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Connecting, Curiating and Cool Tools, Oh My!:Summer Institute Days 3 & 4

Connecting, Curiating and Cool Tools, Oh My!:Summer Institute Days 3 & 4

Written by David Quinn
July 23, 2014

I apologize for the delay in posting about the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. Things got a little hectic. As anyone who has attended can attest, the first few days start out like this:

And by Tuesday it starts feeling like this:

It’s a completely exhilarating experience, not for those looking for a “lazy river” conference. The Institute is 100% practice-based with a deliverable due on Friday. You’ll learn a lot and be exposed to more than you can possibly absorb or use but wisely, Julie Coiro and Renee Hobbs created a wikispace to store all of our resources and creations to review later. Here are some highlights from the week.

Tuesday: Finally Making the Connection.

Last week I wrote a blog about the challenges of making Connecting Learning concrete for teachers. The secret, it turns out, is to appeal to their love of dogs, especially really cute Leonberger puppies. For example, this one:

I made my presentation Tuesday to a full classroom of 30 people. I started with my general overview of the “Big 6” infographic and the Quest2Learn video that I mentioned in the previous post. I saw mostly positive body language, a few head  nods and a fairly captive audience. However, there was a noticeable positive shift when I started talking about how Connected Learning enabled me to better understand my new puppy, Lucia.

I explained prior to adopting “Lucy” I thought I raising a dog would be easy. I had watched the Dog Whisperer. Use calm, assertive, energy, wag your finger and say “Tssst” when the pup does something you don’t like. She’ll be rolling over in no time,…or so I thought.

The reality is that I had no clue what I was doing. While she learned “sit,” “down” and  “paw” quickly, the word “no” seemed escape her. This was particularly problematic when she decided that her favorite chew toy was my arm.

The books I borrowed helped a little, but I felt like they were a one-size-fits-all approach to raising a puppy. For example, Lucy relentlessly howled the first few nights in her crate for the night. My wife and I worried we were scarring her for life, caved, and let her sleep on the floor.

I told the attendees that my experience started changing when I discovered Leonberger’s 101 Facebook group. The group was driven by an interest in Leonbergers supported by peers and cross-generational mentors. It was openly networked for anyone with the common purpose of raising happy and healthy leonbergers. The “product” here could have been the informational posts, and while I was a consumer at this point, in the future, I will be sharingideas from my experience with Lucy. The 101 Community assured me the crate whining was normal and she’d grow to love her bed (she has) and the mouthing would subside as she got older (still a work in progress, but mucth better).

My connected experience is what modern learning could look like and our students will need to know how to do what I did to solve their problem. Now the heads were really nodding and got several “ohhhhs” similar to the ones when a student finally grasps a concept. Connie Yowell had it right all along. You’ve got to make it relevant. 

Wednesday: Orange is the New Black & Curation is the New Search

Wednesday featured a keynote from Rutgers Professor and teacher-librarian extraordinaire, Joyce Valenza. Her talk was titled “Curation as Leadership.” She explained that she believed that “Curation is the new search,” as it allowed society to  “leverage the knowledge of experts who have been working with a topic,” rather than leaving information searches to the open waters of Google. She recommended searching a curation site like to find the most up to date curations on a given topic.

She also spoke of the power of making students curators, particularly in U.S. history classes where the textbooks tend to stop at the Clinton Administration. Students can make dynamic, multimedia texts that are far more relevant and engaging to their current and future peers than the books from publishing companies. Textbooks started in one year can be revised and remixed in the future. From this experience, students will have the tools they need to start curating and become  their own “experts in a niche area.”

One other new concept for me was Valenza’s idea of the app palette, a take off on app smashing where two ore more apps are combined to serve a larger purpose. App smashing or “paletting” involves not only process of curating useful apps, but also playing with them enough to know their limitations and affordances. In doing so, one can learn to blend apps, much like a painter blends colors on a palette. She liked to use the #whatsonyourpalettee, but joked that it sounded like a credit card slogan! For more on this ideas visit this post by Joyce.

Tuesday and Wednesday Cool Tools:

What kind of person would I be if I didn’t share the Cool Tools from our Tuesday and Wednesday sessions?  Add them to your “pallet” as you see fit!

TeamPut:  a collaborative space using digital sticky notes. Pictures, videos, and PDFs can be added for reference.

FlipGrid: Pose a question and collect short video responses from a group. (Monthly fee)

PoppLet: A mind mapping tool that allows multiple users to add text, images, videos and even drawings

Blendspace: A curation tool that allows teachers to collect resources from the web or personal collections. Teachers can also embed multiple choice quizzes within the curations.

Graphite: A website that curates applications for teachers and categorizes them based on functionality and user reviews.

Vialogues: A collaborative video annotator that allows students to critique videos, give peers feedback on products and hold a text-based discussion with time-stamped comments on the video

Mixed Ink: Digital writing tool that allows for the facilitation of writing collaboratively, allowing students to remix each others work. This tool is one means to make writing social.

Explain Everything: A smashed app if ever there was one. Combines a digital whiteboard app, with screencasting and screen annotating along with video recording capabilities. Costs $2.99.

One final post will be coming later this week as I recap some of the highlights of the last two days, cool tools and the design studio projects.