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Archive for November, 2008

At this time of year, I often find myself reflecting on my personal accomplishments and evaluating my personal goals. I adjust my goals accordingly to the world around me. Will I afford my dream vacation this year? What family activities will I want to attend? Can I complete the task that I’ve started?

This is also the time I remember those who I don’t see frequently. Maybe they moved away. Maybe they live in another country. Or maybe they are doing important work, like defending our country. For my long distant friends I can send a card or email to brighten their day. I can pick up the phone and reconnect. For those defending our country, they deserve something more meaningful.

Many different groups and organizations collect items for the military. Some collect phone cards. Some send movies and music. At times, even Girl Scout troops will send cookies.

Today I read a listserve promoting LetsSayThanks.com. Xerox will print Thank You cards for military personnel and deliver it for free. The cards were created by elementary students around the US. Visitors to the website select a card and message to be printed inside. Xerox provided some messages but also permits you to write your own.

This is an opportunity I could not miss. I may overlook their sacrifice on any given Thursday, but during the holidays, I need to express gratitude to those who serve. I hope you will take a moment and do so as well. Visit LetsSayThanks.com

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Shmoop’s writing component

Nikki asked a question regarding Shmoop. She was having difficulty navigating through the writing component. I played around with it at various times and skipped over the theme section to complete my outline.

Although skipping the valuable theme section is not ideal, it did allow me to advance. Shmoop is still in the beta stage which means that there will be bugs and hiccups. I’ve contacted them and found them to be very responsive. Because they are graduate students and educators from some impressive colleges, they are committed to this.

Since Nikki’s comment, Shmoop has worked out that kink. Now you should have greater success working with the themes in an outline.

Thanks for asking. Good luck.

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Wii in the classroom?

Wander through most classrooms and students will be sitting in their desks. Their desks are in rows and the teacher is in the front of the room. Sounds very much like a classroom in the one room schoolhouse of yesterday.

This is not the case in one high school classroom. Wander into this classroom and you will see students working at computers, working in the kitchen area, and working with the Wii. That is right. The Nintendo Wii. Where is the teacher of this unique classroom? She, and her staff, is in the middle of this explosion. These are students with multiple disabilities and learn best in a non-traditional classroom. The Wii is a wonderful addition.

Nintendo Wii

Most families gather around a television set to play the Wii. Not here. In this classroom, connecting the Wii console to the smartboard creates a giant television screen for Wii play. The large screen allows viewing from anywhere in the room including everyone.

What learning occur with the Wii in the classroom? The teaching staff listed the ways:

  • Language skills
  • Gross /fine motor
  • Cognitive skills
  • Exercise and fitness
  • Socialization
  • Music

One main consideration in implementing the Wii is purpose. Adults know how easy it is to lose time when engrossed in a video game activity, like the Wii. Everyone becomes engrossed and needs to balance play with work. The classroom and Wii is no different.

In the classroom, planning for the Wii is critical for successful learning. I asked the staff how the Wii will be used in the classroom. This was their response, “The Wii is a positive reinforcement. Adults supervise the Wii and promote multiple user play. The Wii is not allowed to distract students from classroom learning.”

Since the implementation of the Wii in this classroom, the teaching staff has witnessed an increase in student learning. One student has responded by completing tasks quicker than before. Another student demonstrated appropriate social communication skills. The interaction between general education students and students with special needs has increased. The educational value of the Wii is evident in this unique classroom.

As with any technology tools, careful planning is important to success.

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No matter your interest. No matter your technology ability. You want to keep your favorite websites organized and at your finger tips. For most of us, we use our favorite tool on the web browser. This is fine, until we are not sitting with our machine or we have too many to keep organized or unfortunately, our computer crashes.

I’ve experienced all the above. Then I discovered Delicious, a social bookingmarking site. I could try to explain the site to you, but Common Craft does a much better job.

Delicious is a fee service that installs a toolbar with your browser. If you are not sitting at your computer and want to access your bookmarks, you may go to their website, log in and access your sites. You may also tag a new site without the toolbar.

Think of your bookmarks as a library. Tagging is similar to categorizing. Just as in a library all biographies are categorized under 900.  In your delicious library, your websites about travel might be categorized, or tagged, as travel. Your website for good hiking places might be tagged as travel, hiking, CT, and dayhikes. When you are looking for that website about hiking in CT, you can start in Travel, or hiking.

Delicious homepage

Delicious homepage

A few tips to keep in mind

·         Add more than one tag for easier recall

·         Keep tags simple

·         A space indicates a new tag

·         No need to use words like a, the, or, and

·         If you want two words to be one tag, place them together. example: foreigntravel, socialstudies

·         You are able to add notes to your tag to provide more information

As your tags begin to grow and get out of control, you can group your tags into bundles. In my delicious library, I have tag bundles to group all of my math websites, literacy websites, and others. This becomes the first step in quickly locating my tags. When I click into the literacy bundle, these are the tags I see:

My Delicious Library

My Delicious Library

Audio, audiobooks, books, chunking, classics, fastforword, language, literacy, reading

Another benefit to working with Delicious is that I can share my websites with other delicious users. And in the same sense, I can borrow websites from their library. When I find a website that someone in my network, like Gigi or Anna, might like, I can tag it for them. Without Delicious I might have to copy the URL and email the page to them. It would be up to them to save it to their favorites, or keep my email in their inbox. With delicious, I tagged it for them (for:username ) and it appears in their Delicious “inbox”. They can view it and if they like it save it to their library.

When I learn that someone else has a Delicious account, either through a blog, or website, I can browse through their library and save websites that are useful or interesting to me. I don’t need to look at an individual library; I can browse through all of delicious by doing a search. For example, if I am looking for websites on car care, I can type that into delicious and it will search all users and give me a list of all the websites that have been tagged car or care.

Why would I choose to use Delicious for a search like that when I could use Google, Yahoo or other search browser? Because I won’t need to sort through websites that are businesses, or retail or too broad. I’m benefiting from other people’s efforts.

Example of Car Care search on Delicious

Example of Car Care search on Delicious

Just as face to face networking, I’ll find similar users. I can add these users to my network and instead filling up my library, I can “borrow” from theirs. Together, we share knowledge and time.

In a bite size cupcake,

that is delicious.

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