Experimenting with Screenr

So I had some students get lost on the way to the computer lab when I taught my lecture on using Google Sites to build Online Writing Portfolios. After my first year of teaching with the bus and my bike as my green forms of transportation, I vowed to never again use physical portfolios--80 students worth of binders is far too much for rush-hour on the bus. This way, both myself and my students could save paper/ink and I could save my sore shoulder muscles. That was when I turned to Google Sites so students could submit online (weightless) portfolios.

 Never again.

This year, I decided to experiment with my new introduction to Screenr by doing a shorter version of my  Online Writing Portfolio How-To lecture. If you might be interested in going from paper to online portfolios
(highly recommended!), then feel free to link to my tutorial videos. The template I designed in the Public gallery is also public as well if you want a more plug-and-play approach to incorporating student programming into your curriculum.

Part One: Getting Starting with Google Sites
Part Two: Selecting a Template
Part Three: Selecting a Design Template & Privacy Settings
Part Four: Editing Tools

If you've tried online portfolios with this or some other application, please feel free to post your experiences in the comments. What worked? What didn't? What did students find confusing about the need for online writing portfolios?

Finally Tweeting–I Fail as a Millenial

So while most of my friends (except the ludites) have been on Twitter for ages, I am today starting my Twitter account. Here we go...

In setting up my account, I start by making an account and naming it (ZombieGrammar). I am prompted to follow 5 Twitter feeds before I can continue.

My Five:
  • Lisa Lampanelli
  • David Lynch
  • Jhonen Vasquez
  • Zombie Research Society
  • BitchMedia

Yay, now I get to Tweet! Oh wait, I need five more? Okay...

Five More:
  • Daniel Tosh
  • Zach Galifinakis
  • Steven Colbert
  • Maya Angelou
  • bell hooks

Okay, now I can start Tweeting. Gads, now I have to add Contacts? This is a lot of work for something that I will be writing 160 character Tweets for... Oh good, there is no minimum number for contacts. My list of contacts is sadly quite short.

If you want to follow my adventures in grammar Tweeting, my account can be accessed as @ZombieGrammar.

Review for ScreenR

This week I will be reviewing a technology application called Screenr for the purposes of giving feedback to students' writing online.

I recorded my initial review using the screencapture/audio recording. You can listen to me verbally fumble with this technology here.

Overall Review:

Mac and PC
Smartphone compatible

Not that I could tell--I recorded the capture with 4 bars of wireless Internet access. I would not even try this kind of recording in my office, where I usually have only 1-2 bars.

Video Quality?
While the preview is not in HD, the final published versions of casts are automatically formatted into HD.

Length of Recording?
Sorry ScreenR, but 5 minutes just isn't enough for me. Please put out an expanded version!

Methods of Sharing?
  • "Like" through Facebook
  • Tweet through Twitter
  • Embed HTML code
  • URL Address
  • Download as an .mp4 file
  • Publish to YouTube

My Preference for Sharing?
I would probably prefer to post these to a teacher channel on YouTube, but for me, that brings up questions of student privacy--even though it isn't sharing a grade. I'm thinking about directly emailing links to students instead.

So all in all, I am still considering this application, but I want to do more research before I marry it.

Update on Fooducate App

Although yesterday I couldn't get this app to  open, today it works fine. Once the app opened, I went straight to my kitchen and picked up a box of green tea for the cup I was preparing.


Available on Android
Android Market Rating: 4.5 Stars
Created: February 17, 2012 by Fooducate, LTD.
Memory: 3.71 MB
Price: FREE
Updates from Previous Version:
  • Improved alternatives & search algorithms
  • Bug fixes
What It's Supposed to Do--Market Description: "Scan and choose healthy groceries."

Criticisms from the Comments Forum: error messages, needs a bigger product database, cryptic information, can be slow, phone freezes, no grocery list function, snide editorials, trouble scanning codes with (HTC Evo, HTC G2, Sprint Epic, Galaxy Nexus Gsm), no option to save things you may want to buy in the future

My Updated Review: No scan--not in the database. The app then requested that I take 3 pictures, send data...by which I had already moved on the finding something that would be in the database. I settled on a plastic container of Spicy Low-Sodium V8 from my fridge and successfully scanned the label.

Here's where things get weird. The product comes up with a picture of the same produce I scanned, a letter grade based on the app's algorithm for healthiness. This is followed by a listing of the calories/servicing and a small green heart with "93% like"--though where this 93% comes from is unclear from here. When I scrolled to the right tab, Alternatives, a ribbon popped up at the bottom with "5 Better Options." Now was the moment to check the scope of rhetorical reasoning of this app--replacements included orange juice, two entries for different types of canned V8, bottled water, and tap water. Okay, so the algorithm doesn't seem very complex. The definitions it uses aren't very transparent. I can't yet tell if the app gets smarter as it learns what I like, but time will tell. I did learn that canned V8 has 30 fewer calories per serving than the plastic bottle, so I guess I will switch back to canned and now have guilt over the increase in shipping weight, and therefore its carbon footprint. Sigh--just can't win.

One more reason for getting some tomatoes started in a bucket garden eventually...

Below this menu ribbon is a second ribon with a list of icons and phrases. My first scan returned:
For Dieters: Points value is 1
Yippee - No added sweeteners!
Naturally high in Vitamin A
More to 100% juice than meets the eye?
Natural Flavors Added. Learn why
Learn about Citric Acid, found here
Learn about juice concentrate

In the Natural Flavors section, I learned that these are often animal products and should be avoided by vegetarians and vegans. Seems like the kind of app where, once I have read a few articles, then the labels for each will act as a quicker shorthand for the longer treatments of each nutritional factor.

My only criticism (so far) is that the app gives good nutritional information about some products, its database is still being developed and it only supports consumer knowledge of the food itself and not the food's production process. The developers might point out that this is not the primary purpose of the app, but why should an app keep those two streams of knowledge separated when combining them would increase the convenience of shopping both healthily and ethically.

We already have free trade stickers for products--can't we adapt that concept to an app like Fooducate? It seems to me that more people are expressing a desire to eat in a way that is both healthy and ethical. I'm not saying we give up cheesecake forever, but that we and our students work together to figure out what food means to each of our communities, and giving students a non-threatening way to access cross-cultural contact zones.

After all, when my students in the past have chosen to write about a food controversy, like the GMO debates about Hawaiian kalo/taro, or factory farms, or even just after they have watched a documentary like "Food.Inc," they would all have probably used Fooducate if it included information about the methods of production, laborer payscales, livestock conditions, etc. of the actual product in front of us.

I tend to be a bit Derridean at times and this is one--if every story has it's trace, the faint ghost of its influence and interconnectivity with other stories, then this technology could be a new form of storytelling/testifying--one that marks an Event (in Badiou's sense) for students' in terms of a change of consciousness and a devotion to that Event (app).


Since I have a B.S. in Secondary Educational Studies, I am quite familiar with the traditional Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning.
I remember this...
However, this week's materials introduced me to a revisioning of this pyramid that I find much more intuitively appealing.
I want to go to there.
One lesson I took away from the materials was the idea of user-created content and the kinds of environments where this creation is productive for student writers. Every semester, it seems that I encounter the same attitude of writing to the void rather than writing to actual people, yet I know how savvy they can be about rhetorical strategizing when they use it in their lives and social networks like Facebook.
So in the interests of promoting student risk-taking for user-generated content creation, I made a Facebook page specifically for teaching to give my students a place to congregate informally. I also have critical thinking themes with assigned and optional reading lists, and am going to encourage students to also find their own examples each week to post on this page.
Even though I am a fairly young college teacher, students still seem intimidated by me until I've had time to show them that I am not that intimidating. However, I feel this sort of interaction was lacking in my last online class and I want to improve my relations with students in a way that makes them comfortable to engage with the risks of creation in writing.
I am also giving serious consideration to including some form of service-learning element--particularly for online courses where intrinsic engagement is so infrequent. My hope is that including a real-world contact point for applying the lessons from class with increase student motivation, not just to write, but to write for a real-world audience.
Tenia un trabajo!