New Tools


This morning, Mancub1 announced that he will no longer cut his waffles.  Seems that since he can’t cut them perfectly, like daddy, he feels emmense failure and it will ruin every morning from now on. Guess which speech didn’t work today?  “Son, the more you practice it, the better you will get.” Nope, he doesn’t like making mistakes.

Unfortunately, I get to make many mistakes and thus, must learn from them. For example, I started using the new Flickr upload button in iPhoto ’09 not too long ago. Right away, I realized there were major limitations.  My quick web search provided very limited understanding of the new iPhoto ’09 features, so I powered on with my Flickr uploads. Here are a few things I learned.

1- By selecting a photo(s) and clicking the Flickr button, my photos will get uploaded to Flickr into a set named for the event in iPhoto that houses my photo. Nowhere in that process can I a) select an existing set b) customize the photo size or c) add keywords.  One must add keywords before any upload. (Add keyword help in Luis’ pdf listed at the end)

Flickr in iPhoto '092- Clicking the Flickr button will make a new Flickr album in iPhoto ’09. That link is a live link to the Flickr set of the same name. Make a change to one and it effects the other.

3- The hard lesson was that even though the newly uploaded photo was in my main photostream, deleting the Flickr album in iPhoto ’09 removed the corresponding set on Flickr AND ALL OF THE PHOTOS IN THAT SET ONLINE along with all of the comments added to that photo by others.

4- I eventually found that, while I can’t select a specific set when using the Flickr button, I can just drag a photo from my library directly to an existing Flickr album in iPhoto and it will upload to that specific set online.  If I want to add to my 365 set, I no longer use the Flickr button, but drag the photo to the album already connected to Flickr.

5- Since I can add to the album, I can also rename the Flickr album and that change will also be made to my online set.

6- If I want to delete the Flickr album in iPhoto ’09, then I will first go to the photos in that set online and remove them from the set. They will remain in the main photostream, but not the set. Now, when I delete the set or the Flickr album in iPhoto, the online photo will remain as a photo in my photostream.  (I forsee a huge problem with trying to do that for 365 photos later when I want to clear up space in my iPhoto source list.)

7- Using online Flickr’s batch tools, I can remove a large number of photos from a particular set at one time, or batch add to another set.  Used wisely, I shouldn’t loose anymore online photos.

8- Selecting all of the photos in my new Flickr album in iPhoto ’09, I can Window-View Keywords to see all of the keywords used by that group and even add a keyword to all of them. Whatever change I make there will also be made to my online photo information on Flickr.

Before I had the lesson forced upon me, I wasn’t a huge fan of iPhoto’s Flickr tool set. Pushing my way through, I have found that I really like the photo management connection between iPhoto ’09 and Flickr.  The only remaining flaw I see is the inability to specifically constrain my photo upload size.

Now, when I started looking for help with iPhoto ’09, amazingly enough, all of my Google searching never came up with Apple’s Find Out How on iPhoto ’09. Find that was a fluke, but it’s a great video tutorial on keywording in ’09.  Google found Luis Perez’s iPhoto ’09 pdf (from Florida Center for Instructional Technology) .  That is an extensive pdf that would be very helpful in any ’09 training.  (Thanks for putting this online Luis!!)

With good integration between iPhoto and Flickr, it is even easier to get your photos from your computer-based collection to a place online where you can share it in your blogs or wikis.

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chat-evilI admit it. I had another mini-hissy fit yesterday. Sure, it’s not the most manly action during one’s day, but I admitted it and tried to move on. Why did I go to the depth of a hissy? My newly found and tested web resource, http://oovoo.com , is now blocked by the school district. This site is a great video conferencing tool that works for Macs and pc’s, works well, and looks great online.  Why do we block it?  Because it contains a chat element and we just can’t allow chatting in school.

It wasn’t until this morning that I actually saw the silver lining. Yea!! We block chat sites!!  Accepting that idea tells me that technology is making great strides in our schools. Think about it.

Who are we blocking? We’re not blocking adults. One of the major reasons we are sticking with Lotus Notes as an email client is so the administrative offices downtown can use Sametime chat. You can walk through the hallways and hear the IM bells going off across the building.  We block students. Students who can be distracted from doing their job by the interruption of meaningless chat. (Ironic?) Students who don’t need to be discussing educationally relevant ideas. Students who don’t need a textual record of conversations held at school. Giving students the ability to chat would be entirely disruptive to the educational structure of the 19th century classroom.  The fact that adults outside of the administrative arena just happen to be caught in the chat block is irrelevant.

Where are we blocking chat? We don’t block cell phone chat, because they haven’t figured out how to do that yet.  Students at some schools can text during lunch, passing periods, or the educationally useless time before or after school. We block chat on computers in classrooms, libraries, and any room inside the district.  We take a communication tool used by a large majority of students outside of school and cut them off from it entirely during their increasingly irrelevant school time.

What’s my silver lining? If we are blocking chat technology in our schools,  it must because we have so many students actively using classroom computers for research and constructivist learning projects at school.  If the students weren’t getting onto the computers, they wouldn’t need to block chat sites. If students weren’t getting access during the day, there wouldn’t be a need for a relevant online communication tool. Administrators are validating the usefulness of technology through their admission that students are actively using technology during the school day.

Maybe a student will use chat in evil and wrong ways during school. It’s not like other tools don’t get misused (pencils in ceiling tiles, markers for graffiti, using calculators to spell ‘shelloil’ upside down). Students of the 21st century need 21st century teachers who actively monitor student use and provide meaningful online assignments. Teachers who can model good use of online chat will teach responsible use in the classroom. We can’t avoid all websites that have some chat ability just because someone might say something bad.

To borrow a phrase from Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that my website resources will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their font or inclusion of chat code but by the character of their content.”  Allow teachers to use the tools their student are already married to.  Give me chat or give me proxies!

Lastly, quoting Confucius, “If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.” Give teachers the ability to share this lesson with students by using constructive chat sites during the class day.

Image from Will Lion

Image from Will Lion

“Today we are going to start our research project. Go to the library and find 3 sources for your topic…” That would be what my teachers would have said. We had a great collection of dusty books that listed old magazine articles and card catalogs that referenced 15 year old books. I could have found myself wandering into the fiction section of the room, but there were no movies playing, po rn pictures jumping up, or video games within reach all meant to distract my ADD student brain. Being a great student during those days was hard for me. How has technology changed life for me and my own ADD child?

I’m not a librarian, but students have been blessed with some good ones over the years. They taught us different strategies for collecting information such as the Big 6 method. Having a strong research method is imperative. That is the foundation on which students begin to build their work. But where to look and what to do with it has been improved over time as well.

I really do like Google, but it is very much like the picture above. I’m supposed to be a fan of educational web filters, but when I use them I feel like I’m reading the official Roswell or JFK reports with tons of information blacked out, missing, or ‘cleaned up’ for my protection.  Leading students to a proper use of Google is important to me. Model for them the use of the Advanced Search link. Giving specific keywords and keyword eliminators, giving a language requirement, and directing the search to a specific domain help confine the search and eliminate many distractors.  However, the most important distractor eliminator for younger students or beginner researchers is the teacher.

As teachers do lesson preps, they choose which problems, books, or manipulatives would work best for that class. The same can be true for research on the web. A teacher assigning everyone the same five website sources can still get many different variations of student work from them. Sometimes limiting the scope of information is incredibly powerful for classroom discussion and collaboration.

I found my information. Now What?

There are many blog posts that discuss social bookmarking. (Jennifer Dorman diigo, Kristin Hokanson on del.icio.us). Social bookmarking is the term for having multiple people share a set of bookmarks online. Whether it is the teacher sharing the required links or students adding links to the group for sources they found, social bookmarking is a good way to collect and catalog online resources.

Years ago, Ms Muecke would have concurred that research notecards were not my friends. Why is it then that I like the idea now? I have found a friend in the discontinued Google Notebook and Evernote. Evernote can be added to your web browser easily and is a resource for highlighting information from a webpage and adding it to your Evernote notebook.  You notebook will contain all of the notes for you to review and use for your research and it keeps the original web source so you can cite your source in your project. Basically, it keeps online notecards for you to access from any online computer.

Putting it together

I have always enjoyed using Inspiration software for idea webbing or organization in the classroom. The makers of the software have recently introduced Webspiration, the online version with many of the same features.  My favorite feature has always been the rapid fire button which lets me type ideas and make ‘bubbles’ as fast as I can type and hit return. After collecting my research, from carefully selected guiding questions, putting the results of the information collection into a web can help better organize key points and the structure of the project. Doing so with Webspiration keeps a copy online, editible from any networked computer.

What else?

There are many different tools that people use online that I didn’t mention. The key is not to use them all, but find one or a few that really work for you and learn to use them well. I like finding the online (web 2.0) versions because they travel with me and are often install-free aids that don’t require special permissions to add to a computer.

What research aids have you found helpful? Please share in a comment below so we can continue to benefit from each other.

We are looking at the iTouch as an educationally valid tool. Could the teacher check student blog posts while walking around the school? Short post today.

I get lots of email and have subscribed to a number of RSS services that try to keep me in touch with all the sites I try to follow. Nevertheless, I still miss news and email. Just this morning, I realized that I was tagged by another blog 100 days ago and I never answered the tag. So, that brings up two things for today’s blog: Tagging blogs and a great service to help you keep up with your blog feeds.

First, just like the old school-yard game of tag, sometimes bloggers will write a post and then tag specific people to write about the same thing on their blog. I just found out today that I was tagged in an ‘8 Things About Me’ blog… about 100 days ago. Oops! Sorry Kristin!

How does this play a role in my classroom? The ‘tag, you’re it’ method of blogging can be a nice tool for facilitating student communication in an environment where each student has their own blog. This type of activity plays more into the community of learners environment that blogging has become the center of. The students will have to not only write on their blogs about the specific assignment given by the teacher, but they will have to maintain contact with other student blogs to see if they get tagged. (Common courtesy states that you email anyone you tag so they know it.) Teachers can tag certain student blogs to get specific feedback, students can tag each other to broaden the range of responses, and/or the class can tag another class in an effort to get viewpoints from outside their classroom.

Once you start the environment of being responsible for keeping up with many different blogs, you should also introduce RSS feed tools. Called by a number of names, the RSS Reader/RSS Feed/News Aggregator tools automatically go out and bring in any new posts from blogs that you subscribe to. One aggregator can deliver many sites, keeping the user from hitting each one to check for new information.

The second part of today’s post is a gentle nudge into Technorati.com. It is probably the best blog tool on the net. It acts as a reader, a blog search engine, and statistics engine. The reason I found out I was tagged by Kristin was that my Technorati page had a link to her site where she referenced my blog. Any time someone references my page on a blog, there is a record of it on Technorati. Technorati blog searches are probably the most current searches because they constantly update blog feeds.

If you want a good first tool to add to your blog management, get a free Technorati account. They have support tutorials on their site that will help you get it all set up.

Oh, and Kristin’s tag was to list 8 random things about myself and tag 8 other people. I’m skipping the ‘tag others’, but offer up my 8 things: 1) I’ve kept a website for my kids since before they were born, 2) I’m a Mac evangelist, 3) Born on Texas Independence Day, 4) Had braces on teeth 3 different times, 5) Named my son after Great-g-g-g-grandfather and his father, 6) I will present twice at TCEA 2008, 7) I helped establish a 7 yr old digital film festival, and 8- I secretly still love to play with Legos.

I found a new tool last week that makes an amazing amount of good sense. I spent hours highlighting text with students or teaching them how to highlight.  Couple that with the young internet researcher who finds that perfect article on George Washington… that goes on for 42 pages. How do you help them pick out specific parts or highlight them?

diigo.com to the rescue! This free resource will let you highlight webpages, bookmarks sites, and even attach sticky notes to a web page. You can login or use a shortcut in your browser to have instant access to the edits you make.

diigo1

After a quick install, you simply highlight the text and right click/cntrl click to get the highlight option. The text will stay highlighted each time you return to that page, given your diigo login is still active.

diigo2

Attach sticky notes with student-specific notes or lesson suggestions. The sticky notes just pop up when you mouse-over the highlight.

I would want to install it on each of my classroom computers so that the diigo toolbar shows in my browser. Then my bookmarked pages will be accessible from each station and the day’s research lesson can be pulled up as pre-highlighted pages.  Imagine, the sticky on real-world text would say, “Read this section and answer this question:…”  Or, better yet, “Read and then give your answer on our blog. If you have time, make sure you ask a question or comment on someone else’s answers.”

Ah, online instructions on ANY webpage my students are directed to by me.  Heck, if the toolbar is on the browser, I bet students will start asking to highlight their own sites.

I’m sure diigo isn’t perfect, but I am liking it so far.

This is getting tougher, being ‘technology minded’. I spent 4 days at the National Educational Computing Conference in Atlanta and another week at a Discovery Educators Network conference. I feel like small child on Halloween evening being given free reign over Willy Wonka’s factory! I am trying to survive my own diabetic technology coma! Today’s blog isn’t just about blogging in the classroom, but these online tools may well influence your classroom technology experience and, in return, provide your blogging experience with some seeds for growth.

Edublogs.org They just had a major update and changed much of their home page. It shouldn’t effect any of the blog use, but has enhanced some of their posting tools. For instance, posting videos is now much easier using their updated tools. It is still based on the WordPress engine, but they have added some nice tools for educators.

PBWiki.com I am a huge fan of these guys. If you haven’t delved into wikis yet, it’s okay. Think of blogs as your two-way communication tool and wikis as your collaborative communication and document creation tool. PBWiki is a very nice wiki because it is visually easy on the eyes, pretty simple to start using, and FREE. Contact your local tech guru for more on wikis, or, visit wikipedia.com for a huge active wiki.

Twitter.com This summer’s new guilty pleasure. I’ve known about Twitter for some time but have effectively avoided it. It is basically a website that asks, “What are you doing?” You follow other people’s Tweets and they follow yours. Previously, I saw it as a time-wasting site for me to tell everyone that I was washing the dog… because you cared. 😉 Now, I follow people who write, “After washing the dog, I found this great educational technology site…” Lots of sharing.

IM Clients Yeah, instant messaging is old. But it is also in almost every communication device. Cell phones, Skype, Yahoo, Google, and various other websites and applications all allow you to text message or instant message people. It wasn’t unusual to meet people this summer who have three or more IM accounts. So finding a good IM client, or computer application that follows all of your IM account from one place, is becoming a more important tool. Clinging to my Mac world, Adium has been good for keeping track of multiple accounts and many people.

Flickr.com Really, any online photo-sharing tool at this point, but Flickr is very popular because of it’s sharing tools. Why share photos when there are so many already out on the internet? Consider the private photo collection a teacher has about the 1970’s energy crisis. Elementary could use photos the teacher put in there in their own media presentations. Older students could use images in an assessment and place them on a GoogleEarth map to show subject recall. High school students could go take photos that showed understanding and upload them to the class Flickr for group projects. Cross-country comparative photo projects would be amazingly easy. And the great thing is that most of these sharing services are still free.

So, talking with family has become more entertaining. “Yeah, I know she has a collection of blogs on her wiki because she twittered it.” They look at me and just shake their heads. However, my payback comes from my 7yr old who announced this morning, “I went through a hole to go buy a doodle with my jellybeans.” I’m now exploring ToonTown.com to make sure I stay in his loop of influence, but I’m still considering getting him an 8-track player for Christmas.