Thursday, September 30, 2010

Posts are in a New Location!

Current posts can now be read at the following blog -

Thanks for reading and following!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Virtual Days Make a Difference....

A regular school day. A beautiful summer day. A virtual day. What!?

What do all three of these have in common? More than you think. As the District Distance Learning Coordinator - I see all three of these descriptions rolled into one.

We are off to a great start for the North Carolina Virtual Public School 2010 summer session. Many of the students in our district have chosen to enroll in virtual courses over their summer break. Believe it or not... for many, reasons - but surprisingly - the students are not complaining about using their summer to work. How could this be, you might ask? Simple enough - virtual learning is learning... but in a different environment. What does this mean? It means students are engaged, but quite differently.

I am a firm believer that learning styles play an important role in every student's ability and willingness to learn. Find the right learning style and student engagement is not far behind. NCVPS has done just that for many students across NC. A virtual learning environment offers some similarities to the traditional classroom.... standard course of study curriculum, DPI certified teachers and, of course EOC testing. But, what exactly are those differences that continue to draw the students (and parents) into this type of academic option? Simply put? Delivery. The course content is the same, the teachers are the same - but the method of delivery is totally different. Take the same course title, same course work and sprinkle in online features/functions with many 21st century tools - and “ta-daaa” you have peeked the curiosity of many students who felt simply "stuck" in the normal classroom.

Now, our teachers are doing a great job face-to-face, but as we have all come to realize, today’s students are interested and quite capable of taking our 21st century tools to the max in education. NCVPS offers a different approach to learning – and different tools to assess and communicate what the students have actually learned!

Reasons to take a NCVPS, Learn & Earn or any type of virtual learning course? Schedule conflicts, no access to a specific course needed, credit recovery, or special circumstances that require the structure of a virtual course. Remember… Parent, Principal and Guidance Counselor permission required!

This summer, many students are living out the best of both worlds…. School work, while still enjoying the sun’s rays. Do you ever remember taking Algebra I sitting on the beach? I sure don't!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Antiques Roadshow – In the Classroom?

Alright, let me say… very excited about this post. I love, love, LOVE the Antiques Roadshow. Not for the reasons you might guess of instant riches. But, instead… I love to hear about the history of each and every piece – and how the folks featured happened to have a connection to its history.

So – how does this make ANY sort of sensible connection to your classroom? Glad you asked! Think about it like this - Short history lessons can be invaluable for your students!

Straight from the Antique Roadshow’s website…. “If you are looking for new ways to get your students excited and engaged in history, geography, the arts and society, and a range of other topics, you've come to the right place. Integrate the study of material culture (artifacts and objects) into your teaching, using objects appraised on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. Through questions, activities, and other resources, students take a closer look at the "things" people have used throughout history to create history…”

Don’t have a clue what TV show this is? See for yourself… Watch this short appraisal video clip referencing a Marine Chronometer, ca. 1815 (used for measuring longitude). History AND Math. Oh my!

Check out this Antiques Roadshow link just for teachers…

BTW, I am keeping my eyes and ears open for how HGTV's “If these Walls Could Talk” makes its way into the classroom. History teachers… watch and wait with me. In case you couldn't figure out my excitement – history is something I consider to be way cool. Want more history links/resources? Check out some of my previous posts.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Post EOG Creativity

Whew! End of Grade Testing is over. Finally. Now what?

The students may feel like they have used every morsel of energy trying to recall all they have learned throughout the course of this school year. What can you give them that will get those creative juices flowing again? Something to get them talking. Help relieve the long awaited build-up and the stressful anticipation of test-taking all week… have them visually and literally share what they felt, what they thought their experience was like – and how they feel now that it is over.

Well… how do you get them talking about all of that? Visually inspire them with photo prompts. And, most importantly, make it fun!

Here is a picture/prompt to get you going….

The EOG tests gave me a lot to think about and showed me how much I had learned. I am glad it is over but I think…..

Photo Courtesy of

Want to just give a photo and let them simply be inspired visually? Free writing will help the students get started…

Photo Prompts are GREAT for any subject – and most importantly, prompts increase writing skills and gives students practice in literacy and expressive communication.

Check out this link for more photo prompts. Be sure to include copyrights for everything you use!

Simply an interesting read to take photo prompts further:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Technology and our Environment

Going Green. Environmentally-Friendly. Eco-Friendly. There is much to think about and consider when we are outside. But inside the middle school classroom, students can learn a lot!

Take a look at some of these links that give absolutely awesome explanations, activities and information on how technology and our environment can work together. There are various assignments that will surely get the students’ creativity going!

Aquatic Environment

Wastewater Treatments

Challenging Pollution

Globe Program

*Middle School Portal (for Science and Math!)

Want more info about technology and a green society in general? Check out these informative and simply interesting links….

Environment Virtual Interactives for Students:

Air Quality:

Energy Quest:

Water Cycle:

NASA Climate Change:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Learning at a Glance

Webinars. Online Courses. Face-to-face workshops. eBooks. Digital papers. Websites. Podcasts. The list goes on and on for ways 21st century teachers can learn new skills. But, for today, if you are short on time – check out these quick presentations that give some pretty valuable and useful information at a glance.

Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers

100 Sites for Teachers

Surviving with Only One Computer in the Classroom

Technology for Teachers

Teacher’s Guide to Web 2.0 at School

Like the actual presentation tools? Check out this link that gives an inside scoop on several great presentation resources – for teachers and students alike.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Choose Your Path

As with all things in life, there are choices we need to make – and a path we need to travel. Well… there is no exception with that statement in the classroom as well!

Check out these two “paths” and see if one or both will work for you/your students!

Curriculum Pathways:

  • 8th -12th Grades
  • Free Curriculum aligned to NC Standard Course of Study
  • To create an account, contact your Technology Facilitator for the school login (After which, you can then create your own account login/password)
  • Curriculum Pathways covers English, History, Science, Mathematics, Spanish and other searchable keyword topics
  • 21st Century Skills are integrated into the content!

Lesson Pathways

  • K – 5th Grades
  • Free Curriculum/Teaching Resources
  • Lesson Pathways covers Science, History, Reading/Phonics, Math and Language Arts
  • Create a free account online:
  • Browse the educational content:
  • Over 900 free lessons
  • Includes links to videos, handouts/worksheets, online games, references, etc.
  • Lesson Pathways was formerly offered by subscription only but is now 100% free

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Writing Resources... Constantly Updated

Want access to an ongoing list of great resources and information that encourages writing in the classroom? Be sure to bookmark my wiki.... - I update it every time I run across a useful tool that could make writing appealing to the 21st century students in our classrooms! Know of resources I need to add? Post a comment/info here on my blog, or post a comment/info on the wiki. Happy writing (and reading)!

Friday, March 12, 2010

NCTIES 2010: Eliminating Writer's Block

NCTIES is always a much anticipated conference each year by North Carolinians who share a common thread and interest in education and instructional technology. This year, that excitement and anticipation was proven with a 40% increase in participant attendance!

There were several sessions I attended… The first being my own! My session stemmed from my true passion for writing coupled with educational technology in the classroom. “Writing Across the Curriculum: Utilizing Web 2.0 Tools to Increase Writing Skills in the K-12 Classroom” was designed with a specific goal in mind….. To Get Students Excited About Writing!

It is my personal belief that ALL students have an active imagination, are creative and CAN express themselves. But, just as some folks shy away from Math or History, we also have those students who quickly shy away from self expression through writing. My hope in presenting this session was to offer teachers new inspirational tools that would allow students the opportunity to write without simply being given a pencil and paper and hearing “go for it”!

My session structure was based on specific curriculum ideas and examples from the NCSCOS. To eliminate writer's block, a structured plan for beginning/completing the writing process should be given to the students. Check out some of these resources, which like all 21st century tools can be great and highly successful with customization and creativity geared towards your specific area…

Instant and Engaging Discussion:


Forming Content:

Writing Prompts: (quite a few….) Did I mention, writing prompts make my heart go pitter patter!!! Great way to get creativity and the brain going for students!!!!

Image Journaling:

Now… I did get a chance to visit some other sessions that were really great…. Check out the NCTIES wiki for resource posts from the various conference speakers. Want to go next year? Plans are already underway… stay tuned. Oh, and one other thing… I walked away from this year’s NCTIES conference with a brand new appreciation (all over again) for Twitter. Smile. is a wiki created simply to house the links used within my NCTIES session discussion.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It Takes A Village (and then some!)

We’ve all heard the saying… “It takes a village to raise a child” but, what exactly does that mean? This proverb is believed to have derived from African culture years and years ago. It simply alludes to a big picture ideal that learning from more than one source (other than simply ourselves!) is needed and a huge benefit all the way around. As a mom, I have come to realize that in this technological age… I have a PLN for motherhood – hundreds of resources are available for parenting, as well as age-old advice from others. Now… “It takes a village” was normally used simply within the same sentences and contexts for raising kids, but today, a “village” is smack in the middle of this technological age – aka 21st century collaboration.

For starters, Webster defines collaboration as working “jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor”. In working together, we inadvertently form villages or teams, or groups… However you want to call it, it is collective ideas, thoughts, perspectives and opinions pulled together for the purpose of learning and reaching a desired outcome or goal.

We know that collaboration is essential in the list of 21st century skills to incorporate into today’s classroom. But, what about using the village approach when it comes to the teachers/staff as well! There are many types of learning environments and resources that allude to the overall village-type community.

Let’s take a look at some specifics and define each of them.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s or PLN’s)

Purpose/Description: To categorize/sort teachers/staff into “working groups” geared toward a particular area of commonality, interest or field/topic area. Sole purpose? Collaborative learning!

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)

Purpose/Description: Online applications used specifically for teaching and learning environments. Collaboration abounds!

Social Networks (Educational and Professional)

Social Networks are online collaborative sites for folks to gather (virtually). Discussions and tasks are based upon similarities in professions, industries, goals, etc. One of the main/major purposes is for the sharing of relevant information.

A great example of a social network with purpose…

Classroom 2.0

Classroom 2.0 is a social networking site that offers a collaborative place for those interested in Education, Web 2.0 and Social Media. Great resource! (Powered by Ning)

What are our “villages” within WS/FCS?

Learning Village Curriculum Warehouse

WSFCS Moodle (See how it works!)

WSFCS DIT Collaborative Resource Wiki

Want to learn more about collaboration/villages? Check out these two blogs for additional perspectives…

Pick a village (or two, or three…) and join. Collaboration or team-work… or village, however you choose to identify it - it has many benefits towards growth.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Null & Void

NullAccording to Merriam Webster, it means amounting to nothing or having no value.

Void – Merriam Webster says void refers to anything that is not inhabited, contains nothing or is without something specified.

How does THIS relate to technology you ask? Simple. If your use of technology in your classroom is not directly tied to curriculum… it should be considered null and void.

Instructional technology is one specific area of technology that is sometimes squeezed into a box. But, on the contrary, it far exceeds any limitations that can be placed upon it and the value it holds for our students and teachers alike. Actually sitting down to “plan” the implementation of technology into the daily curriculums in our schools is (and should be) goal-oriented, copious, and even a bit circumstantial. What is my mission in this industry… to bridge the gap between those who see technology as a “thing” and those who see it as a resource with educational benefits beyond our imaginations. How do we accomplish this? Easily. With a plan.

So… you’ve actively participated in a workshop, or two, or seven that we’ve offered within our visits to your school. But, what’s next?

Start small….

  • Identify a (that is just one for starters) lesson that you really, really like teaching.
  • Take some time to mull over how you assess what the students have learned at the very end of the assignment
  • Now… from that assessment, slide some type of technology application or resource into the final project and envision what that assignment would be like if they “turned it in” differently – using technology
  • You should still be able to assess their learning levels – but – you should also notice a difference in their project engagement, overall assignment creativity, and a different learning perspective encountered.

What exactly does turning in assignments “differently” refer to? Here is a classic example…

Say you have assigned a research paper. The students are expected to pair off into groups of two, to do the research, write and/or type the paper and then turn it in. If time allows, you might even have them stand in front of the class the day the assignment is due to give a verbal recap.

Here is the 21st Century Skills scenario #1. The students are expected to do the research, type the contents of the paper into a PBWorks wiki, where they can also add copyrighted images and a video. Now, not only does the “paper” come to you… it is there for the feedback from their peers in the form of comments, as well. Indirectly speaking, you are teaching the basic goal/overall objective for the research paper, but you have also added in 21st century skills with keyboarding, digital citizenship, digital etiquette and online collaboration since the students were working in paired groups. How do you determine who did the most work? Easily…. With a wiki, revision histories are captured allowing you to see every time a student logs in and specifically what their contribution was. Did the public speaking portion get lost? Not at all. The day the projects are due, you can still have the students address the class, but… now they have visuals and talking points to go along with it. Want parents involved? Give out the wiki address and let them marvel at their student’s writing skills and use of technology in the classroom.

Here is the 21st Century Skills scenario #2. Assigned yet another research paper? No problem! This time, the students take their finished paper along with copyrighted images they found and upload them into Microsoft Photo Story. In addition to the photos that visually tell the story of the paper, the students record their voice to do a narrative (straight from the paper they’ve written). Adding music to the background and saving it as a Windows Media Player file makes it a finished digital product.

So, at the end of the day – your assignment was still a research paper – but I am quite sure the lasting impact and impression from the finished project will go much further than just two pages of research typed and printed.

Just as passionate as I am about the direct integration of technology into daily curriculums? Check out these sites for further perspective and examples.

Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?

Technology Integration Made Easy

Make sure your use of technology in the class is for a specific purpose – and far from being null and void. If your choice of classroom technology is tied specifically to a SCOS goal and objective… you are on your way to technological success within your daily instruction! Need a beginning point? Find unit/lesson plans in our Learning Village Curriculum Warehouse.