Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Create A Talking Character with Voki

If you are looking for a creative way to provide content, procedures, or announcements to your students then look no further! With VOKI you can create your own customized digital avatar.  Here is a description from the site:

"VOKI enables users to express themselves on the web in their own voice using a talking character. You can customize your Voki to look like you or take on the identity of lots of other types of characters… animals, monsters, anime etc. Your Voki can speak with your own voice which is added via microphone,  typing of text, upload, or phone."

A VOKI can be embedded into your blog, website, Moodle course or just about any other website. When creating a Voki you can customize his or her appearance, language/accent and gender.  Below is a VOKI I created.

Get a Voki now!

The integration ideas for VOKI in the classroom are endless. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

World Language

  • Students may create a recording in which they speak in the language they are studying.

  • Students may create a news report spoken in the language they are studying.

  • Create a Voki of a historical person.

  • Create a news reporter that is reporting on a historical event or current event.

  • Create a PSA announcement.

  • Create a lecture about an important event.

  • Create a Voki that teaches other students about an important class topic

  • Report the findings of an experiment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Free Ebooks from Google

Google has released a Ebook store. Google Ebooks can be accessed online at the following website: http://books.google.com/ebooks.  The ebook store houses a large collection of ebooks that can be downloaded. The books are available in formats for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch,  Android, the general web, Nook and Kindle.

What is unique about Google Ebooks is that Google stores your books in the cloud. That means you can access your purchased or free books from any of the above mentioned devices. Once you purchase or download a free ebook it is stored in your online Google account. You can then read the book from your computer at school and then open the same book from your ipod touch at home.  Books can be downloaded directly to a device for when internet access is not available.

There are thousands of free public domain books available.  A complete listing of the free titles can be found here. Students may sign into Google Ebooks with their Google Apps for Education user name and password that we have created for them.

The accessibility of ebooks in the cloud offers many advantages for teachers and students.

  • For public domain books used in instruction (example: Great Expectations) teachers may only need to purchase a class set.

  • Students can access the book at home from their computers or mobile device. A student who forgets a book at school can access it at home.

  • Faculty members can easily differentiate classroom reading assignments with the availability of ebooks.

  • Faculty and staff can download professional development books and access them on-demand from any mobile device or computer.

  • Students with disabilities can utilize many of the assistive technology features available on electronic devices such as highlighting, text to speech, enlarging of text, and color options.

  • Students may publish reviews of the books they read on the site.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Comic Writing with Toondoo

Toondoo is a site that allows for the creation of comic strips. They offer  free accounts and private school account for a fee. The free accounts are very feature rich. The site does require the student to register for an account. This requires and email address to register. That limitation makes this a more valuable tool for older students.

Students can create multi-frame comic strips. There are a variety of backgrounds, props, characters, text boxes and clip art to select from. The site also allows for the addition of images from the web or a personal image. There are many editing features available.  Upon completion of your comic you can save it or send it. Students can save their strip and access it at a later time. They can also publish their comic online for the  world to view.

There are a number of ways that his tool can be used as an instructional tool or assessment.

  • Have students create a comic as a first day back project to discuss their summer.

  • Students create a comic that depicts a conversation between characters in a story or historical figures.

  • Teachers create comics with various emotions to teach behaviors to special needs students.

  • Students create a comic to kick off a creative writing assignment.

  • Students create a comic using new vocabulary words that are being taught.

  • Students in a world language course may create a comic that contains text written in the language studied.

  • Have students create a comic to demonstrate knowledge of life skills such as speaking with a bank teller, ordering at a restaurant, speaking with a doctor or going on an interview

  • Students may create a political cartoon.

  • Students may create a comic that explains how to solve a math problem or provides an explanation for a science topic such as photosynthesis.

  • Students may create a comic that consists of a conversation between historical figures or one that depicts an event from history.

  • Students may create a comic that provides a first person account of a current event.

  • Students may create a comic to interpret a scene form a story, analyze a character or an alternate scene or ending.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Interactive and Collaborative Story Writing Smartboard Lessons

SMART and Scholastic have worked together to create a series of Smartboard lessons that teach students the process of story writing and analysis. There are a series of four lessons that cover:

1. Planning Stories

2.  Story Styles

3. Creating Characters

4. Re-inventing Stories

The lessons are designed for students in grades 2 or 3 but may be modified for other grade levels. Each lesson is fully interactive and includes a page turning audio story book. These are really great activities for teaching students not only the process of developing stories, but how to analyze the parts of the story. Some of the activities focus on the various reading strategies that pair well with the stories.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Resources for Teaching about Thanksgiving

Here is a small collection of websites and smartboard activities for teaching about Thanksgiving: Click on the names of the sites to visit them.

Smartboard Lessons for Grades K-6 - The smart exchange has a nice collection of teacher made smartboard lessons about Thanksgiving. You can preview them before you decide to download them. Once you do download them you are able to edit them to your liking.

Smartboard Lessons for Grades 6-12

The First Thanksgiving by Scholastic - This is an excellent site full of interactive activities that can be used to teach students about the first Thanksgiving. This site will work very well on an interactive whiteboard.

You are the Historian - This is a fully interactive adventure in which students learn about the first Thanksgiving. It comes with a teacher's guide that should be used to facilitate the adventure. The application is available for download which will help avoid slow service because of a high volume of users.

BrainPop - Thanksgiving Movie - Our school login info is required.

BrainPop Jr. Thanksgiving Movie - Our school login info is required.

History Channel Videos on the History of Thanksgiving

Teacher and Student Resources for the American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving - From the National Museum of The American Indian

Google Docs Editing on Mobile Devices

Google has just announced that they will begin supporting the editing of Google Docs on mobile devices. For a while now Google Docs could only be viewed on mobile devices such as Android Phones, the IPhone and IPad.  Google as announced that they will be supporting editing of documents by the end of this week.

Here is a snippet from Information Week Magazine:

"According to Google, Android devices running 2.2 Froyo and iOS devices running 3.0+ will be able access these new feature from their device's browser. Users will need to navigate to docs.google.com and sign into their account. Once a document is open, users will have to toggle an "Edit" button in the nav bar to have access to editing features (as long as they have permission to edit that particular document).

Editing features include inline changes to text, the ability to edit tables, and, for Android users, the ability to input text via spoken dictation. Users will also be able to edit spreadsheets." Zeman , Eric. "Google (Finally) Brings Docs Editing To Mobile Devices
InformationWeek." InformationWeek | Business Technology News, Reviews and Blogs. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.informationweek.com/news/smb/mobile/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=228300058&cid=nl_IW_grok_2010-11-18_html>.

Our district has recently begun an implementation of Google Apps for education. This new feature set will offer many opportunities for us as we explore the integration of IPADS, IPOD Touches, and Android based tablet computers.  Imagine being able to read and comment on student work while waiting in a doctors office from your phone. How about typing and editing a lesson plan while a passenger in a car from your phone?  How about writing curriculum on a shared Google Document with 4 other colleagues simultaneously within a Google Doc from a chair on the beach with your smartphone or Ipad! You can even quickly review or respond to a shared document from anywhere in our schools with a phone or tablet computer.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Publish your own page turning book with Story Jumper

Story Jumper is a web 2.0 site that allows students and teachers to create their own page turning, online story book.  You can make adventure stories, fairy tales, treasure maps, photo books, calendars... whatever you can imagine! The software is easy to use and comes with a complete set of directions.

As a teacher you can setup your classes to access story jumper from home or from school. The classroom edition provides:

  • An interface to manage and review student work

  • Enable kids to share stories between the classroom and home

  • Maintain strict privacy controls over student information

  • Enable educator discounts when ordering books

When a teacher created his/her account they are able to create a class password as well as user names and passwords for each student. The software provides the teacher with a printed handout for each student that will supply the directions and information for accessing the software at home and at school.  There is even settings to control the duration of time that the students may login.

Upon completion of the storybook the student may share and view online. He or she may also order the book in printed form. Discounts are available for class purchases. There is also an option to print a paper copy of the book for free.

If you would like to see an example of a Story Jumper book click the link below:


For complete directions to setup your class and student accounts click this link:


Classroom Applications:

  • Story Jumper is a great resource to allow students to publish their writing for an audience. Students will be able to author their very own children's book and share it.

  • Students in Middle and High School may write a  book that teachers younger students about a topic. An example might be a book that explains what composite numbers are or the life cycle of the plant. Research has proven that students better comprehend material when they teach it to someone else.

  • Teachers may use the software to write stories that can be used to teach reading skills. These books may be read on a Smartboard or individually in a center activity.

  • As part of the universal design for learning framework, students may be given the opportunity to create a Story Jumper book on any assigned topic in order to demonstrate knowledge of a topic/subject.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Create Portfolios In Glogster

Glogster EDU has just released a new feature for its premium subscribers. Our current high school and Middle School have a premium license.  Here is the press release from Glogster Edu:

"With two new functionalities, Presentations and Portfolios, you will be able to group any Glogs on Glogster EDU and present your Digital Book made with many Glogs as “pages” with a chosen school topic or a subject or your students` work throughout the school year. This is a unique step from one Glog to real digital literacy that can be shared and used on Class, School, District and international education level. The digital education has never made more sense!"

Look for the Presentation and Portfolio Tab on your dashboard. You can group and save student Glogs together. The Glogs will remain available to you even after you delete a student account. This is a great way to save samples for future years or to build a portfolio of student work. You may also want to develop a presentation to show parents.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Authentic Writing Resource For Students - Opposing Views

Providing students an opportunity to write for an audience using a medium that they are familiar with, will increase not only the level of engagement of our students, but we also can expect a higher quality of work. The I offers many opportunities for students to publish their thoughts, opinions and comments. The read/write web provides a gateway for students to share their thoughts with others and receive immediate feedback. This type of collaboration and real-time interaction has proven to be quite effective with regards to the teaching of not only writing, but can has been a proven instructional strategy for all subject areas.

The website Opposing Views offers the opportunity for students to publish their writing. The site specializes in publishing viewpoints, opinions and facts on topics that include politics, sports, current events, society, health, religion, entertainment, and technology.

Here is a blurb from their facts page: (a full page of facts about the site is available here)

How does an Opposing Views debate work?

Each debate starts with Opposing Views picking a central question on people’s minds. We then invite interested experts, opinion leaders and advocates to pick a side and weigh in. Experts can present as many arguments as they choose. After that, experts are able to counter each opposing argument one time. The author of the original argument can then respond to each counter. Thus, our debates last three rounds: Argument, Objection, and Response. That’s it.
Students may post a new discussion or comment on an existing one. Many of the current articles can be used in class as conversation starters. Because opposing sites is on the web students may have the opportunity to collaborate with a global audience. It is a great place to hear and share views and opinions from around the world. For a student to be successful in the 21st century they must be comfortable writing and publishing in an online environment. They also must have the skills to communicate and collaborate with a global audience utilizing technology. A 21st century student must be information literate. They must be able to interpret and analyze a wide variety of information sources and draw their own conclusions from them. Opposing views provides this experience.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Why every class must include online collaboration

Have you explored the opportunity to incorporate technology into your classroom that will allow students to collaborate online? Have you thought about how this can be used as a tool to extend your classroom beyond the four walls that currently confine student learning? Would you like to provide an opportunity for students to communicate with classmates using a medium that they are familiar with? Do you see value in the ability to provide students with anytime access to not only the resources you share in class, but additional resources that aide in differentiation? Can an online extension of your classroom support the requirements of Universal Design for Learning? Can it contain a library of materials that students can access when they need it?

By providing an opportunity for students to take part in online discussions and collaborate with their peers we are allowing student learning to develop beyond a 45 minute block of time. We provide students with a medium in which they can take time to formulate a response, participate, and learn from their peers. For what it's worth, we can save a lot of time making copies and catching up students who are absent too!

I ask, do we have choice? Is it our professional responsibility to instruct students on how to participate in an online community? Do our students need to know how to communicate in an online environment? Do they need to know how to collaborate with individuals using digital tools? The answer is Yes.

We can no longer create classroom environments that are not only teacher centered, but confine student interactions to a 45 minute block of time.  This system of education may have worked in the past. The global economy has forced a paradigm shift in education. Global competition has forced us to reconsider how we teach students.  We are no longer competing for jobs within our state and country.  Technology and training have introduced a global workforce.  In order to remain competitive our students must learn to think critically and make connections among content.  We must develop student creativity, communication skills, and high order thinking. It is a reality that our students will be forced to communicate and collaborate with individuals in online environments when they enter the workforce.  The days of the traveling business person have transitioned to web conferencing. Outsourcing agreements have forced individuals to communicate and collaborate using technology on a daily basis.   All of our students who enter college will have courses that maintain an online presence.

What are we doing to prepare our students?

Have you considered using Moodle as an online extension of your classroom? Our district Moodle site has a professional development page. There you will find a short course on how to use Moodle. You can also request a personalized training session with me. I encourage everyone to explore the opportunities available with this tool. The results of this shift in instruction holds many benefits for students and faculty.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Online Collection of Audio Books Grades K-12

Lit 2 Go is a website developed by the Florida Educational Technology Clearinghouse. It contains a collection of audio books all posted in MP3 format. The site allows you to search by Author, Title, Reading Level and Subject. If you have Itunes installed on your computer you can download the Audio book directly into it. Many of the books have the chapters broken up into individual file.

An abstract, citation, playing time, and word count are given for each of the passages. Many of the passages also have a related reading strategy identified. Each reading passage can also be downloaded as a PDF and printed for use as a read-along or as supplemental reading material for your classroom.

You can:

  • Download the files to your Mp3 player and listen on the go

  • Listen to the Mp3 files on your computer

  • View the text on a web page and read along as you listen

  • Print out the stories and poems to make your own book

Educational Uses

  • Audio books can be setup as a listening center

  • Links to the books can be posted on a teachers website for students to download and listen to at home.

  • By providing multiple sources for students you are supporting the Universal Design for Learning framework.

  • Students can use excerpts from the books for digital stories such as:

    • Audio or video book reviews

    • Mock interviews of book characters

    • Podcasts

  • Audio Snippets can be incorporated to any class instructional activity. They can be uploaded to Smartboard lessons, PowerPoints, or Glogs.

  • The audio tracks can be trimmed and modified using Audacity and then used in lessons and projects


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Historical Images for Digital Content Creation - A UDL Resource for Social Studies and Science

The Flickr Commons was launched in January of 2008. It started out as a pilot project between Flickr and The Library of Congress. The original project was to provide a large sample of the over 1,000,000 images that depict American and World History. The project has grown to include many of our countries museums, organizations, and public institutions.

A blog posting on the project reveals the intent of the project: "There are two main aims to The Commons project, starting with the pilot: firstly, to increase exposure to the amazing content currently held in the public collections of civic institutions around the world, and secondly, to facilitate the collection of general knowledge about these collections, with the hope that this information can feed back into the catalogs, making them richer and easier to search."

Today the collection contains images from institutions such as NASA, The Brooklyn Museum, Smithsonian, The National Library of Scotland, National Maritime Museum, The New York Public Library and many other civic institutions.

The images have many uses in the classroom:

  • Most of the images are public domain. This means that no known copyright protection is applied. These images are available for digital story projects.

  • They may also be used by educators to introduce topics in social studies and science classes.

  • Images may be inserted in Google Earth tours to add historical perspectives to present day imagery.

  • Many of the images can be used as conversation starters and writing prompts.

  • Each image has a full description and comments from various viewers. Students may be provided with an opportunity to write for an audience by providing additional information in the comment section of each image.

Enjoy this fabulous resource. I welcome your comments regarding ideas for classroom integration.

Monday, September 13, 2010

PD Workshop- Digital Stories Using MS Photostory 3

I will be offering a course on Digital Storytelling using MS Photostory 3 on September 20, 2010 at White Rock School. This course will introduce digital storytelling. We will explore the process of creating and managing a digital story project. Participants will create a short digital story using MS Photostory 3.

  •  Topics

  1. What is digital storytelling? How can it be used?

  2. What are the steps involved in planning a project?

  3. How to find and organize images?

  4. Creating your story using MS Photostory 3

  5. Publishing Options for your story.

When:  Monday, September 20, 2010

Time: 3:30 to 5:00

Location: White Rock School Computer Lab

Professional Development Hours: 1.5

This workshop is open for all educators grades K - 5. Project examples will be provided for all grade levels. Digital Storytelling provides an authentic experience for students to publish their work for an audience. The focus on writing, organization, and delivery of content has proven to develop high order thinking skills. Come and explore this effective Web 2.0 tool and start infusing multimedia creation into your classroom.

You can register for this course by filling out the below form.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

50 Excellent Open Courses on Teaching With Technology

The information below is taken from a recent posting on www.onlinecollegesanduniversities.com.
It is a listing of 50 free online courses that are offered on a wide variety of instructional technology topics. The courses are free, self-directed, and accessible over the internet.  Rather then listing a few examples in this posting I decided to paste all of the links below.

Using technology and creating unique learning environments are two big dreams that all types of teachers have, from elementary educators to distance education teachers to college professors. If you're already used to taking classes from an online college but are curious about creating your own open resources, or if you are studying to be a teacher in today's tech-fueled economy, check out these 50 free courses on teaching with technology.

Technology and Learning

Find out why technology is such a draw for educators and how we learn from non-human tools.

  1. Blogs, Wikis, New Media for Learning: This course will show you how blogs and other new media are optimal teaching tools. [Utah State]

  2. Computer Games and Simulations for Investigation and Education: This class will teach you how we learn from computer games and interactive technologies. [MIT]

  3. Instructional Gaming: Learn how to use instructional gaming to reach out to students. [Utah State]

  4. Creativity, community and ICT: Discover how online learning and technology fuel creativity and collaboration. [The Open University]

  5. Intro to Instructional Design: If you're curious about how humans interact with and learn from non-human tools, take this course. [Utah State]

  6. Videogame Theory and Analysis: Find out how videogames are legitimate teaching tools. [MIT]

  7. The Impact of Open Source Software on Education: Learn how different countries are using open source for college education and beyond. [Connexions]

  8. The review of the development of eLearning: Get a 10-year history of eLearning here. [Connexions]

  9. Principles and Practices of Technology: Designed for teachers, this course will teach you about the application of technology for learning and principles of instructional technology. [Utah State]

  10. Cultural History of Technology: Consider how technology has shaped our culture and is now a tool for learning, communication and more. [MIT]

  11. Artificial Intelligence: Discover how tools can actively teach us, even non-human ones. [MIT]

  12. Technological Tools for School Reform: Consider how innovation and modern technology contribute to the school reform debate. [MIT]

Online Education and Distance Learning

If you want to create online learning environments and manage a distance ed course, look here.

  1. Creating Open Educational Resource: Learn how to write learning units that enhance self-directed learning. [The Open University]

  2. Producing Distance Education Resources: You'll use Dreamweaver and FTP in this course as you learn how to develop open and online learning spaces and resources. [Utah State]

  3. Collaborative Learning and the Open Educational Resource Movement: Get an overview of the popularity of open education resources. [Connexions]

  4. Introduction to Open Education: Here you will review some of the main topics in open education like sustainability, licensing, creativity and more. [Utah State]

  5. Accessibility of eLearning: Learn more about eLearning solutions for disabled students. [The Open University]

  6. Facilitating online: This course will walk you through all the course models and lesson planning strategies you'll need as an online teacher. [Centre for Educational Technology]

  7. Master Online Teacher Certification: Teachers interested in creating their own online courses get a lesson in interactivity and other key issues here. [Weber State University]

  8. Online Instructor Training: This course features 10 areas of study to help you become an effective online teacher. [UC Irvine]

  9. An Overview of Open Educational Resources: Find out how open educational resources can be beneficial to all class levels. [Connexions]

  10. Understanding Online Interaction: Design better learning tools and environments after taking this class on online interaction. [Utah State]

  11. Best practices in online teaching: Learn how to prepare for and manage an online course. [Connexions]

  12. Managing your Distance Course: Discover ways to manage students learning from home. [Connexions]

  13. Managing and Maintaining the Discussion Board for Distance Courses: Facilitate online discussions through discussion boards. [Connexions]

  14. The "How Tos" of OER Commons: Practice creating open educational materials to add to the OER commons here. [Connexions]

  15. Connecting People with Online Resources: This course will train you to become a better researcher and collector of quality online resources you can share with students. [Utah State]

  16. Establishing Tone in the Distance Course: Get your point across so that your students really understand what you're teaching when you take this course. [Connexions]

  17. Promising Practices in Online Teaching and Learning: This class can help distance ed teachers become capable designers of online courses. [Connexions]

  18. Introduction to Copyright Law: Make sure you're correctly sourcing and citing any materials you reference when creating online courses. [MIT]

  19. eCommunities: Study how we interact with each other via online communities, which can help you design better courses or get the most out of networking with other students and classrooms. [University of Michigan]

Younger Students

These open courses will help you work with technology in elementary classrooms.

  1. Technologies for Creative Learning: Study games like the LEGO Programmable Brick and Computer Clubhouse center to get a lesson in innovation design and how children learn. [MIT]

  2. Play, learning and the brain: This course explains how playtime and experimentation is important in young childhood education, and that sensory deprivation can really hurt brain development. Consider this when planning interactive lessons with computers and other technology. [The Open University]

Tech Tutorials

These courses will introduce you to the technology systems you will need to create blogs, websites and other media that can bring learning to a new level to your students, as well as safety and legal tips.

  1. Living with the Internet: keeping it safe: Find out how to avoid viruses and hackers. [The Open University]

  2. Information on the web: Become a master at using search engines so that you can quickly direct your students to quality materials. [The Open University]

  3. Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier: Learn about privacy laws, the U.S. PATRIOT ACT, and more. [MIT]

  4. Interactive Multimedia Production: Practice using Macromedia Flash so that you can create animations and graphics. [Utah State]

  5. Computer Applications for Instruction and Training: If you use a Mac, then take this course to review some of the best apps like PowerPoint, iMovie and Photoshop that aid in lesson planning. [Utah State]

  6. Video in Distance Education: This mini-course will teach you how to use video for an online course. [Connexions]

  7. Designing the user interface: text, colour, images, moving images and sound: Here you'll learn how to design a user-friendly learning environment that includes great design and interactive media. [The Open University]

  8. Open Web Mapping: Create maps for history or science lessons after taking this class. [Penn State]

  9. Creating Interactive Multimedia: If you want to design interactive learning environments for your students, take this course. [USQ]

  10. Learn and Apply HTML: Learn the basics of HTML to create websites. [Utah State]

  11. User Interface Design and Implementation: Continue your education of creating good user-friendly websites and educational platforms. [MIT]

  12. HTML Basics: This is another course designed to teach you about HTML tags and coding.

Secondary and Higher Education

College and high school teachers can take these courses to design innovative learning systems and resources for their savvy students.

  1. Introduction to Open Educational Resources: Take this course if you're a college teacher wanting alternatives to textbooks. [Connexions]

  2. Teaching using digital video in secondary schools: Take this course to discover new ways to use digital media and video in the classroom. [The Open University]

  3. An Open Source Vision for Caribbean Higher Education: Find out how the higher education system in the Caribbean is opening up to open source. [Connexions]

  4. Teaching College-Level Science: This course includes a lesson in using educational technology in your curriculum. [MIT]

  5. OpeningScholarship: Here you'll learn about different ways technology can be used in higher education. [UCT]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Teaching story writing in grades 1-3 with My Story Maker

My Story Maker was developed by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It can be found at http://www.carnegielibrary.org/kids/storymaker/.  Students will create their own online book that can be viewed online or printed out as a PDF file.

The process is simple. Students will start by naming their story. They will then select characters, settings and various objects to insert into the pages of their story.  As students develop their story they can edit the type and location of objects on their pages. A text box is provided at the bottom of each page for writing the story.  As characters are added to the story the software provides an opportunity for students to change a characters feelings, actions or interactions.  There is also a small character on the bottom right of the screen that provides guiding questions for students to help with the development of their stories.

When you finish your story you are provided with the option to share it. The software will display a numeric code for your story. You can access your story at a later time by visiting the site and entering your code. My Story Maker will keep stories on file for up to 1 month.

Classroom Integration

My Story Maker is a great interactive tool for teaching students the craft of developing a short story.  The entire software is loaded with excellent resources that will guide students through the process. Because it is web-based we are providing students the opportunity to publish their work. We are allowing them to write for an audience other then their classmates and teachers. These types of activities have proven to contribute to a students motivation and enjoyment for writing.

Grade 1 - Towards the second half of first grade this could be a great activity for whole group instruction on an interactive whiteboard. The teacher can work with students by going through the process of developing a short story using images. Students can participate by using the interactive whiteboard to add items or text to the story.

Grades 2-3 - This is an excellent lesson for the computer lab at these grade levels.  Students can work in one or two sessions to complete a short story.  Students or teachers may record the access codes for each students story. This will allow the students to present their stories to the class on an interactive whiteboard at a later date.  If time is limited the stories can be printed out immediately.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The first search result must be the best one right?

The International Journal of Communication just released the results of a study that will be of now surprise to most educators these days. The study of college freshman noted that students trust high Google search rankings too much.   Below is a excerpt from the study.

"The researchers observed 102 college freshmen performing searches on a computer for specific information—usually with Google, but also making use of Yahoo, SparkNotes, MapQuest, Microsoft (we assume this means Bing), Wikipedia, AOL, and Facebook. Most students clicked on the first search result no matter what it was, and more than a quarter of respondents said explicitly that they chose it because it was the first result. "In some cases, the respondent regarded the search engine as the relevant entity for which to evaluate trustworthiness, rather than the Web site that contained the information," wrote researchers Eszter Hargittai, Lindsay Fullerton, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, and Kristin Yates Thomas."   Article Courtesy of ARS Technica

Information literacy  has presented itself as an area of weakness for our students. The Internet has provided an unimaginable amount of information. How we located, organize and evaluate this information will determine the value of this access. Information literacy is not something that should just be taught in the media center. It must be a part of every subject area.

For more information and resources for teaching information literacy please visit my wiki page on the topic and the category listed on this blog.


1. image courtesy of ARS Technica
2. International Journal of Communication - http://ijoc.org/ojs/index.php/ijoc
3. Ars Technica - Students trust high Google search rankings too much - http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/07/alt-title-students-place-too.ars

Monday, July 12, 2010

16 Live Underwater Webcams of the Gulf Oil Spill

The following website  has 16 live underwater webcams of the Gulf Oil Spill.  It is very interesting to watch. This type of resource would be great to pull up on a smartboard as a discussion starter. It would also have a place in current events lessons.


Monday, July 5, 2010

A New Search Engine for K-8

Sweet Search For Me (http://www.sweetsearch4me.com) is a new search engine specifically designed for k-8 students. While there have been many other search engines specifically geared for elementary school students  Sweetsearch4me is taking a more focused approach. Here is an explanation taken directly from their site:

"SweetSearch4Me searches only Web sites that our staff of research experts, librarians and teachers have evaluated and approved as high-quality content appropriate for young users. Only the best sites directed at elementary school students are included, and many of the results on the first page were created exclusively for kids. SweetSearch4Me was released in beta in late June 2010. We plan to spend the summer further evaluating and fine-tuning its results, and will formally release it in September 2010."

The website seems to be promising. I did some test searches and was happy with the results that I received. The site also uses YOLINK services. This is a very unique approach to Internet searching and research. I was recently introduced to YOLINK. I will be testing it over the next couple of weeks. I hope to share my results in a blog posting shortly.

I would be happy to hear your opinions of this new search engine.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Youtube has a new video editor

YouTube has launched a new video editor.  It allows you to trim videos that you find on YouTube or mix together videos that you have uploaded to YouTube. This could be very useful if you find a video on the site that you want to use in class but you only require particular segments of it. You may also find multiple videos that you would like to merge together as one and then download.

Richard Byrne, a fellow blogger that I follow, has created a very simple tutorial that explains how to use it. You can access that tutorial here http://docs.google.com/present/view?id=df6bwk2v_552gj98kwf9


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grade 2 Goes Global - A collaborative project between the US, Austraila and S. Korea

The student's in Ms. Cullinan's grade 2 class took part in a very exciting project this school year. They made a connection with a class from Australia and another from South Korea. Ms. Cullinan organized the initial connection with a school in Australia through the EPALS network.

Here is a blurb about Epals taken directly from their site:

??"Since 1996, ePals, the leading provider of school-safe collaborative learning products for K-12 students, teachers and parents, has been dedicated to helping learners from around the world connect and interact with each other online in a safe, educational environment. ePals connects teachers, students, parents and educators from around the world, enabling them to communicate and collaborate on academic and cultural projects and establish international friendships.

Our global community reaches more than 600.000 educators and millions of students in over 200 countries and territories. ePals technology enables these learners, who speak over 136 different languages, to connect, share, collaborate and learn."
One of the features of Epals allows for a teacher to create email accounts for each of his or her students. The email accounts are managed and moderated by the teacher. Through a very easy to use interface, the teacher can read, modify and approve or deny all incoming and outgoing emails to each student account. This allows for a very safe and secure email session for each student.

Students are paired with a student in another country or school. Through the use of email exchanges students can discuss cultural and school differences, take part in a discussion regarding a global issue, discuss curriculum topics or book reviews. In some instances students take part in a multi-part collaborative project.

Ms. Cullinan and Mr. Walker worked together to create a web portal to coordinate the exchange between these two schools. A Wikispace wiki was created to serve this purpose. On the wiki each school created a page of general information, images and maps to identify their school. The wiki was also used to post digital stories that were created by each school to showcase where they live and their schools. Around the time of the creation of the wiki a third school from South Korea joined the project.

The project was a success. Students in each school were able to gain knowledge about the cultural differences of each country through personal contact with other students. The school year has ended before we could move the project forward.  Future plans include video conferencing and group discussions on topics of interest.

Global collaboration between students is a key 21st century skill. It is requirement in the workforce today that employees are trained in collaborating with individuals of various cultures. We are living and working in a global society or as Thomas Friedman has  written "The World is Flat". By exposing our students to opportunities such as these we are broadening their knowledge of cultures and developing their ability to collaborate with others to share knowledge. The experience for our students and faculty is invaluable!

If you are interested in setting up a similar project for the next school year please contact me directly. I will be happy to help!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Resources for Teaching Math

I came across this website from a blog that i follow called "free technology for teachers". The site has a fantastic collection of resources for teaching math. It was created by the National Council of Mathematics Teachers. The content is broken down into categories. You will find activities, lessons and web links. Each is segmented by topic and grade. There are complete lessons and activities for grades K-12. The web links section links to over 700 pre-qualified external activities for math instruction.


I found some great lessons and activities on this site. Take a moment to sift through some of the resources available. I welcome your comments and feedback.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Electronic Post-it Notes as an Instructional Tool

Have you visited http://www.wallwisher.com yet? It is a Web 2.0 site that is fairly new. Wallwisher allows anyone to create a Wall. Each wall may contain digital post-its. A post-it may contain up to 160 characters of text and links to images, audio or video. The post-its may be organized on the wall anyway the user wishes.

A wall creator may share his or her wall by providing participants with a link. You may also adjust settings to approve all postings before they are published on the wall.  Wallwisher does  require an account to get started. An account is not required to post to a wall. 

There are many uses for Wallwisher in the classroom. Here are a few of my favorite:

1. Students may post what they already know about a topic or what they would like to know. (KWL)

2. Use one to post project links or resources.

3. Provide students with a question and allow them to answer it on a wall.

4. Create a wall to gather feedback regarding an event, reading, project, or trip.

5. Post student book reviews.

6. Add the names and details of veterans that students know for veterans day wall.

7. Create a wall to post “going green” pledges.

8. Use as a suggestion box

Friday, May 21, 2010

Take a Virtual Tour of the Louvre

The Louvre is offering virtual tours through the following website link


Click the image to enlarge

Virtual tours are available for the following departments:

Virtual Tours
Near Eastern Antiquities
Egyptian Antiquities
Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Islamic Art
Decorative Arts
Prints and Drawings
Architectural Views
Medieval Louvre

Students can navigate their way through the hallways. By right clicking you can zoom in on a display. This is an amazing opportunity to visit one of the most well-known museums in the world.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Comic Writing With Make Beliefs Comix

Have you ever thought about introducing comic strip writing into your classroom? If you haven't you may change  your mind after you take a look at http://www.makebeliefscomix.com.  Make Beliefs Comix was introduced to me by Dan Papa, MS Social Studies teacher in our district. After spending some time exploring this new resource i felt compelled to share it with you.

Click on Images to Enlarge

This site allows any user to create a multi-strip comic. There are a number of characters, emotions, thought bubbles,speaking balloons and background colors to choose from. Students can organize the characters on each strip and add text. They have some controls with regards to layout of the characters within the strip.

After adding the content to the comic the students have the option to print the final comic or email it. By using the print screen command on the keyboard the students can also paste the comic into word or PowerPoint.

This site has a number of applications for education. The website has a page of resources that lists 21 classroom integration ideas. Some of my favorites are listed below:

  • Have students create a comic as a first day back project to discuss their summer.

  • Students create a comic that depicts a conversation between characters in a story or historical figures.

  • Teachers create comics with various emotions to teach behaviors to special needs students.

  • Students create a comic to kick off a creative writing assignment.

  • Students create a comic using new vocabulary words that are being taught.

  • Students in a world language course may create a comic that contains text written in the language studied.

  • Have students create a comic to demonstrate knowledge of life skills such as speaking with a bank teller, ordering at a restaurant, speaking with a doctor or going on an interview

I hope you enjoy this great resource. I would like to thank Mr. Papa for introducing it. If you use this site please let us know how you used it by leaving a comment below.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Create music tracks and learn about copyright - Digital Story Resource

MYBYTES is an interactive website sponsored by Microsoft. It contains a free and easy to use Music mixer that allows for the creation of your own music track. The finished track can be downloaded as an MP3 to be used in a digital story. Completed tracks can also be shared on the site for others to listen to or re-mix. The creator of the track must determine the usage rights that her or she will assign to their work.

Click on the images to enlarge

The software is very easy to use.  In order to save and share your work you must create an account. An email address is not required for account creation. That makes it very student friendly. Students can select and mix together various instruments to create their own track. The music can be composed for a digital story project or podcast. By adjusting the instrument choices and tempo students can create a specific mood for their story.

Upon completion on the music track the student is presented with a number of publishing options. He or she must decide on the usage rights that will be applied to the work. This offers an opportunity for a discussion on copyright, digital content and file sharing. The site offers a full curriculum on these topics as well as interviews from subject experts.

The shared tracks can be downloaded or saved as a ring tone. If published for others to download, share or remix, the website will track the number of requests. This provides a very authentic experience for students to learn about file sharing and usage rights.

The use of student created music in digital stories simplifies the publishing options for student stories. We do not have to worry about the presence of copyright protected music.  Students enjoy the process of developing music to fit their stories. This adds a level of excitement as well as depth to the final product.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Google Safe Search and Usage Rights

There are two search features that Google offers that I would like to introduce. These features are found in the Google Image Search. We all know that Google is the primary website that our students go to conduct just about all Internet searches. Google Image search is their #1 location for images.  Unfortunately, many of our students do not know the copyright and usage rights associated with images that are found online. We have also found that the images available through Google Image Search are not always appropriate for a school setting or the eyes of a child.

Google has included two search setting located in their advanced image search that can help address these issues.  If you visit http://www.google.com and click on Images on the top left of the screen, you will be directed to Google Image Search. Once there you will see a link titled advanced image search located to the right of the search bar. Clicking on this link will direct you to the advanced search menu.

Within the advanced search menu you will see two settings that are of interest to this topic.

Click on the Image to Enlarge

1. SAFE SEARCH - Students can select to use Strict Search Filtering.  By enabling this setting you are filtering out images that are deemed innapropriate.

2. Usage Rights - The default setting for usage rights is to not filter by license. This  means that all of the images that are returned by a search may be subject to copyright. If you would like to limit the search to images that are free to use (not protected by copyright), you can select"Labeled for Reuse". This will return only images that are allowed to be used.

3. Once you select these settings you can type your search terms in any of the find results boxes.

It is important that students are aware of these settings. They must be educated on the fact that it is against copyright laws to publish images on the Internet that are copyright protected. Digital Stories and Digital Posters are published online. Students working on these projects must use images with the proper usage rights.

For more information about images, videos and text that are free to use visit http://www.creativecommons.org


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Digital Posters Develop Higher Order Thinking

Have you taken a look at a Glog yet? The website http://edu.glogster.com is a free Web 2.0 site for educators. The site allows for teachers to create an account and then within that account create up to 100 managed student accounts. The entire setup takes about 3 minutes to complete. On my wiki page I have provided instructions for accessing and setting up an account on Glogster. http://edunology.wikispaces.com/glogster.

A Glog is a digital poster that may contain text, images, clip art, videos, audio files, backgrounds and hyperlinks. All of these items can be arranged  in a very creative and artistic way. There is not a template that is forced on the user. Glogs are designed to be presented to an audience upon completion.  This is where a Glog separates itself from other presentation tools such as PowerPoint.

We have all sat through a number of PowerPoint presentations delivered by students and our peers. How many of these presentations have been dreadful? How painful is it to sit through a presentation in which the presenter has slide after slide of text that he or she continues to read word for word? In many cases students are copying and pasting text from the web and then reading it out loud to the class. This is not an exercise in higher order thinking. Students are not synthesizing the information they have uncovered. They are just reading information that they found on the web.

Glogster can change the way you and your students deliver presentations. A Glog is a one page digital poster. All of the content for your presentation must be contained in one page. It is designed to be populated by primarily images and short text labels. By limiting the space allocated for content the presenter must provide meaning and depth to his or her presentation by offering explanations and descriptions for the content they have added to their Glog. The presenter must have a clear understanding of the topic and be able to offer explanations in his or her own words to explain their content selections.

Example: The Glog that I have linked to below is a digital poster assignment in which the presenter is stating a case for a President that she believes a monument should be built for. It was designed by Mrs. King in our Middle School as an example for a class project. Each image has a full explanation that provides justification for her argument. Mrs. King must provide this explanation to her class. This explanation is verbal. Ther are not large text boxes of content that is being read. Mrs. King provides a verbal justification to her class and uses the images to support and add meaning to her content delivery.


By providing our students with a presentation tool that steers them towards reflective analysis, verbal explanations, public speaking and creativity we are not only preparing them for the 21st century, but we are providing them with an avenue for synthesis of ideas and information. This type of assessment will have a positive impact on student learning that exceeds what we are currently experiencing with MS PowerPoint.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Skype With An Author or Subject Expert

In my latest edition of the Instructional Technology Newsletter I spoke about how SKYPE can be used as a free video conferencing solution for the classroom. Currently there are thousands of teachers around the world looking to connect and collaborate with other classes in the same or different country.

While the benefits and opportunities with this type of global collaboration are astounding, there are other ways that Skype can be used in the classroom. Skype can be used to connect with a subject area expert, author, professional, artist, or anyone that has an experience to share.  Access to Skype and a web-cam is no longer a limitation for many individuals. Most laptops come equipped with a built in web-cam. Since Skype is free the barriers to entry are minimal!

Recently I read about a high school class in Colorado who recently read the book, "A Whole New Mind", by Daniel Pink. The teacher sent an email to Mr. Pink requesting a short video conference with him. To the teachers surprise, Mr. Pink agreed. The students were able to speak with Mr. Pink live in their classroom. They were able to connect their thoughts regarding the book with feedback from the author.

Video Conference

This type of opportunity has never been so easy to make happen. By connecting with experts and authors around the world we are extending our classroom beyond the 4 four walls. Technology is allowing our students to be educated by individuals that they could only read about before.

Are you ready to globalize your classroom? Have you sent an email to an author or subject area expert? Because of the convenience of this technology you will be surprised how many people are willing to connect with you.

Here is a great place to start. Skype with an Author Network, is a wiki page that was created to provide access to Authors that are willing to Skype with classrooms for free. "The mission of the Skype an Author Network is to provide K-12 teachers and librarians with a way to connect authors, books, and young readers through virtual visits."

If you are interested in using skype in your classroom for one of the above mentioned connections please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to put it all together for you!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Do you have a PLN?

Next month I will be offering another round of workshops across the district. Although I am finalizing the topics that I will cover, there is one topic I am confident will be included. I plan on offering a workshop that is focused on developing a "Personal Learning Network". The idea of a personal learning network is not new. We have always surrounded ourselves with people that we can share learning experiences with. What has changed are the tools available. The reach of this network and the diversity of the network have developed because of the technology available today.

"If you're new to this world, personal learning networks are created by an individual learner, specific to the learner’s needs extending relevant learning connections to like-interested people around the globe. PLNs provide individuals with learning and access to leaders and experts around the world bringing together communities, resources and information impossible to access solely from within school walls."(Lisa Nielsen, The innovative Educator)

My personal PLN has become my most powerful teaching tool.  By utilizing web 2.o tools and social network i have joined a network of educators around the world. Every day that I access my PLN I learn something new. I am excited to share this with you during my workshops in May. In the meantime there are few things that you can do to start developing a PLN.

1. Register for a Google Account - www.google.com

2. Create a Google Reader Account www.google.com/reader

3. Learn about RSS feeds by taking my online Moodle Course which can be found under professional development - http://blogs.jefftwp.org/moodle

Stay tuned for my May workshop calendar.  The above steps will get you started in the meantime.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Math Video Tutorials

I have come across a few great websites that host free math tutorial videos.  The videos on these sites are great teachers and students. Many of the videos break down complex math topics into small pieces. They can be used as an instructional tool or a study guide for students. These videos can be embedded or linked into Smart Notebook Lessons, Glogs, PowerPoints or Digital Stories.

I will be adding to this list from time to time as I am introduced to other great sites.

Math Problem

  • www.khanacademy.org - A huge collection of Math and Science tutorials. Created by an MIT graduate this site is a terrific resource for students and teachers. The videos are hosted on Youtube so Youtube access is required.

  • www.mathtrain.tv - a collection of math tutorial videos created by students for students.

  • http://teacher.tenmarks.com -  math video lessons - free. They have loads of math video lessons - 3-5 minutes long - perfect for sharing with kids and parents for grades 3-10. What I like most is the wonderful way they have explained complex math problems by breaking it into smaller pieces.