Monday, March 24, 2008

tt4t_030 Web 2.0 Participatory technology and you

It’s Monday, March 24th, 2008 and welcome to episode 30 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. One of the nice things about a locally created podcast is that you can customize the content to what the audience finds of value. Since most podcasters create their podcast out of a love for the content most producers are truly interested in audience feedback.

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After 30 episodes it is time to reflect over past episodes and ask the audience what you like about this podcast and also ask you what changes you would like to see to make this podcast more valuable in the future. If you have a suggestion for a technology pick of the week or comments that you think other teachers would benefit from please send an email to so they can be shared. I would also like to ask that you mention this podcast to at least two fellow teachers to help spread the word about the TechTalk4Teachers podcast.

I recently had one of my students ask me what they could do to keep up with the rapidly changing world of educational technology once the class was over. I told them reading blogs and listening to podcasts are wonderful ways to keep up with what is going on in the world of ed tech. You do not have to be enrolled in a class to listen to this podcast and I hope my students will continue to listen to podcasts after they finish the semester. To keep up however does require the effort and the discipline to continue learning new things. This requires a conscious choice and the desire to continue learning once you finish your coursework.

I have spent quite a bit of time over past 30 episodes of TechTalk4Teachers talking about Web 2.0 and the interactive possibilities that the new Web 2.0 technologies offer teachers. For most teachers the burden of using theses technologies is becoming less about technical barriers and more about habits of non-interactivity and concerns over school policy issues. Web 2.0 is participatory in nature and for you to become proficient with the technology your participation is required. As a nation we have been conditioned to take in content passively and when asked to interact we often do not know what to do. For starters you can simply make a comment to this blog, you do not need to provide your name if you prefer not to. Many people commenting on blogs simply use their initials, first name only, or a nick name. Remember that this is a public blog so once comments are approved all viewers can see all postings.

This week I am offering a new poll to the TechTalk4Teachers audience to see how many of you have ever posted comments to a blog. You may cast your vote by answering the poll question that is available at on the right side of the screen. I will keep this poll open for the next three weeks. Simply answering a poll is one way to get audience feedback and learn how others use technology.

If you do post a comment to this blog remember that it will be moderated so comments will not appear until they are approved by a moderator. Having a moderated blog is one practice that helps the blog owner protect against inappropriate postings and is unfortunately necessary for blogs that are used for educational purposes.

Tom's Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week has to do with the podcasting with third graders project currently underway. Last week we were working on the post production phase of the project and some of the preservice teachers were struggling with the vagaries of copyright law and legitimate use of media in the classroom. Since the topic is Abraham Lincoln and copyright law states that most items before 1923 are in the public domain songs like the Battle Hymn of the Republic should be alright for use in the podcast. However, after the preservice students did some research they found that the song was not copyrighted but the performance was. This is frustrating for the preservice students that are eager to produce a podcast with the third graders that all can be proud of.

Another issue involved the sound effects students wanted to use but we found that many of the sound effects were also copyrighted. To solve the sound effects copyright issue I ran across the Soundsnap website that offers user-created sound effects copyright free.
A link is provided in the show notes.

Sound Snap

Students were wanting to add a train whistle to their podcast to help tell the Abraham Lincoln story. There is a search box that you can either type in the search term in this case train or whistle and we found an appropriate sound to use in the podcast as a sound effect.

That wraps it up for episode 30 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode as well as archived versions of previous episodes are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4
If you have questions or comments about using technology in the classroom of have some news you would like to share with other teachers please post a comment to the blog or send an email to Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Monday, March 17, 2008

tt4t_029 There is no such thing as a free lunch, advertisements and “free” services

It’s Monday, March 17th, 2008 and welcome to Episode 29 of Tech Talk for Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Happy St. Patricks day everyone. Last week I talked about Microsoft SkyDrive and I can report that this free service has proven very useful for me over the past two weeks. Having 5GB of files available to you anywhere in the world that you have an Internet connection can change the paradigm of how you go about your day to day activities.

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I have used other online storage solutions in the past from Web 2.0 fee-based services to locally-based enterprise hosted services, SkyDrive offers most of the same functionality of these services for free. The sharing feature of SkyDrive is also very powerful for educators wanting to share documents and files with their students or to the entire world! Instead of posting information to a webpage and uploading and linking the appropriate documents to the webserver you can now just share the document files directly using the SkyDrive public folder and provide a link to your students to download the file. Before SkyDrive became available I used gmail and Google Docs as a work around for my online storage needs, SkyDrive fills a different need for me.

Here is an example of an embedded SkyDrive file that I have shared to my public folder:

There is still room for improvement in that ideally I would like for my SkyDrive to appear as just another drive letter on my computer just like a local network drive. The other weakness is that you have to upload files one at a time so a drag and drop interface would be a great addition to add multiple files or even entire folders all at once. I do know that Microsoft is working on Live FolderShare that is a file synchronization tool but it is still in beta. The FolderShare service may allow some of this desired functionality in the future. FolderShare offers a way to keep files in sync on multiple computers so if you update a file on one computer it can be automatically synced using FolderShare to your online storage. This also would be a great backup feature for important files. If you have another free solution that currently offers a service similar to SkyDrive for free please send me an email and let me know how you like it.

Many Web 2.0 companies allow for time-shifted and place-shifted learning to occur. This is something that we as educators need to adapt to. While anytime and anywhere learning is not new, it really began in earnest in the mid-1990’s with the advent of wide-spread adoption of the Internet and the development of course management systems for distance learning. To be honest this is nothing new as the advent of the printing press also offered anytime and anywhere learning to the masses over 500 years ago. I still talk with many educators that are locked into the time and place method of delivering content out of habit. There are some very interesting, useful, and fun sites on the web where you can learn just about any topic under the sun on your own time. Finding them and qualifying the sites as credible however is another issue. Designing leaning experiences is also another problem that educators are struggling with because many sites offering good content also are sponsored by advertisers.

Advertising is pervasive on the Internet and unfortunately renders many sites unusable to educators. Web 2.0 companies do have much to offer education but we are still sorting out the benefits from the distractions. Many advertisements are inappropriate for children or classroom use and thus limits the potential the web has to offer education. It is really is sad when you find a good relevant site you want to use but you have to concern yourself with inappropriate advertsing that may popup on the site. Sometimes these sites also solicit additional information such as asking for your name and email address. While this is probably good business practice it is not good educational practice therefore many sites go unused due to these concerns.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology pick of the week this week is a fun little website that will help you hone your geography skills. Geosense is an online world geography game that uses an interactive quiz format to test your geography skills. A link is provided in the show notes. When you visit the site you can go in as a visitor or you can signup with a username and password so the site can track your highest scores. The game provides you with a world map and at the top of the screen it will ask you to locate a country or city. You are to click the mouse on the world map as close as you can to the location of the requested country and you have only ten seconds to do so. Once you click on the location Geosense will calculate how many kilometers off you were and then go on to the next location. At the end of the game it will give you an average of how far off you were in kilometers of the ten random locations given. It is a quite fun and addictive game that offers immediate feedback of how you well you did. It can also be humbling when you are off more than 500 km of where you thought a country or city is located.

GeoSense- an online world geography game

This site does utilize Google Ads so it is sponsored by advertisers that may or may not be appropriate for children so be careful when using sites like these. The geography game is very well designed from an instructional design perspective, just be aware that clicking on other links on this site may take you to other websites that may not be appropriate, may solicit additional information from users, or be designed to sell additional products and services, so learner and educator beware. The same is true for Google, Microsoft, and many other Web 2.0 services, after all we cannot have innovation for free and these business need to make money to stay in business.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Finding a symbiotic relationship and balance to create a win-win situation is still a struggle for many educators as we try to separate the wheat from the chaff on the Internet as well as protect children from inappropriate websites and advertising. While advertisements are nothing new on the Internet the frequency has certainly increased over the years as businesses increase their presence on the Internet. I have provided a links to a couple of interesting articles in the show notes from ZenithOptimedia and discussing Internet advertising trends if you are interested in learning more. Internet advertising spending is projected to grow 85% between 2006 to 2009 according to this article. Links to the Geosense geography game, SkyDrive, and Google Docs are also available in the show notes.

Zenith Optimedia forecast article

Online Ad Spending 2001-2011

GeoSense- an online world geography game

Microsoft SkyDrive

Google Docs

That wraps it up for episode 29 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode as well as archived versions of previous episodes of TechTalk4Teachers are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4
If you have questions or comments about using technology in the classroom of have some news you would like to share please post a comment to the blog or send me an email to Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Monday, March 10, 2008

tt4t_028 A free 5GB hard drive in the cloud – Skydrive

It’s Monday, March 10th, 2008 and welcome to Episode 28 of Tech Talk for Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Last week I talked about a new web page creation service from Google called Google Page Creator that is currently in Beta. This service promises educators an extremely easy way of posting information to the web. In addition to the Google offerings there are many other alternatives currently underdevelopment that are changing the ways our schools utilize technology.

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The battle between Google and Microsoft is heating up as Microsoft is offering its own Web 2.0 free service. This week I am going to talk about a free online storage space available from Microsoft called SkyDrive. SkyDrive provides users with 5GB of storage space for free. This is a great resource for teachers and students that need to have files accessible from multiple computers. If you would like to get access to your very own SkyDrive go to the SkyDrive link available in our show notes and sign up for a free account, all that is needed is a Microsoft Windows Live account. The sign-up process is easy and in less than 60 seconds you will have 5GB that’s Gigabytes with a G, available to you for free online storage. There are definitely two competing philosophies between the Google and Microsoft approaches to Web 2.0 services and it will be interesting to see which model will win in the future.

Will Microsoft develop a online “lite” version of the Office applications that will be free? Will Google build a “beefier” set of Office applications for Google Docs that they might charge for? The future is still unclear and in the state of flux and it is a bit ironic that Google and Microsoft are working from different ends of the spectrum to find solutions. What is interesting is that neither of Microsoft or Google approaches currently have the answers to meet the needs of the majority of users. While free is a good selling point users will be well advised to understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that costs are being recuperated through either online advertising or some other form of subsidy as companies compete to gain market share. This is an epic battle with much to gain or lose.

Google has staked a claim in the Software as a Service model where Google applications run on the Web using Google servers. While this provides a great deal of flexibility for access the downside is that applications like Google Docs and Spreadsheets are bare-boned examples of what users have become accustomed compared to the Microsoft Office products that offer a full set of features. The advantage that Google claims is that you and others can access your documents online regardless of what type of software or computer you are using. The big downside of course is that you HAVE to be online and connected to the Internet for this model to work. For many schools the ubiquity of wireless access required for this approach is not yet a reality. I do believe Google is working on some type of offline functionality that would allow users to work offline and then sync up their files to the Internet once a connection would become available to address this deficiency.

Microsoft on the other hand has started from the other direction taking advantage of its full featured Office Suite of products and using the Internet as a collaboration and storage platform. In the Microsoft approach of using SkyDrive you have the advantage of both the online and offline worlds. The disadvantage is that Microsoft charges for the Office suite of tools whereas Google’s tools are currently free. I am quite impressed with what Microsoft is doing with the “Live” set of tools now available on the Internet. There are also many other Web 2.0 services that Microsoft is rolling out for online users. The Skydrive has the added benefit of allowing the user complete control over how they want to share files with others. There is a Public folder on the SkyDrive that a user can place files in to share with a selected group of friends or share with the entire online community if they so wish! This is a big selling point for teachers and students because a teacher can upload a file to their Public SkyDrive folder and students and immediately have access to the file. The SkyDrive also has folders for music, pictures, and videos very similar to your regular PC’s hard drive in Windows XP and Vista so it is a familiar interface. If you would like you can give the users of the Public SkyDrive folder read-only access or you could allow full editing capability depending upon the circumstances.

If you have not already gotten your SkyDrive account I recommend you try out the service to see what you think, afterall it is 5GB of free storage! For my students that are constantly losing their flash drives this might also be worthy of consideration. If nothing else it can serve as a good place to backup important files. I would not upload anything confidential to these services and as with all Web 2.0 services be sure to check out school policies before using these technologies for school purposes.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology pick of the week this week is the Microsoft SkyDrive. A link to articles and information about how to signup for a free SkyDrive account is provided in the shownotes. Be aware that Microsoft offers many more services under the Live banner of branded products so give others a try and let me know if you find them helpful.

That wraps it up for this episode of TechTalk4Teachers Show notes for Episode 28 of TechTalk4Teachers along with archived versions of this show are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4
If you have questions or comments about using technology in the classroom of have some news you would like to share please send me an email to
Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Monday, March 3, 2008

tt4t_027 Another day of podcasting with 3rd Graders

It’s Monday, March 3, 2008 and welcome to Episode 27 of Tech Talk for Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Project WOW was here again at the ITC this past Friday and we are on to a new crop of podcasters. This semester Project WOW is working on an Abraham Lincoln unit. We had a very limited amount of time in the lab with approximately fifty 3rd graders so we needed to be very streamlined in what we did. Here are a few tips that we have found helpful from past projects.

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First, there is a lot of preplanning that goes on before anyone comes to the lab. This is a collaborative project between the instructor at EIU with her preservice students and two third grade teachers with their classes. For the project we have EIU preservice teachers assigned to work with small groups of third graders. Three to four students per group seemed to work very well last semester but this increases the number of groups that you have for the project. This time we had five to six 3rd graders per group and while this cut down on the total number of groups it did present other challenges in recording the podcasts. With more students per group it took a little bit longer to record each of the group podcasts because more children were speaking. If you have the time available this is not a problem but if you are limiting the time to a half-hour to one hour for the recording sessions then your script needs to match the available time slot. The students also wanted to do practice runs before the recording actually began.

Secondly, we had four to five groups in the lab at the same time so forget about the pristine environment of a recording studio. We used inexpensive microphones that cost about $15 each and they were of the directional type. This is an important point because a directional microphone records what you point it at. If we had used omnidirectional microphones they would have picked up every sound in the room and the recording would have been of much lower quality. While not an ideal recoding environment the directional microphones did a pretty good job of recording the student voices and limiting the background noise in the lab. Ideally it would have been best to record one group at a time so that background noise would be limited but due to time constraints we recorded four groups at a time. We had two recording sessions of four groups each giving a total of 8 podcasts created for the morning session.

Thirdly, always start small and run through a practice run or two to make sure you are familiar with the process and to make sure the equipment is working properly. Before the 3rd graders arrived in the lab we gave a very quick 45 minute tutorial on how to use the Audacity program to record the podcast. Ideally we would have liked to had a couple of hours so the preservice students would have been a little more comfortable with the software. Luckily we had a couple of preservice students that had previously taken a class and were already familiar with creating a podcast. The preservice teachers were great and the recording session went smoothly.

Forth, save often! Just like any other project you need to save the project as you go along. In Audacity you save as an audacity project file for future editing so create a new folder on the computer to save things to as you go along. I recommend saving as an audacity project file after each student records, that way if you are on student number 4 and you have computer problems you can open the audacity project and record from your last save point. If you do not save and something happens to the computer you will have to start from the beginning and re-record everything.

Lastly, the biggest problem we had was the different volume levels of voices that students use while recording. Some students speak very loudly while others are more soft spoken. Adjusting the distance of the microphone from the speakers lips helps with this but it was still a problem. Again, this could be perfected with multiple takes but due to time constraints we only had one-shot at the recordings. We can fix some of the volume changes in post production using the amplify effect of Audacity but without having a mixer and real-time monitoring of the volume levels this has remained a problem.

There were several activities that the 3rd graders participated in Friday including the making of a concept map using Inspiration and a guest speaker. We rotated the groups throughout the morning to the different activities. We did not have any time for the post production so over the upcoming weeks the EIU preservice teachers will be putting the podcasts together and adding intro and outro music. I believe our preservice teachers have learned many valuable skills including being the leader of their own projects and managing all the aspects that learning requires. The 3rd graders also are learning a lot about Abraham Lincoln and how to use technology for their project. This is an authentic activity that readily engages all of the learners.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology pick of the week this week is a new service that was just announced from Google. If you have a gmail account you can use the service right away, others will have to wait until Google finishes the beta testing of this new service. The new service is called Google Page Creator and allows users to create their own web page using only a google account and a web browser. A link is provided in the show notes to a CNN article about this new service. Here is a quote from the article:

“With only a few clicks, just about anyone will be able to quickly set up and update a Web site featuring wide an array of material, including pictures, calendars and video from Google Inc.'s YouTube subsidiary, said Dave Girouard, general manager of the division overseeing the new application.
"We are literally adding an edit button to the Web," Girouard said.”

About Google Page Creator

Show notes for Episode 27 of TechTalk4Teachers are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4
If you have questions or comments about using technology in the classroom please send an email to Well that wraps it up for this episode of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.