iPad Literacy

Paper Weight iPad

A colleague of mine emailed me a link to this article and I thought it was very interesting in the approach the author took when developing knowledge about the iPad.  The author clearly articulates the frustration many have with the iPad as not being a computer, making it difficult for many people to find a meaningful use for the device.  She reference iPad Fluency and Literacy in her discussion, which makes a lot of sense given the high paced, multi-literacy world we live.  Traditionally, literacy was pretty straightforward and only meant one thing.  Now, literacy is very dynamic with multiple meanings depending on the context it is used.

Here is a link to the article.  It’s a great read with ten useful apps that may assist you as you develop your iPad Literacy.  Enjoy!

I wanted to share with you an article about becoming fluent on the iPad.  It seems as we as a society become more advanced in a variety of ways, new literacies are created that require us to re-think how we interact within the world we live.  The iPad, to an extent, has done this as well.  Many people, including myself at one point, found the concept of the iPad difficult to comprehend.  It’s not a laptop and not a phone, so what does it do?  This article does a great job of explaining how an iPad can function as a meaningful TOOL rather than as simply a toy or paper weight.  This article also has a list of apps that may help you develop an iPad literacy.  If you see an app you like, download it.  If the app costs money, let us know and we will pay for it out of TQP.
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Saving time with RSS readers

This is one of those things I ‘ve been meaning to talk about for a while now and just haven’t found the time to write.  Well, what better time than now.  For those that don’t know what RSS means, check out this Wikipedia article.  It will probably tell you more about RSS than you really want to know.  My short definition is that RSS feeds are a way to receive updates posted to a Web site, usually a blog, podcast, etc.  RSS feeds aren’t anything new, but many people aren’t using them.  This could be due to a variety of reasons, but I think one of the biggest is that many people do not know now what to do with an RSS feed.  Well the answer is simple, and requires only the use of an RSS reader.

How this works is that you “subscribe” to a blog, or other Web site that has an RSS feed, using an RSS reader.  The RSS reader will then update automatically any feeds you have subscribed to.  So, when you want to see updates from a Web site, all you need to do is open your RSS reader and see if there are any new posts.  You may be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? It doesn’t take that long to check these two, three, five, ten Web sites everyday.”

While that statement may be correct, time is relative to each person based on how much they value their time.  If you are like most educators, time is a rare and precious commodity.  For most, taking time to check multiple Web sites everyday to see if there are updates takes more time than you probably realize.  RSS readers increase a person’s efficiency by bringing the updates from all your favorite Web sites to one location.  Instead of checking five sites everyday, you can check just one and then move on with your day.  The time you save using an RSS reader translates into time for other, perhaps more important tasks you need to complete.

I know from my own experiences that using an RSS reader has made me more productive.  I have also had the chance to expand the number of blogs I follow and organize them in a way that lets me target the skill or area I want to devote my PLN time to on any given day.  So for me, my RSS reader has not only helped make me more efficient with my time, but it has also expanded my knowledge base by allowing me to follow more blogs more easily.

If you want to get started using an RSS reader, it’s easy to do.  All you need to do is look for the RSS icon usually accompanied with “Subscribe” or “Feeds” on your favorite Web sites.  Most Web sites usually put this at the top of the page, in with the navigation links, or sometimes at the bottom of the page.  If you don’t immediately see one, try search the home page of the Web site for Subscribe using the built-in search feature of your Web browser.  For most, the quickest way to bring the find feature up is to push command-f or control-f on the keyboard.  You could also find it under the edit menu on most computers/Web browsers.

Next you need to setup an RSS reader.  There are a number of options, but I prefer Google Reader the most, but feel free to use one that meets your needs.  Here’s a list of a number of RSS readers, both Web based and computer based (actually installed on your c0mputer rather than being stored on the Internet).  Once you find the RSS feed, by clicking subscribe on a Web page, you can copy the RSS URL and paste it into the subscription section of your RSS reader.  It is important you choose the RSS URL and not the Web page URL.  The difference is that if you choose the Web page URL it won’t update in your RSS reader, where the RSS URL will update.  For example, if you entered https://dmourlam.wordpress.com into your RSS reader, it would not update when new posts are published.  However, if you entered http://feeds.feedburner.com/dmourlam, you would receive updates every time I published a new post.

You may also notice that many Web sites have buttons that will enter the RSS feed into your reader for you.  This is the case for Technology Tips.  If you click on Posts-Technology Tips under RSS on the homepage, you will be taken to another Web page that allows you to subscribe to this blog by just clicking on the name of your RSS Reader.  So if you are using Netvibes as your RSS reader, then all you would need to do is click the Netvibes button on the subscribe page.  Below is a video that takes you through this process.

23 More Google Apps

It seems like it has been a while since I have posted an update, but with the holiday, I’m not surprised.  One thing I found while on vacation was that Google has made 23 more apps available for Google Apps users.  This has been a long time coming and I’m excited that schools finally have the opportunity to begin using more of these tools in their classrooms.  Here are a couple of the apps that are new that I’m excited about:

Blogger: For those who don’t know, blogger is a Google’s blogging platform and is quite simple for teachers and students to begin blogging and sharing their ideas with the rest of the world.  I know many teachers that have been frustrated in the past with the lack of access to this app.  However, now teachers can begin having their students complete blogging activities in their courses and help students develop a reflective voice that is necessary for life long learning.

Reader: Central to my PLN is my Google Reader page.  I follow a number of blogs from educational techology, to politics, to design, to weird and wacky news.  I have found that through the use of Google Reader that I have become more informed with what is happening in my field as well as staying abreast of what’s happening in the rest of the world.  Living in a rural state it is easy to become isolated with the lack of different ideas coming at you everyday.  Through the use of Google Reader I have been able to have my beliefs challenged, which has made me a better educator and person.

Picasa Web Albums: Picasa has become one of the ways I share pictures with family, friends, and co-workers, not to mention it is the place that I use to upload images to use on Web sites as slideshows.  This may be a simple app, but it does open the doors for increased multimedia applications in the classroom, whether it be through an annotated slideshow that tells a story or simply a way to share pictures of a class field trip.

Having access to additional google apps has made teaching more flexible.  Teachers now have more resources in their arsenal that are now easier to use since students don’t need to have an additional email account to access certain apps.  Not to mention the fact that IT admins now have greater control over these sites, so if a student violates an AUP, they can now restrict access to the apps, as well as follow other compliance policies.  This is a very exciting time and I can’t wait to see how teachers in all areas integrate some of these apps into their instruction.

Becoming more effective using PowerPoint

Many people like to use PowerPoint in their classrooms or have their students create PowerPoints for a class project, but often these simple presentations are not done in a way that makes them effective.  Often PowerPoints are created that are jam packed with text and the presenter reads word for word from the screen, with his or her back to the audience.  I often hear that there has to be a better way to do a presentation or a lecture.  Well, there is!  Here are some simple tips to help you and your students become more effective and keep your audience more engaged in the presentation, which really is the goal of any presentation.

Effective Presentation Tips:

  • Reduce the amount of text on your slides
    • As you begin creating your presentation, create bullet points for your topic like you normally would
    • Then go back through the presentation and identify one keyword for each bullet, as this will help you learn the content and rehearse how you want to present the content
    • Then go back through a final time and replace a keyword with an image when possible.  This will keep the audience focused on what you are talking about without having them read a single word, all the while you are talking to them about what really matters
  • Don’t use themes
    • Themes may seem like an easy way to spruce up your presentation, but really they detract more than they add.
    • Instead of using a built in theme, insert a background image that is related to your topic or use a background color that will make any text you have easy to read
  • The focus is on you, not the PowerPoint
    • Don’t forget that you want your audience to focus on you and what you are saying
    • The PowerPoint is just there as an aid
  • Use the presenter tools
    • PowerPoint and Keynote have presentation tools where you can put in notes so use them

The YouTube video below talks about having a Presentation makeover and if you have about ten minutes I suggest watching it.  The presenter also talks about a presentation style called Ignite, which is doing a presentation in 5 minutes with 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds whether you want them to or not.  The advantage of this presentation style is that it forces you to know your content, because it transitions to the next slide automatically.  There isn’t time to mess around and drag a presentation on longer than needed.