Friday, June 28, 2013

Mass Digital Publication Conference (MADPC)

It's been a while since I have posted to this blog.  I have been busy with the end of school year, graduation planning and implementation as part of the graduation team at my school, the grad class I am taking as well as the online Scratch workshop I have been trying to keep up with.  But on my vacation this week, I attended the Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaboration conference in Burlington, MA.  (#MADPC on Twitter).

It was a very well organized conference led by the technology team from Burlington Public School department.  About 100 people (my estimate) attended the first day of the three day conference, and the numbers dwindled a bit by the third day.   I heard that they had over 500 people attend the first year, but this year (the third year it has run) many teachers in the area were still in school, due to make up days for snow days last winter.  The major goal of the conference was to get teachers together to collaborate and curate digital content for curriculum purposes.  But there were also workshops and lectures given by the technology specialists at BPS and a limited number of invited vendors.  

It was a productive conference, for me.  I learned a few things and got some ideas for doing a technology professional development event at my school.   I also met teachers from some of the surrounding towns who attended the conference and got ideas from them.  The presentations were great.  I saw a great presentation on elementary and kindergarten presentations using the iPad, by Dan Callahan, the technology integrator for the Pine Meadow Elementary School.  Also a few new information points for Google Apps for Education from Andy Marcinek, at the high school level. 

The technology program at BPS is phenomenal.  As you may know, they implemented a 1-1 iPad program a little over a year ago in the high school.  They really live and breathe technology in education and have a lot of ideas for implementation and integration of technology in the educational process.  Some members of the BHS student run help desk were there as well, set up at their own kiosk in the library, available to answer any questions attendees had about their iPads.

All in all, it was a great presentation.  The facility and the technical infrastructure was very impressive.  Thanks to Dennis Villano and Andy Marcinek and everyone else for a great conference, and it was free!  I hope they do it again next year.

Symbaloo: More than a bookmarking tool

Symbaloo is another web tool that I think has a lot of possibilities for the classroom.  It is a bookmarking tool, but looks very different from many of the curation/bookmarking tools available on the web currently.  It is a visual representation of links arranged in a checkerboard fashion and just fits on your homepage. It can have several pages, called Webmixes, arranged as tabs at the top of the page.  Each tile is a clickable link, which is easy to create.  You just click on a blank space, fill in the URL, pick a color or design if desired and save.  The tile pops into the space that was blank.  You can select from several pre-made Webmixes or start fresh and create your own. 

Here is a screenshot of one of my personal webmixes.  I used it to organize links for a WebQuest and shared it with each student.  That was a bit time consuming, but if you used the same links regularly, it might be worth the time as you only need to set it up once and then share it.  If you make changes, you can push the updates to people you already shared it with.

I think this tool has good potential for use in the classroom. I picture this tool as an organizational tool for students, as a review tool, or a choice tool for websites you want your students to use.  The visual nature of the tool makes it ideal for visual learners. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013


I am finally learning about Scratch!  This is something I have wanted to start doing for a while now, so I am very excited.  I am participating in a 6 week long workshop via Google+ and Google Hangouts that is being conducted by the ScratchEd group at MIT and Harvard Universities, the people who created Scratch.

If you don't know what Scratch is, it is a programming language that is very user friendly, because it uses blocks, like puzzle pieces, that you connect to create a script, or program (see example to the right).  This can be used to create video games, but it can also be used to create multimedia presentations, digital artwork, animated cartoons, among other things.  The purpose of this tool is to teach computational thinking to students, and maybe they'll even go on to learn other, more complex programming languages. The Scratch community allows students to see other projects, and even open them up, see how they work and remix them to create their own versions. 

I am so excited to be learning this, so I can teach it to my digital technology students next year.  I have had some limited experience with programming, but I can see that this is fairly easy to learn at least the basics, and depending on their interest, go even farther and learn the more advanced concepts. Of course it is time consuming, and I am as bad as the kids spending too much time on this when I should be doing other things, like housecleaning, or working on my own school work!

I am also loving that I am learning more about Google+ and Google Hangouts, which I knew a little about, but had not spent too much time using those tools.

Here is a sample of my project for the the first week.  There were a couple of other practice assignments, but this one took the longest, although partially because I chose to keep adding things to it. But it is an "about me" presentation after all.  Click on the green flag below to watch my Scratch created presentation. 

If you would like to know more about Scratch, click the Scratch logo below. The video is a couple of years old, but is a good entry level introduction.  Have fun Scratching!

Scratch logo