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.