Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tech Tuesday - Webquests in the Classroom

This week in Tech Tuesday we'll spend some time talking about Webquests and how webquests may be incorporated into core curriculum.
In a nutshell, a webquest is an inquiry-oriented online learning tool.  They can last one class period or one month becasue the duration is set by the teacher.  Bernie Dodge is a leader in webquest design and we'll spend some time on Tuesday navigating through the Bernie Dodge Webquest website.

That's all Tech Tuesday is - 20 minutes of spending time with technology.

In case you aren't able to attend - Here are a few excellent starting points that allow easy searching for webquests applicable to curriculum.

Tate Online:
General Info:
Science -
Math (other subjects too) -
Social Studies -
Language Arts -
Music and Arts -
Foreign Language -
Physical Education/Health -

And Lastly - a google wonderwheel search for webquests provided these results -

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We Are All Technology Teachers by Kim Cofino

We Are All Technology Teachers by Kim Cofino

Seven or eight years ago at MSMS we implemented a reading program in which all teachers became reading teachers for 30 minutes a day.  I couldn't help but think about the analogy Kim Cofino makes in the article linked above between ESL teachers and teachers of technology.  It's exactly what MSMS did with reading teachers.  As difficult as it was, and still is, for all teachers to become reading teachers, we all need to make the shift to become technology teachers and truly integrate technology into everyday learning in the classroom.

This seems to be quite the order considering how fast technology changes and the pedagogical shifts needed to make this happen.  The good news for MSMS is that much of the infrastructure is in place to allow this shift to happen.  However, without training and support for that infrastructure, we're struggling to implement the essential tools of 21st Century teaching and learning.  A good bit of time, training, and support was provided to teachers to help them become reading teachers.  We need to do the same for technology if we want all teachers to become teachers of technology.

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Searching for Presentations Just Got Easier

After countless hours of searching for powerpoint presentations related to Earth and Physical Sciences last year, I've come across a site that proves to be hopeful as a powerpoint search engine. The site searches powerpoints on the web by topic and provides an array of files specific to the query without having to weed through the results looking for specific file types. 

Check it out.
Most authors on the web are the sharing type.  Still, it's appropriate to give credit to an author when you use their work in whole or part. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Do Your Students Say About You?

I just finished reading an excellent post by Paul Bogush, a colleague of mine who teaches in Connecticut.  His post reminds me how important it is to never lose sight of the big picture of education and the impact we have as teachers with every comment and action we make.  Our little idiosyncrasies, our grading policies, and our words shape the children we come into contact with on a daily basis.

Paul's post points to the number of hours a middle/high school teacher spends with a student over the course of a school year (170+ hours.)  How do you want to shape each and every child you teach/touch?

I'd like to pass on the opportunity to add to the slideshow on Paul's blog and found below.
Just click on the link and follow the directions.
1-Click on an empty slide to the left.
2-Click on Insert—>then image
3-Select the image from your computer or the url
4-Flickr images need to be saved and uploaded
5-Place any personal information you would like under the image
6-Click save and close

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blog Commenting

Commenting on other blogs is a skill easily attained by following a few simple practices.  Take time to talk about these practices with your students and refer to them as you review blog comments together as a class.

Be nice to each other.   Don't be mean to other commenters.  Even bloggers have feelings.  We're putting ourselves out there for the world to read our thoughts.

Connect to the post.  Have a point when you comment on someone's blog.  Don't ramble. 

Read the whole post before you comment.   Don't just comment on the comments.  This will help you write a thorough and thoughtful comment.

White space is your friend.  It's hard enough to read from a computer screen.  Use short sentences, and short paragraphs.  Write in an active voice.  At least try to be grammatically correct.

Here are a few comment starters that can help raise questions and provide useful feedback for bloggers.

  • This made me think about…….
  • I wonder why…….
  • Your writing made me form an opinion about…….
  • This post is relevant because…….
  • Your writing made me think that we should…….
  • I wish I understood why…….
  • This is important because…….
  • Another thing to consider is…….
  • I was reminded that…….
  • I can relate to this…….
  • This makes me think of…….
  • I discovered……
  • I don’t understand…….
  • I found myself wondering…….
Thanks to Edublog Insights for these starters.
For more thoughts and ideas on blog commenting visit Langwitches Blog

Saturday, October 10, 2009

While I Was Sleeping

This morning I woke up bright and early for a Saturday and, after a warm cup of coffee, checked in with Twitter. People from all over the glove had been busy sharing news, websites and blog entries with anyone who happened to be tapped into Twitter while I was sleeping.

Part of my morning routine is to spend about five to ten minutes quickly reviewing old tweets and click on links that catch my eye so I can check them out later. Remember, the subjects of my tweets are specific to the people I follow. Your tweets can be as well.

I've listed a sampling of sites noted to give readers a taste of the richness of resources shared on Twitter.

Local Educators Study Promising Japanese Teaching Method
  • An article from the Washington Post discussing a new form of Professional Development that made me think of our recent Tech Fair and what Tech Tuesday's is all about.
Classics Illustrated Comic Books
  • This site has many classic books in comic book form. I can imagine how much fun it would be for kids to check out this site either before, after, or instead of reading one of the great classics. Options are endless, titles are plentiful.
A Library to Last Forever
  • Another New York Times article written by Google co-founder Sergey Brin defending the Google Books Project, one of Google's newer projects attempting to digitize the world's books. I support Google's efforts which is what caused this tweet to catch my eye. If you haven't checked out Google Books, it's worth some sniffing around time.
50 Years of Space Exploration
  • This tweet was a surprise because I was expecting a video or a blog entry and not the image that showed up when I went to the site. I kept thinking about th emany possibilities of using this image for independent research when I was teaching Astronomy.
President Obama On Being Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • The space news agency reporting on Obama's letter of acceptance.
10 Rare HTML Tags You Really Should Know
  • Now that I'm working with sixth graders on wikis and blogs I have the chance to introduce HTML code to them so they can design their pages to look like they want.
Quick Trick for Downlading YouTube videos without a 3rd Party Service
  • Who doesn't want to easily download those YouTube videos when you find them so you can show them multiple times. YouTube videos aren't on YouTube forever.
Edublogs and How to Use Them
  • Great explanation supporting blogging in a classroom. Edublogs use a WordPress environment but allow the teacher to have a bit more control of the blogging environment. Edublogs also allows users under 13 to participate. This blog is written using Blogger.
Improvements in Google Squared
  • A Google blog entry about the number of improvements to the amount and quality of information you can find with Google Squared, as well as new tools to sort and export the data.
Thoughts on Setting Up a Student Centered Wiki
  • A few days ago an I read an article by Ruth Reynard in The Journal ” More Challenges with Wikis: 4 Ways to Move Students from Passive to Active.” I use a wiki in my classroom now and it is largely teacher driven. I'm trying to change that by having the students become authors of pages themselves, editing the How-To pages, etc.... But, at the end of the day, the wiki is primarily teacher driven. Any time I can read about the like struggles of other teachers and how they are compensating for them I'm interested.
Interactive WhiteBoards
  • I'm always interested in what users of these boards have to say about them, especially in classrooms. This site was a double bonus because this teacher has a large number of other resources on her wiki - definitely a keeper.
Computer Lab Classrooms
  • Just a ton of links related to computer labs and technology. Nice find.
Digital Storytelling
  • Larry Ferlazzo's latest blog entry has amassed a great number of resources related to digital storytelling. In addition, several comments also point to further resources. Just in time!

Well, in the time it took me to write this at least 20 more tweets came in with more information to sift through. I'll never have time to sift through it all, but that's not the point. You take what you can, when you can. If I have 15 minutes to look, I do. It's always better to be walking.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tech Tuesdays - Back in Action

The first quarter of the school year is just about ready to come to a halt. How does time ever pass so fast? I feel like just yesterday we were all unpacking our summer boxes and preparing for a new round of students to stream through the doors.

I'd like to kick off a new round of Tech Tuesday meetings at the start of the second quarter. Tech Tuesday's will continue to be a time to get together as a staff to "talk tech." I'm becoming more and more of a believer that to really understand technology integration in the classroom you have to spend time in the environment and play. Talk Tech is an informal yet informative time to grow together as avid users and integrators of technology in the classroom.

Just a few weeks ago Edutopia launched their Top Ten Tips for Teaching with New Media download. I thought this list would be a great place to start our discussion in Talk Tech. Each week we can delve into the topic just a bit deeper. I thought these 10 Tips would be a good focus for Tech Tuesday's. And, should you feel the need to focus on a tool other than what I'm proposing below because you want to discuss something specific to you, no worries. This is a start and by no means is it a permanent list. Suggestions are always encouraged and appreciated.
  • Break the Digital Ice
  • Find Your Classroom Experts
  • Get Off to a Good Start
  • Think Globally
  • Find What You Need
  • Make Meaning from Word Clouds
  • Work Better, Together
  • Open a Back Channel
  • Make It Visual
  • Use the Buddy System
So, we'll meet in Shaunda's room at 7:30 each Tuesday. 20 - 25 minutes of tech talk. What could be more fun?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Online Communities

Today I spent some time with authors Leland Anderson, Visiting Research Fellow; and Michael B. Horn, Executive Director, Education; of Innosight Institute. They have authored Alpine Online School - A Utah School District’s Move into K–8 Online Education - An Education Case Study. Some well know names were in the room, Bernie Dodge and Steve Hargadon to name a few, asking questions right along side of me; a classroom teacher in Colorado. How did I get so lucky?

Online learning communities such as Classroom 2.0 are social networks for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education. I happen to be a member and that's how I was able to spend an hour with the authors of the above mentioned case study as well as many more fascinating people over the past two years.

Membership is Classroom 2.0 is free. Live events like the examples listed above occur on a weekly if not daily basis. Each week I get an email of those events. Here is a sampling of this week's events. I think you'll see there is something for every teacher.

  • Tues, Sept 15th, 11am Pacific Daylight Time (US): I interview Anne Gilleran, the coordinator of the European School Leadership Network, who will give us a tour of their 60,000-school eTwinning program.
  • Wed, Sept 16th, 1pm Pacific Daylight Time (US): The weekly MSP2 Tech Talk with Todd Williamson on "Interactive Whiteboards." At
  • Wed, Sept 16th, 5pm Pacific Daylight Time (US): The Classroom 2.0 LIVE Beginner Series with Sue Waters on "RSS Widgets and Personalized Home Pages."
  • Wed, Sept 16th, 6pm Pacific Daylight Time (US): Maria Droujkova convenes the Math 2.0 weekly meeting, this week's guest is Troy Peterson, the creator of Nibipedia. At LearnCentral:
  • Thurs, Sept 17th, 3pm Pacific Daylight Time (US): I interview Michael Horn (Disrupting Class) and Leland Anderson about the new Innosight report on a small district's use of online learning to reach underserved students.
  • Sat, Sept 19th, 9am Pacific Daylight Time (US): The weekly Classroom 2.0 LIVE show. This week: Dr. Helen Barrett the creator of, shares the electronic portfolio tools that can be used in the classroom.
  • Sun, Sept 20th, 8am Pacific Daylight Time (US): The world-wide meetup for those with Vitiligo and their frends and families, special guest this week: Emmy-award winning journalist Lee Thomas, author of the book Turning White. LearnCentral Link:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Something to Write About

This evening I came across a suggested link on Twitter that pointed to a Flickr Page dealing with Great Quotes on Learning and Change. The images, along with the quotes, were very thought provoking. These images and the accompanying quotes could easily be used a blog prompts and conversation pieces. Some may be agreeable to all but most, I suspect, would stir controversy and debate; something every good blog post needs. Of course, Flickr is blocked in most school districts so most of you will need to copy and paste the photoquotes you like onto your own wikis or blogs in order for students to view and comment.

For instance, take the image from Scott McLeod, an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University. Teachers better be talking about the future of technology in a school district or others are going to decide it for us. If you haven't gotten in on the conversation, join in. Do some research. There are lots of visions for what Technology and Technology Integration will look like in year 2010, 2015, 2020 and the best part is that teachers can be active in the design if they jump on board.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

MSSD Tech Fair: Keeping Current - Growing Your PLN

Personal Learning Networks are virtual spaces that employ aspects of social networking and blogging. They allow us to connect with others in our field and learn with and from them. They provide a safe and convenient place to ask questions whether we're in the information stage of gathering new ideas or in the implementation phase of new methods. PLN's allow people to keep up with current happenings in their fields.

To start growing your PLN there are a few handy tools to set in place.
  1. Google Account and iGoogle Homepage
  2. Twitter Account
  3. Diigo Account
  4. Subscribe to blogs
  5. Ning Community (Classroom 2.0)
Sue Waters has a terrific set of instructions on her Grow Yourself Wikispace. We'll be using this wiki for a majority of our activities today.

Step 1
In order to subscribe to blogs you have to set up some sort of way to view updates in a convenient location. We'll do that by creating a gmail and iGoogle Account. You can take it one step further by signing up for Google Reader at a later date.

After you have set up your iGoogle Account, visit a few of these blogs and add them to your iGoogle homepage. By no means are these the only blogs to follow, they represent a small sampling so you can a feel for subscribing to them.
Cool Cat Teacher
Always Learning
You'll be able to follow any blog you visit by subscribing to the RSS feed.

Step 2
Set up a Twitter Account. Follow these simple directions. When you create your account name, make it personal. Mine is lisettecasey. This lets others easily find and relate to me. Edit your profile and put information in describing who you are and what you do. This helps others to see what you may have in common. Once you've set up a twitter account you'll need to find people to follow. View my recent post for some terrific tools to accomplish this effeciently. To learn more about other tools to utilize Twitter check out this wikispace.

Step 3
Set up and use social bookmarking like Diigo. Join groups (EdTechTalk, Discovery Network, Science Teachers to name a few) and enjoy the many benefits of a global community. I use the same username as in Twitter to make life easy.

Then start off your mornings with a dose of growing your PLN.

Exactly what does my Personal Learning Network (PLN) look like? Here’s a sample of how I spend the first half hour of every morning learning before I go to work:
  1. Check my email.
  2. Check in with Twitter and Classroom 2.0 to see what people are saying, blogging, what websites are being referenced, or what webinars may be available later in the day.
  3. Visit interesting bookmarks shared through the Diigo groups I belong.
  4. Check Facebook to see what friends and relatives, some personal some professional, are up to this day. (I can do this through TweetDeck - a Twitter platform)
  5. I’ll check my school and student email. (Students use a unique email to access me.)
  6. I’ll check my blog to see if I need to respond to anyone or perhaps I’ll add a new post.
  7. I’ll review the new posts of the many blogs I follow.
  8. Whatever new comes my way that day, I’ll click and check it out.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Using Twitter and Finding People to Follow

People are always asking me why and how they should use Twitter. They've read about Twitter in the news and don't see anything worthwhile about learning what Brittany Spears or Oprah Winfrey are doing. To everyone I reply, "There is so much more."

Twitter helps grow your personal learning network. Personal learning networks are virtual spaces that employ aspects of social networking and blogging. They allow us to connect with others in our field and learn with and from them. They provide a safe and convenient place to ask questions whether we're in the information stage of gathering new ideas or in the implementation phase of new methods. Sue Waters does a nice job of detailing how to grow your PLN on her PLN Yourself Wiki.

Once you've created a Twitter account you'll need to find people to follow. There a few easy sites that help you do this very efficiently.

Mr. Tweet helps you identify relevant followers on Twitter, providing the reader with a glance at each person's profile and latest tweets.

Twellow works like yellow pages and allows you to find people to follow by occupation.

Twitter4Teachers is a wiki that lists teachers by content. It's a great resource all in one place. You'll even be able to add your name to the list if you join the wiki.

You can always do a simple Twitter Search to find people tweeting about a subject of interest. If you like what they have to say, start to follow them. I recently did this with the latest shuttle mission and ended up following one of the astronauts, Mike Massimino, while he was in space.

Finally, once you arrive at a person you'd like to follow, see who they follow. You'll never know who you might end up connecting with. Start with me if you'd like. This is the beauty of Twitter. Twitter is a global community sharing common interests and ideas of which you can instantly belong.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Science Inquiry to Technology

I'm in the process of finishing up a terrific course at Colorado College about Scientific Inquiry as it relates to Physical Science. The course offered tidbits of information regarding Physics, Reading in the Content Area, Assessment, and Scientific Inquiry. In addition, I was very fortunate to have Dr. Steve Getty from BSCS join me in my classroom for a week of hands-on, authentic scientific inquiry as he field tested new curriculum for 8th graders.

As I leave the science classroom for a position in educational technology next year, I couldn't help but reflect how I would take these lessons and experiences with me to my new position. Next year holds new challenges for me. After 16 years of teaching Science I will shift to teaching Educational Technology. I’ll have the opportunity to design new curriculum and will keep the models of inquiry at the forefront in this design. Part of my responsibilities will be to work with classroom teachers directly involving the integration of technology. I see implementation of the 5E Model during this integration as a key piece to keeping technology relevant and authentic to students. By involving students in engaging activities that can serve as meaningful preassessments, I will be able to gather pertinent information relating to student skill sets related to technology. By integrating these engaging activities toward academic disciplines, technology will be able to enhance the learning in the core classrooms. My ability to communicate with teachers regarding formative assessments within these phases will be essential to the implementation of true technology integration. Various activities emphasizing technology applications can be used as explorations into both content area instruction and technology application.

I'm so excited and fortunate to have a new, open door in front of me.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Glutton

Every now and then you come across a website that might revolutionize the way someone thinks regarding the teaching of reading. Book Glutton did just that for me last week when it was shared in one of my Diigo groups.

Book Glutton (it's free, by the way) hosts a range of book titles from all genres online. How many times have you wished students could write comments or notes directly in a textbook? Book Glutton allows for the user to leave comments and view other comments easily. Immediately I began to imagine the classroom possibilities. Students could join a class reading group and host book chats while they read. This website puts a new twist on the meaning of literature circles and could just about be my all time favorite Web 2.0 site, at least for today.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Invitation to the Future

Recently a friend sent a letter she had received from her San Antonio Superintendent regarding technology in schools. It's quite an invitation to the future. I'm fortunate to work in a district that supports and encourages the use of technology in the classroom but this directive tops the cake. Hats off to Richard Middleton.

Dear Friend,

We cannot ignore the fact that today's students learn much differently than we did as children. They live in a world of computers, smart phones, video sharing and instant messaging. And they will have all of those going simultaneously while doing their homework. Using technology in ways that keep our students engaged will help ensure their success in school and beyond. For that reason, North East ISD is in the process of bringing more technology into every classroom across the district.

We know that issues arise any time we deploy new media tools, and that there is a learning curve associated with the evolution of any new system. Our support staff is committed to adapt with the changes and resolve problems as quickly as possible. All of us must also make a commitment to adapt.

We envision many changes in the future of education, such as the replacement of printed textbooks with electronic versions, more distance learning opportunities and an increased use of hand-held educational devices. To be prepared for that future, we must build a strong foundation today.

First, educators need access to professional development opportunities to effectively integrate technology as a teaching and learning tool. The district strives to help teachers build their instructional technology capacity with support, training and tools. Teacher laptops, ceiling mounted projectors, teacher Web sites, SMART Boards and wireless connectivity are just a few tools being used right now in our district.

Second, we must stay current. Technology is always evolving, and we must constantly ask ourselves how we can better reach our students and parents. Your input is vital in this process. I would like to hear from you about what methods are working successfully as well as what tools we should consider using that we haven't as of yet.

For example, how much should we take advantage of social media outlets? We know about the benefits. Instant communications like Twitter allow us to be our own media outlet. Wikis and blogs let us develop specific messages and elicit immediate feedback from a student, staff or community audience. Podcasts also keep us connected with our community and facilitate learning. Do these tools also have drawbacks or limitations? What are they?

Our use of technology offers fantastic potential for improved customer service, classroom instruction and efficiency. It also brings dangers for our students and teachers, such as cyber bullying, online predators and increased potential for cheating. E-mail me your thoughts about the pros and cons of integrating technology into the classroom and how technology will change instruction over the next five years.

Working together, we can accomplish great things. Thank you for your commitment to innovation and staying current in this technological age.

Have a great week.

Richard Middleton

Friday, April 17, 2009

Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is the practice of saving bookmarks to a website and tagging them with keywords so others have access to them too. With a simple click I can share websites I find with anyone in the network.

This YouTube video does a nice job introducing a social bookmarking tool called Delicious.

Diigo seems to push social bookmarking one step further. Not only does it allow me to annotate or comment on websites I visit, but I can choose to let others view my comments, allowing for discourse between colleagues. In addition, Diigo allows users to create and join groups to further extend the bookmarking network. I enjoy this feature of Diigo immensely.

Look for lisettecasey on both of these sites.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Future of the Internet

This morning, as I was looking through my Diigo Group bookmarks of the day, I paused in amazement at ALL the powerful resources available to me as an educator. Many of the resources don't come up in a typical Google search when I'm looking independently. I'm glad to belong to a group with common interests because everyone is searching and sharing.

I also quickly wondered why resources with common themes don't pop up on searches despite semantics. Isn't the web smarter than that? Everything seems a bit disorganized.

Funny that someone had recommended the following video - Service Web 3.0 - The Internet of the Future. This video describes the current internet as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have a hard time fitting together. The video also provides some statistical data as to how much information will bombard the internet by 2010. (Spend some time in Diigo and this is easy to imagine.) The numbers are astronomical.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Collaboration - The Power of the Internet

Several months ago I noticed a new follower on my class blog. After clicking on the profile I learned this new follower was a high school Earth Science teacher instructing in content similar to my own. Naturally, I became a follower of his class blog. A few days later I had a new friend request on Facebook from my new blog follower. His request contained a detailed message being sure to help me understand who he was and why he was requesting friendship. I accepted friendship and our professional relationship has grown from there. We've shared ideas, resources, and other bits and pieces of information that has helped me grow into a stronger Earth Science teacher. The power of the internet!

Soon our students (High School and 8th Grade) were interested in each other and we started talking about the possibility of collaborating on a joint project between our two schools. With Earth Day approaching, we decided on an Earth Day Presentation using Google Docs. The North Carolina - Colorado Collaboration Project was started. Students were divided into groups of four (one North Carolina student, two Colorado students and a project manager.) Three students would actually work on the project, the fourth would be the project manager who also was in charge of managing the work of two additional groups. The addition of the project manager (pm) was due to the disproportionate numbers between the two schools and ended up being a blessing in disguise. They are doing a tremendous job tracking student work and offering great support throughout the project.

So far, the lessons the students are learning are HUGE. Collaboration across time zones, even when the time differential is only two hours, is a difficult obstacle to overcome when communication toward a common goal is required. Email and document etiquette lessons are learned daily. Students learn first hand how easily tone can be misunderstood or misconstrued. Reaching consensus with strangers requires flexibility and understanding. Before the class period ends, students have learned more lessons in communication then they have all year again emphasizing the power of the internet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Things I Learned Today Via Twitter

People are always asking about Twitter, what it is and how I use it. I thought a convenient way to bundle this response would be to fill you in on today's Twitter highlights. Twitter runs in the background while I'm at work. If something interesting catches my attention, I'll usually mark the comment, known as a tweet, as a favorite to view at a later time.

Here are some of the highlights from Twitter today within our building:
  • My teammate is wondering whether it's best to buy district technology to map curriculum or to put technology in the hands of students.
  • A link the Twitter information of five kids under the age of 17 who are doing incredible things with Twitter and technology. Thee kids have over 10,000 followers.
Highlights from my Twitter Followings and Followers:
  • Recommendations for technology to purchase for student use (This was a response to a request I submitted, or tweeted.
  • Invitation to Webinar hosted by Classroom 2.0 Live - Future of Education Panel Presentation on Eluminate. Excellent hour spent with Steve Hargadon, Ruth Reynard, Karen Greenwood Henke, and Jim and Sara Beeghley
  • Links to countless blogs related to education (Could be an upcoming blog post.)
  • And the list goes on and on and on
And then, the icing on the cake....
My 21 year old son has joined twitter!

Someone posted a link on Twitter to a Google Spreadsheet documenting how other educators around the world are using Twitter. The spreadsheet is filled with good ideas and worth checking.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I like blogging. Blogging seems to provide a number of personal satisfactions:
  • Increased interaction among the members of a professional community
  • Creative student community that continues to grow
  • Connection to parents - they can easily visit my blog and see what we've been up to in class
  • Collaboration among other classrooms world wide
  • Sounding board for new thoughts and ideas
I hope my posts provide others with food for thought. That's why I decided to join 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Darren Rowse is the author of ProBlogger. He's also the sponsor of this endeavor I am undertaking along with 9100 other bloggers around the world. Wow!

If you're interested, it's easy to sign up by visiting the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Don't worry about the fact that the challenge began a few days ago. This is about becoming a better blogger not about due dates and deadlines.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Looking for my Sweet Spot

I recently spent some time listening to Bob Marzano deliver a keynote speech at the March 2009 CUE conference. The CUE (Computer Using Educators) organization's goal is to advance student achievement through technology in all disciplines from preschool through college.

Bob Marzano's keynote (you can find it embedded below) addresses the question "What do we know about the effect of technology on student achievement?" The title intrigued me so I spent some time listening to what he had to say. The results are quite interesting and caused me to reflect quite a bit on my own teaching practice. The research focused on three practices: The use of white board technology, the use of technology in formative assessment, and teacher feedback and teacher interaction.

I'm new to the world of white board technology. I've rigged up a little eInstruction setup with wires running up from my computer, along the ceiling, down to the whiteboard sensor. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't. I know I need more training, though I'm learning quite a bit teaching myself. Though Marzano's research focuses on Promethean Technology, my eInstruction works almost as nicely. Marzano mentions the "Sweet Spot" as being the conditions under which you get the projected highest increase in student achievement. What do I need to do to find my "Sweet Spot"? Here's what his study stated:
  • You must be an experienced teacher (have good grasp of instructional strategies,)
  • Who has been using the white board technology for two years,
  • Who uses it about 75% of the time in class,
  • Who has had enough training to be confident in their use of the technology.
So, how do I measure up? I have experience on my side. I've been using the technology for a few months and I have to admit sometimes I get so frustrated by not being able to manipulate the program I give up on the technology. I'm not even close to using it 75% of the time and I certainly am not confident in using this technology. This doesn't mean I'm not willing to try. The video encourages me to keep trudging along the road of the unknown. I wish there were someone else in the school joining me on this journey. Any takers? Trouble is, there's only one eInstruction setup.

He goes on to discuss the research relating to formative assessment - all of which want to make me use our clicker system more. Part II is available after you finish Part I. More on that later.

The video is worth watching.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How’s Your PLN?

It’s spring break and I’ve been spending some time reading, fiddling with my new iPod Touch, relaxing and hanging around with friends and family. I can’t remember the last time I had hours on end to do what I wanted, educationally related or not.

We’re pretty fortunate in this day and age to have so much information at our disposal, all of which started me thinking about how I am developing professionally as a teacher. Learning looks very different to me now than it did several years ago. For instance, just yesterday I spent an hour with Don Tapscot, the author of Growing Up Digital. A free hour mind you, no fee attached. I happened upon a webinar sponsored by Discovery Learning through a social network called Twitter. I’m learning and staying abreast of all sorts of educationally related issues via my new “friends” who happen to live all over the world. I’m instantly connected with many well-known and respected individuals who have a wealth of information to offer in all fields of education.

Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) have been around for a while. Now, thanks to the development of Web 2.0 technologies, they have become stronger and more relevant. The trouble as I see them, is that so many organizations haven’t figured out they exist. Despite emphasizing a 21st Century approach, their models of growth feature 20th Century Learning. Sure they have jumped on the bandwagon (and a good bandwagon it is) of online learning, but most have ignored the mounds of information social learning networks like Twitter and Diigo offer, in addition to the interesting and rich insight blogging provides.

It would be great for educators to receive credit and recognition for the countless hours spent reading, listening, and implementing what other educators and experts have to say about Pedagogy, Technology, Science Education, and 21st Century Teaching. The resources providing free professional development are immense if educators are aware of them.

So exactly what does my Personal Learning Network (PLN) look like? Here’s a sample of how I spend the first half hour of every morning learning before I go to work:
  1. Check my email.
  2. Check in with Twitter and Classroom 2.0 to see what people are saying, blogging, what websites are being referenced, or what webinars may be available later in the day.
  3. Visit interesting bookmarks shared through the Diigo groups I belong.
  4. I’ll check into Facebook to see what friends and relatives, some personal some professional, are up to this day.
  5. I’ll check my school and student email. (Students use a unique email to access me.)
  6. I’ll check my blog to see if I need to respond to anyone or perhaps I’ll add a new post.
  7. I’ll review the new posts of the many blogs I follow.
  8. Whatever new comes my way that day, I’ll click and check it out.
All this before I even leave the house. Of course, I follow up at work when and where I am able. My expanded PLN is fairly new. I can’t imagine what this list will look like in a few months.

If you're interested in developing your own PLN, check out this blog page by Lisa Nielsen, author of The Innovator Educator. She does a nice job of summing up PLN's. She includes a great video by Will Richardson that will easily get you on your way.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Teacher of The Year

Receiving the 2007-2008 Colorado Teacher of the Year sponsored by Teacher's Insurance was quite an honor and surprise. I owe many thanks to the students at school. Without them, there would not be an award. They are the reason I aspire to great teaching.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Professional Development

I loved reading about Social Camp - Memphis. Social camps, or unconferences are facilitated, participant-driven conferences centered around a theme or purpose. The idea caused me to wonder if Social Camps, such as the one in Memphis, might be the future of professional development for organizations. I rather like the idea.

Social Camps work as follows:
  1. A call for ideas is sent out to all participants. Those interested prepare a three minute introduction on a topic delivered on the morning of the conference or "camp."
  2. When the three minutes are up, the floor is transferred to the next idea or introduction.
  3. Attendees listen to the series of introductions and then vote on the topics they are interested in learning more.
  4. The topics with the largest numbers of votes are presented in the following sessions.
I think social camps could work. I like the idea of increased exposure to a multitude of ideas because even if those ideas are not selected to be presented the seed is still planted. If people are interested in finding out more about a certain topic they have an immediate contact.

I think social camps are innovated and fresh and offer a great deal of diversity to educators. Anybody in?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Throughout the year my students have completed several podcasts and I've not been very pleased with the masses as only 1/5 of the groups do a decent job.

There are some elements of podcasting that I've been sure to include in each project. Still, it doesn't seem to be enough to push students into the successful category.

Essential Podcasting Elements
  1. Creation of a script or storyboard.
  2. Clear requirements and guidelines.
  3. Periodic due dates.
  4. Documentation of images/copyrighted information.
  5. Listen to podcast examples prior to start.
Struggles in podcasting with whole classes:
  1. Last minute scrambling to get podcast published.
  2. Developing ownership in the project.
  3. Adequate space to record quietly.
  4. Students suddenly locked out of iPhoto, can't incorporate photos.(Think this is a network issue, though it affected kids doing iPhoto books, not so much podcasts)
I'm not ready to give up yet so I'm thinking about how to improve the process for next year.
Improvements for next year:
  1. First time podcasts are short, and viewing of podcasts is for feedback purposes. (We did this but the second podcast came too late.)
  2. Try single group podcasts - one group per week instead of whole class. This step eliminates the noise factor and may help to develop ownership in the podcast since it would be the only podcast published in a given week.
I'd love your feedback. Have a listen to some of the podcasts in the archived link on our podcast page. Note the links at the top of the page are not podcasts, but iPhoto books. To view the podcasts you'll have to start at the bottom and work up.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kids are Finished Early, Now What?

My students are finishing up podcasts this week. Inevitably, some groups will be finished with plenty of time to spare. We all know the importance of being prepared for such events. Two 8th graders with a class period of doing nothing is an invitation for trouble as much as it is a waste of their time.

Someone in the EdTechTalk group on Diigo bookmarked Pixton, a website used to create comic strips online. Perfect! The site is free and easy to navigate. All a user has to do is register, wait for an email invitation (arrives immediately) and they can be on their way to creating comic strips. Once the comic strip is published, code is provided for the user to embed the comic strip or share it via email with a friend.

This coming week students finishing their podcasts early will be creating comic strips dealing with weathering and erosion and then embedding the comic strip onto their blogs.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Internet Hoax and Copy Cat Postings in Germany

Seems like the subject of yesterday's post may have been a hoax as police in Germany are searching the young man's computer for proof of the conversation in the chat room prior to the school shootings.

Yesterday I asked my 8th grade students what they would have done if they were chatting with someone and that person would have mentioned a threat. Their reply - if it was they're friend, nothing, they would know they would just be kidding. If it was someone they didn't know, they'd tell their parents. No one mentioned this kind of chatter would never have occurred.

The above scenario is the goal of teaching appropriate use to students in schools and the message in yesterday's post. Students don't have rules about what is appropriate and inappropriate. Basically, anything goes.

My suggestion from yesterday still stands, stronger than ever despite the fact that the current investigation may be leaning toward a hoax. We, as educators, need to be guiding our students into the land of appropriateness so they may grow and be better citizens.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Danger in the Chat Room - A Message to Educators - Teach Appropriate Use

The school shootings in Germany and the shooting rampage in Alabama have left me sad, frustrated, and wanting to take action especially after reading about how the shooter in Germany warned of his attack in an internet chat room hours before. The news article states that a father came forward after his son told him of his conversation with the gentleman the night before. The conversation ended with the shooter stating "No reports to the police now, don't worry, I'm just baiting you" and an "lol"(Laugh out Loud.)

Why don't students report this sort of traffic to authorities? All sorts of explanations may be given. It's easy to react to such attacks and search for reasons.

I suggest it's time for schools to be proactive, pick up the slack and hammer appropriate use in all settings - hallways, email, cellphones, classrooms and chatrooms. Immerse our students in these settings and teach them what is right and how to behave. Young children continue to set their own rules because there aren't many adults teaching them otherwise. One only has to look at the recent academic suspension on a student due to his comments about a professor on Facebook. Stupidity or ignorance?

Though the argument may be made that it's a parents job to teach these applications, the school setting is consistent and steady. As educators, we aren't expecting parents to teach mathematics, why are we expecting them to teach appropriate use. Times are changing and it's our job to adapt. The effects of not doing so are beginning to emerge. Does that mean inappropriate behavior will stop - probably not. But at least we've done something to educate others regarding the right thing to do.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stuck Between Two Centuries of Teaching

Why is it I feel so stuck between 20th Century Teaching and 21st Century Skills? I mean, I get that technology in the classroom is a mindset, not a skill set. I get the pedagogy has to change to be effective in reaching students today. I even get that learning and living with technology need to be somewhat equivalent in the classroom if I am ever going to completely immerse myself into 21st Century teaching. Trouble is, I'm struggling with how to do this well with a tool set available only once a week.

Learning to differentiate the mindset from the tools when the tools are only available once or twice a week has been an increasing challenge as I move away from a teacher centered classroom to a student centered one. I'm just wondering, is it truly possible? Is it beneficial to students or is it a distraction?

Does learning to think differently require total immersion into the new thought process? Does bouncing back and forth between teacher centered instruction and student centered instruction confuse kids or is it just confusing me?

I've had the luxury of utilizing our laptop library everyday for the past two weeks due to our state testing schedule and I don't want to go back to my one day a week laptop schedule. That's when I feel like learning is about the tool set, not the mindset. I'll go back to thinking - "how will I use the laptops today instead of using the laptops?" and take two steps backward.


And fortunately, in our classrooms there are laptops to use.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Element - Ken Robinson

I'm in the midst of reading The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. I love the idea of arriving at your element so I decided to wordle the following:

The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.
It’s the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together.

When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves, most inspired, and achieve at their highest levels.
Sir Ken Robinson

Here's what I came up with:

You can watch Sir Ken Robinson on Youtube.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Unlocking the Door

About mid-way through a multimedia project I'm asking myself why I'm using old teaching methods with new technologies. It's like I'm afraid to change the bath water. There's something comforting about the Johnson's Baby Soap that makes me want to stick with it. I'm a bit frightened to switch it out for something a bit more relevant to my students. I wondering if this need to stick with traditional instruction methods stunts creativity. No one wants to be creative. Everyone wants to take the path of least resistance. I'm breeding this like mosquitoes in my classroom. Why? I'm thinking my pedogogy needs to change.

Here are three important factors to remember when incorporating technology into Learning:

1. Using technology in the classroom is a mindset, not a skill-set.

2. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the pedagogy.

3. We need to learn with technology the way students live with technology.

These are taken from a blog post by Kim Cofino.

The Cult of Done Manifesto

I was doing a bit of professional reading for the Adam's State/Colorado On-Line class when I came across a link to Daniel Pink. His latest entry discusses the Cult of Done Manifesto.
Here's how it reads:
1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.

2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

3. There is no editing stage.

4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.

7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.

8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.

10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

11. Destruction is a variant of done.

12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.

13. Done is the engine of more.

So, I decided to wordle the text and here's what I came up with:

Wordle is a cool website that can creatively generate word clouds from text provided. You should check it out.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Attendance Vs. Engagement- Part II


I find many students have learned this behavior of just existing. I observe students walking in, having the correct materials, and sitting down. This is all a good start. However, many students stop there. I deplore this culture in our school; yet, I have a feeling it's pretty widespread.

The previous post about attendance vs. engagement definitely addresses this. It's a paradigm shift. Our students are supposed to strive for excellence, yet this culture of existence doesn't demonstrate a pursuit of excellence.

In this culture, wouldn't it be great for a teacher to have a daily assistant? The assistant (every class period) would make all of the anecdotal notes about student engagement, questioning, participation, etc. Couldn't we truly be professionals then? That's a pie in the sky idea, but when we are referred to as professionals, we should have all the tools and resources available to professionals in other fields. A tangent... I know.

Without the help of an assistant to keep accurate and interesting records, my mind goes back to a culture of excellence and learning. It has to be pervasive in a building- almost contagious. Kids are here to learn, not just to be. Kids are here to question, strive, seek, find, etc. Excellence begets excellence. Attendance vs. engagement wouldn't be an issue if our culture shifted.

Attendance vs. Engagement

Every day we take attendance. Every period we take attendance. Wouldn't it be interesting if instead of giving students credit for attendance we gave them credit for engagement. Sure you were physically present, but were you engaged? And if not, why not?

Sure you were here yesterday, but did you complete the class work? Did you ask questions related to the area of study? Were you an active participant in learning?


Sure I planned a lesson for my students today. Sure they were present. No, no one asked any really good questions, they just sort of went through the motions. They were present, not engaged. No credit. Why not? Marking for engagement vs attendance would certainly change the way I design my lessons.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Open Test Booklet Debate

Is it good practice to force students to keep their test booklets open for the duration of an administered test? I think yes.

Keeping the book open serves multiple purposes. Students who are thorough in the execution of their work benefit from such a strategy for they are no longer under any sort of peer pressure to close their test booklet or finish when the majority of the class finishes.

The student who is finished early has the opportunity to go back and check over their work, something that isn't often completed to the fullest extent when the book is allowed to be closed at any time.

When a writing draft is staring you in the face for 30 minutes, you're more apt to look it over and make some changes, perhaps even write a bit more supporting the topic. I saw this happen with 10 minutes left to the test.

I've seen this strategy benefit students in our test taking session today and I'm glad we all agreed to try and implement such a strategy. The kids can always put their head down and take a nap if it is really bothering them.

Of course, the down side of booklets being left open is it requires active proctoring. Moving around to be sure students aren't moving ahead or looking back to previous tests is very important and requires a bit more effort. Guess I'm willing to make that effort - I should probably have been doing it anyway.

I also feel I haven't had disruptions due to the fact students are not allowed to read a personal book. I guess I'm thankful I'm teaching a group of really nice, well-mannered kids.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I am officially in love with Twitter. (Please don't tell my husband - well actually, I think he already knows.)
Here I have found more resources and been involved in more professional conversations than I thought possible.
To make following others even easier, there are a plethora of applications that make Twitter even easier to use.
What's the lure? Quick status updates that give the reader a glimpse into the writer's mind and thought process throughout the day.
You have to be a member of twitter to follow someone on twitter but the good news is it's free to join.
If you want to check out my twitter account go to

If you decide to Twitter, here's a terrific slideshow that details applications to be used in conjunction with Twitter which bring a whole new level to the subject. Twitter Slideshow