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.

Google Forms Tip: Don’t View Form if Open in Main Web Browser Window

I’m a big Google fan and I have been extremely happy with Google Docs since I first started using them a few years ago.  However, the last couple of days have led me to question my faith in Google Docs, but after some minor frustration (not really, I was actually quite p!$$#*) I have come to terms with the limitations of Google Forms. So here’s what happened.

I have been creating a couple forms to use by pre-service teachers in one of their field experiences.  Like I have done dozens of times before, I created a new form and began building the different fields, pages, and sections, saving throughout.  Then, once I complete the form, I clicked on the link at the bottom of the page that takes you to the live form.  Everything looked great and the only change I needed to make was the addition of a theme to pretty things up a bit.  I unwittingly then clicked the back button and applied a theme, not noticing that all the content in my form was now gone.  EVERYTHING!!!  The title of the form, the fields, sections, and pages were all gone.  I tried to restore a previous version, but that only made changes to the spreadsheet and not the actual form.

This happened on Friday at the end of the day and I thought, “Oh maybe there is just some kind of bug that isn’t letting me see the form right now.  I’ll check back sometime this weekend!”  Well, I checked back and my form was still broken, so I proceded to create a new form from scratch.  I went through all the steps and created the form, previewed it and then remembered I needed to add that theme.  So…I hit the back button and guess what happened?  I lost the form again!  So you can about imagine my reaction at this point.

I did some troubleshooting and thought about the steps I went through to kill my form and this is what I found: When I created the new form it opened in a new tab within the same browser window; when I clicked on the link at the bottom of the window where I created the form, the live form opened up within the same window, in addition to a new tab; when I hit the back button, I lost the contents of the form.  So lesson to my story is as follows: when creating a form, do NOT preview the form until you have closed edit form window the initial time.  By previewing the form, you are opening yourself up to the potential to losing the content of the form if you unwittingly click the back button in your browser.  I can’t explain why this is the case, but I was burned twice by the steps I just described.  So unless you have a considerable amount of time to waste, make sure to close the initial edit form window before viewing the live form.

Twitter: How to use it and why

I had a teacher I used to work with contact me over Skype last week and he asked about using Twitter.  I was almost caught off guard by the question because even though this teacher is very innovative with the use of technology in his courses, and is always one to help when others ask, he just isn’t into social networking. Which is okay.  Social networking isn’t the right fit for everyone and there are certainly different levels of adoption.  However, with him starting the conversation and asking the question, I thought I would share with everyone else who is considering using Twitter in their courses or as part of their PLN.

To start off I’ll explain my experiences with Twitter, because like many people I just didn’t get it.  A little over two years ago I started hearing more about Twitter and when I attended a state technology conference I decided I would sign up.  I didn’t really know what to expect and was really quite disappointed after the conference ended.  I truly didn’t get what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t know who to follow or really what following was all about. So I just stopped using it, because I couldn’t justify the time commitment when I had an entire district to look after.  Over the course of the next few months I some how came back to looking into Twitter again and wish I could remember what triggered my interest in it again.  Regardless of the reason, I gave it another chance and this time I started looking at how other people were using it and finally discovered what I had stumbled upon.  As I started to slowly follow people I began seeing more and more resources and support for ideas I have that I think are important.  Up until this point I had relied only on my RSS reader for my PLN, but now I was able to expand that network by including the conversations, shared resources, and other interactions that take place through Twitter.  Twitter really brought a human component to my PLN.  Overtime I slowly began sending my own tweets and have noticed that others are interested in what I have to say as well.  The interactions I have had on Twitter have been some of the more in depth conversations I have ever had and now I can’t think of not using Twitter as a way to refine my skills as an educator.

So now that I’ve talked about my experiences, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of using Twitter:

  1. First things first, you need to sign up for an account.  It’s free and pretty straight forward to do, especially if you’ve ever signed up for anything Web 2.0ish.  So go to http://www.twitter.com and click sign up.
  2. Once you have an account the next thing you should do is find people to follow.  This is where I struggled at first but I think this is getting much easier in education because more and more educators are using Twitter.  I’d first start by thinking about people you know who might be on Twitter.  These could be people in your school, your AEA (regional education agencies in Iowa), the Department of Education, or other associations and organizations.  Once you find a few people who you want to follow, then start looking at who they follow.  Chances are you have similar interests and will follow many of the same people.
  3. Once you start following other people, you will start to see the power of Twitter.  You will see people tweeting resources, links to articles, blogs, and other resources that can help you learn.  The best part of Twitter is that you don’t have to contribute if you don’t want to.  There is certainly power in sharing your knowledge, but you need to be comfortable doing so first, so if you don’t feel like saying anything then don’t.  It’s okay to just lurk for a while and see what everyone else is saying.
  4. The next step is to begin sharing.  Once you have gained some comfort and followers, start sharing your ideas, resources, and anything else you think will help others become better educators.  As you start sharing others will begin interacting with you and the power of Twitter jumps dramatically because even though you are using 140 characters to say something, you will be surprised at how profound and meaningful some of those short statements are.  Some of the best conversations I’ve had with other educators have been over Twitter.
  5. If you see something someone else tweeted that you would like to send out to your followers, then you should retweet it.  Retweet is simply resending a tweet.  You would do this because there could be people who don’t follow the person who tweeted the initial tweet that follow you and may be interested in the original tweet.  I also see it as reinforcing what someone said.  You can also add to a retweet if you want to add something more, but beware of the 140 character limit!
  6. As you begin sending out messages, you may want to make your tweets are searchable by using a hashtag.  The best way I’ve found to explain a hashtag is that it is the pound sign (#) with a word or single phrase following it.  A hashtag doesn’t have any spaces and is usually descriptive of a topic, such as #edchat, #iowacore, #iwb, etc.  This is a great way to help organize tweets about a certain topic and allows for more structured conversations to take place.  It is also a great way to find others to follow and will help you establish more followers.  You will also notice others using hashtags which you can click on to do a quick search of the topic.
  7. Once you get the hang of using Twitter, you should look into using software that helps you organize your searches and tweets better.  The one I’m most fond of is Tweet Deck, which is an application that is installed on your computer.  Tweet Deck allows you to organize your tweets in columns, which is handy if you want to have multiple hashtags open at once.  Another that doesn’t need to be installed is Hoot Suite.  It follows the same basic concept of Tweet Deck only it isn’t installed on your computer and is ran through a Web browser.
  8. If you want to send a tweet to some one specifically, you can either send them a direct message or mention them.  To mention someone you type their handle (what shows up when they tweet, such as dmourlam) preceded by an @ symbol (@dmourlam).  To send a direct message click on Message at the top of your Twitter Web page and click new message.  The main difference is that a direct message is a private message where a mention is a public message.

There are a lot of things to know about Twitter, but once you adopt it into a regular practice, it doesn’t take much time investment.  If you are looking to increase collaboration with your students, you could have them begin using Twitter as well.  What you would need to do is make sure they all have access to a device that allows them to send tweets and then for instance you could create what is called a backchannel in your lectures/discussions.  A backchannel is a live chat stream, usually projected if part of a physical classroom, where the audience can engage in the content of the lecture/discussion rather than remaining passive in the learning process.  So as a speaker talks your students can ask each other questions or highlight parts that are important to them.  Creating a backchannel is also a great way to receive feedback during a lecture.  The key is to use a hashtag that is unique to your class, which you can make up ahead of time and let everyone in class know.  You will also need to use a service like Twitter Fall to show all the tweets from the backchannel, which you can then project in the room.  May sound intimidating, but it is a learning process and is certainly leading edge in terms of increasing the collaboration amongst your students.

As you begin looking at how to use Twitter, make sure to take some time to let everything digest.  There isn’t a rush and you’ll have to admit that you can’t read everything.  A good way to begin would be to devote ten minutes to using Twitter everyday.  Just read some things others are tweeting and see where it goes from there.  Another thing to keep in mind is to ask for help when you have questions.  Twitter can get a little confusing, so make sure to reach out for help when you need it.  Hopefully I’ve been helpful, but if you have questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Good Luck!

ePortfolio follow-up


I thought I would post a follow-up to my last post about eportfolios, which focused more on what I thought about ePortfolios as a medium for showing what we know and how I think they can best be done.  In the world we live in today, we need to consider the resources we draw upon to teach our students.  With very little effort, and maybe just a bit of thought, most teachers can find a media rich resource to use in class.  But how do we document the effective use of such rich resources if we are completing paper based portfolios?

The easiest way is to ditch the paper and go with an electronic portfolio or ePortfolio.  ePortfolios can take many forms, from non-linear PowerPoints to simple Web pages to full fledge Web 2.0 wikis, blogs, or even social networks.  The main thing to keep in mind is that the person creating the ePortfolio chooses the platform that works best for them, not their administrator or next door teacher.  Finding the right platform can be a little overwhelming, but here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Pick a platform that represents your work the best.
  • Pick a platform that doesn’t require a significant time commitment to learn the basics of “how” to use the software.  Some time investment will be required, but it shouldn’t be so much that you don’t have time for anything else.
  • Think about the type of media you will be using.  If you have video, but no way to embed said video you might want to find a different platform.
  • If you don’t know what platform will work for you, ask for help.  Talk to your administrator, the teachers in your hallway, or even ask for help on Twitter or Facebook.  Many people have been where you are and can help show you the way out.

What I like about ePortfolios, and really paper portfolios, is how easy it is to reflect on the “artifact.”  In most Web 2.0 platforms we have today, there are comment features for nearly everything associated with the software being used.  Whether it be a blog, wiki, podcast, etc., there is almost always some way to make a comment.  This easy access allows us to not only reflect on what we are doing and teaching, but it also allows others to comment on our work and provide feedback.  The power is in the feedback, not the process.  We are often blinded when we look at our own work, so it helps when someone we trust or even someone we haven’t built a trust with, takes a look at our work.

While this post focused more on teachers and ePortfolios, I think they are a great idea for students as well.  If I were teaching a class, I would have all students create an ePortfolio where they could submit their assignments for the course.  I would also have them share the URLs for the ePortfolios with other students in the class, and even other students, teachers, or experts in the state, nation, and world.  Give students the means and platform to speak from and to receive feedback from the rest of the world.  While you may be a very accomplished and educated teacher, receiving feedback from others may make more of an impact on your students’ education than you ever can.  And that’s okay.

Here are some platform ideas for creating ePortfolios.  Note: this is not a how-to perse or an exhaustive list, but rather a list of possibilities.

  • Blog
  • Wiki
  • Web Page
  • Social Networking site: Ning, Facebook Page
  • Podcasts
  • PowerPoint
  • Moodle
  • BlackBoard

Tech tips from years past

Looking for a tech tip of the week from a past school year?  Well look no further!  I have create a link to them on my Tech Tip of the Week Blog.  You can find it by clicking the disclosure triangle next to Tech Tips of the Week on the left side of the page.  See picture above to see what you need to click on to view the tech tips from last year on your computer.

Some of the topics from last year include: Podcasting, Blogging, iTunes U, and Word Clouds.  You can access them all by clicking here.