Monday, May 31, 2010

Vis Wiki: A Component of Universal Design

Richard Byrne shared Vis Wiki on his blog several weeks ago. As I was putting together resources for a workshop on universal design, I "found" it again. I think this site could be very helpful when students are searching for new information or content. Not only does it provide concise articles and embedded videos on the same page, but it also provides related topics in a graphic organizer. This could be very helpful for students who lack either sufficient vocabulary or background knowledge. Check it out!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Talking Pets: An Alternative to Voki

Sadly, one of my districts blocked Voki several weeks ago. The site will not be reopened for student use or teacher use. Luckily, Katie Zorzi, a fabulous kindergarten teacher at Pfaff Elementary, shared Talking Pets with me. This site is very similar to Voki. Students can create and customize talking avatars. No log-in is needed, but students will need an email address to send the item to for "saving." I think this site is a viable replacement for Voki. The only limitations of the site are that it only contains animals, and embed codes are not provided.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dream Box Learning Samples: Math Games for the SmartBoard

Dream Box Learning is a site where you can find elementary math games that are visually appealing and relevant to students. Although the site is a "pay-for" site, they have an extensive repository of sample lessons and activities that are very SmartBoard friendly. I especially liked the "placement game" at the bottom of the page. This could serve as a great assessment center during math center time. Enjoy!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Final Reflection: Google Teacher Academy

This blog post is my final reflection for the Google Teacher Academy requirements.

When I was initially accepted to the Google Teacher Academy in the fall of 2009, I believed that the training I received relative to the Google Suite would be the most powerful part of my experience. Boy, was I wrong! While the information was undoubtedly helpful, it was the personal connections that I made that were truly invaluable.

The Google team that I met that day has been a constant source of support and ideas. As tools change and services update, they are ever-present on the Google Teacher Google Group to enhance my learning. Further, the collection of teachers that attended the academy with me has made a significant impact on my abilities as an educator. Building relationships with folks like Richard Byrne and Joyce Valenza has expanded my personal learning network and introduced me to new ideas.

Also, the follow-up activities required as a part of the Google Teacher Academy helped me reflect and explore upon my learning long after the sessions had ended. I am proud to have contributed a lesson to the Google Lesson Plan database, and I feel excited by the new skills that I have helped teachers and administrators to acquire. For me, attending the Google Teacher Academy was a transformative educational experience. It went beyond facts and “training.” It helped me to build powerful relationships that have nurtured my development as an educator. Thank you!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Great Writing Prompt

The New York Times recently released a photo collection called "A Moment in Time." Basically, the resource has collected all of the pictures that were taken from around the world at the same moment on May 2nd. It is really compelling. I think it would make a fabulous writing prompt for students. Students could select a single picture, or they could write about the diversity of experiences that were happening at the same moment. Either way, it would be very interesting! (I would surely check the images to ensure they are appropriate before sharing them with students. I didn't see anything inappropriate in my exploration.) Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for this resource!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Google News Timeline

Joyce Valenza posted this great resource at EdCamp Philly last weekend. It's called Google News Timeline, and it appears to be a hybrid of Google Squared and Google News. It presents the news in a spreadsheet-like format by day. It provides the time the story was published, the source, a photo, available videos, and a brief summary of the story. I think it is a great way to quickly review current events in your classroom. I also think it is a great way to enhance universal design since the information is neatly organized, searchable, and easy to read. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

EdCamp Philly: A Recap

For me, a twitter conversation between Andy Marcinek and Patrick Larkin on the morning following EdCamp Philly sums up the entire event! Clearly, education should be more like an "unconference" every day. Here's why:
  • SHARING-- We learn best when we make social connections around ideas that are meaningful to us. EdCamp Philly gave folks the opportunity to listen and be heard around a variety of self selected topics. We need to give our students these same opportunities.
  • RELEVANCE-- Students should drive the learning experiences. At EdCamp, the participants selected the topics, and they were encouraged to use the rule of "two feet" if a session was not meeting their needs. In traditional schools, students can't use the rule of "two feet" if teachers do not meet their needs. Consider how that would make you feel!
  • FUN- No one attended EdCamp for a grade. Or hours. Or credit. With the external motivators removed, it made the learning much more enjoyable! Think about the pressures that students face in our traditional system. It's no wonder that many students do not like school!
  • REFLECTION- Blog posts are already bubbling up in the blogosphere! Check out Heather Hershey's post here. Based on the tweets I've ready, more are coming! There should always be follow up learning opportunities in our classrooms. Students and adults need time to process. This helps deepen the learning process.
How do you make your classroom into an "unconference" environment?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thank You EdCampers!

For those of you who know me, you know that I've been spending every moment of my free time organizing EdCamp Philly. Well, it went off on Saturday without a hitch. My deepest thanks go out to:
  • The Organizers-- We could not have planned this better. You are all amazing people. When do we start planning next year?
  • The Sponsors- Thanks for your faith in us.
  • The Attendees- You folks ROCKED! I loved all of the sessions that I attended and I loved your enthusiasm.
  • The Tweeters From Afar- Thanks for participating in the backchannel. You certainly livened things up and expanded my perspectives!
Stay tuned tomorrow for some of the great resources that I learned about on Saturday!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Grunge Textures: Cool Backgrounds and Slides

Are you tired of the same old backgrounds and slides? You might want to try Grunge Textures. This site features a lot of free high resolution image downloads that you could use for your desktop or your next presentation. Many of them are very interesting. You can even subscribe to the site via RSS to get updates when new images are released. Cool beans!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Character Scrapbook: Graphic Organizer for Character Analysis

Character analysis can be a fun task for elementary students. I just found this cool Character Scrapbook from Scholastic. It walks students through character analysis using colorful graphics and inviting text boxes. I could see this format providing adequate support for students with special needs for students that require extra prompting. Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tomorrow is EdCamp Philly!

If you are:
  • reading this blog
  • living in the greater Philadelphia area
  • a passionate teacher
Come to EdCamp Philly tomorrow! It is going to be a blast, and the learning will be incredible! See you there! (Click here to register!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

There's Still Time to Attend EdCamp Philly!

As you know, I'm an organizer for EdCamp Philly at Drexel University THIS SATURDAY. The event is completely free and totally awesome! Register for free here. Check out last minute details here. You know you want to attend!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Get Inspired!

Chris Lehmann is a powerful educator, connector, and innovator. He is the organizer of EduCon and the principal of Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He recently spoke at TEDxNYED, and his video is finally published! Check it out below. It is worth 20 minutes of your time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Great Book Creator for Learning Support Students

Students with writing disabilities can find writing to be a daunting task. Kerpoof has created a free story creator that provides many prompts to students as they generate text and ideas. Specifically, it limits students to 3 themes: alien, rock party, and pirates. For many students, limiting choice can assist task completion. Further, once students begin the task, they can drag images onto the page FIRST. Similar to the Kidwriting philosophy, this allows students to craft their idea then add text. I think this would be extremely helpful for elementary students experiencing writing difficulties. The books can be saved, downloaded as image files, or printed. Kudos to Dan Callahan for sharing this resource!

Monday, May 17, 2010

ELL Tool: English Central

Ok, maybe I live under a rock. But, I just stumbled upon English Central. Funded by Google, the site seeks to help students improve their English pronunciation by watching popular movie clips. Students listen to the actors, try the task themselves, and then receive feedback from the computer. Honestly, I can't believe it is free! If you haven't seen it and you teach ELLs, take a look. You will be impressed!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cool Idea for a Graduate Assignment

Andy Page, a professor at the University of Alaska, had his graduate students create an alphabetized list of Web 2.0 tools. Check out the wiki here. Each tool offers suggestions and tips for classroom use. I think this is an excellent example of lateral learning via the web. Plus, the links are really good! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Parts of Speech Game

To make grammar instruction relevant, it is best to use student generated text for practice. This site, shared by Larry Ferlazzo, can help you out! You simply paste in text from student work, and it will create grammar practice for you. You can customize the type of practice that you desire. It is a nice way to customize your instruction without adding work!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Digitize Your Books for Free

Kelly Tenkely shared e-Pub Bud, and it is really cool! It allows you to upload, send in, or create books that are viewable on your iPad or Kindle. It is actually free. I think it would be very motivating for your students to publish books that can be sent to their parent's e-Readers! There is also an option to download e-Books that have been submitted to the service. This could be a nice way to explore some young adult literature for students. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Learning About Accessible Print for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities are entitled to accessible print. Bookshare is a venue that allows students to access print materials via the spoken word. It is free for students with print disabilities. To help generate greater awareness about this service, a free learning object tutorial has been created. You can access it here. It could be a good activity for staff development for special educators, coteachers, and more! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Ruler Game

When I taught third grade, measurement was always a difficult unit for my students. Reading a ruler can be difficult, and it often requires a lot of practice. Larry Ferlazzo recently shared The Ruler Game. This site offers customized practice on reading a ruler. It is highly visual, and it would be Smart Board Friendly. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grabba Beast: Great Writing Starter

Getting students excited about writing can be challenging, especially for students with limited vocabularies and limited background knowledge. Using a motivating "hook" for writing can often help students produce superior products. For this purpose, check out Grabba Beast. Students can create their own beast, rate beasts created by others, and view the beast gallery. I think students would be very excited to create and describe their very own beast. Enjoy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Duck Duck Go: A Search Engine that Clarifies

Searching the Internet can be a daunting task for any student or teacher that does not have sufficient background knowledge on the topic. Duck Duck Go recognizes common search confusions and offers clarifications on the topic. For example, if you type in CELL, it will ask you if you want information related to microbiology, jails, or phones. It could be another way to offer universal design in your classroom. Thank you to Richard Byrne for sharing this resource!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Free Book Creation Tool: Bookemon

There are a variety of popular book-creation tools out there, including Storybird and Story Jumper. However, Bookemon, a new book-creation tool, has a really cool feature. You can upload MS Word documents, and the site will transform the bland text and pictures to create a visually appealing picture book. Since most students are familiar with MS Word, this can give them an outlet to refine and publish their work! This could be extremely helpful to classrooms with young learners who have limited technology skills. The site also offers services specifically for educators here. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Things You Learn: A Great New Read

Martin Jorgensen, author of the blog The Digital Narrative, has created a new, crowd-sourced publication called Things You Learn. I definitely recommend subscribing to it. I have read the articles in this month's publication. They definitely gave me a few "golden nuggets" to ponder. The publication focuses on learning through stories and change. (Interested in contributing to it? Submission information is available here.) Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Make Your Own Google Search Story

If you watched the Superbowl last year, you probably saw Google's First Commercial: Parisian Love Story. The video was very cute, and it inspired many imitators. Well, now you can use a free site from Google to create your own. Check it out here! I made a video in about 5 minutes, the results were professional-looking, and I had a ton of fun!

Here are some educational uses for this tool:
  • Have students "sum up" a unit of study by creating a search story.
  • Have students create search stories for their favorite literary characters.
  • Have students create a "personal narrative" using the search story creator.

You need access to YouTube to use this tool. :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Building a Professional Learning Network

Building a professional learning network (PLN) might seem challenging, vague, or even a little silly. However, for many teachers (myself included) it has become their "go-to" source for professional development. The great thing about a professional learning network is that there is no "wrong way" to do it. You can choose to explore Twitter, post blog comments, use an RSS feeder, or combine some elements as desired. The recipe of resources is really up to you. I find myself empowered and excited by the learning that I experience through my professional learning network. As we embark a a summer of rest, I challenge you to engage yourself in a professional learning community. You will not regret it! Please list your thoughts on the concept of a PLN and ideas/tools that you hope to explore over the summer. Thank you for your participation today!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Free Audio Books: Lit 2 Go

Do you know students that would benefit from free audio books? If so, then check out Lit 2 Go. This site has a sizable selection of free audio books that can be downloaded in .mp3 format. You can search the selections in a variety of ways, and you can even download your selections directly into your iTunes library! Check it out!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Taxedo- Another Alternative to Wordle

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I enjoy using Wordle, ABC YA! and Word it Out to create word clouds with students. Word clouds can be used for a variety of activities, including advance organizers, summaries, and text analysis. Well, Taxedo is a new word cloud site that is joining the scene. Note that you may have to download Silverlight to create tag clouds. I did. I realize that this may be problematic for some schools. (I am hoping this issue is resolved since the site is in Beta.) I really like Taxedo for 2 reasons:
  1. You can generate word clouds in different shapes.
  2. You can save your word clouds as a .jpg directly from the site. (No more print screens!)
If you use word clouds, definitely check out this site!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Make Reading Exciting: Wimp Yourself!

Do your students LOVE the book entitled Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Get them excited about reading by allowing them to "wimp themselves" HERE. It would make a great book cover or illustration response to their reading. The site also serves as a companion to the movie created from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

File Dropper

Every now and then I need a way to share large files. Typically, I use Dropbox or We Transfer. However, I just found File Dropper via Richard Byrne's blog, Free Technology for Teachers. This service allows you to upload a file up to 5gb, and it creates a download link that you can share with others. This is a handy service if students need to access large files or you need to share large files for professional development. It sure beats email!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wikispaces Tutorials

As you know, I often use Wikispaces in my classroom. For more information about Wikispaces in education read my posts HERE and HERE. In preparation for a recent training that I did, I discovered this collection of Wikispaces Tutorials. It can be very helpful for beginner and intermediate users. Enjoy!


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