Friday, July 25, 2008

Thing #23 - We raise the final curtain, well not quite... - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Before I even begin this entry, I've got to actually go back and review our activities. It seemed that each time I learned something totally new and cool that 'just couldn't be topped', well, it was topped by something else that came down the pipeline. This statement in itself is indicative of the myriad of Things we learned and how easy is it to focus on what is currently on your plate and forget what else we sampled. One of my greatest senses of accomplishment for the experience is that I was able to figure out most of the Things by myself. Sometimes, more than a few errors with the trials, but mission accomplished in the end.
1. What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?

Thank goodness, you're not asking us to singularize a favorite because it has got to be plural here. For specific classroom application favorites, I think the variety of options at Big Huge Labs and Image Chef will appeal greatly to elementary students. Some options are quick and immediately provide gratification (keeping the kids engaged), others may look deceptively simple (magazine covers), but there are many teachable aspects hidden in a seemingly inoccuous activity. One of my most favorite discoveries was elementary classroom blogs, something of which I was not even aware. Seeing videos of, and reading their blog was great. Implementation and maintenance isn't such a daunting task.
Sidebar discovery...I was able to determine the html coding to fix my widget (gadget?) so my wonderful 'popsicle bio' appeared in full upon the screen. How cool is that?
2. How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?
I did some fairly obvious things - set goals and maintained discipline to finish the task (and here I am!). It would be so easy to start and without the regimen of a sitting in a tech lab, slowly fade away from the tasks and not finish. This program completely opened my eyes about web technology. Prior to starting the course, I felt a bit techno-superior to many of my fellow faculty members, fashioning myself as a bit of a 'techie on the spot' at times. Now, I'm a bit humbled and realize that even with the empowerment of the 23 Things, that I've got a long way to go. I will use this as a springboard for further 'tech-xploration', but will find specific areas to focus and become a bit more proficient. Better to master one concept that be fairly/barely proficient in many?
3. Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
1. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of 'elementary student' applications. When I signed-up, I really expected many of the benefits to be for me, the teacher, and then middle and high school levels. Not so. Podcasts really intrigue me, especially the way the Common Craft does their podcasts - simple presentations with clarity. How easy would that be for elementary kids to make in the classroom?! So many curricular options....
2. I was able to decipher some of the html coding to take care of small issues on my blog layout. Neat!
4. What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?
If the program were segmented into three separate sessions and designed to focus more specifically on the elementary level applications, middle and high school apps, and library needs. It could be a great opportunity for participants to refine skills in particular areas (already learned on 23 Things) and to have a common platform for an idea sharing forum.
One issue that was fairly pervasive for me was file types. It would be nice to have simple clarification on all the varied file types (wmv, ram, mp3, mpg, etc.) maybe a nice Common Craft inspired vidcast?
5. If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you choose to participate?
Most likely, yes. Staff development on my couch, at my own pace, on my hours is FANtastic!
6. How would you describe your learning experience in ONE WORD or in ONE SENTENCE, so we could use your words to promote 23 Things learning activities?
one word - Incredible
one sentence - 23 Things opened techno-doors that I never knew existed, but which are totally applicable in the elementary classroom.
7. Now go and comment on some of the other Players' blogs.
In doing this activity, randomly working through the current players listing, it is disheartening to see how many folks probably won't finish. If you're on Thing #8 at the end of July, and you haven't worked on Things since June, you're pretty much out of it. On the other hand, the folks who did finish, have very different viewpoints on the application of these concepts. Isn't it great that we have such a very diverse teaching community?

Thing #22 Ning-a-ling

Hey, just goes to show, books aren't always judged best by their covers. The 23 Things introduction to Nings made me go "Oh great, bleepin' Facebook for teachers!" Why would I even want to socially network over the internet? Being the dork that I am, I actually did go to the Ning for Teachers and absolutely loved it! There are some good blogs for discussion, some are a bit 'gripey', others are right on with my philosophy. (Dealing with special needs students, it can be very lonely being the (sometimes one and only) advocate for that child.) However, there are many many blogs that are completely inactive. It looks as if the 23 Things (or something similar) trainings hit hard and heavy, requiring one blog entry and once fulfilled, the blogs went inactive. As luck would have it, the one blog that truly called out to me, was no longer accepting comments. Bummer, I would have congratulated them and validated their posting.
There were also some lesson plans that were practical and totally applicable.
I have already marked the site in Favorites and even if I don't set up an account, I will monitor the activity, especially with regard to lesson plans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thing #21 - SwitchPod wants me to ditch....?

Create your own message at
The SwitchPod site will not let me register. Their tech peeps are working on it (?) to the tune of one email response to mine per day. If I miss the 23 Things deadline next week because of one little Thing (well, okay, it's a major Thing at this point...) I'm going to be extremely emotional. (I feel a waterproof mascara situation arising.)

Good heavens!!!!
Alternate Plan B isn't working. First SwitchPod, now PhotoStory. Conspiracy? Sabotage?
Now I'm getting an error message when attempting the uploading of my PhotoStory project. Sucks to be me, all that hard work.... It's July 31st, I've only got 5 days.... Darn, dang, dag-nab-it!

(Note to self...Error message details to report
Blog Id:3680203309499262971
Video Id:1008808027de37b5)

OMG! OMG! OMG! and BTW let's throw in a LOL for kicks. It worked! It worked! Trial, error, trial, error, error, trial, error, error, error, error, trial, sucess (or something to that effect).
Another BTW, ...the video (PhotoStory3) is just my first production, please be kind, I was just trying to finish the course at this point.

Thing #20 Come to the light, Carol Ann, Come to the light....

This is SO cool AND it is Thing #20! Wooo hooo, almost finished, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Wait! What was the Discovery Activity? I've been going all A.D.D.'ing on YouTube and TeacherTubes all morning and lost focus. Ooops. (Maybe there is value in adult Ritalin?)
Value? Limited only by my own imagination. The opportunity to bring infinite (okay, may not that many) resources into the classroom is fantastic. The search engine was actually pretty okay for general topics. Fractions, reading comprehension, welcome back to school, and several more basic elementary topics are there. I can benefit as a teacher, improving my own professional toolkit, but also give the students broader exposure to other teachers. How cool is that!?
One of the neatest things would be to enable the students to make a video. Talk about ownership of their own learning!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thing #19 - Proof that Computer Geeks are alive and well!

Good Gravy! (That one's for Courtney)
There are 500 more things for Web 2.0! These people need to get a life!
Here are some of my discoveries...
Docstoc - browsed and browsed. Found only one thing of interest, a bizarre manuscript for a book on mind-control and hypnosis. Take my word, I didn't find it (or anything on the site - including the 'education' section, which I found to be quite lacking) worthy to download. Bizarre.
ColorBlender was kinda' cool. I loved the pre-made color palette page and the opportunity to blend custom colors (which supposedly can then be taken to the paint store (albeit in formula format) for reproduction). Embedded within that site are many links to remodeling and home decorating, which I am personally interested in attempting.
Lulu - with the 'publishing' aspect and a bit of a cash infusion, it would be awesome to create a classroom book. Opportunities are boundless (pun intended).
Mango Languages and SpanishPod - both offer introductory lessons but then require subscriptions. Worth it?
Wufoo - Take it? Leave it? Leave it.
Craig's List - have used it for school - getting donations for our elementary science classrooms. It's a great site, just don't use it when you're up against a deadline.
DonorsChoose - first learned about this last spring and thought it was too good to be true. What's the catch? There doesn't seem to be any. Well, of course, except that you may not get what you ask for. I think the key is to write a really awesome request.
Campus Reader - sounded interesting, but it was on vacation! (?) Wonder where it went? Hopefully someplace really fun.
Visual Complexity - too complex.
Okay, I'm not finding much (with my totally random search) of the chart of award winners. It actually seems that the Library 2 Play has highlighted the most applicable tools for us at schools. Sure, My Genealogy might be fun, but in elementary and considering the confidentiality issues... Looking at the chart of award winners, I find that I'm actually disappointed with my findings for school applications. Maybe Campus Reader is 'the one'. I'll try again when they get back in town.

Thing #18 - Increase Productivity to 25-8

I don't think I'm that 'sold' on Open Office. Is it just another way for workaholics to justify working wherever they are? Let's get 25 hours of productivity out of any given day....
Yes, there could be advantages for students' use, the entire class will be assured to be on the same version of the package with no file conversion processes (gambles?). BUT, since few of my Title I students have home computers they are allowed to access, the benefits for my particular campus are dubious. As for myself, professionally or personally, I'm not sure it is such a hassle to carry my USB around if it means my documents are secure. Having my files accessible on the web isn't an obstacle that I've had to hurdle, and I really don't see it in the near future.
As for the software itself, it seems to have many of the same bells and whistles as WORD, POWERPOINT, and EXCEL (I don't use ACCESS.), but I would assume that the macros and formulas are slightly different. As for reliability and tech-support, is there any? Track record? At least we know where we stand with Microsoft - at their mercy, but still confident in the product. It may be a little too much to ask of one over-worked teacher to learn Open Office when Microsoft-Office works just fine.

Thing #17 (At long last...)
(Okay, so I hope I'm giving 'attributes' correctly, I promise this photo was okay to use. No sense in going to Blog Prison over a copyrighted photograph.)

Rule of thumb...complete staff development PRIOR to vacation in Florida Keys.
Okay, #17, The Rollyo almost 'Roll-Me'. It seemed like I just couldn't finish, get the tiny details in order, and link the darn thing to my blog.
First, for what topic do I want to establish a search? After making it way too hard, curriculum, educational research, yada yada yada, I made it easy, vacations.
Second, the small details seemed to run right through my brain, and I didn't want to use one of their standard searches. Anyway, the finished product eluded me UNTIL I watched BGood's video. Awesome, simply awesome. It gave me the visual walk through that clarified the process. If we were awarding trophies to 'best player', 'best blog', 'most improved', etc. I think that BGood needs one for 'best in tune to the needs of the audience'. The post I made on his blog gave just due accolades for the video and mentioned some of the actual curriculum applications (yep, August is just around the corner), especially in 5th grade social studies, because that's where my mind happens to be right now.