Final Thoughts (Thing 23)

This course has been quite the odyssey.  At times I’ve been discouraged, annoyed, or overwhelmed, and yet having persevered, I’ve finally arrived at the end.  It’s been eye-opening to see how many resources are available and to realize the potential that they offer for education.  It will definitely take me a while to assimilate what I’ve learned effectively in my teaching.

The next steps are:

  • to continue adding to my delicious account; sharing it with colleagues will also give them easy access to many of the resources that we’ve explored in this course
  • to practice making online quizzes and sharing them with my students
  • to have my students make wiki review sheets for exams
  • to use my kitty voki avatar to pass on simple instructions
  • to continue looking for new ways to integrate what I’ve learned into my teaching

THE END                      Hurrah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Classroom 2.0 and Twitter (Thing 22)

Classroom 2.0 strikes me as a giant communal blog.  As with blogs, separating the wheat from the chaff takes so much time that it’s hard for me to see the value.  Perhaps if you’re a brand new teacher with little support in your own school…  Personally, I’d rather collaborate face-to-face with my coworkers or else share specific ideas with folks teaching roughly the same courses as I in a similarly competitive independent school.  Wading through the mass of information and chatter is just not worth the time.

Similarly, while I’m glad that some teachers are finding an educational use for Twitter, I have no interest in supporting Twitter itself.  It represents a lot that I dislike about the new forms of communication that are so trendy now.

Google Docs (Thing 20)

I actually started using Google docs earlier in the summer when a co-worker wanted someone to practice collaborating with.  It offers most of the facility of regular Microsoft documents, but with the added benefit of being online and shareable.  I can see it being particularly valuable for students commuting between parental households or for those who struggle to get their homework to school.  The collaborative benefits seem endless.  Of course some of the bells and whistles that we’re accustomed to with software suites are sacrificed.  I’m still not clear on how its benefits would align with those offered by a wiki.  I’d love to hear more about what uses are better suited to one or the other.  It seams like spreadsheets wouldn’t work with a wiki, just as lists of websites could be handled better with social bookmarking.  Similarly, how does Google forms compare to some of the polling/quizzing websites?  Is it all about means of access?  I know that PollsEverywhere let’s students respond by cellphone, but I think there can only be one question asked.

Here are some initial thoughts on ways to use Google documents:

  1. Google form requesting seating preferences in the classroom
  2. Google spreadsheet for students to sign up for meeting times with me
  3. Google doc with a list of professional development opportunities for history department members that history teachers can expand

Using YouTube Videos (Thing 19)

I discovered to my delight this spring semester, that kids will happily watch YouTube videos as homework.  As far as they’re concerned it’s an easy and enjoyable assignment, even if I tell them that I will give them a quick quiz on it the next day.  I did have to be careful about video length, since I am not supposed to exceed 30-40 minutes of assigned homework per day.  The payoff for me is that I don’t give up so much class time showing it myself in the traditional manner.  Another huge benefit of finding videos that I use anyhow on YouTube is that students who are absent can watch the video more easily, often even before they are well enough to return to class.  While I’m sure that posting video clips taped off of TV (with the ads dropped) is illegal, I’m hoping that using them is not.  In quite a few instances, the school already owns a library copy.

Not all such documentary videos on YouTube are of equal quality.  You really need to find ones with decent video quality, and where the multiple parts are easy to locate.  I was lucky enough to identify one user, Spartan307,  who posted a whole lot of ancient history videos of excellent quality and without all of the ads.  Here is a sample from his “channel”:

Publishing a Podcast with Podbean (Thing 18)

I’m still not quite sure while I struggled to get my little recording accepted by Podbean.  Just browsing for my file and then clicking “publish” didn’t work.  Saving it as a draft on their site and then publishing it as a second step did work, although it initially took me to a blank screen.  I think that perhaps it wasn’t really uploading my file initially, but who knows!  Hopefully others won’t have trouble.

While some of the foreign language teachers at my school now make extensive use of Garageband to get students speaking the language more, I don’t foresee myself using podcasting much.  That’s not to say that it won’t work with history courses.  A colleague in the history department has kids prepare extensively for debates that are recorded as podcasts.  It’s a major project for his course.  I can’t put my finger on why, but it just doesn’t appeal to me.

Podcasts (Thing 17)

Podcasts are fabulous tools for the lifelong learner.  They provide an (often free) alternative to purchasing courses from The Teaching Company, as I have done in the past.  Some of them are also jazzed up a bit more for a popular audience than the average university lecture.  In my field of ancient history, I was easily able to find potentially stimulating offerings:

  • History 106B: The Roman Empire – Spring 2008 by Isabelle Pafford, UC Berkeley(iTunes U)
  • Imperial Rome and Ostia by Open University (iTunes U)
  • The History of Rome by Mike Duncan (iTunes Podcasts)
  • 12 Byzantine Rulers: The History of the Byzantine Empire by Lars Brownworth (iTunes Podcasts)

Finding out what an author’s qualifications on their subject are, however, is a bit more challenging.  You can also forget about finding footnotes or bibliography.  I was able to locate listener reviews on some, but I’d love to know more about the likely reliability of an instructor, particularly if I’m vouching for them to my students.

I see three bigger issues for pulling these resources into the classroom.  The first is that it’s quite scatter shod whether or not you’ll find a podcast on the subject that you’re seeking.  Perhaps this will change over the next few years as more are added, but for now it’s a bit random.  Secondly, some offerings are pitched to college students and adults, such that my 9th graders would find them too dry.  The key would seem to be finding a podcast that fits perfectly within your curriculum, is credible but pitched to the right audience level, and adds either a level of expertise or excitement that exceeds what I would do otherwise.  For example, I already play a clip from an audio course in class where a classics professor reads the opening lines of Homer’s Iliad in Greek with correct meter.  While I studied ancient Greek, she recites the passage FAR more competently that I ever could.  Even though her complete lecture is fascinating to me, I couldn’t assign it to the class, because it’s too academically sophisticated for them to understand without more background in the field.

One idea that might work for my course would be to require the use of a podcast as part of their research for my project on Roman Emperors.  Each student is assigned an emperor, and since I found more podcasts on this period than any other, I can hope that there would be something for all of them.  Just finding out for sure, however, would take a lot of work on my part.

Pondering LibraryThing (Thing 16)

I wish that this site had existed earlier in my life, when I had fewer books!  Then the idea of cataloging my collection wouldn’t have seemed so imposing and the story of my life as told through my books would have made more sense.  Now days I’m actually more interested in cutting down on my collection than I am in advertising it.  I own a lot of books that were important to me once, when I was pursuing a PhD, but which don’t serve me well in my teaching career.  The reading that I do to wind down at bedtime is on the much lighter side, historical mysteries and such that I buy used, read, share with friends, and then donate.  I’ve used Amazon to get leads when I’ve wanted to find a new author to explore.  The half of my library that relates to my teaching is well-used, but doesn’t lend itself to social networking.  There are already plenty of professional networks out there.  I think that LibraryThing is a great idea for folks with specialized interests or those who want to find people that read the same sorts of things.  That’s just not me right now.

Social Bookmarking (Thing 15)

I’m still not quite able to envision the social environment that can be created by means of Delicious, but it certainly holds promise.  I have taken the time to upload all of my previous bookmarks and to add more tags to them.  I’m hoping that this makes managing my many bookmarks far easier.  It certainly allows for better cross-indexing.  I have not found the interface to be completely intuitive, and still prefer my bookmarks toolbar for my favorite sites, since I can be sure that they will always be visible when I need them.

The biggest advantage for me so far, has been with managing my Google Reader.  Tagging interesting links from my Reader gives me a sense of completion that simply starring them didn’t.  When I starred items, I felt burdened by an obligation to return to them at some undisclosed later date, since otherwise they wouldn’t bring me any benefit.  Tagging them makes them easily available to me when I need them.  So, for example, if I want to edit a video, I can now just go to my “Video_Editing” tag to access all of the sites that I’ve heard about instead of embarking on a mind-numbing search through all of the starred items in my Reader.  For this reason, I would recommend that Shelley move the social-bookmarking week earlier in the curriculum.

Exploring Jing (Thing 14)

Here’s the video that I made for my students using Jing:

Inserting a Footnote in a Word document

Downloading and installing the Jing software took a little while, but using it is a cinch.  It really couldn’t be easier.  I can absolutely see myself taking advantage of this tool to extend my teaching beyond the classroom.  As Betcher wrote in the Myth of the Digital Native, teachers often assume that students are more fluent with technology than they actually are.  Creating a series of quick videos showing them how to do some basic skills like this would be a huge help.  In the past, I’ve had to take up class time to do it, and students couldn’t practice until they got home.  This is a WONDERFUL tool!!!

Attending an Online Conference (Thing 13)

I listened to a K12 Online Conference presentation from 2009 by Chris Betcher called Ways of Working.  The presentation highlighted online research tools using Australia’s Sculptures by the Sea annual art exhibition as an example.  Betcher dealt briefly with many of the tools that we have explored in this course: blogsearching, RSS, Voicethread, Animoto, etc.  He also brought up similar resources that we haven’t tried yet: Google News, Google Maps, Twitter feeds, ComicLife (makes comic pages out of your images), AutoStitch (combines photos to make a panorama), and Google Forms.  There was about a 2-second lag between the sound and video, which significantly distracted from the experience of “attending” the conference online, but the convenience of participating remotely shouldn’t be underestimated.

At this point in our online course, this presentation was not especially revelatory.  By far the most interesting element for my purposes was the discussion of Google forms.  While this tool seems intended more for surveys, it offers a wide variety of questions types, summary graphs, and conditional branching.  I am very interested in learning more about giving quizzes online, not so much for assessment as for for kids to test their understanding.  I was a bit distressed, however, with the presenter’s vision of student “research.”  I’m hoping that comes from differences in the subjects or grade-level that we teach, but it could reflect a more fundamental divergence in our view of education.  For Betcher, teaching students to do in-depth research meant moving from a simple Google search to feeding as RSS reader.  This process prioritizes new information, which is often not preferable when doing history.  My goal is to help students to find the most trustworthy academic resources, not to see what average people are saying on their blogs or read recent the latest newspaper articles.  I also don’t see digital storytelling as a goal in itself.  Is Betcher’s primary educational goal to teach these technological skills, which are so valued in today’s world, or to push kids to think critically and analyze what they read?  His presentation left me wondering whether high-tech, feel-good opinion-sharing is replacing academic research in today’s schools.