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Friday, March 10, 2006

Wikis, Blogs, and Podcasts this week



I have learned so much this week. Today, I have been in a collaborative teaching workshop which has just confirmed many of the tools that we're using in the classroom. I was so dissapointed that none of the teachers had blogs and weren't using wikis. I think we'll begin to see that changing.

Here's the synopsis of my learning experience this week:

1) Podcasting using Odeo

I worked out the kinks with my children at home, but I'm planning a switch to Odeo for recording and making podcasts for simple things. I recorded two ways with my nine year old. You can hear our rough but final product:


The first one we recorded by calling a phone number. It was very easy. I can easily see how in the future, students will phone in oral reports from home for homework and they will be sent to the teacher for a listen. What a great things for auditory learners!

The second podcast we recorded with a microphone hooked to the laptop. We had a major glitch with my daughter, we were signed in as her with limited user rights, however, when we signed in under my username, Norton and Windows allowed the Odeo studio to work very easily. Here is how you do this.

  1. Go to odeo
  2. Set up an account ( a simple four field entry process)
  3. Set up a channel (click on set up channel). I'd set one up for each class and enter information for the classes also.
  4. Click edit profile if you'd like to enter some information.
  5. Click Record Audio when you're ready. It will record a 3 minute audio file. You can add comments and upload a photo that you've saved as a gif or jpeg.

Although Audacity is great for fancy editing, etc. this is great for entry level podcasting. It is easy, easy, easy. My nine year old did it with no problem. Since it sets up the channels for you, it is easy for people to subscribe to your podcast. iTunes supports Odeo so it just makes sense.

If you already have a podcast, you can import it into odeo by clicking Import Audio.

I'm going to have them write preapproved scripts and then record them. Once it is saved it is up. Remember to keep the eagle eye on them. If you can't, stick with audacity.

2 - Wikis at Westwood This Week

I still think wikis are the best for collaborative work because you can assign group projects but still assess individual participation by going to the history or by subscribing to your wiki via RSS feed.


3 - Blogs this week
We're still enjoying Class Blogmeister. Here are the questions this week.

Computer Science.

In this class we watched our one movie of the year: WarGames. Next time I'm going to have to use the cussbuster DVD to bleep out some of the words.

This is a great movie to show (words omitted) to discuss the origins of the Internet and the evolution of the computer.

As they watched they had to make four observations (due as the "credits rolled):
  • What has changed in hardware?
  • What has changed in software?
  • What has stayed the same in hardware?
  • What has stayed the same in software?
They also blogged.

We then discussed that computers are only as good as their programmers. We discussed backdoors in software (eg. Jurassic Park shut down) and the risks of programming. I talked about how much of the US code overseas to India for Y2K and the issues with that. Finally, I had them write

"What are the advantages and disadvantages of computerizing military systems?"
They are in the process of turning in their answers, but I have at least one good paper.

Keyboarding/ Journaling (8th grade)

As a cross-disciplinary project, my eighth graders blogged a paper that they have been working on in composition entitled "The elements of good Character."

I found a fresh an exciting paper from a student. She said things in ways I'd never thought. One of her characteristics was "a rebellious streak."

You need a rebellious streak to stand up to the crowd and walk your own path. You can stand up for what you believe in, defend others no matter what society says, and do what you think is right.
We need more rebellious streaks of the positive kind. She is talking about rebellion against the cultural and peer norms that try to make us conform. I believe nonconformists have made some of the greatest contributions throughout history.

4 - Surprises

Students who "get it"

I have been challenging my ninth grade about what the web 2.0 will mean to their future. One of my students stayed after class and quizzed me about the importance of blogs. He writes:
"A new system of communication is changing society and no body knows it."
That is what my computer teacher told me the first day she introduced blogging to my class. As I questioned the statement she made ( How can society be changing if no body knows it?), I was reminded of the topic of Trent Lott.
I further explained that there is a fundamental "underground" phenomenon of blogging that has yet to enter mainstream America. It is affecting us, the news we watch, the things on TV, and the music we listen to, and yet only a relatively few early adopter/ decision makers are using it. He researched it, and created his own blog.

In his first post, he painstakingly researched what happened with Trent Lott. Although he needs some work on his form, his first post is exceptional. He is in the ninth grade. I expect great things from this student.

A new family calendaring tool

I will dedicate a post this weekend about the new system we're using at home called Airset. I love it because it allows me to sychronize my palm, send e-mail and cell phone reminders and allow my husband to access the calendar from work and check things. I wrote about it on cool cat kid today and it was the subject of podcast #2.

In Conclusion
This has been a busy week and I've learned so much amidst all of the grading that goes on at the end of the grading period. Of course, it is tough because blogs are not mainstream enough for me to talk about with many of my peers. They just think I'm an "idea person" and that I read a lot. Unfortunately, many professionals do not see the utility of blogs and how it can make their lives better.

The discussions about blogging remind me of the early 1990's when no one understood the Internet. Same song, second verse.

The tune will pick up in another year!

Have a great weekend and remember that teaching is an exciting profession that changes lives! It is worth it to push your students to the bleeding edge. It fills you with youth, excitement, and joy at this profession that allows us the excitement of watching lives change.

There are pundits that look down on me (and e-mail me to tell me so.) I will keep focused on the eyes of that child whose life is changed forever. I know what works because I have students who've graduated who come back and tell me that it does. I come from a long line of teachers who have reinforced what works.

Keep the faith!

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