Friday, May 29, 2009

100 Tools For The Twittering Teacher

As I have said before, Twitter is my favorite Professional Learning Network (PLN). Regular readers (or those just stopping by) have read about my obsession with this service and how I believe it will change education as we know it. But what if you are new to Twitter? Where do you start? Who do you follow? Do you use the web-based service or one of these desktop clients?

Best Colleges Online has created a list of the Top 100 Tools For The Twittering Teacher. While I would not have included all that on are their list (I will let you be the judge of that.) here are my favorites, some I use, some I intend to, from their list, broken down by category:

Managing Twitter
TweetDeck: You can create Twitter groups on TweetDeck, so you can keep your school and personal contacts somewhat separate. (This is what I use. There are lots of Twitter Desktop Clients out there but this one is a favorite of lots of users. Other favs are Sessmic Desktop and twhirl.)

Splitweet: Get multi-account management using Splitweet, so you can separate your educational and personal accounts. (If you are like most educators you wouldn't want your classroom account to turn into you personal account. You can use this client to run them both, but don't get confuses...)

Finding Friends
Twits Like Me: Find other users in education through Twits Like Me.

WeFollow: WeFollow offers a user powered Twitter directory.

Twitter4Teachers: (Not in the list but should be!) This is the best place to find educators that you want to help build your PLN. And remember to add your name and info so others can add you!

LiveTwitting: During lectures, events, and more, you can use LiveTwitting instead of liveblogging.

TwitPic: You can share photos on Twitter, or find photos from all around the world using this service.

Twitter Weather: Share daily weather updates with your class by using Twitter Weather.

News And Research
Twiggit: Using Twiggit, you can find news and articles related to your curriculum.

twAnswers: Ask a question, and get an answer from Twitter by using twAnswers. (This one is really cool!)

@weather: You’ll learn about weather news from the Science News Blog from @weather.

@donorschoose: Follow @donorschoose to learn about funding for public schools.

@educationweek: @educationweek shares news about American education.

@digidirections: Check out @digidirections to learn about trends and advice in K-12 technology. (Great for Web 2.0 Info.)

There are other categories like games, productivity, and integration that I did not cover here. But I think you get the idea. There are so many tools out there to really get the most out of Twitter, no matter what you use it for, but especially for education. So head on over to the Best Colleges Online Blog to harness the power of Twitter!

100 Tools For The Twittering Teacher

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Post Your Presentations For The World To See

If you haven't been posting documents online then it is time to get with the Web 2.0 Program! Document sharing is all the rage, everyone is doing it! There are sites like Google Docs and Zoho that allow you to create the documents or presentations right on the site and share them with users you designate or open them up to the world. One of the new kids on the block is SlideShare. This site allows you to post your Power Points, Documents and PDF's to share with anyone. Going to a conference? Don't want to print handouts or copies. Give participants your SlideShare address and they can go get your stuff. What is even more cool than Google Docs or Zoho is that if you have a presentation you can narrate it, sync the slides and post it so that when it is viewed it plays like a video. Presentations can also be shared on all the social networking sites and can be embed on blogs and webpages.

Below is a Beginners Guide to Using SlideShare in the Classroom. You can also head over to my SlideShare page to view other presentations like Smartboard 10, Classroom Performance System and more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Reading....It's Not Just For Kids Any More

We are at that point in the traditional school year where students are beginning to receive their summer reading lists. Kids from Kindergarten to college-age students will have required reading over the summer. But they aren't the only ones any more.

Lee Kolbert over at the Geeky Momma's Blog recently asked for readers to submit suggestions for a Teacher's Summer Reading List. The list she has compiled is comprehensive and includes some "classic" education titles and some you may not have thought of. Here are a few highlights from her list:

What Great Teachers Do Differently by Todd Whitaker

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

The End of Education by Neil Postman

You Haven't Taught Until They Have Learned by Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore

The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson

This is just a sample from her list. There are over 50 there; enough to keep you busy as you waste away the days on the beach or at the lake or where ever you go on vacation. Whatever you do this summer, take some time, find some books and read and become inspired!

An Educators Summer Reading List

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Planning For Next Year...10 Tips For Technology Leaders

As the school year winds down, those involved with Technology Planning, inevitably turn to thinking about where the program has gone this year and where we want it to go next year. If you are like my district, your school or district has a survey to ask all stakeholders about the current state of the technology program, whether or not goals were met, and what sorts of focus there should be for next year.

As you analyze the current state of your program there are a few things to keep in mind as you plan for next year. Scholastic has come up with a great list of 10 Tips for School Technology Planning. Here are a few highlights;

Keep First Things First- Just because it's a cliché doesn't mean it's not true. The best touchstone in times of uncertainty is your school or district's core mission — whether it's the one framed inside the lobby or the one everyone who works there just knows. Before you add one more computer or one more software license to your stockpile, ask yourself how it fits into the larger picture and meets your goals."How will this help raise test scores in math? How will this improve students' reading levels?" If there's no good answer to the question at hand, skip the initiative or move it down the priority list

Think Open- One of the emerging themes in education technology is the ability of your boxes, wires, and software to work together with any other boxes, wires, or software. From interoperability to true open source, the move is away from proprietary systems that force you to go back to one vendor for every new need. Always be on the lookout for ways to make your technology plan as open and flexible as possible — even if it means having fewer goodies in the short term.

Think Fat- You just can't have too much bandwidth these days, especially as the Internet and intraschool networking become essential parts of day-to-day activities. Upgrading your schools' connection to the Internet, linking your facilities together in a fast WAN, and beefing up your LANs should be near the top of your priority list every year.

Learn From A Kid- As important as it is to have your top staff members involved in the school's technology enterprise, there is no substitute for the student's-eye view. A computer-savvy sixth grader can show you more of what is happening now, and will be happening in the future, than any collection of experts. For best results, do this in the student's home setting where technology is not limited by your school's current plan. It will require courage on your part to admit what you don't know, but it will give you the insight you need to chart a successful course into the future of technology.

So those are just a few tips to keep in mind. For the rest of the list head on over to Scholastic and get planning for a great school year!

10 Tips For School Technology Planning

Image Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Friday, May 22, 2009

Changing The World....In 18 Minutes

Recently a friend sent me a link to a presentation by one of my most favorite people. When I was a science teacher I regularly used clips of episodes of Mythbusters in my classroom. The way they approach scientific problems is classic (and the kids love to see stuff blow up!). Adam Savage, one of the hosts of that show has got to be one of the most eccentric men around. Not only is he a talented artist but he is just the kind of guy you could hang out with and talk to endlessly about science. Anyway, back on point. A friend of mine sent me a video of a talk he did about his search for the dodo bird and how it lead him to another obsession. Check it out....

This presentation is part of the TED Series of lectures. (Technology Entertainment Design). Each year in Long Beach the TED group brings together the worlds most "fascinating thinkers and doer's." Each presenter chooses their topic and has 18 minutes to present. From their Mission:

"We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other."

Over the years they have had 100's of interesting speakers talking about all sorts of topics. From Al Gore talking about climate change to Billy Graham talking about Technology and Religion to the famous Johnny Lee video making an Interactive Whiteboard out of a Wii remote, there are some very interesting, passionate and provocative presentations.

You can search their site by topic and/or presenter for find a video. Or you could use the TED Talks Google Doc to find information also. However you do it, you need to spend some time with the best Thinkers and Doers in the world. Head on over to TED and see how some are changing the world in 18 minutes.

TED Talks-Ideas Worth Spreading

Thursday, May 21, 2009

FInd The New and Best Web 2.0 Tools To Use with Go2Web20...

As someone who blogs about Web 2.0 and all the tools associated with this movement I always have my interest piqued when I am able to find a site that has all these resources in one place for me to review.

Go2Web20 is a site that I have known about for a while now that I check out on a regular basis to see what is new an hip out there in the world of Web 2.0. The site is slick in its design and very easy to use. You can sort by the recently added Apps and sites or can narrow your search by using the tags.

Basically, the folks over at Go2Web20 have done the research about each tool/app/site for you. Often we hear about tools and sites from colleagues or see a tweet about them on Twitter. Then its up to you to do the research. Sometimes you have to install something or register for something, only to find out that it was not for you or what you wanted. Go2Web20 has taken care of all that for you.

When you find a tool you want to know more about you click it and you get a great description, links to blogs that have entries related to the tool, the number of times it has been saved on the social bookmarking site Delicious, the Tweets on Twitter about the tool and, if they have one, a link to a Twitter account for you to follow.

They have the ol' stand-by's like Twitter, Evernote, You get the idea. But they have tons of others that are really awesome. Here are some of my newly discovered favorites:

Picture Trail- PictureTrail offers several services that enable you to express yourself. Photo sharing, cool photo slideshows, and image hosting will enhance your online community experience. PictureTrail also host personal homepages which enable you to build your own social networking community right here on PT. It supports Myspace layout codes as well as music and web widgets from anywhere on the web.

Tikatok-Tikatok is a community for children to write illustrate and publish a real book. With Tikatok, becoming a published author is easy. Just write a story, illustrate it and order as many copies as you want. Tikatok features a suite of free teacher tools and has seen over 1000 teachers register to run bookmaking projects in their classrooms. is a new service that lets you embed files in your website. just upload your files and click the “Embed It!” button. After a quick login screen that lets you use accounts you already have (no registration required), you’re instantly shown the document or documents along with the code to embed it in your own blog, profile page, or website.

Those are just 3 of hundreds for you to check out. Oh and if you want to know about new sites and apps as they are added just follow G02Web20 on Twitter. So head on over and see what you can discover...

Go2Web20- The Ultimate Web 2.0 Directory

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another WolfRam Alpha Review....

Lately, the "Twitterverse" and the rest of the Internet has been a buzz about a new conceptional search engine called Wolfram Alpha. A quick search of Google reveals several bloggers calling it a "Google Killer." But what does it do? How can you use it in your classroom. Here are a few ways.

First, Wolfram Alpha is not a search engine. You can not enter terms like "Web 2.o" or "whiteboard" and get website results like Google, Yahoo or other search engines. What this site does is bring you "Conceptual Knowledge." From their About page:

"Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries."

So what does it do? If you need scientific calculations or comparisons, especially for students doing research. This is the place to go.

Let say you are having your students investigate nutritional information for local restaurants. Type in "Big Mac Whopper" and you will be presented with the nutritional information (in the typical label format) for comparison.

The site is also great at calculations. Enter "x^2 sin (x)" and the engine will compute the answer for you, no fancy calculator needed.

Enter the name of a city and you will get its current population, location, current weather conditions, time and elevation.

There are a few downfalls. Lets take the search for city. There is one related link to Wikipedia. This is the case for most of what is searched. Also if you don't get the search terms just right the engine will assume, sometimes incorrectly, what you meant and return results for you. For example I used the term "news" and the engine returned stock quotes and business information for News Corp.

Your students doing research on planets? Do you need detailed scientific information on the binterong? The site is great for facts. It should be the first stop for finding factual information on a wide variety of topics. However, it should not be used for general search, and that is not its purpose.

Is it a Google Killer? Probably not. Does it do a better job at calculations, comparisons, and simple facts than Google. Yep! So use it wisely. Oh and if you are looking for something funny, type in 88mph or Where Am I, or Who Are You and see what the engine comes up head on over to Wolfram Alpha and see what you can compute!

Wolfram Alpha Conceptual Knowledge Engine

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Computer Training....In Pictures

As many of you know, or have read, I am responsible for the technology training at 18 schools. 1 man, 18 do the math! I love my job, but sometimes it can be frustrating trying to meet the needs of all the teachers and staff members in my district. I constantly look for ways to give teachers instruction that they can do on their own or in groups, together. These are not meant to replace the face-t0-face training that I do or the other resources I create. They are merely there to provide that additional information some teachers/staff need.

In the past I have blogged about TechEase. This is a great training resource out of the University of South Florida that provides some really basic information for teachers on how to do everything from burning CD's to using email to hardware/software troubleshooting. While I love this site I needed something else to help give teachers a leg up on specific software they use in their classroom and I needed it to be easy to follow and understand.

In Pictures does exactly that. According to their website the In Pictures project was created as a research project for the U.S. Department of Education, with the ultimate goal of providing easy to use computer tutorials to students and adults with learning disabilities. The site contains tutorials for all major Microsoft Office Products like Word, Excel, Publisher, Power Point and Access, both the 2003 version and the 2007 version. There are also tutorials for Open Office programs, creating basic webpages, MySQL, Perl, and PHP basics.

What makes this site stand apart from all the others is their approach. Quoting from their website:

Where's the Snazzy Stuff? So where are the color screenshots? The cartoon characters? The video animations? We don't use these things, because our research showed us that:

  • The simpler, the better.
    Tutorials should be as simple as possible. Multimedia animations may look nifty, but they can be hard to follow. That's why these tutorials use static screenshots.
  • Black-and-white is better than color.
    Color screenshots can create a "kaleidoscope" effect that makes it difficult to focus. Black-and-white doesn't. That's why these tutorials use black-and-white screenshots.
I have already had several of my teachers tell me that they learned more going through the tutorials on this site then in any previous workshops they had. They were able to move at their pace and work side-by-side in the program and the tutorial. The screenshots they use are easy to see and the wording is very easy to follow. Overall, this is a site that I will be sending teachers to for those refreshers they sometimes need, and hey, why not use it with students? Head on over to In Pictures and learn something new today!

In Pictures-Computer Tutorials In Pictures, Not Words

Monday, May 18, 2009

10 People Educators Shold Follow On Twitter...

I have been away from work for about a month now, taking care of my wife and a new baby. While life for me is very different, I was able to stay connected to the outside world through Twitter. Regular readers of my blog have read about my obsession with this service, and how I feel it has the ability to change the way teaching takes place in the classroom. I get asked all the time by teachers, "I have signed up for Twitter and think it is really neat but I want someone worth following other than Ashton and Shaq."

Fear not those out there in education land. Jeffrey Young over at The Chronicle of Higher Education has a Top 10 List of Twitter Users in Higher Education. While the list contains mostly users work work at the university level, their posts contain valuable information to most anyone interested in technology and education. Here are a few that I follow that you should to:

Howard Rheingold, a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley teaching virtual communities and social media. Mr. Rheingold has been a pioneer in online communities since the 1980s (before most people knew there was such a thing), and he remains on the forefront of social media and networks. He spent most of his career as a writer (his latest book is called Smart Mobs), but he started teaching at colleges a couple of years ago. He was an early user of Twitter, and he says he often turns to it for teaching advice. "As a relatively new teacher, Twitter is really my main connection to other educators who are using Web technologies in their teaching," he told me. "I use it to find suggestions of things to do, and to bounce things off people." He also uses it to have a public conversation about trends in social media. He argues that Twitter isn't for everyone — and that users have to post regularly so that people will be reading you when you want to turn back to seek advice. "I'm not selling it — you have to see whether it works for you," he said. "If you want to share information in small bites with a group of people who share your interest, that's what it's for."

David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas. Mr. Parry was one of the first to try Twitter as a teaching tool — we wrote about his experiments last year (The Chronicle, February 29, 2008). He has gained many followers of his Twitter feed, where he shares his experiences using technology for teaching and research. He led a panel about microblogging at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association in December, which he organized via Twitter. "Rather than giving the standard 15or 20-minute papers, we actually limited each speaker's paper to like five to seven minutes and had respondents in the audience ask questions, but we didn't let them ask long-winded questions that sometimes happen at conferences," he said. "The idea of Twitter is there are very strict limits, so you naturally have to converse instead of monologue."

Scott McLeod, an associate professor at Iowa State University and director of the university's Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education. Mr. McLeod argues that professors have been too slow to adopt Twitter. Academic discussions online often take place on closed e-mail lists, he says, when they should be happening in public forums like Twitter, so that a diverse group of outsiders can join in. "I think academics are actually missing a lot by not being involved in more of these social tools," he told me. "There are a lot of academics who think, 'If it's not coming from some other academic it's not worth a damn,' and that's not right."He admits that some of the messages on Twitter are banal, such as people describing what they had for lunch that day, but he said such notes are part of what makes Twitter such a powerful way to feel connected to far-flung colleagues. "It's like those daily interactions you have with your neighbor — sometimes they're highbrow and sometimes they're lowbrow, but after a while you really get to know the person."

There are 7 more users you should check out. So head on over to the Chronicle and see how others are using this valuable tool.

10 High Filers On Twitter

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons