My VoiceThread


Voicethread is collaborative tool that incorporates multiple sources of digital media into an interactive ‘video’ or presentation of sorts.  My VoiceThread is about two specific types of social networking tools and the implications of social networking in a 21st century classroom.  The two tools I focused on were GoogleDocs and EDUblogs.com  Both emphasize collaboration and the sharing of ideas and documents.  Posting the link here is yet another way to use social networking to reach large audiences and collaborate on ideas.  Having never used Voicethread before, I welcome any constructive feedback, because I’d love to make another!


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Learning Log – iGoogle

My iGoogle homepage currently displays gadgets of important information. It’s my homepage anytime I used Firefox, so I like to have the important information first. I have my GoogleDocs gadget so I can quickly access anything from my documents folder. Google Docs is one of the greatest online innovations in the world. And I’m not being hyperbolic; when I was in college, I lived off campus the year I wrote my senior seminar. Because I was using a variety of computers throughout the day, and I’m not always a fan of the flashdrive, I started using GoogleDocs to write my paper. That meant while I was working at the Writing Center, I could log on to our office computer, access my Google account, and continue writing whatever part I wanted to work on. I also ‘shared’ parts of my paper with classmates, friends, and professors to get feedback in real-time. Now I use GoogleDocs for a variety of things; I also helped my boyfriend edit papers for his comp class last semester over GoogleDocs. I simply used a different font color and he could see corrects and my typed suggestions, even though we were in different places.

Under my Google Docs gadget is my newly installed TwitterGadget, which shows real-time updates to my Twitter account, and allows most of the same basic functions as the website. I can post Tweets, reply and repost them, see mentions and direct messages all in one quick place. Because I’m trying to master Twitter and not hate it so much, something less complicated and easier to look at like this will make that a possibility.

Right in the center is my Weather.com gadget. Every electronic device I use that is connect to a wireless network has weather on it. Because I often spend multiple days without actually going home (I’ve spend the past 6 months doing that awkward half living out of my car situation), it’s great to see quickly what the weather will be so I can pack and plan accordingly. I have my 3 major locations (it does need to be edited and updated) where weather would be important.

Finally, in the upper right is my gmail window. It only shows the top 5 messages, chronologically, in my inbox, but as a homescreen, a quick view of some emails is very streamlined and simple. Under that is my CNN gadget for quick news updates on things happening around the world.

The second screenshot is of the bottom half of my iGoogle homepage. Because scrolling down is WAY too much effort (kidding, but really, sometimes I can’t be bothered) I put all the important things at the top. That way if I open Firefox to go to a different page, I still get a quick glance at things that are most important. Other important things are just below those, though. It’s currently minimized in this picture, but I have a Red Sox gadget and an NFC East (Eagles) gadget. As an avid sports fan, it’s a nice way to see all the important information in one place. As a Red Sox fan out of area, I don’t always get to see baseball games, and the gadget provides box scores for my team (and other teams in the division/league) as well as news updates, injury lists, and other important information. In between the two is my Daily Literary Quote, which I’ve sometimes copied down to use with students.

The middle of the bottom half is my Google Calendar. I don’t use it on iGoogle as much anymore, since it’s synched to my phone, but Google Calendar is another part of Google that provides an excellent resource. One of my favorite parts of Google calendar is the multiple calendar feature. I have different calendars; I have a school one, a work one, a Phi Mu one (which I don’t really use since graduation, but it’s still there for Alumni events), a ‘Holidays’ one (birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), and a basic ‘Leah Beck’ calendar for appointments and other things that are noted. They are all color coded to help the visual person! I also have calendars of a few friends; there is a ‘share’ option for calendars, so it’s easy to see when friends, co-workers, and family members are free.
In college, my sorority had a public calendar. It listed events that were open-house events for non-members, but it also listed important meetings and events. The executive board had to have public calendars so we could arrange meetings around schedules. If it wasn’t on your public calendar, it wasn’t excused (within reason, of course). As a teacher, students could create a public calendar for the teacher to view, and a teacher could ‘share’ the dates of assignments and homework for students, parents, and other teachers. Often, teachers try and plan major projects so a student isn’t overwhelmed; if all teachers posted a shared calendar, it could be referenced quickly when writing plans or scheduling events (I hated being told the morning of I had to attend an IEP conference when I had something major going on in class).

Next to that is my Google Reader gadget, another new addition to my iGoogle homepage. It makes keeping track of the different blogs I read easy! They’re all in one place, well organized. If I were to assign a blogging project, it would simplify keeping track of student blogs.

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I hate wordpress

I just needed to say this.  I despise WordPress.  It’s honestly the only blogging site I’ve ever had to use that I don’t like.

I just typed an entire post for my class, added my graphics, formatted everything to fit, and when I hit ‘Publish Post,’ it told me it was invalid.  This happens EVERY TIME I try to post.  Every post I’ve written on this blog, that’s what comes up when I try to publish.  What I’ve started doing is copying the entire post, refreshing the page, pasting the blog and then publishing.  Most of the time it works, sometimes I have to do it a few times.

I tried to copy my blog post and try to refresh it, but apparently when you put graphics in, it won’t copy your entire post.  I essentially just spent 45 minutes on something that is now completely gone.  GONE.  And when you’re working on limited internet time, a lost 45 minutes isn’t something amusing.

I do not like WordPress.  I’ve spent time going through the FAQs and forums to figure out what the problem might be, and I can’t find anything.

If you have suggestions, please let me know, because I’m furious right now, and would really like to throw this computer out a window.

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Here’s my screencast on using SlideFlickr

Here’s the Slide-show

This slideshow is a collection of photos taken during a study abroad trip during 2009 to England, Budapest, and Romania. On our trip, we followed the novel Dracula through the eyes of Jonathan Harker, the main character. We traveled to the places mentioned in the novel, and kept a reflective journal of the things we saw and the information we learned. In my Flickr gallery, I have quotes from the novel as captions to appropriate pictures, as well as reflections from the trip.
As a class assignment, students could create their own ‘trip’ based on plot events in a novel. As a character moves around, physically, students could capture those different locations with pictures, and include captions from the novel and explanations of the pictures to back up claims. Presenting the ‘journey’ through a slideflickr would be a great, interactive way to engage with a novel.

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Holocaust Gallery

For this assignment I created a gallery to accompany the study of Elie Wiesel’s Night.  That was one of my favorite units to teach, and I hope in whatever future job I get, I can incorporate the memoir again. 

The gallery has pictures of many locations significant to the memoir; there are pictures of Sighet, Wiesel’s childhood hometown, the concentration camps, and several Holocaust memorials.  Along with simply using this pictures to show images of what Wiesel describes, these pictures could be used for a variety of writing assignments.  Our major assignment for the unit was a memoir (students wrote several pieces to compose a minimum of 8 pages memoir… the results were amazing!), but these photos could work for expository writing as well.  Perhaps a persuasive piece on the importance of studying the Holocaust in a literature class, or a compare and contrast essay on various Holocaust memorials.

In an ever-changing world, we need to embrace technology that enhances learning.  Students don’t read the way they used to; incorporating visuals allows them more freedom when reading, and helps to visualize something very real.  Selecting photos to use and having students brainstorm what it might be (before or during the unit) is another way to engage them in critical thinking, and going beyond what is simply on the page.

Here is my gallery on the Holocaust and Wiesel’s Night

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Flickr Slide Shows

Students often talk about Flickr, but I had never used it until this assignment.  I don’t normally like to post pictures online, and I had to forgo certain privacy settings for this assignment, so I’m still slightly apprehensive.  The normal conversations about Flickr involved naked pictures, so I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to use Flickr in a classroom.  I do see great benefits, as long as students understand how to appropriately involve a teacher in the online gallery.

As part of the Multicultural Literature class in Carroll County, one assignment dealt with defining ‘family.’  Who is your family?  What is a family?  How do we decide who is a part of our family?  Throughout the course, especially during our unit on The Secret Life of Bees, we questioned what a family was.  The main character in the novel, Lily, runs away from her biological family — and abusive and horrible father — and ends up living with a family of African-Americans.  They are all sisters, and Lily is a tiny white girl who is brought into the ‘family’ as another sister.  Although this is not the traditional definition of family, for Lily, it is her only way to survive.

In this day and age, what we consider to be a ‘family’ is a fluid and ever-changing term.  As part of the unit, students are asked to define family and present the different ‘families’ they consider an important part of his or her life.  The project allows for creativity, but incorporating it into an online slide-show is something I hadn’t considered.  Students with access to a computer and internet could complete the project at home in a format they are comfortable with using.  Normally I get posters, PowerPoints, or scrapbooks, but this is a slightly more interesting approach.

To give an example, I created a slideshow of my family presentation.  I used more examples than is required just to show students how many different groups and types of people can become like family.  Each photo has a quick description of how and why the people in the picture are family.  It’s a quick way to learn more about a student, and students generally like to see a bit more about teachers.

This fits the technology standards.  Students are using technology and an online resource in an appropriate and engaging way.  They are aware of the privacy and copyright issues involved with online publishing of any kind, and it shows some very clear thinking on the topic of family.  A Gallery of ‘family’ photos could also be linked to this, and students show clear thinking on what family means.


If this link doesn’t work, please let me know!  My computer is currently not supporting any type of video or flash software (I’ve contacted tech support for help on the issue, since none of my fixes or my father’s – he works for a software company – seem to be working).

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Education Blogs: The Good, the Great, and the REALLY ANNOYING

Teaching Blog Addict 

     Teaching Blog Addict is everything a student in a technology in education course could ever need!  I did some light google searching at the start of this project to see what was out there –after all, I’ve not yet jumped into the blogging as a teaching world—and there were a few blogs that mentioned this one, so I decided to check it out.  The site is a mixture of blogging, helpful hints, and even lesson plans.  It’s got more of a community mind-set than the classroom blogs, and really stresses interaction.  There are several teachers that post to the blog as ‘official authors,’ and I think that really helps them appeal to all different levels and personalities of teachers.  It’s definitely got a more elementary feel, but since my mom teaches 5th grade, I’m always on the look-out for her classes, too.

These different authors are all listed on the authors page so it’s very easy to get a quick bio and some information about the level, subject, and teaching style of each author, and it’s an even easier way to find tons of teacher blogs, since the links are on this page as well!  There’s homeschool information, special education sections, and all different grade levels referenced.  There’s even a section of blogs designed for substitute teachers (and student teachers).

Some of the sections are how-to posts about other online technology.  One I found particularly interesting was a posting on using Pinterest for classroom purposes!  I’ve recently fallen in love with pinterest, so I wanted to know how other teachers were using it.  I have ‘boards’ on my account for various teaching and classroom ‘stuff,’ so I loved seeing what these teachers were using.  For those of you not on the Pinterest bandwagon (just give it time), there are step by step instructions on using the website.  VERY helpful, since I tried to explain it to my mom, and it just made her very confused.

I then followed a link to what was called “the most popular post!” While, again, a lot of this is very elementary, I loved the idea behind this post.  I was also amazed that the blog has only been around for just over a year, and is already so well-organized and popular!  This post deals with classroom management issues, and suggests an “I’m Done” jar (a spin-off of my favorite “I’m Bored” jar!).  It’s essentially a jar of popsicle sticks with activities written on them, so when a student finishes before all the other kids (it happens, and it’s always tricky to manage) you tell them to pull something from the jar.  Sometimes they’ll be reading, or coloring, etc.etc.  There’s so much on this website, I really don’t know how I’m going to get through it all!  But it really is an excellent place to start.


Enhanced English Teacher

Now, in all fairness, this blog hasn’t been updated in a while.  And by a while, I mean a year and a half.  No matter.  I’m of the opinion that blogs can be great even if they are no longer updated regularly.  Tara Seale is a high-school English teacher with a ridiculous amount of technological ideas and training.  She’s a Google Certified Teacher –I can’t lie, I had to… ummm… google that to figure out what it was – and is very interested in how technology works in a classroom setting.  If nothing else, her blog has so many great resources on all things English (and for my SLM folks out there, books galore!).  I found a few of her posts to be more helpful.  Some fit with questions I have that go along with my graduate course!

The Helpful Resources for English Teachers page is exactly what it claims to be.  How much do you love the people who find all these sites, and make your job just that much easier?  This is a collection of websites for teachers as well as sites to use with students.  I love the Ten Allusions link and the Love is a Fallacy story, since teaching fallacies is always difficult.  There are online games about grammar and literature, and refernces on making works cited pages. The site also includes book reviews of both fiction as well as teacher-books (as I like to call them).  This post is about The Digital Writing Workshop, which is perfect again for incorporating technology into the curriculum of a classroom and a school. 

My favorite post, though, has to be the post about Twitter.  If you know me at all (and most of you don’t, yet) I have a personal vendetta against Twitter.  Okay, that’s not completely true, but I really don’t like Twitter and I have been trying to see an educational purpose to the website.  Not only does Seale present an educational use (not so much for students or the classroom) but she also explains how to use Twitter via iCal and other websites that I’m more comfortable with using.  There are some other website suggestions that I’m going to fool around with when I’m not so pressed for time (I’ll explain in another post) and some of the comments are actually tweets from her readers!  Clever!


The Dream Teacher Blog

            This used to be an independent blog, but it’s now a section for this teacher’s website.  This is because (I’m assuming, but hey, go with it) she’s now a more widely known teacher.  I don’t really like it, but I also have a thing against teachers who become speakers and give up teaching.  If you want to talk about teaching, you should still be in that profession.  But it might also just be because of her about me where she says that she wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader (I’m from Philadelphia).  Nevertheless, I continued reading, despite that obvious personality flaw.  (I’m really hoping my professor isn’t a Dallas fan, and I’ve just gotten myself a failing grade!!)  I steered clear from the sections selling books, sections where you can hire her to speak, and the testimonials section (I started to feel like I was reading an infomercial) and focused just on the blogs section.

            It didn’t make me feel much better.  For an education blog, this one is very personal.  Her post about Teacher Professional Growth discusses her time in graduate school, and how she is a National Board Certified Teacher.  It then goes on to complain about how people don’t care enough about either of those things, but really just seems very self-aggrandizing.  Graduate school and NBCTeachers are now becoming the norm – and I’ve seen some really horrible teacher awarded with that honor – but Cindi wants to stress how important it was to her education.  I didn’t see anything that benefits other teachers in her post.  Another post, though touching and very personal for me, also had that same feel.  In A Letter to the Youth Correctional Facility Cindi addresses a former student who is now in jail for armed robbery.  My main issue with this post is again the egoism.  Instead of really getting to the problems in the school system, or dealing with trouble students, she goes through all the great things she did for him, and how upset she was when she heard he was in jail.  I can’t say I blame her for that; when I found out a former student had been put back in jail after violating his probation, I cried, too.  I was upset because I had a bond with that student and wanted to see him change the path of his troubled life.  I didn’t write a public post about how much I’d done for him, though. 

            The blog posts don’t seem to have any true educational benefits.  Instead, they seem very self-centered, and I’m not sure why this blog is considered an educational resource.  But, like in my previous post, you have to see the bad ones to recognize the good!

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Classroom Blogs

Today I visited a variety of classroom blogs, looking for inspiration and information on the good sides – and not so good sides – of having a classroom blog.  One of the main things I wanted to explore was how students use the blog; it’s always a good thing for a teacher to post important information online, such as due dates or assignment reminders, but I wanted to see how teachers incorporate the blog into the classroom in a more interactive way.  For my class assignment, I was required to look at all levels of classroom blogs, which at first seemed silly (why would I look at elementary school blogs?) but it ended up being a very significant part of the assignment.  It also was a welcome break from the sometimes downer attitude of high-schoolers.  Elementary school kids are excited about everything!

 Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog 

Mrs. Yollis is a third-grade teacher in California who uses her blog for a variety of reasons, and encourages her students to be a part of the blogging experience.  Most of the postings have to do with significant activities done throughout the school year, documented with photos and videos.  Several posts include student work, but others are about visitors to the school.  The blog also contains information about blogging for other teachers, as well as instructions for students and parents on how to interact using the blog.  They are taught how to make appropriate comments, and there’s even a great little section on using html for postings – for third graders!  Mrs. Yollis clearly expects a lot from her students, but it seems that the enthusiasm about posting comes from her enthusiasm about using her own blog.  There is also a listing of her students’ personal blogs, which follow the same format as Mrs. Yollis’ blog.

            Some of my favorite posts show the students in an exciting environment. Here are some photos from a visit with the Wildlife Experience people.  Harris the hawk came to visit, and there are also some links to past posts about various things.  One thing to note is at the bottom of each post, Mrs. Yollis offers some questions for her students (and parents) to consider when leaving comments. This post deals with an award won by another blog associated with Mrs. Yollis’ blog; her class participated in an internation blog project called “Our World, Our Stories,” and here she shares the information with her readers.  The most interesting part, for me, was to see all the students involved – they are involved through the use of blogs!  One of her former students was also given an award for her personal blog (and you can read about her experience here).  Another great post shares some really great student work that incorporates multiple types of technology.  The class wrote, illustrated, and recorded a story called “Bad News Bev.”  If you are having a bad day, this is probably the best thing to watch! 

Mrs. McGriff’s Reading Blog

Mrs. McGriff’s blog is a mixture of classroom, personal, and educator blog, which I really enjoy.  It’s a little glimpse into the life outside of the classroom for a middle school teacher.  There are different sections for each of the different parts, which makes the blog very well organized.  One section includes book reviews of the different works of literature at both a middle school and adult level, really just based on her own reading.  Another lists the major class assignments broken down by period (which means each class essentially has their own section of the blog).  Another still has the documents needed for a complete binder, which is helpful for absences or those students who misplace papers – which never happens.  Kidding!

            One of the best things about this blog is the website used to create it.  That might seem strange, but discovering edublogs.com is a great resource for any future classroom blogging I might want to do.  It’s a website designed for classroom/teacher use, and you can create publications, newspapers, post discussion boards, videos, podcasts, and all other types of great technology.  Check the Ten Ways to use Edublog page for more information.

            Some of the specific postings really made me smile.  The first is a post about a really fantastic book called Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, which I read with my 7th graders while I was student teaching!  In the post Mrs. McGriff writes a very short review of the book, and then ties it in to her own life (she mentions a comment made by her daughter, and her response is so teacher and hilarious!).  She also is constantly trying to make connections to her classroom, which I appreciate.  Another great post is about her summer reading and graphic novels.  Part of this post really reminds me of my own personal blog, but it really shows students that she is making an effort to enjoy a genre of literature she didn’t initially like.  Most students are quick to judge, and as an adult, and as a teacher, it’s important to model behavior that goes against that norm.  Mrs. McGriff is also participating in an internet writing workshop for teachers, and shares this work with her students.  In this post she actually shares a free write.  The best thing about this blog is teacher modeling, which is one of the most important – and undervalued – parts of education.

Miller’s English 10 Classroom Blog

            Of the three classroom blogs, this was the one I was most excited to explore (call me selfish, but I teach high school!). Unfortunately, this was the one that disappointed me the most, but that’s also why I wanted to post about it.  I think it’s important to explore less-than-stellar-blogs to have a clear concept of what works AND what doesn’t.  The blog is designed to expand what happens in the classroom in a prompt and response format.  There are also some links with vocabulary and assignment calendars.  Some of the links don’t actually contain anything, though, and certain sites are clearly out of date.  The discussion prompts are great, but once each student posts his/her response, there is no continued discussion.  Students don’t communicate with one another – instead, it seems like a way for him to do some grading from home in a digital format.  He doesn’t even respond to the posts, and I assume he must do that in the classroom.

            This blog really seems like a technology for the sake of technology blog, as opposed to a really great resource for the class.  This is really the only thing I found interesting, and it’s really not even part of the blog.  Here, there is student work posted to a publishing section of the high school website.  A student, Emma, posted her research online, including links to resources, but the only comment from her teacher was ‘topic approved.’  Again, the lack of true communication makes me question why he uses the blog format.  Here he introduces the blog and its purpose for his new students, but again, there is not much communication.  Even the comments don’t seem to fit his use.  This is essentially how he uses the blog, and when I read student comments, I really expected to see responses from other students, instead of just submitting a short writing assignment online.


So What Did I Learn?

I’ve been very interested in the possibility of using blogs in a classroom setting for some time, and I was glad to explore classroom blogs at both a local and international level.  Using blogs with a class, either as a group, or setting up individual blogs, is still something I need to explore.  Ideally, I’d find someone to converse with about how they use blogs (instead of just exploring them and winging it!) but since I’ve a big fan of writer’s notebooks, this could be a really interesting alternative for students with more access to technology.  I think it might also be helpful for schools to adopt blogs as a means of communication with parents.  Many never see paper copies of things sent home, and if someone could update a blog once a week (give or take) it would be an easy way to get information out there.  Teachers could have individual blogs, and those could link to the main school blog.  All in all, I think blogs can be a significant part of school technology, if used in a meaningful way.

And with that, I need to go update my other blog.  I’m so horrible at keeping up with it!

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Just a friendly reminder

You ARE amazing!

I force myself to consider that phrase every so often, so placing it directly at the top of my latest blogging adventure (this one for a summer graduate course on technology and education) will be a friendly reminder.  Unfortunately, I’ve looked through the syllabus for the class, and it appears we are only expected to post twice.  That’s probably a good thing, though, since I struggle with updating my normal blog, which is completely about books.  (that’s a lie; it’s more about my life, with some random blurbs about books).

I’ve been blogging since the internet became a standard thing to have in a home.  I started with a livejournal, then I had a xanga for a while, and as a peer mentor at McDaniel my sophomore year of college, I created my first WordPress blog as part of the class assignment.  I only updated about ten times, but it was a very interesting way to get to know more about the group of freshmen I worked with.

I’m a big fan of blogging, although I do find it a little overwhelming.  In the age of social media, everyone feels like they have the right to post and publish anything.  ANYTHING.  Can we be honest?  Some people really should not be allowed near a computer.  I understand the need to be heard — I have no room to talk, as the queen of awkward blogging — but there’s no line between crap and the good stuff out there.  I’m not talking about a difference in opinion; I’m talking about simple grammatical errors. (NOTE: as I read over this post for errors, I realized I’d originally typed ‘grammatically’ by accident.  At least I edit!)  I can’t stand when someone feels the need to ‘publish’ work without complete sentences!

It will be refreshing to read the blogs of classmates.  I assume that most graduate students know how to construct proper sentences! 🙂

And with that, I should probably go post to my other blog.  It’s been a bit too long.

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