Posts Tagged ‘Blogs’

Podcamp NYC

May 2, 2008

I have a number of posts in the cue. They reside in the draft folder. This is true for my post on Podcamp NYC08. I attended and facilitated one session at Podcamp NYC last weekend. Chris Penn, the Podcamp Boston originator opened the unconference and a number of volunteer coordinators managed the event including Whitney Hoffman and John C. Havens. In sum I think I made some inspirational connections and I think a few people feel they picked up useful tips from my session. I will update this post to include a list of my new contacts, their podcast/blog URLs and some helpful tips to would be podcasters from my new friend Brad P. so don’t be too surprised when the long awaited RSS feed drops into your aggregator. I plan to make some headway this weekend.

If you are a teacher then you know how time accelerates in the last few weeks of school. You begin to wonder how you can possibly get everything done in such a short window of time. Ughh, exhausting isn’t it?

Jen Wagner Steels (not a typo) the Show!

March 26, 2008

Today I facilitated a session introducing some faculty members to Web 2.0. This was a new PD topic for our school and the participants had no prior knowledge of Web 2.0. In fact they hadn’t a clue what it might mean. It reminded me of my own reaction a little more than a year ago when I first heard the term Web 2.0. I couldn’t pin down a definition. After much blog-reading, conference-attending and experimentation I finally have a handle on the term. So I ask, how do we typically describe something that is new and improved? I might hear, “This new generation of flat screen TV lets you view in TV in high definition.” New generation, an improvement, that’s what Web 2.0 is. It is a new generation of online internet tools. (see jeff Utecht’s video explanation) Most of these tools have two things in common that enhance internet user experience. Firstly, they are free. Secondly, they embody some collaborative features. In short, Web 2.0 is to the internet of yesterday what Vista is to Windows XP. It is new and improved. (theoretically)

The mystery of Web 2.0 quickly disappeared. It was now time to demonstrate some of the features and benefits. I opened Delicious to the CreekViewElementary page and displayed the contents on the Promethean board. I explained the benefits to using this kind of system for bookmarking over the traditional ‘favorites’ . Delicious links are available any time and anywhere you have internet access. Next I made four simple requests.

  1. Each participant had to download and install the Firefox browser.
  2. They had to sign up for a Gmail account.
  3. They had to set up a Delicious account.
  4. Next they imported the Delicious add-on to Firefox.

This took about 15 minutes and they were able to help one another in the process. Next I asked them to enter voicethread.com and then click the handy little delicious TAG button now found in their browser tool bar. I just love this feature. I explained how tags are used to file things by topic. The best part about tagging is being able to file one site under many topic headers. For instance, I put Voicethread under interactive, multimedia, projectbasedlearning, and web2tool. Now when I click on interactive, it appears as one of the options.

I pulled up an example of a 4th grade language arts project in Voicethread. The teachers could easily see how VT could be used within the classroom and even as a collaborative grade level project. Once teachers realize they has the necessary computer skills they get very excited about the prospects of using new tools. The necessary computer skills are very minimal and are virtually the same as the skills required to send an email. This is really another wonderful feature of Web 2.0. It is easy to use. Ahhh, finally and it keeps getting even easier. It really does. At this stage is you can read, type, attach pictures or documents and are willing to follow instructions, then you can enjoy all the web has to offer.

At this point, the participants felt fairly comfortable and were beginning to grasp the intrinsic collaboration component found in Web 2.0 tools. Suddenly they noticed a dialog box open on the Promethean screen from my laptop. It said, ‘ready?’ Oh, that’s my good friend Jen Wagner from California Skyping in to join our session. I will let her know we are ready. I typed back, ‘OK’.  I clicked the green call button and we connected. Jennifer Wagner is so warm and friendly she instantly gained the groups’ attention and started us on a journey exploring Google applications. She started with Google Reader and had everyone subscribing to her blog, jenuinetech.com/blog! She is one smart cookie. She spent 45 minutes with us, covering Google-Calendar and Docs. Jennifer has an amazing way of bringing concepts to life with spot on analogies and concrete examples that teachers can relate to. She was the highlight of the session. Why? Because she is an amazing teacher and because she was speaking to us from California and it felt like she was in the room. Not only did the participants learn about Google apps they also saw the wonder of Skype in action. I was able to walk around and check on progress and offer assistance. It was a wonderful experience for me and I think now, it is the only way to really get teachers interested in the power of edtech.

Jen, I owe you one! You did ‘steel’ the show by strengthening the case for integrating technology. Now if we can just get one or two of them to listen to Women of Web 2 on Tuesday nights from 9-10PM EST … If you are a teacher who thrives on new forms of communication and enjoys participating in lively chats about the latest greatest teaching tools then you really must tune in to Jen’s Show on Tuesday nights. She and 3 other stellar women host a variety of edtech gurus. You listen and chat while they have a conversation. If you do decide to test the water by joining the chat on Tuesday nights please say hello to me (sendkathy) and Jen (jenuinetech).

The Problem with Overexposure

February 28, 2008

The problem with exposure is overexposure. How can teachers create safe spaces for children? For that matter how can parents? The internet is a Pandora’s Box, alluring, mysterious and enlightening. Is the incidence of occasionally unfiltered audio of video a threat to internet use in elementary schools? angelDo the benefits of internet use outweigh the pitfalls? Several posts ago I commented on the surprising use of youtube by young students. I didn’t teach them about it nor have I even even mentioned it because I don’t feel it is a safe place for unaccompanied minors. Our county has excellent filters and they certainly seems to be 99% effective in eliminating unwanted material but the filters can fail and students can run the risk of overexposure. Take Google images, regardless of the setting an search on any term may result in image overexposure! It happened to me one time when I was searching for computers. Mixed among the computers was a random photo labeled computer but without any computer in view.

Media Specialists have grappled with questionable content since the dawn of libraries. Parents dissaporve of some books for religious, political or content about the human anatomy. Some illustrations or photographs may depict strong sequences of violence. I have been on the critical end of this debate when my own children were in elementary school. In fact a middle school teacher showed the class an R-rated movie without parent consent. It was Schindler’s List. My daughter loved her teacher. I felt the woman had exercised poor judgment. I emailed the principal and let her know that perhaps the teacher was not aware of the rules concerning movies. She thanked me and handled it discreetly. No one lost their job. In fact it was a teachable moment for me and my daughter.

I recently encountered some unanticipated pitfalls using audio on the web. Think about still images, screening them is relatively simple procedure. You can see with your own eyes in short order and assess the content. With video alone, you could fast forward and scan the scenes. A different kind of problem arises when using audio. How can you and I be sure the audio content is safe without listening to every word, every second? What kind of warning do you have before it’s too late to stop the sound? What if the unexpected happens? How do you recover? What do you tell the students? I have been asking these questions of my peers and the most frequent answer is to fudge the offending word or phrase and change thlisten and learne meaning, if possible to placate any innocent listeners, but what if that isn’t possible? How can we trust the content even when it comes from a reputable source? Is what we hear online as damaging as what we hear in person? These are the questions creating cob webs in my head. Teachers have to protect their students. I think we have to consider these questions seriously. The advent of phone comments on blogs and VoiceThreads and even audio comments on websites or podcasts raise the chances that some unfiltered audio will reach the ears of innocents. Are there any guarantees save removing internet access? Let me know if you have any answers. I’m all ears!

High Tech Parenting

October 3, 2007

To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.  ~Josh Billings

I have been trying to foster communication skills in my kindergarten students by creating a forum for their ideas and for their work. Recently I posted three new podcast episodes on small voices. We work a lot on sequencing in Kindergarten so I decided to incorporate cooking into our Language Arts curriculum. The next day students told me they had watched the videos at home because their parents already knew about them! I received several emails including one from a mom who had shared the video with the grandmother in India. Her daughter was just beaming with satisfaction the next day. This is exactly the kind of validation I want for all of my students. I want them to reach all of the people they love.

Today I demonstrated how to transfer typed text from the Alphasmart Neo to the computer. I asked students to select a sentence or two to type from their journals then I posted several of their entries as individual blog posts to show the class. Later when a parent volunteer arrived to help with Math I pulled her aside to explain where to find the student blog and how to comment on the sentence her daughter had posted. Mom was thrilled. “My child is blogging…in kindergarten.”I suggested she post a comment. I had two comment alerts in my email tonight. The mom posted a one and so did the grandmother in Tennessee! Tomorrow their child will be reading the post, sharing the comments, and modeling this new form of dialog over the net. I think other students will be clamoring for the opportunity to post. How often? My plan is to schedule one day a week on the Neos. They will be able to select a journal entry or create a post from scratch.

I am singing the praises of High Tech Parents and those who want to travel the way their child should go. Even today, some parents haven’t ventured beyond email and the occasional youtube video (send via email). I love it when they ask me for help. I will be showing a parent how to get the podcasts on an iPod. Sometimes I let the students lead the way. Communicating isn’t a passing fad nor is it a static activity. Using the net to communicate provides a firm foundation for global citizens. Students come to understand the value of their words. Small voices are so precious.