Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Angie helps keep me in check with the way children are different from a few years ago. She does love to hold a book and read, but is also a true "digital" child. We got to talking about other ways to read books and magazines. The eBook, an electronic version of a book, was one of our other solutions.
I have an account with Free-ebooks and was able to find some fiction and nonfiction titles from their thousands of offerings for her to downloaded to our PDA. The titles were available immediately and we transferred them to our desktop machine for her to be able to read later and not lose her place in the book. Manybooks is another good site with over 21,000 eBooks available as free downloads. They take donations to help keep the site up and running.
All of the eBooks we downloaded use the free software, Microsoft Reader that works on PC desktops, laptops, Tablet PCs, and Pocket PCs. The software is easy to install and use. The interface is simple so you can concentrate on your eBook. Since the eBooks were on the PDA and we had text-to-speech enabled, I am able to listen to the eBook while driving the car. It's exciting to watch her choose a title, start reading it and then jump from the page to a linked audio or video. Everything is hyperlinked, making it easy to go back to the written page or to another topic.
Using the technology comes easily and naturally to this younger generation. The next item on the Angie To-Do List is to create her own eBook. We're working on the story in MS Word 2003 and will be able to convert it using the Read in Microsoft Reader feature. The Table of Contents, hyperlinks and images will be automatically converted from Word to the eBook. As an upcoming fifth grader, she hasn't learned all about how to create the table of contents for her chapters - I'm off to lend some assistance.
I attended the Scholastic Banquet sponsored by the Kernersville Rotary Club the other night and was amazed at all the accomplishments of the top ten juniors and seniors from East High School and Glenn High School. The seniors were accepted by top-notch universities, all but a couple had declared their majors, and most had secured thousands of dollars in scholarships for the next four years of their lives. One item on the agenda that made this such a special event was when the seniors got together and gave an award and recognition to the teacher they had nominated as "Best Teacher of the Year." The students shared the reasons why and how this teacher influenced them. The number one reason was that the teacher had shown the students they really cared about them and wanted them to be all they could be and achieve their dreams.
When I was teaching in the classroom (let's just say I'm not quite as old as dirt) I used to ask my elementary students to write a paragraph about their year. Yes, it was on paper with a pencil but it had the same effect as when we do surveys with them online now. I did the survey so they didn't have to put their name on the paper. They seemed to feel more powerful and answered honestly because they were anonymous. Using some of their suggestions and ideas helped make me a better teacher with a progressive learning environment in the classroom.
A great way for teachers to do an end-of-the-year survey is to use the custom form page feature on their SchoolCenter website. Create text area boxes for their answers with open-ended questions asking for their honest opinions. The students could take the survey during a lab time or even from home. There will be some silly answers, but since they are anonymous you will probably get their true feelings. Not all the answers will be what you want to hear or read; some may make you really think about the way you've presented the material and hopefully there will be that one special response that makes your day, your year worth every minute of the time you've put into your teaching career.
In these last days of school, why not survey the students to find out what was important or not, how could the year be improved and ask for their HONEST opinion. We'll show them we are listening and they'll feel like they have been heard. All in all the year will end on a positive note.
ePals SchoolMail is a student-only email service that was founded in 1996. It is free to the users and free of advertising as well. Tim DiScipio, epals' co-founder stated "We're looking for educationally relevant sponsors and foundations." They develop partnerships with these businesses and organizations so SchoolMail is ad free. Students can then focus on the email. Although it is a free service, guidelines and educator controls are in place. While ePals maintains the overall filtering system of content and language, the teacher/monitor for the classroom can monitor all incoming and outgoing email, adjust the level of protections, establish settings determined by student ages and needs, block or regulate attachments and even limit correspondence to certain students or classrooms.Email is another way of providing cultural exchange for students around the world and preparing them for our global society. With SchoolMail there are no boundaries. It is easy to find another online classroom using the ePals map, which includes 8 regions with 200 countries using 136 languages. Educational projects with classrooms in the global community and virtual field trips allow students to be more connected and aware of the world around them. The email exchange with groups give them firsthand knowledge of each other's culture, help them develop a personal connection and see a lot of value in the other cultures.
Teachers monitor emails for appropriateness and being coherent; looking for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, no texting slang, and providing more insight to different terms used in different cutures such as "football vs soccer." These guidelines have shown a positive effect and writing to students with limited English helped improved students' writing skills. They were more careful with sentence structure and helped each other with grammar and spelling.
Younger students can use email to help them learn about other local schools, counties and states, cyber etiquette, and various parts of an email as part of the Standard Course of Study. Some teachers have expanded the one-to-one email features by creating a SchoolBlog to communicate as a group. They post questions, answer others' questions, and share ideas. The enthusiasm to participate and learn more on a subject increases dramatically when the students start receiving responses. They start asking more questions, learn new terms, and will login at home if have access.
Email is another way students can live in the "now" with their global community and become stronger in their education. Let's think how we can put them in touch with the world around them and how it can make a difference.
The times are "a changing." Information is out there for anyone to claim and use. Events are current, posted online almost to the minute of them happening. Several school systems are taking a look at the way information is given to students. They are making allowances for all the newer technologies - internet resources, interactive media, data devices. Districts are looking for ways to incorporate these technologies into their existing textbook curriculum to help with budget concerns and to help make the curriculum more interesting.
Our textbooks come up for adoption renewal every five years and the decisions are made for the next term based on information that has already happened and organized to fit our standard course of study. Some of the facts are already "wrong" before we start using the new texts because of the fast-paced changes in our world and society. Publishers have begun to use CDs with their textbooks, but even that is static information. They almost have their hands tied when it comes to textbooks because of having to prepare for all the different states' requirements, standards, and budgets.
Indiana has taken the initiative to ask publishers to provide better and more interesting materials that incorporate the newer technologies. Virginia is using a nonprofit organization to help them develop their own content and has textbooks in physics, math, and biology online. Chapters and lab experiments have been developed by teachers and are posted for other teachers to use. Textbooks haven't been replaced, only supplemented with online instructional materials. Florida is trying to provide more flexibility in their budget by allowing the school districts to use instructional material funds for texts or anything else. Once the teachers and students have gotten a taste for materials that are online, interactive, or otherwise digital, I think it would be much easier to bring the textbooks to life.
I believe we need textbooks, whether they are paper or a digital resource. As our world changes minute by minute, hopefully publishers will try to keep up (or ahead) and provide us with more possibilities for teaching materials. Learning styles, as well as ways to find and receive information, have changed. Let's try to keep improving the quality of the educational materials we provide for the students.
The site has the largest collection of stories from a wide variety of writers. The topics are limitless. There are featured stories, blogs, Top 10 list, videos and pictures available - all without registering for an account. Once you have setup your free account, you can begin writing your story, decide whether to let everyone read it or share it with a special group. The Timeline feature is very interesting in that you can set a time and date of when your story, pictures, or videos can be viewed. Some are going to go public in a few hours and others are not going to be ready for months or years. Can you imagine the changes in our lives from now till then?
I got to thinking of ways my sisters and I could capture the events in my parents' lives that would help us hold onto them a little longer. We have the pictures and taped conversations. There are some stories written down on paper. Maybe this would be a good way for us to keep the story alive.
Another online solution to help you learn vocabulary and similar material is a fairly new website (only four years old) called Quizlet. It was developed by a 15-year old in 2005 to help himself learn a big assignment of French terms. The main idea behind the site is to make learning vocabulary fun. By making it fun, the learning is more effective and retained longer.
Vocabulary words from almost any subject can be found and used on the site without a login. Scoring is done on the spot, term lists can be printed out, and flashcard templates are available. Teachers and students are creating and sharing the quizzes. Thousands of new flashcard sets are created daily and hundreds are online, either creating more flashcards or using the site.
This site is a great way to test your knowledge and makes you want to get the answers right. It is another fun resource to introduce, practice, or test your vocabulary.
Time flies by and new technologies are developed even faster. If you think about it, someone is usually already working on it. Now we don't have to install a program on one computer to create timelines and print them out to share with others in the class. I've been working with two web-based timeline programs: Timeglider (used to be Mnemograph) and Timeline Builder.
Although you need to sign up for an account, Timeglider is free and there is an educational account. They only ask for feedback as payment. Some of the timelines featured on the front page represent historical events such as "The Wright Brothers" and "World War I". Dates appear when you hover the mouse over an event title and annotations show in pop-up windows when you click on the title. It is very easy to create your own timeline by giving it a title and start entering your own events or importing them. This collection of events becomes your timeline. Images and links can be added to the events or imported through RSS feeds, Flickr, Wikipedia and Facebook. Timeglider is working on "how to" videos and has an easy to use set of instructions.
Timeline Builder is web based and provided by The Center for History and New Media. Their collection of historical timelines are called projects with three sections: Teaching & Learning, Research & Tools, and Collecting & Exhibiting. Some of the timelines use images, essays, and discussions to tell the story and others have video that walk you through the time period of events. The collections are made available from digital records, archived documents, and historical exhibits. Again you will need to create your free account to start building a timeline. The program is in Beta format - a work in progress. Although you will be able to share your timeline with others through a URL generated as you add events, Timeline Builder doesn't have as many features available through the free account. It comes with five categories for your events but you can't change the colors for the categories or change the default names. When you enter an event, it only accepts the month and year. This gets a little confusing as you add events for the same month. Adding pictures is not an option at this point in time. As they update the Builder, I look forward to being able to create a timeline as detailed as their collections.
Creating and sharing stories and events on a timeline have definitely changed since my first years of teaching. Using all the different types of media available now allow the students to use their creativity to the fullest. As mentioned before, the more we have, the more we want. Just think how we will be able to share a timeline of events six months from now - touch a screen and drag the information from another source into the timeline calendar or speak to the computer and tell it where to look for the information and pull it into your timeline.
Wait - we are thinking about it. I wonder who is already developing the way to do it!
Gizmos is an online simulation program for science and math. It has multimedia activities for grades 3-5, 6-8. and 9-12. The activities target higher order thinking skills. Because they are visual and interactive, students seem to enjoy practicing the skills. ExploreLearning follows the research findings of Robert Marzano's teaching strategies that show positive effects when students use computer-based manipulatives.
The 380+ multimedia activities are correlated to state standards and textbook adoptions. When you go to the site, scroll down to the bottom of the page and choose "Gizmo correlations (to states and textbooks)" to go to their catalog listing. There you can browse through Math, Science, state correlations, textbook correlations, or a full list of their collection - by grade level or topic. Each of the NC standards had one or more activities linked to it. Included for the activity was Teacher Materials and Student Lesson Materials with guides, objectives, vocabulary and assessments.
Gizmos will let you work on any of the activities, but if you stay on one for longer than five minutes, it will kick you back to the main screen and ask you to login or register to try a free, 30-day trial version. Once you're registered, you can copy graphs that have been created during the activity and paste them into a document. There is a screenshot feature and you can design your own worksheets from the pictures and documents.
I saw lots of possibilities with the computer-based manipulatives and especially using them with an interactive whiteboard. Think of all the fun you could have "seeing" your problem "come to life."
Students can use RentCalculators' Free Online Graphing Calculator with ease. It is online and accessible anytime they need to use a calculator for their homework. Once the link is clicked, the window can be resized to full-screen. Just type in the problem to be solved through one of the tabs - Equations, Settings, Intersection, and Plot Points - and see the immediate results.
This organization uses donations to help make technology affordable for students. Their goal for 2009 is to make the first month's rental free. Check out their site and share the wealth!
I read an article by Nick Yingling about how to improve your musical knowledge at TrainEar.com. This is the web home for a Free Online Ear Training program. Numerous resources are made available to help you learn how to play music by ear - starting out at a beginner level with simple melodies. The program teaches intervals and the basic concept is learning the distance between notes. Watching the beginning tutorial on how to use the program is a must to learn how to use it. Then with practice, it became easier and made sense.
The Pictorial Guide is very helpful; explaining how to move through the 12 intervals. Some of the options are:
- Limiting the number of questions.
- Playing the notes in a different order
- Creating your own songs
Music teachers and their students would enjoy this program. It would be another way for them to practice and learn music when not in class. For more options, check out the 10+ sites and programs listed on their site for more online ear training.
It is about the size of a small paperback book but thin as a credit card and only weighs in at 10.2 ounces. Most of the books I read are a lot heavier than that. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, the cost is just over $35 per ounce. All the controls to turn the pages, go Home or Back, or pull up menus are easily accessible. The full keyboard and 3G wireless access makes it a breeze to order more books, magazines, newspapers or visit blogs. It will hold up to 1500 titles.
Downloads are $9.99 or less and can be done in 60 seconds or less. This is much cheaper than most of the books I buy. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King and most of his books are hundreds of pages long and several inches thick. He has written a book just for Kindle called UR. If you turn the wireless off, the battery could last up to two weeks. Its text-to-speech feature is a big selling point for me because I check out a lot of books on tape from the library so I can "read" while I drive. The Kindle will let you switch back and forth from it "reading to you" or you sitting somewhere and reading from its display with 16 shades of grey and adjustable text size. For those of us that are getting older and may not carry our glasses all the time, this is a great feature. Now most cars don't have a cassette player in them and it's not that easy to find all the books on CD.
Connect the Kindle to your computer and you can download MP3 files to it so you can listen to your favorite music while reading. Since it has wireless, you can even email Word or PDF files. Amazon tries to have every book title available on their site and they have over 230,000 titles available for the Kindle. Whether you like to read books, magazines, newspapers, or blogs, the Kindle will be an asset. I just hope the price for this new and exciting technology comes down soon.
The top stories and articles in The Sunday Times of London, The Washington Post and The Australian all mention the physicist, Alex Wissner-Gross, and he posits that a single Google search generates 7g of CO2 versus 15g for a tea kettle. He calls it a "definite environmental impact." Other studies show books, cheeseburgers, and definitely cars emitting more than 350-500 times more CO2. Looks like Google is definitely on the low end of emissions; but with more than 200 million Google internet searches done daily, we should have a concern regarding the massive amounts of electrical energy required to power a user's computer and then send the request to multiple servers. Some articles feature Google as the bad guy with secrets and everytime anyone does a search they are contributing to the problem.
According to Google's response to both the Times and The Australian, a single search is actually only 0.2 g of CO2. A Google Australian spokesman stated, "They are trying to be in the forefront of green computing. We've committed to being carbon-neutral worldwide - that is, zero net emissions - for 2007 and beyond, by creating what we believe to be the most energy-efficient data centers in the world, using renewable energy sources and investing in high-quality carbon offset projects." This will be a tough job since everyone wants their search results faster and each search goes through more than one server. There are servers in the US, Europe, Japan, and China; each emitting CO2.
I agree with Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch.com that Google may actually be helping our environment in one way. Getting information through searches (takes just a few seconds) creates much less CO2 for the planet than getting in my car and driving somewhere, especially when I have to go to a second or third location to complete the task.
We, as educators, should try not to fall under the spell of using this new technology just because it is there; but to find the educational benefits of wikis. One way would be to encourage students to compare this source of information with other sources. Check, re-check, trust but verify.
These new tools allow everyone to have input on any and all subjects. They show advantages in keeping users up-to-date and the “first to know.” As students complete school projects through the use of blogs, podcasts, and wikis, they use skills such as doing research, writing and editing, and collaborating with others.
Sometimes there seems to be a fine line on knowing when to use these technologies, when to reject them, and which one fits the appropriate situation. Hopefully we can guide students to make informed decisions so they will know when it is appropriate to use the technologies.
I'm looking forward to seeing more presentations from Will Richardson on UStream.
NCSIGS) booth where people with similar educational interests and issues could Get Connected! to share resources, best practices, and collaborate on new technologies. There are 17 groups available on the Ning with more to come as the interests unfold. You can join as many of the groups as you have an interest in and join throughout the year. I look forward to being a part of this initiative and sharing the resources.
Over 80 vendors and sponsors were available to discuss ways of integrating technology into the curriculum with their latest resources. I wasn’t lucky enough to win one of the document cameras, iPods, or periodical subscriptions, but it wasn’t because I didn’t try.
Ron Clark was our luncheon speaker – what adventures in life he has had and created. Started teaching in rural North Carolina, taught in Harlem, honored by the President for his accomplishments, wrote a best seller, and started The Ron Clark Academy just to mention a few. He is very inspirational and makes you want to hang onto every word to hear what he might say next. The hardest part is keeping up with him – there are no limits on his energy.
Notes from the sessions I attended are on our NCTIES 2010 wiki. Hope you enjoy and maybe discover an adventure or two for you and your classroom.
Students would find this a good resource on any computer for all subjects. They could create their list of definitions for a particular assignment or topic and then bookmark it for later use or even send that link to other members of the class. Divide and conquer the work load!
Linking Ninja Words on your blog would allow students to quickly look up words they were having trouble with understanding or pronouncing while reading the blog articles.
Firefox or IE 7+ allows you to type in the Ninja Words address plus the words in question in your search toolbar and will bring up definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and thesaurus examples.
For those of you with an iPhone, try out the Ninja Words application by Matchstick Software. Some of the features listed on the site are:
• Thesaurus (each definition has synonyms)
One of my favorite features would be Pronunciations! Although it requires network access, it has audio pronunciations for words with a click on the speaker icon. I wonder if there are different languages.
So, if you want to be like a Ninja – smart, accurate, and really fast – try using Ninja Words the next time you need a definition.