Tuesday, November 30, 2010

6 Nifty Ideas For Using Google Apps In The Classroom

Over the past few weeks I have collected some great classroom resources surrounding the use of Google for various classroom activities. Here are a few of my favorites. (In no particular order. I don't want to make anyone jealous or anything...)

E-portfolios are becoming more and more popular. This site teaches educators and students how to organize all of their digital content in one place (a Google Site) for showing off their best work. Using a Google Site is actually pretty easy but Googlios goes into great detail on how to create and maintain the portfolio and has a huge gallery of examples to draw inspiration from. Below is a preview video from the site.

Simple Google Docs Training
This is a short (3 min, 56 sec) video slide show, introducing the features of Google Docs. If you are thinking about using Docs with your students or staff, this video could be a good jumping off point to your discussion.

Google Tricks To Save You Time
There are over 100 tips and tricks on this page. Everything from the most basic, like how to use the image search to keyboard shortcuts for your favorite apps (like Docs, Gmail and more), to how to use simple commands to perform deep web searches that will hopefully get you to what you are looking for faster. The best part for me were the tips for Google Books. Be sure to save this site. You will visit it often!

10 Google Forms For The Classroom
One of my favorite Edtech bloggers, Tom Barrett, post this a few months back but I keep visiting it because there are such great ideas. In short it is a list of 10 ideas on how to use Google Forms in the classroom. And the ideas are so great. Everything from the regular survey stuff to a prior learning assessment, to kids' book reviews. There are some great ideas in the comments as well.

Sharing Stories With Google Earth
I have written about Google Lit trips in the past, mainly showing the connection between technology an literature. Lit trips are great but what about other subject areas? This site will show you how to create your own story trips, step-by-step in Google Earth. Creating them is easy. The hard part will be figuring out all the great stories you want to tell! Lots of videos, handouts and directions here to guide you. 

Googleize Your Lessons
"Take your old worksheets, slideshows and webquests, and add a twist of Google to make creative, collaborative and engaging lessons," is the motto at the top of this site. There is tons of great information on the simple things teachers can do to spice up lessons using free Google tools. Here is an introductory preso to tell you all about it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

One Click To Give Schools Some Dough...

Bing and Donors Choose are teaming up over this holiday season to give schools all over the country $1 Million bucks. And the best part is you can help out. 

Simply visit The Bing Cares Homepage and click the button. It is that simple. 

You can take it one step further and sign up to get a free $5 code that you can use to support a Donors Choose project of your choice. Maybe there is a teacher in your district who is looking to fund something awesome for their class. Or, if you have a project there this could be a simple way for your parents and community to support what you want to do and get what you need for your classroom. What a great way to give back with very little effort. 

So check out the Bing/Donors Choose Giving Project and click the button to give some serious cash to kids everywhere. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Revolutions Start With One...

It only takes one...

Earlier this week was the Blogging For Real Reform. This was an effort started by one person that grew into a movement that eventually got the Secretary of Education for the U.S. involved.

One person into many...

I saw this video on Twitter last night. While funny, it really lays out what I believe to be true about leadership and revolutions.

What do you think? Are you a lone nut?

I know I am going to try to be.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Edublog 2010 Nominations

It is that time of year again when Edubloggers from around the globe make their pick for the Annual Edublog Awards. Last year this blog was nominated in several categories and I won Twitterer of The Year and #Edchat won for Best Series of Tweets. The awards are a great way to find new blogs to follow, twitterers to follow and resources to discover. So be sure to check out all the nominations and check back on Dec. 15 to see who the winners are.

I had a really tough time this year with my nominations. There is so much great content out there and so many great people too. But I want to highlight are the best blogs, wikis and people from the past year.

Best Individual Blog: Free Technology For Teachers- Richard's blog is always my first stop in the morning when I want to learn about something new. And it is in my list of blogs I share whenever introducing teachers to blogging.

Best Tweeter: Kyle Pace- Kyle is my pick this year. Always has some really great resources, an #edchat moderator and willing to lend a hand when ever it is needed.

Best Group Blog: The Connected Principals- In my role as a District Instructional Technologist I am able to work with folks at all levels in our district. The Connected Principals is a great way to highlight the fact that administrators can and need to be reflective. This is a great blog to share with any administrator whether they blog or not.

Best Resource Sharing Blog: Teacher Reboot Camp- Not only is Shelly an amazing person and friend but she shares some of the best stuff. Some of it technology, some of it bits of wisdom that will make all of us better. This is another blog I recommend to read to those new to blogging.

Most Influential Tweet Based Discussion: #edchat- Week after week the ideas that come out of this discussion amaze me...

Best Librarian/Library Blog: Van Meter Voice: I have been following Shannon and the amazing work she is doing in her library for sometime. This blog is her way of connecting the small town of Van Meter Iowa to the world.

Best Educational Technology Support Blog: The Pursuit Of Technology Integration Happiness- I have been following Michael's blog now for a while and he has great stuff for teachers either just learning about technology integration or those that have been around for a while.

Best School Administrator Blog: The Principal's Posts- Lyn is an administrator, that, if I were to ever go back to the classroom I would want to work for. Her blog is very reflective of the leader she is and I always take something away when I read her posts.

Best Educational Webinar Series: The Reform Symposium- I was honored to give the closing keynote for this worldwide e-conference. Planed by an awesome group of educators this series, over the course of a few days brought together some amazing live sessions on a huge range of topics. It was so cool to watch the planning of this event and to be a part of it. 

Best Educational Use Of A Social Network- The Educator's PLN: Tom Whitby's social network has grown from a small group of educators to a place with well over 6000 members. There is so many good things about the EDU PLN I could talk for days but the organizing of special live sessions with Alfie Kohn, Diane Ravitch and more are just a start.

Lifetime Achievement: Steve Hargadon- Steve is such an amazing guy. I had the honor of meeting and learning with him at an event in Boston earlier this year. He works tirelessly to promote all that is good in education. Between is work with the Global Education Conference, his series of Elluminate interviews, to all the other amazing things he does, I can not think of anyone more worthy of this award.

Provide Answers To Tech Questions Effortlessly...

This was a post I wrote over a year ago. I am reviving it in the hopes you will find it useful. I use this site almost once a week. It is a valuable resource to me and I hope you will feel the same. 

It is very challenging sometimes to provide the help that teachers and staff need. Wouldn't it be great if you could just point them to a website that answered some of the basic questions you get everyday like what is a cookie, or how do I teach my students what Netiquette is, or how do I use Garageband?

There is a great resource out there from Center for Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida called Tech-Ease that I can point my teachers to. This is a great site that is basically a giant FAQ database on everything tech. There are topics on the Internet, Hardware, Files and Sharing, Email, Images, Chat and Classroom Management. When you choose your topic there is a list of common questions that teachers or other tech users might ask. For example in the hardware section there are questions like what is a flash drive, or how do I burn a CD in Windows XP? The questions are basic for those of us who work in tech everyday but very common for those that don't. Each section also provide additional links to other resources that users can consult when they have questions.

All of the information they provide is great. Very easy to use and understand for even the most basic technology user. All of that is great. But wait! There is more! There are video tutorials available that Professional Development Coordinators or Instructional Technologists can use or point teachers and staff to on a wide variety of topics. Podcasting, Google Earth, Windows Movie Maker, Wikis, and How To Create Interactivity With iPods are just a few topics. Oh wait there is more. There are some really great guides for users to download on even more topics like PowerPoint, Inspiration, Nvu, Google Docs, Social Bookmarking, Second Life, I really can not list them all. You just need to head over there and check it out!

There are tutorials for both PC only and Mac only products and they have a great section on enabling the accessibility features in both Windows and Mac OS X.

I was an instant fan of this site. I even learned a thing or two. So next time a teacher or staff member has a question or you want to brush up on your skills check out Tech-Ease, oh, and subscribe to their podcast in iTunes. You will love it!

Tech-Ease-Quick Answers To Real Classroom Technology Questions

New Posted Resources 11/23/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

#Blog4Reform-Slow Down And Take A Step Back...

Today is Blogging For Real Educational Reform. Spearheaded by Ira Socol, what we hope is to generate 100's of blog posts about what real education reform looks like. There will be so many great posts, I encourage you to check out this post on the Cooperative Catalyst that you can submit your link to and see all the others. Better yet, why not blog about your ideas and post them there. Here is my small contribution....

I have been struggling a lot lately with my voice...

Over the past few months I have been very lucky, in that I have been able to travel the country, talking to lots of different people about lots of different things related to education. Most of it has been about social media and how educators can use it to get the professional development they really need. But in some of my conversations I have been asked to talk about reform, specifically my ideas on what education should really be doing and look like.

I have lots of ideas, most of them based on the classrooms I get to visit and the teachers I get to meet. I see what great education looks like in a lot of different places. The problem is it is not in every place. So I would go and talk about the different places I have been, the things I have seen and my ideas for reform or change.

But here lately I have begun to question whether or not I really know. Beyond that I wonder what makes anyone really know? Sure, we have ideas, but can we really say that this idea over that is best? I am not an expert in merit pay or value-added measurement or any of the popular terms that seem to be the basis for reform in this country. I do know that if I went into my classroom each day and did the absolute very best for kids I felt pretty good about the job that I was doing and (while I didn't agree with the methods) I usually had the scores to back it up.

I was reminded of this video today while I was working on another project. I think Tylor really gets to the heart of what it means to be a teacher. And I think it is what he describes that is lost on the loudest voices in the Ed Reform movement.

There are lots of people out there that will try to convince you they have the answer or know exactly the change to make. Before you drink the Kool-Aid, slow down and take a step back. Think about what you know and what is best, whatever it is, and see how that can mesh with what others are saying. If it doesn't blaze your own trail.

I am sure I will continue to struggle with my voice and my ideas. They are both a work in progress and I will continue to, each day, refine them, examine them and test them.

If you take anything away from all this reform talk let it be this. No matter what kind of change you want to make always ask yourself, in the end, are you doing what you know to be best for kids? Will what you do be best for kids? Why is it the best choice for kids?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Social Media With Promethean

Over the last few days I spent some time with the folks at the Promethean Headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, talking to them about their social media presence. If you didn't know, they have one. Well, sort of. In visiting, I hoped to talk to them about what they can do to increase their presence and how each of the different teams in Promethean can utilize things like Twitter, blogs, and Facebook to reach out and advance their mission.

I had spent some time there earlier this year at the opening of their beautiful offices. I got to spend a few moments with several members of the many teams and get to know what Promethean is all about. They are more than a technology company. They have a culture there that is simply amazing. Over 60% (according to the CEO) of the employees are former educators. Classroom teachers, curriculum and instructional coaches, technology integrators, and more. And what is clearly evident in my time I spent there is that each and every employee cares about kids and cares about making learning better for kids. They aren't about products. They are about learning.

What is was also clear in our time there was that Promethean is about action. If something can be better they want to know why and how. That is why I went to talk to them about social media. They know they want to be better and extend their voice but they needed some ideas on how. And I hope after our conversations we will see them get more into the space.

In the mean time you check out some of how they are reaching into the social media arena and I will update this post as they add more.

Official Promethean USA Twitter: http://twitter.com/prometheanusa
Offical Promethean Planet Twitter: http://twitter.com/planet_tweets
Official Promethean ActivBus Twitter: http://twitter.com/activbususa

Official Promethean Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Promethean/36412707093
Offical Promethean Planet Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/PrometheanPlanet

Remember, check back here for updates with blogs and other accounts as they are added.

And if you use Promethean in your district (or even if you use something else) check out Promethean Planet. There are tons of resources there, groups and forums and help at the click of a mouse.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bring Those Boring Binders To Life With Livebinders

I realized today that I have talked a lot about my various Livebinders but never really have taken the time to explain what they are or how they work.

First, a video...

Think of Livebinders as a virtual 3 ring binder that you can put pretty much anything in. Webpage, PDF, image, video, text, they all can go into a page organized for you.

Each item can be on it's own tab or you can further organize by using sub-tabs.

Here are some of my binders:


Staying Safe Online:

Getting Started With Google Reader:

I encourage you to explore each one to get an idea on what can be put into a binder. Also check out the Featured Binders and the categories to find more binders to use and share. There are tons of great examples there.

The folks over at Livebinders have also created a great "Getting Started" binder that has everything you need to know to, well, get started! There is something there for everyone to learn.

Also visit the Livebinders4Teachers wiki which will connect you to other Livebinder using educators and you can share and exchange tons of great binders.

So check out Livebinders, and give it a try. If you do, head back here and tell us what you think. Do you use Livebinders already? What advice would you give those just getting started? Leave some comments below.

Shameless plug time. On Thursday (Nov 11) I will be the guest of Livebinders and the 21st Century PD Podcast where I will be talking about Livebinders, 21st Century learning and more. You can learn more about how to participate here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Developing The Leaders Within...

Cross Posted At The ASCD In-Service Blog

When I started teaching, I had no desire to take on any leadership roles in my school. Yet in my nine years as a classroom teacher and technology integration specialist, I've led as a team leader, grade-level chair, school improvement team chair, and district technology team chair.
How did I get here?
Straight out of school, I started teaching in a classroom with students who had essentially been kicked out of their home school and fallen behind by several grade levels. My lofty goal: get them to take and pass our state assessments, help them enter a program that would allow them to complete two grade levels in one year, and get them back on track to graduate on time.
It was an eye-opening experience. I had student-taught in a very rural area with very few problems like the ones I faced in my classroom that first year. I was ready to walk away from teaching after my second day.
With no mentor, seemingly no one to talk to, I went to my administrator. We talked for a very long time about teaching, classroom management, and my classroom. Eventually, this one conversation turned into a weekly meeting. She became my unofficial mentor.
During the next four years working with her, I learned what it meant to be a leader. These weren't specific lessons but more through the way she led her staff, the way she handled situations, the way she listened. She was firm when she needed to be, but her door was always open and she would always talk about whatever was on your mind, even if it was to criticize a decision she had made.
But what really helped me develop as a leader were the opportunities she gave me to lead.
At first, I was wary—didn't you have to be a veteran teacher and have lots of experience to do any of that? But with the encouragement of my administrator, I became a team leader and later a grade-level chair, all in the first few years of teaching. Later, I joined the School Improvement Team and became chair helping to guide the direction our school would take over the course of several years, all with the encouragement of my administrator.
I know my experience with distributed leadership is not the norm. Instead of taking the time to develop teacher leaders, many administrators take those roles away from teachers for whatever reason, be it fear, need for control, or just their personal style.
The difference between me and so many other educators out there is simple. I worked with leaders who took the time to identify the potential in their staff and foster their leadership development. I was not the only person in my building who developed in this way—many teachers were.
Administrators must take the time to develop those teacher leaders in the building. Who are they? How can they be supported or developed? It is about spreading the wealth of knowledge at all levels in the building.
But it isn't just administrators. Are teachers looking for student leaders in their classrooms? How are teachers developing leadership skills in students? How are teachers teaching students to find their leadership potential? Are they leading by example?
Perhaps you are an administrator who is like those I have had over the years, or a teacher who has worked for an administrator who was the complete opposite of mine.
What thoughts do you have about developing teacher leaders? What do you do to develop the leadership skills in others?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Are You A Life-Long Learner? The Follow-Up...

Recently I asked this:

We encourage our kids to be life-long learners. And when they ask why we tell them all kinds of things like it is important to stay relevant in our careers and it is important for humanity to have people who enjoy learning, etc. (You probably have something much more creative and fun than mine.)
But that lead me to educators and life-long learners...
We want to have teachers that are life-long learners. The why is obvious, at least to me, why I want educators in general to be life-long learners. But why is that the case for you? Why are you a life-long learner?

The response was amazing. In addition to the 24 comments (which you can read on the original post) I got over 100 responses to my question, collected in a Google Doc. 

I spent the weekend reading each response. I wanted to see if there was any trends or anything that was unusual or anything that stuck out. I noticed of the responses that curiosity was a main reason. Many people want to learn more because they are curious, they want to know more or (like me) they feel like they have to know everything. 

Several people talked about their students. Many said that they have to be life-long learners because they want their students to be and they want to be for their students. If they are an educator, their job is to be a life-long learner one person wrote. 

On the flip side, many said nothing about students but talked about themselves. Bordom was mentioned more than once, meaning that life would be boring without learning. 

There were lots of great responses. Below are 5 of my favorites...

  • I am a life-long learner because I am curious about too many things not to be...Because I believe I have to keep up with what is current in education to be the best teacher that I can be...Because I was recently flabbergasted by research on cognitive growth in a variety of occupations which indicated that of all occupations, teachers are most likely to experience NO cognitive growth during their career...
  • Because good has never been good enough...good is a starting off poing. I know I can always do more,do better. And, lifelong learning is my way of always striving to be better than good. 
  • I like to learn things that are new to me because that makes my life interesting.  I like to know more about things I am interested in. In education I am interested in reading and writing. Therefore I am always on the lookout for information that will make me a better teacher.  I love technology so I always want to learn how I can incorporate that into my own life and teaching. As well I like to learn things that are outside of education that are personal to me, for example card making or how to grow things in my garden with more success. What I think actually is... how on earth can people avoid being life long learners?
  • I'm fascinated by all the things I don't know or don't know how to do. Even though I know I can't master everything (obviously), I like to stretch myself to grow in new directions all the time. Even as a kid, I read voraciously and loved discussing new things we were learning. One of my favorite things to do is to share something new I've learned! Learning helps connect people together. The more you learn, the more you find in common with others... but also you find a deep respect for the differences as well.
  • Why do I keep on learning?  Because I just can't help it - I think it's part of my personality.  How boring would it be to not be learning anything new?  Where's the challenge in that?  And I'm eclectic in my learning, I'm curious about all sorts of things.  I hope I have passed that along to my children.  It was modeled for me by my parents.    

There are so many more great responses. I have put all the responses below (without the names) so you can see just what people said. Take a few moments and read through. Some will really make you laugh, others really make you think. 

After reading, anything strike you as odd, curious, interesting, not surprising? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.