Thing 23: Final Thoughts

First of all, I just want to say that I posted comments to the Voicethread slides but my comments kept disappearing.  I’m not sure why.

I think this course was sensational.  I’ve learned a lot I didn’t know was out there.  I know I’ve barely skimmed the surface of what’s available, but I think that’s okay.  I am now armed with an arsenal of tools that it will take awhile to figure out how to use and incorporate into my classroom repertoire.  I say start small and keep adding instead of trying to add the whole shebang all at once.  Anything I can do, no matter how small,  to help my students become more comfortable with technology or to enhance their learning experiences through technology is an important step.

I am hoping we will still have access to the course pages because we learned so much information, I can’t possibly retain it all.  If the course wiki stays on-line, I will be able to reference information on all these great tools and resources.

Thanks to Shelley for all the detailed instructions, delivered in a multitude of ways, and for all of the great ideas.  This was a good course.  I feel motivated and inspired to make my classroom a better learning environment.

Thing 22: Social Networking

I think the idea of a social network group to share ideas and request and offer advice is a phenomenal tool.  It helps bring you out and beyond the walls  of the building you work in.  I found discussions about managing blogs and wikis for large groups of students which I would be interested in returning to when I get to the  point where I feel I can manage a wiki along with everything else –  creating lesson plans, grading papers, tutoring students, etc.

I looked at the list of educational networks associated with this task, but these networks  mainly deal with technology in Education.  Since I wanted to  find some groups that address issues like managing tasks like grading papers I went to and searched on teaching English.  There I found a bunch of social networking groups for teaching English, one of which was Jim Burke’s the English Teacher’s Companion.  This opened up a whole new group of groups.  I think I’ll be able to find some great ideas this way, but I am really going to need a lot of time in order to do it!

Thing 18: Podcasts

I created a book review for my podcast because I wanted an example of an activity I can envision doing with my students. I love the book review podcast idea. I can also see creating some mini-podcasts when you need to bring in a substitute teacher. You can record small portions of your lesson for the substitute to paly. You don’t have to worry about whether or not the substitute is explaining things the way you want them explained.

As far as podcasts overall, I like them to get right to the point. My mind wanders when a podcast is simply a recording of a meeting and all of the pleasantries are filling up the beginning of the podcast.

Thing 7c: Mixing Up the Feeds

I know our instructions for this blog are to find an RSS post that speaks to us and comment on it.  I prefer to integrate several posts and comment on them.  While checking out the The Infinte Thinking Machine RSS feed I stumbled across excerpts from Tony Wagner’s book The Global Achievement Gap, which stressed that we needed to teach higher order thinking skills like reasoning and analysis not memorization.  I wholeheartedly agree with this idea, so when I stumbled across a link to wordles in a post from loonyhiker under the Successful Teacher feed, I decided to snare a few as bell work for my students.

Wordles are groups of words put together and you must figure out what they have in common.  Figuring them out might rely on some memorization, like knowing the names of some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but mainly you are relying on your powers of analysis and ability to identify commonalities between the words.

New wordles are posted on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. You can just show the new wordle to your students on those days, submit your answers on-line and wait to see if you are right.  Definitely sounds like fun! However, I want to have the answers ready to discuss.  I went to the Wordles Archives where the wordles are posted with their answers and used Fireshot (which you can find by going to Firefox add-ons and searching for it) to get a screen capture.  Using Fireshot, I cropped out a JPEG of just the wordle and of the wordle with its answer.  I now have photos available of those wordles that I can use in any way I’d like.  Fireshot offers other graphics file format as well– BMP, PNG, and GIF.

Here’s what a Wordle looks like and an example of what you can do with Fireshot.  I did not discover Fireshot through the RSS feeds.  I learned about that free Web 2.0 tool through my husband.

For information on more books and papers on teaching in the 21t Century, check out Lucy Gray’s post on the Infinite Thinking Machine.

Thing 21: PageFlakes

I think PageFlakes is a super cool tool; however, it is a bit overwhelming.  I am really trying to create a web page for my classes.  The main purpose of the site will be to provide information on what happened in class each day and to provide homework assignments.  I had hoped the To Do list would work for homework assignments, but I wanted it to show the assignment and the actual due date not how many days or weeks before its due.  I’m wondering if I can just link to the google tools from PageFlake and people can click from there.  It’s going to take more investigation.   I was never able to get the book talk podcast I had subscribed to on I-Tunes to work.   I do like the word of the day flake and many of the others.

Thing 19 – Youtube Investigations

I found a privately created trailor for The Outsiders which would be great to show to kick off a unit on The Outsiders or when we discuss themes for The Outsiders.

I also found a bunch of videos in which other teachers explain elements of grammar.  Here’s one on what is and isn’t a verb that I could show.  Yossarian uses a different way of describing it than me and it’s always better to have multiple explanations of a concept.

Okay, so you asked us to find something nostalgic; however, I went ahead and searched for something my students suggested I find on YouTube — Fish Heads and SNL.  As it turns out I couldn’t find the original SNL appearance  but here is a video Barnes & Barnes created later.  It’s a little dull until you get to 2 minutes and 30 seconds, but then it gets rather absurd!

We were also asked to find a how-to video. I chose to look up information on playing Lacrosse since my son will be starting that sport in the fall and I have no clue how it’s played. I like the guy giving the instruction but it would have been better if he had a partner to help demonstrate the concepts he’s talking about.

I can see all sorts of ways to use YouTube – for a humorous break, to show someone else’s way of describing a concept, for showing videos that relate to the ideas we’re discussing.  It’s a great resource.

The last thing we were supposed to do was check out  I tried to find a video on teaching reading comprehension strategies but found this video on time management which would be useful for my students.

Unlike the directions given on our Thing 19 wiki, the options for embedding videos were limited to one.

Thing 17: Podcasting

I love listening to audiobooks because I can “read” but still drive in my car, paint a room, do the dishes, walk the dog, etc. I have even rented Grammar Girl’s podcasts on CD and listened to them in my car.  What I found with the podcasts on CD as well as the podcasts I explored via Grazr and ITunes (and I looked at a lot) is that I don’t really like receiving information that way unless I’m just trying to get a high level overview of something.  It’s very boring to be tied to your computer listening to a podcast (there are no visuals), and if I’m listening while in the car or on a walk, I’m going to miss details.  If I hear a great idea on the Grammar Girl podcast, how do I mark that particular section for future use in my classroom?  If I don’t write the detail down at that moment, how will I remember it for later?  I’d rather read the information and be able to skim and re-read at my own discretion.  Or at least have some sort of visual that supports the information and keeps me focused while I’m listening.

The only way I can see using podcasts in my classroom is through Nancy Kean’s Booktalks Quick and Simple.  These are short podcasts designed to advertise books.  I could play these while students are working on bell work or at the beginning or end of class on a routine basis to try to encourage and interest students in reading more books.  And again, this type of podcast would work well as an alternative book report option.

In addition to subscribing to Nancy Kean’s book talks, I have also subscribed to the International Reading Association podcasts, Class Acts: Ideas for Teaching Reading and Writing. These I can listen to in my car as a way to enhance my professional development.

Thing 16: Making Use of Library Thing

LIbrary Thing is absolutely awesome.  As a language arts teacher, I can definitely see using it to find books to teach.  It would be a great tool to suggest to students: “Well, gee, if you liked that book, go look it up on Library Thing and find out what others have to say about it, what those people liked and what books share the same tags.” I keep mentioning alternate book reports, but again, this would be a good tool to use as an alternate book report.  Students could write a review of the book and publish it on Library Thing. Personally, I’ve already found new books and authors I’ve placed on my to be read list.  I also found books to suggest for those students who enjoyed their summer reading assignments.

Thing 14: Messing Around with Web 2.0 Tools

I played around with ToonDoo  because I thought it might be a good venue for an alternate book report. I played around with trying to make a cartoon that highlights one of the themes and symbols in the book. It took a really long time to figure out how to make it work, but once you figure it out, it’s relatively easy.  The biggest problem is that the server or perhaps my computer takes way too long to download the characters I’ve created and saved.  I definitely see offering this as an alternate book report option.


Thing 13: K12 On-Line Conference

While “attending” the K12 On-Line Conference, I viewed Jennifer Kraft’s session under the strand Getting Started, called Free Tools for UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in Literacy.

The main purpose of this presentation was to provide a sampling of free technology tools that can be used to help students read, research, and learn.  Kraft demonstrated that struggling readers could use text to speech tools to help them work more quickly and become more involved in the classroom.  She also offered ideas of how you can layer and combine these technology tools for a more robust learning experience.  For example, I never would have thought of combining a graphic organizer software (Bubbl-us) with Click,Speak on Firefox to have graphic organizers read aloud for students who need reading assistance.

I would love to use some of these tools in my classroom.  I have yet to investigate the graphic organizer web tools; however, I would really like to find a way to create my own interactive on-line tools.  Currently, I have used some on-line graphic organizer tools from Read, Write, Think for my students.  My students love them.  Unfortunately, the tools aren’t always exactly what I need.  I’d like to have the ability to customize for the specific writing assignments and reading response projects the class is working on.

I’d also like to investigate the research and note taking tools to see if these would be a better choice than just cutting and pasting into a word processing document.  I do teach my students the old-fashioned method of researching using note cards, but I am well aware that this is an outmoded form of research.  I’d love to find a more updated tool that helps students do the same thing as note cards: learn how to organize information and understand how to re-organize it easily.

I thought the method of on-line, anytime delivery for this conference was absolutely perfect.  Exceptionally convenient.  I could pause the presentation and take notes as I went along.