Friday, May 27, 2011

R-word | Spread the Word to End the Word

Last night I saw this Public Service Announcement (PSA) on television. The thought, “It’s about !@*% time” came instantly to mind, and I decided to look into it in more detail.

(Fair Warning: The video contains some slap-you-in-the-face language - to drive home the point - that some find inappropriate.)

This has been a pet-peeve of mine – and countless other educators, I’m sure – for years. Somehow over time a clinical term describing a real and serious condition has turned into a derogatory term that has spread throughout our culture. According to this study, 92% of kids hear the R-Word used commonly, but in most cases fewer than half of those kids will do anything about it when they hear it. Walk down the hallways of any high school or middle school, and you’ll hear the term thrown about and accepted as “normal” by kids everywhere.

It’s terrible.  And it has to stop.

Thousands of like-minded folks have banded together to develop a campaign & Web site called R-Word: Spread the Word to End the Word. The group has been quietly growing since 2008, and the PSA above is finally helping the movement gain national attention.

So What Can We Do About It?
R-word | Spread the Word to End the Word

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators

Sue Waters (left) of Edublogs runs a blog called The Edublogger.  In it, she offers a wealth of good advice for collaborating with and among students using various Web 2.0 tools.

Recently a post was published on The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators – No Need to be Friends At All!  In the post, a link to a web site and resource for teachers was published offering advice to teachers and school groups on safe and appropriate use of Facebook for educational purposes.image

At a recent teacher’s institute in our District, we were advised by a presenter on legal issues to avoid “friend-ing” students on social networks, to clamp down security settings on our personal social network pages, and to clean up posts and pictures displayed on our social network sites. 

The Facebook Educator’s Guide, by Linda Fogg Phillips, Derek Baird, and Dr. BJ Fogg, offers similar suggestions, and step-by-step instructions on how to do that. The authors also go on to suggest that educators can use Facebook (or other social networking sites) in the following ways:
  1. Help develop and follow your school’s policy about Facebook.
  2. Encourage students to follow Facebook’s guidelines.
  3. Stay up to date about safety and privacy settings on Facebook.
  4. Promote good citizenship in the digital world.
  5. Use Facebook’s Pages and Groups features to communicate with students and parents.
  6. Embrace the digital, social, mobile, and “always-on” learning styles of 21st Century students.
  7. Use Facebook as a professional development resources.
imageAdditionally, Connect Safely has also published A Parents’ Guide to Facebook, by Anne Collier and Larry Magid. It offers good advice to parents (and anyone) on how to use Facebook or other social networks safely. This document is available as a free PDF download.


The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators – No Need to be Friends At All! | The Edublogger

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

YouTube 101: How to Upload

So, you have a video of your class activities that you'd like to upload to YouTube and share with the world...


Please remember that school personnel are subject to very different rules about student privacy & confidentiality than the general public. 

Have you:
  • Checked with the office to make sure it's okay to publish the image of every child who appears in the video? Even in wide-angle crowd scenes? Even in profile?
  • Made sure that no student with an IEP appears in the video without expressed written consent from a parent or guardian? (This is another reason why you must check with your Principal)
  • Notified parents of your intention to publish that video on a site like YouTube, giving them the opportunity to opt-out?
  • Considered setting up "Private Sharing" so that you can send the video's URL to parents/ guardians directly, helping to ensure that Internet predators can't access it?
  • Made sure your video does not contain copyrighted music/images?
    • Remember: What you can share with kids inside your classroom as part of instruction is not the same  as what you can share with the world through the Web!
Once all these hoops have been jumped through, here's how to upload that to YouTube. 
  • (Other sites have similar abilities, but always make sure you have covered the four items above, first!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who Knew? Highway Numbering Lesson

Who Knew from Yahoo! offers a nice video addition to that age-old Geography lesson. It's a great way to help kids who are already thinking about summer vacation to connect school work to the real world.

Internet Smarts - Power To Learn


Power To Learn is an educational initiative by CableVision, a telecommunications company serving some East Coast and Great Plains states.  Their Internet Smarts web site contains a number of interactive case studies and lesson plans to help students and teachers understand how to use Internet resources safely and appropriately.  Case studies include:
  • Everything You Need To Know About Wireless
  • Social Networking: Don’t Give Yourself Away (with teacher guide, and parent guides in English & Spanish)
  • Digital Permanence (with teacher guide, and parent guides in English & Spanish)
  • Cyberbullying: Not Just Name-Calling (with teacher guide, and parent guides in English & Spanish)
  • Misinformation – Truth or Spoof? (with teacher guide, and parent guides in English & Spanish)
  • Fair Use – Beg, Borrow or Steal? (with teacher guide, and parent guides in English & Spanish)
  • Keeping Personal Info Private (with teacher guide, sample Internet Use Contracts, and parent guides in English & Spanish)
  • Music Downloading – Paying the Piper (with teacher guide, parent guides in English & Spanish, and downloadable sign & T-shirt iron-on)
This resource would be a great way for teachers to address various aspects of Internet Safety (and help Illinois teachers appropriately address Internet Safety and satisfy this important mandate in their classroom).  The case studies pop up in small-ish windows which cannot be resized, but they contain excellent content. 

These would work nicely on a SMART Board or with a projector as whole-class activities, or as self-guided lesson explorations in a computer lab setting.

Office 2010 Ultimate Tips and Tricks

From MakeUseOf and Tech The Plunge:
Here’s a nice guide containing suggestions for the use of Microsoft Office 2010.  While most teachers in our school district are currently using Office 2007, please feel free to contact the Tech Department if you would like to upgrade to Office 2010.  This guide would be very helpful for teachers to get the most out of this suite of productivity tools. - Office 2010 Tips & Tricks

Office 2010 Ultimate Tips and Tricks–Free Manual! — Tech the Plunge

Student Bullying in the United States

This infographic, from Buckfire Law in Michigan, shows some statistics related to bullying in United States' schools. 

Find the link or embed code here or go to

Click the image to see a larger version & read the details, or visit the sites above.
Student Bullying
[Source: Buckfire and]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Windows Tablets?

iPad 2
Image from
 Seems everyone's hooked on iPads these days. Apps for this, apps for that.  Apple's iPad is currently enjoying the lion's share of the tablet craze.  This article reports that the iPad has made Apple "the world's most valuable brand." I've heard from various sources that iPad sales make up over 80% of "tablet computer" sales.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a source to confirm an exact number in a quick Bing search.  Maybe I should have used Apple's Safari browser instead. LOL 

Tablets running Google's Android operating system make up most of the remaining market figures.  These include tablets by makers like Samsung, Dell, Motorola, and a handful of other manufacturers.

We're a PC school district.  Apple's iPad doesn't run Microsoft applications... at least not yet. There are some iPad apps out there that will reportedly let users edit & create Word documents, for example, but they seem to be a bit limited in functionality.  I hope to test some of these out soon & will report what I find.  Apple won't display Flash-based videos or web sites, and even Google Docs is a problem without special apps.

Why not Android-based tablets?  Problem with that is: they're relatively unregulated.  Install an app, and who knows what else is lurking about in the code.  Creepy.

My question is: Where is Microsoft in this picture?

The answers I've found seem to indicate they are quietly waiting in the wings, utilizing test mules to apprehensively dip their corporate toes into tablet-infested waters.  

This YouTube video of Microsoft's "Courier" project has been floating around The Cloud for a couple years.  Microsoft scrapped it about a year ago, but man - is it cool-looking in the video:

Rumor has it that Microsoft is "thinking about" releasing a tablet sometime soon. It is not clear yet whether they will run the Windows 7 operating system, the Windows Phone 7 operating system, or some hybrid of the two. 

The Hewlett Packard Touch Pad, (below) which runs the new Palm WebOS, may run Flash & Google Docs more easilly, so that may offer a viable option in the future.  I used to live through my old Palm Pilot back in the 1990s, but we'll have to see if/how they regulate their apps.   
Palm/HP Touch Pad
Image from:

Acer has been quietly selling Android-based tablets for a while now.  However, they have an interesting - albeit pricey - Windows 7 option, called the Iconia

Acer Iconia. 

Ever heard of it? Neither have I.  Marketing is apparently not their strong point.

According to the Iconia Web site, it will run either Windows 7 or Android software applications, meaning it should be very Microsoft- and Google-friendly.  The similarities betweer the Acer Iconia and the Microsoft Courier project are pretty clear.  It's basically two 7-inch (think of the screen size on a portable DVD player) touch-screen tablets joined together with a center hinge. Open it up portrait-style and you have an e-reader tablet with side-by-side pages, just like a book.  Or, open it up laptop-style to launch the full screen keyboard on the horizontal touch-screen closest to you while viewing your workspace on the vertical touch-screen, as shown below, to work on your favorite Windows 7, Microsoft Office, or Google Docs applications & files:

Acer Iconia. 
 Now you have to admit: that's pretty cool.  The downside: the Iconia will set you back about $1200.  OUCH!  And that only gets you 16 Gb of storage for programs, apps & files.  You could buy two 32-Gb iPads (wi-fi only) for that chunk of change.

With a price like that, it's pretty safe to say that we're not likely to see these in classrooms any time soon.  However, some of the early versions of interactive whiteboards cost in the $10k range when first launched, and now that their prices are 70-80% less than that, they're becoming staples, found in more and more classrooms all the time.  So really, who knows?

YouTube 101: Subscriptions

Once you have found some interesting (and educationally appropriate, of course) videos on YouTube to use with your classes, you might find that the persons who post the educationally-awesome videos have others you could use with your classes, too.  Wouldn't it be great to be notified as soon as this person posts a new video for your students?

Well, you can, and it's easy.  It's called a Subscription, and it's really easy to set up.  There are also ways to control who subscribes to videos on your channel, as well as other options, like commenting, etc.  Have a look:

Next Week: How To Upload

The future of print: 21 interesting e-books for kids

This post, by Scott McLeod of Did You Know/Shift Happens fame, offers links to a number of interesting books in electronic format for students at various reading levels.

I truly hope “the book” will remain with us for many years to come.  There’s just something nice about holding a book in your hands and having to lick one finger to turn a paper page.  (And don’t even get this former Geography Education major started about paper maps vs. those GPS-thingies!)

However, there is no denying that the rise of e-readers and tablet computers will likely change the ways kids read & gather information.  To illustrate, here are two of my favorites from Scott’s post:

Fiction, for younger readers:

Non-fiction, for older kids:

Enjoy exploring the links.

I need to go put a new needle in the stylus on my record player…

The future of print: 21 interesting e-books for kids | Dangerously Irrelevant | Big Think

Cyberbullying Resources

Cyberbullying is a growing concern in communities around the world.  A number of teachers have contacted me asking, “What can we do to help stop this kind of thing?” and "What do we tell our kids when they ask about this?"  The answer is simple:
  • Teach kids about cyberbullying,
  • Teach them what to do when cyberbullying occurs, and
  • Teach them how to help stop the cycle of cyberbullying.
The basics of dealing with a cyber bully are: Stop, Block, and Tell:
  • STOP - Don't respond to a cyber bully's words.  Once you do that, they've won: they have begun to control your choices and actions.
  • BLOCK - Use whatever resources, filters, etc., are available to block those unwanted messages from appearing.  On Facebook, for example, "un-friend" them, flag the site and/or comments as inappropriate, and use the account controls/preferenc 
  • TELL - Kids should tell a trusted adult (parent, teacher, principal, police officer, etc.) about the situation immediately.  Adults can contact the Web site administrator, cellular service provider, Internet service provider, etc., to have the site banned. 
Below are some resources to help teachers recognize & take action against cyberbullying at any grade level.
In the State of Illinois, cyberbullying is covered under the legal terms involving bullying.  "Cyber Bullying," "Cyber Harrassment" and "Cyber Stalking" are increasing legal concerns and should not be taken lightly.  For example, "Cyber Stalking" can be prosecuted as a Class 4 felony.  A Class 4 felony in Illinois is generally punishable by a prison term between 1-3 years and/or fines up to $25,000 per occurrence.  After the third occurrence, it becomes a Class 3 felony. In Illinois, Class 3 felonies are generally punishable by prison terms between 2-5 years and/or fines similar to those involved with Class 4 felonies.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 3 is National Teacher’s Day!

Happy National Teacher’s Day!

The Evolution of Educators–Part 1 (1600-1900)

The Evolution of Educators–Part 2 (1900-Present)

Who Am I? A History Mystery

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has created an interesting and engaging web activity site for students, called Who Am I? This activity is part of the Smithsonian’s The Price of Freedom online exhibit.

Screenshot from: 

Students are given a prompt like the one above to start their investigation.  They are then given a series of artifacts to explore.  If students think the artifact corresponds with the clue, they drag artifacts into their “Evidence Folder” to learn if they are correct.  (Even incorrect association give children important clues to guide their exploration.)  Once students have correctly placed 2 artifacts in the evidence folder, they guess the identity of the Mystery Person.

At The Price of Freedom online exhibit, teachers will find supporting videos, lesson plans, and a wealth of information about eras including
  • The War for Independence
  • The Wars of Expansion
  • The Civil War
  • World War II
  • The Vietnam War/The Cold War
  • September 11 & It’s Aftermath

Themes in Outlook Web App

Last week I blogged about how to turn off the Conversations view.  One of the nice features that’s new with the Microsoft Outlook Web App that we use for our Web mail is the ability to customize the interface with themes.

Just click on Options, which you’ll find below your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen:
Outlook Options

Now you can choose from a number of personalized themes, from cutesy to business-like.  There are Polar Bears, Finger Paints, “It Came From Outer Space,” and a few different color choices.  Scroll right-and-left to preview & select more.

You may think that some of the color choices seem to be redundant.  However, the overall color in the preview box shows the color that will be applied to the header.  The 3 dots at the bottom of the preview box show the color of the font used in the message headers.  Unfortunately, at this time it appears as though you cannot create your own custom color & font schemes – what you see is what you get.  However, this is still a nice step up from our old Web mail interface.

The Best Sites For Teaching & Learning About Cinco de Mayo

For the umpteenth time, the Mexican holiday we know as Cinco de Mayo IS NOT Mexico's Independence Day!  (BTW: that is actually in September.)  Cinco de Mayo is the remembrance of the Mexican army’s defeat of the FRENCH at the city of Puebla in 1862. If you think Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with the United States, you have another thing coming!  Read on...

While the U.S. was embroiled in Civil War, both Union and Confederate diplomats were trying desperately to sway support from foreign entities.  Long-independent Mexico, however, was having some difficulties of its own.  Mexican President Benito Juarez had inherited a country deep in debt.  During the early 1860s, Europe’s Big 3 – Britain, France, and Spain – all sent invasion forces to Mexico to demand repayment.  Juarez was able to cut deals with Britain & Spain, but Napoleon III was not so easily swayed. He wanted to extend his empire to Latin America, and installed Maximilian von Habsburg as Mexico’s new French-supported emperor.  France was certain that the U.S. would be too busy with its own Civil War to intervene.  The U.S., though, was very concerned that French troops and supplies might flow through Mexico to reinforce the Confederate States.

During the Battle of Puebla (May 5, 1862), vastly outnumbered Mexican forces withstood a day-long battle, inflicting such heavy losses that the French chose to withdraw from the city.  This victory rallied the Mexican people to continue their resistance to French invasion and occupation, which continued for many years.  (Does that mean that Mexico was controlled by France in the 1860s?  Oui!) 

At the end of American Civil War, the U.S. invoked the Monroe Doctrine and dispatched troops under General Phillip Sheridan to the Mexican border to keep the French away from American soil. Sheridan supposedly “lost” enormous quantities of weapons and ammunition somewhere along the Tex-Mex border, helping to reinforce and resupply the Mexicans in the process.  By 1867, Mexican resistance to French rule had grown strong enough to overthrow Maximillian, who was quickly executed, and reinstate Benito Juarez as President once again.

So why should "traditional-Americans" be interested in Cinco de Mayo?  Without the Mexican victory at Puebla to rally the Mexican people to continue the fight against Napoleon & Maximillian, it is very likely the French would have provided aid to the Confederate States of America in an effort to build good relations among the new neighbors.  That could have turned the tide of the American Civil War, resulting in a very different outcome.

Want to learn more about Cinco de Mayo?

Tiki-Toki: Free Web-based Timeline Creator

Okay, this is pretty cool.  Tiki Toki is a free (or paid subscription) web site that allows users to place events on a virtual timeline and share with students.  The site allows users to change the background image, create “bubbles” of text for events, and even insert videos from YouTube & Vimeo into the bubbles!

Now how awesome would this be: presenting a history lesson with videos explaining the events right on the timeline – or summarizing events in a story or novel with videos or student-created skits that were filmed & uploaded and embedded into a timeline… wicked cool!

Try out Tiki Toki today!
Screenshot from:

Thanks to iLearn Technology for the tip on this resource.

YouTube 101: Customizing Your Channel

Once you have signed up for a YouTube account, you can create your own channel to organize, play, and share your (obviously educationally-appropriate and amazingly valuable) YouTube video clips. 

Here's how:

Next Week: Subscriptions

Engaging Students with Autism using a SMART Board

Recently on SMART’s EdCompass blog,  Virginia’s Teacher of the Year Cathy Webb discussed how she uses SMART Boards and related technologies to assist children with autism as the learn about curriculum and social/emotional skills. Read the article to gain insights in how you might be able to use a SMART Board to help kids in your classroom.
SMART EdCompass
SMART EdCompass Blog: Engaging Students with Autism

Internet Explorer 9

Microsoft is pushing out its latest iteration of Internet Explorer.  Version 9 is designed to work better with Windows 7, which most of our District’s computers are running.  However, we have not received word yet from Skyward as to whether or not the two will play well together, so for now we’ll be hanging on to the current version of Internet Explorer (v.8).

If you’d like a sneak-peek at IE9, have a look at this preview slideshow from Microsoft.
See the best: Internet Explorer 9

Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? Demystifying Federal Taxes and Government Spending

Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? is an interesting site to help students learn how their parents’ tax dollars are used by the government to provide services for the people. 

Simply enter a figure for annual gross salary & wages, and the site calculates the standard deduction and the taxes due/paid.  The site goes a step further and creates a pie chart showing what portions go to various federal funds.  (Only 3% goes to Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services, by the way.)  Clicking on a section of the pie chart drills deeper into details about where that money is spent.  (Only 0.3% goes to Special Education, and another 0.3% goes to Accelerating Achievement and Ensuring Equity.  Sheesh…)
Screenshot from

This is similar to a site I blogged about in March called What We Pay ForWhat We Pay For displays considerably more detailed information in table form for users, and would be more appropriate for older students.  Where Did My Tax Dollars Go shows a bit less detail, but in an easier-to-understood graphic format, and would be more appropriate for students in the middle grades.  Both sites are valuable resources to help students learn about taxation and government.

Thanks to Free Tech For Teachers for the tip on this web site.

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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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