Dramatic Chromatics

Color Schemer is a cool, web-based color coordinator. It’s handy when chromatic appeal is an integral factor in a project-based unit. Why not share this with students and teachers who routinely fret over getting the perfect look for a webpage, slideshow, or graphic?

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Related links:

Freedom Is Not Free: Memorial Day

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Today is Memorial Day. Use technology to remember the sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces have made in the service of our nation. Digital resources make it possible to:

It’s a little thing to do, to merely stop and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy. Think of the people who have given so much–who have paid for our liberty with their hearts, health, and lives–that we might live free. Reflect upon the dedicated members of the United States Military, brave women and men who served or are serving in the the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. These courageous citizens, often overlooked, are much, much more than just numbers or statistics. They are ordinary people with extraordinary historical legacies. They are worthy of our attention and gratitude. Please, remember them and help the younger people of our nation understand why we should all be so grateful.

Music to My Ears: CCMixter

The past few days have been a blur. I’d say I’m ashamed for not posting but I’ve been happily busy doing worthwhile work for and with the teachers that I support. I like blogging but I love helping people. Today, for instance, I had the great pleasure of working with educators at Martha Smith Elementary in Jesup, Georgia. All year long, the folks at MSES have been collecting all kinds of digital content for a restrospective/culminating video presentation. As part of their task, the teachers will be including audio. When one of the participants asked where good, royalty-free music and sounds could be found, I smiled.

“Make a point to check out CCMixter,” I suggested, “because it’s a site that has so much to offer!” I went on to extol the virtues of the wonderful community music site.

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Have you, gentle reader, sampled the excellent tunes at CCMixter? If not, do so soon! It’s an audio orchard–a veritable garden of tunes where remixes licensed under Creative Commons bloom and grow into entirely new varietys. CCMixter is a place where visitors can tune into, borrow, incorporate, or experience the music without guilt or copyright restrictions.

Mystery Gastropod Update: A Wolf in Snail’s Clothing?

Yesterday, while walking into my office, I came across an intriguing snail. I wanted to know more about the creeping critter so, like any other 21st Century learner, I used a few technological tools at my disposal to get a few answers. I’m very grateful for the wide array of technology resources that are at my disposal when I’m curious about a topic that intrigues me. I make use of them on a daily basis. Of course, I could pursue an answer the “old-fashioned” way by

  • corresponding with experts via *ahem* snail mail (sorry about that–couldn’t resist the opportunity)
  • patiently waiting for others to write a response, address an envelope, and send the response via the US Postal Service
  • patiently waiting for the US Postal service to deliver the mail
  • making telephone calls
  • traveling to a center of learning (library, museum, school, university, et cetera) and
  • slogging through books and periodicals.

No matter what route I choose, using technology or tried-and-true non-tech driven researching, I can still get answers. That said, the skillful application of modern technology–using the best available new tools to get work done in the most efficient and effective manner possible–saves me time. It seems like a simple concept to grasp, yet I continue to meet administrators, educators, and parents who refuse to consider using technology to make learning more engaging, productive, and ultimately, meaningful. When I ask why, they tell me they are too busy or just don’t want to take the time to learn how to use hardware, software, or digital resources.

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Well, despite what others think, I find the availability and potential of technology refreshing. Yesterday, I found a snail and wanted to know all about it. Today, thanks to technology empowered networking, communication, collaboration, and documentation, I pretty sure that I have the answer I was looking for when my adventure began. According to a very kind soul at Metafilter‘s unbelievably helpful AskMeFi forum, I got a response from Mefite Rosebengal (Thanks!) that seems to be right on the mark. I got answer within a day! That’s great turnaround time. I hope students have this much opportunity to increase their learning potential.

Now, about that mysterious snail: Rosebengal says that the snail looks very much like a specimen of Euglandina rosea or the rosy wolf snail. She goes on to say that the organism is a predatory terrestrial snail native to my area.  Oddly enough, even though the snail belongs in southeast Georgia where I live, the species has been nominated as among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders.

Moving at a Snail’s Pace

mystery-snailToday, as I was coming  into my office, I spotted an interesting critter in my path. It was a snail. Now I’ve seen snails before but I couldn’t recall seeing one similar to this organism. Hmmm, I thought, in the days before the internet, what would a person have done in order to identify a new or odd specimen? After all, people who lived and worked in the world before the internet became so ubiquitous were still able to discover new information and exchange ideas. Granted, the process wasn’t a rapid as it is today. Before the advent of the World Wide Web, people interested in identifying strange creatures could have:

  • reflected upon their own personal experiences with comparable living things,
  • made a note of the experience in a journal or diary,
  • made a sketch or snapped a photograph using an (old-school, film-based) camera, eventually gotten the image developed, and distributed the image among others, asking, “What the heck is this thing?
  • asked other, well-informed people, “Hey, have you ever seen one of these things? Do you know what this thing is?
  • consulted an encyclopedia,
  • gone to a local library and consulted books or periodicals related to the to topic (remember the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature? ) ,
  • interviewed a teacher from an elementary, middle, high school, or university who specialized in biology,
  • consulted a Cooperative Extension office,
  • contacted the United States Department of Agriculture,
  • contacted a state-based environmental agency,
  • visited a natural science museum,
  • talked to a ranger in a nearby park,
  • written to or contacted a society of individuals who study, investigate, or otherwise document accounts of such creatures (for example, in my case, the International Gastropod Society)

Clearly, there were a great deal of options open to curious people. All they had to do was

  • document what was encountered (i.e., draw a picture, take a photograph, make an entry in a log or journal),
  • travel to a place of knowledge and make use of reference materials/resources, and
  • contact someone in the know.

These days, curious people can find answers to all kinds of questions with unbelievable rapidity. They can do all of the things listed above and do them in record time. Technology allows practically anyone and every one who is willing to expend a minimum amount of energy the means to accessing an answer. Case in point: my unidentified snail. Here’s how I’ve used technology to seek information regarding the strange snail that literally crossed my path. To get some answers, I:

The point is technology has helped me do in minutes what might have previously taken me hours, days, or possibly weeks to accomplish. Do students know how to use technology to answer their questions? Do they have administrators and teachers who allow them or encourage them to do so?

UPDATE: I’ve gotten a few responses to my post over at AskMeFi. One of the generous posters suggested that the organism in question mght be some variety of Olivella. Following up on that suggestion, I plugged the query olivella snail georgia into Google and spotted The Freshwater Snails of Florida: A Manual for Identification. After reading the work (it rocks!) I sent an email to its author, Dr. Fred G. Thompson, the very knowledgable Curator of Non-marine Malacology (the branch of invertebrate zoology which deals with the study of mollusks) at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

UPDATE 2Dr. Fred G. Thompson responded! He wants to know if my mystery snail has an operculum ( Latin for “little lid”). It’s a structure that, if present, serves to close the opening of the shell when the snail is withdrawn into the shell. I haven’t seen one on my mystery snail.