Category: Social Networks (page 1 of 5)

He Thinks He’s Just Playing…

My son, Reilly, is a fairly typical 11-year old. He is into Pokemon, his Xbox, iPads, and sees school as valuable because it connects him to his friends and the library, but little else. It’s not that he is not a ravenous learner, mind you. Give him something challenging and interesting, and he is all in. It’s just that school is rarely either for him. He puts out the minimum effort he has to to make A’s, generally. At least to this point, he’s the polar opposite of my “valedictorian or bust” daughter, who applies laser focused effort no matter how mundane the school task.

If you want to see effort from Reilly, relevance and intrinsic motivation are where it’s at. For instance, he got engaged in an idea and ending up winning the award for the top 5th grade science project at his school this year. The project involved burning things and was completely his own invention. Fire and personal choice. Can’t miss.

Reilly's alter ego.

Reilly’s alter ego.

For consistent apex effort, though, you need to observe him working with and learning about Minecraft in all of its 8-bit, retro graphic beauty. His teachers would be insanely jealous. If allowed, he will spend hours researching, studying, creating, re-creating, collaborating, and communicating with, in, and about Minecraft. On occasion, I have been known to sit down and play Minecraft with Reilly. I tell people that the conversations go something like this:

Me: “Look, I made a house!”

Reilly: “Awesome, daddy! I made a city with a solar-powered, aerial tram system that is activated by this pressure plate inside the passenger cars. Each tram station also has an anti-creeper and zombie, redstone-powered security system and is designed to look like a natural part of the landscape and have zero carbon footprint.”

Me: “My house has windows.”

So last night I went into the living room to watch him play. He was in creative mode (meaning limitless resources, and you can fly) in an online Minecraft server. The last time I checked his game out a few days prior, he was creating a house he described as a “modern design”. Frank Lloyd Wright would have approved of the glass and lines, the big-screen television, the modular sofa, and the ground-level bed. He had since finished the 3-story house using blueprints found only in his mind and helpful tips from another community member whose structures Reilly had admired.

His next project was astounding to me. He had created an underground shop next to his house. Inside, visitors could find a collection of amazing and creative Minecraft character heads (Reilly referred to his store as a “head shop”. I internally giggled and decided that was some learning that could wait for much later.). There were at least 40 varieties of heads, as I recall. Visiting Minecrafters were actively browsing the store as I watched. Reilly had set up a brilliant system for visitors to order their own Minecraft heads:

  1. Visitors browse the collection of numbered heads, hanging on the shop walls.
  2. They next visit the order box and fill out an order form with the number assigned to each desired head. Return form to the box.
  3. Reilly reads the form, copies each desired head, and places the filled order into the filled order box.
  4. Visitors pick up filled orders.
  5. Reilly files filled order forms in another chest for safe keeping.

He explained that he could charge something like silver or gold or diamonds, but prefered to give the heads away for everyone else to enjoy. A “customer” messaged him as I watched and invited Reilly to visit his Minecraft home to see the collection on display. Reilly obliged and gave the inquisitive and grateful user a few tips on how to “rank up” before returning to his virtual home.

Image source: https://flic.kr/p/eXMx43

Image source: https://flic.kr/p/eXMx43

After dealing with several visitors back at the store, Reilly decided to post instructions on his shop wall, telling visitors how to make their own free copies using a combination of keyboard keys and mouse buttons. This would allow users to enjoy their own heads even while he was offline. It was a hoot watching him direct a pixelated customer over to the instructions, see the character reading them, and then heading over to copy a couple dozen varieties of heads.

If we don’t pay attention, we might miss all of the value here. Reilly created, he applied economic principles, he collaborated. He solved problems, designed, and redesigned (He tore the modern house apart numerous times as I watched, meticulously trying to get it just right.). He showed initiative in seeking knowledge from experts and shared his knowledge freely with other learners. He was organized, open to criticism, and willing to make mistakes. He demonstrated patience with others and their myriad questions and generosity with his resources. I observed him engaging in communication, science, art, and math.

Reilly calls this fun, a game. I call it worthwhile. I call it inspired. I call it amazing. I call it learning.

Web 2.0 in BISD: An Amazing Impact

Schools are popular targets of those who wish to find a scapegoat for every societal ill from a sour economy to the pitiful season the Dallas Cowboys put us through this year. I believe we are part of the problem, because we don’t do enough to shout about our successes from every rooftop in every community. While I don’t pretend all schools are equally successful, neither are they equal failures. The budget crisis looming for Texas and for its schools, in particular, has heightened my own awareness of the need to become self-promoters. I intend to devote more time than ever before in sharing the ways that our schools are using technology to engage students like never before and to give them opportunities to learn in a real way, infused with 21st century tools and skills. Our communities and leaders need to see how amazing things are happening, not just the negative, isolated events that make our newscasts.

In the spirit of this resolution, I wanted to share some of the ways that Web 2.0 technologies have had a powerful impact on our students, teachers, and schools in Birdville. It has been just 4 short years since I had the opportunity to share my vision for Web 2.0 with our district’s leadership team. It has exceeded my expectations in many ways, and is the most gratifying thing I’ve been a part of as an instructional technology specialist. It has not only made learning more relevant and engaging. It has also thrust our district into the national spotlight, as we have been cited for our progressive stance toward use of the vast Internet resources available. We have been assembling a slide show that highlights how tools such as YouTube, Glogster, Google Docs, Xtranormal, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, Skype, and many more are being put to powerful use in the district. The show is embedded below, or is alternately viewable here. More examples will be added in the coming weeks. I hope they might provide some inspiration for teachers looking for ways to use the technologies in the curriculum.

The School Is Flat

We held our convocation last week, which focused on 21st century teaching and learning. Aside from some complaints about the length (We have been spoiled by getting released by 11:00 for a leisurely lunch in the past–this year’s went closer to noon.), I’ve heard numerous positive comments about the subject matter and productive discussions about how to turn the vision into reality. I am very optimistic that more and more students and teachers will be engaging in authentic, relevant, technology-rich classrooms this year.

I had a role in convocation this year for the first time. I was called to a planning meeting a week before the event and asked to assist. My task included creating a video with flat schoolstudents/teachers talking about 21st century learning they had engaged in during the past year, creating a short Polleverywhere quiz about technology and society, and finding a few folks to connect to via Skype to demonstrate how educating our students is a global matter. While this was quite a set of tasks to accomplish in a week (one when students were still out on vacation), it was interesting and amazing that the last, the Skype connection, was probably the easiest. I simply reached out to educators who I had initially come to know via Twitter, asked them to share how students in their parts of the planet were learning 21st century skills, and set up the times to connect. We connected to Jeff Utecht in Bangkok, Thailand, and Sue Waters in Perth, Australia. Both were amazing (despite technical issues on my side–never fails).

Reflect on this for a moment! These are educators I have had the distinct privilege of meeting in person, but only after establishing a relationship through Twitter and Edublogs (Sue is THE go-to person at Edublogs.). A decade ago, I essentially collaborated only with the teacher next door, and my professional acquaintances were primarily limited to the educators in my building. As recently as 4 or 5 years ago, I would have not known either Sue or Jeff if I bumped into them on the street. Now, they are not only people whose ideas and insight I value, but who I can call upon on short notice and have them share their great minds with our educators, despite being separated by thousands of miles! This is the power of today’s technologies. It isn’t about electronic textbooks, interactive whiteboards, iPods, or any other device. It’s about the connections, the relationships, and the collaborations that are possible. It is about viewing the education of our students as a collaborative effort involving the entire global education community, not the teacher isolated in his room. I know I am a better educator because of my relationships with Jeff, Sue, and the hundreds of other dedicated educators I’ve connected with through Twitter, blogs, social networks, and other technologies.

If you are an educator who has never attempted to use any of these technologies, or one who has tried but not persevered, I cannot encourage you enough to jump in and begin to get connected. Twitter is a fantastic place to start, and there are numerous catalogs of educators to begin building your community (e.g. Twitter4teachers). All it takes is finding a few similar teachers to follow, engaging them in conversation, and sharing your thoughts, questions, and ideas. Blogs, education social networks on sites such as Ning are also fantastic tools for building collegial relationships.

Teaching is a noble call that suffers when we practice in isolation and flourishes when we work together, and at no time in history have we had the tools we do today that allow us to work together for the good of our children. When we take the time to learn and embrace these tools, we grow as professionals–I can testify to that wholeheartedly.

Image credits:
South American classroom
Indian classroom
Inuit classroom
Boy with globe
Chinese classroom

Web 2.0 Introduction & Workshop: Lumberton, TX

I’ve updated my introduction to Web 2.0 handout and wanted to share it here. Feel free to download, modify, and use it as you see fit.

Web 2.0 Handout 2010

Still Just Searching? 20 Google Tools to Test Drive

Google is almost universally known for its powerful search tool (Okay, I realize some intelligent life in another galaxy may not know about Google yet, but I’m sure they are working on that.). And it’s fair to say that the numbers of users of Google Maps, Reader, and Gmail is certainly vast and continues to grow. However, if you have never taken the time to explore beyond these wonderful tools, however, it is certainly worth the time. Google continues to innovate, and there is an incredible array of tools that have potential for the curriculum. The following is a sampling of Google resources that are a good place to start your exploration.

  1. Image Search.  Not a new tool, but there is an important feature that many educators may not be aware of. Utilizing the advanced search feature, users can find images that are licensed for various types of use, meaning students can access images without worrying about copyright issues.googleimage
  2. Knol. Somewhat similar to Wikipedia, Knol lets users create articles, called Knols, based upon topics of their choice. Knols can be individual or may allow different levels of collaboration. Images, documents, and other content can be included.
  3. Groups. Similar to Ning, Groups lets users create sites around a particular topic or interest. Host discussions, share resources, add images or video, create a custom appearance, or browse and join an existing group.
  4. Picasa. Google continues to add features to its popular photo editing tool. Users can geotag images using Google Maps, create collaborative galleries, and, with the most recent feature, identify and tag images using face recognition technology. Picasa identifies all of the photos in a collection with the same person’s face, allowing for easy identification and organization.
  5. Sites. Essentially a wiki tool from Google. Users can create collaborative websites about whatever topic they choose. Choose from a variety of templates, embed external features, add Google Maps, documents, images, and more.
  6. Building Maker. Uses images and Google SketchUp to allow users to create photo-realistic, 3D models of actual buildings. Approved models can be added to Google Earth. A bit challenging at first, but could be a great tool for older students.
  7. Translate. Translates text into any of 52 languages. If you click on the Tools and Resources link, there is an embeddable widget that allows visitors to translate your website with a single click. Great tool for teachers of students with families of languages other than English.
  8. Public Data Explorer. Just released this week, this tool from Google Labs allows data sets to be visualized in an interactive format, allowing users to view changes over time.
    public data
  9. Moderator. Lets a user post topics or questions, and group members can vote for or against posts, or enter responses or questions. Might serve as a potentially valuable tool for formative assessment or determining topics of interest for discussion.
  10. Voice. Free voicemail from Google. Users get a local number, which can be set to ring to any other number (Mine is (817) 601-5850–feel free to call!). Also, users get a text version of the message (albeit a bit rough, but, hey, still pretty amazing!). You’ll need an invitation, which can be requested through the site. Responses may take a few days.
  11. Mars. Really cool site that allows users to view infrared, elevation, and visible maps of Mars, and to focus on different types of geographic features, such as mountains, valleys, plains, etc.
    Google Mars
  12. Custom Search. Handy tool for creating a customized Google search bar that can be added to any website. One of the most useful features is that it allows teachers (or, even better, students) to select the specific sites from which the search results will be taken, eliminating the confusion that can result when results come from the entire Web.
  13. Alerts. Simple tool that will send an email message when websites publish new information about a chosen topic. Great tool for keeping up with news or current events topics.
  14. Life Magazine Photo Archive. Galleries of images from the pages of Life magazine dating to the 1750s, available for student projects.
  15. Fast Flip. Search and find news from a wide range of sources in a quick-access, visual format. Additional results can be accessed by…you guessed it…flipping through the page (clicking-and-dragging).
    Google Fast Flip
  16. Squared. Experimental search tool that returns results in a table format similar to a spreadsheet. Breaks results down into useful sub-categories. For instance, the search for Haiti pictured below resulted in categories such as currency, languages, ethnic groups, etc. Results can also be exported into Google Docs or in an Excel-compatible, .csv format.
    Google Squared
  17. Archive Search. View authentic archival resources such as newspaper articles with this search tool. Although most archives have a cost associated with their use, many are free. The example below is from a 1948 edition of the Palm Beach Post.
    Google News Archive Search
  18. Image Swirl. Experimental image search tool that returns results as an interactive web of interrelated results. I can see some potential for visual learners or younger students, particularly.
    Google Image Swirl
  19. City Tours. Google Maps tool that suggests walking tours of various locations. Most interestingly from an educator perspective, students can create their own custom tours using the My Maps feature of Google Maps. I can imagine tours of neighborhoods, cities, local historical landmarks, etc.
  20. Transliteration. Not to be confused with Translate, Tranliteration converts Roman characters into phonetic spellings in 19 different languages. In other words, it gives users the pronunciation of words in their own written languages. This is how Google Transliteration sees this sentence in Greek. (There is a joke here, but it’s too obvious, even for me.)
    Google Transliteration

A Day With Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Spent the day today at Richland High School listening to Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs. It was a very exciting opportunity and a fantastic chance for many of our district’s teachers and administrators to hear something that needs to be heard: we MUST refocus our curriculum and practices to meet the needs of students is a world that is nothing like that in which the teachers were raised. The live blog is below, but I’ll likely be following up with greater analysis.

TCEA 2010 Presentation Links

What’s New in Web 2.0?

Presentation Links List

Death By PowerPoint (Presentation)

Slideshare
Slideboom
Authorstream
Google Docs
iSpring Free

Sliderocket
Glogster
Animoto
Prezi
Ahead
Scrapblog
Voicethread
GoAnimate
Xtranormal
Xtimeline
Timeglider
Sketchcast
Photopeach
Dipity
Showbeyond

Session Discussion Wall (I will try to address any questions as soon as possible!)

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