Friday, December 17, 2010

Edublog Award Winners

Edublogs runs a contest each year for several areas of from Best Educational Blog to Best Individual Tweeter. These are some awesome resources for improving instruction in your classrooms. Many of these people are at the forefront of educational reform and are from all over the world. I recommend following some of these blog and tweeters using Google Reader for blogs and Twitter for following tweeters.
Here is a link to the top three from each category and all those nominated.

I also wanted to post the winners from each category and links to their blogs.

Best Individual Blog- Free Tech 4 Teachers
Best Individual Tweeter- Teach Preschool
Best Group Blog- Irresistible Ideas for play-based learning
Best New Blog- Speech Techie
Best Class Blog- Billings Beta
Best Student Blog- Emily's Blog
Best Resource Sharing Blog- Free Tech 4 Teachers
Most Influential Blog Post- The $2 Interactive Whiteboard
Most Influential Tweet(s)- Speak Loudly
Best Teacher Blog- Teacher Tom
Best Library Blog- Castellija School Library
Best School Administrator Blog- Darcy Moore's Blog
Best Educational Tech Support Blogs- Free Technology For Teachers
Best E-Learning Blog- Rapid E-Learning Blog
Best Educational Use of Video- Project Explorer
Best Educational Wiki- Greetings from the World
Best Educational Podcast- Portable Radio
Best Educational Webinar Series- Global Ed Conference
Best Educational Use of a Social Network- English Companion Ning
Best Educational Use of a Virtual World- Quest Atlantis


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Can you relate?

I get a daily post from Seth Godin and thoroughly enjoy his books as well as his blog. Today's post hits home with me and I wondered if anyone else can relate as well. Does this sound like someone you know? Do we teach our students how to be a good boss or not? Take a moment to read and reflect.

From Seth's blog.
The world's worst boss

That would be you.

Even if you're not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your responses. You manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself.

Odds are, you're doing it poorly.

If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you'd quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much as your time as you do, they'd fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.

I'm amazed at how often people choose to fail when they go out on their own or when they end up in one of those rare jobs that encourages one to set an agenda and manage themselves. Faced with the freedom to excel, they falter and hesitate and stall and ultimately punt.

We are surprised when someone self-directed arrives on the scene. Someone who figures out a way to work from home and then turns that into a two-year journey, laptop in hand, as they explore the world while doing their job. We are shocked that someone uses evenings and weekends to get a second education or start a useful new side business. And we're envious when we encounter someone who has managed to bootstrap themselves into happiness, as if that's rare or even uncalled for.

There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It's hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.

If you like this I recommend subscribing to his daily blog post or try one of his books. Linchpin or Tribes. He has several others but these are the two that I have read.

Monday, November 22, 2010

National Blogging for Real Education Reform

ASCD is sponsoring a National blogging for real education reform day. They are collecting blog posts from people all over the country on educational reform. One of the topics is "describe an educational community that makes a difference for contemporary learners". So here goes.
Educational communities need to develop their own individual plans for ed reform. Each district has unique circumstances that need to be addressed. The most important aspect is first the students' home life. The more stable their home environments the better the chance for student academic success. Parents need to stress the importance of education and be informed on what makes a positive learning experience. Parents need to get involved in the educational process at their schools and work with administration and faculty on positive educational changes.
The second most important piece of the educational puzzle is the classroom teachers and support personnel. We need to hire quality educators who have been prepared appropriately for the classroom. This is often very difficult due to the fact that college teacher prep programs are often behind the times on what young teachers need to be successful in the classroom. Changes need to be made at the university level to improve the quality of teachers being produced. Colleges and universities also need to recruit high quality candidates into their education programs. We need to work with the best candidates and prepare them appropriately. This is also difficult with all the options out their for our young college students. The issues in education and with unions and pensions is also a key factor that we need to work to improve to encourage the best students to enter into the education field.
Once we hire the right people we need to ensure that they continue to develop their skills and knowledge once hired. This is the job of the school districts to provide quality professional development to their faculties. There needs to be a systematic program that focuses on what our 21st century students need. Necessary skills for our students are critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and self directed learning are the top skills our students will need to compete on a global scale. It is difficult to focus on these and other skills when teachers have to get students ready to pass state tests but this is not impossible.
The third most important piece of the puzzle is strong school leadership. We need to attract, hire and train the best leaders in order for our schools to be successful. School administration is the group that does the planning and provides the vision to teachers and students. They must be quality leaders not managers. Also difficult due to the miriad of issues that now are present in the 21st century learning environment.
There are obviously many other pieces to the puzzle: appropriate funding, high quality curriculums and technology resources to name a few.
If we are going to reform education and prepare our students to compete with workers all over the world we need to focus on community, high quality faculties and strong leaders. If we can at least get these pieces together we can begin to make the changes necessary to create quality learning experiences for our students.
Its not a hope it is a must!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Skype in the Classroom/Snagit Learning

For those Skype fans out there, Skype is putting together Skype in the Classroom. Skype in the Classroom, which launches in December, will be a free directory of classrooms that are using Skype and looking to connect with other classrooms. You can pre-register now for Skype in the Classroom to get your name in the directory.
Skype is a great tool for teachers to connect with content experts from any where at any time. Hopefully this directory will be a great connecting tool for classrooms much like ePals.

Snagit Learning, provides high quality educational videos and documentaries on a variety of topics from arts to world cultures. The videos are organized by content area, grade level and alphabetical. Here is today's film of the week on minimizing childhood obesity.
Watch more free documentaries

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Google Docs

Google Docs is an alternative to the Microsoft Office suite. Some of the benefits of using Google Docs over Microsoft Office are:

1. Google Docs is free.
2. Google Docs allows for easy sharing of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
3. Google Docs are accessible from anywhere that has an internet connection.
4. Students do not need to have Microsoft Office at home to be able to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations
5. Saves time in the classroom

Google Docs In Plain English

Using Google Docs in the classroom allows for students to work on collaborative projects and not have to worry about how to share with their partners/teachers. It eliminates the need for emailing files, saving files to a jump drive and all the time that it takes to do these things. Students find this helpful when working in groups.
Students and teachers like to be able to share these files with each other and be able to edit them from anywhere. When it is time to present to the class the teacher just opens the file that has been shared with them from the student and they can present. No need to login and logout of student accounts, plug in jump drives, open emails etc.

How to Use Google Docs without a Gmail Account

It is easy to set up a Google docs account with or without a Gmail account. If you have a Gmail account you automatically have a Google Docs account.

Another nice feature of Google docs is the ability to create a Google Form which allows you to survey students, give online quizzes and gather any data you wish. The data will show up in a spreadsheet format that you can easily graph.

Using Google Forms

Here is a link to the Free Tech 4 Teachers blog that provides a number of Google Docs tutorials.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Research Tools

I have been sharing research tools with teachers throughout the district the past few weeks. I decided to put the tools here for everyone. There are countless research tools available to teachers and students today. Share these with your students or give them a try yourself.

Advanced Google Search
Most students and teachers use Google as their primary search engine. Google search is a very comprehensive tool but many times when you search you get way more results than you can sift through and they are not all valuable in an educational setting. By using Advanced Google Search you can narrow your searches and make it easier to find exactly what you are looking for.
Advanced Google Search Tutorial

Sweet Search
Another way to find better quality results from your search is Sweet Search. This search engine returns only educationally approved results. They have a research team that evaluates sources and approves the quality ones. There are other tools available on the site for students and teachers and you can get daily resources for Elementary, Middle and High School.

Students love this search engine! Mashpedia returns results from several different sources for each search. For example if you search for "gulf oil spill" you will receive results from wikipedia, youtube, twitter, news sources, google book sources, and google images. This saves students time looking at all these different sources by bringing it to them in one search.

Eyeplorer is another visual search engine that provides results in text format or in a web format. The web format is a visual display of your search topic that provides related search topics within the web. This makes it easier than a simple Google search because when you search for a term or concept you will also see related terms or concepts making for a more detailed and simplified search.

WOW! You have to take a look at this one. This is an amazing multimedia search tool. It provides results in a very visual format. It is a little overwhelming for someone not of the net generation, in my opinion, but I can see how digital natives would enjoy this tool. You can select, using a slider tool, if you want results that are more objective or more entertaining. WOW!

Self professed "search engine designed to provide meaningful search results" tool that returns only objective results for any term/concept searched. It seems to cut out useless information and organizes the objective information so users can access news, images, videos and other results.

Here are a few other tools recommended by Tech & Learning that I have not used.
Quintura, Spezify, Scoopler, Webkruz, Sputtik, Feedmil.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Math Is Not Linear-Prezi

It was quite a coincidence that Mr Macioce sent me this Prezi this morning. We will be presenting Prezi to the Senior High Faculty at our meeting on Wednesday morning and here is a great example of the tool. Ms Giron is using this tool with her literature circles and Ms Raymond is using it in her class for presentations this week. Students are slowly finding out about Prezi and are excited to use this as an alternative to PowerPoint!

This is a very thought provoking presentation about Math Education. Mr. Macioce wanted me to give credit to Mr. Segretti for finding this great presentation. See informal PLCs, sharing resources, is a great thing! Thanks for sharing!
If you aren't a Math educator I still think it is worth a look. I think you could apply some of the creator's thoughts to any content area. Enjoy!

Math Is Not Linear

As always if you need help with using this Prezi in your classroom to better engage students and to make your grading of presentations a little more exciting let me know. I will gladly help in class with your students or with you individually.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saving Paper in Your Classroom

Obviously, the best way to save paper is to issue laptops to every student and use tools such as Moodle and Google Docs to share information and collaborate. Well I don't suspect that we will be a 1 to 1 school any time soon so here are five tools that you can use to minimize how much paper you use in your classroom.

Moodle is a great tool for minimizing printing that we have access to here at Franklin Regional. Moodle allows you to post assignments, homework, and handouts. You can also have class discussion and chats, allow students to upload completed assignments and even use the quiz feature for online assessments. If you want a class page set up contact Roger Crider or Frank Muto to get started.

Google Docs provides a web based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite. Students and teachers can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms online that can be shared. For example, if you have students creating a word document and printing it to turn it in you can instead have them create it in Google Docs and have them share it with the teacher. No need for printing. Google Forms is a great tool for assessing students or gathering data. You can create a test, quiz, or survey that students can access online and it will allow you to check it online, again without using any paper.

Print What You Like, is another web based tool that allows you to print exactly what you want from any website. Using this tool you don't have to print an entire webpage. You can select what parts of the page you would like to print and only print those parts. Users can also remove images from the background or foreground of a website before printing.

PrintFriendly, gives you the ability to print content from a webpage without printing the ads and widgets in the side columns. There are two ways to use PrintFriendly. You can copy and paste an article's url into the PrintFriendly homepage or use the PrintFriendly bookmarklet. Using the bookmarklet seems simpler as it doesn't require any toggling between browser tabs or windows.

Printliminator is a bookmarklet for Firefox, Chrome and Safari that allows you to highlight a page and select only the parts of the page that you want to print. You can install Printliminator in seconds by just clicking and dragging the black box into your browser's toolbar.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bring Words to Life!

Wordia is a video dictionary site where people post videos to define words visually. You can watch or upload videos, find defitions and more all for free.

Visuwords, allows users to enter words and Visuwords builds a word web of related terms, parts of speech, and definitions.

Lexipedia, another word web tool that builds webs from keywords that you enter. Lexipedia returns synonyms, antonyms,definitions and even allows for French, German and Spanish words!

Snappywords, builds word webs also with defintions and related words. Seems to be just starting and is adding components as they go.

These tools would be great for ESL, foregin language, elementary students, and low level readers. Could also be used for SAT and PSSA prep work.