Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's All About the Connections

I have been following what some of the folks who attended Educon 2.0 in Philadelphia are writing about. The Science Leadership Academy sounds like a great school and I would love to visit there someday. Will Richardson in his blog article titled Local Connections and Global Connections mentions that he was struck by the focus on making connections within the local school environment as well as globally. "The culture of sharing and participation that is created within the local community is more important almost than making those connections outside."

This is something I have been thinking about for some time. One complaint I hear from people at times is that technology has made it easier for people to be less connected. I, obviously, take exception to that since I have networks through Twitter and Ning where I can connect with folks that I may never meet. However, I have sought out those technologies that can help me make the connections.

This year I have been working with Moodle to help my class be connected when the class period ends. The students are currently working on group lessons where they will present a concept in grammar in a format that will help the other students remember the information more easily. I had to remind the students that they could meet in Moodle to finish working out any final issues with their lessons. The response from the students was, "Oh, yeah, we could do that, couldn't we?" They hadn't thought about using the chat, messaging and wiki tools in Moodle to help them finish their planning and preparation of the lesson.

Our school has been emphasizing for some time now the connections we make with each other and how important they are. I went to see several of my students play in a basketball game on Saturday. I have never had so many "thank yous" as I received for that one act. When a student of mine 15 years after I've taught them is asked about his/her year with me, I dare say they won't mention the grammar I've taught. I'm thinking they will mention about the connections he/she made with me. It's all about the connections!


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Call to Action: A Reflection on Growing Up Online

On Tuesday night, Frontline aired a program titled Growing Up Online. This program highlighted just how different childhood is now as opposed to when parents of today's teens were growing up. I was concerned that this might be another "witch hunt" type program targeting the Internet as bad.(The Internet is not bad; people make choices to use the Internet in bad ways.) I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a well-balanced reporting of what life is like for today's teens.

When people ask me about web filtering or blocking, I always make mention of the fact that we need to teach our kids how to handle the medium and not "protect" them from it. The Internet is here - there's no going back! Computers are not just a fad contrary to what Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa say jokingly on their show. School is a perfect place for students to learn about productive uses of the tools. This should be a wake-up call to all educators. Media and the Internet are part of our kids' lives and we need to teach them how to handle it. This program, to me, brought this to light.

We don't want our kids to stop talking to us. The only way we are going to keep them communicative is by learning as much as we can about leveraging these tools. Then we can have open sharing and discussions with them about our social networks and the friends we have online. I can talk with my 16 year old son about the people who added me as a friend on Twitter that I ended up blocking and why I blocked them. Without my participation in such an environment, I can't have that conversation with him. It's time parents and teachers use the tools kids are using so we can have open, honest communication with our teens.

You can see the entire program online and join in a discussion at the PBS website.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Using Voicethread with Students

VoiceThread is a web 2.0 tool that I heard about this summer but recently became reacquainted with due to a collaborative project that Lisa Parisi is organizing. (See my post on Collaborative Project in the Making.) The VoiceThread site offers this description: A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in 5 different ways - using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) - and share them with anyone they wish. A VoiceThread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world. The Tablet PC Education blog highlights one 6th grade teacher who is using this tool with his class.

In preparation for the Collaborative Book Talk Project that my class will participate in, I posted a VoiceThread on my class blog and worked with students to respond via voice recording. I registered a VoiceThread account for all of the students to use. The students use my email address and a generic class password to access the VoiceThread account. They create their own identity within the account. I instructed the students to either use their initials for their identity name or a pseudonym. We had some troubles with avatars and learned that VoiceThread requires .jpg images as opposed to .gif or .png. We use the Portrait Illustration Maker site to create the students’ avatars. The students thoroughly enjoyed the process of making their own avatar and not only uploaded them to VoiceThread but also uploaded them to their blog pages.

Once the avatars were uploaded and the identities were made, then we moved onto recording the audio comments. We used small button computer microphones much like you can find at any discount department store for around seven dollars. We had some issues with our new Vista computers and getting the microphones to be recognized. Once that was fixed, the recording went well. One student tried to stop recording in the middle and start it again. However, VoiceThread makes different comments each time you start and stop. I had to emphasize to the students to say everything they wanted to say before stopping the recording. It was funny to see how the students became somewhat nervous and intimidated by speaking into that little microphone. Even though they could easily delete the recording and start over, they were apprehensive. I think it will take doing this a few more times before they will become comfortable with it.

The topic of the VoiceThread and their comments is on setting goals. Feel free to leave a comment yourself on the VoiceThread. The kids would love to know that someone is listening to them. You have to have your own VoiceThread account to leave a comment but registration on the site is free. By the way, as an educator you can have an enhanced VoiceThread account free by contacting VoiceThread. Once registered, just click on “Go Pro” and then click on K12 educators click here.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Collaborative Project in the Making

Lisa Parisi is putting together a collaborative book talk project. Students will use voice thread to publish their book talks on a wiki. I am excited to participate in this with my students. I explained to the kids on Wednesday that we would participate in this project for our independent reading response this six weeks. At first, they looked at me with the all too familiar glazed over eyes. Then I showed them how voice thread works. Wow! Did they get excited!

On Wednesday, our goal was for each student to create his/her own avatar using this site. Then, each student was to add their identity to our voice thread account. Here's where we got stuck. They uploaded their avatars after having saved them, but the images did not show up in the identities, even though the identities were listed. I didn't have this problem when I worked on it from home so I am wondering if it has anything to do with our school filters. If anyone out there knows, would you leave me a comment about it?

You can see our initial voice thread on our class blog page.

Please comment, words of wisdom are appreciated!


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Talk Show on Ning in Education

The following message was posted to Classroom 2.0 members. Classroom 2.0 is a professional learning network of educators with an interest in education and web 2.0. This message was posted by Steve Hargadon, the founder of Classroom 2.0.

Tomorrow I'm experimenting with a live talk show program by starting a discussion on using Ning in education. If it goes well, I'd like to consider a regular (weekly) show on Web 2.0 in education.

Here is the link to the first educational "Ning-cast": It is scheduled for tomorrow, January 3, at 6pm Pacific / 9pm Eastern. You can listen to the show live (or later recorded) without signing up at, but if you do sign up for a free account, you can have the choice to participate in our show online, by Skype/VOIP phone, or regular land line. Those who choose to download the Talkshoe software can also particpate in a chat window. There are good instructions on the site.

If you aren't going to download the software (PC & Mac only), you can call in as follows:

1. Dial: (724) 444-7444
2. Enter: 12083 # (Talkcast ID)
3. Enter: 1 # or your PIN (you set up a PIN number if you register)

OK, so for the brave pioneers, tomorrow night! Talk to you then.


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