Thanks @tombarrett for the “Interesting Ways To Use” Series

I’ve been meaning to collect these awesome Google Presentations all in one place. I actually was talking about it with the group of teachers I was working with yesterday as I shared the Google Docs presentation with them. Then, this morning, I saw this Tweet from a new follower.

brownswordI new immediately what Miss Brownsword was referring to and went right to Tom Barrett’s blog where he had posted all 12 of his Interesting Ways To Use series. I had contributed to a few of them in their early stages, but I was not aware of some of the newer ones, or how lengthy some of them had gotten.

Though you can visit Tom’s blog to see these fabulous resources, you can Google them, find them in my Delicious and Diigo bookmarks, I’ve also decided to list them here. Take a look. Perhaps even contribute. (Thanks, Tom, for setting up these collaborative resources.)

21 Interesting Ways To Use Google Docs in the Classroom

42 Interesting Ways To Use Your Interactive Whiteboard in the Classroom

24 Interesting Ways To Use Google Earth in the Classroom

40 Interesting Ways To Use Your Pocket Video Camera in the Classroom

40 Interesting Ways To Use Wordle in the Classroom

27 Interesting Ways To Use Twitter in the Classroom

10 Interesting Ways To Use a Wiki in the Classroom

13 Interesting Ways To Use a Visualizer in the Classroom

23 Interesting Ways To Use a Nintendo DS in the Classroom

34 Interesting Ways To Use Search Engines in the Classroom

17 Interesting Ways to Use Voicethread in the Classroom

5 Interesting Ways to Use Prezi in the Classroom

I Just Don’t Like Technology

This is how the day started this past Thursday morning. I was about to begin Day 2 of ActivInspire training with a group of elementary school teachers when one of the 18 educators came right out and said “I just don’t like technology.”


How did I respond? Well as others in the group chuckled, guffawed and attempted to defend their colleague, I quickly brainstormed some follow-up questions.

  1. Do you not care for using technology in your classroom because you don’t feel comfortable using it?
  2. Do you allow for opportunities for your students to interact with technology in your classroom?
  3. Are you open to seeing how interactive whiteboards (IWB) can help make lessons more engaging for students therefor helping them understand and retain more of the content of your lesson?

Well, in the moments that I was deciding what to ask this teacher who had announced to the entire group that she didn’t like using technology, the group had asked her to expand on what she had said.

Since the elementary teachers were from four different buildings within the same school district, they all didn’t know each other. This particular teacher was an in-class support teacher who “pushed-in” to several different classes who had IWB’s so she was told to come to the training. She shared with the group that she didn’t want to use the IWB, she didn’t use computers, and that she didn’t even want to use a cell phone. Actually, her colleagues from her school shared that this was the case and she had no problem being vocal about it in the building.


I was reading one of Doug Peterson’s recent posts about how he doesn’t want to be “trained” on a professional development day. He writes about how he wants to be given resources on where to go if he needs more help. He wants to be given examples on how to use the skills and tools with his students. I read this with a bit of confidence as this is how I design my professional development.



I sat in the doctor’s office for several hours the other morning to wait to see him. I feel he is a good doctor. I go to him because I feel he keeps up with current research and trends in his field. I do not care to see a doctor who is practicing what they learned when they went to medical school. I want them to remain current and to continue to research and learn.

Should we expect the same from educators? In the No Future Left Behind video published by Marianne Malstrom and Peggy Sheehy the students actually say “I can’t create my future with the tools of your past“.  Should teachers be accountable for demonstrating they are effectively using current technologies with our students? I’m interested in your opinion.

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.


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.

Be Teachable

Written on one of the tables at

Many bloggers have been posting their take-aways from Educon2.1. I have to admit that though I was sad to leave SLA and my PLN on Sunday afternoon and even sadder to say goodbye to Liz Davis as I left her at the Philadelphia Airport an hour later, my brain was fried. I wasn’t ready to think about next year or reflect on this year’s conference.

Let’s be honest. I wasn’t ready to drive home as I hadn’t had enough sleep. I wasn’t ready to tackle all the laundry that was waiting for me or to have to go grocery shopping to make sure that we had supplies for the girls’ lunches on Monday. Oh, and I wasn’t ready for my workshop on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. I was shot.

What are ya gonna do? Get ready!!

The next day I drove back towards Philly to work with a group of teachers on UDL. It was our third of 5 sessions together, so these were teachers that I had already built a rapport with. We talked openly about good teaching and what was working in their classrooms and then I asked them to take my presentation for the day and redo it so that it was more accessible to them.  We worked on the concepts behind multiple methods of presentation and worked on which tools would help them meet the objectives of the UDL framework. At first they were uncomfortable with editing my presentation. I explained that I had designed it that way to make a point and to teach me a more appropriate way to present these same ideas. I was hoping that they had really looked at the YouTube videos and wikis I had shared with them about PowerPoint reform.

On the drive home I spoke with a tech coordinator from a high school in North Jersey. We had been trying to connect with each other for a couple of weeks, so using the hands-free device in the car, I listened to him talk to me about how great the school’s infrastructure was, how they had at least four computers in each classroom, plus a couple of COWs. What he needed from me was to come in and get the teachers excited about using technology and to give them the tools, skills and confidence to bring their school into the 21st Century. I found myself thinking that I’d be happy to help him as log as his staff was teachable.

0128091The next day I drove to North Jersey to finish some SMARTBoard mentoring I mentioned in a previous post. I had 5 sessions mapped out for the morning ranging from a group of pre-k teachers with no IWB experience to a 5th grade teacher with over a year’s experience who was thirsty to learn the more advanced features of the technology.  What I didn’t expect was the middle school language arts teacher who walked in the room who had just started working at the school the prior week. She immediately asked me how this technology would help her get her students to be better writers. I asked her how she teaches them to write. We only had 25 minutes together, so you can understand that I needed to make some pretty quick decisions. She was very much against using any technology in the classroom because (…and you’ve heard this one before…) when she was a student, she learned to write just fine without a computer.

I sat and calmly talked with her about how not every piece of technology meets every need. That she might consider using collaborative documents with her students. I asked her if she wanted to make sure that her students were ready for high school, college and the work force in addition to being good writers. She said she was interested in learning how she could integrate technology and still teach the pedagogy behind good writing. She was open to ideas. She was teachable. I invited her to the upcoming Google Learning Institute at Rutgers University.

I was scheduled to drive back towards Philly today to work in one of the middle schools in Camden City School District. I work with a team of stellar teachers there in my 21st Century Learning Initiative. Though I’m disappointed it was canceled due to the snow (the district closed the schools), it gave me a chance to go through my inbox, my notes from Educon2.1 and look back at the week and what’s still to come.

What have I learned?

I tell people I try to learn something each day. I’m pretty sure that on the days I’m out in the field working with teachers I learn way more than one thing. I know I learn more than one thing a day when I attend a professional development event, be it in person or virtually.

I try to be teachable. Whether you are a noobie or a seasoned educator or somewhere in between – be teachable.