Muddling through the blogosphere

March 30, 2015
by blogwalker

CUE 2015 Take-Aways

Just returned from three fabulous days at CUE 2015. It was definitely worth the 10-hour drive (each way). Many thanks to Mike Lawrence and the CUE team for a well-organized, exciting event, start to finish. Below are a few of my take-aways.



  • Common Core = Technology Integration – I was only able to attend the tail end of Jeremy Davis’s session. His workshop description sums the importance of meaningful technology integration for the elementary schools:

Gone are the days of teaching a “technology lesson” a few times a year, as the Common Core State Standards have technology integration and digital literacy skills embedded in standards starting in Kindergarten. Come dig into the standards and discuss the need for cultural change towards technology integration into all curriculum areas.”

Big take-away: I love how the Capistrano School District (Jeremy’s district) has built on and tweaked Long Beach’s CCSS K12 Technology Scope & Sequence Plan, starting with the title: (Draft) Digital Literacy in the K-12 Classroom. I agree with their statement that “This document provides a roadmap for teachers and administrators to adapt curriculum to ensure that students are building digital literacy competency as well as technological skills for college and career readiness and online assessment” and I applaud their K-12 vision (as opposed to separating elementary from secondary).



  • Teaching above the Line – OK, I didn’t actually make it to Pablo Diaz, Ann Kozma, and Holly Steele’s SAMR session, but, oh my, what a great resource their slideshow is. Thanks for sharing! Like Gene and Karen’s session (above), this team makes visible what “giving students a chance to develop their own voice and purpose in learning through SAMR” looks like.



  • Jennie Magiera’s bring-down-the-house keynote – Wow! What an amazing kick-off to Friday morning’s events! I was fortunate to be in Jennie Magiera’s group during my 2012 Google Teacher Academy experience, so I already knew her keynote would be like no other. And, yes, that is California Superintendent of Ed Tom Torlakson dancing out in the audience.


  • Google Certified Teacher’s Panel – A great session that definitely lived up to its description: “The latest and greatest tips, tricks and tools for Google Apps, and other Googly things.” Loved the energy and the excellent tutorials each of the presenter provided. I think you’ll want to checkout all 9 presenters. Biggest take-away for me would probably = Alice Chen’s Choose Your Own Adventure template for Google Slides, with the sample of introducing class rules via interactive slides, as opposed to teacher going over the rules.


#PopBOMB – Creating 7 second videos that can change the world – Sorry that Matt did not include a link to his presentation. It was awesome. I heard Matt speak three years ago at Fall CUE and have ever since been a huge fan all of the options KQED offers teachers and students – starting with DoNow.

Matt explained “#PopBomb” as “infiltrating stoical  media conversation with short, visual, satirical arguments.” He demoed how 3 apps – Twitter, Meme Generator, and Vine – can be used to build “#PopBombs.” His samples of parody and satire wonderful (and great example of arguments for “fair use.”):

  • SNL’s Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood – 10 years ago, this SNL series was a great sample of many to  many model – incredible democratization of media (participatory culture alaHenry Jenkins). But you needed some media background and skills create these.
  • Vader Sessions – Darth having nervous breakdown?!

The tools for digitizing mashups are now readily available to all of us: democratization is powerful!

Big take-away = Using Vine to create 7-second video that you can start and stop to make multiple cuts. Checkout the powerful juxtaposition of sweatshops and fashion juxtaposition in Matt’sine 7-second remix.


Be a Graphic Artist without Going to Art School –  Nick Cusumano’s was my last session for #CUE15. I attended because I wanted to explore Canva, a great resource for adding a graphic wow factor to your presentations. In a nutshell:

  • Register as an educator. If there’s a $ sign, you only pay when you print – It’s the pic that might have the fee, not the template. So you can upload your own images – which you can then download for free. You have 24 hours to use download – or you pay again.
  • Great for infographics – many freebies
  • You can share for collaboration
  • Try combining Canva + LucidPress for brochures. LucidPress for K12 and higher ed = free.

A few more take-aways:

  • Google Cultural Institute – Historic Moments – Google gives you a template to use. You can upload your own.
  • PicMonkey – Cool effects to add to images. Now a Google AddOn
  • – Just plain fun. Upload a principal’s photo, for instance, and convert it to a historical figure.

Again, a huge shoutout to Mike Lawrence and to all the great #CUE15 presenters for three amazing conference days!

November 16, 2014
by blogwalker

Fall CUE Take Away


I had a great time at the 2014 Fall CUE Conference. In two jam-packed days, I attended some wonderful workshops, with Will Kimbley’s Google Forms workshop, Gene Tognetti and Karen Larson’s Discovering Student Voice with Chromebooks,  and Trevor Mattea’s Intro to Google session at the top of my conference take-aways list.

Two hours with Will flew by! Wish this engaging session had been recorded. I’ll definitely spend some follow-up time touring his website resources.

One of the challenges I face in my district job is bringing teachers on board with Chromebooks in a one-hour workshop. Gene and Karen nailed it with their Discovering Student Voice Through Chromebooks session! The trick is to select up to four awesome apps to showcase – and then build in 5 – 10 minutes for participants to play with each one. Check out their session slideshow to see how smoothly they introduced Powtoon, Little Bird Tales, Lucid Press, and Google Slides.

From Trevor, I am still in awe of such a simple yet powerful tip: Have elementary students share their Google Docs projects with classroom parents. What an incredible idea for providing students with feedback and, at the same time, providing working parents who would like to help in the classroom with a virtual way to do just that.

Next week, I’ll be sharing Trevor’s tip with an amazing group of elementary teachers in my district who are part of an action research project with Chromebooks and Google Apps. Can’t wait to see how parent volunteers working within Google Docs impacts student writing and communication skills.

March 24, 2013
by blogwalker

CUE 2013 – Day 2 Take-Aways

Continuing on with my reflections from the fabulous 2013 CUE Conference, here are my take-aways from:

Friday, Day 2:

Opening Keynote with Sir Ken Robinson – I’ve been a long-time  fan of Sir Ken, starting with his first TED Talk and his Changing Education Paradigms animation. It was great to  hear him in person and be reminded that:

“Every single one of the 100 billion lives who have walked the face of this earth is unique and unrepeatable…To be born at all is a miracle, so what are you going to do with your life?”

“We have to get away from standardizing to personalizing – in ways that celebrate diversity. Technology drives this revolution.

“Educating is not a process of directing instruction, but to inspire, to feed curiosity, to facilitate. If we aren’t facilitating learning, then education is not happening.”

Session 5 – Elementary Flipped Teaching – Using the Cycle of Learning to Innovate CCSS Instruction – For a window into Lisa Highfill’s innovative teaching, start with a visit to her website. Lisa asks both in her teaching and in her session “What is it I can do now (with new technologies) that I couldn’t do before?”  The video below illustrates her  “explore, explain (flip), apply” cycle for delivering curriculum:


Session 6Get slammed With Google – Loved the energy in this session! Definitely click on the link to see for yourself how Mark Hammons, Diane Main, Jen Roberts, Bill Selek (no live links yet), Scott Kley Contini, Joe Wood, Megan Ellis rocked the audience with their Google tips and tricks (AKA slams)!

During my whirlwind 2 days at December’s Google Teacher Academy, Mark’s Google News Archive Search was my favorite “slam.” Judging from the post-CUE 2013 conversations on my flight home from Palm Springs, Mark once again wowed an audience. Grand Slam!

Megan Ellis (a MERIT 11 colleague) shared a simple but very important Google tool: custom Google search engines. For educators  like me, who teach tough topics, such as the Holocaust, Megan’s How To Tutorial is a gem, simply explaining how to create, for example, a Researching the Holocaust search engine with middle-school appropriate links.

But seriously, you will want to check out each Google Slam demo!

Session 7 – Visual Storytelling, Digital Storytelling, Cinematic Narrative: Literacy Across the Curriculum – Because it is so easy to get sidetracked in great hallway conversations at CUE, I arrived half way into Ken Shelton’s dynamic session, something I immediately regretted. Ken laid out the key elements of digital storytelling:

  • understanding of topic
  • content curation – simply grabbing a bunch of pictures is not going to to do it – 7 image limit. If you can’t find images that work, create your own
  • media literacy – what is the value of an image? How about music? Does if fit the narration?
  • develop a storyboard  – Great motivational stratgy that Ken uses with his students (in case they’re tempted to gloss over this important pre-producation step): switch storyboards & threaten to grade group on another groups completion of the project
  • production
  • reflection – what did you learn? what would you change?

What’s missing from my session summary are the powerful images and and stunning videos he used to illustrate each key element.  For example, to show the difference between “digital storytelling” and “cinematic narrative,” he shared this BMX video and this stunning Inspired Bycycles video.

If you missed Ken’s #cue13 session, but will be attending ISTE 2013, I’ll see you in his Making Movies with the iPad, iPhoneography, and Photoshop Basics session. I plan to arrive early!

Session 8Explore, Flip, Apply: Empowering the Learning Cycle Through Technology – Although I caught only the tail end of Ramsey Musallam’s session (once again caught up in great #cue13 hallway conversations), having heard him present before (MERIT 11, CVCUE Fall 12), I wanted to end Day 2 with his winning style of brilliant + hilarious. I wasn’t disappointed.

Explore-Flip-Apply model

I think many teachers are put off by the idea of “flipping” instruction because they are concerned about putting hours and hours of time into creating instructional videos that students will be required to watch for homework, another form of lecture-based instruction, often limited to lower-order thinking. Ramsey’s approach to flipped instruction definitely taps into Bloom’s  higher order thinking skills (applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating).

Using the Explore-Flip-Apply model, Ramsey has his AP Chemistry students explore a concept first.  Then the “flip” comes in. Rather than introducing a concept with a video, he jumps in on the spot and creates “short, tailored video designed to address misconceptions and assimilation errors that arose during student exploration.” Rather than spending hours creating detailed screencasts, the “technology became a slave to the pedagogy, rather than vice versa, and the videos became, if you will, ‘inquiry spackle'” (quote from OnCUE, Spring 2013, Vol 35, No. 1).  For tons more resources, strategies, and samples, visit Ramsey’s personal website and Cycle of Learning.

Be back soon with Day 3 Take-Aways.


March 20, 2013
by blogwalker

CUE 2013 – Day 1 Take-Aways

Just returned from the 2013 CUE Conference, a 3-day event jam-packed with educators initiating conversations and sharing resources and best practices on innovative, effective technology integration.  This year the Common Core State Standards were at the core of the conference.

Here are a few of my take-aways from Thursday, Day 1:

Session 1 Collaboration Around the Common Core Using Brokers of Expertise – Eddy Avelar walked us through the layout and resources of the California K12 High Speed Network’s (K12 HSN) Brokers of Expertise site. I’m looking forward to connecting with and learning from the California CCSS group.

Session 2Digital Tools for the ELA Common Core – Jonathan Brubaker has posted his session slides on, a new tool for me. Not only can you view his slides, but each tool he introduced for building students’ academic vocabulary is shown on his sqworl site.  I really like Big Picture, which features photos from, and ” lets you view and share photos in the style of The Big Picture,’s excellent photo blog.”

Jonathan reminded participants that “text complexity” cannot be based on lexile alone. The Grapes of Wrath, for instance, has a 4th grade “quantitative level” but the “qualitative level” is much higher. One comment really resonated with me: “Text complexity should be a conversation  – don’t use it as an excuse for Readicide. Reading has to be the point – not lexile” (e.g., AR).  He ended the session with a huge shout out to Touchstones Discussion Project guides for building critical thinking and powerful classroom discussions.

Session 3 – Making your (Google) Voice Heard – If you still haven’t created a Google Account,  Brandon Wislocki’s session would convince you to drop everything and set one up so you can start using Google’s free Voice program and app. A big advantage for teachers is being able to use Google Voice as an alternate number for students and parents to call.  But there are so many more possibilities! The fact that the messages are saved as embeddable mp3’s and are translated into text is just a starting point. Think of the possibilities for extending learning beyond the school day, especially for your ELs!

Session 4 Online Writing that Meets the Common Core – Jason Saliskar started his session by laying out via grade levels what CCSS Anchor Standard 6 for Writing looks like by grade level. I love that it’s all there on his presentation link! A favorite take-away from Jason’s session is that in teaching writing in the Common Core era,  “writing short is going to matter as much as writing long” (from Pam Allyn). Loved the videos Jason included, such as a Teaching Channel look at poetry, technology, and CCSS from an elementary language arts teacher and the 3-minute video embedded below on Explaining the Common Core State Standards:

Keynote Session – Ending Day 1 with Catlin Tucker’s inspiring keynote was a perfect close. Her session was recorded, so as soon as I have that link I’ll add it to this post. In the meantime, I encourage you to subscribe to Catlin’s blog and to follow her on Twitter (@CTuckerEnglish). In stating that “Technology can’t be an add-on – it has to replace and extend what we already do,” Catlin presents compelling ways to take powerful fiction, such as To Kill and Mockingbird and connect it real world issues, such as the death penalty. For high school English teachers who fear that CCSS means letting go of the classics, you definitely want to connect with Catlin Tucker. She takes 9th grade English, technology, and the Common Core to new levels.

I’ll be back soon with some CUE Day 2 take-aways.

October 29, 2012
by blogwalker

Back from Fall CUE

Image from

I’m back from my first Fall CUE Conference. Two wonderful, jam packed days of connecting with colleagues and attending great sessions!

Here are my Friday take-aways:

The Personal Is Political: Remix and Fair Use – KQED’s Mathew Williams gave an awesome session on “learning opportunities for creating remix videos using found video footage online with an emphasis on fair use and critical thinking skills.”  Mathew presented remix as as  research method – and a critically important skill.

It’s been a while since I last visited KQED’s website, but I plan to make time to explore their awesome Quest page.

Designing Online Communities of Practice with Brokers of Expertise – I’m a huge fan of Brokers of Expertise (have even given a few BofE workshops), but couldn’t pass on an opportunity to hear Jon Knolle present. News flash: If you’d like to provide the California Department of Education and State Superintendent Torlakson’s Task Force with some feedback, here’s your chance, through Brokers, to share your vision for Education Technology in California Schools, share your vision for visual and performing arts and creative education in California Schools, and share your vision for STEM education in California schools.

Prezi Primer – Christine Olmstead and Randy Kolset did a great job of touring the newest features of Prezi to both those familiar with or new to Prezi. I really like the greater variety of themes as well as the option to easily upload PowerPoints.

KQED Do Now: Engage Students with Topical Issues Using Twitter – My second workshop with Mathew Williams was equally excellent. Check out the rich ways KQED’s Do Now program engages students with current issues using social media tools such as Twitter.  I’ll definitely be including this site in my upcoming district Twitter workshop for administrators.

Saturday Take-Aways:

Feedback Machine: Using a Mail Merge with Google Spreadsheet for Student Communication – If you’re impressed by Flubaroo (as I am), then you will be in awe of how Alice Keeler takes instant online feedback to the next level with her Google spreadsheet tips and tricks.  She’s posted the session links and tons of extras to her tech page.

Licensed to Drive … Google Style – Loved Mark Hammon’s humor, injected throughout the hour.  Glad to know that when inserting images to Google Drive, the citation is automatically included. Cool.

Do You Flubaroo? How to Use the Auto-Grading Script Effectively – I’m pretty familiar with Flubaroo, but I really liked presenter Roni Habib’s suggestion to use it at the beginning of the school year to build online communities – and take it to a Wordle.

Digital ID Project – My project co-creator/curator Natalie Bernasconi and I were at first a little bummed to see our session was scheduled at the end of the conference. That soon changed, thanks to the opportunity to spend our session with some pretty incredible teachers:-).

Will definitely plan to attend next year’s Fall CUE Conference. It’s not often that a fabulous conference is within driving distance of Placerville;-)


March 18, 2012
by blogwalker
1 Comment

Digital ID Project – An invitation for collaboration

Bringing digital citizenship into the core curriculum

I just returned from a 4-day trip to the fabulous CUE Conference in fabulous Palm Springs, California. In addition to joining some outstanding speakers and sessions (which I’ll blog separately later today), the conference was also the first time my National Writing Project/MERIT colleague Natalie Bernasconi and I were able to co-present our Digital ID project.

We were fortunate to have a wonderful group of teachers and administrators, ranging from elementary through high school, joining us for the session – with a several jumping right in to join the wiki and add to the resources.

The goal of the Digital ID project is to collectively and collaboratively- in one online location – provide students, teachers, and parents with the resources and strategies to make digital citizenship an integral part of the core curriculum – while addressing the legal requirements of current legislation such a AB 307 and the Broadband Data Improvement Act.

Natalie and I warmly invite you to download, tweak, share, and contribute to our growing bank of resources. We especially want to draw your attention to our Digital Citizenship PSA Challenge. We would love to showcase your students’ projects!


March 14, 2010
by blogwalker

CUE 2010 Take Aways

I attended some great CUE sessions, both for the resources shared and the presenters’ engaging presentation styles.

Thursday Sessions:

  • Internet Safety Awareness: I blogged this  outstanding session live- and a week later am still thinking about the question Larry Magid poses to ‘tweens and teens: What does it mean to be a friend in 2010?
  • Sharing Stories with Google Earth – Joe Wood – Between the resources Joe shares and his engaging, energetic, humor-infused style, his sessions are always fabulous. I’m going to keep checking his website where he has promised to upload a live recording of the session.  As soon as  that happens, I’ll update this post, so you can see first-hand how Joe used Google Earth and Google Maps for a digital story of his childhood.  In the meantime, for Google Earth resources and ideas, check my Friday section below.

Friday Sessions:

  • Google Tools for Educators: LACOE’s Nancy Moore and Chris Jones led this hands-on session. They set up a great resource page to guide us through the workshop and for later use.  It’s been a while since I’ve looked at Google Books, but, oh my, the huge assortment of books and magazines in the public domain is pretty impressive, including Life Magazine from the beginning!I really liked the main workshop activity: Using Google Maps to annotate the stops mentioned in Thomas Slocum’s 1899 book Sailing Alone Around the World. Having Nancy and Chris’s handy Google Maps tutorial as a reference really helped everyone delve into the task.
  • Teaching Internet Literacy as a Genre – Heather Wolpert-Gawron – This presentation just hummed along, starting with Heather’s opening statement: “We can’t assume that a good offline reader is a good online reader, or that a good reader of one genre is a good reader of another.” A few take-aways from Heather’s session:
    • Think aloud – Narrate everything!  Teaching Internet literacy is about methodical think aloud.
    • Tap into Use the “largest mall in the world” for teaching navigation tools. “Without navigation tools in their heads, students will fall into shopping traps.”
    • Twitter – If you follow science feeds or history or news feeds you can break for a “syn-nap” and check out the link. “Syn-nap”  = spontaneous learning – stop and act on Twitter news item.
    • Teach basic rules of netiquette for commenting on a blog.  Let students use emoticons, which help them to find their writer’s voice.  Have students take a netiquette quiz.
    • Formal writing vs. texting – there’s a time and place (compare to shorthand – a great analogy to share with administrators who are concerned that text-speak is eroding students’ writing skills) – use for notetaking. There’s a time and a place.
  • Extreme Makeover: Education Edition- No Blog? No Wiki? No Twitter: No Problem! Steve Dembo. I picked this session because I’ve never heard Steve Dembo present before. I have to say, he’s right up there with his DEN colleague Hall Davidson – what a stage presence! I didn’t think I would have any take-aways from this session (just because I’m already an enthusiastic user of blogs, wikis, and Twitter), but I was wrong:!It took about a minute to register for this extremely user-friendly tool. Thanks to iPadio, I’m over the heartbreak of losing  as my favorite tool for podcasting from my cell phone.  Three minutes after posting my first ‘phlog,’ I had an email from the iPadio team, welcoming me into the community and providing me with more tips.  Checkout iPadio’s speech to text feature…Oh my, oh my, think of the possibilities…

Saturday Sessions:

  • Using Technology to Make the Reading/Writing Connection – Arnie Uretsky – I’m not sure  by paraphrasing Arnie’s key points that I could do justice to his unrolling of the reading/writing connection, so I’m pulling some direct quotes from his handout:

Everything we read was written first.  It’s a simple idea but a profound one. Understanding the structure used to construct a story or essay can provide powerful entry into developing reading comprehension and fluency….We all give lip service to the fact that reading and writing are interconnected skills, but often we don’t directly teach the common elements that are critical to both activities…

…With my students I use the analogy of multiplication and division to illustrate the relationship between reading and writing.  Multiplication and division are opposites of the same concept.  The same is true of reading and writing.  When you read information, you put the information together from the text you are reading, much like putting together sets in multiplication.  When you are writing, especially when you are writing in response to literature (or science, social studies or math), you are deconstructing the elements of the story or essay so you can cogently explain them to others.  Good readers also systematically deconstruct what they read.  …”

Throughout the session, Arnie stressed the importance of explicitly teaching schema to our students.”Students need something to hang their thinking on.”  Graphic organizers are a must!

  • Read/Write/Think – I’ve been a long-time fan of NCTE’s site and am familiar with their Student Interactives, such as the Diamonte builder and the Story Map builder. The one drawback to this great site is students can’t save their work on this site – so print it!
  • Scholastic Graphic Organizers – All the graphic organizers provided by Scholastic are PDF’s, so you can save them and print them. Another take-away from this session: If your students have been working with Read/Write/Think’s character traits graphic organizer, you can pull up Scholastic’s printable Character Sheet and Traits List, print it out poster-size and now you’ll have a character chart for you wall.
  • Tools for Reading, Writing, and Thinking – Need graphic organizers for teaching cause and effect? Checkout these cause and effect formats.
  • Writer’s Companion – This is the companion website for Arnie’s program.  I’ve looked at this well-thought-out program before  – and always walk away with the understanding that Writer’s Companion offers more for the reluctant writer than Inspiration.  If I had $ to purchase software for grades 4-8, I’d chose Writer’s Companion in a flash.

CUE 2010 – Ah, so many tools, so little time; so many great presenters, so little time; so many opportunities to connect and re-connect with the CUE community…

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March 7, 2010
by blogwalker
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Kicking off CUE 2010 with Internet Safety Awareness

From start to finish CUE 2010 was outstanding!

I was delighted to arrive in time for the Internet Safety Awareness and Education panel session. Anne Collier of lead the discussions, which ranged from “sexting” to identity theft.   Anne was joined by:

Larry Magid of “It’s all about how kids relate and interact on the Internet. The Internet predator issue is minute compared to how kids harm themselves.” Larry had a few questions for us:

Question 1: What does it mean to be a friend in 2010? How do we encourage kids to be cyber citizens – who care about each other. WE have a lot of work to do. We have to help students create a new social culture where children become each others keepers. Larry referenced a Palo Alto high school that has had a rash of teen suicides. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, kids who commit suicide often put out warning signs.  Fellow kids are the most likely to see those warning signs.  But we seem to have this mentality to not respond.

Question 2: What does it mean to turn our children into agents of social betterment?

Rebecca Randall of Common Sense Media – There needs to be more of a home-school connection. Kids are leaving digital footprints, but they don’t really have the brain development to understand the consequences of their actions. Kids need to warn their friends that they’re posting something inappropriate.  As educators, we need to do things pro-actively and build a culture of responsibility – a “culture of dignity.”  It’s not just about doing no harm, but about doing good.

Lynette Owens – Trend Micro (content security) – Global Citizens Program – Tech alone is not the answer to Internet security – there has to be an education piece. The security piece is not as well represented in typical i-safety programs:

  • Education by far has worst instances of malware – access to hacked URLs is 6X worse in education than all other organizations.
  • Information software stealing is 4x worse in education.
  • Disturbing statistic: 10% of ID theft = child identity theft. The technique of “social engineering” is on the rise. For example, with any current event,  such as the death of Michael Jackson or the Winter Olympics, criminals will rush to web and try to plant themselves wherever they think kids will be – but it’s really a hack link. They’ll make offers to children, which require downloading something to view whatever the offer is. Kids are often opening pop-up for codecs – that will log all keystrokes and send that information back to somebody.
  • Teaching students about the security side of the Internet should be an essential component of our media literacy programs. Kids don’t like being manipulated. After watching some of the Internet Security 101 tutorials,  students will realize that downloading a cool movie, for instance, could result in loss to their privacy.  Our Internet safety programs should promote the process of critical thinking.
  • Note: March 16 Trend Micro – will launch  Internet safety video conference. Will definitely be checking their site for this event!

The questions I will be revisiting on a regular basis, sharing with teachers and parents, and weaving into my Internet safety workshops are What does it mean to be a friend in 2010? and How do we create a culture of dignity?

February 28, 2010
by blogwalker

OnCue – Beautiful Resources from Spring 2010 Edition

One of the  many benefits of attending the annual CUE conference is the year’s subscription to the OnCue Journal.  My Spring 2010 copy just arrived today and, as usual, contains a few gems. My favorites are the links from CLRN’s Kelly Day in her Global Connections article:

  • African Voices – from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History – This beautiful online collection “examines the diversity, dynamism, and global influence of Africa’s peoples and cultures over time in the realms of family, work, community, and natural environment.” Grades 6-10
  • International Children’s Digital Library – from the University of Maryland – A growing, international collection of children’s books, with a “focus on identifying materials that will help children understand the world around them and the global society in which they live.”  The selections are in multiple languages and include a wide assortment of authors – ranging from award-winning Calling the Doves’ Juan Felipe Herrera to featured authors such as Barry Polisar, whose book Insect Soup brings you up close and personal to critters such as the lice:


    Illustration by David Clark

Take my advice, avoid lice. They simply are not very nice.”

Oh, and besides an ICDL widget to add to your blog, you’ll find a link to the ICDL app for your iPhone. I love this project and website! Grades K-adult

  • Arctic Climate Perspectives– from WGBH Educational Foundation – A great video for viewing the impact of global warming on Barrow, Alaska. “The Inupiaq people who live in Barrow present their observations of these changes based on their centuries-old knowledge of their environment, and describe how these changes are already affecting their lives.” Grades 6-12
  • California of the Past – Changing Lives through Film – Kudos to the Oakland Museum of California for this wonderful collection of short videos from community members sharing their California experiences. Great examples for teaching the art of first-person narratives! Grades 4-12

I’ll be heading down to Palm Springs later this week to attend the Spring CUE Conference. Hope to meet Kelly Day and thank her for the above links.

March 14, 2009
by blogwalker

Starting to “get” SmartBoards

Interactive whiteboards, such as Promethean and Smartboard, are an expensive investment (about $1,200 each). When writing my EETT grant, I did not build them into the budget.  What I did purchase was a laptop and LCD projector per teacher (starting with 4th grade this year; 5th grade next year), plus headset and stand-alone microphone, voice recorder, and web camera. For each site, I included a laptop cart and a filmmaking set (2 Canon miniDV cameras, microphone, MyBook, and Flip camera). If I have any money left, I’ll buy as many document cams as possible.

The budget did not include SmartBoards.  Once the RFP was funded, my boss suggested I might want to redo the budget to work in  SmartBoards.  My wonderful evaluator (Dr. Carl Whithaus, UC Davis) and I chatted about making the switch, but since our grant is all about improving students’ English/Language Arts skills, especially writing, via the integration of multi-modal, multimedia tools and strategies, we agreed the Smartboard might almost be a “distractor” from our goals, and I wasn’t willing to cross out any of the items listed above.

So why am I posting about interactive whiteboards? One of my sites was able to use Title I funding to order SmartBoards for grades 4-6.  I will be providing the staff training. OK…so time for me to get on board with the interactive whiteboard!

Last week I traveled to Palm Springs for the 2009 CUE Conference.  At the top of my to-do list was to attend Robert Marzano’s keynote presentation and to hook up with the SmartBoard folks.  Here’s what happened:

Marzano’s Keynote: His research stats were impressive, with the “sweet spot” (the perfect storm of student achievement according to his findings) reached when the technology was used by an experienced teacher, who has had training, having had an interactive whiteboard for 2 years, using it 75% of the time in class. The gain in students scores = 29% . Wow! That’s an enormous gain! However, he did warn that beyond 75% use in class, student scores drop.

I left his session with a few unanswered questions (what was the break down in scores? did student writing scores improve? how many hours of PD are typically required to become a proficient user? an innovative user?)…and set off for the exhibit hall.

Exhibit Hall – I headed to the SmartBoard booth in hopes of truly “getting” SmartBoards.  Probably my mistake, but my first comment to the sales rep was that one thing teachers like about their ancient overhead projectors is being able to face their class while writing.  He proceeded to demonstrate how he has learned to write facing his audience. OK, yeah, I could sort of read what he was scrawling on the board with his hand behind his back.  With that, I set off for the SmartBoard demo room…

SmartBoard Live Demonstrations Room – I headed to the front of the class where a teacher was learning to cover up her multiple-choice answers with balloons….Hmmm…OK, cute, but not likely to improve student writing scores)… Back to the Exhibit Hall!

Exhibit Hall – Back at the SmartBoard booth, I told the sales rep I needed to see an example of how this technology could genuinely improve learning (beyond the obvious engagement factor in being able to pop SmartBoard balloons;-).  He pulled up a split screen with a math problem on one side and space for a student to demo his/her solution on the other.  OK, this could be useful, given that you have the ability to record and save this demo.  In fact, a SmartBoard would be a much easier way for students to demo how they solve particular problems than this VoiceThread example. I am a huge VoiceThread fan, but unless students have access to a tablet PC or a Wacom tablet, it’s pretty klutzy to write or draw with a mouse…..Hmmmm…

Back to the SmartBoard Live Demonstrations Room – I  lucked out on my second trip to the demo room. I met Mark Murphy, an  elementary school teacher from the Westminster School District. Mark shared how he uses resources from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives to teach such abstract concepts as crossing out and borrowing to solve subtraction problems where the top number is smaller than the bottom number.  Oh wow, even though my grant is about improving E/LA scores, I know teachers will love this use of SBs!

OK, OK, I’m starting to “get” SmartBoards.  But I do still have several concerns:

  • Design – We actually have a SmartBoard installed in one of the rooms at Tech Services. Unfortunately, that room is often booked days on end for all kinds of meetings and trainings. Since I cannot transport the board to another room, I have some concerns about when I’ll actually get the hands-on time I would like before training my teachers. From the SmartBoard website, I see there is a portable model available, but no where on the site can I find prices (and missing price lists typically are not indicative of bargain prices).
  • Because we all know of cases where a school site has done mass purchasing of an expensive technology that has somehow ended up gathering dust, I would recommend starting with the mobile model. That way, the early adopters at each site could delve in, share the board, and based on their successes and lessons learned, bring the rest of the staff on board, at which time it would make $ sense to install the stationary models in every classroom.

  • Expense – If student engagement and learning is positively and significantly impacted, then, of course, we need to find the money to provide both the SB and the accompanying professional development. But while in the process of building site buy-in from teachers, at this point, I would do the “baby steps” thing.  Maybe start with an AirLiner slate (which I would definitely want to include in my SmartBoard purchasing package). I believe they’re about $400 – and can be used with National Library of Virtual Manipulatives, or other interactive whiteboard lessons, for instance, on a regular whiteboard. My next step would be to introduce a cheaper version of an interactive whiteboard, such as the Mimio, which works via infared and runs about $800. You can beam the Mimio on any wall, or at any level, making it practical for a K-6 school site.

But back to the SmartBoard – While waiting for some hands-on time with our SmartBoard, I’m hoping to compile a list of resources, lessons, and strategies for using this tool to improve student literacy, particularly writing.  I’ve joined the SmartBoard Revolution Ning and look forward to making the transition from consumer to producer of SB best practices.

I would very much appreciate any SmartBoard tips and would love to join some on-going SmartBoard conversations. In return, as I gain first-hand knowlege on the power of interactive whiteboards, I promise to share my findings on this blog, Twitter, the SmartBoard Revolution ning, or any venues I find in my journey to beoming a SB poster child:-)

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