Monday, June 30, 2008

NECC Remote

The NECC conversations are going on in San Antonio, Texas this week. I was unable to make the trip, but through the magic of the Internet I've been able to attend in a virtual sense.

How Do I Find Out What's Going On?
There are a number of different websites online that were set up in advance to help both those people on-site and those online to keep up with the information flow. The first site that has helped me is the NECClive wiki's Live Information page. There are a number of people who are using Ustream to show video streams of presentation that they are attending. They must have permission in advance.

The Full Sessions I've Attended
I have been able to listen in on and chat at Konrad Glogowski's session on Blogging. He spoke very clearly on the lessons he has learned in blogging with his students. I stumbled upon Derrall Garrison streaming a speed demo this afternoon. I was at the entire session at EduBloggerCon held by several folks called the Web 2.0 Smackdown. If you follow the link you can view the pre-recorded Ustream.

The Ustream Collection
I now have several Ustreams that I can wander through to see if anything is streaming. They include:
Will Richardson's
Derrall Garrison's
Jeff Utecht's

There are now several more listed on the NECClive wiki. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention EdStreamTV. This is where I initially found some video from EduBloggerCon.

The Live Blogs
I had the opportunity to live blog when I attended the conference in Princeton a while back. This past weekend, I spent some time with Alice Barr's Live Blog at the Web 2.0 Smackdown. Today I read Kristen Hokanson's Live Blog after the fact from a presentation she attended given by David Jakes and Dean Shareski about making PowerPoint more visual with students. It was titled The Power of PowerPoint. Her writing was a quick read with many useful tips.

The NECC Ning, Chatterous, Mogulus
I have not gone to the Ning, too much, but it is out there with photos, forums, and a whole lot more. There was a humongous chat going on in a Chatterous room Saturday courtesy of Bud the Teacher. He was also streaming at That's been pretty quiet today, too.

Do I Feel Like I'm Participating
I do. At both the Web 2.0 Smackdown and the speed demo, I was tagging the sites being described in delicious. If you'd like to see all the sites from the Smackdown - go to I only stumbled upon the speed demo, but for those links, go to

Do I Feel Like I'm Missing Out
Nothing will replace the camaraderie of meeting people in person, but I'm not missing out. I've spent a lot of time with my two sons playing Life and Monopoly. I've had a nice walk with my husband. I've taken care of some clean-up in my classroom. I'm enjoying the summer pace of life. Next year, NECC is in Washington, DC. I'll be there and I'm looking forward to it! So for now whether I Twitter, Plurk, use Ustream, Chatterous, or Mogolus I'm participating and enjoying the conference in my own way. This post is a useful way to keep track of all that I've found so far.

Glogowski, Konrad. "the teachandlearn retreat is ready for NECC!" teachandlearn's photostream. 23 June 2008. 30 June 2008.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

K12 Online Conference 2008

Participate in the free K12 Online Conference
The countdown has begun to the K12 Online Conference 2008. If you have never seen the offerings, jump on over to the K12 Online Conference 2007 schedule or the 2006 schedule.

It is a set of audio and/or video presentations on various topics relevant to Kindergarten through grade twelve educators created by educators. It is free. The materials continue to be archived and hosted so you can take advantage of the programs now.

Been There ... Done That
It might be time to consider writing a proposal for a prevention of your own. Think back over the course of the year. What do you have to share with the world? The theme is Amplifying Possibilities with four strands: Getting Started, Kicking It Up a Notch, Prove It, and Leading the Change.

The Deadline
The deadline has been extended to July 11, 2008 at midnight GMT. If you were thinking about submitting a proposal, but you thought the deadline had passed, you have another opportunity.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Way I Learned Has Changed

This week, I received an HP Tablet PC. I was just thinking about the difference between how I learned to use a Mac six years ago and what I've been doing this week.

Some Things Never Change
I have to put my hands on the tools. I'm trying to think about why I am good at what I do. At the same time, I wonder why some people find it more difficult. Part of the equation is that I like to play. When I learned that I was going to be teaching using Macs, my first question was: when can I bring one home to play? I am excited about using the tablet. When it arrived on Wednesday, the first thing I wanted to do was open it and find out how it works.

My Use of the Web Has Changed
Six years ago, I knew enough that there had to be training, tutorials, and articles online about using Macs to teach K-8 students. I don't know why - maybe the lack of a laptop and wireless Internet - but I printed reams of paper. I felt really guilty about throwing the paper out, too. I had a binder for each group of students I'd be teaching.

Now I have my social bookingmarking sites: delicious and Diigo. Now I don't have to worry about forgetting a useful site and I have a backup of my links at two different locations. I use Diigo to be a part of groups of educators. I use delicious for its simplicity. I believe I am learning along the way that a delicious account makes very little sense unless it is your own. I have now taught four different groups of adults about integrating technology in education. I'm not too sure about how intuitive either system is unless you create, tag, and maintain your own site. Does anyone have any feelings about this either way?

My Connections With Others Has Changed
The best I could do with the Mac was speak with the previous two teachers at the school. The other day, I asked my Twitter network for suggestions on open source software to put on the tablets and received a great set of ideas. Some I use all the time on the Mac and they would have been natural additions. Some were Windows applications. Even though we have two Windows desktops at home, I use games and Quicken on them for the most part. I am also being exposed to other people's bookmarks and have been saving blogs, podcasts, and other items related to tablets. I am receiving so many ideas.

Leading the Charge
I'm looking forward to my reflections here in a year. It's going to be an undeniable opportunity having a wireless lab full of 20 tablet PCs in the building. I am fully focused on gathering momentum in the school for the technology to spread out of the computer lab and past simple Internet research, Word documents and printouts.

Image Citation:
A photo of my lab back in November from my Flickr account.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Handout Wordle

I've been seeing the Wordle website being thrown back and forth on Twitter and in blogs recently. Now that it is the end of school, I've decided to check it out with a handout I gave to teachers at a training session this past Friday.I think I stressed what I intended: web connections and moving through Bloom's levels in projects.

Intro to the Read/Write Web
The class was based on the information I provided to some New Jersey teachers who are working toward their teacher certification. The gentleman who runs the alternate route course was very specific in saying that I should assume a certain comfort level with technology from those folks.

The teachers in my school have a different levels of comfort. They all have computers in the class, but our preschool classrooms do not yet have Internet access. The preschool classes also use older, donated machines.

Much as I did back in February, I did manage to have everyone take a survey. Before starting, I showed them the Middle Ages Tech Support video to remind them that all technology was new and scary at some point. Everyone used a wiki to brainstorm ideas for using technology. They took a look at the Wikis in Plain English video as a big picture of why people use wikis.

Again, similar to February, I took the teachers on a tour of the K12 Online Conference. I spoke again about Liz Kolb's Cell Phones as Classroom Tools presentation, Silvia Tolisano's Travel Through Space and Time, and Brian Crosby's Obstacles to Opportunities presentation. I really choked up talking about Brian's presentation. My sister didn't survive leukemia, and would have really loved to have attended class virtually. His story makes my heart full.

I followed this with Darren Draper's Pay Attention video. It appears that no one had seen it before. I asked them to talk with each other about it during the video, if it struck them to do so. I had them do a Think-Pair-Share afterwards. I need to become more adept at getting people talking afterward. No one seemed to want to volunteer comments afterwards.

Moving Up Through Bloom's Taxonomy
This is where I stepped away from February's class pattern. I would have liked to moved on to showing them other new tools, but instead spoke with them about how I use technology in the classroom to move the students up Bloom's Taxonomy.

I spotlighted several projects and tried to demonstrate how I attempted to engage students in reflection, analysis, and creation. I showed them the Monster Project, the Math Discussion Mental Math and Weight Voicethreads, and the Sixth Grade Population Density movie.

When They Left...
They took home a double-sided two-page handout, a account with all the links plus more, and the knowledge that we have agreed to take time after 1/2-day meetings for technology training. I know they felt like they were hit with a tidal wave of information. For those who choose, they are armed with enough information to begin their own exploration of teacher connections online.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Professional Development Meme

I was tagged by Andrea over at the EdTech Workshop blog for this Summer Professional Development meme. Started by Clif at Clif's Notes, I've given myself some time to think about three goals for the summer. His original directions are below.

The Goals
1. Learn to search EBSCO for current information on the Presidential election in preparation for introducing the concept to, at least, grades six to eight.
2. Learn to use the HP Tablet PC that I will be receiving some time next week and determine the software that I will use on the tablet.
3. Learn to use Discovery streaming Plus in anticipating of having it available in the school next year.

The Commitment
I am planning on writing about my progress throughout the summer, but no later than mid-September.

The Tag
Eight is a lot of people to tag in a meme. I will do my best. If meme tags are not your thing, just pass on it. If you were already tagged, just smile. I'll get back to all your blogs and see what your plans are for the summer.

Patti at A Second Grade Teacher's Blog
Nadine at Life Long Learning Blog
Linda at Nitsche Notes Blog
Dan at geek.teacher Blog
Anne at Tech Savvy Teacher Blog
Diane at Nexus Blog
Kimberly at Mrs. Vance Goes To School Blog
Caroline at Ed Tech Trek Blog

Now I have to go get busy!


Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2008 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules

  1. Pick 3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
  2. For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/01/08).
  3. Post the above directions along with your 3 goals on your blog.
  4. Title your post Professional Development Meme and link back/trackback to
  5. Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme.
  6. Tag 8 others to participate in the meme.
  7. Achieve your goals and "develop professionally."
  8. Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

Image Citation
Torres, Marco Antonio. "BLC07_037." torres21's photostream. 2007 Jul 17. 2008 Jun 14.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I <3 Computers and Math

One of my favorite things to see in my room is a student pick up a piece of chalk and leave a message like the image to the right behind.

My students and I worked very hard on many projects. Some were oldies but goodies that I do from year to year. Others were new and never tried before at my school. I'm getting ready to do a meme on professional development planned for the summer. Before I do, I wanted to reflect on this past year.

Math Class
I managed to get further in the chapters than last year. That's always a good thing. I had more students grasp the concept of multiplying and dividing fractions and mixed numbers, too.

This year, I pushed to do a few new bits on the technology integration side. I used David Warlick's fine Classblogmeister product to create a place of reflection for the students. We managed to use the site to contain research for decimal division and rounding.
  • On the upside: Most of the students managed to make the posts from home or during recess in the computer lab.
  • On the downside: We became involved in creating a movie about population density and I didn't assign any more questions for homework. As a result, there haven't been any posts to the blog in 2008.
We used Voicethread to capture images of items the students weighed on a digital scale. I created questions and had the students answer them as comments.
  • On the upside: The project became a joint project with Shaun in New Brunswick, Canada. We ended up commenting on his student's Mental Math Voicethread and they commented on ours. We had a Skype call between the two classes, too. It was a first for my students and I.
  • On the downside: A couple of students didn't get to weighing and photographing items. We had school canceled today due to heat when we were supposed to have a second Skype call. We end classes on Thursday and the other school is on a field day tomorrow, so it may not work out.
We created a movie using the iSight cameras built into our iMacs. The students needed more clarification on what population density was, why some numbers were so low, and why some numbers were so high. They made music in Garageband and voted via SurveyMonkey for the intro song and the closing credits song.
  • On the upside: It became a nice computer class project. I'd estimate that it took about six 42-minute periods to create. It will be something they can look back on.
  • On the downside: I'm not sure that all the students "get" population density, yet. Not all students returned permission slips, so I had to edit in some images and text to the presentation to replace the missing students. I made sure to save the movies as .mov files and my SMS Computer Podcasts page on Podomatic insists on changing them to .mp4. Right now I'm uploading to Teachertube to see what happens. I might end up uploading to Youtube as well.
For the second year in a row, I had the students create metric music songs to demonstrate what they knew about length, mass, and capacity in metric measures.
  • On the upside: It is a great project around Christmas to keep the students focused on math. The quality was better than last year because I gave better directions. We had the blog to store all the songs.
  • On the downside: It was better than last year, but there are still some knowledge gaps in metric measurement concepts.

I created some study casts with audio and a matching video set with slides at the beginning of the year to help students review for tests and quizzes.
  • On the upside: I did it and a student or two looked at them.
  • On the downside: I was not able to get all the students to see them. One father told his daughter it was because the files were .mp4 and not .mov or .mp3. I never took the time to fully figure it out. I would try again, though.

Computer Class
There is a world of reflection that I will do later in the week about computer class. With grades Kindergarten to eight to reflect on, I'll save it for a different post. I do love computers and math, myself!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Podcasting Practicalities

I've been learning, over the course of the year, how to get podcasts together in a most expeditious and usable-for-students manner. I am not sure how practical all the steps are, but it seems to be what works best for me. Use the steps or suggest changes, I'm open to making the process more streamlined.

Garageband '08
I use Garageband since it is a very easy product for my students and I. I have taught grades four through eight how to use Garageband this year and they love it.

Once the recording is complete and I edit it for little mistakes
, I am ready to export it as an AIF file. Why, you ask? Because I found a program called Levelator. It levels out the audio from one speaker to the next in a podcast.

Some students speak soft, others loud, so this evens everything out.
The Levelator requires a WAV or AIF file, so this extra step becomes necessary.

It couldn't be a simplier program to use. Drag and drop a file onto the interface's little black rectangle and it places a new file with a .output extension in the folder with your original file.

Open the File in iTunes
I open the file in iTunes and get ready to jump through another hoop. This one involves choosing the file and selecting from the menu Advanced - Convert Selection to AAC. This gives me a .m4a file. I ran into headaches with this earlier in the year when I was creating math review podcasts for my students. Not every student could play that file type at home. So... on to the next hoop.

Upload the file to Zamzar and Convert
It seem like everyone can play .mp3 files. I use Zamzar because it is free and quick. I do use the website a fair amount, so I did make a donation to them a while back. I also received a very nice thank you email from them. I find my .m4a file on my hard drive, choose to convert to .mp3 and supply my email address. A short while later, a link appears to my new .mp3 file. It disappears in one day, so I try to complete this step when I'm not pressed for time.

Upload the File to Podomatic
I'm in the clear at this point. I started a Podomatic account earlier this year. Again, free is good. I have 500MB of storage and I'm only at about 12% capacity after a year's worth of work. I am contemplating going pro for the better statistics and ad-free page.

When I started the account, I created an RSS feed to the page. My students can access all the podcasts by typing SMS Computer at the iTunes store.

For Those Without iTunes
With the end firmly in site, I make a link to the podcasts on my classroom wiki. I have a link to the classroom wiki on my Schoolnotes page. The students are usually very good at finding the Schoolnotes page since almost every teacher keeps one for homework assignments.

So There You Have It
A lot of steps, that may seem redundant, but it is working for me. I also end up with three ways that the students can find the files.

Any thoughts?

Image Citation
Chan, Kelly. "iPod gathering." nikitac's photostream. 2005 Oct 28. 2008 June 2.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Voicethread's Nod to Education

I received the following newsletter in my email the other day:
Hello VoiceThreaders,

In this newsletter we've got a special offer, an article in Edutopia, and a look at the new export feature.

Get the summer free! If you're thinking about starting a class or school subscription on Ed.VoiceThread, our secure K-12 network, now is the time. Any class or school subscription that begins before June 30th will be extended through August 31st of 2009. That means the rest of this school year and the summer are free if you start now. Visit our K-12 pricing page for more info.


VoiceThread was recently featured on The article highlights what educators and students already love about VoiceThread - that student enthusiasm for the tool fosters more prolific and thoughtful participation in classroom discussions. Bill Ferriter, a North Carolina educator and blogger found that VoiceThread gives his 6th grade students new opportunities to engage with social studies curriculum, breaking learning barriers like timidity, boredom, or one way teacher-student communication. In a recent assignment on conflict in Darfur, Ferriter noticed, "Because it's so motivating to the kids already, they're willing to do those bits of writing I could probably never get them to do in class." Read more on Edutopia.

Archival Exports

You can now export VoiceThreads! Any class or student VoiceThread can be exported to a movie that can be burned onto a DVD or shared offline with parents. All educators can order archival exports at 50% off, $10 for 10 exports. All annual class subscriptions include 30 exports, while schools get one for each user account.

In other exciting news, VoiceThread was a winner on CNET's Webware 100 contest! We are quite sure it was because of our educators. We really appreciate the support you've given us and we plan to continue innovating based on your feedback. Thanks again!


The VoiceThread Team

p.s. We've had some great feedback about VoiceThread being used by Special Education educators and have had requests by parents and educators for more information. If you have experience or advice that you think would be valuable to share, please tell us in this discussion in our forum. Thanks very much.
On re-reading the letter, I realize you have to purchase a classroom subscription for $60. Back in March I had written with hope that Voicethread would be able to provide educators with the ability to have free downloads of Voicethreads. 30 downloads are more than ample for the work I do with my students.

I still wish that the company would run a promotion to allow educators to sign up for a free for the year classroom account if you sign up for the account before June 30. But, now I know that I can have 30 downloads included in the price.