Creating sanity in insane schedules

Two things have been placed in my path this week and I can see both as a tool for adding sanity to a teacher’s life.  The first is a review of a new book, Off Balance, by Matthew Kelly.  While I haven’t yet read this book, it is one of the first I has seen where the author acknowledges that there is no way someone could actually create true “work-life balance.”

I was thinking of this book when I was responding to a post in New Lit class about the increased communications available today and how it impacts teacher/student/parent relationships and the time they expect to be able to reach eachother   I do not know that is it really possible to create or expect continued and permanent balance.  While few of us expect achieved balance to be permanent, I do not know that I myself will ever even achieve a moment of balance!  Instead I more or less feel I live in a world of the game Don’t Spill the Beans where beans keep getting added and removed to each side of my life, work and personal, and with any luck they will be added or removed slowly enough or with enough care that the whole darn thing doesn’t topple!

In light of that, I hope when I don’t have assigned students, my masters is done, and my family has completed our move, I will find a few minutes to see what Matthew Kelly has to say.  If you do before me, please consider letting me know what you think!  [Off Balance book review by Wirededucator, kcroy.]

The second thing was our introduction to and use of screencast digital recording tools in NewLit.  These tools offer great potential for both student peer review teacher review of student work.  These tools allow for recordings incorporating the computer screen, no matter the program is being used, and voice.  The reviewer has the opportunity to provide meaningful critique without being inhibited by needing to put those thoughts into written word.  It is much easier and timely to share verbal thoughts with others and this can be done with these tools.  Questions can also be asked in return without more written word needed and without the other participant having to be there to hear verbal comments at the time they are spoken.  This will give teachers some time back and may give students more interest in peer review as they are not just being allowed to use technology to provide it, but they are not being made to write these reviews.

The ones we were introduced to were Jing, Screenr.com, and Screencast-o-matic. These are similar tools in what they do, but there are many things to consider in the individual options and features of each.  One thing you would need to consider is how or where you want to upload reviews or where you want them to “live.”  For example, Screencast-o-matic free version provides ability upload to Youtube or export to MP4, AVI, FLV movie.  This would require some knowledge of how to use these file forms if you wanted reviews to be included in blogs.

Next thing to consider is if what you want to do is contained in a  free version or if you would need to pay for premium service.  Screencast-o-matic allows for 15 minute reviews, after that you would have to pay $12 a year for use.  Jing offers 5-min recording per recording, and that does not increase with the $14.95 per year premium service.

More importantly for some educators, you CANNOT password protect screencasts with the free version of Screen-o-matic so you might not want student papers stored by their web site without knowing what personal information may be contained within.  The same applies with screenr.  You would need to use Screenr business for private sharing of screencasts.  You would pay $19 /mo for the first level service, but it would be for unlimits users and up to 250 screen captures per month.

Needless-to-say, reading this, you may suddenly hear that saying in the back of your head, “nothing simple is ever easy.”  It would require some research to decide which of these would be the best for your goals.  The upside?  They offer free services to get started tinkering and experiencing, allowing you to get your feet wet while you sort out all of those needs I just dumped out.  You can then decide which is the best value for you.  Finally, once you are up and running, you could have a fantastic experience with student feedback.

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