Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thinking about Upgrading to Windows 7

windows7People I know who are using Windows 7 seem to like it, so I'm considering upgrading my home laptop that is currently running Vista Business.  I know that there are upgrade paths that work and others that do not.  I found Windows Upgrade Avisor to be helpful as I investigated which version I should purchase for my system; it's a free download.  I ran the tool and learned that I must install the 32 bit Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise.

The features that interest me the most include:

  • Quicker boot-up and shut-down time.

  • Better compatibility with other software and hardware devices.

  • The Snap feature to compare two versions of a document sounds neat.

  • Improved memory usage by running fewer processes in the background.

  • The Ultimate version comes in over 30 languages; users can switch back and forth, something that could be very handy for bilingual and ESL students. 

  • The integration of Windows Live could be convenient for file sharing and collaboration.

Now the cost...  From the Microsoft Website $200-$220, depending on which upgrade package I choose.  From JourneyEd, the costs are the same at this time.  I want to upgrade, but I'll have to wait.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Nudge for the K-12 Online Conference

k12onlinebanner2The K-12 Online Conference is for educators from around the world who are interested in innovative ways web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. This annual FREE conference is organized by volunteers and is open to everyone. The theme for this year is “Bridging the Divide.”  There are over 50 sessions between now and January 9.  See complete schedule at

December 7-11:

  • Leading the Change.  Presentations in this strand will showcase successful strategies as well as amplify critical issues which must be addressed for innovative learning methods to be adopted by teachers, librarians, and administrators on a more widespread basis.

  • Getting Started.  The presentations in this strand will focus on specific, free tools for newcomers.

December 14-18:

  • Kicking it Up a Notch.  This strand amplifies ways new technologies can be used to transform classroom and personal learning.  Fresh new approaches to using Web 2.0 tools for learning and authentic assessment will be highlighted.

  • A Week in the Classroom.  This strand will explore how teachers and students are tangibly bridging divides between instructors, learners, classrooms, content, and experts outside the traditional classroom. Presentations will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using these tools.

All sessions are recorded and archived, so if you cannot attend at the scheduled time, you can still participate.  You can access the archived presentations from the conference web page at or from iTunes.  Additionally, follow-up conversations will begin twice monthly in January 2010 on the EdTechTalk channel at

I have “attended” this conference over the last few years.  The opportunity to learn and network with others is something I look forward to every year.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Skype and Author Network

Wouldn't it be great to invite authors into your classroom or library to video chat with students before, during, and/or after reading their books?  Author Mona Kirby and School Media Specialist Sarah Chauncey developed a website to help schools and authors connect, the Skype and Author Network.  See list of authors here.  

Arrangements for Skype visits are made via email and/or phone between the author and the teacher or media specialists.  Authors offer two types of visits:  free "meet the author" visits lasting 10-15 minutes, or longer in-depth visits with the time and fee determined by each author.   Enjoy!

Image from Superkimbo in BKK, Flickr Creative Commons license

Monday, November 30, 2009

K-12 Online Conference

The K-12 Online Conference is for all educators from around the world who are interested in innovative ways Web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. This FREE conference is run by volunteers and open to everyone. The 2009 conference theme is “Bridging the Divide.” This year’s conference begins with a pre-conference keynote by classroom teacher and international educator Kim Cofino the week of November 30, 2009. The following two weeks, December 7-11 and December 14-17, over fifty presentations will be posted online to the K-12 online conference blog and the K12 online conference Ning for participants to view, download, and discuss. Live Events in the form of three “Fireside Chats” are listed on the events page of the conference Ning and Facebook fan page, and live events will continue in 2010 through twice-monthly “K-12 Online Echo” webcasts on EdTechTalk. Please consider participating in both the live events during and after the conference as well as asynchronous conversations.  I have done a little of both the past two years, and have learned and enjoyed the conference. 

Here is a printable flyer.  Note that times are for the Eastern Standard Time Zone.  Other flyers are available here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009






Teachers:  Are you on the hunt for YouTube-like videos that you can use for instructional purposes in your classroom?  Do you want to have your students create projects and view videos that will help them learn academic content?   As you know, there are many educational videos on YouTube (and other sites), but these sites also have inappropriate videos... those you do NOT want your students to access.  WatchKnow may be the answer for you.  It is a new wiki portal that categorizes short videos by topic.  There is also an age filter; search for only those that are appropriate for the age in years of your students!

This is a community where users make it better by contributing, so be sure to register for an account and add videos as you find those that are useful for your classroom.  Sources could be YouTube, TeacherTube, GoogleVideo, National Geographic, HowCast, SlideBoom, SchoolTube, Graspr, 5 Minute LifeVideopedia, InternetArchive, and eHow.  

The advisory panel includes experienced teachers and experts in educational media and library science.   This group reviews media and moderates the online community. 


Sunday, November 15, 2009

What is Media Literacy?

What is media literacy?  These young students know what media literacy is!  Kudos to 1st grade teacher, Kathy Cassidy.  Here is the classroom blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Extensive List of Useful Tools for Teachers

Wow... this huge list of useful tools for teachers by Naomi Harm of Innovative Educator Consulting has many sites that I want to spend some time checking out.  Categories:  bookmarking tools, copyright free digital photos, capturing programs, converters, digital photo editors, digital photo project tools, flash and share your presentations, interactive whiteboards, music, photo  hosting/sharing, productivity, students, timeline creators, URL shorteners, video programs, web 2.0 repositories, and virtual worlds. There is also a link to download the list as a PDF at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Awesome Presentations Available Online

Last weekend, the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) hosted their annual Virtual Conference. In Michigan, we host a face-to-face event in conjunction with the online presentations. I'm on the DEN Event Team and was one of the face-to-face session facilitators along with several other inspiring educators across the state. One disadvantage to being involved in facilitating the face-to-face event, is not being able to attend many of the sessions. I was pleased to learn this morning that the virtual breakout sessions are not available, so I can attend whenever I have a free moment. If any of the following topics interest you, I encourage you to do the same:

  • Students as collaborators, creators, and directors

  • Podcasting

  • Making your PowerPoint presentations more interesting

  • Using Discovery Education's teacher tools (assignment builder, quiz builder, etc)

  • Gloggle

  • Sharing your multimedia projects with the world

Access all of these presentations on the DEN Blog Virtual Conference  page.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009


I learned of a new screencast tool from Chris Ozias (Pinckney Technology Integration Specialists) while at the "Tech or Treat" MACUL/Discovery Education Event on Saturday.  It's called Screencast-o-Matic.  No download and no account registration required!  I just recorded a quick screencast to introduce an 8th grade inquiry-based science lesson I developed.  Creating the screencast was super easy (no need to read any directions or change computer settings).  There are many saving options:  MPEG-4, avi.  Or share direct to youtube (However, this didn't work when I tried it) or to Screencast-o-Matic.  There is some advertising, but it didn't seem offensive.  I'm thinking that this could be used easily by students!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More About Social Networking

I was invited to the Oakland County Career Tech Prep teacher inservice on Friday.  I was able to sit in on the keynote presentation by Corey Perlman, author of eBoot Camp.  His book is about Internet marketing techniques for small businesses.  His message is that educators need to experience and understand social networking so that we can help students use social networking to connect with others and land jobs. 

He recommends that students should have a solid Internet presence before leaving high school:

  • Upload at least one youtube video of themselves dressed nicely while communicating career goals.

  • Blog.  Recommended platform is Wordpress.

  • Use  linkedin. Ask teachers for recommendations.

  • Post articles and best papers on Ezinearticles.

  • Build a website.  Joomla is a platform that could be used.

I've always recommended that teachers not "friend" students.  Mr. Perlmam gave me a few ideas and I may change my mind.  There is a way to keep your main Facebook page private from students and still connect with them on Facebook.  You can create a Facebook group.  This will allow conversations, announcements, and collaboration to occur right in Facebook, where students already are.

Mr. Perlman's keynote gave the teachers who attended a brief overview of the power of social networking and a taste from many different tools.  My online course, 21st Century Learning, will help guide teachers as they venture on their journey.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brown Symposium on Technology and Society

Today I traveled to blue and gold territory - the University of Michigan, cross-state rivals of my alma mater, Michigan State University.  U of M hosted the John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society.  danah boyd was the keynote speaker.  danah (lack of capitalization is not a typo) is a social media researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a fell0w at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  

The setting: a beautiful auditorium at the Business School.  I arrived a few minutes late, just as the keynote was starting.  I ended up in the back row of the balcony.  I noticed that there were many college students in attendance and there were several hands on laptop keyboards all around the auditorium; I felt right at home.  As Ms boyd was speaking about her research about social networking, the two young adults sitting in front of me were checking email, and posting to Twitter and a Skype chat.  They were back-channeling; deeply engaged in sideline conversations that the presenter made them think about.  Others might have thought they were off-task, but I don't believe so, because I often do the same thing.

Ms boyd found that kids prefer to spend time with their friends face-to-face, but that the high amount of structured activities (clubs, sports teams, etc), and parental rules often keep them home.  So they tend to hang out on MySpace and Facebook out of convenience.   They don't  use social networking sites because of the technology; they use it because all their friends are there. 

Teens participation in online social networking sites is viewed upon by most adults as frivolous, unsafe, and a waste of time.  However, teens are learning how to live and interact in ways that are very important in today's world.  Just like most other human behaviors, there are "good" and "bad" examples of how social media is used.  I've seen awesome teen-generated digital media, created with a purpose and communicated with originality.  Some examples that come to mind for me include the teens who made the YouTube video of the water slide they constructed from the second story window (requiring advanced physics knowledge, the reaction of the 3rd grader to President Obama's speech, and the blog of a high school student trying to make positive changes in his school.

However, what is in the news more often is the negative; fear is used to spin a story... Teens sending pornography via their cell phones, writing inappropriate comments on Facebook, or meeting a stranger who turns out to be a predator.  Ms. Boyd is very concerned that the culture of fear of the "bad" is causing a lot of damage.  She believes that adults need to help guide teens into making good choices while using social networking tools, a significant part of their lives.  I agree with her. 

Read danah boy'd reserch here.  Warning: over 400 pages

Sunday, October 4, 2009

MACUL/DEN Virtual Conference, Oct 24

 Day of Discovery: Tech or Treat Conference

Saturday, October 24, 2009

8:30 am to 3:15 pm

Registration is now available for the "Day of Discovery: Tech or Treat Conference" at Harper Creek High School (map) in Battle Creek, MI. Click here to register now.

This event is jointly sponsored by the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) and the Discovery Education Network (DEN), featuring MACUL’s “Making It Happen” award winner, Andy Mann.  Choose virtual sessions from nationally known speakers and/or face-to-face sessions with experienced technology trainers. There is no cost for the conference. Lunch is provided. All teachers are welcome, although space is limited. SB-CEU’s available. Door prizes provided by Discovery Education and MACUL.

Virtual Sessions by Discovery Education’s National Speakers:

Can I Help You With That?  The Student as Collaborator

Do You Have the Audacity to Podcast?

Thinking Outside the Slide

Putting the Bling in Your Builders

What on Earth is a Gloggle?

Be Nice and Share: Publishing Your Media-Infused Projects

In Person Hands-on Sessions: (subject to change)

The Best Open Source & Free Windows Applications (Andy Mann)

Google Earth: All Over the World and In your Backyard (John Phillips)

Hands-on: Geocaching in the Classroom (Gina Loveless & Pam Shoemaker)

SMART(board) Discovery Streaming (Melissa White)

Thinkfinity: Free Lesson Plans and Educational Resources (Jim Stewart/Karen Lemmons)

Podcasting: Supercharged Writers

Digital Storytelling: Make it Personal

Google Docs: Really, I can do that? (Lisa Wickman)

Get Connected with Social Bookmarking (Melinda Waffle)


Click here to register:

For more information, email Lisa Wickman at:


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Does the Internet Think?

I listened in on a Discovery Educator Network webinar this evening.  Steve Dembo shared a website that I find very interesting.  It is whatdoestheinternetthink?  I don't understand exactly how it works, but it seems to be a search engine of public opinion.  It scours the Internet quickly and will tell you if the term is positive, negative, or indifferent.  I tried it out three times using these terms:  health care reform, taxes, and Flickr.  Could it be accurate?  It would be fun to compare the results over time.  Try it out; think of a few topics in the news of late and see what results you get!

1.  Health Care Reform

health care reform


2.  Taxes


3.  Flickr


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Did You Know?, version 4

I'm sure you have seen one or more versions of the Did You Know? video.  The original version was created August 06; since then at least three more versions have been made.  The most recent version was released this month; it was created by XPLANE, The Economist, Scott McLeod, Karl Fisch , & Laura Bestler for The Economist's Media Convergence Forum in October 2009.  Enjoy!

You may enjoy reading about the history of the video, or seeing earlier versions.  If so, visit the Shift Happens! wiki.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Discovery Education Network Fall Streamathon

Mark your calendar for an awesome day of learning:  Wed., September 23, 2009.  See schedule below and tune in when you can.

9 AM: Back to School Changes in DE streaming          

10 AM: A Day in the Life with DE streaming         

11 AM: Streaming the Solution: DE streaming in the Math Classroom

12 PM: Supporting 21st Century Literacy with DE streaming     

1 PM: Back to School Changes in DE streaming        

2 PM: Dialing in the Digital Compass: DE streaming with Social Studies

3 PM: Multimedia Einsteins: DE streaming with Science

4 PM: Homework Gone Digital

5 PM: A Day in the Life with DE streaming

6 PM: Back to School Changes in DE streaming         

7 PM: Crunching the Numbers - Using the DE Admin Tools to Show Your Success

8 PM: The Discovery Educator Network 2009-2010

Register today!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Need My Teachers to Learn

Kevin Honeycutt is a teacher educator for the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas.  He used to teach art and continues to bring incredible creativity into his work.  He wrote and helped produce this video, "I Need My Teachers To Learn."

I saw this just days after our awesome local technology conference, the Walled Lake Spice it Up Conference.  Feedback from the conference has been overwhelmingly positive.  Lots of new learning took place for sure!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spice it Up! 2009

The Walled Lake Consolidated Schools Spice it Up! Technology Conference is on Thursday, August 27, from 8am-3pm. All WL staff are welcome to attend. This annual sharing of best practices in education comes to you as a result of the efforts of dedicated teachers and leaders of educational technology. This year’s presenters come from Walled Lake, Oakland Schools, and the One-to-One Institute. There are 50 session offerings this year!

The conference brochure/schedule of sessions is now available for download:

Electronic handouts will be posted here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Call for Speakers

Apply now to present at an upcoming educational technology conference! 

  1. Collaborative Tools Conference – Nov 13 at Macomb ISD.  Call for Speakers Application due Sept 28.

  2. MACUL Conference – March 11 & 12 in Grand Rapids.  Call for Speakers Application is due Sept 29.

Perks for both:  Free registration and great learning and networking opportunities.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Getting Started with One-to-One

Among other things, I am a Digital Coach for the One-to-One Institute.   I'll be spending two weeks facilitating professional development with teachers from Coopersville Public Schools, near Grand Rapids, MI.  Today was my first day working with the teachers.  I feel a great responsibility in helping them prepare and get off to a good start.  Lots of time is being spent on PBL and the changing role of the teacher and the students.  I started the day comparing the work required to remodel your kitchen to the work required when starting a one-to-one program (thank you for the idea, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach!) 

I'm able to put myself in their shoes, as I was there about ten years ago, feeling excited and overwhelmed at the same time.  I've learned many things about what makes a one-to-one proram successful over the past ten years, and I'm enjoying sharing stories and lessons learned with the Coopersville teachers.  The reflection process brings me energy and confidence that technology be used as part of much needed school reform.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

15 Free Podcasts and Online Lectures for Teachers

This is a guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen specializes in education technology uses and aids. She also writes about online education for  Thanks, Karen!



The web is an excellent place for teachers to learn about integrating technology in the classroom. There are many different podcasts and lectures that have been created specifically for people who want to explore this topic. Here are 15 free podcasts and online lectures that would be useful to almost any 21st century teacher.


The Education Podcast Network - The Education Podcast Network is a great place to find podcasts and online lectures on nearly every topic imaginable. This landmark website brings education podcasts from all over together in one place.


The Teacher's Podcast - Hosted by Dr. Kathy King and Mark Gura, this teacher podcast features education technology news, views, research, and resources that can be used in the classroom.


TILT - TILT (Teachers Improving Learning with Technology) is a popular video podcast for teachers who want to learn more about technology integration. The vidcast welcomes questions and submissions from other teachers and posts updates regularly.


Teachers Teaching Teachers This education technology podcast was created by teachers for teachers. Episodes include tips on teaching in the 21st century as well as information on tech tools and teaching aids.


NPR Education Podcasts - NPR's Education Podcasts provide up-to-date news for teachers. Episodes also touch on the different ways teachers are using technology in the classroom.


It's Elementary - Created for elementary school teachers, this EdTalk podcast covers everything from education technology and teaching aids to learning environments.


Teacher Institute Podcasts - The Exploratorium offers a wonderful collection of Teacher Institute Podcasts. These short, teacher-created podcasts are easy to listen to and full of valuable teaching tips.


ESL Teacher Talk - ESL Teacher Talk is an excellent podcast for ESL and EFL teachers. Episodes include interviews, teaching tips and ideas, games, activities, information on education technology and other useful resources.


The English Teacher John Show This popular podcast for English teachers and learners is hosted by English Teacher John. The podcast is fun to listen to and has listeners in nearly 70 countries.


Educating Educators Lecture - The WGBH hosts this lecture by Dr. Margaret McKenna, who discusses the education and training of teachers. Dr. McKenna also talks about the essential tools teachers need to do their job in the classroom.


K-12 Security Lecture - CERIAS (Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security) provides a series of online audio, video, and text lectures to increase teacher awareness about student privacy and security for K-12 school information systems. The lectures discuss how teachers can keep students and information safe from online threats and vulnerabilities.


Creativity Lecture - In this video lecture, Ken Robinson (TEDTalks) entertains and educates teachers about the importance of nurturing creativity in today's schools. The lecture is short--lasting only 20 minutes--but it does offer profound food for thought.


SMART Board Lecture - Hosted by YouTube, this short, award-winning lecture discusses teaching with a SMART Board. The lecture is given by a physics teacher but would be useful to any educator who wants to explore the use of SMART Board in the classroom.


Did You Know 2.0 - This silent video lecture is hosted by YouTube and has been watched by more than 3 million people. It offers an amazing collection of facts about education, technology, and careers--a must-see for teachers.


Educational Uses of Technology - This free online video lecture from MIT professor Steven Lerman explores the uses of technology in education. The lecture focuses on learning versus teaching and lasts approximately 15 minutes.



Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Love Shelfari

Shelfari is a social networking site for people who like to read books.  Users create a virtual bookshelf to keep track of books they are reading, have already read, and want to read.  You can connect with people with similar interests to share thoughts and book reviews, get book recommendations, and discover good books you didn't even know existed.  It is free and sign-up is quick and easy. 

Here's an example of how I use the site.  I was browsing the books of some of my Shelfari friends and kept seeing the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  I read the reviews:  Presentation Zen:  Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter).  I'm counting on it helping me create more effective presentations for delivery of teacher professional development, and according to the reviews on Shelfari, it will do just that.  I ordered it from Amazon and it should arrive any day! 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

Scott McLeod has asked for bloggers to participate in "Leadership Day," a day to reflect on digital leadership with the purpose of helping school principals, central office administrators, and superintendants become more effective to lead the effort of preparing students for the 21st century.  Specifically, how to recognize, evaluate, and facilitate effective technology usage by students and teachers.

In my role as the Instructional Technology Coordinator for a large school district, I work with teachers as they use technology in their classrooms.  I need your help; I cannot do this without you.  

Technology professional development is not required according to the teacher contract and it is not required for administrators.  However, there are Michigan GLCE's (Grade Level Content Expectations) that include student use of technology in every curricular area.  Michigan curriculum is required.  Using technology is no longer something that can be used "when there is enough time."  Our students depend on us to prepare them to think critically, work efficiently, solve problems and communicate in creative ways, collaborate with others, and be able to figure out the best ways to do all these things, taking risks to do so.  Technology changes quickly and our students must adapt to it.  We all do.  We are the professionals who need to ensure that it happens. 

What can administrators do to help lead the effort?  Although I am thinking of specific things for my school district, these ideas could be applied to any school district.

  • Take my online course "21st Century Skills for the 21st Century Educator."  The purpose is to provide you with opportunities to experience tools that are now available online that will enable you to easily connect and share with others, participate in authentic collaborative activities with other educators, explore new web-based educational tools, and reflect on how all this impacts your professional life.  Contact me for log on information.

  • Set your own personal technology goals.  Make the time to try out tech gadgets and web tools.  Ask for help; you know who to ask.  Be a learner.  Without this step, the rest simply cannot occur.

  • Set technology goals for your school; work with teacher leaders to set them and carry them out.  Communicate them with teachers, parents, and students. 

  • Attend the Spice it Up Technology Conference.  It's local, it's free, and you can learn a lot.  There is a strand just for administrators!

  • Know the difference between using technology that will and will not make a difference in student achievement. Doing a worksheet on a computer or copying info from the Internet on a PowerPoint slide will not make one bit of difference in student learning. 

  • Be aware that there are educational technology standards for administrators.  Study them, work with other administrators to make sense of them, and include them in your daily work.

  • Hire only those who are tech savvy and creative.  In today's economic climate you can be very picky.

  • Expect that the technology that we have is used constantly.  Do something about it if it is not. 

  • Showcase lessons that allow students to make choices, think outside of the box, and demonstrate their learning in creative ways.  Don't call attention to the technology used, call attention to the content and the process.  

With your support at the building (or the district) level, together we can make a huge difference.  Our students will be more engaged, our teachers will be more effective, our students will develop deeper understanding of concepts, and our parents will be pleased with our efforts!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Joys and Perils of Technology

I've been around many people of late who claim that life was better before everyone started using computers and other technologies.  The technology that most of them use on a regular basis include email, a word processor, the Internet to find basic information, a cell phone, and a TV with the works.  For the most part, they have not been exposed to other technologies (especially web 2.0) and don't realize that they have only scratched the surface of readily available technology that could be really useful to them.  They often believe that people who regularly use more technology than they do are rude, shallow, and materialistic. 

Sometimes this is true.  People talk on their cell phones while friends they are with wait for them to finish.  People don't talk during a TV show or movie unless it is during a commercial.  People send text messages when driving.  People say things using email that they would never say in person.  Is it technology's fault for these bad behaviors?

There are some technologies that I have grown to depend on.  My portable GPs, "Gabby," goes with me wherever I go.  She has prevented me from getting lost many times.  I love my iPod Touch; I can do so much on that little device:  check the weather, keep track of what I need to purchase at the grocery store, read the headline news, check my email, look at my favorite photos, listen to music, read my favorite blogs, and more.  I use many different computer programs to connect with others with similar interests.  I've come to know many people that I have not yet met face-to-face.  We share professional resources, good books to read, and troubleshoot problems together.   I enjoy writing on this blog; it helps me as I set goals and reflect on things that matter to me. 

My life is not all encompassed with technology.  I also have close friends and family that are important to me.  I certainly do not believe that life was better before all these technologies became cost-effective and available to the public on a widespread basis.  I can work more efficiently now than ever before because I know where to go to find information, and I know what tools to use to make the work quicker and easier.

So what do we say to the person who says that technology is negatively impacting our society?  Or to the person who says that the technology changes so fast that there is no way to keep up with it?  Even though I am such a believer in technology, I sometimes don't know what to say... I can give personal examples and stories about how I use technologies in my work and home life, but that doesn't often help much.  Still grappling with this...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Free Tech - Ubiquitous Tools as Individualized Supports

This is the 3rd session of the day and I have great hopes that it will be GREAT!  The presenter is Ira David Socol, a teaching and research assistant at Michigan State University (where I went to school a few times).  He has a blog called SpeEd Change and his presentation is available there on Slideshare.  He's got a Today's Meet backchannel set up, which is very cool.  I'm not sure if the audience knows what a backchannel even is, but I sure appreciate it.

I'll be taking notes of the free tools that are shown.  He considers the following tools as "Basics." 
OK, this was the session I came to the conference for.  I can easily share some of this with teachers in my district and beyond. 

Read Out Loud

The second session I'm attending is Read:OutLoud Universal Access...Get IT! Read IT! Learn IT! - Oh the Possibilities.  Read about the software here.   I didn't realize that it was sponsored by a software company, Don Johnston, so hopefully it will not be a hard sell.  Facilitator is Cortnee Snell.  I'll receive a free copy of the software, and will be comparing the features to what comes free in Microsoft Office. 

You can import files:  web pages, pdfs, Word docs, and a few others.  It will read word at a time, sentence at a time, or the whole passage.  The audio sounds mechanical, but perhaps a bit better than the built in reader in Microsoft Office.  You can change the rate, pitch and volume of the voice.  You can also use the built-in dictionary for any word in the selection.  There are different colored highlighters for identification of main points and supporting details.  There is also a note taking tool for paraphrasing and a bibliographer.

The teacher side of the program allows the teacher to assign assignments and look at student work.  Sounds like you need the "networked version" to see student work from a different computer than the one used by the student.  There's got to be a similar web-based reader available to take away the logistical issues of downloading the program to a limited number of computers and how to conveniently get access to students who need it in many different classrooms while following copyright/licensing restrictions.

UDL in the General Ed Classroom

It's day 2 of the Michigan Integrated Technology Supports Learning Institute in Traverse City, Michigan.  My first session is about to begin.  Title:  UDL in the General Ed Classroom.  The facilitators are Terie Elvers and Teresa Karney, both middle school general ed classroom teachers.  I'm hoping to pick up some ideas and maybe present on the same topic for my district's Spice it Up! technology conference in August.

From the session description: "Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the practice of embedding flexible strategies into the curriculum during the planning process so that all students can access a variety of learning solutions, including, but not limited to technology solutions."

Terie and Teresa were selected to participate in a state of Michigan pilot project, "Model UDL Classroom."  The teachers feel strongly that a UDL classroom philosophy helps students of ALL abilities and interests.  

According to the presenters, the CAST website is an excellent resource.  I looked at this website a few years ago and plan to check it out again to see what is there.

Terie talked about one of her students who was disengaged at school.   She assigned a project where students picked any book and related it to music in a five paragraph essay.  This student became engrossed in the project and soon had his project on youtube.  So, seems that PBL (Project Based Learning) is a natural fit for UDL strategies.

Characteristics of a UDL Classroom:  non-threatening, student-centered, flexible seating/grouping, music, and acceptance of differences. 

The teachers are talking about "whisper reading," something I have never heard of before.  I just googled it and found an explanation/description here

They also have silent reading time, some students listen to audio books on mp3 players simultaneously.  Students use sticky notes as they read to take notes for a digital scrap book. I'd like to see or learn more about what was included in the digital scrap book and what tools were used to create it.

The teachers showed many videotapes of their classroom, the clips showed the teachers providing instruction as well as the students working.  The clips showed instruction that would help students will many different learning styles (movement, visual imagery, symbolism, art, etc).  Students are allowed to show their learning in many different ways.  About half choose to use a computer in some way.  Rubrics and check lists are used to communicate expectations.

The facilitators made it clear that using technology is not the same as UDL.  They say that technology often is used as part of a UDL classroom, but that the act of using a computer doesn't necessarily make a good UDL strategy.  I think that is a very important point.

Planning is critical.  Begin with objectives, think about accomodations and options (consider learning styles, engagement, materials available, etc), look for resources (online, books, textbooks), consider assessment methods (rubrics), then create the assignment.  They suggest using the CAST Lesson Builder

UDL ideas include: using special pencils and paper, pencil grips, word processing, record audio instead of writing, video taping, using a scribe, draw and explain, act it out, scaffolds, and podcasts. 

UDL assessment ideas include: paper/pencil, presentation, survey monkey, podcasts, videos, slideshows, online books, printed books, and music. 

Many books about brain-based instructional strategies were passed around the room.  :-)  Books included those by Marcia Tate, David Sousa, and Kathie F. Nunley, and Brenda Utter (Pick and Plan).  I've attended a Marcia Tate workshop that was outstanding and love her books.  I've not seen the others; will need to add it to my Shelfari wish list! 

Monday, June 22, 2009

"High Tech" Assistive Technology in the Math Classroom (High Tech = Computer Required)

Part 2: Assistive Tech in the Math Classroom.  See notes below.

Use Adobe Acrobat Pro, version 8 and up, to Scan and convert Math worksheets to PDFs.  Enable the typewriter so that students can write on the PDF using their computer.  They can use the comment and markup toolbar to insert comments, draw diagrams, etc.  Students do not have to have the Pro version, only the free Adobe Reader.

Use PowerPoint to create presentations with one problem per page.  Students work in edit/layout mode and therefore can move images around, add text, etc.  Remove background from the images first (make transparent; easy click of the mouse in Word and PPT).

Microsoft Equation Editor Menus - see images of button menus available in Word.  In Word, go to Insert > Equation (in Symbol group).  I just fiddled around with is for a bit with Word 07 and find that the Equation Editor is much easier to use than last time I used it with Word 03.

Microsoft Excel conditional formatting.  Put problem in column A, they put the answer in column B.  Use conditional formatting to make the correct answer be green, the incorrect answer be red.  Conditional formatting is found from Home > Conditional formatting (in styles group).  This allows students to self-check their work.

Fast Rabbit Software's Talking Calculator is a computer calculator that talks and is large, works nicely.  $10. 

Math websites:
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives
Math Forum

Closing thought of presenter:  Goal of assistive technology is to make students more independent.  If the tool does not do that, it is the wrong one. 

The day is over and I have picked up a few tricks that I'll be able to share with teachers in my district (and beyond).  I'm extremely disappointed that  web-based tools and resources were not even mentioned until the last five minutes.  I know there are plenty out there, available for free.  Hopefully more emphasis will be placed on online (and especially collaborative web 2.0) tools tomorrow.

Low and Mid-Tech Assistive Technology in the Math Classroom

I am at the MITS Conference (Michigan's Integrated Technology Supports) in Traverse City, Michigan.  The conference is being held on the same day as a The ETLC (Educational Technology Leadership Conference) at Holt High School, and I would like to be at both.

Participants are mainly special education teachers.  The sessions
include Universal design for learning (UDL), assistive technology
(AT), augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and accessible
instructional materials (AIM) focused on improving access and

I'm in my first session now, "Technology and Math: Assistive Technology in the Classroom," facilitated by Judi Sweeney of Onion Mountain Tech, a company I've never heard of.  Many handouts are available here, although the handout for this session is not there.  Paper copies were distributed...

Brain-based learning:

  • The brain looks for patterns to make sense of information, once done the brain can work on storing new information.

  • Memorization:  NCTM ways that students need to know math facts to 12s by grade 5.  Moving from short to long term memory is the key and a challenge because students need different amounts of time.  Some kids in the same classroom need just 2 seconds, others need 60 seconds.  Hopefully suggestions of strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms to provide learning experiences for students who have such different needs will be given later!

  • Making it Real: Tying learning to your life experiences increases memory, interest, and neural connections.

  • Music, movement, and math go together.  Playing music for just 5-10 minutes prior to math lessons can make a dramatic positive difference.  The beats per minute of the music works best when it is 60-72 beats per minute.  Could be classical, could be rap (or any genre), the beats/min is the most important.  Studying music improves temporal-spatial reasoning that is associated with math.  50% of teens need to move in order to learn.  Many options were discussed (exercise balls, rubber bands, chair cushions, gum chewing).

Learning Preferences

  • You can determine learning preferences by observing eye movement.  When you ask a question that requires recall "What did you have for dinner last night?"  If you look up when you think of the answer, you are a visual learner; if your eyes move back and forth, you are an auditory learner; and if you look down, you are a kinesthetic learner.  Don't tell the person you are looking at their eyes, or results won't be accurate.  Most teachers are visual learners and tend to teach that way.  More than half of all special ed students are auditory or kinesthetic learners.  BIG PROBLEM.

Thinking Styles

  • Global thinkers see the big picture and often miss details.  They often skim or read the end first, and skip steps, and are most concerned with the right answer.

  • Sequential thinkers see the details, but often miss the main idea, read top to bottom, must do all the steps, and are concerned with the process.

  • The vast majority of math and science teachers are sequential thinkers (not global thinkers).

Low tech math tools are used in "Least Restrictive Environments," since they can be used anywhere.  Examples:

  • Color: color can be a visual-perceptual issue for many students.  The research says that 40% of the general population would be  helped, at least part of the time, if you change the color of the background.  10% of people should NOT read text on white background.  You can buy colored filters to put over the paper.  ADHD kids prefer flourescent green or yellow.  It helps them focus and attend.  Changing the color of the filter can improve fluency immediately.  Color handout hereColor Evaluation Form hereColor Filter Comparisons hereColor Tendency per Disability hereOrder filters here.

  • Magnetic boards/magnets can be used to solve problems without writing.  You can make your own magnets with supplies from Staples.

  • Hands-on Equations is a manipulative product that works for algebra.  Students describe their thinking  at the same time they are moving objects.  The objects are color-coded.  Watch this video of a 3rd grader doing an algebra program on youtube. There are books for high school algebra that have been very successful.

Using "high tech" to make low tech items (use computer to make simple assistive technology tools).

  • You can use Microsoft Word to create specialized paper.  Make a table and add or change the line type and width.  Add shading for columns.  Presenter demonstrated a computer program called Startwrite.  $40.

Mini-books/Digital Note Organizer: Print a foldable document for study aides, notes, etc.  It allows you to change an 8 page document into an ultimate note card.  PocketMod and PocketMod to PDF.  Examples:  formulas, geometric figures, foreign language dictionary, story book.  Font must be at least 24 pt font.  Free.  Mac and Windows version available.

Pen scanners are available that hook to a computer and sends to Word and simultaneously reads the text aloud.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer School with Discovery Education

Get ready for a new school year with the DEN!  The entire month of August is jam-packed with free webinars.  Tell a colleague, invite your principal and join us for Summer School with the DEN.  Enroll today at: sessions begin at 11 AM EST. 

Digital Storytelling Week

  • 8/3/09: Thinking Outside the Slide: Creating non-linear PowerPoint presentations and learning centers with Discovery Education Media

  • 8/4/09: Digital Storytelling Made Easy: Using Discovery Education Content with Animoto and PhotoStory

  • 8/5/09: Director’s Cut: Discovery Education Media and MovieMaker (PC)

  • 8/6/09: Director’s Cut: Discovery Education Media and iMovie (Mac)

Leadership Week 

  • 8/10/09: The Information Society is HERE: Are our schools up to the task? with Dr. Scott McLeod

  • 8/11/09: Policies, Safety and Social Networking

  • 8/12/09: Web 2.0 for Administrators and Others: Schools, Tools, and the 21st Century

  • 8/13/09: Data Driven Decisions with Discovery Education Assessment

Science Week 

  • 8/17/09: Myth Busted: Easy Ways to Integrate Digital Media into Your Science Classroom

  • 8/18/09: Getting Your Hands Dirty with Discovery Education Science

  • 8/19/09: Differentiating Instruction with the Discovery Education Science Assessment Manager

  • 8/20/09: More and Muir Tech Tips for Going Green

Web 2.0 Week

  • 8/24/09: Get Your Glog On! The DE streaming Builders and Glogster

  • 8/25/09: The Thread that Ties it All Together: Discovery Education Content and Voicethread

  • 8/26/09: Two Roundtrip Tickets to Anywhere in the World: Designing Virtual Field Trips with Discovery Education Media and Google Earth

  • 8/27/09: Learning Through the Funnies: Mixing Discovery Education Content with Free Comic Tools

Enroll today!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Google Earth Updated Imagery



Google Earth released new and updated imagery and higher resolution 3D terrain for many locations, including Michigan!   If you have not visited Google Earth lately, you need to check it out!  I took a quick screenshot of Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes (NW Michigan's Lower Peninsula).  I have vivid memories of running up and down the dunes with my family as a child.  It's time to go back for a visit!  Does this sound interesting to you?  Visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Bureau website.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Michigan Discovery Educator Network Geocaching Day



The Michigan DEN had two teams: one in Commerce and the other in Battle Creek/Kalamazoo.  The Commerce team had a blast!  We found 5 caches and hiked some beautiful trails in Proud Lake Recreation Area.  We saw snakes, spiders, frogs, herons, and of course lots of mosquitos.  We nearly lost a couple of teachers who wandered off on a wild GPS chase, but found them before too long.  Several of the team were newbies, and now I think they are hooked.  It was a fun day of networking, learning together, with great exercise for all.  Our travel bug has been planted and we hope it travels very  soon!  Thanks you DEN!  Learn more about geocaching at

Thursday, May 21, 2009

MACUL Grant Opportunity

Michigan educators:  Do you have a  great idea for a cool project involving technology in your classroom? Apply for a 2009-2010 MACUL Grant!  Grants are awarded for up to $1500 towards a project that will help benefit the students in your classroom/school.  The deadline is June 27th, 2009, so do it NOW!

All of the details are on this page of the MACUL website.  Links to the scoring rubric, the official time line, and the application form can be found there. You must be a MACUL member in order to apply for this opportunity; thankfully, you can renew your membership, or join for the first time right here!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Technology Classes or Technology in Math, Science, SS, and English LA Classes?

I was at a meeting on Friday with other technology leaders from several other school districts.  We were sharing summaries of how each of our districts integrate technology into the curriculum.  The majority teach computer skills in computer classes.  The integrated approach was only being done by a few districts.

My district did away with computer classes this past school year, with the exception of a few advanced classes at the high school level (programming, network management, etc).   Our philosophy is that computer skills should be taught at the same time as subject matter content.  All teachers have responsibilities to incorporate technology into the teaching and learning process.  We were not able to change to this delivery system overnight; it required lots of advanced planning.  Technology had to be readily available (and be in good working order), and both administrative and instructional support had to be in place.  Our Superintendent has always understandood the importance of technology, and this is evident in the decisions he makes.  We have a full time computer resource teacher and a full time media specialist at all of our middle and high schools.  Each elementary school has a teacher that fulfills the role of both computer resource teacher and media specialist.  Therefore, building level technology support is in place.  Laptop computers are abundant in all of our schools, some of which are student-owned (for our middle school 1:1 program) and some are on rolling carts that teachers share.  We have a local technology conference at the start of each school year, and most presenters are our own teachers sharing how they use technology as a teaching and learning tool.  I cannot say that our delivery system is perfect or that it is easy.  However, I firmly believe that teaching computer skills in the context of learning is the way to go. 

You cannot learn to golf by only practicing on the driving range.  You can work on your swing, but you can't work on a strategy for hitting the ball from behind a tree, or from the sand trap.  If you want to learn to play golf, you must play golf, and you must play it on a regular basis.  It can be frustrating when you whack the ball into the trees, or when you miss a putt because the slope of the green causes it to roll farther away than when you started; but you must keep playing.

Am I saying that I am against computer classes?  No.  However, I am against them if the teachers feel they don't need to offer students in their classroom opportunities to learn new content with technology because the computer teachers do that.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Geocaching Anyone?

On May 30, 2009 the DEN will host the first-ever DEN Geocaching Day!  Question for Michigan teachers... If I volunteer to be the guide for an event in SE Michigan, would you be interested in participating?  If so, leave me a comment on the MI DEN blog.  If we get a small group of people who want to get together, we could meet in Proud Lake State Park or Highland Recreation Area. It would be fun!

For muggles (non-geocachers) and pros alike, STAR Discovery Educators Bridget Belardi and Conni Mulligan will host a “Geocaching 101″ webinar to get us ready.  The webinar will answer the basic questions of “What is geoaching?” and “How do I get started?”  as well as emphasize the curricular connections of geocaching.

The webinar will be offered three times:

  • Wednesday, May 6, 7pm
  • Wednesday, May 13, 7pm
  • Wednesday, May 27, 7pm

Register for one of the sessions today.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Benjamin Button Effect

The DEN Virtual Conference was kicked off with a keynote address by Lance Rougeux.  I haven't seen the movie Benjamin Button, so I did not know what to expect.  Lance explained that the Benjamin Button effect allows us to age in reverse. What would you have done different in your classroom if you could do it over again?  He gave many examples:
  • Photos of field trip shared by passing them around the classroom.... to saving same pictures in a Google Earth tour
  • Written essay to a P-essay (Photostory), post on web for others to see
  • Posterboard poster... to Glogster, with links to videos and websites
  • Survey students by asking them to raise hands.... to Pollster or use of clickers
  • Brainstorm most significant concepts learned from the week on the board..... to doing the same using Worlde to create a word cloud
  • Writing for teacher.... to writing to the world on a blog
  • Connecting with others in ftf meetings to using Twitter or Plurk to connect with others all over the world
There are so many new tools available for teachers to use that were not available 5-10 years ago.  It's fun to look back and reflect about what could be done now as a result of new tools that could not have been possible before. Question....Think of yourself as a child in your own classroom.  Would you be interested and engaged?

All sessions will be archived (I'll post the link when available).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Geocaching with Rattlesnake

It was a sunny, beautiful Michigan day on Saturday, so I set off with my daughter for a morning of geocaching.  I had picked up a Travelbug when geocaching in North Carolina, so I needed to keep it moving and it had been a few weeks since I had it.  I talked my daughter into going with me (it's much more fun to go with others), and we set off to the Proud Lake Recreation Area.

The first geocache we searched for, we never found... and we set off for another, not too far down the trail.  We arrived at the general area and started to look in likely spots.  Soon, my daughter shrieked and screamed, "There's a snake over here!"  I went over to see it; I am not afraid of snakes (I used to have several of them as pets).  The snake looked to me like a python, although pythons do not live in Michigan.  It wasn't moving, either; so we thought it might be dead.  We left it be and continued our search.  After about 15 minutes of searching, I found myself curious to see if the darn snake had moved.  It was still in the same exact spot.  So, what does the science teacher (who knows better) do?  She pokes it with a stick.  IT'S ALIVE.  Although it didn't move much, it moved.  I took a picture and we moved on to for our third attempt.  This time, we scored, so we left the travelbug, signed the log, and headed home.

Later that evening, I began to research strategies to identify snakes, and didn't have much luck in figuring out what kind of snake it was.  I posted my photo to Plurk and asked my PLN if anyone could help identify it. It wasn't but a few minutes, when Ginger had it figured out.  It was a Eastern Massasuaga Rattlesnake, the only poisonous snake in Michigan.  "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently evaluating the Great Lakes population to determine whether it should be listed as a threatened species. In Michigan, it remains an important part of our natural history."  There is a reporting form on the state of Michigan's website, so I filled it out.

I'm fairly new to geocaching, but am really enjoying it.  It has gotten me out to experience beautiful nature that I didn't even know existed... and finding a rattlesnake was pretty cool.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Discovery Educator Network Virtual Conference

The Spring DEN Virtual Conference is coming up soon! 

Saturday, April 25, 2009
9 AM to 3 PM EDT


How much?

The day will feature a special presentation from Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in the School District of Philadelphia as well as a great lineup of sessions from STAR Discovery Educators and the DEN team.

Registration is open now so check the blog for all the updates.  The schedule of presentations is available and they sound fantastic!

Register to attend here.  You can attend for one hour or all day!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Snorkeling" at the MACUL Conference

I have kicked the nasty pneumonia that kept me from attending the MACUL Conference this year. Thanks for all the get well wishes that so many of you sent during the conference. Since I was not able to attend, I've been hounding everyone in my district who attended to share their experiences with me. The feedback from people in my district who did attend was overly positive as you will see by their comments below.

The first person I bumped into told me that the MACUL Conference was the best conference she has ever attended. She told me that the Alan November keynote was the perfect start to a fantastic conference. Last weekend, she spent some time exploring some of the new tools she was introduced to at the conference and shared a video she made with GoAnimate (a very cute invitation to her son's birthday party).

Many people in my district were only able to attend the pre-conference. They appreciated the in-depth hands on approach. Several were wowed by Jason Ohler's digital storytelling session. One teacher stated "I was impressed with his focus on story over glitz. His framework offers a boost to teachers who believe they do not have the time, money or skills needed to encourage students to create stories of their own." Someone else said "His story mapping models are a great way to help kids organize ideas into something with meaning." Teachers from one of our middle schools have already scheduled a digital storytelling workshop to offer teachers at their building. Another teacher has plans to transform a poetry unit into a poetry digital storytelling unit.

Several people were introduced to Google Docs. "I think that GoogleDocs has lots of possibilities for the classroom. Its ability to have users revise the same document in real time is incredible. Peer editing will be so much fun!" 

"Steve Dembo had tons of cool things to share. His energy and knowledge are inspiring. The most important thing I came away with from his presentations is a better idea of how fast the tool kit is growing and the idea that the educational applications of the new web need to be developed and then shared with others."

 One teacher used a clever metaphor. She said, "I learned about many web 2.0 tools which I liken to snorkeling: I have seen the surface of the web, but there is so much more underwater." My advice is to pick one and give it a try; soon you'll be swimming for more!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kindergarten Bloggers

I was invited to be a "celebrity" reader in Barb Ozminkowski's Kindergarten classroom at Mary Helen Guest Elementary School.  What a fun morning!  I read the Book Click Clack Moo, a fun story about cows using a typewriter to leave notes for a farmer.  Of course, we had a discussion about typewriters and the class decided that the cows should use a laptop instead.  :-)

After the story, we all headed to the computer lab.  These kindergarteners are bloggers!  Mrs. O reviewed the process for getting to their page on the class blog.  I watched as she went through several steps:  Go to school website, click on Classroms, then Ozminkowski, then Blogminkowski, scroll down to click on the final link to get to the blog.  BUT THERE'S MORE.  They need to scroll the page to the right, click on 2008-2009, click on their name from the list, then find the login button in the upper left, enter their username and password, and click on the Enter button.  They click "Articles" and then are finally ready to write a blog entry.  Gulp.  I didn't think these five year olds could possibly remember all of those steps.  But guess what?  They did; most with very little assistance.  I'll be suggesting that a direct link to the class blog be added to Mrs. Ozminkowski's website to make the process quicker, but I think the students do learn about web navigation as they find their way to their blog page. 

The students were excited to begin writing.  They could write about anything.  They wrote about their pets, their family, a recent "pajama day" at school, and favorite video games.  They one-figured the keys, but using the keyboard was natural for them.  The students sounded out words by speaking slowly and identifying the sounds, then the letters that they thought worked best.  The students were completely engaged in the process and were proud of their efforts.  Some are now blogging from home!

None of this could happen without a teacher who understands the importance of children using technology.  Barb is a teacher who is not afraid to try new things, is one who spends time as a learner herself,  and never lets obstacles get in the way.  

I sometimes hear teachers say that their students can't do special projects because their students do not have the technology skills.  I say hogwash. 

If you'd like to see Mrs. O's class blog, click here.  The platform is Classblogmeister, a free tool that works great for elementary classrooms.  Her students would love a few comments if you have the time.  Scroll down to the section "Student Entries."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

President Obama's Speech on Education

All educators should listen or hear to the President's speech given this morning (March 10, 2009).  I'll be highlighting parts of it; the full text is available here.

First of all, I enjoyed hearing the comments about President Lincoln.  I've been working with our 8th grade social studies teachers, as they kick-off a unit that centers around the transcontinental railroad, and all the challenges of that time period was compared to the challenges that we face today.
"I know there's some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. And they forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad and passed the Homestead Act and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of civil war. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn't have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war; he had to do both. President Kennedy didn't have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don't have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term."

The President believes that education has great importance to our nation, saying that the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens, and America isn't doing as great a job as it could.  He feels that politics has often gotten in the way of progress.  He says "What's required is not simply new investments, but new reforms."  He believes that merit pay to reward good teachers is a reform that could help, an idea that has historically not been popular with teachers and the Democratic party. Personally, I would be open to the idea, not knowing all the details that need to be worked out.  He also wants to focus on early childhood education, the years before children enter kindergarten. 

Coming next is the portion of the speech that totally excites me. He talks about high expectations and 21st century skills.
And I'm calling on our nation's governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity. 

He then goes on to call out young people to enter the profession of teaching, to "serve our country in our classrooms."  We need young teachers that are creative, smart, and open to new ideas.

Next, he tackles three more difficult topics:  charter schools, school calendars, and higher ed!  All deserve some investigation and analysis. 

He pleas for parents, students, teachers, communities, and the entire nation to work together to make some positive changes. 

All of this makes me feel hopeful, despite the bad economy, the high class sizes, and the overwhelmed teachers.  What are your thoughts?

Image with Creative Commons license by tsevis.

Monday, March 9, 2009

iTouch/iPhone Applications

Do you have an iTouch or iPhone? I just got one and LOVE IT!  iTunes has an apps store that makes it super easy to download software. With a few taps on the screen, you can have a program ready to use in seconds.  The following applications are free:
  • Pandora: Internet Radio
  • Google Mobile
  • Flipbook Lite
  • i.TV
  • Plurk, Facebook, Twitterific
  • Backgrounds (search Flickr backgrounds)
  • RSS Reader
  • Google Earth
  • Kindle eBook reader
  • Wordworp
  • gFlash  (create quizzes using Google Docs)
  • Evernote
  • The Weather Channel
  • Remember the Milk
  • TED
  • iSodoku Lite
  • Tap Tap
What are your favorite apps?

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I just learned of a Firefox extension call Scribefire from a post Steve Dickie wrote on the MACUL Conference Blog.

It’s a blogging extension for Firefox. I find it is incredibly useful during conferences. First off, you can use it in a split screen mode, so you can still surf on the top half while taking notes in the bottom half.

I'm trying it out for this entry.  Hope it works!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gadgets Galore!

Pam's gadgets

I think I have a disease.  I am a gadetaholic.  I have all this stuff and I still want more. 

Look at all these gadgets that I'll be bringing to MACUL with me!  I'm facilitating a half-day preconfernce session in a blended PC/Mac lab, so I'm taking both an Apple and a Windows laptop to be ready for anything!  Other smaller items include:  a USB microphone, a flash drive, a digital camera, an mp3 player with built-in voice recorder, a portable GPS, a mini digital videocam, a webcam, a palm, a portable external hard drive, and some ear buds.  After the MACUL Confernce two years ago, a invested in a rolley bag to help me carry all this stuff. 

What gadgets are on my wish list?  An Apple iTouch (I really want an iPhone, but the monthly fees are beyond my family's budget), and an HP 2140 mini PC.  I've been using a demo model to test how it will work for our district's laptop program, and LOVE IT.  I'll probably come home from the conference with a new and improved wish list after cruising through the vendor area.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

MACUL Memories

I'm on the MACUL Conference blogging team; this entry will soon be posted there as well.

I attended my first MACUL Conference in 2002 and have attended each year since.  I went the first year as a participant only; I got the feel for MACUL and benefited greatly from what I experienced and learned.  The following year, and each year thereafter, I have come to the conference as a presenter.  I like sharing and helping others learn and grow, and having a "presenter mindset" keeps me always on the hunt for new ways of using technology for teaching and learning. 

Some of the most important MACUL experiences that have shaped me professionally include:

  • Purchasing a Snagit/Camtasia bundle from the vendor area in 2002.  I began screencasting long before it became a fad.  People still come up to me and tell me they recognize my voice from the CD I published back in 2003!  I'm still using Camtasia (and Jing) on a regular basis. 

  • Receiving a MACUL grant in 2004 for a digital storytelling project.  I presented at the MACUL conference with a teacher from my district to share what we did and how digital storytelling positively impacts student writing.  I developed a website to go with it, and people from all over the world still visit and use the teaching materials, especially to show the student examples. 

  • Hearing about the power of blogging from Will Richardson and David Warlick at Macul 2005.  I created my own blog, Yes Tech! in Nov 2006 and have found that it helps me to be a reflective practitioner.

  • Attending a Steve Dembo "Top 10 Web 2.0 Tools" session in 2007 opened my eyes to many new tools: Twitter, Wikispaces, and Flickr, to name a few.

  • Getting to know & networking with other like-minded educators at social events on Thursday nights!  The face-to-face meetings have continued, thanks to MACUL Space

What are your favorite MACUL memories?

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Thinkfinity is a web-based tool with standards-based educational resources from high quality content partners such as:

  • ArtsEdge (the arts)

  • EconEdLink (economics)

  • EdSitement (humanaties, foreign language, social studies)

  • Illuminations (math)

  • ReadWriteThink (literacy)

  • Science NetLinks (science)

  • Smithsonian (history)

  • Xpeditions (geography)

Teachers of all grade levels can easily find lesson plans, interactive activities, worksheets, rubrics, media, primary source documents, and reference materials from all these content providers with one search. 

Additionally, Thinkfinity has separate web portals for students, parents, and after-school programs.  Teachers can encourage parents of their students to utilize Thinkfinity resources at home to deepen understanding of concepts.

Check it out!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Xtranormal Video

A teacher friend showed me the website Xtranormal today.  It is a simple web-based video creation tool.  You can select characters, scenes, and special effects.  You can easily add dialogue, body gestures, facial expressions, and even decide the camera angle.  Publishing is free (for now, at least).  Try it out; it is fun!  See my first attempt below.