Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Everyone Needs A Classroom Champion

Recently I became part of one of the most awesome projects anywhere around.

Imagine you are 9 years old. You and your classmates are watching and learning about the Olympics, talking about the importance of fitness, graphing the stats of athletes in the various competitions, and discussing goals you have for now and the future.

Then picture when an Olympic athlete that you have been watching appears in your classroom from Bejing or Alberta or South Africa via telepresence to check in on you and your class and see how your theme of the month (respect) is coming along.

The whole time you embark on the journey, your athlete is with you and your class every step of the way. You are making videos, writing letters, integrating technology and learning, all with the support of an Olympian...

So when I was approached by Gold Medalist, Steve Mesler to be a part of the Classroom Champions there was no way I could turn it down. When I read about what it was and what they do I was literally speechless. The opportunities he, his team and the other athletes are providing to kids all across the country is truly different from anything I had ever seen or been a part of.

The Mission:

To connect students in high-need schools with top performing athletes in order to motivate them to recognize their potential, set goals and dream big, while educating them in the practical use of communications technology.

Here is how it works:

A kind of 21st century pen-pal, each Athlete Ambassador adopts 1-4 classrooms per year. Focusing on their own personal journey, Ambassadors teach about the hard work of training, goal setting, competition and perseverance. Using blogs and live video chats, students are engaged with their Ambassador several times per month. Our program supports teachers by helping them incorporate these activities into their curricula, focusing on letter writing, reading, geography, math, technology, goal setting and leadership.

The Athlete Ambassadors are Olympians and Paralympians who are training at locations from around the world but give their time to helps and mentor kids in these classrooms. 

To be a part of the program more than 50% of the students in the school must be on Free/Reduced Lunch.   The teachers that are accepted join a community of other educators that support not only the Classroom Champions project but each other as well. They share their stories, successes and challenges, all in an effort to help improve learning and technology integration in their classrooms. 

As part of the program teachers receive a Cisco Umi, Flip HD Video Cam and other technologies  that they use to video and share with their Athlete. This project is as much about teaching kids about goal setting, motivation and content skills as it is helping teachers with understanding the importance of technology integration in their classrooms. 

Each month some classes make videos about that month's theme and post them to share. So here you can see what a class learned about Respect for the month of February.

The teachers are also writing lesson plans and designing activities that incorporate technology, keeping content first, but also encompass that months theme (respect, fair play, inspiration, goal setting etc). The educators share those lessons with each other in the Classroom Champions community and exchange ideas, again to help improve learning for these kids. 

I am so proud to be a part of this program. And you can be a part of it as well. Applications open on March 1. so I hope you will apply and encourage other educators in your school or district to apply as well. And be sure to head over to Classroom Champions to read more about the program. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What Do You Mean Evernote Could Get Better?

Last time I wrote about the way I organize myself completely changed for the better with Evernote. Really, I can't talk enough about this program and the endless possibilities there are for it. (Just look at the comments from that post.)

In that post I gave a few resources for learning about Evernote and even fewer with how to use it in the classroom. Well, lots of people have sent me lots of great resources and I wanted to follow-up and post some more. These are sites, lists and ideas all for using Evernote for your personal use or in the classroom.

Get Productive Fast With Evernote- Mark Stout contacted me about this great eBook he created about getting started with Evernote and then some of the more advanced features like integrating At $10 bucks its a bargain for truly understanding everything there is about Evernote.

10 Tips For Using Evernote Effectively- This recent article from ReadWriteWeb was a great addition to my Evernote resources. They covered things I hadn't even considered and once I discovered them I became even more productive.

The Secret Weapon- A few weeks ago I was pining on Twitter about my overflowing inbox and how I wish I could funnel everything through Evernote. That is when Dean Shareski sent me The Secret Weapon. In it you learn how to take control of your inbox and use Evernote as the place to deal with email. This was the ultimate for me in getting my organization under control.

The Evernote-Livescribe Connection- Last year at ISTE I was able to get my hands (finally) on a Livescribe pen. (Basically, it records the movement of the pen and the audio around the pen. Perfect for teaching, learning, notes, meetings, etc). Well, you can import your pencasts into Evernote. So you have your notes and audio all in one place. Think about this for student conferencing or remediation activities.

100 Different Uses For Evernote- This article delivers what the title says.

Trunk For Evernote- There are lots of other programs that can help Evernote become the center of your universe. Apps, sites and and more are listed here.

Evernote In The Classroom-In this post you really see how one educator uses it in their classroom.

Evernote As A 1-1 Reading Conferencing Tool-This one I save for last because it is my favorite. My good friend Russ, has been using Evernote for a while now. In this post he lays out exactly how he uses Evernote and notebooks conferencing with his students. While this is in a Language Arts classroom, the ideas here are universal and can be applied anywhere.

So there are 8 more resources for understanding, learning about and using Evernote. Remember, Evernote is completely free. You can use it on as many computers, phones and tablets as you want. Make sure you read my first post about how I was using it and check out the comments too to see how others were using it as well.

Do you have any more resources to share? Hit up the comments below!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How Things Changed With @Evernote

I'll admit it.

I have to be one of the most unorganized people on the planet. I have notebooks in just about every bag I carry. Multiple calendars and I still miss appointments. Slips of papers as reminders with some string of illegible thoughts on them, that, when I find them, I don't have a clue what I was thinking when I wrote them.

I have more than 10 different types of projects going on at anyone time. A book, book chapters for others, keynotes to write, presentations to prepare, consulting, product review, and on and on and on. Not to mention my projects with my district.

Organization isn't really in my vocabulary.

Well, let me say, it wasn't in my vocabulary.

But it is now, thanks to Evernote.

I had tried Evernote in the past. Installed it and looked at it and couldn't really find a use for it. I would uninstall it and go on my way, unorganized, missing appointments, stressing about putting things together. But that is all in the past. I use Evernote everyday. I can't live without it. So much so, its on every phone, computer and in every browser I come in contact with.

Ok, so what is it?

To boil it all down. Think of Evernote as this giant filing cabinet. In it you put all the different notes, clips, photos, scans, just about anything. You can organize these notes into notebooks. Really what you use it for is up to you.

Here is a view of my current notebooks.

So I have notebooks for work, personal and other work I do. And I nest notebooks. I like keeping things separate. That has really helped with my organization. I also use the To-Do notebook as my list of upcoming and current projects and responsibilities.

I keep Evernote open on my computer at all times. I never know when I am going to need it or when it could come in handy. Inside one of my notebooks you will see all my notes.

In this notebook are notes for 3 presentations I did at a recent district technology conference. I plan out my slidedeck, resources, videos, everything, can go right in the note for that particular session and I have it no matter where I am. I can scan in items, add Word docs, exe files and loads more to a notebook or note. Did I practice a part of my preso that I wanted to save the audio for? No problem! I can even include audio as part of my notes. (That works even better on a smartphone.)

You can also install the Evernote Web Clipper extension and save portions of websites or just some text from a blog post that you want to use somewhere else. You can also connect Evernote to your Twitter favorites and whenever you save a favorite it goes into a notebook. (That is one of my favorite features.)

There are lots of uses in Education too. Here are some of my favorite resources:

  • Evernote 101- This video from my good friend Josh is a great starting point for folks who want to get started. 
  • Evernote For Educators- This Livebinder is packed full of getting started links and ideas for using Evernote with students. 
  • Evernote On Classroom 2.0 Live- Recently there was a great webinar all about Evernote and its application in the classroom. 
  • Resources From Cybraryman-As always, Jerry has a page for Evernote. 
  • 10 Evernote Tips For School-From The Evernote Blog, a great list of things to think about when using Evernote with kids. 
  • Evernote For Schools-Just launched, here you can read more about how to get Evernote in your school and read about how other schools are using it. 

Evernote is 100% free. You can download it as many times as you want. There are versions for both Mac and PC and it works on your smartphone too. There are, however, monthly upload limits for things like images and PDFs. You can pay for Evernote Premium (which I do.) that gives you lots more space, the ability to search your PDFs, the sharing option and more. For $45 bucks a year, well worth it if you ask me.

Best thing to do now is go download it and start small. Use it for a project or two that you have going on. And I would bet in a month or 2 you will say, just like I do that I can't live without it!

Do you use Evernote? How do you use it? What are your favorite resources? Leave some comments below.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

TPACK And The Common Core Webinar

This Saturday at Noon EST, I will be a guest of the Classroom 2.0 Show where I will be talking about the relationship between the Common Core and TPACK. If you haven't heard a lot about TPACK or you want to learn more about it, this is a very fun format to join in the learning.

It will take place online, in a Blackboard Collaborate room. It's totally free and if you can't make it, it will be archived.

To join go here on Saturday morning.

Speaking of archives, if you haven't checked out the Classroom 2.0 Show Archives you are missing out. What a great place to find loads of great webinars and educations topics. Recent topics include:

Parent Engagement
Using Evernote
Becoming A Connected Educator
Livescribe Pens
Gifted Education

That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what is available in the archive. Each show has the video of the show, links, resources and so much more. You can spend hours and hours learning there.

I hope you can join me Saturday afternoon!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Safer Internet Day 2012

Teaching students how to use online resources effectively and appropriately should be an everyday occurrence. All members of the education community (students, teachers, administrators, parents, community) are responsible. So understanding what that responsibility means is a first step.

Tomorrow is Safer Internet Day 2012. Organized in Europe, it has become a world-wide event to raise awareness and promote education for effective use of Internet resources. 

Here is a short video to explain a little more. 

As you can see, the theme for this year's event is Connecting Generations. The goal is to not just focus on kids but focus on getting everyone connected in positive ways. Whether we are 4, 14 or 84, everyone can get connected and learn how to leave a positive digital footprint.

You can visit the Safer Internet Day 2012 site for lots of lessons, talking points and resources not for just staying safe online but for using the Internet more effectively. And the great thing? Even if it is after Feb 7, the lessons are timeless. You can use them anytime. It doesn't have to be a special occasion.

You can check out my recent post on Making The Right Digital Decisions and find even more Internet and Online safety teaching resources for kids of all ages.

What do you do to teach kids to use online resources effectively or to teach digital safety? What are your favorite resources? Leave some comments below.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Getting To Know The now!Board

Over the past few days I have been trying out a now!Board. What is a now!Board you ask? Well, its a portable system that, when combined with a computer and projector you can turn any surface into an interactive space.

The folks over at Learning Resources sent me one to try out so I have been taking it around and trying it out in several types of situations.

First, here is their promotional video to give you a better idea about what we are dealing with.

So you can see the basic idea. The now!Board takes the idea of the Interactive Whiteboard and has made it portable.

Some thoughts....

Set-Up-This was super easy. Basically insert the disk and install the software. It works on both Mac and PC (no Linux version) and is a self installer. Once the installation is over you have the chance to watch some videos on setting up the hardware, software and how to use it overall.

Getting Acquainted And Orientation: This was a little tricky. Basically there are 3 parts. The sensor sits near the projector and it shines a laser towards the projected image. The receiver is what is used to actually control things. And then the software is what does all the hard work. The sensor has to be positioned just right towards the surface so that it registers with the receiver. Orientation is pretty straightforward. Point the laser at the surface and touch the receiver in the cross hairs and repeat 7 times. Easy.

Using The Software: You can use the now!Board both as an interactive mouse or as a whiteboard. There is software built in that provides a whiteboard surface and basic tools (pen, shapes, lines, etc). It isn't quite as advanced as a Promethean ActivBoard but it does provide a level of functionality that allows for some interactivity. You can also use the software with programs and apps already on your computer. If you can do it with a mouse you can do it with a now!Board.

With Kids: I was able to try it out with a group of kids, aged 7-9. They took to it pretty well and were naturals at using it. I also used it my 2 yr old daughter. She took a little practice with the wand but did a pretty good job. The key for me was to let them go and just explore. I gave them some simple instructions about how to use the hardware and that was about it. They just played. I asked them afterward what they thought. They said it was pretty cool and would like to have one in their classroom.

What I Didn't Like: There were a few things I didn't like about this set up. First, if the projector got bumped or if the sensor was moved you had to re-orientate the board. Now, depending on your situation and set up this might not be a problem. But I could see it being an issue some places. You also had to be very careful about how you held the receiver. For me, being left handed, it felt unnatural. And I had to change the way I use a board because of where my projector had to be in relation to the sensor.

At $499.00 it is a less expensive alternative to the mounted interactive whiteboard. And the ability to take it and set it up in virtually any space is appealing. I would recommend the now!Board for folks who want to add an element of interactivity to their classroom but can't afford the full IWB set up. This could be a great alternative.

(My good friend Nick, also reviewed the now!Board and you can read what he said here.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Favorite @Livebinders

'Round these parts lately, Livebinders have been all the rage. Well, actually they have been with me for a while now. I use the for everything. From organizing thoughts to presenting information in workshops.

Oh wait...

Do you not know what Livebinders are?

Well you should read this post I did a while back about them. It's filled with lots of great information. Then head over and check out my shelf. There you can see all the binders I have created over time.

I want to highlight a few of my favorite binders to give you a taste of what you can do with them:

Open Educational Resources: Share, Remix, Learn-In this binder you will find some pretty awesome Open Education resources for you to explore and use in your classroom. Nothing like being able to customize your own resources!

STEM Engineering Resources-This binder is full of some amazing STEM resources for understanding and learning about what STEM means for kids.

Mobile Motivation: Learning with Mobile Devices-Pretty much my go-to binder for everything Mobile Learning. Loads of great ideas for using and places to go to get more information. 

Edmodo – Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom-Are you using Edmodo? Or maybe you want to get started? This binder will walk you through the process and show you all you need to know to make it a wonderful part of your classroom.

Using Dropbox in the Classroom-I can't live without my Dropbox. File storage in the cloud, accessible from anywhere? Awesome! Now you can learn about how to use this service in your classroom. 

An Educators Guide To Twitter-Ok, so yes, this is mine but its got a ton of resources learning about Twitter and how to use it both in the classroom and for your own professional growth.

These are just a few of my favorites. There are tons more binders on some wonderful and current topics. It is always a great place to start when looking for teaching resources. Always head over to the Featured Binders section. There you will find binders related to current events and happenings highlighted and you can always find something new and exciting.

Your the 2 posts from above. Then go over to Livebinders, create an account if you don't have one and create a binder. Then come back here and share it in the comments. (Ok, I will let you share your favorite binders if you don't want to take the big step and create one.)

Now, go forth and great some Livebinders!