Saturday, May 29, 2010

iPonder #2

I've had the use of an iPad for several weeks now and wrote a post earlier on my initial impressions.  I took it along to a conference I attended. It was certainly all I needed and my back will be eternally grateful that I wasn't toting my full computer bag.

A couple of tricks I've learned:

  • To copy a URL tap and hold in the address bar.  This will bring up the keyboard.  Ignore it and simply tap and hold again until the magnifying circle comes up.  When you release your finger a pop-up will allow you to "select all".  Choosing "select all" gives you the option to copy and then paste elsewhere.
  • When typing in most apps, to end a sentence just tap the space bar twice.  A period will be inserted and the next word you type will automatically start with a capital letter.
The magazine reading experience is delightful with all the imbedded media and colours that pop off the page.  Even the ads engaged me.  Wired Reader is impressive.  The current issue has a video trailer for the new Toy Story 3 movie imbedded on the cover.  There are several ways to navigate the articles.  Some pages have Touch buttons to move through a series of items.   For longer articles you simply swipe up to reveal successive pages.  I learned how Cheetos are made, fascinating, and I love the photo of quality control testers wearing hairnets, beard nets and earphone protection.
Navigating is as simple as tapping anywhere on the page to return to the cover or pull up an index menu.  A slider along the bottom of the screen lets you advance or page back and shows you your progress.

One of the  'pay for' apps I'm trying out:

Audiotorium Take notes and record voice.  There are 7 font choices and a range of font sizes which would be useful for younger students or vision impaired users.  Notes can be arranged into three basic categories: my notes, work notes or school notes and you can add your own additional categories.  Using the plus sign icon in the category menu lets you add subjects within categories, for instance adding 'English" under the School Notes category.  To start taking notes, select a category and subject first, then hit the + sign located in the top right.   Notes are saved automatically and stored chronologically.  

If you are recording an interview or lecture you can drop bookmarks into the recording so that you 
quickly return to those spots when replaying.  You can also send your notes to yourself and others        via email.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Question

How would you define your role as a teacher?  Go ahead, jot down 5 things.  Does the list include things like:

  • supporting students in learning to become good collaborators?  
  • guiding students in the multiple ways to express themselves creatively and share their creations? 
  • providing students with the tools to become good problem solvers, and I mean real-life challenges not the problems that start with, "If a train traveling x mph reaches it's destination..." ?
  • teaching students how to find and evaluate resources to advance their learning?
  • providing opportunities for students to analyze data to solve problems or create new entities? 
  • developing a passion for learning in your students?

If you made a list of the activities you have your students engage in daily would those activities reflect your goals as a teacher?  Would they reflect the any of the items in the list above?  Look around your classroom.  How many of the displays represent student work that was unique, creative, demonstrated collaboration or showed a student's passion for their work?  And were those displays created by you or your students?

Now take a look at the work in your students' notebooks.  Are they filled with plans, questions, ideas, resources or how-to ideas created by the student?  Would that notebook be the hold-in-your-hand kind or is it virtual?

Now ask yourself this.  When you pick up that next pile of marking do you want to be confronted with 25 pieces of regurgitated information or 25 creative and unique pieces of student work?

Looking for ideas:  View Gary Stager's presentation "Ten Things to do with a Laptop".
Read Tom Whitby's post "Hunter, Gatherer, Teacher?"
Problem Based Learning Bookmarks

Image used under a creative commons license from HydrogenPops

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ask a Student

Photo credit: jdurham from

Recently I was asked to give a presentation to a group of faculty and staff at one of our local universities.  They were interested in seeing a snapshot of teens and their use of technology.  So I talked to students in my school and asked them some questions along the lines of:

  • How do you learn best?
  • What resources do you find most useful?
  • What is the teacher's role in education?
  • How do you think students should demonstrate their learning?
  • What role does technology play in your learning?
This is what they told me:  

They like to find out things for themselves and they know that's how they really learn something.
They have discovered that YouTube is a gold mine of how-to video on almost any topic.
They love getting comments on their work from people other than their teacher.  It expands their thinking.
They want their teachers to ignite a passion for learning, to guide them along the path of learning.  It's the teachers role to get students excited about their subject matter, to make them want to learn about it.
They want their teachers to point them in the direction of good resources.
They want their teachers to be there as a fall back when they don't understand a concept.
They see the value in collaborating to produce more creative solutions to problems.
They love problem solving.
They need time to think.
They see technology as a way to better organize their learning and to express themselves more creatively.

I also talked to teachers who had let their students use technology to complete a project.  They overwhelming reported that when technology was part of the picture the students were more engaged.  But, more importantly it was "not the usual suspects" who turned in the most creative work.  The students were excited about what they had created and had brought their friends to the classroom to see what they had done.

These comments came from projects where students were asked to  respond to a problem by collecting or creating images, music or brief quotations and to include their own written or oral responses.  The tools they used were ones like Animoto, movie making, Posterous, and Wordle.

What did I take away from this?  

If I'm going to ask students questions in class, it needs to be more than just a way to find out who regurgitates information the best or used as a means of moving MY presentation forward.  One student commented that the good questions required thought and that they often came up with a good answer long after the class was finished.  If these questions were happening online students would be able to join the conversation when they were ready.

If I want students to be good problem solvers I need to think like an employer.  Wouldn't I want my employees to know where to find reliable information and then collaborate in building useful resources for the work place?  My job is to engage students in activities that teach them how to problem solve; think critically; find, assess and use resources; collaborate; create and express themselves effectively.  (See Tony Wagner's book"The Global Achievement Gap" where he discusses the New World of Work and the Seven Survival Skills.)

If I want to really engage my students I need to listen to what they say works for them.
I need to show them my passion for my subject area.

Two of my student interviews were recorded and may be found here:
This student is commenting on her experience as a Students Live Olympic Games 2010 Reporter:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Facebook Follies #2

It seems by following the steps laid out in a link from my previous post that my Facebook account privacy is relatively secure.  I hope.  Reclaim Privacy has a bookmarklet that will test your settings once you have logged into your Facebook account.  Here's the reading it took on my account:

The ratings on the left will change depending on how secure your settings are.  The Reclaim Privacy site also links to current articles around the Facebook controversy.

If you are a school teacher you might want to read Will Richardson's post on some common sense ideas around teaching kids about Facebook:  Teach. Facebook. Now  It's a good post to pass on to other administrators, teachers and parents.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Facebook Follies

The concerns over Facebook and Zuckerberg's take on handling other people's privacy is growing.  Here is a list of resources that might be helpful as you try to figure out where you stand.

Facebook Privacy Settings:  How to fix your profile in 2 minutes.  (video)

A graphic illustration of what the new changes in Facebook mean to your privacy.

How to delete your Facebook account.

Facebook Removes User Profile Rights and Choices.

Danah Boyd's Rant: "Facebook and "radical transparency".

How to Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook.

And if you decide that you're totally fed up you can join the 2072 (and growing) Committed Facebook Quitters on May 31st.

Image used under a creative commons license by: ndrwfgg

May Musings

I like a thin book because it will steady a table, a leather volume because it will strop a razor, and a heavy book because it can be thrown at a cat.
-Mark Twain

I can particularly identify with the last one on his list.  Our cat wants to be up with the dawn chorus and then happily sleeps away the rest of the day.  At least it gives me an extra hour or so that I might otherwise have slept away to check my traplines (twitter, reader, mail) and blog.

Some of the gems I came across this week:

If your looking for ideas Tom Barrett's Interesting Ways collection can accessed here.

Shelly Terrell has blogged What Does Your Hashtag Use Say About You? 16 Resources with some ideas for branding yourself on Twitter using hashtags.

The Science Fiction Writers of America group has announced winners of the 2010 Nebula Awards.  Paolo Bacigalupi has taken the prize for best novel (The Windup Girl) and his latest Ship Breaker (YA) is getting great reviews.  And Booklist Online has the Top 10 SF/Fantasy for Youth: 2010.

If you're looking for stunning images for current events, discussion starters or writing prompts The Telegraph's Earth Picture Galleries has some great photos.

I've started a list of tools to replace Etherpad, all good for real-time collaborative editing.  Please leave a comment if you know of a good one I've missed.

Self Education: Five Essential Sites lists sites "with a serious focus on helping people along the journey of self-education" and well as linking to resources for lifelong learners.

The CC licensed photo by me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Artists & Mentors

Photo credit: earl53 from

Two things fired up my thinking this week.  Steve Hargadon interviewed Seth Godin and and talked about his book Linchpin.  Listen to the recording here or if you've read Linchpin, join in the book discussion here.   Elizabeth Stark's post The Gender Gap in Tech: Why Mentors Matter  from the Huffington Post was cross-posted on The Committed Sardine.

These readings have made me think about the importance of librarians (and teachers) in being innovators, risk takers, leaders, role models and mentors.  I give about a dozen workshops each year to rooms full of strangers.  As someone who has been an educator for many (many) years I love to see the reaction I get from people who were perhaps expecting a young, possibly male, speaker to lead them in an exploration of technology.  I think it's important to be seen by these teachers as a learner and a risk taker.  I have never, NEVER, given a workshop where I did not learn something myself.  Maybe it came from a participant or maybe because someone asked a question I couldn't answer and felt compelled to find the answer.

What I hope to impart, along with whatever tech is on the agenda for the day, is that everyone can, and should be a learner; everyone can and should share what they've learned and engage in conversations with anyone else who will listen.  What better way to teach our students than to model our learning for and with them?  One of Seth Godin's messages is that anyone can be a genius some of the time, everyone has a gift to offer if we approach our craft as if it were an art.

One of the things that is keeping us from becoming learners, leaders and mentors is fear.  Fear of the technology, fear of the 'ya, buts' we sometimes work with, fear of not delivering the content we deem to be important.  Fear goes away when we have company so it's important to learn with others, other librarians, teachers, our PLNs AND our students.  When we learn with our students we are often in problem solving mode.  We are often at the edges or our comfort zone, taking risks and that's a great place for modelling how to learn, how to problem solve.  If we only teach what we know we may very soon find that no one needs the information we know.  It's showing how to learn the things we don't know that is the real commodity.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mystery Winners

               Photo credit: ninoandonis from

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the Edgar Award Winners.  (Winners in red.)

Best Young Adult

  • Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperCollins Children's Books - HarperTeen)
  • If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney (Random House Children's Books - Delacorte Press)
  • The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Penguin Young Readers Group - Viking Children's Books)
  • Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books)
  • Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Random House Children's Books - Delacorte Press)

Best Juvenile

  • The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  • The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (Random House Children's Books - Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books)
  • Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
  • The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer (Penguin Young Readers Group - Philomel Books)