Web 2.0: Putting All Together part II

Previously, I mentioned that I was trying to streamline my web presence and make my sites more effective for my classes.  This is another post in a series of how I am attempting to do that.  Earlier in February I attended the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference, PETE & C, in Hershey.  There were many great presentations, in fact, there were more presentations than could be attended in person, but through the power of the Internet, most of the sessions have information posted online.  One of the ideas that was discussed was using Netvibes.com to coordinate and post student blog feeds in a single area; I heard this in Joyce Valenza’s session on School Libraries and Web-based Practice: A Tour of Effective Practice.

Netvibes is a tool that allows you to collect feeds from various web sources and post them publicly or privately on your won web page.  I used the site for posting news feeds for my social studies classes since learning about it in 2009 at CAIU’s Web 2.0 Event.  It is a very effective tool for social studies, a one stop shop for current events and trending topics in the classroom.  It is not the only source of news but it provides a focused list as a starting point of information.

Anyway, I decided to add all of my classroom blog accounts to Netvibes; these include my professional blog and all student accounts.  My hope is to make the blog accessible from more Internet sites which will draw attention to them.  I have Netvibes linked to my class wiki, my professional homepage, and a complete listing of student blogs listed on my classroom blog.  My goal is to increase student usage of the blogs beyond assigned writings and to the improve the quality of their work.  I have previously found that student motivation increases when they see that people are viewing their work online.  My students’ blog feed page can be found here.

I will let you know later if my idea was successful…

My First Post From My Droid

After way to much fretting and deliberation I finally got a smartphone.  My wife bought me a Droid X as an early Christmas gift.  I want to thank all of those in my PLN who have put up with and answered all of my questions on the topic.

The last phone I purchased was the Envy 2, at full price.  Two months later, the phone was being sold for under fifty dollars…and my phone always ghost dialed others…much to their annoyance.

Anyway, I am digging the new phone, it is a bit more bulky than my iPod Touch, but it is not overly clunky and awkward.  It is nottaking too much effort to become comfortable on this new platform.  I already downloaded most of my regularly used iPod apps and am looking into the new ones such as the mobile microsoft office app suite.

The big geek excitement will be when I successfully tether my other mobile devices and my laptop off of this phone to have full mobile access.  The goal is to be able to work from wherever I would like, preferably sitting on a deck overlooking a beach with a cup of coffee in the morning.  I tend to enjoy being at the beach in the summer, and this will allow me to do that and still have the ability to work, a necessary task until I become independently wealthy.

Happy holidays!

I Learned Something New Today: Well yesterday actually

I learned something new today, and I didn’t even get in trouble to learn the lesson, which was nice.  Well, now that I am actually finishing my post, I need to say I learned the following concept yesterday. Many people may already know how to do this, but we didn’t.  The fact that I was able to successfully accomplish this, in a a short time, with the stressful week I have been having, made the lesson worth writing about.

About two weeks ago one of the Middle School teachers approached me about learning how to incorporate our Quizdom Student Response Systems with Study Island, a program we use district-wide.  We are strictly a Polyvision District, but you can use a number of student response systems with Study Island.  I read a little bit into how to work out the situation, but CFF Boot Camp and grad school took up most of last week for me.  Yesterday was one of my scheduled days in the Middle School, so I worked with two 6th Grade teachers on the concept.

I printed up a small file of directions from Study Island and in under 10 minutes we had the system working rather smoothly.  The entire process works off of the Study Island site, and you can choose which brand of hardware you would like to use.  We worked on creating our own district specific set of directions’ figuring the booklet would be a bit much for most staff to work with.  I hope to run through the process again with another staff member to make sure they are clear and concise.  Once that occurs I will publish them on our school wiki.

In a nutshell, you open up your Study Island account and pull up which subject and lesson details you would like to work with.  Instead of creating documents to print, you choose the Student Response Option.  From there you follow the prompts and and make the decisions as to how you would like to run the presentation of material. We chose “Teacher Paced” presentation and the content teacher, Jason M., guided his students through a math lesson on triangles. It was going to be a guided review on the topic.

We had the class take their Quizdoms out and log in with their ID numbers, which was just the controller number on the device.  Jason presented the first question to the class and they collaborated on how to come up with the answer to the question posed.  The students worked through the problem, with Jason’s guidance and they answered the question using the devices.  As he was doing this, the special education co-teacher, Traci C. and I were helping students who were having questions about the devices.  Jason then showed them the correct answer and how he could see how the class answered the question as a whole and individually.

After modeling the first problem, Jason continued the guided review with the students solving the problems on their own. After all of the students answered, he showed how the class as a whole answered the questions, then the right answer.  This process built up student interest, especially when more than one answer had a number of responses.  A student who had the answer correct would then be asked to explain how they arrived at the the correct choice. The process worked well.

At the end of class, we ended the session and printed out the results.  We were also able to print out a detailed student response log that listed each student, their percentage of answers correct and how they rated on a scale of ‘Below Basic” to “Advanced.”  This was helpful since we use Study Island as another tool to prepare students for the state-mandated, high stakes, standardized tests that measure whether or not our students are being properly prepared for their future in the eyes of bureaucrats.  Sorry…I became a bit carried away…I just came back from an intense three day training on Project Based Learning, (PBL), and I am posting to my blog about standardized test preparation…kinda, sorta, I feel like I am in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Anyway, today I hope to follow up and see what other information we can pull from the reports and how we can use it to help the students.  I am also curious to see if any of the information carries over to the students individual accounts and how it affects the teachers’ class accounts.  I hope to have more to discuss on my blog soon.

Student blogging from the iPods: Cross posting

My students in honors civics and Econ/POD participated in the One Day on Earth Project, a global multimedia documentary that took place on October 10, 2010, or 10/10/10. They worked on their reflection posts of the project. I had them use the iPods to write their posts in Edublogs, using the HTML tab. The students accessed Edublogs via the Safari app. Once they completed their reflection and had the post proofread, they were to copy the post and paste it into the One Day on Earth website, and my Freshmen also pasted into their Keystone Commons account.

The students accomplished this by holding their finger on the iPod screen until a circle appeared, then they lifted their finger they had the option to copy, select, or select all. The chose the select all option, then copy. See images below.

They opened a new window and logged into One Day on Earth and had to choose the “view normal page” option located at the bottom of the screen. Once they have the normal page view, they can open their blog and add a post. Students had to click the HTML tab and then paste their copied material into the second site. They added a title, proofread their post again, then published their work. My Freshmen then repeated the process in the Keystone Commons site they signed up for earlier this year. They were encouraged to also post links to their blog posts on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. I am hoping they begin to use these sites for more than just a collection of random comments and photos, that are in some cases inappropriate. I am hoping they begin to use the sites for positive promotion of their work along with becoming more conscious of what they post on the sites.

Overall, in the grand scheme of life, this little task was not a big deal. That being said, in my little piece of the universe it was monumental for several reasons. First and foremost they participated in a global project, which was a first for all of them. They also are beginning to use social media for educational purposes, which is new for many people, not just my students. They also are learning how to successfully complete more tasks, even if they are mundane tasks, using the iPod Touches. Their skill set with technology is growing which will hopefully give them an edge as they go through life.

Social Networking: Real-life example in the classroom.

Yesterday afternoon Edublogs.org went down for a brief period of time. Normally it would be no big deal, except my students had blog posts due by the end of yesterday’s classes. The outage created a panic among those who were trying to finish up at the last minute.

I decided to post a quick comment out on Twitter about the situation. I figured someone in my network would respond and I could judge if it was something to worry about or not. About seven minutes later a mention from @Edublogs verified that it was a server issue on their end, not a mistake on mine, and they are trying to fix it quickly. A second message went out to @Edublogs thanking them for the quick response.

In discussing the One Day on Earth project with my classes, the value of social networking was explained. The basic premise is that the network, group, or organization is only as strong as its membership. I believe that I have a fantastic PLN for support. I showed my remaining classes the Tweets from the incident and tied them together with the previous discussions. They understand the concept and saw it work in real-life. It is no longer just some comment my teacher made just to have something to say.

It was not anything Earth shattering, but it was a teachable moment that work. That just seems pretty cool to me, in my humble opinion.

School Week Two: A change in plans

Week Two of the 2010-2011 school year is now in the books, fortunately, so here is my take on how things went…

by the end of Week One, the students were becoming a bit frazzled with getting hit with new tools everyday, even though they were not familiar with using the iPods and the tools.  I had the students log into the class blog site on Edublogs.  I upgraded to the pro account and set up student accounts.  I will not explain the process here, since I already have several posts explaining the process.  The students logged in and followed along watching what I was doing on my laptop.  I had my screen projected over the LCD projector onto my Polyvision Board.

Students were given the opportunity to sign up for an Animoto account using my all access teacher code which enables them to make longer videos and have all of the advanced account privileges for free.  They understood that we would not use it right away, but needed to sign up now so they could use it over the next six months.  They viewed an example of an Animoto video while they signed up.  We were able to create accounts using the Free Animoto App on the iPods.

We had a short week to begin with the Labor Day holiday on Monday, then we had Foresight Benchmark testing on Wednesday and Thursday.  The testing creates shorter classes, about 30 minutes each, so we used the time to have students work on their introductory blog posts and get caught up with any account sign ups and basic tasks.  Students were still coming and going on my class roster, so catch ups were necessary.

Students continued using the mini Eno Board and the LiveScribe pen throughout the week, but it was hard finding a rhythm in such an abnormal week.    I figured it best to hold off on the rest of the tools until they are needed, the kids were getting stressed and tired of practice.  Week Three starts the roll out of curriculum and projects that will receive more scrutiny in the assessment and grading departments.

I do need to roll Google Apps for Education out in the next week or so, but that is another story for a later date.

The Latest iTunes Update: WHY!?!

Yesterday, September 10, 2010, I updated iTunes on my Macbook and started pushing out the update to my classroom iPods. It seemed like no big deal, I was in a hurry so I did not read about the new update, a big mistake on my part. If I would have taken the time to read over what was new with the update, I would have saved myself a lot of stress.

It was just a bit hectic, which is not an excuse, just how my day was going. I had students coming into my homeroom for extra help, when I began updating the iPods, then we jumped into first period. I had a couple of students come into my class second period during my planning time, but I kept updating the iPods in the cart. @bpasquale from twitter was in my room, we were planning out the scavenger hunt our Freshmen will be doing in the next couple of weeks, so I was not very focused.

By fifth period, I had a number of iPods updated and the students were finishing up their blog assignment. That is when one of my students showed me an app that they thought shouldn’t be on the iPod. I have been asking them to keep track of content on them and let me know if they find things on the iPods that should not be there. The app was a game app and my iTunes account ID was in the log in screen, (See image below).

Highlighted by circle and arrow.

Highlighted by circle and arrow.

I could not delete the app, either by holding my finger on the screen to make it deletable (sic), or by going back into iTunes and pulling the app off of the iPod.  I asked several students to double check my process and they siad i was going about the delete process correctly.  Around this time, I was denied access to the iTunes Store, which added to my concern.  I logged out of iTunes and tried to sign back in, when I received a message that my log in was shut off for security reasons…so someone had tried to log in to my account…my blood pressure was rising.  As I double checked which students had access to the iPod in question, I was bothered by the fact that none of the students who had that iPod seemed like the type of person who would try and hack into my account.  I pulled the iPod in question out of class access and focused on the last two classes before lunch.

In the moment I did not think to ask if anyone else had that app on their iPod, which was another mistake.  By asking the students that question I would have seen the multiple apps and known it was not a single student issue, but something much different and less troublesome.  I chose to not bring attention to the issue with students, reverting to I am the boss and” know it all” of the room, ugh.

At lunch I found out that the school web filter was adjusted, political correct terms meaning locked down, so that was probably the cause of getting bounced from the iTunes Store.  No more updates would happen today, software updates need access to the iTunes Store, not just the controlling laptop.

My period 8 Freshmen were working on their blog posts, when I decided to ask one of my super tech proficient students for assistance.  I explained what was going on and he quickly responded, “You can’t delete anything iTunes puts on your iPod.  Did you update to the new iTunes?  If they built the app into iTunes you can’t get rid of it unless you downgrade iTunes…”

His explanation continued, but I lost the words as I realized how much stress I had caused myself because I had reverted to “Master and pupil” mode when I encountered a possibly bad situation in class. I thanked him for the advice and finished out the day, in a much more relaxed state of being.

I can actually laugh about the entire situation now, especially since I can get back into my iTunes account and everything is okay.  I just need to remember that the students are partners in this iPod project and they sometimes know more about the iPods than I do.  There is no shame in admitting that and asking for their help when I encounter issues that are difficult to overcome.

As for Apple, thanks for forcing an app onto my iPod that I have no use for…but I will always remember to read the update details before pushing info out to my class iPods.

Student Blogs: Day One

Well, today I introduced the student blogs to all of my classes.  What a whirlwind of a day, fairly painless as I look back over it…

Students came into class and signed out their iPods and went to the Edmodo online classroom.  It is becoming a standard part of their classroom routine to go straight to Edmodo.   I placed a link to their Edublogs sign in page on all of the class pages in Edmodo, this way the students do not have to type any URLs into the Safari browser, just click and go.

I popped open a page in my Class Orientation Easiteach file with an example of how their Edublogs log in looks.  All of my students know their school network log-ins, their Edublogs log-ins mirrors this format with one minor exception, which is not important in this context.  The point is the students were already familiar with their log-in information, this removes one obstacle in the process.

The students went to the Edublogs sign in page and typed in their Username, ready to proceed.  I had all of their Usernames and Passwords on a Google Doc, so I just read the generic passwords off to the students and they logged in to their account.  I should have just given all of the students the same generic password, it would have been easier.  I commented on this in an earlier post.

We had the Edublogs dashboard up on the Polyvision interactive whiteboard to show the students the process of changing their password and updating their profile.  They were shown how to type in the body of the blog using the “HTML” tab, as was discussed in this previous post.  Students jumped on the left dashboard buttons and began exploring the site.

The students were given the Blog Expectation sheets and the explanation of the assignment.  I chose a brief post where they are to introduce themselves along with a statement of what they would like to learn in class.  They were to pick two objectives on subject matter and two technology objectives and explain why the topics were of interest.  They have already done pieces of the assignment in class through our Edmodo discussion board and a self-reflection Google Form.  My objective is to just get them writing in an appropriate voice and published out on the Internet; consider this a “shakedown cruise” before we get into the curriculum.

Most of the students started their drafts and saved them online.  They are to direct message me in Edmodo when they are prepared to have their work graded.  They have a rubric of what will be looked at in the assessment process, including the appropriateness of language and grammar.  They were encouraged to have someone else proofread their post before  they formally submit it.  Hopefully they will learn how to write beyond texting and Facebook posts even though they are writing on the Web.

Overall, most students caught on quickly with the writing process on the iPods.  A few of the glitches occurred because of human error, either on my part or the students.  The students are great with adapting on the fly and working through issues we encounter as we try these new lessons in class.

A few students asked if there was an easier way to get into the blog so I explained about the free WordPress App and Blog Booster app for iPods.  One of my students is trying out apps at home on his Droid so he can use that device instead of his home computer.  I am interested in see how the apps work on that platform versus the iPods.

I plan on another post once the students complete this initial assignment, hopefully things will continue to go smoothly.

The First Week of School: a reminiscence

Well, the first week of school with students is now over.  My ambitious Student Technology Orientation Plan is behind schedule, but I am adjusting well.  Somethings are out of my control, such a s schedule changes, pep rally schedule, Gaggle emails, and class sizes, I just work around these issues.

Day One was the worst day of the week, I handed out my classroom rules and expectations and reviewed them with all six classes…ARGH!  It was tedious and mind-numbing, even with variations and exaggerations, but necessary to review with students.  I did not hand out the iPod Touches on this day for two reasons.  I still was upgrading the software and adjusting the apps on the iPods; over the summer I loaded all of the apps I have tested on the iPods for some conferences and workshops I presented at.  I also had students in and out of classes with schedule changes, so I thought it best to show them the cart and explain the sign out process before trying to accomplish too much in the 40 minutes I have for each class.  We did manage to break the monotony a bit by having some students use the hand-held mini Eno Board to control my Macbook from their seats.  I survived the day feeling much like a zombie after the mindless repetition of the day.

I had some students approach me asking for help to use their own devices for learning.  I gave them a list of free apps that can be used for educational purposes, as long as it is not in a classroom, since it is against many school districts’ policies.

Day Two was another story.  The students were called up one at a time to sign out the iPods, initialing next to their name on a class spreadsheet.  We worked on double checking the ID number on the iPod they use.  It sounds silly, but it is important to make sure they are signing for the correct iPod, they are after-all responsible for its well being during class.

The directions for the day were projected on the Polyvision board, I use the RM Easiteach notebook software to organize my lessons. Students were directed to open up the Safari browser and go to Edmodo.com, which is the platform I use for my online classroom.  The process was helped along in the 11th and 12th grade classes by some unofficial student mentors who have worked with the technology before in class, either iPods, Edmodo, or both tools.  In the two 9th grade classes none of the students had never used Edmodo or iPods in class, but they were smaller classes which makes working with them easier.

The students either signed into Edmodo or created accounts, then used the 6 digit code to join my class.  They students are grouped by subject, then I created small groups for each period.  This will help with class management of information and allow for greater collaboration.  An explanation to how Edmodo will be used can be found on a previous post.  Students were urged to help each other out while the Edmodo class was projected up onto the Polyvision board.  I directed traffic by modeling what do do on the board and floating around the room, once again we used the mini Eno board to control my Macbook. The students introduced themselves to the class by posting a note in Edmodo and then answered a survey question in Edmodo.  They were able to see the live updates on the vote and posts on the Polyvision board.  We wrapped up each class a bit early to sign the iPods back in.

The only hitch was in my last class when the Edmodo site went down.  Fortunately there are a number of students in ths class who have used Edmodo and were already logged in when the site stopped working.  They were directed to work the classroom, showing others how Edmodo looks on an iPod, while I used the static image on the Polyvision board to explain some things.  In the middle of all of this organized chaos I put out a question through Tweetdeck to see if anyone else was having Edmodo issues and a quick Skype message to Edmodo co-founder Jeff O’Hara about the issue.  I had replies from both sources within 30 minutes, but I was too busy to respond back to them.  By the evening Edmodo was back online.

The students enjoy watching me fumble around with the mini Eno board while others tried the board and showed me up.  It is important for students to see that everyone has a learning curve with new ideas and tools.

Day Three began almost the same as Day Two and the students were becoming quite comfortable with the process much more quickly than I had hoped for.  Sign-out the iPods, go to Edmodo, and the assignment is right there.  Today’s assignment was to click on the link in Edmodo to jump to the class wiki and request to join.  I explained that Edmodo is how I push information out to them and the wiki is their platform to collaborate and publish their work. Students who needed to finish up yesterday’s assignments were given time to do so.  They were also encouraged to look over the wiki and the various iPod apps to become more familiar with the tools.  My last class of the day worked on getting caught up with the other classes, they joined the Edmodo class and began posting introductions and completing the survey.

One other difference in most classes was the use of my Livescribe pen.  I received a Livescribe pen at the KTI Summit this past summer.  The pen records sound and pen strokes then uploads them to a computer.  You can push the information out to the Internet to share with others.  The plan is to have students take turns taking notes in class then push the notes out to Edmodo and the wiki as an additional resource.  At this time I am unsure about using the audio recording feature in class.

Day Four followed the previous patterns, students took the Livescribe pen to make a file of record for what we did, students signed out the iPods, logged into Edmodo and looked for the assignment of the day.  There have been a number of schedule changes in all of the classes, so the students were directed to help each other out and get all of the previous tasks completed.  While they were doing that, I handed out the directions and parent sign off sheet for Textmarks.  This will allow for parents and students to sign up to receive text message updates for my classes.  The students worked on getting each other caught up and used to the iPods.

Day Five had shorter periods, we had our first pep rally of the school year.  The students signed out the iPods and logged into the Edmodo classroom.  Each class then followed the link to a Google Form that was embedded into the class wiki.  They were asked 8 questions, such as name, period, what tools they were comfortable with, which ones they weren’t what tools would they like to learn about.   This will give me some basic information as to how they are adjusting to the new tools in class.

Once they finished filling out the short form, they were directed to the Evernote app on the iPods.  Students were to create accounts or log in and we worked with typing on the iPods.  I also modeled how Evernote works on a computer, by projecting the process onto the Polyvision board.  Students practices taking screenshots on the iPods so they could upload them to Evernote, it seemed to be a very productive day, except for my last class.  The announcements for the pep rally interrupted the class, so we stopped signing out iPods and discussed how the week went.

Overall the week went well and we seemed to accomplish a good bit of basic work.  the students are catching on quickly, so we can start getting into curriculum sooner rather than later.  I did not want to overwhelm students by tossing them into new technology and then dumping curriculum on top of that right away.  It would be unfair and many could shut down and be lost for the year.  As for signing the iPods out and back in, we are down to 7 or 8 minutes in my larger classes, not bad considering I have around 30 students in some classes, to under 5 minutes in my smaller classes.

There are a few more basic tools to be introduced next week, along with the first Blog assignment of the year using the iPods, but that is another post for another day.