Monday, June 30, 2008

Thing #8 - Information Overload (Otherwise known as RSS Feeds)

I chose Google Reader since we've done so much else with Google. I like the one-stop shopping! I like that I don't have to browse multiple sites to get the information. It's great to have it coming to me. I also like the ease of adding and deleting feeds. That way, I can try out some information sources and easily delete them if they don't pan out. It will be a HUGE help in keeping up with various blogs. I would never have the patience and time to check on multiple blogs just see if anything had been posted. This makes it much more practical.

Like many of these tools, the benefit is in the connections it facilitates. I can learn from others in the same field or with similar interests by reading their posted thoughts or applicable news articles. I can also connect with them personally through email. I don't have to pay conference registration fees and sit at a conference lunch to meet new people and benefit from their ideas! I can get ideas on curriculum, activities for parents, new books for kids, etc. (I also picked up a few tips for managing a 12 month-old on an upcoming plane ride across the US.)

I do have some questions, though...
  1. Does the Google Reader keep the hits it finds forever? I didn't see a delete button, only ways to mark things as read/unread and starring/sharing/tagging options.
  2. How do you manage all the new information coming in? With Alerts and Google Reader, I now have TONS of things to read. I already had trouble managing my email! (And I didn't get to much today since I was playing and learning here for several hours.)
  3. If I subscribe to a post(atom) in a blog for comments, how do I unsubscribe? Does this question even make sense to others?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thing #7 - Google Tools

I played around with several of the tools. Before we had VPN and Share folders, Google Calendar and Docs would have been very helpful. Much of what they allow you to do we now can do within our district. However, I can see a number of benefits in using these tools for sharing among my colleagues in various districts. We could put the Houston Co-op schedule on the Calendar and keep all the forms in the Docs application. It would make the information more "self-serve".

I have a lot of trouble uploading photos. I've had the same issue with aborted uploads in Animoto, Flickr, and now Picasa. They often work if I just do one or two photos at a time instead of a large group. I'm just very impatient and want to do it all at once!

I've put together an iGoogle page and marked it as my home page. It will be nice to have all the applications I use regularly on the same page instead of having to open multiple browser sites repeatedly. I've also signed up for several Alerts to notify me of updates in Gifted Education. It will be interesting to see what updates I get. This will be a great help to staying current.

Classroom applications -
  • Alerts - I would have used this to help me find current topics for discussion or debate based on the content I was teaching at the time. It would help you bring back big issues after you'd finished a unit. It could be a fun place to get journal ideas or current events.
  • Calendar - I would set up a classroom calendar so parents had easy access to know what was happening. It's flexible enough you can change it so parents get a good understanding of the ebb and flow in teaching. You could post what you plan (very generally) and then edit it to account for the teachable moments when you veered off your original plan in response to student interest.
  • Docs - This is a great way to get kids connected for group projects done at home.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Thing #6 - Mashups

Love these new technical terms!

My experience with mashups are quite recent and from a personal perspective rather than work. I used Zazzle, which interfaces with Flickr, to make postcards for my baby's first birthday invitation. I even had postcard stamps made with his picture on them. Fun!

I think the trading card maker is very simplistic. You can't edit much, the space is limited... I just don't see great applications for it because of the limits. That being noted, we did include some basic trading cards for primary age students in the new Primary Gifted Program Curriculum.

I think the magazine cover has greater potential for gifted kids because of the article titles. You can get more depth out of this application. It could be a fun, quick product for a research project on any topic.

I see the mosaic maker as a modern collage, without the overlap. Collecting all the images would take a great deal of time, but it could be used in the same way. Selecting symbolic images can be a high level activity and the ensuing discussion would be rich.

Thing #5 - Flickr

Searching for permissible photos is very cumbersome. It takes quite a while to search each option. But without searching that way, I couldn't tell what permissions were available. I think this would take a lot of time in class.

Of course, I couldn't decide what I pictures I wanted or even what key words to start searching. I also played with uploading my little one's pictures. They're too big, though, so I need to use software at home to make them smaller files. At least, I think that's the problem. I really like that you can share photos and determine your own level of security for them. Also, others can download them for free. I need to move all the baby pics here and get the family to join the group.

Regarding education, I can see giving a photo assignment and having kids comment on them within a group. It would also be neat to take photos of products and post them here for parents.
I couldn't figure out how to get a text box beside the photo to give credit. I decided to hotlink the photo to the Flickr site when I couldn't figure out another solution.

Thing #3 - My First Blog

Templates are a wonderful thing. I can't believe how easy it was to set up this blog. I tend to be very picky about lay-out and colors, so I may spend more time fiddling with those. Of course, I spent an inordinate amount of time working on a name. I hope to continue to use this blog after the Library2Play class is over, so I wanted a name that would facilitate that. I'm not overly thrilled with 2BGT, but it is somewhat open to interpretation which is good, in my opinion. I'm curious about all the blogs who have the dozen names I tried first.

I debated a bit about the Avatar - go with realistic or totally fantasy. I opted for realistic (though the hair is what I think would be fun to have). It's nice to have the freedom to change it. Though it's a real time zapper - I have no idea how long I spent trying different things. I'm going to check out the Avatars of my classmates to see if they went for realism.

Thing #2 - Lifelong Learning

I can't imagine not being a life-long learner. Who doesn't learn new things? I don't know how someone could be successful in his/her job or personal life without continuing to learn. To me, it seems to be part of the human condition. I think we're hard-wired to continue learning. We are constantly taking in new information - trying to fit it with what we already know or changing our thinking based on the new information. (Most people do more of the former and less of the latter.)

I think about people I know well and consider if they are life-long learners. Who is isn't a life-long learner? Even my 84 year-old grandparents are continuing to learn things. They have satellite TV and debit cards, negotiate social security and medicare, deal with new health issues from a host of medical professionals, and navigate through a growing city for visits with those medical professionals. The scope of what they are learning may not be as broad as my own, but they are learning. Much of what they are learning isn't so much by choice. Perhaps that's the qualitative difference... how much of the learning is by choice and how much is simply for survival.

Thing #2 - Hardest

There are several habits on the list of 7 1/2 Habits of Highly Successful Lifelong Learners that are difficult for me. My self talk isn't always positive (Habit #4) and I'm not very big into purposeful goal setting (Habit #1). I have goals, but I don't sit down and think them out. This is particularly true for personal goals. I'm better at goal setting for projects at work. I know where I want the program to go and have a good feel for how to get there (it takes a lot of time). Taking all of this into account, I think Habit #3 is the hardest for me.

Habit #3: View problems as challenges.

I worry and stew over problems. It isn't until after I've resolved them that I reflect upon them as an opportunity to learn and grow. I like challenges, it's part of what keeps life interesting. I just would prefer lots of time to mull them over. I'm often caught up in the timeliness of trying to get a solutions that meets everyone's needs quickly, which is very hard to do - sometimes impossible.

Thing #2 - Easiest

Of the 7 1/2 Habits of Highly Successful Lifelong Learners, Habit 2 is easiest for me.

Habit 2: Accept responsibility for your own learning.

I have always loved learning. It may be because learning new information is usually easy for me. I'm great at school-type learning, which is probably why I enjoyed getting my Ph.D. One of the best things about being a classroom teacher was reviewing the material before teaching it to the students. I always dug a little deeper into whatever I was going to teach, so I learned more about it. It was part of the preparation I did before every unit I taught. It made the content interesting and helped keep me ready to make things interesting for my students. Of course, the students kept me learning, too. They always took me off into directions I hadn't planned, which required more research on my part.

PS - This blog has been started as part of the Library2Play online class offered in my school district. I hope it will evolve into a tool I can use with parents and teachers in my district.