Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thing 18 - Building a Professional Network

I was a bit overwhelmed looking through Ning and MACUL Ning.  I think they would both be a great resource, but it seems like it might take a bit more time than I have to utilize them to their fullest potential.  I think the video conferences that are offered look fantastic (although I wasn't able to figure out yet how to access past programs, I am interested in participating in one in the future) and would be useful for staff to view as professional development.  It was wonderful to see by all the postings that there are a lot of other teachers like me who want to jump onboard Web 2.0.  This is obviously a great way to collaborate with other teachers around the planet.  The biggest problem I see is the time that it would require to stay on top of all of the information that I might be interested in.  In my time of browsing, I already found MANY sites I want to use with my kids!  The hardest thing will be to remember them all.  Some good ones I found were: where you can write stories, make movies, draw pictures, tons of stuff; where you can work on parts of speech with lots of different mad libs; has all kinds of internet activities to use at all grade levels K-8.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thing 17 - Web 2.0 Winners

I played with LOTS of sites but I'm writing about Pandora. Pandora is an internet radio site and was a first runner up in this year's awards. What I really liked about it was that it was very easy to set up music just by typing in groups I currently like. Pandora gives you a taste of all kinds of different groups and different songs that are similar to the ones you like and you can decide whether you like the suggested songs or not. I guess one of the things I liked the best about it is that I can continue to surf many other sites while my music plays on. This was a great motivator to keep searching! I can see using this in my classroom as both motivational music (I have a classroom FULL of singers and dancers this year!) as well as "writing" music, which I have always found difficult to find a variety of before. It also allows me to play the music the kids like without having to purchase tons of CDs as the times and music tastes change.

Thing 16 - Teach Digital

All three videos struck a cord with me because my own child has a VERY difficult time learning in an analog environment. He would thrive in an alternative environment where the teachers think out of the box. I would LOVE to have his teachers watch these videos (especially Sir Ken Robinson) and see how much potential he really has. In my own classroom, I can identify quite a few students with the same issues as my son. Many of them have been assumed to have ADHD too because they can't just sit still and learn. It saddens me that this is the direction education seems to be going.

However, as much as I buy into the message and would love to embrace this technology concept and run with it, I also have "standards" I have to abide by and concrete lessons that need to be taught. This is truly a struggle for me as I hear what the kids are saying - and teachers are feeling - about no more testing, and we have a state that says if the kids don't pass the test, you don't get the money (and could lose your job!). It would be great to have the state buy into this concept and then maybe the teachers would be more willing (and able) to jump on board.

Thing 15 - How to Use Podcasts in School

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I do plan to use podcasts in my classroom, and soon :). I had not ever used them before and quite honestly didn't have a CLUE where to find them or even HOW to use them. After having the opportunity to browse, I am very excited to have the lists of podcasts to help point me in the right direction. As my administrator is also taking this class, I think I will have lots of support regarding my decision to use podcasts in the classroom and feel that I was missing out on a wonderful addition to my instruction prior to this "Thing".

Thing 14 - Podcasting

After reading the article about using podcasting in a university setting, I can definitely see the benefits, HOWEVER, I do not see it replacing going to class altogether. As I remember (a LONG time ago) back to my college career, there were many instances where I would look over my notes and realize that I had missed something important that a professor had said. If I had the podcast available, I could have gone back and replayed that part of the lecture, clearing up what I had missed the first time. As a visual/kinesthetic learner though, if I had to rely solely on podcasts, I would NOT be terribly successful. I think they do have their place as an addition to formal instruction.

I found quite a few podcasts to be very useful in the classroom. The first two I plan to use are from the Willow Radio Show and Storynory (an audio version of the story, Christmas in Iceland) on how Christmas is celebrated around the world. I will be teaching a unit identifying how other cultures celebrate the winter holidays after Thanksgiving and both of these would be a wonderful accompaniment to my unit ( and Another podcast I plan to use is from Mr. Croley's website on parts of speech. I think this will be so much more meaningful to my students since it is other students teaching the parts of speech, rather than just hearing it from me (

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thing 13 - Slideshow

This would be a great tool for creating slideshows at home and then being able to access them at school without the worry of not having the same programs to work with. I tried all of the different sites, but I think I like this one the best because it was the easiest to navigate (after Ron helped me out with posting :)).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thing 12 - LibraryThing

It was really hard to pick just one, but I reviewed the tool, LibraryThing. It is a sight that allows you to catalog all of your books (I used part of my classroom library) by title, author, and tags that you create to classify the books. There are even reviews on many of the books available. This would be another tool for my students to be able to go to my classroom library with a plan at hand as to what books they would like to take out, rather than looking through all of the baskets I have. I could coordinate the tags with the baskets to help narrow their search (this seems a lot easier than alphabetizing all of my books!). Library thing also offers forums where you can chat with others who have the same interests in books that you do and read some of their reviews. If you go to the local tab, you can find out about events and bookstores in your area - great way to find out about author visits!

Thing 11 - Google Docs

Google Docs is one piece of technology that I am already familiar with. My son's school required them to set up a google account and use Google Docs to do all of their written work in 5th grade so I was able to play around with it with him. I think it is a great way for kids to be able to continue written work at home without the risk of losing a notebook in the trek from school to home or back. There is also a very cool feature to Google Docs...the automatic save. The writing is continually saved throughout the typing so even if you forget to save, you don't lose what you've already done.

I can definitely see this kind of technology replacing MS Office because there are no compatibility issues, it works the same on any platform. It would also be a great tool for kids who don't have a computer at home but do visit the pubic library as it can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. The one downfall to Google Docs that I found was that there weren't the cutsie elementary fonts. You were limited to very basic ones, which for a paper is probably good anyway.

Thing 10 -Create Your Own Wiki

At first, I had a tough time finding a wiki name that wasn't taken - that was the hardest thing. After that it was pretty easy. I tried both sites just to see which one would be easier to manage. I found the wikispaces to be easier to personalize but they were both easy to add and edit things. I discovered how to add video (from TeacherTube - what a cool site!!!) about taking care of your library books on my Good Books to Read wiki page to the PBWorks wiki. It was much easier to add video to than the wikispaces was. Since I've already set it up to have a good books to read list, I plan on sharing this with my students so they can add to it. The only thing I the students need email addresses and and account to access my wikis?

As an update, both sites have great support. Since I signed up for wikis on Sunday, I've gotten three emails from PBWorks and two from wikispaces giving me ideas on how to use wikis.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thing 9 - Wiki wiki wiki

I really wasn't sure how I would be able to use a wiki in my classroom or school until I began exploring. I read a "Choose your own Adventure" story on one person's wiki, a first grade story in progress on another, and an actual virtual study hall on a third. All three of these had ideas that I could use right now! It was interesting how different each of the wikis were though. I looked at one that was a high school science class wiki that had all kinds of advertisements and pictures on it. The choose your own adventure was colorful but had no pictures and the first grade story was one VERY long story. I liked the pictures as I am a visual learner and too much text just turns me off. Some were organized with outlines, others were just choices to click on (and of course you could edit). In elementary, I'm not as fond of the outlines but can see the use of them in HS.

As for my use for a wiki, I have always wanted a way for my students to "share" books they have read with the class, but there is never enough time in the day for everyone to do this. I could see using a wiki for just this purpose. We could even create subtitles to put books (and their reviews) under so that interested students could get book ideas rather than aimlessly wandering the library waiting for me to point out a book for them. I could also see using a wiki for grade level or staff meetings. We are constantly emailing things back and forth and things get lost in the process. All of the teachers collaborating in one place would save a lot of headaches and get things done at a much faster pace.

Thing 7 AND 8 - RSS

I guess I got carried away with looking for feeds in Thing 7 and ended up covering Thing 8 too.

When I first started poking around looking at just the newsfeeds, etc. that you could "link" up to, I thought RSS would be a great thing for news "junkies" like my husband. I would have guessed that one of the best things about it was not having to scroll through all of the old information or ads to find what you are looking for. I would have said, however, that it wasn't for people like me who tend to avoid the news. I was totally wrong! I was able to find feeds to Teacher Magazine, reviews for children's books, education blogs, other teacher blogs, and a free technology blog (which of course I don't need because I'm taking this class :)). There are even a ton of feeds for things like recipes and home improvement! Now I'm actually excited to get my first posts sent right to me (MUCH better than sitting by the mailbox)! I found it easiest to go to Google Reader and type in subjects that interested me and then it was a piece of cake to look through related feeds to see if I wanted to subscribe. It also shows how many are already subscribed and how many posts you can expect to get a week on average so that helped me to "weed" out some too. Unfortunately, I think I'm hooked! :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thing 6 -Copyright in the Digital Age

One of the things that I have been told that I may have just discovered is incorrect is that the use of any material with a copyright was against the law.
I had always believed that copyright basically meant "hands off".
I can now see how some video clips, images, and even music clips could help to teach a concept in this new technological era. The old "song and dance" will no longer be coming from me but rather from the media at large!

Thing 5 -Photo Mashup Fun

These are just two of the many fun things I was able to play with on photo mashup. I could see using this to do "fun" pictures with the kids (ie. beginning of year shots with our theme as a frame). Photo mashups would also be great for the kids to use as they create presentations or even for use

as Christmas or Mother's Day cards. I really liked the ImageChef because it didn't require a registration.

Thing 4 - Photo Sharing

This is one of the things I really wanted to work with in this class. I take SO many pictures of my students doing different activities and have gotten to loading them onto my computer at school, but that's where they end up. I would love to set up slideshows of these different pictures and email invites to view them to my parents so they can really see their kids in action!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thing 3 - 7 1/2 Habits

I think the easiest of the habits for me is to begin with the end in mind. While it's easy to get caught up in the here and now and become overwhelmed, making it difficult to focus on the final outcome, I have found that by verbalizing the goals at the beginning of each lesson/project and referring back to them often helps me (and my students) to remain focused.

Ironically, the one that I would normally chose for my easiest habit is actually sometimes the hardest one to do: Play. The actual "play" isn't terribly difficult other than sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the different things I've found and forget where they are when I need them. It's actually finding the time to just play. I am a full time teacher and mom of two active kids. Between the "normal" stuff I have to do for school and the running I have to do to keep up with my kids, finding the time to sit down and see what is out there is difficult. I'm thrilled that this class is forcing me to do just that (AND I get the benefit of telling my kids that I need the computer to do MY homework :)).

Reflections on blogs and their impact on the classroom

I think a good blog is one that is easy to read and navigate. One that I can quickly access the information I'm looking for and is updated on a fairly consistent basis. Blogs could enhance our existing website by making getting to common websites easier for my kids. They could just access them from one central location (no more misspelled www addresses that take us to who-knows-where). I think blogs make it much easier to get information to more people without having to jump through all the hoops of getting something published.

My initial thoughts on Web 2.0 was: Yikes! How in the world am I going to be able to address this "new" learner??? It scared the bejesus out of me! But then when I took a minute to step back, I realized that this opens all kinds of new doors to learning and I might be able to hang up my "Sage on the Stage" hat every once in awhile and let the kids take hold of their own learning a little more so that I can become more of the "Guide on the Side".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

23 Things – The First Thing

What I am really hoping to get from the class, 23 Things, is a better understanding of the technology available to us, as teachers that I had no idea even existed. I'm also hoping that this will give me the time to actually "play" with it so I am more comfortable using it with my own students.