Monday, August 11, 2008

Simplicity

I finished reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds last week. What a wonderful book! Although the book is about how to create more effective presentations, there are many principles that would serve us well if we implemented them into all aspects of our lives. The principle that I was drawn to the most was simplicity. I kind of chuckle to myself as I write this, especially given that this is "back to school" season. This is a season of optimism and hope for a new year...a fresh start with exciting challenges to overcome. Unfortunately, this season also usually comes with an impossibly long list of a variety of projects that I want to try. So how can this impossibly long list be balanced with the principle of simplicity? In this case, I think that simplicity can mean using focused efforts on a few tasks rather than trying to do everything all at once. Simplicity isn't necessarily taking the easy way out, but it can make a large difference in the big picture.

I wish you the best for a back to school season of simplicity.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Neat Software: Gadwin PrintScreen

Someone told me about a neat freeware program this week--Gadwin PrintScreen. I tried it and I really like it! It allows you to capture whatever is on your screen (either the full window or a selection) using a hot key. I know, Windows also has a utility like this. Gadwin PrintScreen is nifty because the software allows you to select an area of your screen. You may also customize the program so that it automatically saves your images to a folder according to a naming structure that you determine. It even captures an image of the cursor! I hope you enjoy using this program, too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The "Beginner" Brain

I'm reading the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. In the first chapter, Reynolds writes a wonderful explanation of some of the principles in Dan Pink's book A Whole New Mind. In chapter two, he asserts that approaching tasks with a "beginner's mind" will allow for more creativity and the possibility of even better ideas. I love this idea, especially as I watch young children who are still excited about learning and the discovery process. Watching an infant fascinated by bubbles and water coming out of a faucet really puts everything in perspective. Somewhere in our quest for adulthood, or success, or whatever, many of us have lost our bubble fascination. Today, let's find joy and wonder in the simple things and maybe find a little learning along the way.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thing #23 Summarize Your Thoughts About the Library2Play Program

What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?
My favorite task was creating and posting my first vidcast to my blog. Also, blogging was a lot more fun than I initially thought it would be. I hope to continue writing in my blog with future learning experiences.

How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?
One of my professional goals this year is to explore Web 2.0 technology. In a world where there are so many of these tools to explore, the Library2Play program made it more manageable and friendlier. (And what teacher doesn't love a checklist to complete?) ;-)

Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
I was surprised that it took so long to create a vidcast. It took about 4 hours to create an approximately four minute video. I was already comfortable with both Audacity and PhotoStory, so that time was in actually creating the content, not in learning the tools. I still think that the project was worthwhile, and I hope to create more vidcasts in the future.

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?
I loved the format (work online at your own pace) and the concept (since it was definitely aligned with one of my professional goals). I also really appreciated the fact that you opened it up to participants outside of your district. What a wonderful model for lifelong learning and online collaboration with other educators!

If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you choose to participate?
Definitely!

How would you describe your learning experience in ONE WORD or in ONE SENTENCE, so we could use your words to promote 23 Things learning activities?
The Library2Play program was a wonderful, friendly immersion in Web 2.0 technologies that can ultimately benefit the k-12 classroom.

Thank you, Kickball Captains and Spring Branch ISD for offering the Library2Play program!

Thing #21 Podcasts and Audio Books

I've really enjoyed listening to podcasts. Why? Mostly because I can download them and listen to them while working out. It makes me feel like I can accomplish multiple things at one time. I've created audio-only podcasts before using Audacity, which is a wonderful and easy-to-use program. This was my first time to create a vidcast. I used both Audacity and PhotoStory. It took a lot longer than I thought to create it, especially because the total video time is less than 5 minutes. I think that the effort was well worth it, though. This way, people can learn about this great resource without having to come in for a face-to-face meeting. Here is my vidcast introduction to Thinkfinity, a good search engine for educators. (The music at the end is "The Battle" by J Underberg from Podsafe Audio.) Enjoy!


video

Thing #22 Ning

I apologize for completing tasks out of order, but my podcast for Thing #21 is still being perfected. So, I paused for a while to explore the wonderful world of nings.

I started participating in a few nings this past spring. The National Association of Independent Schools has a ning that is useful to discuss ideas with other independent school educators. As a result of attending a one-day Web 2.0 conference, I also joined the Classroom 2.0 ning. This ning is a comfortable place to learn about new Web 2.0 technologies and ask questions about how these technologies are best used in the classroom. I also participate in an "invitation only" ning for a book club of neighborhood friends.

What I like about ning is that it has a much more professional feel than the other common social networking sites (like Facebook and MySpace). It's also a plus that they will remove advertising for educational student networks for grades 7-12.

Nings are a great way to allow professionals (and students) to participate in a collaborative, social environment without the stigma associated with the popular social networking sites. It allows for 24/7 learning and conversation. It's especially helpful for coordinating virtual and face-to-face meetings, as well as a common place for storing information for a book club or research project group. I wish these had been around when I was in college! :-)