Monday, July 19, 2010

Thing # 12 Part 3, b

StreetFilms –This is a blog that advocates cycling as transportation, not merely recreation. They do a fine job of making high quality videos on a variety of topics relating to cycling in an urban environment. I have followed them for a year of so and eagerly await each new film. I have posted a few of their products on the blog. Their films are very serious and balanced, not mere polemic rants or they are very funny….My Veronica Moss video post is an example.

Thing # 12 Part 2

Thing # 12 Part 2
I made comments to these blogs:
1. BGiles Blogging for Credit, Thing # 22
2. Carrie’s 23 Things, Thing # 6
3. Firefly Flight, Thing # 9
4. Brightwell’s 23 Things Adventure, Thing # 19
5. Becoming Mary Poppins, Thing # 17

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thing # 12 Part 3 a

EcoVelo-This started out as The Recumbent Blog and was transformed into a blog devoted to commuting by bike. The host is Alan Barnard and posts gorgeous images of not only of bikes but of the view of life from a bike. His images reflect both the true artistry of cycling and his passion for it. As in most of life’s pursuits, there are numerous, competing and sometimes nasty factions. Cycling is no different. We have the racers, the off-roaders, the tandem clan, commuters, the car-less, the car-lite, the recumbent riders and numerous variations, hybrids and on and on. Ecovelo is a great place to learn about a broad array of cycling related issues in a civilized environment. Alan makes a point of regular, topical and interesting posts and thoughtful comments even to those that aren’t very thoughtful or reasonable. He represents the type of blogger I would like to be.

Thing # 12 Part 1

If it is true that writers love to be read, then consider commenter’s writers that need love too. If I ever thought I had something important to say, and I do occasionally so think, there is no greater joy than to have comments. This is the reason that Facebook is so popular – it’s the Feedback, man! If you see this and know it’s true, then you have to make time to respond to your commentary and remind yourself to treat others like you want to be treated. So much of the commentary I read is negative and I have been negative as well – He/She started it is what I tell my self…blah, blah, blah….gotta put that on the shelf for good!

Thing # 22

I was introduced to Ning a few years ago with the We Are Teachers initiative. Upon joining each member created their own page within the WAT network. The benefits of this platform over multiple Blogger blogs is that all pages within a single Ning “network”, while they can be individual in terms of design and layout are within ONE site. The problem with Ning is that as of July 20th, it is no longer free. I created one anyway and will gladly pay the $20 per year for a 150 member limited Ning. After I made that decision, I discovered that educators can get this same mini-Ning paid for by the fine folks at Pearson Publishing. I would have my students create their own pages and assign the creation and posting of products along the 23 Things model. Although multiple blogs or wikis can be easily linked, something in my Overworked-by-October-Teacher psyche tells me that having a very cool, adaptable and Central storage site will be a very good thing.
Although, I set it up to be private, please feel free to ask for an invite to Whole Brainers!

Think # 20

Sometimes I get excited when I see an interesting-looking post in my reader. I go to it and begin reading only to either not find the anticipated interest or to lose it quickly. This happens quite often and I LIKE to read blog posts. Students have a hard (er) time sticking with a long string of text. However their patience seems a bit stronger when video is involved. There is something in our wiring that naturally draws us to video, at least for the television generations. (I do recall hearing my grandmother say they enjoyed the moving picture show my folks had taken her to see). I came across Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath in which they discuss the way certain messages “stick” and certain ones do not. It is a book directed primarily at the business world, though there are numerous “lessons” from the classroom. Video has the capability to tap into the Unexpected path to message stickiness. Though video today is likely considered among students the epitome of the commonplace, I can’t see students engaged with a student blog without a substantial video component. For this Thing, I posted a video on Project Based Learning, though a look through my posts reveals numerous videos on subjects of interest to me outside of the 23 Things exercise. I am certainly very pleased that Spring Branch ISD has not blocked YouTube as the process of finding the clip you want is effortless. Teacher Tube has come a long way since its inception and I plan to delve into it to see just how far it has come. The embedding process with either of these services just couldn’t be any easier. If a picture is still worth a thousand words, a video should be worth that ten fold.

Thing # 19

Flock – I looked, I Saw, I downloaded….Flock is a really cool, albeit still a little incompletely mysterious, application…Incomplete because I have just begun to use it and don’t quite yet get how I can get it to contain my Google reader….but I digress….it bundles your stuff and puts it in an easily accessible side bar so I can see well, all my stuff…except my feeds from Google reader…but I’ll crack that nut if it’s the last thing I DO! This is useful as an attempt to put all your cool stuff in one place, more of a personal secretary and organizer rather than a teaching tool
Tu Diabetes – a social networking site for diabetics – a category of folk to which I sadly belong. I see no application to school other than a resource for personal health maintenance, education and support.
Stumble Upon – A tool which puts you in touch with things according to broad category and lets you vote up or down the sight you have Stumbled Upon….I looks like it works like the iTunes Genius bar in that your votes direct the selections chosen for future stumbling. The main application for schools is to facilitate the broadening of horizons as individuals, subject specialists, colleagues and mentors. It seems to fall into the category of Play that Daniel Pink suggests as an essential aptitude for the rise of The Conceptual Age…
One Sentence – no better words than from the horse’s mouth:
One Sentence is an experiment in brevity. Most of the best stories that we tell from our lives have one really, really good part that make the rest of the boring story worth it.
This is about that one line.
This is about telling the most interesting or poignant story possible in the fewest number of words.
This is about small bite-sized pieces of extraordinary lives and ordinary lives alike... the happy, the sad, the funny, the depressing.

A part of learning to write it learning to use one’s voice in the written form. A big part of that is learning to be precise and concise….I love the “other practices in conciseness” I placed it securely in my Diigo Teach_Writing list + on the home page there are links to several challenge writing sites, many of which found their way to the same list… These are for your viewing (You are out there, aren’t you?)….Some work, some don’t…

Project Based Learning & Thing # 20

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thing # 18

Open Office: Although I should have known about this – had I kept my ListServ subscription to TCEA’s Open Source group – I re-discovered it this last semester. I had students working on a Holocaust project on a bank of Dell mini-laptops. Most were using Word and PowerPoint for their submissions. Suddenly, their creations would not open! I noticed the weird extensions on their files….they had been created in OpenOffice and were trying to open them with MS programs. I was shown how to make the conversions, but when I tried to duplicate it yesterday, I couldn’t get it done with Word. I did notice PowerPoint immediately converts. I endeavor to preserve! The reason this was a concern for me is that these mini-laptops were erroneously imaged with BOTH OpenOffice and MS. This creates an unnecessary level of complexity. Once the error is corrected and MS is removed, the conversion issue will disappear. There are some differences in functionality, between OpenOffice and the more familiar MS,, but they are about as significant as the differences between XP 2003, 2007 and Vista – not insurmountable or unlearnable (just because it ain’t a word, don’t mean it hadn’t oughta be!). I look forward to learning those differences. One of the reasons that make this a perfect tool for students is that I have come across many that have a home machine for e-mail, IM, and Internet games, but do not the MS suite. This solves that! I don’t see a disadvantage unless you own stock in MS.
Google Docs have been around for some time and I have used them in a number of capacities – mainly for sharing committee work and sharing notes with colleagues from conferences. Using them with students is the next step and I can see many uses from class responses to current event prompts, to book club discussion extensions to peer editing. The only disadvantage involves web access.

Thing # 17

Rollyo! This tool relates to the Library 2.0 post in that the Teacher gets to provide a nice scaffold that does double duty as a filter – an optional filter. I! ran into a little difficulty at first in creating the search roll. Thanks to B. Goodner’s video, it came into focus….AFTER I spent a ton of time figuring it out! (Lesson Learned: Always read the entire assignment first!) One thing that I did a little different was to put the Rollyo search bar on my blog as a Gadget. This way, students can access it in the same place I ‘ll put everything else – assignments, prompts, the calendar. One thing that I noticed with this approach is that you have to obtain the updated code each time you add a Searchroll and then edit the gadget. It doesn’t take that long, but is an additional step. One thing that I did experiment with was using my Diigo lists to cut the time of copying and pasting each web resource you want in the new Searchroll. If you just want a list on the blog, Diigo will automatically create a post that includes any comments you have added to the bookmark. I did this and didn’t like the way it looked. I then had Diigo create a report that I copied and then edited out all the extraneous comments leaving only the URL for the Searchroll. This is a great tool that will really help students with research and teach resource evaluation and categorization. I see no reason why this should be a only seen as a teacher tool. I see my students’ blogs each having their individual Searchrolls.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bike Commute Paradise

Veronica Moss tells it like it's NOT!

Thing # 16

I have used wikis for a variety of things – Cub Scouts, Committees, Church groups…Always the impetus for using them has been to avoid the long and never ending and recycling of e-mail chains. Not only are these e-chains irritating at best, they are extremely inefficient when collaboration is the goal. However, even though the purported truth is that if you can use a word processing program you (should be able) can use a wiki, there are invariably those that just can’t get it! Through this Library2Play exercise I have been wondering what to use for my class. Initially, I wanted to use a wiki – I like PBWorks the best – because I wanted the ability to have students see ALL the additions AND to allow the ability to create their own pages. As I have posted a number of different types of “Things” now to my Blogger blog without a hitch, I am thinking that will be the platform of choice. I think the added bonus will be the access to Google Apps for the students. I certainly have no objection to students creating their own and inviting me to join. The best way to realize this will be for teacher groups – grade levels, etc. to use these as way to not only transmit information, but to have pre-discussion discussions – might save some precious face time.

Thing # 15

The notion of Library 1.0 from A Temporary Place in Time sticks with me. I recall when I began this exercise I was asked to read an article and create a post on its substance. I got my tablet and began taking notes….if occurred to me that I was firmly in the 20th century (if not the 19th!) with this approach. Over these past few weeks I have moved into a different way to approach information – the world library. The tools I have learned (been merely exposed to is more accurate) have helped to see (again) that the problem is not accessing information, but of organizing it – categories, tags, clouds…Oh My!
I see myself in these exercises literally struggling to tread the InfoToolsPages water to keep from drowning. I dutifully bookmark and tag and annotate and categorize and try to make the time to review and make some mental impressions as to how I could use the cool stuff I’ve found….whew! I am taken back to a time in real 1.0 in which I went to the library to search for titles on the Russian Revolution and soon discovered that God could not make a desk big enough to facilitate any efficiency in accessing the information contained within those volumes. Slightly further along the time line I am back when I used to enter a search query into Lexis or WestLaw (legal research databases)to print out a long list of potentially applicable cases to find the desired support and then having to head to the shelves for the requisite “Read the Whole Thing To Be Sure” and again to the desk too small for God. Just a few years ago the battle that I waged in education was between those that were amazed with the potential of the information age and its Internet medium and those that felt either threatened by it, were terrified of it or both. Who were these in the latter camp? Librarians! Behind every adjustment to a Firewall there appeared a librarian – confident in their certainty that it was they, and they alone, who were the vital link in the information chain that 2.0 appeared to breaking. At one campus the directive from the Information Czar was “Thou Shall Not Use Google!”
This exercise and Spring Branch ISD’s apparent openness regarding 2.0 tools is a refreshing breath of air. Is a new wind blowing? I can see that the effective, 21st Century Skills Info/Facilitator/Librarian to be one that recognizes that not only that the means to access and acquire information are different, the patrons and their needs are different, but that the Information is now different. Personages of Information Title and Authority are being systematically torn down by web ubiquity and equity. This is a positive change….BUT….for the individual with access and some management tools, the problem of the too small desk looms darkly still. Rather than wood or Formica, the desktop is now bundles of electrons and tag clouds that stretch farther and with more branches, tributaries and rabbit holes than ever before in human history. We still need facilitators, information access and instruction facilitators…the modern 2.0 librarian. Thank your lucky stars for them! The same is true for teachers and administrators. (Well, that last category may be a bit of a stretch!)
I know that this shift in the concept of a library has only begun in me personally, as I still prefer hard bound information in certain contexts (ex. fiction and non-fiction pleasure reading). As a teacher, I have embraced, though not fully realized, the 2.0 classroom, but I can see the image and it is becoming more focused. If any change coming to school libraries is anything like change in general and particularly that in education, it will come slowly. I see the libraries of tomorrow to be more in the business of providing access and guidance over housing collections. I know that if a work is available, it takes a matter of moments for it to be accessed through my telephone. If I decide I want the paper version, another touch of a button activates a continually improving supply chain and it arrives in the mail literally in a matter of hours.

Thing # 14

I did cruise around Technorati and found it to be only marginally interesting. I did not find any results for School Library Learning 2.0 in any of the categories; in fact, I was unable to find/see any means to search tags. Tagging in general has broad application in the classroom as has been addressed in other Thing posts. This is a first for this exercise, but I can’t see a way that I could use Technoati that adds anything to the other tools that I have explored. I registered with the site, subscribed to it in my reader, and did Claim my blog. Hopefully, I will see some traffic!

Thing # 13

Although I have used bookmarking sites in the past, I never really appreciated their full benefit, viewing them mainly as a personal convenience rather that a professional development and pedagogical tool.
At the beginning of my “Staff Development Summer 2010” I took a “Shifting Literacies” offering. As part of that training the facilitators asked that we create a Diigo account and experiment with the Highlighting and Sticky note functions. Having a real-time dialog with others reading the same thing was a new experience for me. I also like the having those comments saved for later review. Further, it is beneficial to be able to annotate a page and send it to colleagues for discussion. From there I created a Diigo group for the participants in that class and have joined other groups that provide updates as items are added. I have created numerous lists to further refine my online categorization. See them here.
After viewing Delicious (again) I haven’t been able to discover any aspect of the tool that compares to Diigo. For research capability, using ANY bookmarking tool seems absolutely vital. I see the process of categorizing sites into lists, creating tags, using tags to discover resources and commenting on what was found as important as any finished product. For general classroom use, the ability to pose questions in the text AND to view responses seems far preferable that just sharing sites.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Diigo! What's it all about?

Diigo V5: Collect and Highlight, Then Remember! from diigobuzz on Vimeo.

Thing # 11

As advertised: SUPER Simple! I see several very important ways this platform could benefit what I am trying to do in my present situation: 1) a way to expand my book “vocabulary” and let others help with the mental editing of what books to read and more importantly what NOT to read; 2) Connect with others with similar interests to not only have meaningful dialog, but to delve deeper into fundamentally difficult concepts or those misunderstood; 3) Professional networking with like-minded colleagues and to build bridges with those who “appear” not like minded; 4) Create yet another layer of web presence to communicate with students and have students communicate/collaborate with each other AND in the worldwide neighborhood. Check out my Library Thing Profile It was in browsing the Groups that I could "see" the professional development and student engagement angles. I joined the Library Thing for New Members and the Non-Fiction groups to learn more about the most efficient ways to use it AND so I can possibly curb my purchases of books based on thoughtful reviews/comments.

Thing # 10

One of the most, at once, rewarding, fulfilling and exasperating aspects of this Library2Play exercise is the things you stumble upon during the exploration on the creative highway. While looking at one of the suggested links I cam across MyWebFace. I used the product arising from the cartooning of myself as the new Blog avatar. I found this platform much more user friendly than the Yahoo avatar creator, there were far more tweeky tools to play with AND the image I created looks a lot closer to me that my original avatar. Still, the image is mostly wishful thinking. I want to expose my students to use this for their individual blogs not only as reasonably life like, yet non-photographic representations, but I like the creativity/design aptitude nurturing as well. I also toyed with the Comic Strip Creator, but my creation didn't match the image I want my web presence to convey, so I keep it safe from public consumption. At first, I wanted to use it as a way to have kids that are into graphic novels/comics to be able to have an outlet for their compositions, but my experience suggested that I should do some more work with it or look into other means. Earlier, I had given Bitstrips a try. I signed up for a trial subscription, played just enough to get frustrated, and then forgot about it until AFTER the free period ran out! But the creations I have seen using this platform look very promising.

My last few posts have been my experimentation's with some of the applications at ImageChef. My experience with this platform offered what I like most: variety with simplicity. I would use these tools to help students bring their poetry to L I F E !
The post just before this one is a Wordle using this blog. I have used Wordle as a way to introduce a novel, highlight vocabulary in a chapter or unit, and as a way to demonstrate understanding of character traits, setting characteristics, or elements of conflict or plot structure. It is a versatile and super simple tool.

Library2Play....Wordle Style

Wordle: Summer Thoughts

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thing # 9

I use Google Blog search. I don’t know if it is the easiest or not, but I am able to find things that interest me. I have a Bloglines account, but was unable to access the search function. The Edublog Award Winner’s site is a great place to reap the benefits of other’s time in finding the best stuff and I have used this in the past. In regard to looking at the offerings that were new, from what I could tell from references to SuperGlu, it seems very helpful, but I was unable to get any of the links for it to open. I didn’t like the look or functionality of Topix, and the same for Syndic8. Technorati would be my choice if I was choosing something new from these, but I’m not. The reason is that the device or platform that one uses to find feeds cannot provide the time to read and therefore benefit from that voluminous amount of information.
• Which was more confusing? Syndic8 and Topix.
• What kind of useful feeds did you find in your travels? Or what kind of unusual ones did you find?
From the YALSA site, I stumbled upon Tame the Web which appears to be current and forward thinking. The concept of “travels” is interesting for the purposes of this “Things” endeavor. Yes, I am learning a lot, and yes, I have traveled freely and discovered Many interesting tools and services….but, I get to drink coffee and play around and wander from about 6:00 am to 10:00 am without duty or interruption. When school starts this ability will cease. Which brings me to the realization that all these devices to “find” the musings of interesting folks on fascinating topics, begs the question: What are you going to do with it? I am thinking that it is better to find a few folks who’s opinions and philosophy you “trust” and wander with them…..just saying…
For what I have found that is interesting…please see the Fruits of My Summer 2010 Wanderings

Daniel Pink's "Drive" Presentation - What This Means for the Classroom?