Monday, May 12, 2008

Google Docs and Wikispaces are a Good Combo

Just when I was growing a little tired of wikispaces, Jason Levy has shown me something new. Not only is it possible to embed Google Spreadsheets, Google Presentations and ustream broadcasts into a wiki page, you can also embed a Google Doc into a wiki page as well.

This is really something special, because you can also edit the Google Doc from within the wiki by scrolling right down to the bottom and clicking on 'edit this document if you have permission'.

We have been using Google Docs all year in so many different ways, and the school wikispace serves as a great archiving site for these documents and spreadsheets.

My only reservation about embedding Google Presentations is that they can result in the web page being slow to load up. However, the resulting effect of the embedded files is really great.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Apture captures interest

Apture, which came to my attention via a post from Will Richardson, is a very interesting application for blogging, although I think it will take a little getting used to. I think where it could really have success is in:

  • teaching students how to hyperlink, and reference sources;
  • showing students that writing is not a one-step process, that you can continue to develop your ideas (even after initial publication, in this case);
  • demonstrating the interconnectness of web-based publishing;
  • encouraging students to read and view beyond their initial idea for a blog post;
  • making the reading of blog posts more interactive;
  • adding visual support to ideas;
  • creating a blog-based project;
  • a thematic class blog;
  • a school newspaper blog

After you publish a post, you then highlight key words and Apture does the searching for you for links to related sites, definitions, pictures, maps or videos. One thing about it that is a little bit annoying is that the tutorial video then pops up every time you visit your own blog, although I'm sure there would be a way to stop that.

Footnote: You really have to admire Apture's tech support and follow up. Within seconds of posting, I received my answer to the 'problem' that I mentioned in the previous paragraph:

Hi Pat,

This is Tristan from Apture. I really like some of the applications for using Apture that you pointed out.You can hide the tutorial video by clicking the "Don't show this next time" link on the bottom right of the window. We're going to make this link more obvious so that people notice it quicker.


Now that's service!

Monday, May 5, 2008

So why does technology change you?

One of the complaints about integrating technology is that there is too much to learn and too little time. I agree with the summation of 'too little time', but the fact that there is so much to learn is what produces such amazing results.

When I think about the time that I invest in my own professional development each week, the total time expended is staggering. And I'm sure that I don't spend anywhere near the amount of time that others do in PLN's or PLC's.

At a glance for the week:
* About an hour looking for new applications, conferences or thoughtful links on twitter;
* At least three hours reading through and commenting on the educational blogs to which I subscribe through Google Reader;
* An hour or two at least signing up for, or downloading, or trialing some kind of new software;
* Probably an hour fiddling with the tools of an application that I'm already using, trying to get a better effect or do something more efficiently;
* Maybe half an hour looking over an upcoming conference (or even more time submitting a proposal);
* At least an hour conversing with colleagues about how best to use an application, or which application is more suitable;
* An hour writing my own blog posts;
* And, of course, an hour in conversation with someone to explain what it is exactly that we do with all of these web 2.0 tools.

When you do the sums, it's at least a day of extra work each week. And that's a conservative estimate, and doesn't even to take into account the many, many hours spent actually using these applications during my work.

It's little wonder then that those who are exposed to educational technology have accelerated learning. If I took all of that technology out of the equation, I'm sure that I couldn't claim to have been learning this much if I was just concentrating on my teaching each week.

The constant movement forward is very tiring, but when you look back it's truly startling to see how far you've travelled.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Scrapblog great for celebrating Expo success

The students, staff and parent of I.S. 339 have just pulled off something remarkable. Only two months ago, the idea of hosting a Parent Expo was born, and since then students and staff have been working feverishly to prepare for a wonderful celebration of teaching and learning.

Unfortunately, the Pacific ocean and the width of the U.S. stopped me from being present, but the feedback has been incredibly positive. Apart from showcasing the innovative learning that has been taking place, the Parent Expo enabled the students to become the teachers, and they excelled in this new role.

About 300 parents attended this evening event, and staff and students all put in extra hours to stay back at school. From all accounts, there are many exhausted people now trying to recover, but I'm sure that they would agree that it was all worthwhile.

I'd definitely recommend to teachers and classes that they take a look at scrapblog
as an excellent way to further celebrate the success of the Expo. Scrapblog is not only great fun to play with, it is extremely functional with its ability to encompass pictures, text, video and music. I can't wait to hear more stories and see some of the video and over 1000 photographs taken of the event.

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