Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Where to Now?

Education has traditionally been an almost passive pursuit. The usually didactic instructional methodologies have most often been geared to an "I teach, you learn" philosophy. While technology in education can certainly support that direction, it is increasingly moving towards being more dynamic, interactive and more social. The change factor lies in the children who are driving the new direction.
My grandson is a newly-minted second grader, but his comfort level, and that of most of his peers, leans towards technology as a core component, not an enhancement. He enjoys a board game of Life or Scrabble, but is connected to electronics in a way we as adults can barely understand. I watched him as he played on my computer. Without a blink, he deftly searched for the subjects that interest him. For example, he has an interest in US presidents, fueled by the upcoming election. When he wanted to know more about a particular president, he instinctively knew which search words to use. When a search did not produce the information he wanted, he scanned the disappointing results and found new and more effective search words to try. I showed him some basic Boolean search tools, which he immediately incorporated. Later, when searching for a particular Pokemon character, I saw him apply those same tools as if he had always known them.
The power of the Internet propels children into a learning style that is unique and foreign to those of us who have been learners for much longer, but we need to develop that same core competency. Teens develop their social networks using tools such as MySpace or texting. Interactivity is a given, as is multi-tasking. We need to develop strategies that enhance the core components that the kids do instantly and without conscious thought or decision. Lifelong learning just got kicked up a notch.

Monday, August 25, 2008

ABE/GED: Workplace Math Skills

Workplace Math Skills:
Marty Lundberg: North Iowa Area Community College

"The purpose of this project is to develop Adult Basic Education math materials for the workplace. The materials are intended to help identify training needs and document mastery of the minimum math skills needed for entry level workers seeking employment. The Iowa Business/Industry Leaders identified the project competencies as high or very high priority on the Iowa Business and Industry Survey (IABIS ). Local construction and manufacturing employers have identified the project competencies as essential workplace skills.

The materials are limited to the specific competencies identified by Area II employers. For example, local employers seek entry level workers able to add and subtract with shop fractions, so this project will focus on assessing and teaching addition and subtraction of shop fractions. It will not include multiplication or division of fractions or calculations with fractions other than shop fractions because local employers did not report a need for those skills."

While identifying specific needs for their locale, the materials are helpful for others seeking these specific skills. Well done.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

ESL: Civics

"Learn EL Civics with great pictures and easy words. Just click on a picture to start a lesson or activity. The following EL Civics units are now available: Statue of Liberty, Washington, D.C., American Bald Eagle, and Gateway Arch. English Language Civics provides an easy way to learn about American history, geography, and culture. New lessons, worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, and videos are added to almost every week."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Qwizdom Wireless Tablet Cool tool. I do a lot of presentations and hate having to turn my back on the audience to run the slide show. This tool will make that problem disappear, allowing teachers to draw, annotate, and control computer applications without being tethered to a computer. It's a great add-on to an LCD projector and puts the presentation in the hands of the instructor.
View presenter notes and presentation indicators privately on LCD screen. Control volume, window shade, and virtual laser pointer.
Move from slide to slide and launch new presentations using navigation keys or pen. Pose questions and interact with learning objects or games. It also has interactive whiteboard capabilities, which will let you wirelessly create, annotate, and interact with screen objects.
Run computer applications with programmable pen keys and hard keys.
Utilize pen on tablet interface which offers all mouse functions.
Aligns with other whiteboard devices (not required).
Current cost is under $500 per unit.
All of this in a handheld device. Oh I do indeed love the new technologies and what they can do!

ProProfs: Create a Quiz found this site while browsing through my favorite blog sites...this came from the Random Thoughts blog ( It's a perfect Web 2.0 app that allows you to post quizzes on your website/blog or share through email, print, links etc. View quiz results & discussions, reports & analysis. Scored Quizzes are knowledge based quizzes like tests, trivia & assessments. Each question has a right/wrong answer. Personality quiz reveals something about the quiz taker. Unlike a scored quiz, here there is no right/wrong answer to a question. You can also create your own online flashcards for free. Customize with name and text & colors of your choice. Post your flashcards at any webpage (eg. your blog or classroom page).

According to the website, it has:

flickr integration for images
Widgets (embed) to share your quiz
Security options like password protection
Styles and formatting options

Looks interesting and worth exploring further.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Change and Evolution

It's that time of the year again. Yes, although the calendar says its only August 14 and Labor Day is still a few weeks away, there is a distinct 'Back to School' atmosphere surrounding us. Perhaps it's the smell of pencil shavings as parents dutifully sharpen the requisite amount of No. 2's, or the amplified voices of children as they realize that all too soon they will need to spend much of their day quietly working at their desks. But mostly it's the sense of renewal, because 'Back to School' implies a fresh start and a new year. The sins and omissions of the previous year are forgiven as the new year starts with lofty promises and sincere resolutions.

But in the world known as Ed Tech, renewal is a constant. What was impossible to do yesterday is made possible today by simply downloading a new app. Difficult and complicated old apps become amazingly simple. Not long ago, adding photos to this blog required a series of steps. Now there is an icon at the top of the post box that makes it 1-2-3 easy. I remember my excitement at the mere idea of being able to vlog, or add video to a blog, and suddenly there's an icon for that too. Even software companies have evolved. I looked in my supply closet the other day and saw a brand new CD storage case. For years I needed more and more storage cases to house the growing inventory of academic CDs. Now, all I need is a list of the websites where the online apps are located. Change and evolution.

What I don't see is the move from labs to classrooms keeping pace. Although I run an academic computer lab, I have always believed that the real place for computers and accompanying technology is the classroom. There are issues, of course. Instructors need training on how to operate the equipment. IT needs to deploy staff differently to deal with everything from network issues to ahhhhh, the computer power supply plug IS out of the socket. Once those issues are addressed, lesson plans need to be re-vamped to make effective use of the technologies, and, more importantly, a definition of 'effective use of technology' needs to be developed and then refined.

In education, there is always going to be a society of 'haves' and 'have nots'. Yes, that covers the schools that have new equipment and those that don't, but it also applies to staff who 'have' the skills necessary to incorporate technology and those who don't, or even more alarming, won't. Technology is like an oyster creating a pearl. An irritant of something that you want to do but don't know how eventually becomes a pearl after layers and layers of developing skill sets. Knowing how to blog makes creating a wiki easier. Knowing how to blog and wiki makes creating a platform for hosting podcasts simple. Even being able to transform 'blog' and 'wiki' into verbs requires a change in thought process. I blog because I can, and I know that blogging has become simple and intuitive. If only I can irritate the teaching staff enough to make them want to develop a few pearls for their students. Change and evolution. Can you catch a whiff of it in the air?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Citizenship News

"Welcome to Citizenship News, where citizenship education providers can find information, resources, and the latest news concerning citizenship education, the U.S. citizenship test, and the naturalization process."

This is an excellent site for information and resources on obtaining U.S. citizenship or naturalization.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Got Tech?

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" Arthur C Clark

Actually, most of the Web 2.0 apps DO feel like magic to me. I've been involved in technology since before the WWW existed, and started out creating BBS, a.k.a. the infamous Bulletin Board System, uploaded through FTP transfer and requiring all kinds of magic codes to operate. Knowing what it took to upload to the Internet in the early days makes the new systems even more impressive. I look at a lot of sites, but my new favorites (and some 'oldies' but goodies) include:
Blogs and Wikis: How could I ignore my absolute favorite tools? I've been blogging since 2003, and love the transformation in how much easier it is to upload everything from photos to widgets. I also like browsing through other Ed Tech Blogs to get a sense of what else is out there. There's a list of my favorite 'others' in the right column of this Blog.
Gabcasts and Podcasts: Still make me smile every time I think about creating an audio podcast with nothing more than a regular phone and some site-generated code. Podcasts are also quite easy to create now that webcams are more plentiful. And thank you, Apple, for making the process effortless and almost instantaneous.
TinyURL: I hate long and complicated URL addresses, mostly because I never type them in correctly the first time. This cuts them down to size.
Hotlists: Wonderful tool to compartmentalize the various Websites by skill or level. We have several on this site, and I'm sure we'll make more. Anything that works to narrow done the huge and daunting amount of sites is worthwhile to both instructors and students.
Microblog and social networking sites such as Jaiku and Twitter...just because I'm busy and it's an easy way to stay connected with friends and family.
Cool Web Sites: A lot of sites that can be adapted to educational settings. SnagFilms has free full-length documentaries, and Voice Thread lets you do classroom projects using photos and audio. Webquests can be used as online lessons, and TeacherTube has an abundance of good (and safe) videos that can be incorporated into lesson plans. Webware has wonderful 2.0 apps to view, and Widgetbox will supply an endless list of widgets to apply to your applications. Sometimes a tool like SlideShare comes along, and lets you share those longer PowerPoints that never quite fit in an email and put them directly in Blogs and Wikis. BabelFish allows you to translate your posts into another language. It isn't perfect, but it certainly helps.

I have URLs for all of the above listed sites in the right hand column. You could check the list and and click or just click on any of the underlined words in this post. Did I mention that I really like things that are easy to use?