Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Facebook fan pages

If you are, like some schools, using social networking with your students, Facebook fan pages may be a better way to go than "friending" your students. Having students as fans rather than friends means you have more control over the interactions and you can't see their status updates, or in fact any of their private information.

Of course a Ning or even a Moodle would probably be a better idea for online social network-style interactions with students, but that would mean another login for them and for you. These are also less likely to be blocked by your school district's network policies. This is still relatively uncharted territory, though, so it is recommended that you proceed with caution.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

education technology consultant

I've realized that this is the one place I haven't announced my new job. Starting in August I'll be an Education Technology Consultant for my school district. At this point it's just a one year secondment, but I'll be working with two other technology consultants, and I'm excited about the possibilities.

Wolfram Alpha

As someone interested in both Science and Technology, I need to mention Wolfram|Alpha. It looks sort of like a search engine, but it's more like a calculator. Their stated goal is "to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone." Basically they want to collect data and algorithms in order to have a system that answers questions.

It's obviously a work in progress, but what they have accomplished already is pretty cool. They have some example queries that you can try in order to get a feel for how it works. I think that Educators in particular should be very excited about the possibilities.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

thoughts on student laptop use

Last year I was able to briefly (for one unit of study) have a laptop for every student in my Science 14 class, and I had scribbled down some thoughts about a computer for every student in a non-academic class. I didn't do anything groundbreaking with them, the students basically used them for note taking, worksheets, and viewing the textbook's CD-based animations.

Using them every day is different from "computer lab" time.
Assignments are much neater and easier to mark.
There is a broad range of typing skills and technology comfort levels.
Motivation is increased, probably because it's something new and it shows that the teacher cares to do something different.
Perhaps a system could be used for "chat style" feedback during lectures.
Access to the Internet can be a distraction.
Power issues come up (extension cords and batteries).
They like mice rather than touchpads or eraserheads.
Desk space is an issue, textbooks ended up in their laps.
There are some digital textbooks available as PDFs or applications.
They sometimes get confused when you call them notebooks instead of laptops.
Many of them like to customize the colours, fonts, etc. of the OS and their documents.
Worksheets are all in their document folders ahead of time, this means less printing and I don't have to make sure I have each day's assignment ready to hand out.
I don't usually give them a copy of the PowerPoint notes, perhaps that's something to try.
Some students work on the worksheets while taking notes, and/or copy and paste from their notes into their worksheets.

Those were my thoughts, it will be interesting to see how this changes with things like 1:1 projects and allowing student laptops on the school wifi.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

photo mosaics

If you're looking for a different way to present photos, especially on posters, AndreaMosaic is a free photographic mosaic creation program. It's great for sports teams, international field trips, or even for the school yearbook.

Basically you give it the image that you want to create, then a lot of other images to use as tiles. There are a few settings to tweak if you'd like, and the images it creates are very cool.

On the Mac, there's a similar program called MacOSaiX.