Thing #17-Podcasting

Photo by Jschneid

Vintage Microphone

I enjoyed surfing all the different listings of podcasts available.  I explored a podcast that teaches you Spanish,Mugglecast for Harry Potter fans, “Cranbrook Composers’ Podcast“, where students chat about songs they created and then the audience samples the song, and an instructional/professional development podcast called “Kidcast:  Learning and Teaching with Podcasting“.  I found a wide variety of styles and sound mixing on each of these podcast series.  I giggled at the Spanish, as the epidode I listened to talked about the term “hot”.  They taught sweating, armit, and other funny words.  I can see sharing this podcast listing with the Spanish teacher in my school, as she currently has her own Spanish podcast series that I helped her create.  I think she could borrow some formatting ideas from this show.  The Cranbrook composers is a lot of fun, as students MC the podcast and show off music they create.  Kidcast was a bit of a snoozer, and maybe because it is done in such an elementary style with very few bells and whistles.  I can see this series as a good learning tool for teachers new to podcasting.  Finally, the Mugglecast, which is a 2006 People’s Choice award winner, is a lot of fun if you have some extra time to listen to people chat about the latest Harry Potter news, films, books, and rumors.  (I personally love it!) 

I found podcast alley, the education podcast network, and learn out loud very user friendly and informative in finding wonderful sound feeds.  I was not aware of these sites, so I am thrilled to add them to my arsenal of resources for teaching, students, and professional development.  I was blown away by the 100 Free Podcasts From the Best Colleges in the World.  I sampled a bit of the Modern Poetry seminar from Yale University.  What a phenomenal resource and an opportunity to continue with life-long learnig.  Heck, I want to share this listing with my dad, as he is always looking to learn something new!

I enjoyed catching podcasts in my reader, as I really do not want all those editions loaded on my hard drive.  This was new information for me, and I am thrilled to find that I can check out podcasts in this way.  I already subscribe to Grammar Girl through my itunes.

I am a listener of Grammar Girl and I introduced her episodes on run-ons, fragments, and comma splices to my students this year as we were studying compound sentence construction.  The students enjoyed the different learning format, and we later used her podcast as an example for format, including the opening sound reel and the closing bumper.  I did have to screen which episodes to use, as some of her chatting about language structure is way too advanced for my 7th graders. 

I used a podcast from NPR’s “All Things Considered” for a thank you note writing activity, related to a short story the students read.  We listened to Peggy Post, the granddaughter of Miss Manners herself, Elizabeth Post.  We learned about thank you note etiquette in a wired world.  Listen to “In a Wired World, Handwritten ‘Thank You’ Still Tops“.  Listening to this podcast in class was certainly more engaging than asking students to take notes from an article or listen to my thoughts as the teacher.  Not only that, because an expert on manners explained the proper etiquette, the information was more authentic and valuable to the students.  From listening to this podcast, students also learned about the format of a professional podcast for their own future production.

My students created their own podcasts for a book project.  Students read the same book selections in pairs or small groups, all the while keeping an electronic interactive notebook.  The writings in the notebooks later served as the basis for the scripts they composed, after listening to several student-created and professionally-created podcasts to get ideas for format, structure, editing, and sound effects.  After the scripts were reviewed by me and other students, the revised scripts were taken into the “studio” for production.  I introduced the program Garageband to my students, which is a MAC application.  Many of the students already were familiar with the program, so I put them in charge of helping the newbies.  Students used sound effects, a show opening, a “style” for their show, and a closing bumper.  Some students were even so creative as to put in their own commercials.  One group even did this in Hebrew, as their book was a story taking place in Israel.  Check out their podcasts on the Jewish Book Podcast site. (Oh, and from this week’s learning, I realized that these sound clips really aren’t podcasts, as they are not available through RSS! 🙂 )  Just beware of the students’ affinity for sound effect overload, which we discussed at length.  They tend to want to put in too many sound effects and go a bit crazy with the voice pitch alteration.  We discussed that the sound effects should enhance and not take away from the podcast.  Even after this elaborate discussion, a few groups used voiceover effects that were difficult to hear.  This “no no” in production reminds me of the students overuse of effects in Powerpoint.  For evaluation purposes, I used a simple podcast rubric, which was an adaptation from several online tools that I gathered, as well as a basic speech and oral communication scoring tool that I have used with my students in the past.  There are oodles of rubrics on the web, so it is easy to find one to adapt.

Podcasting is a great tool for kids showing what they have learned, collaborating, and even learning enrichment information.  I hope to use more podcasting in the future.  If you can imagine it or dream it up, there is a meaningful way to apply it!

Thing #16-43 Things & New Year’s Resolutions


 Photo by quinn.anya

The site 43 Things reminds me of all the New Year’s resolutions I have made and never kept.  While I see the need to set goals, reflect upon them, and return to them often, I also consider this sort of thing very personal.  I can’t imagine ever personally posting something like this online as a professional or for my personal life.  I think this sort of thing can be imitated in a private wiki space, where it is a safer environment and more protected.  I’m just not comfortable posting this kind of information in a public forum.  Maybe it’s old-fashioned of me, but this is the first web 2.o tool that I’m not excited about for my own personal and professional use.

Thing #15-Library Thing Imprints my Heart

Love Books 

Photo by Miss Abigail 

OMG!  OMG Again!  I can’t believe I did not know about Library Thing before today!  Who has been hiding this from me?  As an English teacher, of course I am going nuts over this site.  As a bibliophile, I am going even more nuts!  I can see my book group loving the opportunity to form a little online group and forum for suggesting future book titles.  I can see my middle schoolers creating a community of reading and book title sharing like never before.  I can see my English department using a group to review possible summer reading titles.  I am practically going totally EMO over Library Thing!  EEEEEEK!  I am exhausted from just expressing how excited I am!  🙂

Ps.  I could not figure out how to invite members to a group.  I created a group.  I see only a place to enter a user name.  Does an invited group member have to be a member on the Library Thing site?  I searched their help menu and could find nothing specific about this.  Hmmmmmm.  Any help out there? 

Thing #14-Delicious Yummy Yummy

I had a ball tagging and bookmarking in my exploration of!  I am thrilled to see an alternative to traditional bookmarking, and I love the social nature of it.  I can see how easy it would be to create a set of bookmarks for a department and then send them the link, including them in the sharing, and grow from there.  I went crazy bookmarking all the cool web 2.0 tools I’ve been learning about!  You can check out my link at

I think is quite user friendly, but I do not think I would have figured out the bundles or subscriptions without a nudge from an expert.  I wish the look of the page was more visually pleasing, as everything is so text intensive and crowded.  Finally, I love the power feature of highlighting the text on a page and it instantly appearing as tags, and the already provided tags saves a ton of time!

It’s national poetry month, so now I need to get cracking and find some more cool stuff!

Thing #13–Quizlet and Gliffy


I have been exploring Quizlet for a few weeks in my classroom.  I started off creating a vocabulary list for my students’ novel unit.  I posted the list as “public” so all the students could use it as a study tool.  For homework, they were asked to play the game “scatter” and bring in their printed scores.  Once the students were comfortable with the tool, I asked them to create their own account and work with a new vocabulary list, creating flashcards of their own.  Within days of doing this, the tool spread like wildfire.  Science, history, and other English teachers were learning how to use it from their students. 

After playing with Quizlet, I learned that you can create your own characters on a type keyboard.  This allows me to paste in Hebrew text, which is not typically recognized by browsers and many other programs.  I look forward to showing our Hebrew department how they can paste in Hebrew vocabulary for future study.

I also find it fun to search other public lists, including many SAT words.  This is a very useful creative writing warm-up activity, where students get a random word on a flashcard, and they have to use it to describe a character or someone they know. The students really enjoyed trying this in their 8th grade Romeo and Juliet unit.

One downside of this tool is that I caught students IM’ing on the Quizlet site to their friends during lab time.  Of course, the students discovered this tool’s communication feature–I did not even notice this was there.  Go figure! 


I am just starting to play with  Gliffy as a graphic organizer tool.  I can see the potential in creating collaborative graphic organizers for writing, concept mapping, plot mapping, and more.  I think the students will pick this one up easily, as it imitiates their knowledge of Inspiration software.   When will these online tools start to put other software lines out of business? This looks like a potential software industry threat!  I will keep my eye on this in the future.  Why pay for what you can use for free, with an added collaboarative feature?

Thing #12: Online Conference–Design Matters!

Fuzzy Slippers 

Photo by Rachel D

I enjoyed hanging out online in my slippers.  I think the idea of learning anytime anywhere is awesome.  The part that was missing for me is the face-t0-face discussion with my colleagues afterwards.  I would love to be able to sit down and hash out how to implement some of the ideas.

I attended the 2007 online session titled “Design Matters” by Dean Shareski.  He emphasizes the importance of design in everything we do.  We are living in a world where design creates siginificance, setting apart media, tools, and even classrooms.  The presentation is divided between a discussion of instructional design and multimedia design.  He argues that designing a classroom around the paradigm of a “studio” environment will create possiblities for learning and change the roles of the teacher and student.  He also proposes that in instructional design, follow the adage of “first do no harm” or “avoid doing violence to creativity”.  He says we need to get away from a technical, rational approach to instructional design, and instead think as an innovator.

In multimedia design, Shareski advocates the direct instruction of planning, giving students a clear purpose for their projects.  It does not matter which planning approach a student utilizes, as long as this stage in the creative process is emphasized.  This allows the teacher, who may not even be technologically savvy, to immerse themselves in ensuring that students will create effective pieces with relevant content.  Shareski also stresses the need for educators to directly teach visual literacy.  Students need to understand the fundamentals of good photographic design, good video design, how to use PowerPoint as a visual tool (as opposed to a text tool), and how to consider using multiple vantage points. 

Shareski compares learning the writing process to learning the visual design process.  The one tenant of his philsophy where I diverge is in his thoughts about templates. He says that we should rid our instruction of templates, so that students can start with a white canvas, allowing for students to create the desire to “build significance” on their own.  I argue as a writing teacher that students need a formula or roadmap, so that when they master the art form, they can then break the rules and do so with style, elegance, purpose, and significance.  We all need to start somewhere–have a simple structure that we can go beyond is always a helpful learning tool.  This is ONE way students learn to be effective writers, and I argue that in the creation of multimedia, beginners need a starting point.  Of course, we all hope our students will go beyond our expectations and usually they do, even when they are set high. 

Finally, one more thing I am taking away from this online session is to consider the 4-slide contest proposed by David Meyer for the Chicago Graduate School of Business application.  I think this is a wonderful way to teach visual literacy, constraint, and the power of significance.  This can tie into persuassion, memoir, and many other langauge arts related skills, not to mention visual literacy, of course.    I would  love to try this exercise with the faculty at my school. Take a look at the final entries!

Thing 11: The Outsiders Trailer–Slideshow

I LOVE Rock You!  OMG!!!!! I can SOOOOO see my students loving this wonderful slideshow tool.  We always run into the problem of music.  Instead of the students having to search for creative commons music, they can use the library of music built into this site.  From creating my own little trailer, I have decided that this would be an extremely cool learning experience for my students to address more abstract concepts.  We will be reading The Giver in the spring.  There is not a movie out yet, due to some complications (It was supposed to be released fall 2007.).  This is a “quick and dirty” way to take the place of shooting a trailer–I would love my students to come up with a trailer representing the theme of the novel.  How awesome!  I think this is one of my favorite tools so far!

Check out my trailer:  The Outsiders

Thing #10: Symbols on Flickr

For my Flickr exploration, I chose the topic of symbols.  As an English teacher, I am always looking for visual ways to engage my students, especially with abstract literary concepts like symbolism.  I think it would be neat to ponder some symbols that are recognized around the globe and some that are not so recognized.  Maybe students could even design their own symbol, representing their own personal identity.  By seeing symbols visually and then creating their own visual image, they would more easily connect to the sunsets in the novel The Outsiders.

Symbol of the Day:  Daughters of the American Revolution

Daughters of the American Revolution 

Image by Leo Reynolds

I was intrigued by this symbol because of the role of girls in the American Revolution, and because the symbol is intricate and unique.  This symbol is most likely unknown to students, so it could warrant an interesting discussion about what it might represent, who were the “daughters” and why did they need a symbol?

 I LOVED Flickr and I wish I knew more about all its wonderful tools long ago!  I strongly believe that kids today are hugely visual consumers.  I use pictures to inspire writing in my classroom on a regular basis, and I try to tap into their visual tendencies and interests.  What a wonderful new tool to add to my arsenal.  National Poetry Month is during April, so I just may have to try out a poetic Flickr twist!  Stay tuned!

Thing #9: Share and Share Alike & STRETCH!

Creative commons reminds me of one of the first things I learned in kindergarten…share.  It’s amazing that something so simple can make the world so much more collaborative and connected.  And isn’t this what we want our students to be able to do in the real world?  Connect. Share. Collaborate.  Particiapte in a meaningful way.  Contribute.

Creative Commons is a wonderful resource fore multimedia projects with students.  It is so disappointing to students when they are often “stuck” with the soundtracks packaged with video editing, sound editing, and other multimedia software programs.  As an instructor, being informed about creative commons and how to give students access to sound, images, and video that are protected in this way will open a whole new avenue of creative potential.

As for teaching materials, I find that teachers are generous to a fault in swapping materials and sharing units with one another.  The danger in this can be that materials posted online can be used by anyone, and the original author never receives credit for their original ideas and work.  Furthermore, what if someone takes your good ideas and then publishes a teacher guide based on your work?  If you want some credit and you still want to share, this is a great solution for any teacher posting their blood, sweat, and tears.

As for the downfall of creative commons, someone could potentially morph your original ideas in a way that you never envisioned.  You may disagree whole-heartedly with the quality or the form of the new work, but you will have little say about the end product.

Oveall, creative commons makes the possible use of your ideas much more clear, if you are willing to share.  What a wonderful “out of the box” solution for a long-existing problem.  I can’t wait to hook my students up with this new information!

 In my own search of creative commons items, I found myself overwhelmed by all the choices to explore.  Once again, I see the 2.0 things as a huge time devil, sucking me down the digital black hole.  I was pretty excited by MIT’s open courseware designed for high schools.  I found an online class on short stories, which would be a great tool for me the next time I teach that unit.  Why reinvent the wheel!  I also found an awesome pdf document on Web 2.0, defining basic information and how to access the different tools.  This is a wonderful reference tool for me as I venture further into the labyrinth of Web 2.0.  (Ps.  The OER Commons site is cool because it offers a little “bookmark” button to the right of each item, so that you can add it to your google bookmark toolbar.  Before this whole Web 2.0 class, I don’t think I would have even noticed the button!)

Thing #7–Wiki Wiki, I’ve Got to Get Started!

Cool Cat Teacher has done it again!  I saw Vicki Davis present at NECC in Atlanta last summer.  Her effervescence is truly contagious!  Reading her post reminds me how excited I am every time I discover a new tool and share it with my students. 

Some cool stuff I found on educational wikis:

  • At the Wolves Den Wiki, I was delighted with all the wonderful resources posted for the English and History students.  What excited me more was the link to oodles of Web 2.0 tools.  I can’t wait to explore this site, Go To Web20.  I have to remember my first idea about life-long learning–play!
  • At Kindergarten Counting Book I was pleasantly surprised with the creative use of digital photography and counting to post a class-created counting book for kindergarten students. I can totally see my own 5 year old being engrossed in this class creation.  What a wonderful way to use a meaningful project where all students can contribute, learn, and then later view their accomplishments from home with their families.
  • Jennifer Dorman’s wiki, Grazing for Digital Natives, is a wonderful compilation of resources for all things digital.  I look forward to checking out her information on digital storytelling! I also wonder how she has time to post all that stuff!

What resonates with me after surfing a few educational wikis is that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.  It overwhelms me to see how much information is really out there, and it also energizes me.  The trick is to find the balance between burning time surfing and exploring and really creating something that will work for me professionally.

I already know that the next time I use a wiki with my students, which will be this spring, I plan on using RSS to track the student pages.  I’m also going to loosen the reigns a bit and let the kids really own it.  

What was missing in the wikis I browsed?  Well, each one has its own style.  I think a wiki is very similar to an essay.  If it addresses its purpose, uses appropriate and meaningful content, and appeals to the intended audience, then it is viable.  And like writing, a real-time audience that can collaborate, edit, post, and comment, is the most valuable piece of the whole environment.