Muddling through the blogosphere

February 20, 2012
by blogwalker

Wrapping up MERIT – PD that works!

Next month I wrap up my year-long participation in the MERIT program, by far the best professional development program and PLN experience I’ve had to date – bar none.

The impact of MERIT really hit me last week when I was sharing with a colleague  some gems I took away from last week’s amazing Saturday session with Ramsey Musallam. I started to explain that I met Ramsey while down at Foothill College. She immediately added, “Oh, the MERIT program, right?”  That’s when I realized that throughout the school year, I regularly reference speakers, resources, and ideas gleaned from my MERIT experience.

So why is it that the MERIT program has been so meaningful to me, both in my work (technology integration specialist for a large k-12 school district) and as a life-long learner? Let’s see if I can nail it down in a few bullets:

  • “Earn while you learn” – That was the original name of the MERIT program.  What’s the difference, besides $$$, in being paid or having to pay for PD?  Somehow with a stipend I feel more valued as a contributor to the MERIT community.  I also feel energized, supported, and empowered to spread great resources and best practices back in my district and region.
  • 2 week summer institute – Having a concentrated chunk of hands-on time to learn about new tools while engaging in conversations on how these tools can improve teaching and learning boosts the likelihood of implementing them as part of my teaching toolkit. Two weeks to explore tools and concepts such as: UJam,  Diane Mein’s introduction to geocaching and QR codes,  magic fill and look up options for Google Docs, Meg Ormainsky’s models for well-designed Prezis (that don’t bring on motion sickness), MIT’s Scratch, and so much more!!!
  • Inspiring leadership – Between Rushton Hurley’s ability to motivate a crowd (and not just because of the super cool swag available to those who arrive early for each session;-), his ability to recognize tools that can make a difference to students, and his ever present sense of humor; the outstanding MERIT co-leaders and student assistants; and the Krause Center for Innovation (Gay Krause & Steve McGriff) – I’m pretty sure that 100% of my MERIT colleagues also feel fortunate to be part of the program.
  • Teaming possibilities – Priority is given to teachers applying as a team. Through our involvement in the National Writing Project, my MERIT teammate Natalie Bernasconi and I have known each other for a number of years.  Many times we have said how it would be great to partner on a project.  MERIT transformed that idea into a reality. Six months after our summer institute, I stand back in awe of where our MERIT-ignited collaboration has taken us. Next month we head to the CUE Conference where we will present our digital citizenship wiki and project: Digital ID – a project that will continue to grow, even as our MERIT year draws to an end.

If you applied for the 2012 MERIT program, I wish you luck. If you are accepted, I guarantee you too will soon be widely broadcasting its benefits.  If you did not apply this year, I encourage you to think about 2013.  And the good news is that MERIT is open to teachers across the nation and world. For a glimpse of the depth, breadth, and possibilities of the program, the community, and the multiple “ah ha” moments, checkout the video below from the 2010 MERIT team:

July 26, 2011
by blogwalker

Merit 2011 – Week 2 Tuesday Take-Aways

Like every morning at Merit, we jumped right in with awesome tools:

  • Mobile Devices – If you’re wondering about the differences between the iPad and Android Xoom, here’s a chart that Jeff and Ben created. Regardless of your brand choice, this Apple video provides a range of ideas for tablets in educational settings.
  • Scratch – Developed and supported by MIT,  Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web. I’ve seen first-hand with a group of 5th graders in my district how engaging, challenging, and rewarding it is to create a Scratch project.  Because game programming is a whole new world for me, I loved and learned a lot from the kid-created video tutorials.  And no need to limit Scratch to elementary students.  Check out the assignments Galileo High School (San Francisco) Ben Chen assigns to his Comp App students.

I’m feeling very fortunate to be a part of the Merit 2011 Institute.  With 7 days down; 3 to go, it’s not just the selection of free tools I’m learning how to use that makes this program an exception PD opportunity. It’s the conversations that always come back to how students will benefit from the tools that puts Merit at the top of my summer learning experiences.



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.

July 24, 2011
by blogwalker

Merit 2011 – Week 1 Take-Aways

I’ve just finished an amazing week of learning at the Merit 2011 Institute. I arrived with high expectations, based on knowing that Rushton Hurley would be at the helm, with an awesome team of teacher leaders – all equally excited about sharing tools, ideas, strategies for re-visioning the upcoming school year.

I truly enjoyed every session.  Here are few of my favorite take-aways:

Day 1

  • A New Google Docs – I’ve also been a long-time fan of Google Docs, and really loved it when Google added Comments and Notes feature. Thanks to Diane Mein’s presentation, I’m now all over the option for teachers to use the Resolve option. Google Docs doesn’t force you to delete comments. Instead, you can resolve comments to remove them from the visible document and view them later by clicking the discussions button at the top of any document. You can even re-open comments. What a great way for students to looks at teacher feedback/comments over school year.
  • Jaycut – If you’re a PC user or district and (like me) are looking for better options than Movie Maker Live, I think you’ll share my excitement over Jaycut.  Tom Sayer lead a 15-minute session on Jaycut. And, yes, in 15 minutes, you can pretty well cover Jaycut – and the program includes a ‘green screen’ option. Don’t  have a green screen? YouTube has loads of videos to help you build your own – for less than $12.

Day 2

  • Copyright & Fair Use – Loved the discussions around the need for us to guide our students into the world of intellectual property and how to tow the line between copyright and fair use.  For music, Jamendo is still the best deal of copyright-free, royalty free music. For images, Rushton has created a great handout: Guide to Grabbing & Citing Copyright-Friendly Media.
  • Advanced Google Docs Session – Using the Magic Fill and LookUp formula in a Google spreadsheet might be the tool to add to your toolkit if you’re trying to convince your administration that there is more to “technology proficiency” than MS Office. There were lots of “oohs and aahs” amongst the Merit group as we watched spreadsheets magically autofilling with data.

Day 3

  • Storytelling Elements – Jeff Schmidt has a ton of resources to share. Although his sessions are more for secondary students – at schools with equipped media labs – his websitehas a wealth of tips and samples. Jeff’s tips for better storytelling:
    • Take every shot at least 3 times. You’ll have a variety and quality choice. The overall quality of your videos will go up.
    • It’s all about SAMs –

Day 4

  • Prezi – OK, thanks to a great presentation by Meg Omainsky. Having seen a lot of bad Prezis, I’ve been slow to jump on the band wagon. But thanks to Meg’s  excellent demonstration, tutorials and beautiful samples, such as the one below, I’m ready to start playing.


Day 5

  • Green Screen Tips – Back with Tom Sayer and Jeff Schmidt for this session.  Between Jaycut’s video-editing-in-the-cloud option and make-it-yourself green screens, I’m looking forward to sharing new tools for quality movie making. A few tips from the session included:
      1. Use a tripod!
      2. Don’t stand too close to green screen – you’ll get “green spill.”  Put subject at least 5-10 feet away from screen.
      3. If using lighting – check that it’s even.
      4. Walmart fabric, with green paper underneath. Make it as large as you can, so kids have move around room. In Jaycut, click on clip > settings > use eye dropper to get perfect shade of green.
      5. If you’re not excited yet about what is possible with green screen effects, maybe this BBC April Fool’s Day clip will change that:

Heading back to Foothill College tomorrow for the second (and last) week of Merit 2011. Can’t wait:-)

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