Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Thanks for your patience, my friends, as I worked through this particular "thing." Actually, this particular assignment was not that taxing; in fact, it was pretty simple. Now don't get all excited about my end product: it is pretty ragged around the edges, but talk about user-friendly! The whole process from downloading the software to publishing the screencast was remarkably... pleasant! There were no quirks or hitches or glitches or jumbles that might otherwise entrap and discourage the gentle user. (Unlike Promethean's Activboard software...Yes, I'm still caught up in that quagmire!)
You know, that last comment should be taken out of parentheses; quite to the opposite, it should probably be in bold print. You see, my dealings with the Promethean pits of hell have quite colored any other technological adventures that I have undertaken this week. I sat through six hours of activboard training, thinking that I knew what was going on, and then once on my own - poof! - anything that I might have learned was rendered useless by what I forgot, and there is no one to help me. Yes, there are links a-plenty, and videos galore, and templates that can be downloaded, but none of them are really that helpful, nor do they directly answer the questions that I have, and they are slow and cause your computer to freeze, and I want to have all of my school stuff done by July 1 so that I can spend the remaining summer months school free, and...
...big pause for breath... and that is why I was so impressed with the screenshot software offered by Wink. It was welcoming to the new user, easy to install, simple to operate, and immediately gratifying in outcome. Promethean, eat your heart out!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
To me, the bigger question will be whether the educational establishment will ever embrace mobile technology in the classroom. The administrative offices and classrooms of so many schools are still reigned over by people of a certain age and mindset, people who see technology as a novelty instead of a significant icon of the new millennium. As quoted in one of our suggested readings, E.D. Hirsch of cultural literacy fame refers to mobile devices as “technological gadgets.” To refer to emerging technology in such minimizing terms shows a lack of understanding of its true weight and importance in our modern culture. At the risk of repeating myself, I will say again that technology is not going away. Period. You can deny it, resist it, declaim it, decry it, ignore it, bemoan and bewail it, but it is (and I repeat) not going away.
Yes, I know that there are many procedural issues that have to be resolved before this type of handheld technology can be seamlessly integrated into our classrooms – consider the battles that many districts wage with cell phones alone – but we have to quit considering these applications as the wave of the future and relegating them to mere frivolity.
If our goal is to meet our students where they are, to engage with them, to connect with them on a level that they know and understand, then we’re going to have to put the chalk down and begin scrolling from one screen to the next…
Saturday, June 20, 2009
5:00 a.m. – I’m up finishing the end of Meredith Forester’s Diary of an Ordinary Woman. Dang it – just as the title states: ordinary! Not to mention long...
7:00 – Going out for a run, hoping to beat some of the Houston heat and humidity.
7:50 – Post-run report: five miles, five snakes, one turtle, one rabbit, a gazillion cyclists…
8:45 – Hazel and Joey are here: Everyone should have a lovely British lady for a neighbor.
10:00 – At La Centerra Farmers’ Market – hot pavement is bad for business!
11:00 – What farmers’ market lacks, Campbell’s soup will provide. Mmm, mmm, good!
12:00 –Sobering news is only one phone call away.
2:00 – Happy Anniversary, George and Theda!
4:30 - Distress call from Marjorie: needs groceries and prescriptions.
5:30 – At the grocery store again. Cantaloupes look nice, but two dollars apiece? Is this Kroger or Whole Foods???
7:00 – Nice to cook dinner for someone who really loves to eat!
7:45 – Trying to watch movie with Joe while blogging, but find I can’t multitask. Blog is better than movie…
7:52 – Movie is boring; Joe and Coach have both fallen asleep.
8:00 – Trying to compose some sort of response about Facebook and Twitter. Can’t figure out why people would want to read about the minutia of my life.
8:15 - Still thinking… 8:30 - Still thinking… 8:45 - Still thinking…
9:00 – Just remembered that I spent 7 days reading every excruciating detail of Millicent King’s life. Maybe someone might be interested in the details of my life.
9:01 – Begin mock twit (twitt?)
9:37 – Realize that there might be something to this Twitter stuff…
10:00 - Realize that I have spent far too much time on this post! I must rescind my comments about the length of Forester's work. Some lives will require 385 pages; others, hourly updates.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
On to the point, if there is something I have learned about technology over the last few years, it is that avoiding it will not make things better: one, whatever the application, it is not going away; in fact, it will only be replaced by something more sophisticated and multifunctional, and two, there will come a time when you will be so behind the times that it becomes difficult to catch up. This seems like the perfect place for some axiomatic reminder about the inevitable, but sadly all that comes to mind is Ross Perot’s ill-conceived comment about Texas weather. So, lacking a pithy quote, perhaps an object lesson is more appropriate. Why learn to Skype?
Let me offer in the form of an analogy, my experiences with the MP3 player.: growing up in the era of the Sony Walkman (purchased at Houston Jewelers for nearly 100 dollars in 1984), the concept of portable music was not entirely unheard of, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the MP3 player, mainly the idea of purchasing and downloading music. So I just skipped it, moved on, didn’t concern my pretty little head about it until about three years ago. For those of you needing a history lesson, the iPod was launched in 2001, leaving me roughly 5 years behind the times.
How far behind the times? Well, the MP3 player I purchased at Costco (watch out, I feel another digression coming… I love Costco…) only came with operating instructions, no instructions for downloading music! Of course, my students reassured me that it was easy, all I had to do was “blah, blah” – they might as well spoken Greek.
I suffered through hours of seat time in front of my computer, desperately trying to get the stupid music downloaded before admitting utter defeat, asking for help from anyone who could offer some, and then resorting to Google. And do you know from whence the rescue came? Who offered technology help for the weak, the tired, and the huddled masses? WALMART.COM!!!
Now you can take that anyway you like, but I’ll just say this: when you have to rely on the home of “rollback prices” for your technology savvy, well, that’s pretty sad!
So I’m going to learn to Skype now, no matter all of the unknowns, the difficulties, the distractions. I’m not going back to Walmart!
Although I always though the words "Hey, Mrs. K! I saw you on YouTube last night!" would mean that my checkered past had been exposed (just kidding - I wanted to see if you were paying attention!), I am now growing more and more convinced that video hosting sites are perfectly appropriate mediums for lessons and lectures. Missed class on Tuesday? You can watch a rerun of it on YouTube! Need to see how to solve that calculus problem again? Just search for Mr. X's lessons on teacher tube. Ok, maybe it is a bit ambitious, not to mention unrealistic, to think that any teacher would have a) the time, b) the resources, and c) the inclination to record and post lessons, but wouldn't it be nice? And isn't it something to try, at least once?
Yeah, yeah, I know that there are myriad reasons why it wouldn't, couldn't and shouldn't work, but after Activboard training, skyping, and posting videos all in one week, I feel like now is the time to begin considering, at least in some small part, how to begin using these resources.
And for those of you who remain skeptical, here is one of my favorite articles from last year's 23 Things initiative: "Is it ok for teachers to be technologically illiterate?" http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/ If our students are making videos, uploading them and viewing them with ease, isn't it incumbent upon us at the very least to understand the process and maybe even give it a good old try?
That said, does anyone know how to make a video?
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Though I loved making my book(r), getting my post published has proved quite an ordeal! After an immensely sweaty run this morning, I came in ready to crank out my response. Why the rush, you might ask? Well, certainly not in response to a time crunch, but instead in response to a brain crunch.
When I looked at the options for thing#2, I found myself a bit dismayed -- more image makers? really? Don't get me wrong: they are great fun, and I love anything that combines words, images, and creative license; however, I have wondered about the power of the image maker to do more than just illustrate, a low-level cognitive task. Could an image generator be used for something more critical?
I used Voki and wordle last summer (their vestiges can still be found in the borders of my page), so I decided to just plunge ahead with bookr. And, to test, the "critical" factor, I applied it to one of my year's most challenging lessons, an analysis of Wallace Steven's "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." (Can you hear my students groaning right now? Oh, but look: there are a few of them smiling -- they really did like this assignment!) Anyhoo, one of the ways that we approach this very complex poem is by drawing out each stanza, sketching the images and details, letting some of the pictures come forward while relegating others to the background, all in the effort of seeing what it is that Stevens emphasizes in each stanza.
You ought to hear the conversations that we have: "No, it shouldn't be the blackbird's whole body, just the head and eye against the white mountain so the contrast is really exaggerated." (I live for these days, by the way...) I digress again: my goal with bookr then was to try something more than a mere illustration but to achieve something more complex.
Fortunately, flickr has a wide stock of bird photos, so away I clicked, finding satisfaction with some of the stanzas but more often a disappointment with the produced effect. In most other flickr photos, the birds featured most prominently, although in Stevens' work the bird is often tangential to the subject of the stanza. That proved most difficult to capture. I longed to layer on image over another, to crop and cut and paste and combine, just as my students did with their own sketches.
Anyone who dabbles in the creative process knows that dissatisfaction often accompanies a finished product, so I wasn't too devastated that the result was less stellar than I had hoped. Content to call this thing done, I closed down for the night and planned to write my response this morning.
I wasn't sure what I was going to write, but I envisioned the words "cute, but not critical," featuring prominently in the response. Fortunately while running this morning, it occurred to me that though the outcome was superficial, the thinking that it inspired was indeed more complex. I was forced to admit that the definition my students most often give for imagery, " words used to create a picture in the reader's mind," is so poorly informed. You see, words are not intended as a poor substitute for pictures; indeed, just the opposite is true: pictures are a poor substitute for the words that inspire them, lacking the depth and subtlety that only words possess.
I wouldn't have realized this if I hadn't created my book, and that is critical enough for me!