Notes from GPSCast Presentation

Want to help me create a podcast video for every Georgia Performance Standard? [background here] I’ve posted notes from today’s GaETC presentation to help you get started. The notes will help you on the how.

After you’re comfortable with the basic tools for recording yourself teaching a standard element, go to the GPSCast Wikispace and request to join as a contributor.

My goal for this project is to have a complete set of videos for 5 different GPS courses or 100 videos overall by April. We will be able to distribute the files on DVD, on YouTube or Vimeo, and in iPod format.

Please do be in touch!

Kind of easy subtitles

Neato: this site allows you to write subtitles for any video from the You Tubes. I subtitled a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail for use in a logic lesson (Law of Syllogism, anyone?).

The subtitled version:

The original:

Unfortunately, I cannot embed the subtitled version on a blog.

I see several great uses for subtitles in the classroom and only one of them is for the hearing-impaired student. My classes also have a lot of English Learners (slam dunk), a not-so-great audio system (home run), and students who can’t decipher a British accent to save their lives (touchdown). It’s true, as well, that the five deaf & hard-of-hearing students appreciated being able to follow the clip.

Wikipedia for Younger or ELL Readers

I’m a huge Wikipedia fan. An xkcd comic this week caught the sentiment of a lesser-known part of Wikipedia perfectly.

Haven’t heard of “Simple English”? Oh, it’s a wonderful concept. Simple English Wikipedia uses “only basic words”, perfect for non-native English speakers — and for my younger students.

As might be expected, Simple English Wikipedia isn’t as complete as (regular) English, but I’ve found it incredibly useful when looking up encyclopedic details on topics that can get complex really fast.  Science, math, and technology are just some types of topics that I specifically direct my students to. Here’s a great comparison:

  • Pythagorean Theorem in English
    (assumes you know what “right triangle” means)
  • Pythagorean Theorem in Simple English (explains a right triangle as “One of the angles of a right triangle is always equal to 90 degrees. This angle is the right angle. The two sides next to the right angle are called the legs and the other side is called the hypotenuse. The hypotenuse is the side opposite to the right angle, and it is always the longest side.”)

In my work with middle school students, I’ve found the Internet is an unfriendly place to read. Poor writing/editing and writing for an advanced audience are two major ways authors make life difficult for students aged 12 to 14. Simple English (in Wikipedia and hopefully applied elsewhere) helps my middle school students but let’s face it, simpler writing makes life easier for us all.

Students Using Twitter


Carl in the driver's seat of the maglev train

American Maglev Technology makes magnetically levitated trains. My physics class and I had the opportunity to learn from the engineer and CEO today during our visit to their test track about an hour from our school. We had an amazing time!

The tech tie-in is that we set up in advance to use Twitter to capture updates from our experience. Below is a sampling of student comments.


Credit for the idea of Twittering a field trip goes to Dale Basler in his post “Journal via text messaging during field trip”.

The Twitter experience worked out better than I expected. That said, I remain unconvinced that this technique beats giving each student a little notebook with a pen. Maybe it’s just infinitely cooler. And maybe that’s enough. Either way, if you want to try Twittering a field trip, here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Set up a Twitter account for the class and individual accounts for each student. Have students add their phone under Settings > Devices so they may text message updates. Test this out before field trip day!
  2. Talk with the students in advance about being discreet. Mine understood the importance and respected our hosts. In fact, I never noticed my kids Twittering during the trip.
  3. Alert your field trip host(s) that the students will be taking notes on their phones so they’re prepared to see the kids tapping away (do step #2 well and step #3 could be a non-issue).
  4. Students may forget to Twitter. Encourage them to send updates during the bus ride home.
  5. When you return, log in to the class account and star the best updates. The Favorites page will display all starred tweets. This will let you filter out extraneous updates, especially from students using Twitter regularly.

Dana Huff Highlighted on Slideshare

My friend and colleague, Dana Huff, has a presentation highlighted on today! A huge congratulations to her for being recognized for a great slide deck.

“Using Blogs and Wikis for Professional Development” provides a wonderful introduction to more than just blogs and wikis. She also covers professional uses for Facebook and an addictive little tool called Twitter.

My friends at Georgia State (especially those in the IT class) should check this out. You can get great tips for using the web to keep you razor-sharp as a teacher.

flickr from my mobile

Grant Walks 7 Circuits

I love this flickr feature! Using my cameraphone, I can send a picture message (MMS) directly to flickr. At right is one I uploaded during my class’ visit to a labyrinth in nearby Alpharetta.

From the flickr help pages:

Can I send a photo to Flickr from my camera phone?

Absolutely! You can upload photos to Flickr from your camera using your unique email upload address. Set it up here.

When you upload photos via email, the subject line is used as the title of your photo, and the body of the email is used as the description.

You can also upload your camera phone photos to an outside blog. First, set up the blog (see the Blogs FAQ section for help). Then register a unique email upload address to post to your blog. Photos emailed to that address will be blogged automatically. When you’re auto-blogging, the subject line of the email is used as the title, and the body is posted as the photo description.

Does it cost extra? That depends on your text messaging plan. I don’t pay any extra but YMMV. I am an AT&T customer and have a texting plan.

How I find this feature useful:

  • Capturing those great moments in the classroom to share with parents. I upload immediately (no forgetting!) and notify parents by email at the end of the day.
  • Poor-man’s smart board. I’ve taken photos of my whiteboard for the students to reference later.
  • The cameraphone is handy to use when a proper camera would be awkward to use — like in a store.
  • Picture -> email is handy when you don’t have internet access, like when power went out for several hours at my school!

Set Up a Web Workspace

I wrote the following for students because it’s too exhausting to keep track of the forgetful kids’ passwords. This way, they can keep track of passwords and links from a central location. (I encourage the forgetful kids to write passwords down, which security guru Bruce Schneier says is ok.)

If I was setting up a comfortable place to work, I would arrange my desk a certain way, gather pencils & pens & paper, and possibly even grab a Coke. This document describes how to set up something similar for your online work: a web workspace that gets you working quickly.

Your Mantra: is my friend

Our goal is to have a web workspace whether at home or at school. iGoogle to the rescue!

  1. Set your browser’s home page to your iGoogle page. At home or at school, this page will be your web workspace dashboard.
  2. Add the Bookmarks widget to your iGoogle page.
  3. Add the Google Docs widget to your iGoogle page.
  4. Create a Google Spreadsheet called “Web 2.0 Accounts” or similar.
  5. Fill in all your usernames and passwords in this spreadsheet. If you forget the logon info to a website, consult the spreadsheet. Add to the spreadsheet any time you make a new account.
  6. Add the flickr widget to your iGoogle page. (there are several, choose the one by chinson).
    • On your iGoogle page, click the down arrow to “Edit settings”. Change the username and set it to display “Latest”.

How I Made My Web Workspace

Watch the video on Here’s a screen grab of the workspace:

Ideas for advanced readers:

  • Use iGoogle’s tabs to your benefit: set one up for each context in which you need to work. The above example was created in a tab for just one class I teach. I have others.
  • Use tags when you use Google Bookmarks. Did you know that you can make the Google Bookmarks widget display select tags? I made a “ww” tag, which stands for web workspace.
  • Leave the email widget off your web workspace page. It’s an interrupter that takes your attention away from the project at hand.

Jott Rocks: Google Calendar Link

A new feature in one of my favorite web tools has me really excited: with Jott, I can now add events directly to my Google Calendar. The feature is one of several Jott Links the company offers — which are connections to other web services, including Twitter and Blogger.Mobile phone

What’s Jott?

Jott is a transcription service that’s completely free. Call a toll-free phone number, speak a message into the phone, and it’s transcribed into text and sent via email. I nearly always Jott to myself to send reminders although you can set it up to Jott to any email address. On the reminder side, I jotted myself recently to “bring in camera tomorrow for yearbook class.”

Jott & Students: Huge Potential

Google CalendarI’ve shared Jott with students because I think it’s an awesome memory aid. Unfortunately, my students aren’t allowed to use their mobile phones at school — Jott would be an awesome way to take down a homework assignment.

And now with the Google Calendar link, students could “copy down” an assignment from the class board and add it directly to their calendar. “Term paper notecards due Friday.” How cool would that be?

If only they could use (and be trusted to use properly) their mobile phones at school.


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Finally: Good Advice on Wikipedia

Don’t remember where I first heard of the Gearfire Student Productivity blog I’m thrilled for the referral. One post this week really impressed me: “4 ways to use Wikipedia (hint: never cite it)“.

When I hear Wikipedia bias, the less damaging type usually goes something like “high school students shouldn’t cite an encyclopedia in research papers, so they shouldn’t use Wikipedia at all.” Students, then, get this idea that Wikipedia is completely off-limits to them. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!

I was saying “Yes! Right on!” to my computer when I read the first way to use Wikipedia:

Background information: The Grapes of Wrath makes a lot more sense if you understand the dust bowl of the depression. The fighting in Iraq makes more sense if you understand that it wasn’t until after World War I that it became one country under the British. Knowing the context of your topic can help you understand that material better and write about it more clearly.

I think the 4 ways article combats Wiki-bias really nicely. So nicely that I shared it with the entire teaching staff at my school.

Also in Wikipedia news, a second student of mine contributed to Wikipedia this week. Now he’s on a mission to clean up articles and watch for vandalism. He’s even subscribed to an RSS feed to watch for potential vandals. His first edit, by the way, was to the Vin Diesel article. He noticed that Diesel’s birth name read “Luke Skywalker”, commented that it seemed like someone was messing with the Wikipedia, so I encouraged him to revert the article to its pre-vandal condition. He did and we moved on with class.

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Wield Some Mojo

I quite enjoyed “Become a Power User” over at Web Worker Daily; especially the power tip to use a “review” tag for stuff you want to look at soon. I’d add a power-power tip: use the tag, then subscribe over RSS to your own reminder tag.

The review+subscribe combo is a lot like what TagMindr does, which I wrote about previously. I think of either method as my way of implementing a quasi-tickler file for my bookmarks.

One tip in particular, though, stood out as unnecessary:

For those in horticulture, you know that you have to prune the dead twigs of the plant so the living twigs can flourish. This also applies to knowledge management. Take a few moments to review your links occasionally to ensure that they are still relevant. You can add more tags as time goes on to improve organization.

I’ve been tagging pages with since February 2006 and I have 600 links. Should I remove stuff? I don’t think so. As long as isn’t limiting the number of pages I tag, I see no reason to remove them.

Sure, I understand the argument: clearing out the junk means you’ll be able to find your own “good stuff” better. That junk will only get in the way. The problem is, the junk metaphor implies that space is limited. It’s not. The horticulture metaphor implies that the good stuff in my is being stunted by the bad stuff. I don’t believe it is.

Just because I’m no longer interested in sky diving*, for example, doesn’t mean my links in that tag aren’t still useful — especially to the rest of the community. While pruning is good for plants, I won’t use it on my

* I’m not now, nor have I ever been interested in sky diving, it was only an example. I’m way too afraid of heights to jump out of a plane!

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