Monday, June 2, 2008

Thing #23

So what about the 23 things? Well, it's been an interesting journey. I've learned about some new tools, gained some information about other items and enjoyed the journey. Specifically, there are a few things that stick out for me. I've learned about wikis and how I could use them. I learned alot about Flickr and how that could be used.

The social bookmarking is interesting. I've bounced back and forth between absolutely loving it, to seeing its restrictions. It is definitely a different way of thinking and organizing. The flexibility is wonderful. However, there are also limits. One could easily end up with a ton of bookmarks that are just slightly different. One could also end up with many different bookmarks that are no longer need (right now). I'll keep playing around with it (I'm using it for a summer vacation). Interestingly, there seems to be a push back in terms of organization. Many computer geeks have been pushing a change from a hierarchical folder structure to a free form just save it and then search for it. This idea utilizes something like Google Desktop to search. Recently however, it seems as though there is some movement back to an organized saving structure. Still, I'll trying tagging but being careful of the tags that I'm using.

I really like Flickr. It's got some really cool things. It's also not blocked through work. Naturally, there are some privacy concerns about using work stuff with Flickr, but for some things it can be wonderful.

Video is another story. YouTube is blocked through work and rightfully so. In a quick search by category - Education - I ended up with some really, really inappropriate. I have no interest in YouTube. TeacherTube is much better but limited. Still, this could become a useful tool at some point.

I think back in how TV was supposed to revolutionize education. That didn't quite work out the way that was predicted. It has definitely had an effect and can be quite powerful. But it didn't work out the way that it was predicted. Could this be the same effect for technology? Some technologists have been predicting that computers would revolutionize education for over a decade. Certainly they are having an effect on our lives. How much of an impact on education will they have? They have changed how some things are done, but how much have they changed the experience of students? Are we still in the infancy phase?

So what would you add to the 23 Things experience?
I would start with Evernote. While this is still in beta officially, it's not hard to get an invite. This is a multiplatform, (windows, Mac, web, and phones), program that bills itself as such:

Remember everything.

Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.

This makes even text in images searchable. Thus, you could take a picture of a menu and upload it. The next time you are looking for a particular dish, you'd just type in what you were looking for and it would be found.

The notebooks can be made public (allowing easy sharing).

The other part of web 2.0. is the social networking aspect. MySpace is absolutely the cat's meow for out students. If we want to understand our students, we need to understand this phenomena.

The other part that I would've preferred would've been to complete the Things in a different order. Part of the digital world is that it doesn't have to be linear. I personally would've preferred to complete these tasks in a different order. To each his/her own.

All in all, I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to complete this project.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thing #22 - Internet Safety [Public Service Announcement]

Here is a video about Internet Safety. After looking at YouTube more, Internet safety is much needed.

Thing #21

YouTube. Well, this is a curious "thing". YouTube has been a bane to many people. It is filled with banality. It is filled with immature, sometimes disgusting videos. I have chosen my words very carefully. The majority of the videos are what you'd expect from bored, male teens. There is a reason that YouTube is banned in schools.
I also think of the recent teenage girls beating another teenage with the intent of posting the video on YouTube. This was apparently not the only one.
There are some videos that are worthwhile. They are however, very difficult to find among the cruft. Indeed, even though you can search YouTube and ask for videos where the results "filter videos that may not be suitable for minors". However, searching for "education" gave me a George Carlin video (um, lots of bad language).
One of the really good conversation starters for educators is "Pay Attention". This is a good example of a useful video.

On the other hand, TeacherTube is designed to be the YouTube for teachers. They have eliminated the cruft. TeacherTube is much more useful. The quality varies. But this is a much better choice.

Thing #20

Back to RSS for a check in. This is one of the habits that I've developed. I actually use my RSS feeds regularly now. I had tried it long ago, but didn't rally get it. Now I do and use it regularly. The key for me was to use it for a couple of days. I've added and deleted several feeds.

I'm also in the process of figuring out the best RSS reader. I've tried Bloglines (obviously). I like the way that it updates and that it is available at any computer. However, I don't like that its not really easy to revisit a site that I've already looked at (at least not for me). I've also tried NetNewsWire. It's much more flexible. I'm not sure that its the winner yet though. It doesn't seem to hide the things that I've looked at already as neatly. I've also tried Mail. This seems like the least flexible.

When I have more time, I'll play around with reader that I want to use all the time. However, I will be using RSS.

Thing #19

I've set up some bookmarks at delicious. You can check them out here. Nothing of true inspiration though. Mostly, I've bookmarked some Mac sites. I'll delve into this even more in the future. One of the things that I can't afford right now is to spend tons of time changing a system if I have one that works. (This has been a difficult lesson to learn. Im much more careful about this now).

It takes a little getting used to in terms of organization. Using the tags instead of a folder structure has some real advantages. You don't have to decide which folder something needs to go in. Instead, you can tag each item with multiple tags. It is also interesting to see what other people have tagged.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thing #18

Social Bookmarking. Put this in the why didn't I do this a whole lot earlier file. Simply put, social bookmarking allows one to bookmark things in a much more efficient way. Not only that, but those bookmarks can then be shared with others.
First of all, this is a much more efficient way to bookmark things. Since I use multiple computers, it can be difficult to keep all of the bookmarks the same (or at least similar) on each of the computers. This is an easy way to make sure that no matter where I am, I'll have access to the same bookmarks.
Secondly, this is useful for those "temporary" bookmarks that one develops. Tagging them allows them one to delete them easily when done.
Thirdly, this is an easy way to provide a list of bookmarks for students to follow. If you want to have students visit a variety of sites, you could just bookmark those sites. Then students could simply follow links to get to the right sites without worries about them entering the wrong addresses.
Fourthly, this is a terrifically easy way to share sites amongst teachers.
Once again, I can't believe that I didn't catch on to this earlier than now. If I were to have gotten nothing else out of the 23 Things (which I have), this alone would've been worth the trip.
Wait no longer. Check out delicious.

Thing #17

All about Slidesharing. The idea behind Slidesharing is to basically be able to have your presentations with you anywhere there is a web connection. Basically, you create a presentation (on your computer or through one of the presentation software pieces - Google Docs, Zoho, etc) and upload it to slideshare. The advantages? First of all, this creates a wealth of presentations that can be shared and used by lots of people. Secondly, you have a back-up of your presentation. Thirdly, it creates a bevy of ideas. If you are interested in a certain topic, you can look up the topic and get some ideas of where to start.

Ideas for using in schools. Well, first of all, this could be useful for teachers to share resources. Secondly, principals could use this to provide professional development.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Video on a Blog

A Welcome Note.

Thing 16

Thing 16 is online productivity tools. This one is a bit harder for me. I've spent a lot of effort at developing my current productivity system. Thus, moving to another system would be extremely difficult at this point. Still, it does provide for some interesting comparisons.

Bubbl- Easy to create mind maps. You can also export them to either HTML or XML. Currently, I use VUE (Visual Understanding Environment) from Tufts Unversity (for FREE) to create mind maps. Bubbl looks interesting but not enough to get me to switch at this point. It was easy to create a map though.
Zoho Show - Online presentations. This looks pretty impressive. Note that Zoho Show is just a part of the Zoho suite. This is similar to Google Docs. Zoho Show looks more complete than Google's Presentation. Zoho also has more parts than Google currently. A similar tool is DimDim. DimDim allows for free on-line meetings. DimDim allows you to share not only a presentation, but also your desktop. I've not had an opportunity to put these to work in the "real world" yet, but both sound fascinating.
Remember the Milk - I've spent some time working with productively tools. I read David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" (commonly referred to as GTD) last summer. I've spent some time trying to find the very best way to do devices (I've gone from a Palm, to a Pocket PC to using the iPod Touch) and a variety of software tools (Things, Thinking Rock, etc) to help me keep track of things. I really can't face one more right now (this is a really busy time of year). So, I took a quick look at this. It seems to have some power, but I'm concerned about how long it took me to enter tasks (this is true of most task managers). For now, I'll stick with using Apple Mail and iCal to manage my tasks.
30 Boxes - Here is an online calendar. Again, I have lots invested in a calendar program that works for me. Thus, I registered for this and checked it out. I played around with it a bit. There are some advantages. You can share your calendar with others. This would make it easier for a busy family to keep in touch. Or, as a teacher, you could share a classroom calendar with assignments on it. For me though, I'll stick with Plaxo and Apple Mail. (Plaxo allows me to sync calendars between Mail and Outlook - and Google Calendar. That way, all of my calendars (including those on my iPod and phone) are kept up to date.)
Library Thing - (as of May 4th its' down. Thus, a review will need to come later.) My daughters use Shelfari instead of LibraryThing. Shelfari allows you to create a virtual bookshelf. It also allows you to establish groups and reading circles. However, like all social networking sites, it requires a large number of participants. I'll have to go off of my daughters' experience. They've set up a couple of groups but didn't get a lot of participants.
Knowtes - Flash card study program. The pitch sounds interesting. However, clicking on the "News" section produces an empty page. The same thing happens with the "Help" section. Not a good sign. This is a beta program. There is also a desktop version. Many of the publicly avialable "decks" (groups of flash cards) are from just a couple of people. This could be a very useful tool for students to study, especially since you could share study cards. I'll wait just a bit though. I will keep an eye on this service though.

Thing 15

Thing 15 is all about Google Docs. Google docs was born largely when Google bought Writely. Basically, Google Docs is an on-line Microsoft Office suite. There are really big differences, but it's a simple way to understand what Google Docs is all about. With Google Docs, you have access to a word processor, a spreadsheet program, and a presentation program. All are much more basic than programs that live on your computer, but they are all functional. There are also some benefits. For example, you can easily share your documents with whomever you want. Both of you can work on the documents at the same time.

Google now has an offline component. I've never used it so I'm not sure how well that it works.

I've used Google Docs for quite a little while now. Shawn and I use it for show notes. That way, either of us can add to the notes throughout the week. When we're ready to podcast, we've got the same notes in front of us.

Some districts block Google Docs. Check before you plan on using it.

Google Docs would be used largely like Wiki's.

Thing 14

Podcasting a great way to get your voice out there. There are also a
wide variety of ways to podcast. You can do everything from setting an
account where you just call in from a phone (although these are
sometimes blocked from a district-you'd need to set it up somewhere
else first). That makes it extremely easy to podcast. All you do is
call a number, punch a couple of numbers as prompted, and then talk.
Everything else is done automatically.
You can also use Audacity to
record your podcast on a computer (it's cross platform and free). If
you have a Mac, GarageBand is a great way to go.
If you really like
control, you can buy a domain and run everything yourself. That takes a
little bit of knowledge and a little bit of cash.
Our district supports podcasting by including some free tools to help teachers make and post them.
Like many other things, time and professional development is an issue in implementing podcasts.

Thing 13

Thing 13 asks us to subscribe to podcasts. Since, I've long been a subscriber (oh, and did I mention a podcaster - check out Middle School Matters), I'll share some of my favorites:

Buzz Out Loud - a daily show from the nice people at Cnet. Tom Merritt and Molly Wood are the usual hosts
Daily Giz Wiz - Dick Debartolo and Leo Laporte. Dick is billed as "MAD's Maddest writer". This one is usually short 15 minutes or so. The joy is not the technology that they talk about, but their banter.
MacBreak Weekly - good information about what's going on in the Mac world.
MacCast - a long running podcast by Adam Christenson. This is a high quality podcast about "all things Macintosh".
Middle School Matters - selfless plug again.
Net at Nite - Amber Macauther and Leoporte talk about stuff going on on the net.
Practical Principals - a couple of principals having a friendly discussion.
Surfbits - Another Mac centric podcast.
TedTalks- A video podcast that sends out talks from the TED conference. TED has some terrific talks from fascinating people. If you've not checked this one out, you owe it yourself to take a look.
The Mac Observer's Mac Geek Gab - Two friends talk about the Mac. Mostly, they answer listeners questions and offer advice.
The Tech Night Owl- a longer podcast. The host (Gene Steinberg) isn't always my favorite, but he gets some good guests on.
The Tech Teachers- Ray and Hollye talk about using technology in teaching. Ray is a high school science teacher, Hollye teaches Middle School Spanish (until next year when she moves to the High School)
This Week in Media- Alex Lyndsay leads this group of media insiders.
This Week in Tech - The grand daddy of podcasts. Leo Laporte leads an ever changing crew (lots of regulars- including John C. Davorak).

Well, that's a few of my regular listens. What are yours?

Thing 12

OK, a little about podcasting. I've been a fan of podcasting for a couple of years. So much so, that I started a podcast (Middle School Matters). The idea was to provide for professional development while also providing a forum for middle school teachers to discuss what's going on. I'd love to get more feedback on it.

The podcasts that I enjoy mostly tend to be focused around the Mac. This Week in Tech is one of my favorites (not Mac centered), as well as MacBreak Weekly, the MacGeek Gab and more.

Podcasting has an easy place in education. Teachers can use it to provide a deeper experience for students. Teachers could also use it to differentiate. For example, instead of trying to be in three places in the classroom, a teacher could pre-record a couple of different lessons. Then certain students could be assigned different tasks. Each podcast could include the "lecture" (which could be listened to more than once if needed) and the assignment.

Students could use podcasts to show what they know. They could create a podcast to explain a topic that they've learned about. Podcasts could also be used in jigsaw fashion. This way, students could "teach" the rest of the class about a specific topic.

These can also help students who miss out on a day. While it's not the same as being there, a podcast of what happened can help for review and is certainly better than nothing.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

23 Things Part 11

Wikis, wikis, wikis. This thing is when we get to set up our own wikis. Here's one that I've established. The first page is about promethean boards. However, the real theme behind the wiki could very easily be professional development. The difference between a wiki and a blog is that the wiki allows for collaboration. Others could add to the page. Teachers who know how to use the promethean board could add their own tips and tricks. This could allow for teachers to take ownership of the page. That could increase the usage and usefulness of the page.

23 Things Part 10

This "thing" starts our exploration of wikis. I'll admit that I've known about wikis for quite a while but hadn't really thought about how they could be used educationally. Not very smart on my part. After taking a look at some of the wikis that are available, I can easily see how they could be used. Using them in a classroom would be one thing. I'll also explore using them for professional development. Using them as professional development may allow me to do some differentiation. Wikis could allow for teachers to be able to follow different paths depending upon their expertise with a particular subject. Wikis allows for some awesome collaboration on a variety of projects.

23 Things listed these reasons for using Wikis:
Wikis have great potential as an educational tool for both teachers and
students because they encourage collaborative learning and resource
sharing. Among the things they can be used for are:
- Collaborative writing
- Brainstorming
- Creation and organization of content and study guides
- Lesson summaries
- Group notetaking
- Dissemination of classroom information
- Literature circles
- Collaborative textbooks
- Resource collections
- Vocabulary study

23 Things Part 9

Part 9 deals with image editing online. Wow are there a lot of options at Image Generator. Select from a variety of "tricks" (such as fake magazine covers, your face on a different body, scrapebook creator, comic creator, photocards and more- much more). Upload an image from your computer and see the results. You can then save the picture and use it however you wish. Definitely one way to increase the attractiveness of any productions. I'll need to think even more about how to use to increase student learning.

23 Things Part 8

Part 8 continues us on our Flickr journey. This time we get to explore a variety of tools that work with Flickr. These tools can be fun, are easy to use and give us some different ways to think about learning. Here's a few tools that we considered:
  • Spell with Flickr- this is a really cool tool. I can easily see this being used (and overused) by teachers and students. Essentially, it works by you typing in a word and then clicking "spell". The site returns each letter in your word in the form of a picture. The picture may be from a photograph of the letter, or some digital representation. You can click on individual letters to get another choice. Really cool.
  • Flickr Color Pickr - you click on a color and it finds pictures that match that color. This one didn't do too much for me personally. Art teachers may really like it though.
  • Retrievr - The idea here is that you upload a picture from your computer (or a link to a picture on the web) and it finds similar pictures. My mileage definitely varied on this one. I tried a couple of pictures (one of the clock and one of a school). The clock didn't return anything that I would've expected. The school did return some buildings, but it also returned some pictures of people. I couldn't figure out the exact logic behind some of the choices. I would consider this a fun tool. It was quick. However, if you're a linear thinking person, and expecting similar pictures to one that you have, don't have high expectations. If you're an abstract thinker looking for serendipity, this one's for you.
  • Picture Sudoku - This is a fascinating idea. I could see lots of uses for this, except, you can't directly upload pictures to the puzzle. Since you can search by tags, or users, you could control the pictures that way. However, you'll need to plan ahead. Pictures that I uploaded weren't included. The may be related to a delay for my account showing up through Flickr (Flickr explains that there may be a 24-48 hour delay). Anyway, this could be a way for students to practice distinguishing between similar things. The could be useful in science or for ELL students.
  • Flickr montager - This is a tool that uses a bunch of smaller pictures to recreate a larger picture. I guess I didn't see an educational use so quickly, but it is pretty cool.
  • Flickr Memry - A simple to use and create "concentration" game. You can pick the number of "cards" that are in play (either 3x3 or 6x6). You click on each card to turn it over to reveal the image. Once you select the image and it's pair, those cards stay turned over. The cards are chosen by tags, so again, in order to control the pictures, you'll need original tags.
  • Jigsaw - Turn your picture into a virtual jigsaw (you can also order one if you really like it and want one for real). Interesting images are created that could add to the visual appeal of things.
All in all, I've enjoyed learning about Flickr. Some of these tools can really add visual pop to your documents, web sites, etc. Some can help students learn stuff in different ways. All of them will certainly increase the interest for students.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

23 Things Part 7

Part 7 continues on with Flickr. This time we get to share some pictures of our own. I've posted some pictures that are public on Flickr. You can check them out here:

At first, I wasn't sure how to use Flickr educationally. After just a little bit of thought, anything that could be communicated visually would be a fit for Flickr. This would include social studies (where maps could be uploaded, vintage pictures, etc), science (images of a variety of science topics), art, physical education (pictures of proper techniques, games, etc) and more.

23 Things Part 6

Part 6 is all about Flickr. Flickr has long been a wonderful resource for dealing with pictures. A quick search for "middle school" produced some interesting results. I was hoping for a variety of pictures about, well, middle schools. However, the results were much more serendipitous than I expected. Here is a picture that I found that I greatly enjoy. I like the multiple meanings (love of books, the wedding ring forming a heart, etc.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

23 Things Part 5

Like a few other of my cohort, I jumped the gun for Part 5. I
subscribed to many sites in Part 4 when that is supposed to be part of
part 5. Anyway, I largely revisited some of my most heavily "traveled"
RSS sites from NetNewsWire. (If you're interested, check them out at:
) . RSS can allow you to gather a lot of information together. I think
that it needs to be targeted though. I sometimes return to visiting web
sites for a couple of reasons.

  1. Going to a web site gives me more context.
  2. Going to a web site "slows" me down. This allows me to process better.
  3. I can automatically "rank" the sites that I want to see. Yes, I
    know that I can do something similar with the RSS reader, but somehow
    it's still different.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

23 Things Part 4

Part 4 is all about RSS. RSS is a way to quickly and easily bring updates on the web to you instead of you going out to a variety of sites to check them out. This can save a ton of time as you don't have to check sites that haven't been updated. My personal favorite way to do this is using NetNewsWire. However, there are other ways to do this as well. Google Reader is another way to do this easily.

The advantage to NetNewsWire is that it is laid out very nicely. It is also self-contained. One of the advantages of Bloglines is the public nature of the linking. You can easily share the links that you like.

I still can get overwhelmed by the number of sites that I "keep up" with. Here is an interesting blog post on that very subject. It didn't work for me, but your mileage may vary. RSS certainly can help you take control over the shear number of web information inputs that you want to follow.

Educationally, RSS would allow you to easily pull in the updates from students who were blogging (think of it as an easy way to "collect" papers).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

23 Things Part 3

Blogs can be mighty useful. As a middle school principal, I have my teachers "turn in" their weekly team meeting logs in a blog. This saves some trees, saves me carrying notebooks home over the weekend, prevents "lost" notebooks, and makes it so that teachers can update their logs at any time. It also provides the teachers opportunities to quickly search their logs. Plus, several teachers can view the logs at once from different places.
Obviously, I have very strict constraints on who can see the blogs.

Some of my teachers use blogs for the kids. The teachers tell me that its faster to input the homework in the blog than to check a bunch of planners. This also allows for parents to know exactly what the homework is.

Blogs can also be used for Professional Development.

Good stuff.

23 Things

Welcome to the reinvigoration of the blog! This will become the home of a new project that I'm participating in to help teachers understand Web 2.0. The idea behind 23 Things is as follows:

Wayne RESA’s 23 Things is based on The Learning 2.0 program originally designed by Helene Blowers, Technology Director, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, and has been modified for use by Wayne RESA. The original program is loosely based upon Stephen Abram’s article, 43 Things I (or You) might want to do this year (Information Outlook - Feb 2006) and the website 43Things.

This online program was built using freely available Web 2.0 technologies that include:
Blogger, Flickr, YouTube, Wikispaces, and Bloglines.

So why am I participating in 23 Things? Easy, I want to understand how I can best help my students learn. I feel pretty comfortable with technology (I run a weekly podcast with an award winning RESA educator (Shawn McGirr) with an accompanying web site: I think I posted my first web site in 1998. However, I still feel as though I have much to learn. I want to be part of the conversation. Part of Thing 1 was Pay Attention.

This is a presentation that has been somewhat controversial. Some educators have taken it as an assault on their teaching and what they are doing. I found that an unexpected reaction. I think the video is a great opportunity for discussion. Facts are great but they are only a beginning. Context is important. The question becomes, what is the context for lots of the facts brought forward?
How do we frame the conversation about how students are different (or not)? We also have to be careful of the "good ole days syndrome".

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Remote Access

You can check out the updated version at Middle School Matters.
This is a real life check of the remote access.