Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Edmodo Groups

As teacher-professionals, we have many communities in our own Personal Learning Networks or PLN's. We can use hashtags in twitter, for example, to float ideas, ask questions, and share best practices in our field. Our students don't often have the same luxury. This is a valuable 21st century skill that tools such as Edmodo only go so far to address.

I've recently opened up some Independent studies to my students, and I want them to experience community on a large scale around their project of choice. I want them to be able to share their work, their frustrations, and their ideas with a community beyond the walls of my school.

I've put together two groups so far (more to follow) in Edmodo, and I'm opening them up for others to join. I've shared them with the "Computer Technology" community on Edmodo, and I hope to have more teachers and students join our groups. I'd also like to eventually create groups for other projects my students do. The groups I've put out on Edmodo so far are:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yes, Another PLN Post...

Yeah, there are a hundred or so PLN posts out there. Here's another one. Why? I'm presenting this stuff at an in-service, and I couldn't find all of this stuff in one place. I decided to compile it all on our district web page. Here are the fruits of my labor.

My slide deck for the presentation...

What is a PLN?

Personal Learning Networks, or PLNs, are the collegial relationships you have with peers. Originally, they were your family and friends, maybe other educators you worked with, but thanks to the internet and web 2.0 tools have become much much larger. PLNs can now include myriad communities, including but not limited to social networking sites like Facebook, blogs, Twitter, wikis, social bookmarking tools, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Ning.
n. – the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online. (

How to build it

Twitter (not just for breakfast anymore)

Okay, so maybe a few years ago you saw this video, and while it is cool, you got the completely wrong impression of twitter. Honestly, Twitter is one of the most stupid inventions ever brought online, but some really smart people leveraged this tool with great apps like Tweetdeck & Hootsuite, making it a thing of awesomeness.

Thursday, July 14, 2011 PLN Follow Friday

Okay, so I've had a lot of folks that are new to Twitter ask me this week about the folks I follow. It got me thinking. Follow Friday's, or "#ff" have become a Twitter standard practice. Since we're all psyched about Will Richardson's suggestions of building our own networks yesterday, I thought we should do a PLN Follow Friday.

For the good of the cause, choose one or two of your Tweeps, whom you consider to share very relevant, challenging, or useful information on a regular basis. Compose a quick tweet on Friday (that's tomorrow already) like this:

#techitu #ff @jgates513 @willrich45 Great consistent tweets on #edtech
Let us know briefly why you follow them. Do they post on your subject? Do they share great Edtech resources? Do they challenge you and sharpen your practice?

Those of us trying to build our own PLN via Twitter can watch these #ff posts and choose, hopefully, to follow those who are most relevant to us.

Good luck and great tweeting.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Students as Contributors

In preparation for an upcoming conference (, I was asked to watch this and comment on this question: "What legacy do you think your students can create to make a contribution for other students or the community?"

Wow! I'm so pumped after watching this video. I "heart" TED talks as it is, but I was blow away by how much this resonated with what is happening in my experience right now. At Spring Grove Middle School we've been ramping up to replace our cross curricular project with a service-learning initiative. I teach a CIT course to seventh and eighth- grade students that focuses on what Vicky Davis, the "Coolcat Teacher" refers to as Technology Fluency. To accomplish this I typically develop various Project Based Learning units that compose the entire nine weeks I have students for. Recently, in light of our looming service learning initiative and the disengagement of about 7-10 % of my students with my current project, I decided this last December to replace my 8th grade rebranding project with an open call to use digital design media to promote a "cause" (typically a non-profit or charity the student feels strongly about). In two marking periods, I had students making web sites, movies, mixing original songs, and even starting new student organizations in our building! Finally, I had something my students saw as purposeful work. We were able to publish and share with the world via Edmodo connections and Weebly sites.

For this coming year I plan to continue this project, and hopefully connect it our building's overall service learning initiative. I’ve set up a wiki for this project, and thanks to Alan’s talk, I hope to make it a hub of student participation. Also, I hope to turn the screencasting of new tutorials in Photoshop, Illustrator, Myna, Roc, etc. over to the students to publish to our wiki for the good of the cause. Can my students rock the Spring Grove community and beyond with this Service Learning awesomeness? I bet they can!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A TED Talk to chew on this summer...

WOW... This gives us a lot to think about in education. Any ideas on moving forward incorporating this knowledge into practice? Comments welcome...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Teaching type as an element of design for middle schoolers...

After much repeated tweaking, I've finally got a little "How To" & "How not to" guide together for my middle school students on type & design.  I've decided to forgo all talk of serifs, ascenders, vertical rhythm, and so on in favor of just what they need to know aesthetically to hopefully do a better job with type in their simple designs.

Much thanks to Rob Schwartz who has made a brilliant set of videos that I've referenced as a part of my Typography Bootcamp for Middle Schoolers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Diigo Educator quick start guide...

Okay, I'd like to give y'all a chance to learn from my successes and failures over the last two weeks, so here goes.

  1. If you want students to use Diigo for class and your school doesn't have / support student email, sign up for an educator account.
  2. Get your students' info.  Use a google form with fields set up in this order: name, email, username, password.
  3. Download the resulting spreadsheet as a csv.  It should look like this. (Diigo's sample csv doesn't load)
    • Hints for Success: Make sure to have students add school initials to their usernames; there are a lot of Diigo users out there.
  4. Create a class group and upload your users.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Presentation Tools for Teachers (& Students)...

...that aren't overdone.

This year, my colleagues and I moved into a renovated building. One of the upgrades that every teacher experienced was a classroom equipped with a ceiling-mounted computer projection unit, a Mobi (mobile whiteboard), and a Laptop.  As a result, the number of us using PowerPoint for every lesson has grown exponentially. The explosion of Power Point aided lessons has in some cases led to an exponential growth in students placing Power Point on the same level as thick worksheet packets and lengthy standardized assessments. Further, many teachers are starting to feel the same way after being subjected to poorly constructed and delivered presentations by students. What happened to this tool that at the start seemed so engaging and dynamic?

Essential Question:

How do teachers navigating this new world of projection screens, Smartboards, etc. keep things fresh? Let's look at some presentation tools and techniques available to any teacher with an Internet connection.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Candy Bar Templates

Hey Mr. Reck's Candy Unit kids,

Here's a wonderful treat for you. I've made two vector candy bar wrappers for you to Photoshop.  They work similarly to the Sneaker templates used in my class. I intend to add a screencast to this post soon on using the templates.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adobe Illustrator to Photoshop Work-flow: Part 1

In my eighth grade classes, students spend the first few weeks learning the basics of Photoshop and Illustrator. We look at everything from simple drawing and photo editing to adding custom presets and libraries. One of the more nuanced skills that doesn't receive near enough air time in class, is how to use these two powerful applications together. Here's my first part in a series on Illustrator / Photoshop work-flows.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Please Catch up...

Recent response to request for students to be permitted to post images, screenshots, etc. to forums in officially supported district course management system:
There is a way to change the Student Permissions to allow this, however; they then have access to all of the files within that course.  This includes any database records, back-ups and general files related to the course itself.  I do not feel that this is the best option as students should not be allowed to access this information.

The idea was raised that you could create a course strictly for Forums.  This would then allow students to access the course and browse all of the files without much of a security threat as there would not be a gradebook or other files that they can get to.  Again, I do not feel this is the way to go as the students may still remove or delete files that need to be kept on the server for the course to run properly.  I could see this being an option only if the students are to sign an SLA or are given a course in file management.  Just a thought.

One work around that I was able to find, was to create a photo database (or use an existing one such as Flickr) then have then continue to use the URL upload option.  This will at least give users a direct link to the picture without causing any security issues.  Lastly, they can paste the picture into a Word document and upload that as an attachment.  I know these are not ideal circumstances since the idea is to have the picture show within a forum, but a couple extra clicks should not be too detrimental to their Moodle experience.

*holding head in disgust*