Darin Janssen’s Weblog

Jeff Utecht Interview

For my “Interview with a Learner” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Utecht from Bangkok, Thailand.  I was first introduced to Jeff when I took ECMP 355 two years ago and I have been following his blog since.  Back when I first met Jeff he was working in Shanghai, China at the Shanghai American School.  Jeff is now Elementary Technology and Learning Coordinator at the Bangkok International School. I thought at first it may be difficult to arrange a time to do my interview with Jeff because of the time change.  In the end it all worked out because when Jeff’s day in Bangkok was beginning my evening was beginning; it could not have been better timing for me.

I was not able to use the video recording of the skype call (as explained below), but here is the link to the audio of my interview with Jeff.

I would like to thank Jeff again for allowing me some time in his busy schedule.  It was greatly appreciated.

Two things from the interview really stand out for me from the interview.  The first is parent/teacher communication and education.  I now realize that when I am using technology in my future classroom I will have to educate parents as much, if not more, than I will have to educate their children.  Parent education sessions on technology should help ease the fear some parents have about technology.  I really like the how Jeff’s school has now gone to not having parents give image consent, but having parents fill out a form if they do not allow image consent.  I do not understand parent’s fear of posting student’s images on the web.  Parents would be thrilled if their child’s picture was on the news or in the newspaper for an achievement they had.  Why is the web any different?

The second is the use of a 1:1 digital camera program for primary grades.  This is something I never thought of before but it makes so much sense to me.  Students can take as many pictures or videos as they like and it does not cost anything.  They can keep what they like and delete what they do not like.  The possibilities are endless; especially in the viewing and representing areas of the curriculum.

I did run into some technical difficulties (which seems to happen every time I use technology lately).  My video feed froze up basically as soon as we started the interview, but Jeff’s was working so I ignored it and continued without worrying about it.  I used Vodburner to record the skype call.  Vodburner worked well, but I was not wearing ear phones so I ended up with bad feedback so my recording was not of good enough quality for me to post.  If I knew something about video editing I could probably fix the sound quality, but I was able to move to my back up plan instead.

My backup plan was my digital recorder.  I recorded the audio of the interview and it did not have all the feedback.  I used Audacity to edit the audio file and the file was ready to go.  Accept of course for the fact that I could not get my audio to export out of Audacity as an mp3 file only as a wav file.  After a tweet I was able to convert the file to mp3 via iTunes.  I uploaded the file to my Podcast People account and my ordeal came to an end.  It sure would be nice to have a technology endeavor to go off without a hitch soon.

Over all the interview was a beneficial experience.  I was able to ask Jeff some questions about things I am struggling and thinking about and I received some ideas which now give me some more things to think about.  I definitely will be more open to contacting educators on my own if I think they will help me work on some of the struggles I have and will have in the future.

Image:  http://www.facebook.com/jeffutecht


April 12, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, school | , , | 1 Comment

March Teach Us Something

After watching part of the recording, I have to apologize to everyone who sat through my presentation last night and has watched the recording.  I clicked the pointer tool and was using it to point to different things on my slide deck while I was presenting, but it was not showing up for you.  I must have had to actually click on something else to engage the pointer on the screen.

Well I feel this presentation went better than the February one but I still have some work to do with presenting online.  I stumble a lot, but not as much as last time.  That was a plus.  I guess I need to practice what I am going to say even more.  I really need to be more conscious about how much I say “uhh”.  I need to get rid of the verbal thinking because it makes me sound like I do not know what I am talking about.  It is one thing to pause to think, but to verbalize a pointless sound sounds terrible.

I kept referring to Smart Notebook Software as PowerPoint.  This was especially bad because I was teaching about Notebook Software.  I can attribute this to PowerPoint being such a staple word to our vocabulary; much like referring to all snow machines as “Skidoos”  even if they are Arctic Cat snow machines.

I was disappointed with my slides after they uploaded to elluminate.  When I created the slides all the images and text were clear and legible; not so when they were uploaded and converted.  I created all my slides in notebook and then exported them to PowerPoint so they could be uploaded to elluminate.  The slides still looked good in PowerPoint.  My screen shots of notebook were not clear and therefore hard for everyone to clearly see what I was talking about on the screen shots.  At this time I do not know what the fix would be for this problem.  Maybe it has something to do with the actual image quality of the shots before they are uploaded.  Quality must get decreased when the images are converted so I would need to use a much high quality of image in the first place so the image is still of decent quality in the end.

I struggled with the idea of creating a slide deck verses screen sharing.  My experience with screen sharing has not been the best for two reasons.  One is that the screen sharing opens up too big in elluminate.  I then have to scroll left to right, and up and down just to see where the presenter is talking about.  I think that the screen sharing should only open into the same size window as the whiteboard and show the presenter’s entire screen in this space without the need to scroll.  This alone would make screen sharing more effective and I would not be so hard on it.  The second reason is that there is a delay in what the presenter is doing on the screen and what is shown to the viewer.  If the presenter is moving through steps too quickly or is scrolling up and down, the viewer can not see anything but flashes or messed up images.  I realize this is a limit to screen sharing because of the time it takes the data to move over the internet.  Presenters have to be aware and conscious of these problems when using screen sharing.

In the end I decided to use a slide deck because of the possibility of few technical difficulties and easier for everyone to see everything I am talking about.  The problem with a slide deck for this assignment is we were trying to teach about a program.  This is not done easily without a huge slide deck.  It is really hard to visualize what the presenters are explaining to me when I do not have any experience with their programs.  I decided to create my slide deck and use the pointer tool to help explain what I was talking about.  As my apology above states, the pointer did not work for me and thus my classmates did not receive my presentation to its fullest.  My classmates who used the screen sharing, even with its limitations, were able to do a better job of showing their program then I was.  Next time I will have to look at using a combination screen share and slide deck depending on what I am explaining at that time.

Overall, the teach us something lessons were great.  I wish we had more time to do another presentation.  I would have liked to use what I have learned to improve.  Who knows, I may have the opportunity to teach online in the future and I will then use what I have learn then.

Here are the links to the Smart websites I mentioned in my presentation:

SMART Products – http://www2.smarttech.com/st/en-us/products/

SMART Training – http://smarttech.com/Trainingcenter/

SMART Exchange – http://exchange.smarttech.com/curriculum.html#Saskatchewan%20Standards

March 31, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, Reflection | , , , | 1 Comment

Collaborative Project Rolls On

After our online lesson Jordan and I taught the grade 7/8s we had a few days where nothing was happening.  It turned out Mr. Park was doing some PD so he was not in the classroom.

Some of Mr. Park’s students have uploaded their presentations to Google Docs now but I have not seen all of them yet.  Jordan and I found some problems with one of us being invited to the document and not the other, but in the end it was because the students had typed in our email addresses wrong.  We fixed the ones we have access too, but are unsure about the rest of the class at this time.  I have been able to check out the presentations I have access too and have made suggestions as to how some slides can be improved.  Some of the things I have noticed on the presentations which are easily fixed are with image placement, poor colour combination, writing everything they want to say on the slide, and generally slides which are too busy.

Mr. Park is having some problems now with not being able to edit the slides in Google Docs.  Jordan and I are able to edit the presentations, so it must be something on Mr. Park’s side.  We are trying to figure it out and resolve the problem now.  We are also thinking about a possible plan B.

The project so far has being a great experience for me.  The problems with technical difficulties have been a pain, but nothing every works out perfectly.  With more experience with the tools involved I am sure there would be few difficulties.  The concern I have is all the extra work which Mr. Park and his students have had to do so that the project is collaborative.  I am sure that Mr. Park could have had students fix up their projects in less time than it is taking now.  But, the experience of working with someone other than Mr. Park and to gain insights on their work from someone else will be beneficial to the students in the end.  It would sure be nice if everything worked as easily as we thought they would in the original plans.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455 | , , | Leave a comment

Collaborative project

For the collaborative project for ECMP 455 Jordan and I have been working with Paul Park’s grade 7/8 class.  Our project is to help Paul’s students create better presentations.  Because Paul is teaching in Mortlach we were able to meet face to face to discuss the project.  It was great to be able to have that initial meeting face to face and get to know each other before the project began.

Jordan and I then met a couple times and emailed with Paul until we were all sure of where we were going with the project.  Jordan took on the part of researching good a bad presentations, and I took on the tools side of the research.  We originally wanted to use either Slideshare or Google docs to do our collaborative side of the project with the students and use WizIQ or Skype to teach a lesson in Paul’s class.  After some research on the programs and their capabilities Paul and I had conversations using Google Chat, Skype, and WizIQ and came to the conclusion that the best route would be to use Google Docs and WizIQ.

Jordan and I prepared a lesson for the grade 7/8 class and made sure all the technology worked the way we were hoping it would.  On the day of our lesson everything went well accept for some minor difficulties.  Even though we tested everything the day before we were unable to get the screen sharing to work properly and the Youtube video would not play.  We came to the conclusion that with WizIQ running on twenty computers plus the added band width of video it was too much for the school server.

The lesson went well other than these minor issues and I was very please with how the lesson turned out.  I am pretty sure that the students learned something from us and I know that I learned from this experience as well.  I learned that no matter how many times I rehearse and practice a lesson beforehand there is always something that can go wrong; especially when using technology with students.  We just have to roll with it and do the best we can.  I also learned not to trust that screen sharing will work.  Before this lesson I did not trust screen sharing because of how poorly it works during elluminate sessions.  In testing, screen sharing worked so well, but when it was time to actually teach with it, it failed me again.  I am not saying that I will never try to screen share again, but I will always have a backup plan.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, school | , , , , | 2 Comments

Stuck in the Past

We were asked to discuss university classes which are rooted in the past.  I have two of these classes this semester.  One is a Religious Studies class where the professor stands at the front of the class lecturing for the entire class.  He has his notes up on the smartboard to refer to, but only allows us to see two lines at a time.  At the end of each section he asks if anyone has any questions but rarely any questions are asked.  It is a daily struggle to stay awake during the class.  My other class is History.  This class consists of lectures as well.  He has thrown in some pictures, music and a couple of discussion periods but for the most part he just talks at us during the entire class.

For the most part I find education classes to be different.  Professors do not stand at the front the entire class and lecture.  They do lecture some times but there is generally half the class time spent in small group or whole class discussions.  The problem I find with some education classes are that they do not practice what they are preaching.

The professors who I find are the best at teaching are the ones who are still teaching in the school systems.  The downfall to this is they are all night classes because the professors are teaching all day.  Maybe all university professors, especially the education professors, should be teaching kids part time so they are still experiencing what is happening in schools.  This would allow them to relate their topics to what is actually happening in schools now.

February 21, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, General | | 5 Comments

Reflective Blogging?

When I was reading this article it stuck me that most of my professors have been telling us to reflect on everything we do as teachers, but not really helping us find a way which works for us.  I think the problem is that whenever I handed in some sort of reflection there were no comments back; no pushing of my thought process.  Most of the time there was comments like interesting, insightful thinking, or just check marks (which are the ones I hate the most).  Check marks are not helpful or thought provoking.  How do I even know they read it or thought about what I was saying?  My four year old son can put check marks on a page.  Thought out comments or suggestions are the most helpful to me.  I know that meaningful comments are time consuming to write, but they are useful and will help me and others become more reflective about what we are doing.

The next thing to think about is why it is hard to become a reflective blogger.  From my perspective I have some things that challenge me to becoming, what I consider, deeply reflective on my blog.  One is that I am still learning how to think more deeply about the ideas which go through my head.  That is where most of my reflection happens; in my head.  I have never been someone who wrote a journal so I have little experience with writing my thoughts down.  I usually keep them to myself.  One reason why I keep my thoughts in my head is my second reason why I am challenged to become more of a reflective blogger.  I am unsure of what I should be posting on the internet.  To clarify, this may help.  I am a pre-service teacher who is married with two kids.  On top of my family, I also have a mortgage and other bills which need to be paid.  I need a teaching job!  I hope that my future employer takes the time to look me up on the internet to see what I have been doing.  I am scared that they may see something that causes them to not to hire me.  I would hope the fact that I am being reflective about my life and teaching would be a huge positive to a future employer, but that is something I will never know.  I even question what I have written above; should I post this or make changes?

In the other stuff which Dean suggested to read and the presentation I watched, I have started to change my mind about what is important for me as a teacher.  I know that reflection is important, but I think that a possible conversation about some of my reflections are also important to push me to places which I never thought of.  I should not be afraid to post something because of what some potential employer may think, because what is important is my personal growth.  It will continue to be a challenge for me to be more reflective online, but I can now see that my blog can be a place where I can gain some comments on what I have written, which I need to push my thinking and learning.  Now I just need to start commenting on some of the blogs I follow to draw more people to my blog.  I guess I need to stop lurking and start conversing.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, General, Reflection | , , , | 2 Comments

Into Video for ECMP 455

For my ECMP 455 class I was asked to create a short introduction video.  I have created videos with photostory and voicethread before but this is the first time I have ever created a video with a web cam and added stills.  It has taken me a while to figure out how the web cam and windows movie maker work because I have not used either one before.  I am sure that there are many other programs I could have used but I do not know what they are.  I am interested to know if  anyone could recommend a program I could have used besides windows movie maker.  Please post your suggestions in the comments.

I am not one hundred percent thrill with how the video turned out because of transition and my stumbling.  But I have spent more hours trying to perfect it then I should have already, so here it is.  It is a very basic video so I hope you have some program suggestions for me so it will be quicker for me next time when I have to create what in theory is an easy task.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | ECMP 455, school | , , | 2 Comments