Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Social Bookmarking 2.0?

My Twitter friends and I have been playing with a wonderful new tool the last few days, Diigo! (pronounced dee-go) If you're a regular reader of my blog (hi Mom and Dad!) you'll remember one of my first posts was about the social bookmarking site del.icio.us. And I'm sure that, after reading that finely-crafted post, you were moved to venture into social bookmarking. Well, if you've gotten comfortable with del.icio.us it's time to try "del.icio.us on steroids" (special thanks to @lizbdavis for that one!)

With Diigo, not only can you bookmark web pages, but you can also highlight text and attach sticky notes to the pages you are saving. Whenever you return to those pages your highlights and sticky notes will still be there for you. A very handy tool for researching, wouldn't you agree?

Mama always said to share! Diigo makes it incredibly easy to share your bookmarks with friends and colleagues via Facebook, Twitter, or even your own blog. You can also create a group to do research together, or join one of the many groups already set up on Diigo. Once you've saved some bookmarks, you can look for other people who share the same interests as you; people who may have some fabulous information to share!

Ok, have I given you enough information yet to make you want to go check it out? Did I mention it's all FREE? Oh, NOW I have your attention! Well, before you go, check out this video from the folks at Diigo and then go sign up!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Blogging from Afghanistan

I recently read a post on Dean Shareski's blog called "A Teacher and Soldier in Afghanistan." Paul Park, a high school English teacher from Canada, has recently been deployed to Afghanistan. While he is serving overseas, Mr. Park has promised to blog as often as possible about his experiences. His blog is geared mostly towards students; I imagine he is hoping to start a conversation between himself, a soldier and teacher, and students around the world. But it makes for good reading for all of us, and is a wonderful starting point for any thoughtful conversation about the realities of this, or any, war.

Here is the link to Mr. Park's blog, The Sandbox. And you'll always be able to find the link on my blog under My Favorite Blogs.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Little Low Tech

How does one keep their students engaged an hour or two before they're to leave for spring break? That's the question I was asking myself last week as I sat down to write my lesson plans. A test? Sure...did that. But tests don't take long and spring fever has hit. So I decided to try out a game I saw on Brian Crosby's blog called the Write It game.

Let me just say...huge hit! The kids loved it! The funny part was they didn't even realize their teacher got them to write for twenty solid minutes and exchange what they had written with their classmates WITHOUT A PEEP!

Normally students aren't allowed to write notes to their classmates during class. But during the Write It game they are encouraged to do just that. The rules are simple:

  • Write a note to a classmate, starting with a compliment.

  • Ask your classmate a question.

  • Sign your note.

  • Deliver your note.

  • Classmate answers your question and returns the note to you.

After the note is returned to you it is considered "dead" and you start a new note. I told my students that they could only write one note to a classmate in order to encourage them to write to as many different classmates as possible (also to make sure that each and every student receives and responds to notes).

It was a beautiful thing to see 36 students writing furiously for twenty minutes. When I asked for a show of hands of all those who liked the activity, every hand was in the air! I even had a few students who stopped me after school was out, and spring break had officially begun, to beg me, "Please, Miss McMillan, can we do that again?!"


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lights Out for Earth Hour

My seventh graders and I are currently trying to decide how we will celebrate Earth Day this year. Our goal is to do something to support the environment and, at the same time, encourage others to do likewise. Yesterday, I described for them an event that took place in Sydney, Australia last year. More than half of the city, businesses included, turned out the lights for one hour. For those who say something that simple couldn't have much of an effect on the environment, read the following comment from Chris Betcher's blog, Betchablog:

Earth Day started in Sydney last year with an idea that if we simply turned our lights off for one hour the overall effects could be substantial. Of course, it was a symbolic gesture more than anything else, but on 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour. During this single hour, the collective effort of turning off the lights reduced Sydney’s energy consumption by 10.2%, which is the equivalent effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road. What started as a grassroots community idea quickly took hold among the corporate and government sectors, proving that a simple idea like turning the power off for an hour can gather enough momentum to make a noticable difference and raise awareness of the problems our planet faces.

This year, people around the world are being encouraged to join Sydney for Earth Hour on Saturday, March 29th. Already, 25 cities around the world have agreed to participate, including San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, and Miami. My students and I will be encouraging our school community to join millions of people around the world who will be reducing their "carbon footprint" for one hour, starting at 8:00 p.m. local time. Care to join us?

Why don't you start by watching this video about last year's Earth Hour in Sydney. And then click on the link below which will take you to the Earth Hour 2008 website where you can sign up and participate.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The 25 Tools You Should Have

I've seen this list a few times, so I thought I would pass it along. It is a list of 25 "personal productivity tools" that will help you find your way around Web 2.0 and collaborate with all those you meet on the journey. Of course, the best part about the list? They're all FREE!


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Social Networking: Here's Why!

It's 3:30 in the afternoon. Do you know where your teen is? Are you worried that they're hanging out online in one of those social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook? Or are you shaking your head and thinking to yourself, "I just don't get the appeal of it!" Perhaps this will help. I was reading Wesley Fryer's blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, this weekend and found this video that was made by an amazingly well-spoken young woman named Vanessa Van Petten.

After you watch this video, be sure to check out her blog Teens Today with Vanessa Van Petten or how about the book she wrote when she was 17!! It's called You're Grounded!: How to Stop Fighting and Make the Teenage Years Easier. If you like what she has to say, be sure to check out her other videos on YouTube.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cool Idea!

This past November I attended the CLMS/CLHS and CUE Technology Conference “Digital Immigrants, Digital Natives,” which featured keynote speakers Marc Prensky, Will Richardson, and Carole Anne McGuire. What a fabulous four days it turned out to be! It was those four days that led me to become so excited about all the possibilities for technology in education.

One of my favorite workshops that long weekend was Ted Lai's Podcasting Bootcamp. Not only is Ted a wonderful presenter, but he has an amazing wealth of technology information stored in that brain of his! It was also a lot of fun to be able to play on the Macbook Pros that the conference had set up for us, and record my very first podcast! I couldn't wait to get back to my students and tell them all about it.

Since then, both my sixth and seventh graders have made their own podcasts (sixth graders are actually just finishing up their book review podcasts and having a lot of fun with it, I might add!) We've been making our podcasts in our computer lab which is filled with these beautiful new iMacs. But when you have 36 students trying to record...well, I'm sure you get the picture. Or the soundbyte, as the case may be.

I just came across a new tool for podcasting on Vinnie Vrotny's blog called Gabcast and it allows you to make a recording from your phone and save it to their website for future use. Once you sign up you'll be given an 800-number that you will use to call and make your recording. I haven't had a chance to play around with it yet (I'm adding that to my summer to-do list), but if you check out Vinnie's blog it will take you to his sample recording where he explains how to use it.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tweet This!

A couple of months ago I started using Twitter and have recently found it to be an invaluable tool in my growth as a teacher. Through Twitter I have become acquainted with dozens of teachers from across the globe. One of the things I love most about the members of my profession is their willingness to share ideas, collaborate on projects, and encourage all others that we meet on this journey.

Every day on Twitter, teachers share dozens of articles that they come across in their research. Articles that I would probably never have found on my own just doing a Google search (I just don't have the patience to scroll through thousands of entries to find one paragraph of useful information). They also share information from conferences they attend...while they're attending the conference! [I can't wait to hear from all the teachers attending the CUE Conference in Palm Springs this week! hint, hint]

By now some of you may be wondering just what the heck is Twitter? Excellent question, class. Here is the answer you'll find on the Twitter homepage: "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

But if you would like an answer that is geared toward we visual learners, check out the latest video from The Common Craft Show. Then sign up at Twitter and you can choose to follow me if you'd like!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Let's Be Safe Out There!

I attended a parent education evening at school recently on internet safety and our children. Unfortunately, most of the parents who attended (and there were surprisingly few in attendance) left that evening feeling even more frightened for their children's safety. I think a few may have even gone home and thrown their computers out the back window.

I think, and I'm sure many of you will agree with me, that this is the absolute worst tack to take. I mean, seriously, if you tell your child they can't have something, don't they just want it all the more? And if you are so worried about all the wackos out there, why would you ever get on a freeway?! The world is full of, well, let's call them "interesting" people. Our job is not to teach our children to avoid them, because they can't always do that. Our job is to teach them how to handle themselves in any and all situations that come their way.

Would it surprise you to find out that worrying about online predators tracking your child should be much lower on your list than worrying about whether or not your child is being bullied online? Or that, heaven forbid, your child is doing the bullying? Check out the following article from the New York Times on internet safety, and, if you haven't already, talk to your kids. There is much they can teach us!

How Dangerous is the Internet for Children?

Special thanks to Kate Olsen for tweeting this article this morning!