Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two sites to share...

The following two sites were ones that came via my Google Reader from the website. They post quite often, and these were two that caught my eye.


Keyboardr is a search engine of a different breed. I know, I know....not another search engine, right? I've looked at a lot of engines, but this is the first that I've found that actually displays the search results as you type them. No need to hit enter or click on search. Simply begin typing your keywords and the results appear in the window.

Pretty cool. But Keyboard doesn't stop there. Not only does it give you search results as you type, but it also offers Wikipedia, You Tube, and Google blogs, and Google Image search results as well. I typed in "educ" and these were the results I received even before finishing the word "education".

I'm always a sucker for sites that are geared for photos (even if I don't use them very often), but every once in a while I need to create a panorama picture, but I don't have software that will do that for me. Now, I don't need any thanks to Clevr, an online panorama creator. It allows you to stitch a series of photos together into one picture. Below are some of their other offered features as well as some sample panorama pictures created with their service.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Blogging with students - Summary of responses

Last week I asked for assistance regarding blogging with students for the first time. Since I'm not a classroom teacher, I don't feel qualified to offer guidelines for the teacher in my district who is interested in blogging with her 5th grade students. However, there are members of my PLN who are experienced, and this is a summary of the advice they offered.

  • Talk to administration first - This isn't something that I had thought of myself, so I was very grateful that Jim Gates brought up this suggestion. Without the administration on board, the whole project could fall flat. Their support and understanding is essential when embarking on a new project such as this.
  • Talk to parents BEFORE you start- I had already planned on recommending this, but I didn't think about this aspect of it: "Let them know what a blog is." (Jim Gates) We certainly cannot assume that every parent automatically knows what a blog is, what it's for and the value of its use in the classroom.

  • Commenting on others' blogs is important - Grace Kat echoed Kymberli Mulford's sentiment that commenting is an important element of student blogging and not necessarily a skill that comes naturally. Commenting both appropriately and meaningfully has to be modeled and learned.

    Steve Kirkpatrick (MrKp on Twitter) encouraged commenting on others' blogs (not in the classroom). "Get a conversation going." J Allen reminded that "just like regular bloggers, kids need to realize that blogging is a conversation." Amen to both pieces of advice.

  • Don't feel that you must grade the blogs - Again, I never would have thought to offer this piece of advice, which I did receive from several people. Jim Gates made the point that the blog is there for the kids to feel free enough to speak without worrying about being graded. I can definitely see that if the students attempt to blog knowing that their every word will be critiqued how that could inhibit their writing process.

    Coming from another angle regarding grading, Kimberli Mulford (aka @kmulford on Plurk) offered her perspective. She doesn't post grades on individual blog posts, but due to the nature of her class, she does have to grade the students. Instead of assessing posts, she provides students with a standard "bar" to meet in order to get an "A", which for her students is to have five quality approved posts in the final five weeks, and they must support their fellow bloggers by commenting regularly on others' posts.

    Kimberli went on to explain that she does have a quantity and quality standard which all posts must meet before she approves them, which is made clear to students through modeling and talking through the process.

  • Maintain moderation rights on posts and comments - I happen to agree with this completely and had already offered this advice. As much as we'd love to give our students free reign, it's important to moderate both posts and comments to ensure quality, substantive content, as well as appropriateness.

  • Blogging Platforms - I received a mixed bag of comments regarding various platforms available for student blogging. Edublogs, which I had mentioned in my post that the teacher was considering, has advertisements unless you pay. Of those who offered advice, here are the platforms they are currently using: Wordpress, VLE, ePals, and Edublogs. Which she will end up using is up in the air as of right now. I, personally, have mixed feelings regarding advertisements. Regardless that they are "suitable" for the content of the blog, I'm not a fan of them. I had considered ePals, but Kymberli indicated that they have grown faster than their service can support. We do not have an internal option to offer, so I'm wondering what might be the best path to take for a first-time blogging teacher?
Thank you for the advice! From my perspective, I feel much better being armed with first-hand information to offer her. I'll keep you posted regarding her project.

Added information 2-27-09

I thought I would add a couple of lists of blogging resources that I have compiled in Diigo.

Blogging Examples: Student and Classroom

Permission Letters - Forms for blogging/wiki use

Advice Photo: Wurzle on Flickr

A grade Photo: Futureofmath on Flickr

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blogging with Students - Where do you start?

I have an elementary teacher who is interested in having her students blog. She's new to blogging herself, but is enthusiastic about getting her kids (5th graders) started and will be using Edublogs are her platform. Although I am extremely excited that she wants to do this, and I plan on doing whatever I can to assist her, I do not have any first-hand experience with student blogging. I can (and have) provided her with a few links related to student blogging, but I have a few questions about how she should progress.

1) For elementary students, what is a good "permission" form to send home? Does anyone have a sample?

2) How should she begin? Should she start with one blog where her students can be "authors" or should she set up a blog for each student?

3) If she sets up a blog for each student, does she have moderation control over approving new posts first?

These were just a few questions that popped into my head, but I'm sure there will be others. I want this to be as smooth of an experience for her as possible, so I'm asking for helpful advice from those of you who have been there. How should she begin? What hiccups might she expect? What problems have you run into and how were they handled? Thank you in advance for your help and I will compile the advice given in a new blog post.

Photo credit: DavidGilmour on Flickr
Photo credit : BJMCCRAY on Flicker

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A few "finds" to share...

I realized that I stumble across some great links, whether from Plurk, Twitter, or my Google Reader, but I'm not very consistent about sharing them. So, with that in mind, I'm going to try and be a bit better about that and here are a few that I've become aware of in the past two weeks.

My Brochure Maker
@kjarrett on Twitter mentioned this Flash-based brochure and flyer maker for making brochures as Publisher isn't exactly "friendly" for younger students. I have to agree with his assessment, too. I checked out this Web 2.0 application and it's very simple to use. There isn't a lot of room for customization, which I liked. Why? Because it will force them to focus more on the content and less on design.

Real World Math with Google Earth
I'll be honest with you...I hate math. However, had Google Earth been around when I was learning math, I can honestly say that I would have enjoyed it far more. This great site offers a variety of lessons broken down into four categories: Concepts, Project based learning, Measurement, and Exploratory. Within each category you'll find at least one lesson along with a Google Eart kmz file to use. What I also liked was the fact that both NCTM and NETS*S standards are listed along with other lesson information.

Educational Blogs You Should Be Investigating
This blog post is courtesy of mrssmoke of Plurk. There are other lists out there of educational bloggers, but sometimes going through them takes forever. She offers a nice, concise list of educational bloggers and has categorized them by field of discipline and grade level, which I find particularly useful.

Life Magazine Photo Archive - Hosted by Google

Search millions of photos from the Life magazine photo archive from the 1750's to today. Many of the images have not been previously published.
You can apply a filter to a Google image search by adding "source:life" to any search.

For example: computer source:life

50 Tools and Tricks to Revolutionize Your Notetaking
This blog entry by Holly McCarthy features 50 tools that "that let you share ideas, store your thoughts directly on a web page and more". Holly has sorted the tools into eight categories, which is helpful if you're looking for one particular function.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Picasa 3 Collage Feature

I love it when I drop in to quickly check out my Plurk PLN and end up getting distracted by a few great finds! Jamielpeters shared a Youtube video introducing Picasa 3. I have used Picasa in the past, but never really got into it since I already have Photoshop, and for quick fixes I use Irfanview. After watching just a small portion of the video, I decided to update my Picasa. Why? For the photo collage feature!

In my district, I am hosting a web-based 23 Things class and I try to find Creative Commons licensed pictures to use for each "Thing". Creative Commons and Flickr are two topic that we'll cover, but I also want the participants to explore some of the creative things they can also do with what they find. The image that I created above is via Picasa and a group of photos that I found on Flickr, most of which I used in a recent GaETC presentation that I did on building a Professional Learning Community (PLN). I LOVE the way it turned out!

Some of the past photo "collage" features in Picasa didn't allow for a lot of customization. I'm very happy to report that has changed in this version! I was able to customize the background color, tilt and resize photos, go back and grab additional photos from other folders and provide frames for the photos (white or polaroidesque). Just another great, FREE tool from Google!!
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