Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Scrollwheel

Now that YouTube is unblocked for teachers in our District, here's a video for our District's Tech Guys, Media Specialists, and other techies, entitled "The Scrollwheel."


I learned of this video from Dangerously Irrelevant.

Image from http://bigthink.com/ideas/30720 

Graphic Organizers

Image from http://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/

Graphic organizers are very helpful for kids to map out their thinking.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has developed a web site with 38 FREE printable graphic organizers.

These PDF files include KWL charts, Venn diagrams, T-Charts, paragraph “sandwich,” and many more!  And, if you have a SMART Board in your room, this allows you to use the exact same graphic organizer the kids have on their desks, without having to recreate it in Notebook software!  Sweet!

Thanks to Richard Byrne at Free Tech for Teachers for this tip!

Image from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ 

Graphic Organizers


Please Remember: Under no circumstances should any student be allowed to use any teacher's computer or logon/password. Ever. Never let a student use a computer that has been logged on with teacher credentials.  Violation of this policy can result in revocation of all network & computer privileges.
That being said: YouTube is now accessible to District #205 staff members for legitimate educational purposes only.  It is not accessible with student or "generic" logon/passwords.  Use it well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dilbert Does Edu-Speak

In these days of diminishing resources for children and education, I find myself turning for advice and guidance from Dilbert, 02/13/2011:



The Art Of Storytelling

Image from http://www.artofstorytelling.org/
The Art of Storytelling, from the Delaware Art Museum, allows students to experience art in the context of a story.  It also encourages kids to use images to tell a story, or create images to help tell stories.  Students can create their own pictures or use existing art work to tell their won stories.  Students’ stories can also be uploaded and shared (make sure you gain parental permission and check with your building administration before doing so, however!)

This could be a great project to help you begin incorporating technology into your curriculum.  Many of us already use imagery to help teach creative writing concepts.  This site helps us facilitate that process even more.  It is divided into step-by-step processes:
  • Experience a Story: Read stories told (and “pictured”) by other students.  You never start a project without showing kids what you expect their finished product to be…!  You can search through stories by genre or by the time period in American Art.
  • Tell a Story: This part of the site takes your students step-by-step through the project.  You start by choosing an inspirational selection of 19th or 20th Century American Art, then compose the story, and finally share it. You also have the option of recording a narration of the text if you have access to microphones.
  • Picture a Story: So, some existing piece of art just doesn’t capture the story, huh?  Maybe you have kids who think they’re “just not artists.”  No problem – go the other direction with it. Choose a genre and create an image to support it from a library of backgrounds, characters, and props.  Then tell your story and share it through the site. Again, students who have access to microphones can record narrations of their text here, too.
While the connections to Fine Art and Art classes is quite obvious, this site could also be a valuable resource for Social Studies and Language Arts teachers.  The site focuses on encouraging students to develop their writing skills in a variety of genres.  There are many lesson plans available for teachers to read and download for use in upper elementary, middle grades, and high school classrooms!  The only downside to the site I found was that there does not seem to be a way to save one’s work at the site, so the computer work would need to be done in one sitting in the computer lab.

I found this site at Kleinspiration

Image from http://www.kleinspiration.com/

The Art Of Storytelling » Home


Image from http://www.kleinspiration.com/

Erin Klein recently wrote a Guest Post on iLearn Technology about the life of a non-tenured teacher.  She discusses what it feels like to be RIF’ed during the early stages of her career and the steps she’s taken to bounce back.  It has happened to many of us, myself included, and it’s never fun.  It’s a good read – have a look!

Turns out Ms. Klein has also started a resource-sharing blog called Kleinspiration.  I have a feeling her blog will be another of my go-to sites when teachers are looking for resources.  She has a number of great ideas, especially when it comes to using technology with elementary-aged and middle-grades kids.  I’ve added her site to my blogroll, at right.

Image from http://www.ilearntechnology.com/

Many thanks to iLearn Technology for the heads-up on this great resource!


DnaTube.com - Scientific Video Site

Image from http://http://www.dnatube.com/

Here’s a great resource for upper grades science teachers who want to incorporate videos to help explain topics in their classroom/curriculum.

DNATube is a free instructional video sharing site (not blocked in our District!) that allows science teachers to look up and stream instructional videos for a variety of topics related to the field of Biology, with a few Chemistry & Physics topics thrown in for good measure.  It works a lot like YouTube and TeacherTube, but it looks less cluttered.  DNATube contains a number of videos, Power Point presentations, and Flash animations that would help support a number of topics in many secondary science teachers’ curricula. (The explanations in the videos I randomly previewed would be WAY over the heads of most K-5 kids, and many middle grades kids as well.)  Many of the videos I previewed are very good, quite appealing visually, and would look great on a projecotr or SmART Board.  A lot of the content was beyond me, though.  There are also taped lectures from classes at MIT, too, if you’re so inclined.

Image from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/

I found this site at Free Tech for Teachers.

DnaTube.com - Scientific Video Site

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


One of the latest trends on the scene has been termed "geolocation." This Mashable article provides a comprehensive explanation.  Geolocation and location-broadcasting applications are becoming more widely available all the time.  Any GPS-enabled cellular phone that can download "apps" is capable of broadcasting that cell phone's location. When I first heard of this technology, I thought that such services would be useful for concerned parents to keep tabs on their kids.  (They've been thought of as "check-in" services.)  Some cell phone companies market similar services with airtime packages for that very reason. 

After all, in this day & age, what kid would EVER leave a house without a cell phone?

As geolocation services & apps gain popularity, it was inevitable that businesses would try to cash in on them.  Apps are available that access your location within a franchise's store and send you product details, deals-of-the-day, and other marketing information to encourage you to purchase various products.  It's kind of like forced-impulse-buying. It seems like the psychology of product placement may become obsolete... well... almost.

Social networking sites, like Facebook Places, or a number of other stand-alone services like Foursquare, Gowalla, or Google Latitude, to name a few, also use this technology to allow users to broadcast their location and help them find their friends, nearby shops & services, etc.

Common Sense Media has posted an informational video for parents and has developed suggestions for responsible use of these services.  Common Sense Media advises against using these services at all for kids & teens, but if parents allow it the privacy settings should be set to the strictest options available.  However, this is no guarantee that a child's location information is 100% secure, as any of a child's friends might post that information for others to see as well. 

These sites all encourage parents to learn what apps are on a child's phone and talk with kids about the appropriate use of those apps - for geolocation or otherwise.  The key for educators is to encourage parents and students to talk about how to use the technology responsibly, and for parents to set appropriate limits or expectaions of use for this or any technology, regardless of age-range suggestions or ratings.

The Internet and Our Right to Privacy - CBS News Video

Here’s a link to a video from CBS New Sunday Morning, recounting (in part) a teacher’s battle after losing her job over pictures & links on her Facebook page.
NOTE:  At the time of this posting,  Galesburg CUSD #205 has neither a policy nor an inclination to monitor employees' social networking activities.  These are my personal opinions & suggestions to fellow educators, and do not reflect any official District policy - because none exists that I'm aware of.  To review official District policy on the matter, please review the Authorization for Staff Internet Access and Acceptable Use of the Internet - that form we all signed upon employment.  For other Districts, see your school's Acceptable Use Policy, or "AUP."

This woman’s unfortunate story teaches a difficult lesson about the lack of privacy on the Internet.  I’m neither condemning nor condoning the acts of either the teacher or the school district involved.  However, I would strongly encourage all teachers to become aware of this situation and take measures to protect their “online reputation.”
  • Consider creating TWO profiles (whether you use MySpace, Facebook, etc., etc.): one public and one private. 
  • Post very limited information on your public site – the ones that kids are more likely to find easily – and update it at regular intervals.  Heck, even use it as a way to enhance what you’re doing in class!  Post extra credit questions, homework reminders, etc.  Keep it professional.  Once kids & parents find your public site and see that you’re using it professionally, they’ll be somewhat less likely to dig any deeper.
  • Reserve your private information for your private site, and lock it down as tight as you can using the site’s privacy controls.  According to the story above, the teacher in question HAD locked her Facebook site down as much as she could, but her information was still found.  So…
  • Avoid linking the two sites together in any way.  Make sure you have different information on the two different sites.  Use different names (list your first name as “Mister” or “Miss” on your public site). List your school as your address on the public site – heck, it probably feels like you live there, anyway – and don’t list your occupation or place of employment on your private site. Your friends already know where you work, and random strangers don’t need to know.  Most teachers don’t want students dropping by their house or apartment on the weekends, so don’t make it any easier for kids to find your home.  Family connections, birthdays, etc., are for bulletin boards in your classroom, not the Internet.  They don’t call it “the World Wide Web” for nothing!
  • Avoid posting your birthdate and place of birth on either site!  Hackers can determine your Social Security numbers with a surprising degree of accuracy using just a few bits of information like these! (according to this article from Wired magazine, or this story from National Public Radio, as well as this article in the Washington Post.)
  • Avoid posting any photos or link to other sites which could paint you and your reputation as a professional educator in a negative light.  The same could be said for inflammatory opinions, complaints about your boss, etc.  How important is it, really, to share those photos, those ideas, those feelings, in a public forum?  Whether you’ve locked your site down or not, people can still find you, and you are still going to be held accountable for them. The dangers, in my opinion, usually far outweigh the value. And, of course, the obvious one…
Now, please understand: I think it’s a shame that our information society has come to this point, and I am a firm supporter of our First Amendment Freedoms.  But all the beliefs in the world, all the good intentions, and all the thoughts about the way things ought to be may end up being worthless if you don’t take a few simple precautions to protect yourself. 

The Internet and Our Right to Privacy - CBS News Video

The Truth about Lies - CBS News Video

Here’s a great idea for a bell ringer or discussion starter.  This video, from CBS News Sunday Morning, demonstrates the importance of checking facts before diving into believing that something is true.   
Video from CBS Sunday Morning
More information about this video and how to use it with your classes can be found at Free Tech for Teachers.

Image from  http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2011/02/cbs-fast-draw-video-truth-about-lies.html

The Best Sites For Learning About The “Blizzard Of Oz”

Snowpocalypse. Snowmaggedon. One of my Facebook friends had posted that “All snow hell had broken loose” in Chicago. Call it what you will, the Blizzard of 2011 has made history, and kids will certainly have a lot of questions to ask and stories to tell. 

Always timely and valuable, Larry Ferlazzo has published a list of “The Best Sites for Learning About the “Blizzard of Oz.”

Here in Galesburg (IL) we had 15.5 inches of the white stuff in about as many hours, with 35+ mph winds creating drifts of monumental proportions.  Photos of the blizzard in Galesburg are posted at our local paper’s website. They have also posted a number of Reader snowstorm photos.

Image from http://www.galesburg.com/multimedia/photos/x289657716/Reader-snowstorm-photos

Quincy (IL) television station WGEM has posted an slideshow if images from south of here in the Quincy, Macomb, Canton, and northeastern Missouri region.

Image from http://www.wgem.com/

Quad Cities television station WQAD-TV Storm Team 8 meteorologist Cassie Heiter has posted Weather Pics of the storm north of here, too.

Image from http://www.wqad.com/weather/cassie/

The Best Sites For Learning About The “Blizzard Of Oz” | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...
Image from http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/

Bunkum Awards 2010 | National Education Policy Center

Image from http://nepc.colorado.edu/think-tank/bunkum-awards/2010

The 2010 Bunkum Awards are out!  Each Year the National Education Policy Center releases its sarcastic slap-in-the-face awards for the worst things that “think-tanks” are doing to the education of children in America.

This year’s Grand Prize, the ‘Good Enough for Government Work’ Award, is bestowed upon:
“Secretary Arne Duncan and his U.S. Department of Education staff for the exceptionally disappointing low quality of their research reviews supporting their plans for the reauthorization of ESEA”
Other awards include:

Bunkum Awards 2010 | National Education Policy Center

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Alternatives To Collective Punishment | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...

Cross-posted at our New Teacher Learning Team blog.

image Let’s face it.  We’ve all done it.  We know it’s wrong and useless, but we do it anyway.

Collective punishment – punishing a group for the actions of on individual – is a topic with which we all struggle occasionally. It rarely produces the effect we want – ceasing of the behavior in question or the “confession of the culprit,” etc.

What collective punishment often does is reduce the mutual respect we have developed with those students who are innocent (or at least not guilty in that particular instance) of the behavior.  Sure it’s helpful in the short-term to blow off some steam, but does it really help?

No, not according to this post by Larry Ferlazzo.  However, there are different ways to handle the situation, which are also detailed in Larry’s article.

I must say that I’ve had similar results with similar methods.  As a 12-year middle school veteran, the tried and true ignore-the-negative-behavior-while-reinforcing-the-positive-behavior often worked wonders. I’ve also used Larry’s approach of quietly discussing or privately conferencing with students – with good results.  And, there have been times when I’ve made a blanket announcement about respecting one’s self and one’s classmates to help stave off future occurrences, which has also worked well.

Here’s a situational tactic I’ve used in the past after a substitute or guest teacher has been covering my class.  When beginning the class, I would ask the group, “Here is the note that the substitute teacher left for me.  I haven’t read it yet because I want to hear your side of the story first.  For today’s bell-ringer activity, please write down what YOU think the substitute’s note says, and what you plan to do next time to help the sub next time.”

First of all, these things are all lies, of course.  I have indeed read the sub’s notes and I know exactly which kids the sub has fingered as the trouble-makers, but the kids don’t need to know that.  Subs work hard, but often they don’t know the kids like I do, and sometimes they don’t know what I do or do not allow in my classroom. That’s not the sub’s fault, and it’s often hard for the kids to understand & adapt to the sub’s expectations.  Writing about how kids perceived the classroom activities will either confirm the sub’s notes or, more often than not, shed more light on what was occurring in the classroom environment when the behavior-in-question occurred.  Then I can conference with the “perpetrators” about their behavior and dole out consequences or praises as needed.  And, since they’ve already written about how they might behave differently next time, when I conference with kids they have either already thought things through or they’ve sealed their fate by trying to hide things even further, and we now have deeper, more important issues to deal with than who farted or who threw the paperwad.

Would Larry’s method work in your classroom?  Maybe.  Maybe not. Would my method work every time? Maybe. Maybe not.  But maybe teachers will read about these ideas and add whatever is relevant to their individual classroom toolkits and avoid needless group punishments in the future.

Extreme Planet Makeover: make a planet

Here’s a neat site from NASA!  Extreme Planet Makeover allows kids to create their own planet based on various parameters they can define, like size, distance from nearest star, type of nearest star, and planet age.

My planet was called “Super Earth.” It is farther away from its Class F sun than we are from our class G Sun, but it is also 4 times larger that Earth and is likely to support life much longer than Earth can.  It took about 45 seconds of playing with the 4 sliders on the simulation site.

This would be a nice way to apply what students are learning in a Science, Earth Science, or Astronomy class or unit and turn it into a way to create something completely new! It would look great in either a lab setting or as a whole-group activity on a SMART Board.

I learned of this site from the iLearn Technology blog.

iLearn Technology » Blog Archive » Extreme Planet Makeover: make a planet

How to make a 2 computer classroom work for you: tech integration and classroom management » iLearn Technology

Would you like to use tech more with your lessons, but don’t know how to work it in with centers in your elementary classroom?  Hesitant about using tech because you only have 1 or 2 computers in your room?  Or, do you tend toward the traditional and are just looking for a way to get started?

This post, from iLearn Technology, offers insight on how one traditionally trained educator integrated technology with a centers-based 2nd grade classroom with great success.  Using centers, this teacher was able to personalize instruction and maintain appropriate curricular rigor, with technology playing a supporting role.  The examples shared relate how to integrate limited tech in a classroom with limited physical space and a lot of kids who can be tough to manage. (Teaching 6-7-8 year-olds can be like herding cats some days!) 

If this teacher could do it, maybe some of these ideas could help you!


iLearn Technology » Blog Archive » How to make a 2 computer classroom work for you: tech integration and classroom management

Interesting Ways | edte.ch

If you have not already become a virtual friend of Tom Barrett, you’re missing out on a wealth of ideas that could help you incorporate technology into your classrooms – and so much more!

Tom has a website filled with lists of “Interesting Ways to…<fill in the blank>”.  Topics range from using a video camcorder or an interactive whiteboard or blogs or wikis in your classroom, to ways to develop relationships with students or make your classroom ‘sparkle’.  (He even has ways to create & use QR codes – those weird little rectangular icons that are appearing everywhere that you can scan with your smartphone…)

Take a minute to glance at this list.  You’ll probably find something that piques your interest.  You might need a Google account to view the GoogleDocs presentations, which are like Power Point files.  Each slide contains one idea and and image to help you incorporate it into your classroom activities or environment.


Interesting Ways | edte.ch

American Art: Meet Me At Midnight

MMAMMeet Me at Midnight is a virtual field trip through the Smithsonian American Art Museum, set up as an interactive mystery exploration.  The site piques student interest by setting up an intriguing scenario in graphic novel style and allows the user to search through the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum’s collection to find clues to solve a mystery.  Kids can also collect codes that will allow them to return to certain spots throughout the simulation in order to accommodate shorter class periods or continue the exploration at home.

The site is geared toward children in grades 3-5.  It moves a bit slowly and also has a “Replay” button to help early readers keep up and follow along.  There are activity guides for kids and Parents/Educators (including lesson plans) as well.  It would be fun at lab stations with headphones, or perhaps as a whole class exploration using a SMART FreeTech4TeachersBoard.

Many thanks to Free Tech for Teachers for guidance to this site.

American Art: Meet Me At Midnight

The best teacher

The folks at SMART (the Smart Board people) have started a nice blog site for teachers and administrators to support their education newsletter.  Both are called EDCompass. 

Recently they asked, “Who was, or is, the best teacher in the world?”  You can imagine the range of responses they might receive!  They’ve combined these answers, along with some very inspirational videos and supporting materials, at a site called SMART Love of Learning

So, if you’ve had an especially rough day or need a little inspiration during the “winter doldrums,” read a little bit or watch a video about how teachers inspire kids every day. Then take a deep breath, tell yourself “I can do this one more day,” and decide what you can do to help kids tomorrow.  With or without a SMART Board…

Image from http://us.smartloveoflearning.com/

EDCompass blog » The best teacher

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"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

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

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