Nov 20, 2012

Nov 9, 2012

Students with Email, Part I

Our students have another tool to facilitate learning and communication! All Greenwich students in grades 5 through 8 have student email accounts activated and ready to use.

Below are some of the guidelines that have been reviewed with students to help them make appropriate choices when communicating with others. I have taken great pains to help them see that whether face-to-face or in the digital realm,  we must present ourselves in a way that will ensure that we an our ideas will be taken seriously. Through email (and wikis, blogs, chats, notes, presentations, etc.) we as teachers have an opportunity to help students develop positive and productive communication habits.
  • Rules: School rules and the district's Acceptable Use Policy apply. Our words and actions will demonstrate respect for people, resources and laws.
  • Academic use only. Like all things provided by the school, email accounts are to be used for educational purposes. Communications should enhance learning, not distract.
  • Know your audience. Since our goals are focused on training students to become literate, responsible and effective communicators, the expectation is that all messages will be comprised of complete and coherent thoughts that make use of appropriate grammar, capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
  • Leave home at home. Students have been informed that this will be the only email account they will check while at school, and it is the only email account they will use to contact teachers and staff.
  • SPAM is not cool. Sending off-topic messages to individuals or groups is both annoying and inappropriate.
  • Think before you send. Treat one another with respect, even when there is a disagreement.  Choose words carefully.  Do not share anything that has been shared in confidence. When you feel that a line has been crossed, share the message with a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, or principal.

Students will benefit greatly through regular practice, both formal and informal. The format of your reply will demonstrate what is appropriate and acceptable. Here are just a few ways that email can benefit student learning:
  • Students can contact you for clarification on assignments or lessons while the questions are fresh.
  • Students can contact each other for clarification on assignments, guidelines or homework.
  • You can send individual or groups of students notes, reminders, study helps, templates.
  • Students can send you digital copies of their work, a response to a hot question, or a link to a site related to classroom study.
  • Students have another way to share data or projects when collaborating with one another.
  • Students can email themselves assignments, documents, notes, reminders, and anything else that they will need to transport between home and school. No more lost or corrupted USB drives.
  • Students can associate their school email account with other school provided web accounts, facilitating login/password reminders.

Looking ahead... 
Part II: tips to help manage the influx of student messages.
Part III: our students' ideas on how email can be used to benefit academics, productivity and safety at school.

Nov 8, 2012

Cool Tool: Text2MindMap

Text2MindMap is a simple outline-to-visualization tool. It is free to use, displays no advertising, and does not require a login.

How simple is it?  Type text in the box, tap the tab key to delineate outline levels, click Draw Mind Map and see a visualization of your ideas. The beauty of this tool is that students will spend more time grappling with ideas than they will learning the technology. The screen shot on the right shows the beginnings of research on chocolate (click to enlarge).

A drawn mind map can be customized.  Each level, branch and box can be moved, helpful since some boxes tend to overlap.  Other customization options: font size and color; box color (by level and branch); line color, width and style.

Completed visualizations can be downloaded as a PDF or PNG (image). Students can then email you a copy of their visualization as an attachment. The outline and visualization can also be saved on Text2MinMap's server (email address required).  Once saved you are provided two links: one leads to an editable page, the other to a read only version.  Share the link to the editable page to invite group brainstorming (as an example, you are invited to brainstorm uses for this tool). You (or your students) can also share a read only link so viewers can see both the outline and visualization.

How can this help students learn? Individually or as a group, you or your students can:
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Take notes on a topic
  • Visualize an outline for an essay
  • Outline an article or section of a text (fiction or informational)
  • Create a visual thesaurus entry for a vocabulary item
  • Create a visual dictionary for Word Study sorts
  • Chart character relationships
  • Analyze traits of characters, functions, or concepts
  • Demonstrate a process
  • Create a KWHL chart (see screen shot above) to aid in research
  • Create and share an outline template
  • Construct a timeline of events

There are many more ways Text2MindMap can be used to creatively support student learning.  To share your ideas, visit "How to use Text2MindMap in the Classroom"! (Be sure to click Save Changes after adding your thoughts.)

Nov 6, 2012

Help from an "Expert"

Teachers who are planning a class project and need "expert" volunteers are invited to post project ideas on the new Virtual Volunteer area at . Digital Wish connects classroom teachers with "expert" volunteers by video conference. Throughout the school year, Digital Wish will be recruiting employees of large corporations, entrepreneur networks, and many scientific associations to have their members volunteer to help educators with their class projects.  There is no cost for this program, it is completely free for classroom teachers and their supporters.

A big caution for anyone interested in using this: there is a reason "expert" is shown in quotes. Digital Wish does not list a vetting process, nor is there any clear way to be sure the volunteer would be appropriate for your class. I hope that as the program grows there will be additional tools to help teachers make a decision for their classroom.


Nov 5, 2012

November Webinars

Below are just some of the free webinars on education, technology and teaching available to you this month. Most require pre-registration, most make archives available to those who pre-register, some offer CE certificates.

Many of the below webinars are from the edWeb community. If you haven't visited this site you must! The edWeb is a social networking website that makes is easy for anyone in the education community to connect with peers, share information and best practices, spread innovative ideas, and provide professional development.  The edWeb provides an easy and intuitive Web 2.0 platform that includes blogs, discussions, file-sharing, shared calendars, wikis, live chat, messaging, polling, and shared links. Accounts are free and do not come with the annoying spam or friend requests common to many social networking sites.

To participate in a webinar you will need: an internet connected computer, headphones or speakers, and a microphone if you wish to ask questions (you can also type your questions or comments in the chat). Some webinars require advance registration, check the details ahead of webinar time.

The Mixer and MoreIn September, BrainPOP introduced the Mixer, designed to help you remix and create your own BrainPOP-style quizzes. Join us as we show you how to get started with this new tool and begin creating customized assessments that are tailored specifically to your students' needs. We'll also discuss the new ways BrainPOP Educators has simplified your search for relevant teaching resources and made your planning process easier. (November 7, 3pm)

A Virtual History Trip to the Smithsonian: Archives, Images, Educational Resources, and More!: SimpleK12 webinar. Have you ever wished you could take your students back in time on a virtual field trip? Or have you ever wanted to explore the Smithsonian without leaving your classroom? This webinar will take you on a trip around the Smithsonian Institution Archives to help uncover both the archives and the stories behind the collections. Discover historical images, articles, drawings, and documents, as well as oral and video history collections that have been digitized so they are available to all. (November 7, 3:30pm)

Transgressive play: How games invite kids to break the rules and why it's great for learning:  edWeb webinar, Game-Based Learning group, co-hosted by and the Education Division of Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).  Sponsored by BrainPOP, uBoost, and the USC Rossier School of Education. Presenter: Marjee Chmiel, instructional technology specialist and game designer. (November 7, 4pm)

10 Thanksgiving Activities to Engage Learners: SimpleK12 webinar. Thanksgiving is a great time to get students learning about citizenship and teamwork. Thanksgiving can also be a great time to teach students about other cultures and to spark their creativity! In this webinar, we will discover 10 fun learning activities associated with the holiday. Join Shelly Terrell as she explores some great web tools and apps associated with Thanksgiving. (November 8, 3pm)

Globally Connected Classrooms: Two Case Studies of Literacy and Culture through Digital Learning: edWeb Webinar, Digital Media for Social Learning group, sponsored by ePals.  Presented by Nancy N. Charron, EdD, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Southern New Hampshire University, and Adina Popa, Technology Resource Teacher for Steuart Weller Elementary School and International Ambassador for Loudoun County Public Schools. (November 8, 5pm)

What’s in Your Digital Tackle Box? Building a Multimedia Presentation: Discovery Education webinar. So you have all these fancy, colorful “lures” like video segments, online games, interactives and more. How do you pull them together into an engaging, effective lesson for your students? Using one of the new model lessons on the Explore the Blue website, we’ll show you how to build a media-infused, non-linear presentation that hooks your students so you can reel them into the content. Tools to be covered include PowerPoint and Prezi. (November 8, 7pm)

Fractions Focus Part 3: Multiplication and Division Fraction Operations: edWeb webinar, Implementing Common Core Standards in Math group, sponsored by ETA hand2mind. (November 13, 4pm)

What's the 4-1-1: Teachers, Technology, and the Common Core: Discovery Education webinar. Join us as we discuss 4 Strategy Spotlights, 1 educational program, and our trending topic Common Core. Ready or not here it comes! The Common Core transition has arrived. What does this mean and how will it impact teaching and learning for you and your students? Join us as we examine practical strategies for using digital content and technologies to engage students in today’s 21st Century classrooms. We'll go hands on to begin developing a Common Core model lesson you can take back for next school year. Session concepts and ideas include the integration of Common Core focused content, pedagogy best practices, and effective use of instructional technology to improve learning for all students. (November 13, 7pm)

Free, Fun, and Cool Alternatives to PowerPoint: edWeb webinar, TechTools for the Classroom: Easy Ideas to Engage Students group, Rosetta Stone and USC Rossier School of Education. Presented by Shannon J. Holden, a high school and middle school teacher and administrator who loves technology and helping teachers learn easy ways to use free tools in the classroom. Are you and your students tired of the same old PowerPoint?  Did you know that there are many free, fun, and cool alternatives to this antiquated presentation tool?  Not only are these tools free, you can import your tired PowerPoint slides into these tools to take your presentation to another level!  Join Shannon for a tour of his favorite presentation tools – Photo Peach, Prezi, Impressr, and ZohoShow.  These tech tools will rekindle your passion for presentations! (November 13th, 5pm)

Students as Curators: Managing New Information in the Digital Classroom: Discovery Education webinar.  Each year the amount of published information continues to expand at a staggering pace. From books and periodicals to web-based content, it’s easy for students to get lost in this information explosion. How can we manage what our students view on the web? What tools allow students to only keep only relevant information that helps them to understand new content? Join us as we explore a new category of web-based tools, tools for curating information, and see how these tools allow students to work together. (November 13, 8pm)

Differentiating With BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr.This week, we welcome staff from New York City’s Churchill School, dedicated to helping students with learning disabilities. Technology integrator Wendy Semsel and her colleagues will discuss best practices for using BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. in their unique setting. This is a great webinar for teachers working with special needs and mainstreamed students alike. (November 14, 4pm)

Myth Busted: DE is Only for Teachers: Discovery Education webinar. Myth Busted: Discovery Education is for students, too. Gather your class and join us as we launch into Discovery Education for students. We’ll check out how easy it is to research that report due on Monday, download a video to help with tomorrow’s homework and explore all kinds of cool stuff your students can access through Discovery Education. (November 20, 1pm)

The 8 Step Process for Do It Yourself PD: Budgets are tight and time is more valuable than ever. But today, professional learning and being on the cutting edge of technology as well as teaching is vital for educators like you and me. Find out how this 8-step process can help you build your personal learning network, be part of a community of likeminded educators, and bring your teaching practice into the 21st Century. You'll also get a sneak peek into our 12-week, fast track eCourse - PLP Lite - 12 weeks of connected learning. (November 20, 7pm)

Discovery Education Builders 101: Discovery Education webinar. The Discovery Education Builders webinar provides an introduction to our unique services for building assignments, writing prompts, quizzes, and science assessments. Learn to select from provided content and add your own to create exactly the assignments your students need. Put the power of Discovery Education to work for you to create engaging, relevant, and rigorous experiences. (November 26, 7pm)

Aligning Goals and Objectives with Online Activities in Your Online Course or Community: edWeb webinar, Keys to Successful Online Learning and Community-Building group, sponsored by EdTech Leaders Online. Presented by Liz Farmer and Laura Sampson. ETLO is a non-profit national, capacity building, research-based online learning program. ETLO works with states, districts, virtual schools, colleges, and universities, and other educational organizations to enable them to build successful online and blended learning programs for teachers, administrators, and students. (November 27, 3pm)

Social Networking for Schools: edWeb webinar, LMC @ The Forefront: A Collaborative Community for Library/Media Professionals group, sponsored by Library Media Connection. Presented by Steven M. Baule, MLS, PhD, superintendent of North Boone Community Unit School District 200 in Poplar Grove, IL, and Julie E. Lewis, Esq., partner with Scariano, Himes & Petrarca, Chtd., Chicago, IL, where she concentrates her practice in school and municipal law. (November 27, 4pm)

Using Your iPad Effectively in a One iPad Classroom: SimpleK12 webinar. Are you struggling to find ways to effectively use your single iPad in a classroom full of students? If you think that iPads are only useful if all your students have them - think again! This webinar will show how you can effectively use a single iPad for your entire class. Join Melissa Mann as she offers suggestions, tips, tricks, and a few apps that are applicable to any K-8 classroom with only one iPad. (November 27, 4pm)

What are The 5E's and How Do They Fit into My Social Studies Classroom?: Discovery Education webinar. Do you want to Engage your students as they Explore social studies through digital media in conjunction with primary resources? We will Explain how digital media can change the way you teach social studies, Elaborate on how digital media can be utilized to meet the needs of every student, and Evaluate student progress through social studies concepts. (November 27, 7pm)

Working with Families: edWeb webinar, Teaching Students with Autism: Effective Strategies for Grades PreK-5 group, sponsored by USC Rossier School of Education. Speaker: Nina Finkler. This is a collaborative community where educators can learn strategies and discover new ideas and resources to support the academic, social, recreational, and life skills needs of students with autism. (November 28, 4pm)

Troubleshooting the Common Core: Scholastic webinar.What challenges are teachers facing in implementing Common Core? Exactly what does the shift in the level of thinking and engagement the Common Core requires mean for student practice and performance? Join Francie Alexander from Scholastic as well as Dr. Eugenia Mora-FLores and Dr. Angela “Laila” Hasan from Rossier School of Education to discover tools and approaches that will help you adapt your current curricula to the Common Core State Standards and to shift your teaching focus to support your students in meeting the new standards. (November 28, 4pm)

Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Emphasizing Strengths in Students with Special NeedsedWeb webinar, The Brain and Learning group, sponsored by USC Rossier School of Education. Presenter: Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, and author of the forthcoming book Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Achieve Success in School and Life. (November 29, 4pm)

Nov 2, 2012

Before/After Sandy Images

ABC News Australia has prepared interactive images of the New Jersey coastline before and after the recent storm. Hover over each image with your mouse, moving left to right to see the damages and alterations to the coastline. Click the image below to view Brick Township, Ortley Beach, Mantoloking, Atlantic City, Ocean City and other locations.