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.