Thursday, June 28, 2007

My Take Away

I was asked yesterday while in the security line at the Atlanta Airport what was the one thing that I took away from NECC this year. I would have to say that what hit me the most was making it personal.

Let me explain. It all relates to School 2.0 and Web 2.0. With the Web 2.0 you are able to be part of a huge community, and yet be an individual. In the past, in before the Internet and other tools really got involved in education, all students were taught the same. Each student sat in a desk, in a row and were taught in the same manner. Slowly things evolved and we realized that many students needed differentiated instruction. I'm even curious if there are some students out there that are not truly Learning Disabled, but in need of a differentiated instruction program. Anyway, with cooperative learning and differentiated instruction, we started to see some changes. Then we introduced the computer and things became even more individualized. Unfortunately the beginning (and still just a wee bit) marked us using canned programs with no outside interaction. Thirty students came to the lab, sat down, worked on the computer for about 30 minutes and then went back to the classroom with no more use of technology unless it was the Television.

But with technology today, we really learned how to differentiate the programs. We use PhotoStory, iMovie, Inspiration, and other great programs. Through Web 2.0 we have started using blogs, wikis and podcasting. And actually, to give even more credit to the Web 2.0 movement, we as educators have formed communities to learn from each other. Educators, as David Warlick pointed out, are becoming even more mature and responsible for their professional growth. Communities such as School 2.0 in Ning, Inspiration's Community, and Discovery Educator Network have provided teachers with more outlets to learn and grow than schools were ever able to offer. The blogs from NECC all point to the most treasured event was the Bloggers Cafe (I wish I had gotten to more and even up there. Maybe then I too would understand Twitter and become an addict.) Through the meetings at the Bloggers Cafe, educators learned from each other and grew even more.

Twenty-first Century learning was showcased, and I personally loved the "R U 21" shirts from netTrekker. A few people look at netTrekker and they don't realize the value the program has. The ELL Channel, the new 21st Century Channel, the readability, the saved searches, the read aloud - well it empowers the students. Plus it's a safe all in one package.

Oh, and creative! Oh so creative! The arts are coming back in their own way. Through video creating, using the paint and art tools in creative ways . I wish I had made it to the Creative pre-conference with Tech4Learning. I love their products and kept hearing how great they are whenever I went around. By being creative you are allowing your students to be an individual.

So what do I take away? Through Web 2.0 and School 2.0, teachers are learning to make connections with each other - no matter what bounderies are in the way. They are sharing and empowering themselves and not waiting for their administrators to empower them. Through Web 2.0 and School 2.0, teachers are learning to individualized lessons and meet each students needs through creative means. We are learning to be creative with 1:1 computing (when available) in the 21st Century and we are making it personal and allowing our students to be individuals.

What did you take away?

NECC: It's Not Over Yet!

Just a quick note -
Yes, you can read all the wonderful blogs (Wes Fryer's are my favorite to read through because he has taken awesome notes!) about NECC 2007. Here are a few to start off with, since they are the official bloggers of NECC 2007. (And Florida's own Tom Turner is on the list! Woo Hoo!)
But did you know that you can actually watch webcasts from NECC? I'm about ready to cue up Alan November's video. I missed it live because I ran into some more wonderful people.
Then there are a bunch of Video On Demands to watch too!
Then there are podcasts to listen to as well!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Joe - Change Your Attitude.

Attitude is everything. When we (The DEN) went through our job loss, I cried my eyes out. I won't lie. I was sitting at the Pensacola Airport all red faced, eyes swollen, and such. But I picked up the phone and started calling contacts. I was not going to let this keep me down. During interviews, I couldn't say anything bad about the DEN, just true shock over what happened, but not a dislike about the DEN. I even went on three more DEN events after that incident and I stayed positive. Attitude is everything.
When everyone tells me the they are old and I have to understand, I tell them that attitude is everything. So last night when Joe Caruso expressed that he was tired, he was ready for bed and that he was OLD - I told him that it was all attitude and he needed to change his attitude. Cheryl Woolwine is actually a few years older than Caruso and she wasn't out there complaining about needing her bed. You are only as old as you feel and well Cheryl, she's so young at heart she'll never get old. :-). I told Joe it was all about attitude, and he needed to change his. Yes, you read that right. I told Joe Caruso to change his attitude.
Wouldn't you agree with me?
Joe and I also talked about blogging and other great wonders in technology. He wants to learn about blogging and I told him I would be happy to introduce him to the wonders of the written word and open communication on the web. He asked me why would I do such a thing, and I told him it was part of paying it forward. I had a great teacher, Steve Dembo, and he didn't ask for anything in return. So I'm paying it forward and passing on what I learned from Steve to Joe. Someday Joe can pay it forward and teach someone else, or at least inspire us in his blogs to fill in the gaps of time when we are not blessed with his presence.
Then I curtsied and he was shocked.
Again, it's all about attitude. I hope I have the right one.

Running through the Day

WHAT A DAY! I'm sure all the bloggers are saying the same thing, but it truly has been an amazing day here at NECC 2007 in Atlanta. I started the day in the exhibit hall (putting up my shirt for later) and ran into a good friend, Trish. Trish use to be my software representative and then she took a break. She is now with Academic Super Store. If you are on the East Coast, give Trish a call. She is absolutely wonderful! Tell her Danielle sent you. :-)
I actually ran into Trish on my way to a TableTop session. She was at the Visions Table, who sells some great books as well, and John was trying to talk me into writing the book he's been asking me to write for the past six years. I promised him a rough draft soon. Any tips?
Finally got out of the conference hall to get to the table tops. I really was looking forward to them, but never made it. Instead I ran into Chris Craft from Columbia, SC. He's awesome. I really wanted to attend his open source class, but well that's another story. I also ran into Mark Jeffery and so we talked professional development in today's world, incorporating tools from Web 2.0 with programs like netTrekker and BrainPop and how our students today are really blessed with having so many choices. I also ran into Pam from Alabama -who I must refer to as Ms. Alabama. She's a joy and always full of smiles. More people and well, I never made it to the first table top even though I was standing right there!
But I did run into Wes Fryer on my way into a School 2.0 session with Timothy Magner from the Department of Education. Wes and I had a great conversation about why communities are so important, what factors really make a difference in large communities, and then he gave me a great lesson about blogging on a Mac. He suggested a piece of software and I am definitely going to look it up. I might even switch over to Word Press, or just use my Mac software that I already have. Hmmm, choices!
The session on School 2.0 was really interesting. It wasn't what I thought I was going to, but really good. Bandwidth is an issue. The United States is lagging. I'll save the details for when I can get back home and really process it. Or you can read Wes's blog since he did his live. Smart man!
From there I met up with Cheryl T from Sumter, SC for lunch. We talked about what's new and what's changed since we last came to NECC (July 2005!) It's interesting to really think about how much everything has changed, even in just one way or another. We talked about interactive boards, software, other tools, and all the stuff vendors throw at the teachers to snag them in the booth.
Speaking of vendors, I had to run off to netTrekker's booth. I promised Jill that I would fill in for an hour today and I still had to get out of my T-shirt and into the professional shirt they gave me. Luckily, the sympathized and said that it was okay if I didn't change. I got to jump in and talk with educators about the features of netTrekker. Their favorite? Not sure if it was read aloud, the readibility, or the eye popping new section, 21st Century Skills. They let me talk (like they could shut me up!), I let them talk, they let me talk some more, then I got to scan them and give them a shirt. I was a lucky person to get a shirt from. Why? At least two of the people that wore their "I'm 21, RU" shirts won $50. Cash. YEAH!!!! But because of my love for talking and my belief that this product really is a gem for schools, I ended up working until the booth closed. So an hour turned into three, but that's fine by me. I had fun interacting with educators in the booth.
The night ended with a customer appreciation dinner at the Georgia Aquarium and then fireworks at Centennial Park. Did I sit and eat? Nope, I enjoyed roaming the tables to chat with customers and talk about netTrekker. Yes, I really do love to talk. The dinner was made even more beautiful by running into Dolores Noechel from Florida. Okaloosa County and I have a history, which I look at in good humor. But it was great to see her and hear about the technology changes that she's going through and the sessions she found most useful.
Off to the fireworks and dance at a private party for the customers. It was a truly classy event! Luckily I was able to stay away from the dance floor, but I did mingle and enjoy a Sprite. I'm such a lush, I know!
What a day. So much to process so I can come back and share more than just my daily run down.

Monday, June 25, 2007

NECC Begins with a BANG!

Yesterday afternoon I ran into Cheryl Woolwine from Putnam County, FL (GREAT DISTRICT!) and we decided to hang out for a bit before the show. So we check in (we're staying at the same hotel), head over to the conference hall, buy some shirts and books from ISTE (I can't turn down a book!), and then FINALLY found a place to eat. (We also ran into Joe from Discovery's Digital Storytelling Blog!) While we waiting for our food I was itching to ask this guy if he was Mark from eChalk. Poor Cheryl had to sit there while I was ancy trying to figure it out. So finally before we left I just got up and asked him. He was! I love eChalk, especially for schools that don't have the tech people to design a well organized site. Anyway, after lunch we came back to the hotel to unpack and then went back to the hall. We were the last ones in at StarBucks and this one ISTE lady didn't get in, so I bought her the drink she wanted, getting her order through the window. All I wanted in return was a bag. As a registered vendor I don't get a bag or a program. How am I suppose to know where to go tomorrow? Guess I'll be online tonight looking it up!
Before the keynote yesterday I ran into Kathleen from Leon County. YEAH! She made it! She hung out with Cheryl and I for the keynote and our attempt to get into the Aquarium. We waited for 40 minutes until we ran into Kathy Shrock. She was literally running so we had to stop her. She explained there was wall to wall people inside and they were only letting so many people in as people left. With all the line jumpers and the fact that we were moving - we decided to give up. Cheryl and I had gone to the aquarium last year, and I'll actually be going back with netTrekker on Tuesday night.
The keynote was great! After a spirit raising welcome from the Atlanta Drum Line, a great opening speech with a reminder on why we do what we do from President Trina Davis,Andrew Zolli stepped up. Not only was he educational, he was entertaining. He had so many good points that I was itching for my iPod to record or a notebook to take notes. I was so unprepared to be motivated! But, if you check his website, he should be adding this presentation to his Speeches and Articles area. Check it out.
This morning on my way to McDonald's and an affordable breakfast, I ran into Robert M. Can't remember his last name right now. We use to work on grants together, he being our evaluator. He said something that really made me sad. "You can't buy a grant right now, they are that hard to get." I can only imagine how hard it is for districts that depend on the funding from grants for their tech programs.
Let me give you one quick warning. I have fallen in love with Firefox as a browser and hardly EVER use Safari. Well I went ahead and downloaded the new child safe search engine from Firefox and it's been a bit quirky. One of the biggest quirks, each time I have to accept terms before I can actually use the Internet, I'm locked out. So I'm doing this in Safari without my usual tools being available. I'll have to come back later and add all the links. I just don't do old fashioned anymore. Spoiled with the toolbars!
Enjoy NECC. I'll be at the Virtual Playground today with netTrekker and then tonight I'm on my own.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Register of Excuses?

"Mr. Chalk" seems to be a bit outdated with his teaching methods and his knowledge of what our kids today are facing. I cringed when I read his post, and must say I am thankful he will never be my son's teacher. (He's in the UK, and I have no plans or desire to move to the UK.)

In his post he talks about how sugary diets are part of the problem our students face today. I'll give him that. Sometimes it's cheaper to give the kid a snack out of a pack rather than a fresh piece of fruit - or you're in a location that only offers that as a choice. But that's not the only thing he commented on. He also said that parents can list any "disease" like ADHD or Bi-Polar disorder and it's like "get out of jail free card". No siree! My son gets rewarded for behaving in school. He might get a movie night with me, get to eat dinner at Chick Fil A on the school night, or something simple. When he's bad, he loses time to play outside with friends, TV time, or toys taken away. Or he gets a good old fashioned spanking. Depends on the crime. We do not allow him or his teachers to use ADHD or his absence seizure as an excuse. We do however look to see if behavior is escalating and if maybe the medicine is not helping him or some other source might be influencing the wrong behavior.

I can imagine what Michele and Cheryl think about this man's belief. They work with these students who have such "diseases" and I can promise you, they are not so negative or demeaning about the children. They look at each case as an individual case and not blanket everyone with ADHD as a problem child on sugary highs that can do no wrong because he/she is unjustly under the influence and overdiagnosed with ADHD.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lexile Conference Day One

Today is the first day of the Lexile Conference. I couldn't really leave the booth to go to the keynotes, but from what I heard - they were absolutely awesome. There were attendees that mentioned the writing component of Lexile. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it's not just about the reading levels!
I saw Debbie Bohanan, and surprise to me -a lot of people from Lake City, SC. Lake City is where I started my teaching career. I'm still in the exhibit hall though. Dangerous place to be. Why? Well there are about seventeen vendors. Scholastic though has this huge booth set up and they are selling Harry Potter books at $2 a copy!! Well, not just Harry Potter - but all paperback books are now $2! I bought 25 books and 2 make your book kits. Dangerous! I might have to go back there. I don't need to eat. Maybe if I spend all my money on books, I won't have the money to eat.
Brandon's at a session right now. I'll have to get his input on it and share.

Get this and other HP countdowns at

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lexile Conference

Right now I am sitting in my room at the Coronado Springs Resort at Disney World. I'm waiting on Brandon Cohen so I can learn how to set up the booth for netTrekker. We're both here for the Lexile Conference. Pretty snazzy place to be setting up for a conference!
While waiting for Brandon (who flew Delta so of course there were issues with his flight), I talked to one of the marketing teams for the Lexile Group. Corrie Hartline explained to me how this is the fourth year, and their largest, Lexile Conference yet. Over 1000 people are registered, and the presentations look pretty exciting. I saw that Debbie Bohanan is part of a team representing Achieve 3000 and Reedy Creek Elementary. Mary Lane Sloan will be here from Richland County School District Two, SC to present on netTrekker. There were a few other names I recognized as well. Looking forward to putting faces and names back together.
As far as vendors, there's Pearson, Follett, some new ones, and then the one that's going to break my pocketbook -Scholastic. They are selling their books and boy are those prices awesome! I don't want to, but the reader in me has to, finish the series of Charlie Bone. Plus she has the Artemis Fowl book I have yet to pick up. Then there were some books for Joey and maybe Auntie Dani can pick up one for Zoe as well - oh, but there's another book for me. Maybe I'll get lucky and Brandon will keep me and my purse down at the netTrekker booth. :-)
netTrekker is here because of the way they use Lexile reading scores in their searches. Did you know that you can narrow down your search by the Lexile Reading Score, meaning you can actually help your challenged readers find even more appropriate material when using netTrekker? Pretty snazzy if you ask me!
Snazzy - that must be my new term.

Scheduling Mistake!

I cannot believe I just did that! I made a huge scheduling mistake! I agreed to do something the day Harry Potter comes out!! How could I? I always save that date to lock myself into a reading space and read! I cannot believe I agreed to help with a Safety Fair on that day, but what's worse -I even suggested that date! ARRGGHH!!

Here's something from the Leaky Cauldron to hold me over I guess.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Have you "Googled" yourself lately? I decided, after watching a report online the other night, to set up a Google Alert for anything that comes up with my name. I was curious. Well today I received results from that Google Alert from Pipl. I had never seen this search engine before, so I backed up to the original domain and was quickly intrigued. I retyped my name. No results. But wait, there were there just a minute ago. So I typed in Hall Davidson - he's always got hits. No results. How about Steve Dembo, I mean he's all over the web. No results. So I typed in JK Rowling. YEAH! I got hits. And the other things tagged with JK Rowling were just as interesting. So I go back to do one more search - look near the bottom and find out that Pipl is in it's Alpha stage. Guess I should cut it just a bit of slack. I think this will be a fun search engine once it's up and running at full speed. I can even think of a few ways to use it in the classroom!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I am currently working with my community on a newspaper. We know we want to have an online version. Should I use Pages from iWork and PDF the final copy and upload to our wikispace? Or should I use Letterpop? Is there a similar online tool out there? Or should I use Word, since most people have Word, and just upload it without the PDF?
The things that make you go hmmmm.

Tech Funding, Support and Future

I'm doing a lot of reading right now, and thoughts keep running through my head. Some I want to share, some I'm just trying to shove right back out.
There's an article on eSchool News Online about how nine states who have received Federal Ed Tech Funds are reporting gains. Awhile ago there was another article about how technology is not really making gains. I have my own thoughts on this, as I'm sure many technology coaches do too.
First, I know there's an age old saying about throwing money at problems doesn't solve the problem. That's true. However, without the proper funding, schools cannot purchase the up to date hardware and software they need. When I left my school district last year, they still hand Windows 95 in the elementary schools. Can you imagine the problems they had encountered with Internet security issues and the software we picked out for them? They needed new computers, but we didn't have funding at the time for elementary schools to get new computers. I'm happy to report that they now have new computers.
Second, it's not the money and it's not the technology. It's the training that goes along with the computers. A lot of teachers will say they are over-trained, and they are correct. What they need is a good technology coach. Let's put it in perspective of football. Would you train a football team and then send them onto the field to play major games without coaches and with only a manager sitting up in the box watching the game? The manager has a lot of responsibilities - but coaching the team is not really one of them. Same thing with educators. The principal needs to lead by example, but he or she also depends on coaches to be on the field and keep the players heads in the game. They have paperwork and other headaches to deal with.
There was another report (Diplomas Count) that talked about preparing our students for college or a progressive workforce. A lot of schools will tell you that in all honesty their students are not ready for college or are not college material, so they prepare them for the workforce. Some focus on getting the kids ready for more of a technical education than a four year liberal arts degree. Each area has their own ideas and reasons. But the future does hold technology. We have to integrate it into our classrooms, or our students won't be ready for the future. I have to laugh because yesterday a new person at StarBucks didn't know how to operate their touch screen register and a customer at the hair salon didn't get her appointment because the new employee wrote the appointment on a piece of paper and not in the computer because she wasn't familiar with the computer. Within an hour I witnessed two service-centered places of business deal with issues because of computer problems.
So where am I going with all this rambling? Technology is very important in today's classroom. We need to fund it correctly, provide ongoing training and support, and we need to think about the future when preparing our students for the variety of opportunities.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Teacher Communities

Today I was reading an article in eSchool News about Teacher Communities, and there is a great interview with Florida's Tom Turner. He really has been burning up the interviews lately. The article featured the Discovery Educator Network, a community I was once very involved in and then went on to showcase PBS TeacherLine. The real focus was on the professional development opportunities offered by both companies.
But I want to point out that there are more communities popping up all over. Inspired Learning Community is one of my favorites, but then again, I love Inspiration! Using it right now to plan 21st Century Lessons and my communities newsletter. Apple, Promethean and Smart also have teacher communities. (Although, the DEN is still the best commercial community out there- so far.) Then there are a bunch of communities popping up on Ning, with my favorite to peep into is Classroom 2.0. If you join Ning, my username there is Teacher Village. I think this one is probably closest to what Wes Fryer has asked for "..... it shouldn’t be connected exclusively to people who are customers for a commercial product."
Personally, I would love to see all these companies pull together, hire people like the former DEN managers (like myself), fund us to offer online and face to face professional development that indirectly showcases the hardware/software/tools of those companies.
There was one thing that made me go "hmmm?" in the article. " Membership in the DEN is free to educators, and members do not have to have a unitedstreaming account to participate." When I was a manager you had to have unitedstreaming to become a DEN Member. Then they realized there were a bunch of people who were registering for the site, but they were not unitedstreaming users or they had DEN members who did the minimum and then stopped doing anything. So they created the STAR membership level. STAR DEN members received access to the shared resources, could create blogs, receive special thank you gifts for hard work in training other teachers, sharing resources, or whatever the goal was, and even get invitations to special events, like yesterday's Day of Discovery at the Peabody in Orlando, FL. Unless this has changed, if you register for the DEN site, you will receive small amounts of benefits. You really need to become a STAR member to reap the benefits.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hurricane Math

Florida is one expensive place to live! Property taxes are high, the insurance rate is sky rocketing, and the housing is not cheap! Throw in gas money to get to go anywhere - the parks, shopping, museums, etc.
And toss on hurricane preparedness and you have a very expensive state to live in. I went today to just buy a few of the supplies and to start getting what I need for window coverings. I have about 14 windows that need to be covered, not including my two sliding doors. Three of my windows are 6ft by 5 ft. Those were going to cost me just over $200 to cover! My head began swimming with arithmetic nightmares.
But that would be a cool project. How much does it cost to prepare for a hurricane? If you plan right the first year, what do you need for year 2, year 3, etc?
Throw a bit of geography into the lesson - which states are affected by natural disasters? Which states have such severe weather that the inhabitants must prepare with specialized kits, etc. now that would be a math/geography question for the 21st Century!
Need to go investigate other hurricane prep needs. I lived through Hugo, with the eye of the hurricane was right over my house. I slept in the hallway clutching a Bon Jovi photo. WoW what a mess! Yeah, I better go get those window coverings.

Build to Lead

I was recently at a training for netTrekker in Norfolk, VA and each of the awesome technology coaches received a pin that said "Leaders never stop Building". At least I think this is the exact quote. Anyway, it's right. If you are a leader, you will never stop building. Look at Disney for example. He had built a wonderful theme park. Did he stop? No, he built EPCOT. Then the team added on MGM and Animal Kingdom and tons of water parks, etc. And his team is still finding ways to bring the magic to you.
An even better example to me is Universal Studios bringing us the World of Harry Potter!
But now I'm curious as to what the new products are that companies will be bringing to us at NECC. What are the tech leaders going to build for the future? Math software will now be available from Microsoft. I'm very excited over the new books online from Scholastic. Scholastic is also making some exciting new changes to their website, just in time for teachers.
In case you're not going to make it to NECC to learn about all the wonderful new things, check out the official bloggers for NECC.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Internet Safety Month

Just found this great blog post at the Technology Liberation Front and wanted to direct readers there. I love their quote, "The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." Anyway, in this post, they talk about Internet Safety and give a wonderful list of sites and portals for students. There were a few on there that I had not heard of before and can't wait to check out later today!