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Ok, so I’m finally moving to my own domain (elenakostovska.com), and I’m taking the Red Marker with me. The website (which will host more than one blog, and will have a lot of info about me and my work) is still very much under construction but I’m getting there…
Those of you currently reading the Red Marker at wordpress, pls do visit the new home of the Red Marker and subscribe to it there.
And for those of you who have no idea what the Red Marker is/was: here’s a reverse chronological list of blog posts I wrote in the last few months and were hosted on my wordpress account.

9 Blue Feather Tweeters
Classrooms embrace Animoto
My Social Media System
2-in-1: Animoto.com & Macedonia
4 Educators talk about Edmodo
Of Family Crises and Offline Social Networking
Edmodo: More than just a ‘Twitter for Education’
My many online personalities
Twitter vs. Facebook: My (Primitive) View (around midnight)

One College’s Exercises in Taming Social Media (2)
One College’s Exercises in Taming Social Media (1)
My 2009 gift to myself: Elena’s Red Marker Stopping Point

If you like my entries, please do consider subscribing here. And watch the space – I have grandiose plans for it.

Thank you for reading!

Photo Credit: The Eggplant

This post is inspired by an amazing and noble idea I ran into on Liz Strauss’s blog. She was motivated by Lonnie Hodge’s post ‘Blue Feather Tweeters’. Lonnie thought “how about a list of the top 20-30 nicest people to meet and tweet on Twitter?” So this is a #followfriday with a human twist; it’s a list of people I follow on Twitter who genuinely enjoy a real two way conversation. Here they are in the chronological order in which they entered my twitterlife:

@Avinio – A first in ways more than one. My first Twitter follower and the first person to welcome me on Twitter. Also the first Facebook friend I’ve never meet offline. Avi shares great social media links, has a cat, and I hope to catch up with him IRL when I eventually visit Tel Aviv.

@michaelfieldcom – A friend from Sydney and a great conversational partner for comparing views on social media tools and how we use them. Michael and I have talked about the days when we used IRC, contrasted those days to the Twitter days and compared notes. We’ve also jointly wondered whether ignorance is bliss and whether Homer Simpson has it easy.

@lizstrauss – As I already said, Liz’s blog inspired me to write this post as it often inspires me to think in various directions (not all of those thoughts settle down on this blog, unfortunately). We first ‘met’ when I shared a quote by Body Shop’s Anita Roddick on Liz’s blog.

@MichaelCalienes – I started following this Presence Engineer after @chrisbrogan talked about Michael talking about their beer adventure. We’ve since talked about the relative infancy of social media and all the talk surrounding it, the need for meetings in actual offices, business cards, and the difference in weather conditions between Florida and Macedonia.

@usphere – The name is Dave and he’s into Eastern European wines. If he ever makes it to the region (as he’s planning to), I’ll be happy to tour the local wine bars with him. Dave genuinely welcomes you back to tweetland if you’ve been away for a longer period of time.

@Blagica – I first read about Blagica in the local Macedonian press (she’s a Chicago-based SM guru and a Macedonian by origin) and quickly looked her up on Twitter. I look forward to meeting her this coming summer (I hope she makes it all the way here!). I think we are both trying to build some bridges between the US and Macedonia. Maybe something will come out of it eventually. Either way, she’s a great person to talk to AND learn from.

@Rick__S – Rick and I swap local weather info on a relatively regular basis🙂. He’s a travel enthusiast who keeps the conversation going.

@ducttape – John asks smart questions, and then follows up on your answers so you don’t feel like you’re talking to a wall.

@RoyalAntsJosh – I recently challenged Josh to a competition called “whose feed reader will have more unread items if we let it sit untouched for a few days”. I lost. Or did I..?

—-

Liz introduced 50 BF Tweeters but I’ll settle for these 9 for the time being. There are plenty more out there that I love talking to but these 9 just jumped out of my ‘follow list’ as the ‘bluest’.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to getting to know your own Blue Feather Tweeters!

Photo Credit: awrose

animotoed

I discovered Animoto about a month back and was impressed by how little video editing knowledge it requires on the part of the user and how stunning the produced videos looked. I signed up for the regular free version (which lets me create short videos like this one here) and then realized that Animoto is also available in an education version (which gives free access to the full set of Animoto features) and naturally I wanted to know how educators are using it in the classroom. So here goes…

Michael L Walker, Secondary Technology Integrationist, District Media and Technology Services at Edina Public Schools, MN, tells me they used the regular version of Animoto for an interdisciplinary 7th project they already completed but will probably use the education version in the future. The project? “The students used Animoto as part of a project where they had to “pitch” a movie idea about a “Dynamic Person”. Students had to research the person and explain why that person should be the subject of a movie. Animoto was used to create a 30 sec. trailer for the movie. The teachers played the part of Movie Studio executives and chose the best presentations to move forward. Students seemed to enjoy it. Those that also included quotes from the famous person had a more effective video.” Michael says that PowerPoint and PhotoStory were previously used for projects but Animoto gave them the opportunity to “incorporate some Web 2.0 tools and reach a more authentic audience.” Michael also considers the anytime/anywhere access to Animoto a huge bonus. “With PhotoStory, it had to be done at school.”

Dianne Krause, an Instructional Technology Specialist in the Wissahickon School District, PA, does something a little bit different. Using the education version, she teaches teachers how to use it. “They primarily use it as a resource for the students to use for multimedia sites and presentations. Some use it in instruction, but it is mostly for the students to use as a different means of presenting.” In this respect, she says Animoto has somewhat replaced Power Point, iMovie, making posters etc. Dianne says the student reactions have been positive. “They are pleased with their final projects. It allows the students to express themselves in visual and auditory ways that haven’t been possibly before without the knowledge of video editing software. By taking care of all the transitions and animations, it allows students to put together really cool presentations in no time. And, they can focus on the selection of images and words to really tell a story or explore a concept.”

Heidi Van Riper, a Computer Resource Specialist at a Technical and Career School in Virginia Beach, VA, has just started using Animoto. She is also using the education version and right now the students at her school are creating movies to highlight their programs. She says: “the first class we tried it in was our TV Production class-11th grade. They used it to create a highlight show.” Heidi says Animoto hasn’t replaced any other tools, so it is more of an add-on in the classroom. “The students liked how easy it was to use, and they especially liked the way Animoto used the music and images to customize the show. They got the concept quickly. It is so versatile. I can see using it in every classroom, at every level. It is something the teachers can use and the students can use. It is an empowering tool that has very few limitations as far as implementation goes.”

Clay Reisler, another educator from Wisconsin and a prolific blogger (check out his Recess Duty blog chock full of educational websites) used Animoto with his 7th graders “to complete a United States History project. We gathered 10 digital documents from http://www.digitalvaults.org and used Animoto to produce a video.” Clay says Animoto replaced Windows Movie Maker in his classroom. “Movie Maker was a burden in the technical aspect of creating a movie. In using Animoto, the video could be manipulated in a certain way, but the very technical aspects were completed by Animoto.” He says the students were very eager to work with Animoto, especially when they found out they could download the videos to their iPods. “In fact, after one day of intro information, two students went to the site over the weekend and created family videos.” Clay says the biggest advantages of using Animoto are its excellent user interface, the digital nature of the medium, the editing options (e.g. The opportunity to remix the video if the one produced is not something a person likes) and the producing options offered (download to computer, email, place on iPod, share to YouTube, post/embed in online…).

Clay was generous enough to share the below video produced using Animoto. Enjoy it and please share your story about how you are using Animoto (be it professional, educational or personal).

Thank you for reading.

Chris Brogan recently followed John Jantsch’s lead and defined his social media system/routine. I’m nowhere near these guys in terms of where I stand in the social media world, but I think it’s a good idea for all of us to step back and look at how we’re spending our time.

So here I go (and I’m also trying to put a time-spent/day label on each activity):

Tools:

  • Firefox
  • Tweetdeck

Workflow:

About 10 times a day

  • Check Gmail (I know, this is my biggest vice!) respond as needed (50min/day)

4 times a day

  • Scan Google Reader, read whatever catches my attention, try to comment on interesting stuff I read (60min/day)
  • Start up Tweetdeck (when I have it on all the time I can easily get mesmerized), check stream, replies, DMs and searches (elenakostovska and other stuff that is of interest at the moment), share a link or two with the community (20min/day)

Twice Daily

  • Check into Facebook, ignore most invitations for this and that quiz, decline virtual flowers, write on a wall or two, scan through friends’ new photos (10 min/day)

Daily

  • Check into LinkedIn. Scan connections’ feed, maybe add a connection or two, scan questions and answer if I can contribute (10min/day)
  • Check blog (comments/stats). Respond to comments if necessary (10min/day)
  • Stare blankly into the screen as potential blog post topics swim in my head (10min/day)
  • Do SOME work on a blog post -sometimes a sentence, sometimes 10 paragraphs (10min/day)

Now, Chris Brogan also broke down the time he spends into 60% correspondence, 20% discovery and 20% execution. This, of course, makes sense for him, because he eats, breathes and lives social media. But the execution part got me thinking…I’m not that active in the execution scene right now (still on the lookout for a new challenge in my career) but what I do consider execution in this (unusual) stage of my life is 1) the creation of compelling content (on my blog) — this is something that keeps me from going crazy and helps me learn and share, and 2) networking (finding and conversing) with people that could help me find this new challenge I’m looking for or even define it as I am still not sure what shape or form it will have once it appears. (On a side note, I sometimes view these two things as completely different — I may blog about Edmodo in education on the same day I am trying to connect to someone who can help me find my way into a Marketing position for a local, say, telecommunications company). So with that in mind, my time spent on activities above (which comes up to a total of about 3hrs/day) breaks down like this:

  • Correspondence: 50%
  • Discovery: 40%
  • Execution 10%

Oh yes, the remaining 82% of my waking life which I spend on other stuff is a whole different system. Maybe some other time…

How about you? What does your social media system look like? Now that you’ve looked at your routine as a system, is there anything you want to change?


Photo Credit: Dazed81

I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post publishing a collection of Flickr users’ Creative Commons photos from Macedonia. This unusual (for me) patriotic urge has gotten even wilder in the last few days and culminated yesterday when the Macedonian national Handball team qualified in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
In parallel, I’ve been sort of looking into Animoto and evaluating some of its uses (will probably follow up with a full fledged blog post on it). So, to kill two birds with one stone: here’s my first Animoto movie themed Macedonia. Enjoy my producing skills!

Photos (all Flickr Creative Commons) by:

Panoramas, Darko Hristov, milachich, PetarS, kalamita, CharlesFred, Darko Hristov, fredericknoronha, markovskavesna, Darko Hristov, Darko Hristov, Mister F.

After my chat with Jeff O’Hara from Edmodo, and wanting to find out more about Edmodo and the way educators the world over use it in the classroom, I turned to Twitter (duh) and quickly got in touch with four teachers eager to answer my questions. Here’s what they have to say about certain things that were of special interest to me.


Student age: As young as 10!

Jason Crewe, a Multimedia and ELL Teacher at the Busan Foreign School in Korea, first started using Edmodo with his middle school Multimedia class (12, 13 years old) half-way through the year.  He says: “Recently my wife and I combined the Drama (14,15,16,17 years) with said Multimedia class to do a project where announcements are all done through Edmodo.”

Angie Dowling uses Edmodo to teach 8th grade science at a middle school in Morgantown, WV. Her students are 13-14 years old.

Jason Dilling – who blogs here – uses it with Year 6 in a UK school (10-11 years old) since October 2008.

Joseph Williams from Glendale, AZ  – who also blogs here –  has been using Edmodo with his 6th graders (11- 12yr olds).


Challenges: Access remains the biggest issue!

Crewe says that biggest obstacle is getting the kids to use it at home. “It’s almost like forcing another social network on them when they already have a few.  In class it’s fine, but outside class it’s hard.  Also there is little privacy as the teacher can read everything so students are reluctant to post at times.”

Dowling sees the biggest obstacle in the fact that not all her students have internet access at home. “Even though my school is located right in the middle of a college town we are still considered rural. Contrary to what many people believe not every student has internet access at this point. I am compensating by making the computers in my room at school (and any extra time I have available daily) for students to come to my room and work with the site.”

Dilling also points to the lack of access to mobile computers as well as Web access at home for the children. He has 5 kids (out of 25 in the class) without web access at home. He says “We share 20 laptops in a school of 400 children in addition to the desktops. This is limiting.”

Similarly, Williams says: “We only have 2 computers in our classroom and have a 45 min computer lab block once a week. Luckily almost all my students have internet access at home, so they mostly use it there.”


Advantages to Students: Tech Exposure, Ownership, Bridging the Gap and Engagement

Crewe views the easy organization, online communities and tech exposure as the main Edmodo advantages. He says: “Once Twitter catches on they will be used to the format of microblogging and can try to expand beyond the boundaries set by Edmodo’s groups.  Since we create our own group online they can see that social groups online can be more than just your friends posting picture of what they did last weekend. Since I am a techie I think exposure to this stuff is invaluable for exposure to new and emerging technology.”

Dowling says that she has been using wikis with her students for a year now and finds that “the students take to both the wiki and Edmodo in similar ways and very quickly. I think that they enjoy it because they can have science discussions with each other (I also pop my head into their discussions periodically and add my 2 cents worth) about science topics that interest THEM and that I have not brought up with them. It allows them to take ownership in the site and the process. Today I demonstrated how to turn in an assignment on Edmodo using my whiteboard and an actual student demonstrating how to turn it in for the rest of them. I also logged in myself and showed them the actual grading process. They were impressed at the turn around time on their grade. I think it is also very useful to let them see exactly how it works when I grade them. In the 21st century I believe that the digital natives (them/the students) tend to feel isolated from the digital immigrants (us). Using Edmodo (and wikis) tend to bridge that gap. My students are more comfortable with me because they know I am accessible even when I am not physically with them.”

Dilling says that Edmodo promotes more discussion / thinking outside of school time … “It makes sharing of links easy – the children can now log into Edmodo without a second thought and access the links / info. It means that I can give pointers / reminders outside of school time – or sow the seed of an idea for the next week’s work. I do this deliberately sometimes as it gives the children that have checked the feeling that they have got the upper hand over those that have not. The pupils are keen to use it to share their success / scores on online games / puzzles / quizes that they have been directed to. It allows them to post sections of literacy writing to be shared / commented on. They can then make edits and copy back out to their final work.”

Williams points to the fact that his students went crazy with it for about the first week and were mostly using it as a sort of a chat room. “I did have to remind a few students that everyone in the class could see what they wrote, but no one really put up anything that I had to remove. I think I need to do a better job of putting up things that are more engaging so my students actually have a reason to use it. Right now we’re just playing around with it and I’m trying to figure out how I can use it effectively.  An advantage is that students can ask questions and get answers outside of school. They post questions to each other and to me and also respond to them. Also, the students I teach are a pretty transient population. I had quite a few students move over our break, and some of them are still using it to talk to their former classmates and to me.”

Have you tried Edmodo yet? What do you think about it? I would love to know.

Photo Credit: Wade From Oklahoma

To those of you expecting my continuation of the Edmodo story: Please be patient for a little bit longer. I’m collecting experiences from educators the world over and will publish those soon. In the meantime, I wanted to write about something which has been on my mind for the past 5 days.
—————————————————————–

Some of you might already know that our beloved cat Ninja (who’s been a part of our family for the past 4 years) ran away Monday morning. I’ve been guilt-ridden since, because I didn’t lock the apartment door that day (I was distracted doing some math for this) and he managed to open the door and sprint down the stairs (I didn’t realize this until 5 hrs later). We’ve only been living in this building for 2 months and hardly know any of the neighbors (and in return they don’t know us or Ninja). As soon as he got to the first floor, some of the neighbors were leaving their apartment and their door was open. He must have freaked out and gone in, making a mess in the process, overturning a Christmas tree and scaring 3 underage kids to tears. The mom, worried for her kids’ safety, opened the balcony door, from which he jumped onto a snow-covered roof of an adjacent low rise bank. All traces of Ninja are lost since.

Of course, we only found this out 2 days later.

Now, I don’t want to put blame on anyone other than myself (it was me that left the door unlocked after all) but had this mom known that Ninja was in fact a neighbor’s cat, would she still have opened the balcony door and enabled his runaway leap? I don’t know. But if she did know it, it would make it easier for me to classify her as an animal hater. Now, it’s not that easy. I feel as if I’m (yet again) at fault for spending more hours connecting to people online than I do trying to understand the offline world around me and those who inhabit it.

My boyfriend and I have spent the last 5 days and nights roaming around the neighborhood with flashlights, cat snacks and toys. This country has practically no animal shelters, so it’s not like we can go somewhere and look at lost pets. We were about a day late in putting up missing cat posters (that’s how we finally found out about Ninja’s escape). And in these past 4 days I’ve done more offline neighborhood socializing that I would have done in an uneventful year.

Among other things, I now know that the hairdresser in my building has a dog that is scared to death of pyrotechnics and has to be loaded with tranquilizers every New Year’s Eve. I am now aware of the fact that there is a vet living on the 1st floor. I found out that the girl working in the office next to the bank is afraid of cats. The girl in the kid clothing store helps her mom with her shifts when her mom doesn’t feel well. The neighbors across from me don’t open their door when you ring the bell even when they’re home. The people on the 4th floor take long afternoon naps during which time their teenage kids do their entire PR (including dealing with garage keys). The girl on the second floor loves cats and has been throwing pieces of ham out her window (!) just in case, since she heard that Ninja ran away. I also found out that the woman that feeds the strays every night has 7 indoor cats and that the older man taking care of the young kittens in building next to ours buys salami every day and cuts it into the tiniest pieces to feed them. He also names the kittens and has no children.

Everyone has been very helpful in our (still fruitless) search but all these conversations we’ve had along the way have been some sort of an offline Twitteresque experience. It kind of reminds me of a rather old but still interesting post by Clive Thompson about how Twitter creates a Social Sixth Sense. I sort of feel like I’ve developed a neighborhood sixth sense in the past 5 days of Ninja-search.

Now if only we could do this more often and without needing tragedies and crises to do so.

Do you ever feel like your online ‘social networking’ is taking up more time than your offline one? Do you suck at one and excel at the other? Or are you good at both? How do you manage?

PS. This would be the 6th night Ninja will be out in the freezing cold. Time to grab my flashlight.

Photo Credit: dawn_perry