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.

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.