Category Archives: educational technology

Countdown Smackdown

From all of us at ‘Classroom 2.0 LIVE!‘, we would like to invite you to a ‘Countdown Smackdown’ as we countdown the new year with a  smackdown! This will be our final webinar for 2010 and you are invited to participate in the smackdown.

The Countdown Smackdown will be held Thursday, December 30th at 12pm EST. If you would like to share a resource, please take a few moments to complete our sign up form. It isn’t necessary to share a web tool to attend or register for the session. A smackdown is where people have two minutes to share their favorite technology resource or web tool.

Note: If you would like to share a tool, please make sure you have a USB headset to prevent echoing or any audio difficulties. Please take a moment to fill out the short form below prior to the Countdown Smackdown session so we can prepare the gl.am link with as many of the resources that will be shared as possible prior to the Smackdown.

Webcast Academy Miracle Workers

At the beginning of the summer, I set a personal and professional goal that I would learn how to be a webcaster like the experts on the ‘Women of WoW; or ‘Teachers Teaching Teachers’ shows. I enrolled in the webcast academy led by the wonderful leaders Jeff Lebow and Doug Symington.

Initially, I had some difficulty with the first assignments but I eventually was successful after following the directions at the website. The second assignment was not so easy.

The second assignment was to record both end of a call on Skype. It sounded easy enough but I noticed there was an additional software program that was needed to make this successful and a USB microphone or headset was required for this process. So I followed the directions and started off on my adventure to complete my assignment.

Source: Noheadset Photostream

Things weren’t going so well so I asked my husband to assist me. My husband has a degree in programming and is the Assistant Director for Technical Services in a school district here in town so I thought he would be able to find my problem. We spent several more hours trying to find out why I kept getting an echo when using the program Audacity to record the two way Skype call. Needless to say I was frustrated. He tried on his desktop computer and followed the steps in the screencast video created by Jeff Lebow to demonstrate this process. Instantly it worked for him.

But I wanted to resolve the problem on the laptop I use. I gave up for that evening. Each day that week I tried again and again thinking maybe this time I will get the settings correct using the repeater of the Virtual Audio Cables software used when recording in Audacity. I had no clue what I was adjusting but I tried every combination known to man to get the settings right and still not much luck.

Twitter post from Coordinatortwo

Hour after hour passed and one night I noticed a tweet from Jose Rodriguez. I tweeted back that I was having difficulties and the next thing I knew Jose rounded up Doug and we were using Yugma to look at my settings and share my desktop. Mind you, this was 1:45am CST! My husband was asleep next to me as Jose, Doug and I worked to resolve the echo problem. After about an hour we gave up. Jose and Doug prescribed a 12 hour holiday from trying to fix the problem and I heeded their advice.

By this time I lost count how many hours but I know it was over ten and I was particularly frustrated and discouraged. I tried another hour or two and then gave up and waited for the next webmaster academy class to begin so that we could again share my desktop and review all of the settings with Jeff Lebow and the other webmasters out there. Jeff Lebow and Doug guided me to check this setting and that setting and we were getting nowhere.

Then Jeff asked me to go back to Audacity to look at the preferences a second or third time – I lost count. Jeff suggested that I remove both checks on the Play Through options in the Audio preferences.

Preferences in Audacity Screenshot

As you can see in the yellow circle below, I removed the check marks that activated those two options in the preferences. After removing the checks marks I pressed OK and we tried to record again to see if the echo was suppressed. (Click on the picture for larger image.)
After struggling for about 30 minutes with the community of webcasters, I tried again. I must say I wasn’t feeling especially optimistic. I started the repeater, started recording in Audacity and lo and behold, no echo! Both sides of the Skype call could be heard loud and clear without any echo anywhere.

Talk about relief! I was thinking that I was going to have to move to a different computer if I wanted to webcast and while that wasn’t a terrible option, it wasn’t the favored option for me. I was thrilled and mute the microphone in the Skype and yelled out to my husband that the webcast pros fixed it and worked another miracle again!

Screenshot of Jeff Lebow in a screencast at WebcastAcademy.net

Up after me was another webcast academy intern and after about 20 minutes another miracle by Jeff and Doug occured! Several people that night experienced the tech savvy experience and assistance and had problems resolved to move each of us one step close to webcasting. These generous men give of their time and talents each week solely to share their knowledge to create new webcasters who share their knowledge with others further repeating this cyle an infinite number of times.

While we each celebrated when our technical problems were resolved and graciously thanked Jeff and Doug, the two will never know just how many people’s journey of learning have been dramatically changed, improved and furthered by their time, efforts and words. I recorded the details of this episode solely to spotlight these two educators and webcasters so that others who are experiencing similar technical difficulties will be encouraged, persist and be tenacious about tackling these difficulties. The obstacles will come but with their assistance you can be confident the obstacle will be overcome and spur you on to bigger and betters things in webcasting.


Officials use Facebook/MySpace to Prosecute Criminal Cases

One of the Twitter posts I read last week referred me to an article on CNN.com about law officials using the social network sites of Facebook and MySpace to obtain evidence from pictures and comments posted to the sites. The article mentioned a college student who was seen at a Halloween party two weeks after being arrested after being involved in a drunk driving accident. According to the article,

Two weeks after Joshua Lipton was charged in a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a woman, the 20-year-old college junior attended a Halloween party dressed as a prisoner. Pictures from the party showed him in a black-and-white striped shirt and an orange jumpsuit labeled “Jail Bird.”

Lipton was not showing much remorse partying after being involved in an alcohol related accident. While the woman Lipton hit was recovering in the hospital, Lipton was out partying and one of his friends posted pictures from the party that included Lipton on Facebook.

Source: Flickr*

I recently blogged about being aware of the digital footprints we leave on the internet citing a USTA professor as an example. His explicit emails with references to his students were made public and printed in the newspaper with this incident making front page news.

According to the article at CNN.com, discussion of how law officials use the pictures of social networks to portray the nature of one’s character is becoming commonplace.

“Social networking sites are just another way that people say things or do things that come back and haunt them,” said Phil Malone, director of the cyberlaw clinic at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “The things that people say online or leave online are pretty permanent.”

The pictures, when shown at sentencing, not only embarrass defendants but can make it harder for them to convince a judge that they’re remorseful or that their drunken behavior was an aberration. (Of course, the sites are also valuable for defense lawyers looking to dig up dirt to undercut the credibility of a star prosecution witness.

Prosecutors do not appear to be scouring networking sites while preparing for every sentencing, even though telling photos of criminal defendants are sometimes available in plain sight and accessible under a person’s real name. But in cases where they’ve had reason to suspect incriminating pictures online, or have been tipped off to a particular person’s MySpace or Facebook page, the sites have yielded critical character evidence.

While teaching students how to perform boolean searches on the internet or cite sources, it is just as important to stress the awareness of the digital footprints each of us leaves behind. Hopefully the students will not have their digital footprints used as evidence against them in a criminal matter as the teens did in the article but examples such as these show the importance of being cognizant of one’s presence on the internet. Colleges and employers often do searches on the social networks and make decisions based on their findings. I believe emphasizing the concept of digital footprints is as important in preparing students for the 21st century as is internet safety to avoid predators, using technology tools and social networks. For some students, their digital footprint could make the difference between a sentence of life or death.

*Patiblue. “Pegasus/Footprint.” Patiblue’s Photostream. April 9. 2008. Sept. 20, 2005. http://www.flickr.com/photos/patiblue/151771347/

A Rock-n-Rollin’ Wiki Webquest

A few minutes ago I was reading an email containing my daily Diigo update and a bookmark from my Project Based Learning Group that submitted the blog site, “Wikis for Everyone“. The post, “A Classroom Wiki Webquest“, caught my attention featuring a teacher conducting a wiki webquest with her students about rock and roll musicians.

“For their first project, they created a Webquest about the 1980’s rock and roll scene. “Students were required to research about music in the 1980s and design a rock exhibit for a rock and roll museum. Students worked in groups to create various products – feature articles, press releases, teaching and student guides, and museum calendars – explaining the exhibit highlights.”

This project led to a project on the 50 greatest rockers resulting in the creation of a project wiki. The “RockWriteListen” wiki is laid out well with an introduction to the project, a webquest and student products. This was so awesome to see the extent and detailed length the wiki was utlized to facilitate this project. Initially, instruction on how to use the wiki and communicate expectations to the students took place.

“There had to be an entire mini-lesson on what was an appropriate response in the discussion section. The experience was useful. Looking though the discussions you will find that a lot of the students had great insights to add. And this insight went beyond `great page, cool graphics.”

Laying the foundation with clear expectations communicated is essential to the success of any project and as elaborate as this project became it was a necessary component that had to be woven into the instruction of the content as well. The teacher featured commented how the students had to work together to complete the components of the webquest project. Eventually, the teacher structured the 50 greatest rockers project so that each student was responsible for editing his/her own page.

Using wikis to their fullest potential is like venturing into new territory. You blaze a trail and learn from trial and error of ways to better facilitate and structure group projects such as those mentioned in the post. The teacher commented that using the wiki really expanded the learning opportunities and she also participated in the learning process.

“As for photobuckets and other widgets, the students really showed me how to do that. Once one student started it, I asked how to do it, then taught other students. We were learning from each other – myself included.”

That comment really struck with me. Students look to us to know all of the answers to their every question. Many teachers feel insecure about saying that they don’t know the answer but this is real world learning. This teacher took a risk, her students took risks and an outstanding project resulted that focused on content but provide so many rich, real learning experiences that is greatly needed for the 21st century flattened world.

K12 Online 2008

Just wanted to pass this along to everyone in case you missed it or hadn’t receive the information below. If you have questions, access one of the links to be taken to the conference wiki.

We are pleased to announce the call for proposals for the third annual “K12 Online Conference” for educators around the world interested in the use of web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. This year’s conference is scheduled for October 20-24 and October 27-31 of 2008, and will include a pre-conference keynote during the week of October 13. The conference theme for 2008 is “Amplifying Possibilities.” Participation in the conference (as in the past) is entirely free. Conference materials are published in English and available for worldwide distribution and use under a Creative Commons license. Some changes in the requirements for presentations are being made this year and are detailed below. The deadline for proposal submission is June 23, 2008. Selected presentations will be announced at NECC 2008 in San Antonio, Texas, USA on July 2.

OVERVIEW: As in past years, K12 Online 2008 will feature four “conference strands,” two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday through Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two weeks. Including the pre-conference keynote, a total of 41 presentations will be published. Each twenty minute (or less) presentation will be shared online in a downloadable format and released simultaneously via the conference blog (www.k12onlineconference.org,) the conference Twitter account, and the conference audio and video podcast channels. All presentations will be archived online for posterity. A total of 82 past presentations are currently available from K12 Online 2006 and K12 Online 2007. If you are planning to submit a proposal, please review archived presentations from past years to determine what you might offer that is new and builds on previous work. A variety of live events will also be planned during and following the weeks of the conference.

“This is a test – just a test – of the Emergency Broadcast System”

All of us have heard or seen the tests conducted by the emergency broadcast system and had there been an actual emergency when we would have been notified of how we were to proceed. I liken this to the approach of testing in Texas. I was reading the post entitled, “Severe Weather Testing Protocols” from the ‘Fractions Speak Louder than Nerds’ blog. The district I was recently affiliated with was notorious for going overboard on the preparation of the building for the testing environment going to the extent of covering book cases, all posters – even motivational – as they had words on the posters or book spines and those words may help students with something on the test.

Personally, I don’t see that a poster saying, “Be true to yourself” or the 55 Rules of Ron Clark to be testing aids of any kind but hey, you do what you gotta do. Trainings and simulations of TAKS assessments are drilled into us to prevent being notified of how to proceed in the event of a testing emergency.

The extent the educators go to that are mentioned in this fellow blogger’s post about protecting test booklets and materials is humorous. We laugh because we can relate to having to protect, monitor, count, check out, check in, lock up, pass out, collect, alphabetize and many other things that I didn’t name regarding the handling of the testing materials except looking at the test booklets.

If a student throws up or does the unforgivable thing of bending their answer document or even worse- spilling something on their booklet or answer document – all is lost and you are signing away your life on all kinds of forms to prove something bizarre happened and you weren’t just taking a peek at the content of the test. Don’t you know TEA just loves to receive answer documents or booklets inside of a sealed ziplock bag with vomit or other unknown bodily fluids dried to the pages of the student’s test booklet. I just hope the incident requiring the ziplock bag with the contaminated test materials was sealed before lunch…especially since it may be several weeks before TEA gets the special delivery of dried vomit on a test answer document. How fun is testing in Texas!?!

I’m Starting to Get this Blogging Stuff

This is my second attempt at a personal/professional blog and think I am finally coming into my own and understanding what makes a successful blogger. By no means do I think that I am in the same ‘weight class’ as the uber bloggers, but the fact that I have readers subscribed and hits on my blog’s clustermap is a huge accomplishment for me. Although there are many factors that make a blog a success, one of those factors is reading other blogs and posting reflections about what you have read.

In the eArticle written by Dean Shareski entitled, “Student and Teacher Blogs that Succeed“, the paragraph illustrates this point beautifully.

Blogging is mostly about reading

Blogging is way more about reading than it is writing. Many teachers don’t see this at first. Most classrooms provide a good balance of traditional reading and writing opportunities. Teachers recognize that in order to be a good writer you have to read good writing. Yet when it comes to blogging, most want to write immediately and sit back and wait for the world to pay attention. It won’t happen. Provide as much time for your students to read blogs as write. If you decide you want to blog or have your students blog, don’t feel badly about spending a few weeks or even months reading blogs. Look for exemplary work. Look for blogs that you relate to. Find blogs that have a different perspective on things you’re interested in Talk with your students about the blogs they enjoy. Before you write a post, be sure you are responding to something you’ve seen, read or heard.

I can definitely testify that following this suggestion will prove to you and your readers the truth of those sentiments. The more blogs I read, I am able to see how successful blogs are structured, created, and promoted. I can ask questions or clarification of points presented in blogs by the ‘superbloggers’ and have been willing to leave an encouraging comment in return. As exciting as it is to see the red dots grow on my blog’s cluster map, utilizing tools of this type that are purposeful and aesthetically pleasing can be gleaned from other bloggers.

What I have discovered is that most bloggers don’t post their reflections, thoughts and viewpoints for fame or notoriety. Most bloggers share their reflections in an effort to explore and refine the craft of teaching through the reflection process. As educators sharing best practices and thoughts about classroom strategies that work or don’t work true enlightenment occurs in a way that is not possible without taking a moment to reflect upon our teaching practices. Without reading literature, periodicals or blogs, professional growth will stagnate – just as the progress or success of your blog without posting your reflections of your lessons, activities or readings of literature or periodicals.