Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 11/10/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Blogging Live from EdTech in SC!

Make Room for SchoolRooms!  Amanda Stone  SC State Library

  • k-12 multimedia discovery place

  • SirsiDynix product (only 2 years old)

  • Content selected by 200+ teachers/librarians

  • 71 subject areas aligned with national/SC standards

  • over 3 million educator-selected pages "Best of the Web"

  • public library service

  • contains E-learning tutorials for users

  • approp. for 3 grade and up


Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 11/05/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 10/03/2008

Give a Kid a Camera!

What happens when you mix the following ingredients:

  • 30 eager 6th graders who have rarely (if ever) used a digital camera and know little to nothing about PowerPoint

  • 12 VERY BASIC digital cameras (thanks to a grant from NCaect)

  • A wireless laptop cart with brand new HP laptops (thanks to our school system) installed with PowerPoint (among many other great programs)

  • An assignment that begins, "A very popular Science magazine has hired you to do a “photo shoot” for one of the following themes. Circle which theme your group would like to work on:

    “Mysteries on the Outside”

    “Our World, Close Up”

    “I’ll Believe It When I See It”

  • Two 80 minute blocks of class time

Curious? Click here to find out!

Photo Credit: Kid With a Camera

Give a Kid a Camera!

What happens when you mix the following ingredients:

  • 30 eager 6th graders who have rarely (if ever) used a digital camera and know little to nothing about PowerPoint

  • 12 VERY BASIC digital cameras (thanks to a grant from NCaect)

  • A wireless laptop cart with brand new HP laptops (thanks to our school system) installed with PowerPoint (among many other great programs)

  • An assignment that begins, "


Time Wisely Spent

I have been wanting to blog about the three things I am glad I did this summer, and while waiting for my youngest ball player, here goes!  This of course does not include the fantastic times spent with my family!

  1. Went out and bought, not rented, "Freedom Writers".  I have since proceeded to watch it a total of six times since then!  I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Erin Gruwell two years ago and hear her empowering talk about her experiences with her inner city students.  She and one of her students signed my copy of The Freedom Writers Diary, I left with mascara streaming down my face - just like every time I watch the movie.  If you haven't seen it, stop reading this blog right now and go rent it!!

  2. Read Clay Shirkey's Here Comes Everybody and loved it!!  Although the world of public education is not mentioned much directly in the book, all of the ideas are certainly applicable!

  3. Read Not Much, Just Chillin: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers - A must-read for every middle school educator and frustrated parent!  Linda Perlstein embedded herself for a year with a group of middle schoolers, and her living research tied with brain research is amazing!  You'll catch yourself saying, "So that's why they act like that!"  You'll see your students (or perhaps your own kids) in a whole new light!

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 08/25/2008

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 08/11/2008

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 08/10/2008

Excitement of New Web 2.0 Toys!

When I started the past week by assigning the kids to create a PowerPoint presentation on their current study of earthquakes, I thought, 'what an old school, boring assignment'. However even having read many bloggers talk about the "old" PowerPoint project, I have been pleasantly surprised with the results of the kids' work.

For one thing, I began the assignment by creating a real-world, useful setting. The "job-application" explained to the kids that elementary teachers around the globe were looking for presentations that would help teach their kids about earthquakes. So immediately my kids were excited that they would have a global audience (I told them we would post their projects on our wiki).

I also provided them with some required components; pictures on each slide (sited appropriately), one video clip, and at least one slide with their recorded voices. Ohhs and ahhs at that part! Although they say they hate it, and hide their heads, kids love to hear their own voices as part of a project - especially one that would be seen "globally"!

Checked out the old decrepit laptop cart (laptops need to remain plugged in 'cause the batteries have long since died, many are missing keys...) and the kids were 100% on task for two days straight! It all comes down to putting the tools in their hands, hence the DREAM! : ) Anyhow, will blog about the final products later this week and provide a link so our global audience can view them!

Now onto the real topic of this post! I am still amazed at the feeling you get when you read a blog or Tweet which points you to a new and promising tool on the web. Maybe it's just that I am a super geek educator, but when I click on a link that sounds fun and might be productive for my kids, I get the same feeling I used to get when my parents FINALLY let us go into the living room on Christmas morning to see the beautifully wrapped treasures under the tree!

So, here are two cool new "gifts" I can't wait to try out further. Thanks to a Tweet from Elizabeth Helfant, I have just downloaded KeeBook Creator Education which states on its education webpage:
A Virtual Authoring Tool for Teaching

  • Gather, store and organize all types of electronic documents

  • Create workbooks of your teaching majors

  • Speed-up your Web quests and enhance them with personal annotations

  • Publish your students' books



It is a tool to gather, enhance and present all types of electronic contents. It gives the possibility:

for teachers to create their own teaching workbooks.
for students to manage and personalize easily their Web quests.
for teachers and students to better communicate with each others.

Sounds promising, and while there is a cost, it won't hurt to try out the 15 day trial to see if it's worth finding funding! I can see it now; my kids creating their own Science books that, according to the demo, can be emailed or posted on the Net!

The second gift of the week is from MissTizzy at Teaching 'N Technology where she blogged about a cool new site called GoGoFrog. She writes:

It allows you to create your own 3-D space similar to what you might find in Second Life.

Using step by step instructions the user can set up a room, add features such as images, text, blogs, and forums. Once each wall is set up you modify its content. You can add or modify other features such as wall color and add furniture. Once all of your content has been added you activate the site and you're ready to go.

This is a great tool for the classroom. Students can create a museum space to showcase a unit or a specific project. You can even add additional rooms to the site. Imagine having a virtual museum of all of the units you've covered this year!

How fun would that be for a 6th grader! I have yet to steal the time to try this one out, but it is certainly at the top of my list!

And finally, the gift with the gold bow this week was a very information-filled blog post by Wesley Fryer entitled, Advice for schools embarking on the 1:1 journey? In the post Wes provides links to many 1:1 ground breaking educators who share advice, tips, and tricks to having a successful program. Now all we need are the computers! : ) Stay tuned...

Photo Credit: Christmas Tree with Presents


Sticky Lesson Planning

For the past few months I have become increasingly interested in Kathie Nunley's Layered Curriculum. Although I had attended a conference workshop several years ago presented by a teacher using the Layered Curriculum in her science classroom, it wasn't until my fall Master's class when I had to present on brain-based research and curriculum design, that I came across Nunley's work again.

I continually question, as I think every educator does, whether what I am doing in the classroom is really changing with the times, or just using technology tools to engage kids in doing the same old things! As I make efforts to pilot a 1:1 laptop initiative, I have become more and more aware that, although I dream up great ways of using the web 2.0 tools, I need to make a fundamental 180 degree shift in my presence in the classroom. And I am feeling more and more like the Layered Curriculum is the guide I've been looking for to effect this change. Given its student centeredness, how could it not move the teacher from the sage to the guide?

This leads me to really question the circumstances of a portion of today's staff meeting. Our school leaders require weekly lesson plans be submitted to them prior to 8:00 every Monday morning, and due to the fact that many teachers have been submitting MANY versions of lesson plans, they have decided to "standardize" (I cringe as I write) the lesson plan format we all use. So they have offered two "choices" for us to use. One is a very detailed, reflective-type lesson plan, the other the typical 7-point style taught in undergrad coursework. They have nicely formatted them into Word templates which we can save and work on from home or school, and submit either in printed form or digitally through email. Now, I agree, research shows that well-prepared educators who create a plan for what and how they will GUIDE students more successfully meet the goal of preparing student learners (or in the words of our administrators, "relate our teaching to the Standard Course of Study"). However, in a classroom designed to empower and engage students individually, like mine where I plan to incorporate the Layered Curriculum methodology, what happens to the 7 point lesson plan? How do I teach the way I passionately feel is the most empowering way, yet meet the requirements of my administration? I would love to hear what you think!

Photo Credit:  Story of my life... 

It's in the Mail!

Well, my first big grant proposal ($10,000, big to me!) was sent off this afternoon at the click of the Enter button.  After lots of planning, thinking, writing, and re-writing, it's time to wait with fingers crossed!  I guess at this point I should continue to pursue other avenues of funding and now that I have the bulk of the project in various written forms, the really hard work is finished.  I did send the grant packet on to my Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and Technology Directory with a cover letter stating that if the county happened to "find" some funding for the project I would be happy to pilot Project WISE in the hopes that the data will help the county expand the 1:1 initiative further.... we'll see!  : )

Thanks to Cindy P. at Teaching 'N Technology I was reminded today of a fantastic site that I should be using a lot more, and will add to my CRITICAL SITES list as Project WISE becomes a reality!  It is ReadWriteThink from the International Reading Association.  It is jam-packed with many interactive, creative tools for students to create original content.  It is applicable to every subject area, and so kid-friendly, guidance from the teacher would be minimal!  If you haven't checked it out lately, give it another glance!  I tried out the "flip book" application, and thought what a neat activity that would have been as my kids were learning the layers of the Earth!

So many cool tools, so little time to explore them all!  Isn't it wonderful?  Stay Tuned....

Photo Credit: Gadgets on Flickr


Today was one of those days that just kept getting better. First it was a teacher workday, which, to those of us who are addicted to learning and teaching, is always good! Our HIFIVES gaming cohort met, and although there are still some gliches, it was good to talk gaming again. Sometimes you need to feel part of a group to get motivated. Another reason for striving to make the DREAM a reality for my kids!

Then, an email announcing that we were being awarded the NCaect grant to fund 12 digital cameras and 2 digital video cameras! Hooray! Now the kids will be able to capture images and video from their labs and other inquiry activities, and share that learning with the world! Piece one of the DREAM puzzle in place! Thank you NCaect!!

Ended the day catching up on my tweets! Okay, Danita, it's your fault I'm an addict. Now you need to use your powers to get it unblocked at school! :)  Also read the blogs in my aggregator, and came upon this post by Chris O'Neal on Edutopia. Although I had heard of Gliffy before, it made me realize that I need to begin collecting and integrating these great tools into, yes my classroom today with its two desktop computers, but even more importantly, into what I'm planning for Project WISE!

Beginning to awaken into reality. Stay tuned...

Photo Credit: Yawn

Happening for a Reason!

My husband, Alex, and I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. Since we are Christians we know that it is often the Holy Spirit leading us. Surely with the millions of events that occur at every blink, it is not just coincidence. And so goes the recent events related to "The DREAM". It started with this video, Having Our Say, created by the folks at the Friday Institute. Found it when I finally got around to catching up on my blog reading! Be sure you check it out!

As "The Dream" continues, I was thrilled when my bud, Danita, and our Technology Director, Cindy, allowed me to try out a cool little laptop called the One2One Student Mate a few weeks ago. We had seen it at the technology conference, and Danita had made arrangements to try it out! Well, it had several gliches, and was extremely slow on the Net. Since Project WISE (wiki coming soon) and many other initiatives I feel are crucial to my 21st Century classroom rely on Internet capabilities, I was sadly disappointed. However, Glenn, the salesman ensures that a new build will fix the gliches. We have agreed to send it back, have him update it, and try it again. The fact remains however that it is not built for speed. It does have some other really awesome traits however, like the touch screen and the built in response system type program for on the fly assessment! We'll give it another try.

However in the meantime, Danita and I stumbled upon (almost at the exact same moment!) the Asus Eee Galaxy. Now this looks promising! Much faster, and built to address the multi-media needs of our kids (and Project WISE, by the way!).

So, where am I in planning for "The DREAM"? Well, I've submitted a grant proposal to NCaect for the digital cameras and video cameras my kids will need to create some of the visual content for their wikis. Keeping my fingers crossed! Also am finishing up the required portions of the Toyota Tapestry grant I hope will help us gain a set of the Asus Eee Galaxies! Wish I had more fingers, am running out of any more to cross!

Stay Tuned...

Photo Credit: Fingers Crossed...

Edging Toward Reality?

Okay, so my comeback to blogging was short-lived. However, I am now reconsidering as the DREAM of 1:1 computing begins its journey toward reality. Thanks to my great friend, colleague and future teammate (still part of the DREAM), Danita, the fire has been lit once again! It was six years ago when I approached my former principal about seeking funding to support a 1:1 pilot project. Thankfully she was extremely supportive and helped in many ways, however the DREAM didn't come to fruition. Now, still believing with all my heart that 1:1 computing can help my students grow to extremes not possible without it, I continue to venture down the path toward the DREAM's reality.

I will make every effort to blog on a routine basis as I believe this will document the steps that have been taken toward a 21st Century success story. Great ideas are flowing, emails and phone calls are coming, doors are opening, and I have a great feeling that this might actually work out! Here's to jumping off the edge! Stay tuned.....

Dreams of Summer

Dreams of Summer - Flickr