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Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Top Ten Things That Every Teacher Should Know About Technology - Revisited

My “Top Ten Things Teachers Should Know About Technology” list did not change from the beginning of the course.  However this course did let me have a better understanding of technology’s uses in the classroom to enhance learning.  After taking this course, I feel that there is nothing more important that jumping into technology with both feet.  The amount of time I spent practicing, navigating, and exploring technology was invaluable.  The bold and italicized print was what I added to my list from the beginning of the course.

1.      Don’t get stuck in a learning rut!  Make an effort to try something new each year.

2.      Take time to familiarize yourself with the technology and sites you are going to use with the students.  A little practice at home saves teachers a lot of time at school so they can focus on the technology.

3.      Always have a back-up plan in mind.  Computers can go down, laptops may not have been
      returned by another class, or a site may be experiencing difficulty.  

4.      Don’t give up.  If your little foray into something new doesn’t go as planned, learn from your mistakes for the next class.

5.      Make your presentation/lesson as interactive as possible for the students.  Making the students invested in the lesson will increase their interest and attention.

6.      Leave plenty of time for student questions.  If you don’t have all of the answers it’s ok to get back to the students at the next class with the answers they were looking for.

7.      Allow time for students to experiment with the technology first hand.  Learning through hands on experience is great for visual and tactile learners and just plain old fun.

8.      Technology isn’t going to compliment every lesson.  If technology won’t enrich the lesson, then don’t use it.  Never underestimate the power of a good book.

9.      Take advantage of learning sources at your school.  Observe other teachers using technology in their classes, take professional development classes, and work with the IT department.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

10.  Always know your end goal.  Be aware upfront of the purpose of your lesson and how technology can further the learning.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

"FINAL" Thoughts

This past week looking at the OPAC’s seemed a lot like buying a new car.  They all had their promotional material and some had more bells and whistles than others, but you really had to look at each feature to get an overall comparison.  I chose to compare my school’s current system, Companion’s Alexandria, to Follett’s Destiny.  For me this was a real life potential change.  On May 16th a representative from Follett will be coming to my school district to meet with all the librarians and IT people. 

After talking to 2 of the town’s school librarians, their main concern is professional development since only 2 of the 5 librarians were even in their positions when the move to Alexandria occurred.  Those 2 librarians never received formal training when the OPAC was first set-up.  While the support staff at Alexandria is always available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it doesn’t take the place of formal training.  The manual is a huge 4 inch thick book, but with limited time available, it is not always intuitive in finding the information you are looking for.  Currently, the consensus seems to be that this OPAC is being underutilized. 

Another factor that I considered in my final paper was an issue facing our school system.  Next month there will be a vote at town meeting regarding an override question to be placed on the ballot for a new Glover Elementary School.  One of the main factors that the opposition has targeted is taxpayer cost.  While changing to a more expensive OPAC is a miniscule amount in comparison, it shows financially responsibility on behalf of the school system to be conservative with their budget spending. 

Finally the biggest difficulty for me was posting the final paper to the class wiki.  My Appendix C for some reason did not like where the headings “Alexandria” and “Destiny” were placed.  They looked to be in the correct spot during the editing, but when I tried to preview the document the two headers were shifted to the left and there was no longer proper spacing between them.  After multiple attempts to convert the document to an HTML file and various other creative attempts to correct the justification both in the wiki and outside of it, I came to fall back on some wise words that I found in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tool for Classrooms by Will Richardson.  I will leave you with The Wiki Prayer… 

Please grant me the serenity to accept the pages I cannot edit,
The courage to edit the pages I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I chose serenity….. and in doing so.…hopefully.….I showed some wisdom!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Children & Internet Safety

            When thinking of internet safety, over sharing of information immediately comes to mind.  No matter your age, I think sometimes we forget that the internet while exciting and fun can also be a dangerous place, where sharing too much information can get you into trouble.  This is especially true when children and teens navigate a world that has become second nature to them.  They are often more the experts than their parents…that is until it comes to online safety.  The eye rolling often begins as kids hear the reminders about being cautious.  I found a few sites that I thought were good reminders to have fun but to keep your guard up.

            The first site Think Before You Post shows a video clip about Sarah, a teenage girl who posts questionable content without thinking about her audience.  In this clip, Sarah is appalled when strangers come up to her on the street and want to know what color her underwear is today.  While something at home may seem like an inside joke to friends, this information by other can be seen as sexual or provocative in nature.  Sarah certainly didn’t mean for people at the mall to recognize her and she started to feel uncomfortable.  This video does a nice job of showing the scope of readers that a posting can reach.

5-sites-that-promote-internet-safety-for-kids is a site that provides just that...5 great sites.  It acts as a road map for online safety.

The site YourSphere How To Protect the Online Photos, Identity and Reputation of You and Your Children – Watermark Them! offers kids and parents some protection of their on line photos through watermarking.  Watermarking makes it harder for others to just point, click, and copy your photos.  It offers some protection to your online photos.

Netsmartz is a great resource for parents, kids, and educators that discusses various issues associated with the internet such as  blogging, cell phones, cyber bullying, gaming, predators, revealing too much, and social networking.  Teens talk about their experiences with various issues when interacting on line with others.  Hearing about these issues through video clips told by other teens makes the warnings seem more real.  This site also offers a wealth of advice on internet safety in general.

Another video clip Internet Safety PSA -- Instant Messaging  shows an interaction with a smart teen and an online predator.  This teen knows exactly how to handle the situation.  

 Teenangels is a site that empowers teens to become specially trained guardians that help promote safe online behaviors within their real life community.  They even offer an online cyber communications checklist or netiquette and approved safe sites for kids.

Internet Safe Surfing Tips for Teens is a website by Teens Health that talks about safe surfing tips for teens.  How to naviagate the online world can be tricky, but these reminders can help define what a good rule of thumb is generally when it comes to your virtual safety.

            The last site YouTube - Think You Know is a video clip.  This 8 minute video gives an accurate portrayal of some children’s online sharing of information.  The video entices its audience with its popular musical accompaniment and question and answer session with children.  It shows how some children are more careful about their safety in the real world than they are on-line.  Here Becky puts up a sign on her front lawn with her personal information and attracts all kinds of attention as a result.  This video while creepy does an amazing job of portraying the effects of this type of sharing by showing real world similarities.

Unfortunately, once you give out information, there is no way to get it back and you don’t know how others will use it.  In the wrong hands your information could be used by predators, scammers, or even cyber bullies.  Take control of your online presence and stay safe.  Remember with personal information…less is more.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Professional Development – Animoto, Flickr, & Jing

This week for my professional development piece I chose to make a Jing titled “The Making of an Animoto.”  Having the bright yellow sun at the top of my screen made this super easy.  That is, once I realized that I only had 5 minutes to talk and I was a bit too wordy.  After clicking the arm on the far left, I was able to capture the size of the screen I wanted to film.  From trial and error I learned not to capture the right side scroll bar so I could maneuver easier on each page once I began filming.

I photographed the students’ actual insect creations that they made in art class as they were displayed on the walls around the room.  I uploaded these photos to my Flickr account.  Theorganize and create” tab allowed me to drag the photos that I wanted to include in a new set onto the layout board.  Once I dragged all 18 photos over, I named the set “Insects.” 

From here, I logged into Animoto and chose to create a video.  First you pick a background style.  There are 16 free styles and 8 more available with package upgrades.  From there, you follow 3 simple steps.  The first step is to choose your photos and video images.  You can get these from your computer, Facebook, other websites (like Flickr) or select ones from their collection.  I retrieved my set of images titled “Insects” from Flickr.  The second step was to pick the music you wanted to accompany your visual presentation.  You can either upload it from your computer or use their selections.  The songs are broken down into several categories such as Classical, Oldies, Country, & Top 40 to name a few.  Under Classical music, I chose to select The Marriage of Figaro from their list of songs because I thought it best set the tone of the insects buzzing around the classroom.  The last step was to finalize my selections and confirm them.  There was a short wait while the Animoto was being made.  At this point I chose to pause the Jing so that I wouldn’t use up any more of my limited time.  Once the Animoto was ready, I played it. 

Even though I didn’t script out my audio comments, using Jing helped me to organize my presentation and hopefully address any areas of questions or concerns along the way.  While it was fun to make, I also realized that it is hard to multitask by talking, typing and thinking ahead.  As with anything in life, I got better with practice.  My sixth attempt was much better than my first.  I can see the value in this tutorial at a Professional Development Class because while you are still presenting, some of the initial pressure is off of you while the class is watching the Jing.  The class also has the benefit of seeing step by step how to go about creating something that looks so difficult but it really only takes a few minutes.  Another positive of having a Jing tutorial is that with the link to it, teachers will have access to the tutorial to refer back to it even after the PD class is over.  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Nook

Let me count the ways I love my Barnes & Noble Nook….I love the fact that every Friday they offer a free ebook!  This week’s choice was Millie’s Fling by Jill Mansell.  It seems to be a light-hearted romance that I probably wouldn’t buy but I certainly did download it for free.  I feel like I am stocking my book shelves for later reads.  This program is a great idea because it keeps people reading.  Frankly, who doesn’t like something for free!  It also opens you up to a new genre that you wouldn’t normally make the effort to buy or pick out at the library.  While this particular rating was very limited, I have seen other overviews that were 2 pages. 
The Nook offers games, shopping, my library, the daily (notifications), reading now, wi-fi selection, audio, web, and settings as your choice options from the main screen.  A nice feature that the Nook offers is highlights where you can choose to highlight a word or words.  It also allows you to add your own notes in the margin on a reading selection.  You have the option of searching by author, title, or name of publication.  The reviews option is also a great way to see how a book has been received by others.  A final favorite of mine is the wish list.  This lets you store books that you have come across but haven’t purchased.  Rather than carrying a few books on vacation or to the beach, you just need your Nook for a lighter option with more features.

My Top 5 FAVORITE Tools

# 5      
Jing – It is a wonderful tool to pull together a tutorial or compile a list of sources for another teacher.

Google Docs – This tool allows for individual work, student/teacher collaboration, and teacher/teacher collaboration.

Diigo – This tool lets you bookmark sites as an html and photo document in addition to allowing you to make notes and highlight important parts.

YouTube – There are just so many great videos archived on the site that can enhance a lesson.  (Especially if the video starts with "School House Rock")

And there is a tie for #1 since they go so nicely together………
Flickr – This is a wonderful tool to store all of the class photos by event or date.

Animoto – This is such a fun way to turn photos into a video presentation along with selected music.  It really sets the tone of the event or photos.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Honey Bee Interview with Joelle

Joelle is a very knowledgeable 2nd grader who sat down with me and shared her report findings on the Honey Bee.  I apologize for the poor sound quality and intermittent static, but she was just so enthusiastic that I needed to include this lovely interview.  Enjoy!