Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Google Earth

I heard Tom's frustrated cry when he read the article about Google Earth maybe going away. The reason for the fear of Google Earth going away? Google Maps are becoming even more intense, now including terrain cover and even "Google Map Community" which includes a wiki type of collaboration.
Google Earth is cool, I'll give you that. I love the new features for the sky. However, a lot of schools that I worked with either in SC or in FL had it blocked because of the tremendous use of bandwidth. For a teacher to model, that was fine. But once you start using it on 30 laptops, well you're really starting to drag the network.
I will say this, the Google Maps and Google Earth FINALLY have my address available and show ALL the street addresses in my community. Yahoo Maps do to now, but the Google ones are a bit more up to date.
Those that use Google Earth or Maps, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Twit

I love it! I'm talking to a netTrekker user about videos, clicked to open a tab and instead opened up my Twitter tab. There I see a posting about Open Vault. I finish the conversation with the customer and check it out. I learn so much from Twitter!

Basically Open Vault provides content from WGBH (the same people who bring us Teachers Domain!) of videos with historical importance that were produced by this great public television station. It's meant for classroom (and even personal) learning. I looked at two videos and saw that they included the transcripts! WHOO HOO! I don't know about you, but sometimes in those "historical documents" I get lost in the lingo and the transcript would help me make notes and stay on task. I'm not seeing a way to download the video, but hey - if you're using it for research, then why download it? There are other great tools, but my phone's ringing and I really need to get back to work!

And my brother laughed when I told him I Twitter and learn a lot from my fellow Twits!


No catchy titles lately. I'd probably be marked down for that if I was being graded on a rubric.
Rubrics have been a popular topic again lately. I see that as a good sign because that means there are is more project based learning going on. I'm okay with a few worksheets here and there to support learning- but I have seen more understanding through projects where the kids have to apply thinking skills.
While doing my trainings lately and talking to educators, I mention rubrics to grade a project and the teachers will ask, "Do you have a favorite site for creating rubrics?" Oh yes! YES! It's my favorite by far, and it's found at Myt4l (My Tools for Learning- a gift to educators from the creators of Tech4Learning products.) When I found their rubric maker online, I became one happy teacher. I like the fact that I can select the categories and subcategories, edit the text if needed, and when I save it- I'm either saving it as an HTML file or as an Excel file (which is great for making changes later). But besides being a great rubric maker, one of the things I really enjoy is the fact that it creates a checklist for the students.
I once helped a teacher do a study, after we read about a similar one online. We did a small project with a rubric with the ones column first and the fours last. We learned that a majority of the kids only did the ones column. They really do read left to right and they stopped after the first column. So lesson #1 - always start with your highest standard and work backwards. The next thing we did was do another simple project with the fours first this time. Much better results - but some of our smart slackers who read column three realized that they could do a little bit less and still get a passing score. So the third project we did a checklist of what was required. We had gone over the rubric in class and then handed out the checklist as a guide. The results were awesome, even from our smart slackers. For that reason, Myt4l's rubric maker is one of my favorites.
However, one of the things I have been learning lately is that teachers that have not taken a proper PBL class have no idea how to write a rubric and I am one of those masochists who believe everyone should try to write one by hand first to get a full appreciation for the rubric makers online. If you are trying to teach someone a rubric, I'd like to share with you something that I learned YEARS ago, I believe on the Beacon Learning Site.
Imagine that you are about to hire a maid. (I know- every teachers dream!) You can either pay her $25, $50, $75, or $100 a visit. Write out what you expect done for each amount. Obviously when you pay more, you'll get more. (A guy teacher once told me this made more sense dealing with buying a car- but it's the same concept.) Okay, so for $25 you want her to come in and vacuum, sweep and mop all rooms in the house. For $50 she's going to do all that, plus add in dusting, washing your baseboards, and cleaning the toilets bowls. For $75 she'll do all that and also change the sheets on the beds and change out all the guest towels and clean the entire toilets. For a $100, she's going to go from room to room and do everything, plus completely clean the kitchen, wash out the bathtubs, and any laundry within a time period that she can get done.
Of course, that's a little off, but you get an idea. And yes, the maid could be a male - didn't mean to be so gender specific there.
The next issue that comes up with rubrics are how to actually USE them to get the score. That's where this nifty little website comes in to play. I learned about it on Twitter (thanks JMaklary) and loved the explanation! The site is called Roobrix, and the explanation is the part that I really liked. So if you're new to GRADING by a rubric, check it out. OH, and it's free to use.
So come on teachers! Get out Inspiration, plan a lesson with web researching (using netTrekker of course), decide on a product outcome that would show understanding (Photostory/Digital Story, a blog entry, creation of a wiki with the organized information, a model, etc.) and use a rubric now that you have a cool tool for building AND grading!

Monday, November 26, 2007


I know that not everyone is a fan of most vendors out there. Whether it's the vendors at a ball game that overprice their wares and get you to drop money than you planned because you have a kid begging for cotton candy, sno cones, and a foam finger or whether it's at an Ed Tech Conference looking to take the few dollars that you have in your budget. I know that some of the true techies firmly believe that they can do it themselves, and for them I applaud. But for others who don't want to spend the time trying to figure out how to do it for free and how to keep it running smoothly- well that's what vendors are for.

I personally love vendors. When I was a tech specialist, they made my life easier. But I was not of the true geek sort and I also knew we had some money earmarked for the type of products we were in need of.

While at GAETC I ran into friends of mine from echalk. For those of you who are not familiar with echalk, they provide SAFE email for your students and teachers. Not only that but you can also customize a very easy to navigate website, host your podcasts, and even video. I like the ability to create a group for a professional development class to where the participants can post questions, share documents, participate in a discussion board, etc. It's just a great tool.

And yes, I could probably build something similar, give everyone an Outlook or other email account that I already have access to, and use another free source for the courseware, but in all honesty - I don't have hours upon hours to do so. Plus, if something breaks it's hard for me to find someone who has time and knowledge to actually help me on things I built myself. However, with echalk, I know I'll have access to a great support staff.

Pretty neat tool that's gotten even better.

Friday, November 16, 2007


The Georgia conference (GAETC) has always been one of my favorites.The teachers that present here are outstanding! (This is the first one that is a bit winded and hasn't gotten to the topic yet at hand, but its the first in years that I've encountered.) I did have to work the booth this time, which was great because I met a lot of great netTrekker users and potential users. However, I'm very thankful to Vicki Davis for ustreaming the sessions she went to so I could still enjoy the presentations I missed.
uStreaming is a really neat tool that I've been lurking and checking recorded episodes, but have not actually tried. I think I will though if I can find something useful to try it with. However, I decided NOT to enjoy the ustreamed version of Vicki's presentation this morning and instead went to enjoy it in person.
Her presentation was about the Flat Classroom Project in her classroom: My Seatmate Lives in China. Let me start with a quick thought. As a private school teacher who has an administrator that can empower her, Vicki has a bit more ease than most public school teachers at implementing such a project. She even mentioned study hall at one point. HOWEVER - if you listen closely and if you follow Vicki at all online, then you'll realize that she puts a lot of heart and time into these projects because she believes in them as a way to really educate her students. While she may have the ability to unblock and then reblock a site as needed and a normal teacher does not, she has her obstacles. So if a public school teacher is interested in re-creating, joining in on an e-collaborative project, or designing their own, they need to work with their school system to lower the hurdles where possible.
Vicki also mentioned that the number one problem they have with getting public school teachers involved is actually because of our mandatory assessments that have no real meaning in the real world. Side question: Do we test our administrators, community members, and policy makers/politicians every two weeks to make sure they are making the grade? No, we don't interrupt their work to test them. There are other real world benchmarks they use to know if they are doing a great job, a poor job or continue to live in their fantasy world.
Back on topic. I don't want to get into the whole presentation because you can watch it for yourself on Vicki's uStream Channel, but I do want to share a few tidbits I learned.
  • PowerPoint is out. Now try Google Presentations with the back channel so participants, even those that are not sitting in the same room, can participate without interrupting.
  • Silence is noise to today's students. Let them listen to THEIR music on their iPod. You might see more productivity out of them.
  • Make sure that your school has a great AUP in place, but protect yourself and your students even more with a special permission slip on your major projects - especially those that involve international collaboration and in-depth use of the web.
  • Ning now is offering free services to schools. Create a social network with your students. Not on Facebook or MySpace because they really do want their own space. Ning can be kept private.
  • Sandbox mode is extremely important, especially when introducing new software or tools. Not just for the students, but for our teachers. (She explains this really well in her presentation.)
  • Make sure that you are clickable and verifiable as a source.
  • I am probably misspelling this - but teachers need to be "Teacherpreneurs" - who connect, empower and encourage new methods, tools, and ideas for the classroom.
  • The first step of any project is to make sure that you are connected! With RSS feeders, bookmarks, teacher networks, etc. So teachers join organizations like the TIE network if you are in Georgia, DEN if you are a Discovery fan, or join a Ning network or just the Twitterverse and check out edtechtalk.
I have more to write, but I'll do that this weekend or next week.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I love Twitter! I learn so much from those people on there! Especially John Pederson. Today he twitted about a great online tool. Here's an online stopwatch for your next class/professional development session. You can put in the time frame you're looking for, either have it count up or count down, and go for it. You can download it for Mac or PC (haven't tried it that yet, but did try the count down for a time out for Joey and his rocket that ended up on my roof). They even have a LARGE version as well.

I once had some videos that did a 2 minute and a 5 minute count down, but lost them some computer changes ago. I like this tool so much better.

Quiz Builders and Subscriptions

Last week I did a blitz of training in Marion County for netTrekker. I am always amazed at what we find in training and the uses the teachers come up with. A small group of us had a discussion about the Saved Search feature verses bookmarking sites with Del.ic.ious or another program. The general thoughts were that the sites from netTrekker were educational and teacher approved and by using the Saved Search Feature they have a secure way of sharing the links with their students, with the ability to edit the descriptions to turn the save search into a "Web Hunt".
One of the features of the Saved Searches is to add a website that may or may not be in netTrekker. Great way to add on a site that you found in another search later or to add a site that is not currently in netTrekker. One example I often use is a quiz on the same topic. Normally we then look at adding a lesson or quiz from Discovery Streaming (formally unitedstreaming), but Marion County does not have this service. So it was time to look at others.
The first one that came to mind was Discovery School's, but it is not available. I'm told that they are revamping it for security purposes. I'm hoping it will still be free, but we'll see. The next one was's QuizStar. This use to be free, but I guess federal funding is bare minimum and so they are now charging after a 60 day free trial. The price is not too bad, only $35.88 for an individual teacher. It's pretty affordable (unless you're one of the WAY underpaid Hernando County teachers who make on average $10,000 less than their neighbors). There are other pricing options for groups and districts to make it even more affordable. But if you're going to pay $900 for a Quiz Program, why not look at adding that $900 to another program and get a lot more for your money.
There are other possibilities out there. One is to use a tool like Zoomerang to create a "survey". It won't grade your quiz for you, but it is interesting to use in the classroom. Another that's more of a profile tool that would be great to use for organizing groups is ProfilerPro. Another option is the Quiz Lab from Teacher Vision. The prices start around $40 a year for one user. Teacher Vision use to have a great product, but I'm not sure what they are like now adays. They are from Pearson, which might be a plus or a con for some. No opinion here.
If you're a Moodler, then you have options there as well. However, I wonder how our every day teachers who are not into the tools that you have so much control over like Moodle feel about this option. Of course, it's a free tool, you just have to find a space to host it.
What are some other options that I'm overlooking?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Training Mania

I got some great news this week - I'm going to GAETC! I have always enjoyed this state conference. The presenters are very knowledgeable and share some great new items and tricks of the trade. netTrekker will of course have a booth, so I'll work that some, but I also get to attend some of the wonderful sessions. YEAH! (I even enjoyed this conference more than my own when I was in SC!) I'm hoping to run into a few friends, like Katherine Aiken, LaQuita Hutchinson and others I had gotten to know through the DEN.

This past few days (and up until this Friday) I have been training in Marion County, FL. This district has been AWESOME at implementing netTrekker. They were quick to schedule their 8 days of training, printed out the letters for each school to send home with the students with their universal log in, and are working on other promotional items as I write to help promote the use of netTrekker in their school. Implementation strategies can really make or break a product and I firmly believe that Marion will be top users of netTrekker. Professional Development is always important, so it's equally great that they scheduled so many sessions to make sure that their teachers were trained.

One teacher yesterday admitted that they were a bit skeptical about why they were in training on a search engine from 8:30-3:30. How hard could it be to search? We do it everyday with Google or Yahoo. Well once we got into it they realized that netTrekker is OH SO MUCH MORE than a search. The tools that are involved to help with differentiated instruction and for other integration possibilities really make netTrekker a great tool for the classroom.

We did look at possibly adding a quiz to their save searches. Since they don't have unitedstreaming we looked at's Quiz Star. This use to be a free tool, but now you can only get a 60 day free trial and then you have to pay for it. At least RubiStar is still free.