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Interesting CBC Podcast March 31, 2009

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I came across this CBC Podcast a couple of weeks ago and forgot to post it. The original Podcast though not meant to focus on social networking and student/teacher relationships, it turned that way about 10:42 minutes into the Podcast. Also be sure to check out the discussion on the “chat” board. It has mimicked much of what we have said within our course on technology (regarding fears, pros and cons of technology), and whether or not educators who use the Web 2.0 technology are more effective than those who do not.

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Women of Web 2.0 March 31, 2009

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Last week Alec Couros had our grad class try something a little different and suggested we try EdTechTalk. With last week’s schedule quite full with the upcoming drama regional fest and a Masters meeting the only session I could attend was Women of Web 2.0. Needless to say I had some fears of being the only male in the room, but thought that maybe I would see another side of social networking from a different perspective.

From the beginning I was frustrated with UStream. At the very beginning it was down and took a few minutes for the issue to be solved. That is understandable when it comes with technology, good when it works and frustrating when it does not. However throughout the hour long session the audio would cut in and out, get stuck in a loop for what seemed like minutes at a time. Honestly I do not know if this is a constant problem with UStream or not, but I much prefer Elluminate and its more solid performance.

The session began with the sharing of “wows” which were Web 2.0 tools that the speakers all recently discovered. I thought that this was a great idea in sharing resources of what prize tidbits were available. However almost immediately I discovered the trend (aka problem) that occurred all night, the pacing of the show was horrible. The links came up so fast or so slow that the audio and visual was greatly out of tune with one another. As they talked about the merits of these jems of 2.0 you could hardly keep up with them. The speakers seemed to talk without much respect for the audience. I found it nearly impossible to explore the links when the audio and chat room were in sync. Honestly it made me appreciate the pace of our own sessions much more.

I found that people who wished to ask questions, either in the chat room or verbally, seemed discouraged as the speakers consistently stayed on fast forward not allowing anyone to cut in. This led to much confusion on my part as to what was being talked about and who exactly was talking as many times more than one person was talking at a time.

Like Megan and Trevor I found the host at times condescending and irritating. There seemed to be a natural bias that only those teachers using technology were effective. Honestly it seemed like an hour long pat on the back for them. I understand that these individuals have been using technology effectively in their classrooms and made some great points, but their attitudes turned me off. I think an educator who was not as comfortable with technology as I am would easily become frustrated with these sessions and maybe become turned off of these Tech sessions. Perhaps if there was a note to indicate that it was a more advanced class, or perhaps they have lost their focus on who they wish to educate, it could be better.

Now I must say that not everything was so bleak that I would not try another EdTechTalk. I think it showed educators effectively using technology in new and interesting ways. With those individuals using the technology and bridging the gap between theory and practice it was enlightening. Perhaps with more polishing and a more “structured” approach to delivering their words of wisdom the sessions could become clearer, more meaningful, and more user friendly.

Tech Thursday? Tech Week!! March 22, 2009

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This week has been a busy week in technology. Beginning with a PLC on Wednesday the floodgates opened and technology ran rampant for the remainder of the week. All good! Let me explain.

Within our social science PLC group at Carpenter we have been struggling with finding common ground between us all to try and come up as a group an issue to tackle. Trevor can confirm this with a similar problem last year. As we sat around chatting about everything else but a PLC topic, someone mentioned technology (as we were in a room with a SmartBoard). That innocent little comment turned into the best PLC day ever for the five of us, and the quickest PLC day ever (even staying after the bell). Our Native Studies teacher showed us his Wiki he created for his Native Studies courses. I then showed my classroom update blog. The other members of the PLC group were hooked and the rest of the afternoon was spent signing people up to Google, creating Blogs, exploring Google Docs, Wikis, etc. We have the creation of two new blogs and promises of coming back to expand upon these ideas next week, like uploading documents (via Scribd).

Thursday Jim showed me some new social websites that I have begun exploring. Jim showed me a website that ranks the most popular social sites. This site has introduced me to some new tools that may help me find links to new materials, interests, and resources. StumbleUpon is a site that you let know what your interests are and have it show you more websites and web pages that you’ll like. Docstoc (dot-doc-stock) compiles a wealth of legal, educational, technical and business documents for you to download for free. You can upload your own files in a number of formats. Mango brings total immersion language learning to the Internet, exposing students to conversations with native speakers. These are but three social sites upon this website. It is really amazing to flip through and covers topics that any person can connect to. Web 2.0 is alive and well on SEomoz’s Web 2.0 Awards. Check this site out…if you don’t you will regret it!

Lastly was Friday where I spent an entire Law 30 class sharing Google Docs to my students for their law newspaper project. As they work in teams they often find it hard to share writing when one forgets a thumbdrive, email being blocked by filters, etc. The students were enthralled with the ease of Google Docs and sharing as collaborators. I have a feeling that this year will be much easier in sharing legal ideas. The students played around for an entire period on Google Docs! Who would have thought a word processing site would entertain teens for an entire period.

The best part of this week, is a reawakening of my tech interests and ability to share. For once I felt like I was teaching people about technology and its uses, not the other way around.

Celebrities and tech… March 16, 2009

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I just finished reading Kim’s post on Oprah Connects and found it interesting how celebrities seem to flock to the connected world to market themselves and their ideas, causes, shows, music, etc.

Just after reading this I was surfing CBC and came across a link to celebrities who are tech-phobic. In reading some of them like, Paul McCartney and Larry King I was surprised with some of their answers, though I understand Paul’s response to him using an ATM…I just cannot imagine running into Paul McCartney at an ATM.

Here is the article about Celebs Who Do Without [Tech] and here it is in a slideshow format.

Social technologies vs. safety March 10, 2009

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I was recently reading some excerpts from Weblogg-ed by Will Richardson. In the past few weeks many of you might remember that I have been struggling with using social web tools in the classroom to increase communication between students/parents and myself. At virtually every angle I seem to be blocked by policies and overactive web filters. A quote from this site spoke to me and sums up my feelings well:

Specific genres of social media may come and go, but these underlying properties are here to stay. We won’t turn the clock back on these. Social network sites may end up being a fad from the first decade of the 21st century, but new forms of technology will continue to leverage social network as we go forward. If we get away from thinking about the specific technologies and focus on the properties and dynamics, we can see how change is unfolding before our eyes. One of the key challenges is learning how to adapt to an environment in which these properties and dynamics play a key role. This is a systems problem. We are all implicated in it – as developers and policy makers, as parents and friends, as individuals and as citizens. Social media is here to stay. Now we just have to evolve with it.

I know there is much debate regarding these policies and whether they are useful or not. I do see both sides of the argument. I understand that we are asked to integrate technologies within the classroom and that there are underlying concerns for students safety. As the quote reads to me these technologies, in whatever form they take, are here to stay. Is the question of blocking potentially harmful web sites, info, materials, social networks, etc. the solution? How can schools promote the use of technology to increase communication and then block them? Is the solution, as the quote states to me, the job of parents, friends, students, and educators to evolve with the technologies and educate students to use it effectively?

Reflection on my blog and how we communicate… March 9, 2009

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As I was updating my classroom blog it struck me that it may be to much. In an age and society where less is more is it too wordy? I still think it is a great idea to keep the lines of communication open between educator, student and parent. But can I make it more efficient?

I still am not grasping well the idea of Twitter and its uses right now. I have said in past posts it has helped me to locate some resources/stories that I have felt useful, but the form of communication is lost to me. However, between Twitter and texting (via cell phone) I am beginning to see the benefits of less is more. Perhaps keeping it simple would relate to students better. For parents I thought should I incorporate a list of assignments, tests, exams and their due dates? Is scrolling through daily updates worthwhile?

I have talked with two parents, for sure, that use my blog and they love it (whew). Just today a parent called and asked me [concerned] that the assignment posted on my blog on Friday was due today, and that her son was not there due to the cold weather. Was he going to lose marks? I assured her not. She thanked me and I quickly asked her if she routinely used my blog. She said she does and that it gives her the ability to ask her son the “right questions” to get a response from him. Before he would give her a short answer not very telling, but now she can and does ask questions that he has to answer.

After this I felt fantastic. It’s working! But how can I make it clearer? Twitter and texting has taught me a new brief language to get the point across. So exploring the blog options revealed a couple of ideas of what to do, but I thought I would try Google Docs. Lo and behold a calendar option. I tried many variations, but these did not fit within the blog well. I kept on trying and voila there it was my solution. It’s short and simple, to the point, lists upcoming events, assignments, tests, etc. I have put it near the top so that as people view the page it should be one of the first things seen. Because it is not huge, I hope dial-up users won’t find it slow to load. I guess time will tell, but I think in an age of communication that values brief shorts snippets of info, that my “update calendar” will be useful.

Update to the blog

Update to the blog

Podcast… March 8, 2009

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So with many of you exploring audio options I thought I would give this a try as well. I made the podcast as easy as can be…well in five steps following Jim’s instructions on his blog.

Well unfortunately it is way easy on Blogger, but with WordPress I could not figure it out. I went online and found many ways to do it, but they were not clear and involved me downloading more programs to then insert code in WordPress for a player through extraction from WinZip and WinSCP and then much more. HUH? I was easily lost.

Instead I am just going to insert it in a old blog to try it out…an old Blogger account.

Battle of technologies… March 6, 2009

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I saw this video a couple of months ago and thought it might be appropriate to bring up in class regarding technology. It really is interesting to see how communication has changed roughly over 170 years. Is new technology better? Watch this and see.

What have I learned? March 4, 2009

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Alec asked near the end of class last night, what have we learned from our experience within 831. In reflecting on this last night and this morning two things have become more clear to me as how this class has impacted upon myself.

Firstly is the idea of excitement and potential. More comfort level with technology has seemed to increase exponentially. I find myself asking questions, can I do this? How can this be done? Can I use technology to better this? I am not as frustrated with technology on a whole. When things go wrong I solve them in a rational manner, thinking things through. With this chip off of my shoulder, I am actively seeking out ways to improve and connect to students, parents, colleagues, friends, and family through technology. Just this morning I thought why couldn’t I use a Blog + Google Docs (the form option) to create a survey to gather info on the upcoming Regional 8: Drama Fest. With posting the menu online and having students/directors/chaperones fill it out, in a nice spreadsheet form I will have everything I need to prepare, in exact numbers, what is needed. No more counting by hand. I would not have thought of this prior to this course, and it is exciting to figure this out.

The second way this course has changed me is in my idea of sharing. I have always shared before, and will always continue to do so. This course however has convinced me to reach out and interact with more people through sharing/talking/asking. I am excited to share these ideas I have running around in my head. Jim [Snodgrass] and I have been talking tech like mad, sharing ideas and thoughts about how to use technology creatively. Just the other day I was telling him about the PowerPoint option of WordPress and he was telling me the ease of Podcasting. We seem to spark one another to try and develop our ideas, maybe even pushing one another into new areas, perhaps trying to out do one another [much like our golf games]. But to share with a colleague in person or online has been an awesome experience. Ironically it has placed me as one of the “tech experts” on staff. That is a scary thought!

Another thought on sharing comes to mind. As I have been working on my final paper I found a resource that sounded much like my project. I was excited and scoured the Internet for it with no luck. It has been discontinued and even the publisher has no e-copies of it for sale or to share. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment. However I thought with academic sharing why no contact the author. I fired them off an email and two days later the author emailed me a copy back of the paper. Wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for but it showed to me that the spirit of sharing was alive. I had this doubt in back of my mind that they would offer the paper to me, perhaps the pessimist in me coming out. I emailed them back thanking them profusely. Would I have done this prior to this class? Probably not.

So this class has opened my mind to new ideas/thoughts, it has created a thinker open to new ideas and challenges, and one willing to share. How can one not be impressed with a class that does this?

Video “I teach, therefore you learn…or do you?” March 1, 2009

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I came across this cool video by Jose Picardo entitled “I teach, therefore you learn…or do you?” I think it really captures the dilemma of education. The first is that education is stagnant when it comes to how today’s students communicate. I think he is correct that even though times have changed the same basics still exist (socialization, friendship, entertainment, etc.) but in a new form. In writing my Masters paper today I realized that I teach how I was taught and that there is where the disconnect is between us. With technology becoming much more prevalent, I have forced myself [I think successfully] to learn new technologies to communicate with my students. I get teased from more mature teachers over my texting and computer use. The students at first teased me but have since begun to make use of my new technological literacy. I have begun to listen to my students, not simply hear them but listen. The second issue that is the problem is the comfort of not changing. Many times I find myself getting trapped by the comfort of doing things the same way as it is easier. This may be best for me, but not for the students. In one hand I do not get left behind, on the other hand I may. Take a look at this video, it is well worthwhile.