Monday, February 22, 2010

Calling all actors? Thing 15: Screencasting

Although I'm not new to screencasting, I honestly haven't used it beyond the training I received on it during a technology training class. However, I certainly have been looking for something like this for essay grading. I have a vision that instead of handing back a marked up essay with written comments, that I can return to students a visual and audio of my thought process while I mark up their essay. Since feedback is critical to improvement in writing, I want to give as much feedback as possible. And let me be honest, the further I get down in the pile of essays, the less inclined I am to write tons of comments. That's why it takes me so long to grade papers. With a visual though, I can write minimally but talk through and show what I'm talking about in the paper. I've not been able to find such a beast to help me accomplish both things at once though. Screen-O-Matic gets me there somewhat, but the shortcoming is that there is no way to filter through the entire essay. It appears that I can only chunk it, which will lead to multiple files for students. Not good. However, I have to say that it's at least a start. Here's what I practiced today using Screen-O-Matic. Forewarning: it's choppy and awful! But, it was worth the practice.

Initial thoughts: excellent concept! I want to be able to use this for my essay grading. I see that files can be exported as MP4s. I just need the capability to go through an entire essay in one file.


I LOVE YouTube! Did I say that I loved YouTube? I love YouTube. I have found so many uses for YouTube in the classroom. I found endless instructional videos on writing effective introductions and conclusions, and here is one that I found to liven up a PowerPoint presentation on postmodernism:

Not all videos are good though, so it does take time to watch and filter out those that don't accomplish what I want them to accomplish. However, I don't find that a deterrent to using YouTube in the classroom, much like I do some other programs.

YouTube also opened the door for amateur movie makers. One thing that I discovered today while on the site are the "shows" uploaded. You can follow certain people as he or she creates new episodes of his or her show. I've not explored this before, although my kids have exposed me to Fred and Dax Flame, who are both very funny (and stupid) at times.

My 79-year-old mother has also taken to YouTube. She likes cute cat videos the most, but enjoys all sorts of funny videos as well. Evil Eye is one of her favorites:

While Evil Eye is definitely a cute video, I about fell over laughing when I saw this one:

Thing 12: Fun Web 2.0 Tools!

Wow! Thing 12 can sure take a lot of time out of my day if I wanted it to. What amazes me most about these applications is that they are free. FREE! I tried out a couple of them, but clearly could have spent more time exploring the majority of them because they look so interesting.

One tool I used was, which is a fun to with which to work. I know that there are a lot of programs out there that do some of the same things as befunky, but there seems to be a lot of choices in this particular program. Not all of them look so good. Here is one that I do like though.

I can see using this program for photo variations on homemade Christmas cards. You can even use it to change clip art. In this next image I took a simple red "no" circle clip art and added an effect to it for a completely different look (see the before and after photos).

I also created a video AND learned how to embed it into this blog!

This program ( has potential in the classroom. If you don't have time to allow students to create their own videos from scratch, Xtranormal is an easy and creative tool your students can use to quickly make a video.

Thing 11 is Delicious!

Before I begin blogging about Delicious, I just want to comment on how thankful I am for snow days to catch up on 23 Things! Lately I've found it increasingly difficult to stay on top of everything I have to do for school, and 23 Things is one of them. So I'm thankful for the 6.7" of snow that has already fallen in Ann Arbor by 7:35 this morning!

Now, on to Delicious...

I joined Delicious last year, and once again, I find myself wondering why I don't use this tool. I see the last time I logged in or used Delicious was about a year ago. Delicious' best feature, in my opinion, is the fact that you can capture all of your bookmarks in one spot. Although it's not much different than adding a website to your favorites, it appears that there is the added feature of being able to share links or search links with other people. Is that right? So, if it is correct, then I can see a greater benefit using Delicious over the Favorites option in Explorer. It appears that you can set up groups maybe? So if you have a group of English teachers using Delicious, you can tap into the links they've found. If what I write is true, then that would be the biggest advantage to using Delicious, in my opinion.

I'll add though that, for me, there are too many of these page thingys to keep track of. When do you use Delicious? When do you use NetVibes? It's all so overwhelming to me at times. That's when I resort to my "old ways" of searching and adding to my Favorites. I'm not sure I will use Delicious. I suppose there are some ways to use it in the classroom. It might work for group projects for a pooling of Internet resources; I'm not sure. Does anyone have any thoughts on this application? I don't think I'm resistant to it; I just don't know if I've found enough value in it to make a concentrated effort to go to the page.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thing 10: Mashed Potatoes -- I mean, Mashups

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After 30 minutes of trying to figure this mashup out, I finally did it. Sadly, it was the easiest thing to do, but I wasn't finding the directions that clear despite it saying "Spell" and having a blank box following. I don't know what my problem was, but I'm happy I figured it out. So, here's my creative output using this mashup. I have to say that mashups are pretty interesting, and they certainly give the techno people out there something more to do with their time. Again, just another thing to find myself sinking numerous hours into if I started checking out all the mashups there are out there. The Flickr ones are evidence enough at how consuming some of these applications are.

Thing 9: Flickr

Flickr is one tool that I wished I used more. I have an account, but it has been so long since I've used it that they deactivated my account. After exploring the site again today for a good 25 minutes, I was reminded of the breadth of beautiful work posted by "ordinary folk" taking pictures for fun. Anne Rubin uses Flickr (or at least used to use Flickr last I checked) and she's posted some beautiful pics. I wish I could link you all to her images, but I'm still waiting on my reactivation from Yahoo to fully access the site. I tried searching for her images but was unsuccessful. Anyway, Anne is a brilliant amateur photographer and if I find her photos, I will post in a follow-up blog post for all of you.

One of the things I like about Flickr is the fact that you can use the images of most of the photographers at no charge. So often if I want to use an image here or there, there is a charge to do so, or I get that dreaded "photosearch" inscribed on the image. Blah! While there are certainly some free stock photo sites out there, there seems to be a lot more choice in Flickr. For example, right now I'm very, very hungry, so I searched "food" in the advanced search feature. Well over 250,000 images came up! I've posted one in this blog that I found beautiful and tantalizing! What do you think? Don't you want one of these rolls just looking at them?

This picture was taken by Renata Diem, who is a member of Flickr. She has kindly offered use of her images as long as she is given credit. How easy!

I always store my digital photos on my computer, which works well when I want to use them or send them. However, I can definitely see the benefit of using Flickr to easily share personal photos with family and friends. A good example is a family reunion or any other family party. Instead of emailing people the photos, think of how much easier it would be to email a link to the entire list of people and have them view your images. In addition, they could upload their own photos and tag them the same. That way everyone's images from one event could be easily viewed at one time.

So what's stopping me from doing all of this? Time. It's always time. I need time to upload the photos and tag the photos, which I either don't have time for or don't want to make the time for. Clearly I could filter some of my Facebook Mafia Wars time to something a bit more productive. I just haven't found the drive to put that energy into my photos though.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thing 8: NetVibes = Bad Vibe?

I wish I could like customized start pages. I really do. I created a NetVibe account last year as part of a technology workshop, and completely thought it was the coolest thing since Dance Dance Revolution. But until today, I haven't looked at it since. I was playing around with it when I was reminded about all the cool things that it can do. If I just had time to browse everything I wanted to browse! In addition to editing my personal page today, I created a public page that you can access here: I have to say that I'm not particularly impressed with what I did or didn't do with the layout because I'm playing catch up with 23 Things this weekend. Next thing you know it's tomorrow and we're on to another set of Things for the week.

Back to the matter at hand...I like the idea of the customized start pages, but have not become an enthusiast of them. But I couldn't tell you why. I don't know if it's too much information at one time with all the tabs, pages, and stuff, or what. Maybe I just haven't given it a chance. If I were to set my homepage to my NetVibe page, maybe I would use it more. Instead I'm set to my email sign in page, which is virtually useless when I'm at school anyway. I certainly can access my email through NetVibe, so why not switch my homepage and give it a shot?


Maybe. We'll see ;)

I could see some potential with students, perhaps. It might be cool to use it for a project of sorts to show them how they can set up their page to do automatic searches on specific topics. I don't know. It does seem a little more complicated than running a Moodle or a shared OneNote notebook. I would love to hear any ideas that others have for potential student uses of these customized start pages in the classroom. What do you think? Do you see any viable use for a NetVibe or Pageflakes in the classroom?

Thing 7 - RSS, I FINALLY get it!

I have to be honest, I didn't think I'd ever subscribe to an RSS feed. This is primarily because I didn't understand it. My first encounter with an RSS feed was a horribly complicated site that tried to sell me on how great RSS was, but did so in such a complicated manner that it did exactly the opposite! That person could have used a crash Marketing 101 course, which I would've been more than happy to teach, but I digress. Anyway, I had no idea what he was talking about and all I wanted was some sort of frequent update to...something...(I can't recall what). I couldn't figure out where these updates would go. Into the air? How would I "capture" these feeds? It was all Greek to me, and I'd like to think of myself as open to new technology and not particularly stupid when it comes to computers in general.

So, thank you 23 Things! When I saw the RSS topic I groaned...oh no, not again! But surprisingly it was fairly easy, and who knew that I only needed Google Reader to manage all of them. Really, who knew? Clearly not me.

What I like best about this RSS feed is that I do have all of the blogs in one spot. Like many other people I often spend far too much time reading things here and there on the Internet, hence my apprehension to even subscribe to the few that I'm looking at for 23 Things! It's far more interesting for me to look at possibilities than the task at hand, in which case is not good for my classes because I clearly need to focus on the task at hand to figure out what I'm doing in class tomorrow. Fancy my plight?

Anyway, RSS has a new fan. Now...what am I doing in class tomorrow again?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Addictive Nings!

My biggest concern at the moment is trying to figure out what I could write about Nings that I didn't already write about in my previous post about Nings! So, if any of this is repetitive, I apologize in advance.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, I subscribe to the English Companion Ning. Here is the link to my EC site: Truthfully, I happened upon the Ning quite by accident. I was researching student-centered discussions and came across a post from Jodi Rice, an English teacher from Canada about Harkness Discussions. Jodi attended the Phillips Exeter Academy Summer Institute where she was trained to use Harkness discussions in her classroom On her Ning she posted specific steps that she took to launch the discussions in her classes, which I found very helpful. She also uploaded a few documents to help track and evaluate discussions. I was able to communicate with her back and forth on the Ning asking for clarification and feedback. Really, without the Ning I wouldn't have known what to do or how to do it without attending the Institute myself.

On the EC Ning I document my progress in launching Harkness discussions in my own classroom. I received feedback from other teachers across the country and I have to say it was pretty exciting to get the first few comments. I'm now able to stay in touch with Anne Rubin professionally as well since she also has an EC Ning!