Monday, August 31, 2009

Flip Cameras in the Classroom

Animoto's recent announcement that the site can now accept both VIDEO CLIPS and digital images has made a post about flip cameras in the classroom very timely. Check out this amazing resource by Tom Barrett providing ideas for using flip cameras in the classroom: Don't forget that you can now use animoto to mash up all of those amazing video clips that your students shoot. Amazing!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Your Brain on Google

A few days ago I had the pleasure of attending a free Elluminate session with Gary Small, the author of iBrain. In his book, Gary argues that the brains of individuals that are frequent users of technology and multimedia are chemically different from the brains of individuals that do not access interactive technologies regularly. This has enormous implications for teachers. For me, the most interesting part of his talk involved a slide called "Your Brain on Google." Essentially, people that have more experience with interactive technologies access more parts of their brain when they look at a list of google search results. So....if we teach students how to access multimedia then they will get more out of the experience. Period. So teach students how to use technology!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blogging for Dummies

Looking for an easy way to make a blog?

One of the favorite people in my PLN, Leslie Edwards, created her own blog using Posterous. She decided to "take the plunge" because she felt the site was very easy to use. All you have to do to create a post on Posterous is email a specific account. Then, PRESTO, your blog is updated with the content you emailed. Very simple. Very nice.

Richard Byrne also suggested using the site to help students create blogged content.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Daniel Pink's Thoughts on Motivation

Watch the video below to learn about Daniel Pink's interesting review of research in the field of motivation. You will be glued to the screen for the entire 18 minute segment. Trust me. Have we been missing the boat with motivation in education too? I think the answer might be yes. Sigh.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Increase Student Writing Fluency

Do your students need a place for daily practice that will increase their writing fluency? Try ONE WORD, a site that has been featured by Yahoo and several other educational websites.

Here's how it works:
  1. The site will give you a single word.
  2. You type your thoughts about that word. Write, don't think.
  3. When one minute is up, enter your name and email address.
  4. Click submit.
  5. Your work will be visible along with the work of everyone else that has written about the word.
It is very interesting to read the diverse ideas that arise from a single word. Try it with your students today!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Great Vokis About Differentiation

Yesterday I had the immense pleasure of working with 55 teachers from Quakertown Community School District. We were exploring the topic of differentiation. As a response to two Wormelli and Tomlinson articles, they created VOKIs. (Voki is a great site for students to create avatars...) I encourage you to remind yourself about the principles of differentiation by playing their great Vokis!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zamzar to the Rescue...AGAIN!

I am providing some professional development tomorrow to teachers in Bucks County. During my preparation, I found some amazing videos on YouTube relevant to the content of differentiation. Since it is possible that YouTube content will be blocked at the place where I'm presenting, I had to come up with PLAN B. For me, it involved Zamzar. If you go to Zamzar, you can capture and download streaming videos for free. Essentially, teachers can download their favorite YouTube videos onto a flash drive and bring them into school to share with students. Downloading the videos also eliminates the "skipping" that can happen when streaming video is played. Integrating multimedia into content delivery activates additional segments of the brain for students, increasing retention. With Zamzar, providing controlled video content is easier.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Tool for Facing Bias

As you begin the school year, remember that no individual is bias-free. The best way to minimize and eliminate your personal biases is to be aware of possible tendencies that you may have. Harvard University has created a neat tool called "Project Implicit." This interactive research demonstration allows you to test your personal biases. Using this tool could help you defend your teaching against your life experiences and feelings. What do you think?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

School Starts Tomorrow!

Since tomorrow is the first day of school, I wanted to give you 3 EASY WAYS to integrate technology into the first days of school. All of these activities can be adapted for any level, and they all help to make students excited about new learning experiences.

1. Write a paragraph about yourself and use it to create a wordle. Have your students figure out your likes and dislikes based on the wordle.

2. Share an animoto video of pictures from last year's class. Have students predict what the learning environment will be like for them based on the video.

3. Create a google survey about learning styles and preferences. Have your students complete the form and use the "summary results" option in google forms to analyze the results AS A CLASS. This can help students seem similarities and differences between themselves, their classmates, and their teacher.

Interested in trying these activities? Need more information? Don't hesitate to email me or message me on twitter!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An Alternative to Simply Box?

For the past few months, I have been an extremely satisfied member of the free service called Simply Box. I absolutely love reviewing my favorite sites and resources in a visual manner. I also really enjoy the widget sharing options available through the site. All in all, I've been extremely pleased. However, the search function within Simply Box is very mediocre. It is difficult to search for certain links or sites within your account. I often find myself scrolling through hundreds of thumbnails to find the resource for which I am looking. Today I heard about Toobla, a service very similar to Simply Box. The searching feature appears to be slightly more accurate. In any case, I encourage you to try either Simply Box or Toobla to manage all of your favorite resources on the web. It has made my life SO much easier! Do you have opinions about Toobla or Simply Box? Let me know!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chris Lehmann's Plea to the FCC

Chris Lehmann, and outstanding advocate for authentic education and the principal of Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, addressed the FCC about e-rate funding yesterday. I've embedded a stream of his brief talk (about 10 minutes) below. Listen to his talk. I guarantee that it will be the most inspiring 10 minutes of your day. He discusses how we need to revolutionize education via good instruction. While ubiquitous technology is a prerequisite for his vision, he states that we need to use the technology to have community-based learning that transcends the traditional model. He also indicates that abandoning learning outcomes will lead learning to places you never thought it could go. So true. Think about what our students could create if we simply gave them the time, resources, and guidance. Great work, Chris!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Great Resource for Icons and Images

Are you in need of visual prompts to assist students with comprehension of a task or idea? Try the "images section" of My English Images: Resources for Teachers. Although the site is designed for teachers of students with English as a second language, I think the images would also be very helpful for teachers of students with special needs. The site is extremely thorough and well constructed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Differentiated Instruction

Hello world! Here is a link to a 3 session presentation that I have created about inclusive practices and differentiation. (I've also embedded the glog that links all components of the presentation below.) What do you think? I've relied on a lot of resources from my wonderful PLN to make these presentations POP! I'm open to any suggestions you have!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Differentiated Instruction

Hello, professional learning network! Kevin Jarret, an outstanding educator, was requesting materials about differentiation. Here is a draft on which I am working. Please offer any feedback or ideas. Thank you!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Fantastic Timeline Tool

Today, I tried Vuvox. Vuvox is a really cool timeline application that allows you to upload media (pictures, movie clips, sounds) and display it in a moving timeline. I like using this for presentations as an alternative to the ALWAYS BORING PowerPoint. I think using a medium like this forces presenters (or even students!) to know their material. It make "slide reading" very difficult. Check out the sample I made about a brief history of inclusion in education. It's rough, but it will show you what the tool can do!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Great Images for Professional Development

Scott McLeod, writer of the fantastic blog Dangerously Irrelevant, has created a pool of photos on flickr that contain amazing quotes about education. These photos would be great when providing professional development to teachers, especially professional development about educational technology. I've embedded the pool of photos below. Enjoy! If the embed is not working, try the direct link at http://www.flickr.com/groups/858082@N25/pool/show/

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beginning the Year: CoTeaching

Are you working in a coteaching partnership this year? Create a split/screen interview movie that you can play for students to introduce the class at Wetoku. Wetoku allows two people to "meet" in cyberspace and conduct an interview. The result is a side-by-side movie of taken from each person's webcam.

Making a brief introduction to the class in this manner aids coteaching objectives.
It:
  • Allows students to see both teachers as equal partners in the education process
  • Allows both teachers to offer insights to success (especially at the high school level)
  • It fosters a collaborative style between teachers (not a supportive style)
See the example below to get an idea of what this FREE service can provide:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lunch With My Favorite Kindergarten Teacher

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video.

As the summer winds down, I am going out to lunch today with my favorite kindergarten teacher, Katie Zorzi, to discuss teaching and technology. (What else is there?!!?) Check out this video that shows her using smartboards, wikispaces, and blogging with her students to engage them in kidwriting. Providing the students with an authentic audience via her wiki caused motivation in her classroom to skyrocket. I am excited to see what she comes up with this year!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Teaching Media Literacy: iCue

Teaching media literacy is important for students. Students can access the latest events via videos, text, and sounds that are appropriate for students ages 9-12 at iCue. All of the resources are provided by NBC and they are all free. You are also able to save a stack of "cards" that are comprised of your favorite clips. You can also communicate and collaborate about the videos. This appears to be a good resource for teaching nonfiction reading and media literacy in a supportive format.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great Comprehension Assessment Resource

When I was a classroom teacher, I was always looking for comprehension assessments relative to each guided reading level. I recently previewed Zoho Challenge, a website that allows you to create online assessments for students that are scored automatically. Here are some of the features that I really like:
  • Free
  • You can label/tag questions so that you can create a quick assessment based on question tags
  • You can schedule assessments for students in advance so they "pop up" when a student logs in
  • You can print reports in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Awesome Stories: A Great Place for Authentic Text

Awesome Stories is an excellent site that provides stories and multimedia to students. Students can read "online books" that have a variety of reading supports. For example, nonfiction texts begin with a paragraph summary that students can use as an advance organizer. Multimedia presentations on the same topic can be viewed after reading to enhance and complement understanding. Many of the resources are free when you register. A few of the resources are "premium" and you must pay for them. It's worth a look!

Monday, August 10, 2009

RtI Self Assessment

Are you trying to implement RtI in your school? Well, it is definitely a journey! As you move along that journey, you may want to consider taking the free RtI Self Assessment created by the Center on Instruction. The assessment helps your school identify your current level of implementation and it provides resources and "next steps" based on your assessment results. It could serve as a fantastic activity for RtI teams or faculties at the beginning of the year. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Practice Fluency and Have Fun

Sometimes fluency practice can become monotonous for readers. Although they are often highly motivated by seeing their WPM (words per minute) increase, different fluency strategies can help keep learners engaged. Try CuePrompter as a fun alternative to traditional fluency activities. The site turns any text into a free teleprompter. Students can adjust the speed of the scroll and the size of the text. I think students would enjoy pretending to be newscasters or radio announcers through the use of this site.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Amazing Resource to Differentiate Informational Text for Intermediate Readers

Sometimes it is difficult to find engaging informational text that is appropriately leveled for struggling readers at the intermediate level. This includes students that are learning English, students with learning disabilities, and students with receptive language problems.

Learning Edge is a fantastic reading resource for these students.
Here's why:
  • information is presented in an electronic newspaper format, giving students choice
  • topics are relevant to intermediate students (grades 6 and up)
  • you can read the text or have the text read to you via the browser
  • many of the electronic newspapers deal with "workplace issues" (It's a great resource for transitions plans!)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Teachers, get an ad-free wikispace for FREE!

I use Wikispaces in a lot of my professional development workshops, student classrooms, and college classrooms. It is a great resource for delivering content in an interactive way. Fortunately, wikispaces allows K-12 teachers (like me!) the opportunity to get an "ad-free" space for FREE! Check out the video below (from Wikispace Tutorials) to help you navigate to the sign up page. (Want to see an example? Check out my site at http://trailblazers.wikispaces.com)

How to Signup for an Ad-Free Teacher Wikispace from Wikispace Tutorials on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Glogster is BACK!

For those of you who know me, I LOVE Glogster. That's why I was SO upset when "new features" that were added a few months ago inadvertently gave students access to inappropriate content. Well thanks to Kevin Jarrett's persistence as an educator and Andrew Connelly's great work over at Glogster, the bug is fixed. So, get your students out there and GLOG!!! If you aren't familiar with Glogster, here are the highlights:
  • Create really awesome "posters" that include sound, video, animation, images, etc.
  • Allows teachers to use authentic audiences since everyone can see student work
  • Very motivating backgrounds and designs for students
  • Free access to teacher and student accounts
  • Easy to use
  • Operates on "the cloud" so students can access their work from any computer
  • Glogs can be embedded in wikis or other sites
  • Glogs are a great way to "perk up" wikis or other sites
Here is a glog example that I created with students or teachers in the past: http://kswanson.edu.glogster.com/wolf/

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Great Way to Teach Reading Skills Collaboratively Online

Have you ever wanted your students to practice using reading strategies together in real time? Try Twiddla, a new browsing interface that is completely free. The best way to describe the site is a place where people can annotate web sites collaboratively in real time without requiring any type of sign in. There is also a chat feature seamlessly integrated to the site.

Here are some of the features of the site that would lend itself to reading strategy practice:
  • students can collaborate without creating log ins or passwords
  • you can save students' annotations with the push of a single button for accountability
  • students can add sticky notes, drawings, images, etc. to the live text
  • you could set up different sites with different reading levels to differentiate the activity
  • all work is done in real time and students can chat with each other about the reading

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Google Squared

When we are teaching students to compare and contrast information, it is often helpful to have information presented in a chart form. Google Squared allows you to present any "googlesearch" in an organized chart. Obviously some searches work better than others. (I recommend starting with the links on the home page to get acquainted with the service.) You can also search for additional information about each item by adding columns to the created chart. Another interesting teaching idea might be to have students eliminate results that do not typify the search. Give it a shot!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Search Engine that Supports Struggling Readers

While the "google search" is certainly a "one size fits all" problem solver, the results can be difficult to read for our struggling learners. Try MEL ZOO with struggling readers. MEL ZOO allows you to "preview" the graphics, images, and layout of the site before you actually click on it. This can help students that have difficulty reading to choose sites that are rich in multimedia, aiding their overall comprehension. The screen is split into two panes. When you hover over the site results, you see a preview of the selection in the opposite pane. You can click on a site at any time to open a full version of the web page. This site is a MUST for ESL learners, struggling readers, or elementary students. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Playful Learning Experiences

As you know, RtI also focuses on behavior. A big part of the behavior component of RtI is a focus on preventative, school-wide strategies. Providing parents with resources that support the whole child can assist this goal.






Mariah Bruehl has put together a fantastic resource about playful learning opportunities and well being for young children. Many of her methods mirror those of Katie Gryshuk, a GREAT 2nd grade teacher that emphasizes the whole child. I recommend it as a resource for parents in grades K-2. The site is call Playful Learning Experiences. It's great. Check it out!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Web 2.0 Mind Mapping

Do your students use mind mapping as a pre-writing strategy or reading comprehension strategy?
This year, try Mind Meister to increase the interactivity of mind mapping. Students can share mind maps and edit a single mind map in real time. (The map is very similar to googledocs in this way.)
You can also embed the mind map into blogs and wikis which make it a versatile expression tool for students.
A basic subscription is free, and you can create 6 active mind maps at a time. You can upgrade for a minimal fee, but I think that most of the features that students would need are included in the free subscription.
Let me know what you think!

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