Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Need Professional Development?

Yeah right - most teachers now a days have SO much professional development that they can't stand the term. They groan and whine. There are better things to do with their time, like grading papers, writing interactive lesson plans, and such.

But for those of you who still need some PD, I found a great place to get some online. Yes, at night in your jammies you can get your PD hours in. I found it when doing a search on the US Department of Education's Technology homepage. Under the "features" there is a place that says Get Online Professional Development Now. Being a curious person, I clicked on the link and it took me to PAEC. What's PAEC? It's the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium, and in 2006 they committed to continuing support of their online course site. Their courses are good for credit in 49 different states and you can actually create a personal portfolio to track and manage your own professional development activities. The courses are 15 minutes of streaming video with reflective questions and small tasks to help foster understanding. If you want to complete the entire course, you're looking at 2 hours. There are courses in ELA, science, math and other topics. What other topics? "Turning Data into Information", "Differentiated Instruction", and "Got History? Effective Practices" are just a few.

I might enroll in a few of the courses and see what they are like. They are free, thanks to a grant from the Federal Government. It's nice to see our tax dollars at work in a good way. Has anyone else checked these courses out? What's your thought?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

We're Not Alone.

I am fascinated with weird news. It's my favorite type of news to read online, well right after educational news.

And before you decide NOT to read this or click on the link, I'm not talking about us being alone in the universe and there being aliens out there. I'm talking about something right here on Earth.

Anyone out there read "The Hobbit"? Of course you have. I don't think you can escape k-12 school or a college lit class without reading it. Well today I found an article about this "Hobbit" they found in a cave on a remote island of Indonesia that made them question if we were the only human species alive. The scientists have been debating the significance of this discovery for over two years. One camp of scientists believe that it is a one meter tall woman, now nicknamed Hobbit, and is a new human species. Another camp is more skeptical and they believe the human actually has a condition called "microcephaly", which basically means she was born with an abnormally small head. (Hmmm, maybe the "shrunken heads were actually from humans with this same condition?)

A Florida State University anthropologists says they have proof that this is a new human species, with a highly evolved brain. (So small heads do equal high IQ?)

Interesting article to read with students. Have them research and come up with other questions that should be answered before deciding if this is a new species or whether to stay skeptical. I'm one of those who believe that archeology is a strong combination of geography skills, science skills, and even literature skills and therefore this could be integrated into almost any subject. Language Arts teachers must read for meaning, separate facts from fiction and write supporting papers on a given topic. Social Studies gives us the skills to research the history and culture of an area, which might lead to support the abnormality. The science skills, well - this is all based on science.

I wonder what Gill Grissom would think of this discovery?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Scholastic: Online Activities

I really can't wait. I have to share the wonderful things that I learned about the ".com" side of Scholastic while at FETC. First, I got to work with Mark and Kathy. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Kathy before, but this is the first time I have gotten to work with Mark or in the booth for Scholastic. Mark is a trainer for Scholastic and was really great to work with in the booth. Poor Mark, I'm sure he was tired of the wonderful people who kept coming into the booth just to give me a hug and say hi. :-) However, he is really cool to work with and a true gem to Scholastic.

There are many things to share that I'm having a hard time to decide where to start. I decided to start with Online Activities, even though a few of these will be featured again later this week. Now most people think of reading when they hear the word "Scholastic", but there is so much more there. The Weather was this show's feature in the science arena, but I think my favorite is actually the one for Oceans. You can choose which sea creature, Leatherback Turtle or Dolphin, that you would like to swim with as you explore the Ocean with Earth Watch.

Not only is there plenty on there for the Science teachers, but the History teachers have a lot of great activities for students k-12 as well. The Teaching American History Teachers in Sumter, SC use to use a few of these to incorporate technology in their classroom or to at least get lesson ideas from. Since Black History Month is just a few days away, why not check out the plethora of activities to incorporate into your lessons?

Math teachers feeling left out? You shouldn't. I enjoyed the Math Maven's Mysteries, which you can use for grades k-5. There's a nice little mystery that you can either read to your students or have them read and then there's a question at the end. Ready for the next step? Have your students write their own math mysteries with a problem to solve. That's one way of getting writing across the curriculum in!

So many cool features of Scholastic and just so much time to type it all! I'll share more tomorrow.

For those of you who are were in the DEN - I got to enjoy an early dinner with Larry and Darlene Wolfe today. They are doing FANTASTIC and said to tell everyone hello!

Friday, January 26, 2007


I have no idea where to begin. Last year at FETC I did not have time to walk the floor, and I really didn't have that much time this year. But in my time at the great hall of the Florida conference, I learned a lot about some new tools and even some old favorites with improvements. There are so many to mention, it's hard to choose where to start. I should start with Scholastic since they were a gem and let me work with their ".com" kiosk this week. However, they have SO MANY great things to share, I have to save them for near last. Let's do a short run down right now.

BrainPOP Jr: BrainPOP has always a great place to get that short little video that has tons of information that can grab the attention of most students. The new BrainPop Jr. has even more, and for right now it's free for anyone to try (probably until May). I LOVE the jokes, the word wall, the comic strips, okay, I am loving it all. I'm watching a video right now to help Joey with his math. I am ready for the phonic videos to be introduced. If BrainPOP some how finds this blog, I'm willing to beta test anything on this site with my learning challenged 7 year old and my niece who is 6 and loves school. Oh, and teachers, guess what? They have lesson ideas for you and a complete section for Grown Ups. Another feature I really like is that their videos can go full screen, and the one I watched earlier also has closed captioning available. Since Joey struggles with reading, I find close-captioning a great way to reinforce what he's trying to read on his own. He hears it being said and sees the words in print!

Boy I want to tell you about Scholastic. Can you patiently wait? Tomorrow I want to share a techy item and then I have some other great things to share. I could spend 2 weeks on the various Scholastic items alone - and still have a need for more time and space to blog about all the neat features and tools.

I will leave you with this little morsel. For those of you who know me, you know that I was once working with the "DEN" and my counterpart was Karen Seddon. She's the most down to Earth dreamer I know and she has such a big heart and growing passion for educators. When the DEN had to dissolve our positions, Karen pulled out her rose colored glasses and looked at this in a positive way to branch out on her own to try something inspiring. She introduced at FETC to some of her friends and colleagues her new business " encourage, equip, and empower teachers". It is going to be more than what the blog site shows now. She is creating a complete site that will benefit teachers and will be offering a lot of great services to the education world. Keep an eye on her as she grows into "THE" evanglist for creative technology.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


It was an interesting day on Wednesday. I got to attend my last DEN event, which was bitter sweet. It was great seeing my DEN friends again, but it was a bit uncomfortable to be there in the role I was in. It was worth it to see the friends I did get to see.

Anyway, on the tour there was something that they said that really grabbed my attention. I use to have my students design an amusement park of their dreams and design it around a theme. We talked about which subject matter would be needed to plan an amusement park that would really bring in the crowd. Well, the tour really confirmed that entire lesson. The Mummy ride used psychology and history in order to create a thrilling ride. In the Horror Make Up area we learned how the original visualizer of Frankenstein really had to use his reading skills in order to bring him "to life". There was no picture of him to go by, so the entire copyrighted Frankenstein was designed based on the words of Mary Shelly. He was created by sewing body parts together and so he should have stiches on his body. The brain lead to the flat head.

It's definitely worth taking the tour with your students. When you do, think about having the students create a podcast of something they learned. That was our project for the day. It was my first attempt at Garageband and podcasting, but Diana, Larry and Cheryl Woolwine were an AWESOME TEAM and I think our podcast was great. I learned a lot from each of them, and of course shared many smiles and laughs.

You can find our podcast by visiting my home page.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lessons Being Learned

I have a new toy. Well, no it's not a toy, I should say I have a new tool. I needed a new computer desperately, and I needed to learn how to become "multi-lingual" at least on the computer. I'm fairly competent on the PC, but the Mac always intimidated me, so that's what I bought.

I'm learning a lot on this new tool and finding a lot of things I like. So far my favorite software available has been iPhoto. However, I also found it to be the software that really drove a lesson in my head. See, I am constantly forgetting my camera whenever I go somewhere. Or, I remember to take it, but I forget to take pictures of events, people, and places. I myself don't like being in pictures because I look like a marshmallow with hair in most of them. In the past, this wasn't a big deal. I took a photo for the blog, and then enjoyed the event.

The along comes iPhoto. I start adding photos, searching for them all over and realize several things. One, I am not organized in the photo area and this is where Flick'r could be beneficial. Or maybe I should say where iPhoto will be beneficial. Second, I didn't have a many photos with me in them or that were quality shots. I especially learned that I took events for granted. I expected to see my fellow DEN Managers in December. I was never the snap happy camera girl, as I explained earlier and now I realize that I missed great photos of my old friends. I even missed getting great photos of my DEN members and events that we had together. Lesson learned. Take more photos.

So how did iPhoto teach me these lessons? Simple. See, I'm not a scrapbooking type of person. I have all the tools, but I don't like laying it all out, working for a few hours on a page or two, and then putting it all back up. And it's quite expensive. Because I didn't do anything with my photos before is probably why I never took many. iPhoto though has this capability to actually build books with your photos. Choose your layout and add your photos. Then once you're done, you send it to Apple to print out, bind in a hardcover, and mail to you. Cost is about $40 with shipping and handling. Yes, I know that there are books that you can buy yourself now to do the same thing, but you're still having to print (and good ink is money) and then pray you don't make a mistake while printing or putting it together.

I just created my first iPhoto book and hope to have it soon. I'm really hoping I have it before FETC. Either way, if I see you, watch out. If my lesson is truly learned - I will be taking a lot of pictures at the pre-conference.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Games for Good

Darlene Wolfe is an inspiring person. WOW! The things that she's involved in and has helped create - it's simply amazing! Last summer she was involved in a session called Games for Good with Dr. Butch Rosser. Dr. Rosser is the surgeon who has done studies and proven that videogamers (especially those who play certain games) make better surgeons.

Lately all those video games are popping back up into conversations. David Warlick has a post on his blog, there was an article in eSchool News, and something on tv as I flipped through channels. Video games are not new to education. We had old Apple games when I was a student, as a teacher we used the PlayStation with games from Lightspan (now a Plato company), and I also used other online games to keep students interested in the curriculum.

There's even new articles being posted about how video games can help you lose weight, instead of becoming a couch potato. I'm thinking it's the Wii effect, where people throw their Wii in frustration or the heat of the moment and end up having to clean up the glass and broken items or chase it down outside after it crashed through a window.

Are you a gamer? Have you always been fascinated with video games and you want to see how they can be useful to education? Are you interested in how video games can help you become active and lose weight? Then I have some good news for you! No, I don't have another article for you to read, instead I have a great website with details on an event called OTRONICON. They claim this event, which runs from January 12 through the 21st, is the ultimate gaming experience. There are plenty of sessions for everyone, including competitions and even classes on how to create these wonderful games or to use them to our advantage. Darlene has been bragging about this event since I met her and so I think I'm going to have to take a trip out there. Check it out. I'm no competition in the gaming world to even a seven year old, but my interest is snagged.

Oh, and Dr. Rosser will be in attendance too!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blogging, Podcasts, and Webcasts make a Difference

One of my favorite teachers is David Warlick. No, I never actually had him as a classroom teacher, but I've been to many of his presentations, read his blog, and have read his book and have learned a lot from him. Anyway, in his book he mentions how blogging has really impacted the world today, really making a show in politics. The way that blogging has impacted education is even more amazing.

Yesterday, Apple's Steve Jobs gave a keynote where he introduced the iPhone, available in June of 2007. According to a news article, there are now hundreds (if not thousands) of blogs already about this new toy. Okay, so this has nothing to do with education, but can you imagine the lessons that can be taught with these blogs? Watch the original keynote (found at the bottom of the link above) and then have the students read the thoughts and journalistic opinions of others. How many report facts? How many report opinions? What are their thoughts on this new gadget? Can they tell you how this will impact education?

In eSchool News there's an article on how webcasts are really providing a boon to the sports of smaller schools. Now I'm not athletic myself, but I do support sports in schools. I even watched the webcasts to keep up with the football games from Sumter when I moved. Now let's take these webcasts that college sports are going to make use of and see how we can use them in education. Simple idea that comes to mind is actually having your students create a webcast of the science experiment and explain how they are solving it. Or maybe they can do a webcast of interviews as they research an era of history. Sharing what they learned in a verbal sense gives them a chance to re-evaluate what they learned and if they are watching webcasts created by other students, then they are also learning from those students. Score one for education!

Podcasts are very similar to a webcast, but they are usually only the audio files. I take that back, lately you can watch enhanced podcasts with images or videos enhancing what the podcast is about.

How do you use these tools in your classroom? Which one is your favorite? Have you seen your own impact?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Marzano and Web 2.0

One of the best things my former boss had us do was read professional books. One of her favorite authors was Marzano and his series on "....that Works" in education today. I say that it was one of the best because if you know me, my preferred reading lends towards fictional. Great way to escape.

She was our biggest ally for getting technology in education, but on one occassion she admitted that she wasn't sure that technology actually made a difference in today's classrooms. I wish I had her new email address so I could send her a Wiki like site I found while browsing the Internet today. I started with a website about Educational Technology That Works. Quickly it reminded me of Marzano and so my curiosity got the better of me. Wasn't I surprised when I found out that there was a whole section on Marzano and Web 2.0?

He strongly encourages blogs and wikis to help students take their learning to a higher level. He demonstrates how something as simple as notetaking using a wiki will take the basic summarization skill and push it up to the top level of HOTS and make them analyze their notes before they actually publish them to the Wiki. There are even examples for what is otherwise basic use of the Blooms Taxonomy and how the Web 2.0 actually takes those baby steps screaming to the top of the taxonomy.

What's even more impressive is the list of tools and connections to make this work. I was impressed with the list. You can also participate in the Wiki and share more information from each article.

Do you have a district that believes in Marzano's work and studies and yet won't let you blog or use other web 2.0 tools in your classroom? Well ladies and gentlemen, don't present them the works of the greats like Will Richardson and David Warlick- people they don't even know. Instead, pack this website and it's research in your arsenal. His name might just be what you need.

Or it could end the readings of his books for the next bookstudy. :-)

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Web 2.0

I was having a Google Email Conversation with another educator the other day and we were talking about Web 2.0 features and how the new tools sure do make it easier to network with each other and to share resources.

Now before we get started on my comment back to the above thought, I want to also say I am not a geek. I wish I was. I admire those who can talk the talk. I am not the first to use the latest technology tool, only because there are so many things out there and I look at how they are being used before I put them in my toolbox. One way of keeping up with what's out there is by reading blogs by the masters, such as Steve Dembo, and reading eSchool News.

Okay, so back to my Google discussion. What I find amazing is that I have belonged to a network of teachers from all over the United States without corporate sponsorship since 1999. I had just left elementary school and was going into middle school. I wanted to find some guidance on how to handle these loveable hormonal students. I searched through various lesson plan pages and then I searched for other topics. Then someone emailed me to join them in a Yahoo Group and from there I was able to find "I Must Be Crazy, I Teach Middle School." In the early days, this group was active. We shared ideas via the discussion boards. I believe some even posted resources on the Group Site. I even started one for my students and used it to post homework, photos from the classroom, have a discussion on topics from class and so forth. They had to be invited in so we didn't get the spam that we sometimes got from the Middle School group. As my master's classes came to an end, we started a group as well in order to keep in touch. My high school reunion was also planned via a Yahoo Group.

But alas, the groups are not what they use to be. They took something that was easy to use and practically destroyed it. The only people still on the Middle School group are over powered by the spammers. It's a sad world. But now we have discussion boards, sharing of resources thanks to organizations like the Discovery Educator Network.

Or could always make use of the Web 2.0 tools and create your own community using Drupal.

The other tool I used a lot was BackFlip. I was never on the same computer twice and was always needed a site that I had found at another point. I enjoyed sharing bookmarks with other educators this way as well. Now, we use a new tool called . It's a neat tool and I have enjoyed the other bookmarks I have found from there.

I'll admit that I like the new Web 2.0 and the fun things that it brought, but some of this hype's been around for awhile. Just a new approach to grab your interest.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Curriculum + Wiki

What do you get when you combine curriculum + wiki? You get Curriki, a new networking site for teachers brought to you from our friends at Sun Microsystems.

I'm always interested in places where teachers can network, share resources, and broaden their horizons. I believe teachers that talk (not whine) to each other about what they are doing in the classroom are the better teachers. These teachers learn from the best professionals out there who know more about education than any other self-professed "expert"in the field - other teachers.

I'm interested to see what Curriki will bring to the world of education. You can read more about it on their website or in eSchool News.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

New Year's Resolution Part Two

I am one that if it is in writing, it might get done faster. I need to not only see the image in my head, I need to see the images before me on paper. I am a very visual person. For the past few years I have been toying with writing a book. Couldn't decide if I wanted to write a romance novel, but finally crossed that one off my list because all I know in that area is second hand from other romance novels. Thought about other genres, but again -my lack of knowledge would show greatly. But I had some inspiration this weekend by another author, Kay Teehan, and so today I started writing my book. Hopefully it will be finished soon. I might even attend a writer's meeting next week to get some pointers!

But in the down time of writing the book, I'll be on the blog and I have to say how thankful I am that I have the blog. I started off only telling a few people that I had the new blog up and running, sort of embarrassed for my own silly reasons. Thanks to the blog, not only do I get to continue sharing my passion for technology in education, but I've been able to network and get back in touch with friends from DEN. For instance, a DEN Member that I met this summer had been trying to reach me and couldn't find my address anywhere. Thanks to my blog, she found me and we've been able to catch up on old times and even start talking about some new times. Then Tom Turner, another great educator, mentioned my blog on his blog and I'm now in touch with Teryl from Tennessee. Betsy from Discovery gave another friend of mine from pre-DEN days in SC, Loren, my link and now we're back in touch.

What's amazing is the networking that happens from just one simple post. I would be so lost if I had to live in the Pony Express Days because I do not mail cards (I mean to, even write them and sometimes stamp them, but forget to take that last step), am horrible at calling people, but can live it up on email and other electronic communication. The capability to network electronically is just simply amazing.

So my encouragement to all of you for New Year's Resolutions. Forget resolving to lose 10 pounds, because once you do, 15 more will find you later in places even more deplorable. Instead, resolve to accomplish one of your secret dreams - like mine is writing a book and actually take a step to making your dream come true. Hey, this is Disney's year of a Million Dreams Coming True. Why not make that OUR year to Make OUR dreams come true?

Also (you're not getting off that easy!) resolve to network with other professionals or those who share a common interest as you. A great place to start are teacher communities, such as the DEN or on blogs, such as this one. I myself have also resolved to network in my new town and learn my way around it. Getting to Publix, Wal-Mart and Target's and not knowing a soul in the town I live in is pretty pathetic. Thanks Larry and Kay for pointing that one out. :-)

Thank you for reading and leaving comments. You inspire me even more with each thought!

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Year's Resolution

How many of you make resolutions each year, and like the Home Depot commercial - lose it somewhere totally unexpected? I can honestly say moving does not neccessarily help you get organized. It takes a long time to unpack and reorganize.

Well, I like many of you, make my New Year's Resolutions each year, and each year they get trashed, lost or whatever. So this year, I made a decision to do my resolutions on the computer. Can you guess what program I am going to use? You got it! Inspiration!

There are many reasons to use Inspiration. Let's see if I can count the ways:
  1. Brainstorm my resolutions and make sure I only have the ones I will really be able to accomplish or that they don't overlap.
  2. I can add sub-topics on the benefits of sticking with that resolution.
  3. I can add hyperlinks to the websites that will be best to help me stick to the resolution.
  4. I can add notes as well on how to actually get the results.
  5. I can add check boxes for each resolution and check them off as I feel that I have accomplished them.
  6. I can change the resolutions into outline form and print them out to easily carry in my pocket or hang on my fridge. Perfect for first resolution of no midnight snacking while watching CSI. I am NOT resolving to give up CSI. I need a little more Nick and Greg in my life.
  7. If you have the program (Pocket PC or Palm Inspiration) and the hardware (a Pocket PC or Palm), you can actually carry your resolutions with you.
  8. You can add images, or even video, to help influence your resolutions. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. The image of that little red dress and spiky heels might do more for you sticking with that first resolution than the words themselves.
  9. Sound? Yes, you can add the sounds to your Inspiration document. Sounds of salsa dancing to encourage you to learn to dance, or some other great resolution.
  10. It's Inspiration. By using the program itself, you'll be inspired to make resolutions you can actually stick with!

I could go on, but the top 10 is enough. Besides, I have my New Year's Resolutions to brainstorm. One of them is a book. Inspiration is another pefect program to outline either one of the genres I'm thinking of writing.

Happy New Year's Everyone!