Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thinkfinity Field Trainer - Day 2 Notes

In day 2 of Thinkfinity training, we created a list of WoW resources from the content partner websites and then created a customized training plan for presenting Thinkfinity to teachers in our districts.

The best website (unrelated to the content partners) that I learned about from the presenter, Lori Gracey, is searchme which is a visual search engine. Since this website shows the landing pages of websites related to whatever topic you're searching, it may not be the most appropriate site for children. I LOVE how you can search for images or videos in this search engine (see top left on their homepage). Another cool website that she shared is Wordle where users can create free word clouds such as this one on Web 2.0 (click to enlarge). Some back to school ideas we discussed at this workshop were having all of your students names in Wordle and displaying the cloud with your projector as your students walk in the first day or at open house. Another idea I liked was displaying topics your students are going to learn about throughout the year in Wordle. Other ideas discussed were using Wordle for word wall words, vocabulary, prewriting brainstorming, etc. A word of caution....do not scroll through the gallery of Wordles with your students as I ran into several that were inappropriate for classroom use.
A free website that I was unaware of before this training is Natural Reader , which converts text to speech. I can see where this would be a good resource for ESL teachers. For each of the activities we did during the training, the presenter used this freeware timer.


Lori used many inspirational and humorous videos throughout the two-day training sessions. Here are a few that I would like to use when I train teachers.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Thinkfinity Field Trainer - Day 1 Notes

I just finished the first day of the Thinkfinity Field Trainer session in Region 4 presented by Lori Gracey, Director of Technology in Bastrop ISD. If you have the opportunity to attend this training, I highly recommend it. The partner websites we visited today (sponsored by Verizon) are full of free, standards based online resources for educators, students, and parents. I'm housed on an elementary campus, so most of the materials I focused on pertained to that level. I found the Search Engine within Thinkfinity very helpful in that it gives the user access to all of the resources created by the Partners. Some of the sites I'm going to explore further this evening are,

Music integration

Math

Reading

Science

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Neat Website I Learned About Today





I discovered voki this morning on this kindergarten blog and am quite intriqued by it. I just created my own speaking avatar that's embedded above (I think she's quite a bit younger than me). Creating the avatar was very simple. However, to avoid negative phone calls from parents, I would caution teachers (especially of young students) to guide their students away from the "edgy" avatars. I recorded my message so that my avatar would have my voice.....can you tell I'm a Texan? I used a microphone and probably had it too low when I set it up. Apparently if you use your cellphone, it is a free call, but I haven't tried this yet. You are allowed a voice message up to 1 minute, so you may want your students to have a script that they have practiced and timed. If your students don't want to record their voices or if you don’t have a mic, they can type in their message which generates a computerized voice.The only snafu I ran into with voki was embedding it in Blogger. When I tried to get a Blogger code for my avatar after I had saved it, the result was just a link to "Get Your Own Voki." Finally after playing around with some of the codes for other spaces, I used the code for "other" which worked. One other negative feature is the commercial ad on the embedded player.

Here is my daughter's first attempt at using voki.



I think voki would be great for students to introduce themselves to collaborators around the world without posting actual photographs of themselves. I also see where this could be used in reading classrooms to give a 1 minute summary of a book chapter or a 1 minute book trailer of their favorite books they want to share with others. Wouldn't parents of PK-K kids just love to see/hear their child's avatar counting their numbers on a classroom blog? I would like to hear other ideas for using voki in K-3 elementary classrooms before I share the website with teachers in my district this fall.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Microblogging

This summer, I have become fascinated with microblogging. Microblogging is a way to share information ("What am I doing?" in less than 140 characters) with people in my network. From what I've read, Microblogging is part of a new trend called "lifestreaming" or "lifecasting."

I started experimenting with microblogging last year on MySpace's "status update" and expanded this summer to Twitter, Facebook, and, most recently, Plurk. It was too time consuming for me to update each site separately, so I started using Ping.fm , which I learned about on Twitter, to post simultaneouly to these sites. Last week, I learned how to search for "Tweets" that I'm interested in using Summize. I haven't used this yet, but with Twitter 100, users are supposed to be able to see their followers at a glance. I have more followers on Twitter than Plurk, which is relatively new, but the downside of Twitter has been the "downtime." I've also had to block several self-promoters who have thousands of followers.


The appeal to microblogging wasn't exactly immediate for me since I didn't find an educational purpose to it at first. However, once I started following communication from other technology educators, I began to learn of great tools and resources that will be invaluable for me as a new campus technology specialist this year.


Plurk video from YouTube:




Twitter in Plain English video:
Other microblogging sites that I've heard about but haven't signed up for yet include, Pownce, Jaiku (who is supposed to be joining Google), and identi.ca. I'm sure there are many other sites like this, and I'm curious which microblogging sites other technology specialists prefer for this type of communication??

Friday, July 4, 2008

My First NECC


Wow! What an exciting and enlightening conference experience NECC 2008 was. Despite being unsuccessful in getting into a Moodle presentation (tried 3 different times), I was impressed with the quality of the presentations that I attended. My favorite sessions were Quick and Easy Computer Activities for Kids and Beyond Copy and Paste, both presented by Tammy Worchester. I ended up purchasing two of her books and plan on ordering the others.

I also attended three digital storytelling sessions at NECC: Digital Fluency in the Age of InfoWhelm, Excite and Engage Students in Books with Photo Story 3 Book Trailers, and Literacy in a Digital Classroom which was podcasted. I had already played around with Photostory 3 before the conference and found it very user-friendly. I have a new Macbook through my school district and need to check further into IMovie.

A few of the other sessions I attended were Web 2.0 Meets Grade 2.0 and got these great links, Google Earth for the Elementary Teacher, School Center's updates, and the three general sessions. I also visited the poster sessions on the second floor and took many pictures of various ideas with my cell.

I learned a great deal through collaborating on NECC's 2008 Ning and Twitter. I even ended up joining Second Life but am not quite sure what I'm doing in this virtual world quite yet since I didn't get a chance to sit in on any of these presentations. I've posted new sites I learned about at NECC to My Delicious. Check out the comprehensive list of delicious sites from NECC attendees at the NECC2008 Ning site.

I have to say that the exhibit hall was so overwhelming that I only spent a few hours in it. I certainly have come away feeling like a very small fish in a big pond...but... a tiny fish full of great ideas to share with other educators.