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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Geocaching- fun for the whole family

As I mentioned in my previous post about Twitter, I am currently taking my last class towards my masters in Technology in Education at Lesley University.  One of our assignments recently involved tagging and geotagging.  We explored social bookmarking through Diigo and geotagging through Flickr.  For extra credit, we encouraged to go geocaching.  I had heard of geocaching before, but I had yet to try it.  The basic idea behind geocaching is that someone has hidden something, and your main clue to finding it is its GPS coordinates.

I started my geocaching journey by exploring the site  People who have hidden items all over the world post their listing(s) on this site.  I began by entering my zip code so I could find a cache hidden near BB&N or my house.  I found the perfect geocache to try to located- located in Davis Square on my way home from work, and, even more importantly, it was labeled as "easy."  I don't want to give away too much information in case someone else wants to try to find it, but I will say that it took a good 20 minutes to locate the cache, as it was so much smaller than I had anticipated.  Another thing about geocaching is that you're supposed to take something from the cache and leave something behind, as well as sign the log.  The problem was that the cache was so small that nothing I had brought with me would fit inside it.  I ended up taking a guitar pick and leaving a mini pterodactyl from a barrel full of dinosaurs (think "barrel full of monkeys," just not monkeys.)  Inside the cache was a bunch of small things including some Chinese money and a plastic fish with a GPS locator inside it, also known as a travel bug.  I have read articles about schools who placed travel bugs in geocaches so they can track their coordinates as they travel from cache to cache, making their way across the US, and even ending up in a dogsled race in Alaska!

If geocaching sounds interesting to you, give it a try.  And if you find the cache on Brattle, please let me know, because I can't find it!  And if you think geocaching sounds like a blast, check out letterboxing too!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Connecting to a "Personal Learning Network"

Are you connected? Do you have a network of colleagues that you can easily turn to with questions and to improve your professional practice? One of the things I most appreciate about the internet is that it allows me to personally connect with various individuals or groups of educators locally, nationally, and even internationally. My top digital tools that enable this communication include the following:
  1. email list-servs or google groups
  2. diigo
  3. twitter
  4. google docs
  5. ning networks
  6. facebook groups and linked-in
  7. skype or google video chat
  8. blogs
  9. RSS feeds
Here is a brief description of each tool, it's collaborative power, and ways to try them out...

1. Do you belong to an email list-serv or a google group? If not, there is undoubtedly one in existence for your area of interest. NAIS has lists for many administrators; AP has lists for each subject, and various organizations have other lists for subject area teachers. If you're not on a list-serve or google group for some topic, I'd encourage you to try this out. It is a great way to dip your toe into PLNs. Here are a few links to some list-servs.

2. Diigo is an amazing social bookmarking tool. The more I use it, the more I like it. Read why here and see these instructions if you're interested in setting up an account.

3. Twitter is like a constant stream of interesting little tidbits from people you follow. You can dip your toe in whenever the mood strikes, or jump in and swim every day. Here is a page on how to start twittering if you are interested.

4. Google docs is another thing like diigo that just keeps growing on me. My latest favorite is the use of shared "collections." A collection is like a folder, but the cool thing is you can "share" a folder with another group of people and then [here's the really cool part], any additional google docs that you add to that folder are also shared to all the people who have access to that folder.

5. If you haven't checked out the Independent School Educators ning network, please do. It's another easy way to connect to colleagues at other schools and join in discussions or ask questions.

6. I rarely do professional networking on facebook but recently found a group which is fun to be part of. Linked-in has also impressed recently with it's weekly email of "trending" news topics. This is a nice example of the power of the crowd. When thousands (or millions?) of people are sharing  a link to something, it tends to be interesting. My favorite article from the past weeks is Culture Trumps Strategy. By the way, if you're wondering how I was able to find this website again several weeks later it's because I'd bookmarked in my diigo account (see #2 above).

7. Video chat is reaching mainstream adoption. I predict that before long we will have an easy way to send "video email" that may help with the well-known problem that email has no tone and can so easily be misinterpreted. There have already been companies in this space (most notably "seesmic") that never caught on, but I wouldn't be surprised to see google or facebook come out with some nifty video-messaging feature in the next few years. Meanwhile we'll have to work with synchronous video chat.

8. Blogs (like this one) continue to be a valuable tool in diving deeper into keeping up with colleagues' more in-depth thinking. With a 3 year old running around at home I don't have nearly enough time to read blogs, but continue to enjoy it on those rare occasions when it's possible.

9. RSS tools are a great way of letting content come to you. Google Reader is a great one. On it, you "subscribe" to feeds that interest you. Two other cool RSS readers I like are Scoop-it and Pulse [on the iPad.] Scoop-it is kind of a cool magazine-style format on the computer that allows you to either "curate" your own topics or read the curations of others [example]. Pulse is for reading feeds on the iPad.

So how do you connect to your Personal Learning Network?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

KNBC - web page design

The Middle School KNBC club is redesigning the official MS Clubs and Organizations page. Students are creating individual content pages for the Middle School Chorus, Jazz, D-Squared, Community Service, Spark, Affinity Lunch and Science Club. Joseph Clifford, Director of Communications, talked to the kids about the web page design and gave us some tips and tricks for the new webpage.

We are building a new Cool Media resource site - it's a collection of all kinds of interesting media tools. If you have recently discovered a new tool, please let me know - I'd be happy to add it to our growing collection.

And please stay tuned for the launch of the new clubs and organizations page coming SOON before the spring break.