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Closing Thoughts

Curious little girl 5k uid Wow.  It doesn't seem possible, yet here we are at the end of another school year.  As Gayle and I wrap up this year's Scholastic Tech Tutors blog, I'd like to share my two final thoughts.

Thought #1: Take time to share

It's been said that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.  While that's certainly true, I'd add that the best way to refine your learning is to write about it and share that writing with a global audience. Being able to share ideas and thoughts with you here on the Tech Tutors Blog has strengthened my own instructional practice and made me even more aware of the importance of collaboration.  Knowing that others were reading and using the ideas we shared here meant that Gayle and I spent a great deal of time talking, researching, and thinking about which technology tools and ideas were worthy of your time.  I hope we've given you new resources to help you in your classroom and perhaps even sparked a couple of new ideas to energize your lessons.

Even more that that, I'd love to think that you've considered sharing your own best ideas and practices. Perhaps you've done that by leaving a comment here during the year. If so, we thank you. Perhaps you've shared a favorite lesson on Scholastic's TeacherShare. If so, we congratulate you.  Or maybe, you've been inspired to start your own podcastblog or website.  If so, we look forward to learning from you.

Thought #2: Try something new

For me, this year has included many opportunities to stretch my learning in new directions while helping others do the same.  I've assisted teachers and students in my school as they created podcasts for publication. I've worked with our faculty as we rolled out a laptop 1:1 program to 150 freshmen students. I've even had the chance to attend and present at several conferences and work as an online mentor.

This summer, I hope to continue the trend and spend time learning something new.  I've put together an online list of books on education and technology (as well as a few fictional finds) that I plan to read. As I do, I'll be reflecting about what I learn on my own blog. I hope you'll do the same and share your learning with us.

I'm also diving into a new project with fellow EdTech guru Tom Woodward which is designed to help teachers brainstorm and design engaging lessons. Called Iron Teacher, it's all about bringing together cutting edge educators with sharp ideas to infuse new life into traditional lesson design. We're still in the beginning stages, but I hope you'll join in the fun.

And so, as we close out another school year, we want to say thank you for spending time here with us.  We're honored to have been a part of your classroom.

Summer Learning

Summerlearn  This wraps up my Tech Tutor blog entries for this year. Michelle will write one more next week.  We hope we'll be back next year.  I have learned that blogging takes time, but really helps me reflect and concentrate on my learning.

Throughout the summer break many teachers and students often have time to expand their own personal learning. They may choose to travel, read or take classes. Many teachers spend time on their own learning new skills. If they are like me, they will learn a new technology skill. I will be learning Logic Pro this summer.

Just having a little extra time to explore websites is often a goal of many teachers and students. So here are some of my favorite websites to explore. Teachers can explore lesson plans on Scholastic's TeacherShare. They can learn new software or new skills from Atomic Learning. The social network Classroom 2.0 offers a plethora of ideas and resources to explore. One of the posts includes 100 Free Web Tools for Elementary Teachers. I think that all levels could use these web tools. Summer is a great time to catch up on listening to podcasts. My new favorite one is Always On. Michelle Bourgeois and Katie Morrow produce this podcast. I have learned a lot from it. You can subscribe to other podcasts using iTunes, load them on your iPod and listen to them while you are camping, floating on the lake or walking. You can also watch ideas from Teacher Tube. Start your own blog or ning and keep track of your summer learning. When the kids ask "What did you do this summer?" You can have them read what you did.

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Get Out(doors)!

DSC00672_2 The school days are winding down and the weather is getting warmer.  It seems like a perfect time to teach students to appreciate the great outdoors!  Here are some of my favorite nature-themed ideas and web resources that can carry students through the last weeks of school and even into the summer.

What's in a name? 
Teach your students to classify and identify the plants and animals they see around them.  If your school will allow it, think about putting a bird feeder somewhere on your campus.  Have students use the website What Bird to identify the name and hear the call of the birds they see. You can even have students create charts and graphs to measure the number of visits by different species and then use that information in a math lesson.  If birds aren't your thing, do a similar activity with insects and plants on campus.  The eNature Field Guides site makes it easy to identify a plant, insect, or animal by listing its characteristics.

To see even more animals from other habitats, check out the PBS American Field Guide for videos of animals from around the country. 

After an afternoon of exploring the schoolyard, have students imagine that they are great explorers on expedition. Share images and text from the Lewis and Clark Field Journals published online by the University of Nebraska, then ask students to write descriptive paragraphs about their plant and animal finds.  It's a great way to encourage the use of descriptive adjectives as they share the identifying features of their discoveries.

Grow for a cause
A fun way to carry learning through the summer is by starting plants from seed in the classroom. Even better, you can grow plants for a cause you and your students are interested in supporting.  LiveMonarch is a non-profit foundation where you can request a packet of milkweed seeds to plant on your property and help provide habitat and food for monarch butterflies.  To help your students learn more about the life cycle of a butterfly, you can even "Adopt a Butterfly" on the site and receive regular emails as your adoptee goes from egg to adult.

In another venture taking place across the country, gardeners are participating in the Plant a Row program to help feed the needy.  If you'd like to participate with your students, think about starting a garden on your campus and donating part of the produce to a local food bank.  You'll benefit the local community by filling a need while also giving students a chance to learn more about plants and how they grow. Got a great idea for a school-based garden, but lack the funds for seeds?  Tomato Bob donates seeds to schools each year - visit the site to fill out an online form describing your project to apply.

How do you use technology to teach students to appreciate the great outdoors? Share your ideas with us!

Technology in an Australian Classroom

G'Day Mates!

I just returned from two weeks in Australia. No, I won't bore you with my 1200 digital photos. But I would like to tell you about one of the best technology experiences I had. Yes, I even travel thinking about technology. And yes, I also brought my laptop to Australia.

DSC_0062 I had a meeting about technology with Brett Moller, Head of Learning and Educational Technologies at  Kings Christian College on the Gold Coast. Then I was able to watch his students, who were in the process of producing music videos over a few weeks time period. I liked the way Brett set up the class. Physically he arranged the classroom with a boardroom table in the middle and computers around the perimeter of the room. Academically he set up the class to mirror a business structure. Each group was given a budget to produce their music video. Within this budget they needed to rent the video camera. This helped the students realize that they needed to be detailed in their planning so that they could afford to get all of their filming completed.

Continue reading "Technology in an Australian Classroom" »

Google Search Secrets

Student_search So, if you're like most web-savvy teachers, you probably use a Google Search several times a day.  But, how Google-smart are you?  Here are a couple of tips and tricks that can make you into a Google Guru!

Tip 1: Use Google as a Calculator
If you type an equation into the Google search box, instead of a website, you'll find that your first search result is the answer to your calculation! Use an asterisk (*) for multiplication, a slash (/) for division, a carat (^) for powers and the abbreviation sqrt for square roots. You can even add parenthesis to an equation. Try this one to see how it works:

Tip 2: Use Google to help with unit conversions
Quick! How many miles are in a 10K race? What's 75°F in Celsius?  You can type these questions into Google to find the results fast.  To do so, type in the conversion like so:
10 kilometers in miles

75 degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius

Tip 3: Search a specific domain
Ever been frustrated because you *know* a page is somewhere on a site, but you can't seem to find it?  Use Google to search a specific site or to limit your search to a specific domain by starting your search with site:
For example, to find the two posts on the Tech Tutors blog that mention NASA, you'd type the following into a Google Search:
NASA site:blogs.scholastic.com/tech_tutors

Continue reading "Google Search Secrets" »

Innovative Teaching and Technology Summit

Picture 1 Today, I spent the day learning from and with teachers from the Escambia County, Florida school district during their first Innovative Teaching and Technology Summit (ITTS).  The day's workshop sessions revolved around interesting and practical tips for using technology in the classroom. 

In the opening session, Kate Kemker, Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Instruction and Innovation, shared information on a program going on across the state today.  The Florida Student Voices Program is designed as a way for students to share their thoughts about learning through podcasting.  In locations from Pensacola to Tampa, teachers and students came together to share why they think "Learning is Cool."

Dr. Larry Anderson, the luncheon keynote speaker, gave teachers a talk on how learning networks can bring together learners from all over the world. His concluding remarks touched on how it only takes one person committed to change and willing to recruit others to transform the world.  To make his point, he built an activity around the video "Free Hugs" that had teachers out of their seats and smiling!

Concurrent sessions were varied and covered topics such as Technology in Music, Personal Learning Networks, and Geocaching.  One session I was very interested in covered how teachers are using Second Life as a professional development tool. I discovered that while Second Life may look like all fun and games, there are regular workshops and lecture sessions from speakers that all happen in the virtual world. You can learn more about the ideas that Lori Weedo and Lauren Thurman shared by visiting their blog "Second Life Educators of Escambia County."  In addition, you can see notes and slides from my presentations on Digital Storytelling, Meeting Learner Needs, and Learning Networks here

All in all, it was a great day of learning that left me with lots of great ideas!  The best part of the day was being able to meet with so many innovative educators who were willing to share their best ideas with others.

Have you been to a great workshop recently or gotten a new idea from a colleague? Share something you've learned today!

Social Bookmarking

Bookmarking How many times have you found a website that you really like and you bookmark it on your computer? Then later when you aren't around your computer, you tell someone else about the site and don't know the URL.  You may also have the problem of too many bookmarks that aren't organized somehow. Social bookmarking is a solution that may help you.

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April Showers Bring May Flowers and Other Poetry

Tulips Michelle's blog last week got me thinking about poetry. I remember not liking poetry when I was in school. April Showers Bring May Flowers used to be my favorite poem. But once I started teaching first and second grade and needed to teach the genre, I fell in love with it. I found poems that kids loved and taught them how to write their own poems. My class also decided that they needed to record some of their poems and share them online.

When I was looking for poetry samples, themes, poetic forms or poet interviews I checked out The Children's Poetry Archive, Scholastic's poetry, Poetry Teachers, Poetry4Kids and Poetry Foundation. I also looked at poetry lessons online. I really liked using Giggle Poetry and Jack Prelutsky's poems with students. Silly poems are my favorite.

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National Poetry Month

Young red hired girl uid 14 Each year, during the month of April, the Academy of American Poets hosts National Poetry Month.  It's a month-long celebration of the art and beauty of poetry and the role it plays in American literature. Here are some ways you can bring the celebration into your classroom!

Idea #1: Read a Poem

There are lots of great poetry sources out there, but one that's especially good this month is straight from Poets.org.  By visiting the site, you can sign up to receive a poem in your email inbox every day during the month of April. The poems vary in theme and level, but are probably most appropriate for middle and high school readers.  For elementary age students, have fun exploring the poetry of Shel Silverstein and  Jack Prelutsky at their websites.  Both have lots of colorfully animated poems and activities to explore.

For interesting visual poems, check out the Graphic Poetry site. The combination of striking photography with free-verse poems is something that might inspire your students to create their own!

Idea #2 Write a Poem

Get your students involved in writing poetry with tools and resources from across the web. A good starting point is from the National Council of Teachers of English with their Read•Write•Think online activities and interactive tools. Students can write an Acrostic PoemDiamante, or even create a Shape Poem with support and guidance right on the site. When students are ready to write independently, send them to the Poetry Rhyming Dictionary and Thesaurus to help them brainstorm for rhyming words.  

Idea #3 Share a Poem

This year, Thursday, April 30 is "Poetry in Your Pocket Day" where poetry enthusiasts are encouraged to carry a poem with them to share with others.  Have students select a favorite poem and then create bookmarks or postcards to share with others that day.  For the Poetry in Your Pocket celebration a few years ago, my students and I designed stickers with lines from their favorite poems.  Students then traded stickers with others all day until they had a collection of stickers and a list of new poems to read!

Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky formed the Favorite Poetry Project in 1997 to help others share the poems they love. By visiting the site you can see Americans from all walks of life on video as they read or recite the poems they love best.  For even more poetry reading pleasure, check out the audio library on the Poets.org website where they've collected over 300 author interviews and poetry readings.

At my school, our Creative Writing students are getting into the poetry mania by writing and publishing their best poetry in video form. Travis Brown, Creative Writing teacher, worked with his students to select the best poetry from their portfolios and then had students work in teams to develop visual interpretations.  Every week this month they'll publish an new example of their work. Check out their first entry, titled Time, on our school podcast channel.

For more ideas on teaching with poetry, check out the Scholastic Poetry site where you can participate in poetry workshops with renowned authors as well as find lesson plans and activities to make every day of April into poetic perfection!

Discovery Liftoff

DiscoveryLaunch On March 15 I was in Orlando, Florida giving a presentation at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Conference. Integrating the Internet into the Primary Classroom links can be found here. After I finished my presentation, my husband and I drove east to catch the Space Shuttle Discovery's liftoff. Since we're from Minnesota, not Florida, we hadn't anticipated the traffic also heading to watch the liftoff. I used our GPS to find back roads which weren't very crowded. We pulled over to the side of the road where there was a clearing three minutes before liftoff. My husband grabbed the video camera and I grabbed my Nikon D60.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tutors "Supporting Teachers Use of Technology" are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.