Computer Security

When it comes to the topic if internet security, it’s tough to think of a more relevant topic for this course.  I have far more experience on a personal level than with school computers, mainly because I have just been subbing (and my senior year of HS was in the early days of the net, 1997).

My wife’s computer lab has a basic sort of virus protection.  I think it is McAfee or something of the sort.  Since JCPS is fairly rigid about what sites kids can go to it’s fairly difficult for them to go somewhere and wind up with a virus.  I can’t recall her ever mentioning this to me, though the computers all run slow.  I think this is more due to the district having lousy bandwidth than anything though.

My own tales of woe are almost too numerous to mention.  I detailed some of it in my discussion post on the Cumberlands board, but suffice to say when I first got a computer I had no idea what I was doing and had zero security protection.  As such I found my computer running horribly, I’d get error messages, and it generally was a bad situation.  Of all places it was from a wrestling columnist who always put links to things like Ad-Aware or Spybot in his columns and that’s where I first started downloading things to keep my computer free of spyware and hopefully viruses.

Even after that viruses and things still found there way onto my computer.  McAfee was the first program I really used regularly but there would often be clashes with that and the other things I had.  For instance McAfee would try and block Ad-Aware, Spybot would try to block McAfee and the whole thing was one big “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” style showdown.

Once I finally got my current computer I had simply had enough.  My mom and brother already had Webroot so I gave it a try.  It is far less time consuming and lame than McAfee (which always updated at the worst moments and slowed the computer to a crawl).  Webroot does try and block everything under the sun to a fault, but it is better to be safe than sorry.  In addition I simply gave up on stuff like Ad-Aware but I do have Malwarebytes on my computer, but I don’t really use it all that much.  I’ve largely even stopped accepting cookies in my browser and don’t even bother with internet histories on most browsers (IE, Firefox).  I figure if they can’t even get a cookie on my computer it’s tough to put any sort of spyware or other junk.  That is one reason for the disdain I have towards bookmarks mentioned in the previous post.  Bookmarks are an invite for cookies and spyware.

So yes, internet security is a constant problem that one needs to be vigilant about.  It can cause someone a ton of grief, rebooting the computer and re-installing everything, getting a whole new hard drive, whole new computer, etc.

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Web 2.0

When I think of my favorite Web 2.0 tool, it would have to be blogging.  That should make sense given the fact that you are reading that very tool right now, but blogs really do stand out to me as the easiest and best Web 2.0 tool to use that almost anyone can set up and understand.  Yes, social networking is also a big part of Web 2.0 but that is too much of a headache to really get into in a classroom, especially since JCPS blocks Facebook (and why they do not block Twitter I do not know).

The blog you are reading now was originally set up for another class, namely Computer Mediated Communication, which I took at U of L in Fall 2010.  It functioned then much as it does now, as a place where we would go to discuss various topics presented that week.  For those who care enough you can look at my 4 year old posts about a variety of computer related topics (internet wrestling sites, a discussion of facebook vs. myspace, etc.).

As far as standards go, I am a little unsure yet as to how I would use a blog in class.  Blogs tend to work best with online classes, which is where I have used this blog both times.  That said, there’s no reason someone couldn’t assign every day HS students to do a blog, maybe just one discussing various class topics.  A blog could be a nice substitute format for scribbling down essays and handing them in.  For instance, instead of turning in an essay about the causes of WWI or WWII, give students a blog assignment and a basic word count and see what they come up with.  So yes, while I have seen blogs done more on the grad school level than in HS, I think blogs are easy enough to set up and use for the average HS student to utilize.  I suppose a class Wiki could also be used, but really a teacher’s blog could function is a similar capacity.

Now some discussion of the various tech explorations of the week:

Delicious:  Delicious is a social bookmarking site designed to store, share, and discover bookmarks.  I have to admit one thing:  I don’t even use bookmarks.  Like at all.  Ever.  In the classroom I suppose the kids could sign up for it and discover various bookmarks and use it for that purpose, but on a personal level I can’t say that I’d have much of any use for this site.  It is also something that seems to want you to link to a facebook or twitter account, and that kind of thing makes me leery just a little bit.  Not a huge fan of this one.

History Pin:  This was an interesting site.  Basically what you do is type in your address and then the results come back with various “pins” of photos of historical places and events that happened in your area.  My address was obvious since it led me to a pin for Waverly Hills Sanitarium, since I live right by there.  There’s a lot more to the site than that, for instance you can see entire photo histories of cities (I clicked on Richmond, VA).  For someone teaching local history this could be an interesting site to show students.  I don’t know if I’d necessarily spend a ton of time on it in class, but it’s fun for students to play around with and as such I’d give it a mild recommendation.

Diigo:  Diigo is short for Digest of Internet Information, Groups, and Other Stuff.  Basically, Diigo is another bookmarking tool where things are stored on a “cloud” of sorts and there is a toolbar at the top of the screen.  This allows you to create online sticky notes, annotations, and so on.  Much like Delicious I am not interested in this one at all due to my bristling at bookmarks in general, and this one is even worse since it also installs a toolbar.  I don’t know how many teachers I have subbed for that download every toolbar known to man and have the screen cluttered with this stuff.  I wouldn’t even want students messing with any sort of toolbar add on, at least not at school.  If students want to use it on their own time, go for it.  Otherwise, bah.

Cyberchase Talking Calculator:  Okay, this one was kind of amusing.  Basically this is a talking calculator where you can type in various numbers and do the basic add/subtract/multiply/divide commands as the tool speaks the numbers to you.  There is a flaw here however, namely if you punch in a longer number (9734 for instance) and the voice says each and every number.  I’d rather it just hold off until I stop typing.  Still, for elementary teachers this could be a fun tool for teaching basic math.  HS kids however would no doubt drive one insane messing with this thing.

Big Simple Talking Calculator:  This one is somewhat similar to the above but you need to download it.  It takes up the entire screen.  Somewhat amusing, it only gets a 2.0/5.0 rating on this site.  It does feature more in depth and advanced math features, but anyone who needs that sort of thing would likely already have access to a real calculator.  If you already have a real calculator in class, this isn’t worth bothering with.

2Write4Math Wiki:  I wasn’t sure what to make of this Wiki.  It is a math based Wiki with a lot of discussion about writing in math class.  Five areas such as journals, solving problems, explaining math ideas, general math writing, and creative math writing were discussed.  I must admit I have not thought much about math in these terms.  To me math was mostly about solving the problems and maybe the word problems (two trains traveling, etc.) on occasion.  I tried to click on the Bullitt Co. links but those didn’t work for their standards.  Math teachers might find this site interesting and worth a view.

Pic Lits:  This is an interesting site where essentially a picture is shown and there is a text box where someone writes a sentence about said picture.  I can certainly see English and Creative Writing teachers using this site, although writing one sentence seems a bit basic so it might be for lower grade level students.  For instance, when I took Creative Writing as a senior in HS I doubt I really needed a site like Pic Lits, but for elementary students it might be interesting.

 

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WebQuests

Before I begin any discussion I will list two web addresses, one for my own WebQuest, and a second link to the WebQuest that interested me:

The Greatest NBA Players Ever (mine)

Mr. Michalek’s World War I Webquest (the other one)

Okay, let me address the latter before discussing the former.  Since I am going for a certification in secondary Social Studies I feel that World War I is an ideal topic for a WebQuest.  Michalek’s WQ is pretty good, and looks very different in some ways from the quests we’ve taken a look at thus far.  I noticed that it is all one page with various chapters rather than several links on the site that you click on.  He has various areas such as Choosing Sides, Weapons of War, Life in the Trenches, and the Results.  After going through these areas the students has to then write an essay.

Since I’m a relative newbie to WebQuests, it’s hard to really know how to rate it.  I mean it’s probably better than mine, but this was my first attempt.  I think this guy went to a ton of trouble with all of those links to a bunch of articles, especially when such basic info can be found on the Wikipedia entry for WWI.  I guess teachers just cannot come to terms with the notion of Wikipedia being a useful tool, huh?  For stuff like the list of casualties and who was on whose side, Wikipedia would be perfectly fine (or at least it would to be to me).  In fact the Wikipedia entry on WWI is far more detailed and interesting than the stuff he links to!

As far as mine goes, well, I gave it a try.  On the discussion board someone posted a WQ about the greatest baseball players ever, which interested me.  Thus, for mine I decided to do it on great NBA stars instead, and came up with a list of 10 names for students to look at (Jordan, Magic, Bird, Kobe, etc.).  The assignment was to look at sites such as www.basketball-reference.com or whatever else they could find to compare the stats of these players in key areas such as points per game, rebounds, assists, and overall win shares.  This was a group assignment with each group looking at a particular area, then after that they put together a power point with graphs and conclude which player was the best.  Then we discuss whether some areas are more valuable than others, whether some players are overrated, underrated, and so on.

I thought my idea was a good one, but my execution was lacking.  For one thing, I could not get the pictures part to work at all, at least not at first.  I tried saving pics on my computer and uploading…didn’t work.  I don’t even know why.  Finally after stepping away from it for a few hours I got the pics to upload.  I figure I had to include some pictures of the players themselves, so I hope all of those are public domain pictures (all were off a Google images search).  I think those who actually look through it will be amused by my tongue in cheek rubric, but those who have followed my discussion board posts (or have been in another class) know that I am no fan of rubrics in the first place.

In the end, it was an attempt.  I will admit I probably struggled more with the WebQuest than anything else we’ve done in this class though.

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Visual Literacy and Scorsese

This week I was most interested in the video we watched with film director Martin Scorsese about visual literacy.  Mind you, it wasn’t that he said anything that was truly 100% new to me, but it was more the idea of what he had to say that interested me.  For a long time I have felt that teachers don’t really use films the way they ought to in class.  A lot of the time it is mere filler between history units or books, with a token assignment thrown in.  I think Scorsese would challenge that point, and in fact would probably say that film curriculum needs to be a serious part of school curriculum.

I don’t know precisely yet how I would incorporate a film visual literacy aspect into my teaching, but I think film history can go side by side with history classes.  In fact I would be very interested in teaching History of Film type classes at the high school level, where we could delve into a particular era that a film is set in, how it reflects the time it was made, how it stands as a historical document, that sort of thing.  So yes, Scorsese and I quite agree that visual literacy is very important.

As far as the tech explorations go, my wife actually already uses Prezi for the beginning of the year rules presentations and finds it an interesting alternative to a basic power point.  They certainly create a more dynamic sort of presentation than a typical power point with the unique templates on Prezi.  I don’t know so much that I would use it all the time but it could certainly make for a special presentation when the situation calls for it.  As such I would recommend Prezi for that purpose…just not for every presentation.

Spicy Nodes on the other hand is something that seemed very foreign to me, mainly because I have almost zero experience with IPads.  There’s just something about IPads I don’t totally get, but I digress.  Spicy Nodes allows someone to create an App of sorts about most any topic, or incorporate existing site content into an App.  Obviously since I am a newbie to this sort of thing, this wouldn’t be at the top of my list of things to try in the classroom at the moment.  For one, it presumes everyone in the class has the same tech savvy and equipment either at home or in the classroom (and let’s be honest, IPads in schools are kinda scarce…maybe a few in each school).  If a district or school has the means, Spicy Nodes might be worth looking into however.

On the other hand, Edmodo is something I have some experience with, or at least have seen kids using at school.  Basically Edmodo is a site where teachers can set up shop so to speak and post class content.  For instance, I have subbed for teachers at Manual HS here in Louisville and they post the day’s assignment on Edmodo.  Or maybe a study guide on Edmodo.  That sort of thing.  It does require either computer access or allowing students to look on their phones however, so using it in the classroom itself might have some drawbacks.  If you trust your students and they have the access, then Edmodo seems like an interesting mixed method bridge between a typical class and an online class.  I would definitely recommend it.

A Math Dictionary is a curious site to be sure.  Basically it is a site where someone can click on a letter and all sorts of math terms beginning with that letter show up.  I have to be honest…I’m unsure of who this is appealing to.  The design of the site seems very elementary in its look and design, yet the terms seem more like either middle or high school.  It could be used as a nice little alternative source, but really aren’t key terms of this sort in the actual textbook the kids are using?  It might be useful if kids can’t take the book out of the class though, just tell them “Look it up on Math Dictionary.”  That would be a solid use for this site.

Glogster is a fascinating program that allows people to create dynamic “Glogs” with dynamic content and interactive features.  For instance, I took a look at some social studies Glogs about the 1960s, the 1940s, and consumerism.  Each presentation has things to click on (videos, links, whatever) that display content.  This would be an interesting way to do class presentations if the kids themselves knew how to use it.  It is Common Core aligned as well.  I tend to think most teachers would just opt for someone putting together a power point, but I would hardly discourage the use of such a site.  I tend to think graphic design classes would implement this.  Others?  I don’t know so much.

Jing is an interesting program that one can use to capture an image on the computer screen and share it with others.  It can be used to create videos, how to type deals, whatever you want.  I can see an elementary teacher using this in the classroom on a smart board more than anything I would use in a HS class however.  Jing is a program that could go hand in hand with AB Tutor in a computer lab.  As in capture a screen image, then send it out to everyone in the lab.  I’d recommend it for computer lab teachers who want to share content, not sure about others though.

Obviously, You Tube Education would be a great tool to use in almost any classroom that has basic internet capability.  Any teacher can find all sorts of content about almost any educational subject on You Tube.  For instance, if you want videos about World War I, there’s stuff on You Tube Education about it.  I have played the Crash Course by John Green video about WWI to a class before.  You Tube is something everyone knows about, and can use.  School Tube is somewhat similar, more of a subset and it seemed to feature more videos of teachers and schools themselves, but it could be a nice site to augment the You Tube usage.  Teacher Tube is a bit different, having videos as well as groups where people can join and discuss a certain topic (music, English class, etc.).  All of these sites are certainly useful in the classroom but I think most teachers would probably use the You Tube videos the most, and maybe dabble around somewhat with the other two.

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Power Points and Other Stuff

VERB

The above link is a Power Point I did for a Health Communication Campaigns class back in 2010.  Before I get into VERB in detail, let me explain more about the context of the class.  I was the only grad student in an otherwise undergrad class, and as such part of my grade came from getting up and leading the class three different times.  I discussed three different campaigns (the others being Be a Star and Above the Influence).  Those other Power Points were really the first attempts I did at PPTs and as such kinda…sucked.  So you get to see the best of the three, which admittedly isn’t amazing or anything but it at least got the point across.

VERB essentially is a program that promotes physical activity to decrease obesity rates among children 9-13.  And no, I still to this day do not know what VERB stands for and can’t even seem to find it anywhere on the net.  Maybe it doesn’t stand for anything?  Anyway, as pitiful as this may sound, at the time this was easily my most advanced Power Point presentation.  The first two I did had zero background color at all, they were just plain white with black text.  Boring.  At least with this one I figured out how to put a decent sleek looking gray background along with some links and bullet points.  I’m still not amazing at doing Power Points but I think in some ways that might be a good thing, since I don’t try a bunch of wild stuff that only undermines the effectiveness of the presentation (as in wild fonts, incoherent backgrounds, too much text).

I am hazy now as to how effective the presentation was, since I don’t think the kids in there were being tested over what I was saying and I don’t remember anyone saying a single word the entire time.  I don’t think they asked any questions either.  Since I am now locked out of the U of L Blackboard system I can’t even go back and retrieve my grade on the assignment.  As far as anything I would change, I would probably at least add a brief Works Cited slide to it now.  My delivery was probably not the most amazing, but I think I’ve naturally gotten better at doing these presentations.  In fact I got better that very year since I did more and more of them, and frankly about more interesting (to me anyway) topics.  I thought of posting my presentations on the Hollywood Production Code and also my PPT on Risk Management in WCW.  Those were purely grad school presentations however and were not me leading the class in a teaching capacity.

As far as the TED.com site goes, I think there are some definite uses at the K-12 level.  I do wonder why we need an entirely different site for the stuff that is on there though.  For instance I found the Sir Ken Robinson speech on youtube.com as well.  Truth be told You Tube may well have more stuff overall than a site like TED.

Speaking of the Robinson creativity speech, it really hit home.  In Louisville I do think there are schools such as Manual that truly develop the creativity of students with programs like Youth Performing Arts, Journalism/Communications, etc.  I originally applied there coming out of middle school but the whole thing fell apart and I went to Butler instead, which is a strict traditional school.  Let’s just say in mindset these two schools are VERY far apart.  In fact I actually remember the following statement on the intercom at Butler in regards to the newly implemented dress code:  “There are some students we have seen that are being creative with the dress code.  Creativity is not allowed at Butler Traditional High School.”  I am not making this up.  That said, it was during that period that I was most creative.  Most of the music on the album I mentioned in my previous post was done in HS.  I also became interested in writing film scripts during that period.  That said, I do wonder if going to a school like Manual could have allowed me to harness my creativity even more.

As far as the Text to Speech program, it is similar to some of the previous tech explorations we have covered in here, stuff like Power Talk.  I think it would make a good tool if a teacher had a sore throat or something.  Just type in the text and let it speak for you.  As far as the kids in class go?  Eh, I’d probably want them to do their own speaking when presenting something.

Comic Life is a fascinating site and quite honestly is something I might want to consider for my own comic book project I’ve been thinking about for years.  As far as schools go, Comic Life could be an interesting program for a computer lab teacher, though I don’t know if any other teachers would regularly use it.  It might be cool for my area of social studies though, since students could use Comic Life to put together comics based on historical events or people.

As far as Voice Thread goes, I am still a bit hazy on exactly how it all works even after looking at the main site and also the Wiki for it.  From what I gather it looks like a Movie Maker style video where someone narrates and somehow other teachers or students can chime in with questions.  It looks like a place where teachers can post student work, since I took a look at some HS art projects.  Is there anything here that can’t be done via Movie Maker and uploading to You Tube though?  I suppose there is some use to it, but I’d probably just tell students to post their own stuff if they were interested in doing so.

Storybird looks like it would be a wonderful program for an English teacher or someone teaching Creative Writing.  I don’t know if I would personally use it in a social studies class however since the site seems to focus mostly on fictional story writing and I’m not sure how much of that would go into, say, American History.  But I would definitely recommend it for teachers in the English or Writing areas.

Scribblar seems like something an entire school or district would need to implement rather than one particular teacher.  It looks like an online tutoring program where students can go into various rooms and get the help and content they need.  That said, as a teacher would I necessarily recommend tutoring being done like this?  I don’t know.  To me tutoring is something that needs to be done one on one (or in a small group).  I think I’d rather do that than mess with an entire computer platform.

Lastly, Kidblog is a fun site that allows teachers to sign up their classes for online blogging.  It seems more like something that an elementary teacher would do rather than secondary teachers.  I say this because it seems like very intro level blogging.  For instance, at a more advanced level a teacher could simply say “Sign up for a Word Press account and give me the address” and there it is.  This sort of blog is for teachers who want to keep track of what everyone is up to.  As such I would find Kidblog more useful for the K-5 level, maybe 6-8, but not so much 9-12.

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Visuals are important

Sonic Sceamer Parental Advisory GreenAlbum Credits Easydisc Green Album Listing Vignette Spine 2 Family Pics Kaleidiscope Blue Waverly Hills Vignette Easydisc Blue

Visual images are hugely important.  The above images I will get into greater detail as this post progresses, but they are images that spent quite a bit of time on for an album I have been working on.  I’d like to think the visuals are arresting and cool to look at, the sort of visuals that would make someone stop in a store and pick up the CD and want to buy it.  Good visuals get the audience’s attention and keep them interested.  Obviously these are visuals for the CD booklet of my album.  I also have a video for a song on the album that can be found on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV_6S6FWuGA).

I am discussing all of this because it has been a time consuming project for me this year, and quite honestly I don’t have any school related letters or pamphlets to discuss since I am currently just subbing.  My wife let me see one of her beginning of the year info forms, but it was such a basic form that I didn’t feel like using it.  It wasn’t my form anyway.

A bit of info on the creative process here.  I started with the cover, which was actually taken using the camera setting on my camcorder.  From that point I added the text and did a lot of the photo editing with both Pixlr and Pic Monkey, using the vignette setting to get that creepy look around the edges.  There was some green bleeding below the clown so I did the cross purposes setting on green to give the whole cover (and the other text pages) the same look.  I’ll admit the font used is a bit hard to read on the actual CD, even after doing denoise settings and sharpening.  I couldn’t find the “ransom note” style font I wanted though.  The picture of Waverly Hills Sanitarium is the two panel spread in the booklet, and was a still shot from my music video.  I did the same vignette and a blue cross purpose setting to give it that eerie look.  The wild kaleidoscope is the inner tray image and started with another still from the video of family pictures, then I did a blue cross purpose and the kaleidoscope setting on Pic Monkey.  Helicon Filter 5 is a good program as well for doing noise removal and sharpening.

Admittedly this is still a work in progress even AFTER I got the CDs made.  For instance, the spine wording was a bit off, though not on what you see here (this is the corrected version).  On my CD spine the words are too far to the left and into the dark portion of the spine.  Also, I did more sharpening on the back so that the words are clearer for future orders.

To totally shift gears I will say a bit about the GPAT and Zoho sites.  I was a bit puzzled by the GPAT site since at first there wasn’t much to it, but then I read a few of the links to get a handle on what they do.  GPAT seems to work with local GA schools to help implement technology for kids in need of learning assistance.  They mention braille, CDs, computers, and the like.  I would assume these sort of things are used for ECE kids in GA, since I have subbed enough ECE to see these tech aspects used.  These are definitely a big part of an ECE classroom.  I have seen some of the kids use educational computer games on and off during the day, some listen to music as a reward, and the like.  Thus, GPAT does admirable work and I wonder if KY has an equivalent?

Zoho seems a bit more like what we’ve been discussing already.  They offer a lot of different apps for things like Wikis, spreadsheets, word processing, and the like.  It seems a bit more like a business oriented site rather than an education related site, so I am not sure how this would function in the classroom.  As in, wouldn’t the district already have contracts to use Microsoft versions of some of this stuff?  If that sort of thing isn’t a problem however I can see it being a nice “One stop for everything” site.

I also took a look at some of the 4 Teachers tools, starting with the Quiz Star.  Being able to do multimedia style quizzes sounds really cool, but I do wonder….how practical is this exactly?  It could certainly be used in a school setting but would the average teacher seriously go to the trouble of doing this with a basic quiz?  Most quizzes last about 5 minutes at the beginning of class, so I don’t know if it’s worth all the bother.

The Casa Notes tool seems pretty cool and gives teachers a way to do both English and Spanish notes for kids to take home (field trips, progress reports, etc.).  My wife has a lot of Spanish speaking kids in her classes so this tool might come in handy, since sometimes Google translate isn’t the greatest.  I don’t really know how great Casa Notes is in terms of translating, but it could be worth a try (then the Spanish kids can giggle at the translation).

On a similar note, Rubistar is a tool that allows a teacher to create English and Spanish rubrics online.  Much in the same way as Casa Notes works, this would be a nice little tool for Spanish speaking students in the classroom, or it could be used by a Spanish teacher to get kids thinking in Spanish.  I don’t know if other teachers would want to mess with it though.  At some point don’t they need kids to be well versed in English?

Dimio’s Tools is an interesting twist on the whole “I will dictate into the mic what I want typed out” bit.  In fact it is quite the opposite.  You actually type into the program and it comes back with a voice.  You can do several different languages on there (Spanish, French, German, Russian, etc.) so I can imagine this being very interesting for a foreign language teacher.  Some ESL teachers might find it useful as well, but their job is to get kids to understand English better so the use might be limited.  As far as myself, I might find it interesting to mess around with, but I can’t see myself using it in the classroom.

Power Talk is a program that seems quite interesting since it is a vocal power point program.  As in it speaks out the power point as you go.  I have to admit I am quite hazy on how that would work, and it would present an immediate problem for most teachers.  It is a big problem actually.  Nearly every teacher would want kids to speak out their own power point.  From the teacher’s end of things, it might be of some use however since it would save you from having to do the same spiel 5 times in a given day.  So yes, to save one’s voice, using the Power Talk program on a power point might be a useful thing to do.

The entire Webquest page is one that I believe we’ll be going into further detail about in another lesson but I’ll say a bit about it now.  I am a little hazy on Webquest even after looking the site, but I believe it works in the way that you can search for a particular topic, find a Webquest on that topic, and then either work with that framework or adapt it for your own purposes in the classroom with permission from the author.  This sort of thing could prove useful for topics in the Social Studies area, since I could type in “Boston Tea Party” and come up with a Webquest that might work for the students.  As such, Webquest sounds like a very viable tool to use in the classroom.

Lastly, the Read the Words site seems to function much in the same way as the Power Talks deal does, namely I can create speeches from text.  I messed around with some silly sentences on the “Try it” feature and the robotic sounding woman cracked me up.  It seemed like a female Stephen Hawking type voice, which was a bit odd.  Not even as personable as the GPS voice, haha.  But again, to save your voice it might be worthwhile to type stuff in and create a vocal product in either English, French, or Spanish.  Could be most useful for foreign language teachers, but as far as everyone else it would be just to save your voice.

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Databases, Spreadsheets, and Being Baffled by Mapping

For a fascinating look at spreadsheets and databases I suggest reading the following site:  http://integrating-tech.weebly.com/spreadsheets-and-databases.html.  It goes a bit beyond the crash course in both spreadsheets and databases listed on the course curriculum articles.

While sifting through the various readings, there was one mention of a function of Excel spreadsheets that really interested me, namely the ability of students to use their spreadsheets to create webpages and share those pages with other students.  I have used Excel sparingly over the years, never really being fully trained or versed in it, but at least I have seen and used spreadsheets and even toyed with the math formulas.  However I was surprised at using Excel to create a webpage.  I’m still unsure of how exactly that works since the quick intro article (http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/excel/) didn’t provide much in the way of elaboration.

I will flat out say right now that I have never really used either databases or spreadsheets as a teacher, mainly because I have just been subbing and haven’t been exposed to it that much as of yet.  Indeed, the primary tool mentioned for creating a database (Access) is a program I have never used period, so I truly cannot comment on it other than to say it sounds fascinating.  Therefore, I will confine most of my comments to my limited exposure to Excel spreadsheets.

In that Intro article it was mentioned under the “What’s bad” section that kids have a limited understanding of Excel and that it was important for schools to introduce concepts of it here and there rather than having one person or class responsible for teaching Excel.  To me, this just sounds…wrong.  One of my major hangups with Excel is that I do not feel as though I have ever been properly trained in it.  I had maybe a week on it during a college undergrad Computer Communication class, which didn’t really stick.  In a grad school Quantitative Methods class our professor took a few minutes out to show us some statistical analysis and formulas done via Excel, but again this was done so quickly (and we weren’t tested over this) that it didn’t make a lasting impression.  Recently I did purchase some UPC bar codes and those were delivered in an Excel spreadsheet, and that is fairly useful since I can keep track of what number goes with which item (yes, I am putting out my own album and needed UPCs).

Okay, I am probably rambling a bit so let’s shift gears.  I’ll talk a bit now about some of the sites and programs used for mapping.  I had never heard of this concept until now, or at least not a computer program version of what essentially looks like sketched out brainstorming.

The first of these sites/programs I took a look at was WiseMapping.  I checked out the tutorial and it seemed easy enough to use.  Basically you type in a main idea, then you can branch off to form a family tree of ideas that can go all over the page.  That’s basically what this reminded me of.  You start with the ancestors, then it branches out to various generations.  You can even export these files to other formats.  My nagging doubt as to the usefulness in a classroom is that it basically just looks like a high tech way of drawing some ideas on a piece of paper.  As in, outside of a computer class does a teacher really have enough computers to justify having students jot down ideas and branch them out?  I mean, why not just use a piece of paper for this sort of thing?  At best I would maybe mention the program to students since it is a free site, but I doubt I would ever use it in class.  On a personal level I don’t even really take notes this way.  I prefer to just write down a sheet of paper.  The ideas can be messy to follow, but that’s just how I roll.  I also took a look at bubbl.us and it was somewhat similar to WiseMapping.  The whole start with an idea, then branch out into subcategories, etc.

More along my lines was the Animoto program.  This program is great stuff and offers some truly advanced (and quite honestly professional) editing features.  At first I thought it was similar to Movie Maker, but it’s far beyond the scope of what Movie Maker offers.  In terms of how it could be used in school, I suppose teachers if so inclined could take the time to put together some really awesome presentations, or in some advanced level tech classes the students could do it.  But on a daily basis, do most teachers have the time to put together epic presentations, or would a simple power point suffice?  I like the program, but it might end up being time consuming without any results to justify it.  I’d recommend this more to someone needing to put together a huge business presentation, which is one of the main aspects listed on the site.

As far as Google Docs goes, I actually have in fact used Google Docs for a project of my own.  I had a particular set of images for a comic book I’ve been planning and needed to send it to an artist for revisions, but it was too large for email.  Thus, he recommended Google Docs/Drive, and sure enough it worked just fine sending it that way.  I’m not sure the average school project would require Google Docs though.  This guy I sent it to is across the country in CA, so it’s not like I could just put it on a flash drive and he could easily put it on his own computer.  Google Docs is a handy thing to have in such a case, but students should be able to either email an assignment or use a flash drive.  If teachers have that much material for students, there’s always EdModo.

Lastly, Photopeach.  To get the full access you have to use the pay version, and that allows you to upload music and create MPEG and ISO format slideshows.  I mentioned Movie Maker earlier, but it seems to me like Photopeach really doesn’t do a ton that Movie Maker can’t also do.  I’ve put music with pictures on Movie Maker before and created some interesting stuff, so I don’t know if the average teacher would necessarily purchase this product.  It is a good program, but is it essential?

 

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