Friday, September 30, 2011

21st Century Learning & Teaching

As this 2011-2012 school year continues in full swing, it is a great opportunity to assess how effectively I am reaching and teaching our 21st Century Learners.  I feel as if I am very prepared for 21st Century teaching and learning.  I several hours every day looking for new resources, tools, and strategies to reach today's 21st Century Learners.  I focus on what tools will not only make the learning process more engaging, but also help make my lessons "teaching that sticks."  I try my best to share my resources and strategies with my colleagues at school, and when time permits, with my colleagues online with my blog.  The process of researching, assessing, sharing, re-assessing is very important to the education process today.

I feel my students leave my classroom everyday with new skills to use and help them function effectively within our school and within our community.  I try to show them resources that are free of charge, yet provide the features needed of high priced software.  I try to integrate tools that are available online so students can work on projects at home and at school.  I also challenge my students to learn and teach one another, even having my students use a Presentation to teach a lesson in class. 

My biggest strengths when it comes to 21st Century Learning is my passion to never settle with the lessons and resources I have, but I am also trying to perfect everything.  Most of my lessons have at least 5 years of manipulating, editing, teaching, re-teaching, before they are ever where I want them.  My core projects are renewed or recreated every year to keep my class activities fresh for my students and myself.  My biggest weaknesses when it comes to 21st Century Learning is my dependence on technology.  My daily lesson plans and objectives are posted on my website for my students.  All of my important bookmarks are saved using social bookmarking sites (delicious and diigo).  My lesson plans, resources, activities, rubrics, and more are not saved on my school computer, but in storage space in the "cloud."  When the Internet goes down, it feels as if I have lost access to everything.  However, at least I keep hard copies of everything in my classroom "bible" if I ever need a quick resource or activity when technology has let me down. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Technology, School, & Me!

Everyday I walk into my classroom, I feel I do a great job of integrating technology into my daily curriculum.  As a technology teacher, it is my job and my passion.  Walking through my school, it is awesome to see many teachers developing lesson plans and digital age learning experiences.  Booking our computer lab or mobile laptop carts is becoming more difficult with each passing week as school progresses. 

Students in 8th Grade are able to plan and present "Virtual Vacations" to historic places and events they discuss in Social Studies Class, they create video dictionaries about the meanings of standardized test vocabulary, they virtually explore famous Civil War battles online, and create podcasts about school events and monthly updates around our school.  Students in 7th Grade get to create one minute video book reviews about their favorite or least favorite books , record audio interviews with famous authors and historic figures, and create graphic digital art as a connection to Art Class. Our sixth graders create collaborative presentations online within Google Docs, write and record school related rap songs within small groups, create Anti Bullying/Cyberbullying Comic Books online, and Internet Safety Awareness Glogs on GlogsterEDU.  These are only a small sample of the examples you would find in my school of teachers creating digital age work, online responsibility, and inspiring digital creativity and design. 

The major barriers or "divides" you would find in my school related to the use of technology would come more with inexperience than accessibility.  Although booking the labs can take some patience, many teachers are not familiar with how to creatively and effectively integrate technology into their curriculum.  This is an exciting challenge for me to find more ways to engage professional growth and leadership within my school to help my colleagues find more create ways to teach our 21st Century Learners. 

I am not fearful of integrating and using technology at all.  As a 6th Grade Computer and Technology Instructor, I have embraced technology as one of the most important and effective educational tools in the classroom.  My only fears come from when my technology does not work or function as it should.  Every time technology lets me down, I have to be adaptive and patient with my alternative activities.  I have become so dependent on technology that just the Internet being down at my school can keep kids from reading our agendas on my website or using an online resource.  I do not fear using technology or teaching others to use it.  I fear when technology does not work for me as it should.  

My personal goals as I journey forward are built around finding more creative ways to effectively integrate technology into my 6th Grade Curriculum.  I will create more genuine learning experiences and teaching moments "that stick."  I  will continue to work harder to exhibit leadership in sharing technology integration strategies and promoting growth among my colleagues. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scriblink - Your Free Online Virtual Whiteboard!!

Scriblink is a site that offers basic whiteboard capabilites, for free, within your web browser.  What is really cool about Scriblink is you can write on blank pages, upload your own photos and images, or paste a URL of an online image and add your own annotations to it.

Scriblink allows you to share the whiteboard with a friend via a unique URL that you share with them.  There is even a chatbox to chat with those you are sharing your whiteboard with.

Finally, you can save your images you create in Scriblink to your hard drive for later review (students who are absent?).   Scirblink offers many awesome features with the price tag we all love, free.  This would be a great resource for collaborative mind mapping, organization, working math problems, brainstorming with a partner, and much more.  The only downside is a very small banner ad at the bottom of the site, which is not very obtrusive to the experience at all.

If you already have an air writer or smart board of some type, you probably already have a software similar to this.  Also, it can be somewhat difficult to write with your mouse, but it improves with time and practice.  However, Scriblink works fantastic if you need quick whiteboard interactivity in your classroom. 

Check it out at:

Monday, September 19, 2011

1906: The Great Quake Cover Up - Earthquake Simulator from Discovery Channel

1906: The Great Quake Cover Up is a fun interactive resource from the Discovery Channel that allows students to explore earthquakes and their effects on different structures.  Students select a type of surface to erect a building on, the type of "earthquake proofing" technology they would like to use, then subject the building to three different levels of earthquake intensity. 

This is an awesome site to extend your classroom curriculum about natural disasters and earthquakes, you could use it as a resource to have students practice predicting (What will happen if....), or as a resource for comparing and contrasting (Why did structure A outlast structure B). 

Check out 1906: The Great Quake Cover Up at:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Mason Dixon Report - An "1861 Civil War Cable News Show!"

The Mason Dixon Report is an awesome site containing 7 video "News Reports" covering an "in depth look beneath the surface of the Civil War."  I saw this posted on Glenn Wiebe's History Tech Blog HERE!

The Mason Dixon Report re-imagines the events of the Civil War through "live" news reports, on air debates, editorials and more.  Once I started watching the first video, I couldn't turn away.  These videos are very well done and incredibly entertaining.  They cover the "stories" with such a serious demenour it makes the videos almost comical, but always educational and entertaining.

These videos would be a great extension to your Civil War Curriculum, could provide as an opening activitie to help activate and develop prior knowledge for your Civil War Lessons, or simply just provide another resource for your visual learners to explore the Civil War.  As I was watching this, I thought to myself "This is how I would love to explore the Civil War!" 

You could even use these videos as models to create your own Civil War News Reports in class. 

Check out the Mason Dixon Report at:

Friday, September 9, 2011

"What September 11th Means To Me" a simple activity using Wordle.

Wordle is a site that allows students to create cool graphic images and posters using an arrangement of words, phrases, and sentences.  Words that repeat the most in your Wordle, will appear larger than other words.
Type in a list of words or phrases to get started!

In my class, students are using Wordle to create images/posters of "What September 11th Means to Me."  Students type into Wordle a list of words, phrases, emotions, sentences, what that date means to them as individuals, and anything else they know about September 11th.   The only input I give them is to make sure their Wordles are respectful and appropriate for school.

A few tips I give my students is to start their Wordle by typing "9/11" or "September 11" at least 5 - 6 times.  This will make those words appear larger and more like titles on the Wordle.  Also, make sure any names you want to appear together, that you type those names as one word.  For example, Osama Bin Laden you would type into Wordle as OsamaBinLaden so all 3 names appear together and do not get split up.

As they list their words, phrases, emotions, sentences, etc, I encourage them to type the words that mean the most to them more than one time.  This, again, will make these words appear larger within their Word Graphic.  This is a great little assignment to assess student prior knowledge about 9/11 or to open up your classroom lesson plan or discussions about 9/11. 

I have included a few examples that 2 of my students created in class to help you get started.

Check out Wordle at: 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

VectorKids - Interactive Math Games and Skill Builders for Kids!

VectorKids is a site that offers several interactivities and games to help build student skills in Mathematics (and even Social Studies too).  The site offers mostly math activities to help students with basic to intermediate math concepts. 

VectorKids skill builders include help for multiplication tables, solving for variables, division rules, addition, subtraction, counting money, geometry and even a United States Capitals Game.

The games are simple and would offer a nice extension to your classroom activities or extra help for specific students who may be struggling with these concepts.

Check out VectorKids at:

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