Sunday, November 22, 2009

Schools are the last!!

You Can Change The World
Originally uploaded by oclark53

I've been wondering when I would have the time to blog about my experiences at the NWP conference this past week. I had the opportunity to meet some true visionaries, all with the passion and drive it takes to empower kids through various digital mediums. It was truly refreshing and I had a HUGE take away- real change is NOT taking place during the typical school day.

This is not the 1st time this thought has occurred to me. I've been reading Dewey, Bruner and others for one of my classes at Pepperdine. These and other theorists wrote books as early as the 1930's describing what constitutes true learning experiences, and how traditional schools fail to address learners' needs. There's also and over arching theme of the social aspect of learning that's necessary for students to be engaged.

Many of the programs at the conference were aimed at celebrating student voices, while at the same time providing skills needed for the 21st century, but most of these were not during school hours or part of the "normal" school curriculum. Overwhelmingly these experiences occurred in after school spaces, community centers, and libraries. I had an extensive conversation about this with colleagues and I can't help but to be frustrated. After all, school is the one thing that all kids are mandated to experience. Why are schools so slow in responding to change and why has it been allowed to continue for so long?

With that said, instead of focusing on questions I can't possibly answer in one post, I have decided to do what Dr. Nichole Pinkard suggested in her panel discussion, which is focus on kids themselves. I can't worry about the system, the politics, teachers and administrators who refuse to see the relevance of challenging kids or anything else.

My goal is now simple: to reach the learners themselves and put the skills directly in within their reach. Luckily technology, particularly the growth of social networks and distance learning should make this more attainable, so wish me luck.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Harnessing Creativity- Great Ways to Use FlickR

Creativity v3
Originally uploaded by jakedillard

I was preparing for the NWP Conference with a colleague the other day and the question arose, "What do teachers really need in order to use digital mediums in their classrooms?" We were particularly interested in writing and other forms of digital storytelling.

After mulling this over for a couple of days, I woke up with these thoughts racing around in my already crowded brain. Teachers really need:
1) Open Minds
2) A Willingness to Be Creative

With these thoughts in mind I was inspired to dedicate this post to some super- easy ways to use of one my favorite tools in the classroom- flickr. First off, you should know that flickr is far beyond a photo-sharing application. It's an awesome place where anyone and everyone shares, comments, and tags photos about pretty much everything. This is an incredible tool for someone looking to incorporate digital storytelling and/or inspire great stories from students. Second, there are some incredibly quick and easy ways to use this tool in your classroom. Here are a few of my favorites:

1) 5 Card Flickr Story- In short this generates 5 random pics. Have your students write stories to go with the images. Easy, Fun, Creative!!

2) Bubblr- Allows you to create comic strips based on Flickr photos. I'm a huge fan of comic strips in class.

3) Dumpr- Still more cool ways to spruce up pics and add some cool effects like mosaics, puzzle pieces, and others. Go crazy and write about it!

4) Bookr- Use flicker photos to create books, and some text and you have instant digital stories.

5) Spell with Flickr- I just ran across this one recently. You type in a word, logo, phrase etc., and it converts them to Flickr images with letters. Eye catching, great ways to add some splash to projects, blogs, websites etc.

6) Captioner- Add captions quickly to your photos to tel your stories!

7) Flickr Tag Galaxy- Simply incredible! Definitely for the visual learners. It's an awesome 3D cloud of photos. Type in a tag and click a picture! I used this one to demonstrate "theme" in my literature class.

Need more ideas? Try these:

Big Huge Labs

Huge Flickr Tool Collection

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon??

I ran across this image while searching for a photo to use for a project I'm currently working on. It reminded me of a question someone posed on LinkedIn recently. The questions was, "how do you get more educators use social media to enhance their personal knowledge"?

I wish I had an easy answer. I was hugely unaware of this phenomenon taking place under my nose, in a sense. Of course I had heard of Twitter and other social media sites, but use them?? Not I said the cat. I just never realized the wealth of information being exchanged daily. The only reason I even started using these sites was because of my recent enrollment in a doctoral program in Learning Technologies.

I was interested in technology in terms of student learning- I never even seriously considered how these tools could enhance my own! Now that I have this toolbox of knowledge, how do I get my teachers to open it??? Well for now my answer is simply this- one tool at a time!

Useful Tools for Even the Tech Phobic

I've been reflecting on some of the Web 2.0 Tools I've experimented with for the past few weeks in an effort to come up with what's been the most useful in my classroom.  So here's the short list of what I've come up with so far:

#1- Go Animate

Why:  Kids have absolutely taken off with this simple animation tool.  It's one of the few they've taken the initiative to use across subject areas!  I introduced it as a method of digital storytelling and have recently learned that my students used this as part of a science project as well.

#2- Wordle

Why:  I used this to introduce some themes for Lord of the Flies, and gave kids the option to use it as a project option for book presentations.  One of my colleagues who teaches social studies absolutely adores it to highlight main ideas and one of my classmates also used it in a presentation last week.  It's simple, fun, and creative and has various uses across subject areas.  One great feature is that you can input entire essays into this tool and words that appear several times appear larger in the word cloud.  What a great way to highlight overused words in writing!!

#3-  Screenjelly and Screenr

Why:  These are both screen capture tools that allow you to record and manipulate your screen- all without downloading anything additional.  Screenr even plays on your I -Phone and allows you to record for Twitter.   I'm currently in the process of planning a series of writing lessons using these, as well as some professional development sessions for my teachers.

#4- voz Me

Why- This is beyond simple to use.  It basically allows you to type in text and then reads it back to you!  Love this for helping kids pronounce words they're having trouble with and also for improving fluency.  This one's a gem for differentiating instruction and second language acquisition.

#5- Addictomatic

Why- I've been playing with this one but haven't quite figured out how I'm going to integrate it into my instruction.  It allows you to create instant, customizable web pages simply by typing in a topic.  I'm thinking about using it for teaching internet reliability, and teaching basic research skills using the web.  Very Cool!!

#6- Etherpad

Why- It allows you to chat and use a whiteboard at the same time with small groups of users.  It's completely web- based and saves all of your work.  Nice tool for collaborative writing and planning and the whiteboard is nice for storing ideas.

#7- Glogster

Why- Three words- online poster making.  This tool is another that my students are wild about.  You can make posters with different themes and my kids love it to enhance presentations with this one.  Glogster allows you to add text and audio as well.

#8 VoiceThread

Why- You can insert photos, text, video, slides etc from either your computer or external sites, and create an interactive presentations that allow multiple users to have a conversation.  Users can comment on your presentation by typing in text or recording audio.  One great feature is that VoiceThread allows you to "highlight" information as your are recording.  Very nice tool!