Monday, June 30, 2008

Be Prepared!

d I Y

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Technology in all its forms have fascinated me since I was a child. I am thrilled that the opensource and DIY technologies are not just surviving, they are thriving. I love to see what wonderful possibilities and opportunities are available to teachers, parents and students in this vast World Of Electrons.

Conversations continue on the topic of DIY vs corporate, packaged simulacrums of what is available online....imitation copies that corporations convince administrators and technology directors will be "just as good" as what a teacher and class can create themselves. I strongly disagree.

A twitter colleague, @garageflowers, just cited a blog post on this topic, I Guess I'm Still a Punk.

After reading this blog post, I had to share my comments to the author, @glassbeed, with my readers. Mostly, they relate to a basic tenet of teaching, about being prepared to stand up for what you believe. If you want to support DIY technology, I believe you should be prepared to describe, design and defend it.

Yes, I agree. This was a great post. I love DIY technology, and I have worked diligently to document and explain how teachers can use it effectively in their classes or with students.

I was just thinking about your post when I went to my blog to capture my url and saw that WeatherPixie is down. This is a prime example of the downside of DIY technology. Teachers must prepare for the positive, as well as negative aspects of DIY technology in their classes.

WeatherPixie has been a pivotal widget for teachers and students. The developer of WeatherPixie is not the problem, but the company who owns the server that supports her website had a fire. This was a problem that she couldn't help, but it highlights a problem that tech directors and administrators can cite to keep teachers from using these free online tools. Teachers must be prepared.

Another concern associated with opensource products and online tools is that they are ephemeral. They may be here today and gone tomorrow, for any number of legitimate reasons. That makes it difficult for teachers to really go to the wall arguing for the use of this technology. They must be prepared.

I am saying use this developing technology, but a teacher must be VERY agile and have backup plans in case tools aren't available. Also, teachers should decide how they will console students if their projects are lost. They must be prepared.

It is great to be a DIY tech person, but you have to be prepared;D

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Wee Post About Journey North

Description unavailableImage by ccmerino via FlickrMany of my colleagues at Diigo share marvelous bookmarks that relate to various hands-on and outdoor teaching categories, and Tami Brass shared a great resource,Group Recipes. She and I discussed other websites to help teachers in these hands-on subjects enter the Web2.0 world.

She mentioned other teachers interested in golf and another who is a voluteer in a nature center and intereseted in raptors who could be introduced to Web2.0. While I couldn't help out with the golfers, I realized one of my favorite science networks, Journey North would give the raptor afficionado as starting place to see the value of online learning networks.

Here is my introduction from Diigo:

Can't help with the golfers, but one the oldest and most respected wildlife migration and habitat study groups is Journey North.

They have an entire section of work with a variety of animals, including RAPTORS, whales, Monarch butterflies, and many others. Journey North organizers present cool science projects like the tulip growing, Mystery Classroom, etc for classes to join. A teacher can pick as few or as many of these project as they want to participate in.

While the Journey North project started as a way to study the Monarch butterfly migration in North America, it has gone global. Kids and teachers in classes all over the world participate in many of the activities like Mystery Classroom and Tulip Growing(phenology) experiments.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Be a Book Wizard!

Embed this new widget, Teacher Book Wizard, in your website or blog and anyone can use it to find children's books by author, keyword or title.

Scholastic has used Google gadgets to create an excellent teacher resource, a children's literature search engine. When you find the book you listed, you will receive information about the reading and interest levels, as well as purchasing information.

You can search for your favorite book or new titles to help you develop an instructional unit. I selected a variety of keywords to use in the Teacher Book Wizard Widget and a representative list of available books on the topic were found and listed by this search engine.

I embedded this widget in mymindtoyourmind widget wiki. It will make a nice addition to the variety of other widgets that I previously recommended for use by teachers.

Many of the titles are published by Scholastic, yet the search engine results do include book titles from other publishers in this search engine. This search engine is not perfect by any means, so I would encourage you to also use other search engines like Xoost for hard-to-find titles.

When readers at your blog, wiki, or website use the Teacher Book Wizard Widget, they will be taken away from your site to the Scholastic site. I would like to see this widget open in another tab or window. While this is an inconvenience, it is not a major hindrance.
clipped from
Teacher Book Wizard Widget
What is the Teacher Book Wizard Widget and how do I use it?
FREE ultimate children's book search engine
The widget will help teachers find:
  • Book and author information
  • Reading levels
  • Book-based lesson plans, booktalks and discussion guides
  • Series lists
  • embed the Teacher Book Wizard Widget onto your Web site or blog.
     blog it
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    Saturday, June 7, 2008

    Technology in Stone

    Reuse of component from design libraryImage via WikipediaTechnology in schools was embraced early in TechED history by the hands-on teachers who teach work skills, sometimes called vocational skills. These teachers seem to naturally accept the use of technology, since it enhances their ability to teach drafting, pattern making and instructional video.

    CAD, computer assisted drafting, has been around so long it has even seen a transition to the public sphere in freeware products like SketchUp.

    Thankfully, the technology teachers who work in these interesting vocational fields still make their work look exciting. It must be the "Tom Sawyer" effect.

    Simon B. , an educational colleague, shares excellent videos about his work with students, TAFE and various colleagues in stonemasonry. They are all very interesting and instructive.

    As a person who loves geology in its more practical forms, I appreciate the organically pleasing characteristics of their raw material, stone. The image above is a historical picture taken in a granite quarry in Colorado, USA.

    The latest addition to the video collection for Stonemasonry wiki opens with an interview of Michael Landers, head stonemasonry teacher at Miller College Institute, standing in front of a marvelous work in stone.

    If you like beautiful things or hands-on work, you should check out this wiki, Stonemasonry, as well as SkillsOne.

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    Friday, June 6, 2008

    PSU TechED Presentation Debriefing #1

    Gus the GorillaImage via WikipediaToday, at Pittsburg State University, I presented two technology education workshops. The first techED conference workshop related to sharing the beginning concepts of social bookmarking systems. My goal was to share how teachers use these online systems to teach research skills, including note-taking. The second was a presentation, a basic overview of widgets, tiny self-contained snippets of code that make objects become interactive within a website, wiki or other online portal.

    Both workshops were well attended, and overall I was satisfied with the results. Those attending asked excellent questions, and I will write about each set for a few days.

    In the session, most participants discussed how this online bookmarking would work for the stated purpose, research and note-taking. The teachers made great observations, some I am still processing. As always happens, there were issues, some of which included different operating systems, different learning rates and different browsers.

    The analogy I like to use when thinking of the different operating systems is a car analogy. Using different operating systems is similar to driving different makes of vehicles. This difference in operating systems, to me, is the same as if I was driving my husband's GM pickup or driving my Saturn. There are definitely differences in placement of the lights, windshield wipers, and other important systems, but once you refocus, all cars move on down the road. I know that most people don't see the different operating systems, Mac and Windows in such simplistic terms, YET once you get to the internet, all operating systems work the same.

    There is a third option: GNU Linux or Unix and its flavors. These open source operating systems appear to be gaining user numbers for many reasons, yet I don't think we will be seeing the opensource operating systems being used in K-12 education in any great numbers.

    The browser issue is another bucket of worms altogether. I try never to tell people which browsers to use, but historically, MS Internet Explorer is the target of attack from various people and groups bent on creating havoc on the ordinary user. That historical note always leaves me wondering why schools insist on using MS Internet Explorer and not Firefox.

    While I really had to stay on my toes and could be a bit smoother in my delivery, I achieved my stated goals for each of the sessions. Having an opportunity to earn "Service to the Profession" professional development points makes me a better educator. I enjoyed working in an environment where people asked pointed questions.

    Part of this debriefing will address ways to streamline the hands-on workshop. One thing I already know is that forty-five minutes was not long enough for even a basic introduction of When people are rushed, they become pressured and may have difficulty learning new material. I don't want to do that to people again. I could have effectively used thirty more minutes.

    All in all, it was an exciting thought-provoking experience, and I enjoyed all aspects of it. The participants were very gracious with each other and me. I hope they take some ideas home that they can expand on within their own classes.

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    Monday, June 2, 2008

    Widget Workshop

    Widgets are wonderful, helpful, contained, coded, practical, and fun. When I first discovered widgets, I didn't know that these little snippets, these tiny programs in a box could be so powerful.

    Amazingly, my first widget was media player widget called Dizzler. I wasn't even thinking of using widgets as educational tools. I wanted to listen to music while I was online, and the widget from Dizzler fit the bill in the beginning. One very cool aspect of widgets like this is the flexibility of the LOOK of the widget. You can pick a SKIN that can make the widget look different. Mine was a butterfly, and I enjoyed using it. Later, I found other media player widgets.

    As time went on, I discovered widgets that could keep track of the number of people who visited my site. My first tracking widget was My World Visitor Map.

    When I was invited to join an educational social network, I first learned of static widgets. They are often called badges. They are usually widgets that you click on to get to the mentioned website. If you belong to a certain network, like Classroom 2.0, then you can get a badge to put on your website to help others find their way to Classroom 2.0. Most badges are invitations really.

    The focus on widgets here is historical. I am using widgets to describe some of the simple ways a person can use widgets for a variety of purposes that WILL change over time. As a person's experience develops, it seems to me that their use of widgets matures.

    For myself, I began to look to other educators blogs, websites and profiles where I gathered many ideas about the direction my interest and use of widgets would move. The next widgets I downloaded were interactive widgets, widgets that have content that you can manipulate. Some great examples of that type of widget include Voki, Flickr gadget, and tag cloud. These widgets may be considered excellent teaching tools and remain favorite interactive instructional tools, even now.

    To learn more about widgets, read Learnings from the Widget Roundtable, a discussion by Dave McClure (who helps teach the Stanford Facebook class, and runs the Graphing Social Patterns conference), Justin Smith (of Inside Facebook), Rodney Rumford (of FaceReviews), and Jeremy Owyang, of how widgets could be classified.