Technology Goals for the New School Year

Aren’t new beginnings wonderful? I think that one of the best things about the education field is the opportunity to begin fresh each year, leaving behind those things that didn’t quite work and improving on those that did.

This year, I would like to work with every classroom teacher at least once, and hopefully more than that, either in the computer lab or using the laptops. We have several terrific programs that the students can use to create their own projects on the computers. Let me help you develop some projects that will enhance your curriculum and increase student learning. I will be contacting you as the year progresses to set up times for us to collaborate, unless you contact me first!

As we begin this school year, please consider how you can increase your use of technology in your classroom. You all have wonderful ideas, but if you need something to get you started, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Create a class blog in Classblogmeister. Even the very young children can manage this with a little assistance. Students enjoy writing for real world audiences, and they love to read and comment on each others’ blogs. You could assign topics, or let them use their blogs for journal writing during your lab time.
  2. Create a VoiceThread. Take digital pictures (or let the children take pictures) and upload them to this site. Then have the children leave comments on the pictures, either explaining the picture or leaving a comment.
  3. Create a digital story. Upload pictures into PhotoStory and let the students record the story as each picture is shown. PhotoStory is already on all of our computers. This would be an awesome follow-up to a field trip or other major event.
  4. Have your students work in MaxShow or PowerPoint to create their own slideshows showing what they have learned during a particular unit. Then let them share their presentations with the class.

What other ideas do you have for this school year? How will you prepare your students for their lives in the 21st century?

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Remember when we were kids and our first assignment each year was to write about our summer vacation? Well, this summer has gone all too quickly, as they all seem to have done these past few years. I had grand plans for house cleaning, organizing, reading, sewing, updating web pages, etc. However, summer is gone and little has been accomplished with any of those goals. It didn’t help any that I had repetitive motion injuries in both hands that had to be dealt with. Typing didn’t bother me, but sewing and playing the piano aggravated the injuries earlier in the summer, as did lifting heavy objects.

So, I spent a lot of time, along with Tina Coffey, training and working with our new student information system (TEMS)…trying to get everything ready for the beginning of the school year in our elementary schools. It was different for me to work quite a bit during the summer, but it was time well spent.

Those of you who know me well are aware that I enjoy traveling for a couple of weeks each summer too. In July, I went with a group from Grand European Tours to Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, and Budapest! Because of my music background, visiting the land of Mozart and Strauss and many other composers was very special. Highlights included a Mozart concert in the opera house in Vienna and an opera in the concert hall in Prague where Mozart himself conducted. Traveling through the land of my favorite movie, The Sound of Music, was another highlight.

Traveling through countries that were controlled by communism just a few years ago was very educational and made me appreciate even more the freedoms we have always had here in America.

So, what did you do for fun this summer? Did you spend special time with your children and grandchildren? Did you pursue a new hobby or enjoy an old one? Did you travel either locally or far away? Please leave comments below and share your fun times with others!

Wordle.net

Wordle is a fun web site that will create a word cloud from any text that you insert. You can also enter a url from any site that has an rss feed and it will create a cloud from the text on that page. Then you have several options for changing the layout, fonts, and colors.

Here’s an example I created by entering my blog address:

The larger the word, the more times it was found in the text. So, I can quickly see that I’ve used the terms “teachers” and “training” quite a bit, which did not surprise me. However, the words “new” and “year” appeared frequently also, and I’m not sure why I’ve used those so often.

This might be a helpful visual when teaching about the overuse of common words in student writing. Either type in or paste in some text from student projects and let the students analyze the results.

You can also enter the username for anyone who uses Delicious for bookmarking and see what tags they are using. Here’s mine:

It’s simple to see that I have lots of sites tagged with Web 2.0! Enter anyone’s Delicious username and quickly see if they’re interested in sites that you might also be interested in exploring.

One final example: Use this cool tool to create colorful word clouds of student names at the beginning of the year. You can also designate that the words be displayed in “almost” alphabetical order. I created the following cloud using first names of the classroom teachers at my schools.

Classroom uses:

  • Visualize overuse of common words in student writing
  • Enter vocabulary words and let students practice reading them.
  • Enter a passage from a story and see how often particular words are actually used.
  • Enter text from a historical document and analyze the results.
  • For younger students, use this to practice typing in spelling words. They don’t need an account to use the site, and they’ll love playing around with the results!

Update (8/22) Tina Coffey has a post with several terrific examples for using Wordle in the elementary classroom. Be sure to check it out!

What other ways can you think of for using Wordle in the K-5 setting?

Personal Learning Networks

Who is in your Personal Learning Network? Who do you share with? Talk to? Learn from? Collaborate with? Most classroom teachers will probably first think of the other folks in your grade level in your building, and perhaps other local teachers who teach the same grade level or subject.

Have you ever considered using the internet to extend your learning, not just by researching but by contact with other professionals? There are currently two very popular sites being used by technology educators, librarians, and numerous classroom teachers to create Personal Learning Networks. Each site restricts a post to 140 characters. Each site allows you to choose who you follow so you can build a network of people with similar interests to yours. Each site allows you to search for specific people or for general terms such as “teacher” so you can read posts of interest to you.

The most well known of the two sites is Twitter. You may have heard of it asking “What are you doing?” and people type in frivolous items such as “I’m eating a bologna sandwich.” However, the educational community has transformed it into something completely different. They ask for and share ideas, suggestions, and comments. I’ve been amazed at how many new web tools I have been introduced to by people that I follow on Twitter. It’s rare that I’ve asked a question that has not been answered within just a few minutes.

The second site is Plurk. This is quite similar to Twitter, but the topics become more conversational. Where Twitter tends to offer somewhat random comments, Plurk allows users to respond to questions and comments within a conversation and see other responses as well. It takes a bit more time to get used to the format, but I find that I prefer the threaded conversations in Plurk.

Feel free to follow me in either program. I’m elemtech on both. (Tina Coffey is elemitrt. Check her out while you’re there!) You can also see who we follow (mostly ed tech folks) and choose to follow them out also.

Let me know if you need help learning to navigate these cool new tools! It’s amazing to establish a network of educators from all over the world

The Book Video

Time for another fun video from YouTube! This video is a parody showing the introduction of the book at a time when only scrolls had been used. I’m not sure what language is being spoken, but there are English subtitles.

There is a learning curve involved with anything new, and everything was once new, even the book! I believe that every single teacher in my schools used something in technology last year that was new to you, and you did it with great success. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and please, never hesitate to ask for help. Consider me your modern day (medieval) helpdesk. 🙂

Qwizdom

West Salem teachers, I have great news! Our new set of Qwizdom remotes (clickers) has arrived. South Salem teachers have been using these for a few years now, and the other 2 elementary schools haves sets as well, so now we can share quizzes and other activities division wide.

On the student surveys, several students at South indicated that using Qwizdom was their favorite technology activity . South teachers, if you have not been using these, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to keep your students engaged in any subject review at any grade level. West teachers, we’ll have an inservice early in the year to introduce you to this new system.

With the division wide emphasis on assessment next year, these remotes will provide a quick and easy way for you to determine how well your students understand concepts in all subject areas. Most of the time, we use multiple choice questions, but you can design other questions types as well. Start thinking about how you might use these throughout the year with your students! If you’ll give me the questions, I’ll even set up the quizzes for you. (Oh yeah, I’ll need the answers too!)

Professional Development

As this school year comes to a close, I’m thinking ahead to next year, as I suspect most of you are (whether you’ll admit it or not!) We spent so much time planning for online testing this year that we really didn’t have very many other technology related training opportunities. On the staff development survey, several of you requested more workshops with ideas for using the SmartBoards, so that will definitely be a priority for the fall. Others were interested in online flashcard and quiz sites. Creating websites with Google Sites or blogs was another popular request. Then there are new sites such as VoiceThreads that are awesome for elementary classrooms, but unless you have used them, you may not know they exist, so we have lots of ideas for training topics. Of course, we also need follow-up training on the software we have currently installed in the lab and on laptops as well.

I need your help though. What formats work best for you? Do you prefer one-on-one training? Grade level specific training? After school workshops in your school? Division wide inservices at a central location? Credit classes? Online tutorials that you can use at your own pace?

I would love to have your feedback in the comments section below!

Job Well Done

Our online SOL testing is finally over, and everything went very smoothly at both schools. Scores are already in, and they are really good, and in many cases, they are awesome! This would not have been possible without the assistance of everyone in the school… from the parents to the teachers, from kindergarten to fifth grade, from the custodians to the cafeteria workers, from the paraprofessionals to the office staff. This entire process was indeed a team effort.

Even though we have different positions and responsibilities, we are all on the same team. We want the best for the children.

This video is about a softball game, but the amazing sportsmanship shown here reminds me of the way everyone pulled together during testing. Job well done, team!

Our True Heroes

Memorial Day is one of the holidays that elementary students are required to learn about for their social studies SOLs.

As Memorial Day draws to a close, I find myself thinking about the fabulous trip I was able to make last summer to France. Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the American Cemetery in Normandy and to the D-Day Landing Beaches.

As we arrived that early July morning, it was drizzling rain, but none of the Americans on the trip with us seemed to notice. There was complete and total silence as the chimes in the memorial there began playing “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.” We walked among the thousands of crosses and thought about those brave young men who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom, unexpected tears streaming down most of our faces. We watched in wonder as the American flag was raised so far away from our homeland. Later, we would visit the landing beaches and see the cliffs that those brave men had to scale.

Yesterday in church, we recognized those in attendance who had served in the military or in other service professions in which they risk their lives to protect ours. Once again, the unexpected tears began as these ladies and gentlemen lined the aisles to receive certificates of appreciation from our pastors while we sang “America, the Beautiful.”

These brave souls who sacrificed their lives to protect ours….these brave friends who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us daily….these are our true heroes.