Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jammin' with Jango

Who doesn't enjoy listening to music while working? Give me the right beat and the usual chore of housework becomes a dance scene!! Slow down the tempo and I am able to relax to sit and complete paper tasks.

Although I enjoy the XM stations on my TV at home, I need some tunes when I'm working at school at the end of the school day. That's when I tune in to these favorites (and of course they are free!!):

Jango http://www.jango.com
Pandora http://www.pandora.com
The Radio http://www.theradio.com
Playlist http://www.playlist.com

(These are streaming sites that require bandwidth so your school site may request that you use such sites selectively.)

You'll need to set up a free account to save your profile and music selections. All sites allow you to set up personal playlists or save favorites based on music genre or original artists that you can rate and share. Some of the sites provide additional information about the artists or provide suggestions to other artists as well as the option of purchasing music downloads.

Since these are free sites, you will see ads but some offer a fee-based version without ads. Due to copyright or other agreements, these sites play the songs or artists you request but you also may discover new music as most of the sites also play music similar to the artists/genre you have specified. However, I have found that Playlist allows song after song of your favorite artists that you have saved in a list.

You are able to share your station/playlists on several social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace. Some have options to be shared to your blog or uploaded to a mobile device.

I'm sure there are other free online music sources out there but these are my favorites (so far!). Each has its own perks and problems--so you'll need to check them all out to determine your favorite.

Enjoy and rock on!!! :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taking a "cue" from CuePrompter

I was watching a TV program not too long ago that was featuring President Obama's use of the teleprompter during his speeches. Students may wonder if the president and other TV personalities memorize everything they say.

Now I've just recently come across an interesting (and fun!) free site called CuePrompter: the Online Teleprompter http://www.cueprompter.com/ that was recommended from TeachersFirst Featured Sites. This tool would help students understand how people are able to give speeches and newscasts without the appearance of notecards.

This tool is free, requires no user/password registration or membership, and is very easy to use. However, it can only be used with Windows software and it does not save your text for future use. The site recommends that you have your text printed in another file or program that you can easily access to copy/paste the needed text into the CuePrompter.

How or why would you use this in the classroom? If you were to project the text onto a white board or a SmartBoard, it could be used in whole class situations. The site mentions its use in foreign language or ESL/ELL classes. Since the text is scrolling, it would require students to be automatic in recognizing and pronouncing the words being displayed. You are able to set the speed of the scrolling as well as some other settings, such as text size and a black or a white background.

Another projected use for a whole class would be to read text to build fluency. Fluency seems to be the most assessed component of reading in my district. The CuePrompter could build reading fluency as students read the text aloud. Each time the text is read, the speed could be increased. I can remember using a speed reading machine when I was in 6th grade (and that's been a long time ago!). After we read the selection, we answered a worksheet to assess our comprehension. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that comprehension is assessed with fluency these days.

The CuePrompter could also be used in public speaking classes or in cases where students make oral presentations. Students need to learn eye contact skills when addressing an audience. Although notecards or some type of written speech form would be expected prior to the actual oral presentation, the text could be shown on a laptop or computer that only the presenter would view. The use of the CuePrompter would require them to look up to face the audience rather than looking down at their notecards.

Lastly, the site mentions that speech teachers could use this tool to build articulation skills.

What are some other uses for this tech-tool? I'm sure both students and teachers will come up with more applications after it is used a few times in a classroom.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Exploring Twitter and Facebook

Time is getting away from me as I research Web 2.0. How does everyone keep up with monitoring their email, read online blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and find time to do laundry, read a book, and other everyday stuff?

I've been exploring both Twitter and Facebook--I view this research as equivalent to taking a summer class and thus it justifies the time I'm spending on it. :) But really, it can become time-consuming--or maybe the key word is "addictive!"

I've been looking at Twitter as a possible home/school communication tool. How many times have you found printed school announcements wadded in the back of student desks and in the bottom of back packs? The intent was clear--provide information to parents--but the mission failed.

As our parent base gets younger and younger, I believe we need to consider communication styles they are accustomed to using--such as texting and social networks. As Twitter only allows 140 characters (note characters and not words), public announcements are kept short and to the point: "Family Night will be held on Tuesday, September 26 at 6:30 pm featuring a first grade presentation." Teachers and the school office can compose short, quick messages on the computer. This helps to save the school paper costs to encourage "green" communication. After parents have been informed of this communication format, they can sign on and "follow" to receive these school memos. Thus, teachers are not spending time entering parent information. Additionally, parents could access the information via their online computer or by mobile devices, such as cell phones with online access.

We may need to consider a "tighter" community than Twitter. From Free Technology for Teachers: Here is a free version of a specific community microblogging program called Present.ly Comments for education application: "Twitter can be good for getting instant feedback and taking informal surveys of a class. The problem with using Twitter is it's too public for some school settings. Present.ly provides a free place to get the same type of feedback as you'd gather on Twitter, but in a closed setting."

(6/29/2009 I have recently encountered another free community to use Twitter between teachers and students called Edmodo http://www.edmodo.com/ and here's a slideshow to demonstration how to use Edmodo http://www.slideshare.net/zemote/edmodocom-microblogging-for-education-presentation ).

Now Facebook--it has been fun to explore and I have even found some college sorority sisters through Facebook. I have posted some photos on my profile page and occasionally I will post some obscure comment about nothing. I have even searched friend profiles to see the groups they belong to, how many friends they have, and to view their photos (friend settings can be set to allow other confirmed friends to view profile information so it isn't as though I'm spying even though it feels like I am!).

However, I'm not sure that this social networking tool could be utilized for school communication purposes. Several teachers in our district are already on Facebook so postings may not always be as professional as one would like when a parent can view your activities with "Farm Town" and other Facebook games. Maybe you can tweak the settings in a way that I've not yet determined for this type of professional communication. Or maybe teachers could continue to use Facebook for their own social community and our school could use Twitter for our home/school communications.

I would appreciate comments from others utilizing social network tools for school/home communication. What have your schools tried? What was the response from both teachers and parents? What tips would you suggest in getting started?

And one last thought offered by a friend and colleague after my "I maybe be famous" post--"Now that you’ve Googled yourself you know what your “digital footprint” looks like. Most of our students, and probably lots of our staff, have not gotten this concept. What will it look like when someone Googles you? What will a prospective employer find? One of our former students is on my Facebook list, and recently he posted his status as follows: “The job hunt is not good. I’ve gotten one offer so far, but it sucks!” I had a report of one of our high school student’s MySpace page which had a picture of the student and parent both holding alcoholic beverages. I guess they think nobody’s looking or something – or they’re not thinking.

Now most kids will say, “Yeah, I’ll take all that stuff off before I start looking for a job.” Perhaps they haven’t heard of
www.archive.org – that stuff doesn’t just go away.

Food for thought!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vocab Grabber Will Grab Your Attention!

As I've discussed in an earlier post, I have been exploring two RSS feeds--Bloglines and Google Reader. I have been pleased with the RSS feeds that I've set up so far. It is nice to view them in one online location (or in my case, two locations) as opposed to filling up my email box. Today I'm sharing vocabulary sites--one that impressed me and one that disappointed me.

I recently came across Vocab Grabber http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/# which is a free program developed from Visual Thesaurus, a site that I discussed in an earlier post. Vocab Grabber works a little differently than Visual Thesaurus which focuses on one word. In Vocab Grabber, you copy and paste a portion of text. It then sorts and creates a "word cloud" of the most frequently used words from that text. Vocab Grabber provides definitions of selected words in a side window and sorts the words into academic categories.

Free Technology for Teachers suggests a great time-saving use to install the Vocab Grabber bookmarklet (a drag and drop installation) which allows the user to generate a vocabulary list from any Internet page. For educational use, the site explains that Vocab Grabber "provides teachers with a way to quickly pick out which difficult words students may run into in a text. From the results Vocab Grabber provides you can then determine which words your students may need to study in a vocabulary lesson". I think Vocab Grabber offers a great visual display of words that will generate good student interest and involvement.

I also wanted to share a site I found earlier this year called Montage-a-Google http://grant.robinson.name/projects/montage-a-google that supposedly helps to develop flexible thinking by featuring visual images to accompany the multiple meanings of words.

Educational uses from TeachersFirst suggest using an interactive whiteboard with this site to "create a visual anticipatory set/activator for ANY term you plan to teach that day." It could be used to build background as you introduce new vocabulary before reading or in an art class to create their own drawing for words they think of. After your students master Montage-a-Google, you might want to try the reverse guessing game, Guess-the-Google.

My exploration of the site provided some interesting results but mostly disappointing ones. I did not find many "multiple meanings" with words I inserted and it did not pick up on slang words--ie "bread" simply resulted in photographs of various types of bread and did not include "money." And a cautionary note: the word "cash" provided photos of Johnny Cash in addition to one where he was using the finger. Not acceptable at my elementary site and probably not at many sites. Thus, as with any site or material, preview before use.

There are so many wonderful educational sites out there and it is difficult to remember every single one that you find. But I'm hoping that my search will offer a few worth checking out and remembering to use in the future.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I think I may be famous . . .

Don't laugh, but this is just beyond belief for me.

A friend emailed me as she is looking into applying for a library position in Texas and so I was sending her some sites I have used to develop my program. I forgot that I had Larry Bell's reading strategies on my web page so when I googled "Larry Bell"--was I surprised to see that my website page came up as a link.

So I wondered about my "Survivor OKLAHOMA" program. I have had many hits on my webpage for that as I presented it at Encyclo-Media in 2007--and I was the 6th listing under that search.

So now--very scary. I googled my name and found several listings but my school webpage was the 4th listing.

If you are interested to view my "Survivor OKLAHOMA" reference resources activity, here's the link to my school web page http://woodward.ok.schoolwebpages.com/education/staff/staff.php?sectionid=13173

Another exciting moment was receiving a comment from Kathy Schrock on this blog. Yes, I realize that it was probably a computer-generated response but still it was exciting for me .

So don't laugh, but I think that I may be famous. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blog Sharing--Reflections on "Summer Vacation"

I'm taking advantage to share a blog from a teacher and her comments on "end of the school year" adjustments. Her comments reflect my thoughts almost exactly!! Do you ever experience "melt down" after the school year ends? Some type of emotional experience that takes a day or two (ok--maybe even a week!) to get yourself reconnected to having a life again?? Her blog addresses those experiences plus offers some suggestions to make the most of your vacation time so you can return to school feeling relaxed and ready to face the coming challenges of the new school year. So I'm taking advantage of a posting from Cool Cat Teacher on "School Daze" to share with you--hope you enjoy it as well!!


Vocabulary Resources & 25 Tools 2009

As I come across educational links, I'm always trying to think how my classroom teachers might utilize the resource--as well as myself. We are very fortunate as every classroom at my two schools is equipped with a SmartBoard. My media centers have a projector and whiteboard but I use an Airliner/Smart Tablet as my wall space didn't allow for easy reachable access for either students or myself. It has worked pretty well for my applications and PPT presentations with my information skill lessons.

Vocabulary is a big item in our testing criteria. A few years ago, I shared a site with my teachers called "Visual Thesaurus" (once free but for purchase now). Just recently I came across a very similar resource that is free called Visuwords http://www.visuwords.com/. I think that it would be a great resource for teachers to use as they introduce new vocabulary. Additionally it provides experience in reading graphic organizers.

Another free site to promote vocabulary is the Visual Dictionary Online http://visual.merriam-webster.com/ which is based on images rather than words--it features more than 6,000 images with 15 major themes that span from Astronomy to Sports. The site features diagrams that label important parts of the item with a short definition provided as well.

Sometimes a helpful way to introduce new concepts or vocabulary is to compare it with a term the students already know. For a quick search with uncomplicated information, Diffen http://www.diffen.com/ allows you to "compare, contrast and find the difference between any two things." I hope this might be a helpful resource for my first grade teachers when they discuss the concepts of "living" and "nonliving." If you request a search and come up without results, you can request a search article on your topics; however the site does not indicate how long until your request will be made available.

Back to my Web 2.0 quest:

Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day has organized a list of 25 Tools: A Toolbox for Learning Professionals 2009 http://janeknight.typepad.com/pick/2009/06/another-milestone.html) --many are free online resources and several include tutorials. Here's the link to the full directory which includes over 3,000 entries and where 3/4 of items are free http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/Directory/

It does take time to locate and test some of these sites but it is so amazing what is available for free online!! I hope this blog helps to promote some of these sites to other librarians and educators--if I can use them, so can you!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Of course, Kathy Schrock!

I was cleaning out my emailbox and found some emails from Kathy Schrock I'd saved to explore this summer. Of course, I need to include Kathy Schrock in my Web 2.0 quest!!!

I subscribe to Kathy's "Site of the School Days" (SOS) newsletter to receive her weekly postings of innovative technology http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/sos.html This page lists all of the sites she shared this year plus archives of previous years. What a treasure house!!

Since Kathy shared Diigo in March 2009 #31, she has created this great organized listing of various 2.0 tools using Diigo (June 2009 #41). http://www.diigo.com/list/kathyschrock/web20tools

This lady leaves me breathless!! I have very little time during the school year to explore many of her offerings and unfortunately many of her tools are beyond my understanding and use at this time! :/

Some of the tools I specifically want to explore are:

Site 6 bubbl.us http://bubbl.us/...an easy-to-use, online concept mapping tool; great to use when introducing a topic and using an interactive whiteboard or in computer lab when students are starting a project

Site 23 My Webspiration http://mywebspiration.com/...Inspiration, the useful mind-mapping tool, comes to the Web in an easy-to-use, collaborative version

Site 24 Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/...an easy-to-use site that allows you to upload your presentations, share them with others, and also creates a text-based "transcript" of the text on all of the slides; in addition, there are thousands of presentations to search for, preview, download, and edit for use with your class

Thank you for sharing your research and expertise, Kathy!!

23 Things & Twitter in Libraries

OK--I'm setting up RSS feeds today and came across Bloglines http://www.bloglines.com/ This was very easy to set up with no additional downloads and included several library blogs (including The Shifted Librarian and Librarians' Internet Index) to include in my subscription account.

However, I had also made an account with Google Reader and one feature I've found there is the ability to "star" certain blogs to go back to reread later. I think the "clipped file" feature on Blogsline is going to work about the same way. (Does Blogspot provide a "saved" feature? I haven't noticed it yet.)

For an example of something I want to save to reread later, I found a blog from Resource Shelf about an article featuring links and information on Twitter for Libraries (and Librarians)
http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/may09/Milstein.shtml It cautions that Twitter is actually a conversation medium (of 140 characters!!); however using it as a broadcast mechanism may help open doors to use it as "Twitter holds great promise for libraries of all kinds, and your creativity will expand its utility. "

Now moving on to something I was very excited to stumble across!! The Librarian in Black has been posting blogs about a conference she attended and I became aware of 23 Things http://plcmcl2-things.blogspot.com/#23 a tutorial program to help learn how to use Web 2.0 tools (technologies that students are using to put them in touch globally through social networking, wikis, video, podcasting, and gaming sites). So disregard the dates and prizes to notice the P.S. at the bottom of the blog--"PS: If you’re not a PLCMC staff member, you can follow along as well. Just use the list discovery items found on the 43Things website to record your progress. Alas I’m sorry that I can’t include any MP3 players or laptop as incentives. For you, I hope just the fun of following along is enough. :)."

I'm really excited to find this 23 Things tutorial as it organizes my Web 2.0 quest into an achievable project to focus on specific tools each week. I've already accomplished some of the exercises (ie "set up your own blog" and "set up a Bloglines RSS newsreader account" ) but I'm hopeful that some of the links will include additional resources and helpful tips.

Speaking of completing projects, I need to get my summer calendar in order as I hope to accomplish more than mastering Web 2.0 tools this summer!! August will be here before I know it!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jumping in!!

Here I go!!! My friend, Dawn, is doing it and so I decided that I can do it, too. Do what?? I'm talking about blogging!!

Can you really teach old dogs new tricks? Well, I am trying to use the summer to explore and learn to use RSS, Twitter, FaceBook, and blogging more effectively. Yes, it's time I joined the world of Web 2.0!! I just don't have time during the school year to "play" with these online tools and thus have not pushed myself to learn to utilize them.

I have realized that phone texting is the easiest way to contact my twenty-something children--they tend to ignore voice mail and email. I'm hoping that I will get faster as I compose messages--and I now understand why teens tend to use abbreviations!! Acronyms and mnemonic devices never really helped me remember what they were intended to help me remember ( the order of the 9 planets MVEMJSUNP--My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas or My Velvet Eyes Make Johnny Stay Up Nights Proposing or now updated My Very Educated Mother Just Said Uh-oh No Pluto ) so this site of text abbreviations is now on my list
http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp HTH (Hope This Helps).

If you are interested to join me on this Web 2.0 quest, here are some links to information for using such tools and their possible application in school.
http://www.facebook.com/facebook http://teachers.net/gazette/MAY09/levinson/

Are you a visual learner? Check these:

I hope to send you a "tweet" soon!!!