Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TEACHMeet Contest Winner!

Congratulations to John Mikulski, winner of the TEACHMeet Contest!

I took a screen shot of the 6 folks that tweeted out our Hashtag on Twitter (#wnytm) :

Then I used a Random Number Generator to arrive at #6, John Mikulski!

There will be another contest soon...stay tuned to the blog, the WNY TEACHMeet Website, and my Twitter Feed for another opportunity to win coming soon!

Thanks to all who are helping to spread the word about our UNCONFERENCE on May 30th!

Also, if you haven't registered for the Western New York TEACHMeet, you can do so HERE:


Monday, April 27, 2009

New Web Stuff 04/28/2009

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

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twitter / TEACHMeet Contest!

Everybody likes prizes, right?

Well, here's your chance to win a professional development book and the rules couldn't be ANY easier!

Here's the Prize you're playing for:  WRITING YEAR END IMPROVEMENT PLANS

Some of our local educators are putting together our first of what we hope will be many TeachMeets at the end of May.  INFO HERE  The TeachMeet is an "unconference" where we get all of the good stuff we as teachers want, but ditch all the boring stuff that folks sometimes feel forced into participating in!

All you have to do to be considered for the prize is send out a tweet about our TEACHMEET!  But, the catch is, you have to use this hashtag:  #wnytm in your tweet.  (So that I can find you!)

The contest is open from now until Wednesday at 5:00.  Winner will be announced here on Wednesday night. (And then I'll contact you directly about shipping.)  I'll use TweetGrid on Wednesday to find all of the tweets with the #wnytm hashtag, then number them, and then use a web service to randomly select a number!

Good luck, and thanks for helping us spread the word!  (Also, if you'd like to send emails to those you think would be interested, that would be great too!  Just direct them to TeachMeet Wiki at the above address.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Virtual Literature Circles from Works4Me

The following is from an email I get from the National Education Association. They publish an email every so often with tips from teachers about classroom instruction that is working. Today's was about Virtual Literature Circles and I liked the resources that the teacher submitting the tip created on her wiki. If you'd like to join the email list yourself or submit a tip, the information to do so is at the end of this posting...

Free Virtual Literature Circles
From Jennifer Hunt from Tucson, Arizona:
"My students have been using a variety of free technology tools for work on their virtual literature circles. We set up our main website on Wikispaces, and the literature circle wiki can be found at Students not only created and collaborated on their wikis, but they used free technology tools to embed multimedia elements in their wikis, such as VoiceThread to create narrated slide shows, Wordle to create word clouds, Newspaper Clipping Generator to create simulations of newspaper clippings, the Morgue File and the Library of Congress American Memory to find copyright-free images suitable for the presentations, and EasyBib to create bibliographies and citations for the information and images not of their own creation. We had a lot of fun creating our wikis, but we also worked very hard and learned some things the hard way as we went along. We're very proud of our published wikis and like to encourage others to visit and leave comments on the discussion pages." 

Browse All Tips
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Submit a Tip Yourself!
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tip, please include your full name, school, specific
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is only as good as the tips we receive, so send your ideas today.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Harry Potter 6 Trailer

A new trailer has released for the upcoming Harry Potter movie, and I'm really excited about this movie.  I was thinking about why I would post this here, on a blog devoted to educational technology, and it dawned on me that the same psychology that we would use in a classroom for pedagogical purposes is at play here.  The studios are whetting our collective apetites around this upcoming film.  It's the exact same kind of thing that we can do in our classes to get our students excited about their learning.  There are lots of technology tools to help "HOOK" the kids, including podcasting, web applications, etc. and many of these are great for not only getting kids interested but also building on their background knowledge. 

Several years ago, I was creating a lesson around plate tectonics and wanted to shake things up a bit and approach the content from a completely new perspective.  At the time, Bjork, the singer from Iceland, had released a song and video for her composition, "Joga."  The video was a metaphorical journey through the breaking up of a relationship by comparing it to the breaking apart of the land.  The video showed Iceland breaking into pieces, with eruptions and earthquakes and faulting--everything I would be teaching in Plate Tectonics.  In order to build interest and momentum, I wrote the word "Joga" on the board a couple of weeks beforehand.  As the day for the lesson got closer and closer, I wrote the word bigger, I dropped the word into conversations, I pointed out that "IT" was coming soon, without giving away any revealing hints.  By the time we got to the actual lesson, the students were virtually drooling over what I was asking them to do, and the conversations and learning that happened were intense, unexpected, and memorable.  Some of them even wrote on their end of year evaluations that they would remember that particular lesson for a long, long time!

All that to say--sometimes a little show is important, a little entertainment, a little flash to get the kids really engaged.  The brain remembers things that are exciting, that connects to the emotions, and anything that is different from the routine.  I've said before that I don't expect teachers to feel like that must entertain their students at all times, but you've got to admit--a little excitement goes a long, long way!

So, without further adieu--here's the thing that's got me excited today:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Day Resources...

I’ve saved some sites to use as you plan for Earth Day 2009!  These links are also saved to my Delicious and Diigo accounts and I will add links throughout the next day.
I will also save stuff to my Diigo and Delicious Bookmarks here:
*Thanks to Chris Parker from Starpoint Schools for the Gale Schools links!

Building an Online Professional Library – The GREEN Way!

Many of the school districts I work with have professional libraries. These libraries usually consist of professional development books, academic journals, and teacher contributions all housed in a special section for checkout/usage.

Since this is Earth Day week, I thought I would post about a “Greener” way to collect professional development books and documents by using some free web tools!

If you don’t know about it already, Google offers a book search at . You can search all kinds of texts and many are available as FULL TEXTS that you can read directly from your computer! You can view my current library here: . Additionally, you can use Advanced Search to search for either books OR magazines, and you can filter for FULL TEXTS.

Another cool site I ran across is a PDF search engine at
I typed in topics such as “Response To Intervention” or “Brain Based Learning” and found lots of resources!

I’m also an extensive user of Google Reader: . I use it to subscribe to blogs that have an educational or technology focus to help keep up with what’s on the edge of educational technology. Some of my favorites include:

• The Tempered Radical –
• Literacy, Learning, and Sharing –
• Reflections of the TZST Teacher –
• Reflective Creations –
• The Power of Educational Technology –
• WNY Education Associates Blog –
• Writing Frameworks –
• Clif’s Notes –
• Ellis’ Island of Learning –
• Angela Maier’s Blog –
• Cliotech –
• Cool Cat Teacher Blog –

Please add any additional resources or cool blogs you follow in the comments section! I’ll add all of the resources to a wiki and publish the link in a couple of weeks!

Friday, April 17, 2009


I contributed to a Google Presentation on using Wordle in the classroom.  It was started by Tom Barrett, an educator in Nottingham, England and expanded upon by educators around the world.  I suspect that it will grow even further as time goes on--but there are some REALLY good ideas here for this awesome web tool!

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute, Tom!
Tom's Website

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Web Stuff 04/17/2009

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

Something To Chew On...

I've written before about the difference between tools/resources and that they should supplement content/skills in a classroom.  If what a teacher is doing always revolves around content and skills, then the tools and resources can be more ephemeral.

When I explain this to teachers, most understand what I mean, but sometimes there is such a reliance on a tool or resource, that it becomes the content. 

I was thinking about this last night in terms of a local gathering I'm helping to plan.  A group of educators in the area are planning what's called a "Teachmeet" where educators come together for what amounts to the best parts of going to a Staff Development Conference, just without the regular conference constraints.  The main focus is--surprise! CONTENT!  It's not about big names, it's not about big fees (in fact, the TeachMeet is free for participants!), it's not about corporate sponsorship and marketing, it's not about gadgets or the newest must-have text.  It's just about sharing what works in an informal setting where everyone has a chance to bring something to table, learning from each other--sharing "content" and "skills" without the extras.

I'm not saying the extras aren't nice.  Tools/Resources/Gadgets, any peripheral really, are cool to help engage students and teachers alike, but you boil learning and achievement down to its core and you're left with the content.  It was as true in 1950 as it is 2009.  Resources come and go.

On a much more shallow note--I was also thinking about this in terms of the restaurant we went to after our planning meeting.  I was thinking about how the restaurant didn't really matter all that was good, but it wasn't about the restaurant--it was about our conversation.  A conversation we could have had anywhere--at any restaurant, in the car, over Skype, sitting in a ditch in the front yard.  The PLACE might have made the conversation easier or the participants more involved and engaged, but it was the conversation that was important.

That's why I think the TeachMeet is such an awesome idea.  It's professional development that focuses on the core, the content, the conversations--the stuff that teachers care about the most.  Which, in turn, will have a great affect on student learning and achievement as we share what works.

Interested in the TeachMeet?  Here are some resources:

WNY TeachMeet Wiki
Another TeachMeet Wiki from the UK

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Web Stuff 04/05/2009

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

The Most Important 21st Century Skill

I was in a workshop yesterday discussing elementary math centers with teachers.  We talked about Curriculum, Instructional Strategies and Assessment and making sure that centers had a basis in content and skills, either through reinforcement or through articulation of what kids are THINKING.

My colleague asked the group how they talk to their own children about school.  Most said that they just ask how school was.  My colleague said, "What if you changed that conversation?"  "What if you asked, 'What questions did you ask today?'"

I thought that was HUGE.  If we ask kids about the questions that they are asking, we're doing two things.  First, we reinforcing the fact that asking questions is important, and second, we're getting a glimpse into their metacognitive analyses. 

If kids ask questions to clarify what they are learning, expand on what they're learning or make connections to previous learning, then they are being mindful of the learning moment.  They are thinking.  They are processing.  They are NOT spitting back known answers.  They are NOT learning in a rote way.

Kids asking questions opens up a variety of avenues for discussion.  How often do we assume the "sage on the stage" mode just to get through content?  Clean and neat learning isn't learning.  We have to be prepared to "get our hands dirty," meaning that real learning is neither neat nor clean.  Real learning is active and involved and sometimes loud and sometimes messy and always engaging.

Someone said on Twitter the other day that they were concerned about the "entertainment" factor in education today.  They were concerned that teachers too often are "putting on a show" and that "drill and skill / lecture / traditional teaching methods" are still viable and essential.

I'm not saying the classroom should be a circus.  I'm saying kids should be thinking.  Kids should be doing the work.  If the teachers are doing most of the action, whether it's printing out notes, doing all the talking, doing the demonstrations, doing the presentation of all the material, then what are kids really learning?  Is all that listening and repetition going to serve them when they grow up and try to find jobs?  Or is learning how to learn, learning how to solve problems themselves, and learning how to find/evaluate resources for a specific purpose, in short, learning how to THINK, going to be the greater skill?

At this point, you may be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with a Blog about Education Technology?"

Well, everything.

The technology we are using in classes today needs to have a THINKING purpose behind it.  Are we using technology as a flashy engagement strategy, or are we really asking kids to dig deep and think about the content they are learning by using resources (like technology) to enhance the experience?  I think I've said this before, but the technology is much like a textbook.  Tools and resources will come and go, but the content and associated skills aren't going to change.  The fact that THINKING must happen around the content isn't going to change. 

Asking kids to THINK--to problem solve, to make connections, to learn how to continue learning...that's what is important. 

THINKING is the most important 21st Century Skill. 

If you need proof of that, think about what scientists are doing with technology:  Artificial Intelligence.  Computers in the future will "think" and "problem solve" and "learn."  If humans lose that skill and depend on computers to do all of their "thinking," is that really such a great thing?