Wednesday, August 6, 2008

THING Number.........

..........wait, there are no more "things".....Sure didn't think I'd make it!! Now it's time to put it all to use. I think the agenda will be to clean up my class webpage, then start to add and edit using the new tools I learned through the summer. - here is the official Edith Lewis 8th Grade webpage. It is years old and definitely needs a face lift. It is updated and added to all the time, but still could use an overhaul. I'll be adding the features we learned, and would welcome new ideas for making it more student motivating.

Monday, August 4, 2008

THING 23 - Summarizing the Program

What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey? I liked the BigHugeLab site and the other tools that were related to image creativity. My imagination works better in that regard and I find my interest maintained longer when using those types of activities.

How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals? I am always searching for new things to bring into the classroom. While the content stays pretty much the same with each year - for the most part - how it is shared can change as our student's world changes. This can only help improve their understanding of the information and increase their desire to learn it.

Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you? It was amazing to me just how much is available for teachers, librarians and students to use. The setup for most is easy and the modeled sites and links open doors that might need a little nudge otherwise.

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept? I'm not sure there's much that shold be changed. The format was pretty straightforward and the concept is GREAT. I would suggest continuing to change and grow, updating activities as your research leads you to what will always be new and interesting tools.

If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you choose to participate? Without a doubt!! But not with a second job going on - it does require time and dedication to get the most out of it.

How would you describe your learning experience in ONE WORD or in ONE SENTENCE, so we could use your words to promote 23 Things learning activities? Highly motivating

Now go and comment on some of the other Players' blogs? You got it! Thanks for the great experience!!!!

THING 22 - Nings

Social Networking - I guess the possibilities are open for as much or as little as one would want to explore. I set up a science teachers ning - says "congrats - that took you 65 seconds to complete". I have the Ning, but nothing relevant on it. I'm going to guess that will take longer than 65 seconds and a LOT more understanding than what I have at this moment.

I reviewed the Ning for Teachers and it reminded me of the old Marco Polo site used by many of us. The lesson tab is mostly where I see the similarities. I like this idea, but am quite certain at this late hour I am not fully considering the possibilities. I quickly scanned the lesson plans and am quite sure I could find useful, new things there as I begin to plan my instruction for another school year - will I remember I was ever here?? I got caught up on the teacher blog tab. It's addicting to click and read a stranger's thoughts and consider their perspective.

After 22 things, I was a bit frustrated with yet another "sign up - create a user - create a password" request. Not a big deal, really, just a thing I have about creating so many accounts on so many sites, and by the way, had I foreseen this I would definitely have continued with the same user and password for all. BUT I can fall back on GoogleTools, create a user name and password spreadsheet, and access that from any computer in the world if I forget how to get back into a site's resources. I'm not sure what I'll do to remember which sites I have access to, but that's another problem for another day.

THING 21 - Podcasts and Audio Books

Have I mentioned too many times that I have been working in Whitney for the summer, then took a quick trip to Oregon and have not been planted back in Houston since I left the first week of June?

The reason for this unimportant information - I was unable to load Photostory or do other functions that would fully explore this activity. I have Photostory on my school computer and have used it with success for creating and loading videos on my classroom webpage. Prior to learning of Photostory, I had used the old MovieMaker program with similar results. Each has it's own unique features not found in the other, so it would depend on the expected result and flexibility one was looking for when deciding which program to pursue. When I am back at a functioning, download-friendly computer, I will have to revisit this lesson and continue to play with the features available.

To complete this lesson, I pulled a handful of pictures from an old student that attending Spring Oaks. During an A&M travel program, he visited Spain and shared these and MANY more pictures. In a matter of minutes, the pictures were placed in a video, music and credits added and in the time it took to get a glass of water, the movie was ready to post on the blog. TOO easy and probably not worthy of credit for this lesson, but it really is that simple. Whether there are 10 or 50 pictures, whether you want one or two songs, and even if you want text clips or recorded voices added, it takes NO time at all other than the time needed for coming up with something creative.

At the end of each school year, we use this type of movie maker to create a video for out graduating 8th grade class. It shows pictures from their three year stay with us, complete with music and teacher goodbyes sure to cause a fear teary eyes in the audience.

THING 20 - YouTube, TeacherTube and Zamzar

Interesting views about the future of our libraries. The use of videos such as these can be powerful in the classroom. The informative, sharing aspect between peers is extremely helpful. There is also the ability to share with students things they would otherwise not experience in their learning environment. Whether it be a discussion or presentation, a visual, or a lab demo as modeled here....students' learning can be enhanced by watching first hand what is being talked about.

It goes without saying that the younger generation is a HUGE fan of the YouTube site. Bring that into your classroom and it can't help but create curiousity and interest in a student.

THING 19: Web 2.0 Awards List

I think the winner is Picasa - Flikr is great as well for picture storing and sharing. The ending comment on the activity page of "so many sites, so little time" is TOO true. - Patsy, this is for you. The pug-pom puppies are too cute!
As each activity progresses, it's surprising how many things are becoming more familiar. The awards page has many things I would not have been aware of prior to Library2Play.

THING 18 - Online Productivity Tools

I feel I'll be repeating myself here - in activity 7, I discussed my recent experience with Google Tools. I work in the summer as a landman and our team uses google tools to communicate, share and update our work. Each of us comes from different parts of the state and work on various assignments that keep us from collaborating in person.

We use the spreadsheets to file daily reports and compare work completed. This allows us to plan our next day's assignments and not either repeat the other's work or move ahead before addressing a task necessary to complete before advancing. Important documents can be designed, reviewed and edited by us collectively. Another advantage is that work can be accessed from anywhere - no more flashdrives, forgetting where you saved something, leaving a CD on your desk at the office and needing access.....a document can be retrieved, worked with and printed from anywhere. GREAT convenience.

THING 17: Rollyo

Searchrolls seem like a terrific way for teachers as well as librarians to direct the often misdirected 8th grader. Having said that, I had a little difficulty with actually making my personalized search work in the way it was probably intended.

One of the troubleshooting clues mentioned needing firefox. I am using a school laptop, NOT the newer Dells that already have this browser, and was unable to load firefox.

I was able to create my account and started to isolate a search, and that's as far as I got. I'm as confused as..................................................................

THING 16: Wikis

Still yet another great idea - the use of wikis within the classroom. St. Joseph's County Public Library Subject Guide showed a great use of one such site as did the Westwood School WikiSpace. The ideas posted in the Library2Play activity showed how a teacher could take learning to a new level, one that interests and motivates the kids while including them in the teaching they are learning. AP World History Wiki was a great example of specifying a site for a particular curriculum as well as dedicating the work to a particular age.

As each activity passes, I keep saying "hey, I'm going to do that this year". Then with the next activity, the comment is "OK - maybe I'll use this new one and save the rest for the next semester." Here is my newest "I'm doing that next year!" Such a great way to involve the students in the classroom and allowing them the opportunity to participate from home should they have the availability. They will most certainly have the interest at the idea of being able to log in and add to a page they and their friends can view.

THING 15: Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and the future of libraries

How interesting that this article would start with an explanation of the changes, developments and advancements of the internet world. . . I spent the weekend in Oregon with my daughter, and Saturday morning her fiance is playing a playstation game on TV. He starts talking to the TV - which is probably not terribly odd for someone to do as they interact with the excitement - but then he starts talking to someone, using the name Stephen, and it didn't take long to realize he is playing from his PlayStation unit and interacting with a friend in Texas who also is playing the same game. They are trekking through tunnels and dark alleys together, they can "see" each other, and are on speaker talking about the game, warning each of who's coming around the corner, and all the while just catching up on old times......NOT the game I remember when Atari was the up and coming revolution in the TV game world.

There is definitely a trend - a change - in the world of Internet in so many ways. Libraries as well are experiencing these changes. Past are the days when kids would go to card catalogs and copy numbers and letters from an index card in pursuit of information. The line to the computers to search might be long, but short lasting. With the click of a few keys, Johnny is on his way to the available books on Fossils and Dinosaurs. . . OR should he choose to skip the step of walking to the rows of dusty books, he clicks the same keys on a different screen and gets the answers he's looking for from an online source.

In the section "A new world in librarianship", the traits outlined to be important to a Librarian 2.0 are well noted. It will be important for a library to continue to provide services to those that relied on the old school methods, while keeping those users who are alive and well in the new technology world still engaged in the very existence of our traditional libraries. Change is a barrier for many, yet change is necessary for us to excel and grow in just about any field. Our previous library services could remain the same, refusing to change and modify their services, but the goal is to reach the user in the best way. The fact is, our current users have moved outside the card catalog and beyond the shelves of stacked books - our librarian needs to make that move as well in order to better serve those users.

The article that followed the required reading, titled "A Ripple Effect", was most interesting and very encouraging. The lengths to which this school went to in order to service the teachers and schools was commendable. It is clear our district is headed in that direction and as exciting consider what lies ahead for our students.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

THING 14 - Technorati and How Tags Work

Went to Technorati and the site was sluggish to respond. Still a great site to use - I played around with the searches and was able to find our favorite "Angels Among Us" blog by a top SBISD educator ;o)
There were other great search finds and so many routes to take to get to an interest one has.

As for tagging preferences, I think the del-icio-us will be my first tool of choice. No particular reason - I guess it just seemed a little easier and they all provide the same resource. Tagging will be an invaluable tool for upcoming projects and research used in the classroom. I guess I'm in the "almost back to school" mindset and have been addressing most of my remarks regarding school. These tools are great resources for one's everyday life as well.

In looking at the widgets on Technorati, I selected the top news for posting. I also "claimed" my blog - we'll see what that does.

View top news

Technorati Profile

THING 13 - Tagging and Discover Del-icio-us

The Del-icio-us information was easily understood and presented in a straight forward way - should be easy to use throughout the school year. This tool has unlimited opportunities in the classroom. Depending on what is being researched, this can definitely narrow down and limit the direction we send our students. Their time in the lab is limited enough - this will help make their time used for research more efficient. I have a teacher based webpage where this could also be posted for at-home use for those MANY (....right....) students that continue their work outside of class - kindof like the good old days when they all LOVED doing homework. As for our librarian - I would think this could save a ton of time. Our wonderful librarian already pulls and organizes research tools for us for any given unit. This could certainly save some time for her as well as the teacher and student - pull together a list, post it and the numbers able to access at any one moment are unlimited.

THING 12 - Creating Community Through Comment

Well, what do you know - in my past post, I was just saying I wanted to add a widget for the bookshelf, and I found it on this activity. There's so much to learn about a blog! There were many great tips and comments about comments....I found it interesting and probably very true, that one blogger said "make it easy". People are less likely to comment if they are required to log in each time. Sounds lazy, but I've been that way once or twice and have certainly heard similar comments from others that do not like having to create users/passwords to access so many sites. I think a second tip that seemed VERY good was that one should make a point to return the comment - let someone know you are reading the words they took time to say regarding your blog.
As the game has been going on, it has been easy to make comments along the way. I would say I've met and passed the "5 comment requirement" here. It is surprising how interesting it is to read others' words and to want to share with a total stranger your thoughts about that they said. It's in doing this that I found the bookshelf widget. is a great blog for ideas and motivation. is another blog of interest. I didn't take too much time to check it out but will keep it as a reference.

THING 11 - Library Thing

I found Library Thing to be a great tool. What a great way to share your favorite books as well as find out about others that would share a common interest. When viewing other blogger's libray lists, I ran across one blog that showed an actual bookcase in the right column, with each book "placed" on the bookshelf. While the book reviews are of interest, and the purpose here, I am now curious as to how to get a bookshelf to show up on my blog. - I've just picked a few books for now, but will add more titles as time goes on and share with friends. I would like to create a second profile for student/teacher use. I will post books relevant to our topics at the time, both fiction and non-fiction. This seems like a wonderful tool for a Language Arts teacher to use with her class - maybe even set up a profile for each class period so students can enter their personal reads and compare to those of their peers.

Friday, August 1, 2008

THING 10 - Online Image Generator

This set of links could become addicting and very fun!!! So many neat tricks and links to check out. - this is where I was able to write in the sand and wish you were all here to enjoy the continued days of 100+ temperatures....all without having to lug my camera or jeopardize getting it wet. I was also also able to permanently mark the engagement of Katy and Nick. Yes, Mr. Oliver, it's finally here!!!! Congratulations to the happy Spring Oaks couple.

On the "BigHugeLabs" site, I continued playing with the jigsaw maker from Thing # 6. Seems like that would make a great gift for a younger child in the Christmas stocking, or even a fun thing to use in the classroom in place of flashcards. While I am typing, I am trying to convert an image into "bead art" and it seems to be taking a very long time. . . and here it is many minutes later.... is the link to do this, and the effect is pretty interesting, but be prepared to wait awhile for it to complete its things. Of course, a larger view makes the image that much more interesting as well.

THING 9: Useful Libary Related Blogs and News Feeds

Edublog awards was very interesting and easy to find things that suited my personal needs. It doesn't get any easier than The use of this site to identify a topic and isolate it to an area makes this very student friendly. Atomic Learning was not as helpful to me, or maybe I'm still in that "confused" state.
I ran across this link in my playing - - seems very interesting and one that I might access often when the new year begins.

While doing this activity, I added several feeds to my reader and will go back to sort, add and edit later when things slow down.
Just thought I'd add a photo I ran across while going through this activity. This is a shot of Mt. Hood in Oregon. I arrived here two days ago to visit my daughter and this is one of the views I have from where we are. Mt. St. Helens is also in view as are two other nearby volcanoes. What a GREAT place and what fun it would be for students from flat, hot Houston, with its limited geology, to experience.

THING 8: RSS Feeds and Readers

This is one Google tool I had not practiced with. I linked to the Google Reader instead of picking one of the others to utilize. This one became a little frustrating. The download times and the times to manage shared articles both bogged down my computer. I am certain it's something I was doing wrong, but will need to focus on that later when the crunch is over (remember the four days left from the previous post??)

I like the idea of having a streamed topic that can be accessed, where updated information regarding one theme is posted. This could be very helpful in the classroom to stay updated with events pertaining to our instruction. Something as simple as selecting "volcanoes" or "hurricanes" could be a quick way to keep students updated on the world around them while consolidating a group of recent events to eliminate search time.

On our campus, there are opportunities to send groups of students to the library while the teacher remains in the classroom for continued instruction. Our library could have RSS feeds set up using ouur suggested topics, allowing students to do their research but not waste limited time doing so. I can see this helping students feel more comfortable with their research as well as they can feel more successful with little to no guidance necessary.

I definitely need to revisit this THING later and refine my created reader.

THING 7: Cool Google Tools

FINALLY back on board. The summer has been overwhelming and busy with events so now it's time to crunch and see if I can finish the Library2Play in the next four days. Here goes.....

Thing 7 is actually pretty easy. So many of these items I've been using for quite awhile. I have a Google calendar already, which is not so impressive. For my summer employment, we switched to Google and gmail last summer to coordinate our team's work. We each use the Google spreadsheet to submit our daily report, which is viewable by all team members. When a report or document is due by all, and if we are unable to meet, we create the initial document in Google documents, post it in our gmail and each of us adds or changes our items of input. VERY handy and a great way to consider planning and working together at school with fellow teachers. We aren't all off at the same time, and some do their planning from home. What a great way to extend our communication and planning!!

For several years, our classroom has used Google Earth. If there is an event going on, as with earthquakes, volcanoes, or last spring's big Texas sinkhole, we just click on the globe, zoom in on our location and off we go. The students seem very impressed, and yes we ALWAYS have to zoom in on the teacher's roof to show where she lives....they just seem to think that's cool and that somehow they know some top secret information.

I have albums posted on Picasa from various trips that I share with family, and if they are on topic with a lesson, then they are quick and easy to share with the students.

I could go on, as most of the tools from Google have been user friendly and very convenient for things going on for me at work and home.

Check out The image above is this summer's poster advertisement - details are posted on my "shared" calendar and a Picasa album is soon to follow. I'm in Oregon at the moment, and the scenery and weather are unbelievable.