Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Digital Learning Day is Tomorrow: Pass it on ...

Guest Blog Post: Sarah Hall and the Digital Learning Day Organization

Dear Digital Learner,

Thank you for celebrating the first- ever Digital Learning Day with us tomorrow, February 1, 2012. Momentum is building for this groundbreaking event and we urge you to make one last effort to utilize your networks and communication vehicles to spread the word about the positive things happening across the U.S regarding the use of technology in schools.

A few quick facts:

  • Over 17,000 teachers and nearly 1.7 million students have registered directly as part of the national Digital Learning Day effort.
  • 38 states, many with their own registration processes are hosting their own Digital Learning Day activities and celebrations. This state program covers 88% of US students.
  • President Obama has provided a statement sending greetings to Digital Learning Day participants and encouraging every educator to think about how technology can support effective teaching and learning.
  • Dignitaries from across the aisle will be stopping by or on video to support the potential for digital learning in schools.
  • 13 states have issued Governor Proclamations for Digital Learning Day, including Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

If possible, please get the word out today and tomorrow in celebration of Digital Learning Day! We want to make sure we reach as many educators, parents, students, and other education stakeholders as possible about the positive impact that digital learning can have on students.

Please write about Digital Learning Day in your own blog entries, Tweet and re-Tweet using the hashtag #DLDay, use the live chat provided to share your thoughts during the events tomorrow, and discuss your plans for the day in your PLC!

Sample Tweets:

Please RT: Join 39 states, 16,000 teachers, & nearly 2 million students for national Digital Learning Day on Feb. 1: http://bit.ly/yulolg #DLDay

Please RT: Digital Learning Day is February 1: Find out what your state is doing and how you can get involved: http://bit.ly/yulolg #DLDay

Participation is as easy as 1, 2, 3…

1. A Webcast and Live Chat begins at 9:00 AM Eastern time. Tune into join the action at http://www.digitallearningday.org. (No registration required)

2. The national Town Hall Meeting begins at 1:00 PM Eastern Time. (Registration is required – please visit http://digitallearningday.eventbrite.com/ if you haven’t registered yet)

3. Check out the toolkit at http://www.digitallearningday.org/toolkits/ and make a plan to do an activity with your students tomorrow.

FYI : Please keep sharing your ideas, resources, and showcase suggestions. Although we won’t get them posted by tomorrow we are planning many more opportunities for follow-up after Digital Learning Day. The more the merrier…Thank you for all your enthusiastic submissions to date.

Thanks so much,

Sarah Hall and the Digital Learning Day Organization

For more information about Digital Learning Day, visit my blog post: Kicking off Digital Learning Day with the "Digital Learning Series"

My Top 52 Webtools for Students: Symbaloo EDU Webmix

As a technology teacher, I wanted an easy way for my students to access and explore all of my favorite webtools that I have researched and used.  I wanted my students to not only be aware that these tools exist, but I wanted them to use these webtools to create projects.

It wasn't until recently that I remembered that I could create and SHARE Webmixes with Symbaloo.  Symbaloo is a visual Bookmarking and Sharing tool on the web.  By creating your own favorite webmixes, you can easily access your favorite websites, news feeds, search engines, radio stations and/or widgets. By sharing and publishing your webmixes others can find the best information about all different subjects.

I have had my own Webmixes in Symbaloo for a long time, but it never occurred to me to make a Webmix for my students to use.  So I decided to compile a visual list of my top 52 favorite Webtools for my students to use.

Please feel free to do any of the following with my Symbaloo Webmix:
  1. Visit and explore this Symbaloo Webmix, 
  2. Add this Symbaloo Webmix to your own Symbaloo account, 
  3. Create your own Webmix in Symbaloo for your own students and share YOUR top 52 webtools!

Below is my Symbaloo Webmix of my Top 52 Webtools for Students

Website:  http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/studenttools2

Over 50.000 teachers and students all over the world are using SymbalooEDU as a Personal Learning Environment tool

Here are some examples of how teachers are using Symbaloo as a PLE
  • Organize and Share the best of the web with your students
  • Organize teaching resources all in one place
  • Encourage student to student communications
  • Promote innovation while maintaining simplicity in education

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kicking off Digital Learning Day with the "Digital Learning Series"

The Technology Specialist and Technology Department Head in my school district has been a great mentor to not only me, but to lots of teachers in my school building. He is passionate about technology, yes, but he is more passionate about learning.  To help motivate and inspire the teachers in our school, he is initiating professional development in lieu of Digital Learning Day.  He calls it the Digital Learning Series and the series will be kicking off on Digital Learning Day, February 1, 2012.  Below is his outline for our school's professional development in digital learning.  Thanks Brett for all that you do!  

Kicking off Digital Learning Day with the Digital Learning Series

Guest Blog Post by Brett Sparrgrove, author of 

February 1, 2012 is Digital Learning Day and I want to use this day to kick off the inaugural Digital Learning Series (DLS). Each month there will be a new Digital Learning Theme. 

The goal of each month is to explore a concept and discover how it can support, enhance and possibly transform your teaching and learning practices (not too intimidating, right?).

By focusing on a theme for an entire month, it allows concepts to be broken down into manageable, bite-sized pieces. It will also allow for the delivery of some focused, timely professional development (formal/informal, self-paced and face-to-face/virtual/web-based).

I’m really interested in your development as it relates to increasing the frequency with which you use technology for your teaching and for student-centered learning activities. My standard caveat here is: “I’m less interested in THAT you are using the technology and more interested in HOW you are using the technology”

The Digital Learning Series is going to emphasize the HOW.

The theme for February is: Visual Literacy

Sounds Good, What Do You Want Me To Do?

1. To kick it off I made a video (4:30) that you should watch:

2. Once you have watched that, it’s time to explore the digital learning page (http://bitly.com/digilearn). This page contains research, ideas and examples. Admittedly, it’s not complete and I’m going to keep working on it… it may not look like it yet, but I have put a lot of time and thought into it.

3. Since each Digital Learning Series focus is a month long, breaking concepts into weeks seemed logical.

The goals for week 1 (Feb 1-3) is to try something new and to share (really, that’s it). The week 1 page goes into more detail on this (and I’ll be sending out more materials). My guess is that some of you already have an idea in mind. For those that don’t, the week 1 page contains ten idea starters.

I’ll announce more details for the coming weeks soon… but you know it will be centered around visual literacy topics.  

A Catalyst for Meaningful Teaching and Learning

I’m very sensitive to the time you already put into helping our students and I’m doing my best to design ideas that should fit into what you are already doing quite nicely… Some of the things we try may be outside of your comfort zone, and I think that is a good thing. But I can only provide some structure and advice, you are the critical component to your own development; how much you get out of it will depend on how much you put in to it. On a personal note, I’m looking forward to my own growth and development as well. I’m a learner too and my understandings about visual literacy will grow and change as a result of this DLS event.

In Closing…

My hope for this is that our increased use of technology and the instructional practices that drive that use kind of grows organically. I hope we try new things, make mistakes, share and grow. It might be a bit messy at first as we get comfortable with it (learning should be messy). One thing is certain, if we give it a go with honesty and purpose, no one can say we didn’t try.

Finally, I want to say thanks to the Tech Ambassadors (Leah, Farrell, Kathleen, Maureen, and Lauren) and Brad whose guidance and advice mean a lot to me… we are lucky to have them here.

For more information on Digital Learning Day, visit my blog post: Digital Learning Day is Tomorrow:  Pass it on ... 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

6 Reasons Why You Should Use 6 Laptops in Your Classroom

The 1:1 student to computer ratio initiative is a great goal for schools to have. I mean, what school would not want each of their students to have access to a personal laptop computer? The problem is that most schools can't afford to spend the kind of money that it takes to provide each student with a laptop, especially when the nation is trying to climb out of a recession. Moreover, lots of schools are not budging on their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, preventing students from bringing their own technology devices to school such as their phones, ipods, tablets, e-readers and laptops.

As an advocate of project-based learning and student-directed learning, I wanted my students to be able to use computers to create projects using the many different webtools that are available on the internet. There was just one problem ... I didn't have any working computers in my classroom.

In the beginning of the year I was frustrated, because each grade level team in my middle school has two whole carts of laptop computers that they could use when students needed them for projects. The teachers schedule their classes to use the computers so that every student can have his or her own individual laptop for various assignments and projects. There was never an opportunity for me to borrow the computers because the teachers were constantly rotating the carts amongst themselves.

After trying several different avenues to borrow laptops, I finally addressed my administration and requested six laptops for my classroom. That's right ... not a cart ... not one for every student ... six! I realized that by using just six laptops, my students could create amazing projects, and practice their workplace readiness skills by collaboratively working in groups.

There are some teachers in my school that don't have any computers in their class for their students to use. This is where my 6 Computers Idea comes into play. We currently have enough computers in my school to reallocate at least a few laptop computers to every classroom teacher. The great thing about this idea is that we still have four large computer labs full of 25 desktop computers in each room. If teachers need to do projects where every students needs to use a computer, then they can easily schedule a time to use one of the computer labs.

Action: After the order for my six laptop computers had been placed, I began writing curriculum that required problem-based learning in teams of four to five students. Each team would be able to use one laptop computer for their projects. In each team I created different roles for every student so that their team operated like a mini-business. This instructional strategy differentiates the responsibility for each student by ensuring that every student has ownership of their particular contribution to the project.

The roles in each team consist of the following:

Multimedia Specialist

Below is an example of my STEMtrepreneurship lesson that I assign to my TECH students.  My students created everything in this presentation, including the Prezi, all with just one computer for each group of students.

The main reason to incorporate collaborative group work in the classroom is to increase students' workplace readiness skills.  These type of skills include "decision making, problem solving, values clarification, communication, critical thinking, negotiation, conflict resolution, and teamwork. It provides a structured learning experience that can prepare students for the realities and diversity of the workplace, working with people with different skills, cultures, approaches and from different places." [1]

Below are 6 Reasons Why You Should Use 6 Laptops in Your Classroom

1.  Better Communication
The exchange of ideas can act as a stimulus to the imagination, encouraging students to explore ideas they would not otherwise consider. In addition, students with knowledge relevant to the problem can communicate that knowledge directly if they participate in solving the problem. This also helps students to resolve conflicts within their group, thereby strengthening their communication skills. [2]

2.  Greater Output
Groups of students can bring a broad range of ideas, knowledge and skills to bear on a problem. This creates a stimulating interaction of diverse ideas which results in a wider range and better quality of solutions. [2]

3.  Increased Risk-Taking
Shared responsibility makes students more willing to take risks. The discussion of different points of view also helps the group to be more realistic in assessing the risks associated with particular courses of action. This helps to stimulate and reinforce critical and creative thinking skills[2]

4.  Higher Commitment
When goals are agreed it gives a common purpose to the group, within which students can gain a feeling of self-determination and recognition through their contribution. Students who have contributed to finding a solution feel a greater commitment to its successful implementation. Positive group pressure can also encourage students to accept that change is needed. [2]

5.  Reduced Bias
The shared responsibility of a group in arriving at decisions can encourage students to explore seemingly unrealistic ideas and to challenge accepted ways of doing things. Individual biases and prejudices can be challenged by the group, forcing the students to recognize them. [2]

6.  Differentiated Learning
Students are empowered to take ownership of their learning during group projects. Students have the opportunity to learn via their readiness level, interests, and preferred mode of learning. Students are additionally empowered with the responsibility of demonstrating concept mastery in their preferred learning style.

If you find yourself in a school that is nowhere close to a 1:1 student to computer ratio, I challenge you to request that your administration equally reallocate the computers that you do have to each teacher in the school.  This will ensure that every teacher will be able to provide opportunities for his or her students to use the laptops as a learning tool in the classroom for various lessons, activities and projects. .

You Might Also Like

  1. Benefits of Group Work: http://sydney.edu.au/education_social_work/groupwork/docs/BenefitsOfGW.pdf
  2. Group Work: http://www.tuition.com.hk/groups.htm

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anyone Else See the Irony in This?

Yesterday, I encountered a rather strange phenomenon. I noticed that Google’s Logo was blacked out! I thought to myself, "Well this is weird". I was perplexed and had lots of questions, so I decided to inquire as to why the Google logo was sensored. So, I started to "Google" answers to my questions. To my surprise I found out that Google and other sites like Wikipedia were making political statements about significant legislation that is currently pending in Congress that might impact how available information is shared on the web. After doing my research, I discovered that this legislation is actually two different acts called SOPA and PIPA.

Since I was unfamiliar with SOPA and PIPA, I decided to look them up on Wikipedia ... Anyone else see the irony in this?

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act (1-19-12)

Wikipedia's Website Message on January 19, 2012

Wikipedia's Protest Against SOPA and PIPA

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Landscape's Guide to Creating Your PLN

Professional Development has never been easier these days.  I undergo professional development every day with my Personal Learning Network (PLN), which I like to call my Professional Learning Network.  The best thing about my professional development is that I can participate on my time ... any time ... for free!

So, if professional development is so easy, why isn't every teacher pursuing their own professional development everyday?  Well, its because creating a Personal Learning Network can be intimidating.  Teachers often don't know how to get started, lack the confidence to get started, or feel like they don't have enough time to get started.  In this guide, I will solve those problems by explaining how to easily create a Personal Learning Network from scratch and how to enhance existing PLNs.

Below is a screencast that I created to show how I engage in my Professional Learning Community from my PLN that I have established.

In this guide, I will be highlighting the following PLN applications:

Google Reader

In order to effectively easily explain this guide, I will be addressing Personal Learning Networks in the following order:
  1. How to create a PLN
  2. How to benefit from your PLN
  3. How to contribute to your PLN

1. How to create a PLN

Create a Google Reader Account

Google Reader is a great way to start your Professional Learning Network. The concept of Google Reader is brilliant. Instead of you going to all of your favorite websites for news, information and blogs, Google Reader brings all of these websites to you!

I personally use Google Reader to stay current on topics such as education, technology, current events, science, health and fitness. With Google Reader you can subscribe to free news resources, periodicals, blogs, etc. and organize them to your liking. I find it much easier to have the news come to me than for me to go to the news.

Getting Started: If you already have a Google Account, you are one step ahead. If you don't have a Google Account, go ahead and create one at mail.google.com/. After you have created your Google Account, visit the website: www.google.com/reader to get started with your Google Reader. Here you will be able to subscribe to periodicals, blogs, etc.

*For a detailed description of how to get started with Google Reader, visit the blog post: The Complete Educator's Guide to Using Google Reader

Create a Twitter  Account

"Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as 'tweets'." - Wikipedia

Getting Started: Twitter is another great way to develop your own PLN. It's easy to create a Twitter Account. Just go to Twitter.com to create your account. Create a personal username that you will use as your Twitter Name. For example, my Twitter Name is @MrLands. After you have created your Twitter Account, you can start following people.

After you have successfully created a Google Reader account and a Twitter Account, you have successfully created the frame for your PLN.

2. How to benefit from your PLN

Twitter and Google Reader actually work hand-in-hand together very nicely. You can browse Twitter to find people that you want to follow and add their personal websites or blogs into your Google Reader Account.

Using Google Reader 

Managing Subscriptions: If you have a favorite periodical such as Education News - The New York Times, chances are Google Reader has a web presence that you can follow for free. Just conduct a Google Reader Search for the blog or periodical that you would like to subscribe to and it will give you a list of possible results. Find the one that you would to subscribe to and click the subscribe button. Google Reader will then automatically add that free subscription to your Account.

*For some subscription suggestions to get started, check out my blog post: 5 Blogs to Enhance Your PLN for Education

Creating Bundles: To organize all of your subscriptions, you can create a folder, or a bundle of subscriptions. You can label the folder or bundle however you want to help you organize your subscriptions. For example, I have bundles such as Education, Technology, etc. You can also share your bundles that you create with other people, which is a really cool feature of Google Reader.

The Star Feature: In Google Reader, you can easily scroll through the headlines of your subscriptions to bypass any articles or blogs that do not interest you. In addition, you can create a list of your favorite articles by starring them. Starring articles also allows you save it to read it later when you have more time. In short, star your favorite articles, or star the articles that you want to read later.

Feedly: After you have successfully set up your Google Reader Account, I would recommend using Feedly to read your periodicals. Feedly is an application that turns your periodicals from Google Reader into an easy to read e-Magazine. I use Feedly to read my subscriptions on my computer, on my smartphone and on my Kindle Fire.

Using Twitter

Who to Follow: If you want some advice on who to follow, start by following some of these valuable educators in the lists below. The first list is the Top 25 Education Policy/Media Tweeters and the second list is the Top 25 Educator Tweeters. I personally follow at least 10 in each of these lists. My suggestion is to figure out which ones are most valuable to you!
Top Tweeters in Education: http://educationnext.org/all-a-twitter-about-education/

By following these people, you will be able to read what they are sharing with the world of educators, such as resources, lesson plans, pedagogy, etc. When searching for these people, type the "handle" name in your search. After you perform a search, click the "follow" button to follow that person. You can also search for famous educators or celebrities as well. Type in their first and last name into the search box to get your results. For example, I follow both Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters and I found them by performing a Twitter Search.

Twitter Hashtags: In addition to just following people on Twitter , you can also follow topics and conversations. In order to do this, you can type in a search for specific Twitter Hashtags. A hashtag is the "#" symbol attached to a specific set of characters. For example, a Twitter Hashtag could be something meaningful like #science, or it could be arbitrary such as #k4g8bz74. Twitter Hashtags are used to follow specific conversations and topics. Anyone can create a Twitter Hashtag and anyone can follow a Twitter Hashtag. Twitter Hashtags are used a lot during conferences and workshops, so be sure to look for them at your next professional development event. Some of my favorite Twitter Hashtags to follow and contribute to are #edchat and #edtech.

Twitter Alive shows you lots of different educational Hashtags that are all live. This means that you can view several different Twitter conversations at once. Every time you visit the website, the conversations are live and current up to the minute. Feel free to look at the other educational Twitter Hashtags off to the right to view other conversations.

The A-Z Dictionary of Educational Twitter Hashtags is the best list of educational Twitter Hashtags. You can find just about any topic or conversation on this list. If you find a few that you like, perform a search on Twitter using the Hashtags and start reading the conversations.

Twitter Chat Schedule is a Google Spreadsheet that tells you the times and dates of scheduled Twitter Hashtag Conversations. This can allow you to view a conversation at a specific time when lots of people with be contributing. If you have something to add, feel free to send your message to contribute to the conversation!

28 Creative Ideas for Teaching with Twitter is a great list of ways to incorporate Twitter into your instruction. I personally use some of these strategies in my classroom and they can be very educational and productive to my students.

3. How to Contribute to your PLN

Create a Blogger Account and Start Blogging!

When you are ready to contribute to your PLN by sharing your own opinions, resources, information, etc. I would use Blogger (powered by Google). Since you already have a Google Account, Blogger imports information already in your Google Account, which makes it very easy to get started. It also runs on the same platform, so it will be easier for you to navigate throughout the website. To create your own blog go to www.blogger.com/ and follow the directions. After you have created your own blog, you now have a voice to contribute to your PLN and share with the world.

Tweet on Twitter

Now that you have established a successful PLN, use Twitter to voice your opinion, share information, and contribute to conversations in 140 characters or less. If I stumble across a really cool blog post or article I like to share that on Twitter by posting the link. Since you can only use up to 140 characters at a time, it can be difficult to post website links. So, to get around this problem you can use one of several website shortner applications. Here are a few that I use:

Lastly, I use Twitter as a vehicle to share my blog posts that I create. I tweet the title of my blog post along with a short description, the shortened website link, and a hashtag or two. This allows me to contribute to my PLN and share my two cents with the rest of the world!

Check out Twitter Etiquette: 24 Guidelines to Tweet By to become a better Tweeter!

I hope that this guide was helpful to you. Best of luck with creating and maintaining your own PLN.


For a detailed description of how to get started with Google Reader, visit the blog post: The Complete Educator's Guide to Using Google Reader

For some Google Reader subscription suggestions to get started, check out my blog post: 5 Blogs to Enhance Your PLN for Education

Monday, January 16, 2012

5 Blogs to Enhance Your PLN for Education

Creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can be intimidating.  Keeping up with your PLN can be even more intimidating.   If you continue to expand your PLN, it is often overwhelming to keep up with your reading. It is important to continuously manage your PLN to ensure that you are reading what is most important to you so that you don't get overwhelmed.  Every once in awhile I clean up my PLN in my Google Reader so that I can focus on the blogs that I read the most and that I find most useful to me.

Below are My top 5 Blogs that I read everyday.  These blogs will always remain in My PLN.  I find these blogs to be extremely valuable for my own professional development as a teacher.  Following these blogs is a great way to get started on developing your own PLN.  Moreover, it is also a great step in enhancing your PLN if you currently do not subscribe to these blogs.   My hope is that you will find these reputable blogs as valuable as I do.

MindShift: "Technology is revolutionizing the world of education – replacing familiar classroom tools and changing the way we learn. MindShift explores the future of learning in all its dimensions – covering cultural and technology trends, groundbreaking research, education policy and more. The site is curated by Tina Barseghian, a journalist and mother of a grade-schooler."

The Innovative Educator:  "Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text."

Free Technology For Teachers:  "The purpose of this site is to share information about free resources that teachers can use in their classrooms. My full-time job is teaching US History and Civics to high school students at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, ME. In the past I have also taught courses in global studies and English/ Language Arts. I believe that when used correctly, technology has the power to improve student engagement and student achievement. I also believe that technology gives teachers the ability to form powerful, global, professional learning communities."  -Richard Byrne

iLearn Technology: "My goal is to help teachers fall in love with technology the way that their students have. I believe that technology reaches students in a way that few other mediums can. It ignites a fire, a desire to learn, and gives them the ability to express themselves in meaningful ways. I have never had a student who didn’t love my class…I am a good teacher but I am not THAT good, what they love is using technology to learn. So with that in mind, I set out to give teachers a resource where they could find easy-to-implement ideas for using technology in their own classrooms. I hope that iLearn Technology is a great resource for teachers but also that they would find even one piece of technology that they are passionate about." -Kelly Tenkely

The Edublogger: "My name is Sue Waters and I’m Australian based in Perth, married with two kids.The Edublogger has been set up by Edublogs — “the largest education community on the Internet” where you can sign up for a free WordPress-powered blog — and is dedicated to helping educational bloggers with emerging technologies in education, share their own experiences and promote the blogging medium. It’s purpose is to share tips, tricks, ideas and provide help to the educational blogging community."

For more information on who to follow on Twitter and how to expand your PLN, visit my blog post: The Landscape's Guide to Creating Your PLN

Friday, January 13, 2012

12 Lessons Your Students Can Learn from Vince Lombardi

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Jim Bowen
"Vincent Thomas Lombardi is arguably the greatest football coach of all time, and is on the short list of history’s greatest coaches, regardless of sport. His ability to teach, motivate and inspire players helped turn the Green Bay Packers into the most dominating NFL team in the 1960s"(http://www.vincelombardi.com/).

There is a lot that we can learn from Vince Lombardi. When he speaks, he is not just speaking about football, he is speaking about life.  As a soccer coach and a teacher, I find that my players and students can apply these lessons to any challenge that they might face in their lives.  I hope that these words of wisdom and encouragement will inspire teachers, coaches, players, and students to be the best that they can be in life, especially when facing adversity!

Here are my Top 12 Lessons that Your Students Can Learn from Vince Lombardi. (Source of Vince Lombardi quotes: http://www.vincelombardi.com/quotes.html)

12. Sacrifice:  “Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” Vince Lombardi

11. Discipline:  “Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’” Vince Lombardi

10. Resilience:  "The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall." Vince Lombardi

9. Determination:  "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." Vince Lombardi

8. Commitment:  "Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." Vince Lombardi

7. Teamwork:  "People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society." Vince Lombardi

6. Leadership:  "Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile." Vince Lombardi

5. Innovation:  "We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible." Vince Lombardi

4. Excellence:  "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." Vince Lombardi

3. Will:  "The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." Vince Lombardi

2. Success:  "Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price." Vince Lombardi

1. Ambition:  "Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man. Sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can." Vince Lombardi

For a full list of inspirational quotes from Vince Lombardi, visit: http://www.vincelombardi.com/quotes.html

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Evolution of Education: From Teacher to Co-Learner

One of my sixth-grade students once said to me, "God invented Google, because people don't have all the answers".  I thought that was hilarious, but also very ironic, which made it very interesting to me.  It made me realize that individuals don't have all the answers, which is why Google is so powerful.  It allows people to share their knowledge and expertise with the world.  This ultimately led me to this blog post about why teachers should be co-learners with our students, because my student is right, we as teachers don't have all the answers that our students need!

There is an old saying, If you give a man to fish, he eats for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. This statement is very true in the context of classroom teaching.  When teachers provide the information that students need to learn, students become dependent on their teachers for the answers.  When teachers provide an opportunity for students to seek the information, students become dependent on themselves for the answers. Which of these teaching models do you think supports 21st century life-long learners?

We as teachers need to move away from the traditional "stand and deliver" teaching model to that of the "guide on the side" teaching model.  We need to start thinking of ourselves as co-learners rather than teachers.  One study claims that "Effective teachers of digital-age learners will be challenged to move away from models of teaching and learning as isolated endeavors. As they model work and learning that reflects inventive thinking and creativity, teachers must become comfortable as co-learners with their students and with colleagues around the world." [1]

The "stand and deliver" teaching model died years ago, yet teachers are still using it in their classrooms.  For example, lots of teachers misuse their Interactive Whiteboards as a technological vehicle for delivering information to their students. These teachers believe that if they are using the latest technology, then their students must be engaged and will learn via technology-infused instruction.  Let me tell you, best-practice teaching is not about the technology, trust me!

Think about the following statement: "Tell me and I will forget.  Show me and I will remember.  Involve me and I will learn."  Teachers who "stand and deliver" are telling and showing students, rather than involving them. Co-learning with students involves them in the learning process and they are more likely to learn the information, rather than just remembering it, or even worse, forgetting it.

So what is co-learning exactly?

"In its ideal form, co- learning: acts toward student empowerment; it dismantles asymmetrical power relationships in the classroom; it builds a more genuine “community of practice”; and co- learning moves students and teachers toward dynamic and participatory engagement in creating a peaceful and sustainable world." [1] 

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know the answer to everything.  I think that its extremely important for teachers to check their pride at the door when they walk into the school building. My goal is NOT to show my students how much I know, rather my goal is for my students to show me how much they know! As a co-learner, I strive to give my students the confidence and learning tools that they will need to independently answer their own questions and solve their own problems. To create a "community of practice" I tell my students that I don't have all the answers for them, but that I will support them in their endeavor to find the answers.  This creates a comfortable learning environment for my students to harness their inquiry by exploring answers to their own questions. 

In a co-learning environment, what is the role of the students?  What is the role of the teacher?

"The concept of co-learning ... changes the role sets of teachers and students from dispensers and receptacles of knowledge to joint sojourners on the quest for knowledge, understanding, and dare I say wisdom. Positioning oneself as a co- learner when teaching requires much unlearning of cultural conditioning because it challenges the traditional authoritative, dominant and subordinate role sets in schooling environments and the unequal power relationships in wider spheres of our world." [2]

Student role:
  • The empowered inquirer [2]

Co-learner roles:
  • Scaffold Builder and Critical Reflection Enhancer:  one who assesses student knowledge and builds scaffolding to extend that knowledge to a broader and deeper understanding.  Asking co-learners to reflect on what is being learned and the process of learning (meta-reflection about process) are important. [2]
  • Facilitator of Learning: a facilitator doesn’t get in the way of learning by imposing information. A facilitator guides the process of student learning. Practical behaviors: learning from student inquiry projects; connecting student knowledge to other ideas or fields of knowledge; acting as an active support for learning endeavors. [2]

Below are some key phrases and responses that I use with my students as a co-learner.
  • If I tell you the answer, how am I helping you to learn how to answer your own questions?
  • What if you want to know the answer to a question you have outside of school? What would you do?
  • That is a great question!  Let's look it up!
  • I don't know the answer to that question ... what do YOU think?  How can we find the answer?
  • I've never heard of that before ... tell me more about it. 
  • What is a tool or application that we know about that will help us to solve this problem?
  • If you are not sure how to spell that word, what are some resources that you could use to help you?
  • Where should we look in the book to find information on that topic?
  • What would be an effective online search to yield good results on this topic?

Bottom Line:  If you show passion for the love of learning, then your students will too!

  1. The Future of Instruction: Teacher as 'Co-Learner': http://thejournal.com/articles/2008/06/30/the-future-of-instruction-teacher-as-colearner.aspx
  2. Empowerment Pedagogy: Co-learning and Teaching: http://www.indiana.edu/~leeehman/Brantmeier.pdf

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's Not About the Technology

Source: http://bit.ly/wMvOfC
"Technology is useless without good teaching. We have countless technological tools at our disposable today. These tools range in cost from free to thousands and thousands of dollars. When we put innovative tools in the hands of innovative teachers, amazing things can happen. If you put these tools in the hands of teachers who are not willing to innovate, money has been wasted." [1]

"If a teacher can find ways to prepare students with the capacity to be creative and innovative, those children will be well prepared to face the future. Teachers who customize the learning experiences of their students to involve critical thinking and problem solving are doing their students a greater favor than those who misuse technology as a means of facilitating learning." [1]

During the summer of 2010, I traveled to Cusco, Peru as a volunteer to teach English to secondary students at an underprivileged school.  I was empowered to teach English as a volunteer for two weeks via the Global Volunteer Network who partnered with Maximo Nivel. This experience was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding challenges of my life.

I was placed in a school with little to no resources. The school had students from grades 6-12 and students were separated into classrooms by gender. All of the classrooms were the same. There was one window at the very top corner of the room, the lights would rarely work, there were old wooden single desks with chairs attached, there was a whiteboard with no markers or erasers and that was it!

I had no control as to where I was teaching, and who I was teaching each day. My classes ranged from 6th grade boys to high school girls and everything in between. Some days I would be teaching middle school boys, high school boys or high school girls. If I wanted any resources, I either had to bring them with me, or buy them at a store that was a far walk away. When I was teaching, I was unable to use any form of technology, so I realized I had to fall back on my good teaching.

So I thought to myself, "How do I engage these students? How do I spark their interest? How do I get them using inquiry? How do I get them learning?

After some brainstorming, I started to reflect on some of my best-practice teaching strategies that I use when I teach my students at home. I realized that with the help of technology, I always use:

So then I thought, how can I cater my instruction to these best-practice teaching strategies without the use of technology? Without the use of resources and materials?

I decided that I would break my students into groups based on their arts integration interests.  I instructed the students to arrange them selves into four groups: Singing/Raping, Acting, Drawing, Dancing.  I told them that they were responsible for creating a project to demonstrate their learning and understanding.  My lessons ranged from vocabulary, to writing, to speaking, to storytelling. The only part that I had control over was what I was going to teach them, and how I was going to teach them.

With only bringing a handmade "globe" soccer ball and purchasing minimal resources such as whiteboard markers, erasers, paper, pens and pencils I was able to create an effective English curriculum for two weeks.  Embedded in the curriculum that I developed, were also skills in teamwork, communication, creativity, responsibility and problem solving.  In addition, we also played some fun games such as Charades (by acting out vocabulary words) Pictionary (by drawing pictures of vocabulary words) and Peruvian Idol (by having the students sing or rap out clues to vocabulary words).

The moral of my story is that Technology is not the answer to an effective 21st Century Education.  The secret is to use good instruction and best-practice teaching strategies!

"Before anything else, the educational community (including state and national organizations, teacher preparation programs, and local systems) must recognize the need to change an overall approach to teaching and learning. The technology tools that we crave as teachers, will not be effective vehicles for instruction without an evolution in Mindset." [1]

  1. Edurati Review: It's Not About the Technology: http://eduratireview.com/2009/04/its-not-about-technology-html/

Thursday, January 5, 2012

12 Free Online Apps to Get Your Students Publishing

Schools are beginning to transform their assessments from standardized testing, to e-Portfolios.  According to the list of 21 Things That Will be Obsolete in 2020 by Tina Barseghian, The Role of Standardized Tests in College Admissions came in at number five! Barseghian writes, "The AP Exam is on its last legs. The SAT isn’t far behind. Over the next ten years, we will see Digital Portfolios replace test scores as the #1 factor in college admissions." It will be important for your students to begin creating an ePortfolio so they will be Ahead of the Technology Curve by the time schools start using this new form of assessment.

I am just starting to emphasize the importance of e-Portfolios to my students by allowing them to start making a collection of their projects.  I love the fact that instead of saying, “hand in your assignments,” I can now say, “publish your assignments and send me the link.” With this mentality, my students will think about connecting and sharing their learning with the world around them.

Here is a video that shows how students use ePortfolios and the benefits associated with them.

Below are my favorite online applications to Get Your Students Publishing!

Yudu Free
 is possibly the best online publishing application out there. Students can explore by browsing the YUDUfree library for publications, images, audio files & bookmarks of interest. You can also publish your documents, upload audio, images and bookmark your favorite websites. This could potentially be a great place to start creating an ePortfolio.

 is the best way for your students to share and publish their presentations such as PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Presentations on the web, in my opinion.  Not only can you upload your presentations and embed them in websites, but you can also create a video of your presentation, which is a feature that other competitors do not offer. In addition, AuthorStream uploads all of your media files into the presentation such as audio and video files which is extremely convenient productive. 

 allows your students to explore a world of publications by people and publishers alike. Students can collect, share and publish in a format designed to make their documents look their very best.  This is a great application for students to create online magazines and books and documents.

is a website builder unlike anything you have ever experienced. This drag & drop website builder makes it simple to create a powerful, professional website without any technical skills required. Content elements (like text, photos, maps, and videos) are added to your website by simply dragging & dropping them into place. Text is edited just like in a word processor. Building your website is done in real time, right from within your web browser. There's absolutely nothing to install and no upgrades to worry about.

WikiSpaces For Educators
is a great place for your students to publish and share their work.  Join the WikiSpaces K-12 Plan. These wikis are free and ad-free, and you can make them private for extra security for your students. K-12 wikis also come with a User Creator tool that lets you open student accounts in bulk — without student email addresses.

Google Sites
 is a structured wiki- and web page-creation tool offered by Google as part of the Google Apps Productivity suite. If your students already have a Google account, it makes the process a lot easier from already having multimedia ready to use, and they are already used to the format of Google Apps.

YouTube Education
 takes YouTube to the next level by screening videos that are only for education.  After creating an account, you can upload and publish your own videos in addition to just browsing for videos that have already been uploaded.  YouTube does a great job ensuring that all the videos are appropriate and educational for all types of learners. 

 is an image organizer and image viewer for organizing and editing digital photos, plus an integrated photo-sharing website. Picasa is owned by Google, which makes it very easy to sync, publish, and share your pictures with other Google Apps.  I really like the collage feature where you can create a collage from your own pictures. 

 is a simple, free way to publish your podcasts.  Your students can now, easily upload their digital media files (either audio or video) to a site that hosts them for free. 

 is a free app that allows you to create, store, publish, and share your own ebooks. The ebooks are also interactive by allowing you to grab the corner of each page and physically turn it backward or forward to navigate throughout the ebook.

To view my favorite ways for students to create projects to put in their e-Portfolio, visit my blog post: 14 Free Online Apps to Get Your Students Creating!