I have been doing research about the iPad the last couple of days and looking at the best apps to have...everyone has their list...and cools ways to use the iPad in an educational setting. Some of my favorite finds were the wikis and blogs about using the iPads in the classroom. My two favorite resources were both wikis, TeachWithYouriPad and iPadSchools. Both provided a wealth of information and sent me on a quest from which I still haven't recovered! One blog talked about how this teacher's students were working on research projects collaboratively and he noticed that the iPad really fostered a collaborative setting because they didn't have huge computer screens blocking the space between the students. It really created an all-inclusive environment...interesting observation. He and others all commented on how engaging it was as a tool for learning. I believe this whole mobile computing concept is going to require teachers to rethink learning in their classrooms and how that learning can be achieved. That could be our goal for the coming year...to rethink how we can accomplish what we've always done using the tools of the 21st century. Below I have embedded a video that embodies this concept. Enjoy and with that I want to close by wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. (It's from YouTube, so if you're blocked, you will need to override...but it's worth it!)

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We have been talking about creating a parent's technology forum in our district this year. I feel it is important to let them know about all of the innovative ways technology is being integrated into the curriculum. It would also be a great way to showcase many of the new tools available online for students as well as parents to use. Google must have been reading my mind because they have launched a tech support for parents website. It is very straight forward and easy to use. It is setup like a care package. You simply go through the page, checking boxes in the various sections along with the topic you want to know more about. It brings up a video explanation of the topic. It's pretty clever and a little funny. Let your parents know about this. I think this will benefit not only them, but their students, and you as well. Once again, Google has come through and I will say it again...Have you heard? Google is taking over the world and I'm feeling lucky~
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Last week I attended a workshop about a website called Defined Stem. It was created by the people who developed United Streaming. If you have not explored this site, you are missing a treasure trove of resources. While you typically think of STEM resources as being solely for your science, technology, engineering, and math teachers, you will find resources well beyond. As many of the real-life videos chronicle, the STEM professions call on skill sets well beyond strictly science, technology, engineering, and math. 

The projects that are already developed in this website follow the Understanding By Design format and are truly project-based learning units. If you strictly think of doing projects as problem-based learning, you are incorrect in your assumption. The following Prezi delineates the difference.

If you still are having problems understanding the difference, I especially like the Edutopia website and their detail of this methodology. They also have several videos of examples of project-based learning that find real-world problems at the the core of the content. If you are looking for ways to challenge your students with the standards they must know, PBL is the avenue to take. Explore the Defined Stem website. You can request a 14 free trial. I know you will be excited with the content there. This is a great way to integrate language arts and history into STEM curriculum.
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Below you will find links to the winners of this year's Classroom Makeover contest. This is an incredible opportunity for students to have direct impact of the equipment that makes its way into their in their classrooms. While eInstruction uses this as an advertising opportunity, it provides students and teachers with a great project that has them really reflecting on the technology needs of the classroom and its impact on learning. Check out the videos; they are really creative! Enjoy.

Tammy Dunbar’s class from Lincoln Elementary in Manteca, California. Their video is entitled, The Room Nine Kids: I Wanna Class Makeover.  

Grades 6–8 Winner:  
Imarlys Cajigas’ Science Class from WALKS Elementary School in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Their video is entitled, When We Have Technology.
Grades 9-12 Winner:  Robert Goetsch’s Technology Class from Alief Taylor High School in Houston, Texas. Their video is entitled, eInstruction Is Forever.
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Have you noticed how difficult it is to get students to effectively search for information these days? The first inclination is to simply google the topic. In fact, it has become so common place, the term has become a verb! In the past, I have always provided my students with a list of resources for them to use. This was a safe and less time-consuming way of managing my students' research. The problem is, with the proliferation of information on the Internet, one of the most important things teachers can do for students is to show them how to effectively search for and evaluate critical information on the web. This is the real-world approach to effective searching. I doubt their bosses will ever provide them with a list of resources from which to select! This week's TCEA TechNotes had a discussion about the importance of effective search skills and provided a wealth of resources for even the very young students.

SortFix is a search engine that could be just the tool for the job, even for the youngest students who need to understand Boolean logic in the search process. I have embedded a video I found describing just how SortFix works. It is now available on the Internet and as a free iPad app (SortFix and SortFix Kids). SortFix allows students to drag and drop search terms to create the most accurate results. You simply type in your search as you normally would. Then SortFix breaks down the returned hits into Power Words that you can either use or delete. As you drag and drop, SortFix details what has been added and deleted to create a Boolean logic stream in the search bar.

Because googling has become so commonplace, most don't realize there are a multitude of other options. Frankly, I personally have been skeptical with some of the options I tried that left me frustrated in my search. That is not the case anymore. TechNotes detailed a list of search engine options that you need to explore. Check these out:

  • Boolify - Like SortFix, the search site helps you to construct a logical sequence of search terms. It includes a video introduction and lesson plans.
  • Google Custom Search Engine - Create your own search engine on specific topics and limit it to just the websites you want students to use.
  • KidsClick - a search engine designed by librarians for children.
  • KidRex - kid safe searching.
  • Google Squared - a search tool that helps you quickly build a collection of facts from the web; best used for comparing data.
  • Fact Monster - a good place for younger students to find basic information using its almanac, dictionary, encyclopedia, and homework help.
  • Complete Planet - allows searching of deep web content found in 70,000+ databases and specialty search engines. Search by keyword or browse the list of topical headings.
  • Yippy - breaks the search results down into categories, displayed on the left-hand side of the screen. Good for narrowing down topics.
They also provided a list of links for some good lessons and activities to help students practice their searching skills:
As you explore some of these options, look for ways to purposefully introduce these ideas to your students so they can develop those effective search skills for future research. Then maybe they won't really believe in the infamous tree octopus when they google it!

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Make the next 3 weeks brighter
I just received my TCEA TechNotes this morning and they provided a list of great educational holiday websites for your students. Yesterday, I was in the computer lab with the kindergarten classes from Baxter Elementary and they were working on NorthPole.com and having a blast. The resources listed range from kindergarten through high school so check them out and make your next three weeks a little more merry. I know your students will enjoy them and you just might too.

Frosty the Snowman Meets His Demise Discover what makes a snowman melt with your 9-12th grade students
A Christmas Carol Explore with students in grades 7-12 as they write a play about the story.
Beyond the Story: A Dickens of a Party lesson plan
A Christmas Carol as performed by the Guinea Pig Theater
Spotlight on the Gift of Holiday Traditions
Celebrate the Winter Holidays
Games from the North Pole **Really cute activities for k-3rd grade
My Family Traditions: A Class Book and a Potluck Lunch lesson plan
Make-a-Flake online snowflake creator
Let's Build a Snowman lesson plan
Using Snowflake Bentley as a Framing Text for Multi-genre Writing lesson plan
Teaching Themes - Christmas
Christmas LiveBinder of resources
Virtual Gingerbread Cookie Decorator
Culture Goggles: Same Holy Land, Different Holidays lesson plan
Official NORAD Santa Tracker
Christmas in Yellowstone

Kwanzaa for Young Students
Kwanzaa activities
Hanukkah lesson plans
Online Interactive World Advent Calendar 2010
More Online Advent Calendars
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I haven't had an opportunity to do much blogging lately. Between the Thanksgiving holiday and jury duty, I have been out of pocket. I decided over the break last week that every Monday, I am going to post a YouTube video of the week. One teacher recently told me that providing teachers with override options for YouTube was the most valuable thing our district did for enriching her content delivery. I would encourage everyone to post links to favorite videos so you can share with others especially since this is such a new option for many teachers. Most of the time I will feature a link to multiple videos compiled on a channel, but then, it could just be a single video covering one concept.  

I have been doing some work with the 5th grade teachers at Baxter Elementary planning for their upcoming WWII unit of study. Surviving the Holocaust provided some compelling video links on YouTube that cover many perspectives of horrific component to the war. Check them out. And don't forget to post some links to your favorites!
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Yesterday I heard a presentation by librarian extraordinaire, Joyce Valenza. You can check out her website or her blog to get the latest scoop on cutting edge tools for learning.  She presented a myriad of ideas for research, monitoring your digital footprint or Internet safety, copyright and fair use policies, as well as how to manage these topics in today's world. The art of digital storytelling was another topic she covered and posted several good resources to check out before beginning a project. She briefly discussed the used of cell phones as tools for learning. They are currently working on developing their policies for that. Interestingly, she closed out her session talking about the importance of giving students the tools of their time to use for learning...a pretty profound statement, and so true.

Check out her slide presentation from yesterday posted on Slideshare:
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Tween Tribune is an online newspaper geared towards the upper elementary student. There is a second version, Teen Tribune, for the secondary student. This is a very slick, highly engaging version of the typical news venue. The articles are current and reflect the interests of their target audience. It could provide teachers with great resources for current event activities, journaling topics, or cultural project data; the possibilities are endless and really could be used in all subject areas. It provides opportunities to post comments on various articles as well. It is a free registration. This site is worth a peek so check it out!
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I am sure math and science teachers have to answer that question quite a lot. The next time you get that question posed to you, just whip out the following video; it is quite interesting! Another option for using this video would be as a bell ringer. Have them watch and list all of the math and science concepts the captain is using to ensure the ship doesn't take the bridge out as it passes underneath. I am certain everyone aboard that ship is glad this captain paid attention in his math and science classes! Check this out.
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I have been talking a lot at school lately about Project-based learning. I really think another name for this should be problem-based learning. This type of lesson design centers on a group of real world questions or an authentic problem the students must solve. It is standards-based and allows students to acquire knowledge in an authentic learning environment. It affords them the opportunity to see how they will use their learning in the real world. When you observe and talk to students who are learning in this type of environment, you will find them engaged and they will talk about how excited they are regarding the information they are gaining. To gain a better understanding of this type of learning, check out Edutopia. They have quite a few resources and some great videos detailing this learning environment in action. The videos detailing the projects say it all. I've provided some links to PBLs that have already been developed. Click here to access customizable project checklists.
Project-Based Learning Resources:
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Adobe just released a new app called Project Rome. They have created an education version that you can download here. It is free to download right now, so I would take advantage of the offer. This tool has so many functions. You can create a variety of documents to communicate your ideas in a most effective and engaging way. Below is a video that gives an overview of this tool's capabilities. There are so many functions all rolled into one application! Project ROME has video overviews for specific tasks, tutorials for example projects, a support forum, and a growing help and documentation section. There is a specific emphasis on K-12 education, including a separate educator discussion forum. There also are possibilities for educators to integrate the tool with Google Apps for Education.

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I just received my Technotes newsletter and as always, they posted some great links to check out. Some of these sites I have already blogged about, but others I haven't so I am excited to check them out as well. So look to see if you find something new and explore. Come back and leave a comment about your exploration. I'd love to hear what you found.

Check out these websites:
Chartle - easily create and share charts.
Readability - a simple tool that makes reading on the web more enjoyable by removing the clutter and ads around what you're reading.

Stop Forwarding - allows you to politely and anonymously ask your friends and family to stop forwarding silly jokes, contests, and other spam to you.

Timetoast Timelines - easily create and share timelines over the web.

Vark - type in your question and it is relayed to the collective group for answers.

Aviary - Edit images, create mind-blowing effects, design logos, find colors, collaborate, and more.

Do Ink - create animations and download them to us anywhere.

Compare My Docs - Compare two documents to see the differences quickly and easily.

Edistorm - a web tool that bridges the gap between taking notes and making mind maps.

Draw Function Graphs - if you need a great math graph drawn, this website will do it for you.

Museum Box - tools for teachers and students to build up a description of a person, place, or historical event by placing items in a virtual box.

Penzu - create an online diary and share it with others or keep it private.

Wordia - create your own videos of different vocabulary words or view the videos of others.

Down for Everyone or Just Me? - a great site for IT folks. If you think the Internet is down, just type in the URL you're trying to get to and find out if the problem is on your side or for everyone.
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I came across a blog, Tech the Plunge, that listed hundreds of resources, ideas, and videos for Ed Tech included a list of 60 educational games sites from a post on the blog, Tech Happy. I felt like I had hit the mother lode and kept bouncing back and forth between these two blogs. I began to compile a list of some of the sites, not nearly all that I saw, but some I thought I would share. Check them out...there is bound to be something of interest. By the way, Kim Bull, a second grade teacher told me that Scholastic is sponsoring a virtual field trip to Plimoth Plantation, but you have to sign up; click here for the link. These opportunities really enrich the curriculum and provide engaging activities students will remember forever.

http://www.xpmath.com/   (higher level)

http://www.kineticcity.com/mindgames/warper/ (elementary earth science)

http://playinghistory.org/ (Personal favorite history site!)
http://www.planetinaction.com/playlist.htm (uses Google Earth)


Problem Solving Skills:

Various Subject Areas:

PowerPoint Games:

Additional Resources:
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I had a 5th grade teacher, Jennifer Campbell, ask about Veteran's Day resources last week so I thought I would post a list of resources to use as you begin to prepare for that day; it's next week! Teaching our students to remember and value those who have sacrificed and even lost their lives so that we might live is a rewarding opportunity as a teacher. I had a video I created several years ago that I played at our Veteran's Day assembly and after that, students always wanted me to show them the video, even after I had forgotten about it. Below is another video I found on YouTube that someone posted. There are many there for the choosing. By going to KeepVid, you can download the videos to your computer and keep them for the future. Take this opportunity to make it memorable for our students. Don't forget, you can use sites like Voki, Glogster, Vuvox, ShowBeyond, or Animoto as great student products for Veteran's Day projects.
Lesson Resources:
Department of Veteran's Affairs
Education World
Apples for the Teacher
Hot Chalk
Teacher Planet
Thank Our Troops through the USO

Graphics Resources:
Veteran's Day Clipart
Veteran's Day Clipart
Library of Congress
Wikipedia Public Domain Images
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First of all, let me define PLN. That is your personal learning network...the resources and people you rely on to further your knowledge base. Last summer I decided to dust off my iGoogle page and start loading it up with blogs and other sites to follow. The problem I encountered was trying to determine where to start. I stumbled upon a blog, Blogging About the Web 2.0 and noticed that it had been nominated for a couple of Edublog awards last year. That led me to the award list and that is where I found some incredible sites that I check daily. Starting there led me to other sites that I have collected on my iGoogle page. Here are some of my favorites. First and foremost...my current all time favorite is Free Technology For Teachers. This blog is great for learning about cutting edge technology and its implications in the classroom. Another great site is CoolToolsForSchools. While the color scheme is a little tough on the eyes, it is packed with more Web 2.0 tools than one could ever use. Another great site, is WebTools4U2Use. I have spent hours on this site. Byrdseed Gifted offers the latest resourses for gifted education and this is handy when trying to provide differentiated instruction in the regular classroom. Marilyn Western's Technology Tips for Classroom Teachers is another site loaded with "stuff ya gotta try." Larry Ferlazzo's Website of the Day is another great site for presenting the latest and greatest. There are a couple of content specific sites I enjoy following such as ReadWriteThink, Langwitches Blog, and Two Writing Teachers. A couple of sites I also follow that present various technology news are Mashable, Open Culture, and Learnitin5.   Now, another site I really want to tout is our district training site, MISD Technology Training, that has been recently updated. We are attempting to present information useful to the teachers within our district in integrating technology within the classroom. This should be enough to at least get you started if you haven't begun to develop your resource base.
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Much has been written about developing blogs and wikis for the classroom and I am amazed at what teachers in our district have been doing with these collaborative tools. They taken communication to a whole new level and have provided a connection between the classroom and the community...to infinity and beyond! Now that we're a couple of months into the new year, and we're getting comfortable with the format, the process, and the routine...it's time to put some Bam in the Plan! These sites represent you and your classroom. It's time to market what you're selling so let's get them tricked out just like your classroom. Last summer I was using PB Works wikis, but have since moved on to Wikispaces. I personally like Wikispaces because you can lock individual pages. The major drawback was the lack of creativity in the themes you could select for the workspace. After communicating with Debbie Guskin of Wikispaces, she sent me to two resources that provided great information for spicing up the themes provided. While it's not perfect, it does provide some punch in being able to customize the various themes. The first resource is on Wikispaces' blog. The second resource, Getting Tricky With Wikis, provides some interesting resources to check out.

Now if you're blogging and you want to add some spice to that, there are several great sites to find templates you can apply to your site. You just need to make sure the template will be a good fit for your information. Earlier this year I selected a template that I just could not get to fit the information I wanted to display. I have provided some resources for my personal favorite blog, Blogger:

If you are looking to add some widgets to add pizazz and additional functionality, here are some resources beyond what comes with Blogger:
MintBlogger  Great blog about blogging tips and resources.
Wibiya I love this web toolbar!

Now that you have the bag of tricks...get that site tricked out just in time for Halloween!
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I stumbled upon a great wiki, Learning Can Be Fun, loaded with PowerPoint games that were already developed as well as a list of game templates for you to make your own. These games are great for reviewing material, reinforcement of concepts, or even as a pretest for concept introduction. Because this site is a wiki, all material is there for sharing. You are even encouraged to join the wiki and upload anything you create as well as being allowed to download all material located there. Your students will love the material found here, so do them a favor and take a peek!
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Research has determined the best way to develop problem solving skills is through the development of casual reasoning. But how do you develop that? Researchers report that simulation-type video games provide the learning opportunities necessary for the development of casual reasoning. It affords students the opportunity to assess, make inferences, predictions, collaborate, and problem solve in a safe environment. James Gee likens video games to nothing more than a series of assessments on how well their decision making skills have progressed. While the video is 11 minutes long, he raises some interesting points about the validity of using these simulation type video games for learning. I came across this website, Games For Change, that listed a variety of real-world video games that allow students opportunities to solve the world's problems. What better preparation for the future is there?
Big Thinkers: James Paul Gee on Grading with Games | Edutopia
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I recently read a post about the 5 traits of the 21st century teacher on the blog, Developing Education. I have been reading a lot about the 21st century learner, but not much about teachers and what it takes to succeed with these digital learners. I decided this was some great information to share so here goes... 
The 21st century teacher is one that:
  • Is driven to learn...what a powerful example that is to students as well. Textbook-driven teaching is really a thing of the past. While the textbook can be an excellent resource for teaching and learning, worksheets, and other teaching strategies associated with this mode of teaching is outdated and ineffective if profound learning is your goal. As the article stated, there are too many new strategies and tools available to ignore the implications they can have on students of today.
  • Is a media creation expert...materials utilized in the classroom must be energetic, engaging, and effective. There is too much material to cover these days to not tap into the resources available. Our district recently gave teachers overrides for teaching purposes to Internet content blocked by school filters. Yesterday one of our middle school ELA teachers, Kirsten Marcum, mentioned 10 commercials she downloaded from YouTube  using Keepvid to show to her classes as they studied persuasive techniques. They analyzed each of the commercials for techniques used and the emotions they were targeting. This is effective 21st century teaching.
  • Understands digital navigation...they may not be digital natives, but they have the concept of how use digital resources to appeal to these digital learners. Maybe they are not a part of their digital world, but they have a grasp of what that world has to offer in an effort to steer the digital learner towards those tools available for success with learning.
  • Makes the shift to become an empathetic mentor...this educator understands the issues plaguing students in our culture today and is willing to implement learning opportunities targeting individual needs and interests. This educator also understands the need to provide collaborative opportunities for students to develop 21st century skills such as problem solving and working with others effectively. And finally...
  • Is a technology harmonizer...it is time to realize a shift needs to occur in negative thinking towards everyday tools and the classroom. A cell phone is a powerful tool that could be effectively used for learning. We also need to look at making it work within the classroom and the students just might have the best ideas of how to do that...ask them.
    I thought this was a thought-provoking article. There was a lively response to it as well in the comments section. Check it out.
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    I received an email from Glogster EDU that their free version with 100 students accounts is available only until November 7th so if you even think you might want an account, I'd sign up today! After November 7th, the Basic Free teacher accounts will be reduced to 50 student accounts. The 100 free accounts you receive now will not be effected once the reduction takes place. When Glogster EDU was first released, teachers received 200 accounts. Even though 100 accounts are now issued, my 200 accounts were never affected. Glogster is such a great tool for student projects and offers a variety of curriculum applications; students enjoy the creativity this site affords and it allows them an opportunity to produce fabulous end products. So...get registered today before time runs out. Below is a glog I found that displays some of the features available.

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