Monday, July 12, 2010

Moving on

Well, I sent the message today to all the members of the Voicethread Ning that we're moving to a new Voicethread group inside the Classroom 2.0 Ning here:
It took quite a bit of time to figure out what to do.  I toyed with the idea of starting an Elgg hosted site (From @steveoc on Twitter) and I even started a Voicethread (which I'll get rid of soon).  However, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if we need a stand-alone Ning-like site.
When I asked I remembered a few people mentioned joining another Ning group like Classroom 2.0 and I think that will work out.  Since they have a vast community of educators there already,it could be a one-stop place for educators to share ideas and connect with others about Voicethread or any other topic.
I hope this works well.  We've gotten a couple to join already today and I hope it continues to grow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Elementary Voicethread Project

That's the title I finally came up with for our end of the year Elementary Voicethread project. Around January I asked on Twitter if anyone would be willing to collaborate with an area school using Voicethread. I received a couple tweets back and said I'd be back in touch later. A few things came up and we didn't look to go much further, but Brian Wasson sent a follow up tweet about a Kindergarten class on Long Island still interested, then right before the Spring Break I found another area Kindergarten teacher, where I work, who said she'd be interested as well. I told them that we'd talk after the Spring Break. Well, that Sunday before we came back, I was in church (where I get many of these ideas) and thought, why not invite the world?

I created this wiki on Sunday afternoon and by Wednesday we had almost 40 members join our wiki after a few tweets (OK, quite a few tweets) and the project posted in CAPSpace. I left it wide open so people didn't even have to actually join the wiki, so I wonder how many others were interested?  I put up the ClustrMap a little late, mostly from US, but a couple from across the pond and on our 1st Grade page you can see a variety from Canada, the US and Australia!
We started with most teachers posting Voicethreads that they've done this year with their class which has been great to see and I hope to post to Colete Cassinelli's Voicethread4Education wiki.  However, to keep it to the "Show off Your School" theme, I moved them to this page.
Teachers could take just one picture of the front of your school (or classroom) and have all of their students comment on just that one picture if they wanted, or they could do a bunch of pictures.
What I envisioned was letting your students go around, take their own pictures (either on their own or in a group), decide which ones to put up in the one class Voicethread and then comment on those picture(s).  Post that Voicethread to our wiki and then comment on others (if they allowed comments)
We 'officially' ended on June 3rd and got quite a few in the Kindergarten-3rd grade level.  One at the Pre-K and 4th grade level, but none at 5th and 6th. 
Honestly, I was hoping to get other schools in to look at what others schools did and maybe....just maybe, connect with them at the end of the year. If that happened and they saw how easy it was, then they may look into doing it again next year. We'll see how any of that plays out.

I'm hoping to hear ideas to help improve it for next year and to bring in new teachers!

I think, sometime in late August, I may move all of these to a 'Spring 2010' page.  I will still keep them separated by grades and then start it again next year for a Kick-Off to the school year. 
Ironically, the Hinsdale teacher and Long Island teacher (Brian's lovely wife who helped their Kindergarten class set up) shared the Voicethreads they made separately.  I wonder if that would've been a better way to approach it?  Let people sign up, then pair them with another school. The whole posting to a wiki for the world to see, might've been a little scary for some? 
Then again, I like sharing them on a wiki, teach them how to create and post a digital story on the internet responsibly....for some reason that feels like it should be part of my job?!?!

Thanks to anyone who participated.  I'd love feedback.  I think they went well.  Have a great rest of the school year (or summer vaction for some of you not in New York State!).

Why can't I blog more?

I started off May with a few ideas and said, you know what, I'm going to have a goal of one blog post per month!  That's not too hard, is it?

I guess it was.

Today is June 10th and I'm finally going to finish one.  I did start one earlier blog post, but never finished it.
I've noticed with my job in professional development that I'm not busy like I was as a High School Math teacher grading papers and building assessment.  However, I'm constantly searching for and trying out good tech ideas for the classroom and trying to be, well a master of everything!  Plus, I now value good customer service and try to keep all of my teachers happy and I try to respond to any issues or questions to the best of my ability....or the ability of my Twitter network.  There are plenty of good stories to share like the Elementary Voicethread Project I tried to get started, Science Fairs in districts and other collaborations that our teachers are doing.
I do try to write some of these up for our CA BOCES website and/or monthly flyer.  It's time to start getting those thoughts on here.  I also need to get into a good habit of checking my iGoogle page daily to check on my RSS feeds.  I can leverage my online community of educators more, make my life easier and be a good role model for the teachers in our area.

Fingers crossed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Riding the Google Wave

It's been almost a week and I survived my "Riding the Google Wave" session at NYSCATE's "Riding the Digital Wave" session out at Erie1 BOCES West Seneca location.

It was a great day starting off with the keynote by Dr. Roger Firestein who started off by telling us he got his major in Creativity and Innovation here at UB!  What?  I've never even heard of that.  He kept us thinking and in particular had us form groups and "without judgement" brainstorm ideas about what we'd want our bathtub to be!  It was amazing when there were no limits what we came up with.  From NASCAR strips that you could just rip off and BAM, the tub and area around it would be clean.  To having the water do a skin scan and sending that information directly to your doctor to make sure everything is OK (thanks @rickweinberg for both of those).  I keyed in on the idea of "without judgement" since I was going to be showing Google Wave, which is still in Beta, and quite honestly, Wave's been beat up quite a bit since it's release.

In my session, well, I survived!
I must've been pretty nervous because I can't distinctly remember where people were sitting, just that it was packed.  Quite a few people said they had Google Wave invites, but we only had a few editing with us.  I fortunately could call on @tclarkeee, @jgriffith2, @theresagray and @rickweinberg as well as some others to add content and ideas.

To give the others an real time collaboration option, I set up an Etherpad to use with suffix RtGW (Riding the Google Wave).  I then realized that this one is different because it has lower case letters here!  Ooops.
The good things that I believe I did was to organize my waves into one folder (RtGW).  That gave them a blue box when they were in my inbox denoted by RtGW.  I also brought in the Public Robot (  otherwise no one would be able to see it OR I'd have to invite every single person.
The other robot I used was EasyPublic ( not sure if it did anything different, but I read that it wouldn't go away.  I guess sometimes the Public Robot does?
THEN, I tagged each of the waves #RtGW and to be safe also RtGW.  This is done at the bottom of the wave where it says Tags" and a + sign in a grey ellipse.
To be even more save, I went up to the top and numbered them 1,2,3,4.  Then, when people went to the search they could type:
with:public #RtGW (or RtGW without the #)
and get my four waves.  
For some reason the Fourth wave didn't show up and that was too bad, because I had questions about the opening keynote.  
Instead I started back over to wave #1 and deleted my content to put questions up for the keynote.  
You can see it here (If you have a Google Wave account).
I tried to show the Google Wave that JamieLynn Griffith did with her 2nd Graders and their Community project, but I was trying to rush through all of it and by that point, I'm not sure how many people were still with me.
I'm glad I took the risk, but couldn't done it a lot better.

First, in the description, sent everyone to to sign up for an account before they got there.  I did try to send an e-mail a week before, but some didn't get it in time and didn't have time to send it in and get it back.  This would've been the biggest improvement, because I think there was so much confusion at the beginning that it was hard for people to see how they may use this.
I also should've gone slower at the beginning for those that had Google Wave accounts.  This is how you start a wave, this is your blip.  Shown ways to edit and save a little slower.  Maybe had them send waves to a small group next to them to practice...then thrown them into mine to have all of us start adding to.
Then, I could've organized gadgets better.  I had my third wave all full of gadgets to play with. I barely talked about them.
Not sure if I'd do that again.  At least not until it's out of Beta and I get to use it more.

Next, maybe something more like Google SketchUp!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Riding the Google Wave

This Friday, March 26th I'll be running a "Riding the Google Wave" session at NYSCATE's Riding the Digital Wave Conference. More about that later, but trying to see if I can embed a Wave in here using Embeddy Robot?

Hmmmm, guess not so easy?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Perfect Storm?

    I tend to try to live my life staying out of the peaks and valleys.  Improve gradually.  At least I try.  Don't get too high from the highs, or too low from the lows.
    I've been on quite a high since my Educon trip and I've been trying to keep the momentum.
Maybe it was just the Perfect Storm for me?
    My beautiful wife and are are expecting our third child, there have been plenty of things on my mind lately.  I knew this trip would give me some time to 'get away' and learn.  I did travel down alone and just finding the hotel was an accomplishment for me!  *No laughing Pohanka!*
I knew some people from Twitter and from NECC last year in Washington, DC.  Thus, I had some people to talk to and hang out with (most notably the three headed braintrust of Debra Garcia, Carey Pohanka and Susan Morgan).  Right away on Thursday night we met the incredible Jenny Luca from Australia and Diane Cordell, a retired librarian from New York.  Later on, Jeff O'Hara from Edmodo fame, and his wife arrived after their flight from Chicago.  Educon was off to a great start for me.  Now, I can't list everyone that I met, however, that aspect of meeting people that I talk to through Twitter made this conference even better.  It also helped my confidence, knowing that I've already communicated with many of these people in education.
     The tour and class visits at Educon were eye opening.  At first it just seemed like controlled chaos.  
Kids were up out of their seats, working in groups, allowed to talk out loud.....and as a result, they were teaching and learning from each other.  The one room I walked in, I couldn't even find the teacher!  
     The CoreValues were displayed in every room, and the hallways decorated with student work.  Did you see the math on the 5th floor?  
Picture taken from my cellphone *Next year, remember camera!
     This table and other math trig graphs were just down from some unit in a health class about Sex Ed that may have gotten a few days of ISS at my old schools!  The students and faculty own the building (except for the 4th floor, forgot what was in there, an architectural firm, maybe?).
     I had to take two tours, one with a larger group, then as I was trying to think about all that I saw on my first trip I went to the Library.  There I sat next to Jenny Luca and she wanted to go for a tour, so I went with here and two nice young men, Javon and Hector.  They both asked what we did and then started us off on our tour to the classrooms they thought we'd like.  For me, it was the drama room with Jeff Han showing his 100-inch touch screen tv, and then down to their Calculus class with Mr. Latimer.  They talked about becoming experts in different types of differentiation and then teaching the class!  They also explained how they work together on these projects and even though they honestly grumbled about them, you could see the pride that they had in completing them.
     The next two days were filled with the Conversations that will require more time for me to think through.  
     I will just say this.  
     It was never a main point (I don't think) in any of the Conversations I attended, however, just building relationships with students, came through in all of them.  Caring for your students like they were your own children and giving them a chance to show what they can accomplish when someone believes in them.  It's stuff we talk about at our ISS meetings every Monday morning and it was all rolled into this SLA school, and working well.  It was eye opening to say the least.
     I started by saying "The Perfect Storm" because of the timing with other things in my life, how crazy work has been this year, then having HIGH hopes for this conference.  Those high hopes were exceeded and it was great to go see a school with clear goals and a faculty working together to accomplish those goals.  Follow that up with two days of Conversations with people (who are much smarter than I), and you have a very inspirational weekend.
     I had to leave after lunch on Sunday, however, I was in Binghampton before I knew it.  
     Because I was talking to myself and bouncing ideas from the weekend all over the car!  Time just flew by.  I'm still not clear on everything, but realize how much more there is to learn.  
I'll continue to write some more blog posts, and maybe after a few of these I can start making things more clear.
     Thanks for the patience in advance.  There's more to the weekend from my perspective, maybe the next blog post will be about the Conversations that I went to:  
All three Conversations that I went to on Saturday were by the SLA staff, Team Canada was my only Sunday session.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Trying to get my brain to slow down after three excellent days at Educon in Philadelphia visiting the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in action on Friday, and then attending the conversations Saturday and Sunday.

I'm wondering how to continue the momentum, and will be posting more this week as I try to wrap my brain around all that I saw and learned.
Not even sure where to start?  This will take some time. 
There were all of the people I met, touring SLA, my Saturday sessions (all three sessions that I went to were done by SLA teachers), or my Sunday session from Dean Shareski and Alec Couros, or......

Need time.  Hoping to keep this momentum going and how to move forward from here.

For a guy who usually feels like I'm just helping teachers use tools, this was exactly what I needed.

Thank you Chris Lehmann and you're whole SLA team for hosting such an inspiring weekend.

More coming, I promise....maybe I'll start using this Blog Thing?!?!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Voicethread Updates Jan 15th 2010

In trying to get out the information from the Voicethread e-mail today, I figured why not use this thing I once called a blog?
I'm just copying and pasting from the e-mail. Thanks Steve Muth and everyone at
Ideas and suggestions always welcome.

Hello VoiceThreaders,

We have five significant updates to share with you, advanced support for non-Latin text commentary, a tripling of the capacity of student accounts, email notifications of your VoiceThreads' activity, a new unlimited seat license and district pilot program, and the eRacism project, which is breaking new ground in global k-12 collaboration.

Advanced Language Support

We're very happy to announce that VoiceThread now supports the use of non-Latin scripts in text comments. This has been one of our most requested features for some time now, and we're excited to finally release it.

What does it mean?

It means that whenever a text comment contains a non-latin character, it no longer matters whether the person viewing the comment has the correct fonts installed. If they don't, we'll perform some technical magic in the background and make sure they see the text comment in the language that you intended, without any additional work on their part.

The beta release of this feature applies only to text comments, and if all goes well, we'll apply it to other text fields very soon. Because of the technical complexity of fonts and the way that different computers handle them, we can't give direct technical support for this feature. If you have any questions or feedback please go here.

Tripling the capacity of Student accounts

Starting today, we're increasing the capacity of student accounts on Ed.VoiceThread by more than 300%. Students will receive up to 1GB of storage and they can now create up to 50 VoiceThreads instead of the current limit of 15. The students have been very busy and we want to get out of their creative and collaborative way.

Email Notifications, aka, 'The Daily Digest'

You'll soon start to receive an email digest of all the activity on your VoiceThreads within the last day, with direct links to each and every comment made on them. So you'll no longer need to login to VoiceThread before knowing if you have new commentary to view and hear. Please let us know what you think of this new feature, we're planning updates to it and want to find out what your most important needs are.

The Unlimited Seat License for Districts

A new pilot program for first year Districts provides discounts of up to 90%, which grants an unlimited seat license for a fraction of the cost of separate school purchases.

Please contact us for written quote or to schedule a phone call/screen sharing session to answer any of your question regarding the district pilot program and the unlimited seat license.

eRacism Project

A recent project born at the Flat Classroom(tm) Conference in Doha, Qatar by a visionary group of students and organizers is an amazing example of k-12 global collaboration. 16 teams from all over the world used VoiceThread to competitively debate asynchronously the statement 'Differences make us stronger'. The engagement and energy of all the participants is clearly palpable. See and hear one of the recent debates here.

We're very proud to have helped sponsor this project and plan on continuing that support in the coming year. If you're interested in participating in the next debate series please visit

Thanks, and best wishes for the coming year,

-The VoiceThread team