Wednesday, January 26, 2011

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

USHMMThe International Holocaust Remembrance Day is Thursday, January 27, 2011.  This day was chosen by an international committee because it marks the anniversary of the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Some persons of the Jewish faith, however, observe a slightly different holiday called Yom Hashoah.  This Holocaust Remembrance Day occurs on the 27th day of the Jewish calendar’s month of Nisan.  As this would fall on a Sunday this year, the observance will instead be held on Monday, May 2, 2011.

Regardless of which day of remembrance seems most appropriate, please remember that the Illinois State Board of Education requires that

“Every public elementary school and high school shall include in its curriculum a unit of instruction studying the events of the Nazi atrocities of 1933 to 1945... To reinforce that lesson, such curriculum shall include an additional unit of instruction studying other acts of genocide across the globe. ” (For more details, see:

With this in mind, an extensive listing of Internet resources that can be used to help our children understand the moral and ethical consequences of any form of genocide has been put together by Larry Ferlazzo:

From these, I’ve pulled out a few that might be useful to show how Holocaust remembrance and genocide awareness activities might be incorporated into topics already taught at your school or grade level:

There are certainly many more that could be appropriate.  Feel free to share activities that you use with other educators by clicking the Comments link below.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., “Holocaust denial and minimization or distortion of the facts of the Holocaust is a form of antisemitism.”  Don’t be a part of it, and don’t let it happen in your classroom.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Black History Month Resources

February is Black History Month!  Since 1976, February has been set aside as a month to honor and educate about the achievements of African Americans in our nation. Here are some links to help you teach about the contributions of African Americans to our nation & the world.

Using RSS Feeds

Tired of searching through your Favorites list for web sites you visit frequently?  There is an easier way to stay up-to-date! 
RSS feeds make it easier and quicker to learn about changes to websites & blogs you visit frequently.  Think of it like this: Most people don’t read the Sunday newspaper word-for-word – they scan the headlines and only read the articles that appear interesting to them. RSS collects information from web sites and displays a summarized digest of changes or updates. Then you, the reader, decide which are important enough to click on and peruse in more detail.  RSS turns "The Internet" into your own personalized Sunday paper... every day!
What is RSS? clip_image001[2]
RSS stands for... well, it depends to whom you’re speaking. Some say it means “Rich Site Summary,”  while others say “Really Simple Syndication.” "ATOM" and "xml" feeds provide a very similar service.  It’s a bunch of complex computer code that you’ll never have to actually see or work with, but it all works to make your life easier! 
How do I use RSS? clip_image001[3]
The current version of Internet Explorer version already has an RSS reader incorporated into it. When you visit a site that has an RSS feed set up, you’ll see the little icon next to your Home button (the little house) turn from grey to orange (clip_image002). Click it,then read & follow the on-screen directions to set up the feed.

Then, in the “Favorites” menu (click the yellow star near the upper left-hand corner of your Explorer window), click the button with the same orange icon marked “clip_image001[4] Feeds.” Click on the line of text that describes the site you were just visiting, and you’ll see a summary of the latest changes that were made!  (You may have to wait a bit before receiving some updates - some sites are updated hourly, some daily, some weekly, or whenever the webmaster can get around to it, like mine...!)
RSS is very similar (to casual end-users like you and me, at least) to a number of other services you may see on various sites: Atom (a similar competitor), xml (the original), and so on. Internet Explorer and RSS work well together.  Mozilla Firefox, Google Reader, and other browsers and services can also “aggregate” Atom, RSS, and other xml feeds all into one place for you.  
Try It Out!clip_image001[5]
  • Visit our Technology & Learning Resource Blog(
  • In the menu bar at the top of the page, find and click this symbolclip_image001[6]
  • A menu will appear.  Select “Technology Learning in District #205 – RSS” 
  • In the window that opens, you'll see a little peach-colored box. Near the bottom of this box, you'll see the words "Subscribe to this feed."
  • Then click "Subscribe." That's it - you've done it! Now you'll receive updates on professional development opportunities as I learn about and post them!
  • To read your feeds, click the "Favorites" star, then click "Feeds." Feeds with new, unread information will appear in Bold; if there are no updates to read, the feed name will appear in normal text.
If you set these up on your school computer, this will also create a RSS folder in your Outlook Mail Folders (that list of folders along the left-hand side of the email window).  So, if you'd like, you could just read them like an email instead if you'd prefer!  Whichever works best for you.  The cool part is, you can read your feeds using the Web Mail interface, so you can get updates from almost any Internet-connected device. (including some cell phones!)

Resources For Groundhog Day

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No, really - why would I make that up?
Recently I was asked by a former co-worker from another District (who shall remain nameless, for what I hope are obvious reasons):
"Hey Matt!  Know any place where I might find some great lesson plan ideas about Groundhog Day?"
Groundhog Day?  Really? 

It’s a day about a rodent, right? 

…kind of a big rodent, mind you, but a rodent nonetheless.

First I though I might suggest he show a few clips from the Bill Murray/Andi MacDowell movie of the same name, but then I thought, “No, I don't want to be responsible for exposing another generation to that.” Undaunted, I set out to find a more educationally-appropriate response to this seemingly simple question.

And hey, wouldn’t you know? There’s an official website of the Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog Club.  Please note: It’s the OFFICIAL web site!  Beware of imitations…

Anyway, visitors can find lesson plans & activity ideas, including teaching students the lyrics to groundhog-themed songs, like I'm Dreaming of the Great Groundhog, and Groundhog Wonderland.  (I was shocked, however, that there was no redux of The Captain & Tennille's Muskrat Love.  I mean, is that connection not obvious?)  Kids can also learn groundhog-themed games, like Groundhog Bingo and something called "Toss the Hog."  You could then end your day crafting Groundhog Poetry, sharing a Groundhog Video, or completing some paper & pencil activities while enjoying Groundhog Cookies!  (Oh my, you can even buy a groundhog-shaped cookie cutter.)

Mmmmm.... I can't remember the last time I enjoyed Groundhog Cookies. 

Honestly...  I really can't.

And DID YOU KNOW:  According to THIS ARTICLE, Willard Scott of NBC’s Today Show fame is coming to the nearby Wildlife Prairie State Park to do his own version of the traditional "holiday" celebration.  I can imagine the field trip requests that will be flooding local administrators' offices now... sheesh...

Hmmm…  who would be your prognosticator-of-choice… ?
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Bet they're glad they snapped up that URL before it got away

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Well, anyway, the pearl gleaned from the rest of my searching was found amongst one of my usual haunts, Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day.  Now, there certainly are a lot of other resources out there, but this is one of the most comprehensive listing I found all in one place.  Here you’ll find actual lesson plans and links to interactive web sites and such that will enrich your educationally appropriate classroom activities about this day…

… devoted to a rodent…

… a really BIG …

… rodent…


The Best Resources For Groundhog Day | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...

SMART Notebook Express

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 They've finally done it!  SMART has released a browser-based version of Notebook software called SMART Notebook Express.  Since it's browser-based, there's no cumbersome & time-consuming software to install, just click-and-go. As you can see in this screen shot, there are some pros and cons:


  • It's light, quick, and easy to get started with
  • It opens many existing Notebook files, and most of the features created in the original desktop version work seemingly fine when used with the browser-based version 
  • Users can type or write (depending on how steady you are with a mouse)
  • The Screen Shade is available
  • Users can add multiple pages and even attachments
  • Users can use a few of the formatting tools to jazz up the slides a bit
  • Flash objects already inserted into files also work just fine
  • Very limited editing and "properties" tools
  • No Gallery or Lesson Activity Toolkit objects
  • Cannot add new animations or hyperlinks (existing files seem to work okay) 
  • No handwriting recognition (but why would you need that?)
  • No dual-page display
  • Math Tools are not available
  • No Spotlight or Magic Pen features
Verdict: Heck, even with all those drawbacks, I still like it.  I can see it being used most often as a way for kids to open Notebook files at home in order to stay up-to-date with classroom activities, which is probably the intent.  Teachers can now simply post the file used in the classroom, without converting it to a PDF, etc., to share on a student/parent web site, blog, or wiki.  It might also work as a nice starting point for creating a lesson activity, or to use in an "emergency" on a computer that does not have Notebook installed.  It is not, however, a viable alternative to having the full version of Notebook software installed on a computer (and I'm sure that's the whole point).  Give it a try - I think you'll like it, too!

Web Calculators for Math Students (and Their Teachers)

Here are 2 nice web-based calculators that Math teachers may find useful, providing you & your students have access to computers:
  • Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 is a scientific calculator that you can download for free.  (Windows only, of course)  The calculator reportedly will plot in 2-D & 3-D, help students learn to solve equations step-by-step, convert from standard to metric units, solve inequalities, and perform various matrix and vector operations.
  • Web 2.0 Calc is nifty because it will not only perform many of the functions of many scientific calculators, it is also embeddable into your own personal web site or blog!  You can choose from 3 styles: horizontal, vertical, or minimal, which is a basic & “non-scientific” calculator, used by non-Mathies like me!
Many thanks, once again, to Free Tech For Teachers for the heads-up on these resources.
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Customize Your Toolbar in SMART Notebook Software

Do you have a bunch of buttons in your toolbar in SMART Notebook Software that you never use?  Examples might include the document camera button, the transparent background, or the measurement tools?  Well, why don't you just get rid of 'em! 

It's easy:
  • From your computer, right-click in the toolbar button area
  • The "Customize Toolbar" window appears
  • Now simply click-and-drag any unwanted buttons from the toolbar into this window.  Don't worry, you're not deleting them - you can get them back at any time!
  • If you want to add buttons, simply click-and-drag from the Customize Toolbar window up to your toolbar and release.  It's really that simple!

7 ways to organize your email

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Another great article from Microsoft At Work about organizing your email.  A lot of us take our Inboxes for granted, leaving messages where they lay and wondering why we can’t find things later on.  This article will show you how to:
  • Sort messages quickly
  • Groups messages into folders
  • Create Search Folders to find messages fast
  • Route mail to folders, etc., automatically using mailbox rules
  • Reduce unwanted junk mail with filters
  • Assign color-coded categories to messages
  • Flag messages for follow-up, and set reminders for flagged messages
7 ways to organize your email

Citizenship Quiz —

Almost a million people from other countries become US citizens every year by taking and passing a test on American history and civics.  Prospective citizens take classes and are given a list of 100 possible questions about United States history, governmental structure & political system, geography, etc.  When they’re ready, applicants are given only 10 of the questions from the list of 100 to answer correctly in order to become U.S. Citizens.  The process is called “naturalization.” The History Channel asks:
  • Could your students pass this test?
  • Could YOU pass this test? (the questions are kinda tough!)
The History Channel is inviting schools to develop their own activities related to the Citizenship Quiz for students in grades 5-12.  They have posted several ideas about how you might use the Citizenship Quiz or Test in your classroom, and they encourage you to adapt the activities to share with your particular grade level.  Visitors can also download the entire 100-question study guide (also available in Spanish) and have kids create activities to share, too.  There is also a Road to Citizenship Interactive Game that visitors can play to help sharpen their skills.

These links would be great to help stimulate interest in any US History, Geography, or Civics activity or related class.

THC Classroom — Citizenship Quiz — Interactive Games, Maps and Timelines

Strategies for conserving battery power

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Here’s a great post from Microsoft At Work about using and conserving battery power on laptops. Step-by-step instructions are included for computers running Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP operating systems.    It also explains the difference between Sleep, Hibernate, and Standby modes, which can be confusing to the casual user (like me!).

With the recent adoption of so many laptops in this District’s elementary schools, this would be a helpful article for all grades 2-8 teachers to read.  (Note: all new Elementary laptops are running the Windows 7 operating system.)  Even if you don’t have access to laptops in your classroom, these tips are quite helpful for maximizing the use of our Laptop Labs.  A few of the tips are also relevant to conserving energy with your desktop workstation.

Strategies for conserving battery power

Differentiation Using a SMARTboard

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 Differentiation Using a SMARTboard, a SMART Notebook file by Joe Scrivens, contains 23 slides containing examples of how teachers from almost any subject area or grade level might use their SMARTboard to help tailor instruction to the diverse learners in your classroom. 

It would be helpful if some captions or narrations were provided – since they aren’t, the user has to explore and infer quite a bit.  This omission, however, might actually be helpful because it requires the user to think, “What is going on here on this page?” and “How could I use this in my classroom?”  There’s a lot of value here to add to your daily lessons!

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This SMART Notebook file was posted on the SMART Exchange web site, a sharing forum for educators.  SMART Notebook Software must be installed on your computer in order to read the file, or you could download the file and open it with SMART Notebook Express, a free browser-based version of Notebook software.

Read this interview with differentiation expert Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson for even more ideas about differentiating instruction in your classroom

SPILL! Virtual Team Challenge

Registration is open for the Deloitte Virtual Team Challenge, which will occur in real-time February 14 – April 1, 2011. This multi-user online business simulation for high school business students will involve teams throughout North America.

The simulation takes revolves around a fictional professional services firm that will help your client, the municipality of “New City,” clean up after an oil spill and raise money for the United Way.  The object of the game… what else?  Raise the most money possible for the United Way by successfully cleaning up after the spill at the lowest price.  So, the team that makes the most money to donate to the charity, wins! 
To top things off, Deloitte will make a real donation on behalf of the winning high school team to their local United Way.

The simulation occurs in a virtual environment the size of a medium cosmopolitan city.  Within the virtual city, participants will need to interact with a number of other businesses and virtual residents in order to raise funds for the cleanup activities.  Characters within the virtual environment will give participants various tasks to complete.  Participants can use a virtual “journal” to record current and completed tasks and objectives.
image There may be some technical issues to work through, as software does need to be downloaded & installed on computers in order for kids to participate, but they can do so either at home or at school.

Thanks to iLearn Technology for the tip on this activity!

For more information, visit their FAQ page.

Center for Civil War Photography Online Exhibits

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Have you ever heard this question?
History is so boring.  It doesn’t have anything to do with what is happening today.

 If so, here’s another tool to help obliterate that argument in your classroom.  What’s the rage in motion picture & movie theater technology today?  3D!  The Center for Civil War Photography has a number of online exhibits, archiving a number of images from the 1800s.  Several use contain early 3-D photos – two images taken from slightly different points of view and placed side-by-side on a card, called a stereogram

Used with a stereoscope, a simple device that held the card a pre-set distance from the viewer who looked at the image through two glass windows or prism lenses, this simulated binocular vision which creates added depth (the third dimension) when viewing the photos.

Stereograms & stereoscopes were all the rage from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.  (My grandparents had a 1930s-era stereoscope & a set of sterograms - very similar to the one in the image above - that my brother & I would per through for hours.)  Some of the images in this online exhibit have been converted to anaglyphs – the old red-blue 3-D technology – and can be viewed on a standard computer monitor with a pair of those lovely old paper 3-D glasses.  Gee… Remember when we used to be able to cut these from the backs of cereal boxes and what not?  (The new glasses you get at the theaters today won’t work.)

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 The recent announcement of the Nintendo 3DS brings this all into focus, if you’ll pardon the pun.  This new device adds an extra layer over the screen of this portable handheld gaming device called a parallax barrier.  This is essentially a plastic screen with tiny slits that allow each of the user’s eyes to see a slightly different images, tricking the brain into thinking they are seeing in 3-D, without the use of glasses, etc.  In other words, it is a miniaturized full-motion version of the stereoscopes of old.  This is one of many versions of autostereoscopy, which means that it is a glasses-free 3-D technology. 

(Of course, the technology is vastly more complex that this.  This is just a quick non-technical explanation.)

So, pull this post out of your mental toolbox the next time you hear kids ask, “What does History have to do with me today?”  It might help draw your kids into the study of History a little more, and it will help you connect to kids’ worlds a little more closely, too!

Thanks to Free Tech for Teachers for this tip

Center for Civil War Photography Online Exhibits Overview

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Innovative Educator: Tech Doesn’t Make Us Illiterate. Not Embedding it Into Instruction Does.

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 My two-cents-worth: I firmly believe that good instruction has always occurred regardless of the technology tools available to teachers.  Good teachers know how to select tools – currently available or emerging tools – that support high-quality, authentic, and relevant instructional activities to help prepare kids to be successful in tomorrow’s society. 

This post, from the Innovative Educator, warns about the dangers of misusing or poorly implementing technology tools into classroom activities.  Technology was never meant to take the place of good instruction or thoughtful implementation.  Throwing technology at a problem or a lesson in your classroom will not solve anything.  Professional development is essential.  It is vital that teachers take the time to learn about the technology tools that our kids are using and spend time talking with kids and other educators about how to develop lessons that incoporate these tools into relevant and authentic learning experiences. Technology is there to help teachers adapt good lessons to help kids be successful in their future, not our past.

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 That being said, this former Geography teacher may soon have to embrace that talking box on the dashboard that tells me to “turn right in 200 yards,” but it won’t ever stop me from teaching my kids how to read a paper map first! Smile

The Innovative Educator: Tech Doesn’t Make Us Illiterate. Not Embedding it Into Instruction Does.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

things-babies-born-in-2011-will-never-know: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

Wow.  This article lists a number of things that are now rapidly becoming obsolete.  Kids born during this year may never know about or need to use:


  • video tapes
  • wired phones
  • CDs (not to mention cassette tapes, vinyl albums, or 8-tracks)
  • cameras that use film
  • paper maps (sad, but true…)
  • handwritten letters
  • and many more

Read the article to find out more!

things-babies-born-in-2011-will-never-know: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

Google Global Science Fair 2011



Earlier this week, Google announced its Global Science Fair 2011.  Visit this site to download materials for your classroom, register to receive teaching materials, and learn more about how your students can participate in this worldwide science fair!

Google Global Science Fair 2011

Resources for Martin Luther King, Jr.

For those of you who are updating your lesson plans this weekend, here are a few links to resources on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Of course there are a number of other resources out there that also do a great job of teaching about the impact of Dr. King's lifelong work.  Please feel free to add your favorites by leaving a comment on this post.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Top 10 Predictions for 2011 (with proof!)

This article, from the Tech and Learning Online Magazine, prognosticates developments n the educational technology field for the year to come. The article is proposes a number of developments based on current trends.  Overall, it’s a good article and makes one think while reading.  However, their suggestions are quite lofty and would be very difficult for most Districts here in financially-strapped Illinois to pull off.  Their predictions (in bold), along with my take on them (in italics), include:
  • Textbooks are dead! For real this time!  Many suggest that the good old hardback textbook filled with pages of sage wisdom for our students’ learning pleasure will soon be replaced by electronic books accessed via laptop, e-reader, cell phone, etc.  Will it happen?  Probably. Next year?  I doubt it.
  • Assessment will be comprehensive & constant.    Shouldn’t that be happening already?
  • 1:1 becomes BYOT: There is a rapidly growing trend toward allowing BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) in classrooms across the nation and worldwide.  The idea is that kids can bring their own laptops, cell phones, etc., into the classroom to help them engage more deeply in 21st Century learning activities.  I see lots of problems with this: Nice for the “have’s” but what do schools do to level the playing field for the “have-not’s”; This would require that teachers become experts in the technology their kids bring to class and how to troubleshoot when things don’t work; etc., etc.  Not likely, IMHO.
  • Facebook will be encouraged: There are lots of ways to use social networking sites like Facebook in the classroom, I’m sure, like sharing photos related to a lesson, conducting online polls to gather data, conducting an online discussion about relevant topics, etc.  Oh, and let’s not forget: it’s also a very high-tech way to tune out the teacher… certainly won't be happening in this District.
  • Students will surf away (sort of): Um… no.  The law (CIPA) is the law.  ‘Nuff said.
  • The end of testing is nigh: Plausible in a few years, but not in 2011.  When politicians stop running education and treat educators as professionals, and when teachers view assessment as a formative tool to help kids grow, then we’ll talk…
  • Students forced to use cell phones in class: Not likely.  Again, let’s talk about equity amongst the “have’s” and “have-not’s” first.
  • Content will be free for all, all the time: Yes!  Information and education can & should be shared for the benefit of all.  The current availability of free online content (what kids learn), coupled with the growth of open-source software, declining costs of physical technology resources (how they learn it), etc., could make this a reality very soon!  2011?   hmmm…
  • Students will learn outside of school: Yes, this is happening now.  But what are they learning, and how are the learning?  Classroom management software and open-source content is available now and will help achieve this goal, but teachers will have to be vigilant in learning and developing appropriate activities that are both rigorous and relevant, kids will need to learn about & apply electronic media ethics at every turn, and again – what about the “have-not’s”?
  • All data will become compatible – globally: Very likely. 

Top 10 Predictions for 2011 (with proof!)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What Drives Education Today?

Recently teachers in Galesburg (IL) CUSD #205 were asked to complete an annual survey for our Technology Integration Plan.  Respondents were allowed the opportunity to offer “Other Comments,” as no survey can possibly gather every shred of relevant information. One of those comments shook me, giving me a bit of perspective:

“It seems like technology is driving education, not the other way around.”

Wow.  Thank you for this comment! This is an important concept that deserves careful consideration.

First, let’s start with a few definitions, from the Encarta Online Dictionary.

“Education: the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning, especially at a school or similar institution”

“Technology: the sum of a society's or culture's practical knowledge, especially with reference to its material culture”

“Culture: a group of people whose shared beliefs and practices identify the particular place, class, or time to which they belong”

“Society: the sum of social relationships among groups of humans or animals”

Quick social anthropology lesson: Society is the big picture. Many cultures interact to form a society. Technology refers to the tools used by different cultures within a given society. Education transmits elements of culture – including knowledge, tools, skills and social & cultural norms – from one generation to another – across cultures. Any questions? ‘K. Class dismissed.

Now, I firmly believe that educational technology should be thought of as a pool of resources that help support best practices in a classroom led by an professional educator who is an expert in his/her field. That means that I think good instruction comes from good teachers, regardless of what types of technology they choose to use (or not use).  It’s my job to inform teachers of current technology tools and help them (you) integrate these into classroom activities in authentic & relevant ways, just as those tools are also being integrated into our cultures & society. 

Should technology drive education? No. Not in my opinion anyway. But good teachers should know how to select what is right for their students’ needs within our changing society. That starts with (1) developing relationships with kids and learning what their individual, cultural, and societal needs are, and (2) developing an awareness of those tools and a willingness to explore them. 

I think the disconnect occurs when what’s best for kids’ futures becomes uncomfortable for the practiced, professional, and too-often-overworked educators who have been doing right things right and helping their kids achieve positive results for a long time.   What’s the right thing to do when the tools used by different cultures within our society change faster than educators can keep up with?

I’m a Geography & History teacher by training – this tech gig came along much later in my career – so I start by asking myself, “What has happened elsewhere when similar situations have occurred?”

From history, we know that great things were accomplished all over the world by knowledgeable people with nothing more than a sharp stick and a clay tablet.  I’m sure the switch to some sort of stylus-&-ink apparatus on papyrus and later parchment would have led the clay tablet people to worry about the future of education, too.  So too the switch from paper to slate, from black boards to green boards and then white boards, and now to interactive whiteboards, etc. 

You see, it’s the IDEAS created by a culture or society are constantly changing, and that’s the most important thing to wrap our collective brains around. Technology simply refers to the tools that help facilitate and communicate those changing ideas, between and among cultures and across generations. 

So, is technology driving education or the other way around?  Neither.  Society drives education, and that’s the way it always has been.  Technology tools are merely a part of what defines our changing society and cultures, and this has always been the case, too. 

Today’s youth culture embraces technology tools more rapidly than ever before in our history, and certainly much more so than we, the culture of their teachers (often from different generational cultures) do. 

Classroom teachers are today’s knowledgeable professionals who are each capable of creating greatness every single day. According to the definitions above, our job as teachers is to impart knowledge about or society’s or cultures’ knowledge, material technologies, and other skills to our students. That includes an appreciating for the technology tools of “our” culture as well as “their” culture and “other” cultures.  Today it’s a GLOBAL culture, and we’re all citizens of it.

The first overarching question to ask is, “What’s best for kids?” In some cases, we may need to start with the metaphorical clay tablets to establish a firm and relevant foundation of knowledge, and that’s okay. The next question would then be, “What do kids need to know and be able to do to become successful & contributing members within our future society?” In other words, how far beyond the clay tablets do we take the kids through learning activities associated with the class(-es) we teach? Where’s the target we’re shooting for? And by default we also ask ourselves, “Is the target we shot at last term, last semester, or last year still appropriate today?”

With increasing frequency, the answer to that last question is often “No. Not anymore.” Changes to our society occur at a compounding frequency. The knowledge our global society creates doubles over a period of time that can be expressed in days. Now more than ever, our society demands that teachers remain on the cutting edge of these changes and flexibly incorporate them within classroom activities in order to effectively shape the leaders of tomorrow. Technology can help you do that, but it is each individual educator’s professionalism that will actually pull it off.

So what drives education today? 

We all do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SMARTBoard Lessons and Using Animation - Teachers Love SMART Boards

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Here’s a nice reminder for all of us regarding the use of animations in our daily lessons.  The principles are sound, whether you’re using SMART Notebook software, Power Point, or any other software.
  1. Animations CAN help add emphasis to important points and keep kids attention on a topic.
  2. Too much of a good thing can be counter-productive.
  3. Know your kids.  Sometimes animations can be detrimental to students with certain attention concerns or learning challenges.
  4. Avoid animating words that kids don’t know, especially if you have ELL students in the classroom.  Animations make the difficult task of learning language elements needlessly difficult for kids!
SMARTBoard Lessons and Using Animation - Teachers Love SMART Boards
If this post struck a chord, you might also be interested in this video:

how NOT to use powerpoint from mcrowe on Vimeo.

Free Technology for Teachers

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Richard Byrne, who writes one of my favorite blogs – Free Technology for Teachers – has recently published a series of “11 Things to Try in 2011.”  The goal is to help encourage teachers to incorporate free technology resources into their regular classroom routines.  From the list below, teachers could probably find something useful for a current project or other classroom activity.  Have a look!
  • 11 Things You Should Know About Blogging – helpful tips for the beginner or the seasoned blogger.
  • 11 Foreign Language Resources to Try in 2011 – Many of these would also be good for ESL/ELL, including Forvo, Wordsteps, LanMedia, Voxy, Repeat After Us,  iMendi, Open Culture, Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon, LingusTV, Hello World, and 22 Frames.
  • 11 Health & Phys Ed Resources to Try in 2011 – Many of these resources would also be applicable to Family & Consumer Sciences, Science, and Social Science classes, including Sugar Stacks, Get the Glass, Cool Food Kids, Nourish Interactive, Fat World, Ad Decoder, National Geographic Secrets of Sleep quiz, Snag Learning’s The Family Meal, Scrub Club, Google Maps (for mapping walking or bike rides), The Health Hut, plus some bonus activities!
  • 11 Mathematics Resources to Try in 2011 – Several of these might be appropriate for Science classes as well, including Brain Nook, Learn Your Tables, Ten Marks, Yummy Math, Web 2.0 Calc, Math Open Reference, Math Maps, Math Live, Conceptua Math, 38 Week Algebra Curriculum & 38 Week Geometry Curriculum, and Plus Magazine.
  • 11 Language Arts Resources to Try in 2011 – Several of these could also be helpful for ELL/ESL teachers, including Wordia, Visuwords, Idiom Dictionary, Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project, 22 Frames,, Books Should Be Free, Google Docs, Thumb Scribes, AdLit, and 60-Second Recap.
    • I’d like to add in my personal favorite, Google Lit Trips – which helps readers follow along in a story or novel in Google Earth! 
    • Let me know if you’d like to make your own – I can show you how!
  • 11 Science Resources to Try in 2011 – Some of these resources might also be useful in Health classes, and include Sumanas, Celestia, Chemical Education Digital Library, Hey LHS Kids, The Periodic Table of Comic Books, U of Penn Health System’s Video Animations, Google Body Browser, Knotebooks, Micosoft Research’s WorldWide Telescope, Shape It Up, and NDSU’s Virtual Cell Animations.
  • 11 Social Studies Resources to Try in 2011 – Many of these would also be helpful to a Language Arts or ELL/ESL teacher, including TimeRime, HistoryPin, CommonCraft Show, European Virtual Museum, Scribble Maps, Google Earth (of course), Center on Congress at IU, ChangED, Snag Learning videos, JayCut, and Ten by Ten.
  • 11 Art & Music Resources to Try in 2011 – These also have wide-ranging impact for Science and Social Studies teachers, too, including The Museum of Modern Art, The Getty Museum, Art Babble, SmartHistory, The Museum of Online Museums, Incredibox, Monkey Machine, The San Francisco Symphony’s Keeping Score web site, Science of Music, Classics for Kids, ArtsEdge, plus a bonus TEDTalk featuring Herbie Hancock (WOW!).
    • Again, I’d like to add in my personal favorite online music maker, Soundation.  Free fun, and easy!
As always, please keep in mind that some of these resources may be blocked, or elements of some resources may be unavailable, in our District due to filtering policies.
Free Technology for Teachers

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

E.T. | Dangerously Irrelevant

Image from
This post, by Scott Mcleod of Did You Know? (Shift Happens) fame, draws an interesting analogy between  People’s first reactions to E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, and Educational Technology.  It’s a thought-provoking quick-read.
E.T. | Dangerously Irrelevant

Storming Juno

Image clipped from
Storming Juno is an amazing site from History TV (the Canadian version of The History Channel) about the experiences of Canadian troops during the June 1944 D-Day Invasion. 

The site begins with a striking intro to "hook" the kids, then takes the user to a panoramic near-3-D artist's rendering of what the Juno landing area at Normandy may have looked like the day of the landing.  Clicking-and-dragging around that image bring the visitor to various links.  These links then show a brief clip from the docu-drama, "Storming Juno," followed by interviews with veterans of the Canadian infantry, paratroopers, marine commandos, medics, tank crews, naval officers & seaman, as well as French citizens, all of whom actually experienced the fighting on D-Day.  

Using the menu on the left-hand side of the page you can also access extra features, like a guide for educators and a clip of the only known video footage of soldiers exiting a landing craft on Juno beach the morning of June 6, 1944

Clearly, this would make for a captivating teacher-led experience for students in a SMART Board-equipped classroom.  It is absolutely stunning!

According to the web site, the docu-drama "Storming Juno" originally aired November 11, 2010, and is scheduled for release on DVD sometime in February 2011.

I learned of this site through Larry Ferlazzo's most excellent blog.

All quiet on the lunchroom front: Central Middle schoolers begin using cell phones at school

MJ Have a look at what one school in the region – Central Middle School in Muscatine, IA – is working on: allowing kids to use phones both at lunch AND in classrooms.  This is thanks to student-generated ideas about how to integrate cell phone technology in school.  What a great way to empower kids to make a difference!

All quiet on the lunchroom front: Central Middle schoolers begin using cell phones at school

You can also read more details about this project at Crazy for Learning, by Penny Burger, 8th grade Social Studies teacher in Muscatine, IA.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Thanks for visiting!  This new blog, Technology & Learning in District #205, is intended to assist Galesburg (IL) educators as they continue to integrate technology resources throughout the curriculum.  Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or you’ve come here from our previous Edublogs site, I hope you’ll find useful resources to help the kids in your classroom prepare for new horizons in learning.  If you have resources you’d like to share, please feel free to send it to me by commenting on any post.  All comments will be held for moderation before publishing.  I’ll publish updates and comments roughly each Tuesday (or whenever I get around to it).

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"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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