Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I love digital storytelling and am hoping to teach a class on it soon. I learned of a new tool today, thanks to my Twitter friends, that I am going to have to test out though before I do teach that class. It's a tool that I had heard of before, but hadn't checked it out until tonight's reminder. It's called Voice Thread. Watching the little demo video gave me all sorts of ideas! One is a family idea. We have some pictures that everyone knows a piece of the story, but not the entire story. I think I'll scan a few of those in and then ask my family to leave a comment. The fun comments will be from my older Cousin Alice. I think she's in her early 70's but she still acts like she's 21. She's down here for a bit from Pennsylvania and I think it would be fun to get this type of a conversation going.

Another possible use is to let students collaborate on a story together. String the images together and sort of like choose your own adventure- each person leaves a section of the story. I'll bet that would be confusing and fun! Or collaborate on a project and give comments on what's going on in the picture, thoughts, and then use those comments and thoughts to create the final digital story project.

I can also see it used for a high school yearbook project. Let the class leave comments and vote on a couple of the photos. Those comments could be the captions for the book. Allows participation and ownership. I can see some problems with that, but it's got potential.

Worth looking into!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book Tools

Scholastic is the name in elementary and middle school books. (Kay pointed out that they don't usually do high school book fairs and that may be why.) In technology, it's probably the same way, but I'm here to tell you different. If you haven't been to the Scholastic website lately, let's take a tour of it together and point out some new greats and some old faves.

  • For all of you coaches out there, here's a fun place to get information, lesson plans, read articles, win a pitching machine, and more for each sport. It's the Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director and could become an invaluable tool for each coach out there.
  • The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers is sure to be an inspiration to your students out there. The contest looks interesting, but it's the anthology that grabbed my attention. It's not an anthology of world famous artists but some of the best young artists and writers in our world today. I wonder if they are the same authors who peer tutor in the writing section?
  • Write It! is a great tool for high school writing teachers and students. Great information on the steps to writing, feedback from teen authors who have won national awards, a place to chat about your writing, and even a place where students can publish their work. Students can create their own portfolio for writing right here.
  • This past week at FETC I was introduced to a new tool called Teacher Book Wizard. Thanks to this little wizard, Joey and I are about to run to the book store and find the books on the list that are similar but a bit harder than his all time favorite book, "No David". Then again, I don't need an excuse to go to the book store. I need to manage one.
    With this tool I can create a booklist for my class on different genres or maybe a wish list of books that I want in my classroom library. The list will generate a unique url so I can post it on my web page, or I can print it out and send it home with my students. There'll be a green check mark next to AR or Reading Counts if there is a test that goes along with the book- which will prompt me as the teacher to see if my school has the test and if not campaign to get the test. You do need to register for the website to create and save lists - but don't worry - it's free. I really see value with this tool!
  • Of course Scholastic is carrying on the tradition of following the Presidential candidates. If you believe the statistics, the youngsters are great at predicting the future president! But there's more here than just election news. Check out the Scholastic News that includes KidTech (with a picture of Slash and Bill Gates on stage together), news about the unrest in Pakistan, and more. So for teachers who are a little nervous about using the news in the classroom - check out how these youngsters make the news relevant and entertaining for the students. From International to Political to Entertainment, there's news here for each subject to write across the curriculum.
  • Scholastic Connect is a great place for teachers and students. The discussion boards, teachers pay teachers, sweepstakes, and so much more are here to help teachers get connected with each other and with what's going on in today's classrooms.
These are all free services, and probably about 1% of all that's available at Scholastic. We need to thank Scholastic for providing these tools with us, and the best way to do that is to just start using them.

Gotta go. My booklist is printed and Joey and I are ready to hit the bookstore.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Comfort Zone

Friday night I was asked to step out of my comfort zone. Well actually, I wasn't given much choice- there was no asking involved. And I vowed revenge, but I changed my mind on the way home.
Lee Kolbert from Palm Beach area and I are on Twitter. She wanted to plan a get together for all those at FETC that were Twitterers. I then won a party for 100 people at Howl at the Moon, but it had to be on Friday. We tried to get our Twitter Network to attend, but they'd only let me have Friday night. Most people had to leave on Friday night.
Now I'm a wall flower by nature. My first school dance was when I was in 7th grade. It was sponsored by the student council, but my homeroom candidate didn't want to work the dance. She wanted to dance. So I worked for her. I loved it. I was able to talk to everyone and not try to dance. The next year I ran for a student council office position and that meant working more dances. I have no rhythm, no moves and I'm too self conscience. So when Lee wrote that it was my birthday and I had to go up on stage and do the hokey pokey- well I just wanted to go crawl into a corner somewhere or in the wall. Especially since I forgot to pack clothes to go out in and I had my work pants still on and a drab shirt. My hair was horrible and I just wanted to hide. Nope. They shone a light on me. I was doing okay until they told us to put our hands on the piano. I was done.
But on the way home I thought about how many times I asked teachers to step out of their comfort zone and try technology in the classroom. Most of the time it turned out okay and the teachers started checking out the laptops on their own and planning technology infused lessons without me. I know once I had a teacher who felt okay with me there, tried it on her own and ended up in tears. The computers were acting out that day being extremely slow, pop up ads took over 2/3rds of the computers, and our firewall seemed to have failed her. She vowed never to use technology again, and I couldn't seem to get her back in the swing of things with a helping hand.
My parents tease me - and so did Dick the former Illinois DEN Manager- about me being a disgrace to my heritage. I'm Italian and Irish. I should have a party spirit somewhere and not only the wall flower seeds. So I'm not going to get revenge (as if I could) on Lee. I'll just try to be prepared next time to leave my inhibitions at the door and just have fun.
Well maybe not all the inhibitions.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sad Times

When I was in high school, I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to star in children's films. Now this was when I was a size 6 - so already I was too big for the silver screen. Plus- I was not really photogenic.But I remember everyone always saying that stars have it easy - shopping, big bucks for role-playing, and parties. I'm not much of a shopper. Never understood spending $100 on a tshirt and I'm not a party person in the Hollywood sense.

In college I studied children's theatre and every once in awhile we were called on to do weird things. Once I was an accident victim in a plane crash for the Airport Fire Department to practice their techniques. I didn't want to eat donuts or chicken wings for a long time after that -and I won't bore you with the details right now. Another time, 1994, Mali Finn needed several of us to help with auditions for a movie. We didn't qualify - I was the wrong age and the wrong sex. They were looking for a boy. None of the boys from our area were picked, but we heard the incredible story of how a DARE Police Officer accidentally helped Mali discover this boy who had had a real hard life. I think at age 10 he had already had some struggles with the influences around him. I remember talking about how this kid is getting a big break and maybe a chance to make it in the world.

I'm sad to hear that it was not true, and maybe I am glad that I never was the right person for Hollywood. The kid's name was Brad Renfroe, and today I learned he died at the tender age of 25. He had problems with drugs, alcohol and wasted the opportunity he was given. It's a shame because this kid had the opportunity to star with people like Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones, won 4 awards with only 4 nominations and yet trouble followed him around no matter what.

When students research a career and think that acting is the way to go and escape reality- they need to look at how it did not really change the life of this young man. They need to pick a career to study because they want to do the real work and not just reap the benefits.

Brad, I hope you finally find peace.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

School Uniforms

I was very shocked to hear that an administrator I admire thinks that school uniforms are too expensive to initiate. I totally disagree with him! Let me tell him my story.
When I moved to Florida, I found out my son had to wear uniforms to school. His uniform is khaki or navy blue bottoms and then a red, white or navy blue PLAIN polo shirt. No logo of any sort is allowed on the shirt with only one exception- the school logo. It was cheaper for me to buy him a couple of polo shirts for about $5.50 at Walmart, two at Bealls with the school logo on it for $11 each and then a handfull of khaki or navy blue shorts for anywhere between $6-$12, depending on where I bought them. I often help buy my niece her clothes. Same deal on the shirts, bought her a few jumpers at $12 each and some skorts for the same price. On Fridays they can wear a school tshirt. During the brief cold snap, they either wear a long sleeve tshirt under their polo shirt or a long-sleeve polo shirt. No jackets are worn through out the day. If they are cold natured, then they can wear a plain or school logo sweatshirt, zippered or regular style. No logo means no alligators, horses or any emblem embroidered on it. And what's really nice is I only had to replace 1 pair of pants, 1 shorts and buy two new white shirts that he destroyed with pizza last year.
So anyway, last year Joey thought he looked a bit silly the first day of school. He was use to wearing what he wanted to wear to school. Then he gets there and EVERYONE is wearing a uniform. He was very excited after that and liked the idea of everyone wearing the SAME thing. Then they had a Rodeo Round Up Reading day and everyone was able to dress like a cowboy/cowgirl. Joey didn't want to, he was afraid he'd get in trouble. He went and was excited about the whole dress up day, but was ready to wear his uniform the next day he went back to school. (That's also the day he had a seizure- which alerted us to the sleep seizures he had been having).
You can purchase school uniforms at Wal-Mart, Lands' End, Targets, and places like Sears or JC Penneys. So here's my challenge. I want teachers who really think that uniforms are too expensive to compare buying 5 outfits for a school that enforces school uniforms and 5 more outfits for a school without uniforms. Keep a spreadsheet to track the cost of each outfit. And if you have a store like Bealls , well they give a small percentage back each year to the schools on the uniform sales. (That's where I get Joey's logo shirts.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


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Sunday, January 6, 2008


Wow. It's been almost a month since I've blogged. Honestly, it wasn't just the season that kept me from sharing my thoughts (with mostly myself), but just a lack of interest. I really didn't have anything to interesting to put out there.

But it's a New Year, and with that comes resolutions. I've made 2 resolutions. Yes, only two! I figured resolutions are usually a failure to start with and so I would limit myself to only two resolutions and one had to be something I KNOW I can do. So my resolutions for the year 2008: 1. Lose weight and try to eat healthier.
2. Read more, and try to finish The World is Flat.

I know I can do #2. I've already read 4 books, three of them while traveling for a training. This Stephanie Plum character of Janet Evanovich is fascinating. I got the strangest looks while laughing at her antics at the airport, but then again maybe they were looking at me strange because I actually had a book in hand and not earphones plugged in and tuned out.

The first one though is going to be a bit of a challenge. I was doing great on the eating healthier until I came across a Bojangles. I had to have a Bojangles chicken biscuit and then I went back for lunch just so I could enjoy their fries. They are my favorite fries. And then while sitting at the airport (with a delayed flight scheduled) and reading about Stephanie Plum enjoying her desserts and candy bars, well I had to go get the frozen yogurt for a snack. It claimed it would help my immune system. Just not sure if the Kit Kat had any benefits.

But the reason for this post is actually about personal trainers. After training on Saturday, I spoke with one of the teachers. They were really excited and thanked me for coming. They were interested in getting their school to pay for more training and asked me questions about cost and scheduling. Then she said something interesting. She said, "You know, unless you're trained on something you'll never really use it." Well yeah, I knew that. It was the next part that got me. "Think about it. If you start an excercise diet but don't have a trainer to encourage you, show you the good things, and get you pumped -you're probably going to lose interest right away and stop the diet. But if you have a trainer, you're encouraged to keep trying and you're not afraid to test your limits."

I hadn't thought about that. I had a trainer once. I'll admit, I was actually more embarrassed and afraid to test too many limits, but I did show up for each session and gave it my best. But that had more to do with the fact that he was a real cutie. But after our free sessions were up, and he moved on to the next new member - well I kind of stopped going to the gym. But if I had a personal trainer that was right there, pushing me, holding my hand, and not letting me fall into a rut - well Christine Brinkley would still have a job, but I'd at least be a bit healthier and able to fit into the fun clothes.

So to all the technology coaches and other trainers out there- good luck in helping all of your people reach their maximum potential this year. Make sure they are having fun and that you show them the benefits for their personal self as well as their professional self. Don't forget to also take care of your learning needs though too! I keep learning from Twitter, webinars, and from reading (not just Stephanie Plum books). As a matter of fact, netTrekker is hosting some free webinars to introduce their changes for the new year. Check them out and register at: http://crm.nettrekker.com/training/shared/training/freewebinar/ .

Since Plum is tempting me to go find that homemade chocolate chip cookie my neighbor brought over for Joey, I think I'll switch over to a Dr. Cross book. He scares me so much I can't think of eating!

Happy 2008!