Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

My Favorite Social Networking Tool (Google Doc Activity)

Out of all of the tools we reviewed this module, I think that Diigo was my favorite. I truly see myself using Diigo in my classroom, as well as passing it along to other staff members. 

I find Diigo to be the most useful tool for me because you can research, collaborate, and share, all on one platform. I love how you can mark up articles of interest and save them for later access. In my past experience I have bookmarked certain articles only to find at a later date that they had been deleted. The fact that they are permanently saved on Diigo is a wonderful feature. Aside from this, I like how organized you can be on Diigo. You can bookmark articles, save them to lists, as well as label them with tags. All of this offers a convenient way for you to find your articles when needed. Overall, Diigo makes the research process in general very manageable.

Furthermore, I love the fact that Diigo offers Diigo Educator. Here, teachers can register student emails, set them up into groups so they can collaborate, as well as set privacy settings so it is only your students that are reviewing certain resources/participating in the collaboration. I wish I had known about Diigo before I did the Research Projects with my students earlier this year. However, now that I do know about it, I fully intend to explore this feature while doing Research next year. 

In closing, Diigo is useful because it is one tool that does a variety of things. I will certainly use Diigo in the future, both in my professional and personal life. I hope that this inspires you to check out Diigo and see if it has a place in your life!

Facebook (Create a Facebook Assignment)

I have been using Facebook for about 7 years. I created an account as soon as they opened their membership to several colleges. I continue to be a fan of Facebook because it is a quick and easy way to keep in touch with people. With your account you can post status updates, photos, install applications, etc. I wasn’t crazy about the fact that they opened it to High School students, but you can adjust your privacy settings so your profile cannot be seen by everyone. This is what I do, as for some reason the students are always searching for their teachers!

For this assignment instead of doing another profile, I experimented with the Page feature of Facebook. You can create a page for bands, politicians, organizations, etc. and store them on your own profile page. I never worked with Pages before and found that depending on the type of page you create, the amount of peronal biography information you can input fluctuates. I created a Page for Atticus Finch under an empty profile I made for this class. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite novels, and I also have the pleasure of teaching it to my students. None of the images from the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird were copyright free, so should you search for him, it is the one with a picture of a courthouse. Instead of requesting a friendship, as you do with normal profiles, for pages you become a fan. Please feel free to become a fan!

Social and Collaborative Media: Tools and Strategies for the School Educator (Analysis Thread)

Upon listening to the Social Media and Education Podcast, I was left thinking that the world of education is indeed at a moment of change and possibility. Sarah Robbins-Bell points out that there is a conflict between new technology and the educational structure that many classrooms have relied on for ages. She states that, “Everyone should be a lifelong learner. Everyone should have access to high quality information that they can engage with.” However, in order to successfully do so, educators must realize that certain aspects about the classroom environment will have to change. Her lecture made me realize that we must adapt our ways of thinking. We have to become co-creators and form partnerships with our students if we want them to feel empowered about accessing and truly understanding the plethora of information in front of them.

With that being said, I read several articles that dealt with how educators must embrace technology for the benefit of their students, as well as those that spoke to the many technologies available to the general public. I must admit that for some (Facebook, Twitter), I never saw a place for them in the classroom. As I learned more about them, my viewpoints have changed as I now see that they offer great possibility.

The article The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age argues that the power of the Internet is vast and schools must recognize this. The authors state that the Internet “shifted both the perception and the reality of who makes knowledge, how it is authorized and legitimated.” Since our students have access to all of this information, we must help them to decipher it. Our world is more collaborative than ever, and our students are participating in this sharing of knowledge outside of our classrooms. They have become the creators. I feel that we must harness this energy and redirect it into our own classrooms. The authors note that many children are tired of the more traditional ways of learning because they are not engaging in the information (as many of them now do outside of school through social media). If schools use technology to truly captivate our students, we will see products that demonstrate interaction with the content as well as the birth of new ideas. I think that the hands on learning that technology offers will only serve to strengthen our students and their desire to learn more. While I love this idea, I cannot help but remember the shadow of standardized tests that constantly looms over our classrooms. There is great pressure to teach only skills that are on the test, which can result in drilling our students with lessons they perceive are dry and “test based”. Sadly, I think that many of these fun and creative technology-driven activities would take a back burner to testing.

In the article 14 Ways K-12 Librarians Can Teach Social Media, the author again speaks to the fact that teachers must be willing to work collaboratively with students. She states that we must act as a moderator or coach to ensure we “effectively interact with information…. to create and share and make a difference in the community….” We have to be comfortable with the social media in which our students are already immersed. Teachers have to act as someone who can guide students on how to use these resources in a way which will help them to intake information, process it, and create their own product in which they demonstrate their understanding. Most students already know the technology, but they do not know how it can better serve them as a critical, independent thinker. At my school many teachers are afraid to use new technology. We have monthly workshops which range in professional development topics, and I would love to present some of these technologies at these sessions. In follow up sessions teachers could create accounts and practice using the technology before feeling comfortable enough to implement it in the classroom. With this confidence in place, I think that more teachers can create engaging activities.

Now that I see where the future of education is headed, three tools that captured my interest in particular are Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. Skype is a tool that I have come to love. It allows you to make video calls to other users, anywhere in the world. Furthermore you can skype with several users at once, creating a conference call without the video feature. The article Why Skype Is The Most Valuable Tool I Use, speaks to the benefits of Skype. Through Skype, students now have the ability “to seek answers to their questions at all hours” which I feel would better strengthen their comprehension of class content. As I often give group assignments, Skype is a wonderful program for students to utilize in order to collaborate on their project. Instead of a phone chain in order to figure out group member responsibilities, they can use the audio as well as the text/chat feature of Skype to make group decisions. The Skype an Author program is a wonderful resource available in which students can have virtual classroom visits from authors they may be studying. When I do become a School Librarian, I would love to explore the possibility of using this. I think it is a great way to introduce students to the text they will be reading. They would be even more engaged if they came up with questions to ask the author because they have then created their own learning experience. I have not tried to access Skype at school to see if it is blocked (as many social networking sites are), but even if students can access it at home to communicate after school hours with others or myself, it is still a worthwhile resource.

As was just mentioned, the school system in which I work does block a majority of social networking sites from both students and staff. Included among these sites are Twitter and Facebook. I have always had a negative viewpoint of Twitter, as those around me who used it only did so for updates about their daily activities. In an attempt to see the good in Twitter, as many others have, I read several articles on the purpose, uses, and educational benefits of Twitter. While I still do not see myself using it in my personal life, I can see professional uses for it. My favorite Twitter article was Can we use Twitter for educational activities? The author provides a list of activities in which Twitter is the key player. As an English teacher, I often give my students quotes or articles followed by a round table discussion in which everyone must participate. I loved the idea of using Twitter to facilitate reader response and create a virtual classroom. I can post a topic and the students can tweet their responses. Even better, students can use the retweet or reply feature in order to generate their own conversations regarding the material presented. The cap of 140 characters would force their responses to be succinct—I would make it a requirement that they could not use slang or improper grammar. I think that all students would love this activity, and feel that this may even prompt the quieter ones to finally have their opinions heard. Another idea that I liked was using Twitter as a platform for class announcements or reminders for quizzes, paper due dates, etc. I would use this in conjunction with Skype—if students view an announcement and have further questions, they can contact me during designated after school Skype sessions. Teachers could use Twitter to connect with other teachers and trade ideas/ find resources that may further help their instruction.

I have been a loyal Facebook fan for seven years and truly enjoy using it. In the article Schools and Facebook: Moving Too Fast or Not Fast Enough?, Matt Levinson raises some interesting questions about schools utilizing Facebook to teach the curriculum. He highlights that many schools block Facebook, when instead they should be using it as a means of instruction. He notes safety concerns by parents and school systems, but insists that the “groups need to come together and communicate about fair use.” Like Twitter, teachers could post announcements similar to on the Facebook Wall of a Class Page. Students could exchange ideas/respond to teacher postings by adding their own comments to the class wall as well. Facebook also has many applications such as photos, videos, and podcasts that could be used for educational purposes. Lastly, I enjoyed making my own Facebook page for a character from a novel. This could be easily applied to the English classroom as students create Facebook profiles for characters in the novels read. They could then assume the persona of that person and post wall writings, photos, videos, etc. that relate to the character. This would be an excellent activity for teaching characterization as well as the importance of voice in literature. Again though, if I were to use Facebook, it would have to be outside of school only.

Although I see the benefits of Twitter and Facebook, as well as have ideas for how to use them in my classroom, I cannot rely on the fact that use outside of school is sufficient. Many students do not have access to computers or the internet in their own homes, so they would not be able to partake in these assignments. Aside from this, some parents do not want their children to be involved in certain social media sites, thus these children also would not have the opportunity to participate. I do hope that one day schools, parents, and educators reach a point of agreement which will allow teachers to use such technologies in an educational way.

Ning (Reflection Thread)

Like many others have stated, I too had no idea what NING was. When I went to the first page and it said create a NING community, I did not know what to do, as I hadn’t a clue as to what I would create a community about. It was then that I noticed the “Discover NING Networks You’ll Love” link and upon clicking it the purpose of NING became more clear to me.

I like NING because it was easy to navigate through the categories and find NING networks to join. Thus far I have joined three NING communities: ISTE, K12 Online Conference, and TLNING (Teacher Librarian Ning). In these communities, professionals post wiki’s, blogs, videos, and general discussion posts about anything related to the content of the overall NING. For example on the K12 Online Conference, I visited several posts which included: using iPod touches in the classroom, using the many features/applications of Google to better integrate technology into the classroom, Professional Development resources (for multiple subject areas), as well as a video and discussion revolving around Copyright usage in the classroom.

My favorite NING was the TLNING. This site had great diversity in the posts and discussion forums. I found postings about SLM conferences, integrating new technology into the library, as well as how to use social networking both in and out of the classroom. Aside from these type of posts, there were also posts that dealt with issues one might find at schools: computer lab scheduling conflicts, teachers not utilizing the resources and how to motivate them to do so, reading activities such as Books Across America, etc. These kinds of posts really let the voices of the librarians shine through, and I appreciated how the NING wasn’t completely driven by technology. I also found Twitter pages for several school libraries as well as a few job listings for schools that needed Media Specialists. The overall vibe I felt from this NING is that these members truly love their jobs and genuinely want to discuss ideas and hear about the experiences of their colleagues in different communities.

NING seems like a worthwhile item to pass on to my own colleagues at school. I like how the spheres are not public—this way it ensures that only those who want to participate in sharing and learning from others are involved in the community. NINGs present much valuable information, and I hope that by sharing the existence of NING with fellow staff members, they can take advantage of all that is offered.

Diigo (Application Thread)

At first I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of capability that Diigo offers. After watching a few video tutorials on the site, I found that it is very easy to use and pretty straightforward.

Like Christine, I am very much an active reader. All of my books from college, as well as the texts that I teach to my students, are filled with my scribbles. In my college books I jotted down connections, and questions as well as highlighted passages of particular interest. I do the same with the texts that I use in the classroom, but I also note vocabulary, excerpts of thematic importance, as well as questions to pose to the class. If you flip through my students’ books, you will find them full of post its—their connections, reactions, reflections, questions, etc. This way I know that they are digesting the material instead of skimming the surface. It is very hard for me to read reference books from the library because I get tempted to write in them! Diigo is great because it saves you the trouble of having to print out all of the resources you find. You can do everything you need online and it saves to your account for use at any time, anywhere!

In terms of organization, I enjoy the fact that you can categorize your information by bookmarks, lists, and tags. If you were researching more than one thing, you would not have to worry about all of your sources being mashed into one space. This would also be useful in keeping personal research separate from school research. To speak to the highlighting, I found it a bit confusing that I saw other people’s highlights. In a way it is interesting to see what everyone thinks, but at the same time I want solely my own notes on the article. This was problematic as I could not highlight over others’ comments. I can definitely see myself demonstrating this feature in the classroom. Often students go “highlighter crazy” and before they know it they have the entire page highlighted instead of the few important parts. Using this tool in front of the class to model how one goes about making highlighting choices would be a nice activity. I can then assign 5 sources (already in my library) and have 4 students look at a source. They can each take a highlighting color and practice. This would be a fairly instantaneous way for me to see that they grasp the downfalls of over-highlighting.

The My Networks feature is appealing because you can share your work with a selected group of people. I am already following both Christine and Sarah. I know that they have similar interests to me based on their tags. If I need sources on a certain topic, I can check to see if there are any worthwhile sources in their libraries. The My Groups feature could again be useful in the classroom when working with a large group, such as an entire class doing a research project on the same topic. Through these groups, members “can interact and discuss important points right on the web page, preserving the original context.” This is great because it stimulates class discussion and students can trade insights. Seeing the students interact with any text that I give them is a priority for me, but having them interact with each other about the text is even better! My Network/My Groups could also come in handy in terms of professional development. Each department can form a group to share insightful articles related to that content area. Additionally, separate bookmarks can be used for different subjects within the department (Algebra I teachers, Algebra II, etc.) Either way, Diigo provides a centralized spot for fellow staff members to share and access useful information.

I could go on and on about Diigo, but in short it is a wonderful resource. One can collect sources for their students to utilize for any research topic. It truly showcases that organization is a crucial skill when researching anything—from buying a car, to making informed voting decisions, to writing a paper for school.

Skype (Activity Thread)

It might sound corny, but I really enjoy Skype! Skyping with Maggie and Christine was extremely easy– we had a 3 way call minus the video capability. Before we conference called, Christine and I video skyped together. I was very surprised at the quality of the sound– I thought it would be full of static and of poor volume quality. The sound was great and the video was very clear. I wanted to try Skype before our session, so I had my sister (in NY) create an account…. I fear that I have created a monster. We have skyped almost every night since, and my parents now “butt in” to our call. They couldn’t believe that we could see each other– my father referenced The Jetsons and was truly amazed.

Skype an Author sounds awesome– what a great way for kids to get face time with authors. This would be a wonderful means to introduce the book to the class, especially if the author is able to read a few pages. I think that students would always remember that they “met” someone famous and would consider it an overall fun experience. I cannot wait to use it when I work in a School Library. Unfortunately the authors that I personally teach to my 9th graders are not participating in this program. Based on the numerous success stories on the website, I think that “more recognized” authors (or those who wrote texts that are commonly used in high schools) should definitely consider joining. In the article Why Skype Is The Most Valuable Tool I Use the author uses Skype to answer student questions after school is out. Overall I think this is an interesting idea and would like to mold this to suit my own purposes/needs.

My Skype ID is lmt409.

To Tweet or not to tweet? (Twitter Activity Thread)

To be quite honest, I never really understood the purpose of Twitter and actually thought it to be ridiculous. This is because the people I know who use Twitter only use it for mundane updates about their life—getting coffee, watching a TV show, etc. I thought that everyone used Twitter for these purposes and honestly couldn’t believe that people would take the time to give status updates that no one really cares about. However, now that I have explored it a bit more, I see that Twitter does actually have some redeeming qualities—although I’m not quite sold 100%. Perhaps my views will change as I experiment some more.

Twitter makes sense in my personal life for keeping in contact with close family and friends that I do not have the opportunity to call as much as I would like. It is also an interesting way to connect with people who share the same interests/hobbies as myself. I might use it to connect with dog lovers, as my husband and I want to get a dog in the next 2 years. I could find out more personalized information about dog breeds/behaviors as well as read about the little moments that truly reflect the joy of having a pet. I could also use it to connect to others who are interested in cooking—to share links to recipes, techniques, advice, etc. In terms of my professional life, I would use Twitter to collaborate with other English teachers. It is often hard to see what other English 9 teachers are doing, so Twitter might be a great platform to trade ideas. Aside from just English collaboration, I am sure there are many other educators who simply want to share great tools for the classroom, regardless of subject area. The only way I can think of using Twitter with students is for them to take surveys—reviewing how hard they thought an assignment was, or mid-year reflections on what they enjoyed/what they thought was the most difficult. This can give me feedback for ways to tailor my lessons for upcoming classes.

Twitter Etiquette:

I found the Beginners Guide to Getting the Most Out of Twitter to be the most helpful source on understanding Twitter and its etiquette. The blog is very easy to understand, which prompted me to read several other of the author’s entries regarding Twitter. It appears that the number one rule would be to avoid spam at all costs—just as we are frustrated with spam emails, the Twitter community does not appreciate a user sending spam. From my readings I also found that auto-DM’s are thought to be impersonal and cold. This ties into the fact that it is considered courteous to interact with those who follow you, in order to truly build a better relationship. The piece of information that stuck with me most was that one should tweet about what they are doing on an occasional basis—Twitter should instead be used to generate conversation about articles/topics that are of interest to you. This directly goes against what I assumed Twitter was all about—which I was glad to hear. Lastly, giving credit when it is due seems like another standard to follow when Tweeting. If you find a quote or link from another user, be sure to post their name if you forward the information. Overall, the etiquette of Twitter seems fairly common sense- it is a place to exchange ideas and information, while meeting some interesting people along the way.

Video Reflection of Digital Storytelling Tools

Please check out my reflection. I used iMovie to make it.

Here is the full text:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but during this Module every program that I worked with was brand new to me. I had heard of a few of the programs before (Movie Maker, Audacity, Flickr), but to be quite honest, I never really pictured myself using them. After playing around with all of these tools, I don’t know what I was so worried about. I assumed they would be difficult to use and it would be more of a hassle to create products rather than a fun experience. In fact, the opposite is true for many of the programs. My three favorite programs thus far are Jing, iMovie, and Creaza.

If you own a PC, you can use Jing if you have Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. If you own a Mac, Jing can be used on an OSX system that features Quicktime 7.5.5 or later. It is highly suggested that you use Broadband in order to use Jing. With your Jing account you get an account for Screencast.com, where your work is uploaded for you to access at a later date. On Screencast.com you get a free 2 GB of storage for all of your creations.

Jing is offered both as a free version as well as a Pro Version that can be purchased for $15 per year. For many people, the free version is just the right fit. If you are more interested in saving your files as a MPEG-4 instead of SWF, as well as adding the use of your webcam to record, then JingPro is something to consider. Using Jing you can capture your screen in a screenshot or record a video of your screen. For video recordings you can also narrate as your screen is recording—which I think is a fantastic feature. You can then save your work to your computer or take advantage of your Screencast.com account where a link to your image/video can be found. You can then share this link by sending it in an email, chat box, or you can even embed it in a blog.

I love the feature of recording your screen—it is very easy to use. For example, if you wanted to walk your class through submitting a paper to Turnitin.com (which any subject area can use), you can record yourself submitting a paper. You could then share this video with your students who can view it individually at their own computers. In the past I have walked through this process with my students, and it was difficult due to computer problems, student pacing, etc. I look forward to using Jing next year, not only for this but for other activities as well. If you have created a class wiki that students will access throughout the year, you can use Jing to show students how to create an account, as well as walk them through adding comments to the wiki page. I think that any subject area can utilize Jing. As long as you have directions for students to follow, Jing is a great way for students to see these steps first hand and be able to follow them with ease.

iMovie is a standard feature on Mac computers. You can also buy an upgrade for your Mac in order to access the newest features of iMovie ’09. When I first got my Mac, I thought that this program was beyond my skill set. Much to my surprise it is very user friendly. You can make a movie by importing any video clips, either those already on your computer, or directly from any digital camcorder. After your clips are imported, you simply drag and drop them into the editing area. You can also drag transitions, music, and text into this area. You can even carry out fine tune editing such as work on precise timings (audio, transitions, etc.), tweak the color of your images, add animation … virtually anything.

iMovie can be as complex as you want it to be, depending on how much you choose to edit your movie. At any time, you can easily preview your changes. When you are satisfied, you can save your project to your computer, or share it on YouTube. Here’s an example that speaks to the ease of iMovie’s use: I took 3 short video clips of the recent snowfall. I imported them to iMovie and dragged them so they transitioned from one to the next. I imported “Winter Wonderland” from my iTunes and set it as background music. I then posted it to YouTube and shared the link with my parents in New York who were amazed at my video creation. The whole process took maybe 10 minutes, and I felt so happy that I created this movie!

I would suggest using iMovie at the upper elementary school age through upper grades in high school. The difficulty of assignments can change based on the amount of editing required. For example, a class of elementary school students can record anything—a Thanksgiving Celebration, a short film on class pets, a class show and tell session—and with the help of an adult they can make a movie out of these clips. The movie can be uploaded on a class webpage for parents/guardians/friends to see. A high school student in a World Languages class can create a short film on cultural aspects of their content language or create a travel advertisement for the country of the content language. In a Language Arts class, students can film dramatic readings such as acting out certain scenes of a Shakespearean play. It would be great to assign each group a scene, record each scene, and then string them together to create your very own class adaptation of the entire play. In Earth Science, students can work in groups to record videos for weather cycles and elements of the solar system. Often the students at my school have to make Power Point presentations for many of their subject areas. Transforming slideshows into actual movies would be an exciting project that the kids would remember for the rest of their high school careers.

The last tool I would like to highlight is Creaza. All you need to use Creaza is a Flash plug in and internet access. It can be used on any computer operating system and is free—you simply have to create an account. With a Creaza account you can access different features: Mindomo, MovieEditor, AudioEditor, and Cartoonist. I like the fact that with one login, students can access four very different programs.

Mindomo is a tool similar to Inspiration—where students can generate cluster maps to better organize their thoughts. You can include links, photos, and text on these graphic organizers. It is a great way for students to see that stories need to have organization as well as a fair amount of content. In regards to MovieEditor and AudioEditor, these are programs in which students can manipulate video/sound recordings in order to create their own movies/audio tracks. It is similar to MovieMaker, iMovie, and Audacity, but on a simpler level. However, Creaza does offer a version in which you pay to access services on these programs that take editing to a higher level.

I love the Cartoonist program, where students can create their own comics. I mentioned in my earlier posts on our class discussion board that I already have my students write a Shakespearean Comic, and would love for it to be done on this site. You can add animation, fun graphics, and customize everything in your comic frame. You can save it to your computer, present it on the web, as well as print it out. Again, I feel that students can use this program across the grade levels and subject areas. Elementary students can make a comic strip about a favorite birthday party, holiday, or field trip. Upper level students can create a comic strip depicting historical events, such as the Boston Tea Party or create short stories using certain sets of vocabulary, such as the Food Unit in a Spanish classroom. I think that any student would jump at the chance to prove that they mastered content material through such a hands-on and creative activity.

Overall, I can’t wait to implement some of these tools into my classroom. I think that even though we as teachers feel that the students are so much better at using technology, once we simply try it ourselves, we will find that it is quite easy to use. We can all integrate fun and useful tools into our classrooms; we just have to take the first step to experiment with them. I wish that we had such tools when I was a high school student—it certainly would have made all of the posters, papers, and book reports a more fun experience.

Booktalk Podcast

Please enjoy my booktalk on The Giver by Lois Lowry. I used Power Point then Jing to capture the slideshow as a movie. I then imported this to iMovie to record my narration and input my audiofile. Overall, I found all programs very easy to use. I think that this is a wonderful way to share basic plot information about books, yet hook your audience to read it at the same time!

Aviary Screen Capture: Part II

I’m just playing around to see if I can embed the screen capture, instead of linking it. Here goes!

Mod 2 screen capture.egg  on AviaryMod 2 screen capture.egg on Aviary.