Wednesday, December 8, 2010

EdCamp NYC 2010

I spent the second half of 2010 helping to organize EdCamp NYC. When I first talked with the EdCamp Philly crew, I was amazed at their ability to put together such as large event with very little face to face time. Having had only one face to face meeting ourselves, I can now say not only is it possible but it works!

Behind the Scenes
We used a lot of social media to prepare. Google Groups was our main mode of communication. Sean Freese purchases our web domain and Dan Callahan installed WordPress on the domain. I'm still very unclear about the install of WordPress, but I became an expert at using it to create the web site.

We followed the lead of EdCamp Philly and used TicketLeap to distribute tickets. It is an amazing service for running a free event. We were able to control the number of tickets we wanted to distribute. It had a series of reports that could be downloaded as a PDF, Excel, or HTML files. It easily sends emails to all the ticket holders and has the ability to survey the ticket holders, too. They are a first class organization. They reached out by phone to make sure I was comfortable with the service and to make sure I had no questions. I sent one email asking for clarification on running a report and received a quick response. As people sent in regrets, I was able to quickly refund the tickets to make space for those who were locked out of registering due to the fact that all 300 tickets were claimed.

The team worked together to approach sponsors. Our goal was to be able to provide breakfast for the attendees and t-shirts. We not only met that goal, but had funds to provide two Kindles and several Apple and Barnes and Noble gift cards. Other sponsors provided giveaways such as Ed Voicethread, SnapGrades, Simple K12 EdTech Unconference, and Starrmatica subscriptions. We had Edutopia tote bags and an Edutopia goody bag for one lucky attendee. Glogster provided several colorful t-shirts. Every attendee received a Symbaloo certificate. Webundies sponsored us by providing a very good price for printing the t-shirts and organizer polos. TEQ gave away a SMART Response system to one lucky attendee.

The Day of the Event
Saturday, December 4th went fairly smoothly. I had originally set TicketLeap up with a start time of 8am, but over time we changed the start to 9am on the web site. We had a number of folks show up at eight. They were very gracious in giving us time to organize ourselves and settled in to talk.

We quickly got the t-shirts and tote bags to the front door. Several organizers sat and welcomed our guests and checked off each attendee on the TicketLeap list. On the second floor, we had name tags and breakfast provided as a donation from Flik. At 9am, Sean gave a quick overview of how the session board would work and people started placing their session titles and descriptions on the board. Sean and I populated the session board in our Google Doc. By the time we gathered everyone in the gym to go over why we organized EdCamp, how the building was set up, and how lunch on your own would be handled the board was 75% full.

All the organizers took time running between the classrooms on the second and third floor to make sure the presenters were comfortable with the equipment. After the sessions appeared to be running well, we were able to participate. 

Although I teach computer class, I am always interested in other course content. I came away with interesting ideas for physics and chemistry class in Increasing Engagement in Science with Frank Noschese (@fnoschese) and Ms. Bethea (@21stcenturychem). I already shared their resources with my grad class and plan to share them at school and with the alternate route teachers I will teach in February.

I've been teaching students how to use Logo and Scratch. My son has taken classes at the community college to use Game Maker. I was attracted to Al Doyle's Game Design: Video Game Platform Design for Kids. I learned so much and came away convinced to give Gamestar Mechanic a try at school. Both my 14 and 16 year old sons gave it a try and found it interesting. In order to take their work to the next level, Al suggest Game Salad as a more complex program and Atmosphir for 3D games. My 14 year old has already taken more interest in Atmosphir.

Lunch was quick, but I enjoyed take out from Chipolte with Kevin Jarrett, his daughter, her friend, a gentleman named Hector (I think) and Lisa Nielsen. Outside of some time chatting with Tom Whitby, it was probably the most time I had to chat with people all day. Being on the organizing side, I expected this to be the case.

After lunch, I attended Ten Steps to Better Web Research with Mark Moran. I had looked at his Slideshare files online. It was good to take time to listen to what he had to say. I walked away realizing that I need to take more time to play with Yolink. It's a tool I want to be able to share with my students.

During the last session of the day, I spent time with Karen Blumberg making sure that we were organized for the end of day giveaways and talking with Tom Whitby and Annemarie Stoeckel

Before I Put EdCamp Away for 2010
I set up a Google Blog Search for edcampnyc and edcamp nyc. I've been enjoying reading and commenting on reflections. Over the weekend, I plan on putting together a blog post with all the reflections in one place. It was a privilege being a part of the EdCamp NYC team!

Photo Credits:
Ann Oro

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Open Office Impress in the Classroom

This month marks my first use of Open Office Impress with my students. It has been on the Windows Tablets for three years and the student have used it for other teachers. It is my first time looking at it within my room. I thought about switching all the machines to Open Office a year or two ago, but it really does not work smoothly enough on the Macs with the Power PC chipset.

New Macs/ New Software
I was able to upgrade the machines in the lab to all Intel Macs. I did not want to spend money on licenses for Microsoft Office, so I decided to give Open Office a try. It seems to be working well on the tablets we won in 2008. I have three projects I generally do this time of year with the fourth, sixth, and seventh grade. We are jumping in and the students are doing well.

Fourth Grade Math Shapes
The fourth grade students learn to control the drawing tools with a Math Shapes presentation. They are doing just fine. It was very easy to have the students insert new slides, change the layout to title only, and draw the rectangles. They practiced moving and deleting rectangles and changing the colors. Next week they will add the remaining shapes and learn to use patterns and gradients.

Sixth Grade Dinner With Famous Guests
The sixth grade students have just begun their pre-work using a paper planning sheet. In this presentation, they select a restaurant and dinner menu. They invite four famous guests. The guests can be real or fictional, alive or dead. From working with the seventh grade over the last two weeks, I am confident that they will work comfortably with the program. I've learned some lessons to pass on to the students.

Seventh Grade Something You Probably Don't Know
The students have been working on this presentation for the last two or three classes.This is the presentation that that has taught me the most for future classes. 

The first lesson came in the form of placing images into the presentation. I'm still investigating the why's and wherefore's of the problem. In some instances, students appear to be able to Edit - Copy and Edit - Paste images from the web browser into Impress. In other instances, the students just get the web address of the page when they paste. The solution is simple. The students choose "Save Image As..." and store the image in their Pictures folder after creating a personal sub folder. It is easy to Insert - Picture - From File.

The second lesson has yet to be presented to the students. It seems that there is a bug in the Mac version of the program. You can write notes on the notes page, but can't print them. It took a bit of searching to find an answer and I wish I bookmarked it, but I didn't. In order to print the notes, we will have to: go to a note page, Edit - Cut the note off the page, Edit - Paste it back in, and then all the notes will print.

The third lesson came during today's class. The students were not able to get the slide design to appear on all slides. They learned to choose Format - Slide Design and select the Load button. Once the Load button is pressed, they had to select the Presentation Backgrounds from the Categories list and click the More button for the Preview feature. They taught me a trick to see the preview of multiple backgrounds. Each time a background is selected, the Preview check mark has to be removed and reapplied.

A fourth lesson also presented itself during class. When I tested the backgrounds at home they seemed to work flawlessly. Today, students where seeming to have to apply the background to each slide. By the end of class, I noticed a check box labeled "Exchange background page". Once this is checked, the  slide background is applied to every page.

Overall I'm Happy
It will remain to be seen how Open Office Impress works in all situations, but for basic presentations it works very well. Like any piece of software it takes time to get used to unique quirks. I know over time my students will be able to create what they need. I do believe that if they use PowerPoint at home, it is similar enough that they should not have any trouble.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tux Paint Stamps and Starters

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm not happy with the way Kid Pix is behaving on Mac OS 10.6. I do not have funding at the moment to switch to the MacKiev version or Pixie. Two outstanding issues in Tux Paint were saving to unique folders and what to do about the Idea Machine that I really like in Kid Pix. I have an answer to the Idea Machine today.

Thinking About Stamps
This morning, I started thinking about the stamps in Tux Paint. I knew from the support materials that I should be able to add my own, but I never took the time to think it through. It turns out that it is SO easy.

I will add a blog post next weekend for Windows, but today I had my MacBook Pro out and started hunting around.

The first important note in Mac is that the folder for stamps is hidden from view. To unhide the folder, go to the Applications folder and then to the Tux Paint folder. Find the Tux Paint icon and right (or control) click. When the contextual menu opens up, select Show Package contents. This is something I really never think about. Many program icons are really folders.

Inside the Tux Paint folder is a subfolder called stamps. There are two ways to go about adding images as stamps. They can be placed in separate folders, for example, Kindergarten, first, second, third or placed in one folder such as saintmichael.

The difference is that if you have one folder (saintmichael) every stamp is in the same group. If you have multiple sub folders you can use the arrow key to click through the different stamp sets.

The Difference With Starters
Starters are like a blank or coloring book page. The starter will work better for me in projects in which I want to control how large the initial image will be. This will be the case with my ABC stamper chart project.

Again, I had to go look at the Tux Paint package contents. The folder is called starters. I took my Kid Pix ABC chart and saved it as a PNG image. I moved the ABC.png into the starters folder. Now when I start Tux Paint and choose the New button, I can scroll down to my ABC chart and have the students start their project.

I used Jing Project to create a little screencast. If you cannot view it, let me know and I'll upload a different file format. You can view the video full screen although it's a little blurry that way. If you want the original video, let me know and I will send it to you via email. I've also posted the video on Vimeo.

The Final Frontier
If I can figure out how to create folders to save student work, I'm golden! I know it has to be do-able. I just have to think it through.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Computer Lab Handbook

This year I'm working hard to document what I've been doing in the lab and around the building to keep the Apples and Windows XP tablets in working order. So many times I'll catch myself trying to remember it all and drawing a blank for a bit so I've started a Computer Lab Handbook.

Keeping Track of IP Addresses
One of the biggest hassles is that over time the IP addresses had gotten out of control. We have under 200 devices, but over the years there have been IP address issues. This summer, our tech support company took a look at our main router and changed the IP address system to give out all address. Since we were only distributing a limited number of IP addresses I started getting many conflicts as we have more Internet capable machines than ever before. Some machines are running DHCP, others have static addresses. An IP address consists of four digits separated by periods. For example, Address is reserved for the router. You can assign numbers from 0 to 255.

If a device is going to be accessed by multiple devices, it is better to have a static (unchanging) address. For instance, the file servers have always had static IP addresses. When the wireless internet routers were installed, they were given DHCP addresses. When a device uses DHCP the address may change from time to time. The printers were a mix of DHCP and static addresses.

I've been slowly going through all the routers and printers and assigning addresses backwards from 255. As a result, I am finding it easier to set up printers with the OS 9 Apples. I was having a really hard time getting the tablet PCs to connect to any printer in the building wirelessly. Now that there are static addresses I am going to be able to have the tablets print without a USB cable for the first time in three years.

Start of the Year Tasks
I do not have disk cloning software, so everything I do is a very manual step-by-step machine-by-machine process. I remove documents from the hard drives in the lab and on the tablets. I empty the download folders and remove names from Kid Pix and game software. We run several Renaissance Learning programs: Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, STAR Early Literacy, and Math Facts in a Flash. I update the school year information, promote students, add new students, update class lists, and remove students. The machines need to have software updates applied.

I perform all these tasks from memory, but if someone else ever needed to do it on their own it would be difficult at best. 

If you'd like to take a look at the document in progress, let me know. I'd be happy to share a copy with you.

Image Citation:
Ann Oro

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Catholic Education Resource Wiki

There are so many useful wikis specific to different areas of education on the Internet. Among the wikis I find most useful are the UDL Toolkit, the First Day of School, and New Tools Workshop. I have not found an resource links related to Catholic education.

The Project
As a part of a graduate class, two partners and I started the Catholic Education wiki. I included a few getting started screencasts and sent invitations to my partners to begin work. We split the grade levels among ourselves and brainstormed a few extra categories.

It was a great learning experience for all of us. My biggest takeaway was in the area of screencasts. I created them on a Mac and learned that it might be more effective to create the screencasts in both a Mac and PC format.

The Result
The result is the start of a useful resource. There are interactive whiteboard lessons for the primary, elementary, and middle school grade levels. There are links for resources and ideas for Catholic Schools Week. There are some great ideas for extending conversations about Confirmation in the middle school years. We included a set of general resources, prayer services, and money saving ideas.

My hope is that other Catholic educators will join the wiki and add resources that they have used in the classroom or school setting to help grow the pages.

Feel free to join the wiki and add links. Let's grow this into an amazing resource for Catholic educators everywhere.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fixing Mouse Focus on Gimp and Mac 10.6 Snow Leopard

I have been searching for the last month to fix the mouse focus problem on Gimp and the new iMacs. After finally thinking through keywords, I found the answer!

My key words:

gimp snow leopard terminal 10.6 window focus

The result:

The answer:
I knew the problem was in X11. In previous versions of Mac's OS with Gimp, I could rely on typing a terminal command. I knew the problem was that in X11 with multiple windows, when switching from the tool window to the canvas window to the layers window one click was required to focus X11 on the window the second click actually made the selection on the window.

1) With X11 open, click X11 - Preferences.
2) Choose the Windows tab.
3) Place a checkmark in the "Click-through Inactive Windows" choice NOT the "Focus Follows Mouse" choice.
4) Close the window.
5) Repeat on the rest of the classroom machines.
6) Celebrate!

*** UPDATE ***
My home computer runs Leopard (10.5). I was having the same problem, but the version of X11 does not have the Windows tab.

A little more searching with the keywords
gimp 10.5 terminal window focus leopard me to this page.

To fix it in X11, copy and paste the following code into the Terminal program.

defaults write org.x.X11 wm_click_through -bool true
Start Gimp and enjoy having the focus of the mouse work! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Working With Diigo and Students

I recently set up some accounts under the Diigo education banner. For the last couple of weeks students have been working on bookmarking images for a Google Maps project. I have a Delicious account for school. I keep links for all the grade levels in the account. The use of Diigo will enable me to give students the ability to electronically and socially bookmark without the need for email addresses.

Getting Started
The most difficult part was actually getting myself set up with an email address associated with the school. Once I had a school email address, I sent a request to Diigo and was approved within a couple of days.

One major change in the account is the addition of a Teacher Console. From the console, I created groups for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Since I want the accounts to stay with the students year over year, I named the groups grad2011, grad2012, grad2013. In this way, I will be able to let the group travel with the students through their school career.

After the group is created, I fill in a spreadsheet with the student name, id, and password and upload the .CSV version of the spreadsheet to Diigo. For the last several years, I have maintained a spreadsheet with user names and passwords for each student following a pattern of SMS20xx-yy where xx is the year they will graduate eighth grade and yy is a number from 01 to 99. The user name I assign sticks with the student through their school career. The password is at least seven characters consisting of letters, numbers, and at least one capital. With this pattern, almost every website I create accounts on "allows" me to use the same user name and password.

Leading the Students Through the Process
Week 1 - Learn to sign in. Review multiple tabs in a web browser. Bookmark two images with a description and tag.

With our project, the students are working in groups of five to pull together a Google Map of the travels of Robinson Crusoe. They used a Google Doc to brainstorm images and locations for the map. A group leader assigned two locations per group member.

Week 2 - Learn to edit bookmarks and assign a bookmark to a shared group.

The students searched for two images per location that would represent something Robinson Crusoe would have seen or done at this spot. They bookmarked the image and tagged the image with the group leader's name.

Week 3 - Learn to comment on another student's bookmark.

Once all the images were bookmarked, the students began to look at all the groups images. They left comments on whether the image made sense in relation to the book. In some instances, the Google page (not the image) was bookmarked so comments reflected the need to try again.

Week 4 - Learn to edit bookmarks. 

I like the ability to review all the bookmarks online. Last year in a sixth grade music project, the students bookmarked offline in Firefox. I was not able to see how far they were in their project. With the online bookmarks, I can better estimate how much more work each student needs within the project. 

As I reviewed the bookmarks, I noticed that some students bookmarked with the "wrong" tag. They tagged with a name of a person who was not their group leader. This led to students not commenting on their link. I found that some students forgot to share with the group. This led, again, to some links missing comments.

Overall Thoughts
So far, the students took so well to Diigo that I've begun using it for the sixth grade music project which started this week. It remains to be seen what I learn in using this website with the students.

Image Citation:
Mr. Minton. "Robinson Crusoe Island - EVS Precision Map (1-85,000)." EVS-Island's photostream. 30 June 2009. 15 Oct 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tux Paint Installation

I have decided to install Tux Paint in the computer lab this year. I am going to use it in test mode and decide if it will make a good replacement for Kid Pix. Unfortunately, Kid Pix is operating very poorly on Snow Leopard (10.6).

Download and Installation
The download and installation are quick and easy. I go directly to the Apple Mac OS X Tux Paint Download page. One key is to download both the program and the extra stampers.

An additional key step is running the configuration program. I have found, from the installation on the Windows XP tablet PCs, it pays to configure the system to Always Save New Picture under the Save Over Earlier Work category. I place a check mark in the Start Blank section. Finally, I place a checkmark in the Use Alternative Save Directory in the Save Directory category. I browse to the Document folder. Tux Paint created a Saved folder within Documents. All of these settings are on the Saving tab of the configuration program.

Next I go to the Video/Sound tab. I adjust the window size to fit the screen above the dock. On the tablet PCs I set the program to adjust to full screen.

Ideas To Test
My biggest concern is the lack of folders and the ability to use pre-made templates similar to those I prepared for the Idea Machine in Kid Pix. I think if I'm careful with a file naming convention I might be able to still have templates. I'll have to see how things are sorted when I open files. I'd like the youngest student's work to appear first on the list. 

Additionally, I may have to teach the students to rename their files. Right now Tux Paint assigns the date and time stamp as the file name.

I know a few teachers who use Tux Paint. I'll have to reach out to see what best practices are already in use around the world.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Social Media Benefits

As I read Melanie Holtsman's blog post, Are You Ready For a Challenge, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to share some thoughts that have been developing over the last few months and years. This particular post is a result of a message I saw as part of my Microcomputers for Administration course. We are practicing using Twitter. The teacher posted this tweet: "Communicating & Connecting with Social Media: What's your experience?"

The Beginnings
I have been communicating with other educators through social media since 2007. It all started with a message through Wikispaces. I was searching for resources to teach middle school math when I found Chris Harbeck's room17math wiki. I sent him a message through Wikispaces mail. The answer I received showed me a wealth of learning I never knew existed. 
"I was lucky enough to take a course with Vicki Davis "" during the k12online conference.

Wiki's are great and Wikispaces is very easy to use. Have the kids create a login name first and create an account. This way you can restrict your wiki to Wikispace members. I did not do this and I had many students login as guest and I did not know who was editing the pages.

Creating a wiki is easy for the students. A problem is uploading pictures. My students had many files that were similarly named. If you were to have many students use one wiki as I did I would create a system for naming pictures and files. I would use a roomnumber, then name as an example.

I have a generic form letter that the division sends home at the beginning of the year. I have all my parents participate on the class blog with their students to see what they are doing so I do not send home extra notes.

If you need a sample I can find some that I have used in the past.

One of the reasons for success is that this is the second year for these students using these tools. They are comfortable playing in the 2.0 environment.

A great place to start is at Women of Web 2.0 They have a chat every Tuesday at 9:00 est on Worldbridges ( They are an excellent source of knowledge. I will be a guest next week. They also have a website

If this is not enough please email at ...".
This Led To...
Creating Wikis which led to fabulous work for my students with other students around the world including the Monster Project I do with Anna Baralt.

...which led to writing a K12 Online Conference presentation "Monsters Bloom in Our Wiki"
...which led to me leading a session at EdCamp Philly on Primary Collaborations

...which led to me volunteering to help organize EdCamp NYC, create the website for EdCamp NYC, and manage the TicketLeap account for the event.

...which led to countless other wiki collaborations such as 1001 Flat Tales (2008 and 2009) with Jeff Whipple as my co-lead, @manyvoices, Math Connections, Winter Wonderland, and What Could It Mean. All these collaborations led to interesting work for my students.

...which led to Voicethread collaborations between my school and a school in Canada.

...and led to Skype calls between my classes and classrooms in Australia, Canada, and many classrooms in the United States. I've now had the privilege of helping other teachers outside my building use Skype for the first time.

Listening to Women of the Web 2.0 led me to eventually feeling comfortable to participate in the chat.

...which led me to starting a Twitter account and learning to not feel shy about following people who lead in education and more specifically education technology.

...which led me to starting a blog to keep track of my path through my work on projects.

...which led me to conversations with Kevin Jarrett.

...which led me to attend Students and Electronic Media: Teaching in the Electronic Age at Princeton.

...which led me to having dinner with Vicki Davis, Kathy Schrock, Janis Jenson, and Nancy Willard.

...which is leading me to a complementary admission to Tech Forum NE at the end of the month (thank you Kathy).

...which led me to conversations with Lisa Parisi.

...which led my students and I to working with Lisa's students on the first Time Zone Experiences wiki.

...which led me to attend the Celebration of Teaching and Learning through complementary tickets as a result of the Time Zone project being selected as a winner in the multimedia category.

...which led me to hearing Sir Ken Robinson, Alan Alda, Governor Patterson, Eric Schmidt, Charlie Rose, Danica McKeller, and Temple Grandin in person.

...which led me to share a hotel room with Lisa, Christine Southard, and Karen Janowski.

...which led me to learning about the UDL Toolkit.

...which led me to Dragon Dictation app to help a student.

Meeting Kevin led me to finding the Kean University fall conference.

...which led me hearing Lucy Gray, Marco Torres, Will Richardson, Michael Furdyk, Milton Chen, Lainie Rowell, Peggy Sheehey.

...which led to amazing projects for my students with Garageband, geocaching, using Diigo, and thinking about how students can Take IT Global.

...which led to learning about the Creating 21st Century Schools program through Kean.

...which led to spending two days with Alan November for free through the state.

...which led to other teachers in my building attending free programs through Creating 21st Century schools.

Meeting Kevin led me to learning about his experience at Barcamp Philly.

...which led me to attend EdCamp Philly and ntcamp.

...which led me to enjoying informal conversations with Joyce Valenza and David Jakes and time in a session they both led.

...which led to me leading a session at ntcamp on Free Learning and Inspiration at Home.

Sharing with people on Twitter has expanded what I find, learn, and experience.

...which led me to @riptidefurse whose tweets eventually led me to Win a Wireless Tablet Lab through CDWG and Discovery Education worth $50,000 to the school.

...which led me to amazing free and open source software to save me further money at school while supplying the teachers and students with resources to build projects.

...which led me to learning how to use the Promethean Board so I could eventually teach the teachers in my building.

...which led me to listening to @betchaboy (Chris Betcher) lead a webinar, reading his book, and conversing online. He has generously volunteered to Skype in to talk with the teachers in my building.

...which led me to conversations with @plugusin (Bill Ferriter), reading his book, and writing a review. He has generously volunteered to Skype in to talk with the teachers in my building, too.
...which led me to teaching a graduate level course over the last few years at the local alternate route program about technology in education.

...which led me to volunteer to help other teachers by judging a horizon project for Viki Davis and Alice in Wonderland project for Christian Long and their students at the high school level.

...which led me to volunteer to help as a lead wiki curator for the 2010 Global Education conference.

The benefits involve technology for my school, many hundreds of dollars in free conferences, access to the best minds in education, and opportunities. I feel that I give back as much as I receive. I don't want to go back to life before social media because I know that my program at school, my ability to provide help and learning to the teachers and students at school, and a more focused and broad perspective on education in general would be hurt.

I've read books at other people's suggestion that I would not have previously such as Made To Stick and Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. I have Linchpin by Seth Godin and Brain Rules by John Medina sitting by my bed and I continue to pick up The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman.

I enjoy getting out to meet other educators. Whether it's offering to spend time in New York City with a teacher visiting from Australia (as I did with Jenny Luca last year) or meeting interesting people at conferences, I've learned to expand my comfort zone.

I still haven't had a chance to attend ISTE's conference. I thought I would this year since it's in Philly, but now I have graduate class all that week in 2011. I just signed up for Educon 2.3 today. 

With 232 posts on this website, I still have more to learn and share.

Photos via Ann Oro (with the help of a member of the wait staff at a restaurant and a friend's daughter on my camera).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reviewing Last Year's Work With Students

Every year, I begin class in a very standard way. I remind students about new rules in the school and how they will be handled in my classroom. I review rules from the previous year and how they apply. I introduce changes in the physical layout of the computer lab and other equipment in the school. I make sure every student knows how to access the teacher's homework online, the school's web page, the Accelerated Reading list, and passwords to essential user ids. This year, I wanted the students to have a way to reflect on last year's work and give context to this year's work.

I have the pleasure of seeing students from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Many students return year after year. We are fortunate to have several new students join various classes. This year, in grades six through eight I will take a look at a few projects completed in the 2009-2010 school year and see how many ISTE NETS for Students are involved in the work. I am using the 2007 standards.

I began by introducing who ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is and what the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) are in a very basic way. I showed the students the list:

1. Creativity and Innovation
2. Communication and Collaboration
3. Research and Information Fluency
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
5. Digital Citizenship
6. Technology Operations and Concepts

The process was thought provoking for both the students and myself.

The Website Evaluation Project
In the middle of the school year, as sixth grade students, we worked on a website evaluation project. It was based on a web quest I found that originated with Joyce Valenza. I brought up a slide with a screen shot from our wiki page and the students took turns deciding which of the words in the six NETS for Students were reflected in the project. One person circled a word, one student said why they thought it was applicable, and the student who circled the word volunteered some additional information on why they thought the project fit in the chosen category.

Here is what the students determined about this one project:

Communication: The students had to communicate with each other in small groups and across groups to support their feelings about the relative worth of various dinosaur websites.

Collaboration: The students collaborated by working in a group with a specialty of either content, authority/ credibility, bias/ purpose, or usability/ design.

Research: The students practiced research skills by thinking about how useful each website would be if they were trying to use the dinosaur pages for a science report.

Information Fluency: This was circled on the board and led to an interesting conversation about the word fluency. The student realized we were looking at information. We equated the word fluency to language. For example, was a student fluent in saying good morning in Russian, Spanish, or English. In the same way, students have varying levels of fluency in finding and understanding information via Internet searches and determining the worth of the information they are reading.

Critical Thinking: This selection led to another interesting conversation. One student remembered the words critical thinking as a question heading in the social studies book. When we are thinking critically, we are thinking about important topics. If there is a war, we are thinking critically about what is happening in different parts of the world that might cause a leader of a country to make a decision. When we are looking at web pages, we are thinking critically about what is good and bad about the information presented and who created the website to decide if it should be used or passed by when doing research.

Problem Solving: A student determined that in the project we had a problem: which website was best for a sixth grader. As a group they looked at the website from different perspectives to make a decision.

Decision Making: Multiple decisions had to be made for each website. The students had to be prepared to agree or disagree with other students who looked at the same website.

Technology Operations: The students had to be able to edit the wiki and maneuver through the website links.

Concepts: Some of the concepts and terminology the students learned included the words bias, authority, credibility, design, and usability.

Next Class
I had five other projects selected: America the Beautiful videos, Math Blaster Ages 9-12 tutorials, creating avatars with Gimp, citing sources for America the Beautiful and the tutorials, and creating and presenting a Dinner with Famous Guests PowerPoint.

I will walk the class through the America the Beautiful project this week. As we work on new projects this year, I will end each project with this reflection. It's a good way to practice communication as a group and realize that each project helps develop a huge set of valuable skills.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Group Work as a Teacher

I've been working with a group of teachers to instruct them in the use of MacBook computers with ActivInspire and the Promethean Activboards. It's been a great experience made even better with the book Building a Professional Learning Community at WorkTM: A Guide to the First Year by Parry Graham and William M Ferriter.

How I Learned About the Book
I've been communicating with Bill Ferriter through Twitter for at least a couple of years. Over time he has shared a wealth of information and conversation (albeit 140 characters at a time). I've looked at PDF worksheet files that he has shared and found a lot of value in them. I decided to pick up his book for summer reading. It has been a great value to me.

The Book's Focus

I really appreciated the way the book was written. It is not an easy book to read cover to cover in a short period of time. There is a lot to digest and think about. I split reading it over June and July. I read about half of the book over the course of three or four days each time.

I specifically liked that each chapter of the book starts with a scenario from a fictitious school. It put me in the frame of mind to reflect on my situation. The scenario is followed by research, ideas, and suggestions. The chapters wrap up with worksheets, surveys, and check lists.

Wrapping Up the Summer Sessions
The last session this summer was part show and tell and partially practice in hooking up the projector, speakers, board, and computer. I wanted to make sure that the group stayed focused and felt their time was well spent as we worked. Initially, I was going to have the teachers break into groups with the six boards, but due to floor polishing I couldn't.

While thinking about my approach, I decided to page through the book. The idea I found came from a chapter on Negotiating Personalities and Conflict. This chapter ends with two reproducibles called the Team Agenda Template and Team Roles to Consider. I didn't use the exact worksheet or roles, but it was perfect for my needs. It really calls to mind working with students on group projects and making sure they have clear roles to play in their learning. It shouldn't be any different with adult learners.

My Version
These are the modified topics I used.

Topic 1: Each person will connect the laptop to the projector, board and speakers. What worked well for each person? What did not work? Was it one individual, several, or everyone?

Topic 2: Each person will open a flipchart they found on Promethean Planet or a flipchart they created themselves. Others in the room will act as students. What worked well for each person? What do individuals need to learn to move forward?

Topic 3: The group will focus on student outcomes for the lesson. What student weaknesses would this lesson support? What ideas were brainstormed as a result of viewing this lesson? Do you think this lesson could help younger or older students in the building (with or without modification)?

Topic 4: As a group reflect on a lesson or lessons Ann could provide to move the learning forward.

If a lesson wasn't prepared in advance, I had bookmarked a website called Faith First as a tinyurl ( The teachers enjoyed testing it out. Another teacher shared a website her college son was using. Everyone really got into talking about the possibilities of the websites in class - both the strengths and potential downsides. They discussed the importance of trying things outside of class hours to make sure they knew what to expect.

I intended to also use the short survey of the value of the meeting, but forgot to use it.

A Hearty Recommendation
I've been leading the teachers to become more comfortable with sharing in online spaces though the use of a private Ning. The teachers helped me by posting the results of the topics, reflections, and discussions on the ning. As a result, I created several screencasts to help everyone remember how to find a flipchart on Promethean Planet, the difference between Mac folders, opening and saving a flipchart from Promethean Planet, and the difference between save and save as. We are becoming a learning community. The book has given me a wealth of ideas as a teacher leader to help others expand their comfort and knowledge.

It is a resource for an administrator helping a district, a principal helping a school, or a teacher leader helping fellow teachers. It brings up both the benefits and real work involved in becoming a professional learning community.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reverse Photo Search

I always learn something on the Tech Chick Tips podcast. Several months ago, I heard about and tucked the idea away. I got a chance to try it last night.

The Set Up
I was speaking with Vicky about potential projects for the coming school year. The conversation drifted to digital citizenship on the Internet. I wanted to share a lesson idea with her, but it was in ActivInspire. As I captured screens and put them into PowerPoint, I realized that I didn't copy the citations onto the flipchart when I made it. I wanted to upload the PowerPoint to Slideboom, but needed those citations first.

I always search for Creative Commons licensed photos and usually look for Attribution 2.0 Generic first on Flickr...but how to find it.

TinEye Reverse Image Search
I decided to give TinEye a try. Anna and Helen made it sound like you just take any image and send it to the website, so I removed all the extra words and buttons that had been on the page and took a screen shot of the image on the Mac. It turned into a simple PNG image. I uploaded the image to TinEye and WOW there were several sites that had used the same image.

An even bigger wow is that as I wrote this post I was on a different computer. Rather than go downstairs to load the image to Blogger, I opened the PowerPoint I had put on Slideboom and captured a screen shot of just part of the image. Tineye found it again! It wasn't even as sharp as the original.

There was still a little work to do. On some of the sites I found, they didn't cite their source. On others, only was cited. I had to use the logic that I would have used when I originally found the photo. I thought I would have typed Facebook, so I entered the word facebook into Flickr's search bar for the user hoyasmeg and it turned up!

No So Lucky the Second Time
I had a second image and was not so lucky with TinEye. I imagine TinEye does not search Flickr. I went to Flickr and tried to remember what I would have typed to generate the image. I don't know what my original search was, but I tried patrick parade boys since the image I wanted had two boys who were at a Saint Patrick's Day parade. No luck. Then I tried patrick parade boy and there it was!

What I Learned
First, it's easier to cite your sources when you find them. No surprise there. Second, TinEye is a great way to do a reverse image search. Third, know your patterns. I usually look for images in Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic. Finally, think through keywords you might have used and if that fails think through keywords pertaining to the image as you are looking at it.

Sounds like a good lesson for the students this year.

Image Citations:
Emery, James. "Looking at Facebook photo_2008". hoyasmeg's photostream. 2009 May 9. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

"Kids in the Parade". greenmelinda's photostream. 2007 Mar 18. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

"Boy watching parade". greenmelinda's photostream. 2007 Mar 18. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Murphy, William. "I REFUSE TO MOVE". infomatique's photostream. 2007 Mar 17. 2010 Sep 5. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Busy Summer and the New Year Ahead

I was just looking at my last post date. I realized a whole month has passed. What a busy summer it's been. I'd like to briefly share some highlights.

A School Email Account
I was able to sign up for a Diigo educator's account this week. In order to (easily) get one, a school email id is required. Over the summer, I was assigned a email address. I won't use it for much besides signing up for education accounts to use in class. Diigo was something I wanted to start using with the students. I have a Delicious account with links for school that I've been using for at least three years now. I originally thought I would teach the students to use Delicious to save bookmarks, but it was too involved with email addresses. 

The benefits of a Diigo educator account can be found on the link. I am most happy to be able to create accounts without the need for email addresses for each student AND student accounts are kept private from other users, ads are education only, and we can bookmark and annotate webpages in groups.

Promethean Board Training
I have had eight hours of training with the teachers to use the Activboards. There will be six in the school this year. Previously only the computer lab had a board. The training went exceedingly well. 

I found a great training resource online for Windows. I updated the Creative Commons licensed flipcharts for the Mac operating system. I put many links for ActivInspire on this Google Site. The specific Mac training flipcharts are on this page.

We have only worked on the first five training flipcharts. It gives the teachers enough material to feel comfortable with the board. We learned how to navigate the Download and My Flipchart folders on the dock. The teachers signed up for Promethean Planet accounts and learned how to open old .flp and new .flipchart files and save them. This led to an interesting discussion about File Save vs. File Save As. 

As part of the training, I was requested to create some screencasts. As a result, I decided to get a one year subscription to Jing Pro. 

Jing Pro
I have used Jing's free version. It works well. The downside is that the files are saved in Flash format. With the pro version, I can save the files (without ads) to the MPEG-4 .m4v
format. This is so useful. I was able to create three little screencasts and stitch them into a longer movie in iMovie. Feel free to use these screencasts:

Finding a Flipchart on Promethean Planet
Mac Folders
Playing Back a Vimeo Video in a Larger Size
Opening, Reviewing, and Saving a Flipchart

K12 Online Conference 2010
I submitted a proposal to the K12 Online Conference for 2010. The topic is Free Learning and Inspiration Online. It is based on the session I led at New Teachers Camp (ntcamp) in July. Hopefully it will be accepted.

Global Education Conference 2010
I am on the Educator Advisory Core Group for the new for 2010 Global Education Conference. It is scheduled for November 15-19 and will run around the clock. It is intended to get more educators comfortable with global collaborations. I will be writing more as a I learn about the conference. There is currently a call for proposals for sessions to run in Elluminate. If you've been participating in global online projects, consider offering a session. The timing for the sessions is 20 to 60 minutes including discussion/ Q&A time among the participants. There is an intent to get mentor partnerships established to help new teachers gain a comfort with global collaborations.

EdCamp NYC
I am a co-organizer for EdCamp NYC. It will be on Saturday, December 4th at The School at Columbia University in New York City. I've spent the summer working on the website for the group. If you are in the NY, NJ, PA, CT area, consider stopping by the website to request your free ticket to the event. It promises to be outstanding based on my experience with EdCamp Philly and ntcamp. Keep you eye out for more information as I get closer to December fourth.

Back in the Saddle Again
After a restful summer, I'm looking forward to the new school year ahead. Old projects and new projects with the students are at the top of my mind right now!

Photo Credits:
Ann Oro.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

ntcamp A Day Later

Yesterday a friend and I drove down to ntcamp. This was my second unconference. I wanted to capture a few thoughts about the day. My photos are in this photo set and here is the group pool.

Getting There and Starting the Day
The trip to The Boys Latin Charter School in Philly was fairly easy. We hit a few blocked roads on the way but with the help of a friendly taxi driver arrived on time. I inadvertently went to check in at the speaker's table for the morning panel discussion. A quick point in the right direction and I was signed in and ready to go.

Having experienced EdCamp Philly where I presented a session on Collaboration in the Primary Grades, I had the confidence to prepare a session for ntcamp. I knew that I needed to find the session board and register my idea with a member of the ntcamp team, so I headed over to the board to find an index card to post my intended session.

One takeaway for EdCamp NYC is to have the registration table right at the front door and make sure it is clearly labeled. Another idea is to ask each attendee to stop by the board and have a quick explanation at the board of where to get cards and how to make sure the card is logged into the spreadsheet so it appears on the web site.

Throughout the day I logged all my links in Delicious and Diigo with ntcamp10.

ntcamp Kickoff
The kickoff to the day was a little more traditional than EdCamp Philly. Andrew Marcinek kicked off the day with a little overview of what to expect. He then introduced Jerry Blumengarten who gave a very spirited kickoff to the event. He had a very high energy talk that wove different experiences he had with education over time and a variety of names of Twitter attendees near and far. 

This was followed up with a panel discussion on the concept of the PLN - a personal/professional learning network. The speakers were Steve Anderson, Mary Beth Hertz, Kyle Pace, and Tom Whitby. Considering that there would be many sessions referencing (directly or indirectly) the concept of learning with others in person and online it was a useful way to start the day. Andrew helped the panel along by moderating with key questions. The conversation flowed smoothly and wove the groups experiences and opinions in a nice, logical progression. All the speakers were well-spoken. I enjoyed listening to what they had to say.

The Sessions I Attended
The first session I attended was titled What Should a New and Experienced Teacher Know About Special Ed and Inclusion. It was run by Dan Callahan and Kristen Swanson. I received exactly what I hoped for from this session: more ideas to assist the teachers and support personal in my building with ideas to work with all students and, by extension, more ideas for my own classroom. I took notes in this Google Doc. If you want editing privileges, let me know. The information was copied from notes I typed into Kristen's Google Doc. Feel free to see if anything would help you. I tried to tag all the resources from the session along with my other UDL tags on Delicious and Diigo.

The second session was the one I ran. I called it Free Professional Development and Inspiration at Home. It was based on the content I pulled together in my blog post from a week or so ago. During the session, I pulled up this Google Site which is can be linked via a I had a nice turnout of 10-15 people. It was satisfying to learn that most of the attendees had not heard of these sites or had heard of only a tiny percentage. In the course of 55 minutes, we looked at the links to Classroom 2.0 webinars, the K12 Online Conference, TED Talks and TEDx, iTunes University, EdCamps/unconferences, and Discovery Education's DEN. We had a short digression into Twitter's ability to find more of these types of resources on a daily basis. I had linked to Richard Byrne's post on Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter under the category of Other Opportunities on my site.

Break Time
Lunch was on our own. I had a very serendipitous encounter in a pizza store. My friend had struck up a conversation with two gentlemen at the table next to us. They were teaching a summer course at the local university. I found myself, once again, having a difficult time explaining the concept of ntcamp and shared the link to EdCamp NYC which is planned for December 4, 2010 at The School at Columbia University.

Sessions - Part II
On return from lunch, I attended Shelley Krause's session titled Talent Swap No Slidedeck! Rocket Fuel for Your PLN. In truth, I had no idea what to expect based on the title. This is potentially a downside to the unconference model. At an unconference, you are welcome to "vote with your feet" and leave if a session doesn't fit your needs. I was armed with the knowledge that Shelley was excited by an idea that she had. I had learned this via Twitter, so I wanted to see what idea she had "cooking". The cooking concept actually had a lot in common with her proposal in the session. She provided us with a set of business cards (see the image to the right). One side has a very colorful green apple (in the theme of the conference) and the other contained three prompts to fill in: Name, Twitter id/email address, and what you could offer someone in the form of your talents and experiences.

This requires further explanation. She likened it to a Christmas cookie exchange where you bring a full plate of your cookies, recipe cards for the cookies, and an empty plate. At the end of the evening you leave with a cookie platter filled with cookies from the other guests and recipe cards. We shared our information on the cards. At the end, I ended up with one card from each session attendee who I now know a little better. I share my comfort and learned about that of others in the room. We made a strong connection as a results of the sharing that we would not have otherwise. Here are my Google Doc notes from Shelly's session.

The final session was a great bookend of my first. It was titled Gifted Gab: Everything You Need to Know About the "Smart" Kids with Gerald Aungst and Paula White. After introductions around the room and sharing the one takeaway we hoped to receive in the session, we did a little brainstorming. I captured the information in this Google doc. Next Gerald and Paula extended our thoughts and shared some web sites. These are in the doc, as well as my Delicious and Diigo bookmarks tagged as gifted. At the end of the session I won a door prize. A years membership at the Simple K12 Ed Tech Unconference online. It is something I had heard about and was curious about. Now I will get to experience it. A big thank you to Simple K12 - one of ntcamps sponsors!

To Wrap It Up
I'd like to extend a big thank you to the organizers of ntcamp! I learned, share, met new people, and had fun. There were a amazing, intelligent, gregarious group of educators in Philly yesterday. 

Image Citation:
Aungst, Gerald. copyright 2010. Used with permission.

Oro, Ann. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0