Friday, May 27, 2011

You Can Never Have Too Many Tools

Today was one of those days where I realized that you can never have too many tools to use with your students.  We are studying the Industrial Revolution and in my continuing efforts to "flip" my classroom, decided to use an Edsitement lesson plan on the strikes of the period.  I broke them to groups and they did the research using the primary source documents.  I had looked at the work earlier in the morning and thought that it would take much longer for them to complete the research.  All of the sudden, as I walked around the media lab, I realized that this was going to take much less time than I had planned and had to come up with something.  All of the sudden, a thought appeared in my head.  The students were going to have to present their findings at some point, so why not have them create a Google presentation that they could all work on and complete on their own at home if need be?  (In reading some of their blog posts later on, I discovered that not all of them remembered using the Google presentation feature earlier in the year.)  Most of them were able to finish the assignment and I will be able to share their work with everyone when we return next week.  I feel that I accomplished something today, being able to use the right tool at the right time to help my students showcase their work.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Opportunity for Students to Show What They Can Do

Every time I fire up my computer (which my wife seems to think is every hour on the hour), I always manage to find my way to Richard Byrne's "Free Technology for Teachers" site.  The times where I don't find something worth somehow incorporating into my classroom are few and far between.  I find myself always wondering how I would use whatever his latest post (and he makes any number of them everyday) with whatever I am teaching at the moment.

This afternoon was no different, except that what I found was an opportunity for my students to display their creativity, which I can only hope that I have helped to cultivate this year.  This link in the title will take you an explanation for a new contests for students to use web-tools to create a 90-second video in which they help others learn something new.  It would appear that the topic could be just about anything, and there are more specific rules at the page, but I will be walking in to my classes tomorrow encouraging them to be a part of it.

Oh yeah, there's a contest for teachers as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We Have Forgotten

 I have discovered a wonderful blog over the past few months entitled "The Relentless Teacher" (you can find it in my "Blogs I Follow" column in the right hand column).  There are frequently posts that make me think about what it is that I do for a living, but the post that I read today was one that should make all of us think.  As a nation, we need to remember why public schools are so important for the future of the republic.  That from time of our founding, the United States has relied on education to ensure that future generations would understand what it means to live in this country.  All of us, educators, parents, students, general public, would do well to remember that the students who come to the public school everyday are all of our "children," not just some one else's.  That we need to be concerned about what happens to them in as they become thinking human beings and, hopefully, contributing citizens to our society.  I will be using this post with my students to start next year in an effort to make sure they understand why they are in school and how fortunate they are to be receiving the opportunity they have to learn what it means to live in this republic.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Students Helping Teachers

I asked my students to sign up for a new on-line discussion forum,, which seems to be better than the portal that I was using in that this one allows for posting images, pdfs and links directly into the discussion area so that students do not have to click back and forth.  I am still waiting to see how it works, and will certainly share that information along the way.

What I was happiest about was that one of my students took it upon himself to create a screencast to help his classmates along in the registration process.  This is a HUGE deal for me, because it has taken me the better part of the school year for my students to help each other in a tech assignment in this way.  This is not to say that my students have not collaborated on projects like this in the past, I know that they have and that those who have worked to help their classmates have made the integration of technology into the classroom much easier.  But this is the first time that the collaboration has become public.  I feel as if my classes have finally reached the "donate" phase of technology.  His screencast is below.

I can only hope that future students of mine are able to move to the donation phase of what I want them to do more quickly.  But big things come from small first steps.  Thanks Neil!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Opportunities

This is a very quick post about the power of working with students.  My students are busy studying for a test tomorrow.  How do I know you ask?  Because they have been asking me a series of questions at, which I initially used during a course last summer.  At the time, we used it to ask back channel questions or to make points during a presentation.  Tonight I used to answer questions about information that will be on the test.  One of my students didn't have some of the information that she needed, and couldn't read it from my blog.  So she let me know and I was able to go to the original web site, download the information from the site as a pdf, and send it off to her as an e-mail attachment.  In the past, I would have had to listen to a story about not being able to get the information that she needed and that she isn't ready to take the test.  This solved the problem quickly and painlessly.  Another victory for Web 2.0.