Tuesday, August 31, 2010

K-12 Online Free Conference

Interested in a free opportunity to make connections with educators and learn lots of ways to refine your instructional craft? Then definitely check out the FREE K-12 Online Conference. You can even attend in your PJs with a mug of your favorite coffee.

The conference is scheduled for December 2010, and the keynote speakers are going to be announced tomorrow HERE. I highly recommend checking it out. Even if you can't make the scheduled sessions, each presentation is archived for future viewing. It's a great resource. Last year, Joyce Valenza did an awesome presentation called "The Wizard of Apps."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Write Like

"I Write Like" is interesting and a lot of fun. You enter in a large selection of text and it tells you which famous author your writing resembles. I entered in several selections of my writing (blog posts, book drafts, etc.) and they all returned the same result: David Foster Wallace. It inspired me to research him and learn about his work. It was interesting and a lot of fun. I think this tool could be a lot of fun in the classroom. As students learn who they write like, it may spark interest in new authors or new writing styles. Enjoy!

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reading Rewards: Interactive Book Tracker

Reading rewards is a neat site that I learned about from Richard Byrne. It is a free tool that allows students to track their reading online. In my opinion, the site is designed for elementary level students. In addition to the tracking features, I really liked the student networking aspect of the site. Students can like, recommend, or review books right from their list. Check out the site's slide presentation below. It might be a good tool to introduce to your students at the beginning of the year!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Simply Noise: A Great Tool for Universal Design

Universal design operates on the principle that providing ALL students with options leads to increased learning outcomes for ALL students, not just students with special needs. I came across a tool today on the Instructify blog. (If you're not a subscriber to that blog, you should be!) The site is called Simply Noise, and it generates a variety of background noises. I tried it today as I was studying, and it really helped me focus. This might be a great tool to share with students in your classroom. (Perhaps you can play some white noise from the site during independent work time.) The site can even generate oscillating noise and it also has a sleep timer. Give it a try-- Feel free to leave your results in the comments!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keeping What's Important Up Front

As I navigate a variety of tasks and functions this summer, I am constantly trying to prioritize my duties and obligations around items that directly support student achievement. However, in the hub bub of the day, this can be very difficult. Problems and jobs arrive over the phone, via email, and through office drop-ins. I have found myself returning to Covey's Time Management Matrix. This has helped me immensely as I decide where to place my efforts and energies.

For me, the biggest problem is deciphering which items and tasks belong in which quadrants. This takes careful reflection and planning. Which items are urgent, but not important? How many calls, emails, and requests do not relate to my vision and focus for student learning? It takes time to develop an acuity for these items, and dealing with them can be delicate.

So, after some careful reflecting, here are my QUANDRANT II priorities for this upcoming year:
  • Help teachers use technology effectively in their classrooms and give them constant, responsive feedback about it
  • Help teachers implement a standards based gradebook and standards based report card
  • Work with a district level data team to analyze trends in student achievement and determine instructional needs for the district

What do you have in QUADRANT II for this upcoming year? Did I forget anything? Let me know!

Photo from www.lifetrainingonline.com

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Easy Email Fix

Have you ever needed to instantly create an email account for student sign ups or other reasons? Try Tempalias! This site creates a temporary email address that will forward to your original account. You can determine how long the temporary email will stay active for. This is an incredibly handy tip!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Answer Garden: A Possible Option for Student Response

Have you ever wanted to collect student feedback quickly, but a poll wasn't appropriate? You may want to try Answer Garden. I learned about this resource from Shelly Terrell. You can quickly and easily create a place where students can type brief responses that are instantly displayed as a word cloud. No sign in is necessary. You can embed your box into your blog or wiki very easily. Respond to my example below!

What is your favorite thing about summer?... at AnswerGarden.ch.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Knotebooks: Universal Design for Science

I just stumbled upon Knotebooks as I reviewed my Diigo links from the week. This site is truly constructed around the principles for universal design. Students or teachers can search predesigned content about science topics. (You can also create your own content.) As you read sections, you can ask for easier or harder text as appropriate. You can also replace text with a video at any time. Talk about options! I think this site is a "must see" for science educators in high school. I love the flexibility that is provides to both students and teachers. It's differentiates quickly and easily! Check out the embedded video for more information.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dime Toss: Where's the Relevance?

This past weekend, I went to one of my favorite carnivals. It's one of those good, old-fashioned places where you can eat french fries, play bingo, and ride a ferris wheel.

My favorite activity at the carnival is the DIME TOSS. This game involves throwing dimes at gently used dishware. If the dime lands on the plate or cup, you get to keep it. Each year, I diligently throw dimes at mugs that say "World's Best Dad" or old sundae dishes. I usually win a few items that are later sold at my annual garage sale.

As I was tossing away dimes this year, a thought crossed my mind. This is what education feels like to lots of students. It's fun at first. However, the excitement quickly dwindles when the realization sets in that the reward is not particularly meaningful or useful.

So, how can we stop our learning objectives from resembling fine china from 1975?

Well, we can involve students in curriculum revision projects. We can ask parents, students, and community members what matters BEFORE we establish standards, lessons, and materials. We can simply say, "What do you want to WIN as you work towards educational goals?"

Please understand that I realize there must be balance when learning targets are established. There are some essential skills and ideas that students must master in particular content areas. However, putting students into the driver's seat can make a big difference in student performance.

What do you think?


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