Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thing 15: Using Podcasts in the Classroom

I think that podcasts are a great tool, but just like everything else, they have a place. First of all, I thought that the video was great because althought I had heard of podcasts and knew what they were, my question was always, "Where do you search for them?" I also didn't realize that you have to have a podcast catcher downloaded onto your computer. I loved podcast alley, but unfortunately, my school laptop that I am working right now is set up so that I am blocked from downloading anything unless the tech. dept. does it, so I wasn't able to listen to any of those podcasts. For some reason, I was able to listen to the ones on the education podcast list by David Warlick. I loved some like the bedtime stories one and there was also an awesome science one, but some I couldn't see using. Students would love to hear someone else reading a story to them now and then and also some subjects can be explained in words, but many of the podcasts that I skimmed through were audio only with no video. So many of my students are visual learners, that that's why I say that podcasts have a place and can really enhance teaching. However, in many areas, I don't think that they can take the place of a good teachers who shows, explains, models, and most importantly, conveys enthusiasm about a subject area. I do think podcasts are wonderful for the high school level, particularly with students who are absent or need to listen to a lecture just one more time to understand the material. In the Thing 14 video, there was an example of a science teacher in Minnesota who did test review podcasts for the students to use the night before a test. What a great idea!

Thing 14: Learn About Podcasting

I skimmed through many of the podcasts and was most interested in the student generated ones. I think that creating a podcast would be such a wonderful motivator for students and a cool end product that could be shared with others. Some were good, and as I expected, many of the high school ones were drier just because of the level of information, but hands down, the one that I thought was just exceptional was the radio Willow one from Nebraska. I'm glad that in the video, the woman from RESA explained that they have been doing podcasts for a long time. It really shows. I can't believe how professional-sounding the kids are, even at the first grade level! First of all, I can easily see using their podcasts in my classroom. They have all elementary grade levels represented and a huge variety of topics, both core subjects and beyond such as health and artists. I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into creating such a high quality podcast with such young children. I really enjoyed one about famous artists by first graders. They had to have spent a couple of weeks exploring various media, then researching famous artist, writing a script, rehearsing, and then recording the final product. The final podcast is very good and I'll bet that the students are really excited and can't wait for mom and dad and their freinds to hear it. What a super motivator for a unit that makes the students work really hard. I'll bet that they don't even realize all of the hard work because they are having so much fun creating their own "radio program." The episodes also contain a large amount of information, so they are really useful to other teachers to use in their classrooms. I would love to use the Willow podcasts to not only teach my students further information about various topics, but also to inspire them to want to create a podcast in our own classroom.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thing 13: Sharing your Vision

I had a lot of fun with this "thing?" I checked out all of the sites, but I really like Slideshare and Slide. It's amazing how many different types of presentations are on Slideshare, ones that I could use in school such as ones on the writing process or various science things like the water cycle as well as cool fun sites. My daughter loved checking out all of the sites on horses and it was neat that they have awards and that viewers can vote on their favorites. I chose Slide to create my own slideshow and again, my 8-year-old daughter had a hand in it. I didn't think the two other slideshow creation sites were as user friendly. Slide had neat grahics and background choices and I like that you can also instantly add your completed show to facebook or other locations. I lead a girl scout troop and I created one that shows images from three different events from this fall. It was super easy and fun to create. It would be neat in school to use Slide to have the students create personal biograhy projects or even presentations on a research topic. I noticed on other participant's blogs that they were able to actually post their completed slideshows. I couldn't figure out how to do that, but here is the web address to view my completed Girl Scout slide show.

Thing 12: Productivity Anywhere

The site that I reviewed and played around with was Remember the Milk. I'm such a huge list person both in my school career and at home, that I thought I'd really get into this site. Yuck basically sums up my thoughts on this site. I had no problem setting up my site and registering for free, but I thought it was very cumbersome to use. First, you have to put in your task. Then you have to categorize it as personal or work. Then you set the date when it's due. Then you set the priority level for each. Yikes! It would take me so long to do a simple to do list that it would drive me crazy! I'm not enough of a "techie" to get into this site. The feature that I do think is neat is the fact that you can set it up so that reminders get IMed to you or sent to your Blackberry. My husband is in sales and lives and breathes with his Blackberry for business, so I can see him totally getting into this tool. For me, I think I'll stick with my PDA. I know it's probably considered a dinosaur now, but it works for me! I think I'll check out some of the other sites to see if one of them would be more helpful.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thing 11: Online Productivity Apps

Yes, I do think that Microsoft should be worried! I can already see many uses for Google docs. My teaching partner and I collaboratively do a newsletter to all of the parents of students in our program each month. It's always a pain because one of us works on it first and either saves it to our school server or e-mails it to the other and we have to be careful that the version that we e-mail out to parents is indeed the final version with all of the edits. By uploading it to Google documents, we can both work on it from home or school. I can also see doing this with my monthly newsletter that I do for my girl scout troop. Before I send it to parents, I always print it out for my co-leader and she does edits in pencil and gives it back to me to revise. This will be much easier! I'm also excited because I just bought a netbook and was bummed that I don't have Office on it and could'nt create any documents. I just tried creating one in Google documents and it works great. I'd heard of it before, but had no idea what Google docs really was. I'm glad I do now.

Thing 10: Create a Wiki

I used Wiki Spaces to create my wiki and it was very easy not only to post to a page, but it was also easy to customize the look and feel of my wiki and give it a more attractive color scheme and a neat graphic on the edge that makes it look likes it's in a spiral notebook. I can easily see setting up a wiki and inviting the parents in my gifted and talented program to take part in postings and discussions. I could post book reviews of good reads on gifted issues and links to ppoint presentations I've created on issues with gifted students and differentiation in the classroom for gifted students. I really like the discussion feature and think that it would be a great place for parents to get feedback from other parents of gifted students. We used to have an active parent group for our program and guest speakers, but with parents being busier these days and budgets cut back to nothing, all of that has gone by the wayside. A wiki would be a great way for parents to connect and use each other as valuable resources.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thing 9-Wikis

First of all, let me say that I'm glad to finally know where the word wiki came from! I'd heard about them and always wondered where that strange word came from and now I know. The first of the three wikis that I checked out was the one that I'm most familiar with, Wikipedia. I have used it a lot with students for basic research and knew that it sometimes can be questionable as far as accuracy, but I checked it out specifically for recent changes to see just how quickly and what types of things are changed on the site. It was interesting. Of the last fifty changes, many were picky little grammer things. There were little bits of information added here and there, but I was surprised at how many items were deleted all together out of articles. I think it's still a good basic sourch, but I now have more concerns about accuracy when I see that some people delete information on the site and change things often. The second wiki that I thought was really cool was the city of Rochester's community guide. What a cool idea! The local government added the basics about the community, but then other community members added information on sites of interest and history. What a cool way to pool everyone's ideas about the community! The last one was the links to the many wikis created by Ms. Davis' high school students. The best I thought was the Web 2.0 project where students created definitions and links to sites with information on podcasts, RSS feeds, etc. Although it is really cool that the students took it upon themselves to develop their own wikis with review guides and the study hall one with all kinds of links to information about various classes, the fact that any student can add to it makes me a little leery. Some students I'm sure add legitimately helpful and accurate information, but I'm sure that there are also ones out there that add false and goofy files just to be jerks and mess up other students. I totally agree with the slideshows on wikis that the fact that anyone can add to them and edit is both a blessing and a curse. I am a teacher in a gifted and talented program and we used to have guest speakers on various topics relating to gifted ed., but people are so busy, that turnout to these meetings was often low and we stopped doing them. Creating a gifted ed. wiki and asking the parents of our students to share their stories, expertise, and links to information would be fantastic!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thing 6: Copywrite

Sorry! I created this post long ago, but must not have hit 'Publish.' I was surprised when I looked at my record of posts on my blog that Thing 6 was missing! Some of the copywright information wasn't new to me, but all of the fair use info. definately was and was interesting. The only area of copywrite that stresses me out in my teaching is the use of music. Students in our gifted program create mini "movies" on a certain research topic using Photo Story 3 and they also create mini time capsules of their lives using Moviemaker. For both projects, the students add background tracks of music. My teaching partner and I have both stressed out when we have students add the music because of copywrite issues. We've gone to sites like as well as purchased public domain music CDs at Best Buy, but sometimes, students want a specific track of music for their background. For example, I recently had students create a claymation project on the life of Babe Ruth. They wanted "Take me out to the Ball Game" running in the background. I told them that they couldn't because of copywrite, but now that I read the guidelines, I'm thinking that they could have. The project was created for educational purposes, we were only using a small portion of the song and the project was only for those three students who created it. It wasn't going to be distributed or posted on the web. Unless I'm misinterpreting the guidelines, I think I've been way too strict and paranoid about using music. Let's hopy I'm accurate in my interpretation, because I am planning on not being as strict with students on future projects. I can totally see why my boys thought that a baseball song would be perfect for their project and I'm kind of sad that I didn't let them use it now.

Thing 8: Locating RSS Feeds

Okay, I should have read the description of Thing 8 before I blogged on Thing 7! Oh well. The RSS thing is very cool, but I was so frustrated because I was having a hard time searching in Google News for exactly what topics I wanted info. on and ended up searching back in the Thing 2 list of blogs and many of those do not have links to RSS feeds. My favorite tool for locating feeds was definately the link to the EduBlog awards. I love Kathy Schrock's website and when I went to it and tried to add an RSS feed for Thing 7, I couldn't find one on her site. Lo and behold, she does have one relating just to technology and it was a runner-up for an Edublog award. Awesome! I added that one to my feeds as well as the Free Technology one, which was the top award winner. I wasn't as happy with Technorati, simply because it covered much more than education topics and I noticed that a lot of the blogs when I searched were gossipy ones related to Hollywood and stars. I did, however, like their top 100 blogs list. I find that now when I'm searching for feeds, it's helpful that Google Reader lists how many people subscribe to that site and how many average posts are put on it per week. I ended up going back and removing a couple of my feeds that had very low subscribers or too many posts per week. I don't have the time to read ones that have 10 or more posts per week and low subscriber numbers tells me that the site isn't that good. I can't wait to check my account tomorrow and see what posts have been added. What a time saver for me! I don't have time to constantly go and check my favorite sites, but visiting Google Reader periodically is no problem.

Thing 7: RSS Feeds

This exercise I had fun with! I already had kind of an idea of what RSS feeds were, but I never took the time to actually figure out how to set them up and manage them and I'd never heard of Google Reader or Google News. The tutorial video walking me through step by step how to search and add links was great! I actually went back to the blog list from Thing 2 and subscribed to some of those blogs that I thought were really interesting. I was frustrated when some of them did not feature an RSS link. I quickly subscribed to two personal sites on weight and fitness (yes, I like everyone else on the planet have a New Year's resolution to drop some weight!), one on gifted education and a final one on Web 2.0 tool ideas to use in the classroom. I need to play around with Google News a little more. I tried to search a topic and then specifically for a blog. I sometimes got good hits, but more often than not, got weird ones or couldn't find any at all. Like I said, I'll have to play around with it a little more. I'm wondering if there is a site out there with a list of recommended RSS feeds for different subject areas. I'll have to search.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thing 4-Photo Sharing

What a cool site Picasa is! I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to photo sharing. I'm so used to the "old way" of doing photos and I have to admit that right now, my digital camera has about 350 photos on it that I haven't downloaded or done anything with. Let's hope I don't lose the camera! Picasa would be a great site to access both for my personal photos as well as a resource to use in my teaching. With Christmas being right around the corner, I know of a lot of teachers, myself included, talking about Christmas in different countries. How cool to be able to use the photo tags to search for pictures from certain countries and then to see where they are geographically on a map is even cooler! It would be a neat site to use to have the students do projects involving the ancestry of their families and then pull in pictures from their family's country of origin and even add some of their own.