Saturday, December 29, 2007

A new home for my website and blog

I did it. I bought myself a domain name and I have moved my professional website to a new location. I would like to welcome you to Shawn Wheeler’s Digital Portfolio located at This site will serve as a home base to the many projects I find myself involved as well as hosting my blog Shawn Wheeler’s Thoughts on Education & Technology which is now located at

Thanks for reading and have a Happy New Year.


End of an era

I have been in the technology side of education my entire career. First in the classroom with 7th and 8th grade students and now I work with adults. During the past ten years, I have seen a number of changes, including and probably the most significant, the explosion of the internet. When I first started, fewer people had access to the internet and there were even fewer web pages. We created pages in raw code using simple text or note pad. Finding a location to host a site was even more of a mystery and finding people who knew how to run a web server was nothing short of finding a needle in a haystack. These skills soon became a job necessity.

Like most educators, I found resources (people and books) to help my educational process. When high-speed internet service came to my neighborhood, I signed up. I built a server (from parts) and began running a web server. Over time, I learned more and more about web servers, building web sites and how to bring web pages to the classroom where teachers could rule their own web site. In fact, I went so far as to document the process for others to learn from (
See The World Wide Web and Your School District). I soon found myself as a network administrator in my own home.

For eight years, I have operated a web, email and DNS servers from my home. Why… Because I could and it was fun. Overtime, these little humming machines transformed from learning tools to maintenance projects. Time for a change.

-DISCLAMER- This is not a paid advertisement and I am receiving no compensation for this post.

I began looking for new location for my web sites to live. I hit the jackpot with this little local company named
GoDaddy. Through this company, I was able to move my domain registration which included DNS management for less money than I was paying to Network Solutions. (Check one, service I don’t need to run in my home.) I also discovered they would host my email service for $19.00 a year. (Check two, services I don’t need to run in my home.) Finally, I was able to move all of my family and new professional web and blog sites to Godaddy for $7.00 a month. (Check three, services I don’t need to run in my home.)

With all of this content running on someone elses equipment, I no longer need a business class DSL service in my home. A phone call to Qwest netted me a six times faster connection to the web for a savings of $40.00 a month.

I have no regrets for running all these machines in my home for so many years. They were great teachers and I have taken a wealth of knowledge from them. Don’t be afraid to try something just for the sake of learning and don’t be afraid to say thank you to one teacher and move to the next subject.

Notice: Shawn Wheeler’s Thoughts on Education & Technology has a new home. Visit the new blog site at or subscribe to the RSS feed at

Shawn also has a new home for his digital portfolio. Visit his new site at

Reading and Learning on the GO

On occasion, I sit down and read a real book. You know the type with pages that you can turn, hold, smell and sometimes even injure yourself. However, most of my reading comes in the form of web sites, blogs, PDF files, email etc… A few years ago I bought an iPod so I could become a podcaster. (Shhh don’t tell anyone but you don’t need the ipod. Click here to see what you really need.) Not long after that, I discovered Having been a longtime fan of books on tape this was a perfect fit for my new tool.

Last month I went to the doctor for my annual physical. The doctor walked in, chatted with me for a few minutes then told me what I knew. Shawn, your blood pressure is up, your weight is up and I am betting so is your cholesterol. I can give you meds for you blood pressure but I think you can fix it if you would do something about it! In not so many words, my doctor told me to get off my fat (insert word here) and exercise. He also told me to push away from the table a little sooner. To think I paid for this abuse.

I live a little over a mile away from one of the
Phoenix Mountain Preserves where my daughter and I occasionally ride our bicycles. This past week, I tried something new. I went for a hike in the preserve and it is beautiful. However, my mind often runs 100 miles an hour and exercise doesn’t help slow it down, that is until fatigue kicks in. Then I start thinking about how tired I am as well as the pain in my legs, back and chest as I try to suck in more oxygen. Then my thoughts turn to stopping, heading back to the car. I know, I will walk to that next cactus. Did I mention I live in the desert!

To combat that little voice telling me to stop, I put on my iPod. As I trek through the pristine urban desert, I occupy my mind with audio books and podcasts. Remarkably, I have found myself walking even further and further. Could it be I am getting in better shape or is my mind better occupied?

If you are wondering, my iPod does have music on it but what would be the fun in that.

Notice: Shawn Wheeler’s Thoughts on Education & Technology has a new home. Visit the new blog site at or subscribe to the RSS feed at

Shawn also has a new home for his digital portfolio. Visit his new site at

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Web Filters getting you down?

Web Filters getting in the way of YouTube and Google Video content.

Now, I would NEVER tell you to circumvent your schools web filter or violate copyright. However, there really is some good content out there that has not been added to
TeacherTube YET.

The other day I stumbled onto a Windows application that will download
YouTube or Google Video content and allow you to convert it into different formats. From there, you use the video in an educational setting. Cool don’t you think!

Check out to download this application. There at no directions, that I have found and I have not created any. With that said, it will take you about 3 minutes to figure it out. It is cool.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What is Personal Computing?

I just got back from T+L 2007 and it is time to recall and document everything I saw worth remembering. This year, I lucked out because every presentation I attended was great. The one I am going to write about now was called “Personal Computing: New Solutions for the Classroom @ Web 2.0” and it was facilitated by Jim Hirsch of Plano Independent School District.

Just a couple items before we start, I am going to hit the points that caught my attention. However, I highly recommend you review his slide deck and the resources he has listed on the two web sites below. The slide deck Jim used during his presentation is linked here and to the title of the presentation above.

As Jim rolled through his slide deck, he pointed out the many differences between who we were as students and the students who attend our schools. In addition, he pointed out something I had never thought about. Back in the day, our TV heroes were individuals and now, our TV heroes are teams of people who have to work together and collaborate. Jim completed the point with a slide that read:

The Lesson from Version 2.0 heroes in TV and teaching?Collaboration – not just sharing – is the way in which our students expect to find in information, solve problems and create new understandings

Sitting in that room, I wrote the following on my note pad. “Individual learning is transforming (or should be) to team learning”. I thought to myself, we have been talking about this for several years but we still have yet to make any major jump

Continuing through his slide deck, Jim started into Web 2.0 and he began with the video “The machine is us/ing us” by Mike Wesch and it is available on both YouTube and TeacherTube. As you watch this video for the first or fiftieth time, think about how long we have had access to this technology and how it has changed our day-to-day lives as well as what impact it has had on our classrooms.

While you debate in your mind how our classrooms have changed for the positive or negative with all this digital and hyper data, consider these items Jim placed on the screen which connect our students.
  • Social networking
  • Googlization of Everything
  • “Fingertip Knowledge”
Probably the most prevalent and contentious Social Networks we as teachers are aware of is Facebook and My Space. Are these sites contentious because they are evil or is it we just don’t understand them? Should we as educators learn about them or ignore them and hope they go away? What should be we be teaching out students about these social networks? While you debate that concept in your mind, click these four links to the Peoria Unified School District web site. November 1996November 1998November 2002Today. Did you know the Way Back Machine has 589 versions of the Peoria web site? Do you think our students would be as apt to place “VERY” personal content on the web if they knew it may never go away?

Googlization? Is that even a word? Hardly a day goes by that I don’t “Google” something or someone and you may be the same way. My library had a card catalog now the world has Google!

Fingertip Knowledge? I looked at my fingertips just now and asked them what they knew! While they didn’t speak to me, if they could they would have told me to Google it! We tend to remember less today because we know more. Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron but think about this point Jim made. We used to remember phone numbers. Lots of phone numbers, yet today if I want to know the number of my cell phone, I have to flip it over as the number is taped on the back. Is this really a new concept or just a new name? Thirty years ago I stood looking at a library of law books in my mother’s office. I asked her boss if he knew all the information in those books. He patted my head and said “No Shawn, I just know where to look.” The modern attorney does too, but now he/she looks them up online. Hmm Fingertip Knowledge!

Continuing on with Web 2.0, Jim showed his Web 2.0 applications slide. While I don’t necessarily agree with running from our mainstream software applications, (A topic for a different blog post), we should be aware of these applications and realize more are being added to the world daily. Note: As I am looking up these sites I am using another Web 2.0 tool called which is a social bookmarking site. This is my page and these links are tagged with Web 2.0.
Next slide Web 2.0 content
If you have been clicking on these links you should be getting pretty overwhelmed. But wait, this is where is starts to get wild and/or frightening depending on your point of view. How do we connect all this to our kids and what does it have to do with personal computing? To move on, you might need to change what you consider computing. I am typing on a Sony Vaio desktop computer. Why, because I am comfortable with it. Could I have created this post on my HP IPaq? Maybe, but it would have taken me the rest of the year to get the text on the screen. What about that cell phone our students have glued to their hand? Our kids, SMS text message each other, listen to music, take and send pictures to each other and believe it or not, they sometimes even talk on them,(probably to their parents who still can’t text.), LOL.

The bottom line is personal computing is just that, it is personal and as long as designers and engineers are thinking outside the box, we will continue to see new personal computing tools. Even today, my daughter’s, Sony PSP has built in WIFI and a web browser. I have not looked for a while but I would bet there could be some applications that run on it now, too. How about all the smart phones that double as PDA’s and cameras and unless you just crawled out from under a rock, you have to know about the Apple IPhone which can now use Google Docs!

Oh, and if you are one of those who want to be on the cutting edge by using a mobile device in education, take a look at
RT Messaging 4 Education. They are working on applications which will interface with our phones.

What do we do as educators? Do we outlaw these possibly deviant devices or do we embrace what they can do as a communication and education tool? The future battles over this concept are sure to be exciting and VOCAL. However, I will go on record saying the day will come when students will create content on these types of devices and we will consider that normal. For those who don’t believe me, that is okay, there were people who didn’t think paper would catch on either.

In the future, if you ever get a chance to see Jim Hirsch speak live, do it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

KISS the Topic

Have you ever heard the term KISS? Keep it simple stupid? Sure you have and that is exactly what I thought the first time I ever saw a CommonCraft video on You Tube. Tonight I watch the newest (new to me that is) video on Social Bookmarking and specifically Once again, Lee did a great job explaining a concept. More importantly to me, he did it low tech. Too many time I have seen others (okay you can include me here too) get so caught up in the glitter and wow factor, they lose site of the big picture.

If you have not seen a CommonCraft video yet. Click the link. The next time you need to explain something, remember to KISS the topic.

Dave’s Top Ten!

This top ten list came from Dave Mirra’s of Stafford County Public Schools round table discussion (with 60 people in attendance) at the 2007 T + L conference in Nashville Tennessee.

I would have loved to have captured the audio as the discussion was great. In the end, most of this seems like common sense. Even if common sense isn’t that common. Whatever you call it, the list is worth reading and incorporating into your environment.

Top Ten List Legend
Bold Italic = Dave’s list.
Standard text = my commentary from notes and memory of the discussion.

- Is it part of an overall plan or strategy? Don’t buy it just because it is cool or new!

- What is the total cost of ownership? Hardware and software is just the tip of the cost. Consider professional development and ongoing support!

Who are the cheerleaders?
- Who is the primary advocate?

Who is the owner?
- Who will provide support? Example: Who owns the Human Resources Systems? The tongue in cheek answer is… If it is working, HR. If it is broke, IT. Just because it runs on the network doesn’t mean IT is the owner but this needs to be worked out before hand.

Who is the teacher?
- What is the training plan? Often professional development is the first thing to be removed from the budget. This is a mistake. More money should be spent on training than equipment and software.

Plastic my boy plastics
- Public Relations for the schools and community. Put on a Technology Expo for your community. Do it on a Saturday and demonstrate what technology is available and how it is being used and have students demonstrating whenever possible.

Traffic light management
- Simple data management for school leaders. Technology equipment needs to be refreshed (replaced based on a recycle or replacement plan). Having an easy to read database, or list will help school leaders, Governing Boards and the community understand what equipment is available, the age and when it should be replaced. Red, Green and Yellow was recommend to help make the process more visual.

Field of dreams
- Infrastructure considerations are vital! Before you buy and implement the technology, consider the network requirements and its ramifications on the network.

Give assigned seats
- Organizational structure must support the operations

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.
- Infrastructure limitation (Human and Technical) IT shops don’t like to say no but they have to be careful of overloading their resources. Can it be done with what is available or can staff in the schools be trained to help support themselves?

The best statement was from a school board member sitting in the room who said we all needed to pay attention to what Dave was saying and make sure this information is made available to our communities because we can’t do it without funding and we can’t get funding without their support. I believe she hit the nail on the head!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I Woke Up an Old Dog (part 1)

I really didn’t wake a dog nor am I an old dog. However, I woke up and realized I am now pushing the big 40 (I really have 13 months BUT STILL…) and a number of the people I see walking into my lab for New Employee Technology Orientation are younger than the truck I drive.

Recently, I attended a committee meeting where I learned that ½ of our teaching staff had less than 5 years experience in my school district and many of these folks have less than 5 years experience period. That new knowledge caused my forehead to wrinkle while at the same time explained quite a bit.

Let me give you a bit of background on the scene. Ten years ago, I sat in huge hall listening to the Superintendent tell all the staff that we were going to put a computer on EVERY TEACHERS desk in the next three years. My palms began to sweat and I thought “OH MY! How will we ever teach all these people how to use the computer?” Fortunately, I had a boss at the time whose problem it really was and I could do what I was told. Today, those types of statements are my problem to deal with and really don’t scare me. In fact, they are the types of challenges I thrive on.

Over the past three years, I have seen a number of questions come to me in the form of phone calls or email and a few face-to-face asking, demanding and sometime begging for access to various web sites, software and equipment. I keep thinking to myself, don’t these people realize how good they have it and don’t they remember when we didn’t have any of this “Stuff”? Well, they don’t, because they were not here in the beginning.

Back to today. While sitting in that committee meeting scribbling out the words 50% less than 5 years experience, I thought to myself, “Shawn, you became an old dog and you better learn a new trick!”

What has to change?

When I started teaching technology to adults I would literally hold up a mouse and explain what it was, left vs. right click and which finger to use when right clicking. I would also explain to them the CD Rom drive was not a cup holder and the proper way to insert a floppy disk. Most of my students were happy to be there and learn how to use this new tool.

Today, I have students, (adults students), with multiple as well as wide spread technology skills. Many suffer from a phenomenon Linda Stone is calling “Continuous Partial Attention”. This phenomenon is common in the average classroom; it is somewhat new to those of us on the Professional Development side of the house. The question of the day or challenge is what to do? What to change and how to do this successfully? Like many questions, I don’t have an answer which is the reason for this post and the posts to come. My intention is to blog about this challenge, how my team and I work through these challenges and document what to and what not to do the next time.

  • Who are my students?
  • Certified Teachers and Administrators
  • Classified Staff (All areas)
  • Age group 19 to 65
  • Extremely varied computer skills which cross all job classifications, age groups and genders.

Hello Houston, can you say challenge? Can you say, “Been there done that”? Looking at the above text, I can too. So what is so different this time? More on that in Part 2.


Education K-12 Shawn Wheeler Linda Stone K-12 Continuous Partial Attention CAP

Saturday, August 11, 2007

StarOffice 8 & Sun Weblog Publisher

StarOffice 8 & Sun Weblog Publisher

Way back in January, the 20 th of 2007 to be exact, I published “ The Biggest Kid in School aka Big Companies on my blog. This past May, I received an email from Danny Begonia from asking if I would be interested in trying StarOffice 8.0 and the new Sun Weblog Publisher. After I recovered from the initial shock of learning someone actually reads my blog, I said sure.

Today is Saturday, August 11, 2007. School starts Monday and I am hiding out in my air conditioned home office. A must have (air conditioning that is) when you live in Phoenix. Today is the day I test StarOffice 8.0 with the Weblog Publisher add on.

Conditions: I am working on a Virtual PC running Windows XP with 350 megabytes of RAM allocated to the virtual machine.

Software: Windows XP, Sun StarOffice 8.0 with the Weblog Publisher Plugin.

As much as I would love to give you a full evaluation of StarOffice 8.0 today, time just doesn't permit that. Therefore, I am going to concentrate on what I was asked, evaluate blog Publishing with Sun Weblog Publisher.

Starting at the beginning I installed StarOffice 8.0 from the CD supplied by Danny. Next I downloaded the Sun Weblog Publisher from my e-mail. (This too was supplied by Danny.) This is where I hit my first challenge as there was a slight difference between the supplied installation instructions and how it really works. Have no fear, I will share with you what I have learned.

To install Sun Weblog Publisher for StarOffice 8.0 follow these steps:

  1. Install StarOffice

  2. Launch StarOffice Writer

  3. Click the Tools Menu

  4. Select Package Manager (Note: This deviates from the instructions.)

  5. Click the Add button.

  6. Locate and select Sun Weblog Publisher package file.

  7. Click the Open button.

  8. The package will install.

  9. Close the package manager window.

  10. Close StarOffice 8.0.

  11. Re-launch StarOffice 8.0, notice the Weblog tool bar on the screen and in the menu bar.

  12. Your are done. Almost.

Before you can publish your blog post, you must setup StarOffice 8.0 with your Blog software. To do this...

  1. Click the Weblog menu and select Settings.

  2. In the Weblog Setting dialog box, click the Add... button.

  3. Choose the type of blogging software you use in the Type drop box

  4. Type your user name and password in the appropriate fields and click Ok.

  5. You will soon see your weblog(s) available to you.

  6. Click the Ok button.

  7. You are set.

At this point, you are ready to create your blog post and publish. In a nutshell, all you need to do is click Send to Weblog under the Weblog menu and wait.

What did I like about the Sun Weblog Publisher?

It is just easy to use. I set my formatting the way I wanted in StarOffice Writer 8.0 and published. The formatting came across in the blog along with my hyperlinks. That doesn't always happen when I paste my entries in using the interface.

What didn't I like about the Sun Weblog Publisher?

Really I have only two complaints about this product and the first is so minor it is not hardly worth mentioning. However, I did say I would evaluate this product.

The directions for installation were not clear. They were close enough that I was successful with a bit of hunting but that could be a frustration for some. The second thing that bothered me is the fact my images didn't publish. In reality, I published this post twice. The first time to see the process so I could write about it. The second time was the finished product. What I discovered is my images, which were screen captures, didn't upload. That is some what frustrating considering the image on the Sun Web site shows a person publishing a picture to their blog. (See image below. :) )

If my opinion mattered... I would like to see this product give the option of adding Technorati tags to the post as part of the publishing process.

Overall rating, you can spend $10.00 in far worse ways. If you are a blogger and you are using Staroffice 8.0 you will find Sun Weblog Publisher worth the investment.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Say it Again… Improving Student Learning through Podcasting

For almost two years now, I have been running a Podcast titled Adventures in Podcasting, which is about Podcasting and RSS in the Peoria School District. Like many things I become excited about, I share what I have learned with anyone who will listen. Some of those people come willingly, while others I hold by their own belt. (Just kidding, I use duct tape to hold them.)

Knowing that many people do not remember everything they hear during a workshop, I have been recording my presentations and making the audio of the presentation along with the Power Point file available for the audience to download and listen to again. Hence, Say it Again… Improving Student Learning through Podcasting. After several presentations, I realized I was posting the same PPT file with different audio files and really the only thing different in each audio file was the crowd’s reaction to my jokes. Why not just make one presentation for the web? That is exactly what I have done.

I would like to share with you Say it Again… Improving Student Learning through Podcasting The Web-based Presentation. This site contains the same presentation I give to a live audience including the audio. One you click the arrow to get started, just sit back, watch the screen, listen and hopefully enjoy.


Education, K-12, Shawn Wheeler, Podcast, Podcasting, PUSD, RSS, Web 2.0, Web 2