Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Impressed with Empressr

Empressr is the newest presentation tool I have been working with.  I found this program to be a powerful and easy to use presentation tool that almost anyone could use.

The program offers many of the regular features that other presentation tools have; text, charts, shapes, alignment, uploading and backgrounds.  There are a few extra features of this program I would like to talk about: Interesting transitions, reflections, the import tool and the tech team.

The transitions offered in this program have a nice new look to them.  So for those of you getting irritated with the powerpointless "glass smash" for every transition, there is something new.  Adding the transitions is ridiculously easy as well.

The reflections feature creates a cool looking reflection of images.  Layered, this looks interesting and appealing.  Engaging you audience is always so important, have new interesting transitions and image reflection alone makes the program worthwhile.

The import tool allows one to search for youtube videos, flickr images, google and yahoo.  Once a url is found, you can automatically embed that item into your presentation page.  This makes using social media in presentation crazy easy!  Plus, if you are inserting your own material, you do not need to get the raw file, but can access your own accounts.

The final feature is the tech team.  Hours after I added a question to the support page of the Empressr site, @bryanthatcher contacted me through twitter asking what was wrong.  I explained it to him, in under 140 characters, and he informed me the guys would look at in the morning.  Today, I get a tweet from @globalcitizen asking me to follow him and he will DM me the detail of my problem.  I got back to @globalcitizen and within an hour we were in a Skype chat and he was explaining thoroughly and easy to understand.  

@globalcitizen was extremely easy to chat with, informative and encouraging.  I was given some extra feedback on my presentation design which was also very beneficial.  The fact that tech support is that fast and easy to understand is what sets this program apart from others.  

I would recommend anyone and everyone to try out Empressr.  

My experience was great!


Monday, April 13, 2009

My PLN Journey

The worlds network
My PLN began about two years ago. I arrived at NB Comp. with no idea what I was getting into. I noticed two other people that I knew previous to that day and sat next to one of them immediately. Now, I am not usually shy... or quiet, so I struck up conversations with people around me as well. Then it began ...

Donna Desroches, my mentor, stepped to the front of the room and began he delivery of what would be many incredibly interesting speeches. She showed us videos and discussed the "new Web 2.0". She went over some requirements to our group and handed out the true beginning to my PLN ... the LAPTOPS!!!

Once I had this device, I began to play and share what I was playing with with my staff immediately. A few months later I had another meeting with the committee and learned of twitter. Rob Wall described it as blah bleek geek words bleek blah. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then Donna showed us her twitter. Like many of my colleagues, I signed up right away.

I began my PLN via twitter by following Donna and as many people on her twitter as I could recognize from our discussions. People like; Rob WallDean Shareski, Alec Couros, Kathy Cassidy, and anyone from my committee. (At this time, still not named) A number of these people began to follow me and I was hooked. In fact, I can remember the first time Dean Shareski replied to a tweet of mine. I thought it was so cool and that I had just been accepted into a new realm of importance. It did not take long for me to realize that it was not I that was in a new realm, but my learning and my ability to engage students.

I continued to follow people and get followed.  This brought on random but scattered converstations.  I lurked more than I spoke until that summer.  I took more time to reply to people and therefore get replied to.  I began to have meaningful, intelligent and worthwile conversations.  These conversations sparked new ideas, brought up new people to follow and therefore, new people to network with.

While school year number two started, I was already having daily conversations that were intriguing.  However, this had become very personal and I found myself not caring about the committee I was on, just on how I could continue my PLN.  

Then, yammer came along.  A microblog for my school division.  It began as a place for the iSITS committee (finally named) to network without f2f.  I began to see that my committee was another great source to network with.  Great conversations, ideas and resources shared and again a new place to meet more people that can help and network.  

My latest major addition to my PLN is a cluster of Ning's that I belong to.  These social networks allow me to share and network with people of common interests and often common teaching assignments.

So to answer the question of how my PLN has got to be where it is at today.  I have my current 10 steps to Eldon's PLN.

  1. Join iSITS and begin to network f2f.
  2. Join twitter.
  3. Follow people and continue to network.
  4. Be outgoing, open and respectful.
  5. Blog and Blog Reader ... a daily habit.
  6. Keep people close who intrigue you.
  7. Join Yammer. 
  8. Share ... Share ... Share (It allows others to critique, share back and more)  
  9. Join Nings
  10. Present at conferences to meet more!
I am sure I have missed many things that have helped me create the PLN I have today.  So I have created this wordle to try to help show the many words that remind me of my PLN.

Wordle: eldongermann PLN

What has made your PLN what it is today?

How many paths does it take?

What are the most necessary steps for someone just starting out to create their PLN?

For those of you who know me, what am I missing?

Title Photo from saschaa Flickr

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

F2F vs. Online Collaboration

I have been forced to think very hard about the importance's of face-to-face collaboration for teachers versus an on-line collaboration.  Not so much in the sense of digital versus real but in the sense of time out of the classroom.

I was recently informed of the number of days I have missed for committee meetings, which was a large number when added to days missed for sick days, medical, dentist, etc. The amount of time out of class was identified as "too much".  

So...I analyse. Face to face meetings I attend are quite a geographic distance and therefore I am in travel for a third to half the time of being out of class.  I also attend conferences and workshops for my two main professional interests, PLC's and Educational Technology.  This has added up this year.

On that note, this year I have learned more than any period of time in my life.  So...again...I contemplate...where do I do my best learning and why?

There is no doubt that most if not all people who would actually read my blog would agree that we learn most from our PLN's, like here,  and those are digital...so question one answered.  I do MY best learning at home, in my PJ's, at night or on my own time. Why? Because I have handcrafted my PLN to be a group of people very closely related to my interests.

Wait...it is not that easy.  The most important question has not been answered, nor do I know if I can answer it, yet.  Do my students benefit from my learning and/or do they suffer from my learning?  I think of this in terms of what I bring to the classroom from my PLN or PD and how my students learning is interrupted by my absence or integration of new strategies, technology, etc.

How do you feel your PLN benefits your students?

How do you feel you PD benefits your students?

How are students suffering from teacher absence from PD or other?

How does one weigh the answers to these questions?