Category Archives: General Discussion

Give it a Try: Twitter Chats

I’m getting ready to try my hand at my first opportunity to co-host a Twitter Chat and I wanted to make a brief guide for some of my colleagues who might have never taken part in a Twitter Chat before!    So this guide assumes first that you have a Twitter Account.  If you are brand new to Twitter, a better place to start is here:  Otherwise, follow these steps and tips to make a Twitter Chat a good experience:

  1.  Use a third-party app to help manage the “flow” of information during the chat.  I like, HootSuite but TweetDeck is also good.  These tools both have both app versions and desktop versions.  I prefer to work from my laptop AND iPad during a chat!  Once you choose one of the above tools, set up a column to follow the hashtag of the chat you’ll be participating in.  This filters out all the other Tweets and allows you to focus on just the relevant information at the time the chat takes place.
  2.  Understand the lingo and shorten words where you can to save characters.  Otherwise you won’t be able to fit your comments into 140 characters.   Ss = students, Ts= teachers, convo = conversation use the ampersand (&) and drop a few vowels where it won’t make the word impossible to read:  frm = from, f/ = for  Think about how you took notes in your college classes and shorten things up in logical ways!
  3. Questions will come out with a label:  Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 and you should respond to questions with answers with corresponding labels:  A1, A2, A3, A4.  If you forget an post with it…not to worry this happens occasionally and others will still be able to tell what you’re responding to most of the time.
  4. MOST important tip:  If you respond, be sure to include the hashtag of the chat so that others following it will see your contribution!  #CSedChat is hashtag I’ll be adding to the end of each of my tweets during the chat I’m helping to moderate!  It will be in each question and each answer!  (Bonus:  after the chat, I can still search for tweets that were made using that hashtag and find them all when I have more time to look through the resources!)
  5. Lurking is ok…jump in and watch if you’re too scared to contribute.  That’s a fine way to start!  But don’t be shy about sharing your expertise!

Sir Ken Robinson: How Technology is Transforming Education

An update on what I’m doing for my own continued professional growth:  I’m participating in a MOOC at Desire2Learn.  If you’re not 100% sure what a MOOC is, here is a great video that explains the basics:

The course I’m enrolled in is titled “Teachers + Mobile Apps = Creative Classrooms.”  You can join us here by following this link.  In the introductory module, there was a required video viewing of a brief, but powerful video by Sir Ken Robinson that I feel is worth sharing.  Enjoy:

Students Need an Audience!

The inspiration for this post comes from a book I’m currently reading. Those of you who know me well will not be surprised to hear that I’m reading a mystery series as I have been a long time fan of the genre. I grew up with Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys topping the list of books I checked out from the Mary Cotton Library in my small Kansas hometown. On Saturday mornings, my favorite cartoon was Scooby Doo! As I became a more mature reader, Stephen King, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell and true crime novels have prevented much productivity in my life!

An author I recently discovered has now become my new method for relaxing: Elizabeth Peters. Her Amelia Peabody series is not new, just new to me. I’m in the third of the books in the series where the main character, Amelia Peabody is solving mysteries in the setting of archeological excavations in Egypt. Peters’ sense of humor comes through with subtlety in her writing, and I enjoy the challenge posed by the interesting vocabulary with which she writes.

So . . . How does this all tie in to the title of the post, “Students Need an Audience!”? Well, in the book I’m reading, Peters’ character, Amelia Peabody has a short passage where she is expounding on why she references “gentle Reader” when she really doesn’t intend for her “memoirs” to be ever published. The following passage is straight from the book:

Why then, the gentle Reader will ask, do I infer his or her existence by addressing her, or him? The answer should be obvious. Art cannot exist in a vacuum. The creative spirit must possess an audience. It is impossible for a writer to do herself justice if she is only talking to herself.

When I read this passage, it struck me as a great reference for why we as teachers need to strive to provide an audience for the work of our students. I know I have had students in the past who would give me good work simply because they respected me and wanted to please me, or some who have set high personal expectations for themselves who do good work because that is their own personal standard. But I wonder if “good” would have been “better” or maybe even “great” had I made more of an effort at finding them an authentic audience for their work?

Another post will have to explore the definition of “authentic audience” and how a teacher can help students find their audience!


Do you LOVE a good challenge?

 “We should teach children to love effort and challenges.”  (Carol Dweck)

I recently ran across a blog post that I read with great interest.  Kevin Washburn’s blog “SmartBlog on Education” often has summaries of great educational research or readings.  A recent post here:

led me to reading about Carol Dweck, a researcher in the field of psychology.  She takes the position that children should be praised for persistence and hard work instead of talent or intelligence since the latter may result in a “fixed mindset” instead of a “growth mindset.”   Reading about this difference in fixed as opposed to growth mindsets in children led me to ponder it in relation to my own professional development:  Do I have a fixed or a growth mindset?  I love to learn new skills, have new experiences, even take more and more college courses and professional development opportunities.  I think I operate mostly from a mindset that fosters growth, and  I hope I always will!   I came away from the Dweck’s article, being more intent on what I say to students I encounter, though.  I hope I can help them embrace those things that are difficult and find value in the growth they have when they tackle them!

Dweck had a nice article for parents when she was interviewed for Highlights Magazine.  You can read it here:

Reflect:  Do YOU love effort and challenges?  Identify the places in your own life, both personal and professional, that are you identify as challenges right now.  What things require much effort.  In what ways do you LOVE these things?  How can approaching these things with a “growth-mindset” result in positive outcomes?


Quick Tip: Internet Explorer 9…Something I Like!

I’ve just recently updated to Windows 7 from Windows XP operating system. At the same time I updated Internet Explorer from version 7 to version 9. I’m also supporting around 140 staff members who will be making the switch when them come back to school this fall! For many of them, this will be their first experience with Windows 7, IE 9, as well as moving from Office 2003 to Office 2010 all at once. So I’m going to post several short tips now and then so that I can share things I discover and have them all in one place to refer folks to!

Here is my first “thing I really like” about IE 9:
Creating a desktop shortcut for a website is super easy! Using Internet Explorer while you’re viewing the website you wish to make the desktop shortcut, simply right-click and choose “Create Shortcut.” Once the shortcut is created, it even opens in whatever browser you have set as the default browser for the machine! Cool!

Jeff Utecht: Community Trumps Content

I sometimes review manuscripts for publishing companies, and I’ve had the pleasure of recently reviewing one that mentioned Jeff Utecht’s Ted Talk titled “Community Trumps Content.” He does an excellent job of bringing to the forefront the idea that schools are trying to keep kids away from the social aspect of today’s technology when, in reality, that very social aspect is what can draw kids to technology and its application in education. Here is the video from YouTube:
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Why the New Name? Tech Talk 113

Our community recently voted to consolidate its school district with a nearby district in order to better meet the educational needs of students in a fiscally responsible manner.  The new district will be Unified School District 113 of Nemaha County, Kansas, and the interim school board has voted to use the official name Prairie Hills.  To acknowledge the consolidation,  and welcome the many new teachers and administrators I’ll now be supporting in instructional technology, I’ve decided to rename my blog and renew my commitment to actively maintaining it.

In the past, I’ve been a sporadic blogger, sometimes going several months between posts.  However, I feel that this blog can play an even more valuable role in my support to teachers in the future since my district is going to cover several more square miles and I’ll need to work “virtually” with more people.  I hope to use this blog to create dialog with and among  the teachers in all 7 schools in USD 113!  So, to all my new colleagues:  Welcome to my blog, and I look forward to working with you in your instructional technology efforts!  And to my long-time colleagues:  I’m anticipating a great continuation of our work together using technology to better educate our students!  To all of you in USD 113 Prairie Hills, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to work together in the area of technology integration!

40 and Counting!

Well, the school year is underway.  I know this because I’ve celebrated my birthday.  Having an end-of-August birthday has always meant that I associate my birthday with the start of school.  But this year was a little different.  My birthday was a “significant” one. . .I turned 40!

I spent a little time that day reflecting on all the changes in the world I’d seen in those 40 years…well, ok, the 35 or so from which I actually have memories.  My children laugh, sometimes even scoff, when I tell them of the things I’ve seen:  I remember our first microwave, the changes in music (reel-to-reels, 8 track, cassettes, cds, and now mp3 players), and yes, I had to talk to my friends on the telephone that was in the kitchen ATTACHED  to the WALL when they called!  If I needed a ride home from school, I knew how to use the payphone on the wall at school!  Computers are another whole area:  my first home computer was a Commodore 64 we hooked to the tv and I used TRS-80s by Radio Shack (we called them Trash-80s) at school for my first computer programming class (taught by one Mr. Hall at Sabetha High School!)  At home, my first computer was purchased WITHOUT the newly invented CD-drives because I thought certainly software would always be sold on floppy disks . . . and yes I had both the 5 1/4 and 3.5 inch drives! I was later thrilled to upgrade my home computer to one with a whole GIG of memory!!  Why would anyone ever need more than than that?

So the changes I’ve seen in a mere 40 years are phenomenal! It overwhelms me to think of what the future is going to be like for the students in our schools today.  I wonder, are we preparing students for today’s world or for the world they’ll be living in  when they finish school in 10 or so years?  Are we thinking forward to the skills they’ll need to compete in a global world that is expanding exponentially?  If you haven’t watched the movie Did You Know?, I highly recommend it. It might make you re-think the importance of what we do as teachers.  Another short, thought-provoking video I saw this week is I Need My Teachers To Learn, performed by a Kansas guy.  Listen close to its words and see if you’re not challenged to rethink how we use and allow the use of technology.  Could it be that today’s generation of students approach the use of technology in a different way than we 40-somethings do?  Or differently even than the 20- and 30-something people beginning their teaching careers today? What would it look like in our schools and classrooms if we embraced the way the kids use technology as our own ways?  (If  you’re reading my blog inside my district’s firewalls, these YouTube versions will be blocked for you and you’ll have to view them somewhere else.  Interesting, ironic coincidence, huh?)

So as you start this 2009-2010 school year my challenge to you is to open your mind to what is really important.   What are the timeless skills that kids will need no matter how the world changes?  Focus on them.  What are the creative and innovative ways that technology can change the way you teach?  Pick one and experiment with it.  And most importantly, how can you make a difference in your school?  Do it. (Here’s a refresher from an earlier post on this theme.)

Alternatives to YouTube…potential and pitfalls

As in many districts around the world, the administration of our school district here in Kansas sees too great a risk in allowing students to have full access to the videos hosted at YouTube.  Several teachers, however, have found value in using carefully selected videos to supplement their curriculum.  The use of video is an illustration that the teacher is addressing multiple learning styles and that they are using all available means to motivate and instruct their students.  But allowing teachers and students to have access to the educational content on YouTube also increases the risk that students will inadvertently (or purposefully) access inappropriate video content through the site.

So I’m please to suggest the use of two different alternatives to YouTube that are more closely controlled and (at least as of this posting) are currently “allowed” within our district.  TeacherTube and SchoolTube are both alternatives that I would be comfortable using.  I’m personally more familiar with SchoolTube, simply because I created an account there as a moderator.  The process took about 24 – 48 hours for me to register and  them to “approve” my status.  I’ve uploaded three projects that I worked on with SES 1st graders this past year.  The students read a Jan Bret book “The Mitten” back during the cold winter months.  They brainstormed with their classroom teacher things that make them warm like the animals in the story.  Then they planned and took digital pictures of one another with their “warm” items.  I put the pictures together into PhotoStory 3, a free downloadable application.  Then I went into their classrooms with my laptop and projector and we had a short lesson on writing interesting, descriptive sentences before they wrote captions for their movies.  I added some copyright-free background music with the built-in PhotoStory 3 tools, and saved them as a Windows Media File movie.  A quick upload to SchoolTube means that no files storage space on our district servers is required!  I’ve embedded the videos below this post.  This was my first attempt, and it was quick and painless, though I’m sure you experienced movie critics out there can find flaws and make suggestions for improvement!

The use of the “moderated” video sites will solve some of the problems teachers were running into with being “blocked” out of YouTube.  However, the one problem YouTube causes for large networks that will NOT be resolved is the issue of bandwidth used when videos are shown from these sites.  Even one single user allowing the video to stream in from SchoolTube, TeacherTube or any similar service, will use large amounts of bandwidth and thus, take resources away from other users on the network.  If a whole lab of students is using a site like that, a sudden slow down of resources can be debilitating.  So even though there are appropriate alternatives, teachers need to take caution to make sure only critical videos are being used during school hours when others are also needing bandwidth.

OK…here are the embedded videos our first-graders made this past year.  Click on the black box to find the play button.

It’s Not About Me

Once again Education World has come through with a motivational thought for me!  I love this website!  Today’s inspiration came from an article from Professor Joe Martin, The Educator Motivator. His article titled, “It’s Not About Us” discusses the importance of two ideas that help him make decisions and choose actions as a teacher:  First, that he is dedicated to always do what is right no matter how hard it is.  He does this NOT for the approval of others, but for the approval of God. Second, he tries to focus on the fact that he became an eductor to SERVE other people by doing what is in the best interest of his students.   His whole article is worth the read, but here are some questions he posed to help us teachers evaluate our committment teaching:

  1. Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?
  2. Do I focus on the obstacles of my job or on the opportunities?
  3. Do I make excuses or do I set a positive example for others?
  4. Do colleagues and students see me as being full of enthusiasm or full of something else?
  5. Do I brighten up my school when I enter it or when I leave it?

I’m going to print these off an post on my wall along with my current favorite quote:  “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything.  They make the best of everything!”