Thing 16: You Pick! Nearpod

The Fifties in 3D
“The Fifties in 3D.” 11th May 11, 1951.National Archives UK. No known copyright restrictions.

This has been an exciting year in my school district in regards to educational technology. During the summer we set up our technology mentor program. The tech mentors are a group of teachers from across the district that are technology enthusiasts, that use educational technologies with their students, and that are willing to support other teachers to use technologies in their classrooms. This year we also had iPads  available for student use in the classroom. One of the technologies we saw at our tech mentor training over the summer was something called Nearpod.

Nearpod is an online presentation tool and it does have an app for tablet devices and smartphones. Just imagine you are giving a lecture. You slides, instead of displaying on a large screen in front of the class, are on display on the students’ computers, tablet devices, or smartphones.  Preprogramed questions popup between the slides at critical points so that your students can submit responses to critical questions. You can instantly see the students responses to gage their understanding of the concepts of your lesson. Nearpod presentations are easy to create and easy to use, and you can also get reports of students’ responses. Nearpod allows you to turn your static slideshow into an interactive learning experience.

During this school year, I collaborated with another tech mentor (a High School science teacher) on a Nearpod presentation for our Board of Education to introduce some of these ‘new to our school district’ technologies for educational use. I have also demonstrated it at faculty meetings, and most recently at a BOCES SLS Council meeting, to discuss how this technology could be used for formative evaluation in the classroom. It is wildly popular in the Elementary and Middle Schools. Some of the interesting applications have included using Nearpod as a tool for reviewing materials and as an exit ticket tool. I find it to be a very versatile tool and I enjoy seeing how my teachers use it with their students.


Thing 14: Social Reading & Book Stuff

Brooke, John Warwick. 'Good Friends' An Artillery driver and his horse enjoy a rest' [circa 1918]. [Official Photograph Taken on the British Western Front in France.] From the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928). First World War 'Official Photographs'. National Library of Scotland, no known copyright restrictions.

Brooke, John Warwick. ‘Good Friends’ An Artillery driver and his horse enjoy a rest’ [circa 1918]. [Official Photograph Taken on the British Western Front in France.] From the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928). First World War ‘Official Photographs’. National Library of Scotland, no known copyright restrictions.

This topic covers a lot of interesting items subjects, so for this activity I will focus on ‘Book Stuff’, my personal experiences with vendor ebooks and how these might be implemented in my school library.

I remember my first experience several years ago with borrowing audiobooks from the local public library. They had just implemented OverDrive for ebooks and audiobooks. Although I do own both an ebook reader and a tablet computer, I still find myself  purchasing print books. I guess I like the experience of wandering through the isles of the bookstores better than browsing online. I do, however, find myself regularly checking out audiobooks from the library so I was interested to explore what was available through OverDrive.

My initial findings were not very affirmative at that time. There were not many titles available in this collection that were iOS compatible and of those that were, they were not titles (or authors) that I was interested in reading. I did notice earlier this winter that more items were iOS compatible, and upon digging, I did notice some titles and authors that I might find of interest to me. I have since enjoyed titles like “Soon I Will Be Invincible” (Austin Grossman, 2007), “Gods Behaving Badly” (Marie Phillips, 2007), “The Diviners” (Libba Bray, 2012), and several Terry Pratchett novels.

I did notice again, that I could not find  several popular-press authors that I currently follow nor specific titles that one might consider as seminal works of science fiction. Perhaps this was because of a collection-development practices of either OverDrive or the library system, or maybe my tastes are ‘too eclectic’, I don’t know but I continue to monitor these holdings.

With this in mind, I think about the ebooks currently available in my library collection. As a result of being in the ‘right place at the right time’ last year, I have numerious nonfiction, reference, and literature titles to support the Common Core. These available from several different vendors. When I mention to others at school that we’ve got ebooks, the first thing they ask about are fiction titles for their ebook readers. So with this in mind, I am currently exploring collection development practices for fiction ebooks so that I can better meet this need.

As for OverDrive, I do have the app installed on my tablet computer right next to the Nook app. I am currently teaching an experimental elective for High School Students on using mobile technologies and we will be examining both how to access ebooks from the library and how to create ebooks. I’m looking forward to working with my students on this topic.

Thing 6: Curation Tools

Many years ago when I started my studies to become a librarian, the Internet was still relatively new. I remember the challenges I saw finding material with subject directories. I remember the challenges I had creating and maintaining web pages of hyperlinks that would seemingly never be as ‘up to date’ and ‘content volumous’ as any readily available search engine. I also remember the frustration of trying to compare different search engines to find which one worked better for me. There had to be a better way to tackle this monster. Tools have emerged to allow us to easily organize and share bookmarks, curate digital content, and aggregate online information.

Earlier I described my experience with using Delicious (see Thing 3: Social Bookmarking). I needed a tool to act as a database of hyperlinks that would automatically put this same information onto instructional web pages so that I could easily recycle my content onto different pages as needed without having to edit everything whenever something new emerged. This worked fine until it was relaunched in 2011 as a reinvented product in a beta format. At that time I began to explore Diigo only to discover at that time that it was blocked by the school web filter (so was Delicious until I requested it be unblocked). The Delicious product has since settled down to become more reliable for the way that I use it.

Both Delicious and Diigo allow users to save, annotate, and tag bookmarks so that these can easily be found, clustered, and shared with others. Both allow you to follow and be followed by others. Both also offer plugins for web browsers, apps for mobile devices, and support for API or javascript allowing sophisticated users other avenues to interact with their bookmarks. Diigo does offer services for education (K-12 and higher ed) as well as specific tools to promote literacy and higher order thinking skills. I could easily see Middle School and High School teachers using Diigo as a research tool to collect and organize their resources, and as a literacy/plagiarism-prevention tool so that students could annotate these resources.

I joined Pinterest shortly after it started only to be overwhelmed by what it wanted to do. This was put onto the back burner until I had time to figure out how I could use it. I did revisit it as part of this online course. Pinterest allows users to ‘pin’ images (or movies) from one’s computer (or ‘repin’ someone else’s images) onto a virtual bulletin board. Numerous board can be created for these boards and each pin includes a URL and a description. It also appears that you can follow others and that others can follow you. While not as overwhelming as it was before, I am looking around for other school libraries (and libraries in general) to follow so that I can see how they use it for instructional purposes. I could see something like Pinterest being used to create virtual bulletin board displays to celebrate or promote different events. I do need to check if it is accessible on the school network in which case I would use it as part of student instruction, otherwise it could be used as an outreach vehicle to share information to the community.

I discovered Flipboard about a year and a half ago when I purchased my iPad. All the online news, magazines, and blogs, all organized in an inviting visual format that flips open when the app is launched (nice animation by the way) with access to older material from these sites. Preloaded with many resources and users can add additional resources as desired. This app is available for iOS and Android devices. While other information aggregators are available, this is the coolest one I have encountered so far. When I wrote the proposal for an iPad lab at school, this was one of the apps I requested to promote student literacy.

Clearly as information professionals and educators, we now have tools available ‘other than search engines’ to make online information readily available in ways that our students (the consumers) can easily use it. I also find it neat that many of these curation tools will also allow both the content creators and well as the content consumers to share this information through other forms of social media. It is indeed a good time to be a librarian and a teacher.

Thing 4: Photo Sharing, Part 3

Girl Taking Photo of Dog

N.d.; National Media Museum; Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Whenever I explore a ‘new to  me’  Web 2.0 technology, or I revisit something neat that I have not used in a long while, I think about how I might use this at school. Could this be used in the classroom, or as way to promote a particular program. If I cannot answer these questions, I should move on to something else. While exploring Flickr, I walked away with some interesting ideas.

I like that people can post images with Creative Commons licensing and that you can search for images that have a Creative Commons license. This option is found on Flickr’s advanced search page. The challenges are that (1) the only link I have found to advanced search is at the top of a search results page, and (2) the options for Creative Commons are at the bottom of the advanced search page. I could see  myself using this with students to help them understand the difference between copyright and licensing. This discussion would be meaningful for high school students who would tend to be the creative types because they probably have things that they wish to share with others. This would also be valuable to students (and teachers) creating educational  resources.

I also like the idea of Flickr Commons, photographic archives from institutions around the world. Fortunately, you can get to this from the main page. These are historical photographs of people, places, and events. Metadata (e.g.: title, date, physical description, repository, etc.) is also readily available for these images. I now find myself regularly checking Flickr Commons (as well as the advanced search’s limit to Creative Commons) for images to be included as part of my blog postings or slide show presentations. I could see myself using Flickr Commons with social studies or other classes seeking historical photographs for their class projects. I could also see myself using it to talk with students about attribution and citing sources for their research projects.

I am glad that I revisited Flickr. This Web 2.0 tool has many neat characteristics that can easily be used with my Middle School and High School students to provide them with both a historical context for their lessons as well as a better understanding the need for attribution of other’s creative works.

Thing 4: Photo Sharing, Part 2

Another CameraAt a recent staff development workshop at school, the principal casually said something in front of a room full of teachers that stuck in the back of my mind. He said that one of the things he wanted to do was to share with the local community what was happening in the school. He also said that in his conversations with parents and others, that they wanted to see what the students were doing in the classroom.

As the day continued, I wondered about what kinds of things happened in the classroom that could easily be documented in a meaningful way and how best to make these artifacts available to others outside the school. While there are many teachers that do lots of neat things with their students, there was one particular department that came to mind in which the students create a lot of neat stuff that could easily be photographed and posted onto the Internet for others to appreciate. I emailed the department chair to see if she or her teachers might be interested in doing something. She responded enthusiastically, saying that they wanted to explore blogging and other technologies and asked me if I would attend their next department meeting in January to discuss these ideas. (Please note that since I have not yet met with these teachers, I will be referring to the  as “the department” through out the rest of this posting.)

My thinking is that the teachers in this department could take pictures of their students’ creative works and these pictures could be put onto a photo-sharing website. Ideally, the photo-sharing website would allow for images to be tagged and organized so that people could easily find either student-created items for a specific project or items created during the school year by that specific teacher’s class. In addition, the teachers might also want to include a description of the assignment or the techniques used by the students to provide background information about the students’ creative works presented.

I explored using Flickr as the photo-sharing service. It allows users to organize their images into sets (or albums), and to add descriptive information to each image (title, description, tags, etc.) The sets were also identifiable by title and a description about the set could also be added. Flickr also allows users to easily make images public or private, to apply Creative Commons licenses to these images. RSS feeds are also available for the sets, and individual images could also be shared through a variety of means (sharing through social media, as a link, or through html code for a web page).

I could easily see the teachers in this department express an interest in possibly using Flickr to showcase their students’ works. Each teacher desiring to use it would need to create their own accounts. I would recommend that they create a set for each of their class assignments and to tag their images with some meaningful information (perhaps by medium or subject). I did create a collection of sets to show these teachers to illustrate how Flickr could be used. I look forward to sharing these with them and I would be glad support them on this project if they wanted to do something.

I like the way that Flickr meets all of the criteria for this possible application at my school. It would allow both the department and the school to easily share stuff that the students are doing in the classroom with the community. It would be very easy for these teachers to upload images and organize these into albums. Other school departments or programs might also be interested in doing something similar. It would also foster a very meaningful dialog between teachers, students, administrators, and others about how this and other Web 2.0 technologies could be used safely within a K-12 school setting. I am glad that I was at that staff development workshop to hear this wish being expressed.

Personal Learning Networks and Digital Identities

Earlier this week I read Sarah Kessler’s “5 Best Practices for Educators on Facebook“. Kessler’s practices made a lot of sense to me as a teacher wanting to use Facebook as part of my library program. In face, I would say that these practices could easily be adapted for any type of social media, Web 2.0, or personal learning networks in K-12 education:

  • Stay true to your focus when using it
  • Always ‘friend’ with caution
  • Learn about the different ways to use it to best meet your communication needs
  • Consider alternatives that might better meet your communication needs

Then the other day I received the current issue of NEA Today and I found an interesting article by Tim Walker and Rebeca Logan about managing one’s digital identity (“Is It Time to Scrub Your Digital Identity?” dated 9/7/2012). I found this article interesting for several reasons. The authors remind teachers using social media, either as a teaching professional in the classroom with students or as a private individual, that they may have posted things that may come back to haunt them. They also discus the idea of digital footprints and professional digital identities.

So, why do these articles resonate for me? I see two different elements of information, regardless if it is in print or online. First, there is the context is it what the readers were expecting, will it help the readers meet their needs. Second, there is the author providing the information what makes this person an authoritative source of information. These practices will help provide a focus for what  we (as teachers) are doing and, if we monitor our digital footprints and manage our professional digital identities, we will be seen more easily as teaching professionals.