Saturday, January 31, 2009

7 Things that You Don't Need to Know About Me (Dr. Z)

I was tagged by Kathy Schrock. She wrote a posting entitled 7 Things You Don't Really Need to Know About Me on her KaffeeKlatsch blog. Apparently, this was the result of her being mentioned in a similar posting from one of her friends. (Sorry this took so long, Kathy, but your use of media encouraged me to have "just the right photos.") I have been tagged by Vinnie Vrotney as well.

This adds a new meaning to the term "Tag You're It." She included a number of factoids about herself that were quite interesting. So, I have been given the personal disclosure baton and it is my duty to carry it to the next stop. I have been reading Steve Dembo's series of blog postings entitled
30 Days to Being a Better Blogger and he says that I should share personal content so that you will get to know me better, so here it goes: These are 7 Things You Don't Really Need to Know About Me.

1. I have been a magician since I was 14 years old (Member of the Hollywood Magic Castle since 1974). I performed under the stage name of Zeon. Seems that I have traded technological magic with stage magic in recent years.

2. I spent a year (1998-1999) in Malaysia at the Institute of Technology Tun Hussein Onn (now known as Universiti tun Hussein Onn Malysia) as a visiting professor for Purdue University. Taught Educational Media there. My whole family was with me during that year and it was a life-changing experience for all of us.

3. I am an avid West Wing fan.
(This is not a cardboard cutout.)

4. I have a large collection of unique ties and wear them trying to fit the theme of what I do (i.e., I wear my Lone Ranger tie on the first day of my Technology Coordinator course at UNI) I must admit that my favorites in my collection are from famous artists (Da Vinci, Dali, Renoir, Munch, Van Gogh, Cezanne, etc.) Here's selection of some of my ties.

5. I run the Keyboarding Research and Resources website. I even wrote a book and a whitepaper

6. I was the first education computing editor for any magazine dedicated to the IBM PC, Personal Computer Age.
about keyboarding. This was in 1981.

The tradition is for me to tag 6 more of my friends. Here you go:
Robin Galloway
Steve Hargadon
Clif Mims
Scott McLeod
Vickie Davis
Lois Lindell

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Horizon Report for 2009

The Horizon Report for 2009 has been released.

The Horizon Report is an annual report that is produced jointly by the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. This account charts the existing and future trends in emerging technologies.

Since the first report in 2002, the Horizon Report has been develped using a veritable Delphian study format for investigation. Each year, a group of about 50 advisory board members research and discuss emerging technologies to generate a list of technologies, challenges, trends and issues that are relevant to today's education.

Each year, they identify a variety of technologies "to watch" as well as how soon we can expect them to be adopted. This "Time to Adoption" is usually broken into "One year or less, Two to three years, and Four to five years"

Here are some lists of what was listed over the past few years:

The 2009 Horizon Report:
One Year or Less: Mobiles and Cloud Computing
Two to Three Years: Geo-Everything and The Personal Web
Four to Five Years: Semantic-Aware Applications and Smart Objects.

The 2008 Horizon Report:
One Year or Less: Grassroots Video and Collaboration Webs
Two to Three Years: Mobile Broadband and Data Mashups
Four to Five Years: Collective Intelligence and Social Operating Systems

The 2007 Horizon Report:
One Year or Less: User-Created Content and Social Netowrking
Two to Three Years: Mobile Phones and Virtual Worlds
Four to Five Years: New Scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication

I like to use the Horizon Report to inform me of the emerging technologies that will affect our educational paradigm. Do you read the Horizon Reports? How have you found them useful?

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting Better Google Rankings by Using Keywords Wisely

You can be successful in getting better Google rankings by just managing how you use keywords and keyphrases.

I have been trying to build readership for my Dr. Z Reflects blog over the past month. There are many tips and tricks. Steve Dembo has a 30-Days to Being a Better Blogger series (I am on Day 10). Franklin Bishop has a number of ideas for gaining subscribers on his blog. Darren Rowse has a variety of ideas on his ProBlogger. I even found some interesting discussion at the Webmasters Marketplace and Blog Catalog.

Strategies abound for building better Google rankings. I have done some research and today I will share ways that you can get better Google rankings by just knowing how to manage your keywords and keyphrases.

As you may know, Google learns what is on the Web by sending out search programs (called Bots) to travel from website-to-website cataloging what is there. These Bots use algorythems to analyze web content, send the data back to Google where each website is ranked by content. The trick is to know how the bots analyze your website.

Here are a few tips on how you can organize your posting and write your content to optimize your Google rankings. (I have tried to use these tips in this posting so see if you can find them:

Keywords: Identify the keywords or keyphrases you want to use for your post. It is important to determine these before you write because you will want to integrate these keywords into our content.

Prioritize: List these keywords or keyphrases in your keywords box. The most relevant words should be listed first.

Title: Your first keyword should be included in your title. Use more if you can.

Be Relevant: Make sure the words and/or phrases listed in the keywords section are relevant to the topic. It shouldn't make a difference, but apparently Google will punish you if you have words that aren't relevant.

Be Concise: Limit your keywords to three or four words/phrases. Use keyphrases to address specific niche topics. Notice that I am using "better google rankings" as a keyphrase. This phrase is specific enough to limit the competition and worded in a way that searchers would use.

Placement: Placement is important. Consciously use your keywords in the first few sentences (most important). Include them in the middle sentences as well. Finally, use your keywords and keyphrases in the last two sentences of your post. Google seems to like those final inclusions.

Headline Tags: Include your main keywords using one of the headline tags (h1, h2, h3 . . .) Google Bots seem to consider keywords in headline tags as more important than keywords in the article itself.

Images Too: Use your images. Bots analyze the whole website so it can make a difference if you put one of your weaker keywords in the alt tag of your image. Remember that these image alt tags are meant to assist the blind in knowing what is on the screen. This means that you should select images that relate to your topic so that the keywords will be meaningful.

Finding these tips have made me reconsider how I will create my future postings. In fact, I plan to go back to review and modify some of my previous postings. What tips to you have to help your website achieve better Google rankings as the result of using keywords and keyphrases more efficiently?


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wii: Commercialized or Incentivized

I was just reading Scott McLeod's blog, Dangerously Irrelevant. He shared a video that was a compilation of kids opening their Wii Christmas presents. The unique thing about these clips is the incredibly over-stated show of emotion. Girls are crying and dancing and screaming. Boys are driving their fists into the air and shouting. They were obviously enthused!!!!

Dr. McLeod explained this as an intersection of commercialism and children. Some of his readers lamented upon how ashamed they were to see the effects of commercialism on Christmas. These were obvious conclusions but not necessarily the only ones.

I don't fully agree with their analyses of the weeping wailers as they screamed, cried and drove their fists into the air in celebration of receiving the Wii video game system. While this video definitely portrays a commercial product that the kids saw on TV commercials that were designed to place the Wii on a holy pedestal to be revered by our digital natives, these reactions are not just a matter of rampant commercialism.

I think that they signify fulfillment of their wishes to have personal access to an environment where their efforts are positively reinforced in an incremental manner that guides them to success. The games were developed to motivate and reward - and they succeed.Miis as depicted in Wii Fit.Image via Wikipedia

I must admit that I have a Wii and I have been using the Wii Fit system for about 10 days. I am TOTALLY HOOKED! I awaken in the morning thinking about weather I will jog or dance or meditate on my Wii. As the system boots up and I identify myself, my cybercoach congratulates me on returning for another hour of physical challenges and accomplishments. . . . and yes, daily I do most of the exercises shown in the Nintendo Wii Fit kick-off video. (Here is an example of the Wii fit exercise session with a cybercoach.)

Besides the the arcade accolades that I receive as I head soccer balls, navigate bubbles down rivers, walk tightropes and spin hula hoops, I have experienced physical developments that benefit my posture and overall well being. I have a great time using my Wii and it makes me feel successful.

The part of our culture that we should question is not commercialism. We should ask why don't all of our students feel this way on their first day of school? How many of them punched the air with excitement as they left their homes to return to school this week? Some of them did and we should identify what their teachers are doing to provide them with the sense of success that invites them back for more.

We should take a lesson in motivation and engagement from Wii and integrate it into our classrooms.


What do you think? Do you used the Wii? Do your students?

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Language Translators in Second Life

Impressive Language Translators!!!!!!

I have found some Language Translator programs in Second Life (SL) that remind me of the Univers
al Translator of science fiction lore (i.e., Star Trek and Dr. Who & ?)

There are two - The Simbolic Language Translator and the Free Translator by Ferd. Let me tell you how I found them . . .

A couple of nights ago, I was exploring in Second Life when I met a gentleman. He and I began chatting (only text). I noticed that it would take as long as 15-20 seconds for him to respond to me. Through conversation I found out that he was from Portugal and that he was using a translator. This translator took what he typed in Portuguese and translated it into English (I could not see his writing in Portuguese.) I would read his message in English and reply in English. The translator would convert my message from English to Portguese so that he could read it.

Pretty Tricky. He told me that this was the Simbolic Language Translator and directed me to where I could download it. I beamed over the Simbolic site and downloaded it. (I m
ust warn you that this site is not in the "best part of SL" so be forewarned that you may see some strange stuff there.) This language translator is a HUD (Heads-Up Display) so I had to "wear" it for it to work. Once I donned the translator, a small control panel appeared in the upper left corner of my screen. It enabled me to select the language that I was speaking and then the language of the person to whom I was speaking. Engaging the appropriate settings, I tested this out with my new Portuguese friend and it worked quite well. There were a few times when the literal translation didn’t work too well but “it’s only a computer.”

Today, I was over at the Simbolic site to find out more about it. There are probably a half dozen avatars speaking an assortment of languages. I realized the primary limitation in the Language Translator. Before I could converse with another person through the translator, I needed to know what language they spoke so that I could make the appropriate settings. Before I had much time to think about this, I met Ferd Federix. Ferd told me that he had developed an even more sophisticated translator. This is the Free Translator.

The Free Translator is a language translator that will scan the area (within 20 SL ft) and determine the primary language of each of the avatars based upon their chat history. Having identified that, it provides a list of the individuals along with their primary languages on my screen. Moreover, Ferd’s Free Translator uses this information to make multiple translations simultaneously to multiple people. This means that when I type “Hello”, it will translate that into each of the primary languages of the surrounding avatars. Secondly, when someone responds in their primary language, it will translat
e that back into my primary language which is English. WOW!!!

I wanted to test this out, so:
  • I traveled through SL looking for non-English speakers. First I met a woman from Brazil. I typed to her in English and her responses returned in English. When I learned that she was from Brazilia, I asked her if she was typing in Portuguese. She was.
  • I went to a Japanese SL site looking for a Japanese speaker. The woman I met was from Holland. She was speaking English but when I asked her to speak in Dutch, the responses came to me in English. Once she began speaking in Dutch, my translator identified this and began translating to Dutch. Turned out that this woman was a profesional language translator. She said that the translations were pretty good but too literal. Well, “it’s only a computer.”
How do they do this? You guessed it - Google. (Don't they run everything? =-) Ferd told me that both of the language translators are running the text through the Google translator. I don't know much about this but he said that Google offers APIs for developers to use their tool. (You might also notice that I have installed a Google translator for this blog. Look in the right column and you will see a gadget that will translate this page into any of 35 languages.)

This is an amazing advance in SL communication. It builds a language link that can break down the language barriers that get in the way of humans communicating. It IS a literal translation and I wouldn’t use if for international negotiations, but these translators can further connections between people around the world.

SLURLs for the Second Life Translators:

Simbolic Language Translator
Remember that this is in the “wrong side of town” in SL. You will land in front of the Simbolic Language Translator board. (You may have to turn around and it might take a little while to appear.) Just click on it and it will allow you to buy it for L$0 (nothing). Click the Buy button and a transaction window will appear. You will now find the Language Translator by Simbolic folder in your inventory.

Ferd Free Translator
Find the Orange Globe (you may have to turn around). Press your up arrow to walk towards the orange globe. Touch the globe
(Right/Command click) and the translator will be placed in your inventory. It just happens. There is no text window saying that you have received it. Check your inventory for a folder entitled Ferd's Google Translator Folder.
(Updated 1/21/09)

What are your experiences, hopes or dreams in reference to this newly-developed language translator capability?
Leave me a comment about your impressions of a second life language translator.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Finding Skype Connections for Your Classroom

During my ISTE Webinar, Dr. Z’s Creative Cookbook for Collaborative Communication, I demonstrated how Skype can be used to bring experts and other students into the classroom. At that time, Wesley Fryer (Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog and podcast) asked if I knew of any directories that were available to find people who were interested in sharing some time with students through Skype. Unfortunately, at that time I didn’t know of any such directories and was unable to help him.

Since then, Angela Maiers used Twitter to share the Skype in Schools wiki she had just found. This directory was developed by Dan Froelich based upon requests from teachers who participated in one of his sessions at the NCETC 2008 Conference. It is designed to provide a place where you can offer your services, post a “want ad” to find other classes to engage in a telecollaborative project with you or for you to share your experiences in collaboration.

Wesley Fryer recently addressed the Skype directory issue in a posting to his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity. He explores Skype in Schools as well as ePals and the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. You should read this posting.

Since Wesley brought it up, I have been thinking about how you could contact special people and classes to introduce to your students. I would like to make two recommendations to you about how you might make these contacts:

Conference Programs – Most of you who are reading this posting probably attend at least 1 conference a year. If you don’t, you should. I often pay for conferences out of my own pocket but I learn a great deal and make many contacts. Next time you go to a conference, come home with the business cards of at least 5 people with whom you could work on collaborative projects or have them Skype-visit your classroom. Another way that you can connect with folks from conferences, is to review conference programs and contact the presenters who look interesting:
You might specifically want to contact the people whose sessions were podcasted – this indicates that they are interested in talking about their program.

Podcasts: Speaking of podcasts, you should review the Conference Connections podcast seriesApple Computer) involves interviews with presenters at conferences. They may be technology leaders or classroom teachers or ?? This may be a short 7-minute interview or it might be a recording of the whole presentation. Either way, it is a way to find out who is interested in sharing their ideas. You may find some of them who asked to be paid for a Skype-visit, but you can find someone else if their terms don't meet your resources.

for possible Skype-visitors. This series (sponsored by Global School Network: If you are interested in collaborating with students and experts outside of your classroom, then you MUST visit the Global School Network (GSN). The GSN has been engaging teachers and students in project learning exchanges for a quarter of a century.
In 2005, Teaching and Learning magazine identified GSN's predecessor, FredMail Network, as one of the top 15 “Breakthrough Products” since 1980.

GSN provides a Project Registry of over 3,000 telecollaborative projects. These projects may be from across the street or across the globe. They may last a week or be continuous on-going activities. If you want to join an existing project, there are over 3,000 of them. If you want to originate your own project, GSN has developed a time-tested format outline to assist you in making your project successful.
Telecollaboration is a deep subject that I will cover more thoroughly in a later post.

Wesley’s question about finding people and classes to work with your students is an important one. The opportunities are there and video conferencing can be used to make your curriculum more relevant to your students by further expanding their learning experiences into the “real world.”

What do you think? Do you use Skype in your classroom? How do you find people/classrooms for collaborating.
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Friday, January 02, 2009

Publishing Your Own eBooks

eBooks provide a venue for distributing your ideas with little or no expense in publishing your ideas. I write a great deal on my blogs and in my teaching. eBooks provide a way to professionally collect and publish your work. It also makes it easy to distribute to your friends and public.

I was just reading about Social Media on Brian Solis's blog, PR 2.0, when he mentioned his eBook, The Essential Guide to Social Media. This is an eBook that he created as a "quick start" overview about participating in the social media world. He collected the most commonly asked questions and answers and turned them into a downloadable ebook. It has a number of good ideas that I will cover later, but the format was what really enchanted me.
The eBook was printed through a website entitled Scribd. A potential author can upload a file/book/set of document to the website where it turns the work into what they call iPaper.11 different formats (e.g. Word, .pdf, Powerpoint, Excel, Open Office, etc.) Moreover, Scribd is building a huge library of resources that can be searched and accessed. iPaper is a rich document format that was built to be displayed through the Web. Originally created with Adobe Flash, it can be viewed through a variety of operating systems. You can upload your document in wide range of formats. 
Imagine how this can be used in your classroom. The opportunities are endless in presenting content and publishing student work. Here are a few that I have found:
  • Publishing student anthologies.
  • Creating a collaborative publication that is shared and enjoyed between classes.
  • Providing course content to students in book-like format
  • Creating brochures
I must admit that I am new to iPaper and Scribd. iPaper appears to me to be an online version of .pdf. One of the advantages that I see is that it allows you to embed articles into blogs (see below) or onto webpages or ???
I just wrote an article for my other blog, Keyboarding Research and Resources, where I discuss the research into the effects of covering a computer keys when learning to keyboard. Just for fun, I uploaded this paper onto Scribd and below I have provided some ways to access it including embedding the file into this posting. Have fun.
Here's a link to the online Scribd page of this article, Can Learning to Touch Type be Facilitated by Covering the Keys on a Computer?

Here is the embedded version. I embedded this document by copying the HTML code from the Scribd website and then pasting it into the HTML version of this blog posting. Look at all of the various formats available for viewing this document. Click on the iPaper dropdown menu to see that you can view it in a book, document or presentation format. You can email it to a friend or print it or whatever.

What do you think of this the iPaper/Scribd options?
Have any of you used this tool?
What are your opinions?
How would you use it?