Monday, December 8, 2008

The Networked Student (from Dianne Krause's blog)

Today I'm hijacking a post from Dianne Krause's blog, because you ALL need to watch this video. It's one of the best representations of what learning in a Web 2.0 "classroom" can potentially be (and apparently, it's already happening in some places). While you're there, subscribe to Dianne's blog!

The Networked Student | a whole new dianne

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Jing Jing Jingle-ing too!

(Please forgive the cornball post title) It blows my very own mind when I realize that I never told you all about how incredibly wonderful PodcampAZ was. Perhaps it's because the very experience defied my humble description. Or I could have just forgotten. Suffice it to say, however, that it was far and away the best conference experience I've had since PodcampNYC, and may have possibly eclipsed it with it's persistent sunshine, friendly volunteers and fellow "campers", and not least of all, Brian Shaler's innovative Twitterwall that kept everyone informed of Podcamp doings, sessions, meetups, and impromptu plans by way of a projected wall image (very James Bond!) of a collaborative Twitter discussion featuring Podcamp hashtags.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Perhaps the greatest discovery I made while at PodcampAZ (other than how to order food at a Sonic) was the existence of Jing, a free download that may not do everything Camtasia Studios does, but does enable you to do a very basic screencast, upload it, store it, and is (did I mention) FREE as well as cross-platform!
The fact that Jing is free, Mac and PC compatible and very easy to use opens up a universe of possiblities for educators who are trying to incorporate more media into their content delivery. I hadn't even considered doing screencasts for my classes until I started tinkering with Jing (in my hotel, I was so eager to put it to work). How do you use screencasting software? What do you think you can do with Jing? Better still, do you think Jing can help encourage the more tech-reluctant, "digital-immigrant" teachers to use media as part of their instructional arsenal?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Get. Off. Paper.

Get. Off. Paper.

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Will Richardson (author of the great ed-tech blog Weblogg-Ed) talks about how "...just about everywhere I go where groups of educators are in the room, paper abounds. Notebooks, legal pads, sticky notes, index cards…it’s everywhere. We are, as Alan November so often says, 'paper trained,' and the worst part is it shows no signs of abating".

Monday, October 27, 2008

what was the "Magic", and how can WE get some?

This past weekend I brought a friend to see Carole and Paula of the old children's TV series, "The Magic Garden" perform. For those of you who a) didn't grow up in the New York Tri-State area and b) weren't a child in the early 1970's, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. The Magic Garden was a children's show that aired on the independent local metro NY station WPIX-11 from 1972-1984, and hosted by two women (whom happened to be former NYC school teachers, as well as childhood friends) named Carole (Demas) and Paula (Janis).

From today's vantage point, it may seem like there was nothing spectacular about the show; the women sang little songs and played guitar, acted out stories from "the story box", told jokes from "the chuckle patch", and interacted with puppet characters like Sherlock the pink squirrel. However, the reaction of the 30- and 40- somethings who attended the show (both Carole and Paula are pushing 70, mind you) told a different story. In the ladies room, I overheard grown women talk of how they would cry when the shutters would close at the end of the show; while standing on a very long line to obtain autographs following the performance, a couple (who had driven from Connecticut for the show), gripping their new copies of the Carole & Paula DVD, commented to us that they were planning to see them again next month, not only because they always see them perform in the area, but that "Sherlock will be at that show". We then engaged in a discussion about what time slot the show aired in; a gentleman ahead of us insisted, "It was 2:30! 2:30 every day, except Friday, when that damn 'Time for Joya' was on!".

While standing on line so my friend could get her autograph, I wondered what it was about the show that had such a lasting effect on all of us. I consider myself very fortunate that I grew up during a time period when the producers of children's television shows really began to see their potential as a teaching tool, and sought to incorporate innovative ways to make learning fun (pardon that tired cliche) through the use of new media. I remember my mother adjusting the "rabbit ears" on a tiny black and white TV one day in 1969 so I could watch the very first episode of Sesame Street; to this very day, I still sing some of the songs from the series The Electric Company in my head when struggling to remember my times tables. Why do middle aged baby boomers like myself and my peers remember the joy we felt when the shutters opened to The Magic Garden, but can barely remember the facts we learned in school? What was the "magic"? Sure, some of it was the natural charisma of Carole and Paula, who, to me, seemed like those cool older sisters; but maybe it was the daring uniqueness of them, the resistance to condescend to children and indulge their creative spirit. It made me wonder: are we attempting to do the same thing today, with web 2.0? Maybe I'm just trying to fit and old square video peg into a round digital hole, but I see some connection. Maybe I just want to see it, because I miss that magic.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Teacher Salary Project

I'm reposting this from Marthaq's tumblr (she's one of our profession's passionate, dynamic young teachers); an interesting video collaboration called The Teacher Salary Project.
From the website: "THE TEACHER SALARY PROJECT is a feature-length documentary film, interactive online resource, and national outreach campaign that delves into the core of our educational crisis from the eyes and experiences of our nation's teachers...A good teacher has the power to change the course of a life. A teacher can move a child from poverty to promise by providing him or her with the skills and confidence necessary to be carried into adulthood—yet because teachers in the United States have historically had an average annual salary lower than their peers with similar educational backgrounds, 50 percent of our nation's best teachers must have second jobs outside of the classroom—like tutoring, mowing lawns, selling stereos, bartending—to be able to afford to teach."

Time to get out the Flip camera and start that teacher vlog you've been thinking about...?
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Workflow- Social Media School Teacher

A fantastic "day in the life" (hypothetically? does it matter?) of a Social Web-centered teacher. A must read, especially for those of us bravely going "back to the trenches" this week!Workflow- Social Media School Teacher

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By the way, if you care at all about the power of social media, in education or elsewhere, you need to subscribe to Chris Brogan's blog (RSS or email options available on his blog page). It's at the top of my daily feed reading list. Subscribe to his newsletter (it's a bit different) too.

For those of you going back to work this week in our public and private schools, I wish you a positive and fulfilling year.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

From the New York Times: Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?

In this New York Times article by Motoko Rich, the author raises the question--and explores the answers via interviews with readers "old" and "young"--that asks, if your read it on your computer screen, are you a reader?

Now that we're half-way through the summer (at least I am; I can expect to return for my first day of meetings one month from today), perhaps you, like me, are already thinking about what our students will bring to us in terms of their willingness to agree on what we consider learning when they arrive in our classrooms in September.
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Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Zen Master of Blog hosts

I hope that, by now, you are all beginning to enjoy the first blush of summer vacation. I, for one, will have to wait until Wednesday (as I am teaching a 2-day inservice on "Web 2.0 and Education" for my district...but I'm not complaining). So while you're doing some reflection on the year that's just past, why not check out something new and different in the way of blogging simplicity: Posterous, a new blog host that's even simpler than...dare I even say it here?...Blogger! It's certainly less onerous than the tyrannically embed-code-phobic or Edublogs (come on, guys). With posterous, you just send an email to and et voila', your post appears on a new blog just for you! You don't have to take my word for it, read the Techcrunch take:Posterous beats Tumblr in simplicity
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Technology and the reprogramming of our brains

Here's something to distract you during finals and state exams: an article by Nicholas Carr from The Atlantic that maybe you've already read (apparently it's made the rounds of the edublogosphere, but I'm only just now getting a hold of it) about how using technology may indeed affect the way even we (adults, not just our students) think...hopefully you have enough attention span to get through it!
Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Animoto in Education

I've recently fallen in love with a new way to make animated slideshow videos out of still images: Standard users can make unlimited 30-second videos, and for a small fee you can upgrade to an "All-Access" pass, allowing you to make 60-second videos. What I just recently learned, however, is that they are offering classroom teachers a "Classroom Code" that'll give each of your students a free All-Access pass (unlimited full-length videos for a whole year) so they can make Animotos videos for classroom projects. A full description of the education offer(as well as links to some samples) can be found here.
Here's a sample video I made of some photos I took on my recent trip to the Cannes Film Festival:

Monday, May 26, 2008

live streaming

so sorry for the lapse in posting here. It's been a busy few weeks, trying to open 2 separate play productions for my Theater classes, and then flying to Cannes for two days to view my short film, which made it into the Cannes Short Film Corner!

Anyway, this blog is about education, not my filmmaking alter-ego :-), but now you may understand why media and video are such a large part of my teaching practice (well, and also the fact that I teach Film).
I have two sections of theater classes, both with a wide range of students and experience levels. One class had nine students, the other had 25 (no comment on the planning that went into that arrangement). Therefore, it would have been impossible for the two classes to produce the same play, so we went ahead to mount two completely separate productions that would serve as their final class project and would be performed in the small theater that doubles as my classroom. Some years, when we do the shorter, low-maintenance one acts, we usually perform in one class period to an audience made up of classes that have been invited to see the show (this was a tradition that started with my predecessor, who somehow reasoned that only English classes should be invited). Last year, we did a far more ambitious production of excerpts from a full-length play, which we performed just once, after school to an audience of invited family and friends. This year, we did both: the smaller class performed a short half-hour play several times during the school day, and the second, larger class did an after-school production.

Earlier this year there were modifications made to my room (I can't go into detail here, but they were necessary) which greatly limited our seating area. Faced with this dilemma, I was struck by how our audience size would be limited. Then, the thought struck me: why not do a live webcast? This way, not only could family members (who are often at work or college, or otherwise unable to attend) view the broadcast as it happened, so could other classes who could not be accommodated due to the limited seating! (I should note here that, unlike many other high schools, we are fortunate to not only have at least one teacher computer with web access in every room, but also a Smart Board as well; thus enabling classes to view the broadcast. The network connection? well...)

When I tell this story, most people involved in Education ask: how did you pull this off? First of all, I did my research: I shopped around to several live streaming sites before I found one that: a) I just liked, in terms of interface and general content (aka not "sketchy"), and b) gave me control over who I could allow to view the stream. After trying out a few, I settled on, which let me password-protect our channel, and also didn't generally have creepy looking channels featured on the homepage that may put off Suzie's grandma.

Once I figured out the technical logistics and found a host, I made sure I got permission from both the department coordinator and the district Director of Technology. I made sure I sold this as an innovative tool that will widen the possibilities of using the web for communication, and they were very excited about it. I assured them not only of the security but also emphasized that I was preparing a letter for the parents not only explaining what the webcast was, but also asking them for permission (by way of a signature) to show their child's image on the web. They recommended that I run this by the principal (I did, along with a copy of the letter) and then set about sending the letters home with the students, reminding them that if one parent doesn't sign it, we can't go ahead with it. Most parents did, and the reluctant ones only needed a personal call from me to turn them around.

As the day approached, I also had to see to it that I had a working webcam, which I luckily I was able to borrow from the IT department, and I also had to specifically request that the they open a port so that the webcast wouldn't be blocked on the school server. I also did several "test runs" during rehearsals to make sure it actually functioned. I also like how Ustream gives you the option to broadcast, record, or do both.

When the day arrived, I was not only succesful in broadcasting, I heard later from my students that family members were, in fact, watching! One dad showed the perfromance to everyone in his office, one girl's grandmother, who was physically unable to attend, called her granddaughter moments after the show to gush at how wonderful she thought it was. Even my 9th grade stage manager could share the show with her mom, who had to take a last-minute business trip to Ireland. Sure, we could have just taped it and made copies for everyone later, but there's something about the excitement and immediacy(and the live web hosts are well aware of this) of seeing something unfold as it's happening...which is why theater will always be different than film and video.

I was happy to learn that my Superintendent was also very supportive and impressed with this experiment, and I even received a surprise visit from two of our UT guys who reported that they, too were watching the live show!

They raised a few good points, which I'll add to my "feature request list". Ustream will tell you how many viewers you have, but won't tell you how much bandwith you're using (an important consideration for school districts on a network). Since I couldn't afford a fancier camera, I had to rely on my monitor-mounted webcam with no zoom function, which resulted in not the most desirable angle or sightline. If there was a way to zoom in through a user control panel, that would be great. I can probably think of a few other things, but instead I'll end this post (which I never intended to be this long) by saying I'm glad we did it, and glad everyone--kids, administrators, parents--were on board, and I think this is an example of how we have barely scratched the surface of the potential of how we can use the web to reach out beyond the classroom. So if you ever thought, "Nah, I can't pull this off," I say, YES YOU CAN!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blogging and Free Speech Rights of Public Employees « Educational Insanity

Perhaps Dr. Becker's blog post might explain why I don't blog about work more often: Blogging and Free Speech Rights of Public Employees « Educational Insanity
Dr. Becker was one of my professors in my former Ed.D. program a long time ago, and is a very progressive thinker/teacher with regard to technology and social media in Education. I miss our discussions on the subject, but thank goodness for the blogosphere, where these discussions can continue...rock on, Jon!

Monday, May 5, 2008

coming iPhone vs. N95 review!

I'm a leeetle busy with work these days, but look forward to my comparison review of the new Nokia N95 8GB. I've been using the iPhone for about eight months (this wasn't intended to be an iPhone replacement, just a way to stream mobile video), and I have to say, I love them both because they do very different things very well! As for specifics...check back soon for the full review!

Monday, April 28, 2008

eSchool News: Overzealous internet filters hinder research in schools

Study: Overzealous filters hinder research
By Corey Murray, Associate Editor, eSchool News
"The internet-content filters most commonly used by schools block needed, legitimate content more often than not, according to a study by a university librarian." Read the rest here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

more on Podcamp...

In a nutshell, Podcamp NYC 2.0 certainly lived up to it's self-description as an "un-conference", complete with the aforementioned temporary tattoos, live "podsafe" music performances, free high-powered beverages, proliferation of vloggers bearing minicamcorders and mobile cameraphones, and frequent mention of terms such as "bloghaus" and "creative commons". It was casual and relaxed compared to the other education conferences I've attended (and dreaded), with a noticeable lack of polyester and conservativism.

The camp was by no means perfect, with a small number of last minute room changes and cancellations (which we were told to expect) as well as a couple of sessions I attended which seemed to be less about usefulness and more about someone pitching their concept, product or site. This, however, was certainly not the rule, and some sessions worth mentioning include Chris Penn's high energy (especially at 9 am) Intro to Podcasting; Roxanne Darling's (of session on optimizing your video podcast workflow (which, even though I don't consider myself a video newbie, I found VERY helpful); Annie Boccio's seesmic panel on video conversations (I promptly went home that very night and recorded my first seesmic!) and Drew Olanoff's very low-tech and highly entertaining conversation with us about "using social media as a toolkit and not a distraction" (he drove this point home by confiscating everyone's cell phone as they entered the room; he didn't get mine, but the message was no less powerful!).

As far as sessions designed specifically for educators, two standouts were Whitney Hoffman's session (she was one of the organizers), which I regrettably came late to, about using new media strategies to optimize learning, as well as John Herman's session on social media tools such as blogging and social networks (a Ning user like me) successfully with high school students. I had no idea, until the very end of the session, that John was the creator of an interactive web series I sometimes watch on called Gravityland (which I suggest you all watch, too!).

And, of course, besides the sessions there was the lively banter in between with amazing and brilliant people. The bottom line is: if you're an educator and you're reading this blog right now, RUN, don't walk, to the next FREE Podcamp (there's a schedule here). I'm already planning to attend the next one that happens to be within a hundred miles of me!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

PODCAMP NYC review coming soon...

I'm running a little late (having had no sleep for the last two days, thanks to PODCAMP NYC 2.0...well, thanks to myliving so far from Brooklyn, actually) but I'm just posting to remind myself (and my readers) that I hope to post a review of PODCAMP, which so far is better than any educational conference I've EVER attended. Have you ever gone to an educators conference that has live music, temporary tattoos and free Vitamin Energy drinks? I have to go to these things more often!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Four days to PODCAMP NYC!

I’m going to podcamp nyc 2, feb 29 - mar 1, join me
Anyone else here going to Podcamp NYC? Visit their site to see what it's all about.
The short version, though, according tot he organizers: "Podcamp NYC is an “unconference” focused on educating participants on how to use, implement and share any/all new media tools including, podcasts, videocasts, blogs, Second Life, Facebook, and YouTube. The conference is FREE to attend and you’re a “participant” versus an “attendee” at our event."
What I'm particularly excited about is that this year's podcamp has a focus on educators who are attempting to/interested in using more Web 2.0 in their schools, so I'm really looking forward to many of those sessions...just hope I don't get overwhelmed with what I'm sure will be an overabundance of good info!

I was also psyched to see twitterfriends Jennifer and Mark (from The Culinary Media Network and ReMarkable Palate) were doing the dining guide! Mmmm!
I have very non-committal, tentative plans to do some kind of ____-casting (web, pod, dunno) or at least taping at the event, but don't quote me. I may just want to focus on the experience (but then again, I may just feel compelled to share!).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Another question: anyone use SharpSchool?

I've just been asked by my district to undergo training for our newest portal, SharpSchool. It looks like the first portal designed for k-12 I've seen in a while that incorporates many interactive, web 2.0 features. The fact that the demo video took five minutes to load on my computer raised some concerns about how well our computer infrastructure can handle it, but I'm hopeful that will change. Anyone have any experience with it?

Monday, March 31, 2008

speaking engagements?

My highlight of the day: being asked to present on Web 2.0 as a teaching tool during a monthly meeting of local school technology administrators. Humbling indeed, and very cool as well! Looking forward to that...meanwhile, I've been busy planning and foraging for content for my inservice class I'll be teaching to staff at the end of this month. The topics will include blogs, podcasts, wikis, social media (aka Web 2.0). I already have a few things in mind to share, but if any of you out there know of a particularly cool site, app or tool, leave a comment and I'd be forever in your debt!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Article: Safety and Social Networking

This article on Safety and Social Networking has been the basis of a discussion on the Long Island Leadership Center's social network forum (on Ning, a great place to create your own social network). I'm posting it here to share with anyone who stumbles upon my site; feel free to leave comments!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anyone here use Schoolrack?

So, I was nosing around Michael Whalen's blog (which I found while searching for a better blog skin, via iJustine's blog) and discovered one of his projects, SchoolRack. According to the site, users can:

"Create a free teacher website to keep students and parents informed outside of the classroom.
Create a professional web page in just a few minutes! Sign Up Free!...

With SchoolRack you can post homework, upload files for students, and much more."

Haven't used it, looks interesting, will get back to you on it...anyone who has given it a spin, let me know? Thanks!

SchoolRack: Create a FREE Teacher Website!
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Flip(Video)ping Out...

Yes, you did in fact just read the lamest post title EVER, but don't let that distract you from reading on about my new obsession: the FlipVideo Ultra Camcorder. As I said in my previous post, I'm loathe to use this blog to pitch products, but once again I've found something that I think can be a real boon to educators who are inclined to incorporate media into their curriculum.
The Ultra is an ultra-low priced (for what it can do, anyway), ultra-user friendly camcorder that comes in 30 minute and 60 minute models, takes 2 AA batteries, plugs right into your computer via a built in USB connection (through which it loads its own software, and is Windows and Mac OS compatible) and takes MPEG-4 video that is almost as good quality as my hard disk camcorder that I shelled out almost $700 bcks for this past summer. Sure, it's limited: no zoom, a built-in mic that's only good up to 12 feet, and it doesn't play nice with iMovie (yet, so the manufacturer says) but it's still got LOTS of possibilities. I think I may have solved my long-lived dilemma of providing my Film class students with equipment for their 3 minute short videos while preventing me from sweating buckets every time I loan out a DV camera to adolescents.
I may have even convinced my dept. coordinator to buy us a couple (they do offer an Educator discount on 3 or more) of the non-Ultra version, so my impulse-purchase this past weekend may be paying for itself in due time. Please write me if you've had successful experiences using the Flip for classroom projects!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Creative software for teachers and students

I don't plan to use this blog as a place to plug products, but I had to make the exception with ComicLife. I learned about this product from a teaching-artist friend who used it to make a comic "travelogue" of a trip to Jordan that she took with her son. She also utilized it with a Social Studies class for virtual "travel guides".

ComicLife is from (which has other great user-and-classroom-friendly programs such as Skitch and Doozla) and is a very simple program for creating your own comic/graphic novel from any pictures you have on your computer. There's a template for anything you can think of, and there are both PC and Mac versions. I had my students use it for making storyboards in Film class, and a colleague is considering using it in her journalism class as part of an online student magazine.

Plasq offers a 30-day free trial; the paid version is very reasonable, so it's worth considering supporting a very creative and innovative company. And if your district won't pay for it, you can always get yourself a copy and write it off your taxes! Here's a comic I whipped up in five minutes, featuring my rabbits:
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Five Ways to Imporve Technology in Education

I've said all these things before (for years, mind you), but it's nice to know there are other's echoes in the darkness:

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