Thursday, July 28, 2011

Qwiki - Multimedia Search Engine

My last post mentioned the importance of building background knowledge for students before they begin a difficult text or topic of study. This helps students of all types, especially those who arrive in our classrooms without diverse vocabularies.

Qwiki is a search engine/encyclopedia that displays results as brief, narrated multimedia presentations. While the content is more general in nature, it is presented in such a way that students can easily build context.

My favorite things about Qwiki thus far:
  • It's narrated for students who can't decode the text.
  • It uses a variety of photographs and maps as appropriate.
  • The presentations are short enough to use as "hooks" or introductory sets.
  • When you find a Qwiki, related topics are displayed at the bottom to assist context-building.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Importance of Background Knowledge

A few days ago, I received a gift in the mail. Upon opening it, I had no idea what it was. It was a small glass dish. After considering a variety of options, I gave up, filled it with bobby pins, and put it in my powder room.

A few days later, a guest in my home asked "Why do you have bobby pins in a bottle coaster?"


Apparently the gift was a bottle coaster. As my favorite beverage is filtered Brita water, I had never heard of such a thing. My guest politely showed me how the object was intended to be used.

After a good laugh about the whole situation, I realized that knowledge gaps can lead to some strange behavior.

Think about students who enter your classroom without the background knowledge to be successful. They might make strange choices or even make inferences that seem "odd." This is likely because they can't put the events in context.

So, sometimes, poor readers are students who haven't had the experiences to understand the stories underlying the words.

As teachers, the most important thing we can do is provide context and background students for teachers before reading. Tell stories, develop ideas, show LOTS of pictures.

Let's keep as many "bottle coasters" out of the powder room as we can this year!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teach Like a Champion Videos

A few weeks ago I finished Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. Overall, I thought the book was a very helpful compendium about the best ways to "do business" in your classroom. It was packed with management tips and instructional routines that maximize time on task. I even picked up a few strategies that I hope to incorporate into my PD work with adults.

The book is packed with references to instructional clips where you can see the strategies in action. Since I bought my book on a kindle, I thought that I would miss out on the DVD-referenced clips. Nope! All of the videos are available RIGHT HERE.

These clips are highly motivating and showcase some great instructional techniques. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

G+ -- The Idea of Circles

A few weeks ago, I joined Google +. A social network designed by Google, the portal is very similar to Facebook. However, this site has one significant difference when compared with Facebook. You sort people into "circles," similar to the way that you do in real life. For example, I have a circle of "friends," a circle of "work people," and a circle of "ed tech peeps." When I share something, I consider the audience. For example, my friends have absolutely no desire to check out the latest use for Wordle. However, they are just dying to see pictures from our latest dinner together. Being able to control who sees your content is a luxury that we have in real life, and now we have it in social media. Who know where Google + will be in a few months or a few years, but for right now-- I "+1" it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

File Stork: Collect Files to Your Dropbox

Richard Byrne, author of Free Tech 4 Teachers, recently posted about File Stork. Essentially, File Stork allows you to put a link either in a public or private place. With the link, folks can upload files that end up in your Dropbox. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Jot Form as a solution for our photo crowdsourcing problem.

This solution looks even cleaner and easier than Jot Form.

Thanks Mr. Byrne!

PS- There are probably about 1,000 other uses for File Stork too!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Questions About Higher Ed and Dissertations

Just a few days ago, I had my dissertation proposal defense. (This means that I'm about a year away from finishing my dissertation...almost there!)

While I found the entire experience productive and insightful, it left me with the following questions:
  • Why should we wait for scheduled intervals to get perspectives from our peers to make our work better? (Shame on me!)
  • Are formal research studies the best way to share your ideas with critical individuals who are serious about change?
  • How do our relationships with people affect the ways that we give and receive feedback?

Personally, higher education has been an inventive and creative outlet for me. However, I'm concerned that this art of learning is losing momentum. Should it be abandoned for less formal methods? (I do learn quite a bit from my PLN.) Should it be embraced and revisited because it forces you to ensure thoroughness and accuracy? What do you think?
Photo credit:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

3x3 Links

If you create pathfinders for your students, 3x3 may be a useful resource for you. This resource allows you to create a 3x3 box of links that are accessible via a single URL.

The reason that I really like this site is the fact that you can use your numeric keypad to navigate the links. This is a great universal design feature that allows students with limited mouse skills to use the computer efficiently.

3x3 has a clean interface, and it minimizes students' cognitive load. It may be a helpful resource if you're reorganizing your class links this summer!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Google Apps for Ed Presentations from ISTE 2011

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my district is just beginning to experiment with Google Apps. We did some initial training last week, and I'm very hopeful about the future of this initiative. I think it is going to change the way that teachers and students interact, and I also think it is going to help middle school students stay organized.
Here is the complete list of Google Apps for Ed presentations from ISTE 2011 last week.


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