jump to navigation

Picasa Catch Up December 28, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
add a comment

picasa   What a lovely day it is today. Cold rain is falling on the roof I had patched a few days ago. There are no e-mails clogging my mailbox. I have time to read Sky & Telescope, sip coffee, and catch up on programs that I should have installed long ago. Today I am playing with NVu, an open source web editor, and Picasa2, the latest version from Google.

I knew about Picasa, a photo-organizing tool, for ages but instead used precious learning curve time on mastering another program called Hello. It turns our Hello will soon be phased out but all the features I enjoyed will be incorporated into Picasa.

I have been sorting digital photos and taking an inevitable voyage into the mists of memory. For me, the photos drop off just prior to 2001 although I have scanned a few of my old print photos. I am hoping that someday I will be able to generate a great movie of Abby’s childhood memories. I have accumulated several hours of clips that will make a wonderful montage someday.

In the meantime, I can stare wistfully at these photos of her years in elementary school and recall my own. Yesterday, my former Grade six teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, sent me the bi-monthly newsletter from the Markham Historical Society. The 50th anniversary of the opening of my elementary school brought us together. To my great joy, she remembered me as a polite young man with a great many interests, which is how I imagined myself to be as an eleven year old.

I hope the images of Abby at this age, properly documents with dates, will help her to paste together the fragments of her childhood someday.

What interests me about this opportunity to play with a new program is that time flew by during the time I was learning it and its features. So, why did I not download it sooner? Is the reason for my hesitancy the same thing that stops teachers from fully getting to know and understand the Read/Write web and begin incorporating it into teaching? Is it the need for a block of time? Is it the fact that a favorite tool is being phased out that spurred me to overcome inertia? Did I feel guilt for not installing it? Did something pressure me to action? Did something pressure me to inaction?


Library Thing December 22, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
add a comment

books   Yesterday I discovered a great site on the web called LibraryThing.com in which you can record and categorize all the books in your home library with incredible ease. A few clicks of the title or authors and you will be given a collection of close matches. A click later and you will have an image of the book if available and bibliographic data as well. You can tag the books with terms that are meaningful to you. My most often used tags are CanLit, Technology, and Education. They are a little broad but that was all I wanted.

The neat thing is that this site works like other social book marking sites in that you can see who else has tagged your books, find related titles you might not have considered, read comments from other readers of your books, and rank the books in your collection.

I’m even noted as an author who used Library Thing. Check it out.

Graduates December 7, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
add a comment

grads   Today, my supervisor and mentor, Bob Hendricks, stopped into my office to look at a slide show I had been working on for next week’s convocation ceremony. I gathered the images from colleagues who had taken them at various steps in the pre-service careers of our teachers.

I had arranged the images chronologically beginning from the College of Education booth at a career fair, to orientation sessions, to images of students in classes, taking notes, and using our computer facility. I had mixed these shots with images of students in their methods block. I followed these images with ones of students doing their student teaching. Finally, there were images of convocation ceremonies from the recent past complete with proud parents, hugs, and even some tears.

As I shared the images with Bob, I had the chance to gush a little about how proud I was of these young people. I could think of no higher calling than the training of thoughtful, enthusiastic, caring, insightful, and skillful teachers. The photographs in the slideshow put the whole process into perspective.

Shortly after Bob left, a student I had not seen for a while dropped in for a brief visit. She had written a letter on my behalf for a creative teaching award. She was bubbling with news. She had just been hired to teach a Grade One class at Quail Run Elementary School in Marana School District. Amanda will be at the convocation ceremony with family and friends and I will be excited for her.

It really feels like it was just a few years ago that I began my first teaching job. In reality, it has been over twenty-five years and it all still feels so fresh for me. What an adventure she is about to embark upon. Who would not feel pangs of pride and well up with joy for her and for her fellow graduates?

Elf-ish Greetings December 6, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
add a comment

taylor elf   One thing leads to another.

I was watching the ABC Evening News, podcast version naturally, and caught a piece on inserting your face in to a little Flash movie of a dancing elf.

I tossed my own face into one and created my little masterpiece complete with a greeting. Lots of fun.

Of course, my daughter insisted on being transformed into an elf next. Then, logically, I turned my dog, Dalai, into an elf too.

Feel free to paste your own ELF greeting into my Comments section.


Not ten minutes after I sent her one, my good buddy in Illinois, Dr. Szabo, sent one in response. Let the elf-alanche begin!

Second Life December 6, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
add a comment

Oyama   If you one day found yourself in a new country where you did not fully understand all the rules and were penniless, would you be able to survive and even prosper? Would you learn new skills or a trade? Would you take care that your precious funds went to improving your clothing or would you re-invest your hard won capital in an effort to improve your lot?

Of course, I am referring to Second Life, a virtual world that was the domain of a very few individuals but now, through many news stories about virtual economies is attracting new visitors every day. I am sure there are some who will one day reckon this to a virtual gold rush. Stories abound of individuals who have entered this realm, taken on avatar personalities, created objects like roller skates and then sold them for virtual money that was exchanged into real money.

I entered the virtual world of Second Life a few months ago and created a character called Oyama Maroon (pictured). I had control of the first name but had to select the last name from a list. I have yet to meet any other Maroons in the world but I am sure they are out there.

The first time I tried to use it in a class setting for demonstration it went about as well as when I demonstrated voice to text for the first time. My head cold totally destroyed the hours I had spent training the software to recognize my voice. On the night of the Second Life demonstration my colleague David Betts were scheduled to meet.

I suggested the glass elevator on the side of a building on an island called Midnight City. I choose Midnight City because the day before they had held an impressive show in an amphitheatre on that island. Dave created his avatar and I gave him the coordinates to rendezvous with me.

We instant messaged a few times so I knew he was looking for me then, without warning, while I awaited Dave, a large avatar looking like a slightly thinner Dave complete with white beard slammed into the side of my building and slid down the wall. Dave messaged me, “I’m still learning how to fly.”

Flying in Second Life is, as they say, worth the price of admission. A click of the “PageUp” button and you are on your way through the virtual clouds. I would urge you to visit one of the islands in particular, EduNation, to see the potential for using the space as a virtual classroom.

To learn more about EduNation and Second Life, give a listen to the mp3 link below.


Shooting Stars December 4, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
add a comment

Lincoln   There are times when it is very easy to keep on top of technology and there are times when there is just too much to absorb if you want to do it right.

During the last several months, I have downloaded scores of online tools and mastered a few of them. I have visited hundreds of web sites and bookmarked for later perusal many more. I have made movies, podcasts, digital stories, and wikis. But I fear that every tool I learn pushes something essential off my radar screen and, in my rush to hold onto every experience and project, the result is superficiality. I have recently been able to read shallowly and risked understanding incompletely.

These new tools and challenges are like shooting stars in the heavens. They are each trying to get my attention. As an amateur astronomer, I take great interest in such things as shooting stars and, in anticipation of the Geminid meteor showers next week, I came across a story Abraham Lincoln once related that helped to put things into perspective for me. As quoted by Walt Whitman:

One night I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door and I heard the deacon’s voice exclaiming, ‘Arise Abraham, the day of judgment has come.’ I sprang from my bed and rushed to the window and saw the stars falling in great showers! But looking back of them in the heavens I saw all the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now.’

The message for me is that one must look beyond bright flashes in the night and look beyond to see the principles and goals that are stable in the firmament. Thus, every new educational tool and device will shoot wildly across the still and almost imperceptibly moving nature of education, like constellations in our sky.

I ask questions to separate the flashes from the stars. Is it really going to help? Is this a disruptive technology or a true tool to assist teachers? Will the amount of time it takes a teacher to become accustomed to the tool and fit it into his life be worth the beneficial impact on his teaching?

Eventually, a steady gaze on the background star field reveals the truth. Understanding the reason we teach and knowing well our core values will help us to discern the flash and fury from the essential and elemental.

Next, Second Life and a conceptual divide . . .