The end of Textbooks?

This weekend I had time to read a few of my technology magazines and I found a journal that sparked my interest. The Spring 08 Threshold magazine had several articles that talked about the future of education. I was increasingly engaged in the article that discussed open textbooks and courseware. I related to the challenge of moving from the dewey decimal system (printed, linear, time-limited) to google keywords (digital, changing, always available) in the current school settings. One issue in todays curriculum is relating real world applications and tools. (Try doing that with textbooks that are 5 years old!) With Web2.0, new ideas are transforming the classroom – including open source textbooks! Open source textbooks not only allow content to remain current, but also provide a wealth of resources to support deep learning for the learner.

The article goes on to state that, “It (movement) is happening so quickly that the way the brains of our children are conditioned to handle data is fundamentally different than in the past, and very different from the brains those currently responsible for formal education.”

Here are a couple of links from the article(s) that I suggest to look at if you want to learn more:

What kind of real world application would students get out of their classrooms if they were able to collaborate with each other and write their own curriculum? This may be an “out of the box” thought, however, with the tools available today – it is possible!

Voice Thread

Last week, as I was in JITT (Just In Time Training) at the Middle School, Christine J. introduced me to a new tool that has quite a bit of potential! It is called Voice Thread. How cool would it be to use a tool like this to be able to comment, collaborate, or even debate photographs or videos. Voicethread is a Web-based digital-storytelling application that allows users to share their stories through audio, images, videos or text. It also allows visitors to make comments on their stories in five different ways:

  • voice with a microphone
  • voice with cell phone
  • text
  • audio file
  • video with a webcam

The stories can be shared with anyone in the world or they can be kept private for selected individuals. Like many Web 2.0 applications, you can get a free basic account as well as a VoiceThread Pro account with unlimited creation and advanced features for a fee. However, VoiceThread is offering free educator accounts for all k-12 classroom educators.

It didn’t really dawn on me how valuable this (FREE) tool was until I was at JITT at the Elementary School talking to Mapuana about her penpal program with students from India. We were discussing ways each classroom could collaborate with each other using todays 21st century tools. Since we have a 12 hour time difference – tools like Skype would not work so well. I think Voicethread could be the ticket! Wouldn’t it be cool for each class to take a picture of something meaningful in their communities, upload it, and invite the other class to comment/collaborate on it? If you would like to learn more – I invite you to watch this VoiceThread presentation, What is VoiceThread Anyway? I am very interested if any of our teachers decide to use this program and how they use it! TOO COOL!

Doodle for Google – Contest

I recently heard about an exciting competition run by Google and thought you might be interested. It’s called Doodle 4 Google, and it offers students all over the country the chance to design the Google logo, and perhaps have their artwork viewed by people all over the world.

The Doodle 4 Google theme is “What if…?” Here are some examples of what this could mean:

– What if…I could live underwater, or in outer space, or in Colonial America?
– What if…I could see into the future?
– What if…I could build any kind of invention I wanted?

But your students are encouraged to come up with their own ideas about this theme. The competition is open to K-12 students between 5 and 18. An expert panel will pick 40 finalists who’ll be invited to a workshop with Google’s official doodler, Dennis Hwang, at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. The U.S. public will vote for their favorites, and the winning design will replace the regular Google homepage on May 22, 2008. This champion doodler will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and his or her school will receive a $25,000 technology grant.

How to participate?

Please visit www.google.com/doodle4google. You’ll find all the dates and resources you’ll need to get your school involved, including detailed lesson plans to help incorporate the competition into your curricula. School registration closes on March 28th and doodle entries must be received by April 12th, 2008.

I have already registered our district, any teacher or student interested in participating should contact me!

Online enviroments in education

Yesterday, I was quite impressed with Carl Anderson’s presentation of “Online Virtual Environments in Education” at SEMTEC’s Techspo in Stewartville, MN. He used a program called Active World and built virtual 3d webquests. It was truly and AWESOME project and I think that kids are going to enjoy it immensely as it has much of the “video gaming” feel. We need to investigate this technology more as we look at the future – not only curriculum delivery but an alternative method of professional development. It is definitely a head turner. Thanks Carl!

I Got IT!

Today I had my first video conference. Sure, I have participated in numerous video conferences – but this one was hosted and scheduled in Byron. I did not have to travel anywhere and fight the traffic or weather. I walked across the hall and was immediately connected with 6-8 entities across the state. From Moorhead to Mankato, St. Paul to Wilmar – I was very engaged with this method of of communication!

So now the wheels (in my head) are turning. I think we can start using this technology by doing some virtual field trips.   I also like the added benefit of being able to record and stream the technology for a later date.  Skype is a great alternative, but without QOS, I am not sure how well a 6-10 participant video conference would work.  How cool would it be for our HS Anatomy class to partake in a live knee replacement surgery? How about our Zoology class being able to connect with people in the Minnesota Zoo? What about our Government classes being able to connect with court judges or even State Representatives LIVE in St Paul. All of these things are possible and the technology is here to make it happen! Stay tuned…

Compatability with Office 2007

Right now our district uses Microsoft Office 2003. This summer we will be gearing up for an Office 2007 upgrade. In the mean time, we have had many students that have Office 2007 at home. For students that email or want to open files on our computers, we need to install a compatibility pack. This will allow us to open, view, and save 2007 Word, Excel, or Power Point files. That compatibility pack is available free from Microsoft and you can download it by clicking here or copy and pasting this link (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=941B3470-3AE9-4AEE-8F43-C6BB74CD1466&displaylang=en)  into Internet Explorer!  You MUST use Internet Explorer to download this file!

If you need more assistance you can watch me install it by clicking this screencast!

Cool Graphing Tool!

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has created a nice little data site for kids called the NCES Kid Zone. Check out the graphing tools on this site! Students are able to design, (2d and 3d graphs!), label, and print or save the graphs in multiple formats. They will even store the graph for 30 days and email you the link! (click the link and then click preview the graph) What a great global collaborative tool! This graph is only meant to demo the tool – so note the data is not accurate!

My Demo Graph

Free Web 2.0 training from Atomic Learning (November only)

Are you looking to learn a little more about Web 2.0 technology. This month Atomic Learning is providing free training on Web 2.0 on their website. This training was developed by Cool Cat Teacher Blog creator Viki Davis.

Click Web 2.0 workshop and participate and learn:

  • Web 2.0 terminology
  • Blog basics (like what it is, how to read a blog, how to comment, how to find a license)
  • Wiki basics (what is a wiki, parts of a wiki)
  • Podcast basics (what is a podcast, how to listen to a podcast)
  • Webcast Basics (how to listen to a webcast)
  • Social Networking Basics (how to navigate them)
  • Tags and Tag Clouds – Uses of tags
  • How to set up an RSS Reader (using Netvibes) — this is important
  • How to communicate with a group using Netvibes

Online Conversion Utility – Web2.0 at its best!

Last week I demo’d to our teachers how to download videos from TeacherTube. We use a great Firefox add on called Unplug. Then we can download the video to our desktops. Problem with that is the file format is an FLV file – which isnt importable by many applications like powerpoint or smart notebook. There is a website called Zamzar that will convert these files into an array of other formats. Check it out! I have also included the tipsheet with this blog. Zamzar can also convert music, documents, and graphics to a wide variety of formats. Teachertube to AVI (pdf)