Friday, July 30, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/30/10

tools2 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!

NRich –collection of free math posters.

The Book Seer – book recommendation engine.

School Clip Art – resource for locating school safe clip art.

Project Feeder Watch – “Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers periodically count the birds they see at their feeders from November through early April and send their counts to Project FeederWatch. FeederWatch data help scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.”

Tin Eye – Reverse image search;

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 29, 2010


SONIA_SOTOMAYOR I recently read the book SONIA SOTOMAYOR:  A JUDGE GROWS IN THE BRONX   LA JUEZ QUE CRECIO EN EL BRONX By Jonah Winter • illustrated by Edel Rodriguez which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

I would definitely give this book 5 out of 5. The story was fascinating and even though it was a children’s book, I was interested in the story too. I really like how there was a Spanish translation to go along with the English words so students who are either English or Spanish speaking can read it. It would be a great story to use when talking about topics such as differences, cultural differences, hard work, perseverance, history, motivation, education and real life. I especially like this because Sonia Sotomayor is a great role model for girls of all ages as well as those dealing with cultural diversity. The story is powerful and heartwarming for all students male or female. As an added plus, the illustrations are wonderful also. Since there really isn’t that much written for students about Judge Sotomayor, this book is a great introduction into her life. I highly recommend it to use in a classroom on the elementary level or even middle school level special education classes.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Digital Suitcase

In Six Items in Your Digital Suitcase: Opinion,

Tim challenges,

“Could you cut yourself down to just six essential websites for an entire week?...Along those same lines, could you limit yourself to only two electronic gadgets for an entire month?”

Since I am teaching two graduate classes, I think this is a great question. When I am sharing information like this with people, I think it is really important that I don’t overwhelm them. I think by limiting the information to a list like this, it might make it more palatable to those who are just dipping their toes in the water.

My essential websites would be:

1. Plurk: I have so many online friends through plurk that I feel like I know them in real life. They are my support system and buddies who I can share my good times or bad times. If I ever need help, I know that my plurk buddies are there for me.

2. Twitter: This is the first place I started in order to build my PLN and there are many of my friends who have not moved to plurk so I stay in touch with them through twitter.

3. Ravelry: is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers

4. IGoogle: my news aggregator

5. Google Reader: my blog aggregator so I can keep up with updates on all the blogs that I subscribe to.

6. Facebook: I feel connected with many family and friends and this seems easier for me than just email. Plus, I feel like I am in a conversation rather than just letter writing.

This was easy for me because all of these are my homepage tabs when I open up my browser. These are the main pages for me that I check on a daily basis if not hourly at times. These pages alone carry all the information that I think I need and I don’t feel overwhelmed with information overload.

The two gadgets would be:

1. My new Droid Incredible cell phone which is truly incredible. I think it does everything except cook me dinner and wash dishes!

2. My laptop that I use for blogging and email and looking at all of the essential websites listed above.

So, please join in the conversation. What are your six and two? You can either leave a comment here or write your own post. If you write your own post, please leave the link in a comment here so I can read it.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'James, I think your cover's blown!' by: Ludovic Bertron

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Amateur Radio in the Classroom

Ham Radio My husband and I recently got our amateur radio licenses in June and it has opened up a whole new world for us. We joined ARRL which is a national association for amateur radio and our local Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Society. Then I began to wonder how amateur radio could be used in the classroom. There is no age limit for young or old to get their license but you do have to pass a test. There are three classes of licenses: technician, general, and extra. In the past, a person had to pass Morse code also in addition to the written test but now you no longer need to do that. If I used Amateur Radio in the classroom, here are ways that I would use it.

I learn new vocabulary every day and a personal dictionary would be great for students to create. It can be done on an individual basis or can be done as a class. It seems like every day I learn a new vocabulary word to add to my own list.

With Amateur Radio, there is so much science involved that many lessons can be designed for the classroom. Physics on all different levels can be taught to the students. When I was in elementary school, I remember our class building a radio and it was so much fun! Students can learn so much about electricity and electronics using a radio and it would show the students that learning this information can apply to real life.

Along with the science, there are many formulas and math word problems that lend themselves to the world of amateur radio. It is kind of fun to see how frequencies and wavelengths are used in the formulas to find needed information.

Social Studies can also be taught using amateur radios. The history of communication would be fun to explore. Also geography is covered as students connect with people from around the world. Current events can be learned through communication with others.

Emergency preparedness is taught though the use of the amateur radio. Students can learn and practice procedures used in case a disastrous event occurs. This would really show the relevance of all the learning that is taking place. Once a year, the local amateur radio club holds a field day. According to the ARRL website,

“ARRL Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada.  Each year over 35,000 amateurs gather with their clubs, friends or simply by themselves to operate.

ARRL Field Day is not a fully adjudicated contest, which explains much of its popularity.  It is a time where many aspects of Amateur Radio come together to highlight our many roles. While some will treat it as a contest, most groups use the opportunity to practice their emergency response capabilities.  It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to local elected community leaders, key individuals with the organizations that Amateur Radio might serve in an emergency, as well as the general public. For many clubs, ARRL Field Day is one of the highlights of their annual calendar.”

Blogs can be developed to talk about the different learning that takes place. This not only encourages reading and writing but also connecting with others about amateur radios.

Computer Technology is involved when students find out that they can use Echolink as a way of connecting with other amateur radio stations. Some radios even involve using GPS capabilities for locating different ham operators/stations.

I found this article that gave some great suggestions: Radios in the Classroom: Curriculum Integration and Communication Skills. ERIC Digest.

If you have any interest in radio or communication, you might consider checking into amateur radios and eventually involving your class in this. Many ham operators started at a very young age and there was even Boy Scouts at our local field day. I wrote about field day in my post Bridging Generations if you want to read more about that.

Are you a ham operator? If so, please let me know your call sign and location. Maybe sometime we will cross paths. I am KB4HKR and my husband is KB4DON. If you involve your class in using amateur radios, please share how you do this. Thanks for reading!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Photo: Ham Radio by Pat Hensley

Monday, July 26, 2010

Is Memorization Important?

brain After reading The "old way", the "new way" and the ethics of bar trivia from Stop Trying to Inspire Me by Tom, he had me thinking about how I felt toward memorization.

He states,

“Katie's comment about moving on from stopping cheating to teaching kids how to access facts, etc. is one that I've heard quite often from people both in and out of education. So much focus nowadays is on memorizing what's necessary for standardized tests that kids actually don't learn any real skills, such as problem solving or critical thinking. And I agree for the most part: the high-stakes testing focus has put so much focus on what the right answer is that examining the question or appreciating the process by which you find the answer isn't as important.

However, to go completely in the other direction and say that memorizing anything isn't necessary is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Because I don't know about you, but I find that the memorization and retention of particular facts, processes, procedures, functions, etc. are vital in the real world and not just in bar trivia or at the DMV [to which I say, you'd better have that stuff memorized at the DMV. I don't want you looking at your iPhone at a stop sign to figure out what that stop sign means]. When you learn anything, you very often commit the most basic parts of it to memory mainly because what comes next uses those basic parts or assumes you know them.”

I think that schools have put way too much emphasis on memorizing certain facts and information and not enough about others. I feel that memorizing things are as important for exercising the brain as much as physical activity is important for exercising the body. Yet for both exercises, we want to do it in the most efficient and effective way so that we can reap benefits from this. Also, some exercises may be so boring and useless that I will give up before I ever see any benefits.

I think students do need to memorize certain things in order to function successfully on a daily basis. Personal information (name, address, date of birth, phone number) should be memorized at an early age. There are many things that we do on a daily basis that we have memorized over time. I think basic math facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division should be memorized. Sure, you can use a calculator but memorizing these facts is more efficient than the time it takes to take out a calculator and input the numbers to find your answer. I know I memorized a lot of vocabulary words when I was learning a new language but unfortunately when I didn’t get to practice them or use them, I quickly forgot about them.

There are some facts that I found useless knowing and when I hadn’t needed this information, I have forgotten them. That makes me feel that it was a waste of time even learning the information. For instance, I had a teacher who made us memorize the Presidents in order. Now I can honestly tell you that I have never needed to come up with that information in order to function in daily life (I’m not talking trivia contests). It seems like we spent forever learning this information and it makes me wonder how much time was lost when I could have been learning something valuable. I have never needed to know the geological timeline for everyday life but I remember spending a week learning about it and being tested on the order and dates. I’m not saying this information hasn’t come in handy when I’ve needed it but knowing how to find the information was more important than just memorizing the information.

On my own, I felt it benefited me to learn the dates of different events in American history because when I learn something new in history, I can relate it to the dates that I know to give it a place of reference in my mind. No one had me memorize these dates (or if they did, I don’t remember) but I found myself doing this a lot so eventually I remembered them. We travel to a lot of national parks and historic sites so when dates are given for events or when it was established, I can relate it to other events that were going on during the same time. Sharing this with students may help them take the same interest in learning information like this.

I believe that when I have students memorize things, I need to think about the purpose for doing this. I need to be able to explain to them the rationale for memorization and have them understand that it will help them be more successful in life. If I can’t do this or even convince myself of this, I need to stop and rethink about having them memorize this information.

How do you feel about memorization? What do you feel is important that our students memorize?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'This is my brain' by: Kenny Stoltz

Friday, July 23, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/23/10

tools1 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!

The Living Room Candidate - Presidential campaign commercials from 1952 -2008.

Harness the Power of Wind – learn about wind turbines and make your own wind farm.

All National Anthems – the national anthems of almost every country in the world.

Roller Coaster Simulator - This simulator is designed for people who want to design their own thrilling coaster and educators who want to use a cool activity to simulate the application of physics by using an exciting interactive tool and access to a wonderful reference source.

Mind Cipher – “The social repository of the world's greatest brain teasers, logical puzzles and mental challenges.”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Cell Phones and Teaching


It has been years since I have upgraded my cell phone. Lately I’ve been reading about all the great ways to use a cell phone in the classroom and I realize that I was being left behind. I feel like when I was a little kid and just learned to ride a bicycle. I had a small heavy bicycle while my friends were riding 10 speed bikes and going much faster than I was. Now I have to pedal hard to catch up.

I now have a Droid Incredible and I can only hope that it will do incredible things. I have never used the internet on the phone or checked my email. Apparently this has a GPS system and lots of other toys on it. It has been years since I have sent any text messages or even taken a picture with my phone so I need to get back to all of this and it is exciting.

I think I will start by learning how to use all the “stuff” that comes with the phone before I start downloading any apps to play with. I need to learn how to use the basics before I start adding anything. I also want to do a lot of research on the best free apps to get and the implications of getting them.

Sometimes I wonder if I forget that I need to teach this way. I need to make sure that my students have the basics before I start adding all the bells and whistles. This can be overwhelming to them because I know it can do the same thing to me.

Of course, I am impatient and want to skip the basics so I can get to the bells and whistles but I need to hold myself back. I need to do the same thing with my students and not let their excitement let me push them too quickly. Like surfing, it is easy to get caught up in the tide but if we don’t know how to get on the surf board, we can easily get swept away and drown.

I can see this new phone being a great tool but if I don’t learn how to use it than it won’t be as effective as I hope it would be. I need to learn how to use it in the most efficient and effective way in order to get the most bang for my buck. But if I get frustrated or discouraged, I won’t use many of the things on the phone that may benefit me. In this same way, I need to help students come to the same realization about their learning.

If you have any suggestions or know of any good free apps for the Droid Incredible, please share. I would love any tips that you can give because I am a firm believer of not trying to reinvent the wheel and would love to learn from your mistakes/learning curve/ or whatever you may call it. Hopefully by modeling my new learning experience, my students will be able to see the importance of taking one step at a time and also asking for help when necessary. We all need to be open to suggestions and ideas from others because we can only benefit from someone else’s experiences.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Picture: Droid Incredible by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Conflicts Happen

conflict As every teacher knows, conflict can happen on any given day at any given time between any two or more people. Well, today was the day.

We have a summer program where there are five teachers and nineteen students. Our program lasts four weeks and the teachers are actually students in my graduate class working on their master’s degree. They are using all that they have learned up to this point and applying it in the classroom. This means that they had to assess the students, come up with goals for them, plan lessons, write weekly reports to parents and then give a final report on the last week. This is a very intense program but it is really amazing to watch all of the people involved grow. I see how much the children benefit and I also see the teachers grow professionally.

Today was the day that a parent was very upset. When I called to ask about her child who was absent, she shared her feelings. First of all, I’m really glad that I was able to listen to her and let her air out her grievances. This parent was under the impression that her child would be taught certain topics and not what is being taught in the class. She was upset about the goals, the way the teacher was teaching, and the rapport between the teacher and her child. I explained that I had approved the goals and that I was observing the teacher on a regular basis and saw that the teacher was using research based practices in the classroom. I felt the teacher was doing a great job and would not ask the teacher to change. Now the parent will have to make the decision on whether or not to send her child back.

I truly feel the parent had a right to share her feelings with me and explain why she felt that way. I hope that I was a role model for the teacher in learning how to deal with conflict. I think it is very important to let people have their say as long as they are civil and respectful in the way they share their feelings. This opens the line of communication and clears the air so I would not ever discourage this in any way.

After talking with the parent, I discussed the parent’s concerns with the teacher. Needless to say, the teacher was concerned about what affect this would have. Just because a parent is upset or has concerns doesn’t mean that anyone is a bad teacher. We need to get away from taking this personal and see if the conflict can be resolved in any way.

Since I felt the teacher was doing everything expected and that the lessons were appropriate and highly relevant for the age group, nothing would change there. I offered to take the parent’s child aside and try to teach some lessons in the topic she wants her child to learn but she wanted the whole class to learn the same topic as her son. Unfortunately, I could not come up with a satisfactory solution and even asked the parent what she thought would be a good compromise. Again, this opens the door to communication between both of us. Yet, the parent could not come up with one so no compromise was ever established.

I’m sorry that the teacher (my student) had to go through this but I feel it is a real life situation and it became a great learning opportunity. Not only did the teacher learn from this but I also learned from this. I will make sure that parents are fully aware of our assessment of the child during the first week and the purpose for the program. I will make sure that after giving the parents the weekly report, they give the parents an opportunity to discuss what was given in the report.

I am very proud of my teachers and the way they are teaching. Of course our teaching skills continue to grow every day and won’t stop until we stop teaching. We also need to remember that we also grow from conflicts that happen so they are not necessarily a terrible thing!

Have you had a conflict that you felt was a learning experience? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Impala' by: Arno Meintjes

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No More Self Contained Classes

teaching I recently found out that a local middle school will be doing away with all of their self contained classes except their class for students with autism. All of the students will have inclusion services but this person wasn’t sure how that was going to work. When I heard this, I really hoped that the teachers were given a lot of training on inclusion and collaboration. Then I thought about some suggestions that I would make. Here are some notes that I made from the CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) website that I would share with them.

1. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning.

2. The framework of UDL consists of instructional approaches that provide students with choices and alternatives in the materials, content, tools, contexts, and supports they use. But in addition to challenging teachers to be more flexible, UDL provides guidelines for creating flexibility that is both systematic and effective. These guidelines are derived from research on the learning brain and knowledge of the qualities of digital media.

3. Multiple Means of Representation: The content is represented in multiple ways including text, audio clips and video.

4. Multiple Means of Action and Expression: Online activities, discussion questions and lesson plan assignments allow students to express their understanding in different ways.

5. Multiple Means of Engagement: Text, audio, video, activities, additional resources, information, links to more information and to other web sites allow students multiple ways to engage with the content.

6. Traditional classroom materials and media, like books and speech, come in one size for all, but they do not fit everyone. Inflexible media actually create barriers to learning.

7. New classroom media, like digital text, sound, images, and the World Wide Web, can be adjusted for different individuals and can open doors to learning.

8. Students with various kinds of disabilities are likely to be the earliest and most obvious beneficiaries. Media such as talking books, descriptive videos, and American Sign Language (ASL) tracks vastly increase both access and learning opportunities. Using digital tools actually changes those students' capacities and makes them far more capable. An extreme example is a student with severe physical and language disabilities who, independently, might be able to communicate only by indicating yes and no. With a computer and the right software tools, this student can be on an equal footing with others.

9. Use the UDL checklist to plan.

10. A lesson does not need to address each UDL bullet on the checklist. If several guidelines under each principle are met, lessons will support many more students than a traditional lesson.

My Recommendations:

1. Understanding that both teachers are equal. This is very important.

2. Planning sessions between teachers on a weekly basis to plan, discuss, evaluate lessons.

3. Look at the UDL example to see how UDL can be applied.

4. Ongoing training at least once a month.

I hope their program goes well because students can benefit from this if it is done effectively.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Introduction to monstering'

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rubber Ball Teaching

ball I read an awesome post called I play with a rubber ball…do you? by Paul Bogush. Now I apologize in advance because my title won’t make any sense until you read his article so please take the time to read because it was really good! His article had my brain thinking about how it applies to my life and what I’m doing right now.

I am in the middle of supervising a practicum for teachers getting their master’s degree in special education and something Paul said really hit home. He said,

“I started to make a connection to the training my student teachers received. When they do something that they were trained to do that does not work they don’t react and make changes. They look for a formulaic, proven method that they can get from someone else–or they keep going with it…or they don’t even notice something is going wrong. They don’t react, invent, and survive unpredictable moments. It becomes more about trying to make the formulaic steps they were taught work, instead of inventing something new.”

He is absolutely right and I need to make sure that I talk to these teachers about being ready for anything. They can’t react or act to situations the way I do because we are different people. Just as people have different learning styles; people have different styles in how they interact with other people. Many times, individual personalities will dictate how people respond to other people. I cannot “train” someone how to handle certain situations but I can help them think about ways that they can respond depending on their own individual style. It is kind of like having a fire drill and being prepared. Different people might take different routes out of the building but the goal is to end up outside and safe. This is something I will work on this week and think about the different situations that I have encountered over the years so I can share these with my students (teachers).

Then Paul also mentions,

“Much of the advice I hear and see being given is procedural.  Do this, try this, change that.  One thing that I realized this year with both of my student teachers is that no one can be as successful as I am with my lesson plans.  I cannot be as successful as you with your lesson plans.  Each lesson and activity I do with my kids is deeply personal…or the way I get them to choose their own path is deeply personal.  I cannot give you my list of “procedures” and expect you to have the same success.   This year I did a unit that was awesome.  If someone tried to use my lesson plans they would have flopped.  I wrote it specifically for me and my kids.”

Again Paul hits it on the head. As I observe the teachers teaching, I am looking for what works for them. Some things they do works for them but wouldn’t work for me but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. I think the hardest thing to do was to find what works for me. I have observed other teachers over the years and loved how many of them taught their subject area but then when I try to replicate what I saw, it didn’t work for me and I was disappointed. I realized that I didn’t have the same charisma or teaching style that the other teacher had and the way the material was delivered can have a huge impact on the success of the lesson. I had to find a way that made the students want to learn about this new topic and also find a way to keep them engaged.

The other part to this though is not just my teaching style but I needed to take in account the students in my classroom. The students were very different than the students in those other classes and the delivery just didn’t work for my students. It makes me think about serving an elegant dinner to the President of the United States which would be quite a formal affair and because it turned out so great, turning around and serving the same elegant dinner to a kindergarten class and expecting the same results. It just wouldn’t happen and in fact, could be quite disastrous.

Like playing on a team, all of the players are important but each individual player alone does not make a team. Even if I just throw them all together, it will not result in a winning season. No one can be prepared for everything that happens when the ball is in play. But the players can have an idea of their own strengths and weaknesses so they can be prepared for the play.

I guess it all involves in playing with the “rubber ball.” So, Paul, I’m ready to play with the rubber ball too. Count me in! How about you? Do you play with the rubber ball along with us?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Photography assistant' by: Lenore Edman

Friday, July 16, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/16/10

tools2 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!

Quiz Tree - educational games and quizzes on many subjects, including Math, Reading, Spanish, Geography, SAT, Spelling, Music and more. All activities come with animated interface, fun sounds and other cool features that make learning more enjoyable.

Learning Chocolate – “This web site aims to help students to memorize English vocabulary in an easy and efficient way, by using pictures, sounds and games. Try our games and enjoy learning, like eating chocolate.”

Literacyhead – “resources for creative, engaging, standards based lessons using the visual arts to teach literacy.”

Your Next Read – book recommendations; you type in a book that you like and it will suggest others that you might enjoy.

Word Games – I love word games and enjoy finding free fun ones online.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection (Book Review)

TRICKSTER I recently read the book Trickster: Native American Tales, a Graphic Collection Edited by Matt Dembicki which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

I would definitely give this book a 5 out of 5. I love the whole book! First of all I love graphic novels and I love Native American Tales so to find a book that combines them both was wonderful! The illustrations were magnificent and would really appeal to readers of all ages. Of course the stories were entertaining but also could be used as a springboard for classroom lessons. This book could be used to teach reading, storytelling, art, social skills, science, and many other topics. I think this book would be a great addition to any school or classroom library. In fact, I can’t wait to take this book camping this weekend to share it with family and friends.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

SRO Award

I recently received an email about an SRO that won an award. I thought I would write about this because some people may not know what an SRO is. An SRO is a school resource officer and many of the duties of an SRO can be different depending on the school the SRO is assigned. I have had a few high schools that had an SRO and they were extremely helpful in my program. I would encourage those of you who have an SRO to get them involved in your classroom and students. I have had an SRO come to my class as a guest speaker each year. I have also had the SRO teach a unit each week for 9 weeks. Helping students develop a rapport with the SRO can change how they see law enforcement. Here is part of the email that I received. If you know of ways to incorporate an SRO in your classroom, please share! crystal-Cody

“Cody Myers, Lifelong Resident of Riverton, Wyoming, Plans to Continue to Give Back to Local Community by Advancing Education, Service as SRO

At the start of the 2010-2011 school year, Myers will celebrate his fifth year as an SRO in the Riverton, Wyoming school system. During that time, he has been instrumental in starting the Wyoming School Resource Officers Association, and will host the first state conference at the local community college in August. In addition to being an SRO, Myers also acts as an educator and instructor with the students at his school and the community through his participation with the National Guard Counter Drug Team’s “Stay on Track” program; “Eddie Eagle” gun prevention program; AmberWatch Foundation’s “Be Safe” program; the school district’s anti-bullying committee; the Riverton High School military science course; seat belt safety education; and coaching middle school wrestling, little league baseball and junior football league; among numerous other activities. Myers is also helping to design a curriculum for a Criminal Law class he will begin teaching with his sergeant, Charles Marshall, at the high school level in the 2010-2011 school year.  Myers is currently enrolled at Central Wyoming College, where he is pursuing Criminal Justice coursework.

In addition to being the on-campus law enforcement officer to his students, according to Myers, his involvement in student activities and even relating to students on a peer level helps him to better maintain a safe learning environment. “The relationships I have made with my students will be with me forever. They know they can talk to me about anything, which has proven to be invaluable on many occasions. Students have trusted me with information about drugs, weapons, fights, and more. This means the world to me as the safety of our kids and our schools is my highest priority as an SRO,” said Myers. 

Shortly after completing his own high school diploma, Myers attended Sheridan Junior College on a rodeo scholarship, but didn’t finish due to his decision to join the army. Ultimately, Myers wants to earn a bachelor’s degree from Central Wyoming College. He plans to continue his work throughout his career as an SRO serving the local schools in Riverton.

‘Being able to continue my education has been a lifelong dream. I have lived my whole life here on the Wind River Indian Reservation. I see firsthand how education can change a person’s life,’ commented Myers.

Myers shares his background story, and how the scholarship will further help him to create a safer school environment in a guest blog posting on the Wren School Security Blog.”

Please read his guest blog post because I found it really interesting!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Silly Questions

questions I recently received an email from someone saying, “…I am worried how to avoid or minimize stupid questions from students like " why this line is read?” She asked me to share some strategies to avoid this situation.

First of all, I do not discourage students from asking questions. While others may feel the questions are silly (I don’t like to use the word stupid), I know that it takes a lot of courage for my students to ask a question. Sometimes the questions sound silly because the student doesn’t know how to phrase the question to get the point across. It is up to me to help the student make the question clearer so that it can be answered. This involves asking questions of the student to find out specific information that the student doesn’t understand. This inquiry process needs to be done patiently without making the students feel bad for asking for help.

Many times the student may be overwhelmed and can’t remember all the steps that were given. So I suggest the teacher come up with a task analysis and help students go through the steps slowly. I also would put a copy of the steps up for the students to follow. This helps some who are slower and also helps those students who are faster. Having a visual aid plus auditory instructions helps those with different learning styles.

Sometimes students ask questions so that they can feel connected with the teacher. Learning can be scary for some and they want to know that the teacher will be there to support them. By monitoring progress and giving the students encouragement, I will be able to let them know that they are not alone.

It might also help students to pair them up with a partner and when I am asked a question, I can ask them what their partner said. Many times, the student has not asked their partner and this encourages collaboration with others. It also teaches the students to help one another and lowers frustration if I am unavailable for immediate help.

If the questions because repetitive, it is up to me to encourage the student to take some steps independently. I will ask the student to repeat the steps given. Then have them show me what was done at each step. This also helps the student learn problem solving skills. Usually they are able to see what they did wrong on their own which builds confidence for future learning. As they student becomes more confident, the number of questions will get less.

How do you approach this situation? Do you have any other advice that I might have left out? Please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: '3D Character and Question Mark'

Monday, July 12, 2010

Strategies for Online Learning

strategies Last week I had a guest post about the Benefits of Online Degrees for People with Disabilities and Eduardo Peirano left a comment about the disadvantages of this which led to his post on elearning for Students with Disabilities. If you have a chance, please read the points he makes about what is necessary for students with disabilities to be successful with elearning. He gives links to research that supports the points he makes.

I really appreciate Eduardo making this points because it made me realize that when sharing broad ideas as was mentioned in the guest post, I need to follow up with specific strategies to support the ideas mentioned. In Eduardo’s post, I left the following comment:

“This was an awesome post!! Thank you so much for joining the conversation! You make a lot of great points and I appreciate the links to support your ideas. I love when someone makes me think about something from different perspectives. I think you are absolutely right that without the right kind of support and accommodations, online learning could be extremely difficult for students with disabilities. Now I am going to think of some more specifics! (I think I feel another blog post coming on!)”

Now I need to think of ways to implement the things that he mentions.

I know at Furman University where I teach graduate courses, there is a disability coordinator to help those with disabilities reach success. In my syllabus I addressed this by stating,

“If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this class, and for which you may require accommodations, please see the instructor or Furman’s Disabilities Services Coordinator, so that such accommodations may be arranged. In order to receive appropriate accommodations this term, it is imperative that you contact the Disabilities Services Coordinator or the instructor in a timely manner.”

I believe if students are going for an online degree, the university offering this degree needs to have a disabilities coordinator to help them. Not only does this person need to be available but also easily accessible. If students have to jump through too many hoops to get help, they will not seek help and just end up frustrated.

Before a student actually takes a course in their field, there needs to be some basic computer instruction to make sure they have the skills needed to complete the course requirements. Specific skills should be identified and the student needs to show that these skills can be mastered before course work can begin. Students need to know how to research for information on the computer. They also need to know critical thinking skills so they can weed through the multitude of information out there in cyberspace and know what is valuable and what is not. A task analysis for each skill needs to be created. These need to be made available for the student to carry with them either as a hard copy or maybe something put on their ipod or cell phone. This will make a great reference tool for them when needed.

Online instructors need to be aware of the possibility of having students with disabilities in their class. Then they need to work with the disabilities services coordinator to see how they can modify the curriculum so that the student can meet the objectives of the class. Many times in public schools, teachers are very reluctant to do this. Material needs to be offered in a visual and an auditory format. If the information is just in one format or the other, the learning style of the student may be ignored. In my course, I am offering information using slideshare with audio, and voicethread with audio.

Universal Design for Learning is a must. In fact, I think this is important for all students and not just students with disabilities. In the course that I am teaching, I have three students who are currently teaching, one who does substitute teaching, and one who has not been in the classroom at all. I cannot expect them all to learn the same way because of their different backgrounds. A lot of the information is online and I need to make sure that all of my students are comfortable in their computer skills to access this information. I will first take a survey so I can see what my student’s beginning level may be.

If the university wants to encourage students with disabilities to attend their school, these are necessary to help a student with disabilities succeed.

Do you know of specific strategies to help students with disabilities succeed in getting an online degree? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'IMG_4356a' by: John Martinez Pavliga

Friday, July 9, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/9/10

tools1 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! – “takes the burden out of learning by automatically creating a learning schedule that adapts to the individual’s performance and needs.”; different topics to choose from and learn

Fuel the Brain – “educational resources and games”

Shedd Aquarium – “contains a treasure trove of aquatic science resources for K-12 teachers and students. SEA brings the Philippines to life for your students with fact sheets and multimedia interactives based on the Wild Reef exhibit at Shedd Aquarium.”

EcoKids – “environmental education site for kids and teachers”

Time Maps – “The aim of the TimeMap of World History is to ‘communicate history in a truly engaging way’.

To do this, we use a combination of timelines, maps, and encyclopedia entries merged together to create both authoritative content and an enjoyable user experience. The result is a unique interactive guide through history, stopping at each and every civilization, empire and country along the way.”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Making an Impact

impact The little things you do can sometimes make a bigger impact than you think. Over a year ago I was asked to give a presentation to the state presidents at the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) conference in Seattle. I love to share new things that I’ve learned with others hoping that they will find this information useful too. Many times I’ve been to presentations that sound great but the reality of life hits when I return home and many times, the information falls by the way side. When I left the conference, I hoped that I stirred up people’s interest in some tools and that they would think about using them.

I never imagined that Nancy Dumke (President of MN­CEC) would contact me and want to delve into the tools even further. I was so excited that she wanted to give Flashmeeting a try. I know there are other tools out there but this tool works for me and I’m comfortable with it. Of course I had to keep reminding myself not to overwhelm others with too much information in my excitement of sharing. We did some practice runs and the introduced it to others in her network. It was so exciting to see others learn to use something that I really enjoy. Once they got the hang of it, they seemed to take off running and I was so proud of them (like a mother hen!).

Then recently a member of MNCEC sent me a copy of the newsletter where I was mentioned. I have to admit that I was in shock because I didn’t realize that I made such an impression. I really want to thank Nancy Dumke for thinking I had something of value to share and then allowing me to share the information with others. It was also a thrill to know how my sharing had made an impact in their organization.

If you don’t mind, I wanted to share with you the letter from the MN CEC President to the MN membership:

“Letter from the President By Nancy Dumke

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your MNCEC President this year. It has been a memorable opportunity for growth in many ways. One that I will share with you specifically has been in the area of technology. I would also like to introduce to you an exceptional educator from the national CEC board.

A year ago at the National CEC Conference in Seattle, a woman named Pat Hensley spoke at the President’s Break- fast meeting. Pat is a volunteer on the national CEC Board of Directors. She is a retired special educator who has decided to share her retirement by educating teachers on electronic communications.

As she spoke, I was impressed with Pat’s knowledge, confidence, and sense of humor when discussing the benefits of Facebook, Twitter, FlashMeeting, etc. Her energy for the subject was clearly energizing those in the room.

At first I was overwhelmed by the volume of possibilities. Thankfully, Dr. Jeanne Danneker, our MNCEC Secretary, was sitting next to me. We pondered how this could apply to the people we were representing from Minnesota. By the time we left that meeting, we were eager to try a FlashMeeting with our Minnesota Board of Directors and Division Representatives.

From April to September 2009, Pat answered my emails. She patiently and calmly taught me what was needed to use the FlashMeeting tool. We practiced before the fall board

retreat and we devised a backup plan.

Finally the retreat day arrived. Pat logged in from her vacation site in South Carolina and volunteered to share an hour with us. Her teaching strategies were effective as our crew of 17 logged in on their computers and we were able to see and hear Pat while she taught everyone how to use FlashMeeting.

When our hour ended, I wondered: What would they think about this idea? Would it be effective for our board meeting? Did it have the potential to save time and possibly money? The board was receptive and agreed to try one of our scheduled meetings as a FlashMeeting. The April meeting was designated as the best fit.

As I prepared for the April board meeting, I wondered how the electronic meeting would go. This time we would be on our own. We tried to review and remember what we had learned back in September. Some gathered together to share computers and coffee. All were able to log in, and most had live pictures as well as sound.

We were able to accomplish a 90 minute meeting in about 100 minutes, rather than adding 1 – 5 hours of travel time. The travel reduction saved us $1,000. The reviews came back that we should try it again, perhaps one or two times a year.

Spring time is often busy with celebrations and remembering the past year. I hope that you will have a few quiet moments to reflect upon your year and will remember what you and your students have learned.

I am grateful for Special Educator Pat Hensley and the lessons she continues to teach. I am also grateful for being able to learn new technologies that can potentially save both time and money. The challenge is still with us to recycle those savings into educational dollars for our students. ❁”

So, I would like to encourage others to share your knowledge. Don’t be afraid. There are people out there that will benefit from the information that you may know. We need to be able to teach students but also reach out to our colleagues. Think about conferences that you go to and consider being a presenter. Think about a topic that you think was left out that you might have some experience with. Maybe that is something you can share about next time. Even when I presented about Voicethread one year, I was able to gain new information from some people in the audience. They were able to share some info that I had not known about or didn’t know how it applied to specific situations. So I hope that you will consider this and think about the possibilities that you have control over. I think it is important to pass it on.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Eruption' by: Andrea

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

June Photo A Day Challenge

JunePAD I have made it a half of a year continuing with the Photo A Day Challenge on Flickr. If you haven’t done this before, you might give it a try. You might try it was a week challenge or a month challenge. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t start at the beginning of the year. The reason that I suggest this is that I have found so many benefits for this and want to share them with you.

I look closer at the world around me. I am more attentive to the little things. When I first started, I mostly looked at the big picture. This project has helped me look for the details.

I try to find something interesting every day. I’m not talking about just interesting to me but thinking about what might be interesting to others.

I am collecting photos that I may use in presentations that are more interesting than clip art. I think about photos that I have looked for when I am creating presentations and when I see something that might fit; I take a photo of it.

When I am at a loss for an idea, I got to The Daily Shoot which gives an assignment for the day. Sometimes that can inspire me.

It can get others involved in helping me look for good shots too. When I’m with my friends and mention that I am taking pictures for this project, they get caught up in the hunt too. At times, they will call me over to take a photo of something they think would make a good photo of the day. At the end of the day, I have lots of photos to choose from.

At the end of the month, I like to look at all of the photos I took that month to see what caught my eye and if I see any trends or themes for the month.

After reflecting about this project, I wonder how I could get my class to do something like this.

I could do it as a class project and have students give suggestions about what they think would make a great photo. If there was more than one digital camera, students could take turns getting a photo of something. Or if there was only one camera, students could have a designated day to be responsible for taking the photos that day and then turning in the camera to the teacher. The students could vote on the photo they think should be the designated Photo of the Day.

Students can take turns coming up for a theme of the month and looking for photos that fit that them.

The Photos of the Day can be used as story starters for creative writing.

Have you done this project before or are you doing it now? Please let me know and give the link to your photos so I can look at them. If you have ideas how this project can be used in the classroom, please share that too!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: June Photos of the Day by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Katie and Kevin Books

Katie I recently read the book Katie Helps Mom and Kevin Helps Dad written and illustrated by Liesbet Slegers which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review).

I would give the books 3 out of 5. I love the bright colors and the pretty pictures. I thought the font that was used was appealing too. The stories in both were very upbeat and happy which I think is important when reading to and with children. The problem I had was the stereotyping of boys helpingKevin Dad and girls helping Mom. I think it would have been better to have Kevin helping Dad with some stuff and Mom with some things. The story gives an underlying implication that boys don’t do those things that girls do and vice versa. For entertainment, I think these books would be cute for children but I would not use them in a classroom.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Benefits of Online Degrees for People with Learning Disabilities

computer Online education has revolutionized the way we learn in more ways than one; it has opened up opportunities for people who were hampered by location, cost, and other circumstances in their quest for a degree; it has made possible continuous learning at any age and from anywhere; and it has enhanced the use of technology in the field of education. While most people know and are aware of these benefits of technology, what they don’t realize is that online education is a boon to people who are slow learners or who have learning disabilities because:

· It allows you to set your own schedule: Online education is an opportunity for people who don’t have the time to dedicate to a full-time degree because it allows learners to choose courses that are suited to their schedules. And so you have business professionals opting for degrees that have most classes during weekends and others who prefer flexible assignment and class schedules. This flexibility is a boon for those who are slow learners or have learning disabilities of any kind because it allows them to set and learn at their own pace without worrying about having to keep up with the rest of the class.

· It eliminates the pressure of competition: In a traditional classroom, the slow learners are hampered by more than their learning disability; they’re also restricted by the fear of having to compete with their classmates who have normal or above-normal learning capabilities. This sets them back even more because they’re unable to perform at their usual level when they feel the pressure of having to compete and keep up with the rest of the class. Online education removes this unnecessary stress and allows them to blossom in an environment that is relatively free of competition.

· It facilitates anonymity: And last, but not the least, online education facilitates anonymity which ensures that slow learners and those with other learning disabilities are not subject to the ridicule, scorn or pity of their classmates and staff. Learners are able to grow in confidence because their disability does not cause a bias in the minds of their fellow students which gives rise to preconceived notions and potential cause for mockery or ridicule.

Students who are plagued by learning disabilities can enhance their online education experience by reaching out to their instructors and asking for additional help, enquiring about assistive technology, and setting a schedule that is suited to their pace. Most schools are more than willing to accommodate special needs students, so if you aim to earn a degree, make the most of your experience with a college that understands your limitations and works with you to overcome them.


This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topic of online degrees . She welcomes your comments at her email id:

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'MacBook Pro 15" Unibody' by: Steve Keys

Friday, July 2, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/2/10

tools1 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!

Word Steps –“ is a place for people to learn foreign words and keep their vocabularies in fit condition. Here you can not only enrich your vocabulary, but you can also track your progress and recall the words you could forget.”

Fit Brains – “Fit Brains games offer a variety of well-rounded, scientifically based activities wrapped within a fun and engaging experience that is accessible even to first-time players. By offering stimulation across the spectrum of the brain, and ramping the difficulty in a way that increases the complexity of the tasks over time, brain games can offer people an effective means of brain exercise.”

Verbs Online – learn verbs in different languages

Story Place - is “an interactive web site, came about to provide children with the virtual experience of going to the library and participating in the same types of activities the library offers.”

Vocabulix - Improve your vocabulary skills in foreign languages, online and free!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What is the Real World?

RealWorld In This World, That World and Some Other World from Education On The Plate, Deven Black states,

“I don’t like the term ‘real world.’

It is often used in sentences like ‘Every lesson in school should relate to the real world.’

Formulations like that make me think schools are like the Floating World of ancient Japan or the artificial world of the holodeck on some Star Trek spaceship.

Schools are the real world, just as much as slums or split-level suburban homes are.”

As soon as I saw this, I knew, as my husband hears frequently, I feel a blog post coming! I use the term “real world” a lot because I think it distinguishes it from a different time in people’s lives when they are sheltered and protected. I feel the real world makes people vulnerable and I need to prepare my students so that they can enter situations supplied with whatever tools and strategies necessary to keep them safe and independent.

I do not feel like a school situation is the “real world.” Parents, Teachers, and Administrators are able to manipulate the environment in different ways to help a student and this is not possible in the real world. I have worked hard at the beginning of the year to help my students succeed in different situations so they can use their confidence in trying more difficult assignments. There are also laws that protect children in schools that help them get accommodations and modifications to instruction if needed (IDEA and 504, for example). Administrators may use different discipline techniques to help students learn social skills necessary to get along with others. Special Education students are protected under special ed laws that enable them to continue with their education even if they are removed from a regular school environment.

It kind of reminds me of times I have seen football teams practice or play scrimmages and how they differ from real games. The real games are the ones that count. They count towards statistics, records, and championships but practice games and scrimmages do not. Practice games and scrimmages are a way to practice plays or move players to different positions and try them out. This is the time to explore different possibilities without it actually hurting statistics or records.

When a student causes minor problems in school, there are repercussions and this teaches a student how to be accountable for his actions. When a person gets in the “real world,” this student is usually of legal age and being accountable for his actions may involve money or even jail time. This does not usually happen at school age unless the student has broken a major law. I have seen students show violence in schools that will not be tolerated in the real world. Law enforcement will not care if this student has a disability or comes from a bad home life when protecting other citizens.

In school, if you misbehave, they send you to the office and pay the penalty, and then return to class. Unless you are expelled (and schools must have a good reason), you return to class. In the workplace (the real world), employers don’t tolerate people who won’t do their job. Employers want someone who will show up for work regularly, get the job done, as well as get along with other workers. There are too many people who need a job and want that position if you don’t follow the employer’s policies. If you can’t do the job for some reason, they can fire you.

In school, the system makes sure that students get fed. There are free and reduced lunch programs to feed children. If a student does not have lunch or money continuously, someone is notified about this problem (social worker, DSS etc.) In the real world, many people go to work hungry and go home hungry. Many people work so that they can pay bills and buy food.

Even when I went to college and lived on campus, I do not consider that the real world. I paid tuition and room and board as well as books but those were my major expenses. Many other students had their education paid for by their parents. When I graduated and got my first apartment, I never realized how much money was needed for deposits as well as electric, water, and phone bills. No one prepared me for these real world situation.

So, I guess I really don’t feel that school is the real world. And yes, I do feel that my lessons should be related to the real world so I can prepare my students for things that they may face. I might not be able to cover all of the situations they may face, but I hope that I give them enough tools and information so they can go find the answers they need.

What do you think? Is school the real world or not?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Summer Storm over Kuala Lumpur' by: Trey Ratcliff