Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How To Make a Baby--and you thought you knew...

More creative and "easy" things to do with stop motion video (or still images, in the first case). It takes the first one a while to load.

You'll find his explanation of how he created the video here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Good is Great!

While digging around for video-clips for my Film Studies class next semester, I ran across the GOOD Magazine channel on Youtube, which ultimately lead to their online magazine.

A "collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward," Good Magazine provides articles, interactive infographics, videos and more on a broad variety of topics. The few I've looked at ranged from videos on the high cost of cheap food and the western bias against Al-Jazeera English to this disturbing infographic on the worst/best tapwater in the U.S.

These are all wonderfully visual tools to engage students in thinking outside the mainstream media box, and well worth the time spent perusing them to find material useful to your own particular curriculum.

For your enjoyment, view this excellent parody of Cool Hand Luke (made for Water Day) that I plan to use with my Film Studies students. (Link is to the original)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Final Cut Exptress 4 Tutorial

It never rains, but it pours, eh? I go weeks without posting, then post five times in two days.

I'm forcing myself to learn Final Cut Express as I definitely need to upgrade from iMovie. It's not an inherently intuitive program, however. Videographer Izzy Hyman has put together a good, basic video tutorial that you can access/download here.

If you do much at all with video editing, it's well worth exploring his site for tips on other aspects of video editing. Some of the video podcasts you can only view with a membership, but some are available for free viewing.

History sites, primary style.

These are actually a couple of sites students asked me about. The 8th graders are doing their 1920's research paper. One thing I love about the WWW is that no matter HOW many hours you spend dredging for pathfinder sites, there's always something else interesting and valuable.

Our Documents is a national history competition based around 100 key documents from the National Archives. The link is to their collection of documents, which are downloadable. You'll also find a 74 page booklet with teaching ideas here. The entire site is a joint project of National History Day, the National Archives and the USA Freedom Corp.

As a Tacoma native (and Seattle's close enough), I found the Seattle General Strike Project fascinating. Washington State has always been a strange mixture of xenophobic conservatives and left-wing radicals. This site documents the Seattle Labor Strike, the first labor action in the country to be declared a general strike.

The multimedia site includes images, video, oral histories and images of actual headlines/documents related to the strike.

The above picture is from the Webster & Stevens Collection, Museum of History and Industry.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Little Birdie Told Me...

For those of us who are not only art challenged, but art disabled, but who love telling stories, Storybird could be the answer.

A collaborative storytelling tool, the site features artwork by honest-to-gosh artists that you can use to create your own storybook. It's somewhat limited in where you can place art and text, but this is version 1.0, and I assume it will grow increasingly feature rich as the site develops.

I've embedded my playing around tale Iit's not showing up fully, but you'll get the idea), and I'm thinking of working on a story with my 12 year old niece, who lives in Oregon.

While it's obviously preferable for students to do their own art, face it. For some of us, stick figures are a challenge. This could also be good for foreign language classes and voculabary development.

It might also be a creative way to promote your library--creating quick stories about upcoming events and embedding them on the library or school website.

Sitting in the Catbird Seat by jerihurd on Storybird

EZ (and free!) Pre-Production with Celtx

I'm working on re-vamping my Film Studies class (again) for next semester. I'm going more production-oriented this year, and less focus on the academic analysis. The class is filled with spring-semester seniors who've already been accepted to college. You can imagine how academically oriented they are.

While digging around online, I ran across Celtx, a free tool that integrates the various stages of pre-production into one downloadable application. Whether they're putting together a pitch, writing a script or storyboarding, Celtx provides the appropriate tools.

Here's a link to their overview tutorial, which isn't embeddable for some reason.

I'll let the tutorial explain the various functions. I'm definitely going to use this with my film class. Storyboarding is always an agony for them, and this might give them incentive--I love the way it connects their script with the storyboard.

You do need to purchase the extra clip art set to be able to use the sketchpad for storyboarding, but it's only $5. My biggest gripe is it's somewhat limited in its representation of various camera angles, but there's not really a good online storyboarding tool that I've ever seen.

It does allow students to upload storyboard sketches, once they're scanned, but I can't imagine my students taking the time to do that. If you run a more intense film class than my one semseter class (say the 2-year IB film class), that would be a more usable option.

It's probably best at formatting the various types of scripts, and syncing with the various elements of casting, props, etc. Basically, it helps students organize the vast universe that is pre-production.

I doubt I'd use it with middle-schoolers, but it's a good tool for older students.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Me and Genghis Khan

I'm probably out of my mind, but I accepted a position at the international school in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for next year. Doing pretty much what I do here--library and technology. So, dear reader, this posts shall be coming, quite literally, from the wild of Mongolia!


I am THRILLED to death! I put in a proposal to present a full-day workshop at ISTE this year on documentaries. Just found out it was accepted!! I'm doing a Snoopy dance here!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

14 Ways...

Joyce Valenza published an excellent article on the Tech and Learning site in September.

In it, she describes 14 tools or techniques we could/should all be using to help students and faculty. You'll probably find that you're already doing much of it. (I patted myself on the back for being ahead of Joyce on creating a primary source search engine using Google Custom Search. But it's the ONLY thing I'm ahead of her on!)

I also came away with some great ideas for updating my pathfinders into a more 21st century style.

Move Over Pixar...

You might be interested in checking out this webinar at ISTE: Promoting your library with easy animations

It uses XtraNormal, a text to movie online app that's pretty interesting. I just discovered it a few weeks ago, but haven't had time to play with it yet, so I'm looking forward to the webinar for ideas on how to use it.

See you there!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Need an App?

I needed ideas for a book project our 7th graders are doing, and none of my usual line-up--Animoto, VoiceThread,ToonDoo, etc.--would work. So I posted asking for ideas on LM-Net. 800 emails later, I found a "cool" link--cool tools for school that gathers many of the Web 2.0 apps into one well-organized wiki.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What in the World?

I'm attending the Model U.N conference at Brown this weekend, and found a wonderful resource for teaching global issues: Choices.

Created by the Watson Institute for International Studies, the program offers curriculum units on topics ranging from global environment and nuclear weapons to historical hot points such Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler. Each unit includes lesson plans and primary source documents as well as engaging interactive role-plays. Units are available as books or pdf downloads, and are pretty reasonably priced.

Even if your budget is strapped, the website offers an exciting collection of video resources--scholars online--that are short, informative and excellent for classroom use and discussion. All you need to do is create a free account.

You'll also find supplemental materials and teaching tools. Well worth checking out!

As educators, we have almost a moral imperative to move students beyond an ethno-centric view of the world to a more global perspective. These resources help make that an easier task.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Want a Google Wave Invite?

At last, I am finally on Google Wave. I will work with it today and blog about it later this week.

In the meantime, I have some GW invitations I will give to the first five people who ask. Just send me your email address.

Here's a quick explanatory video

Or here's the official, 7 minute intro

Weighty Issues in YA Lit

This thoughtful post by Elizabeth Bluemle on the depiction of fat kids/people in books is a must read for everyone.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Documentaries: Enough is Enough Already...

Yet another post about documentaries! I'm giving a workshop today at the CECA conference in Hartford. If you're interested, here's a link to my page on resources.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Well, it's getting there...

Here's my first Prezi. I obviously still need work on layout/design, but you get the gist!

Good-Bye Power Points (and good riddance...)

Have you seen Prezi yet? It promises to revolutionize presentations. It thinks WAY outside the linear box, allowing users to create more organic presentations.

There's a definite learning curve--I was going to do one to demonstrate, but I'm struggling with paths. So I decided just to post one of the videos demonstrating the process. Very cool!

I'm actually giving a workshop at a conference on Monday, but that's probably not a good time to try using it. So I may convert one of the power points I do with the students and try that.

The site provides video tutorials, but needs a few that are more detailed (as I said, I'm struggling with the whole create a path thing). It also gives some great ideas for using Prezi creatively. Take a look!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ah, the Irony!

If you haven't read it yet, take time to read Tom Friedman's editorial in the NYT two days ago. He discusses the necessity for fundamental educational reform--i.e. 21st century skills--if the U.S. is to remain competitive.

Where does the irony come in? I was reading it just as one of our teachers came in to ask if I could unblock YouTube so students could complete a history assignment. We called the appropriate people and were told 'no.' Yet we're a laptop school with a strong mandate for technology. Go figure.

And so much for educational reform. I've blogged about this before, and probably will again. While I think Friedman's column ignores several factors (take the time to read the comments--some were incredibly thoughtful and insightful), he's not wrong. I work with an amazingly talented faculty, many quite tech savvy.

As always, however, there are those who not only resist using technology, but see it as detrimental. They use tools only in the most shallow manner: watch a YouTube video, but we won't take the time to actually create our own. Keep a blog, but only as a personal journal, no comments, no linking. And heaven forbid we go public!

Friedman is wrong to declare we need a country entirely made up of innovators and creative thinkers. That is never going to happen, as not everyone is wired to think that way. Multiple intelligences alone tells us that. Nevertheless, we can do better at teaching students to work and think more collaboratively and use technology in meaningful ways.

Case in point: About a month ago, we finally opened up the education version of Google Apps for the school. I think three teachers are using it. I was teaching (another!) workshop on Google Docs, and a couple teachers basically said it was too much work to use it, when they could just have students work on peer-editing in class.

I agreed, but pointed out that once students were trained in peer-editing, weren't there better uses of classtime? I don't think I convinced them.

Similarly, too many assignments use technology for its own sake. Students in a school where I used to teach worked on rockets, which was fun for them. But there were few curricular ties--no work on propulsion, trajectories, etc. They just put together a kit. How much more meaningful would it be to have them design and test their own rockets, determining which factors most contribute to maximum lift?

We in the library have a special responsibility to guide both students and faculty towards more analytical engagement with content and technology. I'm not even sure my own work with students is all that innovative. As I teach the research process, I basically have two weeks with students (in 9th grade)--not a lot of time to engage them in thoughtful lessons, though we do some useful stuff on working with primary sources and analyzing websites.

Ideally, I would like to see all students in a semester long class. But that's another job in and of itself! How do others deal with this?

Of course, education alone won't solve our job and financial crisis. If education needs fundamental change, so does our national and corporate culture. When did we become a nation that looks only at short term gain? When did we stop caring about general welfare, focusing selfishly on personal profit at the expense of..well...everything else?

Educational change is AN answer, not THE answer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Haul out your "The End is Near" sign. If Cushing Academy is anything to go by, it's a whole lot closer than I imagines.

The Boston Globe reported a couple days ago that the Boston-area independent school has turned its library into a media center--minus the books. Except for a few children's books and rare editions, they've given away everything and replaced it with a couple of large screens, laptop bars, 18 Kindles and a $12,000 cappuccino machine.

Never mind my English teacher/librarian reaction to doing away with a library full of books. One odd result of making the library switch is that I'm surprisingly less sentimental about books than I used to be, whatever Nicholson Baker says.

But this horrifies me for a number of other reasons.

1) 18 Kindles for the entire school? Reading is going to be down, that's for sure. And how will they ensure equitable access for all? Usage rights are so limited with digital information, I can't imagine how they're going to work this. Are students who can't access the libraries Kindles forced to buy assigned texts? Google books is great, but how many online books provide free full-text access? Not many.

Moreover, Kindles cost around $500 each; that doesn't seem very cost-effective. And what happens when the Kindle has a run-in with the output from that $12,000 cappuccino machine? Believe me, it will happen, and the results won't be pretty, as anyone who has spilled a drink on their keyboard knows.

2) I'm a tech-geek, so I don't dismiss online reading out of hand, as many do. I think it's another literacy we need to teach. However, there is no doubt that reading from a screen makes deep, sustained thought less likely, if not altogether impossible.

This seems like a bad idea on so many levels, almost all of the pointed out in the comments section, which is almost more interesting to read than the article. Take a look.

Friday, September 4, 2009

ScreenToaster: The Alternative to Jing

 UPDATE:  Sadly, Screentoaster is now defunct.  I posted an updated blog on other screencasting tools here.

You've gotta love how easy Web 2.0 makes it to do screen tutorials. These are huge time-savers, whether you use them to record lectures for students to view at home or as catch-up tutorials when students miss a lesson.

Jing pretty much dominated the free-screencasting market until ScreenToaster launched in 2008. And, while Jing is a fantastic tool, there are some advantages to using Screentoaster.

First, ScreenToaster is web-based, requiring no software download and works on all of the major web browsers.

Jing also requires a Pro upgrade (i.e. money) in order to have the option to embed webcam video (a video of yourself embedded in the tutorial); with ScreenToaster, it's free. You can also add audio and titles, though ST doesn't allow you to add graphic call-outs (arrows, etc).

Most importantly--and this is a biggie--while both tools record video as Flash files, ScreenToaster allows you to save your tutorial as a high-quality .mov file. In other words, you can load the file into an iMovie or MovieMaker....and EDIT it! No more 15 takes trying to get something right.

Finally, you have the option to host your video on either the ScreenToaster site (ala the Jing-related Screencast.com) or upload it directly to YouTube.

If only for the ability to edit, ScreenToaster will now be the screencasting tool of choice that I use with students. Check it out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

URGENT: Make Your Voice Heard

From a letter by Sara Kelly Johns

We have two days to make an impact for students by giving comments on the President's Race to the Top initiative that will put $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants to support education reform and innovation in classrooms. School libraries are the entire school's classroom for 21st century learning and need to be included. Your comments are crucial and the door closes after Friday! Use these talking points developed by the AASL Advocacy Committee (based on the AASL Legislative Committee's background paper for the ALA Washington Office's efforts on RTT) to send in your comments today to racetothetopcomments@ed.gov
Your immediate help is needed!

Please take a few moments to read about Race to the Top (RTT) and send brief positive comments to racetothetopcomments@ed.gov by Friday, August 28th.

States leading the way on school reform will be eligible to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants to support education reform and innovation in classrooms. Between the 2009 budget and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more than $10 billion in grant money will be available to states and districts that are driving reform. School libraries need to be included in these grants!

Below you will find information about RTT, talking points, and writing tips.

RTT (Race to the Top):
By funding RTT as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), President Obama and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, are clearly signaling that they see education reform as part of the path to economic recovery. Since school libraries prepare students with the 21st Century Skills identified by business, government, and education experts as necessary for 21st Century success, RTT offers an opportunity for school libraries to support and become part of this national educational reform effort. Race to the Top funding is a “golden” opportunity to position libraries and school librarians in a central role in the academic program of schools to make measurable contributions to students’ learning and academic achievement.

The Plan for Reform:
The U.S. Department of Education is challenging states to develop "comprehensive strategies for addressing the four central areas of reform that will drive school improvement:"
· Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
· Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals;
· Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices; and
· Turning around our lowest-performing schools

Talking Points--Connecting to the four-point Plan for Reform:

1. Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;

The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner align with and expand upon the essential skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills to prepare students for success in higher education, life, and the world of work.

2. Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals;

As instructional and technology leaders, school librarians offer support to both students and faculty through education and resources. In addition to providing professional development opportunities, school librarians work across the curriculum and grade levels to collaborate with teachers and have the opportunity to model best practices. Like building level administrators, school librarians have an horizontal and vertical perspective on curriculum and instruction within their buildings. Library Media Specialists are the uniquely qualified and prepared teachers who teach critical specialized skills identified in the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Professional school librarians are among the first positions cut when school systems face economic hardships. Students lose valuable and unique learning opportunities and teachers lose a key educational partner and source of professional development and support.

"School librarians are important instructional partners in supporting and expanding existing curriculum. [They] work with teachers to change what is possible in the classroom and support exciting learning opportunities with books, computer resources, and more" (U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science).

3. Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices;
School librarians are teachers who assess student learning and have a tradition of measuring their impact through surveys and statistics. They hold a unique position in the school that lends itself to reflective evaluation of all students at all levels and in all content areas.

4. Turning around our lowest-performing schools

State after state research studies document that a strong state-licensed school librarian who manages a networked school library provides equitable access to up-to-date resources, implements a dynamic instructional programs, and fosters a culture that nurtures reading and learning throughout the school has been the common thread found to impact student achievement.

"Across the U.S., research has shown that students in schools with good school libraries and certified school librarans learn more, get better grades and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries. More than 60 studies have shown clear evidence of this connection between stdent achievement and the presence of school libraries with qualified school librarians" (U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science).

When writing, focus on:

· STUDENTS & student learning, especially:
content standards
creative thinking
problem solving
critical thinking-evaluation
information ethics
responsibility and safety
authentic, real-world applications
Collaboration with other teachers and members of the learning community
Technology integration
Equitable access for all students

“The Ask” (make it clear why you are writing...what action do you want the US Dept. of Ed. to take):

As the United States Department of Education works to reform education and to prepare our students for future success, it is in our students' best interests to have access to a strong state-licensed school librarian who manages a networked school library, provides equitable access to up-to-date resources, implements dynamic instructional programs, and fosters a culture that nurtures reading and learning throughout the school. Many students have lost or are in danger of losing these valuable opportunities. RTT has the potential to fund access to these critical and essential services that the school library is uniquely situated to provide.

Writing Tips:

· Know what you are asking for.
· Start with a brief description of that request.
· Be accurate, specific, and concise.
· Use research from reputable sources.
· Be child-centered. This is about meeting the needs of children; it cannot be all about school libraries.
· When possible and appropriate include a BRIEF student-centered story to put a face on your "ask."
Keep messages positive...short & sweet!

Back to the Drawing Board....

So to speak! I gave Sketchcast a look yesterday. It allows users to use their mouse as a pen to write/draw on a virtual pad and add voice.

In theory this is a great idea; I was pretty excited to find it, as our Physics teacher had asked me about doing podcasts. All he needed was to show his "board work," and discuss it, so this would have been a fantastic tool. And our math teachers would have gone nuts over this.

Just one thing. It doesn't work.

I tried it on both my Windows machine at work and my Mac at home. I could draw fine, but could neither hear any audio on the samples, nor add audio to mine. You could even read "where's the sound" comments on various sketches. When I clicked on the "allow" button for the audio, it started whirring and never stopped. When I used their contact forum to email, that didn't work, either.

Hmmm... It seems like they were a little to eager to go public. As I said, back to the drawing board...

But give it a look. If you get it to work, let me know what you did!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NYPL Meets VoiceThread

Last week, VoiceThread announced a joint venture with the New York Public Library, home to thousands of historical documents and photographs.

Users can access over 700,000 images, maps, posters and more as they create their VoiceThread, and it's brilliantly easy to use.

In VoiceThread, Click on "create," then upload. This opens up the "media sources" button, which allows you to choose photos from Flickr, Facebook, your previous VoiceThreads or....the NYPL.

Images are browsable by category, or you can keyword search. Click on the images you want, click "Import" and they will automatically load onto your VoiceThread. They are even already captioned, with links, for citation purposes. How cool is that?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Google and the Creative Commons

Anyone who works with students on digital image projects knows what a major battle it can be to get students to use copyright-appropriate media. "Why can't I just search Google images?" becomes a frequent whine.

Well, now they can.

Using Google Image Advanced Search allows students to set a variety of criteria when they search. Specifically, the "Usage Rights" option offers to limit results to those "labeled for reuse," generating entire banks of rights-friendly images for media projects.

The other options provide even greater control. Search by size, orientation (tall, landscape, etc)file type and color or black and white.

In fact--and I really LOVE this--click on the options link, and you can search for images with a dominant color. Here are the results for a "civil war" search with yellow selected. This is great for art teachers and projects that need some color-coordination.

You can even select the "Face" option, returning only portrait results.
Flickr creative commons is still a wonderful tool, obviously, though one that's frequently filtered in schools. Google Images now provides a viable and easy alternative.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Move Your Books--Digitally

How many times have you had a senior comment "This is the first time I've checked a book out of the library!" I hear this far more often than I'd like. While our students read, they're far more likely to just buy what they want at Borders than check a book out of the library.

Part of that is because my fiction collection leaves a lot to be desired. I'm working on it. But it's also because I don't have much display room. For some ideas on how to display books digitally, check out this post from Joyce Valenza. I found some great ideas for rotating digital displays on the library website. Can't wait to try them out.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Know Your Options!

Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Google Search...they introduce the options button. I bet you didn't even notice. I sure didn't!

Here's a quick tutorial video, and below I'll discuss some of the implications/uses for this in library and research.

There are three options here I especially love.

1) Related Searches/Wonder Wheel. Most of us know it's an uphill battle getting students to plan their searches, generate key words, etc. When they can't find information within the first few hits, they give up. Other search engines provide related terms lists. Below you'll see a comparison of the results in a)Yahoo and b) Google. (Full disclosure: I was a beta-tester for the Yahoo related search options)

The search terms they suggest are fairly similar (though Google adds in some odd ones), and I do think students would find the "related concepts" in Yahoo helpful. Google sold me, however, with one link Yahoo doesn't offer: French Revolution Documents.

As students make increasing use of primary source material--our History Dept. requires students to use at least 7 in their research papers--they will welcome any help in what can often be a grueling search task.

Google takes the related search idea one step further by offering the Wonder Wheel, a graphical presentation of search options (ala Visu-Words) that not only leads students into ever more specific search, but also nods to learning styles preferences.

The Timeline can be used in two different ways. With the "French Revolution" search, for example, the user can drill down into specific dates. Clicking on the 1800's section produced a page on the Battle of Marengo on June 14th, 1800.

It can also reveal trends. Run a search on "autism," and you'll see an explosion from 2000 on, along with an odd spike in the 1940's. Upon further exploration, it turns out autism was identified in 1943, hence the high number of pages in that time frame.

Finally, the "Reviews" section in All Results. Students frequently--at least at our school!-have to find reviews of current topical books. If the NYT Book Review doesn't have it, they're often at a loss for where to look. A search for Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded turned up the NYT Book Review, Slate and wired.com, among others.

What I especially like about all of these options is their ease of use. For some reason, I can't seem to get the students to use the Avanced Search Options, though I keep plugging away. I suspect it requires too much thought/planning for them. ("Do I need all of these words, or just one of them?")

Options makes it a little easier for them to broaden their search options. However much I might decry their lack of initiative in generating their own search terms, if these tools keep them searching and digging longer, with useful results, who am I to argue?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tech-Geek Overload!

Anyone who reads this blog regularly, has probably figured out I can be pretty full of myself sometimes. Over the past two years I've been to many tech workshops and left most of them feeling "So tell me something I DON'T know." In a few I even would suggest easier ways to do something to the presenter.

So I started thinking I actually know a lot about the educational application of technology. When I was accepted to the GTA, I was excited, but wondered what I would really learn. After all, I've been using and teaching about Google Apps for years, right?

Silly me.

Within an hour, my brain was on overload and I was seriously humbled...and inspired.

Over the next few weeks..even months...I'll blog about some pretty cool Google stuff I didn't know about, and you may not either.

I'll also post when they announce the next GTA. And I just have one word for you about that: APPLY!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Moodle, Or Be Careful What You WIsh For...

Ever since I started at my school, I've been angling to get them to drop our current CMS, which I hate, and use Moodle. So test piloting it this year and guess who gets to be the administrator...?

Our tech guys loaded it on my laptop when school was out and OF COURSE I waited until now to start playing with it. Aack! I think it's going to be great, but it's not quite as intuitive as I thought.

Is anything ever??

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Free Mac App Video Tutorials

Apple provides basic "how to get up and running" tutorials for many of its apps, but doesn't always explain some of the cool stuff. Macvideotutorial on YouTube hosts several how'to's for common Mac apps such as Keynote, Pages, iMovie09 and more.

I hate Excel with a fiery and long-burning passion, so I'm trying to learn Numbers instead, and the tutorials here have helped this severely math-challenged learner.

Boulder, Here I Come!

I'm off to the Google Teacher Academy next week. I'm very excited, to say the least! It looks like a diverse group of participants (and I think Wes Fryer, of Digital Storytelling fame, is one of them!?) and I'm sure there will be lots to learn. How we'll cram it all into one day, I don't know!

I will definitely blog it, of course. I've let all things educational take a dive this summer so I could have a real vacation, but it's time to get back to it. My garden looks great, though! Just harvested my one broccoli plant yesterday...

I finally got my school to start using Moodle, too, and I need to start playing with that since I'll be the one showing the teachers. Our tech guys are fuming that I haven't even started yet, since they put it on my laptop before school was out for the summer. Oh, well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Need a Caffeine Buzz?

OK, so this has actually nothing to do with libraries or ed tech, but my ice-cream is a finalist in a Fine Cooking contest. Whoo-hoo! If you have a minute, vote here for NW Caffeine Buzz.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Move Over iTunes U

Last March, Google/YouTube launched their own version of iTunes university, called YouTube Edu. The search engine includes content from over 100 universities and colleges, and allows searching by university, most subscribed or most viewed, as well as the usual keyword.

Content ranges from complete courses such as UC Berkeley's Physics for Presidents to informational videos such as this funny little clip promoting the Indiana University Library.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

CyberSummit on 21st Century Skills

Register here for the online CyberSummit on 21st Century Skills from June 1-12. A nation-wide event including educators, administrators, business people and politicians, offers free webinars and a chance to make your voice heard.

On June 12th, as part of the National Summit, politicians and policy leaders will review the comments as part of their ongoing discussion on the future of education and technology skills.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the Grill

I'm actually taking this summer off, for a change; which, ironically, means I'll be blogging more often as I catch up on my reading and experimenting. Only a few more weeks...

But to kick things off, we bought a Weber charcoal grill over the weekend. I was digging around their website and they have an excellent series of video podcasts with Chef Jamie Purviance that you can also access through iTunes. You'll need to join their online community, but it's free. And I'm totally inspired to try the grilled pizza this weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Google Teacher Academy

Google for Educators is again accepting applications for their Teacher Academy this summer, in Boulder.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gale: Free Swine Flu Information

Gale has provided free access to up-to-date info about the swine flu. You can preview it here or use the widget on the right.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Feed Your Inner Nerd

Have you been known to sit and read the encyclopedia just for the fun of it? Would you even THINK of going to the bathroom without a book in your hand?

I just ran across In Our Time, a great series from BBC radio exploring science, philosophy and culture. Each program focuses on a different topic--representations of Hell through the ages, or frothy brain-teasers such as "Does Time Exist?" with discussion by a panel of experts.

I spent a good portion of the morning sampling various bits and pieces--it's definitely time to haul out the iPod and load these. They'll be great to listen to while driving to work. Or as discussion starters in class.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Word a Day

Need to prep for those SAT words? Are you a visual or aural learner? WordAhead provides over 500 vocabulary videos that describe the word and definition, after which an amusing cartoon and story uses the word (and several others!) in context.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'll Believe It When I See It....

Busy, busy spring, so my posting has definitely tapered off. However, a post by Chris Harris on the AASL Blog raises again that old spectre: Are books obsolete?

Here we go again.

Apparently, the Dean of Purdue/Indiana University library nonchalantly stated that there will be no books left in his library within three years, thanks to databases and the University's digitization program. So Chris posits the end of books for research purposes (we'll still use them for pleasure reading, Kindle to the contrary), and that we better start training our high school students to cope.

Do you sense me rolling my eyes here?

I admire Chris greatly, read his SLJ blog regularly, but he's jumping the gun here. While Purdue's library may well divest itself of physical books (see my title) within three years, I doubt most universities--and almost no secondary schools--are even near that point. The high cost of digitizing books is prohibitive, in and of itself.

Nor is Google Books the cure-all, unless there are major changes in copyright laws. Try accessing any book to which your school hasn't purchased rights, and you'll get only part of the book, and usually not the part you need. Many books aren't even searchable.

This also fails to take into account user preferences. Students are supposed to be digital natives, but the first thing my students want to do when they find something online is print it out. Ever try doing that with a Google Book? I'd be interested to hear the uproar from campus faculty this might have caused. The Dean of the library may be ready to go virtual, but are his faculty and students?

We ran a trial of Questia --a wonderful digital library--last year as a way to augment our book collection; the kids hated it. They found it difficult to search the books, couldn't print out more than a single page and generally told me "don't waste your money; we won't use it."

While I'm fairly sure we're all going to be reading everything in the cloud some day,we could quote Twain here: "The rumos of my [imminent] death have been greatly exaggerated."

Thus, until such time as the resource world is far more digitally friendly than it is, I will continue to teach students to use a wide variety of material, whatever may happen at Purdue!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Animoto Book Trailers

I worked on a project with the 7th graders a couple weeks ago. We used Garage Band and Animoto to create book trailers for the novels they chose for an independent reading assignment.

They searched for photos in Flickr Creative Commons, used music from Royalty Free Music and Free Play Music, used Power Point to create Works Cited slides and saved them as JPEGs. I did let them find their book and author images from a Google images search, figuring if they're not public domain, they should be! I'm not sure that's an argument that would actually hold up in court, of course....

There is an issue with Animoto cutting off the end narration and the final (Works Cites) slides, but I'm trying to figure out a work around for that. I think if you allow the soundtrack an extra 15 seconds or so of music beyond the narration, that will force Animoto to use those final slides. That's my theory, anyway!
Here's a sample of the result.

Monday, February 2, 2009

EtherPad Does Google Docs One Better

A new Web 2.0 tool launched in November: Etherpad. If you've ever been frustrated trying to use Google Docs--inviting all the students, wait time to see changes, not knowing who added what--Etherpad may be for you. It's in beta test right now, and it's been so popular, they've had to go into closed Beta mode. But there's a link to email and ask for an account, and it only takes them a day or two to respond.

Etherpad creates an online collaborative document with real time updating as people add information. Our middle school history teacher is using it currently to teach his students note-taking skills. Better yet, as each student signs in (they only need a URL, not an account), they are assigned a different color, so you automatically know who is writing what.

It allows you to save different versions of the project, creating a unique URL for each one.

Right now, it only supports plain text, but RTF is a possibility in the future.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Support the Arts

I don't know if it's our Puritan roots or pioneer "I'm too busy trying to live to read a book" ethos or what, but America has never been great about supporting the arts. I can't tell you the...discussions...my parents and I had when I decided to switch my major from Marine Biology to English!

Just yesterday, Thomas Friedman recommended doubling the salary of teachers...but only those in math and science. What, elementary teachers, English teachers, history teachers, music teachers don't teach useful skills? He will receive, and deserves, gigabytes worth of protesting emails on that one.

Other countries have had Ministers of Arts or Culture for centuries, and it's high time the U.S. supported a similar position. Quincy Jones plans to ask President Obama to create a Secretary of the Arts, and here's an online petition you can sign in support of that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book Reports 2.0--And Royalty Free Music

Remember those boring book reports we all had to give (and listen to!) back in the day??

Well, give them a spiffy new look with Animoto. I'm helping the 7th graders do their annual book reports today, so I spent last night doing this demo explaining the assignment (and giving them a sense of what Animoto can do.)

I used Garage Band to record the narration and sound track (Audacity would work for Windows people), saved it as an MP3, then uploaded it into Audacity. I made the slides with Power Point (saved as jpegs), uploaded some creative commons photos (that I should have cited, but didn't. Bad modeling!) and voila!

It did take about 8 "re-mixes" to finally get the soundtrack and images to sync-up reasonably well. Take a look at the result.

For some reason, the Works Cited slide at the end isn't showing up...

Here's the pathfinder I put together for the project. I should also add that Royalty Free Music is now offering educator grants that allow free access to their archives for school use.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I Read, I Saw, I Conquered...

OK, so Caesar I'm not. But students could experience Caesar's world virtually --and you could pass on great ideas to share with others (or find other trips to use)-- with Jerome Burg's Google Lit Trips site. Nothing makes a novel come alive like a field trip to the actual setting, and a virtual trip via Google Earth is the next best thing.

Whether you're reading The Secret Life of Bees or The Red Badge of Courage, using Google Earth to create a journey, embed images and links and add essential questions allows students to personalize their reading experience.

If you're not sure how to do this, Burg is teaching a webinar through ISTE on January 14th.

And back to the Caesar reference above, Google now, of course, offers the Ancient Rome overlays, which allows users to virtually walk the streets of Rome. It's a bit tricky to upload the overlays, but you can find my blog on that here.

I'm going to strongly encourage our English Dept. to dip their toes into the Google pool and give these a try.