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!