31 December 2008

5 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2008

In 2008 I wrote only 44 posts, less than the previous year. However, StatCounter showed me that hits on my blog have doubled. So I guess I'm getting better. Below are the five most loaded posts in 2008.

Converting Files (doc to/from pdf)
Traveling Through the Dark
Reading Revolution: New Texts and New Technology
Learning Persuasive Writing or Debate thru Online Role Play
Searchme and Searchme Update

Thanks to those of you who have returned to check out what I'm learning about. Hopefully, I'll be back on a more regular basis in 2009. I still have to relate the rest of the K12 Online Conference 2008 sessions. And I have 33 websites labelled ExploreLater in my Delicious account. So, I still have lots to learn about and report back to you in 2009.

25 November 2008

Reading Revolution: New Texts and New Technology

This Getting Started session took place during the first week of the K12OnlineConference2008. It was a wiki based presentation that included a live chat with the presentor, Dr. Laurie Fowler. The session is designed to introduce teachers to Web 2.0 tools that can be use to improve reading instruction.

The wiki provides all types of resources to explore the use of new texts and new technology.

Students will need to be able to "read" text in any format from traditonal sources like books, magazines, and textbooks and also from digital formats like audio books on mp3 players, ebooks, and online picture books. Dr. Fowler includes links to various digital resources.

Wordle by Dr. Fowler
Dr. Fowler discusses and provides links to great examples of blogs used by teachers and students to react to literature. "Wikified word walls" are examined as a way to review and develop vocabulary. One of my favorite word wall resources was this short post. And finally, podcasts are examined and demonstrated showing again how students can react to literature by creating book talks or book reviews.

This presentation provides great resources and examples for teachers to implement Web 2.0 tools into reading instruction.

Turbo Tagger

22 November 2008

Learning Persuasive Writing or Debate thru Online Role Play

I'm still working my way through the first week of the K12Online Conference 2008.

Today I'd like to discuss a Proving It session, “Using Online Argument Role-Play to Foster Learning to Argue and Arguing to Learn in a High School Composition Class” by Richard Beach. Professor Beach's presentation which I have listened to several times is an audio presentation only. He discusses the research he conducted with Elizabeth Boeser, a high school English teacher. They discover that the use of blogs and a ning allow students a more meaningful experience that is similar to normal conversations. These conversations become more collaborative and students learn strategies which can be used in persuasive arguments with many audiences.

I found that the written script for the audio presentation was valuable. (I'm more of a visual learner.) His script makes use of italics to highlight his points and findings. The script also gives more specific information about the resources and the location of the evidence (blogs) he is discussing.

Professor Beach's presentor's page is also great. He shares all the various links for the students' work including blogs, digital maps, and rubrics as well as online resources for teaching persuasive/argumentative writing. There is one really cool project that allowed students to research, discuss, and comment to the PTSA about a list of books in the school's library and taught in English classes. Administrators had received "complaints" about the questionable content and educational merit of the books. What a great way to deal with the issue of censorship!

Professor Beach is also the author or co-author of Teaching Writing through Blogs, Wikis, and Other Digital Tools (Christopher Gordon, November, 2008), Teachingmedialiteracy.com: A Web-based Guide to Links and Activities, and Teaching Literature to Adolescents

I think that any teacher, not just English teachers, working with students on persuasive writing and speaking would learn a lot about the advantages of using Web 2.0 tools to enhance student learning by listening and exploring Professor Beach's resources and links.

Turbo Tagger

16 November 2008

Traveling Through The Dark

I have listened to this "Getting Started" session from the K12 Online Conference 2008 several times and watched the video once. Steven Kimmi, the presenter, uses the poem, Traveling Through the Dark by William Stafford as a metaphor to describe his own journey of using technology in his classroom. (Mr. Kimmi doesn't tell the viewers what happens in the poem. I had to find out right away, so if you're like me, read on.)

Traveling Through The Dark by William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

You make decisions every day. Do those decisions take you down a new and daring path or the same-old same-old? Mr. Kimmi believes that teachers need to take that new and daring path so that their students can become engaged in their own learning. Flexibility, adaptability, and creativity are skills that students need to develop. I believe that teachers need to act as role models.

Even though I am not a beginner I found his presentation very compelling. I agree that one should understand the technology before introducing it to students, however, sometimes students can also be the teacher and contribute to the learning of their peers and the teacher. The responses to Mr. Kimmi's request for help integrating technology are also helpful.

I think the presentation would be a good resource to help motivate a teacher who is slow to adopt new things.

14 November 2008

Best Practice 4 Technology Integration

Here's another K12OnlineConference session from the Prove It strand, “Facilitating Technology Integration: A Synthesis of the Research” by Jonathon Becker. Doctor Becker examined the research which had already been reported in the literature. He concluded and his reference list of the artcles he examined shows that very little research has been done to examine what manner of professional development (PD) is best to facilitate integrating technology into a teacher's classroom and practice. If a teacher's practice and method change due to the PD then it has been successful. But what makes it successful?

Doctor Becker does a great job of synthesizing "best practice" for PD in technology integration. The keys are: Community, Time, and Content Focus.

  • Community -- colloraborative learning, making use of personal learning networks, reflecting, and sharing
  • High Duration & Intensity -- as much time as possible, but condensed, i.e. 60 hours in 2 weeks or 10-12 hours each weekend for a month.
  • Content Focus with shared learning goals.

When I think back on my days as a teacher librarian, I realize that most of the school district's PD for integrating technology was not best practice. It was of short duration and focused on the technology rather that how to use it in instruction. There was some community, but it wasn't sustained. I'm thinking that inservice days for PD for integrating technology should allow a person to choose one and only one tool (blog, wiki, ning, podcast etc.) for the entire day/s with reflection and sharing done during an entire semester/year. I can think of only one example of best practice of integrating technology and it was when the district implemented a new library management system. Teacher librarians had four days of technical training and then worked with support staff. We all had a common goal. District library staff discussed and shared learning experiences as needed and on a regular basis throughout the school year.

04 November 2008

First Week of K12Online Conference

The K12Online Conference closed last week. Prior to the start of the conference I setup a RSS feed for the conference blog through Google Reader and also a subscription to the audio only podcasts through iTunes.

The first week's two strands, Getting Started and Prove it, each had 10 presentations scheduled. Only 1 was cancelled, and it seems that I didn't get the audio podcast of 4 sessions. It appears that one of the four was a wiki-based presentation w/o audio. I'll have to download the other 3 individually from the presentation's blog post link.

So...I have listened to 15 podcasts from the first week. And relistened to 6 that I found interesting. I have had time to view/listen to the video for only 2 of the 6 and explore the resources that presentors made available.

"Free Tools for Universal Design for Learning in Literacy" by Jennifer Kraft was the first presentation I found valuable in the Getting Started strand. Ms Kraft has organized resources in support of literacy using Glogster. E-books, concept mapping and research tools I am familiar with and use myself, however, I had not heard of most of the tools in the text-to-speech, text-to-MP3, or speech-to-text categories. In fact I would have associated these resources as assistive technology, mainly for use by students with physical disabilities. The presentation explains the many different tools and applications that can be used to help students with reading difficulties participate and learn in class in spite of their problem. Ms Kraft opened my eyes about these free and online tools and how effectively they can be used. The cost for me will be the time spent learning how to use them. As an aside I also found Glogster a great tool in itself that I'd also like to explore.

Another presentation in the Getting Started strand that I really enjoyed was "What Did You Do in School Yesterday, Today, and Three Years Ago" by H. Songhai. Mr Songhai discusses how to make educational use of the many digital handhelds that today's young people can't seem to live without, i.e. cell-phones, mp3 players, digital cameras, etc. His presentation explains how students can document and archive what they do and learn. My first thought was remembering how I worked with students gathering material for a portfolio showcasing their high school career. It included mainly print media with perhaps some pics or photos or artwork included. Portfolio 2.0 has arrived!

More to come...

Turbo Tagger

12 October 2008

K12 Online Conference 2008

The K12 Online Conference begins Monday, October 13th with a preconference keynote by Stephen Heppell. His keynote will be posted on the conference blog at 12 pm GMT. In case you didn't know GMT stands for Greenwitch Mean Time which is about 5 hours later than the US central time zone.

If this will be your first time I highly recommend browsing the FirstTimers section.

And now I direct you to Sue Water's blog post, "Are You Attending the K12 Online Conference?" She has done a masterful job explaining the conference, it's program, and how to participate.

Don't miss out on some great sessions and opportunities to learn at your pace.

28 September 2008

Banned Books Week-It's Here

Banned Books Week, September 27 - October 4, 2008 is here. Take the time to reflect on your freedoms and rights. Participate in events planned at your local library. The ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom has a list of resources available here as well as a great motto, "Free People Read Freely".

Below is a video produced by AL Focus, the video home of American Libraries magazine in honor of Banned Books Week.

17 September 2008

Banned Books Week Banner

Wow!! What a cool banner.

Would love to know how it was made.

What banned book will you be reading during Banned Books Week, September 27 - October 4?

K12 Online Conference 2008

This is a conference by educators for educators around the world interested in integrating emerging technologies into classroom practice. A goal of the conference is to help educators make sense of and meet the needs of a continually changing learning landscape.
The 2008 conference theme is “Amplifying Possibilities”. This year’s conference begins with a pre-conference keynote the week of October 13, 2008. The following two weeks, October 20-24 and October 27-31, forty presentations will be posted online to the conference blog for participants to download and view. Live Events in the form of three “Fireside Chats” and a culminating “When Night Falls” event will be announced. Everyone is encouraged to participate in both live events during the conference as well as asynchronous conversations.

It's FREE and will be available 24/7.

There are again 4 strands:

  • Getting Started,
  • Prove it!,
  • Kicking It Up a Notch, and
  • Leading the Change.

Check out the PreConference and Keynoters and Presentors in each strand. Subscribe to the RSS feed for the teasers so you can plan which sessions you'll want to attend.

Don't miss out on a great opportunity to learn!

Turbo Tagger

28 August 2008

Banding Loons

I volunteered to monitor loon activity on the lake where I reside and so I have become one of the Wisconsin Loon Citizen Scientists. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is conducting a study of loons in Northern Wisconsin to develop a model to predict population estimates and also study stressors such as mercury exposure, loss of habitat, predation, and disturbances caused by human activity.

My job has been to survey the lake, monitor loon activity, determine if the loons are banded, and record the data. Here on Towanda Lake, the territorial pair is not banded and produced two chicks, though, only one chick has survived.

On August 4th three DNR scientists came to the boat landing around 9:30 pm and I met them there. When I arrived there was a tarp laid out on the ground under the landing's light with various boxes and devices laid out.

I didn't realize that we'd be bringing the loons back to shore where the banding takes place as well as a blood draw, feather clipping, and weighing.

We waited until it was pitch dark to go onto the lake in search of the loons. I accompanied the scientists in the boat to watch the capture of the loons.

Spotlights and lights attached at the forehead were used to locate the loons on the lake. The family was found together, which was unusual. Generally, according to one of the scientists, the chick at 6-7 weeks is left alone at night. (correction: it is not often that both adults are found with a chick 6-7 weeks old, but one is generally close by.) As soon as the loons became aware of us, one of the parents began to move away from the family group. Using a huge net which is larger than our muskie net, one of the scientists scooped up the largest loon which was trying to lead us away from the other parent with the chick. I was surprised that it only took one attempt. Of course the net twisted and it took awhile to right the net, untangle the loon's legs, and gather the bird into temporary captivity without injury to the bird or the scientist. We had three plastic storage containers with lids in the boat ready for each bird. Once in the container with the lid attached the loon settled down. At the time there must have been a lot of noise from the loon, but I don't remember it. I do remember some squawks, but not the normal loon sounds.

We then proceeded to locate the remaining loons. The chick submerged and the parent swam in the opposite direction. Again the DNR scientist was quick to scoop up the parent and this time the net didn't twist so the loon was quickly removed from the net and placed in a container. The chick took a little longer to capture. As soon as we would see it and move closer, it would see us and submerge. The scientists had brought along a recording with sounds that a parent makes. The recording helped to attract the chick and it was finally scooped up and we returned to shore.

The loons in their containers were brought ashore. The scientists began with the largest loon who was the male. They began by weighing the bird. "My loons" seemed to be average.

The loons were placed on the tarp where blood was drawn. It will be analyzed for mercury content which will let the scientists know

how much mercury the loons have been exposed to this summer on the lake. They didn't flinch when the needle was injected and were fairly quiet while being handled by the scientists. (Or maybe that was due to the expertise of the scientists.) The scientists had to be careful because the adults can cause injury with their mouths and beaks.

Each loon had different colored bands placed on each leg. Band combinations are recorded by leg, and position of the band on the leg and each bird has a unique combination. The birds can be identified in successive years as they return to the lakes or are found in another part of the country (alive or dead).
The metal/silver band is the US Fish and Wildlife Band. It is placed on the right leg of adults and left leg of chicks. Once chicks leave the area in the fall they will not return until mature, 3 years from now. So when a silver band is seen on an adult loon on it's left leg, the bird has survived its migration, life on the ocean, and returned to its birth place.

The last thing that is done is to clip a feather from each wing. The analysis of mercury content will let the scientists know the amount of mercury that the birds have been exposed to over their lifetime.

Below is the chick. It's not very experienced on land, though, all loons are awkward on land because their legs are set so far back on their long bodies. It's coloring is different from it's parents, much more muted. The chick's bite doesn't hurt either. I was able to feel the chick and was surprised by how warm it was.

Each loon in turn was returned to its container. The male and female began calling to each other so they were removed from the light so they wouldn't get agitated and hurt themselves. All three were returned to the same area of the lake where they had been captured. The next morning I was out early to check on them even though the scientists assured me that they would be back to normal as if nothing had happened in the night. And they were.

If you want to learn more about loons, Citizen Loon Scientists or Loon Rangers check out one of these links:


The Loon Project,

All About Loons,

"Rangers" do everything in their power to protect the loon or,

Oneida County is the center of loon behavioral research

Thanks to Jeff Smith for sharing these photographs taken during the process.

Turbo Tagger

25 August 2008

Little Computer Time...Watching and Listening Instead

Wow! Has it been that long since my last blog? I've been watching the Olympics for the last two weeks so I haven't been using the computer as much as I usually do.

I have been listening to podcasts while cleaning and driving to and fro. I've never read Dracula by Bram Stoker so I downloaded it awhile ago after finding another source for literary podcasts, Lit2Go, from Florida's Educational Technology Clearinghouse.

Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. You can:

Download the files to your Mp3 player and listen on the go,
Listen to the Mp3 files on your computer,
View the text on a webpage and read along as you listen,
Print out the stories and poems to make your own book.

The narrator for Dracula was very good, so I'm going back there to download some other titles.

I've also been listening to RezEd podcasts. RezEd(beta)is a community for everything related to learning and virtual worlds.
Each month the site will feature inter-related podcasts, brief best practices, digital resources in the library, and featured blog posts and discussions.
The podcasts have been very interesting for me since I haven't actually tried out any virtual worlds myself and thus far the topics discussed in the podcasts have been informative for any level of user. The month of August has been devoted to school uses of virtual worlds. There are many upcoming learning events within virtual worlds listed too. Makes me want to become more involved with SL.

Turbo Tagger

01 August 2008

Jing (continued)

I think I'm getting how to use Jing better now.

First of all, when I used Jing to capture the image, of course, I did it a couple of times initially. After my previous blog post was published, I went back and deleted the extra images from my Jing history and Screencast. And of course, when I returned to the blog, the image was no longer opening and neither was the link. So, delete extra images BEFORE sharing.

And guess what else I discovered during the process of correcting my mistakes? The image is automatically linked. Just click anywhere on the abbreviated image and it opens the complete image.

Secondly, I now understand that Jing works along with Screencast. The Jing Project and Screencast have both been created by TechSmith. "Jing is designed to be fast-visual communication shared with others in a variety of locations". Jing is free and resides on your computer.
Screencast.com is TechSmith’s media hosting solution that Jing uses to securely host your content. It’s perfect for the kind of images and videos you’ll want to make with Jing. We use Screencast.com to ensure everyone has access to a free, secure hosting option that enables the fastest visual communication possible. You can upload or save your content in lots of other places too!
So, after you capture an image or create a video, you can save with these methods:
  • Screencast.com
  • Local folder
  • Network drive
  • Copy to your clipboard (images only)
  • FTP server
  • Flickr

I didn't understand that only images could be saved to the clipboard. I have since found that, if the image or video is saved at Screencast, you can then get and share the url, embed link, or embed on your page/blog. I haven't tried to save to my computer or Flickr yet.

I definitely recommend reading the Jing Blog especially "Getting Started with Jing" in the Recent Entries section or "How Do I..." in the Categories section.

22 July 2008

Jing and Soungle

I haven't been idle since my last post. I've been reading and viewing various blogs and links to sessions presented at NECC and ALA. I did find a couple of sessions on copyright (a topic I have an interest in) and I revised and updated the copyright section of the WEMTA website by adding a separate link for resources that can be used with students.

I decided it was time to go thru all those posts from my RSS reader, Bloglines, that I marked to review again or read later...of which there were MANY. I discovered several posts about Web 2.0 sites/apps that I'm already using, many that I'm no longer interested in, and a few which I del.icio.us'd. A Demo Girl post about Soungle interested me.

The Personal Learning Environment (PLE 2.0) online course is still on my agenda as well. I had one more app from module 1, The Jing Project, to explore. I finally forced myself to download the application. I think I procrastinated because I have had difficulty using a couple of other screen capture apps and was afraid to try another. I've watched the how-to video and read several of the how-to blogs. Here's an image from Jing's blog that I captured using Jing. I was able to highlight, use an arrow and frame, but wasn't able to get the text tool to work. I'll have to play around some more.

Well, I'm going to leave the image above. It's too large for the space in the blog. Did I capture too large of an image? Why doesn't the image shrink to fit the space? All issues I'll have to explore later. Anyway, here's the link to see the full image.

I also created a video with sound using Jing Project to demonstrate how to use Soungle. Soungle provides royalty free instrumental sound and sound effects. I thought this site might be useful for podcasting. I have been trying to embed the video, but it doesn't seem to be working. I can see a play button in the preview, but not when I publish the post. It appears that the embedded video is extremely huge and you can't see the entire video, but you can hear the sound. Was finally able to get a link for the video. Soungle Video

I used a microphone with a usb connection. When I preview the video I am able to hear my recording without any difficulty, although, I was disappointed when the sounds I could hear while previewing a Soungle sample were not automatically recorded. Maybe I have to change some settings on my computer to enable that function and also set the volume so it can be heard.

The Jing Project is easier to use than the other apps I've tried. (Though sharing and/or embedding is not, yet.)

I didn't have NET 3.0 framework from Microsoft which is required for Jing. It was included during the install process, but I recommend downloading it directly from Microsoft prior to downloading Jing because I had a few errors during the install process.

More to come later as I use Jing.

Turbo Tagger

07 July 2008

Secondhand Learning from NECC

Since my last post I have been observing/reading the twitterverse and blogosphere about NECC2008. The NECC conferences are so huge and include such a great variety of content and speakers.

Here's just a summary of a few of the great blogs, links, etc. that I found interesting and helpful.

First, one of my favorite blogs, A Library By Any Other Name, was voted the "best library" EduBlog Awards 2007. This blogger has several great posts about speakers and presentations she attended while at NECC and also EduBloggerCon. Her commentary is very down to earth and easy to understand. She includes some great links. My favorite is the Web 2.0 Smackdown that took place during EduBloggerCon.

Secondly, another of my favorite blogs, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, by Vicki Davis, has many posts about NECC and her presentations at NECC. Her post entitled, NECC to me: Ten of my takeaways, is a simple and thoughtful summary and includes her pic.

A third blog that I read on a regular basis is NeverEndingSearch by Joyce Valenza. Experiencing NECC from home (and again and again) is a post with a summary of her experiences at NECC and includes great links.

NECC 2008 Wrapup and Review is located on the Classroom 2.0 wiki and includes links to all kinds of resources: general, twitter, blog and web search links, photos, ustream and other video links, and podcasts.

Nuggets from NECC 2008 (1) is a post by Wesley Fryer with great notes from one of the panel discussions that took place at NECC. (I think I got to this via Vicki Davis)

TheWallsCameDown wiki has to be from Vicki Davis. The wiki contains a NECC presentation by "a group of panelists who discussed how they channeled their "viral" connections to create a collaborative presentation about the then-emerging web application, Google Presentations".

30 June 2008

NECC 2008

Is it just NECC that does such a great job of including those of us not in attendance? WOW!!!

Already have been able to participate, second-hand, in one session of Edubloggercon and NECC's first keynote.

We2.0 Smackdown created a wiki to share all the great info presented in this one session. You can view a video, "listen to" the conversation taking place (Cover it Live), and find out about some Web 2.0 tools.

Here's the CoveritLive blogging session for James Suroweicki's Wisdom of Crowds opening keynote.

I'd also recommend checking out the podcasts that will be available. There's a Cover It Live session and one on copyright that I'm looking forward to.

Checkout twitter... lots of links there too.

26 June 2008

Searchme UPDATE

WOW!!! I just went to Searchme and have discovered that now the creators have short demo videos available on the home page about new features. Take time to view them. It's worth it. Great feature have been added! Now this visual search engine includes images and videos in addition to the web. And what's even more exciting is the ability to create stacks. Your own set of webpages, images, and videos for a specific topic of your choosing. Stacks can be shared in a variety of ways, though they have a message that pops up that says stacks can only be saved on your machine. So I'm not sure how long or even if the stack below will appear here.

The only problem I have is with videos. Sometimes they begin playing automatically within Searchme so be prepared for that in the stack below.

(Well, I'm having trouble embedding the code given by Searchme. The stack shows up beautifully when I preview, but when I want to publish I get an html error which I don't know how to fix.)

I'm going to try to add the url instead, K12OnlineConference

24 June 2008


I'm still planning to work on the PLE2 modules. In fact I have one other site to explore from module 1, Jing Project, "an always-ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video…from your computer to anywhere."

I get sidetracked so easily. I saw a tweet about a new way to search called Searchme. I just had to try it out myself. Searchme is still in public beta after being released in March 2008, so it may not find everything you want/need.

There are a few simple settings on the first search screen. The first allows you to filter out adult content. That feature makes the search engine safe for "school use". The second allows you to select from two background colors (black or very light blue, which are named Night and Day). The last setting allows you the option of opening links in the current window/tab or in a new window/tab. I choose new tab and the link opened so quickly that I had several tabs open cause I clicked more than once.

As you enter a search term, categories will appear to help narrow the focus of your search. Instead of a textual list of websites, Searchme displays images of the websites it finds. A scrollbar below the central image allows you to move forward and/or backward to view website images before clicking the link. If you still need text there is an arrow below the scrollbar that will display a smaller image and the text we are all used to seeing.

Here's a short video(3 min)demonstrating the use of Searchme.

I think that this search engine will be useful for those students who are visual learners. It should make a search easier for them. It's not as boring as using a traditional search engine.

Turbo Tagger

20 June 2008

PLE (Personal Learning Environment) 2.0

I'm at it again...join me.

Last summer or was it two summers ago??? I convinced a peer to take an online learning adventure, School Library Learning 2.0 (SLL2) with me. It was offered (and still is) by the California School Library Association and is modified from Learning 2.0's 23 Things.

I believe that I first learned about this online course, PLE2, through twitter. It was originally offered in February and March 2008, however, the course was setup with self-directed learning modules and supportive websites of the Web 2.0 tools that the course included. There are six modules altogether.

The first module includes general resources about Web 2.0 and various tools that can be used with pictures. SLL2 covered Flickr, Flickr mashups, and 3rd party sites. PLE2 includes tools that I didn't remember using so I tried them all.

The home of fd's Flickr Toys includes toys, games, and utilities which allow you to mashup digital pictures. I had already used several toys so I tried a couple of others: Hockneyizer and Mosaic Maker. Here's a link to my Hockneyized pic and a mosaic I created with a few of my favorite Flickr pics. Big Huge Labs works well with my Flickr photos and you can upload from your machine, Photobucket or URL.

Dumpr offers a couple of photo effects similar to BigHugeLabs, but many that are completely different. Here's a sketch I created from one of my photos. I didn't register for the site, though, I had to authorize access to my Flickr photos. You can also upload from Picassa, MySpace, Zooomr, or URL.

"makes your photos fabulous with easy to use yet powerful editing tools. Tweak to your heart’s content, then get creative with oodles of effects, fonts, shapes, and frames. It's fast, easy, and fun."
And it really is!!! Picnik is going to be a favorite of mine. It's so easy to edit and doctor a photo. You don't have to register, just start using it.

Here are the original and the edited photos.

This collection consists of thousands of images that have been donated by students, teachers, and amateur photographers for educational use.

16 June 2008


Wordle is a fun site to create what I call word art.

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

Here's a link to my del.icio.us wordle.

Since the word clouds created by Wordle are Java applets you don't have any embed codes to allow you to post your Wordle creations. Instead you can take a screenshot or do as I did and print to a pdf. Then I used the snapshot tool to copy the Wordle image, pasted into Paint, and saved as a jpeg. Below are a couple other examples of my del.icio.us Wordle.

Thanks to John Pederson for his twitter post, OMG! My Wordle. http://skitch.com/t/rp8 and to Vicki Davis' Cool Cat Teacher Blog: A little Taxonomy with your Folksonomy and finally to Jonathan Feinberg the creator of Wordle.

08 June 2008


I read a blog post at A Library By Any Other Name about Apture. Look for the Apture links that were created for Texas, Chihuahua, and Oatmail Raisin Cookies. Texas and Chihuahua have a W enclosed by a box in front of the underlined word, which stands for a Wikipedia entry. Cookies has a camera, which stands for a picture.

When you go to http://apture.com you will see a demo of Apture without sound. Submit your email and complete the signup process. You will receive an email from Apture that you'll have to click on the link that is sent to confirm your registration. OR if you go to http://apture.com/experience, you will see across the top of the page three choices: About Apture, Experience Apture, and Add Apture to your Website. Click on Add Apture to your website. If you haven't signed up yet, the signup process will appear.

If you have created an account, Sign In. The first thing you have to do is add a new site. This would be your website or blog. Click on the link and enter the name and url. Just follow the rest of the steps to configure and install Apture. Once you have gone thru this process, I think that I got a tutorial that I could go thru with a basic explanation of how Apture works.

You have to complete an entry first. Then you go back and insert the Apture links by highlighting a term, name, whatever. A popup window will appear with various choices for the type of links available. To add the Apture links you just need to be viewing your website or blog. I don't think that you even need to be signed in to your blog account, but you do have to be signed into Apture.
There is an Apture dashboard that appears when you press the "e" key. You can sign in from the dashboard. I haven't needed to go back to the main apture site.

Once you get past the installation and tutorial I don't think that you'll have any problems figuring out how to use Apture. You'll find a wiki with documentation about using Apture, if you want to read more here. And of course, checkout Apture's blog.

Apture is a great tool for making your blog or website a multimedia experience! Not just Wikipedia or pictures, but also sound and video. I love it.

03 June 2008

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award

I just got done watching & listening to David Macaulay's 2008 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, Thirteen Studios.

I knew that May Hill Arbuthnot was the author of one of my college reading textbooks, Children and Books, but I'm ashamed to confess that's all I remembered. I've since discovered that she also wrote another book that I read during my professional life, Children's Books Too Good To Miss and even further back in elementary school when reading the "Dick & Jane" series, (that really dates me, huh?). She was also
a strong believer in the efficacy of direct speech.... a forthright vigorous lecture can set fire to a piece of literature that had failed to come to life from the printed page.
This lecture series was begun in 1969 by the ALA's Association for Library Service to Children in Mrs. Arbuthnot's name. Each year the award winner prepares a lecture considered to be a significant contribution to the field of children's literature.

David Macaulay's lecture took us on a journey from his first creative efforts in college through to the present day via his working spaces or studios. I was already familiar with some of his works, those that high school students would appreciate, but certainly not all. He is an engaging speaker, informative and humorous. Well worth the 60+ minutes. (The first 10-15 minutes are other individuals involved in preparing this year's venue, celebration, and presentation of David Macaulay.)

The video archive is available here.

01 June 2008


I decided to use iGoogle has my homepage. It has more varied and easily added content gadgets. AND I was wrong about Ajax programming not being available on iGoogle. I have since discovered that when you pass your cursor over links that a summary does appear as it does on Pageflakes.

Below are several other resources that might help you use iGoogle.

This Edublogger post, Setting Up iGoogle For Your Personal Learning.

Here's a video with basic info about setting up your iGoogle homepage by Ryan Wade.

And this video shows how to create your own gadgets by DemoGirl.

Or the slideshare below which is fairly technical.

26 May 2008

Personalized Homepages

Home pages, startpages, personalized homepages or portals are some of the terms used to describe the place you land when you open your browser. Right now my home page is the school district where I used to work. It's been two years since I retired and it's time to move on to something more useful to me now. After looking at the Webware 100, I wanted to try out iGoogle, and, I had already been exploring Pageflakes, though not as a personalized home page. So these two sites are where I began my exploration of personalized home pages.

allows users to add tabs, themes and drag-n-drop widgets to your home page. The site has a whole bank of third-party widgets or gadgets to choose from including widgets for news, tools, sports and lifestyle. Users can also add gadgets for their favorite Google products including Gmail, Picassa and YouTube.

iGoogle is very easy to setup, create tabs for multiple home pages with different themes/topics, and add, place, or move widgets on each tab and to other tabs.

Above is sample iGoogle home page. Sorry it's so tiny. You can see that this example has 3 tabs which are located below the iGoogle search box on the left. On my iGoogle I have 6 tabs: Home, News, Humor, Technology, Entertainment, and Education. Each rectangle with a blue bar across the top is a different widget. On my Home tab I have the following widgets: Twitter, FriendFeed, GMail, Weather, CNN.com, Top News Stories by Google, Interesting Photos of the Day, Current Moon Phases, Movies, Horoscope, and Fat Loss Tip. Depending on the widget it can be personalized for your location, like the Weather forecast. Twitter, FriendFeed, and GMail appear as if I had opened each app separately, but with iGoogle I can have them all available and be able to add a Tweet or answer an email. Really cool to have them all in one place.

Pageflakes is a personalized Ajax home page service with key features being customized widgets, an RSS reader and group sharing capabilities. Pageflakes allows you to customize your homepage by adding and editing flakes. You can keep your pageflake private or PageCast to the public.

Pageflakes is not quite as easy as iGoogle to set up and customize. I had to go to the help & support section to figure out how to do some things. However, basically, Pageflakes has the same functions as iGoogle. The example above has 5 tabs and flakes that look similar to iGoogles widgets.

The widgets available at iGoogle seem to be more varied, but not as customizable as the flakes within Pageflakes. In many cases I like the flakes better than the widgets. Most flakes with text, like news items or lists, allow you to select the display style (thumbnail, summary, headline only, etc.); how you can read the post (RSS feed, original site with new, current, or Pageflakes browser window); and # of posts. Also, when you pass your cursor over the displayed text, the Ajax programming kicks in and you see a summary of the event. Really, really cool. It makes it faster to decide if you want to read the entire article. iGoogle's widget customization only allows you to select the # of posts. In lieu of Ajax, iGoogle has summaries which can be opened by clicking on the + boxes in front of each post. Look closely at the iGoogle example above at the bottom of the middle column.

Pageflakes has a feature that I haven't really made use of yet, an RSS reader. The reader allows you to view all of the feeds you have selected as flakes in one place, just like my Bloglines account. I have to investigate this more to see if I can add the same feeds I follow now at Bloglines from within Pageflakes.

The other feature that I have used but not as a contributor yet, is sharing a personal homepage with others called a Pagecast. In my previous posts about Pageflakes I explored The Collaborative Web Pagecast. I haven't been able to figure out how to add applications like librarywannabe did with the Collaborative Web Pagecast. Maybe it has something to do with PageCasting. You can also meet new people through the Pageflakes community and collaborate or learn from each other.

I haven't decided which personalized homepage to use. Pageflakes is so much more that iGoogle, but I'm not sure I need all that Pageflakes offers.

(iGoogle and Pageflakes are not the only examples of personalizing home pages. Here's an article that compares 14 different personalized home page sites or this blog post by Michael Arrington, or this EduBlogger post, if you want to explore others.)

Do you use a personalized homepage? Which one? and Why?

24 May 2008

Converting Files (doc to/from pdf)

A couple of weeks ago I needed to convert doc's to pdf's and vice versa for a project that WEMTA's Battle of the Books/Golden Archer Award committees have been working on. After doing a simple google search, I discovered many, but didn't know which would be better and easy to use. So I asked for help via our organization's listserv. What a great group! Within an hour I had many answers. Here are some of the answers and my experience.

  • I do it via scanner. My Epson scanner software offers a setting to save as PDF. I too have a scanner and hadn't thought of using it. I wanted to convert a pdf to doc and be able to edit. I've tried to use OCR scanning and found it to be lacking (or maybe it was user error) so I didn't try to use my scanner or check out whether it could save a scan as pdf.
  • This site is free and I have used it numerous times. It’s called Zamzar. I had already heard abou Zamzar and I think I had even used it once before for something, so I gave it a try. It's an easy online tool, no signup needed. One just needs to upload the file, select the format to convert to, enter your email address, and convert. Zamzar converts your file. As soon as this is done you receive an email to let you know where you can download your file from. The file will only be available for 24 hours once you have been notified. It took about 30 minutes to receive my email. After downloading I had trouble editing the document. The original formating came thru but I found it difficult to change. So I moved on to another suggestion.

  • Here's an excellent article which links to two main tools: pdf995 (download and run) and Zamzar (online service). Both have free and non-free versions. I found this article by searching on Google for "convert from pdf to word" without the double-quotes.
    I've used pdf995 very successfully and finally paid for it (a whole $9.95) to be able to easily convert any document to a pdf.
    I read the article and began to understand a little bit. But I was converting pdf to doc, so I continued to look at more of the suggestions.

The rest of the suggestions, however, were all for converting doc to pdf :

So, I did another google search on pdf to doc. I examined a bunch of sites, but didn't want to buy any software and I was leary of downloading even if it was free. I was really looking for an online site that would convert for me and be free. I finally found PDF2Word Online. It is really easy, but a little strange. At the site browse to find your pdf file. No signup is necessary, nor will the converted filed be emailed. The Word document will be immediately pushed back to your browser. A popup, Enter Network Password, opens in another tab, which I just cancelled. The converted document appears in the browser window. Do a File, Save As and cancel the Enter Network Password popup again. I could then save the document to my machine after changing the extension rtf to doc. It only took about 5 minutes, however, there is a limit of 3 pages only. This online service worked without any hitches after I figured out I needed to deal with the popup. After my experience with this online conversion I think that Zamzar would probably have worked if I had converted to rtf or txt instead of doc.

I did go back and download PDF2Word Conversion. After some experimenting with the desktop conversion tool's general options, I was able to convert and edit w/in Word. I found it easiest to remove the checkmarks from the boxes on the right.

By the way I went back and tried Zamzar again, converting pdf to both rtf and txt. It worked, but I didn't find it any easier to edit than when I had converted to doc. It's much harder to convert pdf to doc than it is to convert doc to pdf when using online or free tools.


On to converting doc to pdf. Now I could go back and try some of the other suggestions. In the meantime I had gotten an email from a peer (thanks Liz) in which she recommended PDF Creator. It required a download and installation. PDFCreator is an open source application that can create pdf's from just about any program that prints using windows printers. One just opens the doc file, prints, and when the print dialog appears, change the printer from your default printer to the PDFCreator printer. And wah la...you have a pdf file.

Final summary: Use PDF2Word Online or download PDF2Word Conversion. In the reverse process I only tried the one tool, PDFCreator, but it works quickly and easily.

10 May 2008

Webware 100 Winners

The Webware 100 voting has been compiled and the results are available here.

I use at least one and sometimes several of the web applications in eight of the categories. The two categories that I don't use are Social and Utility. I guess that I consider myself social enough when I use twitter, blogger, and gmail, which are my favorite web apps. As far as utilities are concerned I'm interested in OpenId. For browsing I use IE7, but am interested in learning more about Safari and Firefox. I didn't know that either have pc versions. Or perhaps I'll check out iGoogle. I was surprised to discover that Publishing and Video are the two categories in which I use the most web app's. I don't think of myself as an author, tho, I do watch a lot of TV and video.

Take a few minutes, or maybe more that a few minutes, to explore a few of the top 100 web applications.

30 April 2008

Teen Tech Week Contest Winners

Here's a link to the Song Contest winners for Teen Tech Week.

The first and second place winners were both from the same school, Felix Varela Senior High School in Miami, Florida.

Even though Teen Tech Week is over for this year, resources are still available to use throughout the year.

NASA - GenY Perspectives

Thanks to MoCheeks (twitter) for sharing this great slide show. Even tho the slideshare is really about how NASA can entice GenYer's to care more about NASA's mission, it's one of the best presentations describing Gen Y that I have seen. Educators should take note of what these GenY NASA folks have to say cause it certainly applies in schools.

10 April 2008

WEMTA 2008 conference

I attended the WEMTA 2008 conference in Milwaukee earlier this week on Sunday through Tuesday. Since I'm retired, I spent about 30% of my time volunteering -- worked the Golden Archer/Battle of the Books booth and helped out with the vendor exhibit theater.

My focus on Sunday and Monday was copyright. Since I update the copyright section of WEMTA's website, I wanted to keep myself up-to-date and locate useful resources. I wasn't disappointed.

Sunday's workshop, Copyright Wisdom for Music in Multimedia, was presented by Barry Britt, Soundzabound's Director of Copyright Compliance. (In case you are not familiar with Soundzabound, it is a source for royalty-free music for K-12 education for use in video projects, podcasts, powerpoint or slideshare projects, etc.) His presentation was enjoyable, easy to understand, chockful of useful information, and came to an end much too quickly. Here's a TeacherTube video with highlights of Mr. Britt's presentation.

26 March 2008

Demo Girl

I don't remember how I came across this site, but I'm glad I did! Demo Girl is all about Web 2.0 tools. Not only does Molly McDonald, editor in chief, provide a short description of a tool, but she also provides a short screencast demonstrating its use. In Molly's own words:

Would you rather sign up for a new service, verify your email, and then try to figure it out by reading some FAQ’s or would you rather watch a 2 or 3 minute screencast demo and see for yourself if it’s even worth your time?

And she even provides the code to include the screencast demo on your blog or website. All of her screencasts are located at Viddler. If you want to get the code you have to signup. (I'll have to see if dg has a screencast on Viddler, since I'm not familiar with Viddler. It appears to be similar to YouTube, but better. It allows one to record directly to the website, tag and comment in the moment.)

I would definitely recommend adding dg to your RSS feed. You can then pick and choose the tools that might interest you.

14 March 2008


I now have a desktop client for twitter, twhirl. Now I don't have to login to twitter, just open twirl and it does all the same things as twitter on my Windows XP desktop. It even has the documentation right there in case I have any questions about how to use twhirl.

A big THANK YOU to Vicki Davis' Cool Cat Teacher Blog. I read her Web2 Soliliquy post today and discovered twhirl is one of her favorite Web 2.0 websites. What a creative lady!

13 March 2008

Vote Today!

The annual WebWare 100 vote is taking place right now. 300 finalists have been selected from almost 5000 nominations. This is your chance to voice your opinion about the best Web applications and if you're like me, find out what's new. Take a look at the Newbies Guides if you want to find out more about Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google Reader, or Flock.

  • Vote 3 times in 10 different categories:

* Audio * Browsing * Commerce and events * Communication

* Productivity * Publishing and photography * Search and reference

* Social * Utility and security * Video

World Book's Second Annual You Be the Judge lets you vote on the 2009 Spinescape design. Choose among four rich images designed to encourage readers to learn and explore more about their world:

  • Grace in Movement, championing the importance of physical activity in combating childhood obesity.
  • Portrains of Greatness, showcasing iconic figures that have
    inspired people throughout history, from Shakespeare to Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Diversity of Life, underscoring the importance of
    protecting wildlife and preserving fragile ecosystems that are essential to
    the integrity of life on Earth.
  • Feeding the World, commemorating agricultural efforts worldwide that hold great promise for alleviating hunger and poverty as the world population continues to increase.

    You only have the rest of March to vote so do it today!
  • 05 March 2008

    The Librarian Song

    Here's a fun video for librarians everywhere.

    01 March 2008


    The Tech Chicks podcast, #13, recommended SlideShare. It is a tool which allows you to share presentations. With SlideShare you can:

    • Embed slideshows into your own blog or website.
    • Share slideshows publicly or privately. There are several ways to share privately.
    • Synch audio to your slides.
    • Market your your event on slideshare.
    • Join groups to connect with SlideShare members who share your interests.
    • Download the original PowerPoint / Pdf file
    SlideShare doesn't allow you to create a slideshow or powerpoint presentation, but you can upload any presentation/s created elsewhere and your mp3 file and then synch your audio to make a slidecast.

    It's a way to create a presentation without the need for lots of equipment and software. Students could use the site to display their work and learn from comments of the community.

    29 February 2008

    Filtering and Intellectual Freedom Issues in K12 Schools

    The WEMTA Spring Conference is quickly approaching, April 6-8. One of the presentors is asking for data to include in his session. Below is his request. Even if you're surveyed out, please take the survey, so we can all begin the discussion with some facts.


    For the upcoming WEMTA Conference, I am planning to present on the topic of filtering in schools. With CIPA, most of us have stopped the discussion about whether or not we should filter Internet access, and now most of the issues revolve around how we implement filters and how we deal with disagreements about what is and what is not filtered.

    I would very much appreciate your feedback about how filtering decisions are made in your schools. This survey is 21 questions long, and will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

    The results will be shared at the WEMTA Conference at the session titled: Filtering and Intellectual Freedom Issues in K12 Schools.

    I will also post the responses back to the WEMTA and WETECH listservs.

    While identification information is requested at the front of the survey, I will remove that information from the results.

    Please take the time to either fill this survey out, or pass it on to someone in your district who is close to the decision making process for filtering. This information will serve to help schools have discussions around this important topic.

    Thanks in advance,

    Joel VerDuin
    Director of Technology and Media Services
    Wausau School District, WI

    Technorati Tags:

    16 February 2008

    hitchhikr Ever seen this image before? Perhaps on a conference blog or wiki? I have been listening to a few of the TechChickTips podcasts. I'm not sure how I discovered them. (I noticed that I had used Tech Chicks as a tag already. So checkout my first post about the Tech Chicks. ) Anyhow I subscribed to their podcasts via iTunes. In one their earliest podcasts,#10, they spoke about hitchhikr. It's a site designed by David Warlick that gathers all the blog posts, podcasts, and pics about conferences.

    Mr Warlick says, Hitchhikr was invented, to provide you with a virtual space where, thanks to blogs, podcasts, and RSS, we can connect, share, respond, and grow knowledge out beyond the place and time of the event.

    Hitchhikr allows those of us who cannot attend a particular conference to continue our own professional development at our leisure. Here's a great blog post by kstevens77 discussing hitchhikr which includes a link to David Warlick's podcast about hitchhikr.

    I was disappointed that I couldn't find the AASL's recent conference in Reno. We have to keep in mind that hitchhikr is only as good as those who use it and those who TAG. So be sure that you do use tags. And, keeping that in mind, I registered WEMTA's spring conference. Check it out.

    30 January 2008


    I've been trying to learn how to use Wink, a freeware program.
    Wink is a Tutorial and Presentation creation software, primarily aimed at creating tutorials on how to use software (like a tutor for MS-Word/Excel etc). Using Wink you can capture screenshots, add explanations boxes, buttons, titles etc and generate a highly effective tutorial for your users.

    I first saw Wink in operation at my former school's website. The teacher librarian who replaced me has created a great tutorial on how to use EBSCOhost to locate a magazine article. An excellent and useful tutorial.
    I'd like to create a tutorial for using Moodle for WEMTA's Battle of the Books.

    23 January 2008

    Zoho Sheet (Continued)

    Collaboration will work. After we discovered that an incorrect email address was being used by one of the collaborators and a telephone call while using the application, I can now say that it's going to be so awesome.

    Here's how:

    The first person to send a Share Invite is the author. The invitee receives an email with a link to the sheet and the sheet appears in your Shared With Me folder. You can then open the sheet and make additions, edits, etc. We found that the author doesn't see the change/s until you Share-Notify Author. The author receives an email with a link and now has any changes you have made.

    We also found out that chat is available if more than one user is online at the same time. Really cool.

    Today's School Libraries

    "Today's Library: A fun look at the schools library and how it has changed over the years."
    The Henrico County (Va.) Public Schools recently produced this informative look at what school library media centers and media specialists can do to teach 21st-century literacy skills. Remixing a 1940s-era librarian vocational film with interviews with middle-school and high-school information specialists, teachers, and students, Today’s Library is an entertaining showcase of the importance of professional librarians in the educational process....
    Henrico County (Va.) Public Schools Video Vault

    22 January 2008

    Zoho Sheet

    I've been working with Zoho Sheet recently. I work with WEMTA's Battle of the Books - HS committee and it's time to start selecting titles for the 2009 Battle. I had explored Zoho Sheet last summer and I remembered it when it came time to begin developing our recommendations list. There are a few of us that compile the list and narrow it down for Battle advisors and teams to voice their opinion of the titles in April 2008. So what better way to use this online application to collaborate on this list rather than sending the xls sheet back and forth and back, etc.

    Some tips for working with ZohoSheet:

    • If you are a PC MS Office user, you need to download the Zoho plugin for Microsoft Office. It's a real time saver that allows one to save a local copy and work offline in xls and then sync the revisions with Zoho.

    • If you work directly in Zoho, take your time... edits are automatically saved, but depending upon activity on the site's server, they are not always simultaneous.

    • There is not any online help...so checkout the forums and blogs for how to help. I posed a question and was answered withing 24 hours. Great response time.

    Invites to share a sheet are easy to send, but I'm still waiting to see how this collaboration actually takes place. Hopefully, one of my collaborators will be able to work on it this evening, so I'll be able to see.

    12 January 2008

    Another SmartLink

    I just finished another book, Evil Genius, by Catherine Jinks. I really enjoyed this book, though at first, I was wondering if it would be an appropriate read for our WEMTA Battle of the Books for next year. A lot of the action takes place in a "school" designed to train the world's future criminal leaders with such subjects as the philosophy of evil, the art of disguise, how to get around the law, embezzlement, forgery, and other criminal actions. The main character, Cadel Piggott, has a genius IQ and is a lonely young boy who begins to question the morality of his actions, the adults in his life, and the school after he makes an online friend. It's another YA book that appears on best book lists including Teenreads Best Books of 2007 and School Library Journal's Best Books of 2007. (Above I linked the title to LibraryThing, but no SmartLink appears)

    Evil Genius (Link to GoogleBooks)
    Evil Genius (Link to Barnes&Noble)

    10 January 2008


    Have you seen this launcher arrow before? Though much smaller, it sometimes appears next to a link for the title of a book, movie, or song. I just noticed it when I printed a list of books from the cybils blog. The blue arrow appeared in the printed document and I thought, "oh, it's just an image that didn't come thru." So I went back to cybils blog and clicked on the launcher and what do you know? A "BlueScreen" popped up with links to more info about the title. Here's an example of book BlueScreen for The Dip by Seth Godin.

    Then I went to the AdaptiveBlue site and learned more about SmartLinks. The overall goal of "AdaptiveBlue is developing personalization technologies that leverage semantics and attention. " SmartLinks make your own links to books, movies, music, or stocks more useful by automatically linking to relevant and related websites.

    I guess that I understand the purpose of SmartLinks, but I'm not sure how to actually use them here. I installed SmartLinks, so I'll experiment a bit.

    I just finished reading Tamar by Mal Peet. It has appeared on several 2007 Best books lists including Booklist's Editor's Choice: Books for Youth and School Library Journal's Best Books of 2007 It's a great suspenseful read, though, I had figured out part of the ending ahead of time. WWII underground operations in the Netherlands came alive while reading this book. (I got it to work after linking the title to Amazon. I'll have to find out which other sites the SmartLink is created for.)