Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cast Your Web2.0 - Vote: Webware 100

One of the most exciting aspects of the interactive internet, is the basic premise that the web2.0 experience is distinctive. Your voice can count, and you don't have to be a great guru of tech to express your viewpoints, preferences and evaluations.

I voted in the 2008 Webware 100 Awards

Last night, a contact from my Jaiku group reminded us that it was time to vote in the Webware 100 competition. I did. When you vote, you get a small badge for your website which is a symbiotic assistant.

When you display the Webware 100 Voting badge, you are accomplishing some important goals for yourself, the Webware100 team and CNET. One, it shows the people that you are interested in that you are interested in what web2.0 applications are still around tomorrow. Two, it reminds your readers that they should vote for their favorite web2.0 applications. Three, it helps the Webware100 team get the world out that evaluation and review are continuing.

This type of review combines the expertise of the professional and the amateur;D I think this symbiosis helps all of us, because it is one more tool in our web2.0 toolbox that we can use to sort through the various applications that may be of service to us, personally and in groups. I may be an amateur, but I know what works for me. CNET may be the expert in reviewing all that is tech, but they need to know what we, the consumer, thinks of these web application.

So, instead of thinking of myself as an amateur, professional or semi-professional, I like to think that we are all important characters in this online ecosystem of web applications and social interactions.

Go VOTE! Support your most cherished webware.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

American Robins On Their Way

Spring is on its way in North America. As our part of Earth tilts and revolves back into Springtime in the Northern Hemisphere, it seems that everyone is worn out from the Winter weather, snow, ice, rain, sleet, thunder and lightning, where I live.

Children, adults, and even the animals anticipate Spring. We are eager for Earth to return to its Spring position. We actually live in a place where there are four seasons, even though Spring and Fall are fairly short-lived.

Around here, the bad weather won't stop, but the temperatures will increase. As the increase begins in the Spring, all the animals who took a vacation in the warm southern climes will return to their summer homes here.

One of those returning is a pretty little bird named the American Robin. The robin arrives before most other migrating songbirds, and it has a beautiful mix of songs and chirps for the important new beginnings of Spring.

Now, if you ever hear the expression(idiom, saying), "The early bird gets the worm!", you will know what it means. The people who coined this phrase originally referred to the American Robin, the early bird. When the robin moves north, the temperature is just right for earthworms to begin moving above ground.

The earthworm is a major food source for the American Robin. These birds need them to feed their new American Robin hatchlings once they arrive on the scene. Hungry babies need food to help them grow.

This epic migration is all a part of the cycle of life in North America.

To celebrate the arrival of the American Robin in North America, I have constructed a short Voki. I hope you will appreciate another aspect of Voki. Teachers and students could use Voki to animate or provide information in a variety of lessons or projects.

I hope this Voki example helps you think of even BETTER ways to use Voki in your classroom AND at home. Let's don't forget our own babies;D

Get a Voki now!

Please comment about the Voki or the American Robin. I would love to hear from you;D

Friday, February 22, 2008

Voki Teen! My Teen!

This is a sample Voki that resembles my Teen! She and I are reviewing Voki together. We will post various samples, as we progress through our practice lessons.

Get a Voki now!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Voki, OK!

Voki, Oki, Oki, Oy! When the producers of Voki discovered this name, they were on to something engaging. The web application is cool, the name is cool and the ways you can use it are cool. Voki is very cool.

My first experience with Voki was on a profile page of one of my Classroom 2.0 colleagues, Jonelle. I was smitten. The realistic avatars, backgrounds and presentation box were so appealing that I had to find out about Voki.

Students are also enticed by Voki, even mature, sophisticates (young adults) have engaged Voki. They use it to tell about themselves, to share information about their school and to practice their online, interactive skills in a protected environment.

Since Voki is a widget, a web application, it stands alone. While you do sign up for Voki, you don't have to interact within a community to benefit from this application. I have seen Voki avatars in a variety of online places, including profiles, blogs, wikis and webspaces. Any of these places can provide students a protected environment where they can experiment and develop educational online experiences.

One aspect of Voki that can be interactive is the comment section of the Voki box, so students can respond to a Voki presentation, just as they might comment on a blog. While commenting or making their first Voki, students don't have to use their own voices. Voki has a text to talk mechanism with a choice of several accents and voices of both genders. I use the Kate voice who has a slight British accent, and I consider it most effective.

Earlier, I wrote a blogpost explaining how to accomplish a action research based evaluation of Voki, as used by students called, "Welcome to My Web!", Said the Spider to the Fly, included Voki and Weather Widget in a blogpost. The purpose of this first post included evaluating web based, online applications, so I reviewed Voki as soon as I started using it.

Recently, I decided to make another review of Voki, because I believe this widget has met critical mass among those teachers using online, web applications with their students. In one day, I found Voki on the majority of the new websites, blogs and wikis that I visited among a group of teachers planning an online educational conference. That is above and beyond all of my colleagues on various educational networks who are using Voki extensively.

Documenting this rise in the use of Voki, I made several searches, some were general search engines and the social bookmarking network, favored by teachers, If there are other networks or search engines that I could use in the future, please let me know;D Here are some of the results:

* There were a total of 139 SEPARATE bookmarks for VOKI. Within those bookmarks, more than 5,000 users had also selected this combination of 139 bookmarks.

* A total of 33,000 website references contained this search string: Voki, education, school. Amazing!

* More than 40,000 urls contained the same three tags: Voki, education, school. There are thousands more because I noticed that all tags of Voki in Classroom 2.0 were clustered in one search result, so that is probably the same situation in all the educational network searches.

* A Facebook analysis and developer services has many compare/contrast analyses. This one is comparing Voki to Meez.

References to Voki can be found in Digg and, so it seems the point is proven that Voki has reached critical mass for educational use around the world. Have fun and learn with Voki;D

BTW: I find it very exciting to see the expression of the promise of a particular widget that I know has great educational potential. There are specific educational activities and projects that Voki can enable or enhance, and that is a blogpost all in itself.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The REAL Geeks!

Just like there are many types of cowboys, there are various levels of geekdom. Right now, you are probably thinking, "Thanks, Captain Obvious". Nothing new in that statement, but I don't really think we appreciate the necessity of these various levels and stages of geekdom.

For instance, there are many people who really think I am a geek. HAH! In another life, I WAS really a geek, but I can't say that in this life. I consider myself a bridge, someone who understands the basics of various aspects of geekdom and explains to those who would like to know. What that means is that I am not an expert geek, but I am a teacher. To be honest, I do consider myself to be an expert expert in pedagogy and trends in education.

There are many real geeks out there, and they would most likely refer to themselves as programmers. These programmers are so numerous one would think that it would be obvious to the world. It isn't obvious. Mainly because they are "outstanding in their field". HaHa! Sorry! Couldn't avoid the farmer humor. They are working. They are busy, so you won't find them unless you are looking.

These geeks are like the cowboys who lived in their saddles and slept with the cattle... always on the move... always working to improve their craft.

Just as with die-hard cowboys, die-hard geeks can look down their nose at wanna-bees, but they can also be very generous with people who really want to learn about the craft of programming. Lately, I have become acquainted with people that I consider to be real geeks...real programmers...deep in the service of the craft. They are very interesting people, and I think other teachers would be happy to know that they are often teachers also....they have interests that they share in their groups and with the general public at various times. Many of them write books, make podcasts, present at conferences and provide information.

While I can't really call them my friends or colleagues, yet! I guess that I would call them contacts...more than acquaintances. Currently, I am learning Squeak. I was first introduced to it by a TappedIn colleague.

Later, I learned about Scratch. When I first mentioned this on Jaiku, one of my contacts told me more about Squeak and the relationship to Smalltalk. There are also the related languages of Croquet and Seaside, as well as others that I haven't mentioned. I have always been attracted to object oriented programming, so it stands to reason that I would like these languages.

I am learning faster because hard core programmers will help someone like me...just because, so I would like to remind everyone....HUMILITY PAYS! Be authentic, and people will respond to your true self. Don't pretend to know something you don't.

One thing, I have learned over my many lifetimes: I never know where learning will arrive, so I always want to be open to possibilities. That is why I believe that respect and appreciation for real geeks will be returned to me by those who are also open to quality life-long learning opportunities.

Incredulously, you may be saying, "What can they learn from you?" OOooh! The same things we learn from our students. Every teacher learns from the student..."where one teaches, two learn".

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ZAP: Where did it come from?

My response to a blog posting, Zeroes Aren't Permitted(ZAP program) , in the Karl Frank, Jr Communicator, of the Mehlville School district in ST. Louis, MO. This posting was a condensed version of a journal article written by Dr. Christa Warner of Wohlwend Elementary, and published in the professional journal ASQ - American Society for Quality.

Glad to see such a fine description of ZAP, also known as Zeroes Aren't Permitted. It is a very effective tool for helping children learn what quality is and how their choices can affect and improve that quality in their lives.

I found this blog in an online search with the tag "Zeroes Aren't Permitted". This is a self-directed professional development webquest that began with an article I read online at Teacher Magazine, Okla. School Zeros In on Missed Assignments. The article is the inspirational story of a school in Glenpool, OK and their successful use of ZAP to improve the quality of student homework efforts.

In my opinion, the reporter following the story wrote about ZAP in such a way that one would think it sprang forth from the school district, like Athena from the head of Zeus. While ZAP is exciting, I knew it hadn't begun in Glenpool, OK. Why? I knew it hadn't started in Glenpool, because I have used ZAP for years. I learned about it from other teachers who used ZAP before me.

I personally began using this ZAP system over 6 years ago. Many of the elementary and middle schools, in the Wichita, KS public schools, began using ZAP before I did. That knowledge of the earlier existence of ZAP was the impetus for this webquest.

My quest is to answer the question, "Can we find the source of ZAP?". That question led me to find a large number of websites and blogs about the Zeroes Aren't Permitted program called ZAP.

Congratulations on your choice of ZAP as a way to help students model quality by teaching them to evaluate their homework assignment completion skills.

BTW, cool blog!

Feed the Birds

Feed the Birds! In this time of ever increasing habitat destruction, we can help through habitat creation in our yards, gardens, parks and farms. Many of our smaller, native birds continue to be at risk from imports like starlings.

Since these native birds evolved within our local ecosystem, they fill a niche in the local food web. They are an important link to an ecosystem. Frequently, they need help to make it through the winter. You can help by setting up a feeding station.

Before you consider making a feeding station, remember:
1. birds will depend on your food supply
2. don't start if you think you will tire of the project
3. place feeders in places where cats can't get the birds
4. don't mix seed for larger bird species (set up feeders just for them)
5. keep squirrels out of bird feeders

My favorite small bird feeding station is a very unique feeder that uses a 2 liter bottle to hold the seeds and a small platform screws on the existing bottle threads. It is convenient to refill, and you can replace the bottle whenever you want. I purchased my feeders at my local Ace Hardware. I found this supplier, The Yankee Gardner, online.

Squirrels can't get to the seed because they are too heavy, and the feeding station tilts when they try to use it.

Since I feed small finches, wrens, chickadees and similar types of birds, I use two types of seeds: thistle(black) and safflower seeds. Most of the smaller species love these seeds. The largest birds that will eat these seeds are cardinals, but they don't travel in flocks. They are not a problem for they seem to co-exist with the smaller birds.

Some of my friends, family and colleagues create small bird habitats also. It would be wonderful to learn what they are doing.

If you love beauty, you will be rewarded by feeding the unique, small native birds in your region.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Counting's for the Birds: The Great Backyard Birdcount

For the Birds, for the Kids, for the Environment, for Research and for Fun.....let's all join people across North America from Friday, February 15th through Monday, February 18th, 2008 to count every bird we see. It's easy, it's fun, and it's very important!

How many times do you really have an opportunity to make an impact on learning from your own backdoor? Not often before, but now you can.

Click on this link: Great Backyard Bird Count.
Read and follow the simple steps, and you can sign up to help count the birds in our backyard (or any other place, like a park, lake or farm). Even though you can download the forms and mail them in, you are encouraged to complete the easy to use online data forms. Wherever you call home is the place where you can count birds, for as little as fifteen minutes or as long as you would like.

Share this wonderful lifelong learning opportunity with everyone. This project will encourage and improve community interactions with the schools, so think about ways to involve teachers and students with the rest of the commmunity. Try it! You'll like it!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Part of the Cleanup Crew

Periodically, I join the virtual cleanup crew, and we organize my various online homes and storage units. Today, I worked with to pull together some related articles.

How do I cleanup the data tags? I find or create ONE data tag that relates to all MY bookmarks I want to group. I do this in a similar way I organize my kitchen cabinets to make MY life more effective and creative.

By synchronizing related data tags, I also speed up work flow.

Previously, I discussed the importance of appropriate data tags. I want to explain my thinking about finding a common factor, a data tag, that can synchronize all bookmarks that I will want to access later....when I need them, as a unit.

Initially, while I bookmark resources, I try to use as many data tag synonyms I can think of AT THAT MOMENT of bookmarking. In, I use the data tag cloud, ordered alphabetically, to find related data tags. The size variation tells me the number of times that I used a particular data tag.

As always, I agree that you may use any bookmark organizational tool, yet I am suggesting one way to organize your bookmarks that I developed over several years of datamining. Try this method. From here, you will most likely adapt an organizational style that works best for you.

Later, after searching for synonyms among my data tag cloud in, I will examine a particular set of bookmarks that are tagged with the current topic of focus. For instance, the data tags cyberspace and virtual world are synonymous with one another, but I don't know that all my bookmarks with the tag cyberspace are also tagged virtual world.

Since virtual world seems to be gaining momentum as the most used synonym referring to interactive, online, social networks, I will add that data tag to all bookmarks that contain the cyberspace tag.

All I hope to achieve is to find related bookmarks about my current topic of interest. That is why I frequently join the cleanup crew to run organizational tests on my data tags of interest. This process is now easily accomplished. Afterwards, I can access all my bookmarks on a topic of interest when I need them.

Try this technique. I think you will find it very effective. Remember, you will want to focus on a FEW topics each time you join the cleanup crew. I suggest that you will be more effective if you don't try to cleanup the whole storage file at once. Over a period of time, you will find clarity within your bookmark topics. In all probability, you will increase your overall productivity within the area of accessing the resources you want.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Quality School Teacher

While moderating comments on this blog, I came across one poignant comment made by an anonymous college student. This student was reading Dr. William Glasser's profound work, The Quality School: Managing Students Without Coercion. Afterward, Anonymous would continue the assignment by making a lesson based on the tenets proposed in The Quality School.

I was so touched by the powerful comment of this anonymous person wanting to learn more, yet recognizing that Dr. Glasser's ideas are timeless in the power to move learning beyond anything we often experience.

Immediately, I responded with encouragement and (hopefully) a suggestion, as Dr. William Glasser would say, that Anonymous would be well served to adapt some of the lessons shared in The Quality School.

That wasn't the end, for me. I began to think,

What did Dr. Glasser's work mean to me? and How did it affect my teaching philosophy and practice?
It seems to me that Anonymous must be on a similar journey.

As I thought back to the time when I first learned about The Quality School, I recognized two basic questions that guided my personal learning process to improve my impact as a teacher.
*How could I be effective in teaching and learning?
*Where do I start the journey?

Starting remains a potent obstacle in anyone's work, so I was hoping that my words were of some help to Anonymous. I believe that Anonymous wants to be an excellent teacher who is beginning the quest to teach well.

Anonymous was also a great help to me. When I read my original post, The Quality School, I realized I needed to go back to the core of my experiences in learning about The Quality School. I would refresh my experiences on my educational journey. I needed my STUFF.

I keep all of my teaching artifacts, materials, and books, including Dr. Glasser's in my small warehouse on a farm about 4 miles out of town. Yesterday, I decided to go out there and find these books. Since I hadn't been out to the warehouse in several months, I was concerned. I hoped I wouldn't spend a great amount of time looking for the right box among the vast number I use at various times in my teaching and professional development.

When I began looking, I was overwhelmed and amazed at how well I organized my STUFF. I forgot that I finally did it. I really organized my STUFF, so I could utilize it.

Every box had a detailed label on it. I enjoyed looking through the boxes, cabinets, and drawers as I thought about all the lessons past, present and future. After thirty minutes, I had oriented myself well enough to seriously look for my favorite books on education philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy.

As I lifted one box from the top, I noticed some valuable notebooks containing lessons on graphic organizers for reading, writing and math. I set these by the door. Then I looked in the same area and there was a small plastic container that said "MOM's CDs". I wondered, "What's this?". I opened them and found music CDs I thought I had lost, but now they were found. Right next to this container was a very sturdy cardboard box with my handwritten note: IMPORTANT EDUCATIONAL BOOKS, INCLUDING THE QUALITY SCHOOL.

Surprise and shock ruled the moment, and then I felt that strong sense of elation when you truly accomplish a task well.

I took my loot home, after I did the Dance of Joy.

Beyond these past two days, I continue sorting, reading, writing and thinking. Tonight, I finished reading The Quality School Teacher, and I focused my efforts surveying class activities and lessons related to Dr. Glasser's tenets.

Even now, after all these years, I am overwhelmed by Dr. Glasser's work. I would like to share THE SIX CONDITIONS OF QUALITY SCHOOLWORK, that he discusses in Chapter Three, The Six Conditions of Quality of the bookThe Quality School Teacher.
1. There must be a warm, supportive classroom environment.
2. Students should be asked to do only useful work.
3. Students are always asked to do the best they can do.
4. Students are asked to evaluate their own work and improve it.
5. Quality work always feels good.
6. Quality work is NEVER destructive.

Now, I know why I was so affected by the short, yet profound anonymous comment about The Quality School. When you read about how you, the teacher, can teach and live in a quality school, it is a shock, a revelation. Quality seems impossible, but that is what Dr. Glasser says is only our personal reaction, based on our own lack of experience.