Monday, June 30, 2008

Engagingly H.O.T. Comics

Notes from the NECC session by Bernajean Porter on using graphic novels in the classroom.

Oh I wish I had more notes! This was a great session. Bernajean really focuses on raising the bar (or making it H.O.T.ter, as she calls it. However, I was filming the session using my new Flip Mino which filled half way through the Comic Life tutorial. )

Graphic Novels cover a wide range of content areas - much wider than I realized.

Comics are an American invention, something we gave to the world. In 1954 US Senate investigates relationship between comic books and juvenile delinquency. Art Speigelman won Pultizer Prize for Maus I, an examination of the Holocaust. He uses a metaphor of mice and cats.

Her website:
complete with rubrics and other useful tools.

Don't let your students remain information consumers; move them into producing.
Start with the content up front, before touching the comic software. After the storyline/content, have them decide on the emotion for each frame. Only then are they ready to gather info
ign off the content at the storyboard level to ensure the rigor.


Pre-Production Phase

  1. Writing a narrative script
  2. Planning the project
  3. Organizing project folders

Production Phase
  1. Making the voiceover
  2. Gathering and preparing media resources

Post Production Phase
  1. Putting it ALL together

Distribution Phase
Applause! Applause!

Comic Life

A Quicker, Safer Way to Access Flickr CC Photos

This past semester, most of the classes I work with used the Creative Commons section of Flickr to find photos for their Voicethreads, wikis, websites and other projects.

For the most part, I was pleased. Students found great insect photos to illustrate their insect life cycle diagrams. Other students found powerful photos to put on their Read to Feed brochure that they were creating to solicit sponsors. Still others created movies about problems affecting the oceans using still photos from Flickr CC. The list goes on and on.

However, all was not as good as it could be...
  • Flickr pages can be really, really slow to load

  • Some kids would forget and use the search field at the top of each Flickr page instead of returning to the Flickr Creative Commons search page. Then they would find photos with all right reserved. Sometimes they could save these photos, but they woudn't insert into projects. It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on.

  • Our process of searching, then saving the photo and copying the source information to give proper credit to the photographer was complex. Some third graders never mastered it.

  • We started to find inappropriate images. I had prepared the children for that possibility. We had reviewed what they should always do if they come across inappropriate content. The children did a good job of using those few opportunities to practice safe internet use, but I don't like taking elementary children to a site that I know has inappropriate material.
Given these limitations, you can imagine my delight to read about Compfight. It is a very simple, very fast way to search Flickr.

compfight / a flickr2122 search tool
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

See the little search field at the top? That's what you see when you go to the site.
Click on the...
  • Tags button to toggle between searching tags only or all text
  • Creative Commons link to toggle between all, off, or commercial searches
  • Seek Original link to choose whether or not you are only looking for original images
  • Safe Search link to make searching safer for young users
As you can imagine, that last item has me thrilled. I plunked in some of the innocuous search terms (such as books) that brought up inappropriate images but all the hits were appropriate for my students.

I hope the searches are as quick at school as they are from my NECC hotel room. Photos start appearing withing a second of me hitting enter. The search results are posted many to a page instead of the ten that are on a typical Flickr search results page.

I think this tool is going to solve many problems for us. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Any idea what the name Compfight has to do with searching Flickr? That one has me stumped.

A big thanks to Sue Waters for her post at The Edublogger that introduced me to Compfight.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cybersafety Workshop

Great workshop with Davina Pruit-Mentle and Nancy Willard
These are very incomplete notes. Please check out their website for great information. Even better, go hear them speak.

Tactics that don't work to keep kids safe...

Fear-based Tactics
  • stranger danger warnings
  • kids view adults as not knowing what is really going on with teh internet

Misleading Use of Data

  • 1 in 7 youth have been sexually solicieted online - not true
  • generally received by teenagers from other teens

Reliance on Filtering
  • won't block porn traps
  • won't protect against online communication
  • won't deter determined teens because they know how to bypass the filter
  • frequently blocks appropriate sites
  • over reliance on this has created false security and doesn't teach kids safety skills, responsible choices

Simplistic Rules
  • "Don't post personal information online."
  • "Just say no" didn't work with drugs
  • Simple rules are appropriate for children but not tweens and teens

Sole Reliance on Adults
  • Tell an adult if you feel uncomfortable - assumes adults know what to do
  • Teens won't tell adults if they think the adults will blame them, restrict their online access, or make the problem workse
  • Most at-risk kids don't have great relationships with adults so they don't have someone they can go to for help. We need to educate those savvy teens on how to protect themselves and their less able friends

Avoiding Uncomfortable Information
  • Some programs don't discuss the intentions of predators, behaviors of the teen that might attract predators...

Successful Tactics
Children should not be out surfing the internet. Period. They don't have the cognitive capacity to independently make good choices online.

For middle school students, teach them practical problem solving. Teach them the values and standards they should uses in their ethical decision making. (Nancy has a great list of ethical decision-making questions.)

Risk Prevention Approach- we are pretty good at addressing the needs of the naive kids. We are failing at addressing the needs of the at-risk kids. Needs to happen at school, district, state and national level. People who understand technology often don't understand what they need to know about youth risk, and vice versa.

Finally Diving into Diigo

More notes. This time an informal Edubloggercon session to get us started with Diigo. Alice Mercer along with Margaret Tsai who is one of the developers of Diigo and Jen Dorman who has been using it with her students.

(I know. I'm probably the last person to look at Diigo. What can I say? I was busy and was mostly meeting my needs. And I admit I quelled a bit at the thought of yet another social network.)

Plays Well With Others
Lots of options for sharing your Diigo info, including auto post to blog or Twitter and share with your account. Can also import your Delicious accounts.

Can be public, private, moderated. Can share tags. Can create student accounts using linked Gmail addresses.


We are familiar with tagging, but sometimes you want to present specific lists of URLs. We can create lists and then "add to list" is one of the Diigo options.

So, my take? I don't need it for use with students. If I were a classroom teacher then yes. But as a specialist in a school that has not embraced Diigo, then no. I also don't need another social network. I'm not doing that well keeping up with the ones I'm already in. I think its strength is in searching things people have already bookmarked, which is the same as with Delicious. Other strenght is huge-- ability to mark up the page and share the annotations. I can see that being really powerful for personal and class use.

Web 2.0 Smackdown!

Sitting here at the NECC 2008 Edubloggercon. This post is just notes I'm taking for myself.
  • allows participants to text in multiple choice answers to a poll.
  • Animoto - free teacher accounts allow us to download 1 minute videos free.
  • allows you to take a set of photos or videos and create a photowall that lets you scroll around. Need a really good internet connection to make it work well. Looks like that thing from the TED talks.
  • Free Mosquito Ring adults can't hear it so kids use it as a ring tone to receive calls in class unnoticed.
  • CoverItLive allows live blogging as part of a conference.
  • used to only be available for Nokia phones but now also works with some Windows Mobile devices. Allows you to create live streams. (Thanks Steve Dembo)
  • allows you to create kid's chore lists or other criteria and share it with teachers, grandparents, etc. Can be a nice conversation piece. (Thanks Lucy Gray)
  • Diigo is a blogger's friend. The education group in Diigo is growing quickly. They have a set of common tags.
  • Peggy's new island... Peggy Shehe (sp?) has 3 islands in the teen grid of Second Life, a multimedia island, a language island, and a ~.
  • Webcast Academy a place to learn to create your own webcasts.
  • Make Beliefs Comics is a simple cartooning site. No ads. Limited feature set prevents kids from getting lost in the details.
  • Ajaxim allows you to create a free, IM network. Teach basic IM etiquette to kids in a safe environment.
  • Doodle quickly poll a group to schedule a meeting. No sign in required. You can send them the link or a discrete URL.
  • TimeBridge also allows you to schedule meetings and it talks to Google Calendar and Outlook.
  • TagGalaxy mines flicker tags
  • Webkinz can be used by a class to help kids learn about digital citizenship.
  • exolead
  • Plurk is a twitter-like social networking app. It has a timeline. You can have real conversations.
Dippity, Second Life, Diigo,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Anyone for a Little NECCing?

This is my big year; I'm attending NECC for the first time. I think I'm more excited about meeting people face to face than I am about the sessions, workshops, vendors, etc. There are many bloggers I am eager to meet. Others I know from Twitter. Of course, given the thousands of people that attend, I wonder how many people I'll actually run into.

I do have some other goals related to NECC...
  • Look for professional development models that are working.
  • Look for tech integration models that are working, exploring both the process and the hardware requirements.
  • Look for ways to help my staff find powerful uses for their IWBs.
  • Visit Second Life. (Anyone want to bring me in and show me around?)
Are you going to NECC? Have you joined the NECC Ning? What are your goals and expectations for NECC 2008?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Media-Rich Interactive Quizes

MyStudiyo is a website that lets you create interactive quizes to add to your website or blog. You are able to upload a logo to brand it. Quiz questions can contain graphics, audio or video clips. Quizes can be embedded or take at the website. You can also send out a URL via their invitation feature. You can take the quick quiz I created to learn more about the service.

One feature I find interesting, is that you have two choices of ending. One is to show the participants score. The other is to allow the participant to add a question. I think the latter could be powerful (or dangerous) if used with students.

Participants do not need to login. However if they do have an account and login, the results of registered participants appears filtered out from the anonymous participants. As per usual, registering requires an email address. However, registration is instant, no need to confirm registering by clicking a link sent via email. I didn't try registering with a linked Gmail account. If that works, it could be used with elementary students. - Basic Activity Statistics
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

The service is free while the site is in beta. At some point it will no longer be free but the quizzes created during the beta period will still be free to take.

An Alternative to the Flip Video

Video is the bane of my existence. I inherited all sorts of baggage with it, from cameras that can't connect to our computers, to lack of software to work with the video on the cameras, to poorly written programs like Pinnacle. Few problems in our Windows XP environment have made me long for a Mac lab as much as this one has.

Most of the video my teachers take is informal. Most commonly they record student presentations such a book reports and social studies presentations. A few capture students at work. These video clips are just a few seconds in length, shot close to the subject in decent lighting. We should be able to just use our point and shoot cameras since they all have a movie mode. Digital camera video clips aren't stellar quality, but the convenience of being able to use the classroom camera outweighs the decline in video quality. And truth be told, most of the time YouTube quality is more than adequate for these uses.

However, we have found that anything over 3 minutes tends to corrupt. I first thought it was just the battery running out since shooting video really chews through the batteries. However, shorter clips on the same card shot after the corrupted long clips, are just fine. Interestingly enough, we were able to use the corrupted file on a Mac. The Windows machines couldn't even download it, but iPhoto sucked it right in and played it, so if you run into that problem try a Mac. Unfortunately, we don't have Macs in my division.

So, video from point and shoot cameras wasn't the answer, but it seemed like it should be. Enter the Flip Video camera produced by Pure Digital. I think they are brilliant. Even the most technophobic people I've handed it to have gone from, "Don't give me this... I don't know how to... Oh!" in a matter of seconds and then they are recording (and looking delighted.) I handed it to students and within seconds they were recording their podcasts. After I showed them once how to locate the camera on the computer when it was plugged in, they were able to do it on their own.

As with the digital cameras, the quality isn't stellar-- this is 640 x 480 video we are talking about, after all. The audio won't win any awards, but it was much clearer than I expected. The children were truly delighted. It had the most trouble with moving targets, such as a person walking across the room.

The only problem is the cost. In the US, they are around $140 from That's less than a point and shoot digital camera. Unfortunately, our local vendors are unable to get them and Amazon won't ship them here. Only was willing to do it at a much steeper price plus shipping.

Therefore, it is with MUCH excitement that I read about the new Creative Vado.

The Vado is similar in size, shape and quality to the Flip, but it has a 2 GB hard drive and a flexible, integrated USB connector as opposed to the Flip's rigid one. It has a lithium ion rechargeable battery instead of the convenient AA batteries, but the battery is removable so you could buy a second battery.

I searched at Causeway Point and down on Orchard Road but no one seems to have heard of them, much less have them in stock. Maybe by next school year they will be available. I'd love to hear from anyone who has used one. Are they rugged enough to be used with students? How good is the video and audio quality? Would you buy it for yourself?