Thursday, January 28, 2010

Social Networking--Part 2

Yesterday, we drove to Masada....that's the teaser, Pam and Noa will blog on the subject.  We arrived home, I logged on to a Social Networking conference moderated by Jay, hosted by Reuven Werber and Ami Salant.  After installing AT&T Interwise software, I entered the conference a bit late, but was still able to participate.  Jay, Reuven, and Ami could control who was talking, participants "raised" their virtual hands (talk about a classroom metaphor!), and when it was their turn to talk, their microphone was turned on....remotely!  Reuven demonstrated a couple of polls, displayed real-time results, and participants could analyze the data.  Afterwards, Reuven mailed everyone the whole presentation.  Click here to see it.  I wondered why there were so many fewer participants than the face-face Social Networking conference from the day before.  Richard Kassissieh recently set up a real-time feed for a conference which 100+ people attended, but fewer than 10 attended virtually.  Perhaps educators prefer face-face because that is what school is.  Teachers see student reactions to statements, lectures, projects, etc.  Based on the visual feedback, teachers make adjustments to their lessons.  If participants have to raise their virtual hands, the immediacy of the feedback to the moderators/hosts is lost.  Some have suggested recording sessions and posting to YouTube and other sites, but then, where is the Social Networking?  Recently, Guy Kawasaki posted a video by Lewis Howes on how to use social media.  Pay special attention to number 7.  Oh, and thanks to all the folks mentioned in this post who jogged my brain today.  Yep, that would be number 8!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Social Networking


I attended my first Israeli conference today.  Mofet sponsored a Social Networking conference.  After fighting Tel Aviv traffic (the morning commute on a bus is no easier than by car, there are no HOV lanes,)  I was handed a bag (plastic, naturally) containing all the conference materials, met Jay and was issued my official conference badge (see photo).  As the first speaker was welcoming us, Jay asked me if I understood her.  Yep, I replied, she just welcomed us to the conference.  We both laughed.  Of course I hadn't REALLY understood her, but I've attended enough conferences to know the first person ALWAYS welcomes the attendees.  We listened to six presentations.  They ranged from bizarre (Jay said it was time to go, so we walked out), to humorous (who knew Israelis followed American football so closely!?).  What I found interesting was that at least 80% of the attendees already knew each other and conducted an incredible amount of business in the short time they had to actually talk to one another.  Most of them knew the speakers and most of the speakers had presented to this group before.  Since none of the speakers actually suggested either why or how Israeli schools should use social networking tools, I wondered why these folks needed the speakers at all!  Participants could have accomplished much more if they had been able to meet in something akin to affinity groups (like-minded folk) and bounced ideas around.  The participants really wanted to be social with each other.  They all had ideas and suggestions to contribute.  Now, that would have been a social networking conference!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Flying with the Austrians




Smack dab in the center of Jerusalem, near the Damascus gate, on a corner of the Via Delarosa is the Austrian Hospice.  This relic from the time when every country/empire wanted a toehold in Jerusalem is a guesthouse ostensibly for pilgrims, but anybody can request a room.  The Austro-Hungarians knew what they were doing purchasing this little corner (it isn't so little.)  We lucked out the other day and managed to get inside.  We noticed a tour group going in and attached ourselves to it.  Once inside, we detached from the group.  Lovely chapel, prices in Euros, etc.  Pam was very excited that coffee only cost 3.....when Noa said, "Mom, stop!  That's in Euros, not Shekels!!"  No coffee.  After climbing up 3 floors (hey, the place is for pilgrims, no elevators), we climbed up one more set of stairs to the roof garden.  We were amused by the sign that said "No sleeping on roof, no blankets may be taken outside."  Once on the roof, we understood.  The Austrian Hospice has a terrific view of the Temple Mount, the Muslim and Christian Quarters.  Oh, and it is just around the corner from the BEST falafal in Jerusalem.  The name of the stand?  According to locals, it is known as the falafal stand near the Damascus Gate.  Yummy!  The cat?  Living the good life on the roof of a restaurant.  We saw the owner toss up a bag of food.  Lucky cat!

Visiting Petakh Tikvah






I finally visited a school last week!  I joined a group of educators from MOFET on their visit to Da'at Mevinim, a private religious school in Petakh Tikvah.  A bit of background is in order.  For those in Oregon, Petakh Tikvah has a population density of 12,000 people/sq mi.  Portland's density is 4200 people/sq mi and Oregon has a density of 36 people/sq mi.  That is not a typo.  36 people per square mile!  Petakh Tikvah is really a suburb of Tel Aviv, but for political reasons, Tel Aviv is not allowed to expand its city boundary to include its suburbs.  This allows Israel to claim Jerusalem as its largest city......As Bill Cosby says in the Noah sketches, "Right."  Click on the link to find out more about the city.  Let's just say that when I told my Jerusalem friends I had spent the day there, they asked if I had run out of charming places to visit in Israel.  The school itself has been the subject of some bad press, too.  Turns out there is a bit of a problem in Israel with schools admitting and then teaching Ethiopian students.  Back to Da'at Mavinim.  We were there because this school is a leader in integrating computers into various subjects.  The principal began the integration the same way so many schools have started using tech tools.  She issued every teacher a NetBook.  Now, my wife will tell you that working on a NetBook is fine if you are surfing the net, but not so useful if you are trying to use photos, video, or do more than one task at a time.  For example, just to research and write this blog I have 11 browser tabs open and am running 6 programs.  For school purposes, these Netbooks needed to connect with Moodle, a content management system in wide use throughout many schools in the US.  The teachers must be aware of the Netbook limitations because they were teaching in class using desktop PC machines connected to overhead projectors.  After a presentation by the principal, we set off for the classrooms.  In one classroom, kids were using Annotate, an online annotation program for creating and editing documents collaboratively.  Others were completing drill and practice exercises.  In another space, kids were creating characters using Toondo and Voki.  In an English class, kids had created sentences to describe the character created in Toondo.  They had recorded their voices, too.  Their sentences appeared on the board, kids stop-clicked their mp3 voice files, and their classmates were supposed to be drawing what they heard.  Sort of storyboarding in reverse!  Afterwards, a lively discussion was held among the visiting group.  Everybody was complimentary about what they had seen.  There were a few folks who questioned a bit of the pedagogy.  The idea that kids see "wrong" information and have to figure out it is wrong, then correct it can sometimes have the effect of cementing the "wrong" part into kids brains.  Later, they then have to unlearn the wrong pieces before they can relearn concepts correctly.  While trying to figure out what to say....I really have been practicing listening....I came across a post from Shelley Blake-Plock who writes the Teach Paperless blog (worth reading!)  His most recent post is titled Whale Blubber.  It sums up how I feel about education right now.  We are teaching today as if we had cornered the market on Whale Blubber, and oil has just been discovered.  Here are a couple of pictures .  The rest can be found by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Alon Shvut



From the moment began meeting with Israeli educators, everybody has been telling me I needed to meet with Reuven Werber. Educators who knew about me told their friends I needed to spend time with Reuven. With all the technology at my disposal, I finally picked up my mobile phone and called him. Reuven moved to Israel in the 70's, lives in Judea, is the technological heart and soul of Neveh Channah High School, and a wealth of information. Everything about my day with Reuven was memorable. I knew I was in for a treat when Jay said, "Reuven will have to tell you how to get to him since that involves settlements." Cryptic? As a former VP candidate might say, "You betcha!" Reuven tell me to meet him at Alon Shvut (yep, I asked him to spell it), old gate. A quick search revealed Alon Shvut's history. I have become pretty adept at navigating the Egged bus site. Egged is one of two major bus companies in Israel. I raised an eyebrow when I noticed the tank icon on the schedule of buses to Alon Shvut. Turns out buses from Jerusalem to the West Bank are armored. This was going to be an interesting expedition. After assuring Pam I would call her along the way, I set off to find Reuven. Sure enough, the bus looked different. It had extra plastic over the windows (no tourist shots from these buses,) grills over the lights, and very experienced drivers. After taking a seat near the middle, I realized I was going to have move to the front to try to take pictures out the front window of the bus. Here is a photo of the guy next to me....ignore him, look out the window. Now, imagine that view for the entire thirty minute trip!



First part of the trip was uneventful, just traveling through Jerusalem.  Then, life became interesting, we passed a police checkpoint, a major border crossing, and then we were on a brand new road with a wall on one side.  Yep, guardtowers, too.  We pulled into the first stop, went through a gate, let one person off, made a very tight circle around the roundabout, and were off again, through the same gate. We reached Alon Shvut, I got off, and called Reuven.  He knew where I was (I had once again, gotten off at the wrong stop), and said he would meet me in a couple of minutes.  Looking just like his profile photos, he showed up, we drove to his high school.  Neveh Channah.  Neveh Channah Torah High School for Girls is in the Etzion block.  Gush Etzion dates back to the 1920's, has seen more than its share of conflict in the past 80+ years, and seems to be off the table in the two-state border negotiations.  What is still to be negotiated is what will happen east of Gush Etzion.  Back to Reuven, the guy is simply amazing.  He has been active in edcuation technology from the beginning, serves as the technologist for his school, collaborates with schools around the world, and is quite simply, a font of wisdom.  He shared his wiki site which contains most of his recent projects.  Reuven also edits a whole section of the Mofet website.  A couple of Neveh Channah classrooms have newly installed ActivBoards.  Here is a photo of one of two physics classrooms.  His projects are totally student centered.  Kids are using complex tools to create projects about everything from the geology of their region to their reactions to texts read as part of a joint Israeli-Canadian project  A teacher with an idea comes to Reuven, who says of course it can be done,  Let's figure out how to do it.  What a great job!  At one point, I asked Reuven about the whether his students could do their homework electronically.  He said they could, but they usually preferred to check their Facebook accounts instead.  Sound familiar?  Computers keep Neveh Channah connected to the world.  There really isn't much around them.  Jerusalem is 1/2 hour by car or bus.  No walking.  It reminded me of communities in Central Oregon.  The schools were clearly the focal point of the community.  They were also the largest buildings I saw. After a terrific morning with Reuven, we talked briefly about the politics of modern Israel.  There has been much fighting in the 80 or so years since the first Jews returned to the area.  Former students of his have died.  We talked about what needed to happen in order for peace to come to the area.  I'll be forwarding Reuven's views to Senator Mitchell.  George is going to need all the help he can get.  Returning to Jerusalem, I began reflecting what life must be like for young Israelis.  These folks take the bus everywhere.  Every time they leave their home, they get on a bus with extra armor.....and it seems normal.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Halvah Heaven



Slight twist in posts today. This is an unabashed plug! One of the Fulbright elves in Washington sent me an e-mail earlier this week. Elves are all those folks who work behind the scenes to make programs such as my Fulbright happen. Lamese said her uncle ran a halvah shop in the Old City. She knew it was in the muslim quarter, but didn't know where exactly it was. This afternoon, we took advantage of another 70 degree day and wandered over to the Old City. We climbed Mt. Zion, walked past King David's tomb, a Holocaust memorial, the church commemorating the spot where Mary died, the spot where the Last Supper took place, and finally reached the Zion Gate. Unlike the Jaffa and Damascus Gates, cars actually drive in THROUGH the Zion Gate (movie below). After walking our favorite route through the Cardo (both Pam and Noa have blogged on this,) we found ourselves at the start of the muslim quarter. Figuring the world had to be pretty small, we stopped at the first sweet shop we found. Pam asked the shopkeeper if he knew where the halvah shop Al-Amad was. Did he ever! Just seven shops further down the road, Suq Khan Ez-Zeit. Sure enough there was the halvah shop. We asked the gentleman if his neice was Lamese. He said they were related! We had accomplished a needle in a haystack task! We enjoyed terrific, three layer halvah this evening and have another treat awating us tomorrow. It is almond, sugar, coconut, sesame seeds. If you are ever in the old city, just around the corner from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, stop by Al-Amad for delicious halvah. Ribhi Amad will be happy to serve you. It is definitely worth a trip. Oh, and it is special holiday in the US....


video

Friday, January 15, 2010

And back again


Trying out blogwriter lite app to post this from an iPod touch. The three buses to get from Mofet in Tel Aviv back to Jerusalem cost less than the cab from our apartment to the bus station! Teachers in the computer class are making fine progress and began presenting to their peers yesterday. Their peers were an interesting audience. Some listened,some ignored the whole presentation and worked on their own stuff, some took cell calls. The computer lab is state of the art with brand new computers, flat screen monitors, ergonomic chairs, plenty of workspace, good light and airflow.  I wonder how many Israeli schools have such a facility?  Will post a few photos once I get a moment.  Back at the laptop.  Blogwriter lite worked as advertised....now I have to figure out how to access photos from the touch....Israeli snack breaks are terrific!  Hummous, olives, feta, cream cheese, fresh fruit, veggies.....I'd go to class just to eat the food!  Of course, it is good I don't drink coffee....instant in every school setting I've seen so far!  It felt good to arrive in Jerusalem again. All seemed familiar. Our long walks paid off. I knew exactly where the bus was headed.  Headed for the shower, dinner, and bed.  A meeting with Reuven Werber was scheduled for the next day.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

Road Trip to Be'er Sheva and Hatzor

Yesterday, I woke up in Jerusalem.  After breakfast, I cabbed over to the Central Bus Station.  The CBS in Jerusalem is a three story building that is so closely modeled after a European train station that there is even a large clock on the outside.  Pam already described security.  Buses depart from.....the third floor!  Travelers line up at one of 17 gates (there may be more, but I could only account for 17), and everything is automatic from there.  At approximately 12 minutes prior to departure, passengers move from the gate through the door to the bus which is locked.  Three minutes later, the driver arrives, gets on the bus and closes the door.  He inspects the inside of the bus and dons his tie (blue and white, I thought it was a talit at first!).  One minute later (8 minutes prior to departure, he opens the door, and passengers get on.  Soldiers flash their ID's, rifles are stowed under the bus.  Luggage doors are activated by the driver INSIDE the bus (Catlin Gabel needs to get this installed!)  I told the driver I wanted to go to Masmiya and asked him to tell me where the stop was.  He said OK and reminded me to take my ticket.  There was no reason to take the ticket, but I did.  At 10:30 (departure time) on the nose, the bus pulled out!  Talk about punctual!!  We were quickly out of the city heading down.  Jerusalem is a high point, so every way out is down.  Passing villages, I was amazed by the vehicle traffic heading towards Jerusalem.  It was literally a solid mass of cars and trucks for about 20 minutes!  Villages became smaller and smaller.  The driver would pull over to a bus stop, but nobody got on or off.  Finally, after about 30 minutes, single passengers would get off.  Jay had sent me a great map, so I could track where we were.  I knew we were close to Masmiya, got ready to get off, and was waiting for the driver to tell me we were there.  My phone rang and Jay asked if I had missed the stop....I asked the driver if we were at the stop AFTER Masmiya.  He said "Ken," which meant I grabbed my bag and raced off the bus.  Jay arrived three minutes later, and said it was a good thing I had gotten off since the next stop was a long way down the road!  The whole area had a very rural feel about it.



After working for a couple of house at Akhava College, we left for Be'er Sheva.  Talk about straight roads!  And, if the Florida orange crop is damaged this year due to the cold, we will all be eating Israeli oranges.  They are growing a lot of them....lemons, too!  arriving in Be'er Sheva, we stopped at "the best falafal stand in the city."  Jay had asked students to create a Google Map showing their favorite falafal places, and this was the winner!  Falafal was very tasty! 


According to many, the Be'er Sheva campus resemble the University of Chicago....I didn't think so, but it did resemble a lot of high schools built in the 70's.  Concrete building, courtyards, open stairs, etc.  The plaques were often ONLY in English, a testament to American support in the construction of the campus.  The quad area was gorgeous with an artifical stream running through it.  Boys were flirting with girls, and a traveling marketplace had set up shop.


After Jay's class, we headed to Kibbutz Hatzor, stopping to pick up his oldest son and a friend.  Hatzor is home to about 600 people, housing is in duplexes.  After a delicious cheese omlette, fresh vegetable dinner, Jay's daughter, Jay, and I played Set.  The Hebrew word one says when one finds a set is "Set."  Jay and I managed to collect 8 sets....Hila, a precocious 12-year old, collected the other 15.  Sigh.  After Jay and I had eaten, his two sons foraged for food.  Both teenagers, they grazed the refrigerator.  Finally, Tzipi, Jay's wife arrived home.  We figured out sleeping logistics for me, they figured out water logistics (showers before washing the dishes, downstairs shower before upstairs shower), and then it was off to a good night's sleep after a very long day.



Breakfast today was 6:45-6:53, then it was off to Tel Aviv.  90 minutes later, we arrived.  Everything about horrific Tel Aviv traffic is true.  I'll leave it at that.  Normally, Jay commutes 10 minutes to work....enjoy the pictures...falafal stand, Be'er Sheva University, Jay's house.  The plant pictures are of a plant at Hatzor.  No, Jay and Tzipi are not green thumb types, but the neighbor is .  If anybody recognizes the plant, please let me know what it is.

I'll post the return bus trip later today or tomorrow.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Behind Closed Doors



Yesterday, Pam and I headed into East Jerusalem. On our way, we passed through the Old City (seriously, it was a shortcut! And, there is no car traffic!!) Most shops were open, but many were still closed. Behind one partially open door deep in the Christian Quarter, near Via Dolorosa, Pam and I observed children using computers. We were maybe three steps past the door, when I stopped and said, I need to take that picture. I poked my head in the door, walked to the man behind the counter, and asked if I could take a couple of pictures. I wanted to take them quickly before the kids began posing. While shooting, I noticed that all the kids, boys and girls, were playing various games. Nobody was surfing, nobody was practicing a school subject, everybody was playing some form of computer game. We subsequently noticed three other such places in the Old City. Now, we don't know if this is some new form of daycare or if these kids are just training in game playing. It certainly caught our attention, though. With all of their computer game skills, will these kids want to grow up to take over the family shop? Or, will they leave for places where they can put their skills to use.....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Need an e-book? Use Amazon!

Update: The Wall Street Journal reported today that Barnes and Noble cut its outlook....I view this as an admission on their part that I am correct!

While I don't really want to get in the habit of endorsing companies which aren't paying me to do so, the following e-mail correspondence with Barnes and Noble speaks for itself. Feel free to share all or part of this post with your families, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers. To set the scene, I attempted to purchase Nurtureshock (a terrific read) as a Barnes and Noble e-book....After they declined my purchase because I was not PHYSICALLY located in the US/Canada, I tried to reason with them....

Original Message Follows:

------------------------

Dear Barnes and Noble folks,

You recently canceled my order for Nutureshock because I am not physically located in the US. It is true. I received a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award and am conducting research in Israel until April, 2010. I wished to download Nurtureshock to the same device I have downloaded the other e-books I have purchased from BN. My credit cards remain the same, I will be returning to the US, I continue to pay my bills, and my passport remains American. I am not engaged in nor do I intend to share my BN library in any deceptive practice. I am lecturing about education and parenting to Israeli educators. A friend recommended NurtureShock and I wanted to read it prior to engaging in a distance learning Webinar where it will be discussed. Please consider my request and continue to allow me access to my Barnes & Noble account while I am travelling and conducting research.

Thanks,

Paul Monheimer

Fulbright Distinguished Teacher


To their credit, BN responded the next afternoon....

-----Original Message-----


Dear Customer,

Thank you for your request.

Unfortunately, our eBooks licensing agreements prohibit us from distributing eBooks outside the US and Canada. We are unable to make exceptions, even to US soldiers and teachers currently abroad. While we are working on alternatives for our customers, we must be sure we do so in a way that does not compromise our ability to sell eBooks at all.

Toryn

Sales Audit Agent

Barnes and Noble

877-379-0036


Clearly BN was in over their head. So, I replied....

Dear Sales Audit Agent,

How unfortunate for Barnes and Noble. While waiting for your response, I downloaded the book from Amazon. It is an exciting read. I highly recommend it. Amazon seems to have a much better e-book licensing agreement which I will now recommend to my friends and blog followers. While I have been a long-time customer of Barnes and Noble dating back to my teenage years, it is clear you are no longer a market leader in the e-book field.

Please feel free to contact me if you are ever able to again serve valued customers traveling abroad. Do you really suppose all those iphone/android/nook/kindle/new tablet device readers are going to support your totally unsatisfactory e-book business model? Perhaps you really should just stop selling e-books altogether and send your customers to Amazon instead. That would save them the trouble of going through what I did.

Bottom line....if you are going to travel and you can't think of all the e-books you might want prior to departure.....use Amazon. It just works and sends the books to where ever you are...what a global concept.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Up to the Temple Mount




Visiting the Temple Mount is not for the faint of heart or faith. Religious Jews believe no one should walk on the Temple Mount lest they step on the spot where the "holy of holies" was located in the Second Temple. Religious Muslims believe non-believers have no business on the Temple Mount. Christians believe Christ will return through the Golden Gate on the east side of the Temple Mount. All three faiths have cemetaries outside the Golden Gate area.....possibly the most expensive burial plots on the planet it they were ever to be sold.....If the Palestinians ever get their state off the ground, this could provide their entire federal budget! Ok, back to the visit. Visitors from West Jerusalem enter the Temple Mount through the Mughrabi Gate just south of the Western Wall. Yes, directions matter here....a lot. We waited nearly 20 minutes to pass through the metal detectors. Personally, I think the Israelis set up the detectors just to be able to look tourists in the eye to decide if they are wacko or not. The detectors are only looking for metal. No, the shoes don't come off. A Japanese tour group was behind us in line. While there were probably Christians in their group, it was more fun theorizing that practitioners of Buddhism and Shintoism were going through a Jewish run checkpoint to visit a site holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Once through the checkpoint, we walked up an enclosed wooden ramp past gun-toting Israel soldiers, a raftload of plastic riot shields, and finally past two heavily armed (as in body armor in addition to their sidearms) Israeli policemen. Walking onto the Temple Mount was an unbelievably peaceful experience. OK, once past the gauntlet of Arab tour guides; "$5 each or $20 for all of you (there were 3 of us!)," it was peaceful. Muslims enter the Al-Aksa mosque, but tourists may not. Most folks head for the Dome of the Rock, we headed for the southeast corner, away from everything. Amazingly peaceful. I could have stayed all day. The smells and sounds of the market stalls seemed so far away. No sign of conflict anywhere. OK, after you realized there were heavily armed Israeli Police up on the buildings, there was no sign of conflict. We were walking along eastern wall, skirting a soccer game being played by young Arab boys (on damp, slippery, sloping stones) when a man who belonged to the same union that employs people on the Acropolis came running at us. "Hey, what are you doing? Don't go there," he screamed. At least the Greeks let these guys use whistles. And, so much for the peaceful part. There are piles of rubble on the Temple Mount. They cannot be removed since they might contain something of historical value. Right now, I suspect they serve only as rock piles for the Palestinians who throw stones on the Jews praying at the Western Wall. The Dome of the Rock was our final stop. Somehow it seemed much smaller and less glorious than I had imagined it. Yes, it is beautiful to observe in changing light conditions, but it still has a run-down feeling to it. Again, I imagined something glorious along the lines of the Duomo or St. Peters. Instead, the building looks in need of major renovation.....which is currently happening on the inside, judging from the noise coming from the mosque. 10:30 was approaching which meant it was time to leave (actually, it was only 10:00, but we weren't going to argue with people shouting at us that we needed to "please go NOW." We departed through the gate of the cotton merchants and were treated to the old city waking up. Men on hookahs, children hanging with their fathers, not a daughter or wife in sight. Shops opening up. Wares being displayed. It was quite a contrast to our Saturday afternoon visit just three days ago. We could actually walk through the narrow streets. We found our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre once again. Empty, this time, we walked down into chapels, up into chapels, came upon a service being conducted in a chapel, and were amazed at the contrast to the Temple Mount. Tourist groups moving through at breakneck speed mixed with religious folk who were trying to pray. The whole scene reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. There is no flash rule in this church so people were taking pictures of everything! They were posing together, talking loudly, etc. Compared to the tranquility of the Temple Mount and the sheer religious bent of the Western Wall, this place reminded us of Disneyland. We left shaking our heads and headed out for some lunch. Note on the pictures....The closeups and cemetaries were shot at full digital zoom with a Nikon Coolpix 630. The apple pic is meaningful to those studying Rosetta Stone Hebrew....Tapuah!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Collaborative Digital Storytelling with Storybird and FlickrPoet

Collaborative Digital Storytelling with Storybird

Storybird is another graphic method for having kids share work, practice telling stories, or learning a modern language. French, Spanish, and German seem to be no problem for this really cool web-based piece of software. I would love to hear from others about Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, and other non-Latin based languages. There are even creative possibilities for art classes and schools could contribute to the Art Collection at Storybird. There are also Wikis of Storybird collections so students could share with others in a more private fashion. Fiona Joyce has quite a collection here http://mfl-storybirds.wikispaces.com/
Much more random is FlickrPoet which seems to pull random pictures from Flickr to match words. Sometimes the match is dead on....other times, well.....see for yourself...All of these new tools help kids liven up their writing with images. And, because the images are already online, kids only have to focus on their writing, they don't have to spend hours finding the proper image or take pictures, etc. Yes, those activities also have a place, but for helping students focus on just words, these two software applications will fill the bill nicely.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Fulbrights (or what a difference 20 years makes)

Looking out over our neighborhood this morning, I was struck by the solar panels on the all the apartments. 20 years ago, I participated in a Fulbright teacher exchange. I taught for a year in Bad Bergzabern, Germany, about 80 km due north of Strasbourg, France. Just prior to leaving for Israel, I received an e-mail from a group of those Bergzabern students celebrating their 20 year school reunion. Google enabled them to re-establish a long-lost contact. My technology that year consisted of three types of equipment. The local bookstore had a teacher discount on photocopies, the school janitor knew the location of the "ditto" machine and would make copies of tests only, and I carried a Mac desktop and printer in their own custom designed cases. The cases were so sturdy, I still have them in an attic in Portland. I also carried plug adapters and power converters to make sure everything hummed. That little ImageWriter II printer certainly saw plenty of duty that year. Fast forward to this year. Pam, Noa, and I arrived in Israel with 4 laptops, 5 ipods, 2 digital still cameras, a Flip video camera, a digital voice recorder, 6 cell phones, and all of the cables, batteries, external mice, chargers, mics, etc to make this stuff work. All of this tech stuff weighed less than the two pieces I carried to Germany. We even carry our own power strip which accepts all types of plugs (I recommend this to all who travel!) Adapters are everywhere, both our B&B and Jerusalem apartment are loaded with them, but most devices only require adapters, no converters needed. The Gymnasium in Bad Bergzabern had a computer lab which consisted of small monitors, heavy equipment, and little software. The computer lab in Israel at Mofet consisted of state of the art desktops, flat screen monitors, ergonomically designed computer desks and task chairs, all seamlessly connected to the world. Every Israeli over the age of 10 carries a cell phone, most with data plans. Many Israelis are now carrying two phones, one for work, and one personal. The question running through my mind right now is it is easy to see how technology has changed from the last Fulbright to this one. Solar panels on the roofs are a testament to the idea that housing has changed. But, how has teaching changed in the intervening 20 years?