Tuesday, May 27, 2008

tt4t_039 Up, Up, and Away….

It’s Tuesday, May 27th 2008 and welcome to episode 39 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. I hope all had an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend and had the opportunity to honor our veterans. Here in the midwest we had rain off and on all weekend so hopefully everyone was able to get in their cookouts between the rains. As graduations conclude across the country and schools recess for the summer I invite fellow educators to stay tuned to TechTalk4Teachers as I plan to continue producing episodes over the summer.

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There may be a week or two that I do not post an episode when I take vacation but I will let you know ahead of time. At the end of June I will be attending the National Educational Computing Conference better known as NECC in San Antonio, Texas so I should have plenty of new material to cover when I get back. I am really looking forward to this conference as this is the largest educational technology conference in the nation and there will be thousands of educators from across the world attending. If any of you are attending NECC and would like to meet up at this event please drop me an email at techtalk@eiu.edu and we will see if we can arrange a time and place to meet while in San Antonio. I would love to meet fellow listeners/readers face-to-face to compare notes so please let me know if you are interested.

NECC 2008 San Antonio Link:

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is the recently released Worldwide Telescope website developed by Microsoft Research. If you have any interest at all in Astronomy this is an absolute must see website. It does require a client download and uses Internet Explorer so those with Macs will have to boot into Windows if you have that option to use this site. If you meet the system requirements to download the software it is definitely worth it to fully experience this wonderful resource for educators.

This site is like a combination of Google Earth that meets the heavens and the Hubble space telescope. I was blown away by the high definition NASA images available at this site and this site alone could be the textbook for a multi-semester course on Astronomy. There are several canned demos that you can also view. One of my favorites is the Earth at night that shows all the lights on Planet Earth. You can really tell the industrialized world from more remote areas from space. Most striking was the absence of light from North Korea as compared to South Korea.

Here is a quote from the Worldwide Telescope that explains what it is:

“The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope—bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world for a seamless exploration of the universe.”
A link to the Worldwide Telescope is provided in the show notes.

Worldwide Telescope

What is the Worldwide Telescope?

Once using the software you can use your mouse to scroll through the night sky and zoom in and out on objects in space. When you zoom in you will be presented with a high definition image from thousands of space objects and terabytes of data including deep space objects like galaxies and Messier objects. You can also view the sky from different vantage points on Earth. There are exquisite photographs of all of the planets and moons in our solar system and many demos of moon eclipses and demos where astronomers lead you through a guided tour of Space. If you are a science teacher this is an excellent site to spend some of your summer leisure hours reviewing. After exploring this site I think you will be inspired to break out that telescope and go outside and view the marvels of the heavens this summer.

That wraps it up for episode 39 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc, just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning

Monday, May 19, 2008

tt4t_038 An elephant in the room, can OpenID help schools?

It’s Monday, May 19th 2008 and welcome to episode 38 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. I recently had a conversation with some colleagues about how many of the Web 2.0 technologies seem to offer wonderful possibilities for educators but there is often a reluctance at the district level to implement projects that offer new and exciting possibilities for teachers and students on a wider scale. There always seems to be an elephant in the room about using Web 2.0 technologies that few want to talk about. The elephant is the need for established acceptable use policies and guidelines for Web 2.0 services that are followed up with practical procedures for creating and managing user accounts.

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Whose responsibility is it to create Web 2.0 accounts? Is it the teachers? Is it the parents? Is it the schools? Internet safety is a prime concern for all educators that use the Internet for classroom activities. States are beginning to mandate Internet Safety courses as more and more of our students venture onto social networking sites that can be a dangerous place, especially for K-12 students if not used appropriately. Many students are using these technologies at home whether the school (or the parents in many cases) allows this use or not. Establishing policies and guidelines on the front-end can help to avoid potential problems and abuses that can occur without clear expectations and boundaries. Many schools do require parental permission before beginning Web 2.0 projects and these projects should be discussed and approved with administration before any new project begins.

Even with the administrative and parent/gaurdian approval being met there is still a recurring set of issues that educators face everytime they want to use a new Web 2.0 service. First you have to establish an account with a userid and password that is unique to the service you are wanting to use. In doing so the user agrees to a Terms and Service agreement that probably 99.9 percent of users ever read, yet alone understand. For Web 2.0 services like MySpace there is a clause that states that users must be at least 14 years of age to establish an account to use MySpace. To complicate matters most Terms of Service agreements also state that they can change the terms of use at anytime for any reason. Another problem is that on the web there is no way to verify the accuracy of the account information so it is very easy to get an account even if a student is under the age of 14. Usually in less than five minutes anyone can get an account on many of these social networking sites by simply filling out a form. Many parents and students don’t even know this age limitation exists on MySpace and many parents may not even know their child has a social networking account. When a user signs-up for an account they are agreeing to the Terms of Service that truthfully represents oneself and the user agrees to meet all of the terms of use for the account.

This anonymity of the web is the first problem that we educators face along with the fact that you never really know who is on the other side of that userid. This anonymity often offers a false sense for security and privacy especially for younger users that do not stop to think about the consequences of posting information to the web. Many times information that is meant to be private becomes public because it is so easy to copy and re-disseminate digital information on the web sometimes without the users permission.

So here is a proposal that may help the recurring problem of establishing Web 2.0 user accounts with the emerging OpenID standard. This proposal may help with some aspects of management but it will not solve all of the issues related to Web 2.0 accounts for school use. A few episodes back on TechTalk4Teachers I introduced you to the OpenID initiative that offers the promise of establishing one central account that can be used by multiple Web 2.0 services. Here are some of my thoughts on the OpenID movement from an educational perspective. First as a parent I want to have access to my childs online accounts just in case problems occur or in case I need to disable the account due to inappropriate use. Since the OpenID movement is in the beginning stages of development I was wondering if there would be a way for OpenID to create a hierarchical account structure that could identify parent level access for a childs account? Perhaps there could also be a field that would identify if an account belonged to an underage student and therefore could be used by Internet sites to help protect the account from inappropriate material on the Internet not suitable for minors.

Businesses might also find this OpenID hierarchical account structure useful. Information technology services whether for a business or a school utilize their own internal directory structures that allow control of access to user accounts if needed. When the accounts move to the Internet information technology services have no control or access to accounts and can thus create a number of problems not the least of which is the loss of control over IT functions that help protect businesses and schools. A third category of this hierarchical structure could be for a trusted Administrator account like a superuser account for the business or school that could allow schools or businesses to access accounts if needed similar to what information technology department deal with on a day-to-day basis.

There are problems with this method as well since all activity is tied to a user account that can be traced to the userid so privacy concerns can arise here as a users activity can be tracked. There are also issues of who owns the user account; the business, or the school, or the teacher, or parent, or student? There are no easy answers but these issues need to be worked through on a case-by-case basis. Until these questions are answered we will not see wide-spread adoption of Web 2.0 technologies in schools because these basic questions need solutions. For now many schools are taking these Web 2.0 services in-house where they have control of the servers and accounts but many schools lack the resources and personnel to make this a viable solution. We need access to these resources that can scale and at the same time offer some degree of local control when needed. I know this is probably wishful thinking but as more and more services become available in the cloud we need to find solutions to these problems that stop many educators from using Web 2.0 services out of the gate.

What do you think? How are your schools using Web 2.0 technologies and addressing the policy issues of using software-as-a-service (SAAS) applications? What keeps you from using Web 2.0 services in the classroom? Please leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog to share your comments with others.

Tom’s Technology Pick(s) of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is actually a two for one mention for a helpful Web 2.0 service for storing and organizing photos online along with a cool browser plug-in for previewing online photos and videos. First for those of you that don’t already know about Flickr; the Flickr service offers an online storage space for you to upload and share digital photographs with others. You can establish a copyright or creative commons license regarding how you would like to share these photographs online with others. Flickr is part of Yahoo and has been around since 2004. If you have used the del.icio.us social bookmarking service this concept will seem familiar to you as del.icio.us is also from Yahoo so you will see some commonality between the Flickr and del.icio.us services. To learn more about del.icio.us be sure to checkout the archived version of Episode 12 of TechTalk4Teachers.

TechTalk4Teachers – Episode 12:

The Flickr service is built around uploading photos for online storage and tagging of your digital photographs by keyword so that you can organize and easily find them when you need to. Like del.icio.us you can search on a keyword tag for your collection or also see the photographs of other Flickr users tagged with the same keyword. Since we are dealing with photo content there is not a completely safe way to screen the content of all pictures tagged and therefore any use of this service in a classroom setting needs to take this into consideration. This service may be blocked by content filtering services at schools for this very reason. A link to the Flickr service is provided in the show notes.
Flickr.com – Online photo sharing site.

My second Pick of the Week goes to a plug-in for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers that is a really cool new way of previewing photo images or videos on websites. This requires a download of the plug-in for your browser of choice but once installed offers an attractive and easy method for viewing photos online. The name of this browser plug-in is PicLens. The PicLens plug-in works with Google images, Flickr, YouTube, and other websites that display photographs or videos and allows the user to quickly scroll thru tons of images very quickly to find what you are looking using a very attractive 3D interface. Like the Flickr service the user needs to be aware that photographic and video content cannot be guaranteed to be appropriate for all audiences so as with all of these services be very careful with any photographic and video content from the web. I recommend that you download material you wish to use that is safe for classroom use rather than rely upon an open service that may contain inappropriate content that can change at anytime.

PicLens – Provides an immersive full-screen 3D viewing experience for viewing photographs and videos online:

If you have not seen PicLens in action I encourage you to click on the link provided in the show notes and view the demo on this very impressive browser plug-in.
That wraps it up for episode 38 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode along with archived versions are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning

Monday, May 12, 2008

tt4t_037 So many choices, so little time…..

It’s Monday, May 12th 2008 and welcome to episode 37 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. This week is the beginning of our summer session here at EIU and I am looking forward to a little more relaxed atmosphere and have hopes of getting to some projects over the summer that have been on the back burner. The problem is determining what projects I should focus my attention on because there are so many I would like to explore.

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So I thought I would turn to you, the listener/reader, and ask what technologies you are currently using or what technologies you are interested in using for educational purposes that warrant further investigation?

Back on Episode 16 of TechTalk4Teachers I selected a Web 2.0 directory called GotoWeb20 as my Technology Pick of the week. I have provided a link to this directory in the show notes if you are interested in seeing a listing of Web 2.0 companies that this website offers.

Web 2.0 Directory

As of December 14, 2007 there were 1859 Web 2.0 companies listed in this directory. As of today, May 12th, 2008, there are now 2382 companies listed. Thus there has been a net increase of over 500 new Web 2.0 companies listed in this directory over just the past five months. Granted many of these companies are small startups hoping to make it big in the Web 2.0 space and many may not have educational applications but the sheer number of new choices make it a daunting task for educators trying keep up with the rapid pace of development currently underway. How do we even begin to qualify these services to validate if they have worthy educational value?

We are living in the wild, wild, west days of Web 2.0 where companies are fighting for recognition and a valid business model that will keep them in business. With so many choices how do educators find resources that are useful and at the same time have any sense of confidence that the companies will be around next year?

Education is about the future. As we prepare students for the future the number one ability, in my opinion, is teaching students how to learn, and re-learn. No human can possibly keep up with all the innovations currently underway and even if we could this would be a never ending cycle as new innovations continually appear. So perhaps it is time to reevaluate my strategy of trying to keep up.

As I approach the summer I am torn between exploring breadth versus depth of some of the new Web 2.0 tools. My approach may change but as of now I am leaning toward revisiting some of the older Web 2.0 tools that I have successfully used and investigate them further and deeper, sometimes less is more. Having said that we are in a time of tremendous innovation and I worry that I might miss something of value as I narrow my focus. What do you think? How do you handle your quest for new knowledge of the wild, wild, Web 2.0? Please leave a comment in the blog or send your comments to techtalk@eiu.edu so we can share them with others. As I talk with other educators I know many feel the way I do so I am interested in how you approach your learning about Web 2.0 services.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My technology pick of the week this week is the new Smart Notebook Version 10 software. A link is provided in the show notes to the Version 10 Notebook software along with some great tutorials on some of the new features. Version 10 of the Smart Notebook software is now available for download at the Smart Technologies website. Be aware that you will need the serial number of a Smart Board that you use in order to download this new Version 10 software as Smart Technologies have changed their download policies and procedures. Here is a brief summary of new Version 10 Smart Notebook features: First the Table Tool.

Table Tool:
Educators have been asking for a Table tool for a long time in notebook and I am happy to report that Version 10 does in fact offer a table tool. It is very easy to create a table however it was not that easy or intuitive for me to move the table once it was created. To move the table, something most teachers will want to do, you have to select the entire table by drawing a selection box around the table. Next you click the gray button in the upper left corner of the selected table and hold and drag the table to the area of the screen that you want. The Table tool also features a shades feature that allows the teacher to place a shade over each cell in the table. This can be useful for teachers that want to reveal material in a step-by-step fashion. It also has some interesting game possibilities.

Object Animation:
This feature is a lot like the animation feature of PowerPoint. To animate an object or text click on the pull-down menu of the object or text and select Properties. From here you will be able to select an animation such as fly-in, fade, rotate, and so forth.

Educators have also been asking for Themes similar to PowerPoint styles and Smart has also delivered on this feature. There currently are not that many choices for Themes that come standard with Version 10 but you can create your own Theme by using a JPG graphic of your choice.

Magic Pen:
This is my second most favorite new tool just behind tables. The magic pen allows you to draw a circle and the circle will become a spotlight tool to draw students attention to the area of the notebook file you want students to pay attention to. Drawing a square with the magic pen places the magic pen in Zoom mode and you can zoom in to an area of the screen you would like to magnify to see more details. The magic pen fade tool is a tool you can use to make non-permanent notes on a notebook slide. When you use this feature the notes you make will fade away after 10 seconds. This is a great idea because so many teachers annotate a notebook slides to draw attention to certain points but do not want the notes to be permanent. If you use the magic pen fade tool the notes will automatically erase for you.

Shape Tool:
The shape tool allows you to draw freehand shapes and have them recognized and changed into the intended shape that is much neater than you can draw freehanded. The shape tool recognizes squares, rectangles, circles, ovals, triangles, and more.

The Smart Technologies website does a good job explaining the new features of version 10 and I encourage you to visit this site to learn more and watch the demo tutorials on these new features. A link is provided in the show notes. If you are a new Smart Board user or current version 9 user these demos will quickly get you up-to-speed with the new features of Version 10 of the Smart Notebook.

Smart Notebook Version 10

That wraps it up for episode 37 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at http://www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you are using Version 10 of the Smart notebook software let us know what you think about the new version, if you would like to make a comment or suggestion please send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning

Monday, May 5, 2008

tt4t_036 Podcasting With Third Graders – Project WOW

It’s Monday, May 5th 2008 and welcome to episode 36 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Last week we held an open house for members of Project WOW that showcased the projects that our local third graders have been working on. It was a beautiful day and despite the wonderful weather we had a great turnout as many parents chose to stop by to see the work of their children. Project WOW is headed up by Judy Barford, a professor in the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Middle Level Education department here at EIU, Project WOW partners with two local third grade classes.

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This is the tenth year for Project WOW and this project has achieved much success over the years. Project WOW began with a project based learning approach that matched EIU preservice teachers in teaching methods courses with local classrooms. This approach has produced countless authentic learning experiences for both the preservice teachers and the third grade students.

This year Project WOW selected an Abraham Lincoln unit that produced many great projects. Children were grouped into teams that created concept maps, lessons, and podcasts about the life of Abraham Lincoln. The children also listened to several guest speakers about the life and times of Abraham Lincoln and some of the many jobs Abe had worked at over his lifetime. The preservice teachers helped create webpages for each team of third grade students that tied together all the projects including a podcast produced by each team about Abraham Lincoln.

Many teachers are doing great work across the nation and you often need to look no further than your own backyard to see excellence in action. Too often this work goes unrecognized. We as teachers need to see more great examples and share more with others in order to improve our own teaching. If you know of some good examples of how you or other teachers that you know are using technology to effectively improve the teaching and learning process please drop me a note so we can share with others. I would also love to hear from listeners in other parts of the country, or world for that matter, about successful methods used for integrating technology into the classroom experience. Please send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu with your examples.
Be sure to also checkout the Spring 2008 semester of the Abraham Lincoln version of Project WOW, a link is provided in the show notes.

Project WOW Spring 2008 Abraham Lincoln Edition:

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My technology pick of the week this week is another Web 2.0 service that I hate to admit that I am finding more and more of a need for as I get older. Jott is a service that allows members to use their cell phone to call a toll free number and leave a message. While you can do that with regular voice mail services Jott takes the possibilities to the next level. Once you record your voice message Jott transcribes the voice mail into text and then can send the message to your cell phone as a text message and/or to your email box depending upon how you setup the service. This can serve as a useful reminder for things that you might otherwise forget. The service has been around for a while and the website says that it is still in beta but it has received a lot of press from major news sources. Here is a quote from the Jott website explaining what the service offers:

“Headquartered in Seattle, WA, Jott Networks operates a voice to text service that makes staying organized and in touch easy. Jott allows consumers to easily and safely send emails and text messages, set reminders, organize lists, and post to web services with their voice. Since its introduction in late 2006, Jott has made world class voice transcription accessible to anyone with a cell phone. Life is busy. Talk to Jott. Get Simple Back™.”

A link to the Jott service is provided in the show notes.

Coverts your voice into email text messages, reminders, lists, and appointments.

The educational implications for a service like Jott are many. Most teachers and many students now carry cell phones with them. As many teachers know students have their cell phones with them often even when they are not supposed to. Now the really cool part is that not only can you Jott yourself a note using this service but you can also enter contact lists for others that you want to Jott. For example I entered my wife into my contact list and called Jott, here is how the Jott entry went.

Jott: Who do you want to call?
Me: Gail
Jott: Gail Grissom, is this correct?
Me: Yes
Jott: Beep.
Me: Hi , Gail this is Tom. This message is from a new Web 2.0 service called Jott, it will send you a text message and an email message, talk to you tonight. . Hangup.

In a few minutes my wife had the transcribed text message on her cell phone and an email message from me in her Inbox. Now the really cool thing is that I can also send a text message to my daughter who is the texting guru in the family. I hate to type text messages on my cell phone using the small number pad. With Jott all I have to do is call the Jott service, select my daughter as the recipient, and record my message. I let Jott do all the transcribing and delivery for me. I am not going to let the secret out of the bag just yet as my daughter will be amazed at my new found texting skills.

You can even create a group in your contact list although I have not done this yet. Imagine creating a group list of students in your class and having the ability to send a bulk email to all members in the group with a transcribed message from the teacher! I can hear students groaning across the nation now.

For now signing up for a Jott account is free. Standard text messaging rates do apply so be sure you know the impact this service may have on your phone bill.

As with all technologies there are policy implications for Web 2.0 services like Jott. First, students and/or parents may not want to be bothered with messages from the school. Some phone numbers are unlisted and there are also privacy concerns. Parents may not want messages from the school being sent to their email accounts. Schools should consider setting up age-appropriate policies to address concerns before implementing new services in a school setting. Just because a technology makes something possible does not mean that a school should do something new just because it is possible. Like most technologies these services can also be abused if used inappropriately. Having policies and expectations on the front-end can address some potential adverse consequences before they become a problem.

There are three other features of Jott that bear mentioning. First, you have the ability to record reminders that can be delivered to you at a future date and time. Secondly, you can use the Jott service in conjunction with Twitter to send transcribed messages to your Twitter account using your cell phone. I have not used the Twitter feature as I am concerned about the accuracy of the transcription as sometimes Jott does not provide perfect translation. You need to make sure to enunciate your words carefully and talk slowly so Jott can make an accurate transcription of your voice messages and remember that Jott messages are limited to 30 seconds. Thirdly, Jott when used in conjunction with your calendaring program can add calendar entries. So far I am liking the Jott service but this is still in the novelty stage for me. In the past week or so Jott has increased my productivity as I have been able to send myself messages while in the car or away from my computer to remind myself of tasks that I need to do. Do you use Jott? If so I would love to hear your stories about how you are using this service.

That wraps it up for episode 36 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode along with archived versions are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at www.eiu.edu/itc just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you would like to make comments or suggestions please leave a posting on the TechTalk4Teachers blog or send an email to techtalk@eiu.edu. Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.