Tuesday, December 13, 2011

EasyBib Classroom 2.0

I HATE doing bibliographies, I find them time consuming and an all together pain--what type does the professor want, how many sources are required, etc. I have used KnightCite for years to do my bibliographies, but yet I wonder why I don't understand the process. EasyBib is a step in the right direction for helping to stop this problem. The program does most of the work for you, but the creators intended for it to be: accurate, quick, and to learn the process of making a bibliography.

Throughout the discussion the creators described the features, and they go beyond making a bibliography. The program has many useful writing tools that would have been a lot more helpful a week before I graduated from high school rather than a week before I graduated from college!!! There are outline tips, note taking tips, brainstorming ideas, the list goes on and on.

This is going to really impact the way we look at bibliographies. Does anyone really need an APA guidebook like I have in my bookshelf? Probably not, (small disclaimer: the free aspect of EasyBib includes MLA) things like EasyBib and KnightCite are going to basically eliminate the need for those guidebooks. The benefit is that we are not eliminating the GUIDE out of guidebooks, just books. The sites are still teaching the importance of citing materials and finding credible sources, but there will be no 300 page book to thumb through to find an answer.

Bibliographies are important in every class in secondary education, but are primarily taught in English classes. It is my job as a social studies teacher to carry what the English teacher is instructing over to my classroom. I will incorporate this into my own classroom because I am so clueless about bibliographies that I need the guidance that EasyBib offers. I also hope to use the resources provided regarding research as a guide for my students. What a great and FREE tool to use to prepare my students for their future!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Around the World Tour and Final Reflections

This quest was kind of challenging to me. I struggled to find 10 locations. Many places I assumed would have Second Life destinations did not, like the White House! I was surprised. Overall, after reflecting on my experience I am happy to say I am done. I am glad I experienced Second Life, but really it just overwhelmed me. I need more practice before I even think about incorporating it in my classroom. I hope that I can practice a little this summer, and maybe look into how other history teachers use it in their classroom.

Here is my Around the World Tour:

The Grand Canyon is a rock formation in Western United States. Explore the area and enjoy your time out in the good ol' West.

Dubai is a up and coming city in the United Arab Emirates. The culture is rich in this city, check out the gorgeous area.

Right in my backyard, and yet I've never been. Good thing we have Second Life, I was able to check out the famous President's faces on the rock.

The Taj Mahal is an iconic location that has many interesting discoveries along the way.

Walk the long stretch of the bridge, or you can conveniently teleport to different spots on the huge landmark.

A whole continent for this landmark? It's that good, explore the many aspects of Australia in one easy to navigate location.

Head on up to see Lady Liberty up close and personal. You'll never get a view of her like this.

Not exactly a landmark, but it is such an important aspect of our nation's history. Check out the culturally rich museum.

We'll always have Paris....and with Second Life you can visit Paris from the comfort of your own home (or in my case since my home internet cannot handle Second Life the comfort of the labs at school).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Touring Historical Landmarks

I just wrapped up another quest in the GameLab. I spent a lot of time on this quest because I thought it this Quest was probably the most beneficial when thinking about education and Second Life. I chose the historical note card because it interested me the most. I was excited to check out all of the locations and wanted to spend some quality time in each one to see it from my student's prospective.

The first location was the WWI recreation site. There was a literacy twist to this place, a lot of transcripts, poems, etc. There was also a recreation of the trenches, which I got to experience first hand from my avatar's perspective. Of course, we will never be able to really experience what it was like in the trenches this was fairly accurate. There were planes flying over, and the noises made it really life-like. The literacy twist made this really applicable for today's education standards. NCLB focuses so much on literacy and math, I think it is really important to incorporate reading and literacy into my social studies class. This location gave me a few ideas on how to do so.

The Utah location reminded me so much of Oregon Trail!!! It's this generations Oregon Trail:) I didn't get too much into this location because there were a lot of rules and I wasn't sure if I was breaking one and didn't want to get kicked out!! I think if I had a little more background and/or could contact the creator this would be something I would use in my classroom. The students would have to get dressed in the clothes, get ready to live in a simulated world.

Obviously the US Holocaust Memorial Museum was really my favorite aspect of this trip. WWII and the Holocaust are two of my favorite topics in history--it really is a shame we don't get to devote an entire class to that time period in most high schools. That time period really shaped the rest of our history and the Holocaust has shown us what a genocide is, and we can relate it to many of the current genocides that have occurred in our recent history. Literacy was prevalent here too! After wandering around the museum and looking at the exhibits the goal is to be able to report what happened on Kristallnacht and how the Jewish people were feeling during that time. The note cards were really informative without being too wordy, most were a paragraph.

There were a few links that did not work or that I wasn't too excited about. Cherokee Island wasn't available, and I was bummed I thought this one would be really exciting. The Parthenon loaded, but I was on an island. I realize Greece is an island--but I've been to the Parthenon in person and it was marble and rock not grass:) The Great Wall of China was a little disappointing too, I don't know if I just wasn't into it at the time. I thought there were too much going on around me and SL was running very very slow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I've Always Wanted.......

I have found my favorite part of Second Life, getting to be whatever and whoever I want!!! I have always wanted to be the rocker chick with piercings and tattoos, the girl everyone is afraid of but secretly wants to be! In Second Life I can be that girl, Cinderella, wear a man's suit, ANYTHING.

I did a lot of experimenting back and forth with weight and height but left those aspects relatively the same as they were defaulted. Here is a before picture.
At first I tried to keep it kind of the same as before to be somewhat similar to myself. I then realized, why?! I don't want to be me, I want to be the me I actually want to be! I went for the rocker chick look. Second Life labeled it "gamer girl, " although I feel like the fishnets make her a non gamer but whatever! I experimented with switching my hair color but could not figure it out! I moved the bar back and forth and saw little change--I must have been doing something wrong. After working on that for a good twenty minutes I decided to just pack it in and open it up to you all asking for help!

Here is the after.

So for all of you Second Life pros--if you have any suggestions as to why my hair color wouldn't change I'd be happy to take some suggestions.

Entering the Lion's Den

Quest Three led me to the Lionheart Orientation Island. This island went through the basic steps of Second Life, but also some of the menu options and details that are vital to surviving in the virtual world. This time around I worked on a computer on campus and that made a world of difference. The program ran faster, the screen was bigger, and it was just an over all better experience. I recommend this to anyone who is able to.
I really enjoyed the free gifts we were able to get. Free things are great! I also appreciated the instruction on how to change my clothes. It took a lot of instruction and a little help from a classmate--thanks Chase! I wanted to have a crazy outfit, but I settled with something pretty simple.

I also learned a lot about how the mouse works in Second Life. During class I was kind of confused about how we were supposed to sit down, touch things, etc. This provided a video-like instruction like we have had in the other quests but made me do the task right at that time. I had to grab the beach ball and set it on the table, I had to sit on the green ball and watch myself dance like a crazy person. I was confused why I was dancing around, I didn't read the entire instruction--that clarifed that one really quick.

I really enjoyed working on this quest. It was helpful to go through the two orientations, and it didn't seem as difficult as the previous two. Maybe that is because I am getting better?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Self Reflections

AHHHHHHHH! I kind of just want to scream and curse and yell and run around, that is how much Second Life frustrates me. It has been one thing after another, BUT I have figured out why I don't like it. 1) I am probably one of the most impatient people on this planet. SL runs beyond slow on my computer, my avatar lags and doesn't move in the right direction and then I get mad and click some more and then it freezes...the cycle never ends. 2) I am not good at it. Plain and simple, I am not good at running the arrows, not good at finding things, not good! :)

As it is 11:30 on Sunday after break, I realize now that this whole thing isn't going to come easy to me. Wish I could rewind and go back to last Sunday when I had an entire week to just relax--maybe I should have been practicing and playing on SL...hindsight is always better right? Well, now that I am playing around I have been improving. I don't know how much the videos helped as much as experimenting. I seriously struggle with the basic step of moving from point a to point b. I don't care that I have to admit this, that's the first step right?! It has been a very frustrating couple of hours though (yes this quest took hours, I'm slow). It took me 20 minutes to find the darn amphitheater, but when I did I ran around that place like it was nobodies business!
See here's the amphitheater! Can I video tape myself running around like a crazy person?

This quest got me to thinking about my personal methods of studying. We have established that I am not good at Second Life, but one of the reasons I am not good at it is because gaming doesn't really interest me. I was going through the motions and doing all of the required things, but not really GETTING into Second Life. I must admit, I do this with many of my classes. I will be student teaching next semester, my brain is LONG gone. So, this in turn got me to thinking about my own students. They could be super interested in the new video game that came out at midnight the night before, and here I am teaching them about Abraham Lincoln--how boring! Just like I am not interested in their fancy new game, they are not interested in my subject--now why would I be disappointed in them. It doesn't seem fair!

After watching some of the videos in the last module I realized that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. I can include gaming and history in one neat little package. The game might not be a quiz show about the Civil War, but it also doesn't have to be Angry Birds. I haven't quite thought about how I will use Second Life in my classes--I can only reflect for so long. BUT I have made a step in the right direction, I am thinking about how frustrated my students might be with me teaching them in boring ways just like I am frustrated with the "ease" of moving my avatar. A simple reflection, frustration, and anger can go a long way:)

I did manage to take some pictures to prove that I am figuring this all out:)

Iowa's Capital has got to be one of the prettiest capital buildings in our country. I saw it on Friday in person and was just amazed and being a future social studies teacher I had to take a picture of it in Second Life.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Second Life, First Impressions

Well, it has happened...I have been forced to join Second Life and play around for homework--what a chore! I must admit I was excited to start Second Life, but ultimately kind of nervous about it. I am not a gamer, and many of the things I have heard about Second Life are silly and "out there." Starting my experience in Second Life was a mixture of good and bad, but that is to be expected.

First of all, I do think that Second Life is fairly user friendly. I must admit that I struggled with using the controls and figuring out all the buttons--but I am still learning and it seems that Second Life is always changing so everyone is on the same page! In regards to our class's participation in Second Life, I think the major suggestion I would have would be for students to either meet in the classroom or in a general location if possible when starting this unit. The reason I struggled was because I got lost or left behind and then I couldn't find the class and got frustrated--etc. it was a never-ending cycle!! That might have been prevented if I would have had a little background on the program.

I did really enjoy both of the videos, they gave me a lot of background information and just made me a little more comfortable with the program. I think that when I use Second Life more I will be more comfortable--of course, that is like anything electronic so that is to be expected. I also think that it is really beneficial. In a school setting I might be a little hesitant to use it since it is so new that kids might get left behind. I think that it would be a great tool to use in a TAG room or even a Special Education class where all of the children are kind of on the same level. My hesitation comes from my experience, I consider myself an average type student and I got completely lost in the computer aspect of the game. My students might be ahead of the curve, but I am afraid that instead of focusing on the actual goal of the lesson. I hope that when I get into Second Life my mind will be changed--at this point in my experience I cannot see a lot of value for the "average" student and the "average" assignment.