Friday, July 18, 2008

iTunes K-12

Did you know iTunes offers a K-12 resource section for teachers, parents, and students? Ready for the best part? Most of the things offered in this section are free! This is part of iTunes University or "iTunes U."

iTunes U has a large variety of podcasts available for download. One of the things I stumbeled across in my search was "Ask a Biologist," a program from ASU's Life and Sciences department. The podcasts episodes revolve around interviews with a scientist and his work in the life science field. Another interesting find was from Utah State. They actually have language lessons for the Navajo language. Montclair Public Schools in New Jersey has an entire section on various literature studies.

How do you access iTunes U?

Once in iTunes, click on the iTunes Store link on the left side of the screen. Then, click on iTunes U in the top left corner of the screen. This will take you to the main iTunes U page. Under the Find Education Providers about midway down the page on the left side, click the K-12 button. This will take you to the listing for all schools participating in this program. Happy hunting!

Apple - Engaging Today’s Learners with Innovative Technologies

This session was so much fun! We used many different technology tools to complete an experiment. (Some I have already and the others Melanie and I are dying to purchase after getting to use them!) The activities we did all centered on the topics of Global Awareness and becoming a 21st Century Learner. We explored the health of Wolf River, a river in Tennessee. This lesson can be adapted to any river/body of water. The tools can also be adapted to any subject area. Oh, the possibilities…

We began with hands on exploration of water samples and specimen samples from different parts of Wolf River. Each group was equipped with a Mac book, Proscope, a probe to analyze the water, and samples.

The sample items in our group included flowers, pine cones, small branches, etc. We had the opportunity to use the Proscope (I am dying to buy this one!) to take pictures of all of our items. Of course we all know how easy Macs are to use, but this was just a breeze. Plug in the Proscope, touch it to the object you want a picture of, “pull the trigger” and your picture is automatically on the Mac ready to use. No memory sticks, no discs, no formatting the pictures – just point and click and you are ready to go.

After we gathered all of our data and pictures, we compiled it to make a photo book using iPhoto. If you haven’t experimented with this program, you will love it! We simple dragged and dropped the photos we took with the Proscope into an album in iphoto and created a digital book of our findings. The digital books can either be printed from your classroom or created professionally and mailed to you with the click of a button. For this lesson, the books were printed to be presented to the local water authority so they could see the health of the river.

Next, we used iChat to hear from a local expert. We had the opportunity to interact with him – asking questions and sharing files – to gain more information about the river.
We used a Wiki to collaborate with other groups as we researched and to share our findings. Each group had their own page on the Wiki to which we uploaded podcasts that we created through GarageBand as public service announcements and asked each other questions. We explored blogs on water quality all over the world and shared our findings with many other classrooms. (You can also use a Ning for this type of sharing.)

My mind is racing with a million ideas for these tools in the classroom!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Apple's Tour of 21st Century Learning

Apple team members started out our session today with a startling mashup of facts.

* In Today's edition of USA TODAY it was reported that this is the first time we are having a higher number of births than the record in 1957. What does that mean for us as educators? More teachers will be needed! States across the country are rehiring the retiring teachers and reconsidering their DROP programs.


* The number of college graduates each year per country:
US 1.3 million
India 3.1 million
China 3.3 million

* How many searches are done on Google every month?
Approximately 2,700,000,000 !

* 50% of 21 year olds have created content on the web
they have: played 10,000 hours of video games
spoken 10,000 hours on the phone
have sent 250,000 emails or instant messages

Students shouldn't have to power down when they come to school. Are we preparing students for a global, digital economy? Will they be ready?

The Requirements and Rewards of a 21st Century School:

1) Figuring out the right questions and using skills to solve new problems
2) Working in teams
3) Working across discipline
4) Learning to find, communicate and apply information

5) Initiative and leadership in flat organizations and taking responsible risks
6) Merging time and commitments and prioritizing flexible time

These are just a sampling of some of the discussions we had in our tour of 21st Century Learning today. Many of these things seem centered upon Karl Fisch's Did You Know? video, which was an eye opener for me a year ago when I first saw it. As our school begins to take the shape of a 21st Century learning environment, I will use these suggested guidelines to help me in brainstorming, planning and following through with what we do as we enter this new frontier in learning.
What steps are you taking in your school?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Virtual or Face-to-Face...It's all about Relationships

Those of you that know me know how much I love technology. If I have a free moment - I'm logging in to see what I can learn and to practice what I want to learn.

Over a year ago now, I stumbled across twitter and became connected with other educators around the world who have pointed me in a direction with my professional development that I couldn't ever have imagined. Those relationships have led to professional growth, personal growth and a new direction in my career (looks like I'll be full time in technology next year). I have never felt more energized and connected about what is new in my practice and how it could be implemented. I truly can attribute all of that to the educators I meet
and follow online.

When I arrived at NECC and saw how many of the people I know virtually were there literally...I wanted to try and document it visually for you and give you the way to connect with some of these amazing educators also. So here are a few I tracked down for photos.

Jeff Utecht
Formerly of Shanghai American School
Next Year will go to Bangkok
The Thinking Stick

jutecht on twitter

Stephanie Sandifer
Houston, TX
Change Agency
ssandifer on twitter

Maria Knee
Deerfield, NH
The Kinder Kids' Classroom
MariaK on twitter

David Jakes
Naperville, IL
Strength of Weak Ties
djakes on twitter

Dean Shareski
Moose Jaw, SK, Canada
Ideas and Thoughts from an Ed Tech
shareski on twitter

Kevin Jarrett
Northfield, NJ
Welcome to NCS-Tech!
kjarrett on twitter

Ginger Lewman
Ginger TPLC on twitter

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
Virginia Beach, VA
21st Century Learning
snbeach on twitter

Nedra Isenberg
Holland Patent Schools, NY
My Journey into the World of Elem. Tech

hockeymom1788 on twitter

Adam Frey
Co-founder of Wikispaces

Vicki Davis
Camilla, GA
Cool Cat Teacher
coolcatteacher on twitter

Thanks to you all for being a part of my network and inspiring me on my journey. :)

** cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

A Grateful Student

My last and final session caused me to be reflective and appreciative.

Leadership 2.0: Using Technology to Lead Others
The presenters were from Nashville Public –Schools Tennessee
The first 10-15 minutes of the session the presenters were troubleshooting technology problems. This particular piece of technology has caused me problems in the past and I totally related and it just made me grumpy. The appreciative part for me came when they excitedly announced they had just received laptops for their principals and teachers last week. They were elated and my heart sank. We are so fortunate in our school. We have had our laptops for over 10 years. Yea, I know we have had minor issues but can you only imagine just receiving technology tools to increase student achievement? Last week?
Before I left for the conference one of my colleagues had pulled up the blue screen of death. She was in a panic and quite frankly so was I. I didn’t know if it was even possible to recover the stuff (tons of stuff) on her hard drive. I jumped on my computer and typed the words “helpdesk”, placed the work order and followed up with a phone call. My knight in shining armor arrived to take care of everything, our tech, Mike Roberts. I can tell you he has taken care of our team numerous times. In the past I have moaned when something didn’t work properly and lesson plans had to be changed. Well, you will see a new attitude of gratefulness in me; for our tools, our tech department and most of all for the opportunities given to my faculty. I am a thankful girl.

Finally, if you choose do nothing but follow the links and videos that Melanie, Susan and I gathered for you, you will be rich in resources and information.
I am so overwhelmed that my feet are still not touching the ground with all the gathered information. We couldn’t attend everything and we couldn’t speak with everyone, however we did gather as much as possible to bring home to our CCE family and I hope you will find the tools as priceless as I have. I am so appreciative to all of you for allowing this technology dream to come true for me.

Copyright & Technology: Helping Students and Teachers Understand the Issues [Session : Lecture]
Tony Jongejan, Western Washington University Tuesday, 7/1/2008, 2:00pm–3:00pm; HGCC 103 A
Explore copyright rules for classroom media (e.g., music, video, software), resources, and activities to use with students and teachers when discussing copyright issues.

His lecture notes.

Closing Keynote. Dr. Idit Harel Caperton preented her recent invention in 1:1 computing—the Globaloria Networks complete with cases of how today’s social media technology is creating opportunities for student collaboration and global exchange never before possible.

Marzano and Web 2.0: Ed Tech that Works

Marzano and Web 2.0: Ed Tech That Works [Session : Lecture]

Marzano’s Classroom Instruction That Works is a collection of effective strategies, organized into nine broad categories, culled from a meta-analysis of decades of research on what works in classrooms to improve student learning and increase student achievement. This meta-analysis was conducted by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock. In this session, we will explore Web 2.0 tools and strategies such as blogging, wikis, and other web-based interactive tools that align with and support these research-based instructional strategies in the classroom.
This was a standing room only session that could have lasted all day. Believe me I would have stood for a couple of days to learn from her.
Stephanie D. Sandifer serves as an instructional coach at a Houston, Texas high school, is author of the Change Agency blog, and also writes for the LeaderTalk blog. She is an extraordinary presenter with her expertise and understanding of the time limitations of teachers however she also encouraged all of us to use the web 2.0 tools to save numerous hours of planning, producing, and organizing to increase student achievement. I really could write a lot about this session but Stephanie allowed us to have her NECC handouts, notes, and more via the wiki Web2ThatWorks. It can’t get any better than this.
I bet you won’t be able to tear yourself away from all of these valuable tools.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Who Can Make a Video in 10 Minutes? Us!

Who Can Make a Video in 10 Minutes? You!
Rushton Hurley, Nextvista for Learning
You and your students can use free software to do powerful projects with video—learn how, and receive resources and project ideas. Using Windows Movie Maker on PC or iMovie on Mac.
Who is Rushton Hurley? He introduced himself as Rushton Hurley…teacher…trainer…non-profit guy, however he is so much more.
This idea of helping students become more engaged in and confident with their learning is one that drives his passion and resources to make his project succeed.

Oh my goodness, I was truly in my element when I walked into this room. Mr. Hurley opened his session with such a dramatic flair and of course hooked all of us. He simply started out showing a video. Click on the link, after you watch the video, come back and read on. Trust me, you feel like you there in person.

His point : Video has power! I’ll say.
Video production pushes a student to go for excellence where in other projects it is like pulling teeth to just have the student turn an assignment in. He believes kids need to know each one of them have something to teach to others and this is a great way to establish that. The process of video production allows the exceptional student to shine. Rushton shared his personal experiences of his students who were ranking at the bottom of the class completely turned their peers’ opinions around about themselves through video production. They felt they had something to offer the class. Isn’t this interesting?

To begin to use this powerful tool all that you need is the following:
Windows Movie Maker
or iMovie
Computer w/ the free software
Still camera
Camcorder with firewire and an microphone input or a Flip camera
He suggested a great supplier-BHPhotovideo

Planning is the key when using video as a teaching tool!
For example:
  • set 1 minute time limit
  • no violence or martial arts
  • start small (ex. Podcast/slideshows)
  • present the option of working alone or 1 or 2 others
  • even give alternatives- (they could create a poster)
    Always look for the free options for video production like Photostory for PC
  • Garage Band-Mac
    He told us to encourage the students to use their own creation of music using Audacity used on a PC or Garage Band used on a Mac if not using a copyright friendly site.
    Copyright friendly sites:
  • Partnersinrhyme
    Why should an educator use this powerful tool?
    1. It is another way for a student to say, “I belong in this class too”.
    2. To build confidence.
    3. Improve quality of student work
    4. Great for LD students
    5. Impact it has on their lives as an accomplishment
    6. They produce for an audience
    Remember when a kid produces a video he is saying “this is my world”.
    He was most impressive when he started the timer and he literally completed a project in 10 minutes right before our eyes and you can too.
    I hope that you will consider using this amazing way to engage student learning.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Give Second Life a try!

I have been wanting to know more about Second Life and have been avoiding learning about it (yes, me, avoiding learning) because..
A) it looks complicated
B) it looks like playing and
C) I haven't had time.
BUT - many, many educators that I follow that I know for a fact know way more than me, have said, "You HAVE to learn about Second Life."

First of all, what is Second Life?
Second Life® is a 3-D virtual world created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe.
  • From the moment you enter the World you'll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you've explored a bit, perhaps you'll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.

  • You'll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow Residents. Because Residents retain intellectual property rights in their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other Residents.

  • The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the inworld unit of trade, the Linden™ dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online Linden dollar exchanges.
**taken from

This is where your elementary students will go after they outgrow Webkinz, Club Penguin and other virtual worlds. These are real places where people work, earn money, learn new things.

In the session I went to they showed us a nursing school using Second Life for interaction building lungs, to discover which are healthy or not. In another session, a college literature professor has built her literature classroom in Second Life and students must visit "Beowulf"'s area to interact as a part of their assignments. Students all "show up" at a designated time.

Pros in Second Life here at NECC encourage you to get out of education areas and go into other areas to make connections with people and business. They say, "If you are going to be a part of the future, you can not NOT go into Second Life."


So...taking my own advice about "getting wet"...even though I was unsure...I dove in. I built an avatar (character that represents me) in Second Life and was "born". (That part was a little scary - you just fall out of the sky into a virtual world.) Then I found out really quick that if you don't walk and move somewhere, the next person born will drop in on you. That was weird. So I began moving around the beginning island that is set up to orient you with how to use your avatar. There are mini tutorials to run through.

I ran through some more the second night and began to get tired of strange people like me who didn't know how to work the darn thing - we're all running into each other! I went to seek out Kevin Jarrett, my twitter pal, for some help because he has been saying for months that Second Life is a must do! He said he'd straighten me out in a few minutes, and he did! He got me off that island and got me over to the Educators Island so now I am there in my virtual space! Whoo Hooo! I can't wait to see what comes next.

Now it's time for me to make connections - to hook up with other educators who can direct me to the learning available. There are online events, projects to view and places to exciting! If you've been on this journey yourself --- I can't wait to hear your tips. If not, consider stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something new!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thinkfinity? Free Standards-Based Resources for 21st-Century Learners
Jennifer Fritschi, Verizon Foundation Thinkfinity
Struggling to find ways to address specific state standards while also incorporating 21st-century skills such as problem solving and critical thinking?

I couldn't wait to go home and play with all of the great resources that I gathered in this amazing presentation. Just read below what she shared with everyone.

She told us that many times the teachers ask: Where can I find quality resources to address these specific skills but with a limited budget? What does 21st Century teaching and learning look like? How can I teach discrete skills from the state standards while at the same time incorporating 21st Century skills such as innovation and creativity?

She shared that offers a free high quality solution that responds to these challenges. Thinkfinity’s 55,000+ free resources have been aligned to each of the state’s standards while also serving as great resources for addressing 21st Century skill building. resources are at no cost, are commercial free and are created by the nation’s experts, the Thinkfinity Content Partners: American Association for the Advancement of Science, International Reading Association, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The National Council of Teachers of English, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council on Economic Education, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Geographic Society, National Center for Family Literacy, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and ProLiteracy Worldwide.

Did you notice all of the great business sponsors and partners that are listed? That is big time because now we have complete access to their tools.
The most profound thing that I walked away with is the fact that we can learn about cultures, gather lesson plans and actually view videos about just about anything, totally free.

Make sure that you all look for terrific resources for your virtual learning adventure.

Web2.0logist :)

One of the highlights of any conference is meeting people that you have only met through the virtual world. You should see Melanie as she walks around in paradise rubbing elbows with the who's who. It is magical. One of the best days for me was meeting Cheryl Capozzoli, Instructional Technology Specialist of the Susquehanna Township School District in Harrisburg, Pa.
She is a little dynamo that has such an enthusiasm for technology and helping teachers, I immediately connected with her. After we met briefly she presented and it was a whirlwind. Just the few moments before her presentation were so telling of her philosophies and passion I just couldn’t believe it. Then the real work began as she quickly and I mean quickly took us on a tour of her wiki site.
Once you link to her site you will understand why I am so excited. Don’t be afraid of the strange vocabulary, just roll with it and try to digest everything in little bites.
Take a quick look at her vision.

Cheryl’s Vision
It would be advantageous for schools to begin evaluating their fiscal spending in regards to instructional tools and support. I would love to see the following in classrooms all over the world.

Instructional technology support through specialists and mentors
Professional development that encompasses demonstrations and time to practice new instructional skills
Paperless classroom environments
Digital Text books - NO MORE HEAVY BOOKS!! - Get Amazon's KINDLE!!!
Laptops - one/child PC's and Mac - both environments to ensure more tech platform literate students
Interactive white boards/LCD projecors
Free Web 2.0 Alternatives to expensive site liscense softwares - Google Aps, Zoho, Drawanywhere, Splashup
Student Email - ePals, gaggle, Google for Schools email
Cell Phone use - they use them anyway, get them to use them constructively Mobile networks and technology continue advancing
Nintedo DS or Palm pilots - great for group work and communication
GPS gadgets - geocahing is the bomb
Online interactive classroom environments - Moodle, Learnhub, Yacapaca, Visionlearning
Classroom social learning networks - ning, wikis, blogs
Classroom global communications - ePals, Taking IT Global, Skype, ooVoo, Vawkr, Palbee
Student Peer Trainers - online live help -, WizIQ, liveperson, vawkr
Microphones/speakers - tape audio for podcasts
Digital still and video cameras - demos, digital story telling

Now I know that was a little overwhelming but you have to admit, she's got the right stuff.

So I thought if you want to just bite a little off of her wiki, start with the Best Practices link on left of the page, you will be wowed with the 2.0 web tools.

My favorite word that she uses alot is FREE.

I can't wait to share more.

K!2 Online - Our Way to Grow

Blended and self-directed professional development is the training teachers need for the 21st century. K12 Online is the way to make that happen. - Wes Fryer

Darren Kuropatwa streamed in live over the internet from Canada to share his experiences last year with K12 Online. It is an online conference for professional development online. Presented by individuals involved in cutting edge 21st century learning. It is marked by the passion of the people participating. Dip your toe in and see what is there. It is free, that's!

Bud Hunt did the keynote from his car, porch and basement. It was truly that homegrown. K12 Online - everyone takes turns driving the learning and riding the learning. It's up to all of us to make connections. Why shouldn't teachers just have their own professional development? Because we will perpetuate what we already know. It's nice to learn from other places, hear about issues and how they are overcome . These are conversations that should be happening.

A district tech integration specialist from Alabama tried to figure out a way to provide her teachers cutting edge tech training for the one day they had. She set it up so the teachers would listen to the podcast or video on K12 Online all at the same time that day. They were able to choose sessions that applied to them as learners. One great way to choose is by academic needs at school. Talk about meeting differientiated needs!

Jeff Utecht - formerly of Shanghai American School had the idea of hosting a LAN party (Local Area Network - haha) He had pot luck dinners at his apartment for four Saturdays where everyone brought food and then after dinner they would break up in the apartment with computers and headphones for an hour and then would come back as a group and podcast their thoughts.

Sheryl NussbaumBeach
spoke about the Live events on K12 Online - fireside chats and "when night falls" events are a way to connect internationally with other educators. Conversations with other educators can transform our thinking.

The great thing about this conference that is coming again this year... is that because it is online you can go view LAST year's sessions now. AND, did I mention it is free?

Flat Classroom - A Global Collaboration Initiative

Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis started the Flat Classroom Project after meeting through twitter and email. Vicki is from Georgia and Julie is from Qatar, Doha.

The term flat classroom was born from studying the book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. You can read about what Julie and Vicki's classes did here.

You know your classroom is flat if:
1) You and your students expect to have regular, if not daily, conversations with teachers and students from other places in the world.

2) You and your students communicate, collaborate and create products that make a difference to the world with other people in different countries.

We broke up in groups according to interest and planned how we would like to start flat classroom projects in our schools. I joined in on the elementary group conversation. There are so many things we want to do! The possibilities are limitless...

The first step is to join the ning network for this project to be able to hook up with other educators involved and interested...
We'll post projects or create our own and invite other people to join in... This is definitely the step we need to take to lead our students into global awareness and becoming digital citizens. Are you up for the challenge?

Podcasting with Audacity

Chris Hamburg started this session by having us use this dialogue in a podcast as an example of what he does with his students first.

Person 1: I've been waiting for you.
Person 2: I'm sorry I'm late.

Person 1: That's OK.
Person 2: Thank you.
Person 1: I have something for you.
Person 2: What is it?
Person 1: This.

By adding audio files such as creepy music, gunshots, piano playing or others, it changes the genre of the conversation. It could be a nice conversation or a dangerous conversation...
The students love doing this.

We practiced recording, importing and exporting files and it was really quite easy. Just download the free program, Audacity. If you create an audio file for your own use, that is just an audio file. In order for it to truly be a podcast you have to register it with itunes or Podomatic to create an RSS feed.
What is an RSS feed? Watch here:

Chris uses these sites for his files, but always has the kids give credit to the file and location of where it came from at the end of the podcast.
Creative Commons (free) music
Free Sound Effects
Do you podcast? Give us your tips and tricks!

The Ripple Effect - 21st Century Innovations That Matter

This session made a case for how using digital innovations could transform education and have a global impact as students are required to become prepared to enter a interdependent global workforce. Several points where explored.

1 - Learning with Understanding Works - this has to do with how information is transfered from short to long term memory and the number of synapsis used to transfer the information - it takes less when context comes into play.

2 - Prior Knowledge Counts - preconceptions must be made visible to students.

3 - Self Direction is Critical - students must be able to independently manage their own time

4 - Collaboration Advances Complex Learning - collaboration trumps competition everytime
5 - Multimodal Learrning - working memory can hold only 7 bits of information at a time, auotmaticity means your working memory is freed up to hold new things
6 - Creativity and Critical Thinking - can be taught acroos all domains
7 - System Thinking - Classrooms fall across a continuum of preparedness for 21st century learning - is yours a 1 or a 10?

Check out this website for more...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Interactive Video Conferences?

IVC Showcase
Kansas Goes Mandarin
IVC (interactive video conferencing) makes it possible.
This showcase was presented by Ann Lundy, South Central Kansas Education Service Center and featured Audra May, Zhang Kun

This project began because the state of Kansas charged the districts with the expectation that every student by 2011 would be exposed to Mandarin Chinese. They have a lot of companies that send their employees to China to train and sometimes live there. The district began by just using a phone conference between an instructor and students and then evolved to interactive video conferencing. They employed an international teacher from China to teach state-wide which evolved into reaching students across the country. This could have never been possible without the Polycom technology. As the international speaker popped up on the screen she had the audience’s attention. She spoke English beautifully and shared her lovely culture with us, via video conference from Kansas. She explained a paraprofessional is used in most cases in the physical classroom while she virtually teaches the students. My mind was flowing with ideas of how we could video conference a teacher into our community and present cultures from all over the world using our pre-existing Tandberg equipment that has been shared by the Schultz Center. Even though we use the equipment at least 2-4 times per month, can you imagine the number of opportunities that lay just ahead for us.

Next stop… Polycom and Tandberg exhibitors to find out what options we have for our students and teachers.

Hang on to your cowboy hats, Chets, because I think we are about to embark on another great adventure.

Authentic Mexican Birthday - Ole!

Last night was my principal Susan's birthday and since we're in San Antonio, we HAD to do it up Mexican style. The locals recommended us heading off the beaten path to Mi Tierra restaurant. Walking in we knew we had come to the right place! The lobby is a Mexican bakery - we resisted but it sure looked good!

We had Susan serenaded by mariachis in Spanish and English! Then ordered our food trying to ignore the fact that "tender young goat baked to perfection" was on the menu and when it came...bleeeech! It was yucky! I personally ordered chicken and I'm not 100% sure it wasn't goat - two bites was all I could stomach. Why am I telling you this? After our trip to Hollywood, people want to know about the fabulous food we're eating. Well, so far, that is not happening, BUT we did have a great time otherwise and it was an adventure!

Happy Birthday Susan!

The Great Race

We pounced out of bed this morning with great anticipation of what the day would bring. I had already prepared my game plan of what I would attend and soak up. Little did I know with a conference this size that I would have to be a flexible 1st timer. My first stop on my learning adventure was none other than the “The Great Race”. Two teachers with vision shared their story of taking a lesson plan of creating a cross country great race to the next level with fifth grade students. They started small, just using their own classes and then they kicked it up a notch. And that is an understatement.

The Great Race: A Virtual Race Across America
presented by Katrina Moore and Kathy Mohr

They shared how they coordinated the work of 40 classes from Ohio to Texas virtually to see which class could get from Jamestown in Virginia to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. The winning class was chosen by spending the least amount of money, in the quickest time and at the same time hitting the most states. The students walked away with many real-life applications. On their virtual journey the students found out a watermelon in Alaska costs $35.00. That's real life.

This dynamic duo used the site moodle to document their trip using journals, upload video and store tons of teacher resources.
Don’t neglect looking at their site. I challenge you.

I couldn’t help thinking about how our own work at Chets has been similar taking just a small idea and creating something really big.

I am anxious to see how many of our teachers check the information out and use it in their own classroom. The mission of the presenters was accomplished as I left with ideas and questions of how we can make an idea like this work at Chets Creek. The interactive video-conference piece was really what had pulled me in but I left with more ideas of how students can virtually cross the country and even the world.

Scratch - Teaching kids programming

This session was taught by Christopher Michaud from Nebo Elementary in GA.

Why teach programming to elementary students?
1) It allows students to encode and reflect on sequential and logical thought in a dynamic system.
2) It provides real application to math concepts - coordinate plain, directions, grids/arrays
3) Game making is a form of storytelling
4) Develops technological fluency

Scratch was developed by MIT to teach young students programming concepts and develop skill in multimedia communication. It is easy, fun and visual. It's object oriented so reading level doesn't really apply.'s free!

If you go to Christopher's site he has tutorials for practice. We practiced making a sprite perform an action. Such as...pac man eating in a maze. This took me a while, but I could see elementary kids doing this in 15 minutes! Christopher said he planned his first lesson for a 50 minute class period and the kids finished the project in 10 minutes.

Online Tools for Reading Comprehension Instruction

Reading Teachers - You're gonna LOVE this!

This program helps struggling readers by making reading visible. It is called Into the Book. It focuses on 8 strategies:
1) Using Prior Knowledge 2) Making connections 3) Questioning 4) Visualizing 5) Inferring
6) Summarizing 7) Evaluating 8) Synthesizing

There are four components in the program
9 15 minutes videos for classroom use
9 10 minute videos for professional development
website for student with interactives and lots of teacher materials

Into the Book allows students to log in and apply each strategy in engaging activities. There are video clips for the kids to watch other kids apply the strategies and videos of teachers explaining the strategy. One of the best things about this program is that it is NOT multiple choice. The kids really have to apply the skills to get the answer right and it is very engaging. We played on the program for a while during the session and it was a blast!

There is a teacher section on the site with classroom ideas, strategy song posters for download, strategy bookmarks, book suggestions for mini-lessons and actual lessons in mini lesson format.

This program was made for K - 4. I could see K and 1st teachers using this maybe for the teaching point in a mini lesson and as a way to differentiate for higher functioning students during the work session, but I see it being used absolutely daily for 2nd and 3rd graders at home or at school. Special Education teachers of all levels will also love this because it is so visual and interactive. Check it out - you won't believe it!

Click here for some other great literacy websites.

Bloggers Cafe

For those of you following me on twitter - you may be asking...What is the Bloggers Cafe? It sounds like we're sitting around on beanbags and drinking lattes, but not so!

It's a common area where you can stop, sit down and log in to blog, twitter..or whatever! Everyone is ready to connect so I have met so many new people. Yesterday I met a teacher from Canada, PA, NH and NJ!

In between my sessions I'm trying to go there and edit my posts, but I'm spending so much time talking...I'm probably missing some edits. BUT it's worth it because we're meeting so many people that will help us connect, collaborate and grow and we're bringing it all back to our wonderful faculty. Hey - maybe we need a Bloggers Cafe at our school!