Sam Harrelson

83 Lines

Trevor Turk put together a WordPress theme using only 83 lines of PHP and 75 lines of CSS. That’s pretty amazing.

And pretty.

I’m using it here as my theme for a very long time to come.

Yes, I love it.




iPads and Classroom Essentials

This is a wonderful walkthrough by Fraser Speirs on how his school (Cedars School of Excellence in the UK)implemented an “iPad for Every Student” initiative and some of the resulting reflections the school has made.

I’m prodding my beloved Spartanburg Day School to do the same (at an annoyingly daily rate, I’m sure).

However, I was arrested for a moment when I came to this passage in the post…

An iPad for every child | Tablets | Macworld: “We are now at the stage where the iPad is embedded in the way we do business at the school. When we first started, we thought we could guard against misuse by threatening to take away the child’s iPad for a day or so. It turns out that doing so would now completely break the school day for that child. We might as well make them sit in the hallway and face the wall for the entire day. I did not expect that we would reach that point so soon.”

I hadn’t really considered how integrated a tool like an iPad could become to a classroom or a school. I have a “class” iPad that we use but we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of its possibilities and being that there’s only one to go around, it’s more difficult for students to dig deeper than note taking or quick reference searches with the device (although more and more students are getting iPads and bringing them to school).

However, I’ve purposely gone half the year now without renting the “laptop carts” which carry 18 white Macbooks for class. I have a very liberal policy when it comes to technology in my classroom (allow iPods, earbuds, iPads, mobiles… and even Androids to be used at a student’s discretion), but I don’t want the students to feel as if the laptops are a crutch to fall back on when we need to find material, make a connection or prove a point.

I guess that’s the same reason I keep a “mimimalist” look to my classroom with as few things on the wall etc as possible. It’s a science lab, but we’re just meeting in that room temporarily. I don’t want my students (or myself) to get fooled by the notion that the room itself is where science happens. Instead, I want them to look out the window at the beautiful dogwood just outside my classroom and realize that is their true classroom where all the lab supplies lie.

Everything in my classroom is very modular and utilitarian. The laptops could certainly serve as part of that utilitarian design, but I’d rather let student discretion and need drive the decision to use the web or an IM or a text message rather than saying, “Today, we will use the internet!” for a lesson.

I’m moving to a larger room next year with proper lab tables, gas lines, a chemical closet (and even an office). It will be interesting to see if my thinking changes then.

Regardless, I wonder if/when my dream of having iPads deployed across our school happens if we’ll have the same sudden realization about their essential nature to our character as a school. I also wonder about the ramifications if that does happen?




Search is the Card Catalogue of the Web

I wrote this piece on April 25, 2007. I’m fishing through some old posts and had to revisit/repot this as I think we’re on the verge of a major shift in attention literacy and finding information on the web.

Enjoy…

Search is king.

We have conferences and we have an entire industry built around the idea that “search marketing” is the end all / be all of online marketing.

If you want to reach people and influence their buying habits, you include a large AdWords and keyword budget for search. If you want people to find your website in the vast chaos that are search results, you spend a great deal of time and money on optimizing your site (in some cases at the expense of user interface and aesthetics).

But what about discovery?

Why has “searching” for information outpaced “discovering” information online?

It’s simple… companies and platforms who monetize a user’s ability to find the information they want have found it easier to provide “search engines” rather than “discovery engines.”

This is not just semantics.

Instead, look ahead to the future and how the average web user’s experience has progressed so far. Finding information relevant to your query has forever been a struggle. We’ve made positive steps forward with the search engines, but users still complain about the amount of junk, garbage and irrelevant results they receive in a Google or Yahoo search on a particular topic.

However, as the price of user generated data continues to rise and the price of producing user generated data continues to fall, we see a market shift away from “search” and towards “discovery.”

Soon, we’ll all be paid by Amazon or Google to host our data with them as we do our daily web browsing on our computers, on our cell phones, in our cars and on our digital cameras. Instead of searching for information, you’ll be discovering information based on your user generated output.

Our children will laugh at us for how we sought out information online, just as we raise eyebrows at the thought of using a card catalogue to find a book in a library.




Flickr Says Thanks for All the Fish


It’s really not that big of a deal, but I’ve been a Pro member for the last three years… words like this lead me to think that maybe Yahoo isn’t putting that much long term investment in the Flickr service.


Thanks, Flickr


Why only until June 1?
We promised you access to your all time data, and we’re disappointed we’ve not been able to deliver on that. We’ve been trying for over a year to get the data ready for you and in the process we have found that it’s just not sustainable for us to offer this access over the long term. What’s available is what we have managed to generate so far, it’s offered as is with no guarantees. We know it’s missing some data but fixing the holes or offering the data for longer would require us to divert too much attention from making the rest of the site better which, as always, is our main goal.


Yikes.


Picasa maybe?





Dear @Evernote, I Want to Use your Service But This is Unacceptable

Over and over tonight (strong wifi):

Looks like I’m sticking with Basecamp.
 
 
Sent from my iPhone




Great Review of @Posterous

Years of building and maintaining my WordPress blog have resulted in my learning a lot about WordPress and getting a lot of grease under my fingernails. Weeks of using Posterous has resulted in a media-rich blog with several posts per week. Tell me which service is more powerful.

via suntimes.com

I started using Posterous primarily as a photo-blog back in September of ’08.

However, it’s transitioned into my full time personal blog as I’ve changed up the samharrelson.com domain into a static landing (pointer) page.

Posterous solves so many problems for me.

Thanks to Andy Ihnatko for the great review affirming my love and thanks to the Posterous team for a fantastic product that has renewed my love of posting.




From Evernote Back to Backpack

I’ve been a longtime Evernote member going back to March ’08 (and then a paying Premium member since June ’08 shortly after they opened that functionality), but I just can’t figure out the best way to integrate the service into my workflow.  I’ve certainly tried because I do see so much potential in the product.

However, since I’ve been trying to do most everything using only web apps and my iPhone, I’ve had a tougher time using Evernote. The Mac desktop client is beautiful and easy to use. The Windows desktop client less so. But it’s the web interface that just isn’t working for me (and that is the most important one at this point since I can’t install the desktop client on my locked-down school Macbook).

So, I’m going back to Backpack (in the old days, I would have used my affiliate link for the program there with a little disclosure) for workflow management. The web interface is fantastic (and familiar), I can easily email in material, create seperate pages, feel secure, integrate easily with GMail, Google Calendar and be completely web-based. 

However, the killer app Backpack has going for it is the Journal feature:

http://www.viddler.com/player/a45407f8/

I’m using it for product management, status updates to myself and as a “private twitter” etc. It’s like the anti-social bookmarketing site Pinboard for micro-messaging.

The problem that has plagued Backpack (and the whole suite of 37Signals products such as Basecamp and Highrise) is the lack of iPhone apps or integration.  That’s been solved by a nifty app called Satchel.  Yes, it costs $10, but it’s well worth the price. Satchel is speedy, works “offline” (whatever that means anymore), and intuitive. I can also easily update my Journal through Satchel. Plus, there are hacks and apps for getting Backpack to work well as a web app (like GMail) on the iPhone if preferred.

So, between Backpack’s web apps and Satchel, I’m very happy (and productive).

I’ll explain more on today’s Thinking.FM podcast episode. 




FriendFeed Catchup in GMail

I absolutely love FriendFeed's GMail IM integration. It's how I consume most of my FriendFeed content as well as lots from my favorite folks on Twitter that I have piped into FF via the Imaginary Friends (now Rooms) feature.

So, if I miss a few hours and want to catch up on what is going on in the Valley or from the folks I follow (and left GMail open on my Macbook), I can just open up the "Chat with FF" message waiting on me in my GMail FriendFeed label and scan. Plus, I can go back and search topics or people I'm interested in after a few days.

Not completely practical for everyone, but I love the feature (and greatly miss the good old days when Twitter had the same IM integration with Track).




My Laptop’s Operating System

I have a school issued (white) MacBook 13′ that I’ve been using the last few weeks when I need a computer (besides my iPhone). It’s great that we have MacBooks for teachers and students. However, since we are also transitioning to Google Apps (thankfully) and everything I do is mostly cloud-based, I don’t see much of the shiny Mac OSX operating system.

Instead, this is what I see and use as my main operating system (Firefox).




Using MindMeister for Mind Mapping in the Classroom

MindMeister Academic Edition

The Academic Edition of MindMeister is a complete collaborative mind mapping solution for educational institutions such as schools, universities and learning centers. It helps teachers and instructors to apply essential thought mapping elements in the classroom and ensure that learning is an effective and memorable experience.

After doing some researching and testing, I’m going to be using MindMeister for our “mind mapping” classroom (and out-of-classroom) sessions in my 8th grade science and 6th grade robotics classes this year.

I’m hopeful this will be a great augment to our classroom learning.