Ms. Joy Strempack’s Chinese I students use Skype to practice oral language skills.
Ms. Joy Strempack’s Chinese I students use Skype to practice oral language skills.
Wisconsin Fast Plant Project Part 1.
Every spring, Life Science instructor Susan Vicelli introduces 6th graders to the 40 day life cycle of the Brassica Rapa. Seeds harvested from the prior year make a new beginning as students plant, fertilize, water, and track their growth into a fresh crop.
Wisconsin Fast Plant Project Part 2.
Students kept lab journals to record and graph plant data for the duration of the project. Their final entry was to respond to the following:
“By using your graph and observations made, form a conclusion about the overall growth of your plant. Discuss the value of the entire experiment. Tell what you found the most interesting/least interesting. Did the experiment meet your expectations?”
This assigment has been a challenge. I’d never even heard of “communities of practice” until our recent ETC live session. Thankfully, I’ve had the link to Etienne Wenger‘s explanation and use it here as the basis for evaluating SimpleK12, The Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0 and for making my final selection.
The SimpleK12 Teacher Learning Community is packed with courses, live webinars, and an impressive list of presenters from diverse educational backgrounds and expertise. The Forum is organized into Recent Posts, Members Meet & Greet, General Education Discussions, and Help Section Discussions. SimpleK12 currently has 364,343 members.
I subscribed to this site last year to take advantage of their course and webinar offerings. It took a premium membership to have full access to the courses (there are 35 categories to choose from) and enabled me to document my learning with Certificates of Completion. Many school districts and independent schools accept in-service hours earned on SimpleK12 for re-certification.
The Educator’s PLN is a Ning, founded and maintained by Tom Whitby. It is a smaller community (approximately 15,000 members) well designed to encourage users new to participating in collaborative communities.
Simple navigation and a subdued color palette, provides a more reflective environment for viewing and contributing to the Ning. There’s a new feature since my last visit: the option to create and customize my own page with a selection of templates and color schemes much like those offered on other blogging sites.
Members posts articles, add videos, join groups, start discussions, and make blog posts. There is page for joining discussions on EdChat. The links on Twitter and Understanding PLNs improve help make sense of these tools and how to use them.
The home page welcomes viewers with an explanation of it’s purpose and links on how to get started in Classroom 2.0.
I reviewed the information, but the more I tried to navigate and take in all that appeared on each page, I grew increasingly overwhelmed. The site is packed with resources and connections. There are over 74,000 members. Yet, again it is the layout and navigation that turns me away. Perhaps at a later date I’ll be more receptive.
Back to where I started…
So I’m back to SimpleK12 as my primary community of practice. The interface is so easy, and the membership and content only continue to grow. I like what I see happening in the Forum. Undoubtedly, the layout makes it easy to follow discussion threads. Whereas before I was an observer and content consumer in SimpleK12, I now feel ready to actively engage.
Check out the new E-zine under construction at PediaSynaptic. Author, Rich Tarbox, has a plan to bring the latest developments in neuroscience, learning theory, and innovative learning techniques to teachers in an E-zine framework he’s building in Adobe InDesign right now.
The introductory video provides a convincing rationale for the project. Why not design an E-zine for educators with the same sizzle and interactive features of GEEK magazine and other publications created for the entertainment and technology industries?
Why not offer an E-zine so informative and engaging that folks will download it to their tablets from iTunes or Amazon Kindle? Sounds like a good idea to me.
I was interested in seeing what my classmate Jeffrey was up to on his Action Plan. It turns out he’s busy creating a website for his graphic design business using a tool called SquareSpace. He gave us a sneak peek at his new site in the iMovie commercial he posted for an earlier assignment.
There were some dramatic, black white & gray images from his portfolio in that commercial. which I hope will be fully displayed once the site is ready.
Unfortunately, the link isn’t active yet, so we’ll have to wait to see the full display of his creations. According to his timeline, April 1st is the target date for acquiring his own domain so let’s keep our fingers crossed that a big reveal is on its way.
Music: Easy Breezy, Modern Comedy, Megatrax
ToonDoo.com is a free comics creation tool that appears on all three of the Web 2.0 resource pages our professor shared with us this week. I love cartoons and comic strips. Effective cartoons convey large ideas in tiny spaces. Would ToonDoo deliver enough variety to keep students engaged? I created an account to find out.
Registration and Account Options
Registration for a free account requires an email address; something to bear in mind if students will be setting up their own accounts. There is a paid and private service called ToonDoo Spaces which some schools and teachers may elect if there will be a large implementation. Usually the free accounts are sufficient for most classroom student projects.
Toon Creation & Editing
Saving, Publishing & Purchasing
Click on the main menu (top left corner) to access the Save folder. Fill in the title, description, any tags for your Toon and check or un-check the desired sharing and privacy options. These are:
I would recommend students keep their Toons private during the creation/revision process. Once Toons are complete, students may elect to Publish to the World. At that point, if the options are checked, others may Redoo the Toons or purchase them from the ToonDoo Shop.
The ToonDoo Shop offers high resolution renderings of your Toons. Purchase them through PayPal for a minimum order of ten at $1.00 a piece. Earn points or Tookens when others purchase your Toons.
To view the Toons you’ve created you’ll need to access the My ToonDoos page under the Toons menu on the Home page. All your toons are displayed as thumbnails.
Create “graphic novels” using the ToonBook creator. A series of Toons that tell a story can be dragged into a template that generates a flash-based flipbook. Students would enjoy creating an avatar or TraitR as it’s called on the site. Add a title, publish, and share your flipbook on the web.
I enjoyed the variety of landscapes, characters, props and speech bubbles available on ToonDoo.com. The editing tools were intuitive and it was fairly easy to download, email, print, and share Toons on the web. To print larger Toons requires some adjustments to your printer options, but it can be done.
I did find the interface to be a bit cluttered and navigating the menus confusing at first. The greatest challenge was being patient waiting for the creation tool and galleries to download. The site appears to be flash-based and blog posts from past users indicate sluggish downloads have been a problem.
Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives. With the exception of dealing with the downloads, teachers and students should enjoy using ToonDoo.
I just learned about another cool personal dashboard option: The Awesome New Tab Page on Google Chrome. Read about it here.
Symbaloo and Protopage are both compelling options for setting up a personal dashboard. It’s interesting to hear what influences the decision to choose one over another. Read about it here.
The third and final dashboard review was from another Protopage fan.
The more I read about Protopage the more I think I may move over to it one day.
I love Dilbert, and the widgets for time, weather, sports teams, and all those color coded tabs…
The decision to select WordPress for my second post was an easy one. I had to choose a technology I would be using for my capstone project and it had to be one with which I was unfamiliar. WordPress met both criteria.
The first thing I learned about WordPress was that there were two varieties: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I definitely was going with the .com option since I could create an account, set up my first blog, and begin posting content to the web for free. (Free is Good!) WordPress.org is the paid service which provides self-hosting options, full control over one’s website, and an array of customizable features I really don’t need.
Creating an Account
After clicking the sign up link I filled in my username, supplied a working email address, glanced at the terms of service (I know it’s wrong not to read them) and clicked Sign Up. I skipped most of the profile page since I knew I could update it later. The activation email arrived. I was ready to begin.
Creating the Blog
Once my account was created I had to log back into WordPress. I had skipped the step of creating my blog earlier, so now it was time to come up with a unique name. What was my blog going to be about? How could I name it without knowing it’s purpose? With only two days in the course I had no idea.
For a week I called it HumorMe . I used to create cartoons and wanted a way to incorporate that into my project. Today, after a week in the program, EdTechTurista popped into my brain. I hope I can stay with it. It connects me to the years I lived overseas and the students I’ve taught.
With a name selected it was easy to it to get started. I had help from Lynda.com and the tutorial on the WordPress.com website: Master the Basics and Beyond.
Browsing free themes was fun. It was easy to preview and activate a theme, live with it for a while and then be able to activate another. The vision of my capstone project is just taking shape. No surprise my theme has undergone change as well.
Pages and Posts
The dashboard is intuitive. Adding a new page or post opens a text editor with basic formatting options. To embed images or video files into your blog, you’ll need to upload them to the media library. From there they can be stored and inserted directly into the post. In addition, there is an option to select the desired justification for the image prior to inserting it in the post.
Depending on the chosen theme, there are areas on the blog page set aside to hold tiny programs called widgets. These widgets can be placed on the sidebar or in the footer and include items such as a list of recent posts, comments, and categories. Given the number of widgets available I could see how tempting it would be to clutter my webpage.
The pane on the right side of the dashboard offers a preview button, visibility options, a time/date stamp, an update button, and the option to move to trash.
There is much more to learn about WordPress, but I like what I see so far.
I’ve only just recently been able to view other students’ pages. There is amazing work out there and I’m truly inspired. Hopefully by the end of the program I will be able to create more inviting and visually rich environments than I have the skills to do now.
The cultivation of clear, stable, nonjudgmental awareness.
Middle School + Innovation + Literature
A Content-oriented Tumblelog theme