Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Columbus Day Resources

Columbus 3

Controversies surrounding an observance or “celebration” of Columbus Day have been around for a great many years worldwide. Here are just a few that my past classes of 7th graders have struggled with on Social Studies writing assignments and debates:

  • Should we observe the accomplishments of a man who might be considered one of the most successful failures in world history? After all, he never did reach the <East> Indies at all.
  • Should we celebrate the man responsible for bringing slavery and diseases that wiped out millions of Native Americans in North and South America?
  • Is it appropriate to lay the blame of genocide, accidental or otherwise, which undeniably followed as a part of the Columbian Exchange, on the shoulders of this one man? Was it instead the entire European society during the Age of Discovery that should bear this responsibility?

All that aside, there is little doubt that the effects of Columbus’ voyages helped change the world. 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. I’ve listed several more below.

Hopefully, you’ll find some of the resources below helpful in your teaching efforts. Unfortunately, many classroom resources perpetuate the old-school promotion of Columbus-the-Hero, but a few take the revisionist Columbus-the-Villain stance. Many would help set up a lively debate amongst your students, expand their world-view, and help them participate in a discussion about global citizenship.

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 can access LEARN360 for even more. Let me know if you’d like to learn how to login.

Many of these resources and more can be found on Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day blog, under The Best Online Resources About Christopher Columbus!

TED Talk: Mysterious workings of the adolescent brain

Ever wonder why adolescents are so impulsive and egocentric? Here's a great, thoughtful video on TED Talks about what adolescents may be thinking and why:

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore on TED Talks

TED Talk: What IS the Internet, Really?

Soon our District will be accessing the Internet over our new fiber optic connections! This is more than just an increase in speed and bandwidth, it is helping to connect each and every classroom to the global community. As we prepare for this, a question arises...

Just what exactly IS "the Internet," anyway...?

Here's one answer:

Andrew Blum, on TED Talks

Affixes Lesson for SMART Notebook

Here's a nice article by Danesa Jepsen on the SMART EdCompass blog on how she uses a SMART Board to help teach affixes to middle grades students. There's also a link to download the file she uses. To do so you must create a free account on SMART Exchange. This will open up a whole world of searchable and downloadable pre-made SMART Board activities and Senteo/Response question sets for you and your students!

SMART Tip: Shake to Group or Ungroup

Here's a great video two-fer from Mary McCullagh on the SMART EdCompass Blog.

  • Using the embedded browser in SMART Notebook 11 to easily pull image objects from web sites, and
  • Using the "shake" feature to group & ungroup objects in SMART Notebook 11. 

Read the full post on the SMART EdCompass Blog.
District #205 teachers: Let me know if I can assist you in learning how to use this or any other features of SMART hardware or software with students in your classroom!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teaching 9/11

For a comprehensive listing of great electronic resources to help you teach about the events of September 11, 2012, and Remembrance Day, I cannot recommend more highly Larry Ferlazzo’s often-updated post on The Best Sites To Help Teach About 9/11.

Emerging Ed Tech: 10 Emerging Technologies All Educators Should Know About (2012)

imageEmergingEdTech has posted a list and accompanying video describing their ideas about the 10 most important education technology tools that educators should know. Some are relevant more to higher ed, but many are becoming more widely used among K-12 educators as well. Below the video are some highlights – Read the whole article here.


  • The Flipped Classroom: Here’s the concept in a nutshell: Students explore and gather background knowledge using electronic resources in any environment and at any time, and the classroom becomes the place for guided practice, questions for teachers to assist with, and educator-guided project development. They access recorded instruction that they can replay any time they feel the need for a reminder. Students may sometimes communicate electronically with their teacher and frequently collaborate with others on school projects using Internet resources.
  • Tablets & iPads: Tablet-sized computing devices, like iPads and their many competitors, are all the rage for consuming electronic content. They are becoming increasingly more “computer-like” in their ability to create new content, but they have yet to make desktop/laptop computers obsolete… for now…
  • Smartphones: Increasingly available thanks to contract-based and no-contract wireless communication carriers, smartphones are currently the choice for more than 50% of all new & renewing cell phone subscribers, a number that seems to rise daily. This increases the potential for more children to have a pocket-sized computing device in classrooms on a daily basis. “Good” or “Bad” depends on both perspective and abilities to incorporate them into instructional activities effectively.
  • “Gamification”: Using game-style incentives in classrooms is nothing new. Online learning environments are bridging the gap between education and gaming, and many higher education institutions are beginning to recognize and embrace the concept effectively. Are you?
  • MOOCs: This is neither an insulting slur nor some indie-rock band from Seattle. Massive Open Online Courses – MOOCs, for short – may be the “distance learning” option of the future, opening the doors of learning to almost anyone with a computing device. Now some institutions are beginning to weigh the benefits of offering MOOCs for college credit!
  • 1:1 & BYOD: One-to-one computing environments make computing hardware available to every student in every classroom in the school, in the form of laptops, tablets, etc. Schools can do this through an increase in student fees, rent-to-own programs, or from the depths of their financial pockets. Some schools are doing this through policies supporting a concept known as Bring Your Own Device (hence “BYOD”), thanks to the above-mentioned prevalence of smartphones, tablets, and what-not.
  • Student Response Systems, etc.: Not ready for 1:1? Phones banned in your school? You laugh at BYOD because your class roster includes a lot of kids who might be described by some as “have-nots”? Student Response System “clickers” allow kids to interact and provide instant feedback about learning & understanding at any time. (Our District has a number of Senteo/Response Systems from SMART, and many competitors offer similar devices).  Many smartphone & tablet apps offer similar functionality as well.
  • Cloud Apps: First a little vocabulary study: “The Cloud” simply describes things stored “on the Internet,” so to speak. “Apps” is simply a new term for electronic services & computer programs. Rather than using a flash drive to transfer files from one computer to another, you can now store files using Internet-based services like Dropbox or Skydrive, and edit them almost anywhere with free services & programs like Evernote and Mirosoft Office Web Apps. And they’re all FREE!

Image from www.emergingedtech.com

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Science, Tech, Engineering & Math Infographic

EdTech Focus on K-12 magazine recently posted an infographic describing the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Education in our society and future workforce, with specific focus on environmental concerns. This would be a great addition to any teacher’s classroom walls or bulletin boards!


Election 2012 Resources from Larry Ferlazzo

imageWith the 2012 Presidential election looming ever closer, and the airwaves increasingly clogged with video and audio about one candidate or another, questions about the 2 main candidates are likely to arise. Here are Larry Ferlazzo’s suggestions to help you help kids find their own answers.

The Best Resources For Learning About The 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, from Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day

Larry Ferlazzo is my consistent “Go-To” blogger when teachers ask me for help finding resources to use in their classroom. He is an accomplished ELL teacher and published author, and his Websites of the Day blog is a clearinghouse for resources applicable to almost any classroom, regardless of subject or grade level.

Help Kids Begin with the End in Mind

One of the basic tenets of Standards-Aligned Classroom training, the second pillar of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and perhaps part of many other planning systems educators may use is “Begin With The End In Mind.” Do we teach that same work habit to students in our classroom? Here’s a nice article from Edutopia that will help you do just that:

Have Students Create Their End-of-Year Legacy Now, by Maurice Elias, on Edutopia

SMART Board Notebook Software for iPad

imageLast week, SMART released a Notebook software app for iPad. (Thanks for the Tweet, @tonyvincent!) Personally, I didn’t have a chance to download the $6.99 app from iTunes over the Labor Day weekend, but I intend to do so soon & will post my reactions to it ASAP.

(screenshot from iTunes App Store)

In the meantime, here’s a great video from James Hollis of Teachers Love SMART Boards. Keep in mind, this is just a first-time walk-through of the software, not an endorsement or review.

SMART Notebook App for iPad–James Hollis–http://teacherslovesmartboards.com

Please note: This software is designed to help teachers develop lessons that can used on either an iPad or a PC hooked up to a SMART Board, etc. It is not the kind of software that lets a teacher walk around the room and control a SMART Board with an iPad. SMART’s Slate (formerly known as the AirLiner wireless slate) is designed to do just that, but it will take a little practice. Hacking your school computer’s  with remote desktop applications is not recommended in our school district.

Read the latest post!

"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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