Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Fall Line

February 28, 2008

Dear Friends,

For the past couple of weeks VEA has been monitoring some disturbing developments at the state general assembly regarding educational funding and teacher compensation. If you recall, VEA was initially disappointed with the Governor’s proposed budget. Although it included a full rebenchmarking of the Standards of Quality, it had very little support for teacher compensation.

Since that time the Senate and House have weighed in with their budgets for education, and after careful study, it’s apparent that the House budget, if approved, would be very damaging to education funding not only for the two year term of the budget, but on into the future. Penny Hodge, in her NEWS item to all Roanoke County employees today, explains the proposed House budget best.

The Governor’s, House, and Senate budgets all include approximately the same total dollars for Roanoke County Schools. There are, however, some significant differences in how those dollars are allocated to the school system. The House budget proposes to permanently change the funding formula so that future raises given to teachers are capped within the funding formula at the rate approved by the state. This effectively shifts the cost of future raises in excess of the typical 1% annualized state approved rate from the state to the local school divisions. The House has included funding for raises and additional construction grants in their 2008-09 budget so that it appears that the total revenue is as good as the Senate and Governor budgets. However, the funding for the raises and construction may or may not be included in future budgets and, in the meantime, the funding formula will have been permanently changed to reduce state aid to schools.

As many of you know, VEA has a team of legislative specialists led by Rob Jones and Doris Boitnott. They have been keeping tabs on the situation and provide daily reports. The budget proposals are currently being debated by budget conferees. These legislators, a small band of senators and delegates, will hash out the details of the entire state budget and try to come to consensus. If the Senate conferees aren’t able to dissuade the House conferees from their destructive path for education funding, then the last line of defense would be the Governor’s veto pen. We simply don’t know for sure where the Governor will side in that battle, if it comes to that.

So our best option now is to contact the budget conferees directly and immediately!

The VEA has made this very easy.

Visit this link

and click on

Tell Budget Conferees to Support Public Education in Budget.

Rob and Doris have set the system up to send a letter on your behalf to each conferee. You can use the VEA wording or modify it with your own thoughts and ideas. Either method is effective. The key is that the conferees need to hear from educators, school administrators, school board members, Board of Supervisor members, classified employees, and exceptional citizens. Everyone needs to let the conferees know that the House budget’s educational funding solution is simply unacceptable.

Should you need further reading to more fully grasp the danger of the proposed House budget, I suggest you read the recent editorials in The Roanoke Times and The Virginian-Pilot. Also, please visit the official RCEA blog and VEA’s Daily General Assembly Reports to keep up on the latest on this battle for the present and future in Virginia Public School Education.


Thom Ryder

Monday, February 18, 2008

Web 2.0

VWCC February/March 2008



The hands down dominant force on the internet regarding video. “End Users” provide an almost endless array of video content to be digested. Some is junk; some is masterful.


YouTube with a twist. End Users earn cash based on traffic on their provided videos.

Stumble Video

Randomness comes alive. Similar to Pandora. You choose a topic. It begins parading videos onto your screen. You vote them up or down. It learns what you like.

Bombay TV

Absolute goofiness. You add dialogue to short snippets from very bad India (Bombay) films. The results are sharable and often hilarious.


From the creators of Skype. Joost is Television on demand on your computer for free. So far only a few major cable networks have signed on (MTV and Comedy Central). In its beta form, you must be invited to participate.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Women in Art

A Talk with Grandfather


Misheard Lyrics

Misheard Numa Numa Lyrics

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Daft Hands

A Fair(y) Use Tale

100Km Ball

Social Networking

Google Docs



Web 2.0

General Knowledge

Web 2.0 for Teaching and Learning

Excellent Overview wiki

Web 2.0 Terminology

A wikispace site that looks at important Web 2.0 ideas.

Learner’s 2.0

Wiki with a lot of Web 2.0 terms and resources

Learning 2.0

More resources and ideas

I Want To

Even more resources

The Read/Write Web
Excellent resource on everything Web 2.0

Backpack Resources

All Things Web 2.0

Resource for mining Web 2.0 sites


An outstanding collection of resources


A site concerned with fonts, but with a deep well of resources.

Will Richardson’s Weblogged

Will knows and understands Web 2.0 and how it can impact education.

Landmarks For Schools

The main site for David Warlick’s creations. Mining through this site can be very educational.

Discovery School

Kathy Schrock, working with Discovery, thoroughly explores Web 2.0 applications.

Mashable: Social Networking News

This site sponsors the Social Networking Awards. It has an excellent reference list of popular Web 2.0 sites.

Virginia's Community of Learning

Technology resource site for teachers.


What does the Internet world look like?



The most fascinating radio site on the web. Set up channels based on a music artist. Pandora will find music that matches that style. Then you can either give it a thumbs up or down. Eventually, Pandora learns what music you like.


My personal favorite radio site. You plug in an artist and seeqpod finds music by that artist on the web. You can piece together playlists much in the same manner as iTunes. The cool thing is that seeqpod finds obscure recordings of your artist as well as popular tracks.

One of the oldest radio sites on the web.

Social Networking


What is there to say. On MySpace, you set up a page and personalize it with your content and populate it with your friends.


This is the big boy MySpace. You need a school web address to secure an account. It operates much in the same manner as MySpace

Second Life

Some say this site is the future. It’s a virtual world that you can have your avatar join. You can wander around looking for adventure. Some say that education “islands” will radically change the nature of education in the near future.



The photo standard site. Upload, store, and share photos. View photos from other people. Comment on them.


Photo site much like Flickr; however, it is heavily tagged.


A well-designed photo store and share site. Easy to use and navigate.


Sort of exactly as the name implies


Joan likes to take pictures and loves to share them.

You can find about anything you want. It’s all free and copyright-free. Their music selections are awesome. The site is so huge it sometimes bogs down.

Creative Commons

The site where you can apply for a special license for your created works. Their licenses clearly spell out for users how they are allowed to use your stuff.

The GooglePlex


The Beast

Google Earth

All the rage two years ago. Incredible satellite images and melded with detailed maps. The resulting interactive media captures kids’ imaginations. Education Application

Google Maps

Solid application similar to Mapquest.


The new Google world where the end user stores specific content on one home page.

Google News

Instantly scans world and national news and brings you the stories you desire quickly.

Google Documents

An application in the Google suite that allows you to create and share Word and Excel documents and share them with people of your choice. The people you invite can edit and modify the documents allowing you to conference and collaborate.


Google’s liberating email service. As with many things it’s by invitation only since it’s in double secret beta testing.

Find It and Mark It and Share It


A “metacrawler” search site that is child friendly. While this site could be classified as Web 1.0, it is extremely well organized and easy to use.


Another Web 1.0 application, but it offers a way to easily manage and harness the Internet for kids.


The world of Tags comes alive. Find almost any kind of media by using a standard search or by utilizing Tags.

Portaportal on steroids. Find and share interesting Internet sites. Organize your bookmarks and Tag them.


Web file cabinet.


Users submit content and share it with others. Others view it. Digg ranks the views. People talk about the content. Very hip and Web 2.0.

KeyWord Map
Allows the user to expand keywords for more effective searching.

Allows a teacher to develop lesson tracks for interactive teaching.

Communicate and Share

  • Telephone


Skype people. Skype to Skype is free. Internet telephone. Video and audio conferencing. Chatting.

Yahoo Voice

Use Yahoo Messenger to have voice chats from PC to PC. Calls to real telephones cost $0.01 a minute.

  • Blogs


One of the major blog services out there. Easy to use and full of functionality.


An example of a community blog

Swimming Upstream

An example of a personal weblog


A blog dedicated to an obsessive habit


Blogs for educators.


More Blogs for educators.


Even more blogs for educators.


Free application that allows a blogger to keep track of traffic.


Mash up site that combines maps with people. Mark yourself and send a message to the world of that map.


Like a scrapbook version of a blog. Simple and easy to use.


Ever want to know what someone else is doing right now? A baby blog

  • WikiWorlds


Learn about just about anything. Develop content. Share content. Beware of content.


The world’s greatest “How To” manual. Loads of fun. Hours of laughs. Incredible tips.


A place for individuals or groups to share and develop information.


Wiki site recently acquired by Google. New registrations are closed, but the service allows for a greater content flexibility.


Easily take photographs and narrate them or comment on them. Search for other’s photo stories.

Center for Digital Storytelling

Want to know what it’s all about? This site explains digital storytelling in great detail.

Digital Storytelling Links

Everything You’ve ever wanted to know about digital storytelling in one handy portal.


David Warlick has developed a site that provides interactive links to technology conferences.

  • Podcast


As a child of the 70’s, I have always been in to recording stuff. Audacity makes recording and editing extremely easy. Plus it’s free!

Podcast Tutorial

Podcast Tutorial 2


Clever, simple, easy podcast creation host. Free or fee. You can even create a podcast using your telephone.


The industry leader (but limited) podcast site. Create. Find. Share.


Creates and hosts podcasts for free.

Podsafe Audio

Free music for your podcasts. Works are under creative commons license.


Automatically have your blog content turned into an automated podcast


Podcast repository. Find and Play.


Music that if free to use under Creative Commons license.

  • RSS

Google Reader

You tell the reader what content sites in which you are interested. When any of your sites publishes new content, the reader captures a link to it and stores it on one place one Google place on your screen. Of course the Googleplex makes cash by selling targeted ads on your view space.


It allows you to subscribe to blogs, podcasts, etc and then allows you to view all new content in one location.


It allows you to subscribe to blogs, podcasts, etc and then allows you to view all new content in one location.

Cool and Fun

Copyright Site

Well-developed site that helps educate users on morality issues

Copyright Kids

Brings the whole copyright issue to a child’s level of understanding.

World RPS

Just a little hilarity.


A fine example of today’s interactive Web 2.0 webpage.

Spaced Penguin

More hilarity with a purpose.

Son of Citation Machine

Indispensable for academics writing papers. From David Warlick


Excellent online graphical dictionary

Visual Thesaurus

A great tool for children to allow them to see related words. Such visualization fosters more powerful written constructions.


My personal favorite weather site that no one knows about. This real-time site collects rainfall data from all over the region and displays it.


Photo mosaic comes alive. You’ll need to download the free program.

Find It Virginia

Amazing free resource available to anyone in the area with a public library card.

Internet Public Library

Excellent resource. Collects many research tools in one place.

Library Thing

A grand Web book discussion. Share your favorites. Learn about more books than you ever dreamed.


Another grand book discussion

Book Mooch

Swap your used books. Talk about books.


The most incredible movie database in the world. Becoming more interactive all the time.

PDF Online

Not really Web 2.0, but useful nonetheless.

Great Turtle Race

Site geared to kids that marries real-time data with high interest graphics.


Try not to go insane as you play real time flight controller for real flights. Track them all.


A unique animation creation site. Play and create.

NY Times On This Day

Very interesting way to look at history. Thorough, sleek presentation.

Interactive Weather Map

The Weather Channel brings us this new generation weather map. Interactive.


NASA supports this very educational and interactive website.

Ann Smith’s Robots

Simple Machines gone wild.


A most unusual consumer experience. Buy and talk.


Create 3-D Doodles. Why? Why not?


Find and mark interesting places on the planet.

Brainstorming application. Easy to use.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spend a Buck

Spend a Buck

February 15 was a special evening for my wife’s family. As many of you know, my father-in-law has been hospitalized since September. He had a triple bypass and valves replaced. The initial surgery went well, and he was able to return home for a week in late September. His stay at home was short-lived. One of the harvested veins for the bypass was taken from his breastbone area. After doctor’s harvested the vein, the reattachment of the blood supply to that area was unsuccessful. That didn’t become evident until about a week after the initial surgery. It was then that doctor’s discovered the problem, and by that time his breastbone had essentially dissolved, dying from lack of oxygen. The only recourse (acceptable to today’s medical policy) was to place him in a coma then remove what was left of his breastbone. That surgery was “successful”, but it has left him with an extremely difficult uphill battle just to regain the most basic physical abilities. Currently, he is staying at a rehab facility where today for the first time since October, he was able, painstakingly, to lift his upper torso up and swing his largely unresponsive legs off the edge of the bed. He’s certainly not out of the woods, but he is making slow progress.

That made the day quite special, but that wasn’t all. My wife and her sisters and brother had concocted a plan to surprise their mother with an 80th birthday celebration at a friend’s house. A wonderful family friend at Smith Mountain Lake, Dee Dee Bondurant, donated her beautiful home and an excuse for getting her to the party. My wife’s brother drove 14 hours from Mississippi to be there, and her three sisters were all there as well along with many family friends from the lake area. Needless to say, my mother-in-law was very surprised and well pleased.

As I wandered around Dee Dee’s beautiful home, located on a small peninsula sticking out into the main channel at Smith Mountain Lake near the S curves, I admired her incredible collection of equine art. On every wall, she has numbered prints from Jenness Cortez. These realistic paintings are beautiful. Cortez specialized in painting Derby winners, but she also painted other famous racehorses, too. Dee Dee has many of the prints, I saw Lady Secret, John Henry, Spend a Buck, Ferdinand, and Alysheba. She probably had more, but those were featured in the living room.

In addition to the Cortez collection, Dee Dee also had several numbered Richard Stone Reeves prints. I noticed Phar Lap and PROFILES OF COURAGE – FOREGO, JOHN HENRY & KELSO. I was absolutely blown away by her collection.

Soon after I made my discovery, I sought out Dee Dee and asked her how she came to having such a fine collection of equine art. She explained to me that she and her first husband used to live in Middleburg, VA and breed horses. She wasn’t specific about what type, but I believe she was into steeplechase horses. She didn’t say why she got out of the business, but she did say that they really didn’t interest her anymore. Further more, she spoke about selling some or all of the collection. She thought she might put them on eBay or try to find the person who inherited the print number for the Cortez collection in the more recent years. I quietly thought to myself that one of my sisters, brother, or family friends might be interested in adopting her artwork.

All I know is that the Cortez pieces were stunning in their realism. The Reeves art was classic.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Things are starting to heat up around here. Over the weekend, Roanoke was blasted by a windstorm. Gusts at the airport reached 67mph and higher gusts were recorded in the mountains just to our northwest. The wind brought trees and power lines down all across the valley causing much damage. One of my friends had her metal carport lifted onto the roof of her home; then, moments later, it came crashing down on their new Saturn.

The wind also brought a power line down along Loch haven Drive near the I-581/I-81 interchange. The resulting sparks ignited a blaze that is still burning out of control along Brush Mountain and heading toward Bennett's Spring. This fire has become very scary. The winds have died down now and we are hoping for rain in the morning.

Speaking of Fire, Pyro, one of the contenders for the triple crown races later this spring and summer, made a blistering come-back in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday. You can read about that race and other horse-racing stuff at my horse racing blog ARFTCHC.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Common Sensibility

Common Sensibility

My mother taught me as a child all I needed to know to be successful in whatever I wanted to do. According to Mom, I need to treat everything and every person respectfully and wear clean underwear. As long as I continue to do those things, I should go far in this world. My roommate in college, Joel (RIP), was a great guy, and he indeed went far in the world over the span of his tragically shortened life. But Joel only heeded half of my mother’s advice all through college. He always treated everything and every person respectfully, and I suppose that he technically never wore dirty underwear. He just didn’t wear any underwear at all.

The reason I bring this up is that there is a Presidential election coming up this fall, and I’ve been internally torn as to which candidate to toss my powerful support. Here in Virginia the Tuesday after Super Tuesday, I’ll have the opportunity to do my part in deciding who the next President of the United States will be.

I already know that I cannot in good conscience vote for any of the Republicans. John McCain seems like a nice enough fella, and there’s no question that he’s a true war hero. But his positions on many of the issues dear to me, like education and the war in Iraq, are just plain misguided. He wants to allow government money to flow with children to private schools. To me, that’s just a huge mistake. His war positions make as much sense to me as the whole war in the first place. How many more American soldiers have to die for a lie? The rest of the Republicans are an assorted lot of loons and charlatans. I completely discount them all.

Practically, that leaves me with Democrat choices. I suppose I could make a personal statement and support one of the candidates from the Green Party, but I’ve never heard of any of them before. On the Democrat side, it’s Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton (or Mike Gravel-left loon).

Last night, my decision became crystal clear to me, and I want to thank my mother for the guidance she embedded in my soul. In case you missed it, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met in a friendly debate before the CNN cameras and Wolf Blitzer last night. I was busy writing up a blog entry for my teacher association blog and flitting back and forth between boring Duke basketball and the debate.

As the debate ended, something extraordinary happened that sealed my choice. As the candidates stood up from their chairs, Obama looked at his chair and politely pushed it back in before he moved over to chat with Wolf Blitzer. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, pushed her chair back, stood up, and walked away without a second thought about pushing the chair back in. It just dangled there in space before America’s television public, forgotten and disrespected.

My mother wouldn’t have appreciated that move by Clinton. It shows a callous disregard for common courtesy and politeness. Far too many people in today’s society are people who leave their chairs out. These same people toss cigarette butts out car windows and yak on cell phones while they are driving down the road. They bitch and moan when they are forced to wait in any line and never return the money in a found wallet. These people have little regard for others. They go through life with a sense of entitlement and probably have dirty underwear to boot.

Obama carefully pushed his chair in. I’m not checking, but if I was, I bet his underwear is clean, too.

Check out the video below. Slide to near the end at exactly the 10-minute mark. Watch Obama and Clinton interact with their chairs for yourselves and make up your mind.