Thursday, April 30, 2009

Copyright 180

I am attending the always wonderful PSLA Conference at State College, PA.

Yesterday morning I attended a session for librarians and the CFF (Classrooms for the Future) coaches. We began with an enlightening session on how CFF coaches and librarians can work together instead of fighting "turf" wars (see great wiki on collaboration by Hempfield School).

Afterwards we began an eye-opening session on copyright by Renee Hobbs. Renee is founder of the Media Education Lab. Renee provided us with a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. I feel like the copyright chains have been released for educators and students. We discussed fair use and transformative works in the context of education and how that allows us and our students to use copyrighted materials in many cases where we previously thought we could not. The idea of transformative works is the open window in the stifling environment of copyright guidelines. I feel better equipped to teach my students and teachers how to use copyrighted materials in accordance with the Code of Best Practices instead of always saying, "No, you can't use it."

Watch this video by the Media Education Lab on User Rights! You will do a 180 on the way you deal with copyright (if you haven't already).

Although, I did leave the session wondering, "Where does Creative Commons fall into this picture?" As my students have been creating more digital/media products, I have been pushing Creative Commons this year. So, as if reading my mind, Joyce Valenza began her session on Creative Commons.

Photo used under Creative Commons license from

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rethinking Vocabulary

Merriam-Webster defines "drudgery" as "dull, irksome, uninspiring or menial labor". As students are working on homework in the library, I tend to hear, "Miss M, can you help me/us?" While often it is technology related or project related, many times they need help with their vocabulary homework. I have sat down with many students to help them through their vocabulary workbook . . . talk about uninspiring.

I wonder if a different approach would be more inspiring and interactive to students, and therefore more effective. So, I began to build an alternative (or additional) approach to vocabulary to share with my Language Arts teachers. I wanted the options to be practical, completable in one class period, and introduce and/or reinforce the vocabulary for the week.

1. Wordia - have student pick a word from the list and create a short video wordia-style
  • Have students sit/stand in front of camera with little to no props and explain the word by defining it, telling what it means to them, and giving an example of how to use the word

2. WordAhead - have students create their own narrated definition and example sentence with a visual
  • Instead of having one picture playing the entire explanation (as is done in wordahead) I would have students use a comic generator
  • Try Pixton, Bitstrips, or GoAnimate

3. Weboword - have students create their own stick-figure representations of their word
  • This could be done on good old paper and scanned, in Paint, or try ArtPad or SketchPad

4. Shahi - have students create their own visual dictionary

All of these sites themselves could be used to introduce students to their vocabulary. However, the number of words available on these sites is very limited. I think their true strength lies in providing an example of what students could produce by working with their vocab words.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Books Lists Made Fun

I always love finding new ways to promote reading with my students. So, I have slowly been adding to my web2.0 repetoire of book and reading websites.
22books is one of my new favorites. 22books allows you to create book embeddable book lists. The site is very easy to use and plans on offering more features in the near future (ability to share lists, blog lists, etc.)

List Ideas
1. summer reading lists
2. author book lists
3. genre book lists
4. new books in the library
5. books I would like to read
6. books similar to ______________ .
7. books that make use of

Classroom Ideas
1. If students project is to create a wikipage for a school project, have them embed a list on a wiki with books that go along with the topic of the page
2. Have students create lists of books that display a specific literature element
3. Let students create list of books that caught their attention after book talking
4. Let students just have fun with it!

In the future they plan on providing users with the opportunity to blog their lists. So, for now, here a direct link to the list I created for students who have read all the books from the Twilight series and are looking for similar reads. If you would like to see an embedded version of the list, you can see it here on my wikispace.

Monday, April 13, 2009


At the end of last year, I decided I would try to create a powerful resource for the teachers in my school on various web2.0 applications. I wanted to show them not only what was available, but also provide them with some "how-to's", as well as examples of how to implement in their classroom.

While I'm not exactly sure how many teachers in my school visit this wiki as a resource currently, I hope it will grow into a "go to" place for them.

I recently read Joyce Valenza's blog post on finding the pace of growth, "challenging, and stunning, and staggering." I felt like that post was speaking to me. At times I feel so overwhelmed by the sheer number of amazing web2.0 resources curently available and how many new ones I am constantly discovering. However, as I was reflecting on my web2.0 wiki, I feel that I have found a way to keep a reign on the resources that I want to focus on promoting.

While this wiki may have begun as a resource for the teachers in my school, it has evolved into a resource for me as well. It is a work in progress, and hopefully it always will be a growing "library" of my favorite web2.0 resources to use in the classroom.