Showing posts from January, 2011

Excellent Anti-Cyberbullying Ad

Earlier this year, I addressed our middle school students on the topic of bullying (with the wonderful assistance of our Middle School Assistant Principal and our Middle School Counselor). Needless to say, at Cole we've adopted a strong anti-bullying stance.

During my part of the presentation I stressed the need to stop cyberbullying. I wanted to get the point across to the kids that cyberbullying is a big problem because it's "easy". It's easy in the sense that the abuser can hide behind a computer and the abuser doesn't see the immediate results of his or her actions. My point was - if you wouldn't say something to someone's face, you shouldn't say it online. I needed something to drive my point home.

Imagine my excitement when I came across the following awesome public address message on YouTube. It was produced by the Ad Council for their Antibullying ad campaign. When I showed it to our students, you could have heard a pin drop. It lead to an…

TCEA Bound Next Week!

I will once again be heading to the annual Texas Computer Educators' Association (TCEA) state conference in Austin next week (February 8 - 11).

On Tuesday February 8th, I'll be attending the Lone Star Edublogger Con. Since I'm a newbie at all this blogging stuff, I'm really looking forward to learning from colleagues and making new friends.

On Wednesday February 9th, look for me and my student interns at Session#110422, "Creating Video Tutorials for FREE using TechSmith's Jing!" Jing is a free piece of software that allows you to capture screen images and video tutorials.

Starting Wednesday and running through the rest of the week, you'll find me at the Mimio booth. Our district has Mimio Interactive Whiteboards in every classroom and they are simple to use, yet powerful tools for teachers and students!

My students will be at the eChalk booth on Wednesday, so if you'd like to see what eChalk can do for your students, head over there and get strai…

Friday Freebie - Tell Me a Story

I learned about this week's Friday Freebie at the Schlechty Conference!

Have a story to tell? Want your students to collaborate on a book? Can draw and need a cadre of professional artists at your service. Then Storybird is place for you! (

Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print. You can read them like books, play them like games, and send them like greeting cards. As the site says, "They’re curiously fun." You start by selecting an artist and magically a tabletop full of pictures appears. Drag and drop them onto your page, select a layout, enter your text, and you're off to the next page.

Teachers can easily create class accounts so students don't need individual email accounts to create their own books. Students can also share their storybirds with other students so they can work together on projects. I can see this tool being used in all grade levels and across all subject areas! Take a peek! You…

A Special Surprise (Thanks to Facebook)

"In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work.  It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years."  ~Jacques Barzun

Well, it hasn't been quite twenty years, but close enough. I taught Algebra I at Churchill High School from 1994-1996. And through the magical power of Facebook, one of my former students tracked me down. In a a message on my wall, Jose posted, "Mr. Rios, I used to have you for Algebra at Churchill.You were one of my best teachers ever. Hope all is well with you."

Three simple sentences. Three simple, yet powerful sentences that reminded me, once again, why I do what I do - why all teachers do what they do. Some of us love math, other technology, some science, some history. But, the thing that keeps us coming back day after day is our love for kids.

We usually don't get daily affirmations from our students. To be honest, we don't expect it. Very rarely will a student stop on his way out of class and say, "Great less…

Technology - Not a Guarantee for Engagement

After three days of Schlechty, I've had nothing but student engagement on my mind. How do we create work for students that they will be dedicated to, be persistent at, and find value in? What resources should we use when designing that engaging work?

You'd think a technology director would insist that technology is the only answer! Well, here's one techie that says, "not always." While technology can, and often does, encourage student engagement, it must be only a part in the design of quality work for kids. As Phil Schlechty pointed out in our first night here, students today are not "impressed" by technology the same way we were, or are. These digital natives view technology as just another learning tool, just as we view textbooks. It's nothing new to them.

So, simply adding technology to a lesson without careful thought and consideration of other important design qualities will not ensure engagement. Having students create a PowerPoint presentat…

Recipe for Change

Heard this today at the Schlechty Conference:

To effectively initiate change, you need a core set of beliefs, a shared vision, a mission for your organization, incentives for those who follow the change, the resources needed for people to make the change, and skills necessary for the change.

When change fails, examine this:

Change without Beliefs leads to Indifference.
Change without Vision leads to Mistrust.
Change without Mission leads to Confusion.
Change without Incentives leads to Resistance.
Change without Resources leads to Frustration.
Change without Skills leads to Anxiety.

Too often we blame the failure of change on those we're trying to change. Next time change in your organization is not working, figure out what people are feeling and you'll discover what your organization is lacking. Not an easy pill to swallow, but a necessary one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Schlechty on Transformation and The Work

Day Two of the WOW Conference in Dallas and once again Phil Schelchty provided the opening keynote address. This morning, he began the day with a look at the differences between "transforming" schools and "reforming" schools. Phil is, of course, all about transformation. Some of his key points ...

If you look at a 1909 Model T Ford and a 2009 Ford Truck you'll see the same basic machine (Reformation). If you look at a caterpillar and a butterfly, you'll see two different animals (Transformation)Phil's work is transforming schools and roles. His goal is not to make you a better instructor, but a better designer. "If you think your role in twenty years is still going to be as an instructor, you'd better retire now." His point being that technology if going to transform how teachers teach. They are not now, nor will they ever be again, the sole source of information for students. What will teachers new role be?Transformation is scary because …

Phil Schlechty - His New Book

This week, I'm fortunate to be at a WOW (Working on the Work) Conference in Dallas, Texas. The WOW conferences are run by the excellent staff at the Schlechty Center, a private non-profit organization centered on helping schools transform classrooms. The basis of Phil Schlechty's ideas for school transformation centers on teachers designing work that will engage students - work that they will find interesting, challenging, and satisfying.

These concepts were first introduced in Schlechty's book, Working on the Work. In the book he outlines ten design qualities that will help ensure that the work teachers provide students is engaging. Phil's new book, coming out soon will be Engaging Students: The Next Level of Working on the Work. In his opening address at this week's conference, he told the audience that he re-wrote his WOW book for several reasons. Primarily, when talking about WOW he found he was constantly pointing out what WOW was not. It is not a lesson plan…

Friday Feeebie

I've decided to dedicate Fridays to posting links to my favorite free sites on the web. The sites will have an educational slant to them but will probably prove useful in any setting. (Note that if you're receiving this post via email it will probably not reach you until Saturday.)

Today's cool free site is Big Huge Labs. ( According to the site, the good folks at Big Huge Labs have been "helping people do cool stuff with your pictures since 2005." Upload a photo and then pick from a variety of cool things to do with it - create a motivational poster, pop art, a magazine cover, a movie poster, a jigsaw puzzle, a photo filmstrip and more! No account is needed and downloading your projects is easy. There are a multitude of ways teachers and students could use the site. Projects could be designed around any of the applications. Students could create a movie poster for a novel, a motivational poster using quotes from literature, or a magazi…

Proposed Texas Budget Cuts Will Eliminate Technology Allottment

The proposed budget cuts from the initial House Appropriations Bill call for a complete elimination of the Technology Allotment Fund for local districts. Currently, districts receive $30 per student based on their Average Daily Attendance Rate.

For a small district like Fort Sam Houston ISD, with roughly 1250 students, that adds up to $37,500. Not a huge chunk of change, but a factor nonetheless. I was at a San Antonio Technology Directors' meeting this morning and for some of our larger districts in the city, this cut will have a HUGE impact on their tech budgets.

There are many more programs that will be affected as well. It's not looking good......

See for more info.

Pre-service Technology Teaching - What should it do?

Tonight I start teaching a new semester of "Microcomputers in the Classroom" at Texas A&M San Antonio. It's a survey type course designed to teach aspiring teachers about the use of technology in the classroom. As I begin my fourth time teaching this course, I wonder what my main objective should be.

While I can surely show them a variety of software tools, I'm not sure what tools will be at their disposal once they're in the classroom. I do focus on free applications (especially the use of Web 2.0 tools), but I know that without consistent practice much of the skill set I show them will disappear before they ever get in the classroom.

So, I guess my overarching goal should be to increase their technological self-efficacy (their beliefs in their own ability to use technology). If I can get them a little more confident in venturing into tech integration and steer them in the right direction for resources and support, I will have at least planted a seed.

Wish m…

"The Curse of Knowledge"

As part of a district team book study, I recently read Dan and Chip Heath's Made to Stick. It's a fascinating book about what makes some ideas "stick" while others go in one ear and out the other. They look at ideas in advertising, business, marketing, and of course - education.

One concept they bring up is what they term, "The Curse of Knowledge." In short, the curse is this:

Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has "cursed" us. It becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can't readily re-create our listeners' state of mind.*
It got me to thinking about how this applies to education. When do we - as teachers, administrators, technology directors - make assumptions about what our audience knows? When do we talk over their heads and then blame them for now understanding? The truth is, I think it happens way too much.

When communicating with each othe…

Using SmartArt in Office 2007 and 2010

I was working on a Powerpoint presentation recently and happened to see the "Convert to SmartArt" button on the Paragraph tab of the Home ribbon. I clicked for fun and came across some really cool stuff. SmartArt allows you to display text in a graphical format to better show the relationship between ideas. Check out the BEFORE and AFTER below...

It's really simple to do and there are lots of styoles to choose from from categories such as List, Process, Cycle, Hierarchy, Relationships. Matrix, adn Pryamid.
For instructions on how to use "Convert to SmartArt", click HERE.

My New Blog

Okay, I have a new year's resolution and that's to start using this blog as a means of sharing more technology information with colleagues, students, and friends. So, come back often, or better yet, subscribe via RSS feed. I hope to post a little something at least three times a week. If I'm not doing it, someone send me a gentle reminder. Now bear in mind I'm new to Blogger, so it may take a while to get used to posting here.