Friday, July 31, 2009

My New Recipe for Making Slideshow Movies

I found a sweet recipe for whipping up delectable slide show movies for my Film and American Government courses. This is simple and quick. Recently, I cooked up an American Political Party treat for the coming school year. Here's the recipe I used:

1) I recorded an mp3 with GarageBand. (Sometimes I just edit a "leftover") .

2) I searched for jpegs free of copyright restrictions. Some came via Advanced Image Search of Yahoo! in order to dig for Creative Commons photos. But the Library of Congress was a virtual treasure trove. The key to my search in their digital collection was to add the phrase no known restrictions on publication to any search. After a few hours, I had over a hundred public domain photos for my movie.

3) I created my title pages and other text files with Pages. It has wonderful templates for adding "spice" to my presentation, and it is easy to export the finished product as a jpeg.

4) I mixed my concoction together in PhototoMovie (recently praised in Summer Play with jpegs ). The mixing of mp3 and jpegs was simple: I simply dragged them into this easy-to-use application. The title pages and a few other slides were given specific placement, but for this movie I was not particularly concerned about matching the photos with the narration, so I set the presentation "Fit Photos to Title".

5) I exported this mix as a QuickTime movie.

6) I uploaded it to YouTube.

Viola! Sample my recipe and let me know what you think:

"Ingredients" Flickr Creative Commons photo by Frenkieb

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Project Based Learning (ADE Institute Reflection #2)

When I posted Larry's Queries a couple of weeks ago, I got some helpful feedback. But one area went unaddressed:

Trickle Down Wikinomics
I teach. . .Advanced Placement U.S. Government. . . . I usually require some kind of project . . . .This time, I was thinking of assigning some wiki projects around different portions of the Constitution. . . . But I am not sure how to utilize this kind of resource with the younger students. Any ideas?

The solution came to me at the ADE Institute where we immersed ourselves in Challenge Based Learning. This concept "applies what is known about the emerging learning styles of high school students and leverages the powerful new technologies that provide new opportunities to learn to provide an authentic learning process that challenges students to make a difference." The challenge begins with a "big idea and "cascades" through a process of
*forming an essential question
*devising a challenge
*asking guiding questions
*exploring activities / resources
*determining and articulating the solution
*taking action by implementing the solution
*reflecting, assessing, and publishing.

Pardon the above jargon, but suffice it to say that this will be a
huge change for me because I will be placing open ended projects in my students hands. Instead of predetermining the type of outcome I desire from them (a wiki), I will let them arrive at the solution. I'm excited, because I think they could come up with some great things, but it makes me anxious because I know they and I will be venturing far out of our comfort zones.

At the ADE Summer Institute we formed groups and engaged in a compressed version of
cbl. We did not have time to produce the greatest results, but the process itself was intellectually stimulating and gave me an idea of how engaging this type of collaboration can be.

You can expect to hear back from me in a couple of months at launch.

Photo of Summer Institute cbl Group, by ADE '09, Kenneth Shelton

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Times They are A-Changin' (or not)

Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

-- Bob Dylan

Will Richardson's outstanding "Tinkering Toward Utopia" blog post contemplates the challenges of achieving meaningful change within our schools. Please read it as I've only pulled out one quote from Phillip Schlechtly's book:

As long as any innovations that are introduced can be absorbed by the existing operating systems without violating the limits of the social systems in which they are embedded, change in schools is more a matter of good management than one of leadership. . . .In these cases, while it is sometimes difficult to break old habits, usually after a brief period of resistance, old certainties are abandoned and new certainties are embraced. For example, teachers now routinely use PowerPoint slide shows where once they used overhead projectors and slate boards. The reason this transition was relatively easy to accomplish is that it did not change the role of the teacher. . . . But when innovations threaten the nature and sources of knowledge to be used or the way power and authority are currently used and distributed–in other words, when they require changes in social systems as well as operating systems–innovation becomes more difficult. This is so because such changes are disruptive in inflexible social systems.

I believe this to be true-- our schools' cultures will need to changed in order to adopt the kind of connected, personalized learning environments that many of us envision. But it's important that those who are reluctant not be scolded and threatened. They'll just hunker down. They must be shown that it's easier than ever before to jump into the Read/Write Web and become acquainted with popular sites and applications. One can branch out from there. Furthermore, as much as I hate "death by PowerPoint" the latest versions of presentation software (Gosh, just check out Apple's Keynote) allow for terrific creativity, multi-media, and web integration. This is a far cry from slate boards.

We CAN also insist to our friends and peers that the important tools which will make learning easier for our students, even if we have to stretch ourselves a bit. Most teachers care enough about the kids to be concerned about giving them the best. At this point, perhaps the best we can hope for is an environment where experimentation and innovation is encouraged "at the fringes", providing successful models for enticing other teachers. Then, other members of the community need to be connected to those driving change.

As I've argued before, leaders must work to support (and model) this kind of exploration by the risk takers in the school community. Laying out guilt-trips is quick and easy (and won't accomplish change). Take a look around. The connectivity afforded by the Web is transforming many of the old institutions at a rapid pace. Educators must accept this and do their darndest to find the best ways to lead this transformation by engaging with it at whatever level possible.

"Bob Dylan-- The Times They Are A-Changin" used with kind permission of 8270037.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Personal Learning Networks (ADE Institute Reflection)

The Apple Distinguished Educator Summer Institute was a profound professional development experience for me. Over the next few weeks I will share reflections on the experience.

Probably the most valuable take-away is how being an ADE impacts my own "Personal Learning Network." I am now connected to the fabulous resources of Apple Computer. and hard wired into a community of passionate and innovative digital educators.

As Karl Fisch points out, you are already in a PLN:

A PLN isn’t a particularly new idea; learning networks have existed for a long time. What’s new is the reach and extent that’s now possible for a PLN, with technology and global interconnectedness providing the opportunity for a much wider, richer and more diverse PLN than ever before.

I 've been drawing my professional strength from a more global PLN for a year or so. One of my first blog posts marveled at the way Web 2.0 was drawing information from outside my school. It is now much more clear to me that we must help our students use their social media skills to construct their own learning networks. This will help us break down the rigid restraints of desks, schedules, bricks, and teacher-at-student design.

One cannot help to guide students in this enterprise unless he or she has experienced the benefits of a broad and vibrant PLN. If this is new to you, here are basic suggestions for extending yours:

* Join professional social networks like Nings ( "free" online platforms for creating social networks). Start with large ones like
Classroom 2.0 and EduBlogger World. Then be on the lookout for more specialized groups. I joined three Nings while at the Summer Institute. Similarly, wikis and listservs provide similar advantages.

* Set up an RSS feed of your favorite blogs. Ever since Will Richardson recommended Google Reader to our staff, I've used it. I try to keep a cap of ten ed tech blogs so that I don't become overwhelmed. Liz Davis provides a simple two minute YouTube tutorial on setting up the Google Reader. After this has become a comfortable part of your life, then begin to engage in the conversations on the blogs.

* Start blogging yourself, or set up a Ning around your own special interests and invite others to join!

David Warlick suggests virtual worlds: Sometimes called MUVEs, [they] are places on the Internet where people can meet and work together, regardless of geography. Many educators consider their Second Life avatar as their primary node point for their PLN.

* Social Bookmarking offers fabulous opportunities for collaboration. I've enthused about the highlighting, note sharing possibilites of Diigo in earlier blog posts.

* None of my faithful readers will be surprised that I've saved the best for last. As I wrote in Why Twitter? , once you learn to filter who you "follow", Twitter can be a rich source of links, blogs, and easily digestible nuggets of professional reflection. It is extremely low maintenance, requiring less personal investment than Facebook. Twitter has been a key to my own professional growth by leaps and bounds.

Please suggest other ways for educators to build their PLNs!

Screen Capture of ADE PLN Ning

Friday, July 17, 2009

Food for Thought

Lots of time to read online this summer. Here are some nuggets from my reading. Food for thought.

NCTE Tries to Define 21st-C Writing--- lol

NCTE is trying to wrap their arms around, and control, informal writing styles that predominate Web 2.0 and are labeling them unacceptable. They state that the new generation are learning from,"extracurricular social co-apprenticeship." A term like this will have a typical 16 year old heading for the hills with their iPhones! :-) This sounds like an organization feeling a loss of control trying to control a social phenomenon. Good luck with that.

If We Could Start Over, What Would We Build?

In the networked learning communities of the future,
expert learners (we call them teachers, educators, scientists, and researchers today) are going to be recognized for their ability to learn and help others learn, as they continue to construct new knowledge and develop their own expertise.

Why Do I Hate Paper?

Ideas brought forth in a dynamic environment should not be 'written on paper', in the symbolic sense. In other words, they should not be thought of as singular and final products to be graded and filed away; rather, ideas are always in flux and current to debate and change and this is a good thing, an innovative thing, and cooperative interactive online docs with no fixed 'due date' are more natural to use in this environment of thinking -- that is they are more an extension of this type of thinking -- than a piece of paper kept in one's folder smooshed in the grimy depths of one's bookbag could ever be.

Bobb Boots out Top DPS Executives

Our goal is to transform the central office. . . .We want it to be the center of support, not the center of attention for our schools.

"Food for Thought" Flickr photo available with permission by aporter

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Larry's Queries

Just in case, I seem to have grown to cocky while away from my students, I want to lay out some issues that are simmering away over the summer, unresolved. I’m hoping that my readership may have some ideas about my assorted challenges. Feel free to comment publicly or correspond privately.

Trickle Down Wikinomics

I teach an elective Advanced Placement U.S. Government to seniors and a required America Government class to sophomores. The former is a college political science class and the latter is more comparable to basic civics.

I usually require some kind of project from the AP class during the first semester. This time, I was thinking of assigning some wiki projects around different portions of the Constitution. I would like to give the seniors the aim of building a helpful resource for the sophomores. I’m comfortable assigning the wiki project. I’ve done that before with other classes. But I am not sure how to utilize this kind of resource with the younger students. Any ideas?

Blog Squad

I am very excited about the impending launch of the Blog Squad. The general aim would be to provide a way for students to help students when teachers launched tech projects. This will be a pilot involving a small circle The participating adults (six or seven) have helped me identify thirty prospective student participants. I have decided to try a Ning for facilitating this project. I am relatively inexperienced with Nings. Any suggestions?

Group Work

As I move forward into challenge based learning I still remain puzzled about achieving accountability with the groups. I can reflect on a number of great things that came out of the wiki projects I tried last year, but complaints about group members not following through dogged these enterprises. Any input will be welcomed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Self-Stoppers (Anxiety as an Impediment to Change)

I was recently reading Bend without Breaking by Jim Huling. Though directed at a business audience his comments really ring true for schools as well. Some folks bristle at the mention of new technology because they seem to feel that they "must master every aspect immediately." Huling urges us to counter this anxiety by "building a plan for the daily or weekly improvements."

I know teachers who feel enormously pressured to change, and their anxiety seems to paralyze them. Most of what I've learned with tech has come very deliberately. I've become competent with tools like Moodle, Google Docs, and iMovie by using tutorials through Atomic Learning, completing a few modules each day. This gives me the sense that I am making progress. And by focusing on one tool at a time, I feel less overwhelmed.

On a related note, I've often hear the lament that things are changing so fast, that by the time one gets started on something, it will probably be outdated. Well, there is an element of truth to this. Topics that I presented on in January have already drastically changed by July. But rather than paralysis, this calls for learning a "tool set." By playing around at popular sites like iTunes, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and WikiSpaces one can see that A) One can get around one these sites without a computer engineering degree. B) There is considerable transference of competency from one site to another. As I've often remarked, it's easier to jump into the Read/Write Web now than ever before. Despairing that one is hopelessly behind is a pretty lousy excuse for not engaging in the here and now.

"Frustrated" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by frekur

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If It's not Broke .... FIX IT! (The Digital Anthology)

I have finished my digital anthology, but of course this is just a manner of speaking, since one of the advantages of going digital is that, unlike a printed text, it will never be "finished." It is always updatable, which means I may very well add content before I actually start drawing from my new resource.

As you may recall (see A Digital Anthology. . . .), I decided to replace the $50 reader for my AP American Government & Politics class with a free, multi-media resource which could be entirely up-to-date.

I have now found material that corresponds to each chapter in our text (an ebook, by the way). Granted, I have far less material than the traditional readers , but this is not really an issue since I only used about half the reader, anyway.

Please, be my guest and take a peek at a sample of my D.A.

You'll notice that I have tapped a variety of sources for this sample. In addition to text, I have edited a podcast from iTunes U and linked to some excellent PBS videos. I have found the Stanford University podcasts* to be particularly useful for political science, but they are quite long, and I have reviewed fewer of them than I thought I might (I usually listen to them in the car). Additionally, I have also found some outstanding outstanding video for my anthology at New York Times Video, Academic Earth, and The Museum of the Moving Image.

Unsurprisingly, my anthology is still dominated by text sources. Most of these I come across in my daily reading (though family members have forwarded a couple of gems). I have also researched some subjects. For this, I have primarily used our Media Center's subscription to Gale Student Resource Center . Since all my students are licensed to use this resource, it is fairly easy to share articles.

You may wonder why I have only given you a slice of my anthology. Well, it will be sliced off to students in small portions as well. There is no reason to assign from it weeks ahead. After all, something more interesting and pertinent may appear on the scene in the mean time. The anthology fits perfectly into my scheme of the Tinker Toy Curriculum of modules that can be connected then reassembled from semester to semester.

As I've mentioned in this space before, I think anthologies like these could be constructed with ease by members of academic departments, or interdepartmentally for that matter. I would enjoy your reactions to my sample, and welcome links that I might put into my "book."

I'll be making a presentation on the Digital Anthology to the Michigan Association for Media in Education at Grand Traverse Resort on October 23.

*visit this link and download 30 free songs from iTunes!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Weekend Take-out from the Drive-thru

Recommended Toys and Tools:

* "The Flat Classroom Project is a global collaborative project that joins together middle and senior high school students. . . . .The Project uses Web 2.0 tools to make communication and interaction between students and teachers from all participating classrooms easier. The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on 'The World is Flat' by Thomas Friedman."

*"Ning offers an innovative and easy-to-use technology platform for people to join and create new social networks for their interests and passions and meet new people around the things they care about most about in their life."

*"yahoo_logo_may09.pngAdvanced Image Search allows users to filter search results by Creative Commons (CC) license. For now, this search only includes CC-licensed images from Flickr, Yahoo's own photo sharing service. The Yahoo Image Search interface actually turns out to be a very nice gateway to the CC-licensed image collection on Flickr, especially because the previews update immediately after you change a filter setting." (Written by Frederic Lardinois).

" allows users to shorten, share, and track links (URLs). Reducing the URL length makes sharing easier. can be accessed through our website, bookmarklets and a robust and open API. is also integrated into several popular third-party tools such as Tweetdeck."

Scott McLeod offers 20 TED Talks podcasts for busy principals . . . . "These are the TED presentations that I think are most likely to interest, educate, and entertain administrators as well as make them think!"

"Take Out" with generous permission of americanvirus

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