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I’ve made a few tweaks to Twitterator over the last couple days, the most significant of which is a measure of compatibility with DabbleDB. If you create a basic DabbleDB database with a single column of twitter usernames, you can specify the URL to the .txt or .csv versions of your database and Twitterator will add them to your list of Twitter friends.

This new feature should really help if you want to provide an easy way for a bunch of people to subscribe to a set of twitter users all at once. You could maintain, for example, a list of K-12 science teacher twitter users. Make as many groups as you want and simply provide the URLs in a blog post, on a wiki page, or in a Google Docs document.

Leave a comment if there’s another feature you’d like. I’ll see what I can do to put it in. Please let me know if you find a bug.

Love him or hate him, Robert X. Cringely’s column on is often provocative. He addressed the American education system is a recent post, and I found a couple points pretty interesting. First, the comparison between knowledge and search:

Andy Hertzfeld said Google is the best tool for an aging programmer because it remembers when we cannot. Dave Winer, back in 1996, came to the conclusion that it was better to bookmark information than to cut and paste it. I’m sure today Dave wouldn’t bother with the bookmark and would simply search from scratch to get the most relevant result. Both men point to the idea that we’re moving from a knowledge economy to a search economy, from a kingdom of static values to those that are dynamic. Education still seems to define knowing as more important than being able to find, yet which do you do more of in your work? And what’s wrong with crimping a paragraph here or there from Cringely if it shows you understand the topic?

I’ve posted about that before. I’m thinking about getting an iPhone when version 2.0 comes out, and I can’t wait to see what it’s like to have a real web browser in my pocket 24×7.

I’ve written about this for years and nobody ever paid attention, but ISO certification is what destroyed the U.S. manufacturing economy. With ISO 9000 there was suddenly a way to claim with some justification that a factory in Malaysia was precisely comparable to an IBM plant on the Hudson. Prior to then it was all based on reputation, not statistics. And now that IBM plant is gone.

I don’t know if Cringely is on track with this point, but it makes a bit of sense. He goes on to consider what it would be like if there was an ISO certification process for students. In other words, what if students could demonstrate their knowledge and skills outside of the context of the traditional school? Cringely contends that the whole system would come crashing down if that were possible.

I’ve been saying for years that one of the things holding our K-12 system together is the fact that colleges and universities don’t routinely accept students who don’t have high school diplomas. If the high school diploma ever loses its value as a credential, things will get really interesting.

Apple’s announcement yesterday of a full software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone exceeded my expectations. As I followed along with Engadget’s coverage, I had two thoughts: Apple is making a serious play for the corporate enterprise, and we are going to see some seriously amazing mobile apps. They also announced that all of the iPhone goodies will run on the iPod Touch too.

I don’t have an iPhone (or iPod Touch), but I’ve toyed with one enough to know that Safari on the iPhone rocks. Once Google has its apps running fully, the iPhone will be awesome with the browser alone. Now with the SDK in the works we could have iPhone versions of Inspiration, all of the Omni apps, MarsEdit, iChat, Skype, and practically any other cool app you can think of.

Consider for a moment what a classroom full of iPhone/iPod-wielding students could do. I’d like to see that.

New iMac

We got our first family computer on Tuesday, and my boys are pretty excited. I’ve got a couple laptops, but they’re for work and I don’t let the kids use them. Now, though, we’re ready to roll. I’ve downloaded Scratch, Google Earth, and Sketchup, and I’m looking forward to working on them with my oldest who’s eight.

We’ll be using Safari for the boys with its parental controls that allow us to restrict their web surfing to certain pre-approved sites. What I don’t have is a good list of kid-friendly sites. I plan to check out Club Penguin, but I’d love to get some other suggestions.

Here’s yet another shot across Microsoft’s bow. Google announced yesterday that presentations have been added to their online office suite. Their offerings are getting more and more compelling.

Google spreadsheet screenshot

I’ll post more on this soon, but I’m thinking about going to the Google Apps for a student email solution for next school year.

Here’s part of an email I received recently:

I’m trying to find a way to work with a wiki with my students. We’re trying to do some collaborative writing type activities. I want them to work in real time in the same document so a wiki seemed perfect. However, because we don’t allow email access I need them to do it without registering as a user of the wiki (the only way I know would require an email address to register). I tried it with several different types of wikis, but every time some peoples’ work was lost. It seemed like when someone saved what they had entered, it deleted what someone else had typed. I thought working in a table might help since they would have a specific place to type and not actually be entering in the same space, but that didn’t show any real improvement. Unfortunately, we don’t have Moodle at this time – maybe next year – since that would probably eliminate our registration problems.

My strategy has alway been to divide up the wiki editing into smaller chunks of content on multiple wiki pages to reduce the chances of editing collisions. It’s far from a perfect solution. Google Docs would work, but the lack of student email accounts would prevent that.

Is there a better solution out there? Is there a wiki engine that support simultaneous edits gracefully? I’m all ears.

Here are links to all of the sites I’ll be mentioning in my talk at IL-TCE on Thursday and Friday.


Google Maps mashups

Tag searching



Update: I popped into Steve Dembo’s presentation to hear what Web 2.0 apps he’s using these days. Here is his top10freesites wiki.

I don’t exactly know how I got on the mailing list, but I’ve been receiving the Google Earth Sightseer in my email inbox. Make sure you subscribe if you’re using Google Earth in your classroom or would like some great ideas about how to get started. The February 2007 issue alone has articles about new Google Earth search capabilities, studying human rights issues with maps, and satellite photography. Most of the articles include links to KML files that will launch in Google Earth to display the relative points of interest. The new Google Earth search is particularly interesting. From the newsletter:

Search is at the heart of everything we do here at Google. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new search innovation that’s available today in Google Earth. Now you can now search through all of the world’s Keyhole Markup Language (KML) files, making the millions of Google Earth KML files on the Web instantly accessible for geobrowsing and exploration.

So if your students are creating KML files, you can post them on your district Web site and they will become searchable for all the world to see. It’s another great way to share and collaborate.