The Strength of Weak Ties

Everyone participates. Everyone contributes. Leveraging the power of digital networks to connect people, resources and ideas to drive creativity and innovation forward...and actually accomplish something!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Photostory 3 Screencast Tutorials

Many of you have asked to use my Photostory 3 tutorial in your workshops on digital storytelling. I've taken the tutorial thing one step further, and have created screencast tutorials of the process of creating a digital story with Photostory 3. The first four are present, with the remaining four to be finished soon. Additionally, the screencasts correspond with my original tutorial, so teachers can watch how to work the software, as well as have access to the printed document.

Here is what I have so far:

Tutorial 1: Beginning the Digital Storytelling process/adding your images
Tutorial 2: Removing black borders from imagery
Tutorial 3: Adding text to images
Tutorial 4: Adding your voice-over

Access the tutorials here.

Coming soon:

Tutorial 5: Customizing motion with pans and zooms
Tutorial 6: Adding transitions
Tutorial 7: Adding background music
Tutorial 8: Rendering your project

The screencasts are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative license.

Let me know how you like them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Everyone is doing it...

So, here are my networks, and The Strength of Weak Ties. Produce your own at Websites as Graphs. Also, view the Flickr group started on this.

The Strength of Weak Ties:

Monday, May 29, 2006

Presentation Mashup with Freepath

My last post in the Techlearning blog was about things teachers could do over the summer to improve their understanding of technology. I received one comment from Barnabas, which contained a very useful tip about a piece of software called Freepath.

Freepath is a tool that allows users to mashup a presentation by placing presentation resources into a “palette” creating a “playlist.” This can include multiple types of resources, including PowerPoints, graphics, URL’s, movies, sounds, music files, Word, spreadsheet files (even iTunes files!), really anything that you use in a presentation. You click on something in your palette and it displays on the screen-you see the palette but your participants see the projected resource. So, you can seamlessly jump around in your palette to multiple resources and the audience never knows because they see only the projected resource.

The presenter can even place multiple PowerPoint files into the palette and jump between them. When a PowerPoint is launched, another window opens with thumbnails of the slides. Multiple PowerPoints can be opened, and a presenter could select different slides from different presentations and the audience would not be the wiser (assuming the same backgrounds, fonts, etc.)

You can also pack up the playlist to archive it or share it. That’s pretty cool.

This would be really effective tool for a classroom teacher to create a really flexible learning environment or to take students to the next level in terms of their classroom presentations. This also would be a very nice addition to a classroom where a teacher had a tablet and a wireless projector.

There is a 30-day free trial available and it takes about 10 minutes to feel comfortable with the software, which is only available for Windows (sorry, Miguel).

Really cool stuff.

Monday, May 22, 2006


If you are into digital photography, check out Photojojo, a digital camera tips site with some pretty cool stuff. Here is a sampling:

  • How to put your face on a soda bottle
  • How to mat photos
  • Making wall size prints on your desktop printer
  • The best 7 photo contests to enter
  • Different photo projects for homework
  • Digital Camera symbols demystified.

And there is a lot more. It's simple and practical.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tablet Schmablet II

You know you’re in trouble when you see a comment that begins with “David Jakes, who I admire greatly…” Here comes the but…

However, I greatly enjoyed Will’s comments about my Tablet Schmablet post as did my workshop participants on developing personal learning environments. What an interesting moment when we launched Weblogg-ed and there’s his response to my post. I still find that pretty cool, even when the participants say “hey, he doesn’t agree with you, does he?”

Here's my But….

I don’t think tablets are “glorified ink note taking technology” at all as Will suggests. That’s the kind of use that was depicted in the article I was referring to, and that’s the kind of use that people so proudly trot out at conferences. I’ve even been to a presentation about tablets where the presenters compared the tablets against an overhead projector-yes, tablets are more capable than overhead projectors, and yes, I knew that you can’t connect an overhead to the Internet but you can connect a tablet….


I think tablets have great potential and I’m excited about knowing more about the rollout at Will’s former school. It seems like they have much to offer about more extended applications of tablet technology. Like Tom, I'd like to see the white paper-we could all probably learn much from it.

But my main point is that tablets still don’t extend the learning experience beyond what can be achieved with another form of computer technology. Will cites five themes that pilot members from his old school almost universally identified:

1. Instantaneous capability in the classroom (could I walk over to a desktop connected to a projector to have that same capability?)

2. Connecting to students (not sure what this means, exactly, but there are lots of ways to connect with kids)


3. Teacher productivity anytime, anywhere (ok, cool, if your building is wireless, but just how much anytime, anywhere is necessary-would access in department offices, labs, library, resource rooms and classrooms count as just about anywhere, anytime?).

4. Organization (now I know why I’m not organized!)

5. Teacher Empowerment (I don’t know what to say here…)

I’ll stand by what I said. I’m not convinced yet. I need to see more evidence like that from Will’s experience. I think too many are salivating with technolust over these things, and a more careful, thoughtful approach to integrating tablets (I said the I-word) may eventually carry the day.


Give me a 1 to 1 in a wireless environment, with a commitment from teachers and administration for mega-staff development, based on some solid pilot work, and I’m good. Until then, I say: Tablet Schmablet!

To see a picture of the World Series trophy click here.
To see a picture of the Cubs last World Championship flag, oh, never mind....

Tablet Schmablet

I believe that technology becomes valuable as a tool when it extends learning- when it takes learning to a new place altogether that couldn’t be reached unless the technology was present. So, frankly, I’m quickly tiring of all the talk surrounding the impact of tablet PC’s.

I’ve been to several presentations about the “transformative” nature of tablet PC’s in the classroom at technology conferences. Several districts in my area have “tablet initiatives.” I even have one that I haven’t turned on in months. So far, I’m not impressed and I’m certainly not convinced that they have enough added value to warrant serious considertion as a replacement for laptops or even desktops in classrooms. And most importantly, I have not seen them used in pedagogical situations where you just had to use a tablet, and nothing else would do.

And I don’t care that you can write on them. I don’t care that you can hand them to a kid, instead of having the kid go up to the board or to an overhead. I don’t care that you can highlight in colors. I need more.

A recent article in a technology magazine about tablets had this to say from teachers and administrators that had those tablet initiatives. “Teachers created outlines for each class, projected those outlines onto a screen, and used tablet technology to scribble down notes on the file while lecturing.”

I would just use an overhead and a dime transparency.

Here’s another: Working though math problems on their tablets instead of paper and emailing the answers to the teacher.

Paper and pencil for me. I get enough email....

Another: “Tablets are just so much easier to use, write on, and take notes on.”

Take notes? See earlier comment about paper and pencil.

Here’s more: Students can take notes on their machines with the electronic pen, and teachers can review those notes without ever physically handling any paper….as teachers present a lesson, they use the pen-based tablet to scribble notes on a PowerPoint slide….
See a pattern here?

What this amounts to is taking a 21st Century tool and applying it to old school teaching, industrial age teaching, where information is transferred passively to even more passive learners....

I want a learning initiative. I want a classroom like a Starbucks with round tables and big, comfy chairs instead of the 6x5 classroom grid, where the teacher presents an essential authentic question to kids and then serves as a catalyst (no retro-80's guide on the side or co-learner for me!). The kids have been through information literacy instruction, so they know how to tackle the question. They form the necessary relationships within the class that are required to solve the problem at hand. Each kid locates the information they need, stores it into their account, distills the information and records pertinent material into the new Google Notebook, communicates with other members of the class or group via Vaestro, IM, or something else that they like and find productive that we currently block in school, and then navigates within the wireless network of my sticky Starbucksroom to the class wiki where the answer is mashed-up by the class, or by groups, or by whatever entity makes the most sense, as determined by the kids.

Oh, I almost forgot. They do all this on their tablets.

Originally posted at David Jakes posts every Thursday at

Monday, May 15, 2006

Shameless Self-Promotion

Check out my cover story article, Staff Development 2.0, in the May issue of Technology & Learning Magazine. It's also available online at (requires free registration). My sincere thanks to Will, Rob, Charlene, Kim, Bill, Linda, and my dietician, Susan.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Flickr Good News

George Oates, over at FlickrBlog, has announced some changes for Flickr in his post Changes Afoot. Among the changes are increased search capability, something sorely needed:

Search has been greatly improved (with full booleans and multiple tags, you'll be AND, OR, NOT and +ing and -ing your heart out), We've also added a search box to the top of every page and redesigned the results pages, so you can search for anything from anywhere.

Very cool-this will help greatly, and minimize some of the frustrations students have in located just the photo they need for their various projects. I'm wondering if these features apply to searching within the various Creative Commons pool searches.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Things that keep me up at night

Here are some random thoughts about technology that cause me to lay awake at night...

The Kids know so much about technology Thing: are you sure about that? In the conversations that I have with kids in my district about technology, it is apparent that there is a "Big Five." I'll bet you can guess: IM, video games, and cell phones, and mp3 players, and yes, the dreaded MySpace. They have that down. But I've seen many kids struggle with some simple operations with computers. Are kids, as a group, podcasting, blogging and using wiki technology? Maybe they are in your schools, but not in the ones I work in or visit. Now, do they have the affinity to learn new technologies rapidly-absolutely. They do possess that, but how much of that do we as educators exploit?

The Teacher as blogger Thing: Realistically, does anyone besides Mark really think that teachers will contribute on a large scale to the blogospheric conversation? An inflammatory statement I know, but c'mon, think about it. Look at all the pressures on teachers, planning lessons, grading papers, calling parents, serving on committees, etc. Time for blogging? I don't think so. At my recent TechForum presentation on professional development, I asked a pretty tech-savvy crowd how many actually were bloggers: 4 out of about 75. I do believe that many will read blogs and will post an occassional comment-maybe that is enough. And I do believe that the most important role that teachers will have in blogging is to get their kids to do it.

Are there some great teacher bloggers? You bet. But blogging in large numbers? I'll believe it when I see it.

The integrating technology Thing: why do we want teachers to integrate technology? Why do we use those terms? Do we integrate paper and pencils? Do we integrate textbooks? Maybe I'm being too sensitive to the phraseology, but the integration thing does have its implications-we want you to do more-we want you to integrate technology into your curriculum. I've heard teachers say this: "Now you want me to integrate technology-I don't have time for that." It also implies a top-down bolt-on methodology where technology is added to a current lesson or a curricular sequence, in some cases, where it might not be welcome, or even appropriate. Technology use should be bottom-up, and should be a choice during the lesson design process, where instructional methodologies are chosen. Should I use a lecture, should I structure the class into collaborative groups, what kind of assessment should I use that will give me the data I need to understand if they understand? Should I use some technology tool? Will the use of that tool add value to the lesson? It should be a choice when instruction is designed, not an afterthought to integrated later.

The kids as professional developer Thing: one of my personal favorites-let's get the kids to teach teachers about technology-now that's a good idea. Many teachers are intimidated by what kids know -having them teach about technology should reduce that angst, right? Simply stated, the teachers I work with deserve a professional educator knowledgeable about technology, classroom practice, assessment, the school's climate and culture, district or building goals, etc. to lead them in learning about teaching and technology . Nothing against the kids, but teachers are probably the hardest group to teach and this is too important. And I know we have an ample on-demand supply, but what other industry would consider something like this-honestly?

The use of the word training Thing: training is what you do to dogs. It suggests a Pavlovian stimulus-response. For example, when you say: Gibson's 12-ounce filet, medium-rare, I salivate. I don't want to train teachers-hey, given this, do that. I want them to know, to understand in the context of what they believe in, to reflect, to apply....

Use professional development, even staff development, but please consider eliminating the use of the word training.

The technology babysitting Thing: this drives me nuts. Technology Babysitting is when a teacher takes kids to a computer lab, they engage in some task, while the teacher sits at a table and grades papers, or worse yet, reads the paper. That's nice. Thanks for the effort. And what happens when you walk up to them and ask them about it? Take it from me, don't try it....

Enough for a Saturday morning....