Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting Ready for the New Year

I'm in the middle of reading a very inspirational book called What Great Teachers do Differently to gear myself up for the new school year. The book contains all sorts of great tips for bringing out the best in students. I also ran across a humor site that provides classroom management guidance of a different sort. My stomach still hurts!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Thing 23

Well I did it!!! I was very worried about completing the course, particularly since I started late and found that most of the Things took a lot longer than I'd anticipated. Please don't take this as a complaint - the more I fiddle and play, the more the information is likely to stick!

Here's my response to the summary questions posted on the site:

1. Favorites - I liked the exercises for Flickr, mashups, online image generators, and podcasts best of all. I have always wanted to become more proficient in these areas and I got a real charge out of creating my own content while taking the course.

2. In an earlier post, I had commented that one of my goals this year was to integrate more technology into my class. This course provided me with the content and practice I need to achieve this goal. In a broader sense, it has also brought me up to speed in many areas that I wouldn't have considered exploring and has provided me with tools that can help me keep current in the future.

3. There were many surprises! Having used the Internet for a variety of things in the past, I knew that it was possible to imbed videos, pictures, etc., but just didn't know how to do it. I had no idea about the great organizing tools available, especially the tagging tools like Delicious, which is going to make me a far more efficient web user. I also didn't know how easy to use many of the web tools would be. I don't think I'll be intimidated again.

4. I'm a huge fan of online learning, having completed most of my certification work in this format. The only suggestion I can make pertains to commenting. I started the course very late in the game (thank you for letting me!) and know that it must have been a daunting task for the captains to comment on all of the participant postings. It was daunting for me to find bloggers I wished to comment upon in the scroll! Perhaps one way around this would be to assign 10 or so bloggers to their very own community of commentators, thus encouraging the connection.

5. I would definitely participate in any additional online courses you would offer, although I would most prefer that they're offered in the summer months. Just thinking about the realities of the school year and the new course I'll be teaching...

6. A great way to familiarize yourself with web 2.0 learning tools - at your own pace and your own place!

Thank you so very much for developing this program. I do think it will change my students' learning experience and my teaching experience for the better.

All the best!

Thing 22

I enjoyed looking through Ning for Teachers and Librarian Nings. Both will be great ways to stay connected, especially once the school year starts. There were some useful discussions about 2.0 tools on the Library Ning and some pertinent lesson plan ideas on Ning for Teachers. Both of my children Facebook religiously and I have a older friends who do as well. I haven't joined this trend because most of the people I interact with don't either ~ and my kids said they won't be my friend (;. These sites will fulfill the dual purpose of helping me with my work and becoming more connected. They're great!

Thing 21

It's getting down to the wire and with the tropical storm fast approaching and the comments about this Thing on the main page I was plenty scared to even try it. I sure hope that I can get my project to download! Actually making the podcast was amazingly simple and fun. I can see spending hours doing this and sending people great birthday greetings. This was way too much fun. I can also see a lot of applications for my classroom. We have headsets with microphones on the classroom computers - now we'll just need to download some music. I think the kids will be amazingly proud to put something like this together, particularly my ESL students who have never used a computer before. I can't wait!!

Thing 20

Spent a lot of time looking at videos on YouTube and some on TeacherTube. For some reason TeacherTube is a lot slower at buffering and the videos are choppy. I'm not sure if this is something that I can fix on my computer or if it's their server. Anyone know or have the same problems?

I found lots of great ideas for how I can use student-made videos in my class along with some good ideas for ESL games. Last year, I was given a Flip for Mother's Day. This is a super-easy-to-use camera that downloads videos directly into the computer. I'm planning on using it more frequently this year, and many of the student produced videos gave me good ideas on how to get started. Early on, I will have students work on videos using "Who, What, Where, When, and Why" and then show these to the class. I'll probably have to purchase a few more Flips though. Hope the department budget can support it!

I liked the idea of a news program found in this video:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thing 19

I really enjoyed looking through the 2.0 Awards List. It's a page I intend to go back to and have fun with at a later time. Better use Delicious! I am planning to retire to the Chicago area, so looking around at neighborhoods using Zillow was very interesting and informative. I had heard of Craigslist, but never actually explored the site. I think it is a great example of the power of the medium. Talk about community ~ although you probably have to be careful with the content and wouldn't want to use it at school.

The Backpack site seems similar to many of the advanced Google features in one handy location. This site is comparable to office intranets and could be used for departments or disciplines within the larger school setting. Departments could use the site to track their budget and expenses, publish agendas and minutes, and generally keep information organized and accessible.

I was also very impressed to note how well-versed the participants in this class will be on so many of the categories listed on the awards chart. Thanks for that!

Thing 18

I was very excited about OpenOffice, especially when comparing the ~$200 you have to spend on Microsoft Office vs. this no cost option. I was not so thrilled about spending more than an hour trying to get the suite to download without positive results. The link shows on my desktop, but I must be missing the shortcut or something because I can't get in. I'm sure with more playing I will get it to work, but it's Sunday and my "Things" must be completed by Tuesday, so I'm giving this a pass for the moment and will revisit if I have time. I'd appreciate any comments or guidance on this. I do love the concept!

I had already registered for GoogleDocs and can think of many ways I can use this feature to improve my personal and professional productivity. Prior to receiving my district laptop, I would often create documents at home and then email them to myself to save on my computer at work. GoogleDocs will allow me to access these documents from any computer. I also will use the collaborative abilities of the site when planning lessons or creating documents with other teachers. Students can edit group research projects through GoogleDocs as well, even if they don't have a personal email account. I plan on using it a lot in about 3 weeks! Yikes - that's soon.....