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