Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Student-Parent-Teacher Lesson Plan

The Museum 2.0 blog has a great example of online collaboration using VoiceThread. You can view that example here. The project had more than 200 participants from 131 cities worldwide.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with VoiceThread, VoiceThread can be described as an online slide show accompanied by commentary (voice and text) from other VoiceThread users. To start a VoiceThread one person posts images and records their commentary about those images then other users can login into their accounts and share their commentary on the same images or what was said by the previous person. In short, it's like having a conversation at an art gallery, but the conversation is held and recorded online instead of in-person. When you register at VoiceThread be sure to tell them you're an educator because you will get a lot of free benefits that regular users have to pay for. Below is a short video introduction to VoiceThread.

Applications for Education
VoiceThread could be used as a great tool for students, parents, and teachers to collaborate on a local history project. Local historical societies are always looking for people willing to share information and knowledge. Creating a VoiceThread to share with a local historical society would be a great way for students to learn about their local history and perform a community service at the same time. Students and teachers could invite their parents and grandparents to share their knowledge of local history in the VoiceThread conversation.

A Gold Medal for a Life-Long Technology Learner

Today, on the Google LatLong blog, women's bicycling gold medalist Kristin Armstrong shared her story of how learning new technology, in this case GPS and Google Earth, helped her win in Beijing. It's an interesting story and a great example of being a life-long learner. Kristin ends the story by sharing her newest technology discovery, Google Calendar. You can read Kristin's story here and visit her official website here.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Jitterbug of Educational Technology

The Jitterbug is a cell phone marketed to baby boomers (my parents' generation). The Jitterbug's advertisements highlight the key features of the phone as large, easy to see buttons and displays, preprogrammed and ready to use out of the box, and overall simplicity. The advertisement running in this month's issue of The Atlantic boldly exclaims, "It doesn't play games, take pictures, or give you the weather." In other words it's perfect for my step-father who, much to my mother's chagrin, still prefers to keep a ham/ c.b. radio in his car rather than use a cell phone.

Yesterday, the staff at my school was introduced to a new grading program. This new software has a staggering number of capabilities and uses (it should for what it costs). Unfortunately, the presentation of the software to the staff was butchered. Rather than showing and having staff try the basic tasks like taking attendance and listing assignments, the staff was shown, in a large auditorium, a myriad of functions that 98% of them will never use. As I looked around the room I saw many, I dare the vast majority, peoples' expressions bely their utter confusion and stress from just thinking about trying to use the software on their own. A much better approach to introducing the staff to new software that they're required to use would have been to break the staff into smaller groups, distribute step-by-step directions for the basic functions, and then let the staff try those basic functions. In other words the staff would have benefited from trying the Jitterbug instead of being shown, but not touching, the Nokia N95.

Application for Education
The lesson to take from this story is that as teachers in love with and comfortable with technology we sometimes get ahead of ourselves when showing students or staff a new website or piece of software. It's important to remember that there are always people in the audience that need to get comfortable with the Jitterbug before trying the iPhone or the Nokia N95.