Saturday, December 26, 2009

If a tree falls in the forest...

I have been blogging sporadically for several years, but sometimes I feel that my posts just go into a black hole in cyberspace.  So for2010 one of my goals is to build up a network of followers to share insights with.  I strongly believe in the power of educational networking and learning through the exchange of ideas.
To meet that goal my first step was to examine the delicious bookmarks on blogging that I have collected over the last 3 years.  After reviewing those dealing with becoming a better blogger, I found two that inspired me.  The first was guidelines for writing good posts.  These are just a few of the tips from Vicki Davis's Ten habits of bloggers that win! that I plan to try to follow:
1.  Get a catchy title.  (I always enjoyed writing titles for essays.  This one should be fun!)
2.  Be brief.  (Not a problem.  I like writing and rewriting to find the best and briefest way to get my message across.)
3.  Add an appropriate graphic.  (I plan to use Flickr photos with appropriate Creative Commons permissions or MS pictures).
4.  Use multiple, relevant tags. (This is tricky.  It's hard to narrow down to the gist of the topic sometimes.)
From Richard Byrne's My Seven Edublogging Secrets I chose these suggestions for finding followers:
5.  Identify a niche audience.  (This is also difficult.  I teach a grad school course online for teachers who want to integrate technology into their k12 classrooms.  I would love to connect with other professors who teach a similar course, but it's hard to do.  The edubloggers I follow usually are k12 teachers or tech instructors in k12 settings.  I learn a great deal from them, but I have no idea how to find others who do what I do. 
6.  Post consistently.  (I read a lot of edublogs and "edutweeters" everyday.  I just have to remember to both comment of their blogs and post about thoughts their entries spark in my mind.)  I'll try for every Friday!
7.  Contribute to Twitter.  (I really must remember to tweet about some of the great blog posts I read so that more people can learn from them too.)
Whether or not these suggestions work for me to extend my "following", they are definitely good suggestions for any edublogger.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Networked Learning for Teachers

Stay Connected

The recognition of the importance of computer technology for teachers has grown steadily in the last few years.  The  Technology standards for language teachers from TESOL (Teachers of English as a Second Language) are a prime example. Actually these goals and standards could easily apply to teacher in all fields  See if you agree.  The goals  are to have teachers:
  • Acquire and maintain foundational knowledge and skills in technology for professional purposes.
  • Integrate pedagogical knowledge and skills with technology to enhance (language) teaching and learning.
  • Apply technology in record-keeping, feedback and assessment.
  • Use technology to improve communication, collaboration and efficiency.
How can teachers educate themselves to meet these goals? Social (educational) networking is one of the most convenient and up-to-date ways.  I remember the days when acquiring new knowledge meant  finding the right articles or books from which to glean information.  This usually entailed a trip to the university library to checkout books or feed the copier all your quarters to copy article from journals.

Today learning can mean finding relevant information from reliable online sources, reflecting on it, sharing the new, personal insights gained, receiving feedback and comment from interested parties and then responding to this feedback with new insights. Steven Downes discusses the importance this type of self-directed learning in his video,  Web 2.0 and Your Own Learning and Development.

Finding reliable sources can be accomplished by starting and nurturing a good personal learning network (PLN).  Personally I find that my own PLN is always in state of flux.  I continually add and delete rss feeds to edublogs in my Google reader, follow and "unfollow" people on Twitter, and check my Yahoo and Ning groups.  I don't stop following others because any of their ideas  are irrelevant, but because there is no way to keep up with all the good learning and sharing opportunities today.

I am in the process of deciding which sources in my PLN I want to keep.  It's really a tough decision, but if I want to reflect on what I read, I need to have a manageable set of items.  I hope that this "weeding out" of my PLN will allow me more time to digest and comment on what others say  and to share my own ideas with them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So You Think You Can Teach with Tech Tools!

Since 2004 I have been teaching a course through the State University of NY at Buffalo presently called Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts in L2.  The purpose of the course is to familiarize pre-service and in-service teachers with various free, online tools that they can use to enhance the teaching/learning experience.  I could feel the excitement of the students as they blogged about how they could use these tools in their own classrooms, but then I began to worry that in their enthusiasm they might lose sight of their instructional goals.  

Judi Harris and Mark Hofer wrote in Grounded Tech Integration in the ISTE magazine Learning and Leading with Technology,  "Most technology integration strategies begin with and focus on the technologies' affordances and constraints - what they can help us do and their limitations.  Unfortunately, this approach does not ensure that educational technologies will be well integrated into instruction that is keyed to specific content-based learning goals".

However, I have decided that the tools I teach about and the teaching goals the students need to keep in mind are like the partners in a dance.  The tools that we as educators have literally at our  fingertips today are recent  developments. Before we can decide  how to use them to meet instructional goals, it is necessary to become familiar with what each tool  can and cannot do.   So I visualize teaching with tech tools  as a continual, partnered dance between new tech tools and teaching goals.  At some points in the dance one of the partners shines more brightly, but at other times the other takes center stage.  However, both dancers are essential to creating a great performance!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Personal Knowledge Management

By Harold Jarache
   The videos for Learn Trends 2009: Convergence in the Workplace Learning (Nov. 17-19) provide an excellent source of information on social learning.  Although this free, online conference focused on social learning in the corporate world, many insights apply equally to the university setting. 
   A recurring comment by presenters was how difficult it is today to stay up-to-date. George Siemens observed that today's abundance of information means we have to change how we operate.  "Continual change requires rapid learning and innovations for individuals and organizations." 
Harold Jarache shared the  personal knowledge management (PKM) system he uses to handle today's  overload of information.  This 5-minute presentation gives a quick overview and links to posts on the topic.  He showed the relationship between the recursive, internal elements of sorting (gathering information), categorizing (tagging and filing), making explicit ( writing) and retrieving (looking up info when needed) with the external elements of connecting, exchanging and contributing. 
   In addition to the process he outlined, several individual ideas he mentioned resonated with me.  One was the importance of adding notes, tags and categories to your blog and Delicious account.  Another was backing up your Delicious account.  (I'll have to figure out how to do that one). Perhaps for me the most salient idea was hearing that he blogs every Friday.  That's a practice worth emulating for those of us who need some structure in our lives.  I often glean ideas from others' posts but don't take the time to pull together a week's worth of ideas.  I  think I've been missing the critical-thinking  or explicit part of managing knowledge and I plan to correct that!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Upcoming Online Educational Technology Conferences

Connectivism is alive and flourishing through many free, online conferences in November and December.  The K12 Online Conference involves educators from around the world who are interested in innovative ways to incorporate web 2.0 tools into their teaching.  It runs or two weeks (Dec. 7-11 and Dec. 14-17). Archived live events from 2008 let you  a feel for topics addressed by participants.
ELive logo On November 13 Educause, Vice President,  Richard Katz will present a webinar entitled The Tower and the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing.

Nov. 17-19 Learn Trends 2009: The Corporate Learning Trends & Innovations Conference takes place in cyberspace.  The focus of this conference is learning in the workplace.

Two new online conferences are debuting this year.  The Virtual Roundtable Conference on language learning with technology Nov. 12 and 13 and the Campus Technology Virtual Conference on December 3.

If you are thinking about attending some of these events, be sure to check out which specific topics are interested in and see the time that they are offered.  You may have to use a World Clock Converter to be sure that you arrive in cyberspace on time for the event.  Some of the conferences also require prior registration, so don't wait until the last minute!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ideas for Using Photos

This week the students in my online class at the State University of New York at Buffalo are working with photos and the multiple things you can do with them through Flickr applications.  In Big Huge Labs you can use photos from Flickr or your hard drive to create mosaics like the one to your left.  You can also create posters, name tags and many other objects.

In a previous mod some of the students explored Animoto, a site where you can create cool slide shows with music.  Down below is one I just created of my son's early years in Mexico.  Loved those pinatas!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Online Conference on Social Networking

Recently Vicky Saumell tweeted about an upcoming online conference Nov. 5-8 on social networking organized by two South American affilliates of IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) which is, perhaps, the European conterpart of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).  The organizing groups are AVEALMEC ( Asociación Venezolana para la Enseñanza y Aprendizaje de Lenguas Mediados por el Computador) and ARCALL a group of innovative language teaching professionals from Argentina.

The line up of guest speakers looks very impressive.  Here are just a few:
George Siemens: Connectivism and Social Networking
Etienne Wenger: Communities of Practice: A Social Discipline of Learning
Vance Stevens: Modeling Social Media in Groups, Communities and Networks
Nik Peachey: From Information to Knowledge: Creating Your Own Development Network

According to the website, you do not need to register for the conference but, you will need a WIZIQ account, the on-line platform that will be used for the video conference.

This promises to be a conference worth attending!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Video Tutorials for Using Blogger

In planning for teaching the technology segment of a course on second language learning, I've chosen to focus on social bookmarking, blogging and global collaboration. So today as I was revisiting some of my bookmarks in Delicious, I found these fantastic video tutorials created in Camtasia by J. Black. It's evident that J. Black has extensive experience using Blogger with students since she emphasizes the issue of safety throughout.

Tutorials on internet tools tend to get outdated very quickly, but these tutorials from April, 2008, are still right on target! Thanks, J.Black!

Monday, July 06, 2009

National Educational Computing Conference

So inspiring! The National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in D.C. put on by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) was such a great learning experience. This was my first time at their conference and I was delighted with the presentations. Those that stood out for me were the ones by Vickie Davis on DIIGO, by Will Richardson on connective learning and Steve Hardagon on Ning and Learn Central.

In Steve's presentation he also elaborated on the new feature of Elluminate through with educators can have a free account which will allow them to have a virtual room for private sessions of up to 3 people and public sessions with a much larger number of people. I have attended many webinars in Elluminate and always wished I could make use of this tool. Elluminate also offers free training sessions. Definitely something to check out!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other ...

The updates in Will Richardson's 2nd edition of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms provide a lot of new information. Simply comparing the table of contents of the 2nd edition with that of the first (as I did), one might not appreciate all the updates contained in the newer edition
Richardson has now explored and explained the intricacies of social bookmarking tools such as Delicious and Diigo as well as visualization tools such as Flickr. He has also updated the chapters on weblogs and podcasting to reflect recent developments.
His book continues to be a stellar choice for teachers who want to enhance their teaching by utilizing web 2.0 tools to create more interactive learning environments for their students and it is rumored that a 3rd edition will be due out soon. Can't wait!

Saturday, February 21, 2009


This image was created with Wordle.  I can see many classroom applications for creating word images.  This program allows you to print out your designs, use them in a blog or save them in Wordle.   The Wordle image on the left  contains the names of teachers that I worked with recently and from whom i learned quite a bit particularly about literacy for very young learners.
Joe Dale has provided a quick Slide Share of directions for using Wordle. (This is best seen full screen by clicking the tiny screen at the bottom).  Nik Peachey has also posted some intriguing  ideas on how to use Wordle for English language learners.  One tip that will help you use phrases is to join them with a tilde in between.
Another tip is that if you want the size wordle you see here you need to take a screen shot of your creation, turn it into a jpg. picture through a program like Paint and then use the jpg. to upload to your blog.

Literacy and Web 2.0

I am just finishing teaching a course on writing in multicultural communities for teachers in Prince George's County, Maryland.  I've posted most of the lesson plans for the course in the sidebar of this blog in the same spirit of sharing that I have experienced through online courses in the Electronic Village Online, through contacts with other webheads, and through edubloggers such as Larry Ferlazzo, Nik Peachey and Vicki Davis.  I hope that some of the ideas in these plans will facilitate someone else's planning by serving as a jumping off point for their own creativity.  We all benefit from George Siemen's concept of connectivism which defines learning as networking and I'm hoping that some of the links in these plans will contribute to others' developing and everchanging networks.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Magazine Cover with Flickr Photo

My creation
Originally uploaded by Anciana
As part of the Images4Education course that I am taking through EVO2009, I am discovering more and more used for photos on Flickr. At the BigHugeLabs site you can create so many things with photos. I used one of my own photos to create the magazine cover on the right. You can also use photos to create maps, movie posters, puzzles, and many other items.
The creation of all of these items is free as long as you keep them in cyberspace but you can also pay to print them.
Flickr can have many pedagogical uses for language development. One suggestions that I learned in the Images4Education course are creating poems or paragraphs in the comment section of a photo. Some topics for thought are "where I'm from", "where I want to be"and "what my dinner table looks like".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Baby Joey(Sugar Glider)

Baby Joey(Sugar Glider)
Originally uploaded by Viper76

I'm playing aroud with Flickr to see how it could be used for language teaching. I found this picture when I searched for baby animals. Above the picture it said Blog this. I like that the attribution shows up directly below the picture.

Cute, aren't they!

Uh oh. While the attribution shows up fine when I am writing the post, it seems to get too tiny to view when I publish the post. I'll have to see if there is some way to fix that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Notes Feature of Flickr

Jane Goodall's Camp
Originally uploaded by lewiselementary
I'm trying out a feature of Flickr that I just learned about in the Images4Education course of EVO. I had never noticed before that above many photos is a feature called Add Note. After you click on it, you can click on whatever item in the picture you want and add a note (a label, description, etc.).
This could be an excellent feature to use for second language teaching. I've posted an example here called Jane Goodall's Camp. The notes will not show up here in my blog, but if you click on the picture, you will see the photo with all its notes.
It seems to me that only the owner of the image can add notes, but I'm not sure about that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Snowball Effect

Anyone who has ever made a snowman knows that you start with a small snowball. As you keep rolling it in the snow, it gets bigger and bigger until you have a "snowball" big enough to use for one of the parts of your snowman. This gradual growth of the tiny snowball into a much grander one is the "snowball effect." That is what I am experiencing this semester with my students.

This semester I started teaching a face to face class through McDaniel College for teachers in Prince George's County, Maryland. This is a face-to face class. We meet at Green Belt Middle School. I had never taught a class before where everyone had their own laptop and we had quite a time getting everyone on the Internet, especially those with Apple computers. (It's so much easier to work in a computer lab!) However, with the help of the IT person, Ms. Mitchell; the library media specialist, Ms. Butler; and Ms. Hammond, the Social Studies teacher at the school, we are slowly but surely getting everyone online through their own laptop computers.

The teachers in the class have all started their own blogs and I can feel the snowball effect as more and more of them are beginning to see the possibilities for using web 2.0 tools in their own classroom.

In order to provide a permanent record of the Internet assignments that we are doing, I've decided to create Googledocs and link to them in the sidebar under lesson plans. That way the students can have an easy way to refer back to what we did in class and to continue learning on their own.

Monday, January 05, 2009


I'm working on modifying a mod on microblogging for a course I teach through U.B. Last semester was the first time I had included microblogging in the course. I found that the students used microblogging like a form of short emails. I hadn't shown them how Twitter can be used not only as a social networking site but also as an educational networking site. Part of the problem may have been that I had them watch Lee LeFever's video which explains microblogging in social terms.

So this semester I'm going to have them read articles on educational microblogging, search for an educational term such as connectivism, check out the sites of others who posted on that subject and follow some of these people for a week.

In planning this mod, I reread all the sites that I tagged as Twitter in my delicious account and retagged them as TwitterTutorials, TwitterTeachers and/or TwitterArticles. This sorting helped a lot.

I also listened again to this great viral video by UK musician, Ben Harper. Check it out! :-)

Friday, January 02, 2009


In a comment on one of my previous posts, Carmen Holotescu provided a link to an article called Can We Use Twitter for Educational Activities? that she co-authored with Gabriela Grosseck. The article is a good overview of microblogging in education. It also details some of the features that are lacking in Twitter but which would make the site more user-friendly.

For example, it would be helpful to be able to use tags. As interesting as it might be to learn about daily activities of some Twitterers, I would prefer to only read their tweets on professional issues. I just don't have time for more than that.

Another feature missing on Twitter is the ability to create user groups with notes visible only for members. I believe that some of these features may be available in Edmodo, but I'll have to check. Carmen is advocating the use of a new Romanian microblogging site called cirip that incluldes some of these features along with some others.

I'm going to look more at Edmodo today, but it seems to be much more than just a microblogging site. So if schools don't block it , the site may have lots of potential for classroom use.