Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week 5, Thing 10: Image Generators

These could be some really fun tools to spice up classroom projects, provide kids with a unique review opportunity, and promote programs that are going on in the library and school.  I know a lot of teachers who have experimented with the software, Comic Life, and have had great success.  Creating a graphic novel for an event in history could make the information more accessible and interesting for students.

I had limited success with some of the generators.  Through our Flickr activity, as well as this week, I have played around with FD Flickr Toys (http://bighugelabs.com/) and have had a lot of fun!  I found that the applications were easy to use and could be applicable to school projects as well as personal projects.  For example, I easily created a badge with a picture I took using Photo Booth on my computer.  Students could do this with pictures of themselves (maybe for a classroom activity where students are representing others), or to summarizing the most important information about a person they are studying by creating a badge for that person.  I actually think I may try this when we study the first governors of MN.

However, I was not as successful with Image Chef (http://www.imagechef.com/).  I loved some of the frames and ideas for word art.  But I never was able to upload images from my computer.  Also, a lot of these tools were nifty, but I was not sold on their practical application. One small success was being able to create a customized jersey (on the right).  Go Twins!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Week 4, Thing 9: Education Feeds

In the time that I spent on the blog searching tools, I did not find it to be the most efficient way to find blogs or feeds that I would follow.  Starting with technorati, I could not figure out how to find blogs (not posts) that had to do with a topic of interest.  In the tutorial (which was translated from German), I was told that I would find a blog finding tool that would allow me search blogs by subject.  Returning to technorati, I could not find such tool.  Even in using the advanced searching tool provided I struggled finding the kind of blog that I was looking for.  This was easier in Google.  I did find some blogs that pertained to the topic I was looking for.  

To be honest, I find searching blog rolls to be much more efficient and effective.  I have a relative certainty that the blogs I find through other blogs I follow will have a similar appeal.  This is especially true if the blogger's interest in the blog is based on an interest that we have in common.  For in example, I follow The Reading Zone, a blog devoted to middle level reading.  When I have explored her blog roll, I have found many other blogs I could follow because they are devoted to the same topic or interests of the Reading Zone.  In short, what brought me to the Reading Zone, also brings me to these other blogs. In the future, I see myself spending less time using search tools and more time search blog rolls.  

Monday, September 21, 2009

Week 4, Thing 8: RSS Feeds

This was so easy to set up!  Using the Blogline feed reader, I was up and running in less than a minute.  It is really nice to have a registration process that is not so detailed and takes less time to complete. Although a tutorial was recommended, I thought that the process for adding feeds was easily done through basic discovery.  However, I have struggled adding my feeds to my website.  I will need to play with this a little.

The advantage of having a one-stop-shop for blogs and news is evident.  This will be a great way to keep up on daily current events as well as book reviews for young adults and new techniques or technology to be used in the classroom.  I also really like the idea of being able to follow student blogs by subscribing to their feed, instead of having to visit each individual blog.  With all of the content out their, it is so important to have a a guide helping you find what you really want.  In a sense, RSS is able to do that by sending only what you subscribe to.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Week 3, Thing 6: Blogging about Technology

As a member of our district's 21st Century Skills committee, I had the fortune of meeting with Apple execs late this summer.  Inspired by the instructional uses of tools that we normally tag as "recreational", we were encouraged to not just use technology to substitute for other formats, but let it transform our curriculum and teaching.  This paradigm shift has me really considering my approach.  Not that it is wrong to use technology as a substitution.  I know that the times that I decide to use a new technique or tool, that student interest is automatically piqued.

But what would it look like if my classroom was completely transformed by the technology I use?  Would blogs, photo sharing, social networking, iPods, podcasting, texting, etc. all become new formats for my teaching?  With students often asked to "power-down" before they come in our classrooms, what if our classrooms/libraries were just extensions of their normal tech-filled existence?  Our curriculum and delivery would change, that is guaranteed.  But maybe the change would make our classrooms more responsive to their current needs.  And I know that we often chose to keep computer use appropriate by choosing to ignore many 2.0 tools. But what if, instead of ignoring, we helped students navigate the new choices that they will have to make?  Although many of us instruct students in how to make good choices, the situations have changed.  Maybe by transforming our classroom into a context that matches their own, students will be more prepared to make better choices when they have to go it alone.

Week 3, Thing 6: Mashups

In my previous post, I raved about the geo-tagging possibles of flickr.  As I stated before, this is a great tool for teachers and students who are trying to connect pictures to places and concepts of importance.  Today I looked at some of the production mashups like the motivational posters, the trading cards, and the desktop maker.

I could really see the value of using the poster maker with students.  This would be a motivating way for middle school students to practice summarizing.  Because the poster can only support three lines of text, students would get great practice with efficient word choice and summarizing.  With my posters, I started with a motivational phrase. I liked it, but I soon realized that I could name the location in the title, and then give a brief description below.  I liked this better! Not only could I show this to students but also have them practice making similar products.  Also, this could be used for book or library promotion. Imagine a book talk with posters to leave with students as a reminder the next time they visit the library.  The product is clean and simple, but could really add some punch to the promotional materials we are already creating. I also like the feature that you don't have to have uploaded pictures to flickr to use the tool.  You can easily upload pictures from your computer or elsewhere on the web.  This is a great tool with lots of possible applications.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week 3, Thing 5: Flickr

Devil's Kettle, Judge C.R. Magney State Park, MN
Originally uploaded by cobberloudogg

Above you should be able to see my first photo uploaded to flickr. I know, I am a little behind the times! This photo was taken this summer at Judge C.R. Magney State Park, along the North Shore of Lake Superior. For those interested, the intrigue of the Devil's Kettle is in the falls to the left: Nobody knows where it goes!

I was extremely impressed with the ease of this site. After a quick introduction, I was able to find pictures of me that had been posted, and pictures tagged by location. As a MN history teacher, what a great resource this could be for finding photos of different places in the state. I found over 300 photos of Grand Portage, MN, including pictures of the fort itself, as well as images of the HIgh Falls on the PIgeon River and the portage itself. Those of you teaching know that students are becoming increasingly visual and almost require some sort of visual stimulus to engage them in learning. For that reason, I incorporate a great deal of photos to help them see the places or objects we are talking about and helping them make connections. A photo sharing site like this becomes an invaluable source of visuals. And being able to search by location is extremely helpful and makes this tool very accessible.

As far as student uses, my students had used some photos on flickr to include in podcasts they were making about the state park system. They were allowed to do this as long as they cited their sources. Because we did not have the ability to travel ourselves, flickr made a project like this possible. However, being unclear with the flickr copyright policy, I am not sure if this was such a wise choice. Does anyone have any other ways that flickr could be used in your classroom/library? Would a middle school library presence on flickr help to promote programming to students? With flickr's privacy settings, I would think that this could be feasible, as well as motivating for students. Just a thought...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Week Two, Things 3 and 4: Blogging

Although this isn't my first blog, it is the first that I plan on tending to over a period of time.  My first blog was when I attempted to start the 23 Things about two years ago and then got caught up in school.  The last one I created was for a class project, reporting information on copyright issues.  Needless to say, that blog also fell to the wayside.  Although valuable as a reporting tool, I am hoping to find that I am more motivated to blog when I am sharing my experiences and opinions.  My investment might spur me on to continue, right?  I do find that the format works so well as a way to show growth or development in a process.  With the possibility of daily posts, one can easily update followers on how things are progressing, or alert them of new developments. And because they are so easy to set up, virtually anyone with access could really be able to create their own blog.  In each of my experiences, either with blogger or edublog, I have found that it is easy to navigate through the setup and customize my blog to fit my purpose and personality.

In regards to students, I would be really curious to hear how others have used blogging.  I have only used it for a limited time with one of my book clubs.  When we set it up, the girls were thrilled and blogged all week long!  How great it was to see my students use this tool to continue their discussion and learning throughout the week.  It also gave them a great opportunity to ask questions of me outside of school.  However, after week one it completely fizzled.  All of the sudden, there was no interest in the blog.  We were still able to discuss the book when we had our discussions, but I was disheartened because the energy and excitement it incited did not translate into long term use.  So I am really wondering if anyone has had success in encouraging students to blog for a longer time frame.  Have you used it in the classroom for class projects?  Those of you in the library, has anyone used it as a way to promote books or programming?  This is definitely a tool that I can see using more often, but I just need  think through what it might look like for larger groups or for my future library.  Something to consider...

Week One, Things 1 and 2: Life Long Learning

I really have always considered myself a lifelong learner. This seems to be common for teachers. Whether it is learning curriculum or new methods to employ in the classroom, teachers are always learning new things.  This would seem only natural for a profession that works to instill curiosity and love-of-learning in their students.  

In my high school studies, as well as undergrad work, I had always enjoyed learning.  In fact, my issue tends to be maintaining focus.  Often times I will be working on a particular project or assignment that will trigger an interest or something I am curious about. This leads me to new paths and new discoveries, some that are far away from my original goal.  But I figure this is a problem I can deal with.  I am not lacking for curiosity or a willingness to try new things.  In fact, for the last two years, I have enrolled in tap dance lessons just because I had always wanted to learn.  This was the same with the pipe organ. Neither of these of led to full-time hobbies, but they have expanded my skill sets and have given me new experiences.

Of the habits mentioned in the slideshow, the one that is the strongest for me is my ability to begin with an end in mind.  As I started my masters program I was especially concerned about being able to establish deadlines outside of a physical classroom.  Would I be able to keep up with the work, while working full time?  As I found out, setting goals for nightly work, as well as long term projects, helped me stay on track.  So far, I have been able to look at the week and semester ahead, and make goals for completion.  They may not always be met, but this has helped me manage the learning and set a purposeful context that provides motivation.

However, I sometimes struggle with viewing problems as challenges.  I do love a good challenge but when there is a hiccup, it only seems like it is an inconvenience.  This may also point to my hesitation to ask questions (Habit #2: Accepting responsibility).  I would prefer  to come up with the answer on my own instead, but I have learned that sometimes that isn't possible.  A simple perspective adjustment from problem to challenge, will help me approach each "challenge" in a more appropriate way. 

But how about our students? How do we encourage them to be life long learners?  I am convinced they will always have the information at their finger tips, but they may just need the motivation to get there.  So as I start a new year of teaching 6th graders, I need to consider how I can inspire this type of curiosity.  How can I use the technology already at my disposal to help along a new generation of lifelong learners?  

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome to In the Middle...

In a recent meeting with representatives from Apple, it was discussed how we expect students to power down during the school day.  We may have access to the internet and are able to produce word processed documents, but students are expected to to leave most of their 2.0 tools behind.  In a sense, we ask them to disconnect from their network while they're at school and learn within the context we provide them.  But what do they do the moment they leave our classrooms?  They power back up.  So what if we cut out the middle man?  What if we didn't ask them to disconnect and instead created learning experiences within their own context?  What would that look like? And how would that relate to the role of the library and the responsibilities of the media specialist?

As I work through the 23 Things project, I hope to answer these questions.  With each new "thing", I will try to address what this could look like in the middle school library.  And hopefully you can add your experiences and your insights to make this truly collaborative. It is my goal to use these tools in a way that will encourage myself, and others, to teach in a new context.