Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Human body parts now available online

Ruth, Jon, and I looked at hearts, lungs, skulls, and other body parts while eating Halloween candy on the floor. Online body parts, of course. It was an educational end to a spooky night of trick-or-treating.

Wright State maintains a QTVR Anatomical Library with 360° views of human organs, bones, etc. Their list of QTVR Links is great. We started there and surfed a few other sites too.

The top three virtual anatomy sites we found are Human Anatomy Online, Get Body Smart, and MEDtropolis's Virtual Body.

Some sites have interactive flash videos that teach about the human anatomy and/or disease. I liked Health Tools Online. And there is a heart model done in Holomatix Blaze 3D.

BBC's Interactive Human Body and Mind site has fun and games for budding anatomy students. A parent who can quickly search the web would probably find many similarly engaging and educational activities.

And the teacher in me is already pondering whether virtual anatomy would be a good tool in the biology class. My students could write reports, make simulated medical diagnoses, create models, do anatomy scavenger hunts, or analyze human anatomy structure and function. Virtual anatomy projects could be individualized for different ability levels and completed asynchronously. Hmmm... Might give this some more thought...

Culture of the Networked

Danah Boyd recently shared her personal experience in researching networked youth. She studies social networks as they develop and has a unique perspective. Her blog is worth checking out, too.

I've seen the increase in networked teenagers while teaching High School. And I know a fair cross-section of networked youth and adults. It's obvious that 'networked' individuals consider their online communication as an important and valued part of daily life.

For many, their social reality does not delineate between face-to-face communication and networked communication. But there is more to being 'networked' than just communication...

More on that in a second, but first let me argue that social reality is culture. Understand? The social reality of a group is its behavior and attitudes, artistic achievements, customs and social institutions, etc. By definition, its culture.

Now here is the kicker: the social reality, the culture of the networked, is the network itself.

The digital social network exists as not as an extension of an individual or corporate entity. From the 'networked' individual's point-of-view, the network is social reality. And being 'networked' implies becoming part of a new, rapidly evolving network - a new culture.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Are U.S. Schools 'Dropout Factories'?

Yes, Alaska has high school dropouts. Too many.

ABC News: Are U.S. Schools 'Dropout Factories'?

Last year, the graduation rates for high schools in the Anchorage School District were 59, 82, 83, 82, 69, 72, 84, and 56.

What happens to the students who dropout? Well, some go to AVAIL. We take students who are behind in their academic credits or dropped out of school.

And the AVAIL graduation rate is 31%. In other words, we are 31% successful in helping students earn a diploma. On time. (Some AVAIL students graduate in their 5th year. They don't count in the graduation rate but I consider them successful.)

Is a 100% graduation rate realistic? Can all students can meet the minimum standards for graduation in 4 years?

Probably not by maintaining status quo. 'All men are created equal' does not extend to intellectual ability. And so 100% is unrealistic if we continue to educate all students in the same way.

We need to do a much better job of graduating those students who are capable of doing so. We need earlier identification of at-risk youth. And alternatives for those students with diverse learning styles or learning disabilities.

America is great because it gives all men the opportunity to become great. Public education must do no less.

Edit - ADN has a similar story in the paper today.
Seven Alaska schools labeled 'dropout factories' by U.S.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bloody students

I'm awake early and watching The Bride (of Frankenstein) with Jennifer Beals and Sting. It's a love story, not horror, but it has me thinking about Halloween.

And nothing says Halloween like fake blood. You can get directions to make fake blood with corn syrup and food coloring but the bleeding trick is very realistic and good for teaching, too.

Chemistry teachers might even use the 'bleeding trick' reaction to teach chemical equilibrium and aqueous reactions of complex ions. Bloody students would surely be memorable.

The Equilibrium Reaction (LeChatlier's Principle) from Cal State Northridge is very good. Visit their page for the teacher's guide, pictures, and links to background material. To do the Cal State demonstration, you need sodium phosphate monobasic, potassium thiocyanate, and ferric nitrate.
1. fill a petri dish with KSCN solution and a few drops of ferric nitrate solution (becomes orange)
2. add a couple ferric nitrate crystals (turns red)
3. add sodium phosphate (becomes clear again)
4. add a drop of ferric nitrate solution (red spot)
5. add a couple KSCN crystals in a different spot (orange spot)

Or students could do the experiment and make observations. After the experiment, you could write out the chemical reaction and discuss equilibrium. Then students could watch their classmates bleed!

The 'bleeding trick' only requires potassium thiocyanate and ferric nitrate. Here is a video demonstration by Bhmeta.

How To Make Blood Appear In Body Without Any Wound!!

P.S. My students tested cholesterol in fake blood samples this year. I must have a macabre fascination with hemorrhages. Boo!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Little Shovelers

Jon and his friend from next door have some initiative, huh? The little shovelers made quick work of the one-inch snowfall. And had fun, to boot. I hope they keep it up all winter.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Arctic Alaska villages caught in slow-motion disaster onslaught

Coastal Alaska is feeling the effects of a warming climate. Some villages are considering relocation. Here are some projected costs to move:

• Newtok, $412,000 per person.

• Shishmaref, $330,000 per person.

• Kivalina, $330,000 per person.

I thought, "That's a lot of money! I would rather have cash than a relocated village - I could build a cabin upriver and buy a house in Anchorage, too."

My wife agrees that (hypothetically) the cash would be a better deal. Can you blame us? Our family of 5 would get a $1.5 million windfall. What would you do?

Out in remote "Bush" Alaska villages, the federal and state governments have built runways, clinics, schools, homes, and subsidized local government and corporations. Many villages have little or no tax base and their real subsistence is living on the dole. So it is no wonder that the vocal majority want to move their communities and expect government to foot the bill. The village of Newtok is the prime example.

Having lived in coastal Alaska for 10 years doesn't make me an expert on rural and Native issues, but living in the Washington DC Metro area for 23 years makes me qualified to spot a waste of government money. Do we spend millions to rebuild entire communities every 50 years as sea levels rise and permafrost melts? Do we relocate an entire coastal population at the expense of taxpayers who live 1,049 miles away?

Disclaimer: I'm a leftist wacko who supports Kucinich for President. I am happy to give a disproportionate share of state revenues to support rural education, electrification, and sanitation. I think public health care and welfare are the duties of an educated citizenry. I support alternative energy research and eliminating dependence on fossil fuels. And I think that all of the above are good long-term investments for society.

But moving entire villages is not a good deal for anyone. It is not a long-term solution. Better to face facts and realistically plan for the future. Moving 10 miles away and asking for government handouts makes no sense. Coastal villages will be facing climate change for the next two centuries and most do not have the economic resources to relocate every 50-75 years.

If a village cannot be self-sufficient, then it is time to 'close up shop' and stop wasting taxpayer money.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Relaxing at home

It is 1:30 on Sunday, but I find myself still thinking about Saturday. Saturday was a busy day in the Knoll family. It was Katie's birthday and Jeff is in town for flight school. But I spent most of the day herding my little ones.

First thing yesterday morning, I did some shopping for my son. It was Jon's turn to bring snacks for his basketball team. And I was supposed to get a birthday present for Jon's little friend - which I forgot... more on that later.

Jon, Ruth, and I then drove over to her basketball game. Uh-oh, Ruth forgot her socks! After coaching my daughter (who wore little brother's socks), I rushed her over to Jon's game to deliver the socks just in time.

Jon's game ended just in time to attend the birthday party, but we forgot to buy a present. With no time for shopping, we made our apologies for arriving an hour late and empty-handed. We'll make it up somehow.

Next I took the two little kids and their dog Lacy to the park to run around for an hour. When we got home, we said happy birthday to Katie and ate a few sandwiches. Elmer, Doll, Wes, and Denita came to visit for a while and then they all followed Cody to watch his basketball game.

Cody and Jeff went out for a movie and I put the younger kids to bed. Next time I saw Jeff & Katie was Sunday @ 1PM as they came in the front door. Apparently Cody, Ruth and Katie stayed out with their friends or Aunt or somewhere. (Nobody told me ahead of time so I still don't know where Cody is.)

Edit: It is now 2PM and Shyrel just woke up. She's looking over my shoulder and says Cody is at Aunt Ebba's.

So now I am going back to my relaxing Sunday with the little ones. Ruthie just dealt out another hand of cards for Jon and me to play 'War'. I lost the first hand, gotta go.

Friday, October 19, 2007


AVAIL now has 20 MacBooks ready for student use. The brand-new computers were imaged today and they look soooo pretty. Of course, Netrestore is the best tool for such a job.

And our file server worked all day today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Round and round and YouTube

My circular motion lesson plan called for 3 demonstrations and one inquiry activity. I started off with a quick demo and an informal pre-assessment. 12 out of 15 students surveyed did not know the word centripetal. 10 did not know any of Newton's laws of motion.

After playing with balls in a hoop, rotating water jars, and swinging paper cups on a string, they could all explain the forces at work in circular motion. Students formed a basic understanding of the relation of radius and period to centripetal force. Some groups asked about pendulums and so we made a side trip into the effect of a pendulum's length on it's period. We even calculated the speed of our 'astronaut' in miles per hour. A whopping 14 mph!

Not bad for 75 minutes.

But sometimes I can't think of that perfect demonstration. Or need a quick lesson filler. Or I need a visual 'hook' but don't have the materials. What to do? How about a quick video search?

YouTube is a good place to start. Search for 'centripetal force demonstration' or whatever. And get some great ideas for your next lesson. If your district blocks YouTube, then just download the video at home and bring it to work. Or ssh into... I better stop there. ;-)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ed tech 'cheers and jeers'

Tomorrow my students are videoconferencing with the Alaska Department of Labor to discuss career planning. The conference is part of a year-long Career Exploration Opportunities (CEO) class.

CEO gives students from around the state a chance to interact with career counselors and plan for a career. More information at the CEO website.

Some of the technologies that CEO students use are Elluminate, a Moodle-based online course, and numerous web resources. There are several experienced technology leaders involved with supporting and delivering the course materials. The students have little or no problems with the technology.

The school file server is not behaving as well as the videoconference & web technologies. I'm going on 5 school days without being able to mount network home directories from the login window. Ouch.

Server: "Logging in to the account failed because an error occurred. The home folder for the account is located on an AFP or SMB server."

Me: "!@#*"

Let's run-down the time spent on this issue so far:
Me. Forums and troubleshooting (20 hrs so far)
Help Desk phone support. 1 call ticket (1-2 days)
Server Admin #1. remote assistance (1 day)
Tech support. on-site server rebuild (1 day)
Server Admin #2. on-site & remote troubleshooting (1 day)

The problem just appeared out of thin air and server rebuild / replication did not help. Bound clients can authenticate but get the error message every time. Maybe we wait 11 more days for Leopard Server? :-)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Education Industrial Complex

I can't help wondering what Ayn Rand might say in response to Ruben Salazar's post at Daily Kos: The Education Industrial Complex. He writes,
When I decided to enroll in the NYC Teaching Fellows program this last June my motives were purely and naively idealistic. Instead of working as a paralegal or doing some entry level PR or editorial job I was going to save the world. I knew some of the forces I was going to be up against: poverty, crime, neglect, poor funding and a thousand other factors that inhibit student achievement in inner city schools. What I didn't realize was the degree to which education in this country is being systematically dismantled, privatized and engulfed by the Bush-Corporate apparatus.

Ruben Salazar is a first year teacher with an inner-city job. He's a world apart from Alaska (a conservative state). But I wonder who's getting $$$ while I proctor standardized tests?

You can follow Ruben's first year teaching at Is Our Children Learning?

A Vision of Students Today

Thought provoking video from Dr. Michael Wesch & students. Originally posted here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Spirit Week

Monday - Pajamas
Tuesday - Inside Out
Wednesday - Crazy Hair
Thursday - Sports
Friday - Colors
Saturday & Sunday - Fix Computers

One unusual and fun week capped off with a Bowling trip for PE credit. Not a bad week at all. Just hoping that I can solve the network authentication problems this weekend. And image a new mobile lab.

Wait a minute, does the weekend start on Friday?

Hoo-boy, that's funny.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


So I bought a $25 gift certificate from for only $5.
Great deal, just spend $35 on dinner and get $25 off.

But the local restaurant (Angelina's) would NOT accept the
certificate. No problem, the owner was a nice guy and explained that
if I emailed the website I would get my money back.

Long story short, I am now the owner of 2 new $25 gift certificates.
It's $25 for the certificate that was not accepted, PLUS an extra $25

So why am I complaining?

#1 It's been 3 days since I contacted and they are
still falsely advertising gift certificates to Angelina's. WTF!?

#2 Angelina's owner says that he contacted in July
and opted out of the program. If true, then has been
selling useless gift certificates for 3 months.

#3 When I redeem the new gift certificates, that will be $25 out of a
local restauranteur's pocket... Just to make me happy about's mistake. Not feeling good about that.


The silver lining is that I enjoyed my meal. And I'll go back to
Angelina's Philippine Cuisine again.

If you like good food and service, please give Angelina's a try.
They serve inexpensive Philippine cuisine and have a nice family
atmosphere. Angelina's is located at 3600 Minnesota Dr. Anchorage, AK. On the web:

For the record, here's the customer service response from


I have sent you a credit to our website for the certificate(s) that you could not use. You will receive an e-mail explaining how to use this. Thank you and we apologize for the inconvenience. I have also sent you a free $25 certificate for the inconvenience.

We have a no cash back policy stated in our terms and condition which you agreed to when you ordered the certificates. Sometimes restaurants do go out of business/obtain new owners/opt out of our program and we can not help that situation. The restaurants do not inform us of this, and we find out from the customers. When we do find out about it however, we do fix the situation as soon as we can to avoid more certificates sold. We do email customers who have certificates for the restaurant and inform them as well as offer them an exchange for credit to our site.

The credit that you received does not expire and if you do not have anything in your local area you would like, we have online partners at the bottom of our site that you could use the credit for, as well as we are nationwide and you can use it if you go on a vacation somewhere in the United States.

Lisa Frazier
Customer Support
1500 Shure Drive
Arlington Heights, IL
Please tell my boss how I am doing by emailing:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Commitment = Success

Sometimes I struggle to understand why my students don't graduate. Each one has obstacles and each situation is different... but commitment can overcome almost any obstacle. I guess I just don't understand lack of commitment.

Traver and I visited with a student who is within 2 months of graduation but wants to go away for a month (or more) to visit with relatives. The visit made me think of other kids who dropped out while in spitting distance of a diploma. All bright students who have the potential to complete HS and college.

AVAIL provides every opportunity for HS dropouts to catch up and graduate. But days like today make me wonder if we are effectively communicating the importance of commitment.

The bottom line is that we need to do more to help them see why education is important. It's not just about the diplomas or degrees, but making a commitment to success.

Students, be committed to yourself and to your education. And get your diploma! It will set you on the path to lifelong success.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Surplus Science Equipment

New (alright, gently used) science equipment arrived at AVAIL today.

A colleague dropped off some surplus items. I am pretty excited to have some physical science materials.
Here is what's new:
2 lasers with mirrors, lenses, filters, etc., almost new
1 vacuum (air pump), almost new
2 cars & 2 spring scales
'bout a dozen pulleys
various metal balls and a centripetal force track
2 class demos for centripetal force, well-used but COOL!
3 Thermometers
1 pH test kit
2 test tubes, brushes, clamps
florence flask, erlenmeyer flask, glass funnel, droppers
1 tuning fork
2 hygrometers, old but working

Here's what didn't make the cut:
Wind tunnel - aerodynamics analyzer. It's missing pieces and, get this, requires Windows 95. lol. Too bad it had never been used.
Aspirin test kit that came with broken bottles of HCl and Ethanol.
1 old timer and 1 bike wheel. They have seen better days. ;-)

Thank you Collette!

Monday, October 8, 2007

What looks good to you?

This year my students are taking over the webmaster and school blog responsibilities. It is their chance to write for a real audience and create something for the community at large.

But I am NOT loving from the MySpace look. (These kids and I have different ideas of what looks "good".) Ever been in a similar situation? What I really need to do is introduce ergonomic web design and color schemes.

Reading & discussing ergonomics should make a good lesson and help redirect students towards professional yet modern appearance. Grantastic has a nice gallery and tips for site design. And we'll look at other school websites in our district.

Palette Generator will be a great tool for us to discuss color schemes. We can create palettes based on successful print ads or photographs and talk about why those palettes are appealing.

Let's hope for the best.

New Blog

I looked at Wordpress but settled on Blogspot. No real reason why I am giving up the old domain. I just like trying something new...