Posts Tagged ‘voicethread’

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).

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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!