Session 10 – Thing 23 – VoiceThread Reflections

Reflecting on my overall course experience and next steps . . . . .

Although I have not yet experienced the implementation of ANY of the Web 2.0 tools/concepts covered in this online course in a classroom setting, I feel that the abundant ideas, relevant links and resources, help videos, and practice exercises have provided me with an excellent overview of their capabilities and potential uses of Web 2.0 in a classroom setting.  I feel that my completion of this class has helped to somewhat reduce my apprehension about integrating technology when I do return to the classroom.  This course has helped illustrate how implementation of various Web 2.0 tools can promote the concepts of teamwork, collaboration, and discovery, and accommodate the digital learners of today as they prepare to deal with the global aspects of their future.  

As I have proceeded through the various sessions of this online course, I have strived to read the blogposts of my peers on a regular basis.  As a result, I have a sincere appreciation for the valuable input shared by them via their respective blogs – whether it is sharing an idea, concept, activity, or project that he/she implemented using a specific Web 2.0 tool OR sharing links to websites containing additional resources and/or potential lesson plans to illustrate a specific technology tool and/or concept.   I have printed a few of my peers’ blogs in their entirety, and I intend to MAKE the time to explore in depth some of the specific sites and/or links they have explored as well as any concepts, activities, or units they have implemented. 

Session 10 – Thing 22 – Social Networking

Ning, of course, is an interesting site and is not exclusively geared to educators.  It can accommodate virtually any user.  In reading the Educause’s article “7 things you should know about Ning”, it addressed both positive and negative aspects of social networking. As a member of Classmates and Facebook, I felt that I had all the networking I needed.  In exploring this site, however, I can see its usefulness goes beyond either of those two aforementioned sites.  Ning is for the masses and it does not favor any one group, person, or affiliation.  I had actually discovered the Classroom 2.0 site when browsing through my Google Reader subscription feeds to complete Task 7C in Session 9 and had subsequently shared my discovery of the Classroom 2.0 site in my Task 7C blogpost. 

 

As with other Web 2.0 applications, those that focus on social networking must be viewed with some restraint.  This is due to the controversy with respect to privacy.  We have a lot of issues currently with respect to these sites and, since there is much at stake, the use of these sites must be controlled.   

 

What Ning can do for us is terrific.  For an educator or adult, its networking capabilities are endless.  I felt that the subscription-type of sign-up for a network was a bit cumbersome and could be streamlined.  Having to re-enter redundant information such as name, email address, and birthdate, is not the way to go. 

 

With respect to using social networking in my professional learning, I explored the topic of SmartBoards and found a discussion focusing on the pros and cons of SmartBoards vs. Promethean Boards.  I anticipate that similar pros/cons discussions exist on specific versions of computer hardware and/or software applications as well.  This type of discussion could be a worthwhile resource for a teacher, media specialist, or administrator as they contemplate the purchase of such items.

 

 

 

Session 9 – Thing 7C – Google Reader Redux

When browsing through my recent feeds via Google Reader, I focused on subscriptions pertaining to the topic of integrating technology and found Classroom 2.0 which deals with integrating technology in literacy education.  This site features a very impressive Forum which displays the introductory blogs of educators as they collaborate about enhancing literacy strategies in their respective classrooms.  I enjoyed skimming through several of the educator blogs.  Created by Steve Hargadon, Classroom 2.0 is a SNS which allows users to locate/access interesting discussions by tool, by subject, or by area. 2007 and 2008 Edublogs Award Winner for “Best Use of Social Networking”.  It provides viewers the opportunity to explore the series of free Classroom 2.0 LIVE Workshops around the U.S. on the use of Web 2.0 technologies in education. Within the 140+ pages of Introductions, one member states that this site has “taken her to global projects, virtual classrooms, blogging partners and much more.” Another member wrote: “I come back every time someone posts or joins. This is a great classroom and I have learned so much and even gained courage to use the knowledge here with my students. There are several sites on technology but none with the wealth of knowledge that you will find here. This is what a classroom should be like. A fountain that overflows, where you can visit any time to get a supply of what you need for your students. This is Web 2.0.”

Session 9 – Thing 21 – Create a Start-Up Page in Pageflakes

I have spent some time exploring Pageflakes.  It is an interesting website.  Like other Web 2.0 applications, one must approach it with some hesitancy.  The idea of a “Home page” has been around since we have had browsers.  Pageflakes carries this concept much further giving us the ability to “view” our personal world the way we want to view it each time we open a browser.  It is quickly customizable.  In addition to building your own home page, you can also share it with the world by making it a Pagecast.  This can be very useful if you do not want to clutter your page with a great many flakes, you can enjoy the pages of others, which may contain a feed or flake in which you have an interest.  Of course, you run the risk that person may change their Pagecast.  If and when this occurs, I assume that any changes will be reflected in my copy, but I don’t know that.  Pageflakes also lets you customize it further by adding RSS feeds.  As a trial, I did cnbc.com, National Geographic, Sesame Street, and others.  It remains to be seen whether Pageflakes is the best place for an RSS feed or Google Reader or perhaps Internet Explorer itself.  I can see now that many websites may have some overlap in their offerings (ie: RSS feeds) and no one size may fit all.  I found it a bit cumbersome to “find” what I might be looking for in the way of a particular flake (search).  I have also had some difficulty with the site.  Server being down and at other times it seems to just hang.  I am not sure the site is as stable as it needs to be.  Overall, the idea that you can have your customized view of the world on one screen is powerful when you consider the alternative of going from one site to another to gather information through your browser.  With respect to how this could be used in a classroom setting, I can see having tabs set up for various units or classes or subjects, including one or more for personal use.  So I see the use of the tabs as a powerful feature.  Without tabs, you would have one big page cluttered with lots of stuff – and tabs reduce that clutter.  You could arrange the tabs for personal, family, school, hobbies, news, etc.   This list could be expanded even more.  In other words, it’s a way for you to arrange information in a logical way.

Session 9 – Thing 20 – Google Docs

Google Docs appears to be a very worthwhile tool for teachers and students, as well as the general population of Google users.  Both teachers and students could benefit from Google Docs.  The obvious benefit is that only one document is involved – with sharing capabilities.  Simultaneous updating and tracking/comparing changes  are significant perks of the online document.  This construction mechanism is similar to WIKI’s.  While Google Docs are not web pages, the ability to work online collaboratively in real-time is terrific.  Time is surely maximized in this environment.  Google has put a lot of thought into this product.  For example, they have given virtually all users of various Office-type products the ability to upload the various formats directly into Google Docs.  

As a teacher, I can see the use of Google Docs when used collaboratively with parents.  I do realize not every parent has a PC and those students could be the exception.  I feel certain forms could be viewed, filled out, and printed by the parents.  Perhaps an electronic signature could be used and nothing need be printed except for record keeping.  We may find resistance to the use of Google Docs unless the administration can somehow compel parents to use the Google Docs tool.  Some people simply will not use an outside resource such as Google as it is not controlled or owned by the county or school district.   If the document or form resided on a County or school server, this may be different.  In the server world today, we must remain aware of the possibility of hackers gaining access to sensitive and personal information.  From that standpoint, we cannot just embrace each new technology and feel confident without fully investigating it.  Sharing PowerPoint-type presentations with parents could be very beneficial.  This process, in addition to blogs and email, would greatly reduce paper waste and speed communications. 

I can see this usefulness in my personal life as well.  As the Secretary for a local non-profit organization,  I record the Minutes at each meeting.  Once I have drafted the Minutes in a Word document, the Minutes are then shared with the Director of the organization to insure accuracy and completeness.  In doing so, we simply email the Word document back and forth.  We have had cases where the Director’s changes have been lost in the process.  Going forward, Google Docs may be an option!  In addition, my daughter and I are currently working on a project which requires that we collaborate on its content.  This would be a great alternative to emailing the document between us. 

As I explored Google Docs, I’ve tried many features such as bullet points, inserting a table, etc.  The features are all very similar to Word 2003.  If there is a short-coming, it would be that you may not use all of the file extensions of Office 2007 such as DOCX and PPTX.  These changes to the 2007 format are required because of security and storage space on a single PC so that is not a showstopper.  In fact, all one must do is save the original file in the 2003 format and then upload to Google Docs. 

Session 8 – Thing 19 – Intro to Video Sharing

While completing the YouTube Scavenger Hunt, I explored video presentations which focused on the aspect of “technological prejudice” which some people seem to feel is present at some colleges. I also explored the concept of possible inadequate computer literacy requirements at the high school level.  For the “How To” video, I explored the video, SMART Technology SMART Board video contest winner created by Mary Lehman from Stony Brook Elementary School in York, Pennsylvania, USA, (embedded above) which illustrates numerous ways in which a Kindergarten teacher can implement a SmartBoard to engage her students in a variety of lessons and activities throughout a typical school day, allowing the teacher to reach all learning types, including students with special needs.  Very exciting!  For the fun, nostalgic video, I chose one that showed segments from various “I Love Lucy” episodes.  When exploring the TeacherTube, I came up with the following project ideas which my students could produce and contribute to TeacherTube:  creative presentations to promote character education, activities to promote the concept of recognizing and accepting cultural and linguistic differences, using pbwiki tools to create and perform collaboration and teamwork projects.

Session 8 – Thing 18 Stretch Task – Embed Podcast in Blog


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Here is the GCast player which includes my podcast illustrating a few ways that a Computer Literacy teacher may use podcasting.  Since I typically don’t care to view (or share) video presentations of myself, I am pleased that this podcast assignment was audio only!  I have also enjoyed listening to the podcasts created by others in our class as they shared their respective ideas for podcasting in specific grades and subject areas. 

 

Session 8 – Thing 17 – Intro to Podcasting

Using the Grazr widget, I explored random podcasts from the following directories/folders:  “By Students” and “For Educators”.  From the “By Students” directory, I selected/previewed the Jamestown Podcast #67 featuring multi-age students recording a presentation  entitled “If I Were President . . . “.  I really enjoyed listening to their inspiring comments, many of which focused on realistic, large-scale topics such as health care issues, homeless, pollution, etc.   In the “For Educators” directory, I chose the “Geek!Ed!” Episode 0125 which features a discussion on the primary  aspects of technology integration in education.  Key points include how technology enhances learning by making it more exciting and more engaging, how the concept of integrating technology enhances how the brain works, how kids are approaching the learning process, how technology promotes the concept of constructivism (when students construct their own knowledge).  It also explains how technology integration provides the criteria for deep knowledge/learning by engaging students in higher levels of thinking.  While still in the “For Educators” directory, I then chose and explored the “SmartBoards Lessons Podcast”.  Having recently taken a 2-day training class on SmartBoards, I was excited to find this site and especially enjoyed listening to the podcast in its entirety and then subscribing to it via my Google Reader RSS.  This podcast provides an audio overview of creative ideas for “Scrabble on the SmartBoard” lessons/games wherein the SmartBoard is used as a simulation Scrabble board to promote dictionary skills, simple letter patterns, as well as ad lib and other spontaneous activities, etc.    Another site which was mentioned in this podcast which sounds as though it has the potential to provide many helpful resources is http://www.teachersconnecting.com/.  The purpose of this site is to help K-12 teachers find other teachers for cross-classroom collaboration projects, as well as provide ideas for other engaging lessons.  This podcast also discusses Educause’s series that provides information on different technologies.  Educause uses a consistent, clear, and concise style as it presents a series of “7 things you should know about . . . .” and addresses multiple technology tools such as wikis, blogs, clickers, flip video cameras, etc.  The specific format used when providing an overview of each tool includes (1) scenario, (2) what is it? (3) who’s doing it? (4) what makes it unique? (5) why do we think it is significant? (6) down side(s)? (7) where is it going? and (8) implications for teaching and learning.  Specific comments addressed how the latter component could be especially beneficial for administrators when illustrating how some sites which are typically blocked by a school (ie: Facebook) could be implemented in a positive way in a classroom. 

Session 7 – Thing 16 – LibraryThing

After completing the Library Tour, I performed a Search by Author.  Last semester, while completing the final course in the Reading Endorsement Program, I heard a few language arts teachers discussing their creative strategies, activities, and overall success with a currently popular book called Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney.  Also during this time frame, I substituted at a middle school on a couple occasions and noticed a few students with that book and noticed the pages’ resemblance to a diary through creative cartoon doodles.  Thus, I chose Jeff Kinney for my Search by Author.  As I glanced over the related tags on the Author Page, I noticed that the largest tag clouds included keywords such as boys, cartoons, diaries, fiction, funny, graphic, novel, humor, middle school.  I feel that each of these descriptors would definitely be appealing to the typical middle school student.  Once on the Title Page, I could view LibraryThing’s Recommendations which listed a total of ten (10) other readings, most of which share the same large tag clouds.  On the Title Page, I could also view the specific member reviews for the title in question.   The specific review which caught my attention stated:  “Great for a reluctant reader, a lot of illustrations, text is large and not overly wordy.  It was a hilarious, real world look at middle school. Probably best for ages 8-11. Great for boys, get them interested in reading.”  Interestingly, this member’s latter comment seems to be in alignment with the issues I had recently addressed in my Thing 7B blog post about an article of interest from my RSS Reader.  I had selected Belloney’s Blog, created by a teacher who is hoping to adapt her curriculum in such a way to motivate and inspire the growing number of boys struggling with literacy. 

I then explored the Zeitgeist tag and explored a few Author clouds, one of which was Nora Roberts.   That’s when I learned that, in addition to her romance novels, she has also written suspense novels under a different name (J.D. Robb)!  After skimming over the Group, 50 Book Challenge, I, like Jerrie, can visualize such a theme being integrated into the curriculum.  

Since I have just added the Reading Endorsement to my certificate, I feel that, if/when I obtain a teaching position in the Reading/Literacy field, the LibraryThing website can be a significant resource for me as I search/select/review potential age-appropriate and topic-appropriate reading material through tags, titles, authors, etc.

Session 7 – Thing 15 – Social Bookmarking: Delicious

Well, this task got a little messy.  After completing the Discovery Exercise’s Part 1 (Explore Delicious), I proceeded to Part 2 to sign up for a Delicious account.  After repeating the specific steps for installing the Delicious Extension Buttons at least TWO times, the applicable bookmark buttons still weren’t showing up on the command bar.  The Delicious toolbar was installed correctly.  I stuck with it, reviewed the help videos again, and tried other troubleshooting ideas but was getting a bit frustrated!  I am using Internet 7.0 (as opposed to Firefox) and I finally decided to right-click in a blank area of my header where all the toolbars are located.  From the drop-down menu, I selected CUSTOMIZE COMMAND BAR.  On the next drop-down menu, I selected ADD OR REMOVE COMMANDS.  The next pop-up menu allowed me to manually select specific selection(s) from a list of AVAILABLE Toolbar Buttons and ADD them to the list of CURRENT Toolbar Buttons.  Since the Delicious, Bookmark, and Tags buttons were each listed among the list of available selections, once I manually added each of them to the list of CURRENT Toolbar Buttons, THEN they showed up in my command bar and I could continue with the task.  I’m not sure if any of my peers will experience this extra step or not.   

I do see the powerful potential of the Delicious bookmarking concept.  My husband and I maintain a vast amount of photos on our hard drive, all of which are categorized by tags as part of the Adobe Photoshop Elements program Version 6.0.  Therefore, I could easily relate to the concept that Delicious allows a user to maintain a “database” so-to-speak in which you can categorize favorite websites via tags.  Of course, the big perk of Delicious is that the user has the ability to access their Delicious account from any other computer with Internet access.           

The RELATED TAGS feature of Delicious is neat because it helps the user to organize and share sites within Delicious, and it allows a user to narrow their search on very broad topics.  I like the idea of the RECOMMENDED TAGS as well.  The ability to enter relevant keywords as the search criteria for “EVERYONE’S BOOKMARKS”, then subsequently select a single tag to narrow that search is also a powerful feature.  

Now — for a couple negative discoveries/concerns:  (#1)  When adding and tagging new sites for my Delicious account, in some cases I “copied and pasted” descriptive text from some of the sites into the NOTES field of the dialog box and, in other cases, I manually entered text in the NOTES field for other sites.  I discovered that, while in this mode, the word wrap feature did not exist.  I thought this was strange.  (#2)  Although one may strongly feel that Delicious offers a neater way to categorize and maintain a person’s favorite websites than Internet Explorer’s “Add to Favorites” option, I am somewhat apprehensive about using Delicious exclusively as a database of my favorite websites — what if the owner of the Delicious website chose to terminate its existence? 

As a former Business Education teacher, for one of my searches, I decided to enter 3 keywords :  (1) business, (2) education, and (3) projects.  The results included sites pertaining to Flickr, Wikispaces, etc.  It was neat to see sites which offer tutorials and/or introductory exercises for some of the same Web 2.0 tools and concepts we’ve been exploring the past few weeks!!  I have added a couple of these to my Delicious account and will be adding others as well !

Here’s the link for my account:     http://delicious.com/pokiegump