Monday, December 03, 2007

End World Hunger one Vocab Word at a Time!

Free Rice is a site that will donate 20 grains of rice through the United Nations to help end world hunger for every Vocabulary word you get right! Please play and help!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Arcademic Skill Builders

The Arcademic Skill Builder site is WONDERFUL and FREE! Great drill and practice activities for both Language Arts and Mathematics.

Especially cool are:

New Multiplayer Games - you can practice your Division (Drag Race Division) and Multiplication (Grand Prix Multiplication) skills against other players around the world or your friends!

Wii Formatted Games - check them out here:

Friday, October 26, 2007

We Need Your Support!

I've been working with a teacher here in our district to create a video for a contest sponsored by Interwrite Learning (Grand prize = Interactive Classroom WORTH $15,000). Mrs. Bumgarner and her students at Hildebran Elementary worked hard to write lyrics and plan out the video and they just found out today that they MADE IT TO THE FINALS!

There are five finalists in each category (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12). Between now and November 8, you can vote for their video online. Online votes will make up 30% of the final score and the winner will be announced on November 27. Individuals may vote once in each category.


Click here to view voting instructions that you can print.

Please tell all of your friends to vote! Congratulations to Mrs. Bumgarner and her students!

Digg This!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

Food For Thought (at least for me)

Motivating Readers

I've heard about the great training that Renaissance Learning (the company that owns Accelerated Reader) provides, but this afternoon I was finally able to take part in that training. It was so refreshing to hear RL speak about best practices for Accelerated Reader.

There are many schools that have not used the program in the manner it was designed (and I'm not speaking just about our school district- I believe that it is widely misused). Instead, it is treated as THE reading program at a school and the world seems to revolve around points.

Today, RL representatives reminded us that the program should be used to motivate students to read and that AR is simply the PRACTICE reading portion of a reading program.

Some other best practices of AR:
  • Point goals should be set for each individual student, based on the ZPD reading range and the amount of time that student will be able to practice reading AT SCHOOL.
  • Teacher intervention and teacher/student conferencing should be happening daily, including after each test. This teacher intervention is CRITICAL to the successful use of AR.
  • ZPD (reading range) is actually not correlated to "grade level" range. Students should not be restricted to the books in this level, but teacher/student conferencing and guidance can help make each reading experience a successful one.
If these things are happening, students should be successful (85%+ correct on AR tests), and therefore most all of our students would earn rewards for meeting their goals. (And this doesn't have to be costly prizes! Think FREE when thinking about motivational "prizes"!!)

The goal is to foster the love of reading. We have to keep our eye on the ball and always keep in mind that the purpose of AR is to motivate readers and encourage the practice of reading as part of the reading program.

Making a successful change in the mindset of teachers and administrators will require patience (as we can't expect huge changes overnight), staff development (like today's), and committed leadership who will expect and encourage best practice usage of this program.

I'm excited about the possibilities!
Cross Posted at ITS Here For You

Friday, October 12, 2007

Some Schools Require iPods?

Cross Posted from ITS Here For You

While more and more schools districts are banning iPods, some are requiring them. According to a New York Times article the Union City school district in New Jersey will be giving out 300 iPods next month. The iPods will be given students with limited English ability to help them sharpen their vocabulary and grammar. A NJ school board member calls it “innovation”. That maybe a stretch. I think teachers have to innovate everyday just to make content relevant to them. Having the support to try something new helps too.

Using an iPod in the classroom is a matchmade in heaven. Students and adults, including me, are very passionate about there iPods. Why not use them in the classroom. If you haven’t check out what an iPod can do, you should, there are tons of educational options. First, they play mp3 files. Mp3’s can be music, but it can also be poetry, audiobooks, or historical speeches. The new iPods can also show video. You could record your own lesson or download United Streaming videos. They will display pictures. Save your PowerPoint as pictures and you can put on your iPod. There is also a Notes feature, which displays text. It displays it similar to a webpage, so you can actually have links to the audio, video, and pictures you just put on your iPod. What do you think?


Moodle and Battle of the Books Team

We have Moodle now in our district and it was amazing to see the student response to it yesterday. Moodle is essentially an online site that allows students and teachers to collaborate and communicate in a protected environment. Yesterday, students in the Battle of the Books Team at one of our Middle Schools were the first students to use Moodle in our county! They logged in to Moodle, navigated to their teacher's site, and clicked on Knights of the Round Table Forum. Students were then presented with a forum topic of "Introduce Yourselves". After reading a blurb written by their teacher about herself - students were asked to answer 4 questions to introduce themselves:

What is your family like?
What are some of your hobbies?
What is your favorite book?
What are your future goals?

Students were immediately engaged. They were in their environment. They communicate this way naturally. They had answered the introduction question quickly and were teaching themselves Moodle and how it worked. They were helping each other. It was amazing.

Students than began to write their own questions for their peers to answer. Students could see next to their question how many other students had answered, they then clicked and saw what the responses were from their online learning community.

This was a wonderful experience for me - Web 2.0 in action! Engaged students. Collaboration in action. Seamlessly integrated technology. Meaningful. Real-world.

I have one word - WOW!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Best Science Images 0f 2007 Honored

The awards are given out each year by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science for the imagery that best conveys complex scientific information and concepts. Winners of the 2007 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

read more | digg story

Friday, September 14, 2007

Animoto Slideshows

This is ridiculously cool and easy. Animoto ( is a website where you can upload photos and it will spit back a slide show. The results are awesome. Above is a quick video I made about the drought in North Carolina. I grabbed the pictures from Google image search. This is a great way to grab students attention to start a lesson or even a writing prompt. They offer 30 second videos for free. A full length video is $3 each or $30 for unlimited videos for the year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Teaching and Learning in the Conceptual Age

Every year our district holds a New Teacher Orientation. This year we were given 2 hours to talk to these teachers! I was so excited - this was a great opportunity and we had so much fun doing the presentation for our new elementary teachers. The presentation we created, Teaching and Learning in the Conceptual Age, is now posted to SlideShare.
View and download the presentation here!

During the second hour we explored project ideas and resources. These are available on our wiki.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Difference Between Flash Memory and a Hard Drive

One of my favorite computer help sites, Of Zen and Computing, published a great article about the difference between flash memory and a hard drive. I really should have thought of this myself, as I often have to explain the difference.

The short answer...

Both are used for long term storage. A hard drive uses spinning magnetic disks. Flash memory is just a chip, it has no moving parts. No moving parts means it is less likely to fail. However, you can't just replace your hard drive with flash memory, yet.

For more information, read the entire article.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nike + iPod

For Father's Day I got a new pair of running shoes and the Nike + iPod Sports Kit. I have used it for about 3 weeks now and I absolutely love it.

In case you don't what I am talking about, the Sports Kit is a accelerometer that is attached to your shoe. A receiver is attached to your iPod Nano which is allows it to measure and record distance and pace of your run or walk. Personally, I don't care for running, but I do like to walk.

The coolest part is that your run data is synced to a Nike website. The website will track all of your runs and makes note of your quickest times. The part of the website that I thought I would use the least, has turned out to be my favorite. The challenges. Anyone can make a challenge and invite others to complete. You can set all sorts of requirements for the challenge. For example, I am competing in the Terrific Turtle Challenge. I am competing to run/walk the most miles over 21 days. The only rule is that you must be slow, your pace must be over 10 minutes per mile. I am currently in 10th place.

The Sports Kit runs about $30, not bad if you already have a Nano. You are supposed to use Nike+ shoes, but I have read that you can attach to any shoe and get good results.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

School 2.0- Wes Fryer

A few quotes and some of my thoughts from the Wes Fryer presentation on School 2.0- what is it and how do we support it?

It is remarkably easy to teach and lead poorly.

How true, how true. Getting to know the students, their interests, their strengths, their needs- this is a difficult task at best. And as a leader, the same is true with getting to know the educators you lead. I think this comes down to the question, "What is your vision?" Am I here to teach and learn? If so, this requires me to learn about my students in such a way that all my decisions revolve around what I know about them.

The technology did not make the educator fundamentally different. It amplifies good teaching just as it amplifies bad teaching.

In my role as an instructional technology specialist at the elementary schools, I have to stay focused on the goal, the vision, the mission. And I have to remind myself that encouraging teachers to use technology essentially for the sake of technology itself is far from my vision. It is easy to fall into that situation, because my passion is exploring the ways technology can be infused in learning environments. But, IT'S NOT ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY. It's about learning. Period. So, technology in the hands of a bad teacher (or a bad leader) is terrifying, because it really will amplify all the wrong things (and encourage those not involved in "the conversations" to continue questioning the benefit of technology in education).

Become a reflective practitioner.

Last night, back at the hotel, Katie and I discussed our role, our philosophy, our vision. I think the two of us challenge each other to think outside of our comfort zone and continually evaluate what we do and why we do it. It isn't always easy, but we try to purposefully reflect on what we believe and what we should do to help students and teachers.

Our students deserve better. Our future requires better.

I often say that we are doing a disservice to our children when they walk in our door, unplug, disconnect, and stop talking. When four walls define the learning environment, we limit the possibilities. Our students do deserve better and I have been reminded at the conference that I need to spend some time talking with and listening to the students. I know they have a lot to say.

Great session to keep me thinking about school 2.0, what it means, and what my role really is. It was a great springboard to some thoughtful conversations.

Finding Voice

The School 2.0, Classroom 2.0 and Web 2.0 visions bring incredible possibilities, problems to be solved and open-ended discussions to be had. We are attempting to envision and embrace an open-ended future. We continue to talk about helping kids find their voices and authentic audiences, how that empowers and engages them. Learning to speak and converse with competency, confidence and appropriately using new and powerful tools is exciting, interesting. It will look very different from what we see now.
First steps in this direction require all of us to find our own voices and become actively engaged in conversations, to encourage and support teachers and administrators to recognize and participate in fundamental transformations and risk taking. Experiencing the community and converstation is essential to seeing, understanding and shaping the vision. Unless we ourselves are willing to be transformed, take risks and reach for an open-ended future we cannot expect to truly impact our students and the environment in which they learn.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

School 2.0, Web 2.0, Creativity and Innovation

The themes for me today seemed to be:
  • School 2.0/Web 2.0
  • Creativity and Innovation

School 2.0/Web 2.0
Ok, so I just renamed this from just School 2.0 to School 2.0 and Web 2.0. I think in our district we really need to work on both. We are really moving forward with our use of Web 2.0 applications, but does that mean that we are really moving towards School 2.0? I don't think it does.

One of the most thought producing things from the School 2.0 sessions I went to was that we are using technology in our district mainly to make School 1.0 flashy. I really think that this is something we need to look at in our district. What does School 2.0 mean? Where do we want to go? I also truly believe that we need to involve all stakeholders in the conversation (students, teachers, admins, CO).

Creativity and Innovation

I was so impressed with the emphasis in the sessions and keynote today on using technology to enable us and our students to be more creative and innovative! I believe that this is SO important - this is what we need to be focusing in on. Our students need us to focus on this!

I loved also that maybe our role should be to INSPIRE! And to look for our Cathedrals. And also and maybe most importantly to be willing to FAIL!

I'm willing to fall down in my attempt to inspire!

Special thanks to Wesley Fryer for the great notes he took on his blog!

The ITM Flip Videoed Us!

Sorry the movie is green it just happened that way - all the videos from the Blogger's Cafe are turning out that way! See more of the videos from today here...

Conversation with Jeff Utecht

Jeff, the author of the blog The Thinking Stick, talked with us today about his school in Shanghai, China. His school does not focus on restricting sites or content from their students. Instead, they embrace the interests of the students, letting them check out a TV show they missed the night before on YouTube when they get to school. They have a school YouTube and Flickr account, posting pictures and student work online for families and others to see. Some things are posted as private, and parents and families can join the group to be able to view student work/pictures online. The focus is on the content, not about keeping kids away. Teachers have blogs, including group blogs to collaborate and share ideas. The focus isn't on fear, it is on learning. The biggest struggle they have is with China's internet restrictions. But learning is happening, and the tools are being embraced.

Video Clips of the Music before the Keynote and an iPod Case!!

The music playing before the keynote today was just absolutely beautiful! WOW!
Another cool thing today was the iPod case we saw on the exhibit floor.
Check out a short video clip of each of these here:

Life at NECC

I feel like I'm just beginning to get the feel of NECC, like my newness is wearing off and my comfort level is increasing. The panel this morning was fabulous and the conversation often had me nodding as I agreed with so much of the statements they shared. (I hope that discussion is online somewhere, as I really want to listen again.)

I wish I was more willing to take the risk of stepping out there and starting conversations with others. I see folks pass by here in the Blogger's Cafe and I recognize names on nametags as bloggers I read...and I sit and say nothing. Sometimes, the veil of an online presence brings a comfortable anonymity that allows me to be more... well, "me". The opportunity to have a F2F conversation is passing me by!

So, is there a lesson in there somewhere? Our students may be more willing to collaborate and communicate, share and expand their learning with the use of online tools. Some students may find comfort (as I have) in an online presence that may encourage a feeling of safety/anonymity for sharing thoughts and ideas.

As I look around and listen to the conversations going on all around me here at the conference, I realize even more the advantages of F2F. But I love the fact that I can also sit here and become a virtual voice as well. A nice harmony.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I survived day 1 of NECC!

I have had such a great time today at the conference - I am so tired! I felt totally wiped but what an experience! I also felt so much better once I noticed that almost everyone else had the same glazed look! YEAH it isn't just me!

I think some of the greatest things I saw today in sessions was all the great free open source software and also Doodle which is a great way to do polls!

But, maybe the neatest part of this has been collaborating and talking to everyone else who is here! I just needed to get even braver tomorrow and talk to even more people! So signing off for now - someone (Donna) took my flip video so more movies will be posted tomorrow!

Connecting at the Blogger's Cafe

I had a wonderful conversation with Jeff Whipple about Instructional Technology and some of the incredible things he is doing in his district and with his schools. I loved the blogging idea of having the students collaborating with a local author on a blog! What a great idea! He also showed me the Site Meter that I added to our blog - I'm very excited about seeing exactly where people are viewing our blog from - so keep on visiting us! Thanks Jeff - It was wonderful talking to you!

Open Source Software in Education Session

This was a great session - I saw some new open source software I had never seen before - I have links to some of them on my wiki here.
Great session and lots of fun!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

At the Blogger's Cafe - Sunday afternoon

We have landed at the Blogger's Cafe and Katie is tormenting us by posting videos of us. She has this nifty Flip Video camera and is enjoying taking quick videos, editing, taking clips and posting with the idea that this will be great tools for the classroom.
I, on the other hand, keep taking pictures with my "old" digital camera and getting blurry pics. My hands are either shaking quite a bit OR the camera is about to die. Maybe it WILL die and I can get a new one.
Most of today has been spent getting here, checking into the hotel, registering for the conference, trying to get oriented, and making sure all our techie gear works. We are still spinning in circles about what sessions, etc. we will attend....although it is getting a little clearer...I think.

We are here!!!!!

Here are some pictures from the movies:

See some of the movie clips here:

Just "wow"

Small town girl in the big city. Wow. I'm in awe at the size of this conference, at the idea of planning such an event. You can walk down the sidewalk, through the convention center and hear the conversations. Techie vocabulary, educational words.
I feel out of my league, not sure where I fit in. But I look forward to listening and learning.
Mostly, to absorb all I can.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We Are Off to NECC 2007

We are off to NECC 2007 in Atlanta! We leave for Atlanta tomorrow morning. There are several of us from our district who are fortunate enough to be able to attend. We met Wednesday to go over sessions, events, etc. We are all headed in a hundred different directions and are excited! My conference planner still has about 30 things scheduled for Monday alone. Lots of yellow conflict icons. I just can't decide. What a great opportunity!

We have spent this past year refocusing on educational technology, after supporting our district through 3 years of transitioning to a new on-line student information system. While we have continued to "do" instructional technology through this time, much effort and energy has necessarily been spent on the transition. This year we have begun to return to our true passions, the kids, the teachers, learning and technology. We ended our school year with our first ever technology conference for the district (See Katie's post: Summer Technology Conference) and from that high.....We are off to NECC 2007

Friday, June 15, 2007

Summer Technology Conference

We just finished our first ever Summer Technology Conference! It went awesome! Our participants loved it and everyone (including us presenters) seemed to have a great time! Please visit our wiki to see what we did and find information on some of the sessions we offered - also, we have put up the comments from our evaluation sheet! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Buy a Mac and get a Free iPod Nano

If you are an educator you can get a FREE iPod Nano with any purchase of a new Mac!
1. Buy a Mac.
Buy a new MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, or Mac Pro using your education discount.

2. Add an iPod.
Purchase an iPod or iPod nano with your qualifying Mac and get up to $199 back after mail-in rebate.*

3. Submit your rebate.
After you receive your products, start your rebate online for fastest processing. Or download and mail the rebate form.

Special Instructions for Residents of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Please read additional terms and conditions.
Get more information here!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Ok so I’d heard of ReCAPTCHA but I didn’t really get it until listening to this podcast from the Museum of Science

It explains ReCAPTCHA and how you can use them – I’m using it to hide my email on webpages. On the right side of this page under Please Join Us – you will see the link to the ReCAPTCHA hiding my email from all those nasty spammers and helping to digitize text!

Want to hide your email address? Get the code here

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"So what?”

Yesterday I was asked a question that is very common to all of us in Instructional Technology.

"So what? Why is this important?"

I'm in the middle of a great project (with a great teacher) at one of my elementary schools. The project is about life cycles. In this 2nd grade classroom the students, working in 3 groups of 5 students each, have written their own story around their life cycle (Frog, Butterfly, or Sea Turtle) to be read in a Reader’s Theater style. Each group has also prepared a puppet show to illustrate their life cycle visually. We are helping the students videotape the Reader’s Theater and puppet show. We are then going to post these projects online and the students are going to share the movies with their parents at a parent night coming up soon.

"So what? Why is this important? Why use technology, why videotape?"

I had just showed the questioner the completed movie of the Reader’s Theater that the Frog group created and got the question "So what? Why is this important? Why use technology, why videotape?” I had no immediate answer - my mind went blank - I was taken by surprise as I'm sure many of us when we are asked this. I KNOW why it is important and meaningful - but try to vocalize it at that moment, that second in time. I was silent - and finally came up with the silly, most basic importance of what we did - "They learned how to work a camcorder," I said. How silly, how base, how NOT what I wanted to say.

I was lucky; this person understands the great impact that technology has in education. This person was only trying to make me think and not one of the MANY in education that ask this question because they really don't see the value and the meaning of technology-rich integrated projects.

So let me attempt here to answer the "So what?" question.

Instructional technology projects that are integrated into the curriculum are invariably many wonderful things. They:

are Student - Centered,

are Project Based Learning,

use Higher Order Thinking Skills,

allow for Multiple Intelligences,

involve students in their own learning,

thus making students excited about what they are learning,

furthermore allowing them to retain information they learn for longer periods of time - if not forever,


MOST importantly (at least to me) prepare them for the real-world with skills such as collaboration and problem-solving.

This learning is authentic. It is real. That is why it is SO important!

But maybe a better question is really “So why?”

“So why?” Why technology? It is true the project we are doing could be just left as a Reader’s Theater and a puppet show. It would have still been a great student-centered project with higher order thinking skills. It would have involved students; they probably would have been excited, and retained the information for a long time. So, why did we need to videotape it? Bringing technology into this project and recording the Reader’s Theater and the puppet show did something I have a very hard time defining.

There is a level of engagement, an excitement, a love of learning you see with technology. Technology engages students in their world. They use technology all the time, they are much better at it then we are. Additionally, they need technology skills to compete in the real world - communication is done with technology more and more, this is a skill our children MUST have. But there is an indefinable element here – that you have to witness to believe – that I still can’t explain or verbalize – but you can see it when it is happening.

“So, please!” – come to this classroom where students are videotaping and immediately watching their Reader’s Theater and puppet show – and tell me you don’t see the indefinable.

Friday, April 27, 2007

One of the games that comes standard on the iPod is Music Quiz. It will randomly play a part of a song you have loaded on your iPod and give you a list of 4 songs. You have to pick the correct song in the shortest amount of time.

Just the other day, Apple released iQuiz. Which does the same thing, but with updated graphics. And now today, iQuizMaker was released. This allows you to make up your own quizzes and sync them to your iPod. You can also download and share quizzes on their site. Right now the software is only on the mac, but the PC version is coming in May.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Tested Generation

I just had to install some test generator software from a SS book. And it wasn’t Exam View Pro. This is what we need, an open source or internet based test generator. It would have to be able to read the question banks from the text book companies and allow teachers to add their own questions. It would be nice if it had a web 2.0 collaboration to it. You could end up with teachers all over the world helping make a test.

The problem would be keeping the students from getting the answers. Of course that could be eliminated by not giving test, but using projects and such for evaluation. Which, in turn, eliminates my need for the test generator website. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The way they grieve

The horrific events at Virginia Tech last week have stunned the world. Senseless. Unimaginable. Inconcievable loss. But I keep finding myself in a different plane of thoughts, separate from my personal feelings of grief for the families, students, and friends who are trying to survive this tragedy. Maybe it is because I've been trying so much lately to investigate the possible uses of web 2.0 tools and other technologies in the classroom.

I am truly amazed at the way this college generation is dealing with their emotions. In a CNN article from the 18th:

There are now more than 200 groups related to the tragedy on alone. Some have only a handful of members; others have thousands. One group, "April 16, 2007," had more than 28,000 members as of Tuesday afternoon.

These students, and others around the world, learned of the massacre, got in touch with family and friends to let them know they were safe, shared their grief, and have begun the healing process all with the use of technology.

Pictures, videos, instant messaging, facebook, myspace, message boards, digg, maps, online news portals, websites. Ways to communicate, to network, to mourn.

And while I am continually amazed, I am certain that for these students it was natural.

I've noticed too that they seem to also value the human touch and face-to-face interactions. They don't exist completely online. But, they each find the balance.

So, as I search the internet for some of these pictures, memorial groups, and news articles, I'm reminded that our younger generation is moving on, taking the technology tools and using them the way that fits their lives and their needs, with or without us. It's time for those of us in education to pay attention and listen to them.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Countries I Have Visited

Pretty cool and simple tool which shows all of the countries you have visited. Could be useful in education. How about a map of all the countries the kids have learned about in 7th grade. Plus, who says Google Earth doesn't count.

create your own visited countries map

Friday, April 06, 2007

Who are we?

I found this on David Warlick's Blog - and it moved me. I'm not totally sure exactly what it is about it but for me it has meaning... The internet is a collection of us, all of us. Me, you, they, someone far away. We are the participatory culture - all of us - I saw me, do you see you?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

United Streaming Webinars

April is full of United Streaming Webinars

April 4th
EdTechConnect with Hall Davidson - Staggeringly Great Things Mixing Media and Google Earth

April 11th
EdTechConnect with Lance Rougeux - unitedstreaming 24/7

April 18th
EdTechConnect with Steve Dembo - Widgetizing the Builders

April 25th
EdTechConnect with Jannita Demain - Do You Have the Audacity to Podcast

All webinars are at 5-6 PM EDT

You can enroll here...

Classroom 2.0 Social Networking Site

Classroom 2.0 is just getting going - please join and add to the discussion!

Classroom 2.0 " Welcome to the CLASSROOM 2.0 social networking site! This network is devoted to those interested in the practical application of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in the classroom and in their own professional development. Especially we hope that those who feel they are "beginners" will find this a comfortable place to start being a part of the community dialog and to learn more."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Free Stuff from PBwiki

I got an email from PBwiki and figured this would be a good place to share. If you don't know, PBwiki offers ad-free wiki hosting for educators.

More information can be found here...

They are offering PBwiki Presenter Packs. So, if
you're giving a presentation about wikis, they will ship you a free PBwiki t-shirt, an easy-to-read PDF about wikis, a Powerpoint with pictures of real PBwiki users, and 3 FREE Gold Premium wikis to give out to your audience.

They have also posted
, self proclaimed, the coolest videos in the world. They filmed real educators using PBwiki and asked the questions: what they like, what they can improve, and common concerns. They have posted 7 videos, including:

How do you use PBwiki?
Is PBwiki safe?
How does collaboration work?

Saturday, March 31, 2007


ToonDoo is a wacky way to get creative with comics. You can now create your own comic strips, share them or insert them in your blogs with just a few clicks and drag-n-drops!

Check it out!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Middle School Students Have Their Say

Researchers a NC State University's William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation conducted the "Having Our Say" Project. The project explored a middle school students' perspective on classroom teaching methods. The results will be presented during the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Chicago on April 13th.

The study was simple in nature. They wanted to know what skills and tools students feel they need in order to be successful and academically engaged in school.

Before I go any further, you can watch this video and let the kids tell you.

I am going to highlight some things that caught my attention, but you can read the full press release here.

"The majority of students noted that they use a variety of technologies outside of school, and they would like to be able to use these tools in school."

  • To me this is a no brainer. Student will be more productive and attentive if you let them use the tools they enjoy using. They already have the proficiency, and I think many teachers would be surprised at what they can produce

"Using computers was the one activity that all ethnicities stated they liked best in school. Despite the fact that a high percentage of the students were receiving free-or-reduced lunches at school, they had access to the Internet and cell phones outside of school."

  • The top activity all ethnicities enjoyed in school was using computers. Could this be because a school is local, but the internet is worldwide? While lots of professionals talk about "closing the gap", maybe they should just ask the students. I think they have the answer.
"These students expressed a concern that sometimes it appeared that teachers did not understand that technology is a big part of students’ lives outside of school."

  • I wouldn't just limit this is teachers. I can't stand to hear the line, "it was good enough for me when I was in school." What they fail to realize is that they had the best tools available. Watching a reel movie on a projector was great at the time, only because there wasn't anything better. Reel movies were replaced with VCR's and it was great, again because there wasn't anything better. Now we have DVD's that can be played in a stand- alone player or a laptop, but what does my school have? VCR's. The same could be said for blackboards and overhead projectors, they were great. But you couldn't store what you wrote on the blackboard, post it on the internet for parents to see. This possible today. Why are we holding them back? Shouldn't we give them the best tools to help them succeed.

“Students clearly want to bring technology experiences that they have as part of a social network outside of school into school and apply it to the learning process as a way to increase academic engagement...”

“Demonstrating a sophisticated sense of what is needed to be successful in society, they voiced concerns about their schools not being up-to-date in terms of facilities, technologies and curricula.”
  • Students aren't given the tools they need to succeed and they already know this.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Failing Schools See a Solution in Longer Day

Failing Schools See a Solution in Longer Day

Found this article on Digg. I think it is worth a read. Below are somethings that jumped out at me.

"Pressed by the demands of the law, school officials who support longer days say that much of the regular day must concentrate on test preparation. With extra hours, they say, they can devote more time to test readiness, if needed, and teach subjects that have increasingly been dropped from the curriculum, like history, art, drama."

I think this sums up the problem nicely, "devote more time to test readiness." It all comes down to the standardized test. A teachers job is to facilitate student learning, and once a student learns something they own it. But this is not what teachers get to do. Instead, teachers get kids to cram for a test. Once that test is over, the knowledge is gone. No learning is taking place.

"A recent report by the Education Sector, a centrist nonprofit research group, found that unless the time students are engaged in active learning — mastering academic subjects — is increased, adding hours alone may not do much."

Simple, chair time in front of a teacher does not equal learning. We must allow the teacher freedom to get the students engaged in learning. If you do this is a normal school day, the learning won't end at the ringing of the last bell.

"Given that expense, New Mexico is acting surgically. The state is spending $2.3 million to extend the day for about 2,100 children in four districts who failed state achievement tests. The money, $1,000 a student, goes for an extra hour of school a day for those children, time they spend on tutorials tailored to their weaknesses in math or reading."

Individualized education works.

"Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the education committee, supports the idea of longer school days and is proposing $50 million a year, to rise to $150 million by 2012, under No Child Left Behind to train a corps of 40,000 teachers to help schools redesign academic content for those extra hours."

I think the big thing is the redesigning of academic content, not the additional hours.

"At Matthew J. Kuss Middle School here in Fall River, the time has bolstered instruction in reading, math and science as well as opening the way for electives in art and drama, forensics, karate and cooking — “the fun things for kids,” said Nancy Mullen, the principal — that had been pared away as the school’s standing fell."

So students something fun, they will learn about it. Without a teacher.

"At Kuss, students who were having trouble learning fractions built a scale model of a house from architectural drawings. Stephanie Baker, who teaches cooking, has posters around her room with math problems drawn from previous years’ state exams that she incorporates into her classes."

I am guessing the student had trouble learning fractions with a teacher presenting them just as numbers on an overhead. They weren't engaged. Build a scale model from a drawing, gets these kids engaged, learning is happening.

"Some parents in this working-class community, like John Chaves, father of a seventh-grader, Mindy, said they supported more time at school simply because so few are home earlier to welcome their children. “We’re never home at the time that they’re home, so at least we know where our kids are,” Mr. Chaves said."

I grew up in a great family and always look forward to going home. Latter in life, I realized not everyone was/is as lucky as me. Extra time in school could be a huge benefit to those kids who don't have a loving environment waiting for them at home.

Degree = Qualified?

One thing that constantly bothers me in education is the fact that experience means nothing. Jobs in education are solely based on a Degree. In the business world it is the opposite. You can climb the corporate ladder based on how well you work, your experience. For the most part, the best employees get the promotions. It makes sense.

What about education? Is it the best teachers that get to be a principal? Nope, not at all. All you need is an online degree in Administration. Your prior experience, good or bad, means nothing. Once you have that piece of paper, you are principal material.

The same is true for teacher assistants. Within the last 5 years, teacher assistants in North Carolina were made to go back to school for an Associates of Arts degree. Even those who have 25 years of experience were made to go back. Again, they weren't qualified until they jumped through the right hoops and got that piece of paper.

The same is coming true for preschool teachers. Policy makers are increasing requirements that all preschool teachers have at least a BA degree in early childhood education. This sounds great on paper.


College degrees DO NOT EQUAL better teachers.

College degrees DO NOT EQUAL better principals.


So how do we start hiring based on the best person for the job and not the pieces of paper they have?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Real Life

Don't you just love it when a teacher "gets it", and the students "get it" and everything falls into place and LEARNING happens?

Saturday, March 24, 2007


The author of this post is not Donna as the post signature implies. And I’m certainly not a public school educator posting something related to education “on the outside” of our local server. No, I’m simply known as Anonymous. Just some unknown online presence whose background is hidden behind the classic anonymous veil so she can quietly be part of the conversation.

And if I was a public school educator with some strong opinions about education- where it’s been, where it’s going, what’s gotta change- I wouldn’t step out on a limb and put it into digital text out there for the world to see…or quote…or bookmark…or (forbid!) SHARE. That would be wrong. Inappropriate. Unprofessional. Insubordinate, really. Certainly not acceptable.

And if I was this educator, I most certainly would not post statements like this for everybody to see:
· We are failing our students. They come prepared to take their learning to the next level, only to be boxed in with the same old learning tools to try and live up to the same old learning standards.
· Our educational leaders are failing to lead. We rely on them to think forwardly, to inspire us, to guide us through the implications of change. Seems our students are doing the leading here. ‘Bout time to listen to them, huh?
· Education has a new definition. A new story. A new path. A new audience. A new accountability standard (and no, that does not mean end of grade tests).
· We cannot accept the same old answer. You can’t just say, “I’m not good at technology.” What does that even mean???? Stop with the excuses. Dig your heels in, explore the possibilities, determine the needs, change what needs to be changed, advocate for it. For you. For them. They deserve it.

Since I am Anonymous, I can say how disappointed I am in the stagnant nature of our schools, of our misguided fear, and of our determination to let that fear stop us from sharing, learning, exploring, and yes, even making mistakes. After all, shouldn’t we be risk takers?

Would it be hard? Absolutely. Wouldn’t it be the most challenging thing we’ve ever done? I’m pretty certain it would be. It’s growth. Huge growth. But just as we tell our students, “Don’t worry. We’ll be there WITH YOU while you grow and learn.” That’s what we could do for each other, you know. Be there for each other. Talk about all of this, debate it, explore it, SHARE it.

Oh, wait. Share?

Hmmm…there’s an idea.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Infinite Thinking Machine

Here is a very cool site/show. Google has made this to help teachers and students thrive in the 21st century. So far, they have about 5 show with some extras. I first watch (and found the site) after watching ITM 5, Calculate This. The show format is pretty basis. It starts by giving some tips, tricks, and questions. It then went to an interview segment showcasing a teacher using Google's spreadsheets.

This is something I really want to do in my district, just need to find some recruits to help me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Engaging Digital Natives Diigo Site

This is an educator's diigo site with links to Web 2.0 applications. It is wonderful!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Do you prefer Laptops or Desktops?

Found an online poll creator that you can use on your blog! Try it out below:

Here is the website:

Monday, March 19, 2007

QuickTime VR of Mars

According to Apple, a QuickTime VR enables viewers to explore virtual worlds using nothing more than a computer and mouse. Essentially it is a picture that you can rotate 360 degrees. Enjoy Mars!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

To host or be hosted???

I was just over at HitchHikr reading some of the recent blog posts about the NCAECT conference. It really was a treat to see David Warlick and Will Richardson in the same room talking about where we need to go with technology and education. I learned a lot about podcasting and I loved the fact there were a lot more collaborative sessions. I love hearing the conversations around what is working and what isn't working in different districts. It is amazing to me how far some districts are along this path. We are getting there. I feel the biggest struggle we face is figuring out how to deal with the protection issues of hosting vs. not hosting the web 2.0 content. It seems from the conversations I heard that this was true elsewhere also.

I am a proponent of opening it up - letting teachers use any and all tools that will help them teach students better. No matter how great your engineers are (and ours are wonderful) you are never going to be able to produce easy to use tools as quickly as companies like Google can, it just isn't possible.

Some would argue that you just can't allow that because we can't control the content that gets put out there. That is true. We won't be able to control it. But we CAN provide teachers with the training they need to use wikis, blogs, and other web 2.0 tools effectively. I believe teachers are professionals. Capable of using these tools - we just need to allow access and provide the training.

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Friday, March 16, 2007


I just finished helping a class of 4th graders do a 4 slide PowerPoint on a famous athlete. The students did a great job and (horror of horrors) I let them add sounds - it is amazing how much the students loved the silly and annoying sounds in PowerPoint STILL! I thought ya know, maybe PowerPoint has been out for long enough that the novelty of the canned sounds would have dissipated - turns out NO!

Kids love SOUND!

They love the audio - we have to work harder to get classes podcasting, vodcasting, using visual communicator and anything else we can think of - we SHOULD be tapping this!

I'm working with a group of 1st graders next week who will be recording their own ending to a story. The more I think about it the more I want to not only allow them to record their own voices but maybe use this time to also record their own special effects! How cool would that be!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Teacher Recruitment

I have always said that I could solve the teacher shortage. It is simple, start by doubling the salary. Then you will start to get some people interested. But, we all know the likely hood of that happening.

I was just at the NCAECT conference, which focuses on technology in education. While a collegue and I were discussing a session, she said "That's why you left education. You weren't having fun." I don't remember the reason or even what we were talking about, but it was at that moment I realized that was reason I left. It took me three years to figure that out.

Now, I really didn't leave education. I just left the classroom for the Technology Department. One of the first things I saw in my new job was a Smart Board or Activboard. I was impressed. In fact, I said "I would have taught another year if I had one of these in my classrooms." Since I am in the under 30 crowd we pretty much grew up with technology. This is even more true with the younger generations. Plus, in case you didn't get the memo, computers are cool now. So all this got me thinking...

If I am fresh from college...
fresh from facebook...
fresh from im converstaions...
fresh from skype calls
fresh from video chats
fresh from campus emerged with technology...
fresh from carrying a laptop...

Why in the hell would I want to step back in time into a classroom...
with no wifi
with no lcd projector, just a marker and an overhead projector
with no laptop, just a desktop with Windows 98. No you can't use yours.
with no IM
with people who refuse to or can't use email
with a strictly filtered internet.
with a campus whose big technology push was going from chalk to dry erase markers

Maybe younger generaations aren't going in to education and are leaving education because they are digital natives trying to teach other digital natives with analog tools. Doesn't sound like to much fun to me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Schools Need Vista Ultimate?

XP is simple, Home or Professional. Most people could get the home edition and never know the difference. At school, we needed the additional features of Professional. No big deal, everything in the Home version was in the Professional version.

Vista ain't so simple. Teachers and students really like to do digital storytelling, make movies and claymation. Windows Movie Maker and the new (and overdue) Windows DVD Maker is perfect and both are available in Vista Home Premium. The IT department also needs some advanced profile and group policy support. Both are available in Vista Business. However, Vista Business lacks Window Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker. The solution, pay up for Windows Vista Ultimate or find third party solutions for movie making and dvd authoring.

Here are the Vista comparison charts I used.

Top 50 Careers for the Next 10 Years

I ran across this site this weekend. It outlines the top 50 occupations for the next ten years. You can sort the list by projected need, growth, salary, and amount of education.

After playing around with it for a couple of minutes, some things jumped out at me.

When I sorted the list by projected need, 4 out of the top 10 actually had the word “computer” in the job title.

5. Computer Software Engineers, Applications

6. Computer Software Engineers, System Software

7. Computer Systems Analysts

10. Computer and Information System Manager.

Projected growth really got my attention. Seven of the top 10 were computer related.

1. Network System and Data Communication Analysts

2. Computer Software Engineers, Applications

3. Computer Software Engineers, System Software

5. Network and Computer System Administrators

6. Database Administrators

8. Computer System Analysts

10. Computer and Information Systems Managers.

The other three were all in the medical field, Dental Hygienists, PTs, and RNs.

What does all this mean? Considering Professional Athlete did not make the top 50, maybe our schools technology budget should be greater than the athletics budget.

Just Sayin…

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Video Games to Lose Weight

Ars Technica had a great article (link) the other day saying exactly what I have been saying; if you want kids to get in shape use video games.

There is no hiding the fact we are a fast food nation. North Carolina even went so far as to require kids to have physical activity 30 minutes a day in school. These kids are no different than me and you; if I am going to get up and exercise than it is going to be something that I enjoy doing. My moment of clarity occurred at the local mall. I passed an arcade with a kid sweating profusely while playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR|wikipedia link). This kid was exercising!

Sure he could have gotten his physical activity in school. But if you are not good at sports, playing them at schools stinks. Basketball/football/soccer are all dominated by the same jocks. It is no fun. This video game let him be the dominate one, and maybe for the first time.

So NC lawmakers, how about your money where your mouth is. Give us some funding and let us get our game on.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Art Rage 2

Art Rage is a great free painting program.
"You can paint with oils, sketch with pencils, sprinkle glitter, and more. You can paint with gold leaf, silver foil, and other metallic colors. You can even load in your photos as Tracing Images to help you recreate them as paintings."
Check out Art Rage 2 here!