Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Objective 23 - Reflection of the Journey

I have truly enjoyed my 23 Things learning journey. There were tools that I thought I knew how to use, but I always found new facets when playing and completing the discovery assignment. I love this kind of learning – self-paced; some weeks I have more time than others to devote to a project like this. I have also enjoyed walking this path with so many others. I took great pleasure in reading and commenting on my colleague’s blogs.
My concept of Web 2.0 has not really changed throughout this project. I have, however, come to appreciate many things. I know there have been countless hours by Dino to create this project. I know that I have spent more time completing the tasks plus reading and commenting on blogs than I want to admit. It has also been exhilarating to see so much energy put into a technology learning experience.

Looking back over the last ten weeks…I have rediscovered the wonders of Delicious and Twitter. I better understand how Flickr and YouTube work. I was frustrated with my inability to get the exact product I wanted with screencasting and Prezi. I know I reworked those projects dozens and dozens of times.

I was very surprised the there were not more people doing the 23 Things project. This is the one professional development opportunity that did not cost the school money (well, maybe a few bucks for those that completed all 23 tasks within the allotted time) and could literally be done in PJs at any time of day.

I thought the format of the project was well organized, visually appealing, and nicely balanced for a variety of learners. I think we need to do more technology in this format. The weekly workshops were also great tie-ins to the 23 Things.

I am ready for the next 23 Things project. I wonder what the theme should be???

Objective 22 - My Turn to Teach

As a Tech Coach I think I may have an unfair advantage in completing this Thing. I have had the opportunity to help several people with a particular Thing on this journey. I attempted to help Thing 2's Things with Thing 15 (screencasting), but the solution that I had to learn myself first did not work on her computer…so I guess this one does not count. I also spent some time with Bloguette and helped her better understand Nings (Thing 6) and redo her Thing 8 (Customized Start Page). Of course my fellow 23 Things colleagues appreciated the assistance and it helped me reinforce the skills for myself.

I had the occasion on last week to teach an eighth grader how to do a screencast. She approached me a week or so back and asked if there was a way to capture what a person does on a computer screen and upload this video in a PowerPoint. She did a beautiful job on the screencast and was very proud of the final product.

Working in the Win Lab I have also showed countless teachers and students how to use two of my own favorite Web 2.0 tools: KeepVid (allows you to download and save streaming videos) and Video2MP3 (YouTube downloader and converter).

I have been thinking about an online password manager to keep track of all my passwords in one place. Passpack looks like a good choice to me. I feel like I have investigated hundreds of sites, but I know that is an exaggeration. Passpack offers free accounts with a 100 password limit. According the Passpack website the average person has about 25 accounts requiring passwords. You can also import many passwords at once. Passpack promises to keep my logins safe, organized and available 24/7. I can also securely send passwords and messages to people you trust. I have signed up for an account and will put only a few of my passwords in at this time. I want to see how things go

FillAnyPDF is a website where you upload your PDF form and link to it so other people can fill it out and sign it online. No software is needed. Any PDF form can be used, even if it's not "interactive." I cannot count the number of times I have needed a tool just such as this.

Objective 21 - Tweeting about Twitter

I discovered Twitter a couple of years ago. I created an account and then did nothing. On my second introduction to Twitter I began following several gurus in the educational tech world. Then last summer when I attended the NECC conference in Washington D.C. I began to realize the value of Twitter. I tweeted about the different sessions I attended. By following the hashtags about the conference I was able to learn about many sessions that I did not attend.

I have tweeted via my computer by logging onto my Twitter account and by way of my Blackberry using an app called Twitterberry that I downloaded. I looked into downloading OpenBeak , but decided I liked Twitterberry better. I love the ease of tweeting from my phone!

With the 23 Things project I have a new crop of people who are use Twitter in a different way – simply blogging about what they are doing. I have found myself responding to a few more tweets than I have in the past…some that are not identified by #ash23things.

A discovery I made this weekend, that had nothing to do with the 23 Things project, was Neoformix. Neoformix’s tag line is “discovering and illustrating patterns in data.” That alone was fascinating to me. This site shows how tweets can be transformed into small embedded images. I have not played with this enough to create anything, but the images on the site are pretty amazing to me.

I have some Twitter searching to do later about the MACUL conference I attended earlier in March. I did a bit of testing – I like using Search.twitter.com for this kind of searching on Twitter.

Objective 20 - Presentations with Pizzazz

I love SlideShare and have used it many times. When I go to a conference many times the presenter will have a SlideShare of his/her presentation. I also will periodically search SlideShare for presentations that I miss at a conference. When I was first introduced to SlideShare I was also shown Thumbstacks. Apparently Thumbstacks is no longer available. I mention this because there are many Web 2.0 tools that are short lived while others go on to great fame and use. SlideShare is a great way for students to share and comment on class presentations. This is also one way to overcome file format issues; SlideShare supports ppt, pps, pot, pptx, ppsx, potx, and OpenOffice.

I gave myself a time limit to explore SlideShare to find a presentation to embed in my blog. I know I searched, watched, and rejected presentations for more than an hour. There are just so many good ones that captured my attention. Finally I decide I had to just pick one. I browsed by popularity, choosing the most popular of all time. I happened upon a slideshow that someone shared with me recently. I love the vivid images…this is what I was looking for. Just before I uploaded my SlideShare I noticed that [2 + 4 x 6 - 3 x 5 + 6 x 2] THINGS embedded the same SlideShare (now I remember where I seen this particular show), so I looked for another presentation by the same person.
In investigating a bit more about Scribd I discovered this statement “Scribd is a type of a social networking website that allows you to publish all kinds of documents and images to the web. It's great for people who have something to share with the world but don't have a website, technical skills or the patience to publish things in the traditional way.” This is certainly appealing for a distributing a variety of types of documents to a wide population, such as those attending a conference.

I am a great fan of Google Docs in using the forms tool. I have not used the presentation tool. To be honest, with choices like SlideShare or Scribd, I am not sure that I would choose to use Google Docs.

The Professional Learning Community I belong to tried to use DimDim as a monthly meeting option. There are limitations to this type of tool, but is an option on a very snowy meeting day.

I did not explore WiZiQ. I opened the website and immediately knew that I needed to spend more time with this tool. I am intrigued by the front page statement…”WiZiQ enables teachers and learners to collaborate through: virtual classes, online tests, educational content, contact network.”

I saved playing with Prezi last in this Thing. Here is my first Prezi presentation.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Objective 19 - Perusing Podcasts

My greatest obstacle in listening to the podcasts that I selected is that I need to download them to a mobile device. I rarely listen to anything from my computer.

I did not like Podcastalley.com. I was not able to download the few podcasts that I found appealing. There are so many other choices in searching for podcasts that I simply moved on to another site. I have explored the Educational Podcast Network in the past. I love how this site is all education and organized by subject area. It is easy to locate what I am looking for. I found a podcast that I thought would be great The Technology Teacher. The only problem that I noticed is that the last podcast was June 16, 2008. I can listen to old shows, but it appears that this podcast is no longer posted on a regular basis. I have not explored Learn Out Loud before. I liked the organization of the site, but I was able to find most of the same podcasts, that I was interested in, via iTunes. There are certainly lots of podcasts to explore via Podcast.com. I began searching through education. This is not just the type of education I am interested in – that of children – but legal, medical, etc. I really like finding podcast via iTunes/iTunesU; it is so easy to get the latest episode of a podcast. I subscribe to a couple of podcast via iTunes: Middle School Matters, Today’s Middle Level Educator, NPR: Education Podcast, and Tech Chick Tips.

As a school I think we have not truly tapped into the venue of podcasts. If we did more podcasting I think we would improve our parent education. Perhaps with the increase use of the Parent Portal this is an avenue that we need to explore further in the future.

Objective 18 - Working with Wikis

I played in our wiki sandbox for our 23 Things project. It was easy – except – I could not upload an image of my own. I could upload an image that was on the web, but not one that I took. I read the help – that usually assists me in solving my own problems, but not this time. While playing in the sandbox I could not resist eliminating unnecessary spaces in information that others wrote. I know that is my OCD tendencies sneaking out – I just couldn’t help myself.

I contributed to the Academy of the Sacred Heart's Wikipedia entry. Creating a Wikipedia account was not as challenging as I thought it might be. I have to share that I was a bit nervous prior to creating an account. How could I add to “Wikipedia?” After reading all of the instructions, cautions, etc. I actually felt better. There was a line that helped me over my apprehensions about being bold, Wikipedia is not breakable – everything can be reversed.

I contributed to Wikipedia on a topic that was not linked in my original entry. There was no information about Reverend Mother Katherine Wansboro. I am an avid collector of books (mostly purchased from E-bay) about the history of our school. To create a quick entry I relied on Living the Legacy by Arlene Stone.

I also have a WikiSpaces account, not that I have a need for a wiki right now, but just to let others know it is an easy wiki to set up. Then a word about PBworks, I belong to a Professional Learning Community Tech Group, Let’s Talk Technology, that has used PBworks to record notes from our meetings. This tech group likes to dabble with many tools and currently uses the wiki in Moodle, though some information is still in the PBworks wiki.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Objective 17 - Wondrous Wikis

Intellectually I understand the difference between a wiki and a blog. A wiki is a quick, collaborative tool and a blog is a journal-style log. To be quite honest, until the 23 Things project I did not truly understand the value of either of these tools. Upon starting the 23 Things project I immediately fell in love with the set-up of a blog. The organization, the ability to add widgets – this is all very appealing to me. When I first approach Thing 17 I had the attitude of “get through this one quickly” – you know what it is. After reviewing oodles of wikis and reading some of the blogs of my fellow 23 Things colleagues, I began to envision uses for a wiki. One such possibility is the end of the year prizes conversations. In the past this information has been mailed to one person to collate. Boy, have we been wasting our time! Using a wiki each faculty member can record his/her thoughts. This is not only a time saver but information will not be repeated.

I explored lots of wikis that I want to probe a bit more.

I believe all of these wikis can be located with the More… link.

In one comment on a fellow 23 Things blog the question of wiki versus a Ning was posed. The question made me think – what is the difference? Why would I choose one over another? I think I would create a wiki for collaboration on a single project or more “short term” and a Ning for a more “long term” collaborative discussion with a particular group. The Ning feels like a more permanent part of the group that created it. I also seems like a Ning mimics the organization of a blog. Wikis seem to need a person in charge to make sure the posts are structured.