Tk34’s Weblog
The Trials of a ‘Rookie’ Blogger

Apr
16

This is my last ‘official’ blog for my EC&I 831 course. I am not sure I have ever said this (when it came to any Undergraduate or Graduate Course) but I am disappointed it is over. Of course I am happy that I am one class closer to my Masters degree (I guess I am making an assumption that I will pass) but this course has been amazing. Here’s why.

(1) My Instructor. Dr Alec Couros provided me with the opportunity (through this class) to professionally develop like no professional development I have ever received as an educator. To me this was not a class! When I took my Education degree, I can truly say I did not learn a lot of real practical stuff from my classes. I learned more in my Internship than I did in the years of classes I took. Why? I had to ‘live it’! I was a teacher. I had to plan, deliver lessons, deal with classroom management issues, talk to parents, deal with extra-curricular responsibilities, create report card marks, explain to parents and justify why their child received a 56% in math, and sometimes, fly by the seat of my pants . . . this was real. The classes I took did not truly prepare me for the complexity of the education profession I was about to enter . . . my Internship did! I was ‘thrown to the wolves’ and had to find a way to survive. To some degree, EC&I 831 reminded me of my Internship experience. Dr. Couros threw me to the wolf that was technology. I had to live it. For this, I thank him. What do I mean . . . consider my past week. . .

I spent time with three of my colleagues teaching them the basics of Moodle. They came to me when they saw how I was implementing it with my classes. Another colleague came to me and I helped her set up a VoiceThread for her English 8 class. I helped my secretary create a Jing screencast for her ‘temp’ that is coming in for her next week explaining how to update our announcement page. Tomorrow we are doing a couple more Jing screencasts to help assist her replacement. I created videos for my math class on Angle Geometry to help them review. I had 6 parents thank me for doing this because they were able to watch the videos and assist their child in studying. I just got home from school where I created a screencast for my Math class reviewing Polygons and Perimeter . . . they will watch this tomorrow to start off class while I attend a parent meeting and can’t be there. These are just some of the skills that I never would be able to do without this class. I ‘had to’ learn them . . . (the whole ‘wolf thing’) but my experience is benefiting so many people. Thanks to Dr. Couros, I am well on my way to ‘Dancing with the Wolves’.

(2) My classmates. As a tech rookie, they were very supportive. I learned so much from their expertise and knowledge. They were very giving of their time and whenever I had a problem, I knew that I would receive support (technological or moral) from them. Although I never personally met any of them, I feel like I know them. I know that if I ever need anything, I can call on them . . . for this I thank them.

(3) The guest presenters. These individuals (too many of them to list) provided me the motivation to ‘do it’ . . . to embrace technology and its potential. To change my thinking of education and the teaching of students. Following every Tuesday night presentation, I wanted to learn and do a bit more. Thanks to them for getting me headed in the right direction.

Although this is my last ‘official blog’, I will continue to blog and I will continue on my technological journey. For those of you out there, reluctant to ‘give technology a try’, I encourage you to do so. Jump in with both feet. You will encounter some pitfalls along the way, but there are so many supports out there, you just need to find them. I encourage you to visit our EC&I 831 Wiki for a starting spot. You will find, under the Participant Directory, a group of people who are tremendous. You will also find links to some of the fantastic things they are doing with technology. I also encourage you to look at the collaborative Wiki that our class created (I say this with a ‘grain of salt’ . . . my classmates made great contributions, I did what I could!!). There is so much information there about the technologies at your disposal. This resource has been much of my inspiration, hopefully it will inspire you. I also encourage you to subcribe to the blogs of my classmates, the ones found in my blog. Their postings are inspirational and educational. Their postings continued to ‘drive my journey’ during this course.

To Dr. Couros, I look forward to any classes you might be instructing in the future. You can be sure that my name will be on your class list. To my classmates, the best of luck to you. Thanks for all you support. I greatly appreciate it. To my classmates that are wrapping up their Masters with the conclusion of 831, congratulations. You couldn’t have ended with a better class. Keep in touch, you can be sure I will be continually keeping up with what you guys are doing and learning from your expertise and passion.

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Apr
15

I am looking for some assistance from all you Jing experts out there. Here is my scenario. I am a bit of a rookie with Jing, but am using it more and more. I recently got my school computer replaced and downloaded Jing onto it without problems. When I attempted to make a video, it was super-slow. The cursor was flashing and when I went to open files, it took forever.

I remember having this problem on a different computer and I got a message giving me instructions to solve the problem, however, I don’t remember what they were. Here is what I remember.

It was in your program menu and it was an ‘Advanced’ button that when you opened, you ‘slid’ an arrow from one side (can’t remember what it was) to the other (which I think was ‘None’). Does this a ring a bell out there? Until I solve this problem, I am ‘Jingless’. Please offer some troubleshooting methods for me if you have any suggestions. Thanks.

Apr
09

Why did WordPress have to change things?  Just when you are getting familiar with a program, they go and make things ‘look’ different ‘behind the scenes’!!

I had a real tough time embedding the video from the last post.  I copied the embed code from YouTube and pasted it into my post . . . saved . . . and it would not work.  I do not know what I actually did to get it to embed properly.  The video finally appeared after I selected ‘edit’ (for the fifteenth time) but the text was missing . . . a blank screen!  I hit save and . . . voila!  Anyone else having troubles or can offer a suggestion of two??

Apr
04

Our school had some professional development in Moodle.  It is the platform that the division has adopted and encouraged teachers to experiment with and use.  Our school has decided to use it for our homework page so one of the division tech coordinators came to give the inservice . . . basics . . . just enough to get teachers started in creating a link to their classes and how to add and edit content when necessary.  I have been using Moodle for my EC&I major digital project and am somewhat familiar with it.

Throughout the session, many of my colleagues were asking questions.  Some the tech coordinator could not answer . . .but . . . I could!  After the session, the coordinator assumed that I had been instructed how to perform some of the features . . . my response was ‘no’!  I learned through experimentation.

After the session, a couple of our part time teachers (who missed the inservice) came to me to ask about how to use Moodle and the homework page . . . they were directed to me by staff members because ‘I knew what was going on’.  After explaining to two different teachers where to ‘click’, I took 5 minutes and created a seperate class in Moodle for staff tutorials and created a Jing screencast with the ‘directions’ and linked it to the Moodle page.

I have been asked now, to do other screencasts and add them to this tutorial page . . . how to use the gradebook, how to do attendance, etc.  ‘You are taking a leadership role’ were the words that came out of my principal’s mouth.  Who would have thought!!

Apr
03

Well I had my first experience with Jing the last couple of days.  Talk about the lowest of lows . . . and the highest of highs.  I downloaded it onto my school office computer (“The Jalopy”) and created a summary of my digital project for my EC&I 831 class.  All seemed to work well.  Until I went to play the video.  I got audio (for about 10 seconds) and a screen with really nice vertical pinky-orange stripes before ‘the jalopy’ froze.  I wasn’t sure if it was ‘the jalopy’s’ fault or mine (techno-rookie using brand new program).

I wondered if the video played ‘ok’ but just not on the jalopy.  I called a few people late last night (unfortunately they drive a souped up jalopy) so this was not very telling for me.  They also felt ‘warmed’ by the vibrant stripes on my screencast.

I sent a call out to my EC&I classmates and I got some immediate and great feedback . . . thanks guys.  You have been extremely supportive the entire class and I know I have some people out there that can help me in the future . . . isn’t that called a network??  Anyways, some suggested ‘the jalopy’ might be the problem, others were not sure . . . even baffled!  I was not surprised that this would happen to me. 

I am the guy who had a computer turn a 25 page undergraduate paper into a (I kid you not) . . . . . . . . 23 000+ page paper by merely hitting the save key.  No kidding, pages 11 through 21 wrapped themselves continuously until the document was 23 000 pages.  It took me 11 hours to find pages 1 through 10 and 22 to 25.  They were stuck in the middle of the 23 000 pages!! (Hindsight, I could have re-written the paper quicker . . . but ‘I was not doing it again’!!)  Bad things happen to me when we are talking about computers.

I was able to find a newer computer at my school . . . a Cadillac (so to speak) on a portable cart and things are good!!!  I also had the fortune of the tech guys visiting my school today and guess what . . . I am gettin’ a ‘Caddy’ for my office!  Who says ranting and raving doesn’t get you what you want!!  Looks like the old ‘jalopy’ has served it’s tour of duty and is getting discharged . . . thank goodness!!

I am still learning about Jing but I have used it a couple of times and it is a tool I see as very valuable.  I will provide you with the link for my Digital Project Summary.  I am sure you can directly embed it into a blog (somehow) but I am still learning.

http://www.screencast.com/users/Kelln-Content/folders/Jing/media/9a9d5c01-a068-4ab3-a055-85e45976281a

Apr
01

Here is an update on some of the things I have been doing.

The biggest part of my project is my Science 6 Moodle Page. With our present unit in mind (Earthquakes and Volcanoes) I have been adding different components to it including embedding of videos, links to various websites and documents, and attempting to make the sections ‘self-sufficient’ (students could do the required components if they were not able to attend . . . everything they would need they could access through the Moodle Page) however some documents are copies and not available electronically, therefore unable to be linked to. I am not sure if there is a way around this or not, may be there are some suggestions. This has been challenging but the students seem to enjoy the ‘freedom’.

Within 2 sections (Plate Tectonics and Earthquake Damage) I have introduced two Voicethreads. The Plate Tectonics one is ‘ready to go’ and the students will be starting this week. I used Muppet characters for all of the students so as not to worry about posting their faces online. Most students got a laugh out of the character they were assigned. This is my first attempt at Voicethread and should be interesting. The students seem excited and ready to go. I will look to finish the Earthquake Damage one as we get closer to doing it.

I have also attached a blog to the Moodle for communication with students and parents. Some students have commented, but since the Easter break, my communication with students has been decreased. I have attempted to keep things light hearted and funny on this blog. I will often comment on the day and attach a funny picture or animation video for a laugh. The kids enjoy this part. I also try to send a ‘message’ to them with regard to how things are going in the school . . . a proactive approach to trouble-shooting some of the trends that the school sees annually!!

I also experimented with Animoto. I used pictures from home and created a few videos . . . even subscribed because I liked the tool so much. I did attempt to embed it into my student blog, but Animoto does not directly ‘link’ to WordPress. I had trouble trying to figure out what I could do differently . . . I ended up sending it to YouTube and then was able to embed. This was a process I never would have been able to do months ago . . . I am learning!!

The best thing about this process is that I am introducing the technologies to my students and they are trying them on their own, and more importantly . . . talking. Staff has come to me to inquire about the ‘things they hear’ about my class. I have had one teacher begin experimenting with Voicethread and another come to inquire about Animoto (for graduation videos). It has been empowering . . . I am a bit of a ‘go to guy’ in our school!! I also find myself excited about the technologies and looking to incorporate it and promote it wherever and whenever I can. I see my staff seeing the potential and this is a huge step in the right direction.

Here is my Animoto video. I hope you enjoy it. Please check out my Moodle page, ‘other blog’, and Voicethread. I know it is very modest (compared to other projects in the class) but I feel as though I have come a long way in attitude toward technology and in my ability to use it.

Mar
31

Well, I was catching up on many of the posts that my classmates have been posting, and I went into Walter’s blog and looked at his video for his digital project. He recommended Voicethread and Animoto. So I thought I would give it a try. So here it goes my last two hours.

I went to Animoto and set up an account (after watching the tutorial) and I thought this would be really neat to put pictures of Earthquakes and their damage to music (for my digital project) . . . kids like pictures, damage, and music!!! This will be a real hit with my science 6 class. I went to Flickr to get pictures and clicked on many (50 or so) as favorites (thinking they would be of use). Animoto told me I had no pictures in Flickr (after the fact) so I spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out how to upload them. I ended up subscribing to my ‘Flickr Favorites’ to my Google Reader account and was able to upload a few (6). The other pictures in Google Reader would not show!! Flickr sent a message saying that if this occurs, it will often be resolved in 24-48 hours . . . I will keep you posted!! At this point I said “enough with Animoto . . . not enough pictures” and went to Voicethread.

It an set up account, watched a tutorial or two, tried to find a picture (of the 6 I had successfully uploaded to Flickr) and it still would not ‘find / show’ me any of my pictures from Flickr (when I uploaded from Flickr). I am not sure how to solve this problem? So I uploaded from my computer one of the pictures and wrote some text . . . microphone not working at home computer!! I am now attempting to embed into WordPress. Wish me luck!! I am hoping to use this in my digital project with my students.

I am done. It did not work!! I can’t seem to embed my thread any way I try. On my thread there is no link to download WordPress Plug-in (which allows to embed thread on WordPress. Not sure why it isn’t there!! Help anyone. Thanks.

Mar
31

I experienced yet another ‘shot of adrenaline’ with regards to the importance and potential technology can offer education. My EC&I class had the privilege of Chris Lehmann as a guest speaker On Wednesday, March 25th. Chris is the Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and this school and it’s students are very fortunate to have him.

Chris is very passionate about technology’s place in education and is the leader of a cutting edge school that models itself around its implementation in every aspect of schooling. The staff, timetable, resources . . . everything fosters a learning environment that promotes and embraces technology.

This was a very inspirational discussion from a very passionate man. I found myself (at many times throughout his discussion) nodding my head in agreement, constantly (albeit silently) commending him for the steps he has taken, the barriers he has overcome, and his perseverance and commitment to making it happen. He is someone that we can all learn from and aspire to be like. Our schools would be better places for it. Thanks Chris.

If you want to be inspired, I strongly encourage you to listen to the Elluminate recording of the session with Chris. It will be well worth your time.

Mar
26

My blog has been neglected!! I am finding (once again) that there are not enough hours in the day to ‘keep up’. It has been a while since I last blogged but I have many ideas in my head. I am like a ‘bad student’! I have quite a few blogs partially done (those ideas that I have) but not finished!! Thankfully, I have some time to finish a couple right now.

I have spent a lot of time the last little while reading my classmates blogs, with great interest. I have enjoyed being a ‘passive learner’ by taking a backseat to blogging and reading and commenting on their blogs. I have found this to be an excellent way to consider topics from a variety of perspectives. Although many of the topics are similar in nature, their personal thoughts are very insightful. I find myself talking to myself, agreeing and disagreeing with many of their postings, however respecting and learning from their point of view. If anything, I have learned to see things through someone else’s eyes.

Secondly, I have spent much more time on ‘the other blog‘!! ‘The other blog’ is part of my major digital project . . . I have tried to keep up with it because it is the blog that my students tune into. I know they are an impressionable audience and I feel obligated to continually write to them. I can’t be hypocritical and encourage them to embrace the potential of technology if I don’t model. They have been relatively receptive, but I would like to get more out of their responses. I guess the fact that some are responding to my postings and many have started their own blogs is a step in the right direction. I do feel as though I am making some progress.

I spent some time (through parent-teacher interviews) introducing my digital project to the parents of my students. I toured them through my science 6 class and blog in hopes that they would become a more integral part of the school, my class, and their child’s education. The response was overwhelmingly positive, however, I have not received any feedback beyond the initial introduction.

I am, however, enjoying the journey. I have learned a lot about technology and have embraced the theories behind its effectiveness and how it can positively shape today’s learners and schools. I know it is a tough sell in the school setting. It was a tough sell for me!! Reminds me of the Rocky IV movie . . . the speech Rocky gives the Russian crowd after he beat Drago in the fight . . . “If I can change” speech. Although it is in a boxing (war) context, if ‘we all can change’ (from an embracing technology stand-point) , education will be a better place!!

Mar
26

As a self-proclaimed technological ‘rookie’, I experienced a very interesting discussion on March 18th in my EC&I 831 class. I listened to Brian Lamb and D’Arcy Norman discuss many issues . . . most of which I did not understand!! I really felt ‘over my head’ (so to speak) with regards to much of their discussion. I was introduced to jargon such as repositories, metadata, granular (to name a few) that really left me scratching my head. They discussed many very important points that when I attempted to sift through the jargon, made complete sense to me and got me thinking.

They mentioned the term “choice fatigue”. The fact there are so many different options (programs / softwares / online tools etc) for users to use, there can be an sense of being overwhelmed with it all. This is a concept that I have experienced throughout this class. I have been introduced to so many programs and technological terms that my head has spun on many occasions. The key message from the presenters is to remember is that you cannot understand and master them all. Experiment with them, select one (or two, or a few . . . what you can handle) that suits your needs and run with it. Take it for a ‘test drive’ and if it works, great!! If not, go back to the drawing board.

This is something I can assure you works. I have dabbled with a few technologies and have returned to the drawing board a few times. Before this class started, I used e-mail and Microsoft Word (on a good day I would try Power Point!!). Today, my ‘tool-kit’ (compared to 2 1/2 months ago) is over-flowing.

Although modest to many of you, I have two blogs, a Moodle page for my Science 6 class, subscribe to many other blogs and manage them through Google Reader, have created a You-Tube video, introduced SmartBoard Technology into my classes, and have started to create and implement even more flexible learning opportunities for my students through my Moodle page (just to name a few). Before listening to D’Arcy and Brian, I was asking myself, ‘I am doing enough’? I think that I am!

I will (most likely) never be as ‘connected’ as others, but for me, I have taken a giant step!! Thanks D’Arcy and Brian for your very simple, yet effective advice.