Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Personal learning is a job?

I don't often do these kind of "in response to" posts, but I'm taking this online course where we have to dig through our reader and share a post that is particularly meaningful to us. Looking through my own reader, I ran across The Job of Personal Learning from injenuity. Although I will have already blogged about it for my class, I felt compelled to cross-post here as well.

I only wish there had been time to read this before I did my presentation, Time for a PLaN, at GaETC. Had that been the case, I think I may have changed the approach I took just a bit. Why? Because in her post, she approaches the building of a PLN by looking at it as a job. I knew that building a PLN was work, knew that it takes time, and knew that you have to dedicate yourself to your tools of choice and to fostering the connections. Even knowing all of this, I didn't think of it as a job, probably because I eat this stuff up. I quickly realized the benefits of my network and I was hooked!

This part really rocked me, that rang true with me (the grace of 20/20 vision after the fact) was this,

"When I look at it as a job, I can see why introducing it to groups en masse doesn’t lead to successful adoption."

Yes, I enjoyed a rather self-depreciating laugh. After all, that's exactly what I attempted to do. But hey, so did David Warlick and Steve Dembo, too. At least I was in good company, right? Of course. My expectations were a smidgen too high though. Yes, I am a glass 1/2 full kind of girl, but I believe in the power of positive thought. Yes, I thought I might could possibly start a PLN wave. I think perhaps it was more like a pebble dropped into a large lake though.

Regardless, Jen's quote above is all too true. After reflecting on it, I realized that I have had much more success with colleagues becoming involved in aspects of building a PLN because I have been able to intimately demonstrate the power of my PLN and I have been able to, in effect, mentor them. Those who I have been able to do that with have stuck with it. Given that, I think perhaps exposing people to the concepts of PLNs is fine en masse, but if I would truly like others to embrace the possibilities a PLN can bring to their professional practice, then I need to think small.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Steve Dembo - Extreme Makeover: Education Edition

I have been looking forward to attending at least one of Steve Dembo's (aka Teach42) sessions at GaETC 2008, both because he's in my PLN and I have heard great things about his past presentations. I introduced myself before he started, which was odd in itself. I mean how many times do you go up to someone and say, "Hi, I'm cobannon from Plurk"? Thankfully, he recognized the name.

His session was titled "Extreme Makeover: Education Edition" and before the session began he gave me a quick overview of what he would be doing and told me that I didn't need to be in it, that I probably knew everything because this was going to be geared for the Web 2.0 newbie. That was exactly what I needed though - an approach to introducing teachers in my district to Web 2.0 tools. He further described his presentation as non-linear and that this was would be his first time doing a session like this. That alone intrigued me.

As he began, I felt a little like an audience member of a game show. He chose a newbie out of the audience and sat her at his computer. Then he brought up a game show grid, like something you'd see on Jeopardy or "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?", and had her pick a category of interest. Each category was then linked to a particular Web 2.0 site that he had his volunteer, Fiona, sign up for and use. During the presentation the rest of the audience got involved by yelling out the names of categories they wanted to Fiona to explore.

In the end, I did learn of a few sites that I had not seen before, but more importantly, Steve gave us all ideas about how to incorporate these sites into classroom instruction, which to me was the most valuable piece. Had his session lasted two or even three hours, I think we could have kept on using a variety of volunteers. I plan to set aside some time (hopefully soon) to exploring some of the ones that were featured.

For a complete accounting of his session, I live Plurked it. Steve said that he'll upload his presentation including the links to the sites he used to his blog.

Photo Source: Gamerscore on Flickr
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

TIme for a PLaN - My Presentation at GaETC 2008

After years (Okay, so it only felt like years) of preparation, I finally presented at GaETC this morning to a rousing crowd of less than 10 people. Granted the session began at 8:15 am and often people choose to sleep in (aka "ditch") the first session of the day. Regardless, I am very pleased with the way the presentation went and learned that what I presented cannot be done in one hour!

I thought, which was my first mistake - never assume, that my presentation itself would last half an hour leaving me with another thirty minutes for my participants to explore some of the PLN sites. Nope. I think we had oh, five minutes? Even though I went long, my evaluations were very positive. (Wipe sweat off brow).

I chose to Ustream my session, which I have never done before and it worked! I was very pleased that I could share my presentation with some of my PLN since without them I certainly couldn't have done it. Adding to that, my Plurk buddy csgodfrey, who I had not met until the day before, was there for both moral support and to lend a hand. I hope others get the chance to meet her because she's a sweetheart in person!

On the downside, I was so nervous that I forgot to record my Ustream. (Insert expletive here). I want to thank everyone who did watch and also to those who replied to my Plurk shout out. Can I say how much I loved it that within 10 minutes I had over 15 replies? I sincerely hope that I what I shared resonates with them enough that they pursue building their own PLN. Whether it's using microblogs or simply reading and commenting on blogs, it if allows them to feel more connected and to learn, then it will make my day.

The wiki for the presentation includes all sorts of links for beginners to help build their PLN. Right now the wiki is public, so if you'd like to add to what I have there, feel free. I'll shift it over to protected within the next few days most likely. My presentation is also uploaded to slideshare and posted on the wiki (and here). You can download it and modify it to meet your needs if you'd like. If you weren't able to listen to my presentation, then some of the slides might not make sense. If I get time, I'll use Camtasia to record the presentation with audio.

Time for a PLaN
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: pln networking)

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

GaETC Keynote - Ron Clark

I just left the Keynote at GaETC given by Ron Clark of the Ron Clark academy. I had heard incredible things about him, but to say that I was blown away by him is putting it mildly. It makes me want to go back to teaching (almost).

One of the first things that he spoke about was the Presidential Rap song that his kids did that was recorded and put on YouTube and has since gone viral and gotten attention from major networks. He performed a bit of it for us and here is the video of his students.

The man is a dynamo of energy and creativity and much of what he said really touched to the heart of what teaching is all about - at least for me. He spoke of innovation and creativity and how we cannot expect our students to be innovative or creative if WE are not allowed to be. Teaching to the test has become the mantra in so many of our classrooms. We have to teach "down" to our brightest kids, they have become the tutors for those struggling, but what about them? He says that we have "flipped the script" entirely in teaching to attempt to not leave any child behind. He approaches things from a different angle, teaching to the brightest instead and raising the others up and he had succeeded.

Music in his classroom, finding what "clicks" with his students and incorporating that into his daily instruction is key. He says it's all about the atmosphere in the classroom. Set the tone, smile, let the kids know that you care because if you don't care about them and let them know about it, how can we expect them to care about themselves and to take ownership of their learning? We've got to think outside the box.

He has 55 rules in his school. I was shocked to hear he had that many, but he defended them by saying that they provide a strict structure that his students appreciate. They know the expectations, they are aware of the consequences. Once those are in place, then he can be as crazy, innovative, silly, and jump on as many desks as he wants to. Set the structure in place first. Being proactive in the beginning gets better results in the end.

Some of the funnier moments in his speech is when he spoke about promoting his book on Oprah. He said that it was she who encouraged him to write a book and after sending her a copy she invited him back to the show. She showed the book to her audience, told them to buy it and then hugged it. From Ron Clark's mouth (loosely), "When Oprah tells you to write a book, you do it." "When Oprah hold your book close to her bosom, you're in." The next day, his book was number two on the best seller's list - right behind Harry Potter.

It was the proceeds from his book that he used to found the Ron Clark Academy in an abandoned factory in South Atlanta. They had 19 break-ins during construction, but he did a four month tour of the neighborhood introducing himself and speaking about his school, eventually the community took ownership of it and helped to build it into what is today. He said that buildings to the right and left have graffiti, but it's like his school is this fortress because not a mark you'll find on his building. He even got some of the street walkers to pitch in. "If you call them, they'll come. They won't stay long, but they helped." And these were some of the very people who were trashing the neighborhood in the first place.

Clark says, if our schools aren't what we want them to be then it's our fault. If you want to make changes, if you want innovation, then everyone has to be on the same page.

Clark says that he doesn't like every student that he's ever had and tells the story of Rondell - a child who he particularly disliked. And of course, Rondell was one of those kids who was never absent. He might be late, letting Clark think he had a reprieve from his nightmare, but then he'd show up with the tardy slip in hand. On the outside he'd tell Rondell, "It's great to have you here, I thought you weren't going to show up today!" but on the inside he'd say "Oh shit!" However, Rondell never knew Clark's true feelings about him because he had established a relationship with the child and an atmosphere in his classroom where students knew that he cared about their success.

One of the last examples he shared with us was of a baseball game of a student that he attended. The student asked why he was there and he told him that he was there to watch him. Not even the boy's mother was at the game. The student would continue to look at him during the game to see if Clark was watching and he was. The next Monday, that student who had not been engaged in class was paying attention and even telling other students to be quiet. Others have said that they have families and don't have time to visit homes or spend three hours at a game. Clark's reply? Three hours at a game can save you a year of heartache.

I think my favorite example that he shared with us was about his chocolate milk chugging. His Harlem kids loved chocolate milk, to chug it in fact. He brought in carton after carton of chocolate milk and told them that he was going to teach them about dangling participles and for every three minutes they paid attention, he would chug a carton of chocolate milk and continue to do so as long as they paid attention and eventually they could see him throw up. They did, and after 14 cartons, he threw up. Now that's sacrifice to get your students engaged in your lesson. It also created conversation within the homes of these children, conversations about school that wouldn't have occurred before and that helped him gain parental support.

The key to it all is high expectations. Continue to teach to the brightest. Be innovative, creative. Think outside the box and engage the students. Find what interest them and bring it into the classroom. His test scores are proof. Can everyone teach like Ron Clark? No, but there are certain ideals that he embraces which every teacher can take to heart.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Harnessing The Power of My PLN : Part II

After making the decision to apply to present at GaETC this year, I turned to my PLN for help. First, I needed a name for my presentation and I knew I could get some creative help from my fellow Plurkers. I wasn't disappointed either. Here are some of the suggestions they came up with. You can click on the screen shot to take you to the Plurk page.

I was able to take these great ideas and combine them into my title : Time for a PLaN: The Power of Connectivism and Collective Intelligence. With my title in hand, I created my proposal summary and once again turned to my PLN for their invaluable feedback and received many replies with great suggestions.

Thanks to their assistance, my proposal was accepted and as I write this, I will be presenting in two days. Being able to harness the power of my PLN in order to educate and encourage others about about building one of their own has been invaluable. This presentation will most definitely live up to its title. From the development of my proposal to the content of the presentation, none of it would be possible without them. A true example of collective intelligence at work.

It was about this time last year that I embraced the idea of building my own network of support and I haven't looked back. It's been a whirlwind of a year with a huge learning curve that at times made my head spin from the information overload. However, I wouldn't trade "them" or the knowledge I've acquired for anything.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Web Search Strategies in Plain English from The Common Craft Show!

Another basic, yet great explanation, not to mention timely. I just had a teacher asking about this very topic the other day so I hope she'll find this useful for her lesson.

Web Search Strategies in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Follow up to CoSN CTO Session

My battery died, but I was able to take notes of the 2nd presenter on my Blackberry. In Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, they are doing some interesting things regarding the re-distribution of equipment and changes to their AUP policy to allow for student-owned devices.

Here are the notes that I took unedited (mostly).

They have a desire to "extend" the school day.

Direct efforts more toward the safety of the network and away from the tools they will be using.

Students don't need our wifi access b/c they have their own on their phones for the most part.

Saturate the classroom with access and let students desire for the use of technology in instruction drive the change for instruction. Peer pressure almost. They are doing it in Mrs.X's classroom, why not in here?

Leverage student owned resources to allow use in school. Changed their AUP.

Rolled out wifi.

Separate VLAN for student devices with filtering to access district resources/Internet.

How do we provide for students without their own devices?

They have notebooks available for checkout to some during the daytime. 3 year refresh cycle on technology and give away old ones after they are refreshed and wiped clean. Loaded with Opensource software.

Thin client access to get to school resources from home.

Using web based resources as well. Dropping MS office and going to Open Office. Student don't have access to office at home so went open source this past school year with refresh.

Asus EEE and classmate PC they are looking at these types of laptops, but won't go with until battery life is addressed.

New notebooks have limited use but focuses on what we want teachers to use in the classrooms, away from canned software.

Seamless was important to them regarding putting students on their own network with their own devices.

Citrix clients not available for all of the devices that they would see students using such as the iPhone, Blackberry.

Remote access to gateway. They aren't providing support for it. They have few problems with students mostly with adults not knowing how to connect.

Changed AUP, but it has not been promoted yet. They are watching as kids bring in their own devices to see what problems might arise.

Greater potential to make learning more engaging than to worry about them being off task. Risk, but learning potential might be worth it.

Teacher and admin management of the students using devices will be up to the schools so far.

Question / Answer Time:

Q: They lease computers. How did they get around tax payers receiving school goods?

A: Cost of ownership goes up and better for students if they took it. Bid process? No. Board approved, local funds, surplus. Put out an RFP to a company who wiped them clean, put Open Office on them and gave 60 day warranty. That company was only allowed to sell the PC's back to who Forsyth County specified.

Q: Bandwidth Impact from student laptops /devices?

A: Not enough of devices out there to see any kind of a bandwidth impact right now. Gig fiber to each school.

Q: How many PC's were refreshed with OpenSource software?

A: Refreshed 5000 PC's with open office

Q: What are the connections like in school (wireless)?

A: Public ssid for visitors like in hotel

Student connection goes straight to citrix page but some devices so not have citrix client so they will need to investigate

CoSN CTO Clinic : Web 2.0 Technologies to Create Ubiquitous Learning Enviornments with Steve Hargadon

Friday, September 19, 2008

Announcing Diigo Educator Accounts!

For the past several weeks, existing Diigo users who are educators have been piloting the Teacher Console. So what is this? In short, it allows teachers to create students accounts without the need for email, something that is typically a stumbling block for many Web 2.0 sites given that many younger students do not have email addresses.

"Students on Diigo? Isn't that a social networking site?"

Yes, it is, but safegaurds have been put in place with the student accounts that limit the social aspects of the program. First, student accounts are automatically placed in a private class group with the teacher everyone in the group is automatically "friended" as well. The Diigo messaging system will allow students to communicate, however students are only allowed to message withing their class. Also, student profiles are only viewable by other students in the group and by the teacher, so their exposure to other Diigo users is limited.

So, how do you get a Diigo Educator Account? First, you'll need to apply here if you are an exsiting Diigo user. Once approved, the accounts will work as follows:

  • A teacher can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks (and student email addresses are optional for account creation)
  • Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums.
  • To protect the privacy of students, student accounts have special settings which only allow their teachers and classmates to contact them and access their personal profile information.
  • Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors.
For more information about the Diigo Educator accounts, please visit any of the following links:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

K12 Online Conference is coming!!

Save the dates!!
October 20 - 24 and October 27 - 31, 2008

Your PC!

Want more information? Check out the flyer below for the conference information or go to the K12 Online Conference 2008 website.

Don't miss this exciting professional learning opportunity available right at the click of your mouse.

Read this document on Scribd: K12 Online Conference Flyer

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Harnessing The Power of My PLN : Part I

This summer, I made the decision to submit a proposal to present at my state's educational technology conference, which is something I have never done before. In truth, I never felt as though I had anything to offer. However, after attending GAETC last year and sitting through a less than accurate session about wikis and blogs, I felt almost obligated to present. I have learned a great deal about many different Web 2.0 tools, so the question wasn't "Will I?" but "What will I present on?".

I have become a fan of wikis in the past year, Wikispaces in particular, so much so that our district purchased a Private Label license for Wikispaces. Even though I am huge proponent of the technology, there are others out there, such as Vicki Davis, who I feel are much more versed on using wikis than I am. Also, I am not in the classroom and I feel the ones who can best speak on the classroom uses of wikis are those who use it with their students. So, perhaps after another year of using wikis in my district with my teachers, I might take up that topic an co-present with a panel.

Then there is social bookmarking. I have used (now simply Delicious) for years until Diigo came onto the scene. Could I speak on Diigo for an entire hour? Sure. Do I want to bore them to death? No.

Then I thought about Twitter and Plurk, the latter of which I discovered this summer during the NECC conference as Twitter took a complete nosedive due to the high volume of traffic. Both are microblogging platforms, however each platform is a bit different. Could I talk about both of these for an hour? Yes. Did I really want to?

However, what all of these had in common for me, plus a few other Web 2.0 sites, was that I use all of them as a part of my PLN (Personal or Professional Learning Network). When I created my it, I had NO idea what I was doing or how to foster its development, much less how to get started. It all kind of happened at random and had there been a "guide", I might have been able to gain so much more from my PLN earlier than I did.

So, that settled it for me. I was going to do a presentation on Professional Learning Networks and how powerful of a resource they could be. With that resolved, I turned to my own PLN for assistance, which is what I'll talk about in Part II of Harnessing The Power of My PLN.

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Wikispaces Celebrates 100,000 Free Teacher Wikis

Wikispaces just announced that they have reached their goal of giving away 100,000 wikis to teachers! How are they celebrating? By giving away 250,000 MORE wikis!

Also in their announcement they have promised free online live events that will,

share Wikispaces news, give short tutorials on how best to use Wikispaces in the classroom, hear success stories and best practices from educators like you, answer your questions, and connect people so we can all share and learn from each other.
I would like to applaud their support of educators and ask that more Web 2.0 developers follow their example and that of sites like Animoto and Voicethread, too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

For those time I DO get mail...

This was shared on Plurk today and couldn't resist posting it here. This would be one letter opener I don't think I'd misplace.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How NOT to use Power Point

I was searching for a completely different video and ran across this one on TeacherTube and thought I would share it. It's funny, but the scary thing is that I know people who use Power Point like this!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How to Private Plurk

There seems to be a lot of discussion on Plurk about how to privately plurk. I admit to struggling with it myself and it is a bit finicky. So, I created this video, which I hope will help.

I'm cobannon on Plurk. Come try it out. The conversations are great!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Never Lecture In Class Again!

This great video was shared in a Chatzy chat by Justin Reeve. What an incredible approach to teaching and learning. The teachers responsible for this innovative approach, which they call "pre-vodcasting", work in Woodland Park, CO and have an educational consulting website where you can learn more about it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4th of July 2008

This is our homeshow that we do every year. It's the first time that I've videotaped it though. I wanted to try out my new camera that I got for Christmas and I was thrilled with the results. Although it won't zoom, it begins filming almost instantly and the sound capture and video quality were excellent for quick shots like these. I used my Sony Cybershot DSC-H3.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Testing out this morning.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

VPD - One virus for which I hope there is no cure!

After my last blog post, the thought of "viral" professional development has been at the forefront of my mind. Have I been approaching things all wrong? I think the answer to that is - maybe. Slowly, but surely I'm working to incorporate non-traditional method of professional development into my arsenal. Yes, arsenal. I am at war after all and plan to win it one small battle at a time. But what I have been doing thus far has seemed haphazard at best. My opportunity for some one-on-on time with a teacher last week just "happened". I have been flying so long without a sense of structure that I know I'm losing focus, and for me that can be dangerous.

I was on twitter when
@techchick94 tweeted about a blog post from @injenuity . So, I followed the link and found the following post:

In her post, Jennifer focuses on her strategy for Viral Professional Development or VPD - love the acronym! She succinctly outlines a bulleted list of characteristics of VPD and how to get started. I smiled to see a few that I have already begun to use.

But beyond those wonderful bullet points, two things really struck me. One was this quote I pulled from her post:
"...but I have found a strategy that is working well and keeping pace with my goals, expectations and work load"
This has been my main struggle. Trying to find that balance has been so difficult. I think I am my own worst enemy about biting off more than I can chew in my effort to try and do it all. However, the more balance I am able to find, the more effective I'll become. I know that. Now, I need to follow through on it.

After I read this, however, I honestly felt like I could breathe a bit better:
"You cannot spend time worrying about the instructors who refuse to adopt instructional technology. Just let it go."
Just let it go. Four simple words, but they meant a lot to me. Between letting go, creating a better structure for my professional development, and finding that much needed balance, I'm more hopeful about what I can accomplish! Here's to spreading viruses all over the place and watching them fester. Let's hope it's like the common cold - easily spreadable and without a cure!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

I'm beaming!

We were supposed to have an orientation meeting today with various teachers who we expect to participate in the Direct to Discovery Internet 2 project. However, this is a really tough time of year to pull teachers out of the classroom. Out of the twenty-something I invited, only six actually RSVP'd, so we decided to postpone the even with the hopes of a better turn out later.

So why am I beaming?

Well, one of the teachers who did RSVP is a Healthcare Career Tech teacher in his second year of teaching. I had never met him before, but just in my brief correspondence via email he sounded very enthusiastic about using technology with his students. Right now while his high school is undergoing massive renovations, he's in a trailer with no technology access to speak of. Beginning in the fall, he'll go from none to twelve! Wanting to ensure the investment in his classroom is put to good use, he asked if he could go ahead and spend the day with me so I could show him some ways he could put those computers to use. Substitutes are hard to come by and he already had his sub plans written, so I said, "Sure." That and any chance I can get to show another person about the wonderful Web2.0 tools that are out there, I jump on it.

I started with something simple like Google Docs and his eyes lit up. Then I exposed him to social bookmarking. He sat up straight and the gears started turning, especially when I asked him where his favorites were. Not on one, two, but THREE different computers. Then I showed him wikispaces and the lightbulb went off. In a voice full of what I can only describe as awe, he said, and I'm paraphrasing him, "This could change the way we teach." (Cue the heavenly music).

While I was showing him each tool, we discussed how he could integrate it into his teaching practices. I know I probably overwhelmed him, but he's excited and energetic. He left with a brand new Google account and having created his classroom wiki. That and he's vowed to share what he's learned with his fellow teachers. Here's hoping this goes viral - if at least a little.

Technorati tags: professional development, web2.0

31 Day Comment Challenge - Day 1

Okay, so I'm a haphazzard blogger at best. Truthfully, I find it difficult to find time to blog, but when something "hits" me, I try to post it right away or it simply won't happen. However, what I have been worse at is commenting. So, when the 31 Day comment challenge was born, I decided to try and participate. I hold no illusions that I'll actually win anything, but if I can at least be more consciencious about commenting, then I'll feel as though I have accomplished something.

Day 1: Do a Commenting Self-Audit

1. How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week?
A week, more like a month. I would say perhaps 2-3 times?

2. Do you track your blog comments? How? What do you do with your tracking?
No, I don't. I don't believe I saw the purpose of it.

3. Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week?
I don't make a consciencious effort to comment, period. I also don't find myself commenting on the same blogs when I do leave my thoughts though. It all depends on the topic.

Part II: Okay, after reading Gina Trapani's Guide to Blog Comments, I decided to comment briefly on each of the areas.

Stay on topic. - Yep, I do that.

Contribute new information to the discussion. - I believe that I try to do that. Sometimes I find that I come late to a post and so many others have already commented and contributed so much that I find it difficult to say something that someone else hasn't already. Often times, it leads me to not comment at all because I don't want to feel as though I'm simply echoing another person.

Don't comment for the sake of commenting. - Like I said, I try not to do this. However, if a post is just one where they've brought a new site to my attention, there isn't a whole lot to say at times. So, in those situations, I try to at least comment on how I might use that site.

Know when to comment and when to e-mail. - I've caught myself in situations such as this and have backed out of commenting because of it. So, I guess when it comes to making these decisions I'm competent.

Remember that nobody likes a know-it-all. - LOL! That wouldn't be me! Everyone else is far smarter as far as I'm concerned. Although, I've had to deal with them. I know what it feels like to be subjected to this type of person/comment and I'm not the type to preach on someone else's blog!

Make the tone of your message clear. - Given that I'm an angsty type of person who tends to bite my nails before hitting publish. I hope that's not an issue that I have.

Own your own comment - I always do.

Be succint - I'm not the type to foam at the mouth, so no worries there. Although I have caught myself needing to trim things back in a comment if I get worked up :)

Be courteous - Always.

Don't post when you're angry, upset, drunk or emotional. - This made me laugh - drunk? I don't think so. I think I may have posted something on my own blog once when I was angry, but I toned it down before actually publishing it. Never commented like that though.

Do not feed or tease the trolls. - I'm allergic to them so I do my best to stear clear.

We'll see how well I do with this. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Twiddla - Very cool team whiteboard!

Last night I was searching through my bookmarks to find some screencast tutorials and found myself at Liz B. Davis' blog The Power of Educational Technology. Scrolling through the posts on that page, I stumbled across one regarding Twitter as her "playground". It caught my eye, so I read on and found a nifty Web2.0 application called Twiddla,which is much like a playground itself.

Twiddla is a web-based collaborative whiteboard. Not much new there because I have seen a couple of these before. They were "cute", but I didn't see a huge use for them, so I was a bit skeptical. However, after trying Twiddla - I'm sold!

Twiddla offers a great whiteboard platform with a variety of tools unlike others I've seen. However, there are several features that really impressed me. First, you can conduct BOTH audio and text-based chatting within your Twiddla session, which is so easy to set up. Second, you have the option of saving snapshots of the whiteboard, which can then be used as images on the whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload images as well. Finally, with a free account, your sessions are archived and that includes the chat! With just a click, I was able to go back in and re-join the test session I created. I loved that feature especially.

This particular tool will definitely be something that I'll include in future professional development sessions. I know the students will enjoy using it, too.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Podcasting in Plain English

I admit it. I get all excited when they publish something new. This time it's Podcasting in Plain English.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Twitter in Plain English

Courtesy of the Common Craft Show - Twitter explained. If you prefer the version without subtitles, you can go directly to their website.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why spell checking is so important

I think this pretty much speaks for itself. Thanks to @TeachaKidd on Twitter for the link.

Photo credit: Act like a professional

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You know you're a geek when....

You squeal upon discovering that Wikispaces has added a new feature. There I was editing one of my wikispaces and I moved my mouse up to boldface a word I had just typed and "Bam!" there it was. A new bold little "A" icon with color stripes underneath it.

Wikispaces has fonts and color!

Could it be?

I clicked it and that's when I let loose a squeal that embarrassingly attracted the attention of my office co-workers. It wasn't the squeal that so much made my cheeks rosy, it was having to explain the reason behind my outburst. Laughter followed of course, but they all know how much I love using wikis and a few admitted that they, too are happy to now have that option. One person even said that this was the happiest she's seen me in a long time.

Am I that pitiful? No, I'm a just a geek who grins and yes, squeals when I get new techie "toys", even something a simple as text formatting. Here's hoping Wikispaces gives me plenty more reasons to squeal in the future. For page level access, I might even dance on my desk.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Web 2.0 Tools for Educators - Sesson 1

I wrote not long ago about my new toy, Adobe Connect, that I was to use for a web-based professional learning course on Web 2.0 tools that I'm facilitating. The first session, which was designed as an overview of the course with an intro into Web2.0, went very well. Since our elementary teachers get out of school much earlier than middle and high school teachers I have two "start" times on the days that we have synchronous discussions. I stagger it to begin at 3:00pm and then again at 3:45. The sessions are also recorded so they can review if needed later.

Everyone seemed excited about using Adobe Connect - a relief to me. I wasn't sure how open they would be to this type of professional learning, but so far so good. Keeping my fingers crossed. In addition to using that for synchronous discussions and teaching, I am also using a private Ning social network to post homework assignments. The ning will also serve as a place for them to reflect on what they are learning in a "closed" setting. However, anything they create as a part of fulfilling the course requirements will be posted on a protected wikispace. I'll post where it is once they have begun to publish projects to it.

Just a little about the course, it is designed into modules. They are not required to complete all of them, but must participate in the first overview module. The rest explore a variety of Web2.0 tools. To complete each module, they must fulfill the assignment requirements, most of which will be project-based along with some reflection responses. If you would like to take a look at what is being offered, I have it posted on my Tech Tips for Teachers wikispace. If anyone has any great sources out there, please share them with me!

Photo credit: Flickr

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Don't fail me now!


It had to happen sooner or later. Right when I needed the one web-based tool that I absolutely use more than any other, it dies on me. I sent a tweet asking who killed, but apparently I was the only one affected by this lovely error 999.

Yahoo, if you're reading this, please, please fix it and soon!
FireShot capture #19 - 'Yahoo! - 999 Unable to process request at this time -- error 999' - del_icio_us_techintegrate
Originally uploaded by cobannon71

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My new toy! Adobe Connect

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to begin facilitating a course called Web 2.0 Tools for Educators. I knew that offering the course face-to-face wouldn't garner a lot of interest because they would have to drive, so I set out to find a web-based conferencing option. There are many to choose from, but none of them would do exactly what I needed.

Then my own networking guys came to the rescue with Adobe Connect. I knew we owned it, but our guys are stretched so thin that getting it up and running has taken a long, long time. But the next thing I know, it's there, it's up, and I'm in!! My only complaint is that it's set up within our network so I can't bring in anyone from the outside. If there is anyone else with the same problem that has overcome it or found a workaround, I'd love to hear about it.

In the meantime, I'm thrilled to have this great tool - my new toy to deliver professional learning and "on-demand" help when needed. Keeping my fingers crossed that there aren't any (or many) technical glitches tomorrow. After our first session I'll post how it went.

Photo credit:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Redzee - And if one new search engine wasn't enough...

Redzee was brought to my attention by jdblack64 in a Tweet. When you first reach the site, you're greeted by a cute animated zebra, a red and white one, thus the name Redzee for the site. He's fun to watch for a few seconds and the younger kids will surely enjoy him. But the "wow" of the site begins when you enter in your search. Instead of the traditional listing of sites appearing, you get an arc of screen shots from sites that have matched your search criteria. To navigate through the results, you use your mouse to drag them to the left or right.


After the "wow" effect wore off, I began thinking about filtering for our students and wondering if this method of searching would result in our students being able to bypass it to show front pages of pornographic websites. I performed a few basic searches using keywords like pornography, sex, and porn, and all of them failed to produce results. Even sites that are blocked under normal search conditions remained blocked.

I won't be giving up Google at any time, but it is a very different way to navigate the net. What I would really love to see is a mashup of this site and all of my links.

Kart00 - Sweet little search engine

Originally uploaded by cobannon71
Kart00 is a search engine that gives you your results in a "mind map" type format. What I found very interesting about the results window is that the pages it finds are presented as small icon screen shots and are attached to blob-like bubbles that represent categories within your search.

In addition to the results in the main window, to the left you'll find other related categories. If you hover your mouse over them the links in the main window pulse, for lack of a better word. As you click through some of the categories, new ones appear. It's worth taking a look at and would be very interesting to show students the related categories their search comes up with that they may not have thought of themselves.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Survey Says!

Want a quick, simple way to gather and share data? Then you need to take a look at Google Docs' newest feature!

In Excel, you can create a very flexible survey on the fly and have it up and running within minutes with a link to a web-based questionnaire. Participants fill it out and the results are automatically added to the spreadsheet.

What did I love most? The fact that I didn't have to do anything to set up the spreadsheet! After you created it, you save it, click the share tab, and then select the form creation option and it walks you through the rest. As for distribution, you have the option of emailing the form or distributing the link to the form. I tried both and didn't have luck with the email form sending back the results, but the web-based form worked like a charm. I also embedded the results into my wiki, which is updated every five minutes with new incoming data. Feel free to give it a try and check the results. Oh, almost forgot! Participants do NOT need an account or to sign in to Google Docs in order to complete the survey or poll that was created.

The downside? You can't control who responds to your survey if the link gets emailed outside of the circle it was sent to and there is nothing to stop participants from responding more than once to the survey. However, if you just need to gather some quick data, it's a snap to use!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Reality Check - Faceless!

Am I a name that just floats out there in my school district without a face to go with it? Apparently I am. I recently was faced with this humbling not to mention discouraging fact the other day when I was working with a pair of teachers. One of them I had never met, but the other I had taught before and she concurred that I was this mysterious entity that emailed without a face attached.


But after reflecting on this, I realized they were right. In a rapidly growing district with 12,000 students, it's difficult for one person to make an impact. I try to reach as many as I can, one or two teachers at a time. A pebble in a large body of water, I know, but I'm hoping for ripples. Lots of them. Until then, I do what I can to support those who have a spark already. Maybe I'll get lucky and there will be a fire? Anyone in the same situation out there with advice, I'd welcome it.

Flickr Photo credit: kevsunblush

Thursday, January 31, 2008

This is my first post...

This is my first post on my blog using an internet tool called Jott. The first time I tried it, it didn't work so well so I hope this one transcribes much better. listen

Powered by Jott

Wow, and it did! The above is exactly how I said it. I think I rushed things a little the first time, which caused the transcription to be a bit garbled, but second time was perfect.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Blog Readability - Genius Level? SMOG it instead!

Kate Olson at Reflection 2.0 receives my inspiration award for the day. After reading her first post, I kept scrolling down and stumbled upon her "Humbled by a Widget" entry. She found a readability badge on another blog, which I then found on hers, so I followed her link to The Blog Readability Test and tried it myself. Here's what they had to say:

blog readability test

Genius level? Thanks....I think. Most likely their algorithm has a screw or two loose. However, I allowed myself a moment to "glow" in my own prowess before I searched for a more reliable, although a lot less flashy means of determining the true readability of my blog. The first site I chose was the National Literacy Trust's SMOG Test (simplified measure of gobbledygook) - love the acronym! To be fair to myself, I chose three different blog posts and had each of them scored. My highest of the three is pictured below, a 13.57, which is considered to be on the "some college" educational level and equivalent to the New York Times. The scale tops out at 19+, which they liken to a post-graduate degree and the IRS code! Ha! My lowest was in the 10 range; some high school education and on the level of Newsweek. Bet the writers of Newsweek would love that comparison, too.

My second test was using the same post, but this time using the Flesh-Kincaid reading level in Word to test it. I received a 12.9. I found a comparable test online that provided some great stats and also incorporates the SMOG test as well. In addition to the stats, it also lists sentences that it suggests should be re-written to improve the readability.

All fun with the readability badge aside, if you're interested in a more reliable test, try this one. I'd love to hear what the difference in your scores are.

Professional Development and Web 2.0 Thoughts

This morning I was going through my "twits" and saw Kate Olson's post, which then led me to her blog Reflection 2.0. Her state is requiring teachers to create professional development plans as part of their licensing. I happen to think this is a wonderful idea. Georgia has something a bit similar, but it is integrated into our teacher evaluation instrument and not nearly as detailed or as demanding as what she has posted in her blog entry.

In my position, I am at liberty to pursue whatever types of professional development I deem necessary for my job. I enjoy this flexibility, but at times feel like I am wandering without a clear sense of direction concerning where I want to be a year from now. Web 2.0 has done this to me! Don't get me wrong, I love everything that I am encountering, but I am overwhelmed by it all. It excites me, but then I become stressed when I think about the most effective way of sharing what I have learned with my school district. As the lone Instructional Technologist for a 12,000 student district with 16 schools, the task is daunting.

My first attempt to introduce Web 2.0 tools has gone fairly well. I am a co-chair of the Continuity of Student Learning sub-committee of the Pandemic Flu Planning committee. Short version? How do we continue to educate our students in the advent of mass sickness or other emergency that would shut down our schools. In order to organize our work, I created a wiki, which I introduced at our first meeting. We have representatives from each of our schools, so that was at least sixteen people who have been exposed to wikis who weren't before. So far so good, but that's not exactly the type of use I had in mind. I want these tools in the classroom, and I'm concerned that by using them for this type of activity that they'll be seen as "administrative" tools. Perhaps I'm worrying for nothing?

Regardless, I'm not having a lot of luck getting the word out. I am and will continue to offer classes using and incorporating Web 2.0 tools in spite of the less than tepid response. Translation - my inbox is NOT flooded with people wanting to take any of the courses. I think the next plan of action is to work with those facilitating courses teachers are more likely to be involved with, and seeing how I can coerce convince them to incorporate Web 2.o technologies into the delivery framework. Covert versus overt? Is that the way?

Photo Credit: uyanum on Flickr

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Friday, January 25, 2008

No instrument, no problem! - Muxicall has it all

Was going through my feed reader and this post by Ben Rimes titled "Best Way to Waste Time This Week" caught my eye. Hey, it's Friday, and in my humble opinion, that's the best day to waste time while waiting on the weekend to roll around.

So I found myself at a site called Muxicall. It's a flash-based site with a huge grid. Each rectangle in the grid is a musical note, which you play by clicking on it. The result is a very realistic musical sound and a bubble of color. The brighter the color, the higher the note. In order to play a string of fluid notes, you hold down the shift key and you're off. That's where the fun begins and the screen is decorated by an array of colorful circles as the music you create is played.

What's more is that you have your choice of instruments: piano, strings, and drums. Not the solo artist type? Not to worry. As I was playing a few more people arrived to join in the musical fun. It's can get a bit overwhelming, but you end up with an eclectic musical mix. As I type this I'm listening to "live" music by other online users. Not Beethoven, but not bad either. I'm going to send the link out to my teachers and I hope to hear their reactions. Those white interactive white boards should have a great time with this.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Internet 2 Pictures

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Trying Live Blogging on Internet 2 Splash Day

I discovered Coveritlive via a Tweet on Twitter. Sorry I can't remember who posted it, but I felt like tomorrow's event would be a great time to try it out if I have Internet access. Now wouldn't that be sad - an event honoring our Internet 2 connection, but I don't have access to blog it. Tune in and I'll add what I can below....or post that I won't be able to blog live after all. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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Internet 2 Unveiled in Barrow County Schools

Barrow County Schools
on January 24, 2008 will officially unveil its Internet 2 connection in a "Splash Day" event taking place at Westside Middle School. Our school system has the honor of being the first K-12 system with access to the Internet 2 Network, which hooks us into an ultra high-speed system of universities, research institutions, libraries, museums, and more. This will allow our students to collaborate and interact with experts that simply isn't possible over the traditional Internet connection.

We are hopeful that from this complete list of Internet 2 Members, we'll be able to form meaningful collaborative partnerships to bring unimaginable content into our classrooms. We are calling this Direct to Discovery and our focus is on STEM subjects. Our school system is not unique in facing issues with student performance in math and science. However, through these connections we seek to make instruction meaningful, engaging, and to make that all important link between the content and the real-world application of it. The outcome? Increase the achievement of our students in math and science and perhaps motivate more of our students to pursue careers in those fields as well.

After tomorrow's event, I'll post more information regarding the improvement in our network's bandwidth and the various projects we'll be engaging our students in. If you're reading this, are connected to the Internet 2 network, and are interested in collaborating with a K-12 school system, please contact me.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

10 Things We Need to Unlearn

So it started with a Twitter post by Steve Dembo on 12/3 commenting how reading a blog post led to another, then another. So, naturally I decided to follow, but it took me down a different path to an older post by Will Richardson, which I found incredibly interesting. In my system we are about to embark on a 5-year strategic plan, and with that on the brain, many of the "10 things we need to unlearn" stood out to me.

"We need to unlearn the idea that we are the sole content experts in the classroom, because we can now connect our kids to people who know far more than we do about the material we’re teaching."

I think that is perhaps one of the most difficult things for a teacher to acknowledge. Most of us were educated in a classroom with a "sage on a stage", so it's what we're used to doing ourselves. When you've been the "diva" for so long, it's not easy to share the stage. However, our students are very savvy, connected, and we should expect more from them than the blank slates we've been used to encountering.

"We need to unlearn the idea that learning itself is an event. In this day and age, it is a continual process."

Amen! These days our classrooms are not the Utopia of learning they used to be. Acquiring and expanding our knowledge transcends those walls.

As a former French teacher, every new group of students would never fail to produce that one phrase that annoyed me beyond belief - "Why can't everyone just speak American?" American? What's that? Living where I do, the availability of authentic experiences for my students was rare as best. Now the opportunities they would have to make authentic connections boggle the mind. It almost makes me want to go back in the classroom...almost.

"We need to unlearn our fear of putting ourselves and our students “out there” for we’ve proven we can do it in safe, relevant and effective ways.

We need to unlearn the idea that we can teach our students to be literate in this world by continually blocking and filtering access to the sites and experiences they need our help to navigate."

Firewalls and blocked websites are the bane of my existence! Enough said.

These were just a few of the ten things that stood out to me. Hopefully I'll have a chance to reflect on more of them, but it took me six weeks just to get to these. Sad, I know, yet I shall keep trying!

Photo Credit: Jonas B Flickr

A Fair(y) Use Tale - A la Disney

This has got to be one of the most ingenious uses of video clips that I have ever seen. And what's even better is the message it conveys about copyright. If there is one thing that media specialists and instructional technologists battle, it's copyright.

I'm unsure why, but I've run into far too many educators who seem to believe they have the "right" to use, copy, install, and distribute, etc copyrighted (is that the right term?) material because they are using it for educational purposes. And then they become angry with me because I tell them they can't do that? I'm not a copyright Nazi, but I do value my job, so if they get angry at me, so be it. But what really got me was the teacher's class that I have twice walked into and she was showing movies rented from Blockbuster! Never mind that neither film correlated to our state objectives! I wonder what she'd think if I sent her the link to this one? Think she'd get the hint? Probably not.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Online Photosharing in Plain English

Another great explanation by Common Craft