Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I really don't know much about 3-D worlds, virtual reality, and such, but I'm taking my plunge. About three weeks ago I received an email invitation reading,
"On August 4th, 2008, and again on August 6th, Alliance Library System, in cooperation with LearningTimes, will offer a one-day conference exploring the possibilities of using virtual worlds to teach literature and to promote its
appreciation for people of all ages. The conference, entitled "Stepping into Literature: Bringing New Life to Books through Virtual Worlds," will be held entirely in the virtual world of Second Life, allowing participants to attend from any location with a computer and a broadband Internet connection. "
While the conference is not free, it's reasonable ($65) for a day long session. And, while I'm not exactly an English teacher anymore, I am very excited to see the possibilities of this new medium and share it with others. I don't know why, but I didn't really dive into SL a year and a half ago. Guess I was trying to catch up on all the other Web 2.0 tools I'd missed out on and felt a bit overwhelmed. Well, today I just finished my orientation for the conference coming up on August 4th, and I felt good about expanding my borders a bit. I can walk, chat, fly, magnify info, etc. with my avatar now - a great deal more than I could one day ago. Wish me luck Monday; how embarrassing to go to a conference and fly into a wall or have other avatars transporting onto my head because I forgot to make room for them as they transported in! I'll report back on what I learn and the potential for use within the educational setting.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I've had to learn to make web pages the hard way -- first by hand coding HTML, then later by learning the nuances of several HTML editors. Several other teachers have asked me how to go about creating one and, until now, I'd have to sigh and say, "well first you have to learn a program like DreamWeaver or FrontPage, and then you have to have a server or rent space on a server to put your website on". That's a big learning curve for someone who just wants to post daily assignments or keep a list of course reminders current for students and parents.
Then along came Google Sites (all you need is a Google Account if you don't already have one). While I've used Google and its products for ages now, I've never really noticed this little gem. Perhaps it's been around longer than I know, but what I've been able to find suggests that it was only introduced this past May to the general Internet user. Some of you may be aware of its sibling web app called Google Page Creator which is similar, though has failed to graduate from Google Labs with a green light. After playing around with Google Sites for about 30 minutes and figuring it out rather quickly, I found it friendly and robust enough for about any teacher wanting a create his or her first website. You can create your entire multi-page presence with hyperlinks, pictures, video, calendars and more. If you are at all familiar with Google's Blogger, this app feels similar. You can use pre-made templates for your website and it comes with a few interactive features such as listing your most recent visitor activity! Pretty niffty! But best of all, Google hosts all of your documents that you upload!! I'd give it a thumbs up as a "gateway website-making app"! Check out the below YouTube video to learn more about it and this quick overview page. I'll keep looking for in-depth tutorials on this web app and pass along word when I find them.
Sometimes ya just gotta take a break. Technically, I can’t say May was a break, though I failed to get anything up on my blog. But all teachers know that May is absolutely crazy, and so no more needs to be said. June, however, has been my respite, and it’s felt good to just step back for a while and rest. Honestly, it’s taken me a good four weeks to get to a place where I’m anxious again to implement new ideas into next year’s curriculum, and to want to take another look at ideas I may have prematurely dismissed at the end of the last semester because of mind-fogging tiredness.
But taking a month hiatus in terms of Web 2.0 technologies and Internet development comes with its own risks. Safely said, it’s comparable to taking a year off in other non-technology professions. Have I missed much? Probably, and yet probably not. Change is everywhere and in that sense, nothing has changed.
What scant time in June I spent on the computer was to learn more about Adobe Illustrator via Lynda.com (love that subscription service). Additionally, I spent some time learning more about my relatively new DSLR and how to go beyond the Auto mode. Have so enjoyed learning how to adjust my aperture and shutter speed for creative effects. Sanded/stained our deck (you might have heard my primal scream of frustration on day two of the sanding), did a little traveling and unexpectedly discovered the most beautiful part of Colorado (though I've traveled it for a little over 25 years), completed a lot of day lake visits with our boat and two tube-loving boys, and am now ready to entertain and jot down new ideas I’ve got for the upcoming academic year. Spent some of today watching a San Antonio 2008 NECC webcast by Cheryl Lemke, dropped by Twitter, and started a list of ideas for two upcoming webinars I’m presenting on blogging. The creative juices are flowing once again. It’s good to be back, rested and ready to go.