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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Middle School Debate Project, Eracism looking for Pilot Schools, Debate Coaches, Judges

 Oh, we're so excited about the new project, Eracism.  (www.eracismproject.org) Please take a read and sign up if you'd like to pilot a classroom or serve as an advisor, debate coach, or judge.  We appreciate Elluminate signing on as a sponsor of Flat Classroom(tm) projects because this has allowed us to keep the projects free and open to everyone AND freed us up to start new projects such as this one.  Also look for an elementary project coming early next year for science. (Send me an email if you're interested in that one also.)

At the Flat Classroom(tm) Conference in Doha, Qatar in January 2009, a visionary group of students proposed that a series of debates be held to promote awareness of racism on a global basis and how we need to work together to solve the world's problems.

This multi-national group of four students proposed their project and were promoted through an extensive voting process including a global vote on the next project to be run by the Flat Classroom(tm) project founders, Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay.

Virtual world and digital storytelling pioneer, Bernajean Porter and Peggy Sheehy, saw the proposal and believed this was an important project to pilot.  Now, these four educators are working together on a pilot project in which middle school students will use VoiceThread to debate "Differences make us stronger" from October - December 2009.  The winning two teams will complete the process by debating live in a virtual world in December 2009.

This project is being piloted as a direct result of student vision but also because of the essential need to bring back fact-based debate and dialog to the curriculum of our schools.  After the pilot is completed, organizers will propose methodologies and the results of the project shared to encourage increased adoption of this model by other schools.

Find out more about this project, the organizers, and the sponsors of this project or request more information.

Please tweet it out - we're looking for at least 12 pilot schools and already have 6-7 who have applied. (I have my eighth grade in this project.)

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 09/29/2009

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

5 Steps to Online Safety

5 Steps to Internet Safety

Our goal is to operate in safe places on the internet.  As you travel in cyberspace, be on guard for an inappropriate web site or for anyone who appears to be cyberbullying.  For any questionable situations, follow these rules:

1) Stop
Stop what you are doing. Don't keep clicking.

2) Screenshot
Take a screenshot.  Save a copy and print a copy.

3) Block
Anyone offensive should be blocked and removed as a friend if he or she is on your friends list.

4) Tell
Tell your teacher or network administrator (or your parents if you are at home) about the situation and give them a copy of the screenshot.  When you have a problem, do not stop speaking out until you find someone who can help you.

5) Share
After talking with your parents and/or teacher, if the incident is appropriate to discuss, share it with others to promote Internet safety.

Are these steps different from others?

Over the past several years, I've been tweaking and working on my own recommendations for students and teachers for online safety.  The issues I had with some existing methods is that they didn't allow for adequate documentation of what had happened (thus a screenshot) and also didn't allow to promote a classroom and home environment that could adapt and change with the rapidly changing uses of the Internet. (thus sharing)

So, here it is, my 5 Steps to Internet Safety that I'm using with my children now and will be using with my students in the classroom in the upcoming weeks as part of Digiteen.

A few notes here for teachers.  All children should know how to take a screenshot in a way appropriate for their computer.  Although we use the Fireshot plug in for use on the Internet, that is not enough - what if they are in a virtual world or in a non-firefox browser?  This is one of the first things I teach my students but all students should know how to make a screenshot and paste it into a wordprocessor.  How will we know what happens, particularly if the content is deleted by the offender (as usually happens.)  We need to teach them how to be safe, and a screenshot is essential.

Teachers need to know how to screenshot too!

This is often important for teachers who see problems and delete the content and then realize they have NO DOCUMENTATION.  Learn to take a screenshot and teach kids of all ages how to do this. If you are a parent, teach your child how to do this if they can get online.  My eight year old can do it! It is important!

Get Your Copy of the Five Steps

Free Copies of the Flyers for Schools to Share with Parents, Teachers, and Students

Now, I've made this available for you AT SCHOOL to print a copy of the nice graphical piece that I had my sister design using the 5 Steps.  I have uploaded a copy of this to DocStoc and if you are using it at school to print and hand out to teachers, students, or parents in a non-profit manner (this means you're not making money off presenting the seminar) then go ahead and print away.  I am happy to share with schools and those who want to help others and are not profiting from it.

5 Steps to Internet Safety -

You can order a High Quality Poster, Framed Copy, Smaller Poster, or Slick Handouts

If, for some reason, however, you want to use these and are a trainer or seminar deliverer and need to have a high quality poster or flyers, I've uploaded these to a new store I created on cafe press (so I could order a high quality poster to put on my wall at school.)  This is the same information as shown in the flyer, just tweaked and much higher resolution to allow printing on poster size.  If you are for profit or want to use these in your workshop, just contact me and I'll be happy to work something out for volume.

But remember, it is only fair not to sell someone else's work and that is why my work is licensed Noncommercial.  Sarah (my sister) and I worked hard on this and so if you are for profit, it is only fair to buy them!  Or if you are a classroom and want to have a good poster, you can get it!  (And right now with my husband's company cutting everyone's pay across the board, I appreciate your supporting what I do here at Cool Cat Teacher!)

http://www.cafepress.com/coolcatteacher has the posters:  a large size, small size, framed copy, and a flyer size that is high quality (could also be printed to go by teacher's desks.)  I already ordered the poster myself and am happy with the quality or I wouldn't make it available for you.

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Be a Person Who Will Ennoble Humanity

"If there was sadness, it was for the passing of an age where one man, in himself, could fire the free world to do battle for its own greatness, and if there were tears, they were shed in watching the mists of death cover the mirror of a personality where men have seen themselves ennobled."

These words were uttered at Sir Winston Churchill's funeral. In fact Churchill once said, "words are the only thing that last forever."

This man with his eccentricities, egocentric-ness, and oddities had a unique talent for speech and was able to craft the words that were known to move soldiers on the front lines to have hope when they felt they could not go on.

Words are important.  Right now I find myself in dire need of words.  This is one of the toughest months financially that my husband and I have ever had.  I'm spending a huge amount of time kicking off these projects and we have one child in high school, one in middle, and one in elementary.I'm fighting a slowing metabolism and began running nine weeks a go. Life itself is a battle.  So, as I ponder these things, I wrote this:

Word Reflections

If I should only talk of technology
and not tell you that you as an educator or parent have the most noble calling on earth
my blog is a waste.

If I should only tweet of my own life
and never tweeter a word or phrase that makes you laugh or makes you feel that you can go on
my twitter stream is a waste.

Should the streams of words that flow forth from my life
ignore the necessity we have to link human beings in ways that promote understanding and love of others
then those streams should be dammed and cease to flow.

For indeed the streams of my life, if they should flow well
will serve as a tide pool of refreshment for the weary who needs encouragement to go ahead
and my words will live past me so that weary strangers in future times
will stop to find a glimpse of themselves and the greater person they can be
in the reflection of my soul past upon their present visage.


Weigh your words, my friends
for those are the things that last.

So, let me ask you this question and issue you a challenge.
Have you said anything to encourage a person today?

I challenge you to make sure that you ALWAYS share an inspirational thought with others in EVERY presentation, EVERY day on Twitter, EVERY week on your blog and in EVERY class you teach.  We live in a society thirsty for words of encouragement and starving in a famine of negative words.  Take the time to do your part to encourage others.

For truly, when you reach out to encourage others, you encourage yourself.

For as I have written this and I began with a heavy, hurting heart - I find myself strangely buoyed and ready to face another day.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 09/25/2009

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 09/24/2009

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some New Twitter Lists

Last week, I shared about some lists made over on Tweepml that made it easy to follow - well, when I came across Mashable's list of 100+ literary authors to follow on twitter, I couldn't resist making some more lists and digging out some new ones.  I always tell people - don't judge twitter until you follow at least 50 people.  Note that if you've already followed someone, no harm is done and you have the choice to not follow someone when you click the button - you just check the list - it is so useful.:

112 Authors on Twitter from Mashable

To get all of them, you'll need to follow both lists!
Educator Lists

Just click the links below to be asked who you want to follow.
Comedians on Twitter

I ripped the Mashable list of 85 comedians to Follow on Twitter (be careful when you do this or it rips twitter names from comments)

PLEASE LISTEN MASHABLE (and other Web 2 sites)
And this is a request from a reader of Mashable and other sites that give twitter lists.  Just use Tweepml to generate lists for us and make our following so much easier and less manual.  PLEASE!

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Daily Spotlight on Education 09/22/2009

  • Great points from Stephanie Sandifer on cheating - when she talked about how she cheats every day by using a copy of something from a coworker - I may have already linked to this but it is so powerful, I came back to it!

    Here were my thoughts for Stephanie:
    "I love how you say that you're "cheating every day." Certainly LEARNING is important, but to me, learning how to find answers and solve problems is the MOST important skill. Some teachers and I were discussing how some kids have book knowledge but fumble at doing science experiments! The practical knowledge eludes many that are good memorizers and what is a good education. To me, rote memorization precludes many from "feeling" educated (because of their poor grades) and makes many think they ARE educated (because of their great grades) when in fact we are indeed testing the wrong thing!

    Great points here!"

    tags: education, cellphone, edu_trends

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

Monday, September 21, 2009

Time to Add a Social Element to our Filtration Systems?

Filters are a problem because they cannot, nor will they ever get everything. (See Content Filtration: A Little Dirt for Your Health) My biggest problem is that most teachers cannot request to have anything added (like access to educational Nings, wikispaces, or an educational blog on blogger - like mine) nor can they ask to have anything blocked.  Someone at some company decides what is accepted and allowed, when in fact, it should be a curricular decision at the local level and there should be systems in place for reporting inappropriate sites and to request that some be allowed for educational use.

In the article, Internet Filter blocks education sites but not porn, says:

One site a Year 10 student opened while searching for a type of bird contained graphic sexual material and was only barred on Monday after inquiries from The Daily Telegraph.

George Cochrane said his school-aged son and daughter, who study by distance education from their farm in Grenfell, were horrified by the sites they could access.

Other educational sites and harmless web pages for the local member of parliament - and even Education Minister Verity Firth's own site - have been blocked by the filter.

I am specifically thinking back on an incident we had in a past project where the Australian teacher had to take personal time to go to the public library to get on the Google Doc to add her students to the project matrix because there was no way to ask for things to be unblocked.

Looking at the new digg bar that they use, I have to wonder why filters can start deploying some sort of social filtration - if a site is blocked, people should be able to request that it be unblocked or submit it for review.  If it should be blocked, then people should be able to report it.  Right now, the reporting structures for firewalls are very much behind the scenes and only accessible to IT staff, why aren't we using Social Filtration for goodness sakes or at least considering to have a social component for reporting?

What we're missing in filtration is the human element and not just the human element of IT directors but that of curriculum directors and teachers -- and yes, even students.  With good filters in place that have a social component, perhaps we could begin allowing educational resources from youtube and other resources to come through.

We block the world just doesn't cut it any more.
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Daily Spotlight on Education 09/21/2009

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

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are You Afraid of Fred?

Preteens love him, adults who happen to be within 100 yards of the squeals may have a strong opinion, but it is certainly not love.  If you've never met him (and can actually see youtube while viewing my blog, meet Fred)

Casting calls go out for a movie based on Youtube's pop phenom, Fred.

Don't dismiss the reach of someone like Fred - the above video posted on September 2, 2009 has over 2 million views, over 30,000 ratings, and 25,000+ comments. (This video is, by the way, rated TV-Y as some producers are now beginning to use US TV ratings for their videos.)

As annoying as he is to me, it speaks volumes of the world that our students live in - a world that connects them in viral ways using video, text, comments that we are still only at the cusp of understanding and utilizing.  Surely there are positive ways that we can harness the power of social media in ways that generate such views, comments, and ratings -- or must school always be relegated to being viewed like Fred's piece on Detention:

Are we afraid of Fred ? We can certainly learn something from him even if we cannot listen to him!

fred="" href="http://technorati.com/tag/fred" rel="tag">

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Daily Spotlight on Education 09/20/2009

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

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The 2 R's: Running & Reading

While reading a great post from Lisa Thuman, (what a great blogger!) she shared this video from Will Smith:

While I wouldn't say the 2 Keys to life are Running and Reading (would be against my personal faith) - I do totally agree that the disciplines of running and reading do make a person a better person.

As one who has re-found running and can now run over 8 miles without stopping (a big reason that schools should have iTouches in their PE program - if this fat 40 year old can run 2 miles, why can't our kids?)  it helps me handle stress.

I totally agree on the benefits of reading and how reading can help you unlock the potential for greatness and solve your problems.  And the benefits of running - oh, running is such a joy to me.

What a great blog post from Lisa, full of many nuggets, please take a read!

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm just helping: a look at electronic cheating by students

Higher Ed Morning ran an article this week about the Top 5 Ways Students Cheat Electronically, interestingly, all involve the cell phone (surprise!)

They quote a survey by Common Sense Media that states:

"35% of teens use their cell phones to cheat by:
  • 26% store info on their phone and look at it while taking a test
  • 25% send text messages to friends, asking for answers
  • 17% take pictures of a test – and then send it to their friends
  • 20% use their phones to search for answers on the Internet
  • 48% warn friends about a pop quiz with a phone call or text message"
 OK, to me this brings up a couple of points:
1) Why should the same test be given to multiple classes?  You can have an essay for one class and another type for another.  yes, it is more work on the teacher, but just a couple of times of doing this will confuse them and make them realize they are wasting their time.  The top use of the cell phone is in "warning friends" about a pop quiz.
2) Same with pop tests!
3) Cell phones (if used in class) should just go in a test box while testing if they have them on their person and of course -- NO ONE SHOULD GO TO THE BATHROOM DURING A TEST - if you don't have that one done, then you have a problem.

If they problem is cheating during a test, then make sure that they don't have their cell phone any where near DURING A TEST.  Mix things up.

And of course,

4) Get out this article and discuss it.  Sometimes just discussing HOW this is cheating will discourage your better students. However, if they really want to cheat they will find a way.

I remember a guy in my class who had a lot of them - he wrote 100 vocab words on the bottom of his shoe - he also pasted a mini answer sheet outside the teacher's window that he read every time he sharpened his pencil.  The tiny piece of paper is still a popular trick as well.

Kids will try but the best counter for cheating is to watch the students. I know it is tempting to sit at your desk and work and catch up on grading - however, testing is a time you have to do your job and watch the kids take the test -- a vigilant teacher can prevent a lot of this from happening.  Cheating has been around as long as schools have been around.  Just remember to look at this with a level head and remember how valuable those cell phones can be in the classroom if used well.

5 Ways to Psych Yourself Up to Do More and Be More RIGHT NOW!

Here are some of the tips and tricks I use to push myself further:

1 - View Inspirational Speakers

I challenge you to some time to Ted This week:  My good friend Angela Maiers shared this on her blog in her post TED TALKS - Like You've Never Seen Them! a Google Spreadsheet with every Ted Talk ever Given and the topic.

There are only two things that change you:  the books you read and the people you meet.  The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results -- sometimes you've got to be inspired to go in a new direction.

I'm going to use these in class this week and also share them with flat classroom student researchers.

2 - Sing a New Tune (or Rediscover some Old ones)

If I feel stuck in a rut - I make a new playlist in itunes for a purpose. If I'm stressed, I make a mellow list - if I need to be inspired, I make a list of inspirational music. I always buy at least one new song for this list and if I don't know a new song to get - I head over to Pandora on my itouch on on the web to listen and find new music.

Music has a powerful connection to the soul and I have 3 jogging playlists since I do couch to 5K and need to keep pace. Listen to this music in the morning like football players listen to music as they head to a game -they know it works - use music to your advantage.

I'll also head over to my husband's iTunes library and export one of his playlists for me.

3 - Wack Yourself in the Head

I love the "Wack on the side of the head" creativity set and have a "Whack Pack" app on my itouch to help me be more creative. I love reading these at least once a week to push my creativity.  For example, my favorite Whack from this week is this card which you can view live on their website.

4 - Intentionally Break Your Routine (and Make New Ones)

I was in a rut on my health and needed a change. Unhappy with my weight, I will not quit until I'm at a better weight. So, my youngest son is overweight but wanted to do tae kwon do - we enrolled him in class 2 nights a week and my husband and I go run while he is in class using the Couch to 5K app. It was tough to break our old routine, but life changes and sometimes there is a word for routine --RUT!

If your routine has become a rut and is keeping you in unhealthy shape or your child with a bad habit, it is time to break that routine - break out of the rut and make a new one!

5 - Give Yourself "Secret Surprises"
Last week, Kris B responded to my 10 Totally Random Tips for teachers and said:

"Tape positive phrases somewhere that only you will see every now and then. For instance, the bottom of my desk drawer is lined with ‘Love and Logic’-type phrases I can use with positive children instead of lashing out (“You can say that again with respect.” “I have an easier time helping you when you speak politely.” Remember: You are the grown-up!) Just the accidental glance at these phrases now and then keeps you in the right frame of mind."

I do that too! If I have something I'm working on I'll have a Bible verse, or a quote or something to remind me who I want to be!  We need positive affirmations in such a negative world!

Also, I have list of free things that make me happy: hot bubble baths, drinking a Fuze, finding a new joke, sitting in the dining room studying my Bible while burning my favorite candle, reading a new book, messing around in a new technology, or just writing. (I love to write - it is my relaxation -- wish I could do it more.)

All work and no play makes teacher have early gray!

So, how do you psych yourself  to do more and be more?

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Daily Spotlight on Education 09/18/2009

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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's My Data and I'll Take it Where I Want To

Big news from Google this week (hat tip to Mashable for this one) you can get your data out of Google using the Data Liberation Front, sponsored by Google itself.

Also a great article from Lifehacker on Drop Box and how the author uses it to allow for password portability and also how you can use dropbox like a thumb drive to run your portable applications (how cool is that?) and remotely run your computer.

There are a few things I felt that needed adding to the curriculum this year for computer applications and one of them was how to run apps from a thumb drive - however, I'm thinking perhaps we should use DropBox instead.

It is vital that students understand how to keep their data secure, how to back up their data, and how to easily port their data from one computer to another.  Thumb Drives are notoriously easy to lose, although they do hold up very well in the washing machine - I'm thinking dropbox may be a better alternative.  What do you think? 

How are you teaching your students to move their files, back them up, and secure passwords? 

I See Dead People: Kurt Cobain and The Humanity of Avatars

Kurt Cobain singing Bon Jovi, a sacrilege according to his widow and estate manager, Courtney Love.  Even though she licensed the use of his image as an unlockable guitar hero in the new game by Activision, her lawyer says:

" Love’s lawyer told the TMZ.com Web site: “Activision is exploiting Kurt’s image in a manner anathema to the very essence of his music, spirit and essence. I along with Ms. Cobain hope those who love Kurt’s music strongly voice their sentiments to Activision and demand his image not be debased by singing the songs of Bon Jovi.”"

We are now entering the time of some sort of reincarnation through the avatars of the deceased. People like John Wayne, Kurt Cobain, Fred Astaire, and yes, Michael Jackson take a lifetime to build a personal brand and the time is fast approaching where they can be reincarnated to be in video games, web apps, cell phone apps, and eventually movies yet again.  Since Courtney Love approved the use of Cobain's likeness - perhaps she nor her legal team truly understood the implications of having Cobain live again inside the x-Box and PS-3's of the world's gamers. Truly, I don't know if any of us understand this.

As some have noted, there is discussion now of a new separate right called "publicity right" and truly, the discussion of this has been around since the 1991 Diet Coke Commercial which featured Elton John, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Louis Armstrong.  When the daughter of Lucille Ball, Lucie Arnaz complained about her Mom being used in California Lottery ads, she said:

" "It's like creating the H-bomb," she says. "You could have Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, who little children all over the world know and recognize, talk about getting a great education, talk about safe sex, talk about don't smoke, don't drink. Or you could have them making porno movies.""

And this is precisely the point - how can a living breathing person who is no longer living and breathing protect the sanctity of their own image or is their image and likeness and "future" literally going to be determined by the heirs of their future.

Our Classroom Discussion/ Debate This week
This week, at the end of class, we're going to be talking about the Humanity of Avatars.  Truly is someone going to have to be hired to "live" for another and approve their every move in order to make sure than at avatar behaves in a way true to their original embodiment?

What are the implications of such things for both the famous, the infamous, and the anonymous like pretty much the rest of us?

You can bet this is going to be an issue discussed in this year's flat classroom project as we discuss this whole idea of  "life after death" in the form of the avatars and likeness that we either leave behind or are created after we die.  Is this the birth of a whole new right -- a death right perhaps that when we die - we take ourselves with us?

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Daily Spotlight on Education 09/17/2009

  • Overview from the educators at CAST aligning the digiteen project with UDL guidelines. Digiteen is a project that uniquely allows for digital citizenship education in a project based learning format that also differentiates in powerful ways. Thank you so much for the people at CAST who provide so many great tools and also provide excellent resources for UDL.

    tags: education, learning, udl, learningdisabilities, best, practices, inthenews, bestpractices, digitalcitizenship

  • Looking forward to presenting in New York State on January 15, 2010 for the Technology Leadership Institute. They have quite a line of up for their speaker series this year including myself, Dr. Jason Ohler, Michael Horn, Dr. Gary Stager, Steve Hargadon, and David Pogue.

    This page has information on attending and signing up for these sessions. If you read this blog and attend, please introduce yourself.

    tags: education, conference, workshop

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meet Ashley Lambert and Her Desire to Lead to the Investigation of the Mind to Learn

This from Ashley Lambert, a student at the University of Alabama after watching the Digital Smarts video that Edutopia posted about my class.

Ashley Lambert says at the end of her post:

"[We need to] adapt the curriculum in a way that leads to a investigation of the mind to learn and not just using a test on paper with a pencil. We all indeed learn differently, which makes each and every one of us truly special."

Oh, Ail22 - you are so right on, and yet, many of us bemoan a system in so many schools that is pushing teachers to increasingly standardize and group plan.  We must remember how the English defeated the Spanish Armada - the behemoth ships that could not move because of their size and bulk.  Our success is dependent upon empowering Teacherpreneurs like you to adapt the curriculum.

Don't you just love her use of words here "leading to the investigation of the mind to learn."  Is it too revolutionary to allow teachers to adapt what they are doing?

Oh, Ashley - keep on your path of learning and do not let anyone steal the joy and passion for teaching we already see in your blogging.

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RESEARCH ALERT: Systemic and Planned Approaches to Using Technology Improve Learning

This new paper from BECTA (in the UK), "Evidence on the impact of technology on learning and educational outcomes" says:
Schools that take a systematic and planned approach to using technology to support learning achieve better outcomes with technology than other schools. These ‘e-mature’ schools have a well-developed vision for learning and lead and manage their use of technology in support of this.

So, I challenge you to read this paper today and ask yourself:

Is my school e-mature or e-immature?

The spastic, stop and go, misinformed, knee jerk type planning that many of us have come through should become a thing of the past as we move to planned, systemic, overall plans for our entire schools. It is never about just ONE teacher. Although one teacher can open eyes and show it can be done - it is about overall systemic change.

Sometimes people point to me and say "but you're only one teacher, what is the rest of your school doing?" Well, my school is improving and growing as part of our overall curricular plan and increasing in the use of technology daily - but you don't know that because they don't blog and it is OK - you just get my piece of the pie as is the nature of blogging. To date, the teacher's favorite tool is Discovery Streaming, but many are moving past that valuable resource into other tools including Promethean Boards, projectors, and some online tools. (We call Discovery Streaming our "gateway technology.")

So, again, share this with your administration and ask the question about e-maturity.  Research based best practices don't just apply to the classroom - but they apply to ADMINISTRATION as well and this is certainly one you can point to!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Justification to Bring Back the Music: It Increases IQ Scores

This from @jshe and @WeAreTeachers on Twitter:

They linked to a UK study by Janice on the Music Teacher's Blog that had the following findings from Professor Susan Halem, University of London's research:

  • "Students who learned music over time, increased their general IQ by 7 points, while drama subjects only increased their IQ by 4.3points.
  • Playing an instrument improves general behaviour because it requires a students to trust, respect and compromise with others
  • Learning a musical instrument improves behavior, memory and intelligence
  • Musically trained students retain up to a fifth more information"
 I've always heard that there was a correlation between math and music -- that somehow math "primed the neural pathways" that music also passes along - however, in a country (the US) seemingly starved for music education - it looks like that perhaps by removing the extra curriculars, not only have we taken some of the joy out of school - we may have also inadvertently hurt the test scores we are trying so desperately to raise.

Bring back the music.

Of course, there is always the question of correlation or causation, however, this research certainly requires a closer look.

11 Essential tools for Global Collaboration

There is a toolbox to help span time zones, culture, and geography and here are a few of the ones that are essential to what we do with global collaboration in the Flat Classroom Project.

1 - Google Calendar
In addition to sharing the events that are part of the collaboration, if you have all of your teachers put their class times into the shared calendar, you can see overlaps and determine synchronous possibilities - always a big plus with the students and something very hard to do, particularly for us here in North America.  (We are surrounded by two oceans that literally "soak up the time" and force us into a-synchronicity.)

Embed the google calendar in everything, so you'll never have to come back and update the dates.  (See Digiteen and Flat Classroom.)

2 - Timebridge
This is the best appointment setting, timezone handling tool. This interfaces with Google Calendars and you can make a group to allow for easy scheduling and anyone else can schedule the meeting that is in the group.

Truly, this handy website acts like a personal assistant because you pick the 5 best times and ask everyone else to RSVP - it will schedule the earliest time that everyone can come and then remind everyone via email or SMS or both. Great tool and since we've started using it, most of our meetings would actually hit 50% participation which is a big deal when you have more than 8 time zones involved.

3 - Elluminate
Yes, Elluminate does help us by sponsoring some back end administrative functions of Flat Classroom - however, since we've started using Elluminate - we've truly taken the projects to a higher level.  Every meeting is recorded and those who miss our weekly teacher's meetings listen to the elluminate session.  We are in the process of learning how to rip to mp3 and mp4 to convert to video and audio.

The coolest new thing that has been added is the ability to do screensharing - this means that if we need to jump into a tutorial we can.  Julie, Kim and I used it last week and were working on our PowerPoints to kick off the Flat Classroom and Digiteen projects - we were able to screenshare and I was able to edit the preso live in elluminate and then send to Office Live (see down below.)  So useful.

4- Skype
We create group skypechats and anyone who has a problem can ask and see who else is online to help with the project.  Skype is a great backup and also wonderful to bring video into each other's classrooms when we see that we have a "hit" on times through our Google Calendar.

5 - Google Groups
Google groups is like discussion boards, however, the thing I like is that you can set up the questions to go to your email.  All you have to do to answer the question that comes through the group is to reply to the email.  We do this for all of the private things that the teachers need to discuss including any urgent issues and whoever is online is able to handle the problem.

The nice thing is that all of these emails and discussions are archived - even attachments and put on the google group web page and you can go back and search issues on the google group.  That, and it is private - and every public private needs a private place for teachers to meet and work together.

6 - Twitter
Grassroots is the way to go and the way to help connect students to some really fascinating people is to use your twitter network to share about what you're doing.  Just don't go overboard and be genuine and up front about what you're doing and you'll see many opportunities and things happen here.

7 - Google Docs - Wordprocessor
In my classes, we've had up to 21 students enditing simultaneously in a Google Doc - it is truly their collaborative tool of choice.  It is also a great tool for me, because I can look at the revision history which has some very fascinating ways to review who has contributed to the doc with color coded highlighting.

Julie and I use this to write grants, collaborate, and write press releases.  You can also publish the document live and keep it updated.

8- Google Docs - Spreadsheet/ Forms
When we take applications for our projects, we love to use Google Forms because they are reliable, fast, and also will send custom notifications to the person submitting the form and to us in our emails!  I have my students use these for surveys and to collect information as well!

9 - Office Live
This is a new friend of mine.  When we create nice documents that just have to be in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint - Office live gives us a shared workspace.  So, instead of emailing back and forth word documents or powerpoints and not able to figure out where the newest one is - we can just save to Office Live.  I'm going to teach my students to do this as well so that they can share the files with me for our book, and so they can easily transport their term papers from computer to computer.

Office Live just makes sense for anyone using Microsoft Office and the shared workspaces are just wonderful.  It  has become much more stable with the recent patch and since I first tested it last spring.

10 - Surveyshare
If you're going to have survey data that you must aggregate and use statistical analysis and also have to do some sort of validation up front to ensure data integrity - this is our tool of choice for Flat Classroom.  This is one you have to pay for, but it is worth it to me.

11 - Diigo
Pulling in experts is so important, and to pull them in - we make diigo groups and have standard tags for the topics in our projects - then we just pull in some experts or educators and use the bookmarks to feed the current research in to the students. Sometimes, we tap into the tags used by super-researchers like Alan Levine.  We can also use this to bookmark problem issues or also the "best of" type things so we can mark best practices that should be recognized.


Up and Coming Tools

Learn Central
As upgrades and enhancements are added to this handy tool, Learn Central is a place to watch.  With Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0, behind this website, I predict amazing things to happen with this as Steve and Elluminate work to build the portal for educators to collaborate globally.

As we need cross platform publication and become more dependent on video -this tool will become very handy for syndication of our video podcasts.  As video podcasts aren't widely used yet, this is not on my top list - but it is fast approaching.

Now, I didn't include our blogging platforms, because certainly on the student side you need a place to share media, blog, and share audio and pictures -- we use Ning, but also have an edublog campus site for Julie's and my class merge this year.  These are really the tools to run the back end of things and I've found them most helpful.

There are so many useful tools out there which I haven't named, however, these are the essentials for the back end of things.

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Daily Spotlight on Education 09/15/2009

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Background on Vicki Davis

In case some of you don't really know anything about me or think that somehow I've been doing this forever - this interview I did on Certification Map gives you some background (if you really wanted to know.)

Shortened Version Reprinted from Certification Map  for the Long Version, please see their website:

Vicki Davis teaches business and technology courses at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia, which includes eighth grade Keyboarding, ninth grade Computer Fundamentals, tenth grade Introduction to Computer Science and a rotating series of electives including Current Events, Accounting, Digital Graphic Design, and Digital Filmmaking. Vicki is also the IT director for the school. Vicki has been teaching at Westwood for 7 years. Previously, she taught teachers and businesses how to effectively use technology in their careers and also taught adult technology courses for a local college.

Below is our interview with Vicki:

What inspired you to teach?
My mother founded our technology lab at Westwood in 1991 and is a hero of mine. I have three children at our school and want them to have the best of technology in ways that will help them learn. Two of my three children need technology to learn at their best and so I came here to make it happen!

What classroom methods are most helpful in pushing students towards their goals?
I don’t like the term push because that implies that students don’t have intrinsic motivation of their own. I think that differentiated instruction and its power to reach the different learning styles and tap into the different interests of students is the best because it encompasses so much of good teaching. The best teaching harnesses the power of student learning styles and interests to help students find their passion about the topic you’re teaching (their “angle”) and then in many ways it turns from the teacher pushing it to the teacher facilitating it. And at some point for me, after the year gets going and students become engaged, they are literally flying and I’m just hitching a ride on the wing as they soar into their own personal learning networks and become proficient at technology.

What is the one thing you wish you’d known when you started in the classroom?
I was lucky because my Mom and sister told me what every new teacher needs to know. “Your first year is the worst!” It was so true in a thousand ways, partially from my own inexperience but also because parents (and students) are testing the new teacher on the block. I wish that someone had talked to me about “the look” and the power of it. If you can master “the look” and discipline of proximity (kids close to you rarely act up) then you can fill your classroom with positive words and rarely have to say anything negative. Fred Jones’ Tools for Teaching talks about this technique very well.

Rest on Teacher Certification

It ends with this...

...If I ever think I have perfected teaching, it will be time to quit, because all of the best teachers I know are constantly reinventing themselves. I think of our learning lab director, who at 82, still is a prolific reader and adapting and doing new things — if I can capture that true love of teaching and dedication to learning in my life and career, perhaps at the end I can truly say I was good part of the most noble profession on earth next to parenting… teaching.

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