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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thing 23- The End?

I can't believe how quickly these 23 Things came and went!  It seems like just yesterday I was setting up my blog.  I have explored/experimented/goofed up/learned so much from this project.  I think the biggest impact on me was blogging.  I can see so many different uses for blogging in and out of the classroom now and my mindset towards blogging in general has changed dramatically.  It is a great personal and educational tool!

There were so many different tools presented during this project that I want/hope to incorporate into my classroom in one way or another:  blogging (of course), wikis, voicethread, screencasting, podcasting- just to name a few.  And there are so many others that I will or have already used in my personal/professional life.   

This program was a definite challenge to me, forcing me to make the time to try out the different Things.  Many of the Things presented had similar features but on closer inspection they also all had unique uses as well.   This was just one of the challenges I faced and learned from.  Quite often great ideas are passed along to me, but I don't always have or make the time to try them and therefore I don't realize their true potential.  This project helped give me a reason to try them- and that has made all the difference.  I wonder- is there a way to do 23 Things for tablets?  

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thing 21- twitter

I have two confessions to make:
1.  I was one of the people who thought Twitter was ridiculous and only for those people who either had  
nothing better to do, or thought the whole world cared about what they did every minute of the day.

2.  I am addicted to Twitter. (nixon1972)

I don't tweet very much, but I check it multiple times throughout the day to see who else has tweeted.  I love that I can choose who I follow, and who follows me.  I love that the tweets have to be succinct, which is great for me, as I can easily get distracted or off topic.  Twitter forces me to focus and get to the point.  This is a great exercise for my students.  I think I will try this in class, limiting them to use a certain number of words, when they have to write a summary. 

What really surprised me was the variety and sheer number of options to follow.  I had no idea that I could follow news organizations and educational groups, I thought it was just people.  I also like that I can see how current the post is and go back and look at the posts I missed before I joined. 

I have found twitter to be useful as a professional when others tweet snippets about conferences and other educational or tech facts.  This is a quick way to spread the word about some items, like word of mouth, only an entire group gets the information at once.  I can see similarities to IM and email, but again, having to be succinct sometimes makes all the difference.  I admit I sometimes skim through an email to find the point, I don't have to do that with Twitter.  I am definitely a convert!

"Sad birds twittered sleeplessly,

Calling, calling lost companions." 

- Unyielding By Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thing 22- Where did the time go?

The program I used for this Thing is Preceden, an online time line.  As a social studies teacher, I am constantly trying to show my students how civilizations developed throughout history, and this seemed like an interesting tool to try.  I had a lot of fun with this program.  It is easy to use and has countless uses:  simplified curriculum mapping, lesson planning/organizing, project planning/organizing, personal planner, development of civilizations- just to name a few.  You can change the view of the time line from years to months, days, etc to suit your needs.  Plus, you can keep your time line private or make them public for all to see.  I have embedded my timeline into this blog(see below).

The only downside to the timeline (for me) is that it always shows the earliest date on the line.  I had added a layer of Presidents and my timeline of course started with Washington but the rest of my entries were from 2009-2010.  I could scroll across the screen and move the timeline, but I couldn't get it to start with the current date.  I contacted Preceden to ask how to change this, if possible.  Otherwise, the whole program was pretty user friendly. 

This is a great "web 2.0" tool.  It is easy to use, free and online.  You don't have to download anything to use it and the site has other timelines to browse and use.  I hope to use it in my class, perhaps at the end of the year as a wrap up to help my students see how the curriculum tied together.

Another great tool is one that was shared with me by my tech coach. It is a program that converts online media, such as YouTube music videos, into mp3. I used it with my students for a PhotoStory project. It is incredibly easy to use. Just go to and follow the directions.  I could then have my students edit parts of the song using Audacity before adding it to their PhotoStory. (I lost count of how many free programs were involved in that process!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thing 15- spotlight on screen cast

I have never used screen cast before and to be honest, it was not looking very promising  due to some technical problems with Java.  It took me weeks and multiple occasions of forcing a computer shut down before I could record anything, but now that I have used it I see that it is incredibly easy!  I know of some teachers who have used screen casting to record lessons for a long distance student, and I can see how it would help.  However, for language arts and social studies, I am not sure how I would be able to use it in the classroom other than to show directions for different programs I use in projects.  (See my screen cast)

 Screen casting could help with teaching how to cite resources, especially when looking for information on websites.  As this is a topic that needs to be reinforced all year, I could see myself posting screen casts of citation techniques and tips throughout the year, especially in conjunction with projects and research.  This would also be useful for the students to use when writing a "how to" paper.  They could use the screen cast to help them write or double check their work, making sure they covered all the steps clearly for others to repeat the process and be successful.  I think I am starting to see screen casting in a whole new light.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thing 20- slideshare

I found slideshare to be interesting.  I found a couple of interesting presentations that I could use to supplement units I teach.  It is nice to have another source of information, other than my own powerpoints and the textbook to introduce information. 

The whole process seemed pretty easy.  However, it can be fairly time consuming searching for the right information, especially since I would have to preview every slideshow to make sure the content was accurate and appropriate.  I will probably use it as an additional teaching tool.  I have already downloaded a couple slideshows to use this year.  I'll have to see what the students think about it, to see if it is effective and worthwhile...

I liked the general idea behind the presentation I embeded.  I think much of it ties in nicely to our Goals, and it is a reminder of some easy ways to live the Goals on a daily (or 37 day) basis.  

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thing 19- podcasts

Podcasts make me think of the "olden times" when families would gather to listen to a radio show.  Some podcasts even use similar effects to enhance the broadcast, i.e. sound effects, music, etc.  I like to use podcasts in my classroom.  Each spring I have students create podcasts in which they explain commonly misunderstood grammar concepts, such as who/whom.  I prefer podcasts for this because they really have to understand the concept to be able to explain it clearly to others without the use of visual aids.  They also have to pay close attention to what they are saying and how they say it.  Plus, the podcasts are so easy to create and it gives students who are shy in front of an audience a chance to really shine, since they record in private.

One of my favorite podcasts is Grammar Girl.  I reference her year round to my class.  Here is her website that has all of her podcasts along with a written version of each podcast, for the visual learners,  A podcast I found for social studies is World News for Children.  It broadcasts current world news for kids.  I love it for current events, especially since so few kids read the paper or watch the news.  I have now linked it through my school web page for the students to access,   

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thing 18- more wiki

Working with wikis is pretty easy.  At least it was for me since I chose the "easy" option.  Adding to the favorites lists was literally as simple as clicking a button, typing and then saving, although I had some issues with the bullet points.  I hope all wikis are that easy.  If they are, then I would absolutely use them in my classroom for a project or two!

I considered chosing the hard option of editing wikipedia but it seemed a little intimidating when I considered how many people use that site every day (and many of whom assume it is all true).  I don't want to accidentally mislead anyone(I prefer to that deliberately).  I don't know how wikis compare to Moodle.  I use Moodle as a way of presenting lessons and generating conversations within forums.  I think there is a way to use wiki on Moodle but I could be mistaken about that... 

I like that with wiki, I made my contribution and now it is out there for all to see.  I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that others can edit it, but this would require a lot of trust for students.  I would have to have several discussions as to ethics and integrity when using a wiki for a group project.  This could be a good thing, and now that I think about it, using a wiki to create a fictional scenario might be a great way to generate a discussion on integrity... 

Thing 17- why wiki

I can see why people get confused over the difference between wikis and blogs.  They are very similar.  For me, it seems the major difference is that with a blog others can only post comments but with a wiki others can actually contribute to the main content of the page.  I like the collaborative idea behind wikis.  Wikis also seem more appropriate for classroom projects and group work.  And I like that I can decide exactly who gets to contribute to it.  I don't think a blog would be as beneficial for displaying different projects within a class. 

I found the wikis I explored to be interesting.  I like the idea of the utopia wiki, but the way it was used did not seem any different than a blog or email:  objectives were posted for all to see and the students would chat about a variety of ideas.  I loved the depth of the discussion the students were having, but don't see how a wiki was better for the project than a number of other programs.  The wiki that used glogster was terrific!  I think that is a perfect example of how to use a wiki.  I can see myself using this idea in social studies at the start of the year when we study the Five Themes of Geography.  Each year I try a different project as a final assessment and I think this might be it for next year!  This would have also been great during the presidential election, when students were tracking candidates on the road:  they could study that region of the U.S. and then add a glogster or other project information to a wiki.  Maybe there is a way to incorporate this into our study of the census this year...

I wonder, with a wiki like the 1000 Things and Greetings from Around the World, how do others find out about it?  Or any of the other wikis that are out there for public contribution?   

Thing 16- widgets

I thought I was pretty familiar with widgets, as my website for school functions completely with widgets.  I did not realize, however, that there were so many different applications available.  I have used widgets for links to websites and calendars and posting notes/lists but to have widgets for videos, photos, games, etc.  is almost overwhelming.  It seemed like many of the widgets were repetitive in regards to website/blogger links but I am sure there are subtle differences that are beyond my novice notice. 

I added two widgets to my blog:  fish and a calendar.  I added fish because, well- they're fun!  I think they are also relaxing and can provide me and any readers with a brain break before it is time to refocus and work.  I added a calendar because I simply need one.  I am frequently trying to "plan ahead" and that requires a calendar.  I would rather not have to print one out and if I am working on my blog at home- like I am right now- I usually have little idea as to the date.  Having it right there on my screen, along with the rest of the month, is very helpful.

Adding the blogs, using the gadgets provided, was incredibly easy.  When I looked at a couple of the gadgets, my computer froze and I had to close the internet completely and even restart my computer once.  But for most of what I explored, it was easy to explore and add to my blog.  I am tempted to look for more widgets that are available elsewhere on the internet but suspect I will get lost in the offerings of cyberspace.  I guess these will do for now.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thing 14- voicethread

I think voicethread is probably one of the best ideas yet.  To be able to comment and ink on a subject, respond to questions and other comments and connect with people around the world is phenomenal.  I can see so many possibilities for using this in the classroom.  When I had my MACUL grant for the video bookclub, this would have been so much better!  Students could still use the webcams to record a video of themselves to then post to a voicethread set up by me which focuses on a particular story element.  Students would still interact with each and time zones would be virtually irrelevent! (no pun intended)  I could even use student artwork or documents to feature and spark conversation. 

I tried creating my own voicethread.  It was pretty easy.  I'll admit that I didn't explore all of the help features that is offered so it might have been even easier.  My only concern using voicethread is copyright.  How do I give credit to pictures that aren't my own?  The voicethread I tried- the link is below, I hope- is really simple but addresses a key concept in my curriculum.  Check it out... 

My first voicethread!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thing 13- Youtube

I have had some experience with using Youtube before, but never in a classroom setting.  I really had no idea how useful it could be in the classroom.  Typically, if I wanted to show a video clip I would use Discovery Streaming, but as I explored Youtube I found many useful videos that I will soon be incorporating into my lessons. 

Finding appropriate videos on Youtube can be a challenge.  As I searched for educational videos, or even curriculum topic specific searches, many times I came across inappropriate content.  This concerns me when I think about how much time students are spending on Youtube.  I wonder if parents, who may restrict television due to content, have any idea what their children are finding on Youtube? 

Despite the content challenges, I will definitely use Youtube more often in my classroom.  It is nice to know there are options, other than Discovery Streaming, for short video clips.  I came across this video during my search.  I think it aligns with Daniel Pink and the "right brain" teaching we all are becoming more aware of.  It is a bit lengthy (20 minutes) but has many humorous stories to illustrate the point.  Check it out... 

Thing 12- wow 2.0!

I have tried a couple of the items listed for this thing before, such as weebly and wordle.  I love them both, especially wordle!  This time I explored quizlet, glogster and gliffy.  I like them all.  Quizlet,, is wonderful for building vocabulary.  I can see myself using it to help reinforce vocabulary in social studies and the students could use it to share the words they generate in their book club reading.  Any teacher could use this to help with vocabulary.  I like that it provides a number of different formats for using the words.  I even learned a little bit of French and Spanish when I explored other sets!  This tool could really help please some parents who feel we don't do enough with vocabulary.  Students can use this on their own to study, or use a teacher created set.  Love it!

Another site I like is glogster,  I have a collage project for the students pertaining to book club and I like the idea of them using glogster for this.  It not only will serve several different learning needs, it will be green as well since they don't have to print it out!  I like all of the tools that are provided, including uploading pictures and video.  The only problem is that the students have to be 13 or older and my kids don't meet that criteria.  I understand some content on the site may not be appropriate for sixth graders, but I am disappointed.  I wonder if there is a similar tool the students can use?

Lastly, I tried gliffy.  I like the concept of gliffy but I don't quite understand how it all works.  I tried to play around with it a little bit, but didn't want to sign up for the free trial without having had a chance to explore more.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thing 11- Delicious

I used to have Delicious on my tablet but I never used it.  I apparently did not realize its full potential.  I thoroughly enjoyed exploring other people's tags at Delicious.   I even found a site that I added to my rss!  I like the idea of being able to explore other people's favorite sites but it is easy to get a little lost amongst all the different tags and lose track of what my original purpose for looking was. 

I think tags are good for organizing sites and I love that Delicious enables me to access all of my sites from any computer- but doesn't my personalized start up page do that too?  I can see myself using Delicious to keep my education sites sorted and accessible but I wonder- how many different tools are we supposed to use?  I realize the point of this 23 things project is to broaden our technological experience, but I am starting to see a definite overlap in some of the tools.  How do I decide which is best for me?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thing 10- A mishmash of things

I like the idea of being able to do even more with my photos on Flickr however I am not quite comfortable with using the mashups.  As I explored them, it was confusing at times to figure out how to use some of them and I would never have discovered these tools on my own.  It would be nice if Flickr had links to some of these tools.  I realize that may take away some of Flickr's business but hey, can you put a price on creativity?

I don't know how I would incorporate the Flickr mashups into my teaching.  I suspect the students, who are much more technologically savvy, would be able to think of a variety of uses for them but I am lost at the moment.  I think a paraphrase of a comment posted at one of the mashups sums it up for me- is this a useful tool, or just a toy?  Right now I see it as a toy, but I am sure that with the way the world and education is changing, I will soon be proven wrong.

Helloooo buffalo!

helloooo Buffalo!
Originally uploaded by 1972dreamer
African Safari in Ohio, it's a drive through only. The animals come to the car for the food. And boy do they come close!

Whoa- now THAT'S close!

Originally uploaded by 1972dreamer
Close up front end shot of giraffe at African Safari in Ohio.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thing 9- love at first sight

I love Flickr!  I never was into scrapbooking.  I just don't think I have the patience or creativity to plan pages and organize photos and add decorations and write comments.  But with Flickr, I feel like I am doing that to a lesser degree.  I love being able to apply different effects to the photos, which enables me to make the photos I take more personalized for others.  Being able to pick and choose which photos to make public and who can see them gives me a sense of comfort while using the world wide web.

This is a very handy tool for people like me who like to take photos, but don't know what to do with them.  I have a number of full memory cards just dumped in a drawer and now I can actually put the photos to good use.  Using Flickr could be a great output for school projects as well.  I would much prefer to see a student submit a project created from Flickr using their own photos than always using google images.  Using Flickr in an assignment would actually give the students much more freedom and creativity than when they limit themselves to what they find on the internet.  And they wouldn't have to cite their own images.  Flickr is looking better and better!  

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thing 8- control freak

I love customized start pages.  For me, they help me keep my interests on the web organized so I don't have to search or keep adding to my favorites button.  Plus, I can access my customized page from any computer, which I can't do for my favorites list.  This could be great for students who don't have access to the same computers at home and at school but frequently need to visit particular websites. 

I used Pageflakes and added several widgets including:  feeds for local and national news, word of the day(what can I say, I teach language arts!), a block game(old fashioned but I love it), and a blog search which hopefully solves a question I had for Thing 7!  I like Pageflakes better than my google reader or blog dashboard because I can add so much more to it, like my task list which reminds me to complete my "Things".  I also like that I can customize the layout so I can arrange the widgets in an order that best suits my preferences, instead of just listing the most recent additions like on google reader.  Besides, I like having a sense of control of the internet, even if it is in a miniscule way. 

Thing 7- calling all blogs

I like the blogger dashboard and google reader.  Although I only have a few blogs that I am following right now, I like that they are neatly kept in one place for me to peruse at my leisure.  On the other hand, since I only have a few blogs I am following, google reader seems redundant to the blogger dashboard.  Perhaps as I gather more blogs and websites, I will see the difference in the two.  

That brings me to another problem.  How do people find blogs to follow?  I can easily follow my colleagues who are participating in 23 Things but I don't know how to find blogs outside of this.  I have some blogs I can follow from the Ning I joined, but I wonder how all the people who don't know about Ning find blogs to follow?  I would like to expand my blog collection but I am not sure where to look!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thing 6- Are you nINg?

It seems to me that Nings are like professional development conferences: teachers from different areas all meet in one “centralized” location and get together into small groups to discuss topics of interest. The big difference is that anyone can start a group discussion on Ning and it is possible to join all groups. I sometimes have a difficult time at conferences choosing which sessions to attend because there are too many I am interested in. Ning makes it possible to attend them all!

I think more people might blog in a Ning than on an actual web log because in Ning, you already know that the people in the group are interested in the topic. You don’t have to wait for people to find your blog; you take the discussion right to the target audience. This is a great tool for teachers to get near instantaneous feedback and suggestions. I discovered many new ideas and interesting conversations in the English Companion Ning that I joined. I found myself posting comments on several discussions the first day. I also found some discussions on topics that I think need to be approached or have already been addressed at my school. It is nice to know that some issues are occurring nation wide and are not “just us”.

The idea of using of Ning in the classroom is intriguing. Giving the students a venue to start their own topics of discussion could be very empowering for them and possibly take their thinking skills to a new level. My concern is how to keep it controlled/appropriate/educationally based. This is a tool that would probably work best in upper school, maybe eighth grade. As much as I like the idea, I don’t think my sixth graders could handle the responsibility and focus such a tool requires. I will continue to use it for myself however. Count me in!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thing 5- the evolution of being "social"

My first experience with social networking on the internet took place on myspace. I joined after I bumped into a friend at a store whom I had not seen in years. She was visiting from out of town and when she returned home, she contacted me about joining myspace so we could keep in touch. I joined and spent quite a lot of time at it for about a year. I even got in touch with a mutual friend as a result of it. Then I got busy with going back to school and general life obstacles and I haven't been to my myspace page in years.

I can rationalize with myself the purpose of using social networking sites such as LinkedIn. I know it is becoming the way of the world but I still miss the face to face interaction at times, the social part. When I attend professional development conferences, half the benefit is coming into contact with other people of similar interests and professions and being able to share ideas. This can sometimes be more beneficial than the actual meetings and presentations. 

I wonder if this has something to do with why our field is underrepresented on social sites.  We generally tend to want to be with people and cherish the interaction with our students, plus we frequently attend large gatherings for conferences where we are able to network.  I suspect there are many professions who do not meet in the way teachers do and therefore need a site like LinkedIn to keep in contact. 

In regards to using social networking sites like LinkedIn, I love the idea of being able to ask questions of multiple people and get expert/experienced advice from around the world with just a push of a button.  I think the potential for professional growth is great, especially at a school like ours that is part of a network of schools from around the world.   But I am concerned about the lack of socialization, in the traditional sense. There is definitely networking involved, but really, how "social" is it? I wonder if, as the practice of social networking evolves, perhaps the terminology needs to evolve as well.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thing 4- dipping my toes

Being a new blogger, I am still getting used to the whole idea of reading and commenting on other blogs and having people comment on mine.  I feel a little like my students when I ask them to do some peer revision.  I am uncomfortable commenting other than to say "I agree" or "I hadn't looked at it that way"; to openly disagree with someone is treacherous ground right now.  I think I need to ease into the commenting role of blogging.  I will dip my toes, wade into the pool and get a feel for it instead of just diving in.

As I read different blogs, I noticed that I felt less like I was sneaking a peek at their diary and more like I was having a conversation in my mind.  I assume posting comments is the next step and will feel more comfortable over time.  When I received my first comment I was excited.  I couldn't wait to see what someone else had thought about my ramblings.  And I thoroughly love reading other people's comments on other blogs.  It is kind of like going to the mall and people-watching.  It can be very revealing or just plain entertaining.  I suppose I too will soon become a frequent participant in the show.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thing 3- stretching my mind

I thought I knew what blogs were- simply an online journal, right? Boy was I wrong! After sampling just a few blogs, I now see that blogs serve a multitude of purposes just within the educational field alone. I assumed that blogging was mostly impersonal for the reader(if anyone actually read the blogs). Again I misjudged blogs. Now, having read several, I feel a personal and professional connection to people I have never met.

I am discovering that I like the genre of blogs. It is different from any writing or reading venue I have encountered before, but that is why I like it. It is versatile. I can see a number of uses in the classroom for student blogging: reading, writing, critical thinking, assessing(for and by the students). This is a tool that I can see myself using in the classroom more and more each year.

This would also be a great tool for distance learning(especially for group/team projects). With the ability for students to access this anywhere or anytime blogging can be a collaborative tool, and the ability to comment on other posts creates a conversational tone.  The content and formality of the writing is versatile as well, meeting the learning needs of all writers and readers in the classroom, as well as meeting all curriculur needs.  More versatility!

In a quickly evolving technological world and in the educational world, I understand the need for flexibility.  I think blogs and blogging are a great new(to me) tool.  I plan on becoming ever more flexible in the near future.  Time to dust off the yoga mat!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thing 2- What interests me about web 2.0.

What interests me about Web 2.0?  Just about everything.  I know that it is free, and as a teacher, who doesn't love anything that is free?  Otherwise, I feel like I don't know much about it and am therefore interested in what I don't know.  I don't know if this is an accurate statement or not, it is just how I feel- meaning maybe I know more about Web 2.0 than I realize.  It seems like the web is so vast (and therefore Web 2.0 as well), that how can we ever know everything about it?  But to be specific, as I look at the list of the 23 things we will be working with, I am definitely interested in blogs, wikis, podcasts and youtube.  I think all of these items can be incorporated into my teaching in some way.  I have some limited experience with some of these items, such as podcasting and now blogging, but I definitely need to learn more.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thing 1- Why I'm doing 23 things.

Why did I decide to try this project? I think that I can always learn more about the web and what is available to me. Also, in an ever changing/evolving/advancing(?) world I think it is important for me (and I mean teachers) to be aware of what my students are using and to see if it is possible to incorporate it into my teaching, to better meet the needs of my students. As much as I understand the need for using tech in the classroom, unfortunately I don't always do as much as I could/should. Hopefully, this will motivate me to do more.