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

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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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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.