Friday, February 27, 2009

Unanticipated Uses of Twitter

Evan Williams' recent presentation at TED, highlights how Twitter (once a side project at ODEO) is being engaged in ways unforeseen, by the Twitterati.

One more thing: In case you're nervous about everyone being able to access your tweets, you can limit access to your tweets by using https.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

1 Teacher: 3 Schools: 2 Cool

I recently had a chance to visit with Chris Gagnon to see how the District School Board of Niagara's VLearning project is bringing widely scattered students to a common classroom for math instruction in HD. This podcast is a condensed interview that outlines the project which is supported by the technology in the accompanying photos. (Click for an enlarged view.)

Subscribe to past or future podcasts via iTunes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Essay

"We need to become serious about helping students become 'citizen composers' instead of good 'test takers'."
from Writing in the 21st Century (NCTE)

While writing is a critical literacy, "The Essay" emphasizes that learning to engage future technologies starts in the present!

Does you still assign essays? What are the alternatives?

Monday, February 23, 2009

What We Can Learn from the Oscars

Today's brief podcast outlines 5 lessons that educators can learn from the producers of this year's Academy Awards telecast. I suspect the many changes adopted will lead to an Emmy Award for this show, but until that time, it's worth recognizing some of the significant changes that were adopted.

Photo Credit: Beau B

Saturday, February 21, 2009

15 Efficient e-Portfolio Tools

As more and more educators bring rich learning opportunities to their students, it makes sense for us to engage students in the creation of electronic portfolios of their work. Although there are a number of 'pay-for-service' sites and content management systems that are up to the task, there are also a number of free and low cost alternatives that can be leveraged by teachers and students in order to demonstrate their personal and professional competencies.

Whether you're looking for a place to share group portfolios, to publicize culminating performances, or to encourage students to post personal learning histories, it may be well worth your while to become familiar with one or more of these tools:

Posterous: Thanks to the fact that students and teachers can post content by simply emailing all manner of media to their custom blog address, this tool is now at the top of my list. Automate the embedding of audio files, documents, and recorded video on your custom site.

ScrapBlog: In using the concept of electronic 'scrapbook', this tool may be the easiest for your charges to understand. Rich templates professionalize the photo and video work of students, and the results can be shared in many ways.

PBWiki: The humble wiki can play a lead role in allowing students to gather their work either individually, or as members of a group. Through a universally understood edit and share format, a variety of wiki tools are available, for use by schools.

WetPaint: My favourite wiki tool can be made 'ad-free' for educational purposes by simply drafting an email request to WetPaint wikis make it easy to create community around evolving projects, and the inviting 'easy edit' button and WYSIWYG editor make it easy for anyone to contribute.

Wix: If you want a look and feel that's sure to be a hit with young people, this site engages animated menus and rich templates to embed all types of media. Although the site is in beta release, you can do things you can't do in traditional wikis & blogs, like rotating media to play on custom angles!

Carbonmade: One of only a few tools designed specifically for e-portfolios, this free online app allows you to showcase images, flash media, or video. Creators can conveniently add text explanations or artist statements to pieces that appear on the site.

Weebly: If you're looking for simple drag and drop utility in a web-based interface, this page creation tool can help you to highlight your digital work, or to bring attention to the multimedia creations of your students.

WebNode: This tool is another free WYSIWYG page editor that allows you to post media into a number of ready-made templates.

SimplyBox: If you require your students to pull together pieces from across the world wide web, this solution can be leveraged to highlight one's own online work, while referencing other sources that may have inspired the work.

Google Sites: If you're a fan of Google services for email and document creation, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with the free site creation tools available to registered users. Before going in too deep, familiarize yourself with the terms of service.

Viewbook: If you're looking for a place to host photos, or scans of student artwork, and have a budget to do so, this tool's professional-looking interface may be your solution.

Jalbum: This free alternative allows you to organize photos or scans in an offline layout, and then to post your work in the Jalbum community or elsewhere. The album creation software is free to download and to use. More than file sharing, this site uses a simple and clean interface to embed all types of media for playback or download.

DropBox: While this resource is traditionally effective for sharing desktop files 'in the cloud', it can also be used to help students collect their work into one online location.

For those looking for an e-portfolio reference to share with colleagues, you might find what you're looking for in the JISC document Effective Use of e-Portfolios.

Are there other e-portfolio tools you'd recommend?

Photo Credit: Lionel Torres

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bluetooth Comes to the Classroom

Early this morning, I had a chance to catch up with Jarrod Robinson about how he's leveraging MP3 players and Bluetooth technology to engage his students. Our conversation is brief, but I think you'll find it thought provoking.

Related Links:

Mr. Robbo: The P.E. Geek

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why did the Deer Cross the Road?

Earlier today, I had an experience that I couldn't help but connect to the reality of school today. I've re-drafted the events, to highlight the parallels I drew to how our education system often fails to meet the needs of students in distress.

The Student: The wide-eyed deer in this story, plays the part of the struggling student. Buck, like many modern pupils, doesn't fit into the mold of the academic student; and although he was in obviously out of his element, he had no alternative but to go where he didn't really belong... to the classroom.

The Guidance Counselor: On the road in front of me, was a driver who insisted on traveling at 20 km below the speed limit. Like many educators, calmly doing what they've always done, the driver felt no compulsion to change gears. When the deer shot across the road barely avoiding this vehicle, the driver seemed not even to notice. As we encounter those with the need for alternate 'real world' experiences, are we not often at a loss as to how to proceed?

The Classroom: When the incident originally occurred, I watched Buck run headlong through the glass doorway of what I later discovered to be a travel agency. Rather than looking for an opportunity read and write in preparation for his future, this deer came looking for short-cuts to his final destination. Like many of our students without the 'I-do-school-good' gene, it's no surprise that the travel agents were unable to accommodate his needs.

The Chaos In the Classroom: In speaking to the novice travel agent (It was her first day on the job!), I was reminded of a teacher expecting appropriate classroom behavior. Although she could clearly describe how Buck was misbehaving inside the 'classroom', she was at a loss as to how to proceed. The deer literally ran into; dove under; and lept over the desks in the room clearly indicating the need for an alternate learning opportunity. Those in the room knew he was in distress, but were at a loss as to how to help.

The Graduation: After making a ruckus, the deer chose to exit on its own terms. This early-leaver, knew that school wasn't for him, and as soon as he knew he could get out, the deer boldly left the premises, never to look back. The observant educators knew that his needs had to be met elsewhere, but when the need was most pressing, they felt powerless to provide the opportunity.

The Yearbook: As with many early-leavers, we may never know where this deer eventually ended up. Having missed his yearbook photo, at least this deer blazed a trail from which his teachers might learn. Sadly, Buck's experience with the system as it exists today, will likely convince him to home school his own children.

Learning in Conversation

I'm not sure if it's true everywhere, but in many of the school offices I visit, students are treated like second class citizens... or worse. It was on my mind late last week, so I've blurted out my opinions in today's podcast. If the content strikes a nerve with you, I hope you'll take the time to add your comments to the conversation.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kinesthetic Learning Tools

After learning about Siftables by way David Merrill's recent presentation at TED, I find myself wondering why educators and others have created so few kinesthetic learning tools.

Once students get beyond the primary grades, the learning tools we employ most predominantly, are pen, paper and keyboard. Maybe Siftables will lead us to rethink the tools we use to reach learners that prefer modalities beyond reading and writing?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tag Yourself as 'TwitterTeacher'

One of the things we've been trying to get our heads around on Twitter for Teachers, is how educators can find others with similar portfolios. In discussion with Ed Webb on a feed called "Do we want to list 'Teachers on Twitter'?" we happened upon a unique solution that engages teachers in 'tagging themselves'.

Our strategy leverages Twitter, Delicious, and Google Reader (or any other RSS reader). If you know these tools, the explanation below may well set you on your way towards subscribing to a wide variety of TwitterTeachers!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Authentic Public Speaking

I've seen many formal public speaking performances since I began teaching in the late 1980's, but in my experience, it has been relatively rare for a student's message to truly be made 'public'. The age of the read/write web makes it easy for any student (or any other person) to share thoughts, opinions and ideas via text, audio or video; and I wonder when the lure of a global audience, will overshadow the prospect of a performance for one's peers and teachers.

If you've seen children play hockey in an arena, then Miller Donnelly's rehearsal for distant relatives may strike very close to home. I think it's a wonderful example of how we can empower young people to bring important messages to light, and to transmit them on a grand scale.

Beyond YouTube, this video has been highlighted in web articles, on television and has even been played on the Jumbo-tron in Miller's home town of Sudbury. What would you have to do in order to garner such an audience?

Is public speaking still a staple in your school? What do you do to ensure such experiences are motivating and authentic?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Twitter for Teachers: The e-Book

How would you like to co-author an e-book?

Yesterday afternoon, after purchasing the domain, I began framing a wiki to host the development of a resource for teachers new to Twitter. Now that the site has begun to take shape, you are hereby invited to share your ideas as a member of the collaborative that will draft this e-learning resource.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When Are Exams Over?

This evening, I learned that the exams my daughters wrote last week, will not be returned. For the sake of maintaining the security of the exams, which I presume will be used again and again, exam-writers will never see how their responses were graded.

Am I alone in shaking my head at this reality?

Why I Dislike Exams

Too often, exams test 'facts' which any student would be able to find via Google.

Too often, exams are completed only with paper and pencil.

Too often, exam results comprise a significant proportion of a student's final grade.

Too often, exams are most stressful to those least likely to benefit from the experience.

Too often, exams are ineffective in their attempts to assess learning that took place throughout an entire course.

Too often, the knowledge and understanding demonstrated through exams, cannot be repeated in days following the exam.

Too often, exams test language skills, rather than course specific expectations.

Too often, final grades are the only feedback students get on their exam experience.

Too often, exams measure knowledge and understanding, completely devoid of meaningful context.

I've heard the argument that we need exams to prepare students for university... Yet, in some places policies exist to exempt the very students who might one day have to write post-secondary exams. Are exemptions a way to reward high achievers, or a way to penalize low achievers?

As observant teachers grow in confidence, assessing the learning of their students through rich day-to-day experiences, perhaps the authority long held by written tests, will be gradually diminish...

Photo Credit: Jon Oakley; COCOEN

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

12 Changes

They're already here...
and every Teacher needs to know about them!

Technology has resulted in a number of significant changes in the ways people communicate, learn and create. This slideshow highlights a number of trends that should lead to significant changes in classrooms around the world.

Just in case anyone would like an audio explanation of the slides, here is the companion podcast:

Do you see any other significant changes that should lead to changes in the ways we teach & learn?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Creative Commons Chaos

In an attempt to bring some order to the chaos of Creative Commons licensing, I've created a list of resources that educators might share with students as a starting point for all manner of creative projects. To explain a bit about each resource, I've appended a 3 word summary to each CC tools/resource.

If these don't suit your purposes, check out the ever-expanding CC Content Directories.

ccMixter: sample-remix-create
CC Mixter Dig Tool: simple-search-sample
Free Music Archive: free-music-radio
Free Sound Project: FX-variety-sounds
Sound Bible: licensed-sounds-FX
opsound: music-soundtracks-voice
Sound Transit: samples-environment-sounds
BeatPick: listen-think-create
Free Loops: loops-loops-loops
SoundClick: music-downloads-community
Jamendo: music-artists-sharing
Owlmm: music-search-simplified
Magnatune: listen-download-license
FreePlayMusic: free-music-library
Audacity Tutorials: teach-audacity-podcasting
Sutros: musicians-share-music
The 61: independent-music-democracy

Photos & Images
Wylio: photo-attribution-embed
Flickr: choice-photographers-community
Compfight: search-Flickr-safe
Vezzle: free-stock-search
FlickrStorm: search-Flickr-licenses
Behold: search-Flickr-safe-history
Simple CC Flickr Search: search-Flickr-safe-attribution
Idée Lab: Multicolor: search-Flickr-colours
Image Codr: attribute-cc-images
Cool Image Bank: share-collection-images
EveryStockPhoto: global-stock-photography
More CopyFriendly Media: copyleft-media-education
Sprixi: embed-attribution-automatically

Big Buck Bunny: animation-remix-share
Elephants Dream: animation-creative-shareable
Nasty Old People: film-torrent-donation
Star Wreck: movie-clips-original
Insecurity: film-online-download
Prelinger Archives: public domain-remix-archive
RIP: remix-manifesto-movie
Khan Academy: lessons-blackboard-teacher

Free Culture: Lawrence Lessig-copyright-creativity
O'Reilly Open Books: choice-book-publishing
Bound by the Law: copyright-comic-remix
Tree of Life Web Project: contribute-wiki-life
Little Brother Cory Doctorow-share-remix
Abracadabra!: book-Beatles-Revolver
Samandal Comics Magazine: comic-magazine-creative
21st Century Technology Tools: Liz Davis-tutorials-ICT
55 Ways to Have Fun with Google: Philippe Lenssen-Google-ideas
Open Thinking Wiki: Alec Couros-wiki-ICT
MIT OpenCouseware: courses-lessons-multimedia

License Your Creative Content

Internet Archive: archive-public domain-media simple-video-upload slideshow-CC-downloads

Plenty more CC licensed content is available from the Creative Commons Content Directories. What other Creative Commons resources do you recommend?

CC logo: Drew Baldwin