Sunday, August 30, 2009

Super Researcher Girl!

Shazam! It is official. I now have super-powers beyond those of the average mortal. Harnessing the powers of Diigo, I can take notes on web pages (!) and collaborate and share with anyone in my research process.

I was playing around with Google Books (very cool) and found this article giving an overview of their platform. This is an area of interest for me, so using Diigo I have started a research project on e-books. You can see the link, the description I gave it, and then the tags I assigned the article. Below that you will find paragraphs I highlighted, and bulleted notes (brief) with my name. Go ahead and scan. I'll see you on the other end. You will recognize it is me again by the orange font ;)
  • (My short description of the article) Resources on public domain e-books.

    (My tags)tags: ebooks, epub, Free, books, digital books, Google Books

    • Before physical books were invented, thoughts were constrained by both space and time. It was difficult for humans to share their thoughts and feelings with a set of people too far from their physical location. Printed books changed that by allowing authors to record their experiences in a medium that could be shipped around the world. Similarly, the words written down could be preserved through time. The result was an explosion in collaboration and creativity. Via printed books, a 17th century physicist in Great Britain could build on the work of a 16th century Italian scholar.
      • The first step in global collaboration - post by rcicchetti
    • it can be difficult and costly to reproduce and transport the information that older physical books contain. Some can't afford these works. Others who might be able to afford to purchase them can't unless they can find a physical copy available for sale or loan. Some important books are so limited in quantity that one must fly around the world to find a copy. Access to other works is only available to those who attend certain universities or belong to certain organizations.
    • convert atoms from physical books into digital bits
      • New format - evolution. Same content. - post by rcicchetti
    • While atoms remain fairly expensive, digital bits are on a trend where they become ever cheaper to produce, transport, and store. For example, providing every student in a school district with a paper copy of Shakespeare's Hamlet might cost thousands of dollars. Yet if those same students already have cell phones, laptops, or access to the Internet, then they can access a digital copy of Hamlet for just a fraction of the cost.
      • Barriers to access - economics. The devices are expensive, though. For the poor, is a book still the most cost effective way to go? If books disappear will the poor be without free access to information? Digital bits are cheaper than atoms, but the cost of the device and access must also be figured in. - post by rcicchetti
Thanks for sticking with me so far! What I want you to notice is that my "rcicchetti" link is live and can take you to my Diigo page. I can invite others to participate in reading this article and taking notes along with me, collaborating as we go. This is an online discussion platform. There are lots of privacy feature, but I haven't set them up on my account, because I want it to be as open as possible at this point.

Cooler yet, I exported the whole thing to this blog with the click of the keypad! Versatile, powerful, collaborative - I haven't found the kryptonite for Diigo yet.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons:

Shazam! - Series 1 ( DC Direct )

Uploaded on April 19, 2009
by Leandro [ Egon ]

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Classroom Learning 2.0 - Thanks, California!

Created by the California School Library Association, Classroom Learning 2.0 is a great resource for tutorials on 23 Web 2.0 "things".

This is a crash course on a range of things including blogs, wikis, podcasts, Flickr, RSS feeds, tagging and much more. Anyone interested in crash course should play with this site.

Thanks to Peter Badalement, Principal of Concord-Carlisle High School, for sending out the link to CCHS faculty.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Social Media Revolution

This is a great 4 min. 22 second video. It speaks to the power of social media, and the challenges in teaching our students critical thinking and evaluative skills. I look at this type of message as a provocative way to illustrate the sea change that has occurred in our society. Many educators have missed this shift, and are wondering why people are yammering on about 21st century skills. They really want to be left alone to prepare their lecture notes and make copies of their handouts. They don't want to add anything new to their practice because they don't have the time.

This isn't about "in addition to". This is about "instead of."

I posted the link to Facebook and got some interesting responses. This one in particular really summed up the issues really well.

From Ellen:
I completely agree with the point of the video-social media is a major cultural change, and not a fad-but some of the data is misleading, or just plain wrong. For example, the source listed on the website ( for the claim that Wikipedia is more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica is...Wikipedia. Hmm. Yes, *some* studies have ... Read Moreshown as many or more factual errors in EB as in Wikipedia. But it's crucial to look at the *nature* of the most damaging misinformation in Wikipedia: vandalism, pranks, corporations trashing their competitors' products, politicians defaming their opponents' character, etc. Wikipedia has stepped up their efforts to improve the credibility of their articles in the last couple of years, to their credit. But I want to look at this video (not just the Wikipedia vs. EB piece) critically. What are the larger implications of our getting our information through social media, and how should we be teaching our kids to think critically about that.

Socialnomics - Social Media Blog

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Research Tools on Steroids - Wow!

It ain't your parents research project any more. New sources and formats for information call for new ways of searching, organizing and managing the research process. These tools are powerful, and they are (mostly) free. They will also blow your socks off.

This nine minute tutorial on Diigo is well worth the time, because Diigo is simply astounding. It helps manage Web content through web highlighting, sticky notes, tags, and sharing functions. Originally designed for professional researchers, it has found a key spot in education. I am switching over to Diigo for my own use. This is a tool that will help every type of learner.

yolink is an information literacy tool that "with a single click, searches through links and electronic documents for multiple terms and relationships and brings the information to you." What does this mean? This (free) browser add-on helps you do a deep web search, and assists the researcher in drilling deeply into his/her search results. This works with basic websites, e-books, pdf's, any web content. Think about your basic search on, let's say, explorers. A Google search will return millions of hits, so you refine it by adding a few more keywords. Now you narrowed your results to tens of thousands of hits. Instead of having to hit each link and look for your information, yolink finds it for you, splitting your screen, searching each page for your keywords and displaying the paragraphs with text including your keyword on the right screen. A students can quickly dig deeply through multiple webpages at a time and mine the web for information more efficiently. yolink also has bookmarking and notation capabilities, and findings can be exported to a citation tool. Which brings us to...

NoodleTools. yolink is working with NoodleTools on a partnership, and when they pen the agreement I will be singing from the rooftop of CCHS. This is not a free service, but CCHS has an account and every student should be using this for citation and note taking. The student is provided a scaffold for the entire research process, and their new outline feature is fantastic. I use this for my own research projects.

Does everything have to be technology based? Absolutely not. The 5 's of note taking remain the same.

The Cornell Note Taking system is ideal for recording lecture notes, and every student should be adept with this. Kids must be able to take notes by hand, and this is a great way to manage that process

1. Record. During the lecture, as many meaningful facts as possible are recorded.

2. Reduce. As soon after class as possible, ideas and facts are concisely summarized in the Recall Column. Summarizing clarifies meanings and relationships, reinforces continuity, and strengthens memory.

3. Recite. Most of the page is covered and the student tries to recall as much of the lecture as possible, using only what has been written in the Recall Column. This procedure helps to transfer the facts and ideas to the long term memory.

4. Reflect. The student's own opinion is distilled from the notes. This also has the effect of training the mind to find and categorize vital information, leading to more efficient memorization.

5. Review. The student reviews the notes briefly but regularly. Because of the highly condensed nature of the notes, the student remembers a significant amount of material.

So, how does a student know which tool to use, and when? Isn't this all overload? I don't think so. We all have many tools we use in managing our daily lives. In this age of abundant information students will require diverse tools to find, evaluate, and manage their information needs. Tools like Diigo, yolink and NoodleTools give students power and control in their learning, and I can't think of anything more exciting than that.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Turn Off That Phone! Or, there's an app for that!

I have seen teenagers texting with the phone under the table. Their thumbs are flying, their faces show the multitasking involved in trying to look like they are listening (the "I am looking like I am listening" look is the dead give away), and send their text simultaneously. What powers of concentration!

Phones are powerful mini-computers that can be used for much more than chat and texting. We sure spend a lot on new technologies for the classroom. Are we ignoring one of the most important assets already riding around in the backpacks and pockets of our students?

PollDaddy is just one of the many free online polling services that, in some schools, are being used for student surveys, and even fun quiz alternatives. I heard a presentation from a teacher who had students text their short writing exercises to her, had a higher percentage of timely submissions, and the writing was better than in previous assignments. Her students loved writing on their phones, felt more attached to their writing, and indicated they felt the assignment was "valuable" to them. When it was time to edit, they were much more enthusiastic.

In Africa cell phones are used extensively in what we might consider non-traditional ways. Much of the continent is still waiting for the cabling infrastructure to support widespread Internet access, but this hasn't held them back. In Kenya, they are using cell phones in education for assignments, attendance reporting, administrative functions, and many, many other ways. Cell phones have opened up banking functions for people who live far from commercial centers, allowing them to participate more fully in economic activity. Cell phone minutes are bought and sold as an alternate currency in many areas.

I was walking around on the third floor of the CCHS Library Learning Commons the other day, wondering where to place a computer for catalog access. Then it dawned on me. Tons of kids have phones with Internet connectivity. They have access to the catalog already. They have access to the world.

Social media has already gone mobile. By utilizing the power of the cell phone in education, we can also empower kids to recognize the possibilities to do more than text their friends and check their Facebook page.

Blog source:
10 Ideas for Engaging Learners with Cell Phones Even in Districts that Ban Them by Lisa Nielsen

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

todos showing my apps

Uploaded on July 16, 2007
by Stryler

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Friday, August 14, 2009

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is a new buzz word that has been cropping up quite a bit lately. Briefly, it is a self-configuring, wireless network of objects, typically household appliances. The iPhone is leading the charge in rolling out the Internet of Things, and this nifty little app is a great example.

Using WideNoise, you can monitor sound levels with the microphone on your iPhone. If you choose, the results of your sound check will be uploaded to the network and added to real-time sound detections, as well as the sound database. Why is this useful? If you are buying property you could check and see if the area is "feather quiet", "sleeping cat quiet", or a more alarming designation like "rock concert area".

Aside from issues relating to sound, the Internet of Things is emerging in kitchen appliances, RFID-enabled technology, and goodness knows what else. In a few years time my refrigerator might update a grocery list app on my iPhone that I need more cheddar cheese, that my milk is nearing its sell by date, and that I haven't been buying enough fresh fruit and vegetables lately. If it tells me to put those cupcakes back on the shelf I'll swear off technology forever.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Are you literate? Writing in the 21st Century - making connections

Jeff Utecht posted to his blog from Bangkok. He attended the BLC '09 conference in Boston last week. Clearly, he is in the zone, and he is a leading voice in defining the educational conversation. I like what he has to say.

Digital Literacy vs Networked Literacy | The Thinking Stick

For those of us above the age of 25 it can be a strange conversation. Yeah, we know how to read. This is a new type of reading. We are looking at broader contexts and skills and making connections. There are new paradigms and different stakes. Education is to provide children with the critical skills to work and provide a livlihood for themselves and their families, right? If you are a 22 year old college graduate chances are you are struggling to find a job. Has your education really given you the skills you need to compete? To contribute? These are tough times. A lot of people are being left behind. We can do better. We have to do better.

Literacy = reading and decoding skills
Digital reading = technology access skills
Networked literacy = understanding and making connections

From Jeff Utecht:
"Networked literacy is what the web is about. It’s about understanding how people and communication networks work. It’s the understanding of how to find information and how to be found. It’s about how to read hyperlinked text articles, and understand the connections that are made when you become “friends” or “follow” someone on a network. It’s the understanding of how to stay safe and how to use the networked knowledge that is the World Wide Web. Networked Literacy is about understanding connections."

Take a look at what the National Council of Teachers of English have to say about Writing in the 21st Century.

For our kids to be literate they need to have the skills to create their own networks, frame new questions, seek reliable information, assess for bias, identify alternate sources from around the world, collaborate, generate opinions, and share their results. These are new and incredibly powerful skills. This is a great time for education.

Image: Wordle - word cloud generator
Text source:Digital Literacy vs. Networked Literacy, The Thinking Stick

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Did you know - 3.0

What does it mean to be a child today? How do we prepare kids for their quickly evolving future? How do we guide them in new ways of questioning, finding, evaluating, collaborating and sharing? These are questions every parent must ask every teacher, every principal, every superintendent, every school board. These are exciting times filled with challenge and creative responses.

I'm off to Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. Going to body surf with my daughter and the harbor seals. I'm going to watch the little kids digging sandcastles, and think about what I can do to be better prepared for them when they come through our doors. Then I'll eat far too many fried clams. August is a good thing.

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