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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thing 13- Glogster and Final Reflections on "13 Things"

One Final Thing for the 13 Things class
One final "thing" I came upon is the website Glogster. As with most of these applications we've been learning about, it seems like there's a lot you can do with glogster that I just don't know about yet. So far, I'm in the middle of editing and updating a page which is to serve as a data base for both my students and fellow teachers. I put in a few links- one to the school's website where I teach, one for an upcoming English classroom blog, and one for my in-progress wikispaces page. Basically, you create your own page and you can upload images, videos, audio, and text. It's full of fun, practical, and even funky designs to customize the look and feel of your page. If you go to their homepage, you'll find a multitude of student examples to get a better idea of what I'm talking about. I've heard it mentioned a few times on Twitter, and Glogster has won a few awards...so it's worth checking out.

Reflections on "13 Things"
As far as websites that I've used the most...Blogger, Delicious (now Diigo), Twitter, and Bloglines (which I came back to after using twitter and reading excellent blogs) take the top spots. What I've enjoyed the most about Twitter, is deciding to randomly click on a link tweeted by someone, and then finding out how cool or thought-provoking or practical that link is. I've noticed by reading someone's blog or checking out a new application, I usually end up on about three more webpages before I'm done. And then I don't remember what link I clicked on in the first place! I'm finally catching on to Twitter. (and spending way too much time on the computer! Next, I'll need a class in computer time-management : ). I find it very inspiring and motivating to hear what other educators are doing all over the country and the world. It's a reminder that we're only limited by our own creativity and innovation.

I've managed to tag over 100 webpages using Delicious, and now they're all on Diigo, too. Such a constant exchange of information, followed by convenient methods of organization, has given me SO MUCH material to sift through and explore. Knowing that is a comfort, relief, inspiration, and challenge. I actually don't feel overwhelmed because I know that I'm sure to stumble upon something great. I welcome the change! It scares me to think of teaching the same way I do now for the next 30 years! A thought like that makes me reconsider my profession, but all the technologies I've been learning about change my outlook of the future of education. That outlook is no longer fearful. Some teachers are afraid that computers will replace them; I don't see that happening. I've heard colleagues state that we shouldn't give in to technology just because students use it....to me such a statement is a testimony not to the lack of technological skills that some teachers have, but rather just proves that they simply just don't know what's out there. I've already talked several colleagues about the 11 Things and 12 Things courses when I was taking those.

Getting completely off track.....back to answering the questions for class.
Yes, I've shared many of these sites with family and friends. I intend to share them with colleagues once the school year is back in full swing. One of the most important things I've shared is the TTS/STT technology with my mom and younger sister. My little sister has trouble reading, and I think this technology could help her out. I've learned that a few of my friends have a Skype account, which I didn't know about. I've shared some tweets that I thought were interesting; particularly this one: What happens if you give a class of 8 yo an iPod touch ea? video: http://www.l4l.co.uk/?p=835 #mlearning #slide2learn.

It's hard for me to pinpoint why some sites are easier to navigate then others; I guess I'd say good organization and links available on the home page tend to make things easier.

I'm still working on making new PLN friends, but I'm up to 45 followers on Twitter and I'm following 125! It's nothing to brag about, but the numbers are growing, and that's what matters. Although I will say, I've surprised myself for being bold and leaving my thoughts/comments on a few blogs. At first it's intimidating to read professional PhD blogs or tweets. For example, someone will say he/she just lead a conference on Skype...my initial reaction was, what could I possibly have to say to that person?? My thoughts changed though; if I want to ask or share, I'll do it now.

These websites have changed my computer routine. I used to check my gmail, hotmail, facebook, read some news, and maybe check my bank account. I still do all of that, but now I also log onto blogger, twitter, and have a yahoo email to check on. Plus, I have a lot of unfinished sites/projects related to this class that I would like to expand on- let the work continue!

Most of all, this class has changed my approach to creating lesson plans. I'm a practical/planning kind of person. I'll try to integrate one or two new things each trimester (that's do-able) and see how they fly. That could be a total of six new things by the end of this school year. I would like to continue to blog about my experiences using these technologies with my students- should be fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Thing 12 - Diigo

Diigo- first impressions...I love that it only took 2 sec. to transfer my bookmarks from Delicious to Diigo. I also really like that Diigo allows educators an upgrade ; I'm awaiting the email confirmation to test that out. It will be nice to be able to add sticky notes and pictures onto sites to remember more information. Tags are a great way to keep organized, but just using generic tags such as "education" or "technology" makes for a broad range of potential sites. Often times, a website can fall into a few different tag categories making it difficult to remember which category I put it into. Hopefully, by adding notes, I'll be able to better remember the sites. Furthermore, I'm interested to learn more about books online and Diigo.

It's clear that Diigo has more functions than Delicious, so I'll be using Diigo more to try them all out. I like that Diigo does not require student emails for students to access the site. The creators of Diigo have given thought to protecting students, which is respectable and helpful. I'm interested to find out how exactly that works (giving multiple students access to Diigo in a safe setting), but for now I have the main gist of it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thing 11 TTS/STT (Super Extra Double Bonus Points)

Text to Speech

Looking for free software to convert text to speech or speech to text? The following three sites are good places to start: vozme.com, yakitome.com, and readthewords.com.

Vozme.com allows you to type in a text to be converted to an audio file. What I liked about this site is that you didn't have to sign-up for an account to use it. You could simply type in your text, listen to the audio, download it, and then save it. I did not test for length/time restrictions, and the voice quality is fair. You may choose from several languages.

Yakitome.com allows you to upload files, rss feeds, emails, or type text that you want converted to audio. You have to create an account first, but you are able to convert documents into audio free of charge. I uploaded a 13KB word document (instructions for a Romeo and Juliet acting project, and it took about 5 minutes to upload to Yakitome. The sound/voice quality was good. Sometimes certain words or phrases sounded muffled together. It was entertaining to hear my own words played back to me with a different voice; particularly the banal computer lab times and project due dates. You get more of a feel for what you sound like to your students! I could choose to translate into Spanish, French, or Gernman.

is fun because you can customize your own avatar, but you have to sign up for a free account which is limiting. You are unable to upload files with the free account and you can only record up to 3 audios at a time. The sound/voice quality is the best out of the three sites. Also, you have several voice options with various tones from which to choose. ReadtheWords has links for teachers, too.

Speech to Text
Dial2do is a speech-to-text service that can be used for free for a certain amount of time (a month I believe?). It's very easy to do. You set up an account and can then send an email to yourself or your friends, send a reminder to yourself, or even tweet from your phone! You can even hear your emails read to you over the phone. This would be an excellent way to save time if you're away on business and don't have the time to sit down on a computer or if you rather not type emails into your Blackberry/Droid. I tried it out and recorded a brief message over the phone. The transcription was dead on, which was impressive because I have a tendency to talk to fast when I'm on the phone.

How can these services could be used in education?...
I'm sure special education teachers (especially the tech-savvy ones) could answer this question better than I could. I could see it being extremely useful in all levels of education. I stumbled upon this blog for the 411, http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=5312179896693140824&postID=4175248529216185095

I would try to use it on my own students who might be struggling with writing/reading. It could be an interesting experiment to try on foreign-language learners, too. For example, a student writes a small sample in Spanish. He then converts it to an audio recording and can hear what he wrote. Maybe he'll know he's made a grammatical error when something doesn't "sound right." Or maybe he'll just smile knowing that he's communicating in a foreign language. He could pick up on correct pronunciation, too. Reversely, that same student could speak in Spanish and then see it in text. It could serve as a way to check speech and see if main ideas were communicated clearly enough or not. The same could work for ELL students.

Out of curiosity, I googled tts/stt for special education, and here are a few links that popped up:

ispeech.com- software for educational institutions

Mangomaon- blog about the history of TTS and the implications of today's TTS technology

Iser.com - a list of
software for special needs students

Wordq.com - writing and speech software

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bonus Points- View of Burgos from the El Castillo look-out point

View Walking tour of Burgos, Spain in a larger map

Thing 10- Google Maps

View Walking tour of Burgos, Spain in a larger map

Initial ideas for how to use "My Maps" in the classroom:

In a foreign language classroom (Spanish)

1. My Spanish students have done a research project where they are required to put together a travel plan for a particular Spanish-speaking country, (as previously mentioned in Thing 9). For the project they have to create a brochure in Publisher and also ...hate to admit it...a Power Point!- yikes! How cool would it be to have them create their travel plan through Google maps instead! They could include pictures and links to websites (which would undoubtedly provide them with actual hotels, restaurants, etc. that they could use without having to Google them individually). They could create 1-2 specific excursions through Google maps, or they could create their entire vacation package this way.

2. I often have my students do webquests. I could create my own Google map of a specific geographical location, say Bogota, Colombia, and have my students navigate my map to find out information. It would literally give them a "map" to follow : ) This could be even more interesting if I included links of particular holiday celebrations and fiesta days.

In an English classroom
1. Students could create a walking tour map of places that a specific author may have walked by everyday during his/her lifetime in that city. This would work well for authors who are directly linked to city/town, or it could work for an author who was inspired by a particular place when writing a particular novel. Ideas include:
William Shakespeare- Stratford upon Avon, England; various cities in Italy
Charles Dickens- London, England
John Steinbeck- various locations across the U.S.
(not that my students will be reading this one, but Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love comes to mind- Italy, India, and Bali)

2. Using the same line of thought as #1, students could create a map of the setting of a novel.

3. You could incorporate maps into a writing assignment about a dream vacation. Rather than just write about it, students could make it come to life online.

My maps would be a fun way to document your travels while they're fresh in your mind. I could see how it would be very useful for planning upcoming travels. I'll be planning my honeymoon for next summer; I almost used a My Maps for that but decided to start one that I could use in the classroom instead : ) I've embedded it into my wikispace (which I'm still working on...).

Thing 9- Google custom search

Thing 9 is on a separate page! Use the link on the top!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thing 8 Screencast and Jing

I had trouble downloading Jing; it said an interruption occurred during the download process, but I was finally able to fix the problem. Then, I began to capture a video which was a tutorial on how to use I-Tunes Software. I was just finishing the video when Jing shut down because an error occurred and my video was not saved. I uninstalled all files related to Jing, restarted my computer, and tried again, luckily, with success this time. As I went to publish the video on my blog post, I had to modify the size because it was too big. Then, I made my settings "hidden" in Screencast and wasn't able to see the video on my blog afterward! Even though I went into my settings in Screencast and changed the view back to "public," I could still not see the video on my blog. Finally, I just uploaded the video again onto Screencast and embedded the video one more time- then it worked : )

I decided to make a capture video that I might actually use for students. I would like to have students blog this year, and so the video covers how to configure settings, comments, design, etc on Blogger. This video would be used for students to see after they've set up their Blogger account and tried out their first post. Making the video itself was easy; however, I would have liked to have the option to edit. I like that Jing had a direct link to Screencast so that I was able to upload the video there. I like the privacy options on Screencast.

My overall impression is that I really don't like the Jing software- I can't pinpoint why. Perhaps it's because I had a hard time downloading it.

I feel this software would be difficult to use with younger students. High school age is appropriate, but elementary and maybe even junior high might have a harder time with it. I like the possibility of having students create their own tutorials and share them through a common folder in Screencast. This could save the teacher a lot of time, or at least save them from having to watch their own video over and over again. For example, students learning Microsoft Office could work in small groups to create a tutorial on the functions of Excel or PowerPoint. That sounds boring. A better idea would be for students to create a video about their favorite software application and share it with their peers. This way, students would have access to various Web 2.0 applications (if they're all saved in a central, accessible location) without having to Youtube tutorials (which are blocked at school and which could contain inappropriate video listings on the sidebar). As you can tell, I guess I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one. Overall, I'm pleased that I was able to get the video to work.

Thing 6 Comiqs, ToonDoo, Kerpoof

BAck to school

I hope you like my very first computer-animated comic strip created through ToonDoo! If i figured it out, my students could, too. The site is very easy to navigate. I like that you publish your toon publicly or privately, and that you can comment on others' toons as well. For someone like me who cannot draw, ToonDoo provides you with backgrounds, props, characters, text, and more to create a vision online. I'm curious if an artistically talented student would feel limited on a site like ToonDoo, or if that student would still feel as though he/she had free reign over the creative possibilities.

Another similar site is Comiqs. Today, their server is down on the homepage, but it looks like you can still click on the "create" tab and begin creating. Comiqs would be a lot of fun in a digital photography class where students could manipulate their own photos. Another idea that comes to mind is to use Comiqs for teaching about marketing, advertising, and propaganda. It seems like a good site to create posters or items that could become a part of a greater project, such as a family photo album or multi-genre writing project (perhaps in Spanish).

Kerpoof is yet another option for creating comics online. What sets kerpoof apart from the other sites is that it has the option to make a movie. It looks like you can even include sounds, which would be a lot of fun for students. Kerpoof also includes lesson plans and has a "Teacher's Lounge" link- a big bonus!

All three of these sites allow students to create stories. I did a project once with my students where they had to work in groups and create a comic strip (6 quarters of big poster board)related to themes and the plot of Beowulf. (I took this idea from a colleague who had used it with Animal Farm). I had fun watching my students present their comic strips (and often times defend their drawings!) in front of their classmates. Students would have more creative options if they transferred this project online. What I like about it, too, is that students who can't draw very well will feel like they can participate more.

Thinkfinity Teacher Resources http://thinkfinity.org/widgets/resources_share.html


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thing 5- Voicethread

I really couldn't choose just one Voicethread to share! The first one I chose is called Learning Languages. Kids tell how to say basic phrases in their own native language- it's really cool to listen to! Kids also came up with the pictures themselves, which is always fun to see.

The second one is about poetry. The teacher has each of her students share a poem that he or she wrote. I love this for several reasons: 1) the student publishes the poem to a wide audience 2) the student gets to publish it in his own voice! 3) the student gets to use an image that correlates to her poem 4) others can comment on the poem, providing instant feedback 5) it's practical!- this would be a simple project to undertake. It would offer a place to keep all the poems, too, without having copy/print poetry books for every student.

The third voicethread example I chose is completely narrated by a younger student. It's always exciting when a student wants to rave about a book! He even compares the book to the movie, very impressive. Plus, it lets other students know there's kids out there reading the same books they are and gives them a place to discuss the books.

I could see myself trying out Voicethread this school year because I do feel it would be easy and that the students would get a lot out of it. I could copy the poetry idea, use it as a book review, or use it for language practice. How could other subjects use it? Digital photography could critique each other's photos, it could be a forum for discussing math problems (as was pointed out), art classes could discuss art, kids/teachers could publish science experiments, coaches could use it to review past games....go to Voicethread for more ideas!

Thing 4- Skype

I'm new to Skype, and so far I think it's awesome. I wish it would've been invented when I lived abroad so I could have used it to communicate with family and friends back home. I've seen it used on T.V. shows and I've seen first-hand how it works with a friend. I've only had one Skype conversation so far with my brother. We used audio and I didn't experience any difficulties. Luckily, I already had a headset at home, so I was able to use that. I'm working on trying to set up times to Skype with others in the 13 Things class. I'll update this post when that happens. UPDATE: Last week I was able to Skype with a classmate, and it went well. It took us a minute to figure out how her microphone worked, but after that we were able to chat.

Skype would be so much fun to use in a foreign language classroom! I really liked an example of how it could work, so I posted that video on my blog. Basically the teacher would allow each student to come up to the projector screen and ask a question in Spanish to a student from a Spanish-speaking country. It's fun to watch the students' reactions on the video. They get so excited about actually using the language with a native speaker. I noticed, too, that the rest of the class was watching and listening fairly intently to their classmate. This is an excellent way to spark students' curiosity; they can formulate their own questions, they can learn in a second how easy it is to try using a new language, and they can listen to the voices of several native speakers.

I can't foresee too many potential problems. One is that I don't have a projector in my room right now, so I wouldn't be able to use the big screen. However, I could still schedule students a time on the student computer to try it out. Another option would be to ask a co-worker with a projector if we could swap rooms for the day. A third option might also be to use the projector in the computer lab; this might be an interesting option.

A second issue, then, is scheduling itself. I would have to schedule time to Skype with a teacher from a different country, and schedule the equipment and necessary facilities in my building.

I'm learning which of my friends already has a Skype account, so I can talk to them online. My one friend told me that her husband uses Skype to talk to his family back home in El Salvador.