Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thing 23 - So long, farewell, auf weidersehen goodbye

Completing 23 Things is definitely bittersweet. Bitter because now is the time to say goodbye to this wonderful project. But it is sweet since I now have been exposed to many different Web 2.0 tools that will expand my horizons not only as a teacher but as a person in this rapidly changing tech world.

I really enjoyed doing everything even if I ended up not liking the application, such as Twitter. Learning and exploring all the Things was not only very informative but lots of fun. My favs were probably Thing 14: VoiceThread, Thing 15: Screencasting, Thing 16: Widgets, Thing 19: Podcasts, Thing 22: Self Discovery.

The best thing about this project is now I can go out there and discover the many, many other "Things".

Probably my least favorite aspect of this was the physical writing of the blog. Writing is more of a challenge for me and I much prefer just going out and discovering the tools. But I understand the reason for doing it.

I would definitely do another one of these projects and would be happy to say "Hallo wieder"

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thing 22 - LooGix Gifs Online Photo Frames
I very much enjoyed this "Thing" - looking at many of the Web 2.0 applications available to use in cyberspace. I really enjoyed perusing the many Web 2.0 tools on There are hundreds to discover. I looked at maybe thirty or so and when more time opens up I plan on exploring the many others. I felt like a kid in a candy store with all the cool choices out there. I chose to do a animated gif program from LooGix.

This is a perfect example of a Web 2.0 program. A user friendly application that you don't have to download onto your computer in order to facilitate. In the past making an animated gif required an expensive program that had animated gif capabilities in it such as Fireworks or buying a program that would solely do animated gifs for a hefty price. Then there would be a learning curve trying to figure out how to make that animated gif with said program. With LooGix it's free and simple. You just upload some pics to the webpage, click a button and viola' - you have your gif. Can't be easier than that. I would definitely recommend this tool to others and am going to use it again.

Thing 21 - Tweety, Tweets and Twitter

Sorry, but I just can't get into Tweets and Twitter. I like it just about as much as I like Tweety Bird - which is not at all. I always rooted for Sylvester the Cat, hoping that one day he would catch that annoying Serinus canaria.

Last year I took a class at the school on Twitter. At first I thought it was a pretty good idea. I looked at some peoples twitter accounts and they seemed pretty good. The exchange was all about useful information such as new tech gadgets out there or teaching techniques. But this is the exception. The rule seems to be people reporting on information that would make Narcissus think they were self-centered. Information that people think other people would care about. Who thinks they are so important that everyone cares what they are doing every five minutes. Who has time to read all of these things?

It seems that twitter is a popularity contest like facebook is. How many twitter followers someone gets is akin to how many facebook friends someone has.

To me this is where the tech thing has gone overboard. Just like when I go out and see a group of friends all sitting together but not saying one word to each other. They are too busy texting and tweeting. It's like they forgot how to have a normal conversation.

I know I sound like an old man at the start of the 1900's who is still pro-horse and buggy and anti-auto. And I probably will one day say tweeting is the greatest thing ever. But for now I'll be an old fogey about it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thing 20 - Presentations 2.0

When I first looked at the science presentations on SlideShare I have to say I was very disappointed. Many seemed to be "books on slides". Just ugly Powerpoint slides with nothing but lots and lots of text. After seeing all of the other cool stuff on this 23Things project it really paled. My MTV brain couldn't focus on them.

After sifting through many of these bad ones I found the following presentation titled "Chemistry Living and Systems: 123.101 Lecture 1". Now the title itself is enough to drive anyone away screaming including myself - a chemistry teacher. And it had 93 slides. Ugh. I thought "This is going to be the worst presentation ever". And to validate my thoughts I had to click on it and see just how horrible it is.

But, I was wrong. This was a great slide show! It answers the too-often asked question "Why do we have to learn chemistry?" and it does it in a way that Powerpoints should be made - quick, visually stimulating, humorous, informative and creative.

I think SlideShare can be a fine way to get a nice presentation, provided you can sift through the much of the sub par ones. But perhaps an even better idea is that when our students are to make a Powerpoint they can be required to post it to SlideShare. This would really push them to make a great one since the whole world can see it, not just the teacher.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thing 19 - Podcasting

Podcasting is a great way for learning. At first you may think that just having auditory deprives you of the visual portion that we all need. But what it does is forces you to imagine and create a picture of what is going on. It actually increases your attention whereas with both sound and picture ones mind might more easily wander.

The podcast that really sparked my interest was one on Einstein's famous equation E=mc2. The sight of this equation creates a strong magnetic pull for any science-o-phile. NOVA has 10 of the world's top physicists (including 2 Nobel Prize winners) describing the equation to the non-scientist type. You can listen to it here .

This definitely has inspired me to subscribe to podcasts. And I know as time goes on there will be more and more selections. These I can give to my classes to listen to with some questions or other assignment attached. Perhaps I or my students can make their own podcasts with activities that go along with it. There are lots of possibilities out there.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thing 18 - Documentating Life using a Wiki

As mentioned in my last post, we of the troglodyte ilk have recorded our thoughts, visions, history, etc by painting on our abode's walls. Now wiki's have taken the place of cave paintings - or as Thag likes to say "Wiki's are the cave paintings of the 21st century".

For this exercise we get to contribute to history by writing on our own cave wall - ASH' Sandbox. I chose this easy version because I don't feel I have enough knowledge at the moment to contribute to any Wikipedia entry on ASH or any other topic. The process of writing to the any of the given options are easy but it's just the knowledge part that is difficult. And actually, coming up with 5 favorite TV shows was a tad challenging. There are so many to chose from.

In class I could have the students do something like "Welker's Wikinomics" but do it with a science topic. I could do an even simple one like the AP calculus wiki "Small Stones". This idea can be applied to any class. For example Chemistry can have students write the daily lesson on a wiki. And the really neat thing about wiki's is that we can invite students from around the world to contribute. Yes, things have come a long way since writing on walls.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thing 17 - Reading History through Wikis

Where I come from, people share stories, information and history by painting on cave walls. Now most people use wikis. Wikis are an amazing tool that people from everywhere can contribute to a knowledge base.

What was life like before wikipedia? I often wonder about the impact of this wiki and how much people rely on it for information. The wikis I looked at spurred some ideas that, like all the other 23 Things, are going to take more time to marinate in my Neanderthal brain on how I will use it in class.

I use wikis all the time to gather information. I rely on them immensly, particulary Wikipedia. If I need to know some more about a chemical or other science topic I go right to Wikipedia. I couldn't imagine having to look some of this information up in a "book". The idea is so old school to me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Вещь 16 - Холодные инструменты для вашего блога

Thanks to all of these cool widgets and gadgets I can now communicate with the millions of foreign language speakers who have been dying to read my "23 Things" blog. Once I put in my translation gadget a collective cheer rang out across the globe.

I already had a widget (a wildley successful poll) on my blog, but I went in search of another. Most all of the gadgets or widgets I saw were pretty fun. I first put in a "countdown until schools out" widget, but it looked a bit cheap so I left it out. The site I went to had some great ones but those that I really liked required a fee. I could see paying for them if I had a commercial website.

But I can see that many widgets are just distractions, even though they are pretty cool and fun. I almost got caught up in putting on a cat that followed your mouse, and a colorful game and a magic 8 ball, but they really don't serve a purpose for my blog. An important point in designing a web site is just because it is cool and can be done - doesn't mean it should be done. It has to be appropriate to the blog - like my translation tool. I now expect to be flooded with "thank you" emails from Moscow to Kyoto from those who can now read my blogging in their native language. You're welcome.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thing 15 - Screencasting; Easier than Ever

Way back if you wanted to capture something you did on the computer, then you would get out your video camera and record it. But now things are much different. I know I am sounding like a broken record but I am continually amazed at how much easier tech things are now.

Screencasting is one of those things that have gotten so easy and inexpensive. I remember when Camtasia was really the only screencasting tool. And it cost a bundle and often times it didn't work. Now we have Screencast-o-matic along with others that make it an easily used tool that is cost effective. It's so easy you can almost just figure it out for yourself how to use it. And it's cost effective because its FREE!

[*Note - one problem I did experience was when I copied and pasted the "tiny" size embedded code into the html it wouldn't play. I had to change the code from np=1 to np=0.]

I can immediately see a use for this as a teacher. For example doing chemistry, physics or math problems for students that were absent, didn't get understand it the first time or just need a refresher. This then can be posted to the teachers website or they can be saved as an MP4, flash, or posted on YouTube whatever. They can even be put on the last "Thing" we did - "VoiceThread" so students can comment on it and ask questions.

Thing 14 - Voice coming in loud and clear

I have to say how wowed I am with VoiceThread. I think it is pretty awesome. It is yet another thing I have never heard of. And another thing that can be used in many aspects of life, let alone class. My head is spinning with all the possibilities. Some examples that I saw on VoiceThread were where a teacher created a lesson that students commented on. One where a student did a lesson where others commented on. I saw examples where people from across the globe came together.

It would be cool if we could do it on a smaller scale at ASH by participating in a lesson with other Sacred Heart Network Schools.

This is another tool I would love to use, but like with many of the previous tools I have been shown in this "23 Things" journey, I would need to really sit down and spend a good deal of time reviewing everything we did and then seeing what I can do with them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thing 13 - YouTube

I watch YouTube all the time, but usually for the music videos. The kinds we used to see on MTV when the M stood for music, not moronic. I usually try to avoid the amateur videos. But I have to say that there are some great amateur videos put on YouTube for educational purposes. I really liked the chemistry demos for a variety of reasons.
1. I can get ideas for class.
2. I can see how these demos are done. If there is only written instructions for a demo I can't always picture what is going on.
3. I can show these things to the class if I don't have the equipment, supplies or if it is too dangerous to do in class, such as dropping a chunk of cesium in a bucket of water.

One video I like and which is applicable is the following on creating Hydrogen gas and coincidentally it is called "Chemistry Experiment 13 - Hydrogen Balloon" which is quite appropriate since this is "Thing 13".

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thing 12 - Web 2.0 Tools

I really enjoyed Thing 12. I got to see many of the wild and crazy things out there. Most I have never heard of. I took my picture and put it in a BeFunky Impressionist view. You can see the results on the left. BeFunky Impressionist
With many of these Web 2.0 tools you can accomplish the same thing if you are a master of photoshop, but why spend the time if you don't have to? It's much easier and faster to just go to these sites and plug your picture in and - viola'- you have a master piece. Using these tools you can become much more productive as you don't have to spend time trying to figure out how to do something in a program such as photoshop, as mentioned before. In the mid-90's I used a program called Fractal Painter that would take me hours and hours to do something like this. I should have waited 15 years and then I could have just done the same thing in seconds with BeFunky and the other mentioned web tools.
Students and teachers both could beneifit with using these. They could really give a kick and snaz up their presentations/ lessions/projects with these tools. And with today's Lady Ga Ga generation a lot of it is about the visual presentation. And importantly they could spend most of their time on research and information.

Thing 11 - Social Bookmarking and Tagging

Tagging isn't what it used to be. 20 years ago if I said "I'm going tagging", the fuzz would be on me before I could say "krylon". Nowadays it takes on a totally different connotation. Tags are, as of now, I think the best way to organize information about websites out there. I can't tell you how many times I have favorited something, only to do the following:
1. Completely forget about them.
2. Lose them in a myraid of other bookmarks.
3. Don't know what the heck they are for
4. Be overwhelmed by all of them
5. Waste time by all of their confusion.
Even if I organized them into folders, they just seemed like such a pain to find and figure out. I pretty much gave up on bookmarking and would only put the absolute "required" on my menu bar. But even then I don't use them. I am almost "afraid" to do it for fear of "going into the abyss of the bookmarks". With tagging and Deliscious, I am excited because now I can use the web as it should be used - as a resource of immense information.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thing 10 - Mashups should be on your Radar

Mashups should definitely be on your radar, especially if you are doing research. Mashups are a way to look at different ideas by combining them. It's a great way to bring together API's such as google, youtube, flickr, twitter, etc.

Here is a neat example where you can map all your friends using the API's of facebook, google maps and amazon - . With this mashup I am able to see how close Thag's cave is to mine and how many days walk it is to Trog's place without separately typing in their addresses.

There's a great site in which you can look at almost 5000 mashups out there, you can submit your own and even learn how to do one yourself (provided you know some coding). You can search mashup's by topic and if you chose one they will also give you some related ones. It's fun to check this site out. There are some of the pretty cool mashups out there. Lots of ingenuity and creativity. You can seriously spend eons going from one mashup to the next.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thing 9 - Say Cheese

Now everyone can have their pictures seen by the public, not just press photograhpers. With Flicker et al you have ways in which to share photos with everyone you want (and complete strangers) for eras to come without spending a cent. And you can have these same people (and complete strangers) critic your pictures and you can do the same.

In education students and teachers can search these sites for different pictures needed for a report/project/lesson, etc. I can also see a whole class uploading pictures using a common account. Then each student can upload some photos and the whole class can comment on them. For example, an art class can contrast and compare the cave paintings of Spain with that of France.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thing 8 - Flakes are Good Things to Have

I never would have thought having flakes would be a good thing. But it is. Pageflakes that is. Pageflake is a way to build a customized start page. There are others of these out there, but I think Pageflakes are head and shoulders above the rest.

With Pageflakes I can have all the important information that I like all on one page - news headlines, weather, wikipedia, calculator, calendar, word of the day, travel, maps, to-do lists, local news feeds, unit converters. All of these things are the flakes. They come in a little box that I can put anywhere I want on the web page.

There are hundreds of these flakes that I can put on my page. I didn't have time to browse through all of the choices. But once I do, I can really see a nice repertoire of items. So when time permits I plan on getting more and more flakes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thing 7 - Settling Down for Serious Reading

With RSS/Google Reader one can do some serious continuous reading and do it with absolutely minimal effort. Instead of going out into the cold world of the internet and hunting down a blog, that blog now can come into the comfort of our very own home page. And we can read multiple blogs while on one web page, never having to venture out to another page.

It's like instead of going out to the store and buying Time, Newsweek, Christian Science Monitor, these magazines are all delivered to your house as one book. You just have to turn the pages. It's so easy.

I do see some negatives with the RSS/Google Reader.

1. I just can't help feeling that RSS/Google Reader is helping us evolve toward being an even lazier species. We used to have to expend serious energy searching the internet for all the blogs we wanted to read. Now they are all at our doorstep. It makes things too easy for us.

2. With a reader you can't see each individual webpage. You don't get to see the overall presentation of it, thus the character of the person behind it. You just get words. It's like the old record albums had the character of the band you were listening to. Now you just have music on an ipod that you never get to "hold"in your hands.

3. Now there is more and more stuff to read. Blog information overload.

HOWEVER. I must say as I came to my home page today, I have to admit it was very nice just to scroll down and look at all of the updates to the blogs I have subscriptions to.

I guess I have mixed feelings about it. I'll just have to read up on it some more.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thing 6 - Ning is Cool, man...Crazy Cool

I dig Ning. Ning is a cool cat. Ning also sounds cool. I appreciate how it's a one syllable word - easy to pronounce.

I had never heard about Ning before doing "23 Things", but after looking through the site I can see a huge potential for it. It's the next step in the evolution of the social network. Five years ago MySpace was hip. Now only the australopithecine types use it. Facebook is the trendy thing now, but soon it will follow the steps of homo habilis - extinct. Whereas I won't get a facebook account, I will definitely sign up for a Ning account after more research. There's so much Ning has to offer. Ning connects people with similar interests and allows you to put up a site of your own which could be something that you are passionate about, a hobbie, something you want to sell, buy, etc. I can see a class creating it where they can put up projects or if there is a certain cause the class is working on it can use it to connect with other people in the world. Such as if a class is working on Neanderthals (a worthy subject), it can create a site, upload videos, blogs, info and have people from all over communicating with each other.

Ning is something I am going to really look into. I need to step away now and absorb it all. There are so many possibilities that my smaller brain is pounding hard against my sagittal crest.

Thing 5 - A Linked Network

It seems like LinkedIn has been around forever. People usually come upon a LinkedIn account by accident. Maybe, hypothetically, they have googled someone from their past. They want to see a picture and all the pertinent information, but the only thing that pops up is some LinkedIn account. And there never seems to be any worthwhile information - "So and So is in the Buisiness field". La dee da. How is someone with multiple restraining orders supposed to get information from LinkedIn? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

But going over the training activity gave me a new insight to LinkedIn. I do see it as a valuable resource. It's not just something that lists one's profession. I see it now as a networking tool with many positive advantages. You can actually build a business network and make contacts with people in your field and people that share the same interests. I did a group search for science teachers and joined NSTA which has great articles, ideas and contacts. Interestingly the very first article listed was about students with computers lead to higher performance.

So now I know I will be on LinkedIn much more - searching for information that will help me with my career, education, teaching and interests and finding people from my past. Hypothetically.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thing 3 & Thing 4 - Thinking about Blogging

Reading through the assigned blogs I notice a few contrasts with standard writing that really stand out to me.
1. The voices of the authors really come out. You can really "hear" who the authors are and what their personalities are.
2. The passion is really evident. They seem to really care about what they are writing about. This makes sense as why would someone spend time on their own personal blog unless they had to.
In reading .
3. Standard writing rules and etiquette are bent some. The authors don't need to follow a typical 3-paragraph format or grammar rules. They can be much less formal in their writing - a more casual approach that is acceptable and maybe even accepted.

Blog reading is quick and fast. It's meant to be. The writing is succinct and easy to read. It's supposed to be. It's written on the fly and read on the fly. As noted before, when writing the blog the emotions of the author come pouring out and thus it's more like talking. So reading is more like listening.

Commenting and reading comments on blogs is what makes blogging meaningful and interactive. It makes the post more meaningful when people are reading the authors thoughts. It also will cause the author to be more passionate and thorough in their presentation because they know many people of many different views are reading and will be commenting. It's not like writing for just one teacher or for a group of like minded people that you might find in a journal. Comments give the author and reader feedback. As I read comments I get important perspectives to the blog. It lets me know that there are people out there with differing or similar positions. The comments help me understand and see new things.

All of these things I have written on are really evident on On Dy/Dan's blog about assigning homework. I can hear Dan's voice and his passion come out. His writing is easy to read and it is though I am in his classroom listening to it. And obviously it is a hot topic because there are 240 comments on the subject. The comments helped me solidify and clarify my opinion on the subject matter, but also helped me see new points on the topic.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thing 2 - What do I look forward to in "23 Things"?

As I peruse the list of 23 things, I must admit it brings a smile to my face. I look forward to everything on the list. Even things I know about already such as YouTube, I am figuring that I will learn much more from the tutorials than I already know. So I am looking forward to learning about all the 23 things on this list, even if I learn only one little thing or at the very least if something I have already learned is reinforced, I will consider it a success. I also look forward to being able to go at my own pace and am eagerly awaiting the next "thing" to work on!

Thing 1 - Why 23 Things?

One might think the sole reason to do this 23 things activity is to get my required tech hours in. Or to win that cool prize of a USB/MP3 player. But I feel learning this technology becomes more important than doing something because I have to or getting something for it. The world of technology is moving at breakneck speed and we all need to be on board not so we're at the cutting edge, but so that we can just keep up.

As a teacher, it is important to not only be able to keep up with our students but also to be able to incorporate all of these new technologies in our education system. Students are always connected, the world is now connected so we need to be as well.

I look forward to learning these new ways of connecting as I go through "23 Things".