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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Online Video Editors

I will admit that I haven't used any of these tools but I wanted to share with all of you a blog posting I found on online video editing tools. Many of these tools allow you to upload video, photos and audio and do basic editing online for free. They all differ in various ways with regards to the interface layout, options for adding titles, graphics, transitions and effects and also the option to download your finished product as a video file. You can read about the different tools at and also a recent addition to the list is reviewed at Now it looks like you can even create a video collaboratively online! As you might imagine, bandwidth would become a major issue with these tools especially if you are going to be uploading real video footage as opposed to just static images. I'm not sure this would work so well in a computer lab setting as it would probably placet too high of a demand on the network to move data back and forth but the idea of being able to edit video online and collaboratively certainly piqued my interest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wikis Explained

In case anyone is still having trouble with the concept of a Wiki here is a great video that explains the idea behind a Wiki in plain English. It isn't related to education per se but I think you will get the point about the purpose and use of Wikis. Plus, I think this video is a great blending of old technology (paper and marker) and new technology (digital video, Wikis).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Week 6: MUVEs (respond by Friday, July 27th)

Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) allow us to enter and create a variety of different virtual worlds where we can learn, explore, interact and yes, play. Vast amounts of time and energy can be devoted, or in some cases wasted, in these worlds and there is a great deal of skepticism in regards to the educational value of MUVEs. I have provided a few links to some online articles about MUVEs that I think will provide helpful insight into the our present understanding of these virtual worlds and their potential promise for the future. The first article is by Stefanie Olsen who writes for CNET This article, entitled Are Virtual Worlds the Future of the Classroom? looks at the River City Project, Quest Atlantis and Whyville in it's discussion of MUVEs and their place in the "real" classroom. As you will quickly notice, much of the content and focus of these different worlds revolves around science. This is largely because the source of funding of these projects comes from the National Science Foundation which, understandably so, likes to fund research related to the teaching of science as opposed to social studies or math. But as the article indicates, there are opportunities to learn about more than just science. As you read this article I'm curious as to what you feel the primary affordances of these types of environments are for children. Also, what is your opinion about the possible detrimental effects of having kids spend large amounts of time in these environments? What impact, positive or negative, might it have on their ability to interact in the real world?

The second article is an interview with someone from Second Life, which is the virtual world designed more for adults (the version for young adults is called Teen Second Life). This article is actually part 4 of a 4 part series and you can feel free to read part's 1-3 if you want. This particular article (click here to view article) looks at some key issues that traditional educators face when they try to use Second Life either as a casual user or for educational purposes. Even though the issues outlined are focused on Second life I think the ideas apply to a broad range of virtual worlds regardless of the targeted age. In many ways the issues all relate back to changing, or broadening, our perspective of what education looks like and the ways in which learning can take place. I can completely understand the teacher who says, "I don't want to use a virtual environment because kids will just play, or it isn't safe, or it doesn't look like a classroom." But I think it's hard to deny that these virtual worlds, not necessarily all of them, hold some real promise in regards to their ability to provide stimulating and educational experiences for students. In response to the article I would like you to pick out an issue, or several of the issues if you want, that you found particularly interesting and share your opinions on the argument the author made with regard to that particular issue. Personally, I found issue 6 Re-Create v. Create to be especially insightful because this is something I see happening quite often with technology and online learning environments where we try to re-create the traditional learning environment or assignment rather than take advantage of the affordances of the specific technology to create something truly new and different. I'm curious to see what the rest of you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Second Life and the Environment

I recently read about an interesting project involving the virtual world Second Life. You can read about on the Serious Games blog but the basic idea is that people can learn about the rainforest, deforestation and other environmental issues through a project called Second Chance Trees. They can also choose to plant a virtual tree in Second Life and for each virtual tree planted a real tree will be planted in an area of designated need within the rainforest. This seems like a great way to combine education with social activism and give your students a chance to feel like they are doing something for the environment. Check it out.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Week 5: Web 2.0 (Respond by Friday, July 20th)

The Internet and how we use it is experiencing a very exciting revolution with the advent of Web 2.0. In the beginning, users would come to the Internet to perform keyword searches and retrieve information from various sites. We certainly still do that but there has been a growing change in the way we access information and our role as contributors of that information. We now have the ability to subscribe to websites, blogs, podcasts and much more so that new information is fed to us rather than us having to go find it. There are also many different ways for us to add content to the Internet through Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts, digital videos (think YouTube), photo sharing (Flickr, BubbleShare) social network sites like MySpace and Facebook and much more. In fact, you can even create your very own social network with a tool like Ning. Web 2.0 is all about this idea of user generated content and can be thought of as the Read/Write Web whereby we as the users of the web can both read content and then write and contribute new content. I follow a blog called the Read/Write Web, which reports and comments on a variety of different new Web 2.0 type tools that are constantly becoming available online. This blog doesn't have an education specific focus but I often find that the tools discussed could certainly have a use in the k-12 classroom. I have included a video at the end of this posting that I think does a great job of looking at the evolution of the Internet. It gets a little bogged down in the middle with information about HTML coding but I think the overall message is right on point. As you watch the video (if it doesn't play properly you can access it directly through YouTube at I want you to think about what implications this has for your students and your approach to using technology. For instance, before we had Web 2.0 capabilities we could have our students create concept maps in Kidspiration or Inspiration to demonstrate their understanding about a particular content area. Now using a tool like Mindomo we can have our students collaboratively create a concept map with students (and content experts) from outside our classroom and that map can be shared online for others to see, comment on, edit and learn from. We are able to move beyond just having pen pals or e-pals to having learning pals and online mentors that can help contribute to our understanding of different subjects. However, just because we have this capability doesn't mean we have a clear understanding of how to harness it and use it to create effective learning experiences for our students. What ideas, concerns, suggestions and thoughts do you have on taking advantage of the read/write nature of the net and all the tools (mostly free) that are available to you and your students.

Another issue that arises with the read/write nature of the web is that we have to be even more careful about looking at sites and their respective content and determining their credibility. I always cringe a bit when I hear someone say, "I looked up the information on Wikipedia." My first response is, "Did you bother to cross check your information with any other source?" It can be a lot harder to determine who the author of online content really is and we need to make sure our students are aware of this. What do you think we can do to insure that kids are being diligent in their online research?

Finally, I want to touch on the issue of convincing the tech coordinators, media specialists and other technology gate keepers in your respective buildings and districts to allow access to these powerful read/write tools. I know this issue has been discussed a lot in your 501 class, for those of you taking that class, but I feel it should be revisited here as well. I think it is very important that we make a clear case for the educational benefit of using these tools when we ask for permission to make them available to our students. I have heard about the troubles some of you have had in getting new technology into your classroom but I would like to hear about your success stories now. What approach or approaches have worked for you to get new technology approved, new websites unlocked and new tools available for your students?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Zamzar, Weebly for Teachers and Snap Shots

I've come across some more interesting tools and tidbits that I wanted to pass along. The first is Zamzar, which is an online file conversion tool. You can take just about any text, image, audio or video file and convert it to a variety of other text, image, audio and video file types. The way it works is you upload the file you want converted, select the file type you want it converted to, and then wait for them to e-mail you to inform you the file conversion is complete. In the e-mail they give you a link where you can go and download the converted file. There is a 100 MB maximum but I don't think you would want to be uploading a file that big anyway. I have only used it to convert text files so far but I think this could be a very helpful tool especially if the audio and video conversions work well.

I have been e-mailing back and forth with a support person from Weebly and he has informed me that there is not a current way to clone pages but he liked the idea and put it on his "to do" list. He also informed me that they are working on a Teacher friendly version of Weebly to be used in education. I'm not sure how it is different from the regular version at this point but the fact that they are thinking about teachers is pretty cool.

The final tool I want to share is being used on this blog as I write. It's called Snap Shots and it allows you to show users a preview of the different websites you are linking to from your website or blog. That way, they can get a "snap shot" preview of the site before they decide to navigate to it. It was very easy to add it to this blog but I found that I had to add it individually to each page on the Ed Tech Wiki. I added the code to my templates in Wikispaces so that all future pages I create will automatically have the Snap Shots functionality.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Week 4: Digital Video (Respond by Friday, July 13th)

You might be noticing a pattern with these blog postings in that I am going to ask you once again to find an example of technology in use in the classroom. This week I want you to search for an example of digital video being used in a k-12 setting. Before I explain what I want you to look for in particular I would like to talk a bit about what we know about digital videos and education. There is plenty of research about how students are engaged by digital videos. The United Streaming site has several short reports they have compiled that essentially show that teachers enjoy using their particular videos and kids enjoy watching the videos. As educators, we tend to assume that if students are engaged there is a better chance that they are learning but we can't know this for sure without further investigation. I think that happens a lot with video and the trick, which really hasn't been done in the research, is to try and prove that kids actually learn as well or better from digital videos as they do from other more traditional forms of instruction.

This all has to do with kids watching digital videos but I would like to change course a bit and look at the educational impact of having kids create their own videos. As you might have guessed, there is a lack of research-based evidence that suggests students learn from the process of creating their own videos. Much like watching a video, they are engaged in the process of video production but what do they really learn? In response to this I would like you to do two things. First of all, search out an example of a student created video that, if possible, covers some content that you have to teach in your current position. Tell us where you found the video and take some time to reflect on what the students might have had to learn or know in order to make that particular video. As with previous weeks' discussions I would like you to talk about how you might assess students, and what you would hope they would learn from creating a video similar to the one you find and share with us.

The second thing I would like you to do is think about the curriculum you are required to cover and come up with an example of where a video would be a helpful tool to teach some part of that curriculum. This could be a video that either you create or have students create. Tell us why you think a video would be a helpful tool in this situation.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

More Thoughts on Blogging

In grading your first assignments I noticed that many of you created blogs to use with your students and the issues that were discussed have led me to write a bit more about blogging. First of all, I noticed several of you talked about having your students create their own blogs and I think this is a great idea. One issue with this is that you would want to make sure you, or some other adult, was moderating the individual student blogs to ensure that no inappropriate comments were posted. Having to moderate 25 different student blogs seems like an overwhelming task so one idea I had was that the parents could be put in charge of moderating their child's blog. I realize that some, or maybe many, parents wouldn't want to take the time or might not have easy access to a computer but it would be an option worth exploring at least. It would be a great way to help parents keep connected to the learning experience and promote communication between the classroom and home. It would also help introduce parents to blogging.

Another think I noticed is that many of you are planning on having students answer questions of the week or other similar type prompts in order to assess student learning and understanding. This is a great idea but the one problem I see is that students will be able to read each others' comments before they post. Therefore, if I don't know the answer I can just wait until someone else answers and then rephrase their answer to make my response. One way around this is through comment moderation. You can read all the comments as students submit them but wait to approve and publish the comments until everyone has responded. That way, no one can read the other comments until they have already commented themselves. You would want to set a due date and time by which students would have to comment so that you weren't waiting to publish the comments for an extended period of time.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Blogging with Barriers

I have been thinking about the comments people made in response to my Week 2 blogging post about (what else) blogging and I wanted to talk a little about the barriers people mentioned. One big thing people mentioned is that they were concerned their students wouldn't be able to participate in a blog because of a lack of computers and internet access in the home. I think this can definitely be a barrier to participation if you expect kids to contribute mostly outside of class or school. This is one of the main reasons I advocate for finding ways to incorporate technology such as blogging within the normal school day. Many of you noted concerns about finding the time in school to have kids blog and I understand this as well but I also think part of this concern might stem from the fact that we are still thinking about blogging as being something "additional" that we do rather than an integrated part of the curriculum. I would encourage people to look at how they cover different content areas and think about how blogging could be used to achieve some of the goals they already have in place. For instance, if you have students write in journals on a regular basis then it would seem logical to have kids do at least some of this journal writing in a blog. You could rotate through kids so that certain kids are journaling on the blog on certain days while the rest of the class is writing in their paper and pencil journals. This would allow you to make use of the one or two computers you have available in your classroom and by the end of the week the entire class will have taken a turn contributing to the blog. I used to do this in my third grade classroom, although it wasn't for blogging it was more for general computer use. I would have a chart that was posted in the room that showed the 5 days of the school week and each day had a card with a list of 4-5 (or more depending on the class size) student names on it indicating which group of kids could use the computer on that day. The days rotated each week so kids didn't always have the same day. You could do the same thing with blogging and then when it came time to do journal writing or at other points in the day the kids could go back and respond to the blog if it was their assigned day.

Another idea would be to ask the computer teacher, if you have one, to allow the kids to take 10-15 minutes at some point during the computer class to post to your blog. This would give the kids an opportunity to practice their keyboarding skills while at the same time giving you a chance to incorporate blogging in your teaching. It would be helpful to have the kids prepared to respond to a particular post so that they could use their blogging time effectively.