Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guskey and Grading

I had the enormous opportunity yesterday to see Thomas Guskey speak about GRADING. For me, grading has always been a struggle. I strive to be fair, efficient, and clear. However, there always seems to be gray areas when it comes to grades.

During his talk, Guskey noted the following:

Given how much we know about grading...
And how long we've known it...
It is unbelievable how long we've ignored the research in our schools!

Essentially, there is an implementation gap. We know the best practices, but we maintain culturally accepted practices that do not push student achievement forward.

Did you know?
  • Grades have some value as rewards, but they do not have any value as punishment.
  • The more grading categories you have, the more subjective your system will be!
  • Student CAN and DO learn without grades.

Quakertown Community School District is currently exploring standards based grading. It has not been easy, but the district is doing a great job. They have increased the rigor presented in their classes, and they have provided specific information about student progress. Also, students are encouraged to engage in 2nd chance learning, and they are rewarded for reaching mastery at any point in the semester. Want more information? Check out their program here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Read the Words: Another Resource for Text to Speech

Universal Design provides all students with method to personalize and adapt their learning. Read the Words is a free text to speech generator that works with websites, text, and pdfs. I like this site because it works quickly, and you can embed the recordings you create into your blog. This could be especially helpful for teachers as they create resources for their students. This site makes it easy to provide an audio recording of the written materials you provide to students. Thanks to Richard Byrne for this great resource!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Spending Social Capital: A Natural Consequence?

All of my friends are heading off to ISTE DENVER today, and I've been living vicariously through their tweets and blog posts. However, one blog post really caught my eye. Scott McLeod posted ISTE's "official rules for the backchannel." The rules included "be nice," "be clear," and "be open."

Does ISTE really need rules for the backchannel? Should we always have to "be nice" when we are pushing our learning to the next level? Shouldn't we be encouraged to question the status quo? Doesn't the entire idea of "be nice" reinforce the notion that "group think" is inevitable among our personal learning networks?

I think we should encourage teachers and students alike to maintain a healthy cynicism. You can disagree respectfully. Find the facts. Look deeper. Make a change.

Further, every time we post something rude or inappropriate on a backchannel, it's like we are screaming FIRE in a crowded movie theatre. We are spending precious social capital. Everyone who sees an inappropriate comment judges that user. It's human nature. In essence, there is no reinforcement for being "that snarky person" on the backchannel.

Most importantly, how do we teach students to spend their social capital wisely on the web? I think the consequences are natural, but public. Education is the key to helping students navigate these tricky waters

Photo from: Wes Fryer at

Friday, June 25, 2010


This resource was shared at EdCamp Philly. Padilicious is a website that offers free tools and directions to create presentations with video, audio, and images that can be viewed on both computers and iPads. The tools are explained clearly, and the results are impressive. I think this would be a fantastic resource for schools that are purchasing iPad carts or iPads for students! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sync: Young Adult Literature In Your Headphones

Sync looks so cool! Students can access different pieces of literature via a read aloud each week. The stories are geared towards middle school students, and the files can be downloaded in mp3-player friendly formats. The other neat piece about this site is that it offers discussion boards and other forums for students to discuss the books that they are listening to. This is a great way to enhance universal design for your summer readers and writers!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summertime Blogging

Hi everyone, As you know, blogging is a fun, relaxing way for me to stay connected and to reflect on my learning. I enjoy sharing resources with all of you, and it helps me keep a log of my "best" finds. However, over the summer, I like to "unplug" a little bit more. I typically use this time for reading, research, reflection, and FUN! So, I hope to blog approximately 2-3 times per week instead of daily. Don't daily posts will return in September!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yolink: A Browser Add On That ROCKS

I first heard of Yolink at Google Teacher Academy in December, but I never had the time to investigate it. Then, everyone was "talking up" Yolink at EdCamp Philly in May. I knew I had to try it. So I did.

Here's what Yolink does: It is a free browser add on. When you open a website or use a search engine, you can turn on Yolink. It will further refine your search results based on keywords. It will also tease out the actual text where your keywords appear. It makes toggling between your search results and the actual websites very easy. You can also export your search results to a Google Doc. You can also share them on Evernote, Twitter, Diigo, and Delicious.

How could this be used? Here are my ideas:
  • Use Yolink to teach students how to quickly find multiple sources to validate facts.
  • Export Yolink results to a Google Doc to teach students how to synthesize several ideas.
  • Use Yolink to search within an online book to find the snippets of text you need. You can then export or share these snippets.

Do you use Yolink? Do you love it? Hate it? Let me know!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Top 100 Technology Blogs for Teachers

Wow, I just got featured on the Top 100 Technology Blogs for Teachers. Lots of my other favorite blogs are there too. I'm pretty proud to be featured with the likes of some of these folks. *blush*

Friday, June 18, 2010

Next Up: Meeting Agenda Maker

As a meeting facilitator, I LOVE Next Up! Next Up is a site that allows you to put your topics into an agenda with a time limit for each item. Then you click "start meeting" and the timer starts counting down. There is no alarm, and the time remaining for each element is visually displayed. When I facilitate tough meetings, I like to use this to keep everyone on schedule. It is unobtrusive, simple, and PERFECT. Enjoy! (Thanks to the Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness for sharing this site!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sweet Search: A Search Engine Just for Students

As computer and the Internet become more pervasive in our classrooms, I hear the following direction more often. "Go look it up on the Internet." What? What does that mean? Where should the student search? What sources are considered acceptable for the type of assignment the student is producing? Well, Sweet Search is a search engine that could provide more structure to the search process. Every site included in the search engine has been reviewed by a team of researchers. This helps keep the content as accurate as possible. You can also embed the search engine into your website. Thanks to @specialKRB for sharing this site at Edcamp Philly!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Trailers- Movies for Literacy

As the summer approaches, many teachers and parents are searching for ways to encourage students to keep reading through the "lazy summer afternoons." Well, Book Trailers might be a helpful site. It features short (30-45 second) video clips that introduce elementary and adolescent books in an entertaining way. It could help students select books to read over the summer. Also, you can contribute your own videos to the site. I think it would make a great resource for both parents and students over the summer!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gpanion: A Great Homepage for Touchscreens

Let's face it-- touchscreens are COOL. Whether you use an iPod touch, iPad, iPhone, SmartBoard, Android, or other touchscreen device, they are very fun to use. There is something magical about navigating the web with your fingers. With that said, typing in long web addresses can be a drag on these devices. That's why I like Gpanion. I use this as a "homepage" for my touch screen devices. Then I can access Gmail, Docs, or any other Google service with 1 touch. It's just a simple way to make touch screen devices even easier to use! Enjoy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Twitter Parade: Mostly for Fun

I stumbled across a fun Twitter resource called Twitter Parade. You can put in your username or a hashtag, and current tweets will be displayed as if little men are walking in a parade. (No, I am not making this up!) While only some of the actual tweets are displayed, it does create a nice visual of folks that are in your stream or participating in an online event. I had a lot of fun with this site. I'm not sure if I would use it in a professional development session because it does not focus on content, but it is surely interesting!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Working from the Cloud

Last night, my entire hard drive crashed. Being as I beat up my laptop regularly, I do not blame the hardware or software. (I blame my trunk!) In any case, I was amazed at how the cloud has made this event less crippling. I was able to use a friend's netbook to complete a midterm using Google Docs. (Since my course notes were all stored in Dropbox, I could also easily access my notes.) Anything I need for work tomorrow is synced to my Evernote, so I have everything I needed for upcoming meetings right on my iPod touch. Finally, I am creating this blog post using an app on my iPod touch. Wow, so much of my life is synced to the cloud. Thank goodness! How do you use the cloud to ensure that you have access to your data in multiple ways?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Video Toolbox: Online Video Editor

If your school does not have iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, Video Toolbox might be a good resource for you. It allows you to upload and edit movies for free. The video editor is fully online, and you do not have to download anything. You can crop videos, change starting and ending times, merge together several clips, tweak the existing audio, and record video from a webcam. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that I enjoy in my hardware programs, this could be very useful in a pinch. I hope this helps!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spelling Match Game that Includes Phonemic Awareness

Spelling Match is a game offered by Houghton Mifflin. The game offers grades K-8. However, I really like the K version of the game. It focuses on phonics and phonemic awareness by having students find the picture that begins with the same sound as the spelling word. I think this would be a perfect group activity for kindergarten students. Thanks to @rmbyrne for this resource!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teachers, visit the Zoo for FREE this summer!

Teachers, are you interested in visiting the Philadelphia Zoo this summer? Well, the Philadelphia Zoo has generously offered free admission this summer with registration on their site and your teacher ID. It makes an excellent day trip! You can register and find out more information HERE. Thank you for supporting teachers, Philadelphia Zoo! 6/16/10-- Uh oh, it appears the zoo has removed this offer. Sorry! Uh oh! It appears

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Game Classroom

I really like Game Classroom. It has a substantial collection of games that are organized by grade level. Geared toward the elementary audience, the site's games and graphics are clean and neat. The site also features general homework help for students in different academic areas. (This could be helpful to mom and dad too!) I think the site is a nice "one stop shop" for elementary games. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Teaching students how to navigate modern society's pervasive advertising systems can be very tricky. Specifically, students fall prey to ads targeted specifically to their tastes and age groups. Admongo seems like a great interactive game that can help students learn strategies that advertisers use to target them. It is created by the Federal Trade Commission. It could also be an interesting "hook" for a persuasive writing unit. Let me know what you think!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Little Animations for Kids

Little Animations for Kids is a fantastic interactive resource for young students. The site is extremely SmartBoard friendly, and it is easy to navigate. The games are fun. There seems to be a wealth of activities here for young learners. Paired with a SmartBoard, this site would make a great center at the Kindergarten level. Thanks to Kevin Jarrett for sharing this resource!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Animated Video of Drive

Daniel Pink's new book Drive seems to be infiltrating the educational spectrum. (See my blog post about his TED talk here.) Well, I just stumbled across a new animated summary of his talk. It seems very accessible for presentations, staff development, or faculty meetings. I've embedded it below. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Edistorm: Wallwisher with Priorities

I recently stumbled across Edistorm on Richard Byrne's blog. It appears to be a site with similar functionality to Wallwisher. However, it allows users to "vote" on the best ideas presented in the space. This adds an evaluative component to brainstorming or reading response. Very cool! The only drawback to this site is that students must have accounts. Also, the site has paid and free versions. I believe that free versions would be suitable for generic classroom purposes. Enjoy!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Math Popper: Fun Math Fact Game

Are you working on addition facts at the end of kindergarten or first grade? Need a fun way to engage students with this task? Try Math Popper. This fun game is SmartBoard friendly, easy to learn, and fun. Give it a try! (Thanks to the SmartBoard Goodies blog for this resource!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Zooburst: Augmentative Reality

If you are interested in trying out augmentative reality for yourself, then you need to try Zooburst! (Read my post here about augmentative reality.) Zooburst is a student book creator that allows you to create online books that can use either traditional screen displays OR augmentative reality. The site is still in alpha, so it does have some bugs on it. But, it is very cool and very fun! One of my M.Ed. students made a great pop-up book using this tool. I've embedded it below.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

iPad + Proloquo to Go

One of my passions is facilitating communication for students with special needs. Check out this fantastic video from ABC News that shows the power of the iPad as a communication device. It's worth 2.5 minutes of your time!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Email Bankruptcy: An Idea from Will Richardson

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet by Will Richardson. It said, "I am declaring email bankruptcy again. And I feel guilty about 100 in the inbox." This made me think. A lot. In education, email has become a primary method of communication for teachers, administrators, and parents. Although email has made communication easier, it has also multiplied the number of communications that educators are expected to process in one day. When is too much simply TOO MUCH? We need to focus on kids and learning, not email. So, give yourself a break. Declare email bankruptcy. Spend that extra time with your students learning things about them that you never knew!


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