Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy Tech Tuesday

I am so excited to welcome everybody back to school today. I hope everyone had a relaxing summer vacation and are ready to jump back in and show everyone which district has the best teachers and students.

These next couple of days will be filled with PD, so I hope that everyone takes the time to try something new and learn a few tricks with Notebook software, Clickers and other tech that might be new to you. I have a collection of helpful sites that you should take a look at and see how they might help you in the classroom this year.

SMART Notebook Software from Vanessa Cassie

As more teachers get used to using Smart products in the building, they will want to work with the software at home. This link will show teachers how to download the software to your computer at home. It is a free download, so put you credit card away. Once it is downloaded, you will need to get the activation key (Product Key) from an email sent out by Steve Woloszyn today (Tuesday). This will allow you full access to the software to create lessons from home and use them at school. (Side Note: Vanessa has tons of great Smartboard resources on her site. Check out the different sites and lessons that could be great for your class. She is great at responding to questions if you have any. You can follow here on Twitter @VanessaSCassie.)

Critical Past - A Must See Site For ALL Social Studies Teachers

Critical Past is a site that has collected over 57,000 historic videos and over 7 million photographs. Here is a clip of an instructional video from 1943. It is a video on how to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt Aircraft. If a teacher wants, they can purchase different videos for download. Otherwise, viewing the videos are completely free.

A site like this is perfect for Social Studies classes. With the enormous amount of pictures available, teachers can use them as part of their lectures or important examples of how people lived during specific time periods. As a History nerd, I found myself lost in the site for almost 30 minutes watching one video after the other. Kids could get just as lost with different assignments that could have them explore the archives and uncover something interesting to them. Please take a look around this site, it is too good to pass up.

Spell With Flickr

This is just a fun little site that takes letters from pictures found on Flickr and uses them to spell out whatever you want. Once the picture is created, you can copy the code from the site and place the pic wherever you want. Here is one of Grosse Pointe South High School. It can also be helful if you need to create a ransom notes. :-P JK.

G R o s letter S The letter E, from Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle letter P o IMG_5617_4 N letter T letter e letter S O IMG_5703_3 T letter H letter I G letter H s C letter H hangman tile blue letter O letter O L

I'm just getting warmed up...

Print What You Like

I have to thank Kelly Tenkely and her site, iLearnTechnology, for pointing me to Print What You Like. This site allows the user to print what they need from a web page instead of the entire page. This is a great way to save on paper and ink as schools look to save money. The site is very easy to navigate and should be looked at by anyone that prints from websites. I know I will be showing this to my students during our Research Paper Unit. All too often I see mounds of paper in the Library that kids discard because it wasn't what they wanted. Imagine how much money could be saved if students and staff use this site when printing. Try this site out.

Twisty Noodle

This is a very simple and free site that offers coloring and handwriting practice worksheets for teachers. You can search various topics to find specific worksheets for your students. Sometimes it is hard to find a specific sheet for your class. Twisty Noodle can help you solve that problem.

7 Technology Alternatives to Standard Homework Assignments

The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness is a wonderful site I have blogged about in the past. Mr. Zimmer offers great resources and ideas for tech integration. In this post, he provides 7 typical assignments a teacher might give in various subjects and offers a tech alternative. Check out his site to how you might be able to add a little tech spice to your homework assignments.

Bloom's Taxonomy for Web 2.0 Tools

Kelly has done it again. She has created an amazing, and simple, post explaining how the different web tools apply to the different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Not only that, but she uses a picture of a peacock to demonstrate it! Check out the site and see how you might be able to incorporate the different tools on Bloom's lists to better help the students in your class.

I could go on, but I need to save some good stuff for next week. :-) Please take a look at the different sites here and in previous posts. Try to take it one step at a time, but please give it a try!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tech Tuesday!

I have a handful of interesting things for everyone to check out as the school year gets ready to start. Take a look around and see how these sites can help you in your class or at home.

Everything you have ever wanted to know about Google:

This is a site dedicated to all Google has to offer. Every different aspect of Google is explained and resources are provided on how to use them in your classroom. Google Earth, Google Docs and other Google toold are covered in detail. This page is worth a peek if you are looking to use more online tools in your classroom or for yourself.

Blogging Tips:

Here are some quick tips for teachers interested in using blogs in the classroom this year.

Interactive sites for the SmartBoard:

Here are three interactive sites to use with the Smartboard. One allows young students to combine different colors to create new ones. Another is all about Viscosity and it allows students to perform virtual lab experiments. The last one allows students to create 3D Geometrical shapes. Take a look at these and see how they might fit in your class.

These are just a few of the sites I've uncovered over the summer. I hope you take a minute and look them over. Enjoy the last couple of weeks in Summer. I look forward to seeing many refreshed faces.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome Back!

Welcome Back! I hope all of you had a great summer and are ready for a great school year. I would like to also say welcome to all of the new teachers in the district. We are happy to have you join the best teaching staff in the state of Michigan.

As you can see, I gave the site a face lift over vacation and did post some new things while you were away. Take a look at the archive and see if there is anything you might want to use in your classroom. I plan on having a busy blog schedule this year with tons of new sites to share and how to videos for you to watch.

It is very important that this blog is interactive as much as possible. I was flying blind much of last year as I posted random sites that I thought were helpful to different content areas. The more feedback I receive on the blog about things you are looking for, the more I can help you find the best site that fits your needs. Feel free to contact me by leaving a comment in a blog post so I can get back to you with your questions.

New South Teachers: I will try to organize something sooner to get you started with your website and any other tech questions you might have about the equipment you have in your room. Please introduce yourself so we can get started.

I'm really excited to get started this year! I have some great projects in the works. One involves a live Skype co-production of Rome and Juliet with a school from Iowa! Check out this post for more information. I'm also going to be experimenting with live class blogging and tweeting. If you are interested in jumping on board the tech train, please let me know. The more teachers we have using Web2.0 tools, the more prepared our students will be for college and the job market. 

- Give it a try!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Creating a Blogging Community

I've seen many an eye roll at me when I talk about my blog. Many people still have this idea that blogs are for celebrity gossip and angst filled teens. Blogging is used for those things, but they can play an important role in the classroom as well. I've decided to create a Blogger's Cafe in my room to encourage student blogging and opening up my class to the world.

Blogger's Cafe

The Stage in my Classroom
I plan to set up a lounge style seating area on the stage that will have space for two students to use netbooks and live blog/tweet the class discussion/lecture. Students will rotate blogging day to day to ensure that a different perspective is gained in class. The goal is to create a comfortable environment for students to work. The students will post the blog on my schoolwires page at the end of class. Students who were not blogging will be able to go back to my page at any time and add any information they thought was important. It allows for students who were absent to see what happened in class and for parents to actually read exactly what happened in class that day. It knocks down the walls of the classroom and lets the world see the learning first hand.

The Blogger's Cafe will be important and students work with other students from Van Meter, Iowa. Students will be working on various units with other students from Van Meter and will need a space to work on different parts of various projects. Student blogs will be used to explore different ideas and reflect on experiences. It will be an avenue that will allow all students to freely participate, instead of the select few that love to raise their hand in class.


Another reason I want my students to blog on a more regular basis is because it will help them become better readers and writers. I had my students answer discussion questions last year using Turnitin.com. At the end of the year, I realized that I had my students write the equivalent of 3 extra essays. I could tell by the end of the year, their writing was sharper and their though process stronger. Just writing essays might not be the only way to strengthen writing skills. Blogging allows for students to freely express their thoughts on topics without being stuck following a strict essay format. That ability to let ideas flow will help students as thinkers, not just writers. Literacy is no longer just reading and writing. Computer Literacy needs to be considered as these students move on to college or the job market. The more experience students have with computers and web tools, they better prepared they will be for college.

My Goal

My big goal for the year is to have many other students, in many different content areas, in many different building, start to blog and have their students blog. I want to create a Blogging Community in the district that will allow students to read and comment on various types of blogs. I have a Math and Science teacher ready to blog in their class and I don't want to see it stop there. I want to assign their blogs as reading in my class. This will allow reading and writing to finally be spread out across the curriculum. By having students engage in reading and commenting on other content blogs, they will be reading and learning about new ideas.I would love to see 8th graders reading and commenting on 9th grade blog posts. Freshmen engaging in discussions with AP students on different topics in Biology or History. The potential is truly limitless if a Blogging Community is created. As this idea grows, discussions can begin with other schools in other districts. Eduction should not happen behind four walls alone. Blogging knocks down those walls and opens the world to our students. Before we see the world, we need to create the right environment in the district.

This is a big goal and I don't expect it to happen over night. I do know that I teach with some of the best teachers in the world and they are dedicated to using the best methods available to prepare our students for the tests they will take in the future and college down the road. Now is not the time to be scared to try something new in the classroom. We have a chance to do something different that will help all of our students. If you think that more reading and writing will help the students in your class, please send me an email and together we can set up a class blog. 

I hope many of you will give this a try!


Vocabulary Games

Here is a great site filled with wonderful vocabulary games. Vocabulary Games has many different types of games that would work very well on Smartboards.

I played the Oxymoron game and it was a simple matching game that would be wonderful on the Smartboard for students. They point to one word and select the other word it should be paired. 

These games could be used as a fun way to review before a test or perhaps to start a class with an interactive touch. I highly recommend this site to teachers looking for ways to use their Smartboard more often in their class. It is easy to use and the kids will love it.

Give it a try!

Don't Mean to Bug You...

I'm sorry for the terrible pun, but this site was too good not to write about. Insects.org is a great site for all of your bug needs. As a young lad, I used to search the yard high and low for creepy crawlers and put them in my little bug catcher my Dad made. I would then search the Encyclopedia looking for pictures that might match the bug I was holding hostage. :-)

Insects.org offers an entire library of information on every type of insect you could think name. It will supply you with the Order and Family name of the bug as well as assorted pictures. A nice biography of each insect is provided to give you important information. This site could be very helpful to science teachers or parents of adventurous children.

Insects.org even provides an Bug of the Week. This could be used by parents or teachers as a way of engaging students in the different types of insects in the world. They could use a map and locate where the bugs are found and see how diverse the world's ecosystem truly is.

Insects.org is just another fun and useful site designed to educate children about the things they love most. Take a look around and see if you can use it in your classroom or home.

Graph It Forward

I stumbled upon this cool site and I wanted to share it with all of the teachers out there. We have many students that graduate school and have no use of their fancy graphing calculators in college. Graph It Forward is a great program designed to collect these unused calculators and distribute them to needy students by SAT time on June 5th. Having a graphing calculator can increase a students ACT Math score by as much as 4 points and their SAT score by 70! It seems crazy to think that students are attempting these tests without the tools necessary to be successful.

I think this could be a great project for school clubs/organizations to take up near the end of the school year. There are too many students that take these high stakes tests without calculators. Here is a great way to help many students get great scores on tests and help them get into college. I hope you can help this great group!

Knocking Down Walls with Van Meter

I'm not exactly sure how it started. I went to ISTE10, met some awesome people and now I'm working on a Freshmen English Curriculum with the great people of Van Meter Schools.

I connected with Shannon at ISTE and we talked about doing something together in the future. I've said that to many people whose work I admire. I say it because I really do want to work with them, but often, life gets in the way. Shannon made sure that life would not get in the way and quickly created a Google Doc so we could start sharing ideas. She quickly connected me with Sean and Jared to think about Curriculum ideas.

Why are we doing this? I think this is the question I'm going to get most from parents and other teachers. I think in today's education, a global education, we start to connect students with people outside of the small bubble of their classroom. For me, Literature is done a disservice if it is discussed from only a couple of view points. Literature has so much to offer and I think it is important to open up literature as much as possible. Connecting with different schools from all over the world will allow students to see how different cultured interpret different works of literature. As a high school teacher, one of my goals is to prepare my students for college. College is filled with many different cultures, so it's important to expose them to as many different ideas as possible.

Another reason to connect with other schools is to allow students to use different types of scale media and web tools they will need to be familiar with when they head to college and the job market. The more practice that these students have using these important 21st century tools, the better off they will be in the long run. I firmly believe that we are not just teachers of content. We owe it to our students to impart everything we can to make them successful and productive members of society. Connecting with different students from different backgrounds will only be beneficial to our students.

Here are some things we are working on:

- Shared Ning site: We want to create a space where all of our students can meet and share ideas. We will have about 90 students from GPS and 150 from VM. A centralized place to meet and discuss ideas is necessary to bring everyone together.

- Student Blogs: We want to have our own areas for students/teachers to blog that will be accessible to the other schools. This will allow the teachers to have a space they can modify/moderate for their specific school. The teachers can set this system up in a way that is best for their students. It's a nice way to differentiate for each class.

Joint Units: We have looked at our schedules and curriculum and decided on a unit on/unit off schedule. This will allow the teachers time to collaborate after units and work our the bugs after each unit. Also, it will allow teachers to still tackle important district curriculum during the off time. For students, we hope to see them sharing connections during the off time and during their personal time. Connecting through Facebook, Twitter and other social media outside of the school day would be a great success for this idea.

VM and GPS will work together on short stories, To Kill a Mockingbird, Black Boy, Research Papers and Shakespeare. We have some ideas that involve discussion questions and smaller joint projects for Mockingbird, Black Boy and the short stories in the first semester. We want to move slowly and get the students comfortable with working online with students they will never meet face to face. Second semester is where we are going to go all out.

Research Paper: In Freshmen English, students are taught proper research techniques and how to write a formal research paper. They usually pick topics on Gun Control or the Death Penalty. They research one side and write the essay. Working with another school, we thought it would be great to pair students up with opposing viewpoints to research together. Give the students an opponent to their essay. Set them up with a shared space where they could exchange ideas and sources as they work to create a solid argument. One part of the essay is always on refuting the other side. Students will now be able to actually here and see the other side of the argument which will strengthen theirs in the long run.

Time permitting; it would be great to see a Skype debate on their subjects where classmates can ask questions of the two that wrote the essays. The emphasis will be on collaboration to see the other side of the argument. Too often, students write their point of view and never truly consider the other side. This project could have students see the entire argument for the first time.

The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project:

This started off as a project for my classes at GPS, but has grown into something so much more now that VM and GPS are working together. Using all forms of social media available, the students of VM and GPS are going to put on a Skyped joint production of Romeo and Juliet. The two schools will divide the play's 5 Acts and produce them at their school. Each act will be broadcast to the audience using Skype. Students will be in charge of every aspect of the production. They will be directing, producing, writing, building props, advertising, making costumes, etc.

This is meant to be a culminating project for both schools. As far as we know, no school has ever done a joint production of a play through Skype. This idea requires massive amounts of detail and work from our students. They will need to work together as they dive deep into the world of Shakespeare and the meaning of his poetry. Key decisions on the different parts of the production will need to be made by the assigned groups using different forms of technology to connect. They will use their newly acquired research skills to create. One of a kind interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

As teachers, we will be blogging and tweeting about the work Van Meter and Grosse Pointe South are doing from an educational standpoint. Our hope is to grow this idea to a point where we have four schools rotating during the school year to allow for a different perspective for the students.You can always follow the hash tag #VMGPS to see what we are thinking over the course of the school year.

Knocking down walls is something that teachers should strive to do every day. We need to open up the world to our students so they can see the role their are going to play in the world. Students can no longer live inside the nice bubble they have created for themselves. As educators, we need to pop that bubble and show them the beauty of the world around them. Sometimes it starts with one conversation with someone from Iowa.

If you are interested in joining us on this crazy adventure, feel free to leave a comment here or send myself or Shannon a Tweet and we will get back to you as soon as we can.