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.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


I'm so old as far as using computers go. I'm so new as far as web 2.0 tools go though. I ran into Wikispaces last winter and used it tentatively around March 2007. I go to Women of the Web 2.0 podcast tapings/ chats when it fits into my schedule with my boys homework, etc. on Tuesday nights.

I keep hearing how people are keeping up with so much via Twitter. So I started sorting through people I "know" through their blogs and various podcasts I've picked up and enjoyed. I must admit it feels a bit strange to just click on a person and start following them, but everyone says "just do it", so that's what I'm doing.

If I've started following you in Twitter, it's because I'm so impressed with what I see you write, or hear you contribute. I know that my interaction with you all is changing and improving both my K-8 computer classes and math classes.

I'm planning on teaching a group of about 300 new teachers about integrating technology into their classroom around early February. I hope that with all your help, I'll be giving them so much more than I got out of the same session last year.

Since I teach in a private school, I really wasn't required to get my state certification. I wanted to be prepared for anything I want to do in NJ so I completed the state certification last year. I was very complimented when the head of the program asked me to come on board and present this year.

So, I'm getting on board with Twitter. Thank you for helping me even if you don't know who I am!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Programming Languages and Kids

I didn't start life as a programmer. I did take several programming classes in the local community college. I'll date myself by saying I had a BASIC course on Apple // computers and was excited when the //e came out. I also took COBOL, Fortran, and audited a Pascal course.

As a lab technician, I helped other students figure out syntax and logic errors in the programs, even assembly language which I never had as a course. I had no fear of programming. An adjunct professor scooped me up and I landed a job as a Programmer/ Technician at a national company. I didn't program, I taught people how to use Word and Excel. I learned a programming language of sorts called Mapper and taught the business folks how to generate their own reports.

When I started teaching children, I always thought that programming can lead to more ordered thinking. I wanted to teach some sort of programming language. Enter HyperStudio. It was a program that had already been purchased by the school before I arrived there. Built into HyperStudio was HyperLogo. I dabbled in Logo in college when I taught a College for Kids course. It was fun in HyperStudio, and easy. Enter OS X. I dragged HyperStudio along by running OS 9 in the background. Enter the Intel chip. HyperStudio wouldn't run in native OS X. So I found ACSLogo. It is a free program and I do like it, but I really only dedicate four or so sessions to the programming language. So the kids who like it never really get to far and there are kids who just don't get along with programming.

I've been seeing Scratch on the Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog. I finally downloaded it and ran through a bit of the tutorial. I think I'm hooked. I can't wait until I get further than scratching the surface. Go MIT.

K12 Online Conference Meme

I printed this flyer and spoke about the online conference at the teacher's meeting after school today. I told them that I heard about this conference last year after the event had occurred. It is sitting on the table with the teacher sign in sheet and I told them to ask questions and I'd help find answers.

This brings me to the meme that is floating around. The directions from the K12 Online Conference 2007 say:

If you are new to memes–when you are tagged– simply create a blog post where you link to this flickr photo. Then write your 3 reasons and then tag several others who will do the same thing. After you tag someone in your post, please email them to let them know so they can help spread the word.
Here are my three things I hope to gain from the conference:

1. I'll have tangible examples I can come back to again and again.
2. "Meet" others who are experts.
3. It's free and I don't even have to leave the house.

I tag anyone who reads this post and wishes to add their top three reasons to attend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Spreading the New Tools Around

It's been an exhausting day. I had one class of seventh graders add to the copyright wiki today. They're getting the hang of editing. We worked on the idea of using the tabs in Firefox. We used to use Safari. The next class, they will work on plagiarism, fair use, and uploading the avatars.

Two sixth grade classes made their first comment on the rules for blogging on my page. They also wrote their first article on how they've used the tools I have available for math class. They did the actual blog work in computer class with me, though. I teach K-8 computers and two sections of sixth grade math. Almost everyone wrote that they thought Classblogmeister was easy to use, but I spent two 42-minute periods in a row jogging around the room getting everyone settled. One student took his password home and blogged from home and added a picture.

It's coming along. All I know for sure is that I must get the fifth graders blogging by the end of the school year so that when I get them in sixth grade math, they'll already know how to use the tool.

Thrown into the mix was also the completion of a Kid Pix project in grade two and Kindergarten.

I had the opportunity to share Letterpop with a teacher. She wants her students to write a newsletter when they complete their daily work. I'm hopeful it will do the job she wants. I've seen some people write about being happy with this free online tool to create newsletters.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wiki Comments and Tags

The students seem to like receiving comments on the wiki. I tried to tag an entry in Wikispaces, but now I need to find out how I can search for a tag. This way, I can bring up all the great entries on one screen to talk about them in class.

It's really nice to be able to sit at home and review all the work of the day by going through my email. This is another plus of the wiki. They do seem to be getting a little more of the idea of what copyright is.

I'm going to start the kids on the topic of plagiarism later in the week. I think I'm also going to introduce them to and/or VoiceThread as a tie-in to what they are learning. That should add a fun element to the project too.

Monday, October 1, 2007

To Be or Not To Be a Video Podcast

I've come a long way since the end of the last school year. I not only learned how to use iTunes with or without an iPod, I can create podcasts. I still need to do a lot of documentation of the process.

Last weekend, I really rushed to put together a video and audio podcast for my math class. I found out the first time around that if I wanted the video podcast to download to the iPod, it had to be in MPEG-4 format.

Today, we are off from school, and I was trying to figure out why my video podcast wasn't on my iPod. When I went into iTunes to compare the files, I found out that even though I saved it in MPEG-4 format, it was using a H-264 video codec. So...I just resaved it and uploaded it to my podomatic account. Now, I have to do the final tests. It should be fine. Also, it seems like it takes 24 hours, or overnight, or something for iTunes to sync up with the RSS feed.

Live and learn.