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).