The Cloud

run-brain

My mind is in the clouds right now. I’m on information overload after taking a whirlwind tour of wikis,blogs,docs,forms,readers, and social bookmarks. I’m pretty sure I’ve missed something, but thanks to my delicious bookmarklet (which I had to find and install because I use Camino) I’m okay and can return and spend more time with things when I’m ready. Many questions arose during and after class today…

I was very interested in Dean Shareski’s skype visit to our class, although I’m still not sure what educators can do to ensure parents understand this new open, on-line social world. Any ideas on how to involve parents (particularly at high school)?

Another issue that came up for me today is that with so many choices how do you know which on-line tool or website is best used for a particular task? The example that comes to mind is when we looked at Google Docs and at Blogs. My understanding (at least for this course) is that the Google Doc reflection is really a more private communication, while the blog is for all. I’m not sure if it would help to have some specific examples of “use” first to help provide context. I felt a little bit like I was rushing to learn something, but really didn’t fully understand why.

Lastly, I really do want to know how people manage the amount of time spent on computers or similar mobile devices. Right now, it seems that to keep up you have to keep on (the computer). What’s an educator to do?

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9 responses to “The Cloud

  1. The best place to find examples of blogs being used in education is to look on the web. Try using this search engine to find blogs in your subject or grade area. http://blogsearch.google.com/

    Then look at how these teachers are using their blogs. E-mail the creator of a blog and ask them questions. They will respond to you and offer all kinds of suggestions.

    The best way to understand the tools you are learning about is to start using them personally and professionally. Try a blog with on class or in one subject area. Start small.

    Initially you will find you will probably spend more time online because you are curious and you want to learn more. What you need to remember is that you can always turn off your computer like you turn off your TV. You decide when to “turn on” the web or “turn it off”. I have a rule for myself. Once 9 p.m. arrives I shutdown my computer. I essentially “turn off” the online portion of my life at 9 p.m. This rule helps me balance my online life.

    Other people I know have a time limit for being online. They get on line and say “1 hour then I turn it off”. This may work better for you.

    Do not be afraid to “dip your toes in the water”. Using Web 2.0 is like going for a swim in a lake. At first it is a little cool but once you are in the lake the swim feels great.

  2. Time management? For me, it’s more expectations management. Time can be easily managed, but expectations are more difficult.

    I use technology as a tool, an extension of learning, a on-demand source and resource. Use it when you need to, never let it become stale and remember that it is there!

    David
    http://twitter.com/dpeter

  3. Trust me when I say you don’t have to have all the answers right at this time. That is one of the things your “network” can help you with when the time comes.. As for informing the parents, when you decide what you are going to do with the students, simply send the parents an email or use whatever method you use to communicate and tell them in a simple fashion what you are planning, how it will be used, invite them to participate and ask questions, and if they need further clarification, then have them contact you.

    Keep it simple and easy for you and things will work out. If you are struggling reach out to your PLN.

    Good luck.

  4. I teach K-8 computer class, so I really can’t offer you any insight to involving high school parents online.

    As far as how to decide which online tool to use, you’ll probably find one tool that best suits you right now and use that. For instance, maybe you’ll want to try social bookmarks like Delicious.

    In comparing Google Docs and a blog, I would say that a blog is great for documenting your experiences and, in time, receiving comments from others. Google Docs is best if you want to collaborate with someone else on a document. I use my blog to reflect on what I do in computer class. I love seeing how people find it through my use of a site called Stat Counter. I wrote a script with another teacher in a different state for a presentation we did for the K12 Online Conference. We were able use talk via Skype and edit the document simultaneously.

    As far as how much time to dedicate to computers and other devices, it is really a personal decision that has to fit into your lifestyle and schedule. When I first learned about these online spaces, I was online daily for a least an hour or so. I could spend several hours on a weekend. Two years later, I stop in these spaces a couple of times a day for ten minutes. I probably spend a few hours in a sitting one or two days a week.

    It is a time commitment, but I can assure you that it is worth more than any other method of being prepared in the classroom and overall professionally.

    I’m looking forward to seeing other people’s ideas on your questions.

  5. One tool that I use to help manage my “on screen” time is NutShell Mail. Of course, setting time limits for myself helps, too…and I tell myself that I won’t get to everything I had planned. For that, I employ the “4D” Method: Dump it, Delay it, Delegate it, or Do it.

  6. I think you’ve hit on one of THE issues as regards eLearning: Mac or PC? Firefox or IE? WebCT or Moodle?

    The truth is, there is no “this one is best..” there is only “this one works for me in this situation”.

    Parental involvement….oh boy. You have to make it easy, so that starts with taking the time to set up email groups, and then diligently sending out emails (but not too many!) and make sure the messages include live links and concise information. And don’t expect many replies…

    And finally….yes, you do have to put the time in infront of the screen– there is know other way around it- BUT– leverage your time, by accessing collaborative groups (like twitter and facebook) and selecting a few listservs or RSS feeds to receive.

    And don’t worry about FULLY understanding a tool before you use it. That is “old skool” thinking. You don’t have to be an expert– you just have to be a fearless guide. Your learners will figure it out, help each other, and enhance your experience.

    Good luck!

  7. Hi there, I found your blog through a tweet from Alec Couros.

    I don’t have any tried and true advice on how to involve parents in this new web 2.0 world. But I do know that many parents are interested in what their children are doing in class–web 2.0 lets them take a peek, and participate. The first step might just be to put out the invitation; “here are the links, please come and see what our class has been working on…”

    With respect to uses of Google Docs; I see it as working like MS Office (providing most of the same tools) but allowing for easy collaboration and sharing. In fact, I don’t use MS Office very much at all–Google Docs works great for me as I work from so many different computers in my work and personal life I appreciate having one spot for everything. I’ve also used it when I need to collaborate on a document with a colleague. I have not used it with students–though the possibilities there of students doing collaborative work in Docs is wonderful. As a teacher you can see when edits to the document were made (was it all done at the last minute?) and you can see who made them (even distribution or not). It’s also handy for students who want to be able to access their documents easily from home and school.

    I use the forms in Google Docs spreadsheets a lot. It is a handy way to have students sign up for topics, to do on-line quizzes and many more things.

    I’ve put together a Google Docs presentation with a colleague–it was great because we could work on it at the same time from different computers, we could easily see what the other had added, and using the chat feature in GMail we could text back and forth while working on the presentation. Lastly, the presentation was very easy to share either with specific people or with the world.

    Blogs are definitely a place where you can share your thoughts, reflections, ideas… with everybody. Perhaps it is helpful to think of Google Docs as a bunch of tools with which to create, whereas a blog is a soapbox of sorts.

    “I really do want to know how people manage the amount of time spent on computers or similar mobile devices.” Now this is the tough part! I definitely go through periods where I spend huge amounts of time on-line. That’s when I have to step back and see how I’m going to achieve balance. And you don’t have to keep up with everything πŸ™‚ If you’ve started a PLN you’ll reach a point where they can step in and get you up to speed in whatever you’re interested pretty quickly.

    My final comment, have you considered posting your name on your about page? It feels odd having a conversation with you (that’s what this is, right?) when I don’t know what to call you. Some folks use a pseudonym, or just go by Mr. K, or Mrs. Jones.

    Cheers!

  8. Megaen Reader

    A class website or blog (I recommend embedding a calendar- google calendars work) is a good way to keep parents up to date and involved. Students can take turns updating the blog each week. Parents can also be used as “guest speakers” via Skype (or we use Elluminate). I ask for parents (guardians) addresses and send out links to work that their kids are doing online. You have to be careful not to overload the parents though. A friend of mine gets a daily email from each of her kids teachers from each class- she says she gets 7 a day so she rarely reads them.

    I like to use google docs when I need my students to collaborate on an assignment and blogs when I am looking for them to work alone. But you are right, the docs can be more private.

    When I am looking for a tool to use I go to my diigo (like delicious) account and type in what I want to accomplish to see what others are using. For example, last week I searched for “presentation sharing” and “virtual poster”. In addition, make some good contacts that are using tools that you can fire an email off to to see what they might recommend.

    I teach for an online school so I am connected all day during the school year and I still feel like I fall behind. I have been relying heavily on google reader this summer to see what’s new in a few minutes of browsing. I think finding a balance and learning how to “shut down” for awhile is very important. The info will still be there tomorrow!

    Hope this is helpful!
    Megaen

  9. Blogs are a series. Docs are separate products. Blogs can easily incorporate all media. Docs less so. Blogs are expected as publications. Docs are not expected to be such. Blogs can be made to look great. In Docs not as easy and not the point. Both are easily made collaboratve. Docs keeps better record of who does what when (if of interest ti you). Docs has Forms – a Great tool. Docs has Presentation FREE and therefore can be used at home without purchase of Office suite (but new free web based MS product may change this. My students must use both.

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