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

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Blogging in Paradise

It is 104 degrees, the wind is blowing at a soft 5 miles an hour from the northeast and I am sitting in the shade atop a 65 foot house boat along with the favorite beverage of Jimmy Buffet. A 12-year old young man just walked by with a digital camera in hand saying, “This should be good, my mom is going to ride the 550 Jet Ski.” The kids with us do not realize we adults were once young too. 300 yards out, “Mom” stood up and rode across the lake. Much to his surprise, he said, “She did better than I did.”

You may ask yourself, why is a person sitting at Lake Powell writing a blog? Easy, I have time and I have discovered I enjoy writing. Over the next several days, I will hide out atop this boat and blog or write articles to post on my blog when I return home.

As you know, I try to keep my blog focused to Education Technology and I will try to stay true to form over the next few days. However, I am reserving the right to stray a bit right now.

One of the first things that struck me before we even left town was the amount of technology we needed just to take this trip and it made me wonder how we did it in the past. This post will focus on technology used on this trip and maybe at some point I will be able to pull all of this together and again focus on Education Technology.

As we left town the first tool we needed to communicate was a cell phone or should I say phones. A common tool to most people today, we actually used this device to communicate the location of the five families. In years past, the only way to communicate was the use of the “wired” telephone and this only worked while you were at home. Once on the road, it was the Citizen Band (CB) radio that allowed us to communicate and those were only good for 5 miles or so. While none of these tools turned out to be perfect, it sure beat sending up smoke signals.

Once on the road, I found myself making the statement I have heard from my father so many times in the past. “Don’t give me a reason to pull this car over” Ironically, each child had their own portable DVD player sitting in their lap while mom and dad drove shuffling songs on the video IPod.

In years past, we would have never left home without a suitcase full of cassette tapes and recent years a notebook full of CD’s. Shh, do not tell anyone but we still have a notebook of CD’s on the boat. Some people are just not early adopters.

Then there is the case of the portable DVD players. What parent in their right mind would buy DVD players for each kid. Ones who take long car rides is who!

Six hours later, 15 phone calls, three movies a the trip to the infamous Mc Donald’s in Flagstaff and KFC in Page, we were just waiting for the sun to come up before we set out on our waterbound adventure.

The houseboat, while 15-years old has all the modern convenience one would expect. It has a ship to shore radio, two refrigerators, a deep freeze, AM FM radio, CD player, TV with VCR and DVD player, generator, hot water, gas pump, shower, two sea going toilets and Air Conditioning. Where we are currently anchored, we even have cell service. Rugged, we are not!

Even with all the comforts of home, we still found something to complain about. As we compared house boating with motor homing, we noticed that the black water holding tank didn’t have a level meter. (For those of you who do not know what “Black Water” is, I will try to describe it as gently as possible. When you wash your hands or take a shower, you produce gray water. When you do that other thing people do in a bathroom, you create black water.) Because of this inconvenience, you have a choice, use the bathroom until it is full and you find out the hard way or take it to the pump station. We chose not to wait.

Now most people do not associate technology with anything other than computers or electronics. However, if you look around a bit, you will find technology everywhere. Even at a black water pumping station 34 miles up the lake. On this lonely floating sewer, you will find two impressive technologies. The first of course is the pump itself. I will not go into details, just understand it removes black water from the houseboat. Are pumps new technology? Not at all, they have been around for years. Never the less, old technology or new technology, it was still an advancement for its day. However, in 2007 we complained that we had to pump the lever manually. The other technology on this floating island was the fact it had lights. Mounted on the roof you will find several solar panels, that charge the batteries to power the lights, which allow you to find this island in the dark. With all of this technology, why then am I hand pumping sewage? Okay, I will stop complaining, I am at the lake.

24 hours later; I am again atop this houseboat and I am watching another old school piece of technology jet across the water operated by a child who is younger than the ski she is riding. For those not familiar with personal watercraft they have changed quite a bit the past 30 years. The old school stand up ski this young woman is riding is of 1985 vintage, the fact that it is running is a testament to its quality. Sitting on shore at the moment are three new school sit down skis which are less than two years old. What is technical about either of these types of machines? Don’t ask that question to a mechanical engineer!

While it is true, these two machines run on a water-jet technology and they have similar running characteristics, they also differ quite a bit. The old ski, has a throttle, choke and a start and stop button. If you want to see how much fuel you have left, you have to remove the hood and look at it visually. The new school skies have tachometers, fuel gauge, miles per hour and a heat sensor. I found that out the hard way. The new skis also run over 50 miles per hour. A speed we only dreamt about back in 85. By the way, 50 miles per hour on water is similar to 100 on a motorcycle. I will not go into that story, after all, this post is about the lake.

It is now two days from the last time I typed words on this keyboard. It is also the last day of the trip, the sun is setting and I am trying hard to get words down before the sun sets. Not that I don’t have lights on this boat, I just want to go fish.

In the past two days I have been most thankful for yet another piece of old school technology and new school as well. First off, I am most thankful for the generator aboard this boat. It is old and tired but it does run and it kept the deep freeze cold along with several of our meals. It also ran the blender for which I will not go into the reason I am happy. The other piece of technology I am grateful for was the portable DVD players. (Note that was plural.) These little machines sent down from heaven kept our little ones (seven of them under 8) busy for a few hours each day. Okay, truth be told it was 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there.

The final item of technology I am grateful to have with us was the marine two way radios which allowed us to tell the marina we had a motor which no longer ran. It also allowed us to communicate between two of the boats as we looked for a place to camp on our last night here.

The sun has now fallen on our last day of vacation and I hope I have given you a chance to see just how much technology is used in our daily lives and what we often take for granted.

As I make an attempt to tie this back to Education Technology, I think the best message for anyone to read here is this.

Technology is all around us and it has been around in many forms for many years. We as educators need to look beyond the computer, Smartboard, digital cameras or the latest flavor of “Cool” software on the market. We also need to take the time to point out tools that were once cutting edge and are now common. By looking at our past, we have a better understanding of our future and certainly a better appreciation for the present.

Thank you, and good night.

How I blogged at Lake Powell

I didn’t want bring a laptop computer to the lake and I really didn’t want to try and write by hand then transcribe the chicken scratch I call writing. So how did I manage? I used the NEO by Alphasmart and I have to tell you it is one impressive little machine. This particular machine I have had for a few years but have never used it much. Mostly because I have access to power for my laptop, where ever I am. However, at Lake Powell, power was an issue but not for this little machine.

I will not go into all the technical details but I will provide a link to the
Alphasmart web site. With that said, the machine sports a full “normal” keyboard as well as 40 characters by 4-row LED display. The only thing it does not have is a backlight, which is okay; I shouldn’t be blogging in the dark anyway.

In a day or two I will plug this machine into my computer at home, pull off this article along with the other I wrote and post them on my blog. I may even add another paragraph or two, to give you the full picture of how this machine can be used. However, at this point, I would say to anyone reading, if you think you or a student cannot write on an
Alphasmart, you have not tried.

At this point, I am even considering keeping it with me so I can capture thoughts in my head as they happen. With a 15-second boot time, I think it might just work.

Now that I am home, I pulled the
Alphasmart out of my backpack to download or transfer the two articles to my desktop computer. I turned on the Alphasmart, opened the file I wanted to transfer, plugged in the USB cable to my computer then to the Alphasmart. Next, I launched Word 2007, then pressed the Send button on the Alphasmart. As I sat back, I watched my words appear on my screen. Talk about cool!

Once Word had my writing captured, it was re-read, edit and publish.

As a parting comment, I have to give this little machine kudos for cool and convenient. Powered by 3 AA batteries and its quick boot time, this will become a very convenient tool for me to put my thoughts about Education Technology down on cyber paper. Now if I could come up with some thoughts.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Good Idea, Bad Implementation

Every once in a while I have what I think is a great idea that doesn’t turn out to be so great. A few weeks ago, I setup a Wikispace for a professional organization to which I am a member. My thought was to create a place where members could share information concerning Education Technology as well as what they have learned at our regional conferences. Sounds like a good idea right? Right!

The problem was not with the idea but with the implementation of the Wiki. You also have to realize that I am very uptight about file management. I like to have files organized by categories and/or types. Perhaps this is from too many years of building and maintaining web sites.

To help set the stage, I created a
Wikispace. ( Next, I created a new page for each of the four chapters in the organization. Each chapter host a conference throughout the year so I thought a page for each conference would be a good idea. Next, I created a page for the Way Out West Conference for 2007 this included future links to pages for each conference session. (See the diagram below for the page link structure.)

Click the Image to see full size.

Once the basic Wikispace was created, I recruited Peggy George to help me create and link the conference session pages. As we chattered away over SKYPE, we create the 40 conference session pages. With each new page, I noticed the list of available pages to link to was growing.

While these new pages are not a major issue at this time, I could see this continual growing list become a huge problem for future AzTEA conferences. Consider this, the Way Out West conference add 40 pages Wikispace and to the list. If each of the other chapters added 40 pages to the Wikispace, the list would grow to 160 items, thus making it a challenge to find the correct page to link. Adding to that challenge was the realization that 160 links would only take care of this particular year. Each year AzTEA could add an additional 160 pages to the Wikispace along with the 160 links in the list.

Is there a solution? Absolutely!

A better way to handle this challenge is to analyze the problem. As stated above, I have too many pages creating an issue when linking pages in the
Wikispace and this problem will be exacerbated each year. However, if I were to create a new Wikispace for each years conference, the list of links would not grow out of control.

Click the Image to see full size.

Does this solution have a few design flaws too? YES it does. In our current AzTEA Wikispace environment, we are able to invite members to the main AzTEA Wikispace. This will allow members to participate in any page within the Wikispace. Creating a new Wikispace for each conference will require participants to be members of each Wikispace to add content. We could also not require membership to participate in the Wikispace. Some may find that to be a not to be an option. However, I am willing to give it a try.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

It’s Not What You Say but HOW YOU SAY IT

Many years ago, I watched my father trim the hedges outside our home. Being too little to run the electric hedge trimmers, I was told to stand back out of the way until it was time to rake up the clippings. Feeling left out (I wanted to trim something too), I grabbed the hand clippers and went to work on the rose bushes. I might add they were in bloom. Within minutes, I had managed to trim the bushes into beautiful thorny stalks. As I, stood back to admire my work, I was so proud to view the symmetry and alignment these bushes now had. That is, I was proud until my father walked around the corner of the house. I quickly learned that I was not correct. He told me that rose bushes do need to be trimmed but I had done it wrong. I felt horrible and more so when my mom came out to view my handy work. To this day, I do not like to trim rose bushes.

So, what does this have to do with Education Technology? I recently had a chance to listen to a speaker discuss the uses of technology in education (I am being polite with the word discuss.) Over the course of 90 minutes I began to get that same sick feeling, I had with the rose bushes so many years before. The longer the speaker talked, the more the use of technology was criticized. To be clear, the person was not criticizing the technology per say but more the methodology of how we were using it in our classrooms.

Any good educator will reflect (self-criticize) on their classroom noting what worked well and what requires improvement. Any good educator will also seek council from colleagues, books, seminars, conferences, classes etc… with the end goal being to improve student learning.

Criticism when used in a constructive manner can be quite valuable and the constructive part of the criticism is most important. Just telling a person they are not doing something correctly doesn’t help them. Helping a person see there is a more effective way does. It takes a skilled person to tell a person they are wrong, help them improve and make them feel good about themselves while they are improving. Done incorrectly, a person will shut down, become withdrawn and refuse to try anything in the future.

While I am on this soapbox of criticism, I had better practice what I am preaching. So, here are the things I would recommend to anyone presenting information on education technology or anything else for that matter:

  • State the topic or the message the audience will be learning about today.
  • How the topic or technology was utilized in my (the speakers) environment.
  • State what mistakes (the speakers) were made along the way.
  • State what would be done differently next time?
  • Provide some guiding questions to help the planning process for others.
  • Provide some guiding questions to help others reflect and evaluate projects or processes currently in place.

Information conveyed in this manner will help people understand they may need to improve (change) things they have done without making them feel like failures. In the end, it is not what you say but how you say IT.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Don’t you just love satire?

I love satire and this video is pure satire. I have spent my career helping people lose their anxiety when it comes to working with a computer or computer related technology. Last week a friend of mine showed this YouTube video to me and I had to laugh as I have had this person in class. In fact, I have had this person in class today. Enjoy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

BubbleShare? Why Not?

I started out building web pages using simple text and notepad back in the days we dreamt of doing cool things on a web page. For several years, I chased the “cool factor” looking to one up the next page with some effect that WOW my audience. (Gee, as I write this, I sound like a kid learning to use the effects and transitions in PowerPoint. <Smile>) Like many people it dawned on me that content is king and I went back to basics. Text on the page that said something and I was happy. I also have be fair and point out the fact I have no artistic talent, which meant I was quickly outclassed when some of the new tools starting hitting the market. 
The last few years, we have seen a plethora of new social tools hit the market, (Blogs, Social bookmarks, image libraries etc…) during this time, some of us have sat on the side line watching these develop while other have jumped in and started playing. Where are you?This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog
I am one of those folks that look at some of this stuff and have to ask WHY? I can see it is cool, easy to use and even fun, but still ask why and how long will this remain free? (Side note - I lived through the first .com bust <sad face> and it was not fun.)
This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog
Recently on a Skype call with friend Peggy George, I learned about As she told me about it, I said it sounds much like Flickr and I was wrong to a point. I do like my Flickr account and the fact I can post images online and easily share them with the world, Bubble share does allow me do this too, plus a few other things like place a hat on my daughters head or put up a silly comment in a comic book style thought bubble. If that was not enough,BubbleShare gives me four different ways to share my album on my Blog or any other web site, and do this easily.

Would this be possible to do without BubbleShare? Sure, I could take the image into Photoshop or some other image editing software and make my edits. I could find some script on the web that would allow me to create some of the affects that BubbleShare allows. Then I could post these on my ISP’s server and update my web page to display these cool new items. But… I wouldn’t do it because it is just too much work.
This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog
If you just read that paragraph and are wondering what I just said, you are not alone and that is the reason some of these tools exist and why they are so popular.
This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blogSo why did I write this today? I sat down and started playing with BubbleShare this morning and thought it was cool. Once I had my album created, I wanted to share it with the world.
My blog seems like a good place to do this. Why the text? Well,it would just be strange to post only images on a blog entry. Or would it?

If you have not explored BubbleShare or Flickr, give them a look. I know I have left out a few other tools in this post, if you know of any, please comment and share the your knowledge.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Go Ahead… Make My Day!

And that is just what Chris Smith of Shambles fame did today.

We all know a friendly or memorable URL can make or break a web site and let’s face it, there was nothing friendly about In fact, after I set up the site, I started looking at the URL and even called myself a few choice names thinking I should have come up with a name that would roll of your tongue. Thanks to Chris Smith, we can now do just that. Can you remember (The Good Bad Ugly Internet .Info) You sure can and guess where that address will land. That is right. Smack dab on “The Good the Bad and the Ugly of the Internet” Wiki site.

So… What should you do now?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Welcome to the Good the Bad and the Ugly of the Internet

Recently I was reading a few of my favorite blogs when I came across a post on the blog site John Evans ( titled RSS Information where John spoke about the newly create Image Wall on and his concern over some of the content on this site. Fortunately listened to the many concerned people who use this site and created a new domain name for the image wall ( John published another post titled A Bloglines Update which got the two of use talking. Our comment went something like this:

John said:
Thanks Shawn for the heads up on this. I hope this
implementation by Bloglines does what they claim it will do. I have yet to test
it on our school filters. What still concerns me is the fact that while it may
be blocked by school filters, the Image Wall is still accessible from
non-filtered computers such as their home computers. It brings to the forefront
our need to educate our students and their parents on the safe use of technology
in their daily lives.

Shawn said:
John, I think you hit on the most important part.
Filters serve a purpose but the most important thing we can and need to do
it educate our children and I am beginning to think their parents about the
internet. Sure, they know about the web but can they (students and
parents) discern factual information from exercises in creative writing?

I know most of us have enough items of our plates, but
what would a community service class for parents and students on internet tools
look like. Call it “The Good the Bad and the Ugly of the internet.
How to find the roses among the manure” content could include searching
strategies and techniques, Web 2.0 tool, Social Network site etc…

Random thoughts before I head off for work.


John said:
Shawn, You have the beginnings of a great idea. Wonder
how we and others could collaborate on a session such as that? Perhaps put it on
a wiki or find something that someone has already done. I know Wes Fryer has
done many workshops with this theme included in them.


Later that day, a new Wiki was born. I would like to invite you to view and participate in “The Good the Bad and the Ugly of the Internet” Wiki.

This site is JUST coming out of the ground so we are looking for people to contribute to the space.

K-12,Shawn Wheeler, John Evans, Bloglines, Students, Web 2.0, Web 2, Filtering, On-line Safety

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Thin Client Diet

One of the cool things about my job beyond the teaching aspect is problem solving. Now, I am not an engineer or a mathematician. No, I started out to be a shop teacher, woods to be exact. But the times changed and I found myself teaching computers. Back to my point; I often have opportunity to look at new or in this case updated technologies to evaluate their relevance in education.

This past October, I was fortunate enough to speak at the T + L show in Dallas. Once my speaking duties were complete, (See "
Say it again… Improving Student Learning through Podcasting"), I was able to enjoy the show and see what I could see. As my boss Larry and I perused the floor we came across a tiny booth with 4 monitors, keyboard, mice and one PC. Each of the three monitors, keyboards and mince were attached to a small black box roughly the size of my wallet. We began reading the single page brochure sitting on the table as the one and only representative walked up to the booth to tell us about his product.

Introducing (On this blog anyway.) the X300 PCI XTenda multibox. This slick little device basically turns a single PC into four workstations through the use of the software and a PCI card. (
Click this link to see the topology) To be honest, I thought this device was cool and had potential at home, but I was skeptical about it at a school. That is until I had a chance to see it in action.

When I returned home, I began the process of getting a demo unit. nComputing was good enough to provide me with the X300. I installed the X300 card in a Dell Optiplex GX240 with 1 gig of RAM then connected three keyboards, monitors and mice to XTenda multibox. Next my staff and I began to test this device. (Remember there are now 4 people working from one PC.) We opened MS Word, Outlook, etc… After about 15 minutes of various activities and applications, we decided to really abuse this device. The four of us opened MS
PhotoStory, created and rendered 4 videos. As expected this test put the Optiplex on its proverbial knees. However, we did have four videos rendered in less than ten minutes. This little box has potential.

Test with students… Next I took the Optiplex with X300 over to one of our schools (Temporality replacing four 6-year old Dell GX110’s.) to test with 7th and 8th grade students. By the end of the next day, the teacher sent an email stating the students request that I leave the X300 with the XTenda boxes and replace the rest of the lab with the same setup. The students did experience one problem with our Punch Pro software as it requires access to the CD Rom. The CD Rom does work on any station trying to access it. However, only one person can access the drive at a time. Basically, the first person to click on the CD wins.

My opinion… Do I think this device is the Holy Grail for Educational computing? No, it does have a few limitations so we will still have a need to purchase full systems in some situations. Nevertheless, at $200.00 the X300 and the XTenda multibox can make one PC do the work of four. In situations where the computer will be performing basic tasks, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, email and searching the web, this device deserves consideration.

Links to look at…
The Next Cheap Thing
nComputing Demo Video

Education, K-12, Shawn Wheeler, nComputing, Thin Client

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What is RSS ?

One hot August afternoon last year I was catching up on some of my blog reading when I came across a post from David Warlick “What is RSS?” where he gave his 2-Cents on explaining RSS to people who are still trying to understand it. Of course I chimed in with my comments as did several others. In fact, I chimed in with a post of my own on this blog, [see In response to David Warlick’s post (What is RSS cont.) ]

Prior to posting that entry, I like many others knew we needed a better way to introduce the topic of RSS. Being an educator, there is nothing I enjoy more than a live audience. Give me a room full of students and computers, we would live RSS. Remove the computers, okay, I can demonstrate. This works as long as I have time, location and an audience… Now you see the problem. Those three components don’t often line up.What I needed was a video. Well, it only took a year but it is done. Below you will see the video created to help PUSD community members learn about RSS and how the Peoria Unified School District is using RSS in our schools.

If you would like to download a copy this video is available in both:

I want to publicly thank Dave Collie, for his time and creativity. I had an idea what I wanted this video to look like. Dave delivered a video that is beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you Dave!

Education, K-12, Shawn Wheeler, David Warlick, PUSD, RSS, Web 2.0, Web 2

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Biggest Kid in the School aka Big Companies

I stand 6 foot 1 inch weighing in at a very portly 250 lbs. While my weight has snuck up on me over the years, I have always been tall. Growing up one of the biggest kids in the grade level had a number of disadvantages. The worst of, (in my day anyway), which is every new boy that entered the school had to prove himself. What better way to prove himself by taking a shot or two at the biggest kid in the school. Sometimes these were verbal but more often than not, it was a smack across the jaw. (Ouch) This caused me to grow up with an interesting perspective on the world.

I have looked at a number of productivity software, (word processors, spreadsheet and presentation), applications over the years. With each new version, they get more powerful. In recent years, there has been an influx of open source and web based productivity applications.
Star Office was one of the first I looked at and I thought Microsoft should pay attention. Last summer I looked at Writely, (Now renamed Google Docs.), and my jaw dropped onto my keyboard. This product looked and felt like MS Word and even saved as a .doc file type. As an educator, I thought this is great for all the students who do not have a copy of Word at home. Oh and it was web based. Two weeks ago, I loaded Open Office to see what it looked like. While I haven’t given this product a thorough test, it has familiar look and feel. Again, I thought Microsoft should pay attention.

This week I walked through the office and noticed one of the IT supervisors was installing
Solaris on a machine. Being a Microsoft shop, I had to stop in and tease him. I said, “What is the world coming to? You are installing Solaris and I bought a Macintosh server.” We chuckled as we began talking about some of the open source tools now available. He said with all the great “Free” software out there, no one would ever need to buy Office. That statement again, made me think of being the “Big Kid” having shots taken at me.

I remember when computers were not interoperable between platforms. I remember when my word processor wouldn’t open the document you sent me because the two applications were not compatible. For the past several years, we have enjoyed interoperable computing and Microsoft has enjoyed an enormous market share. This is the time when some people start taking shots at the “Big Kid”. Words like monopolist, giant, big bad begin to appear in the same sentence with the “Big Kids” name. Is this good or bad? That is for you to decide.

This time also provides a catalyst to some very talented programmers who begin to develop their own version of software. Some of them work alone while other works together as a worldwide community. This is collaboration at its best and these individuals should be applauded for their efforts.

We also need to stay focused on the companies, large and small, that shape the world. These companies were built on the minds of brilliant individuals with the spirit and determination to make a difference. Not very different from the open source world, noting these companies intend to turn a profit.

Please don’t mistake this entry as I am against open source or business. I love the open source software I use each week. I love the computer and the software I am currently using. I love fact that my job pays my bills and affords me the opportunity to sit at McDonald's and write this article so I can freely share my opinions with you. I am merely a much older big kid with a different perspective.

Oh, on a final note, I did have a chance to spend a couple hours this week with
Word 2007. Microsoft was paying attention and they again have raised the bar. While it does pose a few challenges for network people and compatibility with older files, it changed the user interface, in my opinion, for the better.

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