Thursday, December 31, 2009

Teaching and Learning in an Era of Disruptive Innovation

Presentation to NEA from author of Dangerously Irrelevant Blog:
*audio of presentation and further comments can be found on blog



I am interested in learning more about Storybird and trying it out.
Here is one post about doing Collaborative Digital Storytelling using this tool found on The WhiteBoard Blog.
"Storybird provides a very user-friendly way of combining images and text to tell a story, and then share that story with other people. You choose images from a huge bank of ready-drawn pictures which also help to provide inspiration for story ideas. "

Tips on becoming a Creative Teacher


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Helping Others

I enjoy helping others. Several people have come to me (whether they teach at the school where I work or not) for my help in the last few days, and I have loved being able to help them. That may sound like a selfish statement, but it is not meant that way. I just think that is neat that I get to help others figure things out. I enjoy "playing around" with things to figure them out (but I will look at the directions and ask for help if I can't figure out what to do).
Someone this week (from another school) contacted me with some questions to help out her family member (who is at another different school). I admitted that I was not sure how to do what she was wanting to do, but told her that I would be more than willing to see what I could find out and work with her to try to make it happen. For advice on the situation, I went to Twitter and posted a question. It is a bit funny that a response came from a person who teaches in the same school system, but at another school. After emailing and playing phone tag with the person needing the help, we finally got to talk. She was able to take the bits and pieces of information I had sent combined with the bits and pieces of information she had figured out (or gotten from someone else). Although the ending product (which you can see here) may not have been what she intended originally, she was able to create something that she is proud of and is going to enter in a contest to support her students and her program.
I guess the title of this post might should have something to do with how connections make things possible . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mistakes can work out . . .

There are times when nothing seems to go right . . . you have to make a choice about how to react in those situations. Those instances can be some of the best unplanned learning experiences.
A teacher that I work with had 2 google accounts (one connected to a gmail account and one connected to another email address). In her attempt to make things easier for herself, she deleted the account linked to the other email address. She did not realize that deleting that account would also delete her blog (which is one listed on the featured blog list for the county). After calling google and figuring out there was really not a way to get it back, she just decided to start a new blog. She was really upset (even a few tears I think). I am impressed that she cared that much about (saw the importance of) her blog that was created at the beginning of the school year.
She is using the things she learned from creating the first blog to make the newly-created blog even better. On the website where she got the background for her first blog, she went exploring and found other tips that she (and others like me) could use. For example, she found directions for adding a signature (which I did last night) and directions for changing the font for the blog post titles (which she did yesterday) on She used for the background for her new blog.
So although she was really upset when she discovered her error in deleting the original blog, it has turned into a blessing in disguise, even if she doesn't see it that way yet . . . .

Added later: I wasn't going to give out this person's name, but since she posted a comment, I will give a link to her newly-created blog :

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Connections

Launch your own SlideRocket presentation!

Notes to go along with presentation

Rethinking Internet Safety?

*The stars in the presentation are hyperlinks*

Launch your own SlideRocket presentation!

Notes to go along with presentation

Internet Safety Resources and Ideas

• Basics
• Must go further
• Think of all the ways for accessing
• We teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street, to ask permission before going somewhere, and not to talk to strangers. Before kids are allowed online, it is important to instill some safety rules and guidelines to keep them safe. Like teaching a child to wear a helmet, or avoid strangers, a few Internet guidelines will go a long way toward protecting your kids.
• Internet filters are an important line of defense in keeping kids safe. They should not be the ONLY line of defense. Filters can offer a false sense of security. The first line of defense should be educating kids on proper use of the Internet and then monitoring that use.
• Third through fifth graders have to pass and Internet safety quiz in order to receive their Internet drivers license. Before the safety quiz, students learn Internet safety through interactive games, videos and discussion. I use Faux Paw the Techno Cat from,, The Three Little Cyber Pigs, Safety Land, Diggo, and the Cyber Smart curriculum to teach Internet safety. We cover personal information, email attachments and viruses, filling out online forms, advertisements, creating strong passwords, cyber bullying, chatting, netiquette, blogging, and using search engines.
• Teachers need to be good models and talk through the thinking process as you evaluate where to go for information
• "The technology that has so dramatically changed the world outside our schools is now changing the learning and teaching environment within them." - National Education Technology Plan for the U.S. Department of Education
• TIPS FOR KIDS: Smart Social Networking
Developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Online Gaming Parent Tip Sheet gives you quick and simple tips for guiding your child as they explore the world of online gaming. This handy tip sheet can be downloaded and posted next to the computer to remind both you and your child how to make their online gaming experience fun and safer. Click on the link to go to the Tip Sheet.

  • Citizenship. Safety. Responsibility. These are the healthy habits that parents and teachers include in everyday lessons, whether they are encouraging a child to share a toy, teaching them to ride their bike or holding them accountable for homework and chores. Sometimes subtle, other times a major point of the conversation, we all understand that these are the foundatiosn on which we build our relationships, our families and our communities online and offline


What should 21st Century Skills look like in a classroom?

When I think about a 21st Century Skills Classroom, I see a classroom where students are actively involved in learning. More time and attention is spent on discovering information, finding solutions, and figuring out ways to present what has been learned rather than just memorizing facts and listing them on a test. Students may be working in small groups, completing whole class activities, or working independently. They are not fixed to one spot doing one type of activity over and over but are able to move back and forth as they work on integrated projects designed to increase communication, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving.

In this 21st Century Skills Classroom, technology is present but is not the main focus. Students and teachers are using technology to enhance learning and instruction, not just because it is there. Lessons and projects determine what and how technology is used; not the other way around. Are all students and teachers doing things the same exact way? No, there are many pathways to the same end result. Students are using the ways that work best for them to achieve the stated goals, whether those goals are teacher-directed or student-initiated. There is a “technology toolbox” providing a variety of available options to complete the task at hand. While students are involved in these learning experiences, they are using various technology tools that are readily available in this 21st Century Skills Classroom. Using these tools allows students to be exposed to and learn more about the information, media, and technology skills they will need to be successful.

A certain type of teacher is needed for this 21st Century Skills Classroom. Vicki Davis ( describes this teacher as a “teacherpreneur” who is interested in collaboration, reflection, and always learning (NCTIES Opening Session, March 2009). The teacher of this class will work hard to form partnership to benefit his or her students, as well as think about what does and does not work with his or her instruction, and strive to gain new ideas and insights, possibly form a Personal Learning Network (PLN). The teacher in this 21st Century Skills Classroom is more concerned with teaching the skills students need for learning than focusing on the tools they may use.

Students and teachers in this 21st Century Classroom may be using things like interactive boards, document cameras, wikis, blog, and all kinds of things we don’t even know about yet. But the main focus of this classroom and its teachers or students will be the LEARNING that is taking place whether using the newest forms of technology or not. The technology that is used will be used to bring about greater levels of learning.


Monday, December 7, 2009

It is all about making CONNECTIONS

When students make a connections with the books they read, their understanding, comprehension, and recall of the information increases.

Normally when I think of students make connections with stories, I focus on either a connection with the author or relating something that has happened to them to something that happens in the story (event). A teacher may be able to help students make connections with the author using blogs, websites, or even skype. Students could do some type of writing or art activity to express personal connections to stories possibly using a blog or something like webspiration.

Reading Kristin's Blog: Blogging with Afghanistan got me thinking about another type of connection that teachers can help provide for students using technology tools . . . a connection to the setting. A little background to her blog: In the past, her class read a story and posted discussion on a blog. The story was set in Afghanistan. A person who lives in Afghanistan read her blog and contacted her. He became her "friend" and offered to help out when she did the story the next year. . . it is all about making connections

A teacher could build background knowledge about the setting of a story by having students research general information about the area online, maybe look at pictures, or take a Google Earth trip. Those students would know a little more about the setting than before, but imagine how that level of knowledge would change if students could "talk" to someone actually in that area and ask questions not only about the geography/landforms but also about the culture.
The experiences of these students has the potential to greatly influence their understanding of the story.

Think about all the technology tools we have available to make it possible to make these connections to enhance student learning: skype, blogs, wikis, videos, pictures, voicethread, twitter . . .

So you don't have a friend or connection in the area of study or setting of the book . . . chances are that posting on Twitter could prove to be beneficial . . . chances are somebody knows somebody who knows somebody . . . it is all about making connections.

Global Studies involves learning so much more by making connections rather than just reading or research from a book or online.