Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Know You Always Wanted To Know The History Of Searching The Interwebs, Didn't You?

I dunno about you but I might do about a billion searches a day. From everything to how to unbrick a phone to a recipe for a holiday party to how to spell words, search is a natural part of how I browse the web. Sometimes its easier to just search for a site, even when I already know the address. (I think that might be on the verge of lazy, but hey, I own it)

Kids do a lot of searching too. Pictures, music, games and even research for class, they spend a lot of time searching the web for content and information too. But if you asked how many of them know how search works or even the pretty interesting history of search.

Digital literacy is important. 


Yesterday Google posted on their blog a great video about the history of search and how it has evolved and adapted as folks changed their patterns of how they look for information.Understanding this can lead to better and more accurate results faster.

There is also another video from about a year ago that tells exactly how Google search works. In terms of digital literacy and understanding where information comes from, this video should be standard viewing for kids. They need to understand how pages are ranked and that just because information is at the top doesn't always mean it's the best.

Don't forget, there are some great lessons that Google has put together that help kids at all levels do better searches and understand where their information comes from.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My 2011 Edublog Award Nominations

It's that time of year again, when bloggers from around the globe submit the best of the best in the education world from the previous year for the Edublog Awards. This is always a tough spot for me. I think everyone is great at what they do. And we should honor everyone who works tirelessly in schools and in education everyday to make learning better for kids. However, there are some that deserve a little something extra. Those who have gone the extra mile and are really making a different in the lives of kids and teachers everywhere.

So in no particular order here are my nominations:

Best Overall Blog: Stump The Teacher Not only is Josh the current Illinois Teacher Of The Year but he is a really awesome guy too. His blog is an open reflection of his teaching and himself and every time I read a post I think a little bit differently about things.

Best Group BlogEdutopia Group Blog I always look foward to the posts that come out of here. Just today there was a post about financial literacy, while yesterday there was a lesson on how to use TED talks to enhance the Common Core curriculum. You never know the topics that will be covered but you always know it is going to be something worthwhile.

Best Edtech/Resource Sharing Blog: Free Technology For Teachers What Richard has created here is the model of what resource sharing is and should be. It is definitely in my "go to" blogs every morning when I am looking for something new or interesting in the world of Edtech.

Most Influential Blog Post: "My Teacher Is An App"-Will Richardson Will is one of the most respected members of the education community and his posts always help to stretch my thinking. This one was no different. Taking a concept like blended learning (which I am totally for) and completely turning it on it's head and challenging all of us to be different for the sake of kids is more of what is needed.

Most Influential Hashtag: #edchat Ok, I know, I am little biased on this one (since I helped to start it) but this hashtag is way more than the founders or the chats on Tuesday. It has become a gathering place for resources and meaningful conversations and is a great way for those new to Twitter to get engaged in a very easy way and see the value that Twitter can offer the profession.

Best Teacher Blog: Upside Down Education As a former middle school teacher, I can identify a lot with what Amanda writes about in her blog. From about her post on changing the learning environment to her desire for change, I always look forward to her posts and often I get the pleasure of forwarding them on to folks in my district.

Best Librarian/Library Blog: The VanMeter Voice The space that Shannon has put together here should be the standard for library blogs anywhere. The stories she shares about her learning and the learning her kids do in her media center help affirm that there is goodness out there in education. This is definitely one you need to pass along to a teacher/librarian that you know.

Best School Administrator Blog: Burlington High School Principal's Blog Patrick is not only a great administrator his blog is great too. Whether it's sharing the stories of what is right with his school, resources for his teachers, tips for parents or more details about their 1:1 iPad roll out, this blog is another I use when talking with Administrators on what they should be writing about and how easy it is.

Best Free Web Tool: Livebinders If you are are regular reader of this blog you know how much I love Livebinders. And if this is your first time visiting, I love Livebinders. It is such an easy tool to use and the uses are endless. Tina and Barbara have taken such great effort to create a great product and are continuing to improve it. Kudos to them!

Best Open PD/Unconference/Webinar Series: The Reform Symposium The fact that this is a 3 day, 24/7 free, online PD is really amazing. The fact that the folks that organize this every year do it through just the use of social media is astounding. I had the honor of giving the first Closing Keynote two years ago and this year I was glad to just participate. What an amazing event where educators from around the globe present and share whats working in their classrooms and share ideas on how to improve learning, no matter where we are.

Lifetime Achievement Jerry Blumengarten (Cybaryman) There isn't a whole about Jerry that hasn't already been said by folks for many years. Jerry has dedicated his life to education and even in retirement he still continues to maintain his website, participate in chats on Twitter and speak at events all over the country. I consider Jerry a close, personal friend of mine and it is an honor to be able to nominate him for Lifetime Achievement. I can't think of anyone else who has done more than Jerry. Here's to you my friend!

So there you have have. My nominations for the #eddies11. There are loads of other great nominations that will come in. Oh and the Awards are a great way to discover new content too. Check out the winners and the nominees from last year and you will get an idea of the high-quality content that is out there. Be sure to check back here after Dec 2 with a link to the voting and see who is nominated in each category.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's All About The Hashtag

If you remember, in my 3 part series on Twitter, I wrote about how I completely changed the way I do professional development on Twitter. In a nutshell, I no longer start with signing up and tweeting the first day. I always show how to use Twitter without ever signing up. I believe it's important to establish the value in using it rather than using it and attempting to find the value.

What a lot of people don't realize that Twitter is a very powerful search engine. Just like Google, if you know how to use the search effectively you can find pretty much anything. And one of those effective ways is leveraging the power of hashtags.

What is a hashtag you ask?

From The Twitter Fan Wiki: Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol.

Basically, its a tag in your post so that you or someone else can find it later or track it as it is happening. For example, lets say you are watching the Super Bowl. You want to hear what other folks are saying about the game. You can do a search (on twitter.com/search) for the hashtag #SuperBowl and see what others talking about. Many TV shows, events, companies, and more are creating hashtags to monitor conversations and just generally engage with other followers.

Right, but how does this help you find stuff for your classroom?

Well, there are loads of great educational hashtags that have been created that you can search out and see what folks are posting. Are you a Social Studies teacher or need history resources? Check out #sschat. Maybe English is your thing. So there is #engchat. Perhaps you are looking for just general education resources. Then you should do a search for #edchat.

There are so many more educational hashtags out there. Lucky for all of us we have CybraryMan. Jerry (his real name) has collected several pages of hashtags for all of us to enjoy.

You may notice that many of the EDU hashtags include the word "chat" in them. There are some great chats on Twitter around various issues in education. (I wrote about this a while back.) Jerry also has a great page of how to take part in the EDU Chats and the times of various chats as well.

Oh and I get asked a lot how  to create a hashtag. Simple my friends, simple. You just create it! There isn't a special form or permission you need in order to make a hashtag you just make one. My advice is, however, do a search on Twitter for the hashtag you want to use, just to make sure other stuff isn't posted to it already. (That can save a lot of time and embarrassment later.) Once you have it in mind, start using it. This can be great for schools/districts or classrooms to create tags to allow other members of the community to see whats being said to follow along with events, games, etc.

The point of all this is that while you may be a connected educator or you use Twitter regularly, there may be some educators around you who just don't see the point. Or they say they don't want to use Twitter. Well, the hashtag provides a way for anyone, no matter who, to reap the rewards of the information that flows across the Twitterverse and have it delivered to you when ever you need it.

What are some of your favorite hashtags to follow? Leave some comments below.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why #Authorspeak Gets It

Last week I had the honor and privilege of attending Authorspeak.This was an event put on by the educational book publisher Solution Tree.Over the course of 3 days, all of the authors presented sessions on their books. But there was something different about this event. I felt a deeper connection to it then in other events that I have attended in the past. And after reflecting upon it for a few days I think I know why.

It all started when I began to look at the schedule. While I had my favorite sessions picked out (mainly so I could meet some heavyweights in the publishing world and old friends too) I noticed there was something different about the list. What they had done was I had not seen anyone else do before. Themes. Many of their books follow themes and the sessions where arranged that way as well. There was Leadership, 21st Century Learning, Professional Learning Communities and several others. My goal was to see a variety of sessions. However, if I had been with a group we could have broken out and tracked through a theme. Powerful stuff. ISTE should take note. They ask in the session proposals who the intended audience is for and what NETs the sessions is related to but I don't recall strands like that in the sessions. And it would be easy for them or any other conference organizer to say here are some common themes among proposals. If you are interested in mobile learning, here are the sessions 1-2 per slot that you can go to. Or maybe you want to know more about Leadership in the Digital Age, here are all the sessions on that topic. It was a handy way for someone to organize their session list with ease.

The sessions themselves were something to be modeled. Each was 45 minutes. Now, as a presenter, I know how little time 45 minutes is. But as a conference goer I know how good 45 minutes is. It all came down to how that time was used. There were only a few sessions that felt like 45 mins. was too much. And I am sure the authors have wonderful books but they just weren't the presenter type. The vast majority of sessions were highly engaging. Several presenters started out with intended outcomes of their presentation.What a great idea! I think all who present at some level go into it with the idea they have some outcomes but rarely do we see those communicated to the audience. What a no-brainer. That is something I am definitely going incorporate into my future presentations. Beyond that one of the best features was even though the sessions were 45 minutes, many built in time to talk to the folks around us. It was great to reflect with those around us to gauge their feedback on the thoughts from the session. Again, something I am going to incorporate into my sessions.There was also 30 minutes between each session. You didn't feel rushed to get to the next one (even if it was on the other side of the building.) There was time that allowed after the session to talk with the presenter or have small group networking before and after.

One of the most refreshing aspects was even though this event was sponsored by publishing house, there was no pressure to buy the books (even though I owned many of them already.) Most of the sessions I attended, while related to the topic the books covered, the material was updated and new. Or it was an opportunity to reflect and remix the content from the books. It really was a unique to think out loud right along with the author. It didn't feel like a pitch to buy the books or the accompanying materials. While ultimately that is the goal, it wasn't the purpose. And many of the materials anyway were and still are available to those that couldn't be there.So it truly felt like a learning experience and not a commercial event.

I really did enjoy attending and hope I get the opportunity to return. And hope that more conference organizers take some of the ideas that Authorspeak instituted and incorporate them in to future events. It truly was one of the best conferences I have attended.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cool Classroom Projects With Skype

A while back I wrote about Skype and how to get started using it. If you are new or thinking about starting definitely check out that post. 

Then yesterday I saw this:

"Calling classes in North Carolina, USA or nearby states to join a book club http://t.co/cnmm1IBx #wsfcs"

So when I saw that tweet I immediately passed it along to all my NC folks. Then I got to thinking. There are lots of great projects out there that need a partner and people ask all the time how to get connected via Skype.

I headed over to the Skype In The Classroom website and discovered there are loads of great projects going on that any class with a Skype account can join. Here are just a few:

High School Literature Discussions-IB English Literature students in Wisconsin are interested in exchanging ideas and conversation via skype, ning, or video conference on various novels and readings including, Like Water for Chocolate (Esquivel), Into the Beautiful North (Urrea), or Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Alexie). Through this exchange, students will share perspectives on literature, school, global issues, and life.

Thankful For Thanksgiving? Looking for classes to Skype in and tell my classes, a wide variety of Grades 1-4, where they are from and what they are thankful this Thanksgiving. This should be just a quick skype call, with 2 or 3 students telling us why they are thankful. And, we will tell your class.

Practicing Graphing- I am looking for a class to play battleship graphing with my class on September 28th or 29th. I have two PreAlgebra classes. One starts at 9:00am central time and the other starts at 9:50am central time. I will provide you with the board template.

What Does Your Sky Look Like? My students are currently studying the solar system and moon phases. I would like to create a project with students from different parts of the world to show students how the Earth is positioned, thus causing different moon phases around the world.

Biomes Around The World- 4 teachers of 3rd/4th graders (8-10 year olds), studying topics such as deserts, rainforests, and oceans would like to connect with other classes learning similar topics or who live near one of the habitats. We would like to Skype with a class, an expert, or anyone who can help us learn about these topics. We can tell you about our biomes- mountain, lake, wetlands!

Regional Skype Pals- We are studying all 50 states, one region at a time. We would like to connect with classrooms all around the country who could give us information on how it is to live in other parts of the country.

That is just a handful. There are other great projects on the site and you can sort by subject area and age level to find the one that is perfect for your class. You can also post a project that you want to do or if you are looking for a speaker, Skype will help you find one to bring into your class.

All you need is a Skype account and an account on the Skype In Education site and you are ready to go.

So why not start creating that wall-less classroom, one Skype call at a time.