Entries Tagged 'Wilkes Posts' ↓

My Digital Portfolio


This portfolio is a work in progress. In this post, I bring together various projects and tools that reflect the kind of classroom I try to create and the kind of learner I am.

About Me

I teach history to 9th and 10th grade students in Philadelphia at the Girard Academic Music Program. I am also enrolled in the graduate Instructional Media program at Wilkes University.

Student Projects

I feel as though it’s better to look at what my students do than what I do.

Voicethread on Slave Resistance

The goal of the activity was to have the students work with primary sources, analyze the many ways slaves resisted their enslavement and to gain practice with effective peer review. I thought that Voicethread was an appropriate tool to use to accomplish these goals. Here is one example:

Jim Crow Wiki Project

This project was kind of like a digital jigsaw: teams of three students were responsible for researching various people, events and organizations from the Jim Crow Era, creating wiki pages to showcase their learning and visiting the many pages to do peer reviews and answer questions. We also had a “dinner party” and the students came dressed in costume and “mingled” to learn about who they all researched. You can see all of their work here.

 The Double Victory Campaign

The Double Victory Campaign

My Work

I sometimes start a new unit with a multimedia tool called Vuvox. Vuvox allows you to create interactive collages by embedding images, documents, text, links, video and audio files. Below is one example and you can see the others that I created here.

Digital Storytelling for Wilkes University

I made this personal introduction for a Digital Storytelling class I took:

Find more videos like this on Hennessy History

This video, entitled From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, was the final project for that same class. I combined original footage of my students with photos and clips from Discovery Education. I was able to use it later in the year to introduce the Jim Crow era:

Find more videos like this on Hennessy History

My Ustream Channel – has just one broadcast on it at the moment. In it, I share excerpts from students writing about what they believe in and what they want to be known for.

My Networks

Diigo – feel free to browse my collections
Ning – join my group if you’d like to continue the conversation
Twitter – @maggols – send me a tweet or see who I follow



EDIM 514 Self-Evaluation

I decided to evaluate this blog. It has been an ongoing aspect of my studies at Wilkes since the second course I took, and as such, it both references and represents the many different ideas and tools I have been experimenting with for the past year. I used this rubric for the evaluation and gave myself a 22/25.

The rubric is fairly comprehensive and assesses Critical Reading, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Quality of Entries and Community of Practice. I felt that I did well for the Creative Thinking and Quality of Entries and have room for improvement with the other three categories. I am especially interested in improving the “Community” aspect of my blogging because the spirit of participation and reciprocity is really the heart of the educational blogging world.

I found this to be one of the more useful tasks we’ve had to do. Self-reflection is so important and instructive; I really do need to find the time to make it a more regular practice.  Even more powerful than the insights gained from this reflection, I found the discipline of pouring over rubrics and analyzing categories – and the gradations within those categories – to be extraordinarily helpful. It raised the all-important questions: What do we assess and why? What are we teaching? How do we really measure learning? When students are given the regular practice of self-evaluating, these evaluations can help teachers assess how well we are doing. Good rubrics can be excellent road maps.

EDIM 514 Cell Phone Interview

The project I found to write about was the brainchild of another Philly-based teacher named Diana Laufenberg. Last year was her first year working for the Philadelphia School District and she didn’t realize that students don’t attend school on Election Day. Since her students had been avidly following the 2008 Presidential Election, she wanted them to be able to document it. Her assignment was for the students to go to various polling places and rallies throughput the city and to use their cell phones to interview people and capture the day. She actually collaborated with another school in Texas, and the students from the two schools compared the election process in both Pennsylvania and Texas. They created a wiki in order to do this and to share their work. The students uploaded the videos, photos and podcasts they created. They also blogged about the experience.  It seemed like a fantastic way to get students involved on so many levels. This is how she described the project on the wiki:

SLA students ventured out into their communities and local polling places in Philly to document the urban voting picture, and publish the story by midnight on November 4th.  This was not an exercise in polished digital video, this was about on the street reporting.”

Diana has agreed to an interview and I am waiting for her email responses but I seriously doubt that there were any administrative or parental concerns about this particular use of cell phones. For one thing, she works at a magnet school called the Science Leadership Academy. It is a new school in the district and its curriculum is entirely based on project-based, constructivist learning. They have a 1:1 student – laptop ratio and I don’t think they ever use text books. Because of the distinct nature of their program, integrating technology is expected. The students were also off campus while they video and voice-recorded the day. Here’s the link to the project and the students’ great work. I’ll update this post when I hear back from the teacher.

EDIM 514 Cell Phone Digital Story

Well, that was an interesting experience. I’m intrigued about the possibilities of incorporating cell phones into instructional activities but I can’t say I’m sold on the idea of creating digital stories with phones that can only make calls. In order to make it the least bit interesting, I would have had to use several other tools, and while I realize it would have been okay to do that, that wasn’t really keeping with the point and the purpose of the assignment. For my money – (and with the phone I currently have) – it would have been a better exercise to use the phone in class – sending messages to students, having students text responses, etc.

I used drop.io to create my story. Drop.io is an online storage center that also offers collaboration tools. In addition to being able to upload files, you can also send voice messages. I had a song playing in the background and tried to adjust the volume so that the music played louder when I wasn’t talking. It didn’t really work. The audio is very faint even though I had the volume raised on both my phone and on the laptop that played the music. I re-recorded it three times and still couldn’t get better audio. If I wasn’t paying .25 a minute with my pay-as-you-go phone, I would have kept trying. It’s a great tool but I’m not sure I can recommend it for podcasting.

In any case, here’s the story:

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

EDIM 514 Broadcasting

I conducted my first live broadcast last night and it was one of the more humbling experiences of my life.  And although the experience itself wasn’t all that positive – I was nervous, rushed and a bit intimidated – webcasting is definitely something I want to learn more about. I’m especially interested in connecting classrooms to the “real” world through virtual meetings, collaborations and experts’ visits

I had spent so much time checking out the online options that I barely had enough time to pull together what I would actually present. I chose to broadcast with Ustream but Lifestream is an application I want to explore in more depth.

For my broadcast, I chose to read excerpts from a writing assignment I gave during the first week of school. The prompts for the assignment were for the students to write about what they believed in, what they wanted to be known for, what they would like to change, etc. My goal for their writing was to get them thinking about their place in the world and also about setting goals. The reason I chose to share their writing during a live broadcast was because it struck me, as I read their essays, how little we hear of teenage voices and how we sometimes forget that our “students” are real people with strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams and opinions just like most adults. I was moved to share their voices  because their voices moved and inspired me to keep what’s truly important about what we do at the forefront of our frenzied days.  Here is the link for my site on uStream and or you can click to see it below:

Streaming Video by Ustream.TV

Adding Social Networking to Lessons

I often use variations on a jigsaw strategy in my history classes.  This strategy allows us to explore more topics in greater detail and provides an opportunity for students to collaborate when they share information. In my African American history class, we start the course by studying Africa. We have just completed a unit on geography and next week, we will look at cultural traditions and expressions.

I have tweaked this lesson to include the Web 2.0 site called Nota. After students have done individual research, they will collaborate to design a Notabook that showcases their learning and teaches their classmates about their particular African region. Notabooks are kind of like a cross between a webpage and a presentation. You can include graphics, text, hyperlinks, page links, and video files. They also offer a tool bar that allows users to directly access and embed content from Flickr, Wikipedia, Google Maps and Youtube. Alternatively, users can upload files from their computers.

Teams of three students will study one of the eight regions profiled on the PBS Africa website. This site is the web-companion to the television series PBS produced and aired a few years back. It is a rich resource, offering tons of information that is presented in varied ways. Maps, audio files, photostories, interactive quizzes and outside links are just some of its many features. My students are already familiar with this site as we used in during our African geography unit.

Each team member will be responsible for a particular element (or elements) of the culture from the assigned region.  Specifically, students will learn about the history, music, religious and cultural traditions of the people from various parts of Africa. Within the Nota application, students can simultaneously work on the same document, leave comments for each other on the pages and they can embed a message board to coordinate their work.

The goal for this project is for students to understand the breathe of cultural expression within the continent of Africa, to see the commonalities between diverse people and to further develop both their collaboration skills and their technical prowess with digital tools. Specific objectives include research and original writing about African cultures, effective teamwork and collaboration skills, mastery of this particular Web 2.0 application and setting up a logical and effective digital workflow.

After introducing the project, I will walk the students through the Nota website and will also discuss the “Best Practices” I suggested they use to streamline their workflow. After much deliberation, I have decided to set up student accounts myself so we don’t have to take class time. This also allows me to initially create all of the Notabooks so that I am the primary “editor.” Although you can add as many editors to a Notabook as you like, only the original creator can delete comments that are added. I want to be able to monitor their communications with each other and also track contributions. I used a great tip I found on this website to create “dummy” student gmail accounts. Even though Nota doesn’t ask for anything other than an email address to register, I thought this was the best way to go.

The students will be assessed with a rubric that includes categories for both content and process. They will also be responsible for peer and self-review as well as information from their classmates’ Notabooks. You can download the assignment sheet here.  I feel that I am taking somewhat of a risk with this tool because not all of the features work all the time but I decided to try it anyway. Troubleshooting with grace and innovation is a great skill to learn and I plan on telling the students that I’ve never used Nota with a class before and that we should brace ourselves for some bumps.

Evaluating Websites – EDIM 514 (u03a1)



Empressr is a web-based presentation tool that allows users to create “better” presentations.  You can embed video and audio, add video-like transitions between slides, set the presentation to run automatically and directly record video or audio from your computer to the presentation. These and other cool features set Empressr apart from a more traditional tool like PowerPoint.  Store and share your presentation on their site, send the url, download or embed to your own blog or website. The problem I found with this website was that I could not get the record video or audio tools to work. I still don’t know whether this was a bug with the site or a problem with my system. It is a free program but it does require an email address for registration. There is a small gallery on the front page but I would still recommend this for older students. I tried to find inappropriate material and never did.
Rating: 3 or 4 out of 5. Help Forums could be better and the audio/video recording option is sometimes wonky.



I really like Phixr – an online image editing tool. It’s free, it’s web-based and it doesn’t require users to register. Registration-free users can edit and work on images for up to three hours. After that time, the images are deleted so this is s good tool for quick fixes within a classroom setting. Users can edit images, make quick fixes, add effects. Images can be saved in several different formats, saved to online photo-sharing sites or emailed to specified people.  With registration, you can create usergroups and use the email feature. Since it’s not a photo-sharing or storage site, there is no gallery to browse. I highly recommend this tool for classroom use. It’s certainly not robust like Photoshop but neither is it difficult to use.
Rating: 4 out of 5.



Nota calls itself an online “notebook” but that is much too humble of a description in my opinion.  Within Nota’s blank canvas pages, you can create original content, embed audio, video, weblinks, images, and widgets  – just to name a few.  Students can collaborate in real-time and every entry is “stamped” with the name and date of the person who added the content. Nota offers direct feed from sites like Flickr, Wikipedia, Google Maps and Youtube. If any of these sites are blocked, the content is not available. Editors can name contributors and “notebooks” can be kept private.  Nota is free web-based tool and full names and email addresses are required for registration.
Rating: 4 out of 5. Since this tool has such great potential for education, they should include tutorials and/or generally beef-up the “how-to” section.



Animoto is an easy to use video creator. Users simply upload images, pick a sound track – (from their music library) and the wizards behind the curtain at Animoto turn them into a “music-video” style video. Users can add text, select which photos to highlight more prominently, and they recently made it possible to upload videos in addition to still images. It’s a great solution to digital storytelling for educators who don’t have the time to teach video-editing or film-making because the emphasis is on the story rather than the production. Educator accounts are available and students can use a school code to login without needing to register.
Rating: 4 out of 5.


Wikispaces is a free wiki creation tool. Teachers can use it to create online class pages and students can use it to develop collaborative projects.  Sites can be made private or public and all work contributions can be tracked. It is user-friendly, comes with ample help resources and teachers can set-up pages for students so that they don’t have to supply email addresses.
Rating: 5/ 5.

Another very interesting site I found is called KidsVid. It’s part of the suite of educational resources put together by the good folks from 4teachers. It’s got a great tools for digital storytelling, including an online advanced storyboarding sheet that prompts users to put in information for the setting, lighting, camera angles, actors, etc. This is an interactive form that can be printed. The only problem is that there aren’t any “help” forums or tutorials. I worked with it for over an hour and never figured out how to use it. I emailed them to ask if there was an available user-guide that and asked that they make it more user-friendly for students since that is their intended audience. I haven’t heard back but will post their response when I do.

Human Filters – I am part of a Ning group for secondary history teachers, a beginners Classroom 2.0 group and I follow Vicki Davis and Kathy Schrock – two 21st Century dynamo educators – on Twitter. All of these connections provide me with great tips, ideas and resources.  The more I delve into these waters, the more I can appreciate the phrase used in the introduction to these week’s activities: “pay it forward.” I am continually amazed and inspired by the generosity of educators who post and share their best practices and resources. When I first started using Diigo, I used it primarily as a bookmarking tool. Now, I see the power of its annotation and tagging tools. I believe that these tools can also be considered “human filters” because they put like-minded people together.

CC License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

I chose an attribution, share alike, non-commercial license because I believe that ideas inspire ideas and as the videos we viewed this week suggest, a vibrant culture depends on this kind of open reciprocity. I would probably encourage my students to use a similar license for the same reasons. I do wonder about protecting their identities with the “attribution” feature, however. I feel fairly certain that my students would be willing to share their work; they know how much they have benefited from finding and using resources in their own endeavors.

EDIM 514 Media Library

This was a challenging exercise. While it’s a breeze to find images, videos, audio and other resources by searching through Creative Commons – there’s even the option to search only CC artifacts within Google – it was more difficult to find entire websites devoted to CC resources. I did manage to find a few terrific sites that educators – especially secondary history teachers – should find useful. You can see my diigo list here.

Digital History is a lifeline for those who teach US History. It offers countless primary source documents, images and links to other sites with similar resources. Bookmark this site and you get hundreds of other web resources at your fingertips. You have to dig some for the public domain or CC artifacts – but they are there along with lots of other valuable tools.

The Digital Vault is my favorite new find. It is a project of the National Archives and it has assembled historical images and videos according to theme. Search results are delivered in a snazzy flash interface and each image comes with links for additional information. They also offer built-in tools to create movies, posters and a fabulous activity called “Pathways.” Pathways allows you to create digital clues: assembly the images you want and have students predict their association. I’m really looking forward to using this!

ccMixter is a great site to find, sample, mash, remix or listen to mix – and it’s got the CC licensing built right in.

Ad*Acess is a collection of historical advertisements complied by Duke University. From their website: “An image database of over 7,000 U.S. and Canadian advertisements covering five product categories – Beauty and Hygiene, Radio, Television, Transportation, and World War II propaganda – dated between 1911 and 1955.” Many – but not all – of the images are part of the public domain. They have the Fair Use policy explicitly stated on the site.

American Rhetoric hosts hundreds of historical and political speeches. Some are audio only and others are film. You have to search for files that they don’t own the copyright to but there are many resources here that are within the public domain.

Pre-Assessment Voicethread

I decided to do a visual KWL as a pre-assessment for a unit on Ancient Egypt. Using Voicethread, I uploaded a blank outline map of Egypt and ask the students to annotate it with whatever they know about Egypt – ancient and modern. Since I don’t often use traditional tests, I didn’t want to start our study with one. Also, Voicethread is fun and gives all students a chance to comment – visually or verbally. In addition, it makes my job easier to have all the annotations in one place at the same time, and we can refer back to this original map after we complete our studies.