Using Blogs and Wikis in the Classroom – Ideas Needed!

I’m in a workshop about using blogs and wikis in the classroom at the moment and just heard a great way to use a blog in the classroom.  One of our 6th grade science teachers set up a blog where a zoologist (his fiancée) posted short articles about various animals or topics relating to zoology and his students would read the posts and comment.  He talked about how excited the students were to see if the zoologist had responded to their comments.  Some students even read, commented and corrected each others’ comments.  What a great idea to connect with someone in the field!

My 7th and 8th grade students are getting ready to start emailing penpals in France with ePals.  The teacher and I have been trying to think of a common project the students can do.  Perhaps we will start a blog or a wiki to collaborate with each other.  If anyone out there has done this type of a project with email penpals, I would love to hear about it.

I ran across this link on my resources page and there are some great ideas there!  Enjoy!

FLANC Ideas 2011

Ok, maybe almost having bronchial pneumonia was a good thing for me this weekend.  I have gone nuts catching up on blogs I love to follow, found some new blogs to follow, and writing up my own posts.  I have missed my personal learning community or professional learning network or whatever it is you want to call it!

I went to the FLANC conference a few weeks ago and got lots of great ideas.  I whipped out my handy little bag full of goodies today and found some things I’d like to post here that may help some other folks.

  • PowerPoint and Motivation in the Classroom – This session had some great ideas on how juice up PowerPoint for your classroom.  One neat idea in particular was how to embed a Flash timer in your PowerPoint.  This might come in really handy for me as I like to put all my warm-ups on PowerPoint.  The kids need something to get them moving as they like to chatter and then before I know it, I’ve lost class time due to so many taking so long to do a short warm-up.  You will need to scroll down a bit to find the presentation she did at FLANC on 10/14/2011.
  • Blog it! How to Implement and Use Communicative Blogging in the FL Classroom – Awesome session from a school where the foreign language department has every student set up with a Google account.  The students then use blogs as digital portfolios so they can publish their work.
  • What’s Cooking in World Languages? – Interesting presentation on how to cook simple foods in class and combine that activity with teaching grammar along the way.  They had an interesting take on using the culture and interest in the food to make grammar (teaching imperative etc.) more palatable for students (no pun intended).
  • Teachers as Advertisers – I didn’t go to this session but another teacher passed the presenter’s link to me.  She has some neat ideas here about teachers being advertisers and teaching foreign language from that point of view.
I have one more that I would like to share but am waiting for a link to the materials.  Enjoy!


Me at Castel Muiderslot

Greetings from the Netherlands!

It has been some time since I thought about my blog much less visited it and I am truly gobsmacked at the amount of dots on my cluster map. (Gobsmacked–one of my favorite terms from a guilty pleasure of mine, the British soap “Eastenders.” It means astounded, amazed–you get the picture.) I can’t believe that so many people would read my little blog. A blog I had practically abandoned.

Well, for those who might be interested, I will give an update on my life. Sorry, I don’t have a lot to say about technology in education at the moment since I’m not really in the field and my life has been so full of other kinds of experiences. Sorry to disappoint if you were expecting techie stuff.

I left you at the end of the school year with my explanation for leaving. June was a very busy month of packing, weeding through my belongings to get rid of a lot of things, having yard sales, and showing my house in an attempt to sell it. Oh, and I also sold my Honda (ack!) and spent the rest of my time in the States driving my mother’s Toyota Corolla.

With the help of my very good friends and my sister, I was able to move out in early July with my 2 cats, 2 oversized and near bursting suitcases, a rolling carry-on (also stuffed), and an equally stuffed laptop shoulder bag with my 17″ HP. I left 15 boxes in my living room that were shipped to Europe in September. In those boxes were my most precious belongings that I could not or would not sell or give away.

I moved in with my parents and sister. I became a full-time caregiver for my mother and wore many hats in the household as I tried to meet all sorts of needs. My father and sister worked full-time outside the home so there were a lot of things that needed doing. Those months with my family were some of THE most trying of my life but I learned a lot about myself and my family. I was able to care for my mother during the most difficult part of her home stay. By the time I left, my father and sister were able to take over her care along with the help of an aid who came daily to be with my mother.

I moved to the Netherlands on September 17, 2008 and life has been one big adventure ever since. About the flight itself, I will only say that if you live in a city with a direct flight to Amsterdam, you should sincerely thank God. There is no direct flight to Amsterdam from any airport in North Carolina so I had two legs with a rolling carry-on, a laptop bag and a cat carrier (one of my cats had to fly with me in the plane since the first flight was on a small airplane and bags are checked all the way through, only one cat could fly in cargo) to contend with. We all arrived at our destination relatively unscathed but somewhat exhausted.

Since my arrival, I have had a lot to get used to. Shopping every couple of days because food here is a lotstrippenkaart fresher, learning Dutch (although thankfully many people here speak English), living without cable/Internet/phone in my home (because until I got my residence permit I couldn’t open a bank account which meant no other kinds of accounts either), walking a lot more, and using public transportation (the strip system was kind of tricky at first–umm…OK, let me clarify: the most common way to travel on public transport is to buy a “strippenkart”, a long ticket with “strips” or places for the conductor to put a stamp indicating what time you entered the tram/bus, date, and what zone of the city you boarded.) As the holidays approached I have become increasingly homesick for friends and family. While I have made friends here, I still miss the familiar faces of those I know and love. This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family ever and I was very depressed about it.

On the home front though, my mom’s health is progressively getting better. Her care is a lot less demanding as she heals which I am glad for. It was very hard to leave her, knowing what she required on a daily basis but my father and sister have really done well from what I understand.

My current status is that I have my residence permit and am currently looking for a job. I am renting my house to tenants with an option to buy it which I hope they do at the end of the contract. It is cold here compared to the balmy temps of coastal North Carolina and I’ve seen more snow in the last week than I’ve seen in the last 15 years in NC. It does seem to melt before sunrise but it’s pretty to watch when it falls.

I will try to write a little more often. My next post will be about the technology I’ve seen in use here so far.

Stat Check

I had such an increase in traffic over the last few days that I decided to cruise my stats and found some neat features in WordPress in the process.

I had to dig around to find the stats because it had been a while since I’d bothered to look. I logged in to my blog and then on the ribbon at the very top, I clicked on “My Account” and selected “Global Dashboard.” Then I clicked on “Blog Stats” and voilà! (Of course, a glance at “My Dashboard” shows me that I can also access my “Blog Stats” from there too. LOL)

Blog stats showed me a number of interesting things:

  1. A nice little flash line graph that shows my traffic flow over a period of days, weeks, or months. It’s nice to see spikes!
  2. Referrers–“People clicked links from these pages to get to your blog.”
  3. Search Engine Terms–“These are terms people used to find your blog.”
  4. Blog Stats–Summary of total views, my busiest day, views today, and totals of posts, comments, categories, tags, and how much spam my blog has been protected from.
  5. Top Posts & Pages–“These posts on your blog got the most traffic.”
  6. Clicks–“Your visitors clicked these links on your blog.”
  7. Incoming Links–Shows what other web pages have directly linked to my blog.

This is handy information for evaluating your own blog. Sometimes I wonder whether leaving certain pages up on my blog is worthwhile, well, now I can see that directly by looking at my top posts and pages or by looking at the clicks. It’s also interesting to see how people go about getting to my blog, what search terms they enter, etc. Such a neat feature!

I mentioned the fact that I could see what search engine terms people use to find my blog to a friend and he said, “There goes privacy!” I had to laugh because I understand the concern. I know he visited my blog today but I still don’t know exactly how HE got there. His stats are shuffled in along with others who viewed my blog today. Even though I can see how people get to my blog, I still don’t know their identity. The fact is that readers are still anonymous unless they choose to leave a comment and put their name in.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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In Love With FLOCK!

Ok, I’ve seen Flock mentioned here and there in my Google Reader so I decided to give it a try. I am blown away! Flock brings some of the best Web 2.0 tools to your fingertips in one browser. Download, install, and then log in to the Web 2.0 apps which are friends with Flock, click on the “Remember Account” button and BINGO! With one click I’m in my Gmail account, another click I have my blog editor open so I can post something new, one more click and I’m posting to my account. What kept me from hopping over to Flock all this time????

Flock is based on Mozilla’s Firefox and has its own add-ons but some Firefox add-ons are also compatible. I was thrilled to find out that Fireshot works as well as my favorite little status bar calculator.

The browser integrates with Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, Gmail, and just to name a few apps. Digg and Facebook are also popular offerings. Since I’ve been delving into Diigo, I added its toolbar and away we go.

The “My World” tab reminds me of iGoogle. It has widgets and helps you organize your feeds, keep up with your friends’ activity, and post media etc. to your blog. I have to play with this one some more.  (Update:  I did play with it some more after posting last night and it isn’t nearly as versatile as iGoogle but still a neat feature.)

I see so many possibilities here and I’ve only played with it a little tonight. Can you tell I’m already in love?

Update:  Ok, some things that I would love to see added to Flock:

  1. Integrate My Space and Diigo into the Flock toolbar.  Can’t we all just get along?
  2. Make the “My World” page like iGoogle.  That would be too cool.
  3. More add-ons specifically for Flock.  We are warned on the extensions page that while some Firefox add-ons will work with Flock, they may slow the browser down.  So it would be nice to have add-ons that are definitely compatible.

Ok, those are just a few thoughts but I really love Flock as it is. 

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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I am blown away.  Danny Maas has been posting comment after comment on my blog and now I want to give him props on TILT! 

I went through some of his screencasts today and I have learned a few things.  Most importantly, I have been inspired and I’m sure my teachers will be too.  What a great blog with so many how-tos, ideas, and resources.  Thank you for sharing with us all, Danny!

Oral Histories: Can we fathom the reality of the Katrina disaster? » Moving at the Speed of Creativity

Can we fathom the reality of the Katrina disaster? » Moving at the Speed of Creativity

Scrolling through my Google Reader today, I was captivated by this post by Wesley Fryer.  He tells of an encounter he had with a Katrina survivor and the harrowing events she experienced.

What struck me the most were these comments:

Listening to this woman tell her story, I was further convicted of the importance of recording and archiving the stories and experiences of others in our communities and in our homes. It was impossible to listen to her tale and not be moved. Too often in school, I think we focus too much on facts and dates, and fail to connect personally with a context. Listening to the lived experiences of others who have survived harrowing circumstances can be an impactful learning opportunity.

A search this evening on YouTube for “hurricane katrina” yields over 9000 videos, and I will readily admit I have NOT taken the time to watch many of these. Of the videos I have seen, however, none communicate the desperation and all-out battle for survival which the woman on our train shared in her story Sunday night. I have an abiding sense that much of “the story” of the Katrina disaster remains untold and undocumented, at least for those of us who would be students of this recent history.

So here are some ideas I have right off the bat that could be put to use (especially in those days after EOGs when teachers struggle to keep students engaged).

  • Have students find someone to interview in their community, someone with a story to tell and interview the person
  • Have students document the interview by taking photos of the person telling the story, shooting digital video, or record the audio digitally
  • Take not only the words the person says but these digital captures and mash them up in a project that tells the story visually and aurally

For these types of projects to have the most impact, they need to be shared and not just in the form of a presentation in the classroom but online through teacher blogs or the school blogs.  Ok, ideas for mashing:

  • Create a PowerPoint and insert video or audio clips of the interviewee; save them as web pages, upload to the web; link to blogs
  • Create a PhotoStory using still images and audio files; upload finished projects and link to blogs
  • Create podcasts of the interviews (there are many tools out there for this) and link to blogs
  • Create a VoiceThread project with the movie footage or still shots; share the links of the finished projects on blogs
  • Publish digital video to Google video and create a PowerPoint slideshow to accompany it with thoughts or comments; publish in Zentation where the video and the slideshow are presented side by side; link to blogs

There are probably a million ways to do this but these are some thoughts that struck me right off the bat.