Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tech Tuesday 3/29

Win an iPad2!

You read that correctly. The free conference I am organizing, EdcampDetroit, is giving away 2 iPad2s to those who attend EdcampDetroit! If you decide to present at EdcampDetroit, you actually will have 2 chances to win the iPad2s! The conference is Saturday May 7th and we only have 100 spots left. I want to make sure the people in my district have a shot at these awesome tech tools. Besides the iPads, there is an iPod Nano, classroom subscriptions to wonderful websites like BrainPop and StrataLogica. TechSmith will be giving away copies of Camtasia and other goodies just for attending EdcampDetroit.

The best thing about this conference is that it is FREE! This is a great chance to get together with teachers from around the Metro Detroit area to share ideas and grow as a teachers. We already have a couple of Grosse Pointe teachers registered, but I would love to see more. Once word of the door prizes spread, registration is going to fill up quickly. Here is some of the key info you need about EdcampDetroit.

Excited? Click here to be taken to registration!

The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project

For the past month, my students have been working on an amazing project. My Freshmen are putting together a joint production of Romeo and Juliet with Van Meter High School in Van Meter, Iowa. My kids are producing Acts 1, 3 and 5 and Van Meter is working on Acts 2 and 4. The students are in charge of every aspect of the production. They are re-writing the script to modernize it for the movie. They are making props, designing costumes, coming up with a soundtrack, creating advertising and everything that you can think of that a movie might need. I have never seen the kids so engaged in Shakespeare in my life. The goal for the project is to have a joint Premiere on April 30th. The kids are excited and I can't wait to see what happens next.

I'm sharing this with you for two reasons. The first is to brag. These kids are kicking butt and I think the district should know all about it. The other reason is to show everyone how the tools I share with you can be used in the classroom.

Wiki - The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project uses a wiki to keep everything organized. I needed a place where kids from all over could edit and share information. A wiki is great for that because it is free, easy to use and it can be edited from anywhere once a person has permission to join the wiki. We have used it to upload the completed script, post due dates, post filming schedules and post student blogs. This project would be 10 times harder without a wiki.

Blogs - The project would be easy if students were just working in class every day for 2 months. I still wanted to incorporate writing in the unit. The more they write, the more they think about the story. Every student created a blog and is required to post on it once or twice a week (depending on their job in the production) as they work on the project. We have hit speed bumps along the way, but I get to check their work without having to take home tons of paperwork. I'm sure I have saved a forest or two by using the blogs. Here are a few examples. Juliet's Blog - Benvolia's Blog (We cast Benvolio as a girl because the student was amazing and we were out of female roles.) - Advertising Blog - Soundtrack - Props. Take some time to look at rest of the blogs found on the wiki. They have all Grosse Pointe and Van Meter student blogs labeled by job title.

Skype - We have had a couple of Skype sessions with the students of Van Meter. We plan on having some more before production ends April 15th. We had a Skype session last week that was simply amazing. The kids spent close to 30 minutes discussing the importance of color and the possible symbolic meanings behind what the characters could be wearing. I'm angry I did not set up a screen cast of the session because I would love to share it with all of you. Connecting with the other students in Iowa has really motivated my students to work harder because they have a bigger audience.

The other students have used various Web tools to add to parts of the production. Some students have created Twitter accounts for the characters and are going to start tweeting as the characters during the production. Some have created Facebook accounts and will have some of those up and running to share with other students. Some are creating digital poster boards using Glogster. The kids have really immersed themselves in this production in ways I never imagined.

I'm not suggesting that every teacher dive head first into big projects that require so many moving parts. I do suggest trying out some of these tools in your class and see how your students respond. This project is a culmination of a years worth of tech integration with my students and there is a ton more I wish I had time to show them. If you want to follow the craziness of this project, check out my other blog where I update the project almost daily. You can read about the ups and downs and how I'm trying to contact Taylor Swift to get the rights to her music for the production.

Now on to the tech tool of the week.


I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that from my students. Another one I love to hear is, "What do you mean I can't use Wikipedia as a source?" As an English Teacher, I have spent many long hours teaching students how to conduct proper searches on the internet. They should never be able to tell you that they were never taught how to properly cite information or where to look that information up.

With that having been said, sometimes I just want my students to look at a few specific websites for a specific project. I have started using a great site I want to share with you great teachers. The site is called Diigo and it is a bookmarking site.

"Why do I need a bookmarking site?" Well, bookmarking sites are a way for you to save all of those wonderful websites you have found or I have sent you. We all have bookmarks on our computer at home and at school. The problem with saving them on our home and work computers is that we can access what we have on the other computer. Diigo, and similar bookmarking sites, solve this problem.

Bookmarking sites save all of your bookmarks on their site so you can access them from any computer with internet access. If you find a great site at home while working, just bookmark it with Diigo and you will not have to worry about emailing yourself the link. The links are very easy to share with other teachers and even students. There are tons of great things you can do with this wonderful tool.

Highlighting - You can highlight specific information before you bookmark the site. This can save people time when there is to much information to read through and all you want is a few lines.

Sticky Notes - You can places notes on the highlighted areas to remind you of their relevance. There have been too many times where I have bookmarked a site and I could not remember why I saved it a day or so later.

Groups - You can create specific groups and send pages you find to that group only. You can make the group a public group (anyone can join) or a private group (you select who can join). I have used the groups to store specific websites I want different classes to look at. It has cut research time in half for my students on various projects.

Email - You can directly email any site you find to yourself or other teachers. You can create an address book and send the site directly to students or to other teachers in your department.

Teacher Account - You can request to sign up for a Teacher Account from Diigo. This will allow you to sign up students to join your specific groups that you have created. I have a Teacher Account and I plan on using it with my Freshmen for their research project. Goodbye note cards and hello Diigo.

Linking Accounts - Diigo allows you to link your blog and Twitter accounts to your Diigo account. This way, if you bookmark something, it can be posted to you blog and your Twitter. You can set up a your account to post all the bookmarks you have made to your blog. It can be set for a daily, twice daily or weekly. This is a great way to save you time. You can also link your iPhone to Diigo as well. Download the Diigo App and you will have access to anything that you have bookmarked. It might be available for other phones, but you would have to check for that.

The best way to start bookmarking after you create your account is to download the toolbar. It will sit at the top of your browser and you just click the bookmark button when you want to share a website. There are many other great parts of Diigo that you can use. It's best to log on and play around a bit.

As always, give it a try!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 15th Tech Tuesday

Here are three really cools sites for the kids in the classroom and your kids at home. Take a look at these sites and see how you might use them in the classroom. Give it a try!

One of my favorite projects I did in grade school was researching my state. Every kid in class was assigned a different state and I was the lucky one that pulled my home state of Michigan out of the hat. I thought I knew everything there was to know about my home, but there was so much information that I found out about Michigan. The only problem was that I had to search high and low (pre-internet) for current information. I wish I had access to back then because my job would have been much easier. is a wonderful resource for all things US States. It even has information on US Territories and Commonwealths. also offers a tremendous list of resources for kids to look at. State birds, state trees and even state songs, are all provided by

This is a very simple and free site for teachers, parents and students to access to find the most up-to-date information on their favorite state. This is a wonderful site for all social studies teachers to bookmark and share with students. Take a moment and see how this great site can be used in the classroom or in the home.

Walking with Dinosaurs

I loved Dinosaurs! Who didn’t have a favorite growing up? I’m actually shocked I haven’t written about a good Dinosaur site yet. The BBC has a great site dedicated to all things Dinosaur related. The site covers everything from the different types of dinosaurs to how fossils are formed to the theories surrounding their mass extinction.

With video and wonderful supporting stories, there are plenty of resources for many different age groups. If you are interested in having kids do research on dinosaurs, check out for all of your dino needs.

This site has everything you could possibly need from a research standpoint. Just type in the name of the dinosaur you are looking for and you will be taken to page filled with information. is actually part of, which has even more information on dinosaurs and their lives on earth. They are a great pair of sites for any kid that needs information on their favorite dinosaur.

Earth Rangers

According to their website,

Earth Rangers is a non-profit organization that believes in the power of kids like you to take action to help protect wildlife. We have an amazing web site,, with information about the crisis facing wildlife (the Biodiversity Crisis) and more importantly, about what YOU can do about it. You can also find out more about some amazing animals that are at risk of extinction, connect with other Rangers across Canada and play eco-games!”

You do not have to be Canadian to want to save the planet so sign up your kids to play some fun games and learn some important things about conservation and wildlife. Every state has their own wildlife and conservation concerns and this site could be a great way to start a conversation with kids and have them look at local issues and what they can do to help. Adults around the world are working hard to save the planet, but it is important that we get the younger generations excited and educated about the dangers of deforestation and pollution.

As kid sites go, this site is fun for all ages and I found myself playing the different games for almost 45 minutes before I even realized it. I found plenty of interesting articles that kids could take home from school to read or find on their own. I found an article about a recently discovered type of fungus that turns ants in zombie ants!

I always get excited when I find little gems like this on the web. It is great to see sites that are dedicated to teaching kids about very important issues. is a wonderful site that is worth sharing with your kids. Heck, it’s worth sharing with your friends. You might be surprised at what you will learn once you log in.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tech Tuesday for March 1

Here is the Tech Tuesday for March 1. We have a spelling site, a science site and a math site. I also have more information on the conference I'm putting together in May. Also, check out the if you haven't stopped by recently. The kids are doing great things. Feel free to email me with any questions. Have a great day!

The Spelling Bee

The Spelling Bee from Annenberg Media is a great free site for students of all grades that need to work on their spelling skills. There are many different things I love about this site, but here are just a couple.

It allows the user to choose the grade level. That doesn’t seem like a crazy feature, but the site has grades 1 – 12! Grades 1 – 5 are separate levels and the following grades are grouped like this: 6 – 8, 9 – 10 and 11 – 12. Most spelling sites tend to stop with the Middle School or Junior High grade level, but this site goes all the way through high school. I have too many high school students that have trouble spelling without the computer. The Spelling Bee can help students in all grade levels.

Another awesome feature is the way the words are presented. The words are not isolated; they are integrated as part of sentences that are read aloud. Each word fills in a blank and the goal of the user is to spell the word in the correct blank. Using words in sentences is a far better way to learn vocabulary and practice spelling. The Spelling Bee does a nice job pulling it all together.

As spelling sites go, The Spelling Bee is one of my favorites and it can really help those students that struggle with spelling at school. This site is worth a bookmark.
Try Science!

At a young age, many kids love Science, but grow out of it. is a great site that can help grow and nurture the passion for Science in kids. According to, is your gateway to experience the excitement of contemporary science and technology through on and offline interactivity with science and technology centers worldwide. Science is exciting, and it's for everyone! That's why TryScience and over 400 science centers worldwide invite you to investigate, discover, and try science yourself.” offers fun and interactive experiments that young children can try from the comfort of their own home and without the mess! From topics ranging from Chemistry to Space Sciences, a large variety of topics are covered to support the varied interests of kids. also provides live camera feeds of Science Centers from around the country. Students can see anything from dinosaurs in Maryland to submarines in Oregon. It’s a great chance to see some amazing museums without stepping foot outside.

If parents are looking for more hands-on options for their kids, provides experiments that can be done at home. This is a great way to bring the science from the computer to the kitchen. Although working on the computer can be fun, getting your hands a little dirty with a science experiment can be even more fun. is a great site dedicated to bringing science to kids all over the world. If you have a child that loves science, they will love It is worth a bookmark for future use.


Teachers are always looking for ways to make Math more exciting. Now, there is a site that aims to do just that! Sumdog is a very fun and exciting site that turns basic math numeracy into competitive games for kids. Kids can sign up for a free account and challenge students from all over the world. Kids can race cars or play musical instruments to achieve various goals. However, the car will not go or you will hit the wrong note if you are unable to answer the math questions presented.

There are 10 different levels ranging from basic addition to complex multiplication and division tables. Students can adjust the level of difficulty as they play to give themselves a more difficult challenge. Each account will keep track of statistics so kids can see how they have done over time. Sumdog is a wonderful site that takes the creativity found in the gaming world and mixes it with the world of Math. This site is a great way to get kids hooked on playing educational games with friends and family instead of spending too much time playing games with little to no educational value at all.

Teachers can set up free accounts for the students in their room and keep track of student progress as a class. This is another fun way to incorporate computer games in the classroom. The students might think it is free time, but it will also be learning time. Overall, Sumdog is worth bookmarking on your computer.

Edcamp Detroit

The spots are filling up fast and will be practially gone after the state tech conference. Sign up soon!
Last May, a bunch of teachers organized an event called #edcampPhilly. The event was an unconference. The cool thing about an unconference is that all of the sessions are run by the people who show up. The schedule is loose to allow people to talk about whatever they want. #edcampPhilly was a huge success and edcamps started to appear all over the country. I attended one in New York City and Kansas City to see how they worked and meet some friends that I've been working with online for a few months. After seeing how they operated, I'm proud to announce that #edcampDetroit is open for registration! After tons of planning and organziation, we have a location (Wayne State University's College of Education), a date (Saturday May 7), Sponsors (Click the link to see. More are being added every day) and a price (Free!).

I have spent a ton of time this past year attending conferences and learning many great things. Despite some of the awesome sessions I attended, I always seemed to learn the most from talking and sharing with other teachers around me. The purpose of an edcampis to connect the teachers directly. Teachers have so many great ideas and practices, but they are not often given a chance to share them with others in their own school. Edcamp is a way to bring these teachers with great ideas together from all over to help the students in the classroom.

I would love to see a strong showing from my District at this event. I think I teach in one of the best districts in the country and would love to show everyone the amazign things that our teachers do each and every day. This conference is not a tech conference! This conference is about sharing ideas that work. Best practices for teaching various subject matter. Administrations isues could be addressed. There are countless topics and many conversations that can be had because we all work so hard at our jobs and it would be just greedy not to share with other teachers eager to learn.

We are limited in space (250 Max), so please click here to register. Space is filling up and will get jammed after we spread the word in March at MACUL, so sign up sooner than later. Maybe our district would even give us conference or workshop hours for attending (cough cough hint hint). Please pass this conferecne along to any other teachers you might now. A ton of work goes into putting on a free conference and I would love to share it with some of the best teachers I know. Thanks in advance.

Here is a video #edcampPhilly put together that does a nice job explaining #edcamp.

Give these great tools a try and see what they can do for you and your students.