Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Going Global-Tips And Resources For Global Collaborations

I had a wonderful conversation this morning on Twitter with a teacher from New Zealand that commented on a tweet about using Skype Classroom to go global. She mentioned how her students were going to Skype and talk to kids in Iowa.

How awesome is that!

I just love the fact that the world gets so much smaller when we use technology like that. There really are endless learning opportunities for students (and teachers as well).

During the North African uprisings a high school teacher here in my district was struggling to get her students to understand the whys of those events. It was easy to read about them in a magazine or watch a news report but she knew there had to be a better way. We talked and I suggested we try to Skype someone in. It was a long shot to get someone from that region but worth it so the students could hear first hand what was happening and why it was happening.

I took to Twitter and through some connections was put in touch with a teacher in southern Egypt. We arranged a brief Skype chat where he was able to describe what was happening and, most importantly, the why.

We knew it was important to connect the students to their content. And we did so by going global.

You know it's important too. But where do you start? And what sorts of global projects are out there?

First, what tools will you need?

That's a tough one to answer. It will all depend on the type of collaboration and project you want to undertake. Internet is a must. But if you want to do video chatting, a good webcam and external mic is necessary. I always recommend external devices for that sort of thing. Built-in stuff can be a challenge to manipulate and get the image or the sound just right. Spend a little bit of money and get something good.

You will also want a Skype account. Skype to Skype calls are free and include video. You can use your Skype account to call cell or landline numbers for a fee but for collaboration voice and video are always great and free. Google Hangouts can be a great alternative. If you have a Google account you can start a video hangout with up to 10 people which is great for multiple rooms participating or multiple locations. And Hangouts make it easy to record your sessions and post them to Youtube later.

So, with the software and hardware out of the way we can focus in on where to find people and projects.

Hashtags-Yep, Twitter. Ok, I know. You've heard me ramble on about Twitter. But seriously. If you want to make global connections, you've got to be on Twitter. I mean, where else can I have a conversation with a teacher in New Zealand at 4am? Hashtags make it easier and easier to narrow your focus on who to collaborate with. And with the number of state and national chats and hashtags it might only take a matter of moments to find someone. Check out my post on using Hashtags and visit this page to see all the current educational hashtags being used.

Teacher's Guide To International Collaboration On The Internet-From the U.S. Dept. of Education, this handy resource is full of ideas and projects for collaborating internationally. Everything from email exchanges to video chatting to global challenges can be found here. And it's broken down by subject area so you can easily find a project to fit your needs.

QuadBlogging-This is one of my favorite projects. The idea here is you and your students blog and comment with other students in another country. One week your class does the writing and the other classes comment and the next week it switches. It can be very insightful to see what other students are writing about. I have seen some pretty powerful posts come from this project. Check out their website to learn more.

Skype Classroom-As I mentioned before, Skype Classroom can be a powerful resource to connect your classroom to the world. Registering for free with your Skype account gives you access to message boards that allow you to look for someone to collaborate with or post looking to collaborate with someone else. You can direct your posts for specific countries or regions too. And the projects here are pretty neat. Definitely a place not to miss.

Guide To Management-Getting involved in all this can be overwelming. My friend Shelly has a simple Prezi that can help you better understand the management side of this and offers some tips on how to keep everything going.

Have you made a global connection? What tips to do you have for others getting started? Leave your comments below.

photo credit: . Entrer dans le rĂªve via photopin cc

Monday, May 20, 2013

Google Tools To Check Out

Most folks are familiar with the most common Google tools. Search, Hangouts, Docs, Mail, Drive all are used by countless folks around the world. In fact this blog is written with Google Blogger. I use Google and live there most days.

But did you know there are some under used features outside of the typical ones that have great value?

Here is just a handful of some of the Google Tools to check out for your classroom.

Google Custom Search Engine-This tool is one of my favorites. Doing a simple search for "world war II" or "dolphins" will return you millions upon millions of results. And when trying to teach kids how to vet resources (especially our younger Googlers) it can be helpful to make that list smaller. Google Custom Search allows you to decide what sites you want to include. You can even control whether you want to search the entire domain or just a portion of it. Then you publish it and share. You can even embed it on your blog or website. One of the activities I like to see teachers do is start the search engine for students but then let the kids add to it through the course of a unit or year, justifying why the site should be added and explaining how they know the information is reliable.

Google Keep-Keep is new to the Google tool lineup. Out since March, this is the Evernote alternative. The idea is to keep notes, lists, etc and do it from anywhere. Since it sits in Drive you can access your notes anywhere and insert photos on  the file. While it does not appear the ability to share or make notes public is there yet, I have no doubt it's coming. Still, a tool to keep an eye on.

Google Mars-Always wanted to visit Mars but thought it would take to long? Google has you covered. With Google Mars you can explore the red planet in all it's glory. Toggle elevation and infrared layers and even show where all landing sites of spacecraft that have pioneered there.

Public Data-This one is one of my favorites. As a science teacher I was always looking for data that was relevant or a visualization to help make a point. Public data is both of these. I will admit, some of the data is abstract and some it is way over my head. But the population and health data is worth exploring. And the ability to create some pretty striking visualization is of benefit as well.

URL Shortner-Long URLs are ugly and not to mention hard to type in. So Google makes a handy tool to shorten those URLs. Simply input the URL you want to make shorter and bingo bango, a short URL is created. But that isn't all. You can look at the analytics of your shortened URL and track the number of clicks. And you even get a QR code that could be scanned via a mobile device or desktop QR reader for easy access.

Google For Teachers-There are so many more resources specifically for teachers that Google has curated. Lesson plans, ideas for using their tools, and even courses you can take to be a better searcher. It all starts with a visit to Google For Teachers.

What about you? Besides Hangouts, Docs, Mail and the stuff listed here. What are your favorite Google Tools you like to use in the classroom? Leave some comments below. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The New @eduClipper

I have been a big fan of eduClipper and an even bigger fan of the their founder, Adam Bellow. Adam is a great friend of mine and I have seen, first-hand, the dedication, countless hours, and sweat he has put into eduClipper.

And it definitely shows in this latest round of updates.

What is eduClipper?

Think of it as Pinterest, only more awesome and with an educational focus. You browse the web for content for teaching, resources for learning, or just stuff you want to save and share. When you find something you clip it.

Make sense?

This video might help.

Pretty awesome huh? 

So what about these new features?

Teacher and Student Accounts : Teachers can easily set up classes of students and create eduClipboards of content to share with whole classes or groups of learners.
Teachers can also change settings to make eduClipper more or less restrictive for the whole class or individual learners based on school or classroom policies. There’s a lot there - and we really want to put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to how you wish to use a powerful tool like eduClipper with your kids.
New Bookmarking Tool : This bookmarking tool lets you clip literally any type of content and bring it into eduClipper as an eduClip. It is smooth and fun to use!edu
CollaborateCollaborative Clipboards : Sharing resources is great - but creating collaborative clipboards with users on a topic is an even better way to offer real-time collaboration in classes for students or teachers. Great for educators connecting with colleagues to create the ultimate resource board as well as for students to join each other and curate the best resources for academic or interest-based learning.
Citations : Being a “good digital citizen” starts with citing sources and we have worked with EasyBib to generate citations for all eduClipped web content. A quick and painless way to annotate your eduClips.
Those are just a few quick things - but in short... everything is 100% more awesome and we are excited to tell you that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have a lot more up our sleeve and you should be on the lookout for more cool news soon.

Knowing Adam, I know this isn't the end of the great things he has planned. So head over to eduClipper and check out all these great new features!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Common Core Academy Learning Opportunities From Discovery Education

A long time ago, Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power … 

This summer, teachers can empower their teaching with meaningful and actionable knowledge about the Common Core Standards at Discovery Education's Academies!

As a trusted educational partner, Discovery Education has worked with thousands of educational leaders to transform teaching and learning.  Educators are invited to join their peers for Common Core Academies that are:
• Research-based: Our professional development integrates proven curriculum, instruction, and
assessment practices from expert practitioners and thought leaders
• Personalized: Each Academy addresses educator-identified needs related to the transition to more rigorous standards
• Actionable: We provide classroom applications that support long-term action planning with strategies for immediate classroom integration

Educators can choose the academy that meets their needs in a variety of locations across the US: 

ELA Academy
This two-day, hands-on Academy will engage K-12 educators in an intense focus on research-based English Language Arts (ELA) instructional practices to successfully implement the rigors of text complexity, evidence-based writing, and vocabulary development in their ELA and content area classrooms. Specifically, this Academy will dive into what these practices look like and how to build them into the curriculum to maximize student engagement and achievement. Educators will then utilize this knowledge to develop CCSS lesson plans and assessment tasks for immediate use in their ELA or content area classroom.

Math Academy
The CCSS not only require shifts in what we teach, but most importantly, in how we teach. During this two-day Academy, K-12 educators will dive into each of the Standards for Mathematical Practice and analyze the types of instruction these standards warrant. Practical strategies as well as options for balanced assessment of the content standards will be explored and discussed. Educators will leave with tools, including lessons and assessment tasks for immediate use.

Leadership Academy
The CCSS require a number of shifts that need to be made in current curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices. As leaders, we need to think, plan, and act differently. What changes have you made as an instructional leader? In this two-day, hands-on Academy, central office, building, and teacher leaders will discuss implications for curriculum, instruction, and assessment as a result of the CCSS shifts and share practices that work. In particular, leaders will focus on the CCSS classroom and what it looks like. Participants will explore research-based strategies and tools to monitor teachers’ use of best practices to effectively teach the new standards so all students can meet them. Participants will also explore and develop strategies to use with students and parents to prepare them for more rigorous standards.

Specialized Instruction
The CCSS are for all students, including those who receive special education services. These rigorous expectations require that students have a deep level of understanding in ELA and Mathematics. This two-day, hands-on Academy will provide K-12 educators with research-based practices to connect the demands of the CCSS to instruction that supports students with special needs. Specifically, participants will closely examine the ELA and Mathematics CCSS to investigate strategies for students to access, respond to, engage in, and ultimately, meet their learning targets.

Visit the Discovery Education Common Core site to learn more!