Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Test Taker Face

Seems standardized testing is everywhere these days.  Here in Illinois, many high schoolers are taking the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), a combination of the ACT and the Work Keys assessments.

A number of schools are attempting to help ease these unnecessary testing pressures forced upon kids by lawmakers with motivational assemblies and videos.  Here’s a nice one from an elementary arts academy in Georgia, in preparation for their Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT):

I found this video at Lori's Latest Links

World Peace Game – John Hunter on TED

Wonder how to get kids involved in civics and current events? Watch how 4th Grade teacher John Hunter helps his students learn about world events through an amazing classroom simulation and empowers them to make a difference in both the virtual world he has created AND in the real world around them.  And he does it using a good old-fashioned board game that he created.

Mr. Hunter tells us about his World Peace Game while discussing how great teachers have influenced him and his teaching style.  He uses this simulation to help kids engage in real-world problem-solving, guiding students through current issues of the day. He sets the stage and lets kids be “in charge,” while he facilitates their exploration & learning.

10 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids | Scholastic.com


Scholastic has published a list of “10 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids” to enhance your classroom.  Please remember: You don’t have to have an iPod to listen to a podcast!  The vast majority of podcast listeners just use their computer!  Here’s their list – Visit their Web site for descriptions & details.

  1. Wild Animal Chronicles
  2. Radio WillowWeb
  3. Children’s Fun Storytime
  4. Poem of the Day
  5. Sixty-Second Science
  6. My German Class
  7. The Science Show for Kids
  8. ESL Teacher Talk
  9. The Teacher’s Lounge
  10. Bookwink

10 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids | Scholastic.com

Outlook Web App – What’s up with our Web mail?

Recently all District users were switched over to the Microsoft Outlook Web App – otherwise known as your Web mail.  The first time you log on, you might have freaked out a bit (like me) because it does look different.  Don’t panic, though.  There are a few simple things that can help ease the transition.  Here’s the first, and it’s pretty simple. 

Conversations View

The Conversations feature groups all replies, forwards, etc., into a single “threaded” view to help make your Inbox appear a little easier to manage.  However, a number of teachers have told me they do not like the “Conversations” view – apparently all the red circles and lines and what-not (called “Conversation trees”) next to names in the list of messages can be confusing.  If you don’t like this view there’s a very simple way to turn that off:
  • Log in to your web mail. 
  • Click View 
  • Uncheck Use Conversations by clicking on it.
WebAppViewThis should help return your Inbox view to something more like what you’re used to, and it should remain that way until you tell it differently. 
If you don’t mind the Conversation view but still find the little red “trees” distracting, try one of these tricks:
  • Click on the little triangle right next to the email in the list of messages.  Doing so will “collapse” or “hide” your view of the Conversation tree on that message.  OR
  • Click View
    • Select See more Conversations options
    • Uncheck Match the sort order of the Reading Pane in the lower-right corner.  This will automatically de-select the Show Conversation trees option, so the little red circles & lines will no longer appear.
    • Click Save
Unfortunately, there is no way to “go back” to the old version, I’m afraid.  However, see if the trick above helps the new look “feel” a little better. 
Next week: Themes

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Skyward RTI Module Coming to District #205!

Image from
District #205 Teachers:

For quite some time we have been anxiously awaiting the long-rumored release of Skyward's RTI module.  It was released from beta-testing sometime during 2010.  It appears that Districts using Skyward are slowly taking notice of it and some are beginning to consider it for adoption.

During the past school year, District representatives have attended several Skyward RTI demonstration events, both locally and regionally.  After much discussion in several District committees and LOTS of questions, we are happy to announce that Galesburg will soon adopt Skyward's RTI module District-wide for the 2011-12 school year.

We believe that this new feature will offer a wealth of valuable information in a timely fashion to our District's teachers.  Among the features that drew us to this tool are:
  • No need to learn a new interface, like a spreadsheet or some new web site. 
  • Data remains secure - no more wondering if you're looking at the latest version of a spreadsheet, etc.
  • Progress monitoring data can be graphed automatically within the Skyward interface
  • Future ability to enter classroom learning events/assignments for progress monitoring (this feature probably will not be available when we launch it, but we're told it is being developed and will be available down the road a bit)
  • Ability to view nearly any assessment data (including ISAT, PSAE, ITT, AimsWeb, etc.) with regular uploads
    • Don't worry - classroom teachers won't have to upload anything - we'll take care of that for you at the District level
  • Most of our RTI referral & documentation forms can be completed & viewed electronically within Skyward
  • When students move from building-to-building, their RTI data will be available to you as soon as they appear on your class roster, and the same information will be available in the same format for each child, regardless of what building they've come from
  • Students' tier status will be communicated to teachers via specialized "flags" that will appear next to their names in the Roster and Seating Chart views (like you see when you take attendance).  Simply click a student's name to view their Profile and access more detailed information, including suggested intervention strategies (coded for confidentiality)
  • ...and more...
This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing of all of the things that you'll be able to use through Skyward to help kids through the RTI process in your classroom, of course.  The purpose of this post is to simply let you know in advance what's coming.  We've already begun working out details for local implementation, and will continue to do so throughout the summer months. 

Kim, Mike, and I will be coming around to each building during our early-release days in August to walk you through the changes and field any questions.  In addition, specific building-level contact persons will receive specialized training before school starts so you'll have someone "down the hall" to go to with questions, too.

We know there are lots of details to manage before this is launched within our District, and we appreciate any questions or suggestions you might offer. Please feel free to send your questions about Skyward's RTI module to me at any time, and I'll route them to the appropriate persons for answers or consideration. (Send questions via email to mjacobson<at>galesburg<two><oh><five><dot>org)

Cisco To Shut Down Flip Video Camera Business

FlipMuch as I love our District’s Flip Video Camcorders, they are now a dying breed.   

Crying face

According to many recent news stories, including this one, Cisco – which recently bought out Pure Digital’s Flip Video Camera manufacturing, etc. – has decided to shut it down.  They’re not selling it, they’re just closing up the Flip camera shop.  Period.

In my opinion, the Flip cameras were perfectly suited to classroom use.  They’re super easy for kids to use.  They are very intuitive – big red button under the view screen starts & stops recording.  The software installs automatically, quickly, and easily.  Plus, it had one feature that particularly appeals to this veteran middle school teacher: it is the only camcorder I’ve found that does NOT use a removable memory card – the only thing that kids with sticky fingers might swipe would be the AA batteries!

The writing was on the wall, though.  Cell phone cameras are quickly taking over the small personal camera market.  Point-and-shoot cameras – those little autofocus doodads that many of us take on vacation – are not far behind.  Fortunately, most of those also take full-motion video, too, and tend to have better optical zoom capabilities.  These features seem to be extending the usefulness of point-and-shoot cameras a bit longer than camcorder-only units.

If you would like to purchase a Flip camcorder while they’re still available, I highly recommend going through the Digital Wish website. Here you can buy TWO CAMERAS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! Of course, these are the plain-Jane Ultra models, but they work just fine.  If you would like the sleeker, more stylish models or personalize your camera, you’ll have to go through the Flip Video web site instead.  (Avoid the Flip Slide – stick with the Ultra or the Mino.)

Cisco To Shut Down Flip Video Camera Business; Will Give Pink Slips To 550 Employees

YouTube Launches Copyright School

Ever get a speeding ticket and have the option of attending “Traffic School” to reduce your fine or work the ticket off your driving record a little earlier? 

That seems to be the idea behind YouTube’s Copyright School.  Here’s the deal: YouTube has to deal with a mountain of potential copyright violations on a daily basis. If YouTube tags a video due to a copyright infringement, they will require that you attend their own “Copyright School” before any more videos can be posted to that account.  Essentially, this involves watching a video and answering a series of multiple choice questions about respecting copyrights. 

This probably helps YouTube cover its legal self.  While it remains to be seen how effective this will be, it’s nice to see that they’re doing something to stem the tide of copyright infringement on the World Wide Web.  Good luck, YouTube!

Thanks to Free Tech for Teachers for providing this link: Free Technology for Teachers: YouTube Launches Copyright School

This is Your Brain on Shakespeare | How to Think Like Shakespeare | Big Think

I learned of this post from Larry Ferlazzo’s blog.  It is an excellent resource – check it out!

This is a great article about how the brain works.  Interesting reading – somehow it makes a very plausible connection between William Shakespeare and Snoop Dog.  t’s worth the read!

This is Your Brain on Shakespeare | How to Think Like Shakespeare | Big Think

HOTTS (Higher Order Thinking/Technology Skills)

Recently on Free Tech for Teachers, a new look at good old Bloom’s taxonomy was published, integrating ideas for the use of technology at each level.  Here’s a quick summary:

  • Remembering & Understanding: social bookmarking sites like Diigo, etc.
  • Applying: iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Prezi, Glogster, Power Point, etc.
  • Analyzing: Google Forms, Google Docs/Excel, Wordle, etc.
  • Evaluating & Creating: Blogger, Twitter, VoiceThread, etc.

Have questions about what some of these things are, or how to use them?  Send me an email or give me a call – I’ll be happy to drop in and show you the ropes!

Read the article to learn more: Free Technology for Teachers: HOTTS (Higher Order Thinking/Technology Skills) - Guest Post

15 Best iPad 2 Apps Downloads You MUST Have Installed

MC900441334So you’re thinking about dropping your tax return bucks on one of those iThingies, huh?  Well, if you must, here’s a nice list of “must have” apps – many of which are free!
15 Best iPad 2 Apps Downloads You MUST Have Installed

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hands-on science with squishy circuits

Science Teachers!  Elementary – Middle School – High School!  Please take 5 minutes to watch this TED Talk video by AnnMarie Thomas on making electrical circuits with a home-made “play-dough-type” substance that you can make in your kitchen at home.  …Or in the Home Ec kitchen down the hall when the teacher isn’t there… 

If you want the recipe for conducting & insulating dough, visit AnnMarie’s Squishy Circuits web site.  Hands-on fun in a science classroom, no matter the age!

AnnMarie Thomas: Hands-on science with squishy circuits | Video on TED.com

Skype in the classroom


Loads of people are talking about Skype in the Classroom.  Skype in the Classroom is a completely free service that allows teachers to connect with other educators around the world through voice and/or video chat via Internet (VoIP). Simply sign up, connect a microphone or web cam, and start chatting away!  It could really put a new spin on the old “classroom pen pal” activity!  There are literally hundreds of other project ideas and resources available to start using this in your classroom soon!

(Yes, generally speaking, our District’s network is fast enough to allow limited VoIP at this time.  Yes, we are hoping to upgrade to even faster connections to allow this sort of thing on a much wider scale.  For now, as long as you’re doing an occasional whole-class activity and don’t mind an image that’s “a little jumpy,” you should be just fine.)

(Yes, I have a web cam that District #205 teachers can check out for this activity.  If you want your own, I have several suggestions for web cams that would work great.  Most are between $20-$50.  Even the best web cams are less that $80 now!)

Welcome to Skype in the classroom | Skype Education

YouTube 101: Customize Your Homepage

Want to create a nice way to make your YouTube viewing experience more unique and meaningful for your classroom activities?  Once you have established your YouTube account, you can add or remove modules to the page that will offer you the most important information as soon as you visit the site.  Here's how:
If you haven't already done so, LEARN HOW TO TURN YOUTUBE'S SAFETY MODE "ON"

You Don't Need an iPod

Here's a great video/audio reminder to us all, from Canadian indie band & "official band of Canadian podcasting," Uncle Seth:

You Don't Need an iPod (iPad, Zune, etc.) to listen to podcasts.  A podcast is simply a series of readily-available audio (and sometimes video) files that are published on the Web periodically.  The vast majority of podcast listeners enjoy these broadcasts by simply plugging a set of headphones into their desktop or laptop computers!

As a matter of fact, you don't even need to use iTunes to subscribe to a podcast.  Simply use Google Reader or the built-in feed reader in Internet Explorer to keep up-to-date on the latest episodes. (If you want more info on how to do this, just zap me an email!)

If you'd like more information about listening to or making podcasts, visit Tony Vincent's most excellent Web site, Learning In Hand.

Earth Month–SMART Exchange

reminds us that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel when it comes to creating interactive whiteboard lessons to use in out classrooms.  Teachers can find links to dozens of pre-made SMART Board lessons linked to environmental topics at the SMART Exchange web site.  They have highlighted two great Notebook lessons on the blog:
Any of these lessons might be great to add to your Geography, Social Studies, or Science classroom toolkits!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

YouTube 101: Private Sharing

YouTube offers the ability to share videos privately with persons you choose.  One way to do this is to to use the Private Sharing option, which creates a unique URL (or “Web address”) for your videos.  They must have an email address, and you are limited to 25 contacts who must also have a YouTube account.  This might be a nice way to create a classroom video to share with parents, etc. 
However, always make sure that it is okay to publish your students’ images on the Internet before you post such a video! (Remember to ALWAYS check with your building principal for these details BEFORE you publish videos or photos of kids!)
YouTube 101: Private Sharing

Human Exoskeletons Video on TED.com

image Absolutely Amazing. Assistive human exoskeletons have been developed with applications for persons living with disabilities as well as the military.  While still a little bulky and a long way from the RoboCop suit from the 1980s, this technology has vast implications for the future of assistive technologies in the work and lives of our kids.

Take a few moments to watch the video below. Near the end of the video, you’ll see a woman who has been paralyzed for nearly 2 decades walk across the stage with less than 12 hours of practice using this new technology. 

Then try to keep a dry eye and tell me that there’s no reason to teach robotics concepts in your school. 

Image from www.IMDb.com 


Eythor Bender demos human exoskeletons | Video on TED.com

If It Were My Home - Quick Comparisons of Countries

If it were my home is a pretty cool little site that compares characteristics of other countries with our own.  This would be a really great resource for kids to use when completing various Geography/Social Studies reports or projects!  Take a look!

Video from Tekzilla at http://revision3.com/tzdaily/2011-03-25ifitweremyhome

Many thanks to Free Tech for Teachers for the heads-up on this great resource!

Free Technology for Teachers: If It Were My Home - Quick Comparisons of Countries

What's New In Firefox 4

I’m not a Firefox user, but I know a lot who use it exclusively.  Since I’m no expert, I offer the following video I found in a post from Free Tech for Teachers to those of you who enjoy Firefox browsing:


And this video might be helpful for those of who who are a bit more “techie” in your thinking:

Free Technology for Teachers: What's New In Firefox 4

Science Fix: Video demos and experiments

Spent a little time geeking out today!  I stumbled across this post on iLearn Technology about Science FixScience Fix is a video blog of various experiments, demonstrations, and assorted science-y what-not. Here’s one example

I also liked the Food Science videos, including recent posts on making chocolate pop-rocks and making watermelon caviar.  Awesome!  What great ways to stimulate interest in science and encourage exploration in a classroom!


What a great idea for using video in a classroom!  First, if you’re short on resources this would be a quick, prep-free, mess-free way to demonstrate various concepts in your science classroom.  Also, wouldn’t it be great to have kids perform the experiments and record them with a Flip camera, etc., to do a Science Fair Video Log (or “vlog”), etc.??

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

iLearn Technology » Blog Archive » Science Fix: Video demos and experiments

The Cost of Dropping Out

Here’s a great post I found on Free Tech for Teachers regarding The Cost of Dropping Out.  This would be a great graphic to show at-risk kids, their parents, their teachers, or interested community organizations to drive home the importance of participating in and supporting a quality, engaging educational experience in America’s public schools.


Image found at: Free Technology for Teachers: Infographic - The Cost of Dropping Out

What's best for my computer: Hibernate, sleep, or shut down?

Yahoo! Green has published a great article summarizing helpful tips for laptop computer power usage.  Here are some highlights:
  • Hibernate, Sleep, or Shut Down:  Doesn’t matter much.  Hibernate uses less power but restarts slower. Sleep uses more power but restarts faster. Shut Down: uses no power (because it’s OFF) but takes the longest to restart.
    • My opinion (not “policy”): if you’re not going to use the laptop for more that 30 minutes or so, might as well shut it down.  You’re less likely to forget about it and leave it Hibernating/Sleeping all night, which will end up using more power in the long run.
  • This article suggests you discharge the battery completely – they suggest every day – and do not laptops plugged in for days at a time. 
  • Use a power strip and make sure it is turned off at the end of each day.
  • Establish a regular and frequent backup procedure.  This is the toughest part for most users, myself included.  But, if your hard drive crashes, you don’t want to lose everything you – or your students – have been working on.  Back up your saved files to a network folder, flash drive, or portable hard drive as frequently as possible. 
What's best for my computer: Hibernate, sleep, or shut down? on Shine

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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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