Saturday, October 31, 2009

A department chat

Yesterday because I took the day off but was free at the time of our scheduled department meeting, I decided to try to meet online. Had the five other dept. members log on to our Ning. The chat in Ning is erratic, we have found out. You might find yourself listed as "offline," and no amount of clicking on the icon will bring you to online status. Locked out. No fun. (I tried to e-mail Ning folks for help with this the day before, but no response so far). So we went to Today'sMeet instead, and everything was relatively smooth from there on out.

I'm not sure everyone liked it, but I'll find out when I get back to school Monday. But "chat" was new for some, and I thought it a good idea to introduce it. We probably will not need to do that again, and just as well. Chat is a very good tool when you need to get people together who are far apart, but it's not as good as the face-to-face meeting, of course.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Glitches here and there with the Prayer podcasts. Some had trouble downloading Audacity or LAME, some with uploading to the Google site that would not give them "privileges." I heard from a source that there was some grumbling. In the classes I apologized for the cumbersome way I went about it (another teacher sacrificed a class period to have them do it together and help one another) but not for the assignment. I think knowing how to create an audio file could be useful someday. My daughter has had to do at least one in college, for example.

Anyway, I went to the sites, and most are there. Can't wait to start listening. But I might not even listen to them all. They will be evaluating each other, a thought that comes directly from a lunch line conversation with Will Richardson last November when I told him I had too many students and too much grading to do to take time to try all the tech stuff.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Have I talked about the Prayer class podcasts? Students are hopefully downloading Audacity successfully. In the meantime, I had trouble finding where to attach the future MP3 files on my Google site. But thanks to Lynn for showing me how!

The 10 point quiz

I gave my second ever Moodle quiz ever today, to a group of frosh. It was better than the last one because every single student was able to log in and take the quiz. The quizzes are already graded and the students found out immediately how they did and which ones they got wrong. Lovely!

It was matching, which is no where near as cumbersome to set up as the multiple choice. The only deal -- there were 14 questions, and I had intended a 14 point quiz. But Moodle decided it's a 10 point quiz and converted the scores accordingly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More about conferences

Sometimes, usually in the spring, traffic dies down toward the end, and teachers get restless. Once in a while someone will get up and go over to chat with another teacher who has no parent to talk to. It wasn't quite like that last night, fairly busy until the end, but some of us had no line. Since I had my laptop, I checked to see who was online, and began conversations with about four teachers through the instant messaging in our e-mail client. Doing the same thing as always, but electronically. The only bad part was that I did not get to stretch my legs!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Even though I've been keeping grades with some sort of computer program for maybe fifteen years or more, today is the very first time I went to parent teacher conferences with no printout of grades, just my laptop. I think in the past I was afraid it would take me too long to find the information I wanted. But I experimented with the PDF of individual reports, and it seemed relatively quick to click on a certain class and click the arrows (I know, I am demonstrating once again my lack of tech savvy!) to get to a particular student. It was not ideal. Sometimes I couldn't remember whether a student was in 2nd hour or 3rd hour, and it was sometimes difficult, too, to pick out the correct class among five overlapping on my desktop.

Then our dept. went to dinner, and Joe told me his system: all the students lumped together, not by class, and using the search function to find the name. When I had a little break with no parents in line, I ran the new report. So with 45 minutes to go -- I did it Joe's way, and wow! It worked great.

More paperlessness. Although, I might still be tempted to run copies as a backup in case my battery runs low or something.

More on collaboration

Some of my frosh wanted to pick their own partners. I decided not to let them, partly because it's so early in the year. Some girls came with friends or have made friends, but for some it would be awkward to have to find a partner.

So one girl, in a class that is almost entirely on Facebook, wanted to know how she was going to work on a project with someone who might live 25 miles from her house. Well, there will be some face-to-face time in school. But I reminded them that they are connected in so many ways over the internet that they should be able to work together pretty well. "Skype!" I heard from someone at that point.

Looks like the first lesson in the "Story about Jesus" project was not about Jesus at all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


So, we have this expensive software that someone gave us a grant for. It has some cool features, monitoring, sharing control of what is projected on a screen, group work without moving from seats. I don't think I'd like to use it all the time, but today's staff meeting was a start in melting my resistance to it all.

Most of the time when students are in a class, working together face to face seems better than anonymous collaboration. But it might be good for some things. And I don't want to be stuck at a computer or with PowerPoints all the time, but sometimes on note-heavy days it might be good.

One student did tell me that having all the notes there without her having to write them was less effective for her learning. But there are different interactive things that can be done.

I can see that someday blackboards will be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

About the workaround

1. Tech help at Gale suggests way to find "persistent" URL.
2. I can't find what she is talking about, but discover it in another place.
3. I e-mail her back to say what I have done.
4. She asks me to call so she can "walk me through it."
5. I call, and she finds out I'm on a different "product" than she thought.
6. She directs me to the exact spot I had already found.
7. My workaround was the right one.
8. If my students are using the resource I think they are.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A workaround

With help from tech support at Gale (though I didn't do exactly what she said) I figured out a workaround to get stuff from Gale to bookmark successfully into Diigo. Hurray! Major hurdle in using Diigo, because the Gale stuff is a rich resource.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Photo Story!

Did I know that something similar to my colleague's little Mac video masterpieces could be done PC? Did Microsoft steal the idea from Mac, as someone in my household suggested? Don't care. Photo Story 3 for Windows is loaded onto my laptop, and it's cool. That kept me going on Saturday when I was really done and could have been on to other things.

Revising assignments

Spent entire Saturday afternoon and into the evening modifying two assignments.

1. Last year's Prayer students did an audio file instead of writing one particular assignment. But I relied on a free podcasting website that became not free right as they were to begin. Not fun. This year they all have computers with Audacity, so I had to rewrite everything, pointing them to directions for LAME that I don't even understand. Still have to work on that. On the understanding part.

2. The frosh thing. A story about Jesus. Partners now. Four options for presenting content. Can't wait to see how this works out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Collaboration is one of my mantras this year. I'm retooling a couple of assignments to include that.

Next up is a frosh project that replaces a test. They write a sort of magazine article about Jesus, with specific topics included -- kind of like a take home essay test, although I don't call it that. It's just a fun assignment, right?

I have briefly mentioned it as an upcoming thing, and a student asked if they could work with others on it. A legitimate question, but my first thought was "of course not," because I have thought of this as a kind of "test," and for me tests are pretty much individual affairs. But now with my new mode of thinking, well, why not?

I am redesigning this project anyway. They will have a choice about how to present the information. I think I will have them work in at least pairs. I cannot take time to learn or teach all of the options available, so they will have to pick something they are comfortable with or want to explore, even if it turns out to be the usual Word document. But I think they will appreciate having a choice. I am hoping some of them will surprise me.

Rolling along

The teacher frustrated with Moodle and Ning is starting to get the hang of things.

Still working out problems with Diigo and Gale research. Also with Diigo, some things do not seem to show up all the time. Still puzzling over that.

New bookmark deadline Monday, and already all day Friday the bookmarks were rolling in. Not all last minute! Of course, I did not much appreciate that a couple of them happened... during my class.

The other day, talked about paraphrasing and plagiarism. It would be easier to just not have them write at all -- just do the presentation -- but this is stuff that I feel they really need to practice. Maybe someday no one will write formally anymore. But we're not there yet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frustrations of the day

Trying to help a co-worker navigate Ning. It's not intuitive for her. She's frustrated, which makes me frustrated, because I'm trying to establish a method for us to communicate as a department between meetings. I think it will work out eventually.

On Diigo, meanwhile, I was having trouble seeing the girls' sticky notes when I went to their profile pages, but tonight it was all good. Still can't access the actual article, but not worrying about that right now.

It's exciting to see the research in process. The ones who are taking it seriously are doing well.

Chat and Twitter

I love "chat" online, and I'm not sure why! It gets crazy trying to follow the thread of conversations, have intelligent thoughts in response and to type fast. First #edchat on Twitter tonight, lots of good thoughts. Should read the transcript to see what I missed, but that's more reading! Lots bookmarked that I haven't gotten to yet.

Twitter has been a trip in itself. Slowly building up a PLN, but it's still confusing at times, and time consuming. Overall, valuable.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More on bookmarks

The problem does indeed seem to be with the Gale database, which seems to support sharing to all kinds of places, but not Diigo. We can't access the article from the bookmark. If the girls highlighted healthy sections, then that's pretty good, but if they were planning to go back to the article, not so good.

It's tempting to just say we'll use the web, which I know will work, but our school is paying for this very nice resource with things that are not necessarily out there in internetland. A bit of a disappointment.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Diigo guy

Feeling the pressure to actually say something once in a while on Twitter (I have 27 followers, you know), I mentioned the work with Diigo in class, including some "glitches." That brought an e-mail from Joel, a guy at Diigo who has to be scanning Twitter and other places for mentions. Pretty cool to get a response; I wasn't actually complaining or anything.

And I think my problems are with Thompson Gale, anyway!

Friday, October 9, 2009

It begins

We're down to the nitty gritty now, with students required to bookmark two sources by Monday. Of course, most had not started yet with a week's notice.

But a couple had, so we had to work out glitches while others got going in class. Don't forget to check the box that says "share with group." Some problems with Thompson Gale, though; not sure about that yet. Some documents came up with error messages.

Some students are confused still, I think. I told them they need to see me for help, not wait until deadlines and say they don't understand...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Floating sticky notes

Diigo, please get rid of floating sticky notes. I have yet to see a useful conversation with them. It feels like an invasion of my space. I can remove them, but why should I have to take the time? Today I had to explain to students how to remove them. One girl was "creeped out" by them, understandably.

Cool things

Just signed up for an educator account with Also, recently learned about on Twitter, and went nuts with that for a couple of days. I'm not sure how I might work these things into classes, but I will be thinking about that. I think they're pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I was asked by my co-worker and school tech guru Larry to help present Diigo as part of a faculty in-service coming up next month. Cool. Because I happen to like Diigo. Well, I do so far! We'll see how I feel when this project is behind me!

Problems, solved

I have been trying to put a PDF onto my department Ning. A couple of Twitter followers tried to help. Finally found the "paper" icon when I added "blogs," so I was able to put it on a blog.

I wanted students to be able to write on worksheets that I post on Moodle. But the Moodle version of Reader seemed to missing the necessary component. I was trying to have students save to their computer to use the school version of Reader, but that was not working. BUT, a freshman figured out a way: copy and paste to OneNote. Voila. We can now write with our stylus on worksheets.


After reading an article (a blog post?) about the value of inquiry based projects, I added another step to the CT project: each pair needs to list at least five questions they have about their selected topic. It's lame, not the same as what the article talked about, but I thought it worthwhile anyway. It worked well as a starting point for Morality projects last year.

I pointed out a resource that our students have on "information literacy" and the section on developing questions. I hope it helps. One student told me right away that she has no questions about her topic. "Do you mean that you already know everything there is to know about marriage in the Catholic Church?" "Yes, pretty much." Which is worse, that she thinks she has nothing to learn, or that she chose a topic about which she thinks she has nothing to learn?

Monday, October 5, 2009

First due date

Have due dates on Moodle. Research first. Two bookmarks per student on Diigo due in one week. Highlighted. At least one annotation each. Looking forward to seeing their research in progress in this way.