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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