Thursday, January 20, 2011

Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking

What is this, and how will it help my students?
In the good old days, when you found a website that you liked, you simply bookmarked it on your computer. But, when you were on a different computer, you didn't always have access to it, unless you had a great memory.
Enter - social bookmarking. Now, you can store all your bookmarks online and access them from any computer. Not only that, you can "tag" the bookmark -with a label that describes it. For example, a tag for this blog entry might be "mindmapping" and "social bookmarking". Then, anyone searching for sites about those topics might also see your tag/label. (You don't have to make your bookmark list public if you don't want to - you can share with friends, or not at all.) However, you will probably find additional sites that you might not find with traditional search engine. This is also an ideal way for students to share sites with one another and for a teacher to share links with students and with other teachers. (Timesaver...)

Social Bookmarking sites
Stumbled Upon

These are my three favorites, but there are a lot more out there.... please share the link to your favorite - and if you haven't tried using social bookmarking yet, give it a go - you'll find that it's very easy to do.

Mindmapping and Brainstorming together.

Sorry about the late posting today.  If you don't know the benefits of mindmapping - check out this youtube link by Tony Buzan, the person credited with creating the concept.  In the physical classroom, I learned how to use Inspiration, a commercial software that our school district had purchased.  This was my software of choice - it's easy, and most school districts have it installed.  However, in the virtual classroom, students may not have access to commercial software.  Same for students who actually want to complete the homework assignments.   Fortunately, today there are , there are  several mindmapping applications available, free of charge.  My favorite is xmind.  Free to download, it is relatively easy to learn and quite intuitive, espeically if you have already used inspiration.   They have a free shared mindmap of the day – so if you’re not familiar with how they work –check out their examples  for some ideas. They also have a neat video tutorial that is helpful.

Link to mindmap of collaborative learning tools

Sample picture of simplified mindmap created by me in about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To the Cloud...

Yesterday’s introductory post was very long.  I’ll try to keep the rest of the posts this week very short - easier to read and use hyperlinks to direct you to further material available about the topic for those that want to explore it further.


Collaboration has long been a part of the classroom, and many students do not enjoy the enforced group work.  Assessment is never easy -- and it’s not always clear who did what.  Available technology has the potential to make collaboration much easier and more effective, as well as more engaging for the student in any classroom.. Being able to track the edits made to a document also allows the teacher to see who is contributing.  Allowing students to share what they have learned with a wider audience will also encourage more conversation about what they have learned. 

The cloud

Documents stored in the “cloud”  are accessible from any computer (or smart phone, or tablet ) with an internet connection.  (The cloud simply means that files are stored online rather than on an individual computer) .

Free Tools to use today

Here are just a few of the software tools that allow students to work collaboratively, or to share what they have created as a group or an individual.  The list isn’t inclusive so, if you know of other ones, then please share them in the comments section. 

Google Apps (according to Jane Hart this  is number 3 on the list of Top Learning Tools for Learning in 2010)  Multiple students can work on a single document, spreadsheet or slide show synchronously or asynchronously and then access the document from any computer/smartphone with an internet connection.  This not only encourages students to work together  - wherever they are - but also means that documents created can be accessed and shared, even at the museum, with a smart phone or iPad.  Although not every student has a smart phone at the high school level, this will probably change as mobile technology takes on an increasingly important role in the upcoming years.  
Students can als use Audacity; free, relatively easy to use and easily edited software to create an audio file that can be uploaded to an MP3 player to be listed to at the museum  This type of file can be especially useful for ESL students 

Before or after the trip, students can use Glogster to create a poster that reflects what they learned at the museum.    Slideshare, rated at 6th in the top 100 by Jane Hart, is also a great way for students to share work that they have created with other students, community members and teachers - as well as the museum educational staff and ultimately, other museum visitors.  This is also a great way to share photos taken on the field trip with a wider audience.

In an ideal situation, the museum education staff and teacher will work together to prepare the intial questions and presentations and the students will add their knowledge to the conversation using a variety of the tools available.  Created materials could possibly then be used as part of a museum website, adding to the educational conversation.  


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Welcome to the MDE conference. Using Emerging DE technologies in the K12 classrooms.

Welcome to the MDE conference.  

The idea behind this particular  blog was born when, as a miltary wife, I followed my husband  to Pennsylvania for 10 months. Unable to teach full time, I had just begun my second MDE class, and I accepted an internship in a museum setting.  As a regular classroom teacher and librarian, I knew the benefit of field trips for our students and also the tremendous amount of work involved in their planning..  In the DE program, I was learning about all the new types of technology that were becoming available, as well as the differences between the prep needed for an online classroom and that needed in the traditional classroom.   In the musem, I was learning about how the museum prepared for the onslaught of busloads of excited children on a weekly basis and what was done to help the teachers prior to the actual visit to the museum.   I realized that some of the emerging technologies that were being used in the DE classroom could not only make things better for classroom teachers preparing the students to go to a museum, they could also allow students to learn more effectively and encourage them share what they had learned.  For the DE classroom teachers, the emerging technologies will potentially allow the student to be better prepared  to visit a museum as an individual.or the class to conduct a completely virtual trip.  For the museum educators, many of these emerging technologies allow the students to connect with the collections in new ways and to share their museum experiences and hopefully, encourage the students to become lifelong museum users.

My discussions with museum educators and classroom teachers over the last few months have led me to conclude that the biggest problem in using the new technologies is quite simply that most educators, wherever they work, simply don’t have the time to spend exploring what is out there, much less put it to use.  The goal of this blog will be to identify what is readily available, identify possible uses, and hopefully, to get input from a wide variety of educators as to what is being done in classrooms and museums across the world. .   Please feel free to add comments about any of the topics.  As I said, I'm still learning and hope to learn as much from you as you will learn from this blog.     

Voice Thread  

Voice Thread is a tool  that allows an asynchronous conversation to take place around an initial posting (a video, a slide show, an audio file or a  graphic file).  Those wishing to add to the conversation simply need to sign up for voice thread (it is free) and make a comment (in a the same variety of formats.)
The asynchronous format means that the conversation can be active and ongoing for many months, and even years.   Although this is a very simple concept, it is very effective in allowing not only the students in the classroom to discuss the topic, but also allows for the museum educator and other invited partcipants to add to the conversation..  It is a format that when done well, will encourage questions, answers and explanations.

The big benefit for this tool is that either the museum educator or the teacher can initiate the conversation.  Conversations can be public, but it is also available for the K12 environment, which means that it is only made available to other schools and students that are signed up for the

One of the biggest fears of many school districts is allowing the students free reign to explore the internet.  Although most educators understand the benefit of collaborative work, there are still many fears that prevent the use of public wikis and blogs. The Education K12 version of Voice Thread cuts through these fears by creating a K12 area that is only accessible by those K12 educators and students that are signed up.  Educators may invite parents, authors and other adults, but students may not extend invitations to non-students.  This option should alleviate the fears of many teachers and administrators and/or parents while still allowing students to share thier work with their peers both in the school and across the world.    

I initially discovered voice thread while  reading Herminia Din’s book  “The Digital Museum - A Think Guide”  An art educator with an interest in educational technology, she has been some very interesting ideas and one of her voice threads can be viewed at this link. -   Feel free to add to the conversation that she has started about the use of 2nd life in educaion.  

Some other voice threads as posted by museums - a voice thread on science and innovation.  I liked this one because it asked a question that encouraged a response. trip to Malawi -  - this voice thread shows the conversation about a trip to Malawi - I chose it because even though it's not about a museum, it had a wide variety of responses to the photos,  showing the potential for a very vivid conversation. - museum - human + - This voice thread shows a museum educator discussing an interesting topic - technology and humans.  Some of the pictures posted certainly provoked thought and begged answers. K20 educators and 2nd life.  Although this is an excellent discussion topic, there were few answers to the post.  What do you think was the reason?  
You can see more samples at voice thread  - just click on browse.

A museum educator or a classroom teacher could post pictures of the exhibits or related items along with a related question.  Students would use the internet (possibly with a webwalk or a webquest) or the local library to find the answers to the questions and post a response prior to the field trip..  Students should be encouraged to post in-depth answers and post their own additional questions to keep the conversation going.  This type of pre-visit assignment also encourages teacher /teacher collaboration - Whatever subject you teach, work with the technology teacher to help the students learn how to create audio files/videos/flash graphics etc.  Teachers and librarians can also use this opportunity to collaborate in teaching information literacy skills.

Encourage the students to take photos (where allowed) during the trip - they'll need them to keep the post trip conversation going. .  

After the field trip, the students could continue the conversation (or start a new one) adding their own pictures/movies and impressions of the visit. Students can be separated into groups to create their own voice threads and be  encouraged to create voice threads of their own  to share with other classes.  Voice threads after a trip could be shared with classrooms preparing for a trip.  Once the voice thread is created, it will still be there for the next year - or the next class - or to share with a class who are not able to visit the museum.

Pros and Cons.

Once you've seen this technology, it's easy to get excited; however, nothing is perfect.
If you choose to use voice thread, then please be aware of the following

1.  Like any technology, practice makes perfect.  Create a non-public practice voice thread until the students feel comfortable with their ability to post well.   Nothing is worse than listening to posts that are inaudible, too loud, or simply lots of rustling and background noise.   Only go public when students do feel comfortable.  (Try using audacity to create audio files that can be audited to edit background noise.) 

2.  Ensure that volume is appropriate and can be adjusted.  Although you have no control over other comoputers, try to record at the mid-level volume.  That way, users can always raise or lower the volume.

3.  Stimulate the conversation by asking a question..

So - now you know about voice thread - explore some of the links and let me know how  you would use this technology in either the K12 classroom, (virtual or physical), or how it might be used in the higher ed. area.   If you have already used it, please share a link to your voice thread in the comments section.  Let us know what you liked/did not like about this technolgoy.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.   Tomorrow, we'll be exploring how to create presentations and documents collaboratively using google docs, slide share and collaborative mind mapping so please check back in tomorrow- and don't forget to share the link to the blog with anyone who might be interested. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No easy place to start...

There is so much new technology out there that I'll have enough material to write about for a long time.  I'l start off with a thank you to Jane Hart at C4LPT.  She has put together a slide presentation listing the top 100 technologies for 2010, and for previous years.  This is a good place to check out what is popular and even if you don't plan on using it in the classroom, to be aware of what is out there.  After all, you know that your students are up to date with all of this technology.  She also covers  technology that is used in training in business... and higher ed. So although the K12 realm is a little different, and we have to deal with some restrictions that businesess don't have to worry about, much of the technology is still interesting and can be used as a springboard to get some classroom ideas.   If you haven't checked out her slide show - the link is below  It's well worth looking at as she not only shows what is the most popular in 2010, but where the technology is in relation to it's 2009 position.  And just because we don't plan on using it immediately in the classroom does not mean that our students don't need to be aware of it.  At some point our students will head off to college and/or the workplace and they'll need to be familiar with a wide variety of these tools and applications. 

Top 100 tools for learning

I'll review as many as I can during the week of the MDE conference, but will continue this blog after the conference is over....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Beyond These Walls

I have spent the last few weeks crazily reading as many books/posts/journal articles as I could find in preparation for the upcoming MDE conference.  My goal is to host a wimba classroom session to share what I have learned.- in reality, I've probably scratched the surface.. but there is so much out there to learn about. 
As a classroom teacher, I know that our students need to learn how to function in a world that will evolve continually, long after our students leave our classroom.  As an avid museum visitor, I know that there are some great museums out there that have the potential to bring learning to life.  As a linguist, I know that we can improve our language skills by communication - ideally with those who speak the language we are learning.  As a student, I know that learning never stops.  So- what do all of these have in common?   Emerging technologies can make all of these things  possible.  The biggest problem is having the time to figure out what is new, how to use it in the classroom and how to make it part of a meaningful learning process for our students, whether they are in the physical classroom, the virtual classroom or just want to learn as an individual.

Throughout the next week, we'll be exploring some of the new technologies, and hopefully, sharing some ways that they can be used in either the e-classroom or the physical classroom.  The goal is to inspire all teachers to think about how to incorporate these emerging technologies.  In so many school districts, the incorporation of new technologies moves slowly, for a wide variety of reasons.   Having educated teachers who are willing to share how and why these new technologies can be used to increase learning will go a long way to creating the groundswell that is necessary to help those who have not yet figured it out. 

Obviously, I cannot cover every technology,  and there are many that I do not know about.  I encourage all readers to comment on what is posted, and to share their own ideas on how to use these technologies in the classroom at any level.   If you know of software, applications or technology in general that can be used in teh classroom, please share the name,  a link, and how it could potentially be used.  

Looking forward to hearing from you all.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Interesting use of a blog

My father in law recently passed away and while discussing funeral arrangements, the funeral director asked if we would like to create an online obituary and blog.  My first thought was shock - why would this be an option?   He explained that the obituary would be online and that visitors, especially those from out of town,  could share a story or simply write a message of condolence for the family.   My mother in law had no idea what a blog was, but my 18 year old son leapt on the idea.  His suggestion was to combine the family photos, and the blog as well as the comments in the funeral guest book - and blurb, a site that allows you to create your own photo book - and create a memory book for his grandmother.  He knows she's not computer literate and would never look at a blog, but would appreciate a book of family photos for the coffee table.

My point here is that people are using blogs in some amazing ways.  The people at the funeral home got the idea from one of their younger employees.  Also, if we teach our students how to use the basic technology in class, either the DE or the face to face classroom, they can use that as a jumping off point - and share knowledge and information in ways that we might not previously have thought about.   These two young people took a basic knowledge of web 2.0 technology and came up with the idea of a personalized photo and memory book that can be created at the funeral home, or by any family member with internet access.. even if those wishing to contribute are spread across the world. . What a wonderful idea... ...and great proof that if we teach our young students about the available technology - they will take the sharing of knowledge and information further... 

As a military wife, I have attended the funerals of many of our soldiers over the last 20 years.... What a wonderful way to share those memories with the extended family who are often geographically separated not only from the service member, but from  the spouse, the grandchildren and the friends that the service member spent so much time with.       Thankfully, we have educated teens to share their ideas to promote the common good.