Monday, December 7, 2009

Creating Facebook and MySpace Profiles

Social Networking is here, and is probably going to remain for quite some time.  I have had a number of parents ask me for advice on what to do when their child wants to create a Facebook or Myspace account.  Here are a few tips that I commonly share.

There are a couple ways to go about this.  The route you take depends on the relationship you have with your child.

One route is to keep her username and password, and log in to check it regularly.  This way you will have access to everything that your child sees and does.  Depending on the age of your child, this may appear a little overbearing.  As stated earlier, the choice you make needs to be based on your relationship with your child.

Another option is to set up an account of your own, and have your child add you as a friend.  This way you will still be able to monitor his/her whole profile without having to use her log in information.  The one thing you won't be able to see would be all of her messages that he/she sends directly to other friends.

Either way when you create a new profile, make sure that either you or your child sets the profile to private.  This will prevent his/her information from being viewed by random people.

The route you take depends on how much privacy you are comfortable giving your child.  This is your call.

Here's the big things to look for:

  1. Who are her friends?  If it is ANYONE you don't recognize I would check on it.  The people who would use sites like this for harm will hide their name and identity, so make sure the people she is friends with are people you know.

  2. What is she posting?  If she chooses to use the blog or writes on other people's wall, check out the kind of things she is writing.  Even if you can't access her private messages you can get a very good feel for what she is doing on the internet.

  3. What pictures are being uploaded?  Pay close attention not only to pictures that your child uploads, but pictures that other people are uploading of him/her.  Most users tag people in their photographs, so photos that other people upload that have your child tagged in them will appear on his/her profile.  Make sure both your child and your child's friends are not uploading anything inappropriate

  4. How is your child presenting him/herself?  More and more schools and employers are checking social networking sites.  Encouraging good digital citizenship not only means that you keep inappropriate content off, but that you encourage your child to present him/herself in a positive way.  I recommend the NetSmartz video Profile Penalty

I hope this is helpful and gets you started.  Please feel free to contact me with any further questions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Parents, this one's for you!

Hello parents of GCMS!  Whether you casually stumbled upon this post or met me at parent night you are all welcome.  I hope you have had a chance to look around the GCMS website and this technology resources page.  Now I would like your feedback!

Leave a comment on this blog post with any question you may have for me.  These can be general questions about technology in the classroom, tech at GCMS, this website, or just wanting to know more about me!  Also feel free to leave any feedback you may have.  What do you like about the things we are doing with technology at GCMS, what would be something you'd like to see us try out?  Or anything else you may think of.

Thank you for all the great support you give to your children, I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Visual Search Engines

In case you haven’t already realized, the internet is huge.  Yes, I understand that is probably the most obvious statement since “water is wet,” but dealing with this fact is a relevant issue to anyone associated with education.  Over the years search engines have become the primary means of dealing with the massive cloud that is the Internet.  One of the biggest changes I see in the newest generation of search engines is they are going visual.  Here’s a few of the search engines out there that break the mold of just giving you a list.


I’m putting this one at the top because it really caught my attention.  This is one of the most intelligent search engines that I have seen.  Rather than giving you a list of websites based on a keyword search, it finds different topics related to your search term and presents them in a color code wheel of information.

For example, let’s say you want to learn more about Andrew Jackson.  You begin by typing his name into the box in the middle of the wheel.  The result will be what you see in the picture above.  Different topics relating to Andrew Jackson, such as the Presidency, the Democratic Party, even smallpox will be displayed in the wheel.  Moving your mouse over any of these topics will show how they are related to your initial search topic.  You can also see an instant web or image search on any of these topics.  If you want to investigate one of the topics more fully, you can drag it to the center of the wheel and Eyeplorer will present a new wheel with topics relating to the one you chose.

What I appreciate most about this search engine is that it reveals how information is related.  Rather than just scouring the internet for a keyword match, Eyeplorer connects concepts and ideas, and walks students through the process by providing a visual representation.

Search Cube


This search engine can basically be explained by the screenshot.  The results of a Google powered web search are organized into a cube that you can rotate using the arrow keys on your keyboard.  Moving your mouse over a particular square on the cube gives you a preview of the website to the right of the cube.  I find this search engine to be a good way to quickly scan for different pictures or media.



KartOO organizes search results into either a more traditional list or a map, as seen above.  One feature I like about this engine is that by clicking on OPTIONS in the top right of the screen you can do a great deal of customizing your search and how the results are displayed.  Compared to EyePlorer I don’t think this one is as powerful, but still a very useful alternative to the traditional search engine.

Wrapping Up

Like I said, water is wet, ice is cold, and the internet is huge.  I think many of us are at a point where we go straight to a Google search and look no further than the first page of links.  I encourage you to try out some of these other tools and see where they lead!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Preparing For a New Technology Project


I tried out a new tool today called ToonDoo that lets you create comic strips.  I have to say I really like this one and hope to see some teachers use it.  However this brings up the issue of how to prepare for a good technology project.  I can remember the first time I brought a class into the lab to do a photostory project.  I was actually naive enough to think that I could just sit them down at the computer and start working, without them doing any prep beforehand.  As you can imagine, it went very bad and yes, I learned quickly.

Whether it is a PowerPoint, Photostory, or a new Web 2.0 tool like Animoto or ToonDoo, there are a few points of preparation that will help out a lot when you enter the lab.


If you are going to create any kind of a project with visual media such as pictures or video, storyboarding is critical.  Your time in the actual lab is usually going to be very limited.  Personally I find the greatest advantage of storyboarding to be that the creative process is primarily managed within the classroom.  A storyboard allows students to create a visual representation of what each slide or picture will look like.  It gives teachers and/or students the chance to proofread any text that might be included in the project.  If students are spending their lab time trying to figure out what to write or what sort of picture they should be looking for, they will quickly run out of time.

Creating a Gallery

I find this tip especially useful when working with younger students.  Rather than sending them on a wild goose chase through the internet for images, make a collection of relevant images or clipart in a central location that the students can easily browse and access.  In the ToonDoo website it is possible to create your own characters, so you can create multiple characters that the students can then manipulate and move about within their comic strips.  Different websites and applications have different options for making a gallery, so partner with a technology specialist (like me!) if you are unsure of how to make a gallery for your specific project.

Set Milestones

Make sure students know when to be completed with EACH STAGE of the project.  For example, on day 1 you may have them select images.  On day 2 you plan to have them add text.  Establish reasonable deadlines beforehand and hold to them!  It is very easy for students to get lost in the process of changing and re-changing things, especially when they are doing something creative.  If they have a clear time table going in, they have a better chance of completing their project in time.

Have Fun!

Well, there's a few tips from me.  These probably sound like common sense and they are!  However I know how easy it can be to lose sight of details such as these when you are on a tight schedule to plan things out.  Please feel free to comment with any additional tips of your own or contact me if you want help in setting up a project of your own.  Get creative!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Embedding Video in Your Website

So you've seen some of those cool little videos people put on their webpages, and you'd like to do one yourself.  Creating videos keeps getting easier with tools like Animoto, but getting that awesome video onto your website can be a little tricky.

Getting Embed Code (What is Embed Code!?)
Embed code is HTML code that tells your webpage to place an object in the middle of the page, or embed it.  Most video websites provide easy access to this.  For example in Youtube, there is a gray box to the left of the video that contains both the URL (for making a hyperlink) and the embed code.  In an Animoto video, click on "Share This Video" to bring up the embed code.  Other video websites are similar.  Once you have this code, copy it onto your clipboard (Right-click->Copy or Ctrl+c) but keep the webpage open so you can refer back to it.

Embedding in Web-based Website Creators
Most of the web-based website creators like EducatorPages or Google Sites manage the majority of the formatting of your page for you.  You edit certain portions of the webpage separetely, so you never see all of the HTML code at once.  This makes pasting in embed code a little easier.  When you are editing the part of your webpage where you would like the video you should see a toolbar at the top that contains something similar to the following:

The blue arrow is pointing to the HTML button.  Clicking this will allow you to edit the HTML code for the portion of the webpage you are working on.  Paste in the code (Right-click->Paste or Ctrl+V) where you would like the video to be and then return to the regular design view.  Your video is now embedded and will show up when people view your completed website.

Embedding in Frontpage

The most straightforward way to embed a video into Frontpage is to switch to the "Code" view at the bottom of the screen and then paste the embed code into the page.  Wherever the cursor was located while you were in design view will be where it is located in Code view, so you can find your place in the page that way.  If you don't like messing with the screen full of code, here's another option.

Click Insert -> Web Component

This will open up the Web Component dialog box.  From here, select Advanced Controls (scroll to the bottom) and then select HTML in the box on the right.  Then click Finish.

This will bring up the HTML Markup dialog box.  Paste your embed code into the large white box and click ok.

Initially your video won't look like much in design view, you'll see a small box with a question mark.  However if you click "Preview" mode on the bottom of the screen, you will get a preview of what the video will actually look like.

I hope you find these tips useful!  A short video can do a lot to spice up a website, and once you have embedded one, the process becomes much more familiar.  Have fun!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A New Journey

Well I am starting to get settled in my new position as the Instructional Technologist at GCMS.  I have to say that I am working for a great district in a great community, and I'm very happy to be here.

These days finding technology resources is easy.  Sorting them out to discover what is actually usefull can be a little more frustrating.  This blog will be devoted to some of the different tools I am learning and how to apply them in the classroom.  Stay tuned for more updates!