Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blogger Play

Think of the times you've been home sick. Too sick to do any school work or even read, but you've slept for 14 hours and need to be awake for a while. You turn to TV and are amazed to find that despite have 70 channels, there's nothing to watch.

Your salvation has arrived from an unlikely source... Blogger. They have released a feature they've had in-house for years. Go to

and you can watch the photos being uploaded to Blogger blogs.

Now, you may be thinking this sounds like torture, a play on the old, "Come over and watch our travel slideshow." However, you'd be wrong. What you see is an amazingly diverse stream of photos. In a few minutes of watching I saw teens mugging for the camera, the Sydney opera house, a wedding photo, a grinning dog lounging in a backyard, kids on a soccer field, scrapbooking papers, food, and of course, a few ads.

In our media-rich lives, it is almost refreshing that there is no sound track. Of course, I have iTunes streaming Radio Margaritaville through our AirTunes.

I wonder if you uploaded a photo to your Blog and had this sit in a different tag, if you'd see your own photo go by, or if it is just grabbing one as the previous one finishes showing. If you figure that out, let me know.

So, the next time you are home sick, or needing a break, a visual meditation, give it a try.

Flock 9 is full of Web 2.0 Goodness

I need to work on our WASC report tonight and finish lesson planning, so no real time to blog. However, I did download the newest version of the Flock web browser and I am impressed.

From the start, Flock has tried to be a Web 2.0 web browser. This version takes a big leap in that direction. It has a My World tab that gives me one click access to my Flickr, YouTube, Blogger, Wordpress and other online homes. It posts to my blogs. It uploads my photos to Flickr.

It has a decent RSS reader. I like that I can easily toggle between full posts and teasers. It also has a similar feature for different types of media. As always, it is blazing fast at loading pages-- much faster than Firefox on my Mac or IE on my HP.

It has a blog post editor which has tabs to access the source code and a preview. No image upload in it that I can see, but otherwise it looks good. Strange that it won't talk to my Flickr, but I suppose that is too controlled by the blogging platform of my host.

And unlike it's early, early versions, it's been stable all afternoon since I installed it. Hopefully that will continue.

Go ahead. Give it a look and let me know what you think.

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Free Conferencing/Training Platform?

Tomorrow I'll be meeting with our part time math coach. She is ending her first session on campus as she helps us implement our Everyday Math program adoption.

On her agenda for our meeting is our school's Web-Ex set up. That part of the meeting should be short, since we don't HAVE a Web-Ex set up.

Okay, maybe that answer won't quite fly. I need one that will. We don't have big online conferencing/training needs, don't offer any courses online. Most of the time when a vendor wants to conference with us, they have Elluminate or some similar tool. Therefore, I'm not looking for something that requires a subscription.

For the past hour I've been poking around. Since I haven't met with her yet, my best understanding is that the math coach want's to run little training sessions online. At minimum, I'm expecting she wants participants to be able to see a Powerpoint-style presentation while being able to hear her. More likely, she wants them to be able to converse.

Zoho may partially meet our need. Part of their suite is Zoho Show, an online presentation tool. Within it you can imbed meeting slides that allow the participants to actually see the presenter's desktop. I'm trying to test it right now and it isn't loading, but that is likely due to half of Singapore being online right now.

Zoho may work for the visuals, but we'd need something like Skype going for the audio. It would work best in our IT conference room where we have a conferencing phone system. However, some of the telephones at work have a speaker feature as well.

Another option for the visuals may be Google Presentations. They were announced on Google's blog yesterday. You can use it to co-create a presentation. She can also share it online. Like Zoho's tool, you invite participants to come view it. It has a chat client in the sidebar, which might work better than audio Skype for the participants. Easier for everyone to follow the discussion and there would be a transcript to refer back to afterwards.

Unfortunately, I couldn't test that one either. It crashed my computer at work a few hours ago. However, that may have been the result of huge numbers of people testing it, since it was just announced yesterday.

So, what other free options are out there? If you've used one I'd like to hear about it. I'd like recommendations of what to use, and what to avoid.

(BTW, a big THANKS to D'Arcy Norman and Chris Craft for Twittering about Google Presentations. That's how I heard about it just as I was starting my online search for such a tool. How perfect is that?)

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Learning 2.0 Conference Has Begun

Okay, I admit it. I feel like a groupie. There on the stage, not more than 50 feet away, are Jamie McKenzie, Alan November, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Wes Fryer, Will Richardson and Jeff Utect. Amazing. I get to spend this weekend learning from these educators. Doesn't quite seem real to look up from my Thai green curry at dinner and see Will walk by. We are sitting next to the Brainpop rep.

I have such high hopes for this weekend. I am hoping it helps us all see the shift that Will is discussing tomorrow. (Yeah, I'm a lazy tech coordinator who is hoping this weekend can jump start the fire among my great staff. Rather than waiting for me to start it.)

And so it begins...

Need Email Addresses for your Students?

Just read in the T.H.E. SmartClassroom Newsletter...

ePals Delivers Free E-Mail, Blogging for Schools

Education technology provider ePals is making its formerly subscription-based services available to schools free of charge. These services, available to all schools around the world, include SchoolMail, SchoolBlog, and In2Books.

Read More:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Blogging from Shanghai?!

I am surprised to be writing this. Last night when I tried to access Blogger, I received a "Page Not Found" error. I assumed it was because I am here in Shanghai and that Blogger is still a blocked site here. However, tonight I find I can get in.

Yesterday, the other technology coordinators, the director of technolgy, and I flew to Shanghai. Since each of the tech coordinators works in a different division, we rarely see each other outside of our weekly meeting. Having this time together, even the informal times over meals, is a real boon in terms of team building and new ideas. Spending time with all of them is a treat.

Spent a great day today seeing the sites. We bought knock-off goods in the morning, drank good Paulaner beer for lunch, and went up in the Orient Pearl Tower this evening. Now we are contemplating massages. Life is Good.

Eagerly anticipating the start of the conference tomorrow night. As a tech person, I'm used to attending the big EARCOS conference and trying to find a few worthwhile tech sessions. Being here at Learning 2.0 where the entire thing is tech feels to good to be true.

I feel especially fortunate that 10 teachers from my division are attending the conference. I hope it gets them excited and gives them ideas for how to bring Learning 2.0 to their classrooms.

It all starts tomorrow evening...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Really Getting Started with IWBs

Last year my division purchased six SmartBoards as a pilot project. We had months of hardware compatibility issues. By the time they were resolved, the Director of Technology had decided that due to technical support issues here, we would switch to Promethean instead. We were able to swap out 1 Smartboard for every x number of Prometheans purchased. As a result, I know have 8 teachers with Promethean boards and four with Smartboards.

I've been trying to get my brain around how to support these teachers. They are such skilled teachers and have had basic instruction in using the boards, so I didn't want to waste their time on mundane things they could figure out themselves. However, even more so than most groups, this group has a wide skill range. One is a tech integration specialist. Two others have served as technology coordinators in other schools. They are more skilled with the boards than I am at the moment.

At the other end of the spectrum are users who just received their boards this week, have had little time to experiment, and some are not naturally geeks, they don't do this for fun. How was I to plan an inservice that met their needs?

And how should we organize? I have teachers from each grade level, plus a tech specialist and an enrichment teacher. Two of the grade levels have both types of boards in the team. The boards each have their own software, and projects made in one cannot be used on the other. It was not obvious to me how to group them to best effect.

It is difficult to get time during the school day, but I received permission to pull them all from their classrooms for all of Friday afternoon. Since we may not get many other large chunks of time, I was really struggling on how best to use the time. Last year I attended a workshop and built into the workshop was time to look at the resources that were presented. That sounds obvious, but usually I walk home from workshops with a pile of resources I don't have time to look at. I wanted to build some of that time into this work time.

I decided to use a portion of the afternoon to give them a chance to assess what they still needed to learn and to explore their options. I used Wikispaces to create an IWB wiki. It contains links to training resources, lesson resources and good interactive web sites. It also has a page devoted to I had the Delicious toolbar buttons put in this year's build. This is the first group I've taught to use it. Some people really took to it. It was my hope that they could use it to find what other people have tagged with IWB or smartboard or promethean. We found some good resources that way and soon my teachers were tagging away. I also hoped we could use our own sasiwb tag to share resources with each other. Not sure that will work, but it was worth a try.

Next they explored the training options. Some were delighted to just start at the beginning and work their way back through tutorials. They were pleased to discover how much they already knew. One signed on for the free Promethean course taught via Moodle. He was zipping through the lessons. Others felt they didn't need that and spent more time in or explored the lesson resources in the wiki.

After that, we went around and each person shared their experiences thus far this year using the board. That was a good use of our time. You could feel the energy in the room build as people gained new ideas from colleagues. The third grade teachers commented that since the primary computer teachers had the boards last year, their students have come up knowing how to use the boards and were proving to be great support as these teachers found their way.

From there, I asked them to figure out how they wanted to organize into ongoing working groups. In the end, all three grade levels decided to work with their grade-level colleagues, but all the teachers were adamant that they wanted to continue to meet all together for work sessions because they gained so much from the other groups.

One grade decided to continue working on tutorials and to start looking for flipchart resources for upcoming social studies lessons. Another group was finding that their most powerful lessons with the board so far had involved interactive websites, or tools from the gallery such as compass and protractors. They wanted to spend time locating interactive sites that they could use with their current units. Since all our teachers have data projectors, they envisioned being able to share those resources with colleagues who do not have an IWB. This year we gave all classrooms a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse set, so they can be up by their screens rather than back by their computers when they use the data projectors. That makes using interactive sites much more effective.

Another grade had four people, two on each platform. They decided to still meet all together because they were getting such good ideas from each other. One teacher has really been using his board well in the week he's had it. Between interactive web sites that supported his current math unit, and just bringing the kids to the board to write their thinking on a math problem, he already has a bank of useful lessons saved. He is finding that having students come to the board to show their thinking, and then saving that page as a PDF allows him to save it and share it with all colleagues. It is no longer editable, but it is a great record of what they did. He can put it in Blackboard for the students to refer to. It makes me think a bit of Mr. Kuropatwa's class scribes.

These teachers were very focused on how to support their colleagues who receive boards next year. When I commented that we didn't know that we would expand this project to include other teachers because we hadn't yet seen that it was a success, they acted like I was crazy. To them it is obvious that all the teachers need these boards.

I am not yet convinced. My board was installed last week and so I used it in minimal ways with the kids for the lessons that were already planned. The kids are mesmerized, eager to use it. That in itself is worth something. I am wondering if for most of my teachers, taking hours to construct a flipchart that is only used for ten minutes is not the way to go. Interactive web sites, and just using the gallery tools as needed in lessons may be a better use of there time.

We are also fortunate that with our new Everyday Math adoption, two of the three grade levels purchased the interactive lessons CD-ROMs for all the teachers. This has the full TE and all the student journals, homework pages and other materials. Teachers are able to pull up a student work page and display it on the IWB and work on it for the class to see.

Yes, if you made a transparency of every page, and didn't lose them, you could accomplish the same thing with an overhead projector, but not quite. These seems a powerful tool.

I wonder if the actual board software might not be more powerful in the hands of the students. Rather than having them create yet another Powerpoint, they could create much more powerful demonstrations of their learning with the layering options the board presents. And they could make their presentations more interactive, and therefore more engaging.

I am also wondering if for our primary students, could the board be an effective way to help children move from concrete to symbolic stage with a concept, since it is a very movable symbolic representation?

All in all, I still feel that I'm not giving them enough direction. They are such skilled teachers that they will do good things with it despite my lack of leadership. I'm hoping that in Shanghai I'll glean words of wisdom from teachers who've been using the board for years. One session is devoted to sharing just that sort of wisdom. Whatever happens, I feel good to finally have this project launched.

I'd love to hear from other people with great resources or IWB training tips to share.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Return of the Geek Girl

First six weeks back at work have been a blur. Not quite in the clear yet, but truly needed some down time, so I spent today on the sofa with the cats. They napped while I started to reconnect with my online life.

First, I peaked at a few of the 1608 unread posts in my blog roll. I know I'll realistically never get time to read all of those, but here a a quick few that have me thinking.
  • Doug Johnson over at Blue Skunk blog has an intriguing post about what his next card catalog needs. It is full of web 2.0 goodness and I think many of the items on his list are needed in more places than just the library card catalog.
  • Cool Cat teacher Vicki Davis has a post about a new online contest in which students create You Tube videos about preventing the spread of flu (as in infectious disease, not magical powder that lets wizards transport from place to place). My school now has a You Tube channel but it is languishing away unused. Now I'm itching to start using it in this type of way.
  • The upcoming Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai has a blog. I hadn't checked it in a while. It was a treat to read through it and see the huge number of presentations that I want to attend. I need to clone myself to do justice to the 45 pages of presentations listed in the program.
And speaking of the Learning 2.0 conference, I spent a bit of time joining the conference Ning, inviting conference attendees to join my network, and creating a blog in my profile. Ning still seems a bit slow, but I'm more comfortable with it now than I was last spring when I first joined the Classroom 2.0 Ning network. Back then it was so slow (at least when used from Singapore) that I gave up on it.

Another social networking tool that the conference is employing is Twitter. Interestingly enough, I first heard about the conference via a tweet by Jeff Utecht. I had played around with Twitter last spring, but I can't access it at work, and most the people I follow in it are in in North American, so not many tweets come through when I am online. However, I just downloaded the new Twitterific. I'd tried out a previous version last spring, but it was buggy. this new version seems much more stable.

Finally, I spent some time in Facebook. I joined last summer to see what all the fuss was about. At that time, not many people I knew were using it actively, and I didn't have time or interest to use it for finding new ones.

Now a few more friends are in there, and through them I'm discovering fun apps to add in, and groups to join. The latter are interesting. I suspect for teens the groups work. For ed tech adults most of the groups that interested me had hundreds of users and no action. I wonder if it is because people join and then never check back or if some key catalyst is missing to make the reaction take off.

So now it is 7:45 pm. I'm stiff from sitting on the couch all day, but I feel grounded in a way that has been missing for months. This Geek Girl is happy again.