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Organize yourself for 2011 with the Action Method

What it is: You know what I love about a new year? The blank slate. The empty calendar begging to be written on. The chance to take a step back and evaluate how you are working.  I am an organizer at heart. I love having everything in its place. I love label makers, file folders, planners, calendars, and software that makes my life easier.  For Christmas my little brother (always have to have the little in there to remind him of his place in life ) gifted me with the book “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky.  I am about a third of the way through it and already loving it.  What my brother knows about me (I think it runs in our gene pool) is that I am a creative person. I am never at a loss for ideas. They flow constantly.  The problem: I think every single idea is genius. I want every single idea to come to fruition because surely no one has every come up with something so brilliant before.  Even for an organizational nut like me, this is an impossible task.  And if I’m totally honest, my organizational skills leave much to be desired when it comes to putting my ideas in their place.  Ideas are wonderful things, they make the world go round…but they are only useful as far as they are enacted. When the flow of ideas is constant, many truly brilliant ideas get pushed aside while another round of ideas rolls in.  This post isn’t really about the book.  While it is a good book, it isn’t really inspirational. It is life changing in what you do with the principles it reveals.  Blesky details his Action Method in the book.  I immediately loved this method because it works the way I think. It puts everything in its place and gives you a place to organize actionable items (things you can actually work towards completion right now), reference items (all those bits of notes and websites, and pdfs, and pictures I have EVERYWHERE…seriously my husband says I have a problem), and backburners- those ideas that aren’t really actionable yet but could be some day.  This keeps those brilliant ideas at the forefront and getting taken care of while the flow of ideas has a place (backburner) so that nothing is lost.  Sweet!  My next question was: where can I “do” the action method so that I can and will keep up with it?  Problem solved, introducing the Action Method online. You can put all of those principles to use in one beautiful interface.  Even better…you can access it on your mobile device too.  We all know that is a must in this day and age! The online Action Method has a free version which lets you do just about everything…for some extra shiny bits you can sign up for the pro plan.  The mobile version is a free download. (There is even a paper version for those of you who like to go old school…normally I am in this organizational camp but like I said, the website is right up my alley.) What is better than starting off the new year organized and with money in the bank? Here is the Action Method as described on the website: ACTION STEPS are tasks that need to be completed. Each Action Step should start with a verb: “Call Y,” “Follow up with X,” “Buy a gift for Z.” REFERENCES are notes, links, files, sketches – any information related to a project that gives context to your Action Steps. BACKBURNERS are the brilliant ideas that you want to come back to later, but are not yet actionable. DISCUSSIONS enable you to manage ongoing conversations across all of your projects with anyone that works with you. All relevant communications (shared documents, solutions to problems, feedback, decisions) are in one place. EVENTS are the key occasions/meetings/milestones/etc toward which you (and your team) are working. Events can be used to coordinate deadlines for Action Steps, aiding project management. Pretty cool right?!  I really like how the Action Method lets you track discussions and delegate tasks easily. Very handy! Need more convincing? Companies like Apple use the Action Method…you know something is working for them!  I don’t know about you, but the thought of having everything organized in one place is giving me some major warm fuzzies right now! How to integrate the Action Method into your curriculum: The Action Method website and app can be used to organize your school life.  I constantly have ideas for new lesson plans, projects, websites, etc. that I want to use with students.  These can be easily organized with the Action Method.  Create a new Project for each unit or educational focus.  Action items can be the individual lessons and resources that you are going to complete for that unit.  Add any resources you need in the references section.  Saw a cool idea on Twitter that you want to use in your classroom but aren’t sure how it will work just yet? Add it to your backburner so you can go back and review it later.  The Action Method could very well be the only planner you need!  Create discussions with teammates and colleagues (or Twitter colleagues) directly in the program. Delegate tasks  to others on your team or even parent volunteers. The Action Method could be used to help middle school or high school students better organize their lives and learning.  It would be especially useful for students who help chart their own learning plans.  The site does require an email address (with confirmation) to sign up. Tips: You can learn more about the Action Method in the book Making Ideas Happen. Happy organizing! Please leave a comment and share how you are using the Action Method in Your classroom.

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Ed.VoiceThread

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Geography, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Video Tutorials, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 05-08-2008

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What it is: I have posted about Voice Thread in the past, but Voice Thread has added a new education community that has some pretty incredible features. Ed.VoiceThread is a secure collaborative network designed specifically for the k-12 school environment. Teachers and students can collaborate around almost any type of media including voice, text, webcam, and drawing commentary in a secure environment. Access is restricted to k-12 educators, students, and administrators to ensure safe classroom collaboration. Ed.VoiceThread is an accountable environment, which means that all users are responsible for their content and behavior. Some added features that you will find on Ed.VoiceThread are, students have individual accounts that are easily viewable to educators, students can create, edit, and manage their own portfolio, students cannot add contacts or send invitations to any users outside of the Ed.Voice Thread community, and they cannot view any content that is not created by an Ed.Voice Thread member. Teachers can quickly view and access all students’ Voice Threads. Voice Threads can be made private or public depending on the assignment and requirements. Ed.VoiceThread comes in two packages one free and the other, called Pro, for $60/year. Free users can only create 3 VoiceThreads, have 75 MB of storage, no uploading of MP3 comments, 30 min of webcam commenting, advertising will be present, single file size limit of 25 MB, and no downloads of the media. In the Pro version, students can create an unlimited number of Voice Threads, get 10GB of storage, can upload MP3 comments, have unlimited webcam commenting, 30 archival movie exports, no advertising, single file size limit of 100MB and allows downloads of media.

How to integrate Ed.VoiceThread into the classroom: Ed.VoiceThread is the ideal place for students and teachers to collaborate and interact with digital media. The added functionality for schools with Ed.VoiceThread is very useful. Students can use Ed.VoiceThread to create digital stories, documentaries, practice and document language skills, explore geography and culture, solve math problems, and much more. As a teacher, I like VoiceThread as a place to teach. Because everything is web-based, you can upload a days lessons to Ed.VoiceThread for students to refer to and collaborate with while doing homework. I well remember the days when I would sit in math class learning the days equations. Everything made perfect sense to me while I was sitting in the classroom watching problems being worked. But at home, with no guide homework seemed impossible. Ed.VoiceThread makes you your students personal tutor. The self paced learning is amazing! I love giving students tools that allow them to be in charge of their own learning. Is there any better lesson in life than knowing how to learn?

Tips: Try out the free Ed.VoiceThread account and see how it could work for your classroom. If you are like me, it becomes addicting and 3 VoiceThreads won’t be enough!

Leave a comment and share how you are using Ed.VoiceThread in your classroom.

Comments (2)

I have some questions about using Ed.VoiceThread that I’m hoping someone can answer before I begin using this in the fall:

1) With comment moderation, teachers can moderate comments made by students about the teacher’s voice threads, but can they also moderate/hide comments made between students voice threads?

2) Can students email links to their voice threads to me even if they didn’t register an email address at VoiceThreads? I know that with Ed. VoiceThread they don’t need email addresses to participate.

3) Can you keep the sharing/commenting of voice threads closed to just a class, or does it have to be open to all Ed.VoiceThread users?

Thanks for any help you can offer.

I am planning on using VoiceThread a bunch this coming year (just as soon as I confirm that it isn’t blocked by our filter) and this is how I’m planning on doing it. I’ve already done a trial run with a few lessons in this format and I think it will work.

I am posting lessons in VoiceThread format. They consist of some short videos imported and converted from YouTube, the handouts/worksheets that they have to complete that are imported from Word files (made by me) or from websites that are imported as pdf files.

The students will find all necessary instruction on the first pages of the VoiceThread.

Then they will find one handout that tells them what information they need to leave in a comment. They may also encounter a worksheet with related questions or math problems that have to be turned in. Paper versions of those sheets will also be available. But, all of the handouts and reference materials will be available in the voice thread and they will be read out loud by me. For most units, students will be asked to create their own VoiceThread that explains the concept.

I teach a special education class where many students are reading significantly below grade level and a major problem is literacy. They can’t read directions or explanations on handouts or websites. VoiceThread not only offers them a new way to communicate their ideas, but it allows them to communicate in a way that doesn’t necessarily involve reading or writing.

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