Thursday, May 9, 2013

Website Wednesday

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Technology, journaling and photography - Part 2

image from Morguefile
So, the other night I was sitting and enjoying the thunderstorm as it blew through town when I started thinking about technology, journaling and photography. Photography actually popped in my mind first because of all those awesome lightening photos online. I had a couple thoughts pass through with the storm. I shared the first earlier this week in part one of this post. My second thought relates to my experience with searching for a journaling app. When I first started working in the tech department last year, I was fortunate enough to receive an iPad to use on the job. I was struggling with typing on the iPad, so I picked up a wireless keyboard to use with the iPad. The only problem was it hindered the mobility of the device. If I wanted to type a note on the iPad, I either carried the keyboard with me or I learned how to type on the iPad. Of course the best way to learn any technology is through personal application, so I decided to start journaling on the iPad. I enjoy journaling because it helps me clear my mind of the thoughts, ideas and situations from the day. With a practical and personal application in my mind, I set out on my next task - finding a journal app.

I searched online for the best journaling apps, but at the time I didn't want to pay for an app because I didn't know if I would like journaling in the iPad. I tried about half a dozen free apps before I moved to a couple of paid apps - some of them I got for free when they hit Apps Gone Free. These journaling apps varied in format and functionality. Some were basic daily dairies with limited text, but extensive enhancement features like daily mood graphics and inserting photos. Some gave you the full advantages of word processing, but provided no means for backing up your content. I lost several weeks of writing on one of these apps. I did finally find one that allows you to have multiple notebooks so I could have one for personal and one for work. It gave me the basic word processing features, but allowed me to add images and turn my journals into eBooks that opened in iBooks. However, a new system update came out in the iPad and after I ran the update my journals were messed up. The dates all switched to the same day and some content was lost.  While that was discouraging, my typing skills on the iPad did improve. I loved that the device started anticipating what word I was trying to type and gave me the recommended word if I started to mistype the word. But it is a different experience typing on an iPad. Your fingers can never fully set on the keyboard like a real computer keyboard, and I end up typing with about three fingers from each hand. My thumb and pinky rarely see any action.

image from Morguefile
Sometimes with technology, we have to find that one purpose to get ourselves in the mood to explore and "play around" with the hardware and software.  It's not always easy and sometimes we just have to force ourselves to try things out.  When I was first learning to type on the iPad, I was ready to give up after the first day.  It felt awkward typing on this device and it slowed me down.  My brain was working faster than I could move my fingers.  After a few months of diligently working, my typing skills did get better.  But you know what else I discovered through this process?  I still like grabbing my little spiral journal and pen.  The technology is nice, but it isn't the right tool for me when I want to just sit and journal.  There are too many distractions for me with the iPad and I never get all of my thoughts and ideas written down.  This was a good lesson for me to experience because it helped emphasis the fact that laptops, computers, iPads and all those other devices are just a tool.  Like all tools, you have to
have the right one for the job at hand.  Does that mean I don't use these tools?  No, it just means that I have to decide which tools will help me complete the task at hand the best, even if it's paper and pencil.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Technology, journaling and photography - Part 1

Image found at morgueFile
I'm sitting at home with most of the lights off listening to my favorite soundtrack selections as the thunderstorm outside advances across the sky. As the lightning flashes, it spotlights the car sitting in my driveway. Sometimes the thunder rumbles and it really does sound like a bowling ball rolling down the lane aiming to strike a few pins. There is no crash though, so it must be a gutter ball. As I watched this moving picture, I started thinking about technology, photography and journaling. You're probably puzzling over the connection between these items. You might even be humming that little ditty from Sesame Street:
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
So, how do technology, photography and journaling fit together? I always love those great photos of lightning storms with a streak of lightning shooting down from the sky. While I admire the quality of those awesome photos, my photography skills are sadly lacking. I know it's all about the right equipment and lens, but I just don't have enough knowledge and understanding to capture those breathtaking photos. I could learn, but I just haven't invested the time to learn. So, I will have to either be content with admiring the great work of others or invest my time to learn a new skill. You're probably starting to make the connection to technology, but let's look at how journaling fits into this picture. I love to journal. I don't call it writing because that reminds me too much of essay papers and after surviving the completion of my English major in college, I'd rather not think about essay writing. It gives me chills. Journaling, on the other hand, has been a great way for me to think through the random thoughts and events of the day. Sometimes they are a string of situations, events and ideas that have no direction connection, but somehow they seem to come together in some profound epiphany. Ok, maybe they're not always profound and maybe it isn't always an epiphany, but there usually are some revelations by the end of my journaling time. The one thing I've found about journaling is the more I do it, the more comfortable I become writing out my thoughts and ideas. Sometimes my brain moves faster than my hand can write. I may have had a little skill in writing before I started journaling, but like anything, practice improved the skill.

Are you grasping a connection yet? Well, here's a curve ball for you. When I first started filling out those infamous teaching applications in the hope of securing my first teaching position, they always asked you to write about your philosophy of education. I hated that question because I wrote what they wanted to hear. You know the answer. It boiled down to one statement. Every student can be taught. Well, they can be, but does that really mean they learn? I can teach English, but unless students put the knowledge into practice no real learning is occurring for them. The same is true with technology. I can go to workshops or watch videos and be taught, but until I actually act I never learn. So you may still be baffled by these loose connections. Let's see if we can tie them together.

Image found at morgueFile
As I watched that storm progress, I thought about all those teachers and staff who have told me how bad they are with technology. I've heard phrases like "tech tarded," "I'm no good at technology," "I'm stupid when it comes to computers," etc.  To them, technology is that looming storm hanging over their head. It rumbles and sends them into the gutter when they don't experience success. However, whether they realize it or not, most have a little skill, at least enough to turn the computer on and off. But seriously, most have more skill than that. They can check email and look at photos and videos from friends and family. Just like my journaling, they learn enough to do the things that are important to them. My journaling will never be a published masterpiece, but it does what I need it to do. Over time, my writing has improved just from continual practice. The same is true with technology. The skills improve just from regular use of the computer. Sometimes, however, we have to dive in deeper if we really want to improve and master our skills. I can take photos, well enough that I don't cut off anyone's head, but if I want those breathtaking images of lightning strikes during a thunderstorm, then I have to delve deeper in my learning. I either need to take a course, read articles and books on the subject or watch tutorials to gain more knowledge and understanding. Then, I must act on that knowledge by practicing the skill. Like writing in my journal, my photos will improve from continual practice.

Am I stepping on toes? Maybe. Am I preaching to the choir? Sure. But I find that sometimes I have to be reminded of the obvious. It's like this blogging business. It does have great value, but I'll never improve if I don't practice and do.

I do have one other thought relating to technology, journaling and photography, but you'll have to wait for the next post.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Website Wednesday

  • Students learn and practice the rows. They receive instant feed back on their accuracy and progress through the lesson. They can retake an exercise if they did poorly. Set-up a free teacher account under Teacher Portal to create & manage student accounts and track progress & improvement.  Several lessons can be completed in a 25 minute time period.

    tags: typing Keyboarding tutorials

  • Provides games for students to work on their typing abilities in a fun way.  Some games are good for the beginning typer while others require mor typing skills.  You'll want students to wear headphones when playing the games.

    tags: keyboarding typing interactive Games

  • Find out how many words per minute you can type while practicing the various rows of the keyboard.  After your lesson, you will see the words per minute and number of errors.  Not engaging for younger students.

    tags: typing keyboarding tutorials

  • Provides 16 lessons for students to learn and practice typing.  If you click on the lesson, you will be timed while you practice typing.  If you the click the blue video camera next to the lesson number, you can watch a short video tutorial on the keys you will practice in the lesson.

    tags: typing keyboarding tutorials

  • Provides an introduction and practice to touch typing for students age 7-11.  Covers  home row and the other letters, a few punctuation marks and how to make caps.  You will want students to use headphones.

    tags: typing keyboarding tutorials

  • Online typing lessons appropriate for students and adults.  It covers all the rows, numbers and math signs.  There is no tracking option for teachers, but this would be good practice for students.  Not real engaging for younger students, but good for older ones.

    tags: typing keyboarding tutorials

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.