Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thing 23

My absolute favorite discovery on this journey was Shelfari! Though I have to admit, I don't see how I can use it very well in the elementary setting (especially because I will be teaching 1st grade next year), but I'm using it for myself as a social network.

This program has jumped-started one of my professional learning goals, which is to stay abreast of current technology. I mean, I only graduated high school in 2001, but I feel as if I'm far behind my fourth graders!

One outcome from this program that thoroughly surprised is my excitement for RSS feeds. I used to log onto GMail once every two weeks or so, but now its a daily occurrence.

All I can think of to suggest for improvement is to go through the Things every few months and make sure that the links are still working. Also, take Ning off the list because it will no longer free.

I would love to participate in another discovery program!

My learning experience these past few months has been more than I could have asked for!

Thing 22

Well, looks like Nings will no longer be part of the Web 2.0 world (at least not the one that education can afford). On May 4th, Ning will announce its new pricing plans, with 'free' not being one of them. That's too bad because this is the first time I had heard of this site and I can see its potential. I just think it needs more marketing and less 'clutter' on its page (I was a bit overwhelmed). Ning looks to be a great way to keep in touch with and connect to educators around the globe! Unlike Facebook or Myspace, the premise is to join particular groups and discuss about your passions, not just befriend a million people and keep up with where they went last night or what mood they're in. Oh well. Maybe this pay restructuring will give them the money they need to revamp, get the word out, and make it free again someday. Until then, unless I trip over buried treasure on my way home from work tomorrow, there are just too many other free online networking for me to pay for a Ning.

Thing 21

I used Photo Story with my students two years ago and forgot how much fun it can be! I feel it is very user-friendly and as long as students have the correct equipment, an easy way to make a project that much more fun! My favorite function is being able to write notes on what I'm going to say so I don't have to hunt down note cards or scraps of paper. Students also love being able to choose transitions and music! Photo Story is also a great opportunity for students to practice their reading fluency and being their own critics.

The only problem is that my school doesn't have very fast computers, and I don't think we have any microphones. The load times are very slow, so unfortunately, I don't know if I can feasibly do this with my students.

Thing 20

I honestly never thought that I could find anything useful from You Tube. Funny, yes. Time wasting, yes. Something to use in my classroom, no. So it was to my amazement that there are actually videos out there that are educational and appropriate for elementary schoolers. I focused most of my time on Teacher Tube, though, mostly because I had never visited it before. Talk about not reinventing the wheel! I found so many useful videos on a variety of subjects, like this video:

How cute is that? A funny video to teach students how to take care of library books. This is useful for both librarians and classroom teachers!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thing 19

After browsing the Web 2.0 Awards list, I decided to take a closer look at Lulu, a self-publishing website. This site is great for anyone who wishes to publish their works for a low cost. You can upload a book that you've created, and as people buy it, copies are printed one at a time. This way, you don't have to win a contest or peddle your book to countless agents to live your dream! After seeing the book entitled Kindergarten We're Just Beginning , the classroom/library applications became crystal clear. Why not have students truly publish their own books? As long as you elicit the appropriate parental consent, the students can publish their works on a platform in which family members can buy the book as many times as they want. You know what that means - no more photocopies, lamination, or binding!

Thing 18

I've been waiting to get to this "Thing" because I use Open Office on my computer and love it! I haven't found many drawbacks except there is no clipart or right-click synonym function in their word processer, but that is minor compared to the money I saved when I bought my computer. I haven't had any trouble opening or reading any documents made on other platforms, and only had trouble once with other platforms reading mine because I saved it incorrectly.

Open Office would be perfect to use in the Elementary or Junior High setting. The only reason why High Schoolers might want Microsoft Office instead is because it has more visually pleasing options such as the new Word with the multiple task bars. Also, higher tech classes might need the more advanced options. However, speaking from an elementary school perspective, Open Office would be more than enough! I can think of many things I would rather spend the money on!

Thing 17

As a teacher I can see how Rollyo can be great for students. If they are doing a report on Texas history, I can pick and choose what sites they are able to search. So instead of students searching in Google for George Bush and getting hundreds opinion pages, they will get factual information instead. Check out the Rollyo I made for Famous Texans research.

On the down side it can limit their results and get them to have very similar papers. There may be some site that I forget to include on the Rollyo search that would have really helped. Overall the idea of Rollyo is great for teachers to get their students to keep their eyes on their work. However, I firmly believe that students still need to be "let loose" on search engines such as Google so they can learn how to properly evaluate their sources when they go home and search on their own.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thing 16

Before this experience, I would have never thought of using a wiki in a classroom. I didn't have any particularly positive experience with wikis; just thought they were unattractive and became frustrated when classmates "corrected mistakes" I made on collaborative papers. However, after viewing the examples from schools and libraries, I can see how they can be used for the better. Students can have a place to share work that they can all sign in and add comments, as well as add on to a class project. Wikis can also be designed to be something other than a large expanse of white.

The downside is inextricably linked with the upside. Even though it could be wonderful to collaboratively work on a project, there are always students who can't handle the responsibility, especially in elementary school. I know we can all think of the one, two, or in my case, three students who think it's funny to write inappropriate comments or change work without permission. The teacher just needs to be actively monitoring and have consequences in place.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thing 15

I must say, I was disheartened, but not surprised by A Vision of Students Today. We are living in an era of technology explosion that we cannot ignore. Even though I left the traditional college setting in 2006, I could not totally relate to the video. There was no wi-fi access, which meant that everyone ignored the lecture by 'old-fashioned' ways like sleeping or reading a non-related book. Otherwise, everything was the same. Shh, don't tell, but during textbook adoptions at every school I've worked at, we arrive at consensus by the thought, "We won't use it anyway, so which has the best supplemental materials?"

In Into a New World of Librarianship, Michael Stephens lists skills that librarians need to embrace. My favorite is "Librarian 2.0 controls technolust." Just because something is new and looks 'cool,' doesn't mean it belongs in a library. Information literacy doesn't just apply to students! Public librarians need to do research and decide if the desired technology would be beneficial to their patrons, and school librarians need to decide if it will complement learning.

Thing 14

I have heard of Technorati before because my husband uses it, but I had never really explored it before. According to Technorati Video Goodness, they are restructuring, which is probably why I could not access any 'popular' tools. I also didn't get any results when I searched for "school library learning 2.0," but I can see how this site can be valuable. It is another avenue in which to search for information. If I wanted to read over blogs written by fellow elementary school teachers to gather insight, this would be the place to go!

Tagging in general is a helpful way to cluster information. Since you can give items as many times as you want, they could show up many times. For example, on Shelfari I always tag my books with the author and genre. I also search others with the same, so I end up finding books that I might like if I like a certain author.

Thing 13

I wish I knew about Delicious the second it was created! There have been many times where I found myself wishing I was on my own computer because I "just have to" show someone a website, can't remember what it was, but had it bookmarked. I also enjoyed browsing tags by topic, such as the collection of sites labeled 'education'.

There is definite potential for Delicious to be used for research assistance. It can be used as a search engine where students search by tags. It can also allow students to save bookmarked pages that they visit in the computer lab to be accessed at home for further study or exploration. I can definitely see librarians and teachers taking advantage of this, since they are not always on the same computer. There have been times where I have e-mailed myself websites so I can remember them when in the computer lab or simply switching to the technology cart to project something to the whole class. Now I don't have to!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thing 12

The funny thing about this "thing" (does that sound right?) is that I just commented on another Library2Play member's blog about this very thing (OK, now there are definitely too many things). :)

My biggest pet peeve about blogging or any other social networking comments is when they are not helpful or insightful in any way. I'm talking about comments such as "thanks for sharing" or "I agree" without any reasons why or any contribution to the post whatsoever. This is boldly mentioned as the first rule in How to Comment Like a King (or Queen) - Write a meaningful comment. I like to feel as if the comment was left because the reader connected with something I said, not because they had to or had nothing better to do.

I also enjoyed reading Your Comments? on Blue Skunk Blog. Not only did it make me laugh, it made me think. I had never thought of reading blogs and not posting as "lurking," but it also never crossed my mind that some people claim they write blogs for themselves and don't care about comments. Why make it online and public, then? I try to comment as much as I can when I connect with a blog post, but will be much more mindful in the future. I know I smile when I see someone has taken the time to leave me a comment!

I have the Newsweek article about firing bad teachers on my mind, so I used the keywords "fire bad teachers on Google Blog Search. Two blogs that I found were A Teacher's View and Teach313's Random Keystrokes. The first one is an interesting commentary on the aforementioned article, while the second is a heartbreaking account of an inner-city Detroit teacher who faces countless obstacles in teaching her 5th graders. She seems as if she truly cares about these students, but she is threatened with being fired and replaced with Teach for America teachers.

It's always interesting to hear the newest theory on how to "fix" our schools. If you haven't already, please read the Newsweek article and let me know what you think. I'll post my thoughts on it later so as not to accidentally influence opinion before you read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thing 11

Library Thing is interesting, but I don't like it as much as Shelfari. I do like LT's image generator, though. What I have to say in the post pertains to both, but Shelfari is more user-friendly and visually appealing.

Both Library Thing and Shelfari are useful to me in three ways. First, I am an avid reader who loves connecting with others over shared interests. I joined Shelfari about 3 weeks ago and have logged on almost every night to see what my friends are reading and get recommendations. Another reason I use it is to look up books my students are reading or I am thinking about using in class. There are groups for children's books that people of all ages post to. Finally, as a future librarian, I know that I will not have enough time to read all the books in my library. If I really need to gather information, several reviews by library groups will give me a better insight than an Amazon book review.

Library Thing


Thing 10

I had way too much fun with this thing! Comic Strip Generator was the first image generator I played around with and it is one of my favorites. This site can be used in the classroom for motivation and a fun way to present short facts. Students and teachers can make cartoon characters remind them of study habits, editing tips, etc! I bet it will sink in more if Homer is reminding my 4th graders to edit their papers than if I do. Another one of my favorite image generators is Image Chef. Even better than making cartoon characters say anything you want is taking your own picture and giving it a fun caption! It gives that personal touch. Students can use this site to introduce themselves to the class or present social studies material.

Librarians can use either of these tools to make reading more pleasurable. Students can upload images of books they've enjoyed, give it a caption, then hang it in the library on a "suggestions wall!"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thing 9

With all the blogs out there, I was pleased to know that there are specific search engines for them. My favorites were Bloglines and Technorati. I liked how Bloglines had a preview of each post when you hovered over it, allowed you to e-mail it, and showed you how many bloglines members followed the feed, all on one page. Technorati was the most visually appealing and seems to be the foremost expert on blogs. Every time I see reviews of blogs or newspapers writing about blogs, Technorati's name comes up.

Besides Superglu, which didn't have a working link or show up when I typed it in the address bar, Syndic8 was the most confusing to me. I felt like the homepage was too overwhelming and not visually appealing. It took forever to search and what came up was not always relevant.

One useful feed that I found is Free Technology for Teachers. It discusses even more Web 2.0 technology to be used in the classroom. There are pictures and examples of everything discussed so you get more of an idea how to use it at school. Another feed I added to my reader was Classroom Solutions by Scholastic. I use Scholastic to order books and occasionally print worksheets, but never knew there was a blog dedicated to exciting ways to get kids involved in learning! Classroom Solutions is split up into grade level articles, focusing on technology and free events that students can participate in. This is definitely a site I am going to access at school and share with my co-workers!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thing 8

I must admit that I was one of the people who wondered, "what the heck is RSS?" Now I know what those orange symbols are that pop up everywhere, even on the Katy ISD staff page! I enjoy how I can have everything come to me, since I am a serial time waster. I added a few feeds from School Library Journal for school use using Google Reader. It still amazes me how many services one login can link me to! I also subscribed to the online newspaper of BGSU, my home for 5 years. I've been checking it often for news of the 100th anniversary so I can plan a trip this fall to meet up with old friends and go to homecoming!

School employees, including librarians, can use RSS and readers to keep abreast of current topics in the education world. Instead of sifting through countless websites trying to find information, we can use the search feature in Google reader to locate news on a desired topic. Not only does this cut down on time, it also brings up relevant information without the distracting ads and site formating.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Random Aside - Blogs Getting "Older?"

I know this isn't a "thing," but I just had to post it. A friend brought it to my attention when I told him I was working with blogs for class. It's an article discussing the usage of blogs, and how while the number of people using blogs hasn't changed much recently, the age of the users have. Most people under the age of 18 find blogs to be too long and boring to keep up with in comparison to updates on sites like facebook and twitter. Does this reinforce the stereotype that the younger generation is too ADD? I personally like the longer bits of information found in blogs. Status updates are too impersonal or trivial. Knowing what show someone is watching or nothing besides how someone is feeling doesn't do it for me. Thoughts?

Is blogging a slog? Some young people think so

Thing 7

This is what I now see when I open my web browser. You can't see it all because my screen is small (10.1 inches), but I have 2 news sources, Twilight quotes, weather, my e-mail, and horoscope for the day. Ah yes, the penguins. I had to put them there - they follow the mouse! When my husband saw my creation, he remarked, "Wow, so you have all this technology at your fingertips and you are excited about an app that you could have had in 1997?" To him and all others like him I reply, "why mess with perfection?"
In all seriousness, iGoogle is fantastic. It is a one-stop shop for your internet needs. I often am not caught up on the latest news because it takes too long to check every site or newspaper. Now I can get snapshots of every heading! Also, this really saves time on all of the mundane things we do when we jump on the computer before we get down to what we really came for. I'm sure you've done this before - turn on the computer to do work, but first, "Let me just check the weather," or, "I wonder what's playing at the theater tonight," or my personal favorite, "I just can't start working without knowing the -fill-in-the-blank- quote of the day!" Now we procrastinators can see it all in one click! In terms of usefulness for librarians, iGoogle can be set up to find links and quotes from just about anything. I had to stop myself after 30 minutes of exploring just this, but I know there are updates you can get on books and school-related functions.

Another Google product I love is GoogleEarth. I have seen this before, but enjoyed revisiting. This can be used in lessons to link geography to real life. Students can practice location finding, see countries they're studying, look at real life landforms, or simply ignite a spark of interest for geography altogether!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thing 6

This was the first thing I had never heard of before. The term "mashups" brings to mind what I eat the days after Thanksgiving!
On a more serious note, I can't believe how many of these sites are out there. I love how Flickr even encourages use of their site! Of all the mashup sites I browsed, I must admit that my favorite was also the trading card. I can see so many uses for this as a librarian! Students (or teachers) could create cards for book characters, genres, themselves as a reader, a topic they researched, etc. The possibilities are endless!

On the other hand, there are a few mashups that are fun at first but I got bored with very quickly and just didn't see the point. One of these is a game called guess the title. I was intrigued at first, but after 5 minutes of playing the game I became very frustrated. I couldn't guess any of them! Noone named their pictures anything I could tell from the picture itself! Although, I guess you could argue that it did pass the time.

Whether the mashups were fun, useful, or unproductive, I do enjoy that Big Huge Labs lets you upload from multiple sources such as Flickr, Facebook, and a file saved on your computer. This way you don't have to take that extra step of publishing pictures to a site before using the program. This way, librarians and teachers can take pictures of students, projects, or books and create a product immediately!

Thing 5

I hope this picture posts correctly because right now it looks like a long stream of random letters and symbols. On to the topic at hand- flickr. I've known about its existance for awhile now because my husband uses it, but I just thought it was for sharing pictures with your friends. The picture I chose is of the San Jacinto Monument. It is by a man named Jason Tinder and is entitled, "God Bless Texas." My students are currently learning about the Texas Revolution and will be introduced to the Battle of San Jacinto on Monday. I will definitely keep this site in mind for classroom use from now on.

Thing 4

My blog has been "official" for three days now! I'm one of those silly people that get excited every time I get a comment and I never thought I could learn so much just from reading about everyone else's experiences. While I've used blogs before, I never knew how to manage its layout or "follow" anyone. Either that or the last time I used one you couldn't do these things. Technology evolves so fast it seems like every time I turn around there's something new!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thing 3

I never thought I would have this much fun setting up and maintaining a blog! I used MySpace in college, but lost interest after I graduated because I didn't have the time anymore. When I sat in front of the computer last night I thought I would spend 30 mins, maybe an hour. Well, 2 1/2 hours and one annoyed husband waiting for me so we can watch House later, I had a page and an avatar!

In case you're wondering, the word "cylon" in my name is a nod towards my love of sci-fi. I also love vampire books (special mention goes to the Sookie Stackhouse and Twilight series), fantasy, and superheroes.

I'm really looking forward to exploring the remaining 20 things and following everyone's blogs!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thing 2

The 71/2 Habits of Highly Successful Lifelong Learners seem to be habits for a highly successful life, period! There are many instances that came to mind from my everyday life as I read this. For example, it would have been a good idea to "begin with the end in mind" while picking out decorations for my guest room!

Speaking of beginning with the end in mind, this is the hardest habit for me to put into action. I often run full-speed into things without fully grasping where it will take me. I always look a few steps ahead, but am often surprised if it gets derailed. I get excited about technology, learning languages, and starting new projects. Half the time I end up with incomplete blankets or a few words learned in French because I later realize I never really needed it or it has no practical application in my life. I guess I get carried away by the experience!

The easiest habit, by far, is Play! I am always looking for new and exciting ways to present information to my students because I feel that if I'm bored by it, who knows what they're thinking! My husband and I take time to relax every day with a game, our favorites being Rock Band, Scrabble, and "who can tire out the dog first?" The habit of play is especially important so we (teachers, grad students, any other hats we wear) don't burn out. If you find yourself shutting your eyes or wanting to bang your head against the wall, make it a game! Can you finish in 10 minutes? 50 points if you can! Treat yourself to something when you hit 500!

Thing 1

I must say, all this "thing 1, thing 2," etc. brings to mind Dr. Seuss! I guess that's aligned with this program's philosophy - have fun! After reading the introductory blog, I am really looking forward to all that I can learn and adapt for both classroom and library use. Most of these items I have used before, but can't fathom how to use for teaching. The thought of youtube in the classroom scares me, to be honest. Here goes nothing!