Saturday, January 28, 2006

An experiment with flash

Someone wrote that it is possible to put PowerPoint into Flash to post on a website. I want to see if I can do it or not.

I had thought to delete this, but I will leave it for the time being at least to see if anyone knows how to make this work better. I have uploaded it to Yahoo briefcase and then linked to it here. It was set up as an automatic presentation, but it is manual in Flash. Is that normal or did I do something wrong?

It would be nice to be able to include presentations like this on class blogs. As my students do presentations throughout the semester, I could post them to the blog so there would be a permanent record of them. But I need to know if what I am doing is what I should be doing. It seems to work, so I guess I am happy. But if anyone can give me some hints as to how to make it work better, I would appreciate it!

Update 1.29.06 Thanks to a note from Joanna, I discovered that no one else could access the file. I moved the file to elgg and I am trying again to see if it will work now.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The wonders of the Internet

I am totally blown away! My daughter just asked me for help finding an article she needs for a paper for law school. She could find plenty of places to buy it from, but she was hoping to find it for free. I did a simple search on Yahoo for the author and part of the title and immediately found two sources of the article for free. One even let me send her a plain text copy of the article!

It's all out there if we are only willing to do a little work to find it. But I am always amazed when it happens!

Learning to search efficiently is the key, I think. That is something I want to work on with my students. They so often will try one search term and then give up. I have found this to be true when they do an Internet search and when they are searching the library databases for articles. Does anyone have any good ideas for helping me teach effective searching?

My students are blogging!

Today I brought my intermediate students to the computer lab to get them set up on our class blog. They were confused at first, but I think they are starting to get the hang of it. After showing them around, I had them each post something just for the experience of posting. Then I had them comment on each others' posts. There was a lot of laughter and excitement as they were reading the comments.

I am asking the to use the blog for some very specific purposes: to post daily logs, to post summaries of our reading, and to answer specific questions that I ask. I haven't decided yet if I will require comments. I hope they will pick up on it on their own, but I can easily build that in to my plan if they don't.

I realized today just how technologically inexperienced they are. They can do email and, since last semester, use PowerPoint, but there is so much they can't do, but it is only because they have never tried to do it. I hope that this class blog will give them some skills and experience that will be transferable to other uses of technology.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

WebQuests and Oral Skills

I am busy trying to get the semester off the ground and participate in the two EVO sessions I signed up for: Creating WebQuests and Oral Skills and Technology. As happened last year, I find I am more interested in one session than the other. But I am getting good ideas from both of them. It is so cool to see what we can learn from each other this way!

Next week I am supposed to begin designing a WebQuest. We'll see how that goes!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Personalized learning

Clarence Fisher has an interesting post about personal learning. He makes what maybe should be a very obvious statement, and yet it's something that I know I lose sight of. He says:
Personalizing learning is a complex task in a classroom filled with 20 + students. But personalizing learning is not about us doing the personalization; it is about teaching our students how to become learners...
It is interesting to me how we as teachers, as adults, frequently/often/almost always assume that we are the ones who have to make the decisions about what each student/child needs and should want.

Clarence goes on to say:
We must find ways to slowly shift the responsibility of providing content and questions from ourselves to our students so that we can spend our time doing the much more valuable tasks of helping them achieve this goal. It is a complete shift. From teacher as content provider, to teacher as director and supporter of learning.

I need to think about how I can apply this to my own situation. I have planned this semester to give students more freedom in what they wrote about, but I am still basically supplying the vast majority of the content and structure.

I guess I justify not letting students personalize their own learning more by saying that we have so much that they have tolearn and there isn't much time left over for anything else. But I wonder if that is really true. I think that I could do much better than I have been in this regard. I will be on the lookout for ideas on how to incorporate more of this kind of personalized learning into my classes as we move through this semester. Maybe next fall I will have some of it worked out and worked into my program.

Anyway, check out the whole post over at Remote Access.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A PBS blog?

Bud has once again pointed me in the direction of a new blog that should be interesting to follow. This one is from PBS and is written by Mark Glaser. It is called MediaShift.

I am glad that Bud wrote about it because a look at the PBS website gave no indication that there was such a blog. A search on the site turned it up, though, so maybe they are going to change the site to include mention of it on the homepage. I hope so. Anyway, it looks like it may be worth a read. Why not go on over and check it out?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Uses of Writely

Iris commented on my post below about use of Writely to share a document. In this case it was a document started in Brazil and finished in Portugal. What a great idea!

From what I can see so far, students who were going to be working in Writely as individuals would need only an email address and password. It would be easy for the teacher to set this up by posting a document and then inviting students to collaborate on it. The teacher would invite the students by providing their email addresses. They then log on with a password that they are given in the invitation email. That password can, of course, be changed.

I can't see how it would work to have more than one student editing a document at a time because I have to log out of one of my accounts to log in with another, but I think it should work well.

I really want to try this in the coming semester. Thanks, Iris, for the encouragement and example!

Monday, January 16, 2006


Have you heard about Writely? It is a tool for writing and collaboration that I read about over on Thoughts on Teaching. I went on over to check it out, and I think it is going to be pretty cool. I am trying it out on myself first to see how I think it might work for my students, but I think it has real potential. If anyone has looked at it, please let me know what you think and how you think it might be used in a classroom. I would like to see if I can use it for class editing of a document or collaboration on a story, for instance.

Anyway,check Writely out. I'll be interested in your comments.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lies in science, too?

Charles Nelson, in a comment here, reminded me of the fact that chemistry teachers also "lie" to their students. Thinking back to a science class I recently sat in on, the instructor said, "Later on you will find out this isn't exactly true, but for now..." At least he was sort of honest. Charles' example and the case of the instructor I observed are definitely examples of trying to make things simpler for the beginner.

So I go back to writing... Is it helpful for beginners to be taught these "rules"? I was talking recently with a friend who told me she still tells her students they can't start sentences with "but". I remember being taught that 40 years ago or more. But of course, you don't write much without starting a few sentences with "but".

My philosophy for the last several years has been to let students write. Period. I try to teach about audience, and that is maybe where I would tell them that some people will not react favorably to certain constructions like contractions or more informal language. But I am not even sure that I am not lying to them still. Will a philosophy professor react negatively to a paper in which the student uses lots of informal language if he expresses himself clearly? I don't know. Guess I should ask one!

Charles has a blog if you would like to check it out.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Lies, lies and more lies

Bud shared part of a post from Tim about lies we tell our students. Bud mentions the lie of the 3-5 sentence paragraph.

We talk a lot in our Writing Project institutes about not giving students these formulaic views of writing. As readers we know we don't enjoy reading things that follow these "rules" and yet many teachers tell their students that they are RULES that must be followed.

Anyway, check out Bud's post and Tim's if you haven't seen them yet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The need to change education

While I can't imagine anyone reading my blog would not be reading Will Richardon first, I want to be sure everyone reads his post Change or Die.

Video Games

Having just spent a weekend with extended family, I was interested to read Dennis Jerz' post this morning.

My son, who is almost 19 and a really good kid, spent a bunch of time this weekend defending his love of video games. Now, my fmaily isn't really opposed to him playing games because they know him, but they feel video games cause other people lots of problems.

Responding to another post, Dennis says
Diana laments that she can’t get her son to be social, to go shopping, go to a movie, or travel. But he may already be socializing with friends online. He may be shopping online, watching movies online, and exchanging e-mails with people from around the world.

If he knows how to negotiate alliances and trade resources in a virtual environment, he may be developing vital skills that will help him in the global information economy. Diana’s son may be developing leadership skills, mentoring newbies and rejoicing in their accomplishments. He may have have published his own game strategy guide, written fan fiction, or created his own user mods (new content that can be played by owners of existing games).

Dennis makes some great points about the benefits of video games. I think there is more chance for someone to be really creative and involved and to learn something of value playing a video game than there is watching TV, for instance.

I really think a lot of this is a fear of the new. My brother, after talking about video games with my son, acknowledged that by jokingly referring to the fear we heard expressed when we were teens that Rock-and-Roll would destroy the nation. Every generation, it seems, has its "demon". Did Rock-and-Roll ruin us? There are some who would say yes, but for the most part I think we acknowledge that our music didn't destroy us. I don't think vidoe games will, either.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Opportunities to learn something new

It is time for TESOL's Electronic Village Online courses. Last year I did a blogging course, which led me to create this blog. I also did a Moodle course. This year I am taking one on using technology in teaching listening and speaking and another one on creating WebQuests. I am really looking forward to them.

In case you are interested, you might want to check out the call for participation.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

It has been a busy end of the old year/beginning of the new. We had to move the last of our things out of the house we were living in before the storm and put them in storage. Yesterday my husband, son and I sat on the porch of the old house and talked about how much we loved sitting on that porch. Living there was a wonderful experience.

But now that is behind us. We are in 2006, what we hope and pray will be a better year for most of us than 2005 was!

Happy new year to you all!