Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Top Ten Memories of 2008

I was tagged by Bill Gaskins of Blogging on the Bay for this meme and I loved the topic he chose so I’m copying the topic. (But these are not in order of any importance but rather how they came into my mind.)

1. Our 3 cruises in the Caribbean on the Carnival Miracle, Carnival Splendor, and the Holland America Statendam.
2. Being at the beach in Barbados and serendipitously meeting up with friends Steve and Karen who were on our cruise last year. We spent the whole day together having fun.
3. Our trip to Niagara Falls in August (one of the “gotta do before I die” places on my bucket list)
4. In April, attending the Council for Exceptional Children Annual Convention in Boston where I met some of my Plurk and Twitter friends as well as the Fonz (Henry Winkler).
5. Our three month trip out west in our Toyoto Prius and seeing the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake National Parks for the first time.
6. Visiting Presidential libraries (Reagan, Nixon, Clinton, Carter, Wilson)
7. Hiking through Lava tubes in Lava Beds National Monument.
8. Spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with my dad (he’s 89) and stepmom (she’s 84).
9. Spending time learning more about technology and education and making lots of new friends through blogs, Twitter, and Plurk.
10. Being a part of Passport to Success that will help special ed students transition into the world after high school.

Original image: 'sadness' Sheldon Wood

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Possible Interview Questions and My Answers

In Interview Questions for Schools going 1:1 from The Thinking Stick , Jeff shared questions he will use in an interview. Even though I’m not in the schools right now, I thought it would be good to practice answering these. First of all, it will help me focus on what I believe in about technology and education. It will also help me look to the future in what I would like to accomplish. I think this would be a good thing to reflect on at least once a year. Here are his questions and how I would like to answer them.

What computer platform are you most comfortable with, Mac, PC or Tablet?

I am most comfortable using a PC but very comfortable trying other platforms because I love to learn new things and compare them with what I already know.

Why do you want to work in a 1:1 school?

I think it would be awesome to work in a 1:1 school and wish all schools could be that way. This environment opens so many doors for our students and would enable me to teach according to their needs. We would be able to get away from the cookie cutter learning and it would allow the students to explore and create on a daily basis.

What particular challenges and learning opportunities excite you about working in a 1:1 school like ours?

I think the challenges would include finding out where each student is at this point in their learning and see what direction they should go in. l would want the students to learn how to create, connect and collaborate but first I would need to know what basics they know. I would not want to overwhelm them with my excitement and ideas.

Being able to look up information and resources on the web is an important skill. Explain how you go about looking up information on the web. How do you verify that the information you found is trustworthy and of use to you and your students?

I use Google to search for information but I also use my network on Plurk and Twitter to find new resources. I read many blogs by other educators to stay current on topics in education.
The source of the information is very important for finding trustworthy information. I look at government and education sites (.gov and .edu) for reliable information (of course that means “what the government wants you to believe and know). I would explain that wikis can be edited by users and may not actually be factual.
(Actually this question made me realize that I do not know enough about verifying whether information is trustworthy enough and will need to learn more about this so if you have suggestions on how I can do that, please share this with me).

Knowing we are a 1:1 school and that we expect students to use their laptops for learning. What is something that you would start learning and thinking about today to prepare you for this new learning environment?

First I would decide on the topic that I plan to teach and then think of which tools the students can use to learn this topic. I would look at blogging, wikis, Voicethread, podcasting, Skype, and other tools that might be available to them. I really like project based learning so I would want to present them with the project and ask them to input what tools would be needed. There may be some that they mention that other students want to learn how to use also.

At what times do you feel that it would be appropriate to have “lids down”? When do you believe a laptop is not a tool for appropriate use?

I think that it would be appropriate to have “lids down” if we are practicing listening skills. Other than that, I have no problems with backchanneling because I would be monitoring it. I think backchanneling would help many who are too shy to ask for help in front of the larger audience. Since I really believe in project based learning instead of traditional testing, cheating would not be a concern of mine.

How comfortable are you with using online resources in your classroom? What are some resources you have used in the past? How have your found these resources?

I would share my Wiki page ( that lists many different resources that I am comfortable with. I would also show personal examples of how I have used them. Most of these resources I have learned from my PLN which consists of reading other blogs, emails, plurk, and twitter.

Tell me how you think the future you are preparing children for will be different? We need to move away from traditional teaching and work with our students in the world they will be facing. This involves not just using the tools of today but also knowing how to find new tools and how to prepare to learn how to use them. We don’t know what will be out there in the future but we need to teach our students how to find them and how to learn how to use them when they do find them. We can do this by modeling this behavior in our own lives and including them in our own learning process.

How often do you/have you taken part in technology Professional Development opportunities?

I think being a teacher involves lifelong learning so I take part in this on a daily basis. Since I read blogs, plurk, and twitter daily, I am always learning something new in my profession. As for formal professional development, I attend Council for Exceptional Children state and national conventions. I have also attended seminars in Second Life where I have learned about new tools or new strategies. I attended the Educon 2.0 conference sessions and K12online conference virtually.

Do you read any professional magazines or educational blogs as part of your own PD?

If so, which ones? I use Google Reader and have a multitude of educational blogs that I follow and read. I also read Teaching Exceptional Children journals on a regular basis.

Do you have an RSS reader? If so, what do you subscribe to?

Yes, I use Google Reader.

Do you belong to any online communities?

Yes. I use Plurk, Twitter, Ning, Facebook, Plaxo, Google and Yahoo groups.

Do you have a Personal Learning Network? If so, can you tell me a story of how you learn from your network?

I first started reading blogs and found out about Twitter which I joined. From there, I heard about Educon 2.0 in Philadelphia which I attended virtually. The more I connected on twitter, the more resources and information I learned about. I also learned about Plurk from twitter which helped my PLN grow enormously. I learn new things on a daily basis from my PLN and can’t imagine teaching without them.

How often do others come to you for guidance in using technology? Do you offer guidance when not asked? If so, describe how you did this recently?

Many colleagues as well as personal friends come to me for help with technology. I sometimes offer suggestions on things that might help them but I hope I do it in a way that I don’t come off sounding like a “know it all.” Recently I was sharing about Voicethread and how effective it can be used in the classroom. This prompted the teacher to recommend that I come to her school for a full day teacher workshop to share some of my knowledge.

Original image: 'Introduction to monstering'

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Cost of College

In The Coming Storm from Practical Theory, Chris Lehmann talks about the high cost of college and says, “I don't know where this ends, honestly. I don't know why we've seen the kind of rise in college tuition that is so out of proportion to the rest of the economics of our country. I don't know how we continue to hold college out as the gatekeeper to a middle-class adulthood, and I don't know how it could be when a generation of kids start their life hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt -- and that's assuming that they can still get the loans.”

This may be a little bit of a rant and I’m sorry but this had me thinking about college and professional sports. I think sports are great for kids to learn competition and team work. I feel it is a great way to be fit and some students have great talent for it. So, don’t think that what I’m about to say is a slam against sports. My problem is the amount of money that college coaches and professional athletes get paid. It is totally absurd and I think that as long as people keep paying money to see these sports, the salaries will continue to be paid. If colleges took some of the money paid in coaches salaries and put it toward college expenses, college would be affordable to most students. Why in the world do we (as in society) pay such outrageous salaries to these people? Why do professional athletes need millions of dollars to play a sport? I really think our priorities are way out of whack! Why do we put more emphasis on sports than academics? Will these high paid athletes bail out the banks and the auto industry? Will they give some of their money to support colleges so the tuition can stay low? No.

Then on top of it all, our state finally instituted a state lottery to help fund education. That is a total crock! Apparently a lot of the money goes to colleges and then the colleges turn right around and increase tuition, so how does this money help our students? I keep hearing that the costs of an education is more, so they have to raise tuition. That would be reasonable until we find out that they are paying the football coach thousands of dollars years after they fired him as part of the contract agreement they had when they hired him. When will people say we have had enough?

I agree with Chris that I don’t know what the answer is, but it is time to say enough is enough. I will not buy any souvenirs for professional sports and I can’t tell you when I have gone to see any in person. If enough people stop supporting them, maybe we could bring them back in line. I just know that I’ve had enough and when sports becomes more important than an education, I draw the line.

Original image: 'College Football'

Friday, December 26, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/26/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

StateStats – “This tool shows you how popular a Google search query is in each U.S. state” - Watermark Tool is the free online watermarking software that allows you to quickly and easily protect your images with a visible watermark. With the many watermarking options available, you're able to personalize your images in a variety of ways - including text size, color, and position.

BrainyFlix – SAT vocab contest starting Jan. 1.

HelpKidzLearn – (Thanks to my friend Faye Valbert) “a web site full of free software and resources from Inclusive Technology.”

Piclits – “ is a creative writing site that matches beautiful images with carefully selected keywords in order to inspire you. The object is to put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture.

Original image: 'grandad and his tools' Luciano Bello

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Student Teaching Online Courses

(Merry Christmas everyone!)

In Online Student Teaching? Karl Fisch asks,“What do you think? Should teacher candidates be required to “student teach” an online course?”

This made me wonder if there is even a course for anyone on how to teach an online course. Maybe there is and if there is, would you let me know? I know of a few people who teach an online course but it seems like they have learned by trial and error. What strategies work? What doesn’t? I would like to know how to set one up and what you require? How are assignments given and graded? How are discussions handled? How does learning take place? As we move into more online opportunities, I think that teacher candidates need to take at least one class on this. As more and more people offer these online courses, there needs to be a way to learn from them so others don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.” I would love to hear what works and what doesn’t, so if you teach an online course, please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Original image: 'Classroom'
by: Iria Flavia Spanish Courses

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Making an Impact Locally

In Please don’t tell me about being Global….
JenW shares:
"tell me about the difference you are making on your own campus.
tell me about the people you work with at your own school.
tell me about the people you talk with F2F daily.
Tell me about the group you started on your campus with other teachers.
tell me about meeting for coffee with a fellow teacher one afternoon.
tell me about a chat you had on your own campus with your teachers.
tell me the what you are doing at your own location."

These statements really made me think about what I do locally and globally. I enjoying interacting with others all around the world on the internet but I am trying to take what I learn from my PLN and apply it to my community.
*I will be doing a workshop all day at a local school on Voicethread in January.
*I will be doing a presentation at a state conference on PBwiki in January.
*I will sharing about my PLN on the national level in Washington DC in January.
*In October I was able to share with other teachers ,during an event that I was involved in, some of the new things I have learned from my PLN.

I think the important thing that I’m trying to do is to learn and share with others on the global level but also make an impact at home. Many times I feel that way about our government too. It bothers me that we give so much to other countries (I’m not saying that we shouldn’t) but then I see so many in my own country who are homeless, hungry, and have no health insurance. Shouldn’t we be taking care of our own backyard before we start trying to fix someone else’s? I find it interesting that many churches in my area have summer mission trips where they go to other countries and help their poor communities. What a shock it was to me during my travels to other countries when I talk to some people who tell me they have mission trips to the US in order to help some of our poor communities. I want to help colleagues in my own community, but they don’t seem to be ready or want that help. Sometimes it feels frustrating that the only people who “get it” are the ones that I connect with elsewhere. But if everyone seems to connect with everyone else who is somewhere else, wouldn’t you think some of those “somewhere else” people would be in my own area? (I’m not sure I’m making any sense or if I’m rambling here, sorry). I can’t get administrators to let me talk to the teachers about new technology if the administrators don’t value this information. Many teachers feel already overwhelmed with what they have to do that they tend to patronize me when I share new stuff and then continue doing what they usually do. I don’t know what the answer is. What suggestions do you have?

Original image: 'Happy Sunrise Rainbow Girls' D. Sharon Pruitt

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Spoon Full of Sugar Helps the Presentation Go Down

In Blunt Force Presentation Trauma from CogDogBlog by Alan Levine aka CogDog, he gives great ideas for giving better presentations. These are important to me since I have to give 3 presentations in January. Here is what he suggests:

“Be human. I see so much this expectation of coming off as some sort of academic expert in white Gandalf garb. It lends people down the path of monotonic speaking, or worse, reading to the helpless, trapped, and bored stiff audience. Those are human people out there, and will connect better if you speak, walk, stand like one, not like some talking robot.
Involve me. This is harder, but if you are talking at me, I am just a victim of being hit over the with content. Poll people. Ask for hand raises. Call on people. I have been mesmerized watching natural speakers like
Cynthia Cologne stroll out into the audience, look people in the eye, roll them into her message. She speaks with quiet passion. Get away from the podium, the mouse, the pointer. Be with your audience, not in front of them.
Do not make the slides your crutch. Visuals are important, but often it seems like all of the effort is put into the pretty pictures and doily backgrounds… spend time charting your message. Don’t talk to the slides; even try with planning a talk where there are just rotating visuals in the background.”

I feel we are going back to the old fashioned way of presenting. Using power points and technology was a great way to entertain while giving speeches, presenters got lazy. As a participant, if you can read your presentation off of the slides, than I can do with a written report and be done with it. I want more though.

I think this is the way I teach also. I like to be more of a facilitator than a lecturer. I want to give some basic information and then let the participants explore and discuss. When I give my presentation on Voicethreads, I will give a demonstration on how easy it is. Then I want the participants to give brainstorm on how they could use it in the classroom. We will probably be in the computer lab, so they can actually explore the program. When I give my presentation on PBwiki, I will not have access to computers, but the participants can brainstorm in small groups, ways they can use this in their classroom. Sometimes you can get a great idea after hearing from others.

I believe that people need to “take away” something from the presentation but this doesn’t mean it must be a paper handout. It can be a seed of an idea, or a connection with others. It can be the web address for a resource to come back to when they return home. I hope when the time comes, the participants will feel my presentation was worth the time they have spent there.

Original image: 'A little sugar in my bowl'

Monday, December 22, 2008

Are you ready for an emergency?

For the past couple of weeks we have been cruising on the Caribbean and have been surprised at the number of medical emergencies that have occurred. Last week a poor lady fell in San Juan, Puerto Rico while taking pictures and dislocated her elbow. The ship’s infirmary relocated it (is that how you say that?) and the next day when we were in St. Thomas all day she went to the hospital for them to check it out. Then on Saturday as we waited for the ship to leave the port, the captain announced that we were delayed because of an emergency. We watched a poor lady taken off the ship on a stretcher and put into an ambulance. It looked like her leg was all bandaged up. Yesterday while we were on the beach at Half Moon Cay, we saw the Eurodam stop and then a helicopter arrived on the island. Apparently someone on that ship had a medical emergency too.

These events made my husband and I think about our lives and what we would do in an emergency. I like to be prepared as much as possible. Just like we have fire drills in school, each ship has a life boat drill before we can leave the port. Whenever we are in a port, my husband and I arrange for a spot where we will meet in case we are separated. I hope that I will never need to do this, but I’m ready in case it happens.

When I give a presentation, I try to play the “What if…” game and prepare for technology not to work or leaving my notes at home, just in case. I don’t want this to happen but if it does, at least I won’t panic. The same went for my lessons. What if I get observed or if the whole class doesn’t understand the concept? What if I don’t have enough worksheets? What if a student causes a disruption? What if the light fixture drops out of the ceiling (this really did happen in one of my classes)?

I have done things where I did not have an emergency back up plan and wished I did but at least now from my previous experiences, I can be better prepared. I have planned a wonderful field trip where I took my class hiking in the mountains. The night before my paraprofessional had a car wreck and I had to decide what to do next. Luckily I found a sub who was willing to go hiking with us or we would have had to cancel the trip. We also took the students to an amusement park and we “lost” a student because he failed to show up at the assigned time. It is events like this that make me realize that I need to be prepared for the “what ifs”.

What kinds of things do you do to prepare for an emergency?

Original image: 'Iberia' César González Palomo

Friday, December 19, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/19/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Creative Educator - “Creative Educator focuses on using technology tools to foster creativity and engage students in the curriculum…features articles on project-based learning, creativity, classroom management, and more from authors with a range of experience in educational technology…also features stories from educators about how they are using creativity tools in their classrooms…includes lesson plans that provide ideas, resources, and directions that make implementing technology even easier.”

TimeRime – “ is an online community that allows people to create, compare and upload information by creating timelines, and to view information uploaded by others. Information can be uploaded by individuals, as well as companies or (public) institutions.”

CareerForward - an article about Career Forward (“To help middle- and high-school students learn about the 21st-century jobs awaiting them and take charge of their own education, Microsoft's U.S. Partners in Learning program has unveiled a free online course called CareerForward.”)

Northpole.Com – “There are so many places to visit and things to do at Santa's Secret Village! We suggest teachers start by visiting Elf Pal Academy—where you'll find fun, yet educational, exercises for children from Pre-K to 3rd grade. Activities are grouped by categories and are intentionally not labeled with a grade guide index but instead are designed to encourage children to challenge themselves at their appropriate skill level.”

PhET: Free online physics, chemistry, biology, earth science and math simulations – “Fun, interactive, research-based simulations of physical phenomena from the PhET project at the University of Colorado.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Trusting is Not a Bad Thing

In TMI?? from Tech Thoughts By Jen by JenW, Jen worries if she has given too much information online. “Just recently I had read ( that Obama had to surrender his phone because of security issues (mostly with communication) but I wondered at the time if your cell phone also could become a beacon to your location as well??
I hope that I don’t sound paranoid, because I hope not to be……..but I am wondering if perhaps I have shared a bit too much of me and need to be a bit wiser in what I disclose.
I am proud of being asked to speak at conferences and enjoy sharing those opportunities with you……but I am wondering…….is it too much information??”

I struggle with this also and it worries my husband tremendously because I am on twitter and plurk so much. All of my plurk and twitter friends know that I am taking 3 cruises in a row on the Caribbean. Could someone figure out where I live and rob my house? My husband is always saying that I’m too trusting with people and maybe I am. But I also feel I am a professional and I want people to have my mailing address (which at least is a post office box and not a street address) and my email address. I’m sure if someone wants to track down my personal information they could but I think if they wanted this bad enough, they could do it without my help too. Part of me feels that if they need anything from my house bad enough to rob me, they need it more than I do. I don’t want to have to worry about people robbing me every minute. I know that there are bad people on the internet as well as in real life. I’m not going to ignore the fact that there are mean people out there.

We have taken precautions like notifying the police (which is only a block away from my house), alerted our neighbors, and set our burglar alarm. I also feel that I’m careful about choosing my plurk and twitter friends so I can’t imagine any of them robbing me. Again, I do not want to spend my whole life mistrusting every single person that I contact. Life is too short so I’m going to go on trusting (with common sense precautions). How about you? What do you do?

Original image: 'Trust' Jean-François Chénier

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The KNIGHT Scholarship opportunity

Recently I got an email from Holly Alonis about a great opportunity for students on the League website. If you have never been to this site, I think it is pretty great. Here is her message:

“The KNIGHT scholarship is a national scholarship competition where 3 students will receive $5,000 each for their writings or reflections on civic experiences in one of three categories: Persuasive Essay (building awareness and inviting action for change in your school, community or the world), Personal Narrative (experiences with service and volunteerism), or News Story (creating newspaper articles that reports acts of service and volunteerism by young people). The scholarship is open to high school seniors from all over the country, even students who are not part of a LEAGUE classroom can apply!

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation ( promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities. Since 1954, the foundation has given more than $300 million in journalism grants.

I hope you can inform your readers about this scholarship opportunity. Applications will be posted at beginning January 5th. Students must submit their applications before the March 6th deadline. I am available to answer any questions you may have and look forward to speaking with you about getting your readers involved. “

If you have any students who like to write and would like a chance to win some money for it, consider sharing this with them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 30 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42’s last challenge is “So how to wrap up a project like this? I think the only proper way is to turn it over to the participants. So today’s challenge, final one in the series, is for you to choose your own adventure.”

First of all, I want to thank Teach42 for doing this wonderful adventure. I have learned so much by doing this and at first was hesitant to give it a try. I didn’t want to commit myself to doing this because once I start something, I don’t want to miss a day or give it up so I’m proud of myself for finishing this. I have also learned so much by reading other people’s blogs who have participated in this challenge because I have learned so many new things that makes my blog better. I share the responsibility of doing daily blog prompts for digital scrapbooking friends with 2 other people and we take turns every 3 months. I know how much time it takes to do this and how pressured you feel to get it posted on time so again, thank you!

My last adventure is to do this: I am going to comment on blog posts where I disagree with the author. I will do it in a nice respectful way and share my opinion. I have always believed the idea that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” so if I disagree with the person, I tend to not say anything. The more I think about it, the more I realize that not agreeing with someone doesn’t mean that I’m being mean or hateful. That is part of the conversation that should go on. Sometimes I feel intimidated because someone will tell me that I may have missed the point that the author was trying to make. Yet, isn’t that what having a conversation is all about? Maybe the other person missed the point and not me. I reflected on my own posts and realized that I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me because they might convince me to change my position on something. If they can convince me, then maybe I need to change. In fact, I should have an open mind and be willing to change if it means something is better. When someone disagrees with me and then there is a debate, it really makes my post more interesting because I have stirred up a conversation. That also helps other people when they read my post which is why I started this blog in the first place. So, I plan to add more to conversations on blog posts that I read, not just the ones I agree with, but the ones I don’t agree with also.

Thank you to all of my readers who read this blog! You have helped me to continually grow and I hope that I have contributed to your life in some way also!

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 29 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 challenges us to think like a rock star.
“So today’s challenge is to give yourself the rock star treatment. The details are entirely up to you. Maybe you’ll direct message a few people on Twitter and ask them to take a look at a recent blog post of yours. Maybe you’ll add your blog to your email signature. Maybe you’ll give some friends a call and ask them to check out your blog. Maybe it’ll just be leaving a comment here and asking people to come visit it and leave a comment. Only you can know what kind of Rock Star you are, so do what feels right for you. Then take the time to share what being a Rock Star means to you.”

I have to admit that when I first started to blog I was a little embarrassed about self promotion. I guess I followed examples set by my Twitter and Plurk friends and saw that I enjoyed their self promotion. It helped me find lots of quality blogs to read which in turn led me to excellent resources. If my purpose of blogging is to share my knowledge and expertise, how else can I do this if I don’t self promote? So, I added my blogs to my email signature and I also printed up my own business cards with my blog address on it. I also mention it to other teachers I meet and invite them to stop by and read it. Now that I have been doing this, I feel more comfortable and I haven’t met anyone yet who minded when I did this (or at least no one has ever told me to my face!). I have received lots of emails and comments from others thanking me for informing them about my blog which makes me feel great. In this way, I feel as if I’m fulfilling my purpose which motivates me to keep blogging.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Friday, December 12, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/11/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Youth Voices – “Youth Voices is a meeting place where students and their teachers share, distribute, and discuss their inquiries and digital work online. It's a space where teachers nurture student-to-student conversations, collaborations, and civic actions that result from publishing and commenting on each others texts, images, audio and video.”

Dept. of Energy for Educators – “provide information on age-grade and subject matter resources for "energy" to help point students along the path of learning.”

Ancient Egyptian Math – an internet treasure hunt. You open a page to type in your answers and then print them off. Use the internet to find the answers.

Test Toob – “You’ve entered a world of video sharing, community networking and scientific fun for middle school and high school students. Here in a sophisticated Web 2.0 setting, young people from around the world showcase their experiments, get feedback on their scientific trials, and learn from each other. TestToob is a place exclusively developed to showcase experiments done by school-age scientists. It offers the most up-to-date tools, fosters wonder, and gives youth an opportunity for creative self-expression. Simply, it’s a place to learn, to grow and to have safe fun.”

Teachers Connecting – “A place for K-12 teachers to find other teachers for cross-classroom collaboration.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 28 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 challenges us to think about hyperlinking.
“If you think of blogging as a conversation, it is hyperlinks that allow us to connect the voices together. It is a means for citing information, recognizing original ideas, and giving credit where it’s due. It also allows us to make subtle recommendations for further reading and directs traffic between like minded individuals. Additionally, it provides a reference for the people being linked to, in order to see who has taken their material and spun off of it. There are thousands of plugins, widgets, and snippets of code that are designed to take embedded hyperlinks and add functionality. Some provide previews of the page being linked to, others recognize if it’s media and provide a means for consuming it, while others simple tally the links and aggregate them together.”

I realized how important this was when I started to read other people’s blogs. Usually people refer to an article that they had read and refer to it in their post. A lot of times, I want to look at the original article that they are commenting about but if there isn’t a hyperlink, I can’t find the article and I find it somewhat frustrating. I also want people to think some of the ideas are my own because then it would be like stealing. I try to be very conscientious about putting quotation marks around the words that I copy and use in my post. Many times I see this in other blogs but I want to know more than just the quote. I might want to know the background or the context in which they are using this so I need to see the original post. I also don’t want to copy the whole original article in my own post so by hyperlinking to the article, it helps readers decide what they want to see.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Do We Really Need Paper?

After reading this article, Get Off Paper, I realized how much I agree with this. What a magnificent idea! I love the idea of a presenter telling the school that paper is not allowed. I hope more and more administrators will join this trend.

I am going to do a presentation on PBwiki in January and was asked to have enough materials for 50 people. I know that I usually like to get handouts in some sessions so that I can look over it again when I get home. Or sometimes if I find the presenter boring, I just have to read the handout and I don’t really engage in the discussion. Then I get home and life gets in the way and sometimes I don’t ever look at these papers again.

Now I wondered what I could do that keeps people from having the same dilemma as I have experienced. What better way than to share a link with them to get all the information online? I really like not having all the papers to shuffle around and pack up when I have to leave. I also realize that many times these papers get put on the shelf to look at later, and I never look at them again. Or the links that the presenters give are on these papers, so I do not get to actually look at those links if I’ve lost or “filed” these papers. For my presentation, I plan to show the link to my pbwiki page “Create, Connect, Collaborate” and hope that people will visit this page and add their own information. I hope that they will be able to access the information as they need it instead of being force fed the information.

I think if teachers can access the information that they need when they need it, they will be more successful when trying new things. Having to shuffle papers and hunt for links to information can be frustrating when trying something new. Keep your fingers crossed that my presentation will be useful and motivating for some.

Original image: 'ASDA Notebook - Red Wiro Bound' Michael Randall

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 27 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 challenges us to collaborate with others.
“Collaborate with somebody or several people on a blog post or meme. Invite other people to share their thoughts on a topic of your choosing, create a meme for other people to participate in, or send a request for people to address a specific question on their blog. Details are up to you, the important part is that it’s collaborative in nature! And of course, be sure to share what you do in comments here.”

I really like this idea and will give it a try when we get home from our cruises. Now I’m trying to think of the question that I want to ask. I have participated in blog memes before but I tend to find them intimidating because I always worry that mine is not as good as someone else’s (I know I shouldn’t think that way but I can’t help it). So, I am going to send a request and write their responses in a blog post.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Monday, December 8, 2008

Avoid the Energy-suckers!

Lee writes in Now I Know The Way To San Jose!, “Our task is to seek those people out and avoid the energy -suckers!” This really stuck with me since she wrote about it and the more I thought about it, the more I felt like I had to write about it.

I recently ran for public office and did not win. It would have committed me to monthly meetings for four years, which I would have been fine with. Then my husband and I began to talk and he feels that I have a major problem with saying no to people. I admit that I sometimes impulsively say yes and then later regret agreeing to things. I have decided that from now on when I am asked to do something, I will not give any answer right away. I will take at least 48 hours to think the commitment through carefully and discuss it with others (mostly my husband) in case I am missing something I had not thought of.

As the holidays approach, it made me think more of all the opportunities people have to ask others to help them. There are so many charities out there and so many needy people that many teachers can’t resist helping. I think about the children who won’t have gifts or people who won’t have food and my friends who have had cancer and I want to help them all but I can’t. I suggest if you tend to get overloaded with this, that you pick out one or two charities to help this year and do different ones each year.

There are also tons of holiday parties to attend which can make you feel run down and overwhelmed as the holiday approaches. Holidays should be fun and you wonder why you want to run away and hide. I suggest that you agree to one or two parties and tell the others that you will try to attend next year if they have it again. You should not feel guilty for not being able to attend all the events people would like you to attend. Instead you should feel flattered that you have that many friends who want to be with you.

You may also be overwhelmed with holiday activities in your classroom. My students tended to get overstimulated with all the excitement near the holidays that I tried to keep it more low key. Many of my students enjoyed the calm stable environment next to all of the other activities around them. I’m not saying we need to be a Scrooge, but we need to remember our students and how they are feeling. I try to plan about one activity each week for December that deal with the holidays but otherwise I try to keep a routine. If we are feeling the energy being sucked out of us, I think this feeling is magnified for our students.

Next are the people who just have a negative attitude most of the time. This negative attitude is like a virus and can spread just with a word or a thought. I suggest that you stay away from these people. If you are like me, you feel obligated to say or do something to cheer these people up. You can give it a try but after you try and nothing helps, it is time to remove yourself from that situation. Nothing you can say or do will help them and it will do nothing but suck the energy out of you.

If you try to follow some of these suggestions, I think your holiday season will be more enjoyable and successful for you!

Original image: 'Extreme fatigue' Polo

Friday, December 5, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Free Poverty – “ allows everyone to contribute in donating water to people from all over the world who live in extreme poverty. By letting users locate places on the map, their accuracy will determine how many cups of water will be donated on their behalf. Therefore, FreePoverty aims to: - Provide clean drinking water to those in need, Make users realize that they can make a difference, Let users learn something about geography that they may have not known before.”

Virtual Frog Dissection – this was so cool! This was a great way to dissect a frog online.

Privacy Playground: The First Adventure of the Three CyberPigs – “The purpose of the game is to teach kids how to spot online marketing strategies, protect their personal information and avoid online predators. The accompanying Teacher's Guide explains how to play the game, gives background information on the issues of online marketing, spam and children's privacy and provides activities and handouts for classroom use.”

Letters to the Next President - Middle and high school students from across the country are using Google Docs to write about the issues and concerns they want our next president to address.

Kids on the Net – “Kids on the Net was one of the first websites on the internet to invite children to submit their writing. Now there are thousands of Kids on the Net writers - have a read! We want children all over the world to send us your writing - poems, stories, articles and reports, opinions, writing about yourselves - whether you write it at school, at home, in a library or club, or anywhere else.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 26 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach 42 challenges us to think about tagging.
“At it’s most basic level, a tag is a keyword that you create that serves as an identifier or link for the purposes of searching and/or filtering. By strategically tagging your posts, you provide visitors yet another way to filter through your entries without creating 100’s of categories. For example, while you may put a blog post in the Web 2.0 category, you might tag it with each individual tool and technology mentioned or referred to. Categories are generally higher level and more strategic, tags are typically used in a ‘the more the merrier’ type of approach. You’d never get criticized for using too many tags, unless you’re applying tags that have nothing to do with your post.”

When I first started blogging, I didn’t tag my posts. Then I started looking at other people’s blogs and realized that tagging helped me find their posts that I wanted to look at easier. So, I started to tag my posts with one or two words. Now thanks to Teach42, I realize that I need to use more tags than I have been. I also realize this when I want to find a specific post that I wrote about and if the tag is too general, I have to read through a lot of them just to find the one that I want. I will need to go back through some posts and edit their tags.

photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why Do We Give Grades?

In Beliefs about Grading, Pam Shoemaker talks about how we give grades to document progress. She attended a meeting where the facilitator discussed some common grading pitfalls according to the author of a book he read:
1. Avoid nonacademic factors (behavior, attendance, etc.)
2. Avoid penalizing for multiple attempts at mastery.
3. Avoid grading homework.
4. Avoid recording zeros for work not done
5. Avoid group grades. Cooperative learning helps students learn, but is not an indicator of proficiency.
Pam shared her feelings about these pitfalls and it made me think about them also so I’m going to share with you my feelings.

1. I agree that you cannot factor in nonacademic factors into a grade. Yet poor behavior and attendance will ultimately affect the grade anyway. If the student is not there for whatever reason, that student will not be able to master the skill. When you give an assessment, the student will be unable to answer questions if they missed the information due to suspension or absences. If you are comparing where this student stands next to his/her peers in the classroom, it would be unfair to give this student the same grade as someone who is in the classroom and acting appropriately.
2. I think you need to look at the reason for your assessment. If you are trying to compare where the student stands next to his/her peers, you will have to penalize for multiple attempts. The student who achieved the goal the first time should receive a higher grade than the one who needed multiple times to succeed. But if you are just testing the mastery of the skill, I do not think multiple attempts should matter. When we attempt the driving test to get a driver’s license, does it matter how many times it took to pass the test? Is the number of attempts shown anywhere on our record? No, not as long as we mastered the skill. I feel the same should be applied in the classroom.
3. I think homework should be graded. Again, what is the purpose of the homework? If it is just busywork, it not only shouldn’t be graded, but it shouldn’t be given. I believe homework is reinforcement of a skill that was taught in the classroom. The completed homework would be an assessment of the student’s ability to master that skill. Isn’t that what grades should be about?
4. I do not give zeros. If work is not done, it is considered incomplete and I work with the parents and the students to see that this work is completed. Zeros are not an option. It is too easy for a student to say, “Just give me a zero” and that is the end of that. How do we see that the student masters the skill then? Do we just move on and not give them the foundation for future skills?
5. I think group grades are important. In today’s society, people need to work together. If we do not teach this as a skill, how will our students learn this? They are not born with the knowledge on how to work as a team. We need to break the skills down into achievable steps (make a task analysis) and teach these steps. A grade will show whether the student has mastered the skill.

I really think we need to look at grading and determine why we need the grade and what does the grade show. This should determine how we determine the grade and what we use the results for. All of this is necessary for our students to be successful in the classroom as well as the real world.

Original image: 'Of all the possible answers, I had to write this.'

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 25 of 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger

Teach42 challenges us to think about images in our posts. “Do you generally use images in your blog posts? Or do you know of someone who you think does this pretty well on a regular basis? If so, share a link!”

I learned to use images in my blog posts when I realized that I liked to read posts that had pictures attached to them. If it was just all text, I found them boring. I also like to find pictures that help emphasize a point that I’m making. When I first started though, I just plopped a picture on my post. Then after reading about copyright laws I was horrified that I had been “stealing” pictures. Now I always use the creative commons pictures or my own pictures and I always add the credits to the picture. I think it really makes a difference or at least I find my own posts more interesting.
photo credit: Original image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sharing is a Powerful Tool

Will Richardson wrote a post titled “ The Less You Share, the Less Power You Have.” This title made me think about over the years, how much have I shared with others and how much I have gained from others.

I have worked in schools were educators keep their good “stuff” like lessons and strategies all to themselves because they don’t want anyone else using their “stuff.” They hoard all this like Midas and hope it will grow more success in their classrooms. Unfortunately I see these people get burned out or dissatisfied in the careers. I loved working in schools where I could go to the copy room and find other teachers willing to share their ideas. I was always peeking at what they were copying (they probably thought I was the “copyright police”) and then asking them how they planned to use it in the classroom. There was one science teacher (those of you who know Stephanie Taylor, she is an awesome teacher!) who taught advanced science and she was always willing to share her ideas with me. As we talked, she would help me think of ways to adapt the lesson to my special education students. You could tell she loved her subject and with all her knowledge about her subject area, it would have been a shame if she didn’t share it. My best science lessons were some of the ones I got from her. Unfortunately for our students (and me), she left our school when her husband’s job required them to move to France.

As I learn new things from my professional learning network, I want to share them with all my friends. I am a member of Plurk and Twitter, so I now have so many online friends willing to share their knowledge with me. This knowledge has opened up so many doors for me that it is hard for me to understand why other educators fear this so much. Yet sometimes I know I probably overwhelm my non-techie educator friends with all that I share. In my excitement, I tend to forget that everyone isn’t as excited about the same things as I am. I have decided to make a wiki (Create, Connect, Collaborate) with the things that excite me and then share the link to the wiki. As people are ready to look at some of the things that I like and recommend, it will all be in one place. Then they can also share their opinions and reflections there for others to see.

I think sharing is an important part of having a successful teaching career. We need to openly share our successful strategies and stories as well as openly receive these ideas. Sharing is a two way street and so we need to look at ways that we can do both. Those teachers who not technology savvy can find other ways to share their knowledge. It seems like with the wealth of information that educators have collectively, it would be amazing the things that we can do for students together.

Original image: 'Sharing' Ryan Roberts