Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: October 2008

Pauwau Podcast

I am live-blogging from Mrs. Jamie Winfield’s classroom where we are watching the movies made by students after their field trip to the Pauwau a few weeks ago.These documentaries are very good!

Students brought iPods and cameras to the field trip, and as they scattered to participate in the day’s activities, they collected the sights and sounds they encountered. At school, using a combination of our network and flash drives, the students pooled the information for everyone to use. Using iMovie, small groups of students combined the images and sounds they liked most to tell of their experiences on that day.

The interviews with the dancers, storytellers, and fellow students were very informative. They ranged from the professional (How long does it take to put that headdress on, and how do you store all these feathers so they don’t get crushed?) to the silly (Which is your favorite kind of pie?). The same went for the pictures: beautifully framed and captured images of dancers interspersed with silly faces and bunny ears. It all came together to show how learning can be fun.

This was the first time the students and Mrs. Winfield used the new version of iMovie. It went without a hitch. In less than three blocks, every student had a professional-looking mini-documentary to take home. Look for these to be podcast on Mrs. Winfield’s blog in the next few days.

Update for 10/31: The podcasts are up. Take a look.

What’s In Your Mac?

Your operating system is a treasure trove of time-saving tricks. Here are a few for when you have anything to share via email.

Real-life Blog Post Titles

This week I had several conversations with teachers about the titles of their blog posts. I encouraged them to branch out from “Week of…” and “Homework for…” and try something more meaningful. Teachers stick to these titles because they are worried students and their parents won’t find the one post that is pertinent to them. But, when huge numbers of people are gravitating to blogs as their sources of news, it has to follow that audiences are becoming more and more familiar with the format and won’t need titles that offer information already provided by an automatic date stamp.

A friend shared this feature from the Princeton Alumni Weekly about the Talking Points Memo (TPM). This blog, which began as just a blog, is now a world-renowned source of political news and commentary. The blog boasts 150,000 visitors daily, and about 1.4 million unique visitors per month. The TPM office sounds interesting, too.

…comes to work in jeans and flip-flops, presides over this stream of content from the back corner of the room, partially hidden from the fray by a bookcase, but always connected by the instant-messaging tool that links everyone in the room — and their managing editor, David Kurtz, who works out of his house in Missouri. (Kurtz was a reader who became a frequent voice on the site’s comment boards, which led to some blogging, which led to an executive post. Welcome to the blogosphere.) To those who grew up on movie images of loud and boisterous newsrooms, TPM seems more like a very strict library — for 20 or 30 minutes at a stretch throughout the day, not a single word is spoken. Robust conversation is constant, but almost entirely electronic. Every once in a while, the silence is pierced by a loud “Really?” or “I can’t believe that,” when a typed reply simply won’t suffice. An intern from American University, David Grossman, says he got a memo on his first day in the TPM office, saying, “Can you please keep the real chatter down so we can concentrate on messages?”

This “office” is made up of people who are in the room and across the country. Together they produce a blog read by millions. This is now. Four years from now, when our freshmen are out of school, this may already be antiquated.

I think our students can handle a blog that does not have dates and subjects as post titles.

Dabble With Online Whiteboards

I recently found a website that lets visitors draw, save, share, and collaborate on a virtual whiteboard. It is not the only site that provides the service, but I have not seen another that makes it so very easy.

Visitors can draw without signing in, download or email their creations, and even borrow from existing drawings created by other users who have contributed to the public Dabbleboard library. Once you register, you can start saving your own drawings and building your personal library of drawings and elements.

Sharing is easy, too. Email your picture, invite others to collaborate, or embed on your blog.

Here is my drawing for today: a review of the checks and balances.

I’m sure the drawing is not perfect. Click to go in and make corrections.

The JASON Project and the Modern Argonauts

Over the past two weeks I’ve been working with John Hendron and all our teachers at GCPS to formulate G21 Plans for all levels. Here is a resource many of our teachers could use.

The JASON Project was created and is maintained by a non-profit subsidiary of the National Geographic Society, in partnership with NASA and NOAA. It is a live resource where students can explore and interact with scientists to learn about the environment: ecosystems, conservation, climate, weather systems and storms. The target is 5th through 8th grade, but the site is very flexible and can be adapted for other grades.

There are videos, forums, games, wonderful diagrams, and ready-made assessment. The activities can be aligned to state standards directly on the website, and much of the content is perfect for integrating with our Promethean resources.

Imagine your kids working directly with meteorologists, biologists, and geologists, and sharing their findings with students from across the country. You can do it, and it is FREE!

Spelling Bea

Spell With Flickr has been a favorite toy for a couple of years. This site, created by Erik Kastner takes your words and spells them using pictures of letters from Flickr.

I Alphabet Block t R31 T

Now I’ve found another fun toy. GeoGreeting spells your words with aerial pictures of buildings that look like letters and generates a greeting card for your friends.

When emailed, the greeting card zooms in on each letter on the map.

The Cloak of Discovery

For the past two days, I was supposed to refrain from work and commerce to meditate on my thoughts and actions for the past year. Succumbing to the allure of the idle laptop on the kitchen counter, I did check my email several times during the day. Not a good start to the new year, already breaking the rules.

But then, I came across a message from Pete Gretz linking to his blog post about 21st Century Learning. About two thirds down the post he says,

I can’t think of a better way to connect with our students than to wrap the same cloak of discovery around ourselves & chart the unsettling waters of learning a new concept, a new way to think.

I like that. It sounds as if it comes right out of Harry Potter: Wearing the Cloak of Discovery and wielding her wand, Bea Cantor opens the door to the Digital Dungeon ready to fight Lord Boredom-ort.

Yes, project-based learning engages kids, shows them WHY they need to learn, and connects classroom activities to the outside world. It makes coming to school more relevant and valuable, not just a race to reportcard time.

Not such a bad start to my year, after all. Helping teachers with their G21 plans will take up a large portion of my time at school this year. If my aim should be to improve the world around me, improving learning opportunities is a good resolution.

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