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The Home Stretch May 30, 2010

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The Technology Elite Program is winding down. The second week of June we are having a culminating event at which each participant will provide a 5-minute presentation of their best student work.

I am engaged in a fast and furious race to meet the multiple requirements by this deadline. We are required to engage at least one class of students in projects utilizing Voicethread.com, Glogster.com, Wikispaces.com, and Animoto.com. I am working with whole grade levels using specific tools, so I expect to have some quality work to share with my Project Elite colleagues, the school faculty, and the broader school community (on my library website).

My 6th graders are working on a Voicethread project involving biographies of famous women in history. This project is a collaborative curriculum project that has experienced a few bumps in the road. I provided the instruction and support regarding the research and the tech tools. The teacher dedicated quite a bit of class time to guide the content and support the writing process. Hard to believe this, but the teacher had a significant requirement that I didn’t know about – that the students give a live presentation. So the kids put all their effort into the live presentations, and once that was over, they wanted to put this project behind them. The result was the worst possible outcome for a “collaborative” project – MY requirements became the annoying “add on” instead of the primary information product. To make matters worse, the teacher immediately started a new and highly demanding writing project. So day after day the 6th graders were showing up in droves to the library during their recess period – but NOT to work on their Voicethreads. And during our weekly class meetings they acted like I had two heads when I attempted to redirect their attention back to the Voicethread project. So I spoke to the teacher. It was our first collaboration, and I am really glad to be working with her. Misunderstandings are not uncommon the first time out with a colleague. Her response to my concern was the best I could hope for! This coming week she is turning all of her attention to seeing this project through to the end. Exactly ONE student has provided me with a perfect Voicethread to inspire his 6th grade classmates.  Hope springs eternal.

The 7th graders are working in pairs using Wikispaces.com to deconstruct their most recent research project. They had worked in groups of three or four to create and giver PowerPoint presentations about Chicago History (starting with Native Americans and Early Settlement running all the way up to Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Democratic National Convention of 1968). It was just too late in the year to start a new research project, so they are “deconstructing” their recent projects, working in pairs to create wikis featuring six pages containing the following: 1. the basic questions unique to their project and the answers to them; 2. the impact of their topic on Chicago and/or the world today; 3.  links to all their sources; 4. images; 5. APA-style citations for all sources; and 6. Three reflections on the Big6 in which they describe three moments that occurred during the research project using Big6 terminology. Some of the kids were lacking some of these required items the first time around, so they have to fill in some gaps this time. But mostly they are drawing from existing work to load content on their wikis. I am emphasizing that the point of this exercise is to get comfortable with Wikispaces, as we will be using it next year from the outset of projects as an organizational and communication tool.
The 8th graders are working on glogs. These kids have serious senioritis, and I have been in this job long enough to know that a great deal of their “specials” time is used for graduation rehearsal the last few weeks. So from the start I knew that this project should be about self-expression with only minimal if any research. I directed the students to make glogs about something about which they are passionate. I suggested that they consider a topic of importance to teens using the subscription database Teen Health and Wellness. Some of them are doing that. I try to highlight the availability and functionality of that database a few times a year to the middle school students, as it provides accurate and no nonsense information (as well as contact information for local support agencies) about a lot of topics that students might not be ready to talk about with anybody. Topics of glogs in progress include rock groups, professional athletes, artists, The Simpsons, instructions on how to dance the salsa, favorite books (including Green Eggs and Ham), and a debate about which of two gaming systems is superior (I would name them but I have no idea about that universe!).

I originally intended to engage the 6th graders in making book trailers using Animoto.com, but given the unexpected delay in the completion of the Voicethread project, it’s unreasonable to expect them all to make Animoto videos. So I have provided both 6th and 7th graders the opportunity to complete Animoto book trailers as an extra credit project to bring up their library grades by one letter. There are MANY 6th and 7th graders whose library grade could use a lift, so I expect to receive a decent batch of Animoto videos. The kids in both of those grades have been very impressed with the Animoto tool, and that won’t hurt! I have made it very clear in presenting Animoto that there is a BIG payoff for only a little work. I am requiring them to complete their other projects (Voicethread for 6th and Wikispaces for 7th) before I will accept extra credit work.

I am so hooked on Animoto! I made another Animoto video this week of the Battle of the Books day which I shared with my Battle team at our Battle of the Books pizza party this week. They loved it AND the  book trailer video of Savvy by Ingrid Law (which they had all read in the Battle program). I also gave them all the materials related to the book trailer project and urged them to make book trailers and send me the links. Here are the links to the those videos:

Savvy video

Battle of the Books video

I am going to send the 8th grade teachers links to a few Animoto videos and suggest that they engage the 8th graders in making a video montage for the graduation ceremony.


Facebook Blues May 23, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
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There has been MUCH angst lately over the liberties that Facebook is taking with user information. I followed directions provided by librarian blogs to adjust my privacy settings for my maximum protection. I was indignant at how difficult it was do so, and I was dismayed at the strong advice provided by Facebook at every turn to NOT utilize high privacy setting options. However, I fully accept that I relinguish any and all control of what I put out there (as well as others’ photos and content “tagging” me). This is just the nature of this type of social networking tool. An enormous percent of the population has jumped onto the Facebook rollercoaster and is riding it hard with both hands high in the air. I don’t consider myself an exception. I don’t live on the site, and my content is sparse. But it’s more than enough and late enough in the game for me to ever expect to take it down and return it safely into the Pandora’s Box from which it came. Further, I think there will be many, many unanticipated consequences of our collective abandonment of the value of personal privacy. Culturally it makes sense that this craze would follow the last couple of decades of revelatory talk shows and “reality” shows.

But all that is NOT what’s been sticking in my craw lately. I am probably going to attend an all-class reunion of my elementary school (which ceased to exist in the early 1980’s) in Buffalo in mid-July. This initiative was clearly inspired by the ease of networking in the Facebook universe. I expect that attending this event will become one of many fantastic connections to the past that have occurred courtesy of Facebook. I fully expect that I will be making many new Facebook “friends” from this period of my life in the next weeks and months. So I took a quick look at my profile to consider the content and perhaps update it to maximize the impact of my first contact. The ability to convey lots of information in my personal profile and to glean lots of information about others without an exchange of hundreds of e-mails has been a major benefit of Facebook. Upon checking my profile, I realized that it had been GUTTED by a recent update to Facebook explained in this Huffington Post article entitled, “Facebook Community Won’t Let You Personalize Your Interests.” I had invested a bit of my valuable time and thought into deciding on the content of my profile – my activities, interests, music, movies, TV shows, and above all, BOOKS. The sum total of the content (no more and no less) was exactly what I wanted others’ to see when we crossed paths in this brave new world. When this Facebook update was activated, much of my profile just disappeared, leaving behind only select items from the original. When you consider the amount of content hosted by Facebook, I find it unfathomable that it was necessary to truncate my text – which takes up the least space of any kind of content!! Frankly it feels like the technology is bossing me around – coercing me even – to maximize its marketing and sales goals. By limiting my options to topics or concepts for which there are already existing groups, it is reducing the vocabulary and forcing me to fit it into a large but finite number of boxes that can’t really do the trick for me as well as a few more simple key strokes could and did. I can’t help but think of Orwell’s 1984 (read the entire public domain work online here) or the 1997 film Gattaca. The technology is quickly and efficiently herding us into places where we may not want to go. Am I overreacting? Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell.

So what to do now? I have already drunk the Kool-Aid. Can I walk away? I have to admit that despite what I perceive to be Facebook’s latest offensive moves on its users, I have had some powerful experiences and valued connections and re-connections as a result of my membership. How far outside of the social order will I find myself if I just pull the plug?

This is what’s on my mind, and I am considering my options.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Public domain audiobooks! Who knew? May 17, 2010

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In a meeting of Project Elite held last week in Second Life, our guide Elaine Tulip provided us a tour of the Professional Library in Second Life. There was a section where public domain audiobooks of public domain titles were available for listening. This brought to my attention the fact that public domain audiobooks exist. After the meeting I browsed for sites offering free books and discovered, “Libri Vox: acoustical liberation of books in the public domain…  LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.” Listeners can easily download public domain audiobooks in many languages for use on various types of players. Volunteer readers create recordings of chapters to add the collection of available titles. This is an exciting discovery for me. Now, in addition to audiobooks which I purchase, I can add public domain podcasts and public domain audiobooks to my digital audio collection for use with iPod shuffles at my school. I am still in the first few weeks of student and teacher use of the iPod shuffles, and so far the feedback has been very positive.

In my RSS feed this week I saw an interesting video posted on Bobbi Newman’s “Librarian by Day” blog. Here is a link to the video on YouTube entitled, “Social Media Revolution 2.” Great food for thought. Exciting. And a little scary, too.

I rolled out new projects with 8th graders (using Glogster.com and Voicethread.com) and 7th graders (using Wikispaces.com). In almost every class it took me the entire period to explain the nature of the projects and to demonstrate the use of the tools. Unfortunately the students did not have time to begin their own work. On the plus side they will be provided time and support for these projects both during their weekly library periods and their weekly technology class periods. Furthermore, the students were much more attentive than usual during the demonstrations, which is very encouraging. They are eager to use these tools!

I hope to have good progress to report by the end of this week as well as some finished student information products to share.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Putting It Together May 10, 2010

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I had a great day of Web 2.0 learning. I have quite a bit of work ahead of me in these last few weeks as I guide my 6th, 7th, and 8th graders through projects in which they utilize Web 2.0 tools I have learned about in Project Elite.

My primary task today was to prepare the assignment documents for my last projects of the year with 8th graders. I am giving them  the choice to use Glogster or Voicethread. And since it’s so late in the year (and I likely will see them only a few more times due to graduation rehearsals and other end-of-the-year irregularities) this project will not require in-depth research. The students are encouraged to share information or express themselves about something about which they are passionate – a book, a movie, a music group, a cultural tradition, a personal story, etc. I also suggest that they explore Teen Health and Wellness to identify a topic of concern to people their age. I wanted to take one more opportunity to bring that resource to their attention. Here is the two-page assignment as it stands right now:

8th grade Glogster Voicethread project

I fully expect this project (as well as the print information I provide about it) to change. This is the first time that I have tried to summarize directions for how to use relatively complex tools. Between the two of these tools, Glogster is the more complex. I predict that for some students detailed directions and live modeling will be more than they need to use these tools easily and successfully. But I also predict that it won’t be enough for others! I will get a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of this assignment as it stands after rolling it out tomorrow.
In the meantime, what fun I had this weekend in Web 2.0 land!

Last week’s Project Elite assignment required us to use Animoto.com, which creates online slide shows accompanied by music. I am going to use this tool with my 6th graders, who will create “book trailers” of favorite titles. I cobbled together one promoting Savvy by Ingrid Law. Check it out: SAVVY

Exploring Animoto a little more deeply today, I realized that it interfaces with Facebook (and other online photo services). That allowed me to import all the photos from an existing set of photos of a recent family wedding in a few seconds, select a song, and generate a really terrific product in NO TIME. I immediately e-mailed the link to the bride and texted her to check her e-mail when her husband arrived home. And guess what? The bride cried! Success! Click here to see why: KIM’S WEDDING You may notice that I used the same song in both slide shows. There are many, many other song options (available within Animoto or elsewhere) but I just really liked that song!

Looking more closely at Voicethread today, I was further delighted to see that Voicethread also interfaces with other services to ease the importing of images – from Flickr, Facebook, the New York Public Library, and from my own existing voicethreads. In the case of Flickr and the New York Public Library, Voicethread directs users to items that are public domain. This is a very welcome discovery, as it is a very tough sale to persuade students to seek out public domain items over the first thing to pop up in a search of Google images. I can confidently demonstrate the use of these tools and promote appropriate use of others’ work at the same time!

I solved a problem myself today! I realized late last week that my library lab computers don’t allow the window in Glogster to open that is needed to “grab” audio or visual images from a microphone or a webcam. A call to the CPS technology support service made it clear that they had no solution. So I figured out how students can create audio recordings of themselves and save them as sound files (using Microsoft Sound Recorder) and then upload those recordings into Glogster. That felt good! Along the way I discovered the “Snipping tool” that allows the user to create an image file of a portion of whatever is on the computer screen. I am not sure that the “Snipping tool” is an option of the operating system installed on the library computer lab units, but I hope so!

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.