Saturday, December 29, 2007

How One Teacher Was Inspired

I'm modifying the model of those I am reading through Google Reader (although Bloglines now has my attention - thank you Clay).

This has been a year of changes in the way I conduct business in the classroom. I've always been happy with the way I approach computer curriculum. I add new things every year, starting with what the school owns and expanding.

Wikispaces - I started my first Wikispace around March. It was also the first "contact" I made with the world of online educators. I found room17math and sent a note to charbeck1.
I am a computer/middle school math teacher in New Jersey. I am feeling my way through making my first wikis with kids. I have to spend a lot more time at your site. If you have a chance, what are the top two or three things that have made this a success for you? What do you wish you knew when you started? Did you ask parents permission for the kids to get wiki accounts? I'm hoping to get started over the next month. Thanks for any insights!
His response opened up a whole new world to me. It was ALL new information. In part it read:

I was lucky enough to take a course with Vicki Davis "" during the k12online conference...A great place to start is at Women of Web 2.0 They have a chat every tuesday at 9:00 est on worldbriges ( They are an excellent source of knowledge.
Now I had to know: who was Vicki Davis/ what is, what is the k12online conference and where is it held, what is Women of the Web 2.0, what does this person mean a chat every Tuesday night, and what is all 2.0 stuff?

Anyone who is capable of using Google can find the answers pretty quickly. I started reading Vicki's blog, was disappointed I missed the conference, and decided I didn't have time to get into all this right now. I was in the middle of taking a certification course every Tuesday night and while it isn't the same as taking a college course load like some people are - it was enough.

All I needed to become inspired was information. I kept poking around when I had time and really chose to wait to immerse myself until vacation rolled around in June. Even then, I decided I wouldn't start until I was back from my two week driving vacation at the end of July.

I can't believe I've only been talking with online educators since August. Even at that, I really barely started the conversation. Thanks to Lisa, Cathy, and MrsDurff's welcoming attitude I began to realize that it was up to me to become part of the conversation. Mrs Durff gave me such a friendly welcome in the chat room of Women of the Web, Lisa invited me to add her to Twitter, and Cathy is always so giving in her comments to my blog posts.

July 15th - first tweet
August 6th - second tweet
September 22nd - first tweet from someone Durff
October 16th - first tweet to a person cathyjo
Last week of October - the conversation begins in earnest

I look forward now to entering further into the conversation. Thanks to a post by Dean Shareski, I try to log all my comments into Cocomment. It's not the easiest system, but it works to show me the continued convesations where I leave comments. It's easier than remembering where I write. I also did not realize, at first, that I had to go back to posts where I left comments to see that others were responding back to what I said.

The moral of this story: You never know what you're going to write that will be the inspiration to the next teacher on their road of discovery!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Help Wanted - Your Thoughts Please

I plan on introducing "Technology in Education" to a few different groups of teachers over the winter months. My broad outline is here on this wiki. I'm working on finishing it up over the next few days.

I want to show the teachers how they can working with students through using the tools themselves. I plan on blending some of the "standard" movies that many of us have seen online with the use of online survey tools, wikis, and blogs. I will be using the videos as "commercial breaks" as Scott Elias describes in his Slideshare presentation. I found it through Patrick Higgins' Chalkdust blog post.

I'm also trying to model some of the exercises that the group has gone through over the past few months: Think-Pair-Share, Carousel Brainstorming, Jigsaw, and Individual Reflection -- with a computerized twist.

One of the tools I plan on using to open the session is this SurveyMonkey questionnaire. I want to be able to do two things: 1) give the teachers hands on experience with the tools 2) be able to get a quick read of the group to focus our attention.

I'd be very appreciative if you would take the survey (it's a copy of the one I have for the various groups) and let me know if you think something is glaringly (or not so glaringly) missing. For example, in question 1, what category would you put Skype in? Is Yugma a different variety of Skype (similar to Twitter/ Pownce)? I've never used either.

Image Citation
Faber, Henry. "Survey says...". hfabulous' Photostream. 31 Aug 2006. 27 Dec 2007.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I've been using for a while now. I have had some successes and failures with each of the following six items. I'm was looking for a few good people to discuss common tags with an eye to promoting social bookmarking to others; specifically those in education. By the end of my work today, I've decided that maybe that's really not necessary. I found an interesting screencast by Jon Udell that gave me new insight into maneuvering through delicious.

Here are the six things I do with delicious. I can:

  1. open up any computer and have my bookmarked sites available
  2. categorize them for ease of finding later on
  3. bundle the categories in a logical manner
  4. share the sites with friends/ colleagues
  5. see what others have found by making a network of delicious users with the same interests
  6. search delicious
Open any computer and have my bookmarked sites available
This is the most direct reason for using There are other bookmarking systems out there. Just type bookmarks online into Google and you'll get 11.6 million results today. Delicious rarely fails me. It's always up and running when I need it and I can tell it to store my bookmarks on my local machine when I sign out.

Categorize them for ease of finding later on

This is a touchy subject for anyone who bookmarks a web site. Touchy because, by its nature, if you are storing a lot of information ease depends on how good your filing system is. I have a category for Flickr and all its related components. Anytime I want something in Flickr or a site related to it, I can always find what I'm looking for. Since I've starting using delicious, I haven't always been consistent with my categories so I don't always quickly find what I'm looking for. For example, I was looking for this Google video about what information Google stores on its users in the middle of class and I didn't find it. I had it filed in computer_videos, but should have cross filed it in under Google.

Bundle categories in a logical manner
This does work beautifully when I take the time to bundle new categories. My husband is as technologically literate as I am (even more so when it comes to hardware). He took to the idea of delicious and set up an account for his consultants in India. He didn't get the idea of bundles and tags. It took some explaining and I'm looking for a good analogy. I said bundles are like chapters in a book or big folders inside a filing cabinet. I probably should have liken them to folders in a hard drive. I have 128 tags that are unbundled. These are the things I'd like to bundle before vacation is over.

Share sites with friends and colleagues

This works well between my husband and I. It works well between my personal delicious account and the one I set up for the school. All I have to do is type for:saintmichael and when I sign on with the school account, all I have to do is go to the links for you tab and save the bookmark to the appropriate tag.

See what others have found by making a network of delicious users with the same interests
This is another seriously worthwhile addition to my ability to learn new things. I don't always look at the your network tab, but when I do I often find one or two really worthwhile links that I want to refer back to or add to my tagged items. It's really helpful when I look at the links and see what other people choose to add as notes to the bookmarks they save. This is something I want to promote when I talk to other teachers.

Search delicious
Rather than going to Google as a first place to look, I'm trying to train myself to search delicious first. I can search your bookmarks,, or the web. My thought is that other people sought out information and found these sites useful. Why not cut to the chase and look here first?

If you're looking for a "how to" article on delicious, check out EdCompBlog: Show me, don't tell me. It was written way back in July 2005.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Seven Random Things

I've been tagged by Cathy to list seven unknown facts about me. Here we go:
  1. I marched in the Gatorbowl at a marching band competition back in high school (I didn't play an instrument, I was a flag twirler).
  2. I can play the piano to my satisfaction but have never played in public. This amounts to the following: I can read music and would be good if I took the time to practice.
  3. I like to take black and white photos and develop them in the darkroom.
  4. The best trip I took in my life was when I traveled to Ireland to meet my father's brother who still owns the family farm. It was a couple of months after my dad died and meant so much to me.
  5. I can drive a stick shift. My first car was a little blue MBG with three windshield wipers and a hole in the floor.
  6. My first job was helping students troubleshoot errors in their computer programs including BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, Pascal, and even assembly language.
  7. I worked in New York City for a few years and cut through the Empire State building or Macy's on the way to the train station when I wanted to avoid the rain.
Pass it on: Random Rantings of a Technologically Savvy Educator, Cloudy Tag Thoughts, The Story of My "Second Life", Apace of Change, Once Upon a Teacher, Yes Tech, and Life in Lower School.

Here are the rules:
- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Image Citation:
"Mountaineer.” Aprilandrandy's Photostream. 3 Feb 2007. 23 Dec 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Minor World Travels

Just a little frivolous start of vacation post. I followed a link from Lucy Gray to this map generation program online. I've not been too far in life: Saint Lucia (honeymoon), Montreal (high school), Niagara Canada (last summer on vacation), and Ireland (3 years ago for a family reunion). That trip was the best! I got to visit my grandparent's farm on the Ring of Kerry in a small town - Caherciveen. I met first cousins, aunts, uncles for the first time.

create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

I do far more traveling in the United States. But after generating the map, I realize how much there is still to see. Although we're going to Florida this summer, I'm looking forward to scheduling a vacation trip out to Montana in the next year or so (more cousins and a beautiful part of the country from what I understand).

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

Friday, December 14, 2007

Let Your Presence Be Known...Continued

On The Thinking Stick blog, Jeff Utecht posed a few questions that I've been thinking about for at least a month now. In the article Jeff said:
Think about that for a minute. Is your social presence, your social network, worth something? Absolutely!
Something's been bothering me lately. I am doing a lot of self development on my own time. I'm doing it for my personal benefit. No one is forcing me to do it. I actually love doing it. I am growing as an educator. My students are benefiting in so many ways.

So, what's bothering me?

In our building I just don't get the feeling that there would ever be an acknowledgment of the worth of my personal network. I'm usually hesitant to put my full first and last name on my Internet communications. I talk a lot about Internet safety with my students starting in an appropriate way in Kindergarten - every year - until they graduate eighth grade. I also do not include my image anywhere for the most part. I did, for a while, have my picture on Facebook until I read the following article in the Times (UK) Online. They said Facebook might use images on their web site in advertising.

I know there is a value in starting to use my name and image. When I went to Kean there were several people I met and "knew" already. I had seen their image and full name. I was a relative stranger to them because I am NJTechTeacher with a little hand drawn Gimp image.

Do I have less worth in my personal network for this reason? I wonder.

I have just past the 100 followers mark in Twitter - 101 to be exact. My ClustrMap as of today has an amazing amount of dots for having this blog's presence since just July 15th of this year. I've started some small global collaborative initiatives for my students with more to come.

How many people have jumped over to my school's web site because of my presence here? Probably a few. If they were looking for a Catholic school in the neighborhood, would they look there first? Maybe. This is my value at just five months into learning about personal learning networks. Imagine when I'm a year in...or two.

I started working at my school because my children attend it and I knew the potential for different kinds of learning through computers. I taught adults in business all of my professional life (15+ years or so). The K-8 school environment is still relatively new to me. Although, by next year, I will tie my longest run in a job record at seven years. I have a vested interest in making this the best experience possible for my children and by extension to the entire student body.

When it's time to move on, I know that I will have more to offer another school that I ever would without my personal learning network. I look forward to more conversations on this subject. I still have to read the entire recent article on Vicki Davis' Coolcatteacher blog. I'll probably revisit this topic again some time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kean University Part II

I can't believe it's already almost a week since I attended the Education 2.0 conference. Time to complete my write up on day two.

It's always more fun attending a conference the second day. You are getting to know the lay of the land. I also connected with a group of educators that Kevin Jarrett was sitting with so I felt more at home in the main presentation room. Kevin kindly introduced my to Lucy Gray early in the morning. It's kind of amazing being introduced to a keynote speaker.

Our first keynote of the morning was Marco Torres. It was titled The New Landscape of Web 2.0. I didn't know what to expect. Will Richardson told me the day before that it would be great and he was absolutely right. He had a set of ideas that linked the presentation together.

Some of the ideas he shared included comparing an "expert teacher" generated flyer with a student generated flyer. It showed how much visual literacy the student had from her work in the high school program. He kept coming back to the idea that you have to find your Yoda and add that person to your network.

I especially liked a chart he showed with a progression from Agricultural -> Industrial -> Service -> Information -> Conceptual eras. He compared at the bottom the way we went from location and labor being important -> location+labor+resources -> Proximity+Partnerships -> Access+Connected -> Ingenuity.

He is very visual. The slides he shared really enhanced his presentation. I wish I was so creative in my ability to provide a message with a nice dose of humor. He had a set of slides that showed the technology resources of teachers over time to get the kids to read pages 1-10 and answer questions. We started at the cave man and his wall. Moved on to the monks in the 1400s chanting with their scrolls. Next we moved to the 1950s with a standard chalk board. From there it was on to the hippy teacher in the 1970s with an overhead projector. By the 1980s the teacher had a white board. 1995 no more white board, but a recycle sign. Finally to a wizz bang, too many effects PowerPoint and then the final punchline - an iPod where the teacher recorded the message. The point - kids can do all the wizz bang effects - they need a Yoda, too.

He talked about connections: how a kid in Canada traded a paper clip for a house, how his students found to connect with musicians around the world so they had the best lunch time show in school.

His most amazing story was about a student who needed to be drawn into social studies. Marco gave him a project to produce a band since he liked music. The student acted as the band's manager. He found the resources to have a web page made, a MySpace band page, got a video recorded, and a myriad of other things. Through the marketing, the band's song was sold for the trailer of a hit movie. Can you imagine this happening for your student?

For the first breakout session, I went to Creating from Scratch. It was a presentation by Tamara Stern and Karen Brenan. They walked us through the program on laptops. I had already been working with Scratch for a month. My own son, a fifth grader at my school, actually had questions from his use of the program that I was able to ask. The MIT people are very interested in drawing people in and taking the program even further than it is now. They have ideas for Facebook widgets and being able to send Scratch greetings through email and seem interested in knowing what people would like to see in the program.

For the second breakout session, I chose to go to Marco Torres' Digital Documentaries: Making Learning Relevant, and Applicable. Marco really connects with the audience. There was at least one person in the audience who had been at BLC in Boston and participated in a workshop with Marco's students. This presentation was all about the students and their work. He shared video after video created by the students. One of my favorites was Ham and Eggs. He showed us videos of how his students market themselves to work for the local teachers. I was so involved that I really didn't take many notes.

After lunch, Lucy Gray presented Google Education: Teaching + Learning Innovation. It was with much gratitude to my personal learning network that I was able to keep up with all the presentations. I really enjoyed her speaking style. She spoke as if it was just a small group of people gathered together. She led us through all of the important tools Google is making available such as Google Docs, Google Reader, and her work with schools. It's worth taking a look at her slides. I learned about using Google News to set up a search with an RSS link to my local town's news.

I found I got a lot out of going to Will Richardson and Marco Torres' breakout sessions, so I went on to Lucy Gray's Emergent Technologies in Education. I think this is the way I will go to most of these conferences in the future. I got more out of the professional presenters than I would have from say, Internet Safety. In her breakout session, Lucy stepped back from Google and spoke more about the web sites many teachers are turning to: wikis, blogs, podcasts, chats, and social networks.

I can't wait to go back to Kean next year. They seem to say that there will be another conference like this next year ... right in my own backyard!

Image Citation:
"DSC_4347.JPG.” elemenous' Photostream. 3 Dec 2007. 6 Dec 2007.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kean University Part I

In a previous post, I mentioned learning about an Education 2.0 conference down the street from my home at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. I took away something from each of the two keynotes and three individual sessions. What more could I ask for?

The answer is face to face connections with some really interesting people in some local schools. The other neat thing was meeting Kevin Jarrett who I only just have gotten to know through his K12Online presentation about Second Life. He was kind enough to introduce me to Lucy Gray.

I've taken Lucy's cue and tagged my delicious account with CIE entries for web sites that I found useful over the two days. I'll be adding a few more as I go back through my notes. It took me until the second day to figure out how to use Kean's wireless system. They forgot to announce the guest id and password.

The day started early with breakfast and a keynote speech by Will Richardson. I've read his blog, heard people write about him, and have even left some comments behind at his Weblogg-ed blog. It was a pleasure to listening to him. I found his keynote at the Christa McAuliffe Conference in New Hampshire at Bob Sprankle's blog in his Seedlings podcast.

His keynote speech was: A Web of Connections: Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything. He really hopped along through a variety of interconnected ideas. His overall message was prefaced with the statement: "My job is to get you unsettled". Overall, the idea that stood out for me was how he showed a ClusterMap of the people who read his blog. It was jam-packed with red dots. Then he showed us the ClusterMap of his children's school. It had one big dot on the school. The big question was how can we help our students fill their ClusterMaps with dots from around the world and where are the dots on your map. I've started putting Cluster Maps at the student work on their blogs, wiki linked podcasts, and wiki VoiceThreads for Fair Use and Copyright. I try to point out the dots from time to time. Feel free to stop by at those four locations and add a dot when you get time. I took a close look at mine on the side of this screen and am happy and amazed at the little red dots. I'm also starting to get comments from other people which really makes it feel like I'm not just talking to myself. That's fine for a while, but then you get to want more.

The first breakout session I chose to go to was an hour long presentation by Kevin Jarrett titled Second Life in Education: Virtual Space, Real Learning. I have visited Second Life, gotten through tutorial island, and traveled to ISTE Island. I have even spoken to an ISTE docent and sat through some of a newbie presentation in ISTE's auditorium. What was really amazing was to seeing teachers and students show off some of their work via Kevin's presentation. He took us to three separate locations. When I get to SL again, I'll be sure to stop by and take time to look at all the exhibits on the main grid location we visited on Friday. I also had the privilege of seeing the teen grid first hand as a visitor. This is something I cannot do on my own. It was a worthwhile session that was over too quickly.

My second breakout session was by Will Richardson titled Podcast, Vodcast, Screencast Nation. It was also an hour session. He gave a quick walk through of how easy it can be to create a personal broadcast. He took a quick stop at the creative commons web site to show how we can find and use copyright friendly media. Some take aways for me was the mention of the Griffin iTalk ($35-40 US), iRiver ($65-70 US), and Flip Video ($100 US) to create inexpensive media that easily integrates into the computer. These are some pieces of hardware I'll be able to investigate for next year's technology budget.

Some websites that I learned about include to host podcasts, Flickr Storm to which has a tray on the side that students can come back to with a web link if they have to leave in the middle of work to go to a different class, and JingProject a currently free screen capture/ voice recording software that works with OS X and Windows.

After lunch, we had a second keynote speech from Vincent Laforet. Take a look at his project galleries. His images are fantastic, but the stories he told about them made the images come to life. I enjoyed showing the family the images and retelling his stories when I got home.

Lastly, I rounded out the day with Geocaching in the Classroom with Deborah Gries. She walked us through how her school received grant money to get $100 Garmin GPS navigation devices. The seventh graders learned how to use the devices and then made a set of geocaches for the sixth graders to find on the school grounds. She also walk use through to look for other local projects. One of the cute ideas that she mentioned was that you could get trackable items called Travel Bugs that you can place at a geocache and then track it's travels via the Internet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Heart Felt Appreciation

When I read Mark's Edtechblog just now, I decided to add my two cents. The Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier is a blog that I look forward to reading. I don't know how I came across his blog, but there it was one day. Louis Schmier is a college professor. He has such heart for his fellow students and shares it so eloquently.

One post back in early September spoke about a message "Clean" that he had been receiving for a whole week in his email inbox. After explaining the message, he finishes up the post by posing the question, "What is one thing you said or did today that made another person felt more special and appreciated?" He always makes me think.

If you've never made a stop at his blog, let me suggest you do so today. I'm always inspired and hope he's around for a very long time. I've already sent in my vote for him in the Best New Edublog category 2007. While I receive a lot of takeaways from Dy/Dan and get many chuckles from The Principal's Blog, my heart is always full after reading Louis Schmier.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If Wishes Were Horses...

There is a nursery rhyme: If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride; if turnips were watches, I'd wear one by my side. It feels that way when I work on the personal development side of the report card.

We used to give one personal development grade for each student. This year, each subject area teacher will give twelve marks to each student. The list is as follows:
  • Works to ability
  • Completes classwork
  • Completes homework
  • Follows directions
  • Works well in groups
  • Works well independently
  • Respects the rights and property of others
  • Demonstrates self-discipline
  • Obeys school rules
  • Shows a sense of responsibility
  • Uses time constructively
  • Exhibits positive attitude/ behavior
Sixth grade is a whole new ballgame for these students. They are used to having a mostly self-contained classroom up to fifth grade. They did switch for reading, social studies and science. Now they have a different teacher for almost every class: reading, English, Spanish, math, social studies, and science.

To help me keep track of everyone, I put together a Personal Responsibility Report. If they have a lapse in responsibility (a uniform untucked, nail polish, forgotten homework, missing signed quiz/ test, notebook forgotten) they fill out the form. It tells me who, what, when, and why something is awry. In my mind, it forces the student to be more responsible than just saying "I forgot".

If wishes were perfect responsibility, I wouldn't have to take time to go through so many forms. It has taken a good few hours and I'm almost done, but I'm seeing some holes. Next semester, I have to be more on top of some of the categories. I have good data tracking what they bring to class, but I need better data on how far they get with practice problems in class and when they drift from their independent work. I want less anecdotal evidence from my head and something more concrete on paper. I want to reward students who don't forget a single thing. Still, I don't want to drop a child from outstanding to satisfactory for forgetting something just one time.

Then there is the improvement needed and unsatisfactory categories. I wish every student did almost every assignment. I really only have a handful of students that need more phone calls home. I'm going to have to focus on those few children.

So, all in all, it's a good exercise to have to go through for each child...but I wish for the perfect world.

Image Citation:
"200602 watch your step.” supercilliousness' Photostream. 18 Feb 2006. 25 Nov 2007.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Prepping for Sub

One of the least favorite aspects of my job is prepping for a sub. This year, Friday is a really tough day for me. So I pretty much decided in advance that I would not purposely take off on a Friday all year.

Well, I've purposely taken off on Friday this week to attend the Education 2.0 conference at Kean College down the road.

I have sixteen desktops and six laptops. Friday is my day of juggling. Sixth grade computers twice in a row. I just finished a big PowerPoint project with them, so I need to get them going on a project this Wednesday that they will be able to work on Friday.

At the end of the sixth grade periods, I set up the laptops for the fourth then third graders. I think the easiest thing to do will be to have them work on a writing project in Word. It's the last day of the marking period, so maybe a document telling me all the most important things we learned to date.

Next the lucky sub has a lunch period, then on to two periods of sixth grade math. The students have just completed the multiplication unit and are beginning the division unit, but I think I will have them get a start on the Chapter Closure problem. They can work alone for 15 minutes, in groups for 15 minutes, then get started on their write up.

Fifth grade computer class should actually be pretty straight forward. They are finishing up a KidPix welcome drawing for our Classroombraids project. Afterwards, I think I will have 15 images set up. I will have them select an image and write a paragraph of what they will say to their buddies around the world. We can then record the VoiceThread next week.

Finally, I end Friday with Kindergarten. They were going to create a project using the mixer. I think, instead, I will have them create an advent wreath in KidPix. I'll leave a sample that the sub can show the students. They can easily draw a wreath with the paintbrush or pencil tool and color one candle.

The good news is that now I'll have had the sub experience a Friday and if I need an emergency Friday, she'll have done it once. My sub is an aide in the Pre-K program, but she's great with the computer class. I was just tentative about her having to get laptops set up.

Now that I've talked this through with myself, I'm ready for the lesson plan book...and you've had a glimpse of my Friday. Thanks for listening!

Image Citation:
Muir, David. "242/365: Lesson plans.” DavidDMuri's Photostream. 19 Sep 2007. 24 Nov 2007.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Twitter and Familiarity

I've been using Twitter for a while now. I signed up mid-July, but didn't really start using it in earnest until mid-September.

It's like most people say, until you use it, you won't understand it. I was at a Women of the Web 2 talk and wrote in the chat window that I was uncertain how to start following people. It didn't seem quite right to just start following people - seemed stalkerish in a way.

A few people said, you don't ask to follow people, you just start following them. So I did and here I am a few months later. I have learned SO much through the various tweets that I see. One of them led me to a post by JenW - 140 Characters Does Not a Friend Make...

I was going to write a comment, but there is more floating around in my head than a would put in a comment.

I do like Twitter. I have said before that it is like being in a office full of people that you would want to work with personally. It also has, in many ways, a different feel than a blog. Since people post the little things (like holiday prep, recipes, and iguanas being stalked by cats) I get more of a sense of the person.

I know these connections are not friendships, but they help build a working online relationship. As I "see" the person, I feel more of a pull to help out commenting on someone else's students blogs, voicethread, and other work. They seem more like colleagues.

That said, after reading some of the comments to Jen's posts, I decided to remove myself as a follower of those who are not following me. As I read tweets, I forgot that all those that I follow do not follow me and are therefore not reading my tweets. If I respond to something someone writes, they will see me as more of a stranger than a colleague.

I enjoy the back and forth comments. I look forward to seeing who is running a race and who is traveling to do a presentation to other teachers. At least now I will be certain that I am responding to people who are getting to know me through my tweets.

This is such a new medium. Everyone is getting their feet wet at the same time and we are learning new limits. Recently, there was another post by Wesley Fryer - Deciding Who To Follow on Twitter.

There are a lot of things to consider. A lot of what we teach about Internet safety, privacy, and the difference between face to face interactions where you can read body language and vocal intonations is starting to come to the surface in Twitter.

Overall, I hope it will continue to flourish. I know it is an important part of my newly formed personal learning network. Thank you JenW for giving everyone food for thought.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What I Learn From My Network

N Jj
T E A C H Bead Letter E R

The sign above is courtsey of Clay's Beyond School blog entry. I've been thinking for days now how much my teaching is being enriched by so many wonderful people.

Yesterday, the principal's secretary had printing troubles. The principal asked me to come and fix things first period. She would watch the computer class once I got things rolling. It happened to be the class with her son. When she walked in, the class and I explained that they would be creating an image in KidPix to welcome kids from around the world to our class' Classroom Braids wiki project. I explained with the class that we would be learning about the similarities and differences of students in Georgia, Washington, Brazil, Maine, California, and Australia.

Today, she was asking me about a conference I'll be going to next week. She wanted to know more about the topics of Education 2.0 at the college down the street. I explained that one of the teachers I communicate with mentioned it and asked if I was going to be there. I didn't even know it was going on until I got a message on this blog a few days ago. The person happens to read Lisa's Lingo blog and found me. It ends up being Kevin Jarrett who presented the SecondLife: K-20 Educators Exploring Virtual Worlds at the K12 Online Conference. I listened to Kevin's whole presentation and learned a lot there, too.

I come back to Twitter again and again because there is always something there that interests me. SusanT just started following me this past week, and I found a great little VoiceThread ABC book with requests for drawings from one of her tweets. I also followed a link from MariaK to her KinderKids blog. Two great examples for me to share with the primary teachers.

Last year, I explored iMovie with the eighth grade. They created video Public Service Announcements about what you can do on the Internet. I never put them online because I never got around to permission slips from the parents. It was a spontaneous project because iLife came with the new iMacs I got last year. This week, I saw a great example from the Coolcatteacher blog. I only looked at two on the main blog page, but what great examples to show my students this year in addition to the samples from my students last year.

I still can't wait to get to Dean Shareski's tutorial on using the green screen. I am certain that I'll explore that by next year, if not this year.

I used to figure out great projects to do with my students. I have no apologies for what I've taught my students over the last five years. That said, my sixth year at this school will surpass all others simply because of the shared knowledge that I now have thanks to everyone named and unnamed who contribute their shared knowledge with the world.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Truth or Dare Davis Style

I thought you might enjoy seeing my computer classroom. I teach math in a different room. I put up these photos in a response to a blog I read over the weekend. I wish I could find the author to point them to the photos. The person who wrote it was saying that they have the computers facing the walls and it makes it hard to see what everyone is doing. Mine face into the room. It makes it easy to see what the kids are doing at a glance.

Vicki Davis posted a set of 20 truth or dare questions. Here are my answers, let me know if you posted your own. I'd like to read them.
  1. Do you spend any time talking about proper methods of e-mail? Not sure what you would categorize as proper methods of email. (Like letter writing etiquette?)
  2. Do you have a facebook or myspace profile? Yes and yes, but don't really use them since I haven't friended anyone. Might think about Facebook or Myspace if there were colleagues there.
  3. If someone wrote about you, is your name hyperlinkable? Yes, if you count this blog or my web pages/ wikis for the school.
  4. Do you know the names of all of your students? K-8 down to the last two girls who look alike in Kindergarten, but I think I nailed it this week. I also mix up the identical twins who now have two different hair styles so shame on me.
  5. If your students have computers in the classroom, do your students make ongoing eye contact? N/A, but in computer lab they chat the whole time they work.
  6. Are you unafraid of what would happen if youtube, myspace, and facebook were allowed in your classroom? In K-8 I do worry about inappropriate images
  7. Do your students collaboratively create documents? We're steadily working toward this in wikis and math blogs.
  8. Do you expect your students to complete their reading assignments? I really don't assign reading assignments, per se.
  9. Do you assign papers and grade them after reading EVERY WORD? For math chapter closure problems - yes - and I comment throughout the writing.
  10. Have you ever given an assignment and allowed students to create content on the public world wide web? Not really. I have a moderated blog and protected wiki.
  11. Do you allow students to post content WITHOUT premoderation? Not yet on the blog. The wiki is posted live and I go through it all after school.
  12. If you allow students to post online, do you subscribe to 100% of their content in your RSS reader? Yes
  13. Do you comment on your student blogs? Yes
  14. Is more than 50% of your content relevant "to life?" Good SurveyMonkey question for the year.
  15. Do all of your students open their textbook for your class on a weekly basis? Yes in math class, probably not at home unless assignment requires opening the book to answer math questions. Do not have a textbook for computer class.
  16. Do you give reading assignments that include web content? Yes
  17. Have your students been taught methodologies for assessing the validity of web documents? Yes, I drip it on them each year slowly.
  18. Do you give students projects where they must manage themselves, multitask, and deliver a comprehensive output that is relevant to your topic? Yes
  19. Have you changed anything significant about ALL of the courses you are teaching THIS YEAR? Not all K-8 computers and math, but 5-8 certainly.
  20. Do you care? You bet.

Travel Down the Web 2.0 Path

I was reading Darren Draper's blog entry Pay Attention - I Guess It's Time for an Update. For a variety of reasons, he is trying to find out if his video made a difference in the way people teach. I decided that I would spend some time reflecting on the question. I wish I had started this edublog when I began my journey down the web 2.0 path last year. I'll try to see how I ended up where I am today.

I had a blog at Xanga for a few years, so blogging was nothing new to me. I just used that one to post the daily goings on. It was at the request of a group of eighth graders I had at the time. They're juniors in high school now. Since students went to the site, I didn't really make it a place to reflect on my teaching practices.

Last year, I was taking a state sponsored Alternate Route program to get my state teaching certificate. I teach in a Catholic school and it's not a requirement to have the certificate. It kept me on my toes all year. Somewhere in the middle of that I believe I ran into Vicki Davis' Coolcatteacher blog. It was in her blog that I learned about Wikispaces and TeacherTube.

I know that I came to Wikispaces at the beginning of March in 2007. It's shown on the history log of my first of now many wikis. I didn't have any time to really follow her blog or anyone else's for that matter. I decided it would have to wait until June when the Alternate Route program was over.

When I started poking around TeacherTube one of the first videos I came across was Darren Draper's Pay Attention video. It connected to so much that I was learning in the Alternate Route classes.

I was a "corporate trainer" my whole career from the time I was in college (early 80s) until I had my boys in the mid 1990s. I was familiar with learning styles, Bloom's taxonomy, and other pedagogy. I taught people how to use Office, mainframe computer screens for data entry, and 4th generation languages to create reports in Sperry MAPPER. I helped create multi-lingual multimedia training programs on CD for a global shipping company. By the time I was teaching children, I felt like I was ready to take on the world.

I knew that I had to take the students further than Kid Pix, Office, and HyperStudio. I started teaching the kids how to create web pages. We simply used a Mac text editor with HTML. It was a pain to keep track of all the little files and get them FTP'd up to our Verizon web space.

Pay Attention did catch my attention. It starts right up front with the learning styles and then ties it into the statistics of what kids do on the Internet. Now, I know all this from watching each class of eighth graders as they pass through my computer room. But, I also teach middle school math. The first three year that I taught math, I taught it like it was taught to me. We did a lot of pencil work and board work. I did try to tap into their multiple intelligences with chapter wrap up projects. The computer teacher in me never made it into the math room.

A previous principal purchased Accelerated Math for the math department. To this day, I still love that program for its ability to target student's strengths and weaknesses. The students don't interact at all with the computer for that program. They just do the worksheets and fill in bubble sheets. Two years ago, I did start bringing the digital camera to class. I had planned all sorts of PowerPoints to demonstrate math concepts, but even that was limiting because I have to drag the computer out and make sure I schedule myself for the traveling projector.

Darren asks "how much richness does your curriculum provide?". We'll it really wasn't that rich. Also, I saw only half of the seventh grade (at that time) for basic math. The other half had a different teacher for pre-algebra. Last year, I had the entire sixth grade.

This is about when I learned about wikis. I'm not too proud of my first attempt. I had huge plans that fell flat of my goal. I know geometry can become a lost child in the math curriculum. Since I had everyone for math and computers, I decided to have a math project in computer class. I created a geometry wiki page. They had never used the software before so I started by asking them questions and letting them edit the wiki to answer the questions.

Also tying into richness, I realized that the metric system really doesn't stick too well in the heads of most US students. I wanted to provide a better way to remember the terms. Over the course of two half days, they wrote and recorded little metric songs to the tune of Christmas or nursery jingles. I took photos, recorded them in Audacity, and loaded them up onto the Internet. They were really excited by the project. I still wasn't exactly happy with the output, but it was a start. Now I was answering Darren's question of "what do they create?".

This year, I'm continuing to expand my reach. I'm trying to find ways to answer the next question of "are you engaging them?". This was a bit elusive until I started exploring some math blogs over the summer. I was awed by a high school blog and eighth grade blog. This is what I wanted for my students. The idea of scribes and blogs was an interesting way to get the students more immersed in the learning of math. The idea of students getting to ask one question every ten hours makes sense. How do you let all 20 plus students ask questions in the space of 42 minutes and accomplish the needed review, practice, and learning? A blog can do that.

I showed part of Pay Attention and part of Karl Fisch's Did You Know to the sixth grade parents at back to school night this year. I actually go a little chocked up when introducing the videos. It's such a huge concept, to me at least. I did so in order to explain why we're going to be using a blog this year. No one blinked an eye. No one challenged the decision. The parents are making sure the kids are signing on at home and doing the little projects.

It's been so basic so far, but the kids did some research on the CIA World Fact Book about five countries of their choice. Next I asked them some questions about the data they found. At this point, I've asked them to leave comments to three particular students comparing their answers to the other student's answers. In computer class, we discussed appropriate responses and how information put on the Internet can be stored in Google's cache for a very long time.

It's interesting to see what misconceptions they have about the data and how they are responding to each other.

I am also using the blog to post podcasts and slides to help them study for tests. The use of those tools have been underwhelming, but some kids are using them. I think that was a "big takeaway" for me. Some students need more repetition than they get in class, maybe a podcast will get through to someone. After all, once the podcasts are recorded I can always go back year after year and update parts, but the big work for sixth grade math will be done. (As long as I'm still teaching sixth grade math next year.) I can't believe how much I've learned just since I got an iPod for my birthday in June by listening to podcasts.

Back with my computer teacher hat on, I had the seventh and eighth graders collaborate between the three classes to learn about copyright, plagiarism, and fair use. It still wasn't as collaborative as I would have liked, but it will get there with time. The eighth grade created plagiarism podcasts and were so excited to see the ClusterMap's data points from around the world after only 11 days. Several students listened to them again at home when they were bored. Hopefully the plagiarism messages will stick better than a lecture. They also read SurveyMonkey results from their listeners. The seventh grade is just finishing up VoiceThreads on fair use and copyright. I'm looking forward to their reactions.

Now the fifth graders are going to join other students around the world on a Classbraids wiki that is being spearheaded by Sharon Betts.

Hopefully, my students are finding their work is meaningful, interesting, and has a bearing on their future.

Image Citation:
Rome, Jacob. "iPod iPod.” jakerome's Photostream. 11 Nov 2005. 9 Nov 2007.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Look at Your Audience

Today I showed the eighth grade where their podcast has been heard. It's been up since October 27 - so pretty much 11 days. I think they were surprised that there were so many different countries that listened. It's one thing knowing that it's on the Internet. It's quite another thing to actually see it.

They didn't realize that there were American schools in China. They couldn't figure out why Chinese speakers would listen to the podcasts of American kids in English. I explained that a few years ago, one of our eighth graders graduated and moved to Japan. His father
had a business opportunity in that country for three years. This child ended up going to a high school overseas. So maybe they expanded their view of the world just a little bit.

I told the eighth graders we would check back in a month and see if anyone else listened to the podcast.

Finally, they read the surveys for their own podcast. Of course, the one group who used sound effects on their voices were a little shocked that those squeaky voices were not perceived as a great broadcast. This is all a part of the learning. They received reviews from teachers and parents in Washington state, Maine, and New Jersey.

So now, I must thank all the people who took the time to look at my student's work and "pay it forward". I am keeping a list of help wanted links on delicious. When I have free time, my plan is to leave VoiceThread and blog comments, and create other projects that help other teachers further their goals.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Do I Need a Second Life?

I have to be honest. It intrigues me. I hear people writing "SL anyone". I wanted, of course, to know what it was all about. So back in September, I signed up and downloaded Second Life onto my computer. I had no idea what it was.

I assumed it was some sort of game. Having experienced a Massive Multiuser Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in Runescape, I thought I knew what I was in for. I signed up for a Runescape account two years ago when my then end-of-the-year fifth grader wanted to play. It was fun. I got sucked in for most of th summer.

When I first logged in to Second Life, it was certainly "prettier" than Runescape. I got the idea that I needed to learn to move around, but after spending a half hour or so, I put it away.

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I've been listening through Kevin Jarrett and Sylvia Martinez on the K12 Online Presentation "Second Life: K-20 Educators Exploring Virtual Worlds. It is very interesting to understand that it is NOT a game. It's a virtual world to interact with others. I can see the draw of being able to move around and interact with people. I'm still trying to figure out how it would enhance life for me.

Certainly, it would be interesting to go there if something is only happening through Second Life. I won't know until I try it. So, I'm back again. I created a new person and started over through the Ben and Jerry Welcome Center. I figure that I'll spend time now and again there and if by the time NECC comes around and people use it, I'll be ready.

I've been to UStream sessions, WorldTechTalks, Twitters, RSS, and Blogs. Each have their own draw. I'm sure I'll find the same with Second Life. I'll report back as I learn more.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cell Phones as Learning Tools

I took quite a while to listen to the K12 Online presentation Cell Phones as Classroom Learning Tools. I wasn't going to listen to it initially. At our school, cell phones are supposed to stay in backpacks and are to be turned off. Boy, am I glad I listened.

A lot of what was presented will work for me personally. I really did not think much about using a phone outside of what I saw in the Pay Attention video by Darren Draper. The video suggests challenging students to find data to several questions via the cell phone. By the way, I only realized recently that he created that presentation through a Twitter that he posted.

I have had my math and computer students record songs and public service announcements on various topics. It is hard to get a good recording with the sounds of the classroom in the background. One of her ideas was to use the cell phone as a recording tool. The links to the tools are on her wiki. It doesn't even have to be a cell phone, it can be a land line. I may use this in the future.

Another idea that intrigues me is to record ring tones for a cell phone. The ring tone can be a song a student creates. This would tie in nicely to the metric songs my math students create. Liz also has an idea for creating wall paper for the cell phone. This would be a neat tie in to learning to create images using The Gimp.

Finally, more as a tool to create content for parents and students are two last ideas. The first is the idea of using a website that allow a person to create a mobile phone viewable site. Imagine how neat it would be to have a little site for downloading those wall papers and ring tones. The second is the ability to post homework and assignment alerts. I already use Schoolnotes to post homework. It would be neat to have parents to sign up for alerts.

There were some pointed comments on the K12 Online about the cost of using the Internet with cell phones. I agree with this. I had my links to the Internet cut off on my phone because I don't want to pay the extra money and I was tired of clicking into the option by mistake. I also agree that students often use texting and Internet connections without regard to what it costs their parents. Tied into a math lesson, it would make a powerful real life connection to their lessons.

Great job on the presentation and I am glad that K12 Online makes it easy to go back to again and again. I had it on my iPod and it was great "pick up" listening while waiting at the tire repair shop and waiting to pick up the kids from after school activities. I plan on eventually posting my results of each tool as I try it. I highly recommend the presentation.

Image Citation:
"Cell Phone vs. Cell Phone.” Yankee in Texas' Photostream. 22 Sep 2007. 3 Nov 2007.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hoping for Feedback

As I'd recently written, I finally posted a request onto the Classroom 2.0 ning to have people around the world listen to my eighth grader's podcasts and leave feedback.

I wasn't sure if posting the podcast on a wiki and adding a link to a Survey Monkey survey was the best way to go about it, but it was my first instinct and I went with it. Also, I'm not sure if I could have created a better Survey Monkey survey. I'll have to see what kind of results I get and adjust accordingly next time.

Next up, I'm working through VoiceThreads on Copyright and Fair Use. That project will be easier on the feedback end since people can leave their voice or text comments.

All in all, it's been a decent project. I'm sure we'll continue improving as time goes on.

Image Citation:
"Help.” G.E. Long's Photostream. 4 Jan 2007. 1 Nov 2007. <>.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Power of a Network

This evening I was at the "Teachers Teaching Teachers" podcast recording. They were interviewing the gentlemen responsible for the VoiceThread web site. It was interesting to hear their take on their project.

What I took away was that it is first and foremost a great tool when you want to get feedback from other people. I am having the seventh graders create VoiceThreads to support the Copyright, Fair Use, and Plagiarism wiki. Some of the kids have a sentence that is not exactly on target. I was thinking the I would have them re-record those sentences. Now I'm thinking that I should leave it the way it is and let contributors around the world leave comments about how it should be improved/ changed to reflect better information.

The students have several complete. It's slow going since I don't want to send them all over the building to quiet places like I did with the eighth grade podcasts. I just put a table outside my classroom door and during computer class I can keep an eye on the entire group (now working on a PowerPoint) while one group at a time records the VoiceThread. This way, I'm still available to the VoiceThread creators.

It's funny. I left the recording/chat because I was so tired. As I was falling asleep, I realized I didn't wash the boy's uniforms for tomorrow. Now here I sit and type while I wait for the washing machine to stop. Oh well.

Tomorrow, I'm going to create an intro slide that requests input from the world on each VoiceThread. I also have to put a message out on the classroom20 ning to request podcast reviewers. This is too much fun.

Where does the power of a network come in to all this? That's right, that was the title. While I was listening, the group really pushed the idea of tags and it sounds like that is coming. I also got a heads up on the ability to include video and the coming feature of downloading a VoiceThread. This is all very exciting and would be entirely impossible without having a network of great people pull it all together!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Great Excitement from the Eighth Grade

I had my eighth grade in today. The listened to their podcasts and really enjoyed themselves. They were much more excited today about the ability to have to world listen to them with the project complete. They liked the ClusterMap. They can't believe they can download their podcasts onto their iPods. All in all it was great.

Now I'm going to put a link to the wiki from Classroom 2.0 and Twitter. I'm going to ask the world to listened, and complete a survey if they choose. It will be another way to show the students an audience.

For me, it is an experiment in seeing how this network that I have so recently joined can help me help my students. If you listen to a podcast, let me know what you think and how we can improve.

Image Citation:
“iPod.” brotha’s Photostream. 26 Sep 2007. 30 Oct 2007. <>.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Many Random Thoughts

What a day! I am having some flaky problems with my email and the web pages stored at the network service provider. As the day went on, I found out that the school is getting email ids for everyone (read new consultant). Hmmm.

Then I was having a crazy idea that maybe the teachers don't use technology in their classes because the computers are older in the classrooms than in the lab and there is not enough of me to go around. I have two free periods Monday, one on Tuesday through Thursday and none on Friday. I thought, why have a computer lab? Why not just integrate the lab equipment throughout the building and have me co-teach throughout the week? Then again, listening to Flat Agents of Change on my iPod other people have teachers whose computers don't work because they are unplugged.

I spoke about this with a good friend at lunch (my former sixth grade teacher, current son's fifth grade teacher, and colleague in the school). She is does take the kids down to the computer lab to complete projects while I'm teaching math and has several tasks she sets up for the kids at the three computers in the classroom.

Her take is that it's really the best as it is and perhaps I could insist on teachers coming up with projects related to their curriculum to be accomplished during computer class. I guess I'll just keep going along as I have been. It is amazing to see the difference between October 2002 and October 2007 projects. I can only imagine where I can be with the students in another couple of years. The Mac truly makes it easy.

Well, this was my break from looking at math papers. Time to finish my work and go listen to the end of Cellphones as Classroom Learning tools and Flat Agents of Change.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Expanding My Student's View of the World

My students created podcasts about plagiarism. As they were working, they didn't seem too impressed that their work was on the Internet and should be the best it could be. They ended up recording their projects twice on my insistence.

Today I spent a fair amount of time uploading the podcasts to Podomatic, creating a survey in SurveyMonkey, adding a ClusterMap, and adding a Statcounter. I want the students to see and hear from a global audience.

To that end, I am taking the advice from The Thinking Stick's Jeff Utecht. In his K12 Online Presentation, Online Professional Development, he clearly showed how he uses his network. I absolutely loved the way he gave the presentation. It was like sitting at the desk with him.

I've been playing around with Twitter, Ning, and a variety of other tools since returning from vacation in August. I have started following what I would call the "big names". Some people have found me and added me to Twitter. Now it's my turn to find other people and build my network even more.

I am hoping to tweet about my student's podcasts and put a note up in a couple of nings in hopes of getting the students some response to their work. I want them to see other people are interested in their work and will evaluate what they see. I'm hopeful that I will be able to generate more than a couple of hits and a global audience. I have a tiny voice in the edublog world, but I am enjoying it greatly. I want the students to experience this with the school work in a different way than they do with their IMing and social networks.

Image Citation:
Francis, Mark Norman. “My Audience.” cackhanded’s Photostream. 15 Dec 2005. 27 Oct 2007. <>.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writing Styles

I just finished reading Weblogg-ed > Pushing Writing Literacy and have several thoughts rolling around in my head.

I feel like I could use some training in how to use all these tools myself. I am very tech savvy, but am just learning the etiquette of blogs, social networks, twitter, WOW2 shows, and the list goes on. I think there is a literacy to it. It makes sense to teach it. Kids to fall into MySpace, Xanga, and other web sites. Perhaps when they grow up communication will not look like we even expect it to. We are obviously tied to the way we learned. As a forty something myself, I still have a hard time letting go of punctuation and capitals. Will they really be required in the future? I expect it to be that way. How much of what we "play" with will be part of jobs in the future. The best we can do is at least open the children to the need to present to a public audience. This while trying to pass standardized tests and report on a traditional report card.

I cross several boundaries as a teacher. This is due, in part, to the fact that I am a full time (K-8) computer teacher in a PK3-8 school. I teach two sections of sixth grade math at the same school. It's a long, busy, but rewarding week. I have a friend who is an eighth grade English teacher. I will be teaching a one evening workshop to teachers in an alternate route program.

As the computer teacher, I have the luxury of letting a project draw out to its logical conclusion. Last year, the first time I had the students create digital videos, we took a whole semester. I know the students took their time and created a project that they were proud of. My computer lab is not set up in a manner that gives a very finished project. I'd really need to set up screens to block the background so you don't see other projects being recorded. I'll also need better microphones that do not pick up the sounds of other recordings going on.

This project required the students to think about writing in a different manner. They had to get their point across in an infomercial style. They promoted Photobucket, podcasts, and other Internet themed ideas. I really enjoyed the final product and so did the students. This was completed with last year's eighth grade.

This year, I had the seventh and eighth graders create a wiki on copyright, fair use, and plagiarism. The three classes didn't do a great job of communicating through the wiki. They relied on me to tell them what was first, second, third on the project list. Next year, the current seventh graders and the sixth grade class will do another project. I haven't decided what it will be yet, but I will be able to build on the two seventh grade classes' shared experience. Hopefully I will be able to get them to lead the incoming sixth grade more.

This year's group also made some very small VoiceThreads and podcasts which will appear on the wiki in the next couple of weeks. The process is going very slowly since I am trying to send groups off to different sections of the school for a quiet place to record on laptops. The VoiceThreads are almost babyish since they are a drawing with a recorded sentence or two. The podcasts are a little meatier - running about 60 seconds with a bit of intro sound from GarageBand.

Next I want to show the kids a global audience for their work. They don't appreciate that their work can and will be seen and evaluated by people around the world. I'm going to ask the Twitter network for help in this regard.

As the math teacher, I am trying to introduce blogging following the example of Chris Harbeck and Darren Kruopatwa. I am amazed at their student's work. On my side, it is a slow start. It always goes much faster in my imagination. To this end, I am going to start teaching wikis and blogs to the current fifth graders in computer class so that the tools are ready for me as a math teacher at the beginning of the year.

As the friend of the English teacher, she is always consumed with passing the state test. I often send her little links to The Reflective Teacher's blog. My friend sees it as: wow, that person lives in a fantasy world. She has to bump the math teacher to get her students on a computer at the same time. All her students to have computers at home, though. She's still thinking inside the box.

On final reflection, I don't even know how to appropriately give this a link back to all the fine blogs I mentioned in this post. Does Technorati just pick it up based on the links in my blog? Do I post a comment to the other writers on their blogs. See, I need this type of literacy so that I can pass it on to my students. They will then be a more knowledgeable and able digital citizen.

Image Citation:
Untitled.” tanjila’s Photostream. 3 Oct 2007. 25 Oct 2007 .

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Project Focus

I sometimes forget how much hand holding my seventh graders need to begin a project. This was day two of creating an "I'll Teach You" PowerPoint. The point is for the students to teach me about a web site: how they found it, what a person needs to know to use it, why they would recommend it to others.

In one class, a number of girls are focused on AIM. In the other class, a lot of boys are focused on YouTube or Runescape. While this is fine, they are lost in the playing around and showing each other stupid videos, buddy lists, and inventories.

I think I have to refocus on Monday with what Coolcatteacher called "time to leave the sandbox". I don't remember where I heard her say this, but it was more than likely a WOW2 show that I was listening to in the car with perhaps David Warlick in reference to backchannels in the classroom.

Over the weekend, I have to clearly think through my approach to stating what is to be shown during the presentation and what is to be used as supporting images on the screen. I'm also going to create a graphic organizer for the kids to use as support for creating the PowerPoint.

I still think there is a lot of value in the exercise, but in the classroom, I have to rein this in a little.
I think I feel like it's gotten away to a large degree because I am multitasking the supervision of recording the Fair Use/ Copyright VoiceThreads. On final reflection, I think I will spend all the time on PowerPoint and reserve the VoiceThread continuation until the second class of the week.

...and then there's Halloween in the middle of next week...I used to like that holiday before I taught. I promise I'm not a grump, but it might as well be a day off in some respects.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Eighth Grade Podcasts

The eighth graders were off and running again on creating their podcasts about plagiarism. They have all, at this point, recorded the actual script. Now they are enhancing the recordings with music and special effects.

I taught them how to share the GarageBand with iTunes and convert the file to the AAC format. Half the students have finished the project by adding the Info to the project. Over the weekend I should be able to upload them to Podomatic and attach them to the wiki along with the seventh grade VoiceThreads. Lots of fun all around.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Busy Seventh Grade

We had a busy day in computer class today. Over the weekend, I decided it was time to start transitioning to PowerPoint. The class is still working on the last remnants of the Copyright, Fair Use, Plagiarism wiki. The seventh grade are working on group VoiceThreads. They created a simple picture in KidPix and are recording a sentence about either Fair Use or Copyright. Since I only have the microphones built into the computer, it picks up a lot of background noise. So, I'm sending them into the hall in groups of four.

This leaves the masses behind with no project. Every year for the last four or so years, I've had my class create a PowerPoint called "Something You Probably Don't Know About Me". They have to tell me how they got started on their hobby/ activity/ whatever, what they are doing now, and their plans for the future. I guess I've gotten tired of it.

Over the weekend, I decided I would have them teach me something. So the "I'll Teach You" PowerPoint is being born. They have to have an introductory slide and no more than nine extra slides to teach us about a web site or online tool they like. I gave them a demo presentation about Scratch.

Overall, they were very interested in the concept of teaching me about web sites they like. We'll see how it goes. I can't wait to start having a VoiceThread or two to attach to the wikis.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

K12 Online Conference Thoughts

I am so happy to have signed up for the K12 Online Conference. Since the pre-conference keynote, I had a chance to watch a few wonderful presentations. It's just outstanding to have them on my iPod. I can go back and listen again and take notes. Of the four sessions, I came away with at least one thing each.

Classroom 2.0 or You Live Where by Clarence Fisher
was inspiring for his clear message. It is one presentation that I chose to email to the teachers in my building. I feel that his message can show teachers what he's attempting to do from his classroom. He's not a tech teacher. He has regular students. His students are connecting to the greater world from a tiny town.

Travel Through Space and Time by Silvia Tolisano was the second presentation I sent out to the teachers at large. Again, her message was one that really shows that all grade levels can be involved. I don't know that our principal would have someone take the time to write a grant to have the teachers travel, but it does show how a whole building can become involved in a cross curricular project.

More Than Cool Tools by Alan Levine, Brian Lamb, and D'arcy Norman was great for me personally. I should have looked, but didn't, for an advanced search feature in Flickr. Now I can easily find Creative Commons licensed images. There were a few other tools that I learned about as well. I know that I have to watch it again since it was late at night. I enjoyed their humor.

Release the Hounds by Chris Harbeck is a presentation that I plan to share with my math teacher counterpart in the building. She teachers seventh grade math, pre-algebra, and algebra. The scribe post, growing post, and unprojects are all ideas that I want to include in my classroom practices over time. I've just gotten my first two math classes ever up on Classblogmeister. I'm looking forward to seeing how far I get this year. I'll be teaching my fifth grade students how to use a blog and wiki this year in computer class so that I can get up to speed that much faster next year.

I can't believe that I have 16 more presentations. That's at least sixteen more things to learn and share with others whether they are my students or fellow teachers. Thanks to the masses who worked for free so I can be a better teacher!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogger Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

My thoughts on the environment. I often have computers that have become obsolete or broken. One thing that I have gotten involved in is Freecycle. My local chapter is in New Jersey. It's an interesting project. You post what you are getting rid of, see who responds, and select a person through email. Our group posts through a Yahoo group.

I have passed on old Mac LC/580s. They still work. I have old educational software that no longer benefits the school, but they are just obsolete from the standpoint of what teachers are able to do with them in the classroom. A veteran came by and picked up a couple to take to homebound vets who what to tinker with the old technology. A dad came by and picked up one for his son to play around with.

Look into it in your local area.

Another thing that I am starting to do it take apart old computer for spare parts before taking them to electronic recycling. This is the first time I am doing this. Some computers are really getting to the point where it doesn't pay to have a computer company fix the problem. This past weekend, a hard drive broke on one machine. I already had another machine with a bad monitor. The machine with the good monitor got the new drive, I also now have a spare CD drive, Mac battery, and RAM card.

The end...

Monday, October 8, 2007

K12 Online Conference Preconference Keynote

I enjoyed David Warlick's preconference keynote video. I was curious how the actual conference would work, since I never "attended" before. It looks like it's going to be interesting and thought provoking.

I agree that kids are much more adventurous about using anything related to computers. I do question how they view the tool. I hear people talk a lot about how tech savvy kids are, but they are savvy in a narrow bandwidth.

When I teach using a wiki, for instance, as a collaborative tool they have no problem getting into the page and editing. They really are more worried about "completing" the project than thinking about the connections with the other students. They don't really "see" the application of collaborating for any other purpose than "my teacher said to complete this project".

Last week, I got my sixth grade math students working on Classblogmeister. One child does have a Myspace and uses the blog section. He was surprised that the class blog was for work purposes. The rest of the class never used or viewed other people's blog before this class. On the other hand, 80% of this same class has played Internet games.

I think the long and short of it is that they see a computer no differently than we see a DVD. They can operate the DVD player, but we have to guide them to appropriate videos.

It will take a lot of guidance, on my part, to explain and teach the students how to collaborate on a project. In my Copyright, Plagiarism, Fair Use, Creative Commons project, I'm trying to given them the opportunity to collaborate with others and start the process of being a life long learner. As we continue down this path, I'm hoping that today's sixth graders will be much more comprehending of being interconnected learners.