Saturday, November 29, 2008

Maximize Your Blogspot Wordle

In my previous post's comment area, Andrea Hernandez asked how I was able to include all my blog posts in my Wordle. Changing some of my Blogger settings enabled me to have a wider view of all the words in my posts.

First Change the Settings
I signed in to Blogger and went to the Settings tab, then c
hose the Formatting link. I have my Show option set to display the last 30 days of posts. The setting can be switched between number of days and number of posts. I could see from my postings that I had 75 posts in 2007 and 80 in 2008. I set my Show option to 155 posts. You can have a maximum of 500 posts displayed.

Next Get Wordle Busy

Next, I went to and entered my blog's URL into the second box on Wordle's create screen.

Capture the Image and HTML
When the Wordle image is created, they give you a piece of code to include in your blog or other website. It was smaller than I wanted, so I captured the screen using command+shift+4 on my Mac.

The code they provide looks like this:

I needed to change the reference for the image's source from
Wordle's file server to the image I would upload to Blogger. I resized it using Gimp to 480 x 360. In Blogger, I used the Add Image icon on the Compose toolbar. Looking behind the scenes in the Edit Html tab, I could see the code generated by Blogger for that image. It made it more complex than I do when I hand code HTML, but I knew what I was looking for. Here is a sample of the code Blogger generates:

I was looking for the letters SRC to tell me the new source of the image I just uploaded. I have SRC highlighted in turquoise. I had to highlight everything from the HTTP to the PNG part, not including the quote marks. I copied that and pasted it over the same information in Wordle's HTML.

Now I had it displayed in a bigger size and it still links to the Wordle saved image.

More Than You Asked For
As I was doing this earlier tonight, I thought the second half of this explanation would be worth doing sometime, so I did this part for myself.

Just remember to go back and set the Show option on the Settings tab back to your usual setting so you don't slow down the page load for the people who come to visit your blog.

Tag - You're It

A few days ago, Lee Kolbert at A GeekyMomma's blog started a meme. She made a Wordle out of her blog's RSS feed. I liked the idea, but adjusted it so that it picked up all my blog posts instead of just the RSS feed's seven items.

Finding Out You're Tagged

Today I was looking at Technorati reactions through my Google Reader feed. I found out that I was tagged for the meme by Kevin Jarrett at his Welcome to NCS-Tech blog.

When I first started blogging, the only way I would find out I was tagged for a meme was if I happened upon the post or the person who tagged m
e told me. Over time, I learned about Google Reader and setting up various searches to keep up with posts pointing to my work on the web.

Technorati can seem like a vanity item at first, but it has so many other uses. One of those uses is the Search field. I typed my blog URL in the search box. It generates an RSS feed that can be included in Google Reader as a subscription.

This morning, I saw this in my reader:

My Wordle and the Meme's Rules
1. Create a Wordle from your blog's RSS feed.
2. Blog it and describe your reaction. Any surprises?
3. Tag others to do the same.
4. Be sure to link back here and to where you were first tagged.

I modified my RSS feed to temporarily include my last 200 posts instead of the usual seven. Since I only have about 175 posts, it includes every post I've written since starting NJ Tech Teacher Musings.

My Reactions
I'm not too surprised. My posts are more about what I do with students, projects that work and need rework, and a lot of reflection for future attempts at projects in the classroom. The students are at the heart of it all. I work with all types of software both purchased and open source from Microsoft Office to Open Office, Kid Pix to the Gimp, iMovie, GarageBand, Scratch, and many others. I want the students to learn how to give presentations that are interesting and effective. I want the students to be able to tell a story. I take a fair number of surveys to learn what the students think about our work.

Tag - You're It
I would like to tag the following people. As Kevin said in his post, there is no need to do this if you are not interested. I enjoy completing memes if I have the time. Full disclosure: I did this instead of creating the lesson plans for the week.

Vicky Sedwick
Jan Smith
Patti Harju
Michelle Russell
Bonnie Kaplan

Let the game continue...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Word Projects on My Wiki

When I first started teaching computer class in grades Kindergarten (five year old students) to eight (14 year old students), I really didn't use much word processing.

My First Year
I clearly remember one of my fifth grade boys literally crying and asking why I couldn't type a small paragraph for him. His mom did all his typing. He came back recently for a visit. He's now in his second year in high school. He remembers too.

As we were talking, my fourth grade students were busily typing a paragraph in Word. They had just learn to use the Tab key to set up a "proper heading" on their paper.

My Seventh Year
I was speaking with the current fifth grade teacher. We were talking about the grades for computer class. I do many different projects, but I always take a look at their word processing skills when pulling together their grades. As a whole, the class had great grades the first marking period. I was reflecting on the difference. I think it is because I have been starting word processing lessons earlier and earlier with the students. As of five years ago, I began to include more word processing lessons as early as Kindergarten. These are the first students who have really benefited.

My Goal for 2008-2009
Last year, my goal was to gather most of my Kid Pix lessons on my wiki. I still have a few more to include as I add new things to the program each year and tweak and improve old lessons. This year, my goal is to gather most of my Word lessons on the same wiki. It's nothing particularly Earth shattering, but I'm becoming quite happy with the results.

I added a lesson for the second grade this year about fonts. I even wrote a poem for them to highlight and adjust. Seven years ago, I saw this type of lesson as something a middle school student should start to learn. As I continue to rethink my work, second grade seems more appropriate. I haven't presented the lesson yet, I still want to make something interactive for my Activboard. When I have the slides complete, I'll post more thoughts.

Image Citation:
Forks, Brittany. "Crawfy is word processing." Kilobyte Couture's photostream. 28 Nov 2008. 22 Jan 2007.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Net Day Speak Up

Last year I heard about Net Day Speak Up, but it was too late to do much about it. When I heard it was survey time again, I chose to get started.

My Reluctance
I am slightly uncomfortable with having students take surveys without previewing them first. Happily, I have two children in the school. They work as my guinea pigs. I have had students take surveys using the iSafe website and I really haven't been back there since. Too many questions dealing with predators and predator behaviors.

The Survey is Thorough
It took about 20-40 minutes for the students to complete the survey. The sixth through eighth grade survey has just shy of thirty questions. The survey from grade three to five has about 25 questions. I am not sure if the fourth graders will be able to complete the survey in one class period. Kindergarten through second can take an individual or group survey. I think I will do it as a group. It will be interesting to lead the discussion with the Net Day Speak Up lesson plan.

Notes to the Teachers and Parents
I've created a small document to solicit the help of the teachers and parents. It will serve as both directions to the survey and a promotion of what we've been doing. I don't do as good a job as I could informing the parents of all the work we do. In this letter, I'll be pointing them to our classwork on my wiki and our delicious links.

What Will I Gain?
I will have access to free, aggregated school results. After reviewing the data, I will better able to decide if this will be an activity I will repeat in future years. At the very least, I hope to be better prepared to lead the school body forward in years to come.

Image Citation:
"The surveying ladies..." liz_com1981's photostream. 18 Nov 2008. 8 Apr 2008.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In My eMail Box Today

I liked the sentiment, but hate forwarding these types of emails. So, read along:

The Charlie Schulz Philosophy

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the straight through, and you'll get the point.

1 Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2 Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3 Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.

4 Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5 Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6 Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. The applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1 List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2 Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3 Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4 Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special!!

5 Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money...or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Film School in Session

Last Friday, I spent the best sixteen minutes of my K12 Online Conference with Film School for Video Podcasters by Matthew Needleman. Not only did I benefit, but so did my eighth grade students.

Attention Grabbing
Matthew modeled great video podcasting. He opened with an intriguing story in images. Shot like a 1940's movie, I was drawn into his subject. As the presentation progressed, I was struck by the high quality of the video. Watching Matthew discuss his tips, I felt like I was watching a TCM interview with a director. He talks about storyboards, choosing shots, and the rule of thirds. There are many other hints along the way.

Why Show Students
My eighth grade students are working on a project tied into the annual DAR writing competition. This year's essay is based on the Gettysburg Address. After reviewing the first draft, the social studies teacher was concerned with the writing of some of the students. I suggested that the eighth grade could produce a series of short films for the sixth and seventh grade students.

The Video's Premise
I outlined the following for the students: In groups of three students, write a short newscast from 1863. You can either pretend: a) that you use time travel to go back to 1863 or b) that video interviews could be given in 1863. You will have one group member be the reporter. The other two will be people who were eyewitnesses to the event. We will be able to show the videos to the younger students. Hopefully, they will gain some additional insight into the speech from the perspective of farmers, soldiers, nurses, doctors, and wives of the men of the time. In order to prepare for the presentation, we looked at a sample of a newscast from Discovery streaming. It was a 1958 clip about President Eisenhower's wedding anniversary. Additionally, I wanted the students to see what could be done with images and sound. I followed the Eisenhower clip with a reading of the Gettysburg Address.

Eye on the Story
The students had worked on their story in Word for one class. When I saw the Film School for Video Podcasters session, I knew that my students would benefit. I chose the section on storyboards and the section on the rule of thirds. I could tell that they were drawn into the video. They were very attentive to what Matthew was saying. There was one boy who was literally sitting on the edge of his seat, leaning into the presentation. At the end of the rule of thirds section, he said "Wow, that's so interesting, I never heard that before".

Reality of the Storyboard
The students are still struggling with the idea of needing to storyboard their work. One of the students asked if they still needed to create the storyboard if they knew what they were going to do. I asked him if he knew what he wanted to do and he said yes. I asked him if the other two students in his group knew what he wanted to do, and he still thought the answer was yes. I told them that I still expected a storyboard, even if they didn't use it entirely in the recording of the video.

My Video Podcasting Past
Each time I create a video podcast, I learn something new. My videos have really been more like screencasts so far. The only full video I have created with students is a Population Density video from the sixth grade math class I taught last year. You can see how the rule of thirds was not even a thought in our mind. The students are centered in most shots and it is visually very boring.

Gettysburg In-House
The movies are going to remain in-house productions. I am not going to have the time to have the students find all copyright friendly images. If any videos can be put online, I'll explain it in a future post.

In the Meanwhile
If you have any interest in creating video podcasts, currently make movies with students, or create video podcasts with them - this presentation is for you. Spend a fantastic 16:31 minutes with Matthew and your videos will be on the road to being more interesting and take your student's work to the next level. Get ready to kick it up a notch.

Image Citation:
Needleman, Matthew. Film School for Video Podcasters K12 Online Presentation. 2008 October 31.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Something You Probably Don't Know About Me

My seventh grade students are in the middle of creating a presentation. It is a project that I schedule every year. I call it "Something You Probably Don't Know About Me".

The Skills for This Project
This is the fourth year the seventh graders have created PowerPoint presentations. Each year, from fourth grade on, I try to keep the students focused on using an image to provide a focal point for the audience's attention. It is their job to use the Notes section of the screen to provide information or tell a story. Mechanically, they do not have a difficult time pulling together the titles and images, so we begin by focusing on a story.

In this project the students select a hobby, collection, sport, or favorite activity. I require the students to have a total of seven slides.

Slide one: Title slide including the presentation title with a sub-title that includes their full name, grade, and the month/year the presentation is completed.

Slide two through six: They must tell how they got started, what they are doing now, and their plans for the future.

Once the Story is Written
The students will take about two 42-minute classes to write their story. I have learned about the sports activities, annual trips with family, collections, and abilities of my students. They enjoy the presentation because it is fairly easy to write and I love learning new things about my students.

Their next job is to find images that support the words in their story. They can bring pictures from home to scan, the can use digital images from home, and use images they find on the Internet. This usually takes one 42-minute class.

They must focus on clean, clear images that are proportionally correct.

Custom Transitions
I teach the students how to create custom transitions. They learn that it is inappropriate to fill the presentation with sound effects just because they are able to do so. They are to be consistent with their transitions. If a title wipes on to the screen on the first slide, it should do so consistently throughout the presentation. I show them how to set a timer so they do not have to click through every step of the transition.

They do not include bullet lists in the presentation.

A Great Experience
The reason I continue to do this project is that it provides the students with a reason to tell a story that they already know. It is good practice for future presentations – whether they are with me or somewhere else. The story is the thing. We are visual creatures and would prefer a great image that supports a story rather than reading the story from a slide.

The Content
I provide the students with a sample by telling the students a story about me. Something they probably don’t know about me is I left North America for the first time just three years ago.

My first two slides focus on how I became interested in the idea. My dad was the middle child in a family of 15 children. He grew up on a farm in Ireland. When he was 21 years old, he decided that he would seek opportunities in America. Back then, families were quite big on farms. His mother was one of 16 and his father was one of seven. I knew a number of my aunts and uncles. Half of them moved to the New York area and I saw them several times a year. There was always this mysterious other half of the family.

Every year, at Christmas time, we would send and receive cards with very interesting addresses. In my mind, they were unusual. They did not include a house number, or a street address. It was simply the family’s name, the word Muliarkane, the town of Caherciveen, County Kerry, and Ireland. I couldn’t understand how the letters got to my grandmother. My dad tried to explain that Muliarkane was a section of the town of Caherciveen and that everyone knew the O’Sullivan farm.

Growing up, everyone in class would at one time or another ask about each other’s heritage. I was always happy to tell my classmates that my father arrived in America when he was 21. It was always fun to feel like Saint Patrick’s Day was special.

Three years ago, my mother said she received an invitation to a family reunion in Ireland. She more or less said, I guess we (she and my dad) should throw the letter away. I told her to pass it on to me. It seemed a little like wishful thinking, but I thought maybe I might be able to go with my family. The boys were going into third and fifth grade, so it was not really going to be hard to travel with the children.

It took a lot of planning in a relatively short period of time. We found out about the trip in March and the reunion was in July. There was a flurry of activity to get everyone passports, arrange air transportation, and try to figure out where to stay. It is a part of the country where it is easier to stay at a bed and breakfast than find a hotel.

Sadly, my dad died about six weeks before the trip. He had never returned to Ireland and I was looking forward to telling him about the trip, and showing him photographs when I returned.

The trip more than surpassed my expectations. We spent two glorious weeks traveling in and around the Ring of Kerry. I met my father’s younger brother and wife for the first time. They still own the family farm. My youngest aunt was not able to attend the family reunion, but since she was attending a wedding in another part of the country, she caught up with me at the family farm the second week of my stay.

My aunt took me on a walk to the place where my father attended school. It was literally uphill both ways. I learned that they would walk barefoot through the fields, and carry bricks of peat to heat the little one room schoolhouse in the winter. The original house is still on the property. I was able to really see where my dad came from.

I had the opportunity to meet many first cousins. They had not traveled to the United States, so it was our first time meeting. They were so welcoming. They took us on day trips and really share their life with us. The dinner with the members of our extended family was an event I will never forget. It got to the point at the end of the trip that my husband would tease me that we could walk up to any house, and it would be the house of a cousin. It was true in many ways.

In the future, I would like to return to Ireland. I really only saw the Ring of Kerry and Cork (the location that my dad took the ship to America). I know there are many more parts of the country to explore. We passed right by the Blarney Stone, but didn’t really have time to stop.

I would also like to learn to speak the Irish language. My dad had to take many classes in Gaelic. The family only spoke English at home, so he always said that classes were very confusing. He could still count from one to ten, and knew the words for cat and dog. Some of my cousins teach the Irish language in school and said that it was not really a difficult language to learn.

I have included the images from my presentation from SlideRocket if you care to take a look.

Image Citations:
Ann Oro, 2005 Trip to Ireland on Flickr

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Everything in One Place

I was intrigued by the title of the K12 Online Conference presentation: Teaching Web 2.0 - Everything You Need in One Place. I realize that the world of potential tools changes daily. I wondered how everything could possibly be in one place. Now I have my answer.

The Conference Video
I enjoyed listening to Wendy Drexler's presentation. She explained how she put together a wiki called Teach Web 2.0. She moderates it with Anna Baralt. Wendy sees this website as an ongoing community effort to evaluate various web 2.0 tools with SWOT analysis. I had not come across her wiki before this presentation. It will certainly help me to lead the change at my school as I continue to try to spread the word about the tools available on the Internet that can be used with an educational focus.

What I Like
When introducing tools to teachers, I now have a fabulous wiki to point them to for ideas. It will also extend the concept of collaboration between educators across the globe. As I teach other educators about the tools, I will show them this wiki and ask them to take a risk and include an entry once they have used a tool with students or for themselves as an educator.

As an example, I stopped by the Kerpoof page. I was able to read through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats perceived in this website by the contributor to the page. There are ideas included for the classroom. I added my own perceived weakness and classroom idea.

Kerpoof on Teach Web 2.0
I like Kerpoof because it is free, attractive, and has a variety of options for young students. It does a good job in protecting children's identities. I realize the website needs to earn money to survive, but use this as an opportunity to talk about the value of using a website and asking a parent to spend money for additional access.

When I used the program with students some of the younger ones who are used to using Kid Pix got frustrated when they couldn't find the image another student was using. They had to click on the images and wait until the one they wanted "kerpoofed" onto the screen. I included this as a perceived weakness.

I know that teachers need to practice writing dialog with students for certain applications in class. I included this as an idea because the Make a Story option in Kerpoof would easily work in that situation in a very engaging way.

Cup of Joe
The essential questions are very interesting on the Voicethread for this presentation.
  1. How do teachers navigate and analyze the countless Web 2.0 tools that might have potential for student learning?
  2. How can one teacher make a difference in the quest to better understand and apply 21st Century learning principles?
  3. How are other teachers using Web 2.0 tools to promote student learning and achievement?
These are great questions that I intend to answer on the Voicethread.

Is This For You?
If you are involved in introducing various Web 2.0 tools to other teachers, if you are using Web 2.0 tools, or if you don't know what I mean by Web 2.0 tools listen to this presentation. Afterwards, take time to look through the Teach Web 2.0 wiki. While you are there, make sure you take time to begin helping Wendy and Anna build this into a resource that has even more value for everyone.

Image Source:

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