Thursday, November 17, 2011

Website Evaluation Checklist

I created this checklist for students to use to evaluate websites. When you walk a website through the checklist you stop if/when you get a “No” answer; that means the website is not valid for academic research. If everything is a “Yes” then the website is probably valid for use.

Paper saving idea: I put the pages in sheet protectors and had my students use dry erase markers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gearing Up for Friday Kickoff

I'm leading a 4 session training starting Friday over the next four weeks at school. Each week features a different theme (with a football theme twist). This week's session is called "Kickoff Fall with Web 2.0." I'm hoping to showcase at least 20 different Web 2.0 sites. This week I get to make a list of the key sites to feature and pray they aren't blocked at school. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Bee-utiful Project Idea

As much as I appreciate the vital role bees play in our ecosystem I still can't bring myself to add a few hives to my backyard. Today however I stumbled upon a website encouraging people to plant native plants in their yard or garden to encourage natural bee populations, and then join them in collecting and reporting data about the bees that they see. This, is much easier than donning a netted mask and figuring out how to keep boxes of bees away from my toddler. 
The Great Sunflower Project,, seems like a unique authentic learning experience for a classroom project. Students would first need to research native plants to the area, would have a wonderful time actually planting them and maintaining the garden on part of the school grounds, and then could collect data (math, science, social studies...any subject!) This would even be a great school-wide project!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Knock, Knock: Let Me In To Your Virtual World

At the beginning of the school year, at a new school, in the newly created role of technology teacher, I found myself grappling with the question, "What am I supposed to teach?!" (It is after all very easy for teachers to preach about how important it is for students to be taught 21st Century learning objectives, but it is another thing entirely to actually start doing it.)

Now that I'm into the second quarter I've restored my footing on what I'm supposed to teach and instead am focusing on how to teach the content. I find that even though my classes are very small- four to eight students- I often have two or three different instructional strategies going on simultaneously. Working with special populations I quickly found it would not be possible to have a wonderfully synchronous class working together. Some of my students find more success working independently on software tutorials, others need one-on-one guidance with a step-by-step approach. Some students can accomplish their tasks after viewing a quick demonstration on the SMARTboard, and then I have a few students who need the actual assignment altered in some way due to special learning abilities. 

Slow, but steady, I'm gathering a collection of instructional strategies (read: bag of tricks) to use for various students. One population I still struggle with is my group of middle school non-readers. I want to teach the technology (computer basics) in a fun and creative way, but I'm having a difficult time finding resources that offer more audio and less text- AND (here's the hard part)- aren't juvenile.  Lectures, mini-lessons, demonstrations, and the like so far are not proving effective. Our teens respond well to anything that can be passed off as a video game. Trying to teach students who live in a virtual world seems rather difficult when you don't have the resources (or they don't exist) to access that virtual land.

Maybe programming language should be part of our next in-service.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Can Social Networking Help Teachers with Brain Based Learning?

The article I just read by Jane McGeehan (which has no published date on it and that irritates me) on brain based learning brought up three key ideas:
  • emotion is the gatekeeper to learning 
  • intelligence is a function of experience
  • the brain stores most effectively what is meaningful from the learner’s perspective. 
Scientific knowledge about the brain states that students will not retain information that is not meaningful to them. The article states that teachers can not know what is meaningful to their students unless they know their students. Students I work with are reluctant to share information about themselves- but almost everything I've ever read talks about how social networking in the classroom (like through Edmodo or Schoology) can make even the most reticent student open up in new ways.

So.... if social networking can help teachers get to know their students....and getting to know your students = knowing what is meaningful to them (which would then lead to)... teaching meaningful "stuff," it can then be assumed students will retain more information.....

Perhaps yet another interesting thought to share with social networking naysayers.