Monday, November 23, 2009

The transformative technology of eBook Readers

Recently I traveled to Australia, which entails, at least from my part of the world, 33 hours of travel (counting layovers and one 14 hour flight). Although I think of myself as a seasoned traveler, I worried about how I would "endure." My husband has traveled much more extensively than I have (he has only one continent left - Antarctica - before he has been to them all), his recommendation has always been to take less, not more. If he had his way, I'm sure we would have only brought enough stuff for 2 days and washed every other day, but I digress....

I had been interested in eBook readers for awhile, but this trip seemed like the perfect catalyst to see if I would really use one. Luckily, the library at my university has a lending library of eBook readers with various titles, including the Kindle & Sony reader, that I was able to use for 1 week to see if I would invest $300 in this device.

Now there have been multiple reviews of eBook readers, of the Kindle and Sony devices, of the DRM issues, etc, etc, etc. But I needed to decide what was good for me, my reading habits, my travel needs, and my bank account. In the end I settled on a Kindle, and with a few reservations it has been a truly transformational technology. And its not for the reasons I thought it would be.

The Kindle is transformative to me because of its ease of use. Its ability to decide to read a book, and buy it within the same minute. To read a 800 page book (which I am now) while lying in bed without a neck cramp. To stop reading one book and pick up another with ease.

And that is what makes technology transformative - when I don't really even think about using it. I just do because it makes sense. When we talk about being relevant to our teachers - this is what we mean. Technology no longer is an afterthought - but the first thought. There is no way to think of doing something without it.

Oh and as for my trip to Australia, I walked on the plane with just my purse - which had my Kindle and my iPhone (for movies and music). It was a freeing experience...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Setting up a Twitter account for your school

After almost 2 1/2 years of using Twitter personally, my college is finally to the point of implementing a Twitter account. In the begining I was completely hesitant, but after the popularity of our Facebook Fan page - I believe we are ready to start with Twitter (ncsu_ced). NC State, especially the techie side, has been twittering for a while. They've even created a great page to aggregate all of the "official feeds" from the university. Yesterday, I attended a university training about Twitter, as well as some guidelines for having an official Twitter feed. Jason Austin, Tim Jones & John Martin.

Now we currently don't have any "official" guidelines, but they did have a few recommendations. High on their list was looking at the University of Florida's social media guidelines (PDF), which really showcase best practices.

Twitter — Best Practices
Writing and Engaging Followers
Post regularly – Three to four tweets per day. Provide consistent, ongoing and relevant content. Committed, ongoing effort over several months.
Be retweet friendly — Limit tweet characters so that your message can be rebroadcast or retweeted. This will allow your message to be virally sent out and still refer to your original site.
Retweet — Retweet relevant material from UF and external sources. It builds a
relationship between other media sources and followers and establishes you as a valuable source of information.
Acknowledge followers — When possible, a direct message thanking a follower for following your account builds rapport.

Account Name — Name of profile should reflect name of UF name/unit, not the person updating feed. Use the website and profile description to add further content about your unit and its mission.
Bio Information — Provide account owner/manager name in your Twitter bio - this provides transparency and accountability. If you use an application like CoTweet to allow for multiple managers, develop a standard of signing tweets so individual manager's contributions can be quantified.
Following — University Twitter feeds are encouraged to follow the feeds of other University units.
UF Policies — All produced content must adhere to current UF policy, including (but not limited to) the Acceptable Use Policy. Always remember that as an official UF Twitter account, you are representing the University.
Registration — Register with Web Administration in order to be added to a list of official Twitter accounts. This will provide a means of gaining followers and will also be an official verification of UF affiliation.

Avatar — Create a branded avatar that represents both the University and your unit.
Background — Develop a Twitter background that reflects your University branding and that of your unit.

John Martin from OIT had some guidelines about purpose. He suggested that you consider not only your audience, but also categorize what you want to tweet about - if it doesn't fit into those categories - don't tweet it. His are:
  • Advertising
  • Announcements
  • News
We're getting our feet wet with what we want to accomplish with Twitter. I personally am trying to figure out where my personal account ends and the college one begins. I'm hoping that some tools like Seesmic will help me keep up with the multiple accounts.

How have you handled school accounts?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Using Prezi to create a Presentation

A few weeks ago it was Open House on NC State's campus and for the first time I was asked to talk about the technology we have at the College of Education. I dutifully made my "Presentation Zen" style PowerPoint and showed up for the rehearsal. I had completely forgotten that I had taught the other presenters how to make PowerPoint Zen-like and they wanted to know why I wasn't push the envelope! I was even challenged to use "something like Prezi" to make a big splash. Now I already had my presentation finished, so I kept that as my back-up and decided to try out Prezi.

First of all, I found Prezi to be unlike any other presentation tool I had ever used, and I mean that in a good and bad way. For the first time in a long time I found myself going through the tutorials and watching the videos to see how this thing worked. It was almost a blessing that I had already done my PP, because without that organization I would have been lost. Prezi really does force you to have an outline before you start. Once I got going it was fairly easy, but it still took a while to work out the kinks.

My lessons learned are:
  1. I tended to use words more with Prezi than I typically do. But words almost as "art."
  2. Images that do not have hard edges, or have a white background that matches work better (Think every image of a Mac you've ever seen :)
  3. You can group objects utilizing frames, otherwise it just zooms into one object in particular
  4. When you rotate an object on your grid, that is what causes the camera to rotate and zoom. In other words, it may be angling to the left on your grid, but during the presentation it will zoom and look upright.
  5. The Prezi style doesn't fit every presentation
The last lesson is the most signifigant for me - there are times when Prezi really just won't organizationally work. I really like using more visuals, and that just didn't seem to suit this program. I still want to play with it a bit more, and I do have to say that the "Wow" factor during the presentation did make it worthwhile, but "Wow" factors fade eventually.

On a side note, several furture students and their parents came to talk to me about Prezi, and one student had even made one before! How cool is that!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MIA ( Missing in Action & Australia

I have been a bit missing from the blogger and twitter world lately. I'm not sure if I just needed a break, if the begining of the semester was just too much, or if my upcoming trip to Australia (more later) was too daunting. I have had so many blog ideas, but never a time to write them in a timely fashion. I promise upon my return to the States, I will be a better blogger, really, I will!

Now onto the fun stuff - I am going to Australia!!!! The frequent flyer miles of my lovely husband are taking the both of us to Australia for 17 days. We plan on splitting our time between Sydney & Melbourne and everything in between. I *hope* to blog our adventure (depending on Internet access) at :

Wish us luck and will talk to you all soon!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Getting back to teaching - with Mouse Trap Car based Physics

Although I love my job, and feel that I am extremely fortunate to be in the place that I am, but I miss having a classroom that is my own. Every once in awhile I get the opportunity to work with middle or high school students again, if only for short periods of time, but this summer I had a classroom again for an entire week. It was good for me to experience the good and the bad of classroom management, technology issues, and all around classroom antics.

But mostly what I loved was working with kids to BUILD & CREATE something! I am a creative spirit at heart and find that I learn more about geometry by making a quilt, or more about Physics by making a car. This summer I had students for an entire week (in daily 1.5 hour sessions) and decided to build mousetrap cars. I wanted a hands on project, but also one that required an understanding of science to work well. I found lots of examples on building MouseTrap Cars, or them being used, but found very few sources that were rooted in the scientific process (that I didn't have to pay for). The best video was actually from a John Hopkins University - and worked as a good introduction or inspiration for the class.

As a subscriber to Make magazine, I had known about Instructables, but found their tutorial invaluable. My goal was to make these cars out of everyday household items for as cheaply as possible. I didn't want to go the "pinewood derby" route and have blank kits that are offered by several companies, including Doc Fizzix.

I found that the PBS website Games People Play also gave me a good place to start, but really didn't focus enough on the science, while the Boise State University Engineering project had a bit more than I wanted. In the end I checked out some books from the library, and used the Vernier Logger Pro video software to collect data (I mean I can't do a lesson without technology, now can I :) for acceleration & velocity.

All in all I ended up having a wonderful time, I got to really connect with a group of kids, and hoped I showed them a bit more about what Physics is all about. I created a Wiki page with my lesson plan at and have all of my resources linked at

I highly recommend you build a mousetrap car, either for class or just for fun!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NECC - Day 1

I missed the Sunday Keynote of Malcom Gladwell, so my first real day at NECC was on Monday. Since I was staying for friends I navigated the metro in from Maryland to the convention center. I was extremely grateful that NECC not only has an online planner, but that I can subscribe to the feed on my iCal & iPhone. I didn't have to carry my program around, I could just look at the calendar on my phone & see where to go. The only drawback is that it doesn't designate who the presenter was - so it was hard to decern where I wanted to go.

My first day was mostly tied up with meeting with the University of Texas at Austin about their College of Education 1:1 laptop program & meeting with my fellow presenters for our Ning presentation the following day. I atteneded about 30 minutes of an Ian Jukes session - but he said "Digital Natives" just too many times for my taste. I missed Scott McLeod's session, that everyone raved about, but luckily it was recorded on

The best part of the day was getting a chance to meet Lee & Sachi Lefever of Common Craft and talk about their creative process as well as how their videos are used in schools. I also discovered that Lee grew up a few miles from me in Kernersville, NC before moving to Seattle, WA - whereas I was born in Seattle & moved to Winston-Salem. It was great to talk to them about their travels and their process and I hope they enjoyed their first education conference!

EBC - Can we change education?

One of the reasons I love EBC is getting to meet with the people I follow and talk to on Twitter. Jon Becker is one of the those people I was looking forward to seeing and talking to face-to-face. His Edubloggercon session reminded me of what I wish every graduate course had been like. An informed and honest discussion about the state of education. Specifically his session was titled, "Where School Reform Meets Madonna: Can public schools fundamentally reinvent themselves? (Jon Becker & All the Cool People) [NOTE: anyone who mentions a tech. tool has to stand on a table and sing "Loving Feeling"]"

Because even though technology is what this conference "is all about" - really it is about changing our schools. We had an honest and frank discussion about the changes we wanted to see in education and the reality that it may not come to pass. What interested me is all these pockets of innovation that never really seem to be accepted into mainstream education. That innovation is not a new idea and so many of these ideas about changing the status quo have been around. So why not? Can change come from the inside? Does there need to be an outside event? Do we need another Sputnik? And if so - does that leave educators with our hands tied behind our backs? It was almost a bit disheartening, but then you realize that all the people in this discussion are "Fighting the good Fight," and I like to think we are making a difference, but can we make systemic change - I'm not sure .

Oh and Kristen Hokanson mentioned a tech tool - but didn't have to sing :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

EBC - Professional development

I started out with a discussion on Professional Development which Liz Davis started (and Alice Mercer covered in her blog). We had a great discussion (and commiseration) about how difficult getting teachers to come to PD is, and ways that we can change our strategy for PD. Jeff Utech shared how he puts his teachers on an individualized "tech plan." Although I love this idea, I doubt my professors would be up for it. But I do like the idea of customizing goals with our instructors, and meeting with them one-on-one to tailor tech integration to their needs.

We also had a great discussion about different ways of offering PD, from Open Lab sessions, to planning time, etc. Most of us have found that doing a teaser (such as the Wired Wed I conduct) work as effect teasers, as well as give us an idea of interest before having a full blown workshop. I struggle with the idea of consistency (something every week or every other week) vs. only holding them based on interest. Last semester I didn't host any workshops, only Wired Wed. I'll try to do a bit of both this year, but definitely focus on more one-on-one interactions.

The only down side is that I missed the Web 2.0 smackdown AGAIN! Luckily you can get all the great Web 2.0 tools & UStream Video on

Edubloggercon 2009

This year Steve Hargadon once again outdid himself as our "ambassador" to ISTE and arranged for Edubloggercon. Edubloggercon, which I agree with Steve has less to do with blogging, and more to do with subversive teaching, is a chance for educators to get together and share ideas about what technology integration really looks like. For me it is also a chance to connect with those that I converse with online. Face-to-face is still important to me. I get a good deal of info online, and enjoy making friends on Twitter, but I still want to just hangout sometimes :)

Edubloggercon is set-up as an unconference, I like to think of it as controlled chaos. Pick a topic any topic, see if people show up to talk about it, you get an hour and then do it all over again. I made it to about 3 sessions before my brain went into overload, and I needed a mental break - but I did make it into the picture this year :)

NECC & Edubloggercon

NECC & the pre-cursor Edublogercon have become one of my favorite events of the year. I get a chance to connect Face to Face with all of the people I tweet or Ustream or blog with. It gives me a chance to be inspired about the possibilities of education again and how true technology integration can occur. This year however, I found myself Tweeting much more Blogging and I find myself almost an entire week later without a single blog post. I'd like to say I've spent that time "reflecting," but really it has been more about recovering!

Hopefully the following blogposts will highlight some of the best reasons why so many of us go to NECC every year, most of us on our own dime.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ninging @ NECC

This year will mark my first time presenting a NECC, and I couldn't be more excited or more nervous. I decided to present on what we were doing at the College of Education with Ning, but I thought that some of the other "people behind the Ning" would be interested so I put out a call on Twitter. Boy did I get an incredible & wonderful set of responses. I am honored to co-present with the following:

Dean Mantz was Director of Technology for USD 405 in Lyons, Kansas. Dean has recently taken a position with USD 376 in Sterling, KS. He conducts technology integration trainings with teachers from a variety of fields to help create interesting lessons to education-impacting problems. Prior to his current position, he served as the Assistant Director of Technology and was the lead instructor for the Rice County Technology Academy.

Dianne Krause is the Instructional Technology Specialist and Classrooms for the Future Coach at Wissahickon School District in Ambler, PA. She
works with teachers district-wide to best integrate technology into their teaching and to develop 21st century skills in students. Prior to this position, Dianne was a French teacher recognized as a Keystone Technology Integrator for her technology integration into her courses.

Amira Fouad, Program Manager for, the Hub for Learning and Virtual Worlds, a network launched by Global Kids Inc. in March of 2008. Amira worked as a facilitator for the Project Tolerance Fellowship and the National Coalition Building Institute in programs utilizing conflict mitigation and informal education as a vehicle for peace building and community development.

Sheryl Grant is the Director of Social Networking for HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media & Learning. She is a former instructor for UNC-ITS Teaching & Learning, and coordinator for the Community Workshop Series, an award-winning program serving free information literacy workshops to the general public.

We will be discussing the following Nings & how we adminsiter them:

The College of Education at NC State is utilizing Ning to leverage the the popularity of these SNS, such as MySpace and Facebook, in a more professional environment with their pre-service teachers. Their goal is to encourage discourse and sharing both in and out of the classroom. Students are grouped not just by class or course in the Ning network, but by interest and social groups.

The HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media & Learning Winners' Hub uses Ning in order to create a public learning experience. Winners report to the hub as their projects evolve and create a "learning legacy" that serves successive winners and others in the digital media and learning community.

RezEd is a Ning- supported community of practice that brings attention to the myriad ways virtual worlds are being used for learning in various settings. It covers both commercial and educational virtual worlds through news updates; multimedia resources; a podcast series with youth, theorists, world builders, practitioners and experts in the field; a curated best practice report series, various digital media resources, guest-moderated discussions, etc. In addition, knowledge is generated and shared as members contribute photos and videos, facilitate special interest groups, and manage personal blogs.

The Wissahickon School District uses Ning as a professional learning network for faculty and staff of the district. The Ning network is for sharing, collaboration, support and communication district-wide. Groups are created for each grade level, school, department and other special-interest audiences. Resources are shared amongst colleagues in different buildings and grade-levels. Wissahickon is also exploring the use of Nings with students and its implications on pedagogy and learning.

The Future Kansas Teachers Scouting Ning was designed by ESSDACK to allow talented future teachers to be discovered and recruited by great districts.

Join us if you can in the Open Source Lab!

Tuesday, 6/30/2009, 12:30pm–1:30pm WWCC 152 B

When to Skype & when to Elluminate

I run into this problem a good deal in my job. A new tool comes out and everyone wants to use it - whether it is better or not. Now I understand this, I love playing and tinkering with new toys, but when I teach others, I more often go for stability than cool. The Newness of a tool wears off too fast for me. My first question when someone wants to try out a tool is not "Why?", but "What are you trying to use the tool for?" This gets at the heart of what a teacher is trying to accomplish by using a tool, and can allow me as a technology facilitator to help them find the most appropriate fit.

So the question comes across my desk about using Skype or Tokbox instead of Elluminate. We are lucky to have a university wide liscence of Elluminate & I am a big fan of the product. I've taught and been taught via Elluminate for the past couple of years and am familiar with it. Now I've never been very successful with the video on Elluminate and have mostly relied on the audio interaction. The whiteboard tool is excellent (especially when you upload presentations) and the polling feature is essential in a Distance Ed class. Application sharing can be a bit tricky, but an important tool. Overall the group interactions have been quite good.

The request to use Skype came as a suprise to me & I wanted to know more about why the change. And what it came down to was that these teachers missed the face to face and wanted more of that kind of interaction. The school based teams meet together in the computer labs and all get on Elluminate next to each other. Now I think of Elluminate as a great tool, because you can do it from anywhere, home, work, school, or Starbucks and because of the interaction tools for large numbers of people. But this was a different senario.

My typical recommendation would be that Skype is for one to one conversations and that Elluminate is for large group interactions, but now we had a combination of both. So guess what they wanted to do? Now we will be using Elluminate to facilitate the text chat, application sharing, & presentations, but utilize the video & audio frm Skype on the big screen in the 2 schools.

I'm interested to see how this works, becuase sometimes the best tool is a combination of them...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NECC 2009 - DC Here we come!

I am excited that in a few weeks I will be attending my 3rd National Education Computing Conference - NECC - one of the best conferences in and surrounding Education Technology. Beth Still's post about surviving your first NECC has me thinking back on the last two I attended.

The first NECC I attended was in 2006 in San Diego, CA. It was the first National Conference I had ever been too, and I was so excited. My husband, Brent, came with me and we made a mini-vacation out of it. I was shortly joined by Lisa Grable, a long time NECC attendee & the pair of us divided and conquered the sessions. It was nice to have someone to meet up with and discuss the sessions, but the downside is that you don't really socialize too much with others. This was the first conference I saw Wil Richardson speak at, and I was blown away by his message and presentation style. I am still influenced by what he pulled off that day.

There were a small group of us that were bloggers and we met at a Bar/Pub/Brewery to discuss what was going on. Steve Hargadon was passing out "Support Blogging" buttons. I had an idea of whom some of these people were, but I really was just hearing or meeting them for the first time. It was strange to be in a room full of people and know things about them, but they know nothing of you and try & start a conversation, but I held my own & had a good time.

I missed the NECC in 2007 while I was on maternity leave with Evan, but was able to make the trip to San Antonio last year. I knew I would be headed to the conference not knowing anybody and I was really intimidated by that. I really wanted to go to the Edubloggercon on the Saturday before the conference started, but knew that would basically leave me with nothing to do on Sat night & Sunday. It also happened to be a big birthday for my mother (of which I will not reveal her age - sometimes she actually reads my blog :) and I thought it would be perfect to inviter her to spend the weekend with me. This worked out perfect, I was able to experience the best of the conference and enjoy San Diego.

The Edubloggercon really helped me to get to know my fellow attendees, and helped facilitate some great discussions that carried over into the next few days. I found myself hanging out more at the Edublogger Cafe than actually attending sessions. This was also my first "real" introduction to Twitter and how it could be utilized. I found out what sessions were popular or full, made lunch plans with virtual strangers and went out to night clubs. The twitter dinner was a great culmination of all the connections I had started to make and solidified friendships that I have kept up in the past year.

I'm excited to see what this year will bring. I am presenting for the first time, and with a group of people I have never met in person! Luckily, this year it is in DC, so that even though I have no travel budget I can afford to travel on my own and stay with friends. I wonder what this NECC will bring? I hope I will meet some old friends & make some new ones. My PLN has grown so much over the past year - I look forward to meeting everyone in person!

P.S. My blog will probablly be filled with NECC related entries in the next few weeks - as will my Twitter so watch out!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Charting my Geekness

I have been (mostly) pretty proud of the geek that I am. But now I have found that I can chart my geekness. Now this geek chart looks at the socialness of my geektitude and looks at the following:
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Blog
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Delicious
I find it interesting that I only have usernames on about half of these sites, but I'm not surprised by the results. I definitely spend more time on Twitter & Delicious than I do anything else. Mostly because they are fast and easy, while blogging is still a struggle for me.

Bethanyvsmith's Geek Chart

But I don't really think this is a geek chart - this is a social chart. This chart illustrates how much of myself I am willing to put out on the internet. I see this more as an analysis of my Digital Footprint more than anything else. I plan on using this little widget to help demonstrate that in my next workshop!

The Online Social Network of Teens

danah boyd recently did some field research with teens in Atlanta about how they viewed Social Networking and media. I was surprised by a few things, and contentious about even more. Here are some of the highlights that I think impact education:

1) Teenagers don't use e-mail
2) Parental control & privacy concerns
3) They have a severe lack of media literacy skills: (I love this quote)

Media literacy amongst teens is extremely varied, but the short answer is that most don't know what to trust. They know that they are not supposed to trust Wikipedia because it's editable (and they automatically recall Wikipedia when you ask about trustworthy information.. that's so actively hammered down their throat, it's painful). One girl told me that she trusts websites that "look" like they are reputable. When I asked her about this, she told me that she could "just tell" when something was a good source. And besides, it came from Google. Le sigh.

What I find the most interesting is their view of teachers in social networking sites:
This is messy. Many teens have ZERO interest in interacting with teachers on social network sites, but there are also quite a few who are interested in interacting with SOME teachers there. Still, this is primarily a social space and their interactions with teachers are primarily to get more general advice and help. In some ways, its biggest asset in the classroom is the way in which its not a classroom tool and not loaded this way. Given that teens don't Friend all of their classmates, there are major issues in terms of using this for groupwork because of boundary issues.

Most of the research I have seen has found this to be true, but I still struggle and maybe I just want to believe that we can find a happy medium between the two. I mean if students aren't using e-mail, but Facebook & texting to communicate, how can we as educators connect with them if we aren't trying to utilize either the same tools or the same type of tools? Shouldn't we be making an effort to take this new way of communication and see how it can fit in the classroom. I'm not saying we should teach in Facebook, but can we utilizie something like Ning to reach out to our students and connect with them. Or should we just stay out of it?

Why Twitter works for me

I am a big fan of twitter, an avid user for mostly work and a little bit of fun. I have found that I enjoy twittering much more than blogging and feel that I connect to a broader and richer network of people. Twitter has truly been a transformational technology for me. But I have to remember that that is because of a few things:

1) I chose to join Twitter
2) I connect to a group of people on Twitter that use it effectively for sharing information
3) My profession & interests are also connected to the people I follow

These components are at the heart of how a PLN should be and the basis for much research in the communities of practice literature.

So what I struggle with is how do we open this up to our students and fellow teachers? So much of what I see in schools for PLCs (mostly following the Dufour model) makes it mandatory. Can a true learning community be mandatory? How do you encourage people to participate without requiring? How do you make people be part of a community?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Proposed Cuts to Education in NC

Thanks to Chad Ratliff's Twitter, I discover the following proposed cuts from for the State of NC:

• Shorten the school year by 5 days in FY 2009-10 and 5 more days (total of 10) in FY 2010-11.
• Increase class size teacher allotment by 2 per grade (-6,005 Classroom Teachers)
• Eliminate Teacher Assistants in grade 3 (-4,663 Teacher Assistants)
• Reduce Low Wealth Supplemental Funding – Fund counties @ 90% and below. This adjustment
would eliminate funding 13 LEAs (Craven, Cumberland, Davie, Gaston, Lincoln, Madison,
Mitchell, Onslow, Pender, Perquimans, Union, Warren, Yancey).
• Reduce Instructional Support (- 354 counselors, media, social workers)
• Reduction to School Building Administration (-187 Assistant Principals)
• 5% reduction to Non-instructional Support (clerical and custodians)
• Small County Supplemental Funding – a reduction of $4.5 million
• A 10% reduction to More @ 4
• Elimination of Learn and Earn On-Line
• Elimination of application fee payment for National Board
• Elimination of Literacy Coaches
• Central Office (-5.38% or a reduction of $6.5 million)
• DPI – an 11% reduction in FY 2009-10 and an additional 4% (total of 15%) reduction in FY
2010-11. This would eliminate 52 positions in FY 2009-10 and 19 more (71 total) in FY 2010-

Can we really AFFORD to lose this much in education!!!! I understand that we are in a budget crisis, we are all in a budget crisis, but shouldn't we doing more to not only protect education, but help it make transformational changes in our workforce that will help us get out of this financial crisis?

I hate politics, I hate getting wrapped up in it, but this just makes me demand to know WHY?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Teaching in 3D

One of the things that I loved about being a Tech Ed teacher was the freedom to combine science & math concepts with real world applications & a bit of summer camp crafts. Wehn I first came to work at NC State I was on a grant that looked at how students interpret visualizations. One of the outcomes of this work was that I learned a good deal about 3D & how 3D works. I even got a chance to build and program a two projector, linear polarized, rear projection immersion screen (that is in an attic somewhere on campus). But what really stuck with me was how true 3D images were created & how we trick our brain's into seeing them. Now, add to this the opportunities I encounter to do 1-hour sessions with visiting high school or middle school students & I am a one-woman 3D show.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with students through the Satellitte program on campus, on which I would like to speak more on later, but I really want to discuss how 3D works & how easy it is to use it to teach certain principles.

I like to start with a conversation about what 3D is and how we add to the X/Y coordinate plane with Z. Then I discuss One-eyed pirates and why they walk into tables (seriously, you have to be funny). We discuss how depth perception works and how your brain combines the images of your left and right eyes to make a composite. My favorite trick is to have students raise their index finger and alternate closing eyse. "Did your finger move? Did you move your finger?" This starts a dialogue on dominant eyes, etc.

The premise of 3D is that you are sending separate images to each eye. Now the question is - How do you do that?

There are various types of 3D. I find that if you follow the historic time line of 3D progression it is easier for students to understand.

Stereo Pairs

Stereo Pairs are the easiest for students to understand. They have all experienced the ViewMaster of old. The one with the wheels of images. I pass out a few of the slide wheels and ask them to count the number of images.

They will find that there are duplicates of each picture. A stereo pair of each scene. One for each eye. Stereo pairs are slightly off from one another. They are not the same image, but two separate images taken roughly 2 inches apart. Here comes the "Aha" moment. Why 2 inches? Because your eyes are roughly 2 inches apart.

Now how long have stereo pairs been around? The idea was first captured by Charles Wheatstone, but it took Sir David Brewster to actually create the first Stereo Pair Viewing device and exhibited it at the world's fair in 1851. Of which Queen Victoria was a huge fan.

So how do you take Stereo Pairs? Why you take a picture two inches apart. The most effective way of doing this is to have a 3D camera that takes 2 pictures at the same time. Personally I am a fan of using two cameras mounted next to each other and you mechanize the shutters together. Or you could do the good ol' astronaut shuffle. The rumor is that they couldn't afford the weight of the 3D camera so the astronaut's took one picture and then movedr oughly two inches to the right and took another :)

So all 3D effects come down to Stereo Pairs. But how do you get everyone in an audience to see the same image at once, like in a movie? This is where glasses come in. And the first 3D glasses are the icon of the 1950s - Red/Blue

Anaglyph or Red/Blue
I like to use the concept of computer monitors & RGB. All LCD displays are made up of the colors RGB, and thus all images on these displays are a combination of these colors. So to make a Composite 3D image you need to get your eyes to see different images, the Anaglyph method uses color. In one image you take all the Red out of an image (I use Photoshop) so that only the Green & Blue are left (more like Cyan) and in the other you take all the Green & Blue out of the image so only Red is left. It is important that the left image be the Red one and the right image be the Green/Blue one, otherwise you will have to put your glasses on backwards.

I found the USGS site (which hosts a good deal of Anaglyph pictures) to be an invaluable source of creating these 3D images.

Now you can buy glasses at (where I buy mine). Or you can make your own - my personal preference. There are two ways to make glasses. Start with already made frames or create your own frames. I have done it both ways. The cheapest cardboard frames I could find were from Oriental Trading Company. The biggest issue with them is that the eye holes are a bit small, but they are fun & funky shapes. If you make your own glasses, you either need to use 11x17 paper to get the side ear pieces or you create masks and use rubberbands or string to tie around their head. If you have time, letting your students decorate their masks can be a fun art activity.

Once you have your glasses, now you need to add your colors. I use the transparent wrapping paper in shades of red & blue. It is hard to get the right blue & I find I have to double up. I pre-cut squares for my students, so they only have to tape it on. The reason making the glasses is so integral is it makes them think about which eye needs to be red and which needs to be blue. Then we can discuss how colors filter. I like to have an example Anaglyph image before I composite it displaying on the screen so that they can see which images disappear or are blacked out by which eye.

Thanks to a commenter ( luchianken)- I realized the picture I pulled from is completely wrong! I'll look for a new illustration

I then like to show them a few websites that they can use to view 3D photographs.

(On a side note, I don't let students look for 3D pictures - their are some NSFS images out there)

Then you can start talking about how the latest 3D works with light polarization instead of color and your students will have something to explain to their parents next time they are in line at IMAX :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Your Digital Footprint

Most of us don't think to Google ourselves unless we're bored at work or have a narcissistic streak, but knowing how the internet "views you" can be extremely important. Seth Godin encouraged us all in 2008 to Google ourselves and see how other people are viewing us, and in many cases judging us by our Google search.

But where do you start? Some of us my have unique names, but when I changed my name to Smith I knew that I was joining the 10 pages of the phone book to be lost forever. Then the Internet took over for the phone book (although ironically enough Bethany Norris does come up with a few hits from college) and I became "findable again."

The key is Searching 101 - Boolean searches and quotation marks. Instead of just searching for Bethany Smith (which is by default a Boolean search of Bethany AND Smith) search for the text string "Bethany Smith", otherwise any webpage with the word Bethany and the word Smith somewhere on it will pop up. This text string narrows my search from 12,500,000 hits to 24,100. To narrow it further I can add some modifiers, such as NC or education, or even NCSU. Think about a person searching for you and what do they identify you with. If you've sent an employer a resume then they'd probably associate you with your last employer or your address.

Now once you google me with NC, you get my phone and address. To some people this is scary, becuase now you can bring up a Google Map and with street view can instantly see a picture of my house. You can even take this a step further and go to my local government website and find out how much I paid for my house and if I owe taxes. But this is all what I would call describer information, it provides the basic info surrounding me, but not really who I am. A background check can give you only so much info, it won't tell you if I'm actually good at anything.

So what is Identity? What defines us? One of my favorite videos for presentation purposes, Identity 2.0, begins to talk about the mechanisms we use to authenticate who we are, how these identity transactions that used to be in person with the exchange of a business card or the brandishing of an ID have now migrated to the Internet.

So are we what the Internet says we are? I like Seth Godin's recommendation, flood the internet with good stuff that you control. Create a Blog, a LinkedIn profile, a basic website so that the top hits on Google is info you have created and have control over. To take that a step further, I recommend that you stay consistent in your username ID. On every website I join, I use the same ID, bethanyvsmith. It is my Twitter name, what I use on Slideshare, Google, etc. This continuity allows not only for me to remember my login, but also to be "identified" by others. When I comment on someones website, etc. Bethany Smith begins to be associated with bethanyvsmith). You can use a service like Namechk to try out IDs that you might want use & if they are taken. You can also use a service like ClaimID to claim websites that you are associated with. I just joined this service, so we'll see how it helps with my Online Identity Management.

But in the end, how can I keep track of what is "out there" about me. My favorite tool is Google Alerts. Use the same search phrase that you perfected earlier in finding yourself and have Google search for it on a regular basis, then you can have a scheduled e-mail, or constant RSS feed to keep you in the loop.

We are on this presipise of personal information overload on the Internet, for some of us it's already there, and for others it is coming. While some want to fight it and remove themselves from the Internet, I say embrace it for what it is and put your own spin on it. We must start the good PR about ourselves and recognize that on the internet your name is a personal brand, protect it well. As Kim Cofino says, "Who do you want your Digital Me to Be?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Changing the way I present - with a little zen along the way

I taught a "Presentation Zen" Workshop the other day that was very well received & probably was the most popular of my workshops this year. I was surprised about the continuing obsession with PowerPoint & the crutch that it gives us all as speakers. In creating this workshop I went through the various styles of presenting that I have experimented with & what worked & what didn't.

In 2007 I saw Wil Richardson present for the first time at NECC in San Diego. Not only was I impressed with what he said - it was how he said it. He was using the Lessig method of black background with one word in white text & it just totally threw me for a loop. It was powerful, it was simple - it was brilliant! It took me a while, but I finally got the guts to make it and presented at NCaect - now NCTies. I had a really difficult time presenting this way - I think I made it too simple & I kept going off topic. That was the when I realized that this presenting method required many more slides that I normally would create. In fact each bullet point became their own slide.

Then I watched this amazing presentation online by Dick Hart about Identity 2.0. Now this is a much more scripted lecture than I could ever give - but I really like it and wanted to do something that evoked that.

I'm trying to remember where and when I first came across Presentation Zen & how that changed everything. I think it was when David Warlick came to a MEGA meeting and talked about blogging. He was such a great speaker, and his presentation slides enhanced the experience. So I started to see what others were doing and ended up creating my own presentations in this presentation zenlike style.

I found these presentation rather time consuming. I really had to think about what I was presenting - I found myself outlining on a good old notebook before I started. What was even more challenging was trying to find images that represented my words. A few tools helped along the way like Flickr Storm & but it was still challenging to think of the right keyword to search. I also needed to make sure that these images were Creative Common Liscenced, which thankfully Flickr has added as an advanced search feature. Yet the process of finding the perfect feature helped me hone down what I was really talking about and has made me a better presenter. One of my favorites is this one I did on PLNs.

Of course in the middle of all this I see that the edublogger world storm around using stock images. Dan Meyer started it :) but I think it got a good deal of people including Darren Draper & Dean Shareski thinking about image use. As much as Dan claims that stock images are so typical - I remember back to my old public speaking teacher - remember your audience. There are some times that stock images appeal to your audience & times when they don't. I though that when presenting on my thesis at SITE this year I should be more formal and go back to the black slide with white writing & yeah it was OK - but the reaction my friend Lisa Hervey got when using stock images was just much better received. I wish I hadn't been scared to be different in an academic setting.

My goal when I present is to be memorable (hopefully in a good way) & I find that using good and effective images is the key to that. Personally I prefer flickr to istockphoto, but it is hard to find good images - I say use what you can. Any step that we can take to make presenting a more enjoyable experience is worth it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Customizing your Ning

I asked to do some customization of a ning for an outreach project to meet the "graphical identity" of the university. I was really inspired by how well the NECC Ning works works with the NECC main website. But upon investigation (I downloaded their CSS) I discovered they had done more customized things that I was capable of accomplishing. So I set out to customize an existing theme using some of the built in options availablt to Ning.

Step 1: Find a Theme to work with
I decided that HyperMelon gave me the overall look I was going for, just with the wrong colors.

Step 2: Define your color palette
Luckily the web colors for the university and this project had already been decided upon. I used

Red (NC State Red) Web cc0000
Gold Web f2991b
Burnt Orange Web cc6600
Dark Red Web a20000

If you don't have any colors already determined. I recommend using the Visibone Color Lab, not only does this help with matching colors and finding their "web number" it also helps you check readibility for boxes.

Step 3: Changing Colors
Most of your changes will occur in the "All Options" section under appearance. I highly recommend using the Preview function so you can see what these color changes impact. For instance the "Media Player" section actually impacts your badge colors.

Step 4: Changing Theme Colors
However, to change the actual theme options I had to click on the "Advanced Tab" and edit the CSS. The trick with this is to only change the colors, but it can be tough to determine what you are actually changing the colors on. I typically use colors as a guide. I search for the colors in the CSS and look up the number for the color. Then I look at my theme and see where that color is and if it is something I want to change. I'm not sure about all themes, but I imagine the CSS terms are univeral. So I changed the following in HyperMelon:

#xg_masthead p#xg_sitedesc - Changes the Site Description (or Sub head) color
#xg_navigation ul li.this a - Changes the Rollover/Click on the Navigation Bar at the top

Step 5: Adding a Header Image
Header Images need to have a width of 955 and can have a height of 150-200. I found that the theme I was working on actually required a header image height of 125. Since the Site Name and description take up the left side of the Header, you really need to focus your efforts on the right hand side of the header. Also, if you are using logos, I find that the readibility of them goes up if you use a PNG file rather than a GIF file. Once you have your header image you can uload it under the "All Options" under Appearnace.

Overall it took a lot of trial and error, but I think we actually have a Ning that reflects NC State. I hope to announce it soon!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Should you use Social Networking Tools?

In looking at my thesis research I wanted to really look at Social Networking and what were the quantifiable benefits of the tool. I was given the opportunity to work with a distance education class, which I think is perfect for the SNS community building we want to see, but I had to look a bit deeper. What in essence is the point of education? Of taking classes? What are the outcomes that we try so desperately to quantify with projects and tests? And could I look at that without examining projects and tests :)

I felt that discussion boards were the key to not only online learning, but also this creation of community. That without discussions and interactions, you may as well be a correspondence course. The more I read, the more I came to value how important peer-to-peer interactions were, and how SNS can support these so well. I felt that interviews and surveys could give me a good idea of how students felt about using a SNS, but I really wanted to look at their discussion data and see what story it told.

So I came across the work of Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, (1997), (see list of references) which looks at phases of knowledge construction (IAM) in a discussion board forum. So much of what I found was, "I agree" or "You are so right," and if I looked at that as an "interaction it would count, but it really wasn't substantial. It didn't mean anything. With the IAM coding scheme I was able to really see when discussions were fruitful and meaningful. Now the initial drawback to this is that there wasn't a large difference between SNS and traditional courses, except once.

You see Week 8 was an anomaly, but not just because of the phase variation, but also because it was the ONLY discussion started by a student. Authentic discourse occurred, because students bought into the issue. Then I realized what they key to using a SNS is - it is student-centered and they can have control over their learning.

As instructors we can't teach the same way with new tools. In order to take advantage of SNS usefulness, we need to shift our thinking about what a discussion board is and what it should be. We also have to shift our students expectations of what a discussion board is and how it can be used in a online class.

Just because you use a technology doesn't mean you are utilizing it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Today, March 24th is Ada Lovelace Day. Born in 1815, she was one of the world's first programmers, and wrote programs for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. Programming until fairly recently was seen as secretarial work and was done mainly by women, it wasn't until the 70s, that a shift occurred and male programmers dominated the field. In honor of Ada Lovelace day many of us have pledged to blog about women in technology.

I am very fortunate to work at a university with so many examples. But I believe there is one person that stands out to me, Dr. Sally Berenson, a former professor at the College of Education who is now at UNCG. Her Girls on Track program, invited middle school girls to come to campus to learn about math, science, and technology. It was her belief (and mine to) that girls lose interest in science & math and are not encouraged to pursue. Her research on women in math and mathematics education is quite extraordinary, and provides an insight into the gender gap that exists in STEM fields. In fact, her GoT program became a longitudinal study looking at the effects of middle school intervention on college major. She has 15 years of data to work with, I think most of us dream about a fun study that provides such rich data, and can change lives.

Beyond that she has been an inspiration to me as someone that has found that balance between work and home life. As someone with a new family, it has been people like Sally that have inspired and encouraged me to find my own balance and to pursue the career I want. Her example has given me hope that I can achieve some modicum of what she has accomplished and not sacrifice my family in the process.

In short, I would like to be her when I grow up.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


It's funny, when I think of "defense" I have connotations of basketball drills, and running, and chants from the crowd. But this week I went through a different kind of defense, and academic one. It has been a long time coming, and I'm still not quite there, but it has been quite an experience.

I first started grad school in 1999, right after my undergrad, but we moved soon after and my life took another path for awhile. When I moved back to Raleigh, the opportunity to work at NC State came up. It was a perfect fit (I like to think for both of us), and I really started to not only see, but value what a graduate degree could be for me. I began taking classes again in the Fall of 2004 and it has taken me 5 years to complete my Masters! (I had no idea it was that long - I had to look it up). Now, primarily what added to this duration was my desire to do a thesis. I work with so many researchers, I really wanted to understand what they were talking about (my vocabulary has improved exponentially here) as well as take the steps to maybe, someday, be a professor myself.

My initial plan was to do research in the eye-tracking lab I managed. I wanted to look at the over-use of animations, words, clip art etc. in PowerPoint design. I really wanted to build on Richard Mayer's work and apply it to teachers. However, when the time came, I had switched jobs and discovered Presentation Zen - what would my study add? So, call me crazy, and many people did, I wrote an entirely differet proposal about Social networking using Ning.

Luckily, my committee was willing (espcialy since nothing had really be put in writing about it), to let me change and really supported me. I have to admit, although it was hard, it was the best decision I could have made. It allowed me to pursue something I was extensively interested in. I am also fortunate to work at a place that values my education (its good to know the College of Ed stand behind that :) and were willing to work with me on what I need to do to accomplish my goal. Not many employers would feel the same. The support of my family and friends as been exponential. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, I believe it takes a city to support a graduate degree. And now I'm hoping to give a bit more time back to the community, both on and offline, that have supportd me for so long.

So thank you all, my next few posts will be all about my COMPLETED research!

Friday, March 13, 2009

My first SITE Conference

Last week I attended my first all "research conference" SITE in Charleston, SC. Now one of my favorite things to do is present - its one of the things I'm actually good at, but I was SOOOO nervous about SITE. See, I live this weird world of limbo at my university. I work with professors all day long, but I am not "one of them." I'm support staff, and I'm perfectly happy with that designation. However, I'm also in graduate school (trying to officially qualify for my job - don't worry I was hired mid-way through my grad program and promised to stay in school so it "counts") and that makes things like this a bit weird and scary and therefore makes me nervous.

This was the first time I have presented on my research and as I'm working on my thesis - I just find so many holes (committee, please disregard that sentence for my defense on Monday). I was worried everyone would see my big gaping flaws and shoot me down in front of everyone.

Luckily, my session was sparsely attended (I was in that other building that no one could ever find), but those there were very nice and provided some great feedback. I got a chance to do a few bits of networking with others interested in my topic and felt like I was really headed in the right direction with my ideas and research. In fact, someone had done a very similar study with students in Facebook vs. mine in Ning and we reached the same conclusion.

If I pass on Monday - I'll write more about that :) But in the meantime, here is my PP. It doesn't make too much sense without my voice over - hope to add that soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting back to writing

Wordle: My Google Reader Shared Items Feed

So I have been working on my thesis in all my spare time & haven't devoted as much to my blog as I should. I have however been keeping up with my Google Reader & thought I'd make a wordle of my shared items to take stock of the blogosphere. I'm not surprised that Moodle, Technology & Learning are high frequency words. But I'm glad that so much of the Wordle content is made of learning or sharing words rather than a focus on technology.

I worry that so much of my training is tool specific - even if I don't intend it to be that way. I struggle with teaching enough about the tool that it can be used but worry I don't use enough pedagogy for effective use. My "students" come from such diverse backgrounds including subject areas and grade level that I have a hard time reaching them all.

But in the end - that's just an excuse for why I don't see technology integration in every classroom at my school. And I just need to work on new ways. Maybe its setting a foundation with tool training and moving on to more integration. Or maybe its having their fellow teachers showcase how they use a tool. I seem to try a different technique every semester and wonder what I should hold on to.

At least I have the freedom to try new things when the old ones don't work out....

Monday, January 5, 2009

7 Things You Don't Need to Know about Me

Now I haven't been tagged with this Meme, but when has that ever stopped me from doing something. There are some great ones out there, so far my favorite are: Miguel harju & The Clever Sheep.

1) I spent the summer between my junior and senior year in college working on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs in their Information Security Dept. I lived at Columbia University and had a great time being a New Yorker (if only for 3 months).

2) My love of science-fiction and fantasy was ensconced at an early age. In fourth grade on the way to school every day we listened to the BBC version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It took almost all year. In fact, it was that anecdotal story while I was waiting for a job interview, that helped me get a job at a Video Game company - I was geeky enough.

3) I was one of the first girls to play little league in Winston-Salem, NC. When I hit a home run, my coach told me, "Well, if we had to have a girl, I'm glad we got you." This started my rally of girl-power. Although when playing softball later on, my Dad would yell, "You hit like a girl!" and I'd hit a home run almost every time :)

4)I'm an avid sports fan. I played Softball, Volleyball, and Basketball in High School - but settled on Softball as my favorite sport. I played fast pitch in a rec league year-round while playing slow pitch in school. I still try to play on rec teams while I can, and coached while I was teaching middle and high school. In fact, when I was in Baltimore I played for NCSU in the Capital Area Alumni Softball league. There is nothing like playing on the DC mall in front of the monument!

5)My mother is British and every-other summer we would spend it in and around Lancashire and Cheshire, England. It is amazing how much of an impact that has made on my life, and how grateful I am for the experience of seeing the world through another set of eyes (even if it isn't that far away). My grandmother was determined I remember how British I am. I'm pretty sure, that between regular British Club meetings and my dependance on tea she would be proud :)

6) I love TV and movies, and playing Trivia about them. The only problem is, I married someone that dislikes TV and most movies. However, my little brother and I have the exact same taste in all of the above (what can I say, he never had a choice about what to watch or listen to when he was younger!) I live by my Tivo! In fact, I made it to the semi-finals of Teen Jeopardy and went to the regionals in Texas. It was pretty cool to meet Alex Trebec, even if it wasn't televised.

7) I was the president of my Harvard Model Congress Delegation in High School. Since we represented North Carolina, this meant I was one of the NC Senators. Yes, I debated for a whole week as Jesse Helms in the Foreign Affairs committee. I also got to work on a bill about Internet access in libraries. It was quiet illuminating, and one of the best experiences of my high school career. Oh, and did I mention I signed his name - Jessie (with a heart over the eye :)

So go ahead and carry on the 7 things meme - with or without an invitation!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Facebook: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

I've been "against" Facebook for awhile now. Some of this is due to privacy issues, as illustrated at, some is due to this issues our pre-service teachers have had with how public they are on Facebook, and it has a bit to do with the fact my brother (who was just starting university) said I should try it and I told him it looked, well, useless (and I can't allow my brother to be correct now can I ;). However, my research is on Social Networking and I do quite a bit of it outside of Facebook, so why not take the plunge! The original idea was to keep Facebook my "personal" space and keep using this blog and my twitter as my "professional" space. But as we all well know, world's collide and I have just as many "professional" friends on facebook as ever. But I believe I will still try and keep my world's a bit seperate. I'm pretty sure my friends from high school don't want to know the latest on PLNs :) But so far, my thoughts on Facebook can be summarized as:

The Good
The interface is nice and clean. It's easy to find friends and groups. A good deal of the Social Networking System (SNS) research notes that most users connect to people they already know. In fact one of the first SNSs was - so I'm not surprised to see alumni groups so popular in Facebook. It was great to connect with old school mates and distant family members. The photo sharing capabilities are top notch - with tagging people the most useful (and potentially harmful see The Ugly).

The Bad
It has been difficult to determine whom to friend and whom not to friend. How much do I share with my professional life of my private. There are also some very chain letterish things such as "gifting" to others, etc. The good news is that with a host of FB privacy settings, you can keep your info almost completely private.

The Ugly
There are still some things you can't control. If someone tags you in a picture and their FB page is public - so is that photo of you. If you don't want that picture up there, they have to take it down. I also have issues with the advertising. Now some of the side advertising is pretty harmless, but I have issues with the advertising that is made to look as though it is apart of the group page. There were sevral times I clicked on somethig thinking it was FB related, when it went to a completely different site. I can accept that they need advertising to run, but don't try to trick me into it.

All in all I have to say that my FB expereince has been overwhelmingly positive. I've enjoyed connecting with old friends, and am glad to have a place that is similar to twitter, but for the more personal side of me :)