Thursday, February 21, 2008

The NC 1:1 Learning Collaborative

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One of the many projects at The Friday Inst is the NC 1:1 Learning Collaborative. I blogged their initial meeting last September and have been throwing my 2cents in every once in awhile. Recently, they have asked me to help blog on their site - specifically in the Cool Tools section. Since I am such a gadget girl - it is right up my alley!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Which tool fits the job?

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I've been investigating e-portfolios and Social Networks and CMS and and and and.........

There seems to be a never ending pool of tools, free and expensive that are all geared towards what I am trying to accomplish - facilitating teaching. I have been lost in the sea of, "Do we use one tool?" "Do we try to integrate separate tools?" "Do we try to take what we already have and force it to work?" "Do we try to go where our students are already located?"

Luckily, I am not alone in this frustration and these blogs have helped me along the way. Jeff Utecht's post on his tech plan summarizes how and why we are looking for different products to support one another. The irony is that at a large university like I am we have sometime more constraints on this process, because certain aspects of this plan are already available to our students. Duplicating resources is not only confusing - it is against policy. Jeff discusses 2 major components of what I am looking at - a Social Network & a CMS. We have had a CMS on campus for almost a decade, but I'm interested in leveraging a CMS (specifically a Moodle) for other purposes.

Then, last Fall David Warlick came to speak at a MEGA event and spoke about Social Networks - right when my brain was churning with them. I had been heavily looking into ELGG, Drupal, & Mahara as answers to my social networking debate. I have been coming back to the notion - "Do we got to where our students are?" or "Do we ask them to come to us?" I still haven't found an answer to that, and to complicate matters our campus has restricted the use of any offsite teaching portal for FERPA & ADA reasons. All of the products I mentioned above are open source and can be installed on a server. Yet Ning comes into my life and I fall in love with its ease of use. So now I'm trying to get a local install of Ning and see how I can get that to work on a virtual server.

Then I get trapped in the world of e-portfolios. How do you define an eportfolio? Is it summative or formative? Who needs the data? What is the purpose behind an e-portfolio? We used Taskstream in the past, which allowed for both user created portfolios that illustrate their best work, as well as a formative portfolio that serves as an example for an accrediting body, such as NCATE & NCDPI. But with Taskstream gone, we are creating our own a accreditation portfolio system (to track "signature" artifacts"). Yet, where does this leave our "Student Teaching Portfolio" - an example of our students best work? We go back to web page based portfolio, and discover that our students know NOTHING about webpage design or FTP, etc. (Which is an issue all in itself that I am coming to terms with technology as an elective). This becomes a bear and a burden and even with the best intentions is not working out well.

So I look for a solution - is it a Social Network? Is it Google Pages? or is it a CMS? Possibly a Moodle?

But in the end - the crux of the issue is "What do we need?" and "What is this technology trying to help with?" and eventually "Can this scale up well?" I have come to these conclusions....

Moodle can work for us in three ways
1) It can illustrate to our students how to teach with a CMS
2) It can allow non-university students to join in (All of our Backboard Vista classes are driven by Registration & Records - this does not help with Professional Development needs)
3) What about using Moodle for our portfolios

This last bullet I have been pondering for awhile. It would allow our students to keep their accounts longer that the University dictates, it would be on our severs, and it is Browser driven (no html or ftp confusion). But How......

Low & behold I come across what Georgetown is doing

Now if I can just convince everyone that I may have actually found a tool to fit our needs, we might be in business.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gateway Technology Center

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On Friday of last week I was asked to present at the Gateway Technology Center in Rocky Mount, NC about the technology tools we use in Distance Ed @ NC State. Friday was bit of a whirl for me since Evan was sick (and little did I know that I was on my way to being sick as well). But I finally made it up to their facility. Wow, was I impressed. Not only is the building nice, it is functional and professional, the people were very gracious as well. I love the idea of the Gateway Center - two colleges in the UNCGA system, NCSU & ECU have created this place to serve the underrepresented areas of the state, in this case the North East. As landgrant institutions it is important that we give back to our state. It is easy for us to help thos in our backyard, but the NE areas of our state are not surrounded by a large institution.

So the Gateway Center can act as a satellite location to help facilitate our work with this area. In this case we were showcasing the use of "cohort based distance ed" by the Two plus Two program of the College of Engineering. This program facilitates students taking two years of community college courses and then transferring to NCSU for their last two years (no comment on actually finishing in 4 years :) . They have placed instructors at specific community college locations to facilitate video conferencing between the remote site and on campus. This way they can start taking NCSU classes before they transfer to on-campus.

We were able to illustrate the use of high end video conferencing through Polycoms, as well as using Elluminate for presentations and whiteboarding. These are all synchronous learning tools that are integral to the cohort based distance ed model.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

YouTube for Your School

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I love Video - I love teaching Video - I love working with students and seeing the videos they create. What I hate about video is how looooooong it takes to render. How much space it takes up on my machine and how it seems to get lost on a DVD in my cabinet never to be found again.

So YouTube or TeacherTube is my answer, right? Well, maybe, but what if you could do something better?

We discovered Clipshare, a server based solution that allows for a YouTube-esque flash based video server, that can be housed locally.

Now my faculty and students can login and upload all the video they want. It converts it to flash, so my files sizes are low and I have the universality of a flash player. Add to that the fact that some videos can be private, videos can be downloaded, and all authentication is controlled by our current system - and you have a winner.

Now, the only problem we have run into (and this I don't know personally) is that it is a bit of a pain to install because of all the video codec types it accepts. However, for a product under $300 - this has been a good investment.

So check it out!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Why did I go to grad school?

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a follow up from -
Why did I become a teacher?

Most of my life has been about plans and list making (I blame my mother). I made this list when I was 16:

-Go to college (Check)
-Find Husband in college (Check)
-Get Married (Check)
-Become successful engineer/archaeologist living in Africa (this is where it starts to get fuzzy - as well as way to influenced by my love of Indiana Jones)

So when I made the decision to become a teacher (see previous post) I made this list (and it is sequential)
-Graduate (Check)
-Get Married (Check)
-Teach school (Check)
-Have kids before 30 (Ummm...)
-Stay at home with kids (gulp)
-Go to grad school before reentering the workforce (Ummm...gulp..)

So as you can see my "list" did not exactly pan out. Now I have thrown out my timeline lists and discovered that life just kind of works itself out. I intended to make teaching high school my career (unless George Lucas called asking for my input on a script) I intended to have kids and stay-at-home. I intended to have the house with the white picket fence. Yet, deep down I knew that I would never be happy with a cookie cutter life (and luckily I married someone of the same mind). So when life changed - I change and I enjoyed the ride.

OK, so back to my current timeline....

When we moved back to NC from Maryland - I really wanted to get back into education and find the perfect job. When the position at NC State came up and I got it - grad school was not on my mind. But suddenly I was emersed in the world of academia and I needed to be in grad school just to catch up (hell I just needed to understand what they were saying!) I waffled between Tech Ed, Training & Development, & what I finally settled on, Instructional technology.

I love my college, I love my program, but I also began to love the learning process of graduate school. The dialog, the discussions (Which is probably why I like blogging) and in all honesty it was harder, but better than undergrad. It took everything I had to finish my coursework while I was pregnant (2 semesters of 2 course while working full time) and then 2 courses last semester when I returned from work from maternity leave.

Yet, I found myself stuck. The proposal I had written for my research no longer inspired me. It was antiquated in my mind (the subject was PowerPoint and How much was too much info to put on a slide) and no longer thrilled me. So what did I do - I ignored it. Like all good procrastinators I let it slide and then fester in the back of my mind. So what do you do? Stick with what is already there? and uninspiring? or start from scratch? and do something passionate?

I hope to be passionate and start in a new direction. We'll see how it works out....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Interactive WhiteBoards - AKA SmartBaord vs. Sympodium, vs. Mimio

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I often get asked, "What do I buy?" and my first answer is always, "What are you using it for?" I find this is coming again in reference to creating a new classroom. The issue with technology is - do you prepare you future teachers with technology in the schools? or with a better technology that you can provide in a University? My mindset again goes back to context. Also, since I see my job as infusing technology into the professors class interactions it will naturally become part of their student's repertoire. Because as we know - we teach how we are taught and the better our professor's can lead by example the better off our students will be in using technology in their classrooms.

So this begs the question, Do I install a SmartBoard or a Sympodium? (Or I'll even throw in there - a Mimo) Well in this case, the purpose of the classroom is for Elementary Pre-service teachers. Elementary schools are not only more likely to have SmartBoards (or Interactive WhiteBoards of any kind) they are also more conducive to the Elementary style of teaching. While Sympodiums are very lecture centered and work very well in the high school and university halls. Mimio I see as the flexible interactive white board. Until we can all get SmartBoards in every classroom - Mimio's help bridge the gap and make ANY whiteboard an interactive one.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

VoiceThread in Elementary School

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I am working again with students in our elementary teaching program on creating a VoiceThread. They will be creating them for an Oral History Project for their class. I have bookmarked some of the VoiceThreads I will be showing to the class on and hope to continually add to this group. I have also created a wiki page to go along with the workshop.

So far I found some really great example VoiceThreads:

5th Grade Federal Holiday Proposals

Kindergarden Sponge Activity

Civil War - Carolina's Campaign (Middle School)

North Carolina & Kuwait - students learn culture through pictures

I'll also be talking to them about blogging and our new CED Video Server. I'll follow up on not only the class, but also what other topics I end up covering.


I'm not sure if it is the weather, or what - but I have been in a major slump personally and professionally this week. I have little to zero motivation to get anything done. I'm also falling into the procrastination cycle where I put something off for so long that it tortures and festers the back of my mind and then I really don't want to confront the fact that I have put it off for so long.

I'm *hoping* that I can regain some steam today and start planning some big projects again. My work life has been so focused on accomplishing one goal for so long that I feel a bit lost. Add to that the fact I missed all my research deadlines last semester so I can graduate in May - basically I'm pushed back a semester - I just feel, well, blah.