Show Me Something I Can Use

Tammy Worcester did an amazing job presenting some really great tools and web based applications. She not only demonstrated how to use the tool but gave plenty of ideas about how students can use it in the classroom. I hope I can demonstrate in writing effectively enough to encourage you to try a couple of these ideas.
Jam Studio is really cool. It’s kind of a music making sandbox that allows the user, even a non-musical one to experiment with the program and create a really cool track – which by the way, can be used as a background track for a PowerPoint presentation, slide show, video, or podcast. Here’s the catch: You can create a track for free and without signing up for an account (in the case of students). In order to “keep” the track, you have to sign up for an account. Unless, you can use this nifty workaround: Record the track you have created in Jam Studio using GarageBand (for Mac) or Audacity. You could even record it using the audio recording feature in PowerPoint.
Vocaroo is a great tool to use as a way to enhance your wiki. Here’s a scenario that I think would be a perfect use for Vocaroo: Say you have a few links on your website or wiki that you want your students to use. You have written directions for your students about what to look for or what you want them to do with a particular activity. If you have students with special needs who may have trouble with written directions, you can record the directions to the assignment and create an embeddable audio player for the students to click on to hear you tell them what to do.
Once the student gets to the site, if the reading level is too complex for them to effectively use the site, the student can copy and past the text into the text box in VozMe. Once the text is pasted into the VozMe application, the user can create a downloadable mp3 that reads the text aloud. The user can download an mp3 to listen from a player like an iPod or from the computer.
Tammy presented lots of other tools at that workshop. I’ll show a few more in the next post.

Goodbye Flowgram

When I learned how to use Flowgram, I thought it was the best tool ever! Where else could you combine text, images, perhaps PowerPoint slides, websites, and recorded narration to create an online presetation that was interactive? I created a couple of Flowgrams and the one on Information Literacy had several hits and I promoted it with my staff and in presentations I made for ICE. I’m not really upset that all my hard work is going to waste (I could, afterall, download it as a video from the site just before it goes completely dead.) These kind of presentations need to updated anyway. I am, however, looking for the next cool tool! I don’t care if these new fangled Web2.0 tools either start charging or cease to exist. It’s all about transfer of knowledge. I’ll use what I learned when creating my Flowgrams to create an enhanced Podcase in GarageBand – which will not go away anytime soon.

So, if you see any nifty new thing that needs trying, give me a shout! I love trying new things. (Just make sure it’s free.)

The To-Do List

Summer is supposed to be a time for educators to regroup, reorganize, clean out, and do a little preparing for another school year. I have to admit I’ve been a world class slacker when it comes to cleaning up my digital life. As I’ve said before, I am a real digital packrat – meaning I love to collect stuff. I collect links to websites, blogs to read, and tools to use. I sign up for everything. Everytime a new tools is mentioned by my friends on Twitter, Plurk or a blog, I add it to my collection. In addition, when I meet an interesting educator online, I subscribe to their blog. A couple of weeks left to my summer (since I go back in the beginning of August) and I’m feeling like I need a plan to do some serious reorganizing.

When it comes to my real, meaning physical life, I love to purge. Nothing is more gratifying than pulling a garbage can up to a closet or cabinet and filling it several times. I’m thinking I need to purge my digital cabinets as well. I need a plan though. I don’t know where to start. Here are my big issues:

Google Reader is where I keep track of all the blogs I want to read. The problem is that I don’t get back to it often enough because I also use Pageflakes to keep track of blogs I want to read during my daily 15 minutes of professional development during the school year.

 

 

 

 

 

Del.icio.us is where I keep my bookmarks. With over 1600 websites, it’s been difficult to keep the tags effectively organized. In addition, I’m quite certain, many of my bookmarks are ones that I could probably delete, since I’ve been using del.icio.us for so long, I’m certain that there is quite a bit of overlap and dead links.

 

On the advice of my twitter friends a while back, I imported all of my bookmarks to Diigo. I know Diigo has some wonderful features such as annotating, sharing, categorizing, and discussion. I need some time to get to know Diigo well enough to organize my bookmarks. I have several friend requests, but since I rarely visit Diigo, I’m afraid I’d be a very uninteresting friend.

 

 Evernote is another cool tool. I clip pieces of websites and tag them for future use. Right now I’ve reserved the use of this tool to keep track of student work samples and specific strategies for teachers in my district.  

I need to prioritize this work, because eventually, I have to improve this blog. I have some wonderful resources for teachers, but there are far too many, making the lists overwhelming. Not to mention, there are probably a number of dead links. Most importantly, a bunch of website links is really useless unless they are annotated so the site’s best features are identified for the user.

 

 

Anyone have any tips or tricks. How do you organize your digital life?

New Cool Tool – Glogster

I wish I could remember how I came across this site this morning, because I would certainly thank the one who passed it on. The site is called Glogster. On this site you use images, text, sound, video, and other cool stuff to create a poster-type thing-a-ma-gingy that probably a really cool way to dress up your myspace page. Since I have no myspace page, but instead a couple of wikis for the teachers and students in my district to use, I created this nifty page with screeenshots of all the great beginning reading practice sites on it. Since I’m not the most creative type, I really liked creating the page since the visual elements were so flashy and easy to use. It’s also important to note that the Terms of Use seem to indicate that they are concerned with content that is suitable for audiences under 18. I looked for inappropriate content, and although I found plenty of “posters” created by teens, none of them were of any concern.

Next Glogster: Math practice sites!

For Student Projects:

Create a scrapbook page for a famous person in history!

Thinkature – a very cool tool

One of my favorite ways to surf the net is to start with the del.icio.us and click on popular. I come across some of the coolest tools that way. I almost always save at least a few of the popular sites on my own list. I have over 1200 links that interest me. Once in a while, I come across something that I feel like I must use immediately. Today it was Thinkature. Thinkature is a really cool collaboration tool where you can create mind maps and brainstorming visual organizers. The other mind map tools that I’ve found include WiseMapping, Mind42, and MindMeister. Naturally, my favorite will always be the offline version Inspiration. (I wonder if they are developing an online version with all the cool features?) Thinkature’s features are really powerful. They include chatting and the use of images, either from your hard drive or imported from the web. Wow! It’s so cool! Here are a few ideas on how to use this in the classroom or as a professional tool for teachers.

  • With an interactive whiteboard
  • Recap a field trip
  • Create a timeline
  • Connecting ideas as a study guide
  • Prepare to write an essay or report
  • Prepare a presentation

I started a workspace, just to get a little practice. Feel free to add to edit it.

Pageflakes – the way to keep track of Intentional R&D

I came across a post from a blogger from the Teacher Leaders Network describing the educational use of Pageflakes. I used to have pageflakes set up as my home page, but it was really slow to load. My kids started to complain, and I just set it back to good ‘ole Google. After reading Mr. Ferriter’s post, I decided to work on my PageFlakes and even copied a few of his pages, like the educational bloggers page and the Accomplished Educational Leadership page.

Like Mr. Ferriter, the single most important form of professional development that I engage in on a daily basis is reading blogs. Creating a visual way to organize my favorites (who are also his) will make it easier to spend a few minutes here and there to read them and organize information that I get from them with flakes like notepad, and delicious.

I think when I show teachers how to read blogs, this form of feedreader will be easier to understand and perhaps I might be able to persuade more teachers to try this when I show them my pageflakes page.

Technology Driven Differentiated Instruction

I’ve been following Vicki Davis’s blog and projects for quite a while. It was really cool to have her present at the Illinois technology conference. The presentation that I attended was Technology Driven Differentiated Instruction. I’ve done a great deal of research about differentiated instruction. My master’s thesis was a study on effective professional development strategies in order to implement DI into teaching and learning. I’ve read research by Carol Ann Tomlinson, who is the foremost expert on the subject. This workshop presented the content with a new twist. DI is a very complex topic and generally pretty difficult to do well at first. Vicki’s presentation provides some very specific recommendations for the use of web2.0 tools in the classroom and how the process, the product, or the content can be differentiated based on the teaching and learning experience. I need to take a look at her slideshow a few more times to get my head around the information. Pairing the implementation of web2.0 tools with DI is so overwhelming. I think that first teachers have to be comfortable with one concept or the other first before the two are paired. Clearly, Vicki has well developed technology integrated classroom, globally connecting her students using blogs, wikis, podcasting, and other tools. None of the teachers I currently work with are using web2.0 tools.

Here’s the slide show, and my big three.

  • Find a way to use ClassTools.net – I saw this site at Beth’s workshop too. It looks like a cool application for interactive white boards
  • Blog regularly – even if I can’t implement any of these “big three” lists, continue to write about what I’ve learned
  • Write a Big Three for the workshops from IL-TCE
  • Organize Intentional R&D – Use this name for the list of stuff I want to look at, learn, implement, inspire other with. This seems like a way to make the time I spend with new ideas and articles much more productive.

Welcome to F.R.E.E. Fantastic Resource for the Enthusiastic Educator

From Beth Buke’s presentation, which was hilarious. How fitting that it was held in Zanies. Her very energetic presentation had a smattering of technical issues, but she kept it moving. Beth worked very hard to put together an extremely informative presentation. Her presentation wiki can be found here. Her list of resources is very nicely organized and annotated.

Here’s my “Big 3”

  • Use googledocs. I already use google docs in a very limited way. My boss loves the idea of posting our curriculum maps to google docs and giving all the teachers access to make them living documents. I want to really develop the use with students and teachers.
  • Animoto: take photos, upload them and animoto – 30 seconds is for free, would be a great alternative to those very hairy iMovie projects
  • Jing: already use Jing regularly for screen shots, but to demonstrate how to do something in a movie, I should use this more often, turn off the mic, since I don’t like my voice.
  • prezentit.com – similar to powerpoint not quite as fancy very easy – maybe this would be a good tool to teach powerpoint challenged teachers
  • Screencast-o-matic – you don’t have to create an account, record what you want, and download it, check this out!
  • Voice thread – example Mrs. Joe’s class. Upload pictures and users make comments, Ridge has to use this!!! The power is the comments (different settings for privacy), public but keep it off of the browse – great idea, students create their identities within identities within her account to keep it safe and controlled, planning is extremely important – use a story board! Focus on the content.

I’ve heard of all of these resource and even signed up for every one. Beth has motivated me to get moving and use them.