Did You Develop Professionally?

Image Source http://zcache.com
Image Source http://zcache.com

Let’s review the facts.

On June 22, 2009 I responded to Clif Mim’s Professional Development Meme with the following four summer PD goals:

My Goals:

1. Complete the last two video podcasts for the grant project I have remaining and submit them to the funding partners.
2. Record audio and or video of summer PD and upload to the CMSCE Rutgers iTunes U account for archiving.
3. Continue building the UDL4ALL Ning – add resources, build community, cultivate conversations.
4. Add to my iTouch the Future series of posts.

Now, before you judge me, stop and think about how hectic your summer has been. Think about all the time you spent with your family and friends. Think about all the work you did. Think about all you actually were able to accomplish.

Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s the breakdown of the excuses for not accomplishing any of my goals:

  1. I didn’t finish the video project because during my two-week vacation when I was going to work on it (this is funny, right?) I had to manually code the Center’s fall 2009-2010 catalog (link).
  2. The sessions I intended on UStreaming were in fact recorded, I even uploaded them to Blip.tv . But when I went to convert and edit them down to import into iTunesU I ran into all sorts of errors that I just abandoned after a while.
  3. I did add a bit to the UDL4ALL Ning but not as much as I had planned. I have no excuse for this one.
  4. Blogging about the iPodTouch apps became less of a priority for me as my interests went elsewhere. I bookmarked many great resources and explored many great educational applications this summer though.

Though I did not comply with the 7th rule of this Meme in that I did not achieve my goals by September 7th, I do feel that I have developed professionally. Sometimes our priorities shift. Things happen.

I’m getting ready to welcome a new cohort of educators into the Center’s 21st Century Learning Initiative. I’m looking forward to the 3rd year of the INCLUDE grant and helping districts use the UDL framework to help students reach their objectives. I’m looking forward to traveling around New Jersey and the country to various conferences to speak about technology trends in education and exchange ideas with fellow ed-techies.

I’m looking forward to ANOTHER great year. How about you?

What Music Can Do For You

Chris's Transistor Radio
Chris's Transistor Radio

My family and I recently moved. After many months of unpacking, we are finally coming down to the last six or so boxes that need to be unpacked. Of course it’s those things that really don’t have a place. Those things that we really don’t use, but couldn’t bare to part with. Like my husband’s transistor radio.

I wish I could have captured on film the exact expression he had on his face when he unpacked the little white box the other night. Instead though, I asked him to tell me some stories about it.

Chris told me that he and his brother sometimes listened to the radio together. They would both put their ears up to it and talk about what they were listening to or sing along with the music.

Harry Harrison was the DJ that was on at the time Chris used the “clickwheel” to set his A.M. (as opposed to F.M.) radio to WABC, though he remembers ABC being the popular station at the time. He has no recollection of what was popular on the F.M. stations as he had no access to them. It was circa 1971.

If you look inside this portable media player (PMP), you’ll see that it ran on one 9 volt battery. Whoever gave Chris his transistor radio, was nice enough to leave him notes indicating how to correctly insert the battery. Not only did I notice that, but I opened the PMP without even thinking about it. I wanted to explore. I wouldn’t dare do that now for fear of breaking the tiny components of the electronic/digital gadgets my family has accumulated.

I listened to Chris’s stories and watched the expressions on his face as he reminisced. I rather enjoyed listening to him talk about something he seemed to have gotten so much pleasure out of as he typically tells me only stories of how horrible being the youngest of three brothers was. As I listened, I compared how he used his portable device back in the 1970s to how our students are using them today.

Volume & Station Controls
Volume & Station Controls

Chris told me he could take his radio anywhere. He could walk around holding it up to his ear. He could walk on the street. He could hide it in his backpack at school. And late at night, if his brother wanted to sleep, he could put his radio under his pillow to muffle the sound a bit. He could listen to the music that he liked (we have very different tastes in music) and he could listen to the news. He remembers his time with his transistor radio fondly.

Going into this year, with so many portable media players in school, we might want to consider thinking about occasionally just enjoying them for what they are. Children enjoy music. Some learners will even work more productively with music in the background. But music is a part of our culture. I know that in my family the songs that were playing at social events are part of the memory. I think that seeing the radio that brought him so many hours of musical enjoyment, most likely kept Chris thinking about his childhood for hours.

Here is a list of places where you can access and download free music for your students to enjoy:

http://www.musopen.com/music.php
http://www.publicdomain4u.com/
http://soundzabound.com/
http://www.classiccat.net/index.htm
http://www.openmusicarchive.org/index.php
http://www.jamendo.com/en/
http://freemusicarchive.org/

Waiting for the Wave

Image Source: http://content.zdnet.com
Image Source: http://content.zdnet.com

The Google Wave that is.

That’s what I heard many of the new Google Certified Teachers (GTCs) whispering to each other this past Wednesday at the Google Teacher Academy in Boulder, Colorado.

In late May, on the Official Google Blog, Google announced that Google Wave was available to developers to tinker with and that you could sign up for an e-mail alert for Wave’s public launch later this year. (According to TechCrunch, the first 100,000 invites go out on September 30th.)

So, let me explain, in simple terms a little bit about what Google Wave is. It’s about conversation.

There are three key technologies in Google Wave that will make this communication tool more collaborative and efficient than e-mail of the past:

  1. Live collaborative editing means that you see the people in the conversation typing in real-time. (Think of Skype, SMS or other chat programs where you wait for the person to hit enter before you see what they have written.) By the way, this can be with more than one person at a time. So if there are six people in the Wave, you can see anyone who is typing in the conversation. They can also send you a private message.
  2. Natural Language Tools enable you to focus on what you are typing and not worry about any mistakes you might type. Google’s philosophy behind this new technology is that you should be able to type about 5% faster. Google looks at millions of web pages to see statistically how people use language in practice. This works much different than the red and green squiggly lines in a word processing program. Since Wave is web hosted,  it doesn’t matter whether you are on your Smart Phone, laptop or desktop, you will receive these recommendations for grammar and spelling. These language tools will continue improving as we all continue using the web.
  3. Embedding means that you can get the code (html) for your Wave and put it on your website, wiki or blog. You can also add gadgets to your Wave as you would to your iGoogle page.
Image Source http://4.bp.blogspot.com
Image Source http://4.bp.blogspot.com

So, here’s the big question? What are the implications for educators and students?

Don’t let the technical stuff behind Google Wave get you. This is going to be cool. Though I don’t think that it is going to be added to Google Apps Education Edition anytime soon, I do think that Google Wave may just be the answer for those educators that get e-mail, but don’t quite get Google Docs yet.

This mashup of e-mail, IM, pictures, video, maps, maybe a little bit of a Twitter-like app will allow administrators, teachers, parents, even some students to be better communicate with each other. The conversation will be more collaborative when necessary. With Google Wave you can go back and play the Wave again (which many of us need).   This may just be what we’ve all been looking for.

Resources:

Google Wave Developer Blog
http://googlewavedev.blogspot.com/

The Official Google Blog
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/went-walkabout-brought-back-google-wave.html

ZD Net: Meet Google Wave
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=18817&tag=rbxccnbzd1

TechCrunch: Google Wave Drips with Ambition
http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/28/google-wave-drips-with-ambition-can-it-fulfill-googles-grand-web-vision/

Comfort Zones

roseLiz Davis and I presented three workshops together this past week at BLC. The first is one we have done many times together and separately, it comes as second nature to us at this point. The second workshop I developed almost a year ago, we just worked together to select the ed tech leaders we would showcase and who would talk about who. The third workshop was developed originally by Liz and is out of my comfort zone. This is the second time we have led it together and each time attendees have responded well and have seemed to really enjoy the activities, but in the hours and days leading up the the session, I definitely wasn’t into it. (And Liz called me on it the morning of the presentation.)

So, as I sat on the long train ride back to New Jersey sans wireless, I thought about some of the situations that take me out of my comfort zone. I thought maybe this might be a time in my life that I should face some of them and challenge myself to move past some of the more trivial ones. Perhaps, if I am feeling bold, I might even consider trying to overcome the more complicated challenges as well.

As we went to dinner each night in groups, some large and some small, I commented on the fact that I had never dined alone in a restaurant. My companions asked if I had ever been to a movie by myself, another trip I have yet to make solo and I realized that though I rather enjoy having alone time, it is usually in the privacy of my own house.

I prefer to sit either in the front or the back of a room. The details of left or right are irrelevant, what is important to me is that I am aware of who is around me and when I have people both in front of me and in back of me I find it distracting. (Not that there aren’t ten other things going on to distract me anyway.)

So, back to this last session that Liz and I led at BLC. It was the last slot of the last day. “Goal! Define Your Goals and Leverage Your Network to Achieve Them!” was how we intended conference attendees to leave BLC with a plan in place on how to achieve one of their goals and who was going to help them. Here’s some of the goals set by the attendees:

@Dunningk – I want to do a monthly vlog and post it to our website.

@shadowg – Send the tweet to all BA students and faculty.  Few people respond with ideas.  A few faculty send message not to tweet them, very upset with me.  Ideas from students start to form.  Block the upset faculty/students.  Students now are building ideas presented and working with the librarians and other students, such as podcasts, videos of how to, book suggestions,  library makeover ideas……

@nicolesandburn – I hope to start a wiki/blog/podcast for my French and Spanish class

@trinapaynter – I want to create technology playground days (workshops) for teachers to try out new technology tools.

@analogurl – Implementation of Scratch into Elementary school curriculum, to promote student engagement, collaboration, critical thinking, etc.

Well, after thinking about some of the trivial goals above and having all that downtime on the train (as many of you sat in airports), I have come up with these three goals for myself:

  1. I’d like to begin playing music – quiet, soothing music, as teachers are involved in hands-on activities in PD events. I saw this two times in different forms at BLC and I think it is rather successful for some learners.
  2. I plan on increasing the amount of time I have PD attendees out of their seats. This may also bring many out of their comfort zones, but so many educators at BLC complimented Liz and I on the fact that we get folks up and around the room, that I’d like to bring this practice into more of my typical PD.
  3. This is the toughest challenge for me. I’m going to ask educators to try some free writing in my sessions. I typically encourage attendees to multitask during a workshop and as we work together, feel free to check e-mail, Facebook, whatever they would typically do while they would use the computer at home. But, during this time, I would encourage attendees to put everything else aside and focus on visualizing our group goal and writing about it.

I took so much away from the four days I spent in Boston. I will be posting more soon, but I figured documenting my goals was a good place to start.