2011 Edublog Awards

I just finished going through the list of winners from the 2011 Edublog Awards. I was particularly interested in the categories for the Best Class Blog, Best Student Blog and Best Teacher Blog as educators that I am working with are always looking for good examples. Please take a look at these:

Best Class Blog (top 5 winners)

  1. Mrs. Yollis’ 3rd Grade Class Blog http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com
  2. St. Wolstan’s Transition Year Blog http://stwolstansty.blogspot.com/
  3. Mr. Buxton’s 5th Grade Class SAS http://mrbuxton.blogspot.com/
  4. Mr. Salsich’s Class http://jmsalsich.edublogs.org/
  5. 2KM And 2KJ @ Leopold Primary School http://2kmand2kj.global2.vic.edu.au/

Best Student Blog (top 5 winners)

  1. Jaden’s Blog http://jadensawesomeblog.blogspot.com/
  2. Miriam’s Blog http://victoria-miriamsmoments.blogspot.com/
  3. Jake’s Blog http://mjgds.org/students/jakeg/
  4. Jarrod’s Blog http://jarrodsblog.global2.vic.edu.au/
  5. Gemma’s Blog http://gemmaccs11.edublogs.org

Best Teacher Blog (top 5 winners)

  1. Brunswick Acres Art Blog http://baart.weebly.com/
  2. allatc http://allatc.wordpress.com/
  3. Teacher Tom http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/
  4. Ms Mac’s Website http://kmcfadzen.wordpress.com/
  5. In search of Scientific Creativity http://problemfinding.labanca.net/

Fantastic! All of them! And congratulations to all the nominees.

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Whatever Works – Don’t Fight It!

A middle school teacher that I worked with last year said “whatever works, don’t fight it” when we would talk about all the different things we tried in our classes.   She was referring to how she was engaging her students. Willing to try just about anything, she maintained throughout the year that she was going to keep doing what was working for her.

Because what I was doing wasn’t working, I’ve revamped the plans for one district. The thing is, I wasn’t being effective. It wasn’t bringing on change or improvement. The teachers involved needed something different. It’s difficult to stop something that you were convinced is going to work and to go at it from another angle.

Whatever works, don’t fight it

So, where did this new plan come from? If you look back at my post after Educon, you’ll see that I am thinking that sharing stories is a fantastic way to bring improvement to our classrooms. In order to make this list, I listened to stories from and read and studied information from Kern Kelley, Helen Barrett, the collective wisdom of http://1to1schools.net/ and countless articles and pieces of research.

Here’s the new plan as it stands now (subject to change):

  1. It’s not a tech initiative, it’s a learning initiative
  2. Digital Portfolios (using Google Sites)
  3. Managing the 1:1 Classroom
  4. Starting a student leadership team in grades 5-8
  5. Sharing success stories with colleagues
  6. Parent/Community training and showcases

The thing is though, that this new set of objectives may still not bring on enough improvement and discussion to satisfy the participants. Part of me feels like there isn’t anything wrong with trying to help and ultimately not making a change,  and part of me feels extremely concerned. Each teacher and group of students is unique. How would you cope / deal / discuss / decide what your next step was?

1.       It’s not a tech initiative, it’s a learning initiative

2.       Digital Portfolios using Google Sites

3.       *Managing the 1:1 Classroom  –

4.       Starting a student leadership team in grades 5-8

5.     Sharing success stories with colleagues

6.     Parent/Community training and showcases

Connecting with Your Students (VSS2010)

Yesterday I sat in on several sessions at the Virtual School Symposium in Glendale, Arizona. Two turned out to be vendor driven, one never really got to the point and one truly provided some great ideas to think about.

The presenters were from the Branson School Online. Leanna Christians is the K-12 virtual principal and Christina Narayan is an elementary virtual school teacher. The theme of their presentation was the “Circle of Trust”. The idea that you don’t want anyone involved with the school to feel outside the circle. They talked about parents, students, teachers, administration and staff.

The entire time I was listening to Leanna and Christina I was thinking about how everything they were saying applied to every BAM (Bricks and Mortar) school.

Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Students need to connect with other students
    • Leadership groups
    • Peer counseling
    • peer tutoring
    • social events to build community
    • class pets (whether real or stuffed)
    • Reading buddies
    • Collaborative storytelling
    • Blogging
    • Group discussions
    • Learning Circles
    • “Gotcha” awards if the student is doing something exceptional
  • Survey families about themselves
    • They use Google Forms to do this
    • Christina subscribes to Hallmark.com for $10 a year in order to send out digital birthday cards to students and parents.
  • Administrators need to connect with the teachers
    • teachers should feel safe and free to take risks
    • admins can connect with staff via phone or e-mail
    • Administrators should make sure that teachers are competent in their abilities
  • The school needs to connect with parents
  • The school needs connections to the Community
    • College Fairs
    • County Parks
    • Career Planning
    • Field trips with other schools

In Leanna’s closing comments she said “if you don’t fail at atleast one thing, you are not trying hard enough”.

I challenge you to find three new ways you can connect better with your students and then implement them!

50 FREE Open Courses on Teaching With Technology

Online Colleges and Universities has published a really useful list of open courses on teaching with technology. This comes at the right time as some of our budgets allow for little professional development. Some of the institutions represented in the list are:

MIT President, Charles M. Vest, anticipates that within ten years, lecture notes, course outlines, reading lists and assignments for over 2000 MIT classes will be freely available on the OCW Web site. http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci540010,00.html

Among the list of 50 courses are:

Creativity, Community and ICT
http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=3623
This unit engages with the debates surrounding the term ‘creativity’ and explores ways in which ICT creates new opportunities for creativity and collaborative working.

Understanding Online Interaction
http://ocw.usu.edu/Instructional_Technology/understanding-online-interaction
This course is designed to provide an introductory level of understanding of the manner in which individuals interact with one another via the network.

Technologies for Creative Learning
http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/media-arts-and-sciences/mas-714j-technologies-for-creative-learning-fall-2009/
This course explores the design of innovative educational technologies and creative learning environments, drawing on specific case studies such as the LEGO® Programmable Brick, Scratch software and Computer Clubhouse after-school learning centers.

Interactive Multimedia Production
http://ocw.usu.edu/Instructional_Technology/interactive-multimedia-production
This course familiarizes students with Macromedia Flash. Topics to be covered include fundamental programming concepts (variables, variable types, code re-use, commenting code, and basic control structures) in addition to the fundamentals of the flash environment.

Teaching Using Digital Video in Secondary Schools
http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=1543
This unit explores the role of digital media as a teaching tool, focusing on video in particular.

One or more of these FREE professional development opportunities may be of use to you or someone you know.
Check out the complete list at http://www.onlinecollegesanduniversities.com/2010/09/05/50-excellent-open-courses-on-teaching-with-technology/

Mystery Class – A Collaborative Project

Barbara De Santis from Sayerville Public Schools told me about the Mystery Class project. I hadn’t seen it before and the more I read about it, the more I was impressed at how well organized and sustainable it could be in the classroom. I have been recommending Jen Wagner’s collaborative projects for a couple of years and will continue to as the teachers and students that I work with LOVE them and I think they are fantastic, but this was one I had not yet seen.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xoe/84584059/

Mystery Class

“In this global game of hide-and-seek, students search to uncover the secret locations of ten “mystery” sites hiding around the Earth. To guide the investigation, they track changes in day length at the mystery sites and at their hometown, and use other “clues” along the way. As they take this inspiring journey, students unlock the essential questions behind the reasons for seasons and the dramatic changes in day length that result.”


Think about how many ways we can tie this into what we teach in our classrooms. I believe that I would be able to tie this into pretty much every content area. I know you probably have questions about how to participate and the calendar and schedule of events. You’ll be relieved to know that the website is very easy to navigate and I am confident that you’ll be able to find the answers to your questions. There’s even a Frequently Asked Questions section if you’re having trouble finding the right section to look in.

Please let us know if you’ve participated in Mystery Class in the past. Share your experience here as a comment to encourage others to give it a try with their students.

7 Steps to a Twitter MakeOver

TwitterMakeover

If this visual looks familiar to you then you are
either in need of a Twitter Makeover or know someone who is.

There are ten items that people might look at when they check out your Twitter page to decide if they want to include you in their personal learning network (PLN).

1. Don’t go with the default Twitter background. I’m not saying you have to go and upload a background from Twitterbackgrounds.com, but at the very least, click on the Settings button at the top, right corner of your Twitter window. Once you are in Settings, click on the Design tab and then select from one of the preset Themes. Click “save changes” and you will have a nice new background for your Twitter home page.

2. We know the Twitter bird is cute and that it comes in several different colors, but nothing says you are a Twitter newbie more than the Twitter default avatar. All you need to do is have a picture saved somewhere. It can be on your hard drive, it can be on your shared drive or a thumb drive. It can even be on a photo CD. You just need a picture of SOMETHING. Then click on the Settings button at the top, right corner of your Twitter window. Once you are in Settings, click on the Picture tab and then click on the Browse button. Locate the picture that you want to use and then click the Open button. Click Save and you are all set with a personalized avatar.

3. What goes under your name in the top, right-hand corner on your Twitter page, is your location. You need to let folks know where you are. What country is a great start. The more specific you are, the better. To fill out your location, go back to the Settings page and look about half-way down for the Location slot. You will answer the question “Where in the world are you?”.

4. Underneath your location will be your “one line bio”. This is so important as this is going to be where you will indicate that you are an educator. If you do not fill this information out, most educators will not follow you. Actually, most educators are looking to see in what area of education you teach. Be as specific as you can. To fill out your “one line bio” go back to the Settings page and look about half-way down. Twitter allows you up to 160 characters for this.

5. Tweet something interesting. Are you looking to develop a reciprocal relationship or are you looking to lurk? If you are looking to lurk, you can actually just use Twitter Search and you don’t have to sign up for a Twitter account. But if you are looking to develop a PLN in the Twitterverse, then you have to start contributing. Tweeting that you are “sitting in a workshop” or “trying out Twitter” isn’t really a productive contribution. You might want to consider Tweeting something that you have recently bookmarked or seen someone else Tweet. Also, you can Tweet the URL to a website that you have used with your students or colleagues and say why you used it.

6. Find people to follow. The people that you follow tells a lot about what you are interested in. Your potential Followers may scan the list to get an idea of what you are interested in. Consider using the following sites to help you find other educators to follow:

7. Don’t protect your updates. If you do this, potential followers can’t see who you are.  This is what you look like to them and as someone new to Twitter it says you are not looking to be a part of a reciprocal relationship.

protectedWell, I was going to write up a list of 10 steps, but it turns out it only takes 7. I met with most of the teachers from the Center‘s 21st Century Learning Initiative for a second time this past week after having them use Twitter and Diigo for about a month and decided that we would do “Twitter Makeovers” on many of them. What a great group of educators willing to try new tools to learn and share!!

Final Preparations for #NJEA09

I was honored when the folks that ran the NJEA Technology Institutes this past July invited me to run some sessions at the NJEA Convention this fall. I had remembered reading the blog posts and Tweets from fellow NJ educators while they were in the High Tech Hall last November and felt a bit envious that there was such a large gathering of local teachers interested in using technology to improve teaching and learning in the classroom that I couldn’t be a part of. But this year, I’ll be there in Classroom 2.

My good friend and colleague, Kevin Jarrett, has been sharing resources with me and the others involved in the showcase. Here’s a map to the High Tech Hall as well as the two Classrooms that will be in the Convention Center dedicated to the technology integration. I was also able to (finally) find a link to the online program guide on the NJEA website.

program

I’m presenting five one-hour sessions with the theme: Stretching Your Technology Dollar –  Shoestring Innovations

Thursday, November 5

9:00am Thinking Inside the Box

11:30am Did You Say That Was Free?

1:00pm Are We Teaching Standard Students?

Friday, November 6

9:00am This Is Not Your Grandmother’s Google

11:30am Don’t Be Late-That’s So 2008

Each session will be hands-on in Classroom 2 which is loaded with computers. The way I understand it, you can’t sign up for a seat, so you’ll need to come down to the High Tech Hall a little on the early side should you see a session that peaks piques your interest. While you are there, there are tons of mini sessions going on and there are other one-hour workshops in Classroom 2 as well.

I’m looking forward to networking with and learning from many folks I don’t get to see face-to-face too frequently. I hope to see you there too!!