Podcasting Made Easy, Part II: Sound

30 Jun

As I go back listen to that first podcast I am overwhelmed with how terrible the recording quality is, especially compared to what I have today.  You will also notice that a majority of the first podcasts were audio, now I am dealing a lot more with video.  My development was purposeful, I started with audio technology developing my skill on Garageband to get the best possible edits.  I even developed my own theme song (yah, I’m that nerdy).  However, as time went on, I knew that the quality of my podcasts needed to improve or I would not be able to gain more listeners.  So, I set out to research and learn all I could about sound recording.

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Podcasting Made Easy, Part I: Getting Started

28 Jun

Since I discovered the world of podcasting on iTunes I knew that is where I wanted to be.  How cool would it be to publish a daily, weekly, monthly anything that people would download and listen to on the web? Instantly there were problems, as people may download anything, they usually only do that once if it’s terrible.  Technology? I didn’t know much, someone once told me about Garageband, and aside from a blog on MacWorld Magazine I knew nothing about it.  Thanks to some help from a few experienced educators, one Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I had the tools and stumbling blocks to create my first podcast. Continue reading

Video on the iPad and iPhone

22 Jun

Film, and a technology, has only been around for about one hundred years, it is still relatively young.  Conversely, story telling, has been around for thousands of years and been the backbone of society and culture throughout that time.  Film takes story telling to another level and gives people a medium to share their interests, ideas and passions.  I recently had a chance to do a lot of work on my iPad as well as my iPhone to record and process video on a mobile platform.  My goal is to find what I can use personally and what I can teach my students to make them better story tellers using film.

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My Next Scavenger Hunt

20 Jun
QR for my website

Try this with your camera, it's a great way to find my blog.

I love QR images on so many levels.  The are around us, some subtly some not so subtly, on bust stops, billboards, website, produce and even on some of the packages you receive in the mail from the postal service or UPS.  Founded back in the 1990’s by the Japanese Auto Industry, these images are being used by marketing companies for gorilla marketing campaigns to gain the attention of a tech savvy crowds.

I recently purchased some produce and on the inside of the label was a QR image to scan an enter a contest to see if I won the sweepstakes.  I was recently at a wine tasting  in Lodi where the winery was using QR images to download tasting notes.  I could scan the image and I was taken to a website with notes, pricing and ordering information.  I can then save the info in my scans and access this data any time I want.  “What was the wine I liked again, I will look at my phone.”  Jimmy Fallon used an image on his Late Show during one of his comedy bits that took you to a link of the video he was making. This technology will start to pop up more and more and in many different ways, so how can I use this in education?

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Same Standards, New Instruction

17 Jun

“I can’t understand why people are frightened by new ideas, I’m frightened by old ones.”

-John Cage, US Composer 1912-1992

AR, or augmented reality, is nothing new to the technology world. You have seen it on Hallmark cards – they all say “for an added bonus, hold this card up to the camera on your computer,” – and if you are into graphic design you have used this technology when creating 3D graphics for analysis. You may have heard of Pranav Mistry, the MIT graduate student who developed augmented reality software which will undoubtedly be used on future cellphones and other devices that work off of cameras. The potential and ramifications of this technology are endless. Now, this technology comes to the iPad and iPhone for free from String. A new augmented reality app for iOS.


My friend Erica holding up her iPad over one of the free images from String.

The images you pull up are highly interactive, you can click on the images, move them around, send them away, or bring them back. Think of the content you can bring in to your class room with just using a camera on your smart phone or iPad: interactive 3D images of historic land marks, interviews with people in history, designing and building circuits, devices, cars, houses or anything else your imaginations desires.  You don’t even need a printer, though you may want to print out the images, you can scan directly from your computer screen.

I can even see this taking the place of learning stations, where kids can either describe, evaluate, research, or analyze the image that is there. In English, characterization is a big standard and evaluating character is tough. I can take a character in augmented reality from a story we are reading, and have the character get up and walk around on the students screen. Now, just from what the kids see, I can have them describe what they know about the character. Next station, the character interacts with another person, now kids can analyze what that character is like through what they do. Lastly, I can have that character speak and the kids can tell me what that character is like through their words. Now, I would have the kids type up an analysis and we can discuss their conclusions as well as my characterization – as the author – based upon my design of the character in the first place. All of these elements would be important in analyzing character within a story.

Even better, have your students create their own AR image and have them share it with the class as another type of project based analysis.  Think diorama on your iPad or iPhone.

If you notice, with augmented reality I’m teaching the same standard while using a new technology. If I can create an interactive and engaging lesson that is presented in a medium that students interact with on a daily basis – I have them hooked. At the same time, I am demonstrating technology to students and modeling it’s use, quite possibly inspiring a few to play with this technology and create a few things they might enjoy as well.

What’s Your Next Presentation

17 Jun

When I first started teaching eight years ago, I was so excited to finally get to use PowerPoint, no writing on the chalk board – yes, I had a chalk board – for my students. Fifty slides later, I still cringe when I hear the break glass sound effect, I knew I was off to a bad start. I had a great technology and no idea how to use. With a lot of practice, collaboration and seeing other professional examples I was able to begin creating some amazing PowerPoints. Eventually I also branched off into Keynote and finally Prezi. In the end, it was not about the presentation, but the content that drove what I was presenting to students.

People will disagree – I’ve noticed that in a Mac and PC world – but in my mind Keynote and PowerPoint are relatively the same. They are both slide/presentation programs where you can create your notes: bullets, pictures, movies, graphs and charts. I do feel that KeyNote is more sophisticated, you have more options and your ability to export into many formats has me enjoying that app a bit more.

When I first started using Keynote I was a bit overwhelmed with too much choice. I was confused on where to go, what to add and how much. I was reminded of my days when I started on PowerPoint and had too much going on – the emphasis was on the show and not the information. Over time, presentations became better, succinct and I was able to get creative. I still had one problem, both PowerPoint and Keynote are very linear – you start at point A and end at Point B. Creatively, while I had more options with Keynote, I was still restricted to a straight across format, I wanted something a little more free form.

Enter Prezi, Prezi. I liked how Prezi gave me a space, and I was allowed to create. I can upload my own pictures, video and create text however I like it. I can add shapes, I can adjust the orientation so presentation zooms in, out, up down or any direction I choose. This is great for my students as it can challenge their thinking, put the focus on the content and deliver in a manner that is not necessarily linear. At the same time, I can embed my presentations – fully interactive – on my class blog or via Twitter. I know I can do this, to a degree, with Slideshare on my PowerPoints or Keynotes, buy my students desire something much more highly interactive.

On a closing note, Prezi is not perfect. While they have a viewer app on iPad and iTouch, they viewer does not support certain image types like SWF or even certain video types. So, I just use my computer in those instances. Whatever your choice in presentation tool, keep it concise, make it fun, and doing use too many breaking glass sound effects.

A sample Prezi on Storytelling
Sample Prezi

My first Prezi, still some work to do, but a good start My first Prezi

iPad Day 3

16 Jun

On day three we had the unique opportunity to hear from Dan Meyer, a Math Teacher who is currently studying at Stanford University. We got our introduction to Dan through a TED Talks video he did about a year go, you can watch it here http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html. What was interesting is the way Dan looked at curriculum, that he was taking teaching and learning out of the text book and putting in real world applications so that students see value, make connections and have a much greater buy in/motivation to tackle the problems at hand.

After watching the TED video, Dan came on via a web cam and spoke to the group. I am going to high light a few of his points that I feel are very relevant to any curricular area. One of his discoveries had to do with Story Telling. From previous posts I have done as well as some of the podcasts I have shared, people love stories. Dan highlighted some popular films, like Star Wars, and broke them into three Acts:

Act I: you learn about your story, usually no words but you can guess what is going on from the imagery.

Act II: you gather tools and resources to help you accomplish a task.

Act III: resolution, you achieve your goal using the tools and resources provided to you.

The example that Dan used had to do with showing a water tank and asking the kids how long it would take to fill the tank. He would show a short clip of the tank filling, then pop the question. Next, he would ask the kids what they need to know in order to get the rate at which the tank will fill, then – as a class – they watched the entire video and timed out the exact rate of time it takes to fill the tank. This is highly counterintuitive to traditional teaching where you have the kids go over example after example – drill problems to no end – refer back to the examples for help, and check the back of the book for the answers. After the task is accomplished, Dan moves in to his skill practice.

I spent a lot of time this past year trying to teach my kids to think, to connect and to find value in the English curriculum I teach (I wrote a bit about it here https://soberandsaucy.wordpress.com/#!/entry/149). I discovered after a while that value the kids saw in what I taught was not really there, especially with my ESL and low performing students. I had some success, but not as much as I would have liked nor what I thought my students could accomplish if they applied themselves more.

I started utilizing technology in class, like showing kids how to use their cell phones for learning, shooting video and creating projects and intros to better catch student interest. It took a bit more time on my part in the beginning – I’ve shared a few in this blog, much more to come – but in the end I started to see greater student engagement. One example was a student generated service project is where I had the students research, evaluate and create a public service announcement for a specific cause. Embedded in that lesson were concepts behind persuasion and capturing student interest.

Two challenges I have for the next year are to blog, collaborate and share more. I’m excited to receive feedback, track down other educators that are sharing to and see what other teachers are doing in schools across the globe. After all, we do live in a society that allows for transparency and collaboration on a greater level than any we have seen in history. As an educator, I feel, that if I am not working towards professional improvement on daily, weekly and annual process, I am not modeling professional growth to my students and I am not giving value to the work I do.

For more on Dan – and there is a lot – you can check out his blog at http://blog.mrmeyer.com/

iPad Day 2

15 Jun

Day 2 of the iPad and a bit more to share. We spent some time going over Keynote and a bit on Garageband, both are apps I am very familiar with in their desktop format. I will talk a bit more about what was covered, what I found and what I think will work. Keep in mind, most – though not all of the apps – I will talk about are free. I’m trying to keep the educator in mind and we don’t always have money to purchase new apps. So … Continue reading

iPad App Awareness

14 Jun

I recently had a great opportunity to participate in an iPad institute at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Moving past the basic commands like zooming in on text, copy and paste, or adding and removing apps, it is the sharing of apps and their use that I find the most helpful. I’ve been on iPad for about two years, but I am amazed at what I can continue to learn with a little insight. So, with good intentions, here is the beginning of my list of favorite iPad apps.

1. iBooks: In the beginning I did not like this app at all, I was all about the Kindle. However, over time, I found that iBooks had features that Kindle and other apps did not. Most books we read in English can be found online as PDF’s or in iBooks as free downloads, for example, The Scarlet Letter. On the iPad or in an iTouch, kids can highlight and annotate text directly in iBooks. I can assign a chapter in class, have kids annotate where they have questions, make connections or analyze a plot point or character interaction. Then, either at the end of class or the next day, I can choose a device at random and place it under my document camera. As a class, we can view the notes, offer feedback and see what other comments students may have made or could have made. Lastly, check out the CK-12 Foundation, they have many free textbooks for download in iBooks.

2. Qwiki: whatever you want to learn in your area or someplace you are traveling, there is Qwiki. A great app to learn about a region or just to see what is going on in your area. You could also research an area that has to do with a book or subject you are currently studying. The app offers video and text and is highly engaging.

3. Flipboard: this app allows you to interact with news sources and social media sites online just like they are a magazine. Flipboard is a news aggregator that goes out on the web and pulls information via an RSS feed and brings the information to you. Not sure what an RSS feed is or how it works, don’t worry, just think of the publications you like to read like O Magazine, Ted Talks, CNN and such. You just tell Flipboard you like those information sources and it brings you the information for free. You can also tell Flipboard to access your social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. As an assignment, give your students a current event assignment to research or have them compare news stories from different media outlets like Huffington Post or Fox News.

4. Inkling: Many text books companies are going digital, and Inkling is helping to make that possible. The App is free, and many of the text books that are offered have free chapters for you to use and experiment with in your classroom prior to purchasing.

5. Shakespeare in Bits Romeo and Juliet: a great app for teaching about the Bard (the lite version is free). This app is great in that it offers definitions in the text, video and audio for student involvement. Students can also access character bios or a character relationship chart to see how the different characters in the play are related.

6. iTunes U: There are literally thousands of podcasts from various colleges and universities across the globe. There are also great resources from high school teachers in just about any subject you are looking for. Find some podcasts you like or have your students go out and search for podcasts they feel will enhance the learning experience for the specific subject you are working on in class. What a great way to get the kids thinking critically about the subject matter and and making connections to different media. Also, check the podcasts carefully as many come with downloadable written content as supplements to the audio/video podcast. don’t forget about the Khan Academy, thousands of videos on multiple subjects to for kids to access, practice and learn at their own rate.

7. Skype: a great tool to connect with classes, students or professionals anywhere in the globe. Check out education.Skype.com for a list of classes looking to have a conversation. This is a great way to practice language with native speakers or learn about other cultures. If calling a school in another country is too much, why not Skype with a class across the hall or another school in town for some great collaboration.

8. Dragon Dictation: a great app to practice speaking. Dictation software has come a long way the last few years and continues to improve. Dragon is great in that students can record what they say and have it transcribed directly on the iPad or iTouch. This is great practice for language learners or anyone preparing to do a presentation or speech.

9. Evernote: By far one of my favorite apps for note taking. You can organize notes by unit and create notebooks, great for research as students collect sources, and you can add pictures, links screen shots, video and audio right in the note. Notes and notebooks are easily shared between parties. Since Evernote is stored on the cloud, wherever you have wireless access and you have the Evernote app/software installed, your notes will be there. For more on Evernote, you can check out my previous post here https://soberandsaucy.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/my-top-10-uses-with-evernote/

10. Evernote Peek: fairly new and a great companion to Evernote, Evernote Peek is a flash card tool for the iPad. It takes advantage of your magnetic cover, so you can see the clue, but you have to figure out the answer. The title of your note in Evernote is the clue, the subject area is your answer. So, in Evernote, create a notebook for whatever you want to study: anatomy vocab, math formulas, literary characters … anything worth memorizing.

11. Dropbox: One of the best way to store large files on the cloud rather than your iPad. Memory is at a premium, so store those files on your Dropbox account and not your iPad. Dropbox is also a great way to share files with others: handouts, videos, pictures, or anything else.

12. Library of Congress: what a great way to give kids an opportunities to evaluate and research using primary source documents. This app offers high resolution examples of many historical documents not usually accessible to the public.

These are the few of the apps I have been playing with over the last few days. I have many more to review and share and I’m excited to see what I can do with them. If you have any apps you like to use please feel free to share. I will be adding more over the next few days and beyond.

My Experiment with Free International Calling

13 Jun

In two weeks I depart with a group of students and a fellow teacher to Australia.  This will be my first trip to the continent down under, so my excitement builds as my departure date approaches.  I have one conundrum, as I will be in another country, I need a way to communicate with my family and friends at home.  Obviously, social media will an easy hit, and wifi is readily available.  However, I would like to be able to see my wife and one year old daughter a few times during my nearly three weeks away from my family. So, I’m going to experiment with Skype and Google Voice to see if I can place phone calls and connect with my family from half a world away.

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