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Archive for February, 2012

One of the apps I have used with students in the past to create fake Facebook walls is My Fake Wall. Tonight, I went to the site to see how well it was working. The last time I tried it there were some issues. I guess I don’t have to worry about it any more since the site is not currently functioning correctly.

This is just another reminder of how change is an inherent part of the working on the web. What is working one day may be history the next. Honestly, I would not be surprised if My Fake Wall was up and running in a few days or maybe even weeks. However, I have tried it several times this week and it is yet to work.

If you are looking for sites that will still allow students to create fake Facebook profiles, check out my blog post, 5 fake Facebook templates and pages for student projects.

 

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The internet is supposed to make us more connected. For most people, it is definitely a tool to keep on top of what is happening. The email is checked several times a day, along with Facebook walls and twitter feeds.

We (I am included in this) are great consumers. However, when was the last time you contributed to the conversation? As much as being a mass consumer, it is equally important to be a participant, sharing knowledge, insight and thoughts with others.

Here’s a few places to start:

1. Start a blog

2. Email the link to a cool article to colleagues

3. Share a video with your friends on Facebook (instead of just watching what others are doing).

4. Leave a comment on a blog

5. Make a Youtube video giving your thoughts on education

Those who benefit the most from the internet are those who have become active participants.

 

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Most teachers agree that it is time to start using technology in the classroom. However, using technology in the classroom looks quite different from teacher to teacher, and it’s possible that many are using in the wrong way.

I was reading Scott McLeod’s blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, and his latest post features a list of actions that Connecticut school leaders are proposing will transform the way students learn. Of all the changes listed, one caught my eye, and I have been thinking about it all day:

Typical current practice: Technology used to make teaching more efficient.

Proposed transformative practice: Technology used to transform teaching and learning.

Technology is often seen as a means of making teaching easier. Grading, writing, and communicating can all be greatly improved and streamlined using technology in the classroom. Finding information and sharing it with students can be done with few clicks.

The problem is that many of the old teaching practices are still being used. It’s just a lot easier to do now. This is great, but we can do better. Technology can be used to totally change the way teachers teach and the way students learn. This will require work. This will require learning, especially on the part of the teacher. This may require educating parents as well as students on what learning looks like. Once this is done, then the real learning can begin.

Only after technology is used to transform our current teaching practices will we see great dividends in the education of students.

 

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There are lots of uses for blogs in the classroom. They are a great way to give students assignments, to show off student work, and to engage students in meaningful conversations that extend beyond the classroom. I have used my classroom blogs for all of these reasons. However, the way I use my class blog the most is as a place to post links that I want students to use in class.

If you have ever tried to write a 70 letter dash number dash symbol URL on the board for students to copy down and type into their browser, you will know that it ends up taking a half hour of class to get all the students to the same site. On top of the time, there is also the stress and headache for the teacher. I am convinced that having students try to find a website using a URL that is written on the board may be one of the leading causes of teachers ditching technology and going back tot the text book! This is where the classroom blog comes in handy.

Initially, students may need help finding the classroom blog, but they will get it quickly. Then, it’s just a matter of posting the links to all the cool sites and apps you want them to use. They only have to remember the one URL, and from there it’s all smooth sailing!

 

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Positive words can make positive change, but sometimes it’s hard to find the right words. Yesterday, TED launched a new page, TED Quotes, on their website dedicated to quotes taken from some of the 1,100 plus talks they host on the site. What I like about the page is that these are the best quotes from the some of the most influential people alive today. I can display a quote for students to read, and also point them to the talk where the quote was first spoken. The words are real and tangible for students, not something someone said 150 years ago.

The page is easy to navigate giving several different means for discovering quotes. Users can simply search for a quote using key words. If a little more guidance is needed, users can search through quotes by category. The educations tab alone has 66 quotes listed. Another page has quotes listed according to popularity. There is no indication of how these are chosen, but each shows how many times the quote has been shared, so maybe that is the criteria.

Sharing is another interesting option in the page. With a simple click, users can post the quotes to a Facebook wall or Twitter feed.

After a few minutes looking at the site, I was pretty impressed. Some of this may be due to my fascination with TED. In a short time, I read several quotes that I remember being spoken as I watched the actual talk. Reading the quotes helped me to remember what I once learned. I can definitely see potential for using this in the classroom.

In the past, I have posted an inspirational quote on the board for student to read at the beginning of class. Sometimes students wrote a short response and sometimes we just had a short discussion. I always felt that this activity was successful, but it gets hard to find good relevant quotes. Problem solved!

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One of my favorite ways to spend a day outside of school is to go fly fishing. There is something deeply satisfying about tricking a fish into biting a fly that I tied myself. It’s fun and relaxing as well as a good challenge. However, as much as I like to fly fish, I also like to catch fish.  I have learned that fly fishing is not the only way to catch a fish, and at times, other means of fishing may work better. When this happens, there are those that will stick with deep rooted tradition and not put down their fly rods. They are often purists who look down their noses at anyone who does not fish the way they do. Sometimes, the purist goes home without catching any fish. Believe me. I’ve been down that road. Being a successful fisherman means changing things up once in a while.

The same goes for users of technology, maybe even more so than for fishermen. Being a purist often equals lost opportunities and knowledge. I know people who will only use a Mac or only us a PC. Both sides swear that the other is useless and hard to use. Both talk of how their computer is more easy to use and more secure than the other. Each has their own share of apps and programs that run better than the other.

Both sides are missing out.

It is totally okay to lie heavily on preferences, but to be a total purist is crazy. There are so many good technologies from both camps that it would be a shame to not explore them all as the opportunity arises.

As a teacher, administrator, or even tech professional, anyone that works in education, not having an open mind when it comes to the use of different technologies may have an affect on those they are trying to educate. With the diversity of tech ever expanding, successful students will be those that have a broad experience with technology. This means that they can easily work on a Mac platform and PC platform. This means that they know how to use word processors other than those developed by Microsoft. The more flexible and adept students are with different technology as they leave school, the more valuable they are in the work world. This will also help them to be more successful in college.

Remember, sometimes a purist misses out on all the fun!

 

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Just in case you forgot what a telephone looks like 🙂

Lurking in the corner of almost every classroom is a technological tool that often get overlooked by teachers: the telephone. I know. You don’t need to use the school phone because you have one in your pocket, or maybe you don’t talk on the phone much at all. Most people either text or send an email.

This year, I made a goal to contact at least 4 parents a week and talk to them about how their students are doing in my class. I’ll admit, some weeks go by when I don’t get all 4 calls made, but those the calls I do make pay great dividends in the classroom. Parents wants the best for their children, and they want to know how their students are doing in their classes. Let’s be honest. If you have kids, you know how much they talk about what they do at school. Just ask them:

“Suzy, what did you learn at school today?”

“Nothing.”

This starts in the Preschool as it the answer I get on a daily basis from my 4 year old son, and the response doesn’t sound much different from my daughter’s who is in high school.

I have not yet called the parents of every student in my class, but I see visible differences in the attitude and work ethic of students after I talk with their parents. Just to let you know, these calls are positive in nature. I mostly just tell the parents that their student is working hard in class and doing a good job.That is it, a one or two minute conversation. It usually takes longer to look up the number than it does to make the call. In almost every case, I see a difference in the way the student works in my class after a call. That telephone may be one of the most important allies that you have in helping students to become more engaged in your class.

Making home calls is kind of funny, because I usually start a call by introducing myself as a teacher at the school. Instant dread can be heard in the response on the other end of the line. Parent knows that calls from the school are usually not good. However, once I tell them why I have made the call and talk to them for a minute, the tone of dread changed to utter delight.

I am going to be honest. I don’t always make phone calls. If I have a parents email, I will also us that to contact the parents, but the response is the same. Plain and simple, parents want to know how their kids are doing in school, the students aren’t going to tell them. Oftentimes, the parents may be a little scared to approach a teacher and ask.

Pick up the phone and make few calls. It takes few minutes of time but may be the most productive minutes of the week.

 

 

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