Right now, my blogging editor of choice is ScribeFire which is an extension / addon for Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome whichever happens to be open when the blogging moment comes along. Similarly, it is independent on the computer that I’m using – Macintosh, Ubuntu, or Windows.
One of the nice features that ScribeFire had was integration with Zementa. Zementa is a really unique piece of coding – as you create your post, it looks at your content and suggests images or links based upon the content of what you’re creating. When I’m done the post, I take a look at the related articles and pick a few and they appear at the bottom of the post. So, if we go back to my blog post of January 3, it was one of my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” and I would pick a few of the suggestions and they appear at the bottom of the post, like this…
I liked the concept. It’s like having your own personal research assistant finding articles related to your post. Some are supportive and some are counter to the topic. I always figure that it makes the post that much richer by bringing in the related content.
Mysteriously, the feature was remove from Scribefire with no reported reason. It’s not something to moan about, it’s the perogative of the developer to do what she/he wants to do with their product.
But, WordPress had a similar feature. So, I got into the habit of writing the post in ScribeFire, posting it, and then loading the post in WordPress itself where I had the choice to add stories from there.
Then, that feature went away too! Not mysterious this time. From the WordPress support forums,
Instead, the folks at WordPress are working on their own utility. At this point, it seems to be searching and finding related content from within the blog itself.
That’s kind of cool. At least my older posts don’t go unnoticed.
But, I still like the option of choosing my own related articles from a list. It only took a couple of days until this dummy blogger thought – I’ll bet that Zementa has written an extension / addon for the browser!
- Mozilla Firefox - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/zemanta/
- Google Chrome - https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/related-content-by-zemant/fejeknoakjeblidffkajbioncodnmhge?hl=en
A couple of quick downloads later and I’m back in business. The format has changed a bit and it actually looks a little like what WordPress is doing with the thumbnails.
I’ll take them both! My posts are enriched by my own past content and by others on the web. Who could ask for more?
I wish both of these developers all the best in refining these tools. They take my own thoughts to a new level with the thinking of other posts. I know that my proofreaders Sheila and Lisa may not believe this but I do read my own posts and I do enjoy following the related stories. For the inclusion of a few more clicks, there’s even great content.
(My choice of example above has skewed the results available to me! <grin> But, it does serve as a good example)
One of the truly unique experiences at #ECOO13 will be the Minds on Media event. It’s designed to honour the learner and so much can be learned by attending. It’s entirely hands-on, working with colleagues and a facilitator. I’ve been part of this even both as a facilitator and a pedagogista so can vouch to the event. This year’s event features returning facilitators and new ones.
- Create More, Consume Less: Creation apps and effective use. Angie Harrison,York Region DSB: @TechieAng
- Tune In To Learn: Broadcasting with your Students – Aviva Dunsiger, Hamilton-Wentworth DSB: @avivaloca
- Rock Your World: Creating in Garageband for iOS – Royan Lee , York Region DSB: @royanlee
- Inquiry Science: Tinker. Play. Think. – Colin Jagoe, Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB: @colinjagoe
- ArcGIS – online & mobile: Mapping & Geography Peter McAsh, Avon Maitland DSB: @pmcash
- The Sum of the Parts: Constructing and Capturing Conceptual Understanding in Mathematics – MaryKay Goindi, Upper Grand DSB: @MKGoindi
- Playing with Media Literacy – Michelle Solomon, Neil Andersen, Carol Arcus, The Association for Media Literacy: @msolomonteacher
- Introducing Kids to Computer Programming. It might be easier than you think … David Scott Upper Grand DSB
- Building a PLN (Personal Learning Network) – Tim King, Upper Grand DSB: @tk1ng
- N00bing it up in Minecraft: And how it relates to school- Liam O’Donnell, Toronto DSB: @liamodonnell
Last year, before #ECOO12, I had the opportunity to interview Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen, the Minds on Media organizers and the genius behind the design for learning that participants will experience. The interview is reproduced below.
Doug: Thank you, Brenda and Peter, for the opportunity to dig into your thoughts about education in Ontario and your insights into technology and how best to use it.
In reading both your blogs over the years, I know that you mention great thinkers that have influenced your own thoughts. If I had to ask you to narrow it to just one, who would it be and why?
Brenda: Oh boy. This is a difficult question for me because so many thinkers do influence me, including Peter who has been such a great colleague who pushes my thinking. I’d have to say Seymour Papert and his concept of ‘constructionism’ has definitely influenced my beliefs about how technology can best support learning in socio-constructivist environments. His views about the value of computational thinking led me to begin programming using MicroWorlds JR in my Grade 1/2 class, and I think this continues to be an overlooked area in educational technology especially with the recent allure of web 2.0 tools.
Peter: One?! Oh Doug. You’re killing me! ;-) Marlene Scardamalia & Carl Bereiter (as a team) would have to rise to the top of my list. Their early (and continuing) work on ‘knowledge construction’ and ‘expertise’ has been instrumental in how I frame much of my learning, reading and everyday work. Back then – in the eighties – of course, when people spoke of collaborative construction of knowledge they were seen as a bit loony and the term ‘knowledge co-construction’ was viewed as ‘hoity toity’. Now these concepts are de rigueur and everyone is using them. And with that comes the danger of ‘lexical drift’ where they really lose their original meaning. I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Brenda for her role in ‘keeping me real’ and in her brilliance in operationalizing much that she and I think and talk about.
Doug: A few years ago, the two of you were instrumental in rethinking what the ECOO (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) conference might be. In fact, Brenda chaired the conference for a few years. In what direction do you feel you took the conference?
Brenda: We were definitely observing Ontario teachers beginning to synthesize their knowledge of how people learn in the 21st century and the technologies that really leverage deeper learning. We wanted to share that capacity in a conference for teachers, by teachers. Our mission has been to inspire people with engaging speakers, to connect them through social media, and to focus on teachers as learners – regardless of their expertise with technology – and therefore we’ve called the conference Inspire. Connect. Learn. for several years now. Those three words really guide our planning.
Peter: We wanted to move the conference from a focus on technology to a focus on ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ enhanced by the affordances of technologies that have infused the lives of kids, teachers and society at large. It is no longer enough to speak about ‘computers in education’ because, as we know, chips are integrated into so many devices and travel in our pockets. Wearable computers are on the horizon. So it is really important for us to think about these things as ‘cognitive partners’ and to also help educators understand that and the ‘other than cognitive’ impacts – the social restructuring of classroom and schools, media literacy, information, attention and mindfulness issues, etc.
Doug: Where do you think that the conference needs to head in the future? Can a once a year conference do it or does the whole ECOO organization need a rethink?
Peter: I like the format of the conference. I know it’s cool to think ‘unconference’, ‘conversations’, ‘co-construction’ and ‘crowdsourcing’. I, too, love these constructs and implementations. But, having said that, there are many times when people just love to ‘sit and git’ – as I do when I watch a movie or a concert. I engage differently. I don’t need to be backchanneling then.
Ok folks – lighten up! Don’t dance on me because I am supporting that format. LOL I love all the other too! Goodness knows, I do enough of it. In fact, I do enough to reflect deeply on the impact of these various forms of interactions – what works when and unintended effects and all.
However, a single conference a year is not enough for ECOO to be doing. ECOO used to be much more. We had mini-conferences across the province. There were Special Interest Groups (SIGs) for elementary, Logo, secondary, etc. We had a journal – the ECOO Output that was distributed to members. We need to do more.
Alas, it is a volunteer organization.
Brenda: I think Ontario teachers love the chance to be f2f and connect in real-time. They keep connected after the fact using social media, but I’d have to agree with Peter, once a year is definitely not enough, and networking on twitter provides a good start, but not a place where deeper conversations and sharing can happen. I hope that the future holds more opportunities for members to become involved in shorter term projects that they are passionate about (I’m thinking subject/topic groups or one-day events here but there are likely many more) either in virtual or physical spaces. I’d love for ECOO to be able to ‘pull’ those creative ideas and folks into the fold and see what emerges!
(read John Seely Brown’s The Power of Pull for more ideas on transforming organizations)
Doug: In both your roles now, you see and support educators on a daily basis. Could you describe how you fill your days doing this?
Brenda: I’m a technology coach K-12 so I work with teachers who are new to using technology in their classrooms or who have students bringing in their own technology to class (sometimes assistive technology as well). My work involves helping teachers to begin with their learning goals and then choose technology that will support those goals and work well with the kinds of learners they have and their particular subject area. I’m hoping to get some teachers connected within our board for discussion, action research and a celebration of effective technology use this year.
Peter: Most of my work with educators these days is in online spaces – sometimes formally through the Powerful Learning Practice and Ontario Teachers’ Federation and sometimes informally through social networks. In both cases, I am learning to use ‘appreciative inquiry’ to draw out of the individuals what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Then, it’s my role to help them learn that. At the same time, I have my larger educational goals in mind – so it is always a balancing act satisfying both our goals.
Doug: I’ll put you on the spot. Who is needier? Brand new teachers from Faculties of Education or educators with some experience?
Brenda: Tricky question all right! It’s been my experience that regardless of whether they are new or experienced, teachers who are familiar with cooperative learning or more student-directed learning environments seems to embrace technology quickly as a way to get students collaborating, inviting in experts and unique resources, documenting their learning, and making thinking and discussion visible. Teachers who are unfamiliar with the shift that is happening towards learning communities where the teacher is there to ‘facilitate’ learning (and learn along with students) rather than to be the transmitter of knowledge need more support. To me, that’s not a question of technology knowledge, as much as a question about what makes 21st century pedagogy different — what needs to change — both brand new teachers and experienced teachers need to have lots of discussion about this.
Peter: One of the ‘myths’ that Brenda and I talk with people about is this: “When young teachers join the profession, computers will be integrated effectively.” The assumption is that they are ‘digital natives’ and so are awesome with technology. Well, there are a couple of points to note. One is they may be great with ‘socializing’ with computers a la Facebook or Instagram – but they do not likely have tons of skills related to using computers for cognitive gain or for computational reasons – like programming. (Now, I am not saying everybody needs to be a heavy-duty programmer – but, I do believe, as Rushkoff states ‘program or be programmed’. And, as Brenda mentioned Seymour Papert and Logo (MicroWorlds) earlier, I will say that the ability to control the machine at that level allows teachers and students to ‘tiptoe back through their thinking’ as they try to debug their programs.)
The other point to note is that, as mentioned, it is not all about the technology. It is about a philosophy of learning and teaching. It is about how one perceives the world and how one situates oneself. Who is in charge of the learning? If you say, ‘students should be in charge of their learning’, then what do you mean by that? It needs to be unpacked and discussed. It requires that you look at scenarios and where power is located. For example, if students are to be in charge of their own learning can they choose not to do assignments or show up for class on time, and so on? Big questions of authority and self-determination.
Doug: In the past year, both of you have become involved with the Powerful Learning Practice organization. That really promotes the concepts of connectivism. Do you find the principles consistent with your core beliefs?
Brenda: Yes! Connectivism is at the heart of the way I do business these days and PLP does promote that. When I’m asked to coach in a school, for example, it’s not really just me who visits but my whole network, as these are the resources (people and ideas) that I rely upon in order to maneuver effectively through the learning landscape of today’s world. One of my favourite quotes is by John Holt “Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners”. I do believe that learning in groups can result in a synergy not present in individual settings, that learning is social, and that activity with others is a key part of building knowledge. Along with that comes a necessary balance of individual reflection….but that’s a whole new discussion!
Peter: I agree that Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) promotes the concepts of connectivism. But, I also see that PLP blends a huge number of current and long-standing theories and practices including connectivism. This pot-pourri is extremely consistent with my beliefs. And, to be truthful, those who know me recognize that I would not be involved with an organization so deeply if that were not the case.
Now, do I agree with every detail of these theories? Clearly not. But that is the nature of being a critical thinker, isn’t it? Finding dissonance in practice or theory is what leads to advancing new ideas and changing it up. There is no truth. There are only approximations. Maybe we are all TAs – Theory Approximators! LOL
Doug: So, connectivism and constructivism can co-exist?
Brenda: In my mind, yes, they can co-exist. Since I’m a believer in Papert’s ‘constructionism’ (the act of creating artefacts that demonstrate knowledge) connectivism is a nice complement because it suggests that once knowledge has been articulated in some form (i.e. made public in some way…made its way out of your head, so to speak) then the ability to connect can enhance that knowledge either by building upon it, reflecting upon it, or through the discourse that might arise from it. I admit I did try to attend the MOOC that George Siemens and Stephen Downes held on Connectivism, but I’m afraid that I need to make more time for it and try again to get a better handle on the theory of connectivism.
Peter: In my mind, absolutely. But, then I think constructivism and behaviourism can co-exist. And that would be a stretch for most people. But, here’s my recent thinking on that one – backed up by some great new books*. Most of our day to day activities are carried out by each of us without conscious thought or even awareness — certainly not by an overt decision-making process.
We couldn’t possibly manage to get through the day if that were the case. Can you imagine the turmoil a centipede would have if she tried to think and decide which leg should be moved at which time. She’d be tripping and falling all day long! So we run on auto-pilot. And, yes, of course we also make many decisions based on weighing alternatives. I get that. But, when one acknowledges the premise, then one is agreeing that automatized, behaviourist responses are integral to our every day living.
Yet, on a different level, we are conscious, decision-making creatures with a soul, a heart, and a sense of self. So we can exercise our metacognitive skills in setting goals, generating alternative strategies and reflecting on our learning.
Our minds, in this western society, tend to lean towards distinct categorization of the world around. It is the way we attempt to make sense of it. I understand that. It also leads us to parse the world in dichotomies – an ‘on’ or ‘off’, a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, kind of categorization. This, of course, has been amplified by our binary age of ‘ones’ and ‘zeroes’. However, it is not necessary to think that my philosophy of education is ‘constructivist or not’ or ‘connectivist or not’. The world is much more complex than that. It is a rich fabric of textured confusion which has many elements interwoven throughout – so I believe that there are elements of many theories that make up my educational philosophy. If you wish, read “I’m Confused! I Thought I was a Social Constructionist!”
Doug: The Minds on Media is a unique professional learning experience. I have been “brought into the fold” and have served both as a facilitator and a pedagogista. How did you develop the concept?
Brenda: We have been so enriched by having you at our events Doug, thank you!
After many years of participating in professional development, both as learners and facilitators, we started to talk about the fact that the method of professional learning (usually ‘sit and git’ or not entirely responsive to the needs of the learners) didn’t always match the kinds of shifts in practice that need to happen in a technology infused classroom. We thought that by experiencing an alternative that is learner driven, multi-modal, and somewhat ‘flipped’ to give the learner control over resources and activities that fit their needs, teachers would appreciate a model for how that might look in the classroom. Indeed, we are NOT saying that a lecture-style presentation isn’t excellent in certain cases and serves a purpose for learning that we all need and enjoy at one time or another…rather we are saying that there are alternatives and engaging teachers in this kind of learning themselves is a good place to start.
Peter: Doug, we have been thrilled to have your expertise and mentorship in both those roles and as a friend and colleague. Thank you for that.
The concept grew somewhat organically – except to say that we both have strong beliefs about several learning principles:
- the locus of control for learning should be in the hands of the learner
- the facilitator must be aware of, and respond to, the learner’s desires, needs and expertise
- the learner should leave empowered to learn further – beyond the MOM event
- there are always experts among us
So it made a lot of sense when we were organizing the ECOO conferences that we run a ‘hands on’ day for people with these ideas in mind. But, we wanted more than their hands on – we wanted their ‘minds on’.
Doug: Explain the role of the pedagogista for my readers please.
Brenda: I’ve always been interested in constructivist approaches, and a few years back Gary Stager recommended a book called The Hundred Languages of Children which outlines the Reggio Emilia approach for early childhood education that began in Italy. One of the elements that stood out most for me was the emphasis that the schools put on teacher observation and reflection in understanding their learners. They value this so much in fact, that pedagogistas work alongside teachers in order to keep focused on pedagogy and to use observations to direct next steps with students – really a constantly evolving kind of formative assessment. It’s easy, when teaching, to be caught up in the tasks of the moment related to lessons or the plan for the day. The pedagogistas bring a more metacognitive approach to the classroom and we thought it would be valuable to have that role during Minds On Media as well!
Peter: I know Brenda will answer this one more ‘correctly’ than I because of her greater familiarity with its roots. I take some liberty with the construct of ‘pedagogista’. For Minds on Media, we felt it necessary to have one or two folks roaming around the space, listening in, being attuned for opportunities to be the ‘metacognitive’ prompter! You know, when you are engrossed in learning a skill, it is sometimes difficult to ‘zoom out’ and to see the bigger picture. The pedagogista can assist in that ‘envisioning’ – that shifting of the lens so that the learner (teacher) can see their learning in a larger context. So the pedagogista might say, “I see you are here at this centre asking questions that you have about this topic. How’s that working for you compared to a sit ‘n’ git session? I’m wondering how you might see that occurring in your classroom.” Or, “You are doing interesting things with Google docs at this centre. Can you imagine ways this might enhance your students’ learning?”
Doug: From my experience, you have taken a very liberal approach to the word “Media”! What does “Media” mean to you in “Minds on Media”?
Peter: Media, to me, are any artifacts of thought that are externalized. So written words, spoken words, typed words, paintings, sounds produced, and so on qualify as media as do the tools that produce them. Pretty liberal in some senses – but quite classic as well.
Brenda: To me, media can mean tools and techniques as well as the activity of constructing messages. We vary the kinds of centres we have at Minds on Media; sometimes we are exploring ways to construct artefacts using technology (e.g., Scratch, logo, digital storytelling), sometimes we are exploring the use of tools to develop a different kind of community of learners (e.g., Edmodo, blogging, wikis, PLNs). You’re right, we do use the term loosely, often based upon the passion of those who might be running a centre. I think we put more emphasis on the fact that we’d like people to play with media ‘mindfully’ – to be reflective, purposeful and playful in their approach to using media in the classroom.
Doug: The next opportunity that educators have to experience a Minds on Media event will be a pre-conference for the ECOO conference. What sorts of things would a participant experience?
Brenda: It’s going to be a treat! Our theme is knowledge building so facilitators took that in a way that speaks to them, and we have the following centres this year:
- Documenting Student Achievement with Aviva Dunsiger
- Using iPads for Knowledge Construction in the Learner-Centered Classroom with Colin Harris
- The Idea Hive Classroom Community: Students Sharing, Creating and Learning Together in Online Spaces with Heather Durnin
- Social Networking with Edmodo with Peter McAsh
- Making Thinking Transparent and Visible with Voicethread with Royan Lee
- Discover how to Create an Inclusive Classroom by Infusing Powerful Equity Messages
- Throughout your Day with Susan Watt and Trish Morgan
- Using Audio in the K-12 Classroom with Zoe Branigan-Pipe
- Special Education and Technology with Kim Gill
- Thinking and Creating with Melinda Kolk – Owner, Tech4Learning
Peter: Brenda has named the centres we have this year so that is the tangible side. People will experience dissonance, control, frustration, deep learning, exhilaration and a sense of belonging to a community of like-minded educators.
Doug: You have a brand new slate of facilitators for this round of Minds on Media at ECOO. How do you decide the topics and facilitators for the event?
Peter: It’s a challenge for us. Here’s the deal. We have so many excellent educators in this province, it’s been difficult since our first Minds On Media event. We started with a bunch of cool folks who really gelled at an OTF event. And there are so many great people – so it has been difficult. We just feel it needs to be changed up every now and so often to accommodate those whom Minds On Media serves.
Brenda: It’s usually a collaborative process based on the passion of the folks who would like to participate and the needs that we think might be out there. We decided on a whole new set of folks this year because we are interested in sharing the news about talented Ontario educators! There are so many teachers who are doing great things and we want to share out that expertise and connect ECOO participants to these wonderful educators.
Doug: We’ve discussed this many times so it comes as no surprise that I’m a real supporter of this model for professional learning. Do you have a formula that a school district or other organization could use to facilitate a session of their own? Have you used it at UGDSB and the Toronto YM/YWCA? Have other districts used it?
Brenda: Well, it’s about honouring the expertise that already resides in your district, so we encourage folks to create their own sessions and celebrate their own educators. We do feel that there are some critical elements to making the day work well, and we share some of these at this site: Minds on Media Like most good learning environments, much of the preparation goes on in the background and before the day arrives. We hope that anyone who values the approach can feel free to take what we’ve learned and try it out with their own spin to it!
Peter: As Brenda says, we are interested in helping people understand what has made it work and discussing how it can be better. Take the resources and thoughts and fly!
Doug: Could I ask you to look at the images on your computer and share the best picture that you’ve got that clearly illustrates what Minds on Media looks like and means for potential participants?
Peter: I really have no pics of the events Doug. But, these represent it in some ways!
Brenda: This picture was taken when I was lucky to get a private tour of MIT’s Media Lab from a grad student who happened to be wandering around while I was there early one Saturday morning a few years ago. That was very cool! It was like a big playground of toys and creations in progress. That’s how I feel about Minds On Media — it’s playful and creative and constructive (and also messy) — I love seeing teachers get excited about things that they make to take back to their classrooms!
Doug: Thank you for your time and thoughts for this posting. Educators in the province are so fortunate to have your continued experience and input to both the ECOO Conference and the Minds on Media event. Many thanks!
This interview and all of the interviews that I’m conducted online are available from the link at the top of the page.
This is a “Post from the Past” that is just as relevant today as the day when I first posted it. Or, maybe even more relevant as more and more we’re turning the cloud, students have their own devices, more work is done at home and needs to be turned in…
Dropbox is a terrific utility for storing files online. It’s accessible with any computer that can connect to the internet. (Don’t ignore the fact that your portable device is also a computer…) If you’re interested in cloud storage, this is the real deal. Just upload to your Dropbox account and access it from anywhere. It should come as no surprise that you can share those files with others as well.
But, that’s not the story here. Cloud is cloud. But, I’m thinking now of real-world classroom applications. Many systems will have centralized storage so that students can hand in their work. The problem, though, is that they typically have to be using a school computer attached to the school network at school. There’s a lot of school there! If you’re moving to a more open approach to assignments, this sort of logic is old school. Consider the following scenarios that just spring to mind.
1) A student is using her own personal device and is attached to a guest network at school;
2) A student is using her own personal device and is attached to the wireless at her favourite restaurant or her network at home.
Old school logic says to email it to the teacher (which means giving out your email address to students) or put it on a memory key, remember to put it in her backpack, plug the memory key into a computer at school and then submit it.
Now, if you’re using a wiki or learning management system, uploading of files is typically built into them so run with that. But, what if you don’t want the hassle or don’t need the functionality of managing that? Head back to Dropbox and see what else you can do with it.
This is one sweet working web application. It integrates so nicely with your existing Dropbox and you can be up and running literally in minutes.
1) Create a Dropbox account. (If you haven’t done this already, do it now. Even if you don’t go further, you’ll thank yourself)
2) Create a Dropitto.me account.
3) Connect the two accounts. When you create your Dropito.me account, you’ll be asked by Dropbox to authorize this new service so that it has permission to upload to your account. Of course, you’ll want to do this – you don’t want just anyone uploading to your cloud storage. At this time, you’ll also set an upload password. This password, you’ll give to your students so that they can hand their work in from whatever computer or whatever network they happen to be connected to when they finally get their work done.
4) Give the students the URL to your handin folder or just make it a link in your class wiki. It should come as no surprise that mine ishttp://dropitto.me/dougpete. Remind them one last time what the upload password is… and then get ready to mark. When the students enter the URL that you’ve provided, they’re challenged for the password and then asked to locate the file to upload.
They find the file and send it. Work is submitted. It’s honestly and truthfully as simple as that.
5) On your end, a new folder called Dropittome is created in your Dropbox space and uploads are time and date stamped. You’ll know exactly whether or not assignments or documents are submitted on time. You just open the document like you would any other file on your computer to see the work.
Besides the techy approach here, consider some of the other aspects.
If you’re interested in going paperless, you’re potentially there. I shudder when I see the assignments that take half a sheet of paper, or assignments that are one page and one line, or computer science printouts that are pages and pages long, or Photoshop documents that run through toner like water or the excess pages printed and recycled because the user wasn’t patient and whacked the print key many times.
It’s a great opportunity to talk about the cloud. This is a wonderful and practical example for students to try to come to grips conceptually with just where their documents go when they’re sent “out there” and magically arrive to the teacher.
I see it also as a great opportunity to talk about security of documents. What are the implications of sending files this way? How can we ensure that the document is only viewable by the teacher? Could you talk about file sizes and how to optimize or compress the file to speed up the process on the students’ end? When ready, you could even talk about adding a password to a zip or tar file to achieve both security and size concerns.
But, is it always about the students? Would you care to know how many times I drove back to school after supper to pick up marking that I forgot to take home? Or, thinking that I’ve got it all done and arriving at school the next morning to find more to mark in my mailbox or slid under my classroom door? In a culture where handins are all electronic and cloud based, all of this goes away.
I would encourage you to give this a shot. You’ll be amazed at how quickly and effortlessly you and your students are firing files around.
All over the province planning and preparation is happening for the 2013-2014 school year.
Some folks will have the same teaching schedule this year as they did last. Some folks will change grades or change subject areas. Some folks will be setting up their own classroom for the very first time. It’s an exciting time for everyone.
It’s always a time to look for teaching resources. Whether it’s a way to enhance what’s been taught in the past or whether it’s looking for new resources or new approaches, the search for quality materials is never-ending for the educational professional. My philosophy has always been that you can never have too many resources to choose from. Fortunately, in Ontario, there are some spectacular resources to help the cause.
The computing using teacher will love this collection. The Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee advises the Ministry of Education which software to purchase provincial licenses for. To support the successful adoption of these resources, check out this grid. Location the subject area and grade level to find the number of resources that have been correlated. Follow the link to download and use the resources immediately.
As Ontario’s learning object repository, the Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB) offers a growing number of free digital learning resources to teachers and students, from Kindergarten to Grade 12. There are thousands of resources, including units, lesson plans, activities, maps, and interactive learning resources.
Login / Password required.
Unique, innovative, and truly cutting-edge, Cube for Teachers is an interactive database created exclusively for you, the Canadian K-12 educator. With its simple and user-friendly design, The Cube is progressively changing the way you store, share and search for your teaching resources.
Some of the resources listed here have been developed by CSC in collaboration with our clients. Others have been independently developed by clients and have been recommended by CSC through the Pan-Canadian supplementary learning resource evaluation process. Still others have been developed by certified teachers through a grant and mentorship program sponsored by CSC’s original charitable arm, The Curriculum Foundation.
OurOntario.ca – moving beyond search We’re really excited to announce this latest version of OurOntario.ca – moving beyond search to a more social and interactive site. Discovery is now much more fun! View your search results as a wall of images with the Cooliris plugin, or see results in Google Earth. It’s very easy to share search results with your friends or colleagues by using the social bookmarking tools (Facebook, Digg, Delicious, etc.). We’re also outputting data in a number of formats for those of you who want to mash up the data. Check out our features page for a complete list of new features. It’s all part of our goal to ensure that what we do makes it easier for you to discover, share, socially connect, and create – because that’s what telling our/Your stories is all about.
Do you want to learn about Web 2.0 this summer?
Probably not, right? You know all about it and that’s why you’re reading this blog. You’ve got it nailed.
But, you probably know or work with someone who needs to be brought up to speed on what this is all about. Maybe you’re tired of explaining once again the value of connections and publishing to the web. Or, you’ve got a teaching partner that you’d like to prep for projects for the fall.
You know that it’s pretty tough to get up to speed with a one or two hour workshop over the summer. A couple years back, I used to run a mini-course for educators called “An Introduction to Web 2.0”.
For a bigger reach, I took the various topics and put them together in an online, self-paced course. Consisting of eight sessions, I took into the fact that most teachers have tonnes of things to do over the summer but could perhaps devote some time every week for a little online learning. Hence the name “8 Weeks to Web 2.0”.
So, if you start the first of July and devote a little time each week, you should be good to go for September!
Now, we know this can’t possibly be all-inclusive, but I think it’s a darn good start towards learning, understanding, and hopefully applying some of the important tools available on today’s web.
Week 1 – Upgrade Your Web Browser
Week 2 – Get a New Email Account
Week 3 – Get a Delicious/Diigo Account
Week 4 – Get a Twitter Account
Week 5 – Read Some Blogs
Week 6 – Start Your Own Blog
Week 7 – Listen to Some Podcasts; Create Your Own
Week 8 – Exploration of Other Web 2.0 Functionality
The Cost? – Free
Check it out and pass the link along to anyone you think might benefit from this resource. It’s located on my Professional Development Wiki here.
This is another “Post From The Past” that is very appropriate given that we’re approaching the end of the school year here in Ontario. You and/or your students have been blogging all year. Will you just abandon your efforts? Or, will you make a copy of it to save, use as an example, email to parents, give to students to keep, or use for any other of a myriad of purposes?
BlogBooker is an awesome service. It will take the entire contents of your blog (with a little work) and create a PDF file that you can tuck away or otherwise repurpose so that you don’t lose the effort that went into it’s creation. Here from August 22, 2010 is my post “To do more with your blog“.
Hey, you might even want to turn it into “A Flipping Blog“!
Yesterday, George Couros asked for a little input through a Twitter message.
My first reaction what that this might be a step backward in the goal of integrating technology for students. After all, if you have a blog, why would you want to revert to a newsletter format? In its simplest format, it could be a paper document that’s sent home to parents.
But then, I started thinking. There are a lot of reasons why it might be desirable to have a blog in newsletter format. Some that immediately come to mind are:
- Not every parent has internet at home for any of a wide variety of reasons;
- The blog might be private with only student access for privacy concerns;
- Access to blogs might be blocked at school but the teacher blogs from home;
- The principal of the school wishes to have paper generated for whatever reason;
- The blog might be part of a project where a culminating document detailing everything is desired;
- The blog is reset for a new year or new unit or
- You just want a copy of your blog in another format …
Yes, upon further review, I can see where there may be reasons for a blog to be in a different format for a specific use.
I think that the other thing about a solution would be that it needs to be easily re-purposed by a teacher to the differing format. Typically, blogs have considerable effort in their creation and who has the time for yet another creation?
I then thought about BlogBooker. I had blogged about its use in the past here. At that point, I was thinking about using it as a way to create a backup for a blog or a permanent record of thoughts. I’ve actually used it to create a couple of backups of my entire blog. It works very easily when I want a book of everything (including the graphics and pictures that I embed in posts) but would it do the trick on a more flexible basis?
The procedure is pretty easy.
- Export your blog content from your blog (it’s in XML format but most people wouldn’t care or need to care about the format);
- Upload the content to Blogbooker;
- Wait a minute of two;
- Download your book in PDF format.
Conceivably that PDF could be filed away for posterity or printed if it absolutely had to be.
But, what about content of a shorter duration? I never really paid close enough attention when I did the steps above to see if it was customizable. So, I went through the process and actually paid attention this time.
Now, I use WordPress as my host and so went to my dashboard and the export tool.
Well, I’ll be. There are configuration options! I can set a start and end date. In terms of the content, I could choose just the posts or all content. I’m thinking that just the posts would suit my needs best. Click on the “Download Export File” button and it’s on my hard drive. That was easy. The only limitation that I could see was that the export was done month by month. Probably not a big issue as the newsletter might well be a monthly one.
Now, it’s over to BlogBooker.
Step one is to let BlogBooker know what type of Blog this comes from. It supports WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal. That’s a good selection. Then comes the WOW moment. There are a huge collection of formatting options for the output. The preferences are customizable for any purpose. I elected NOT to use “Footnoted Links” because my blog entries have a great deal of links in them. If the ultimate goal is to send it to a printer, then you’re not going to want each entry on a separate page, I hope.
Give BlogBooker a few moments and voila! There’s the nicely formatted book in PDF format that you can download or view right in your browser. I really like the fact that I could customize further the start/finish dates of the publication and the images are intact. I really like the concept and it was so simple to do. Plus, the headers and footers put a nice finishing touch on the whole product.
It even includes pumpkin shirts!
- BlogBooker Converts Your Blog Into a PDF Book (tmiket.wordpress.com)
Given the time of the year, I thought it might be nice to dig up this post from the past. The original post makes reference to Tagxedo which was nice because of the “footprint” display. As you know, there are all kinds of other alternatives – Wordle, ABCya, WordItOut, and Tagul come to mind. The cloud is nice but the key to this activity is the analysis of what the students have created this year.
How’s this for a digital footprint?
Efforts created by Tagxedo and content scraped from this blog.
As we head into the last weeks of school in Ontario, I’m thinking that this would be an interesting culminating activity for students to do in their own context. If you’re blogging with students or creating any kind of online digital content, have them create their own digital footprints and then analyse what they’ve created this past year.
- Teenagers: Why You Should Care About Your Digital Footprint (socialmediaclub.org)
- Digital footprint (karenthelibrariancolorado.wordpress.com)
- Digital Footprint by Generation Infographic (pamwilliams365.wordpress.com)
- 5 Places To Look For Your Digital Footprint (presurfer.blogspot.com)
- Vala Afshar: It’s Your Digital Footprint: Use It! (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Digital Footprint Of 3 Different Generations | Edudemic (edudemic.com)
- Enlarge Your Digital Footprint for More Effective Online Marketing (socialmediatoday.com)
- Digital Footprints (dnepting.wordpress.com)
Information comes in all shapes and forms. This project from hint.fm is intriguing. It’s also so appropriate since I went to bed last night, comfortable in the knowledge that spring had finally come and then awoke this morning to snow everywhere.
Where does weather come from? If you’re a watcher of the news, you know that it’s from the jet stream and how the winds carry the weather with it.
Wind map is mesmerizing! It pulls wind information from the National Digital Forecast Database and then creates an animated visualization of where the wind is moving over the United States.
I wish I could embed a live animation here but a screen shot is the best that I can do.
Go to the live site and see it in action.
Now, normally a map that just features the mainland United States is something that I gloss over, this is interesting. We get amused when we watch weather forecast on some American television stations and wonder if a child watching really thinks that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet just north of Minnesota or south of Texas!
There is, however, a zoom feature that makes this interesting to me. I located Detroit, which is just north of Essex County, and click a couple of times to zoom in on the neighbourhood.
Again, you have to see the map live to realize that those lines represent winds. So, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and points between (Essex County) are subject to winds coming from the north.
That definitely puts things into perspective – if there’s cold and snow to the north, here it comes. The site includes a link to Wunderground so that you can get a more traditional look at the current weather.
Looking around the website, there is also a gallery worth exploring. Of real interest are imagery of Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac. Click on the image to see how the wind was moving. The legend and the visual representation really tells at least part of the story.
For weather junkies or anyone teaching about the weather, this is a resource worth hanging on to.
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