Photos for Class

March 2, 2015

6819094724I’m a big proponent for using Flickr Creative Commons as a source for finding reusable photos.  I’ve used many over the years and have made a concerted effort to give back by licensing virtually all of my photos with Creative Commons (CC) licensing.  The main hurdles for K-12 teachers who want to use Flickr CC is getting a safe filter and making it easy for them and their students to properly cite the photos they find.  Now there’s software to solve these problems:

Besides providing a safe search for images, you’ll find that when you download an image it comes with full attribution at the bottom.  The image I used for this blog post is an example.  Let’s all find photos for class!

Website on the Move

February 27, 2015

criteriumphotoforblogpostAs I promised in my last post, here is an update on my new website and a review on the software that I used to create it.  As i mentioned previously, this new website aggregates all the creative and instructional work that I’m producing.  These areas include instructional design and technology, digital storytelling, photography and music.  It should provide one-stop shopping for people who want to find and use my work.   I’m very happy with how it turned out and invite you to take a look here:

I want to share with you the process I engaged when building the new site.  First, I wanted to move to a friendly website builder where I could balance good design with quick design.  The software that I chose was Wix.  It’s free to use and publish-if you don’t mind having their branding on your pages.  I chose to buy a premium account so that their branding wouldn’t appear and I could use my own domain name.  Wix has hundreds of templates to choose from and I went unconventionally with a theme that was created for a restaurant.  Why? I just liked the layout, the clean look and how photos could be featured on the front page.  I can’t stress enough how easy and intuitive the editor is to use.  There are many choices for customization bu you could create a simple site in minutes.  Besides ease of use and creative templates, the other thing that I have to recommend about Wix is the wide array of plugin/add-ons that they have available.  They are easy to install and use.  The one I chose for starters is a Twitter plugin that shows all my tweets.  I can adjust the size, the feed, and placement on my page.  So…look at my new site and try out Wix for yourself.  I’d love to hear your thoughts

Synergistic Cognition

February 18, 2015

chihuly smallSometimes everything comes together in the most delightful way.  I’m calling this new experience “Synergistic Cognition” since interdisciplinary studies or curriculum integration sounds too dull for the wonderful feeling when multiple subjects and modes of learning mesh.

Here’s what happened to me this week.  I’ve been taking a course on PLNs-Personal Learning Networks.  The course is being held online.  Most of my fellow students are in Maryland while I’m in Denver Colorado.  In the course we looked at and tried out various social media for learning.  The platforms we touched were Scoopit, Diigo and Twitter.

As the course is winding down, I’m ratcheting up work on a new aggregated webpage for all my work and social media presence too.  This new site will also serve as my final project for the course.  So, at the same time I decided to start reading this book “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon.  The first chapter is called “Find a Scenius” which he defines as a group of creative people to get feedback from.  Where can you find a Scenius?…Online of course! social media networks- PLNs!

All of sudden I saw the connections between this book and work from my recent course. I got quite a brain rush when these two sources came together for me.  I’m calling this Synergistic Cognition.  Not only did I make a connection from the course to the book I was reading but the book also connected to other ideas and books.    Later in Chapter One, Austin talks about how freeing it is to be an amateur.  Everything is new.  He quotes a Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki: ” In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few”.  This drew my mind back to “Made To Stick” where the Heath brothers talked about the curse of knowledge.

I am joyful at all these connections being made.  I will have more to share and I wish you happy connections, or Synergistic Cognition!

Drag and Drop Quizzes in Moodle

February 4, 2015
Daniela Harmann Flickr CC

Daniela Harmann Flickr CC

I’m really excited about the new drag and drop quiz functions in Moodle.  We added them to our main site last month.  There are three audiences that I can see using these immediately:

1.  Adult Learners-for our adult learners we have the option of making more complicated, yet visually appealing, drag and drop matching text quizzes.  Not only are they easy to create and automatically grade, they can engage adult learners in choice, applicability and higher-order thinking.  Of course, auto-graded quizzes are useful in self-guided online course modules.  They will run on their own, indefinitely, without further facilitator interaction.

2.  Teachers will find these quizzes easy to create and appreciate the auto-grading. I hope teachers will consider this a wonderful opportunity to create PARCC-like tests to get their students ready for the real thing.

3.  Students will enjoy the visual appeal, be engaged by the game-like challenge and get great practice for future mandated online testing.  They might even find that taking a quiz can be fun!

Below are some screenshots of quizzes I created for elementary school students as examples:

drag and drop map quiz in moodle

fish matching quiz in moodle

Edcamp Denver

March 14, 2014

edcamp coloradoLast month I attended my first “unconference” which was called Edcamp Denver.  Initially I was a little skeptical since I was giving up a good part of my Saturday to attend a conference where I had little to no idea of what the sessions would cover.  The fact that it was held at a “Creative Academy” and the likelihood that some of my fellow DPS staff would be there gave me some level of comfort and hopefulness though.

For those of you who have never attended an Edcamp or an unconference I will describe some of my experience. When I arrived on this snowy morning we gathered in the cafeteria and enjoyed free coffee and pastries.  Have I mentioned yet that this Edcamp was totally free?  Yes, a free conference with breakfast and lunch provided thanks to sponsors.  Soon the mapping of the unconference began.  On a large sheet of paper participants wrote topics in which they were willing to lead discussions and perhaps make a brief presentation. There was no keynote presentation, just some brief introductions.

edcamp signup sheet

Since I had just been part of a digital storytelling workshop I volunteered to lead a session on that topic.  Why not dive into the pool, right? After starting my session though I learned quickly that the aim is to encourage discussion and collaboration over traditional conference presentations.  So rather than take up all the time with me sharing information I asked other attendees to share their experiences and resources.  Fortunately at DPS we have our core values highlighted at many meetings and one of them is collaboration.

One of the nice things about this unconference was how technology was applied all along the way.  All the session listings were transcribed into a google doc so we could all refer to it for choosing topics and room locations.  In addition to the online schedule each session was given a google doc to document everything that was shared in the session.  You can see these docs here. (Be sure to scroll down the list and realized that some folks took notes diligently while others were left blank.)  After lunch we reconvened as a full group in the auditorium for a demo slam.  Participants shared (in 5 minutes or less) an app that they found useful for education.  For more info on what an Edcamp is, check out this link.

Of course, given my featuring this event on my blog you can be sure that I’ll be attending more Edcamps and other unconferences in the future.  But I also have the idea to incorporate unconferencing into part of a future conference I’m planning so that half the day will be traditional and the other half on free-ranging topics ala the unconference.  What’s really amazing is that some DPS schools have now adopted the unconference model for their professional development meetings so that teachers can tailor the workshop(s) to meet their specific needs.

Digital Storytelling: DPS meets CDS

February 5, 2014
Maggie Gordon and Daniel Weinshenker

Maggie Gordon and Daniel Weinshenker

This past week I was able to accomplish something I’ve been wanting to realize for some time now-introduce more people to digital storytelling.  Daniel Weinshenker from the  Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) led a 2 day workshop for a diverse group of staff at Denver Public Schools (DPS).  Since I’ve worked with CDS in the past I knew that we would have a rewarding workshop.

CDS has moved away from the 7 elements of digital storytelling and now embrace 7 steps.  Some of them are similar, but the focus is now on the process and development of the story.  My own digital story took a dramatic turn after reading it in the story circle.  Only a few lines remained from the original draft.  This was also my first experiment with creating a digital story with a single image, letting the narration drive the story and deliberately choosing not to include music or sound effects.  This included my first foray into using the online video editor WeVideo.  Although the editor does have its limitations (especially obvious to someone who is used to Final Cut Pro) I was impressed with the range of tools it did provide and the fact that it is cross-platform with nothing to download or install.  This means that everyone in my district can use this tool. So, it does show much promise for future use.  TIP for WeVideo users, when it comes time to download your video, make sure you use Chrome for your browser.

But enough about me and the software.  What about my co-workers who took their first leap into digital storytelling? We’re still collecting formal feedback and discussing publishing the stories online.  I will certainly post a link here when some of them are published.  I know that everyone increased their skills in video editing and storytelling.  I know that everyone had a positive experience that bonded us together as a group of educators, co-workers, and human beings.  The power of story is woven into who we are as human beings.

New Horizons

January 27, 2014

new horizonsIt’s time for a personal note to explain my absence from this blog and tell you about seeing new horizons.  Over the last 6 months I moved to Denver Colorado to take a new job at Denver Public Schools.  I’m now the Manager of Online Professional Development.  Even though my position is with a K-12 school district, my focus remains on adult learners.  I help teachers with their online professional development and work with central administration in the design and delivery of online professional development.  I’m still working with Moodle and Google Apps and always learning new designs and applications.  I will continue to share my discoveries, best practices, and experiences here on this blog.  Thanks for staying tuned in!

Report on Pilot of Course Evaluations Delivered Online

June 7, 2013

ImageWell, the results of our latest pilot of delivering course evaluations via online delivery are in.  This semester we tweaked the delivery process and encouraged all the participating faculty to make time during their last class meeting for students to complete their course evaluations-using the online tool instead of paper.  Faculty also asked their students to bring their laptops, tablets or smartphones to class on the last day.  The results were impressive.  Many of our classes had response rates of 80 to 100%.  What led to this success?  We listened to students who told us that the last weeks of the semester were an overwhelmingly busy time for them and they were likely to postpone or forget about the course evaluations unless faculty gave them time to complete them during class.  This mix of traditional delivery(in class) with modern collection methods(online forms) seems to be working.

Automatic Closed Captioning Tool on Youtube

April 19, 2013


I learned about the automatic closed captioning tool that has been added to Youtube and I wanted to try it out for myself.  If you have uploaded any videos to Youtube and they have narration then this may work for you.  The folks at Google/Youtube have a pretty good audio to text algorithm working.  It is not perfect and it will depend on the quality of your audio, your narrator, and the language in your script.  More technical, esoteric, or compound words may not convert as well with the automatic tool.  But, it should come pretty close and then you have the ability to quickly edit the text.  I can see this working well for short videos but it might be to laborious for longer ones.  If it was a longer video I might go another route and upload the script to youtube.  But for today, I want to address the automatic captioning for a short video.  At this point I am definitely recommending it for short videos that you have uploaded to Youtube.  To help you try it out, I’ve written some instructions with screenshots.  You can view my directions here.  If you have any suggestions or comments, please let me know.

Innovate Conference at OSU

March 29, 2013

ImageThis post is my overview of the Innovate Conference held this past week at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus Ohio.  The first keynote of the day was Jim Grooms from the University of Mary Washington.  I’ve been familiar with Jim’s work in the open digital storytelling course called DS106 (that you can sign up for here).   The DS106 concept is “everything you do online is a story”.  Jim fervently believes in totally open educational experiences and open platforms.  My favorite quote from him is “At its best, openness is an ethos not a license.  It’s an approach to teaching and learning that builds community online and offline.

One of the interesting presentations of the day was on iPads in the Classroom, although perhaps a more appropriate title would have been iPads In and Outside the Classroom.  This biology class divided the students into groups of 4 and gave each group an iPad to work on the day of class.  Using tools such as Apple Configurator, iTunesU, Notability and Box, the students are given an assignment to work through.  Some of the activities take place outdoors and involve documenting plants, the iPad is perfectly suited for this and by limiting the software that is installed on the iPad the students stay focused on the assignment.

One panel of the day that was surprising in its appearance and candor was one featuring three undergraduate students relating their “user experience” with technology in the classroom and online activities.   They stressed a desire to follow their grades online and for faculty to post course materials online.  They were undecided the use of discussion boards but did like the idea of posting short lecture materials online and leaving more time in the classroom for interaction with the teacher and course activities.

I could go on and on about the ideas shared at the conference and its incredible value.  Did you know this annual conference is free to attend?  I invite you to look at this year’s recordings here and mark your calendars for next year when the conference will be on March 25 and 26, 2014.  Kudos to all the folks at OSU who I know must put a lot of work into this magnificent event for everyone interested in technology and teaching.


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