. . . I need the answer.

Today, I pray and ask for forgiveness. . . and wisdom. . . and strength I can't possibly hope to possess.  Today I ask God to be my other half and give my son all he needs.  I go through my internal dialogue, again, arguing about how he would be better with someone else. . . with me. . . with someone else. . . he needs me. . . right?  Or do I need him more?  Am I selfish?  Am I selfless?  God, I suck at this. . . but I'm the best shot he has at making it through this life.

Today, he will still love me, even though I have hurt him.  Today, he will still smile and he will forgive me.  Today, he will chose to hide his unhappiness and show me his best.  He will show me the forgiveness and wisdom and strength I need.  Today he will lead and I will follow.  I have raised a man. . . at five years old.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I'm Pro-Choice. Here's why.

I have been on birth control most of my life. I have been given the pill, the shot, Nuva ring, and now I have an implant. I have rarely if ever had my own health insurance. Medicaid paid for 80% of my prescriptions. Now with mandated Obamacare, I have a hard time imagining women not having access to birth control via a provider. 

Texas recently defunded Planned Parenthood. Texas also, allegedly, experienced a spike in birth rates. People are blaming Texan politicians and the "lack of access to birth control and/or abortions for low-income women."

Seriously?? If you can't afford babies, then don't make babies, i.e. stop having unprotected sex! If you can't get your birth control from Planned Parenthood, go see a OB/GYN! Medicaid will pay for it (see my first paragraph)! Get a prescription! Medicaid will pay for it! Don't blame your lack of birth control on Planned Parenthood's lack of state tax money. 

Still can't afford birth control? ...can you afford condoms? Usually they are free at a health department. Still no? Don't have sex! Birth control is way cheaper than raising a kid or even getting an abortion. Take responsibility for your sexual behaviors. Don't rely on men to provide condoms. Buy your own or use something else. Not sure how to use other non-condom barrier methods? GO READ A BOOK AND GET EDUCATED.

I'm pro-choice. I believe that I, a woman, have choices when it comes to birth control. I choose when and how I have sex. I choose to look at my bank account prior to popping out babies! I don't believe it's the tax payer's choice to fund my abortion nor my child that I couldn't afford in the first place! I choose to be educated about my reproductive health and accept responsibility for my adult decisions.
I don't need Jesus to tell me children are miracles. I have met those people waiting for children to adopt, fostering other people's children, and fundraising to bring their adoptee home. If I did need Jesus' instruction, He would tell me to read about Hannah, 1 Samuel Chapter 1. If any woman will break your heart about children, Hannah is the one.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Changing the Fast-Growing Demographic

During my studies as a graduate student, I came across this interesting bit of information: more children that are being born into single-parent households are born into households where Mom was never married.  Let's stop and think about this.  Children in single-parent homes are generally the offspring of unwed mothers!  I  can guarantee that all of us can think of a single woman raising her child without a history of divorce.  Everyone has heard the most misconstrued statistic in the world "half of all marriages end in divorce."  (I won't go into why this quote enrages me in this post.)  If half of marriage partners really are getting divorced, then the single-parent homes should be, for the most part, accounted for.

I have also read that women are generally waiting until they are older to get married and have children-from their late twenties to early thirties range.  A growing number of women are starting to pursue education and careers before they settle down.  How can women be getting married later at the same time as single parent households are increasing at an all-time high?

Although divorce is rampant, I don't believe it accurately explains the single-parent phenomena.  Today, men and women are shamelessly having sexual intercourse outside of marriage.  Mechanically, sex has two sonsequences: creating babies or spreading STD's.   (Yes, people have sex for pleasure but I'm talking about producing a physical product- not a sensational feeling.  Think about sex as a factory assembly line where two workers making a product.)  If you know that you are not committed to the other person, then why would you risk creating a child?  When you have sex without any form of pregnancy prevention, you increase the probability of having a child 75%.  Let's be honest.  Females carry a pregnancy for forty weeks before the fetus becomes a child that Dad can help.  Forty weeks is a long time- long enough for someone to plan his or her escape from parenthood.  According to the statistics, Dads are most likely to bail once they know or displace their responsibilities once they are notified. 

Whether the relationship ended before she knew she was pregnant, he bailed, or someone got a divorce, the someone is now a single parent.  When I think of every kid's childhood, I cannot imagine a little girl or boy saying, "I can't wait to be a single-parent and raise my child or children alone!"  With the ideal of raising the child in a home with two loving parents and two incomes gone, life just got tougher. . . a lot tougher.

When one is living under less than ideal circumstances like those I just described, then one should focus on making the best of the situation.  Sleeping with Private Joe Snuffy or G.I. Jane without a condom right before he or she deployed was a bad idea.  Forgive yourself.  Adjust fire and continue on with your new mission of single-parenthood.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  If you need to get on welfare for a while, do it.

Let's talk about getting on welfare.  State aid, welfare, or whatever you call it is a temporary solution to your long-term issue.  Raising a child does NOT get cheaper with time.  (Everytime I compare my total at Wal-mart to amount of items in my cart, I want to riot.)  Providing for your child today will not be easier because you, the parent, will be faced with challenges everyday.  Inflation, the price of daycare, available housing, your level of education, outrageous costs of tuition, and the depreciation of the American dollar are just a few the issues you'll encounter.  While raising a child alone in this economy is difficult, it can be done.  Welfare can help with that, if you qualify.  If welfare does help you improve your circumstance, that is wonderful.  Don't count on it to always be there though.  Your state and federal governments are under some of the same pressures.  Funneling money at the rate that they do now may not be possible in the future.

Representative Kim Hammer (R-AK) understands these facts.  In order to encourage sustainable welfare programs and responsible behavior of welfare recipients, she is offering to reimburse  the costs to IUD or Norplant implantation to females on welfare.  Paraguard outlines the one-time fee to purchase their copper IUD on their website.  Although $932 is a initial out-of-pocket cost, it would be worth it when compared to what state governments are spending on welfare.  As a divorced parent, I was on welfare for 21 months and received $323 a month in foodstamps for my one child and myself.  In that time frame, I cost my state government $6,783.  *If the state government paid for a hypothetical IUD prior to my pregnancy, I theoretically could have saved taxpayers $5,851.  (*In reality, I cannot receive an IUD.  My child is five years old.  I am a taxpayer myself and I don't plan on getting on welfare ever again.)  I am one person.  In Kentucky, more than 900,000 people get government assistance, that's about 21% of the state. That does not include people on temporary state assistance, like K-TAP or TANF.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Homelessness and Me

My own encounter with homelessnes is mild compared the realities that the currently homeless share.  I have recounted that unpleasant experience for you in a different blog post.*  I want to discuss homelessness in the United States and my proposed solution to it. 

While I hope everyone can glean something personally meaningful from this post, I want to reach out to the Universal Church- Christians.  As with every good finger-pointing, I am a Christian and I am just as much to blame as any other Christian.  Since I am indeed equally to blame, I feel as though the time has come to do something about it.  Before we Christians can fully address homelessness, we need to reflect upon our financial preparedness to answer God's calling to care for the poor.  Ultimately, God calls to be financially prepared to invest in His most precious and priceless asset- the souls of His creation.

We are called to serve God and live our lives as Christ lived His own.  We cannot be wholly free to serve God if we are chained to debt.  Figuratively, debt enslaves us and makes itself our master.   Debt and unnecessary financial obligations hinder us from fully serving God.  Matthew 6:24 NIV reminds us “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."  Christ wants us to be free in every aspect of our lives. John 8:36 NIV tells us that "He who the Son sets free, is free indeed."  Right now, examine your lives.  Are to able to freely respond to God's financial calling on your life?  Or are you slaving away to work off your debt which has made itself your master?

Eventually, I came to a point in my life where I was tired of serving Mammon.  The fight to free myself from this spirit brought me face to face with homelessness.  God was faithful even when my potential homelessness seemed inevitable.  He put me in a rental house.  This house had been for sale but had sat empty for six months.  The owners know me and were aware of my struggle.  God moved on my behalf and filled them with compassion.  They offered me their house to live in and decided to take it off the market.  I have lived in this same house since late 2012. 

Three years in a neighborhood isn't a long time to live somewhere but I believe I see a trend.  On my street alone, five houses are for sale.  They have sat empty for the last two months.  Then, three more empty houses sit without any signs of sale or potential occupation.  When one house is purchased, another is vacated.  This trend continues and my street continues to host multiple empty houses.  Driving around my suburb further validates my suspicions- empty houses on almost every street.  I can only speculate why these houses are empty.

Then I read this: "Homeless Man from Louisville Freezes to Death on the Steps of a Homeless Shelter."  You can read the whole article yourself here.  I see homeless people in my town, at my school, and in my church.  How is this possible?  I'm not so naive to think that every single homeless person wants to live in a house with expenses.**  I will say that young Kenneth Winfield didn't want to freeze to death.  How many more homeless people are going to die this way-exposed to the elements?  How long will we, Christians, allow this to happen?

Faced with homelessness in my community and a crappy housing market, I have decided to juxtapose these two issues against each other.  What if I were able to buy houses and give them to homeless people?  What if other people in my community, or even in my state, were able to do the same thing?  What if other people in other states found out and did the same thing??  We, the people of the United States, could collectively conquer both issues at once. 

This is my solution.  Is it lofy?  A bit.  Can I do it?  I believe I can.  I accept the possibility that my personal impact may be small.  I may only give away one house and to only one person.  If one soul is added to kindgom as a result of my efforts, I believe it's worth it.  I'm hoping that one person will be like the leper that Jesus healed and asked him to tell no one (Mark 1:40-45 NKJV.)  Verse 45 tells us "he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter. . .".  This ministry has reflections of Christ's ministry all over it.  I believe that God was faithful to me to show Himself through me.  Exodus 9:16 NKJV "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth."   

*I haven't written that post yet.  When I do, I will update this one.
**I have met homeless people that would rather couch surf with friends or live out of their cars than be tied down to a house with rules or expenses.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Week 8 Security Issues

This lesson should be the first lesson for this Educational Technology course.  If students and staff are not operating in a safe virtual environment, then not much else is going to matter.  

We have looked at several web tools that allow for users to edit someone's work, enable chat room applications, have whiteboard applications, offer free email, and permit uploading and downloading without bias.  All of these tools allow users to interact with each other either in a synchronous or asynchronous manner.  These interactions make us vulnerable.  We need to keep our home computers safe, personal mobile devices safe, school networks safe, and students safe.  This begs the question how do we keep ourselves safe in the rapidly evolving tech world.  Let's try to answer that question.  Once we have answered this question, I want you to reflect on your own life.  Are you modeling safe internet conduct?  We have to practice these guidelines ourselves before we can prove their effectiveness to our kids, students, and administrators.

First, let's look at the threats we are face.  

This article explains malicious software in easy-to-understand terms.  How Stuff Works- Viruses, Worms, Trojans.
Basically, malicious software damages your files and programs.  Depending on how the malware is written, it can send itself to your contacts in your email address book.  It has the potential to infect the masses in mere minutes.  The malware damage results in loss of functionality and may completely shut down your computer.

Hackers are people that deliberately breach security barriers and leak sensitive information contained therein.  They usually aren't interested in deleting or modifying files as much as making them public.

This attack comes in two forms.  The first form is the phishing website and/or ad banner (a.k.a. pop-up.)  This website is actually a portal to a criminal's database.  The criminal waits for you to enter your personal information and send it to them via typing in the fields provided and clicking "submit."  The second form is a phishing email.  This email seems like it is from a real person or company.  The email asks for you to send some kind of sensitive information in a reply. Either way, scam artists want your personal information and will stop at nothing trying to get it.  Some want a thrill; some want bragging rights.  Others are simply in it for the money.  Why buy a gun and forcibly rob you when they can create a simple website and you hand them your bank account information willingly (albeit unknowingly)?  The why is irrelevant though.  These guys are sneaky and growing in number.

This PBS link is actually a documentary that examines how people are constantly wired up, tuned in, and powered on.  Cyberbullying is not specifically mentioned but other equally disturbing issues are.

PBS Reports on Our Digital Nation and the Detriment of Being Connected 24/7
The days of "leaving work at work" are gone.  Bullying used to be an evil person in your face when you walked into the school building or got on the bus.  Those jerks would have to use their own the time and effort to physically seek you out.  Now, students can slip in the side entrance, have their parents drive them everywhere, and change their schedules but bullies still find them.  While students and parents may be putting physical effort into protecting students, bullies have changed the location of the battlefield.  Brandishing their cowardice like a war medal, they hide in the shadows of the intangible, virtual world of social networking, phone messaging, and victim gullibility.  With mobile devices increasing their presence in schools, it's easy to snap a picture of the "fat girl" changing in the locker room and post it on Facebook/Twitter for all the high school population to see.  Facebook also allows people to privately message each other without permission from the recipient.  What kids were saying in gym class is then PM'd to the "fat girl's" Facebook account.  She makes the connection between the muffled laughter and her classmates' stares.

As I write this, I cannot stop thinking about one the most grotesque exercises of cyberbullying- The Rape of 15 Year Old Steubenville, Ohio Jane Doe in August 2012.  She didn't die but her captors thought she had. . .  

Jane started that evening at a school volleyball pizza party at 7 p.m.  The high school volleyball team was celebrating in the gym.  Jane got text messages from a girl she knew and trusted while attending the party.  The texting girl was dating a football player.  The football player was friends with Jane's ex-boyfriend, another football player.  The ex-boyfriend wanted revenge on Jane for dumping him.  He convinced his friend's girlfriend to text Jane and invite her to a "party with all the cool kids."  The girl promised to pick Jane up from school and no one would know.  Jane's girlfriend (and a posse) picked Jane up from school and gave Jane a drugged glass of champagne.  After the ruffies set in, the male passengers in the SUV starting raping her... and snapping pictures of her bent over the seat, unconscious, half-naked. She was heavily drugged and raped multiple times by multiple boys in multiple ways at multiple locations that night.  Rape is the ultimate form of bullying- someone overpowering someone else just because he (or she) can.  The rapists then posted pictures of Jane and themselves online via Twitter and Facebook.  Jane is unconscious in all of them.  Several followers of the graphic posts left nasty comments like "I have no respect for whores."  Cyberbullying at its best...

The girl was unceremoniously dropped onto her own front lawn at approximately 3 a.m.  The story continues though.  When her parents found her, they immediately took her to the hospital as she was unresponsive, bloody, and barely clothed.  Her ex-boyfriend and his football friends started texting her, threatening her!  More bullying from the shadows!!  They realized that between social media snipits, the rape kit from the hospital, and Jane's text message logs that she was piecing together what happened.  They didn't want her to go forward.  Needless to say, all the records that I just mentioned were examined as damning evidence in the convictions of only two of the rapists.

I said all that to say this- we are fighting a unknown enemy in foreign territory.  We must learn about our enemy and arm ourselves.


You can contact any of the three credit bureaus and put a free 90 day alert on your credit report.  If any new accounts or strange activity are detected within those 90 days, one of the bureaus will contact you to authenticate it.  I have had to do this.  After my last divorce, my crazy ex-husband and his even crazier girlfriend had all my personal information.  Here is a link for more information
Equifax 90 Credit Fraud Alert 
Having said that, you should read over your credit report at least once a year to check for accuracy.  I have personally had to dispute items that were wrong- credit card lines I had open but was told I was initially declined for, addresses I haven't lived at, and strange inquiries from third party companies.
ONLY free annual credit report site

The operating site you choose for your PC and mobile device can lower your chances of intercepting malware.  As Marshall Brain and Wesley Fenlon explain in "How Stuff Works- Viruses, Trojans, and Worms", if you're truly worried about traditional (as opposed to e-mail) viruses, you should be running a more secure operating system like Linux and, to a lesser extent, Apple's Mac OS X. You never hear about viruses on these operating systems because they represent such a small part of the market they're targeted by far fewer viruses than the Windows operating system. Apple's OS X has seen its share, but viruses are still predominately a Windows problem.

Cell Phone Viruses 
Julie Layton recommends these ways to protect your cell phone in her article "How Stuff Works- How Cell-phone Viruses Work"
  • Turn off Bluetooth discoverable mode. Set your phone to "hidden" so other phones can't detect it and send it the virus. You can do this on the Bluetooth options screen.
  • Check security updates to learn about filenames you should keep an eye out for. It's not fool-proof -- the Commwarrior program generates random names for the infected files it sends out, so users can't be warned not to open specific filenames -- but many viruses can be easily identified by the filenames they carry. Security sites with detailed virus information include: F-Secure, McAfee and  Symantec.
  • Some of these sites will send you e-mail updates with new virus information as it gets posted.
  • Install some type of security software on your phone. Numerous companies are developing security software for cell phones, some for free download, some for user purchase and some intended for cell-phone service providers. The software may simply detect and then remove the virus once it's received and installed, or it may protect your phone from getting certain viruses in the first place. Symbian has developed an anti-virus version of its operating system that only allows the phone's Bluetooth connection to accept secure files.

Options: Free or Commercial
Whether it's your home computer or a school network, everyone needs anti-virus software.  There anti-virus programs for free and for a fee.  PC Magazine voted BitFender AV as the best commercial anti-virus program.  They also voted AVG Free Anti-virus program the best free AV program.
PC Magazine Reviews Best AV programs 
Scan everything!  You should be running anti-virus scans on your computer at regular intervals (at least once a week) to detect and address problems as soon as they arise.
Updates! Enable automatic updating and actually download the updates.

Most schools have remote access programs in place.  Parents can also do this for their children's computers.  LogMeIn is an application designed for business people who work out of multiple locations.  This programs allows you to remotely log into a specific computer and access its files.  If you are trying to be covert, be advised.  When the overseer moves the mouse, the mouse moves on the remote computer screen as well.  Follow this hypothetical example.  I am on PC#1 and remotely logged into my son's PC #2.  If he is playing a game and I move his mouse to the exit button, he will see the mouse on his screen move to the exit button.  If I click exit, he will see the mouse click and the window closing.

Internet settings can also be used to aid in security.  You can block cookies or allow cookies from certain sites.  You can also make cookies downloadable with your permission only.  This last setting is taxing time wise but can be worth it.  Along with cookies, block pop-up windows.  Often, they are ads.  Sometimes applications that launch in a separate window are filtered and blocked as a pop-up.  Be sure to allow yourself the permission to see both instances.  Of course parents can use safe search and password controls as well.  School generally have website genre restrictions in place.  Most of these options are located in the "Tool" tab in the Menu bar of your browser.   

Most schools and businesses have an acceptable use policy in place.  Examples of such policies would be no email unless it's school server email and you can't open attachments.  In the Army, we had to take classes on information awareness.  We had to be aware of the risks of everyday computer use while on a government network.  The Army didn't allow external storage devices to be used on government computers.  We had plastic ID cards with magnetic strips.  The strips carried our credentials.  Without an ID card, you couldn't log in.  Without the right credntials, you couldn't go onto certain sites.  Sensitive information had to be labeled, sent on a secured network, and opened by someone with an appropriate security clearance.  

Have you ever seen the Discovery Channel series "It Takes a Thief"?  The show has two former felons as the hosts.  They used to be professional robbers.  Now, they use their expertise to educate homeowners about faulty home security.  Discovery would put surveillance cameras in a home one the hosts had decided to rob.  Said host would conduct a robbery.  The second host would watch the live action camera footage with the homeowners. After the robbery, the hosts would score the homeowners based on the following criteria: did anyone in the neighborhood react to the robbery, did the police respond, how long did it take for the police to arrive, the total the value of the merchandise stolen, and damage to the property.  The second host would then give suggestions on how to fix the home's security issues. 

This link has an interview with the anonymous hacking group SpexSec.  Spexsec hacked the Clarksville Montgomery County School System and leaked 14,500 names, SSN, and email passwords to the internet.  The group pointed to CMCSS complacency as main reason for the hacking.
SpexSec says why they hacked CMCSS 
If people want to make a living doing this type of work, organizations need to hire the hackers.  Businesses shouldn't be investing in security measures with the promise that they will work.  These security measures should be tested regularly.  Last year's efforts won't stop this year's hackers.  We need to pay these guys to do their jobs and see how we fare.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Week 7 Tech Explorations

Week 7
Questions to answer
1.  Pick one piece of software or Web 2.0 tool to use in the classroom.  Identify the software or tool and the instructional objectives and goals you will meet.

I will definitely use to present my own lessons.  I will also take time to show Prezi to my students.  They will be able to do assignments with it.  I already featured this application in my webquest from last week.

2.  After using the software or tool with your students, discuss what went well and what challenges you faced.  What would you do differently if you were to use the software again?   

I currently do not teach.

Websites I visited:
Keeping Track of your "stuff" 
          This website allows you to “pin” or save bookmarks of websites in a personal profile.  The profile is more or less just a blank page for the bookmarks.  You can post a small bio and picture of yourself to personalize it.  After you post a bookmark, you can add a comment and/or tags at any time. 
The site offers a bookmark toolbar button so you can add a webpage to your Delicious profile at any time.  I tried to use the button but I couldn’t get it to work.  You can open a Delicious account with your Twitter or Facebook log in or a regular email account.  When you use the FB or Twitter option, you need to decide if you want your Delicious links to appear on your newsfeed.  Delicious says that you can import links that you have previously posted to your FB or Twitter and any you post in the future.  I did the Facebook log in option.  I regularly post links on my FB profile.  None of my links were imported to Delicious.  I’m working on remedying that.  I follow news trends and I hate searching FB activity logs to find articles that I posted weeks or months ago.  Delicious also says that you can import your browser’s bookmarks to your profile as well.  I didn’t do it because (I gathered that) you have to do it one link at a time.
I can see a few uses for my students and myself.  First, I see a place to keep your new trends organized.  Who doesn’t like to stay organized?  Now, we have a good starting place for a blog or a webquest or a wiki.
I recommend this website.  I think that is a better place to organize your posted webpages than FB.  It’s free and personal.  Now you have a reference point the next time you want to do a web-based activity. (starting up slowly)

Historypin is a way for millions of people to come together, from across different generations, cultures and places, to share small glimpses of the past and to build up the huge story of human history.
Everyone has history to share: whether it’s sitting in yellowed albums in the attic, collected in piles of crackly tapes, conserved in the 1000s of archives all over the world or passed down in memories and old stories.
Each of these pieces of history finds a home on Historypin, where everyone has the chance to see it, add to it, learn from it, debate it and use it to build up a more complete understanding of the world.
Currently, Historypin is made up of photographic images, videos, audio clips and descriptive and narrative text.  Photographic images can be pinned directly to the Historypin map by users. These images can be of any location - outdoors or indoors - at any time in the past.  Some of these images, if they are taken outdoors, at street level and at certain angles, will be able to be layered onto Street View (this is a bonus, not a requirement).  Audio and video content can be pinned to the map by users. These should be pinned to the location and date where they were recorded.  Any kind of descriptive or narrative text can be added to images, audio or video.
I could incorporate this site into my class with some serious thought.  If we are learning about any technological innovations, this site would be a great addition.  There are so many interesting things on this site.  I could use it as a conversation starter at the beginning of class just to get people thinking.  I would collaborate with other teachers to find a common thread.
Do I recommend it?  Yes.  This site is very cool.  History comes to life and is more personal.  I have some photos that I need to add to the Olympics photos project.  I have pictures of the Olympic torch passing from one runner to another in Canton, Missouri.

          This website calls itself “a transition from Delicious.”  Diigo is an online cloud program.  You can access your content from anywhere and on any device with an internet connection.  You can still perform the same features as Delicious, such as tagging, private/public bookmarks, follow bookmarks from a network of people, see popular bookmarks by tags, import and export bookmarks, and automatically post your bookmarks to your blog daily or weekly.  Diigo takes it one step further.
- save bookmarks as private by default (optional)
    - organize your bookmarks as a list and shown as a slide
    - set up groups to pool resources and curate content
    - automatically bookmark your twitter favorites
    - keep a full-text copy of your bookmarks (Premium features)
    - full-text search of your bookmarks (Premium features)
    - save notes and images, in addition to bookmarks
    - use highlights and sticky notes as you read - do not just bookmark
    - capture a portion of the screen and annotate on the screenshot (this preserves your site and makes note taking more meaningful)
Diigo does not support tag bundles.  (Delicious does.)  You can import bookmarks from one site to the other.  When using the mobile app for Android or iPhone, you have a “photographic memory available at all times.”  You can also download entire webpages to read offline at your convenience.
I can see a few uses for my students and myself.  First, I see a place to keep your news trends organized.  Who doesn’t like to stay organized when following a good story?  Now, we have a starting place for a blog or a webquest or a wiki.  Second, I see note taking and sharing taken to the next level.  Now you can annotate and literally connect your points.  My blog could get really sophisticated.  My students would definitely find this helpful.  They can take their readings with them.
This sites helps students and teachers grasp the NETS Standards of Model Digital Age Work and Learning and Design and Develop Digital Age Experiences and Assessments.  Designing a profile of bookmarks is causing students to re-think note taking and make real world connections.  Whether you are a student or a teacher, this site creates a relevant learning experience that incorporates digital tools and resources to promote learning and creativity.  When your bookmarks are public, you can see who else is following the same line of thought.  Now, you are collaborating with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation.
I recommend this website.  I think that is a better place to organize your bookmarks than Delicious.  It’s free and personal.  Now you have a reference point the next time you want to do a web-based activity.  It claims to be designed for the person that digests a lot of webpages.  That claims proves to be true.

          This site has a virtual standard calculator.  If you click on a button, the website reads your selection out loud.  There are links to children’s shows and math games on the page as well. 
I did not like this site and I don’t recommend it.  Looking at the bottom of the page, I found no contact information for site maintenance.  This site is suffering some technical issues.  The calculator loaded fine.  I did one simple calculation and got the right answer.  When I attempted to click another button, I noticed something was wrong.  The graphic display of the buttons was not lining up with the virtual buttons.  For example, I kept trying to click the “5.”  My mouse was centered on the “5.”  I kept hearing and seeing the number “2.”  I moved my mouse up and hovered over the “8.”  Then I clicked my mouse and got a “5.”  After reloading the webpage, I got the same issue. 

          This site gives you a virtual standard calculator that you can download for free.  The creator is cited directly on the page.  He has a comment section where you can rate his calculator application.  If you need assistance, you can contact the creator via his link “Tell Us about an Update.”  Here is the description of the app straight from the site.
When you get your answer, it is spoken verbosely: i.e. 1,234 = "one thousand, two hundred and thirty-four" and not "one-two-three-four."  You may turn the voice on or off.  You may select what color you would like for the display window.  All options you select are saved to disk, so they are not lost when you exit the program.  This includes the number you store in memory.  Separators are provided, and they are optional, (example: 1,000 or 1000).  The voice feature is provided only in English, but you can have all of the screen text appear in any of the following additional languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Afrikaans, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Welsh and Zulu. The help files are available in all of the above languages except Afrikaans, Icelandic, Welsh and Zulu.)  Commas and periods are interchanged as separators and decimal points, depending on the language selected.
          I am not sure if I recommend this site.  The app has had almost 8,000 downloads.  The average rating is 3 out of 5 stars.  The site says it has 11 user reviews, which must have consisted of only rating the app.  The one review that someone wrote explained that the app wasn’t compatible with his version of Vista.  There was no response from the creator.  The site still claims that the app is compatible with Windows 7, Vista, and Macs.  I read that you can only use it in full screen mode.  I’m definitely not a fan of that.
          There was no tutorial video or even a graphic of the calculator.  I don’t think that I would find a use for this in my classroom.  I did not download it.

Math wiki example:
          This wiki highlights various ways to introduce writing in mathematics.  Math does have its own style of writing.  Keeping a log of results and writing out math problems step-by-step were mentioned.  We see these two forms most often in math class.  The wiki also introduces us to the idea of writing math poems and bio-graphing life events.  There are lesson plans to view for inspiration.  The wiki is read-only to non-members.  If you sign up for an account, you can add content to the wiki as well.
          Keeping a journal or log is applicable in high school biology.  I really liked the idea of rating life events and graphing them.  I could use this tool as an ice breaker/first homework assignment.  They would have an easy, yet creative assignment.  I would learn about my students as individuals.  I could focus the assignment on what they have learned in prior science classes.  I could ask them to rate and graph science concepts that they learned based on how well they feel they learned the concept.  For example, I could make a graph of myself.  I could say at seven, I learned physics.  I learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, give it a rating of 10.  I learned balance, left and right brain coordination, and Newton’s Second Law of physics (an object in motion stays in motion unless a net force acts on it.)  When I was seven, I also learned about gravity.  I give this experience a five out of ten.  After crashing my bike, I learned that objects fall at a terminal velocity of 9.8m/s².  The asphalt of the road was my inertia.  It absorbed my kinetic energy and transformed it into potential energy.  Thus, Newton’s First Law of Physics was also learned that day.  (Energy is neither created nor destroyed.  It just changes form.)
          I do recommend this site.  Some of the ideas would be great just to change things up a bit in math class.  The ideas are also helpful when you need to incorporate math into a different subject area.  Introducing math as something else, e.g. a journal, poem, or graph, encourages students to use it without feeling like they are back in math class.  As educators, we are engaging students in higher order thinking.  Now students are pulling skills from math, English, and science to complete their assignment.  We are teaching them to write in new ways and fostering creativity.

          PicLits is a site that allows you to caption photos.  The photos are pre-selected.  You are given two options to caption a photo.  You can choose words from a list or simply “freestyle” and type what you want.
          The creator of the website, Terry Friedlander, monitors the site closely.  There are ads because that is the site’s only form of revenue.  He filters the ads and also asks that users report inappropriate ads if they do pop up.  He describes his site as “edutainment” for all ages.  He makes sure that all the images are appropriate as well.  Although his site has advertising, he promises not to sell your email address.
Currently, the site is very basic.  Mr. Friedlander wants to upgrade this site to include features such as Search, Tagging, Spanish Keywords, and more, along with a Premium version that will provide teacher accounts, private groups, photo uploading, editing tools, multiple languages, and other great tools.  All you need is a working email address for a free account.  I believe the work that you create is public.
You can always find use for this in a class, any class.  I created a serious picture.  You can also be funny.
Even though it is basic, I still recommend this site.  It is free, safe, and has adequate support.
Here is my picture.  When looking at my PicLit, you will notice that the two clocks have the same time on them.  Dogs have shorter life spans than humans.  Humans are always busy and never seem to have enough time.  Regardless of those facts, both the human and dog in the picture have the same amount of time left on earth- today.  We are not promised tomorrow.  The time to love your dog is now.  Carpe diem.  While you have your friends, hobbies, and work, your dog just has you.  Your dog will make the choice to be with you each and every day.  What is your choice? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Week 6 Webquests

Here is a webquest that I found for my potential students Composting Saves

About "Composting Saves":  In this webquest students have to research various methods of composting.  Then, they have to choose a method that they like.  For their assignments, they have to make a poster board that describes the process that they chose.  They have to include step by step instructions and pictures. 
Weakness:  The teacher gives her students 11 websites to visit.  I think that is a little overkill.  Too many websites on the same topic is a weakness to me.  I would have listed six and then had the students look up their own. 
Strength: The teacher states that the best posters will be laminated and publicly displayed in the school.  I like that idea.  She is motivating her students to do their best work.  This is a strength.  I would have made a different project though.  I found an article in a magazine about composting.  It suggested making a "micro-compost pile" using half a two-liter bottle.  I would have had the students use their composting methods to create a small scale compost pile and put these somewhere for other students to view.

MY WEBQUEST URL  Where have all the honeybees gone?

I designed a webquest for a classroom of mainstream high school biology students.  The students are divided into four groups.  I presented the groups with the issue of disappearing honey bee populations.  Then I purposed four major theories that scientists are currently debating.  I asked the students to decide which theory they agree with, to decide which theory they want to disprove, and to offer a solution.  I required that they use a minimum of three sources for their research.  The groups would present their information as a slide show and give a speech.  I incorporated multiple web tools that my students could use for free.

Challenges That I Encountered
  1.  I didn't pay attention to the "Advice" tab.  I typed up an entire student page including web links and multiple paragraph formats in the teacher section.  This sounds like an easy fix, right?  Wrong.  I couldn't cut, copy, or paste.  I had to re-type the entire page.  The second page looked better.  Note to self: once you create a page, you cannot copy and paste from it.
  2. In the age of Autosave, Questgarden is way behind.  You MUST click "Save" at the bottom of each section before you leave that section.  I had to re-type several things before I realized what was happening.  Always hit SAVE.
  3. I liked the Checkpoint questions.  I didn't like typing out my answers but I found the questions very helpful.  They were pointed and helped me include all the vital elements.
  4. The Evaluation page sucked.  I hated it.  I should have kept the original formatting.  I deleted some of it.  When I wanted to add those features back in, I couldn't get it to look the same.  I checked out the "Help" section several times to no avail.  I had a hard time writing what was in head out in those little boxes. 
  5. I totally did not understand the resource section.  I clearly labeled all pictures and cited my information.  I didn't want to make a page listing every single website that I had already listed within the webquest.  It seemed redundant.  
  6. Pictures have to be a 500 pixels x 500 pixels or less.  I couldn't upload several of my own pictures.  I had to use the internet for most of the graphics.  The Jing app has been really helpful.  Most of the screenshots that I take save as small sized images in terms of kilobytes.  I'm still learning how to focus my screen shot to capture the important details of an image.  Some of my pictures are not as close up as I would like but you get the main idea.