I have used Microsoft Excel lots of times in the past, but I'm the first to admit that I'm not very efficient at it.  At times, when I've been using it lots in a short period of time, I do start to get "good" at it, but I find that I lose that skill quickly if I don't use it.  I'm lucky because my boyfriend is really good at spreadsheets, so usually if I need one made I just ask him to do it.  But after today's class I do feel more competent with Microsoft Excel. 
I remember learning all these things in high school - the formulas and formatting cells, etc.  But even with versions of MS Office that have been updated it's a totally different experience.  I would definitely have to spend more time playing around with it to create master versions of certain documents, such as skating invoices, gradebooks or attendance sheets. 
I would have liked to play around with the Apple version of Excel - Numbers.  I have had a few opportunities to use Numbers, however, it is usually just inputting data into a spreadsheet made for me.  I have tried to play with it and become competent but to no avail.  I'd really like some lessons and education about this potentially great program!
In today's society, children are burdened by having an online presence.  It is a societal norm; it's rare to meet someone who's not "on" Facebook.  As teachers, it is our responsibility to help students understand their impact online, whether they are creating online profiles or participating in online games or chat rooms, they have to be taught that everything they do creates a digital footprint.  
It is a huge media issue right now - the case of Amanda Todd and her story about cyber bullying.  The idea that anything you do online can come back to haunt you for the rest of your life is frightening, to anyone.  We are trained as teachers to "clean up" our facebook profiles, but even beyond that.  Things from our childhoods, good and bad are online.  From old sporting events results to old class photos, some things that we may not necessarily want to be seen are online, and often beyond our control to remove. 
Today's class was spent learning about concept maps.  I've had exposure to concept maps with pen and paper, but never really on a computer; and especially not when everyone in the class can add to the same concept map. 
Although the technology to do so is quite impressive, I am not a huge fan of it.  I found it difficult to use and hard to wrap my head around, and therefore time consuming and frustrating.  I hope that as I work with the program more and learn more about it I can come to have a good working relationship with it. 
I think concept maps are a valuable tool in teaching - whether used to explain a topic or concept, or to have students create these maps themselves to show a level of comprehension and creativity.  However, the drawbacks are that some students may feel the same way I do - unable to work the program on the computer.  I also feel that some students will find concept maps intimidating and overwhelming if they are not necessarily visual learners.  
Today's class was so interesting and helpful!  There are 2 categories of information that I learned which I am excited to share with the world!

1.  Search Engines - how many of us have our homepages set to Google?  I know I do.  Over the years I have come to trust Google - whether its for basic information, directions, deals on flights, or even just a picture of something really obscure, Google usually comes through for me.  

Although it felt in a way that I was cheating on my friend Google, I did take the opportunity to check out some of the other sites we talked about in class.  However, to be fair to Google, I mainly focused on the more specific categories!  In terms of "MetaSearch Engines" (which combine the results of from a number of different search engines in one place), I enjoyed IXquick, SurfWax and DogPile.  I also checked out the "kid-friendly" search engines (which before today I had no idea even existed!) and I was very impressed with OneKey (which is the Google search for kids - see, I am faithful to my Google!), Ask Jeeves for Kids, and Kids Click.  Who knew so many options were available?

2.  Websites to Save Ourselves - Ok this is not how it sounds.  How many of us have had that late night of working on some sort of school or work project and then something happens and suddenly it is gone - vanished into cyber space or some microorganism that lives inside our computers has hidden it out of our reach?  This happens all too often.  How can we protect ourselves, and save ourselves from the inevitable nervous breakdown that we would have if we lost that 100 page thesis paper the night before it was due?
Several options are available if we are willing to put money into them - an external hard drive, multiple USB keys or memory sticks, but who knew that there were sites on the Internet that could do the same thing?  I am amazed.  Of course, we could link important school resources to this website, but I'm sure most would prefer not to clutter it with all the documents on our personal computers.  The answer?  DropBox!  If you've never heard of DropBox, CHECK IT OUT.  This is an online magical place where you can store any and everything that you want to (document wise, of course!)  Seriously, this thing can change your life.  Go check it out. Now. There is also Google Drive, which I found less user-friendly, but for someone slightly more computer-literate than myself, it may be perfect.

Today's class was spent discovering SmartBoards!  How exciting!  I used a SmartBoard at my school when I was taking Ed 2500 last semester, and although it was fun, my first obstacle was not being able to reach the top where I had to tap to start my presentation.  Lucky for me, many of my students were taller than me and had LOTS of fun teasing me about my height.  But I digress...

Other than a few lessons that I taught during Ed 2500, I have rarely used a SmartBoard.  And even with those lessons I used Powerpoint and just plugged in a USB key.  I feel like a "real teacher" now that I have the technology on my own personal laptop! 

It was fun to watch as we saw all the tricks and smoke and mirrors that the SmartBoard technology is capable! I feel like it will take me months to go through it all and figure out how to use it. 
This class is proving to be challenging, yet so useful and applicable.  I used to think of myself as fairly technological literate, but even in the past 3 weeks I feel like I have advanced.  I'm excited to continue learning about what my computer is capable of!
As teachers, we should realize that everything we do in front of a classroom is a type of presentation.  Whether we have an intricate powerpoint slideshow happening behind us or are reading an excerpt from a book we are essentially presenting.  The purpose of this blog, however, is to discuss the use of visual presentations in teaching - what makes them effective and when we should go down another road!

Visual presentations are a great way to stimulate interest from our students.  It helps those learners who need to see things to learn feel like they are being included and still getting everything out of the lesson.  It helps generate attention to the teacher and the material being presented.  Good, effective presentations are those that are aesthetically pleasing, not too complex, and with no unnecessary distractions.  Often as we learn to make presentations we get excited about what our computer programs can do and go overboard!  The use of special effects and visuals is effective when used to emphasize points should be somehow related to the material being presented.  

Too much dialogue on each slide is a distractor for students, especially when the teacher chooses to read the material aloud while the students are trying to read it silently.  This creates a conflict of modalities and students will end up not being able to "get" the message at all, since their brains are too busy trying to focus on reading while being spoken to or vice versa.  Chunking information into shorter sentences or key words is an effective way to emphasize your point without providing and overwhelming information of written information.

The overall theme for visual presentations is to be effective they mus
Blogging in Education

What is a blog?  A blog is an informational site or discussion posted on someone's website.  It is usually written by one person but is transitioning into multi-person writing.  A blog is like a journal, except anyone can read it and write responses - comments, questions, tips, advice, etc.

You may ask, "why is there a blog on a teacher's website"?  Well, the answer is simple.  The purpose of having an educational blog is so that teachers and students have an easy and effective way to communicate with each other.  Now teachers can post news or lessons or assignments on their blog, and students have access to them.  Gone are the days when students can use the excuse of not being in class and therefore missed an assignment.  Students now have the opportunity to and responsibility of checking a teacher's blog to communicate and stay informed.  

Teachers can also post samples of other students' work on their blogs so students have a constant reference point when completing assignments.  Students can post questions along the way and the teacher can respond in a manner that will be visible to the entire class. 

Overall, an educational blog is an excellent tool that will become more and more commonplace in the classroom.  As technology continues to advance, teachers and students will have more effective and efficient ways to stay connected and informed.