Searching Google in a Snap

I was really honored when Lori Abrahams (SL Lor Fredriksson) asked if I would be interested in presenting at the DEN in Second Life. I had talked about it with a few fellow ed-techies before, but had never really jumped on it. This time was different.

Lori and I chose to focus on one of the Google tools, so I selected searching strategies as the focus of my first-ever formal Second Life presentation. Please consider joining me at the new DEN Auditorium on Wednesday evening, April 29 at  5 PM  SLT ( 7 PM CST, 8 PM EST). I will be talking about:

If you can’t make it, or you’re not into virtual worlds yet, take a look at the slides I posted on Slideshare so you can get an idea of all the things you can do to find the information you need IN A SNAP!

P.S. Don’t forget to bring your Google Account and password with you.

Casual Chit Chat with the Family over the Weekend

Source: Allposters.com
Source: Allposters.com

I’m beginning to think that I am not capable of casual chit chat when it comes to talking about children and education.

I don’t remember how the topic of conversation came up, but I was with some of my family over the weekend and one of my relatives was speaking about a local school district and how they can’t seem to hire and retain any quality teachers. He was questioning what the issue was with the administration and why after all these years of receiving additional funding from the government for teacher salaries, students still are not scoring well on the tests.

Pause. Breathe…Lisa…Maybe this is not the time and place to talk about all the… OH FORGET IT!!!

Maybe, just maybe, I was able to tweak this relative’s view on public education a little bit as I talked about the student population of this specific district. I spoke of how most of these students came from foreign countries where formal schooling was not common place. They had to take the State standardized tests, possibly before they even had a handle on the English language. By the time they were finally getting into a routine at school, making friends, adjusting to the schedule, their family would find jobs elsewhere and relocate. The test scores that were published in the local newspaper were not indicative of the time, effort, skill, ability and knowledge of the students or the teachers in the district, merely, the situation of that given day.

The response…”Huh? I didn’t know that. I never thought about it that way.”

I don’t know how I thought he would respond. The others in the general vicinity kind of slinked away. Perhaps I may have ranted a bit.

We went on to talk a bit about Universal Design for Learning (UDL)  and how I’ve been working with schools and educators in NJ on implementing that framework in their classrooms. We talked about being flexible and accommodating students needs. I gave him examples of my own children needing accommodations in their classrooms and situations of when they got them and when they didn’t.

My concern was that the chit chat at my family gathering last weekend just happened to have two sides to the story. It doesn’t always. Many people, including taxpayers, are making judgements on our fellow educators that are placed in near-impossible positions. I wish I could do more to help people visualize what’s going on in today’s classrooms.

Reaching New Interactive Levels – The SMART Table

The new SMART Tables are slowly making their way into schools across the country. At a price tag of about $8000, you may or may not being seeing one in your school, but I had the pleasure of being able to experience one on April 3 and showcase it to about 15 school districts in New Jersey.

SMART Table Dimensions 35 7/8" W × 25 1/2" H × 28 7/8" D
SMART Table Dimensions 35 7/8" W × 25 1/2" H × 28 7/8" D

As for reaching new levels – it’s a short level. This SMART Table is designed for preschool through sixth grade students. Though if you ask me, at the rate adolescents are growing these days, I can’t think of a ten or eleven year old who could comfortably sit at this table. I see this portable table (it’s on wheels) easily and effectively used in preschool through fourth grade classes. I’d love to see it used with special ed students as well.

Before we began our 2 hour Showcase of how you could use the SmartBoard to improve teaching and learning in your classroom (I’ll get to that in a little bit) I took a video tour of the SMART Table.

What do you think? How can you see this interactive table used in your classroom or a classroom in your building or district? The SMART Technologies literature boasts, no calibration, multitouch and portability, all things I feel make a big difference in a classroom over portable interactive whiteboards (IWB) of the past). But the SMART Table is surely not a replacement for the IWB mounted on the wall. It’s meant to compliment the SMART Board. (You can read all about the FAQs and Features here.)

Kristine Scharldi presented an amazing array of activities across all content areas from the primary level through the high school level during the first 45 minutes of the Showcase.  I was impressed with the selection of tools and techniques that she chose to engage the educators in the event and she managed to bring Showcase attendees to the Smart Board throughout the 45 minutes.

One of the questions that came up during Kristine’s presentation was how some people smartboard-showcase-027(including students and adults) have trouble moving things on a SMARTBoard. So Kristine mentioned that she uses her fingernail rather than the tip of her finger. Wayne Copeland, from Keyboard Consultants, suggested using a tennis ball to move objects. Then @tomgrissom who was following my Tweets mentioned that he has students use a hand pointer with a little glove on. Well, I laughed when Wayne pulled this little surprise out of his bag (see picture on right).

I had planned to show our attendees some of the wonderful interactive websites that are just more powerful and engaging on an IWB. Why are they more engaging? Well, my suggestion is always to use the IWB as a station in your room. Allow your students to collaborate at the SMARTBoard on an activity related to your content while you work somewhere else in your classroom on another task with another group.

These are the sites that I demonstrated of course asking for volunteers to come to the Board.

  1. http://www.quia.com/rr/11505.html
  2. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/periodictable_0_click_all.html
  3. http://www.thinkingblocks.com/mathplayground/TB_AS/tb_as4.html
  4. http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks2/music/piano/

I also shared my wiki which leads to an eBoard which is loaded with resources on SMARTBoard Notebook in almost every subject and grade level. (I also showed them the Virtual Bubble Wrap site that I use just before the lunch break on a professional development day.)

Lastly, Wayne Copeland spoke about the SMART Technologies product line. He also went over all the grants that are available to help with the acquisition of this equipment. I was quite impressed. I wasn’t aware that there were so many options.

What’s your favorite site to use on the IWB?

Does your district fund it’s acquisition of this type of hardware through your budget? Or does it rely on its Education Foundation, PTO or other outside association?

I’d love to hear your response to the video tour of the SMART Table as well.