Saturday, February 23, 2013

7 Steps toward a Digital Classroom; or,
Is your Printer Really a Brain-eating Zombie?

At the Midwest Education Technology Conference (METC 2013) this month, I had a great time listening to Bill Bass's session on Google tools. He also talked about SlideRocket, so I decided to give it a try, in a presentation about the paperless classroom--here are my links on "paperless." In addition to saving trees, saving paper saves teachers' time. And it's easy! I've embedded the presentation below:

Creative Commons License
7 Steps toward a Digital Classroom; or, Is your Printer Really a Brain-eating Zombie? by Anne McCormack is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tagxedo PNGs & JPGs

Tagxedo is another word cloud generator, one with even more bells & whistles. Like Wordle, the program counts the number of times a word is used. The more it is used, the larger it appears in the graphic. Small words like "a" and "the" are not counted.  Both Worlde and Tagxedo can make word clouds from text or websites. I prefer Tagxedo for the images it creates, but for analyzing the message of a literary work, Wordle actually works better. See my previous post about Wordle.

Here's my Tagxedo image of this blog.
Before we could use Tagxedo on our Macs, I had to install Silverlight. Tagxedo provides a link for this installation. Similar to Flash, Silverlight allows the interactive display to function. I've never needed Silverlight before, and this took a bit of time, but it was easy. By the way, don't even think about running Wordle or Tagxedo on on Mac OS 10.3. Our lab has 12 machines with 10.6 "Snow Leopard." The other 18 have 10.3, so my students take turns using the newer machines. We don't have any "Tiger" machines anymore, so I can't say if Tagxedo will run on 10.4. Perhaps one of my readers can tell me. I believe you need to install before you can properly view this embedded version. Here's an article about embedding Tagxedo on your web page.

The print function in Tagxedo allows you to save it as a PNG or JPG. The graphic above is a PNG. I was curious about which format is better for this type of thing. I found a very clear explanation on Inverse Karma, the blog of software engineer Ganesh Prasannah. I chose PNG based on his suggestion that if the image contains text and hard lines, PNG is better than JPG.

I ask my students to save their work and turn it in to my digital turn-in tray--a "write only" folder on our server. Not only does that allow us to have a paperless classroom, it gives us the option to add the image to a web page, make a slide show, or print in color when I get the color printer working. Both Wordle and Tagxedo have public galleries for you to share your artwork. Be advised that not there may be graphics in the gallery that are not appropriate for the classroom. 

Tagxedo has more fonts, allows you to use more than 1 font on your word cloud, and offers more controls in layout. It's best known for pouring that word cloud into a shape, like the one below. This  is part of the first chapter from my favorite Sherlock Holmes story, The Sign of Four.  Cool!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Beautiful Word Clouds

I've used Wordle with my students and I love it! The coolest part--for me--is the way that a word cloud can sum up the author’s message. Check out this Wordle I created by pasting in the text of Melville's Moby-Dick, Chapter 1. Wordles or word clouds take words you give them, drop out the smallest words, and make the one that are most often repeated the largest. I love how this word cloud says, "Find little, get  nothing." That's about as good a plot summary as you can get of a 500+ page book.
We go to Google Books or Project Gutenberg to choose a book for our word clouds. Which ever website you use as a source, be sure to choose the version in "plain text" for Wordle. Project Gutenberg is a little bit easier to use for this purpose.

There are other options than the ones I chose. You can enter the URL of your teacher website and Wordle it. You can choose from dozens of colors and fonts. I chose to keep the one above rather plain.

The print function uses Java. Only the newer machines in my computer lab can use this, so students take turns using machines with Mac operating system 10.4 or later. We click the print button, then in the print dialog, save it as a PDF. The screenshot below shows the process on an "Advanced Wordle." It's not really as hard as it looks, although when I tried it with my 4th graders I gained some gray hairs. Advanced Wordle lets you put in your own words and tell it which ones are most important by following the word with a number. The hardest thing for students to remember is to use a colon, not a semi-colon between the word and the number, and to not put a space after the colon. I advise them to stay between 100 and 2000. They love the "Custom Palette" of colors. Don't even think about attempting this till they've grasped the PDF process.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Install the Diigo Toolbar

I went to Will Richardson's session at the Midwest Education Technology Conference (METC) in St. Charles, Missouri, in ’09. During his presentation about teaching students to use web 2.0 tools, he clicked over to a website, found something interesting, and saved the link to a social bookmarking site. It took him less than 1 second. Probably most people didn't even notice that he did it, but to me it was one of the stand out moments of the conference. What a great tool! To be able to spot something on the web, store it to read later, keep it as a reference, and to do it so effortlessly!
One key to to storing links on my favorite bookmarking site, Diigo, is the "toolbar" that you install in the browser of your choice. With the toolbar, you can save a site with a single click. 

If you have more than a nanosecond, a second click brings up the edit box. Here you can add a description of the site if you wish, but more importantly, add tags. Tags are keywords that will help you—and others—find this site among the bookmarks. Installing it is easy, as you see in my video. Click on the symbol with the 4 arrows, bottom right, if you'd like to view it full screen.
The toolbar includes many more functions that I'll be posting about later, as well as demonstrating at one of the breakout sessions at this year's METC: "Transforming Research Assignments with Diigo Social Bookmarks," Wed., Feb. 16 at 1:00. It's the Swiss army knife of the Internet!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sharing links with Diigo

Ever wanted to share something? AMcC
Did you ever need to share a link with your class, team mates, or friends? Picture a teacher with a class of 1st graders. "Boys and girls, just go up to the box at the top and type in http://…" Not gonna happen. Of course, you can bookmark the link in the browser. For every computer your students ever use. Not.

Making a weblock
If you have a program such as Apple Remote Desktop, you can make a weblock and blast it to any or all computers. Great if you have the software, but it will only remain there till someone deletes it. Not a permanent link.

Like other bookmarking services, such as Delicious and I Keep Bookmarks, Diigo will store your bookmarks online, where students can search them. More about searching in my next post.
Need to share with colleagues? Diigo and Delicious both offer a way to email a link right from the website, without having to switch your email program. Diigo is easier and more versatile.
From the Share > Send to menu