Thing #23: And then there were none

 

jayneandd http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2798/4450623309_5a01157463.jpg

 

Welcome to the finale! If you’re Italian or musical we’re talking the Fine. I’ve reached the end of an amazing journey of learning over my summer. Usually summer is a time where I flip the switch in my brain to the off position. But this summer I was encouraged to take k12 Learning’s introduction to Web2.0. And it was certainly worth my time! I took a similar class at college last semester, but wasn’t encouraged nearly as much to actually try out the tools. This was so much more hands on than I ever could have expected. I was pushed to try new things in depth that I never would have even scratched the surface of if I hadn’t been encouraged to take the course. I’ve certainly been inspired to continue a few tools. I’ve already created a presentation for a kickoff meeting I’ll be in charge of when I head back to school this Fall. And then there’s the terrible confession that despite my initial aversion/deep-seated-hatred/undeserved-animosity towards Twitter that I might just actually continue to use it after this class ends…And I can’t believe I just put that on the record. I’ve already found myself anxiously checking my feed to see if anyone I’m following (all whopping six of them) have posted any new interesting articles on education. I have to admit that Twitter is practically the lazy researcher’s dream tool. Other people actually spend their own time finding stuff that’s interesting to youSeriously!!!! And there’s so much more that I won’t bore you with right now. But this class has been one of the best hands-on learning opportunities I’ve ever had with technology. I’m one of those people who has to actually do the task alongside the instructor when it comes to technology. And since Shelley uploaded videos I could pause and restart and fast forward as many times as I needed to actually figure out what I was supposed to be telling the computer to do for me. It’s been an amazing journey where I turned away from the reluctant girl who started the course because several people told her she should to the excited inner-educator who wanted to go to infinity and beyond on some of the tasks. And I’m so thankful that I hung in there!

 

Thing #22: Keep Calm & Tweet On

So a little part of me was terrified by twitter. Utterly and completely terrified by the idea of making my own account. I won’t bore you with an analysis of my psyche, but I’ll give you a peak into why this freaked me out more than it would most people.

  1. Twitter can be very addicting. I have friends that simply can not go to bed without looking at twitter. It’s got more devoted followers than some religions. And I need sleep and more time in my day….which I felt would be “wasted” on twitter.
  2. There’s that one kid my friends enjoy enjoy bringing up in conversation because of the random/strange things they post on twitter. Side note here: Everyone does not need to know EVERYTHING.
  3. I don’t really want to see everyone else’s whereabouts. Call me selfish. I just don’t care all that much. The flip side to that coin is that I do not want everyone to know where I am all the time. It’s not their business what I’m doing every second of the day. It drives me crazy because some of my friends are bad about posting on facebook (where it’s at least seemingly more “private) that they’re at home alone. Probably not something your psycho ex or creepy stalker need to know. Just sayin’.
  4. My friends know where I stand on the twitter thing, so making one would make me seem incredibly hypocritical. And everybody on both sides hates the hypocrite. So I didn’t want to back off my stance of ” I love sleep more than seeing what Kim Kardashian ate for lunch.”
  5. But I did it. And there you have it. I’m now officially one step closer to either an addicted updater or a hipster. You decide which.

So is twitter actually the evil I had made it out to be? No. Twitter can be used for things other than following every move of your friend. I’ve actually found that it’s a really great way to find super interesting articles without sorting through all that mess in your Feedly. Feedly=Fantastic….if you’ve got time. But if you don’t, twitter has got your back. People are (no lie!) FORCED to be brief. Cue singing of the Hallelujah Chorus. There’s no long winded analysis like I’m doing now. I find it very impressive if you can rant in 140 characters. In fact, I think this might be the only way I’d ever consider keeping up with big political blowups. I don’t want to listen to an hour long speech on the news regarding your campaign. Give it to me straight. Some of us work. A lot. And go to school. We don’t have time for you to waste giving us the runaround. I’m listening. I can handle it. Unload your position in 140 characters. Message received? Great! We’ll move on.

So how does an ex-twitter hater now use twitter? I became less freaked out by twitter when I read Chris Betcher’s take on all this. He encourages professionals, but especially educators, to view their twitter essentially as a “treat” instead of viewing it as a task. Many educators are probably self-admittedly as somewhat task oriented. They need to get things done in the classroom. And those things need to be done orderly and to some extent timely. The children in the classroom matter above a schedule, but the schedule is valuable…even though it gets thrown out the window an awful lot. So Twitter is probably viewed (unfairly, but still doesn’t change the fact) by an awful lot of educators as just another thing to add to the “to do” list. And nobody wants another thing they need to check off. So they, much like myself, shelve twitter for another day. The problem is that twitter isn’t designed for you to “check it off” daily (Facebook can work that way, most people can check it just once a day if that’s all they have time for and be satisfied because of the handy-dandy notification tab that shares what you and your bff’s have been up to) rather, twitter is designed for you to peruse an arguably overwhelming amount of material on occasion. You see, it isn’t something to add to your daily list of things you need to get done before you collapse into bed. It’s more of a fun little treat for when you can spare a few moments and want to catch up on celebrity gossip, world news, politics, breakthroughs in your field, or interesting, random articles. Still not convinced by yet another nonbeliever buying into the twitter mania? Check out Renee Hawkins’ take on the matter.

 

Thing #21: And they lived happily after evernote

The easiest way I can describe Evernote is that it’s what would happen if Google Docs and Diigo had a kid. You can easily add notes/upload documents like in Google Docs and share them. But like in Diigo you can tag and bookmark and comment on webpages. So why use Diigo or Google Docs at all? For one thing, most people are more familiar with the more specialized tools (i.e. Google Docs, wikis, Diigo, etc.) and so they’re more likely to be willing to participate with you in them. If you want to see a bunch of people get their panties in a wad really fast, just introduce a new technology tool that’s out of their comfort zone and demand that they begin to use it…what you’re going to get will probably resemble the chaos and mob mentality of a labor dispute, with you at the top as the big, mean, unfeeling boss. Also, the specialized tools are just that: specialized. So they have more features that are geared towards what you want to do, which is probably honestly going to make your life easier if you only want to deal with a document or the web. But if you want to deal with both documents and the web in one place, Evernote is your happily ever after. The best part about Evernote being used in the classroom is that it allows you to search the text of a picture. If a student takes a picture with their ipad of their notes or the whiteboard, they’re going to have to go back through every single picture of notes and whiteboards if they’re reviewing for the final and all of a sudden can’t locate where they left their notes on a single topic. Here’s where Evernote is a game changer, maybe even a MVP. The student who has saved the picture of their notes and whiteboard in Evernote just searches for the topic and *BOOM* there it is! They don’t have to glance though every single picture of the whiteboard because Evernote does that for them by scanning the text for the word the student searched for. And this is extremely helpful for students who would seem to be unable to find saltwater in the ocean. I’m not making fun, I get this. My brother is one of these students and no matter how many fancy binders or organizational systems we’ve gotten him, he’s still going to misplace just about everything. So Evernote is his kind’s saving grace. No longer do they have to worry when 2 seconds after they took the notes they can’t manage to find the paper they just wrote on. They just search their FREE digital library of notes and are ready to start the assignment. Bingo. Bango. There you go.

Thing #20: Groovy Google Docs

I’d be willing to bet that nearly everyone in America has at least been exposed to google docs. They’re one of the (if not THE) most common ways signup sheets are done these days. And it’s understandable why. I’m president of an organization on campus and when we recruit volunteers we just have them put their info in a google doc/spreadsheet. Then we use the very same document to track their attendance, assign them a particular day to volunteer, and because we always have them enter their email address we never, ever have to spend hours typing in email addresses. So there you have it, google docs are by far the world’s most fabulous signup sheets. But wait, there’s more!

Google docs are collaborative. When the executive board needs to brainstorm but no one can agree on a time, google docs becomes my best friend. I just create a document, put in a few initial ideas and brainstorming “categories” and what grows out of those few words on a page is an incredible amount of ideas and discussion. And if I’m being honest, I’d tell  you that we usually get more feedback out of a google doc than an actual meeting because people can  edit the document at their leisure rather than rushing to and from a board meeting.

Google docs is also awesome though because it cuts down on one of the things I hate most about group projects….the “one person does all” rule. If you assign a project where the students are supposed to conduct research in groups, you can look at the revision history on each document and see exactly who has added what and when they added it. If one person held the rest of the group up by waiting until the night before to finish their research, you know that. If one person did absolutely nothing while the overachiever did nearly the entire project, you know that also. So not only is there collaboration, there’s accountability. And that’s gotta tie mashed potatoes and gravy as one of the best combos on planet earth!

Thing #18: Screencasting

5 Paragraph Essay

You might have noticed that the past few assignments were done out of order. And that’s because screencasts intimidate me. So I was procrastinating and building up my courage. I couldn’t navigate this tool as easily as I could the others, and I’m not quite sure why. I think this may be one of those technology tools that would have a lot more options on a tablet. At first I tried to make a screencast on exponent rules for a student I’m tutoring this summer in math, but I spent so much time typing the little numbers and inserting superscripts that I eventually gave up- more because I noticed that the quality of instruction was being sacrificed just so it looked “cool.” So I improvised with a video of me working examples on a sheet of paper that could be delivered to his iphone seconds later. Technical difficulties aside, I do believe that this would be a handy tool to use, especially if you were going to flip your classroom. Even if you just wanted a simple way to give the students a reminder about how to do an assignment (like in my example) or to offer supplemental instruction (you could easily post a screencast for the students who needed to review a certain concept on their own time and another screencast with challenge problems or more advanced concepts for students who wanted extra credit- essentially it’s also an amazing way to differentiate your instruction) The one idea that I loved about screencasts came from Mathtrain– where students practice the concept by teaching it online to other students. Now that’s impressive. The videos were very well done. And the  best part about them (in my very non-important opinion) was that the teacher had found a way to integrate math and technology, which isn’t easy.

Thing #19: Youtube

Youtube is probably one of my favorite tools in the classroom- as both a student and as an instructor. As a second year college student, I think it’s pretty fair to say that I’ve grown up alongside the movement to incorporate technology into the classroom. At first it was moving from picture projectors that were rolled in on a gigantic, cumbersome cart to video projectors that were tiny enough to hang from the ceiling. But as I got a older, video became a vital part of instruction. I will admit that I was never, ever the first one to turn in a test. I don’t move quickly- both in the classroom and out at recess moving fast was never really my thing. I tend to have to take a fair amount of time to get a concept- but after it clicks, I rarely have to go back and review. But in elementary school I was embarrassed. Almost every kid in my class moved faster than I did- and it’s certainly not “cool” to ask a billion questions or be the last one to turn in your paper. I was seriously terrified of the walk of shame of walking to the front to turn my paper into the tray while the whole class stared and whispered for me to hurry up. But as I got into high school, some of my math teachers started posting videos on youtube. I’m not talking flipping their classrooms. That wasn’t even close to being a “thing” yet at my high school. But they would post supplemental instruction videos for kids like me who needed the extra time to get the concept. It prevented the rest of the class from being slowed down but didn’t leave us pokey kids in the dust.

Here’s a fantastic example of how a you could provide extra instruction for your students (except this one is student done, even better, huh?):

One of the best ways to learn is to teach, and youtube is a no pressure way (your students have unlimited “takes” to get their video just right):

So to help you understand why I absolutely love youtube as a teaching tool, I’m going to essentially tell a “story” through different videos. The first explains what I want to be when I grow up.

But now, I’m going to let someone else explain to you the “why” behind my career choice.

Youtube isn’t just about learning. It’s also a really creative, fun place. And if you need a laugh, it’s definitely the place to go- check this one out:

 

 

 

Thing #17: Podcasts

audio_files by Learn4Life

Podcasts are the absolute bomb. More specifically TED talks are. I’d never heard much about TED talks until I got into college. Then everybody I knew was watching them. They’re podcasts (usually with video, too) of a conference that is held annually in California. The biggest names are there- and the best part is that there’s nearly always a tie-in with education. And you can watch almost all of the content (if not all of it) for free. Any year’s sessions. Any time, any place, they’re yours for the taking. And you can find one on almost anything. Most of them are probably a little above the level of elementary students- but the concepts are still relevant. A bunch of my professors have used them as “lectures” that we watch at home or during class and then discuss. The speakers are top in their field. And the attendees are top notch- we’re talking CEO’s and all kinds of other people from all over the world pay exorbitant amounts of money to sit in an auditorium and watch what has been made free online for you. A lot of the talks center around encouraging creativity and the arts in the classroom.

Quick note on using podcasts as an educator: It may be only me, but I love when my professors will upload their material via podcast. You can go back and slow down the lecture for what you’re not clear on and fast forward through the sections you feel confident about. That’s not one-size-fits-all like most lectures are. And it’s definitely nice to be able to watch at your own pace. However, I get why a lot of professors flat out refuse to do this- it’s meant to be supplementary and not the sole means of instruction. Put all the material up online and you essentially guarantee yourself classroom attendance of about 2 students- one who’s super dedicated and the other who just hasn’t yet bothered to read the email saying the podcast is online. In high school, one of my friends was hearing impaired. And podcasts were her BFF. She had each of her teachers wear a microphone and upload the lectures online. She picked out what she could during class, but then she went home each night and was able to listen to the entire lecture and make sure that she had gotten all the notes. So even if you run the chance of having only 2 kids show up to class each day, I think podcasts are a fantastic idea for instructors who want to differentiate their classroom or who have students with auditory processing impairments.

Thing #16: Curation

Today the assignment was mainly to play around with some online tools and decide what we would use them for in the classroom. I’m going to try to try to provide examples and a snippet on my thoughts of each of them:

educlipper: Essentially Pinterest but just for people who teach and their students, so the content is more focused than on other “pinning” sites. It’s really fun, but I don’t know how well it would work in the classroom. It could easily stand in as a substitute for a collage (and it’s double the fun for the teacher ’cause it doesn’t involve glue!) For the most part, I would think that the website has more practical applications for teachers than students- on the student side of things, I’m of the opinion it’s way more bling than actual productivity. In any case, I think it’s fabulous for teachers. At the very least, it’s got tons of fun things you can use to decorate your walls- anything from cute Dr. Seuss quotes to thinking charts.

LiveBinders: I really struggled with this one. It’s much more difficult to work with than a wiki. The commands aren’t as obvious. I tried just about everything I could think of before giving up on getting the picture I wanted to embed into the spot set out for a picture on the template. This example is certainly not amazing by any means, and to be completely honest it felt like work rather than playing with a resource. The one really nice feature is that you have several options for privacy settings- so you can keep your binder private from the site’s other users but others can still have access to a particular binder if you choose to embed it on your blog, wiki, etc. You can also set the link so that the binder goes straight into a presentation or just opens on your “shelf.”

 

 

 

Thing #15: Digging Diigo

Here’s the quick version: Diigo is an online annotator that will also collect all of your bookmarks. Long version: ain’t nobody got time for that. Alrighty, now that you’ve got the basics I’ll break it down.

Pros:

  •  Diigo is awesome for personal and professional use- any info you want to keep but don’t want clogging up your email inbox, you just add to the library. Here’s the catch: you’re gonna have to get used to using the tool. It’s really simple, but I’m pretty much set on autopilot to email and slap in my gmail account’s “teaching ideas”  folder anything I want to hold onto.
  • You can tag each work (it even offers you suggestions) so that when you can only remember the general gist of the article or are looking for ideas on a particular topic, waaaaalah there it is under the tab!
  • It’s located in a toolbar at the top of your browser, so it’s very accessible.
  • All your students can have one! And the best part is (wait for it) it is FREE!!! Woohoo! Sign me up, right?
  • If you get each member of your class an account, you have the option of allowing them to do collaborative research online. So they can actually work together from home- going to the library for research, sooooo old school now. (If you just pointed the judgment finger my direction, slow down. I definitely still think knowing how to research from printed materials is VERY important!)
  • *LOVE this one!* Unlike in Feedly, you can search your favorite blogs and bookmarked websites for the topics that you’re interested in. Congratulations, you get to pass the sorting and skimming segment and advance directly to the reading railroad. AMAZING.
  • Still not convinced? Feel free to check out my diigo!

Cons:

  • The downside to tagging is that you’re going to have to put in some work on the front end figuring out which tags work best for you and make it easiest for you to locate what you’re looking for.
  • If you create accounts for each of your students, each one is linked to your personal account automatically. In other words, it’s no longer your personal account because your professional world has the option to view it. So if you want to look for articles of a personal nature (we’re talking anything that’s related to family, politics, religion, or anything else you wouldn’t feel comfortable with your kids knowing- and it’s ok, because they don’t NEED to know EVERY little thing about you. Some things are private for a reason. And that’s just that!) you’re going to have to create another account that isn’t associated with your class. And sometimes more isn’t better. Oftentimes, it’s actually MORE annoying, MORE work, and MORE things to keep up with.
  • If your students are collaborating for online research, it’s all fine and dandy until someone decides they’re going to coast on everyone else’s coattails. And that’s not ok- in fact, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Students need to be taught to do their own work and be proud of what they create- what they don’t need to know how to do, but they most certainly will figure it out at some point in their lives, is how to get by with minimal effort and then sharing in the spoils of someone else’s hard work. That trait does not need any reinforcing in the classroom- it’s already prevalent enough. That may sound cynical, but I sit in class as a student every week, and it’s just kinda the plain old, uncomfortable, would-be-easier-if-we-ignored truth.

Thing #14 Part 2: Musings over Moolah

Break the Bank (6/365)- Kat- swimparallel- http://www.flickr.com/photos/swimparallel/3174754333/sizes/l/in/photolist-5QxrRF-9Lz4wM-4k4fqk-7Zz1wY-fbGSC5-67rRe3-bmMaos-dJQ5YQ-i2kQ-4YJHRp-6WCJ6n-7vL76g-7GcMPd-7ppFHt-9nYksS-9MveL7-9Msr14-9MsqMz-8HG6pv-arXw9-eU16gS-6uw8cd-9GYgFe-f8VPC7-5XPei2-bVX8JF-cdjtQm-cdjtTy-4hz2Zy-eHeiHt-661CkV-6CUdM1-btA1eL-6bB8S4-6zVZBH-fb1hrD-9fqVxL-8vBW4Z-eb6ueL-7snqvQ-3qNbn7-5aaCH4-hqV6w-9cxUGg-4bBjKS-78dvCu-7k3tf5-628ooQ-9MveYj-csGKjQ-csGJsQ/

While skimming my Feedly this week, I came across one of the most well organized, easy-to-follow graphics I think I’ve ever seen- it connects the amount of money spent on education per child with the nation’s performance in various areas. And on that graphic you can track the US…as it gradually falls further and further down the list. The only educational category in which we are ahead is…..*drum roll please* spending. Yeah, not that impressive. We spend about 6 billion dollars a year more than the next leading spender, Japan. And if you’ve never seen inside a Japanese school bus, you should look. And your next question should be: where is all that money going?  Now, I’m the daughter of two accountants- so that should explain a LOT. I’m not a financial genius but something seems to be off here. I think we’re not getting enough bang for our buck. According to the graphic, Finland spends about 0.0124 of what the US spends per year on education. And yet, nearly 100% of Finland’s population can read and the country has the highest overall math and science scores. Now something just isn’t adding up here. That much should be painfully obvious. So what are we doing wrong? What are they doing right? I can’t pretend to even be capable of beginning to tackle those questions. But one of the other articles in my Feedly sparked a thought I’d like to throw out there. The article seems almost totally unrelated- it deals almost entirely with why girls should be playing hours of video games. However, after viewing the graphic one thought stood out to me: “The informal education children receive can be just as important as what they learn in the classroom. We need to think more carefully about how kids’ formal and informal educational experiences fit together, and how one can fill gaps left by the other.” In America, we tend to view school as the major (if not the only) way to educate our kids. But what if we changed that? What if we started to think of school as an extension of the learning that takes place at home?