Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What Makes a Technology Rich Curriculum?

Is it just the stuff? Gadgets like student response systems, document cameras, scanners, global positioning systems, laptop carts, digital cameras, slates, SMART Boards, ActivBoards, etc., etc. The list of “things” available to incorporate into our classrooms is astounding.

But, technology rich curriculums don’t begin nor end with just stuff. Add to that ever-growing and very long list resources like... web-based applications, widgets, wikis, blogs, traditional software, online learning communities (i.e. Moodle), global communities, online educational games, social bookmarking, virtual (educational) worlds, podcasts, vodcasts/vidcasts, video conferencing, Google Docs, SharePoint sites, digital storytelling, screencasts, vlogs… the list just keeps going and growing and going and growing.

So, how do you pull it all together? How do you incorporate the “stuff” with the resources? Simple. Think outside the box (textbook, worksheets, pen and paper). Instead, add to those common items imagination, creative planning and a lot of forethought.

What is the goal in producing a technology rich curriculum? A learning yet interactive experience in which your students gain core knowledge, insight, new perspectives and new technological skills.

Go ahead, think outside the box. Your students will appreciate it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Can Wii Come into the Classroom?

Wii. Wii. Wii. Quite the buzzword these days. But, what exactly is the “Wii” and how can we utilize it for learning? Both are very important questions and imagination has lead the way in providing the answers. According to the official Nintendo site, the Wii is a social gaming experience. That is a pretty high level description when you compare it to “regular” old school games like Frogger, Pac Man and anything Atari provided in the 80’s!

So far, the offerings from Wii are extremely impressive and are mainly geared towards just having a fun time. But, there is one new gaming experience, Wii Music, that may find a niche within music classrooms across the globe. It allows you to play (experience) over 60 different musical instruments.

Want to see it in action? Watch this video of a kindergarten class being officially introduced to Wii Music at school. Be sure to take note of how many kindergarteners were already very aware of what the Wii does... even before they began to interact! Further along in the video, the teachers even got a chance to play. Or, should we say learn?

You may click the image below to view the video

*Image/Video from the Nintendo and Wii websites.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Use the Chalk! is a web-based teacher community which provides lesson plans, activities, digital content, and professional development. This resource is free to teachers and students and requires a user account and password. Hotchalk offers TONS of videos and numerous lesson plans on just about everything including math, science, music, language arts, computers, physical education, social studies, etc.

What can you do right away on hotchalk… check out the section on digital content. Here is an awesome example of an interactive video… “Math Matters: Off-Road Algebra”... It shows students how mathematics is involved in everyday life. Don't forget to set up your free account to access the available resources. Use the chalk! Your students will enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let the Creativity Flow

Gale Cengage Learning defines creativity as “The ability to create inventions, produce works of art, or solve problems using an original, novel, or unconventional approach.” Let’s take a moment to bring that exact concept into the classroom. How would creativity look in a 21st Century Classroom? It depends upon the individual teacher’s creativity, of course.

Incorporating technology is an easy and invigorating way to allow creativity to flow in the classroom. Content and curriculum can remain the same – just focus on the outcome. Two main points to remember… engagement levels are sure to change and the delivery method is sure to excite the students. The end result of incorporating technology into regular classroom work gives way to student pride and ownership over their tangible, completed projects.

Where do you find creativity? Lots of places. To begin… look within – incorporate your personal likes, interests, experiences, current trends, imagination, etc. into the curriculum. Or, find out what interests your students and go from there. Next, seek out a technological solution to bridge the gap between your curriculum and the finished assignments.

Not sure how deep your creativity flows? Start here…

Start with the company known for being top of the line creative-types: Adobe. Find and watch ways to incorporate creativity using software applications.

Be inspired by this awesome article… “Six Essentials to Foster Creativity and Innovation in the Classroom: Technology Lives Up to its Potential When We Approach it Creatively”

Performance Learning Systems offers an online newsletter with one issue focusing on incorporating Creativity in the Classroom:

Open your mind and allow creativity to come in. Your students will learn from it, and appreciate it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You want me to write about what? want it written where?

Today, class, I want to encourage writing skills

… Easier said than done, right? Not really. Give your students a direction and then let their imagination, creativity and life experiences lead their writing oasis.

How exactly do you encourage your students to open up and let the words flow? Easy! With writing prompts. Writing prompts are loosely guided topics, with minimal directions, that allow the individual student perspective to shine through. The best part about writing prompts? They can be written on paper, typed on a computer or even spoken (example: Podcasts, etc.)

Why are writing prompts needed and useful? Writing skills are one of the most basic and fundamental foundations to effective communication. Regardless of the grade level, writing skills are key. Sure, there are always students who say, writing is not my thing – not my strength. Nonsense! Everyone has ideas, opinions and life experiences that form a knowledge base. We just need to help those students tap into those areas and learn how to express them clearly for others to see.

As a teacher, your first question may be “Where do I start?” There are tons of resources that provide random and/or topic-focused writing prompts. Check out these sources to get started…

-DE Streaming “Writing Prompt Builder” within the “Teacher Center”

-The Teacher’s Corner

-Education World

So... let’s take it one step further. Let’s make the writing prompts interactive.

Classroom Idea:
-Set up a wiki page for your students
-Once a week, post a new writing prompt
-Make sure all of your students have access to your wiki
-Once they log in, they can respond to your writing prompt

Benefit to the Teacher:
You are successfully incorporating a collaborative 21st Century tool into your class that encourages dialogue and (over time) improved writing skills.

Benefit to the Student:
Each student learns how to use a 21st Century resource and, at the same time, they can read (and learn from) the perspectives of their peers. Not to mention, they gain an appreciation for contributing their important thoughts!

Get Started! Here is a 9th-12th grade writing prompt

(courtesy of DE Streaming)
-Many teens formed study groups in the fifties. Write a short essay defining what a study group looks like today. Be sure to consider technology and transportation, among your considerations for the definition.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Swap Knowledge

Love to read? Have a personal library of books you’ll never read/refer to again? Want to learn more about instructional technology or increase your computer skills? Try visiting for books on the subject of your choice. Costs? Minimal!

How does work?

1. Set-up a free account
2. You post the titles of books you are willing to swap (post as often & as many as you like)
3. Browse the millions of free books offered on the site
4. Mail out any books requested from your personal library (using library rate postage)
5. Request a book(s)
6. Wait for the book to arrive in your mailbox!

You may post as many books as you are willing to swap. You may request free books according to the credits you earned (based on the number of books you posted and on the number you have mailed out). The more you post/swap, the more free books you can request.

Happy Reading. Gain knowledge.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Did She Say?

English. Spanish. French. Text. What? Texting is not officially classified as a language, but it is being used like one. Don’t be surprised if you begin to notice the numerous texting abbreviations creep their way into your classrooms!

How do you speak the language? What does it all mean? Here are a few rules of the game, courtesy of Wikipedia…

Single letters can replace words
*be becomes b
*see becomes c
*are becomes r
*you becomes u
*why becomes y

Single digits can replace words
*ate becomes 8
*for becomes 4
*to or too becomes 2

A single letter or digit can replace a syllable
*ate becomes 8, so:
*great becomes gr8
*later becomes l8r or l8a
*skate becomes sk8
*skater becomes sk8r
*"tomorrow" becomes "2mro"
*for or fore becomes 4, so:
*before becomes (combining both of the above) b4
*therefore becomes thr4
*Are you there becomes r u there or r u dere

Combinations of the above can shorten a single or multiple words
*Your and You're both become ur or yr

Characters and punctuation can be removed to shorten messages
*-in can replace -ing in most cases, similar to that in vocal slang
*For example, coming becomes comin and txting becomes txtin

Vowels can be removed such that the sequence of consonants remain and the word is still recognizable.
*For example, between becomes btwn or b/w and yearbook becomes yrbk
*Or: Are you there becomes r u thr
*“/” can signify abbreviation, such as w/ for with and s/t for something

There are tons of online sources to help you obtain a better understanding. Best advice – be informed and aware of your students’ communication skills and methods!

If you run across a text message you just can’t decipher… check out this searchable acronyms and abbreviations site.

G2G. T+. HTH!
(Got to go. Think Positive. Hope this helps!)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Open Door… MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Yale

Interested in taking an online course? Better yet, want to enroll at an “ivy-league” institution? Walk through your open door!

What do you need?
*Internet Access

Check out these institutions and their ample offerings… Did I mention the courses are FREE?

Along with their own YouTube channel, Stanford also has their own channel within iTunes U with courses available for download.

UC Berkeley:
UC Berkeley “webcast” hosts a variety of courses offered as a live feed or on-demand replay via the World Wide Web.

“Yale Open Courses” are based on the philosophy that education should be accessible to anyone with the desire to learn.

“MIT Open Courseware” is the web-based version of numerous undergraduate/graduate classes regularly offered at MIT.

Remember, as a teacher, whenever you learn something new, your students are bound to also!

Keep in mind that utilizing these resources adds to your knowledge-base but does not offer any formal certifications or degrees.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Learn Something New... from iTunes U

Music. Movies. TV shows. Audio books. These are items most folks expect when they download iTunes onto their computer. But now, iTunes is becoming a valid source for something else… educational resources.

Apple’s iTunes U is nothing new. This portion of the renowned media store has offered ample resources in the past, but they were mainly geared toward collegiate level students. At a recent conference held in July of this year, iTunes made an announcement publicizing their intent to offer technology-based content that would greatly benefit those in the K-12 educational sector.

What kind of content can teachers expect to find? The options are wide open and cover various topics with a major focus on core curriculum subject areas. Load up your iTunes library with educational content for your students, as well as for yourself. Best practices, digital literacy, leadership, professional development, etc. – you name it and there is probably a podcast there to fit your criteria!

What is the best part about aligning a podcast with your lesson plan? The students can continue their learning whenever and wherever they are. Mp3 players can easily be converted into an educational “tool” that you and your students use to facilitate learning. Do you have students in your class that don’t own an mp3 player? Not a problem. Podcasts can be viewed on most computers if there is a media player installed.

The next time you are working on your lesson plans, take some time to browse through the iTunes store. Did I mention that all of the educational content is free?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sharing the Workload

In years past, sharing your assignment with another student was absolutely unheard of! It left the door open for cheating, giggling and an unproductive environment! How did you prove which student did the work? Who learned the most? Did they learn anything at all, or use the time to catch up on school happenings? Many questions were left unanswered with simply “sharing” work. That was then. This is now.

With the integration of technology into the classroom, many traditionally valued ideals in the classrooms of yesteryears are just that – a thing of the past. Technology not only provides our students with multimedia, new methodologies and interactivity – it gives them the newfound ability to gain insight from their surroundings, and others.

We already know that collaboration provides students with perspectives beyond their own. But, what method do you choose to set the students up for success in building those collaborations? Simple answer – collaborative workspaces.

There are many Web 2.0 applications to choose from, but here, we will look at four different versions.

1) Zoho Writer (
2) Writeboard (
3) ThinkFree (
4) Google Docs (

All four of these internet-based applications allow multiple users to edit the same document, at the same time. One of the best teacher features? There are revision updates automatically posted so you can tell which student made which changes, and at what time!

Pros to using collaborative writing tools – builds partnerships within a project, allows for ownership, allows for a unified workflow, and allows for the completion of work regardless of the location and time. Student accountability to each project partner is also a leading benefit. At the completion of the project, each of these applications has the ability to export the documents out into at least one or more popular file formats like .doc, .rtf, .pdf or .txt.

Cons to using collaborative writing tools – before assigning a group project using an online collaboration workspace, be sure all students involved have access to the internet. You also need to keep a watchful eye on the different ads displayed.

Are these applications just for students? Definitely not. These four can easily be used between grade-level teachers, school administrators, and others to collaborate on all types of projects and topics.

Each of the four applications mentioned is completely free. So, start writing. Encourage sharing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

1 Knol = 1 Unit of Knowledge

When you think of search engines, Google pops into your mind first! What else does Google offer? Google Earth, Google Docs, Gmail, You Tube, iGoogle, Google Finance, Google Health, GOOG-411, etc. The list is now extensive.

But, the time has now come – they are expanding upon their market even further. Google is presenting their latest tool – a free internet encyclopedia simply dubbed “Knol” – meaning a unit of knowledge.

For the past seven years, Wikipedia has captured the market as a collaborative internet encyclopedia. What is the difference between a Knol and Wikipedia? Google’s Knol requires all writers to state their identity upfront. This allows you to take credit for your work and, at the same time, allows others to see the credibility your voice offers. What is Google’s main mission in presenting the Knol? Simply stated, to highlight authors.

Not sure what to write about? Your Knol can cover (almost) any topic you’d like. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind about Knols…

1) Knols are not edited! Be sure you proof and provide correct information!
2) Knols can be collaborative efforts, or one single voice
3) Other readers can post comments and ratings on your Knol
4) A Knol is different from a blog
5) Knols are indexed by search engines
6) Knol topics can be duplicated, but the content should be original
7) Be sure to write specifically for the audience most likely to read your Knol
8) Authors can make money with Knol submissions using Google’s AdSense.
9) You only need a Google account to login and begin writing

Ready to write your first Knol? Check out this link which provides best practices for writing great Knols:

Friday, July 25, 2008

What kind of environment are you creating?

Years ago, “learning spaces” was an approach to technology and education that was not thought about in the scope of overall preparation for teaching. Interestingly enough, it has a great impact on students today. Think about it from a realtor’s state of mind… location, location, location! In education, we can relate. It may not be the actual location but it is definitely the environment created within!

One of the most popular places today that has done a successful job of creating an “environment” is Starbucks. Why do you go there? Sure, the lattes are wonderful, but the atmosphere is the real lure. As educators in the technology arena, we could learn from Starbucks. And the students we impact could learn from us not only as individuals but by what we are surrounding ourselves with.

What is the environment that we want to create in technology education? An atmosphere that says we are living in the 21st century and we not only acknowledge it, we embrace it. Our atmosphere should also incorporate true hands-on experiences. Computers are only a start - technology today comes in many forms that are useful to educators and students alike. Our atmosphere should also say we adapt easily. Technology is always in the movers-and-shakers category. We have to prove that we can move and shake with it. No room for ruts, or resistance to change.

Diana G. Oblinger, editor of “Learning Spaces” said it best... “Today’s students—whether 18, 22, or 55—have attitudes, expectations, and constraints that differ from those of students even 10 years ago. Learning spaces often reflect the people and learning approach of the times, so spaces designed in 1956 are not likely to fit perfectly with students in 2006.”

Whether it is business or education, followers model what their leaders are doing. Want tech-savvy students? That famous quote says it all… we must be the change we wish to see in the world today. Energy creates energy. Show your excitement in the classroom about technology and the students will follow suit.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fresh Perspective – Old Concept

Webster defines collaboration this way: “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor”. With 21st Century Learning Skills, how should we define collaboration? Quite similar to Webster but with significant focus on output.

Is collaboration necessary in our classrooms today? Simple answer, a resounding yes! Who benefits the most? The students.

Collaboration is all about pulling the strengths, ideals and even experiences from everyone in the group. And, yes, students bring valuable experiences with them to class every day! In a group of students, collaboration helps to open their eyes, really, to perspectives beyond their own.

Successful collaboration is found when all the members find (or literally begin to see) the value within the input of others. Putting all of those perspectives together should still, somehow, provide moments where students can grasp the goal/knowledge desired. Almost like having one problem, but then seeing that there are lots of solutions, not necessarily just one! Pool all of the ideas and solutions together - align as a group on one accord - and then you have collaboration. What has been learned? The main objective, as well as some valuable knowledge that can't be measured.

Collaboration in our classrooms today… simply what we have always called team work! The benefits are infinite.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Go out of this world… but stay in your seat.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is already known for their scientific discoveries, amazing inventions, world-wide partnerships, out-of-this world explorations and breath-taking photographs. But, did you ever stop to imagine them as your personal assistant in the classroom? NASA experts are as close as your computer.

Options are varied. If you teach science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, your students are guaranteed to be engaged. What could be even better? You can easily match their offerings to your standard course of study objectives.

What can you gain by having new friends at NASA? The possibilities are endless…

· Lesson Plans (Including step-by-step hands-on activities)
· Interactive Multimedia (Quizzes, knowledge-based games, etc.)
· Classroom Partnerships (Projects that involve direct communication with NASA)
· Webcasts and Video-Conferences (Did I mention they are completely free?)
· Educational Television Programming and Videos
· Podcasts
· …and more

Start with the below link, and you are on your way to presenting and out-of-this-world curriculum.

Before you go, did you know that as a result of the folks at NASA and their fine research and scientific skills we have the following products…

Invisible Braces
Edible Toothpaste
Ski Boots
Ear Thermometers
Smoke Detectors
Joystick Controllers
Enriched Infant Formula
Scratch Resistant Eye Glasses
Protective Paint
Sneaker Insoles
Fire Fighter Equipment

Now, did this get your attention? It surely got mine! I had the privilege of touring NASA just a few days ago and the knowledge they passed along was staggering. Your students want to learn from NASA too…

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What 21st Century Learning Means to Me

If you are reading this, you are already an active member of the technological revolution that has swept the globe. By reading this blog (and probably by bookmarking several others), you have already committed to opening up your mind to perspectives beyond your own. Does everyone out there embrace this type of technology as a way to see what the grass is like in another yard? Maybe. Maybe not. The real question I pose to you is this… How do you/we utilize newfound technologies in a fashion that move the next generation forward in a meaningful and productive manner? It is one thing to simply enjoy technology; it is quite another thing to sow it into fertile ground.

Blogging is certainly not the only tool or term we can use that has become a hot topic with our younger generation. There are podcasts, handhelds (aka palmtops), avatars, hotspots, wikis, RSS, mp3 players, social networking, IMs, Twitter, GPS devices, chat rooms, Moodle (and tons of other open source applications), social bookmarks… the list could go on and on, literally. Having an extensive list is great. Incorporating this same list into the average classroom is phenomenal. Watching students inquisitively grasp new information with the aid of technology – priceless.

Fortunately for North Carolina, the State Board of Education here has adopted 5 goals related to 21st Century Leaning. What does this mean for classrooms across this state? Fertile ground has been found. The five goals are:

-North Carolina public schools will produce globally competitive students.
-North Carolina public schools will be led by 21st Century professionals.
-North Carolina public school students will be healthy and responsible.
-Leadership will guide innovation in North Carolina public schools.
-North Carolina public schools will be governed and supported by 21st Century systems.

Translated, the five goals simply mean that our students will be competitive not only with the neighboring state, but with a continent they connect with through video conferencing. It means that NC teachers will be a leader in their classrooms. Not simply the guru on a particular subject, or the disciplinarian at the front of the room, but rather a leader in using the right tools to entice each student to learn using resources in addition to books, paper and pencils. It means our students will be taught not only about technology but how to use it in a manner that will produce tangible output to abstract ideas they imagined only hours earlier. It means those in educational positions outside of the classroom will serve as partners to those teachers in the classroom… partners whose responsibility is to provide the ongoing support, training, and encouragement to move students forward with technology as a platform.

Can technology in the classroom be considered greener grass? Certainly! But, only if watered and fertilized with the necessities of knowledge… and adequate and successful integration of that knowledge. Regardless of the subject, every classroom can benefit from 21st century learning skills.