Saturday, October 24, 2009

Help for Power Pointers

With the tsunami of presentations ahead of me next week and in an effort to avoid 'death by PowerPoint bullets', I shared some of Garr Reynold's tips about making effective slides with my students. (I didn't share Guy Kawasaki's motto: 10, 20, 30; ten slides, twenty minutes and font size thirty buy you should look him up on Google authors. He's hilarious.)

Here's my top ten:
10. Don't use the power point bullet
9. No animations or transitions or if you absolutely must, no more than one type.
8. No cartoons and even worse, clip art.
7. Use the image on the slide as the eye's 'candy' for what the ear will hear.
6. Cool colours for the background and warmer for the foreground
5. Text should be minimal -think Zen flower arrangements
4. Slides should be a visual support - they don't tell your story; you do.
3. Use large font - Kawasaki says size 30 because this guarantees minimal text. (Also good for older teachers!)
2. Remember the power of the negative space on the slide. Don't fill every corner.
1. Never, ever, ever read from your slides.

I also recommended they make the slides interactive when possible and to this end, Chartle.net is an easy tool for them. You can make a variety of interactive maps, charts and diagrams in seconds, grab the embed code and paste it to your blog or wiki. (Here's a short tutorial I made for the students on using Cartle.) Of course, Chartle is great for teachers too which is why I've posted it here. Try it out and pass on these tips to your students.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Powerful Sharing with Drop.io

Today I spent some time with drop.io and want to recommend it as a powerful tool for private and very easy sharing of files. Just think of your own URL where you can 'drop' any type of file and invite people to view, add, comment, upload to it, download from it and tons more.


You can keep this URL private for yourself or share as you want with co-workers or friends. You can also password protect drops, set expiration timing and additional permissions like whether others can download, delete, add, etc.
You add files or media to drop by clicking the 'add' button on the top of the drop page (can also add files from the homepage) and from there you can add files, notes, website links and even voicenotes via the drop's unique voicemail number. I haven't tried this one yet but you can even use the drop.io's conference call number for meetings, email address to email text and/or attachments into the drop and fax coversheet to fax into the drop - try them out! It's super easy to share files and/embed them in a wiki (web/blog) page. To test it out, go to www.drop.io/darylsdemo and see what I've put there.



Here's a tutorial to help you get started. Happy dropping!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Twitter for Francophones

Just a pittance of a post to signal this recent discovery: "Twitter" for the Francophone network! Here's a descriptor from the sender:
Depuis la fin septembre je suis abonné au service de microblogue (offertpar le Recit) EnDirect. Il s'agit d'une plateforme de microblogue (toutdoit s'écrire en moins de 140 caractères) destinée à l'éducation etdisons-le, à l'utilisation des Tics dans notre pédagogie.
Vous pouvez y jeter un coup d'œil
.
http://recit.org/endirect/

We always need help when learning a new technology so here are the links: http://recit.org/endirect/doc/help
http://recit.org/endirect/doc/regles

Et pourquoi pas? Le microblogue est pour tout le monde!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wolfram Alpha Project

Imagine this: You are standing at the portal separating you from infinite knowledge. All you have to do is knock and ask your question. Like the protagonist in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, you can only ask objective questions of your portal. (He had black and white stones that provided him with answers to objective questions while he searched for answers to ultimate questions!)

That portal is the Wolfram Alpha Project and from what I can see, it appears to be the most interesting and powerful computational program on the web to date. Go to it. Test it. Ask it any quantifiable question you can dream of and then test the answer. It's simply breathtaking in its abilities to provide speedy and accurate answers. Next Wednesday, Oct 21st is its Homework Day Launch Project. Be a part of it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Math and Science Online

In recently gave a workshop to my colleagues about using the wiki. We encountered some small obstacles but the final result was a success. However, I left with a haunting feeling that these workshops should be tailored differently for the math and science teachers. My colleague, a math teacher, was insistent on first knowing how she could use a wiki in a math class before walking through the steps of building it. I understood her concern and left the workshop with a firm promise to myself to find high quality and easy-to-use web based resources for the math and science teachers that can easily be incorporated onto the wiki.

Then I came across this article in 'Elearn Magazine' by Maria H. Andersen at Muskegon Community College who writes about the reluctance of math and science teachers to adopt new technologies. She says, "Faculty from almost every discipline are interested in using new technologies and teaching online, except the people in math, science, and engineering." It's not because they don't want to learn something new or that they are busier than teachers of any other discipline, Andersen concludes. It's simply that they can't see how that new technology applies to their discipline. (I can hear the art and music teacher saying, "Hey, that's what we think too!)

Andersen offers a simple solution: give these teacher six powerful tools and examples for how to use them. I will only list the first three and encourage you to read the article yourself.

1. Tablet computers: The tablet PC is like a digital notebook with the additional capability that the screen can also be used for input. Tablet PCs are usually equipped with a stylus that allows the user to write on the screen. Handwriting recognition software converts this input into text for use with software such as internet browsers and email programs. As an educational tool, two of the most important features of the tablet PC are annotation and wireless communication. The annotation feature allows the user to write on almost any document much as one would annotate a printout of the same document. The wireless communication feature allows tablet PCs to share information with one another. She mentions Wacom's Bamboo Tablet for under $100.

2. Recording and editing software such as Jing (there's a free version) and Camtasia.

3. Training in equation software such as Mathtype. Andersen points out that most math and science teachers don't receive formal training and "if instructors perceive that creating equations in documents is too time-consuming, they are unlikely to try teaching online, where typing an equation is often the quickest form of communication."

I recommend Ms. Anderson's blog where she writes about teaching math and technology online.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Students Blogging

Today's sociology class was my first adventure with student blogging. I spent plenty of time looking for a good blogging platform and considered the different reasons for blogging. Should I have one blog with different authors? How do I control the content if students all have their separate accounts? Why do I need to control anything? Why not encourage them to develop their own voice and have the confidence in them? So, I took the leap. The students got gmail accounts and are entering the blogosphere through the blogspot portal.

As many of my classes this year, this is a work in progress and my students are 'guinea pigs' for the cause. I'm excited to see how this progresses. We will be experimenting with cool web tools and widgets that will make the blog interesting as well as embedding pictures and videos. But the most exciting thing is that they will have the sense of writing for an audience and not just for the teacher. Keep posted to see how this develops. The students will post a link to their individual blogs on our class wiki .

As a word of advice to other teachers, have the students sign up for the gmail account from home instead of all at the same time in class. I lost at least 25 minutes with problems in the sign up process. (More than ten requests for a blog coming from the same IP address will be a problem for Google.)