This past summer in a technology training for school administrators, we featured a video about an elementary school in Columbia, South Carolina and their innovative principal, Kappy Cannon. She spoke about the importance of the relationship between the teacher and student and about the fact that technology was not the center of education, but simply a tool for educating. This past week, Lester Holt of NBC, interviewed Ms. Cannon about their school and how technology was revolutionizing education. The striking thing I first noticed in watching Ms. Cannon and her staff was that all of the teachers wore lab coats on a daily basis. Sometimes, it is the smallest details that make significant differences. Watch for yourself and see if anything grabs your attention...

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I recently watched a TED video of Chris Anderson discussing the impact online videos have on sparking innovation and ideas. With the world for an audience, innovation and ideas can spread like a virus impacting millions of people. Chris even mentioned that what Guttenberg did for writing, web videos are doing for face to face communication and the development of innovation and ideas. People begin by emulating what they see which then drives the innovation. I was just thinking about the impact this is having of personal learning networks. Teachers all over the world are communicating and inspiring one another with ideas for honing their craft. As teachers share their ideas and innovative teaching strategies, imagine the impact that could have on our educational system. With Education Nation wrapping up this week, there has been much discussion about what can be done or what needs to be done. Imagine what could happen if some of these innovations went viral...
Check out the video:
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The Center For Learning and Performing Technologies is gathering a list of the top 100 tools for learning for 2010. This is your chance to vote for the favorite tools you use with your classes. It's also a chance to see if there is anything new you haven't had a chance to see before. Check it out, take an opportunity to vote, and see which tools emerge as the winners on October 17th when the list will be finalized.
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Edutopia recently sent out a link to the website, redu that stands for Rethink/Reform/Rebuild Education. In light of NBC's Education Nation this week and the spotlight it is bringing to critical elements necessary for quality education in America, seeking ways to develop critical thinking skills is a critical key to rethinking, reforming, rebuilding our system. It's going to take critical thinking skills to accomplish the goals necessary to make significant changes. redu posted several excellent links to resources for developing these critical thinking skills so I wanted to share these:
Critical Thinking Resources:
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I am not sure if you have been following the dialogue this week about the state of our educational system. I participated in the Teacher Town Hall Meeting Sunday afternoon. There were some interesting posts and over 2,000 teachers from across the nation participated. I am posting the link to this discussion for anyone interested in browsing through it all. You can also post comments if you care. This is a link that was provided for the participants; you won't find it linked from any of their other web pages. I would encourage anyone to post your thoughts. Maybe someone is listening.
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I have been saying for a while now that a paradigm shift in thinking about cell phones and ipods in the classroom needs to change. As NBC focuses on our educational system this week in Education Nation, hopefully some of these ideas may be discussed. Last summer I was speaking at a district tech camp about this very thing. Ironically, I was in a computer lab in front of a sign that said "No Cells Phones Allowed." These can be powerful tools for learning and students and teachers aren't even aware of this. Hundreds of apps for these very powerful mini computers are being developed on a daily basis to address many educational needs. A friend of mine, Terry Davis, who teaches at Greater Atlanta Christian told me of their attempt to go "paperless" a couple of years ago. It's just like those who keep talking about what we need to do to educate for the 21st century. We are 10 years into this century and we are still talking about what we need to do. When will the talking end and the doing begin? I know teachers are concerned that their students might text during class or cheat on a test. It takes diligence on the part of the teacher to monitor this behavior. But guess what...students write notes and create cheat sheets...should we ban paper and pen? Maybe that would be a good thing, this paperless idea...GACS has provided a glimpse into their system...food for thought.
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Google created Google Docs several years ago and introduced teachers to the idea that students could collaborate on projects online at home, outside of the classroom. This was a pretty cool concept and students and teachers alike embraced this environment. But we all know Google is constantly refining its products to meet the needs of the end-users. There have been several changes made to Google Docs over the years now allowing more than just the basic Microsoft Office docs. They now allow for collaboration to occur in real time. You can upload more file types now, and the Google Docs drawing tool is an excellent tool for digital projects. There is also a chat feature that allows students and teachers to share ideas and feedback in real time, instantly. This makes it easy for teachers and students in today's digital classroom to create and edit documents, share them with other teachers or students, and have teachers or students comment or edit those documents in school or at home. Brilliant Google! Once again I will say it...Google is taking over the world, and I'm feeling lucky!
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If you are looking for a tool to facilitate student research, or to investigate, debate, or develop issues or ideas, MuseumBox could be the treasure trove you'll be glad you uncovered. It is a cross curricular tool that provides an excellent opportunity for integrating information and communication technologies into the curriculum. It has a very unique approach to providing students with a rich environment for developing their products in a most engaging way. Students won't have to wait until night for this MuseumBox to come to life.
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Teachers, HippoCampus is an awesome resource website that offers multimedia lessons at the secondary level for a variety of subject areas. Obviously, by the name of the site, they are interested in lesson design that utilizes brain-based learning techniques. There are some excellent activities that take the student beyond the lower level thinking skills to reflecting, synthesizing, analyzing, and predicting. They have a wide variety of textbooks covered. Teachers can create their own HippoCampus page to load in only the resources needed. Then, by providing a link from your website, your students will have access to predetermined resources. This is a pretty cool tool...check it out.
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I found a link in the TCEA Tech Notes for the Grants Calendar published by Dell Computers. It is in PDF format that you can download, print, and save. It features a wide variety of technology grants and their due dates. I wanted to share this with everyone because we are always trying to find new sources of funding and this is a great solution. Free really is good...Check it out.
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The most recent Tech Notes from TCEA announced a couple of interesting opportunities. TCEA has been granted exclusive rights in the state of Texas to administer free licenses of Google Sketch Pro to all K-12 educators and students. This is a great opportunity because it normally costs $495! This license is good for one year and may be renewed if needed. According to Tech Notes posted online, the licenses are available in the following formats:
  • Individual Texas school lab networks (Windows and Mac); this will allow up to 300 simultaneous users on any given network.
  • Imaging and installation on multiple laptops that need functionality both on and off of the school network (i.e. students with a laptop assigned to them).
  • Stand-alone computers (Windows and Mac) for Texas educational non-networked machines. Please not that this i not a networked lab license, and will not run on a network.
To receive this free license, complete this form. You will be emailed information on how to download and install the software. So take advantage of this offer, then go Sketch.
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While I suppose you could use this app for your classroom, sometimes you just have to have a little fun. And when the time comes...you need Talking Tom Cat. I have never laughed so hard or had so much fun with an app! I have been sending these video messages to my friends and now they are cracking up, too! It records exactly what you say and there are some fun actions you can make Tom do as well. What a great way to send a greeting, or if you insist on using this for educational purposes, for recounting new facts, practicing reading fluency or pronunciation, studying for a test...the possibilities are endless. But in this particular instance, I say...just have a little fun with technology. So check out Talking Tom Cat at the app store. 
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This week Creaza just released their update Creaza 3.2 which provides more server capacity, new functionality to several of the tools and a host of changes to the video editing tool as well. If you have never checked out Creaza, now is the time! There are a several tools within Creaza, a cartoon application, a movie editor, a really great mind mapping tool, and an audio editor. This could be a one-stop shop for some really creative storytelling. Time to weave a terrific tale.
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eInstruction is hosting their annual video contest and the winner will receive $75,000 worth of technology for their classrooms! Correct me if I am wrong, but I think last year the prize was just $40,000. That is some serious prize money! Check out their website for all of the details; you can even watch past winners, then get your students involved. Videos are due by November 2nd. America's got talent...and it's sitting in your classroom! So...1, 2, 3, action!
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It's 2010 and, frankly, everyone is pretty bored with PowerPoint presentations. It has gotten to the point where boring PowerPoints have even developed their own iconic term, "Death by PowerPoint!" The term is even in Wikipedia. Fortunately, people are beginning to realize a shift in thinking about the content of these multimedia presentations. Like the tag line for Vuvox suggests, that is what everyone should be seeking...their visual voice. Alternative forms of PowerPoints such as Pecha Kucha, 20 slides for 20 seconds each, have attempted to revamp the delivery of information. Incorporating the 6 x 6 rule, no more than six words per line, six lines or bullets per slide, and six slides of text without a visual break of graphics is a good rule of thumb. Using san serif fonts no smaller than 24 point with good contrast from the background is crucial. A couple of weeks ago a friend mentioned he gave a 3 hour presentation with 240 slides; sounded like a snooze fest to me! I cannot imagine having to sit through something like that no matter how interesting the topic. Fortunately there are interesting alternatives available. First and foremost...retool your presentations. Here is a fabulous slide show that details some excellent tips for your presentations.
Check out this SlideShare Presentation:
STEAL THIS PRESENTATION!
View more presentations from @JESSEDEE.
Another alternative, and personal favorite, is Prezi. They have continued to improve their options for users and now provide the ability to collaborate with multiple users editing the presentation at the same time. Another cool option is Vuvox. Both of these options represent a paradigm shift in visual presentations. This is a shift long overdue!
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Ever tried to think of fun new ways to motivate students to read? When I was in high school, yes high school, my best friend's mom was a librarian and she would always bring a ton of Archie comic books home from the grocery store. We would pour over those just reading the day away. Would I have picked up a book? Not unless I had to! Check out this new site that allows you to download public domain, classic comic books. What a great way to interject some engaging activities to aid in developing reading and writing skills. Check it out; it's called Digital Comic Museum. All that is necessary to download the comics is to sign up for their free membership. There are several Web 2.0 sites that you could incorporate here and really challenge the students to create their own such as:
  • Bitstrips - An online funny pages that allows you can star in your own comics.
  • ToonDoo - The cartoon strip creator; has an educational membership.
  • MakeBeliefsComix - This site allows you to create comics in multiple languages.
Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

It's time to cartoon today!
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I have been kicking around an idea about how beneficial it could be if teachers went through the process of branding their classrooms. Now I am not talking about using a hot iron...although it may take one of those to get this accomplished, but education has made great strides in looking to the business world for ideas to modify and adopt. Imagine your student fifty years from now still remembering the jingle or tagline from your classroom or a particular lesson like we remember, See the USA in your chevrolet! or Choosy moms choose Jiff...need I go on? Companies figured out a long time ago how to develop information we would remember. Check out some of the world's logos or brands and see how they reflect what the company is selling. I am thinking it might be time to look into this. There are benefits to branding:
  • It provides a sharp focus that increases your clarity which produces greater effectiveness.
  • It attracts your target audience, because after all, that is who you are focused on.
  • The core messages you create will truly reflect features, benefits and unique qualities of your product...student education.
  • This creates a sense of reliability and responsibility...that is comforting.
  • It brings order and structure, which increases productivity.
  • It informs the culture you are operating in exactly what you are about.
  • And most importantly, it establishes you as an expert in your field, because afterall, you will be when you go through the process of developing an effective branding of your classroom.
I found this PowerPoint on SlideShare that I thought was worth a look:
But how do we begin when we have not business training? Fortunately, we do have Google and I have found a couple of links to explore.
Maybe these can help you as you begin to develop a brand for your company... OR your classroom, that targets its customers... OR your students. So go out and start branding...
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I am always on the hunt for new fonts...free ones that is. I admit, I have one font I actually paid for, Bickham Script Pro. There was no free version of it available, believe me, I tried to find it. After an exhaustive search, I broke down and bought it. I must admit, I have used it so much, it was well worth it! But, I am always looking for new sources of free font downloads. A new source I have found is called FontPark and it is loaded...over 70,000 free fonts! And the good news is, they have multiple filtering and sorting options so you don't have to wade through all of them to find what you are looking for. It's always good to have another choice for the font search. This is a park I like to play in. Some other choices that are worth a look:
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While participating in a TCEA webinar this afternoon, the presenter, Monica Martinez, briefly mentioned publishing online books and provided a list of resources. Even though she really didn't address this in her presentation, I thought these were some great sites I wanted to share with everyone. With the help of the Internet and several Web 2.0 tools, anyone can become a published author. What a great opportunity to get your students writing and creating. It doesn't matter what grade level, there's something for everyone. Check out the list of resources; they are easy to use and the end products are fabulous. Move over Random House; you got company!
What's Your Story? 
1. Mixbook-Beautiful products and teachers can create student accounts.
2. Bookrix-This site is sort of...Facebook meets Publishing House; great place to promote your book.
3. Panraven-Where photos are just the beginning of a great story; beautiful option with the ability to print your masterpiece. 
4. Book Builder-This site gives hot tips for writing books as well as Model Books and library books to read and rate; lots of options here.
5. Tabblo-This site promises to "amuse, amaze, and delight you" and it appears to provide all of that and more. Again, this site allows you to post your book for others to view.
6. Smile Books-Promises to produce coffee table book quality; this is another site that allows you to create books with your pictures. It also gives tips and options.
7. Blurb-This site is primarily for making photo books (and some beautiful ones at that), but this would also be a good option for younger children as well. They also offer tips and a tutorial video.
8. LuLu-This site claims to post over 1,000 new titles each day. You can also create calendars here; this site is very eye-catching and provides other publishing options.
9. PDF Flip Books-Upload your PDF books to this site and it will convert it to a Flash Flip Book; interesting option.
10. My Publisher-This site requires a download of their software, but provides some options and tips as well.
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I received my TCEA Technotes this morning and they had a great list of Constitution Day resources. Since this is quickly approaching, I thought I would share this with you so you will have time to prepare something for that day. This is an opportunity to create a meaningful activity to mark the significance of this day.

Constitution Day is observed and celebrated each year on September 17th to mark the date the Constitution of the United States was signed in 1787. Schools and federal agencies are required to address about the Constitution on this day. Here are some resources to help.
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As students head back to school this fall, most are packing a computer a thousand times more powerful than the computers available when I was there age...literally a thousand times! But when they walk into the classroom, there is that ever present sign hanging somewhere in the room...No Cell Phones Allowed. I say it's time to harness the power of these mighty tools and introduce students to the potential for learning they carry with them 24/7. I have compiled a list of must haves for the iPhone, iTouch, and iPad that are powerful tools for learning. Just don't tell the students theses are educational, they will just think they're fun.

Check these out at the app store:
  • iBrainstorm-allows for group collaborative brainstorming and it has an attractive interface...best of all, it's free!
  • Evernote-great app with multiple functions...notetaking, file storage; once again...free.
  • iStudiez-excellent productivity app with multiple functions and a really cool interface...free
  • FlashCards Plus-engaging way to create flash cards AND you can carry them everywhere you go...free.
  • Red/Green-this is a simple little app that has two screens...red and green. Flash the red screen when the answer is No and flash the green screen when the answer is yes...free.
  • 3D Cell Stain-look as cells in a whole new light...free.
  • GoSkyWatch-gaze at the stars in the sky and identify what you see with this unique app. Really cool AND free.
  • Nations-find out about any country in the world around you...for free!
  • Anatomy Lite-this is a fun way to learn all of the parts of the human body and it's free.
  • Inkling-great language and grammar resource at your fingertips. Love it and free!
  • Formulas HD-more formulas than I would ever need...free.
  • Civil Lite and Palace Lite-great social studies games that are FREE.
  • History Tools-great resource for that social studies class...free.
  • P183 Graphing Calculator-here is where I depart from free...$.99.

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