Thursday, January 31, 2008

Before I begin...

Before I officially start exploring video sharing, I have to explain something: I don't like video. I can enjoy movies if they are really, really good, and there have been a few tv shows that have captured my attention (Corner Gas, Heroes) and I watch on DVD, for the most part I don't enjoy moving pictures.

The problem is two fold: first off, video tends to offer up too much stimulus for my little brain. For me, trying to watch an episode of CSI with it's crazy camera angles, quick shifts in perspective and constant barage of music is probably what it's like for other people to stumble into a graduate level astrophysics lecture. Overload. Secondly, I haven't found much of value on video or film or tv. Granted, this could largely be because of my avoidance of the genre, but it seems to me that for each interesting, thoughtful and thought provoking work of video, there are a thousand that are not worth the time to watch.

This year, Jim and I compromised. I let him hook up the tv to an antenna so we can watch CBC. When he's home, particularly on weekends, it is on ALL THE TIME. He'll be reading, and it's on. He'll be in another room, and it's on (and I promptly turn it off). I think this is probably common in most homes, after all, my parents have 4 tvs in the house for just the two of them so they can never be too far to catch whatever's on. It's a part of life for almost everyone.

So... I'm trying. Really. I know video is a powerful medium, after all, it wouldn't boggle my brain if it wasn't. I know it is attention grabbing, I know it can transmit messages in a way no other medium can, I know a lot of people learn from it really well. But please, please pardon me if I don't get too enthusiastic.

All right, I'm off to YouTube.

Intimidation factor: 5/5

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More picasa-playing

Yes, I'm still playing around with Picasa, and thought I'd try the BlogThis! feature. Here's my girl with her dad at her very first hockey game. Go Miksiw, go!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Picasa, printing, and portfolios

Picasa is currently searching my computer for pictures. Wow. I thought I had lost all the digital versions of my photos from Egypt, and there they are! I will be playing with this in the background while I do this posting, so more on Picasa as we go!

Arlene commented on my last post saying that she is the only one she knows that still likes to print pictures. Well, I like to print pictures too! I like to hold them in my hands, browse through them, put them in frames for the wall, fill albums, send them to friends! As a tactile person, having something in my hands makes it real. While I can look at images on a screen and enjoy them, it just isn't the same as looking at an image I am holding.

My parents live in Calgary, a long, long ways away when you are driving with an infant, and are always after me for more pictures of Sophie since we don't get to visit often. They know I can't drive over to the local wal-mart to print off pictures, so they accept emails. I have tried to convince them that looking at pictures on Facebook (more on that struggle in a later post) or Flickr or Shutterfly is just as good, but they too want physical prints to hold on to and find printing pictures easier from their email. This is a battle I have lost with them, despite all manner of wrangling and whining! Thankfully, I've finally figured out how to quickly upload pictures to email (it used to take forever, or at least 10 minutes). One of the reasons they don't like looking at Sophie pictures online is the same reason so many people love sites like Flickr-- the pictures are there for the whole world to see!

Sophie's grandparents don't feel special when they look at her pictures on the web, because everyone can see them. No matter what privacy settings I choose, there is still that sense that the pictures are too public, and that as grandparents, they deserve to see pictures no one else can. I would argue that a lot of people enjoy putting their photos on sites like Flickr so that everyone can see them-- a wee bit of exhibitionism perhaps? Or pride? A confession: I posted a picture I took on a Facebook group site and get a little thrill each time someone comments on it. So it is tempting to let all my pictures be publicly visible and let the accolades pour in!

As an early childhood educator, I think portfolios are one of the most effective assessment tools I have at my disposal. However, much of what happens in my classrooms doesn't 'fit' in a portfolio... how do you put a block structure or a pattern made with toy cars into a folder? I make extensive use of a digital camera in my classes to capture these moments. I've always printed these out on my mediocre printer and put the prints in kids' portfolios, but Flickr offers an intriguing option: online portfolios! What if I created a account for each student, made sure to choose the highest privacy settings, provided parents with access, and uploaded all relevant photos to that account? Parents could visit that site for constant visual evidence of what their child is learning!

Turnout at parent-teacher interviews tends to be dismal, so often parents end up not seeing all the great stuff and photos in their child's portfolio. Maybe making it digital will up the interest factor? After all, shouldn't I be trying everything I know how to make sure parents see what their kids are accomplishing? To that end, I did a search on ProQuest for electronic portfolios and discovered I am way behind the eight ball on this one. Lots of information out there! I found this about the use of electronic portfolios in teacher education using blogs, and this, explaining how making portfolios more visible and public can increase their educational value. Most of what I found had more applications for middle school and high school, and I would agree that at the early childhood and elementary level a full electronic portfolio may be a bit much (not a lot of word-processed report being churned out in first grade), but an electronic component may be just what is needed to further engage students in reflective learning, increase parental involvement, and improve assessment. I'm going to try it!

Back to Picasa: Wow. Now I wish I hadn't paid for Picnik, as Picasa has some great photo editing tools, for free! Very easy to move around in this program, very easy to email pictures (automatically decreases the file size for you), and you can order prints from a Canadian company starting at 13 cents each. All right! Also super easy to upload to a web album, right from Picasa, which I like a lot, since it has already found my pictures. I don't have to search around and deal with enigmatic file names, I can just browse through my actual pictures and send them to the web.

While Flickr might be more mainstream, I think I like this better.

I have also used Shutterfly in the past, but this is very much a commercial site. You put your pictures in an album there more because you want to order 'stuff' than share photos with others.

For examples, you can view my Shutterfly album here, my Flickr page here, and my (favourite) Picasa album here.

Intimidation factor: 1/5
Long-windedness factor: 5/5

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Time 2.0

I have wasted so much time trying to upload images to Flickr, I'm officially ashamed of myself. It seems I got so excited about Flickr, I became willing to spend whatever time it took to participate, put up with whatever difficulties, work past whatever bugs.

I have better things to do with my time!

I eventually downloaded the old uploader and things went swimmingly. Then of course I had to play with Picnik, which quickly convinced me to send them money for access to more and better editing tools. Then, so proud was I of one particular photo, I thought, "I should order a print of this!" only to discover Flickr won't sell to Canada. Oh, I can buy expensive fancy photo stuff from their partners, but not an ordinary 3x5 print.

The concept is great: a community of photographers, pro, novice, and clicking-shots-of-the-baby types like me. I think it has a lot of potential (I'll get to that in a late post), but how often do we spend extra time on the new-fangled when the old-fangled was just as good? I have an empty photo album on my desk I've been meaning to get to for FOUR months now, which I could easily have finished in the time I spent swearing at Flickr Uploadr.


Intimidation factor: 2/5
Consternation factor:4/5

Sunday, January 20, 2008


You know how you can read something, but it doesn't really sink in sometimes? Brain of the Blogger mentioned how blogs foster critical thinking, but I didn't really believe it, I guess.

Then suddenly, finally, it dawned on me: the power of blogging in the classroom is similar to the power of journal writing when done well. Reflective thinking.

Blogs are written in an informal style, because that is how we think. Blogs are updated when we have new ideas, when there are thoughts to share, when we have come across a new way of thinking about something. That's the glorious truth about writing: you have to think first!

So if nothing else (and there's lots else I'm sure!) blogs are a way to get our kids thinking, reflecting, and writing. Journals kind of do the same thing, but how many of us have classes where journaling is seen as boring? Hee hee hee, we get to trick the kids into journaling by offering them the latest and greatest in technology! And then, for the non-writers, podcasting!

Ah, late night epiphanies.

Intimidation factor: 1 out of 5
All right. I've been hemming and hawing since my last post, trying to temper my disdain for this new media. After all, I'm too young to be so curmudgeonly!

The more I think about it, the more useful I can imagine blogs to be. Especially after reading Harris' Blogging and the Media Specialist, part 2, I think I could transfer some of my enthusiasm for wikis over to blogs. All technology has an ugly side, but that doesn't mean we should ignore it all together right? Sure, some bloggers may take up bandwidth talking about the relative stretchiness of various superheroes (Corner Gas again), but others use the forum for good: it just dawned on me that I regularly visit a parenting blog that I like to believe is a force for positive change!

I just read Brain of the Blogger, and have decided I need to make an honest effort to discover the best of the blogs in order to understand the potential of the medium, rather than focus on the chaff I'm used to stumbling on. I found the article after browsing through Darren Kuropatwa's class blog and being genuinely impressed. Kids communicating about math, not just memorizing formulas, hooray!

I've long thought that all teachers should have a website to post class activities, policies, homework, etc. for parents and students. A blog is an easy way to do just that, without bothering to learn to code html or fumble through web-authoring software that so often makes a mess of things. And if we want teachers to embrace new technologies, shouldn't we go out of our way to make it easy? We all know (OR SHOULD, DARN IT!) that teachers are very busy folks who really don't need more put on their plates. Blogging might be the tool to help them stay better connected to communities without asking too much more of their time.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Now that was easy! Why did I ever make a website for myself when I could have just come here, typed a few words, pressed a few buttons, and presto! a handy space all to myself.

Why did I choose this blog tool? *hangs head in shame* It was the first url I typed in and was immediately sucked in by the sheer ease of the place. Maybe the others are easier still. I'll never know.

Does anyone watch Corner Gas? The episode when Hank sets up a Blog, goaded on by a town that wants an easy way to ignore him? That's basically what I've always thought about blogs. I don't like them. I hate the way everyone has one and thinks the world wants to hear about the minutiae of their lives. I hate the way they clutter up search engines. I hate the way they are hard to keep up with (looking forward to experimenting with RSS on that front...)

But now, exactly 4 minutes after creating this on, I'm starting to understand... it is just so easy. Why not have a blog? If no one reads it, so what, then it's a diary I can't lose the lock for, and if lots of people read it, hooray, instant and fleeting celebrity!

So, poking around, I'm liking what I see... spell check, adding images, I can use html if I'm ever so inclined again, I can add links, ok, ok, my hatred of this format of communication is easing to a simmer rather than full boil.

All right, I'm going to leave this first post short and do some more poking around. Found Flickr (waaaay better than shutterfly) and Skype (free calls, where were you when I was in Korea??) so far, and having way too much fun.

Intimidation factor currently at: 3 out of 5