Archive for November, 2011

I ran across this info-graphic this morning, and I will be using it with all of my students in the near future. One of the struggles that students have in doing any type of search on the internet is knowing how to phrase words so they get relevant results. Just yesterday, I was working with students in my research class, and many of them were typing in questions in complete sentences. This is after I have told them and shown them on numerous occasions how to use search phrases with key words.

This info-graphic on how to perform Google searches might just be the ticket. I doubt it will solve all student search woes, but it is a great reference, one of those places to send students when they need reminded of how to use a search engine effectively.

I have embedded the poster below, or click here for the home page and embed links.

Get more out of Google
Created by: HackCollege


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Face it, many students need a little extra help when it comes to reading, especially when reading the language found in older books. One effective strategy to help students better understand a text is to have them follow along in a book while listening to a recording. This gives them reading practice, but will also help them access the text, which is a big challenge for many students.

One of my go-to resources when looking for free recordings of books is the Librivox library. Currently, there are over 5,000 recordings on the Librivox library site with more being added all the time.  All recordings in the library are recorded and held in the public domain meaning that there are no restrictions on how they are used. Stories on the site can be downloaded and used at the total discretion of the user.

When using recordings, I always like to download them directly to the computer. This way, if there is an issue with the internet on the day I want to use them, I don’t have to worry. There is also now worry of having to wait for the recordings to buffer as they are streaming. This may not be a concern if working in a place with fast internet, for many schools, it is still the reality.

Here is a sampling of some of the audio books that can be found in the library:

Like I wrote earlier, this is just a few of the over 5,ooo recordings in the library. This is one of those sites to bookmark and check when the need arises.


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I think that watching a full length movie is a total waste of time as an instructional tool. I just don’t see much point in having students zombify in front of a movie screen for an hour an a half or longer when they already spend a lot of time doing this over the course of a week. This is not to say that video is not a useful tool. Length seems to be the key.

Short clips and short films are an excellent strategy to get students engaged in a lesson without wasting time. I especially like videos that are in the 3-5 minute range. This is just long enough to make the students want more, but that length will not put many students to sleep (notice I said many!). These short video can pique a students interest and make a point that will be remembered in the future.

As with anything used for instruction. make sure that there is a reason for what is being shown. Having students watch a video just to make them laugh or kill time doesn’t do anybody any good.

Today in class, we watched Liquid Mountaineering, a great viral video produced last year by the shoe company Hi-Tec. The video shows a group guys running on water. It is set up as an extreme sport video, and the students were instantly sucked in by the thought of running on water. We watched the video once, and then I asked students what they thought. Invariably in each class, one or two students were skeptical, though most were instant believers. We talked about their concerns for a minute. Then I had the students watch the video again, looking closely for anything that looked funny or amiss. Believe me, they were all into it. I thought some of them were going to fall into the screen.

Once the video was over, we started talking Shakespeare. I know what your thinking: “What in the world does this have to do with Shakepeare?” It is a valid concern.

The lesson today was on parody in Shakespeare’s sonnets. We discussed how sometimes things are not what they seem. By looking at something for face value, sometimes we miss what is really happening. I explained to students that reading Shakespeare is the same as what was happening in the video. There is usually a lot going on underneath whether it be words or water.

Looking back at the lesson today, I really think it was a success.

The video was short, just over 3 minutes long, so a lot of time was not eaten up watching the screen. However, after watching the video, the students were into the conversation, and engaged for the rest of class.

If you haven’t used a Youtube video to engage students in a lesson, try it today. I would dare say that many of your favorite videos can be used in the classroom to teach a variety of concepts no matter what subject you teach. Even if the video is not totally related, make a decent connection and go with it. It will spice up your lesson and engage the students in what you have to teach them.

If you haven’t seen Liquid Mountaineering yet, here it is. Find a way to use it in your own classroom.


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This blog post is for especially for administrators. If you are one, read it. If you know one, send it to her (or him).

I ran across an interesting page today written by Sally Bowman Alden on the Christian School Products website. Alden posted 5 ways to make sure that teacher are trained and feel comfortable with using technology in the classroom. Here are the guidelines she posted.

1. Provide incentives and support for teacher training.

2. Provide teacher directed instruction.

3. Provide teachers adequate access to technology.

4. Create community partnerships.

5. Provide informal support and training opportunities.

These are all great points. How is your school doing in helping teachers to become trained in the use of technology in the classroom?

Alden does a great job on her site of laying out exactly what each of these points mean and how to go about making each possible in your school. Click here to read more of what Bowman has to say.



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This past week I was asked the following question by an administrator that went something like this: “How do you know when you are teaching students what they need to know (according to the state standards) and when you are teaching them how to use technology?”

I think this is an excellent question, one that every educator should look at, especially those who love technology. This is something that I think about all the time when preparing activities for the classroom. I would have to say that there is a fine line between teaching what students need to know according to the standards and using technology as tool to teach these important skills.

However, there is a line where both sides need to meet, the techies and those who my not be quite so technically inclined (that is the most polite way I can think of to say it!).

Both sides seem to stray from this line which equates to real learning. Those who are into everything tech are going to try and use technology for every activity possible in the classroom. Sometimes, this means that students are going to need some training in using certain apps and programs. Creating videos is a good example of this. Learning to make a video takes time away from instruction. There is no way around it, but once the students know how to make a video, it is a powerful learning tool. Can the same outcome be reached in the classroom without making a video? Sure it can. Students have been learning without making videos for years, but I have made enough videos with students to see that these kinds of projects engage students at levels that are hard to compete with using more traditional educational practices.

Teachers of this sort, falling on the opposite side of the spectrum as the techies, tend to shun tech projects. Much of this due to a lack of knowledge and fear, as well as the knowledge that their students can still learn using the time tested strategies they have always used.

Here is where the line is drawn. Both camps are correct. Both help students learn, and both may be more similar than each thinks.  Just think of what can happen when a seasoned teachers combines those time tested strategies and skills with a technology project that will deeply engage students in learning. Teachers need a little of both worlds to make a successful classroom.

I feel like am just blabbering now, not sure of what I am trying to say. I am just hoping that I am making some sort of sense!

In answer to the administrator who asked me the question, this was my reply:

“I use technology when I know that it can help the students reach their educational goals. Sure, I am going to have to spend some time up front in teaching them how to use certain apps, but I only do this when I know that doing so will pay great dividends in the future.”

It all comes down to thinking before doing. This is what we are trying to get students to do on a daily basis. Rushing into a project without clear goals will only look bad, and probably won’t benefit the students. Using the same old lessons that have been used for the last 20 years probably isn’t the best teaching strategy either.

Teaching students in this crazy tech filled world, a place where things area changing so fast that we can’t eve keep up, is going to take a little of both. Teachers from both sides need to step up to the line.




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I listened to the podcast version of this video a few mornings ago when I was walking. It was pretty good. I really liked what Hazlewood says. Then, I decided to look up the video on Youtube and watch it. I was  totally impressed! Hazlewood gives a great talk on how to be a good conductor, but he wasn’t just talking to the few, if any, conductors in the audience. His message seems to be geared towards business folk, but it equally applies to educators or any other leadership role.

The point of the message: Don’t be a control freak. Good leaders find that freedom, and more importantly, trust are the best things a leader can do to release a creative flow of ideas and increase productivity.

I’ll quit writing about it. Just watch and enjoy!


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The new music video by Kina Grannis  is a real great way to show students what it takes to make a stop motion animation film. What I like is that there is a a way cool video, and then a great behind the scenes look at how the video was made.

Just like anything else, students need good examples to emulate when looking at doing a stop motion animation projects in the classroom. Though this video is obviously made by professionals, it still gives a great glimpse into how a film can be made, or in this case, a music video. Some teachers might not like to use such a professional looking example preferring to show other videos made by students. I agree that it is good to show some student made videos, but I think showing a professionally made film can really open minds of students to the possibilities that are out there.

This first video is the actual music video.

This second video is the behind the scenes look at how the video was made. Just imagine 288,000 jelly beans for a project. If anything will stretch a students imagination, this should.


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