Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lawrence Lessig: Openness

As you know from reading my blog reflection here, I thoroughly enjoyed TEDxNYED a few weeks ago. Although all of the speakers were wonderful, Lawrence Lessig was clearly a masterful presenter. (He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves! haha) I've embedded his presentation here. Not only does he have a unique message, but his presentation skills are amazing. You will not find a single bulletpoint. Only amazing images, conceptual words, and video clips. I hope to one day emulate his style as a presenter. Right now-- I'm a work in progress!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Great Things Right in My Backyard

Sometimes the best things in education are right under our noses! I have spent much of the last year engaging in meaningful conversations about student learning, and I have connected with many educators from far off places. However, last night I had the great opportunity to experience a wonderful attitude towards innovation right in my backyard when I conducted an after-school training at Tohickon Valley Elementary.

Some elements of the situation that were particularly noteworthy:
  • The principal could actually help me set up the technology. Seriously.
  • Participants in the group started helping each other during the training based on their background knowledge. It was truly a community of learners.
  • The principal stayed for the entire training and actually piped in helpful instruction-related comments.
  • People called out when they were confused. They told me to slow down. This usually means people are working hard and trying to learn something, so I LOVE IT when this happens.
  • Only 1 person forgot their password. I believe this is a current record!
  • I was able to put all the resources for the training on the building's wiki site.
  • Another principal joined the session and started sharing his google doc ideas.
  • Teachers were making connections to their curriculum as I shared each tool.
  • Instead of a thank you email, I got thank you TWEETS. Yes, TWEETS!!!!


In short, this building "gets it." They are open to using new resources to make learning engaging and relevant to students. Their leader is focused upon using technology as an instructional tool, and their teachers value technology as a resource. Tohickon Valley, thanks for the opportunity to see how schools can wrestle with new tools to support student learning!

Monday, March 29, 2010

TweetWally: An Alternative to Visible Tweets

I've been to several conferences where the venue has provided a visual display of the tweets tagged with the event's hashtag. In the past, I've blogged about Visible Tweets, and that seems to be a popular tool for this task. However, at TEDxNYED, they used TweetWally. For beginning Twitter users, this tool is much easier to understand and use. You can also customize your tweet wall for your event or professional development session. I think it is a great way to share tweets in a visually clear format. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are you an enabler? Try LET ME GOOGLE THAT FOR YOU.

I'm guilty of it almost every day. Are you? Do you enable your staff, your friends, or even your parents when they ask you routine questions about technology? Well, for those people in your network that can handle a little irony, "Let Me Google That For You" may create a few smiles. Shared with my by @dancallahan, this site creates a link that actually enters the request into Google and provides a search page of the results. In the right situations, it may be a fun tool to try. (I'm not huge on sarcasm, but some people employ it SO well.) Thanks Dan!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What tools do STUDENTS want to use? Find out here!

Lydia Leimbach worked with her 8th graders to find out the answer to an important question: What tools do YOU prefer to use?

Students summarized their responses HERE. The website is called "Top 50 Tools Your Students Want To Use" and it provides a quick snapshot for the tools selected by the students. Many of the tools were somewhat new to me, and I think it could be a good resource for teachers that are looking to expand their repository of "student friendly" tools. Keeping the students in the conversation when planning to implement technology is crucial. Enjoy!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Fantastic Wiki Model for Teaching Vocabulary

Hollie Woodard is a passionate teacher who integrates technology meaningfully. This year, she has tried to incorporate a variety of best practices into her vocabulary lessons for 11th graders. Instead of using "kill and drill" exercises from an infamous "orange book," she created a wiki for her students to create, publish, and dialogue about the vocabulary words. Check out the wiki here. Here are my favorite elements of the wiki:
  • Students select the ways that they want to explore the content. In the process, one student realized that he was a talented filmmaker. Other students used Xtranormal to create videos, and still other students made engaging visual posters.
  • Students also post the correct pronunciation of each word. Anita Archer's research has shown that students must be able to SAY the word to remember it!
  • Hollie has embedded a QUIZLET practice module for each list of words. Students can play various games to practice the words. The best part? Students can see the most difficult words (as rated by correct and incorrect responses aggregated from the class) to determine which words require a few extra minutes of studying.
Thanks for creating a great model Hollie!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Great Smartboard Math Site: Math Interactives

Alberta, Canada has created a fantastic collection of math interactives. Each topic contains a video, a simulation, and an activity sheet for students to use. Personally, I like the coupling of the video (to provide background knowledge) and the simulation (to encourage exploration). This would be a great center activity for the SmartBoard. However, check the directions first. I had a hard time "intuitively" figuring out each task. (I know, I know-- I should read the directions!) Enjoy! Thanks to @techieclassroom for sharing this resource!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Cool Way to View the Web

Rich Kiker recently tweeted a cool resource called "A Lot to Find-er-net." This site allows students to search four different websites on the same web page. Here are some interesting uses for this site:
  • Have students compare primary sources and secondary texts regarding a historical event on the same web page.
  • Have students create a brief "all about me" page showing their 4 favorite (school appropriate) sites and save it using a screenshot.
  • Use it as a tool to require 4 sources for a paper or writing piece that students are completing in class. (A screen shot could even replace part of the "References" section.)
  • Use it as an advance organizer of 4 websites you will visit during a unit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Lesson Plan is Published on Google Apps!

My lesson plan is published on Google Apps! It helps students make predictions and evaluate texts using Google Moderator. Check it out HERE. Enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Finding the Right Tool: A Wiki With the Right Idea

I often hear the question: Do you have any cool new tools or websites? This question often makes me cringe. Teachers and administrators should be thinking about the goals that they need to accomplish, and then they can choose tools that will best accomplish their goals. (You know: "Begin with the end in mind!") Well, this wiki has the right idea. Called "Web Tools 4 U 2 Use," the site focuses on skills, not tools. It offers a variety of search methods, including skill-based, cognitive level-based, and learning style-based. I think this is a great resource to introduce teachers to the wonderful world of Web 2.0. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Fun Way To Celebrate Teachers and Students

Do you need to offer thanks or praise to someone in your life? (If the answer to that question is NO, then we probably have BIG problems on our hands!) Well, I stumbled across this fantastic Swedish website that allows you to create an awesome "THANK YOU MOVIE." You insert the person's picture, and it delivers quite a punch! Check out the movie maker here. I recently used this as a birthday celebration for one of my favorite people, and it was a huge hit! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Great Read Alouds from the New York Times

While many teachers have their favorite fiction read alouds, nonfiction read alouds are slightly less common. The New York Times has released a list of nonfiction read alouds that teachers can use with their students. The entire text is provided for each recommendation. I think these sources would serve as great resources when:
  • Providing mini-lessons when teaching students how to write research reports
  • Helping students see the value in nonfiction text as engaging reading material
  • Helping students write interesting beginnings and endings in nonfiction writing
Enjoy! I did!

Friday, March 19, 2010

KidRex: A Kid-Friendly Search Engine

While it is imperative to monitor your children and students online, having access to a kid-friendly search engine is helpful. I suggest trying Kid-Rex. This online search engine uses both Google Safe Search and an independently maintained database to provide the most appropriate search results possible. Parents and children also have the option to "flag" inappropriate sites to constantly refine the search engine. While good parenting and good teaching are clearly the best "filters" using this site can definitely help you out!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Great Collection of Wikis and Nings

As I work with teachers to help them integrate new web 2.0 tools into their instruction, they frequently ask to see examples from other teachers. Click here to access a wonderful collection of teacher NINGS and WIKIS that was presented at the Pete&C conference this Winter. I think this resource could be helpful when showing new teachers new tools!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spelling Connections Games

Providing students with spelling practice can be monotonous. While I firmly believe that the best way to improve students' spelling is to use a Writer's Workshop approach, it can be helpful to use practice activities with students from time to time. I recently stumbled across Spelling Connections, a collection of free games that allows students to practice spelling and editing in context. In my opinion, the best game is called "Spelling and Writing" and it forces students to edit spelling errors contained within authentic texts. I hope you find this helpful!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reaching Nonverbal Students: Visual Recipes

When I provide technology training for special education teachers, many teachers of nonverbal students are always asking for additional sites and resources. While many of them really like Google Image Swirl, I have been trying to build options specifically for these students. Enter....Visual Recipes! Visual Recipes is a site provides teachers and students with visual, step-by-step recipes for a variety of dishes. Students can also contribute their own recipes to the site as well. The recipes would be great on a Smartboard or as printed cards. Enjoy! PS- It is interesting to me that this site was brought to my attention by the GREAT Larry Ferlazzo as an adaptation for ESL students. Worlds DO collide!

Monday, March 15, 2010

ABCya! Word Clouds Designed for Educators

While I love Wordle, I've become concerned with the content of the Wordle Gallery and the fact that saving word clouds is not as easy as I'd like. ABCya! is a free word cloud service that allows users to create and save word clouds in a variety of formats. Also, there is no gallery, eliminating the fear that students will see inappropriate word clouds created by others. (For an alternative to both Wordle and ABCya! click here.) Personally, my favorite way to use them is as an advanced organizer that allows students to "preview" before reading.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Surf YouTube More Safely With Students

While YouTube is never a "safe" place to go with students, sharing videos from YouTube with you class just got a little bit better. SafeShareTV is a site that allows you to generate a safe link to a YouTube video. This site creates a link that eliminates distractors from the page and the video. It also allows you to crop the video so that only the pertinent areas are viewed. This could be a helpful tool if you have access to YouTube in your classroom. My favorite part of the site is the last sentence in the FAQ section: "Children still need to be supervised while surfing the Internet. This service is a step forward to help in many of the situations mentioned above." Enjoy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mathalicious: Make Math Authentic

Math can be extremely authentic for students when taught correctly. Mathalicious may be a site that can help teachers find great connections to math content. It was featured on the Freakonomics Blog on the NY Times here. The site's self proclaimed philosophy is: "Math isn’t something you learn, but a tool you use to learn about other things." It has a variety of great lessons for middle school and high school students. (Think: How big is your Plasma? How does your xBox work? etc. etc.) It appears that the site is still being constructed, and I would definitely keep "an eye on it" for more great resources in the future.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Smithsonian Kids: A Carnival for the Smartboard

The Smithsonian has created a fun site called Smithsonian Kids for students to learn about various artifacts in American culture. The site resembles an "old style" carnival, complete with carnival music. It is very Smartboard friendly, and it provides information in a visually appealing format. It may be a great advance organizer to visiting a museum or researching different ways to organize and present nonfiction information using labels and photographs. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Use Weblist to Organize Your "Favorites"

I support several teachers that have touch screen monitors in their classrooms with students who have special needs. Providing these students with easy "push button" style navigation is very helpful to them. Weblist has been a great resource for me. It allows teachers or students to create a page of their favorite sites that has "square buttons" for each site. (Click here for an example created by Diane Quirk.) I originally found the resource via Kevin Jarrett here, and then I applied it to my situation. It has been a helpful way for me to help students navigate their favorite websites and games using a touch screen monitor. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

USA Today Snapshots: Reading Interesting Graphs

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of co-planning with Jim Schilk. (He is a fantastic special education teacher at Council Rock High School South in Bucks County, PA.) Our time together was spend improving his unit plan entitled "Graphic and Statistical Analysis." As we planned, he shared a fantastic resource with me: USA Today Snapshots. This site provides a daily graphical representation of a topic that is popular in the news. Many of the graphs are relevant and interesting to students. I think it would be a great "warm up" for math classes each day! Thank you Jim!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

StoryJumper: Great Digital Storytelling Resource

Digital storytelling is a fantastic way for students to express their learning. In the past, I have blogged about websites for students to create books here and here. Well, here is another great digital storytelling resource: StoryJumper. This site allows students to create books online for free. (It does cost money if you order a hard back version of your story.) The site includes a variety of great examples and guidance for both teachers and students. Here is how the site begins to guide teachers:
The StoryStarter™ workbook is a tool for teaching students the creative writing process. The goal of the workbook is to coach students in building the 7 primary components of a story (Character, Challenge, Motivation, Setting, Obstacles, Climax, and Closing). Finishing the 7 steps will give students complete story arcs that they can then develop into rich, detailed stories. You can also adjust the material to fit the needs of your class.
I hope this helps!

Monday, March 8, 2010

EdCamp Philly: It's Official

You may remember my excitement about BarCamp Philly a few months ago. Well, EdCamp Philly is official! I (along with an amazing crew of people) will be throwing EdCamp Philly at Drexel University on Saturday, May 22nd. It will be a FREE unconference for educators. Check it out and sign up today. When I was at TEDxNYED this past weekend, Dan Callahan posted the FIRST TWEET about EdCamp Philly. What a proud moment for our entire group of organizers! I hope to see you there! Don't hesitate to email me if you are interested and you want to know more.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TEDxNYED: We Can't Opt Out of New Media

Yesterday was NOT my average Saturday. I had the opportunity to attend TEDxNYED at the Collegiate School in New York City. 15 incredible speakers took the stage for 18 minutes each, delivering mind bending ideas and stories.

However, one speaker truly resonated with me: Mike Wesch. Mike is an anthropologist who traveled to New Guinea to explore a variety of different civilizations. He observed groups of people as they reshaped their entire existence in response to newly administered census surveys. He saw a culture that was built upon relationships morphologically change into something much different.

He offers the following insights from his journeys: This leads me to reflect upon my own practice as a teacher. Students are being used by the media surrounding them every day. We cannot "opt out" of this experience even if we believe that we are "too old for that stuff." It is our responsibility to guide students through the world of new media, encouraging them to relate each other is a positive and productive way. Today's students must examine the existing problems (the "almosts") and search for authentic solutions, creating learning that is culturally relevant and engaging.

Thanks, Mike. Those are clearly "ideas worth spreading."

Photos courtesy of Kevin Jarrett and Kathy Ishizuka. Thanks guys!

Google Earth API Demo Gallery

Well, many of my students are huge fans of the Monster Milk Truck app for Google Earth. To my great surprise, I found Google's entire gallery of add ons. (Okay, maybe I live under a rock sometimes!) The gallery includes driving simulators, flight simulators, puzzles and other goodies. If you are an avid Google Earth user, check it out!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Great List of iPod Apps for Education

Brian Nichols from Newport News, Virginia recently tweeted out this outstanding list of iPod applications related to education. The list is broken up into a variety of categories, including early childhood, foreign language, literacy, and many more. Some information is provided about the price of each application, and the list is easy to read. I recommend it as a "starting point resource" for teachers seeking to use iPod touches in their classes effectively!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Save Vid: An Alternative to Zamzar

If you've ever needed to download a streamed video from YouTube, TeacherTube, or other online source, Save Vid is a great resource for you. Similar to Zamzar, this site allows you to download videos that are streamed on the web by pasting their URL into a dialog box. It is easy, simple, and useful. This site can also convert files into different formats. I recommend it as an alternative to Zamzar.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Great Video Clips for Professional Development

One of the roles of my job requires me to provide professional development to teachers on a wide variety of topics. This is definitely one of my favorite aspects of my job.

A strategy that I particularly enjoy using is "video clip framing and discussion." For this, I provide teachers with a central question. Then I show them a video clip depicting that concept. Finally, teachers share their findings in pairs or small groups regarding the video. Teachers enjoy seeing classroom clips, and it makes some of the information more relevant.

A great resource for video clips is Edutopia. Endorsed by George Lucas, the site has a wonderful repository of learning related videos available here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

TweenTribune: A Learning Space for Tweens

Students at the middle school level need opportunities to express their opinions and ideas about current issues and topics. Tween Tribune is a free resource that teachers can use to help introduce dialogue about current events in their class. Tween Tribune provides age appropriate versions of current news articles and all comments are moderated before they are posted. It is safe. You can choose to create a customizable page with student log ins. I was very impressed by the options offered by the site, and I think it would be a fabulous community for students in middle school classes. Give it a try!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Footprints: A Great Digital Footprint Resource

Teaching students to be aware of the digital footprints that they leave behind is critical. While it is likely that many of us have moments from our youth that we'd rather forget (a.k.a. my high school perm), today's students are placing many parts of their lives in public arenas. Showing students how to be respectful and responsible in online forums is a life skill that must be taught. Teaching students to make good choices online can be difficult, but there is help out there! I just stumbled across My FootprintSD, and this site offers videos and stories of real students regarding their choices with digital footprints. I highly recommend it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Textmarks: Send Group Text Messages for Free

Have you ever needed to notify a large number of people (parents, colleagues, classmates, etc.) at once? Well, if the people you are trying to reach have cellphones, then Textmark might be a good, free solution for you. With Textmark, you create "group" and you have users text that "group" to a specified number. Then, users are enrolled in the group. Now you can send mass text messages for free. (The free service does include some ads. Also, people will still have to pay for the text messages on their phones as usual.) This can be a great way to forge relationships. Consider the following uses:
  • Texting parents to remind them about an upcoming test or final
  • Texting colleagues to alert them to a weather delay or schedule change
  • Texting community members to advertise a school play
Have you ever used this? Let me know what you think!

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