Thursday, February 24, 2011

AlarmTube: A Digital Reward

I've worked with many students who enjoyed watching their favorite videos as a reward. Well, I just found this great site called AlarmTube. AlarmTube allows you to schedule a YouTube video to play at a specific time. This is fantastic for student behavior plans. Does your student get a video reward after five minutes of work? Just set it and forget it!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Response to the Teacher Blog Controversy

Want to see how my thoughts and actions compare to the rest of Montgomery County on social media for teachers? Check out this article published in the Montgomery News. All I can say is that I work with amazing teachers who are acutely aware of social media and digital citizenship. Rock on Springfield!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Simulation for Teaching Genetics

Do you teach genetics? You may want to check out THIS great game from the Science Museum. Students create different "things" in "thingdom" in this simulation to learn about traits and genetics. It is a lot of fun and there is a lesson plan to accompany it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Great Example of a Teacher Experimenting....

Jason Pane, an 8th grade teacher at Springfield Township Middle School, just finished up his mid term projects. For the projects, students had many different options, including videos and websites. I had the privilege of watching some of the student sharing that happened, and Jason had a classroom set up that exemplified universal design. Here was the set up:
  • One student was sharing information
  • The class was taking notes
  • 2 students in the back were taking collaborative notes on a google doc
  • After the presentation, the google doc was projected and students refined the google doc using their notes
  • The google doc was made available to all students
I thought the set up for the activity really gave every student a chance to succeed. It also emphasized collaboration and the necessity of gathering pertinent information. Check out Jason's mid term projects here. Do you see anything that I am missing?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is my PLN shrinking? Or is my learning getting larger?

Although Educon happened almost 2 weeks ago, I am still learning from the resources, links, and notes that I have amassed.

Serendipitously, the next issue of Educational Leadership ended up in my mailbox. (Yes, I still get the paper version as a part of my ASCD membership...) The issue was called "Teaching Screenagers" and the focus was educational technology.

Oddly, reading the article was compelling yet strange. As I read each page, I realized that I engaged with most of these people on a daily or weekly basis via my Professional Learning Network (PLN). Ideas and comments from individuals like Will Richardson, Shannon Miller, and Eric Sheninger littered the pages. I read blog posts, Twitter updates, and discussion boards that feature these individuals and others each day.

While I still benefited from reading the issue, it made me realize that I no longer need associations or professional journals to be the "knowledge broker" in my professional learning. I am in the driver's seat, and my new network provides anytime access to what is happening in my colleagues' classrooms and research settings.

How does this relate to students? Well, students no longer need teachers or textbooks to be the "knowledge broker" in their learning. They can get the information they need from their networks. However, they need adults to teach them how to access those networks and synthesize their ideas. Essentially, they need "knowledge mentors" to help them shape their future. What a great role for today's teacher.

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

DropEvent: Create Photo Collections Without Log Ins

I have run into many different instances where I wanted to crowdsource a group of pictures, but many of the contributers were not familiar with Flickr. Well, DropEvent might be a helpful, free resource in this department. DropEvent allows you to create an event and it provides a unique email address. Anyone can email photos to the address and it instantly creates a collection. The subject line of the email becomes the caption of the photo. I'm hoping to use it for my wedding and several school projects that are coming up. Do you have a use for this? Share it!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Voki Remains Ad Free

Great news! Voki for Education will continue to be free from advertisements for the foreseeable future. They have just relaunched the site with new services for teachers. The new site will operate on a “freemium” model, but ad-free Vokis will still be free. As always, the site does not require a sign-in, so it is friendly for elementary classrooms.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use Voki:

  • Have students create a character from a story they are reading. They should write a speech that embodies the main traits of the character
  • Engage students when you are sick. Create a Voki of yourself giving a quick lesson, instructions, or homework. Students will be reminded that you will be back tomorrow!
  • Have students customize their own avatar. They can create a test review by including the most essential information from a recent unit. Then you can embed the class’ Vokis on a single page so that students can study for the test by playing different Vokis.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Educon 2.3 Reflection

Educon is a conference centered around meaningful conversations. This year, my attendance at Educon was even more meaningful and relevant. Instead of taking away a laundry list of tools, I took away philosophical shifts about the role of a student. Hearing how others have navigated the instructional landscape of research, creation, and accountability has given me the opportunity to refine my beliefs about curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

First of all, the curriculum must be flexible enough to embrace student passions. In my first session, Tony Baldassario defined passion as “when you keep doing something even when it’s not fun.” Getting our students opportunities to express their passions can help kids find the relevance of school. Students have to “own” the curriculum.

In addition, students must be held accountable without being held captive. Student progress should be documented for the purposes of noting growth. Students should not be “ranked, ordered, and sorted.” Identifying “winners” and “losers” impairs the system for everyone. Students should be given multiple opportunities to show mastery, and students should be in control of their progress. Students have to “own” the artifacts that are used to evaluate their progress.

Finally, students must evaluate information instead of simply collecting it. In today’s society, sources of information abound. Educators must teach students how to access the “firehose” of available information to determine what is valid and relevant. Every piece of writing (fiction or nonfiction) has a bias. Students must “own” the information that they discover and utilize.

In essence, it’s really all about student ownership. Students need to be in control of the curriculum, the instruction, and the assessment. When students take an active role in their education, motivation increases. It also gives them the skills that they will need to be successful in life (because life is MORE than college!).


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