Muddling through the blogosphere

July 25, 2011
by blogwalker

Merit 2011 – Week 2 Monday Take-Aways

I headed back to Foothills College this morning to start Week 2 of the fabulous Merit 2011 Institute.  Here are some take-aways from today’s sessions:

  • Geocaching with Diane Mein – Loved starting the morning roaming the beautiful Foothills campus in search of geocached sites. Diane provided basic background information to get us started, and then sent us on our way.  Some of her geocaching resources included:

A big take-away from Diane’s session was the discussion around the value and importance of getting students outdoors – and saving them from what Richard Louv refers to as “nature deficit disorder.”  John Medina’s research on Brain Rules indicates  that the brain works best when we’re outside moving around – senses working together heightens intelligence.  Kids can think better if you take them outdoors for a bit – seeing green helps diminish stress. And it doesn’t cost anything to weave more outside time into the school day:-).

  • Rushton’s afternoon nuggets:
    • Cool Iris – Besides the globe display of Tag Galaxy, you also have the option of a stunning visual word wall with the free Cool Iris browser plug-in.
    • UJam – This create-your-own music freebie is a triple-wow – even for the musically challenged! I recommend watching the video below for a window into this amazing,so-simple-to-use tool:

Will be back tomorrow with more Merit gems.

May 16, 2009
by blogwalker

Favorite Sites for the Week

  1. Over the last 24 hours, a ton of Tweeters are referencing WolframAlpha . Stephen Wolfram’s opening phrase Making the World’s Knowledge Computable sort of explains it. But you really need to listen to his introduction to get a feel for how mind-blowing this application is.  If you’ve been looking for an example to show administrators and colleagues about why for our students’ sake, it’s no longer about finding information (which the Internet makes easy-peasy); it should be about applying information. For a more extensive post on WolframAlpha visit Karl Fisch’s recent post (Sorry, Karl, I’m  not commenting directly on your blog because, due to your settings, I can only use my Blogger URL, which is actually my dog Nola’s blog)
  2. ScratchNWP colleague Kevin posted this resource. Wow!

    “Scratch is a free download (for Mac or Windows) that lets children build their own interactive games, animations, and digital stories. After building their creations, children can share their Scratch creations via the Web. Children can learn from each other, be inspired by one another, and build upon each others’ creations.”

    Designed by the “good folks at the Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT’s Media Lab,” Scratch “puts children in the driver’s seat. They become actors upon the world rather than acted upon by the world.” What a great resource for elementary computer lab teachers! Classroom 2.0 colleague Zack Dowell just Tweeted that “Scratch is a really excellent program – I know some 12 year olds that are obsessed with it!”

  3. From the DEN Diigo group via Tim Childers100 Incredibly Inspiring Blog Posts for Educators – Great range of articles!
  4. From NWP mentor Elyse E-ADrape’s Takes: The Educator’s Guide to Creative Commons. If you’re looking for an easy way to explain the CC concept, this is it!
  5. Also from Elyse E-A – We cannot have too many copyright friendly resources for educators like this recent post by Making Teachers NerdyBest sites to find Public Domain Images.

This weekend ends an exhausting week (daughter in bicycle accident and needs chauffeuring; son’s car vandalized and needs chauffeuring), so I’m taking a virtual trip to Verana, Mexico (near Puerta Vallarta), via this stunning photo tour.  Yep, it’s a commercial, but, oh my, what beautiful camera shots and angles!

Verana 2009 – The Houses from Heinz Legler on Vimeo.

Happy weekend to all!

March 21, 2009
by blogwalker

Ideas to Inspire – This week’s #1 favorite

Just made a big step forward on my commitment to “get” SmartBoards by visiting Tom Barrett’s Idea’s to Inspire site!  Each page on the site has a slideshow on a specific tool. I started with his Interesting Ways to Use ICT in Your Classroom tab, where I was thrilled to discover 38 Interesting Ways to Use Your Interactive Whiteboard. Between ideas, tips, and links, I’m excited and almost ready to start training others on the effective use of SmartBoards. All of Tom’s slideshows, including Google Docs, Google Earth, Twitter, and more, are outstanding resources to incorporate into to your teacher training toolkit!

Be sure to checkout the Curriculum Ideas tab and the Techy Tips for Non-Techy Teachers tab.

I read Tom’s blog and also follow him on Twitter. I guess this is part of the Web 2.0 magic that members of my PLN do not need to be in my time zone or continent.

January 4, 2009
by blogwalker

Blogging with 4th Graders

Before the Winter Break, I introduced the 4th grade teachers in my EETT grant to blogs and blogging during a 3-hour whirlwind workshop. With only a week left before vacation, already several went “live” with their blogs and invited their students to post comments, noting that their students immediately took to blogging. One of the great things about introducing Web 2.0 tools is that kids like technology.

I am pretty sure that students who read and respond to blogs regularly – especially beyond the school day – are building their reading skills. But my EETT grant was funded based on my argument that students at three of my district’s lowest-performing elementary schools would improve their writing skills by integrating multi-modal, multimedia tools and strategies into the English/Language Arts program. The tools (blogs, podcasts, wikis, VoiceThread, and video editing) are only half of the program. Area 3 Writing Project Teacher Consultants are providing the other half: teacher-tested writing activities and strategies that have transformed writing in their own classrooms – and have helped raise scores on the 4th grade paper-and-pencil state writing assessment.

Technology is not a silver bullet. But if you combine powerful writing strategies – such as introducing emerging writers to the concept of strong verbs and prompting them, for example, to locate strong verbs in other bloggers’ posts and to respond with at least one strong verb – with Web 2.0 tools, then I predict this group of 4th graders will become better writers.

Over the break, I’ve been reading some outstanding posts by Silvia Tolisano, Kim Cofino, and Kevin Jarrett.

Drawing from many of the ideas and resources they’ve shared, here is my agenda for Tuesday’s EETT workshop:

Opening Session: Revisiting Blogs and Blogging

  • The Big Question: How can blogging help YOUR students?
  • End with my Sacto neighbor and thinking partner Alice Mercer’s video on Blogging with Students

Morning Workshop: Summary Writing – Facilitated by A3WP 4th grade teachers Angela Luna and Heather Koczian.

Afternoon Session = Podcasting for Absolute Beginners*

  • Start with a brief PowerPoint. I’m providing handouts for teachers to note how they will integrate podcasting – and summary writing – into their classrooms.
  • Introduce Audacity
  • Hands-on time for teachers to experiment with their first podcasts
  • End session with demo on podcasting from a cell phone via Gcast
  • Wrap Up – Sharing of ideas for incorporating podcasting – as a writing strategy – into the 4th grade curriculum.

*Note: I’ve posted links to podcasting tutorials and resources on ToolKit4BlogWalker.

As we move through this grant year, it is my hope that through access to powerful writing strategies and access to technology tools that provide authentic audience and authentic purpose, this group of 4th graders will experience academic growth – and excitement – and will add writing (most likely online writing) to their list of favorites.

Image copied from

October 25, 2008
by blogwalker

Web 2.0 in the Classroom – Some Benefits and Realities

Maggie Tsai just posted a link to The Becta Report on the Benefits Web 2.0 in the Classroom, “a major new research into the use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis, blogs and social networking by children between the ages of 11-16, both in and out of the school environment.” In a nutshell, the report found a disconnect between the increasing amount of Web 2.0 use students reported using outside of school and the limited use of Web 2.0 during the school day. But in observing schools and teachers who are innovating with Web 2.0 tools, they found the following benefits:

  • Web 2.0 helps to encourage student engagement and increase participation – particularly among quieter pupils, who can use it to work collaboratively online, without the anxiety of having to raise questions in front of peers in class – or by enabling expression through less traditional media such as video.
  • Teachers have reported that the use of social networking technology can encourage online discussion amongst students outside school.
  • Web 2.0 can be available anytime, anywhere, which encourages some individuals to extend their learning through further investigation into topics that interest them.
  • Pupils feel a sense of ownership and engagement when they publish their work online and this can encourage attention to detail and an overall improved quality of work. Some teachers reported using publication of work to encourage peer assessment.”

I think the research being compiled by the U.K.’s Becta Group complements the 2008 findings shared by the Pew Internet/American Life Project in collaboration with the National Commission on the Teaching of Writing. Two sections of this report jumped out at me because both can easily be addressed by integrating Web 2.0 into the classroom:

Teens are motivated to write by relevant topics, high expectations, an
interested audience and opportunities to write creatively.

Teens write for a variety of reasons—as part of a school assignment, to get a good grade, to stay in touch with friends, to share their artistic creations with others or simply to put their thoughts to paper (whether virtual or otherwise). In our focus groups, teens said they are motivated to write when they can select topics that are relevant to their lives and interests, and report greater enjoyment of school writing when they have the opportunity to write creatively. Having teachers or other adults who challenge them, present them with interesting curricula and give them detailed feedback also serves as a motivator for teens. Teens also report writing for an audience motivates them to write and write well.”

Teens believe that the writing instruction they receive in school could be

Most teens feel that additional instruction and focus on writing in school would help improve their writing even further. Our survey asked teens whether their writing skills would be improved by two potential changes to their school curricula: teachers having them spend more time writing in class, and teachers using more computer-based tools(such as games, writing help programs or websites, or multimedia) to teach writing. Overall, 82% of teens feel that additional in-class writing time would improve their writing abilities and 78% feel the same way about their teachers using computer-based writing tools.”

In conversations with teachers in and around California and across the nation (via the National Writing Project and the National Council for Teachers of English), my colleagues have shared that lack of access to computers can present a huge obstacle to integrating Web 2.0 into their curriculum. Particularly at elementary sites, many school computer labs are designated for automated assessment (e.g., Accelerated Reader, All the Right Type, Exam View Pro generated quizzes), a bit of MS Office, and “learning” games. At many middle and high schools, computer labs are reserved for particular technology courses, generally not connected to the core curriculum (e.g., MS Office, Web Design, AutoCad). Therefore an English or Social Studies teacher, for instance, seeking to connect students via the Internet with students in other locations for the purpose of collaborating, creating, and sharing authentic research projects often faces a constant scheduling battle.

In my own district, school sites are attempting to solve access issues in a variety of ways. One elementary site, for instance, furnished a second computer lab, leaving the original lab for drill/test/play and the second for classroom teachers to schedule time for curriculum-related projects. Thanks to funding through the federally-funded EETT grant, three elementary sites will be getting grade-level (4th and 5th grade) laptop carts. At one of our high school sites, an English teacher is asking permission for his students to be allowed to use their cell phones during his class, as the blogging project his students are joining that will connect them to students in Utah, New Mexico, New York, and Maine, can be accessed by cell phone.

What other successful models are out there for providing students with Web 2.0 access within the core curriculum of the school day? I welcome your ideas, questions, and examples – and non-examples too.

August 12, 2008
by blogwalker

Web 2.0 Videos ala Michael Wesch

For the past year or two, I’ve been including three of Michael Wesch’s wonderful short (3-5 minute) videos in my Web 2.0 workshops, usually in this order:

I know many of you also tap into these resources. So if you haven’t seen it and you have a free hour (yep, 60 minutes), I’m pretty sure you will really enjoy his Portal to Media Literacy presentation…thought provoking, informative, and definitely an hour well spent! “Being human is all about learning.” “If you have the right question, you can set your students up to learn…and to learn and to learn.”  And so many more gems.

April 30, 2008
by blogwalker

In the Time of Trees – Photo Essay Genre

Many thanks to glassbead (Clarence Fischer) for sharing a Tweet with the link to In the Time of Trees, a beautiful photo essay. The topic is a multimodal match for NPRs This I Believe podcasts in terms of providing rich visual + text possibilities for student – and teacher – writers. Besides the slide show format, Voice Thread would be also be an effective format for an “In the time of….” photo essay genre.,29307,1731606,00.html

March 31, 2008
by blogwalker

Do Our Schools Kill Creativity? – Sir Ken Robinson

kenrobinson.jpgKnowing that I needed a little inspiration and a bit of humor to jump start writing my district’s EETT Round 7 grant, CTAP3 mentor and friend Lauri Bailey referred me to Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED presentation. It’s worth the load time.  And I’m now sufficiently inspired to sit down and write Web 2.0 technologies into the proposal.

March 5, 2008
by blogwalker

Twitter Preso at Edubloggercon

twitter.pngI’m at the CUE Conference a day early to attend the Edubloggercon. Sylvia Martinez is up right now doing a session on Twitter. With Twitter, comes a new term “microblogging.” She’s explaing how Twitteriffic works. She’s moved on to Tweet Scan and explaining the API thing, which allows 3rd parties “to suck stuff out of Twitter.” Tweet Scan allows you to search terms, such as your name, to see what Tweets are out there. Good way not to miss Tweets directed to you.

I like Steve Hargadon’s comparison of Twitter to a cocktail party. The participants are starting to chime in with the “presence” of Twitter community, because “there is a conversation going on all the time.” “It’s like being in the break room, not everybody is in there all the time, so no need to take it personally if you don’t get a response, unlike email.” And there’s even a My Tweets Map application…

February 27, 2008
by blogwalker

Meme: Passion Quilt

I’ve been tagged by Murcha for a meme challenge. Here are the rules:

  • Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce

That’s a big question – what are you passionate about teaching your students?! I want them to love learning and I want them to feel empowered to make changes. I see Web 2.0 as a pathway to both those goals. Yesterday I spent the morning with a group of 1st graders from one of our semi-rural sites, Franklin Elementary School, a small (about 500 K-6 students) site on our district’s outskirts . To get to the school, you actually drive through a historic cemetery. Less than half the students in this classroom have Internet access at home.

The purpose of my visit was to connect this group of students to a group of 1st graders in Edmonton, Canada, for a Read Around the Planet videoconference. I was too busy working the remote control to take any photos. Fortunately, a 7-year-old artist named Giovanni captured the interactivity of the event with the sketch below, which he graciously presented to me at the end of the conference.



It is my hope (passion) that in the years to follow much of the time Giovanni and his classmates spend inside the four walls of the classroom will be spent connecting, exploring, learning, and creating beyond those four walls – much like the scene depicted above.

I am tagging Steve Hargadon, Monica Edinger, Janine Lim, Larry Ferlazzo, and Mathew Needleman, whose work/passions have already inspired me.

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