Saturday, February 23, 2013

Task 2: Develop a PLN

Good Intentions:

I started to develop a PLN back in 2009, when I took SBISD's "23 Things" course.  I located and followed edublogs, subscribed to daily "Diigo in Education" updates, and joined Nings such as Classroom 2.0 Ning and Elementary School 2.0.  I was excited, because teachers from all over the world were sharing brand new ideas and were asking some of the same technology questions I was asking. What tremendous resources! 

Harsh Reality:

Information overload!  It was like when I used to subscribe to Mailbox magazine, which was full of one wonderful idea after another.  I soon had shelves full of magazines and was completely overwhelmed.  I was surrounded by good ideas, but couldn't find any of them easily. 

I am missing two vital ingredients that are needed to make an extensive PLN a success: organizational skills and time.  I have difficulty reviewing and prioritizing incoming information quickly enough to keep its volume manageable.  

Nings?  Don't have time to visit them.

Diigo and edublog updates?  Sigh!  Delete...delete...delete.  Gotta get rid of that "Your mailbox is almost full" message...


Technology publications?  Ha 

I think if I were a full-time tech coach, I could swing it; but as a full-time classroom teacher, I'm doing well to answer all of my email messages by the end of the day . . . and then there are always meetings to attend, lesson plans to write, materials to prepare, and papers to grade.

Compromise:

That being said, I DO understand the importance of establishing a PLN.  Actually, that is the reason I volunteered to be my school's E-Trainer.  It enables me to carve time out of my schedule that can be completely devoted to learning new technology. It frees me from that "Oh, I really ought to be grading that stack of papers!" guilt that is always hanging over my head.  It surrounds me by people who are knowledgeable about technology and who are using it successfully in their classrooms. That is also why I try to attend every technology conference I can possibly attend.

My current PLN:
* I investigate ANY idea passed along to me by my technology mentor, Karen Justl.  She has been guiding me through the massive sea of technology since her days as Frostwood's tech coach.  She knows all of the latest and greatest ideas, and she has never steered me wrong!
* I follow just a few choice sites.  Right now I'm following three Edmodo communities:  Karen's Kollection, EdmodoCon Young Learners, and Frostwood Teachers.  I follow one edublog:  Tammy's Technology Tips for Teachers (which I learned about while hearing Tammy speak at TCEA conferences).
* I get great ideas from other teachers (especially E-Trainers) and try to attend SBISD technology courses during the summer. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Task 1: Ed Tech Audit

While conducting this self-audit, I realized that my major technology focus this school year has been locating and using productivity apps for our new classroom iPads.  I love, love, LOVE having iPads in a primary classroom!  They are quick and efficient and I only spend milliseconds troubleshooting.  

My favorite apps:

1.  ProShow Web

This is a free slideshow/movie creator.  It is like Stupeflix for an iPad.

Pros:  Easily made by students; easy to share and embed; music library; professional-looking; unlimited number of videos

Cons:  Limited to 14 slides (including text slides) w/o upgrade

Here's a link to one of my student's ProShow videos:  


(There's a reason she picked the birthday theme for her matter video; but that is a story for another day.)

2.  Puppet Pals HD

The HD upgrade costs a little, but it is worth every penny.

Pros:  Kids can create and record puppet shows using the app's puppets or by using their own puppets (made by outlining parts of photos).  Easy!  Cute!  Fun!

Cons:  None!  Here's one I made to congratulate my class for winning the much-coveted Health Fitness "Golden Tennis Shoe" award for good behavior.  (The beginning is kind of slow, but it has a dynamic ending!)


3.  Edmodo

Although I used Edmodo more with my 4th grade class (it just has more of an intermediate look and feel), I still rely upon it to provide quick access to links and videos for my second graders.  


4.  Time Lapse/Miniatures/MegaPhoto

Not much educational value (yet), but fun to use and watch!  I'm hoping to come up with good curriculum tie-ins, soon.  I did manage to justify the use of MegaPhoto to illustrate our haikus.

5.  FaceTime

Instead of Skyping, we Face Timed with Theresa Trevino's Rummel Creek 2nd graders.  Great success!  Great potential for future collaboration!


I also like abcNotes, BrainPopJr., Draw&Tell HD (the stencils are fun and I find the music oddly therapeutic), and Solids Elementary.

Apps I'm not completely thrilled with:


QR Reader - This app makes it easy for kids to make and read QR codes, but I'm not real happy with the display window for websites that pop up.  I haven't had a chance to explore other QR apps yet.  There are probably better ones.

Educreations - It is wonderful how you can easily record lessons on it; but I've found it difficult to edit once you have gotten to the end of your presentation.  The kids and I keep accidentally deleting entire lessons when we try to make minor changes.  Now we take screen shots of each page while we go along, just in case we erase the whole lessons.  Frustrating for perfectionists!


App I don't like one bit: 

Skyward - Obviously I am doing something wrong.  It won't ever let me in.


Apps I am about to thoroughly and happily investigate:

Book Creator - You can create eBooks with this app, then start your own ePub with the iBook app!

ZooBurst (3D pop up books), Evernote (for the classroom), iSchoolBox (creating an app for your school!)


Apps I am in the market for:

* An audio app similar to the iTalk app on the iPod Touch (haven't been able to find one that transfers data as easily)

* An easy photo collage app that arranges photos like Picasa used to

* A slide show app that you allows you to move slides horizontally with a scroll bar (like on the SBISD website)

Anybody know of any of these that are available?


My App Goal is to use eBook apps and other productivity apps to help flip some of my lessons. I want to let the students take charge of a lot of their own learning.


Other technology in the classroom:
* I love having a class wiki and will continue to maintain one.
* The students still enjoy using Bighugelabs.com.
* I haven't used MangaHigh as much this year as I did when I taught 4th grade.  I think the 4th grade games are more numerous and they seem to be more fun to play.  The 2nd graders weren't enamored with MangaHigh in September. I'm going to try to reintroduce it after Spring Break.
* I need to spend more time on Google Docs and Stupeflix with the kids.  Since our campus changed locations, it took us a while to get the laptops in good working order.  The iPads took the front stage.
* I need to make Odyssey and Learning.com a regular part of our routine.  I had trouble launching it earlier this year, due to problems getting our laptops up and working.  When the kids eventually did attempt these lessons, they didn't seem to be enjoying them.  It could be because they were actually having to think.  I need to investigate further, to see what the problem is.
At TCEA, I found out how you can project your iPad's screen and sound to your ActivBoard wirelessly!  For $12.99, you can download a program called Reflector to your PC. Go to Reflectorapp.com. When you open the program on your computer, it will allow you to project your iPad's screen wirelessly!  I have only used it about five times, so far.  The last two times there seemed to be some static (black, horizontal bars wiggling across the screen a few times).  It could be because our classrooms are in trailers.