Podcast Reflection #8

Tech Chick Tips: TVEA 2011 part 1
This podcast talked about a ton of useful resources the Tech Chicks learned about at a conference they attended. They were all really interesting, but not many of them were for Secondary kids or about English. However, I know many people will find them useful. They talked about several Google tools. I thought both were perfect for classrooms. The first is Google Art. It lets you tour many museums across the world. This would be great for schools that have cut their field trip money. It allows you to pretend like you are walking around the museum, instead of simply looking at different pieces of art. The program will then show you related pieces.
I called my sister the moment I heard about Google Body. She is in currently in anatomy and I knew how help this way to view muscular and skeletal systems would be to her, especially because she is considering going into medical fields. Some students are lucky enough to go on a Cadaver Field trip, but even at my very affluent high school, spaces were limited. So if a school can’t send all of their students to study cadavers, this would be perfect. (It’s also great for slightly squeamish students, like me. I can handle digital information, not real bodies!)
I am also very interested in the concept of video conferencing. But I have no idea how to set it up (or how I will use it yet—but that will come when I have a classroom and unit plans) Whirlidurb seems like a great place to start for Middle Level students. This program sets up a videoconference exactly for the students needs in the classroom. This is an excellent resource for experiential learning. Students will engage with the people they conference with and can learn from some one besides the teacher, which is refreshing to both students and teachers. They also help classes find all the resources necessary to do video conferencing. Sometimes, figuring out what you need is the hardest part. The company will schedule your conference and make sure you have everything necessary for the conference to move smoothly.
The most interesting thing they mentioned was Toontastic. It is an iPad application that allows students to make a video that tells a story. It sound so interesting because the emphasis is setting up a story with all the right elements, exposition, climax etc… Students can use their creativity to draw characters and settings (or pick them if they aren’t artistically inclined) and animate them by dragging them across the screen. The app has the student record the story while they are moving the character. This can be a great way to teach students how to build a story and could be used as a way to test if students read a novel—can they summarize the plot in the video? If my school has access to iPads, I would love to use this.

Podcast Reflection #7

Seedlings: 1/1/09
I enjoyed this podcast but it left me wanting a little bit more. On the one hand, it was interesting to hear about their personal journey as educators learning technology, but it didn’t really teach me that much. And it took up a lot of their show. I did like their geek of the week segment though. However, I wish they had gone into more depth about each of their materials. They did say that this one was short due to technical difficulties. There was one resource I thought would be very helpful to me right now, and a few I know I will enjoy more when I am actually teaching. The one I went to check out right away was copyrightconfusion.wikispaces.com. It provides a completely new level of clarity on how much fair usage teachers and students have in their classroom. From the front page of their website they say:
According to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy...
Teachers can:
1. make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works and use them and keep them for educational use
2. create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded
3. share, sell and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded

Learners can:
4. use copyrighted works in creating new material
5. distribute their works digitally if they meet the transformativeness standard

The website goes into more detail, expanding what is okay and what isn’t. I found the discussions on music and news clips very helpful. This website has helped me understand how I can best use resources legally. One of the podcasters mentioned seesmic.com. He said it was basically video twitter; it allowed you to have video conversations and form conversations. I went to check it out; only to discover it has changed into a place to compile Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare and Buzz. I was less excited about this. I only have a Twitter and a Facebook, and I am fully capable of managing both those separately. What would be nice was if Facebook integrated tweets. I will use the site for a week (if I remember) to see if I find it useful. I don’t think I will, but I will let you know.

All things considered, I might listen to this podcast again, but I found others more informational.


Animoto in my Classroom

Even though my use of Animoto is limited, I really enjoy working with it. Not only did it seem fun for personal use, I can think of any number of ways to use it in my classroom. It can be a wonderful teaching tool (see my 30-second example on my website, scroll to the bottom). It can see it working especially well for presentations on novels, either characters, theme, plot, symbols, etc... It can be a great primer for conversation. In the example I made, labeling each character as flat, round, static etc... can begin the conversation about why these characters have these labels.
The limited text and emphasis on visuals force the creator to rely on pictures to convey their meaning. Words can be used for clarification or staging, but not to explain every detail. This provides a great alternative to other presentation tools that allow text-only presentations.
The details available also allow for a more in-depth synthesis of student's project. They can reflect how the background and music adds to what they are presenting, adding a whole new level of teaching/learning.
This resource can become another way to assess student learning, outside of tests and essays. It will be more fun for students to create, and more fun to grade!

Podcast Reflection #6

I really liked this blog and was pleasantly surprised that Kevin Honeycutt was the guest because I like his Driving Podcast. I love the idea that these teams of teachers are going through information on the internet and tagging it; I don't know how many time I have been sifting through the internet for something I know exists somewhere. As a student, it is incredibly frustrating not to be able to the resources, picture, video or whatever that would make the assignment transform from good to great. And if I had any idea how to tag things, I would do it (in my abundant spare time ha ha). Basically, what these "tag teams" do is set certain days where they search the internet and add tags to content. The goal is to make information easy to access. Kevin said when people throw pictures or movies on the Internet without tags; they might as well throw them in the ocean. All the unnamed pictures just get lost in the shear amount of information available. 
What I really, really like from this podcast was the Art Snacks (note: you have to sign up for this blog and prove you are a real person) Kevin does. Basically, they are 10-15 min art videos that incorporate other contents. For example, students might draw a skeleton and the label the bones. They are drawing and learning anatomy! I haven't investigated to see if there content suitable for secondary students, but I would imagine something could be easily adapted to fit the needs of older students. I really enjoy finding alternate ways to teach (and possible test). Even thought I personally like writing essays a great deal, I know most students don't. It pushes and encourages me, as a future teacher, to be creative and to turn to the smart people around me for good ideas.   


Podcast Reflections #5

Driving Questions 2011: School as “Life Practice” with Ginger Lewman
Ginger had brought up a ton of great ideas in this podcast. She started off by saying how caught-up in their own lives middle schoolers can be. And as she said, they are kind of supposed to be that way, but they shouldn’t be so focused on their day to day life that they lose track of everything else. She gave the example of an extraordinary project her middle school class did. They drew a huge map of the world and made a dance to show the rise and fall of all the world’s civilizations. She presented the basic concept of the project and the students took control from there. They decided what they needed to learn to properly convey the world’s history, and they actually wanted to learn it. Then students were able to use their own unique gifts to help make the dance, participate, film and edit this huge project. It’s like she tricked them into learning (I mean this in a good way, of course). The other huge thing that stuck out to me was their schools Life Practice Model. The basic idea behind school is to prepare kids for the “real world” but how much do schools actually model this idea anymore. The work force has largely moved past the factor model that schools were based on, but schools are still stuck in this pattern. In the day-to-day activities of a classroom, this new model also gives students more control in the classroom. They have to power to start a chat to brainstorm ideas and share their working on a Google Doc with their teacher to receive guidance and support.
Ginger said student should learn the information they need in ways that will make them want to solve the worlds problems. I believe that everything students learn should be concretely cemented in real life. Whether it is a novel for English, or a Chemistry equation, students should know that this information can be useful to them in the real world. As Ginger said, “As a teacher, I shouldn’t be the source, I should be a resource.” It is critical that students understand the bigger picture of what they are learning. It isn’t all about getting the grades and moving on to the next level, it is about find ways to relate what you learn to the world as a whole.  

Podcast Reflection #4

Tech Chick Tips: Happy New Year 1/9
This was my first experience with the Tech Chick. They sure jammed a lot into 25 minutes. But I am going to focus on a few related aspects of what they said, which dealt with creativity. The mentioned a very interesting video: Steve Johnson made a video entitled “Where Good Ideas Come From” He explains the creative process in general. He explains how ideas mature slowly through time, and often it is two people coming together that brings an idea to full maturity. He didn’t speak directly about students in classrooms, but there is still a message there. Students spend so much time individually working to solve problems and do projects, they are missing the benefits of collaboration. I think there is a good and bad way to do group projects. Being the controlling type I am, I have had a lot of bad experiences in group projects. But I have had a few good ones. When I worked with people who were as invested and interested as I was, we came up with something better than either of us could have dreamed. I haven’t quite figured out a fool proof method for groups to work well together and I doubt there is one. But the key information from this video is the benefit of collaboration in general.
The girls also mention Chris Brogan’s website, 11 Free Resources About Creativity. He compiled articles dealing with the creative process, and there is a particularly helpful one about education.
More concrete creativity resources can be found on Vimeo Video’s School. As the Tech Chicks said, it is so easy to shoot video on a phone or iPod. But it isn’t as easy to do it well. This website teaches the basics about filming, lighting and editing.
The notes from the Tech Chick's podcast can be found here.

Podcast Reflection #3

Driving Questions: Kimberly Wright 3/29
Several things struck me during this podcast. The first of which was how behind her university was with their knowledge and education about technology. Sure, she has been teaching for 6 years, but I know there were still resources available. It seems like a huge oversight in her education. It is neat that information like this shows how much progress has been made in teaching future teachers to use technology, in such a short amount of time. But the more in depth we get into this class, the more I am astounded with the amount of resources available to use just in classrooms. And it is great that new teachers are learning this, but it isn’t enough. Entire buildings and districts need to learn how much is out there. I don’t imagine that will be easy, because this information needs to be given over a period of time, which takes times and money that isn’t always available. If many websites were explained a once it would be pretty difficult to remember and very overwhelming to technology-shy teachers. Instead hand-on workshops should be done throughout year, covering one or two resources at a time, so educators can master them before learning something new.
I liked Kimberly’s quote: “The way to bridge the testing gap between what administrators and students want is to use technology.” I believe this could be very true. Almost all students are “plugged in” and as educators we can’t expect them to ignore technology during school. It just isn’t feasible. Instead, with technology, we meet students on there level, making them comfortable. If they are confident about using technology and the internet, it will be easier and more fun for them to learn and do their assignments.

Fun With Text

Wordle and Tagxedo are just some of the fun, visually-appealing word collages that appear on my website. Aside from obviously making a website or classroom more fun, there are a variety of ways anyone could use this with their students, especially in English classes. These programs analyze word usage and make more frequently used words more prominent. When critically studying writing, analyzing what words were used and how often is imperative. Students could take a work (a passage from a novel, a poem whatever) and see how often an author used those words and the analyze why.
Students could also use it with their own work. If they wrote a poem they could put it in one of these programs and similarly analyze their word choice. They could also explain why they chose the shape they did (in Tagxedo) and how to applies/relates to their writing. These programs could enhance less interesting papers, poems or projects!
I could also use it with new vocab words. It would be easy to highlight which words are going to super important down to slightly important. It could help students focus their studies and know what words to cram last minutes. I could also use it as quick way to convey the main characters, setting, themes, motifs etc... of novels we are reading in class. Students could use this as a quick refresher, or they could make their own. Highlighting what aspects of the book they find the most important or interesting.