Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Taking Good Digital Pictures and Editing Them Effectively

Leslie Fisher's #1 tip for digital photography:  Read the manual!

Top issues we run into
* Not close enough:  Fill the frame with the subject.  Take a photo, get closer, take another, get close, repeat.  Look around the edges of your photo before you click.

* Macro mode:  Allows you to get close to your image (1-3 feet).  Best to use a tripod to keep camera steady.  Or prop your camera on something steady. 

* Not in focus:  When you look at the screen it appears to be in focus but it's not.  Your camera has a maginifying glass you can click to make sure it's in focus.  Look for your focus point and make sure it's on the subject.  Press the shutter button halfway down to set the focus.

* Camera shake: Usually it's lighting.  If it's too low the camera needs espose te picture longer to take the image.  Your shaking hands get in the way of the camera and it makes the image look very blurry  What can you do?  Put your camera on a tripod or other stable object and set a timer.  Have you seen the night mode camera setting before?  Night mode will tell the camera the lighting is low.  It will make the photo darker, but not blurry.  That is better.

* Boring photos:  Tell the story better.  Wander around the scene for a different angle/view.

* Boring Composition: The Law of Thirds.  A nifty little technique to make sure your basic images are frames in a pleasing manner.  When looking through your viewfinder, Imagine 3 vertical and horizontal lines intersecting.  Position your subject in one of those intersections.  This will establish a good flow for the picture.
Look for "lines" in your photo that will help draw attention to the subject.  Have fun with open spaces.  Maybe place the subject only in the corner of the picture to show an amazing view.  Shoot high/shoot low, move your body.   Don't shoot posed shots, make them laugh, make them jump. 

* Missing the Action shot:  What kind of SD memory card do you have?  Some of the cards are really slow and can affect the speed with which you capture the shot.  Lexar Professional card or Sandisk extreme 3 or 4 are great cards to have. You can also put the camera in sports mode, running man icon on camera.  This will take the photo as fast as possible.  The drawback is the faster the shot, the less light brought into the camera.  Be prepared for underexposed images (you can fix those in Photoshop)

* Ignoring the background:  Make sure you're aware of what's in the background.  It can ruin what's in the foreground. 

* Too Much Flash:  When the flash fires we have no sense of the environment around you.  Try to work the scene, get a tripod, night mode. Use your flash during the day, because the sun will cause you to have shadows on the subject's face.

* Why Not Vertical?:  Don't forget to turn the camera vertically to capture the scene better.

* Digital Zoom:  Just say no!  Instead of zooming digitally, set your camera to the largest image size possible.  You should always have to set to the largest size posssible. 

* More DPI, Better Quality?:  Yes and no,  If you were a billboard printer, then I would worry more about the high level DPI picture.  Most of today's inkjets and laser jets do not have a high DPI picture to give you a great print.  Most pros recommend printing your images at 160 dpi  The less dots per inch the larger your picture can be printed!  You need to know what the image is being taken at, look in your settings. 

* Settings in the Camera: Allows you to set the picture in portrait mode so you can focus on the subject and put a soft focus in the background. 

* Editing Photos in Photoshop (or whatever editing software you have):  NEVER edit the original, save a copy and edit that.  Color correction: white balance.  You can change it in your camera settings or the color editing area of your software.

Innovative Leadership in a Participartory Web 2.0 World

Cheryl Lemke from The Metiri Group makes a great case for the way a school leader must embrace the warp speed changes occurring in the world's our students live in.  School is no longer the only place for learning.  In fact only about 18.5% of learning occurs in a formal environment for K-12 students.  The Internet provides a 24/7 resource and even though school is no longer front and center in a student's learning we do need to embrace our place and tap into our student's interests.  The following are 7 ways a the school's leader must adapt to lead the changes required to meet the needs of our ever changing learners.

1) Own the Innovation - Lead the change you want to see in the classrooms, don't delegate it for someone else to implement
2) Drive Change Through Creativity and Knowledge - Be creative, informed, tolerant, critical, questioning and experiment with technology
3) Shift From Rules to Shared Principles - Actively facilitate the development and adoption of the guiding principles instead of constructing rules for implementation of initiatives
4) Establish a Professional Learning System - Provide a menu of differentiated PD options for teachers including mentoring, coaching, face to face, virtual, collaborative and just in time (Research shows that 49 hours of PD a year can increase student scores by 21 percentiles)
5) Shape Culture - Create an environment of openness, collegiality, honesty and adapt the focus on standards guided by principles (Look for the positive deviance in your staff and reward it)
6) Ensure Digital Access and Infrastructure - Make sure your teachers have the appropriate hardware and access to the tools they will need to implement technology initiatives
7) Accountability - Hold yourself and your teachers accountable for implementing strategies and for gaining the student results desired.

The biggest advice given was to use good judgement when it comes to next steps, providing opportunities and access for teachers and devote the time to your own learning as you take your school into the next era of learning for students.  Embrace the change without fear!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yolink and Sweet Search ... a safer, smarter way to search the web

For the last several days, I have heard a lot of buzz about Yolink.  Today I finally got someone to show me what exactly Yolink does, so let me now share that with you!  Yolink is an application that you can download on your computer for free.  It allows you to scan webpages that you are searching for specific information, using key words, without going to the pages.  It organizes the information for you where you then have a choice to import it to google docs, create an instant bibliographic reference or share through email.

It is really best explained through demonstration.  Check out this quick screencast:
How to use Yolink

As well as partnering with Google Docs, Evernote and many other useful applications, yolink has partnered with Sweet Search for safe student searching.  Many times, Google searches yield unintended results that students can innocently run across.  Sweet Search is a safe search engine for students to use when researching at home or at school.  It works with yolink just as well.

With Yolink, you can teach your students to search smarter and help them develop their critical thinking skills.  Check out their classroom resources on their link page

Developing, Designing and Delivering: The Case for Powerful and Productive Presentations

Ken Shelton and Robert Craven made the case today for why we must change the way we present if we really want our audience to be engaged and understand the message we are trying to convey.  Very simply, the most effective way to communicate is VISUALLY!   The brain can process visual images at the speed of a jet plane, text at the speed of a prop plane and sound at the speed of someone walking.  When choosing photos for a presentation there are several important things to remember.  Pictures in color are most easily interpreted by the eye and should be high quality.  Images should be chosen to carefully relate to the topic and can be used to evoke emotional responses.

Leonardo da Vinci said "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." The same is absolutely true for the PowerPoints or Keynotes we design to share with others.  There is actually research that confirms that it is more difficult for someone to comprehend information while reading a slide filled with text as the presenter reads the information outloud.  Slides should not be filled with overwhelming graphics or multiple lines of text but rather with meaningful, purposeful images to develop a central message around and limited to no text.  Video and audio can also be used if they provide a thought provoking purpose.

Finding just the right images takes time and it is highly encouraged that you spend some time building your own library of photos. It is also suggested that you encourage your students to take photos for a classroom library for their use in creating powerful presentations.  If you need more digital cameras for the classroom you can ask parents to donate old ones after Christmas each year since many get new ones. Free use photos can also be found on websites like Stock.Xchng, openphoto, flickr, morgueFile, Wikimedia Commons, PD Photo, or PUBLIC-DOMAIN-PHOTOS

As you approach your next PowerPoint or Keynote remember there really are no rules, spend the majority of your time finding the right images that you can talk from and put yourself in the place of the audience - if you're engaged then they will be too!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Changing the Climate: How Teaching Social Networks Might Save the World

Social connectedness through twitter and facebook is changing the landscape of how we get information about political and environmental news and happenings.  There is debate about whether we should be using these tools as well as wikipedia in schools.  Will would argue that we should.  Because we have the ability to connect around our passions it can make what is going on in the classroom seem irrelevant to students.  We need to solve this problem. 

Will showed the Clustermap for his blog and said this is what he wants for his children, global interactions.  Not necessarily the quantity, but the quality of the interactions.  We have to show kids somewhere in our curriculum the power of global interactions.  MacArthur report shows how students are using these social network tools.  The vast majority uses these tools to stay in touch socially.  A smaller number use these tools to connect with others who share their interests.  Some of these people they connect with are adults and we have been afraid of that as educators.  We need to get over that.  We need to do this safely with them, because there is so much they can learn from it.  Are we modeling this skill for our students/ children?

One of our goals in life should be to build something bigger than ourselves.  Do we teach kids that?  We need to begin to figure it out.  Social tools can support this in so many ways.  It's not that you have to use social tools, it's that you CAN and it's a quick way to get something started and have momentum.  Here's how a high school teacher leveraged the tool of YouTube to share his thoughts about global disaster. 

This video went viral and there has been so much conversation around his topic, he is now writing a book.  All from leveraging social networking tools.

How are we preparing kids, at our schools, to be problem solvers for the world?  You have to let them solve problems in the classroom and be comfortable with inquiry.  Too much at school is about "the same thing on the same day in the same way."

We can't just cross our fingers and hope students will use social tools in a safe, productive way.  They have to be taught.  Showing them examples of this that other students have done, is a good start:  25 days to make a difference, working together to make a difference, Ryan's Well.  Teaching kids to use social networking skills is not a "unit" or a part of the curriculum, it should be a part of all we do.

The National Council of Teachers of English say that these are the ways to be literate in the 21st century.  Are you literate? Are the students you are sending out in the world literate?  Let this be your call to action!

Watch Will's session here on ISTE vision.

ISTE/TIE Leadership Bootcamp

When we found out we would be able to attend ISTE this year, we were intrigued by the opportunity to attend Leadership Bootcamp.  We went into the camp hoping to meet fellow attendees that would be like-minded with similar goals as well as learning from amazing leaders in education.

The day was strategically planned with session strands for teaching and learning, IT professionals and administrators.  Susan attended the administrator sessions and I went back and forth between the teaching and IT sessions.

Lucy Gray talked about the importance of PLNs.  If you're still unsure what a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is, listen to Will Richardson explain here:

Lucy's review of PLNs validated my own opinions on the subject.  She emphasized the importance of being professionally generous with others.  She encouraged teachers to step forward and lead where they can and not wait to be "annointed" to lead.

Mark Benno talked about Communication and Collaboration with ITs.  Mark kept returning to the idea of relationships.  Effective communication and collaboration in almost all areas can be attributed to the relationships built between the people involved.  Mark highly recommended the book:  Relational Intelligence for those that want to learn more about this.  He reminded us that you can do amazing things with incredible tools, but if people aren't using the tools and learning from you it doesn't matter.

Doug Johnson was another great break out speaker.  I had never heard him speak before and I have been such a fan of his quick wit and thoughts on his blog for quite a while.  He kept us laughing and nodding as he compared the goals of teachers/librarians and IT personnel.

Howard Ditler and Elizabeth Hubbell presented data they have collected through McRel's research through classroom walkthrough observations.  Using an ipod touch to collect data on affective domain, bloom's taxonomy levels observed and technology tools and strategies in practice they did power walkthroughs thoughout schools providing powerful feedback that initiates change in schools.

The most inspiring part of the day for me, was the lunch keynote from Chris Lehmann.  Chris is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy, in Philadelphia, PA.  Chris spoke about the Schools we need.  And he is so right.  And I cannot even begin to do justice to what he said.  Because he touched my heart with his words, his passion and his ideas.  His recent TED talk is not the same thing, but he touches on many of the same topics so I would ask you to take the time to watch Chris...and be inspired. 

Lessons From Leadership Bootcamp

Creating and Maximizing Learning Networks – Scott Elias
Social Networks are everywhere and about people, not the technology we use. When they are used to further our learning they move beyond just a social network and into a Community of Practice. In a Community of Practice the participants are interested in a topic and sharing knowledge through a variety of methods. This type of Social Learning allows for relevant connection and collaboration. “Educational Twitterships” provide this type of community, one example being #edchat that occurs each Tuesday on Twitter. You gain social capital by giving back in the exchange of information, with leads to an expanded network or community.

Communication and Collaboration Tools – Scott McLeod
When addressing online safety the most important question to ask: Is the tool the problem or is it the supervision? When students are educated about how to appropriately interact on the internet the opportunities for them are limitless. Districts must begin to trust teachers to make appropriate choices with the web in their classrooms. The “prohibition approach” to dealing with the internet does nothing to show teachers trust or educate students. Most will behave appropriately and those that don’t should be dealt with as opposed to participating in “format bigotry” and blocking You Tube, blogs, Wikipedia, etc…

Communication and Collaboration Pieces – Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
For educational leaders to leverage the connections available today we must begin to “unlearn” what we believe about our classrooms. Learning doesn’t just occur at school anymore, it occurs anywhere and anytime. Teaching is no longer private but a public, collaborative event. Learning isn’t passive but is participatory and often done as a community. Communities are groups of people joined by a common need or belief. Networks occur when these connected people publish and share ideas around their commonality. The PLCs that result are the way of the future for personal and professional development.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Denver, CO - ISTE, Here We Come!

We arrived in the Mile High City tonight excited and ready to attend ISTE 10 and our first Leadership Bootcamp!  What a surprise to find Florida weather like ours that turns into jacket weather as the sun goes down.  Who knew?  We hope you'll follow us and learn along to with us too.