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

Post weekly (weekly)

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

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

Post weekly (weekly)

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

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

Post weekly (weekly)

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

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Post weekly (weekly)

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

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