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Showing posts from October, 2011

Digital Immigrants Too Much For You? How About Digital In-Laws?

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There seems to be a low of tweets and posts about getting rid of the whole Digital Natives / Digital Immigrants analogy. The authors of these arguments bring up some valid points. Presnky's idea of natives vs. immigrants creates a dichotomy that suggests once you're an immigrant, you'll always be an immigrant. While you may take on some of the qualities of the natives, your "accent" will probably show through. The whole analogy also suggests a young vs. old mentality.

I do like Prensky's ideas and I use the terms quite a bit in teacher training and staff development. But, what if there were another way to look at this? Being a lover of analogies and stories, I started thinking about how else we could describe this digital divide. Then, it hit me.

When I first met my wife's mother and grandparents, I must admit, I think they were less than impressed. I was (and still am) a heck of a guy, but I was an outsider. And likewise, she with my family. It's th…

Friday Freebie: Fakebook Lets Students Create Fictitious Facebook Accounts for FREE!

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Looking for a great way to get students to show off what they know about historical figures or literary characters? Then, tap into their love of social media and let them create a Facebook-like profile as a project.

Fakebook, is a free service from ClassTools, who bring you other great free programs like the Random Name Picker and the Countdown Timer. Go to the site and with one click you'll start creating yourFakebook profile. There is no sign up needed!

Type in the name of your character and Fakebook will let you upload a profile picture or it will find one for you! You can then add profile information such as birthdate, hometown, marital status, etc. You do so simply typing in a text string like birthdate=Jan 8, 1918 or Hobbies=Lunar landings. You can add any profile information you want this way. You can also add "friends", add posts, and reply to posts as different characters. You can even link YouTube videos to your posts.

If you don't finish all at once, you c…

Asking The Right Questions Helps Me Help You

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The other day a teacher asked me to hook up her Elmo document camera using a USB cable and the ImageView Elmo software. It was a perfectly legitimate request because she could then use her document camera inside a Window. I began the work and then asked her what spurred her request. I assumed she was going to say that she didn't want to be limited to using only the computer image or the Elmo. But, when she told me why she wanted the software, I quickly realized that, while this solution would work there was a better solution for what she really wanted to do. Without going into further detail, when I discovered what she really wanted to do, I was able to give her a solution that better suited her needs.

I usually do a better job with this. When a teacher or staff member asks for hardware or software, I usually ask, "What is it that you're trying to do?" I hope I never come off as questioning their motives, I just want to be sure I'm addressing their real needs.  …

Friday Freebie: Collaborize Classroom. One Heck of a Discussion Board Site!

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I created a video one time asking students what engages them most in the classroom. I was surprised to hear several students mention that they are engaged in learning most when the teacher engages them in discussion and dialogue. They like to have their voices heard. They like to argue and debate with other students. They like to take a stand on an issue and try to defend it. The trouble is we don't always have time in the classroom to engage in such lively and engaging dialogue.

That's why today's Friday Freebie is such a powerful tool for teachers. It's Collaborize Classroom and it's an online discussion board that's free, easy-to-use, and very powerful. With Collaborize Classroom, setting up an account is extremely easy. And, you get a unique URL to send to your students. They create their accounts and "request" to join your site. A simple click in the administrative console lets you allow the students in.

If can create groups based on contents are…

A Great Example of Collaboration and Appreciation!

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This past Monday, our high school students took part in an after-school Hispanic Heritage Celebration designed by our wonderful Spanish teacher,  Jo Chacon. Students, working individually or in small groups, studied a variety of topics related to Hispanic culture and presented their projects in front of fellow students, teachers, parents, and community members.

The choir performed. There were salsa dance lessons. There was some really tasty food. There were games. And, there were booths set up all along our hallways with beautiful displays and very knowledgeable student presenters. I was pleased to see many students using their netbooks to show off PowerPoint presentations and Animoto videos. It was, in short, a great display of student work.

Behind the scenes, however, was a great display of teacher collaboration. Jo didn't do this all by herself. There were cross-curricular connections made and her fellow teachers really pitched in to help make this project possible.

Jo sent ou…

Friday Freebie: Will You Type With Me?

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This week's Friday Freebie is an incredibly useful collaborative tool that can be used any time you need to create a document together with other people.

Now bear in mind,  I'm a Google proponent. I love Google Docs and I think it's probably the most powerful way to collaborate on projects. But, Google Docs works best when everyone in your group has a Google account and you can send it ahead of time.

But, what if you need to collaborate on something "on the fly" with people you've just met? For example, let's say you're in a meeting with a group of other  teachers, or you're holding a workshop and want to gather some input from others. Well, WillYouTypeWithMe is a perfect solution, Visit WillYouTypeWithMe and you're able to create a document on the fly by simply typing in a name for your new writing "pad."" Then give out the URL to your colleagues. They create a username and begin adding to the document. It's that simple!

Three Great Days with Great Teachers!

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For the past three days, I've been working with a great group of teachers at a Schlechty Center conference in Dallas. I was honored to be asked by the Schlechty Center to come to the conference as a "fellow" and help with a new module on "Teachers as Guides to Instruction."

The idea is simple - as teachers, we have to stop being the "sage on the stage" and become the "guide on the side." (I hate to use such a overused expression, but the truth is, it fits.) And, because technology is such an integral part of reaching today's digital natives, I was asked to serve as a "resource" for the teachers as they designed engaging lessons during the conference.

I had a BLAST! To see so many teachers excited about new tools that can help engage students was energizing. We played with Prezi, Storybird, Mixbook, Glogster, Edmodo, and more! They designed. They reflected. They shared. And, they had meaningful and lively collegial conversation…

An Early Freebie: BrainShark - Post Your PowerPoints (with your VOICE) Online for FREE!

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I know I usually use Fridays to post Freebies, but this one just can't wait. I recently discovered an easy way to post presentations online with your narration included! Now, I am a TechSmith junkie and use Jing and Camtasia all the time. And, I'll continue to use these powerful tools. But, if you're looking for a simple way to upload a presentation and add your voice, then MyBrainShark is for you!

Creating an account is FREE and painless. Then, you upload the file of your choice. MyBrainShark accepts PowerPoint files, Word documents, pdf's, images, and videos. After a quick conversion, you can add background music from their library and you can add your narration. Narration can be added via your computer's internal mic or by phone. The great thing about adding voice to PowerPoint presentations is that you add narration slide by slide. So, if you mess up, you only have to re-record the narration for that one slide.
When you're done, MyBrainShark supplies you wi…

Whose Standards Are They? Phil Schlechty on Standards.

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This week, I am privileged once again to spend some time with Phil Schlechty at a Schlechty Center conference in Dallas. This morning, Phil's brief keynote was on standards. Here are my notes from the speech:

To blaze a trail in education, you have to go places that no one else is going, but you cannot go blindly - you need direction. In education, many think direction comes from "standards." According to Phil, standards can be one source of direction, but standards should not dictate action. Standards should point us in a direction, but not mandate how we get there. A standard is simply a proposition.

Phil went on to say that in the United States, we've confused standards with test scores. When we say, "we're going to raise standards", what we're really saying is we want to raise test scores. Phil says, using this scheme, the problem with education today is that "kids are marking the wrong answers."

Because of that, we begin teaching to …

Friday Freebie: A Playhouse of Fun for Young Users

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This week's Friday Freebie is the first I've posted that's targeted specifically to very young users. The purpose of PoissonRouge is to introduce Pre-K and younger computer user to the use of the mouse as an interactive tool while helping them hone their investigative skills. And, it does such a good job, it's a blast for older users too.

At first glance, the site looks like a simple "playhouse" with clickable graphics. But, there are so many hidden adventures you could stay on the site all day. Click on the ladybug and a while new room open ups. Click the wooden puppet to make him dance. Click on just about anything and fun is in store!

The aspect I really like is that there are no written instructions. User have to rely on their own investigative skills and imagination. With most of the interactive activities you really don't discover the goal or object of the game until you start clicking. What a great way to get kids to "own" their learnin…