Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Vacation by the Shore--Virtually

I guess you have to face your fears, even when they’re not real life fears, so I registered to get a Second Life. I picked a name and the goofiest avatar I could find. I could not stop laughing when I met other second-life folks, thinking about how goofy I looked. I talked briefly to a few people—evidently Thursday evenings are pretty slow around ISTE Island. I walked on down to the campfire circle and “got comfy.” The Quickstart guide is quite helpful. It wasn’t long before I was really enjoying the fire and watching the dolphins play in the surf. In my real life I’m a birder, so I was very pleased to find that Second Life has hawks and owls! I finally tore myself away from the fire and went over to the playground. I read the signs and picked up a few tips. Then I got on the swing. I had a great time, but it was just like a real swing; after you get going, how do you get off? Then I saw the tree house. I went over, expecting steps or a ladder, but finally realized I had to fly up there. After a few tries I made it. I even sent myself a postcard from my vacation on the shore. When I finally looked at the clock, two hours had gone by! I took one last flight out over the ocean.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get a Second Life

I have to admit, Second Life looks a bit scary. It's hard to imagine myself as a cartoon or avatar with high-on-the-head pigtails and big green eyes--I mean, these women look like they're wearing a bra on the outside of their shirts! The Health Education in Second Life wiki has a very helpful introduction, including this tip: "We recommend spending 10-20 hours in Second Life." And that's just for the introduction! With time always scarce, does the investment of time in learning how to use Second Life pay off in terms of professional development and networking? Here's a video made by the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) with people who emphatically say that it does. One tells us that Second Life gives her "constant access to the most current and relevant topics that are of interest to me and my school," and allows her to engage in "conversation with some of the most forward-thinking and creative minds in the field of educational technology." Other voices coaxing me out of my comfort zone are found in the archive of the weekly talk show in Second Life, "ISTE Eduverse Talks." Watching last week's show allows me to peep "inworld" without having to wear butterfly wings. Shows are Tuesdays, 5 PM SLT (Second Life time), which I believe is 7PM CDT.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Read, Write, and Share with a Class Blog

I recently attended a session at K12 Online Conference; "Using Web2.0 Tools in a Grade One Classroom." Even though the presentation is from 2006, it was the most emailed session listed. Kathy Cassidy of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada started a blog with her 1st grade classroom using Blogmeister. Her students posted their thoughts about what thtey had learned in words, pictures, video and audio podcasts. They used their KidPix artwork to decorate the blog. We use KidPix quite a bit with our younger students. I had not thought about how easy it would be to export the student artwork as jpegs, upload to Flicker as Cassidy did, and then embed in a blog or wiki. I was impressed that they posted podcasts as well as video. The class shared their blog with a class in New Zealand, prompting lots of interest in that country as well as in reading their partner blogs. Partnering with a far-away school is a great idea for a class blog. Blogmeister can help with this since on the log-in page, you can select a state or country and "browse for bloggers." Parents and grandparents visited the blog, read the posts and left comments. Her students were excited to write in the blog and were thrilled to see how many people had visited and viewed their work. Having an audience is so motivating for students--and teachers--of any age.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tapped In

No teacher is an island--at least, you shouldn't be in this age of nings, listserves, wiki, etc. TappedIn is a real standout among professional learning communities. It's a free service with a helpful staff that can guide you around the different areas of the community. There are groups for librarians, world language teachers, art teachers, those interested in project-based learning, primary grades, middle school--you get the picture. As soon as I registered, I received a chat message from the information desk in the "lobby," with helpful suggestions. The "Enhanced Lessons" group has a wiki with a dozen tutorials for web 2.0 tools, like Delicious, VoiceThread and BubbleShare. In my wanderings among the groups, I found 17 links that I will use later in my classroom, adding them to my Delicious page. To imagine the possibilities of this community, read this amazing letter from a teacher in Illinois and one in Brazil who have brought their students together online for discussions. Here's a short tutorial created by one of the "Enhanced Lessons" group, or check this one from YouTube.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Change Blogmeister's Template

Ready for a new look? Watch this short video to find out how to change the look of your blog page on Blogmeister, a blogger designed for k12 students.

Add a Photo to Blogmeister with Picvault

There a few steps to adding a photo to Blogmeister. You need a host site for the photo, such as Picvault. I run through the steps here:

Let Your Computer do the Talking!

Let your computer talk back, using TextEdit. Find it in the Applications folder. Type your blog post and TextEdit will read it back to you to help you find errors.

Getting Started with Class Blogmeister

Here's a short tutorial I made for my students about logging in and writing a post for ClassBlogmeister.