Edublog Award Nominations

The Edublog nominations are open.  It’s a time to share the best that’s out there and discover some new ones.  I’m thinking many people, including me, will be make some additions to their RSS reader over the next few weeks.  While I’ve read many, many posts in previous years about the nominations from others, I’ve never put a lot of effort into this myself.  Well, that’s about to change.  Below are my nominations for most of the categories – some I skipped, with a few thoughts to follow.

  • Best individual blog: Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension – Pernille Ripp I came across this blog from a fellow Wisconsin educator over a year ago and really enjoy the thought she puts into her posts and her authentic voice.  If you’re not reading it, you’re truly missing out.
  • Best individual tweeter: Shannon Miller Shannon’s always sharing great links and resources.  Whether you’re looking for library resources or ed tech resources, this is it.
  • Best group blog: Discovery Educator Network The DEN is always sharing fantastic resources to assist teachers is using technology in their classrooms.  Teachers from across the country contribute to the space giving the DEN a unique voice.
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog: iLearn Technology This is one of my favorites.  Not only does Kelly Tenkely share a new site or resource, but she gives a great description of the site and also explains how it can be used in the classroom.  Simply outstanding.
  • Most influential blog post: 12 Most Important Ways to Let People Know They Matter by Angela Maiers.  Just read it, it will do you good.
  • Best twitter hashtag: #edchat Just follow the hashtag on a Tuesday and you’ll see why this is the best.
  • Best teacher blog: Geek.Teacher by Dan Callahan – I’m not sure I can pinpoint a specific reason why I nominated this blog.  I just like what Dan shares – experiences from his school, things he’s doing with his students, and information about EdCamps, which he founded.  Regardless, I think this is a blog not to be missed.
  • Best librarian / library blog: Watch.Connect. Read. by John Schumacher.  I only wish every school had a librarian like John.  On John’s blog you will find a lot of information about the books he recommends as well as book trailers and other videos about literature.
  • Best School Administrator blog: Principal of Change by George Couros.  Not only does George share leadership ideas and thought provoking posts, but he’s a great guy as well.  He’s also not afraid to wear manpris.
  • Best free web tool: Wikispaces It’s easy to use, versatile, and allows free educator upgrades.  What more could you ask for?
  • Best educational wiki: Springfield Township School Library Wiki – maintained by Joyce Valenza.  Simply a wealth of information for students and teachers.
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series: Discovery Education Webinars – Discovery always has played an important role in my professional development as well as many of my colleagues.  Discovery Education shares quality webinars presented by great educators.
  • Lifetime achievement: Doug Johnson for his Blue Skunk Blog.  Doug’s been blogging about educational technology, school libraries, and the link between the two for a quite some time.  In fact, he’s been doing it so long, he recycles old posts in a BFTP (Blast From The Past) series.  Fortunately for his readers, the posts are still relevant.

Should Your Head Be In the Clouds?

Cloud Computing.  We are being bombarded with the concept of cloud computing and that can be somewhat confusing.  What is it?  Why use it?  Is it for me?  If you’re thinking about making that leap, which I am, there are options, and while options are usually good, they can often be a little confusing.  Hopefully we can get things clarified here with a little help from others.

What is cloud computing? Basically, cloud computing is storing your documents and data in cyberspace.  No longer are the documents stored on your local computer or device.  Instead, the items are stored on a server somewhere allowing you access from any internet connected device.

Why use it? Storing your data in the cloud has several benefits.  Your data is available from any computer or device that’s connected to the internet.  This is big.  No longer will you need to carry around your laptop to access a document.  As long as you can connect to the internet, you can access your files from anywhere.  No more disk errors or computer crashes resulting in lost documents.  Your data is backed up automatically for you, so there’s no need for you to worry about losing a document.  Or so they say.

Which service should you use? In my mind, there are several options to consider when deciding where to store your documents.

  • Google Docs
  • DropBox
  • Box.com
  • iCloud

I don’t have enough experience with all four of these to provide a quality overview or review, but maybe someone can share one.  I have used all 4 and certainly think there are advantages of each, but I want to mention a few things that are steering me away from one or another.

DropBox – I like it, easy integration with PC and mobile devices, but I’m cheap and I’d like more than the 2 G of storage that they give you for free.  This amount doesn’t go very far if you want to upload any sort of media.  I do think this the cloud storage option of many.

Google Docs – Another good, free option with a ton of free space.  I don’t think it’s the easiest to use from a mobile perspective.  Do I want my world ruled by Google?  I’m not sure.

iCloud – New.  Free 5 G of storage, again, not enough.  I have very little experience with this so I can’t give it the proper review it deserves.

Box.com – I recently heard about this – 50 G of free storage.  An excellent amount in my mind.  There is a very nice iOS app that works well.  Saving from your computer to your Box isn’t as easy as DropBox, unless you want to upgrade for a price.  With that being said, you are able to simply upload your documents and folders to Box fairly easily.  The process is similar to uploading something into Google Docs.

Where does one go from here?  The best answer is probably going to be personal preference.  I think I’m going to try using Box as my preferred cloud space for the time being.  The main reason is the 50 G of free space and the nice iOS app.  I’ll keep you posted on how this works and would appreciate any thoughts and comments on Cloud Computing.

New to Me

We all know there’s a ton of stuff online and finding it and sorting through it can be pretty tricky.  Below are two recent discoveries I will be checking out.

I recently came across a blog series on Edutopia written by my friend MaryBeth Hertz.  I think it’s worth your time to check out her articles on the site.  MaryBeth is a technology teacher in an elementary school in Philadelphia.

I also plan on taking the time to check out the EduTecher site.  I know for many, this site isn’t new, but I never really investigated the site like I should.  This site, put together by Adam Bellow, has a ton of great resources for educators.  There are videos and links galore as well as links to Adam’s presentations at various conferences.  I have a feeling I’ll be spending quite a bit of time here.  There’s even an iPhone and iPad app.

Let’s Play The Feud!

I was extremely fortunate to be asked to participate in an incredibly fun event at ISTE in Philadelphia.  The ISTE Conference has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past few years and something I begin looking forward to way before the school year ends.  This year, I was part of a session that was more fun that I could have imagined.  My friends and colleagues Dr. Joyce Valenza – Teacher Librarian, NeverEndingSearch Blog, Gwyneth Jones – The Daring Librarian, Shannon McClintock Miller – Van Meter Library VOICE, Matthew Winner – The Busy Librarian, Nicholas Provenzano – The Nerdy TeacherSteve Dembo and I participated in a wildly entertaining Family Feud style game show.  We wanted to share a variety of tools educators are using with those in attendance.  Prior to the event, we crowdsourced the answers to a list of questions we came up with.  A couple of excellent secret keepers, Paul Wood and Diane Cordell, tallied the survey results and along with Steve’s excellence, put together a slideshow of the answers – complete with Family Feud graphics and sounds.  We thought it would be an interesting twist to the event if we all dressed in 70’s style clothing.  I’m not sure if this turned out to be a good idea or not.  The session was a complete blast with Team MacGUYver winning, at least that’s the way I saw it.  If you’d like to watch the recording of the session, please do it.  I think you’ll learn something and certainly be entertained.

Here’s the link to the video.

Here’s a link to the wiki with even more information.

Note: I am more than honored to be mentioned in the same breath as those mentioned above.  They are not only incredible educators, but wonderful people as well.  I’m learned so much from them over the years and was thrilled to be on stage with them!  I hope they ask me back.

Making Sharing Easier

If an effort to make sharing easier and to help myself keep track of the great things that are tweeted, I’m trying something. I know others are doing this, but I’m finally getting on the bandwagon. I linked my Twitter favorites to my Diigo account, or maybe it’s the other way around, and will now be storing those favorite tweets in Diigo. To expand the sharing of those links, I set up Diigo to automatically post those favorite on my blog, yes, this one, on a daily basis. If I set everything up correctly, there should be a new post tonight, and every night from now on, with my most recent favorite tweets showing up. We’ll see if this works as planned.

More Twitter Favorites

Here are a few more tweets I marked as Favorites recently.

New Discoveries

Discovering something new is a good thing.  I enjoy not only watching students make new discoveries, but I also really like discovering new things myself.

Today, I discovered something new about Voki.com Did you know you can have students create a Voki without creating an account?  Did you also know that after the Voki is created, you can get an embed code to share the Voki – no login neede?  Yep, it’s true.

http://vhss-d.oddcast.com/vhss_editors/voki_player.swf?doc=http://vhss-d.oddcast.com/php/vhss_editors/getvoki/chsm=72c2af3f6b544d37dc87b959f9e4f5bc%26sc=3333086

There are a ton of advantages to this.  No more worrying about creating student accounts, no worries about students forgetting passwords, no worries about students sharing passwords….  The only disadvantage that I see, is the inability to save and continue working another day.  Therefore, kids need to manage their time very well and need to be very prepared prior to getting to work.  Now that I think about it, this may not be too bad of a disadvantage.

I’m looking forward to seeing what my students can do with this site.  Now that we have some flexibility and the site is fairly easy to use, I need to touch base with teachers and figure out a way to integrate this into the curriculum.  Perhaps students can make an avatar explaining a math concept.  Perhaps I’ll take advantage of the new Voki for Education site and peek through the lesson plans.

Whether it’s something math related or not, I’m excited about this new discovery and can’t wait to start using it more.

Quality P.D.

This past Monday was an inservice day for teachers in my District.  For the first time in a long time, we were given an option as to what we wanted to learn.  For the morning session, there were about 10 choices for all elementary teachers to choose from.  Almost all dealt with District initiatives or topics relative to what was going on in classrooms. There were also a couple of technology sessions, one on Web 2.0 tools and another related to a product we’ve purchased, Compass Learning Odyssey.  Compass Learning Odyssey is a program we use that links to our students’ MAPS scores and assigns students online activities based on their respective level.  Students login, choose from an activity, complete it, and come back the next day.  In addition to the activities linked to the test results, teachers can also assign activities to their students.  In addition, the program tracks student progress.

When I saw the list of activities, I wasn’t sure what to choose.  I decided to contact the Administrator in charge and told her that if there was an overwhelming demand for the Web 2.0 session, I’d be happy to lead a second group.  A couple of days after sending the email about my offer, I received a call back.  There wasn’t overwhelming demand for the Web 2.0 session, but instead, was for the Compass Learning group.  I was asked to help facilitate that session along with one of the Lead Teachers in our District.  Having a little experience with the program I said yes.  I met a couple of times with the guy I would be working with (whom I never met until we talked prior to the session) and we planned things out.  Tom, the other teacher, and I worked very well together.  He’s a great guy, super knowledgable and organized.  I really enjoyed working with him.  We sent out a Google Forms survey to everyone in the session ahead of time to find out what they knew about the program and what they were hoping to learn during the 2.5 hours together.

We both thought the session went very well.  The teachers in attendance had a lot of time to not only play with the program, which they certainly needed, but had people available to answer questions or help them as needed.  We received several compliments on the session, which was gratifying.

I found this type of staff development to be very successful.  Teachers had the opportunity to choose what they felt best fit their needs.  That decision was not being made for them, as it has been in the past.  I think people looked forward to learning, had a better attitude during the session, and felt like they had more ownership in their learning.  I only wish they would have had the chance to do the same thing in the afternoon.  Instead, they headed back to their buildings to work with their principals looking at data and how the results compare to their School Improvement Plan.

Luckily, I didn’t have to do that.  I spent the afternoon at another school with the other school librarians and the teachers who work with our Gifted and Talented kids.  For part of the time, we heard about enrichment math activities a teacher was doing with her students and how we might be able to support some activities like that.  The remainder of the afternoon was spent learning about Glogster.  This part was led by a retired librarian from our District.  I’ve seen Glogster projects, but never made one myself.  Each librarian sat with the GCT (Gifted-Creative-Talented) teacher from their building and we created a glog together.  The GCT teacher in my building has very little computer skills and she freely admits it.  She was certainly open to learning how to build a Glog, but I had to remind her quite often how to do something.  That’s okay, she’s learning.  However, I’m not sure she would feel comfortable taking kids into the lab and helping them create a project themselves.  She’d need my help.  It’s kind of sad because many of the students she works with could do some incredible stuff, but her lack of technology skills limits them.

Overall, this was one of the better staff development days we’ve had in quite some time. The flexibility in the morning was great and I really enjoyed helping teachers learn about to use the Compass Learning program better.  I did send a follow up email to the Administrator in charge of the day and told her I’d be willing to do this type of thing in the future.  I think it’s a direction I eventually want to go.

More Twitter Favorites

Here are a few more things that caught my eye recently on Twitter.

More Twitter Favorites

Here are a few more tweets I marked as “Favorite” recently.