Monday, November 30, 2009

Twick-it: An Encyclopedia for the Twitter-verse

Looking for a fun, quick activity to test students' ability to discern relevant information? Try Twick-it, a "twitter encyclopedia." This encyclopedia accepts entries from anyone (you have to create a free log-in) and they must be 140 characters in length. Interestingly, each person's addition to the twick is added and listed according to popularity. This could be a fun activity for students to express, summarize, and evaluate learning. They could write entries for topics that you are currently studying, or they could rate exisitng entries. I think it has some value as a learning tool. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Odiogo: Text to Speech for Your Blog

Are you a blogger? Do you use a blog with your students? If you do, you NEED to check out Odiogo. Odiogo is a simply, free, way to get your blog translated from text to speech. Just like an RSS feed, students can subscribe to the audio updates of your blog. (They can even use iTunes to save it to their iPod. Talk about on-the-go learning!) It took me about 4 minutes to set this up for my blog. It has amazing applications for education. For example, every activity that you put on your blog for students would be read to them. They could also save recordings of your blog activities and listen to them later for reinforcement and review. This resource is amazing. You MUST check it out. If you'd like an example, click on the ODIOGO icon on the right edge of this blog. (Thanks to Ann Leanness for sharing this wonderful resource!)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Zinch: Portfolios for College

Do you work on transition with your students? Are you a guidance counselor? Check out this new resource: ZINCH. It allows students to create portfolios for college ALL THROUGHOUT HIGH SCHOOL. Cool concept? I thought so! Over 700 colleges and graduate schools in the United States are currently participating with this service to help students find their dream school. The service also helps match students with scholarship money as well. I think this tool would be an excellent way to ensure that students were prepared for the college application process. Explore it today!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wow! What an excellent model for us!

On November 16th, Classroom 2.0 hosted one of it's fabulous Elluminate learning sessions. This session was hosted by Jon Corippo, a teacher at Minarets High School in California. He took us through his amazing, intimate, high school learning community. It opened in 2008, and it moved into its beautiful new home this year. Here are some of the unusually cool things about this school:
  • They have a media center instead of a library.
  • Sophomores and freshman have access to laptops. By the time students reach the junior and senior level, they purchase their own laptop based on their needs.
  • Courses focus on real-world problems.
  • All courses are honors courses. There are just additional, more rigorous assignments that must be completed to earn "honors credit."
  • They have extreme mountain biking in gym class.
  • And...drumroll please.....THEY DO NOT HAVE TEXTBOOKS. (They used all the saved money to outfit their technology needs, and BOY is their technology sweet!)
I really enjoyed exploring this school environment. Check it out here. It gave me a lot to think about! Let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day Wiki from My PLN

As you know, I think my PLN (professional learning network) is an amazing group of educators. They care about students. BUT, they ALSO care about GOOD FOOD! As you give thanks today for all of the wonderful things in your life by eating scrumptious morsels, share the GRATITUDE. Contribute your favorite recipe to the PLN Thanksgiving Wiki. Have a great holiday. Relax and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tut Pup: Great Games

A new member of my PLN, Dan Callahan, shared a great game resource for elementary students. The site is called TutPup, and it allows students to compete against each other as they practice skills and learn facts. It includes a mix of topics, including math, spelling, and even algebra! As a teacher, you can create classes for your students to track their progress. Also, students receive log ins that do not require an email. (You may need to record their usernames and passwords somewhere..they are sort of counter-intuitive.) Students' usually love little contests in class, and this resource allows you to create a challenge that they can achieve! And, as always, it is totally free. Thanks Dan!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Science Classification on the Smartboard

I recently stumbled across a great resource to help students classify organisms in science. The site is called A Touch of Class and it works very well with the SmartBoard. Students select organisms that fit into the category, and then the site will check your work and assign a score. The site also provides adequate background knowledge to complete the activity. I think it would serve as an excellent addition to an elementary science unit on animal life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Create Your Own Picture Book

Teaching students to sequence ideas and include story elements in their writing can be a daunting task. Using a Picture Book Maker can help students create a framework for their narrative stories, and they help students stay on track. They choose images (choices are limited which is helpful for some students) and they add text. The stories are relatively short (only about 5-6 pages each) and the products are professional looking. I recommend assigning specific story elements to address on each page (setting/introduction, rising action, climax, resolution, etc.). I think this is a fun, free resource that students can use to improve their narrative writing!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sumo Tweet: Going Beyond 140 Characters

Have you ever wanted to tweet something lengthy? You may want to try Sumo Tweet. Sumo Tweet allows you to write something much longer that 140 characters and then post a link to it on Twitter. It may be a helpful tool if you are using twitter with students to discuss books and works of literature. It gives students an option to expand their thoughts beyond 140 characters. I hope this helps!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Compare My Docs: Document Collaboration

If you are working on a team or committee that is drafting a document, you may end up with 15 slightly different document versions at the end of the process. Comparing all of the different versions can be difficult. You may want to try Compare My Docs. This free application allows you to upload word documents. It finds the sections of the document that differ, displays them in a color-coded format, and allows you to select the most appropriate wording easily. I could see this tool being very helpful when committees have to work together to write curriculum from existing curriculum. For a video overview of the service, click here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Using Scribblar for Guided Reading

Recently, I stumbled across a free resource called Scribblar. This resource allows students to interact on a blank canvas. They can create shapes, use stamps, highlight, write, and draw collaboratively. Specifically, I think the tool has a lot of promise as a guided reading center. You could create different rooms for different guided reading groups. Then you could use links to "invite" the appropriate students into each room. Finally, the teacher could upload leveled text as appropriate to each room. Students could then use stamps, symbols, and highlighters to code the text collaboratively. Not only do I think that students would be motivated by this, but I also believe that it would enhance reading comprehension due to the interactive nature of the activity. Are you interested in trying it? I'd be happy to help you get it set up! Click here to see an example I made.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Math Videos That Demonstrate High School Concepts

Are you a math teacher? Do you have a web page where you post assignments and other helpful tips for students? You may want to check out Brightstorm Math. This website has a comprehensive collection of videos that model and explain high school math concepts in a sequenced order. Students can watch the teacher demonstrate the concept as well as go through various sample problems. All of the videos can be embedded onto your personal site or wiki if you prefer that. A free log in is required to view some videos and post questions. I think it is a comprehensive resource! Thanks to Tom Murray for tweeting this resource.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lifelong Learning: As Modeled By My Supervisor

As a trainer of teachers, I am constantly hearing teachers bemoan the administration. The quote, "Well, the administration just doesn't understand!" is all to common. However, I am here to shine a beacon of light on a great supervisor. My supervisor came to observe me giving a web 2.0 tools workshop in a local school district. (To check out the training, click here.)

Not only was my supervisor helpful, reflective, and gracious, she was very interested in the material that I presented. After the presentation, she used Xtranormal to create a feedback video that she shared with me. I embedded it below.

I realize that this was WAY out of her comfort zone, and I was truly impressed by her desire to learn more. SO... there are some administrators that are lifelong learners and great models for teachers. And.. they should be celebrated! Thank you for all you do Lois!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Free Book Studies

Is the budget in your school very tight this year? It is likely that many resources have been cut due to the current economic landscape. Well, Blast IU 17 is trying to help out. They are offering FREE books to individuals that wish to have a group book study for professional development in their school in Pennsylvania. The list of books available is current and relevant, including titles from DuFour, Willis, and Tomlinson. More information about conducting your free book study (Yes, you get to keep the books!) is available here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bio Cube

When I taught third grade, I taught a unit on biographies. The students enjoyed this unit, but summarizing the information they learned about each person became very tedious. When I recently saw this resourced called BIO CUBE, it seemed like a solution to the problem I was experiencing. Students can summarize the life of a person using 6 different categories. Students put their information onto each side of the cube, and then they can print out the cube. It would be very neat to have a "basket of cubes" on different individuals for students to explore. It would also make an interesting display. This resource is a part of the Read Write Think website. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Barcamp Philly 2009: Learning to Listen

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in Barcamp Philly '09. Barcamp Philly defines itself as an "unconference." Essentially, everyone comes to the day prepared to share and interact around sessions that members find interesting. Anyone can post a session, and you can attend any session you like. The fluidity of the day allowed for the conference to respond to everyone's interests and needs. Most of the sessions focused on social media, web development and other "techie stuff," but there were also lots of sessions on leadership and team building.

During the day, I had the amazing opportunity to connect with 5 other educators that I had never met before (Dan Callahan, Mary Beth Hertz, Anne Leaness, Rob Rowe, and Kevin Jarrett). Throughout the day, we planned a session on social media in schools. It was extremely rewarding to work with such passionate, informed individuals in the field. The conversation was rich, engaging, and relevant to me.

In addition to facilitating a session on social media with my five new buds (See our session agenda here). I also got to attend a variety of sessions.

For me, the most important revelation of the day was this: Professional development (and learning) is all about dialogue. It is not solely about talking. It is not solely about listening. It is about the equal exchange of knowledge, opinions, and idea. As a trainer, I sometimes feel that it is my role to "present" all of the information that participants will need to know. Barcamp Philly showed me that "presenting" does not elicit meaningful learning for either parties.

After my experience at this "unconference" I feel empowered to cultivate change in my profession. Teachers need the autonomy to guide their own professional development. When "presenters" step back, teachers can step up and take ownership for their learning.

Want to know more?

Lit Charts

Wow, I LOVE this site! Lit Charts is a site where students can download a FREE 10 page summary of many classic novels. (There is a button to request new novels to be added.) The files are available in HTML, .pdf and iPod app versions. The summaries are well constructed, and they include information about character, plot, themes, quotes, and much more. This could be a great advance organizer, study tool, or adapted text for students to use. What a fantastic resource!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Purpose Games

Purpose Games is a free site that allows users (sign in required) to create games. There are two basic types of games that you can create: multiple choice and map. While the multiple choice games are similar to services available through many other sites, the map games are sort of unusual. Check out Richard Byrne's example of a map game here. The map games would be useful for labeling maps, completing diagrams, and more! You can choose to make your games public or private so you can control who is playing your games. I hope this helps!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vocabulary Coach

Vocabulary Coach is a good free resource to help students expand their vocabulary at the secondary level. There are a variety of lists that students can access, and students can play games with the words. It is a good resource for SAT, ACT or GRE preparation as well. Students do not need to create an account to access the site's resources and all resources are free. Due to the easy access to the site, it would make a good center activity or warm up activity for students. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Save the Words

This interactive site features words that are fading from the English lexicons of most people. Called Save the Words, this resource allows students to adopt words that they pledge to use in conversation and writing. Given what we already know about vocabulary acquisition and the necessity of using/seeing a word in context, this could be an effective motivational activity in your classroom. You could adopt one word each week, or you could have each student adopt their own word. I hope this helps!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Big Universe: "Netflix" for Children's Books

Access to high quality print materials can affect students' reading levels. Therefore, many teachers and administrators want to ensure that their students have access to engaging books at all times. While students can use their school libraries and classroom libraries to get access to books, it can be limiting to students in some ways. For example, there may not be many books on preferred topics. I recently found Big Universe. This site gives students access to lots of books. There are several FREE books available each week. More books are available with a subscription. I like the quality and content of the books included on the site, and I am impressed by the amount of nonfiction available to students. (Nonfiction reading is often the key to unlocking student achievement levels.) However, I think my favorite part about the site is the recommendations section. When students read a book, it recommends other related books. Similar to Netflix, the site finds books that you are likely to enjoy. It really "hooks you in" and gets you reading. I suggest checking out the free books on the site today!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Google Teacher Academy

Well folks, I applied to Google Teacher Academy. I can honestly say that I had so much fun shooting my application video that it was a GREAT experience regardless of my acceptance or rejection. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and enjoy the video below!

My Google Teacher Academy Application Video 2009 Learning and Motivation: A Spider Story

Beyond Google: A Resource from Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne (one of my heroes) writes a fantastic blog called Free Technology for Teachers. He has recently produced a document called "Beyond Google." It shows 15 ways for students to go beyond the first 5 google results when they search for ideas or information. It is well written and extremely teacher-friendly. Click here to access it. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Embed it in!

As a blogger and wiki author, I really like embedding documents, widgets, and gadgets into my pages. By putting resources "right on the page" it makes navigation easier for students. Plus, it helps you build very cool webpages! If you have documents that you would like to embed into your website, try Embed It In. This site allows you to upload a variety of documents (each document can be up to 20mb) and it will create an embed code for the document. There is a nifty video on the homepage of the site that shows you how to accomplish the task. It's a very handy resource for teachers and students everywhere that use wikis!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

60 Second Recap is a site that creates 1 minute summaries of many popular pieces of literature. It is a good way for students to review stories that they have read. It would also serve as a good anticipatory set or advance organizer for students before they read a piece of literature. I really enjoy watching the videos on this site, and I also think students would enjoy them!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Effects of Sound

I stumbled across this TED talk about the effects of sound on productivity. While the TED talk primarily focuses on business and office applications, the information is highly related to education. The video states that "open plan" offices are 66% less effective due to noise distractions. To increase productivity, individuals can wear headphones with soft music. Allowing students to use iPods or other music devices may actually increase their productivity. Interesting!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Even more vocabulary!

Vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary! I feel that immersing students in challenging academic vocabulary is a vital component of adequate literacy instruction. Richard Byrne (one of my tech heroes) shared this resource with me. It is called Brainy Flix, and it provides the most interesting vocabulary flash cards I've ever seen. Students submit flash cards with striking images and interesting word usage. Since the work is driven by student users, there are many flashcards for each word. On the site, other students can comment on each flashcard and rate flashcards. I think using the visual images paired with the words will motivate students and assist student learning. Although I feel that some of the images and descriptions are slightly questionable for classroom use, many are excellent. Check it out today!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Learning Event Generator: Inspire Writing!

Do you have students that state that they have NOTHING to write about? Try the learning event generator created by New Tools. It gives students a medium and a topic to write about. If they don't like the topic, then they click on "go" to get another medium and topic. Many of the topics are interesting and motivating to students. It is a good solution for students to use when they need writing inspiration!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Academic Vocabulary Project

Yes, I am blogging about vocabulary resources again! If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know how much I value vocabulary instruction. Robert Marzano (one of my heroes!) has teamed with the state of Tennessee to create academic vocabulary resources for middle school and high school students. Each of Marzano's prescribed six steps is outlined, and activities with materials are provided for each step. Tennessee has also create word lists that seek to minimize the achievement gap by building background knowledge for students. Check it out here!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Math in Movies

When I teach math, I really like to make "real world" connections for students. Well, that task just got a little easier! I recently found Math in Movies (Thanks to the free Teachers Teaching Teachers Podcast...) that catalogues short movie clips from popular movies that include math. I think these clips are great lesson starters or anticipatory sets. You can stream or download the video clips. For example, they have a clip from Father of the Bride where he talks about hot dogs buns and the # in each pack to talk about arrays. I think it is a good place to visit if you want to "hook" your students' attention during math class!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Indispensible Tools: An Alphabetized Collection

While I don't normally share link collections, I thought this one was excellent. It is called Indispensible ICT Tools for Teachers and it is managed by Drew Buddie. Many of my favorite resources are available here in one place. If you are familiar with lots of Web 2.0 tools, this site may be a timesaver for you. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spelling Bee Game

Interactives Spelling Bee is a fun site where students can practice spelling in a variety of ways. @SeanBanville recommended this site to me, and I LOVED it. Students can choose their grade level to practice appropriate words. Many of the spelling drills ask students to spell words in context, and research shows that this is the most effective way to learn new words. Students can also have the story read to them when they finish the spelling activity. Give it a try today!

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