My Favorite Photo Tools

On this New Year’s Eve, I thought I would share some of my favorite photo tools. The reason? I have photos on my mind today because tomorrow I start a yearlong photo-a-day challenge!

And now, on to the tools…The first three are not only free and easy, but they are also quick, for you can use them with or without creating an account.

My go-to online photo editor is It is fast and has many features for making photos beautiful. Some of my favorite effects are watercolor, oil painting, impressionist painting, underpainting and cartoonizer. Here are some samples…

Impressionism Effect
Using the Cartoonizer Effect Watercolor Effect Mosaic Maker

Mosaic making has become a favorite for me. When I want to show a linear progression between photos, I make a one row mosaic. I wrote a blog post about how to create a mosaic from a Flickr set–easy! Here are some of the different mosaics I’ve made this year.

This is my favorite for making photo collages and a surprise winner for making text posters. What a cool site! I’ve included some of both kinds of collages I’ve made.

The most important tool I’ve discovered this past year is Flickr. I have been using Flickr Creative Commons pictures and teaching my students to properly use them and cite them. Thanks to Sue Waters at Edublogs for teaching me the importance of CC images and making it understandable with this post about enhancing posts with images from Edublogs Teacher Challenge.

We are getting much mileage out of Flickr now, both as consumers and now producers. We used it so much that I now have two pro accounts on Flickr. One is for my own personal photos, and the second is for my students to upload their photos. Here is a post that Shiann wrote about how we have become contributors.

More Photography in 2012

Last year revolutionized photo taking for me! I used to lose my camera or carry it in my purse with a dead battery. On the rare occasion that I needed it, it would not be available and I wouldn’t have known how to work even the simplest point-and-shoot features.  Now, I love to look for possible images, I have read the manuals that came with my cameras, and I rarely leave home without a camera with a charged up battery!

I will look forward to seeing what 2012 brings for me in new photography tools and skills as I take on the challenge of a photo a day.

What are your favorite photo tools to use?

Do you want to consider a photo a day in 2012 too?

How about joining a small group of teachers who will be encouraging each other in the challenge? We are the #T365Project group on Flicker. You are welcome to join!

Top Three Posts of 2011

During 2011 I joined the online conversation. Even though I had blogged for a year before, this is the year I enjoyed meeting new people through blogging, Twitter, and Flickr. As a result I have become a better educator, writer, photographer, and person. Thanks to all my new online friends!

The top three most-viewed posts of 2011 according to my Edublogs stats include these. What I love most about these posts are the comments–great illustrations of the conversation I’ve joined.

The 2011 Edublog Awards – My nominations post.

Twitter Non-Guidebook – My mistakes and learnings as a new tweeter.

Genius Hour – A lifelong way to learn.

The Top Three Most-Viewed Blog Post Linky Party is hosted by Fern Smith at her Classroom Ideas blog.

Controlling Students

Last fall I went to ITEC11 in Des Moines. I was challenged by educational reformers like Gary Stager and Steve Hargadon.

I also enjoyed perusing the exhibits. One of the many sellers was LanSchool Classroom Management Software. I was mildly interested because I do want to have good classroom management and I want to host a safe digital environment in my classroom.

However, at the same time I was repulsed. I had just been listening to radical and exciting educators telling that we can be lifelong learners together with our students. We can give them ownership of their learning. They can be creators and contributors. When I saw LanSchool demonstrated, I couldn’t help but think this was a serious disconnect. Many of us teachers were excited to take to heart the exciting innovations we heard at the keynote address. However, we then walked into the very next room and were able to undo everything Stager and Hargadon told us if we bought the right management software to “control” our students.

I realized then that not all schools embracing 1 to 1 technology for their students are also embracing the type of learning of which Stager and Hargadon spoke.

When I came back to my school I did not tell anyone about the software. In fact, by this morning, I had forgotten all about the LanSchool Classroom Management Software, but today I received an email that reminded me of the software I had rejected.

Here is part of the email that came:

Want a tool that grabs your student’s attention? Choose the one that some students fear but every teacher loves.

LanSchool Classroom Management Software lets you run your computer-assisted classroom like a pro. Blank computer screens. Show your computer to the class. Drop kids off the Internet. Get their attention like never before.

OK, so I read their email and it reminded me of my polarized thoughts. Right before the email, I had had my first class. Students had come in with their laptops. They, like me, are tempted to multi-task. They like to get logged in right away, and I try not to tell them too often to close their computers. Sometimes I do–for prayer, when I’m giving directions, when someone is sharing, etc.

Would I want to be able to blank out their screens? Do I want to nip in the bud any hint of online chatting (note passing)? Do I want to make sure they make no digital mistakes in my classroom?

Or do I want my class to be a place where they can make some mistakes? If not in my classroom, where? Do I want to inspire them to be geniuses–creating and producing? “We don’t have time for chatting now, unless you are talking about the work you are doing. We need to contribute and share our genius. We are changing the world!” I’m heard to say.

We have to leave some room for them to learn good digital citizenship by making occasional mistakes. It’s a bit messy in my room these days.

Yes, it may be handy to blank a screen once in awhile, but if I always do it for them, would they even know they need to learn to blank their own screens sometimes? Do I want their learning under my control? (I shudder to consider what any of us would think if a speaker blanked our computer screen so we would “pay attention” in a class, conference, or PD meeting.)

I work hard to make my classroom student-centered, why would I want to take control of their computers? I want them to take control of their own computers and their own learning!

And so, after reading the email and even venturing a look at their three-minute video, I find myself once again dismissing the idea of LanSchool software, as I did in October.

What do you think? Does your 1 to 1 school use a computer management software?

If not, do you think you’d like one?

I hope you’ll share your experiences with or without it.

My guess is that One Laptop per Child schools don't need management software.

Images Haiti Classroom and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from One Laptop per Child, shared with CC Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Ahh, Friday!! Anyone!

This week in science we are building beams. It’s a structural engineering competition we do at Technology Students Association. I asked the seventh graders to write three people in their class whom they would like to work with. One student wrote, “anyone.”

Guess who a majority of the students had on their shortlist? Yes, the same student who wrote anyone! What a gem!

Flipped Thinking

Most people read FLOP in the image above. What do YOU see?

Today I read this post, “Unleashing Your Inner Steve Jobs, Part 2,” by Moses Ma about thinking like Steve Jobs.

I liked the article, so I worked backwards and read Part 1 too. And then the introduction. I recommend them all. (He also will share the whole book manuscript with you if you ask him.)

What I take away from Ma’s posts is that we all have some capacity for “genius,” a capacity for living life as an innovator. An early origin of the word genius is “generative power.” We all have capacity, but perhaps it’s lurking inside needing to be unleashed. In Part 2, he gives provocative hints on how to unlock your mind.

I’ll look forward to reading the future tips as he publishes them on his Psychology Today blog, The Tao of Innovation.

And a bonus that makes me want to read Moses Ma even more: I left a comment this morning, and this afternoon I received this warm and encouraging comment back.