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It’s Election Time! (As if you had not noticed :)) September 14, 2008

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology.
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It’s Election Time, and Karen Kleigman, one of the Midlink Editors, the  library media/educational technology specialist and webmaster at Searingtown School, has hit it right with a terrific project entitled, Meet the Candidates. This is a “must see” project on elections that is collaborative and focused on multiple intelligences.  The Frapper Map alone on the entry page to the project is fascinating as it shows all of the schools that are participating in the project.

In the project (the deadline has passed for getting involved), there is a lot that could be modeled in a Web 2.0 classroom). Participation involves setting up a classroom wiki that is composed of three separate class groups: a Policy Research Team, a Marketing Research Team, and a Public Awareness Research Team.  These teams explore the issues from both the Democratic and Republican point of view by creating podcasts, vodcasts, voicethreads, etc. that are embedded in the wiki.  After building an extensive repository of candidate information through multimedia and text on these issues, on election day the collaborating schools vote on their respective candidates and then send their votes to “Election Central”. There will also be an Election Day Rally to explore each others wikis.

How could you adapt this project for your classroom?  What aspects of the project might you change for your specific classroom or school technology resources? How do you feel the project could be improved? What issues do you see regarding covering political issues in a school setting?  I am sure that Karen would love your input! (kkliegman@herricks.org)


Student Developed Learning Environments- Wiki Learning Environments (WLEs)! April 10, 2008

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology.

One of the things I have been doing in my classroom is moving towards having the students develop their own learning environments by showing them how to create mashups. They basically can do this through their My Space or Face Book sites but they can not personalize them in a way that best fits a “learning environment” (PLE or WLEs in this case). My students have not done this yet, but they will. Here is a mock up page of how a “learning environment” can be created using a wiki. It is incomplete but may be a useful template. The students are all thrilled to see that they can personalize their pages with Gadgets and Widgets (Widgetbox). I intend to have students choose a topic of their choice that they are interested in re: science (because this is what I teach) and have them develop their learning environments through the guidance of a rubric. (I might let them develop a page of their personal interest as well, but for my purposes, I want them to focus on a science topic- not Pac-Man 🙂 ).

We will develop our learning environments on the class wiki. I add that there are great mashup tools already available, but I like the accountability that I can get through a wiki. Pageflakes and Netvibes are examples of commercial applications. One can also do this through iGoogle. Again, why do this in a Wiki platform? We can incorporate RSS news feeds (Google News Feeds) about science topics. We can add interesting Widgets/Gadgets that pertain to the Science topic at hand or simply add to ones WLE. One can add their own podcasts, slideshows, movies, etc. Finally, it is also a platform in which other students in the class can comment on and discuss. But perhaps most importantly, I can monitor the sites carefully (I teach middle school students) and by creating a template, attempt to create a foundational structure for their WLEs while still allowing them to be creative.

What do you think? Is this useful? Is there a better way?

The Jan.-June 2008 MidLink Magazine Edition has been Published! February 11, 2008

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, Uncategorized.
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The new edition of MidLink Magazine has been published. This new edition is appropriately entitled, “Digital Explorers”. We owe a big thank you to our technical editor, Glenn Gurley who manages and designs the website for MidLink.

Before giving a brief glimpse at what we have in this edition of MidLink, we are announcing an opportunity to join MidLink as a New MidLink Editor. Applications are due by March 16, 2008. MidLink’s mission is to highlight exemplary work from classrooms around the world. If you are interested in joining our group of editors, please go to this link to obtain the application (bottom of the page).

One of the projects in this issue was developed by Karen Kleigman, “Explorations: The Age of Discovery”. This project focuses on students grade 4-7 as researchers in order to become virtual museum docents using Google Earth/Maps. Another project, Compounds Explained, created by the author of this blog, Joselyn Todd, focuses on students assessment of chemical bonding principles using an alternative assessment means- screencasting. “Get Off My Back”, a project created by Brenda Dyck, is an online collaborative math project. Students from around the globe will collaboratively investigate data collected regarding backpack weight, size, etc. The final project in this edition is a Web 2.0 infused project developed by Glenn Gurley. “If Stones Could Speak” is a collaborative project in which students identify important stones in history and share from the stone’s point of view, the historical importance of the time period in which it represents.

Finally, this issue also includes a wealth of information regarding Web 2.0 tools, software and other resources. Don’t miss out on this issue and we challenge you to become involved in one of these projects by e-mailing the editor-creator.

On the Blog Again… February 2, 2008

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, Professional Development.
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It has been some time since I have last blogged as I presented at the Florida Ed Tech Conference in Orlando with a fellow MidLink Editor, Karen Kliegman. Our session was initially Brenda Dyck’s brainstorm but when she could not attend the meeting, Karen came to the rescue as did I. Our session was an outstanding success by all accounts as we tried to focus on the reality of the implementation of Web 2.0 tools to support dynamic curriculum content. We presented from a Wiki that you may want to check out as it includes many references to tools as well as the projects we discussed: http://fetcrazzle.pbwiki.com/. You should listen to the interesting part of the presentation where there is a virtual presentation of Brenda Dyck’s Place Based Storytelling Project. It is a wonderfully deigned project that integrates mapping with storytelling.I attended numerous sessions at FETC that were of interest to me as a science teacher: use of Google Earth and Google maps as science curriculum tools, gaming as a means to bring science topics to life, virtual world use for professional development, and social networking platforms as a means to develop learning communities.

I walked away from the conference with many thoughts due to conversations I had with old friends and new friends at the meeting.

1. There is no doubt that there is a plethora of tools that can bring learning alive for both adult learners, teachers, and students, but the missing link remains how one seamlessly supports valuable content with these tools.

2. Approximately 10,000 educators were at the mtg. I have to believe that nearly every one of them wants to invigorate their teaching practice with new technologies offered via the internet. How do we meet the needs of these risk taking educators who want to learn. They need time. They need someone to meet them where they are regarding their proficiency with technology. They need someone to show them how, no matter what their meager resources, that they can infuse their teaching practice with Web 2.0.

3. I am starting to believe that we may be approaching a critical mass of ed tech gurus and ed tech practitioners that can take it to a new level. Perhaps it will take a grassroots effort to inform communities, school administrations, school boards, state legislatures, etc. of the urgency of make radical changes to our current education system. It will likely take public and private entities to make these changes. The shareholders need to be as educated as the teachers in terms of digital literacy and fluency among our k-12 students – the future workforce.

Finally, as we have watched and listened to the political analysts as Super Tuesday approaches (and then will surely pass), it comes of no surprise to me that the leading candidates have at least recognized the power of the Internet to reach their constituencies. In large part this has been driven by the need to raise money for their venture. What is sad to me is that we have heard plenty about health care, the war in Iraq, national security, and the domestic economy- but we have heard little about education even though the candidates are using technology to further their hopes and dreams. We can only hope that soon we will be talking about national education reform along side of the need for changes in our health care system and other.

Student Led Conferences- Web 2.0 Style! December 22, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, Podcasts.
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Today and tomorrow I am helping to facilitate a gigantic ed tech project with all 100 7th grade students at the school that I teach at- Cary Academy, Cary, NC. Several years ago a colleague and dear friend (and excellent videographer and writer) of mine and I came up with the idea of “independent technology projects” for our 7th graders. Finally, the project is coming to fruition as we are having our students spend two mornings (approximately 6 hours of instructional time) creating independent technology projects for their student led parent conferences in January.

Our team of teachers consists of 9 advisors/teachers that are working with the 100 students. Actually most of us are simply providing advice, and the kids are working extremely independently. Our teachers have fairly good technology skills, albeit like many teachers, their skills range across the tech savvy spectrum. No problem, the kids help each other and are eager to show teachers some of the skills they are employing in their projects. We settled on having the students create their projects in Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 which allows much better multimedia integration than the former version. At first I was resistant to using this software to create the projects, but I am feeling better about it as our students are really creating multimedia projects through the use of the platform.

So this morning I am watching my students work on their computers (we are a 1:1 school), and they are creating a storyboard in PowerPoint and then integrating pictures, podcasts (audio), and video into it. They have been gathering content in the later part of the morning- photos of their friends, photos of tests and projects they have completed, screenshots of their digital academic work, “It’s an Elementary Mystery Podcasts” (Science), “Poems Aloud” (English, self written poems that they have recorded in Audacity and then embedded into a self-created webpage), Foreign Language (French Poems recorded in Audacity), journals re: Math problems (math), self recorded music from strings class, Medievals Travelers Videos (History), etc. Some are writing of their struggles. Some are writing of their growth. Some are not writing much at all- they are letting they multimedia speak for itself.

I can not wait to see their final products tomorrow, and I will publish one of them as an example eventually. The power of 1:1 computing is truly coming to life in this project. The students own their content…it is theirs and they created all of it on their PCs. They are free to be creative within the loose constraints of the guidelines for the project. In the end, they will present their independent technology project to their parents to facilitate their conferences.

As I reflect on the NETS published by ISTE, I feel confident we are on the right track with these Web 2.0 Independent Technology Projects for Student-Led Middle School Conferences because they exude…

  • creativity and innovation;
  • communication and collaboration;
  • research and information fluency;
  • critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making;
  • digital citizenship; and
  • technology operations and concepts*

What do you think of this strategy to allow students to really own their educational experience when meeting with their parents for student led conferences? Ideas? Thoughts?

Screencast Assessment- It’s a Small World Afterall November 15, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, screencast.

For those who have reading my blog entries, you will know that I have been exploring video production with my students for summative and formative assessment. To read my former entries about screencasting CLICK HERE and scroll down through the entries. The first one is at the bottom.

I think the power of the Internet and Web 2.0 is in many ways exemplified in the video here. One of my male students has made a trip to India with his family over the holiday break. He left a few days before the trimester was over so he had to complete one of our assignments. In this case it was a formative assessment, and I asked the students to create screencasts describing how to balance a chemical reaction. Note that these are 12-13 year old students. We had just completed an exciting chemical reaction experiment and the students simply loved it (mini explosions, lighting matches, sodium/water reactions, etc).

This morning I received my male student’s screencast describing how to balance a chemical reaction. I remind you that he is in India. He sent it to me via e-mail as he is carrying his tablet computer with him in India and likely found an Internet cafe to send his file to me. You will hear a bit of clicking in the video as he did not have a external mic with him. I don’t care… I am proud of him. His learning environment is 1/2 way across the world at this point.

CLICK HERE FOR HIS VIDEO or on the image above!

Please comment and let me know what you think of this means to determine knowledge and understanding.

Student Self Reflection…Web 2.0 Style November 10, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology.
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Today I have been struggling through writing 100 student comments for my students’ report cards. My comments are due on Monday and here I am on Saturday working on them. Ugh. I have little profound to write here except that I am trying something new. I asked my students to blog about the following:”What was your favorite project, experiment or topic this trimester and why? (projectile motion, density cube experiment, podcasts, chemical reactions, flame tests, etc.) You can also comment about the snakes. What do you think that you excelled at this trimester? How could you have improved your performance in Science 7? After you blog about this, have a peer comment on your post. Your peer’s comment should reflect one thing about how they appreciate something that you have contributed in class this trimester.”

Here is one example of what I got from this prompt.“Entry: I enjoyed working on fun projects and watching the snakes in Science 7 this trimester. My favorite project this trimester was the “It’s an Elemental Mystery” podcasts. I really enjoyed working with my friends and having a chance to be creative in science. I also liked how much it taught me about the different elements because it made the element test easier. I didn’t come in contact with the snakes much this trimester, but it was fun to watch them. I’m hoping that next trimester I can use them to overcome my fear of snakes. I think I was good at learning the elements and doing the blog entries. I really applied myself to learning the elements and made a 100% on the test. I worked hard on my blog entries, and they turned out good. I could have improved if I had asked more questions when I wasn’t sure on things. I had a good time in Science 7 this trimester being creative and learning elements. 

Peer Comment: I appreciate your great ideas and your enthusiasm in the class. You are always up for other peoples ideas and learning new things. I love how you are always are happy and a joy to be around. Overall, you are fun to be around and science wouldn’t be the same without you in our class.” 

I can write comments for my students all afternoon but nothing I write will compare to the insight that this female student of mine will have provided to her parents. Web 2.0…I love it. It is raw. It is real.

What, Where, When, Who, and How…A Web 2.0 Enigma November 10, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology.

I have just returned from the Powerful Learning Practice for Teachers and Learners facilitated in Atlanta by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Will did the keynote. Sheryl facilitated the nitty gritty details of the collaboration to start the conference. She also worked with the group on developing Ning for the social networking aspect of the group. I attended with a wonderful group of educators from Cary Academy. It was a very enriching experience, and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to participate in it over the next year.

I wanted to attend the conference because I was interested in observing all levels of Web 2.0 users that were learning to use new Web 2.0 technologies. As a Web 2.0 evangelist that is quite tech savvy, I am becoming more interested in some big picture thoughts about the evolution (or lack thereof) of our public and private k-12 educational systems. I am also interested in discovering how adults might use social networking in different ways than teens do and how this might translate (or not translate) into the classroom.

I am boiling down many thoughts swirling around in my cranium into a few points:

What: We need rapid, exponential change in our current k-12 educational system. Every keynote I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But thinking about the “what” is far too insufficient…

Where: We need change throughout the k-12 public/private school systems. Moreover, this change must come from the highest levels of government to the lowest levels of individual school policy. Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But thinking about the “where” is not enough…

When: NOW! Tomorrow is too late. I can think of no greater tragedy than the wasted intellect and creativity in children. Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But talking about the “when” is not enough…

Who: Those at the highest levels of government must begin to understand the urgency of this message. State legislatures and public officials must realize this too. Finally, every person in a school community whether it be the administrator to the teacher’s aid to the 55 year old veteran math teacher must realize this urgency. The world of information and literacy is changing and so must the system at all levels. Adults must accept that they must embrace learning even at their current age. Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But identifying the “who” is not enough…

How: And here lies the enigma… How do we bring about this change? Where do we start? Who do we start with? What does a Web 2.0 teaching pedagogy look like? Is 1:1 the answer? What about Internet connectivity? Where will the money come from to support this kind of radical change? What are the best Web 2.0 tools to use? How do we assess this type of learning? Should we focus on the tools or curriculum augmented and enriched by these tools? Do we teach breadth or depth of information- with children currently being largely tested on breadth. What strategies should we use for professional development of our teachers? What about the inequities that exist regarding socioeconomic status and access to computers and Internet access? What do our children need in terms of an education to be successful 20 years from now? Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But writing or talking about the “how” is not enough…

So, what will get us to where we would like to go in terms of creating this radical change in k-12 teaching/learning pedagogy? There is no secret here. There is not a magical key or a hidden doorway.

I propose a thought. The unknown future lies in the hands of the children that we currently teach. Embrace them and their untainted, creative, and innovative intellects. Let them help us make this radical change. As adults we hold wisdom and knowledge…but what about the unshackled, unfettered minds that are burgeoning with thoughts that might help us in this journey. We have a lot to offer, but they do too. They can text message in a language that we do not know. They can multi-task beyond the level of a k-12 educator and that is quite a feat. They can create YouTube videos and could win the race with most of us at finding any piece of information on the Web. They can fix printers. Social networking is woven into the fabric of their online space. Creativity and innovation is their world- what is this telling us? Let them tell us. Let them show us.

I use this quote in my e-mail signature: “ Do not confine your children to your own learning for they were born in another time.” I believe in this quote.

As adults we will be in our retirement years at best when our children are struggling with a new evolution of educational pedagogy and policy. The gift we give…the gift we leave…is the gift of feeling of value and a part of this evolutionary journey. We must embrace our children’s power and strengths and relinquish some of ours.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this…

Great New Tools for Screencasting…Video in the Classroom October 28, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, screencast.
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I’ve been exploring some new tools in my classroom with my students with amazing results. The technology is called “screencasting” and basically the tools capture the movements of the mouse on the screen along with the images (websites, drawings, etc.) on the computer screen. While this occurs, a student’s (or teacher’s) comments are captured through the microphone of the computer or through a inexpensive microphone plugged into the microphone jack on the computer (a $7 microphone produces much better sound quality).

The end result is a video that can be used to demonstrate a topic, explain a website, analyze a concept through a applet, etc. I have used screencasting for my own purposes for my students for several years now as they can be used as a very effective teaching tool, especially if one incorporates questions or requires students to produce a product through the video. In my mind, the interactivity portion is often missing in the screencasts that are currently being developed by instructors as they are a time-shifting resource. This means that they can be viewed at any time and can be paused. This allows students to work at their own pace and also allows for instructors to ask the students to reflect, write, produce, etc. a product while watching or pausing the video.

My former blog entry included a screencast from a student in one of my classes. I am finding it to be an incredible tool as I seek to formatively and/or summatively assess my students in a Web 2.0 world. Moreover, THEY LOVE PRODUCING VIDEOS! Like anything, it is not a tool for all occasions, but it is a powerhouse in terms of revealing true knowledge.

Here is include a short screencast to demonstrate how I might use Jing in my science class with my 7th graders. Click on the image below…


To create a screencast on your mac or PC you have multiple options for software. You can use online resources or stand alone software on your PC.

Mac Options for Stand Alone Software: IShowU (very inexpensive) or Snapz Pro X for use along with the free iMovie or a higher end video editor like Final Cut Pro

PC Options for Stand Alone Software: the killer application of the screencast world- Camtasia, Camstudio (Open source and Free), or Windows Media Encoder (Free with Win OSs) for use for Windows Movie Maker or a higher end video editor like Adobe Premiere Elements).

Mac and PC options that are Internet based: Screencast-o-Matic

A new free application at the moment form the makers of Camtasia, and it is cross platform: Jing!

Let’s generate some conversation about how this can be used as a value added assessment or project tool…

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words….How Much is a Video Worth? September 14, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology, screencast.


Image: Galileo’s Original Work Regarding Projectile Motion (Public Domain)

I have been contemplating this blog entry for a couple of weeks now. The statement “a picture is worth a thousand words” has started to take new meaning for me in the framework of a 21st Century teaching pedagogy.I have been making videos for my students for a year or so, but one day this last week I tried something different. I showed the students how to create a screencast ( a video which creates a picture of what they draw and say on their computers) using Windows Media Encoder. I then posed a question after a hands-on experiment regarding projectile motion and several online simulations regarding projectile motion: ” Is there any angle that results in the greatest range when shooting a projectile and if so, why?” Students had 30 minutes to create a 3-4 minute video describing their thoughts. The student products were astounding (and not because they are worthy of Academy Awards :-).Through these videos, I have more insight regarding the true essence of their understanding than I could have ever gathered by giving them a standardized test, worksheet, quiz, or lab report. I found out what they REALLY understood and misunderstood. It has forever changed my thoughts about assessment. So I ask my readers this question: – Using a 21st Century teaching and learning pedagogy, how do we really assess student learning? I am a scientist by training. I collect data….10/12 correct; 90/100 on the rubric; etc. Yet, when I watch these videos… I know who knows… I know who is just spitting back the answers. I can see that the LD student that scored a 65 on our standardized test clearly understands more than his 65 indicates. Another scary thought- I know that it is what this student will produce on his future high stakes written assessments that will undoubtedly place him into categories that may ultimately determine his pathway in life.A picture says a thousand words… How much is a video worth?Here is a video produced by one of “my boys”. He is 11. He struggles with some things. I like his video… CLICK HERE or on the picture below.