Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Digital Learning is Out!

The Digital Learning is a digital newspaper that I created from the website is a website that collects and aggregates Tweets from everyone I am following on Twitter, specific #hashtag conversations on Twitter such as #edtech and #edchat, and Blog Posts from different Blogs that I am following.

I started this digital newspaper because it is often too difficult for me to keep up with all of the Tweets from people that I follow.  Often, tweets from a particiular #hashtag conversation disappear after about a week or so.  Sometimes there are so many tweets on one conversation, that it is difficult to keep track of them all.  The Digital Learning will send out a daily, digital newspaper with the most popular tweets and blogposts from that day. This will help to archive the most valuable tweets and blog posts for me to read at my leisure.

What is the benefit of the Digital Learning

I have already done a lot of work by researching the best blogs to follow and the best people to follow on Twitter for education.  This digital newspaper collects and sorts these resources according to different topics in education.  All you have to do is simply skim through and read anything that might interest you.

You can easily subscribe to the newspaper to get an email every day, or you can simply visit the website in your spare time to read up on the latest news and resources in education.  Please take a few minutes to check out the newspaper.  It is an amazing resource and I hope that you find it valuable!

Editor's Note

My Fellow Educators,

I created this digital newspaper to provide a one-stop-shop for digitally learning about education.  This newspaper combines my Twitter feed, along with some of my favorite Blogs on education.  My hope is that you will use this resource to keep current in the field of education and to broaden your own Personal Learning Network (PLN). 
- Bradley Lands

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

10 Easy Steps to Leading Professional Development In Your Own School

Professional Development is a term that is thrown around a lot.  From my experience, most of the "professional development" that has been implemented in my school district, hasn't really been professional development.  We like to call "reading articles" and "mandatory staff training" professional development, but it really isn't.

The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) defines professional development as "a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement." I definitely agree with this statement, but I would add the word "customized" to the definition.  It is important for teachers to be empowered to have "choice" as they undergo professional development to make it meaningful and valuable to them.  We can't forget that teachers are learners too, and teachers need to be differentiated based on their readiness levels, just like our students do.

If you are considering to initiate professional development in your school, or district, I recommend using these 10 Easy Steps to Leading Professional Development (Note: Some ideas were borrowed from 11 Steps for Planning Professional Development which is a great resource!  We used a lot of these steps to create our professional development plan)

  1. Get your administration's approval
  2. Identify leaders who can provide expertise. This includes your own teachers and staff. You do not have to hire expensive consultants for professional development. Look inside your own school and district first.
  3. Develop a professional development committee to plan and coordinate.
  4. Demonstrate examples of classroom technology use, best practices, etc.
  5. Create a needs assessment. What does the staff need/want for professional development? Take a survey, email them, ask them to send in ideas.
  6. Design a professional development program based on the needs and wants of the staff.
  7. Lead your professional development at staff meetings
  8. Share successes as well as expectations not yet met.
  9. Reflect on the professional development experience. Continue to plan and re-evaluate often.
  10. Create programs that provide on-going support.  Offering 2 hours of training is all well and good, but there must be on-going support to help teachers implement what they learn.

10 Easy Steps to Leading Professional Development: Put into Action

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 kicked off on Digital Learning Day, February 1, 2012. Below is his outline for our school's professional development in digital learning.

  • 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.
  • 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”

Here is my school's example, of educators uniting together to initiate professional development from the ground up. The following message was sent as an email to our staff by our Technology Specialist.

"The Digital Learning Team (DLT) is excited to share our ideas and expertise with you this Friday. We have crafted quite a few offerings for you to select from this Friday. There are 12 choices spread out over the two sessions (session 1: 8:30 – 9:30 and session 2: 9:40 – 10:40). Here is what you need to do:

Take a look at the course program guide and make a note about which offerings you would be interested in trying (Select a first choice and second choice offering from each session), make sure to look at the prerequisites and any links that relate to your course of interest.

Register for your selections (a Google Form created in Google Docs)

Depending on your interest, we may or may not run every course. We’ll let you know where they’ll take place. Some will be in labs while others will be in classrooms with laptops."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

6 Categories for Evaluating Educational Apps for Students

The best apps are the ones that are versatile and productive.  I only use a handful of apps, but I use them for everything!

I recently purchased 6 ipod touches (with school funding) for my students to use in the classroom and I have noticed that I have been stressed about getting the best "apps" for education. I have been doing tons of research and testing individual apps to assess their value.  I even recently attended an Apple Conference that featured Educational Apps for the iPad, iPhone, and the iPod Touch. 

As I was watching the presentation, I noticed that there were a lot of apps that were only good for one purpose. I found that I had no interest in those apps, especially if they weren't free. For example, there was one app that featured practice on just divisibility facts. That's great, but at that rate, people will be downloading hundreds, if not thousands of apps for single purposes for multiple subjects.

What most interests me, are apps that have a wide range of productivity and versatility. I preferred the apps that I could use over and over again for multiple subjects, and for multiple purposes. These were the apps that I most valued and wanted for my students to use.

There are a lot of apps out there that are categorized by Bloom's Taxonomy. This can be helpful, but as I searched through several different blogs and webpages that displayed the hierarchy of apps, I noticed that there were a lot of apps that were either misplaced, or were in multiple categories. So I thought to myself, why don't I focus on the apps that were at the top level's of Bloom's or focus on
apps that allowed me to use a variety of Bloom's levels.

I stumbled across this great resource that helps educators to evaluate educational apps.  Below are Tony Vincent's Ways to Evaluate Educational Apps

1.  Relevance
The app’s focus has a strong connection to the purpose for the app and appropriate for the student

2.  Customization
App offers complete flexibility to alter content and settings to meet student needs

3.  Feedback
Student is provided specific feedback

4.  Thinking Skills
App encourages the use of higher order thinking skills including creating, evaluating, and analyzing

5.  Engagement
Student is highly motivated to use the app

6.  Sharing
Specific performance summary or student product is saved in app and can be exported to the teacher or for an audience

"An app’s rubric score is very dependent on the intended purpose and student needs. The score you give an app will differ from how others score it. Again, apps that score low may still be good apps. But, it is handy to score apps if you are making purchasing decisions and/or have multiple apps to choose from."

By using Tony's App Evaluation System, I was able to maximize and organize the educational apps that I now use with my students.  Below are my top Educational Apps that I use with my students.  Most of these apps are available for devices on multiple platforms, which I think is helpful if your school has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. 

My Top Educational Apps


The Difference Between Grading and Degrading: My Philosophy on Assessment

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The way that teachers grade and assess their students can either set them up for success, or set them up for failure. "When a student gets a good grade, wins an award, or proudly holds up a painting, we all know by now that we’re not supposed to say, 'Good job!' Praising the achievement rather than the effort will backfire.  To a kid, 'Good job' means 'You’re smart' or 'You’re talented' — the praise goes to inherent, natural-born abilities or intelligence. But that immediate spark of self-pride will turn into deep self-doubt when the child invariably comes across a bigger challenge and doesn’t immediately succeed." [1]

1.  My Grading Philospohy (What teachers should do)

Assessments:  Assessments should be designed to measure student learning, understanding, and application of content. These assessments can be quick formative assessments, or they can be summative assessments.  Evaluation of these assessments, or "grades", should accurately reflect student learning, understanding, and application of this content. The purpose of "grades" should be for teachers to provide students with constructive feedback and an opportunity for them to  self-reflect  on their learning.  Moreover, we as teachers should assess students not only on what they know, rather, we should assess students on what they can do with what they know. Knowledge of content is important, but application of that knowledge, is equally important.

Rubrics: In order to provide constructive feedback for students, teachers should create rubrics for project-based learning assessments. Rubrics should provide clear, concise expectations of the project and should include examples, if needed. Teachers should not only write, or type feedback on the rubrics, but they should also have a discussion with the students, providing verbal feedback. Teachers should also follow up each project with a reflection activity.  This provides students with an opportunity for them to self-reflect on their assignments, and on their own learning.

Here are two great resources for assessment ideas other than tests.

Homework: I believe that if homework is assigned, then it should be meaningful and purposeful. However, there are some teachers that assign homework every night, and I think that is totally fine, if they have a "homework option plan" in place. I believe that "homework should be given as infrequently as possible, and only if necessary. It should take no more than a brief period of time. If homework is given to students, it must be valued. Their efforts outside of the class should be recognized. If we consider the schedules of our students and value down time, homework becomes less important and class time becomes more valuable." [2]

2.  My "Degrading" Philosophy (What teachers should NOT do)

Grades as Punishment: Grades should not be given to reflect student behavior. Moreover, grades should not be given at all. All grades should be earned by students, not given by teachers. Giving a student a "0" is not an accurate measure of what the student knows and is able to do. A zero indicates that the student has absolutely no knowledge and understanding of the content. If a student does not take a test, or fails to turn in a project, there is no "assessment" taking place. A teacher is not at liberty to assign the student a "zero" because he or she has no way of measuring the student's learning and understanding. A better solution would be to either suspend the grade until the student either makes up the assignment, or until the teacher finds an alternative assessment for the student. Either way, the teacher should not assign a zero for missing assignments. It is ultimately the responsibility of the teacher to find a way to accurately measure the student's learning and understanding.

The Zero Effect: Students who receive a grade of a "0" have very little chance of bouncing back from this extreme detriment, especially if the "0" is on a test or a major project. No matter how hard a student works to bring his or her grade up, the student will more than likely not get higher than a "C" as an average for the class. Students realize this, which reinforces the lack of motivation and is counterproductive in nature.

How is it that in the most widely accepted grading policy, a student who does not come to school at all and receives a 0 is equivalent to the score of a student who masters nearly 70% of the content.  In both of these cases, the two students would receive the same letter grade, an "F". Does this accurately reflect student learning and understanding?  

Intelligence and Talent: "Students should be assessed on their effort, not on their final product. Kids who are praised for their intelligence end up caring more about grades, trophies, and awards than those who are praised for their effort, according to the famous 1998 Stanford report 'Effects of Intelligence and Effort Praise' by Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck. The study showed that “after failure, [kids] also displayed less task persistence, less task enjoyment, more low-ability attributions, and worse task performance than children praised for effort.” [1] Teachers who assess students on final projects, alone, set their students up for failure, because when these students fail at a task, it becomes more difficult for them to persevere and bounce back.

For Your Consideration

What is your philosophy on assessment? Do you have a homework policy? Do you assign zero's for missing assignments? I encourage all comments and applaud any feedback that you would like to submit. Because after all, it is also very important for teachers to self-reflect and evaluate their own teaching from time to time.

MyBrain: The Most Underrated App Off the Market

As I reflect on the technology that is getting implemented into schools these days, I am starting to fear that students and educators are becoming too dependent on "Apps" and technology for learning.  Even as a technology advocate, I am a firm believer that Its Not About the Technology, rather, its about the pedagogy coupled with the technology.

I recently purchased 6 ipod touches (with school funding) for my students to use in the classroom and I have noticed that I have been stressed about getting the best "apps" for education.  I have been doing tons of research and testing individual apps to assess their value.  I even attended an Apple Conference a few weeks ago about how to use effective Apps in the classroom.  What I realized was that too much attention is focused on the "apps" themselves, and too little attention is focused on professional development for project-based learning, and how to use "apps" as an option for projects.

In this uncertain world, where technology is constantly evolving, we should remember that the number one app that we must be able to successfully operate is our brain.   We must be able to use our brain in order to ask questions, collect information, discover answers, and create solutions to prepare for the difficult challenges that life throws at us.

All I ever hear when someone has a problem is, "there's an app for that". Well guess what, we as teachers need to prepare our students for the 21st Century Workplace, and there's no app for that.  It's so easy to get wrapped up in this 21st century technology craze, but its important for teachers to remind students that technology is not always the answer to everything.  Therefore, I have created the one "app" that solves all of our problems.  Its called MyBrain and its currently the most underrated app off the market.

Pros of MyBrain
  • MyBrain is readily accessible when I need it
  • MyBrain is completely free
  • MyBrain can be used for every level of Blooms Taxonomy
  • MyBrain will always keep up with technology
  • MyBrain will never crash on me
  • MyBrain is customized to my needs
  • MyBrain can solve all of my problems
  • MyBrain will never run out of "storage"
  • MyBrain can download other apps, if needed

Cons of MyBrain
  • MyBrain can end up in the "cloud" every once in awhile
  • MyBrain still needs to recharge at night
  • MyBrain regularly needs to be updated with new data and information

It seems as if the pros outweigh the cons and I give MyBrain a personal rating of 5 stars.

The Practice of "Appstinence"

Aside from MyBrain, I would like to challenge my students and colleagues to practice (what I call) "Appstinance" for one week. I define "appstinence" as the act or practice of refraining from indulging an appetite or desire for mobile applications or "apps" on smart devices. The challenge would be for students and teachers to go without using "apps" for a whole week. Students and teachers would have to rely on their brains for one week without the assistance of technology devices. Are you up for the challenge?

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Twitter Tweet Sheet: Tips, Tricks, and Resources

" Twitter is a social network used by millions of people, and thousands more are signing up every day to send short messages to groups of friends." - Pete Cashmore, @Mashable

Lots of people see the value of Twitter in the workplace and are using this social networking tool to learn and share with each other about specific topics. I personally use  Twitter  to learn, share and connect with educators from all over the world.  As a digital learning guru, I am helping the teachers in my middle school to use their  Twitter  accounts to start building their own Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Here is a screencast that I created to help educators get started using Twitter  

In order to help others get started using  Twitter , I have created my own Twitter Tweet Sheet. I hope that you find these Twitter resources, tips, and tricks helpful.

Twitter Tweet Sheet

1. You can only use 140 characters per "tweet". To help with this, use url shortener websites such as:

Just copy and paste the website address that you want to share in your tweet into the box and it will shorten the link for you (freeing up extra space for your tweets).

2. Use #hashtags! A hashtag is a word, or a series of characters with the "#" sign in front of it, such as, #science.  Hashtags are used to follow a specific conversation on  Twitter  . For example, I often include the hashtag "#edchat" in my tweets to contribute to the "education chat" on  Twitter  . This allows you to get discovered by anyone in the world who is viewing or following that hashtag conversation. I often get followed by people if I use a #hashtag when I tweet valuable information or provide a useful resource. For a great list of #hashtags, go to

3. Build a good  Twitter  reputation. Don't tweet mindless things like, what you ate for breakfast, or that you just had a great workout. People will more than likely "unfollow" you in a heartbeat if the majority of your posts are not productive. Make a point to tweet things that you personally value and that you think other people will value. This will help to build your "tweet cred"

4. Brush up on your  Twitter  etiquette (Twitiquette).

  • thank people for following you 
  • thank people for "retweeting" one of your tweets. 
  • thank people for "mentioning" you in one of their tweets. 
  • don't take credit for someone else's idea's, thoughts, etc.
  • you don't have to follow everyone that follows you.
  • people don't have to follow you if you follow them. 

 These tips will help to keep your followers following you.

5. Research Twitter. Some people say that  Twitter  is "simply complicated". It's a very basic and simple concept, but it is also complex. Visit the following websites to learn more about Twitter.

6. Be patient. Believe it or not, it takes a long time to collect followers. Keep using #hashtags in your tweets and keep posting meaningful information and resources. It is an exponential process. It takes a while to get started, but once people start following you, your followers will exponentially increase.

7. Start a blog. If you have already started a blog, post the links to your blog in your tweets. This will help you to build an even better  Twitter  reputation, and it will drive people to your blog. This is the best way to contribute back your Personal Learning Community (PLC) which in turn, will create more followers for you. If you don't have a blog ... get one! It's very easy and its a lot of fun. I would recommend using Google Blogger.

8. Have funTwitter  is a great resource to learn and share from people all over the world. Don't stress out about it. Enjoy learning from others and contribute to your PLC when you can!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Camera, Set, Analysis: Video Physics with iPods

Vernier Software and Technology came out with an Apple app that allows you to record videos in your everyday life, and then analyze its data.

"Vernier Video Physics for iOS brings physics video analysis to iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Take a video of an object in motion, mark its position frame by frame, and set up the scale using a known distance. Video Physics then draws trajectory, position, and velocity graphs for the object. Share video, graphs and data to facebook, your Photo Library and to your computer running Vernier's Logger Pro software."

Applications for Education

"Video Physics is perfect for physics students and instructors. Perform on-the-go analysis of interesting motions. Measure the velocity of a child's swing, a roller-coaster, or a car. Or, take a video of a basketball free throw shot. Video Physics will display the path of the ball and provide graphs of Y vs X as well as the X and Y position and velocity as a function of time."
After you record a video, there are just three easy steps to perform in the application to get your data analysis.
  1. In the app, create a line between two points of a known distance (include units).
  2. Track the motion of the object in the video for every frame, by simply tapping on the screen, following where the object moves.
  3. Adjust the coordinate plane (x and y axis) to your preferred position.
Then you simply hit the Graph button and it plots all of your data for you.

After you are finished, it automatically creates a video for you and saves it to your camera roll. I then used iMovie to add sound effects and background music to make the video more exciting. I did all of this without even touching a computer. It was all done from my iPod Touch.

Here is my "Test Drive" experiment using Video Physics

After my students engineered their catapult, they created this video.

Applications for Math and Science

Display pictures of the graphs for students to analyze
  1. Ask students to compare and contrast two different graphs about the event
  2. Encourage students to ask their own questions about the graph. Before they watch the video or know about the event, have them look at a graph to predict what type of event might have created the data for the graph. 

For Your Consideration

How would you use this application in your math, science, or technology class?

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Friday, March 2, 2012

The 21st Century Résumé: How to Get Your Students Noticed in the Workplace

The 21st Century Workplace is continuously evolving. Employers are looking for creative, critical thinkers to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.  The reality is that most of our students will be applying for jobs that haven't even been created yet.  Our job as teachers, is to prepare our students for their future in this demanding and evolving workforce.  In order to help prepare our students for the 21st Century workplace, we need to teach them how to best document and display their true talents and accomplishments ... and most importantly, how to get noticed.  

Digital Résumés will help to add to your students' web presence.  We currently live in a world where Google is everyone's biggest reference.  Employers can easily conduct a Google Search on anyone applying for a position. Students should take advantage of this by creating ePortfolios and digital résumés to help build their online reputation.    

The New York Times Learning Network offers some great tips on how to create 21st Century Résumés.

Who Will Hire Me? Creating 21st-Century Résumés

Traditional Résumé
"Encourage students to 'think outside the box' even in creating a paper resume by finding eye-catching ways to display their information, such as these featured on Flickr, JobMob and Scribd. These tips can help students implement creative formatting and design ideas in effective ways."

Interactive Résumé
Students should be asking themselves the following question when creating a digital resume. "How can I use technology in creative ways to showcase my abilities and experience? They should brainstorm ideas, ranging from creating an interactive resume with links to past employers’ Web sites, online portfolios and other relevant sites, to adding such features as audio or video clips."

Below are 6 different types of 21st Century Résumés that will get your students noticed by showcasing their accomplishments.

1. Résumés in the form of an Interactive, Digital Poster

2.  Résumés in the form of an Infographic

Picture Source

3.  Résumés in the form of a Timeline

Picture: Source

4. Résumés in the form of a Social Media Website

Picture Source

5. Résumés in the form of a home video

6.  Résumés in the form of a professional video

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e-Portfolios: The Replacement of Standardized Testing

e-Portfolios: The Replacement of Standardized Testing

Picture Source:
Schools are beginning to transform their assessments from standardized testing to ePortfolios.  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.

Creating an e-Portfolio is extremely vital our students' success in the workplace.  Students need a place to collect and showcase their best projects and assignments for college applications and future employment opportunities.

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 e-Portfolios to prepare for college and the workplace, as well as the benefits associated with them.

Google Docs as ePortfolios

I have my students create (collections) or folders in their Schoogle Account to start collecting and saving their projects and assignments for my class. In addition, I also have them upload assignments that they have completed for other classes so that they can start organizing them in their Schoogle Account. This ultimately acts as an ePortfolio, a place where they can collect, share and eventually showcase their best work from high school to use for their applications to college and jobs out of high school.

Evernote as ePortfolios

Some teachers are even encouraging their students to use Evernote as an e-Portfolio.  Rob Van Nood is a teacher who developed three levels for students to develop an e-Portfolio with Evernote.

Level 1. Portfolio as Storage/Collection This is the most basic level of creating an e-folio. At this level staff and students are collecting work and storing it. At this level the role of the teacher is to provide students with guidance on the types of artifacts to save and how to save them.

Level 2. Portfolio as Workspace/Process At this level learners reflect on their learning as represented in the samples of their work. Students could be reflecting in a variety of ways that can be linked or connected to their work. (Reflection sheets, Rubrics, Blogs that are linked to their work, Questions provided by a teacher to answer, etc). At this level the role of the teacher is to to provide feedback on students work so they can recognize opportunities for improvement. Teachers are also working to support students in how to reflect on their learning. Students can be reflecting on individual pieces or growth they notice over several pieces of work.

Level 3. Porffolio as Showcase/Product At this level students organize one or more presentation portfolios around a set of learning outcomes, goals or standards (depending on the purpose and the audience). The reflection that goes with this level is retrospective, thinking back over the learning represented in the specific artifacts selected as evidence of learning. The teacher’s role at this level is to provide feedback on the student’s work but also to validate the student’s self-assessment of their work.


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