Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When And Where Am I NOT A Teacher?


Recent events have me wondering about the line between my public life and private life, my personal life and my professional life. They also have me thinking about a post over at Students 2.o by Sean the Bass Player back in February. Sean's post, Where Do We Draw The Line?, discusses whether teachers would want to have students joining their on-line networks. It's a good post with lots of interesting comments. When I first read it I thought about commenting, but I just couldn't articulate how I felt about the issue. Here are some of the events that made me look back at Sean's post.

Event #1: earlier in the month Al Upton closed his Al Upton and the miniLegends blog, as requested by the South Australia Department of Education and Children’s Services, due to concerns over his student blogging project.

Event #2: around the same time, but for very different reasons, Jabiz Raisdana agreed to resign from his school in Quatar due to objections raised over an art project he posted on his personal blog.

Lots to think about in those two situations, and many people have been blogging about them (see these posts at Remote Access and Cool Cat Teacher for a start as well as the above links to Al Upton and Jabiz Raisdana).

Event #3: then yesterday, in a totally different situation, Dean Shareski posted about a disagreement that he had with blogger Matthew Tabor. I had heard Dean tweet about the argument on Twitter and I had read the comments on Matthew's blog. In Dean's post he says "It’s not that I regret posting the item to twitter it’s calling him obnoxious that was wrong." He goes on to say "I’ve gotten so comfortable using Twitter that I’ve forgotten, it’s not private."

These events are mixing in my head; I'm thinking about:

  • - how to teach my students to interact with 21st century tools while keeping them safe

  • - how to let the students' parents and community see that they are safe

  • - how to maintain a personal blog that is public and still maintain my professionalism

  • - how it is possible, as Dean says, to become so comfortable with web 2.0 tools, such as Twitter that we forget that it is not private.

And lastly, I am wondering, is a teacher a teacher 24 hours a day?

Anyhow, back to Sean's post, Where Do We Draw The Line?, regarding whether teachers would want to have students joining their on-line networks. After what I've written about above, I guess it comes down to this; there is no hard and fast line.

Ceiling Light 1

It can be very rewarding interacting and corresponding with creative and thoughtful students, but for a teacher there is also an inherent risk. As a teacher I have to be concerned about my perceived conduct, especially when young people are involved. Am I a teacher 24 hours a day? No, but it is certainly not just during the hours when I'm at school or prepping. The line is blurry, it wiggles a bit, it is not hard and fast. We don't draw the line, others later retrace our steps and sketch in the line where they think it should be.

Images: Lines and Ceiling Light 1 by tanakawho (creative commons attribution licence)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Making Twitter Work For Me

Back in January I wrote about Tools and Sites I Use, and I mentioned that I would like to try Twitter, but I had my concerns (intimidated, worried I'd get sucked into the abyss, etc) After that post Sarah Stewart and I decided to take the plunge. It took me awhile to feel confident enough to tweet, but I did start to get into the groove. Then I just stopped. The problem was I was using Twitter by logging on to the Twitter site. This was cumbersome so I just stopped.

After reading various posts on Twitter (eg here) I realized that I needed a browser extension for Twitter. I knew that Sue Waters uses Snitter, and Clay Burell was a TwitBin guy. I checked both extensions out and decided to go with Twitbin.

I'm now back in my Twitter groove! Twitbin is great! I downloaded the Twitbin extension for Firefox and I now have a cute little Twitbin bookmarklet and it is so easy to get my "live" Twitter window up (see image below). Now I just need to work on building up my network. If your interested in following me on Twitter I'm clthompson; I'd be happy to reciprocate :-)


Friday, March 7, 2008

Experimenting with Lab Reports and VoiceThread

A little while ago I wrote about how I like to try a new tool every week (give or take). After reading a post by Jeff Utecht earlier in the week, VoiceThread rose to the top of my 'Tools To Try' list.

Funky light

Jeff wrote about how a science teacher at his school, Carol Jordan, had her grade 9 students report the results of their science experiments. Instead of the usual formal lab report document, the students either created a YouTube video or a VoiceThread. I have been thinking about having students do lab reports in a different format so it was a very timely post for me! In his post, Jeff has lots of examples of both types of lab 'reports' which was incredibly useful to see what the students produced.

Last night I had insomnia, which was the perfect opportunity for me to try out VoiceThread! (With a 4 and a 6 year old where else do you find the time?!) I signed up for an account and created the following VoiceThread which provides information on how to navigate my blog. Lately I've had trouble embedding items in this blog, so first here's the link and now the embedded file: [kml_flashembed movie="http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=76592 " width="480" height="360" wmode="transparent" /]

VoiceThread allows you to upload a variety of files; video, photos, documents etc. You can then comment using audio or video. In true web 2.0 fashion it also allows others to comment on your work, so feel free to comment away on my VoiceThread.

I did have a few technical difficulties with VoiceThread--the program wouldn't let me edit at times and I somehow ended up with a lot of scribbles on one of my slides--but all in all it was very straight forward. I could see students being able to figure it out and being able to start creating pretty quickly. Unlike SlideShare's slidecasting, which I posted on here, you record the audio directly on the VoiceThread site. With SlideShare you must produce your audio on your computer, host it on a podcast host, then link your slide show to the podcast host. So a bit more set-up is definitely required with SlideShare. SlideShare slidecasts do have a more professional feel to them, but VoiceThread allows for more interactivity.

VoiceThread also offers EdVoiceThread.com, with is designed for use by teachers and students. It is designed as a safe environment for students to create and comment on each other's work. They are obviously trying to address the security concerns that some schools and districts have with social networking type sites.

In summary, I think that VoiceThread is a pretty user friendly tool, and I don't think it would take much to get the students used to it and using it.

Image: Funky Light by Gaetan Lee