Friday, April 24, 2009

Thing 23

I've certainly become more open to breaking into "Web 2.0" in the past 2+ months. When this started, I certainly knew plenty about the web, but I hadn't used much of it because I felt comfortable with the web I knew. I'm glad I took this class if for no other reason than it forced me to acquaint myself with technologies that nearly passed me by.

I'm also happy with the timing of the class. This being my first year of teaching, I'm glad I got a chance to get some first hand experience on my own in a classroom before trying to adapt my curriculum around technology I wasn't all too familiar with. I also am fortunate to have not formed habits that I might refuse to break.

I need to spend some time this summer looking over my own blog posts to remind myself of all the ideas that came into my head these past few weeks. Everything from long class collaborative projects like the Wiki to shorter, individualized assessments like a podcast.

I think the biggest idea that I'll take away from all this is that those who refuse to adapt get left behind, whether you're talking about students, teachers, or just the public in general. The internet first became popular when I was in my early teens, and I was waaay ahead of the curve creating HTML websites and following newsgroups. I feel like I've slipped in the past few years, not jumping on bandwagons until they've nearly passed me by. Hopefully, this can help me catch up lost ground.


Thing 22

Mr. Fuller's Wiki

I definitely like the idea, but the setup at WikiSpaces seems very basic. I'm sure it's fine for my purposes, and I probably shouldn't expect more for a free service.

Blogs and Wikis definitely have their own space and should be able to coexist without any problems. The main purpose of a blog is for one person to share information with a larger group (mainly, teacher to student). A wiki is designed to let a large group of people share information with each other (in this case, students).

I don't think there's any reason a teacher would HAVE to use one over the other, or both, or whatever. Each can be molded to fit the teacher's needs.

Thing 21

Without even looking at the wikis, I started thinking of ideas on how I could use them. We have a lot of hands-on building projects in my physics classes, so the students could pass on helpful info from one year to the next. Ideas on what make the best wheels for a mousetrap car, or where to buy the right springs for a catapult, etc.

We could also use them as a place where students can explain the subject matter to others in their own language. A student masters a particular subset of info, and relates it to both their class and future classes using a wiki written in their own language.

The biggest hurdle I foresee is the continuing problem of access to resources for some of my students. Ideally, students would need computers with internet access available before and/or after school, which my building does not provide. There is a computer in the classroom, but only one, and I can see traffic jams building up from here.

I think if done properly, a Wiki could be a good idea for a yearlong class project. It's one of those ideas that will be extremely rocky the first time out, but will hopefully get better year after year.

For the record, the Wiki that I liked the most was the Flat Planet site exploring environmental issues.

Thing 20

Full disclosure: I hate iTunes. I've used it in the past, both for music and for podcasts, and I just don't like using the program. Thankfully, they're not the only aggregator out there anymore.

I subscribe to lots of NPR shows that I don't get the chance to listen to during the regular course of life. Car Talk, Wait, Wait..., Science Friday, and a series called RadioLab. I used to subscribe to more, but the files would just pile up as I never had time to listen to them all. The NPR website makes it easy to subscribe to the podcasts without using iTunes.

I've occasionally subscribed to other podcasts using various other techniques, but they've fallen by the wayside as I've had other demands on my time this year.

Thing 19

I used to love using podcasting when I had the spare time to listen to the files. Now it's more of a good idea I wish I had the time for.

The first podcast I chose is NPR's Science Friday. I could have students listen to a portion of the 2 hour program (assigned or student decided) and write a brief summary of what they've learned. The topics cover a wide range of science, so it wouldn't be limited to things we're leaning in class - it could be a great way to encourage students to explore other fields of study.

NPR - Science Friday

I would use this second podcast as an example to my students of what they could do with the technology. Students could create a weekly exploration of a new topic, or do a series focussed entirely on equations (we have enough of those in physics to study). Rotating groups of students creating podcasts on a weekly basis could be a full semester project.

Eagan H.S. Honors Chemistry

Definitely a lot of potential using podcasts in the classroom. I almost wish I didn't have to wait until September to get going with a new group of students.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thing 18

I chose this intro lecture on thermodynamics for it's potential to show students what they could do with PowerPoint and SlideShare. I see myself using this tool as a student directed alternative assessment project - they create a ppt presentation after a unit to teach the next class about the subject.

It looks like there is a wealth of presentations on the site, but it was hard to narrow down a search effectively. I also prefer to create my own presentations, because I feel more comfortable lecturing off of material I wrote. At the very least, it could be a chance for students to find an alternative presentation to material that might be difficult to grasp. I know that just hearing something a different way could help understanding it.

Thing 17

I chose Zoho Show for it's ability to host PowerPoint presentations. I use ppt a lot for my classes, and while Internet Explorer tries to allows users to view the slideshows, it often causes more grief than anything.

Zoho seems to work easily enough. I especially like the functionality of exporting files to other formats (.pdf for starters). I could definitely see myself using this as an addition to my classroom website for students who might be absent during a lecture. I'll have to play around with it some more, but I would also like to be able to add audio recording as part of the presentations.

The other functions seemed useful, but I already incorporate much of what they do with Microsoft Outlook and my smartphone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thing 16

The idea of storing word documents on an external server seems like a convenience, but everyone carries flash drives, so what's the big deal?

But, when you get to the idea of collaborating on something like a spreadsheet with multiple users simultanouesly across the globe, you get my attention. Anyone who's worked anywhere in private industry has probably had to deal with a locked Excel spreadsheet and passed it around the office waiting for someone to close it before it can be opened by someone else. It's a huge pain, and something like Google Docs almost sounds too good to be true.

I would love to use this with other teachers, but there is the added wrinkle of it being online and requiring a login. Not a huge hurdle, but it might seem easier to save something to the school's network and leave it there for others to access.

It could also be a great tool for students entering data from a lab experiment and being able to work on it both individually and together without ever physically meeting. I know that would have been a huge help in some college courses.

Thing 15

Ok, I didn't think I would say this, but RSS has really taken over how I read daily websites. The only problem I have with it now is still the big reason I stopped using it years ago. Mainly, I just discovered that I had missed the last few posts at a webcomic I read. A huge deal? Probably not, but it's frustrating that I'm still having basic problems counting on the service to do what it's supposed to.

I will admit, subscribing to a tag in Delicious is appealing. A random assortment of sites on a common theme. It seems like more of a time waster than anything else, but a good way to find new things to read online.

Thing 14

Like I mentioned in the last post, I used under it's old name, way back in 2005. My account is still valid (bfuller181), so I was interesting to get a glimps of websites I followed 4 years ago that I haven't looked at since.

In my brief reacquiantance with the service, I'm still not convinced. I think it could be useful for a group environment like a classroom, but I'm not about to upend the way I bookmark sites for personal use.

I think the technology is amazing, but it's one of those services that I find myself just not caring that much about how someone else tagged a certain site. I'm sure it's just one of those things that's difficult to adjust to because I'm set in my ways.

Thing 13

Tagging is another one of those Web 2.0 things I've just never gotten into. I tried to use the Firefox extension for tagging bookmarks, but I felt it was too cumbersome. I now use another Firefox extension that keeps your bookmarks saved to an external server, so you simply need to log in to an account to retrieve your bookmarks just as they appear on your home computer.

I think tagging can be useful for pictures and even for blog posts, but I never actually use it. I prefer using text based searches when I'm looking for something specific. For example, I used to tag blog posts, but I realized that I never went back and clicked on the tags, so I was really wasting my time.

I could see how tagging might be important if I was creating online content for others to use however. Tagging could make information much easier to reach for students looking through a large website. It's certainly something to think about.

Thing 12

I'm having trouble embedding the code. Everything seems to be pasted fine, but Blogger doesn't want to show the widget in preview, and when I go back to edit it, the code is gone. I've tried added widgets from a variety of sites with no luck. Also, using Blogger's gadgets didn't really work - most of them seemed to have errors and couldn't be used until fixed. I will try to edit this post when I get home and use a different computer.

I prefer to think of online relationships as supplement to the face-to-face variety. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family around the country, not so much to use it to create new relationships.

I think kids are drawn to social networking sites for the same reasons kids talk and pass notes in class - they enjoy socializing. This is just another form of an old habit.

EDIT: For whatever reason, if I publish without switching Blogger back to "Compose" or "Preview" the widget works just fine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thing 11

I've mentioned this before, but I hate any site that allows anonymous commenting. I feel that users should be required to sign in (even if not done publicy) before commenting to weed out spamming computers as well as internet "trolls" who seem to enjoy putting other people down from the safety of their computer chairs.

When I kept a blog detailing my experiences dealing with the teacher certification process here in MI, I would often get random comments from readers and I absolutely loved it. Like most bloggers, I was really writing it for myself, but to know that a) others were reading it and 2) others were enjoying it made me feel like I was putting my time to good use. 

Commenting is an extremely important tool for educational use. In the one online class I've taken, commenting played a major role. Because we were using a university maintained community, we were posting under our own names, but the distance introduced by using the internet allowed people to speak their mind without actually being anonymous.

I'm not sure how well commenting would work in a class where the students see each other in person everyday, but I feel it would be worth a try. 

Thing 10

One of my favorite YouTube school related videos was done by a teacher demonstrating a piece of equipment that involved burning propane and felt it was best to not bring it to school. 

Most kids will swear it's faked when they watch it the first time because it's so eye-catching. It's a great video and worthy of more press than it gets. 

As mentioned in Thing 9, I am capable of downloading, converting, and burning YouTube videos to DVD. It just takes a while. 

Thing 9

The biggest problem I have with YouTube is the same problem I have with most websites that allow commenting - anonymous commenters. For whatever reason, people have assumed the internet should be a refuge for people that lack the courage to openly speak their mind and have an unalienable human right to comment anonymously on websites.

Like most twenty-somethings, I've logged many hours surfing YouTube (never on company time, of course). Watching episodes of "You Can't Do That On Television," old music videos, and various home movies of people falling down. What's great about YouTube is that you don't need to be looking for anything in particular to be entertained for hours - just click around and follow responses to other videos. 

My district does block access to YouTube from the school's computers, but I've learned how to download the Flash video files that YouTube uses and convert them to a usable mpeg for viewing on other machines. It's a pain, but it gets the job done in a pinch.

Thing 8

I started with this idea from a web comic called xkcd that I read. The author is an avowed math & physics nerd, so many of his comics have references to science. I took that idea and turned it into a fake motivational posted using Automotivator, a site I've used for similar projects. 

This is the end result:

I love playing with stuff like this. I'm not generally a creative type in that I do not create things from scratch, but given a chance to stand on the shoulders of others, I can usually create some interesting images.

The Automotivator is one of my favorites for its ease of use. It would be great to have students play with it for a while and they could simply email the pictures to be display on the classroom projector without wasting paper & ink.

The montager was amazing for how quickly it pulled together so many images. I don't see using it in the classroom as anything more than a "this is one of the things that's out there" demo, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Not necessarily photo-related, but I wanted to decorate my classroom with science related quotations. To add a personal touch, I typed up the quotes in my own handwriting using my tablet laptop. Not everyone noticed, but the kids that did were that much more intriqued to know what you could do with the right tools.