Thursday, September 9, 2010

Teaching Will Have to Change

One of our biggest challenges over the next few years (and beyond) is going to be how to successfully integrate technology into teaching and learning. Marzano points out that in the next five years the projection is that 50% of classrooms will have interactive white boards. Therefore, teaching will have to look different.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rethinking the Paradigm - Scheduling

As it stands currently, students are, generally speaking, in school daily from 8-3, approximately nine months out of the year, with three months 'off' in the summer. Teachers and administrators juggle elaborate schedules to make use of the resources available to them, or lack thereof in many cases. And, for what? So that we can 'cover' material and students can take state tests that supposedly measure all of the information needed to ensure a child will be successful in the next grade level? Where is the excitement, the learning opportunity, the out-of-the-box thinking? Oh, we missed it because it occurred between 9:23 and 9:47, and that's all we can fit into the day. I have to apologize if I sound cynical because I don't mean to do so, it's just that I feel like some days I cannot breathe because we are so constricted by all the things that have to happen in a day or week or school year, we do not have time to learn about or do some of the things that we want to do or explore.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, but I have been so busy with all of those things I 'have' to do that I have not had a chance to simply write. It's all been in my head. I have quite a bit to say, so I plan to address one or two topics at a time. I feel like our education system is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Today, I had the pleasure of working with two classes of 1st graders as we attempted to finish a project we began several weeks ago. Mind you, school will be out for the summer in one week, so, one can imagine the level of focus and attention being given to the project. Our "I Can" project consisted of students writing 10-15 sentences about things that they 'can' do and which would be able to be communicated through still imagery. Once the students write down their ideas on paper, each student uses PowerPoint to type in the I can sentences from the list. Students then pair up and take pictures of each other doing the activities. I assist the students in downloading the pictures, and then the 1st graders insert their own pictures into the appropriate slides. The students choose their favorite font shape, size, and color, and then we import everything to PhotoStory so they can narrate their projects, and the teacher combines them all into one video the students can take home as a keepsake and portfolio addition. The kids love it. They are engaged and are so excited when they see their pictures and figure out how to listen to their voices and decide whether or not they should keep the audio clip or not. Generally speaking, it takes about one modeling session for the students to understand how to do each of the steps their own, and each step doesn't really doesn't take that long.

So, if it doesn't take that long, what is my point, and why am I about to complain? In theory it doesn't take that long, but when your are dealing with 1st graders, patience is more than a virtue! Additionally management is essential. The students must be engaged 115% of the time or chaos will evolve. What I am trying to say is that even though we started the project several weeks ago, it did not have to take weeks to complete. Had we been able to plan for a longer block of time at once, we could have completed the project more quickly and in less time overall. But, because we had to keep starting and stopping it took much longer than anticipated.

In the past, the square peg (learning environment) may have fit into the square hole (calendar), but when the learning environment changes with respect to resources and technology and the calendar changes with regards to real-time access to real-world experiences, why do we continue to use the same standard, and expect that we will derive an alternative result?

To me, it seems that completing the project in one or two longer sessions would have been more effective and productive than dragging it out over several weeks. However, we were working with the time and resources available. As teachers, we did the best we could with what we had at the time.

If we rethought the schedule in the school day and allowed for more flexibility in project based learning, teachers and administrators might be more effective in meeting students' needs.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Perfecting with Practice: Project-Based Teaching | Edutopia

Perfecting with Practice: Project-Based Teaching

By Suzie Boss


In project learning (PL), plans that look spectacular on paper can go awry when students enter the picture. During the implementation phase, students may decide to head in directions their teacher never anticipated.

Tensions can build if teams don't understand what it means to collaborate or share responsibility for project success. Creative problem solving can start to feel like classroom chaos. This is when the art of project-based teaching makes all the difference.

What if you're new to teaching with the project approach? Do you have to learn everything the hard way?

Fortunately, veteran PL teachers are only too happy to share their wisdom. For the past several weeks, I've had the pleasure of listening to educators talk about the nitty-gritty of projects. Colleague Jane Krauss and I just wrapped up hosting a series of webinars. (If you are interested, the discussion continues here.)

Here are just a few gems from this conversation, along with links to projects that will give you some new ideas to try with your students.

Get Minds Inquiring

Inquiry is at the heart of project learning, and PL veterans are deliberate about sparking student curiosity before a project actually begins. Some teachers leave clues in plain sight, encouraging students to do preliminary detective work that will fire up their curiosity. Others use opinion polls to ignite class discussions. Kevin Gant from the New Tech Network offers this sample question to lead into a physics project: "What's the better car: Dodge Viper or Shelby Cobra?" A class survey takes just a few minutes, Gant says, but, "time spent getting the students riled up about an issue is golden."

Lay a Foundation

The project approach challenges students to think for themselves, conduct research, solve authentic problems, meet deadlines, and manage much of their own learning. Experienced teachers don't take these skills for granted. They invest time to introduce students to the project process. Terry Smith from Hannibal, Missouri, uses the popular Monster Project to "get students into project mode" by negotiating decision making in small teams.

Before Sue Boudreau, teaching in Orinda, California, unleashes students on a complex project, she starts with a low-risk activity to teach process skills. She might ask students to think about all the steps associated with a familiar task, such as getting a meal ready for dinner guests. Then she has them work backwards from the dinner bell to figure out the project flow. Currently, Boudreau's middle school students are using their project skills to take on real-world science challenges through the Take Action Project.

Look to the Discipline for Cues

Where are the boundaries when students are pursuing open-ended questions? Neil Stephenson from Calgary, Alberta, suggests looking to the discipline you're teaching to help students focus their efforts. "I'm trying to find places where I can bring the reality of the discipline into the classroom. What does it mean for kids to become mathematicians and not just teach them math? What does it mean to teach them to do science and not learn about science? There's a subtle but powerful shift there," he suggests, "and the right way to teach comes out of the disciplines." Stephenson's award-winning Cigar Box Project demonstrates what happens "when kids actually become historians and interpret events from the past."

Develop Confidence

Project learning typically culminates with students sharing the results of their effort, often at a public event. How do you build students' presentation skills, as well as the confidence to exercise their voice? Anthony Armstrong, teaching in Tiburon, Calif., goes about this deliberately. He challenges his eighth graders with an activity he calls the "30-second blowhard." They discover that staying on topic for half a minute can be a challenge, especially when you're expected to make a cogent argument. And that's not all.

Armstrong asks each student to summarize the key points made by the previous speaker. That builds listening skills. Gradually, as students gain confidence and competence, the 30-second challenge expands to a couple minutes.

Build Some Buzz

When PL really takes hold, the benefits can extend in all sorts of unexpected directions. We call this the project spiral. Where can spirals go? Imagine a project that brings in collaborators from other schools -- or other countries. Picture community members connecting with students to solve real-world challenges. Think about the advantages when PL teachers form virtual communities to continue fine-tuning their practice.

These benefits won't happen in a vacuum, however. George Mayo from Silver Spring, Maryland, reminds us of the value of building buzz by getting student projects out into the world. He's an advocate of blogs as a tool for getting students to publicly reflect on their learning and invite reactions. Mayo also organizes a project called the Longfellow Ten, in which students from across the country create "absurd stop-motion films" to illustrate academic concepts. In his own community, Mayo organizes an annual film festival where students showcase their best filmmaking efforts -- and evidence of their expanding visual literacy -- with family and friends.

Establish the Right Context

Connie Weber teaches at an independent school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that removes many of the typical barriers to the project approach. She enjoys small class sizes, gifted students, strong parental support, and even an on-campus nature center. But when we asked her about the key conditions for project success, she described a learning environment that could be replicated almost anywhere -- with the right care and attention. What's essential, she says, "is establishing the learning atmosphere, how the class feels." Instead of generating rules with her students, she invites them to "generate tendencies, [and] positive ways to be together."

Students warm right up to this request. Weber explains, "They suggest that they want each other to be nice, honest, respectful, patient; to have integrity and perseverance; to be safe to make mistakes and safe to share their views." She adds one more quality to the list: "It's important to play."

What does this feel like in practice? At the start of a project, Weber describes this moment:

"For the teacher, there's this giant letting go. Now, that requires some effort. I can see it in my mind -- it's me walking away, turning my back, going somewhere else, not allowing myself to hover. It's me communicating, 'I'm at your service,' and, 'May the force be with you.' It's me utterly and totally handing over the reins, come what may. The project is theirs."

These are just a few of the insights shared during several weeks of inspiring conversations. And the good talk continues. Links to webinar recordings are posted in Classroom 2.0.

Thanks to Project Foundry for hosting this series, and to LearnCentral for providing the virtual meeting room through the site, Elluminate. Most of all, thanks to all the excellent teachers who have so generously shared their wisdom.

If you've been teaching with projects for a while, how have you fine-tuned your approach? If you're new to PL, what advice are you searching for? Please share your ideas -- and keep this conversation going.

Referenced at:

Posted via web from kakronfeld's posterous

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Grammaropolis: "

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What it is: Grammaropolis is a fun find that helps students learn the parts of speech. In Grammaropolis, all of the characters are a different part of speech. Students will “meet” Adverb, Linking Verb, Pronoun, Adjective, Preposition, Slang, Noun, Conjunction, Interjection, and Action Verb. Each character is personified with personalities inspired by their grammaticall roles in a sentence. The characters interact with each other the same way that parts of speech interact in a sentence, brilliant! Each character has a character card that tells a story about them. Students can watch short Grammaropolis videos starring the characters (parts of speech) that live there. Students can take Grammaropolis quizzes, complete word sorts, and color the characters of Grammaropolis in an online coloring book in the games section. Students will enjoy the fun Grammaropolis song featuring all of the characters of Grammaropolis. Coming soon, students will be able to read a book series starring the Grammaropolis characters.

How to integrate Grammaropolis into the classroom: Visual learners will absolutely love this site that personifies the parts of speech. All learners will appreciate the stories about the parts of speech. We learn best through story. Story gives us a framework for our understanding of new concepts and helps us to use those new concepts. Grammar is often a subject that is taught purely through memorization of rules and drill and skill exercises. This makes it difficult for students to really understand grammar. Grammaropolis is an excellent solution to this problem. Use the Grammaropolis character cards to introduce students to new parts of speech. Watch the videos and listen to the song as a class to delve deeper into the character traits that each part of speech has. The books on Grammaropolis are coming soon, while students await these, why not encourage your students to write their own stories that include the characters of Grammaropolis? Do you have older students that could use a parts of speech refresher? Have them create stories using the characters for younger students. The characters have already been developed for them! Print out the character cards and post them around the classroom. This will help your visual learners, when you talk about “Pronoun” they will be able to associate it with a character and story. Set up the Grammaropolis games on classroom computers as a literacy center that students can visit to practice their understanding of the parts of speech.

Tips: Grammaropolis is currently holding a contest. Helping Verb is lost, students can draw what they think Helping Verb should look like. Submissions will be accepted until March 31, 2010 (so start this contest with your students today!). Five finalists will be posted on the Grammaropolis blog on April 7 with a winner announced April 22. The winner will recieve a gift pack, there character drawn by a professional and added to the Grammaropolis team, and receive a 20″x30″ poster featuring their character singed by the Powerhouse animators that make the Grammaropolis videos. The winning character will debut in Action Verb’s book in the book series.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Grammaropolis in your classroom.

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Scribble Maps

Picture 2

What it is: Sometimes I use a website and recommend a website so often in my own corner of the world, that I forget to share it with all of you.  Scribble Maps is one of those websites.  Jonathan Wylie posted about Scribble Maps on his blog, Educational Technology Blog, last week and it made me wonder if I had ever posted here about it.  A quick search revealed I had not.  That sent me on a search through my blog of websites that I use most often with my students, and many of them have been overlooked here.  I guess I assume everyone knows about them because I use them so much.  You know what they say about people assuming things…  So, I will sprinkle in blog posts of some well known tools (in my classroom) as I realize they are absent!   Scribble Maps is a website that lets you scribble, draw, and annotate over Google maps.  Scribble Maps even lets you print your maps, save them, embed them on your website, blog, or wiki or save them as jpeg images to your computer.  Sweet, huh?!  In addition to annotating over maps, you can also add place markers with titles and descriptions, and add images to the map.  Maps can be viewed as regular maps, terrain maps, hybrid maps, or satellite maps making it pretty ideal for every classroom need.

How to integrate Scribble Maps into the classroom: The days of bulky pull down maps taking up space in your classroom are over.  If you have an interactive whiteboard or computer with projector, Scribble Maps is all you need.  (You couldn’t write on those expensive maps anyway!)  Scribble Maps is perfect for your every map need.  Whether it is a quick reference or an in depth geography lesson, Scribble Maps is easy to use, save, and print.  Use Scribble Maps in literature or history and drop place markers with descriptions on a map as students read.  Students will have a better idea of what is happening in story when they can visually see places mentioned marked out on a map.  Scribble Maps would be a great tool for those Flat Stanley projects that elementary classrooms across the country do each school year.  Create a map and plot all of the places that Stanley traveled, attach pictures of Stanley, with those he visited, on the map.  Play map games calling out geographical places and having students find them on the map and tag them with the information they know.

Scribble Maps lets you share maps via Facebook, in the high school classroom create a class page that students can become fans of and post homework help, links to educational websites, etc.

My Technology Tuesday tip of the week is for Scribble Maps.  Check out Quick Tip 14 here.

Tips: As a side note, if you are not reading Jonathan’s blog, it is one to add to your RSS reader!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Scribble Maps in your classroom.

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Posted via web from kakronfeld's posterous

Saturday, March 6, 2010


First week of class, all my resources have been reviewed, discussion question posted a day early, & even blogged a little today - life is good!

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In Response to: Galileo Was Right!

At Tech the Plunge, Jeff writes about teacher morale and explains how Part 10, “ Galileo was Right,” of a 12 part mini-series entitled From the Earth to the Moon originally broadcast on HBO in the late 90’s can increase teacher morale because "it provides a great insight into two entirely different methods of teaching."

My response:

Yes, it is so important to boost teacher morale because there are so many "hats" to wear as a teacher (and as an administer for that matter) that most people do not realize. Expectations for educators are set high with only so many hours in a day, and yet, most continue to plug away to go above and beyond those expectations. But, educators are human, so re-generation is a must or burnout will inevitably be on the horizon!

I think the way you chose to boost teacher morale is an excellent demonstration of how information through technology could be used a classroom and a testimonial that the resources available to educators and students regarding information gathering is available. Not only is it available, but it can be found for free or at a minimum cost - what kind of educator doesn't like free?

Additionally, as new mediums for delivering digital content such as the iPad and other tablets become available, the way in which we access that content will also be different and generally speaking, more accessible. In the March 1, 2010 episode of TWiT 237: Master Iterator, hosts, Leo Laporte, Jason Calacanis, Dwight Silverman, and Brett Larson, discussed the way content delivery and content acquisition has changed and is changing. The ability to access archives and compare and contrast trends and recent events provides opportunities for higher level thinking. Silverman gave an excellent example of how the Houston Chronicle was able to provide up-to-date, nearly real-time information of the recent earthquake and tsunamis through information gathered from Twitter feeds and Ustream video. Larson commented that when New York covered subway strikes, archived information from previous strikes was used to show trends and compare and contrast the situation.

So, if we are able to find fantastic archival video with a few clicks to boost teacher morale, wouldn't it make sense that educators everywhere could use these same strategies to boost student morale? After all, if our news sources are gathering information this way, wouldn't it only make sense to teach our students to do the same thing and apply their knowledge to real-world situations?

Awesome post, Jeff! Thanks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Might a 21st Century Literacy Class Look Like? This!

What Might a 21st Century Literacy Class Look Like? This!: "As an innovative educator I often write about fantastic tools that teachers can incorporate into practice. But, what might a 21st century high school literacy class look like? Here is a glimpse into a class I would love to be in if I was a student today.


Sam is a eleventh grader, who has struggled with ELA courses in secondary school. He is accustomed to the cycle of failure after years of low and barely passing grades in elementary school and repeating eighth grade before being allowed to continue on to high school. Although eager to learn and eventually finish high school, Sam has already failed two quarters of English. He is frustrated by the continuing cycle. He often finds himself bored and unmotivated in school which he thinks might have something to do with his less than stellar performance and motivation. He has friends that feel the same way and they notice there are other students in their classes that seem to have stronger educational drive and performance. He's just not one of them.

An alert English teacher took notice of Sam and recommended that he participate in a unique class of students with similar academic needs. He was given a chance to participate in an online credit recovery program to make up the credits lost by failing the two quarters of English. The Credit Recovery Program is an internet based curriculum for high school students. Students work individually and at their own pace using laptops. Each course is organized into units based on each of the 7 standards. Each unit has lessons composed of several different activities. The units and lessons are structured to address varying learning styles and so include audio, video, animations, interactive segments as well as traditional text. Participating students have a teacher/mentor (NYC DOE teacher?) who has been specifically trained in online instruction and can focus on individualizing instruction for each student. Students receive timely feedback on assessments. Sam knows that he must complete all activities and receive a grade of 70 or better in order to move on to the next lesson or unit.

In New York City there are seven English Language Arts performance standards that high school students must meet. They are: E1) Reading E2) Writing E3) Listening, Speaking, Viewing E4) Conventions, Grammar, and Usage of the English Language E5) Literature E6) Public documents E7) Functional Documents. In our online learning credit recovery model students must demonstrate achieving mastery in each area. One area that Sam failed in 9th grade English Language Arts was ELA Standard E1b: Read and comprehend at least four books on the same subject, or by the same author, or in the same genre. In this case study we will take a look at how Sam was able to demonstrate mastery in the 21st century classroom.

The Learning Journey

Sam reports to school at the beginning of the school day and picks up his laptop from the OLC (Online Learning Cafe). Although all 25 students taking a variety of classes report there, they can use their laptops in any of the school's various study spaces connecting to the internet through high speed wireless connectivity.

Sam logs on to his laptop where he has his online bookshelf filled with a variety of texts including contemporary literature (both fiction and non fiction), magazines, newspapers, textbooks, and more. These books were part of the previous unit he completed that addressed Standard E1A. As Sam logs on he thinks, “Wow, if reading was like this before, I probably wouldn’t be taking this class.” Sam’s bookshelf is made possible through a variety of partnerships with entities such as the Public Library, NetTrekker, Book Glutton, LuLu, Blurb, Blogger, and Google Books. Here Sam has a collection of every book he has read since entering the school and all those he plans to read.

Sam is actually excited about demonstrating mastery in this area because as he clicked on the standard in this module his animated teaching assistant explained that this standard is intended to encourage students to invest themselves thoroughly in an area that interests them. He learned that such an investment will generate reading from an array of resources, giving him more experience of reading as well as increased understanding of a subject.

Huh, he thought to himself. I had no idea that this is what we were supposed to be doing when I failed this in ninth grade. The teacher just showed us bins of raggedity old books and magazines and told us to pick one we liked. I didn't like any of em and was left with a bunch of books about Ronald Reagan.

Sam was excited to dive into this work and have a chance to read about things that interest him, but what would he choose??? Sam clicked on the interest survey which he was excited to take. The system has his profile for reading level, grade, gender, and first language, and produced a series of questions. Based on the interest survey, he decided he wanted to do deep reading about curling. He came to this conclusion because his interest profile suggested he select something in the area of sports...perhaps something in which he participates or watches. Following the Winter Olympics he and his dad had become fascinated with the topic and in fact even signed up for a curling league. He thought this would be a great way to find some reading that maybe he and his dad could do together.

When he entered the virtual reading room and typed the topic into the system he instantly got hits based on his profile: reading level, native language, grade, and gender, from all the partner sites along with options of how mastery could be demonstrated. Of the various choices Sam would have to pick four different readings in which to demonstrate such mastery to meet the standard.

Sam selected the following:

Sam realized that he only needed to select four sources, but that didn’t matter. He was really interested in reading all five. Maybe more. He wasn't sure if this was okay though, so he looked to see which of the ELA facilitators was online. He saw Ms. Michelle was online and sent her an IM asking if he could choose five rather than four selections. 'Sure!' Ms. Michelle replied with a smile emoticon. You can always choose a bit more and then just select your top four picks to be assessed. That is a smart strategy.'

Sam wondered if perhaps he could interest any of the other ELA students around the country to study this topic too. He posted the question on the system message board and hoped someone else might be interested in this topic too as it would be fun to collaborate. He also jumped over to his Twitter account and sent out a tweet: If you're interested in curling, DM me. I have some great materials to read. Sam instantly got five responses to his tweet. He was excited to start building a personal learning network around curling.

Sam was excited to start by taking a look at Sweep Magazine. The digital format was fantastic. Sam immediately thought his dad, who’s in the over-40 crowd, would love that he could zoom in on any text or photos in the magazine. Sam also appreciated being able to select the “Listen” option not only because it was helpful for certain difficult-to-read sections of the magazine, but also because he thought it would be interesting to learn about curling as he was getting ready in the morning for school. Even though he couldn't take the laptop home, he realized he could still listen to it because the magazine had an accompanying podcast he could listen to on his personal iPod. Sam DMed those who tweeted him with a link to the magazine.

All materials have 'suggested proof of mastery' which include a student activity as well as a reflection which is what his online teachers reviews and assesses him on using the unit rubric. Students can submit alternate activities for approval and any of the class facilitators in that content area may approve. For Sweep Magazine Sam decided to engage in selecting three articles to share with some friends who might enjoy by posting a link on with an accompanying status update on Facebook. Sam was excited because he knew this would help build his curling-focused personal learning network even more. The post had to indicate something about the article and why he thought those tagged would find it of interest. Sam also had to make at least three comments in response to his friends in each update. These conversations were pasted into Sam's reflection that is shared with the teacher and make up a part of the reflection assessment. The online facilitators read each reflection with the authentic writing samples and provide feedback as well as a grade to students. In many cases this might include tips, tutorials, or one-on-one sessions with the online facilitator to strengthen a particular skill. Students that do not pass are required to engage in the scaffolding activities and resubmit their work. Students that do pass also have the option of engaging in the scaffolding activities and resubmitting their work for a higher grade but this is optional.

Note: As part of the high school curriculum all students learn how to create a responsible digital footprint and Twitter and Facebook are a part of this. In some cases students have set up both a separate personal and student profile. In other cases students have chosen to have one profile only. Sam fell in the later category.

Before the end of the class someone responded to Sam's message on the system bulletin board. Another student said he was interested in reading about curling too. Sam messaged him back with a note expressing his excitement and a link to his bookshelf. Next, Sam shared his bookshelf and assignment selections with his adviser who he was looking forward to connecting with tomorrow during their weekly online Elluminate webinar session.

Here are the other activities Sam engaged in during the semester.

Sam subscribed to the Skip Cottage Curling Blog: Sam selected to comment on at least three entries as part of his activity. Sam challenged his dad to do the same. They ended up in a virtual debate through their comments on the ethics of one of the players. The online conversations bleed into some interesting dinnertime chats and an interesting reflection for his teacher.

Sam borrowed The Curling for dummies book from the public library. His assessment option choice for this book was to write a review that would be submitted on as well as select at least three reviews from others on which he would rate and comment. Of course, this wasn’t as easy as it sounded because Sam kept finding that his Dad had taken the book to work. Eventually they both read the book and commented on one another’s work.

Sam started his dive into learning about curling with a Curling article from Wikipedia. His activity for this reading was to use something he found or learned from his curling study to add to the article. Sam started with the resource section and added in the blog he was reading. Sam also wrote about the ethics controversy of the player he had read about in the blog.

The final reading that Sam did on the topic was How to Get on a Curling Team from Book Glutton. Sam was excited to learn that this book had actually been published on Book Glutton from another student who had taken the course across the country. He wrote the book as part of the E2 Writing standard. In the back of Sam’s mind he was thinking about a book he might publish that could be interesting for other students to read. The activity selected for this book was that Sam had to make at least three comments in the book and reach out to another reader to set up a time to read a passage that he particularly liked together with that reader and discuss it on Book Glutton. Sam loved this activity. He contacted the author and his own father and the three of them had a Book Glutton online discussion on several different passages. Sam was online from school, his dad during his lunch break at the office, and the author from her gym which had wireless internet.

Sam’s goal was to finish two activities per quarter and figured the first four would be the ones for which he submitted his reflection assessment. Sam ended up finishing all five activities in the two quarters and submitted them all. He appreciated the feedback and insight from his online facilitator and hoped she didn’t mind the extra work he was giving her. He IMed her in the chat box to see if it was okay. She said, 'Sam, I've been really impressed with your work and would love to read an additional submission.'

At the completion of the unit Sam was thrilled. He had developed a terrific community of friends with who he could read, write, and converse about curling. He had started on his curling team and got many of his actual friends involved too. 'Hmmm'...he thought. 'I wonder when the summer Olympics will begin. I've always been interested in beach volleyball and now I know some smart ideas to get started.'

Why Social Media Curriculum is Critical in Schools - 140 Character Conference

Why Social Media Curriculum is Critical in Schools - 140 Character Conference: "badge5I am presenting at The 140 Characters Conference in New York City on April 20th. This event is the largest worldwide gathering of people interested in the effects of the real-time Internet on business, education, and “we” the people. Some of the other speakers include Ann Curry, NBC News (@AnnCurry), Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy, (@chrislehmann), Donny Deustch (@Donny_Deutsch), Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump), and MC Hammer (@MCHammer).

I will be a part of the Twitter and Education panel. Specifically I'll be discussing:

1) Teaching Kids how to manage their Digital Footprint
2) Why social media curriculum is critical in schools
3) Technology usage to enhance collaboration and development

In anticipation of the conference I'm writing about each topic. You can read what I wrote about Teaching Kids to Manage their Digital Footprint here. For this post I am addressing:

Why Social Media Curriculum is critical in schools

Students Using Social NetworksUnfortunately, too many of the places where students go online to interact with one another have policy-imposed walls between teacher and student. Not only have many schools enacted policies restricting teacher/student interaction, because most schools have banned most sites students use to communicate they do their best to prevent students from using these tools to communicate in an educational setting. It is unfortunate that in the 21st century many schools have deemed adolescent socialization among each other or with their teachers as inappropriate. This is the pervasive outlook despite the fact that educators are fully aware that 1) A healthy part of adolescent development includes socialization and 2) Research from those like the National School Board Association indicate that most students use social media to discuss educational topics and other studies (like this one from the CCSE) indicate students who are using social media to discuss schoolwork perform better. Across the nation, most schools have banned students from accessing authentic communication hardware or software, positioning school as a place where socialization is kept to a minimum, learning is teacher directed, and conversations are teacher, rather than student, driven and/or maintained. This of course does little to prepare students from effectively navigating the online environments they have access to and should be prepared to navigate outside of school. Looking the other way however is not addressing the purple elephant in the room. The social media curriculum is occurring with or without involvement of adults. The huge disconnect from the world outside of schools and requirement imposed on students to power down upon entry into school has left many students literally bored out of their minds, and we've conveniently labeled many such students who thrive on communication, stimulation, multi-tasking and action, as afflicted attention deficet hyperactivity disorder. Interestingly these same students have no problem focusing or giving attention when empowered to do so in their own worlds and environments.

Schools that have taken the 'don't ask, don't tell' approach to the social media curriculum are neglectfully choosing to look the other way as students communicate, collaborate, and connect in worlds devoid of adults. The result can be that just as in the real world, without any adult supervision, students could be at risk and are existing without models for appropriate behavior. Additionally if educators refuse or are prevented from becoming a part of these online places they are not speaking the language or joining in the real-world environments of their 21st century students. That said, I don't believe there should be an actual 'social media curriculum' but rather social media must be integrated into the curriculum. Additionally, we need another name for these environments. Yes they can be social, but they are often more than primarily social environments. They are connecting, networking, and learning environments where students have conversations and explore passions, talents, and ideas. I've helped numerous teachers begin their own online learning communities with students and the results are dramatic. Work is published to a broader community. Students can easily see one another's work, rate and comment on it. They feel like their teacher's are finally interested in speaking there language. Teachers are amazed at the resulting conversations, ideas, and voices shared that would never have emerged had it not been for the integration of social media. With personal bio pages, students learn more about their classmates or schoolmates, or districtmates, or globemates...depending on the type of network set up. The students become the masters of their learning and conversations, and are able to do so in an environment that is safe and with the gentle guidance and facilitation of educators. Additionally the educator can set up roles for students who can be empowered to lead and monitor various groups and/or conversations. The lessons learned from the safe, online school environment can easily be transferred to what the students are doing online in their own spaces.

The other important piece to this equation is educating parents, guardians, families. They can also be invited to these online learning spaces. Additionally, caregivers must be taught how to engage in the online learning environments in which their children participate. It is unacceptable for caregivers to allow students to participate in these environments without supervision. Just as care givers would not let their children into real-world environments without a responsible adult present, they should not let their children exist in online worlds withouth them. But the adults need some support in how to do this and really what is and what is not acceptable behavior online. The best people to teach this...their kids and adults can help students organize at-school professional development for parents. It's a win-win and learning experience for all parties involved. Together students, care givers and teachers can have meaningful conversations about what is appropriate, acceptable, questionable or embarrassing.

I very much look forward to discussing this on the Twitter and Education panel and I hope to see other innovative educators at the conference as well. If you are thinking about attending #140conf NYC, now would be a great time to secure your seat. With the “early bird” ticket costing only US$ 100 for the two day event or $60 for one day. You can register NOW to guarantee youself access to the event. “Early Bird” registration ends on March 6th. The format at the #140conf events is unique. Individual talks are 5 and 10 minutes, keynotes are 15 and 20 minutes and panel discussions are no more than 20 minutes. During the course of the two days more than 140 people will share the stage at the 92nd Street Y in about 70 sessions. To get a feel of the energy you may experience in April, click here to review the videos from the 2009 #140conf NYC. The take aways from this event will provide the attending delegates knowledge, perspectives and insights to the next wave of effects twitter and the real-time internet will have on business and education in 2010 and beyond.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Love Affair With Learning

My Love Affair With Learning: "

also posted on Angela Maiers' site


I love learning. I love being around people who are passionate about their own lifelong journey of learning and teaching. It's contagious.

As I reflect on these past 20 years of working in this great profession of education, and particularly the past few years of worldwide connections I've been fortunate to find due to the blogosphere, I'm excited about learning now more than ever. I strive for at least one WOW each day.

On this day where we celebrate sharing our hearts and passion, I thought I'd share something I've been thinking on for a few days.

My Love Affair With Learning

Literacy: Though we often think about literacy with regard to book learning, there is so much more to literacy than that. Social literacy and how we interact with others. Health literacy and how we treat our bodies. Global and Economic literacies and how we are supporters of our neighbors and stewards of our possessions. And with changes constantly about, we continue to learn

Odyssey: And with changes constantly about ... we realize learning is not a destination (and I think this is what I love most about learning), but a lifelong journey. Who knew 4 or 5 years ago we would be sharing our thoughts via blogs and wikis and Twitter?

Valuable: Our brains are pattern-seeking, meaning-making muscles. Thank goodness for that, because otherwise the noise would be too much to filter. Each of us have different styles and reasons to learn. What I am learning (important to me) may not be your cup of tea -- and that's okay, as long as each of us continue to find value in what we are learning, we will continue in our learning odyssey.

Enduring: The most important part of lifelong learning is that it endures. That's the passion part of our love affair. And yet, just like in this acronym - it's often silent and unrecognized. I ask students from 17 to 70 what drives them to continue to learn. Often, a shrug of the shoulders is the immediate answer. If we recognize our enduring love affair with learning, we will continue to nurture it, and even spread it without enthusiasm.

It is my hope that you are having a lifelong LOVE affair with your learning, and you spread it infectiously to everyone you meet.

But let me ask you this: What drives you to continue to learn (watch the shoulders)

Photo on Flickr by Snap

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Have you heard of the Google?

Have you heard of the Google?: "

I would like to start this post with a short anecdote:

A friend of mine called me this fall and told me that he was feeling very downtrodden. He had a new superintendent who was not that tech savvy. However, he had stopped by this one particular afternoon all excited and holding a new article about technology. He came into my friend's office waving it and saying that he had a new technology of which he had just learned. He then asked my friend, 'Have you heard of 'The Google'?' My friend almost cried.

So what makes this story so humorous? Well because everyone has heard of Google. It is one of the few companies that is also a verb and is so part of our vernacular today that everyone, or so we thought, knows what it is.

But do most people really understand what Google has become? The search engine is an important component of the company but it is now sharing the stage with other tools. Our school district now has a Google Apps account- the Education version. What does this mean? In short, it will allow us to have Google Docs, Gmail, Google Sites, Calendar, Google Video, and more! All of them will have a URL that will start with our district name instead of Google. The next question that many people ask is, Why is this important? or, Why are you embarking on this? The main reason comes down to one word and that is COLLABORATION---a 21st century skill of which all students need to be familiar.

Up until the last few years you would have to have a network with file servers in order to be able to share documents and other pieces of information with colleagues. The problem with this is that once you are outside of 'the network,' you then have to find a way back in to retrieve your files. This meant cumbersome things like Citrix or VPN. It never really gave you the same experience as if you were actually at your office or classroom and then inside the network.

A second reason is because sharing things with students as well as student to student sharing has always been cumbersome and filled with problems. However, now we are entering an age of cloud computing. This means, for example, I can create a Google Doc and share it with whomever I want in the world. I can also access that Google Doc anywhere in the world. By sharing, I can then share with students, colleagues, and even people outside of the network. You don't have to email the document and then wait for it to come back to continue to work on it! All the editing is live. Again the word is COLLABORATE. Consider the endless possibilities of the global learning and collaboration that can take place between teachers and students!

The possibilities are endless and it opens up many doors including allowing the whole teaching community to have full access to all their files and information 24/7. We all know students (and teachers) who do work at all hours of the night. With cloud computing, this is now easier and the whole learning community can feel connected at any hour of the day and night.

James Yap and Teresa Ivey


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kyle B. Pace

February 27, 2010
I recently came across three document collaboration/publishing tools that I want to share. Both of these tools would be great for students to use inside and outside of the classroom. I think these tools represent what I refer to as the 3C’s of digital literacy: Communicative, Collaborative, and Creative.
EtherPad markets themselves as the “only web-based word processor that allows people to work together in really real-time.” I was introduced to EtherPad by David Jakes (@djakes) at the METC 2010 Conference. What I think is a great feature about EtherPad is that there is no sign-up required by the teacher or students. A public pad is created and students can start a collaborative writing project instantly. The pad has an exclusive link to be shared right away. An EtherPad document is limited to a maximum of 17 users, so if you have more than 17 students you might want to divide students up into groups to work on their documents. What I like it that each user can be easily identified by name and also by a specific text color. Multiple document types can be imported directly into EtherPad and the document can be exported in multiple formats. Be sure and check out the Saved Revisions and the Time Slider to see the evolution of the document and student participation levels.

Import/Export Options, Saved Revisions, and the Time Slider


CrocoDoc is a little different from EtherPad in a couple of ways. First, documents cannot be created directly from within the web app. They have to be imported from the computer or on the web somewhere else on the web. Second, not only can you collaborate and edit PDFs an
d Word documents, but CrocoDoc will also take PowerPoint presentations. The markup tools used are stickie notes, a highlighter, strikeout text, and add additional text. Specific pages can be shared via an exclusive link. Those you share the link with can not only view but also edit by default. A pro account is required ($36 per year) for added security features and support. Be sure to check out their demo document to get a feel for the interface before signing up.
A great document publishing web app
Issuu is a great document publishing application that gives a classy, professional look to existing documents. It gives your documents a “magazine” style look as you flip through your document’s pages. Your Issuu document is also very easy to share by email or by embedding it into your blog, wiki, or learning management system. A member of my PLN, Kelly Tenkely, used Issuu to publish a great guide to using Pages ‘09 for Mac. Be sure to check it out so you can see what an Issuu document looks like.
It is my hope you find at least one of these resources beneficial to you and your students. I welcome your comments.
February 25, 2010
It wasn’t up until recently that I discovered many great resources available on YouTube for K-12 education. YouTube was blocked in my district, then it was unblocked, and now it’s blocked again. It’s not my intent in this post to determine whether or not YouTube should be blocked. If you’d like to comment to that via this post you’re more than welcome to. I wanted to share a couple of the really good ones and some YouTube tools. I hope you find them beneficial.
If you have any others to share please feel free.
A great new resource (well it’s new to me)

The Khan Academy
I came across this resource literally hours before I wrote this post. If this resource isn’t a great example of YouTube’s impact on K-12 education I don’t know what is. It’s over 1000 video tutorials created by Salman Khan on everything from basic math to biology to personal finance. Be sure and check it out. He also has a YouTube channel to subscribe to as well.
Here’s Sal’s video on the parts of a cell -

If you’re looking for a great literacy resource for the primary grades be sure to check out the Hooked on Phonics channel.
Some cool YouTube Tools
Dirpy – YouTube to mp3 converter
TubeChop – Chop any section from a YouTube video and share it
SafeShare.TV – Crop videos and also remove offensive or distracting content from around them before sharing
SyncTube – watch videos with friends in real-time..paste in the link and create a room
KeepVid – easy tool for downloading YouTube videos….great if YouTube is blocked in your district
February 6, 2010
I recently read a post by my friend Christine Hollingsworth that she wrote on the Missouri FCCLA Blog titled “I Don’t Do FCCLA.” I would strongly urge you to read it even if you aren’t a Family & Consumer Sciences teacher.
Christine’s post inspired me to write this spin-off post. I’ve heard some teachers say, “I don’t do technology” or “You can’t integrate technology with the subject I teach.” Do you believe this to be true? Are there disciplines that are more difficult to integrate technology than others? Or could this be simply a cop-out?
I’ve probably said this before, however I find it worth repeating, is that when a teacher wants to begin infusing some technology into their instruction it doesn’t have to be a grandiose part of the lesson or unit. It shouldn’t be an entirely separate day of instruction. When a teacher tries to make it too big, our good friend “Mr. Frustration” usually comes to visit. Start small and have success, then expand further from there.
So what do you think? Are there subject areas that technology can’t be infused? I welcome your comments.
January 27, 2010
Should we make the commitment to change the way we teach now or just wait for everything to change around us? Which do you think is easier? Do you want to change at all? For those of you that have embraced instructional technology in your classrooms, think back to the time when you began integrating technology. It was the first day you had that projector in your room or the first day you had your SMART Board. Do you remember what your first thoughts were? Were they something like, “I am so excited about how this awesome tool is going to engage my students and help me grow professionally!” Or were you thinking, “Ugh, this thing is a pain to hook it up and it probably won’t work right. Do I have to use this?”
If you’re waiting on the world to change, don’t worry; it is. It’s charging forward. Students are charging forward outside of school. Let’s lead the charge while we have them at school.
Please watch this great video from COSN - Learning to Change, Changing to Learn. Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.
December 31, 2009
As we begin 2010, we all have pretty standard resolutions. Losing weight, working out more, managing money better, etc. Those are all fairly standard goals we aim for as a new year begins. What about resolutions for your classroom? Do you have them? What do resolutions for our classrooms look like?
As I think about my professional resolutions for 2010, it brought to mind a quote from a Disney movie my

Lewis Robinson from Disney's "Meet the Robinsons"
kids love to watch called “Meet The Robinsons“. The main character, Lewis, is a 12-year-old lifelong learner. Lewis’ love for brainstorming and inventing was fueled by his desire to remember his biological mother. With encouragement from his science teacher, Mr. Willerstein, Lewis enters the school science fair. Lewis later learns this event is the launching pad for his inventing career and the motto that which he lives by: “Keep moving forward!”.
How do we “keep moving forward” in 2010 as it relates to professional growth? Maybe it’s jumping in and building that PLN? Maybe it’s beginning to explore new PD options in your district? Or it could be that you’re ready to implement a new teacher toolkit of web-based tools to help you be a more organized, effective teacher. This could include a web tool like Evernote or using other tools like those I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post Tools to be Thankful For.
Let’s “keep moving forward” with our professional goals for ourselves and for where we want to take our students in 2010. How are you going to “keep moving forward”?
Have a wonderful new year!

December 11, 2009
Is your district considering moving courses to an online format? If you are considering online or blended courses, I would like to offer some tips and suggestions for best practices for transitioning a face to face course to an online course.

A Clear Purpose

Be sure to carefully examine why classes are going to be offered in an online format and what LMS (Learning Management System) will be used for delivery. Is it for credit recovery? Is it for students that want to take a heavy course load in a content area only offered face to face such as music? It’s also important to take plenty of time to evaluate and test the various LMS tools that are available. Moodle, Blackboard, Edmodo, and Angel are some of the most popular used in K-12 education. They range in price from completely free to expensive so be sure to investigate them throughly by requesting webinars and demo environments to test out before making a choice.

What does teaching an online course look like? How do I make it engaging?

I’ll come right out and tell you now that the purpose of an online course is not to digitize worksheets. An online or blended course is not a storage place for all your worksheets and PowerPoint presentations. Teaching a course face to face vs. online is very different not just from the teacher perspective but for students as well. Think about it this way: Every concept that is taught face to face has to be converted to an online format that still adequately teaches the concept or skill. When we think about it that way it feels like quite a daunting task. From a student perspective an online course might initially sound like it would be taking the “easy road”. It’s quite the opposite. Online courses require a very strong work ethic and a lot of self-discipline. Some great resources for students to self assess before embarking into  online learning can be found here. This resource was put together by some of my colleagues when we were at the very beginning of online courses. We have found that not only do students find it beneficial, but counselors have used it as well when a student asks to be enrolled in an online course.
Developing an online course takes a considerable amount of time to organize and gather resources. My district has 3 fully online high school courses and an entire semester was spent to organize and develop the courses in an online format. Online courses need to be rich in multimedia and interactivity. This can happen by using the discussion board, journaling, having a virtual classroom session, video and audio resources, and interactive websites and simulations. There are also additional tools within an online course that lend themselves well to group projects and delivering assessments.
Since students in an online class aren’t seeing each other and speaking to each other face to face, proper discussion skills need to be covered. It’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers that are teaching either an online or blended course. “I agree” is not an appropriate way to respond to one of your classmates in the discussion board.  No, texting slang in the discussion board or emails isn’t appropriate either.  Each student needs to know proper “netiquette” for an online class. This is an essential 21st century skill that must be address before coursework begins. Look at how many colleges offer online courses; even complete degree programs are now offered online. I believe that students should have these experiences during their K-12 education long before year one of college.

What is the future of e-learning?

Where is e-learning going? What’s going to be the next big thing? A fully online high school perhaps? Maybe at some point there will be the potential for a student to earn his/her high school diploma online. Is it really that far-fetched? There are already college degree programs that are 100% online. What would it be like to have classes with classmates you’ll never see in person? I see tools like Skype working more in conjunction with e-learning. There could be some classmates that live down the street, and others that live on a different continent. E-learning is even now starting to go mobile. Blackboard has apps for iPhone and Blackberry for students to keep track of course assignments and deadlines while on the go.
I think it’s exciting the way e-learning is taking off around the world. I am looking forward to seeing where it goes next. If I can be of any assistance to your district about moving courses into a blended or fully online format, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always I welcome your comments.
December 2, 2009

Where do you EdChat?

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If you are in my PLN then you know what EdChat is all about. It happens at two different times every Tuesday. 12PM

EdChat column in TweetDeck for iPhone
EST for our PLN friends in Europe, Asia, and other points west. Then it happens again at 7pm EST for North and South American members of our PLN. No matter which time you participate (and if you aren’t why not?!?) it’s always a highly engaging, lively discussion about education. Don’t forget to follow @web20classroom (a.k.a. Steven Anderson) so you know to vote on the topic for the week between Sunday and Tuesday!
So, where do you EdChat at? What’s your device of choice to use while participating? I was fortunate enough to participate in both editions of EdChat yesterday and during the evening edition I really began to wonder, “Where does everyone like to participate from and what device/tool is your favorite?”  I am amazed in particular how mobile technology has allowed us to participate in a great discussion with hundreds of educators from all around the globe. Where some of you tweeting while holiday shopping? Where some of you tweeting during dinner? Your favorite armchair? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe in an upcoming edition of EdChat we can have some of us upload to TwitPic in real-time to share with our PLN where we Tweet from and with what device?
Almost every Tuesday night when I participate it is using the TweetDeck app on my iPhone. As if I weren’t addicted to my iPhone enough already right? TweetDeck in general is my preferred Twitter tool of choice but the fact I can from my phone still amazes me. I had to laugh last night towards the end of EdChat when I tweeted, “Should multi-tasking be a skill required for 21st c. teachers? I just participated in edchat and gave two kids a bath! Ha!” Humor was the intent of that tweet but the more I thought about it the more cool I thought it was. I received a couple of jokingly replies wondering if my kids were being attended to I promise they were! Some of you were as equally worried about my iPhone as well to make sure it did not accidentally go for a swim in the bathtub!
Think about all the ways educators participate in EdChat every Tuesday. We have mobile phones, laptops, netbooks. etc. at our disposal to contribute the discussion. We are in our homes, schools, offices, airports,  and cars (hopefully not while in motion) while we’re communicating and collaborating with our peers. What would student engagement look like if more of these devices were in students’ hands during class? Before you comment to disagree with me let me just clarify that this post is not intended to be a debate as to whether or not cell phone should be allowed at school. The point I’m trying to make is look at how educators can become engaged in a lively, professional discuss using a wide variety of tools. Isn’t it important for students to get to experience the same type of growth and learning that we do?
If you are an avid observer of EdChat, I strongly encourage you to participate in the discussion. Vote for the topic, and jump in on Tuesday no matter your location or device. We’d love to see you there. Don’t sell yourself short, you have knowledge and expertise to share with all of us.
November 24, 2009
As we ponder what we’re thankful for while the official start to the holiday season draws near, I want to share some tools and resources that I’m thankful for. I believe these are tools that are great for teachers, students, and administrators to use to enhance instruction, increase productivity, and in general make our lives easier. Who doesn’t want that? During a time of budget constraints we should be thankful for the brilliant minds that create these tools, which usually offer a free option (who doesn’t love that?), or they’ve created an “EDU” section of their site and make premium services available free to teachers.
Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard of but it is my goal that you will hopefully learn of at least one new tool by reading this post. So let’s take a look at some of my favorite tools that I’m thankful for.
Dropbox – Do you tire of moving files via flash drive between laptop and desktop, between work and home computers? Dropbox fixes that! Sign up for a free 2GB Dropbox account (there are pay options for more storage), then install Dropbox onto as many computers as you’d like. Your Dropbox folder is then always in sync no matter how many computers you’ve installed it on. If you save a file in your Dropbox folder at work, it will also be in your Dropbox folder when you get to your home computers. You also will always have access to your files on the web via the Dropbox web site. Great app!
TodaysMeet – Making a presentation and want your audience to be able to ask questions in real-time? Do you want to be able to have a discussion during a conference call or webinar? TodaysMeet is a perfect tool for that. I am looking forward to using it at an upcoming presentation to best meet the needs of my audience. The comments must keep to 140 characters or less, give your room a custom name, and decide how long the link to your room is active. It’s a very handy internet app.
iSchoolBand – This site looks like it has awesome potential. Create a social environment and management platform for your band or orchestra group(s). I think of this like Blackboard, but specifically meeting the needs of band and orchestra directors, students, and parents. “It helps students communicate, directors coordinate, & parents participate.” Their current promotion (features listed here also) offers a free year if signed up before Christmas, then the service is $2.50 per student per year after that.
Glogster – I know Glogster has been around the web 2.0 world a while now, but I can really appreciate a service that caters to K-12 with a specific EDU section of their site. Having students create a “Glog” to demonstrate mastery of a concept promotes creativity and self-expression. I think of a glog as a digitized, interactive version, of the traditional poster board project that was often repeated when I was in school. Here is one example about the Black Footed Ferret and another about the Life Cycle of a Butterfly.
Whyzz – Have you ever known a child that asks a million and one “why?” questions? I know my kids do! Whyzz is a great kid friendly search engine that brings back results in “kid friendly” terms giving them the information they want to hear. Check out the results when you ask, “Why do dogs have wet noses?“.
Mrs. P Storytime – Are you looking for a highly interactive, kid friendly site that promotes a love of reading? Look no further than to the magical librarian Mrs. P! You can follow Mrs. P on Twitter here and you will always find me retweeting her posts. Mrs. P is portrayed by the very funny Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show). I think it’s great to see a celebrity doing something so positive for kids and she is reaching out to children and educators in a big way.
Ning – Create your own social network based on interests and your passions. Even if you don’t create your own there is an awesome one that I am a part of. It is called the Educator’s PLN. It’s a worldwide network of educators that collaborates and shares resources. It is an excellent way to extend the conversations that take place via the PLN on Twitter. I am also part of the Missouri Educators Ning site which is a great way to build connections and relationships with other educators in my state.
Here are just a few more resources that are worth of a quick mention as I wrap up:
Google Reader
Google Wave (we’ll see how this newest tool from Google pans out but could be promising)
I know that this post could go on infinitely. I also know that my knowledge of some of these resources would not be possible without my PLN!
These are some of the tools I’m thankful for. I know we all have tools, resources, and people who we are thankful for this holiday season.
Please feel free to leave a comment and share your favorite tool or resource. Thank you for reading.
November 8, 2009
I ask this question to educators with regard to today’s students. Do we know what we’re preparing them for? I’m going to guess that probably all of us would say no unless Doc Brown and Marty McFly are your next door neighbors.  How do we as educators even begin to grasp a glimpse of the future we are preparing students to enter after they leave high school and possibly college?
David Warlick has said, “For the first time we are preparing students for a future we cannot clearly describe.”
He’s right. We can’t describe it. We don’t know what will be going on in 5, 10, or 15 years from now. We don’t know what it will even look like for students to go to school. Or what kinds of skills they will have to have in order to survive in the workplace. We can only imagine. So the question is how do we prepare our students for a future we cannot clearly describe?
I just came back from Tweetdeck, looking to my PLN for inspiration as I regularly do, and came across this excellent tweet from Tom Whitby: “Educators remember the world we learned in is not the world we live in. The world we teach in is not the world we teach for.”
Needless to say I immediately retweeted his profound words and just as quickly sent Tom a DM asking if I could quote him (and he kindly obliged). This portion in particular stuck out for me: “The world we teach is not the world we teach for.” We don’t know the world we’re teaching for. We as educators should continually strive to better ourselves professionally. Twitter and my PLN definitely help me do that. We’ll talk briefly about other ways to learn new tools and resources in just a bit.
With regards to technology, does this mean it’s our job to teach our students every type and variation of technology tool in addition to all the required curriculum? Absolutely not. Teachers often are confused by the term “technology integration”. Teachers often think it means that on this particular day we’re going to use one particular program or on this particular day each week is going to be our “use the wireless lab day”. I’m starting to think the term “technology integration” is not correct. Technology should be infused with our teaching to the point where it becomes as common place as the pencil. Is this hard to do? It can be very hard to do without proper support, equipment, PD, etc.
Students need to be exposed to tools that foster creativity and promote collaboration. Those are HUGE skills to have in your “toolbox” of skills. Technology lends itself well to both. Here is a great article I came across this week from CNN. I it think gives us a pretty accurate glimpse at the type of work environment and collaboration level facing today’s students. And it’s probably not that far off. This would be excellent to share with students:
Virtual businesses: Going to the office in Second Life
We need to expose our students to lots of tools that will bring technology use into our classrooms on various levels. Technology is a great way to differentiate our instruction.  Take a look at this video for example. I came across this on Twitter this week and thought, “Where was this guy when I was struggling in math?”.

I bet those students will never forget that math lesson again. How strong would your retention be? I also wonder how many of those students at that point said, “Wow that was some really cool video work. I’d like to learn how to do that.”
I would assume this teacher considers himself a lifelong learner. Maybe he just attended a PD event or conference session about using technology and he really wanted to learn more about the power of video with some dabbling in video editing.  We don’t know for sure but look at the direction he went by putting a creative spin on an otherwise boring math lesson.  He decided to use his new knowledge to enhance something he’s probably been teaching the same way for years. I would love to talk to this teacher and find out how much of an impact this had on his instruction and how it has given his students a new way to grasp a mathematical concept.
So how do we educate ourselves about new technology tools? There’s many ways to learn about new tools and resources to infuse technology in your classroom. Building a PLN (and following awesome educators such as @shellterrell @web20classroom @tomwhitby @nmhs_principal and countless others), utilizing your instructional technology specialist/coach, and attending PD events and conferences in person or virtually. I also learn by subscribing to blogs, podcasts, Delicious, and RSS feeds to learn about new resources and tools.
Try to expose yourself to many technology tools so you at least have a working knowledge of the kind of results they can produce so you can make an informed decision if it will be an acceptable tool for your students to use. You don’t have to become a master of everything.
Preparing our students for the future starts with us. We have to want to prepare ourselves first.  The future arrives in our classrooms every day.  Strive to infuse technology with your teaching. The more you do, the more seamless it will become.
If I can help you in anyway with resources of how to infuse technology into your classroom, please do not hesitate to contact me or DM me on Twitter.
October 19, 2009
It starts with us. As educators, as parents, as 21st century travelers on the information super-highway. Have you ever taken the time to assess your online safety? Many people don’t. Most people don’t think about whether their PC might be infected with spyware or if they’ve just allowed someone access to their personal information as they surf the web. Do we always take the time to determine if a web site is credible enough to willingly give them our information? Do we take the time to teach our students how to determine if a web site is credible before they cite it as a source for a school project?
These are things that everyone needs to be more aware of as we use the internet. This applies to education and to the everyday consumer. Look at how the web is driving nearly everything we do on a daily basis. Who doesn’t use email every day? Who doesn’t use the web to acquire new information? Or what about placing an order? How about for professional collaboration? As we use and rely on the internet more and more, it’s essential we have strong web safety and make it more and more a routine part of our online behavior. I believe it’s a major component of being a good digital citizen.
Let’s first review some basics of keeping your PC secure and then I want to discuss safety issues with two of the most popular social networking tools: Twitter and Facebook. Lastly I want to finish by discussing the importance of internet safety for students.

Basic PC safety tips to keep you running as trouble free as possible

1. Learn basics of PC maintenance; installing/uninstalling software, setting up regular checks for system updates (Mac or PC), backing up critical files on a regular basis on a portable hard drive or burn to CD/DVD.
2. Invest the money in good virus protection software. There are numerous brands that usually involve a yearly subscription, however there are also free options available. If you go with a free option, please do your research to see if the piece of software is credible. Read reviews, see how long it’s been around, and make sure it is truly free.
3. Once you have the virus protection software up and running, make sure you know how to use it! Look for user guides, tutorial videos, and support discussions (from the company) that can help you to best use the software to keep your computer and your information safe on the web. Also make sure you know how to turn on “automatic updates” to have the software regularly connect to the web and download the newest virus definitions (so the software always knows the most recent threats to keep your computer protected from).
4. Be careful where you get online. Laptops and wi-fi hotspots are definitely the norm. Just because a public place offers free wi-fi doesn’t mean the establishment providing it knows how to keep it secure for their customers. Before you connect at your local coffee shop or airport, ask if there are safeguards in place to protect your computer and your personal information. If they don’t or if they just aren’t sure, don’t connect your laptop to their network! The same goes for hotels.
Here are some common causes of viruses:
  • Surfing on an unknown website that says you need to download a plug-in in order for it to work properly
  • Clicking a link in an email that appears to be from a friend claiming to be a funny video or an e-card. This can commonly happen through Facebook and Twitter as well.
  • Downloading a seemingly harmless file from an unknown website claiming to offer free music, movies, etc.
How do I know if I have a virus on my PC? What should I do first?
  • Very slow computer performance
  • Unusual behaviors such as programs crashing unexpectedly or the computer shutting down altogether
  • Frequent error messages when performing simple tasks
  • Run a virus scan on your computer to scan for infected files, if any are found have the virus protection software remove them
  • If the problem is still not fixed, a third party spyware removal tool might be needed
  • In an extreme situation, a technician may be required which usually has cost involved

Safety Tips for Twitter & Facebook

Twitter and Facebook are two of the most popular social networking sites around today. They have changed the way we network and the way we communicate. I use Twitter as my PLN, or Professional Learning Network. My previous posting from September 24th titled “There’s Power in the PLN” gives more detailed information on how a PLN is an amazing tool.
There is one main security feature in Twitter and that is allowing your updates to be protected. Which means you have to approve anyone that wants to follow you before they are allowed to read your Twitter updates. I don’t like turning this feature on because I don’t want to have to “approve” each person that wants to follow me. I feel like my PLN is to a point now where pretty much the only people who are going to follow me are those professionals in the field of Educational Technology such as  myself. Now since I don’t have update protection enabled, this means I have to be more diligent about knowing when someone new is following me and then checking their profile to see if I’d like to follow them back if I’m not already.
I receive an email notification every time someone new is following me. If it’s a person I recognize because I know them or am already following that person, then I don’t need to do anything further. However, if I don’t recognize the person then I immediately go to Twitter, look at my list of followers (the most recent are at the top), and check out their profile. If you have no profile or if based on your profile I can’t figure out why you decided to follow me other than spam me about making money or posting inappropriate content, then I’m very likely going to block you. Twitter has also recently started allowing its users to report other users specifically as a spammer which is nice. Other things to look at when determining whether or not to follow or let them follow you is the number of their followers and the number of tweets they have posted. It can tell you a lot about a person by checking their profile (whether they share very much or not).
If you are familiar with Facebook then you know it’s a bit more complicated and requires a significantly larger time commitment to keep it secure.
Just a couple of weeks ago my school district hosted an Internet Safety Night at one of our middle schools. Parents were able to sign up to hear speakers and receive information on internet safety. I presented a session called Facebook II. It was for those already familiar with the Facebook environment and wanted to learn more specifically about security settings. It was great to see so many parents wanting to learn more about Facebook! They had lots of questions about how their student can keep safe using Facebook.
Here are the main points I covered during the session that I believed were the key issues to remaining safe on Facebook (all of which are under the Settings menu at the top of the screen):

  • General account settings
    • Email address
    • Changing password
    • Notifications (actions taken on Facebook that involve you and how you are notified of them)
    • Deactivating your account
  • Privacy Settings
    • Control who can see information on your profile page (birthdate, interests, email, etc.)
    • Who can search for you, what they can see, and how they can contact you
    • Determine what recent activity (new friends, comments, tags, etc.) is visible on your profile
    • Control what applications within Facebook you allow to access your account information (Farm Town, Mafia Wars, etc.)
    • You can also block a certain Facebook user or block a specific email address if you don’t want them to be able to contact you in any way via Facebook or even send you a friend request.
I had lots of questions from many concerned parents as I made my Facebook presentation. Parents are worried about what personal information their student(s) are making available and to whom. Parents were also startled to find out that a Facebook friend can post a picture of you without you knowing it. However, if you know how to protect yourself online, you can prevent others from doing this.
Compared to the total number of parents in the school district I work for, there wasn’t nearly enough parents in attendance for this internet safety night event. We had presentations on Facebook, Cyberbulling, and from local law enforcement officials. We received excellent feedback from the parents that attended. In my Facebook session I had numerous parents stay afterward to continue to ask questions! It was exciting to see so many adults eager to learn.
I also posted the following to Twitter on October 12th to get thoughts from my PLN:
“What do you think are the most common assumptions teachers and students make about internet safety that might later come back to haunt them?”
Thanks go to @nnorris, @EdTechSandyK, @fisher1000, @stacybodin, @edueyeview, @lasic, and @kfasimpaur for their contributions to this post. Here are some of their thoughts:
“That they can do anything online that is anonymous. Privacy doesn’t exist the way they think it does anymore.”
“I ticked off some teachers last year when I found out stuff about them from FB even though I wasn’t their “friend”.”
“That others will be forgiving later, as it’s a learning curve for us all. Or the needle in a haystack, hard to find = invisible.”
“That if they post something on a social network page, only their friends will see it. Even privacy settings aren’t foolproof.”
As teachers of 21st century students, we want them to embrace all of the wonderful tools that the web has to offer. We don’t want them to see only one means to an end to demonstrate mastery. Nor should we allow that as a true 21st century educator.
We must bring this awareness to the classroom. And it’s not just making sure you are staying away from inappropriate content. There is a big umbrella called Digital Ethics that has many topics underneath it. Internet safety is just one of those topics.
If your district has never hosted an internet safety night, I strongly encourage you to gather key members of your community and begin necessary collaboration to make it happen.
We have to remain lifelong learners and gain the knowledge to stay safe online. Then this crucial knowledge must be transferred to our students.