Thursday, December 3, 2009

First Impressions of Google Wave

So in one of the first "waves" ever sent to me, Angie (who I'd sent an invite to Google Wave) asked, "So can you describe Google Wave in five words?" Like many of us she wanted to know why she would begin using this new platform without watching the looooong video on the "About Google Wave" site and why she wouldn't just use email or skype.

Well, I've been using it a bit and reading some good posts on what others thought of the wave. And while I think the possibilities down the road are great, here are some of my early impressions.

Things I like:
  • Like many Google products it's very intuitive and has a friendly, clean interface. You don't feel like you need a manual to get started. And if you have a Google account already this is just another piece to add.
  • Possibility to be a great tool for collaboration. Sure you can use it for email communication, but it might be at its best with groups, where you need to track the thread of the conversation. Google Wave might really be a great way to share information, links and documents all in one "wave," in real-time.
  • Less email (the bane of my existence on some days...I can't even talk about it) or at least the possibility to create one wave that would allow participants to respond without several "replies to all" ending up in inboxes.
Things I don't like (right now):
  • Seems slow. In a few practice waves with multiple contributors the "real-time" communication was a little slow. I imagine this will get better as Google continues to work out the kinks.
  • Not enough people on wave. As invites to wave continue to go out this will also get better, but Google Wave is not very exciting if you don't have anyone to wave to.
To be fair Google Wave is still in "preview mode," so it will improve and there are all sorts of cool things I've heard will eventually be a part of wave. So for now I enjoy what it is and look forward to the future of the wave.

In the meantime I have three more invites to Google Wave. I'll send them to the first three educators who contact me with the email or gmail account they'd like to use.

Oh, and my answer in five words was skypeIM + email + Wiki = google wave. Not bad for a five word limit. :)



Additional Links & Readings:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Twitter for Your Personal Learning


It's important to reflect on the implementation of professional development. Are the participants using the tools you're showing them weeks after the session? If not, why?

In the past few months I've had only a couple of workshops on Introduction to Twitter. However weeks after the meetings, many of the workshop participants don't seem to be using twitter. In the meantime I continue to hear about the power of Twitter as a learning tool for teachers and students and its possible impact on education. And I personally get great ideas EVERY DAY from twitter. So what's the deal?

I know there are a lot of factors to explain this, and I know teachers are very busy (and sometimes just need the tech credit :). And sometimes they just don't feel they have time to implement a new technology mid-semester. But with holidays around the corner, I'm going to encourage many of the educators to take a second look at Twitter. And I've reflected on a few reasons for the lack of use as well as a bit of advice for teachers who are interested in trying it out.

Why some educators might not be using Twitter (even after what I'm sure was an enlightening workshop:)?
  • Time - Twitter is sometimes difficult to master in a hour or even 90-minute workshop. I can give examples and testimonials of how great it is, but until teachers can see the benefit and build a network and receive great info - it can be hard to see. Twitter takes time. I followed about eight people for about a month before I felt I really got into it. And it takes time to maintain and update. However, once I started to receive lots of great ideas and resources from others (more on this below), the time I now save has been well worth the initial investment.
  • Misperceptions - I wish Twitter did not have "What are you doing?" at the top of the page because often the updates don't reflect that. Sure, there are some who use it as an opportunity to share what they're doing, but many of updates can be used to spread important ideas, information and resources. I get seven or eight sites every day with great information from Twitter. Information I would have spent much more time searching to find in Google or sites I wouldn't have know to look for. Unfortunately, for some workshop participants Twitter can sound very trivial, and although they'll politely pay attention and accept the tech credit, at the end of the day it's easy to dismiss as another fad in social networking. So don't limit Twitter to just a "social" network, instead think of it a "learning" network.
  • Following too many and/or the wrong people- Twitter is what you make it. And who follows you is not as important as who you follow. But it takes time to create a group to follow who will give relevant information. Following celebrities sounds fun, and I'm sure Oprah is a super person, but she might not give me the info. I'm looking for. I've seen too many teachers start off following all the suggested celebrities. While that might sound fun, it's probably not the best way to build a personal learning network. Twitter lists (a relatively new feature) make it much easier to locate groups worth following, but you may want to start slow with a handful of users and add more when as you get use to it.
  • Resistance to another social networking platform - In a few trainings I've heard, "This is like updating Facebook." And while the process is similar and you'll find those who integrated the two, I think a main difference is the audience (and this is a point to caution educators on). Facebook updates are mostly going out to a controlled group of "friends" while Twitter is a broadcast in a commons. There are some who "protect their tweets" limiting those who can see their updates, but this also limits those who you interact with. Be aware of the difference, if you choose to use both. Twitter can be the learning tool you use, while Facebook (or sites like it) can remain your social networking tool.
  • Too Much "Pulling" not Enough "Pushing" - For some of us who remember web 1.0 it can be hard to move beyond the web as a place to read and pull information and move into the web 2.0 model of the contributing and pushing of information. I suspect some educators are using Twitter to read updates but maybe not post updates themselves. Although there is nothing wrong with this, they aren't benefiting from the "network" part of this tool. I'm not saying constantly "push" because there are Twitter users I've "unfollowed" just because I couldn't keep up with the constant flurry of updates. But pushing out info, answering questions or participating in Twitter groups is part of what makes the learning in Twitter so powerful.
  • How am I going to use this in my class? - Twitter can be a powerful tool for learning more and connecting with other teachers, but if you want details about its use in classroom, there is evidence that students can use microblogging for learning too. The grade level will dictate the needed level of teacher supervision, but there are platforms like Edmodo that are available for use with students. Students can also benefit from the ability to quickly share information in a networked setting. But like a lot of technology, the teacher needs to become familiar with the technology before feeling comfortable using with students.
So give it a try (or another try)and see how much you can benefit from being part of a personal learning network using Twitter.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Few Ideas for Blogging

Lately, I've spent a lot of time talking "blogging" with teachers. Blogging is a great way to engage students and can be used in some fashion with all students. Classrooms without a lot of technology hardware can blog and collect a digital portfolio of students writing, while also teaching some valuable Internet safety lessons. Many teachers are interested in blogging but wonder if this might be one more thing to maintain and manage throughout the day. Blogs can be used in a lot of ways to help teachers work smarter not harder.

And sometimes everyone just needs a few ideas for getting started. And while there are many ideas for classroom blogging on the Internet, I'd like to throw out some advice and a few easy ways I've seen teachers in our district blogging with students.
  • Keep it simple and ask a simple open-ended question. Remember blogging is not meant to create a lot more written work for the teacher. Post a question and let the kids respond. Some of the best blogs I've seen used with students are less about the post and more about the comments/responses from the students.
  • Use pictures. Marlo presented Image Journaling as part of our session for NCTIES last year, and it was brilliant in its simplicity. Post a picture (observing copyright) and have the students respond to a question involving the image. Great for descriptive writing, prediction strategies, summarizing etc...
  • Use multimedia. With the popularity of hand-held video cameras (like the Flipcamera) teachers can easily upload lessons and group performance videos to their blogs. This is a great way to showcase some of the events in your classroom, while allowing students to create digital content. Please note large videos can be much harder to upload into a blog.
  • Showcase student work. Let the blog be a digital bulletin board for displaying student work. Pictures can be scanned in and student writing can be posted, giving students a chance to show off what they've done in class with a potentially global audience.
It does take some effort in getting started, but the majority of teachers I've spoken with who have blogged with their students over the course of a year really seem to think the blog has helped. Try it and I think you'll agree.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Good Sites for IWB Resources

Interactive whiteboards (IWB), whether Activ or SMART are great tools for instruction. I've always thought an IWB doesn't make a teacher great, but the addition of an interactive whiteboard in the hands of a great teacher is an amazing tool for learning.
I've been lucky enough to see some of these classes in action where the interactive whiteboard has become an integral part of every day's instruction.

So here are some of the better sites I've seen to look for resources for either the Activboard, SMARTboard or both.
  • Promethean Planet for Activboards and
    SMART Exchange for SMARTboards are still two of the best places for starting. Each site has downloadable lessons and good resources for their software.
  • Kenton Co School's SmartBoard Smartmath (SMART) Kenton County School's has notebook files to download as well as a list of interactive websites.
  • National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (Activ or SMART) good site for interactive math manipulatives and tools to use with IWBs.
  • juliethompson.com/SMART (Activ or SMART) This site has a nice collection of links to interactive sites for use on an IWB with K-3 students. Although the site specifically mentions the SMARTboard, most of the sites I checked out could be used on either board.
  • WPS's smart-lessons (SMART) Great collection of K-12 notebook files by grade level and subject area.
  • topmarks.co.uk/interactive (Activ or SMART) this site has a lot of free educational materials for IWBs and the downloaded files are in swf which can be inserted into either IWB.
So there's a small list I'd recommend to teachers searching for some resources. Do you know of some I need to add?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Top Sites for CopyrightFriendly Pictures for Your Blog

"When you use pictures in your blog please make sure you are observing copyright."
Okay so where can I get pictures to use?

It's a fair question. Sometimes the "copyright" mention in the workshop sessions (any workshop session) turns into a lot of "don't." So where should you get pictures for use in your classroom blog?

Most of the time teachers aren't really interested in hearing me talk about how much I like creative commons, they really just want a few sites to check out and see if they can find the pic they need. So here are a handful of sites I'd recommend, but I'd also need to mention that one of the best ways to use pictures would be to take your own (or even better have students take them). This won't work for all pictures but is a way to avoid any issues in copyright.
I'll also say that while many of the sites are "copyright friendly" and not likely to have any questionable content, it might not be a good idea to pull up pictures with your students. I've used all these sites before and not encountered anything objectionable but enter disclaimer here.

Top Sites for Copyright-Friendly Pictures for Your Blog:
  • Pics4Learning This site grants teachers and students the use of the pictures on its site, many of which were submitted by teachers and students. I love the idea, but there are some areas that there is not a lot of content. As a plus, it is very easy to use the site.
  • Flickr Flickr is a great one for finding pictures uploaded by users who in many cases have some real skills in photography. In most cases you'll find more than enough images to choose from. However not all content should be used. Be sure to check under Additional Information for details on the rights for the image. You may need to become familiar with creative commons licenses.
  • Compfight isn't a part of the Flickr site, but it does provide an easy option for searching. In Compfight you can easily search Flickr for only creative commons images. Just set the search option at the top of the page to Creative Commons Only.
  • Photo8 is maintained by a photographer who has a nice collection of quality photos that are now public domain. Again, this site might not have the volume of pictures other sites offer but should ease any copyright fears.
  • UncleSam'sPhotos The government might seem like an unlikely source of great photos. However, they have a nice directory of free stock photos available for commercial or personal use. There are a few steps to get to the content, but there are many good pictures related to the military, civics and United States.
Finally in many cases "copyright-friendly" still means cite the source. Even if this step is optional, it is still a good to model the process for our students.

So there they are, not a comprehensive list but a good starting place for pictures to use on your blog (voicethreads, webpage, etc...)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WSFCS Online Learning

This month the WSFCS Instructional Technology Dept will offer self-paced online workshops for the teachers in our district. We've talked for some time about the ways we are going to transform the way we offer staff development using Moodle, and this month is a big step in that direction.

Teachers seeking tech credits will be able to login to the WSFCS staff development webpage and register for online courses. These courses will be listed as Other- Online in the location. Once the teacher has registered for the course, directions will be given about setting up a WSFCS Online Learning account and the course's enrollment key. Workshop participants can then complete the course anytime during the month the course is offered.

This month we have teachers enrolled in workshops on Photostory, Learning Village, Schoolcenter, Google Docs, Audacity, PowerPoint, Excel, Learn360 and Moviemaker. We'll continue to offer different technology workshops throughout the year online, hoping to meet the demand from our teachers.

The feedback we received from our pilot teachers was that they very much enjoyed being able to do the workshop on their own time. Teachers' days are very busy, and often the times we can offer face-to-face workshops are at times when teachers are preparing or recovering from a full day with students. Online learning is a vehicle for offering on-demand staff development at times the participant chooses.

If we can better provide WSFCS teachers with technology tools and knowledge, then they can better transform the way they offer instruction to their students. I think this is a very powerful idea whose time has come.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Chance to Transform

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are discussing the need to change the school calendar in an effort to increase the number of instructional hours for students in the U.S.
Earlier this year the president stated, "The challenges of the new century demand more time in the classroom." More time in the classroom or more time learning?

While I agree there is a need to examine ways to make certain our students will be competitive in a global economy, I wonder if sending students to school more or for longer hours is missing an opportunity to really transform the ways we offer education and learning.

This issue has many elements to it, not the least of which would be funding, but for argument's sake I'd like to focus just on the issue of time spent in the physical school vs. time spent learning.

What if we expected more learning outside of schools rather than more time in schools? What if instead of trying reform we made an effort to transform schools. Instead of more of what we are doing, what if we looked at something instead of?

Currently NCVPS offers students in North Carolina the chance to take courses and earn credit online. April Patterson is currently the contact for our district. What would happen if instead of requiring more time in the physical school building, we could provide opportunities to take more learning online and look for ways to provide Internet access to all homes in the U.S. It seems to me this might be a better way of preparing students for the future, while focusing on the digital divide in our country. 

I know that there are probably many issues I haven't anticipated, but I wonder if this isn't an opportunity to transform the model of the classroom and take a look at how learning could and should take place in a digital age.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Technology Beyond the Classroom

An advantage to the year-long staff development model is that you have the same participants every session, so there is opportunity to reflect on the prior sessions. This time can be an opportunity to ask questions or share accounts of how the technology was used since we last met.

Today I planned to start off the session reflecting on the September session when we covered RSS and Google Reader. I love RSS and am a big believer in the ways it can be used to make teachers' lives easier. However, RSS can sometimes take some getting used to. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out how best to use it and how to get around in Google Reader. So I wasn't sure what to expect when I asked for teachers to share any stories of how they'd used RSS or Google Reader since our last meeting.

After a few murmured responses a teacher said I taught my husband how to set up his Google Reader account. (laughter) What a great response.

I think too often in the effort to make connections to the curriculum, we forget to connect with the teachers who are people. If educators make connections between the technology and their lives outside the classroom, they'll be more willing and comfortable using the new technology. It's no coincidence some of the better teacher bloggers I've seen recently also have personal blogs they share with their families and friends. If subscribing to RSS feeds to the local paper, sports page or Target encourages checking the Google Reader account, that also has some ideas for teaching, so much the better. I've seen that the teachers who use Skype to communicate with family, then come to Skype workshops are much quicker to put it to use in their classrooms.

It's not about teaching just the technology, it is about giving teachers tools that they are inspired to use in and beyond the classroom.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Twitter and Your PLN

In previous posts I've expressed my interest in Twitter and how it can be a tool for growing one's own personal learning network (PLN). I thought this week I'd share just a little bit of how I utilize it.

Twitter is a great way to connect to other smart, innovative, creative people in your field or with similar interests. I think there are some who have given Twitter a try and decided it didn't work for them, probably because they were not connected to the right people. If you connect to users who are only reporting on the state of traffic or what they had for breakfast that day ("life tweeters"), then you probably won't see the value, and if you follow only celebrities or just your family, I doubt you'll get the full benefits. However, if you connect to users who are willing to share ideas and genuine feedback, then Twitter is a great tool for building a potential personal learning network of other users whose ideas and insight you can benefit from.

Okay, so here are only a few of the nuggets from my last 24 hours or so on Twitter that I hope will illustrate some of what I think the value can be for educators.
And honestly I get good ideas and information from Twitter every day. I've written about the blogs I think educators should follow, so its no surprise that most of the same ones are on Twitter. It is an easy way to be connected and benefit from the resources of many.

You can follow the WSFCS Dept of Technology at http://twitter.com/wsfcsdit and me at http://twitter.com/evmaiden

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Voicethread, Even Better

I think Voicethread is great. I don't know that I've seen a better tool that can be used by all levels of students for any subject. I'm continually amazed at some of the great ways educators and students have used this web-based tool. And now (pause for dramatic effect) it has a few more cool features. 

At the end of August, Voicethread announced it had added media from the New York Public Library . In addition to the option to upload this new media from Voicethread, there is also a separate site for the library content at http://nypl.voicethread.com/. I have included the voicethread that gives an overview of this feature below.

You also may choose to create copies of your voicethreads; useful if you'd like to create a copy for each class to comment on or for backing up a current voicethread before editing. Although there are different options for accounts in Voicethread, all of these additions are part of the free version. If you haven't looked at Voicethread, its well worth checking out.  


Monday, August 24, 2009

The 21st Century Classroom

What does a 21st century classroom look like? The subject has inspired a lot of debate and discussion in many school systems. After spending time in the last few weeks at the newly renovated Ibraham, the new Caleb's Creek and Kimmel Farm, I have seen what it can look like and was impressed at the setup for the classroom teachers who were moving in for the first time last week. And I felt the same way at Reagan High's new wing during the Nothing But NETS conference several weeks ago.

It's not about the tools and technology. I've seen incredible teachers who didn't have access to a lot of technology, and I don't believe you can place an ineffective teacher in a technology-rich classroom and expect them to transform into a master teacher. Technology is only a tool for engagement. But the teachers at these new schools will find a wealth of technology to engage students. These new classrooms are outfitted with computers, interactive whiteboards, slates, student response systems and sound systems.
What an amazing setup for teaching students.

The challenge for these new schools will be to use these 21st century classrooms to impact their instruction and engage their
students. Teachers may need to revisit their practices. The technology in these 21st century classrooms shouldn't just be an "add-on" to what has always been done. The hope is that these technologies can transform instruction for teachers and students at these new schools. It won't happen overnight, but it was very encourgaing to see the excitement from the teachers in these new classrooms, and their desire to receive the kinds of training that will allow them to realize the potential of these 21st century classrooms.

Nothing But NETS

Last week administrators and leadership in the WSFCS system converged on Reagan High School for the Nothing But NETS technology conference. It involved two full days of sessions related to some of the current technology going on in our district. I finished thinking of what a great opportunity it had been to have contact with the principals and instructional staff in our district and how impressed I was with the participants in my sessions. I heard similar positive things from others session instructors.



Because leadership "buy-in" is critical for the successful integration of technology, I was pleased to see and hear such supportive feedback from the participants at the conference. Principals not only allocate funds for technology and plan the training sessions for the use of technology, but also set the expectations for the use of technology in their schools. Some of the best examples of schools and classrooms using technology in our district come from schools that have strong leaders who promote the use of technology by their teachers and expect to see teachers and students using technology in meaningful ways.

The Nothing But NETS conference was a unique opportunity to connect with those who are currently setting the stage for technology use in their school for the new year.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

West Virginia Unplugged

I spent the last several days camping in West Virginia with family and friends. Three and a half days of being completely cut-off from technology and the information it provides. Very little blackberry or cell phone signal. No wireless, no email, no RSS feeds, no twitter, no TV. No DVR or DVDs. No electricity of any sort on the campsite.

Now I really enjoy technology and all the information that can be accessed using it. And although I enjoy being connected, I was fine with being unplugged for a few days. My wife and I have introduced our young children to the concept of balance. We want to be sure their activities are not overly-spent in front of a screen. We allow them to enjoy watching certain TV programs and play games on the computer and iPod, but we try to balance that "screen" time with activities both outside and inside that don't involve the use of digital technology. This weekend was an opportunity for me to practice what I preach and completely shutdown for a few days - which really wasn't that hard to do.

Tonight I'm plugging back in and rebooting for the week.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Tech Workshops

This week I spent three days holding tech professional development with some teachers from Bolton Elementary. It is sometimes hard to have three full days of training in any area-in technology it can leave the participants feeling overwhelmed. But the group seemed to pick up on a lot of the tools and make connections with how it may help them in their classrooms in August. So I left the training this afternoon feeling really positive about the experience and looking forward to the upcoming follow-up sessions.

During the first day's session I asked the group to respond to the following question as it relates to this staff development: "What do you expect to learn?" I recorded their answers and pasted the results into Wordle (a tool which presents the text and emphasizes the frequently used words). I've included the result below. I was most impressed that many of the responses were less about what I could do for them and more about their desire to help students learn and their willingness to be learners themselves. That attitude of being willing and excited about learning really is much more important for a school's technology than any amount of equipment. If July is any indication, it should be a great year for many of the teachers and students at Bolton.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Notes from the Ashe County Tech Conference

I had the opportunity to present at a tech conference in Ashe County this week. It was a small but well run conference that brought in a lot of educators from the county and few from beyond. It is always great to interact with teachers on summer break. The teachers seemed excited and interested in learning about new technology, and I met some really dedicated educators doing great things in their schools. I think sometimes having the summer time to reflect and use new technology is a key factor in whether teacher will use it in their classroom.

The session I taught was on using Pageflakes and Netvibes, and my group did a good job of grasping how this could both allow them to organize web content for themselves, and also use these startpages to use in instruction. The participants in the session also seemed to understand the need for having tools like RSS feedreaders to organize the massive amounts of information online. A key skill for 21st century students will be learning to use tools to help access and evaluate the information on the web, and we need teachers to model these skills. I shared my email address and encouraged them to share their experiences with me. I'd enjoy hearing what they've done with these tools.

During the conference I am reminded of how all those in education are dealing with the same issues. Our districts may vary in size, our kids may look and talk a little differently, and classrooms may be outfitted with various equipment, but we are all searching for ways to engage students in learning with technology. I was very pleased to be a part of this conference and a part of that movement.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Broadcasting with UStream


Ustream.tv is a free, web-based application for broadcasting live over the Internet. The site allows you to broadcast and record live video and sound and to post the session to the Ustream site. I've used it in the past to view sessions at technology conferences I couldn't attend in person. Sometimes the audio and video quality vary, but overall it is a great tool for sharing and broadcasting ideas. Until now I've always been a "puller" of content from Ustream, but I haven't "pushed" anything using it.

This week Matt Barfield from CSI delivered a session on ActivInspire on the first of July to a user group in our district. I've attended several of Matt's session in the past, and feel I take something new from each of his sessions. Wouldn't it be great to share his presentation and save it for teachers to view later? Wouldn't teachers enjoy being able to view (or review) this session when they had the time? This seemed like the perfect scenario for Ustream. I cleared it with Matt and began preparing for my directorial debut.

All I needed for setup was my laptop, webcam and ethernet cable. I logged in with my account and began broadcasting. Wow. It was very easy to use, and although it is not the same as sitting in the audience (it is hard to see action on board), I was impressed at how well it turned out. I think seeing and hearing Matt's session might be a great resource for teachers interested in using Activinspire or as a way to review the session they attended.

Beyond taping sessions of staff development, Ustream has much broader potential for use in classrooms and for teachers.

Interested in seeing the sessions on ActivInspire or just want to see how it worked? Check out the recorded sessions from Ustream:


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Socialbookmarking

I was talking with Angie this week about socialbookmarking with Delicious. She was preparing to attend a workshop on Delicious, and I was trying to explain why I've enjoyed socialbookmarking and how it's helped me out. And I thought, "There's my blog for this week."

There are many tutorials and videos that do a very good job of explaining socialbookmarking, and sites like Delicious and similar sites like Diigo, so I'm going to stick to three ways I think socialbookmarking, and specifically Delicious, can be a valuable tool.
  • Web-based Access- I've blogged about cloud computing and its benefits. Delicious is "cloudbookmarking." If you bookmark a site locally on a computer, you can't access it from other computers, and if the harddrive crashes your bookmarks are lost. A few years ago I had an excel spreadsheet with many links I would carry around on a flash drive-which I would often misplace. I needed an option that allowed better access to my bookmarks. Delicious allows access from any computer (or device) connected to the Internet.
  • My Network- Socialbookmarking is allows me to access other user's bookmarks and gives them access to mine. It's not really "social" for me; it's more about having a "network" to connect with and benefit from their ideas. This all feeds the idea of having your own personal learning network. Want to pick the brain of colleagues or pioneers in a field? Delicious is a great way to do it. Check out Marlo's links regarding copyright. Look what Wes Fryar has on Internet safety. How about my links tagged "antivirus," which I have sent to several friends who needed help with their home computers. Your network can be a great tool for finding relevant information on the Internet and pulling or pushing links out to others.
  • Exploration & Search Tool- Although it is unlikely to replace your favorite search engine, Delicious can deliver a look at what all users are tagging. I've occasionally found good links from the main page (which lists the "most popular bookmarks on Delicious" at the time) or by searching tags. It is important to note that although I've not seen sites I would consider inappropriate, the searches may yield results that could be blocked by web filters or just might be like searching for the needle in the haystack. Sometimes you have to have some time to search to find resources.
If you are interested in socialbookmarking, there is a workshop offered by our department, or you can take a look around at delicious.com.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why Twitter Deserves Your Attention



A few weeks ago I mentioned to one of my college buddies that I had been using Twitter and wondered if he had an account. Since then he has been occasionally sending me clever little emails like the following:
Wondering whether to fix a sandwich or go out to lunch. I am leaning towards going out.

He assumes Twitter, as advertised, is about "What are you doing?" and that most of the updates are about reporting on the real time (mundane) details of one's life. He is not alone. I think a lot of folks are wondering about Twitter and its uses.

Prior to setting up an account I thought "Do I really need another account to keep up with and do I really have time for this?" What can Twitter do for me? But curiosity got the best of me, and although I have seen posts that just report on"what are you doing?" I've found it is a powerful way to communicate ideas. So I'm humbly submitting a few thoughts on how I've used Twitter and share maybe why it might deserve your attention:
  • PLN builder- In past blog entries I've shared some of the blogs I follow with my RSS feedreaders. Twitter, like the feeds from blogs, can be a great tool for continuing to build on your own personal learning network (PLN). Twitter is another way to connect with people and promote important ideas. Because Twitter is limited to 140 characters, tweets are concise and ideas are often updated more quickly than a blog, but tweets can be useful in promoting ideas because the tweets can include a link to a url. One of my first tweets included a link to an blog entry from bloggingagenda.com about why "retweeting" is important. Retweeting is simply sharing someone else's tweet. You retweet if you think your followers might benefit someone else's thought or idea. I've already benefited from the tweets of others and ideas that have been shared with Twitter.
  • Real-time news- Over the weekend while the Iranian elections where taking place, I was reading up on it on Twitter. Instead of getting the CNN version I was getting real time updates from "trending topics." The trending topics (on the lefthand side) measure the topics receiving the most tweets. Although you have to evaluate the source, Twitter allows everyone with an account and network access to report on events. I remember when the plane landed in the Hudson River recently, Twitter was one of the first sources for news. And another friend of mine who uses Twitter follows Lance Armstrong, who uses Twitter to bypass the media and share information with his followers. Twitter gives you real time, unfiltered access to information.
  • Conversations/Feedback- Twitter can be a tool for conversations. April tried this with a post earlier this year, asking what students gain from using technology in their classrooms."Twitter allows you to get immediate feedback from those answering your tweet. So you can tap the knowledge of your followers for feedback or ideas. I've seen national speakers, like Will Richardson and David Warlick, use Twitter in this way during conferences and get really interesting feedback. Although you may not have many responses at first (April :) it is a starting point.
So although I am not guilty of twittering extremes I do think this could be a useful tool for educators and students. And I'm not the only one. Recently the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies asked teachers to rank their Top 100 Learning Tools 2009 and Twitter was number one (up from 11 in 2008). So look around and kick the tires. See what Twitter can do for you.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gender Gap & Computer Science

Recently Danah Boyd, researcher and fellow at the BerkmanCenter for Internet Safety, blogged on "gender gap in perception of computer science" which cited a recent study about the perception girls have about careers in computer science. The big stat that stood out to me was when asked about computer science as a career choice "only 9% of girls rates it 'very good' and 17% as 'good'."
Yikes!
This reminded me of April's blog a few weeks ago entitled Tech Girls , which also addressed the gender gap in computer related fields. As a father of a daughter and someone who works with technology, this alarms me. Some (like Bill Gates) believe computing is the new literacy for the 21st century. How might the perception of computer-related careers be impacting our current female students standing in a 21st century global economy? How do you change these perceptions?
It is a complex issue that I don't have an answer for. But I do think this first-grade classroom has a great video to start the conversation. This was the winner of the K-5 category for the Interwrite TeacherTube Makeover Contest.
If you haven't seen it yet it is worth a look.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Wonder Wheel Experience

When it comes to browsers and search engines, I’m always looking for some new element—something that will add to the experience. The Google Wonder Wheel won’t replace my traditional search process, but it has an interesting visual way to organize the results from a search. And the Wonder Wheel can help make connections to a topic or narrow a search for a broad term.

Enter a search term and when the results are displayed select “show options."

Wonder Wheel will appear as one the options on the left-hand side of the screen.

Your selected results will appear with your original search term in the center with related terms in a connected web circling the term. Click on any of the related topics and a new web is created. Links to the terms in the web are located on the right.

You can see that the Wheel is easy to use and is a great way to show connections between related search terms.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blogs to Follow

Following blogs and sharing their information is a big step in growing your learning network. One of the steps I take every morning is to check RSS feeds from some of my favorite blogs – a step similar to browsing a digital newspaper. I decided to use this week’s post to share some of the blogs I currently follow related to K-12 educational technology.

Here are five blogs you might consider following:

David Warlick’s 2 cents Worth
Following his blog is not a new idea. His was one the first I began to follow after hearing him at a conference three years ago. I think everyone I know in Ed Tech follows him, but I really think his ideas about education, technology and the future of schools are worth reading.

Will Richardson’s Weblogg-ed
Same as above. I’ve detailed my following of Will Richardson in previous blog entries.

Mr. Byrne’s FreeTech4Teachers
Mr. Byrne’s blog is a wealth of tech resources with ideas of ways to integrate them into the classroom. And he keeps getting new ideas. It’s not uncommon for him to post five or six times a day – so be ready. He’s a great scout of new technology and has been a good addition to my RSS reader.

Instructify
I still like to browse this NCLearn’s blog dedicated to finding technology to use in the classroom. Their topics are varied and address a lot of practical tools for teachers. This is another good place to start if you want follow a blog.

Wes Fryer’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Wes Fryar, like Warlick and Richardson, is another national figure in Ed Tech. His posts are not always about education or technology (today’s post was on the issue of torture), but many are and I’ve found his views on copyright, Internet safety and digital citizenship to be enlightening.

So dear reader, who are you reading?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

WolframAlpha

WolframAlpha was just recently released, and it's taken me a little while to get my head around this. The description on the site reads "computational knowledge engine," and it looks like an amazing step towards having a website yield answers rather than search results. So instead of entering a search term, you enter data or a question, and WA attempts to compute and answer the question. Here are the details from my test drive.
Type "winston salem" (below) and WolframAlpha quickly delivers data about Winston-Salem.
Type in "winston salem weather"(above), and you'll receive an amazing amount of information about the current weather and how it compares to the data readings from past Winston-Salem weather.
Try plugging in your height and weight, and WA will give you data about BMI, basal metabolic rate, body fluids and typical organ properties.
Finally, type in a question and WolframAlpha will try to answer it. If your query doesn't include enough information, you'll get "Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input."
However, you might be surprised what WA will answer (see below).
So WolframAlpha is great at delivering a wealth of data on a subject or answering a question with amazing speed. This could be a huge step in the ways we (and students) interact with technology. And it's even friendly. . . sort of.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Classroom Connections with Skype

One of the best ways to introduce technology into the classroom without having to purchase a lot of equipment is to use Skype as a free video conferencing tool. Skype is the application covered in the Creating  Global Connections workshop offered by my department. And it really goes a long way towards making communication and collaboration with other classrooms or Skype users easy.  Many educators and classrooms in our district are already using Skype to connect with other classrooms and engage in some collaborative projects. Some are still looking for classrooms to contact. I'd like to help more classrooms get connected. If you are interested in getting started and would like to contact a classroom across the county before you communicate around the world, these are some folks who might be able to help.

Ms. Hutchens (Skype name leahhutchens) at Ward has been using Skype with her kindergarten class to contact places like California and Australia this year.  Sam Walker (Skype name swalker21) at Bolton used Skype to set up a guest speaker for his school and has teachers currently working with classrooms around the district—like Ms. Lee at Southwest (Skype name>heidi.lynn.lee) and Ms. Edwards from Diggs (Skype name mwedwards815). In addition to the contact with Bolton, Ms. Edwards recently skyped a classroom in Georgia she’d contacted through the Skypeinschools wiki. Her experiences are detailed on her blog.  If you are looking for a middle school class to get in touch with, Nanette Naylor at Philo (Skype name nmnaylor) is looking for Skyping partners for some of her classrooms. And finally, you can always Skype with me (Skype name emaiden3). At the very least I think I can help you get started finding another class to Skype with.

Recently I was shadowed for a day by a WSFCS student for the SLIDE program. I tried to think of a ways to have her use technology in a meaningful way while she was here in the department. That afternoon I had her Skype in with classrooms at Bolton and Diggs, and I bet that was the best part of her day with me. Using Skype she was able to speak to and engage with students around our district who got a chance to ask questions of a high school student in her last semester here in WSFCS schools. 

I think that is the real power of Skype—to engage students and create connections with other learners and classes far outside the walls of the building. 

Monday, May 18, 2009


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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ahead in the Cloud

I love cloud computing. Cloud computing refers to having your files and content stored not on the physical computer, but rather "in the cloud" that is the Internet. In a cloud your information is no longer tied to a specific computer or device but can be accessed from any computer. So you don't rely on the computer hardrive or flashdrive. In a recent workshop I commented to the group that if my computer fell in a lake I would be sad, but it wouldn't be the catastrophic event it would have once been because I have some of my content stored online.

Now there are drawbacks to being in the cloud. In order to get to your stuff you have to be online, and if you can't connect to the Internet, you can't get to your data. In addition, you must be willing to give into the idea that your data is online, and security for that data is in the hands of an online entity. There is a trust issue with cloud computing, so I don't plan to have all of my data online. But if Google wants to scan through my Google docs for my Powerpoint presentation files or my fantasy football draft 2008 spreadsheet, so be it. If the price for having all my delicious bookmarks available to me all the time from any computer is having them available to everyone, then count me in. And many of us have used some form of web-based email account (or accounts) for years. Now most of the applications I use on a daily basis could be described as cloud applications.

I'm not the only one that is onboard with cloud computing and thinks it could impact the future of education. The 2009 Horizon Report, which identifies emerging technology trends in education, listed cloud computing as one of the six technologies likely to enter future mainstream adopted use in K-12 education within the next two to three years. Part of the draw is how easy it is to collaborate using cloud applications, but another benefit that might drive this will be the money saved. When data is in the cloud (in most cases) you're not paying to store and back it all up. At this time I am using 24 MB (0%) of my 7323 MB inbox. And in a cloud, you don't spend funds on software. I'm not sure I would spend any money on programs that need to be installed on a workstation or server because in many cases there is a good web-based alternative that is often free.

Sometime soon maybe all students will really need on a computer will be a browser; everything else could be up in the cloud.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Revisiting Some Great Presentation Tools

As a kid I used to hate it when my favorite TV show would have an episode full of flashbacks to previous episodes. But this is completely different. :)
I'd just like to give a second look at a few presentation tools reviewed in earlier posts on this blog that I've used and enjoyed. Sometimes I will use Powerpoint for a presentation - it's comfortable but predictable. I've enjoyed using the following web-based tools as an alternative to good old Powerpoint and think you might as well.
  • Vuvox - Vuvox was reviewed by Brian on the WSFCS blog this past January , still has the linear feel of Powerpoint but with more flow and pazazz. You can create "hotspots" within the sliding presentation images to include hyperlinks and different forms of media. You'll need to set up a free account to start using, but I think you'll find it is a nice alternative to Powerpoint while still being similar in nature.
  • Prezi - Evan blogged about Prezi back in March on our dept blog calling his post "Presentation 2.0." And part of Prezi's appeal is its presentations offer a nonlinear feel to them. You still create a path or map to text, pictures, media, etc... but the movement in Prezi allows the presentation to spiral, zoom and spin around the content. When used properly this produces a very engaging presentation. Like Vuvox you just need to setup a free account with Prezi to get started.
  • Pageflakes-Pageflakes was the subject of one of my blog posts earlier this month. Although Pageflakes isn't exactly intended to be a presentation tool (like Vuvox or Prezi), it offers a great way to present information. In Pageflakes you can set up an entire page with content related to a subject. I tried this out in a Google Earth workshop recently, where I created a page filled with content related to Google Earth (links, RSS feeds, video and text) instead of a Powerpoint. I don't think I'd try this with every presentation, but I think it worked well for this workshop.

So there they are; a few flashbacks errr..."gems" from past blog entries to help change the ways we look at presentations.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Not Either/ Or

Recently I had a correspondence with a teacher whom I like and respect. We were discussing voicethread and the potential to share digital media with a global audience. Her response surprised me a little. "I don't see the appeal." My answer was something along the lines that it was the excitement that students feel when engaging in a broader audience outside the classroom. She replied (in what I read as a joking tone) was that she'd be more excited if the kids knew more basic math skills.

From what I know she is a very good teacher, and I don't think her feelings were that off base for teachers who, especially this time of the year, feel pressured by end-of-grade tests and all the expectations associated with preparing her students for next year. But I think many teachers might be missing the chance to do both--engage and excite their students with using technology to communicate with a global audience AND teach the math skills students need to know. In the reply I sent her a voicethread done by Ms. Edwards' class on math skills to show voicethread as a vehicle for student to learn math skills, and I pointed out it doesn't have to be either/or.

So as is the case with so much technology, it's not about voicethread but what voicethread can do for the instruction. Too often technology is seen as a separate piece or class instead of an actual tool to use in all classes. Technology alone will not raise EOG scores or produce better students. But I firmly believe in the hands of an effective teacher, technology can go a long way to engage students in the lessons and even make teaching easier.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

RemixAmerica

Recently I have been interested in two ideas: promoting the types of digital media students can create and share as well as the concept that we are in a “remix” society. I stumbled a across a site trying to address both within the framework of U.S. History.

RemixAmerica.org is a site that describes itself as being a "nonpartisan, nonprofit in-browser editing tool that allows citizens around the country to remix the great words and speeches of American History with the hot button issues of today.” Additional language on the site surrounds the idea of creating a platform for ideas, discussions, and public expression.

The result seems to be a lot of videos clips that pull together various media to tell a story, or represent an idea housed on the site where users can view and comment in a manner similar to youtube or teachertube. The site appears to be focused on both past U.S history as well as current events. Like any site that contains user-created content, some of it is very good (I watched a remix titled “Civil Rights 09” which was very well-done) while a lot of it is not. It will be interesting to see if this site will become a real resource for discussing history or a battleground for users to just create negative videos about those who don’t share their views and politics. The site appears to be relatively new—the oldest remix video I saw was from May of last year, but someone is uploading material daily (10 videos between 7:30 and 1:30 today), and much of it looks like student work.

And although I didn’t encounter anything vulgar or profane, I’m sure there is the risk. But there appears to be a system for reporting objectionable content, and with an option to download videos you choose, it appears there is a way to avoid some unwanted content. Besides, there are subjects in history and politics that may not be appropriate for every classroom.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting this is a site to start using right away with students, but I’m interested in its possibilities. And I’m in support of projects that have students engage in creating media and provoke discussions and feedback with a broad audience—and RemixAmerica.org has the potential to be a tool to do just that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pageflakes

Some time ago I moved from my utilitarian igoogle page to a new RSS startpage. When choosing a platform I'd wavered between pageflakes and netvibes sites - there seems to be little difference in the two. Both provide a sleek ajax-based page with options for adding a variety of embedded media and updated feeds. 

After using each of the sites I'd hoped to offer a technology workshop on organizing webcontent with these start pages. I eventually chose pageflakes as the subject of the workshop, because I found pageflakes seemed to work a little better with our district's webfilter. There is also a teacher pageflakes site that makes it even easier to set up a page with education in mind. 

I held the first workshop over spring break, and I really think pageflakes could play a role in helping teachers by providing content to help teach units. Teacher could use the site in the way I use the site - mostly to organize my RSS feeds from sites and blogs I check most frequently. But teachers might also create pages that contain content for their classes or even each separate unit they are teaching. Pages can be published, through pagecasting, which can allow the page to be accessible from any computer connected to the Internet. Teachers could use the pages during instruction, and students could access the sites and media the teacher chooses for a lesson. 

Pretty great, and as is often the case with much of the new tech stuff I like, it's free and web-based so no installation is necessary.
 
picture from pageflakes.com

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Our Writing Wiki

In January I contacted schools to gauge interest for using a wiki to create a district writing project for elementary schools. This writing project involved different classrooms in WSFCS working together to compose a story.With the global possibilities for using a wiki, it seemed like a modest goal to complete in just our district, but I wanted something we could get done in a couple of months and gather from teachers the experience they and their children had with the wiki project. If successful, it might open the door for bigger projects in the future. 

Eight educators agreed to take part in the project that entailed a class from each school writing a section of a story and creating an illustration for their section. Melissa from Diggs came up with the idea for the story and volunteered (or maybe I pleaded with her) to go first. And as the story worked its way through the eight classrooms, the story grew and the plot took many interesting twists and turns. I was impressed at how little assistance the classes and teachers needed. Even with the snow days and outbreak of a nasty virus that hit computers in our district, each class met the due date and the story was completed this past week.

I hope the students and teachers enjoyed the project as much as I did, and I would like us to continue these types of collaborative projects across and beyond our district in the future. If you are interested in reading the completed story, check it out on http://writeonwsfcs.pbwiki.com/The-Story

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Computer Labs 2.0

It seems most classroom computer labs have been organized based on the placement of the electrical units and Ethernet drops and/or by having all the screens facing in one direction to make it easier for monitoring computer use. This setup often creates a challenge for anyone working on a computer while trying to pay attention to the instruction going on at the board. During tech workshops, I often see teachers switching back and forth between the whiteboard and computer trying not to fall behind. As we redesign and rethink the classrooms of the future I wonder if we can give the labs a facelift as well.

A short time ago I visited John at Jefferson Middle, in part because I was curious about his new lab setup. His lab looks a bit like a coffee shop with elevated seats and circular tables positioned around the lab with wireless laptops on each table. With a flat screen plasma on the wall, John’s lab has an inviting feel to it. And although I didn’t see it in use with students, I really liked the arrangement. And I’m betting the students prefer it as well.

Now if he’d only add a coffee station in the corner and charge me three bucks for a cup of house blend, I’d be there every day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

21st Century Tech Literacy

My five-year-old is teaching my three-year-old how to use the computer. My wife and I have been impressed by the patience she's shown with him. Currently he is receiving a heavy dose of instruction on mouse skills and how to navigate through the Starfall website.  

Although my daughter is very special to me and I am very proud of her, I'm not sure if her experience with technology is that different from her peers. But I know she'll enter kindergarten next fall with quite a bit of "computer time" under her belt. She knows how to access the Internet through “the Firefox” and knows Mommy and Daddy will allow her time on "educational sites." 

To be clear I'm not advocating a lot of screen time for young children, and we monitor what sites she is on and how long she is online, but I would wager she is as comfortable on the computer as some adults I know (maybe more). I can’t help but wonder, if she is representative of a larger group of digital natives entering the classroom, I wonder if education is keeping up with them. 

Recently I talked with a friend of mine who is in technology and also has a child starting school in the fall, and we both shared our desire for our children to be engaged with technology in school at an early age. The technology vision for the school will play a big factor in his decision on where his child will attend—not just the equipment but what teachers and students (even kindergarteners) are doing with it.. I don’t know if a trip to the computer lab 45 minutes once a week for “computer class” is what he is picturing, nor is it enough to prepare our future students for digital literacy. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Network Literacy at NCTIES

I first saw Will Richardson present a few years ago at another NCAECT conference, and it was one of my favorite sessions. He presented again this year at NCTIES and did not disappoint.
If you are interested in instructional technology, webtools or education you might want to start following his blog. I find his ideas to be really interesting and provocative. I like his sessions because even when he is presenting on a subject I think I already know about like RSS, he still manages to bring something new to the subject.
I attended three of his sessions, and the last on Network Literacy was perhaps my favorite. I think he described it as "a thinking session for personal learning networks." There were several ideas I'll take from the session, but here were a few of the best: the need for us to teach kids and model how to build networks in safe, effective and ethical ways; teaching kids to become "clickable"; and if you are in education, and you don't feel pushed, then you are not paying attention.
It was time well spent.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Preconference at NCTIES

The North Carolina Technology In Education Society Conference cranked up in Raleigh yesterday with the preconference sessions. Our historical adventure overcame a few obstacles-- a tornado drill? really? What were the chances? But in the end, the session really yielded some great results and interactions with educators around the state. 
The session was held at the NC Museum of History and focused on integrating technology with NC History. Our group toured the museum, collecting ideas and pictures, then planned and created a product for the classroom using Activstudio. It was a great way to start what promises to be a great conference. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brainstorming with Bubbl.us

So lately my posts have been more along the lines of a true "web log" chronicling what I've been doing and the thoughts I've had. So with this post, I'm back to using the blog to highlight what I think is a cool web-based tool for brainstorming.
Bubbl.us is a site used to create mindmaps. Creating an account is free and allows you access to all the features, and you can even try it out without signing up. It's nice because once you have created a map, you can share your maps or brainstorm with others, and there is no download or software to install. When the brainstorming is done you can export as an image or print it out. It is easy to use and the final product looks pretty sleek. Check out an example I created below:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Challenge of Sustainable Staff Development

Lately, I've been in discussions with schools throughout the district on how to best support the technology training we've already had this year, rather than adding new workshops. And I've been out to schools to do follow-up sessions on blogs, smart and activboards and schoolcenter teacherpages workshops done earlier this year. The format has been group meetings that are focused more on reviewing and asking questions rather than delivering new information.

There are several schools I serve that understand that many teachers need more than a one hour "sit and get" if they are going to really use the technology in their instruction. Many teachers have follow-up questions and need time to reflect and brainstorm when they acquire a new tool, and I commend those willing to do this because the "carrot" of tech credit is gone for these sessions. These are teachers who are showing up because they want to better understand how to use the technology.

Yesterday at Jefferson Elementary three teachers came in after school to the lab for a help session on their teacher webpages. We answered group questions and reviewed some steps, but much of the time was spent working on their pages with Joan (their tech facilitator) and I assisting them. We started around 2:45 and finished around 4:10, and at the end of the day I thought each of them made real strides with their pages.

Too often I think staff development workshops (technology or otherwise) plant a seed but don't do enough to nurture its growth early on. Follow-up is key if we want teachers to use the skills and resources we are sharing.


Friday, February 13, 2009

NCTIES 2009

I'm starting to get excited about attending the NCTIES (formerly NCAECT) Technology Conference next month in Raleigh. I've been fortunate to attend the conference many times, and last year I got to present there. Every year the sessions offer something new, and the nationally known speakers bring their knowledge and interesting perspectives in instructional technology.
This year I get the benefit of being part of what should be a great preconference session at the N.C. Museum of History. I was in Raleigh Monday for a planning meeting with copresenters Marlo Gaddis and Matt Barfield and really look forward to seeing how the whole day will come together with teachers from around the state. The session, sponsored by CSI, should be a good blend of technology and social studies and will be a subject for future blogging.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Activexpressions Make an Impression

Today I visited Forest Park Elementary to assist in setting up their Activexpressions. Activexpressions are learner response systems for the Promethean Activboards. And although they are similar to the Activotes, which preceded them and Senteos, which is the Smarttech version, expressions are awesome because these devices allow the user to text answers in the same way a cell phone is used.

So along with the kinds of "True or False" and multiple choice quizzes you're used to with activotes, with CPS units or senteos you can set up questions that allow for short answer texting with the expression. Although the expressions currently require an additional software install, I was impressed with how easy it was to set them up and get started. I'm anxious to see how the teachers and students at Forest Park will respond to this technology.

Although these are currently being updated on our district technology price list, the price tag might be a deterrent. However, Promethean is currently running a contest where they are giving sets away to lucky classrooms. Check out the contest.
Additional thanks to April, who is now exploring a "hand modeling" career.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Technology-Rich Classroom for Free

There are an amazing number of technology tools available for teachers to support their classroom, and even more services purchased by our district for teachers. This tools aren't just websites to visit, but tools for instruction. And workshops in all of these are currently offered by our department. So although we hope all classrooms will eventually have interactive whiteboards, projectors, document cameras, newer computers, etc...these are some tools you can use now. And if your classroom is outfitted with good tech equipment these tools will enhance what you can do in class.

Blogs provide a great way to engage students using technology. Whether posting assignments or showcasing class events, blogs using Blogger are free and relatively easy to set up and get going.Photostory is a great program that can be installed on all computers, but if it preferable to use a service that allows you to communicate with a much broader audience and house digital stories, take a look at Voicethread. Accounts are free, and we have several teachers and schools in our district using this with students. If you need a kid-safe search engine, we have a district license for netTrekker. You can also use DEStreaming for finding digital media that we also have a site license for. If you want a way to organize bookmarks try delicious; for organizing RSS try out Google reader. If you'd like to videoconference but don't have a big budget, see if you have a projector and webcam in your school, and use Skype (part of the Creating Global Connections workshop). If you need to collaborate with a group in a website set up a wiki.

The great thing about using these tools is that most are web-based and don't require installation. So start working on that technology-rich classroom, on a budget, with some of these free and worthwhile options.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gigapan.org.......wow

There is no shortage of sites with great digital pictures on the web, but gigapan seems to offer something a little different. The images offers a panoramic view composed of many picutures allowing the viewer to move around the picture as well as zoom in to areas. The photo resolution is amazing. The only drawback I found was because the resolution is so impressive and the image is huge, it may take some time for it to load in your browser. But the payoff may well be worth the wait. 

One of the recently featured panoramas is David Bergman's President Obama's Inaugural Address. This panorama was created from over 200 images with a final size of 1,474 megapixels. I was able to zoom in on the President as well as the snipers positioned on rooftops on buildings in the distance. The panoramas can even be downloaded and viewed in GoogleEarth (version 4.2 or higher). Check out the image from the Mount Rushmore panorama in Google Earth below.











This site can allow you bring images into the classroom in stunning detail.