Over the past weekend the blooming of the Titan Arum plant occurred. What makes this event so special is that this plant is only found natively in Sumatra and that it blooms only one time every six and a half years! I was able to see the opening of this bloom in person this weekend at the EIU Thut Greenhouse and it really makes you feel special to witness this event with your own eyes while standing less than three feet away from the plant. Once the blooming begins it takes only a few hours for the plant to fully bloom.
Links are provided in the show notes explaining the life cycle of the Titan Arum along with photographs and a live webcam streaming video of this rare event. You will also see photographs of all stages of the blooming of this plant with plans for a time-lapse video of the blooming process in the near future.
Titan Arum website info:
Photography and Live Streaming Webcam information:
EIU Virtual Garden Website:
Thut Greenhouse Webcam
Here is a little background information about this unique plant. The Titan Arum plant begins as a tuber that can weigh over 200 pounds! The other interesting property of this plant relates to its common name of “Corpse Flower”. The flower puts out a powerful odor that is said to attract its pollinators. The smell has been compared to a "rotting-fish-burnt-sugar" scent and is strongest at night. After blooming the spadix of the plant heats up to approximately the temperature of the human body and this is thought to help disperse the scent for beetles and flies that serve as pollinators. This really is a most unusual plant and I encourage you to visit the links provided in the show notes to learn more about this fascinating plant and its life cycle. This information would make for a great science lesson when you get back to class this fall. All of this sharing is made possible by technology!
While virtual viewings and virtual field trips let you experience events that you might not otherwise be able to experience there is still no substitute for the real life experience of being there.
We recently had a discussion in one of my weekend classes about virtual field trips and how they are increasingly being used to offset the cost of real field trips that are becoming less common due to the high cost of fuel. New technologies at least allow the possibility of experiencing events that would otherwise be beyond the reach for many students. However, in my opinion, students still need real life experiences, especially for those children who may not get the opportunity to visit other places because of their home situations. Many of us in the technology field commonly experience virtual events and virtual trainings to help us keep up with new developments in our fields and are quite comfortable with this format. We must however remember that while the virtual experiences can be beneficial for our students, students still need to experience real-life events.
Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is the NECC website.
NECC 2008 San Antonio Link:
A reminder that the National Educational Computing Conference better known as NECC in now one week away and will be hosted by the city of San Antonio, Texas. If you are planning to attend NECC and would like to meet up at this event please drop me an email and we will see if we can arrange a time and place to meet while we are in San Antonio. I am beginning to finalize my NECC schedule and like all the NECC attendees there are so many sessions to choose from that making a decision as to what sessions to attend is difficult.
Last year at NECC the update for the National Education Technology Standards (NETS*S) for Students were presented. This year the update to the National Education Technology Standards for Teachers standards (NETS*T) will be revealed on Monday, June 30th.
NETS for Teachers (2008)
That wraps it up for episode 43 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. I do not know if I will have a podcast episode next week as I will be on the road but I do plan on gathering lots of information while attending NECC to share with you in future podcasts so stay tuned. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
It is now too late in the season to replant corn fields so many farmers impatiently await the dryout so they can plant soybeans in these fields, that is if Mother Nature cooperates. If soybeans cannot be planted before the second week in July this year then this farming season will be a complete disaster for those farmers affected by the weather. Many of you know that food prices are rising and that commodity prices like corn and soybeans are at record levels. If farmers cannot plant and harvest the crops then short supplies will continue to push prices higher. What you do not often hear on the news is that input costs like land prices, seed, fertilizer, herbicide, pesticides, and fuel are also all at record prices. Much of this price inflation is due to the high costs of petroleum products that have been passed on to the farmers. Every input cost is higher than in previous years making farm profitability increasingly difficult even in times of record commodity prices. I have provided a link in the shownotes to an agricultural report that lists grain prices and conditions for this part of Illinois if you are interested in taking a closer look at the current market report to learn more.
USDA Grain Report – June 13, 2008 Springfield, IL>http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/gx_gr113.txt
In areas along the Mississippi River from Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois the flood waters are just now cresting this week so the damage to these fields not to mention personal property will be huge. People affected by this flooding will be dealing with the consequences of this flooding for weeks to come.
With corn prices approaching $7 per bushel and soybean prices at $15 per bushel I suspect the average American thinks that farmers will be making a lot of money this year. Keep in mind that many farmers I know are just hoping to break even this year with the high input costs we are experiencing. For those farmers that have received flood damage they most likely will lose money this year. To give you some sense of perspective of rising input prices here is shocking statistic, seed corn prices hit over $200 per bag this year.
For farmers that have escaped bad weather they may indeed have a good year if they get a good harvest and if prices remain at this level. As always with farming there is the big “IF”.
Many will be surprised to know that farmers today make up that less than 2 percent of the US population. Today farming is very much technologically driven. Farmers use this technology to increase production in hopes that producing more product will out pace input costs, sometimes it does, and sometimes it does not.
From the use of satellite imagery, Global Positioning Systems that help determine what areas of fields need more or less fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide use farmers are using sophisticated mapping technologies to wisely use high-cost resources. Weather data reports, market trending and analysis, micro-nutrient analysis, and all kinds of field monitors also help with everything from planting to harvesting and are routinely used to increase production in hopes of producing increased profits.
Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is the digital globe website available at digitalglobe.com. You have probably viewed this imagery by news organizations like CNN to provide satellite imagery related to various news stories such as the current flooding in the midwest.
In September of 2007 a new satellite called WorldView-1 was launched and now provides one-half meter imagery. Here is a quote from the digital globe website explaining capabilities of the satellite that is used to capture this imagery.
“Operating at an altitude of 496 kilometers, WorldView-1 has an average revisit time of 1.7 days and is capable of collecting up to 750,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles) per day of half-meter imagery. The satellite is also equipped with state-of-the-art geolocation accuracy capabilities and exhibits stunning agility with rapid targeting and efficient in-track stereo collection. “
The digital globe website is very easy to use and you can simply type in the name of the city and zipcode you are interested in to view high resolution satellite imagery. Keep in mind that not all of the imagery is in real time and many images may be several years old. The site also sells photographs for your selected view if you wish to purchase a hardcopy of the imagery.
The site also advertises commercial use aerial imagery up to 3 inch resolution. What that means is that you can identify an object down to about 3 inches in size from this imagery. All of this happens from the safety of space and few people realize this is happening or give very little thought to it. The Olympics are also coming up and the site provides detailed images of Beijing that is in the final stages of preparation for the Olympics in August.
All of this technology really shrinks the world. Whether you are interested in the Olympics, seeing your own town from Space, or a farmer checking crop production the digital globe offers some interesting possibilities.
A reminder that the National Educational Computing Conference better known as NECC in now two weeks away and will be hosted by San Antonio, Texas at the end of this month. If you are planning to attend NECC and would like to meet up at this event please drop me an email and we will see if we can arrange a time and place to meet while in San Antonio.
That wraps it up for episode 42 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to email@example.com or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning
Monday, June 9, 2008
A link to a story in our local paper is provided in the show notes if you would like to read more about this series of storms.
Charleston Mattoon Journal Gazette – June 2008 Storms
Mother Nature is in control and this just goes to show you how fragile our infrastructure can be when faced with the wrath of Mother Nature. I live in the country and we have experienced these outages before and therefore we are prepared for these types of events when they happen. I must say though that not having phone service for a couple of days really makes you feel out of touch with the rest of the world. Being stuck at home made me also want to reconsider my choice of not having Internet access at home as it would have been nice to be able to get on the Internet this weekend to find out what was going on.
Internet access choices are limited in our area and high prices have kept me from signing-up for service. It would be very convenient to have Internet access at home and I am now investigating some new broadband choices but many carriers are beginning to put caps on the amount of broadband access you are allowed to consume. I previously had satellite Internet access at home but found the speeds too slow and the price too high to continue its use. New choices are now becoming available.
For example, in this area of Illinois Verizon is now offering a free broadband USB modem for approximately $40.00 per month. This service plan has a cap of 50MB of usage before they begin to charge you an overage charge of 49 cents per MB. Verizon is also offering a 5 GB plan for approximately $60.00 per month with an overage charge of 99 cents per MB. Both require a minimum 1 year service contract. 50 MB per month is really not that much data but I really do not want to spend $720 per year for a service that is capped at the higher 5GB per month fee either. Please note that these charges are in addition to our monthly cell phone bill that is approximately $100.00 per month.
Verizon Wireless Broadband
So if I do go with the 5GB plan I would be paying approximately $160 per month between cell phone and broadband access services. That is $1920.00 per year and that just seems like a lot of money for basic communication services for the 21st Century. Add to this the typical cable TV bill of $50 per month and this cost becomes approximately $210.00 per month or $2520.00 per year for cell phone, wireless broadband Internet access, and cable TV. Of course my idea of basic services is relative and it is my choice to select the services I want to access. Being connected has its costs. Now I wonder if I could give up my cable TV and trade it in for the broadband access? Choices, choices…
There is another battle going on right now that will impact all wireless Internet users in the coming months. Wireless access providers seem to want to limit data usage while content providers want to maximize content that is available to purchase and download. So we have competing interests of content providers wanting end users to download as much music and videos as the consumer can afford but the wireless carriers are concerned with the amount of bandwidth that this requires. Thus the carriers are looking at new business models to pay for this increased bandwidth use.
I have a link to a New York Times article from back in January of this year that I encourage you to read regarding a pilot project by Time Warner that is capping of bandwidth usage for the citizens of Beaumont, Texas. This comes under the heading of net neutrality. In my opinion if this Time Warner pilot project is successful it will be replicated by other wireless Internet Service Providers across the nation, in a way it already has. So if you want to download that high-definition movie that you legally purchased online it could cost you an additional $30 in bandwidth fees to download this large file on top of the original purchase price if you live in Beaumont Texas according to this NY Times article. That is scary!
Time Warner Beaumont Texas Bandwidth Cap
I would like to ask the listeners/readers if any of you have a wireless broadband service and what you like about it. How much bandwidth are you using? Are you satisfied with the service? How much bandwidth do you use each month? My reservations about bandwidth have to do with the fact that I do watch a lot of videos from YouTube and TeacherTube so I am concerned about the amount of material that I would be downloading at home. Add to this my use of Skype for audio and video conferencing and I am afraid I would even hit the higher 5GB limit for any given month. Please let me know what types of service and pricing are available in your area.
Unfortunately the digital divide still exists in rural Illinois as coverage choices are limited and prices remain relatively high, particularly in rural areas. We do have access and choices but for many this still remains cost prohibitive. What do you think? Am I being a cheapskate? Leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog or send and email to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts with others.
I will be attending the National Educational Computing Conference better known as NECC in San Antonio, Texas at the end of this month. If any listeners are planning to attend NECC and would like to meet up at this event please drop me an email at email@example.com and we will see if we can arrange a time and place to meet while in San Antonio. I would love to meet fellow listeners/readers face-to-face to compare notes so please let me know if you are interested.
NECC 2008 San Antonio Link:
Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is a flowcharting Web 2.0 service named Gliffy. Last week I reviewed a text to mind map tool and this week I ran across the Gliffy flowcharting tool. Gliffy reminds me a lot of the Microsoft Visio program as it has several palates of shapes to choose from such as flowcharts, network diagrams, org charts, floor plans, and many others.
A link to Gliffy is provided in the show notes.
Gliffy – Flowcharting service
It must be flowchart week this week as I just visited the freetech4teachers blog and found another flowcharting service from flowchart.com. Rather than me recap it here please head on over to the FreeTech4Teachers blog for a brief review. I would like to thank the freetech4teachers blog for the mention about the TechTalk4Teachers podcast. I would also like to ask that you help spread the word about the TechTalk4Teachers podcast and mention it to fellow educators that may be interested in listening over the summer.
That wraps it up for episode 41 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning
Monday, June 2, 2008
The mini-laptop movement intrigues me as an affordable way to provide mobile computing to students inside and outside the classroom. In the past, in my opinion, laptops have been too heavy and too pricey to implement on a wide scale. Short battery life and access to slow wireless connections have been additional problems. There is news today that the new eee PC 901 is scheduled to be out this summer with the new Intel ATOM based processors that are suppose to require less energy to operate. Preliminary reports indicate a 4 to 6 hour battery life for this new model. While that is much better than the current 2 hour battery life in existing models it is still not enough to last an entire school day. A link is provided in the show notes to an article about the new eee PC Model 901 if you are interested in learning more.
eee PC 901 – new model with Intel ATOM based processor
The eee PC mini-laptops offer a laptop computer that weighs less than three pounds for approximately $550.00 If purchased in bulk this price should be available for less than $500.00 Still not the $200.00 mini-laptop that was originally envisioned by the one-laptop-per-child group but things are definitely getting cheaper and new models are offering less compromises on features. This price point is less than half-price of many existing one-to-one computing initiatives.
One Laptop Per Child Website
We have recently tested the eee PC 8G model with Linux and are very pleased with its capability. The number one complaint I read from others is that the keyboard is too small. Newsflash, this is a mini-laptop model! I do have large hands and the keyboard is a bit cumbersome to use but I can adapt for small amounts of typing. If I want to type for longer periods of time I just plug-in a full-size keyboard to one of the three available USB ports and have no limitations. For those that say the screen-size is too small I can plug-in a VGA monitor and have a full-size screen also available if I so choose.
For now I am anxiously awaiting the new eee PC 901 model with the improved battery life. The 8G model gets approximately 2 hours of battery life and that has really limited my use of this model. The form factor for me is in the sweet-spot of not being too small as to have to use two-fingers to type and not so large that I would leave it in the office when I go to meetings. It is also rumored that a Wi-Max option may be available in the near future that would improve wireless speeds. That is if Wi-Max is available in your area. Currently Wi-Max is not available in this part of rural Illinois. If anyone has the new eee PC model 900 or gets the new 901 model I would love to hear your experience with this laptop. Please leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog to share with others.
As I mentioned on the last show I will be attending the National Educational Computing Conference better known as NECC in San Antonio, Texas at the end of this month. If any listeners are planning to attend NECC and would like to meet up at this event please drop me an email at email@example.com and we will see if we can arrange a time and place to meet while in San Antonio. I would love to meet fellow listeners/readers face-to-face to compare notes so please let me know if you are interested.
NECC 2008 San Antonio Link:
Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is a new text to mind-mapping tool that works really well especially when used in conjunction with a SMART Board. This is a Web 2.0 open-source service that is used to create a simple mind map from text. When you visit the site on the left-hand side of the screen there will be a text box with an example. To use this site simply erase the content in the example text box and type in the information you would like to have displayed in mind map form. When you indent the text using the Tab key the indented text will become a sub-category of the text above when the mind map is created.
Text to Mind Map Tool
This text to mind map website is a very simple tool but as teachers know the more ways that we can present material to students the better chance there is for students to understand and retain the information. Mind maps are great tools for visualizing student conceptual understanding and can be used by teachers to quickly assess student understanding of a topic by simply glancing at a student created mind map. Having things represented by both text and in graphic form also reinforces the information presented using multiple pathways. Students can manipulate the mind map using the interactive SMART Board and this gives the students an added layer of interaction and kinesthetic learning. Here is a hint when using this site with the SMART Board. There is a new feature released this month called Freeze Map that when checked allows the user to move the mind map entries. You can use your finger to click and drag the content objects and place them in the way you would like to have it displayed on the SMART Board. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
That wraps it up for episode 40 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning