Posts Tagged 'uTenn'

Digital storytelling with iMovie

In the technology course for preservice teachers that I am facilitating this summer, we spent the past week creating digital stories with iMovie. Here is the story I created. I like it. What do you think?


Featured student blog: meet Ann

Cross-posted at Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Many teachers shy away from contemporary music. Why? It could be because their own teachers did the same.

That quote comes from Ann, an aspiring music educator at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She and 14 other pre-service teachers are enrolled in a section of IT486, Intro to Instructional Computing, that I am teaching this summer. The course examines how to use technology to support teaching and learning and is designed to prepare novice teachers to integrate a variety of computer-based technologies.

One aspect of the course design that I really enjoy and value is the blog for reflective journaling. This is a required component. During the first week of the course, each student signed up for a blog at Google’s Blogger. They were given a certain amount of license in the look and feel of the blog, but the overarching rationale for the pre-service teacher blog is the same: to develop and practice the reflective process. (More on that later.)

But why blend an introspective mode of writing such as journal writing with a public medium such as blogs?

As Christopher Sessums maintains:

Collaborative weblogs promote the idea of learners as creators of knowledge, not merely consumers of information. A collaborative environment like the one I’m suggesting can allow peers to be seen as valuable sources of knowledge and ideas; a connection that participants can rely on beyond any formal classroom structure, i.e., collaboration leading to a community of interest.

So to that end, I have been making readerly comments on each pre-service teacher’s blog, and I am encouraging the class to follow, read, and comment on each others’ blogs.

And now, to go a step further, I seek to shine a spotlight (or, in the case of our music major, “sound a trumpet”) on some provocative posts in hopes of inducting our novice edubloggers into some of the wonderfully generous and nurturing networks of teacher/learners that have supported me in the past — communities such as Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Ann’s commentary on the state of music education strikes a chord because she describes a phenomenon that transcends content area and grade level: teachers tend to teach in the manner in which they were taught. Why is this so? How do we press forward into new realms of teaching and learning and resist falling back on tired and familiar practices that have outlived their effectiveness for today’s learners?

What do you think? I invite you to visit Ann’s blog and share your thoughts and feedback with her.

21st century mentoring

I just completed an independent inquiry on the implications of Web 2.0 on mentoring and induction of new and novice teachers. The project spanned two semesters, and I learned a lot.

I am posting the final report in PDF. I also have a companion wiki, which is still in development. Stop by for a visit and tell me what you think!

My first lil’ mashup

The assignment seemed a little old-school: simply make a PowerPoint presentation and embed a sound clip. Come on, do I really have time for this?!

But it was a way for our professor to engage us in a rudimentary form of “remix” and “mashup,” common practices among youth that were mostly unfamiliar to us teachers enrolled in this semester’s reading education seminar on multiliteracies at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. For that reason, I could appreciate the professor’s pedagogy: giving a purposely unstructured assignment with minimal parameters and setting us free to playfully explore the potential and pitfalls of computer-mediated content creation.

Still, as you will see, my resulting slideshow (or “screencast”), is decidedly teacher-centered and bears that unmistakable corporate imprint that only PowerPoint software can convey — so clean, so slick, and oh so sterile. (The 2-minute, 30-second presentation is designed to be a conversation starter for teens and teachers about the obstacles and opportunities involved in “growing up digital.” It also ties into a thematic, annotated reading list I compiled on the subject of digital literacy.)

Nonetheless, I am proud of my lil’ mashup for three reasons:

  1. Although I did rely on the ubiquitous and wholly familiar PowerPoint application, I prepared my sound clips using Audacity, a free, open source, cross-platform audio editor. Through trial and error, I learned to import and edit music files, cut and paste sound clips, and export a wav file, essentially creating the “soundtrack” for my slideshow.
  2. To push my content out to the wider Internet audience, I used a free Web 2.0 application called SlideShare. SlideShare enables users to upload PowerPoint slides and create a product that is truly replicable, shareable, embeddable.
  3. Before I could turn my uploaded slideshow into a “screencast” with synchronized music, I had to convert my wav file into an mp3. For this operation, I tried a free demo version of Switch Sound File Conversion Software.

Whew! All this without benefit of teacher, textbook, user manual, or live help desk. Just experimentation with a bit of obsession thrown in.

My biggest take-away? The amount of time and dedication it took for me to undertake this style of self-moderated, trial-and-error learning. These are the new literacy practices that many young people regularly engage in outside the confines of the traditional classroom. Amazing!

Overall, I am pleased with the results. What do you think?

Another read/write web testimonial

I have Dr. Jay Pfaffman at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to thank for helping me draw the distinction between conventional web publishing and the new “push-button” publishing of the read/write web.

And I have the teachers who responded to my embarrassingly self-conscious post, Confessions of a blog disciple, to thank for inspiring this post. Their comments reminded me of Dr. Pfaffman’s lesson.

At the beginning of the spring 2007 semester, Dr. Pfaffman required those enrolled in IT 521, Introduction to Computer Applications in Education, to publish a web page and describe in detail how we did it. We were allowed, though not required, to use the university’s Volspace server, if we could figure out how to upload web files to it. (Every UT-Knoxville student is guaranteed 50 MB of file storage there.)

Well, at that point in January 2007, I had exactly one semester of instructional technology graduate work under my belt and still hadn’t learned the mysterious protocols of Volspace, which completely stumped me. Had it not been for the helpful staff at my college’s digital media lab, I wouldn’t have been able to post any projects from the previous semester’s introductory course in multimedia.

So on one sleepless night in January, fueled by an endless stream of coffee and trail mix, I bumbled through Dr. Pfaffman’s web assignment, without crying, as he promised some of us would. And, thus, I published my first-ever web page.

Because I am an instructional technology student, I felt compelled, by hook or by crook, to master the university’s server. Other students in the class from different majors and disciplines were not so inclined, as I discovered the next day when we were required to report back on our fledgling attempts to produce a web page. And that is how I first became aware of the numerous easy and free publishing opportunities currently available on the web.

And then came blogs. A few weeks after our first assignment, Dr. Pfaffman asked us to choose any service and create a blog. I think the assignment would have had more impact had he required us to do it at the same time we attempted the more conventional method of web publishing.

All I can say is after less than 30 minutes on Blogger, I was up and running with a functional, interactive, highly customizable publishing space to call my own. No specialized training, no expensive software, and no frantic calls to tech support.

Clearly, this has been one of the most transformative moments in my journey as a teacher/learner. My experiences in the last 9 months leave me with questions, similar to what Ms. Whatsit asks:

What good does spending any money on technology do if students are treated as if it’s too dangerous for them, teachers are considered too naïve to use it wisely, and district officials are too far behind and out of touch to plan for its implementation in practical educational contexts today?

Should we use the tools simply because they are cheap, highly intuitive, and easily accessible? No. We should use them based on proof they enhance self-directed learning and facilitate student, parent, and community engagement. The proof will come through the combined aggregate of our stories, our “testimonials,” if you will. So I will keep sharing tidbits as I scale that learning curve, and I hope you will, too.

That’s what I think.

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April is the cruelest month: an update on my IT 521 projects

Well, it’s April, and the countdown is on. I haven’t posted in a while, so here is a progress report on my final projects for IT 521.

My PC, which continues to run Ubuntu splendidly, is still not wireless. Unfortunately, I have had to shift my attention away from it to work on other assignments and projects for IT 521. In hopes of solving the wireless issue, I did try installing the 7.04 beta mode upgrade available off the front page of the Ubuntu website. The download and install went smoothly, but there is still no Internet access without a network cable. Overall, I am pleased with the speed and ease of the Ubuntu OS but would very much like to solve the wireless problem.

My focus this past week has been on Inspiration and open-source concept mapping software (CMap and FreeMind). This IT 521 assignment really held my attention because I was able to use these tools to complete other course work as well as help a friend plan a vacation. For example, I mapped the effects of NCLB legislation using CMap. I also created an interactive outline of barbecue restaurants and live music venues in Austin, Texas. Not too shabby!

Now, I am focused on Webliograpaher. I have set up two Webliographer pages as part of my semester project in IT 521. Here are the links:

Publish Me! Webliographer
Fulton High School Webliographer

On Tuesday, April 3, I will conduct a brief, after-school inservice for Fulton High School faculty members who want to participate in the Fulton Webliographer. I hope to help at least a few teachers register a user account and start adding their own URLs. I am especially interested in selling the simplicity and efficiency of web-based bookmarking, a concept I didn’t know about until this semester. There is tremendous value here for the classroom teacher who wishes to seamlessly integrate Internet resources into instruction.

Virus scanner? Check. Printer? Check. Wireless connection? Nope.

Tonight I installed a virus scanner using the add/remove menu on the applications toolbar of Ubuntu. There is a search tool you can use to locate different open source applications offered by the Ubuntu community. Installing the scanner was easy, but Ron says it is not the same as virus protection. I’ll keep looking for open source virus protection.

Re-installing my HP 1315 all-in-one printer was also pretty easy. Under the system toolbar I selected “administration” and then “printing.” From there I clicked on “printer” and then “add printer.” Ubuntu walks you through a three-step process to add a printer.

I don’t have a clue about how to reconfigure my wireless connection. I am still connecting to the Internet using a network cable. If anyone out there is reading this and has an idea, please tell me!


Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy