Feeling Googley at the NJECC Annual Conference

This will be the third year I present at the NJECC Annual Conference. This year’s theme is “Teacher as Learner” and Will Richardson is delivering the Keynote. The lineup of sessions is phenomenal with topics on music technology, using technology to assist English Language Learners, Google Apps, Virtual Worlds, and many other uses of hardware, software, web 2.0 applications and the concepts behind using them to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.

My session, This is Not Your Grandmother’s Google, is described in the program as:

It’s time to go beyond Google.com. Discover Google’s Wonder Wheel, Similar Images, Insights for Search, Custom Search Engines, and Language Tools and learn how to find resources effectively and efficiently.

Click to view on Slideshare.net

Many of the resources I will be sharing during our session:

Of course it always depends on who attends, what questions are asked and what our needs are. We’ll be using the hashtag #NJECC tomorrow if you would like to follow the conference. I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces there and having the chance to make the acquaintance of some NJ educators that I have not yet had the chance to meet.

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What is relevant?

I’ve enjoyed reading the reflections post-Educon2.2. There’s been much food for thought. So much that I couldn’t quite pin point what my big take-away from the weekend was. I had Tweeted on Saturday that “mentoring, leadership and individualized learning” seemed as if they were going to be big themes on Saturday, but when I opened my little notebook today, here’s what I saw:

To who was I referring when I wrote this? Was I writing about the students or the educators? I am not sure. It should absolutely be both. Here are my thoughts from Saturday (Sunday is another post in the works).

Disclaimer: I’m putting this all in my own words and not in the words of the articulate conversation leaders.

Session 1: Subversive PD: Creating a culture of collaboration to bring educators into the 21st Century

Danja Mahoney, Michael Springer, and Beth Knittle got us to talk about how to make professional development not suck. (Please see disclaimer.)

Three shared concepts from this session were:

  1. make sure you have achievable goals
  2. encourage your attendees to leave with something tangeable
  3. plan for time to play

These three facilitators did an excellent job in creating an environment where we truly had a conversation. We talked in our small groups as well as a whole group.

I left the session in agreement with many in the room. The best type of PD is individualized. It’s also the toughest, most time-consuming and most rewarding type as well.

Session 2: Taking the load off a learner’s mind: Cognitive Load Theory in Education

First of all. Chris Craft is an excellent storyteller. Second of all. Chris knows a lot of stuff I don’t know. I want to know more.

Cognitive Load Theory:

(We can design instruction that prevents overload.)

  1. intrinsic – our natural level of load
  2. germane – this is what we want for our students
  3. extraneous – what we don’t want

Chris shared that the goal of learning is to effect a change in long term memory. He spoke briefly about what the brain is capable of remembering (chunking) and of  automaticity. The conversation lent itself nicely to Universal Design for Learning and how to reduce extraneous loads for our students.

Session 3: Improving Professional Development with Online PD

Barbara Treacy and  Chris Champion began this conversation with the question “What can and can’t be taught online?”. I really thought my group would come up with a specific list, but instead we began a wonderful conversation about designing effective professional development. The idea is that with the tools available to us today like Screen-cast-o-matic and Scribd, it’s all about the facilitator and the participants networking and using the resources effectively. Ultimately, we can teach anything online.

So, how do we make it relevant for our students be they children or adults? How do we teach with rigor?

I honestly don’t have the two sentence answer. I don’t think it exists. I’m not even working on coming up with it. I am, however, taking pieces of these three sessions and embedding them into my plans for the upcoming weeks hoping for improvement. There’s always room for that.

Online Communities for Students

I’ve been working with a group of high school teachers that have very little technology available to them. They each have a tablet computer and a projector and that’s pretty much it. There are no other computers in the room and there are no wireless laptops or laptop carts available to bring in for the students to use. We’ve built our time together on making the most of the one computer classroom. So, as I blogged about in the beginning of the year we focus on using the tablet PC as a presentation tool, a productivity tool, and a tool for the students to use during small group activities and even during whole group instruction.

The more time we spend together, the more this small group of teachers sees how their students would benefit from using technology on a regular basis. They have begun using web 2.0 applications that the students can access from home so that they are incorporating technology into their curriculum – more – just not really in their physical classroom. So the questions of building virtual learning communities for students has come up. I even Tweeted about the other day. Here are the responses I received:

kyteacher @lthumann Either Ning or Edmodo. We use both, depending on the assignment.

Taml17 @lthumann Depending on what types of comm and how much, I might look at a wiki first.

khokanson @lthumann we are having GREAT success with ning at my school as digital portfolios HOWEVER monitoring is KEY!!!!

MagistraM @lthumann most of my colleagues in FL dept have gone with Ning for flexibility and broad potential.

keisawilliams @lthumann Is it around a project? Or do you want something more Twitter-like?

courosa @lthumann that’s what I’m using.

jepcke @lthumann What age students? What type of communication? Ongoing? Community building? For a project/unit?

kristenswanson @lthumann Depends on the purpose and the size of the group…. ;0 Maybe NING, maybe Edmodo, maybe a plain ‘old wiki… ;0

Dsalvucci @lthumann Edmodo.com does not require email addresses to join, easy to use and very secure.

keisawilliams @lthumann Have you seen Twiducate? I haven’t tried it yet. http://www.twiducate.com/

kyteacher @lthumann Then I would recommend Edmodo.

keisawilliams @lthumann Take a look at Kidblog too http://www.ncs-tech.org/?p=4726

sharnon007 @lthumann u can petition ning to remove ads if used for ed w/kids

amandacdykes @lthumann what about edumodo (sp?) I just know ning is blocked at my school.

beacantor @lthumann have you looked at nicenet.org? A bit rudimentary, but very easy to set up and monitor.

keisawilliams @lthumann Using the SMC technically and pedagogically http://socialmediaclassroom.com/index.php/using-the-smc Have the tchr watch this vid.

kmulford @lthumann: Edmodo, hands down.

lesreilly @lthumann Curious as to what you went w/ as far as student comm. Nigh or basic blog or wiki or maybe google group? What feedback did U get?

nsharoff @lthumann – I would suggest Moodle (FREE) for MS teacher & students

digitalmaverick @lthumann Moodle has an incredibly supportive community – try @iusher for brilliant examples of its use in many schools

kmulford @lthumann: Edmodo is like Facebook for the classroom. The interface is appealing to kids, yet it is “protected” and much safer.

kmulford @lthumann We have “reluctant learners” who don’t do any homework, but WILL spend time on Edmodo talking to classmates and teachers.

urselle @lthumann How about Edmodo, Google Docs, Hotchalk for students to communicate. Ning is very easy, though.

Bear in mind that many of these Tweets are in response to my responses to their questions. You can certainly go back and view my responses at http://twitter.com/lthumann, but the crux of what I was Tweeting was that the teacher wanted the ability to moderate, has no e-mail addresses for his students and I originally was researching for a middle school teacher who I will be seeing next week, but I remembered that I would be seeing a high school teacher who also wanted to pursue building an online community with his students.

Here’s the list of possible community building tools that I was able to put together thanks to my Twitter network:

  • Moodle – “Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.”
  • Ning – Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks
  • Edmodo – “A private social platform for teachers and students to share ideas, files, events and assignments.”
  • Twiducate – A free resource for educators for teachers and students to continue their learning outside the classroom.
  • Hotchalk – HotChalk provides a free online learning management system, a library of free and premium digital content, and a portal into today’s educational landscape with innovative articles and the latest news
  • Google Docs – Safely store, organize, share and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations online
  • Blog – “is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog)
  • Wiki – is a website that allows the the editing of any number of web pages via a web browser There are typically multiple editors on a wiki site. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki)
  • Google Group – Groups provides a method for true communication and collaboration with group members
  • Nicenet.org – Nicenet is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to providing free services to the Internet community. Nicenet’s primary offering, the Internet Classroom Assistant is designed to address the pedagogical needs and limited resources of teachers and their students.
  • Kidblog – Kidblog.org is designed for elementary and middle school teachers who want to provide each student with their own, unique blog.

When I met with the High School (science) teacher on Tuesday I told him that I had a plethora of ideas for him but that he needed to be clear as to what the objectives of an online community for his students were. This is what he laid out:

  1. A place for the teacher to house resources and documents from class
  2. An alternative way for students to submit assignments. (Currently many of them e-mail them to him.)
  3. A place for students to communicate with each other in a supportive manner with regards to course content.

Well, this was a start. I was happy to demonstrate some tools that would fit these three objectives knowing the teacher was clear as to what he was trying to accomplish. But our last hurdle was going to be the district filter. So immediately we were able to eliminate several of the online applications listed in the Tweets above.

Our ultimate decision was to sign up one of his classes on Edmodo. Edmodo appealed to this teacher and met his objectives. Fortunately, Edmodo was not blocked by the district’s filter (yet…) and the bonus was that it came highly recommended from my PLN.  Edmodo seemed to be our best choice.

It will be interesting to see the objectives from the middle school teacher next week to see if we select the same tool.

Developing Your Personal Learning Network Using Twitter

I realize there are many amazing posts on the merits of using Twitter to develop a PLN. I also realize that there already exists dozens of collections of tools for making the most of Twitter. I also acknowledge that I have already posted on this very same topic. Yet, as I gather the resources for my presentation today at Kean University’s Center for Innovative Education, I feel it appropriate to post them here.

I was asked to present on using Twitter to develop a personal learning network. Here’s the description I provided for the session:

Developing Your Personal Learning Network Using Twitter

With over 14 million people on Twitter, if you haven’t checked it out yet, you just may be missing something. Join us for a presentation on ways Twitter can be harnessed to build a rich and powerful learning community. Whether you are a novice Tweeter or have been Tweeting for some time, you will gain tips and tricks to leverage the potential of this network using resources designed specifically for educators. Come capitalize on the face to face connections within this workshop to further enrich your Twitter experience.

I only have an hour and there’s so much about Twitter that I won’t be able to share because I will want attendees to take advantage of the face-to-face networking time before they go off to develop their online learning networks. I thought I would mention some of the tools and topics I would have liked to discuss here, so that anyone attending still has access to the information – all in one place – and of course to share with my PLN what I feel are valuable resources.

Twitter Memes and Hashtags:

Follow Friday – Each Friday, Twitter users suggests other Tweeters to follow. They end or begin their Tweet with #FollowFriday (An example.)
Teacher Tuesday suggests teachers to follow on Twitter and as the title suggest happens every Tuesday.
EdChat –  Educators pick specific topics to Tweet about and the conversation is archived.
CIE09 – The hashtag for the CIE conference on December 11, 2009

Using Twitter Hashtags – This is a great explanation of what a Hashtag is and how they are used.

Ways to Build your Network:

Twitter4Teachers – An extensive list of educators on Twitter  – categorized by subject area / grade level
Who Should I Follow? – Find new Twitter Friends
Mr.Tweet – Discover great people relevant to your current needs

Searching for Tweets and Twitterers:
Twitter Search – Search by keyword, Hashtag or even Twitter ID
TweetScan – Searches Twitter and allows you to get e-mail updates
Tweetdeck – Group people together and have separate columns for @Replies, DMs, Groups and the public timeline

Cool Twitter Tools:

Tweet Wheel– allows you to visually discover which of your followers know each other.
Top Twitter Friends –  Including a list of your top 20 BFFs and suggestions of Twitterers to follow. 

For discovering many more Twitter tools:

Top Twitter Tools for 2009
Twitter Fan Wiki

I know there are so many more tools and resources out there. Many folks in my PLN have created screencasts and video tutorials on how to use these tools and on the merits of using Twitter. They are all in my Social Bookmarks at http://delicious.com/lthumann/twitter or http://www.diigo.com/user/lthumann/twitter. I also bookmark anything related to Twitter to the Diigo Twitter Freaks Group.

Sweet Searching with Google

There are so many search tools available in Google that this past August when I presented at the Google Teacher Academy in Boulder, Colorado, I named my presentation “Google Search: At A Mile A Minute”. I spoke as fast as I could and showed as much as I could in the 30 minutes I was allotted.

But, I have to tell you that it’s tough to stay on top of all the options that Google comes out with for Search. It is worth the effort though.

Today at the monthly NJECC meeting, Samantha Morra, Sarah Rolle, Liz Bagish and I will be presenting part 1 of a 2 part series on Google Apps to our organization. We are all Google Certified Teachers, so we divided up the topics we wanted to cover and I chose Google Search.

This is the list of Search features I’ll be demonstrating and why I chose these specifically. (Bear in mind that I only have about 25 minutes.)

Google Show Options – We’ll be talking about addressing all learners and looking in information in different formats.

Wonder Wheel

Timeline

Also along these lines we’ll look at Google Squared.

I’d also like the group to know that their schools can import their entire libraries into Google Books and what information they can see about each book there. I’ll focus on:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Searching the Book
  3. Popular Passages
  4. Book Reviews
  5. References from other Books
  6. References from Scholarly Works

This will lead nicely into Scholar Search which we’ll touch on briefly. (Well, everything will be brief, right?)

We’ll cover that Google Scholar searches:

  • Reputable articles
  • Journals
  • Books

We’ll also make clear that Google Scholar does not search:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Blogs
  • Popular websites

I wanted to show the NEW Google Image Swirl and I will when I show everyone some advanced Image Search strategies including Similar Images, usage rights and searching by color, picture size and style.

We’ll look at Insights for Search and what the trending topics are for New Jersey for the last 30 days. We’ll talk about how students can compare this information to other parts of the U.S. and other countries.

Lastly, we’ll make sure that people know how to be alerted to any information that is important to them using Google Alerts. I will demonstrate to benefit of Google Alerts and suggest them for your school, district, people you know (like relatives), yourself and topics you are interested in.

I’m hoping everyone is able to learn a few new search techniques. Everyone has their own style, so not every tool I show them will necessarily meet their needs or the needs of the students in their classrooms. And I know I’m leaving so many great search tools out. But I only have 25 minutes. 🙂

Do You Have a Handout for That?

I recently spoke at a conference where the anticipated attendance was 16,000. There were 30 laptops set up with 60 seats and then overflow seating for another 40 people. I gave 5 presentations over 2 days. I didn’t know before I got there how many people I was going to see and now that I’m home, I still don’t know. But I can tell you that at least 10 people asked me if I had a handout I could give them. There were also many attendees that commented about it. I was grateful to see this Tweet from NJ educator Brian McLaughlin.

brian

I think sometimes as educators, we are accustomed to getting everything on paper. But what really happens to it? We stick it in a folder, we throw it away, or it gets lost in a an ever-growing pile of papers collecting on our desk.

Here are some tools that I’ve been using and have seem some other educators use to share information and resources during presentations and professional development sessions:

Google Docs
Click on Share — Publish as Webpage and Google Docs will assign you a unique public URL (link) for your document. You still will be the only one that has rights to edit your Google Doc, unless you invite Collaborators, but you can use this feature to share a digital agenda, list of links, or anything that you would have printed out in the past. Here’s a sample… http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddn2z86w_3dn2hs4fj

http://www.scribd.com/
On Scribd, you can upload a Word or PDF file and they will convert it into a web document. This way your attendees have access to it on their computers. All you have to do is share the URL  with them. Here’s a sample…http://www.scribd.com/doc/17245218/Discovery-Education-Whats-New-2009

Wikis
http://www.wikispaces.com/
http://sites.google.com
http://pbworks.com/
Wikis will allow you to embed more than one type of content on them. Like I did for my presentations at the NJEA Convention, I included links to websites, embedded videos and gadgets to PollEverywhere and Slideshare. These are pieces of information you really can’t print out. Here’s a sample… http://njea-tis-09.wikispaces.com/shoestring-did-you-say-that-was-free

Glogster
Glogster advertises itself as “a creative, dynamic, and innovative digital outlet that captures learner’s excitement for online creations, keeps learners engaged in course content, and makes teaching and learning more fun.” This is great, but to summarize, it allows us to provide our attendees (whether they are students or educators) with a digital resource rather than a printed one. Here’s a sample… http://udltechtoolkit.wikispaces.com/

Wallwisher
Wallwisher defines itself as a “web page where people actually post messages.” The great part about this is that you don’t need an account with Wallwisher in order to post a note on a Wall. So you can have the folks in your session contribute ideas or links to the wall and then save the URL to refer back to. There’s no need to print out anything during the workshop and run and go make copies as they’ll always have access to the information. Here’s a sample… http://wallwisher.com/wall/techforum09

Do you have any tools you are using with your students or in professional development to eliminate unnecessary handouts and to increase productivity? Please share them!

Final Preparations for #NJEA09

I was honored when the folks that ran the NJEA Technology Institutes this past July invited me to run some sessions at the NJEA Convention this fall. I had remembered reading the blog posts and Tweets from fellow NJ educators while they were in the High Tech Hall last November and felt a bit envious that there was such a large gathering of local teachers interested in using technology to improve teaching and learning in the classroom that I couldn’t be a part of. But this year, I’ll be there in Classroom 2.

My good friend and colleague, Kevin Jarrett, has been sharing resources with me and the others involved in the showcase. Here’s a map to the High Tech Hall as well as the two Classrooms that will be in the Convention Center dedicated to the technology integration. I was also able to (finally) find a link to the online program guide on the NJEA website.

program

I’m presenting five one-hour sessions with the theme: Stretching Your Technology Dollar –  Shoestring Innovations

Thursday, November 5

9:00am Thinking Inside the Box

11:30am Did You Say That Was Free?

1:00pm Are We Teaching Standard Students?

Friday, November 6

9:00am This Is Not Your Grandmother’s Google

11:30am Don’t Be Late-That’s So 2008

Each session will be hands-on in Classroom 2 which is loaded with computers. The way I understand it, you can’t sign up for a seat, so you’ll need to come down to the High Tech Hall a little on the early side should you see a session that peaks piques your interest. While you are there, there are tons of mini sessions going on and there are other one-hour workshops in Classroom 2 as well.

I’m looking forward to networking with and learning from many folks I don’t get to see face-to-face too frequently. I hope to see you there too!!