Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don’t Give Up Hope

In Courageous Online But Still Cowardly Lion in my School from Blogush, Paul Bogush states,

“So why don’t I ask people in my school for help? Because right now I am on a different path. I have already been on their path. I have seen where it leads. I want to travel on a path less traveled, and I don’t know anyone who wishes to join me, or know anyone who has walked down it…My online “friends” and I share a common belief. A common vision. A common dream. Online people push me to travel further down my path. They warn me about the dangers ahead. They support me when I fall. But most importantly, they never, ever, tell me to turn back. They push, pull, and cheer me onward. The inspire me with their words, actions, and comments. They are the ones I want to be like. I have 100’s of online role models and consider myself very lucky to be in their company.”

When I read that, it made me sad to realize that I felt like that often too. Then I hoped that I was one of those online people that Paul talks about. And if I am one of those people, then there are people that feel this way too but they may be closer to me than just online. Maybe we just don’t know how to find each other. I realized this when I attended the local technology conference last week. When it first started four years ago, there were only 200 people attending. This year there were 1000 participants. It may be slow but the growth is there. Hopefully like the ripple in the water, it will continue to grow. If each one of these participants share and teach someone else, then the effects will be felt on a wider scale. Maybe next year, even more people will be able to attend.

At the conference, someone told me that they didn’t even feel like they were making a difference. At first I felt disheartened when I heard this. Then I realized it was up to me to give them hope, just like Paul talks about. We were sitting there face to face, not online and I had a chance to give someone the support that others have given me. I had to make sure this person understood that we are making a difference, little by little. Maybe we won’t see the results today or tomorrow or even next year. But somewhere down the road, we will have made an impact and we are changing the world. I see the effects I had on lives over twenty years ago when former students contact me and let me know how I made a difference in their lives. It is stories like this that gives me hope. It makes me realize that we have to keep pushing the people around us, not just our online friends who have the “common dreams” we do. We have to “push, pull, and cheer” the ones who don’t have the same dreams we do. Otherwise we become stagnant or possibly lose any ground that has been made in getting people to think differently. We can make a difference and we cannot give up hope. Eventually people around us will have the common vision and dream as us.

Original image: 'Maui Wowie!' http://www.flickr.com/photos/46042146@N00/618971656 by: Randy

Monday, June 29, 2009

Upstate Technology Conference 2009

The Upstate Technology Conference 2009 was a fantastic conference and one of my favorite events of the year. I love getting to meet with other people from around my state that I only see online but not in real life. On Wednesday night we went out to dinner at Wild Wings and got to enjoy a real life visit. You can see my pictures of the conference here: UTC2009 Pictures

On Thursday I was schedule to present The VoiceThread Venture at two different sessions. I was thrilled with the turn out for the session and the response to the presentation. I felt that at the end, many of them were really excited about trying this out in their classrooms. I tried to show examples of how it is used at different levels so that everyone could see how this tool could be adapted to any subject and at any level. You can see my presentation below:

Here is a summary of the sessions I attended and my comments about them:

It all started on Tuesday afternoon when I went to Hide and Seek 2.0 which was a preconference session. I learned about geocaching and now I’m really excited going geocaching on my own (with my hubby of course!)

On Wednesday after teaching my morning grad class, I went to the session Using Photostory3 with Audacity presented by Robert Burdette. I have never used Photostory so I was interested in seeing what it could do and how it could be used in the classroom. I am also interested in seeing how I can merge my Audacity sound files with it.

The next session was Can We Work Together? Using Collaborative Tools presented by Cathy Nelson Fran Bullington. I really liked this because I learned more about Google Apps and Google Docs. I have not used Google Docs and Forms but I can see how it can be very useful in class.

The last session for me that day was No Budget Broadcasting presented by Chris Patterson Sara Adkins. It was really exciting to see how this teacher had students produce a daily TV broadcast on a shoestring budget. I like the way certain segments could be prerecorded and then spliced together.

The next session I went to was Q&A with Chris Craft. He gave a great explanation of how he did certain things. He opened it up for people to answer questions and share ideas and concerns. I loved how this was an open session with no major focus so the audience could direct this to where they needed it to go.

The last session of the conference for me was Buying Tomorrow's Computer Today... CHEAPER! I liked this one because I learned the different features that I should be comparing when I buy another computer. I imagine I will be looking for a new computer within the next year and this helped me get a better idea of what my needs are and what features will be needed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/26/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (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!

Last Few Minutes of the Day – Larry Ferlazzo asks people to give suggestions for what they do if there is still time left in the class. I enjoyed reading the suggestions that people left.

Families Fighting Flu – “Families Fighting Flu is a non-profit, volunteer-based corporation established in 2004 that is made up of families and healthcare practitioners. Each family has experienced first-hand the death of a child due to the flu or has had a child experience severe medical complications from the flu. We are dedicated to educating people about the severity of influenza and the importance of vaccinating children against the flu every year. Through education and advocacy, we hope to improve the rates of childhood flu vaccinations and help reduce the number of childhood illnesses and deaths caused by the flu each year.”

PBS Teachers - is PBS' national web destination for high-quality preK-12 educational resources. Here you'll find classroom materials suitable for a wide range of subjects and grade levels. We provide thousands of lesson plans, teaching activities, on-demand video assets, and interactive games and simulations. These resources are correlated to state and national educational standards and are tied to PBS' award-winning on-air and online programming like NOVA, Nature, Cyberchase, Between the Lions and more.

Links to Web 2.0 Tools by Jennifer Hand

Outrageous Ooze – is it a liquid or a solid? A great experiment to do with kids

Original image: 'Tools' http://www.flickr.com/photos/10488545@N05/1596898776 by: Josep Mª Rosell

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Carnival of Education 6/24/09

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Steve Spangler’s Science Blog. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Successful Inclusion Classes Do Exist is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gone Treasure Hunting!

I attended a preconference session at the Upstate Technology Conference 2009 called Hide and Seek 2.0. I was going to learn how to use my GPS to go geocaching! I have heard so much about this on the internet and from many friends who do this. Of course, I didn’t want to sound ignorant, so I just nodded and smiled each time this was brought up. When I saw this on the preconference schedule, I just had to sign up. Now was my chance!

According to the Geocaching.com website, “Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.”

When I entered the room, I saw my friend Chris Craft waiting for the session to start. I find it interesting that I didn’t know anyone else in the room, except someone who didn’t even teach in the same district that I had taught. I have talked to Chris online and met him last year at this conference. It was nice being in a class with someone I knew so I can imagine how my students feel when they enter new situations.

We carpooled to different locations and were given a handout with specific coordinates to find the treasures. These coordinates were found on the Geocaching.com website. You can put in the zip code of the area or look at a Google map in the area you want to look and find different geocaches in that vicinity. We matched the coordinates on our GPS to the one on the handout. Then we had to look for the treasure. It was great to find the three geocaches that we looked for. Chris bought the geocaching.com app for his iphone and was able to log in that he found the cache.

I think this would be so much fun to do with students. It requires the students to use many different skills and still can be fun. Since it involves a lot of movement, I could see lower level students being more involved or even excelling in this activity. I think pairing up students at first would really help them as they learn how to do this. Eventually they could work individually if there are enough GPS units to go around. I would also recommend that the teacher finds the cache first before attempting to have students do this. This is important in case students get frustrated, the teacher can help guide and encourage them in order to be successful.

I think it would be fun to plant caches around the school campus and have students find them. Just like the TV show Amazing Race, the students could be given a clue to the general area of the next clue. The final location could be the cache and the first one to find it could pick their choice of prizes. As each one finds it, they could pick a prize and it would continue until the last one finds it. Everyone would get a prize.

I really think learning geocaching would be a successful activity for students. You can adapt the lessons according to their age levels or abilities. I also think it would be fun to see their faces light up when they find what they are looking for (I know the adults in this session were very excited when they were successful!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

20 Communication and Networking Tools for Teachers

Today our guest writer is Karen Schweitzer who has worked as an education writer for the last five years. Since 2005, she has been the About.com Guide to Business School. She also works as an editor/writer for several other prominent education sites, including Education-Portal.com, DiplomaGuide.com, and DegreeDirectory.org. Karen also writes about online college degrees for OnlineColleges.net. Since 2007, Karen has written eight non-fiction books for middle school children (all have been published except for the last two, which will be published later in the year.).

Communicating with parents, students, and other teachers doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming. There are many free tools and sites online that can help with communication and networking. Here are 20 tools to try today:

Engrade - This free suite of web-based tools was designed specifically for educators. Teachers can use Engrade to keep an online gradebook and an online attendance book. Engrade can also be used to send messages, post homework, and provide instant progress reports.

Edmodo - Edmodo is a free online communication tool for teachers and students. Teachers can privately assign homework, share files, and send alerts to students and parents.

EduSlide - This slide show tool was designed for teachers who want to create their own elearning resources. It can also be used to assign homework, share instructions for projects, and invite parents to special events.

SlideShare - Slideshare can be used to create public and private webinars and slide shows. This free tool works with PowerPoint and Microsoft Word.

WriteWith - This all-in-one tool can be used to chat, write online in groups, assign tasks, and much more.

NoteMesh - NoteMesh was created for students who want to collaborate with classmates, but it can also be used by teachers. The free service allows you to create a classroom wiki that can be updated by anyone in the group.

Keep and Share - This site offers free and secure group file sharing. Files that can be shared include documents, calendars, to-do lists, photos, and bookmarks.

Mikogo - Mikogo is a free screen-sharing tool that can be used to share your computer screen immediately with other people who are online.

Meebo - This free communication tool can be used with multiple instant messaging networks. Meebo works with AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, Google Talk, Gmail, MySpace IM, and Facebook Chat.

Pidgin - Similar to Meebo, Pidgin is a popular chat client that works with a variety of instant messaging services, including AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, Groupwise, Bonjour, ICQ, and Zephyr.

Phonevite - Phonevite can be used to send free reminders and alerts to other people and yourself. You simply decide who you want to contact and record a message. Phonevite takes care of the rest.

ooVoo - This free video calling service can be used to conduct a video chat with up to six people at one time. Perfect for teachers who want to communicate with colleagues or conduct parent teacher conferences online.

SpeakLike - This free web app makes it easier to communicate with people who do not speak your language. SpeakLike works like an instant messaging service and translates everything that's written from one language into another.

Google Apps Education Edition - Google's free suite of communication and collaboration apps for schools and universities makes it easy for educators to stay in touch and work together. You can collaborate in real time and share everything from files to calendars.

Twitter - Twitter has become everyone's favorite communication tool. Teachers have been using it to communicate with students, parents, and each other. It can also be used as a teaching tool in the classroom.

GroupTweet - This free app is for Twitter users who want to create a group and send messages privately between one another.

Remember the Milk - Remember the Milk is the perfect self-communication tool. This task-master helps you keep track of everything from your grocery list to your event calendar.

Classroom 2.0 - Classroom 2.0 is a social networking site for teachers who want to learn more about the web and the different ways technology can be used in the classroom. The site offers forums, webcasts, and live webinars.

TeachStrong.org - This online learning community for educators exists for teachers who want to network and learn how to integrate digital technology into the classroom.

Teachade - Designed specifically for educators, this social media networking site makes it easy to network and share resources with other teaching professionals. You can blog, chat, ask questions, and share files.

Original image: 'Communication' http://www.flickr.com/photos/44586678@N00/1459055735 by: Joan M. Mas

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bicycling and Teaching

After reading Lessons learned from bicycling revisited from Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson, I began to think about how his lessons applied to my teaching. I started to compare some of his lessons (in bold italics) to mine and this is what I came up with. If you get a chance, read all of his lessons and see how it compares to your life.

1. It's usually uphill and against the wind. (Murphy's Law of Bicycling).
That is also the law of teaching and that is why I became a special education teacher. I love the challenge of teaching students that others (and even themselves) feel is impossible.

2. Most big hills that look impossible are usually a series of small hills that are possible.
Even though graduation seems impossible to my students, I help them see that if they take the little steps, they will make progress and before they know it, achieving their goals is really possible.

3. It's better to shift to a lower gear than to stop altogether.
Sometimes I have to look for alternatives but that doesn’t mean I have to give up.

4. The five minutes putting air in your tires at the beginning of the day is time well spent.
Sometimes it is good to spend a little extra time working on students’ self esteem before tackling actual content. It pays off in the long run.

5. There will always be riders who are faster and slower.
That is why I need to look at each student’s individual needs instead of expecting everyone to move at the same pace all of the time.

6. Too often we quit because our spirit fails, not our legs or lungs.
I need to be a cheerleader for my students because sometimes, that is what it takes to help them move forward.

7. Too much padding between you and a bike seat is impossible.
I can’t always keep my students from having setbacks, but I can prepare them for learning how to bounce back.

8. You always feel the headwind, but rarely the tailwind.
My students always remember the struggles they have but when easier times come, they are worried about when the tough times return. They can’t seem to enjoy the easier times.

9. Most forms of travel involve some degree of discomfort. But keep moving anyway.
It is hard for my students to realize that everyone faces challenges when they are learning something new. It is the ones that don’t give up who actually achieve their goals.

Thanks Doug for letting me seeing my teaching in a different way. Comparing lists to my teaching always helps me put things in perspective and hopefully helps others reflect on their own teaching. I think reflection is so important for teachers to do in order to be effective and successful in their teaching.

Original image: 'http://flickrcc.bluemountains.net/www.flickr.com/photos/11276503@N00/1238510523' http://www.flickr.com/photos/11276503@N00/1238510523

Friday, June 19, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/19/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (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!

Eat that Frog – very motivational, short movie

Dragonfly – like Google Sketchup but it is online. “Dragonfly's intuitive design tools to rapidly create and furnish your floor plan, experimenting in real time with your ideas in 2D and 3D before making it real!”

Catch the Spelling – practice spelling and reviewing vocabulary

Construct A Word – you get to choose an ending and then it gives you letters to add to the ending to make words. It lets you know if there is a word or not. Then it gives you the list of words. It is good for students who are working on decoding.

National Geographic Atlas Jigsaw Puzzles – There are different ones to put together.

Original image: 'Ordnung' http://www.flickr.com/photos/79504817@N00/3161081439

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Don’t Be Rude

In the post “The Harm Caused By Witnessing Rudeness” at The Research Digest blog, they found that “Seeing one person be rude to another can stunt a person's creativity, impair their mental performance and make them less likely to be civil themselves.”

I don’t think many people realize this because they think, as long as the rudeness isn’t directed to me, I don’t have a problem. I believe that I need to show my students that rudeness not only affects the person they are rude to, but also others. One of the things I have always tried to do in my classroom is to make it a safe environment. My students were not allowed to be rude to me or to each other. There were no name calling or bullying tolerated at all.

One of the ways I tried to teach this was being respectful to my students. I greeted them at the door with a handshake (which is also an important job skill). In class I called them Miss (last name) or Mr. (last name). I think this raised up expectations in the classroom also. I felt like I was modeling respect by doing this also and also helped if there were students with the same first name. My students actually enjoyed this small act of respect that I gave them.

We talked a lot about rudeness and ways that people are rude. Many of my students didn’t realize that some of the things they did were rude because they felt others did it and no one had actually pointed this out to them. We also talked about how we might not see something one way but that others would perceive it differently and that we need to be aware of these perceptions. I notice this when some people are in a public place and are talking extremely loudly on their cell phones. This drives me crazy but the person on the phone never seems to notice other people.

After we talk about certain acts of rudeness, I don’t stop there. I ask the students to come up with a replacement behavior or alternative to the behavior. Just by recognizing the behavior is not enough. They need to know what else to do because sometimes rudeness can be a habit. Instead of making fun of their classmates, we practice encouraging them by applauding after a presentation, or giving them encouraging words when they are struggling. At first I need to prompt them to do this but eventually they do it on their own. This behavior actually improves peer relationships too.

We look at tone of voice and body language too. Sometimes when we are mad (at others or ourselves) we can be rude to others. Removing ourselves from a situation or explaining to others how we are feeling can sometimes help. I remember my daughter rolling her eyes when she didn’t like what I told her. I suggest to my students that they can still feel this way but it is better to turn away from the person before rolling their eyes! I don’t think many students even realize how their tone of voice and body language can come across as rude when they don’t mean it to be rude.

Learning self awareness is important. Our actions really do affect others and can cause negative effects if we are rude. We need to know what we are doing and why we are doing them in order to be successful in today’s society.

Original image: '010906postcoffee' http://www.flickr.com/photos/87957708@N00/94576415 by: Joe Loong

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Welcome to the Carnival of Education: The Hiking Edition

(I am new to this hosting bit so I hope you enjoy this adventure. If you see any mistakes, please contact me as soon as possible at successfulteaching (at) gmail (dot) com. Now let’s begin our hiking adventure!)

I gathered a group of people who were interested in having a grand adventure but I didn’t tell them where we were going. I told them that this week I was going to take them on a hiking trip where we will hike along different trails and see different things. They had to put on their most comfortable shoes and bring some food and drink in case they got hungry along the way. Along the way you can listen to many of the discussions that take place as we hike.

Nancy Flanagan presents It's an ADD, ADD, ADD, ADD World posted at Teacher in a Strange Land, saying, "Field trips! Gotta love 'em."

Before we started, I wanted everyone know some rules of thumb, like what to bring with you, what to wear, things that a PROFESSIONAL already knows. Wearing the right clothes and shoes can keep you from getting injured and it is important to bring water when you hike so you don’t get dehydrated. I always like to bring some food too (just in case I get “misplaced” – not lost!)

Here's a fun and motivating gesture to make at the beginning of the summer vacation. Siobhan Curious shares with us her professional development meme 2009 on classroom as microsm.

Mrs. D of Footsteps of Aristotle shares Things I do well: Getting excited about learning

teachin' presents I'm a Dreamer: Promise kept. posted at I'm a Dreamer, saying, "This is why I teach."

Mathew Needleman presents Copyright for Teachers: Persistent Myths posted at Open Court Resources.com Blog.

Miss Profe presents Spanish 1-8 Teaching Project posted at Pensamientos.

William Schimmel shares Talk of National Standards from No Cynics Allowed

Business Analysts are responsible for facilitating requirements analysis, requirements validation and business process improvement. Below are some qualities and traits of a good Requirements Lead and Business Process Improvement Facilitator that a Business Analyst should develop to be effective. Pierson Requirements Group shares Qualities of an Effective Business Analyst.

Victoria Westcott presents Gay Teachers Abroad: What's It Like to Teach in the UK as a Foreign Gay Teacher? posted at Teach in London.

As we began our hike, many of them were interested in the HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES of the trails. It is really interesting to see how many of these hiking trails have started and what historical sites they pass through.

Some were interested in the SCIENCE of the trails hoping to find flora and fauna along the way. I never really noticed how many animals are along the trail until I paid attention. I just prayed we didn’t come across a cranky snake! They also were thrilled about the HEALTH benefits that hiking can give you.

Pankaj gupta from Masters in nursing shares 5 Social Media Sites for Your Health.

Keep your appliances in one piece while little hands discover how electronics work with these hands on activities. Neighbor Nancy from Recession Depression Therapy shares Electronics Activities for the Young Mad Scientist.

Others wanted to know the MATH that was involved in making the trails. Math is important when figuring out mileage on long hikes. This helps to determine how much food and supplies you need on long trips. If you hike a long trail like the Appalachian Trail, this information is vital.

Pat from Successful Teaching shares about A Measurement Adventure she had (hey, that’s me!).

There were some who wanted to make sure that all of the signs and informational boards were written with correct spelling and grammar because LANGUAGE ARTS/ENGLISH was important. If a sign is not written correctly, it can really get a hiker lost. They took lots of pictures of the signs.
Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook presents Literacy Lava, Get It While It's HOT! posted at The Book Chook, saying, "This is my post about a free pdf called Literacy Lava. It's erupting with great tips for parents about reading, writing and creating with children."

Relax from The Wise Curve shares the ultimate way to keep the pen mightier than the sword with How to Improve Your Writing

Jeannie Anderson from The Writer in Me - Teaching, Writing, Living shares Week 1 for English 1102 on Blackboard

It was great to hear some of the discussions that different people were having. Some wanted to know the PEDAGOGY behind the makings of the trails and what kind of education we would get from hiking the trails. Some people feel it is important to know the philosophy and beliefs that form and sustain our trails.

Joanne Jacobs presents E-textbooks: Is it time to go digital? posted at Joanne Jacobs.

woodlassnyc presents Woof, woof! posted at Under Assault: Teaching in NYC.

Andrew Bernardin presents The Internet as a Hyper-Crossroads posted at The Evolving Mind.

Some felt that they were not physically fit and needed some SPECIAL EDUCATION in order to succeed. If necessary, special accommodations were made so that everyone was able to succeed in completing the hike.

Oldandrew from Scenes from the Battleground shares Charlie and the Inclusive Chocolate Factory.

Mary Ann Zehr presents Trend Watch: Response to Intervention and ELLs posted at Learning the Language.

Hopefully some people just wanted to hike to enjoy the beauty of the trail and to enjoy the ART along the way. There is so much beauty in nature if we only look for it. It was fun to see what different people liked to photograph.

Mister Teacher presents You're a superstar posted at Learn Me Good.

I was worried that I would also have to inform them of special etiquette and SOCIAL SKILLS that were expected on the trail. When I am heading uphill, I always like to yield the right away to downhill hikers who are moving faster. It also gives me a chance to catch my breath.

Super Saver told us his story about My Wealth Builder: We're Holding our Daughter Back for Kindergarten on My Wealth Builder

As we neared the end of our trail, some hikers decided that they wanted to know more and hopefully go on longer hikes and other locations. They wanted to know where to go for the FUTURE.

Randall James from Random Randy.com asks, “Just finished college and looking at what you can do with that aging email address?” Then read Before Your Graduation Party, 2009!

Dozens of top accredited colleges are now offering accelerated online degrees to help you earn a college degree at an accelerated pace. Joe Dale talks about Accelerated College Degrees Online on Accelerated Degrees.

As an LSE grad, I was inspired to write this piece because the new winner of the British Apprentice went there too..But what's so great about it? Sarah Ebner from School Gate - Times Online - WBLG shares What do JFK, Cherie Blair, Mick Jagger, Daniel Finkelstein and Yasmina Siadatan have in common? Yes, it's LSE....

If you want to know What to do when companies come looking for you, Khan from Higher Education and Career Blog shares how to Conquer the Campus Interview.

DetentionSlip.org shares Kanye West holds concert for improving students and says, “I guess it's a start, but is he really the best candidate to motivate our youth? Maybe.”

Sarah Scrafford presents Networking 101: Tips and Tools for Online Students posted at Rated Colleges.

ESN presents The Master List of Free Language Learning Resources posted at Universities and Colleges.

As a hiker, I feel it is important to give back to the trail society as a way to show appreciation for the trails that are already there. I encouraged people VOLUNTEER to help maintain the trail so they brought plastic bags to pick up the trash as we hiked.

Dave Greene in BaltoNorth shares Oxymoron squared! Mandatory volunteerism now optional in Baltimore County Public Schools.

When it was over, we arrived back at base camp, a little sweaty, a little tired, but hopefully a little happier from embarking on this adventure! I hope everyone enjoyed this trip as much as I did!

That concludes this edition. Folks interested in hosting a future edition of the C.O.E. should please let us know via this email address: owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of education using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Successful Inclusion Classes Do Exist!

Yesterday I used Skype to call Lisa Parisi and Christine Southard in Long Island, NY from my grad class here in SC. My class was learning about inclusion and I wanted them to talk about their class, how it is set up, how they work together, and what kind of projects do they do. It was so exciting to do this!

Luckily I only have 3 students because I couldn’t get my laptop hooked up with the big screen in the classroom and still have the camera and the microphone reach to the students. So I couldn’t set it up that way. Instead I put my laptop on a desk where all three of them could see the screen and put the camera on the three of them with me in the background. That seemed to work.

The call lasted about 30 minutes and my class seemed to be really impressed. They didn’t seem to have any questions about it at the time but maybe after they had time to process the information, we will discuss it this morning. Of course, I was impressed but I always am impressed when I talk to them and I love to hear about their class. I think the reason I’m impressed is because I never really believed that inclusion could work. I know I read about it in textbooks and articles but they always seemed like words on paper. I could not get my mind around any real life situation where it actually worked…until now. This, for me, is almost like finding out that Santa is real and that the Tooth Fairy lives close by!

Of course, I rush home to share this wonderful event with my husband and he is always good about keeping me grounded. Our conversation had me thinking and asking questions. Is this situation a one-of-a-kind situation or can it happen elsewhere? I have not heard of any situation elsewhere where inclusion is successful like this. Sure, I hear some teachers say, “I teach inclusion and it is…okay but….” This is the first time I have heard “We teach inclusion and it works!” Period. End of statement. My husband asked if these were just two exceptionally great teachers who happened to find out that they can work together well? I don’t know.

I think this is possible to do elsewhere if other classrooms use the same kind of set up. Of course, I see the main reason for success is that these teachers leave their egos at the door and work together to do what is in the best interest of their students. They continually work on communication with each other and collaborate on the lessons. Neither teacher says this is “my” classroom and instead they say it is “our” classroom. They even figured out a name for their class that incorporates both of their names (South Paris Collaborative) so the rest of the school gets the same message too. Christine mentioned that this was like a marriage of sorts and they sometimes disagreed with each other but that was okay. The main key seemed to be communication. Too many teachers let their egos get in the way and either clam up or go into “control” mode. That won’t work in an inclusion classroom.

If you know of another inclusion class is actually a success (without the “but”) please let me know. I am really interested.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cities of the Underworld ( A Video Review)

I recently viewed Cities of the Underworld: The Complete Season Three. (I am not being paid to review these videos.) It is on sale in the History Channel Store for $31.96.

The first DVD includes: City of Blood (London), Tunnels of Hell (Okinawa), Real Mafia Underground (Sicily), and Secret Sin City (Las Vegas).

The second DVD I watched included Tomb of the Lost Mummies, Gods of War, and Alcatraz Down Under.

The third DVD included Hitler’s Trenches, Barbarians’ Lair, and Land of Manson.

The fourth DVD included Gladiators: Blood Sport, Secrets of the Holy Land, and Under the Rock.
I started out with the City of Blood that talks about London. With their talks of orgies, I would not show these to students below high school level. In fact, the background music was so loud that it was extremely distracting and I had a hard time focusing on the content shared in the video. The visuals were wonderful and if you can get past the background noise to hear what the speaker is saying, it was very interesting. I just felt it took a lot of energy to pay attention to this. The next video I watched was much better. The music was not overwhelming and I actually could hear the person talking. I was relieved to know that the overwhelming music was not on every video.

I did like the information that these videos gave and I think it would hold the interest of older students. It was very fast paced and moved from one scene to another. Of course I enjoyed the videos where the music didn’t drown out the speaker. The wide variety of topics is also great because you could use this when teaching about different periods of time and events. Each topic is also broken down into smaller parts so you could even have the class watch certain segments if you don’t want to watch the whole thing. I think this would be a good addition to a school library as long as the teacher previewed the stories first to make sure it is appropriate for the students in the class.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Future Carnival of Education Host

I'm hosting the Carnival of Education for the first time next week on June 17,2009. The Carnival of Education is "Interesting and informative posts from around the EduSphere -- and a few from the Larger 'Sphere."

Please consider submitting articles for this! The deadline is Tuesday at 5pm eastern time. I'm really excited about this but also anxious that no one will send me anything. You can submit an article by using this Carnival of Education Submit an Article Form.

Those who would like to HOST an edition of the Carnival of Education should contact the C.O.E.'s administrator: owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net.

Original image: 'wavy gravy' http://www.flickr.com/photos/80645507@N00/445777002

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/12/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (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!

The Hero Factory – make your own super hero cartoon

Learn to Be Healthy – “LearntobeHealthy.org is an online health science learning site designed to help educators and parents communicate important health concepts to students. The site contains comprehensive lesson plans, interactive games and activities, webquests and more. The goal of the site is to inspire students – and their families – to make healthy choices that will last a lifetime.”

25 Tools: A Toolbox for Learning Professionals 2009 - this is a slideshow sharing 25 tools and most are free.

Diffen – “Diffen is a free collection of comparisons that people all over the world help write and maintain.”

Planet Science – “Free & fun Science resources for children, young people, teachers and parents.”

Original image: 'Tools' http://www.flickr.com/photos/10488545@N05/1596898776 by: Josep Mª Rosell

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Carnival of Education 6/10/09

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Scheiss Weekly. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. There are lots of great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Making Wise Decisions About Our Professional Development

In Special Education and ARRA Funding from EdTech Solutions - Teaching Every Student by Karen Janowski, she states, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to wisely invest in "high-quality" assistive technology and the professional development necessary to ensure effective integration and implementation due to the ARRA funding for special education.”

Another wonderful informational piece is The Council for Exceptional Children’s Questions & Answers: How the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Impacts Special Education and Early Intervention, It says that “The U.S. Department of Education has emphasized, however, that ARRA funds should be used for investments that can be sustained after ARRA funding expires, such as: Focused professional development…”

This reminds me of that old saying about Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. We need to make sure that we use this money wisely and that what we do with this one time money gives us a chance to grow after it is gone. We don’t need to throw our money away on things that will be obsolete before the year is out.

By focusing on professional development, we can help teachers learn to grow their own personal learning networks. In this way, the learning won’t end when the money stops. There are so many wonderful opportunities out there that actually don’t cost much or is free. Too many times we have become snobs about professional development and think that if we don’t pay a fortune for it, it can’t be worth anything. This past year I have attended many virtual seminars, live webcasts, attended conferences virtually and learned probably more than if I pay thousands of dollars to attend one thing. I hope school districts will wake up and encourage teachers to take advantage of these great opportunities.

Too many times I have gone to professional development that either didn’t apply to my subject area or was a waste of my time. I would like to see a day where teachers can be broken up into groups and attend a session that was really meaningful to them and where they can take the information and actually apply it to their classroom. There are so many recorded sessions that can be shown to the group and more are happening every day. For example, there is the K-12 Online Conference where all the sessions were recorded. Each session could be shown in different rooms and the teachers could choose which one would apply to them. Here is a keynote address that I recently heard live but it was recorded: Ustream from the 2009 Summer Faculty Institute at the University of Delaware. Keynote speaker: Alec Couros.

I have been lucky enough to develop a personal learning network where I can find out about these opportunities. I haven’t had to spend any extra money but it does take time. It takes time to develop my network and also teachers will need time to take advantage of the opportunities out there. All I have needed was my computer and an internet connection. Teachers could be given the choice of seeing these during school or on their own time, whichever is best for them. I really feel that once they start seeing these things, they will be as inspired and motivated as I am. Then teachers can take their knowledge and apply it to their classrooms.

Once districts and teachers can see how easy and relevant it is to develop a personal learning network which will help them get relevant professional development, it will get easier for many to find other opportunities. I believe that once the money stops, the learning will not. It won’t stop for the teachers and it won’t stop for the students. It is like planting a garden, and it will continue to grow.

I believe that we need to focus on professional development for teachers. Teachers need to speak out about their needs instead of waiting for someone to tell them what they need and then complain later that it isn’t what they need. What kind of professional development do you need? Do you have input in your district about this? If so, how do you do it? Do they listen? How can teachers get their districts to listen? Please share your ideas so that maybe we can make a difference in what happens with this funding.

Original image: 'Money!' http://www.flickr.com/photos/37108241@N00/61056391 by: Tracy O

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Measurement Adventure

Let me start with the bottom line: We need to teach our students measurement! Yes, the metric system would be easier but right now, we don’t use the metric system so don’t ignore what we do use. Teach it! No, don’t just teach it. Teach it and have students apply their knowledge and use it. I remember teaching a unit of it and that was it. Then we never looked at measurement again. Like a foreign language, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Please, I beg you, teach it and have students use it every day.

Okay, now to explain my desperate plea. The other day I bought chains to hang my hanging plants from hooks in my porch. I found white plastic chains that were 61 cents per foot. I needed six chains and each chain needed to be 18 inches. Simple, right? Wrong! The young man that came to help me looked at me blankly when I said 18 inches. He looked at the measurement tape on the floor and said, “Hmmm, it doesn’t have 18 inches here.” I finally had to tell him that it was a foot and a half and showed him where it was on the tape. There was 17 links in the first chain and I suggested that we could count the links for the other chains so they could be the same size. He insisted that it was easier for him to measure it so away he went “measuring.” The next chain was 15 links and I told him that it wouldn’t work. So, then he decided that he better count the links. Okay, now we finally have six chains that were 17 links each. He could not figure out how to determine the price for the total. I had to tell him that the 6 chains equaled 9 feet in length and all he had to do was multiply 9 feet by 61 cents. He was very impressed with my skills! (Skills? I thought it was basic math!)

I really believe that you can incorporate math word problems in any subject area that you teach. Use them as bonuses on quizzes or tests. Use them as bell ringers when they arrive in your class. It involves reading so that should cover English and Language Arts. The math aspect is obvious. For Social Studies, use measurement with geography; figure out the heights of famous people in inches, figure out the cost of something bought during a certain time period, etc. For Science, use measurements with lab work. Measure a text book or some kind of object every day!

I worry about our students when they can’t figure out how to give change or to use simple measurements in life. They don’t realize these are important skills and I’m not sure that teachers are instilling this in their minds. All we seem to do is recognize it as a standard that we have to teach and then we teach the unit as if it is a stand-alone object. Once taught, we move on to something else and never look back. We need to show our students that basic skills are important and necessary in our everyday lives in order to be successful.

Here are some interesting sites I found to teach measurement:
Teachnology: Measurement Themes
Illuminations: Measurement
Math Investigations

Original image: 'Tape Measure' http://www.flickr.com/photos/36045027@N00/2327889692 by: Darren Hester

Monday, June 8, 2009

Podcast #6: Traveling News and Summer Ideas

Subscribe Free
Add to my Page

Show Notes:

1. Music: The music for this podcast is the song Every Child’s a Star by Danny O’Flaherty from his Heroes CD. You can find out more about him at his website: http://www.dannyoflaherty.com/. He is one of my favorite singers so check it out!

2. Featured posts that I have written lately in my Successful Teaching Blog:
· Summer Refreshment
· Be A Tour Guide
· Am I Passionate About My Teaching?

3. Links to Websites
· Plurk
· Digital Scrapbook Place
· Twitter
· Mad Scientist Party Pete’s Powerpoint Station
· FREE Presentations in PowerPoint format & Free Interactive Activities for Kids
· Mad Libs
· Interactives: US History Map
· Questionaut

Friday, June 5, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom

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!

Project Spectrum Manual of Ideas for Teachers and ParentsProject spectrum was created to give people with autism the opportunity to express their creativity and develop a life skill using Google SketchUp 3D modeling software.

Math Arcade – fun math games for grades 1-8

Curriki – “an online environment created to support the development and free distribution of world-class educational materials to anyone who needs them. Our name is a play on the combination of 'curriculum' and 'wiki' which is the technology we're using to make education universally accessible.”

Funnel Brain – “is an academic question and answer site that provides an environment for collaborative online learning. Students work in teams to create review questions and answers, paired with video explanations, for academic subjects. Users have access to wiki-style content creation tools, as well as a learning management application known as the "Funnel" that tracks and monitors learning progress and focuses the student's attention on a particular question at a particular time with a spaced repetition algorithm.”

Novel Games – games for the whole family

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Carnival of Education 6/4/09

The Carnival of Education (Summer Blockbusters) is up on the midway at Learn Me Good. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article Why Bother Trying? on is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Professional Development Meme 2009

I saw this post on Clif Mim’s blog Clif Notes on Education and Technology labeled: Professional Development Meme 2009 and thought it would be great to put my plans in writing, which might help me actually achieve what I hope to do.


Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2009 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules

Pick 1-3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/07/09).
Post the above directions along with your 1-3 goals on your blog.
Title your post Professional Development Meme 2009 and link back/trackback to http://clifmims.com/blog/archives/2447.
Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme09.
Tag 5-8 others to participate in the meme.
Achieve your goals and "develop professionally."
Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

My Goals

1. Record and publish at least 3 podcasts.
2. Update my wiki with new resources (to be used in the 2 grad classes that I'm teaching this summer)
3. Present at the Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, SC

I Tag…

Anyone who is interesting in putting down in writing what they hope to accomplish this summer.

Original image: 'Close up of The Thinker' http://www.flickr.com/photos/29241010@N00/32010732 by: Todd Martin

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Can’t Hear You!

In Pump up the Volume from Learn Me Good by Mister Teacher, he states,

“I have a strict rule in my class that when someone works a problem in front of the class, they are not allowed to just write and DO the problem. They have to explain the steps verbally as they go. In some cases, I have to stop a kid midway through their first step and say, "We can't hear you." Usually, they pause for a heartbeat, then start over AT EXACTLY THE SAME VOLUME LEVEL. So I repeat, "We can't hear you. Please speak louder."”

When I was in school, I was very shy and unsure of myself. Classes where a teacher insisted that I speak in front of the class would make me break out in hives. In fact, it was probably the class that I hated the most. My fear of talking in class actually made focusing on the content almost impossible. I was probably the least popular student in the whole class and even experienced some bullying (because they usually attack the weakest student). I still can feel that same feelings just thinking about those situations. I knew that when I became a teacher, this was one of the things that I would not inflict on my students.

Maybe the student doesn’t talk loudly because of fear. They are afraid they might have the answer wrong and previously, they were ridiculed by the teacher for doing it wrong. Maybe they have been laughed at by classmates when they have gotten the wrong answer. Maybe they really don’t understand this concept and by making them talk about it in front of everyone just makes them feel bad. Sometimes this fear is so real and so big, that they would rather fail then to get up in class to do this. Unless a student trusts the teacher and the classroom, this fear is really hard to overcome.

I would allow students who want to work out a problem in front of the class to come up and do this. There are always some students who really like the attention and don’t mind doing this. This helps the others see a peer working out the problem and going through the thought processes out loud. I could still correct any mistakes as they happen and those students who make the same mistakes can see it from their seats.

If I call on students who don’t feel comfortable working it out in front of the class, I would give them the option of explaining to me at their seats how they worked it out. This could be done at a later time or I could ask the students to watch and help the student at the front of the class while I go around and ask individuals to tell me their process. Having a choice really alleviates their fear and lets them concentrate on the concepts.

My main reason for wanting them to explain the steps would be to check for understanding. Maybe if I was teaching a speech or drama class, talking in front of the group would be important but I need to look at the reasoning behind my activities. I’m afraid that by insisting a student speak louder only makes their brains shut down rather than encouraging them to try harder. Eventually by encouraging the students and building trust, they may eventually volunteer to work out a problem in front of the class. I would continue to ask them to come to the front of the class but if they turn me down, I would offer them other options to let them show me they understand. Maybe one day they will surprise me and say yes the next time I ask them.

I think eventually these students will feel successful when they can solve a problem on their own. Whether they show this by explaining it to the whole class or just to me, doesn’t really matter. Their success is what is important to me.

Original image: 'What did you say???' http://www.flickr.com/photos/66164549@N00/1905410893 by: Keven Law

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stealing Lincoln’s Body

I just watched an awesome video from the History Channel called Stealing Lincoln’s Body. (I am not being paid to write this review.) I think it would be great to use in the middle school and high school classroom because it would really hold the attention of the students. It told a story that most people don't know about or talk about and you definitely don't find this information in the textbooks that I have used. The information was well presented and broken up into segments. The video lasts for 94 minutes so it should be broken up into two parts. I would break it up to having the first part include the assassination, the embalming and the funeral. The second part would include the attempts to steal the body and all the times the body was moved.
I actually learned so much from watching this because I had not been aware of a lot of the information given in the video. My husband and I recently visited Lincoln’s Presidential Library and Museum where I first found out that there was an attempt to steal his body. I was so glad to see this video after that because I had so many questions that this answered.

This video is on sale now for $15.98 and you can see the details here. I would highly recommend that you buy this for your classroom or school library.