Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Trendy Tech Words for 2011

Through twitter, colleagues, and professional learning networks we get to hear all kinds of trendy tech words.  Here are the top ten of our favorite trendy tech words of 2011.

curate - (verb)  Gather information from the web and manage the information.  Think of an art curater getting ready for a gallery opening.  As a curater on the web you can collect information and create a great looking digital magazine in no time!

doc’n - (verb) Using Google Docs to rock a classroom! Share, collaborate, and publish!

iTot - (noun) Babies born with an iPad in their hand.  They only know the iRevolution!!

publish - (verb) The 21st century way to hand in an assignment.  Publish to the web, a blog, a teacher website, or on Twitter!

QR code - (noun)  A mysterious code that causes people to be so curious they have to scan it to see what it means!  A great way to make learning fun is to take kids on a QR scavenger hunt!

re-sync- (verb) Adding apps to iDevices.  Synch and resync are the names of the games.  Having the ability to resync your devices gives teachers the best control over what is best for their students.

teep:  (noun) Teacher friends who are on Twitter.  Think of “my peeps”, but the they are specifically teachers and connected via Twitter.

#tt4t - (noun)  Tech Tools For Teaching. The hashtag for all of our Bellevue Teeps or Tweeps!  Follow it, Use it, Love it!

validate - (verb, adjective)  1.  To make someone feel like they have been heard about a topic and that they are correct!  2.  The way people feel when they get a comment on something they publish

words with friends -  (noun)  A hugely popular online scrabble game connected to your social network.  One time I had 20 words with friends going at a time!  Never a dull moment when waiting to pick up a kid from piano!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Be An Expert In What You Have

The Christmas season is a time to consider, to ponder, to take a moment to rethink some goals and choices.  I know for myself I have declared 2012 the year of savings and more fitness.  As I become a more ardent user of my much-loved iPad I am beginning to realize that purchasing apps and using apps requires the same amount of consideration.

Everyday I get a great little email from one of my Scoop.it pages by John Evans that I follow.  A recent email had a list of the best APPS of 2011 by @coolcatteacher.  When I first began following this particular Scoop.it page I always got excited to view the newest APP or the top ten must have APPS, or how about the best Notetaking APP ever!  I’d eagerly click on the link and read through the review of the apps and, more often than not, download the app.  

What I discovered after this frequent routine was that I already had what I needed on my iPad.  As so often is the case there are multiple apps to do one task-take notes, edit photos, create a voice email, dictate notes.  During the Christmas season we are all bombarded by so many choices from food, gifts, bargains, and which parties to attend.  It’s important to be considerate in what you choose.  We often have more than we need.  The question becomes, “Does what I have work for me?”  If the answer is yes, then stop downloading repetitive apps.  Become an expert in the few you have.  

I still love getting that little email from Scoop.it, but now I am more careful and considerate as to what I dump onto my iPad.  I use Evernote, but I like Notability for the doodling capabilities.  But really, why do I need to doodle on my notes?  I can doodle on Doodlebuddy.  I use Flipboard for my reading and social media collections so I don’t need to get Zite.  We live in a culture of more is better, but personally being proficient in less makes me feel content.  

Merry Christmas to all of our readers!  Thank you for taking the time to read what we think is a valuable blog and stay considerate in your choices. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Skype in the Classroom

Skype Resources

Skype is a free downloadable software that lets you do voice and video calls combined with instant messaging for free. The possibilities of Skype to flatten your classroom are endless. Here are a few ideas followed by resources you may be interested in!
1.Interview authors, astronauts and other amazing individuals from around the world.
2.Collaborate with classrooms, businesses and more in multi-disciplinary projects.
3.Explore a volcano, rain forest, or history museum in virtual field trips with experts in the field or even share your field trip experiences with others.
4.Practice conversational foreign languages with native speakers.
5.Provide additional support for students needing extra attention or unable to come to class.
6.Invite a guest lecturer from leading educators and experts from anywhere in the world.
7.Explore foreign cultures first hand with classroom to classroom video conferencing.
8.Broadcast a performance or project to parents and families unable to make it to school.
9.Access and share professional development opportunities with educators on the go.
10.Collaborate with innovative educators to plan units, lessons, and more.


Resources:
1. Using Skype at School for Dummies: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/using-skype-at-school.html

2. Skype in the Classroom. This article offers help on ways to set up Skype, tips for finding other teachers on Skype, technical obstacles, and more. http://www.wtvi.com/TEKS/05_06_articles/skype-in-the-classroom.html


Here are a few ways to connect with others using Skype in classrooms and to promote education.


1. ePALS. Sign up for a free account here, then find other teachers and classes around the globe using Skype. http://www.epals.com/


2. Skype an Author Into Your Library or Classroom. This site will connect schools with authors through Skype. Short sessions are free, while longer sessions are subject to a fee set by each author. http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/


3. Skype in Schools. List yourself or find others in this directory just for educators seeking Skype collaboration. http://skypeinschools.pbworks.com/w/page/11008318/FrontPage


4. Skype in the Classroom – The EduSkypers Phonebook. Scroll through these comments to find other teachers from around the world looking to connect through Skype. The most recent are at the very end of the list. http://skypeintheclassroom.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/lets-build-a-community/#comments


5. Global SchoolNet. This organization works to connect teachers and students around the world through forensic science programs. Browse to find something of interest or start your own project. http://www.globalschoolnet.org/


6. Around the World with 80 Schools. This teacher is hoping to connect schools around the world through short Skype sessions. http://langwitches.org/blog/2009/01/03/around-the-world-with-80-schools/


7. Skype in the Classroom. Join this community to find other teachers seeking Skype connections.
http://maculspace.ning.com/group/skypeintheclassroom


8. Mixxer. This group helps connect language learners seeking partners to practice their language skills via Skype. http://www.language-exchanges.org/


Teachers and parents can benefit from Skype in the classroom, too.


1. Professional development. Teachers can use Skype to access professional development opportunities, such as watching conference presentations.
http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2008/03/02/podcast231-global-voices-using-synchronous-and-asynchronous-voip-applications-for-worldwide-classroom-collaborations/


2. Share students’ work with parents. Let parents get a first-hand look at what their children are doing with Skype.


3. Conference with parents. Whether a parent has to miss a regular conference or a concern comes up that requires speaking with a parent, Skype can provide an opportunity to connect with a parent that may not otherwise be available for a conference.


4. Innovative teacher uses Skype and Wikis to involve parents. See how this teacher helped share information with parents using Skype and the PBS program, Growing Up Online.


http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/?campaign=pbshomefeatures_1_frontlinebrgrowinguponline_2008-01-23


5. Collaborate with other teachers. Who says Skype has to be fun just for the kids? With Skype, teachers can collaborate on ideas, projects, and more.


http://coordinator2.wordpress.com/2007/05/13/skype-for-teachers/


6. Share travel experiences. If you will be traveling during the school year, arrange for your substitute to connect with you via Skype and you can share the experience with your class.


7. Receive teaching feedback. Have an experienced or mentor teacher watch you teach via Skype and receive valuable feedback.


8. Be available to students. If your school is suddenly closed for a while or if you want to set up conference hours for students, use Skype to allow students to contact you.
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/6/25/nation/4188033&sec=nation


9.Bring busy parents into the classroom. A busy parent who has knowledge to share with the classroom may be more likely to be able to make the time for a presentation if she or he can do so with Skype rather than having to leave work and come to the school.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Collaboration Gone Global

It all started this morning with a tweet to @mr_fines, a Kindergarten teacher in my PLN on Twitter.  Within minutes, Mr. Jon Fines, was tweeting back lots of great technology lesson ideas to use with K-kids.

At that moment, collaboration went global and energy surged! You see, my colleague Jenny and I had been researching and surfing the web for ideas for half an hour  before we tapped the Twitter network.  When Fines chimed in, it was energizing, like a firework exploding with bright colors in a dark sky.

Our exchange went like this:
“I teach them to open Word,  increase font size, change font, then type the letters of the alphabet in order. Keyboarding+ Letter Assessment,” Fines tweeted.

“GREAT ideas!!! Thanks so much! We have Paint and Word, so will give that a try. Any Christmas ideas?” I asked.

“This is one of our Christmas favs. I use on IWB but PC's are great http://sprintsweets.com/ &http://bit.ly/8YSLHV is also a fun one,” Fines replied.

“You made my day!!! I LOVE these sites!!! Can't wait to share them with the kids this afternoon!!! Thanks for SHARING!!! Merry Christmas!”

“You're welcome. Anytime. Feel free to share. Meant to tweet that in regular stream. Have a great Christmas!”

After the Twitter collaboration, we were all fired up! Literally in fifteen minutes, I had three different, fantastic activities for my students!  Amazing!  It would have taken me hours to search the web just hoping to stumble across these great tools.

It continually amazes me how powerful the Twitter network is and how a simple Tweet can ignite  a lesson idea that is used right away.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Great QR Code Social Studies Project

Recently, I had the opportunity to help out with a great Social Studies project created by 4th grade teacher Mrs. Sharae Geldes (@SGeldes) from Two Springs Elementary School and I was so impressed!

She started by creating another page in her
WEEBLY webpage called Tour The South and made pages with links to different places in the South and clues on each page.

She created QR codes on a
Google QR creator of each page and printed the QR code.  She put those QR codes on a bright green paper backing and hung them all over the school for students to find.I helped by bringing a couple of iPads along & my iPod touch for the kids to use and of course being support and team-teaching with her.  Mrs. Geldes put her students together in groups of 3 or 4.  Armed with their IPads or iPod the students started around the school on the QR code scavenger hunt of the South.   THEY WERE SO ENGAGED!  and having a great time!  

As they went from Code to Code they had to write down specific information about what they found at each stop which they would turn into Mrs. Geldes at the end of class.


The following week my Colleague
Ann Feldmann (@techiefeldie) and I returned to help with the project some more and have the students review the Weebly page.  Then in the computer lab Mrs. Geldes told them to pick one place out of the 10 that they would like to go to.  We fired up Google Earth and took the kids there and in most instances we were able to use street view and cruise around the actual places, buildings, & historic sites within the project.  The kids loved it!

I was struck by a couple of things within this project that Mrs. Geldes created and I assisted with:  once again students were engaged with the influence of technology within the lesson.  Making Social Studies come to life!


Finally, Mrs. Geldes spent some time to put this together, but she made this lesson so much better for the time she invested for her students.  Kudos to her!


I enjoyed being a part of it and am excited to take a project like this to others in the district.

Twitter and What To Do with All Those Resources!



When people ask us where we get all of our great ideas, 9 times out of 10 our answer is Twitter!  When you follow people on Twitter and build your connections you will become bombarded with ideas, thoughts, links, and opportunities for professional development.  One of the things we hear as trainers is “I don’t have time for Twitter” or “I don’t know what to do with all of those tweets!” 

We’d love to share with you some solid ways of using Twitter and organizing resources that you will inevitably and thankfully be exposed to.  First, register for a Twitter account at twitter.com.  Once you’ve done this you will probably want to use a different platform like Tweetdeck to organize your friends, mentions, and direct messages as well as certain hashtags like ours, #tt4t.  Tweetdeck is an open site at BPSS.  Tweetdeck allows you to create columns that helps to organize the information coming in.  Using hashtags allows you to follow certain topics related to your interests.  Check out this site that lists all of the educational hashtags you might want to follow.

Second, don’t expect to read every tweet that might fall into your tweetdeck columns.  There is just no way to keep up with it all of the time and that is o.k.  Some people set aside some time each day or week to check in and see what is going on with the people you follow.  You also might become aware of weekly online chats and that would be a time to check in and be a part of some excellent edchats!

Third, use a tool like ReadItLater add-on button to your internet browser.  It is a free download and only takes a few seconds to load.  This favorite little tool allows you to literally read something later.  This is helpful when you click on a link from a tweet but might not have time to read it right away.  Once your link is in the readitlater column sitting on your browser you can go back to it when you have more time to sit and read all those great articles!  Then you decide if it’s a page you want to bookmark for good or just check it off your read it later list and it magically disappears.
 
Using Twitter really helps build your own professional development!  If you don’t want to tweet, then don’t, but at least take some time to check it out and follow a couple of people.  It’s like having a ton of smart people at your disposal.  When you are in need of some ideas, direction, or just want to connect with someone like you Twitter does the job and does it quick! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Being Fully Present

As a technology facilitator of K-12 teachers I am often struck by the lack of engagement of some of our participants.  I know that teachers are swamped with so many demands that to them life feels like a juggling act on a unicycle going full-speed ahead.  I get it- I did it for fifteen years.  I remember how dog-tired I would be at the end of a long and emotional day.  Friday’s were like heaven when we could slow down a bit, watch a video- relevant of course- play some games and just work a little less.  It reflects negatively on teachers, I know, but let’s be real.  Being ON all the time is exhausting and sometimes our kiddos need a break as well. 

Having said that, I’ve experienced training session where people show up to technology training without a charged laptop, or a stack of papers to grade, or unfinished online business.  I’ve often heard negatively charged sighs of exasperation when presented with a new tool.  Or how about the ever-complaining comment of “I don’t know what my password is!”  And yes, it would be easier if everyone had a chip imbedded that would log you into every site automatically, but also a little bit scary! 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone was fully present in the moment, whatever that moment may be?  Whether the moment is a required training, or having a conversation with a loved one, or being in a public place, being fully present enriches your personal and professional life.

I recently came across a couple of articles that struck a chord with these thoughts.  There are actually specific behaviors you can practice to increase being fully present and listening in the moment.  It kind of goes like this:
Be helpful by finding ways to participate or help out a neighbor, family member, colleague, or service provider.  You will feel good about your behavior and you will impact another life, if only for that moment.
Be curious by asking thoughtful questions.  Your questions might spur on further conversation that will increase your own learning and show that you genuinely care about the other person or the topic on which you are being trained. 
Being available is another way to say, “Hey, I am here right now.”  It shows that you are engaged in the moment.  You can show you are available by tweeting regularly, showing eye contact in person, nodding your head, or using those simple phrases like “Oh” and “Ah”.
Be respectful.  Even if you feel reluctant to learn a new tool or feel frustrated by overcoming a personal obstacle, stay positive and avoid negative comments directed at the person in your midst.  Negative comments that aren't heard by everyone delivers negative energy into the room. 
Have fun!  Life is too short to not have fun in your daily activities.  Laughter truly is the best medicine!  It is also infectious.  One of the things I love about my job is that we laugh!  A lot!!  It eases tension and gives us some perspective.

I love it when I come across a person who is present in the moment and positive about what is happening around them.  It is one of the common threads that I experience with my athlete friends.  Yes, sometime we are uncomfortable, but we get through it with a positive attitude and enjoy each moment that we are given.  Being fully present lifts your spirits and pushes you to be your best as well!  Let’s all practice being in the moment!  Who knows, you might just surprise yourself!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Engagement in a 21st Century Classroom

Today my colleague and I had the privilege of bringing several iPads and an iPod touch into a fourth grade classroom to focus on the goal of increasing the fluency of basic multiplication facts.  It was exciting to see the look on the students’ faces as we unpacked our tools and laid them out on the table.  We heard some “Oh look!  It's an iPad!”  You could feel the air change like static electricity in the room!  We set it up with the goal of “Let’s see if you can be really fast with your multiplication facts today!”. 

One interesting thing we could easily do was to modify the levels for each students’ level.  We had three top math students in the class and so we pulled out some apps that still focused on multiplication but allowed the student to experience algebra with the same goal in mind.  For the rest of the class we set it on easy multiplication facts.

In reflection of our time together I was amazed at how engaged these kids were with their activities.  And then I thought, how is engagement defined in the 21st century?
The most recent issue of EQ (vol. 32, no. 4, 2009) provides this definition:  Student engagement is a rendezvous between learning and the digital tools and techniques that excite students.  These 4th graders were just that-very excited!  The use of technology is key in engaging our students in the classroom, but technology for the sake of using technology is not enough.  With these devices we were able to tailor the apps to the objective and tailor the apps to each child’s level.  It was using technology to increase learning and student engagement.  What a powerful way to run a classroom! 

So the next time you choose to include technology into your lesson, ask yourself these questions.  "How excited will my students be? Will this digital tool meet the needs of all of my students?  And will this resulting engagement lead to a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught?"  Hopefully the answers will be yes!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Digital Devices Empower Learners

video

As my colleague, Jenny (@jennykbps)  pulled iPads out of the bag, the 4th grade students were breathless and wide eyed, as if superman himself had appeared in the classroom. Excitement filled the air and everyone was waiting on the edge of their seats, hands in the air, in eager anticipation of what they were about to learn.  

Delighted, the students enthusiastically joined us at our technology center where they were given an iPad 2, iPod Touch, or a DS, and were engaged immediately on math facts by the apps, videos, and games on the devices.  They worked intently for an hour on mastering multiplication facts, trying hard to beat their time, set a high score, or move to the next level.  Each student was working at his/her own level and motivated to learn.  

The hour long math class melted away quickly and before long we needed to pack up.  The kids said the following:
“Do we have to go to lunch?”

“Just a minute, I need to finish this level.”  

“I almost have a new high score.”

“When are you coming back?”

“Math was fun!”

“I did more problems than ever!”

“I liked the video, it helped me remember.”

We knew putting the iPads, iPods, and DS’s in their hands would make a difference, but we did not expect it to be transformational.  Not only were we able to individualize the instruction for each child, every student was 100% on task the entire time, had fun, did more problems, and did not want to stop working.  Every student was challenged at their level and advanced at their own pace.   

Another interesting finding at this school where many are free and reduced lunch, was that most students have access to technology outside of school, but use the devices for entertainment, not learning.
“I have a DS at home, but I just play games on it,” one 4th grader said.  “I am asking for Math Blaster for my birthday.”
“My mom has a phone that has apps,” said another student. “I am going to ask her to get Math Bingo for me.”

According to Mary Beth Hertz (@mbteach) , “The digital divide is no longer an issue of access. Instead, there is a widening gap between those who use technology to be entertained and those who are empowered by it.” http://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-divide-technology-internet-access-mary-beth-hertz

Our next step is to collect some baseline data and work with this same group of students over the next six weeks and see how learning with iPads, iPods, and DS’s impacts test scores.    

Check back later for more about our pilot with these 4th graders.

Apps Used: Math Bingo, Bubble Math, Math Samuri, My Math App, Flash Racer, Math, Sum Stacker
DS Games: Math Blaster, Learn Math
Videos:
1. Multiply by 9’s - http://www.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=183949&title=9s_times_table_multiplication&vpkey=

2.  3, 6, 9, - http://www.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=167261&title=Multiplying_3_s__6_s___amp__9_s&vpkey=
-Ann Feldmann

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Encouragement

Recently I ran in the Race for the Cure. Every corner I turned there were cheerleaders right there to give all of us runners encouragement.  Their enthusiasm and energy were invaluable.  As I was running a steep hill in the middle of the course, I felt myself losing steam, just like a balloon with the air seeping out.  I was going flat.  Then, there they were, the cheerleaders telling me I could do it and that the top of the hill was just ahead. I soaked in those encouraging words and replayed them over and over as my feet pounded in rhythm up the hill.  They knew I could do it and so did I!  Because they believed in me, I knew I must keep going. I needed to dig down deep, push through the pain, find a new gear, keep the legs moving, and finish the race.

The encouraging words from the cheerleaders were personal and meaningful and inspired me to keep running the race.  

Educators are like those cheerleaders, they have the ability to encourage students everyday in a meaningful way.  But teachers are just one person.  Often the encouragement stays within the walls of the classroom and not every student gets encouraged daily.  For example, when a student writes a paper for class, typically the teacher is the only one who reads and evaluates the document. Many students get discouraged writing because the feedback comes several days later and from only one person.

If that same information is shared electronically, feedback is immediate, rich, and encouraging. The immediate electronic validation comes not from just one cheerleader, but from cheerleaders all over the world. The comments can be read and re-read and give the author new insight and purpose to their creation.  Encouragement instills a passion to continue to create and develop ideas.   The result is a desire to write and share more information.

I enjoy both roles, as both a creator of content as well as an encourager.  When someone leaves a comment on a story or post I have written, I feel like the color yellow, happy and radiant.  I find that leaving a comment on someone’s blog feels as good as receiving one.  I know by reading and responding to a post makes a lasting impact on the writer because I took the time to read their ideas and leave words of encouragement for them.

As poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  said, “Correction does much, but encouragement does more.”

-Ann Feldmann

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Power of Sharing

Sharing is a lesson learned at a young age.  It is a difficult concept and as a parent, one that seems to go against the very nature of little ones.  “It’s mine!” our kids exclaim when being directed to share.  Parents look exasperated as they teach this most important lesson.  We wonder if our kids will ever get it and share openly without fear or hesitation. 


The choice of sharing is now imbedded in almost everything we read, look at, come across, or post.  It is a wonderful feeling to share.  As a Roman philosopher from the mid-1st century AD stated “There is no delight in owning anything unshared.”  Sharing can bring a sense of joy, freedom and power.  Sharing also presents its fair share of personal challenges.  Sharing your ideas can bring a sense of dread or empowerment depending on the voices in your head.  Will I be heard, will I be ridiculed, will people think it is a good idea or just plain dumb and tired? Erma Bombeck said, “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” 

I say go for it!  Be courageous!  Hit the share button as often as possible.  You will reach someone or no one, but what is the worst thing that can happen?  In order to be able to share one must take the risk of not being heard, but so what? 

Teachers are in the position to share information to the whole world.  Sharing what happens in our classrooms can empower others to embark on a new journey.  So whether you share by blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or on a wiki; share out your ideas, experiences, resources, and thoughts.  And who knows your might change the world one share at a time! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bouncing Into the 22nd Century by Embracing New Tools

What makes someone embrace a new technology tool?
Every two years my cell phone is eligible to be upgraded.  Each time I am forced to learn a whole new set of tools in order to communicate effectively with this new phone.  First came texting, then taking and sharing photos, and now with the release of iPhone4S, Siri!  
If educators would be forced to refresh and re-tool with instructional technology in the classroom every two years like we must with cell phone plans, we would be blazing trails into the 22nd century and beyond!
We all cling to the comfort of the old, afraid to drop the heavy old tools we are so familiar with and embrace a collaborative 21st Century tool.  By clinging to old technology and not venturing out to try new things, we become weighted down just like carrying a load of bricks where ever we go.  If we were to try to jump weighted down with bricks, we do not have the ability to leap for the sky.  
As an example, I took a bold new move several years ago when I abandoned my brick of MS Word and took my bold leap into Google Docs.  
It started after I had attended the ISTE conference and learned about this new tool several years ago.  I was at a meeting in school where most people were taking notes in Word, a few even with paper and pencil.  I jumped in with a new Google Doc and shared it with one of my colleague's. As the meeting progressed, we together took notes, added links, and even shared ideas by instant messaging on the side of the doc.  It ROCKED!  When I left the meeting, my notes were not only complete, but the doc was shared with all the people in the room! The days of attaching files and e-mail people are over! Everyone had the power to add more content to this document and the doc is always available in the cloud for everyone to access anytime.
Then and there I knew this was a game changer for workflow productivity.  The power of many brains on one document was revolutionary.  Imagine how teacher collaboration could be transformed if everyone were using Google Docs.

Taking that first step to incorporate a new tool into my routine is vital to continual growth and learning. I am constantly learning, unlearning, and re-learning so I can bounce higher and higher into the 22nd century!

I am glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and dropped the brick of MS Word and embraced Google Docs.  Letting go and re-tooling is a must.    


It’s up to you, are you ready to drop a brick and bounce into the 22nd century with with me?
-Ann Feldmann
 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

We are creatures of habit.    


For example, if a student sits in a chair on the first day of school, the student will return to that same chair the next day expecting to find it empty. The same thing happens in a restaurant, once a person finds a favorite item on the menu,  they order it over and over again.  


Technology is like a new menu item in the restaurant.  Technology tools are on the menu of items to choose from, but are often times overlooked for the comfort of a tried and true lesson just like that new food item on the menu that may tantalize the taste buds but will never be ordered over the comfort food that is known to be delicious.  


Stepping out of the comfort zone means to take a risk.  It means to move forward on a path that is not predicable.  It means to invest time.  It means to become a learner and not know all the answers.  It is uncomfortable.  It takes courage.  


“Older people sit down and ask, 'What is it?' but the boy asks, 'What can I do with it?'.”
Steve Jobs

Be the learner today.  Start with one new technology tool. Learn it, create with it, and integrate it into your daily workflow.  It will feel uncomfortable at first, like being in an elevator with a bunch of strangers, but before long it will become as natural as sending a text.


“In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
~ Eric Hoffer, American social writer

Help!!! Stuck in Power Point Jail!!!

Are you stuck in power point jail? Do you have several power point files that you always pull out year after year? Do you wonder if maybe there are some more engaging visual ways to present material beside the old stand-by of power point? Here are three great tools that you can use to create visual presentations for your content! Each one requires a few minutes of brain power and then you should be off and running! You can even just copy and paste your pre-made slides into some of these great tools!

Tool # 1
www.spicynodes.org  Spicynodes allows you to create information in a logical and sequential order that presents itself as branches. This is a great tool for students to use as a pre-writing tool as it requires the user to put the concepts and content in an outline format. You can upload youtube videos, images, url’s and documents. There are a variety of styles to choose from that create a visually pleasant presentation. The first time I tried it, it took me ten minutes to create a “nodemap”. After that I created a few more in a matter of minutes. Checkout their gallery as well for nodemaps that are already made and available for you to show you students.




Tool # 2
www.scoopit.com  I am a HUGE FAN of scoopit! It allows the user to curate a page of online resources centered around one topic. How is this different than say, Diigo? Well, it crawls the web for you and you become the editor, slashing what you don’t like and scooping what you do. I made one centered around being a mom and a part-time triathlete just for fun. I had a page up and running in a matter of minutes! You can check it out here! Again, if you have a list of websites on a topic in your curriculum, you could easily make a scoopit page for your class. What an awesome way to guide your students research. How about allowing your students to create their own scoopit page and then share it out on twitter to your class?


Tool #3
www.docs.google.com  Google docs are here to stay so you might as well get your nose in it! In Google docs you can upload your power points into a google presentation doc and then change it to an interactive doc by sharing it with your students. How about just putting headings on the slides and allow your students to insert content and then share it with the class? Remember, being a facilitator is a powerful teaching position. We don’t always have to be in charge of every detail. Allow your students to create and present. They will learn more along the way and retain more information! Scared of what might come out of it Create a rubric prior to the exercise at www.rubistar.4teachers.org . The definition of “facilitator” is a person responsible for leading or coordinating the work of a group. Not a bad thing to be! You might even get out of “jail”!