Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thing 23: I Made it!

Okay, so I waited to complete this course until the last final moment, but I made it! Actually, I have 3 hours and 45 minutes to spare-not that I am a procrastinator! :) Seriously, it wasn't procrastination as much as a crazy life with two little kids and very little free time. I loved this web class! Instead of coming away from it feeling like I learned a lot, I am coming away from it with enthusiasm to learn a lot more. I feel a little overwhelmed because I've been exposed to so much new information and cool new tools to use, that I don't really know where to start. I feel like I've been exposed to a ton of new ideas that my students would love. Some I'd heard of before, but most of them, even those I'd heard of, I'd never explored before. I almost need to make a plan and decide on maybe the top five things that I learned about of the 23 and order them and decide how I can incorporate them into my teaching. I believe that incorporating as many Web 2.0 tools will engage students more in their learning, but will also better meet them where they are at in this huge wave of technology that seems to change every day. My biggest question after this course is simply, what are some of the best sources for getting tips on the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools? An online blog? A publication? I went into this class thinking that I used a lot of technology in my classroom. Afterward, I realized that there's so much I didn't know about. How did you find out about cool tools like Image Chef? When did you first learn about Flickr and Picasa? I hate to have this course finish and then that's it. I'm hoping that someone responds to this post with some ideas for me. I'm also hoping that Ron does a Web 2.0 continued course again in the future. It really inspired me to push myself and learn and incorporate something new.

Thing 5: Photo Mashup Fun

I can't believe that I accidentally skipped this "thing" the first time around. What fun these sites were to play with! Hands down, I had the most fun with Big Huge Labs! I can really see a lot of ways to incorporate projects from this site. How fun it would be for students to do biographies of a famous person and create a magazine cover with words and descriptions from their notes. I can also see them creating neat collages of historical events to go along with a writing assignment summarizing that event. I liked the posted idea as well of the "following the directions" assignment in a comic strip format. The other site that I really liked was Image Chef. Again, when doing a biography of a famous person, how cool would it be to create an image collage of words that describe that person or key words to go along with them like the city they grew up in or their spouse's name. I do a research unit every winter with my fourth graders. They break their topic down into five subtopics and take notes on each. They then create five different projects reflecting those notes to glue onto a presentation board that's shared during a formal presentation. For each of the five projects, the students have two different options to choose from. I definately with be incorporating Big Huge Lab and Image Chef projects into the choices. What fun! Above is a picture of my beautiful kids!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thing 22: Online Video

You Tube is not banned from my school, thank goodness. I use it here and there to show fun, informational stuff, but I've never explored Teacher Tube. I loved it and found lots I can use already. I do an architecture unit in the spring with my fourth graders and found within a few minutes short videos on housing styles and a really neat one showing a group of kids building a geodesic dome out of rolled up newspaper. I checked out the TED site and there were many interesting videos. I got a little sucked in and ended up wathing all of Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford two years ago. Interesting! Because I teach third and fourth graders, I probably wouldn't use TED that much, because the video topics are much higher level. I might have my students access teacher Tube for videos on their current research unit. I would never give them free access to You Tube, for obvious reasons. There are awesome videos on it, but also many inappropriate ones.

Thing 21: Twitter

I have to say that this is one tool that I'm just not too keen on using either in my classroom, or personally. When I clicked on the Twitter search tool, I put in the name of my city, Byron Center. I did get some information on current events and stuff with the schools, but also got weird posts from someone sitting at the bar in Monelli's and another riddled with profanity from a teenager whose parents are moving and she has to attend Byron Center High School and obviously doesn't want to move. I felt like I was spying on people's lives and it was a bit creepy! Of course, if people didn't want others knowing their business, they wouldn't sign up for Twitter! I did notice that there were a lot of tweets from the high school and various clubs on upcoming events or up-to-the-minute details on meets as they were unfolding. That would be kind of neat to get for people who are interested. I don't think I'd use it with my students simply because it's so unfiltered and you don't know what you are going to find. This is one that I probably should spend some time researching articles on the internet that share how other teachers are using Twitter in their classrooms. I have to say, this is one of the only Web 2.0 tools that I really didn't get into.

Thing 20: Bookmarking with

Here's the link to my bookmarks:

Sorry, you can tell that I'm not back in school mode yet because all of my links are weight loss or Girl Scout ones! I really wish that thing 20 had been bumped up to think 2 or 3. There are so many websites throughout the 23 things that I bookmarked. I'll have to fiddle with delicious and figure out how to import all of them into the program. I can definately see this site helping my productivity a ton. Not only will it be easier for me to access the sites I need, but it will be so much easier to use with my students. I often have my third graders do research and gather a list of specific web sites that I would like them to use. My fear is not that they will get into anything inappropriate, but that they will waste lots of time on useless sites that won't help them find what they are looking for. I use the site Filamentality a lot to create hotlists of hyperlinks for students. It works well, but it's a pain initially when they go to the site because of the absolutely huge URL. For anyone who's ever created a hotlist on Filamentality, you know that the web address is often something like this: www. kn.pacbell.filamentality/weblist and on even more! What always happens is that the students goof up one of the 40 characters and then get totally frustrated and I run around and type it in for them. The next time we visit the lab, it's much easier becaue they all have it bookmarked, but whew! That first time is awful and stressful! It will be much easier to have them just go to my delicious bookmarks. Wonderful!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Thing 19: Intro. to Social Bookmarking

What a great idea that someone had! I can't count the number of times that I've been at home and want to get back to a bookmarked website, but the bookmark was made at school. I also have a mess of over a hundred bookmarks that are totally unorganized or tagged, so I always have to search the whole list to find what I'm looking for. Also, my district reimages computers every summer and wipes out all of our bookmarks. Ugh! I found that out the hard way last year. It will definately be a time saver, but I'm wondering if I can also use this with students. It would be great to do some initial searching for good sources for a research project and then have them be able to access those bookmarks for their research. I was pretty excited about it until I read the 13 tips article. Yikes! I didn't realize that tagging bookmarks can be such a hassle, but it totally makes sense. Opensource versus open source versus open-source. I can see how different people can tag the same sites totally differently. I'm sure I'll run into those issues at some point, but I'm not as interested at this point about the social aspect of delicious, but just being able to organize my bookmarks and being able to access them from any computer. As soon as I get more "into" using the site, I will try to become more familiar with searching the most common tags that other people use for certain sites and can also edit and switch the tags that I've set. I thought it was funny that the article mentioned to be careful of what you tag sites and not to tag a site on your competitor's products "enemies." I can only imagine the trouble that some people have gotten into choosing inappropriate tags for their bookmarks!

Thing 18: Building your personal learning network

I think I get the gist of Ning and what social networking is. I could see it being especially helpful for my teaching partner and I. We teach elementary gifted and talented classes and there are very few G/T programs left in our county. When we are faces with different issues and decisions that will impact our program, we really don't have anyone else to go to to bounce ideas off of but each other. It would be helpful to try to locate a G/T personal learning network that we could connect with. I also think it would be helpful to find one for the parents of the students in our program. People often think that gifted students are always high achieving teacher pleasers who do well in school. Some do, but there are also others who learn much different, have social-emotional issues common with gifted kids, or have issues fitting in with their peers. I'm sure my parents would love to have a forum for ideas. The issue with personal learning networks that makes me unsure of them is how do you know that the advice or info. you are getting from others in the network is valid? Are there people out there that would purposely post incorrect information? I'm assuming that others on the network would catch and point out inaccuracies, but it makes me a little leery of them. The other drawback is that I'm a person that really does better face-to-face when someone is explaining or talking me through something. If I just wanted sources or opinions on something, a PLN would be great, but on one of the educational ones I was looking at, people gave a lot of tips and advice on technical issues. Unless someone shows me how to do something, I have a hard time. Walking me through it in a written format is often tough for me. Sorry, I'm a visual learner!

Thing 17: More Web 2.0 winners

These were fun to check out! The list was so huge that I stuck with the winners list. All of the education ones were pretty dry or focused mainly on foreign languages, so I ended up just randomly searching in all categories. My favorite was definately Upcoming. What an awesome site. You can search any date in GR and get info. in certain categories like museums or music or get anything from musical venues to storytime for toddlers at Barnes and Noble at Rivertown. You can create an event calendar and touch base with friends who have created a login on the site and calendar to let you know that you will be attending that event. You can also purchase tickets on the site. Cocktail maker was fun for party planning and Health Revolution is a fantastic site for people like me who swear they are going to drop pounds this year. Unlike other health sites, this one is really comprehensive. You can search health and medical issues, set up a fitness plan, get healty recipes, and track your dieting progress all on one site. Maybe this will be my motivation this year! I feel like I need about another 8 hours to check out all of the sites on the winner list.

Thing 16: Teach Digital

Wow! Lots to think about. Didn't care for the last video, but the first two were excellent. I really enjoyed Ken Robinson's talk on creativity. I have to admit, when I first saw that it was 20 minutes long, my reaction was ugh! but it was very well done, and it didn't hurt that he has a great sense of humor! I felt that after viewing both videos, that to best encourage potential in all students is an incredibly hard balancing act for teachers. I see my kids and their friends growing up with so much technology, that texting, podcasting, and face book and Twitter are all just a part of their lives. I imagine that children today who grow up to be teachers won't even need to think about integrating technology. It will be such a natural way of communicating that they will mostly need to concentrate on what to communicate and not the how. Myself and my colleagues struggle because we are frantically trying to squeeze in the time to learn the newest technology while still trying to stay on top of what we are mandated to teach. This class is a testiment to that for me. I've struggled with fitting in learning about Web 2.0 while lesson planning, correcting papers, and trying to fit in time to sleep and talk to my kids! I totally get that some technology needs to be integrated to meet students needs and prepare them for the future, but the first video created by college students seemed to be too far one way. If we (teachers) integrate all types of technology all the time and no traditional lecture or written tasks, aren't we just creating students who can collaborate and create online, but have a hard time in the future work place getting along and collaborating with live people? Like I said, it's a balancing act. I do feel that the strong message that came out in both videos was that teachers need to be more open to letting students create and present what they've learned in a variety of ways that build on their strengths instead of just forcing certain products all the time.