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A Few of My Favorite Things

As I get ready to leave Scholastic, I've begun to look back at some of the things I've done, and decided KenR2 that sharing a few of my favorite things would be appropriate. While I have been on many onsite visits at conferences, my school visits have been an academic hug for a digital chalk pusher like me. Please take a look at three of my visits with some amazing administrators, staff and students. The 1st two were done with my own simple Canon and a two mics, but the 3rd I just interviewed and directed. I enjoyed all, and hope you will, too.

New Milford High School, NJ Visit with Principal Eric Shenniger, Students, and Teachers:

Carmody Hills Elementary School, Maryland visit with Principal Roletta Alfred, Students, and Teachers:

Stanwood Elementary School, Hempfield Area School District visiting Assist. Supt Barbara Marin, Students and Teachers:

Stop Teaching from the Shadows

BoardshadowTeaching in the shadows at the whiteboard is equivalent to teaching in front of a dusty chalkboard. It’s what drove the overhead projectors out of the bowling alleys and into the classrooms more than 20 years ago. If your teachers have only the interactive technology to block the board and cast a shadow on a lesson, it's time to stand back to get a better view. And if you're an administrator just looking for interactive choices, and not sure if teachers will use them, there's a few helpful thoughts here for you, too.

Getting teachers away from the from the front of the classroom, and into the mix, with students won’t quite look like individual instruction, but it will get more actors to participate on the learning stage. And that stage can be the entire classroom.

In my day, the only way to teach interactively (with tech) was by using a projector and whiteboard with a cheap, wireless mouse. If you walked around the room, but not too far, you could control the teacher-station computer with the wireless mouse, and if you had a wireless keyboard, you could let students around the room type in answers and sentences. Having said all that, I’m certain there are teachers out there still doing it, or thinking about trying it. In the old days, I did more, I actually bought a wireless keyboard and mouse for each of my staff members. Oh, I bought a lot of batteries, too! That was then and this is now...

There is no reason you should go the wireless mouse/keyboard direction today. Almost every whiteboard, document camera, response system, or projector company makes or supplies a far better tablet/slate classroom teaching/presentation device. And many interactive device companies will, or are offering software solutions that will work with iPads and other computer tablets. That software will allow teachers the same classroom instruction opportunities, and most likely more, and the options for getting teachers out of the shadows continues to expand.

If you still question whether teachers will use the equipment, maybe this answer from a recent interview will help. After observing many teachers in a school using tablet/slate/pad controllers easil, I asked, “You seem to handle teaching from anywhere in the classroom, and operating software on your whiteboard easily with that device. What would you say to teachers, who may be a bit leery of walking away from the stylus at the board?” The teacher looked at me, smiled, and said, “I pretend it’s a mouse.” Now, that was simple to understand, and it reminded me of my wireless mouse and keyboard years ago. It was easy to do, because she thought of it as familiar.

Because there's a choice when it comes to these devices, my advice is to try them out to see which is best for your needs. Choosing one that fits into your existing tech mix may be best, but testing outside possibilities is always a good call, too. You may find a gem that teachers find easier to use. Remember, this may be a purchase you'll live with for a long time. Check ease of use, set-up, battery, wireless distance and compatability, as well as support and upkeep. Unlike my cheap wireless mouse and keyboard, running these products through actual teaching lessons, before deciding, makes a lot of price/common sense.

Here are some companies (random order) that provide interactive ways (Pads, Slates, Tablets) and software to interactively launch a teacher out of the whiteboard shadows and into the classroom light with their students:

eInstruction

ELMO

Promethean

Dymo/Mimio

Qwizdom

QOMO HiteVision

SMART Technologies

Luidia

Califone

Apple (iPad)

My Friend Clicker: Response Systems Teacher View

ClickerWhen talking response systems and voting/polling software for classrooms, it’s easy to lose the reason why clicker devices can be a teacher’s friend, rather than just another technology device. Look at them from a teacher’s viewpoint.

Here’s a simple fact, at the end of a marking term, teachers still need to come up with grades for each student, base on classwork and participation, homework, tests and quizzes. A substantial amount of data has to be collected and weighed to make an accurate assessment of a student’s abilities, as well as his/her weaknesses. Relying on only quizzes and tests for mid and end of term data, as well as for parent conferences makes knowing a student on paper less accurate as knowing a student in class each day. Response systems, tied into student grading software and student information systems are invaluable. They make it possible to capture classroom moments, where students really get something, and shine, as well as those things that need more work. If you’re a teacher, clickers take a snapshot of classroom assessment for each student each day. It’s what teachers have always seen, but difficult to annotate. They really make it easier to accurately score a student, and report those findings. And, response systems do what the name implies—gives you more individual student responses. Guessing at grades can’t happen.

If that’s not enough, as a teacher, you need to know if what you’re teaching isn’t sinking in before you’ve spent too much time thinking it has. No one wants to get to the end of the week, after teaching your heart out, to discover most of the class bombed the quiz or test. Teachers know the familiar lament, “I can’t understand why they did so poorly on the test. I did everything but flips to get them to know it!” Most of the time that speech is given in the faculty room, where others commiserate, because they’ve been there, too. Well, with response systems, there is no reason to get there, because immediate feedback on how your lesson is doing is a simple question and response away. If a teacher knows the direction he/she is headed, guiding students to a better path gets a lot easier. And, if you say that student hands to do the same—well, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’ll sell you.

There are plenty of reasons students like them, too. Most of those have to do with fun, as well as having confidence in answering questions in a crowd. No one gets embarrassed for not knowing, or answering differently. That increases the odds of a student taking a chance. Response Systems are certainly the best cure for student tears and red, burning ears. Tell me you’ve never been there! As one student, Margo, said to me recently, when I asked her about a Vote system she was using in class, “Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s OK, but mostly I get things right now.”

Maybe it’s time to investigate response systems to discover Your Friend Clicker.

Companies in the Response market; listed in random order (apologies if I've missed one):

iRespond

eInstruction

Dukane

Promethean

Dymo/Mimio

Qwizdom

Qomo HiteVision

Turning Technologies

SMART Technologies

Renaissance Learning

H-ITT

Poll Everywhere

i>clicker

Teaching with Tech: Josh Stumpenhorst Podcast

Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher), Chicago 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher, talks classroom Superman5technology  with Ken Royal at the Royal Treatment. Listen to a fresh voice with new ideas for enhancing student learning and projects by using technology. Great teaching advice for veteran and new teachers, as well as district and school leaders.

If you would like to voice your own positive education voice, please check the directions and how  at DO SOMETHING: Positive Voices Wanted to submit your own. Join the campaign to hear fresh voices! It's easy to do.

Listen to Josh Stumpenhorst: Teaching with Technology.

Embedded Player (requires Flash):

MP3: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/2/674/show_2674679.mp3

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-royal-treatment-blog-talk/id414014159

DO SOMETHING!: Positive Education Voices Wanted

Let’s DO SOMETHING!

I said something a few weeks back that I just can’t shake. As a young teacher, I confronted a KenR2Superintendent with 10 things we should be doing. He looked at me and quietly said, “What are you going to do about it?” He was right, and I never forgot it. I’ve been sitting too long thinking rather than doing. While it lasts, I have a vehicle and place to post, which may help the cause—a little.

The idea involves simple recordings (podcasts if you will) edited together in a newsworthy way. I’ll supply the intro and do the segue/transitions. (Note: audio only)

I'd like to do a lot of these show and tell interviews—have one posted as a new show each day. Figurin’ those PLN and EdChat talks can also be great sparks, as well as great educator resources—to take the discussions beyond just the 140 Twitter character posts each evening. I’ll post them here, at Scholastic, as well as at the Radio Royal Treatment—with everything going to iTunes, as well as archived. Transcripts can be available if necessary, too.

Here's how:

Record answers to fit the script below (you can be creative), saving as MP3 or Wav files works well, but I can work around most any clean, audio format. No worries about Ahhhsss and Ummmmms; I’ll edit it those out. Natural talk is the key, and what you want to say comes out just right in every conversation you have. ;>) Take each of the parts as a separate take, or all together. Make them short bits though. I’ve discovered that most will listen to a short bit, and rambling is a sleeper. You can refer to the topic during your responses, as well as to me (Ken)—as if I’m actually with you. Want these to sound like we’re in the same room, or having the conversation. 

I know that I don’t have to tell you that a sense of humor is great, and pauses for effect OK. YouSendIt is free online, and will send larger files easily, but any way they get here is fine.

Any tech difficulties, we can figure them out. And, any suggestions for the idea, or additional “talkers” would be welcomed! Twitter is a wonderful contact place for this: @kenroyal ( https://twitter.com/kenroyal)

1. Choose one, or a few points you’ve been trying to make—get across—to educators and administrators. Three is always a nice, odd number. ;>) No ankle biters here; we'll leave the grumping to others! I’m looking for positive, specific suggestions, proposals, for education and education tech how tos.

2. Tout Things YOU ARE DOING to make things happen. Be as specific as you can to make your point.

3. Promote yourself—URLs and name drop. There's nothing wrong with educators branding themselves.

4. Misc. – Something else? This could be a future look/trend/hope…

Card Table EdTech Advice

The other day, I tweeted that I'd rather read 3 or fewer ways to do something really well, instead of 100 ways to sort of do anything. I know, with Andy Rooney gone, that sounds like I’m in line to take his place—at least on the education tech front—wherever that is. I can hear my Andy Rooney voice now: I have 6 interactive classroom solutions lined up here. I can’t use all 6, so which 1 is best? Do you know?

Well, I’m certain it most always depends on individual needs, but because I live this stuff, I wouldn’t have a problem recommending the right ones for a specific educator, classroom, school, or district if asked.

Hey, wonder if that would work? Set up a card table at the education and technology conferences. Has to be just a little better advice than the Mystery 8 Ball’s YES, NO, MAYBE, or a psychic card reader—right?

Picture me at a table greeting admin and educators:

“What are you looking for? Oh, you’ll find that in aisle 3, but stop by booth #556, too, because you may like that as well. And, you’re going to need one to these gizmos—you’ll find in the last aisle. It’s new, but will have students hopping out of their seats.”

Sounds a bit like the Santa in the old Miracle on 34th Street sending customers to other stores for the best gift buys. 

I don’t think you’ll see me at a card table anytime soon... although you never know...

Here’s another tweet I saw, recently:

“How do you change a tech reluctant staff?” I don’t get that (Andy Rooney RIP again)! How does a staff get to be labeled tech reluctant in the 1st place? Seems to me that puzzle piece shouldn’t even be in the tech box.

Let’s add a few directions to the side of that box:

1. Know the curriculum.

2. Choose the right tech to match that curriculum.

3. Give that tech to all staff, and in all the classrooms.

4. Offer initial training.

5. Offer ongoing support.

6. Guide students to become more in charge of their own learning.

Additionally, #7 was offered by one of my favorite teachers:

7. Invite teachers to share project ideas with staff (for inspiration).

Let’s stress the importance of Educators as guides for students and colleagues—learning with or without technology.

Now, where’s that card table?

Curriculum Driving Technology

Marin Photo[1]I’ve just returned from visiting a wonderful school and district. Dr. Barbara Marin, Assistant Superintendent of the Hempfield Area School District near Pittsburgh, PA, invited me to visit classrooms, where teachers and elementary students were using technology in the right way. That correct use wasn’t an accident. At the Stanwood School, and other schools in the district, curriculum drives the technology use, and also drove its initial purchase.

Administrators and teachers at all elementary levels, including special education, as Photo[3]well as parent and student stakeholders have bought into the use of technology. One of the reasons is that everyone absolutely adores Dr. Marin, and I’m certain the feeling is reciprocated, because Marin’s eyes light up when her staff shares what they do and how their teaching has changed for the better. I also think that this district, under Marin’s leadership made technology important for everyone, in all classes, by making it a part of each classroom and not by singling out one or two educators as test pilots. There are no pockets or islands of pioneers here. Every teacher has equipment, and guess what? Each teacher is a teaching technology pioneer as well as an across-the-district team member. The curriculum is first, of course, but the use of technology is ubiquitous in Marin’s district.

Photo[2]Each classroom has four student computers for reading and math center programs, a projector, and Mimio solutions—MimioTeach, MimioVotes, and MimioView to make classrooms interactive and engaging for students. All teachers use MimioPads to direct and lead teaching in a mobile way. It is the first time I’ve seen this many teachers so positively use this much technology seamlessly with so many elementary students. There are no behavior difficulties because all students are engaged—and I don’t use that word lightly—they are involved in their learning.

The Hempfield Area School District is the poster/billboard for how technology should be done, and what teachers and students can do with it. I've visited many, but to see a complete school technology package, which began from the curriculum rather than the device side--is brilliant and refreshing. And hey, look at the products they chose for that curriculum.

It was a pleasure to visit, and it must be a pleasure to teach there. I’m hoping there’s an invitation to return, because it certainly was an academic hug for this old chalk pusher.

Photo

AppHazard: Involve Educators

Grade 5 Tech How can educators know about Apps, and determine whether they are space junk or teaching appropriate, and how will educators really influence tech people who build them, as well as companies that provide them?

When the Internet first became a possibility for educators and classrooms, I jumped in. There were very few of us at that time, which made connecting and collaborating between continents a necessity. A research and development guy at IBM taught me some HTML and how to created a Web page using notepad. I’m not sure the phone line modem was 14.4 at the time. Most of us named those initial sites after our classroom, and what we were teaching. Mine was Mr. Royal’s Science Site. It sounded good then, and the 10 or so others around the world, doing it with me, had similar titles. It worked then.

When AOL for e-mail and chat, and Netscape for WYSIWYG Website building came along things really exploded online. You didn’t have to build it all yourself, and you could find more work and lessons done by educators in at all levels and subjects and grades. Best of all, teachers shared. Things got so good that those sites that were not educationally appropriate joined the number of sites that were educationally appropriate. I remember suggesting to an editor at Well Connected Educator, which later became TechLearning, that I’d put together something call Site of the Day, which would suggest the best Websites for educators. I convinced her that it would be equivalent to sharing sites in the faculty room or in the school hallway. Anyway, Site of the Day is still at TechLearning today.

It’s not that educators couldn’t figure this all out; it’s just that it made it easier to find good sites, and the simple descriptions and how to helped them know whether it was appropriate. We are  at a similar place now with education Apps. There aren’t that many, yet, but the wave is building for a tsunami of iPad and Androids apps that will much more quickly build.

I think there are a few things that need to happen, and I’m sure you can think of more. Here’s my short list:

1. Educators, in districts, who know how to build apps, need to work with those who do not, to create real teaching applications that are appropriate. Teachers know how to teach and won’t settle for fluff that’s just pretty. Educationally sound apps is what we want.

2. Companies creating, or providing Apps, need to involve real, in-the-trenches educators in the creation, as well as in the evaluation. My fear is that the apps that make it to teachers, without the involvement of  “real” teachers will have use wandering off in ways that aren’t educationally sound.

3. Districts need to create App Committees to vet appropriate Apps—just as Websites are evaluated. Making that part of an AUP, and part of a school or district tech committees duties is completely appropriate. This is not meant to stifle teaching creatively with technology, but rather to keep an organized app education plan in tact. Mapping course goals should include the apps that are appropriate, too. There is nothing wrong with saying that to cover a particular topic, teachers should use a particular tool, and apps should be included.

4. Education magazines and journals need to help cover educationally sound apps as well.  Maybe having educators providing an App of the Day, with how to and a bit of description needs to be done. Most educators still share locally, even though so many more have international access. Education publishers with national and international clout could help by sharing more educators doing things beyond clay, glue, and glitter. Those administrators and teachers are out there it's just a matter of asking them to share.

Finally, don’t get me wrong; one thing I do know is that if all the wires were unplugged, teachers could still teach. But it’s a different time, and the tools to engage are here, and more arriving daily. Making sure those tools and lessons are educationally appropriate should be the responsibility of educators, and be directly influenced by educators. That was true when I only had a blackboard and a few pieces of chalk—then when I had a class Website—and it is true, today, with my digital tablet.

3D vs. 2D

Abbey_school_b
I've been following 3D for a long time, since Steve McQueen battling the Blob days, and before that with stereoscopic cards discovered in an attic. I still don't like 3D glasses, but love 3D tech. And I wasn't surprised with some of the findings in recent research (Read More), which shared that students who were taught with only 2D representations modeled in 2D, while students, who were taught using 3D-projected lessons modeled in 3D. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to look up at a surgeon who had modeled in 3D.

I don't know if it helps the 3D tech cause, but as a former life science teacher I'm standing up for more classroom 3D by wearing my Save Frogs, Dissect in 3D shirt. Beyond frogs, as a former LA and reading teacher, imagine learning to read in 3D. Yeah, I'm prepared to live with a big downturn in flashcard and index card sales. WE WANT MORE 3D! In social studies, new meaning would be given to Being There. And I'm not sure you could, or would want to keep kids in their seats during a 3D lesson. Just please, someone work on losing the glasses. ;>)

Enjoy this short video with kids and teachers and their wonderful accents sharing excitement over 3D as opposed to the traditional 2D learning. Hey, maybe I'm the one with the accent.

Have a 3D look and listen: 

1:1 Online Instruction: Alternative Eds New Look

D EDUCATION 2020 041 The Royal Treatment talks with Gene Storz, Chief Learning Officer, about Education 2020. Hopper pic Joanne E. Hopper, Ed.D. Director of Education Services St. Clair County RESA, Marysville, MI, and Al Vigh, Frontiers Program Director for the Wyoming Public Schools will join us to share how they are using 2020 in their districts. Here's a new look to alternative education. Background: Education 2020 (e2020) is a provider of one-on-one online instruction in core and elective courses for students in grades 6-12.

Listen to the 1:1 Online Instruction discussion (embedded player requires Flash):

MP3 Link: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/2/258/show_2258907.mp3

iTunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-royal-treatment-blog-talk/id414014159

iThink Before You iPad

Ipad2Are iPads Really What You’re Looking For? 

I know that this may be swimming against the current, or fishing out where the fish don’t bite, but if you’re entering an iPad program because it’s trendy, you need someone to make you think before you jump. Having bought three iPads, I’m not an expert, but understand the trend, as well as the ease of use for new tech teachers and kids. And having been an instructional technology specialist, I understand the good, and conservatively can ask the right questions at the other end, too.

1. There is no doubt that the iPad is easy to use. You really only get to do one application at a time, so Transformer you get really good at whatever app you’re using. But, if you’re like me, I don’t buy the “no one multitasks” nonsense. It’s painful to close something you’re working on to open something else you need. I’m forever opening, closing, opening, and closing again. We do like seeing the kids and grandkids on FaceTime, but Skype worked just fine, too. The latter is probably more globally easy for schools, too.

Acer2. Recently, I asked an administrator if he was considering Bluetooth wireless keyboards for his iPad Program.  He said no. While I finger point at the screen and thumb type pretty well, I really need a keyboard to compose quickly and accurately for publication. Touching an iPad screen is easy, but maybe you’ll need more. And please, don’t tell me you’re buying them as digital readers!

3. This one is simple. You can’t replace the battery. Beyond easy to use, quick to boot, you need to consider how something is put together, whether the screws can be unscrewed, and if the battery can be replaced. I know the Toshiba is bragging that its THRiVE battery can be replaced, and that accessing folders can be done like on a traditional computer. You can’t do that with an iPad yet.

4. Netbooks are inexpensive, you can multitask, keyboards, batteries with long life, and cameras are Dell default, and most have touchscreens. Remember that App is short for Application, and you’ll find plenty to use simultaneously on a netbook.

5. I was using iDisk until the iCloud canceled my subscription. It was easier for transferring work files from Mac to Mac. So Cloud has been around, and plenty of storage “up there” is sold with most every device today. Visit the Microsoft site for some cloud videos to learn more. Walking through a Best Buy couldn’t hurt either.

Know that you’ve chosen the best tool for the task.

Larkin While there are many iPad projects out there getting press for all the wrong reasons, I’m very excited about a few iPad programs this year. Patrick Larkin, a brilliant, young administrator at Burlington High School in Massachusetts is leading one of them. His crew is thorough, done their homework, know what they want to do, and have picked the right tool for their tasks and for students and staff. I’d like to believe that everyone has done that work, and are as hands-on-the-project as Larkin and Burlington.

For me, tweaking a few nerves to have you step back before making the iPad jump costs nothing. Making the wrong choice for now and future needs can be expensive. Investigating alternatives makes sense.

Bring Your Own Tech to School

Crawford_Jeffrey Mr Jeff Crawford is Manager of Networking and Security at East Grand Rapids Public Schools, MI. Listen as he discusses Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) in schools with Ken Royal at The Royal Treatment. Hear Crawford's 1:1 philosophy, and learn how his district handles BYOT student devices, and more. The right solutions involves more than the right hardware, and your idea of 1:1 may change completely. Teachers are the key.

Listen to Bring Your Own Tech (Embedded Player Requires Flash):

MP3 Listening: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/2/202/show_2202825.mp3

iTunes Listening: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-royal-treatment-blog-talk/id414014159

Sound Classroom Audio

Sound
What's sound have to do with learning? 

I was reminded of the importance sound plays in learning this week, and of all places, at a golf driving range.  A friend, watching my inconsistent windmill hitting of golf balls hooked me up with something called Sonic Golf. You put this transmitter into the club shaft, attach a receiver to your belt, and insert ear buds—then you swing and listen. I quickly learned to specifically listen to the rhytym of my swing, the quiet associated with the transition/change in direction, and the speed. Sound feedback resulted in hitting the golf ball on the button—consistently. Learning can benefit by taking advantage of the science of listening.

What about sound within classrooms, and for teachers, kids, listening and learning?

I’ve long been a proponent of sound in the classroom. As a teacher, I toyed with all sorts of ways to hook up a microphone and simple speakers, so quiet students could be heard in a classroom. The best student presentation suffers when the audience can’t hear it, and no amount of  “speak louder” reminders will help. I also remember rigging up old record players with mics, because they had speakers—and sort of worked. Just that, was an improvement in a regular classroom. And by saying old record player, I’ve, again, dated myself.

As instructional tech specialist, I was forever looking for ways to inexpensively tie our teachers and computers into the ceiling speakers. I usually started with teachers willing to experiment, but most often with those who had students with IEPs that included sound options. It made those students, with the obvious hearing needs, more successful, and teachers discovered that the rest of the class benefited as well. At first, we used handheld microphones. Not the best for orchestrating a class, but certainly exciting for kids. Then, we graduated to a few devices that hung like necklaces, and left teaching hands free. It’s amazing how many of those devices I saw in the hallway, hanging from teachers’ necks, because they had gotten used to them, and forgotten to remove them.

I know there are scientific studies to prove all this sound theory, but the bottom line is really to learn the art of listening, you just can’t be told to do it. I will bet you that in most classrooms that are sound improved, teachers don’t have to remind students to listen, and teachers don’t have to repeat what they say—as often. It’s not only the students on IEPs who benefit; it’s the entire class, as well as the teacher. So, if you haven’t, consider making classrooms sound ready in newer buildings, and sound improved in older ones. 

Here’s a hyperlinked list of companies that do classroom audio well. Visit their sites for more.

1.  SMART Technologies Audio Classroom Amplification System

2.  FrontRow To Go and Pro Digital

3.  Califone Infrared Classroom Audio System and Califone

4.  LightSpeed REDCAT and TOPCAT 

5.  Panasonic All-In One Portable Sound System

6.  Cetacea Sound Astronaut 

7.  TeachLogic VoiceLink Plus sound system

8.  Calypso System’s WCM-RF Classroom Voice Amplification Solution and ezRoom 

9.  Epson AP-60 Sound Enhancement System

10. Promethean ActivSound 

11. Extron VoiceLift 

12. Crestron FreeSpeech

Cameron Evan Talks Teaching Innovation

Evans Cameron Evans, Microsoft's National and Chief Technology Officer US Education, talks innovative teaching with Ken Royal at The Royal Treatment. Learn about innovative teaching programs, what innovative teachers are doing now, including gaming, and how to get involved in your own student and teacher innovative projects.
Listen to my interview with Cameron Evans:

Embed Player (requires Flash):

MP3 Audio Link: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/2/149/show_2149307.mp3

iTunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-royal-treatment-blog-talk/id414014159

 

Over 1 Million Inhabit This Planet

Planet
Close to 5 years ago, I was invited to hear about a new online place for teachers. The place was Promethean Planet, begun by the Promethean Interactive Classroom folks as a way to help teachers use whiteboards. Right from the start, teachers and teaching resources were the prime objectives for this new planet. Today, more than a million educators have landed at their Planet as members.

I’ve long been a proponent of online teacher resources. When companies get involved with them, it can be interesting. It really is a necessity today, but Promethean thought it 5 years ago, and made an effort to keep it more educator than commercial. I think they've done a pretty good job. Many companies have followed their lead.

While there are some lesson packets for sale at the Planet, there’s plenty for free download. I like that teachers using other types of interactive products are invited to join and use whatever is there as well. It’s a place where teachers can go to easily get good teaching materials, lessons, and advice. Oh sure, you can also get more information about Promethean, and their Activ devices and assessment tools, too, if you're interested.

Here's a bit more about Promethean Planet:

Lightspeed Technologies Classroom Audio: ISTE

Find out about REDCAT and TOPCAT in this interview with Bruce Bebb. Lightspeed Technologies can create an audio environment for enhanced classroom learning. REDCAT is right out of the box, and TOPCAT is an easy-to-install ceiling solution. At ISTE Lightspeed was given The Royal Treatment.

Watch and learn how easy it is to create the best classroom audio for instruction:

ELMO at InFoComm: TT-12 Interactivity

I gave the new ELMO TT-12 document camera The Royal Treatment at InFoComm. This doc cam (visualiser) has more positions than a yoga instructor. It doesn't need a computer, and has its own audio and recording capabilities. It also can be seamlessly connected to ELMO's slate.

Watch the video interview and demo to see if the TT-12 is the right match for your interactive classroom, school, or district:

Samsung SUPERHERO: Pushing the Doc Cam Envelope

Austin_davinici
The Samsung’s Imaging Division
, which includes document cameras, regularly does these SUPERHERO video competitions, where students get to win a nice $500 cash prize, as well as a SAMCAM 860 document camera for their classroom. For the contest, students portray a historical character and are judged on presentation, performance, character and content accuracy, as well as quality.

Austin, a fifth grader from Blissfield, Michigan won the winter contest. He played the part of Leonardo da Vinci. The spring winner will be named on June 17, 2011. Entry information for these and future competitions can be found at www.samsungk-12.com.

Checking out contests and grants for classroom tech is fun, and you never know—you might win.

I like the idea of pushing the envelop with document cameras, whether it’s by teachers or students. Just using doc cams to display documents, today, is call for a faculty brainstorming session. It’s an easy to use, interactive classroom tool that deserves a place in any creative classroom.

Even the simplest document camera models, those without video options, have great still-image capabilities. For example, a simple changing of the slideshow display time to its quickest intervals, using still images in sequence, can create the appearance of animation with objects or clay. Sort of a new-age flip book.

Editor's Note:

I always recommend checking building and district rules to make sure you’re within the guidelines. Samsung’s SUPERHERO contest is safe as well as fun. Having students dress up in what amounts to a disguise should pass any AUP (Acceptable Use Policy). It’s a good idea for everyday classrooms, too. Kids love to dress up to play the part of a scientist or even a mathematician.

New Jersey School Boards Association Learn@Lunch

Nj3 I received a wonderful invitation from NJSBA (New Jersey School Boards Association) and Erik Endress to join them for a Learn@Lunch program today. Principal Eric Sheninger hosted the event at his amazing school today. You'll see the teacher in the administrator, enough energy to power a battleship, and they're making it happen in an older building. This was one of the tightest presentations I've seen involving social media, students, parents, and teachers. Beyond the presentation, there were some serious answers to some serious questions from attendees at New Milford High School and those visiting virtually. Fortunately, it was archived using Adobe Connect and you can see it here:

http://njsba.adobeconnect.com/p13932108/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

Es1 From Facebook to Bring Your Own Technology to cell phones to class projects, you'll watch and listen to some ideas that will spark and enlighten. The student sharing was brilliant. One student talks about her European visit for a humanities Holocaust project, and three others do great and useful product reviews of handhelds they use.

If you watch one presentation this year, this should be the one. Share it with your PLN, admin, and other educators.

Teq helped out with the interactive tech, which included a whiteboard.

Teaching Discussion and Classroom Controller: WT1

Wt1a I think that most teachers are naturals at making things work, and figuring out how to do things in less than optimum conditions, with equipment creatively modified to meet a need. Well, I think most teachers are hard-wired that way. For instance, in my school visits, I see teachers using a wireless mouse in conjunction with a wireless keyboard to make a classroom somewhat interactive.

Hooking up a wireless mouse and keyboard is simple, might require a battery or two, but for most it likely requires no help from the tech department. It’s usually easy plug and play. And it simply gives a teacher the ability to pass the mouse and keyboard to students around the classroom. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the most inexpensive ways to get a class interactive—fast.

Wt1c Now, if you’re looking for a more refined way to do it, Califone has an option called the WT1 for Wireless Tablet. I’ve just checked it out myself, and I prefer to call it a classroom controller, classroom lesson leader, or teacher discussion tool. That way you won’t confuse it with other tablets that are really computers.

The WT1 tablet comes with a stylus, which can be tucked into the device when not Wt1d in use, a USB computer connector cable for charging, an RF USB thumb-style projection/connection device, and a software disc. The entire setup from start to finish takes under 5 minutes, and can be easily done without any tech help, although Califone offers that at its site, too. The WT1 is for Window use only—at this time.

Here’s what you can do using the WT1 with its stylus:

The WT-1 is a controller that acts like a mouse, and offers, with the keys on the left desktop functionality when connected to your teacher station laptop or computer. Functions include desktop; up / down / left / right / OK arrows; mouse left / right keys; page up / down keys; alt and tab; clear / close / esc keys; and red pen / screen mode

The right side tablet choices offer software functions such as red and blue whiteboard/desktop drawing pen; multi-color pen; eraser; magnify; focus and resize the window; blank screen; hide upper and lower parts of the screen; clock/timer; record whiteboard session; snapshot of the current screen; and dialog box to adjust settings. Here's the WT1 video.

 To check the WT1 and other Califone products, check the site at http://www.califone.com/.

Wt1b

 

Educators Review Tech

BIT TODAY(vertical, loRes) Glad you’re here, but you need to see Best in Tech Today—make it a daily stop, and share it with your staff and fellow educators. I know that sounds like meeting relatives at the door, and telling them to go next door for dinner. It’s just that the neighbors, in this case, are serving up something unique—educators reviewing education technology and solutions.

Best in Tech Today is a place where the “go to” people in a school/district share, which makes Best in Tech Today the “go to” place for ideas that work, and ideas that can be replicated.

Gathering a group of local experts in one place leaves open the possibility for live forums and interactive discussions, too. As an educator/administrator, you need to hear from people who are actually using edtech solutions, and many times in spectacular ways.

Let’s put it this way, if you asked a student what he/she learned in class today, you wouldn’t settle for an “It was good… it was fun… it was engaging…” answer. By bookmarking http://blogs.scholastic.com/bestintechtoday/ you’ll get daily, specific how to reviews from education and education tech experts.

Online Teaching: Getting There!

DanFroelich Episode 11 of The Royal Treatment—Online Teaching: Getting There!— Dan Froelich, Online Mikethumb Teaching & Learning Specialist, and Instructional Technologist for the State of North Carolina, teams up with Mike Shumake, MSA, NCVPS Teacher/Evaluator for the Evergreen District, Wa to share the latest online teaching news, and explain the reasons why schools and districts should be there. I must add that Mike Shumake was North Carolina’s 2009 Online Teacher of the year.

Listen to our Online Teaching: Getting There!

MP3 Podcast Link: http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/1/769/show_1769071.mp3

ITunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-royal-treatment-blog-talk/id414014159

Embedded Player (requires Flash):

Exceptional Needs Education: Autism & Disabilities

This episode of the Royal Treatment—Exceptional Needs Education: Autism and Disabilities shares how two different organizations have made it their business to help students with autism, students with disabilities, as well as their families. In this professional development talk, we’ll hear philosophy, and also specifics of what help, technology, and software is actually available for children and their parents today. Joining us are Lauren Stafford, who was Academic Supervisor for Instructional Design, and is now the Visual Learning Solutions Vice President at the Monarch School for students with Autism in Ohio, and Chris Vacek, Chief Innovation Officer at the HeartSpring School for children with disabilities in Wichita, Kansas. This Royal Treatment is truly a professional development for all teachers, as well as special education professionals.
Listen to Exceptional Needs Education: Autism & Disabilities:

iPad 2 Made for Teaching

No one from Apple talks with me, and I hate that we jump through their hoops—for them—every six months. That said, there is good reason for educators to look at the new iPad 2 for leading and teaching a class—at any age level. I’m not going to get into any of the technical spec, but it’s sufficient to say that version 2 is a different machine. Let me specifically say, though, that I’m talking about this tool in the hands of a teacher. I know that there will be many posting on the benefits of iPads in the hands of students, and I look forward to those—as well as first hand journals and reporting, but this is more about why I’m buying one for my daughter, a 3rd grade teacher.

Mirroring Lessons

DongleMirroring isn’t new, but the iPad 2 makes it possible for a teacher to present and control a class lesson. Using a $39 dongle (connector) a teacher can mirror, or show, what he/she has on the iPad desktop, and have it appear directly on a larger display screen. (HDMI, oh my!) I know, you can do that with a netbook or laptop, but as my daughter said, “I can hold the iPad 2 in one hand and work it easily with the other hand; it will be a lot easier than juggling my laptop.” She can do computer stuff and direct her class, too.

My daughter uses a lot of photos with her students, as well as a document camera and projector to enhance instruction. With the iPad2 and dongle connection it will be easier to share those images, bring in lesson-specific and appropriate video, and Web pages, too. The iPad 2’s AV adaptor makes it a lightweight and quick classroom teaching device, but it is also the easiest to use user interface going—today. My daughter is a wonderful teacher without technology, and she isn’t a tech fanatic like her dad, so it needs to work easily, and seamlessly. If she can plug it in, works with a touch, kids get more involved in the lesson, and it improves her teaching—it makes sense.

My wife, who, and I’m not afraid of saying this aloud—because she’ll agree—which doesn’t happen often—has no tech sense, ability, or interest at all in anything tech—wants one. She just learned to text this year—thanks to my daughter. It was a miracle!

My wife claims texting is easy. She has a Windows laptop, but avoids it—for her, it’s not easy to use—she also calls it names—but I won’t go into that. Too much has to be done in order to get from point “A” to point “B”, and it’s easy to get lost in-between.

Apple sucked my wife in with an iPad commercial—afterward she said, “I can do that!” And, I have to agree—she can. I actually told her that our 2-year old grandson could use one. That gained me no points with her—but did earn me one of those familiar one-raised-eyebrow looks.

I know that others will point out more elaborate iPad 2 teaching possibilities, and that Windows slate, notebook, and netbook providers will be sharing the fact—that they can do all of this, too—but for teachers like my daughter—this looks like a best bet—for now. Oh, yeah, a side perk—I’ll get to see my grandsons—thanks to those two cameras—by using using Skype, or FaceTime on a soon-to-be-smudged 10-inch screen—although I’ll have to look over my wife’s shoulder to do it—and that will be the most difficult thing of all!

Ed Tech Innovation: Kyle Berger Interview

Kyle In this episode of the Royal Treatment—Ed Tech Innovation —Kyle Berger, Executive Director of Technology Services for the Alvarado ISD, Texas, shares lessons on how technology leaders can think more outside the box to make things happen. Berger discusses his community outreach Internet kiosks, operating a successful, two-year, 2,000-student 1:1 program, creating district partnerships for disaster recovery, the bring your own device concept and its part in the future of 1:1 programs, and more. Listen to ideas from a true education future-thinker and entrepreneur. It may be the best professional development lesson you hear this year. (Note: All Royal Treatment shows are archived, and transcripts available for purchase.)
Listen to Ed Tech Innovation:

EdTech Over the Pond

In this episode of The Royal Treatment—EdTech Over the Pond—Steven Anderson, District Instructional Technologist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, USA, meets the UKs Joe Dale, an independent consultant working with CILT, Links into Languages, The British Council, The BBC, and host of the TES MFL Forum. Together they share EdTech possibilities to try, as well as Web 2.0 ideas that can be modified, or translated to work for educators and students in classrooms—whichever side of the pond you find yourself.
Listen to the Discussion:

FETC Hits

Ken4 Here are a few more things that knocked MY socks off at FETC 2011.

eInstruction

I had to be quiet about the eInstruction Mobi View. Actually got a presentation on it from Steve Kaye, who said, “We’re going to share something with you, but you can’t say anything.” Most times sitting on something until the actual release doesn’t bother me, but this time it had me hopping. Putting a touch screen, similar to that of an iPhone into a teaching slate knocked my socks off. Geez, another one of those ideas, which is a no brainer…and why didn’t I think of it first! No complicated icons around the device to figure out just touch the screen. Anyone can teach and direct a class with it. I reviewed its Mobi predecessor, and thought that was good. eInstruction has a new hit.

SMART and FrontRow, two companies help students hear the teacher better.

I checked in on two, very different, companies—SMART and FrontRow that are doing something about audio in the classroom. Smart has a classroom audio system as well its new SMARTAir, and FrontRow Sound Systems has solutions that can be configured to fit every classroom need. I know from personal experience that those wireless necklace-like devices hooked to room speakers make a difference for hearing impaired students as well as all students. Learning is something that happens differently for all students, but how students hear their teachers is an individual thing as well. Besides benefiting student listening, these products may even help with student behavior. Hearing keeps students in the learning game and away from trouble on the sidelines.

I have a meeting with another company—Califone—at TCEA in Austin. They’ve been offering students and schools audio, and now visual products for years.

Promethean

Recently, I visited a school in Georgia using the new Promethean ActivBoard 500 series, so at the FETC launching it was pretty familiar. I asked my usual questions, but for me, I think the most wonderful thing was when the Promethean crew let a teacher, Jeremy, have his way with that new ActivBoard. The programmed part of the launched showed the traditional PowerPoint slide connections, but when Jeremy nudged his way to the board he raised the level from tech specs to how to—and “Here’s what I do with the 500”. In moments, the teacher had us buckling up our Web 2.0 seats, sharing sites that made his students excited about learning—he took us beyond PowerPoint. Now, that made me smile, and it shared the power of the board for learning—and getting kids out of their seats.

Congratulations to Promethean for giving Jeremy the teacher-star room on the stage next to their new ActivBoard 500 multi-touch star.

Send In The Slates! FETC

There is certainly a puzzle to solve for school and district leaders—whether to jump on the iPad wagon, wait for Android’s Honeycomb and take advantage of Aps, stick with Win7 familiarity, especially if your environment is already Microsoft, or try something completely different. The few slates/tablets I did see at FETC 2011 in Orlando were pretty impressive, each offering something different, played Flash, and there were a few surprises as well. I expect to see more at TCEA 2011 in Austin.

KINEO

KINEO I think one of the show hits was the new KINEO by a company called Brainchild. It is unique in the slate and handheld space. While it has WiFi, this touchscreen for kids is administratively controlled and built for student safety. Aps, tools, and video are there, but it’s specifically only what the teacher and administrator want there. By design, it doesn’t have a camera, which may have a lot of education administrators sighing relief. KINEO is Android, but looks nothing like any of the other traditional slate platforms. I like that it has function buttons along with touch and stylus. It has a day's worth of battery life, and it is replaceable. This looks to be a sturdy, appropriately sized, safe computing device for kids. My feeling is the only problem will be keeping up with production—Brainchild should sell a lot of them.

RM Slate

RM Slate Here’s another big surprise, and really good education computing choice. I’ve been following RM Education for years. They offer a lot of education products and solutions—ones they make and others with partner help. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting to see a slate at the booth. RM has something with its RM Slate. It has everything, including a brilliant touch screen with stylus, too, as well as camera. This is great; it comes with Office and RM EasiTeach. That’s amazing marketing. Because it is Win 7, the RM Slate fills the needs of districts already in a PC environment. It’s about 2lbs, so not as heavy as some of the others out there either.

Fujitsu

Fujitsu2 Fujitsu is known for sturdy computing devices, and is the grandfather of tablet and Fujitsu1 convertible devices. Their Q-Series tablet is a Win7 at about 1.5 lbs, and I was very impressed with their new 10.1 convertible tablet. Districts looking for a more conventional device, a traditional laptop keyboard, along with a slate option attached, will find the answer here.

ASUS

ASUS ASUS has their eSlate (EP121) that comes with a Wacom digitizer pen and Bluetooth keyboard. There was a lot of interest in this slate at FETC. It is sleek, powerful, with Gorilla Glass, and like most Asus products—it’s pretty, too. I always want to shake somebody at the Asus! In my opinion, they have products that are inexpensive and perfect for education, but really don’t push that point enough. I’ve been saying that for years. Look out; if Asus ever gets an education rudder, they will navigate to the head of the class—fast.

Note: Look for more on these Slates—in video—soon at Scholastic Administrator.

Special Needs Assistive Technology

0615cw02 Today’s Royal Treatment—Special Needs Assistive Technology, is the first in a series of Scholastic On Air shows with special education professionals. Find out what assistive technology is, a bit about assistive tools that work, as well as a few common sense tips from special needs experts. Joining us are  Laura Nazzarine, Director of Special Education, West Clermont School District; Ohio, Mary Beth Sonnier, Technology Facilitator, Calcasieu Parish School Board, Westlake, LA; and Anissa Fontenot who is with Region V’s Louisiana Assistive Technology Initiative, Lake Charles, LA.
Listen to the Conversation:

A Bit of Good Product Sharing

Ken4 I'd like to thank my friends at the Blohm Agency for this Marketplace News.

Capstone Digital will soon introduce a new personalized literacy program. Created to connect reading levels with student interests, the new offering provides access to the largest integrated library of digital books with multimedia reading supports. The online platform enables anytime, anywhere access to books that students can read, rate, review, and share with classmates through safe social networking.  Through embedded assessments, end of book quizzes and benchmark quizzes, the personalized literacy program allows educators to monitor, track and measure student reading growth. For more information, visit www.capstonedigital.com.

Shmoop offers online test prep for SAT and PSAT, and will soon launch ACT test prep. Each online test prep course includes deep content reviews, hundreds of drill questions and two-three full-length interactive practice exams.  Shmoop uses classic video games such as Oregon Trail, Tetris, and Mario Brothers as metaphors for the challenges students will face in the exams. In addition to preparing students for the SAT and ACT Exams, Shmoop offers online courses for four of the five most popular AP Exams. Shmoop offers affordable group rates for schools, districts and public libraries on its subscription products.  For more information, visit www.shmoop.com.    

Funds For Learning, an E-rate compliance services firm, just released the education industry's first E-rate application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  E-rate Manager for iPhone is a free mobile version of the E-rate Manager service provided by Funds For Learning. E-rate Manager for iPhone provides current users instant access to information regarding funding requests and commitment amounts, service providers and remaining funding balances. The free application follows in the tradition of the E-rate Manager tools, offering easy navigation and instant access to the most up-to-date funding year information. For more information, visit www.fundsforlearning.com.

Get ready for the SIIA educationversion of Don't Copy That 2, which educates students on digital fair use and copyright laws. Along with the video release, SIIA has developed classroom materials, including lesson plans and other informational resources, targeted to middle and high school teachers and librarians that help to promote the ethical and legal use of digital information. In addition, the classroom resources are aligned to digital citizenship teaching objectives in NETS standards and AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. For more information, visit www.dontcopythat2.com.

With more than 1 million users, Edmodo provides free, secure social networking tools for teachers, students and administrators.  The online environment offers a safe and easy way to exchange ideas, share content, and access homework, grades and school notices. Edmodo recently launched Parent Accounts, allowing teachers to exchange messages and maintain open-communication with parents, provide direct access to grades and assignments, send notifications to parents about upcoming due dates and missed assignments, and alert families to school events and activities. For more information, visit www.edmodo.com.

Planning School and District Tech

 Today’s Royal Treatment is a tech tale of two districts. Joining us are Assistant Superintendent M.E. TP Steele-Pierce, PhD, and Principal Tonya Schmidt of the West Clermont District in Cincinnati, OH, and from Massachusetts, Principal Patrick Larkin of Burlington High School and Library Media Specialist Dennis Villano. These educators will share how they learned more about the tech that’s out there, and how they determined what was the best fit for their districts. Listen to the conversation:

Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Small District Big Innovations

Lead Superintendent John Carver, Principal Deron Durflinger, and Library Media Specialist Shannon Miller of the Van Meter Public Schools, Iowa, get the Royal Treatment. Find out the Van Meter philosophy—how they meet tech-era needs of students and staff, as well as how to create a building climate for change, and how technology plays into that. Listen to the conversation:

 


Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Kineos for Kids!: First Look

Kineo with Hands

The Royal Treatment has been given the first, exclusive look at the Kineo and its specs. It might be for kids, what the iPad is for teachers. I have to admit that with a price of $299, and it’s brilliantly colored sleeves—covering its white face—with hot pink to red—is eye-catching, and attract a lot of attention from educators and students.

The Kineo is specifically designed for kids, schools, and classroom. It is an Android device that plays well with Flash—go figure! With the Kineo, there’s no marketing hype or messaging, and the sites students access need to be pre-approved by teachers or administrators.

Educators will get to touch and order Kineos, for the first time, at the upcoming FETC 2011 in Orlando, Florida, and shipments will begin in March 2011.

The Kineos parent company is Brainchild, which has been an innovative force in tech education. I’ve heard that Achiever!, Brainchild’s formative assessment system for state-specific test preparation and instruction on state standards works well with the device.

Follow the Kineo at Brainchild's site: http://www.brainchild.com/

Best Classroom Web 2.0

Steven Anderson Steven Anderson, District Instructional Technologist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem, NC gets the Royal Treatment from Scholastic Professional Media Senior Technology Editor Ken Royal. Anderson, also known as @web20classroom on Twitter, shares the Best Classroom Web 2.0 Resources, and offers tips that will put even the least tech-savvy educators at ease. Learn from Steven Anderson, a trusted online resource, education technologist, and presenter. Listen to the conversation:


Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Computer Science Cool?: Alfred Thompson MSDN

AlfredtAlfred Thompson, Academic Developer Evangelist for Microsoft gets the Royal Treatment from Scholastic Professional Media Senior Technology Editor Ken Royal. Thompson discusses why computer science is cool, technology for kids and teachers in classrooms, as well as what the future holds for education technology.
Before his career at Microsoft, Alfred was the Technology Director and a computer/technology teacher at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua NH.  He is a graduate of Taylor University in Upland IN where he got his start in computers, and received his MS in Computer Science at Rivier College in Nashua NH. I must add that his well-rounded computer science career began at Brooklyn Technical High School. Listen to the conversation:

Listen to Scholastic's On Air Royal Treatment at royaltreatment

Video Games: Learning Disguised as Fun

Gamestar2Recently, 15 Brooklyn students with their families learned how to design and create video games. The training, held at the Shell Bank School (J.H.S. 14) was an effort to help needy students acquire the tools and knowledge to compete in the National STEM Video Game Challenge—http://www.stemchallenge.org/. Winning students will earn cash for their schools and a laptop for themselves. “My teacher, she told me about it. It was so fun. First, we made a game, and then we let other people try it out. Some kids had games that were really hard, and some kids had games that were really easy,” says student DeJannia Parnell.

My own video-gaming attention span is that of a gnat, but I get it. I remember teaching my students how to build JavaScript games for their Web pages. That was pretty simple compared to today’s game programming, but I do know that kids felt good about building something that they could actually play—sort of like building a stool in shop class—only more fun, and without the wobbly legs. Always heard good things from parents about it, too—and best of all, kids who hadn’t taken the course—couldn’t wait to get there.

Gamestar3The Brooklyn video-game training was hosted by the non-profit organization Computers for Youth (CYF)— http://www.cfy.org/, in partnership with E-line Media— http://elineventures.com/, as well as others, such as Microsoft and BrainPop. E-line Media also supports the video design and creation learning game called Gamestar Mechanic— http://gamestarmechanic.com/.

While my own video-gaming expertise is not quite that of a 5-year old, I appreciate that it may not only help keep computer science exciting for kids, but also allow them to experience a world outside their local environment. For me, reading is still at the top of the list for doing that, but making room for kids learning to create their own video games is a no brainer, too. I’m certain kids doing that would be late to the next class—for all the right reasons.

Teaching Max

Max Recently, I visited the John’s Creek Elementary School in Georgia, where whiteboards, laptop carts, as well as bring your own technology (BYOT) is the norm. Visiting schools and observing kids can teach you a lot. A group of 3rd graders walked into the Library Media Center (LMC), headed for the teacher standing at a multi-touch Promethean ActivBoard. When the lesson began, the small group of students was allowed the controlled freedom to interact with the board. Interact is such an overused word—these kids played learning.

There's probably a study or two in this, but the girls, as a group collaborated naturally, while the boys were a little more boldly wild. One boy, Max, walked back and forth, always keeping the whiteboard and other students in view. At first glance, he didn’t seem to be engaged, but as I watched, he seemed to be taking in everything. I noted, he missed nothing, but it wasn’t obvious at first.

When things settled, I asked the group if anyone knew how to activate the whiteboard keyboard function. The young, hovering boy, Max, walked quickly over to the side of the whiteboard, grabbed the pen, reached and tapped the left tool bar—bringing up the keyboard. He beamed.

“How did you know that?” I asked. “Watched the teacher do it,” said Max.

Right afterwards, some fifth graders came in to return laptops to mobile carts. They had to find the right placement, and plug them in. I asked one young lady how she knew where to place them/return them correctly. She said, “They’re in numerical order.” Yikes, like I should have known, right. I was impressed. They weren’t just numbered—they were in numerical order.

I discovered that the school was experimenting with a BYOT, bring your own technology classroom, too. I admit, I have a lot of questions about that, but it’s an incredibly innovative idea that can increase the classroom technology quickly, as well as save a district some cash, too.

I’d want to know how different technologies would play together in the BYOT classroom, and also if a teacher could handle the heavier tech burden of knowing/working with many devices and not just one or two.

BYOT is a refreshing idea, and worth more coverage. I’m all for putting tech in kids’ hands. When it comes right down to it, using technology can be the goal, but it’s still really all about understanding—how to teach Max—and others like him.

Marzano: Whiteboards, Responders, 1:1, and PD

Marzano I had an interesting conversation with education researcher and author, Dr. Robert Marzano. He’s written about education strategies, and decision-making based on research for years. His Marzano Research Laboratory is interested in researching and discovering ways to make teaching and education leadership better. We talked about his 3rd party interactive whiteboard research, which was funded by Promethean, as well as his thoughts for the short term—3–5 year future of technology in the classroom. I enjoyed his fair and honest assessment of his own research, as well as what we should take away from it.

“After playing around with different study designs we used a meta-analysis approach—over different subject areas. In our 2-year, 4, 913-student, 123-teacher, and 36-district study, we found, that in general, the average effect was that we had a 16-percentile improvement in student achievement in the interactive whiteboard classrooms,” says Marzano.”

Marzano finds one part of his findings doesn’t get as much attention as it should, and that has to do with the importance of good teaching. “But let’s qualify this, an average effect that people don’t focus on enough is that 24% of the time teachers did better without the technology. So the 2nd part of the study is what explains the differences, and because we used video, we can say here’s why,” says Marzano.

More research needs to be done—so what’s next? “We need to rewrite the book on teaching strategies… the ones that many of us have written about for years, just won’t work anymore. For instance, classroom brainstorming used to be done on paper… but you couldn’t do anything with it. It was difficult to move those thoughts around, and debate efficacies—like you can with interactive technologies,” says Marzano.

Administrators struggling with budgets don’t necessarily have the funds it takes to make technology happen in their districts. “Sometimes I get asked whether interactive whiteboards are worth it from a financial standpoint—I don’t come from that perspective, but my heart goes out to administrators having to make those decisions. I know that they are not small ticket items. If money weren’t the issue it’s pretty much of a no brainer—three technologies—interactive whiteboards, responders, and 1:1 computing get good results for teachers,” says Marzano.

Professional development is an important finding. “Don’t forget, these technologies have to be used in the right way. What to do and what not to do with them. In my research, a huge piece for an administrator to understand is that their needs to be training to get the best out of classroom technology. Envision it as a another leg on the stool,” Marzano concludes.

Find out more at Marzano Reasearch, or more at the Promethean site.

Eric Sheninger: Global Leadership Lessons

Sheninger Principal Eric Sheninger of New Milford High School, New Jersey, is a 21st Century Leader. Here's his Digital Age Professional Development Plan for today's leaders and educators. Sheninger begins with an overview, and then breaks it into specific tools with examples. I'm grateful to him for letting me share it here.

Welcome to Eric Sheninger's digital education and leadership toolkit, as well as all the tools to go with it:

Administrator's Global Toolkit for 21st Century Leadership
by Eric Sheninger

  • Shift Happens —View for trends and impacts associated with technology and social media.
  • Sustainable change relies on understanding people, culture, and processes—best accomplished through collaboration, consensus, and understanding.
  • 21st Century Educators must be able to adapt, communicate, take risks, model, continually learn, collaborate, exhibit vision, and lead.
  • Leaders in the "Digital Age" share their vision, learn with other educators, start conversations, lead by example, encourage innovative practices, integrate technology, are transparent, and leverage the power of Web 2.0.
  • Principals can use social media for communication, public relations, branding, professional development—and opportunity.
  • Keys for Principals: Support your staff, be flexible, and exhibit passion, Make time to learn, take/encourage risk takers— and model.

Web 2.0 Tools for Learning

  • Twitter: Improve instruction through global collaboration—share resources, best practices, lesson ideas, acquire knowledge, network, track conferences, etc.). Grow professionally by establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN), following specific hashtags (#). Learn move about Twitter in this video.
  • Ning: Customizable social network similar to Facebook, and a great place to connect with other educators, pivotal to a PLN. Two great Nings to sign up for are The Educator's PLN and Classroom 2.0. Check out this Ning tutorial.

Google Apps

  • Google Docs: An online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation editor that allows for easy organization and communication. Easily create forms to conduct surveys and collect data.
    Features include: upload/convert to any format (i.e. MS Office), simultaneously collaborate on, and edit various document formats, access your documents from anywhere in the world, and embed links to your docs in e-mails, websites, blogs, etc.  Learn more about Google Docs here.
  • Google Calendar: Create multiple calendars in order to easily share events with staff, and sync to your mobile phones.  Learn more here.
  • Google Reader: Check educational news sites and blogs for new content (updates daily). Subscribe to websites via RSS feeds, customize to your learning needs/goals, create you own unique educational current events library, and share websites quickly with your staff. Learn more about Google Reader here.
  • Google Sites: Free and easy way to create websites. Single click page creation, no HTML required, customize to the look and feel that suits you. It has many templates to get you started. Upload files and attachments, embed rich content (videos, images, spreadsheets, presentations), and collaborate with others.  Learn more here.

Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching

  • Wordle: create beautiful word clouds quickly and easily. Use as an anticipatory set, review prior learning, or closure. Have students create a Wordle as a means of independent assessment. Print, or save to the gallery to share. You can also take a screen shot and save it as a jpeg. The more you type the same word the larger it will appear. Click here for a tutorial, or check out these resources.
  • Voicethread: Collaborative, multimedia slideshow that holds images, documents, and videos while allowing people to navigate through slides and comment in multiple ways (text , audio, video). Click here for a tutorial or check out these resources.
  • Wallwisher: An online message board ideal for making announcements, taking notes, and collecting ideas, responses, or feedback. Add images, music, and or links to each virtual note. Works like a real notice board (drag, drop, rearrange posts). Click on the following for more information: reasons to use, tutorial, and here for resources.
  • Prezi: Create stunning presentations on the Web, and allow students to be creative as well. Great way to review prior learning, or use as an anticipatory set. Principals can even create a Prezi for their faculty meetings. Check out this tutorial and resources.
  • Glogster: Allow students to create interactive posters easily. Mix images, music, text, and video. Engage students in fun and creative activities while allowing them to express their knowledge, ideas, and skills. Check out this tutorial and associated resources.
  • Animoto:  Automatically produces beautifully orchestrated, unique video presentations from photos, video clips, and music.  Educators can apply for free student accounts at Animoto for Education. Check out this tutorial and associated resources.
  • Skype: Add free videoconferencing with only a webcam, computer, and internet connection. Make free Skype to Skype calls. Bring in quest speakers, go on virtual field trips, collaborate with other schools on lessons in real time, bring in additional professional development opportunities, and add a global context to instruction. The Chat feature allows for the sharing of links, asking questions, etc. Check out this tutorial and associated resources.

EdTech Tools for Administrators

  • Facebook:  Create an information hub for your building that can quickly and easily get important information in the hands of your stakeholders. Sign up for a personal account, create a page, and add material (news, pictures, videos, events).  Use the sidebar on the left to add useful links (school website, alumni groups, athletic schedules, Twitter feed). Check out this tutorial and example at New Milford High School.
  • Social Bookmarking: Store, organize, manage, and search for your resource bookmarks online from any computer in the world. Two common tools are Delicious and Diigo. Organize and categorize your bookmarks with tags. Add descriptions for each resource. Create content area and resource specific tags. Encourage teachers to create their own free account to organize their bookmarks. Check out this video for more information.  Check my example here.
  • Dropbox: Store, sync, and share files online for free. Create an account then download Dropbox on your computers, smartphone, and any other mobile device, including an iPad. Copy/paste, or save any file in Dropbox. You can even copy entire folders from your hard drive and paste them into Dropbox. Access your files from anywhere in the world by logging into your account at www.dropbox.com.  For more information see this video.
  • Evernote: Remember everything by capturing notes, ideas, and things you hear/see. Download it on your computers, smartphone, and any other mobile devices including an iPad. Easily and quickly sync your notes. Use a smartphone to upload picture and audio notes. Access your notes from anywhere in the world by logging into your account at www.evernote.com.  Organize and categorize your notes with tags.  For more information see this tutorial.
  • Twitter:  Use this microblogging resource to send out information in 140 characters, or less to your stakeholders. Tweet out links, pictures, and video. Parents and community members can access from the web or on their mobile phones through text message (SMS). Send emergency announcements, event reminders, special schedules, athletic scores, student achievements, and staff innovations. View the Twitter page for New Milford High School as an example.
  • Blog:  This type of website provides a place for regular commentary, reflections, and opinions. It's easy to add text, pictures, video, and gadgets. It can be one of the best public relations tools available to administrators. It is Interactive, because readers can leave comments. Check out this video for more information about blogs.

Follett Destiny/Cognite: Video Royal Treatment

Follett Software is more than Destiny Library Manager. The Video Royal Treatment shares a bit about Cognite:

WildLab Kids: Phones in NYC Parks

Central_park I talked with Jared Lamenzo, president of Mediated Spaces about their WildLab project in Brooklyn, NY. Wildlab, funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, uses cell phones and an iPhone app to support science curriculum for kids. According to Lamenzo, “the iPhone app helps learners ID birds, and includes information on birds' ranges and songs. Students submit their GPS-tagged sightings from local NYC parks, and the data goes to the classes' online account—they can refer to their findings later in the classroom.

At the end of the program, students submit their sightings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for use in studies about species abundance and climate change. So far, students have collected almost 10,000 sightings, and over 500 students have participated. It’s no wonder the NYC Audubon Society, and other organizations are interested.

I asked Lamenzo if students BYOT, (Bring Your Own Tech) for the projects. He said that WildLab brings the phones with them to the schools, and kids use them as "field tools" rather than phones (note: social networks are blocked). Larenzo is working with scientists on more protocol-based science apps.

They’ve partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension to develop a horseshoe crab app. “In the field, it was like playing a game on space invaders under moonlight with 300 million year old living fossils,” says Lamenzo.

Now this is what I’ve been talking about—using cell phones as learning devices. Kids in parks collecting data, returning to class to analyze, joining parallel studies with other students, with the ultimate goal realized—these students are scientists adding to the knowledge base of other scientists. How cool is that!

Jared Lamenzo concludes, “I think programs like ours can show that phones can be used constructively. It turns out learners are quite respectful of the phones and the data collection, especially since they know it goes to scientists.”

Cyber Citizens: More Than Teachable Moments

Internetsafety While kids still know the bullies sitting in back of them, yanking at their hair, today’s cyber thugs can remain completely hidden, which makes the terror worse. Turning everything off and pulling the plugs isn’t the answer, but simply teaching students to be cyber citizens can. These lessons need to be as planned as any lessons taught today, and structured in such away as to be part of every lesson taught with digital devices. No excuses here, this is a job educators can do, and it is beyond just a random teachable moment.

Use student mission statements and reminders often.

How and where to teach cyber citizenship is just a modern extension of the old-fashioned citizenship once taught. Having students write mission statements is a good start. Students who write what they stand for, what makes them the person they are, what they expect from others as well as themselves, and how they’d like others to see them and treat them is one of the most useful parts of being a good citizen. That written statement can be revisited and modified often. It is a reminder. Anyone who has taught students knows that reminders need to happen often. Assuming that something is covered, just because you’ve spent a few days, or an earlier semester covering it, doesn’t work with kids. Students need constant reminders, and cyber citizen reminders are no different than walking in the hall reminders, or how to behave at lunch reminders. I’m certain the latter are repeated daily.

Most educators will need help with this.

It shouldn’t be the domain of the health teacher, or guidance person. It may be in the realm of the instructional technology educator. That person often teaches student and teachers, as well as parents how to and about technology. That said, a multi-staffed approach would be ideal, too, similar to the teaming for humanities classes or multi-departmental lesson collaboration. Teaching cyber citizenship is the responsibility of everyone—all staff—and parents need to be in on it, too.

Change course if instructional technology educators are using student computer time for keyboarding.

Keyboarding is something that requires individual practice, and not group instruction. Instructional technology educators would be better utilized if they shared and modeled different digital tools and technologies, and with each lesson, taught the responsibilities of using those tools and technologies. Those technology lessons and good cyber citizen values should then be amplified in regular classrooms. Forgetting them until the next computer lab, or for a week, is like returning an unread book from a locker to the library. Good intensions, but missed value and impact. Cyber citizenship and citizenship in general needs to be continuous priority schoolwide.

Administrators are a powerful resource for change here.

Simply a comment in the morning announcements or end of day makes a difference. Something like, “We’d like you to have a wonderful day today. Remember to be kind and courteous to everyone you know, and those you meet in person or in a cyber way today. Live your mission statements.” And sharing a line from one of those mission statements can’t hurt either. These shouldn’t be private. Maybe the administrator shares one, but possibly before the start of a class the teacher shares one. It doesn’t take long, and it can be done throughout the day. Students model missions for each other. Make sure that revisiting mission statements is in the plans as well. They should be as under construction as students’ knowledge and growth throughout the year, and throughout the grades. Furthermore, the lessons learned can continue for life.

Unified and continuous campaign

There are companies with product solutions that can be looked at for helping students understand cyberbullying, but making it a continuous schoolwide citizenship campaign is a must. Looking at it simply, if an lone teacher campaigns against students running in the halls—students will slow down near that teacher and run everywhere else. Schools and districts must be cyber citizen unified. Citizenship and now cyber citizenship needs to be woven into every class and every lesson, and extended to the home as well.

Make a dent in a positive way

I’m not sure whether there is anything that will work 100% against bullies of any kind, but lessons in citizenship and proper behavior for using digital tools by educators and parents can make a dent. It is not done in a day, a week or semester, and it is much more than a teaching moment.

Toshiba 3D: Front Row Seating Only


Toshiba-3d-regza-gl1Toshiba’s 3D glassesless 20GL1, 20-inch screen, and 12GL1, 12-inch screen displays may be a year ahead of the competition, but still haven't solved the front row, in your face seating requirements for standalone 3D technology.

There’s an IBM, Sony, and Sony Playstation technology in play here, so gamers, rather than students in classes will see value. The screens are purposely small, because the displays send the images at the right angles to the eyes without the help of glasses. Therefore, the angles have to be just right to get the best 3D effect, or even see the 3D effect at all. This won’t work in a classroom—at least not now. Students would have to be right in front of the screen. The 3D images diminish in quality outside that—smack in the center—optimal zone. Small screens that limit, or restrict seating aren’t best suited for kids in classrooms.

I really want to see this technology happen. There are so many possibilities for classroom 3D curriculum, but for now, it looks like the funny glasses are still the best way to pull it off. And even with the glasses there’s been talk of eye fatigue, and some headaches due to overuse—and overuse fatigue has been reported in under an hour—in some cases.

While it's not classroom-perfect yet, the technology is getting closer. I just don't think glassesless is there yet for classrooms. I doubt the price will be either.

Scholastic eReader Poll: Tech Survey?

Carrying Books 3 While it’s nice to have a few statistics, Scholastic’s recent results for an eReader poll of students shouldn’t be earth shattering, although it does bring up more questions than answers. Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 kids, ages 6-17 last spring. 25% of the students said they had read a book on a digital device, and 57% said they’d like to in the future. Only 6% of the parents surveyed had used an eReader. Just my opinion, but I’d check the parents again in light of the recent iPad craze. This poll is about more than just one gadget.

We should be talking about all digital devices that can be used for reading, right? Beyond books students should be reading digitally in school today, and not just on eReaders. If they are not, then the real news here should be the lack of digital devices for that purpose, and so much more, in the hands of students. I’d include, eReaders, tablets, netbooks, notebooks, desktop computers, thin client solutions, and even smartphones. Furthermore, any interactive device that can do that, such as whiteboards, slates, and other displays should be added to the list. This poll can be seen as another call to action for more technology for students. And, kids today are supposed to be further along technologically than their parents.

That should be part of the teaching and learning. That said, kids should continue curling up with real books—no batteries or backlight required, where the only heat generated is human. Whatever it takes to transport a child to a place where imagination sparks is OK in my book—paperback, hardcover, or digital.

Hands Down: Student Response Systems

ConveyAClick_CaseFull I’m not certain whether raising hands in class is completely out, and student clickers completely in, but the number of companies providing a student polling option is overwhelming. Let's take a look at clickers.

In a time when there’s software from companies like Turning Technologes, and online polling solutions like Poll Everywhere that can make any device from cell phones to laptops a student polling device, what is the magic in these little gadgets that makes most teachers want them for their students?

There are a few key factors, in my opinion, for the responder craze. First of all, they make a nice addition to traditional hand raising. Even clickers that are only voting-style devices, give all kids an opportunity to participate, without embarrassment, or need to be "on stage". If the clickers offer text responses, rather than just true/false, Yes/No, or letter options, quiet students gain a class voice. Right now, fingers and thumbs make the choices, which seems to be a natural for digital kids. (Voice and sound software should be considered for some students with visual or tactile difficulties.) So, responders are another puzzle piece in building an interactive classroom.

With teacher options that create immediate charts/graphs of successes, or clues to missed learning, the responders can do—on the fly, and while teaching—what had to be done during a prep, or over a day or more on teacher time. And best of all, if these babies are hooked into a grading, and then student information system (SIS), results can be reported immediately there, too.

It’s true, that at the very least, classes using responders would need a projector attached to a teacher’s computer, and at best, some sort of whiteboard solution for classroom interactivity, but the fact is that these response devices are teacher and kid friendly. Easy software recognition makes pushing buttons the only requirement beyond questions and answers.

Recently, I interviewed Jim Locascio, president of Dukane, long known as a technology system integrator company. “We went from carrying overheads into schools, to bringing in data projectors, and now our Convey response solution. It’s the first time we’ve built our own system.”

Take a look at these companies for Student Response Options (random order), and raise your hand if you have further questions!

Technology Training Unnecessary

Apple, and other companies that get user interface (UI) right, have taught us that if the tech is built easy Steve-jobs-ipad to use—it will be used—and with very little training required. Return on investment (ROI) is the bottom line for school districts. It leads to the sort of technology engagement I witnessed on the train today—and I’d like to see it in every classroom.

Training

Train1 So, I’m sitting on the train headed for Scholastic NYC. In front of me is a young girl, who is about 9, curled up. Her hands are clenched on ether side of a digital gadget. Her face is scrunched, with eyes squinting purposefully. I can’t see what she’s working on, but I know she is enjoying the involvement. Her sister is texting madly—frequently rolling her eyes and making hand gestures, as though her friends are right there. The cell phone slips, once, falling to the train aisle with a thud that wakes a snoozing rider. She scoops it from the aisle and resumes texting and arm swinging.

Seated right next to me is a short, and I hate to say it these days, elderly woman, enjoying the heck out of an iPad. She’s reading, pointing at the screen, and making choices. Every so often she giggles out loud—quite unintentionally—and without a care that anyone is listening.

During their digital playtime, the 9-year old switched to another device without skipping a beat, and the senior citizen answered her cell, talked a little business—all the time touching the iPad.

With a cell in each hand, I sat smiling.

Young pups and old dogs

Here’s the topper, the lady next to me finished her call, reached into her carrying bag and pulled out a bunch of wires and connectors, along with ear buds. She fired up the iPad, plugged in, and continued reading, pointing, giggling, and listening—controlling it all. Not quite an earth shattering caveman-using tools moment, but certainly I was observing young pups and old dogs headed down the same digital path.

Waiting

The multitude of devices out there hasn’t quite sifted into a reasonable pile, and I don’t think it will very soon. I do know that I’m waiting to see if the “Apple Killers” or more correctly, tablets and slates promised by companies, such as Asus, HP, and Dell become reality—soon. They are a bit overdue. I’m looking forward to seeing if Windows 7, or Android, or something else can work so seamlessly in a classroom—or for that matter—on a train.

Cost

I also know that the cost factor will be important. I’m not looking for a tag of $35, although that would be nice, but getting it under $200, and charging less for quantity purchases would be enough to spike super-human hearing in technology directors and integration specialists. It may also convince district administrators to spend a bit, too, in a time when keeping teachers in the classroom is the biggest priority. And if it's easy to use, ROI is that much better, because technology training is unnecessary.

Subway *Note: On my subway ride from Grand Central to SoHo, I also saw two young children hugging their mother as she shared a picture book—and it made me smile, too.

Microsoft Innovative Educators

Cheryl_Rawya_web Microsoft shines a spotlight on teachers throughout the year and specifically at the Innovative Educators Forum. Top innovative educators come together from around the world and a finalist from each country is selected to be a representative at the World forum. Cheryl Arnett from Sunset Elementary School in Craig, Colo., and Rawya Shatila from Maskassed Khalil Shehab School in Beirut, Lebanon, were recently selected to represent for their innovative work in international collaboration and will join nearly 500 other educators from 60 countries in South Africa this fall.

“We were able to make our classes virtual neighbors instead of strangers on the other side of the world,” says Shatila. “Using technology, we are developing our students into global citizens — it broadens their perspective.”

Arnett and Shatila’s project, Digital Stories: A Celebration of Learning and Culture, connected Arnett’s class of first- and second-graders in Craig, Colo., to Shatila’s second-graders in Beirut. The two educators, who had never met, used technologies such as wikis, blogs and online mapping tools to share stories and activities for helping students increase global awareness of similarities and differences between children from different countries.

Learn more about U. S. Partners in Learning, and more on Innovative Educators.

Congratulations to Cheryl Arnett, Rawya Shatila, and the other educators who are raising the bar higher for what’s possible, and bringing innovation into their classrooms!

Image Note: From left to right: Innovative Educators at the US Forum: Joe Goodwin from Myrtle Beach Elementary in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Cheryl Arnett from Sunset Elementary School in Craig, Colo.; Rawya Shatila from Maskassed Khalil Shehab School in Beirut, Lebanon; and Kathryn Starn from Myrtle Beach Elementary.

Shmoop Resources: Literature to Math

Shmoop1 Shmoop is an educator’s free resource dream. Oh yes, librarians love them, too. Shmoop has been around since 2008, and have racked up quite a few Internet awards. The name still makes me smile.

Its Learning Guides are digital, and you can search literature titles by number, alphabetical order, and author, too. Shakespeare has his own link, so he’d be happy about that—I’m sure. Other category breakdowns include Poetry, Best Sellers, Biography, U.S. History, Civics, Economics, and Music. It even has overviews in Spanish. All are accessible from an easy-to-use link menu.

Educators, who are PhD students from Stamford, Harvard and UC Berkeley, write Shmoop learning guides. They’re very well done, and fun, too. The resources are available as iPhone Apps, for Android devices, and eBook readers.

Note: Getting graduate students to do this type of work has been common practice elsewhere, especially in start-ups developed at universities. In Connecticut, UCONN has been quite successful launching businesses in this way.

What’s New Shmoop?

Shmoop Does the Math is a free online pre-algebra curriculum—just launched. Yep, the literature and humanities barrier has been breeched, and according to Ellen Siminoff, CEO of Shmoop, “We’ll do whatever it takes to make math understandable and fun for students.” My suspicion is that Shmoop will continue to expand its middle school curriculum. In my book, that’s good for educators and great for kids. Wonder if a line of Shmoop characters will be next!

Check out Shmoop at http://www.shmoop.com.

Web 2.0 for All

WEB 2010 Getting a majority of teachers to use technology and Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms and with their students—beyond the few that have figured it out on their own—remains a puzzle. I constantly hear from those who know and preach Web 2.0 that they continue to say the same thing over and over—and that the ranks of classroom users just doesn’t increase as fast as they’d like, or think it should. My answer to them is that it’s an on-going effort, and that saying the same thing, again and again, in different ways—helps.

In a short time, Web 2.0 possibilities have exploded in numbers available, but the problem of getting staff to buy in, and become tech users has remained the same. I remember that my problem—years ago—was simply a need to get useful video-lesson supplements in my classrooms—easily presented as part of daily lessons. While a few others and I could create, upload, and share our own, it was unrealistic to ask an entire staff to learn how. Teachers didn’t have the time, and neither did I. And, while I was proud of my original short videos, there was so much more needed. It was not easy to do, and I couldn’t be an expert in all subject areas either.

I solved the problem for the district and me by enlisting help from United Streaming, which became Discovery Education. I was able to create logins for all my staff, Discovery offered searchable video choices, and I could keep track of usage—and help those who specifically needed the help. My staff became experts, and began using their teacher stations computers and presentation equipments daily. One school led to use in all schools. I thought it was completely reasonable to ask all staff to use it.

Today, I revisited Discovery Education online to see what an instructional technology specialist might find if searching for ways to safely, impact Web 2.0 tool usage with staff—in a big way. Well, it looks like Discovery Education Network (DEN) has come a long way since my streaming-video solution needs.

I know that it’s a kick for tech-savvy educators to figure out free Web 2.0 tools and material, but every educator is not cast from the same mold. Most don’t have the time, and certainly most don’t have the skills to play for hours to hunt, modify, and refine a digital teaching technique. Discovery Education’s Web 20.10 (http://web2010.discoveryeducation.com/) has gathered ideas and the most useable Web 2.0 teaching applications in one place. So, if you get five minutes to share anything tech at the opening of school, or future faculty meeting—make it Discovery Education’s Web 20.10. I’m not sure if it will get all your staff Web 2.0 revved up, but it certainly will capture more singers for your Web 2.0 choir.

And for all those creative Web 2.0 masters out there, don't give up on sharing, continue to build the base, and share what you know in your own personal learning networks. Staff and kids need to learn from you!

Check Discovery Education Web 20.10 for yourself, school, and district: http://web2010.discoveryeducation.com/

Interactive Classroom: Easy or Custom Fit

Compgirl1 One technology product does not an interactive classroom make. So, how do districts get there? It might be best to start with the “Easy” and “Custom” perspectives.

I do remember, years ago, as an instructional technology specialist arguing the need to coordinate the right hardware with the right software, and then throwing my hands in the air in frustration to get one thing—a hardware or software—to at least make a dent in my school technology plans. I know that still happens, but today it's an absolute necessity for all educators and administrators to consider a suite or array of products that build an interactive solution, and not just one, out-of-context puzzle part.

While a complete solution can come from one education supplier, it doesn’t have to, as long as what you patchwork together is of a coordinated design and it works together. Many companies offer their own whiteboard, software, document camera, student response systems, software, and online teacher/student communities. Some of those products might be OEM, where a company acquires a product from another manufacturer and incorporates it into their product line as their own. Anyway, you could, if you wanted to, stick with one company for many interactive solutions, which pretty much guarantees they’ll work together in some sort of classroom and teaching harmony. Or, you could pick and choose the best for your purposes from different companies.

Choosing the best from different companies is more of a custom choice, and requires more knowledge—just like choosing “easy install” over “custom” when installing new computer software. Many go with the easy install. That said, when custom is done right, by tech personnel and the educators, who will use the equipment with students, it could be a symphony. After all, if you get netbooks you like from one company for your 4th and 5th graders, getting tablets for your middle schoolers from another company may pay off. It just depends on your plan.

Today, most companies not only get that they need to provide online communities for teachers and kids, beyond just being commercial statements, but most also understand that their products and software need to work with their competitors’ models. This doesn’t diminish company pride, or company competition—they’re still trying to launch the newest and greatest technology—first. It’s just good business to say your product is compatible with existing school equipment.

Those with less expertise may want to do the “easy install”, and those with more expertise—the “custom”. And if your technology planning committee needs help deciding, most education marketplace vendors have experts that can create the interactive technology blueprint to fit.

Note: The August/September, back to school issue of Scholastic Administrator, features a Guide to Interactive Classroom Solutions. It will appear in print and online.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.