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.