Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reaching Toward Goals for 2009

It’s time to start making New Year’s resolutions. My first is to take at least one photo each day during 2009. I read of a similar resolution by several bloggers last year. So, this year it’s my turn. I plan to post the photos on Flickr! and/or this blog. The idea for this resolution comes from the question — “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” — and its answer — “Practice!” I figure that the more photos I take, the better I’ll become as a photographer. We’ll see if I’m correct.

My second resolution is to maintain zero inboxes for email. I’m pretty good at doing that for my RSS reader, but not so good with my email. So, that means I have between now and December 31 to clear out my email inboxes. I think I’ll be busy!

Those two resolutions will require that I develop new habits. A third resolution will be a lot more fun. I want my students to become networked students with their own personal learning networks. (See here for my blog entry about this topic.) I’ve begun working on this one. One of the early projects for some of my students during spring semester 2009 is to create a movie of photos rather than of video clips. I’m so used to viewing this type of movie that it always surprises me when I’m reminded that many of my students have never seen movies created with only photos. Last week I created a short “photo” movie that explains briefly what we’ll be doing and also serves as a model of the first movie that I expect the students to create.

These three resolutions are going to keep me very busy this year!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Sometimes the Most Detail is Not the Best Choice

When I first learned about posting photographs on the web, another educator with whom I was working objected when I said that she should save her JPG photo at an 8 out of 10 quality. She wanted to know why she shouldn’t save it at the “best” quality of 10 out of 10. I needed to explain why the “best” wasn’t really the best choice.

When students—and adults—learn about posting photos on the web, there are several topics they need to understand. File format and size, pixels, thumbnails, photo resolution, scanning, JPG quality and compression, cumulative distortion, and design guidelines are issues that should be discussed.

I know about these things, but I didn’t use my knowledge recently as I was trying to quickly post some photos on a wiki for a community group. You know, of course, what the result was… good pictures… once they loaded. I wonder if any of the community folks hung around long enough to see the result after the photos did finally load!

Thank goodness for Dennis Benson, a friend who was working on the wiki with me. He modified the photos so that they had both quality and speed. And he shared with me a web site — — that I’ll use with my students to provide very simple guidelines for posting photos on the web.

What do you use to help your students take and use better photos?


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tech Savvy Awards Deadline Extended

One of the blogs I follow is that of the National Center for Family Literacy. (Note: If you're wondering why you don't see it listed on this blog, that's because my blog listings and my RSS feeder listings have each taken on a life of their own. Maybe I'll get the two listings coordinated during Christmas vacation!) This organization has an interesting awards program in progress that you may want to investigate... and they have extended the deadline. Meg Ivey of this family literacy group wants to share information of this awards program and its extended deadline with as many folks as possible... and asked me to share it with my readers. I'm glad to help, Meg!
The National Center for Family Literacy announced today that it is extending nominations for the national 2009 Verizon Tech Savvy Awards until Jan. 12, 2009. NCFL extended the deadline in recognition that so many education programs are struggling with reduced budgets, which makes the award money even more important.

The Tech Savvy Awards are the first national awards to honor programs that improve parents and children’s understanding and use of technology. Four $5,000 regional awards and one $25,000 national award will be presented.

For a copy of the 2009 Verizon Tech Savvy Awards nomination form and a map of the regions, visit . The deadline for submissions is midnight EST Jan. 12.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Students and Their Personal Learning Networks

As teachers we’re learning to build personal learning networks, but are we teaching our students to do the same? I just viewed a video on Steve Dembo’s Teach42:Education and Technology blog that will help me do that next semester. Check it out here.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Learning about Literature, US History, and Poetry with Shmoop

This evening I wanted to stop what I was doing and read a book. In fact, I wanted to re-read The Old Man and the Sea. And then I wanted to read about the Great Depression.

What led to those ideas? I was exploring shmoop’s web site.

Shmoop focuses on the relevance of literature and history to today’s students, middle school and above. They say that their mission is to “make learning and writing more fun and relevant for students in the digital age.” In my opinion, students aren’t the only ones who will find this site interesting and fun.

Even their blog is fun to read. Recent entries are titled “Why Should I Care About…” followed by the name of a novel that they relate to people and popular culture that today’s students recognize.

In the literature area, they expand upon 115 novels at this point. You can sort the novels by author or by title and view them as a list or by cover flow. After you choose a novel, you can choose to read and learn beginning with an introduction (“in a nutshell” and “why should I care?”) to the novel, and then a summary, themes, quotations, plot analysis, study questions, characters, literary devices, did you know, and best of the web.

Fifty US history topics are covered. After you choose a topic, you can read an introduction, an in-depth explanation, a timeline, people, did you know, best of the web (books, movies and TV, music, photos, audio and video, historical documents), and citations.

In the poetry section, I looked for Carl Sandburg among the 30 poems, but unfortunately they don’t have any of his poetry yet. I’ve not read much by E.E. Cummings, so I read about one of his poems. After you choose a poem, you can explore an introduction, the poem, summary, technique, themes, quotations, study questions, did you know, best of the web, and how to read a poem.

Once you’re in shmoop, you can put Stickies, Clippings, or Paper Outlines on any page and access them in your Folders. A dictionary is available to define words you select on the web site. You can also enter into a discussion (asynchronous) with others.

The literature section has a guide to help you write a paper. A free cram sheet and aids for review are available in the US history area. In the poetry area you can search for words that are displayed in a word cloud.

Launched on November 11, 2008, shmoop is beta. In fact, they state that they “still have miles to go.” But, it looks like a great start for a web site that both teachers and students can use as they work with literature, US history, and poetry.

It will be interesting to watch what new subjects they add.