Friday, July 25, 2008

Charity Begins at home

I received an email from the HCPSS website from a PPW who was working with a family in need. My wife and I were talking about how we could help and my sons 8 and 4 overheard. They also wanted to help. They collected toys, books and such to donate. They also keep a "charity box" where they place spare change and sometimes parts of their allowance. My oldest wanted to use the money to help. So with the help of my wife and the $16.00 in their box, they headed to the store. They managed to get one piece of clothing for each member of the five person family. I am so proud of them that I cried!

I think that I will share with them the 25 days website to see what others are doing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Screen Casts and on-line Video Training

This week in class we are looking at and ultimately creating screencasts. I have looked at a number of casts and they have run the gamut from horrible (c'mon, reading to me?) to great (showing how all tabs and icons work).

If done properly, I see the screencast as an invaluable tool. Teachers can use it to record discussions or demonstrations for absent kids or for kids to reference later. School based administrators can use it to post PD opportunities and communicate to parents. Kids can use them to communicate to their teachers their understanding of a variety of concepts. Remember that screencasts can be used to show anything on a computer...from we sites and how to use them to showing how to use MS Office products. Jing and Camtasia are great tools for making these casts.

Text vs video casts depend on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are showing how annotations are made in a Word, Paint or .pdf document, then perhaps text is the way to go. However, if you are training a group on how a web application works then video is likely your best bet. As a result, the goal of what is being presented seems to dictate how it is received.

In the final analysis, the author of the screencast needs to understand that certain design constraints ought to be adhered to. These include but are not limited to:
  1. Making sure that the speaking voice is easily understood
  2. Be careful of cognitive overload...screencasts ought to choose to one topic or capability and stick to it, developing new casts as needed.
  3. The screen cast ought to include motion...and not those of highlighting a link that the speaker is referring to
  4. Make the cast interesting and informative so folks will benefit from it.
I do not claim to be a screencast expert....yet. But with these four criteria realized, the screen cast and its content can become valuable teaching and learning tools.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 2 at i3U

Today at i3U sponsored by HCPSS concluded today at Marriotts Ridge HS. I attended sessions on the Personal Response System (PRS), Google Earth, Excel and the things hidden in MS Word. I learned some tricks to make data bases easier. I learned that I need to update my version of Google Earth and some of the nifty things that it'll do. Finally, I learned what the potential in Word and PRS there is. I learned how to make forms in Word! I had no idea that could be done. As for the PRS, I have one, now if I can get the software installed, I am raring to go!

Monday, July 21, 2008

i3U conference Day 1

The HCPSS just provided a great opportunity for teachers to stretch their minds regarding technology and teaching. The keynote for this conference was Will Richardson. He opened with a few stories and ended with a challenge. In the end, he rather threw down the gauntlet as far as integrating technology. I was also lucky enough to attend his workshop today on literacy. He has me convinced to try twitter to get class going this year as I am teaching a class (US History) out of content. I am thinking about using twitter to get ideas from the weblogging world. In the past at workshops like MICCA, WR convinced my to try blogs and wikis in my science teaching. Guess what!? Kids loved it! It is a practice that I plan to continue. From WR, I also learned about the location widget that you now see on this page. Thanks Will!

BTW...I WR also autograph my copy of his book...I me a geek.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


This week in class I will be tackling what seems to be the hardest assignment to date...using .html programming language to create a web quest on the web. We did have a face to face class where we were introduced to it and given some tricks and tips, but I think that for me the best way is going to be good ole' trial and error. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Photo editor

The photo above was taken by me at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. I edited the photo using Adobe Photoshop Elements. I got rid of red eye on my son in the background. I added a talk box for each of my two kids. I also used the program to adjust contrast, focus and size of the photo. I used Word to add the text. Imported it into Photoshop again from a screen shot, cropped it and resaved it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Is Today's Tech Too Much for Today's Kids?

As I drove back from Bald Head Island (a place you really need to visit), we stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant for dinner. While waiting for our names to be called for seating, I wandered around the old country store. That is not the reason for this blog...the reason for this blog is what I saw the kids doing, mine and others. They were playing! With the sample toys and being social with each other. No MP3 players stuck in kids ears; no PSP or Gameboy machines. And I cannot help but wonder if we are not selling our kids short by providing the access to technology a little too our parents may have done with television. I saw kids thinking about how to solve puzzles with their brains and hands instead of a computer mouse. Are our kids becoming too technology dependent to the point of losing the ability/desire to think? I know that technology allows kids to create creatively and to share their work with others and that is a good thing. But I wonder, is there a point where providing technology is providing too much?