Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Updating my online course

At the end of each semster I look at notes I've made to myself and the results of student feedback to update the syllabus for my University at Buffalo online course on using Internet tools in the classroom. Although I have less time this break because of babysitting my adorable twin grandchildren, I'm going to make some changes. I am also checking the detailed feedback that I received from Robert Squires through the Webheads Yahoo group.

There are two areas I'd love to explore but need more time to investigate. They are creating videos and utilizing gaming. However, I think that I will be able to include having the students search for good videos on YouTube or TeacherTube which they can link to from their blogs.

As per Robert's advice, I also plan to put in course objectives. Strange that I always make my students use objectives in their lesson plans, but I didn't do it myself! I plan to use the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) created standards National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers since I not only have second/foreign language teachers in my class, but others as well.

I hope to finish my update ASAP.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Comparing Microblogging Tools

Recently students in my online class Using the Internet in L2 Classrooms at the State University of New York at Buffalo completed a mod comparing several microblogging sites.  Each group of 3 students was assigned to compare Twitter, the best known site, with either Plurk, Pownce or Spoink.

 Those who compared Twitter to Plurk, the two most similar sites, differed on their feel about each layout.  Some thought Twitter was more appealing because of its simplicity, but others liked the timeline design of Plurk.  Regarding other features students said:

§         Each allows 140 characters of text which you can post online or by cell phone.

On both you can post links, but Plurk also lets you share images and Youtube videos.

§         The act of replying on each site differs but you can send public or private messages on each site.

Although many of my students are second language teachers, I don't think that many of them noticed that you can "plurk" in other languages.  That would make Plurk a useful useful teaching tool.  I think the reason this feature wasn't noticed is that you have to scroll down to see that option.

 Those who compared Twitter and Pownce usually preferred the many features of Pownce such as:

  • The ability to share videos, mp3 files and events.  One student posted about an event she was going to attend and replies asked how it went.  Another student posted this YouTube video which compares Twitter, Pownce and Jiku.

 Those who used Spoink liked being able to:

  • Podcast from their phones
  • Type 500 characters
  • Post text, video or pictures.

 This was the first time I had students explore microblogging.  None of them had even heard of it before.  We all learned a lot.  However, I definitely will revise the mod to be sure that the students:

§         Try all the features of each site

§         Add the other members of their group and reply to each of their posts

§         Post on various days so that they don't just post 5 consecutive posts!

§         Check out Edmodo which many of them referred to when they searched for articles about microblogging.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Toxic Chemicals Harm Children

I recently read Poisoned Profits: the Toxic Assault on Our Children by the Shabecoffs to learn about the effects of toxic chemicals on all of us and especially the effects on our children. It's quite scary, but a must-read for all new parents.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

If concerned about personal care products that are endocrine disruptors check [www_cosmeticsdatabase_com]

Friday, October 03, 2008

Just visited Ana Maria Cult's flowgram of great web tools for teaching. Well worth viewing!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Saw Menopause the Musical last night. Funny! Getting ready to watch the twins this morning and am looking forward to VP debate tonight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trying to learn how to use Movie Maker. It resembles Audacity in many ways, but will take me many attempts to get an ok video clip.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I'm thrilled with the variety of backgrounds of the students in my class this semester.
They have a lot to share with each other.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Robin Good's 40 minute interview with George Siemens was well worth the time!

Monday, August 25, 2008


" "Kwout is a free, online tool that provides an easy way to grab, cut and post screenshots to websites. Thanks to Joe Dale for leading me to the site. Next time I'll choose a smaller size!


I recently rejoined a type of mentoring/pen pal program called In2Books. It connects elementary school children with adults through reading and commenting on the same books.

During the school year, students select 5 books from lists compiled by children's literature experts and exchange online letters about the important issues in the books.

I have participated in the program twice and the organizers continue to improve the quality of the software used for the exchange of letters. Initially the 5 books to be read were free and were sent to the adult's home. Now the adults must buy the books or get them from the library, but I consider this a worthwhile investment.

The program always looking to sign up for new members. I like several aspects of the program. One is that there is a background check on the adults who participate and another is that they provide a lot of guidance in the writing of the letters.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Time Management Tools

Vicki Davis has posted a very useful list and description of what she calls "the fab five of time management." She explains how to make handy widgets such as Remember the Milk even more helpful by tweaking them. Her fab five free tools for time management include Remember the Milk, Jott (no longer free), Google Calendar, Timebridge, and iGoogle. Since I use iGoogle as my home page for getting organized, her suggestions will definitely help me with time management. At the moment I have the ToDo widget on my iGoogle page and I've signed up for Remember the Milk to see how it differs.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Twitter by Phone

I had been frustrated at not finding instructions for using Twitter. Somhow today I looked in Help and discovered that's where all the information is.
So today I tried to add my phone number to see if I could text message a tweet and it worked fine after adding my phone number under Setting>Devices.
I must admit though that if my daughter hadn't helped, I would have still been frustrated because in trying to add my phone number I had to verify a letter code. I mistakenly thought that I had to verify by phoning 40404, but I actually had to send a text message to 40404. Aren't families great. :-)

Twitter by Phone

Thursday, August 14, 2008 has turned out to be a life saver b/c I can post once and it goes on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, Pownce and Blogger. Gotta love it!
Loving my new Flip video camera. Best aspect is viewing videos frame by frame and saving best ones as photos. Cool!

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Tried out recording a short podcast on Spoink from my cell phone. It was easy to do and worked well but the time limit of one minute may pose a problem.
Ok. I now have on my iGoogle page. Let's see if it posts to all my sites.
I trying out to see if it posts on my Twitter, Blogger, Plurk and Facebook accounts. If it works, it would save me time!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Plurk and Shelfari

I have been trying out Plurk for a few weeks, but was having difficulty finding friends who were not already in my email or Twitter accounts. I've finally mastered the art of finding friends, but it only seems to work if they use their real names and not an ID. Here are the steps:
  • Click My friends.
  • At bottom of page click Find or invite some friends.
  • In the Search for other plurkers box, put the name (ID) of the person you are looking for.
  • Under their name to go to their plurk timeline.
  • Click on either Add ... as a friend or Follow a fan. (I have to check out the difference).

On a different topic, I recently discovered that someone from the Yahoo group Learning with Computers has started a group on Shelfari. This may be a good site to talk about books for professional development.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Leaving Voice Message on a Blog

I was looking for a widget to put on this blog that would allow visitors to leave an audio message. So I asked for input from the friendly members of Learning with Computers. From their speedy replies this is what I discovered about their suggestions:
· Evoca seemed to be the best option for what I was looking for. It is now installed on this blog. I'm interested to see how well it functions.
· Odeo seemed to be more for creating podcasts and I wanted viewers to record, not listen.
· Chinswing is a cool little tools but didn't seem to be made for putting on one's own site.
· MyChingo is no longer free.
· Qlipboard didn't seem to be for a blog viewer to record on, although it looked like an interesting tool to check out some time. While searching for Qlipboard, I did find a useful blog post by Ronaldo Lima, Jr. in which he compared Qlipboard, VoiceThread and Splashcast. I liked his site and have added it to my rss feeds.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Asynchronous Voice Tools

In updating my syllabus I recently added the following free tools for my students to explore:
Big Think is a site where the discussion of myriad issues starts with interviews with today's leading thinks, movers and shakers. The interactive aspect is that you can continue the discussion by uploading your own views through the use of multimedia or simple text.
Chinswing is a global message board where anyone can add voice messages to ongoing topical discussions. It combines features of podcasting, text forums and live voice chat to create a whole new way to talk.
Record messages using your own phone, create podcasts, post audio to your blog, host conference calls.
Create and share multimedia content for iPod.
Screencast-o-matic is a free online tool which lets you create recordings of your desktop with audio and then upload them to share or export them to Quicktime all from your browser for free.
Vaestro is a free tool which allows you to create your own Vaestro Voice Channel. Each Voice channel is a self contained space where you can create topics for voice recordings.
A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in 5 different ways - using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) - and share them with anyone they wish. A VoiceThread allows asynchronous group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fantastic Links about Blogging

In revising the syllabus for my Fall course on using the Internet in the classroom, I looked over my account and found a great post by JBlack on his blog called Transitioning to Web 2.0. His post contains the most comprehensive list of links about blogging that I have seen. Here are some of the topics he provides links to :

  • What is blogging?

  • Blog statistics and research

  • Educational Rationale for and Pedagogy of Blogging

  • Student safety and Responsible Blogging

  • Evaluating Blogs - rubrics

I was pleased to see that I recognize many of the authors and have them in my own blogroll, but this compilation and categorization of resources is really helpful.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge

Tangled Web by Gruno Girin

There will be an exciting experiment of an open online course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in Septmeber. The details of the course show that it covers the following topics through various techological means:
Week 1: What is Connectivism?
Week 2: Rethinking epistemology: Connective knowledge
Week 3: Properties of Networks
Week 4: History of networked learning
Week 5: Connectives and Collectives: Distinctions between networks and
Week 6: Complexity, Chaos and Research
Week 7: Instructional design and connectivism
Week 8: Power, control, validity, and authority in distributed environments
Week 9: What becomes of the teacher? New roles for educators
Week 10: Openness: social change and future directions
Week 11: Systemic change: How do institutions respond?
Week 12: The Future of Connectivism

I'm very much looking forward to the course which starts in September. However, since my own courses start at that time, I'm trying to do as much reading as possible beforehand.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Buenos días, Grandma

I found a recent CALdiget article from the Center for Applied Linguistics on current research on raising bilingual children. Two points that refute assumptions that many parents and pediatricians hold are that

  • Although many parents believe that bilingualism results in
    language delay, research suggests that monolingual and bilingual
    children meet major language developmental milestones
    at similar times.

  • Despite many parents’ fear that using two languages will result
    in confusion for their children, there is no research evidence
    to support this.
    On the contrary, use of two languages in the
    same conversation has been found to be a sign of mastery of
    both languages.

I found this recent research particularly interesting because I live in a household with newborn twins whose mother is a speech and language pathologist. Although everyone in the household had agreed that it would be beneficial that I speak Spanish to the infants, we did wonder about the "speech delay" issue. My own background is in linguistics and bilingual education, but I hadn't heard about the concept of speech delay until talking with my daughter-in-law. We had both unsuccessfully searched for relevant research previously, but now we have this excellent article with references.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Embedding Music in Your Bog

Aaron Campbell recommended a site called Seeqpod which lets you search for your favorite mp3 files or music videos and put them on your blog. He tells how he used this in his own classroom.

Here are the instructions from the Seeqpod site for creating a playlist and adding it to your site. Here in blogspot you would use the resulting URL to "create a new element" under the Layout tab.

How do I make and save a playlist?
Quite easily. First, register (it's free and only requires an e-mail address and password), then search for some playable results. To make a playlist, simply press the green arrow that appears alongside a selected result, or drag a result to the player, then repeat. You can add as many results as you like. To save, simply click the Save button and title your playlist. At any time, using the nearby buttons, you can share and embed your playlists, as well as create new ones.
How do I edit a playlist?
To delete a result from an existing playlist, just press the red X that appears alongside it. If you'd like to change the order of results, simply click, and then drag, the result to your preferred placement.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Online EFL Teaching

I have long wanted to do some online EFL teaching, and now there are many sites which facilitate that. Talkbean is one such site. The company posted a job description on the TESOL site. Personally, the time commitment of everyday discouraged me. I would like to do some tutoring but just 2-3 times a week. I'm going to investigate other sites from a list I received from Meri Aaron Walker's site called mawstoolbox as well as Myngle.

Each of these sites offers connections of teachers and students through the use of webcams, whiteboards and chat technologies. So not only conversational language skills can be developed, but reading and writing as well.

The whole concept of connecting language teachers with students who can benefit from intereaction with native speakers is a concept that holds a lot of promise.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Today I uploaded the final grades for the students in my University at Buffalo course, Using Internet Tools in the Second Language classroom. The feedback from the students was very positive and that is quite encouraging. However, I always feel a need to update the course each semester because online tools for teaching are proliferating exponentially and I want to give the students the best course possible.

This week I read a lot of Facebook for Dummies and tried to update my own account. However, I don't see that this networking site is a particularly useful one for teaching and learning. It is helpful for me to keep abreast of online events that I might be interested in, but there is just an overload of information in general on the wall. I have to see if I really want to keep this account open or if the Ning site Classroom 2.0 might not be a better one to keep tuned into.

Although I now have a little time to explore various new tools and modifications to older tools, I find that my biggest concern is cutting down the influx of information to a manageable size. That way, I can continue using only the most useful tools and continue checking them on a regular basis. As it is now, as soon as classes start, I get overwhelmed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Evoca for Recording Audio

Last semester I had my students create podcasts. I suggested using Podomatic. Big mistake! So now I am searching for a more user-friendly and reliable tool. I'm going to play with Evoca and see if that's a good alternative.

While exploring Evoca, I discovered that it allows you to put a recording device on your blog so that readers can leave audio comments. I've inserted a recorder on this blog and will see how that works while I continue to explore Evoca for podcasting.

Yeah! I was able to record a comment easily. The only drawback I see is that the audio comments are not available for listening for everyone who visits the blog. It is useful to see others' text comments on blogs and it would also be useful to hear others' audio comments.

I'll keep exploring.