Monday, June 29, 2009

DELICIOUS Field Trips!

When you use the tagging features of the major bookmarking sites, you can easily create a list of relevant links for anyone to surf. For instance, if you are wanting to learn about VOLCANOES, you could find and add sites to your bookmarks that deal with volcanoes, but adding an additional tag of "classvolcanoes" or "period1volcanoes." This way, you can click on the unique tag and have one page with a unique web address that you can use in classes, to give your students to explore for homework, or just as an online resource for their research.

Many teachers in the past have spent hours creating "Virtual Field Trips" which not only involve finding relevant links, but also  the creation of a web page and directions for using the different sites. With Social Bookmarking, you can save notes along with your tags and label websites with specific information that your students can see, whether it's a description, a direction, or just your reasoning for choosing a particular website. In this way, you can very easily build a specific web listing of the sites you want to visit without the rigomarole of going through the entire Virtual Field Trip process!

New Web Stuff 06/30/2009

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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah, Michael, Social Media, and Educational Implications…

By now, you most likely know of the unfortunate and tragic deaths of both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

What you may not know is the absolute tornado of information that poured into the internet almost moments after each event happened. If you are a regular user of Twitter, you’ll know that the sidebar trending topics both surged with key words like cancer, cardiac arrest, the names of both stars, etc.

While both stories are sad, and I certainly am sympathetic for both families, it’s hard to ignore the amazing things that have happened today and how these connective technologies are having an impact on everyone and the implications for their use in an educational setting.

I found out about Farrah initially from Twitter earlier in the day. I moved from Twitter immediately to, and then confirmed the information at and I rarely just take things at face value anymore, and wanted corroboration from a trusted source before I made up my mind about what happened.

Later in the day, I had CNN and MSNBC on in my living room when the first reports came across Twitter and Facebook about Michael Jackson. had reported Michael initially dead, but the other news outlets, including the big 3 mentioned above and Reuters were not confirming.

I sent out my first tweet to see what the response would be:

As information came in over Twitter faster than it seemed to be coming into the major news services, it was hard to deny that confirmation of his death was imminent.

I wondered on Facebook if the information had been confirmed:

I also noted that the trending topic around him had been misspelled.

It wasn’t long before confirmation did indeed come, first from the LA Times, then FoxNews and MSNBC and finally, CNN. Since the news was confirmed, it’s been a nonstop flow of information, from MTV’s video retrospective, to CNN’s review of his life, even to ESPN’s angle of his Superbowl performance.

The reason that I believe that all of this has huge educational significance is the speed with which information was traveling back and forth, and the incredible conversation I was able to have with literally dozens of people over the course of just half an hour. We helped each other find information, shared links, thought critically about what information we were receiving, and drew conclusions as a group.

I think this says a lot about search literacy and critically thinking with web tools. I connected with my network, collaborated around finding answers to an issue, and came to a collegial conclusion as this all unfolded.

Today, Facebook and Twitter became my main sources for not only information, but also for determining if that information was factual, should be amended or discarded, or was worth exploring further before drawing conclusions.

This is the power of the Internet. This is the power of connectivity and Web 2.0. Isn’t this how we want our students to use technology?

An Amendment:

After I posted this yesterday, a few people on Twitter and Facebook, including our friend Bill, pointed out that there was a mountain of misinformation also being reported in social media and in the regular news outlets.

This is what search literacy is all about.  We must learn and teach to filter out the most probable information by confirming sources and connecting the pieces until we can arrive at a plausible conclusion.  Tweets and Facebook updates we're chock full of people asking for confirmation, digging for additional information, and unfortunately also dessiminated wrong information, such as the death of Jeff Goldblum. ( Link to Mashable's Post on this incident.

Bill pointed out that depending on who is in your network, the story you got could have been vastly different from what others might see.  I agree with that, but also think it's an opportunity, in the light of this morning and a continuing feed of information from traditional and modern sources of information, to examine how we receive what we read and determine how we are going to use that information.

This is a huge teachable moment.



New Web Stuff 06/26/2009

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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Web Stuff 06/19/2009

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


If you haven't yet heard of SHMOOP--Listen up! is an awesome resource for teachers, especially for Language Arts and Social Studies.  It is chock full of information and reference materials to make it useful for both the casual user and the deep thinker.  Earlier today, I had the good fortune of sharing ways that I'm using Shmoop with teachers with a member of the Shmoop team and wanted to post part of my conversation here.

The following represents several of the ways that I've approached using Shmoop with teachers for Professional Development purposes to help enhance their teaching and improve student learning:

  • I ask them to look at all of the ancillary items (tabs across the top) to help them familiarize themselves with books that students may be reading but they themselves have not read. This provides a common ground for discussions in the classroom, and emphasizes the ease with which teachers can promote choice selections to their students, which in turns breeds engagement and motivation to read.
  • If teachers are reading a "class" novel, I ask them to incorporate all that Shmoop might have surrounding that novel, and to consider it against similar sites such as Sparknotes or other places (including textual) that they could get critical analysis type materials. Rather than a blanket ban on such materials, I encourage teachers to bring them to the forefront and make them the cornerstone of discussion or critical analysis, trying to figure out common threads among the analyses and think critically about the value systems behind the reviews, summaries, etc. (In an effort to understand bias, and to help students form a deeper meaning and comprehension level around the literature/text they are reading.)
  • Shmoop also brings up discussion topics already that make class planning easier for teachers, such as the sections "Why Should I Care?" This helps students frame the learning around their own experiences and helps them to make connections to other texts they've read, events happening in the read world, or events that have happened to them that may be related to the reading...
  • I usually point out the "Jump Start A Paper" section as well, and show teachers how to redirect students back to the Shmoop resources so that students can write about their reading, but do so with an arsenal of tools to write in a way that leads to deeper comprehension and a deeper love of the written word.
 Check back as I add to this list.  The more I work with teachers that find Shmoop useful, the more ways I discover to integrate it and maximize student achievement!  (Thanks again, Shmoop team!)

P.S.  Shmoop also has a section specifically for teachers!  CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Web Stuff 06/18/2009

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

New Web Stuff 06/16/2009

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Web Stuff 06/10/2009

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

Friday, June 5, 2009

You Don't Have to Change The World... just have to make a difference in someone else's.

On the way to work this morning, I drove past our local Fire Station.  Outside the Fire Station is a small fire hydrant sculpture flanked by two Dalmation statues.

Every night, usually, we take a walk around our neighborhood which always takes us past the Fire Station.  Every single time, we have to stop so that our 2 year old can "see" the dogs.  For some reason, she puts a small rock on each of their heads, gives them a hug and we continue our walk.  The next time we go, the rocks are mysteriously gone, and we repeat the process again.

When I drove past the Fire Station this morning, I looked over at the dogs and noticed that the rocks were still there, sitting on top of each dog's head, exactly where our daughter had put them last night.  Even though I knew she was safe and sleeping in her bed, I felt a little twinge of missing her, and wanting to see her right at that moment.  It felt kind of silly, but it made me think that this tiny little act, this "rock on the head" custom that we participate in, is huge to me.  It made a difference to me to know that this little ritual can have such a colossal effect on my mood and psyche. It was proof, right at that moment, that the past can help to shape the future and everything we do, every decision we make, ultimately has an impact.  What we think may be only a ripple turns out sometimes to be a tidal wave to someone else.

So philosophy takes over, and I start thinking about how the tiniest of acts can make an enormous difference to others.  In particular, how teachers interact with their students, how teachers interact with each other, and how administrators interact with their teachers.  It makes me think about how our world is closing in, and that participation in all of these social networking tools may be small acts, but they are changing the world one tweet at a time.

I like that the context of my day can be metaphorical for the world we're living in now, and how so many of these tiny daily interactions make the world of difference to me, the people I work with and teach, and ultimately the kids who benefit from a richer, more multi-layered educational experience.

Our daughter wasn't looking to change the world, but she did change mine this morning.  How often do we let these little subtleties of life shape us?  How often are our eyes open to notice them?  How willing are we to let these little things have an effect?

This is what the participatory culture is all about, having an effect on each other, no matter how small, and letting those tiny changes make the biggest difference.

In just a few hours, it will be time for another walk; it will be another opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, visit the dogs, place a couple of rocks on their heads, and change the world again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Virtual Summer Camp for Teachers!

Now that the year is winding down, have you thought about what you'll do this summer?  Who am I kidding--you've probably been dreaming about this summer for months!

Let me rephrase the question.  After you run out of things you've Tivo'd, after you run out of books you've been saving until the summer, after you get tired of laying around on the couch all day-- you know what, this isn't looking any better.  Who gets tired of rest and relaxation? 

Let's just say that if you need an opportunity to develop professionally or hone your technology skills, there are several online opportunities available this summer that you can work on when you have time--and best of all--they are FREE!

I'm posting an initial list here, and will be adding to it as I come across more opportunities.

Enjoy your summer, but if you want to learn something new--check out the following:

Virtual Summer Camp

PB Works Summer Camp - Learn how to WIKI!

Learn about Second Life in Education

Learn about Connecting to Other Teachers using Social Networking

Learn 21 things that the 21st Century Educator Should Know!

Learn about Google Earth

100 Free Online Lectures to help you be a better teacher!

Learn about Web 2.0

How to use Animoto

Learn about using Wikispaces

Learn about Podcasting

Larry Ferlazzo's "Best Of" series...

Learn about Social Bookmarking

Check back...more to come!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Web Stuff 06/04/2009

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