Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In The Words Of Elvis...

"Thank you, thank you very much."

31 Day Comment Challenge Awards

external image comment_challenge_logo_2.png

On Monday, Michele Martin over at The Bamboo Project Blog announced the winners of the 31 Day Comment Challenge and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was a co-winner for the most comments on a wide range of blogs category. I tied with Bonnie Kaplan. Other winners were Carla Arena for the most high quality comments that thoughtfully reflect on the topic, Kevin of Dogtrax for the comments that provoke and promote the most learning, and Taylor for the student award.

Not In It For The Fame

I enthusiastically joined in the Comment Challenge back in April and was raring to go with the first task on May 1st. I knew there were prizes, but that's not what motivated me. I just wanted to become a better blogger. Well, what a month May was! About part way through I knew that I was not going to be able to keep up, and that was OK. Part of the reason that I wasn't able to keep up was the usual life things (kids, work, school...) but a big part of it was that I was finding all sort of new blogs and commenting like crazy. Through the challenge I got to meet a lot of great new people; heck I didn't know any of the other Challenge winners prior to May, but through the challenge I've 'met' and conversed with all but one of them. I also enjoyed reading posts and comments from Kate Foy, Christine Martell, Ines Pinto, and Ken Allen who were some of the others nominated for Challenge awards.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

The Comment Challenge has really helped me to grow as a blogger and I want to thank the fantastic four who organised it; Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino. I know that I felt pretty busy during the challenge, but these wonderful women must have been going crazy, because they were everywhere--commenting, posting, and generally supporting participants. Thank you all so much! I also would like to thank Diane Hammond for nominating me for the award and all those who voted for me, read my posts, and especially those who took the time to comment on something I wrote.

Give It A Try!

If you didn't participate in the 31 Day Comment Challenge, you can still access the tasks and the links to participants posts at the Comment Challenge wiki. If you can get a large group of people to do it at the same time, even better. Or you might be interested in Web 2.0 Wednesdays; an idea that sprouted from the Comment Challenge, and is organised by Michele Martin.

Images: Elvis Statue in Hawaii, by Hawaii. Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives license. Not sure how to credit the Comment Challenge Logo, but here goes; the logo was created by Christine Martell of VisualsSpeak for the use of Comment Challenge participants.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm It

Way back in May I was tagged by Louise Maine for the "I believe..." meme started by Barry Bachenheimer.  I've been putting off writing this for quite a while. It's not that I didn't want to write it, it's just that I have a hard time articulating the points that I feel are important in education.  So, as I procrastinate writing up those final report cards, here goes.

I Believe...

  • - every child deserves respect

  • - every child should be valued

  • - every child has strengths that need to be recognized

  • - no one deserves to be told that they can't do something or that they'll never amount to anything

  • - education must be relevant to the learner

  • - assessment needs to be meaningful

  • - students must be given the opportunity to discuss and reflect upon what they are learning

  • - grades should not be used.  as a motivator.  as an end in themselves.

  • - the focus should be on the process, not just the product

  • - learning builds on prior knowledge; it is a teacher's role to uncover that knowledge

  • - our students are diverse so our teaching methods should be too

  • - there is more than one way to demonstrate knowledge

  • - the best education encourages wonder

  • - a good education should empower students with the skills to be able to continue learning about the things that are important to them.

These are just a few of the things that I believe with respect to education.

The Thing About Blog Memes

I'm not a memeticist, but I'm not sure that this is really what Dawkins would call a meme.  I can't help but feel that they are pretty similar to chain letters with the exceptions that

  1. they rarely demand that you tag a required amount of people in a limited amount of time or else...   and

  2. men are just as likely to participate in memes as women--unlike chain letters which seem to be the domain of women and girls

Tag--You're It!

So it is with great trepidation that I tag the following people:
Kevin /dogtrax (Kevin's Meandering Mind)

Sarah Stewart (Sarah's Musings)

My trepidation is they will see this tag as an onerous task to add to their to-do lists.  If it catches your fancy--great, do it (I'm keen to find out what you believe!)  If not, that is ok too.

The Final Word

What do you believe is truly important with respect to education?  Write a post or leave a comment below.  It is an interesting exercise, to be sure!

Image: 'Tag!  You're It!' by Lance and Erin licensed under creative commons attribution, non-comercial, no derivitives works 2.0 generic.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blogging 101

Some Background
I started blogging in November of 2007 and I am amazed at how much I've learned and grown as a result of blogging.  My network is expanding all the time; now it's time for me to work on local connections, with the folks in my district. In August I am doing a professional development session in my district on blogging.  I've billed it as 'Blogging 101; Blogs as Professional Development Tools'.  If the session fills up I'll have 20 people in a computer lab for the day (5 hours).  Ideally I'd like to have the participants sign up for Google Reader, read and start commenting on blogs, and finally set up their own blogs in Blogger (for ease of use).  If I can I'd like to have some folks Skype in on the session to help illustrate the power of the network.  My goal is to introduce teachers to blogging as a way to enhance their professional practice. This is not a session on how to get students blogging. 

I'd Like To Pick Your Brain
If this was your session how would you run with it?  Do you have an "aha!" moment to share or a golden resource?  What is the most valuable thing you've learned in your blogging journey?  My plan is to do a follow up post with everyone's suggestions (she says optimistically :) ), hopefully to act as a resource for others who might be considering running a similar session.  

Share and Share Alike
Tech Pro-D Tools is a blog I set up to support professional development sessions that I am involved in.  I'll be running the 'Blogging 101' session from that blog--posting links, resources, how-tos, and tasks there.  I hope that it will be helpful not just to the session participants, but to others too. 

Again, if you have any suggestions, ideas, links etc, I'd love to hear from you, no matter if you've been blogging since before it was called that, or if you just started yesterday :-)

Image: Cyan Brain by bebop717

Thursday, June 5, 2008

My Quest to Kill Fewer People at My Presentations.

Earlier this week my colleague, Jodie Reeder, and I held a transition meeting for the students who will be entering grade 8 at our school next year. Our school is a little different as it is a distributed learning school--think correspondence/home schooling but within the public school system. We offer K-12 with an elementary (K-7) section and a high school (8-12) section. We've found that our students often have difficulty with the jump from grade 7 to grade 8, thus the transition meeting. This post isn't so much about the meeting, as the process of putting together the presentation--without any needless PowerPoint deaths...

My Well of Inspiration

Jodie and I spent a lot of time considering what we wanted to convey at the meeting; then it was my job to put together the presentation. Well, lately I've been trying to learn how to put together a really good presentation, or at the very least one that doesn't end up with me had up on charges of 'Death by PowerPoint'.

I've watched the very helpful and humorous video by Alvin Trusty How to Create a Great PowerPoint Without Breaking the Law. I've been to a number of presentations on the brain and learning where the key ideas were that images and (limited) text produce the most learning. I've also been influenced by Dean Shareski and his quest to help people improve their PowerPoint presentations and to make them bullet free :-) (just type in PowerPoint in the search box on Dean's blog and you'll find a wealth of resources on putting together a better presentation). Some other places of inspiration have been ZaidLearn's Is PowerPoint Evil? and Presentation Zen's Brain Rules for PowerPoint and Keynote Presenters.

Armed with the brilliant insights from these sources I set to work. And a lot of work it was! How to say what I wanted to with limited text?! How to find the images I needed (without breaking the law)?

Thank You Flickr and FireFox/Flock!

I've been using Flickr more and more lately for images for my blog and for presentations. I do creative commons searches with keywords for the types of images I'm looking for. It can be time consuming, but also very interesting. Not everyone tags their photos the same way that I would!

Helping in my Flickr search was a Firefox short cut that I'd read about. I forgot to bookmark the original post where I learned about this shortcut (dumb, dumb, dumb!) This blog post by Ted Carnahan, though, explains how you can use an interesting feature of Firefox bookmarks to help simplify searches you regularly perform on sites like Flickr, YouTube and a host of others. The long and the short of it is that now if I want to search Flickr using Firefox (or Flock) I can just type fcc and a space and then the term I want to search in the address window of my browser and bingo! I have my personalized search of Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licensed photos. Yippee! Want a photo of an apple--I'll just type "fcc apple" and viola--lots of photos that have been tagged with apple. I didn't have to be in Flickr already, pretty neat.

So You Couldn't Make it to the Presentation--No Problemo!

It took me a lot of time to build the presentation, but I knew that if I did a good enough job I could use it again next year and I could post it on the school website for those folks that missed out. (One student missed it because she wasn't told--apparently me speaking to her personally by phone and confirming her e-mail address and then sending the info didn't count...) The problem is that if you follow one of the great pieces of advice on doing really good presentations--limit your text--it doesn't come across very well on the web. Out of context, the wonderfully apt images may not make sense and your meaning is lost.

Slidecasting to the Rescue!

There is a way to produce a presentation that works live and on the web. It does take a little more work, but so would producing two entirely different presentations, no? SlideShare allows you to synch audio with your slide presentation to produce a slidecast. I've posted on how to do this here. Basically, I narrated the slides using Audacity (a free cross platform sound editor), uploaded my presentation to SlideShare, uploaded my audio (mp3) to a podcast site (in my case Internet Archive), then on SlideShare I linked the project to the URL for my audio, and then used SlideShare's slidecast editor to synch the audio with the slides. OK, so that's a lot of steps, but it sounds more onerous that it was, really.

Without Further Ado...

So, after all that build up I don't really want to post the presentation. I can promise you that it will not go viral. But it is what it is and if you're interested in seeing a slidecast, why not this one? If you are interested in how to prepare high schoolers and their parents for the world of distributed learning, check it out. If you'd just like to answer the question "why does she have a photo of bran muffins in a transition presentation?" then this is the slidecast for you! If you can't view the embedded slidecast in your reader, then here's the link. You can make the slide cast full screen and you can press the arrows to jump ahead in the show, if for example you are only watching to answer the burning muffin question ;-)

Your Turn

I've never podcasted before, so yes, I need to get a better mike.  If you podcast, perhaps you could let me know what some good (and free) sites are for hosting podcasts/mp3s.  I have used Internet Archive a few times, but I'm willing to try others.

What are your favourite presentation tools and/or resources?  Do you find slidecasts a useful way to get information?  Do you or would you consider slidecasting?

Suggestions on how to improve my presentation skills are also welcomed.

Thanks for reading, and if you watched my slidecast, double thanks!

Post Script

As far as I know, no one has died as a result of watching the above presentation.  I will keep you updated if this information changes.