Sunday, April 25, 2010

Efficiency is What it's All About

"Efficiency is doing better what is already being done."
- Peter F. Drucker

Efficiency is what technology is all about. It is a tool that can make our teaching and, more importantly, student learning more effective. If it's not going to do that, why should we use it?

Notebook is an extremely efficient tool to use for lessons in your classroom. I would argue that it is currently the most effective tool for organizing and presenting resources. It is so much more than just another presentation tool, an alternative to Powerpoint.

To begin with, the Link feature, see "Technology, Turkeys and Touchscreens," can help you make quick transitions to websites, other pages in your presentation or attached files. You no longer need to waste time navigating through the numerous folders and files that consume your My Documents folder. Just one click takes you there.

Speaking of attachments, you can include a digital copy of any file you need for quick access. I always recommend attaching anything you could possibly use, not just what you are planning to use. For instance, if a lesson goes faster than you expected or changes in focus depending on student interests, you can have materials attached that you don't have to search for.

Finally, the "My Content" section of Notebook can also have an effect on your efficiency. This area, located in your Gallery is a place where you can store internet and gallery pictures, interactives and videos. The idea is to store items that you use regularly in your room, so that you can have quick access to them. For instance, timers and base 10 blocks were mainstays in my own My Content. One thing to consider here is that you want to make it easy to find the things you use all the time, so you must be very critical about which items you place there. The more items in, the longer it takes you to find what you're looking for.

Watch the video below to see how to add, organize and save your My Content section in Notebook.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Technology, Turkeys and Touchscreens

Turkeys ... the only smarter animals than man.

The Leading our Way Forward conference in Edmonton has left me with some great ideas to help plan for technology usage in the future in our district. The main point of the conference was to have time as a district team to evaluate and plan for possible revisions to our 3 year technology plan.

Topics included developing a shared vision of technology for the 21st century, understanding visual literacy, instructional uses of technology as well as how we can support technology implementation.

It was interesting to note just how important images are for students these days. It basically boils down to this: Increasing our students' visual literacy skills helps benefit them academically. One interesting point our speaker made was to "Show. Then tell." According to her research, images are most effective when accompanied by a voice over by the teacher instead of text on screen. This has implications for the classroom as we commonly include text with pictures or text before pictures. Try beginning with the pictures and see what kind of results you get with your students. Here is a great picture website and visual search engine.

The second day's session had a heavy focus on implementing technology and what effective technology use in the classroom looked like. Rather than simply using technology as an alternate tool, we need to take its use further, making our students knowledge producers instead of consumers. Students should be working collaboratively and developing their own direction and self-monitoring of their learning. Scenarios should mimic real-life problems and technologies should be learned as needed during the process of this scenario to accelerate learning, thinking and communication. More to follow on this topic. For now, please enjoy this meaningful use of interactive whiteboards.

To help with practical use of whiteboards, here is a quick video on utilizing the Link feature in Notebook:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Web 2.0: Sharing your Pictures

You may have heard about Web 2.0 and wondered what is it all about. A quick search on Youtube will yield a number of videos showing people of all ages using blogs, wikis, and social networking sites. So, what is it all about?

Web 2.0 is a change in philosophy of the Internet. Gone are the days of the dotcom bubble when people used their ingenuity to make money. Web 2.0 has changed the internet to be more open, collaborative and social. For me, it is all about instant access to information, creation, and sharing.

There are many ways to share your pictures on the internet. We've all used email for this purpose and it works just fine if you want to limit your pictures to your contacts. Many people also use Facebook for this as well. But in the spirit of Web 2.0, people are now sharing their pictures with the rest of the world. One of the main picture sharing sites is Flickr.

After you upload your pictures to Flickr, you are able to edit them, add effects, organize them and share them with whomever you choose to. Add tags (key words) to your photos so that people can search for them (click here to give it a try). Find your family and friends on Flickr to see their photos and share yours with them. You can also specify on a globe where you took your picture or search by location.

So why use a public site like Flickr? First, it is a very effective method to have access to your pictures from anywhere since they are on the Internet. Flickr is also a very effective image search tool when doing research. Pictures are supplied by others so it makes sense to be a part of that community and add to the collection.

Check out my Flickr collection (which I'll be adding more to in the future):

Below is a quick video showing you how to reduce the file size of your digital pictures. This will make it easier and faster to upload your pictures.