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Two great new tools

I’m always looking for useful tools to help me and other teachers to provide access to our documents and presentations in a really user-friendly way.  Two recent finds are authorSTREAM and Issuu.

authorSTREAM allows you to upload your PowerPoint presentations and then put them on another website (a blog, wiki, the Ultranet etc) using the embed code.  Yes, very similar to slideshare and other similar tools but what I really like about Authorstream is that it preserves your transitions and animations.  If you download their Powerpoint add-on you can also include YouTube videos in your uploaded presentations.  In addition, the add-on makes it super simple to locate and add YouTube and Vimeo video, and images from Flickr, with appropriate attribution of course!

Here’s a Powerpoint I’ve uploaded to Authorstream.  It’s one I created to demonstrate custom animations to my year 10 IT class:

Issuu does for PDF documents what authorSTREAM does for Powerpoints.  Upload your PDF to the site then grab the code to embed elsewhere.  This is a great way for teachers to provide their students with resources and information about a topic without having to email or share editable files.  The documents can be put front and centre on a webpage in a visually attractive, easily readable form.  On the site you can elect to have your documents private or public but even so I would exercise caution and not upload anything about individuals.  Issuu is also a fabulous way for students to publish their best work for sharing online – anything that can be scanned or saved to PDF can be uploaded.

Issuu is used by people to publish magazines – here’s a sample:

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SLAV Perspectives on Learning V2

Wow, what a great day.  I’m just back from the SLAV conference and I’m feeling newly inspired to blog so I thought the least I should do is write something quickly about why today was so much fun, so inspiring, so invigorating!

1.  Connections

I always love SLAV conferences because I get to catch up with people I have worked with in the past or had other professional dealings with and today was no exception (hi again to Raggsy, Marg, Robyn, Judith, Reina, Anne, Rick and Geoff).  Today was even better because I got to meet, face to face, with some of my Twitter network – hello Tania, John, Jenny and Adrian.

Today I took along the netbook I’ve been given to use and was very excited to find a wifi connection available.  I’ve been checking Twitter in the past when others have been at conferences and have been interested to see their take on what’s happening.  Today I could be one of them.  What a hoot!

2.  Inspiration

Network Literacy:  The ability to create, grow and navigate personal learning networks in safe, ethical and effective ways

Will Richardson is an inspiring speaker. His keynote on Network Literacy was fascinating.  He maintains that publishing is the easy part, it’s what occurs afterwards that matters – the connections, the conversations.  That it is important to find a diverse network; that learning within a network is an ongoing process, not an event.

I love the notion of being “Googled well” – not how well you can conduct a search, but what a searcher finds if they Google your name.  What is worse: finding dodgy pictures of you or finding nothing?  Everyone, especially our young people, needs to understand how important it is that a google search of you locates a digital presence you can be proud of (and you’re not afraid of your nanna or a prospective employer seeing).

I love how he makes his ideas so exciting yet so do-able.  I love how it is firmly grounded in the learning, in the pedagogy, not the tools (although he’s got some great tips on using the tools).  His session on blogs and blogging this afternoon is what sent me here, the moment I got home.  He articulated what I realised I had been thinking – that you need to read blogs before writing one, that you need to write for yourself before blogging with students.  It gives me renewed confidence in the value of the Web 2.0 online course I’ve been developing for our teachers, and has confirmed my recommendation for participants to set up a blog for the purpose of learning and reflection.

Adrian Camm & Leonie Dyason’s session on creating a Virtual Learning Community was equally inspiring.  Adrian’s use of a ning to engage, not only his own physics students, but students from around the state is a terrific idea and it is fabulous how he has got the textbook writers to come on board.  He has helped me crystalise a couple of ideas that I have for the Professional Learning Leaders program I am involved in.  Our project is likely to be based around study skills for our VCE students, a ning might be the answer.

3.  Confirmation

I’m not sure if confirmation is the right word here, or whether it should be affirmation.

Anyway, I just want to touch on why the fact that today left me inspired is such a good feeling.  There seemed to be a number of people in the audience who are scared or can’t see how to find the time to learn new things…I’m so glad I’m not one of them.  I am very happy that most tools and sites mentioned I have heard of, if not actually used.  I am very happy to be inspired to continue exploring and sharing what I find.  I’m happy that the online connected world has allowed me to be better at my job, to find new ways of doing things, to be part of a network.  It feels great to understand that all this is not “more work”, it simply is my work (and quite a bit of my leisure too, but that’s another story).

Another confirmation/affirmation: today a former colleague (who I worked with when I was a first year out) asked me if I’d be interested in travelling to Gippsland to present to their SLAV group.  They want to learn more about Web 2.0 tools and some of the practical applications I’ve found.  Of course I said yes, now to figure out the logistics!

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What I did in the holidays

Well it’s back to work and reality tomorrow.  I was offered the positon of Leading Teacher College ICT Coach on the last day of term and told not to speak to anyone about it that afternoon as unsuccessful applicants for that and other positions may not have found out yet, and of course there is the provisional period to get through.  It has all felt a bit unreal – two weeks later and I haven’t actually spoken to anyone I work with about getting the job (did I imagine it??).  No, I’ve had the official email, it’s all real.  As I started with, back to reality tomorrow.

That being said, I have spent much of the holidays furthering my learning journey.  I have spent a lot of time working on the presentation I will be making at the SLAV People and Technology conference on Monday 13 October.  I’m happy with my preparation at this stage, the slides are almost all done and there is very little text on them!  I’ve written extensive notes which will form the basis of what I will say – now I need to pare them back into useful prompts.  I’ve created a wiki which I will invite the conference participants to view and join if they wish.  It will provide links to everything I speak about on the day so hopefully they won’t feel compelled to write notes as I speak!  I always hate that feeling when you are listening to someone speak, that you might miss noting something important!

The presentation is about the Learning with Web 2.0 program my library staff and I completed earlier this year.  Doing the preparation prompted me to revisit some of the Web 2.0 tools that I’d only touched on earlier and that was worthwhile doing.  Google Book search must have been having a blonde moment the first time I checked it out, second time around it looked much more useful.  I’ve started using Google Calendar integrated on my iGoogle page; I played around with a couple of gadgets to integrate Delicious into iGoogle but with only limited success but then I installed the latest Delicious toolbar which incorporates a sidebar which is much more useful than the old two buttons and effectively does what an iGoogle gadget would have done.  I tried again to get excited about second life, but couldn’t manage it. 

Along the way I got continually sidetracked by interesting things popping up in my Google reader.  It is fantastic, the paths you can be lead down and the fascinating thing you can read and view…but time can disappear alarmingly!  I subscribed to several more blogs (the count is now 40, up from 30 a month ago) and joined two Nings. Work Literacy  and OZ/NZ Educators.  Work Literacy  is running a 6 week professional development event which I am participating in:

Sponsored by Work Literacy and the eLearning Guild, from September 29 through November 7, 2008, this network will be THE place for you to learn about Web 2.0 and how social media tools can be used by learning professionals.
The goals of the event are to:

* Introduce you to new tools and methods for work and learning
* Discuss implications of these tools for learning professionals
*Prepare you to participate in DevLearn in new ways as an attendee or as a spectator.

Through the Work Literacy program I have joined LinkedIn which is like Facebook but for professional engagement and networking rather than social.  I haven’t decided how far I’ll go with LinkedIn, on the face of it it seems to be mostly populated with hard core business types rather than educators but as I am learning, it takes effort and persistance and the right approach to build a network.

I’ve continued to participate in the Edna group Blogging corner and their 08 challenge – it’s good to be prompted to explore or reflect and then blog about what you have done.

Probably the most significant thing (to me anyway) is that last night I bit the bullet and joined Twitter.  It was an amazing experience.  After I registered I went to Jane’s eLearning pick of the post on the Top 100 (e)Learning Professionals to follow on Twitter which I’d first read about on Lucacept and followed the process to follow those that I’d heard of elsewhere.  Many of the people’s whose blogs I subscribe to were there so I quickly found about 20 to follow.  What came next was the amazing part.  Within minutes Sue Tapp had direct messaged me as a fellow Melbourne TL and invited me to join the OZ/NZ Educators ning (see above).  Shortly after that Jenny Luca started following me and then Sue Waters tweeted to ask if I’d like her to put out a tweet to her network for people to follow/follow me.  Of course I said yes, please – Sue’s posts on the Edublogger and Mobile Technology in TAFE are a big part of the reason I decided to make the jump.  Then Tom Barrett put out a tweet to his network on my behalf.  Over the next few hours lots of people started following me so I’m following them in return – I’m now following 47 and being followed by 38…wow!  Hope I have something worthwhile to say.

I’m going to finish now because I really want to get this out before I am actually back at work…and the ironing is calling, goddamn domestica!, however I will have more to say on my Twittering soon.

Oh, and by the way, I didn’t spend my whole holidays looking at the computer…in between times I managed to see Wicked (one of Rob Guest’s last performances, very sad that he is no longer with us), go the the Melbourne Show, visit my very frail mother-in-law in hospital, have a lovely day on my own shopping in Richmond, go to the opening night of Mame at the State Theatre (and the after party, thank you to Adam and Esther), celebrate my youngest daughter’s 7th birthday with a party at home for 14 children, make a purple jewelled crown birthday cake for said party, have a couple of lovely bike rides with daughters (7 year old got new bike) and generally have a nice time with my family.  I love Melbourne in spring!

P.S. As I type this I’m listening in to the flash meeting of OZ/NZ educators…things move fast sometimes!!