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!