Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: My lab has all the computers set up where they belong. I cleaned the surfaces of the tables. I have my bulletin boards 80% set up, the school installed FIOS. I updated some of the machine's software over the Internet on Tuesday and it was really zippy.

The Bad: The Internet was down all day and I have to wait until they come to the school to see why.

The Ugly: My machines couldn't connect to the server on OS X and I don't know why it would be related to the Internet being down, but the OS 9 machines and the eMacs with OS X can connect. Yesterday, a teacher WAS able to connect to the server from her OS X machine, but today she can't. I just want to hope that the Internet being down is the culprit.

I came in with boundless energy for setting up the room and to finish updating the OS but left with a sinking feeling. School starts next week and I thought I was a ready for the year but I may have some serious troubleshooting if the Internet comes up and I still can't attach to the server. If the Internet comes up and I get the server back, do I lose the server every time the Internet's down? Big sigh...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Light Goes On

I had a friend come over yesterday. She teaches eighth grade English. She kindly sat through a presentation that I'm scheduled to give in January. It is about Integrating Technology and is aimed at teachers in an alternate route program.

I learned a lot. I've immersed myself in the Web 2.0 technology over the summer. My goal is to have the teachers discuss what should be "old" technologies and show them what's new. I am using Karl Fisch's Did You Know 2.0 as an opener and plan on having a Think-Pair-Share. It was interesting to watch her watch the video. She couldn't stop talking as the slides went on.

Then I introduced her to a wiki that I created to integrate all my planned discussions. I learned, right off, that I need to show the CommonCraft video before I even get into the wiki as background. Once she saw that, she was ready to learn how to edit. I also learned that I should explain to the teachers that right now we were just going to use it as a tool and that a little later on I would show them how teachers are using it in the classroom. We're going to create a living document on the best uses of "old" technology through a modified carousel brainstorming activity.

Next, I plan to lead the teachers through an overview of wikis, social networks, blogs, rss feeders, TeacherTube/ YouTube, podcasts and social bookmarks. I was going to make it a jigsaw activity, but I now believe it will be better to talk through each tool, then have everyone break into groups and try tools (as a jigsaw), then have everyone share what they saw that interests them.

I'll end with the Pay Attention video which is a recap plus of Did You Know 2.0.

She really wanted a handout. I'm planning on pointing the teachers to my account and she seemed ok with that, but she so wanted paper. It's funny.

All in all, I feel like I'm aiming in the right direction. I'll have about 3 hours in January and I think it will work out. The last thing I now plan on doing is setting up a ning for the teachers who are in this program. My friend's excited. She went from "why would you ever read a blog" to seeing its value. To reading an entry all the way through for her own sake. She went from "networks, where would I ever find the time" to hoping to find a ning for English Lit teachers - especially if they teach in eighth grade and really, really if they have to pass the NJ state tests. I'll look forward to seeing what questions she has and where her interests take her.

Image Citation:
Jansson, Stefan. “Lightbulb Sunset....” Steffe's Photostream. 17 Apr 2005. 28 Aug 2007.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wiki Prep

I have my wikis preped for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I am going to have the sixth grade create a scribe wiki. I know a lot of people are creating scribe posts (example one and two), but I think this will work better for me. Last year, I started the sixth grade off with some questions regarding math, and I'll do that again this year.

The seventh and eighth grade are going to research the ideas of plagiarism, copyright, and creative commons. I am going to pair them up across classes so that we can learn how to collaborate without being in the same room. They already typed in a wiki last year. This year I want to develop the ideas of collaboration and discussions.

Next up, I want to determine how I'm going to include the fifth grade.

Image Citation:
Hitchcock, Jeff. “Stone Scribe.” Arbron's Photostream. 27 Jul 2007. 26 Aug 2007.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thanks Coolcatteacher

I read a reference to this in the Coolcatteacher blog, tested it, and wow, a whole new lesson from toondoo.


I love KidPix for grades K-8. I have used it at every level for so many different creations. You can go right up Bloom's Taxonomy with the program. As I was getting ready for September, it occurred to me that I wished I had access to ideas for KidPix when I got started. So, I decided to create a Wikispace and learned someone had already chosen I contacted the owner to get access to the space (as was suggested), but haven't heard back yet. In the meanwhile, I've created to keep my own list of projects I tend to do on a annual basis. Eventually, I can link to it from the other wiki. As I teach over the course of the year, I will keep adding my projects. It's very skimpy now, but it will be filled by June. What fun!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Expanding Student's Search Excellence

A podcast caught my attention this week. Teachers Teaching Teachers have a series going on about public search databases. It's something that I have to work up a lesson plan for this year. We talk about different search engines, the library, and being critical of information in web sites.

I sort of knew that there were public databases. I had even been to my local library's web site, but never took the time to click the link for our state's free(!) databases.

The really cool thing going on at Teachers Teaching Teachers is that they are creating a Google Notebook of state database. They are asking whoever wants to participate to locate and use their state database and compare it to what they find elsewhere on the Internet.

This is yet another great opportunity for me to expand my student's horizons this year.

Image Citation:
“Public Library Entrance.” Yuan2003's Photostream. 15 Aug 2007. 20 Aug 2007.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tag Cloud on the Side

I also found some easy code to install a tag cloud on the side of the screen at this blog. It's a nice way to keep track of everything.

Getting Ready for Outages

I've started preparing some videos that I want to show from TeacherTube and YouTube at school. I want to avoid the problems of streaming, buffering, and potential Internet down time when I want them.

When I'm over at TeacherTube, I can click the Download button and get the .FLV file. After a bit of searching, I found a web site called Zamzar which converts between all sorts of file types. I found it a bit more work to convert the YouTube videos, but then I noticed a different link at Zamzar which let's me type in a URL from YouTube, and it gets the video out of the page and converts it in one step.

Now I can just copy the Quicktime movies onto my memory stick and play the videos without fear of Internet glitches.

Image Citation:
“Alaska Pipeline.” ShamrockTattoo's Photostream. 29 Jan 2007. 14 Aug 2007 .

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Notice: Window to the Edublogger World

I was looking at the e-Learning Blog by Julie Lindsay and learned about an online conference. I wish I could do it, but I'm unavailable all day. I'll be out there living life, but I'll wish I had computer access. I'll just have to catch up with the trails left online. I also found an Edubloggerworld wiki and got access to make entries on the wiki. There is also a tagging standard set up for the conference. I'll probably make an entry the night before although you're supposed to create the entry on August 23. So check out Julie's link above for more information.

I'm getting close to the start of school and can't wait to put some new things into action. I've seen how much kids who use MySpace love surveys. So...I signed up for a free account at surveymonkey. I'll start the computer class off with a survey for grades five to eight. We'll use the data for creating charts to display on the walls. It'll make a quick display in time for Back to School night. I'll probably lead the math class to creating their own survey at some point during the first three weeks of school.

I'm still working through the final details on how I'm going to present the wiki and blogging to the sixth grade math class. All I know is that I want to use it for the kids to discuss math (blog) and keep track of the contents of each class (wiki). I read somewhere on Darren Kuropatwa's blog for his studen'ts about how many exposures it takes to really learn something. I'm hoping to give the students two extra avenues to reflect, review, and learn our math concepts. I also want it to be more than an electronic version of a paper activity. I want to reach the higher levels of learning on the continuum and look forward to getting them to think on a level that is higher than recall of facts.

Finally, I keep going over and over where I want to take the wikis in computer class. Last year, I almost used them as a survey machine. It got the kids used to editing the wiki. This year, I will probably have them collaborate with a "sister" class. In at least fifth, sixth, and seventh, there are two of each class. I'll be able to have them collaborate on the same topic. In this way, I can get them to use the discussion feature. I'm still deciding on the topics, but I want to generate analysis and the creation of something new. So, I keep searching for ideas on the web and thinking.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No Matter How Easy It Seems...

I've been playing around with Wikispaces for at least six months now. I taught sixth and seventh graders how to update a wiki. Last night I was showing four "grown ups" how to start an account for a school event. I realized that while it is easy to edit one page once everything is all organized there are a lot of considerations when starting up from ground zero.

So far, I've set up the wiki pages and had the students sign on with pre-made accounts.

Last night I got experience in having to walk people through creating new user names, creating a wiki from scratch, and associating all users with the wiki since it is not going to be pubic at this point. There were four people and four different reactions. It ranged from "ok, no big deal that's easy" to "I don't know if I can do this".

All in all, I am happy with the overall reaction. They are happy to have a collaborative workspace. They think it will help them going into the future. So now, I'm going to think through a few more details for working with adults. I also think I am going to have the older students make one from scratch.

Thank you also to David Warlick for his modeling of photo credits.

Image Citation:
Lunazzi, Paolo. “Light #2.” Blakie's Photostream. 10 Jan 2006. 14 Aug 2007 .

Monday, August 13, 2007

Presenting to Teachers

I have two different groups of teachers that I will be presenting to this year. In one instance, I will be interacting with new teachers about Technology in Education for about 2 1/2 hours. I wanted to pull together information in a way that the teachers could interact with wikis while sharing and learning about old and new technologies. In the second instance, I will be giving the teachers at my school a five minute talk/ overview during the school staff meeting and I want them to have resources to explore on their own. I tied the two wikis together. Hopefully it will work well while pointing the teachers to so many resources I found over the course of this summer.

If you have a social network you'd be willing to share, or a wiki, blog, or other site that you use or have created either for teachers or with or for students, let me know. I'd love to include it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Videos For School

This morning when I was going through things I have in Google Reader, I came across a link to a Google Video. I have had students talk in class about how Google keeps information about everyone in a file. This video can explain it all in lay language. Afterwards, we can discuss anything the kids don't understand. The link was from the Commoncraft blog's links that the Google Reader picked up. If you haven't seen them yet, Commoncraft has several outstanding videos about RSS in Plain English, Wikis in Plain English, and Social Bookmarking in Plain English. The are short, to the point, and fun.

Next, I learned about Flickr from Jeff Utecht. I heard about his blog, The Thinking Stick, when I was listening to a podcast and decided to check it out. All in all, a great day for learning and preparing for next year.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gems in Blogs

I wander through blogs. Partially because I will be teaching teachers about technology over the course of the year and partially because I learn so much. I came across a great wiki in the works called The First Day Wiki by reading a blog that I can't really tell you the path that I followed. There are some very good things in the General page already.

Working on All Burners

Today I've spent more time thinking through how I'm going to use the tools that I have generated. I now have a Classblogmeister set up. It works differently from Blogger, but the advantage of having a protected area will make it worthwhile.

Last year, I assigned chapter closure problems. They propose a problem for the student to solve and it requires them to write about how they think through the problem with others and by themselves. It also asks them to solve the problem step by step and describe why they do things the way they do. It finally asks them to tell me what they learned about math, and themselves as mathematicians.

I will give them the class blog to write about the problems. I still have time to decide how they will use it and how it will work with the grade. I am also going to ask them to journal their thoughts on math.

I am now creating a wiki page that I am going to call Math Class at a Glance. It is going to be what the blog was originally intended. Each class, someone will be chosen to write about what was learned in class that day including what the bellwork was, what was taught and practiced, and the homework assignment. I will give students the ability to update the wiki entries for bonus points on tests based on the grade they received.

This is all very much under construction, but I believe it will prove useful.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Moving Ahead with Wikis

Joining the Classroom 2.0 ning has already paid great dividends. My first discussion post generated information that I sorely needed. Now I can plan on using Wikispaces without having to worry about having each child having an email id to create an account.

I would like to sign up with Classblogmeister, but I have a feeling that you need to have backing from a school district. Since I'm at a small private school, I'm not sure what to do. I guess I'll keep with the idea of using blogger. Maybe I'll just sign on at the start of class and have the students take turns writing at the end of class. It won't be just what I wanted, but if it was tied into a wikispace it should work just fine.

I'm working on a template to use with my teachers at school. I want to try to use a wiki for a carousel brainstorming activity. I want them to answer questions and move around the room from computer to computer instead of moving from flip chart to flip chart. It will give the teachers a few minutes to talk together about several different ways they have used computer and get to update a wiki at the same time.

I have a lot of plans for the year. It will be interesting to see where I get over time.

Yeah! I've gotten set up with classblogmeister. I've just started poking around in it, but it looks very promising. I should be all ready for September. I was beginning to worry that I would have to make it more abbreviated, but now I'm full steam ahead!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Podcasting in Progress

I found a very nice guide to creating a podcast if you have an Apple. It walked me through the GarageBand and iTunes steps. Now I have to upload the file somewhere. They suggested uploading it to a weblog and then creating an iTunes link for it. More to come... I found ccPublish to store the file on Internet It's up there. I can play it and bring it into iTunes as music, but I want to see it as a podcast.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Four Week Dash

I just got back from two weeks of travel up to Niagara Falls, over to Vermont and New Hampshire, then down through Massachusetts, Connecticut, and finally back to New Jersey. I met some incredible people at various museums and historic landmarks. Several outstanding tours include the Seward House in Auburn, New York where we learned that there was more to William Seward than memorizing Seward's Folly. Our tour guide was a gentleman who started as a gardener at the house 30 years ago. He showed us a man who was at the right hand of Abraham Lincoln. In the Fort Klock Homestead in St. Johnsville, New York we learned about a fortified house that was restored by a group of musket-loving gentlemen from a Klock decedent. We had a thrilling trip on the Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire. We loved both sides of Niagara Falls, but really treasured the Cave of the Winds tour on the American side as we felt the power of the falls in our face from the Bridal Veil falls.

I brought along my iPod and had a chance to listen to some of the Women of the Web podcasts as I was settling down for the night. It is a great source for gathering my thoughts on the coming school year. As I was thinking about the coming year, I decided it was time to change my personal school web page to a wiki. There are a number of reasons: it takes less steps to log on and make changes, I have tremendous troubles with editing with Verizon's online on my iBook and iMacs, and somehow my Verizon account got all fouled up with its count of how much space I am really using so I have to be careful of how I FTP files so that their computer "thinks" I have enough space.

I was going to redo the files using NVU and then FTP them, but that would have taken a lot of time. So, yesterday I bit the bullet and opened two windows, one for the wiki and one for the original web page. I created it at 8:30 in the morning and finished by 3:30 with a breakfast and lunch break. So it was, maybe, five hours of work. I doubt that I would have finished that quick creating static web pages.

Sometime this week, I'm going to do the same for my math web pages.

Now begins the four week dash to solidify my direction for K-8 computers. This begins my sixth year. After the change from OS 9 to OS X in the lab, this year should be so much easier. I like to take time to review what I did last year and determine what I'd like to add this year. It's nice to have this blog to keep a record of work for the future.