Saturday, October 25, 2008

Better powerpoints = Better presentations

Juggling many classes and assignments, I have been bouncing between the K12 Online Conference 2008, with presentations on the uses of and thoughts about media in the classroom, and my own need to create a professional development piece for teachers using a "high quality" Powerpoint presentation. All this plus two other classes, a sick family, and a job that occasionally requires my attention . . .

The K12 Conference is fantastic, blending the thoughts and experiences of librarians and educators around the world through the use of many different media tools. It has been amazing to me to see all the different ways that librarians and other presenters have packaged their information. Presentations typically only last 20 minutes so it is not too large a commitment at one time. The sessions are all independent of each other and will be available online "forever".

Beginning with these k12 presentations, though, which I will not link to individually here, I serendipitously found myself on Slideshare and TeacherTube -- two more great resources. I discovered several insightful presentations discussing .ppt techniques that I found helpful in developing my own presentation.

This self-directed slide show discusses the failure of traditional "template design" .ppt presentations and offers simple creative suggestions for improvement.

Rowan Manahan from Dublin, Ireland is a talented speaker, consultant, and trainer. He offers more info and suggestions in other slideshare presentations he has developed and on his blog.

After too long, trying to re-create my search, I am posting only one .ppt hints presentation here because I seem to be unable to locate others that I used. I did just discover a presentation that I have not viewed yet (45 minutes) on How to create a great PowerPoint without breaking the law. Ok, as a new blogger this brings up a great question. What can I post to this site?

For my presentation, I found a great photo of an iceberg all over the internet, including on a number of different blogs. It even popped up a couple times in a creative commons search but something didn't feel right. I finally traced it back to a photographer named Ralph Clevenger who had his site locked to cut & paste and displayed a very clear copyright warning. The many reproductions I saw on blogs and websites were all copyright violations. Is it a violation to post someone elses video on my blog? I should probably already know this but alas, I'll have to get back to you on that . . .

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tech toys or tools (?) and their uses is described on its home page as a "toy". Using it to create a tag cloud of this blog, though, it is a tool to summarize and discover the primary informational focus or keywords being discussed. Is this cheating? Is using a calculator to do math cheating? The answer is a resounding "no". The answer is that we need to embrace technology and the new tools and methods available to us as a society and as teachers and learners.

A school librarian I met recently boasted how much fun she had doing her job - playing with kids and technology every day. Past generations maintained a strict division between technology toys and technology tools but the more I learn about the technology available and the pedagogy of learning, the more difficult it becomes to label tech toys as valueless. Tool or toy, matching the application to the curriculum, the need, and particular learning style is far more important than the preconceived perception of the application's value.

Presenters at the K-12 Online Conference (live this month and archived for perpetuity) with the theme “Amplifying Possibilities” are using many different communication technologies to share and teach us some of the Web 2.0 possibilities and challenge us to reach for the next level. In their presentation "How Can I Become Part of this ReadWriteWeb Revolution?" Alice Barr, Bob Sprankle, and Cheryl Oakes remind us that once we immerse ourselves and accept our roles as learners along with our students, they will develop and show us ways to use technology that we cannot even imagine.
Keynote speaker Stephen Heppell (designer of physical and virtual learning environments of the future) started the conference (link to his presentation moved. will add when I find.) by describing the crossroads in our educational environment today from the old "factory style" classrooms to the new community classrooms defined by "us-ness". He spoke of teachers provoking learning instead of providing learning and pushing students to take ownership of their learning. While I don't see the majority of our students accepting that role, I think he hit the nail on the head regarding the social nature of learning today and the value of "audience" as a tool in the equation. Perhaps the failure of students to take more ownership or at least be more interested and engaged may be a result of our failure to trust them with the tools of their generation.

Instead of prohibiting headphones, for instance, we should be providing them to all students along with books on tape, podcasts, vodcasts, and text message reminders of class assignments. Instead of disjointed and meaningless deliverable assignments during the course of a semester, perhaps each assignment should add toward a greater, high quality, publishable whole to be displayed on the web. Examples could include articles, tables, photos and even video or podcasts blended into a student created website, or perhaps a professionally designed magazine, well maintained blog, or carefully edited video news program. The key factor may not be the format, but the freedom to choose the format and the reality that, upon completion, it will be available for the full world to see (including important peers and family members).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blogging & other 2.0 apps in the classroom

I'm hooked! Serendipitous research this week has led me into the websites and blogs of school libraries, librarians, and teachers who are actively using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. These teachers are not using technology just for the sake of technology, but as an integral tool in curriculum development.

I've heard podcasts of poetry, political ads, personal experiences, book talks and more. I have seen student created websites about history, health, and science. Blogs have been adopted by teachers in virtually every subject area and, amazingly, in almost every grade level.

Included below are a couple videos borrowed from TeacherTube. The first describes blogs, bloggers, and our relationship to the world around us.

The second gives ten reasons students should be blogging.

I apologize for not including links of all the Web 2.0 applications referenced above. Will begin to share these details in future posts . . . )

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My 'exemplary' school library website

Library school is great! We have no concerns regarding a budget, technology integration issues, district standards, or administrators with differing viewpoints. All we have to do is describe a piece of our “imaginary” library and it becomes real – just as we described it! The pay is lousy though!!! If we could only improve that, I’d “work” here forever.

This week we designed an “exemplary” school library website. Sadly, in all of our research, we never found a school website that embodied all of our suggestions. Some have moved forward with inclusion of things like blogs, RSS feeds, attractive designs, recommended book suggestions and other Web 2.0 features. Very few have adopted search bars on the front page or any type of federated search functions.

In the real world, outside of library school, we still have a long way to go. Highlights of my exemplary library website include:

  • an easily memorable web address and links from all other school webpages with links back to all needed resources including classroom pages, schedule, and school e-mail
  • a prominently featured federated search bar on the front page that will simultaneously search the OPAC, databases and the web through Google
  • search guidance in the form of subject expansion or narrowing, through system generated keyword or subject heading suggestions
  • the use of color and white space to enhance site organization and scannability
  • links, tabs, databases, and other content organized according to typical user needs and designed to open appropriately in a new or existing window
  • easily discovered and readable descriptions and search instructions
  • search guidance in the form of subject expansion or narrowing, through system generated keyword or subject heading suggestions
  • literature appreciation promotion through book summaries, reviews and recommendations, weblinks, and a blog for discussion
  • online tips for research, planning, writing, and citing academic work
  • information on internet safety, plagiarism, and copyright law
  • library and computer lab schedules and librarian contact information
  • a clear summary of the purpose of the website, the library mission statement, and links to library policies and procedures
  • a non-academic, relevant reason for visiting the site regularly, perhaps a daily blog about events in the library and the school or RSS feed of school announcements

The final bullet may be the most important. We need to stimulate users to begin with the library instead of the commercial alternatives (Google).

I hope to get a website up soon where I will post academic responses and assignments that define my views and talents. I will post a more detailed description of my “exemplary school website” there when I do.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Better Pedagogy

Did I mention that I am taking three classes this semester? Met my family a few days ago and needed introductions. Talked to my Dad on the phone and commented on the amount of content output we had to create in this program as compared to the graduate programs he used to take. Not sure if it is the fact that our focus is information literacy or if this is how graduate school is taught today.

Focus this week in another class was how to teach an information literacy lesson that connects with the students, fostering “creative, reflective, and critical habits.” After reading Heidi Jacobs article, “Information and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis” (2008), it is apparent that many of us revert to a forced or “banking model” of education instead of striving for a more constructionist or conversational method.

To interest students in information literacy, we must first forget the theoretical. Many students tend to be disinterested outside of preferred topics (e.g. sports) or ones they see as threats against their personal interests or liberties (e.g. dress code). To implement an effective lesson, we must first engage students. Perhaps a conversation about past searches for information would work as an icebreaker for a lesson on search strategies. This conversation would also act as an assessment tool regarding current levels of expertise and a starting point for the lesson.

Instead of preaching the benefits of database research, perhaps the lesson should begin with discussion about acceptable and unacceptable sources for various types of information from an assortment of print sources displayed in the class – various magazines, journals, newspapers, phone books, encyclopedias, non-fiction and fiction books, student term papers, yearbooks, etc. As the group analyzes these sources in the real world, they may develop a greater understanding of sources in the virtual world.

The lesson could continue with group development of search strategies to find information students had struggled with in the past. By involving the group, discovery of alternate keywords might grow almost like a game instead of an individual drudgery. Discussing and having students demonstrate databases that they use regularly may eliminate some of the confusion and frustration regarding leased databases. Students seem to be well aware of TVGuide, imdb, Amazon, imeem,,, WhitePages, and others.

So many librarians focus on the mechanics – how to use a database. The majority of students will figure the mechanics out very quickly if we can convince them that the answers to the question can be found more easily here than on the web. This lesson needs to be the focus of our “instruction”.

Concluding with a game of stump-the-librarian may be helpful in reinforcing successful strategies. Rules could allow group or individual work by students, students and librarian choosing topics alternately, and winners based upon group evaluation of source quality.

Jacobs, H.L.M. (2008, May). Information and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34, 256-262.