Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sometimes you just get lucky

Lincoln ParkNeeding some outside air after the K12 Online Conference over the last couple of weeks, I headed out the front door Sunday morning to go for a walk in the park. Yikes, our car was gone. What was I thinking? My wife had it in Portland where she was doing a performance. No problem, thought I, I'll just walk the neighborhood. Then I thought - why not just walk to Lincoln Park?

Ducks are backI walked there in 20 minutes , and it was beautiful. Red breasted mergansers and harlequin ducks have returned to Puget Sound, gorgeous muted fall colors were on the trees. I walked around the point on the water, past Coleman Pool, an incredible outdoor saltwater pool, closed now for the season. I looked west at the Olympic Mountains, seeming to rise 8,000 feet right out of the water, some snow still visible on the peaks, even at the end of summer...

Fall in the ParkWe found Lincoln here. Or rather, he found us. I've written the story of that event many times with my kids at school. Perhaps I'll post it here sometime. It's a good story.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

My school is a mile and a half from our house. I ride my bike there every day. I found that bike with a "Free" sign on it a couple of blocks from our house - I had to put some air in the tires.

Our SchoolThis is my 17th year at my school. I actually mentioned this at our open house a couple of weeks ago. I recorded my little speech and put it up as a podcast on my classroom blog. I could not possibly have landed at a better school.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

I kept thinking about these things as I walked today. In this day of always trying to multitask so you can *maybe* get everything done, it was nice to just walk. No earbuds in my ears, only the sounds of community and wildlife that I chose to pay attention to. I just got to think.

Thistle Street StairsMaybe it's because so many things have been going so badly lately, I don't know. But all I could think of today was how lucky I am... to live where I live, to work where I work. As I peeled off layers on the walk back UP to our home (huff, puff...), I thought of where I live, on this itsy bitsy speck of the earth. And I thought about how much I have. Only a very small fraction of the over 6 billion people on this earth have what I do.

Well sure, I have worked hard. But so have billions. And somehow I have ended up here, at this point in time and space. I shake my head and smile. I feel this huge wave of gratitude wash over me.

I said this at the open house, and I say it to myself almost every day:

Sometimes you just get lucky.

(I am going to remember this post at Thanksgiving!)

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 1:39 PM   1 Comments

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wireless at last!


Wireless!
Originally uploaded by mahlness
My classroom finally has a wireless access point. I'm sure there will be many speed bumps along the way, but the road seems so wide open right now!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 6:14 PM   2 Comments

Saturday, October 20, 2007

When Night Falls - picture it!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR
Do you have a picture of your community at twilight, or as the sun is going down? Please consider joining the When Night Falls Flickr Group and sharing it with the world.

It will then become a part of When Night Falls, a free 24 hour Elluminate session, the final event of the K12 Online Conference.

When Night Falls begins at 12:00 AM Saturday, October 27 GMT and ends 24 hours later.

Directions for joining the group and adding your pictures (up to 2) can be found here. Thanks!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:03 AM   2 Comments

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thanks to the neighbors

Our Internet access is down right now. That big mama is down in our part of town, thanks to a windstorm that has taken out power to much of the Seattle area. Power went out at school 4 minutes after school was dismissed.

We have power at home, just a mile and a half from my school. But what good is it these days if you can't get on the Internet? So I fired up my laptop and found five wireless networks available - one unencrypted. Their ISP is apparently up, and so here I am.

Reading and sending email of the day, going through Bloglines, updating our Netflix queue - all that important stuff.

I know, I know, this is not really smart. I naively believe my laptop is reasonably secure. I'm sure somebody will tell me I'm taking wild chances with critical personal information.

Well, I guess I'm just too trusting, then. Thanks to the neighbors, they're good folk.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 6:28 PM   0 Comments

Monday, October 15, 2007

Regrets from a dream

A couple days ago I posted here about a dream that turned out to be real. Almost as soon as I posted it, I regretted two things:
  1. forgetting to thank the tech department in my district. I did so privately, but a public thank you is appropriate in this case - thanks, folks!

  2. not realizing that, with a wide open Internet, this would have been the perfect time to give a peek into Second Life. Aaack! This one really kills me - how could I have missed this?! Every teacher at the little in-service at least knew something about Flickr, YouTube, and MySpace. But I would bet you anything, nobody in my school has been to Second Life. Alas, Billy Brennon will have to find another time to show off his moves (yes, I'm Billy).

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 4:38 PM   1 Comments

Friday, October 12, 2007

The strangest dream

This afternoon I had the strangest dream...
I was at school, a public school in the US, in the computer lab. Flickr images were coming through - on blogs, websites, and wikis! YouTube and Google video were popular. MySpace was even open! You could go anywhere!!
It was not a dream. It happened, it really did.

Why? Because there were no kids in the building. It was an in-service day and I had asked for and been granted wide open access to the Internet for our school.

Access like we have at home. Just like most of our kids have at home.

The filter walls are up again by now. I'm at home, and it's Friday evening. Most of the links on the local web page I set up for the in-service session will not work on Monday - youtube, flickr, twitter, myspace. I need to assemble and post/send those links to my colleagues, asap, so they can follow up at home, on their own time.

Interesting connections were made: watching an alum of my class a few years ago on YouTube, flying on the trapeeze with a troupe in California, our music teacher's famous tap teacher giving a lesson on YouTube (with Gregory Hines in there...), me showing my wife's MySpace page as an example of how professionals are using social networking, a teacher showing colleagues what her own kids at home are looking at (and producing) on YouTube - and much, much more.

This was a small window, way too small. But it felt good to look out from where I spend the majority of my waking hours. It felt wonderful to talk with my colleagues in a real world Internet situation.

The computers could handle it. Bandwidth was no problem. We even watched parts of David Warlick's Oct 9 Fireside chat in Elluminate. That was pretty mind blowing for everyone....

People smiled, laughed, and grooved to the music as we watched Free Hugs. There were gasps and heads shaking as many watched Battle at Kruger

I wish we teachers were just given a chance...
  • a chance to use these incredible tools with our kids.
  • a chance to prove we know how to use them.
  • a chance to learn like the rest of the world does.
  • a chance to show we can be trusted with our kids.

Oh by the way, nobody looked at porn. Nobody played a game. Nobody cussed in a chat room.

I was watching. I was teaching.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 5:02 PM   2 Comments

Sunday, October 07, 2007

for Quita

Today was your last day girl, and it was a very sad one. I know you are now someplace even better than your earthly home - which you loved very much indeed. Dance on, Quita, and thank you.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Quita (Kee-tah) was 14 years old. This morning I took her to the vet to have her put to sleep, as she was suffering terribly from kidney failure. It is surely one of the most difficult things we humans have to decide and do. When is the right time? There really is none.

She went quickly and peacefully, even purring a little during her last few minutes. The vet was wonderful.

I am not able to do much today. I've spent the last couple of hours scouring my computers and cameras for digital pictures of Quita, and then putting them in a Quita set on Flickr, a final tribute and thank you.

My wife just called from NYC, so there were many tears all over again as I told the story of Quita's passing. We loved her dearly.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 11:24 AM   6 Comments

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Third time's the charm

I told my third graders first thing Friday morning that it had never happened before. I had never had a class where EVERY student published an "About Me" intro piece the first week on their blogs.

This is the third year I've had a group of third graders blogging. We had a ton of challenges to overcome (not the technical stuff Clarence Fisher dealt with yesterday), but it was exhausting nonetheless. I guess the area that got a little overlooked in the mad writing/editing scramble was our new math curriculum (break my heart - ha).

But they did it. Every single student published an article on their blog.

Congratulations, kids of roomtwelve.com, you did it! And thanks to all of you who helped your classmates with their writing!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 8:53 PM   1 Comments

Monday, October 01, 2007

Slow baby steps


New lab, almost
Originally uploaded by mahlness
They do add up, those slow baby steps, but it seems forever to get anywhere.

The picture here is my school computer lab, which we reconfigured for this school year. Wiring was a nightmare, requiring many more hours than the actual set up and deployment of the new (donated) cpu's.

And today, my third graders at roomtwelve.com finally got their passwords and logged on to their blogs for the first time. In our classroom - they will not use the lab.

Baby steps that will soon become giant leaps, I hope.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 7:20 PM   3 Comments