Friday, November 30, 2007

Taking innovation to a whole new level

I've been on this kick this week about taking some personal professional development time for myself and then a friend sent this video. It's in German, but you won't need a translator. The gist of it is this. The company has come up with a contest to see who has the best "Do it yourself" ideas - not just about what is featured in the video though. Come up with the best one and you win money, but to me the message says if you take the time to invest in yourself it's amazing what you can produce.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Taking a day for my own professional learning

I decided to take today at work for some professional learning and research time. So, I hid in our computer lab at the central office and spend the first part of my day playing around with a tutorial for the Promethean Board's ActivStudio software. I realize for many school systems incorporating interactive whiteboards is yesterday's news, but for us, it began late last year and our schools are slowly investing their own funds on the boards.

I've had a Promethean board available for my use for a couple of years now, but never felt the pressure to learn the software until now. It's fairly intuitive once you get pas the myriad of options on the tool bar. I will definitely work on incorporating the board into professional learning sessions I do. I think I haven't approached using it before because we have two ceiling mounted projectors with drop down screens and to set up the board, I have to use an overhead on a cart and stretch cord from here to eternity and hope I don't trip over them.

But that isn't what really prompted me to write this entry. While nosing around for some "cool tools" to post on my wiki for teachers, I ran across this blog in my links and she had a link to Sketchcast. I have to admit right off that the concept looked like fun, so I created an account and spend way too much time creating the video I embedded below. I won't go into what Sketchcast is, because my video explains it. However, I will say that the noises you'll hear are my tablet pen I was using. It's annoying, but I was too pressed for time to try another drawing method other than on my tablet screen, which is next to my internal microphone. I'll also say that I was a bit frustrated with the product. I couldn't rewind and write "over" something I didn't like, thus forcing me to start completely over. Not happy about that. Also, you can't draw what you want and then add audio. I would have preferred to orate later, but I wasn't given that option. Regardless, it's a fun tool and I'll leave the judgment about it's educational applications for our students up to you. You'll hear what I have to say about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Asterpix Interactive Video

Stumbled across the link to this site in one of the blogs I read. Sorry, but I got so excited to try it out that I forgot the check which one is was in my RSS reader. I'll add it later if I can track it down. Anyway, this site called Asterpix allows you to load videos from just about anywhere on the web and make them interactive. I pulled a Common Craft video from You tube and made a couple quick and sadly, not very good annotations. Hey, it's late (midnight) and I just wanted to try this out. You can place hot spots on the video with annotation and weblinks. When the viewer mouses over the box, the video pauses. I can see all kinds of opportunities that this presents with instructional videos, especially in science. Here the one I tried below.

Oh, and the panel on the left that partially covers the video are the notes that are embedded. You can click on them individually at any time. Can't wait to see what everyone else comes up with!

2007 Edublog Award Nominees

I'm just beginning to check out the Edublog Award Nominees or "Eddie" nominees. I've found a few sites that I already visit, but there are plenty of new ones, too. Here are a few that I found particularly noteworthy.

Dy/Dan - math related blog that was nominated for best new and best individual blog. He's got some great math lesson ideas on here that I will be passing on to our math teachers.

Thinking 2.0 Focuses on tips for incorporating technology into your classroom. This site appeals to the geekier side of me with posts about great web applications as well as "pedagogically-sound educational technology solutions".

These are just three from I think five of the first six categories. I'll add more later. Enjoy and check out the other nominees!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making time for R and D in Education - Response to blog post

I'm still a newbie to blogging so please humor me, but I think it's so amazing how reading a blog post can really make you take a close look at your own professional practices. Take this post from Jeff Utecht's blog The Thinking Stick. The title of his post is "Where is the R and D in Education?", which in fact came about due to a few comments from another of his posts. After reading it and some of the responses he received, it really got me thinking.

One of the first points that stood out was that teachers these days are taking fewer and fewer risks in their classrooms when it comes to trying new instructional ideas. These days our teachers have had to narrow their focus due to NCLB and all of the accountability that comes with that. I believe it has stifled creativity. They don't feel comfortable taking chances because of how it might impact them in the long run on the standardized test.

Having taught French for eight years before becoming an Educational Technologist, I didn't realize how good I actually had it. I was the only French teacher at both high schools where I taught, which allowed me a great deal of freedom. I didn't have to concern myself with keeping up with another teacher or wrestling with whether or not I should add in that extra culture lesson because the "other" class wouldn't receive the same material. I was also free to try just about any kind of instructional approach that I felt like. Yes, I fell on my face many times, but I was also learning right along side my students about which approaches best engaged them and had the greatest impact on their learning.

I think everyone in the field of educational technology would agree that we have to make time to take risks and for R&D. Technology evolves so quickly that if we don't stay on top of it, we'll be the ones left behind and thus leaving our teachers behind as well.

Reading Jeff's post had me reflecting on my coursework for my M.Ed in Educational Technology. At the time, I was incredibly impressed with the content of the courses and I learned so much, which I was immediately able to apply on the job. But now if those same courses were offered (and I finished four years ago this December) they would be seriously outdated.

I'm still amazed by what I'm learning is out there just through reading blogs. Out of touch doesn't begin to describe how I've felt from time to time. It's not that I've had my blinders on, but the time to stay abreast of everything is elusive. I spend the majority of my time supporting server-based software, answering technical related emails, and more for our sixteen schools instead of working more closely with teachers.

However, I've vowed that I need to set aside time in the future to ensure that I stay current with what's going on. Maybe that will be my New Year's Resolution? One specific block of time each week just to "play". That's how I got into using technology in the first place - playing. I suppose I need to take a lesson from my own kids and just sit and enjoy to remind myself why and how I became so engrossed in using technology in my teaching in the first place. Sounds like a plan to me!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


First it was educational technology blogs that I began following, and now I've entered the world of Twitter. I signed up not too long ago, but never truly delved into it until today. Never had the time really until now. However, I can see why it's addictive. I searched for people who had 'education' and 'technology' listed as their interests and added a few people to follow. I've already come across a few new blogs to follow now thanks to that, plus some great links to podcasting tutorials. I think I'm in trouble! Check out my Twitter badge that I found!! I uploaded this picture I took of a redheaded woodpecker to my Flickr account and used that as the background for my badge. Not sure if I'll keep it that way, but it's different than most I've seen so I thought I would give it a shot. Just in case I take it down or change it, here it below for posterity's sake.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Look what I learned how to do!!

Thursday afternoon, I attended a session at GAETC hosted by Leslie Fisher, a Photoshop Guru. Unfortunately she wound up with the 4:15 -5:15 time slot, but had a respectable number of people who stayed for her presentation. I've been using Photoshop for years, but I am nowhere near being an expert. Most of the time I'm fumbling through things until the picture or graphic turns out the way I want, so I thought that if she's got some techniques I could learn, that I would stay.

I'm so glad I did!

Take a look at these two pictures. The one on the left was the original while the one beneath it was created using Adjustment Layers. I won't go into how I did it here, but I'll try and get it on my wiki soon. Just know that I thought this was so cool I got right to work playing with my newly acquired skill once I got back to my hotel. I can't wait to pass this on to our webmasters! Can you tell I'm excited?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Annette Lamb - ABC's of Web 2.0 : Avatars, Blogs, and Collaborative Wikis

I first heard Annette Lamb present at GAETC in Macon four or five years ago and was thoroughly impressed by her, so I knew I needed to sit in on at least one of her lectures. Being the fan of Web 2.0 that I am, I chose this particular session of hers to attend.

Lamb cites collaboration and interactivity as two factors why Web 2.0 tools are useful for students in education. In the past our students may have all worked on a project, but each one did their part and then combined it together. "That's cooperation or team-building," she says and I agree. What also happens in these situations is that one student does the work, sometimes for the majority of the group. By making each student responsible for their own work and giving the teacher the tools to monitor the collaboration, interactivity is a by-product. That one shy child or non-participator-by-choice child is drawn to interact.

The title of her presentation, ABC's of Web 2.0, was actually how she broke down her presentation. The first topic was "A" for Avatars, Virtual Worlds, and Social Networks.

She began by talking about the virtual world called 2nd life and actually showed us some family pictures of the avatars she and her family have created for themselves in the virtual world. She and her father have actually met in 2nd life and attended a virtual Genealogy meeting with other members of 2nd life who have similar interests. Instead of discussing on a bulletin board or via live chat, you can actually watch everyone interact and have conversations.

For some, it's a place where they can come out of their shell and even create a "new" look. Lamb said that 2ndLife's content is booming and just about everyone can find an interest group that matches their own hobbies, career field, etc. However, 2ndlife isn't for school age children, which is why there is also Teen Life and Whyville for the younger kids.

But how do you use in education? First, imagine taking a virtual trip on the Oregon Trail where you dress up in period clothing and experience the voyage in a simulated environment. Or how about visiting a virtual world based on a book that your class is reading? I have to admit that I have yet to develop a clear picture of the K-12 application of this, but I do realize that this is our future, and I can't wait to see where this goes in the next few years.

If you'd like to take some virtual tours, you'll need to set up and account and download the 2ndLife application first, but then you can visit Annette's wiki where she has tours already established. I think I'll check it out myself to get my own toes wet.

Footnote is a social networking website for people who like primary source documents!! This is going to be a history teacher's goldmine. First you create your profile and then you can locate other people who share your interest. The site has a relationship with National Archives and other museums where primary source documents have been uploaded. 129,000 documents currently exist in their database. Many archives of states and universities are also connected.

But what about the "tweens"? Imbee is a site for teachers and schools and it's free. It's kind of a My Space for kids, but without the risks and exposure. Students can create their own blogs, but unlike other social websites, this is a closed community. However, Lamb suggested it as it's a great social network for project based learning. I have tried to access the site as I'm writing this, but for some reason I can't get in, but don't let that keep you from trying it out.

Ning is a social networking site that I had heard of before attending her session. It allows you to create your own social network where you can choose who participates. Ning works much like a blog and is quick to set up. Additionally, you can add photos, videos, and make your Ning private and only accessible to members of your network.

Of all the tools categorized under "A", for me I would most likely use Ning and be able to suggest its use for teachers and students.

"B" is for Blogs, Vlogs, Podcasts, and Web Feeds, all of which are about "me". The purpose of these tools is to publish and share something of importance to me. Others might find what I have written or recorded interesting and they can comment on it. Annette went on to share a dizzying array of K-12 examples, but at least check out this kindergarten class video.

"C" is for Collaborative Wikis, Documents, and Projects. Again, you can find a treasure trove of examples on her website, but she has moved the wiki examples here. Also, be sure to check out her pdf file on "Characteristics of Effective Collaboration."

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed her session. Although I was already aware of the ABCs, her resources and K-12 examples were more than worth the hour! If you ever get a chance to see her in person...go!

GAETC Review: Tony Brewer - Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting: Tools of the 21st Century Classroom

I found that Tony Brewer was either pretty misinformed or ignorant of the ways wikis can work. He was fairly insistent that wikis could not be moderated nor the publishing of wikis controlled, which is entirely wrong. Some wikis require that the username and password be shared among users to post, some are created for open posting only, but there are others where the wiki can be established so only those who are members may publish and edit. I can't help but be disturbed by this misinformation given that he has built his career on presentations such as these. Blogs are so much more prevalent than wikis and even though the room wasn't packed, he managed to misinform everyone there and leave them with the impression that wikis aren't such a great tool.

Going on, he suggested the use of blogs could allow for multiple collaborators. How? Give the username and password to everyone who will be contributing. Isn't that a wiki? (Correction: Since my original post, I have discovered that you can have a multi-authored blog.) Why do so in a blog format when you could collaborate on a wiki? Each person can have their own login to use, and changes and additions can be tracked by the user.

He poses many questions about the validity of the information on the site and how you can't guarantee that it is free of bias. With an educationally focused wiki, this is not an issue. His allegiance appeared to be more aligned with Wikipedia than providing any other kinds of examples. He even showed Wikipedia and used it as an example.

Then he asked, based on the information he had given, which we would prefer. I was the only one who chose a wiki. Then he made some comment like, "How do you like being the only one?" Okay, I had to comment on that. I gave a short explanation of how I use wikis and that Wikispaces was a perfect medium to use with students and point-by-point contradicted his negative remarks about wikis. I was shocked to find that he had never even HEARD of Wikispaces. Then he said he would be careful because it ends in ".com". My hand went up again to relay that they have teacher pages which are free and add free to boot. Thankfully, another member of the audience brought up another suggestion of using WetPaint.

What really threw me was that when an audience member asked what you could use a wiki for other than having students create an encyclopedia. He was blank!! He solicited examples so my hand went up for the third time to relate the book study a group of 8th grade gifted students are doing with some of the faculty members in that school. I'd link to it, but it's private to protect the students, but I am very excited about what they are doing.

So, in short (too late right?), I guess he was rather ignorant about the use of wikis. But isn't it his job to completely inform himself before coming to a state conference and presenting on subjects such as this? Additionally, one of his links to educational wiki examples was a page produced on, drum roll please....Wikispaces!!

As David Warlick would say, just my 2 cents worth. So, in short if you are reading this and want to know more about wikis, you can go to my Diigo list of wiki examples.

Curtis J. Bonk - Wandering Through the Wonders of Web 2.0

I first became aware of Professor Curtis J. Bonk after reading through a few Educational Technology blogs. I ran across his website and he routinely speaks at conferences regarding topics that I have been very interested in. So, when I found he was a featured speaker at GAETC 2007, I made sure to go to his first session.

First of all, he's a dynamo. I was exhausted by the end of his lecture as quickly as he was going through his presentation. The focus was the wonders of Web 2.0 and what current technology innovations had helped to "flatten" the world. Flatten meaning tools that have made it possible for people to interact globally regardless of physical constraints.

He first began by comparing education throughout the centuries. One particularly interesting point he had was all of the innovations of the 1950's for teachers such as record player, OPAC machines, tape recorders, etc. Teachers were overwhelmed, resistant, reluctant, and feared this technology. Sound familiar? Teachers today have much the same reaction when faced with current technologies.

Contrast those innovations with what we have today! Ipods, Internet enabled cell-phones, text messaging, handhelds, digital video, virtual experiences, and the ability to receive instant feedback given the expansion of broadband capabilities. In April 2007 there were 75 million blogs and 173 million personalized pages on MySpace.

He also spoke of Neomillenial Learning styles where students:

  • learn using multiple forms of media
  • actively seek, collect, and synthesize experiences rather than absorb from a single "best" resource
  • actively learn and collaboratively reflect
  • approach learning in a non-linear way
  • co-design learning experiences
The real skill is not to lengthen your attention span, but to multi-task. I found this to be particularly provocative because of how difficult it would be for some teachers to grasp this as being a "good thing". Typically it isn't something teachers want our students to do since many educators have yet to move beyond the "sage on the stage" approach to teaching and learning. However, 21st century skills demand that our students become more and more adept at juggling a variety of tasks.

Curtis also spoke about "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman and that there are ten forces that flattened the world. For example, in 1860 the telegraph flattened the world by providing a quick means of communication that before then had not been possible. Now, instead of the telegraph and telephone we have text messaging and blogs. It's amazing how far we've come.

He outlined the ten forces with examples, but it's far too much to list here. I'll post this for now, but I'll come back and add some of the more interesting resources he mentioned. All in all, I enjoyed his session, but I was very overwhelmed, and it will take some time to digest everything so I can determine how I can use and /or share the information with others.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

We've got quite a way to go - "A Vision of Students Today"

I was going through my RSS feeds and found this video posted on both David Warlick's 2 Cents Worth blog and Vicki Davis' The Cool Cat Teacher Blog - both of which are great reads if you aren't already keeping up with them. But all that aside, take a look at this video.

If you aren't able to catch all of the messages, you can view a transcript of them at the Digital Ethnography blog. This video was created by Michael Wesch and 200 students on the Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course at Kansas State University.

Just browsing through the first ten comments on that blog, there was some virtual head nodding, but there were also quite a few negative reactions. I personally don't believe that the video's intent is to have us feel sorry for these college students trapped in a classroom of the past. Instead, I see it as a message to educators that we need to be aware of our students and how very different they are from when we were sitting in those same seats. Students gather and use information far differently from how we did.

David Warlick put it rather succinctly in his response to one comment,
"The reason that I mentioned the video is that teachers should become aware of how children use information today, and the degree to which information adds meaning to their experiences. I believe that in this time, the education that best serves our children and their future will be one that includes the curriculum that thoughtful and forward looking educators agree on, and reflects the information landscape that will almost certainly be part of our children's future."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

K12 Online Conference

I have been checking out some of the wonderful sessions from the K12 Online Conference. The thing about attending traditional conferences is that there are always concurrent sessions I miss because I have too many good ones to choose from. However, this format eliminates those issues. I can “attend” the session whenever I please and that has been wonderful. I hope to report more later about some of the great things I’ve gleaned from the sessions I have sat in on thus far.

First Web 2.0 Presentation!

In September I gave my first presentation on Web 2.0 tools to teachers at one of the elementary schools in my district. I have to admit to being a bit nervous about the whole thing. Right now access to technology is difficult and I feared that once they knew I was there to speak about using it, that they would tune out. Wrong. The main focus centered on defining what Web 2.0 is and then introducing wikis and the use of The seemed attentive and several people asked questions, which is always good! The teacher I worked with to set up my presentation reported that several teachers had created wikis that night! Now to spread the word to the rest of the schools!

The Wonders of Web 2.0

Faced with limited resources but ample demand to use technology in instruction what could I as an Instructional Technologist do to help teachers in my system? More than I thought, and that’s a good thing. After attending the NECC 2007 conference in Atlanta this past June, I have become acquainted with a host of possibilities. I am all about free tools for my teachers, and now I have been exposed to so many it’s making my head spin. Normally, I’m not a fan of dizziness, but this is one ride where I don’t mind the feeling.

Although I was somewhat aware of the Web 2.0 tools that were out there, I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t a user myself. There were the normal excuses, of course - not time being the biggest. Until now that is, and I have made a 2007-08 school year resolution to use them so I can share and teach about them to others. I think the most exciting thing that I learned about was Wikis. Yes, I had used Wikipedia on many occasions, but never looked into creating my own. That’s all behind me now. As a central office employee often deluged with committee responsibilities, I am hopeful that using wikis will help me to streamline those responsibilities and hopefully reduce the need to have as many face-to-face meetings. I am realistic that this will take some time to get people to “buy” into, but I’m confident that will catch on slowly but surely.