Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Global Collaboration Resource- Around the World with 80 Schools

Have you considered connecting your classroom with another classroom around the world? Are you studying communities, temperature, time, weather or holidays?  Can you think of some questions that your students could ask students in other locations to gather data on these topics?

What about literature. Would you be interested in discussing a book your class read with another class in the world? Wouldn't it be interesting to get the perspective of the American Revolution from a school in England? Are you collecting data for a project? Could you ask questions of someone in a specific location to retrieve that data?Have you used Google Earth? Would it be engaging for your students to take a virtual field trip on Google Earth and then video conference with a school in that location?

There are endless possibilities with regards to video conferencing in the classroom. It has never been so easy either. Most schools around the world use a simple service called SKYPE. www.skype.com. Skype is a free video conferencing software that anyone can download. Once you create a username and download the software you are ready to connect to the world.

There is an online project called AROUND THE WORLD WITH 80 SCHOOLS that started this year. The goal of the project is that classes that chose to participate will attempt to connect their class with 80 other schools around the world. The project is very well organized.  There is a wiki that provides all of the information necessary to get started. There is a spreadsheet available online that provides all of the contact information for schools that have decided to take part in this.

What i like about this project is the simplicity of this. Although connecting with 80 schools  may seem overwhelming, they are recommending no more then 5 minute conversations. The wiki has a nice outline of ideas broken up by time. I copied some of it below.

Here is a suggested timeline:

  • Hello (15 sec)

  • Intro of School 1 (school/geographic location) (30 sec.)

  • Intro of School 2 (school/geographic location) (30 sec.)

  • School 1 shares (1 min)

  • School 2 shares (1 min)

  • Data collection Question (30 sec.)

  • Goodbye (15 sec)

Take some time and read through the WIKI. There is some great information on there. If you are interested in starting to video conference in your classroom please let me know. I will be happy to assist the entire way through.

Around the World with 80 Schools  wiki ------aroundtheworldwith80schools - home.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NY Times Creates Student Opinion Publishing Opportunity

The NYTimes.com launched a daily Student Opinion feature last October.  It is a  “safe space” on NYTimes.com – and on the Internet overall – for students 13 and older to voice their views on the news.  This blog format contains postings on topics that will provoke student opinions. Students have the ability to leave comments on each of the postings. The postings are moderated before they appear live on the site.

Ny timesHaving students participate in online discussions on events and issues in the news will provide students with a forum to voice opinions. This type of activity will assist in developing critical thinking, writing and literacy skills.  Most importantly it allows for students to write for a global audience.  The result will be a forum of global responses. This  will allow students to read perspectives and views from around the world. That is a key 21st century skill.

"In a piece for the National Writing Project, Anne Rodier argues that students “have to believe that what they have to say is important enough to bother writing. They have to experience writing for real audiences before they will know that writing can bring them power.”" (www.nytimes.com)

The NY Times Listed some Ideas for Integrating this new site into the classroom. They also recommend that you review the commenting guidelines for The Learning Network.

Some Key Commenting Guidelines

1.  student comments must be signed with a first name (and ONLY a first name), but we cannot post the full name and location of your school, due to privacy concerns. You might give students a code, such as your classroom number or section, (for example, Rachel221 or Simon3B) so your students, and you, can tell which posts are written by class members.

2. You can easily find any weekday’s Student Opinion question by visiting the blog, or you can scroll through past posts by clicking on the Student Opinion category.

3. In addition to serving as writing prompts, Student Opinion posts can also serve as critical reading material. Students can also read past comments for comprehension, synthesis and analysis.

Classroom Integration Ideas -

These ideas are taken directly from The NY Times. You can read the full posting here. I have taken excerpts from it in this posting.

Debating Controversial Issues – We often pose provocative questions, and responding to them can be a good warm-up activity before organizing and holding a classroom debate on a relevant, current topic. Examples include Where Do You Stand on Unconcealed Handguns?, Should the Military End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’? and Is Tackle Football Too Dangerous for Kids to Play?. After reading the related article and responding to a controversial question, students choose sides and then research and craft their arguments.

Practicing Internet Etiquette – Develop computer savvy. Start with our lesson plan Care to Comment? Considering Internet Protocol, then practice good Internet citizenship on Student Opinion, where all comments are moderated. They might enter a discussion about digital life, such as What Can Strangers Learn About You Online?, or simply join any Student Opinion conversation and then reflect on the experience and the related issues of Internet safety, privacy and etiquette and Web citizenship, particularly in the area of user comments.

Developing Surveys – Students browse Student Opinion posts to select a topic that would make a good survey to administer in school. Questions that lend themselves to surveys include Should Kids Head to College Early?, Do You Get Enough Sleep? and What Are the Attitudes Toward ‘Cheating’ and Plagiarism Among Your Peers?. If students choose an “open” Student Opinion page entry on which to base a survey, they can use other commenters’ posts for survey questions, and later share their findings with a wider audience.

Generating Creative and Personal Writing – Students write short stories, poetry or other creative pieces inspired by Student Opinion questions, like What’s the Most Amazing Thing You’ve Ever Seen in the Natural World?, What Are Your Favorite Keepsakes From Childhood? and Can You Write a Tweet Story?. And we offer many personal writing prompts, ranging from the likes of What Do You Know About Teen Depression? and How Has the Recession Affected You? to
Have You Had ‘Helper’s High’? and How Polite Are You? Students can even share short pieces in the commenting area of the related post.

Supporting Reluctant Readers and Writers – Posting comments on serious issues might seem daunting to students who struggle with reading and writing. But many will feel comfortable responding to accessible questions on topics they can relate to, such as What Are Your Beliefs About Marriage?, Do You Spend Too Much Time on Facebook?, What Are the Hot Fashion Trends in Your School Right Now? and How Involved Are Your Parents in Your Life?.

Reviewing Arts and Entertainment – Young culture vultures can use an entertainment, arts or lifestyle question to craft and share their own reviews, perhaps modeled on Times book, movie or other reviews. Sample past questions in this vein include What Are Your Favorite Books and Authors?, Are You Watching American Idol This Season? and What Are Your Favorite Video Games?.

Reflecting on Education – In advisory or homeroom, in preparation for applying to college or just simply as a reflective exercise, students consider their experience in school. Generative questions about education include How Would you Grade your School?, Class Time + Substitute = Waste?, What Do Good Teachers Need to Know? and How Would You Sell Your School to Potential Students?. Encourage students to analyze their textbooks in the context of the recent change to curriculum in Texas by considering the question What Values are Apparent in Your School Textbooks?.

Setting Goals and Making Plans – Student Opinion questions can help students focus their thinking about the future. Examples include What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?, What’s Your Personal Learning Plan? and How Can You Best Present Yourself on College Applications?.

Thinking Deeply – How often do your students have intellectually satisfying “deep discussions”? In Student Opinion, they can reflect on and converse about such philosophical questions as How Important Is Your Spiritual Life?,
Are You Happy?
, What Could You Live Without? and When Is Looting Morally Okay?.

Letting Imaginations Run Wild – How often do students get to just … dream? Pose questions like Where Would You Most Like to Go in the World?, What Would You Create if You Had Funding? or What Can Our Dreams Tell Us?, and dream they will.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Student learning on demand with over 1000 targeted math and science tutorials

Today I was introduced to a fabulous website called Khan Academy. The address of the site is http://www.khanacademy.org.  Khan Academy hosts over 1000 math and science video tutorials.  All of the videos are categorized and hosted on Youtube.  Here is a quote from their site

"We have 1000+ videos on YouTube covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology and finance which have been recorded by Salman Khan."

The videos provide a very easy to follow explanation of basic and advanced topics. Salman explains these concepts in a manner that is attractive to students.  Each video is supplemented by software that dynamically generates exercises and captures data on student usage and progress. You can read this document to understand the vision of this site and to review student and teacher feedback.

Another highlight on this site is the SAT review. Khan works out every problem found in a common SAT study guide. This is a free SAT study guide with step by step video tutorials!

This site is a tremendous resource for students and teachers. The tutorials can be integrated into lessons, posted on Moodle pages, linked to teacher web pages or provided to students for review. The tutorials have proven to be an effective tool for special education students. Teachers may decide to incorporate these videos in center activities in the elementary school. I could also envision these tutorials added to a Glog.

I hope you enjoy this resource. I welcome your comments on this post and would love to hear your feedback or implementation experiences regarding this resource.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How can teacher websites impact student learning?

Over this past school year we have been working hard to create and develop a model for teacher websites. In the high school we have introduced a Wordpress MU blog server. This new tool allows teachers to maintain websites without having to know any web programming.  It also allows teachers access to their sites from home without the need for any special software. Some other features include: Rss feeds, moderated commenting, threaded discussions, embedding of multimedia, attaching files, and parent notifications.

We have also introduced a course management software called MOODLE. Moodle is a secure software that allows for an extension of your classroom outside of the four walls. On Moodle teachers create online courses. Within a course they can host discussions, give quizzes, collect assignments, create webquests, develop surveys, link to videos, text and images, and a host of other features.

Now that we have these tools it is important that we take the next step and understand how these tools can be useful for teachers and students. How will they impact student learning? I will be writing about this topic in a few separate blog posts. For this post I would like to focus on teacher websites. The diagram below outlines some features that I believe are valuable on a teacher website.



By providing resources such as class  notes and assignments we eliminate the need to spend time during the day gathering these materials for students who are absent or lost the information. By adding quizzes and online discussions we open up our classroom to students outside the school day. Students can respond to discussions on their time. They have an opportunity to formulate a response and share it without the pressures of a full classroom. Quizzes can be used to assess prior knowledge before starting a new unit or as a formative assessment to check for understanding.

By displaying student work you are allowing them to write for a global audience.  Students will show engagement in the fact that what they are producing is going to be made available for others to view and comment on.  There will be a greater sense of pride with what they are creating.

These are just a few ideas of how a teacher website can contribute to student learning. I welcome additional comments from  you regarding this topic.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Interactive Applets for High School Math

I came across the website the other day. It is called analyze math http://www.analyzemath.com/. I found it to be a great resource for creating interactive math lessons.  Here is a description from the website:

"The site includes several java applets to investigate Graphs of Functions, Equations, and Algebra. Topics explored are: equations of line, ellipse, circle, parabola, hyperbola, polynomials; graphs of quadratic, rational, hyperbolic, exponential and logarithmic functions; one-to-one and inverse functions and inverse trigonometric functions; systems of linear equations; determinants and Cramer's rule; inverse matrix and matrix multiplication; vectors, complex numbers, polar equations; absolute value function; slope of a line; angle in trigonometry, unit circle, solutions to trigonometric equations; graph shifting, stretching, compression and reflection. Applets used as Online Math Calculators and Solvers and Online Geometry Calculators and Solvers are also included"

The interactive applets can be found here:

I see a lot of uses for such a site. Here are some of my ideas:

1. The interactive applets can be used on an interactive whiteboard.
2. Teachers can create an interactive assignment on Moodle with links to the applet for practice, links to instructional videos and discussion forums.
3. Create an interactive assignment using Glogster. One section of the Glog could be practice using one of these applets.
4. Advertise the availability of this resource for students to use as a homework helper or study guide.