Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Up until today, I've had very positive experiences with social networking, but my first foray into an EdtechTalk show did not leave me thirsting for more. I listened in on Teachers Teaching Teachers this evening @http://www.edtechtalk.com/live, but found myself confused. Like a good student I tried to get in a little early, but heard nothing. A quick Skype call with Darren revealed that he was having the same problem, so I re-tried and nothing. I tried several times using several different buttons and nothing but a black screen with the words [no video] (see top photo). Finally, I heard sound, but I'd missed the introductions in my back and forth stuff. Then I could not figure out how to do the back channel chat because all I had was a black screen (see picture) and the panel was making reference to the chat and links they were inserting. I knew I was doing something wrong, but with no previous experience, I was floundering. I even turned to Twitter for some help from a classmate, but alas she was not on! I finally tried to open a 2nd window to the techtalk (see photo) and I was finally able to participate in the back channel chat and hear the discussion. However, because I missed a bit I did not feel connected and felt almost unnoticed. I was very frustrated with the lack of clarity in connecting!
I had Skype capabilities, but no one explained how that feature worked or what needed to be done so I essentially was voiceless. To make matters worse, the audio seemed to break up at times and I missed chunks of the conversation; I'm not sure if others had the problem, but it was very frustrating to be listening for something only to lose a portion of the point being made.
I also felt somewhat of a disconnect from the content because I did not have prior knowledge of what we would be doing and there was no agenda to follow as near as I could tell. Fortunately, it was not all a bad experience as there were things being talked about that were leading me on in my quest to understand more about practial applications of technology in school. This session was lead by what sounded like English teachers (at least originally) who were using technology to engage kids. They spoke confidently about the connections being made between literacy and technology. Much of the discussion revolved around what are the qualities we look for in a learner? I felt totally unprepared to answer this question, but the responses made me realize they were speaking from the point of view of the learner in a tech. environment. I did grasp that the leaders Paul Allison, Susan Ettenheim, and Gail Desler talked about all students needing to be teachers, learners, people who share, and people who publish. Allison sounded like he had some cool things going on with kids and social networking.
They also spoke of digital storytelling and publishing. 'Sprout' (see photo) was mentioned, but I had no idea what it was and the leaders assumed this was a known application by the listeners. I now know it is a "quick and easy way for anyone to build, publish, and manage widgets, mini-sites, mashups, banners and more. Any size, any number of pages. Include video, audio, images and newsfeeds and choose from dozens of pre-built components and web services." I also know it is a site I will want to return to.
Not a lot of links were provided at this particular session,but they did mention Clarence Fisher, and I felt good that I knew who they were talking about. I even pasted a link to his website. The links mentioned were: http://www.needleworkspictures.com/ocr/blog/?p=439 which is a blog site by Matthew Needleman called Creating Life Long Learners, a link to something called Youth Voices that I could not get to connect to during the talk, edtechtalk.com, and teachersteachingteachers.org.
In conclusion, I would have to say I was not adequately prepared for my first Edtechtalk; I won't say it is the last time I will visit, but I think I would like to be better prepared for the technical struggles so that my experience is not tainted by my own lack of familiarity with the process. I have added two of the speakers to my Twitter account as people to follow because I realize these people have a lot of worthwhile things to share with people who are willing to take the steps to learn more about their craft!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I was introduced to Ning this weekend by Shelley Deck, a teacher at LLCS. She has set up a Ning network for our school and invited me to join. Ning is a social networking program with a difference. It allows you to control membership by invitation! Why is that a positive feature? I think the power is that for those who are reluctant to participate in a forum where everyone can see what you are doing, it provides a forum where only those invited can participate. It also allows you to customize the site to include a variety of widgets to suit the purposes of the network.
I like what I see of it so far, but wonder if there are disadvantages to the site. Nevertheless, in the spirit of learning as much as I can, I have established a site for the Community Based Master's Program - La Ronge cohort in hopes that our class can remain connected even after our program is completed.
For anyone in the class that has not yet received an invitation (and there are some whose E-mail addresses I am missing), please contact me through Webct and share your e-mail address.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Anthony gave us a lot to think about as far as changing the culture of schools goes. The main thing is that he establishes the idea that there are things that can be done to turn schools around even in situations where it may not feel like it is possible. It is a hopeful presentation, but a presentation that forces educators to consider their own role in the failure of students; I would be lying if I didn't admit that the message forces you to recognize that what you may consider to be enough of an effort is not good enough when you have students failing. I know I will be reflecting on his message in the weeks and months ahead.
Anyway, I really wanted to blog about a new tool (at least to me) I discovered last night accidently as usual. The program is called MindMeister; it allows the user to make a web of their thoughts. It would be a great tool for English teachers teaching essay writing, it would be a great tool for students to use while preparing material for an essay, debate, or presentation of some sort, and it is a tool I will use for organizing my thoughts about this class for my final blog. For now, I have done a quick example of some of the things I have done with my AR project to give you an idea of its power (sorry the quality is not great for the space provided by the blog). I have to confess I actually considered not sharing this find as the evil competitive side of my nature reared its ugly head. Fortunately, because of the good example set by so many on Twitter, through blogs, and comments on blogs, I realized the right thing to do was share the resource with others. I hope it is something you think you can use.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I've been browsing the web and trying things here and there, but this was truly a fun application for me to experiment with.
Atom Smasher allows you to change the text on signs as I have done in the picture. I have always complained about the road in north west Saskatchewan for its many potholes especially between Buffalo Narrows and La Loche. I frequently make the comment to my family when we see a sign that says caution rough road ahead that they really should have a sign that says, "Caution paved sections ahead." Well this application allowed my to make my commment visual! What sign have you always wanted to see? Give it a try!
I have found out about many different applications that I have tried as a result of blogging and microblogging (Twitter). I am also getting comments from people who are thanking me for sharing what I've learned from others which leaves me with "warm fuzzies" by the way! I am being entertained and educated at the same time. I have found the experience of reading and reacting to what I read in a public manner to be a huge step in my own thinking. Ironically, I think I am becoming a more positive person as a result of being a critical reader and responder. I now have a better understanding of what it takes to put yourself out there in print and even if I don't agree fully with what I read, I find myself reacting positively. I share my thoughts on the topic and compliment the writer for stimulating discussion.
On the down side of blogging, it can be hard on the ego. You strive to put something in print that you hope others will see and react to, but often you end up with only a few comments and in some cases no comments (and sometimes after spending hours drafting your blog). The reverse is true as well; sometimes you get a comment from someone you don't know and you realize there are people paying attention and reflecting on your words.
I am now trying to learn more about the things that make a blog something worth reading. On Tuesday, March 10, my class was lead by Will Richardson who has been blogging since 2002 and is known for being a "trendsetter in Education."I asked him what does he consider to be the qualities of a good blog. First of all he did not define a good blog; he answered the question by giving the qualities of blogs that he likes to read. This is roughly what he said, " I like to read people who are willing to test their ideas who are not coming out saying this is the way the world is..., people who write well, who read widely and who have a certain amount of passion in their voice ..., people who are asking questions and engaging people in conversations, who make it about ideas..., people who provoke thinking and conversations ..." To hear Will himself you can visit the Elluminate session here. I liked his response; despite his experiences blogging, he framed his answer from his own perception and did not pretend to represent all readers of blogs. His humility is remarkable considering his achievements.
I often feel like I take more than I give online. However, when you consider the wealth of information available, I suppose we all take more than we give. Blogging is changing me into a contributer though, and I am enjoying writing in way I've never experienced before.
Update March 21, 2009
I found this blog on what makes a blog good and thought I would add it to this posting. It also includes a good activity for student bloggers. Thanks to Clarence Fisher for the excellent ideas.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
I had always wanted to experiment with a animated type program and thought why not. I'm glad I did; it is simple to use and allows you to embed a cartoon you create into your blog as I have above. I can see using the program myself to illustrate concepts and I can see using it with students to allow them to express themselves in a more creative way. It is also a forgiving program; you can go back and edit it if you chose and it can be edited by others as well. You can also publish it so that all can see, you can keep it private, or you can share it with friends by sending it to their e-mails.
I expect I will make some cartoons using Toondoo that I will use when it is time to present my project in May. If there is a negative with the program, it would be the time it takes to launch it. I know there are other programs out there and I'd be interested in hearing from others about their favourite cartoon making programs. Be careful though, once you start playing with it, it is hard to quit.
Friday, March 6, 2009
With this success under my belt so easily, I decided I would tackle the issue of moving the resources around. I quickly learned how to move the tasks to the right but I struggled with moving them up or down. I finally noticed a button I had not tried when editing and my problem was solved.
Update: If you visited this site earlier, you would have realized you needed a password to hear my reading of "I'm a success." It turned out to be a very tricky operation to link Vocaroo to my blog once I had a password. For some reason, Vocaroo would not let me copy the full HTML link and post it in the blog even when I was not logged in. I wonder if others have had a similar experience; I have not had a problem posting it into moodle and have done so successfully on two occasions, but now I wonder if others can listen or will they too need a password. If others will need a password, I will need to be setting up a different account just for Vocaroo. Simple to record using it though!
I am a Success. Click on the play button to hear recording.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Where is the hope? These communities have been ravaged by the long lasting negative effects of colonialism and to this day continue to be victimized by a society that appears not to care. These kids that are killing themselves are/were loved; in fact, were good people. Yet, the conditions that bring them to the brink are being largely ignored by mainstream society. Aboriginal people in this country continue to be the most disadvantaged people in our society and yet politically it appears to be o-kay with most Canadians as there is no outcry that things need to change.
As Canadians, we need to look at our shameful past, we need to acknowledge the wrongs that were done to our aboriginal peoples, and we need to empower aboriginal communities to work with their youth to give them hope. It won't be cheap; services need to be brought to the communities, and healing has to happen on so many levels. We have to do something or the history books will be painting us no better than that of our ancestors who at times deliberately infected aboriginal communities with the smallpox virsus causing dramatic reductions in aboriginal populations.
To find out more about aboriginal suicide visit: