information technology

From Consumers to Creators: Infographics in Social Studies

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infographicnewdeal2
How did science and technology innovations help to direct the US out of the Great Depression?

We are an information saturated society.

Information, data, and facts stream through our consciousness at surprising rates.  Our students have been raised on Google with its instantaneous access to information 24/7.  Immediate access, however, does not mean that our students (and most adults) have the skills and habits of mind to process that information, seek patterns, make sense, identify problems, and create solutions.

At TCEA in February, I wanted to attend a session on using infographics in Social Studies, but I ran out of time (too much to see…).  I’ve dabbled with creating infographics myself for the purpose of publicizing the library’s statistics and information, but I had yet to try having students create them to demonstrate learning. I was unable to attend the session, but I was able to locate some terrific sources to help me wrap my head around how students can re-mix information and data in a visual, graphic format.

Through my Google search, I found several terrific boards on Pinterest with infographics for social studies. But, with the exception of a handful of teacher blogs, I struggled to find resources for engaging my students in an inquiry process for the purpose of creating their own infographics.  Luckily, I came across Kathy Schrock’s Google Site, which provides how-to videos, rubrics, examples, and websites for creating infographics. Now all I needed was a willing teacher and a batch of curious students.

Thank goodness for professional relationships.  Wednesday, I blogged about one such relationship with my Math department chair.  Luckily, I had a similar relationship with a US History teacher founded on trust and like-mindedness.  “Marty McFly” (he chose his own pseudonym) teaches English and US History, and so he brings with him his experiences with inquiry, research, and literacy to his social studies classes.  “Marty” is also passionate about engaging his students in higher-level questioning, inquiry, and thinking in regards to his curriculum.  And, he’s comfortable with experimentation when the outcome is not easily known.

We began planning by identifying the content-specific objectives and learning outcomes.  Students were wrapping-up their exploration of the Great Depression and New Deal and were preparing for the unit test.  In addition to the time period objectives, “Marty” also wanted to address some of the process and critical thinking skills in the US History TEKS:

(A)  create thematic maps, graphs, and charts representing various aspects of the United States; and

(B)  pose and answer questions about geographic distributions and patterns shown on maps, graphs, charts, and available databases.

We agreed that students could demonstrate their understanding about an issue or topic relating to the unit AND satisfy these performance standards by having them work in small groups to create an infographic that seeks to answer a question.

Whenever I work with students with inquiry (which is ALWAYS), I begin by thinking about which part of the inquiry process is best to engage them in.  I’ve learned that it’s not always developmentally appropriate (or timely) to begin by having them create their own researchable question each and every time. For this project, “Marty” and I decided to create the questions for students since they were driven by specific content needs and formed from the US History TEKS:

Image

Another decision we needed to make was how much direct support to provide to the whole class.  Knowing that the infographic creation website was a brand-new tool for them, I struggled between taking the time to stop and walk through the process of creating one with the entire class, or allowing them to be independent problem-solvers and learners.  We opted for the latter…(more on that in a moment).

To prepare for classes, I created a Google Doc with all of the directions, links, and resources, which was shared with students through the class Edmodo wall.  We began the lesson by asking the question, “How does visualizing data help us understand an issue or topic?”

Using the YouTube video, “Fast Food” from “The Infographics Show” YouTube Channel, I invited students to comment on how the video helped them to remember significant facts about the topic.  We made a list of all the ways we saw the creators of the video visualize data (charts, symbols, maps, graphs, etc.)

Next, we analyzed a few different infographics as mentor texts in order to define what they were.  Here are some of our favorites:

Hamburger

Life Then and Now

Walking Debt–inspired by Walking Dead

Once students understood what an infographic was and its basic elements, I began to walk them through their research process beginning with the list of 10 researchable questions.  Demonstrating the use of three of our online resources, Student Resources in Context, Gale Virtual Reference Library, and Sharpe Online Reference, I reviewed how to cite sources and take notes electronically in a Google Doc, which they could share with their group members through Drive.

Students spent the next full class period searching for sources with data and information that would help them respond to their researchable questions.

On the third day, students met in their groups to share and compare information, determine which pieces of information they would use and how they would visually represent it, and create a hand-drawn, rough draft of their infographic. (I learned the importance of a rough draft for any digital project from my early days with Digital Storytelling).

Our plan to allow students to be independent learners of the infographic creator sites backfired, when the tutorial videos posted on sites such as Visua.ly and Piktochart were blocked by our school filter  (…..yep, I should know better by now…).  So,  we ended up spending about 10 minutes on the final day walking them through the process of creating an infographic in Piktochart.

List of Infographic creation websites:

https://magic.piktochart.com/

http://infogr.am/

http://www.easel.ly/

http://visual.ly/

We discovered that students needed more time to synthesize the information and create the infographic than originally planned, which ties back to our original reflection on teens as information consumers that they are so used to consuming information rather than using it to form new interpretations and solutions.

“Marty” had some interesting thoughts relating to the gap between students who successfully completed the assignment and those who really struggled,

 I think this demonstrates Piaget’s theory that not all people reach the formal operational stage. Those that I knew would understand did, and those I knew who wouldn’t understand didn’t. Those that didn’t I think would need someone to walk them through step-by-step in order for them to create something we would say was a good product.

That “Marty McFly”  is one smart guy…

 Overall, “Marty” felt that the project, “gave [students] a better look at numbers (people affected, money lost, money needed to formulate programs, etc.) so it helped them understand the enormity of the situation…it helped them learn the different New Deal programs better. It also helped them see the parallels of the recent recession.”

We both agree that had we chosen one website like Piktochart, demonstrated for all students the basic features they need to create the infographic, and provided more support and modeling of the keyword searches for various questions, then we would have seen greater completion and better products.

1_newdeal
How did the New Deal’s approaches to resolving the Depression compare to the opponent’s approaches?

Looking at the final infographics, I have to say that I am impressed with most groups’ ability to synthesize that amount of information, identify a clear message for their graphic, and use visuals to convey that message.  I do still see many who relied heavily upon text rather than images, which I find curious.  Perhaps that can be addressed in the planning phase next time.   I’d also like to include a mini-lesson on utilizing the images and primary documents available in our electronic collection and Creative Commons images to add another layer of content to the infographics.

My greatest take-away from this experience is that we need to have students locating and re-mixing information in various formats for  the purpose of creating new solutions and messages.  By learning to manipulate and represent information for a given audience, they will learn to be more discerning of the information that courses through their daily lives rather than being mass consumers.

Student Samples:

12 great_deirjfgbisurgstrh2 ist_period_meigan_gray_question_6 untitled2 (2) untitled2

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Infographics: Going Digital with Data

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Tech Tuesday:  Students as Information Consumers and Creators

Inviting students into the research process is sticky, I know.  Most of the time we shy away from research, dreading that inevitable paper to grade.  But, what if we approached research with our students from a different stance?  What if– instead of the monster once-a-year Research Project–we considered an embedded approach?

When we invite students to adopt an inquiry stance in our classroom, research becomes a part of our daily dialogue.  Asking questions, searching for information, browsing, collecting, evaluating, publishing–these are all processes in the inquiry classroom that work on varying scales.  

Our students are bombarded with information 24/7/365.  They forget (never learned) how to be curious and critical consumers.  An inquiry stance to learning taps into our natural curiosities, building upon content area knowledge in relevant and authentic ways.   A simple infographic (informational graphic) might make more of a lasting impression upon a student and his learning experience than a five page research paper or report. 

How is it done?  Invite students to collect and categorize data for authentic purposes.  In science, what if a lab experiment resulted in a graphic representation of the reactions, observations, and data students collected?  In English, invite students to identify a problem in their community, create a survey, and then publish their findings through a dynamic, visual platform.  Math lends itself particularly well to integrating infographics through embedded bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, and percentages.  Pose a problem for students to consider, asking them to transfer their findings into a digital display, or invite them to be problem-posers.


Created at http://www.piktochart.com to publish the library’s statistics for January

Free Infographic tools such as Piktochart provide templates and tools for students to synthesize information and publish it digitally.  Not only are they collecting and consuming information, but they must synthesize what it means in order to create a visually dynamic representation. 

American Association of School Librarians (AASL) NETS-S


3.1.1 Conclude an inquiry-based research process by sharing new understandings and reflecting on the learning
3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess

Twitter 101 for Librarians and Teachers

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Why do we as librarians and teachers need to come to terms with Twitter?  View the Prezi above created by myself and Diana Colby, library media specialist at Keller ISD’s Early Learning Center, for a peek at our own Twitter journey and steps to take that Twitter plunge.  

In the beginning, it was helpful for me to think of Twitter in terms of library lingo.  For example, what is this “@” business?  In Twitter, users select a “handle” or ID preceded by the ampersand.  If we think of Twitter as a massive OPAC (online catalogue), then each user has a main entry…that main entry is their “handle.”  For example, Twitter users can search for me with the 100 tag @audreyw222.  Furthermore, the Twitter “catalogue” can also be accessed through hashtags (#thisfunnystringofwordsembeddedintweets).  Hashtags allow searching for a specific topic or subject accessible for users.  The hashtag in the Twittersphere is the subject heading in library land’s OPAC.

Making anymore sense?

Needing more convincing?  Check out this month’s issue of Library Media Connection for the article, “Twitter Tips and Tricks for Your Library and Classroom” by media specialist Melissa Purcell.  In this two-page spread, Purcell dissects, describes, and defines the microblogging social media tool and decodes the mystery behind that little blue bird for classroom teachers and librarians.  The article contains a glossary of twitter terminology, top ten reasons to incorporate Twitter, suggested Twitter handles for libraries and classrooms to follow, popular hashtags, and links to access blogs and documents that explore ways Twitter is coming home to roost in libraries and schools.  

We are in the middle of a communication revolution as people now share intimate details of their lives as fast as they can type.  In this mobile world, everyone can have their voice heard in an instant with few technical skills.  Twitter is used by millions of people every day to discuss their lives and the news of the day.  The dated one-way flow of information from book or website to patron just does not work for patrons anymore; they need to interact with their information, and Twitter provides a platform for that interaction.  Now is the time to embrace the free technology tools that our students are already using and incorporate those tools into our lesson plans for a true educational experience (Purcell, 2012).

Adventures in iPads: Initial Deployment Woes and the Sites that Saved My Sanity

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The Adventure Begins…

Well, we’ve gone and done it.  Fossil Ridge has taken the iPad plunge.  Last week I had the pleasure (along with my faithful helper, Mme. Morgan) of unwrapping, setting up, and synchronizing thirty iPads for the Ridge.  Now, this process was not nearly as neat and productive as you might first think.  Before we deploy our iPad fleet for classroom use, I wanted to provide some background and explanation for how multiple iPad devices are managed in schools and on our campus.

First of all, when Steve Jobs and Apple first conceptualized this laptop-mobile device, they did not anticipate it would have such a tremendous draw in education. In his 2010 keynote in which he introduces the new tablet device that would revolutionize the mobile device industry and technology in education, Jobs discusses the need in the market for a “third category device” one that blends the portable, compact quality of the iPhone with the speed, productivity, and functionality of a laptop. Jobs does not mention anything about a vision for the devices in institutions, including education.  His presentation continues as he highlights the iPad’s unique features that allow the user to create a highly personalized experience (email, iPhoto, background, etc.).



10 Biggest Questions about iPads in the Classroom



Schools immediately jumped on board the iPad boat, purchasing the hot commodity for teachers and students.  In fact, the very next day journalists and educators were speculating on the impact the iPad will have on education.  Flooding the app market for education specific tools that would engage students at higher levels of thinking, creating, collaborating, and sharing.  Apple, however, was not prepared for the education market, and so when schools ran into issues regarding deployment,  the mobile device company that focused on a personalized experience for its customers needed to do some back-pedaling to consider how to support a  multi-user educational platform.

[Enter site #1 that helped me wrap my brain about iPad deployment in schools]

http://www.scoop.it/t/ipadsineducation 
A collection of deployment guides and resources for schools including a presentation on the role of iPads in schools, Apple’s VPP program, and integrating technology into instruction.



The Scoop It site led me to this fantastic  collection of resources realted to iPads in K12 education curated by Kathy Schrock.  There are lots of lists of suggested apps generated by multiple schools.
Kathy’s site led me to the graphic on the left from an article posted on Edudemic.
Oh, the rabbit trails are endless!
But I digress…back to our deployment.


Initial roadblocks…

1)  iPads are designed to be unique and personalized for their users–the functionality of the iPad (synchronized email, contacts, calendars, apps, iTunes, etc.) does not transfer to school models where iPads are used by multiple students. 

2)  iPads are designed to be managed through a home computer, one at a time–Schools who purchased thirty or more iPads for classroom use struggled to painstakingly sync and manage each device, one at a time–a very lengthy and monotonous process (speaking from personal experience).  Today, we have a MDM (multiple-device-manager) and a nifty little application that allows a school’s device manager (me) to upload content and manage multiple devices at one time–Apple Configurator. 
Not only do we now have an application that cooperates with iTunes so that the devices can be managed all at once, but we have a nifty piece of hardware that stores, charges, and syncs them all, too!
3)  Purchased apps are intended for personal use, with the understanding that they may be shared on a handful of devices in a home or family–In the beginning, educators and schools got away with a lot.  Schools created an iTunes account, purchased a single license app for 2.99 and then loaded it onto thirty or more iPads.  Apple got smart to their ways, however, and implemented volume purchasing for institutions.
http://wafflebytes.blogspot.com/2011/11/ipads-in-classroom-volume-purchase.html
Now you may be asking, “why the heck do we need to understand all of this, Audrey?  Just give us the devices and let’s do it!” 
It’s important to understand the intention behind the iPads and the process we use to manage and distribute them so that you can better implement them in your classes, taking full advantage of their potential. 

So, here’s a little narrative of the process that involved the initial set up and deployment of our iPads, including the top sites and resources that saved our sanity and provided us with a healthy little collection of apps ready for classroom use!

They are here!

Confession–the iPads have actually been on our campus, sitting in boxes in my secret storage space for longer than a week or two.  But before you clench your fists and wave them at me understand that the process of unwrapping, setting up, and syncing the iPads is nothing like the process a personal user undergoes.  This was not a project I could spend five or ten minutes at a time between my other duties and roles.  I needed a solid day, with my office and the library closed, to immerse myself in the tools and processes I mentioned above.  (Yay, for STAAR retesting!) 
With the library closed and my faithful helper, we went about the task of unboxing, unwrapping, labeling, and plugging in all thirty iPads into the Bretford PowerSync Cart.  This took us a little over an hour.

Ummm…everything is plugged in, why aren’t the dang things charging?

PowerSync Cart
And here was obstacle #1 in the great 2012 iPad deployment.  We unplugged and replugged any chord and outlet we could find, flipped the switch on and off, unplugged the cart, and repeated about five times.  I called my fellow librarians who I thought had the same cart…they didn’t.  I got on the website for Bretford and found their support form…I was not about to sit and waste my time waiting for an automated response from an electronic form…a little more digging and we came across an actual phone number. 

The solution?  Easy-peasy.  Remove the bottom dividers, reach back, and jiggle the power cord to the cart, plug in the wall, flip the switch…and voila!  We had power.  This took about another hour of our time.

Two hours into our deployment day and we hadn’t even started the iTunes process.

It’s helpful when you have a working iTunes account.

Obstacle #2–no access to iTunes.  It seems that our campus iTunes account (which had never been used) had been tampered with, and we needed a new account.  Well, this involves setting up a new Outlook email account, which involves calling 1200, which involves waiting for 1200 to decide who the job should go to, which ends up being the “mail” team, otherwise known as the “male” team (no offense guys)–who is notorious for dragging their heals and taking their time.

How the heck do we get all of these tools to play nice?

While waiting to hear back about iTunes, we read and re-read, and read again the directions on using Apple Configurator and the Bretford PowerSync cart. [Enter website #1 that saved my sanity].

Our iTunes delay did allow us to think about the profile we wanted to create for the devices.  Apple Configurator not only allows you to upload and manage the content on the iPads, but it also allows you to enable and disable its features to create profiles.  For example, the student profile we pushed out to all 30 iPads allows for use of Safari, the built in camera, and it is automatically connected to the Student wifi.  Students cannot, however, change the wifi settings, delete or purchase apps, or access iCloud or photo stream.  Nice!

With a few minor interruptions involving COW carts, students sneaking into the library, and lunch we were still waiting on that Apple ID so we could register the devices and download content!

While we are waiting…what ARE we going to put on these things?

Thank goodness for Mme. Morgan’s type A personality.  The two of us split up and scoured blogs, Pinterest board, websites, and Twitter for lists of recommended apps for education. 

[Enter in several more sites that helped us further explore iTunes and the world of apps]

http://appsineducation.blogspot.com/p/maths-ipad-apps.html
apps organized by content area

http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/06/blooms-taxonomy-for-ipad.html
apps organized by Bloom’s taxonomy

http://pinterest.com/gcisdtech/ipads/
Pinterest board for iPads in the classroom maintained by GCISD

Apple’s own iPads in education page.
Ning for iPad educators.  Includes deployment plans, blogs, apps, tutorials, and more!
the MEGA collection of all things iPad for teachers, students, and schools.  Click on the tabs and subtabs across the top.  LiveBinder is a virtual three-ring binder.  Cool tool.
  
Another MEGA collection of 50 resources (links and apps) for iPads
Here’s the final result (also posted on the Fossil Ridge collaboration site): our beautiful spreadsheet.
But…still waiting on iTunes.

Finally, let’s load these babies!

With the assistance of Lisa Ham, Aron Rister, and Tomi Deevers, our new and improved iTunes account arrived at the end of our deployment day.  It took less than an hour to download all of the-preselected apps.  It took another hour (the next day) to do the initial set up and registration for all thirty devices and then sync and load the apps from iTunes.

Final touches…

Our final step in preparing the devices for initial use involves manually organizing the apps by functionality and content onto screens so that they are classroom ready.  This step must be done one-by-one…thank goodness for savvy student aides!

And the final product:






Home Screen

Read and Explore

 

Social Studies



Foreign Languages



Science



Math

Language Arts

Stay tuned for more adventures in iPads!

Tech Tuesday: The Flipped Classroom

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Tech Tuesday:  The Flipped Classroom 

(heads-up to the new buzz word coming down the pipe)

Are you flippin’ kidding me?!  Yet another buzz-word, topic of discussion for faculty meetings, initiatives, seeds, pilots…they just never end do they 🙂  Nor should they!

I, too, tired of the endless onslaught of programs, anachronisms, and pilots, but let’s keep some perspective and remember that the business of education cannot become static.  It is in our best interest to continue reflecting, examining, and being critical of the practices and tools we bring to our students.  Do they truly represent the demands and learning styles of a digitally-savvy generation?

Today I present you with a little nugget of an idea that a few of you have already started to nibble at:  the flipped classroom.

Here’s some food for thought:




Don’t you just love infographics?!  They make blogging so easy 🙂

Is this idea entirely revolutionary and unique?  No, there are many other names and variations out there (front-loading, anticipation guides, schema theory,  VESTED).  What might be novel to some folks is the idea of employing technology as a tool to do these things.  The infographic touts some impressive (and hard-to-believe) statistics for one flipped school.  I’d be very curious to see this tried in one class for one week. My Big Campus is a terrific fit for this approach with the extensive Library resources, ability to upload YouTube videos, and learning tools such as discussions, chats, and assignment.

Heck, I’ll even pitch in and help gather resources and organize the content into MBC!  Take me up on it, seriously, let’s see what happens just for one week…

For dessert, visit Khan Academy, and take a little test drive for some possible videos you could use as part of a flip:

http://www.khanacademy.org/

I even grabbed one for the electoral college to re-post just to tickle your taste buds…





Tech Tuesday: Apps for Animation

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Tech Tuesday:  GoAnimate and Sock Puppets

A few weeks ago, Jennifer Morgan, French teacher extraordinarie, came to me with an idea.  “How,” she asked, “could I take advantage of one of these animation apps that I’ve found to engage my students in tasks that require them to use their conversation skills?”
Jennifer already had the free app, Sock Puppets in mind, as one tool, but she also wanted an option for students who did not have smart phones or tablets that they could bring to class.  We determined that the best way to bridge the technology gap would be to find a web-based animation application, similar to Sock Puppets that allows students to create characters, establish a setting, and record their voices for the dialogue.  GoAnimate.com provided several free templates to create animated scenes.
I’ve asked Madame Morgan to be my guest on the blog this week, and she graciously accepted. 
Here is our conversation as we reflected on her use of apps to support students in reaching their learning objectives:
What were your instructional goals for this project?
 My students needed to take a spoken test to show they could carry on a basic conversation in French.  By creating a video, they actually were able to show more of their knowledge, because they performed both sides of the conversation.  These videos were able to show me their ability with the language and the pronunciation of French.

Why did you choose GoAnimate and Sock Puppets?

Sock Puppets is the Apple app – both programs allowed students to record their voices onto pre-made characters to create short videos.  Both programs had different parameters, and I really liked both of them.  Sock Puppets will actually change the student’s voice (they can set it to go higher or lower) and that was really fun for them.  Also, Sock Puppets allows 30 seconds of recording time in the free version.  GoAnimate, on the other hand, didn’t have a time limit, but instead limits students to only 10 lines of dialogue.  In order to include all the required parts of conversation, my students definitely had to get a little creative!  GoAnimate does not alter voices, but it has a wide variety of settings for the videos, and you can change the emotions of the characters.
Can you tell us a little about how you prepared your students to use the apps?
               
 I had created a few samples on each program that I showed my students before they got started.  Then during class I also projected the program and showed them how to get started, up to how to record their voices.  After that, I pretty much let them work on their own – and most of them didn’t need any additional support.  Those that did I was easily able to help.

What obstacles, limitations, or surprises did you encounter?

I had booked the COWs [computers on wheels] for two days, “just in case” and boy did we need BOTH days!!  Neither of the programs we used allow you to save your work and edit/add to it later, so most of my kids spent the first day choosing their characters and settings, and testing out the program they were using.  Then on the second day they were able to come into class, get their device and start recording their final project right away.
Overall, how do you feel the use of these tools impacted student engagement and learning?  Will you use them again
 I think doing the conversations digitally was really fun for the students, and therefore they were definitely engaged in the process.  The videos also made the process much less stressful for my shy kids, as they tend to get intimidated by spoken tests where they have to approach me one-on-one.  Those type of tests still have their place, but this was a great alternative.  As a teacher, I personally really enjoyed many of the videos my students produced – they were really funny, so it was also more enjoyable for me to grade than having them come up to my desk one-on-one.  Although it took two class periods to complete, it would have taken that long for me to do spoken tests, and it was much easier to grade since I could re-play the videos at will.

What are the benefits to using applications and web 2.0 tools for animation?

  • engages students in the learning process as they synthesize content into a digital story
  • supports collaboration between students through the writing process:  brainstorming, story-boarding, drafting, revising, publishing
  • a task with an identified audience of their peers, other students, YouTube, etc. provides relevance along with rigor

We’d love to hear your thoughts regarding possible extensions and adaptations of this project in your content area!  Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts for Mme. Morgan as well.

Glolgster…not your ordinary poster project.

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Tech Tuesday #6:  Glogster–Virtual Posters

Thanks to a very unwelcome visit from the stomach-flu fairy, I missed yesterdays Tech Tuesday posting :-(.  So this week I am presenting Tech Tuesday on Wednesday!

Everyday I have teachers ands tudents asking me about technology tools for class presentations.  They are eager to move beyond the traditional stand-and-present poster project or click-and-read PowerPoint (this makes my heart happy).  Today I present Glogster, an interactive poster creator.  Gloster allows the creator to create a mash-up of video, images, text, and graphics to create a virtual poster.  View the VoiceThread tutorial below for a basic introduction of the educational version of glogster (edu.glogster.com).


Ideas for Glogs:
  • Book reviews
  • Advertisements
  • “About me” presentations
  • Compare/ Contrast ideas or topics
  • Illustrate concepts
  • Extend and Deliver in VESTED


Have you or your students glogged?  Tell us about it!