Friday, November 30, 2007

Eric Langhorst-Web2.0 Presentation at NCSS 2007

More reflection to come on this later...very good presentation here on the topic of "Web2.0" in the social studies curriculum. Eric Langhorst was recently selected as the the "Teacher of the Year" in the state of Missouri. If you watch his presentation below, you'll see why-he is creative, articulate, engaging, and clearly has a good understanding of how to apply contemporary technologies in his classroom. I ustreamed this out live and his recorded presentation is below.

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Brian Markwald-Live from NCSS in San Diego!

More reflection on this to follow, but below you'll see our awesome history/econ teacher, Brian Markwald, presenting on Economics in the Middle School. He really did a great job with his presentation! Way to go, Brian!

Also, just so everyone isn't thinking we're having fun in the sun in San Diego, here is a picture of the view from the concourse area at the convention center!! :(

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Happenings here at USM!

I was reading Susan Carter Morgan's blog a few days ago and she created a post called, "The Good News," in which she highlights some of the cool things going on at her school. This has inspired me to write such a post about some of the neat and innovative classroom projects and other initiatives that are in progress right now here at USM. Sometimes I get buried in the day to day responsibilities of my position and I don't take the time to reflect on all the great happenings. So, here goes...a brief description of the neat things going on right now:

1. Just received an email from our excellent 8th grade US History teacher, Chuck Taft, regarding a voicethread response project that he is starting with his students. The sample here is designed to engage students in discussion and reflection on the Kansas Nebraska act.

2. Will Piper, our excellent 5th grade social studies/world geography teacher, has been working with his homeroom class on the "Voices of the World" project. Students have been listening to the other school projects and are beginning to write a collaborative script using google docs for their class introduction. We're not officially part of the VOTW project, but we're going to do our own and follow along with the other partner schools. Will also regularly shares ideas with me about some of the creative and innovative blog activities that he is doing with students (he has students reflect on questions, classroom discussions, and videos in the form of a comment on his blog).

3. Chuck, Steve Villeneuve (our Middle School computer lab manager and tech support specialist), and I are planning what we think will be an excellent professional development experience for our upcoming Middle School faculty meeting. After a short demo of 2-3 simple tools, faculty members will break up in department teams to create a collaborative multimedia project.

4. Our 5th grade students are in the process of wrapping up their "Virtual Tours" of the school project. This has been a wonderful project with the students that I teach in my computer skills class. Students worked in collaborative teams of 2-3 taking photos around campus, writing a script for the virtual tour, and assembling/narrating their tour using garageband. Listening to the students rehearse and narrate the photos that they took around our campus has been great-their oral fluency is outstanding!

5. I just spoke with Gregg Bach, our Assistant Head of School here at USM, about a really unique mini-conference day that we're planning here at USM for October of 2008. It looks like we're going to get Alan November to keynote the day for us. The day is going to center around 21st century teaching and learning and Alan will be a great guy to kick things off for us! We're also planning on bringing in a few other presenters to run individual workshops and of course we'll have some of our teachers run some workshops as well.

6. We started a web2.0 study group here at USM this year and our first meeting was a success! This group will provide us all with the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn together about the world of easy to use web applications that promote collaboration and communication.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

50 days on the bike!!

Today marks the 50th day that I've traveled by bike to and from work this school year! I set a goal at the beginning of the year of 100 days and I'm pleased because I'm halfway there and we have several more weeks before the halfway point of the school year. With the winter weather approaching shortly, I'm sure there will be stretches where I'm unable to ride as much as I'd like to, so I'm pleased that I'm hitting 50 prior to Thanksgiving. So, what does this mean for me? Here are a few numbers to break it down:

1140 Miles-this is the number of miles that I did not put on my car's odometer. According to Google Maps, my round trip drive amounts to 22.8 total miles. My bike commute is probably slightly longer than this due to a little less direct of a route...we'll call it 24 miles. So I've managed to put 1200 more miles on the bike!

$193.75 Saved at the pump...I estimate that my car probably uses 1.25 gallons of gas per day at $3.10 per gallon. This past summer I bought a really cool Surly Long Haul Trucker frame and had it built up as a commuter bike. Total cost on the bike was about $1400, so I'm on my way to paying off my bike!

62.5 gallons of fuel conserved!

1250 lbs of CO2 not released into the atmosphere (this is based on the's calculations of 20 pounds of CO2 per burned gallon of gasoline).

3 Coyotes-I've seen all kinds of wild life for some reason this year, including coyotes in Estabrook Park! One morning I even saw one balled up sleeping about six feet off the parkway road! On bike ride #49 I saw a red-tailed hawk on the ground. I then saw the hawk take off and fly with a squirrel trapped in its talons - too cool!! Deer, more hawks and cool water birds are a few other animals that I've seen frequently along my route.

1 Car Sold-My wife and I made the decision to sell the Ford Taurus earlier this fall because I rarely drove it. We dropped down to her car and my utility van. I rarely drive the utility van, but this is what I'll take to work on the days that Mother Nature is getting nasty.

The forecast is calling for some snow in the next week, but hopefully not enough to keep me off the bike! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Will Richardson and Gary Stager at NYSCATE

At 12:30 pm CST today, Susan Carter Morgan, whom I follow on Twitter, passed out a link to Will Richardson's live audio and video feed from the NYSCATE conference (the talk was recorded and may be accessed via the first link in this post). This was the conference closing "keynote" and it featured a moderated Q and A session between Will and Gary Stager. The audio and video quality from ustream was excellent. It was almost better than being there! The chat pace in the ustream chat box was furious-so much so that it was difficult to keep up with. It was amazing to hear of the challenges and successes that other schools are experiencing - very similar to the ones we have here with relation to expanding the depth and breadth of web2.0ey kinds of use with our students. The conversation was extremely engaging-many good "sound bytes" and one that I remember best was, "replace training with learning." I couldn't agree with this more.

Over the past 4-5 weeks I've worked very hard at becoming more engaged in online learning communities. This has really helped me develop significantly in my position as a school technology teacher, leader and learner. I owe a great deal to Vinnie Vrotny of North Shore Country Day for both inspiring me and challenging me in stepping up my participation in online learning communities. Today's participation in this spontaneous professional development activity would not have happened if it wasn't for my participation in a dynamic and powerful online learning community. Thanks, Vinnie!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spell w/Flickr

I thought this was pretty cool. I learned this tool as I was watching one of "Utecht's Tips" on YouTube. This is called "Spell with flickr." Flickr is a really cool photo sharing service, and this "spell with flickr" site gathers pictures with letters from a word you type. It is pretty cool. Try it with you own name!


Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NPR Technology Podcast

This is an episode from NPR's Technology podcast series. The podcast features news on Chicago's abandonment of their municipal WiFi project, a news update from Facebook, and other interesting news items from the world of technology.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Web2.0 Study Group-Meeting 1

Seven middle school teachers 'met' last night via a skype conference call to kick off our "Web 2.0 Study" group. Our group's focus is to explore the world of web2.0 by actually modeling and using these tools to learn more about them. It clearly was a different way for us to conduct a professional development experience - I was certainly new to this medium and most everyone else was as well. Over the course of the meeting we shared individual goals, we started thinking about a group project that we could present at the end of the year, we watched and reflected on a few videos posted on our ning community, we discussed potential books to read as a group, and we talked about our "homework" assignment for the next meeting (still not sure if the next meeting will be f2f or skype). I wish we would've taken five minutes to list out all of the questions that people had as well - however, the great thing about our approach to this study group is that we can still have participants list out their questions via our ning community at their leisure.

I see this model of synchronous professional development via skype as one that has some potential for a variety of reasons. First off, the model lent itself quite well to the wide range of learning styles, learner background knowledge sets, and levels of interest present. We had some members of the conference who were very new to some of these tools while others have been using them quite a bit. Everyone was able to pick and choose what they wanted to do during the experience. For example, a few people who already viewed the "Did You Know" video were able to surf about ning while others were watching the movie.

The shared google doc presentation was a nice way to guide our meeting. Modeling the use of this tool gave participants some background with this application and gave them the opportunity to think of creative ways to apply the tool in their classroom with students.

I think the meeting raised many questions with everyone, which to me is great. How will we maintain all of our user names/passwords for all of these accounts? Will this involve extra work? What are the differences/similarities of these tools and what are the appropriate times to use each? I hope everyone is able to answer their own personal questions that they may have over the course of our experience together.

Here are some of the methods and tools we used to guide our skype conference:
-We used a google presentation to guide the first meeting
-Skype for voice obviously...we used the texting tool in skype for passing out links and resources
-Our ning community was a great tool for the meeting. I was able to upload a bunch of resources ahead of time for people to sift through and comment on over the course of the meeting.
-A shared NetVibes tab was used to pass aggregate blogs of interest. The link to the NetVibes tab is posted at our ning community.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Picture from the iMac Studio Today

Our digital music composition class was in the iMac Studio today mixing up some funky jams for one of their assignments. Students are working in collaborative teams to build up their audio file. I like the photo below of these two guys working together on their project. I like it because it shows two students working together and sharing in the process of creating a digital music composition.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This is a sample of a voki character that I created. I chose the character and the background using the voki website. I then recorded audio on my computer, uploaded it to the voki site to go along with the character, and then embedded the code in my blog.

I could see this as being a fun way for students to create and publish a piece as an element of a class assignment. Foreign language (a monologue/speech), social studies (historical character), and english (poetry readings) are a few logical connections.

Get a Voki now!

Note about vokis to students: Students under 13 years old may not create a voki account. The terms of service for using voki require that 13-17 year olds have the permission of their parents in order to create a voki account. Please do not create a voki account if you are under 13 years old!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Skype Conference Call w/Author Gene Yang-Summary

We had an amazing conversation with Gene Yang, author of American Born Chinese, at the end of the day with our 8th grade students and teaching team. Gene was an incredibly engaging personality and had some wonderful anecdotes to share regarding the process of constructing his book. It was so cool at the beginning of the conference watching him sketch one of his comic characters...that was just so neat to see live.

We used a variety of technologies to make the magic happen today. We used Skype for the voice portion, Gene broadcast a video feed via, and a peer of mine, Alex Ragone, from the Collegiate School in NYC streamed the audio feed out to the Internet via the edtechtalk website. The ustream feed was a great component of our talk-being able to see Gene as he spoke really personalized the experience for the students.

The students were super prepared thanks to the work of their 8th grade English Teacher, Laurie Barth. The questions that they asked Gene showed a great deal of care and they seemed to be engaged in listening to his wonderful responses. It was kind of cool how we physically arranged our meeting. We divided the students up into 5 smaller groups and they participated from 5 different classrooms (vs. having everybody in one large room). I think this made the experience a little more engaging and intimate for everyone involved. It also served the double purpose of hooking up our entire 8th grade teaching team with a Skype account.

What could we do to improve the experience for the next time we do something like this?? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Allow more student users to be engaged in the conversation by simultaneously chatting during the conversations. I believe this will activate the brains of more students in the audience and allow them to become more fully immersed in the conversation.

2. Be sure students are introduced to this forum prior to it happening. We were actually able to do a skype test call with most of the 8th graders in the classrooms the day before the conference. This gave us confidence that the technology would work and it also allowed the students to get their feet wet with this type of experience.

Direct Link to audio file

Recording of our conversation with Gene Luen Yang:

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Author Chat

Laurie Barth and her 8th grade english students will be chatting with Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, at 2:30 pm central time on Wednesday, November 7th.

Listen in and interact by clicking the link below. Follow the live video by using the player in this window.