Friday, October 28, 2011

Internet Explorer 9

Our District Technology Director has informed me that the latest version of our District’s preferred web browser, Internet Explorer 9, will be deployed in the undetermined future. Teachers won’t have to do anything special – it will install in a scheduled update – but that means that one morning you’ll come to school and POOF! It will appear.

Okay… more likely, pooooooooooooooooooooooooooffffffff. <It will likely take a while for your computer to boot up that morning.>

He encouraged me to install it myself and have a look around. Teachers can also upgrade their browser on their own at any time, and many have already done so. (Kudos to you early-adopters!)

To give you a bit of a preview, here’s a quick promo video you may have seen on TV recently… I love the old dial-up modem sound at the beginning… ah, memories…

So what’s REALLY different about IE9 to the casual user? Have a look at this screen shot of the toolbar at the top of an IE9 window:
  • First of all, I think it really does provide “A MORE BEAUTIFUL WEB” experience! Colors seem brighter, images seem more crisp, there's more space to view the sites, and it seems to run a bit quicker than before. Maybe that’s just the “honeymoon-effect.” We’ll see…
  • The Menu, Commands, Favorites, and Search bars have disappeared, leaving more screen real estate for viewing Web sites
    • To bring them back, simply right-click in the space above the tabs and click to check-mark the ones you want
    • But seriously, do you really NEED a half-dozen extra annoying toolbars? Turn them off by right-clicking as described above and unchecking them. PLEASE!
  • There’s a bigger Back button on the left, which is nice.
    • To go back multiple pages, click-and-hold until a menu appears (or just right-click if you are pressed for time)
    • Same thing works for going forward, too.
  • The Favorites and Settings icons have been shmooshed over to the far-right:
    • This might take a little getting-used-to for users who do not embrace change easily.
    • If you bring back the Favorites, menu, and Command bar (see above), it looks like IE8 again, and you can avoid change. But REALLY… where’s the fun in that…?
  • The Search bar and the Address bar are now one and the same:
    • To go directly to a Web site, just type in the URL and press Enter on your keyboard. (For us old-schoolers that’s the Return key.)
    • To search for something, type in the term (-s) you want to search for and click the little magnifying glass icon.
    • When you upgrade, your default search provider should carry over. But, if you feel the need to change the default search engine to something different, just start typing in the search/address bar. At the bottom of the drop-down menu that appears, you’ll see a button marked “Add.” Click it and you can select a new search engine, like Bing or Google, etc. Follow the prompts and eventually you’ll see the words “Make this my default search provider.” Check the box next to that phrase and click “Add.”
    • And PLEASE… Stop Googling Google… That rips a hole in the space-time continuum, disrupts the Force, damages the Internet’s flux capacitors, and is a general waste of everyone’s time.
Of course, there are lots more new features, but this should give you a heads-up on some of the basic changes on the surface. Below are some links from Microsoft if you’d like to dive deeper:
Click here to watch the Microsoft video “What’s changed in Internet Explorer 9.”
View other videos about IE9 features.
Discover the features of Internet Explorer 9

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Teacher Survival Kit at Discovery Education

imageHere’s a link to some great resources to help new teachers adjust to life in a new District. It provides a lot of great advice and suggestions, as well as links to other resources that can help new teachers grow as professionals. Plus, it’s all FREE!

The site is divided into four major parts:

  • Survival Tool Kit – some basics for everyone
  • Technology 101 – tips for using tech tools in your classroom
  • Homeroom HQ – tips for classroom management, parent communication, etc.
  • It’s Elementary – not just for teachers of the little ones, this part has simple tips to help you get started in your classroom, as well as a reminders of often-forgotten things, like student learning styles, dealing with food allergies, handling bullies, and interacting with parents.

Visit New Teacher Survival Central at Discovery Education

Shahi - A visual dictionary

Here’s a nice little site for kids who are visual learners:

Shahi is a “visual dictionary” site that combines definitions from Wictionary and images from popular image search engines like Flickr, Google, and Yahoo!


This gives kids both a traditional dictionary-type definition alongside images to help make the definition more concrete. It might a very nice resources for kids who need that visual reinforcement for comprehension.

Clicking on highlighted terms in the definition will open a new Wictionary window, allowing kids to diverge and delve deeper into the meanings of words. Clicking on an image will open the web site where that image is posted.

In our District, Flickr & Yahoo (which uses Flickr for its galleries) are blocked by our filtering policies. Students would need to be coached to use the Google tab, as indicated in the screenshot above, to get the visual support. There is also a drop-down menu to the right of the site’s search window that will allow users to select Google as the default display, and this setting will remain the next time you visit it.

CAUTION!  Google’s search engine, for example, allows one can set the “Safe Search Filtering” setting to “Strict” in order to remove any results that might contain inappropriate language or images. I was unable to find any documentation regarding the use these sites’ filtering policies, or if your computer’s current Safe Search settings will carry-over and filter the results you might get through this site. I would therefore suggest kids use this site under direct supervision of a teacher whenever possible or appropriate.

Shahi - A visual dictionary | Blachan Lab

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

K-12 Tech Tools


I stumbled across this really great site while looking for resources for teachers earlier this week. It’s called K-12 Tech Tools. It is a warehouse of lots of great resources, organized by subject are, that are free-of-charge for teachers and kids to use.

Don’t be afraid to join the wiki and dive right in – you’ll undoubtedly find lots of great stuff to use in your classroom!

K-12 Tech Tools © - home

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education

I found this posted on TechLearning’s TL Advisor Blog recently:

NBC’s Ann Curry recently hosted a panel discussion addressing the experiences of students in schools across the nation. Below is a video of the discussion – get comfy – its about an hour long, but worth every moment.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The TL Advisor Blog summarized the following 20 items from the panel discussion:

  1. I have to critically think in college, but your tests don't teach me that.    
  2. We learn in different ways at different rates.
  3. I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
  4. Teaching by the book is not teaching. It's just talking.
  5. Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.
  6. Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.
  7. We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.
  8. The community should become more involved in schools.
  9. Even if you don't want to be a teacher, you can offer a student an apprenticeship.
  10. Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.
  11. You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.
  12. Tell me something good that I'm doing so that I can keep growing in that.
  13. When you can feel like a family member it helps so much.
  14. We appreciate when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype
  15. Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.
  16. Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music.
  17. Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.
  18. You need to use tools in the classroom that we use in the real world like Facebook, email, and other tools we use to connect and communicate.
  19. You need to love a student before you can teach a student.
  20. We do tests to make teachers look good and the school look good, but we know they don't help us to learn what's important to us.

To learn more about the 2011 Summit, please visit Education Nation.

- 20 Things Students Want the Nation to Know About Education

Friday, October 21, 2011

Story Something

Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero shared this nice link for early readers:

imageStory Something is an interactive web site that could be helpful for some early readers. The site offers a number of short stories for primary-aged readers that users can personalize to include the young readers name and names of those important to the child. The stories contain a few simple but very attractive illustrations, but the focus is on the text. The site is expanding a bit with an area that includes a clickable map, allowing children to feel as though they are reading their way across the United States.

The only real hook is the ability to change the names in the stories. Users still have to scroll up and down to read, which can be a bit annoying. The site works on PC as well as iPad, so it’s not Flash-dependent. The stories themselves are short and sweet, and are a nice mixture of just-for-fun narratives and stories that teach skills & values. But they’re just stories – no interactive assistance, no motion or video, no bells, no whistles. The focus is on the text. …And that’s not all bad, now, is it?

While it’s nothing super-fancy and doesn’t scream “WOW,” for the early-reading K-2 crowd, this site could be a useful way to help students practice their reading skills.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Directory of Approved Education Programs in Illinois

Image from
One of the ways that teachers can renew their certification - and advance on the salary scale - is to take graduate classes and seek an advanced degree or a new area of endorsement. A number of online opportunities exist that might offer teachers more convenient ways to complete this coursework that the traditional method of sitting in a college classroom after school, on weekends, or during the summer months. Teachers should be careful, though. While online opportunities exist for course completion, not all of these are properly accredited or recognized by the State of Illinois as providing appropriate coursework to help students in Illinois classrooms. (Please note: I'm not making judgements, and I'm not naming any colleges or universities, online or otherwise.)

If you are planning to go back to school, please take your time and research your options. Before you commit to a program of study, make sure it is appropriately listed on the Illinois State Board of Education's Directory of Approved Programs for the Preparation of Educational Personnel.

In our District, teachers should also contact the Curriculum and Instruction Department (309-343-1151) for more information and appropriate paperwork.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kleinspiration: Freebie: Homework for Absent Students

Here’s a great, free resource from Erin Klein at Kleinspiration! (Don’t scoff, secondary teachers – with only mild modification this would work very nicely for the 6-12 crowd, too!)



Kleinspiration: Freebie: Homework for Absent Students

Digital Cheating

Netsmartz is an organization that supports Internet safety and media literacy. I have used their materials – which are free of charge – for years, and it is the backbone of our District Internet Safety Curriculum. Educators can also receive free Internet safety teaching materials for school use on the Netsmartz for Educators web site.

Netsmartz sends periodic emails to subscribers called the Netsmartz Five. These messages cover important topics related to Internet safety. Visit the Netsmartz for Educators web site to sign up and learn more. Their most recent email discusses Digital Cheating. Click on the screenshot below to view it as a web page with clickable links.


NetSmartz 5: Digital Cheating

Monday, October 10, 2011

Math Games, Worksheets & Homework Help for Kids, Parents & Teachers. | Game Classroom


Math Games is a great web site for the “I’m-Done-What-Do-I-Do-Now” crowd, or parents who would like to give their children extra practice and have fun online. Math Games provides fun online learning activities for students in grades K-5. Check it out today!

I found this on Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero 

Math Games, Worksheets & Homework Help for Kids, Parents & Teachers. | Game Classroom

Welcome to the Web


Found this one on Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero

Welcome to the Web is a great site from the U.K. to help kids and adults learn about the Internet and how to use it safely & responsibly use of it.

A nice summary and how-to-use-this-site explanation can be found here.

The site is divided into 6 sections plus a “Welcome to the Web Challenge.” Section titles include:

  • The Beginning
  • Getting Started
  • Staying Safe
  • Using Your Browser
  • Searching
  • Top Tricks
  • Challenge

Each section except the Challenge has accompanying worksheets to help kids stay on track, and to help teachers track student progress.

This would be a great tool for classrooms that are just starting to get online.

Welcome to the Web

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chess Kid

imageI found this site mentioned on Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero

Chess Kid is a great site to help kids learn how to play chess. It contains simply-explained rules of the game, video and text explanations of various strategies, etc.  It is also a great resource for teachers, parents, or coaches who would like to incorporate these skills into a Chess club, Weekly Advisory activity, etc. Kids can sign up for a free account to learn the game or track their progress, or they can skip the sign-up process and still access most of the benefits of the site, which appears to be completely free to use.

Chess Kid is a partner of, which is also free.

Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero: Chess Kid

Successful Teaching: 10 Tips for Confronting Difficult Parents

This is a great post from the Successful Teaching blog, though I might change the term “confronting” to “working with” or something a little less… well… confrontational.

Regardless, you’ll find good advice as you prepare for Parent Teacher Conferences here.

The author’s suggestions about focusing on sharing objective information with the parent is vital. Remembering that you are the Professional, they are the Parent, and that you’re both here to help the child be successful, will help both find a compromise that benefits this child. If helping kids is not the focus of the conference, you-the-Professional should redirect the conversation toward working together to find solutions.

Read their list first.  Here are some suggestions that could be added to the list:

  • Accentuate the Positive: A positive, welcoming phone call home early in the year or term can win you lots of points later during the time you spend with the child in your classroom. Parents often complain that they never hear from teachers until after a small problem has become big enough for a conference.
  • Back It Up With Facts: Save work samples that exhibit your concerns and celebrations, and use these to help the parent understand what you are seeing in the classroom. If these are observational items, start making tally marks on a seating chart, calendar, etc., to show frequency of behaviors that concern you. 
  • Make Sandwiches: No, not literally. “Sandwich” your concerns between positive comments during the meeting. Asking for help from parents and finding out what works well at home will help make a great cooperative sandwich. For example,
    • I’ve noticed that Johnny loves to read a lot. I notice that he will be reading a book or a magazine when I’m teaching the class, and I’m concerned that he may not be paying attention to the lesson. I’ve marked this on my calendar and it seems to happen at least 3-4 times a week. It’s great that he loves reading so much!  <there’s your sandwich, supported with objective data… now follow it up with things from the blog post, like…> I want to help Johnny find a way to enjoy his reading habits at more appropriate times, and I’d really like to build on the foundation that you and his other teachers have built. What kinds of things work to redirect Johnny’s attention at home? 

Successful Teaching: 10 Tips for Confronting Difficult Parents

Monday, October 3, 2011

World Teachers' Day 2011


October 5, 2011, is World Teachers’ Day! This year’s theme is Teachers for Gender Equality. According to the Web site, the teaching profession is still largely dominated by females, many equality issues remain.

The WTD Web site contains many links to resources to help honor teachers across the globe, including downloadable posters in many languages and WTD e-cards you can use to honor your favorite teachers.

World Teachers’ Day is supported by UNESCO and Education International.

World Teachers' Day 2011

Columbus Day Resources for SMART Boards

Many schools throughout the nation hold school on Columbus Day. In Illinois, Columbus Day is a suggested holiday, but schools that apply for a waiver (Read the law in its entirety:  105 ILCS 5/24-2 Sec.24.2(b) ) may hold school on Columbus Day providing part of the day is spent learning about the contributions made by Christopher Columbus to the discovery of the Americas. These contributions, both positive and negative, are collectively referred to as “The Columbian Exchange” by many textbooks. The National Humanities Center has an excellent essay on the Columbian Exchange, with teaching suggestions.

Last week I blogged about a number of Columbus Day Resources.  Here are a few more to add to that list:

SMART Exchange has some great, pre-made SMART Board files that you can download and use with your classroom activities for free. Some are complete with Response(formerly known as Senteo Interactive Response System - those little clicker-thingies) question sets already developed to help you assess students' learning and understanding of your Columbus lessons. Here are some search results by topic:

Many video clips are also available to help with these activities.  Click these links to see resources available from The Biography Channel and The History Channel.

Galesburg teachers in grades 6-12 can access LEARN360 for even more.

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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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