Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Creative Commons for teachers

I LOVE this slideshare! It's by Rodd Lucier, from The Clever Sheep website. First, it's excellent for explaining the Creative Commons. It talks about how the Creative Commons got started, and how to use it, and what sites allow you to access works tagged with the Creative Commons license. Second, it's an excellent example of an audio slideshare. I learned about a number of different sites that use the CC license.

Send this to your librarian friends and all your teacher friends. Here's the link to the slideshare page:

Or, just send them the link to this blog post. ;-)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Another fun e-missions day

I had the pleasure of visiting a 6th grade class today as they experienced the Montserrat E-missions activity. And, to top off the day I got to work with the Hurricane team and help them out a bit. These sixth graders were in the Cedar Crest Middle School. Their teacher, Ms Brown, and their technoloogy Integration Specialist, Ms Schomp, had them well prepared. This wasn't the first time a team from this school had done this mission, so they had large laminated versions of the maps and the students were writing on them with erasable markers. They plotted the hurricane's path on the large map and used protractors and rulers to help them find the distances. But then, how to find the speed? The knew how far it had gone since the last reading, but how to figure speed was eluding them. Once they had that part figured out, they were off to the races.

What was fun was seeing them question the results of their calculations when, for example, it showed that the hurricane had changed directions or had slowed down. Or when they began to see that it was drifting northward and would miss the island. "Are you sure?", someone would question. "Yes, I'm sure. Write it down. Hurry!", would be the response.

I watched the communication team start off rather timidly, but ended up in control, sending messengers to the various tables to get data or to give the latest news. And when Mission Control would ask for their attention so she could share some videos, all eyes were on the screen. Or when Mission Control described Volcano bombs starting fires, or ash piling up six inches, all eyes and ears were on alert. "That will all turn to mud. The cars can't drive in the mud." And when Mission Control reported that the Evacuation Team had successfully managed to get all residents of a particular town to safety, the rest of the class applauded their success.

What a VERY COOL activity that is. It's not new, by any means, although some missions are newer. If you've got access to some video conference equipment it's great. If not, they'll use Skype. Either way, this is an activity that you REALLY should look into. The website  has all the information and materials that the teacher would need. This page gives more information about how to prepare. And here is another good informational video. Don't let the part about having four weeks of curriculum scare you away. It's not what you may think when you hear that phrase.

There are several different kinds of missions, from this island disaster to a Space Station to Mars, and more. And, the targeted grade levels range from elementary to high school. There is NOTHING in here that's NOT to like. From communication skills to math skills to to probem solving and collaboration skills, this has got it all. And, it's SO MUCH FUN!

Teachers - worried that you won't know what to do or how to manage the technology, sign up for a free training session here. Once you experience it I know you'll want to do one of there for your students, as well.

Trust me on this one. Science and Math teachers can collaborate to do this with a class. You wouldn't want to combine classes, though. Then the teams would be too big and not every student would necessarily be involved. Treat yourself and your students to an e-mission. And, if you're relatively local for me, invite me in to see it in action. I can't get enough of them.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

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Monday, December 14, 2009

My hope for PA's SAS Portal

I'm in recovery mode right now after about six weeks of intense work with the PA Department of Education and the PATIMS (Intermediate Unit representatives) and the Classrooms for the Future Mentors (now known as the 21st Century Teaching and Learning Program) as we put together a four day Institute designed to unveil the Standards Aligned Systems and the SAS Portal. It was a wonderful, albeit exhausting, experience and I'm very excited about the potential that this brings to Pennsylvania. This SAS system is unique to PA in many ways, and I really believe that it has the potential to put PA on the global map for Education.

One aspect of the portal will be a section containing lesson plans that have been submitted by PA teachers, vetted, and arranged by topic and standard. That will mean that any teacher can go to the portal to find quality lesson plans that focus on a given PA Standard and, soon, down to the Anchor level. Imagine a time when we can say to businesses that every child in PA is being taught to these standards.

There is one part of this process that I'm hoping will change just a bit, however. That is, the way that lesson plans make their way onto the Portal. Right now, lessons are submitted and reviewed by a small group of people who make the determination as to whether or not that lesson makes the grade and gets published. But, I'm hoping that YOU can help to make that determination.

Here's the vision: Teachers submit lesson and Unit plans to the Portal. Those plans must identify which standards and anchors are addressed in the lesson, etc. But then you - we - have a chance to rate it. There could be several categories for rating. One rating for how high it reaches on Bloom's New Taxonomy, maybe, and one rating for how it ranges in terms of its approach (didactic to constructivist, etc), another for its appropriate use of technology, another for its inclusion of "21st Century Skills", etc. And, there would be a field in which we could add a comment about the lesson. We could use that field, perhaps, to suggest an alternative website or to suggest another activity for the lesson. There would be a check box there, as well, so that we could flag those comments as being inappropriate - in case that's a concern. You get the idea. YOU/WE do the vetting.

The pluses to this kind of system, in my opinion, are many. First of all, instead of a small handful of people (who have the experience and subject matter knowledge of just a few) deciding on what qualifies as excellent, it's teachers from around the state - even from around the world who are making that determination. Subject matter experts with Masters degrees in their fields, and possibly many years of classroom experience. If you're familiar with the book, The Wisdom of Crowds, then you are aware of how powerful it is to have many people involved in making a decision like this. Instead of someone with limited science background judging the lesson, it's perhaps hundreds of science teachers deciding.

Another plus is that the vetting/rating process is continuous instead of occurring just once - a snapshot in time of what someone thought qualified as a good lesson. The world around that lesson could have changed drastically, but the lesson plan and its rating might not have. But, in a system that allows us to rate the lesson, that rating, as well as the comments to the lesson, change all the time to include better resources, better strategies, etc. One of our mentors, Ralph Maltese, a former Teacher of the Year in PA, commented to me recently that he had gone to the IMDB website to check on an old actor who was a member of his family. He was surprised to see that the actor's popularity had dropped by 6%. But, the guy has been dead for years! The point is that perceptions change over time, so what once was considered to be an outstanding lesson might one day be outdated.

In a system where we're asking for the professional opinions of our teachers to determine what is good and what could be better, we're providing constant professional development. Teachers visit the site, look at a lesson, read the discussions about the lesson, join in on those discussions, and thereby make the lesson better. Everyone benefits. And, how cool would it be to have the world be able to watch the growth of our teaches through their dialogs with other teachers? And, how cool would it be if a teacher in another country were to also suggest ways to make the lesson reach globally.

Yes, it's true that some teachers might refrain from submitting a lesson plan for fear of criticism. True. But, if I submit a lesson and it's not rated a 5 out of 5, I'm going to find out why not and adjust it accordingly. Everyone learns. Everyone - including the students - WINS!

I had a chance to talk with one of the developers of the portal and, as it turns out, this idea was already presented to the Department but was rejected. The thought was that they didn't want anything on the portal that wasn't excellent to begin with. Not a criticism of those who rejected the idea; that was just their thinking, I'm told. But, I think that when they start to REALLY think about it, they'll change their minds. I'm SURE of it.

So, keep your eye on PA, folks. "Something is going to happen. Something wonderful!"
(UPDATE 12-15-2009)
I just heard that the decision has been made to include many (if not all) of the ideas expressed here. VERY VERY GOOD NEWS, INDEED!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Amazing Apple Support

This is not meant to be an ad for Apple Computers, but it can't help but be. Here's the situation.

For a few weeks, now, I've noticed that the battery just wasn't holding a charge. I "recalibrated" it several times, but I'd get, at best, 30 minutes out of it. But, I didn't want to take the time to set up a Help ticket and run to the Apple store somewhere or to a certified repair shop to get it replaced. (The last 30 days have been CRAZY busy) So, I put it off until yesterday afternoon.

I logged into the Apple support page with my serial number (that was easily found under the Apple menu) and when I was looking around I found a button to click to have THEM call ME. I decided to try it. I entered a few bits of information about the problem and clicked the button, wondering how long I'd have to wait for them to call me back. It was within the MINUTE!

The support person walked me through the steps to find some information about the battery, and we discovered that it was, indeed, shot. He transferred me to another teachnician (maybe 30 seconds wait time) and within the next two minutes I was set up for a new battery to be shipped to me.

Now THAT is what I call SUPPORT! I LOVE my Mac!

The battery arrived this morning. I made the call Thursday late afternoon, and it's here at my door on Saturday morning. THAT'S service!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Flashback

Just now, at the PASAS institute, I had the opportunity (in context) to relay the story of my first day of school. It was a frightful experience to relive it, for some reason.

I was five yrs old, about to turn six yrs old in two months. I was very excited to be there. One of the first things the teacher did was to distribute tablets and pencils to each child. WOW! A brand new, big yellow tablet of my very own. Then she gave us each our own pencil. This, in 1953, was another big, fat, eraserless pencil. Remember the kind? Another wow! This was going to be GREAT!

The girl in front of me was the daughter of the man who owned a local 5&10 store. Remember THOSE? The five and dime. She lived on the right side of the tracks - one of those with some money. She came to school with her OWN tablet AND a pencil. Not me. Our family didn't have the spare change to buy me a tablet of my own. So, this was my first experience with it.

The girl also knew how to draw five point stars, and she ws busy doodling and drawing starts on her tablet. Another WOW! I looked over her shoulder and watched her draw a star, and then I tried to draw my own on my brand new tablet. Oh the things I was learning already.

Then I became aware that the teacher had told us not to make any marks on our tablet. Oh no! What was I to do? No eraser - and I don't even know now if I would have known how to use it. Now what?

I remember her coming along my left and seeing the stars on my paper and saying (were floames shooting out her nostrils, too?), "I TOLD you not to make any marks on your paper!" What could I say? Probably not much, but I didn't get the chance. She picked me out of my chair and put me face down across the desk and admonished me to, "Stay there!"

I an still see her walking to the front of the room and picking up a leather strap. It reminded me then (and now, of course) of a strap from a Barber Shop. She came back and swatted me THREE TIMES with that leather strap. For drawing stars on my paper.

I was petrified of that woman from that day forward. I cried every morning and every afternoon of that school year. EVERY morning and EVERY afternoon. (I walked home for lunch) I would walk out our back door and out our sidewalk that went out to the garage. I SHOULD have turned left behind the garage and walked out that alley. But many were the days that I would hide in the garage. My mother would watch for me to appear on the other side of the garage on my way out the alley, and when I didn't appear she would come out to the garage to find me. In the corner of the garage was a square hole that lead out to the dog pen where we kept our beagle. He had a regular dog house out there, too, but he could come into the garage when he wanted to. I used to hide in the dog house, too. I'd crawl through the hole, the dog coming to lick my face because he thought I was coming ot visit. But, I'd crawl into the dog house and hide. For drawing stars on my paper?

Going back to school after a long break was AWFUL. For fove or ten days I had been safe at home, but now they were sending me back to that monster. I was terrified EVERY DAY. It effected my health, and I contracted a case of pneumonia, which was, thankfully, quickly detected and cured.

It reminds me of what a motivational speaker once told us at a back-to-school inservice day. He said that our most important job that we have as teachers is to smile. (Groans) Yes, it is! Unless that child feels safe and welcome in your room, little or no learning will take place.

So, it was so odd that the telling of this story this afternoon should evoke such an emotional response. No tears or anything, but a real sense of horror - all over again. Fifty four years after the fact. And all because of some stars on a brand new tablet.

(image: CC licensed at Flickr by ckroberts61)

K12 Online Conference

With all that has been going on in my life of late I completely forgot to remind you of this year's K12 Online Conference. What is it? Here: "The K-12 Online Conference invites participation from educators around the world interested in innovative ways Web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. This FREE conference is run by volunteers and open to everyone. The 2009 conference theme is “Bridging the Divide.”"

This is FREE professional development of the highest caliber.  You'll recognize many of the names and faces of the prsenters, and I am CERTAIN that you will enjoy and grow professionally with every second that you spend watching the videos. This is GREAT stuff. DO NOT MISS IT!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Grad student looking for help

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Grad students who are desperately trying to gather some research data to support a thesis or for an assignment that's required for their Doctorate degree. They are working SO hard to get this degree, yet the obstacles they face are many.

While I don't normally do this, I wanted to point you a survey that maybe your students would want to take a few minutes to complete. Why would they want to take the time? This one will award TWO randomly chosen entries a $25 cash prize.

Now, I didn't take the survey, so I don't know how the winner will be notified. But, I do know the person behind this survey and I know he won't be selling the information or spamming anyone, etc.

Anyway, maybe your class would take it, or maybe even your son or daughter. The odds of winning are pretty darned good, too. And, they'll be helping a grad student on his way to earning his Doctorate.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Augmented Reality - Books will NEVER be the same again!

While looking for something else (see what you can learn while playing?) I found this VERY cool youtube video about Augmented reality. You've seen this before, if you followed my post about the geSmartgrid site. But, this short video also demonstrates how textbooks will be in the not-so-distant future. VERY, VERY cool!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

VERY cool project by middle schoolers

I just love this project. Watch all three videos. (I've embedded one of them for you - the Making Of... video.

A couple questions to consider:
1) Are there any "21st Century Skills" at play here?
2) Where on the Bloom's scale does this fall?
3) Is this (or something similar) something that your students could do?

The Making of The Constitution videos:

Making of the Constitution Video from Mr. Titzel on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sixth graders using Diigo

This story was shared in the educators group in Diigo and the summary of the group posts just arrived in my inbox. This sixth grade teacher has set up a class in Diigo for her sixth graders to use as they locate and read blog entries (Yes, they can read blogs, too!) that deal with some of the scientific ideas that they are studying. When they read a blog post that they find ot be especially relevant to what they're studying, they use the Diigo Highlighting tool to highlight important parts of the posts. But, they go the important step further and they comment to each other about those parts. Imagine! Sixth graders reading the blogs of geologists and highlighting and comment to each other about what they're reading. What's not to LOVE about that?

Here is the part of this story that was highlighted by the person in the educator group.
"But I have to tell you that despite all the pain in my neck this has been, I'm LOVING Diigo.  We are annotating the blogs as we read them and then dissecting what they mean.  Now imagine my little kids (6th graders you know) trying to understand that the geochemistry of this sediment can tell scientist about the cycling of sea levels...and this cycling is important to the coastal cities survival throughout the world.  We're just at the most basic places, but they are digging through...asking me questions and pulling out info they think is relevant.

I have them write summaries and email those summaries from Diigo to me each weekend.  OK...not all are great.  But most of these kids "get it" and are pretty interested in the science being conducted.  I think they are also grooving on the conversation we get from highlighting important things from the blogs and then chatting (via the annotation commenting feature) about why it's important and what are the next things we should look for."

Now, there are some logistical concerns with Diigo that I think warrant some thought before you dig into something like this. Those students are 6th graders. They are likely in a middle school where they will have two more years where they might be using Diigo. The problem is (possibly) that their accounts were set up by their 6th grade teacher who won't want to be receiving those emails from them for the next two years.  They belong to the sixth grade group and their accounts were made by that teacher. Following me?

I've talked with Maggie Tsai (from Diigo) and other bloggers and Digo users about this. I tried to get a group to talk about it at last year's NECC, but we never reached this level of discussion about the tool. Here's my position. I think that the librarian, or computer teacher, maybe?, should upload all the students in a given grade. Then, as teachers wish to have students pulled into a group, that librarian would create the groups and put the students into them.

Why? Because, if I create the student accounts, they're not visible to other teachers. So, each teacher would have to upload their own list of students, causing them to have multiple accounts and causing their bookmarks to be scattered across those multiple accounts. A student should have the same account the entire time they're in that building, beit middle or high school.

Having one person in charge of setting up the accounts is a lot of work for that person. But, I can't think of a better way to do it. Can you? Maybe I'm missing something in Diigo that would better facilitate these accounts and groups, etc. If I am, please comment below to inform us all.

Bottom line - the sixth graders in this article are using a tool that is blocked in other schools. These sixth graders are using a tool that they can use for a VERY long time to help them gather and manage and share their online resources, and to enrich their understanding of those resources, and to discuss them with their classmates. If your school blocks Diigo, then someone at your school has decided that your students should not see and use it for those purposes. What do they use instead? ARGH! Don't get me started. :-)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A funny example of comment spam

It's SO disappointing to receive an email that someone has commented on a blog post, only to discover that it was spam. But, at least this one made me laugh.

"Your words sometimes echo in my mind and during my leisure time, i read your write ups again and again. For (removed) Tours booking , packages & information you can visit our website"


Saturday, November 14, 2009

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

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Monday, November 02, 2009

An amazing vision

Every once in a while you hear of a man or woman who is doing incredible work in a particular area. Do you remember the Michael Pritchard's water purification system? In this case, it's Josh Silver. In this Ted video he demonstrates his invention - eyeglasses that you create yourself. They currently cost about $19.00, but, he says, that's too much when you're talking about a billion people who live on less than a dollar a day. Watch this video and see if you don't find yourself shaking your head in wonder and the amazing talents of some people.

Will one of YOUR students be the next person to invent something that will have such an impact on the world?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Cool Tools Don't Make the Grade

I'm as guilty as the next person. Perhaps more so. I was caught up in the "Cool sites"wave a couple of years ago, and I even spread the message of those tools on many an occasion. Now, however, I find myself sorry that I ever mentioned them.

Someone (I don't recall who) said that some high school teachers never leave the mindset of middle school in terms of the assignments they give. I'm beginning to see that now, especially with all the talk about "cool web 2.0 tools."

It's important to distinguish between "cool" and "good", or between "fun" and "appropriate." I can think of several that come to mind. For one, Xtranormal. You type out your script, choose your avatar(s), and make the move. The program makes the avatar read the script to you. Fun, probably. Cool, maybe. But, appropriate for senior high students, doubtful. Yes, you might use it to introduce a lesson, but why bother? What does it add that doesn't disappear within a few seconds after it's finished playing? How does that get the student thinking about the topic? And, if we're thinking that having the students create one is an activity that reaches the Create level in the new Bloom's Taxonomy, we're sadly mistaken. It's no more a match than is "creating" a PowerPoint. Any 2nd grader with typing skills can make an Xtranormal skit, so asking a 17 yr old student to make one is an insult to that student's intelligence, I believe.

I've written before about SecondLife, and questioned its use in the classroom. Not only is it a bandwidth hog and totally unfilterable, but it doesn't add anything to the discussion of my content. Yes, there are museums in SecondLife (SL), and some colleges hold classes there. But, so what? Even if you did have our class meet in SL you will still be grading them not on how well they are able to move their avatars, but on what they have to say. You can do that face to face. The technology doesn't let you do anything that you can't do without it - except fly. Yes, there are some children who have a hard time with face-to-face discussions and for whom SL may help. But, the occasional exception doesn't prove the rule. Just because you can make an avatar move - even fly - doesn't mean learning is taking place.

Another is Blabberize. Maybe it's fine for elementary students, but surely our 13 yr old and older students are capable of so much more. (Remember Tim Tyson's students a couple years ago at NECC?) If his middle school students are capable of those kinds of projects, then our 18 yr olds are capable of much more. MUCH more than making a President's picture talk.

I remember when we used to teach Hypercard and we first learned to scan something into a stack. Now THAT was REALLY cool stuff, at the time. Windows didn't exist yet, so we were the only ones with mice and the ability to put images and sounds together on a computer. We could even control a cdrom drive to play music. But, even with music playing and with scanned images (grey scale only), what mattered was the content and whether or not it appeared that the student did any thinking. Remember this discussion? “All you needed to do to get an A was to make something move.” I'm having deja-vu all over again :) when I hear people talking about Blabberize or Second Life or some of the other virtual reality environments.

I suppose that this is a natural evolution of things. You first become enamored with a web app (cuz we're geeks, after all) and you have to get over that before you can focus on the learning. But, from now on, when I mention a "cool tool" I'm going to be certain to talk about which NETS-S it matches, and where its use falls on the new Bloom's scale. If the tools doesn't make students think in a different or deeper way, then I'll be certain to reevaluate before showing it to anyone. Where does a talking carrot fall on the new Bloom's scale?

Update: 10-3-09
Please see the comments section

Saturday, October 31, 2009

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Help with Google Earth Images, too

ARGH!! MOST frustrating!

You are SUPPOSED to be able to create a placemark in Google Earth and use the img src tag to link to images in the placemark. And you can. But, once again, when you save the placemark, the image doesn't get zipped in with the kmz file - and it's SUPPOSED TO!

Anyone have an answer to that?


MANY thanks to Shawn Canady, for helping resolve this issue. It turns out that I had too much of a file path included in the img src tag. I had something like "file:///Users/jamesgates/desktop/gepic.jpg" Removing the file:// did it. Sheesh!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Help with Google Earth tours

I've searched everywhere I can think of, and I've tweeted about it, and I've even been able to communicate with Frank over at the gearthblog (I point folks there frequently) but I have not been able to find the answer to this question about tours in Google Earth. Maybe a reader can help.

You've seen the Google Earth tours, I'm sure, where you're flown to various places around the world and when you arrive there, the balloon opens then closes when you move on. All the while, the narrator's voice can be heard talking us through the tour.

I want to make one of those - and I can - but I can't share it.

I can set up a folder of locations with each location having a balloon for information about that place. I can click the Tour folder icon and it will do as it's supposed to do, flying me to each location. I've set the preferences up so that the balloons will show, as well. I can even click the record button and record audio with it. And, I can play back the tour on my machine and it's wonderful! But, I'm not able to share it.

When I right-click to save the file I am able to save the tour. But, if I send that file to someone else, the audio isn't there, And, frequently, the balloons don't display. Yet, it works fine on my own computer.

I REALLY want to resolve this issue, so if anyone can offer a suggestion as to what I must do to ensure that the audio gets compressed into the kmz file and the balloons show, I would LOVE to hear from you.

Update 10-27-09

With the help of Mickey Mellon, one of the authors on the gearthblog, I was able to make SOME progress. Mickey suggested that I change the .kmz file extension to .zip and open it. It opened into a folder that contained a .kml file as well as another folder that contained the audio file. That audio file had a .aac extension, supposedly a supported file type for Google Earth. I then did the same thing for one tour that did work correctly, and that file had a .mp3 extension. Hmmmmm...

So, I renamed the .aac audio to .mp3. I then opened the .kml file in a text editor and changed the reference to point to the newly named audio file. I saved the changes, then opened the file in Google Earth. It played PERFECTLY!

This means that it just doesn't like that .aac file type when it comes from someone else, because it likes it just fine on your own machine. I'm thinking that we're (I'm including you and Mickey in on this) getting close.

Can anyone help now?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Prezi - I don't get it

I've talked about this on Twitter, but maybe a reader can help me come to terms with Prezi. I don't get it.

I recently saw another person who used Prezi for the presentation, and again I thought, "This is everything that we complained about with Powerpoint. Needless, distracting animations. The only thing missing were sound effects, and I could imagine them containing whooshing sounds and spinner sounds and ratchet sounds to fit the nauseating motions.

Seriously, if Microsoft ever decided to steal .. sorry.. build similar visual effects, wouldn't we immediately begin to complain about them?

Or am I missing something? Am I allowing my stomach queasiness when I watch the zooming and spinning, etc, to cloud my judgment?

Congratulations to LTMS600 class

I had such a great day yesterday. I got the chance to hear all about the projects that the teachers in the LTMS600 class did with their students so far this fall. Yesterday was the final day for the course, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

From 3rd graders using a Wallwisher board as a KWL chart, to backchanneling with 8th grade Spanish students, to a Facebook-like project in Mythology that ended up in Issuu, to students making Jing screencasts for the library - and great uses for Google Docs, and student blogs and Google Earth tours.. and more. What fun it was to see and hear about the changes in their classrooms.

I wish now that I had thought to jot down all the comments that students had as they worked on the projects. The teachers told of how they didn't want to stop the activity when the period ended, and how they went above and beyond the requirements of the assignent because they enjoyed it so much, etc.

Comments from the teachers included: "My objectives were certainly met if not exceeded.", "Students would come to class and ask, 'Can we work on our wiki pages today?'", "The students and I loved it - every student participated." Or, "The students thought it would be cool to use this tool when they discussion other issues that they thought were important." This comment that I posted about the other day sticks with me, too: " Seeing the students rise to occasion was fantastic. The students becamse the teachers, and I becamse the learner." And this comment I thought was especially good, "This was one of the most successful projects I’ve ever taught. Not only because it was engaging for the students, but because they learned valuable skills: group discussion skills, research skills, supporting points with specific, accurate details and writing skills. These are skills that transcend the Communication Arts classroom; these are skills students will need to be successful in whatever career path they decide to pursue. " (I wish I could share her entire project description with you - it was excellent.)

It was a VERY good day, yesterday. And to Vicki, Scott, Lisa B, Lisa K, Nicole, Emma, David, Diane, Karen, Emily, Rich, Heather, and Amy - Congratulations. I'm so proud of your work. And I'm so happy to have had the opportunity to wrok with each of you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

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Friday, October 23, 2009

A word about images

This has to be one of the toughest ideas to fully comprehend - the matter of image sizes and 'weight.' And, unless you're aware that it IS an issue, you're destined to continue along doing what you're now doing, never to know what it is you're doing wrong.

And Microsoft (PowerPoint AND word) doesn't help matters. What happens when you insert an image into Word or PowerPoint? It displays at pretty much the size you're looking for, doesn't it? The picture fits very nicely on that PowerPoint slide. But, it lies. The picture is NOT that size. The picture is still the 3072 x 2304 size; it's just scaled smaller. And it's still 2.5mb heavy. That might even be acceptable (I would argue it's not, but I'll agree now that it is) if you're just making the PowerPoint for your computer and it won't be shared with anyone or, worse, uploaded online. But, when you're uploading those huge images online, they load needlessly slowly, and they're costing money in terms of a needless drain on bandwidth. I've even seen websites for computer companies that contain such images. ARGH!

Now, when you're at school and you're viewing the webpage containing that image, it will load a LITTLE slowly, but not enough, in your mind, to be concerned. But, multiply that page load requirements by 30 (the number of students in your class) and suddenly the images DO slow down to a frustratingly slow speed, and the bandwidth requirements has increased a great deal.

PowerPoint makes it easy - if you know the tool is there - to fix this issue. When you save the PowerPoint you can tell it to compress all images. Have you seen that option? No? I didn't think so. It's not as obvious as I think it should be, and it seems to be in a different place with every version. I don't see that option in Word, but you can let me know if it's there. Regardless, however, I think it should be very obvious how to have the image resized when you save the file. I just added a single image to a Word document with NO text, and the file was 4.5mb large. The image fit nicely on the page, however.

This is part of Digital Literacy, isn't it? An much overlooked part, too. I firmly believe that students should be taught about this notion and how to manage many files that will be used in a presentation.

When I was putting lots of files online in websites, I used a nifty, free program called, Irfanview. It's a windows only app, but it did a great job batch processing files. I could point it to a folder of images and tell it to resize them, rename them according to my pattern, and save them in another folder. I think there was even an icon that installed on the desktop and I could drop images onto it and it would automatically resize and save to my specifications. Then I'd use those images for the web.

There are many great programs out there that are free and can help you resize images. But, one thing's for sure, we really need to become aware of those file sizes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Business as Usual?

I've not been able to get this out of my mind. Recently I had the opportunity to talk with a Business Education student teacher. I was told that in the classroom to which he's been assigned, the current teacher teaches Office all day - from a textbook. And, under the pretense of "Differentiated Instruction" allows the students to work their way through the book at their own pace. Meanwhile, the teacher sits at her desk and .. who knows what she does.

The student teacher asked her if he could use the Office Live site and was told no, because she can't make the students create a site that requires an email address. Fine. The student teacher asked for two other options and was told no. So, this poor person must continue to preserve the outrageous "instruction" that is currently going on there.

When I think of the amount of money that teacher makes, and how little teaching is actually being done, I get sick to my stomach. When I think of all that COULD be done and ISN'T, I get sick to my stomach.

THROW AWAY THOSE !@#$%^& TEXTBOOKS!!! Get your curiosity back and start investigating the many changes that have taken place online, and start teaching the students with and about those tools. SOMETHING other than teaching Powerpoint from a textbook, for crying out loud.

Can you hear me screaming?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teacher found herself when she gave up some control

This is terrific. Here are some comments from a teacher who has been working to enhance her lessons with more technology. Specifically, using tools that give her students more creative power. Read what she has to say about her experience. Have you been there? Would you say that this teacher has been transformed?
"First thought that pops into my mind is: Becoming a facilitator and not a teacher was difficult to overcome. I had to give the reigns to the students. In the beginning, I felt I was not teaching and therefore useless. Afterwards, my thoughts changed completely. Seeing the students rise to occasion was fantastic. The students became the teachers and I became the learner. Does that sound corny?

This has become my highlight of each marking period, or now semester. I look forward to watching students come up with good interview questions, struggling with Audacity and finally hearing their final scripts in Podbean. The look of accomplishment on their faces makes my year….The Assistant Superintendent came to observe me once, during the final recording of the Podcast. He left me a note saying that “I used good Web 2.0 tools” He seemed to be impressed. That note made my day. I laminated it and stuck it under my see through thing on my desk as a reminder."
Oh, and do you also see how powerful an "attagirl" can be? Something that easy, yet something so often left unsaid, can make a REAL difference. With students, too. Try this: the next time you see some good work from a struggling student, or from ANY student who appears to have put forth real effort on your assignment, get "in the moment" with that student and say, "Nicole, I REALLY like what you did here. This is very good."

Nicole, I REALLY like what you did here. This is very good!

Another great Skype lesson

This was just shared in the Classroom 2.0 Diigo group today.

Here are some 7th grade students talking about copyright with the man himself, Larry Lessig, of Creative Commons fame. If you're reading this I'm sure I don't need to say more about who Larry Lessig is. And, for those of you who are not permitted to use Skype, send that link to your Principal and again urge him/her to reconsider. It's FAR too good a tool to remain locked up.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Google Wave video to see

I had two questions about Waves. One: How can you tell which are the latest edits to a wave. Two: Is it possible to know if any of your contacts are online and in the Wave application? I think I have the answer to my first question (A vertical green bar appears on the left edge of the wave entry), but I don't yet know the answer to the second question.

However, I did find another good video to suggest. It showcases 15 features of a wave, in rapid fire succession. Here it is:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

50 out of 70 were blocked

I just can't stop thinking about someone who recently queried a large group to ask about their filters at school. She said she's at her wit's end. Her science teacher had gathered a collection of seventy science sites, but when he got to school only twenty were accessible.

Are she and I the only ones who find something terribly wrong with that picture?

Copyrighted? But I NEED that video!

During a recent discussion with two other teachers, the subject of YouTube videos came up. One person commented that she was upset that she couldn't show some of them to her classes, as they are PERFECT for what she's trying to get across. The conversation went something like this.

Woman: "I link to them and even embed them, but the kids cant see them at school, and some don't have computers at home. It's tough"

Man: "I download them all and upload them into my Moodle."

Woman: "Well, you know that's against the YouTube acceptable use policy and a violation of Copyright."

Man: "Hey, I need them to teach with, so I do what I have to do. I'll use them as long as I am teaching that subject."

And all of that could be avoided if the teachers were given a different filtering policy from students and access to youtube. Instead, the teachers are turning into copyright criminals. The man had ZERO guilt associated with taking those videos.

This could ALL be avoided!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Check out this WallWisher by 3rd graders

Isn't that a fun site? This was put together by some third graders who were studying rocks (of course). What a fun way to post what you know or WANT to know and have others comment on it. Non-threatening, easy to use, and fun. A nice way to get the third graders eased into computer work, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh BOY! My google Wave account just arrived!

Yes, I'm a geek, and I'm a lucky man. I COULD have been a geek in the 1950's when computers were just 1's and 0's. Today, however, I can play with cool stuff like the Google Wave.

A while back I had pointed you to a video about the Google Wave that was an hour and 20 minutes long. Here, though, is a video that does a great job of explaining it in only ten minutes.

Oh, and sorry, I've given out all eight of my available invitations to the Wave.