Thursday, October 8, 2009

1st Grade Blogging

Lindsay Kohart, a first grade teacher, and I have started a blogging project with her class. We are using Classblogmeister for the blogging tool and Vocaroo for the tool of expression. Since her students were only in the beginning stages of being writers, we thought it would be easier for them to record their thoughts and then embed the code into the blogmeister article. So far, we've set Lindsay up with a blog account and created all the student accounts. She has also explored how to use Vocaroo on her own. Our next step will be to teach them how to use Vocaroo.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Goggle Calendar Migration Progress To Date...

My husband has become a fan of Google Calendar. We got him a new web enabled phone a few months ago and he's been spending some time exploring GC on his own. So far, his calendar is up and shared with me.

My calendar is created, but not filled in.

I created calendars for each of my son's, to keep track of their activities and all are shared with my husband.

The three school calendars are created with GC and I'm in the process of filling them in. I will be cross-checking them with the network-based web pages each week. Soon, I will try to endorse the use of the lab schedules on Google by sending teachers a screencast on how to register with Google and ask them to fill out a Google form to share their Gmail address with me. I can then share the technology schedules with them.

Things to do-

I need a web enabled phone. The stress of not being able to access my GC where ever I am is keeping me from moving forward with my personal calendar. I wanted to wait to replace my phone until next year after hearing rumors that the IPhone will be carried by Verizon, but now I'm not sure I can wait. I need one with a big enough screen to be able to see the calendar clearly.

Finish filling in the repeating events on the three school technology calendars.

Moving to Google Calendar

One of my life goals/school goals this school year is to migrate to Google Calendar. I'm hoping to use this blog to capture my steps and reflections in this huge process. In order to understand this change, here's a little history.

Since 2000, I've been a Palm Pilot girl. This was my link to home (paper calendar on the fridge with my/husband/son's schedules) and school (plan book). I had three mediums to sync, but I always knew I could look at my Palm and know exactly what I was supposed to do, when it was to happen and where.

During school hours, I have three technology schedules: Computer Lab, Laptop and Technology Support schedules. The first schedule is for teachers to use when they want to book time in the lab. The second is for reserving our cart of laptops for use in the classroom. The last is for teachers to schedule time to meet with me for planning/learning/co-teaching. I'd create these three schedules using MS Front Page at the beginning of the year and it was quite a project. Image creating a series of web pages, one page for each week of the school year, plus and index page. That's 41 web pages for year schedule, multiplied by 3 schedules. Teachers were only able to access these schedules from school since I "hosted" these pages on our server. Crazy, I know...but it was the procedure.

Then came the element of change....what I'm hoping will be my end-all-be-all. I learned about many of the Google Tools while completing my ed tech masters course over the last two years. When I saw how you can allow others to see and edit your calendar, how you can overlay multiple calendars, how you can access these calendars from any web browser...the light bulb went off, bells began to ring, I knew I was on to something. This would be perfect for my teachers to access for our schedules.

Fast forward to 2009...I know my Palm Pilot is going to be obsolete (if not already) since Palm is not making a PDA that is not also a phone. I'm getting tired of the routine of cross checking my plan book to PDA and then cross checking my PDA with the paper calendar on my fridge. Google calendar will cover it all.

As a creature of habit, this process is scaring me a little. I am determined to streamline, to accept change and to help others see the benefits. Feedback is always welcome!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Story: Capturing the Power

In Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, he talks about a right-brained sense that we must master in order to perform well in this new era in which we live. We must move beyond the mastery of facts and focus on placing these facts into the context in which they reside. Story telling adds an emotional connection to information and this is important in educating the youth of the 21st century.

Before people started to record history with paper and writing utensil, a groups history was preserved through the stories that were passed down from generation to generation. By telling a story, one is remembering facts, but making sure they remember the context in which they are important. This helps others to remember the information being passed with more depth. Digital storytelling has such an impact because images and music can be added to enhance the mood and emotion behind the story, thus strengthening its learn-ability.

Digital storytelling is also a powerful tool in the classroom. In order to tell a story, you must remember the facts. Creating your story involves the ability to evaluate what is important and then synthesize a product that has relevancy and emotion. Remembering, evaluating, and synthesizing are all elements in Blooms Revised Taxonomy. It is through these thinking skills, lower and higher order, that true, deep learning takes place. The process that one goes through to create the story also addresses important 21st century literacy skills. The planning, implementing, revising and publishing of a digital product addresses many of the NETS-S standards.

In the “Portfolio” section of the sense of Story, I read about many ways people are trying to preserve the “story” of others. My father has taken his hobby of investigating our family history and turned it into a post-retirement business for himself. He has pages upon pages of charts filled with names and dates. It wasn’t until he began to include little snippets of stories about the people in those charts that my interest in looking through the book was spurred. He realize late in his project that asking some of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the family tell him stories of their ancestors would add such flavor to his pages of data. I can only imagine the impact it would have had to actually video these folks speaking and telling their stories. It gives me ideas of what I want to do now so that my children’s children’s children will “know” about me and my family through the stories I want to capture. Such potential!

Something else that I was struck by was Pink’s idea that in a world of such abundance, it is story that helps us to create and reflect on a life of meaning. He stated that most epic stories of all times have a certain formula in their design. The hero begins by experiencing some sort of discord in his/her beliefs. He/she looks to find balance between what was once thought or believed and what the reality of the situation is. He/she strives to create that balance and then becomes successful by making changes in either action or frame of mind. This is true in our own life’s journey and process of positive change. When something isn’t working, we come to the realization that something needs to change. It is our drive and perseverance in making the changes necessary that determines our success. That becomes our story.

I remember Mark Weston, one of our TEAM mentors for a semester, stressing the same type of change pattern that needs to take place in order for current educational practices to evolve into successful practices for students of the 21st century. In the book Schools that Learn by Peter Senge, he talks about “Systems Thinking” and how this can bring about change. It is through a joint effort in Administration, Parents, Teachers and Students that we can help to change past trends. Through observing, reflecting, deciding and doing, change can be brought about. Story can help in this process of reflecting and sharing those reflections with all involved.

Story telling is not just fluff. It is a substantial piece of life today and what needs to take place in the future. Internet resources such as YouTube blogs and social networking sites all help to capture a story. It has never been easier and now, more and more people are finding its power. I hope to focus on story’s ability to change, unite and educate.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Get Ready for Blast Off!

Right now, I am watching the live feed of our brave astronauts getting ready for their repair mission of the Hubble Telescope. A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting and having lunch with Michael Massimino, one of the astronauts on board, when he paid a visit to our school. I was excited to see this link sent to our school by the person covering my maternity leave. As I watch the astronauts getting suited up and being secured to their seats, I am experiencing an adrenaline rush, a rush I am sure they are experiencing at this very moment. Technology has given me this gift. What was once only experienced by astronauts and the people who work at NASA can now be experienced by anyone with an Internet connection. I am grateful to live in such a time. How many children are being inspired at this moment? What a gift....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Salon 7 Response

Dan Tapscott’s short video clip called “Growing Up Digital- The Net Generation is Changing Your World” caused a strong reaction as I watched the first few seconds. He begins by pretending to speak to young people about how self-centered, uneducated, illiterate and rude they are. He blames technology for this change in the quality of young people and paints a picture of doom for the future of our country. Not knowing this gentleman, I wanting to jump through my computer and ring his neck! In the last few seconds, however, he clarifies his previous statements as statements uttered by others, with no substantiating evidence or research. He also stated that this current generation is one of the smartest and most empowered to create change.

This generation, referred to as the “Net Generation” by Larry Rosen in the book “Me, My Space and I” requires a different focus of education. Mike Ribble, in the article “Passport to Digital Citizenship” (Teaching and Leading with Technology, December/January, 2009, p. 14-17) proposed the same idea. He refers to 9 elements in educating digital citizens. Who should be responsible for teaching these elements? During our online discussion, it was discussed that the school setting was not the only place for this to happen. Students need parents to be involved in helping to teach about and being role models for becoming appropriate digital citizen. We, as teachers, only have them for a certain amount of time and can address these issues with school related projects. However, students go home and are using technology for personal usage, through sites like Facebook and My Space. They shop for music, they do research for homework assignments. We can’t be there to be sure they are using technology appropriately, ethically or efficiently. That is what I believe Mike Ribble’s 9 elements in educating digital citizens tries to address. After all, don’t we want students to be informed, educated and independent enough to make these decisions and judgment calls on their own? I believe the home has a large part of many of the elements. If I could change three of the elements, there are three that I would make more of a home-focused concept, rather than a school addressed concept.

The first is the idea of digital commerce. Here is where role modeling from parents is important. I would assume that most adults with online access have used the internet for making purchases. This is not an activity that is done in school. Parents need to have an open dialogue with their children about secure sites, resisting impulse shopping, making sure to know the product and what it is going for…some of these points being “timeless” in the sense of being an educated shopper, no matter where the exchange is taking place. Parents need to go a step further in teaching their children how to be sure that their credit card info is being safely entered into a legitimate site. This, to me, would be the only Net Gen addition to the idea of digital commerce.

Another element I feel should be taught in the home, more so than being the responsibility of the schools is that of digital security. Every home has its own antivirus protection, and those that don’t will suffer the consequences. What happens with home networks is very different than what takes place in schools. Once a destructive form of malware, virus or Trojan takes over a home computer and people can’t get to their files or music...everyone in the house hold will understand the consequences of poor security. This is definitely a Net Gen issue and not one that I would be considered a “timeless.”

Digital health and wellness is the last element I feel is an important element that should be addressed at home. “Everything in moderation” is a timeless phrase that is also relevant to technology use. Those who overuse can experience eye strain, back and wrist pain as well as other physical issues related to a sedentary lifestyle. Parents need to take control and get their kids off the computer and moving in some way. In addition to physical issues, psychological isolation and lack of social skills can also be a downfall of excessive computer use. Parents need to set limits, as they would with TV usage or video gaming.

Educating the "Net Gen" involves some unique situations, but many of the concepts listed in Mike Ribble’s 9 elements of educating digital citizens are timeless. We as educators can try to address as many of the 9 elements that Mike describes, but many would make sense being taught and stressed at home.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Are Free, Web 2.0 Tools Worth It?

Are free web 2.0 tools worth it? In my opinion, the answer is unequivocally, yes. Do you need to have a back up plan if it starts to act unpredictable? Yes. Should you have a back up plan before you do anything technology related? Yes. Should you revise your whole curriculum to work around a web 2.0 tool? No. Should you use a web 2.0 tool if it enhances your curriculum? Yes. I think the “yes’s” have it….

Free Web 2.0 tools can begin to level the playing field of technology access. Nothing needs to go before the school board, nothing needs to go before a curriculum council. As long as you have internet access, the tools to communicate, collaborate and broaden the mind are at your fingertips. Do they have a place in education? Of course. As long as they serve a purpose and are affective, use them. Many of these tools allow students to have an “audience” they never would have with traditional methods of expression. Teachers can capitalize on the fact that in this digital age, students can use the tools and mediums they use on a personal basis to help them learn. We can help them to understand the proper/ethical/effective uses of technology; lessons that will hopefully carry over into their personal usage. These tools help teachers to differentiate instruction and offer limitless possibilities for usage.

Web 2.0…when money doesn’t matter.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Networking Thoughts....

During my Ed Tech masters class last semester, I wanted to develop my personal learning network (PLN) and decided to look into different avenues as part of a learning contract. I signed up for two different nings that revolve around technology integration and teaching. One is called Classroom 2.0 and the other is Elementary Tech Teachers. I also signed up with Facebook.

As I was browsing the different updates on my Facebook homepage, I became appreciative of how it helps me to keep in touch with friends I don't see on a day to day basis and how I've been able to reconnect with friends from my past. The capabilities that Facebook offers me, in terms of social relationships, could not have been reproduced by any means prior to its beginning. To me, this is the true measure of a technologies effectiveness. However, in developing my PLN, it lacks the focus on Ed Tech. It sure is a heck of a lot of fun, though!

The nings, on the other hand, are the perfect tool for developing my PLN. It is the pure nature of a ning that this is possible. These groups are created because a bunch of people have a common interest. In the case of Classroom 2.0 and Elementary Tech Teachers, it is specifically Ed Tech.

Since the arrival of my baby daughter, she has become the focus of my days. However, in the near future, I look forward to becoming more active in those nings to "develop my craft" and become more networked.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My New Avatar

This avatar site was quick and easy to use. I might have my students use it in the beginning of the school year to introduce themselves to the class. A page on a class wiki could be devoted to the introductions or they could embed the avatar onto their blog. The only draw back I saw initially was the need to register with the site to get the embed information.

Express Yourself with Gizmoz Video Clips

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Have You been Tagged by the SEVEN THINGS Meme?

Have you been tagged?

I was just tagged by JoNelle Gardner in the meme going around the education blog circles called “Seven Things”.

Here are the rules:

* Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.

* Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.

* Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.

* Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter and/or Plurk.

1. I'm a mom of 2 (almost 3) amazing children. Michael is 6 and Jack is 4. Baby #3 will be here in a few weeks!

2. Singing was a huge part of my life. In college, I used to sing the national anthem at some of the Suny Oneonta basketball games and was 1 of 4 people in a cover band singing Indigo Girls music. I wish I could be P!ink in my next life!

3. The first car I ever purchased was a used 1987 Nissan Pulsar. It was black and had T-tops. I thought I was really cool!

4. As a kid, I suffered from uncontrollable laughing fits. I haven't had one in years, but the worst used to happen to my mom and I in the middle of Sunday mass services at our church. My dad wasn't too pleased with us....

5. Yellowtail Shiraz is my favorite wine! (Can't wait for this baby to come!)

6. I am the youngest of three girls.

7. All of the computer equipment I've ever owned have been HP products. The only thing that isn't is my digital camera and my all-in-one printer. (How's that for a random or weird fact?!)

I'd like to know more about the following people: Tag...You're it!
Karen Kliegman
Anne Brusca
Adam Dugger
Jane Lowe
Sharon Woronoff
Linda Zwillick
Danielle Parlatore