Thursday, March 21, 2013

On the Road to Bali...

This time tomorrow I will be well on my way to a week long Geek Fest in Bali, otherwise known as the Apple Distinguished Educator conference.  I'm sure I'll have plenty to blog about.  Time may be more of an issue, but stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Here's the book (In a round about way)

We're having issues trying to get the WWII book in the general iTunes store, but since a few people wanted to see it, I've put it in my Dropbox.  You'll need to upload it into iTunes, then sync with your iPad/Pod/Phone to get it into iBooks.

It's 800mb, so it will take a while to load!  In fact, it's still uploading to the Dropbox, so if you're reading this anywhere within an hour  of 3:30 pm Beijing time, it may not have finished uploading yet.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The iPad Trials: Now on iTunes U

We're building our course on iTunes U.  We only have the first two units up now, but take a look and subscribe, should you feel so inclined!

For those who've asked about the WW II book the kids created, we're uploading it to a different course, which will be live by Wednesday.  I'll post the link then.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

EasyBib: Almost in Your Firefox Toolbar

(Yeah, yeah. I get the irony here.)

I had an email from EasyBib in my inbox today  (Ahem!).

Students can now cite websites directly from Firefox.  Cool idea, but there are still a few kinks to work out.

It's a quick add-on, but took me a minute to find once I added it.

Here's where EasyBib's photos say it shows up.

Here's where I found it.  But maybe Evernote is forcing it to move.

Once I found it, it was pretty slick, at first.  Here's what is supposed to happen.

You click on the icon, a box pops up that allows you to select the project for your citation
Select the appropriate project and click "Cite on Easy Bib."

A new box pops up with the familiar citation interface, allowing you to add dates and verify the information.  Click "Create" and Bob's your uncle, as our British cousins say, and the citation adds to selected Bibliography.

Sort of.

It worked the first time I tried it--but pretty much hasn't on multiple repeat tries. Here are the problems:

1.   After the initial try, it hasn't let me select my project.  The box opens, and the menu pops up, but then it closes when I click.  When I reopen the box, the same project shows.  I tried this at least seven times, with the same results. 

2.  Finally, I just  clicked "Cite on Easy Bib." Instead of the page to adjust information, it took me straight to this:

Of course, when I went to EasyBib to check the bibliography, nothing was there.  Again, repeatedly.  I thought my browser might be outdated, but it's the current version--19.0.2

So, I'm sorry to say, this is a great idea that's not quite ready to pass on to the students.  I hope they keep working on it.

UPDATE:  I've been playing with it off and on, because I REALLY want this to work!  While I still can't get it to let me select different projects, at least the citation screen started working (see below).  While the citation defaults to websites, you can change the citation type once it pops up, and manually add the other info.

Farewell to Google Reader?!

Google,  it was bad enough when you abandoned iGoogle, my go to tool for information dashboards.

But Google Reader??!  Really?!

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

You'd think I'd learn. Every time I get on my high horse about something, life has a way of cutting me down to size.

Yesterday, I ran on a bit about the validity of social searching, taking EasyBib to task for denigrating the practice in a white paper I had just read.

Except it wasn't EasyBib. It was Turnitin.

It wasn't even laziness on my part--just a confused mind!  I even remember seeing the Turnitin logo on the email!  Better yet, when I searched my email for the link again, it didn't come up with my EasyBib search term, and I had to look for white paper. You'd think that would be a clue I had mixed things up a bit.

So, my humbled, abject, grovelling apologies to EasyBib, for whom my love continues, now unsullied!

Turnitin?  That's more complicated.

Open Letter

Dear EasyBib: Turnitin

I love you.  You make my life easier, and my students' lives easier. But You have a lot to learn about  21st Century searching!

I recently read a white paper from you entitled "The Sources in Student Writing."  In it, you state
"50% of matches lead to sites that are academically suspect, including cheat sites and paper mills,
shopping sites, and social and user-generated content (italics mine)."  A few paragraphs later, you included a chart, part of which showed  more specifically, the social sources you meant.

I didn't know whether to laugh or groan when I read this,  because it's so old school, privileging traditional sources and failing to recognize the dynamic shift in research sources and strategies "hip" librarians teach today. You see, we are all curators now, and search-savvy students recognize that and add social sharing sites to their personal search arsenal.

I was talking to a student today who is writing a paper about pollution in China and its effect on other countries.  He was having problems finding data, but did know the names of a few people studying the topic.  With his science teacher there, I told him:  Get on  Twitter and Technorati  or Google Blog Search to see if  your experts keep a blog or Twitter feed.  Follow them.    Comment on his posts or respond to his tweets.  Ask questions.  That's called primary source research. Or use this hashtag guide to search specific topics.

Then, dig through Scribd, Scoop,it and Slideshare.  Have they uploaded papers or presentations there?  Maybe they're on Diigo or Delicious--follow their bookmarks and read what they're reading.

Face it, EasyBib Turnitin. When even the MLA tells you how to cite a tweet, you know you've made it into the research Big Time!

 Of course students still need to be careful about authority, but that's true no matter what source they use.  The bigger picture, and the one your white paper didn't acknowledge, is  that authority no longer lies merely in books or databases. You can find it in blogs, on Facebook,  and certainly on Twitter.  Smart students create and follow their own PLNs, using a variety of tools  not only to expand their learning, but to bring it to them, rather than going out (or online) to find it.

And that's my beef with your article.  It didn't acknowledge that social sharing sites potentially great sources; it just lumped them together with Yahoo! Answers.

So pardon the rant, but, please--a little more nuance next time?

Jeri Hurd
HS Teacher Librarian

UPDATE: Aack!  It was, indeed, from Turnitin, not Easybib.  See grovelling apology here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The iBook Author Project: Transforming the Classroom.

This is a great find.  For those of you lucky enough to be a Mac school, I firmly believe the library needs to promote--prodigiously!--not just the teacher use of iBooks Author, but STUDENT-CREATED iBooks.

I've blogged previously (ad nauseum?) about our iPad Trials  (though, personally, I think it's more of an iBooks Author trial at this point, but it may be expanding).

Basically, for this project, students are researching WW II, specifically some aspect of their home countries' involvement (we're an international school).  Each student will use iBooks Author to create an interactive, illustrated chapter on their topic, with each chapter also including a Timeline using BeeDocs Easy Timeline (very cool).  Then we'll pull all the chapters together into a single book.  Each chapter will being with a one minute video interview of the student discussing the reason for his/her topic choice, and what s/he learned. 

We'll also include interviews at the end from each of the teachers (history, tech integrator and me), discussing the project as a whole, and what WE learned from it.

Our major concern lay in keeping the tech from over-whelming the content.  After the projects initial introduction, students had one day with the iPads, looking at several different interactive books as models (especially this one).  Then they never actually had an iPad in their hands again until well after their research was finished and they had written their text and found their images.

We spent a day introducing the basics of iBooks Author, then gave them a week to put their chapter together.  We did spend one Saturday afternoon here,  a) to double-check for copyright compliance and b) for students who wanted to add extra inter-activity to their books.

Students handed in their iBA files, and an intern put them all together.

What we would add next time:
  • Lesson on layout and design
  • Lessons on advanced Keynote design (for creating interactive widgets)
  • We'd plan a style sheet ahead of time. While students did all use the same template, we realized halfway through they were changing fonts and layouts, which gave the book a rather chaotic look! We had to decide on font choices and other design elements we wanted to keep consistent, then have students go back and change theirs accordingly.

It's a great project, in that students do (mostly) original research on topics of personal interest. Moreover, because everyone knew we planned to publish it world-wide, we were all on our A-game, students and teachers alike.  The whole experience was powerful for students and eye-opening for teachers, once we saw the students level of engagement and commitment.

Whether it would have the same power once more teachers jump on board and they become "old hat" for students, I don't know. I tend to think not.  In the meantime, however, I'm a believer!

Once the book is up on iTunes U, I'll post the link.  I think it will be a good model for similar projects in other schools!

iPad Trials: The Action Plan Documents

The brilliant Madeleine Brookes and I have been working hard at going school-wide with the iPad Trials.  Initially, we were working with students to create their history iBook (we hope to get that upon iTunes soon).  Now, the school has agreed has purchased iPad-mini carts for each of the sections (PS, MS and HS).
In the HS, we are running action research trials, with a core group of 12 faculty, all of whom applied and were selected out of 30+ applicants.  Each teacher will be issued a new iPad (subsidized 60% by the school, and the rest from their PD funds).

I will be working with the Tech Integrator to run a series of workshops on using the iPad for academic purposes.  As part of their acceptance into the group, each teacher agrees to plan and implement a piece of Action Research.

We'll divide the group into four cohorts, each with a support person who will also sign off on their action research.

Now, all of this will fit into our larger action research:  Do iPads Enhance Student Learning?
Each of the individual plans will supplement our overall research by looking at specific aspects of iPads in schools.

I'm linking to--or embedding--the various documents we've created.  Feel free to use, modify or adapt.  We only ask that if you use these, you also make your documents available to others.

Needless to say, all of these are works in progress!

iPads in the High School (overall plan)
What Is An Action Plan?

Action Planner (for writing individual action plans)

From a library standpoint, it's been an interesting discussion about managing the iPad carts, deciding how apps will be added (being in China adds a whole new dimension to that!),  check-out procedures/policies, who gets priority, etc.   Thank heavens for my über-organized assistant who sees issues I never even think of!