Sunday, August 10, 2008

Convert and Download

Watch out for the Learning Curve!

I never knew there were so many applications, websites, combinations of downloads and converters for videos! I began with, what I thought, was the greatest tool: What I liked about this tool was that I never had to leave the site, I simply put in my url, pressed convert and then download. My movie was downloaded as a .mov (standard media container for Quicktime), and I was done. As I was creating my screencast on the easy use of vconversion, I received a message saying I needed to wait 13 minutes before downloading again, or join for 49.95. This sent me on a search for a comparable download/converter.

Some hours later, I had a good understanding of flv, which is the name of the file format used to deliver video using Adobe Flash Player. Once the video you want to capture is converted to an flv file, it can be seen only if you have a player. I set forth and learned about real player and real player agent,, youtubia, Savetube, isquint, and vlan. I learned about vlc media players. I kept searching. Keepvid was recommended as a great site, but suddenly (as of last night) it went away. When I googled for ideas of replacements for keepvid, the suggestion was made to use
Clipnabber is a keeper. I used it to capture the YouTube video on Kids using multimedia for this week’s project. It was free, easy to use, quick to download, and converts to both flv and mp4 files, depending on whether your platform is PC or Mac, respectively. It seemed like most converters were beginning to charge for their services. I would be happy to pay for a good converter service, like vconversion if I have to, but for now, I’ll take free.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog

As a child I loved to write, putting pencil to paper and then sharing these poems and stories with others. Mrs. Booth, my fourth grade Reading teacher posted my poems on the wall outside her classroom, and “published” them in a magazine put together with staples. Later, she set me up with a penpal, her own niece who lived in West Virginia on the Ohio River. Eventually, Mrs. Booth had me over to dinner at her house to meet face to face with her niece, and we exchanged little gifts.

I can only imagine what Mrs. Booth would have done with us if blogging had been around way back then. Maybe I’d still be in touch with Laura Hodges, the girl who could draw like no one else. She is probably waiting to be the illustrator of the book I’m trying to write. Linda, Mrs. Booth’s niece would probably have had a blog that I would have regularly made pings on, and we would have learned so much more about each other’s lives.

My daughter has a blog. In it she talks about her life, vacation, her friends, and her dog. She enjoys blogging because others read her writing and respond, or ping her writing. Her blog, however, is password protected. I thought about responding to Will Richardson’s column on blogging with the thought that there are a lot of kids out there blogging, but not showing up on web searches because they are password protected. I think the business of blogging is important for kids to have practice in, but the risk of putting themselves and their feelings into a public forum is a little scary. Recently, my daughter had a friend who was the subject of cyber-bullying. We were suddenly face-to-face with the down side of putting yourself out there, on the internet, at a such a young age.

I see the power that Laura, from the 25 Days to Make a Difference blog, has to change her world and the lives of others. Her Mom seems very protective of how much gets out about Laura herself, and she cautions others about posting with the help of parents if they are minors.

It is a delicate balance. In the classroom, password protected, kids need the opportunity to learn how to blog. They need to know the etiquette (I understand the Bloggers That Be are working on this) and become empowered with this tool that is changing the landscape of their horizon. It is our job to educate our kids so that when they are ready to change the world with their words, they will be informed consumers of the choices available.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Screencasting has its place in the educational world because of its visual mode of delivery, and its ability to teach using sequential directions. It is appropriate for adults and children as it is teaching that can be replicated in the learner’s own time schedule.

Administrators could create screencasts to explain procedures, such as navigating the online handbook to highlight an area that they want everyone to understand with a certain degree of clarity. A screencast of this type would allow teachers to revisit the site as often as needed if they are unsure of the material being presented.

Screencasts can be used by educators as an aid for substitute teachers; if a teacher wants to use a piece of technology, and they will be out of the classroom, a screencast is a perfect tool for illustrating step by step the intention of the absent teacher.

Students could create screencast tutorials by suggesting topics and storyboarding their intention. With the teacher’s help, they could use a screencapture of their screencast.

Video and textual training tools are different. Video tools seem to be well received by visual learners, and textual training tools, by those who find print the best way to learn. This has been true in our cohort’s response to different screencasts.

Jing and Camtasia are two excellent sources of screencast creation. I found to be an excellent source of already made screencasts. When designing a screencast for educators or students, it would be good to follow this advice:

1. Put in an introduction that is brief and states your purpose.
2. Write out a script, even if you don’t follow it word for word.
3. Be aware of cognitive load.
4. Make your screen larger than the screen you will be describing, so that the recording bars do not show.
5. Practice your screencast several times before recording.
6. Keep it short, under 5 minutes.

I think these tips will help your screencast to be memorable and lasting for your audience.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's All Coming Down

That's right, it's all coming down. My webpage, that is. Yesterday, at the I3U Conference in Howard County, I had at least three people tell me how wonderful my website was. My answer? It's all coming down. After this week's readings on web authoring, I could not stand to have my technology webpage up a moment longer. There were so many things wrong with it.

But, people loved my web site. Why? They loved that each grade had their own page. They loved that each page showcased the work of kids in that grade during that quarter. Kids loved it because I would show them something cool and school related during class and then I would say look at it tonight-I'll put up a link. And they would. Kids from other grades would come in and say I showed my brother this link and he showed me one on his page. It promoted dialogue. It had about 500 hits. Podcasts, original drawings, imovies of digital photos taken on walking field trips, and help for parents who need some guidance about technology.

So why is it down now? Well, there is always a sense of cleaning the plate for a new school year. I couldn't possibly keep up an archive of fifth grade podcasts when those kids were off to middle school. My site was messy, not uniform, lots below the fold. Not age appropriate type for each of the different pages. No standardized boxes. I use iweb, and am now searching for a better template. One that is fun, but quieter. One that has boxes, but not too many. One that will allow my classes opportunities to grow as we showcase their work.

I learned a lot from that first web site. I captured all of the pages as PDF files and stored it away in my archives for ideas for the future. I am looking forward to creating my new website, still all about the kids and celebrating our school community's connection to technology. For now, the Gone Fishing Sign is up while I ponder usability issues. Hey-I many even make my own Fireworks banner. My daughter is learning Flash (through the free download), and maybe I'll try to put some of that in as well. Wish me well in this new adventure.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Will Power

This morning I had the opportunity to hear Will Richardson speak at the Summer Technology Institute in Howard County. He spoke about seeing things through the lens of his kids. I am right there with him. My lens is my daughter, who is quickly approaching 13. Right now she is planning her dream teen room. We have been on PB (Pottery barn) teen and put the dimensions in for her room. We have moved furniture without pulling my back out of whack. She has already started to lobby us for her Christmas present, a Black Apple laptop, which she knows will take some financial planning. She goes to school, and like Will's kids, I know her real day begins when she gets home and starts to interact with her media. Upon returning from sixth grade outdoor ed, she kissed the floor and said,"I love my technology world." She is my lens.

She picked up Fireworks in no time. You should see her new blog header, but it is password protected so I'll describe it. Green swishing background, Chinese characters on either side of her name and like Chase, in the link Lori C sent us earlier, her name is reflected and shadowed beneath. No problem following Chase's tutorial.

When she goes to eighth grade this Fall, I am hoping for the rare teacher who can reach into her world of design and technology. I am looking for the teacher who wants to engage thirteen year olds with others like themselves around the world. What an opportunity to connect this age group with a world of resources that is outside the walls of their school. Thin walls. That's my hope for the new school year.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Heading into Fireworks

I used the tool, Adobe Fireworks, to create the header for my blog. Mostly, I just played with it to figure things out, but I did get one important tip from an online tutorial: After you open an image that you want to use in Fireworks, take a screen shot of it. Then, in Preview, choose edit>copy. Back in Fireworks, select the "page" you want the image to go on. Choose edit>paste. In Fireworks, the designer works with pages and layers. I took a photo of my dog, and put it on a "page". Next, I downloaded an image of a computer keyboard and copied it to another "page" in Fireworks. Using the select tool, I moved the image around so that only the part I wanted showed in the box. I used the scale tool to elongate the image to make the keys look stretched out. I went back to the page the dog picture was on and, using the eraser tool, I erased everything but the part of the picture I wanted. This made the keyboard on the next page show through. Next, I added a text box, chose a font, color, and typed bloggiedoggie. I used a live filter of "inset embossed" on the type. The live filters are found in the properties box. Under assets in the Pages box, I chose a thinking bubble, and dragged it to the image. I manipulated the curvature, the distance, and the direction of the bubbles from the dog's head. In the properties box, I gave the bubble a fill color, an outline color, and added text. The last element I added was the pawprints. I imported that image into a layer of one of the pages, and I'm not sure how I did it, but I was able to set that layer to dissolve through so the pawprints showed on top of the other pages. I was then able to grab the pawprints, and move them around to where I wanted them. I ended up feeling that there is a high learning curve in using Fireworks.

To find the number of pixels needed for my blog header, I noticed, quite by accident, that the pixel width 730 showed, when a new picture was uploading into blogspot. To figure out the height, I measured it in inches. In Fireworks, you can set the picture size in pixels, inches or centimeters.

Enjoy my customized header!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Walk in the Woods

Ryan led us through the woods last night with his flashlight. He is four, so a walk in the dark woods was both scary and exciting. There were all kinds of people pouring through the woods to the place where the fireworks could best be viewed. People were laughing and talking. Hawkers were selling hotdogs and glow-in-the-dark necklaces. The biker ladies had little flashlights. Everything was electric as we approached the clearing. Then the floodlights went out, the hush over the crowd, and the beautiful fireworks, worthy of any great town. An adventure for all of us, but when seen through the eyes of my nephew, it was momentous. Watching him trying to keep up with his Grandpa as we went through the woods, shining that flashlight and determined to light our way, was one of the great treasures of the night.
Life hands us moments like these once in a while. The courage it takes to go through the woods at night; the triumph of return to home with the glow in the dark necklace around our heads like an Olympic wreath. The knowledge that we go through the dark places to come to a place where people celebrate with us, and we return home through the dark places to contemplate and rest alone from our adventures. This morning, the fourth of July, I remember our founding fathers signing their declaration, and I think about them riding out by horse to read it aloud to people all over the countryside. Going through dark places to celebrate with others, just as we did last night. What a journey those who walk this land have been given. Such bravery and independence starts with a light, and a walk in the woods.
Happy Fourth to you all.