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 -

2. Create a Google Reader Account

3. Learn about RSS feeds by taking my online Moodle Course which can be found under professional development -

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

  • - 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.

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

  • -  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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Glogster as a Teaching Tool?

I have written about the website It is a website that allows students to create digital posters. These posters may contain text, images, videos, and clip art. There are some really great examples available on my wiki page as well as on the Glogster site. You can read my previous post on Glogster here.

I  presented a lunch and learn workshop on Glogster at Briggs School a few weeks ago. Since then a couple of teachers in that school have really taken this new tool and ran with it. Jodie Sparling and Cecilia Hansen have started to use the Glogs they created as a teaching tool. They have done a great job at compiling instructional resources on each of the Glogs they have created. In the end, they are enjoying the process of putting these Glogs together. The level of engagement for the student's has increased and their is a positive impact regarding student learning in their classrooms.

I have listed a few links to the Glogs that they have created below.


  1. Grade 2 - Long Vowels - Jefferson Twp Teacher Ex:-

  2. Grade 2 - Jefferson Twp - Teacher Ex.

  3. Grade 2 - Teacher Samples

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why are we still teaching cursive writing?

I have presented a number of workshops for teachers of all grade levels. The topic of these workshops range from technology infusion, to Smartboards 101, to developing your personal learning network. In each of these workshops we review best practices in instructional technology. We talk about differentiation, web 2.0, student publishing, authentic experiences, multimedia, and collaboration. The outcomes we discuss reflect a belief in promoting higher order thinking, creativity, and student learning.

In most cases the feedback from these discussions is very positive. The value of such practices is well received by participants. The sessions end with a high level of motivation and excitement. In almost every workshop however, a variation of this question is always asked, "What about typing?" "These projects are great but my students struggle with typing. They are hunting and pecking. It makes the completion of these projects sometimes take longer then they should. There is a also a level of frustration among students because of their typing skills?"

This is a very valid argument and a concern worth talking about. What about typing? What are we doing to provide our students with basic keyboarding skills? State core curriculum content standards are being revised. The model that best meets these standards is an infusion of technology into the curriculum areas. That means no more computer specials. The technology instruction is infused into the core subjects. Can a student really learn how to type by taking part in a once a week 40 minute computer class anyway? Even if that is the only thing taught all year? The research says no. In order to effectively teach keyboarding to students it must be part of the weekly curriculum. It must be taught for 90+ minutes at a minimum.  That means something has to be replaced by it?

What about cursive writing? This is an interesting thought and one that I am sure will drum up some controversy. How often do we use cursive writing anymore as adults? Do we see the use of cursive writing growing or diminishing? I know that I only write in cursive when signing my name. That is it! Most educators ask students to turn in assignments typed. With the advancement of technology we will be seeing more and more mobile devices in the classroom. Students will be accessing digital textbooks and collaborating electronically with peers, teachers, and global partnerships. I do not see too much cursive writing going on there?

My wife is a reading specialist and literacy coach. She argues that cursive writing assists in the development of motor skills and contributes to reading fluency. She also states that if it is not taught, it is an art that will be completely lost. I will have to gather some more research from her before i provide a more in-depth explanation in this blog post.

Can we replace the significant amount of time we spend teaching cursive writing with keyboarding? Which will have a positive impact on student learning? What are the repercussions of such an action?

My discussion here is based on my own thoughts. I have not cited specific research on the topic supporting the pros and cons. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic as I continue my research.