Thing 16

Library Thing looks pretty neat.  It really nailed the recommendations when I tested it using Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.  I would definitely use it if I needed to search for a new science related book to read, but my “to be read” pile is usually 3-4 deep at any given time.  I suppose I could use it to share my favorite books or my recommended reading list or my list of everything I’ve ever read.  I’m very pro-reading, but this particular Thing doesn’t seem quite as multi-use as the other Things we’ve been introduced to.  Am I missing something?

Thing 15

Okay…I’m never going to use regular bookmarking ever again.  Delicious is just plain awesome.

As usual, I’m not too sure I want my bookmarked interests shared with the rest of the world, but this makes sorting and retrieving related bookmarks a piece of cake.  The tagging is quick and easy and fairly intuitive. I think I’d like to set up an RSS widget in my own webpage to snag anything tagged with “genetics” or “photosynthesis” for my students to dig in to. “Biology” and “science” seem a bit too broad, but who knows?

I know for sure that I can use it to help all the people that want paleo diet or CrossFit training resources from me.  I can tag all the best sites I know of with some obvious tags like paleo, running, nutrition, and/or workout and with a link to my delicious bookmarks they can simply click the tag that they want to know about.  It should make it easy if they want to search for cholesterol specific diet info as opposed to regular diet links.  Neat!

Thing 7b

Okay, so it’s not as flashy as Quizlet, but the thing that caught my eye the most from this past week of RSS blog digging was all about streamlining your blog and blogging.  Much of the content applies to any webpage that you set up as well.  Theoretically, a teacher blog or webpage should be as accessible as possible to any visitor, especially students and parents.  The suggestions are easy to implement and make sense.  I think that this is a blog post worth revisiting every 2-3 months to make sure that the online content you create is set up in an approachable format.

Thing 14

I chose to dig into Quizlet since I know that some of my students have been using it and have enjoyed it greatly.  I got lost fast, especially when I found this one.  Oh the silly things that attract the attention of Biology teachers.  I’ll admit up front that I’m likely to outsource the work of creating a quizlet to my actual students.  I believe that there is value in the creation of study materials and they’re the ones that need to know how to use the tools that can support their learning.   It would at the very worst be a way to confirm why a student may be struggling with tests.  It should be pretty obvious if their quizlet is missing important material or if they have concepts jumbled together, or if they created their quizlet the day before a test or if they created it a week in advance but never got a score over 50%.  Hopefully a student would use it to gain confidence in how well they know material before ever having to take the test.

One problem…I couldn’t figure out how to find the code to embed a quizlet.  Help?

Thing 13

I chose to attend Jason Neiffer’s conference Probing the Prospects of Paperless Pedagogy.

He, like myself, is wary of his classroom handouts, although valuable extensions to an out-of-date-upon-being-printed textbook, becoming a :tree eating machine”.

By keeping everything online, or at least linked/embedded from his Moodle page, he is slowly creating an up-to-date online textbook.  In my opinion, the greatest trick he’s pulled isn’t getting his class to be paperless, it’s having full-time access to a computer lab with a computer for each student so that an online/paperless classroom is viable in the first place.  Hmm, is that me making excuses or is that a legitimate point?  I’m happy to put everything online for students to access.  Basically I already do.  It’s just that it’s hard to do online explorations in class when not everyone has a computer, ya know?

Quizlet is embeddable?  Sweet!  That’s going to definitely have an increased presence in my class next year, as will Google docs.  I’m hoping that I can have students “turn in” their papers, or at least their drafts via online submission by sending me a link to an uploaded Google doc.  If that goes well, then it should help out with the paper management of the science fair project in the spring.   Also, as I move my class webpage from the pbworks site over to wikispaces, I’ll probably keep all the documents available via Google docs instead of re-uploading them to the wikispaces account.  Lately I’ve been using Google docs to manage the summer sign-ups for the weight room.  It’s been much more convenient and better used than the old sheet taped to the door system.

I’m glad he acknowledges that student access to computers at home and also in the classroom is essential.

I’m also glad he suggests “not implementing everything at once”  instead “slowly add functionality”.

This was a nice and enjoyable experience.  I’ll definitely be revisiting this site to attend more conferences!

Thing 11

Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco

Image by naotakem.

What in the world could braised veal shank aka osso bucco have to do with teaching?  Why was that the topic of my teaching-related flickr search?  Well, this coming year our high school will be doing a two week mini-mester in November that we’re calling Excursion.  Teachers are developing their own original courses on just about anything.  There’s a class doing a photographic study of the world through lenses from the microscope to the telescope.  There’s a class that will be visiting and studying historic Atlanta graveyards.  And then there’s the class that Sally Cramer and I will be doing on Food and Fitness for the college-bound student.  Basically it’s a two week crash course in how to stay physically active and also how to learn how to cook and feed yourself (and maybe a date) real food…you know…the kind of food that doesn’t come in a box or involve “Would you like fries with that?”  I guess it’s about time that I admit that I’m a bit of a foodie, huh?

So anyway, Sally and I will be teaching about 16 kids and we probably won’t have much more than 8 double burner hotplates and whatever pots and pans the kids can bring from home.  We’ll have a food budget, but the real task will be figuring out what we can cook and teach others to cook.  I’m pretty sure a fish course, a shrimp boil, and a steak course are in the works for sure, but maybe I can have as the grand finale, an osso bucco dish!  (Thus the picture, and yes, mine does look like that.)

Now, some of our cooking will be classwork and some flickr photosharing would be an outstanding way to share with inquisitive parents the day to day goings on of our class.   Additionally, some of the cooking will be homework for the kids and a combination of youtube videos or flickr slideshows would be an innovative way for them to submit and us to review and assess their work.

Thing 10

While I’m waiting on approval to join the Thing 9 wiki sandbox, I thought I’d skip ahead to Thing 10.

I haven’t even read past the introduction and already I know that the significant concept will be “citation does not equal permission”.   That is just an outstanding quote and I’m sure I’m about to learn a whole lot about how I need to be more conscientious of c/cc if I’m going to be posting my flipcharts online.  Question:  If I post something online that is obviously a lesson and not being sold for profit, is it okay?  Let’s read on shall we…

Rats…clicked the MIT link and got lost exploring lectures…time to get back on track…

So I followed the links over to the Code of Best Practices presentation and pulled out this quote from slide 18/33, “Educators can…share, sell, and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded”.  Sell?  Really?  George Lucas can’t come after me for including a picture of the Death Star in my astronomy flipchart and retiring off the profits?  Moving on…

Okay, so I watched both videos.  I even tracked down Renee Hobbs’ wiki page.  I swear that I paid attention, but I still have no idea what I can and can’t do with content created by other people, c or cc.  Taken from her Q&A page:

Each educator or student is responsible for making a fair use decision for themselves. It’s not appropriate to rely on lawyers or librarians to do our thinking for us. Kenneth Crews of the Copyright Office at Columbia University says that each fair use determination is about an individual’s comfort zone. As Carrie Russell of the American Library Association points out in her book, Complete Copyright, “Sometimes a situation clearly is fair use. More often than not, however, your assessment may seem a bit ambiguous. This is the nature of fair use…. As you practice fair use more often, your confidence will grow. Remember to be consistent and think critically.”

The trick here is to not rely on charts or lists which provide neither a “safe harbor” nor an illusion of “certainty,” but to think about the fundamental question that underlies the fair use of copyrighted works: transformativeness. Did your use of the copyrighted work re-purpose or add value? If you have good reasons behind you, you meet the “reasonableness standard” that protects educators and librarians who “reasonably believed and had reasonable grounds for believing” that his or her use was a fair use.
–Renee Hobbs

Umm…what?  Make a fair use decision…your confidence will grow…good reasons…and…wait for it…comfort zone?!?!?    Yeah…my confidence was growing until the lawyers at Lucas Films Inc. sent me a cease and desist order. Yes, I know I’m being extreme in this example, but it does apply and I still don’t have an answer.

So this lesson started with “citation does not equal permission” and ended with “good reasons” and “comfort zone”.  Maybe my thinking is too concrete to handle this? Maybe I need some actual “do this” and “don’t do this” type of examples next time.  Maybe I use quotations way too much.  Maybe I shouldn’t blog at 7:30…Sigh.

Thing 8

What I learned from a few wikis:
From GoWest I liked how the content was made by different groups and each group contributed by becoming an expert on a single, focused item. This approach could modernize a lab that I have students do where they take a small section of a chapter and rewrite it with up to date info. It would be easy to rewrite the Evolution chapter in the Biology textbook based on this model and it would be nice to do the lab with up to date technology like this.

Over at Reich-Chemistry you have an example of how I prefer to set up my wiki. Kind of a one stop shop for everything you really need and need to know about the class. It’s a little bare-bones, but…it’s a heck of a lot better than the instant headache that this wiki gives me. Too much technology expertise and not enough common sense to organize it better. Yuck.

Here’s another example from CodeBlue of how I would use a wiki to update an existing science lab that we do based on the tv show House M.D. Students are given a patient-based scenario and are tasked with diagnosing and developing a treatment for the patient. A wiki would make it a lot easier to track progress and improvement over time.

I am blown away with the quality product the students over at GreatDebate have created. It’s a topic by topic comparison of the last Presidential election and the summaries are really well done.

And are we seeing the future of textbooks in the SmallStones wiki? I’m going to be posting the majority of my Promethean Flipchart presentations online this year and that’s not too shabby, but a beginning to end online textbook? Wow.

Or is this the future where teachers bundle their lessons and sell them online like Welkerswikinomics ?

Thing 7a

So what I noticed about checking the educational blogs using RSS feeds was that there was a lot of useful stuff being shared and spotlighted (spotlit?).  This post from Free Technology for Teachers is a nice example. Sure, only about 25% really caught my eye and maybe only about half of that had content I could really use past the “make a mental note” stage, but it got me thinking back on my “who cares what I’m posting” dilemma.  And yep, I finally realized that it’s not about me (say it with me…duh!).  It’s about the content and the importance of what it contributes to the larger net community…the community that shares the same outlook or ideas as the type of posts I might be making.  At this point I’m wondering how posts or blogs that have a narrow focus should can be written so that they don’t shut me out from the rest of the internet community and only get the notice of people who think exactly like me.  That sounds pretty boring and unlikely to spawn new and creative ideas.

Also, for documentation purposes, I completed part 3 of thing 7 by posting a comment to James and Gracelynn.