Thursday, January 29, 2009

Carolyn Stanley writes some good edtech tips on her blog: The Evolving Classroom. Her post begins after the ~~~~~~ and is in RED below.
I wanted to see the TED Talk she mentioned, so I used my Firefox add-on "Video DownloadHelper" to suck the 20 minute video from YouTube onto my computer, and then I watched it and played some of it at school (where YouTube is blocked). Good stuff!

A very inspirational video - Benjamin Zander speaking at TED
There were two videos from YouTube of Benjamin Zander, an orchestra conductor, speaking at the TED conference where the finest, most creative minds from all over the world gather to share their insights. The first selection runs 10 minutes and is worth watching, but it is the 2nd selection which runs 20 minutes that is a must. It was already 1:00am when I clicked on the video. I figured I'd look at it for a couple of minutes and then give up and go to bed. Well, I was so captivated that I watched the whole thing and have since watched it again. When it ended at 1:30am or so, I had tears running down my cheeks, and I was applauding loudly with the rest of the audience. It's a good thing my husband was sound asleep in the bedroom, for he surely would have wondered what was going on.

Please take the time to watch this video.
Here it the direct link to it on YouTube:
Enjoy! Please leave me a comment on my blog.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Typing Sites

Here are some of the best typing games and tutorials and tests I've come across. I'd love your ideas and additions if you'll leave them as a comment.

Dance Mat Typing
This is a very accessible training program for first-exposure to typing. Pedagogically sound and fun for kids. The songs get old after a while and there's no way to skip them, but by then you can transition to games to increase speed--the foundation is laid.

These guys have some good, free games. I like them because I can instruct my kids to play at level three or higher and then they're off of the home row. They're typing full words rather than letter-by-letter, which is good because I don't think typing letters increases skills as much as typing words.

QWERTY Warriors
A rewarding shoot-em-up game. Not as pedagogically sound because you must press the Enter key between words (and there isn't variety built in), but kids with slower fingers can get into it until they get to 20wpm and be ready for Typer Shark. Kids like QWERTY Warriors, and I do too. There is also a QWERTY Warriors II that doesn't make you press Enter but it's not as adrenaline-producing. Try them both.

Typer Shark
Once you're up to 20wpm, the best game out there is Typer Shark. Here is a LINK, but if it's blocked at your school you might try searching "Typer Shark" to find an open site. The great thing about this one is that there is variety built in, so it doesn't get old as fast.
Typing Master software provides this online typing test for free. It's the most accurate online test I've been able to find. We use the three minute version and track the kids' speed in a classroom wiki--kids put their speeds into a table on their own wiki page.

Painting Keys
This isn't an online tool--just a suggestion. In our computer lab we used to use rubber keycovers, but they cost nearly as much as a cheap USB keyboard and are prone to tearing and loss. So now all our lab computers have two keyboards plugged in--one normal one and one where the 15 most common letters have been painted over with a paint-pen.

Sites for the Chase Kids

Oops! My kids have all become computer savvy in the last month--too much time over Christmas break where they could sit down at a laptop and write email, play math games, or learn to read. So this is a post dedicated to my kids with links to their favorite sites. I'll take the permalink and stick it in the bookmarks bar so it's easy to get to . . .


Dance Mat Typing


Virtual Manipulatives

Everyday Mathematics

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


ISTE asked for opinions on this topic: "Wikipedia, friend or foe"

. . . and this is my answer . . .

Wikipedia is just like the “Encyclopedia Galactica”
. . . only different.

Not an Isaac Asimov fan? Here's a Cliffs Notes version: Twenty thousand "encyclopedists" are dispatched to a distant planet ostensibly to prepare an encyclopedia of all human knowledge. Admittedly it's so far in the future that there is a lot more knowledge to put into their enormous publication, but these 20,000 labor for fifty years before their work is interrupted.

The Encyclopedia Galactica is created on a simply massive scale—very appropriate to science fiction—but it still follows the same method of compiling encyclopedias that has been used since the first such compilation almost 300 years ago. That is, to create a trustworthy resource you first gather many experts and editors with distinguished educations. Asimov tried to see the future, but he missed it in guessing that the definitive gathering of human knowledge would be done by the elite possessors of knowledge. It would have been impossible in 1951 to guess that knowledge-compiling would become democratized to the point where we all chip in to form our own real-life version of the Encyclopedia Galactica.

"All of us are smarter than any of us." That's the idea behind Wikipedia, and it is one that is well supported by James Surowiecki and the research that he references in The Wisdom of Crowds. If any random contributor were creating entries in Wikipedia by himself, then that would not be trustworthy. But when you have a crowd of editors swarming over each Wikipedia article and having discussion on the back-end about how the article could be improved on the front-side, there are significant checks and balances. There is wisdom.

Each time I’ve edited a Wikipedia article (and I’ve only edited three so far) I’ve been impressed by the dialogue that is going on behind the scenes. These other self-appointed editors see themselves as providers and guardians of information. They subscribe to “their” articles so as to be alerted to any future changes. Funny thing about it—each of those three articles that I made changes in are now also “my” articles. I own part of Wikipedia, if you know what I mean. Three out of 11 million is a small part, but those three are more accurate and complete because of me. That is democracy.

Just now when I was trying to remember how many encyclopedists were sent to Terminus . . . I consulted my online encyclopedia. It had all the facts I wanted and one amused chuckle for me when I read a quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and then reflected on those who complain of Wikipedia:
"… [The Guide] has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom … though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate…”
I’ll fix the inaccuracies in Wikipedia as I find them (and you will, too), and together we’ll make an online encyclopedia even better than the fabled Encyclopedia Galactica.