Saturday, March 27, 2010

Final Reflection: Thing 23

To think that I nearly forgot about this final post! Can you imagine --all that work and forgetting the last post! Seriously, I nearly missed out on the MP3 or 4 or whatever thing that I will get if I finish before March 30. Good thing for Twitter -- being on it today reminded me of 23 Things, which reminded me of the last post! Thank you Cheryl Choinski! If it weren't for her Twitter, I would have forgotten about my last post.

Let's see...where do I start? How about with what worked and what didn't...

What Worked with 23 Things
1. Flexibility! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, for providing a flexible way to earn technology hours. I appreciated it immensely, and I can't stress immensely enough. I often find it quite tedious to attend a training session before or after school. I live far away and I have kids with schedules of their own that I have to follow. 23 Things exposed me to so many more things than what I would have been able to attend at school. Also, many tasks took me a long time, longer than what I would spend in an hour session at ASH.

2. Excellent Resources! The information given to explore the different things was awesome. All the links worked, explanations were thorough, the information linked to was also thorough, etc. It made it so easy to do. Thanks for that!

3. Interesting "Things"! For the most part, all of the things were pretty interesting and worth my time to look at. The only one I didn't like a lot was LinkedIn, and that's because I already have an account and it bores me to tears. I found most of the applications interesting and I loved that I had the option of choosing some for myself. Choice is always a good thing.

4. The Timeline! Thank you for the timeline, because without it, I probably would not have finished. Schedules are good :)

What Didn't Work with 23 Things
Well, not a whole lot didn't work. I think the only thing that was difficult was that some things took a LOT of time, more than I thought. Sometimes I would sit down and start a "thing" thinking I could wrap it up in 15-20 minutes, and that wasn't the case at all. I'm not sure what you could do about that, but I thought I'd mention it because that was my biggest obstacle.

Honestly I don't know what else to put here. The blogging was a great idea, reading others was a good idea. I have no other comments on how to improve it.

My Favorite Applications
1. Screencasting: A great application that I'd like to use for essays. It's sort of what I've been looking for...sort of. I would like to try it out to see if I can make it work for me.

2. Slideshare: Probably the most useful tool I found. I hope more people use it and upload presentations. Now that I know I can edit them, there are endless possibilities.

Final Thoughts
I would most definitely do something like this again. Admittedly I was motivated this time to finish my 60 hours, but hopefully I would feel just as challenged to win a small prize next time. I seem to work that way...a little incentive generally works for me. 23 Things was an innovative idea and I hope to see it again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thing 22: Edmodo - an educational Facebook of sorts?

I have to be honest. I did not enjoy working on Thing 22 at all. It took me an hour just to find and application that I was interested in AND didn't cost money. Needless to say I'm a bit cranky as I write this blog entry. With that said, I did manage to find a tool that I think is pretty cool and has some potential in my classroom. It's called Edmodo. My group is called Techniques in Academic Writing, and if you'd like to check it out, the access code is gs7ucm.

After playing around with the application for awhile, I can best describe it as a cross between Facebook and Moodle. If any of you know me well, you know that I'm a huge Moodle fan and I use it regularly in my classroom. You may also know that I'm interested in using Facebook in the classroom as well. Edmodo MAY very well be a good cross between the two applications.

So, what can Edmodo do? Well, you can invite students (and others) to join, much like you would with Moodle. You can post assignments and upload files just like in Moodle as well. There is a polling choice and an RSS feed option. There is also a way to post links. One of the best features I found was that you can message to the whole group or individuals. This is a message more like a Facebook wall post or a Twitter tweet, which is considerably better than the Moodle messaging capability. In Moodle you can only send messages (much like email), and the user must seek out the message to read it. None of my students look at the messages, and honestly, neither do I. But this instant message feature places the message prominently on the front page of the group or the individual specified. This feature appeals to me because I can easily post homework assignments or answers to questions that several students have asked me. Edmodo offers an easier way to communicate with students than Moodle or email.

With the positive aspects come the negative though. Moodle has other features I use continually: journal, forum, upload assignments, to mention just a few. These options don't appear to be available on Edmodo. So if Edmodo is a community tool, I see more value in creating a Facebook group for communications of this type and running a separate Moodle along with it. There also isn't an easy way to figure out how to do things without contacting live support. Live support is great when you can't figure it out on your own, but most of the time I don't need it if there are sufficient support tools to help figure it out on my own. For example, I can't figure out how to add a feed to my group page. There is no "help" button that will direct me on how to do it. Instead I have to contact support and wait for an answer. True, they are very quick to respond, but I'd rather just read about it than have to list a bunch of questions on how to do something on the site.

Still, Edmodo is at least an attempt to provide some sort of real social networking ability similar to Facebook. I often find myself communicating via email at night information that could and should be shared with everyone. I'm not sold on Edmodo simply because it's one more site that students have to link to. Most high school students have a Facebook account and check it frequently. I want to be where I can reach them. Will they come to the Edmodo site on a regular basis? Or am I better off setting up a Facebook group that I know they'll see regularly? What do you think?

Twitter! Thing 21

I have a personal Twitter account: but honestly I don't tweet a lot on it. I use Twitter personally to follow a few "famous" people (Logan from Project Runway, and Gavin Rossdale). I've not found much use for it personally. However, over the past week I have been using Twitter to send updates on my Project Term experience to Galveston and Habitat for Horses. You can find the Twitter here:

I had a relatively positive experience tweeting during the week,especially since I figured out how to post pictures using twitpic: By using the Twitpic feature I was able to update all friends and family at home by sending pictures as well as text about our experience in Texas. It was easy to do, and not very time invasive. I did find some shortcomings though. I'll list them in bullet form:

1. I couldn't post pictures with text. There could be a way to do this, but I couldn't figure it out.

2. I was limited to 140 characters, which didn't allow for much expansion on things. I think some people at home were a little disappointed because there wasn't elaboration, but I couldn't elaborate unless I sent a series of messages, which would have become time consuming if I did that. So,it may have come off that we weren't very busy because the tweets were brief, but we were awfully busy, including me, which meant that I didn't have a lot of time to update tweets!

3. For tweeting to work successfully, you should really have a phone with Internet access so that you can see the comments tweeted back to you. I was able to tweet, but couldn't check the responses to my tweets because I don't have Internet service on my cell phone. It's not that I don't want it, it's just that I can't afford it. Hence, several people posted responses that I was not able to answer until I returned home -- kind of defeated the purpose.

Other than that, I think Twitter was a good idea for PT. It may have been even more effective if the kids could all have access and post their individual thoughts as well. I also feel that for Twitter to be effective, individuals must update frequently. It seems to be the nature of the beast with Twitter.

Slideshare: Thing 20

Well, here's something new for me: Slideshare! I love this! How did I not know about this previously? I don't know. I often search YouTube for video presentations on different ideas, and I've had relative success in finding something that suits my needs. Slideshare offers another layer of options, if not just to spur ideas to create my own presentations. I found two presentations of particular interest for me. The first is a Facebook presentation. I'm interested in using Facebook in the classroom and am searching for ways to do it. (I'll be listening in on a webinar in April using Facebook in the classroom). So, I searched Facebook and looked for the education category and found this slide:

I basically had to skip to slide 27 to get to the information that I was looking for because the first 26 are an introduction to Facebook, which I didn't particularly need. It's a long presentation and the audio is not the best. I can hear the presenter fine, but can't hear the questions posed by the class very well.

Viewing this presentation prompted me to search for presentations on analytical essays. I came across this promising one:

While this presentation has some limitations (I don't necessarily like some of the suggestions for theses, structure, etc.), it would work well for 9th or 10th graders in helping them understand what an analytical essay is and how it differs from other types of essays.

I find many ways that Slideshare can be used in and out of the classroom. I might even post some of my own that I created for different literary theories. If I have a general interest in, say, cooking, I might find something of interest on Slideshare (believe it or not). The opportunities seem endless here.

The Portability of Podcasts: Thing 19

After looking at the various podcasts available through and I find myself wondering why I haven't checked out more podcasts. Since I now have the ability to play my iPod in my car (a fabulous Ford Focus -- I highly recommend!), listening to podcasts would be an excellent way to pass the time during my long drive to and from school every day. I found both websites easy to use, although I preferred the Learn Out Loud site more. It appeared more straightforward to me than However, both would work fine for general searches.

One podcast that I'm already familiar with is Grammar Girl: I've used her audio recordings in class before, although not on a consistent basis. When I grew up, grammar was stressed and I had to know all the parts of speech and how to correctly use commas, semi-colons, etc. I find that kids today lack in this area a great deal. Grammar Girl is a quick, yet painless way to introduce mini-lessons on grammar. I don't know how effective they are, but at least Grammar Girl is a source I can refer students to if they have questions about grammar and mechanics (and often in high school they do want to know these things).

Another area of interest for me is foreign language. I've had 6 years of French and 1 year of Spanish. After travelling to Costa Rica two years in a row, I would like to speak Spanish better and understand it a lot more. I searched "Spanish" in the podcast sites and found this gem: Out of all the "learn Spanish" podcasts available, I selected this one because the podcasts are longer (11-15 minutes) and it receives high ratings from others that have used them.

With all this said, however, I am having trouble subscribing to them using iTunes. When I try, I receive an error message 1202 from iTunes. The last time I received this message I contacted technical support only to be told that it's a firewall or security issue with my computer. This is an ongoing problem with iTunes on my computer since the dreaded reimaging that took place this summer. :( So, for now, I am unable to download these two podcasts to my iPod. But I sure would like to!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thing 18: Working with Wikis

For my Wiki experience I chose to work with the ASH 23 Things Wiki to add an entry. You can link to it here: I added an entry to the Vacation Spot place and wrote about Monteverde, Costa Rica.

This particular wiki was very easy to work with. I had no trouble figuring out how to edit, add pictures, and change font color. I've created wikis before using a different program (can't recall the name at the moment), and it proved to be cumbersome. Editing was difficult, setting it up was tedious, nothing was essentially easy. So I was happy to find that this particular one was easy to work with.

In terms of comparison, wikis work well when you need a discussion format. Although I have to be honest and say that the forum function on Moodle works fairly well. Plus, I sort of prefer it because I can comment and grade a forum post. So, I don't use wikis very often. I found wikis useful when preparing for Project Term. It was an easy and creative way for students to post their research on the country prior to the experience. Plus, they could add pictures, which is always a plus.

Thing 17: Exploring Wikis

I visited three Wiki sites: Wiktionary, Greetings from the World, and the Holocaust Wiki Project.

Wiktionary: Like Wikipedia, but a dictionary. It appeared rather easy, but I did find shortcomings. I wouldn't trade in or in for Wiktionary. Why, you ask? Well, Wiktionary just gives the definition and an example of the word used in a sentence. I want more than that; I want root words, synonyms, antonyms, etc. So, I don't foresee myself using Wiktionary as a dictionary. However, I do see a potential for my students to create their own Wiki Dictionary during a lit class. For example, we are reading Jane Eyre in British Literature and the vocabulary is fairly rich. It would be good practice to have the students enter in vocabulary words into a common dictionary. So, at least I took away one idea from Wiktionary.

Greetings from the World and the Holocaust Wiki Project: both make me want to be a history teacher! Well, I technically am a history teacher, but I don't teach history. What a wonderful concept. I think that the Greetings from the World wiki could be set up differently to make it more approachable. I see that they have broken down geographical areas on the side, but the information seems to crowded and overbearing for me to want to navigate and read. Perhaps they are growing faster than anticipated? The Holocaust wiki is much more accessible, but I also feel it looks so much like Wikipedia. Why is that? Aside from that, I love the idea and could possibly see using a wiki of this type for Creative Writing (of all classes). Seriously! Think about how students could create a life for a fictional character through creating a wiki such as this. Endless possibilities.