Thursday, December 30, 2010

Digigogy 2010 Year In Review

New Web Stuff 12/31/2010

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

11 Bright Ideas for 2011

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Several days ago, I asked my readers to contribute their favorite web tools to use for Instruction, and these websites made the cut! Here are 11 different web tools to use with your students either to engage and motivate, to provide alternative forms of assessment, or just to have fun with learning!

Here's to the most DIGIGOGICAL 2011 possible!

· Animoto - is a web application that creates MTV-style videos with the click of a button. It represents the end of slideshows as you know them!

· Diigo – The web’s premier bookmarking, annotating, and social service, all rolled into one!

· Dropbox - Dropbox allows you to sync your files online and across your computers automatically. Access your files anywhere, anytime, even on your mobile device!

· Edmodo - Edmodo is a social learning network for teachers, students, schools and districts.

· Glogster - Glogster EDU Premium is a collaborative online learning platform for teachers and students to express their creativity, knowledge, ideas and skills in the classroom.

· LiveBinders - "Think of Livebinders as a virtual 3 ring binder that you can put pretty much anything in. Webpage, PDF, image, video, text: they all can go into a page organized for you. Each item can be on it’s own tab or you can further organize by using sub-tabs. You can even put LiveBinders inside LiveBinders inside LiveBinders!!"
-- Melissa Edwards - The Inspired Classroom

· Prezi - Create astonishing presentations live and on the web

· Skype – Chat, Audio chat, Video Chat, Call Phones, Send Files, Share your computer Screen, share links and more with this incredible service. Connect to people all over the world!

· Storybird - Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print. Read them like books, play them like games, and send them like greeting cards. They’re curiously fun.

· WallWisher – An online corkboard! Collaboratively collect notes, pictures, links, etc. Add items the way you would add a Post-It Note to a message board!

· xTraNormal – If you can type, you can make movies! (xTraNormal State is free, and new users to the web version get 300 xpoints to make movies with!)


Sunday, December 26, 2010


To prepare for the end of the year, and to start the new year off on the right foot, I'm having a Web Tools in Learning Survey Contest! I'll use the collected information to write my last blog post of 2010!

I'm giving away 5 of the brand new DIGIGOGY 2011 Calendar Magnets to random respondents to the survey.

1 Winner will get the Traveler Media Sleeve I got at a recent conference. The sleeve pictured is an example of what it looks like, but the screen printing on the one I have reads NYSCATE and Skills Tutor, as they were the vendors that sponsored the bags! These sleeves would be great for an iPad, digital tablet, or netBook computer.
If you want to be considered for the contest, please leave your email address in the survey.

To access the SURVEY/CONTEST:

Thanks for participating and GOOD LUCK!

*Contest ends on Tuesday, December 28th at 10:00 PM EST

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Web Stuff 12/22/2010

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Web Stuff 12/21/2010

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

Common CoreZilla: Shrink The Change!

Did you see Jurassic Park 2? There's a scene that pays homage to the old Japanese Godzilla movies where the Tyrannosaur escapes and runs down the street, with the people looking back, running away in terror.

For a lot of educators, I think the Common Core Standards and the state-specific implementation plans are a lot like that Tyrannosaur.

There are a lot of things to consider, sure, but we need to think of "shrinking the change," using a phrase from the Dan & Chip Heath book, SWITCH. A handful of 2-inch tall T-Rex's are a lot easier to deal with than their 2-story originator.

So, how do you go about it?

First, you need to look at what you've already got going for you in your districts, in your schools, even down to the classroom level:
  • Do you have curriculum models, frameworks, or maps in place that represent a child's journey through your system from K to 12?
  • Do you have regular curricular conversation both horizontally and vertically?
  • Do you prioritize based on essential skills and enduring or leveraged understandings?
  • Do the teachers in your school(s) understand multiple ways to gather assessment data, and have "agreed-upon" formative checkpoints?
  • Do you already have thematic units or genre specific models in place during the course of each grade levels curricular tracks?
  • Do you provide supplemental guidance and resources for differentiated instruction, research based instructional strategies, and professional development for teachers, especially those that teach special education or English Language Learners?
Any of these could easily be their own initiatives and last for months and months...but we don't necessarily have the gift of unlimited implementation time. BUT, if you are already doing some of these things--then you can check them off your RTTT list, and just continue doing them.

Otherwise, you need to map out a plan of attack.

At the "core" of these is student learning. To begin with, make that your focus. Then, bit by bit, starting tackling each of these components:

  1. The curricular framework or map is very important. Not only does it provide opportunities for curricular conversation and consensus, it provides a roadmap of sorts that documents what we intend as well as a diary of what actually happened. It is meant to be fully transparent, and help teachers situate themselves in the context of their colleagues. Bena Kallick (author of several books on mapping and data) talks about this when she discusses "Evidences versus Claims." It's not enough anymore to SAY what we think--we need to prove it. Having an articulated framework that shows how content and skills are related to specific assessments, and further how that impacts instructional practice, methodologies, and activities helps to enhance everyone's professional practice and build capacity around everyone's growth--students AND teachers! There are many books to help you get started with this, choosing from some of the heavy hitters in the field: Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Janet Hale, and Susan Udelhofen, just to name a few.
  2. The next thing to look at, as far as the RTTT grant is concerned is multiple ways to assess students. What are you doing now? If it's all multiple choice, objective testing, you might want to expand things a little. Standardized objective tests are often at mid and high cognitive levels, while the tests that are used to "prepare" for those tests are often at lower cognitive levels. This means that you can give practice tests every single day and still not really be preparing your students for those standardized banes of education. The RTTT grant language is asking for instruction and assessment that is more formative in nature, those assessments that don't lead to a grade, but lead to proficiency. The development of Common Assessments that are formative in nature can be explored within these resources:
3. The last big hurdle is instructional strategies, with resources and examples. Here you go:
Yes, there is still much to be overwhelmed about. You don't want the Common CoreZilla to eat you alive!

Take it one step at a time. Look at what you're already doing, make a plan to integrate the parts of the puzzle you need to improve. Add those puzzle pieces one at a time. Pretty soon, the whole metaphor of the "Dinosaur" curriculum will cease to exist, except perhaps during the elementary field trip to the local Science museum...

photo: thiagors on, remixed by M.Fisher 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Web Stuff 12/03/2010

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

Ditch The Daily Lesson Plan...

Old Schoolphoto © 2008 Rob Shenk | more info (via: Wylio)

I know this probably won’t be popular, but if I am going to continue to talk about “New Forms” in education, this needs to be on the table.

Why are teachers still doing daily lesson plans? What is the conceptual (current, 21st century) framework around this traditionally rigid process? What is encapsulated in these daily snapshots that would not be better to see in either a weekly format or perhaps something a little more open-ended? (Meaning that if the learning takes 3 days, it takes 3 days…if it takes 6, so be it. What’s more important, the learning, or the time in which we expect the learning to occur?)

I’m not saying get rid of all daily moments…assessment, anchors, general instructional arc…but the whole six point lesson plan thing seems to be a foot in the door of 1985. Or 1955.

Perhaps the terminology is dated. I often say in workshops that teachers should stop the creation of the lesson “plan” and instead create lesson “events.” That which is memorable will stick. That which is traditional and “the same as always” will almost certainly be forgotten. Yet, in many schools, the traditional is so well entrenched that anyone doing great things is suspicious and certainly shouldn’t be trusted with children. Seriously.

What do you remember about your school experiences?

The worksheets you did? The drill and skill cursive writing? No? No memory of those things?

What about those moments that weren’t the same “day in / day out” minutiae? What about the field trips you took? What about that time your teacher dressed up as Jon Bon Jovi and sang the Periodic Table to you to the tune of “You Give Love A Bad Name?” (Which you can still remember verbatim, including the atomic weight of Carbon.)

I think I’m opening several cans of worms here. For one, what does the hierarchy of lessons look like if we remove the daily lesson plan, and two, is anything singular even worth planning for?

Briefly, let me address both.

A lesson typically fits into an instructional arc or subunit, tied into an overall unit, which is housed in a year of learning. This plan seems to me to perpetuate encapsulated moments that define when learning can take place. It’s kind of like going to the doctor on a Monday morning with a broken arm and the doctor saying that he’s sorry, but broken limbs aren’t dealt with until Friday, or maybe February.

But WHAT IF (I like saying “What If…”) things weren’t so compartmentalized? What if the process for deconstructing curriculum, breaking apart standards, and precisely defining skills and methodologies was a little messier, and deleted the daily lesson plan in favor of “LESSONS” plans? We could still address common threads and connections through UNITS, but the plans themselves look at the whole neighborhood, instead of just one house. (Know what I mean?)

But then, that opens up the second can of worms. The singular content area lesson. One skill, one piece of content, one content area, one assessment…everything one at a time and separated from everything else. It’s all very neat and linear, but it seems very limiting. I have a hunch that sometime in the very near future, the definition of what a 21st Century educator is will include the total abandonment of singular content lessons. The future is in integration.

If you think about the “real world” that we’re preparing kids for, how often is the “real world” day broken up into science moments, math moments, writing moments, etc? We engage all of these things at all times. Also, it’s not like integrated units are anything innovative…there’s been tons of research and lots of books written specifically providing examples of how to do it. So why isn’t it happening? Kids don’t need a six-week unit on mastering quotation marks; they need to learn to master the quotation marks piece in the screenplay they write collaboratively about the people of Iceland solving problems around a catastrophic tectonic event that includes the gathering and analysis of quantitative data. (See what I did right there?)

There’s other cans of worms here…the reformation of assessment practices (Think Denmark! Think Japan!), the realignment of associated skills with differentiated instruction and backwards design models, the deep understanding of curriculum design – specifically prioritization and consensus anchor knowledge, the singular student / singular product mode, etc.

I’m thinking out loud here. If you’ve read this far, I hope it’s because you’ve either been inspired or angered. What are your thoughts? How do we innovate the “lesson plan?” How do we tear it down, build it up, upgrade it, dispose of it, or grow it? Or do we just keep the blinders on and hope for the best with what we’ve got?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Web Stuff 12/01/2010

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

BLOG SLAM! (Another update to "Is Anybody Asking the Kids?")

Why incentives don't work in education—or the business worldphoto © 2010 | more info (via: Wylio)

There is nothing more exhilarating to me as a teacher than seeing students do incredible things. When they are engaged and full of passion, they do really great work.

Several weeks ago, I blogged about whether anyone was considering what the kids thought of education today. I asked students in an online survey to answer some questions about the state of things. I received a bunch of responses and wrote a follow up blog post with the findings of the survey. A group of students in North Carolina really felt empowered by the opportunity to share their voices, that they decided to take things one step further and create a digital representation of the changes they’d like to see!


I had been in conversation with their teacher about having one of them “guest blog” for me, but I’m so impressed with what they’ve created, I’m posting ALL OF THEM here. Everyone who reads this blog needs to see what kids can do when they are inspired.

These kids articulated the need for NEW FORMS in education, not just reforms. They want flexible scheduling, flexible spaces, flexible groupings, learning that matches their interests and is authentic. They do not want to be receptacles for information, in fact, one of them said to just “give him the basics” and let him figure the rest out on his own.

Within the scope of what they did, they engaged in 21st Century skills—they communicated with each other, they collaborated in both the creation and feedback phases, and, oh yeah, they used technology—but for a specific task, not just because the tech was cool and shiny. (Even though it was!)

When I work with teachers, and talk to them about activities like this, there are always those that say this can’t happen in a real classroom, because they only have time to prepare the students for a test. I say take a look at what these kids have done here and consider the ramifications in the instructional sequence. Perhaps this type of instruction works above and beyond the curriculum, so that the kids are ready for any test at any moment? (And let’s not confuse testing with assessment…though that is its own blog post…)

Just from what I see here, I can assess:

- writing processes

- grammar

- continuity of a story arc

- idea development

- ability to stay on topic

- other peripheral skills related to teamwork, technology, etc.

So if you ask me where this fits in the standards…there it is. Which is going to engage kids more: opportunities like this or a five-paragraph essay? How am I REALLY going to know that learning has occurred and can be developed in individual and meaningful ways? A product like this, or a twenty question objective test that matches the state assessment? (Though I’m not saying that objective tests can’t measure what we want them to measure, but I AM saying they are boring in comparison.)

I want to give GIGANTIC kudos to these students, these scholars—who took an idea and ran with it for the sake of their own interest and passion. I encourage all of my readers to read and comment on what these students have done using popular Web 2.0 tools like GoAnimate and Storybird. These students wrote scripts, poems, narratives – and then kicked that work up a notch into the 21st Century.

Way to go! Every single student listed here is the pinnacle of AWESOME!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Three Little Students...

Three little pigsphoto © 2009 my_southborough | more info (via: Wylio)

Once upon a time, a time in the present, there were three little students, Olivia, Ryan, and Casey.

One sunny day, they decided to set out and learn something new. Their mother warned them to be careful and to watch out for students that might be better prepared than them.

They told their mother not to worry and set off on their learning adventure.

The first little student, Olivia, met a teacher with an armful of pencils. Olivia asked, “Can you teach me something?”

“Of course,” said the teacher, passing Olivia a pencil and a worksheet.

Olivia happily filled in the worksheet and passed it back to the teacher, who smiled, and said, “Very good job, Olivia. You got 90% of the questions correct. You are a great student. You would do well to go to college.”

Satisfied, Olivia walked away.

Soon, she came upon another student who said she was on her way to college. She asked Olivia if she would like to go with her. Olivia went.

At the college, they discovered that there was only room for one of them. Olivia was confident that she would be chosen, since she’d done so well with her teacher earlier. The people at the college interviewed both Olivia and the other student, gave them several types of tests, and looked at all of the learning they’d done in the past.

Confident as she was, Olivia was not prepared, and did not get into college.

And so she ran away…

The second little student, Ryan, met a teacher with an armful of electronic equipment. Ryan asked, “Can you teach me something?”

“Of course,” said the teacher, passing Ryan an iPod, a netbook, a scientific calculator, and a project packet.

Ryan happily completed the project in moments and gave everything back to the teacher, who smiled, and said, “Very good job, Ryan. I hope you had fun with the iPod and the netbook. You were very well behaved. You are a great student and you would do well to go to college.”

Satisfied, Ryan walked away.

Soon, he came upon another student who said he was on his way to college. He asked Ryan if he would like to go with him. Ryan went.

At the college, they discovered that there was only room for one of them. Ryan was confident that he would be chosen, since he’d done so well with his teacher earlier. The people at the college interviewed both Ryan and the other student, gave them several types of tests and asked them to solve problems with various types of technology.

Confident as he was, Ryan was only prepared to access information, not make connections and build something new from it, and he did not get into college.

And so he ran away…

The third little student, Casey, met a teacher who carried nothing. Casey asked, “Can you teach me something?”

“Of course,” said the teacher, passing Casey an object he had never seen before.

“What is it?” Casey asked.

“That is what you will learn,” his teacher said.

Casey was unsure of what to do next, but decided he should look online for pictures that were similar to his object. He asked his teacher if he could use a computer, and his teacher helped him find one. Casey thought it would be a good idea to talk to other students in faraway lands to see if they had seen a similar object. His teacher helped him connect. Casey looked in books, made notes, compared his notes with others trying to discover what the mystery object was, and drew conclusions based on the information he collected.

The teacher asked Casey what he learned, and Casey was able to tell the teacher much more than just the identity of the mystery object. “You would do well to go to college,” the teacher told Casey.

Satisfied, Casey walked away.

Soon, he came upon another student who said he was on his way to college. He asked Casey if he would like to go with him. Casey went.

At the college, they discovered that there was only room for one of them. Casey knew he had done well with his previous learning, but was wary about what this other student might know.

The people at the college interviewed both Casey and the other student, gave them several types of tests, and asked them to describe what they would do if they suddenly discovered a new species of animals.

Casey used all of his skills for communication, collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking and impressed the people at the college. He was rewarded for his skills by being asked to come to the college to continue his learning.

Years later, Casey went to visit his mother, and it happened that both his brother Ryan and sister Olivia had had the same idea. Each of the students told their mother of their travels. Olivia and Ryan were surprised to learn that Casey had been admitted to college.

Their mother, hearing their stories, said, “there was a time when filling a pail was a good idea, but as easily as I can pour water into a pail, I can just as easily pour it out.”

“Learning doesn’t happen to you, it happens in you,” she continued, “and real learning sparks a fire that ignites every idea for the rest of your life.”

Casey held on to his chinny chin-chin and smiled.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Digigogy's Favorite Things

For the holidays, I've put together some of my favorite holiday web tools and resources. Just click on the ornaments and enjoy!

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Included in this year's list is:
  • Hotprints - Make your own photo books FOR FREE! (Just pay shipping!)
  • 99 Christmas Classics for $1.99 from
  • Make your own snowglobe - Directions from
  • Elf Yourself - The every year internet favorite from Office Max!
  • – includes sending a letter to Santa
  • 20 Holiday Cards for $1.99 from VistaPrint - and additional cards for 1/2 price! (I just ordered these and they are AWESOME!)
  • Augmented Reality Christmas (Click on Instructions when you get to the page) - I'm adding this to our Christmas Cards this year!
  • Personalized Christmas Photo Gifts - A good friend, Katie H., sent this to me and it has lots and lots of different types of photo gifts!

Everybody knows a few web tools and resources,
Help to make the season bright...
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very Digigogy Holiday to you ...