Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exploring Digital Knowledge

I have been playing tourists as I journey through the web. Stopping at great landmarks and being awed at the grandeur. I have noticed some icons during my wanderings (I guess they are called badges.) These badges proclaimed "Google Certified Teacher". What's up with that?

Well today I learned, "the Google Teacher Academy is a FREE professional development experience designed to help K-12 educators get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy is an intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google's free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment. Upon completion, Academy participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local region."

Two of the three blogs that caught my interest are written by Google Certified Teachers: Educating Educators by Charlene Chausis; Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne; and Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero by David Kapuler. Charlene was blogging about the free Google Guide for Teachers written by Richard Byrne.

I found a terrific slide show called 50 Sites in 60 Minutes. Lots of great links. I just skimmed the surface and found several I want to explore in more depth. I have some ideas of how I want to use them with my students.

The Art of Storytelling from the Delaware Art Museum. They have developed some units for connecting art and storytelling. I see lots of possibilities for connecting it to reading, writing and fluency.

The Digital Vault is part of the National Archives. You can explore using visual connections, a really intuitive research model. It's like being invited by your favorite relative to explore that big trunk in the attic. Knowing that there are surely some secrets worth examining.

Primary Access is program at the Center for Technology & Teacher Education in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. I see lots of potential for this link. PrimaryAccess was developed for K-12 classrooms to develop higher level thinking skills, teach content knowledge and even help with storytelling skills. One feature i really like is you can make a rebus with primary sources, there is also a moviemaker and a storyboard.

I am just learning how to embed information so I am excited with EmbedIt. I think this will help me as I learn how to work with all the technology and applications that are out there.

The other link that intrigues me is BookRix. this site lets you make and read free ebooks. I see this working with language, reading, writing, and revision. Having an authentic audience, how exciting for the kids!

All of these bloggers have valuable insight to offer teachers about digital knowledge. They are committed to sharing ways to integrate technology into the classroom.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sky Watching: Seeing the Cloud Pictures

Watching clouds were a favorite pastime when I was young. I remember road trips when my sisters and I tried to spot pictures in the sky. Over the years I have had a lot of "windshield time" driving across Montana, watching the road and the kaleidoscope of our ever changing "Big Sky Country".

As a new comer to social networking and blogs in general I was aware of word clouds. After a few questions to more knowledgeable friends, I learned it was a collection of word tags. Recently I read the blog Changing Phase. Clare talked about several word cloud generators.

I had already played with Wordle, the word art generator created by Jonathan Feinberg. Several of the word generator's Clare referred to were inspired by Wordle.

Tagul is a program that creates word clouds with active links. I was thrilled with the possibilities. I used the Tagul program to make a star shaped word cloud based on my blog article "Reading Like Writers: Using Mentor Texts in the Classroom". I have a lot to learn in order to use this program to it's highest potential.

I also read the Wordle Blog. In his blog, Jonathan praised Tagxedo a word cloud generator developed by Hardy Leung. I took a delightful journey through his gallery of word art. I was disappointed when I realized my computer doesn't support silverlight, so I was unable to create my own word art.

I was feeling so excited about being on the "cutting edge" of new information. I headed over to the EFL Classroom Ning and searched word clouds and tagul and discovered several people, David, Ellen and Marisa - who had already shared information on the word cloud tech tools.

Ah well, I think I already said I have a lot to learn. Here is to watching clouds and looking for sky pictures both in the physical world and in the virtual world.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reading Like Writers: Using Mentor Texts in the Classroom

Last summer I had the great pleasure to attend a National Writing Project here in Montana. It was the Laurel Writing Project. It is an intense month long course. It was life affirming as well as life changing. It changed how I teach students. It challenged me to start writing. The experience also provided the fellowship of writers who were on their own journey - a true writers community.

My inquiry search was how to teach writing during the short time I have my library students. Even after the summer session was over I continued my inquiry search. I was convinced that there were ways to adapt my library program and combine it with the writing process I had learned. Eureka! I stumbled on - WritingFix. A rewarding strike with so many possibilities!

I found many ideas I could use at this Northern Nevada Writing site - WritingFix. They have lots of wonderful lessons, resources, and member sites. I fell in love with the great pieces of literature that was featured. They also have some great print publications at reasonable prices. I encourage everyone to take a look and explore the rich treasures.

Corbett Harrison is the creator of the WritingFix website. His link is full of wonderful lessons. The National Writing Project is a great program. My only regret is I didn't do it earlier.

Check out this year's Montana Writing Project.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Teacher Treasures

I was reading Larry Ferlazzo's article "Giving Students Reflection Cards" His strategy of giving a student a card that redirects their thinking, reminded me of a strategy I used when I taught at Pine Hills (Juvenile Detention Center) many years ago. It worked well for me then and I gradually forgot about it.

After reading Larry's very thoughtful article, I revisited the book where I had found the original idea. It was in the book Peaceful Procedures from the Tops Learning Systems. Their science modules are great too. I still have the book and am delighted to see the company still publishing their wonderful materials.

Larry triggered my memories and I think I will revisit his reflection card strategy again. Thanks Larry.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free Electronic Field Trip from National Park Foundation

The National Park foundation is sponsoring an electronic field trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. It is an interactive learning experience. The date is May 18, 2010 - Times 10:00 am Eastern Standard Time and 1 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Please register.

There is a companion website available

If you go to the National Park Foundation site you will also have access to past electronic field trip broadcasts.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Using Questions In the Classroom

I have tried to teach students about asking questions as one of the first steps in the research process. I was never satisfied with the depth of my lessons. I knew I was missing a fundamental step, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing.

In the forward of Dr Wiederhold’s book “Cooperative Learning & Higher-Level Thinking: The Q-Matrix”; Dr Kagan says, “To prepare for the future, we must move from teaching of facts to the teaching of thinking. It has become clear that unless we make the transition, we will produce a generation of students ill-prepared to cope with their world.”

After reading Dr Wiederhold’s book and Dr Kagan’s book – “Cooperative Learning”, I think I have found some of the pieces that were missing from my lessons. I have always tried to teach students to ask questions about their learning and about topics. The Q-Matrix gives students a frame to help them develop questions. After using the Q-Matrix in my lessons I discovered more students were asking better questions and comprehending the topic better.

I was able to do an informal assessment on who still did not understand the topic by listening to the questions they developed. I have my intermediate student’s (4th-6th grade) for 1 hour a week. I am developing “baby step” lessons using the Q-Matrix approach.

Dr Kagan has developed some wonderful dice with the Q Matrix words for student’s to use. I quickly realized that many of my students needed more modeling before they took some initial independent steps. I began a search online for some virtual dice or spinners that I could customize. I wanted to be able to put the Q-Matrix words on it and project it on my whiteboard. I wanted a focus the students could see as we generated questions.

I discovered some wonderful sites while searching for these tools. I really encourage you to explore these sites and find treasures of your own. (Triptico has some really great tools. I found my favorite spinner at this site and a really good random name selector (for choosing kids for activities). Crickweb search for word dice. They have developed some wonderful classroom tools. the Birmingham Grid for Learning has some interesting virtual dice and many other great resources.