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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

5 Ways to Step Back in Time

History Buff? History Teacher? Regardless, there are various opportunities online for our students to step back in time. Check out some of these websites to bring history alive within your classroom.

History Mystery

This site offers games and activities on exploration, African-American History, Environmental History, Government & Politics, Social/Cultural History, etc.

Grade Level: 4-9

Archiving Early America

Short video clips at your fingertips! Each short video on this site offers a highlight of true, significant historical events based on the Early American Digital Library.

Grade Level: 3-8

National Geographic Expeditions

This site is described as being an interactive museum with geographical journeys including a telescopic view from space – there is even an archeological dig.

Grade Level: 5-8

Digital History

In addition to lesson plans/handouts… you can also find historical music, videos, games, interactive timelines and a digital textbook.

Grade Level: 3-12

Growth of a Nation

Only have a few minutes? This site offers a unique, narrated 10 minute presentation on the growth of our nation.

Grade Level: 3+

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Comfort Zone?

So – at first this may seem unrelated to technology – but… give me a second…

How many times have we reached our comfort zone?

At some point in life, we all reach a zone of comfort where we feel like we have the bull by the horns. The tall, tall ceiling is our limit – and we reached it. We are on top of our game – masters of our roadmap. Simply put, we think we are just plain good. Hmmmm… does any of this sound familiar? This could be you in sports, a hobby, or even your job. But, I want to challenge you and that type of thinking.

Change can show up every day - is everywhere - and can effect everything.

How does this relate to technology? Let’s hit rewind. Technology is always changing – it will never be something we hit a ceiling on – glass or otherwise. That proverbial bull will, somehow, wiggle free, and sometimes mightily. The directions on the roadmap will need to be updated with added curves and additional turns – sometimes while we are still going full speed ahead.

In essence, what am I trying to say here? Keep your eyes and mind open – be willing to go with the flow. Technology is ever-changing – for improvements, innovation, enlightenment and the engagement of your students... Accept the challenge. Be in it for the long-haul. It is worth it. The use of technology in education is worth it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can We Skype You?

Recently, one of the schools within our district had a memorable experience.... they were able to talk one-on-one with a local TV celebrity. How did it happen? Did the students visit the TV station? Nope. Did the TV personality come to the school? Well... not exactly. Technology brought the two together using a computer, a web cam, a projector and Skype.

Skype is definitely not new to the tech scene. But, the experience it brings is always a new feeling, especially when you are a student sitting face-to-face with someone you wouldn't normally have a direct conversation with. So, what did the students ask Leigh Brock, a local meteorologist from WFMY? The normal questions we all have about the weather, our climate, and of course... the famous green screen!

The hosting school has a major goal for all of their teachers this year... make at least one global connection by the end of the year. Awesome task - and great for the students. Tons of benefits... exposure, change of pace, and learning right within the 21st Century Skills initiative. The school has defined the word "global" as simply any connection made outside of the normal classroom walls. Hmmmm.... classrooms without walls - that is what Skype can easily provide.

Where do you even find connections to Skype with? Couple of ways... there are various published lists of ideas you can find just by searching the web. Check out some of these resources.

Skype Virtual Guest Speakers
Skype in Schools Directory
Skype an Author
Cool Cat Teacher: Tips to Skype
See Me, Hear Me

Or... you can try the old-fashioned way... Call or email the person and simply invite them to Skype!

If you want to know more about the featured skyper from last week's class... Leigh Brock or WFMY - check them out online. BTW, Thanks Leigh!! We really appreciate you taking the time to help our students experience a prime example of what 21st Century Skills/Learning looks like!

Reading this blog and you want to get in on the Skype experience? Post a message here and you will be well on your way to communication on a whole new level...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Books at the Mall (National Mall, that is...)

This past weekend, I had the privilege of going, once again, to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. What did I see? TONS of people and TONS of books! There were several well-known authors on site… Nicholas Sparks, Judy Blume, John Grisham, Walter Mosley, Ken Burns, Steven Kellogg, James Patterson, and Paula Deen – just to name a few.

In addition to the authors, there were countless big name sponsors to promote literacy in education. Although most sponsors were impressive in their literacy messages… The Digital BookMobile caught my eye!

Powered by OverDrive, The Digital BookMobile is quite similar to the bookmobile I remember as a child. It was quite cool to see the bookmobile pull up outside the school with “special” books the library did not have. The bookmobile can still drive up to your school… but, technology now replaces the standard book shelves and displays. According to their website, “the vehicle is equipped with broadband Internet-connected PCs, high-definition monitors, premium sound systems, and a variety of portable media players. Interactive computer stations give visitors an opportunity to search the digital media collection, use supported mobile devices, and sample eBooks, audio books, music, and video from the library.”

Now… if the bookmobile is not scheduled to stop at your school or in your county, what do you do? Simple. You visit the Forsyth County Library website to still gain access to those same eBooks, music and videos! Step by step guidelines and instructions are on the site to give you the ins and outs for getting started.

Take the tour to begin using ebooks in your classroom!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Train, Work, & Learn

"You've got to train for it and work for it and learn for it." This was what I consider an impressive charge from President Obama Tuesday in his message to America's students. Interesting thing about those words? That not only applies to our 21st century students of today - it applies to us as educators, as well.

Train for it... well, pretty obvious what he means... But, as educators, we have to put the time in to understand that our efforts on a daily basis make us better at what we actually do. Remember the coined phrase "on-the-job-training"? Hopefully, each day, we (on purpose!) get a bit better at what we do. Put into practice what you do know!

Work for it... You have to put your time in, as the old saying goes. Go the extra mile. Step outside the box. Don't expect something different if you're doing the same things to get there... The cliches applicable here are endless, but in reality, there is work involved in moving our classrooms into the here and now. No classroom will become a successful product of 21st century integration overnight. It takes time. The success will come and the results will be evident in your overall student engagement and learning. Day by day, week by week, semester by semester.

Learn for it... That is where technology staff development workshops and courses come into play. Participating in the workshops and online courses we offer gives a good foundation to get things rolling in your classroom. Hopefully, you will leave each workshop inspired to try something different in your classroom with your newly acquired 21st century skills. Learning is who we are as educators - so it should be happening all the time, right?

Want to watch the President's speech or read the script for yourself? Check them both out here...
Need a refresher on his views of American education? Here is a recap.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Today's blog post is inspired by a book I am currently reading... Laurie Richlin's "Blueprint for Learning". What caught my eye, instantly, was a simple, yet very thought-provoking sentence. "Every action we take as instructors is based on our expectation that our students will be able to change something that they know, feel, or can do." Wow!

As an instructor of teachers (and a former instructor of students) I can say that it is indeed true that our actions do speak louder than words. What are we saying to our students based on what we do and how we teach? We use all the 21st Century Learning buzzwords like engage, create, collaborate, design, etc. etc. But, what are we literally "doing" in our classrooms that physically show the meanings of those words and what it actually looks like to incorporate 21st century skills into the class... daily.

This post should cause some reflection... which then hopefully leads to inspiration... which should then lead to action. The ball is in your court. Let your actions show you are on board with technology not because you know the buzzwords, but because you believe it can truly change something a student knows, feels, or can do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Top Ten Teacher Tips for the New School Year!

Welcome Back Educators!

New year. New students. Fresh start. I know your list is extraordinarily long for the things you must do to set your class up for success. But, there are a few things you need to move to the top of that list - immediately.

Based on the ever-famous David Letterman countdown - let's look at the list from the bottom to the top! Incorporating these ten items is a sure way to convert your classroom into one that has "21st Century Learning" written all over it!

#10 - Represent yourself and your curriculum first. Use your School Center teacher webpages as a main portal for housing information, documents, presentations, podcasts, student work, blogs, forums, etc. (Remember - copyright is essential and please, please keep all information on your site current!)

#9 - Create a classroom wiki or blog. Integrating 21st Century collaboration is key to increasing engagement levels of your students! Then, link your wiki to your School Center teacher webpage... Where do you start? - sign up for the academic classroom, free space to get started! Want a blog instead? Head to to get started.

#8 - Talk to your Technology Facilitator and Media Coordinator to find out what tech toys you have at your school... Knowing what you have access to is one of the keys to opening the technology door to your classroom.

#7 - Attend technology staff development workshops. You know the saying... Knowledge is power! You can also take online technology workshops at - same tech credit, just self-paced!

#6 – Collaborate. With who, you ask? Fellow teachers/staff. Teachers at other schools. Teachers in other states. Teachers in other countries. Remember the old saying, two heads are better than one… technology makes collaboration easy! Wikis, Skype, Google Docs, etc. are just a few of the ways you can get started. What do you gain from collaboration as a teacher? Fresh perspectives. New ideas. New Projects. New curriculum add-ons.

#5 – Go Global. Introduce your students to other students - via technology - who may share the same project goals or assignments. What characteristics represent students with global connections? Creative. Empathic. Appreciation for diversity and other perspectives. Knowledge of digital communication. Actually, this list can grow to be quite long. Where do you start? Contact our department.

#4 – Start a discussion… with your students. See what types of technology they would absolutely LOVE to see in your class. You may be surprised at their answers. If they are backing you – that is a great way to have full class participation in not just the technology but… drum roll… the actual curriculum area you are covering!

#3 - Start Small! Pick one technology and embrace it. Pick something technological you have an interest in. It could be a web-based application, computer software (that has been approved by our district, of course) or an actual tech gadget. Once you master it, then move along to your next technology resource/tool. Before you know it, you will have a long list to show for how you integrate technology into your classroom!

#2 – Be a show-off! Once you master your chosen technology – share the wealth. Show other teachers and staff the benefits and results based on your implementation of that tool. Get others in your boat!

#1 - Have an open mind. Enough said.

In my own words - technology has a substantial impact on classroom engagement, learning and even behavior. Incorporate technology into your classroom and observe the results that follow... As a former high school teacher, I am telling you what I know.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Simple, yet Great Sites – Vol. 2

Sometimes - we all run across websites we think are simply great. They can be very simplistic in nature but achieve huge things! Well... here are a few educational sites that I want to share with you.

Curriculum: Art


This site allows students to travel 500 years into the past and look at the many art innovations. You can also create/add your own innovation ideas! Great add-in to any art class!

Curriculum: History


This site is an interactive time-travel back into the days of slavery and the underground railroad. It is a mixture of story-telling about the journey but also gives you opportunities to make decisions as if you were in the story!


So much to choose from on this site. “This Day in History” is my personal favorite part of the entire site. Being an unofficial (and self-proclaimed) history buff (of sorts) it is very interesting to read the dated historical tidbits. There are several educational/history games on the site as well! Example…there is a “History of Ireland Quiz” and a “Declaration of Independence Quiz”.


This site is self-explanatory! Need your students to do biography research? This is the gold mind of all sites to start with. Simply type in the person’s name and voila – you have their biography at your finger tips. This is a sister site to, by the way.

Curriculums: Science and Art


This site (for the museum of science, art and human perception) is a mixture of student activities, teaching tips and special emphasis on the revolving exhibits within the science museum. There are tons of hands-on activities/directions and even a digital library of podcasts, etc.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The ABC's of your OS

2000. XP. Vista. Snow Leopard. What do all of these have in common? They are absolutely necessary for your computer to even function! Operating Systems (commonly referred to as simply “OS” provide the backbone structure for your desktop, laptop, or notebook computer.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, an operating system is a “program that manages a computer’s resources, especially the allocation of those resources among other programs. Typical resources include the central processing unit (CPU), computer memory, file storage, input/output (I/O) devices, and network connections. Management tasks include scheduling resource use to avoid conflicts and interference between programs. Unlike most programs, which complete a task and terminate, an operating system runs indefinitely and terminates only when the computer is turned off.

So, what’s the latest and greatest in OS’s on the market today?

Windows 7 is the newest operating system for the PC. Check out this introductory video.

If you are a Mac lover, then Snow Leopard is sure to peak your curiosity as the latest OS to hit the scene for the Apple.

The Unix OS is a multi-user system that allows multiple users to take advantage of different resources all at one time! Nice thing about Unix? It is open-source (free) and runs on a variety of computer platforms!

Quite like Unix, Linux is another type of OS that is also open-source and runs on a PC. Who uses Linux? According to, typically the folks most interested in going against the norm of Windows and Mac operating systems…

· People who already know UNIX and want to run it on PC-type hardware;

· People who want to experiment with operating system principles;

· People who need or want a great deal of control over their operating system; and

· People who have personal problems with Microsoft

What's on the OS horizon? Google's newest arrival... the Google Chrome OS. It is in the works and is supposed to change how we look at the OS altogether... Stay tuned for its release...

So, after all is said and done, are you still using Windows 2000 or XP? Don’t feel bad. As long as your computer is performing up to par and your tasks and goals are met – all is well.

*Disclaimer – This post is for educational and information purposes only. Please do not attempt to upgrade any of the district and/or school-owned desktops or laptops. As with all processes and protocols, the Technology Department will handle upgrades, etc. when appropriate.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ashe County Technology Conference 2009

As you may have already read in an earlier post, Emory and I were given the opportunity to present last week at the 2009 Technology Conference in Ashe County, North Carolina!

Technology Conferences are always exciting - you go in with a great expectation and huge anticipation for learning, seeing, and hearing something that will inspire you back at your desk. This time, though, things were a little bit different... As a presenter, I was in the role to provide that inspiration to others. Did I do just that? I sure hope so. I received a lot of kind words and many thanks for my session titled "Introduction to Wikis" using PBWorks.

So, what was my main goal in presenting the idea of wikis into a regular classroom curriculum? Simple. It gives the students a 21st century method for presenting the same work they always have. The key here... teachers must realize that 21st century skills learning doesn't necessarily mean changing the curriculum... it just means taking a second look at the delivery method - as a teacher and as a student. Where can you start? Tackle the two most common assignments most teachers give... Writing Prompts and Research Projects. Both make excellent use of the wiki and collaborative learning environment.

Whether presenting away from home, or simply doing the day-to-day workshops here and there, inspiration is my top priority. I want to inspire teachers on several levels.

I want to...
  • Inspire them to be open-minded in their quest for achieving successful 21st century learning environments in their classrooms;
  • Inspire them to be gutsy and try new things - being oh so mindful that the new things they try aren't so "new" to the students! We just need to shape what they already use into our educational molds and purposes!
  • Inspire them to believe in themselves. It does not matter how long you've been a teacher... learning is the name of the game in your 1st year and in your 30th year.
  • Inspire them to see the bigger picture... yes, the little details matter during the day when integrating technology into the projects, one class project at a time - but better still - the big pictures makes way for overall and increased technological skill development by the end of the academic year
Did I enjoy presenting? For certain. I only hope that those folks who came into my session left with the same passion I came in with.

Want to check out the technology conference format? Take a look.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

21st Century Labs Vol. 3

As the summer progresses, and the labs become closer to being ready for student use... many questions seem to arise...

1) Regardless of the budget, is there a particular classroom design that has just proven most successful (in other districts)?

2) Is it just the "stuff" that makes the 21st Century Lab design "work"? Or, does the physical "layout" of the room make the most difference?

3) Does the redesign or newly designed lab increase morale and overall teacher attitude towards technology?

Where are we at with the particular schools I am following closely? All of the labs are currently waiting on the furniture and the "stuff" - whiteboards, document cameras, etc. etc.

These 21st century lab posts seem to be serving as a great foundation for the final project... the questions I ponder are questions I will answer in my research. The completed research will be in the form of a wiki which will basically showcase specific focus areas of 21st century lab designs in classrooms today. Wiki address forthcoming... stay tuned.

Standard Course of Study... in an instant!

The NC Standard Course of Study should always be in the forefront of your mind. Always. But, here in the 21st Century, what can you do to immediately blend the SCOS with technology? Lots!

Check out these resources that align the NCSCOS with technological skills that are sure to engage your students instantly. Key word? Instantly.


What IS netTrekker? As defined by netTrekker, an online application that delivers digital content, organized by grade and reading level all aligned with the SCOS. Differentiated instruction tools are the key!

Watch a video about netTrekker from our very own Project Manager for Instructional Technology, Marlo Gaddis. Watch another video explaining netTrekker in comparison to Google. (This video is from a teacher’s perspective)

Curriculum Pathways

What IS Curriculum Pathways? As defined by SAS, Curriculum Pathways is an online resource for students and teachers. SAS Curriculum Pathways provides standards-based content in all the core disciplines, covering grades 8-14.

Watch an introduction video for Curriculum Pathways and get a great overview of what to expect when you log in.


What IS Learn360? Streaming media that covers content from all areas of the K-12 curriculum. Example video resources are provided for teacher/student use from PBS, National Geographic, Standard Deviants, Slim Goodbody, and Sunburst Visual Media™, just to name a few.

Watch the demo for Learn360

Simply need access to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study Online? Take a look at these two sites.

Only need access to a copy to print?


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.

As you begin looking towards a brand new academic year… include netTrekker, Curriculum Pathways and Learn360 in your lesson plans! A learning yet interactive experience in which your students gain core knowledge, insight, new perspectives and new technological skills is sure to follow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Meet Mr. Marzano

Speaker. Trainer. Author of 30 books. Writer of 150 articles. Educator.

In education, there are constantly terms thrown around like Marzano’s Instructional Strategies and Marzano’s Standards.

Who exactly is Marzano? Internationally known, Dr. Robert J. Marzano, has made it his mission to study, research and impact our educational society today. He has done dozens of research projects, carefully studying the outcomes of instructional strategies today. His research is known as practical, applicable – and classroom changing.

What does he believe should happen in every classroom and in every district? Simply put? Three things (or commitments, as he refers to them):

- Commitment 1: Develop a System of Individual Student Feedback at the District, School, and Classroom Levels.

- Commitment 2: Ensure Effective Teaching in Every Classroom.

- Commitment 3: Build Background Knowledge for All Students.

Want a closer look? Check out the following…

Monday, June 8, 2009

21st Century Lab: New Directions

Questions to ponder for this week? There are several as I jump into my research for effective, efficient, productive and successful 21st century lab designs....

1)How big of a role does budget actually play?
2)How long does it take, realistically, in planning a 21st century lab overhaul?
3)Do 21st century lab designs reflect general and overall interior design thought-processes?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

21st Century Labs VOL. 1

Beginning today, I will begin to write various posts as I delve into my research and study of 21st Century lab design for my internship.

Professional Development Goals:
- Determine how layout and design of 21st Century labs impacts learning
- Determine types of technology needed for successfully outfitting modern-day labs
- Determine how different types of classroom/lab environments impact learning today

Proposed Outcomes:
- Research can provide direction for proposals within current labs that are being revitalized or newly constructed
- Research can provide insight for schools considering no cost and/or cost-effective room revisions/updates

Overall, I plan to use three-four schools that are within our district whom have already identified necessary changes and/or upgrades to their existing or new construction computer labs. Based on the space requirements, budget and goals of the school, I hope to do research that gains/gives a better understanding of direction(s) these schools can move toward. 
I believe it is very interesting, impacting and substantive to look at how actual environments change the atmosphere of a space. I want to carry this interest into an educational sector by looking at lab design and the possible effects it has on student achievement.
Within two of the spaces, I want to provide (theoretical) no cost and/or cost-effective ways that technology can be maximized in each space - solely dependent upon the individual schools' needs.

With the use of this blog, a wiki for my research and a final presentation, my internship will prove to be a mixture of documenting the progress/process within our district along with "theory" based on my personal research.

What Exactly ARE 21st Century Skills?

We read about it. We hear about it. The Senate has a bill that supports it. But, what exactly ARE 21st Century Skills?

Incorporating the following into the curriculum delivers 21st Century Skills…








· ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) LITERACY







To find a full explanation of this framework, take a look at this student outcomes white paper online. Visual Learner? Watch this short video which gives a great, generic overview of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and how/where to find additional information on their site.

It is great to know our government is on board with education reform and looking ahead to provide adequate support to our classrooms. As quoted in, Shelley Pasnik, director of the Education Development Center's Center for Children and Technology states "The purpose of the 21st Skills Incentive Funds Act is to offer competitive grants from the Department of Education for states willing to invest in education reform. She sums up the senate’s support well. Be sure to take a look at the actual bill as posted by the Library of Congress.

Want more in-depth information? Check out this .pdf from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's A Zoo Out There!

Studying animals and their habitats, life cycles, characteristics, or anything even remotely related? With the state of the economy, you may not have the classroom funds to visit the zoo but there is a way to bring the zoo to your room!

Check out the Smithsonian National Zoo at and find some awesome resources. Yes, resources!

There are many valuable tools found at that provide many starting points and great curriculum add-ons.

Browse through the list of:

·         Free Curriculum Guides

·         Explorer Kits (fee-based)

·         Homework Helper

·         Research Articles and Podcasts

·         Online Habitat Education Program

·         Fact Sheets

·         Live Animal Web Cams

·         Educator’s Newsletter

...and much more!

Like the info you found here? If so, go a step further and check out what I believe to be the information mecca of the United States… The Smithsonian Institution! Or, go straight to theSmithsonian Educator section where they help you prepare, plan, and teach. What can you expect from this site…. Lesson plans and resources aligned with the NC Standard Course of Study.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lights! Camera! Action!

Every student in your class can be a film producer. Yes, every student. Questions you may ask yourself…

  • Why would I want them to produce a film?
  • What good would it do?
  • How would that even fit into my curriculum?
  • Which types of equipment, tools and resources would I need to make it happen?
  • When would I have time to add this type of project into my curriculum?
  • All very good questions! Here are some answers!

    • Choose a unit, (goal/objective) based within the NC Standard Course of Study
    • Gather digital cameras or Flip Cameras from your Media Center and/or teachers at your school
    • Teach the lesson as you normally would...
    • At the end of the lesson, have the students use the camera to shoot footage depicting their perspective of the lesson - showing you (visually) what they have learned!
    • Allow them class time for making/producing the video. Be sure to find out which students have access to cameras at home!
    • Have the students upload the video footage into Windows Movie Maker (or video-editing software of your choice) to make any necessary edits, add text, music, narration, etc.
    • Decide on a red-carpet “Premiere” Day and showcase each of the students' documentaries!
    • Check out these resources to help your students along the way... Roadmaps andCharacteristicsThese informational links are courtesy of Digital Documentaries.

    Want a specific example?

    • Eighth Grade: Social Studies
    • Competency Goal 1 – Objective 1.01Assess the impact of geography on the settlement and developing economy of the Carolina colony

    What footage could your students shoot that would provide distinct visuals for Objective 1.01 of the NC Standard Course of Study within Social Studies?

    What happened with this lesson? Simple! Your curriculum didn’t change, but you added 21st Century Learning Skills into the mix. Did the students seem to enjoy learning? My guess is a resounding yes!

    Don’t teach Social Studies? This idea of allowing video/camera footage to tell a story works across the curriculum!

    Don’t stop with documentaries! Try PSAs, commercials or even movie trailers! Movie trailer video footage or posters are a great way to showcase a required historical reading/text.

    Not sure how to use a Flip Camera or Windows Movie Maker? Contact us! We'll be happy to show you how!

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Tech Help

    Technology is not JUST for fun. Nor is it only intended to connect us through networks, engage us with multimedia and great visuals or indulge us with shortcuts that are efficient and productive. Now, don’t get me wrong, (or get it twisted) - those things are pretty awesome. But, I want you to know that technology can also truly serve up some life-changing moments.

    Equality. We all know what it is… everybody should have the same things and access. Right? Right! How does that apply to technology in education? Equality is key, but when dealing with student disabilities, be sure your chosen technology is the right fit.

    According to the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-407), “an assistive technology means any item, piece of equipment, or product/system, whether acquired commercially, off-the-shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”

    What can assistive technology hardware or software look like in the classroom?

    - Talking/Large Print Web Browsers
    - Audio Books
    - Magnification Hardware (or Software for your Desktop)
    - Speech-to-Text software
    - Text-to-Speech software
    - Talking Calculators
    - Computer-Assisted Captioning
    - Alternative Keyboards
    - Amplification Systems
    - Page Turners
    - Touch Screens
    - Electronic Pointing Devices
    - Refreshable Braille displays
    - Light Signal Alerts
    - On-Screen Keyboards (or Keyboards that have Speech Capabilities)

    … This list could literally go on and on because it is so adaptive and dependent upon the students’ particular disability.

    If you have any students that can benefit from some type of assistive technology within your classroom, please let us know. We are happy to come up with customized solutions on how to best fit the needs of your students using technology! Our district also has an EC department that can work hand-in-hand with us in determining your students’ particular needs. The incorporation of technology within your classroom should equal success for ALL of your students.

    Want to do more research on your own? Check out these websites:

    The Alliance for Technology Access

    Discovery Education: Special Education Resources

    Lesson 25 Assistive Technology (Look at what other teachers are doing!)

    Introduction to Assistive Technology

    Education World: Assistive Technology

    Assistive Technology Website Directory

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Simple, yet Great Sites - Vol. 1

    Sometimes - we all run across websites we think are simply great. They can be very simplistic in nature but achieve huge things! Well... here are 5 that I want to share with you.

    Writing poetry? Stuck on a word that rhymes with "__" Check out this site... it adds to your creative juices by quickly giving you rhyming words!

    Need to convert scanned images or .pdf's into editable text? This online optical character recognition site gives you that ability!

    Need to find some historical maps or documents within a certain time period, in ANY country? This site is the place!

    Want to know about the climate in ANY region of the world. This user-friendly site gives you climate information quickly!

    Trying to figure out which language you are looking at? This website allows you to paste in the text and it instantly recognizes what foreign language the text is written.

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Imagination at Work

    Imagination. Webster defines it as The act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”

    Personally, I define imagination as the ability to incorporate personal perspectives, ideas, and visuals to change or impact a goal, topic or thing CREATIVELY. Overall, using the imagination causes impact to output – whether idealistically-speaking or methodologically-speaking.

    So, the million-dollar question? How can teachers allow imagination to make a difference right in the classroom? Lots of ways…. And it is easier than you may initially think.

    From the Unified Schedule Workshop last Friday, Professor J. Allen Queen from UNCC made some interesting comments that tie in nicely with this post

    • Every lesson should never be taught the same way twice
    • With your lessons, make sure the students are interacting and experimenting
    • Teachers should focus on student learning over teaching!
    • There should be an acceptance for change and desire for future refinement

    How does imagination go hand-in-hand with these?

    Never teaching a lesson the same way means tailoring the lesson to the personality of each class! Making the lessons more interactive/experimental, by default can be geared towards success with the integration of 21st century skills. Also, with the incorporation of technology-based projects, learning-based activities, etc. the lessons given by teachers will automatically be/become interactive. When students are allowed to use their imagination, their finished products/projects will be focused on and produced from different types of student learning!

    How does all of this even come into play? The teacher must, I repeat, MUST be willing to have an open mind-set for change in the classroom. This is the crucial first step. An open mind will allow teachers to see the individual personalities of each of their classes, each period of each day. An open mind will allow teachers to reconstruct their lessons in a way that allows for more interaction and less lecture. Open-minded teachers will look less at themselves as presenters and “head” of the classroom and more at student perception, intake and learning style. Imagination is the catalyst to incorporating change and opening the mind.

    Need a place to start? Don’t change your curriculum – you don’t even have to write completely new lesson plans… Simply choose one lesson you already have in place, and tweak it so the output and objectives can be met differently. Want an example? Instead of having the students write the same ole’ research paper… Have them write the paper and then use Photo Story to capture the story with photos while using their voice to narrate it. Or…  Have the students use VoiceThread and get feedback on their paper from other peers. Or… have them use a Wiki and use classroom collaboration to write the paper along with another classmate. Or… have them design a “movie poster” using graphics and some text to advertise the plot/storyline – this goes right along with summarization skills.

    Same research paper… different output. Student engagement achieved.

    Imagination is not just for use with crayolas.