I am working on a paper on college student use of online lecture notes. This is the kind of work that I do. Studies of note taking and note reviewing were big back in the 1970s and 1980s (I am an old guy). The work seemed to offer some interesting possibilities for what might happen if students were provided notes to guide their processing during lectures and in later review sessions. The research area seemed to dry up after a time — perhaps because there seemed no practical way to deliver on the ideas. Few instructors/departments want to bear the cost and time demands of preparing and distributing notes. The Internet offers a way to handle these concerns and tools like Blackboard or WebCT make the delivery of PowerPoint presentations or word processor documents easy to accomplish. So I think lots of instructors are providing notes.

When I talk with others about this topic, the reaction I often get is — I don??t want my students to stop coming to class. Most instructors probably feel that at least some students will skip because notes are available, but like a friend of mine says – that??s an empirical question. Educational practices that have the potential to benefit learners, but also have the potential to be abused are not unique. So – do you make notes available because some students may benefit or do you ignore the opportunity because other students may skip? Sounds like a great research topic to me.

Next to CNN and any channel showing sporting events, TechTV is possibly my favorite television channel. The information density is not great, but I pick up something every now and then. The Screen Savers program has a good web site and archive (TechTv) that often provides me relevant information. A recent program focused on satellite imagery and explained how you can access images of your own community (program notes).

Grand Forks Map

My wife and I have an agreement about shopping trips. She goes shopping and I go to Barnes and Noble to drink coffee and look for books. We both like things this way.

I tend to get ideas when I have the time to sit around, look through books, and drink coffee. During my most recent “shopping trip”, I started looking at books about blogging and I ended up purchasing two (“we’ve got blog” by Perseus Publishing and “We blog: Publishing online with weblogs” by Bausch, Haughey and Hourihan). Why not start a blog about issues in technology and education? This would not be my first blog (Grabe NECC blog), but this would be my first serious attempt to maintain a blog over an extended period of time.

Here is my idea. Cindy and I are now between books. We always hope we have the opportunity to write the next edition. Rather than wait to find out if this will be the case, I tend to start collecting ideas and in formation immediately. I use some of this information in developing our web site (Grabe book site), but there are many ideas and resources that simply do not fit with structure of the web site. Why not use a blog to retain this information for personal use and share some of this content with others?


The issue of online safety looms as a threat to those of us who promote the educational potential of the Internet. Yesterday, President Bush signed into law a bill creating the kids.us domain (see legislation). The basic idea is provide a protected zone for children under 13.

A great idea, but success will rely on the underlying assumption that students will limit themselves to resources and services within this domain. It is kind of like telling your kids they can only watch the “Discovery Channel” and then leaving the house.

Another very important piece of the solution is to empower teachers, students, and parents by helping them understand the potential dangers that exist and providing practical suggestions for what might be done to avoid or handle dangerous situations. Filtering or channeling will never be a complete solution. This is the position taken by iSafe – a program that is being implemented in our local schools and schools across the country. I attended one of their information sessions yesterday and wrote this comment as a consequence.

By the way, Internet safety is the responsibility of educators who encourage Internet use. It is also the responsibility of parents. Do you know where your kids are surfing tonight?

Project Based Learning

We write a lot about project based learning. Just what qualifies as a learning project? I guess I have never generated a list of “must includes.” Some folks worry about such things and as long as such lists are intended as a way to stimulate thinking, I feel they are useful.

A group at the University of Michigan has generated a list of design principles for science inquiry projects. You can read their analysis of project essentials in the Educational Psychologist, 35(3), 165-178 or online.

The design principles follow from a social constructivist perspective (sounds abstract, but translating the basics is a useful exercise). The social constructivist features include: (a) active construction (e.g., collect evidence, find examples), (b) situated cogntiion (experience how knowledge and skills are applied within the discipline of study). (c) community (a community of practice, e.g., biologists, have a vocabulary, methods for answering questions, procedures for communication) and (d) discourse (symbolic forms used to communicate).

The authors propose that projects should: (a) be based on general guiding questions and domain standards, (b) involve inquiry – an extended process of posing questions, gathering evidence, reaching conclusions, (c) require collaboration (working with peers and perhaps experts), (d) use learning tools that provide opportunities for data collection and interpretation, and (e) generate artifacts (products that can be shared and evaluated).


This blog was created as a record of some of our experiences at NECC. Blogs are organized chronologically and the more recent entries appear at the top of the page. This blog allowed us to learn a little about how blogs work and to consider how blogs might be used as an educational communications tool. Comments on the creation of a blog appear in the entries generated during the first couple of days (see bottom of this page).

Global Schoolhouse sponsored a session on online collaborative learning. The purposes of the session were to introduce the audience to the resources of online collaboration and to provide some examples from the registry of more than 800 online projects Global Schoolhouse maintains.

Guest presenter at the GSN session was Karen Eini winner of the 2002 Shared Learning Award is responsible for developing and maintaining Friends and Flags a project dedicated to multicultural learning. Karen presented her structure for successful online collaborative projects.

Children’s Software Review offered a presentation based on their process for identifying the most innovative learning products of the year. The specific products that were discussed were used to illustrate the design features the review committee looked for in identifying quality products deserving recognition,. An interesting side light of the presentation involved comments about the difficulties involved in delivering quality learning experiences online.

Finally, we had an opportunity to catch up with the people from Tech4Learning. We have previously commented on several of their products (MediaBlender and Claymation) and spent time at the conference learning a little bit about VideoBlender (product for student video projects). Cindy and Melinda Koch have known each other for some time and we follow what Tech4Learning does because of their focus on support for student projects. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to use these pictures and wish we knew the entire cast of characters.

Melinda Koch of Tech4Learning


David Wagner and Tech4Learning Colleague



Today was the final day of the conference. I have a number of final comments to make in finishing this blog, but I am going to spend time tomorrow on the trip back putting this material together.
nA few words to recognize our sponsor. Cindy and I spend some time consulting with a technology innovation challenge grant awarded to the Grand Forks Schools and the Dakota Science Center. This organization attended NECC to promote the resources NatureShift makes available. The following pictures are from their convention booth – note the URL for the grant www.natureshift.org.

Dakota Science

One of the more popular demonstrations in the NatureShift booth involved robot kits allowing the creation of BoBots. See the NatureShift site for details.


Blogs can be community projects. Blogger allows the blog administrator to “invite” other participants. These individuals are sent an invitation by email and establish a username and password. These individuals can sign in and submit contributions. They are unable to edit other entries to the blog. The administrator can edit (including remove) any entry. Because the NECC blog is stored on my personal server, an entry submitted by a participant would be stored by Blogger.Com until I (administrator) upload the blog to my server by FTP. I am certain how this would work when serving the blog from the Blogger site. I am guessing that all participants would be able to immediately update the blog.


We presented today. We really like poster sessions because of the opportunity to talk with individuals. It is a great opportunity to exchange information and make contacts.

Cindy presents

Product evolution – we have now been involved with technology long enough that we find the evolution of projects to be of interest. New products with potential continually surface. Some survive and some do not. I have little insight into the business end of the educational software industry, but gaining and maintaining a group of adopters in the face of great competition and expectations for continual product development must be quite a struggle. Before iMovie, we used MovieWorks in our discussion of how description of how students might incorporate video in content area products. IMovie caught our attention and we shifted our emphasis because of its cost and power. I had an opportunity to become reacquainted with MovieWorks and it is nice to see that it has continued to evolve. Why would one pay for another product, even a product under $100, focused mostly on video? I am not certain that I would, but I am not certain that the company would want MovieWorks to be described as a video editing tool. The “works” part of the name is supposed to suggest something more – more of a suite of tools associated with video. The one feature that interested me was the opportunity to make use of buttons to program interactivity into video. I think this is a great feature. Interactive Solutions is working on a way to make available similar interactivity in on-line products created with MovieWorks. This is a possibility for the next version.