Wikis: The Ultimate Time-Lapse Learning Tool

One area of photography that acts as a bridge between classic still image photography and video is time-lapse photography. Time-lapse photography consists of taking a series of photos at regular intervals and then displaying them one after the other.  The effect can be used to show patterns that are not normally observed in real time.  Clouds make a terrific subject for time-lapse photography as they roll across the sky.  My clouds time-lapse long photo consisted of taking 150 photos using a intervalometer set to take one photo every 5 seconds.  Using QuickTime Pro the photos were converted into a sequence displayed at 15 frames per second in a QuickTime movie with a total elapsed time of 10 seconds.  How long did it take to shoot this time-lapse? Was is worth the time? The first question requires basic math skills the second one is based on opinion.  One stunning use of time-lapse was produced by Dan Chung during China’s 60th Anniversary national day on October 1, 2009.

Helping teachers think through their desire to integrate technology into their classroom instruction requires patience and an attention to detail similar to that required to produce good time-lapse images.  Teachers know that good classroom instruction requires an enormous amount of thought and attention to detail.  Adding technology to the mix increases the demands made on teachers to acquire new skills.   Many teachers are inspired to take the plunge to learn a new technology if it means their students will respond positively to the learning experience.  What technology tool is the most important one for teachers to master? It’s the wiki.  Why? Wikis build on basic word processing skills so you can quickly add text content to a sharable web page.   The sharable nature of wikis make them part of what’s termed Web 2.0.  The key to harnessing the instructional potential of the wiki lies in their ability to show growth.  Think of a wiki as a time lapse learning tool, where learning can be captured and nurtured over a period of time.

Google Analytics Becoming America wiki report map for Massachusetts

Google Analytics Becoming America wiki report map for Massachusetts (8/14 thru 10/17)

A recent example of time-lapse learning can be illustrated through the Becoming America wiki.  Becoming America is a new Teaching American History Grant project that provides professional development for teachers in six school districts.  The end goal for teachers is to create an American history lesson composed of primary sources found in the many libraries, archives, and historic sites located across eastern Massachusetts.  Through this research process, teachers learn to think historically while breathing new life into their American history curricula.   Since the wiki’s launch in August 2009, it has logged 3300 hits with Braintree teachers accounting for 27% of the hit count.   Braintree teachers use the wiki the most because they cannot attend face-to-face meetings.  All teachers use the wiki to respond to questions posed by project historians using the discussion tab.  Historians appreciate being able to view teacher responses before giving their seminars.  As teachers begin creating their lessons the wiki will be a critical resource for organizing primary sources and weaving them into compelling learning experiences.  The concept of wikis as time-lapse learning tools is best seen using the history function for any page.  The Unit Teams 2009 page’s history tab reveals there have been 16 updates to the page since it was created on Oct. 5th.  Clicking on any of the updates shows what changes were made.  Each individual update represents one frame of a time-lapse record of learning.

What time-lapse Web 2.0 tool do you use?

If you are interested in learning more about time-lapse photography visit the DigitalArtworks Time-Lapse Tutorial.

Do I NEED to Twitter?

Maybe. Not all technologies should be embraced by teachers with open arms. As an educator on the front lines of technology integration I keep my eyes open to the digital horizon. I’m interested in finding technologies that can actually make classroom life easier for teachers. Lately, the mass media has become enamored with Twitter as evidenced by the constant invitations to “follow me on twitter.” Before I render a final verdict on Twitter let me describe my experience.
My Neotech03 Twitter streamMy Twitter birth was August 2008, username: NeoTech03 http://twitter.com/neotech03. I first joined because several colleagues were constantly talking about it. OK, I’ll give it a try. My first impression was positive since my colleagues posted messages that often linked to news articles on relevant issues in the educational technology world. As a Twitter novice, following a few people is easy and satisfying.
I’ve posted a total of 39 updates or Tweets. I’m following 7 people and organizations, and I have 12 people or organizations following me. The name of the game on Twitter is to create a network to share resources in a fast and efficient method. Twitter limits each message or post to 140 characters which makes it supposedly easier to consume information. Issue #1, the use of shorthand notation and acronyms to stay within the character limit make deciphering some messages difficult for novices.

During March, I joined a wikispace group called The Gr8Tweets Wiki that welcomed educators to experiment and learn more about the educational potential of Twitter. The Gr8Tweets Wiki was an opportunity to build upon my knowledge and comfort level using wikis on wikispaces.com by adding Twitter. Anyone could join the wiki by editing the Who’s Playing page. Participants were encouraged to post messages, sorry…Tweets, using the hash tag, #gr8t. The hash tag is a method that allows Tweets to be automatically tracked and searched. The home page of the Gr8Tweets shows a stream of the last 15 Tweets tagged with #gr8t.  Educators posted their basic info in a simple wiki table.In the spirit of Web 2.0 openness I set my profile updates to be unprotected to encourage people to follow me. Protecting updates means that you have to approve anyone who wants to follow and read your updates. Issue #2, Twitter spam. I blocked 5 users who started following my updates with the express purpose of trying to sell me a product. Since the bulk of my updates were posted during March, I’ve noticed an uptick in emails informing me that spammeister is following me.  Policing my Twitter account may become annoying if the rate increases.
Issue #3, Useless tweets.  Mixing personal and professional messages is a major issue when considering to use Twitter.  I don’t want to know what you had for dinner, but I would put your professional opinion about the impact of stimulus funding on educational technology in the NEED to know column.  Another aspect of useless tweets is wading through messages that don’t interest or apply to you.  I’ve mainly used my Twitter experience to document my activities implementing technology at the Ferryway School.  I can’t imagine managing a network of hundreds, if not thousands of people.  I do like the ability to stream updates though, especially embedding them on a wiki page because it documents the many facets of technology integration.

My advice to teachers is to spend your time mastering wikis and blogging before committing to Twitter.  No, I don’t NEED Twitter.

How to Guide to Ferryway 2.0 – Part 1

Most schools are members of the web community by virtue of the fact that they have a website developed as part of a district site.  Each school uses a template that they fill in content based upon their individual schools information.   What does it take to transform a school into a web 2.0 community of learners?

First, teachers and administrators have to understand the difference between a web 1.0 and 2.0 school.  I explained this difference during a recent early release professional development session at the Ferryway School.  Read the blog entry, Early Release Launches Ferryway 2.0 Tech Plan. Most teachers learned that Web 2.0 is a two-way street when it comes to the Internet.  Second, schools need to build out a web 2.0 infrastructure.  It sounds complicated, but really it just involves knowing how to assemble content inside a framework that anticipates that students, teachers, and community stakeholders will participate in the 2.0 version of your school.  For instance, the Ferrway School has been profiled in several movies by the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia site.  Visitors to the Edutopia site can leave comments about the videos, but if they want to learn more they can check out the Ferryway school website.  The current Ferryway site is a traditional web 1.0 site since visitors simply browse the content that was posted by a few teachers with the magic keys to update the page.   The Grazr box below is an example of using a web 2.0 tool to display those Edutopia comments.  You can read the latest comments without leaving this blog post by clicking on the titles.  Go ahead, try it!

Grazr
I’m helping manage a team of Ferryway teachers serving on the school’s technology leadership team to build a web 2.0 presence with a blog and wiki.  The blog was actually launched in December 2006 as a way to collect and share feedback for a grant we worked on to expand the school day.  Recently, the blog was repurposed to communicate and share our progress implementing a school technology integration plan.  The Ferryway 2.0 wiki was launched to provide training materials for six digital media workshops.   I’ll be modeling how a wiki is used as a collaborative web space by having teachers actively contribute content to the Ferryway wiki.The third, requires that teachers actually practice using web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.  The best way to accomplish this last one is through well designed PD, direct support to each teacher focused on meeting their instructional needs, and making sure the computer hardware actually works. I’ll revisit this third point in part 2. Is it worth the time and effort to transform your school into a web 2.0 learning community?