Monday, March 29, 2010

Odds and Ends

(Image: Odds n' Ends, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from 27596487@N07's photostream)

In the Best Find of the Day category: Flickr Attributor Bookmarklet.  This will be a huge timesaver.  I've used it here.

From Lee Kolbert: an ingenious way to display your PLN using Google Maps.

For the Shakespeare fans: The Shakespeare Standard - "a news, feature, and blog hub for Shakespeare-related news on the web."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Commenting: Beyond Blogs

Image under a creative commons licence from timlewisnm

The New York Times article "10 Ways to Promote Writing for an Authentic Audience" discusses their Student Opinion feature and offers general tips and notes before suggesting ways to promote writing with students.  Based on the Times suggestions here are a few ways to extend that authentic experience beyond the classroom in your own communities.

  • Debating.  Local newspapers often have articles that are controversial in nature and students  are seldom asked for their opinions in 'adult' matters.  This doesn't mean that students are incapable of generating unique solutions to community problems.  Have students debate issues in class and then write letters to the editor.  Every teacher has a wealth of untapped creative energy sitting in their classrooms every day.  Put it to work!
  • Responding.  Use letters to the editor to have students determine sound arguments and bias.  Have them write their own response letters.
  • Survey.  Have students conduct surveys using an online polling tool like Google Forms, to ascertain how their community feels about local issues.  Write comments or letters using the statistics and suggestions gathered. ( Google Forms is one of the options in Google Docs.)
  • Creative Writing.  Have students write poems, stories or create art work in response to local issues.  Submit these to the local paper.
  • Reviews.  Ever see student reviews of current children's movies, musical events or books?   Why not get your students to submit their own.
  • In this time of dropping enrolment and threatened school closures why not have your students write ads, essays or letters promoting their school?  What do students see as the pressing issues in education?  What are their solutions?  Why do they think their school is the best?
Commenting on each other's blogs is an effective way for students to begin writing for an authentic audience.  I've written previously on commenting here and here.  I think commenting is a great first step towards more fully involving oneself in a wider community.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How-to Resources and a Quick Display Idea

Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) has posted about a list of animated research tutorials from Acadia University.  These include tips on doing a research project, avoiding plagiarism and search techniques.  Worth a look.

Jeff Utecht (@jutecht) describes how he uses students as tech mentors for staff.  His group of Gr. 4 & 5 students are doing some remarkable work.  This might spark some ideas for putting those library helpers to work.

How to create a quick display.  Displays that really pop often have large, interesting lettering.  This week I created a display of Buried Treasures focusing on pirate themed & hidden treasure books.  First I downloaded a couple of free fonts from Fontspace, one to create the letters and one to create a border.  I chose Treasure Map Deadhand for the letters and Flood for the border images.  To create the border just choose the images in any order you want.  Setting the page at landscape will give you longer strips when you cut them out.

This is one of those rare times you'll get to use font size 600!  Choosing 'outline effect' let's you use coloured paper to create letters of different colours.  Print and cut out the letters.

Tips for laying out your words nicely:   Lay the letters out on a table and count all letters and spaces between the words.  Divide by two to determine the centre point and then staple the letters to the bulletin board working from the middle out.  A piece of string attached with some pushpins makes a good guide for keeping letters straight and is easily removed when you're done.

I poached a couple of masks from the English department, added some eye patches and was done.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Global Collaboration

For those of you who have watched Silvia Tolisano's k12 Online presentation "Around the World with Skype", she has just launched the Around the World in 80 Schools Ning.  For anyone wanting to connect globally, to engage students outside the walls of their classroom this is a wonderful introduction.

A ning is an online community where people can share information and media, form spontaneous discussion groups and ask questions of those with similar interests.  Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner you'll find value in a ning community.

Two other nings of interest to educators are:
The Future of Education
Classroom 2.0

Cross-posted on LAN: Learning is Social.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Of Blogs and Bytes

The New York Public Library has started a blog: Stuff for the Teen Age.  It evolved from their Books for the Teenage list.  Last year's 100 best titles are listed here.

Today I downloaded Kindle for Mac and am trying out my first digital book: The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein.  A colleague at work is reading it and wanted someone to debate with.  I'm not very far into the book but already I question whether using test scores is a valid way to determine one's ability to function well in today's world.

The author's criticism of our generation of wired kids surprises me.  In my experience, not that many teachers have integrated the Internet into their way of teaching to be making any significant difference to the way kids are being taught.  Those that have, the trailblazers, are doing an outstanding job of challenging students and giving them valuable skills.  So can we really begin attaching blame to the use of the Internet?

My other question is how do we decide what knowledge a student needs to function well.  In a world where information is free and readily accessible aren't skills more important?  Sure everyone needs some basic knowledge, a starting point, but how do we quantify that?  It brings to mind the Chinese proverb about giving a hungry man a fish.

Lots of questions, few answers.  I think our discussion will be an interesting one.  Care to chime in?

Image used under a CC licence from David Reece

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blog Club

Time constraints are often the chief factor in hindering the uptake of new tools and technologies.  This may be especially true when it comes to encouraging people to read a variety of blogs.  We all read blog posts but perhaps only a few really resonate with us.  I've been tossing around the idea of a blog club. Club members could be in the same school, district or any other geographical configuration.  Here's how it might work:

Each person agrees to read a given number of blogs each week.  Start small with 1 - 5. When they come across a gem they could share it with the rest of the group.  Sharing options could include anything from email to Google Docs, Twitter and Posterous but a simple way would be to use the reader share function in Google Reader.  Other feed aggregators may have something similar.

Here's a sample that was shared in my reader.  Notice the options to star, share, share with a note, email, and add tags.  These options appear at the bottom of all reader items.  Tagging is a quick way to let the others know what the post is about.

Google Reader (48)
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Another option is to share using a bookmarklet placed in your browser's bookmark toolbar.  The Official Google Reader Blog explains how to do that here.  This is handy when you are browsing outside your reader and come across a great article.

The Reading List - Home
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I talked about using Twitter and Posterous in a previous post.  It may be helpful to use a group hashtag if you're using Twitter to make the posts easier to find.   With Posterous you simply email the URL for any page to your Posterous account.  Setting up a group account is easy.  All members would then email using post@[the name of your posterous page] Here's the example from our group page.

This way of sharing the load gives participants a taste of many blogs without the burden of handling a large number of feeds in a reader.

Things I Learned This Week

  1. Tag first.  My track record for tagging posts is dismal so I am going to try to tag first.  This may help me focus my posts a little better if I write down at the beginning what they are going to be about.
  2. Twitter tricks.  If you have an Evernote account you can send your tweets directly to to Evernote.  There's a good explanation with video here.  In a nutshell you simply add @myEN to any tweet.  Or you can direct message a note to @myEN with a private reminder of something.  You can even add a thumbnail photo from Twitpic.  
  3. Portable Apps save aggravation.  A common problem for my staff is that our district uses Deep Freeze to reset the desktop image on staff PCs every night.  So, each time a teacher wants to use a tool like delicious or skype they have to download, again and again.  With portable apps you access a browser through a flashdrive and all your settings are saved on the flashdrive.  A plug in and go solution.
  4. Posterous used in conjunction with Twitter is a great way to push information out to readers.  My district's Learning Innovation Leadership Team (a fancy name for a group of volunteers interested in technology) is using our posterous account to flag articles of interest.  That account is linked to Twitter so when something new is added it gets Tweeted out through @LAN44.
All this learning thanks to my PLN on Twitter and my own techie guru @bryanhughes.

Image used under a CC licence from dkuropatwa

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ideas to Go: maps

This post from illustrator Christoph Niemann caught my eye: Abstract City.  I sent him an email asking him how he generated his maps and he replied in less than 5 minutes.  I love that!  He used Adobe Illustrator.  It got me thinking about the many ways students could use Google Maps  or draw their own in original, playful ways.

There are many traditional ways to use maps in their original state.  I have posted about ways to use maps in different subject area classes before and of course there's Google Lit Trips and Google Earth for Educators: 50 exciting ideas for the classroom.

Shambles has a page of links to Google Earth and Google Maps activities.
Vincent Sherpinsky has produced a How-To  Slideshare which serves as a good introduction.

Now, about those more inventive ways.  Niemann's maps should give you some ideas.  Here are a few more:

  • How would you express a metaphor or create a pun using a map?
  • Take a map to art class.  What shapes can students see within the map?  A la my feeble attempt above in which I saw a heron.
  • In Science, plot the digestive process, a life cycle or chemical reaction using a map.
  • In Math, draw out equations or formulas.
I know there are some wonderfully creative people who read this blog.  How would you use maps in original ways across the curriculum?

Image used under a CC licence by Manitoba Historical Maps

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gleanings for March 16/10

I have tried DocsPal and love it.  The big advantage I see is that it converts the file and pops a link right onto the page, no need to use your email address unless you want to.  It was extremely fast as well.
Other gems today include:

  • TEDxASB - Scott McLeod presenter -  This would be a good discussion starter for those looking to move their staffs forward in the ways they instruct students to meet the demands of today's workplace. (Video 16:25 min.)
  • Teaching History with Technology - A wealth of resources from lesson plans to podcasts.
  • A Vision of 21st Century Teachers - showcases what some teachers are doing to integrate technology into their classrooms. (Video 4:34 min.)
  • Sur La Lune Introduction to Fairytales and Folklore - "Here is an assortment of questions, essays, guides, links, and even a short story that will hopefully enlighten and inspire, or at least help you along the way."  This comprehensive site is one I've used for years.  In addition to the clickable links, entering the title of a fairytale directs you to picture books, novels, short stories, non-fiction, poetry, music and more related that that title.
  • For English teachers: To Kill a Mockingbird Meets the 21st Century.  Teacher Megan Palevich shows how to you take a classic book and make it relevant to kids today by including facebook, twitter, and im into the project.  Note: students do not have to have accounts to do these activities.
  • The Avalon Project -  Good resource for primary source documents throughout history.
And lastly, two gadgets I would love to add to my kitbag.
  • ThumbTacks (TM) - a mini microphone for the iPod.
  • Point 2 View USB Camera - use instead of a screen-mounted web cam or make small things appear much larger, like family photos.  Cool!

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Washed up on the Beach Today

Back in the swing of things today and lots of interesting things came my way:
I can't even imagine how I got along before the days of RSS feeds and Twitter. The gleanings from just one day are priceless.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Blog

Hard to believe three years have gone by since I first started the WebFooted Booklady blog.  My first posts were notable for their brevity: Into the Deep End.  So what has this experience taught me?

  • Together we're better.  Posts where I've collaborated with others or written about team projects tend to be my most read.  One example is Technology in Biology Class which I wrote with suggestions from an exemplary science teacher.
  • When I help someone else, I learn.  A number of posts have been the result of answering a question from Twitter that required more than a 140 character response.  I love the challenge of finding answers.  Often helping one person provides resources for helping others.   That's why my delicious account is stuffed with over 6600 bookmarks and growing.  It's my online library.
  • If you have an Internet connection there is no reason to be alone.  My PLN has grown through this blog and through twitter and I have so many wonderful educators to share with and call on for help.  Thanks to all of you!
  • Blogging works better when it's just one of the tools you use.  It's handy to have a suite of tools: a wiki, social bookmarking, twitter, youtube, image storage for example.  Pick tools that are specific to your needs and use them in conjunction with one another.
Spring Break is drawing to a close and tomorrow I will be back at work and looking forward to more learning, sharing and blogging.

Image used under a Creative Commons licence from soapylovedeb

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 = Twitter Delicious = Twitter Delicious

This is a tool I learned about from Silvia Tolisano's (@langwitches) delicious feed. In the words of this service, "We follow your twitter feed, and whenever one of your tweets contains URLs, we add them to your bookmarks. Optionally, bookmark URLs in @replies to you. We'll even add a delicious tag identifying the sender if you like."

I'm going to give this a try. Often I wonder if a link I want to post into twitter is one I've already bookmarked in delicious. It's just another way to keep me organized in my online world.

Monday, March 8, 2010

TeachPaperless: Go Paperless for Earth Day!

TeachPaperless: Go Paperless for Earth Day!

Teacher, Shelly Blake-Plock has challenged educators to go paperless on Earth Day in April. He's created a form for people to take the pledge that you can access on his blog. I played devil's advocate suggesting to some students that they go paperless on Earth Day by neither accepting nor handing in any paper. We already have a day of silence to bring attention to those children throughout the world who are unable to speak for themselves. This is an idea along those lines. It will be interesting to see if they run with it.

I hope they do as it will give them cause to consider how they might conduct business without paper. I'm thinking of offering a lunch time session on ways to accomplish this. I will encourage them to hand in assignments by using apps like Google Docs, Zoho.

There are many advantages to going paperless other than saving trees. The aspect of online collaboration between students and the ability for teachers to conduct effective formative assessment are two good reasons.

Why Blog

Why Blog

There are a few boggers whose posts I will read no matter how little time I have in my day. Miguel Guhlin is one of them. His post yesterday titled "Why Blog" is a great example of what I find so intriguing about his writing. He writes lucidly and goes deep into the subject. He makes me think. He makes me want to write.

Whether you blog yourself, or are encouraging students to blog I would recommend his post.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


UPDATE Mar. 8th - I'm happy to say the issue has been resolved.  Don't know what the cause was but it's working again as of last night.  Now to get on with the really important stuff, enjoying my Spring Break holiday.

I haven't posted this week as something very strange has happened.  About three days ago it seems that I was being blocked by Blogspot when using my laptop at home.  I, and several people much wiser than me, have been unable to figure out why.  This morning I'm accessing the site through a proxy server.

Here's the situation:
  •  I get a 403 forbidden, access denied by access control list message when I try to go to any blogspot site
  •  I can access blogspot sites using my husband's computer at home *** NOT ANY MORE, he's blocked too.
  •  I can access blogspot from my same computer at work, just not at home
  •  I tried cleared the cache and cookies
So for some mysterious reason Blogger does not allow me to access any blogspot sites on my laptop at home.  Anybody out there have a similar problem?  Anyone have a fix-it for me?

Thanks for the comment re Telus and Google.  I tried to comment back but it would not work.  Will try to contact Telus and see if they can help.