Sunday, November 20, 2011

Parent Technology Coffee - Social Networking

We had our second Parent Technology Coffee on Tuesday, November 15th with 8 people in attendance. The conversations were rich and focused on protecting home networks and understanding social media and social networking, the draws, the dangers, and the uses of both.

After introductions we summarized how Open DNS works to filter all devices on your home network. In a nutshell, devices on a network are pointed to the OPEN DNS server instead of your internet provider's server to translate and direct you to the webpage you are seeking. Open DNS has a blacklist of inappropriate sites and when a user points to one of these spots on the internet the site is blocked.
See the blog post "Filtering Your Home Network with Open DNS" to learn more about this free, easy alternative.

We watched two short video clips (embedded into the presentation,) explaining the differences between social media and social networking. The differences are subtle, but it's important to understand them when trying to wrap your head around why these topics are so popular. Social media are the tools we use for sharing and connecting with others while social networking is the tool we use to do the connecting. In the end, the real draw of social media/networking is the ease of which we communicate and share with friends and family and the ability to make new connections. Businesses have caught on and are capitalizing on social media to deliver messages and products, even creating social networks within their organization to connect people.

The embedded presentation provides factual information regarding social media/networking. Probably the largest "unknown" to many is the large social networking community centered around gaming consoles like XBox and Play Station 3, (PS3.) Statistics state that 97% of kids aged 12-18 play computer games. When we informally surveyed (a raise of hands) our MSSD kids regarding how many had gaming consoles in the home the percentage was equivalent. A very large percentage of the 97% are playing games with others via a social network. The need to educate our kids on social networking is of utmost importance so they can remain safe and create appropriate digital footprints.

A digital footprint is like an online reputation. Sites you join and information you post all make up a person's digital footprint. To monitor a digital footprint a user needs to do is google their name. The google results will begin to shape a user's online reputation by describing who they are affiliated with and what sorts of things they do and write. Making sure digital information conveys the information about yourself that is desired is key when navigating the social media/networking waters. Common Sense Media is a terrific website that provides resources for parents and educators related to these topics.

In school students are using social networking on their own. Half of students in grades 6 and 7 are using Facebook despite the account creation age requirement of 13. In 8th grade teachers are using Facebook to share student generated work and to provide thoughtful discussions around content related articles. Following of course material via Facebook is a way to keep current information flowing through a class as students check Facebook and will spend time on thoughtful commenting when in an environment they enjoy. Imagine if students started using social networking to share book reviews or to practice foreign language. The more positive opportunities for social networking we provide, the better they will become at maintaining a positive digital footprint.

If you haven't joined the Facebook groups and pages created by the Manitou Springs School District, do so. Staying in contact with other parents and schools are just the beginning of what social networking can do for us as a community.

MSHS Facebook
MSMS Facebook Group
MSES Facebook Page

The next parent coffee is scheduled for December 13th at 9:00 AM and then repeated again at 6:00 PM. The topic is Information Management and will focus on how we keep up with the information revolution. Bring your device, (laptop, iPad or smartphone,) and you can learn some tricks to managing all this information that seems available but difficult to locate.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Filtering Your Home Network with Open DNS

If you are interested in a free, easy to set-up way to filter your home network so that ALL devices accessing the internet from within your home can be safe from inappropriate sites look no further than Open DNS. This includes gaming consoles that access the internet, iPads and even phones.

DNS stands for domain name system. When you type an address like into a browser the query goes to your internet server provider's DNS server. This DNS server translates the words into numerical identifiers (IP address) associated with locating the website. DNS is sort of like a phone book for the internet. Human friendly names associated with numerical addresses. It's easier for us to type in a name, than a long, complex number that is difficult to remember so the DNS server does this for us.

With Open DNS, you just use them instead of your internet server provider's DNS server. The difference is that Open DNS server has a frequently updated blacklist (blocked list) of sites divided into categories like "adult," "games," etc... Parents can block entire categories or simply set a filtering level of low, medium or high, depending upon need. The advantage is that you now have an account with your dns provider that let's you customize where your kids can go on the net. Most people do not have these capabilities on all devices accessing the internet in their home. In addition to all this protection, a list of visited websites is provided through account statistics that can easily be accessed by parents.

Open DNS is easy to set up and directions for doing so are provided below.
You can also tweet @OpenDNS for assistance in setting up Open DNS if you are a twitter user.

A parent of two middle school students felt this step was essential to providing an internet environment for her kids that was safe from inappropriate websites. She's posted her journey in the MSMS Facebook Group. The staff at MSSD is always available to assist with questions in this important matter as are parents within the community should you ask.

However, as with any filter on your network, it's important to remember that nothing provides 100% safety from inappropriate content. You are your best filter and teaching our children what to do when they encounter such content will be key in keeping them safe in the future.




Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Student Blogging

I've had some teachers ask me to provide them with some evidence as to why blogging might be good to do in a classroom setting.  The list is quite extensive.
I'll start by stating I consider student blogging to be one of the most powerful piece of student learning. They serve as a perfect vehicle for students to demonstrate their learning to a much larger audience, thereby authenticating the learning.  They also serve as the beginnings of a effective e-portfolio, an excellent tool in documenting learning. 
Take some time to review the three student blogs listed below.  These blogs were completed by students four years ago when I taught earth science.

So, now to the evidence for student blogging:
  1. It is FUN! Fun!….. It is wonderful when students think they are having so much fun, they forget that they are actually learning.
  2. Authentic audience – no longer working for a teacher who checks and evaluates work but  a potential global audience.
  3. Suits all learning styles
  4. Increased motivation for writing – students are happy to write and complete aspects of the post topic. Many will add to it in their own time.
  5. Increased motivation for reading –  students will happily spend a lot of time browsing through fellow student posts and their global counterparts. (Ask me about these, I have a huge list of interested schools.)
  6. Improved confidence levels – a lot of this comes through comments and global dots on their cluster maps (visits to their blogs.)  Students can share their strengths and upload areas of interest or units of work eg personal digital photography, their pets, hobbies etc Staff are given an often rare insight into what some students are good at. We find talents that were otherwise unknown and it allows us to work on those strengths. It allows staff to often gain insight to how students are feeling and thinking.
  7. Pride in their work – My experience is that students want their blogs to look good in both terms of presentation and content.
  8. Blogs allow text, multimedia, widgets, audio and images – all items that digital natives want to use
  9. Increased proofreading and validation skills
  10. Improved awareness of possible dangers that may confront them in the real world, whilst in a sheltered classroom environment
  11. Ability to share – part of the conceptual revolution that we are entering. They can share with each other, staff, their parents, the community, and the globe.
  12. Mutual learning between students and staff and students.
  13. Parents with internet access can view their child’s work and writings – an important element in the parent partnership with the classroom. Grandparents can make comments on student posts. Other parents can ‘adopt’ students who do not have internet access and ensured they have comments.
  14. Blogs may be used for digital portfolios and all the benefits this entails.
  15. Work is permanently stored, easily accessed and valuable comparisons can be made over time for assessment and evaluation purposes
  16. Students are digital natives - blogging is a natural element of this.
  17. Gives students a chance to show responsibility and trustworthiness and engenders independence.
  18. Prepares students for digital citizenship as they learn cybersafety and netiquette
  19. Fosters peer to peer mentoring. Students are happy to share, learn from and teach their peers (and this, often not their usual social groups)
  20. Allows student led professional development and one more……
  21. Students set the topics for posts – leads to deeper thinking activities
I can't (and won't) point to increased test scores due to student blogging.  I can and will say that when students have a vested interest in their learning, everything changes. 

Thanks to Gareth Scholes and Karen Mills for their Ulearn Workshop.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Global Education Conference 2011

Announcing the Second Annual Global Education Conference Streaming Live Online
November 14-18, 2011

The second annual Global Education Conference, a week-long event bringing together educators and innovators from around the world, will be held Monday, November 14 through Friday, November 18, 2011. The entire conference will be broadcast online for free using the Blackboard Collaborate platform (formerly known as Elluminate/Wimba).

The conference seeks to present ideas, examples, and projects related to connecting educators and classrooms with a strong emphasis on promoting global awareness, fostering global competency, and inspiring action towards solving real–world problems. Through this event, it is our hope that attendees will challenge themselves and others to become more active citizens of the world. Let us learn, question, create, and engage in meaningful, authentic opportunities within a global context!

Keynote addresses this year will be given by noted thought leaders Alan November Chris Dede, Howard Gardner, Fernando Reimers, Esther Wojcicki, and many more. Conference sponsors include Brainpop and iEARN-USA Partner organizations are numerous as well and many will be presenting their work throughout the conference.

Last year’s conference featured 387 sessions and 60 keynote addresses from 62 countries with over 15,000 participant logins. Sessions were held in multiple time zones and multiple languages over the five days, and are currently archived as a standing educational resource at

For further information, please join our network at and follow us on Twitter (@GlobalEdCon). Conference related tweets will be aggregated using the hashtag #GlobalEd11.

The Global Education Conference is a collaborative, world-wide community initiative
involving students, educators, and organizations at all levels. It is designed to
significantly increase opportunities for building education-related connections around
the globe while supporting cultural awareness and recognition of diversity.

Google Forms

Tech Tuesday was spent investigating Google Forms and the possibilities this piece of Google Docs offers to educators in a classroom setting, particularly pre/post testing.  But really, what I like about Google Forms the best is the ability to capture student thinking in the learning process.

The format of Forms is clean and simple, once you understand the main features. 
For instructions on how to use Google Forms visit the iPads Wiki.

Within minutes a teacher is capable of creating a form to analyze the following:
  • Pre/Post assess student knowledge of an essential learning, topic or unit of study
  • Collect information (Survey)
  • Evaluations of all types (Self/Student/Lesson/Unit/Course)
  • Quick Evaluation for student presentations (teacher fills out while student is presenting)
There are also ready-made public templates covering a wide range of document and report types to help jump-start the process.  These templates are a great place to gather ideas for Google Forms.

A teacher may email the form to students or embed the form into a wiki or blog easily. 

Google Forms offers seven different question types to choose from and response summaries may be viewed in spreadsheet form or in a graphic display.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Parent Technology Coffee

On Tuesday, October 18th, we hosted our first parent technology coffee.  The session was hosted twice, once at 9:00 AM and then again at 6:00 PM.  Twenty-five parents and members of the community came together to discuss digital safety, security and the Opt-in/Opt-out choices in the iPad User Agreement sent home to students in grades 5-8 earlier this month.
For those of you that were not able to attend (or those that would like to review some of the topics and resources we discussed), this post serves as a brief re-cap of the event.
We started out with some brief introductions of staff members and attending parents.  Staff members present were:
  • Ed Longfield - Superintendent (morning session)
  • Chris Burr - Middle School Principal
  • Russ Vogel - Manitou Springs Elementary School Principal
  • Cat Butler-Olimb - Technology Coordinator (morning session)
  • Lisette Casey - Technology Integration Specialist
  • Glenn Char - Parent and Facilitator for parent meetings
After introductions we talked a bit about the focus and format of the coffees.  The main focus of the coffees are to build understanding of the ways that technology is changing society, and therefore, changing education.  Every month we'll watch a short video related to the featured topic and then discuss the implications of the video on education and learning, always with practical examples from classrooms here at MSSD.  All Manitou Springs School District parents are invited to attend.  We'll always meet in the Multi-Purpose room of the SILC building at 9:00 AM and then again at 6:00 PM.
Norms for the parent coffees are as follows:
  1. Start and end on time.
  2. Adhere to the agenda and honor the time allotted for each item.
  3. Engage in honest, focused, and respectful discussions surrounding the focus topic.
  4. The coffee is not a place for discussion of school policy.
Lisette Casey spoke for a bit regarding technology integration in the classroom around the topic of today's parent coffee.  Currently, Glenn Char and she are presenting the topic of digital security and safety to all students in grades 5 -8.  Since many students have internet access at home via computers, personal devices and gaming consoles, the need to keep kids safe and secure online is at the forefront of everyone's mind.  Many kids identify themselves as the family person responsible for performing routine maintenance and tasks necessary to keep their home networks/computers running smoothly.   Detailed diagrams, schematics, and discussion about what network makeup is shared with students.  This leads into a discussion about the importance of making responsible choices regarding the downloading of files. The second half of the presentation is geared toward keeping a person safe from dangerous files, predators, and cyberbullying.  Movies shown during this presentation can be found under today's parent coffee topic in the iPads Wiki.  A simulation is shown to students that reinforces the need to always check for reputable sources before downloading material of any type from the internet.  This simulation was also shared with parents during the coffee.
Following this Glenn Char presented on the subject of digital security,   The presentation elaborated on the differences between filtered and unfiltered networks and what this means for families when iPads leave the school grounds at both elementary and middle school levels.
The presentation is embedded below.

The Home Network Security Page on the iPad Wiki was shared as a resource for parents in regards to securing their home networks.  A call to your internet service provider or a visit to a retail store selling routers and interent connection equipment followed by a conversation with a sales person was recommended to steer parents in the right direction.  Remember, regardless of what type of content filter you employ in your house, the  best filter will always be you.  Talk to your child often about what to do when they encounter inappropriate sites on the internet as well as why it's important not to purposely visit these sites.
Our next coffee topic is social networking on November 15th.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Google A Day

"Information is powerful, but it is how we use it that will define us."
 -Zack Matere, Kenyan Farmer.

There is no denying the need to teach kids how to search for information on the internet in efficient, safe manners.  There are few sites that teach this skill better than A Google A Day.

A Google A Day is a web search engine by google that helps sharpen search skills by those who participate.
The game is quite simple in design: you're given a question and need to find the answer.
Your efforts are timed, and usually take several layers of searching to arrive at the desired outcome, however, there is of course more than one way to discover the answers. Hints can be given along the way if you get really stuck.

Users can go back in time to complete questions on days they missed, and of course, you could repeat the search of any question as many times as you'd like, trying different query approaches.

Along with the game, is the resource, "Tips and Tricks" which includes the link to "Google Inside Search," where users can learn even more about successful searching techniques in the "Features" and "More Help" sections. (There's plenty more to do at the "Google Inside Search" page, such as enjoy and learn the meanings of all the Google Logos that have graced the past Google pages).

"A Google A Day" is an excellent resource for teachers to use with students together or pass on to students for their own independent study. It can be used as bell work at the beginning of class.  I can imagine classes breaking up into teams to compete against each other, or graphing their best times each day. Each daily answer could also lead to even more research for students.

The site is open at the middle school, not sure about the elementary.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Demitri Martin

I saw this image by Demitri Martin on Facebook the other day.  It resonated.  
Success is seldom a straight shot; it's often messy and adjustments are often necessary in the process of achieving success.  
I'd been thinking about a Winston Churchill quote my friend and colleague Shaunda McQueeney mentioned to me - "Success in not final, failure is seldom fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts."  Sometimes it takes lots of courage to keep going, especially when the road your own may seem like a bit of a mess.  A clear, communicated vision helps smooth out the road.  Need to work on this.

Winston Churchill also quoted, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."  Just took a dose of enthusiasm and I'm headed forward. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teacher Burnout and the Inbox

Learning how to handle the constant stream of information that flows into our inbox on a daily basis is essential if we want to prevent burnout from the inundation of technology.  Taking the following steps will help avoid burnout and lead to a successful venture leading and learning with technology.

How to avoid technology teacher burnout.

  • Use Pull technologies (iGoogle and NetVibes) to bring content to your fingertips instead of wasting time going out on the internet and searching for information or visiting a multitude of websites.  Going to one place for online content saves time and energy.
  • Set a start and stop time to check your PLN (Professional Learning Network) feed page.  Be habitual about checking in with your PLN daily and adhere to the stop time.  
  • Change settings on some of your feeds when you get too busy.  Switching from a daily to a weekly setting may is easy to do on most sites and may ease the burden of email overload.   
  • Make sure you schedule down time daily.  This may seem like a silly item to be reminded of but all too often taking care of ourselves is something we tend to put on the back burner.  

Keeping up with and connecting to a PLN is a rewarding and positive experience for those who learn to manage their PLN well.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Classroom Management Portals

Today I spent some time with teachers introducing them to iGoogle so they could use iGoogle as a classroom management portal, (CMP.)  A classroom management portal is a management tool that enables a teacher to easily monitor an online classroom community and presence via a personalized homepage. The benefit of using feed pages are that the content comes to you instead of you having to visit each and every website to see what members of your classroom community are doing.

Since we are a Google Apps school and all teachers have Google accounts, iGoogle seemed the most obvious choice for setting up the CMP.  iGoogle allows content in two forms, feeds and gadgets.  Gadgets are specified online content that can be tailored to meet the needs of the user.  For instance, I can easily add a weather gadget and enter in the cities of my choice just as easily as I can add a Facebook gadget that allows me to access my Facebook news feed.
You can also add any site that publishes a feed to your iGoogle homepage.  The feed looks like any other iGoogle gadget and lets you get automatic updates from the site without leaving your iGoogle page.   This feature makes checking student blogs quick and manageable.  

Tabs on iGoogle can be added, customized and organized based on the teacher's needs.  Some teachers may name tabs according to class schedule while others may organize tabs according to subject areas. Feeds and gadgets can be moved from one tab to another by dragging the feed into new tabs.  Tabs can even be shared among teachers and students to enable blog sharing.  Last semester I shared my iGoogle tabs with students so they had easy access to student blogs.  

The screenshot to the right is a screenshot a teacher took of her recently created iGoogle page to be used as a CMP.  Organized by class period and alphabetically, this teacher will be able to easily monitor what students are writing on their blogs.  A teacher can read blogs by clicking on the plus sign to the left of the title and never have to leave the homepage.  To read the blog post on the student blog a teacher needs only to click on the post title to gain access to the blog and leave thoughtful comments.

Visit your feed pages often!
In addition to using feed pages to monitor online classroom content feed pages can also be set up to monitor a personal learning network filled with educator blogs and websites.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Communication and Mobile Technologies - Sekai Camera App

Sekai Camera App is a social AR (augmented reality) application that enables users to interact in social communication through digital contents attached to the real world.
By holding up your iPhone and looking through the camera view (just as if you were taking a photo), you will see location-based information (just like digital “post-its”) floating in mid air. These are called “Air Tags”.
Air Tags could be either text, pictures, or voice messages, and users can view, post and also comment on other users’ Air Tags.
We've just started using this app in school in science classes.  Teachers/students are able to post questions with pictures in the air for others to respond.  A few ways a teacher might use Sekai is
  • Warm-Ups
  • Interacting with multiple classes
  • Writing prompts
  • Posting classroom responses to essential questions
  • Alternative ways to provide agendas
  • Field Trips
Users must create an account before using.  Comments on tags may be made by all users in the network and students need to understand the significance of this fact.  Tags can be shared to Twitter and Facebook.


Global communication projects require participants to make connections with each other using synchronous and asynchronous communications. Synchronous communications involve participants connecting with each other live or at one given time.   This type of communication may be accomplished via text and audio/video technologies.  Skype and FaceTime are examples of video chats while Back Channel websites and instant messaging are examples of synchronous communications involving text only.  Asynchronous communications allow participants to communicate with each other without having to be some where at any given time.  In asynchronous communications participants can collaborate and communicate by leaving messages to a group, editing online spaces that multiple participants have access to, or by sending an email and have full confidence that partners will be able to view, listen to, edit, and contribute to the conversation.  Knowing and understanding the technologies that support both of these types of communications increase the chances for a successful project.

So What?
Using both types of communications have been essential in my career as an educator.  This summer we began a 1:1 iPad implementation that required professional development and conversation around the integration of technology.  Employees of our school district our on vacation for nearly 10 weeks during the summer yet professional development had to occur.  Many teachers, including myself, were away on vacation, attending conferences or simply unable to attend physical classes.  Using both synchronous and asynchronous communications, we were able to hold viable professional development on a weekly basis throughout the summer.  
I first created a Facebook Group for our school district around the subject of iPad applications.  This asynchronous means of communication served as a space for teachers to post links to applications and websites that others might find useful as they began a search of applications to include on the student iPads in the fall.  This Facebook group page continues to serve as a space for thoughtful conversations related to iPads and their use in our school district.  Members of the group did not need to friend each other on Facebook in order to be a part of the conversation.  This act respected the privacy of employees who wanted to separate their personal life from their professional life yet continue to use a communication tool they employees were comfortable with.  The downside of the Facebook group was that not all employees were members of Facebook.  These employees needed to rely on email to communicate their findings and others took responsibility for posting these findings on the group page.

I also investigated methods of synchronous communications that were comparable to Eluminate, the online, collaborative software that provides space for an online class among other means of communications.   Enter WizIQ, an online teaching platform that allows a user to create classes and courses at a reasonable rate, sometimes free.  Each week I uploaded content, invited staff members and held an online class.  Sometimes I held the class on campus and several staff members who preferred to have face to face contact attended in person.  Several staff members attended from the comfort of their own home, asking questions in the chat as the class moved along.  I did quite a bit of traveling this summer so many classes were held from lobbies and living rooms of various cities.  All I needed was a fast internet connection.  And though I considered these classes synchronous because people attended virtually at the prescribed time, all classes were recorded and many teachers listened to the recordings if they were unable to attend due to time zone differences.  I taught ten classes in this manner and thoroughly enjoyed the level of communication WizIQ allowed for our teachers this summer.  
The classes on WizIQ were private but the link to my profile is not.  If you are interested in watching some of these let me know.

Now What?
I've participated in three Flat Classroom® Projects.  All of these projects involved both synchronous and asynchronous communications and I became quite adept at using them both inside and outside of the classroom.  What I'd like to do in the future is utilized Eluminate or WizIQ technologies with multiple classes in a project.  I consider the teacher meetings for these projects, and for these classes, incredible opportunities to connect with outstanding educators from all over.  I'd like to take part in connecting students in a similar manner.  When students have increased opportunities to connect, communicate and collaborate with each other the more equipped for a global, digital world they will be.  I hope to educate colleagues about these technologies, provide opportunities for global collaboration and encourage them to participate in such projects.

FCP Teacher Project Introduction and Global Project Design

I'm embarking on a 15 week course titled Flat Classroom CertifiedTeacher Course taught by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsey. This course aims to train educators to be able to manage a global collaborative project build upon best practices of student collaboration and co-creation as modeled in the Flat Classroom ®  Projects.  I've participated and written about several of these projects in this blog of date.  hisNow I'm looking forward to 15 weeks of learning along side of incredible educators.

Module 1 is cross posted.  I've been asked to to talk about global project design.  Global Project Design depends on being able to easily connect, interact, and collaboratively work toward a common goal. Pull technologies enable individuals to easily stay abreast of relevant subject matter. The ability to tailor information on the internet and have that information delivered to a user saves time and creates focus.
My PLN has allowed me to learn from others and form ideas and goals relevant to educational technology. My PLN has given me the courage to reach out to educators far and near and join them in projects that meet my goal of globally connecting students. I use Twitter, Diigo, Facebook, iGoogle, NetVibes, Zite, Flipboard, and ShowYou. I try to spend a little time in all of these every day, checking in with my morning coffee and then some throughout the day. And I love teaching others how to create PLN's. It is, without a doubt, the most important professional development I have. And, it is my PLN that has brought me here today, writing my first journal entry for the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher Project.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

IPad summer Trainings

IPad summer trainings for teachers are in the third week and we've had a consistent level of interest. I've been using the website WizIQ to host the online classroom since face to face meetings aren't always possible due to travel and prior commitments.

I began the trainings by introducing various tips and tricks that would aid in navigating and personalizing the iPad. We spent some time becoming familiar with the settings, making changes to many of these areas so the iPads were working for us instead of relying on the Apple default settings. Editing mail settings is an area I'd suggest spending some time so that you have access to all of your folders,trash, and sent mail.

The second class was titled "It's Not Just About the Apps - It's all about quality, flexible, individualized learning and access to content. We explored some great websites like Finding Dulcinia, NASA, Discovery Learning, The Kahn Academy, iTunesU, Wolfram-Alpha, Diigo, Flickr, and eBook collections from iBooks, Stanza, etc... Each attendant checked out a website and then used an app called Sonic Pics to relay the content of the website. They shared their movie via email with members of the class. Sonic Pics is a great app to construct a presentation using image, video, and voice.

The third class was focused on developing skills to move toward iPad fluency. I got this idea from having recently read Langwitches, a terrific blog about learning by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. In her blog post she writes about learning a foreign language and the need for a learner to first develop skills that lead to being literate. Continuing in study a learner gains competency and becomes fluent in that particular language.  Using the iPad is somewhat similar.

With this in mind we spent some time developing bookmarking skills in Safari and understanding the toolbar capabilities in Safari. Another developing skill is the ability to write, type, cut, copy and paste on the iPad. We practiced these skills in the context of Safari, email, and Notes. Unfortunately, just about this time the WizIQ site went down and the class came to an abrupt end. Such is life with free technology.

The next few weeks will focus on moving toward fluency. Feedback has been positive including requests for activities similar to the Sonic Pics activity used in week 2. Teachers have access to a Facebook group, online recordings and a slew of resources on our iPads Wikipage.

Since I'm typing this post using the Blogsy app I'll need to develop a few skills relating to adding hyperlinks. You see, I'm still working toward developing fluency as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

dotEPUB for the iPad

DotEPUB is a cloud-based software that can help you convert any webpage, web article, or blog post into an eBook. The software is extremely easy to use and almost to be true for teachers looking to create sharable eBook material by using content from the Internet.

Simply go to dotEPUB and follow the instructions based on your web browser or device. The installation on the iPad is a bit clumsy, but you'll be glad you stuck with it when you see how cool it is to save webpages as ebooks for reading at any time.   New eBooks are created and saved directly in the iBooks app.

Once you have added the dotEPUB bookmarklet to your browser, find some good content on the Internet and click the dotEPUB bookmark to convert to an iBook.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ISTE Press Release

ISTE Announces winners of 2011 SIGOL Online Learning Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) has named the winners of the SIGOL Online Learning Award. This award recognizes creative teachers for their pioneering use of telecommunication networks to provide innovative learning opportunities for K-16 students.
Award winners were selected from a field of exceptional submissions. Judges sought three educators who created online learning curriculum that extended beyond the classroom to engage students. Among the award winners several initiatives were recognized for excellence, in areas such as digital citizenship, independent study, and global collaboration. Award winners will be honored at ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia this coming June 26-29.

• First Place: Hatboro-Horsham School District, Horsham, Pennsylvania, Valerie Frey, Diane Heitzenrater, Stacy Rotchford, and Andrew Osborne for "Internet Safety 101"
• Second Place: Manitou Springs School District , Manitou Springs, Colorado. Lisette Casey and Toni Olivieri-Barton for "We’ve got Sole"
• Third Place: Two Way Interactive Connections, Janine Lim, Berrien Springs, Maryland, Sue Porter, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Elaine Shuck, Sturgis, South Dakota for "Read Around the Planet"

In addition to the top winners, the judges also gave Honorable Mentions to the following projects:

• Cordill-Mason Elementary, Blue Springs, Missouri, Gail Bush and Civacon-Kanppco Engineering, Riverside, Missouri, and Chris Boucher, Honeywell FM&T, Kansas City, MO for "Engineering e-Mentors"
• Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School, Reg Nakoneshny, Saskatoon, SK, Canada for "Animation 10"
• Denton Avenue School, Lisa Parisi and Lauryn Tiedemann New Hyde, New York and Brian Crosby, Agnes Risley School, Sparks, Nevada for "Energizing Energy"
• Short Pump Elementary School, Michael Price, Richmond, VA for "Online Social Science Network"
• Geelong High School, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, Gail Casey, Darren Hobbs, Kyla Jacques, Felicity Cowey, and Kelly Roberts, for "Changing Classroom Practices and Attitudes through Online Social Media"

About ISTE
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE ®) is the premier membership association for educators and education leaders engaged in advancing excellence in learning and teaching through the innovative and effective use of technology in PK-12 and teacher education. Home to ISTE’s annual conference and exposition and the widely-adopted NETS, ISTE represents more than 100,000 professionals worldwide.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

iPads and SMARTE Design Coming to Manitou

I'm so excited!  Manitou Springs School District 14 is introducing 1:1 technology next year.  That 1:1 technology will be the iPad.

TO SUPPORT EFFECTIVE DELIVERY OF 21ST CENTURY INSTRUCTION AND CURRICULUM, Manitou Springs School District will provide an iPad to every student in the 5th through 8th grades for next school year. Teachers have already been using the devices to deliver instruction this year, and with one in the hands of each student, the district will move to the next level of technology integration in education.

The district plans to have select classes at the high school use the devices in 2011- 12 to help prepare for the following school year, when every student in grades 5 through 12 will have their own device.

Students will be able to take the iPads home with them to work collaboratively on projects, do web-based research on their own, OR COMPLETE HOMEWORK.  Learning is no longer confined to the hours of the school day; with today’s technology, it can happen at any hour of the day from anywhere.

How will the iPad change learning at MSMS?  Well, for starters it will increase student participation and engagement.  There are so many interesting  apps available on the iPad that excite and engage learners because of the current information they access and their interactive nature.  Learners are no longer solely consumers of information but producers of content.  Everyone can create on the iPad.  The connectivity and portability of the the iPad allow students to connect with experts and learners anywhere in the world throughout the school day.  They allow for flexible and tailored learning.  Students who struggle to get their thoughts written down on paper have many apps to choose from to make this process less laborious and arrive at the same end result.  We're truly moving to a student centered model of learning.

Additionally, the district will be launching the S.M.A.R.T.E. Design (science, mathematics, art, research, technology, and engineering) program for students in 6th through 12th grades in 2011-12. Students will be receiving rigorous instruction and will be applying skills via team-based projects. The 21st Century student must have extraordinary skills in reading, writing, math and science, along with the ability to
create, design, solve and apply. This program has been created to address the needs of the “whole new child.”

Manitou Springs School District – still growing strong!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Collaborative Projects Using Google Docs and Skype

Skype in the classroom

7th grade classes in Colorado, USA and El Salvador were working on collaborative presentations in Google Docs related to what a day looked like for kids in their respective countries.  Early in the project as students were editing their google docs excitement erupted. The other class was also online and working on the presentations.  Immediately Google Apps group chat windows began popping up and student exclamations could be heard all around the room. These students were no longer separated by thousands of miles.

We very quickly shifted the entire class into the center of the room and our partners in El Salvador did the same.  We got Skype up and running at both ends and within minutes were video conferencing with our partner school, and the excitement began to crescendo. We had not prepared in advance for this. It was a bit of a surprise, so there was no script, just kids engaging in discussions about each other, face to face with their partners in another country using Skype. Hobbies, favorite books, musicians and the weather were the main topics of discussion.

This impromptu skype lesson developed further as we began to prepare for our final conference with the schools, sharing our projects and asking questions of each others' culture etc...  Skype allowed us to bridge the distance gap and students soon realized that kids in other countries aren't so different from one another.  They enjoyed similar experiences in all avenues of life.

My collaborative partner is this project was Jennifer Garcia the Learning Resources Centre Coordinator from Academia Britanica Custaleca in El Salvador.  Together we coordinated this learning experience for our students and used skype to iron out the details.

Check out the student presentations on the ABC wiki.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Online Learning Environments - Today's Meet

Just yesterday I was listening to someone state their child uses Facebook to do their homework.  "What do you mean?" another parent asked.  The person responded, "The teacher assigns a worksheet and everyone gets together to post the answers on Facebook.  No need to copy papers in the morning anymore."

Students love collaboration.  It's easy to take the good from the above events and incorporate them into a meaningful learning experience using Today's Meet.  Today's Meet is a backchannel, a room created by someone wanting to encourage conversation about a particular topic.  Anyone with the link can join in on the discussion.  The backchannel is where people ask each other questions, pass notes, get distracted, provide feedback, and as in the case above, exchange answers.  Tapping into Backchannels lets presenters of any kind tap into the needs of the audience and engage them at the same time.

I used Today's Meet in class the other day as a sounding board for a lesson related to image manipulation related to iPhoto.  Students in the class enjoyed this means of asking and answering questions.  When I first introduced them to the concept of a backchannel silly, unrelated posts began appearing.  I encouraged this experimentation until the class had a handle on how the backchannel worked.  Students need play time with new tools.  The experimentation period provided an excellent opportunity for a quick lesson in digital citizenship, the need to be appropriate, and a reminder that everything written is visible to all.  There is no delete button.  I am convinced if we increase the opportunities for students to engage in appropriate, online conversations at school these behaviors will transfer to their personal life, especially when they understand the risks of poor choices.

 Students quickly became comfortable with the format of Today's Meet and we focused the conversation on the topic - iPhoto editing of images.  Some students actively participated in the backchannel while some checked in every so often to view the dialogue.   Overall, I was very pleased with the way students helped each other solve problems from across the room.  The backchannel gave everyone an equal voice in the classroom.

Mark Barnes at Learn It In 5 has created an excellent how-to video showing you how to use Today's Meet.

There are all sorts of ways to use Today's Meet in an educational setting.
First, create a room, then have students go to it, either in teams or individually.

Write a backwards story and then use the transcript mode to display the entire dialogue in reverse order (beginning to end.)
Mark Homework 
Check understanding during a lesson
Review game - students post answers
Write supporting sentences to an introductory sentence of a paragraph
Write key points of a particular topic
Brainstorming a particular topic
Warmup - Post open-ended questions to get students thinking on a subject
Editing Exercise - post a sentence that needs correcting

Just be cautious about the room name when you create the room and don't leave the room online for longer than two hours unless you plan on monitoring the room.  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

7 Guidelines For Marketing Schools

Don Tapscott offers a Consumers 2.0 list at the end of chapter 7 in his book Grown Up Digital.   I started thinking about the school itself being a company and the students and parent community being the consumers.  The checklist at the end of the chapter is fitting if you change the last wording from Consumers 2.0:  Seven Guidelines For Marketing Professionals to Seven Guidelines for Marketing Schools.  As teachers I think we can, and should, apply these guidelines to our classrooms.  But it doesn't stop there.  These guidelines need to infuse all aspects of the school setting from the front office to the lunchroom to the recreation areas.  I'll post them for further discussion.

1.  Don't focus on your customers - engage them.  Turn them into prosumers of your goods and services.  Young people want to coinnovate with you.  Let them customize your value.  Open up your products and services.
Some teachers are already doing this with Web 2.0 tools and this is just the beginning.  If parents and students want to make the services better, let them.
2.  Don't create products and services - create consumer experiences.  Add value to your offerings to make them richer experiences and use the Web to help deliver your new value.
Richer experiences lead to greater investment.
3.  Radically reduce advertising in broadcast media.  Shift your "Marketing Communications Spending" to digital media.
And...encourage students and parents to have a hand in the creation of these communications.
4.  Develop a strategy to plug into N-Fluence networks.  The three keys to Net Gen marketing are word of mouth, word of mouth, get the idea.
It's time schools had a presence on social media.  We're missing a great opportunity to connect with customers.
5.  Rethink your brand.  The brand is no longer just a promise, image, or gadget- for many companies it should become a relationship.
We've been promising educations and many believe schools are falling short.  When schools build relationships with their students and parents, learning and good education are easier to achieve.  Students are willing to go the extra mile for a teacher they trust and have a relationship with.
6.  Bake integrity into your corporate DNA and marketing campaigns.  Honesty, consideration, accountability, and transparency are the foundation of trust for this generation.  Be authentic in everything you do.
Share everything worth sharing via social media, newsletters.  Explanation and keeping students and parents informed on events and decisions helps build trust.
7.  Move the Net Generation into the center of your marketing campaigns.  They are important.  They influence all generations like never before.  The Four Ps - product, place, price, and promotion - are an inadequate framework to deal with the consumer of the future.  Replace them with the ABCDE of marketing:  anyplace, brand, communication, discovery, and experience.
We need to move towards bringing the ABCDE of marketing to our lessons so that students will walk away with incredible learning experiences.

It's time to start talking about how we can make these transitions in public education.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Emphasizing Reading and Non-Fiction Writing in Every Assessment

Part of our weekly PLC sessions in our district are spent discussing what needs to occur in our classrooms as we promote and increase rigor and opportunity.  Today I discuss point # 2.  

Effective teachers emphasize reading and non-fiction writing in every assessment.
I'll be the first one to tell you I'm not a big fan of scripted writing, specifically when students follow scripts to paragraph writing.  At the end of the day a teacher faces reading 20+ paragraphs, each having five sentences which includes a topic sentence, a red, a green, and a blue or what ever the color coding for these approaches may be.  The topics may be different but the structure is the same. I don't think they promote good writing though some might argue they promote standard writing. And though there is a great deal of pressure in schools for students to perform well on state assessments we can still promote a love for or an interest in writing by providing opportunity for writing in everything they do, including assessment.
But I'm off task.... already.

Many of my thoughts on writing come from Laura Robb's book Non-fiction Writing from the Inside Out

What is important to me about writing is this:
  • Redefining non-fiction writing in a way that encourages creativity and relevance to both the reader and the writer.
  • Encouraging understanding so that students understand that the "league of writers" is not exclusive but open to everyone
  • Providing student examples as models of writing-in-process to encourage risk taking and exploration of unconventional approaches to writing. 

But, aside from my beliefs, the first question for me is:  What makes including reading and non-fiction writing in every assessment effective teaching?  

If I assume the answer - it does - to the above question is correct, that there is research to back the statement up, and I'm left to document how I do include reading and non-fiction writing in every assessment - well that's an easy task.  And though I do this because it jives with my beliefs and because it makes good pedagogical sense (incorporates critical thinking, etc...,) it leaves my curiosity to wonder how doing so makes me more or less effective?  

So I tried doing some research and have come up empty handed.  

If I am given the charge of incorporating reading and non-fiction writing into my teaching than I want to be sure what I am doing is being done well.

If you have resources to the question above, please forward them my way.

I Love Teaching

Nathan Russell
I love being a part of another's learning and for that I am truly grateful I am an educator.  There is something very special about being an instrumental part of someone reaching their potential, discovering something new, or seeing something in a different light for the first time.  Lucky for me I get to do this on a daily basis and though sometimes obstacles arise when I least expect them, they provide a challenge that sweetens the reward for the learner, and ultimately me, the teacher.

All this sentimental hogwash arises from my just spending an hour reading over the most recent blog posts of my students.  I had asked them to reflect on their learning related to a specific essential learning and to comment on what they had learned and what they were most proud of in their work.  I was astounded at their comments but mostly, they were astounded at their posts.  Some of those students were literally stunned when they hit the publish button and visited their site to view their work.  Stunned because never before had they written so much in such little time and had it published for others to view. Stunned because after taking the time to summarize a project they realized how much they had learned.  Stunned because they all saw ways to improve and when they had a free moment were returning to their work to add in those improvements.  Stunned because they were beginning to realize that perhaps learning and sharing that process wasn't so bad after all.  How could I not love being a part of that process?

Kids, teenagers, adults... I feel so fortunate to have the time to spend with them, to encourage them to craft their methods, to introduce new tools, to model learning in the 21st century, to share and be a part of the lifelong learning in each and everyone of their lives.  Lucky me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PLC Discussion - In Pursuit of Academic Excellence

Part of our weekly PLC sessions in our district are spent discussing what needs to occur in our classrooms as we promote and increase rigor and opportunity.  Today we discussed point # 1.  
(This post is co-authored with Toni Olivieri-Barton)

Effective teachers know that they can influence student learning by a relentless pursuit of  academic excellence.
Researchers agree that the following are examples of what we can do in our classrooms in pursuit of academic excellence.
  • Expectations are clear for students and parents.
  • Prior to students beginning an assignment, teachers supply students with exemplars of high quality work that meet the performance standard or level.
  • Students know what high-quality work should be like.
  • Students revise their work based on meaningful feedback until they meet or exceed the performance standard or level.
So how are we doing?  This was the focus of today's discussion.

Expectations are clear for students and parents:  
  • Both the MS and HS Tech teachers keep a wiki open to the public.  This wiki contains a link to parent information which includes Essential Learnings (ELs) and Indicators of Success (ISs) and the syllabus.
  • Students are familiar with these ELs and ISs per discussions in class as well as classroom activities.  Students are asked to reflect on assignments related to these EL's and IS's.
Prior to students beginning an assignment, teachers supply students with exemplars of high quality work that meet the performance standard level.
  • We are trying to include an exemplar and a grading checklist for all assignments.  This checklist is posted as a link on the wiki assignment page and provides students with a clear set of expectations and requirements for each assignment.  Individual assignments are to be reviewed first by the student prior to submitting on their blog for grading.  
Students know what high quality work looks like.
  • Teacher/Student interaction provides direction toward achieving high quality work.  By continual monitoring of student progress we can transition them to high quality work.
  • By providing and revisiting exemplars and comparing them to their work, students will begin to identify characteristics of high quality work and incorporate these into their own work.
Students revise their work based on meaningful feedback until they meet or exceed the performance standard or level.
  • Because of the way we have changed our teaching (more emphasis on student centered learning) this opens up the opportunities to work one on one with students on a daily basis.  These interactions allow for personal, meaningful, feedback related to student work.
Curriculum is aligned with high standards
  • Our curriculum is aligned with the most recent National Educational Technology Standards (NETS Standards.)  During our evaluation of standards our department crafted essential learnings and indicators of success that target the high standards of NETS.  These ELs and ISs provide a vision for what students know and are able to do.
  • We are working to actively link every project or assessment we use back to our ELs.
Next week:  Effective teachers emphasize reading and non-fiction writing in every assessment.
More discussion to come.  We welcome any comments.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Letting Go of Being In Charge

I keep waiting for the dam to break on my latest venture in public education - allowing students to design their own learning.  Over the past few years I've read article after article about classrooms where kids choose and design their learning targets and goals in a subject they are interested in studying at a more advanced level.  And, I've always dismissed the idea because, frankly, the idea freaked me out.  I could envision a classroom of chaos, with students wandering aimlessly and essential learning targets being all but forgotten.

I've now made a 180 degree shift in my thinking and the results are incredible!

When my class roster included over 30 students who had already taken the grade level Tech classes previously offered I was forced to come up with something different to accommodate these students and provide them with meaningful learning experiences.  Enter a student designed independent study program.

To prepare for this journey a few tracks of independent studies were developed to serve as models for students.  Students could either design a course from these tracks or develop their own track built upon interest.  A set of guidelines and a schedule of events were written to provide daily and weekly structure. And then, I did what I never thought I would do in a classroom - I turned the students loose.

You can hear a pin drop on the side of the room where the independent study students are busy learning, thinking, and problem solving.  They tell me 90 minutes isn't enough time and that they can't wait to return.  7th and 8th grade students are reading non-fiction purposefully.  When an article isn't good enough they move on to find one that meets their needs.  Students write up and evaluate their projects upon completion based on the essential learnings that are met and then publish these write-ups on their blogs for teacher assessment.  They comment on each other's work, share resources, keep a daily "schedule of events" and encourage success in each other.  And then, they learn.

I know there's some tweaking that needs to happen on the Independent Study design and tracks and I'm open to suggestions.  I'm also thankful my coworker decided to venture into this area of learning with me and is offering Independent Study at the high school level.  Together, we brainstorm, offer each other support, and marvel at the intensity of student work.

I keep wondering, had I the guts to do this while teaching Physical Science, would I have seen the same results without a 1:1 computer setting that I am so fortunate to have now.  The bottom line is student designed learning is positive.  And, so far, the dam is holding.