Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 3 Google Docs Blog: Blog about cool ways you can see to use Google Docs in your career.

     The web-based word processing tool Google Docs is a very powerful and dynamic Web 2.0 tool.  I have always been a faithful user of Microsoft Office software applications.  After exploring Google Docs I think I can learn to embrace both software and web-based applications.  The strongest argument in favor of Google Docs and web-based applications is the freedom of not relying on one kind of software version.  For example, if I develop a lesson plan or activity for my third grade class I could share it with colleagues and other people outside of my school in a more efficient manner.  Then they could edit and add more to the document I created.  I like how spreadsheets can be edited by multiple users as well.  For example, if the entire grade level of teachers or a particular team of coaches had a budget spreadsheet, it would be easy for everyone to edit and make changes to it.  I think that Google Docs encourages more collaboration and freedom than software applications.  I like how people can work together on improving a document without worrying about what type of software version they have on their computer.  In my career, I think Google Docs would be great for teachers to collaborate in developing Curriculum Framework Guides, course unit plans, lesson/practice plans, and other learning activities.   In my opinion, Google Docs gives you more freedom and encourages people to share documents and have changes done in a very efficient, user-friendly way.   

Week 3 Assignment RSS Reader: Set up your own bloglines newsreader account. Write a blog post about your experience using it.

                This assignment took some time for me to set up.  I think the Bloglines account I set up will make me more efficient and save time when I surf the Internet.  I really like the idea of one central location where I have access to my favorite websites and current newsfeeds and updates.  At first, I went to my favorite websites and added/copied the RSS feed.  However, I discovered many of my favorite sties were already available in the widgets search within the Bloglines site.  It is a very user friendly site, once you get acclimated to its features and interface.  I know before trying RSS aggregators I wasted so much time typing in an individual website, scrolling through to my favorite section of that site, and then having access.   This all in one place site of newsfeeds really streamlines my internet experience.  This is one of the best parts of Web 2.0 that I have utilized so far.  I will definitely be using my Bloglines account several times a day and it will save me a lot of time.

Week 3 Assignment: Create a Blog Post discussing how any of the technologies explored thus far in the course can be incorporate into your current and/or future career

After reflecting on the past three weeks and the technologies explored thus far in the course I feel all of these tools have their merits and utility.  Personally, I would like to incorporate weblogs and podcasts/vodcasts into my career as a teacher.  Utilizing a weblog like is a great way to encourage students to share their insights on concepts.  When I become a Physical Education teacher I could use the weblogs as a vehicle for students to reflect on course content.  In Physical Education sometimes the time periods are as short as 30 minutes.  The students could utilize the blogs as a way to reflect on the skills learned.  This would save more time for physical activity in classes and the writing and reflection of the skills could be completed through the weblogs. 
The podcasts and vodcasts really interest me as well.  The flexibility of providing students options on when they want to view and learn course content is invaluable.  I could use the podcast for short discussions on Physical Education units we will work on.  For example, I could provide short podcasts on the rules, concepts, and game play for team sport units.  A vodcast would be great for demonstrating the mature stage of a particular skill.  Younger students could view the vodcast multiple times to see how to properly execute a skill, such as the overhand throw or a headstand.  Older students in middle school or high school could use the vodcasts for proper form in shooting a basketball, serving a volleyball, and weight training exercises.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week 3 KIN 710 Web 2.0 Awards list Blog post

Week 3 KIN 710 Assignment
Explore any site from the Web 2.0 awards list, play with it and write a blog post about your findings.
Take a look at the various links provided on this site.  It really highlights several of the new technologies referred to as Web 2.0.  Web 2.0 Awards

I chose to explore the music Web 2.0 site Pandora.  Through my explorations I discovered that Pandora is a Web 2.0 personalized radio station.  Basically, as a user you can tweek your personalized listening station by genre, artists, or favorite song.  Then Pandora uses its interface and technology to create a playlist for your radio station that meets your tastes in music.
The strengths that I discovered about Pandora was that it had less advertising breaks between songs compared to traditional radio stations.  It also has an option for a free account.  This gives you 40 hours of free listening to your personalized radio station.  You can also create multiple listening stations, which was another great feature.   In addition, you can also listen to your station on your computer, in your home, and on your cell phone.  There also is a great tool where you can interact with other Pandora users and make comments on songs and their listening stations.  This creates a collective Pandora listening community that shares their musical tastes.  Some of the other features I liked were that you can rate songs using the thumbs up and thumbs down icons.   This allows you to mark your favorite songs and music artists and eliminate those songs you do not like.   You also have the option to buy the song by clicking on an icon next to the playlist.  This kind of dynamic interface is a prime example of Web 2.0.  The end-user or consumer are the decision makers and calibrate how Pandora will respond, so they can constantly adjust to your unique music listening tastes.
With that said, there were some weaknesses to Pandora.  There are audio ads that disrupt the listening experience if you choose the free account.  While the audio ads are not as long as traditional air wave radio stations, it can be annoying.   The only remedy is to upgrade to Pandora One, which is the ads free version and costs $36 a year for a membership.  I have the free account, and I am not sure if I would upgrade to paying an annual fee for Pandora.  I will need to play with Pandora for a few months to determine if it is worth paying for it.  I also discovered that the full biographies and lyrics for every artist and song are not fully accessible with the free account version.   You also don’t get many skips if there is a song you don’t like with the free account.  You have to wait and listen to the song you do not like if you have used up your skips for that listening log time.
In conclusion, I liked Pandora as another option for me when I listen to music.  Granted, most of us have our Ipods and mp3 players to create our own music playing lists.  However, I think I will utilize Pandora when I am on my computer doing classwork or research.  It is neat to have a personalized station and to see what songs Pandora compiles based on my interests.  It is a constant process of Pandora making adjustments to get closer to my ideal personal radio station.  I would encourage anyone to at least explore Pandora for a week and see if you like it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week 2 Flickr Assignment Post

I never used Flickr until doing this assignment.  I was skeptical of whether this photo sharing site would be of benefit for me.  I actually had fun taking some photos of my school.  I can see myself utilizing Flickr as a way to share photographs.  I like how you can have access to different types of photos from professional photographers as well.  I included two images of the entrance to my school and classroom.  I also included a photo of one of the chess boards that we use in the Vansville Chess Club that I coach and sponsor as an after school activity.

KIN 710 Week 2 Post- Blog about some things you found interesting from at least 3 articles you read this week.

The first article that was interesting to me was Editorial: Examining Social Software in Teacher Education by Richard Ferdig, which analyzed the benefits and drawbacks of Social Software.  This journal article helped me familiarize what Social Software encompasses.  We often think of Facebook and Twitter as examples, but I learned that Social Software is basically technology that promotes social networking and communication between people in interconnected groups.  The article mentioned that Social Software naturally serves constructivism.  This kind of learning is student-centered.  Learning is richer when students are able to construct their own meaning from the material and concepts.  I reflected on this online graduate program and this course.  Would I get a more enriching learning experience with no interaction with others?  The virtual forums, discussions, and blog posts in our course promote an open dialogue and cooperative learning.   This in turn cross pollinates to the other students and provides further opportunities for more knowledge to be shared and learned.  Everyone in our cohort is adding their insights to the entire learning experience.   The Social Software like blogs, provide a platform for every student to have a voice and space to express thoughts.   It promotes a more democratic discussion.  Sometimes in a traditional classroom a few students dictate the open discussion and some students who might be less eager to participate do not have as many opportunities to share their thoughts. 
                In addition, this article made me think about how we can utilize this Social Software with the students we teach.  Some of my concerns are balancing the formal and informal aspects of Social Software.  We have a responsibility to set guidelines, etiquette, and parameters of acceptable behavior when utilizing it.  As a teacher you want to have control of your classroom and good discipline established with your students.  The challenge is to have clear expectations and boundaries clearly set with Social Software while still encouraging freedom for students to collaborate, express themselves, and interact.  This means as teachers we need to continue to strive to take a more facilitator role.  The article mentioned that it’s not a question of whether Social networking is good or bad, but learning how to use it responsibly and in ways that promote learning.
                The second article that was intriguing for me was Web, Library, and Teen Services 2.0 by Kimberly Bolan, Meg Canada, and Rob Cullin.  This article helped familiarize me with what the phrase 2.0 means for the web and for libraries.  I learned that Web 2.0 is the second generation of the Internet.  I have heard the term 2.0 in conversations and even in songs, but really didn’t understand what it encompasses.  The author of the article described Web 2.0 as more dynamic, user-friendly, and interactive with material having social platforms for communication with others.  They describe Web 1.0 as the first generation of the Internet where it was a more static interface and less interactive.  In order to remain relevant and serve its burgeoning teen demographic the libraries of today need to adapt to the Web 2.0 by evolving themselves into Library 2.0.  This will be a challenge as many libraries and their staff might be reluctant to relinquish some control of how their services are shared and utilized.  I can think back to my experiences in libraries growing up and they could be cumbersome and like the authors pointed out “very static, sterile, and vanilla” based with services and their physical environment.
                I think if libraries want to serve their users better they need to update to the 2.0 model with a more interactive, open space environment that is inviting and customer-driven.  Sometimes, people think a library is updated and 2.0 if it has computers and some technology tools.   After reading this article libraries need to personalize content to library members, whether it be wikis, blogs, podcasts, and instant messages or email alerts.  Libraries also need to provide an updated, fresh and inviting atmosphere for members like teens and other technological savvy library members.  If the libraries can update their physical environment it will attract more members.  When the environment is less cluttered and provides choice for multiple activities like gaming, video casts, and collaboration meetings virtually or physically, it satisfies the member’s needs.
                The third article that piqued my interest was Social Networking by Alfred C. Weaver and Benjamin B. Morrison.  The authors make a point in regard to social networking creating an evolution to how we interact and communicate with others.   What I learned is that social networking has been around for a long time, before we had Web 2.0 technology.  The difference now is the platform and tools we utilize to carry out social networking.
One of the concepts that I found interesting was the paradigm shift in how information is created and shared.  During the early stages of the World Wide Web it was a top-down model, whereby the internet media corporations and moguls controlled how information was disseminated.  This has changed over time, and evolved with the Web 2.0 technology to where it is a bottom-up social networking model now.  The end-user or individual web users now have the freedom and autonomy to share ideas with everyone on the web, and for that matter off-line as well.  Consumers now have more choice and can use various social networking platforms to express themselves and connect with people.
                The authors of the article make a valid point about how the bottom-up approach with its freedom for the end user also has a privacy issue.  Social networking has the value of connecting others, but just like human interaction in a non-virtual environment there needs to be rules and etiquette.  Otherwise, social networking sites and tools can undermine their consumers and ultimately be a detriment to their success as a business entity.